Feds to boost protection for Florida manatees

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Manatees at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. @bberwyn photo.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes strict limits on commercial access to key winter manatee habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to better protect endangered manatees with new rules at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

With record numbers of manatees wintering in Three Sisters Springs, and substantial increases in the number of people wanting to see the marine mammals in their natural habitat, the rules are needed to limit the potential for “viewing-related disturbance,” according to refuge manager Andrew Gude.

“Three Sisters Springs is among the top three most frequented springs by manatees in the world,” Gude said in a press release. “It is also the only confined-water body in the United States open to the public while wintering manatees are present. Understandably, more manatees in the springs attract more people who wish to experience them up close,” Gude said. Continue reading

Protecting fish populations seen as key to coral reef conservation

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Coral reefs need abundant and diverse fish populations to survive. Photo via NOAA.

Fishing regulations around coral reef hotspots must be enforced

Staff Report

FRISCO — Protecting fish populations around coral reefs may be the key to helping sustain coral ecosystems, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society that has major implications for coral reef management.

The study focused on coral reef diversity ‘hotspots’ in the southwestern Indian Ocean, finding that they rely more on the biomass of fish than where they are located. Continue reading

New Arctic oil exploration puts narwhals at risk

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Marine conservation advocates say new seismic airgun blasting in the Arctic Ocean threatens whales and other marine life. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Seismic blasting east of Greenland raises concerns about impacts to marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Arctic Ocean north of Alaska isn’t the only area increasingly at risk from oil and gas exploitation. Oil companies are exploring the seabed off the eastern coast of Greenland, and the seismic blasting is likely harm whales and other marine life.

Oil companies use seismic equipment to map underground oil and gas reserves with airguns that emit 259 decibel blasts, a sound intensity would be perceived by humans as approximately eight times louder than a jet engine taking off. Continue reading

Is the EPA doing enough to protect bees?

Bumblebee love!

Bees are dying in huge numbers, and conservation groups are concerned the EPA is not doing enough to protect them. @bberwyn photo.

Beekeepers accuse pesticide industry of trying to ‘hijack’ public policy

FRISCO — The public comment period for proposed EPA rules on bee-killing pesticides may be over, but the battle over pesticide policies will continue, as conservation groups suspect that the pesticide industry may have exerted undue influence over the rule-making process.

Those concerns are reinforced by some of the country’s beekeepers, who say the proposed rule doesn’t do enough to address federal responsibility to address the impact of pesticides on bee deaths. The Pollinator Stewardship Council recently submitted a letter to the EPA detailing its concerns about the proposed new rule. Continue reading

Study eyes powerlines as factor in sage grouse decline

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Greater sage-grouse avoid powerlines, and the poles are used by perching raptors that target sage grouse nests. Photo via USGS.

Another piece in the sage grouse puzzle …

Staff Report

FRISCO — After closely studying a greater sage-grouse subpopulation on the Columbia Plateau in eastern Washington, wildlife biologists said that power lines may be a greater factor in habitat fragmentation than previously believed.

The new study found that transmission lines from hydroelectric dams and wind turbines affect greater sage grouse habitat by isolating fragile populations and limiting movement. The was published online this summer in the journal Landscape Ecology.

“With only a fraction of pre-settlement habitat left in the state for this species, it’s key that all of that habitat be connected in order for the population to be viable in the future,” said lead author Andrew Shirk, a research scientist with the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group. Continue reading

Feds boost greater sage-grouse efforts with $211 million for more conservation measures

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Can more money help save greater sage-grouse?

Focus is on voluntary, incentive-based approach

Staff Report

FRISCO —Acknowledging the deteriorating health of sagebrush habitat and the decline of greater sage-grouse, federal officials this week announced a $211 million push to fund  conservation plans and to help implement an effective strategy to reduce rangeland fire risk.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 will provide additional assistance for ranchers to make conservation improvements to their land, which mutually benefits the iconic bird and agricultural operations in 11 Western states. Continue reading

Bluebirds ‘shout’ to be heard above noise pollution

Western bluebird

A mountain bluebird in Dillon, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Biologists say noise impacts should be part of wildlife conservation planning

Staff Report

FRISCO — Outside a few remote wilderness areas, human-caused noise pollution is so common that birds have started to “shout” in order to communicate with each other.

Biologists with the University of Exeter took a close look at how bluebirds alter their songs in response to increases in nearby background noise caused, in many cases, by human activities such as traffic. Continue reading

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