Category: endangered species

Feds finalize polar bear conservation plan

Outlook not good as sea ice dwindles

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Can polar bears survive global warming? Photo courtesy Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Staff Report

A federal recovery plan for endangered polar bears won’t halt the threat of climate change, but it could help dwindling populations of the great Arctic predators persist in the small patches of habitat that will remain after global warming melts most of the polar sea ice.

The plan, released Jan. 9, calls for reducing human-bear conflicts, collaboratively managing subsistence harvest, protecting denning habitat, and minimizing the risk of contamination from oil spills. Most of these actions are already underway, in partnership with Alaska Native communities, nonprofit groups, and industry representatives who participated in the plan’s creation. The plan also calls for increased monitoring and research. Continue reading “Feds finalize polar bear conservation plan”

GOP tries to shield anti-wolf bill from legal review

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When will the wolf battles end? Photo by USFWS.

Republicans apparently willing to use authoritarian tools in their war on the environment

By Bob Berwyn

The GOP-dominated Congress is flexing its political muscle with legislation that would override the Endangered Species Act by removing federal protection for wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming, making the animals vulnerable to state-regulated trophy hunting and trapping.

This isn’t the first time anti-environmental lawmakers have tried this, but what is new is that, this time, they’re trying to encroach on the longstanding system of checks and balances by passing a law that would prevent new judicial review. Continue reading “GOP tries to shield anti-wolf bill from legal review”

Study IDs key humpback whale habitats near Madagascar

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.
A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Increase in offshore energy development spurs conservation concerns

Staff Report

Humpback whales have always congregated in near-shore breeding areas, which makes them more susceptible to pressures from land-based and near-shore human activity, and the populations in the southwestern Indian Ocean are no exception. Scientists tracking the great cetaceans off the east coast of Africa say there are several areas near Madagascar that need protection from expanding offshore energy exploration.

After tagging several whales and tracing their movements via satellite, the scientists said their data can define potentially sensitive areas that should be protected from the disruption of seismic testing or other industrial development that could be destructive to the humpback population and this globally important marine habitat. Continue reading “Study IDs key humpback whale habitats near Madagascar”

Draft plan for jaguar recovery panned by wildlife advocates

Photo courtesy Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.
Photo courtesy Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Jaguars listed as endangered since 1997

Staff Report

Jaguars making their from Mexico back to the southwestern U.S. apparently won’t be getting much help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency this week released a draft recovery plan that puts the conservation burden on Mexico. The plan’s criteria for recovery and removal of the jaguar from the “endangered” list could be met without any jaguars occupying any of their vast historic range in the United States, according to wildlife watchdogs with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The draft was released just a short time after a second jaguar was documented in the Southwest. Between 2011 and 2015, another jaguar was seen several times around the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson. Another jaguar called “Macho B” was photographed repeatedly from 1996 until he was killed by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish as a result of a botched capture operation in 2009.

“Jaguars are making their presence known in the southwestern United States so it’s disappointing to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the focus of jaguar recovery solely in Mexico,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “By excluding the best remaining unoccupied jaguar habitat, this plan aims too low to make a difference in saving the jaguar. It’s an extinction plan, not a recovery plan.” Continue reading “Draft plan for jaguar recovery panned by wildlife advocates”

Satellite mapping could help avert whale-ship crashes

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.
A new satellite mapping program could help avert collisions between whales and ships . Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘No ship captain or shipping company wants to strike a whale’

Staff Report

Satellite data about whale movements and ocean conditions have helped scientists create monthly whale hotspot maps that could help avert collisions between ships and marine mammals.

Developed by researchers with NOAA Fisheries, Oregon State University and the University of Maryland, the WhaleWhatch program alerts ships where there may be an increased risk of encountering these endangered whales.  NASA helped fund the project, which draws on ocean observations from NASA and NOAA satellites. Continue reading “Satellite mapping could help avert whale-ship crashes”

Legal wrangling continues over rare oil patch plants

The rare Graham's penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.
The rare Graham’s penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

Federal court says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must take another look at listing decision

Staff Report

There’s a new legal twist in the long-running battle over rare wildflowers in northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah. This week, a federal court, restored Endangered Species Act protection for two species of penstemon that grow only in oil shale formations in the region.

Conservation activists won protection for the plants in 2013, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that 91 percent of Graham’s beardtongue populations and 100 percent of White River beardtongues were threatened by the impacts of oil and gas development. But a year later, the agency reversed course, claiming that a voluntary conservation agreement would mitigate those threats. Continue reading “Legal wrangling continues over rare oil patch plants”

New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico

Oil and gas exploration would have widespread effects on marine mammals

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Seismic blasting is bad for marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Conservation advocates have long been saying that blasting the Gulf of Mexico with seismic airguns to find more oil and gas beneath the seafloor would result in unacceptable harm to marine mammals and other marine life, and a new draft environmental study by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management seems to confirm those concerns.

The study was completed under the terms of a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. It shows that the blasting would have widespread impacts on marine life, including injuries to endangered sperm whales and Bryde’s whales. The draft report outlines possible mitigation measures, including closure areas where seismic blasting would be banned, and reductions in the amount of activity permissible each year. Continue reading “New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico”