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GLIN==> Sign-on request: Letter to USACE to protect the Massasauga rattlesnake in IL

Posted on behalf of Billy Stern <billysun@chorus.net>

Tom Buchele of The Environmental Law and Policy Center has asked 
GREEN's help in getting NGO's and academics to sign on to this 
important letter to The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE).  Both ACE, and 
the Illinois DNR are ignoring state laws by allowing the IL DNR to 
put in a major expansion to a campground by Carlyle Lake, in an area 
that is prime habitat for the Massasauga rattlesnake.

The snake is listed as endangered under Illinois state law, but the 
IL DNR has complete ignored both their state endangered species act 
in general, and the new requirements to issue incidental take permits 
for projects that may harm endangered species or their habitat. On 
the federal side, ACE has so far ignored NEPA requirements for this 
decision, and previous decisions to approve other projects in the 
area, even though the Massasauga is a candidate species for federal 
listing.  By signing on to the letter below, your group is only 
asking ACE to fulfill their requirements under NEPA.

Please respond to me by June 2 if your group can sign on, or if you 
have questions about this issue.  If you can't get ahold of me for 
questions (as I'll be gone over the long weekend) you can direct them 
to Tom at <treeesq@aol.com>

Billy Stern
Midwest States Organizer
1121 University Ave.
Madison, WI  53715
PH (608) 294-6871
Fax (608) 294-9170

June __, 2000

Colonel Michael R. Morrow
Department of the Army
St. Louis District Corps of Engineers
1222 Spruce Street
St. Louis, MO. 63108-2833

Re: Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Decision Regarding 
Carlyle Lake Cabin Proposal

Dear Colonel Morrow:

On April 20, 2000 I wrote you a letter on behalf of the 
Environmental law and Policy Center, Heartwood, The Regional 
Association of Concerned Environmentalists, and the Sierra Club 
expressing those organizations' serious  concerns regarding a 
proposal by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to 
construct additional tourist cabins in Eldon Hazlet State Park on 
land leased from the Army Corps. Since I wrote that letter I have 
inspected documents regarding this proposal at the IDNR's Springfield 
offices and the IDNR has in fact decided to go forward with this 
development proposal.  A copy of the IDNR's final decision is 
attached. Because of the IDNR's unfortunate decision and because of 
what I learned from their documents, I am writing you again on behalf 
of all the undersigned organizations. Each of these organization's 
objects to the DNR's decision, which will clearly have serious 
adverse impacts on the endangered Massasauga rattlesnake. Each of 
these organizations also asks that the Army Corps prepare a complete 
and thorough Environmental Impact Statement regarding this proposal 
and then refuse to approve the IDNR's proposal because of the serious 
and unnecessary adverse impacts that this proposal would have on the 
Carlyle Lake ecosystem in general and the Massasauga rattlesnake in 

The lease agreements which I inspected at the IDNR's 
headquarters clearly state that the Army Corps must approve the 
IDNR's proposal to build additional tourist cabins at Eldon Hazlet 
State Park. Because the IDNR did not produce a document from the Army 
Corps indicating its position on this proposal, I assume that the 
Army Corps has not yet made a decision regarding this issue. 
Moreover, before making any such decision the Army Corps would have 
to satisfy its obligations under NEPA.  Based on all the documents I 
reviewed earlier this month, NEPA requires that the Army Corps 
prepare a complete Environmental Impact Statement before making any 
decision regarding the IDNR's cabin proposal.

Much of the Army Corps' land around Lake Carlyle is excellent 
habitat for the Massasauga Rattlesnake and the presence of these 
snakes on that land is well documented. As you know the Massasauga is 
an Illinois endangered species and is a candidate species for listing 
under the federal Endangered Species Act. This Lake Carlyle habitat 
in fact contains the largest population of the Massasauga in Illinois 
and is this species' southernmost population in the U.S. Because of 
this multiple scientists from the U.S. and Canada objected to the 
IDNR's cabin proposal. Those objections are underscored by the fact 
that this proposal is only one of many development proposals that the 
IDNR and the Army Corps have already approved at Lake Carlyle. 
Moreover there are also many future proposals for development that, 
based on its apparent lack of concern for the Massasauga, the IDNR 
will ultimately approve. For example the IDNR and the Army Corps have 
already approved the construction of a hotel at the Dam West site and 
a lodge at South Shore State Park. Existing documents indicate that 
proposals for road expansions, a bicycle trail, and additional 
facilities at the proposed lodge will soon be put forward.

While some of these proposals individually might arguably have only 
limited impacts on the Massasauga, the cumulative impacts of all this 
development on this species have never been considered by the IDNR or 
the Army Corps and those impacts would clearly be catastrophic. The 
Massasauga simply will not be viable at this site if all this 
development goes forward. Thus the Army Corps must thoroughly analyze 
and consider these cumulative impacts before making any decision 
regarding the IDNR's most recent cabin proposal. That analysis must 
also consider the fact that irresponsible state development proposals 
like this, which target the southernmost population of a candidate 
species for listing under the federal ESA, are precisely the type of 
actions that will cause this species to be listed. Interior Secretary 
Babbitt has clearly stated that it is the policy of the federal 
government to affirmatively take steps to avoid such listings. The 
Army Corps, consistent with this policy and its obligations under the 
federal ESA, should therefore refuse the IDNR permission to build 
additional cabins at Eldon Hazlet State Park.

In addition to these cumulative impacts, the IDNR's cabin proposal, 
even when considered in isolation, would have serious and 
unacceptable impacts on the Massasauga's viability at Lake Carlyle. 
All the independent scientists who commented on this proposal noted 
and explained those impacts, but the IDNR has simply ignored their 
objections. Although the IDNR's decision asserts that the cabin 
development will not have serious impacts or result in a taking, that 
decision cites nothing to support those assertions. In fact the 
documents produced by the IDNR indicate that the IDNR's own 
scientists do not agree with these assertions. As you know, under 
NEPA such assertions must be supported by written record evidence and 
the objections of other experts cannot just be ignored. Because of 
the cumulative impacts and the direct site-specific impacts of the 
cabin proposal, a FONSI regarding that proposal would be 
unsupportable and the Army Corps must prepare a complete EIS.

Finally, we are concerned that IDNR in its eagerness to promote 
commercial development of the site may damage habitat before 
obtaining the necessary approval of the Corps, it may have already 
done so.  Please act to assure that IDNR does not take any action 
that would injure the Massasauge while the Corps undertakes the 
necessary studies and analyses.


Tom Buchele for
The Environmental Law and Policy Center,
The Sierra Club,
The Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists

cc:  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
        Illinois Department of Natural Resources
        U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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