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Environment: Feds to ban genetically engineered crops, neonicotinoid pesticides in wildlife refuges

Resident bald eagle in Summit County, Colorado guarding the nest.

Recent studies show that neonicotinoid pesticides can persist in the environment, so the decision to ban them from federal wildlife refuges is good news for bald eagles. bberwyn photo.

New directive ends some long-running legal squabbles

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal wildlife and land managers say they’ll end the use of genetically engineered crops and ban systemic neonicotonoid pesticides in the next 18 months. In a July 17 memo  chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System James Kurth wrote that it’s not essential for his agency to use the potentially harmful products to meet its wildlife management objectives. Read the FWS memorandum.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service thus becomes the first federal agency to restrict the use of GE crops and neonicotinoids in farming in the U.S.

Public land and health watchdog groups have been challenging the agency over the use GE crops since 2005, including five lawsuits, two legal petitions and multitudes of administrative challenges and appeals, resulting in numerous court rulings against the agency. In one case, a judge ordered the agency to eradicate genetically engineered plants from wildlife refuges in the Southeast. Continue reading

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Colorado: Mule deer summit set for Aug. 9

Colorado mule deer.

Colorado mule deer. bberwyn photo.

State biologists to unveil plan aimed at bolstering deer herds

Staff Report

FRISCO — After studying the decline of Colorado mule deer populations for the past few years, state wildlife biologists are ready to unveil a new strategy aimed at stabilizing an bolstering deer numbers. Western Slope residents will be able to get an early look at the plan during the upcoming Aug. 9 mule deer summit in Glenwood Springs.

The event is free and open to the public. CPW and The Keystone Center invite public review and comments on the West Slope Mule Deer Strategy draft as it serves as a guide to future CPW efforts to increase mule deer populations in Western Colorado.
Continue reading

Arctic: Satellite images help track polar bears

Data will help assess global warming impacts to Arctic wildlife

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Polar bears near a U.S. Navy submarine.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The latest generation of high-resolution satellite images may help scientists gain a better understanding of Arctic polar bear populations. Dwindling Arctic sea ice is seen a huge threat to the predators, but difficult field conditions make it challenging to get a clear picture of polar bear population dynamics.

Satellite images have also been used recently to track emperor penguins in Antarctica, and researchers are starting to rely on satellite images more and more. In a new study, U.S. Geological Survey biologists matched satellite surveys with ground-truthed counts. Continue reading

Wildlife: Denali wolf packs hammered by hunting

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Wolves draw tourists to Denali National Park.

Death of breeding wolves affects pack size and persistence

Staff Report

FRISCO — Following a steep drop in the Denali National Park wolf population, biologists have documented how the death of breeding wolves affects pack size and persistence. The number of wolves in the 6million acre park in Alaska dropped from 143 in the fall of 2007 to just 55 wolves in the spring of 2013, raising concerns about impacts to tourism.

Many visitors come to Denali with the expectation of seeing wolves, but a recent state decision to allow wolf hunting in area previously deemed a buffer zone has had a big impact on wolf numbers. According to the latest research, the death of a breeding wolf sometimes results in a wolfpack disbanding. Continue reading

Moose encounters near Aspen prompt warnings

‘If things continue this way at Maroon Bells, it’s not if someone will be injured, but when’

Colorado moose

A moose cow and calves grazing near Berthoud Pass, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado’s growing moose population is causing a safety issue in the popular Maroon Bells area, near Aspen, according to state wildlife officials, who say people are getting to close to the animals along the Crater Lake Trail. Forest Service rangers temporarily closed the trail, but said that risky behavior continues, despite numerous posted signs warning of the potential danger. Continue reading

Feds launch greater sage-grouse website

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Dwindling birds caught in a tangled web of science and politics

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a couple of weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $25 million in funding for greater sage-grouse conservation in California and Nevada, the federal government took another step in the long-running process to protect the dwindling birds by launching a new website.

Coordinated by three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service information specialists, the new site emphasizes the collaborative nature of the conservation effort to protect the birds and their oft-overlooked sage-steppe habitat.

The scruffy badlands that stretch patchily between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada may look empty, but there’s more than meets the eye, the USFWS explains on the new site’s intro page. Sage may dominate big slices of the landscape, but the ecosystem is threatened because not much of it is protected. 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

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