Conservationists scored a win in the ongoing battle over mining development on the edge of the Cabinet Wilderness . . .
Montana illegally re-issued a water pollution discharge permit in 2004 for the proposed Montanore copper and silver mine under the Cabinet Mountains, according to a legal ruling that environmental groups are calling “a big win” in the fight to prohibit development of the controversial mine in northwestern Montana.
In her July 24 ruling, District Court Judge Kathy Seeley wrote that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) re-issuance of the discharge permit to Hecla Mining Company and its subsidiary Montanore Minerals Corp. was based in part “on arbitrary and capricious decisions,” and violates the federal Clean Water Act and the Montana Water Quality Act. She vacated the permit, and remanded the matter to DEQ for further action consistent with her decision.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service had a bad day in court when federal judge Donald Malloy overturned their approvals for construction of the Montanore mine at the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness . . .
In two decisions issued at the end of May, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Forest Management Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act when they approved a massive mining operation beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.
Hecla Mining Company is looking to build the Montanore copper and silver mine on the edge of the wilderness, about 18 miles south of Libby. The mine’s presence would require about 13 miles of paved or expanded roads, 14 miles of electric transmission line, wastewater treatment and holding, and tailings and seepage storage. If constructed, it would process tens of thousands of tons of ore every day.
The mine’s surface operations would be in known grizzly bear and bull trout habitat, and its underground activity would extend beneath the wilderness area, potentially draining millions of gallons of water from the local creeks.
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.
They finally brought someone in to take Chris Servheen’s old job. Dr. Hilary Cooley is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new grizzly bear recovery coordinator . . .
The federal official charged with leading the U.S. polar bear program has departed Alaska for Missoula, Montana, to oversee grizzly bear recovery in the Lower 48.
Hilary Cooley, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new grizzly bear recovery coordinator, has stepped into the job vacated by 35-year veteran Chris Servheen. Cooley will have the opportunity to finish what Servheen started: seeing through the Endangered Species Act “delisting” process for Yellowstone-area grizzlies, which turns over jurisdiction from Fish and Wildlife to Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzlies, she said, are ready to be managed by the states.
USFWS is reviewing the status of the fisher to determine whether it should be added to the Endangered Species List . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday the initiation of a status review for the distinct population segment of Northern Rocky Mountain fisher, to determine whether this population meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Bigger than a marten, but smaller than a wolverine, the fisher is in the same family that also includes weasels, mink, and otters. Fishers live in coniferous and mixed conifer and hardwood forests and are found commonly in mature forest cover. They’re one of the few creatures that kill and eat porcupines.
In Montana, the best fisher habitat is in the old growth wilderness of the Selway-Bitterroot. While fisher tracks have been noted in places like Glacier National Park, extensive hair trapping studies done a few years ago did not find any fishers, according to Park biologist John Waller.
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 promised, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is being sued over its bull trout recovery plan . . .
A pair of environmental groups on April 19 filed a lawsuit against the federal government alleging that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to recover threatened bull trout is inadequate and violates the Endangered Species Act.
The groups, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan, challenged the agency’s final recovery plan in U.S. District Court in Oregon, saying that it “fails to ensure the long-term survival and recovery.”
Bull trout were listed under the Endangered Species Act as “threatened” in 1999, and the FWS’ plan to recover the species is more than 15 years in the making. The plan, finalized last September, immediately drew criticism from conservation groups who for two decades have been at the vanguard of legal challenges on the road toward bull trout recovery.
Better late than never: The fight over wolverine protection made it into the New York Times . . .
Because it depends on heavy spring snowpack to excavate dens and safely raise its young near the top of mountain peaks high in the northern Rockies, the wolverine is on the front lines of battles over the effects of climate change.
There is less snow in the Rockies these days, and researchers forecast that in the coming decades, the wolverines in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming may disappear with the snowpack. Only about 300 of the animals are in the lower 48 states. In 2014, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service refused to list the animal for endangered species protection, calling the science inconclusive.
The debate over protection for the reclusive animal, the largest in the weasel family, has been going on for about 20 years, and it was revived this week by a federal court ruling here in Montana.