Court finds fatal flaws in U.S. Navy training plan

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A federal court ruling may help protect marine mammals from harmful military activities in the Pacific Ocean. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Environmental study for Pacific Ocean military exercises violates several federal laws

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A federal court this week rejected a U.S. Navy plan for training activities off the coast of California and around the Hawaiian Islands after finding that the naval exercises would harm multiple species of marine mammals — in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The plan, sanctioned by the National Marine Fisheries Service, fails to meet basic requirements of federal environmental laws, said  Judge Susan Oki Mollway, of the U.S. District Court for Hawaii, calling the government’s documents so fundamentally flawed that they need to be totally rewritten. Continue reading

Greater sage-grouse get some love in Oregon

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Greater sage-grouse need all the help they can get.

Voluntary conservation plan aimed at protecting and restoring sagebrush habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — Eastern Oregon’s greater sage-grouse may catch a break under a far-reaching voluntary conservation deal that could cover up to 2.3 million acres.

Under the agreement, landowners in all eight Eastern and Central Oregon counties with greater sage-grouse habitat can enroll their property in a voluntary conservation program, receiving assurances that they will not face additional regulatory requirements if the bird is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Court showdown likely in Wolf Creek land swap battle

A map included in the feasibilty analysis shows the lands near Wolf Creek proposed for a trade.

A map included in the feasibilty analysis shows the lands near Wolf Creek proposed for a trade.

Under pressure from billionaire developer, Forest Service keeps digging itself into a deeper hole

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Conservation advocates in Colorado are bracing for a legal battle with the U.S. Forest Service after the agency last week stayed on course to approve a controversial land exchange that would enable a massive real estate development in the relatively untouched forests around Wolf Creek Pass.

A regional Forest Service officials rejected a series of objections to the swap, finding that the approval didn’t violate any federal laws or agency regulations, but conservation groups say they have obtained documents showing that Maribeth Gustafson, the regional forester who reviewed the objections, may have a conflict of interest because she participated in the process leading to the approval. Continue reading

Environment: Green sea turtles making a comeback

Federal biologists proposal to revamp endangered species listing recognizes conservation progress and allows for more site-specific management

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A green sea turtle swims near the seafloor of the Pacific. Photo courtesy Andy Bruckner/NOAA.

Staff Report

* More Summit Voice stories about sea turtles

FRISCO — Conservation and recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act have helped green sea turtles around Florida and Mexico’s Pacific Coast recover to the point that federal biologists have proposed downlisting the species from endangered to threatened. Continue reading

Scientists urge greater care of World Heritage sites

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef seen from a NASA satellite.

‘As a wealthy country, Australia has the capability and responsibility to improve its management of the reef’

FRISCO — Strong local management may be the key to preserving treasured world heritage sites, researchers concluded in a new study after taking a close look at threats facing the Amazon Rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef and Spain’s Doñana wetlands.

The team of scientists, who published their findings in the journal Science, said protecting such areas from the larger dangers of climate change requires addressing local threats, for example overfishing, fertilizer pollution and land clearing — all of which can exacerbate the effects of climatic extremes, such as heat waves and droughts. Continue reading

Conservation bank eyed as solution to sage-grouse woes

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

235,000-acre ranch to be managed for wildlife conservation; energy companies can buy conservation credits

Staff Report

FRISCO — Biologists, politicians and land-use planners enmeshed in the thorny issue of greater sage-grouse conservation hope that a new conservation bank in Wyoming can help save the dwindling birds without crimping energy development and ranching.

The country’s first-ever sage grouse conservation bank will manage a vast expanse of central Wyoming for sage-grouse, mule deer and other wildlife as a hedge against impacts to greater sage-grouse in energy development zones.

A conservation bank is a site or suite of sites established under an agreement with the Service to protect, and where feasible, improve habitat for a species. Similar banks have long been used to conserve important wetlands. Entities pursuing development that require mitigation can purchase “credits” generated by perpetual conservation easements and conservation projects to offset impacts occurring elsewhere. Continue reading

Oceans: Proposed gillnet ban may be too little, too late for critically endangered Gulf of California vaquitas

Lack of enforcement seen as stumbling block to recovery

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A vaquita in the Gulf of California. Photo courtesy NOAA/Paula Olsen.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Mexico has launched a last-ditch effort to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise by banning the use of gillnets in the northern Gulf of California. Conservation advocates said the ban is a step in the right direction, but expressed concern that Mexico won’t follow through with enforcement.

Vaquitas, the smallest members of the porpoise family, live only in the northern Gulf of California, generally in the vicinity of the Colorado River delta. The species has been on the Endangered Species List since 1985. Scientists say less than 100 individuals remain. Vaquitas could be extinct by 2018 without drastic conservation and recovery actions.

According to conservation biologists, the biggest threat by far to vaquitas is drowning in fishing nets. Environmental pollution, habitat degradation and inbreeding are also factors in their decline. Continue reading

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