Missouri River Recovery Committee Discusses New Management Plan

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League staff took part in a Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC) meeting October 30-November 2 to discuss the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ upcoming transition to an adaptive management framework. Adaptive management will now be used for habitat recovery efforts along the river.

The loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of riverine habitat due to man-made alterations to the Missouri River, including six massive dams and a navigation channel, led to decreased numbers of pallid sturgeon, interior least tern, and piping plover – which are listed on the federal endangered species list – as well as numerous other fish and wildlife species. Adaptive management allows the Corps to implement needed changes to habitat recovery actions if those actions aren’t achieving the desired response. The League supports this step and believes it will advance recovery.

The Corps also unveiled a new Biological Assessment of its operation of the Missouri River reservoir system, the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project, the Kansas River reservoir system, and implementation of the Missouri River Recovery Plan. A biological assessment evaluates the potential effects of an action – or, as in this case, operation of a system – on specific endangered and threatened species and critical habitat needed by those species. The Corps submitted its Biological Assessment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which will use the assessment to develop a Biological Opinion for the river. The Biological Opinion formally states the Service’s opinion on whether a federal action is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. Both the assessment and opinion are required under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service expects to complete its new Biological Opinion by early next year. If you have questions or want to review the new Biological Assessment, contact IWLA Regional Conservation Coordinator Paul Lepisto at plepisto@iwla.org.

MRRIC is a 70-member committee made up of stakeholders and representatives of tribal, state, and federal agencies from throughout the Missouri River Basin. MRRIC provides recommendations to the Corps and FWS on current and future river recovery actions. The League has held a seat on the committee since its inception in 2008. More information is available online at www.mrric.org.