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Rare California frogs finally get recovery plan

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Can a recovery plan save rare yellow-legged frogs in California? Photo courtesy Adam Backlin, USGS.

 Critical habitat designation and active restoration efforts could bolster populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — After 12 years on the endangered species list, a dwindling population of California frogs will finally get some much-needed attention from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Under a settlement agreement reached last week, the agency will develop a recovery plan for Southern California’s mountain yellow-legged frogs by December 2018

“I’m so glad these severely endangered frogs will finally get a recovery plan,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center of Biological Diversity attorney and biologists dedicated to protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. “Recovery plans really need to be developed soon after species are protected, because they give us a roadmap of exactly what we need to do to ensure those species won’t go extinct.”

There are only nine known populations of the frogs, all living in isolated headwaters streams where they rely on snowmelt and freshwater springs for habitat. Most of the frogs were wiped out by the introduction of non-native trout, and habitat degradation is another factor in their decline. Continue reading

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Wildlife advocates back in court on behalf of wolverines

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Wolverine habitat in the western U.S.

Groups say federal agency erred by denying Endangered Species Act protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife advocates are once again heading to federal court to seek Endangered Species Act protection for rare wolverines, a species deemed as vulnerable to global warming because of its dependence on deep spring snow cover for denning and breeding.

Wolverines live in small numbers mainly in the northern Rocky Mountains. The wide-ranging mammals were hunted, trapped and poisoned to near-extinction during the settlement era, and now face a climate whammy that could melt the big snowbanks they need for reproduction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed an endangered species listing in 2013 in a rule supported by the agency’s own scientific reports and by independent review panels, but then reversed course in May 2014, asserting that climate models are not accurate enough to pinpoint threats to wolverine habitat. Continue reading

Are California sea otters on the verge of recovery?

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Can sea otters bounce back from the brink?

Population along California coast hovering near targeted recovery level

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sea otters are making a slow and steady comeback along the Central California coast, with the species’ population nearing a level that could earn them the distinction of being taken off the endangered species list.

In the latest official population estimate released last week, federal scientists said there were just under 3,000 southern sea otters living along the Central California coast, based on a population index used since the 1980s. That’s up slightly from 2013 and just shy of the 3,090 threshold set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a recovery benchmark. Continue reading

Rebuilding biodiversity: Feds release whooping crane chicks

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Whooping crane chicks, hatched and raised by their parents at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, were released on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

Project aims to restore migratory flock in eastern U.S.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Efforts to boost a self-sustaining flock of migratory whooping cranes in the eastern U.S. got a boost last month with the release of four chicks that were raised in captivity at a U.S. Geological Survey research center in Maryland. The crane chicks were released on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the six-month-old birds are part ofan experimental rearing and release method referred to as “parent-rearing.”  The parent-reared whooping crane chicks were hatched and raised by captive adult whooping cranes. Continue reading

Report: Global wildlife populations drop 50 percent

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Global biodiversity is at risk.

‘We’re gradually destroying our planet’s ability to support our way of life’

FRISCO —Neocolonialism under multinational corporations is devastating biodiversity in developing low-income countries, as the wealthy part of the world continues to increase consumption of resources at an unsustainable rate.

As a result, populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped 52 percent, according to the annual 2014 Living Planet report released last week by the World Wildlife Fund. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds say Rio Grande cutthroat trout doesn’t need Endangered Species Act protection

troutmapGlobal warming seen as big threat to native fish

Staff Report

FRISCO — Rio Grande cutthroat trout may be rare, but they’re not facing imminent extinction anymore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said last week, asserting that collaborative conservation and restoration efforts in southern Colorado and New Mexico will help sustain populations of the dwindling fish into the foreseeable future.

But the agency’s conclusion contradicts some other studies showing that global warming is huge threat to the fish. Long-term climate models suggest that many smaller streams where cutthroats live could be too warm in just a few decades, according a U.S. Geological Survey study released last year. Most of the sampled streams with Rio Grande cutthroat trout have base flows of less than 1 cubic foot per second, making them vulnerable to drought.

Rio Grande cutthroat trout live in only about 12 percent of the species’ historical habitat. Non-native fish introductions, water diversions and other impacts have degraded the species’ habitat in the past few decades. Continue reading

New chytrid fungus test could help amphibian conservation

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A boreal toad found in the Cucumber Gulch wetlands in Breckenridge, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

New sampling method enables early detection of deadly fungus in the environment, before it infects amphibians

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new way to test for the presence of the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus may help conservation efforts for species like the Rocky Mountain’s boreal toads, still under consideration for the endangered species list.

Instead of testing amphibians directly for the fungus, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said they’ve learned how to test for chytrid fungus in the water the animals live in. The new sampling technique can help assess the risk of exposure, potentially helping plan recovery efforts. Continue reading

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