Posted on July 27, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Feds propose updates to management of Southwest wolves
Wolf pups recently born to a New Mexico pack. Photo by USFWS.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Rare and beleaguered Mexican gray wolves may get a little more room to roam in the Southwest, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes changes to a recovery plan from the species, including new releases of captive-bred wolves to bolster wild populations.
The new releases could happen in new areas of New Mexico and parts of Arizona where there are no wolf packs yet, and the federal agency’s proposed changes would also allow wolves to roam from the Mexican border to Interstate 40, a much broader region than currently permitted.
Only 83 Mexican wolves live in the wilds of the Southwest, including just five breeding pairs. Scientists have shown that inbreeding caused by a lack of wolf releases to the wild, coupled with too many killings and removals of wolves, is causing smaller litter sizes and lower pup-survival rates in the wild population. Expanding wolf releases to New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, in particular, would enable managers to diversify the population through new releases and diminish inbreeding. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: biodiversity, endangered species, Mexican gray wolves, predator restoration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 21, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A tagged California condor in flight. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.
Can the endangered birds recover from the brink of extinction?
FRISCO — California condors have been hovering on the brink of extinction for decades. But the majestic birds may be on the verge of making a comeback in southern Utah, National Park Service biologists said last week, announcing the first-ever birth of a condor chick in Zion National Park.
Without revealing the exact location to the public, biologists had been monitoring a rock cavity in a remote corner of the park for several weeks where they observed the nesting pair. Finally, on June 25, the condor chick made its first appearance at the edge of the nest. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, biodiversity, endangered species | Tagged: endangered species, biodiversity, bird-watching, California condors, Zion National Park | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 11, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Beach nesting areas, open ocean habitat protected
Room to roam for loggerheads. Photo by NOAA.
FRISCO — Loggerhead sea turtles may have a better chance of surviving — and even thriving — after federal agencies designated 685 miles of beaches along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines, as well as 300,000 square miles of ocean, as critical habitat. The decision came after more than five years of delays and court battles, as conservation groups sought protection for the turtles.
While the ocean habitat rule provides unprecedented habitat protection for loggerhead sea turtles, it only protects nearshore habitat for one mile off nesting beaches despite science showing the importance of habitat three miles from beaches for females and hatchlings. The rule also failed to identify critical habitat for the endangered North Pacific Ocean loggerhead, which is at risk due to Hawaii and California fisheries activities in areas overlapping with the loggerhead’s habitat. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, ocean conservation | Tagged: critical habitat, endangered species, Environment, loggerhead sea turtles, oceans | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 9, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.
Dwindling birds caught in a tangled web of science and politics
FRISCO — Just a couple of weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $25 million in funding for greater sage-grouse conservation in California and Nevada, the federal government took another step in the long-running process to protect the dwindling birds by launching a new website.
Coordinated by three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service information specialists, the new site emphasizes the collaborative nature of the conservation effort to protect the birds and their oft-overlooked sage-steppe habitat.
The scruffy badlands that stretch patchily between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada may look empty, but there’s more than meets the eye, the USFWS explains on the new site’s intro page. Sage may dominate big slices of the landscape, but the ecosystem is threatened because not much of it is protected. Continue reading
Filed under: endangered species, Environment | Tagged: Colorado, endangered species, Greater sage-grouse, Gunnison Sage Grouse, wildlife | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 9, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Are wolverines in the U.S. doomed by global warming?
Leaked memo suggests USFWS is bowing to political pressure from western states
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Federal officials apparently won’t let the best available science stop them from making yet another politically motivated endangered species decision.
This time, wolverines are at issue, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to withdraw a proposal to list the rare mammal based on threats posed by global warming. The agency hasn’t officially announced its intention, but a leaked memo shows that USFWS Mountain-Prairie regional director Noreen Walsh wants to override the recommendations of her own scientists and withdraw the listing proposal. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, endangered species, Environment, global warming | Tagged: endangered species, Environment, global warming, Noreen Walsh, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wildlife, wolverines | 1 Comment »
Posted on July 5, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A North Atlantic right whale and calf. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.
Healthy whale populations could buffer oceans from some global warming impacts
FRISCO — Whales may play a much bigger role in ocean ecosystems than previously thought, according to a University of Vermont researcher who studied how the great cetaceans recycle and move nutrients from one region to another.
“For a long time, whales have been considered too rare to make much of a difference in the oceans,” notes University of Vermont conservation biologist Joe Roman.
That was a mistake, he said, explaining how his research shows that whales have a powerful and positive influence on the function of oceans, global carbon storage, and the health of commercial fisheries. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: carbon cycle, climate change, endangered species, Environment, oceans, whales | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 2, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A loggerhead sea turtle swimming over a coral reef. Photo courtesy NOAA/Marco Giuliano.
Ocean advocates say warming ocean drives sea turtles into floating gillnets
FRISCO — Along with the potential for affecting weather over North America, the emerging El Niño conditions on the Pacific Ocean could pose a threat to endangered loggerhead sea turtles, conservation advocates say, calling on federal fisheries managers to implement legally required restrictions on gillnet fishing to protect the turtles.
When ocean waters in the eastern Pacific get warmer, the loggerheads tend to move into commercial fishing grounds, where they often die after getting tangled up in nets. When El Niño is occurring or forecasted, the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area (California ocean waters east of 120 degrees latitude) is, by law, closed to drift gillnet fishing during June, July and August. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, climate and weather, El Niño, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: climate, El Nino, endangered species, gillnets, loggerhead sea turtles, weather | Leave a comment »
Posted on June 30, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A male Gunnison sage-grouse struts as part of its spring mating ritual. Photo courtesy BLM.
Federal protections needed to protect dwindling Gunnison sage-grouse
FRISCO — A new report by conservation biologists suggests that local and state-based measures to protect Gunnison sage-grouse won’t prevent the species from sliding toward extinction.
With only about 5,000 remaining birds, the population is already at a high risk, and only strict federal conservation measures under the Endangered Species Act will help, according to Megan Mueller, a senior conservation biologist with Rocky Mountain Wild.
The once-abundant species has dwindled dramatically as its habitat has been fragmented by energy and community development, as well as over-grazing. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Colorado, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: Colorado, endangered species, Gunnison Sage Grouse | Leave a comment »
Posted on June 30, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
New lynx conservation studies posted for public comment
New federal documents spell out how a critical habitat designation for lynx could affect activities on federally managed lands.
Lynx kitten in Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/Colorado Division of Wildlife.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO —Designating 41,000 square miles of critical habitat for lynx in the northern Rocky Mountains won’t have a huge economic impact, federal biologists said last week as they took another step toward finalizing conservation measures for the threatened wild cat. Most costs associated with lynx conservation will be on the administrative side, as the critical habitat designation would result in the need for more coordination among federal agencies. Visit this Federal Register page to view all the documents and comment.
Two draft studies examining the effects of the proposed critical habitat designation in Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming were posted July 21 in the Federal Register for public comment. The latest version of the long-contested proposal includes revised critical habitat maps “based on where the best science indicates the habitat could support lynx populations over time,” but includes only areas where lynx populations already exist” — with the exception of Colorado. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: Colorado, critical habitat, endangered species, lynx, wildlife | Leave a comment »
Posted on June 25, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Room to roam for grizzlies the West.
Petition calls for widespread restoration effort for apex predators
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Grizzly bears, once ranging 100,000 strong, once ranged widely through western North America, from the Arctic down to Mexico and from the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains. The mighty predators have disappeared from most of their historic territory, but there’s no reason they couldn’t make a comeback, according to wildlife advocates with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The group, best known for working ceaselessly to protected endangered species, has filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to greatly expand its plans for recovering grizzly bears. Preliminary studies suggest there are at least 11o,ooo square miles of potentia habitat in places like the Gila/Mogollon complex in Arizona and New Mexico, Utah’s Uinta Mountains, California’s Sierra Nevada and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Outside the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide populations, very little progress has been made recovering grizzlies. Remaining populations cover an area that is a mere 4 percent of the bears’ historic range and only 22 percent of potentially suitable habitat identified by researchers. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: biodiversity, endangered species, grizzly bears, The West | Leave a comment »