Fiber optics expansion puts Wisconsin lizards, turtles at risk
Endangered Slender Glass Lizards and Blanding Turtles in Marquette County, Wis., may be rendered homeless thanks to the installation of 12.49 miles of fiber optics cables.
A Marquette-Adams County fiber optics expansion project could jeopardize both animals’ habitat, according to a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). The WDNR states that while there is a likelihood that a number of lizards and turtles will be forced to find another habitat, the number is not great enough for the WDNR to halt the project.
The DNR in all states is required to complete a jeopardy assessment before a large project can be undertaken.
Wisconsin’s endangered species law (s. 29.604, Wis. Stats.) requires the WDNR to notify the public when a project may harm an endangered species.
This is not the first time that these species have caught the public’s attention. In 2012 the Slender Glass Lizard was also the victim of a project to repair the Buffalo Lake Dam, according to the Marquette County Tribune.
The Blanding Turtle was the subject of debate in 2012 when the WDNR proposed that the turtle should be removed from the endangered species list. The WDNR stated that the turtles had been reported in sufficient numbers to justify their removal. Dissent from the public and many in the scientific community disputing these conclusions prevented this from occurring, according to the Lacrosse Tribune.
Removing the turtle from the list, according to Bob Hay, a recently retired WDNR turtle expert, would allow builders greater freedom to work in the turtle’s habitat.
The project is part of an initiative of Marquette County and Adams County begun in 2010 to improve the quality of broadband internet in the area. Funding for the project is part of the federal stimulus package that began in 2009.
The primary recipient of the money is the Marquette-Adams Telephone Cooperative, Inc., and the project is overseen by the Rural Utilities Service, a federal agency.
More information about the project and the Slender Glass Lizard and Blanding Turtle can be found on the WDNR’s website at www.dnr.wi.gov. The jeopardy assessment is also available on the site.