The Environment

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  More Endangered Species Reviews PlannedMarch 31, 2006 22:03 Status reviews of more than 50 species listed under the Endangered Species Act started this month.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a 60-day public comment period on March 22, the first step in the review process that s designed to update the need and status of endangered species listings.

The public comment period covers 56 listed species in California and Nevada, including several shrimp species such as the vernal pool fairy shrimp.

The reviews came as part of a settlement finalized on March 24 with federal regulators and a host of clients represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit public interest group dedicated to protecting private property rights.

  Jeb Bush Stops Polluted Discharges from Lake to RiversMarch 31, 2006 17:32 Kudos to Jeb. The mayors of Southwest Florida got what they were after from Gov. Jeb Bush a letter urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take immediate steps to reduce damage caused by polluted water discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Five mayors from coastal communities met with Bush on Thursday, asking him to help with the environmentally damaging releases that have clogged the Caloosahatchee River, estuaries and Gulf waters with pollution.

"We got what we wanted right when we walked in there," said Bonita Springs Mayor Jay Arend, after the group's 20-minute meeting with Bush.

  Florida House Panel Oks No Drilling PolicyMarch 31, 2006 17:31 Florida lawmakers Thursday took the first step toward enacting their own ban on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico when a House committee unanimously approved a bill that proponents claim would force the federal government to bend to the state's will.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, called his bill a "no way" policy that would state Floridians "don't approve of oil or gas drilling and associated activities in our waters and we will do everything we can under state and federal law to make sure our voice is heard and that our disapproval is felt."

Rep. David Simmons, R-Longwood, said a provision in federal law requires the federal government to adhere to the state's wishes on offshore drilling even in water not directly under the state's control.

  Endangered Species Act Should Be ProtectedMarch 30, 2006 16:22 The recovery of the bald eagle is excellent news, as this is the symbol of American courage and leadership. Other examples of recovered species include the American peregrine falcon, the American alligator and the green sea turtle.
The success of the Endangered Species Act is well documented and has been instrumental in helping prevent the complete and irrevocable extinction of well more than 1,000 listed species. These accomplishments reinforce that the legislation is working.

We need to maintain these principles and not attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

  Bush Budget Selling EnvironmentMarch 30, 2006 16:22 After six years of undermining protections for public lands and forests, President Bush's fiscal 2007 budget proposes to sell more than a quarter of a million acres of public lands.

This is another example of the Bush administration's loyalty to the logging, oil and gas industries. According to the New York Times, the Department of Interior's budget documents show that they plan to allow companies to pump about $65 billion in oil and natural gas without paying royalties.

A total of 301,511 acres of national forests across the country would be up for auction under the president's proposal.

  5,738 Scientists Decry Attempts To Weaken Endangered Species ActMarch 29, 2006 18:04 Leading scientists recently released a letter signed by 5,738 biologists across the United States urging the Senate to stand by scientific principles that are crucial to species conservation in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The letter-representing scientists from all 50 states and more than 900 institutions-asks Congress to stop efforts to weaken the ESA.

"Thanks to a strong scientific foundation, for 30 years the Endangered Species Act has protected wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction," said Dr. Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Biology, Duke University. "We should protect biodiversity by strengthening and fully funding the ESA, rather than attacking it."

"The Endangered Species Act has been effective because it is based on good science," said Dr. Gordon Orians, Professor Emeritus in the Biology Department at the University of Washington. "Since it was enacted, less than one percent of species listed under the ESA have gone extinct, while 10 percent of species waiting to be listed have been lost."

  ESA Intervention Helps Save Two Wyo SpeciesMarch 28, 2006 20:50 Thanks to Wyoming and its captive breeding efforts, two endangered species -- the Wyoming toad and the black-footed ferret -- have made successful comebacks after being reintroduced into the wild.

That's good news for Missouri schoolchildren, who for more than a decade have been lining up at the St. Louis Zoo to see the zoo's exhibit on the Wyoming toad.

They look at graphics and pictures, and hear talks about species including the Wyoming toad that are highly endangered. A lucky few get to actually see and hold the toads that are sometimes bred at the zoo.

Curators in the zoo's amphibian wing know that without the Endangered Species Act, there most likely would be no Wyoming toads left for schoolchildren in St. Louis or anywhere else to see.

"I really think if it hadn't been for the ESA, the Wyoming toad would probably be gone today ... If they hadn't brought that last remnant population from Wyoming, we would just be reading about Wyoming toads now," said Jeff Ettling, curator of amphibians and reptiles for the St. Louis Zoo.

"If it hadn't been for somebody in Wyoming really monitoring those (toad) populations and realizing they are slipping away ... then some of these obscure species like the Wyoming toad that aren't real obvious to people would be gone and we would never even realize it," he said.

  Water Woes Hit DevelopmentMarch 27, 2006 22:52 South Florida has run out of natural sources of drinking water and will likely experience halted development due to the problem.

Major real estate projects in the tri-county area must be curbed until alternative sources of water can be developed, according to the state. Already, it has told Miami-Dade County to reject 17 large-scale projects because of drinking water scarcity.

And the creation of alternative water sources will not happen soon. The work will cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and can take decades to complete, according to estimates from regional and local water officials.

  Rewrite of ESA Under Consideration in SenateMarch 27, 2006 17:34 A rewrite of the Endangered Species Act could be too polarizing to negotiate a compromise. That scares environmentalists who say the proposal would gut the current version.

A House version of the bill passed easily in September.

A Senate version co-sponsored by Loveland Republican Sen. Wayne Allard could be heard in committee next month.

Opponents of both versions say they strip protection for critical species habitat while paying developers and private property owners to comply with the law. But critical habitat loss would be devastating, they say.

"That's like a dagger in the heart of the ESA," said Phil Cafaro, a local Sierra Club member.

  Global Warming And Public PolicyMarch 27, 2006 14:14 What does the federal government's response to current research on global warming tell us about the relationship between science and public policy? Click the link and listen to the NPR report.
  Eminent Domain versus Endagered Species Protection in ColoradoMarch 23, 2006 14:25 Here in Colorado, the hottest political issue of the day may not be the war in Iraq or the out-of-control federal budget, but rather the plight of a tiny mouse. Back in 1998, a frisky eight-inch rodent known as the Preble's meadow jumping mouse gained protective status under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA). What has Coloradans hot under the collar is that some 31,000 acres of local government and privately owned land in the state and stretching into Wyoming -- an area larger than the District of Columbia -- was essentially quarantined from all development so as not to disrupt the mouse's natural habitat. Even the Fish and Wildlife Service concedes that the cost to these land owners could reach $183 million.

What we have here is arguably the most contentious dispute over the economic impact of the ESA since the famous early-'90s clash between the timber industry and the environmentalist lobby over the "endangered" listing of the spotted owl in the Northwest. That dispute eventually forced the closure of nearly 200 mills and the loss of thousands of jobs. Last week the war over the fate of the Preble's mouse escalated when a coalition of enraged homeowners, developers and farmers petitioned the Department of the Interior to have the mouse immediately delisted as "endangered" because of reliance on faulty data.

The property-rights coalition would seem to have a fairly persuasive case based on the latest research on the mouse. It turns out that not only is the mouse not endangered, it isn't even a unique species.

  Extinct Bird Returns, Feathers Fly In Woodpecker WarMarch 17, 2006 14:32 A top bird expert is pecking away at the reported sighting of an Ivory-billed woodpecker in an Arkansas swamp. The bird was thought to be long extinct.

The controvery took wing in the Friday's issue of the journal Science, with one set of researchers arguing that the bird videotaped last year probably was a common pileated woodpecker and another group stoutly defending the identification as an ivory-bill.

Identification of the bird in the videotape as an ivory-billed woodpecker "rests on mistaken interpretations of the bird's posture," according to a research team headed by David A. Sibley, who is a top bird expert.

  Court Strikes Down Bush Administration Coal Plant Rules ChangesMarch 17, 2006 00:00 In a big win for environmentalists, a federal appeals court on Friday struck down a Bush administration rule that would have made it easier for coal-burning power plants to make equipment changes without installing controls to fight the pollution that would result.

The court shot down an Environmental Protection Agency rule that said power plant owners would only have to install modern pollution fighting controls if equipment changes cost more than 20 percent of the replacement cost of the plant.

Environmental groups and several states sued, arguing the rule would gut the new source review enforcement provisions of the Clean Air Act and allow the oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants to expand output without cutting polluting emissions.

  Officials Consider Ban On Commercial Salmon FishingMarch 14, 2006 17:25 After meeting last week in Seattle, federal regulators are considering an unprecedented ban on the fishing of Chinook salmon along 700 miles of the California and Oregon coasts. It's a reaction to plummeting populations of salmon that spawn in the Klamath River.
  An Excellent (Species) ActMarch 09, 2006 21:07 Congress is debating whether the Endangered Species Act should be modified.

Since 1973, the law has stood as part of American environmentalism's Holy Four. The National Environmental Policy Act (1969), the Clean Air Act (1970), and the Clean Water Act (1972) have been periodically revised over the years, so some in Congress are asking why the Endangered Species Act shouldn't also be. They have a point; nothing in legislation should be held sacred. Yet care must be taken in addressing this act.

This law sets strict penalties on the killing of endangered species of animals and plants, and it gives the government broad authority in regulating land and water use to protect species' habitat and feeding areas. The authority, which pins survival of species on preserving their ecosystems, has been a key factor _ along with changes in land use _ in the return of many species to areas where they had been absent for decades, if not centuries.

As fields have reverted to forests over the last 30 to 40 years in New England, for example, populations of white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, black bears and other species have grown. Some of these once rare creatures, such as Canada geese, are now in certain places even considered nuisances.

  Scientists Push Senate To Safeguard Endangered Species ActMarch 09, 2006 15:54 As a Senate committee prepares to take up revisions to the Endangered Species Act, nearly 6,000 biologists from around the country signed a letter Wednesday urging senators to preserve scientific protections in the landmark law.
The House passed an Endangered Species Act rewrite last year that many scientists and environmentalists viewed as extreme. Interest groups are lobbying to ensure that legislation expected soon from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will be an improvement.
"Unfortunately, recent legislative proposals would critically weaken" the law's scientific foundation, said the letter organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The 5,738 signers included six National Medal of Science recipients.

  Tomorrow's Endangered Species: Act Now To Protect Species Not Yet Under ThreatMarch 07, 2006 18:27 Conservationists should be acting now to protect mammals such as North American reindeer which risk extinction in the future as the human population grows, according to research published today.
The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals areas with the potential to lose species that are not presently in danger. Species in these 'hotspots' have a latent risk of extinction; that is, they are currently less threatened than their biology would suggest, usually because they inhabit regions or habitats still comparatively unmodified by human activity.

The new research shows that over the next few decades, many species currently deemed safe could leapfrog those deemed high risk to become highly threatened. The comprehensive Red List, prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural resources, classifies species according to categories of threat running from 'extinct' to 'least concern'.

Among the species with the highest latent extinction risk according to the new study are the North American reindeer, the musk ox, the Seychelles flying fox, and the brown lemur.

  Wild Salmon Stocks Face WipeoutMarch 06, 2006 05:06 WILD Atlantic salmon stocks will be wiped out within decades because of interbreeding with escaped farmed stocks, leading scientists have warned.

New research has revealed that the unique genetic identity of the king of fish is rapidly being eroded by escaped fish from farms around the Scottish coast.

The world's most influential salmon conservation organisation fears that in as little as 50 years the ability of the fish to navigate thousands of miles across the ocean and then back to their home rivers may be damaged by constant interbreeding.

  Pacific Northwest Salmon Fishing May be ScuttledMarch 06, 2006 05:04 Imagine a summer without a fresh-caught local salmon to toss on the barbecue.
It might be the summer of 2006.

Sharp declines in recent Klamath River salmon runs have federal officials poised to ban salmon fishing this year along a 700-mile stretch of the Pacific from Point Sur north.

It would come even as biologists say the Sacramento River this year should enjoy one of the more abundant salmon runs since 1970, with nearly a million chinook alone expected to return to spawn.

But because in the ocean a fisher cannot distinguish a Klamath salmon from a Sacramento one, both runs may soon be off-limits.

  Otter Rebound Causes Problems In IllinoisMarch 06, 2006 05:03 Clearly some species recovery plans are working well. This article documents the case of river otters in Illinois, which may have recovered too well for their own good. Sounds like a good opportunity for a community-wide management plan that could leave otters, their fans, and farmers happy.
  Study: Endangered Species Act Is EffectiveMarch 05, 2006 07:39 Tucson-based, Center for Biological Diversity has released a report praising the effectiveness of the federal Endangered Species Act.

The landmark environmental law has recently been criticized by some politicians as wasting taxpayers` money, producing lawsuits and doing little to help endangered species.

But the CBD says it found no endangered species have gone extinct in the Northeast and 93 percent have increased their population size or become stable since coming under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

  Wolves in ColoradoMarch 03, 2006 23:13 Wolves from Wyoming may be migrating south to Colorado. The Colorado state government has set up some guidelines for managing and protecting the species that was eradicated from the state in the 1940's.
  License To Kill Endangered SpeciesMarch 03, 2006 22:09 The federal government is handing out licenses to kill endangered species. Hundreds of exemptions to the Endangered Species Act have been issued nationwide since the mid-1990s, covering some of the nation's most sensitive lands.

The deals being cut are perfectly legal. Many last for decades. And they are helping push creatures to the brink of extinction, conservation biologists and other critics say.

  Pesticides and CA Endangered SpeciesMarch 02, 2006 17:25 The Center for Biological Diversity today released a comprehensive 53-page report detailing the risk toxic pesticides pose to endangered species in the San Francisco Bay Area and the failure of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate pesticides harmful to imperiled species. The report, Poisoning Our Imperiled Wildlife: San Francisco Bay Area Endangered Species at Risk from Pesticides, documents that at least 30 of the 51 federally endangered or threatened animal species that occur in the Bay Area may be adversely affected by the more than 8 million pounds of pesticides used in the region each year.

The report also analyzes the EPA s dismal record in protecting endangered species from pesticides and the agency s ongoing refusal to reform pesticide registration and use in accordance with scientific findings. There are troubling deficiencies in the EPA s assessments of pesticide risks and the pesticide regulation process, allowing widespread use of pesticides known or suspected to be harmful to imperiled Bay Area species such as the Delta smelt, coho salmon, steelhead trout, California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, San Joaquin kit fox, western snowy plover and peregrine falcon.

  Metrowestdailynews.Com - Local / Regional News: Endangered Species Act Under DiscussionMarch 01, 2006 17:59 Environmentalists concerned about a congressional attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act gathered at Garden in the Woods yesterday to discuss a new report detailing the law s success protecting plants and animals in the Northeast.

A bill pending in Congress would eliminate critical habitat protections, reduce oversight of pesticides and give polluting industries a role in species recovery planning, according to Peter Galvin, a Framingham native who is director of conservation at the Center for Biological Diversity.

"It a variety of different ways put the fox in charge of guarding the henhouse," Galvin said yesterday. "Unfortunately, it s a polluters dream bill. They ve bought and paid for their congressmen and they got their bill."

The bill was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last September after being introduced by Rep. Richard Pombo of California, who said the Endangered Species Act "has failed to recover endangered species while conflict and litigation have plagued local communities and private property owners alike."
  Study: Endangered Species Act EffectiveMarch 01, 2006 17:19 The Endangered Species Act has been "remarkably successful" in the Northeast, a New England Wild Flower Society report said Tuesday. The society examined the 53 species listed under the act for more than six years and found that 93% had increased or stabilized their populations, including the Eastern gray wolf and the Atlantic leatherback sea turtle. Nationwide, more than 1,300 species are listed under the act, which was created in 1973 and requires protections to prevent extinction. The re- port comes amid proposals to alter the act in Congress, where critics say that too few of the listed species have recovered under the act and that the law unfairly burdens property owners.
  Accounting 101 for Endangered SpeciesMarch 01, 2006 17:18 Even if they never do hold steady jobs and pay back what they rightfully owe us taxpayers, protecting and restoring endangered species is worth the price. Endangered species are unique in geography and history and they are irreplaceable emblems of the nation's wildness.

To protect endangered species, Americans spent $4.77 per person in 2004, not counting the returns on that investment. In the context of protecting species from coast to coast--Florida manatees to Northwest salmon--$1.4 billion may not be very much money at all.