Rusty patched bumble bee listing now in effect. The endangered listing of the rusty patched bumble bee (RPBB) went into effect this week. While the RPBB was listed in January, the listing did not immediately take effect due to a 60-day freeze on Obama-era regulations. The freeze expired on Tuesday.
Since President’s Trump freeze, there has been much controversy surrounding the species and its delayed listing. In February, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the Trump Administration for holding up the decision. The following month, a coalition of agriculture and energy groups, including IPAA, submitted a joint petition to the Secretary of the Interior asking for an extension on the RPBB’s final listing to January 2018. The comments highlight the lack of reliable data and scientific analysis regarding the RPBB’s population and habitat on which to base the listing proposal.
This week, the listing went into effect with no public announcement from Fish and Wildlife or the Trump administration. The decision marks the first time a bumble bee has received federal protections under the ESA within the 48 contiguous states.
Montana Senators introduce bill to reverse agency consultation ruling. On Monday, Montana senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT), along with Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Collin Peterson (D-MN), introduced a new bill in Congress that would reverse a 2015 court decision requiring agency re-consultation for federal management plans affecting newly endangered species. The ‘‘Litigation Relief for Forest Management Projects Act’’ would exempt the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management from having to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service over pre-approved land-management plans when new species are listed on the ESA.
Conservation groups argue these consultations are necessary to help ensure the safety of newly listed species and that this bill would “weaken a key provision of the Endangered Species Act.” When the Montana congressmen first introduced the bill in 2016, the two senators and Secretary of the Interior and former Rep. Ryan Zinke offered statements praising the bill. Sen. Tester said it was “the first step in ensuring Montana’s outdoor economy isn’t crippled by unnecessary red tape,” while Daines said Congress needs to “take urgent action to reverse the disastrous activist court ruling.” In the 2015 9th Circuit ruling in Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service, it was ruled that the Forest Service had violated the ESA when it failed to re-initiate consultation for a logging plan after critical habitat on federal lands was designated for the Canada lynx.
New USGS study identifies sustainable ranching and sage grouse conservation solutions. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a new study finding that the effects of livestock grazing on greater sage-grouse populations can be positive or negative depending on the amount of grazing and when grazing occurs. More specifically, the research — conducted by scientists from the USGS, Colorado State University and Utah University — found that higher levels of grazing before peak plant season was associated with declining sage grouse population levels, while similar grazing levels later in plant growing season correlated to population increases. Adrian Monroe, a Colorado State research scientist who led the study, explained how the study’s findings can be applied to sage grouse conservation efforts, noting “Managing the level of grazing and the timing of that grazing to reduce or avoid impacts to grasses and forbs could positively affect sage-grouse population levels through increased food resources and nesting cover that will support reproduction and recruitment of another generation of birds.”
In the News
Hundreds of native bee species headed toward extinction. Wisconsin Gazette. An analysis of the status of bees native to North America and Hawaii finds many species in decline — and nearly one in four at risk of extinction. “It’s a quiet but staggering crisis unfolding right under our noses,” said Kelsey Kopec, a pollinator researcher with the Center for Biological Diversity and the author of the study “Pollinators in Peril.” The decline of the European honeybee has generated a lot of buzz in recent years, but native bee species also are in trouble due to habit destruction, pesticide use, climate change, urbanization and agricultural intensification, according to the CBD. “Pollinators in Peril” reviewed information for all 4,337 North American and Hawaiian native bee species and found sufficient data to assess the status of 1,437. More than half of these species — 749 — are in decline, including 347 imperiled species. “The evidence is overwhelming that hundreds of native bees we depend on for ecosystem stability, as well as pollination worth billions of dollars, are spiraling toward extinction,” Kopec said.
Fatal bat disease confirmed in the Twin Cities area. Minneapolis Star Tribune. A lethal fungus decimating the country’s bat population has taken hold in Minnesota and has now entered the Twin Cities metro area. State wildlife officials on Thursday confirmed white-nose syndrome affecting bats in six counties — St. Louis, Becker, Dakota, Fillmore, Goodhue and Washington — and said it’s suspected to be in four more: Lake, Pine, Ramsey and Hennepin. The pace of the spread is typical, officials said. But while there are early signs that white nose syndrome could be bottoming out in other parts of the United States, the scourge is just taking hold in Minnesota, where it first appeared in 2013. Separately, federal wildlife officials on Thursday confirmed that the bat-killing fungus has been detected in Texas for the first time and has spread to two more species of bats. At Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, ground zero for the epidemic in Minnesota, the bat population plunged by 73 percent from February 2013 to December 2016, and it now stands at less than 3,000 bats, said Gerda Nordquist, a bat specialist with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Note: Associated Press, Twin Cities Pioneer Press, CBS Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio News, Duluth News Tribune and Fox Minnesota also report.
Deadly fungus spreads to Texas, 2 new bat species. E&E News (sub req’d). A fungus blamed for the death of millions of bats has been found for the first time in Texas, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced this afternoon. Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which causes bats to develop the deadly white-nose syndrome, was found on three species of tricolored bats in the northern part of the Lone Star State, FWS said. The cave myotis and Townsend’s big-eared bat species had not previously been affected by the cold-loving fungus. White-nose syndrome has proved extremely deadly in many bat species affected by the disease and is the primary reason the northern long-eared bat was added to the threatened species list. It causes bats hibernating in the winter to wake prematurely, leading them to starve to death after searching for insects that aren’t around. Note: Associated Press, Washington Post, Austin American-Statesman, The Verge also report. Center for Biological Diversity has issued a press release.
The Endangered Species Act and its impact on Wyoming, Explained. Casper Star Tribune. Grizzly bears, Tennessee purple coneflowers and island night lizards share little in common. They’re distributed across vastly different parts of the country, and need widely different things to survive. But they do have one similar trait: They were all saved by the Endangered Species Act. Enacted in 1973 by President Richard Nixon, the Endangered Species Act was a response to an increasingly developed country with fewer and fewer plants and animals. Some species, like the passenger pigeon, were extinct. Others, like the whooping crane or bison, were on their way there. Since it was formed, almost 40 plants and animals have lost federal protections because they were considered “fully recovered.” As the ESA faces increased scrutiny from congressional leaders, the Star-Tribune answers some common questions about how it works and why it has some Wyomingites calling for change.
Texas Leads Fight Against Endangered Songbird. Courthouse News Service. The golden-cheeked warbler, a migratory songbird whose loss of habitat landed it on the endangered species list a generation ago, has been targeted by a Texas group that’s fixin’ to sue the United States to delist the bird. The Texas Public Policy Foundation sent an intent-to-sue letter to the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying it was acting “on behalf of” the Texas General Land Office. The golden-cheeked warbler grows up to 5 inches long and nests only in Central Texas. Male warblers attract females by song and also sing to warn of danger. Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the eldest son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has headed the General Land Office since 2015, claimed the year he took office that the songbird’s protections at Ford Hood affected military readiness.