Notice of Intent to File Lawsuit Issued by Environmental Groups and Concerned Residents Regrading Significant Ongoing Harm to Karner Blue Butterflies in Clifton Park Industrial Project Alleged
Two Capital Region environmental groups and local citizens have issued a letter to the Secretary of U. S. Department of the Interior, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and other parties providing notice that they intend to bring a lawsuit under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) if activities that they say amount to a “take” of endangered species are not corrected within 60 days. The letter requests that the Town of Clifton Park Planning Board refrain from any further consideration of the DCG Development application for approval of its site on Wood Road in Clifton Park. The ultimate goal of the environmental groups and local citizens is to protect the endangered Karner Blue butterfly by protecting the area in Clifton Park in which it is found and previously flourished at the site in Clifton Park.
The “Notice of Intent” letter or NOI was sent by the Sierra Club Hudson- Mohawk Group and Save the Pine Bush, Inc. along with eight individuals to Federal and State officials and the town supervisor and planning board chair of the Town of Clifton Park, along with DCG Development Company’s president, Donald C. Greene. The letter maintains that recent actions including a pending project along Wood Road in Clifton Park on land DCG owns are causing “take” of the endangered Karner blue butterfly, a federally protected species. The Karner blue was put on the state endangered species list in 1977 and has been federally listed as endangered since 1992. A “take occurs when, among other actions, an endangered species is harmed due to significant habitat modification or degradation that negatively affects its essential behavioral patterns.
The letter was issued under the Citizen Suit provision of ESA, which allows “any person” to bring suit alleging a taking of an endangered species is occurring.
The 60-day notice period allows time for the purported violations to be addressed by those to whom the letter is sent, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. The letter claims that the Town of Clifton Park, DCG and the NYS DEC have allowed a “take” of Karner blue butterflies to occur in conjunction with their habitats along Wood Road in the Clifton Park’s northeast corner. The Karner blue butterfly was discovered in the landscape at Wood Road in Clifton Park in 1975 in large numbers, but has severely dwindled, due to the ongoing violations according to the groups signing the NOI letter.
Sierra Club Hudson-Mohawk Group Chair Peter Sheehan noted that although the NOI letter was sent to the parties on September 21, the Town of Clifton Park Planning Board provided approval to the DCG plan for its 16 acre “shovel-ready” industrial site at a 35-acre parcel off Wood Road at the Board’s September 25 meeting.
“We believe many of the concerns that we and other advocates for the Karner blue presented to the Board during two public hearing sessions were dismissed and not heeded. Our efforts to aid the Town and DCG by involving an independent expert were ignored”, Sheehan said. “Our members don’t want the beautiful and fragile Karner blue, an endangered species, to be extirpated by the actions or inactions of those who want to profit by severely altering its habitat for an industrial park”, he added.
Lynne Jackson, a volunteer and Secretary of Save the Pine Bush, Inc. said that the Board’s agreement to DCG’s plan to set aside just 1.85 acres of land on the overall site for the Karner blue was inadequate. “The approval to develop this site by the Planning Board demonstrates that the Town of Clifton Park has no interest in preserving unique, unusual endangered species such as the Karner blue butterfly”, she said.
The letter was issued for the listed groups and individuals by attorney Michael Englert of Saratoga Springs, NY.
Published in October/November, 2012 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter