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Environment: Polluted runoff from farms and cities in Hawaii causes sea turtle tumors

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An endangered green sea turtle swims along the sea bottom. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘We’re drawing direct lines from human nutrient inputs to the reef ecosystem, and how it affects wildlife’

Staff Report

FRISCO — What goes on your lawn and garden doesn’t stay there — and that’s bad news for sea turtles in Hawaii, Duke University biologists said this week, explaining that pollution from urban areas and farms is causing often-deadly tumors in the endangered animals.

A new study, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PeerJ, shows that nitrogen in the runoff ends up in algae that the turtles eat, promoting the formation of tumors on the animals’ eyes, flippers and internal organs. Continue reading

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New chytrid fungus test could help amphibian conservation

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A boreal toad found in the Cucumber Gulch wetlands in Breckenridge, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

New sampling method enables early detection of deadly fungus in the environment, before it infects amphibians

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new way to test for the presence of the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus may help conservation efforts for species like the Rocky Mountain’s boreal toads, still under consideration for the endangered species list.

Instead of testing amphibians directly for the fungus, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said they’ve learned how to test for chytrid fungus in the water the animals live in. The new sampling technique can help assess the risk of exposure, potentially helping plan recovery efforts. Continue reading

Florida panthers catch break from National Park Service

Big Cypress National Preserve closes some motorized backcountry routes in response to environmental lawsuit

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Ribbons of trails cut through Big Cypress National Preserve.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Florida panthers will get at least a temporary reprieve from dirt bikes and off-road vehicles, as the National Park Service agreed to cut motorized in Big Cypress National Preserve.

The agreement with conservation groups requires the park service to close an extensive network of motorized secondary and user-created trails until it conducts an environmental analysis. The park service must also work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure protection for panthers and other rare species in the area. Continue reading

Report highlights species on brink of extinction

Sierra Yellow-legged frog. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

Sierra Yellow-legged frog. Photo: USFWS.

Biodiversity crisis growing as more and more species blink out

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s no secret that many plant and animal species in the U.S. are in danger of disappearing permanently, but a new report from the Endangered Species Coalition brings home the point by highlighting several once-common species teetering on the brink of extinction.

Among them, the mountain yellow-legged frog, with 90 percent of remaining populations supporting fewer than 10 frogs.

“Frogs have successfully thrived on our planet since the time of the dinosaurs, but now the mountain yellow legged frog and 30 percent of all amphibian species are facing extinction due to human actions,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity, which nominated the mountain yellow-legged frog for today’s report and petitioned for its federal protection in 2000. Continue reading

Great Smoky Mountains National Park seeks to protect bat populations by limiting seasonal access to hibernation area

Monitoring to help inform conservation plan

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A map from Bat Conservation International shows the spread of white-nose syndrome in the eastern United States.

Staff Report

RISCO — The National Park Service hopes to protect bat populations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a winter closure to limit human disturbance to bat hibernacula and help hikers avoid interactions with bats.

The Whiteoak Sink area will be closed through March 31 while park biologists monitor  the site throughout the winter to cllect population, ecological and behavioral data. The information will be used to develop a long-term protection plan. An extended closure through late spring may be recommended if the winter data suggests such an action would increase the chances for survival of a significant number of bats. Continue reading

Wildlife: Wyoming wolves get reprieve

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A federal judge has blocked Wyoming’s unsustainable wolf management plan. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Federal judge invalidates state hunting plan

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wyoming wolves will get at least a temporary reprieve from the state’s shoot-on-sight management plan, as a federal judge this week set aside a 2012 decision that turned wolf management over to the state.

The state plan, approved by the Wyoming legislature, would allow hunters and trappers to kill most wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park, leaving only a token population in the park — hardly in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Southwestern bird populations in steep decline

Report shows that even many common species are dwindling

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Global warming threatens ptarmigan habitat in the mountains of the West.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Bird populations are dwindling all over North America, especially in the Southwest, where some species have declined by as much as 48 percent since the late 1960s, according to the 2014 State of the Birds report released last week.

In Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, habitat loss and fragmentation due to development are the largest threats. These are also significant threats in the nation’s grasslands, where breeding birds like the eastern meadowlark and the bobolink have declined by 40 percent since 1968, with the steepest declines coming before 1990, when stakeholders started investing in grassland bird conservation.

And experts say it’s not just rare birds that are vanishing. The report includes a list of 33 common species in steep decline, losing ore than half their global populations over the past four decades — a clear warning sign that birds can undergo a massive population collapse with surprising rapidity. For example, passenger pigeon populations crashed from 2 to 3 billion birds to none in the wild in just 40 years. Continue reading

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