Biologists mark huge step in fight against amphibian-killing fungus


Boreal toads in Colorado, and other amphibians around the world, may benefit from the results of a new treatment that can eliminate a deadly fungus.

New treatment could help protect vulnerable species

Staff Report

Scientists in the UK and Spain say they’ve developed a way to tackle the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus in a way that could help protect wild populations of amphibians.

Their research is a major breakthrough in the battle against the deadly disease, which has affected over 700 amphibian species worldwide; driving population declines, extirpations and species extinctions across five continents. Continue reading

Watchdogs say Western Governors’ Association is trying to weaken endangered species protections


Not much love for endangered species like lynx at a recent Western Governors’ Association workshop. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Recent workshop focused on industry gripes

Staff Report

For the apparent lack of anything productive to do, the Western Governors’s Association is apparently trying to cook up new ways to weaken the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of developers and extractive industries.

The association held a workshop last week, ostensibly to “encourage bipartisan conversations to improve the Endangered Species Act,” but that is just more Orwellian doublespeak, according to watchdog groups, who pointed out that speakers during the meeting “overwhelmingly represented industries and political interests opposed to protections for endangered species.” Continue reading

Bat-killing fungus has spread across 26 states


A bat displays signs of the deadly white-nose syndrome. Photo via USFWS.

Nebraska officials confirm presence of white-nose syndrome

Staff Report

Bat-killing white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in Nebraska, which means the deadly fungus has now spread to 26 states and five Canadian provinces, wiping out populations of hibernating bats along the way.

“While the presence of the fungus is disappointing, it is not surprising,” said Mike Fritz, a zoologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “With the fungus being present in states around us and the migratory nature of bats, it was probably only a matter of time before it was documented in Nebraska.” Continue reading

Neonicotinoid pesticide impacts extend to wild bees


Study tracks neonicotinoid pesticide exposure in wild bee populations. @bberwyn photo.

Are native bees at risk from systemic pesticides?

Staff Report

Native wild bees are being exposed to toxic neonicotinoid pesticides, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research in northeastern Colorado.

The research focused on native bees because there is limited information on their exposure to pesticides. In fact, little is known about how toxic these pesticides are to native bee species at the levels detected in the environment.

“We found that the presence and proximity of nearby agricultural fields was an important factor resulting in the exposure of native bees to pesticides,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author. “Pesticides were detected in the bees caught in grasslands with no known direct pesticide applications.” Continue reading

Genetic study suggests Yellowstone grizzlies are headed toward recovery

An adult grizzly bear in the brush. PHOTO COURTESY THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

Are grizzlies in Yellowstone headed toward recovery? Photo courtesy USFWS.

USGS researchers track effective population size with DNA sampling

Staff Report

A new genetic study suggests the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is growing to near the size needed to maintain healthy genetic diversity.

The latest report from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team is sure to add more fuel to the controversy over whether grizzlies should taken off the Endangered Species List, as proposed by federal resource managers. Many conservation biologists say grizzlies are nowhere near recovery and that the move to delist them is based on politics, not science. Continue reading

Environment: Some countries only paying lip service to Antarctica conservation

Legal analysis finds some countries are abusing an international conservation treaty to justify more Southern Ocean fishing

Increasing concentrations of CO2 could turn this Antarctic beach into a tropical zone. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

Will the world be able to agree on new protection for the Southern Ocean? @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Efforts to set aside protected ocean areas around Antarctica are faltering because some countries are willfully misinterpreting a legal treaty governing the use of resources in the region, according to a new analysis published in the journal Marine Policy.

At issue is the term “rational use” in an international treaty that governs the management of natural resources in the region. Even though the treaty is focused on conservation, some countries are twisting the term to justify unsustainable fishing, said the scientists and legal scholars who published their findings to coincide with a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in Hobart, Tasmania.

The international organization is setting fisheries management rules for the Southern Ocean around Antarctica and also wants to take up the issue of creating vast new marine reserves — but those efforts have been blocked in recent years by Russia and China, who want the freedom to exploit resources unsustainably.

The treaty requires that fishing does not cause irreversible damage to the greater marine ecosystem. While defined in the text of the legal Convention, the term rational use is increasingly being interpreted to mean an unfettered right to fish. Even more surprising, countries such as China and Ukraine have recently invoked rational use to protest the adoption of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean.

“Our research into the treaty negotiation record shows that ‘rational use’ on its own did not have a clear, consistent, or objective meaning,” said lead author Jennifer Jacquet, an assistant professor in New York University’s Environmental Studies Program.

“In recent years, some countries have argued that MPAs interfere with their right to rational use,” Brooks said. “Yet adopting MPAs in CCAMLR waters is in complete accordance with stipulations of rational use, which require conservation of the fished species and the greater ecosystem in the Southern Ocean.”

Currently, the main species harvested in the Antarctic are Antarctic krill and Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish, also known on the market as the lucrative “Chilean sea bass.”

“The Southern Ocean is a global commons. As such, marine protected areas would allow CCAMLR member states to continue fishing while also ensuring a legacy for future generations,” Brooks said. “What could be more rational than that?”

U.S. puts rare macaws on endangered species list

"Ara militaris -Zoológico Los Coyotes -three-8a" by Gary Denness - originally posted to Flickr as Squawk No Evil. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons -

“Ara militaris -Zoológico Los Coyotes -three-8a” by Gary Denness – originally posted to Flickr as Squawk No Evil. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via the Creative Commons.

Decades of poaching, habitat destruction take toll on birds

Staff Report

Two rare bird species in Central and South America will get protection under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week. Under the listing, military and great green macaws can’t be imported into, or exported out of, the U.S.

Permits to handle the birds will only be issued for scientific purposes that benefit the species in the wild, or to enhance the propagation or survival of the species, including habitat restoration and research. Continue reading


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