IPAA requests delay in updated FWS conservation agreements. On Monday, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and American Petroleum Institute sent a letter urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries’ acting directors to delay the implementation of new rules for Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs). IPAA and API argue that the proposed delay would allow the new administration to thoroughly review the negative impact the rules would have on pre-listing conservation agreements.
The letter asks Fish and Wildlife to consider a complete review and withdrawal of the new CCAA regulations. IPAA and API write that existing regulations have “proven effective” in conserving species so much so that “they have helped preclude the need to list species such as the greater sage-grouse and dunes sagebrush lizard.” They also refute the claim that CCAAs are “inappropriate” for oil and natural gas development, noting that many operators “have been at the forefront of CCAA development.” IPAA asks that officials take into account the negative impacts of the revised CCAAs and how it could discourage the development of voluntary conservation measures. The new rules are currently slated to go into effect on March 21, 2017.
FWS reviewing industry petition to delay RPBB listing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told Bloomberg last week that it was reviewing a petition from a coalition of industry groups to postpone listing the rusty patched bumblebee under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The coalition has asked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to delay rusty patched bumblebee protections until next year so that guidance on how to avoid violating the ESA can be properly established. Construction, energy, and agriculture industry groups are concerned that any type of activity, such as insecticide use or maintenance work, could be seen as a risk to the bee.
IPAA had joined the coalition to request an emergency delay earlier this month, telling Secretary Zinke that the bee’s listing had been rushed in an effort to complete the process before the Trump administration took office. Shortly after the inauguration, the Trump Administration moved to delay the effective listing date to March 21. IPAA and other members of industry are now asking the Interior to postpone the effective date to January 11, 2018.
In the News
Free Cheerios wildflower seeds could help save dying bees. Newsweek. American bees are an endangered species for the first time in U.S. history. And possibly also for the first time in history, a cereal company is hoping to be their savior. Cheerios has launched a program to save a species of American bees. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) added the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee to the endangered species list in January following a sharp decline in bee sightings within the 28 states and Canadian provinces where they predominately reside. The department said the bumble bee has been reported in only 13 states and one Canadian province since 2000. The decreasing amount of bee life in the states sparked Cheerios’ crusade to help restore bee populations using their Honey Nut Cheerios mascot, Buzz. The company announced Monday plans to have 100 million wildflower seeds planted across the country by offering to send wildflower seeds to people for free.
Good News For Grouse & The Economy. Daily Caller (Op-Ed). Across 173 million acres in 11 western states there is good news for a chicken-sized bird known as the greater sage grouse and for the economies of rural, natural resource-dependent communities. One of the Obama administration’s most pernicious regulatory initiatives can potentially be eliminated—15 federal sage grouse plans that cost an estimated $7.7 billion annually and 31,000 jobs, as well as harm the grouse and a host of other species that depend on the same habitat. While the plans technically cover nearly 73 million acres of federal land, they effectively impact almost all of the grouse’s habitat, including the 31% that is private, because restrictions on federal lands often impact adjacent and nearby private land. According to Red Tape Rollback, a project of the Pacific Legal Foundation, the federal government’s 15 sage grouse plans can be invalidated through the Congressional Review Act (CRA). “Although the land use plans impose significant restrictions on activity throughout a massive area of the western states, the agencies did not submit it to Congress as required by the CRA,” states a post on redtaperollback.com.
Milkweed losses may not fully explain monarch butterfly declines. Phys.org. Steep declines in the number of monarch butterflies reaching their wintering grounds in Mexico are not fully explained by fewer milkweeds in the northern part of their range, researchers report in a new study. The research, published in the journal BioScience, reviews decades of studies of monarchs and includes an in-depth analysis of milkweed populations in Illinois, a state at the heart of the butterflies’ summer range. It takes a few generations of monarchs to make the trip north from Mexico to the Midwestern United States and Canada where they summer. Researchers are struggling to understand what is driving the decline. A popular hypothesis is that the loss of milkweeds – the only plants on which monarch larvae can feed – is to blame. “But we have more milkweeds in natural areas than previous studies suggested,” Zaya said. “I would say the milkweeds in natural areas are buffering the loss of milkweeds in the agricultural areas.”
Trump budget calls for 12% cut. E&E News (sub req’d). The Interior Department would see a 12 percent cut to its overall budget in fiscal 2018 under President Trump’s proposal unveiled today. The White House requests $11.6 billion for the department that oversees the country’s vast natural resources, including its popular national parks — a $1.5 billion decrease from fiscal 2017. The administration’s “skinny budget” for Interior seeks more money for energy development and less for “lower priority activities, such as acquiring new lands,” the blueprint said. Trump’s budget request does not address specific funding for the Bureau of Land Management, particularly how the agency plans to address issues such as greater sage grouse conservation — a major component of President Obama’s requests for BLM in the past two budget cycles.
WAFWA to begin aerial surveys of lesser prairie-chicken habitat Thursday. High Plains Public Radio. Beginning Thursday, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) will begin aerial surveys to document population trends of the lesser prairie-chicken in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. As The Prowers Journal reports, The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies conduct the surveys annually in areas that contain lesser prairie-chicken habitat. The plan is a collaborative effort of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies of all five states developed to ensure conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken with voluntary cooperation of landowners and industry, which are allowed to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.
How should one measure the Endangered Species Act’s performance? Pacific Legal Foundation (Blog). Property rights and other groups that seek reform of the Endangered Species Act oftentimes note that only a tiny fraction of the species that have been listed under the Act have recovered. Environmentalists typically respond that a recovery metric is not a good way to measure the Act’s performance. A good example of this defense, in adumbrated form, was recently made by Professor Eric Biber at LegalPlanet. Many species, he explains, are listed when they are on the verge of extinction. Yet the threats that have led to their imminent disappearance usually will take some time to mitigate. Hence, the Act may very well be “working” but we haven’t given it enough time to show its stuff. In my view, there are at least three significant problems with this defense. First, the Act has been on the books in substantially the same form for over four decades, and many species have been protected for twenty years or more. I suspect, however, that the recovery rates are not much higher for long-listed species than they are for recently listed ones.