River protection critical for snapping turtles

‘All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go …’

Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

An alligator snapping turtle. Photo courtesy Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation of coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico is vital to the survival of the alligator snapping turtle, including two recently discovered species, University of Florida scientists concluded in a recent study that sheds more light on the taxonomy of the dinosaurs of the turtle world.

The study shows the alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the Western Hemisphere and previously believed to be one species, is actually three separate species. Continue reading

Court rejects challenge to endangered species deal

Developers and energy companies show no love for rare species

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Federal biologists are deciding whether wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A federal judge last week rejected claims by developers that a 2011 agreement between environmental groups and the federal government will hurt the industry.

At issue is a groundbreaking deal covering more than 700 species that could someday be listed as threatened or endangered. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it will make listing decisions on all the species by 2018, and so far, 138 species have been protected or formally proposed for protection. Continue reading

GOP attack on endangered species fueled by “Tea Party fantasies’

House report fails to cite any peer-reviewed science

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A lynx kitten in Colorado. Photo courtesy CPW.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Anti-environmental Republicans in the House are once again twisting the facts and distorting science in their efforts to dismantle the Endangered Species Act on behalf of various extractive and environmentally harmful industries.

An analysis released last week by the Center for Biological Diversity found a series of significant factual errors in a report that formed the basis of a recent proposal by 13 House Republicans to weaken a bedrock environmental law that has prevented the extinction of scores of plants and animals across the country.

The analysis, which highlights 12 key errors in the GOP report, was sent in a letter to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chair of a key House resources committee. According to wildlife conservation advocates, the proposal would cripple key parts of the Act by limiting the ability of citizens to hold government accountable by challenging endangered species decisions and policies. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Counting whales — from space

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New satellite technology could help biologists getter more accurate estimates of whale populations  NOAA photo.

New method could help with marine mammal conservation planning

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After using satellite images to discover new emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica, scientists with the British Antarctic Survey said they’ve also been able to use similar technology to count whales.

Marine mammals are extremely difficult to count on a large scale and traditional methods, such as counting from platforms or land, can be costly and inefficient, so the new method could lead to breakthroughs in estimating populations of whales and other marine mammals. Continue reading

Wildlife: Idaho ends wilderness wolf hunt — for now

There will no wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana this year. Photo by Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf / USFWS

Idaho halts wilderness wolf hunt. Photo by Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS.

Wildlife advocates claim hunt was intended to boost elk numbers to benefit hunters and outfitters

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Wildlife conservation advocates made some headway in their battle to halt relentless wolf hunting in the northern Rockies this week, as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game agreed to stop its trapping and hunting program in the Middle Fork region of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

Since mid-December, Idaho killed nine wolves from two packs in the region. Represented by Earthjustice, several conservation groups went to court to block the killing, arguing that the state wolf extermination program would degrade the largest forested wilderness in the lower-48 states. Continue reading

Chefs advocate for more seafood accountability

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Shrimp boats in Apalichicola, Florida. bberwyn photo.

Rampant fraud makes eco-friendly choices difficult

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Top chefs from around the country are calling on Congress to address the problem of seafood fraud by passing legislation that would establish more accountability, from fishing boats all the way to the dinner plate.

More than 450 chefs, restaurant owners and culinary leaders, representing nearly all 50 states, are urging Congress to pass the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act. More accountability up the chain of supply would enable restaurants to make better eco-friendly choices, the chefs wrote. Continue reading

Study: Canadian politicians have ‘eviscerated’ habitat protection for freshwater fish

When politics trumps science

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Pro-development policies in Canada have ‘eviscerated’ habitat protection for many freshwater fish species, according to a new study. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With political interference in conservation science becoming more common in the U.S. (as in the case of gray wolves), it’s worth looking north to Canada to see the results of such misguided decision-making.

A new study from the University of Calgary and Dalhousie University asserts that federal government changes to Canada’s fisheries legislation “have eviscerated” the ability to protect habitat for most of the country’s fish species.

The changes were “politically motivated” and unsupported by scientific advice — contrary to government policy — and are inconsistent with ecosystem-based management, according to fisheries biologists John Post and Jeffrey Hutchings. Continue reading

Colorado wary of greater sage-grouse listing

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Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

State officials want to balance fossil fuel development with wildlife conservation

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite the fact fossil fuel development is devastating wildlife habitat in northwest Colorado, state officials are pressing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list.

In a press release, Gov. John Hickenlooper‘s office described  oil and gas drilling as “vibrant economic activities,” and touted voluntary conservation activities shaped by local stakeholders as an alternative to a federal conservation plan.

“Given the unique landscapes and natural resources in Colorado, a Colorado-based solution is more practical that one handed down by the federal government,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “We hope the Bureau of Land Management will look at the public-private partnerships that have been so successful in Colorado as a model on how to get things done.” Continue reading

Study: Americans willing to pay for monarch butterfly conservation

Monarch butterflies during migration. PHOTO COURTESY GENE NEIMINEN/USFWS.

Monarch butterflies during migration. PHOTO COURTESY GENE NEIMINEN/USFWS.

Changes in gardening habits could help protect a cherished species

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Americans be willing to pony up for Monarch butterfly conservation, according to a new study that links conservation and economic values.

The research, conducted by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey. Colorado State University and the University of Minnesota, suggests that willingness could add up to big bucks — $6.5 billion that could be used to support conservation efforts.

Monarch butterfly populations have been declining across Mexico, California and other areas of the United States since 1999.

A 2012 survey at the wintering grounds of monarchs in Mexico showed the lowest colony size ever recorded. Much of the decline  has been blamed on the loss of milkweed, the native plants on which monarch caterpillars feed. Continue reading

Op-ed: GOP renews attack on Endangered Species Act

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Does this look like any congressman you know?

Lots of ruffled feathers and foot-stomping …

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Watching the House Committee on Natural Resources field hearings on greater sage-grouse and the Endangered Species Act was a bit like watching the birds themselves during their magnificent mating ritual — a lot of puffed up rhetoric, ruffled feathers and foot-stomping, but very little substance.

The main take-home message appeared to be that there’s a vast conspiracy of liberal judges, conservation groups and Obama administration officials colluding to destroy the American way of life in the rural West (specifically Montana and Wyoming, where the hearings were held).

That’s probably not surprising, considering the list of witnesses was hand-picked by the committee’s ultra-conservative and anti-environmental GOP leadership, but the inflammatory words used by some of the more extreme committee members still comes as a shock. Continue reading

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