Biodiversity: Study shows continued threat to green sea turtles in Central America

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A green sea turtle cruises the sea bottom in this NOAA image.

Relentless fishing pressure pinches population

Staff Report

FRISCO — Endangered green sea turtles aren’t getting much of a break in Central America, where a 20-year assessment shows steeply declining catch rates in Nicaragua — as much as 56 percent in the past two decades, according to conservation scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Florida.

The researchers estimate that more than 170,000 green turtles were killed between 1991 and 2011, with catch rates peaking in 1997 and 2002 and declining steeply after 2008, likely resulting from over-fishing. The trend in catch rates shows a clear need for limits on this legal fishery, according to the report’s authors.

“The significant decrease in the catch rates of green turtles represents a concern for both conservationists and local, coastal communities who depend on this resource,” said Dr. Cynthia Lagueux, lead author of the study. “We hope this study serves as a foundation for implementing scientifically based limits on future green turtle take.” Continue reading

Environment: BLM plans in-depth study of oil and gas leases on Colorado’s White River National Forest

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The BLM will analyze the environmental impacts of contested oil and gas drilling leases south of I-70, between Carbondale and DeBeque. Click for a full-size version.

BLM taking input during scoping phase of environmental study

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Lynx, elk, owls and other high country forest critters in western Colorado will get at least a temporary reprieve from potential oil and gas drilling, as the federal Bureau of Land Management announced last week that it will do an in-depth environmental study for 65 existing oil and gas leases on 80,000 acres of public lands managed by the White River National Forest.

The leases are spread roughly west to east along biologically important mid-elevation lands between Carbondale and DeBeque and overlap designated roadless areas. Conservation advocates have long argued that the sale of the leases was inconsistent with efforts to protect wildlife, water quality and other high-value natural resources. Continue reading

California condors still dying of lead poisoning

A tagged California condor in flight.

A tagged California condor in flight.

New study suggests that spent lead ammunition could make it impossible to recover the species

Staff Report

FRISCO — Accidental ingestion of spent lead ammunition is killing endangered California condors at a rate that may prevent the birds from establishing self-sustaining populations.

The condors were among the first animals to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. By 1966, the population had dropped to just a handful of birds, but a massive collaborative conservation effort helped the population grow to more than 400 individuals.

But those gains may be at risk, according to San Diego Zoo conservation biologists.

“After reviewing nearly 20 years of our mortality data on the free-ranging birds, it became clear that lead poisoning is the primary problem for the birds in the wild,” said Bruce Rideout, director of the wildlife disease laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global.

“And this is not just a problem for California condors. We can view them as an indicator species, warning us about the hazards of widespread lead contamination in the environment.” said Bruce Rideout, director of the wildlife disease laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global.

The recent study of lead impacts was done with researchers from the Wildlife Health Center at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis. The findings are published in the  January edition of the journal EcoHealth.

 

Court rejects challenge to endangered species deal

Developers and energy companies show no love for rare species

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Federal biologists are deciding whether wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A federal judge last week rejected claims by developers that a 2011 agreement between environmental groups and the federal government will hurt the industry.

At issue is a groundbreaking deal covering more than 700 species that could someday be listed as threatened or endangered. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it will make listing decisions on all the species by 2018, and so far, 138 species have been protected or formally proposed for protection. Continue reading

GOP renews attack on Endangered Species Act

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Why are so many Republicans opposed to efforts to protect and restore endangered and threatened species?

Not much substance, a lot of political smoke …

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Republican anti-environment cadre in the House is once again taking aim at the Endangered Species Act by introducing legislation that would make it even harder for federal agencies to protect animals and plants that are at risk of going extinct.

Two of the bills, H.R. 4316 and H.R. 4318, would limit the ability of citizens to challenge government decisions in court. The Republican measures are also ostensibly aimed at reducing the government’s legal costs associated with responding to endangered species lawsuits, but conservation advocates said that is an ideological red herring. Government data shows that the Department of Interior has spent far more money responding to frivolous demands for documents than on settling lawsuits.

Continue reading

Environment: Post-fire rehab treatments in Great Basin not doing much good for sage-grouse

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

More targeted treatments could benefit threatened birds

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Post-fire rehabilitation work in the Great Basin’s sagebrush ocean isn’t doing much to help greater sage-grouse, USGS and U.S. Forest Service scientists found in a new study.

The research team took a close look at areas eight to 20 years after seeding efforts, pointing out that such restoration projects could, in theory, be used to improve sage grouse habitat — but only if the right types of seeds are planted.

Sage-grouse tend to use areas with a mixture of dwarf sagebrush and Wyoming big sagebrush, native grasses, minimal human development, and minimal non-native plants. Most post-fire restoration projects are were designed to mitigate the effects of fire on soil and vegetation — but they provide an opportunity to reverse habitat degradation for sage-grouse, a species being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Continue reading

Oceans: Satellite data shows leatherback sea turtles ranging far and wide in search of jellyfish

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A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New study to help inform conservation efforts along East Coast and Caribbean

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Threatened leatherback sea turtles like to hang out off the northeastern U.S. coast in late summer and fall, when mature jellyfish are abundant in the area, scientists said last week, sharing the results of a long-term study based on satellite data of tagged sea turtles.

“Our study provides new insights about how male and immature turtles behave, how they use their habitats and how that differs from adult females,” said University of Massachusetts researcher Kara Dodge. “Resource managers for protected marine species have lacked this key understanding, especially in coastal regions of the U.S. and Caribbean where leatherbacks and intense human activity coincide.” Continue reading

Wildlife: Southwest wolf numbers up 4th year in a row

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Wolves numbers are slowly increasing in the Southwest.

Hopeful signs for recovery effort, but challenges remain

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Against a backdrop of political and legal battles over the status of wolves, Mexican gray wolf numbers have increased the fourth year in a row, with 83 wolves now living in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona.

That’s up 10 percent from last year and almost 100 percent from four years ago, according to the annual tally from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The number of breeding pairs also increased from three to five. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds finalize critical habitat for jaguars

Jaguar. Image via the Wikimedia Commons.

Jaguar. Image via the Wikimedia Commons.

Nearly 1,200 square miles of territory protected for recovery of native cats

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Nearly 17 years after federal biologists first listed jaguars under the Endangered Species Act, the wild cats may now have a protected area to roam in the wilds of the Southwest.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week designated about 1,200 square miles of rugged desert, mountain and forest lands in southern Arizona and New Mexico as critical habitat for jaguars — but only after a sustained legal push by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The federal wildlife agency initially resisted mapping out protected areas, claiming that the cats are too rare for habitat protection. Wildlife advocates challenged the agency’s position and a federal court rejected the government’s argument, leading to this week’s critical habitat listing notice in the Federal Register. The USFWS is also working on a jaguar recovery plan for the area. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists warn about use of seismic airguns in never-ending quest for more fossil fuels

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Seismic airgun testing poses a risk to marine mammals.

Marine mammals at risk off the East Coast

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The fossil fuel industry’s use of seismic airgun testing to search for as-yet untapped offshore oil deposits could prove damaging to ocean species — especially marine mammals that depend on acoustic information.

Unless federal agencies use the best available science to design effective avoidance and mitigation strategies, thousands of dolphins and whales could be affected, including critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, with a dwindling population of only 500 individuals. Continue reading

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