Study eyes powerlines as factor in sage grouse decline

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Greater sage-grouse avoid powerlines, and the poles are used by perching raptors that target sage grouse nests. Photo via USGS.

Another piece in the sage grouse puzzle …

Staff Report

FRISCO — After closely studying a greater sage-grouse subpopulation on the Columbia Plateau in eastern Washington, wildlife biologists said that power lines may be a greater factor in habitat fragmentation than previously believed.

The new study found that transmission lines from hydroelectric dams and wind turbines affect greater sage grouse habitat by isolating fragile populations and limiting movement. The was published online this summer in the journal Landscape Ecology.

“With only a fraction of pre-settlement habitat left in the state for this species, it’s key that all of that habitat be connected in order for the population to be viable in the future,” said lead author Andrew Shirk, a research scientist with the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group. Continue reading

Feds boost greater sage-grouse efforts with $211 million for more conservation measures

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Can more money help save greater sage-grouse?

Focus is on voluntary, incentive-based approach

Staff Report

FRISCO —Acknowledging the deteriorating health of sagebrush habitat and the decline of greater sage-grouse, federal officials this week announced a $211 million push to fund  conservation plans and to help implement an effective strategy to reduce rangeland fire risk.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 will provide additional assistance for ranchers to make conservation improvements to their land, which mutually benefits the iconic bird and agricultural operations in 11 Western states. Continue reading

Biodiversity: NOAA research voyage aims to track rare North Pacific right whales

New data from the Gulf of Alaska expedition will help guide ongoing conservation efforts

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North Pacific right whales are among the most endangered marine mammal species. There may be as few as 30 individuals remaining. Photo via NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO —There may only be about 30 North Pacific right whales remaining, but fisheries scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are determined to do all they can to try and save the species.

To start, a team of researchers has set out on a month-long research voyage to track the whales in the Gulf of Alaska, where they sometimes visit. North Pacific right whales may be the  most endangered marine mammal to visit U.S. waters. The species was decimated by historic whaling in the 19th century, as well as illegal whaling by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Continue reading

California reports first wolf pack in almost 100 years

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Wolf pups at play in northern California. Photo via CDFW.

California wildlife agency documents five wolf pups and two adult wolves

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — OR-7, the lone wolf that enthralled wildlife lovers when he wandered through northern California a few years was the trailblazer.

Earlier this spring another lone wolf wandered into the state, and now, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says there’s a new wolfpack forming. The agency has photographically documented five pups and several individual adults that have taken up residence in the state.

“This news is exciting for California,” said Charlton H. Bonham, CDFW Director. “We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time.” Continue reading

Wildlife: Possible Black Hills wolf sighting spurs calls for increased hunter education to avoid accidental shooting

South Dakota a hot spot for wolf deaths


FRISCO — Since the Dakotas are sandwiched between Montana and Minnesota, it’s probably not completely surprising that wolves turn up there from time to time.

But the latest sighting of what certainly looks like a wolf has spurred a call for more education and public outreach to prevent the animal from being shot, either by accident or purposefully by over-eager hunters.

Other wolves have been shot been shot and killed in South Dakota in recent years, as reported by newspapers there, and the Center for Biological Diversity has also tracked the fate or wolves that wandered out of the northern Rockies. Continue reading

U.S. pushes Mexico to strengthen sea turtle protection

A loggerhead sea turtle off the coast of New England. Photo courtesy NOAA/Matthew Weeks.

Loggerhead sea turtles need more protection from gillnet and longline fishing off the coast of Baja. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Failure to protect loggerhead sea turtles could lead to seafood sanctions

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Mexico isn’t doing enough to protect sea turtles, U.S. officials said last week, issuing a formal warning that could ultimately lead to a ban on seafood imports from Mexico.

At issue are endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Ulloa. Mexico earlier this year adopted new regulations aimed at protecting the sea turtles with a fishery reserve, a mortality limit and  fishing gear restrictions.

But according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service, those regulations don’t go far enough to address the bycatch of loggerhead turtles. As a result, the U.S. for the first time ever has issued a “negative certification” for bycatch of a protected living marine resource under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act. Continue reading

U.S. takes huge step to boost global marine mammal protection

Proposes fishery rule could prevent tens of thousands of unnecessary whale and dolphin deaths

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Porpoises and other marine mammals could benefit from a new rule that would require other countries to meet protective U.S. marine mammal standards. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Marine Fisheries Service wants to boost global efforts to protect marine mammals with a new set of proposed rules that would require commercial fishing operations in other countries to meet U.S. standards.

As proposed, seafood imports from other countries could be banned if they don’t meet those requirements. Scientists estimate that each year more than 650,000 whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals are caught and killed in fishing gear. These animals are unintentional “bycatch” of commercial fisheries and either drown or are tossed overboard to die from their injuries. Continue reading

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