Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Least Tern (Interior Population) (Sterna antillarum)—Endangered
Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)—Threatened
Habitat quality continues to diminish without the natural replacement that used to occur under the natural spring flooding regime in the major river systems. Predation, flooding of nests by inappropriately timed dam releases, weather extremes, contaminants, and human disturbance have become more significant due to degraded habitat.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has worked with the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) on Missouri River flow releases to reduce nest loss due to flooding caused by irregular dam releases during the nesting season and to create additional habitat. The Corps has been implementing actions connected with a jeopardy biological opinion on impacts to least terns and piping plovers from the Corps' Missouri River main stem system operations, but has failed to provide sufficient protection to achieve the required fledging ratios needed to preclude jeopardy as described in the biological opinion. However, the Corps has made changes in its operations that have significantly reduced flooding of nests and has formed a Tern and Plover Management Team in response to the reasonable and prudent alternatives of the biological opinion. Other section 7 activities have included consultations on section 404 (Clean Water Act) and section 10 (Rivers and Harbors Act) permits, resulting in increased avoidance of impacts (i.e., flooding of nests and destruction of nesting habitat) to terns and plovers. In addition, an active information and education campaign has reduced human disturbance to nesting colonies. Nest cages to reduce plover nest predation have helped to increase nest success.
Stemming the loss of nesting habitat is the highest priority, as well as improving habitat and reducing predation and human disturbance. However, increasing habitat may not be the entire answer, and more drastic measures, such as captive propagation and release, may be required. Rangewide monitoring is needed to determine population status. Actions addressing predation are also necessary.
Army Corps of Engineers: This agency is responsible for carrying out a number of tasks under the recovery plans, including assisting with population surveys, evaluating breeding habitat and threats, reducing human disturbance, managing water levels, developing a river management plan, and conducting public education. Although some of these tasks have been partially carried out, many still need to be implemented.
South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks: The Department has carried out a number of its responsibilities under the recovery plan.
Interior least tern—plan approved 9/19/90.
Piping plover—plan approved 5/12/88.