The Environment

  American Eels Do Not Qualify As Endangered Species, Government DecidesJanuary 30, 2007 19:11 I love this because it shows that in the American system under the ESA, Joe citizen can file a petition to protect a species. That's exactly what the Conservatives want to prevent.

The American eel does not need protection as an endangered species, according to a two-year review prompted by a petition from a janitor who had noticed eels getting stuck at dams near his favorite fishing spots.

Tim Watts of Middleborough filed the protection petition in 2004 with his brother, Doug. The research they did to support their suspicion that eels were in decline helped push the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do a more thorough review.

But the government's final analysis showed no evidence that the species is in danger of dying out.

"The eel population as a whole shows significant resiliency," said Heather Bell, a fishery biologist stationed at the Fish and Wildlife Service's office in Hadley.
  Grey Wolves To Leave Endangered Species ListJanuary 27, 2007 10:34 Wolves in the northern Rockies will be removed from the endangered species list within the next year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday, a move that would open the population up to trophy hunting.

Federal officials are expected to announce the plan Monday, said Sharon Rose, a spokeswoman for the service. The agency also will finalize removal from the list of a separate population of wolves in the Great Lakes region.

Federal officials for months have been readying a proposal calling for Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to assume management of the 1,200-plus wolves in their states. The plan would go into effect following a yearlong comment and review period, Rose said.

If the proposal for the Rocky Mountain gray wolf skirts expected legal challenges and becomes law, it would open wolves there to trophy hunting for the first time since an intensive restoration effort began in the late 1980s. The Great Lakes wolves would be protected from public hunting for at least five years.

A similar proposal made last year to take about 4,000 wolves off the endangered list in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin is being finalized, Rose said.

Gray wolves were virtually eliminated across the West by the 1930s following a prolonged, government-sponsored eradication effort. The animal was declared endangered in 1974, shortly after passage of the Endangered Species Act.
  Study: Beaufort Sea Polar Bears Shift From Ice To Land For DensJanuary 24, 2007 11:33 More pregnant polar bears in Alaska are digging snow dens on land instead of sea ice, according to a federal study, and researchers say deteriorating sea ice due to climate warming is the likely reason.

From 1985 to 1994, 62 percent of the female polar bears studied dug dens in snow on sea ice. From 1998 to 2004, just 37 percent gave birth on sea ice. The rest instead dug snow dens on land, according to the study by three U.S. Geological Survey researchers.

Bears that continued to den on ice moved east in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s northern coast, away from ice that was thinner or unstable.

“We hypothesized that the sea ice changes may have reduced the availability or degraded the quality of offshore denning habits and altered the spatial distribution of denning,” said wildlife biologist Anthony Fischbach, lead author of the study. “In recent years, Arctic pack ice has formed progressively later, melted earlier, and lost much of its older and thicker multiyear component.”

The study makes no predictions of harm in the short term but suggests the Beaufort Sea bear population could be harmed if warming continues. Though bears are powerful swimmers, at some point they might face daunting distances of open water to reach denning habitat on shore.
  $1.2 Billion Plan To Increase Puget Sound Chinook By 20 PercentJanuary 23, 2007 23:22 The plan to save Puget Sound's endangered chinook salmon calls for spending one-point-two (b) billion dollars in the next ten years.

Officials hope that would boost chinook runs by 20 percent.

The plan calls for restoring habitat, restricting land use that affects the sound, reducing the sport and tribal catch and better managing hatchery salmon to protect the wild fish.

In approving the plan Friday the National Marine Fisheries Service called it the largest and most comprehensive recovery plan prepared under the federal Endangered Species Act.
  Fishery Officials To Push For Global Tracking Of World's Tuna Catch At Japan ConferenceJanuary 22, 2007 10:35 International fisheries officials are expected to push for a global tracking system that would certify the origin of every tuna headed to market at an unprecedented conference that convenes Monday to reverse a sharp decline in tuna catches.
The conference brings together the world's regional tuna management groups and runs through Friday in the western city of Kobe. It is seen as a key step in combatting the downturn in one of the most valuable and endangered high seas fisheries.

Attendees, representing the commercial fishing industry as well as government regulators, will seek the creation of a framework requiring fishermen worldwide to produce certificates of origin for all species of tuna they catch, Kyodo News reported Sunday, citing a draft action plan for the meeting. Doing so would help clamp down on excessive or illegal fishing, it said.
  Warmth Keeps Bald Eagles At Bay, But Species ThrivesJanuary 21, 2007 12:49 Unfolding its 7-foot wingspan, a bald eagle soared over the mist-blanketed Mississippi River, just upstream from this month's Bald Eagle Days festivities in Rock Island.

There were fewer avian guests of honor at the 20th annual celebration — typically one of the nation's largest concentrations of bald eagles — because the unusually mild weather allowed the birds to winter over farther north.

But the sparse turnout masks a conservation triumph: Across the country, the national symbol, once teetering on the brink of extinction, has rebounded dramatically in the last three decades.

In recent frigid winters, up to 4,000 eagles have been counted along the Mississippi between Illinois and Iowa, said Jody Millar, the wildlife service's Bald Eagle Recovery coordinator.

But the river and other waters are flowing freely this balmy winter — and the eagles have scattered, or not bothered flying south.

  Court Rules Rare Salamanders Were Illegally Denied ProtectionJanuary 20, 2007 18:11 In response to a suit brought by a coalition of five conservation groups, federal judge William Alsup ruled today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally denied protection to the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders as threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The judge ordered the Service to issue a new 90-day finding on the petition by March 23, 2007, which will likely begin a 12-month review of the salamanders’ status.

“With the worst record protecting the nation’s wildlife of any modern presidency, the Bush administration has once again suppressed science for the benefit of their campaign contributors in the timber industry,” says Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re delighted that the Siskiyou and newly discovered Scott Bar salamanders, which are threatened by extensive logging, will finally be considered for the protection they deserve.”

To date, the Bush administration has protected just 56 species—by far the fewest for any five-year period in the history of the Endangered Species Act. There were 512 species protected under Bill Clinton and 234 protected during the first Bush presidency. The current administration has denied or delayed protection for hundreds of imperiled species.

  Bill lets agency lengthen special status for prairie dogsJanuary 14, 2007 22:04 The Montana wildlife department wants the option of continuing conservation status for prairie dogs, a rodent previously a candidate for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

A proposal to erase next fall's termination of a prairie-dog law drew support Thursday from people who spoke about the creature's place in the ecosystem, and criticism from those who consider prairie dogs destructive varmints that compete with livestock for forage. The 1- to 3-pound animal in the squirrel family is the subject of a bill taken up by the Senate Fish and Game Committee.


The measure was introduced at the request of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which told the committee that Montana's special status for prairie dogs shows the state is committed to managing them.

In the past there was concern that lack of an active role by Montana and some other states would foster prairie dogs' listing under the species act, and bring burdensome federal restrictions on land use and other activities.
  President Bush Screws Fishermen Of Bristol Bay, AlaskaJanuary 13, 2007 21:06 President Bush has decided to open the pristine waters of Bristol Bay, Alaska to oil drilling despite direct opposition from fishermen that fish the area.

Before any drilling, there will be scope for studies and public comment said the Interior Department, which stressed the need for energy security.

Home to endangered whales, the Bristol Bay is thought to contain some 200 million barrels of oil.

The news comes as a trans-Alaska pipeline was shut down today after some 500 gallons of crude oil were spilled.

The spill came from a section above ground in the Brooks Range in northern Alaska, due to a faulty weld, and it remains unknown how long the shutdown will last.

By lifting the ban in the Bristol Bay, some 5.6 million acres of land will be open for assessment by the Interior Department.

As well as oil, the bay is said to house some 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under, somewhere between three and twenty miles from shore.
  Idaho Gov Wants to Make Wolves Stay EndangeredJanuary 12, 2007 23:10 In a hundred years, when there are no more wolves, I hope that people like "Butch" will be vilified by his own descendants.

Idaho's governor said Thursday he will support public hunts to kill all but 100 of the state's gray wolves after the federal government strips them of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter told The Associated Press that he wants hunters to kill about 550 gray wolves. That would leave about 100 wolves, or 10 packs, according to a population estimate by state wildlife officials.

The 100 surviving wolves would be the minimum before the animals could again be considered endangered.

"I'm prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself," Otter said earlier Thursday during a rally of about 300 hunters.

Otter complained that wolves are rapidly killing elk and other animals essential to Idaho's multimillion-dollar hunting industry. The hunters, many wearing camouflage clothing and blaze-orange caps, applauded wildly during his comments.

  MN Considers Changes to State Endangered Species ListJanuary 11, 2007 16:59 The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource (DNR) is seeking help from the public as it updates the state's list of species that are endangered, threatened or of special concern.

Under the state's endangered species law, the DNR identifies plants and animals that are at risk of disappearing from Minnesota, according to DNR biologist Rich Baker. The list identifying those species was first created in 1984 and was last revised in 1996.

"The DNR's goal is to maintain an endangered species list that reflects our scientific knowledge of the conservation status and needs of Minnesota's plants and animals," Baker said. "We hope folks will provide us with information that can help us determine if a species is threatened with extinction in the state. All information submitted to the DNR will be considered as we proceed to revise the list during 2007."

Over the past 10 years, research and survey work conducted by the DNR and other resource management agencies, and by university and other researchers, has provided new information about where rare species are and whether or not they are vulnerable to extinction.
  Oregon Man Sentenced For Violating Endangered Species ActJanuary 05, 2007 10:38 Van Buren man is going to jail for 21 days for possession of the pelt of a lynx, a federally protected threatened species.

United States Attorney Paula Silsby says 41-year-old Ricky Learnard pleaded guilty and was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Court records say a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer recovered a lynx pelt from a truck during an inspection last January 12th. Investigators allege that Learnard had shot the lynx in Maine in November 2005.

The lynx is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
  Windfarm Permit "Seriously Contradicts" Endangered Species ActJanuary 04, 2007 13:00 A proposed windfarm in the Karso del Sur Important Bird Area (IBA), Puerto Rico, could wipe out five percent of the global population of the Critically Endangered Puerto Rican Nightjar Caprimulgus noctitherus.

The proposal, which has been strongly condemned by Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña (SOPI, BirdLife in Puerto Rico), is the latest in a series of windfarm proposals around the world which threaten bird populations of conservation importance.

The Karso del Sur IBA is the most important remaining stronghold for Puerto Rican Nightjar, which has been reduced to a global population of 1,400-2,000 individuals. The affected areas inside the IBA are Punta Verraco, Cerro Toro and Punta Ventana in the municipality of Guayanilla. They lie within the internationally recognised Man and Biosphere Reserve of Guánica, from which they are separated only by a barbed wire fence.

“The most significant repercussion of the development of this industrial complex will be the land displacement, which could impact 40 of the 46 identified territories of this ground nesting species,” said SOPI spokesperson Luis Silvestre. “The WindMar Renewable Energy project will incidentally wipe out around five percent of the Puerto Rican Nightjar total population.”
  Tiny Snail That Spawned Endangered Species Battle Still DwindlingJanuary 03, 2007 09:10 After clambering down a canyon wall, ducking poison ivy vines along a switchback trail and wading chest-deep across a lukewarm stream, Cary Myler squats down near a riverbank, spies some flecks that look like pepper sprinkled on a wet rock and announces, "Found some."

The pinhead-sized dots are Bruneau hot springsnails. The tiny mollusks that thrive in water as warm as 100 degrees are found nowhere else in the world but here, in the bottom of this southwestern Idaho desert canyon riddled with hot springs.

A decade ago, the snails were at the center of a national battle over federal laws designed to protect endangered species. Today, years after the lawsuits were decided and most of the rhetoric retired, they are closer to extinction than ever before.

That's because the level of the underground geothermal aquifer that feeds the seeps and springs of hot water where the snails live keeps dropping.
  Canada's Ayles Ice Shelf Will Soon Disappear From The MapJanuary 02, 2007 11:42 A huge portion of ice broke off from Canada’s Ellesmere Island last year, but it was not until this year that scientists, using satellite photos, realized the full dimension of the catastrophe.

Ellesmere Island, lying in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, is the most northerly of the Canadian Arctic islands. It comprises an area of 196,235 km² (75,767 square miles), making it the world's tenth largest island and Canada's third largest island.

The Ellesmere ice shelf reduced by 90 percent in the twentieth century due to global warming, leaving the separate Alfred Ernest, Ayles, Milne, Ward Hunt, and Markham Ice Shelves.

Now, satellite images are showing that a massive rupture in the Ayles Ice shelf (which was one of six major ice shelves in Canada) led to the forming of a natural icy island, which actually floats in the Arctic Ocean.

The Ayles Ice Shelf was approximately 41 square miles in size, and was located approximately 500 miles south of the North Pole, off the northern coast of Ellesmere Island, Nunavut.

The scientists discovered that AIS broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, and within an hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.

Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, traveled to the newly formed ice island and could not believe what he saw.

“This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years,” Vincent said. “We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead.”
  On Thin Ice: Proposal To Designate Polar Bears An Endangered Species Is Long OverdueJanuary 02, 2007 11:38 These days it's getting as difficult to be a climate change skeptic as it is to be an ice-prowling polar bear hunting seals in the steadily warming Arctic.

Over the holiday season one indicator after another pointed to a growing global consensus that climate change fueled by human-generated emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is real and has deadly consequences. Scientists have documented the first inhabited island to be submerged by rising sea levels, Lohachara in the Indian Ocean. A new study predicts that the Arctic Ocean will be free of permanent ice by the year 2040.

Nothing illustrates the melting doubts about the reality of global warming more than the plan released by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to put the polar bear, one of the world's most popular large mammals with children and advertisers, on the endangered species list. Researchers had already documented a growing occurrence of bears drowning in open water as shrinking ice coverage thinned their hunting grounds off the coasts of Canada, Alaska and Russia. Kempthorne is not known as an ardent environmentalist, which makes his defense of the polar bear and the admission of the threat to its existence that much more compelling.

"Polar bears are one of nature's ultimate survivors, able to live and thrive in one of the world's harshest environments," the interior secretary stated. "But we are concerned the polar bears' habitat may literally be melting."

Kempthorne is the first appointee of President Bush to indicate an urgency to dealing with the documented consequences of global warming, which include rising temperatures and sea levels as well as dwindling ice caps and glaciers.