More chances to comment on red knot proposal

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Red knots in the surf of Delaware Bay.

Well, it’s certainly a busy news day for the red knot.

First, the shorebird, along with the horseshoe crab, was identified as the impetus for habitat restoration along the Delaware bayshore in South Jersey. That story ran this morning.

Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is announcing that the public comment period on a proposal to list the red knot as threatened has been re-opened.

The service proposed to list the red knot on Sept. 30, 2013. A public comment period was held — but during that time, the service received three requests for actual hearings — and it’s required to grant those requests. They couldn’t be scheduled before the public comment period closed, so now they’re re-opening it for the hearings, and if they do that, they have to re-open it for everyone.

Okay, a bit lengthy, but that’s the explanation.

The service has already received more than 560 individual comments and 19,000 form letters. (You can see many of the individual submissions by going to www.regulations.gov and doing a search for rufa red knot. When I did it, 420 records came up.)

The service proposed the listing “following an analysis of the best available data in more than 1,400 scientific documents,” according to a press release issued earlier today.

Specifically, “the knot’s population has declined by about 75 percent in some areas since the 1980s. Changing climate conditions are already affecting the bird’s food supply, the timing of its migration and its breeding habitat in the Arctic. The shorebird also is losing habitat along its range due to sea level rise, shoreline projects and development.”

And then there’s the issue of the horseshoe crab harvest, which many say has resulted in a decline in fat-rich eggs the birds need for refueling on Delaware Bay, partway through their migration from Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America to their breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic.

Indeed, the largest concentration of knots is found in May in Delaware Bay, where studies show knots nearly double their weight to prepare for the final leg of their long migration to the Arctic, the service noted.

Public hearings, preceded by information sessions and opportunities to ask Service biologists questions, will be held in Morehead City, N.C., and in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The current public comment period will be open through May 19.

The service expects to take final action on the listing rule by the end of September 2014, according to the press release.

An exceedingly thorough site, with links to documents, photos, video, maps, questions and answers, infographic and interactive timeline is at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/redknot/.

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