Weekly Newsletter – 3/18/16

Home/Newsletters/Weekly Newsletter – 3/18/16

Weekly Newsletter – 3/18/16

Issues

FWS will consider removing American burying beetle from endangered species list. The Obama administration has announced that it will review the status of the American burying beetle to determine if should be removed from the endangered species list. The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), alongside fellow petitioners, had notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January of its intent to sue the agency after it failed to announce its 90-day finding on the petition to delist the beetle.

The American burying beetle was placed on the endangered species list in 1989, with the agency saying at the time that the beetle’s range had been reduced by 90 percent. The government, however, has never completed “scientifically defensible, range-wide studies” on the beetle to back up that claim. “There is no evidence that

[the species] is currently in danger of extinction across all or a significant portion of its contemporary range,” IPAA wrote in January.

“Today’s announcement was a demonstrable step that the best available science does not support the existence of any threats significant enough to drive the American burying beetle toward extinction,” said Samantha McDonald, IPAA’s director of government relations this week in E&E News. “We are hopeful that upon completion of the 12-month status review, the delisting will provide substantial relief for our members.”

Wyoming goes to court to keep its sage grouse plan. Wyoming Governor Matt Mead directed his Attorney General’s office last week to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed in Idaho on the greater sage-grouse. The lawsuit, filed by the Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity and the Prairie Hills Audubon Society groups in February, seeks to force the Obama administration to impose more restrictions on oil and gas drilling in order to better protect the sage-grouse. The groups claim the federal government’s conservation plans will not be effective in protecting the bird.

Meanwhile, states like Utah and Idaho have joined industry groups in suing the federal government because they believe the federal plans place costly and duplicative restrictions on economic development. As IPAA’s President and CEO Barry Russell wrote last September, the plans “largely ignore the great strides made by state regulators, local officials, ranchers, and energy developers alike to protect the sage-grouse and its habitat.”

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Congress are moving to block the Administration’s conservation plans by introducing legislation this week that would allow governors to block any provisions in the federal plans that do not conform to their state’s sage-grouse conservation plans. House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced H.R. 4739, which would allow states to block the federal government’s amendments to land-use plans and the Administration’s proposal to restrict new mining claims in six states.

Environmental groups sue feds for monarch butterfly protections. Environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety, filed a lawsuit last week to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. The agency has taken more than a year to consider the groups’ 2014 petition, and the lawsuit is intended to set a deadline for the agency to reach a listing decision.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a settlement reached last month between the Center for Biological Diversity and the Fish and Wildlife Service wherein the agency agreed to study the effects of glyphosate and another herbicide on butterflies. Glyphosate, the most popular herbicide in the country, is linked to a wide-spread reduction of milkweed, a plant essential for supporting monarch populations during their annual migration across North America.

In the News

Bumblebees considered for Endangered Species Act protection. Associated Press. Two species of wild bumblebees found from Alaska to North Carolina and in Canada will be considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. government said Tuesday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to study the Western bumblebee and yellow-banded bumblebee to see if they warrant listing as threatened or endangered. The review could take a year or more. The yellow-banded bee’s historic range includes 23 states from the Great Plains to New England, part of the Atlantic Coast and eight Canadian provinces. The Western bee’s range includes 14 Western and Great Plains states, as well as three provinces and one territory in Canada.

Mexico says monarch butterflies survive severe cold snap. Associated Press. The monarch butterflies that winter in the mountains west of Mexico City survived the severe cold snap that hit the area this week, authorities said Friday. Mexico’s environmental protection agency released photos of patches of frost, snow and ice in parts of the butterfly reserve. Activists had expressed concern about the unusual cold snap because driving rain and bitter cold in 2001 killed millions of monarchs at the reserve. But the agency also released photos showing clumps of butterflies still hanging from trees. They tend to drop off trees when they’re frozen.

Sage grouse website launch helps protect habitats. KTVH. Sage grouse conservation in Montana continues to move forward. The state Environmental Quality Council discussed the progress of the effort Thursday in response to Governor Steve Bullock’s Executive Orders in 2014 and 2015. The Conservation Program was created to monitor and regulate projects in or near known sage grouse habitats. A website was launched to make it easier for people to submit information before starting projects to help protect habitat the grouse need to survive and thrive. As of March 3, 2016, 169 individual projects have been submitted online and 19 proposed in core grouse habitats. .

Wildlife management professionals rate the programs that work and those that don’t. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Hundreds of wildlife management leaders are gathered in Pittsburgh this week for the annual North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. A year ago, to recognize the forum’s 100th anniversary, attendees were polled on their perceptions of the most and least effective fish and wildlife initiatives of the past century. Insiders ranked the federal Endangered Species Act the nation’s fifth-most successful fish and wildlife effort. Curiously, they also ranked it the second-least successful. In a report overview, Responsive Management executive director Mark Damian Duda and co-authors wrote that many wildlife agency insiders felt litigation brought by the program was an unnecessary diversion of resources.

The future of conservation. Casper Star Tribune (Op-Ed). Last September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would not list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. A substantial amount of credit for this outcome is due to the many public and private partners, including ranchers, conservation groups and local communities, who have worked together for years as part of SGI and will continue to do so for years to come. These groups are finding common ground for an uncommon bird. This is what the future of conservation looks like – collaboration, partnership and innovative solutions. In short, it is the West at its best.

Feds to set aside land in Western states for rare mouse. Associated Press. The federal government is setting aside nearly 22 square miles across three western states as critical habitat for a rare mouse that has already pitted ranchers against the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that areas in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona will be covered by the designation for the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. The management of vegetation along 170 miles of streams throughout the region will be affected. Federal biologists say 29 populations of the mouse have been documented in the three states since 2005, and all are small and isolated. Nearly a dozen of the populations have been affected by drought, wildfire, flooding and grazing. Note: Center for Biological Diversity has issued a press release.

Acuna cactus stays on endangered list, Southwestern willow flycatcher faces review. Cronkite News. Federal officials Tuesday rejected a request to remove the acuna cactus from the endangered species list, but said they will give further consideration to a petition to delist the Southwestern willow flycatcher. Those were two of eight species in Arizona that were part of a batch of preliminary decisions released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on 29 species across the country. The service said there was enough evidence to advance 16 of the 29 to a “rigorous” 12-month review process to see which ones will be added to, stay on or fall off the list.

Groups challenge endangered species rule. The Hill. Two conservative groups are challenging a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulation that gives the government the ability to restrict land use for both “endangered” and “threatened species.” The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) joined the Pacific Legal Foundation in filing a petition Tuesday to repeal a rule. They say that for 40 years the agency has been allowed to impose stringent regulations on land use in areas designated as critical habitats for “threatened species.” But they argue Congress only authorized the agency to impose stringent regulations on land use within areas designated as critical habitat for “endangered species,” under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Land that serves as habitat for threatened species is to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, they claim.

Animals endangered by government foot-dragging, federal lawsuit says. Associated Press. The government has dragged its feet on deciding whether alligator snapping turtles and eight other species around the country need federal protection, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service missed decision deadlines, most of them by years, for species including the California spotted owl, a cat-sized hunting mammal called the Northern Rockies fisher, and an Alabama mussel called the Canoe Creek pigtoe, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit for endangered species. Note: E&E News (sub req’d) also reports.

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