Biodiversity: Wolves get short end of the stick — again

Caving to political pressure from western states, the Obama administration wants to remove endangered species protections for the ecologically vital predators

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A gray wolf follows a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy NPS/Doug Smith.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In a move that’s sure to spur another round of contentious lawsuits, the Obama administration is moving ahead with its controversial plan to take nearly all wolves across the U.S. off the endangered species list.

Federal biologists say wolves are recovered and no longer need endangered species protection, but conservation groups immediately blasted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying that the agency based its conclusions on faulty science.

“This is like kicking a patient out of the hospital when they’re still attached to life-support,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity.  “Wolves cling to a sliver of their historic habitat in the lower 48 and now the Obama administration wants to arbitrarily declare victory and move on. They need to finish the job that Americans expect, not walk away the first chance they get. This proposal is a  national disgrace and our wildlife deserve better,” Greenwald said. Continue reading

Environment: Extreme anti-environmental Republicans once again on the march against endangered species protections

Endangered species like Florida's manatees would have little chance of surviving, much less recovering without the Endangered Species Act to protect them from the excesses of greedy developers and their Republican political allies.

Endangered species like Florida’s manatees would have little chance of surviving, much less recovering without the Endangered Species Act to protect them from the excesses of greedy developers and their Republican political allies.

The words change, but the song remains the same — and it’s all about money

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Radical anti-environmental House Republicans are once again on the march against endangered species protections. In a hearing this week, the GOP renewed its attacks against the bulwark environmental law, retreading the same arguments that have been rejected by the American people more than once.

The message trotted out by right-wingers like Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) doesn’t change much from year to year: Grow the economy, create jobs, but it’s really driven by a corporate agenda that wants only to extract more profit from public lands.

This latest assault comes as the nation celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Act — a world-famous law that has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species entrusted to its care and put hundreds of them on the road to recovery. Continue reading

EPA takes small step toward addressing ocean acidification

A pteropod shell damaged by corrosive water. Photo courtesy British Antarctic Survey.

A pteropod shell damaged by corrosive water. Photo courtesy British Antarctic Survey.

Work group to discuss possible new water quality standards that would help assess acidification threats

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The EPA is taking a step toward tackling the issue of ocean acidification, which is leading toward a huge marine biodiversity catastrophe. The agency recently said it will task a panel of scientists to discuss a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity that requests new water quality standards to enable better detection and monitoring of acidification.

Some of the carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere is finding its way to the seas, where it’s changing the basic chemistry of the water and starting to have an impact on corals, shelfish and other marine organisms. One recent study showed exactly how ocean acidification is dissolving the shells of tiny sea snails in the Southern Ocean.

The federal government also has an interagency working group, with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies working on the issue. Continue reading

Feds settle lawsuit, move to protect sea turtle habitat

First part of protection plan due July 1

A NOAA map showing the range of loggerhead sea turtles.

A NOAA map showing the range of loggerhead sea turtles.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will protect loggerhead sea turtle feeding, breeding and migratory habitat in ocean waters by July 1, pursuant to a settlement agreement with conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana and Turtle Island Restoration Network and the U.S. government.

The agency also committed to finalizing critical habitat protection for marine habitat and nesting beaches by July 1, 2014. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed critical habitat protection for loggerhead nesting beaches along Atlantic and Gulf coasts and will accept public comment until May 24. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Sierra Nevada frogs proposed for listing

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Recovery efforts for Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs may get a boost from a proposed endangered species listing. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Endangered Species Act protection could help stem decline and boost recovery efforts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After suffering decades of decline  from habitat destruction, disease, predation by nonnative trout, pesticides and climate change, native Sierra Nevada amphibians may get some measure of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week proposed listing Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs and Yosemite toads. The agency also proposed protection for a population of mountain yellow-legged frogs that lives in the southern Sierra Nevada. The plan also includes an initial proposal to designate more than 2 million acres of critical habitat.

The proposal are the result of a 2011 agreement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the USFWS to speed up endangered species protection decisions for 757 imperiled animals and plants around the country. So far, 56 species have been fully protected and another 96 have been proposed for protection under the settlement agreement.  Continue reading

California gillnet fishery eyed as threat to whales

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Spem whale photo by Tim Cole, National Marine Fisheries Service.

Endangered whales perishing in mile-long nets

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — California’s drift gillnet fishery may be classified as one of the most deadly to marine mammals, the National Marine Fisheries Service said this week, announcing its proposed list of fisheries classifications in the Federal Register as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

According to federal biologists, more than three sperm whales die inadvertently each year after being entangled in the drifting nets along with other non-target species like sharks, turtles, dolphins and sea lions. The loss of sperm whales isn’t sustainable considering the small overall population, according to the proposed listing. Continue reading

Biodiversity: More condors die of lead poisoning

Conservation advocates want to phase out lead ammunition

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Majestic California condors are dying of lead poisoning on a regular basis.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With another three endangered California condors dead from lead poisoning in Arizona, conservation advocates are ramping up their call to phase out the use of lead ammunition.

Three condors may not sound like many, but that’s nearly 5 percent of the entire Arizona-Utah population, which numbers only about 80 birds. Seven of the birds have died since December, and three of the deaths are definitively linked with lead poisoning, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Since condors eat carrion, they ingest spent lead ammunition fragments as part of their diet. Lead poisoning is also suspected in the other four deaths. At least 38 condors have been killed by lead poisoning in Arizona and Utah. Lead poisoning recently killed the female of Utah’s only breeding pair of condors. Each year, up to half of the wild Grand Canyon condors must be given life-saving, emergency blood treatment for lead poisoning. Continue reading

Biodiversity: More wolf turmoil in the Southwest

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Feds back away from plan to capture wolves that cross the border from Mexico

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Wolves crossing the border from Mexico into the southwestern U.S. won’t be trapped and held in captivity, at least for now.

According the Center for Biological Diversity, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rescinded a permit it had granted itself and other federal and state agencies to trap wolves that cross into Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico.

The agency hasn’t made a formal announcement, but contacted attorneys for the environmental groups, said Michael Robinson, a wolf conservation advocated with the Center for Biological Diversity. Continue reading

USFWS to consider endangered species listing for woodpeckers that rely on post-fire habitat

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Black-backed woodpeckers rely on recently burned forests for habitat. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

Salvage logging, fire suppression seen as key threats

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — U.S. Forest Service programs touted as forest health work may be the the primary threats to two populations of black-backed woodpeckers that rely on post-fire habitat.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week said it will consider those threats to the rare birds in California, Oregon and the Black Hills of South Dakota as it decides whether to protect the birds under the Endangered Species Act based on a petition requesting protection.

Some of the primary threats to the populations that were included in the petition include post-disturbance salvage logging, active fire suppression that limits the acreage and severity of fires each year, and forest thinning programs.

“This is the first time in the history of the Endangered Species Act that the government has initiated steps to protect a wildlife species that depends upon stands of fire-killed trees,” said Dr. Chad Hanson, an ecologist and black-backed woodpecker expert. “We are pleased to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognize the naturalness and ecological importance of this post-fire habitat.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: Forest Service adopting a regional policy to address bat-killing fungal disease

Wildlife conservation advocates call for more stringent measures

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The Forest Service hopes that a tiered, adaptive-management approach will help prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome in the Rocky Mountain region.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service is adopting a regional policy aimed at managing caves in the face of White-Nose Syndrome, a bat-killing disease that is sweeping across the country.

The fungal infection has wiped out millions of bats in the Northeast, spreading southward, and west as far as Oklahoma, but hasn’t yet reached the Rocky Mountains, but the Forest Service recognizes the threat:

“If (the disease) is introduced to cave or (abondoned mine) habitats anywhere in the five states in Region 2, it will likely spread rapidly via bat-to-bat transmission and could quickly contaminate cave and (abandoned mine) habitats,” the agency concluded in the study. Continue reading

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