Will black-footed ferrets catch a break in Wyoming?

Feds propose ‘non-essential, experimental’ status

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Black-footed ferret, courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Black-footed ferrets could make a comeback on private lands in Wyoming under a federal proposal to designate the State of Wyoming as a special area for reintroduction, where the mammals would be managed as a “non-essential, experimental” population under a special provision of the Endangered Species Act.

The prairie-dwelling critters have been on the Endangered Species List since 1967. They were listed just a year after Congress passed the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Greater sage-grouse face serious global warming threat

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Greater sage-grouse may lose ground to global warming. Photo courtesy USGS.

Climate change to cut key nesting habitat in Wyoming

Staff Report

FRISCO — As if greater sage-grouse didn’t already have enough to worry about, a new study suggests that global warming may reduce nesting habitat for the dwindling birds by 12 percent in southwestern Wyoming by 2050.

“Historic disturbances of fire, development and invasive species have altered the sagebrush landscape, but climate change may represent the habitat’s greatest future risk,” said Collin Homer, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist who led the research.

“Warming temperatures, combined with less snow and rain, will favor species other than sagebrush, as well as increase sagebrush habitat’s vulnerability to fire, insects, disease and invasive species,” Homer said, explaining that the research helped show how vulnerable sagebrush landscapes are to climate change. Continue reading

Environment: Lowe’s to drop bee-killing pesticides

Bumblebee butt and thistle.

Bumblebee butt and thistle.

Decision follows EPA’s recent move to ban new uses of neonicotinoids

Staff Report

FRISCO — Home gardeners who shopp at Lowe’s can rest a little easier, knowing that the big-box retailer will eliminate bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides from its stores.

Conservation groups two years ago launched a campaign to convince the company to drop the systemic pesticides. This week, Lowe’s said it will phase out neonicotinoids (“neonics”) as suitable alternatives become available, and provide additional material educating customers about pollinator health. Continue reading

Study says dispersants deadlier to coral than oil

One of the impacted corals with attached brittle starfish. Although the orange tips on some branches of the coral is the color of living tissue, it is unlikely that any living tissue remains on this animal. PHOTO COURTESY Lophelia II 2010, NOAA OER and BOEMR.

As early as 2012, scientists documented how oil and oil dispersants damaged communities of deep sea coral in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy Lophelia II 2010, NOAA OER and BOEMR.

‘It doesn’t take as much dispersant to kill a coral as it does oil’

Staff Report

FRISCO — New laboratory studies on the use of oil dispersants during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill show that the dispersant is more toxic to coldwater corals than the spilled oil.

The findings, published near the fifth anniversary of the spill, may help agencies developing future strategies for applying dispersants at oil spills that are more helpful than harmful to the environment, according to the scientists from Temple University and Penn State University. Continue reading

Feds eye more protection for northern spotted owls

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Can northern spotted owls survive in the Pacific Northwest? Photo courtesy USFWS.

Logging and post-fire salvage, along with competion from barred owls, still seen as key threats

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dinged by a double whammy of continued habitat loss and interspecies competition, the Pacific Northwest’s northern spotted owl may get even more protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week said it will launch a review to decide if the spotted owl should be reclassified as endangered rather than threatened.

The population of the northern spotted owl is declining across most of the species’ range. The most recent data show a 2.9 percent range-wide population decline per year, although declines as high as 5.9 percent per year have been observed in some areas. Continue reading

Environment: How to save the Great Barrier Reef

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A section of the Great Barrier Reef photographed from the International Space Station.

Australian scientists offer common-sense plan to restore coral reef ecosystem

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a 40-year span when the Great Barrier Reef lost half its coral cover, and with global warming looming for the future, Australian scientists say fundamental changes are needed to protect the reef.

Better policies focusing on science, protection and conservation are the key, a team of leading researchers wrote this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, arguing that all the stressors on the Reef need to be reduced for it to recover. Continue reading

Bighorn sheep return to Yosemite high country

 Reintroduction part of overall bighorn sheep recovery effort

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Bighorn sheep are released into Yosemite National Park and the Cathedral Range in late March, 2015. Photo courtesy Yosemite Conservancy/Steve Bumgardner.

Staff Report

FRISCO — It took 100 years, but bighorn sheep have returned to high country of Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, as federal and state biologists last month transplanted small herds of the mammals to their new homes.

Between March 26 and March 29, 2015, nine ewes  and three rams were moved from the Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park to the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park. In addition, seven ewes were moved to the Laurel Creek area of Sequoia National Park, with plans to relocated three rams to that area.

The Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep is the only federally endangered mammal in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon. The species was listed in 2000 after the population plunged to just 100 individuals. Since then, the population has since increased to more than 600. Continue reading

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