Lawsuit challenges federal plan for Mexican gray wolves

Wildlife advocates say arbitrary caps on population and habitat won’t allow for full recovery of the species

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife advocates say a federal plan to cap the Mexican gray wolf population at 300 to 325 animals won’t ensure the long-term survival of the species, and they’re going to court to make sure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopts policies that give endangered Mexican gray wolves a fair shot at recovery in their historic U.S. range.

At issue is a final federal rule issued early this year that would likely prevent the wolves from recolonizing suitable habitat in northern Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.

“Unfortunately, politics supplants wildlife biology in key parts of the USFWS Mexican gray wolf plan,” said John Mellgren, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney representing the advocacy groups in the lawsuit. “Our goal in this case is to put the science back into the management of Mexican wolves in the U.S.” Continue reading

Climate change: New polar bear prognosis not good, as feds prepare to publish recovery plan

‘Addressing sea ice loss will require global policy solutions …’

polar bear map

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Staff Report

FRISCO — Loss of Arctic sea ice caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases remains as the primary threat to polar bears, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said after updating their research models.

Even if greenhouse gas emissions drastically reduced, sea ice will continue to shrink for decades, leading to a significant loss of polar bear habitat in many parts of the Arctic. The Canadian Archipelago is a notable exception. That region may serve as a climate refuge for the bears and other ice-dependent species, the federal scientists said. Continue reading

Acoustic survey tracks whale population trends along the coast of Southern California

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Blue whale numbers holding steady; fin whales increasing

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new acoustic survey in Southern California coastal waters is helping researchers track whale populations.

The data analyzed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that blue whale numbers are holding steady, while the number of fin whales is increasing.

Both species are often seen in the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area, where ever-increasing ship traffic has raised concerns about collisions between whales and boats. Continue reading

Environment: EPA finally agrees to study impacts of common pesticides on 1,500 endangered species

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Crop dusting.

Settlement with watchdog group may be the first step in limiting applications of harmful chemicals

Staff Report

FRISCO — Under legal pressure, the EPA last week agreed to begin a far-reaching evaluation of how some of the most commonly used pesticides affect more than 1,500 endangered plants and animals.

The study, to be completed by 2020, could be the first step toward limiting the use of atrazine and glyphosate. The EPA will also analyze the impacts of propazine and simazine, two pesticides that are chemically similar to atrazine. Continue reading

Can floodplain restoration help endangered salmon in Oregon’s Tillamook Bay?

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Cooperative project aims to reduce flood risks and improve salmon habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — A proposed floodplain restoration project in Oregon’s Tillamook Bay will reduce flood risks to local communities, increase resiliency of the ecosystem, and restore endangered salmon habitat, according to scientists and planning officials, who touted the cooperative nature of the proposed project.

Salmon are severely impacted by the loss of floodplain habitats all along the West Coast and Tillamook Bay has been hit especially hard.The Southern Flow Corridor project will reconnect over 500 acres of floodplain habitat to two of the Bay’s most productive salmon-bearing streams, the Wilson and Trask Rivers. Continue reading

Alaska’s coastal wolves facing multiple threats

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Alexander Archipelago wolf, Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Wildlife advocates say proposed hunt on Prince of Wales Island is unsustainable

Staff Report

FRISCO — A rare breed of wolves living on coastal islands in southeast Alaska is under the gun more than ever before, according to wildlife advocates who are protesting a state plan to allow hunting and trapping of an Alexander Archipelago wolf population on Prince of Wales Island.

The hunt is being permitted even though scientific data shows a 60 percent decline in the population in just one year. Based on the report, wolf advocates say there may only be about 50 wolves remaining on the island. Continue reading

Vaquita population may be down to 50

Illegal fishing drives species toward extinction

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A vaquita in the Gulf of California. Photo courtesy NOAA/Paula Olsen.

vaquita habitat map

Vaquitas live only in the northern end of the Gulf of California, where they are threatened by illegal fishing.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Illegal gillnet fishing in the northern Gulf of California continued to take a toll on endangered vaquita porpoises the past few years, according to a new report suggesting that as few as of 50 vaquitas remain.

The report, from the Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), is based on acoustic detection surveys, which is the best way to count the small porpoises. Based on the most recent survey, the scientists concluded an apparent 42 percent drop in the vaquita population from 2013 to 2014, when scientists estimated the population at less than 100. Continue reading

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