Sage-grouse amendment up for approval in annual defense policy bill. A proposed amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would decentralize greater sage-grouse conservation, granting individual states more control over management, and preventing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the species as endangered until at least 2027. The rider, proposed by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), will be up for debate in the Senate this fall.
This is not the first time the sage-grouse has appeared in a defense policy bill. Sen. Lee has proposed similar amendments in the past, each time prompting debate. While sage-grouse conservation is classically a natural resources issue, some lawmakers believe the bird’s protections could affect military installations in the West. IPAA has previously issued comments in support of Lee’s amendment to the NDAA, stating “The amendment would protect the ability of the Armed Forces to utilize their training facilities while preserving the appropriate state lead role in conserving the species.”
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) has fought against sage-grouse policy riders when they have appeared in relation to defense issues, but may focus his attention on other issues in an effort to get the act to President Trump for approval as quickly as possible. Earlier this summer, House Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) also stated he did not think any “contentious issues” would be a part of an approved NDAA.
Texas Hornshell final listing determination extended six months. Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would extend its deadline for an ESA listing determination for the freshwater mussel to no later than February 10, 2018. The Service made this decision in order to gather additional data on the species’ status in Mexico. In light of this action, Fish and Wildlife has reopened the public comment period for an additional 30 days.
IPAA was instrumental in getting the listing determination extended. Specifically, just one day before the listing extension was announced, IPAA with the support of member companies sent a letter urging the Service to reconsider its actions. Last year, IPAA submitted public comments on the same issue, asking the Service to consider that the outdated nature of the best scientific data available for a significant portion of the species’ range. “Due to the uncertainty of whether the species is currently found in Mexico, which constitutes a significant portion of the species’ range, the Trades contend that there is insufficient data to warrant an endangered listing for the Texas Hornshell,” the comments highlight.
In the News
Thousands weigh in on red wolf’s future. E&E News (Sub req’d). The wild red wolf has a lot of vocal allies. Nearly 55,000 individuals have weighed in with the Fish and Wildlife Service in a recently concluded comment period that will inform officials evaluating the endangered animal’s future. And though federal officials aren’t obliged to obey the loudest public speakers, the nonbinding but one-sided vote tally reflects a concerted campaign by conservation groups. Nearly all of the comments supported recovering the red wolf in the wild in North Carolina. “This overwhelmingly positive response sends a crystal clear message: Americans support red wolf conservation and want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do the right thing and restore this species throughout its native range in the southeastern United States,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement today. According to an analysis announced by Defenders of Wildlife and four other conservation groups, 54,992 out of 55,087 individuals participating in the comment period supported recovering the red wolf in the wild in North Carolina.
Large west Texas wastewater spill in Delaware River diluted by rain, BLM says. Houston Chronicle. Heavy rain may have softened the environmental blow of a large wastewater spill in the Delaware River near West Texas oil fields earlier this month, officials say. Before dawn on Aug. 1, a few miles south of the Texas border with New Mexico, an over-pressured flow line ruptured and dumped 18,000 barrels of wastewater and 11 barrels of oil into the Delaware River, flowing for seven hours into the Pecos River and the Red Bluff Reservoir before it was discovered. “Anything this big is a pretty good sized event,” said James Amos, a supervisory petroleum engineering tech at the Bureau of Land Management’s field office in Carlsbad, New Mexico. “Hitting the waterway makes it even worse. The wastewater spill was several times larger than the typical 200-to-300 barrel spills in the region. Scores of fish were killed near the source of the spill. But a rain storm lifted water levels in the Delaware 3 feet higher than normal, diluting the effect of the wastewater spill. “The BLM and other agencies including the Texas Parks &Wildlife Department will continue to monitor the impact to hundreds of river-dwelling species, including threatened species such as the Texas hornshell mussel.
Feds to determine future of Mexican wolves in Colorado. Public News Service. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is narrowing in on a plan that would remove the Mexican wolf from the endangered species list and hand management over to states. David Parsons, a former Mexican wolf coordinator for the agency, said he thinks it’s the wrong path. He noted that fewer than 150 wolves remain in the wild today, and all their genes derive from the last seven wolves that existed before recovery efforts began. Parsons said breeders are doing a good job of increasing genetic diversity for wolves in captivity. “But the Fish and Wildlife Service is just not getting them into the wild in numbers that really make a difference,” Parsons said, “largely because the states are pushing back against releases.” Parsons said wolves are frequently seen as a nuisance by powerful livestock interests, and he noted the last time states managed wolves, their numbers declined by 24 percent. The new plan authorizes delisting after populations reach a total of 500 in isolated areas.