Environment: Feds extend comment period on controversial Endangered Species Act changes

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Can the Endangered Species Act be improved?

Proposed changes would make it harder for citizen groups to petition for protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — The feds will give the public an extra two months to weigh in on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, with a new comment deadline set for mid-September.

In May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service published draft regulations, saying that the changes are aimed at improving transparency and inclusiveness. The move to freshen up the Endangered Species Act reflects “advances in conservation biology and genetics, as well as recent court decisions interpreting the Act’s provisions.” Continue reading

Feds seek near-total ban on ivory trade to protect elephants

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Greed is pushing elephants toward extinction.

Booming Asian economies fuel huge poaching and wildlife trafficking issues

Staff Report

FRISCO —Federal wildlife managers hope that a near-total ban on the U.S. ivory trade will help slow the slaughter of elephants poached for their tusks.

By some estimates, as many as 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012 — about one every 15 minutes. Elephants are threatened in formerly safe areas, and some of Africa’s most famous wildlife parks are littered with carcasses. Continue reading

Climate: Warmer temps, more rain will up disease threat to endangered Hawaiian birds

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After more than 30 years of careful management, the Hawaiian stilt is thriving at Pearl Harbor and James Campbell National Wildlife Refuges on Oahu. Credit: Mike Silbernagle/USFWS.

Mosquito-free havens will start to disappear by mid-century, study warns

Staff Report

FRISCO — Island birds, including endangered species in the Hawai‘i archipelago, are facing a serious threat, as diseases carried by mosquitoes are due to expand into higher elevation safe zones.

With warming temperatures, mosquitoes will move farther upslope and increase in number, and mosquito-friendly temperatures are expected by mid-century, according to a new study by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Future increases in rainfall will likely benefit the mosquitoes as well.

“We knew that temperature had significant effects on mosquitoes and malaria, but we were surprised that rainfall also played an important role,” said USGS Wisconsin scientist Michael Samuel. “Additional rainfall will favor mosquitoes as much as the temperature change.” Continue reading

Climate: Not a lot of options for polar bears

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Polar bear photo courtesy Eric Regehr, USFWS.

New study shows food shortages will catch up to the Arctic predators

Staff Report

FRISCO — When it comes to finding food as Arctic sea ice melts, polar bears don’t exactly have a lot of options.

That’s one of the main reasons the Arctic predators are under the global warming gun, and a new study of how the bears respond metabolically during lean times underscores the existing science. Continue reading

Feds post draft recovery plan for rare Nebraska beetle

Salt Creek tiger beetles have been pushed to the brink of extinction by habitat loss associated with urbanization, bank stabilization and agricultural development

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There are only a few hundred Salt Creek tiger beetles remaining. Photo via USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A rare insect that lives only in a few pockets of saline wetlands and streams in eastern Nebraska is getting some much-needed attention. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week published a draft recovery plan for the endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle.

Biologists are hopeful that a collaborative conservation effort, including habitat protection, captive breeding and reintroductions, can keep the insect from going extinct. Salt Creek tiger beetles have declined due to habitat loss associated with urbanization, bank stabilization and agricultural development. Continue reading

Study maps biodiversity in Bering Sea canyon

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New research reveals biodiversity secrets deep beneath the surface of the Bering Sea.

Protection could benefit entire Bering Sea ecosystem

Staff Report

FRISCO — An undersea canyon in the Bering Sea is a biodiversity hotspot, scientists said in a new report that reinforces a push to establish protection for the area.

The study, conducted by the Marine Science Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Greenpeace concluded that Pribilof canyon is the most significant location for deep sea corals and sponges along the entire eastern Bering Sea shelf.

With protections in place for coral and sponge habitat, Bering Sea fish and king crab populations could increase, according to conservation advocates. The study, published in Global Ecology and Conservation, also found that restricting bottom-contact fishing in Bering Sea canyons would not have significant negative impacts on the fishing industry. Continue reading

Bumblebees losing ground to global warming

Changes in southeastern forests may be contributing to the decline of bee populations, @bberwyn photo.

Bumblebees are being squeezed in a climate vice, Canadian researchers found in a new study. @bberwyn photo.

‘The result is widespread, rapid declines of pollinators across continents …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Canadian researchers say North American and European bumblebees are being squeezed in a “climate vise” that’s compressing their habitat.

In their study, the scientists found that it’s getting too warm at the southern end of their range, but the bees haven’t been able to expand northward into cooler territory.

“The result is widespread, rapid declines of pollinators across continents, effects that are not due to pesticide use or habitat loss. It looks like it’s just too hot,” said Professor Jeremy Kerr, Macroecology and Conservation chair at the  University of Ottawa. Continue reading

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