Feds to expand critical habitat for rare Atlantic whales

Proposal comes in response to legal pressure from activists

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North Atlantic right whales, courtesy Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the world’s most endangered marine mammals will get a little more room to roam, as the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed an expansion of critical habitat for endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The expansion covers areas in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean that support calving and nursing. The habitat rule comes in response to continued pressure from conservation advocates pushing for adequate protection for a species that numbers only about 450 individuals. Continue reading

Republican lawmakers declare war on wolves

Proposed legislation undermines Endangered Species Act

Gray wolves a. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Gray wolves. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Politicians are once again meddling with wolf conservation in a process that never ends well for the animals. Last week, Republican lawmakers from Wisconsin, Wyoming and Minnesota introduced House legislation that would remove federal protection from gray wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes states.

Already under political pressure, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ended protections for gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in 2011 and in Wyoming in 2012. Federal judges overturned both decisions for failing to follow the best science and for prematurely turning management over to state fish and game agencies hostile to wolves. Continue reading

Wildlife: Southwest wolf population tops 100 for first time in modern era

Conservation biologists focusing on genetic health of packs

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 — The future for wolves in the southwestern U.S. looks a little brighter this year, as the population grew by 31 percent to reach 109 wolves living in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s the fourth year in a row that the population has grown by at least 10 percent. The 2014 minimum population count includes 38 wild-born pups that survived through the end of the year. Continue reading

Biologists map key habitat for Mediterranean sea turtles

Green sea turtle conservation

Green sea turtle. Photo courtesy Andy Bruckner/NOAA.

New marine protected area needed to protect the threatened species

Staff Report

FRISCO — UK scientists say that, based on mapping of critical foraging grounds for green sea turtles in the Mediterranean they recommend creation of a new marine protected areas to help protect the species, identified as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List.

The study involved tracking turtles from breeding grounds in Cyprus, Turkey, Israel and Syria and pinpointing ten foraging grounds. Two major hotspots in Libya account for more than half of the turtles which were tracked to conclusive endpoints.

Recent green sea turtle studies by U.S. scientists show how protected areas can help protect the species. The U.S. Geological Survey researchers confirmed the turtles’ use of the protected areas by tracking nesting turtles with satellite tags and analyzing their movement patterns after they left beaches in the Florida Keys. Continue reading

Feds confirm identity of illegally killed Utah wolf

Grand Canyon wolf

A gray wolf that wandered at least 450 miles from the northern Rockies is now living near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

DNA test shows the wolf was the same one seen wandering around the Grand Canyon

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal biologists say they’re now 100 percent sure that a wolf killed in late December in Utah was the same one that had previously been spotted wandering around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said University of Idaho geneticists matched DNA samples of the dead Utah wolf with samples taken from the wolf near the Grand Canyon. Continue reading

Not much love for endangered species in Obama’s budget

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It’s tough to save endangered species without any money.

Funding for entire endangered species program is less than the cost of a single F-35 fighter jet

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Obama administration talks a good green game, but when it comes to putting money toward endangered species protection, it’s business as usual. In fact, according to environmental watchdogs, the total amount of money allocated to endangered species is less than in 2016 when measured on a per-species basis.

That’s partly because 140 plants and animals have been added to the endangered species list in the past four years without an increase in spending, which means many conservation programs will underfunded once again this year. Continue reading

Climate: Growing stream-flow variability threatens Chinook salmon spawning in Pacific Northwest

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Can Chinook salmon survive global warming?

Research documents more fall and winter flooding

Staff Report

FRISCO — Threatened Chinook salmon have been able to adapt to many changes over millennia, but climate change presents a big new threat, as many rivers around Puget Sound have seen bigger fluctuations in stream flows during the past 60 years.

“There’s more flooding in late fall and winter,” said Eric Ward, an ecologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “This is happening when the eggs are in the gravel or when the juveniles are most susceptible.”

More pronounced fluctuations in flow can scour away salmon eggs and exhaust young fish, especially when lower flows force adult fish to lay eggs in more exposed areas in the center of the channel. Continue reading

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