Weekly Newsletter – 12/9/16

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Weekly Newsletter – 12/9/16

Issues

Chairman Bishop talks ESA this week. Laying out his priorities for the 2017 Congress, House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop spoke to Politico Pro and E&E News this week regarding his plans for the Endangered Species Act.

Chairman Bishop spoke about today’s flawed focus of the law on controlling lands, as opposed to its original purpose of restoring and rehabilitating species.  As he states, “I would like to see a fundamental reform because that’s definitely needed. If you do it piece by piece, it may actually complicate things and make things worse.” The Chairman also expressed confidence that the new administration would back reform efforts, but noted there are no set plans in place.

Defenders of Wildlife also vowed their continued efforts to defend that law, stating “We’re bracing for a frontal assault on the Endangered Species Act. At this point, we just need to sleep with our eyes open and see how this plays out.” Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, also stated in E&E News “We’re certainly going to fight that in the courts and in the streets.”

Researchers hypothesize little brown bats may be developing resistance to WNS. UC Santa Cruz researchers believe some populations of little brown bats have developed a resistance to white-nose syndrome, a lethal fungal disease that has impacted bat populations across the United States over the last decade. The study, which was published this week in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, called for additional research to determine the underlying mechanism supporting the resistance.

White-nose syndrome first arrived in America in 2006, where it quickly spread from New York to over half of the United States and Canada. The disease has affected multiple bat species, including the northern long-eared bat. The researchers found that bats in populations that have since stabilized carried less fungus than bats in populations that were still declining, suggesting a greater resistance to the disease within the stabilized populations. The researchers cautioned that the resistance had so far only been seen in little brown bats.

FWS accepting comments on a proposal permitting incidental take of bats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced its intent to prepare a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed issuance of an incidental take permit for a draft Oil & Gas Coalition Multi-State Habitat Conservation Plan. The plan would streamline permitting and compliance for nine oil and gas companies operating in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

The permit would cover incidental take of five bat species, including the endangered Indiana Bat and the threatened northern long-eared bat, for a period of 50 years. As part of the final take permit, the companies would implement a Multi-State Habitat Conservation Plan for West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to offset any impacts of operations and construction. The Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting comments through Dec. 27.

In the News

Don’t grouse about it; cut a Christmas tree from Pinon Mesa. Daily Sentinel. Cut a Christmas tree, help save an endangered bird. And have a family Yule experience to go along. The Bureau of Land Management is now selling Christmas tree permits for areas on Piñon Mesa. The agency has long sold the permits, but there is more to the tale than the tree, BLM spokesman Chris Joyner said. The Piñon Mesa Christmas tree-cutting areas are in the same area in which the BLM and several state and federal agencies hope to restore the sagebrush areas required by the Gunnison sage grouse, which is listed as a threatened species. Piñon Mesa holds a small satellite population of Gunnison sage grouse, most of which are in the Gunnison Basin. Removing piñon and juniper (PJ) from the area for Christmas trees takes away vantage points for predators while helping to clear the area for the return of sage grouse.

GOP politicians won’t keep the sage grouse from listing. Wyoming Public Radio. Wyoming Republicans were dealt a setback in their efforts to keep sage grouse off the federal endangered species list. House Republicans were able to include a provision in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that would prohibit the federal government from changing the conservation status of sage grouse for the next decade. But the provision was left out of the final bill when House leaders negotiated a final bill with their Senate counterparts. As for the policy itself,

[John] McCain says sage grouse aren’t an impediment to the nation’s military so western lawmakers should look for another bill to attach the provision to, and not the Defense bill, which is known as the NDAA.

Drought measure makes WRDA passage ‘more difficult’ – Inhofe. E&E News (sub req’d). A last-minute effort to add California drought relief to a federal water project bill yesterday threw uncertainty into the fight to help Flint, Mich., recover from lead water contamination. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who had pushed WRDA as the ranking member on Inhofe’s committee, said the drought measure would threaten endangered species by allowing too much water to be diverted from the San Francisco Bay watershed to agricultural regions and other areas affected by drought. Feinstein, in a news release, said the measure falls “entirely within the bounds of the Endangered Species Act,” while Boxer stood at her news conference with representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife who said the opposite.

The fight against over-criminalization continues. Pacific Legal Foundation (Blog). Last week, PLF’s motion to intervene was granted in a case threatening to radically expand criminal liability under the Endangered Species Act. It is no overstatement to say that this lawsuit is one of the most stark examples of over-criminalization—it would literally demand people go to jail if they accidently strike an unknown, endangered insect while driving down the highway. Thanks to the court’s decision to grant our intervention motion, WildEarth Guardians v. Department of Justice may soon join that list. In that case, a radical environmental group is challenging the government’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act. According to the statute, you can only be criminally punished if you “knowingly” take a protected species.

Fuel break system could impact sage grouse. Associated Press. Federal officials are considering creating a fuel break system in southwest Idaho, southeast Oregon and northern Nevada to limit the size of destructive rangeland wildfires and protect habitat for sage grouse. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced yesterday the 5,600-square-mile Tri-State Fuel Break Project proposed to create gaps in combustible vegetation along existing roads on public lands in the three states. Officials say the area contains one of the largest intact strongholds for greater sage grouse in the northern Great Basin but faces wildfire threats from invasive annual grasses, notably fire-prone cheatgrass.

By | 2017-04-04T11:31:14+00:00 December 9th, 2016|Categories: Newsletters|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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