The Environment

  Polar Bears May Join Endangered Species ListDecember 27, 2006 08:53 The Bush administration has decided to propose listing the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, putting the U.S. government on record as saying that global warming could drive one of the world's most recognizable animals out of existence.

The proposal--described by an Interior Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity--stems from the fact that rising temperatures in the Arctic are shrinking the sea ice that polar bears need for hunting.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the department will submit the proposal Wednesday for publication, after which it will be subject to public comment for 90 days.

Because scientists have concluded that carbon dioxide from power plant and auto emissions is helping drive climate change worldwide, putting polar bears on the endangered species list raises the legal question of whether the government would be required to compel U.S. industries to curb their carbon dioxide output.

 
  Eagles Out Of DangerDecember 26, 2006 11:23 At extinction's door four decades ago, the American bald eagle is on the verge of completing a comeback for the ages.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed that it likely will soon remove the national symbol from the federal list of endangered and threatened species, perhaps as early as next year.

The agency is complying with a court order that requires it to make a final decision on the bald eagle's status no later than Feb. 16. To that end, the Fish and Wildlife Service has embarked on what is expected to be a final round of public comment to complete a delisting process that dates back to 1999.

The proposal has a broad base of support that includes environmental groups such as Environmental Defense and the National Wildlife Federation. Agency officials -- who made their initial recommendation to delist last February -- now consider it only a matter of time before the bald eagle is officially deemed to be recovered.

"It's an amazing story," Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Valerie Fellows said. "It has come out in little nuggets over the last seven years. But this stands as a great success story for conservation. The fact that our nation's symbol no longer needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act is thrilling."

 
  Tortoises Wait Out Winter At N.M. RanchDecember 26, 2006 11:16 Mexican gray wolves, black-footed ferrets, and aplomado falcons are among the endangered species who have found homes and a chance for survival on Ted Turner's ranches in New Mexico. Now, Turner's Armendaris Ranch is doing the same for a group of bolson tortoises.

Thirty-seven bolson tortoises, at up to 18 inches the largest tortoises found in North America, arrived in New Mexico earlier this year from a ranch in Arizona. Most of them are waiting out the winter in deep burrows on Turner's ranch.

"We work to recover endangered species on all our properties in the United States," ranch manager Tom Waddell said. "It's just another one on the list, but it is exciting and fun."

The bolson tortoises were discovered in the 1950s in Mexico, though scientists believe they have been around in the Southwest for thousands of years. At one time the tortoises could be found in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. The only ones left in the wild today are in a small population in the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico.

"They're kind of prehistoric. It's kind of like finding a dinosaur," Waddell said.

The Armendaris Ranch is home this winter for 26 adult tortoises. Four tortoises are at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park in Carlsbad and seven others that hatched this summer are at Turner's Ladder Ranch, also near Truth or Consequences.
  Appeals Court Tosses Out Bush Smog RulesDecember 23, 2006 10:12 A federal appeals court on Friday struck down the Bush administration's strategy for reducing smog, which impacts the health of more than half the nation's population, mostly those prone to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

The Environmental Protection Agency rules for forcing state cleanups of smog don't meet Clean Air Act requirements, a three-judge panel rule in a suit brought by a Southern California clean-air agency, environmental groups and some mid-Atlantic and Eastern states downwind of others states' smog.

Circuit Judge Judith Rogers, writing for the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said "EPA has failed to heed the restrictions on its discretion set forth in the Act." The court ordered the agency to come up with a new enforcement plan.

Smog is produced by nitrogen oxides reacting with other chemicals to create ground-level ozone, particularly in the summer months when the sun is hottest and brightest. Other major sources of the pollution are motor vehicle exhaust, gas vapors and chemical solvents.
  Lawsuit Filed To Protect Sea Otter HabitatDecember 20, 2006 19:26 The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today in federal district court in Washington, D.C., challenging the Bush administration's refusal to designate critical habitat for imperiled Sea Otters in Alaska. Sea Otters in the Aleutian Islands and southwest Alaska were listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in August 2005 following declines of up to 90 percent in many areas. With that listing, federal law requires that their critical habitat be protected as well.


Congress emphasized the importance of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act, stating that "the ultimate effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act will depend on the designation of critical habitat," and recent studies have shown that species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering than species without. Despite the importance of habitat protection, the Bush administration has vigorously opposed critical habitat designation for most species, designating such habitat only as a result of litigation.


In August 2000, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency within the Department of the Interior charged with protecting the nation's wildlife, to protect Sea Otters in Alaska under the under the Endangered Species Act. Two lawsuits and five years later, Sea Otters finally received the protections of the Endangered Species Act. These protections, however, remain incomplete without critical habitat designation.
  Echo From The End Of A Dolphin SpeciesDecember 20, 2006 19:23 The baiji, a freshwater dolphin, has used sonar to find fish in China's Yangtze River for some 20 million years. Last week, scientists declared it basically extinct. Can the end of a nearly blind cetacean help humans see the need for greater species conservation?

Five events in Earth's history have caused extinction waves, including the asteroid thought to have slammed into the Yucatán and ended the dinosaur age. Whether the planet is on the verge of a sixth wave of extinctions, or already in it, is a matter of debate, but either way, the situation should be taken seriously.

The World Conservation Union's "Red List" is at an all-time high: 16,119 threatened species (out of 15 million estimated species). This century-old trend is largely human-made and ongoing, with one harbinger being the extinction of many large mammals from North America.

In 1973, the United States responded with the Endangered Species Act, the toughest such protection law in the world. Wolves, bald eagles, and grizzlies have rebounded, and about 85 percent of the 1,322 species on the US endangered list are stable or increasing, the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Ariz., estimates.
  Free Endangered Species RingtonesDecember 20, 2006 12:01 Calling all cell phone users: Now you can personalize your ringtones with the mesmerizing, heartfelt, and – dare we say? – operatic calls of the Blue-throated Macaw, Beluga Whale, Boreal Owl, Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, Yosemite Toad, or any one of 40 other endangered wildlife species. And it’s absolutely free.

The endangered species advocates at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity are offering ringtones of the croaks, chirps and songs of dozens of rare and endangered animals from around the world. Featured are the authentic sounds of some of the world’s most threatened owls, tropical birds, frogs, toads and marine mammals. The free ringtones are easily downloaded from the Center’s Web site at http://rareearthtones.com.

“People really respond to the wildlife ringtones – the animal calls are fascinating, they personalize your phone, and they sound cool when it rings,” said Peter Galvin, the Center’s Conservation Director. “The best part is that they inspire people to understand and work to protect endangered wildlife.”
  Biologists In Pursuit Of Exotic, Voracious FoeDecember 20, 2006 10:26 "SNAKE!" Hearing this shout, Skip Snow slammed on the brakes. When the off-roader plowed to a halt, he and his partner, Lori Oberhofer, leaped out and took off running toward two snakes, actually -- a pair of 10-foot Burmese pythons lying on a levee, sunning themselves.

After slipping, sliding and tumbling down a rocky embankment, Snow, a wildlife biologist, grabbed one of the creatures by the tail. The python, Oberhofer says, did not care much for that.

"It made a sound like Darth Vader breathing," she says, "and then its head swung around and I saw this white mouth flying through the air."

Snow saw the mouth, too -- the jaws open 180 degrees, the gums an obscene white, the needle-sharp teeth bared in an almost devilish grin. He let out a shriek, then blinked, and when his eyes opened the python's head was hanging in mid-air, less than a foot from his own.

 
  Gray Wolves Taken off Endangere List in Idaho and MontanaDecember 20, 2006 09:59 In a matter of weeks the grey wolves once brought to Idaho as endangered species will be removed from that list.

Governor Jim Risch says he has received a promise that the wolves will be taken off the federal register to be managed on a state level with other big game animals.

In 1995 32 wolves were introduced into the Idaho wilderness. Now their population has grown to more than 600.

Wolves were listed as endangered species in 1975. The reintroduction process started in 1995.

The goal was to de-list the wolves in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming simaultaneously.

The federal government says Wyoming isn't ready, but Montana and Idaho will go ahead.

In 1995 Grey Wolves were taken by snowmoble to a place near Stanley near the River of No Return.

While the destination carried one name, the mission had another, to return the wolf population from near extinction to vibrant existence.

For the past 11 years opinions have remained stong between those for and those against the reintroduction.
  Endangered CactusDecember 16, 2006 20:24 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will study whether a rare Utah cactus should be protected as an endangered species, a move that could affect oil drilling in the state's Uinta Basin.

Fish and Wildlife is taking the action _ the first step toward deciding whether to list the plant as protected _ in response to a 2005 lawsuit by conservation groups asking for emergency help for the Pariette cactus.

The groups say a proposal to double the number of oil wells in the area where the cactus is found threaten its existence.

The Pariette was originally thought to be a form of another species, the Uinta Basin hookless cactus, which is already listed under the Endangered Species Act. But in 1996, scientists decided Pariette was a separate species.

 
  Lawsuit Charges Official Interfered With Endangered Species ProcessDecember 14, 2006 11:08 A coalition of environmental groups and scientists filed suit Wednesday against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency's refusal to conduct a full review of the Gunnison's prairie dog for possible listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The suit charges that Fish and Wildlife biologists were forced by Deputy Interior Secretary Julie MacDonald, a Bush administration appointee, to change a finding that the prairie dog is endangered to one that instead said it does not meet the scientific criteria necessitating federal protection.

The Gunnison's prairie dog is found in the Southwest, including southern Utah. But a combination of disease, extermination efforts and urban growth have conspired to reduce the species' overall population to what biologists consider to be dangerously low levels.

A set of e-mails obtained by the New Mexico-based environmental group Forest Guardians showed the Gunnison's prairie dog apparently headed for listing under the Endangered Species Act last January. But under orders from MacDonald, the decision was reversed.

"The Gunnison's prairie dog was on track to clear the first hurdle for endangered species protection, but with the stroke of Julie MacDonald's pen, was denied the chance at protection," Forest Guardians biologist Nicole Rosmarino said in a statement.

 
  In Forest Plans, No Environment AnalysisDecember 13, 2006 00:00 Long-term management plans for national forests will no longer go through a formal environmental impact statement, the U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday.

The Forest Service said writing the 15-year plans has no effect on the environment, making the impact statements unnecessary. That conclusion was based on changes to forest planning rules made last year and a past U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says a plan is a statement of intent and does not cause anything to happen.

Individual projects, such as logging, were cut out of forest management plans in last year's rule changes. Those projects will still have to go through a formal analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA, said Fred Norbury, associate deputy chief for the national forest system.

Norbury said cutting the environmental impact statement process out of the management plans should shorten the time to produce them to about three years, he said.

Plans now take five to seven years to write, at a cost of $5 million to $7 million.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., the incoming House Resources Committee chairman, said the new rules are part of a continuing effort by the Bush administration to reduce wildlife and watershed protections and make it harder for the public to challenge illegal logging.

 
  Opinion: A Good Deal On Oil DrillingDecember 12, 2006 23:56 Hmm... something to think about...
A few months ago, a bipartisan compromise on offshore drilling worked out by Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez appeared to be the best outcome for the state. The Republican-led House wanted less protection for Florida beaches and refused to accept the Senate's offer. Then a funny thing happened in the recent election. Republicans lost control of the next Congress, so House leaders were suddenly ready to deal.

Despite objections from some Democrats and environmentalists, the Senate bill passed both chambers as the lame-duck session ended Saturday and will become law with President Bush's signature. Did Florida win or lose?
  Discovered: The Self-Boiling Shrimp And 500 Other Extreme Sea CreaturesDecember 11, 2006 10:20 Creatures thriving at the hot and cold extremes of the marine environment have amazed scientists who are celebrating the discovery of 500 previously unknown species in the oceans in the past year.

They have been found beneath ice shelves, in the darkest, deepest abysses and in scalding water around hydrothermal vents on the sea bed. In a year of discovery, animals living in and around the oceans have smashed records for distance, numbers and sheer tenacity in the most inhospitable habitats imaginable.

Among the most astonishing discoveries is a shrimp living within inches of the hottest water yet found at the bottom of the oceans. The animals live on a thermal vent at the equatorial floor of the Atlantic Ocean that spews out water and a soup of heavy metals heated to 407C (765F) — more than hot enough to melt lead.

The shrimps dependent on the vent live in a narrow band of water at 60C (140F) and because of swirling currents are frequently washed with water at 80C (176F) or hotter.
  Poachers In West Hunt Big Antlers To Feed Big EgosDecember 09, 2006 17:02 Should poachers simply be shot? I think so...

A bighorn sheep lay in a field not far from here, its head missing. In nearby Elko, three elk and five deer died from gunshot wounds, their carcasses rotting in the hills. And in the distant mountains, game wardens searched for another elk that a tipster said had been killed by illegal hunters apparently just for the thrill of it.

The reports keep coming in — elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep and other big-game animals — killed in a wave of poaching that has alarmed state and federal wildlife officials in Nevada and several other Western states.

The authorities said they are seeing more organized rings of poachers and unlicensed guides chasing the biggest elk and mule deer, with the largest antler array, sometimes trading them on Internet auction sites or submitting pictures to glossy hunting magazines that prominently feature big kills.
  Farm Bureau Supports Endangered Species Reserve ActDecember 08, 2006 23:54 The Endangered Species Reserve Act of 2006 is a win-win for private landowners, as well as endangered and threatened species, the American Farm Bureau Federation voiced today. In a letter to U.S. Senators, AFBF President Bob Stallman said it is imperative to include farmers and ranchers in efforts to preserve and enhance habitat for endangered and threatened species.

"With private lands housing 80 percent of listed species, we are absolutely convinced that cooperation with private landowners is essential if the Endangered Species Act is to achieve its goal of recovering species," said Stallman. "Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land, thus the vast majority of landowners want to enjoy listed species on their property, but have been stymied by restrictions on the use of their land by ESA regulations."

Essentially, the measure would amend the Internal Revenue Code to provide incentives to farmers and ranchers to work proactively in an effort to preserve and enhance habitat for endangered and threatened species through tax credits. More specifically, private landowners could voluntarily enroll lands in the proposed Endangered Species Reserve Program through easements or management agreements.

Such agreements would require the landowners to take or refrain from certain activities to enhance the recovery of listed or candidate species. If accepted, they become eligible for tax credits depending on their level of participation.

 
  California Butterfly 1, Developers 0December 08, 2006 09:13 The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority Wednesday denied a proposal by developers to eliminate a reserve inhabited by two of the region's most endangered species - the Quino Checkerspot butterfly and a tiny, long-tailed bird, the California gnatcatcher.
Southern California's Inland Empire, which encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino counties, is experiencing constant development pressure.

In December 2005, the County of Riverside and the City of Murrieta requested modification of the reserve configuration in core habitat areas to allow development.

A similar proposal to eliminate conservation lands was first proposed by the City of Murrieta in April 2005 at the request of Winchester 700, a southern California developer.

The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity urged rejection of that proposal. Wildlife agencies agreed with the Center's concerns and concluded that the proposal "lack[ed] the biological data" necessary and represented a "substantial change to the conservation strategy."

 
  Boxer on the AttackDecember 08, 2006 09:09 .S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, has placed a hold on the nomination of Alex Beehler to be Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Boxer placed a hold on the nomination after the committee voted to approve it on Wednesday. Beehler was nominated for the position by President George W. Bush earlier this year.

In blocking the nomination, Boxer prevented it from coming to the Senate floor during this short lame duck session of Congress.

Since she will chair the committee when the 110th Congress convenes in January with a Democratic majority, it is not likely that Beehler will get the job.

Beehler is currently serving with the Department of Defense, DOD, as assistant deputy under secretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health. He was also a trial attorney with the Department of Justice for 10 years.

Boxer said he is "not the appropriate candidate to lead EPA's Office of Inspector General, which conducts critical oversight of EPA's risk assessment process."
  Leave Bristol Bay AloneDecember 06, 2006 10:16 President George W. Bush is thinking about rescinding a longstanding presidential order that specifically prohibits oil and gas drilling in Alaska's pristine Bristol Bay. He should resist doing so, no matter how powerful the entreaties from his friends in the oil business. Drilling in Bristol Bay would threaten one of the nation's most productive fisheries without appreciably strengthening the nation's long-term energy security.

Bristol Bay occupies over 33 million acres of open sea, islands and estuaries just north of where the Aleutian Islands meet the Alaskan mainland. It is home to the world's largest wild salmon run and the source of a commercial fishing industry with an estimated annual value of nearly $2 billion. In the furor following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, the bay was placed off-limits to drilling, first by Congress, and then, in 1998, by President Bill Clinton.

The presidential prohibition has remained in effect even though the congressional moratorium was lifted in 2003 when Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens called in all the chits he had accumulated as head of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Interior Department now wants to make about one-fifth of the bay available for leasing - a move, it says, that could create 11,000 jobs and "net benefits" of about $7.7 billion in oil and gas. But this would be a one- shot deal, and the numbers are trivial compared with the country's overall resources.

 
  Landmark Agreement To Save Endangered Species In HawaiiDecember 05, 2006 09:21 Hearings begin today on a landmark agreement to save five endangered birds in Hawaii that could serve as a national model for helping private farmers and ranchers recover endangered wildlife in any state where private lands provide vitally important wildlife habitat. The Hawaii agreement marks the first time that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and local Resource Conservation District staff are taking a leadership role in helping private landowners restore endangered species throughout a state.

Under the Safe Harbor agreement, private landowners who are working with the USDA to restore wetland and other habitats will receive assurances that future land use requirements will not be imposed because of conservation efforts carried out under Farm Bill conservation programs statewide. To be eligible, landowners must be enrolled in a USDA Farm Bill Conservation Program and making improvements to wetlands or habitat benefiting any of five endangered birds: Hawaiian Goose (Nene), Hawaiian Duck, Hawaiian Moorhen, Hawaiian Coot and Hawaiian Stilt. For more details, see http://www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dofaw/pubs/index.html

"Hawaii has a long history of using Safe Harbor agreements, but this one is really innovative and should be repeated everywhere across the country where private farms and ranches can provide habitat for endangered species with USDA's help," said Michael Bean, a leading authority on the Endangered Species Act and chair of Wildlife program at Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit group that worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners to create the first Safe Harbor agreement more than a decade ago.
  Concern Over Bush Plan to Begin Drilling in North AleutiansDecember 04, 2006 13:56 Word spread like wildfire through Alaska's environmental community Nov. 28 of alleged Bush administration plans to lift a presidential moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration in the North Aleutian Basin.

The area includes the commercial fishing grounds of Bristol Bay, described by Rick Steiner, a professor with the University of Alaska's marine advisory program, as 'the breadbasket of entire Bering Sea.'

Reports circulating through environmental groups were that Alaska Governor-elect Sarah Palin, as well as Alaska's congressional delegation, had 'signed off' on the action, Steiner said.

Curtis Smith, press secretary for incoming Gov. Sarah Palin, said he could not confirm Palin's specific actions regarding plans to lift the moratorium.

 
  Illegal Reversals of Endangered Species DecisionsDecember 04, 2006 09:08 A few weeks ago, the media uncovered illegal reversals of endangered species decisions. These reversals were ordered by Julie MacDonald, a political appointee in the Department of Interior. What's more surprising is that the Rocky Mountain News has twice printed MacDonald's claims that "there was no proof she ordered researchers to change findings" ("Groups sue over plover protection," Nov. 21), and MacDonald's challenge to "come up with a document that shows she did" ("Research cited in species decision," Nov. 1). It's one thing for MacDonald to make this claim, but for the News to fail to mention that the documents are already public and irrefutable is quite another.
Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act include an e-mail from the Washington office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that reads, "Here is the revised \[white-tailed prairie dog Federal Register] notice, with the finding changed from substantial to not substantial per Julie's instructions," effectively ending consideration of Endangered Species Act protection for the species. Similarly, an e-mail concerning the Gunnison's prairie dog reads, "Per Julie please make the \[prairie dog] finding negative." In both cases, determinations already prepared by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists that species were in need of protection to avoid extinction were rubbed out by a one-line order from MacDonald.

Other documents demonstrate MacDonald or other high-level officials played a role in reversing decisions to protect the Gunnison sage grouse, California tiger salamander, roundtail chub, Mexican garter snake and a Mariana Islands plant.

This interference is not just wrong - it's illegal. Indeed, federal Judge William Alsup recently reached just this conclusion, finding that a decision by MacDonald to reduce protections for endangered California tiger salamanders was illegal because it overturned agency biologists without basis.

When Congress wrote the Endangered Species Act, it specifically required that decisions about whether to protect species must be based solely on the best available science. The ultimate survival of some of the nation's most emblematic wildlife species and the health of our ecosystems might have been sacrificed otherwise. Embattled wildlife like the sage grouse and prairie dogs are owed a fair shake. Interior must throw out MacDonald's tainted decisions so these species can have a chance at survival, but we also need to fix the bigger problems.

MacDonald's interference in scientific decisions concerning the nation's endangered wildlife is pervasive. In response to a 2005 survey conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 84 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists confirmed that that they were directed to exclude or alter scientific information in their decisions and reports. Several mentioned MacDonald by name as impeding the agency's scientific integrity; for example, one specifically wrote of MacDonald: "I have never before seen the boldness of intimidation demonstrated by a single political appointee. She has modified the behavior of the entire agency. I believe there should be a thorough investigation of her abuse of discretionary authority and modification of science information provided in FWS documents."

This may finally happen. The Department of Interior's inspector general has launched an investigation of MacDonald, and Reps. Nick Rahall and Jay Inslee have also called for an inquiry. The problems, however, don't stop with MacDonald - the Bush administration has a long history of suppressing science for political purposes. Americans deserve a government that allows scientists, not politicians, to make scientific decisions.

Noah Greenwald is a conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity in Portland, Ore.
  "Extinction Vortex" Could Result From Endangered Species AlertsDecember 02, 2006 23:34 Humans prize rare objects--be they paintings, coins or rare species of amphibians. This proclivity toward the hard-to-find led researchers at Paris-Sud University to hypothesize that the overexploitation of species--via trophy hunting and exotic pet collecting, for example--can lead to their extinction. (Standard economic theory predicts that extreme exploitation will not actually lead to a species's extinction, because the cost of obtaining it will be greater than its value in hand.) The authors mention the placement of an animal or plant on a conservation organization's watch list as a means in which the value of a dwindling species can ratchet upward.
Franck Courchamp, a mathematical and evolutionary ecologist, says his group's work--which appears in this week's issue of PLoS Biology--is based on an ecological process called the Allee effect, in which a species's extinction risk increases because of reduced reproductive fitness at low population. Courchamp amended an economic resource exploitation model so that as a material became more rare, its price on the market increased.

 
  Michigan Considers Possible Wolf Hunt Before Assuming Oversight Of SpeciesDecember 02, 2006 00:12 Amazing how the first thing we want to do with wolves after we spend a bunch of money to restore them is... SHOOT 'EM! Argh...

Michigan's federally protected population of gray wolves could migrate to state oversight by spring, and a group charged with developing a management plan is divided between allowing the reclusive animal to be hunted or keeping it safeguarded.

The Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable is charged with offering advice to update the state's management plan, which was first developed in 1997. Gray wolves will become the responsibility of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources if the federal government delists the animal as a threatened, endangered species in four months.

The impending switch to state oversight is being driven by an increasing population in the Upper Peninsula, where more than 400 wolves are believed to exist. Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced a proposal earlier this year to remove the wolf from the endangered species list in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where a combined 3,800 are estimated to live.
  Judge Rules On Road Ban In ForestDecember 01, 2006 10:02 A federal judge has ruled that a Clinton-era ban on road construction in national forests applies to hundreds of oil and gas leases sold by the Bush administration.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Laporte's ruling Wednesday means that holders of more than 300 leases that permit oil and gas exploration in national forests cannot build roads to access those areas.

Laporte's order follows her September ruling that reinstated the 2001 "roadless rule" prohibiting logging, mining and other development on 58.5 million acres of wilderness in 38 states and Puerto Rico.

In that earlier ruling, Laporte said the Bush administration had failed to conduct necessary environmental studies before it instituted a process in May 2005 that required governors to petition the federal government to protect national forests in their states.

She sided with 20 environmental groups and four states -- California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington -- that had sued the Forest Service.