Government officials reassess federal sage grouse plans. Under an edict from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, government scientists and land managers are reviewing Obama-era Greater sage-grouse plans that have been condemned by miners, ranchers, and energy developers throughout the West.
The reassessment plan is designed to ensure Greater sage-grouse recommendations do not harm local economies and that state governments have control over conservation efforts. Environmentalists fear that this is an attempt for the administration to show favor toward industry, arguing these efforts will land the grouse on the endangered species list in 2020 when it’s back up for review. Meetings have been held in 11 western states to garner feedback as the administration wraps up the public comment period.
According to the Associated Press, the main points of contention between groups are “the size of protective buffer zones around grouse breeding grounds, states’ role in setting federal policy and whether cattle or wild horses cause more habitat degradation.” Bureau of Land Management Acting Deputy Director of Operations John Ruhs said, “We’re trying to find the best methods to allow all uses of the land to occur and still ensure protection of habitat. And that is a tall order.” The public comment period for Greater sage-grouse land amendment provisions ends November 27.
Administration asks to delay endangered species pesticide assessment review. The Trump administration on Monday asked a federal judge to extend the deadline to determine whether a group of pesticides is harmful to endangered species.
As the Associated Press reports, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is required to release its findings on the impact of chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion on about 1,800 endangered and threatened species by the end of this year. But with the administration’s request for delay, publication of that research would be pushed back another two years. In April, Dow Chemical Co. along with two other pesticide companies wrote letters to three of President Trump’s Cabinet secretaries claiming the studies were flawed. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, which determines the safety of chemical use, must consult with NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure its actions do not harm any federally listed species. Ultimately, NMFS will use the assessments to create measures that could potentially limit the use of the pesticides in and around endangered species habitats.
In the News
Cheney Aims To Loosen Migratory Bird Laws. Wyoming Public Media. U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney has sponsored an amendment that would weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 on the eve of its 100-year anniversary. National Audubon Society Policy Advisor Erik Schneider said the Act shouldn’t be changed because for 100 years, it has protected North American birds effectively. It was adopted in the early 1900s when bird plumes were fashionable on lady’s hats and clothing. Schneider also said the amendment gives an advantage to the energy industry. “Right now, no one is allowed to kill a bird without a valid permit by any means or any manner,” he said. “And that includes through deaths that are incidental to industrial activities. So that could include oil waste pits, it could include collisions or electrocutions from transmission lines, as well as oil spills.” Schneider said weakening protections is worrisome since, a third of the nearly 1,000 North American bird species are declining.
Trump Denies Endangered Status to Florida Lizard Threatened by Sea-Level Rise. Miami New Times. Like the majority of the Sunshine State’s coastal residents, the Florida Keys mole skink has spent the past few decades fighting for its life against rapidly rising seas. Now the brown and pink lizard has a new foe: the Trump administration. Over the past 20 years, scientists have mapped the decline of the population of Florida Keys mole skinks and expect them to effectively disappear in the next half-century. Even so, last month, the Trump administration announced that the mole skink, along with 24 other imperiled species, did not qualify for endangered protection status. Fearing the decision would create a precedent, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has threatened to file a lawsuit, aimed at combating the administration’s blatant disregard for climate science and the species affected by rising sea levels. “People in Miami see sea level changing every day,” says Elise Bennett, a CBD attorney who works to protect reptiles and amphibians. “They know it’s occurring.”
Feds hosts sage grouse meetings in Utah. Associated Press. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is hosting three public meetings in Utah this week to gather input on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plans to reassess sage grouse management policies adopted under the Obama administration. The evening scoping sessions are scheduled Tuesday in Vernal, Wednesday in Cedar City and Thursday in Snowville. They’re the last of a series of meetings held across the West in recent weeks. Zinke says he wants to make sure the land planning amendments don’t harm local economies. Conservationists say it’s a thinly veiled attempt to allow more livestock grazing and drilling, similar to President Trump’s efforts to roll back national monument designations. They warn it could land the hen-sized bird on the endangered species list in 2020 when the Fish and Wildlife Service is scheduled to review its 2015 decision not to list it.
Habitat Loss Leads To Loss Of 90 Percent Of Monarch Butterflies. WXPR. Many species of pollinators are in sharp decline in Wisconsin. Recently, a DNR program was granted more almost $70,000 to aid in helping Monarch butterflies. The grant was to help the insects during their annual trek to Mexico over the winter. The grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore and enhance critical monarch butterfly habitat along the Mississippi River. But the DNR’s Owen Boyle says the populations of the once-common Monarchs have fallen by 90 percent in the last 25 years. He says habitat loss throughout the monarch’s breeding range, which includes Wisconsin, is considered the primary cause of the monarch population’s crash “…specifically for Monarch butterflies, as most kids learn in school these days, Monarch butterflies need milkweed plants. It’s the only thing they can lay their eggs on and what the larvae or caterpillars can eat. The loss of milkweed and the nectar plants that the adults need, your regular native flowering plants, the loss of those from the landscape is what’s driving the loss of Monarchs….”
UNH professor uses GIS mapping to help protect species. Union Leader Correspondent. A University of New Hampshire professor says geographic information systems can help protect endangered species, predict forest fires and monitor the coastal watershed. Geographic information systems are designed to capture, manipulate, analyze and manage all types of information. Russell Congalton of the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station said analysts layer the data on top of each other to help them solve a specific problem. For example, in the mid-1990s, Congalton and a team of students set out to see if the small whorled pogonia should be protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. They created a mapping database using information they discovered about the rare orchid. A vast majority of the known plants are found in New Hampshire and Maine. “We found out the orchid likes wet soils. We also found the orchid likes to exist at the bottom of slopes. We took all of this data and layered it,” Congalton said. “We went and found the orchid in places where nobody else could find it.”