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Wolves get more protection in California

State decides on endangered species status for wolves even as feds proceed with national de-listing push

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Wolf pups near the Oregon-California border may be the offspring of a wolf that has lived part-time in California the past few years. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — When wolves start to reclaim their historic territories in the wilds of California, they’ll be protected under state law. The California Fish and Game Commission voted last week to protect gray wolves under the state’s Endangered Species Act after being petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The decision came just a few days after biologists documented the presence of two wolf pups  in the Oregon portion of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest that straddles the California-Oregon border. The pups, which are likely to be part of a litter of four to six pups, are the offspring of the wolf known as OR-7, which has made California part of his range for the past four years. Continue reading

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Feds revise critical habitat proposal for lynx

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Proposed critical habitat for lynx in the northern Rockies, as mapped by the USFWS.

Colorado once again left out of critical habitat zone

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Working under a court order, federal biologists have finished a revision of a critical habitat designation for threatened lynx — but once again, Colorado was left out of the equation.

The latest critical habitat designation, subject to a 90-day comment period, would cover about  41,547 square miles within the boundaries of five critical habitat units in the states of Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming.

Colorado wasn’t included because the agency doesn’t believe that the state’s population is essential to the long-term conservation of the species, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Jim Zelenak.

“We looked at the historical record and the biological history of lynx in Colorado and it’s just not clear that Colorado ever supported a persistent population over time … We recognize the potential for lynx in the southern Rockies … but our approach has been to look at those places with persistent populations over time. We want to feel fairly certain that an area has the physical attributes needed to support lynx,” Zelenak said. Continue reading

Federal judge says Forest Service must consider critical habitat designations in regional forest plan guidance for lynx

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Federal agencies rebuked for violating Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Decision will trigger new reviews of forest plans and projects in northern Rockies

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service has once again been called out for failing to live up to its legal obligations to protect endangered species, this time by a federal judge in Montana, who ruled last week that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a regional forest plan amendment.

Dana L. Christensen, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the State of Montana, ordered the Forest Service to re-initiate consultation, but did not block any specific projects on the affected forests, saying that plaintiffs couldn’t show any “irreparable harm.” Continue reading

Climate change requires landscape-level conservation plans

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Mountain goats may need a far-reaching conservation strategy to survive global warming. Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife.

New protected areas between Banff and Glacier national parks could help maintain wildlife populations

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Species vulnerable to climate change impacts in the Canadian Rockies will need room to roam, according to a new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada.

The report outlines a safe haven strategy designed around an assessment of six iconic species: Bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain goats and bighorn sheep — five of which were ranked as highly vulnerable to projected changes.

The area in question is located between Glacier National Park in Montana and Banff National Park in Canada, supporting one of the most diverse communities of carnivores and hoofed mammals in North America. Continue reading

Study: Some European wolves prefer pork over venison

Gray wolves are making a comeback in Europe. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Gray wolves are making a comeback in Europe. Photo courtesy USFWS.

New data to help manage predator-prey relationships

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With European wolves slowly recovering from centuries of persecution, researchers have found distinctive feeding patterns that could help wildlife bioogists manage both prey and predator species.

Some European wolves show a clear preference for wild boar over other prey, according to a new study by scientists from Durham University, UK and the University of Sassari in Italy, who found that the diet of wolves was consistently dominated by the consumption of wild boar which accounted for about two thirds of total prey biomass, with roe deer accounting for around a third.

The study analyzed the remains of prey items in almost 2000 samples of wolf dung over a nine year period and revealed that an increase in roe deer in the wolf diet only occurred in years when boar densities were very low. In years of high roe deer densities, the wolves still preferred to catch wild boar.

The research team related the prey remains in wolf scat to the availability of possible prey in part of Tuscany, Italy – an area recently colonized by wolves.

“Our research demonstrates a consistent selection for wild boar among wolves in the study area, which could affect other prey species such as roe deer,” said lead author Miranda Davis, from the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University. Continue reading

Florida panther deaths reach record high in 2012

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Florida panther. Photo courtesy Mark Lotz, Florida Fish and Wildlife via the Creative Commons.

Conservation advocates call for new introductions in northern Florida and Georgia

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Wildlife conservation advocates say the record number of Florida panther deaths due to collisions with vehicles highlights the need to protect more habitat in Southern Florida.

Two more panthers were killed this past week, bringing the total for the year up to 26, or one every other week, on average. Continue reading

Key federal wildlife funding measure turns 75 this month

Pittman-Robertson Act crucial to maintaining Colorado game herds

Funding derived from the Pittman-Robertson Act helped Colorado establish a moose population. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Without much fanfare, wildlife managers around the country are celebrating a milestone this month, as the Pittman-Robertson Act turns 75.

If you’ve never heard of the Pittman-Robertson Act, you’re probably not alone, but if you value wildlife, you’ve probably benefited from what might is probably the single most effective funding tool for wildlife management and restoration.

Along with a companion measure — The Dingell-Johnson Act — passed several years later, the 11 percent excise tax on firearms and ammunition has helped restore charismatic species like wild turkeys, bald eagles and peregrine falcons. In Colorado, the funds have also been used to help pay for management and operations at 300 state wildlife areas. Continue reading

Feds hand Wyoming wolf management to state

Gray wolf in the winter woods. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Feds say species is recovered; wildlife advocates claim decision violates the Endangered Species Act

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After several years of legal battles and political negotiations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will hand over management of Wyoming wolves to the state.

According to the agency, the biological goals of the recovery have been met, and Wyoming has committed to maintaining 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in the state to maintain a healthy population.

But that number is not adequate for the long-term preservation of the species, according to conservation advocates, who say it’s like managing wolves on the knife-edge of extirpation.

Wyoming’s wolf managment plan is far from fulfilling Endangered Species Act requirements for adequate regulatory mechanisms to maintain species.

“They are incredibly weak, at best,” said Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine, explaining that the state law allows wolves to be shot on sight as unwanted predators across 85 percent of the state.

“It’s unprecedented from a species to go from full ESA protection to being designated as a predator, essentially as vermin,” Harbine said. “It’s not just the predator status that we’re concerned about. The Wyoming law allows people to kill wolves they feel are harassing wildlfie,” she said. Continue reading

Feds finalize endangered species grants

Grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will help Hawaii better protect endangered monk seals. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Funding helps with conservation planning and to acquire important habitat

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The latest round of habitat conservation grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — totaling about $33 million — will help protect hawksbill turtles and monk seals in Hawaii, bull trouts in Washington, endangered bats in Pennsylvania and other endangered species.

The grants are awarded through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, helping states to work with private landowners, conservation groups and other government agencies to initiate conservation planning efforts and acquire and protect habitat to support the conservation of threatened and endangered species. Continue reading

New forest planning rule may be challenged in court

The U.S. Forest Service hopes a new planning rule will help restore ecosystems and protect wildlife.

Conservation advocates want stronger protections for wildlife

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With more than half the country’s 155 national forests operating under outdated management plans, the U.S. Forest Service is eager to start implementing a new planning rule that was finalized March 23.

But like several previous attempts to revise the existing 1082 rule, this latest version may face a legal test. Now that the rule is final, the Center for Biological Diversity is evaluating whether to pursue a courtroom challenge, said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaign director for the organization.

McKinnon said his organization is scrutinizing the rule for compliance with the National Forest Management Act and will also take a close look at the biological opinion accompanying the rule to see if meets federal standards for protecting plants and wildlife.

“This rule reflects the work of a lot of federal lawyers,” McKinnon said, referring to the perception that the rule was designed at least in part with the idea of repelling potential legal challenges. Continue reading

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