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Biodiversity: Feds extend comment period on controversial plan to take wolves off endangered species list

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Feds reschedule hearings on plan to take wolves off the Endangered Species List. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Public hearings rescheduled for November

*More Summit Voice wolf coverage is online here

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There’s a little more time to comment on the controversial federal proposal to take gray wolves off the endangered species list, and boost protection for Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest.

Because of the partial federal government shutdown, the  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rescheduled several public hearings on the plan, and the comment period has been extended through Dec. 17.

The hearings will be held. Nov. 19 in Denver, Nov. 20 in Albuquerque and Nov. 22 in Sacramento. Each hearing includes a short informational presentation. The Service has also added a public information meeting and hearing in Pinetop, Arizona, on Dec. 3. Continue reading

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Wildlife officials say Colorado is ‘open for hunting’

A bull elk in Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE/MICHAEL SERAPHIN.

A bull elk in Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Michael Seraphin.

Federal government shutdown won’t have big impact on state’s big game season

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The partial federal government shutdown has put a crimp in some hunting plans, but state officials are emphasizing that the state’s big season won’t see a big impact from the political theater in Washington, D.C.

More than 23 million acres of federal land in the state are open for fall hunting, and early snowfall could help make it one of the better seasons in recent years, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife experts.

“It’s unfortunate that hunters are receiving mixed messages from the federal agencies,” said Steve Yamashita, acting director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “While all of the National Forests in Colorado are open, the shutdown has confused sportsmen across the country and we’re trying to make sure people get the right information. Colorado is open this hunting season.”  Continue reading

Feds eye changes to Colorado River endangered fish conservation program

Recovery team eyes White River Basin

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The Colorado pikeminnow is one of four endangered species that could benefit from a proposed new plan to boost flows during critical seasons. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

*More Summit Voice stories on the Colorado River native fish conservation program are online here.

FRISCO — State and federal biologists are considering some changes to the Colorado River Native Fish Recovery Program in the White River Basin after a discussion with stakeholders.

The endangered fish — colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, bonytail — are already protected in the White River Basin, according to The Nature Conservancy. The changes would be a firming up of management expectations.

A similar approach has been used in other basins to ensure that current and future water needs are met for people and endangered fish.  The White River management plan aims to:

  • identify existing and some level of future water depletions;
  • develop current hydrology and projected depletions to identify the effects of past and future water development on endangered fish habitat;
  • identify the role of the White River in recovery of endangered fish;
  • identify flow recommendations for endangered fish habitat in the White River; and
  • identify a broad range of recovery actions to be carried out by the Recovery Program to support a recovered endangered fish population in the White River.  Continue reading

Feds finalize recovery plan for Alaska sea otters

Predation by killer whales seen as main threat

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A dramatic decline in sea otter numbers in southwest Alaska has prompted an all-out recovery effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Nothern sea otter. Photo via USFWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal officials have finally completed a recovery plan for northern sea otters living along the coast of southwest Alaska, but fully recovering the species may prove to be a big challenge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says predation by killer whales may be the single biggest factor in significant population declines documented since the 1950s.

“There may be few actions that can be taken to mitigate predation as a threat, but the sea otter recovery program should search for solutions and be open to novel ideas,” the scientists wrote in the recovery plan. Above all, more research is needed to pinpoint population trends and reasons for the decline, they wrote.

The 50 to 60 percent drop in otter numbers has had a dramatic effect on coastal ecosystems in the region. Otters are a keystone species in their ecosystem niche. They control sea urchin populations, which prevents over-grazing of underwater kelp forests, which are important habitat for a slew of other species. Read the recovery plan here. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Tweaking endangered species rules a bad idea, conservation groups say

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Federal agencies want to dial back their requirements to track impacts to endangered species. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Cutting back on take limits could put more plants and animals at risk of extinction

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Watchdog groups are warning that a proposal to weaken endangered species standards could put some plants and animals at greater risk of extinction.

The new rule would scale back the requirement that federal agencies fully track impacts to endangered species under broad programmatic environmental studies. Cumulative impacts on rare species from actions like oil and gas drilling would be discounted in the decision-making process, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The change is being proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, both agencies have repeatedly failed to track how the projects they approve are affecting rare and vanishing species. Continue reading

Mexican gray wolves will get more room to roam

Feds settle lawsuit, brightening prospects for Southwest wolf recovery

Mexican gray wolf. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Mexican gray wolf. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Mexican gray wolves may get a little more breathing room in the southwestern U.S.

Settling a pair of lawsuits this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to propose increased recovery territory for the rare predators in Arizona and New Mexico and will drop plans to capture wolves entering the two states from Mexico. As part of the agreements, the agency will finalize a rule to allow direct release of captive Mexican gray wolves into New Mexico and to allow Mexican wolves to establish territories in an expanded area of the two states.  Continue reading

Wildlife conservation groups say cultural hostility to grizzlies could threaten their recovery in northern Rockies

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Grizzlies may still be facing some challenges despite making a good recovery in the northern Rockies. Photo courtesy Dr. Christopher Servheen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Feds taking comment on plan to hand over management to states

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Conservation groups led by the Center for Biological Diversity say a federal plan for Yellowstone grizzly bears puts their fate in the hands of states that are “culturally hostile” to large carnivores. The recovery plan could put grizzlies back on the road toward extinction, the group warned in their comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wildlife conservation advocates are also worried that the plan doesn’t do enough to safeguard connectivity between populations. They want the federal wildlife agency to maintain Endangered Species Act protections for the bears until these issues can be resolved. Continue reading

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