- Patrick Traylor of Hogan Lovells will discuss MBTA incidental take at an in-person meeting of IPAA’s Environment and Safety Committee in Houston on May 16. Additional details available HERE.
IPAA holds RPBB briefing. This week, IPAA held a briefing on the rusty-patched bumble bee (RPBB) for Congressional Staff. For background, on January 11, 2017, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued a final decision listing the RPBB as endangered. The listing decision stands as one of the most significant in recent memory due to the size of the species’ broad range, which currently includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin, and may further include 15 additional states in the Midwest and Northeast once additional information is gathered about the species.
The timing of the final listing came as a surprise to both government regulators and the regulated community alike because the commenting deadline on the proposal had closed only seven weeks prior, leading industry stakeholders to assert that the Service had insufficient time to evaluate the scores of comments it had received on its proposal and base its decision on the “best scientific and commercial information available” as the ESA requires. At the same time, the expedited schedule precluded FWS’s offices and private parties throughout the species’ range from being able to prepare for a listing decision of this magnitude, putting countless projects and economic activity from every industrial sector in jeopardy.
Thank you to Nick Goldstein (American Road and Transportation Builders Association), Parker Moore (Beveridge & Diamond), Michael Dobbs (Bayer CropScience), and Richard Ranger (American Petroleum Industry) for their participation in the event. If you have any questions regarding the briefing please reach out to Sam McDonald.
ESA modernization efforts continue in the U.S. Senate. This week, the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a hearing entitled, “State Views on the Need to Modernize the Endangered Species Act.” States weighed in on their role in species conservation as well as the state-fed consultation process and whether all parties are equipped to fulfill their duties.
Tom Carper (D-DE) addressed the committee saying states need to do some “soul searching” and decide if they are committed to dedicating the time and resources to “carry the burden” of managing endangered species. He continued, “States spend about a quarter of what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invests to protect ESA listed and candidate species. If we include all federal agency spending, the collective state investment is about 4 percent.”
Committee Chairman Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) countered Carper suggesting states have the advantage over Fish and Wildlife based on sheer numbers – state agencies employ 50,000 people while the service has 9,000. State wildlife agents agreed. Nick Wiley, Larry Voyles, and Janet Coit, heads of state wildlife agencies in Florida, Arizona, and Rhode Island respectively, also testified. “State fish and wildlife directors generally believe the ESA is not performing as it should and is not sufficiently leveraging state agency expertise and cooperation,” Wiley told the committee. He continued, stating that under the ESA states can only get involved in decision making at the discretion of federal agencies. Wiley thinks states need to play a larger role and the feds should weigh in as-needed.
Wednesday’s hearing is the second held by the committee in this session of Congress. EPW is working to update ESA and officials say the hope is a bipartisan consensus can be reached to modernize the law, which has not been altered since 1983.
New study finds government subsidy beneficial to sage grouse population. A new report released by researchers from the University of Washington show subsidies that encourage farmers to plant grasses and shrubs year-round, instead of crops, largely benefit the sage grouse that live in portions of the state’s Columbia River Basin.
The Conservation Reserve Program compensates farmers who plant vegetation that benefits species of concern. Eastern Washington, where the study was conducted, is home to about 1.4 million acres of participatory land. Andrew Shirk, member of UW’s Climate Impacts Group and co-author of the study, says, “Without these lands, our models predict that we would lose about two thirds of the species’ habitat, and that the sage grouse would go extinct in two of three sub-populations.” The study shows the sage grouse’s population has stabilized at about 1,000 individuals in Eastern Washington with the bird living mostly in the Yakima Training Center, Moses Coulee, and Crab Creek areas. The study’s results also reasserts the role of sagebrush in protecting sage grouse from extreme weather and predators, both of which factor into the species’ survival rates.
The study, Persistence of greater sage-grouse in agricultural landscapes, was funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In the News
‘Catastrophic’ disease leaves just 2 Wisconsin bat hibernation sites untouched. Wisconsin State Journal. A survey of 60 bat hibernation sites in Wisconsin this year found some where entire populations of the insect-eating mammals had been wiped out and just two that remained untouched by a deadly fungus, the state Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday. White-nose syndrome caused bat numbers to plummet in the range of 40 percent to 60 percent at two large sites that once accounted for two-thirds of the state’s known bat population, DNR species management section chief Owen Boyle said in a statement. The deadly fungus has advanced into 24 counties, and at the Grant County site where the fungus was first detected in the state in 2014, DNR surveyors this year found 16 bats compared to 1,200 four years ago, Boyle said.
Court finds EPA broke law in approving 59 pesticides. E&E News (sub req’d). U.S. EPA violated the Endangered Species Act when it issued 59 pesticide registrations between 2007 and 2012, a federal court has found. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agreed with beekeepers, wildlife groups and food safety advocates that EPA unlawfully failed to consult with wildlife agencies on the impacts of the pesticides. Senior Judge Maxine Chesney, a Clinton appointee, yesterday issued the opinion for the court. At issue are neonicotinoid-containing pesticides used for agricultural, landscaping and ornamental purposes. Studies have linked neonicotinoids to bee harm, though EPA earlier this year issued a preliminary risk assessment finding compounds do not pose significant risks to bee colonies. Note: MPR News also reports.
Threatened bird nesting again on Los Angeles area beaches. Associated Press. The western snowy plover is nesting along the Los Angeles area coast for the first time in nearly seven decades, federal officials said. Nests for the small, rare shorebird were found last month at Santa Monica Beach, Dockweiler State Beach, and Malibu Lagoon State Beach, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported Monday. Biologists placed wire cages around the nests to protect them. “This is a sign that, against all odds, western snowy plovers are making a comeback, and we really need the cooperation of beachgoers to help give them the space they need to nest and raise their young,” said Chris Dellith, a Fish and Wildlife biologist in Southern California. Although western snowy plovers use LA County beaches for roosting during the winter, the last documented active nest was in 1949 at Manhattan Beach. The 6-inch shorebird with dark patches on its back remains threatened by habitat loss, predation and human population growth. They were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1993. The plover’s worldwide population was estimated at 1,800 as of 2016.
Feds release endangered wolf pups in New Mexico. Associated Press. Federal wildlife officials have successfully placed two captive-born Mexican gray wolf pups into a wild den with a foster family. Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the release Friday, a day after it was made public that the state Game and Fish Department cleared the way for a cross-fostering project aimed at boosting genetic diversity among wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona. The state this week issued a permit allowing for the placement of the pups. As a condition, for each pup released into the den, one pup had to be removed and placed in captivity. New Mexico officials were adamant that the number of wolves in the wild remain unchanged as a result of the temporary permit. The state and Fish and Wildlife Service are still locked in a court battle over wolf releases.
FWS denies petition to delist tiny arachnid. E&E News (sub req’d). The Fish and Wildlife Service today rejected a formal request to drop protections from a blind, spiderlike creature found only in caves around Austin, Texas. The petition to remove the Bone Cave harvestman (Texella reyesi) from the endangered species list “does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that delisting” may be warranted, FWS said in a notice that will be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register. At the same time, however, the agency indicated that it is currently conducting a regular audit of the tiny arachnid’s endangered listing and invited the public to weigh in. “We are developing a species status assessment as a tool to inform the 5-year status review,” FWS said in the notice. “The 5-year review will consider whether the species’ status has changed since the time of its listing or its last status review and whether it should be reclassified as threatened or delisted.” The harvestman, which eats insects and grows to be less than 3 millimeters long, was declared endangered by FWS in 1988. Note: Austin American-Statesman also reports.