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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

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Feds delay wolverine listing decision

Wolverine. Photo courtesy Roy Anderson/USFWS.

Wolverine. Photo courtesy Roy Anderson/USFWS.

Not everyone is convinced that the species is threatened by global warming

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal biologists last week said they aren’t quite ready to make a final decision about endangered species status for wolverine. The listing deadline has been pushed back by six months for another review of the science — a step that’s taken when there is “substantial scientific disagreement.”

“During the peer review process on our proposed rule to list the wolverine as threatened, we received a variety of opinions from the scientific community concerning the information we used to develop the proposed rules,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement. Background on wolverine conservation online here. Continue reading

Feds once again push grizzly bear de-listing

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

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

Conservation groups say it’s too early

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal biologists last week said they expect to decide within a month whether they will remove grizzly bears in the northern Rockies from the endangered species list despite a recent study suggesting that populations may be declining.

Grizzlies were classified as a threatened species in 1975 and cooperative conservation efforts have help recover and stabilized some populations, but wildlife conservation groups say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to take grizzlies off the list is premature. Continue reading

Climate a huge factor in endangered species managment

New research helps narrow range of outcomes for resource managers

Dolphins off the coast of Florida have been exposed to more mercury than captive dolphins fed a controlled diet. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

New research shows how global warming may affect aquatic species. bberwyn photo.

Staff report

FRISCO — The ecological playing field has changed dramatically since the Endangered Species Act was passed 40 years ago. Along with continued environmental threats like pollution and habitat loss, global warming has emerged as a huge factor in the survival of numerous species.

Resource managers and scientists are still grappling with how warmer temperatures will affect ecosystems, but the range of possible outcomes is starting to become more clear. This month, federal fisheries scientists published a series of papers outlining several scenarios for the coming decades, including case studies for species ranging from chinook salmon to steelhead to 82 different types of coral. Continue reading

Study finds 5 distinct humpback whale populations

Findings of genetic study to help inform conservation strategies

A breaching humpback whale. PHOTO COURTESY OF WHIT WELLES.

A breaching humpback whale. Photo courtesy Whit Williams.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Humpback whales in the Pacific likely choose their migration routes, feeding grounds and breeding areas based on cultural preferences, marine researchers said last week, announcing that a comprehensive genetic study of the great cetaceans has identified five distinct populations.

The findings come as federal biologists consider a proposal to designate North Pacific humpbacks as a single “distinct population segment” under the Endangered Species Act and illustrate the complexity studying and managing marine mammals on a global scale. Continue reading

Environment: EPA to boost reviews for pesticide impacts to endangered species

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Will the EPA follow through on its new policies to better analyze pesticide impacts to endangered species?

Conservation advocates say new guidelines are a good first step

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Endangered species may get more protection from pesticides under new guidelines that require federal agencies to better assess the risks posed by toxic chemicals.

The policies will ensure that mitigation measures recommended by the federal wildlife agencies are put in place to protect endangered species in agricultural areas, as well as in areas downstream that are affected by pesticide runoff.

According to environmentalists, the EPA has routinely ignored the Endangered Species Act for more than two decades by failing to consult with wildlife agencies on pesticide impacts. In 2011 Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to study this issue and report on ways of addressing the EPA’s failures to fully protect listed species. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds agree to study pesticide impacts to rare frogs in California

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USGS sampling found that Pacific chorus frogs in many remote Sierra Nevada locations are contaminated by pesticides and fungicides used in agricultural production in California’s Central Valley. Photo courtesy USGS.

Court settlement may ultimately help protect endangered amphibians

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In a classic case of government do-nothingism, federal agencies have known for years that pesticides are killing rare California frogs — but have failed to act to protect the amphibians from the poisons.

But that should change soon, as a federal court this week approved a deal that requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare detailed environmental studies on the effects of seven common pesticides: Glyphosate, malathion, simazine, pendimethalin, permethrin, methomyl and myclobutanil.

The studies, called biological opinions in government jargon, will evaluate and disclose how the use of those chemicals affects California’s red-legged frogs when they’re used in and near the frog’s aquatic and upland habitats. Continue reading

Climate: Florida plants threatened by sea level rise get Endangered Species Act protection

Listing decision part of far-reaching settlement for imperiled species

Three Florida coastal plants threatened by sea level rise get Endangered Species Act protection. bberwyn photo.

Three Florida coastal plants threatened by sea level rise get Endangered Species Act protection. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Chugging ahead on its commitment to make endangered species listing decisions for more than 750 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week announced that three native Florida plants — all threatened by sea level rise — deserved protected status.

Most populations of the plants — aboriginal prickly apple, Florida semaphore cactus and Cape Sable thoroughwort are at, or just above, mean sea level.

“These native plants are being squeezed out of existence — pressed between coastal development and rising sea levels,” said Florida-based Center for Biological Diversity attorney Jaclyn Lopez. “Protection under the Endangered Species Act will give them a role in South Florida’s planning for rising seas.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds extend comment period on controversial plan to take wolves off endangered species list

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Feds reschedule hearings on plan to take wolves off the Endangered Species List. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Public hearings rescheduled for November

*More Summit Voice wolf coverage is online here

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There’s a little more time to comment on the controversial federal proposal to take gray wolves off the endangered species list, and boost protection for Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest.

Because of the partial federal government shutdown, the  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rescheduled several public hearings on the plan, and the comment period has been extended through Dec. 17.

The hearings will be held. Nov. 19 in Denver, Nov. 20 in Albuquerque and Nov. 22 in Sacramento. Each hearing includes a short informational presentation. The Service has also added a public information meeting and hearing in Pinetop, Arizona, on Dec. 3. Continue reading

Feds eye changes to Colorado River endangered fish conservation program

Recovery team eyes White River Basin

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The Colorado pikeminnow is one of four endangered species that could benefit from a proposed new plan to boost flows during critical seasons. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

*More Summit Voice stories on the Colorado River native fish conservation program are online here.

FRISCO — State and federal biologists are considering some changes to the Colorado River Native Fish Recovery Program in the White River Basin after a discussion with stakeholders.

The endangered fish — colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, bonytail — are already protected in the White River Basin, according to The Nature Conservancy. The changes would be a firming up of management expectations.

A similar approach has been used in other basins to ensure that current and future water needs are met for people and endangered fish.  The White River management plan aims to:

  • identify existing and some level of future water depletions;
  • develop current hydrology and projected depletions to identify the effects of past and future water development on endangered fish habitat;
  • identify the role of the White River in recovery of endangered fish;
  • identify flow recommendations for endangered fish habitat in the White River; and
  • identify a broad range of recovery actions to be carried out by the Recovery Program to support a recovered endangered fish population in the White River.  Continue reading
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