Biodiversity: Monarchs bounce back, still need help

Population still near historic lows

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Can monarch butterflies survive massive habitat loss? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Monarch butterfly populations may have rebounded a bit this year, according to the annual overwintering count, but the species is still going to need help to recover, conservation advocates say, urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give the colorful insects Endangered Species Act protection.

This year’s count estimated that 56.5 million monarchs are currently gathered in Mexico for the winter, up from last year’s lowest ever total of 34 million. But that’s still more than 80 percent below the 20-year average and down 95 percent from numbers tallied in the mid-1990s. Near-perfect conditions during breeding season helped bolster the numbers this year. Continue reading

Wildlife advocates seek national wolf recovery plan

Activists again decry hunting, trapping in Northern Rockies

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

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

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife conservation advocates want the federal government to rethink its wolf recovery efforts. Instead of relying on a piecemeal, state-by-state approach, the species needs a national recovery plan to help restore populations in places like the southern Rockies and the Adirondacks, according to Kierán Suckling, director of the Center for Biological Diversity

“A congressional end run around science and the Endangered Species Act will create more controversy and put wolves and the law itself in jeopardy,” said Suckling, explaining why a coalition of conservation groups this week petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves as threatened, rather than endangered, under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Rare fox spotted in Yosemite National Park

Just 50 Sierra Nevada red foxes remain in the wild

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the rarest mammals in the American West may be making a comeback in the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite National Park biologists this week confirmed a sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in the northern reaches of the park — the first the speices has been seen in Yosemite for nearly 100 years.

“We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals in the Sierra Nevada,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering endangered species protection for the species since late 2011. There are only two known populations, one near Mt. Lassen and the other near Sonora Pass, just north of Yosemite, with a total population estimated at about 50 individuals. Continue reading

Environment: Oxygen-depleted dead zones caused by reservoirs killing endangered fish embryos

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Pallid sturgeon embryos are dying in the dead zones of the Missouri River. Photo via Nebraska Games and Parks Commission.

‘We’re basically talking about a living dinosaur that takes 20 years to reach sexual maturity and can live as long as the average human in the U.S.’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A river fish whose genetic lineage goes back ten of million years has survived dramatic climate shifts and other earth-changing events, but may not be able to persist through the age of dam-building.

Oxygen-depleted dead zones between dams in the upper Missouri River Missouri River are preventing pallid sturgeon from reproducing, and there’s no sign things will get better, at least not without a little help from humans. Continue reading

Colorado: Yet another Gunnison sage-grouse lawsuit

Gunnison sage-grouse

A male Gunnison sage-grouse struts as part of its spring mating ritual. Photo courtesy BLM.

Wildlife advocates say dwindling birds need full protection of Endangered Species Act

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dwindling Gunnison sage-grouse will have to wait a bit long to find out what kind of endangered species protection — if any — they will get.

Following the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to list the birds as threatened, the agency faces twin lawsuits — one from the State of Colorado, which claims that the birds shouldn’t be listed at all, and another from conservation groups seeking to give the birds the highest level of protection under an “endangered” listing. Continue reading

Study: Florida’s beach-hardening strategy threatens green sea turtle nesting areas

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A green sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘Smart’ adaptation plans needed to protect critical beach nesting habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — Florida’s strategy of trying to “harden” beaches to prevent erosion poses a serious threat to sea turtles, university scientists said this week, outlining results of a study that tracked reproduction for 30 years.

Hardening beaches puts up barriers to wildlife and impacts sea turtles’ ability to nest,” the researchers said. Continue reading

Feds update rules for Mexican gray wolves

Wildlife advocates say plans fall short of what’s needed for 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.

FRISCO — Federal biologists said this week that their updated plans for endangered Mexican gray wolves will help protect the predators while respecting the needs of local communities, but conservation advocates will nevertheless fight at least parts of the new rule.

“This revision of the experimental population rule provides Mexican wolves the space they need to establish a larger and more genetically divers​e​ population – a population that can meaningfully contribute to the subspecies’ recovery,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director. Continue reading

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