Will black-footed ferrets catch a break in Wyoming?

Feds propose ‘non-essential, experimental’ status

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Black-footed ferret, courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Black-footed ferrets could make a comeback on private lands in Wyoming under a federal proposal to designate the State of Wyoming as a special area for reintroduction, where the mammals would be managed as a “non-essential, experimental” population under a special provision of the Endangered Species Act.

The prairie-dwelling critters have been on the Endangered Species List since 1967. They were listed just a year after Congress passed the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Greater sage-grouse face serious global warming threat

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Greater sage-grouse may lose ground to global warming. Photo courtesy USGS.

Climate change to cut key nesting habitat in Wyoming

Staff Report

FRISCO — As if greater sage-grouse didn’t already have enough to worry about, a new study suggests that global warming may reduce nesting habitat for the dwindling birds by 12 percent in southwestern Wyoming by 2050.

“Historic disturbances of fire, development and invasive species have altered the sagebrush landscape, but climate change may represent the habitat’s greatest future risk,” said Collin Homer, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist who led the research.

“Warming temperatures, combined with less snow and rain, will favor species other than sagebrush, as well as increase sagebrush habitat’s vulnerability to fire, insects, disease and invasive species,” Homer said, explaining that the research helped show how vulnerable sagebrush landscapes are to climate change. Continue reading

NASA tracks the Rocky Mountain global warming meltdown

Earlier snowmelt has been especially obvious in most of the mountain ranges of the western United States

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new NASA study focusing on northwestern Wyoming reinforces earlier research showing that global warming is already having a huge effect on the timing of snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains. Read the full NASA post, with more maps and graphs, here.

Taking a close look at the Wind River Range showed that the  snowmelt season in that area now ends about 16 days earlier than it did from the 1970s through the 1990s, using images and data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. They also studied ground-based stream discharge measurements and daily temperature and precipitation records. Continue reading

Conservation bank eyed as solution to sage-grouse woes

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

235,000-acre ranch to be managed for wildlife conservation; energy companies can buy conservation credits

Staff Report

FRISCO — Biologists, politicians and land-use planners enmeshed in the thorny issue of greater sage-grouse conservation hope that a new conservation bank in Wyoming can help save the dwindling birds without crimping energy development and ranching.

The country’s first-ever sage grouse conservation bank will manage a vast expanse of central Wyoming for sage-grouse, mule deer and other wildlife as a hedge against impacts to greater sage-grouse in energy development zones.

A conservation bank is a site or suite of sites established under an agreement with the Service to protect, and where feasible, improve habitat for a species. Similar banks have long been used to conserve important wetlands. Entities pursuing development that require mitigation can purchase “credits” generated by perpetual conservation easements and conservation projects to offset impacts occurring elsewhere. Continue reading

Proposed new oil and gas leases in Wyoming cut into the heart of important greater sage-grouse habitat

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Sage grouse don’t much like these drilling rigs.

Wyoming greater sage-grouse populations down 60 percent in last few years

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say proposed new oil and gas leases on 89,000 acres in northwestern Wyoming would devastate greater sage-grouse in the region by permitting industrial operations in some of the birds’ most important nesting and rearing habitat.

In a comment letter to the federal government, the  Center for Biological Diversity wrote that, even sage grouse have declined 60 percent over six years in Wyoming, the plan repeatedly ignores federal scientists’ recommendations for protecting these prairie birds from fossil fuel development. Continue reading

Study shows how mitigation boosts sage-grouse nesting

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Adaptive management and good mitigation can help greater sage-grouse survive the fracking tsunami. Photo via USGS.

Scientists tout adaptive management approach to sage-grouse conservation

Staff Report

FRISCO — When it comes to greater sage-grouse nesting areas, no disturbance is best, but carefully planned mitigation measures can help boost nest survival.

Minimizing disturbance to sagebrush is important, and the single biggest factor found to boost nest survival is locating wastewater treatment facilities away from drilling sites, scientists said last week, releasing results of a multi-year study in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Continue reading

Feds put Wyoming, Great Lakes wolves back on endangered species list

Heavy snow has pushed elk out of the high country, so the Colorado Division of Wildlife will try to divert them from important livestock feeding areas in the Yampa Valley. PHOTO COURTESY THE NATIONAL PAKR SERVICE.

Wolves chase down an elk in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Responding to lawsuits, USFWS acknowledges that state protections are inadequate

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Wild wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes once again are protected under the Endangered Species Act, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a Federal Register notice explaining that Wyoming’s management plan is not adequate to protect the predators.

Of course the agency needed a push from the federal courts to acknowledge the reality of the Wyoming’s anti-wolf policies. Similarly, a federal court also said the agency can’t delist wolves in the western Great Lakes because protections can’t be removed in part of a species’ range when it has not recovered overall. Continue reading

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