Whitebark Pine are getting serious attention from the US Fish and Wildlife Service lately . . .
Climate change, voracious beetles and disease are imperiling the long-term survival of a high-elevation pine tree that’s a key source of food for some grizzly bears and found across the West, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
A Fish and Wildlife Service proposal scheduled to be published Wednesday would protect the whitebark pine tree as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, according to documents posted by the Office of the Federal Register.
But the agency said it doesn’t plan to designate which forested areas are critical to the tree’s survival, stopping short of what some environmentalists argue is needed.
Here’s an interesting piece on the efforts over the last 20-plus years to collect data on rare, elusive species like the Canada lynx . . .
In a state where regal mountains and unconfined rivers demand attention and esteem, there exists also the less obvious, but no less significant creatures that call these places home. And one would be hard-pressed to find a Montanan who hasn’t acknowledged a simple creed: our state wouldn’t be as special if our wild landscapes lacked wildlife.
“These animals are part of Montana’s history, and when some of these species start dropping off, like you lose a lynx here or some grizzlies there, then you lose the essence of our state’s culture,” said John Squires, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula.
Squires has devoted decades of his life to researching some of Montana’s most elusive animals, the ones most humans will never witness in their natural habitats. At the heart of those efforts is the threatened Canada lynx, an incredibly rare and snow-dependent cat facing potential removal from the federal Endangered Species List despite there being a lack of sufficient scientific evidence to support delisting.
Rising up like the creature from the black lagoon . . .
In a move that critics say will hurt plants, animals and other species as they face mounting threats, the Trump administration is making major changes to how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. The U.S. Department of Interior on Monday announced a suite of long-anticipated revisions to the nation’s premier wildlife conservation law, which is credited with bringing back the bald eagle and grizzly bears, among other species.
Republican lawmakers and industry groups celebrated the revisions, some of the broadest changes in the way the act is applied in its nearly 50-year history.
They come at a moment of crisis for many of the world’s plant and animal species. As many as 1 million species are at risk of extinction — many within decades — according to a recent U.N. report. Wildlife groups and Democratic lawmakers, pointing to that document, are promising to challenge the new rules in Congress and in court. “Now is the time to strengthen the ESA, not cripple it,” said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall on a press call.
Here’s a good overview of the grizzly delisting suit currently making its way through the court system . . .
Federal attorneys pushed their case that Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears should be removed from Endangered Species Act protection, arguing in an appeal filed late Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wasn’t required to do a comprehensive review of all grizzlies in the Lower 48 states.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s opening salvo to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also accused the lower court judge in Missoula of improperly substituting his opinion of the scientific evidence of grizzly genetic diversity for that of FWS biologists.
However, the government said it would not challenge U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen’s ruling that state wildlife agencies aren’t ready to manage the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) bears and haven’t sufficiently studied how delisting one big grizzly population might affect smaller separate populations.
Assuming grizzly bears are delisted in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE, essentially Northwest Montana), Montana would take over management of the bears. The Montana department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is holding a series of meetings to discuss management objectives, including one in Kalispell at 6:30pm on September 27 at the Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building, 777 Grandview Drive . . .
Public meetings on how the state will deal with the growing number of grizzly bears around Glacier National Park if they’re removed from the endangered species list begin this week…
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) spokesman Dillon Tabish says the meetings are not meant to address the question of whether or not to delist the bear, and are not related to a separate population of grizzlies around Yellowstone National Park, whose federal protections are currently tangled up in federal court.
“Are we comfortable with a minimum of 800 grizzly bears on the landscape? Is that too many? Is that not enough? We really, genuinely want to hear Montanans’ input on that question and that question alone.”
The meetings will feature presentations on the grizzly population by state biologists and the opportunity for Montanans to voice their opinion on the rule.
Here’s an excellent article by the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney on today’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen restoring federal protection to Yellowstone area grizzlies . . .
A federal judge returned Yellowstone-area grizzly bears to Endangered Species Act protection and effectively blocked grizzly hunting seasons in Wyoming and Idaho on Monday.
“Although this order may have impacts throughout grizzly country and beyond, this case is not about the ethics of hunting and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts as a practical or philosophical matter,” U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote at the start of his 48-page ruling. “This court’s review, constrained by the Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress, is limited to answering a yes-or-no question: Did the United States Fish and Wildlife Service exceed its legal authority when it delisted the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear?”
Christensen ruled the agency did err by failing to consider how delisting the estimated 750 grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park might affect survival of another roughly 1,200 bears in five other recovery areas. He wrote Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) also acted arbitrarily and capriciously in analyzing threats to the Yellowstone bears.
The current court challenge to the Wyoming and Idaho grizzly hunt is only the tip of the iceberg . . .
While most stories about last week’s grizzly bear court hearing trumpeted the last-minute suspension of trophy hunts in Wyoming and Idaho, the lawsuit had nothing to do with the legality of grizzly hunting.
And while it did focus on whether grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem still need federal protection, the eventual decision will affect a far larger landscape. That points up a conundrum of the Endangered Species Act: It’s one challenge to recover a species, but quite another to delist it.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen didn’t render a decision from the bench on Thursday as many expected he might. But he did grant a 14-day restraining order blocking Wyoming and Idaho from starting their grizzly hunts on Saturday.
In response to oral arguments by a coalition of wildlife advocates, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen just granted a 14-day temporary restraining order suspending grizzly bear hunts in Wyoming and Idaho while decides whether the federal government should reinstate federal protections for the bears.
On August 25, 2018, the NFPA submitted the following statement to the Department of Interior during the comment period on their proposed changes to Endangered Species Act rule-making.
Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0007
On behalf of the Board of Directors for the North Fork Preservation Association, we stand for a strong Endangered Species Act.
We believe that it is important to keep the “blanket 4(d) rule” in place, that automatically grants all species listed as Threatened protection from harm, harassment, injury and death.
If the current proposal moves forward, already vulnerable species would only be protected if and when your agency decides to undertake a specific rulemaking process. Not only would this increase the rulemaking workload for your agency, but Threatened species would be left waiting for protection that may never happen.
We believe that a strong Endangered Species Act is in the best interest of humans and wildlife. While some exploitative industries would benefit from this change because they could continue to disregard threatened species, this change is not in the interest of the rest of us.
The Endangered Species Act is one of the most cherished pieces of legislation in our country’s history and should not be weakened. Please keep this vital rule to protect our Threatened species in place.
Debo Powers, President
North Fork Preservation Association
Here’s a pretty good summary of Montana’s proposed management plan for grizzly bears in the northwest section of the state . . .
Wildlife officials endorsed a plan Thursday to keep northwestern Montana’s grizzly population at roughly 1,000 bears as the state seeks to bolster its case that lifting federal protections will not lead to the bruins’ demise.
The proposal adopted on a preliminary vote by Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners sets a target of at least 800 grizzlies across a 16,000-square mile (42,000-square kilometer) expanse just south of the U.S.-Canada border.
However, officials pledged to manage for a higher number, about 1,000 bears, to give the population a protective buffer, said Dillon Tabish with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.