Feds release draft polar bear recovery plan

Polar bears catch a bit of break, as sampling in one area shows a drop in levels of toxic PCBs. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

Polar bears will have a hard time surviving unless there are big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Photo courtesy USGS.

‘Polar bear conservation requires a global commitment to curb the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — The only thing that will save polar bears in the long run is a big cut in global greenhouse gas emissions, federal biologists said last week as the rolled out a draft recovery plan for the Arctic predators.

Polar bears were the first species to be listed as endangered because of the direct threat of global warming. As Arctic sea ice continues to shrink, bear populations will decline, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Continue reading

Lawsuit challenges federal plan for Mexican gray wolves

Wildlife advocates say arbitrary caps on population and habitat won’t allow for full recovery of the species

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife advocates say a federal plan to cap the Mexican gray wolf population at 300 to 325 animals won’t ensure the long-term survival of the species, and they’re going to court to make sure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopts policies that give endangered Mexican gray wolves a fair shot at recovery in their historic U.S. range.

At issue is a final federal rule issued early this year that would likely prevent the wolves from recolonizing suitable habitat in northern Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.

“Unfortunately, politics supplants wildlife biology in key parts of the USFWS Mexican gray wolf plan,” said John Mellgren, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney representing the advocacy groups in the lawsuit. “Our goal in this case is to put the science back into the management of Mexican wolves in the U.S.” Continue reading

Climate change: New polar bear prognosis not good, as feds prepare to publish recovery plan

‘Addressing sea ice loss will require global policy solutions …’

polar bear map

An updated USGS study shows how global warming will affect polar bears.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Loss of Arctic sea ice caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases remains as the primary threat to polar bears, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said after updating their research models.

Even if greenhouse gas emissions drastically reduced, sea ice will continue to shrink for decades, leading to a significant loss of polar bear habitat in many parts of the Arctic. The Canadian Archipelago is a notable exception. That region may serve as a climate refuge for the bears and other ice-dependent species, the federal scientists said. Continue reading

Acoustic survey tracks whale population trends along the coast of Southern California

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Blue whale numbers holding steady; fin whales increasing

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new acoustic survey in Southern California coastal waters is helping researchers track whale populations.

The data analyzed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that blue whale numbers are holding steady, while the number of fin whales is increasing.

Both species are often seen in the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area, where ever-increasing ship traffic has raised concerns about collisions between whales and boats. Continue reading

Key Biscayne National Park establishes new marine reserve to try and restore coral reef ecosystem

A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary, where protective management has helped rebuild fish stocks. Key Biscayne National Park hopes that a new protected area will help restore coral reefs. Photo courtesy NOAA.

No-fishing zone seen as key piece of new management plan

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Park Service says a 10,000-acre no-fishing zone will help restore the heart of Key Biscayne National Park’s coral reef ecosystem and boost fish populations in surrounding waters.

The new marine reserve was announced earlier this month as part of an updated management plan for the popular park near Miami. The no–fishing zone covers about 6 percent of the park’s waters. Some other ecologically important shoreline areas will be protected by slow-speed, no-wake, and no-motor zones to benefit seagrass beds, manatees, mangroves and nesting birds. Continue reading

Environment: EPA finally agrees to study impacts of common pesticides on 1,500 endangered species

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Crop dusting.

Settlement with watchdog group may be the first step in limiting applications of harmful chemicals

Staff Report

FRISCO — Under legal pressure, the EPA last week agreed to begin a far-reaching evaluation of how some of the most commonly used pesticides affect more than 1,500 endangered plants and animals.

The study, to be completed by 2020, could be the first step toward limiting the use of atrazine and glyphosate. The EPA will also analyze the impacts of propazine and simazine, two pesticides that are chemically similar to atrazine. Continue reading

Do wilderness areas need buffer zones?

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The Eagles Nest Wilderness in Colorado.

Researchers propose new ways to limit impacts

Staff Report

FRISCO — A growing population and increasing development may be threatening the ecological integrity of some wilderness areas in the U.S.

Protecting those areas may require establishing buffer zones to limit the impacts, according to University of Georgia researchers who took a close look at development trends near public lands. Continue reading

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