Weekly Newsletter | June 2, 2017
Zinke urged to consult with western governors on sage grouse planning. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) are asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to consult with states before making any changes to the federal sage grouse conservation plans. The governors, who are both co-chairs of the Sage Grouse Task Force, fear Zinke might make drastic changes to Obama-era plans and they say such an overhaul is unnecessary.
The request for federal-state coordination came late last week in the form of a letter to the Secretary. According to the governors:
“We understand that you are considering changing the Department’s approach to sage-grouse, moving from a habitat management model to one that sets population objectives for the states. We are concerned that this is not the right decision. State and federal partnerships such as the Task Force are important for identifying those problems and developing solutions. We hope that you will engage the Task Force before committing to making any changes.”
The letter is in response to a secretarial order Zinke is expected to issue establishing a team to review sage grouse management plans and to recommend changes. Department of the Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift commented saying, “The department is looking forward to working with state and local partners to ensure we are striking a true balance between both conservation and responsible multiple use of our public lands.” While it has not yet been officially announced, the secretarial order is expected to come out next week.
ESA funding debated in fiscal 2018 budget. With President Trump’s newly proposed budget decreasing Bureau of Land Management (BLM) funding, eyes are on wildlife allocations and ESA funding with many wondering if conservation plans that are already underway will need to be amended given the slash in funds.
Under the Interior Department’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget, BLM’s sage grouse and resource management planning budget would be cut by $163 million, while at the same time increasing spending for BLM oil and gas programs. President Trump’s budget explicitly prioritizes infrastructure and energy development on both private and public lands, and states like Colorado and Wyoming are questioning what the new plan might mean for balancing this development with grouse management. The debate and speculation will likely continue on until the budget is approved and finalized.
In the News
Settle sage-grouse issues out of court, governor says. The Daily Sentinel. While several northwest Colorado counties have sued the federal government over its efforts to protect greater sage-grouse, Gov. John Hickenlooper is trying to resolve state and local concerns through conversation rather than litigation. Hickenlooper aide John Swartout, who has worked as the governor’s point person on the issue, said Hickenlooper joined Govs. Matt Mead of Wyoming and Brian Sandoval of Nevada in meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke more than a month ago. “Our message was fix the plans but don’t scrap them. Don’t just jettison them,” Swartout said. In 2015, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service approved plans in 11 Western states in what was a successful effort to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that listing the bird for protection under the Endangered Species Act isn’t warranted. Swartout said the governors urged against throwing out the plans entirely through legislation, administrative action or settlement of lawsuits challenging them.
Ocean species are in trouble: U.S. coral reefs could disappear within decades, scientists warn. Newsweek. Global warming is taking its toll on coral reefs in U.S. waters, and many of the marine sanctuaries near Hawaii, Florida and the Caribbean are expected to disappear within a few decades, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Despite strict conservation efforts in various protected areas in American seas, in a Tuesday report, NOAA reef experts told The Guardian that many reefs off Hawaii and Florida will start to see impacts from rising ocean temperatures as soon as this summer. There are millions of different species that live in and near coral reefs. However, rising water temperature has led to the threatening of 22 coral species while three have been listed on the Endangered Species Act. There also is a number of fish that could face extinction as their natural coral reef habitats continue to disintegrate, including butterfly fish, spiny lobsters, whale sharks, hawksbill sea turtles and various species of whales and dolphins.
Senate passes package to offset Trump on environment. E&E News (sub req’d). California’s Senate yesterday stepped up promised efforts to push back against the Trump administration, passing a package of bills to protect federal standards in the Golden State, even if rules are repealed or softened nationally. “We won’t allow Californians to suffer the consequences of Donald Trump’s reckless slash-and-burn approach to the environment,” state Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D) said in a statement. “These measures safeguard public health and ensure we continue to make policy based on the best available science, not ‘alternative facts’ or polluter propaganda.” The “Preserve California” trio of measures included S.B. 49, the “California Environmental Defense Act,” from de León and state Sen. Henry Stern (D). It would make existing federal clean air, climate, clean water, worker safety and endangered species standards enforceable under state law.
California’s native trout and salmon are headed for extinction if no action is taken to change current trends. Sierra Sun. Seventy-four percent of California’s native trout and salmon are headed for extinction in the next century, and 45 percent could disappear in the next 50 years if no action is taken to alter the trend. A report released May 16 by the University of California, Davis and advocacy group California Trout details the continued decline of the state’s 32 species of native salmon, trout and steelhead, and proposes for solutions for stabilizing the species. “There are more than just resident fish,” said California Trout Executive Director Curtis Knight in a press conference. “Their health and their resilience indicates healthy waters, which is important for all Californians,” he said. “Drinking water, agriculture, commerce, and the health of the people in the environment in which we live — it has a lot to do with the quality of our life. The decline of these fish indicates the decline of our quality of water, and that’s important to all Californians.”
Judge rejects federal approval of Mont. mining project. E&E News (sub req’d). A federal judge ruled yesterday that two federal agencies had failed to justify their approval of a Montana copper and silver mine project. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in the District of Montana rejected the approval given more than a year ago for the Montanore mine near Libby, in separate decisions. Environmental groups Save Our Cabinets, Earthworks and Defenders of Wildlife sued the federal government on two fronts. One lawsuit targeted the Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding that the mine posed no risk to Endangered Species Act-protected bull trout and grizzly bears, while the other asserted that the 2016 Forest Service decision based on the FWS finding violated the Endangered Species Act. The groups faulted planning documents that backed Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Christopher Savage’s approval of the project, first proposed for permitting in 1989 (Greenwire, Feb. 12, 2016). Idaho-based Hecla Mining Co. is the project’s latest owner. In both cases, Molloy sent federal officials back for more work on the environmental analysis. Note: Reuters, Colorado Springs Gazette, Spokesman-Review and Missoulian also report.