Biodiversity: Draft wolverine plan gets mixed reviews

Draft listing proposal ends with mixed reviews

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The USFWS takes another step toward finalizing a wolverine recovery effort. Photo courtesy USFWS/Steve Kroschel.

By Bob Berwyn

*Click here for more Summit Voice wolverine stories

FRISCO —A draft federal proposal to list wolverines as threatened under the Endangered Species Act elicited mixed reviews as the formal comment period ended May 6. Some states  in the northern Rockies opposed the proposal, saying that wolverines don’t need federal protection, but Colorado is generally supportive of the plan. At the same time, coalition of conservation groups asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ratchet up protection with an “endangered” listing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now consider all the comments and finalize a listing decision during the next year.

Wolverines are the largest member of the weasel family. They were hunted, poisoned and trapped to near extinction across much of their range in the early 20th century. Since then, populations recovered in the North Cascades, as well the Northern Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Montana, Oregon (Wallowa Range), and Wyoming. Continue reading

Feds settle lawsuit, move to protect sea turtle habitat

First part of protection plan due July 1

A NOAA map showing the range of loggerhead sea turtles.

A NOAA map showing the range of loggerhead sea turtles.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will protect loggerhead sea turtle feeding, breeding and migratory habitat in ocean waters by July 1, pursuant to a settlement agreement with conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana and Turtle Island Restoration Network and the U.S. government.

The agency also committed to finalizing critical habitat protection for marine habitat and nesting beaches by July 1, 2014. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed critical habitat protection for loggerhead nesting beaches along Atlantic and Gulf coasts and will accept public comment until May 24. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Sierra Nevada frogs proposed for listing

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Recovery efforts for Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs may get a boost from a proposed endangered species listing. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Endangered Species Act protection could help stem decline and boost recovery efforts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After suffering decades of decline  from habitat destruction, disease, predation by nonnative trout, pesticides and climate change, native Sierra Nevada amphibians may get some measure of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week proposed listing Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs and Yosemite toads. The agency also proposed protection for a population of mountain yellow-legged frogs that lives in the southern Sierra Nevada. The plan also includes an initial proposal to designate more than 2 million acres of critical habitat.

The proposal are the result of a 2011 agreement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the USFWS to speed up endangered species protection decisions for 757 imperiled animals and plants around the country. So far, 56 species have been fully protected and another 96 have been proposed for protection under the settlement agreement.  Continue reading

Biodiversity: Wildlife advocates howling mad about draft federal plan to take wolves off the Endangered Species List

Wolves may not be in danger of extinction, but are they recovered?

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The current legal status of wolves in the U.S.

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A gray wolf follows a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy NPS/Doug Smith.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —An oft-discussed proposal to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List has progressed to the point that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a fairly detailed draft version of the plan. The draft rule proposes removing all protections for wolves in 29 eastern states but maintaining endangered status for the Mexican wolf by listing it as a subspecies.

“We propose these actions because the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the currently listed entity is not a valid species under the Act and that the Mexican wolf (C. l. baileyi) is an endangered subspecies,” the agency wrote in the draft. Continue reading

Biodiversity: More wolf turmoil in the Southwest

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Feds back away from plan to capture wolves that cross the border from Mexico

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Wolves crossing the border from Mexico into the southwestern U.S. won’t be trapped and held in captivity, at least for now.

According the Center for Biological Diversity, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rescinded a permit it had granted itself and other federal and state agencies to trap wolves that cross into Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico.

The agency hasn’t made a formal announcement, but contacted attorneys for the environmental groups, said Michael Robinson, a wolf conservation advocated with the Center for Biological Diversity. Continue reading

Feds eye critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles

More than 700 miles of beaches included in USFWS proposal

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Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo via NOAA, courtesy  Marco Giuliano/Fondazion Cetacea.

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A long swath of Florida’s Gulf Coast has been proposed as critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal biologists have proposed protecting hundreds of miles of U.S. shoreline from North Carolina to Mississippi to protect critical nesting habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles.

Florida beaches could be especially crucial to the survival of the species, with the most recent science showing that the state harbors one of only two global loggerhead aggregations with more than 10,000 nesting females nesting per year. The other is on Masirah Island, Oman.

The proposed critical habitat areas include 90 nesting beaches in coastal counties located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. The proposed areas incorporate about 740 beach shoreline miles and account for approximately 84 percent of the documented nesting in these six states. Continue reading

Environment: Feds face lawsuit over tamarisk-killing beetle

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Southwestern willow flycatcher. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Non-native bugs threatening habitat for endangered songbirds

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say non-native tamarisk-eating bugs have gone haywire, destroying habitat needed by endangered southwestern willow flycatchers, native songbirds that need thick riparian vegetation to survive.

The exotic beetles were imported from Asia to destroy invasive tamarisk plants seen as a threat to water resources, but now the bugs have invaded the nesting areas of southwestern willow flycatchers in southern Utah, Nevada, and northern and western Arizona. If the beetle spreads farther without mitigation, it could seriously threaten the flycatcher’s survival, according to Dr. Robin Silver, with the Center for Biological Diversity. 

Efforts to eradicate tamarisk are costly and labor-intensive, and some recent research by the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that exotics (including Russian Olive) use about the same amount of water as native willows and cottonwoods.

In June 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture temporarily restricted release of the insects based on concerns about impacts to flycatcher habitat. The decision is outlined in this USDA memo. Continue reading

Feds extend comment period on Gunnison sage-grouse

Will political meddling outweigh conservation science?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse in Colorado and Utah.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse in Colorado and Utah.

Gunnison sage-grouse. Photo courtesy BLM.

Gunnison sage-grouse. Photo courtesy BLM.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With only about 4,000 to 5,000 Gunnison sage-grouse left in a few population pockets in Utah and Colorado, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in January to list the birds as an endangered species. At the same time, the federal agency proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for the birds.

The announcement elicited a critical response from state wildlife officials and local stakeholders, who say they’ve developed locally based conservation plans that will help protect the birds.

Since then, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and other lawmakers have urged the USFWS to extend the public comment period on the listing and critical habitat proposals to give affected communities more time to weigh in on the federal plans. Continue reading

Endangered species listing sought for boreal toads

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Do boreal toads need immediate protection under the Endangered Species Act? Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Conservation groups say they’ll go to court to force action 20 years after federal biologists first said the species qualifies for protection

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Rare boreal toads need Endangered Species Act protection sooner rather later, according to conservation activists who this week said they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over it’s failure to protect dwindling populations of the ampibian.

Although Colorado populations of boreal toads have also declined from historic levels, the state is still somewhat of a stronghold, thanks in part to a state-led restoration effort and other protective measures. Boreal toads exist in less than 1 percent of their historic breeding areas in the southern Rockies. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Deadline looming for federal endangered species decision on wolverine

Will wolverines make a comeback in Colorado? PHOTO BY ZAC DOWLING, VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Will wolverines make a comeback in Colorado? Photo by Zac Dowling, via the Creative Commons.

Conservation strategy could include a Colorado reintroduction effort

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is on track to issue a proposed rule on the status of wolverine by Jan. 18, with most signs suggesting the agency will move forward to protect the rare mammal under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.

Federal biologists are working under a court-ordered deadline to issue a proposed rule by Jan. 18.  In a Dec. 14 status report, they said they will have rule ready on time. Once the proposed rule is issued, there will be a public comment period, with a final listing decision about one year later.

“All signs are pointing to a threatened listing,” said the Western Environmental Law Center’s Matt Bishop, adding that the USFWS may also prepare a critical habitat designation for release along with the proposed rule. Continue reading

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