Short version: There’s no money right now to pay for Endangered Species Act protection for whitebark pine . . .
An appeals court has ruled that U.S. government officials don’t have to take immediate action to protect a pine tree that is a source of food for threatened grizzly bears.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its order Friday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ability to protect species through the federal Endangered Species Act is limited by “practical realities,” such as scarce funds and limited staff.
The whitebark pine is in decline amid threats of disease, the mountain pine beetle, wildfire and climate change.
So… USFWS is now accepting comments on a proposed rule to list the wolverine as threatened. Here’s the meat of the official press release, which includes instructions on how to submit comments regarding the proposal. Note that the deadline is November 17, 2016 . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is reopening the public comment period on a proposed rule to list the North American wolverine as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The Service had proposed to list the North American wolverine, which is a Distinct Population Segment of wolverines found in the lower 48 states, but withdrew its proposal in 2014 after concluding that the factors affecting it were not as significant as were once thought.
However, the District Court for the District of Montana overturned the Service’s withdrawal, effectively returning the wolverine population to the point at which it was proposed for listing as threatened. A threatened listing would mean this wolverine population is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
The Service has considered the North American wolverine as proposed for listing since the April court decision. This Federal Register Notice is an administrative step to implement the court ruling.
The Service will be starting a new review on the wolverine population to determine whether it meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species, or if the animal is warranted for listing at all. Any decision on whether to list or not list the wolverine under the ESA will be based on the best scientific and commercial information available. We anticipate new climate change information will assist us in this decision.
The Service is asking for any scientific or commercial information on the North American wolverine population during the 30-day public comment period that closes November 17, 2016.
Wolverines look like a small bear with a bushy tail, and each of its five toes is armed with curved, semi-retractile claws. In the lower 48 states, they live in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rocky Mountains, with occasional sightings in Colorado, California, and Nevada. Learn more at https://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolverine/.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.
As mentioned last week, the recent federal bull trout recovery plan is not universally admired, making a lawsuit almost inevitable . . .
A pair of environmental groups announced Wednesday they will sue the federal government unless a recovery plan for threatened bull trout is amended to address violations of the Endangered Species Act.
The groups, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan, filed the 60-day notice to sue a little more than a week after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife released its final Bull Trout Recovery Plan on Sept. 28.
A 60-day notice to sue under the ESA is required in order to provide enough information to the FWS so that it has the opportunity to identify and address alleged violations in order to make the plan sufficient.
The long-delayed federal bull trout recovery plan was released this week . . .
More than 15 years in the making, the final recovery plan for bull trout was released Monday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, although some environmentalists and biologists in Montana say it still falls short of providing an avenue to recover the threatened species.
Listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1999, bull trout populations in the continental U.S. have struggled throughout the past century, under pressure from invasive species, habitat degradation and warmer waters.
The warming effects from climate change are also expected to create further problems for the fish, which require clean, cold water to survive. Steve Duke, a senior biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said some current bull trout habitats will no longer be habitable if water temperatures continue to rise as projected. That’s one reason the plan language that allows up to 25 percent of the individual populations to disappear within four of the six geographically defined recovery units.
The Interior Department decided not to give sage grouse Endangered Species Act protection . . .
The Interior Department said Tuesday that the greater sage grouse, a ground-dwelling bird whose vast range spans 11 Western states, does not need federal protections following a costly effort to reverse the species’ decline without reshaping the region’s economy.
The fight over whether to list the bird as endangered or threatened recalled the battle over the spotted owl 25 years ago, where federal protection greatly impeded the logging economy. The Obama administration and affected states have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to saving the species without Endangered Species Act protections that many argued would threaten the oil and gas industry and agriculture.
Tuesday’s announcement signaled that the Obama administration believes it has struck a delicate balance to save the birds from extinction without crippling the West’s economy. It also could help defuse a potential political liability for Democrats heading into the 2016 election; federal protections could have brought much more sweeping restrictions on oil and gas drilling, grazing and other human activities from California to the Dakotas.
Again, a lot of discussion of a shift from grizzly bear recovery to grizzly bear management . . .
Top grizzly bear experts from Montana, U.S. and Canadian governments descended on Many Glacier Hotel last week to discuss the future of grizzly bear populations throughout the Northwest, including in and around Glacier National Park.
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, created in 1983 to oversee recovery of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, is considering removing the protected status under the Endangered Species Act of two bear populations: those in the Northern Continental Divide and Yellowstone ecosystems.
Grizzlies were one of the first high-profile listings under the 1973 law, listed as a “threatened” species in 1975 after being extirpated from the vast majority of their historical range.
“The animals are leading the way — they’re recovering themselves, along with a lot of our help…”
The western U.S. states really do not want a federally managed sage grouse conservation effort . . .
A group of Western-state governors has released a report on voluntary efforts in 11 states to conserve the habitat of sage grouse as part of an effort to avoid a federal listing of the bird under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The 32-page “2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory” released Thursday by the Western Governors’ Association identifies conservation work during the year and is accompanied by a 101-page appendix listing efforts since 2011.
The feds will keep investigating the status of the sage grouse, even though they can’t actually do anything about it right now . . .
U.S. wildlife officials will decide next year whether a wide-ranging Western bird species needs protections even though Congress has blocked such protections from taking effect, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Wednesday.
They could determine the greater sage grouse is heading toward possible extinction, but they would be unable to intervene under the Endangered Species Act. The bird’s fate instead remains largely in the hands of the 11 individual states where they are found…
Jewell said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue collecting and analyzing data on sage grouse. A decision on whether protections are warranted will be reached by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, Interior officials said.
A lawsuit is in the works to force federal protection for the fisher . . .
A coalition of environmental groups warned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it plans to sue over the agency’s decision not to protect the fisher under the Endangered Species Act.
“Fisher in Montana are being decimated by trapping and logging,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan, one of the five groups suing the government. “While the Fish and Wildlife Service delays protection, the Northern Rockies fisher faces imminent threats to its survival.”
The groups initially asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to give the fisher protection in 2009. The agency ruled there wasn’t enough information on what kind of habitat the fur-bearing carnivore needed in the northern Rocky Mountains. The groups appealed again in September 2103, and the agency had one year to respond. That deadline was reached this September.
The Endangered Species Act turns 40 on December 28. Here’s a pretty good review of its history and current status . . .
Last Thursday, a bald eagle devoured a goldeneye duck on the ice beside Brennan’s Wave, just downstream of Missoula’s Higgins Avenue Bridge.
Such a sight was inconceivable 40 years ago, when the nation’s mascot was disappearing from its skies and just 12 breeding pairs were known in Montana. The bald eagle was one of the “charismatic megafauna” that helped pass the Endangered Species Act, which soon had more than 1,200 plants and animals under its protection.