Greater sage-grouse get some love in Oregon

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Greater sage-grouse need all the help they can get.

Voluntary conservation plan aimed at protecting and restoring sagebrush habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — Eastern Oregon’s greater sage-grouse may catch a break under a far-reaching voluntary conservation deal that could cover up to 2.3 million acres.

Under the agreement, landowners in all eight Eastern and Central Oregon counties with greater sage-grouse habitat can enroll their property in a voluntary conservation program, receiving assurances that they will not face additional regulatory requirements if the bird is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Environment: Green sea turtles making a comeback

Federal biologists proposal to revamp endangered species listing recognizes conservation progress and allows for more site-specific management

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A green sea turtle swims near the seafloor of the Pacific. Photo courtesy Andy Bruckner/NOAA.

Staff Report

* More Summit Voice stories about sea turtles

FRISCO — Conservation and recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act have helped green sea turtles around Florida and Mexico’s Pacific Coast recover to the point that federal biologists have proposed downlisting the species from endangered to threatened. Continue reading

Conservation bank eyed as solution to sage-grouse woes

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

235,000-acre ranch to be managed for wildlife conservation; energy companies can buy conservation credits

Staff Report

FRISCO — Biologists, politicians and land-use planners enmeshed in the thorny issue of greater sage-grouse conservation hope that a new conservation bank in Wyoming can help save the dwindling birds without crimping energy development and ranching.

The country’s first-ever sage grouse conservation bank will manage a vast expanse of central Wyoming for sage-grouse, mule deer and other wildlife as a hedge against impacts to greater sage-grouse in energy development zones.

A conservation bank is a site or suite of sites established under an agreement with the Service to protect, and where feasible, improve habitat for a species. Similar banks have long been used to conserve important wetlands. Entities pursuing development that require mitigation can purchase “credits” generated by perpetual conservation easements and conservation projects to offset impacts occurring elsewhere. Continue reading

Oceans: Proposed gillnet ban may be too little, too late for critically endangered Gulf of California vaquitas

Lack of enforcement seen as stumbling block to recovery

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

Staff Report

FRISCO — Mexico has launched a last-ditch effort to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise by banning the use of gillnets in the northern Gulf of California. Conservation advocates said the ban is a step in the right direction, but expressed concern that Mexico won’t follow through with enforcement.

Vaquitas, the smallest members of the porpoise family, live only in the northern Gulf of California, generally in the vicinity of the Colorado River delta. The species has been on the Endangered Species List since 1985. Scientists say less than 100 individuals remain. Vaquitas could be extinct by 2018 without drastic conservation and recovery actions.

According to conservation biologists, the biggest threat by far to vaquitas is drowning in fishing nets. Environmental pollution, habitat degradation and inbreeding are also factors in their decline. Continue reading

Scientists say dynamic, adaptive management of ocean resources would benefit fisheries, conservation

‘We know too much about the world now to keep managing the ocean in the same old way’

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Shrimp boats in Apalachicola, Florida. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dynamic, adaptive management is needed to manage ocean resources, including protected species and commercial fisheries, according to San Diego State University researchers, who say such a shift could benefit both commercial fishing fleets and conservation-focused stakeholders.

The need for a new paradigm is illustrated by the growing threats to ocean ecosystems, including overfishing, ever-busier shipping routes, energy exploration, pollution and other consequences of ocean-based industry, according to SDSU biologist Rebecca Lewison.

There’s plenty of data available to help managers make real-time decisions, but they often can’t react quickly enough to new information, Lewison said, after outlining a framework for “dynamic ocean management” in a paper published today in the journal BioScience. Continue reading

Huge comeback for threatened Channel Island foxes

‘It appears that this is the fastest population rebound … for any land mammal in the United States’

Two Santa Cruz Island foxes groom in a field on Santa Cruz Island. Photo courtesy of Dan Richards/National Park Service.

Two Santa Cruz Island foxes groom in a field on Santa Cruz Island. Photo courtesy of Dan Richards/National Park Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Releasing their final recovery plan for four subspecies of island fox, federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act has already helped the rare mammals stage a comeback.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also launching a status review for the foxes, which live on the Channel Islands, off the coast of California, to determine if any of the subspecies warrant consideration for reclassification or removal from the endangered species list.

“Due to the remarkable success of the Endangered Species Act, recovery actions by land managers and conservation partners have led to dramatic population increases on all four islands since listing, effectively bringing the species back from the brink of extinction,” said Steve Henry, field supervisor of the USFWS  Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office. To date, it appears that this is the fastest population rebound due to recovery actions and ESA protections for any land mammal in the United States.” Continue reading

Some lawmakers back alternate wolf conservation plan

Bipartisan letter from House members supports push to reclassify entire gray wolf population as threatened

Wolves surrounding a bison in Yellowstone National Park. PHOTO COURTESY DOUG SMITH/NPS.

Wolves surrounding a bison in Yellowstone National Park. Courtesy Doug Smith/NPS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A proposal to restructure the lawsuit-plagued recovery efforts for gray wolves may be gaining political traction, as 79 members of the U.S. House recently signed on to a letter supporting the plan to reclassify all wolves in the U.S. as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

Conservation advocates see their request as a reasonable alternative to taking wolves completely off the endangered species list. A “threatened” status would enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue restoration efforts where needed, while giving states more flexibility in managing the predators. Continue reading

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