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Puget Sound orcas keep ESA protection

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Puget Sound‘s orcas need Endangered Species Act protection. Photo courtesy NOAA/NMFS.

Feds reject argument by ultra- conservative property rights group

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A tiny population of threatened killer whales in Puget Sound will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Marine Fisheries Service this week rejected a petition from the Pacific Legal Foundation, which had challenged the population’s status.

The fringe property rights advocacy group claimed, based in invalid science, that the Puget Sound  “southern resident” killer whales are not a distinct population. In response, the federal government conducted a year-long review of the status and eligibility of the orcas for Endangered Species Act protection and confirmed that the whale’s endangered listing remains warranted. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: Conservation group says bats are at risk under new Forest Service Rocky Mountain cave-access policy

Re-opening caves could lead to spread of deadly white-nose syndrome

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By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service this week denied an appeal of a new cave-access policy for the Rocky Mountain region, clearing the way for the re-opening of some caves that have been under a blanket closure the past three years to try and prevent the spread of bat-killing white-nose syndrome.

The fungal pathogen was probably introduced to caves in the Northeast by humans and quickly spread to kill more than 7 million bats as far west as Missouri and Oklahoma. Bats are unsung members of the country’s ecosystems, providing valuable insect-control and pollination services. Continue reading

Conservation group says Florida butterfly extinction shows need for better endangered species protections

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Will the Endangered Species Act save the Miami blue butterfly? Photo via USFWS.

40-year-old law seen as bulwark against biodiversity crisis

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — If you can imagine looking up at the night sky and watching familiar stars blinking out forever, then you might have some sense of what’s going on with the planet’s plants and animals in part of the greatest wave of extinctions and biodiversity loss in many thousands of years.

The constellation of life is losing stars at an alarming and increasing rate, including the likely extinction of two Florida butterfly species announced last week by the U.S. Fishd and Wildlife Service — Florida Zestos and rockland grass skippers.

In a press release, conservation groups say the loss of the two species could have been saved with the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

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

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