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

Conservation groups to sue feds over rare plants

Legal challenge says rare wildflowers in northwestern Colorado face threat from fossil fuel development despite voluntary conservation deal

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A patchwork of conservation areas may not be enough to protect rare Colorado wildflowers from extinction as fossil fuel exploitation broadens in the Green River Basin.

The rare Graham's penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

The rare Graham’s penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The fate of two rare plants in western Colorado and eastern Utah will likely once again rest in the hands of a federal judge, as a coalition of conservation groups said they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to deny Endangered Species Act protection to the White River and Graham’s beardtongue.

The plants grow only across a few thousand acres, scattered across the same badlands where fossil fuel drillers are expanding their footprint. A voluntary conservation deal between the USFWS and the Bureau of Land Management, adopted last summer, doesn’t go far enough to protect the plants, conservation advocates said in their formal notice of intent to sue. Continue reading

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

Wildlife: Feds punt on wolverine protection

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Wolverine habitat in the West.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will face new lawsuit over failure to give the species endangered species status

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In a decision that’s certain to trigger a new round of lawsuits, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it won’t put wolverines on the Endangered Species List.

The decision was made by the agency’s regional directors from the areas where wolverines are native. In a release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe contradicted all the best available science from his agency’s own biologists, claiming that there’s too much uncertainty about global warming impacts to list wolverines. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Some progress for Mexican gray wolves?

Feds propose updates to management of Southwest wolves

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Wolf pups recently born to a New Mexico pack. Photo by USFWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Rare and beleaguered Mexican gray wolves may get a little more room to roam in the Southwest, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes changes to a recovery plan from the species, including new releases of captive-bred wolves to bolster wild populations.

The new releases could happen in new areas of New Mexico and parts of Arizona where there are no wolf packs yet, and the federal agency’s proposed changes would also allow wolves to roam from the Mexican border to Interstate 40, a much broader region than currently permitted.

Only 83 Mexican wolves live in the wilds of the Southwest, including just five breeding pairs. Scientists have shown that inbreeding caused by a lack of wolf releases to the wild, coupled with too many killings and removals of wolves, is causing smaller litter sizes and lower pup-survival rates in the wild population. Expanding wolf releases to New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, in particular, would enable managers to diversify the population through new releases and diminish inbreeding. Continue reading

Feds to backpedal on wolverine protection

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Are wolverines in the U.S. doomed by global warming?

Leaked memo suggests USFWS is bowing to political pressure from western states

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal officials apparently won’t let the best available science stop them from making yet another politically motivated endangered species decision.

This time, wolverines are at issue, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to withdraw a proposal to list the rare mammal based on threats posed by global warming. The agency hasn’t officially announced its intention, but a leaked memo  shows that USFWS Mountain-Prairie regional director Noreen Walsh wants to override the recommendations of her own scientists and withdraw the listing proposal. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Review panel says feds didn’t use best available science for wolf delisting proposal

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Scientists find flaws in federal plan to take wolves off the Endangered Species List. Photo courtesy USFWS.

USFWS reopens comment period on controversial proposal

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A federal plan to take gray wolves off the endangered species list hit a snag last week, as an independent review panel raised questions about the scientific rationale for the plan.

Specifically, the reviewers questioned whether U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists used the best available science when they developed the delisting proposal. Part of the criticism hinged on the fact that the agency relied heavily on one single report that may have omitted some key information, and included fundamental flaws about the taxonomy and genetic differentiation of wolves. Continue reading

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