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Climate: Can ringed seals survive the Arctic meltdown?

Ringed seals face an uncertain future in the rapidly warming Arctic. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Ringed seals face an uncertain future in the rapidly warming Arctic. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Feds propose 226 million acres of critical habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the largest-ever critical habitat proposals won’t do anything to slow the decline of Arctic sea ice or halt the buildup of greenhouse gases, but it may give ice-dependent ringed seals a fighting chance to survive the Arctic meltdown.

Ringed seals were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2012 in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity. This week, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed designating 226 million acres (350,000 square miles) of critical habitat in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Read more about the proposed protections. Continue reading

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Will North Atlantic right whales get more critical habitat?

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Critical habitat sought for North Atlantic right whales. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Feds to decide on protection by 2016

Staff Report

FRISCO — Under a court-sanctioned settlement, federal biologists say they will shape a new critical habitat proposal for North Atlantic right whales by early 2016.

Each year most of the 500 North Atlantic right whales remaining on Earth migrate from their feeding and breeding grounds off the U.S. Northeast to their nursery areas off the Southeast. Continue reading

Lawsuit targets protection for rare Colorado lizard

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A Colorado checkered whiptail in southeastern Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Natural Heritage Program.

Wildlife advocates say USFWS has missed deadline for listing decision

Staff Report

FRISCO — An unusual Colorado lizard that lives in  grasslands and juniper woodlands has been targeted for protection by conservation advocates.

The Center for Biological Diversity last week filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to decide whether the Colorado checkered whiptail warrants consideration for Endangered Species Act protection.

The Center first petitioned for this lizard — along with 52 other amphibians and reptiles — in July 2012 because habitat loss and other factors are threatening them with extinction.   Continue reading

Global warming: Many polar bear populations likely to be in serious trouble by the end of the century

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Can polar bears survive the century?

Ongoing loss of sea ice threatens huge areas of habitat in Canada’s Arctic

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is reshaping the Arctic so fast that a quarter of the world’s polar bear population is likely to be in serious trouble by the end of the century.

Vanishing sea ice and longer ice-free periods will put many of the predators at risk of starvation and reproductive failure, according to a new study led by the University of Alberta’s Stephen Hamilton.

The findings, published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, used sea ice projections for the Canadian Arctic Archipelago from 2006-2100 and metrics developed from polar bear energetics modeling to gain insight into the conservation challenges for polar bears facing habitat loss. Continue reading

Idaho’s sockeye salmon escape the ‘extinction vortex’

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Sockeye salmon in a spawning stream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo via Wikimedia and the Creative Commons.

20-year recovery effort showing strong results

Staff Report

FRISCO — After nearly disappearing in swirl of an “extinction vortex,” Snake River sockeye salmon are back and regaining the fitness of their wild ancestors.

“This is a real American endangered species success story,” said Will Stelle, administrator of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “With only a handful of remaining fish, biologists brought the best genetic science to bear and the region lent its lasting support. Now there is real potential that this species will be self-sustaining again. The sockeye didn’t give up hope and neither did we.” Continue reading

Mexican gray wolves may get more room to roam

gUSFWS seeks to expand recovery area

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal biologists say they want to gradually expand the recovery area for Mexican gray wolves, ultimately covering enough habitat for more than 300 wolves in the rugged deserts and mountains of southern Arizona and New Mexico.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week released a final environmental impact statement that aims to address some of the most vexing wolf management issues, including ways to mitigate impacts to ranchers and to address the need for more genetic diversity in the wolf population. Continue reading

Greater sage-grouse need more buffer zones

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Greater sage-grouse need buffer zones to reduce impacts from human activities. Photo via USGS.

New USGS report details conservation needs of dwindling western birds

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may seem like there are a lot of wide open spaces remaining in the interior West, but when you add up impacts from roads, highways and pipelines; oil, gas, wind and solar energy development; tall structures such as electrical, communication and meteorological towers, it’s just too much for sage grouse.

The birds — at the heart of a classic endangered species political battle, need quiet areas to breed and fledge their chicks. In most cases, they seem to need at least a three-mile buffer from the most impactful activities, the U.S. Geological Survey concluded in a new report. Continue reading

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