Weekly Newsletter – 8/21/15

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Weekly Newsletter – 8/21/15

Issues

IPAA co-submits petition to delist the American burying beetle. This week, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) co-signed a petition requesting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delist the American burying beetle from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The beetle was listed as endangered in 1989 on the basis of an apparent decline in range and abundance, and is known to occupy areas with vegetation cover including woodlands, edge habitats, grazed pastures, pine forests and grasslands.

In the petition, IPAA, the American Stewards of Liberty, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Dr. Steven W. Carothers of SWCA Environmental Consultants argue the beetle incorrectly receives ESA protection, resulting in significant economic harm across multiple sectors and industries.  As the petition outlines, the beetle should no longer be listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA for the following reasons:

  • There is no relevant contemporary evidence showing population decline or actual threat to the species.
  • Existing ESA collection records contain unsupported claims of contemporary population decline and restricted distribution.
  • Recent trends in land use and land cover change do not suggest changes of any kind for the overall availability of habitat for the beetle.
  • Surveys find that the range, distribution and population of the species have actually been increasing, including a 3 percent range expansion this year.
  • The species can easily be bred in captivity if there is a scientifically reliable threat of extinction.
  • The listing has imposed unnecessary economic burdens, including bans or delays in many agricultural, land development, transportation and pipeline or utility projects.

According to the petition, the current listing of the beetle as endangered relies largely on inconsistent and dated collection records that do not offer reliable evidence of a declining beetle population over time. The groups also argue that Fish and Wildlife did not have adequate information on threats acting on the species or credible information on the species’ population at the time of the listing.

In addition to IPAA’s joint petition, there have been other measures to delist the beetle in recent months, including an effort from Senator Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to delist the beetle, citing its population growth. In May 2015, an amendment to the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act by Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK-3) to delist the beetle as endangered passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 229-190, with 4 Democrats voting in favor.

Sage-grouse population rebound may determine upcoming decision for ESA protection. This month, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) released a trend report submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service analyzing sage grouse counts from 1965 to 2015. According to the report’s findings, the sage grouse population is rebounding from recent declines, with the count of males on breeding grounds in the bird’s 11-state range 63 percent higher than in 2013.

The report also looked into trends surrounding the rate of population change, noting while sage grouse populations vary greatly over time the rate of decline has slowed in recent years. Although the report does not discuss why the population has improved, WAFWA notes in its press release that natural resource agencies in the bird’s 11-state habitat range have invested over $200 million in conservation actions for the grouse over the last decade.

As Virgil Moore, Director of Idaho Department of Fish and Game and director liaison of WAFWA’s Sage-Grouse Initiative stated, there is still more to be done to ensure long-term conservation for the sage grouse, but “this latest report shows sage-grouse populations are still doing well across much of their range.” Read the full report HERE.

Defense Department provides funding for greater-sage grouse. This week, the Pentagon provided a $2 million grant to the sage lands habitat collaboration in Nevada, a multi-agency partnership including the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Naval Air Station Fallon, the Nevada Land Trust, the Nature Conservancy, the Nevada Conservation Districts Program, the Bureau of Land Management and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The grant, provided under the Pentagon’s Military Services’ Readiness and Environment Protection Integration Program, will go towards the protection of 11,000 acres of prime sage grouse habitat on Navy training grounds near the Naval Air Station Fallon and aiding ranchers and landowners in the state looking to make improvements to their land for protection of the grouse. According to Governor Brian Sandoval, “This unique partnership between the military and environmental partners is the first of its kind in Nevada, and I appreciate having the military as a new partner in our efforts to protect sagebrush habitat and the greater sage-grouse.”

In the News

Why sage grouse could become the next spotted owl. Washington Post. States fear that sage grouse will become the new northern spotted owl. That animal’s 1990 listing as threatened in the forests of Washington, Oregon and California impacted logging, in much the same way that a similar listing for the grouse could impact ranching, farming and energy development in those three states, as well as Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Sage grouse listing decision due in September. Billings Gazette (Op-Ed). The deadline for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make a determination of whether to list the greater sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species is Sept. 30. It is my hope that the sage grouse won’t be listed as threatened or endangered. I think that the voluntary efforts of the states and private landowners will do as much good for the sage grouse as any listing would.

On Gulf Coast, LNG projects run up against wildlife – and opposition. E&E News (sub req’d). Plans to develop a handful of liquefied natural gas terminals are drawing intense scrutiny as locals weigh the jobs and investments of a new industry against disruption to habitats and viewsheds at a spot known as one of the Texas coastline’s few pristine areas. “What’s critical about this piece of property is, it’s one of the only known areas where ocelots are documented as having crossed the ship channel,” said Robert Jess, senior refuge manager for FWS’s South Texas Refuge Complex.

Monarch butterfly rescue effort receives $20 million boost. Star Tribune. Monarch butterfly rescue efforts will get a $20 million boost from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a new funding initiative announced Thursday in Bloomington by the agency’s top executive. Monarch butterfly rescue efforts will get a $20 million boost from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a new funding initiative announced Thursday in Bloomington by the agency’s top executive.

Wind-whipped inferno torches 256K acres of grouse habitat. E&E News (sub req’d). A wildfire in southwest Idaho has grown rapidly this week, burning more than 256,000 acres of sage grouse habitat and causing a “tragic impact” on local ranching communities, according to federal responders. Since it ignited Monday, the Soda Fire has burned roughly 265,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management rangelands southwest of Boise, covering an area at least 40 miles long and 10 miles wide, according to the most recent report from InciWeb, an interagency service. It is by far the largest wildfire currently burning in the United States, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

More of lesser. Hutchinson News (Editorial). A 50-percent increase this year in the population of the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) has prompted Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas to ask U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe if that will get the bird taken off the threatened list, which the agency hung it on in 2014. This latest effort by Moran is nothing new. He’s long fought against the threatened designation, including introducing legislation to restrict the agency from spending money to enforce it. Let’s hope his latest effort will finally put an end to it. Moran appears to be right. Whatever threat there was to the lesser prairie chicken appears to be gone.

Windfarm industry suffers setback as court rejects 30 year Eagle permit rule. Lexology (Opinion). On August 11, 2015, a district court in Silicon Valley remanded a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rule issued in 2013 that had extended the potential term of incidental take permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Protection Act) from 5 years to 30 years. The immediate effect of the court’s ruling is limited.  While reportedly some operators have been in discussions with FWS about 30 year permits, none have been issued.  And at the time the plaintiffs announced their suit in June 2014, FWS also announced that it was initiating a full review of its permit program. Accordingly, the delay for the wind industry in obtaining longer permits may not be extended much beyond what would have otherwise occurred.

By | 2015-08-21T18:42:37+00:00 August 21st, 2015|Categories: Newsletters|Tags: , , , , , , |

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