The Environment

  State Adds 121 Species To Protection ListOctober 31, 2006 16:08 The rare Altamaha spiny mussel, known to exist only in southeast Georgia's Altamaha River and its tributaries, is one of 121 species being added to the state's new list of protected species.

Resembling a rock with catfish spines, the mussel has been has been detected in only 14 of 120 sites checked since 2002, said Brett Albanese, a state wildlife biologist who helped prepare the first comprehensive revision of Georgia's protected species list since 1992.

The state's Wildlife Resources Division has been working on the list for about a year, using the recommendations of its own biologists along with biologists from three state universities, the Nature Conservancy, the Georgia Botanical Gardens and at least two federal agencies. The list was approved last week by the Georgia Board of Natural Resources and now awaits only the formal release by Secretary of State Cathy Cox.

"The Wildlife Resources Division ... has done a thorough and outstanding job updating Georgia's endangered species list," said Thomas Farmer, director of government relations for the Nature Conservancy in Georgia. "The new list provides a roadmap of the continued protection of Georgia's imperiled plants and animals."

  Mirror Test Implies Elephants Self-AwareOctober 30, 2006 21:17 If you're Happy and you know it, pat your head. That, in a peanut shell, is how a 34-year-old female Asian elephant in the Bronx Zoo showed researchers that pachyderms can recognize themselves in a mirror - complex behavior observed in only a few other species.

The test results suggest elephants - or at least Happy - are self-aware. The ability to distinguish oneself from others had been shown only in humans, chimpanzees and, to a limited extent, dolphins.

That self-recognition may underlie the social complexity seen in elephants, and could be linked to the empathy and altruism that the big-brained animals have been known to display, said researcher Diana Reiss, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the Bronx Zoo.

In a 2005 experiment, Happy faced her reflection in an 8-by-8-foot mirror and repeatedly used her trunk to touch an "X" painted above her eye. The elephant could not have seen the mark except in her reflection. Furthermore, Happy ignored a similar mark, made on the opposite side of her head in paint of an identical smell and texture, that was invisible unless seen under black light.
  Global Warming Will Devastate Economy: UK ReportOctober 30, 2006 21:06 Global warming could devastate the world economy on a scale we haven't seen since the world wars and the Great Depression, a major report by a British economist says.

Sir Nicholas Stern, the report's author and a senior government economist, said unchecked global warming could shrink the global economy by 20 per cent -- and cost a whopping $7 trillion in lost output.

However, taking action now would cost just one per cent of global gross domestic product, Sterns says in his 700-page study.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who introduced the report today, called for "bold and decisive action" to cut carbon emissions and stem the worst of temperature rise.
  Bush Appointee Said To Reject Advice On Endangered SpeciesOctober 30, 2006 10:41 A senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department has rejected staff scientists' recommendations to protect imperiled animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act at least six times in the past three years, documents show.

In addition, staff complaints that their scientific findings were frequently overruled or disparaged at the behest of landowners or industry have led the agency's inspector general to look into the role of Julie MacDonald, who has been deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks since 2004, in decisions on protecting endangered species.

The documents show that MacDonald has repeatedly refused to go along with staff reports concluding that species such as the white-tailed prairie dog and the Gunnison sage grouse are at risk of extinction. Career officials and scientists urged the department to identify the species as either threatened or endangered.

Overall, President Bush's appointees have added far fewer species to the protected list than did the administrations of either Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush, according to the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity. As of now, the administration has listed 56 species under the Endangered Species Act, for a rate of about 10 a year. Under Clinton, officials listed 512 species, or 64 a year, and under George H.W. Bush, the department listed 234, or 59 a year.
  EPA To Study Effects Of Pesticides On Frog SpeciesOctober 19, 2006 21:36 The federal Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether 66 pesticides used in California harm the endangered California red-legged frog, and it will limit the use of those chemicals while it conducts that research.

The EPA's decision comes 13 months after a federal judge in San Francisco, ruling on a lawsuit filed by the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, said the agency violated the Endangered Species Act by approving the pesticides without examining their impact on the amphibians Mark Twain made famous in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White ordered the EPA to perform such a review "at the earliest possible time."

The EPA and the Center for Biological Diversity reached a settlement this week that requires the EPA to complete its review within 36 months. During that time, the EPA will prohibit use of the chemicals within or adjacent to the animal's habitat.

  Endangered Amphibian Species Leaps To A Minor Legal VictoryOctober 19, 2006 18:24 A species of endangered amphibians, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog, leapt to a legal victory in a federal appeals court yesterday, but advocates for the frog warned that the advance could be short-lived.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Interior Department's decision to defer formally listing the frog as an endangered species. However, the three-judge panel left the door open for the agency to stall the listing again if it meets certain procedural requirements.

"The decision itself was a victory for the frog, but it was decided on a fairly narrow, technical interpretation of the statute," the lawyer who argued against the government, Michael Sherwood, said.

Mr. Sherwood, who works for an Oakland, Calif.-based environmental law group, Earthjustice, said the frog species lives only in high elevations of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He said listing the frog as endangered could limit grazing or timber rights in the frog's habitat, but developers are not likely to be interested in the lands where the frog is found.
  Canon Helps Save A Species In Aid Of WWFOctober 17, 2006 09:02 Canon is helping to preserve endangered species across the world with a Christmas promotion in aid of WWF – the global conservation organization.

From late October 2006 through to Christmas Eve, purchasers of selected PowerShot Digital Cameras or PowerShot/Selphy promotional hard bundles will receive a free WWF Retail Adoption Box worth £29.99 (€44.99).

The Adoption Gift Boxes offer the purchasers a chance to adopt a wild animal (dolphin, tiger, panda or orang-utan) in its natural habitat free for one year. Each promotional box will include a soft toy, green tips booklet, facts on the wild animal they’re adopting, animal screensavers, greetings card and a photo of the animal they have adopted. Once the adoption is activated, the consumer will also receive an adoption certificate and a quarterly newsletter to keep them up-to-date on their animals’ progress.
  Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne Likely Will Seek ESA ChangesOctober 15, 2006 20:25 Conservation groups expect Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to seek major changes next year to a federal law that protects plants and wildlife from extinction, picking up where he left off nine years ago when he was in the U.S. Senate.

In 1998 as a senator from Idaho, Kempthorne nearly pushed a bipartisan bill through Congress that would have updated the now 33-year-old Endangered Species Act. The measure would have given landowners an incentive to work with federal authorities to help endangered species. It also would have given landowners more say over plans to protect species habitat and would have required more scientific review before species could be listed.

The bill fell apart when it was blocked in the House. Shortly afterward, Kempthorne became the governor of Idaho.

Critics complain that the endangered species law is too punitive and does not do enough to encourage landowners to protect and restore vital habitat. About 90 percent of endangered species in the United States exist on private land. The act forbids federal agencies from taking actions that jeopardize endangered species and it prohibits the public from harming them without a federal permit. The act helped save bald eagles, wolves and grizzly bears from extinction.
  Texas Bighorns Obtain Goal of Being Trophy Hunted AgainOctober 12, 2006 09:30 Bighorn sheep had all but disappeared about 50 years ago from the West Texas mountains where they once flourished. Now there are so many that they're being hunted.

Years of restoration efforts have proven successful and now there are at least 822 of the agile animals, said Mike Pittman, who directs wildlife management areas in the Trans-Pecos region. A helicopter survey in late August tallied the desert bighorn sheep numbers, he said.

"And we know we're not seeing them all, naturally," said Pittman, who estimated there may be as many as 1,000 bighorn sheep. "They occupy the very roughest habitat that's out here."

Their growing numbers are reflected by the 12 hunting permits for bighorns issued statewide this year, the most since efforts to rebuild the population began in 1954.

The previous high came two seasons ago when eight permits were allowed. Hunting permits are based on the count of older rams, which are not crucial to the herd.

Nine of this season's permits will be for sheep hunts on privately owned land where surplus rams were spotted. Most landowners who receive the permits sell them and use the proceeds to improve bighorn and other wildlife habitat on their acreage, Pittman said.

Christopher Gill, who lives in San Antonio and owns a 32,000-acre ranch just south of the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area in far West Texas, is one such landowner. This year he was issued his fourth bighorn permit since 2000 and sold it for $60,000.

  Targeted Vaccination Could Save Endangered SpeciesOctober 11, 2006 13:35 Targeted vaccination against rabies and other infectious diseases could save from extinction threatened animals such as the Ethiopian wolf, the world's most endangered member of the dog family.

Instead of immunising entire populations, which is difficult with wild animals, researchers said on Wednesday they have shown that vaccinating about 25-30 percent of Ethiopian wolves could reduce the number of animals dying from rabies.

"You really can vaccinate animals like the Ethiopian wolf safely and effectively against rabies," said Dr Dan Haydon, an ecologist and epidemiologist at the University of Glasgow.

In research published in the journal Nature, he and his colleagues described how low-vaccination programmes and monitoring could curb epidemics among endangered species.

"Coverage levels of 25-30 percent could insure your population against extinction with a considerable amount of confidence," Haydon told Reuters.
  Flaw Limits Hatchery Fish in the Wild, Study SaysOctober 11, 2006 10:23 Hatchery-bred fish have long sliced through Northwest rivers along with wild fish, raising the question: What's the difference?

An intensive study of steelhead in the Hood River has verified the difference. Fish bred for generations in hatcheries do little besides fill fishing nets, because they have slim hope of producing young that reach adulthood.

The finding, by Oregon State University and federal researchers, stands out because the difference between hatchery and wild fish lies at the center of debates over salmon in the Northwest, where more than a half-billion dollars annually goes to efforts for the recovery of the fish. While many scientists contend wild fish are vital to the future of their species, other groups argue that wild fish do not need protection if hatchery fish are plentiful.

Hatchery fish abound in the Columbia River system, and the research confirms that captive fish lose the instincts and other traits that let wild fish thrive.

Typical hatchery steelhead produced 60 percent to 90 percent fewer offspring that last long enough to become adults than wild steelhead, according to the OSU study just published in the journal Conservation Biology.

  Law Helps Endangered SpeciesOctober 10, 2006 10:09 It's a tactic from the developer's playbook: If you disagree with the findings, question the method, call it "junk science" and poison the well.

Developer Tony Symmes did just that when he demeaned the research that led to listing of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1980. "The science behind the listing of the beetle was faulty from the beginning," he told writer Heather Hacking.

A quarter century-plus of scientific review since its listing suggests the contrary. The valley elderberry longhorn beetle and other species are rare, threatened or endangered as a result of human activity, such as land development.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires Fish and Wildlife to apply rigorous standards when making decisions concerning rare species. According to Fish and Wildlife, in the Federal Register, "We determine whether a species is endangered or threatened based on the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; disease or predation; the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

  Unique, Rare And Endangered Species Of Florida Everglades Highlighted On StampsOctober 04, 2006 14:23 To raise awareness of the diverse species inhabiting the fragile environment of the world's largest subtropical marshland -- the Florida Everglades -- the U.S. Postal Service dedicated the Nature of America: Southern Florida Wetland stamp pane and stamped postal cards today. The stamps and cards depict strikingly beautiful images of 21 plants and animals found in southern Florida wetland areas. The stamp pane, which can be used as a "flash card," has information on the back listing common and scientific names (attached).

The ceremony took place at the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens against a backdrop of many of the plants and creatures depicted on the sheet. The sheet of 10 First-Class 39-cent stamps, available for $3.90, and 10 stamped postal cards selling for $7.95, are available in Naples Post Offices today, and nationwide, Thursday, Oct. 5.

"The Southern Florida Wetland stamps celebrate a primeval environment, a fragile meeting ground of land and water that is home to a fantastic array of life, including rare and endangered species such as the American crocodile, Florida panther and Cape Sable seaside sparrow," said Anthony Vegliante, Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President, U.S. Postal Service.

  Committee Assigned To Help Endangered Species On The MissouriOctober 04, 2006 12:45 There's a new approach to helping endangered species on the Missouri River -- a committee with members from all levels of government, as well as environmental groups and industries that depend on the river. Its mission will be to advise regulators on efforts to restore the river for federally-protected birds and fish.

During a meeting in Omaha this week, Army Corps of Engineers project leader Rose Hargrave said the group will try to move beyond years of conflict and litigation.

"With all the conflict in this basin -- over the Master Manual, the operation of the dams, particularly the Spring Rise operation -- the federal agencies realized that we needed some help here, that our basin is not used to collaborating," she said. "That’s not what we do here. We fight over water. So this is a true culture shift for the Missouri River basin."
  Gains By Endangered Species CitedOctober 03, 2006 09:29 More than half of the imperiled species recently reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are doing well enough to be removed from the Endangered Species Act list or downgraded from endangered to threatened status, the agency recommended yesterday.

The 13 species studied are from California, including three birds with habitat in San Diego County.

In the coming months, hundreds of similar reviews to be conducted nationwide could lead to the first large-scale reduction in the number of species protected by the federal government. Over the decades, only about 40 species have been removed from the list and many of those delistings were the result of data errors or species becoming extinct, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, the list includes about 1,300 species across the country.

To change the status of each protected species, Fish and Wildlife officials would have to complete a formal public process. It's unclear when the agency might act on yesterday's recommendations because that depends in part on how much money is allocated to delisting efforts during the budgeting process.
  Local Endangered Species So Plentiful Now It Is Removed From ListOctober 02, 2006 22:04 The federal status of bird that lives in the Coachella Valley was downgraded from endangered to threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday.

The least Bell’s vireo was among six species that had their status changed by the service. Environmentalists supported two of the changes, including that of the vireo.

Overall, the service competed the review of 12 species and came back with six recommendations to downgrade or delist six.

“Some endangered species are making significant progress toward recovery in California,” said Steve Thompson, manager of California-Nevada operations for the service.
  Analysis: Climate Action 'Boosts Economy'October 02, 2006 10:42 When President Bush pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol as one of the first acts of his presidency, he did so largely on the basis that it would damage the U.S. economy and cost millions of jobs. But as clean energy becomes one of the world's fastest-growing industries, many are now wondering whether that decision was not somewhat shortsighted.

Speaking at the British Labor Party conference last week, former President Clinton said the vibrancy of the British economy was in part due to the fact climate change was being tackled within binding national and international frameworks such as Kyoto.

The rapid development of the green technology sector was providing a new source of jobs and had given the British economy "a level of energy ... that would not have been there otherwise," he said, noting that Britain had the lowest unemployment rate in the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

Meanwhile the United States declined to join Kyoto and was now in economic difficulties, he said, experiencing less growth and increasing job losses. The deficit had spiraled, he said, noting Mexico was now the 10th-largest U.S. creditor.