Watchdog group says manatee harassment ‘out of control’

Agency efforts to educate visitors sometimes met with verbal abuse, according to federal biologists

Manatees gather at King Spring, along Florida's Crystal River, which serves as a warm-water refuge on a 30-degree January day. PHOTO BY JOYCE KLEEN/USFWS.

Manatees gather at King Spring, along Florida’s Crystal River, which serves as a warm-water refuge on a 30-degree January day. PHOTO BY JOYCE KLEEN/USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Observations by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists may bolster a watchdog group’s arguments that well-intentioned swim-with-manatee programs are actually pushing the endangered marine mammals closer to the brink of extinction.

In some Florida locations, harassment of manatees by visitors may be out of control, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which last month said it will go to court to try and end the programs.

An email written last year by outgoing Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge/ Kings Bay Manatee Refuge manager Michael Lusk may be a “smoking gun” that shows exactly how visitors are disturbing the animals. Without adequate resources to manage the swim-with-manatees programs, the activities are likely to contribute to the decline of the species. Continue reading

Will black-footed ferrets catch a break in Wyoming?

Feds propose ‘non-essential, experimental’ status

dg

Black-footed ferret, courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Black-footed ferrets could make a comeback on private lands in Wyoming under a federal proposal to designate the State of Wyoming as a special area for reintroduction, where the mammals would be managed as a “non-essential, experimental” population under a special provision of the Endangered Species Act.

The prairie-dwelling critters have been on the Endangered Species List since 1967. They were listed just a year after Congress passed the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Greater sage-grouse face serious global warming threat

dsg

Greater sage-grouse may lose ground to global warming. Photo courtesy USGS.

Climate change to cut key nesting habitat in Wyoming

Staff Report

FRISCO — As if greater sage-grouse didn’t already have enough to worry about, a new study suggests that global warming may reduce nesting habitat for the dwindling birds by 12 percent in southwestern Wyoming by 2050.

“Historic disturbances of fire, development and invasive species have altered the sagebrush landscape, but climate change may represent the habitat’s greatest future risk,” said Collin Homer, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist who led the research.

“Warming temperatures, combined with less snow and rain, will favor species other than sagebrush, as well as increase sagebrush habitat’s vulnerability to fire, insects, disease and invasive species,” Homer said, explaining that the research helped show how vulnerable sagebrush landscapes are to climate change. Continue reading

Feds eye more protection for northern spotted owls

klj

Can northern spotted owls survive in the Pacific Northwest? Photo courtesy USFWS.

Logging and post-fire salvage, along with competion from barred owls, still seen as key threats

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dinged by a double whammy of continued habitat loss and interspecies competition, the Pacific Northwest’s northern spotted owl may get even more protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week said it will launch a review to decide if the spotted owl should be reclassified as endangered rather than threatened.

The population of the northern spotted owl is declining across most of the species’ range. The most recent data show a 2.9 percent range-wide population decline per year, although declines as high as 5.9 percent per year have been observed in some areas. Continue reading

Environment: Conservation groups go back to court to ensure protection for rare Colorado wildflowers

sdfg

What will it take to ensure the survival of these rare Colorado wildflowers?

Lawsuit says voluntary conservation deal is a “giveaway” to fossil fuel companies

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say a voluntary agreement to protect two rare plants growing in crumbly shale badlands along the border of northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah is a sham.

Instead, the plants need the rock-solid protection of the Endangered Species Act, and they’re going back to court to get it. The new lawsuit filed in federal court is supported by public records showing that the voluntary conservation agreement purposefully excluded wildflower habitat from protection to accommodate oil shale mining and drilling.  Continue reading

Court finds fatal flaws in U.S. Navy training plan

dsf

A federal court ruling may help protect marine mammals from harmful military activities in the Pacific Ocean. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Environmental study for Pacific Ocean military exercises violates several federal laws

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A federal court this week rejected a U.S. Navy plan for training activities off the coast of California and around the Hawaiian Islands after finding that the naval exercises would harm multiple species of marine mammals — in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The plan, sanctioned by the National Marine Fisheries Service, fails to meet basic requirements of federal environmental laws, said  Judge Susan Oki Mollway, of the U.S. District Court for Hawaii, calling the government’s documents so fundamentally flawed that they need to be totally rewritten. Continue reading

Greater sage-grouse get some love in Oregon

sdfg

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,377 other followers