The Environment

  FWS Refuses to Protect Mexican Garter SnakeSeptember 26, 2006 21:05 Responding to a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced today that the Mexican Garter Snake does not warrant protection as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In its determination, FWS recognized that the garter snake is extirpated from 85-90 percent of its range in the U.S., declining, and severely threatened by multiple factors in both the U.S. and Mexico. However, the agency still concluded that the species should not be protected.

“As is the case with the Pygmy-owl, the Bush administration is perfectly willing to let the Mexican Garter Snake go extinct in the U.S.,” stated Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity and primary author of the petition. “This willingness is typical of the administration’s disregard for the nation’s wildlife.”

Dependent on the dwindling rivers and streams of the southwest U.S. and northern Mexico, the Mexican Garter Snake has been extirpated from most of its U.S. range, including the Colorado, Gila, and much of the Santa Cruz and San Pedro Rivers. The decline of the Mexican Garter Snake is closely linked to the deteriorating quality of streamside habitats, the disappearance of native frogs and native fishes and the rampant introduction and spread of non-native species, such as bullfrogs, sunfish and bass.

“The decline of the Mexican garter snake is symptomatic of an extremely widespread decline in the aquatic fauna of the Southwest,” stated Dr. Phil Rosen, herpetologist with the University of Arizona.
  World 'Warmest For 12,000 Years'September 26, 2006 21:04 The world is the warmest it has been in the last 12,000 years as a result of rapid warming over the past 30 years, a study has suggested.
Nasa climatologists said the Earth had warmed by about 0.2C (0.4F) in each of the last three decades.

Pollution from human activity was pushing the world towards dangerous levels of climate change, they warned.

As a result, plant and animal species were struggling to migrate fast enough to cooler regions, they said.

"The evidence implies that we are getting close to dangerous levels of human-made pollution," warned James Hansen, head of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York.

  Endangered Turtle Species Is StudiedSeptember 26, 2006 11:39 A marine park is joining U.S. researchers in studying methods to conserve the Hawaiian green sea turtle, an endangered species.

The park joins a collaborative study between the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service to help conserve the Hawaiian green sea turtle by adding a pool of already captive turtles to the project.

'The nice thing is that we can do the study without having any impact on the threatened wild population,' said UAB Biologist Thane Wibbels.

Dolphin Discovery`s Sea Life Park on Oahu joins UAB and the NMFS Pacific Island Science Center in researching the effects of incubation temperature on the gender of the turtles. Researchers also study natural nesting locations in the northern Hawaiian Islands.
  Water Flea May Be Added To Endangered Species ListSeptember 23, 2006 00:24 A tiny Southern Oregon water flea is among the species that would be protected under a draft plan released Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Agate Desert water flea — a mere six-hundreths of an inch long — is among the federally listed threatened and endangered species found in vernal pools near White City and in wet meadow areas in the Illinois Valley.

The recovery plan recommends the sites be protected from development and managed or restored to maintain or improve their habitat quality, said Sam Friedman, a botanist with the agency's Roseburg office.

The 60-day public comment period on the draft plan ends November 21.

The sites also contain the threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp and two endangered plants, Cook's lomatium, also known as Cook's desert parsley, and the large-flowered woolly meadowfoam.
  Branson Commits $3B To Fight Global WarmingSeptember 21, 2006 10:10 Billionaire Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson Thursday committed an estimated $3 billion over the next 10 years, or all of the profits from his airline and rail businesses, to combating global warming.

"We are very pleased today to be making a commitment to invest 100 percent of all future proceeds to the Virgin Group from our transportation interest, both our trains and airline businesses, into tackling global warming," Branson told a news conference at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

  Day Fire Threatens Endangered SpeciesSeptember 21, 2006 09:46 Ventura County has declared a state of emergency as the Day fire grows to more than 98,000 acres. A big concern is the endangered species threatened by the flames.

One of the species is the red-legged frog, made famous in the writings of Mark Twain. Also in danger is the habitat of the California Condor.

19 of the state's 61 birds live in the Los Padres National Forest, wildlife experts are doing what they can to protect these animals.

"We gave the forest service the GPS locations of where the birds commonly sleep at night... that way they can let the air operations team know where not to drop retardant," said Christopher Barr.
  Wilderness Road Rule OverturnedSeptember 20, 2006 16:11 A federal judge has overturned a Bush administration rule that would've allowed states to build roads through millions of acres of federal wilderness.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte, in a decision released Wednesday, ruled that the administration ignored both the National Environmental Policy Act and the U.S. Endangered Species Act in formulating its plan for roadless areas on federal public lands.

The ruling reinstitutes a policy drafted during the Clinton administration and implemented in 2001 that forbid new roads on almost 60 million acres of pristine wildlands.

It is unclear whether the administration will appeal the decision or try to draft a new plan that incorporates extensive environmental review.
  No Border Wall: Make Mexico Take Care of her OwnSeptember 20, 2006 15:35 Letter opposing border wall...

As a supporter of Defenders of Wildlife and someone who cares about the national parks, refuges and wildlife along our borders, I am deeply concerned about Secure Fence Act, H.R. 6061.

The bill would authorize construction of hundreds of miles of fencing right across these lands, including areas essential to the jaguar and other endangered species.

We don't have to sacrifice America's natural heritage to ensure national security. Unfortunately, H.R. 6061 is an inflexible bill that would mandate damage to these federal lands and wildlife habitats. Decisions about the details of border fencing through national parks and refuges should be made by the federal agencies not politicians.

The bill does absolutely nothing to ensure consideration of our border resources and I urge you to vote against it.

Instead of spending American money on fruitless efforts like wall building, we should be pressuring Mexico to take care of her own people.

  NOAA To Discuss Whale EntanglementSeptember 18, 2006 11:20 Saving the whales is no job for amateurs.

On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will give a public presentation at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories on what -- and what not -- to do when a whale is seen in the water dragging nets or lines.

"For both the animals' welfare, as well as human safety," said Dr. Teri Rowles, NOAA Fisheries Service lead marine mammal veterinarian and director of its Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, "it is important that only specially trained and authorized personnel attempt to disentangle whales from gear or marine debris."

Members of the public should never attempt to disentangle a marine mammal, she said, whether from a vessel or in the water.

"The activity is inherently dangerous to both the animals and the people trying to assist," she said.

Only specially permitted, experienced and trained personnel working under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and sometimes the Endangered Species Act may cut gear and marine debris from a whale, according to NOAA Fisheries.

NOAA's stranding response program holds the only permit under the acts that authorizes disentanglement activities for large whales and other species of marine mammals listed as threatened or endangered.

  Shark That Walks On Fins Is DiscoveredSeptember 18, 2006 10:28 Scientists combing through undersea fauna off Indonesia's Papua province said Monday they had discovered dozens of new species, including a shark that walks on its fins and a shrimp that looks like a praying mantis.

The team from U.S.-based Conservation International also warned that the area — known as Bird's Head Seascape — is under danger from fishermen who use dynamite and cyanide to net their catches and called on Indonesia's government to do more to protect it.

"It's one of the most stunningly beautiful landscapes and seascapes on the planet," said Mark Erdmann, a senior adviser of Conservation International who led two surveys to the area earlier this year.

"Above and below water, it's simply mind blowing," he said.

  USFWS Seeks Public Comment on Endangered Species List CandidatesSeptember 16, 2006 08:41 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s updated list of species being considered for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act is now available and the public is asked to comment.

The updated list of 279 native plant and animal species has been published in the Federal Register. Hawaii leads the nation with the greatest number of candidates on the list at 103 species.

An additional 12 candidate species are from other Pacific islands, including the Pacific sheath-tailed bat, which can found in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marinas and American Samoa.

Fish and Wildlife is seeking public comment on the candidate species, as well as information about the species that should be included in future candidate updates. This information will be considered in preparing listing documents and future revisions or supplements to the notice of review, Fish and Wildlife said.
  Endangered Species Make Their Home In Saratoga CountySeptember 16, 2006 08:40 Up until three years ago, scientists didn't think the Blanding's turtle lived in Saratoga County.

Now the turtle, considered a threatened species by New York state, is on the verge of getting a 132-acre home on Edie and King roads in the towns of Northumberland and Wilton through grants from Saratoga County and The Nature Conservancy.

'The turtles are smiling,' said Northumberland Supervisor Bill Peck, smiling Wednesday after the county portion of the grant was approved by the Law and Finance Committee. 'They have a lot of room to roam.'

The parkland will be part of Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park and will be adjacent to properties that are already protected.

The two new pieces of land don't touch, but they each abut property that is already in the park, Sarah Clarkin, executive director of the park, said.

'It's important that we have a bridge,' she said. 'Then they can travel.'

The Blanding's turtle travels hundreds of yards from habitat to habitat. Many are hit by cars and killed.
  No Endangered Species Listing For New England CottontailSeptember 12, 2006 15:44 The New England cottontail may need some extra protection -- but it's not getting any help from the federal government.

The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service has chosen not to pursue protection for the rabbit under the Endangered Species Act.

A spokeswoman says a 12-month review found enough evidence to support pursuing federal protection for the cottontail, but the agency has chosen to put its resources elsewhere for the time being.

The New England cottontail will remain a candidate for the listing process and will be reviewed each year.
  Air Bubbles From Antarctica Ice Core Tell A Scary Environmental StorySeptember 12, 2006 11:37 Evidence from an 800,000-year-old ice core in the Antarctic shows unprecedented atmospheric change due to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, according to scientists who participated in the 10-nation European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica.

They say air from the oldest ice core has confirmed increase in greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to levels not seen for hundreds of years.

The scientists had tested samples of these bubbles of air locked in this ice core after drilling it.

Dr Eric Wolff of the British Antarctic Survey and leader of the science team for the Antarctica project, said it is from air bubbles that "we know for sure that carbon dioxide has increased by about 35 per cent in the last 200 years. Before the last 200 years, which man has been influencing, it was pretty steady."
  Report Links Global Warming, StormsSeptember 12, 2006 11:31 Scientists say they have found what could be the key to ending a yearlong debate about what is making hurricanes more violent and common -- evidence that human-caused global warming is heating the ocean and providing more fuel for the world's deadliest storms.

For the past 13 months, researchers have debated whether humanity is to blame for a surge in hurricanes since the mid-1990s or whether the increased activity is merely a natural cycle that occurs every several decades.

Employing 80 computer simulations, scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and other institutions concluded that there is only one answer: that the burning of fossil fuels, which warms the climate, is also heating the oceans.

Humans, Ben Santer, the report's lead author, told The Chronicle, are making hurricanes globally more violent "and violent hurricanes more common" -- at least, in the latter case, in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The findings were published Monday in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  Recovery Plans Essential for Endangered SpeciesSeptember 11, 2006 11:03 A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today finds that recovery plans play an important role in the successful delisting of endangered species, reinforcing a position Defenders of Wildlife has long taken that emphasizes the need for comprehensive, science-based recovery strategies tailored to specific plants and animals.

"As the GAO report shows, recovery plans are vital tools that help biologists, stakeholders and landowners understand what needs to be done to recover a listed species effectively," stated Jamie Rappaport Clark, Executive Vice President of Defenders of Wildlife. "They outline the steps that need to be taken to halt a species decline and provide a roadmap for species recovery. They are an essential part of our efforts to implement the Endangered Species Act and recover endangered plants and animals."

The report, "Many Factors Affect the Length of Time to Recover Select Species," studied the length of time it takes to recover 31 species. It found that while recovery depends on a variety of factors, species with a recovery plan are more likely to recover. Other factors include the rate of reproduction, the presence of subspecies and the mitigation of primary threats. Of the 31 species studied in the report, 19 have been recently delisted, or are likely to be delisted within the next 25 years. The remaining 12 are likely to remain on the endangered species list for decades because the species are slow to reproduce, their habitat cannot be secured, or the biologists do not know enough about the threats facing them.

"What this report’s findings do is reinforce the need to focus efforts on improving recovery provisions in the Endangered Species Act," stated Clark. "When recovery plans are in place, species are better protected and more closely managed. This means they are likely to come off the endangered species list more quickly. The report should also encourage stakeholders and landowners to assist service biologists in the recovery planning process knowing it works effectively."
  Hawaii's Endangered SpeciesSeptember 08, 2006 10:08 Hawaii has more native species on the brink of extinction than any other state -- and should get federal funding to match that need, conservation workers told White House officials yesterday.

But many endangered species programs are based on state population or land area, leaving Hawaii shortchanged, several people said at a Cooperative Conservation Listening Session.

"Because we're isolated geographically, Hawaii is home to plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet," Gov. Linda Lingle said in opening the event at the Blaisdell Center's Pikake Room.
  Fear Of Global Warming Unites Evangelicals, Environmentalists In USSeptember 08, 2006 10:07 Tending to your soul at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Boise, Idaho, involves recycling old cell phones and printer cartridges in the church lobby, pulling noxious weeds in the backcountry and fixing worn-out hiking trails in the mountains.

This is part of the ministry of Tri Robinson, a former biology teacher whose rereading of the Bible led him to the belief that Christians focused on Scripture need to combat global warming and save the Earth.

"All of a sudden Boise Vineyard is one of the most important driving forces in our community for the environment," Robinson said. "People say, 'Why are you doing that?' Because God wants it."

Many evangelicals have dismissed environmentalists as liberals unconcerned about the economic impact of their policies to fight global warming. Long-standing distrust between the two camps over issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage has discouraged evangelicals from joining liberals on the environment.

  Gore Predicts Shift In Bush Climate PolicySeptember 06, 2006 09:23 Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore predicted on Tuesday that President George W. Bush would shift to do more to fight global warming, under Republican pressure from California to New York.

"I think there is a better than 50-50 chance that President Bush will change his policy in the next two years," Gore told an audience in Oslo after showing his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" about global warming during a tour of Europe.

"Many of his strongest supporters are changing their positions and are becoming vocal in asking him to change," Gore told about 300 people including Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Environment Minister Helen Bjoernoy.

The United States and Australia are the only two industrial nations outside the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, which caps emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels burned in factories, power plants and cars.
  Trafficking Of Tiger Bones Is Buying Death For The SpeciesSeptember 01, 2006 15:46 Despite an official ban, the trafficking of tiger bones in China, particularly for use in traditional medicine and health tonics, remains robust and poses a serious threat to the highly endangered species, international conservationists said Thursday.

According to a recent study, there are only about 5,000 wild tigers left in the world. Because of illegal poaching, habitat loss and commercial exploitation, the tiger population in China has dwindled to less than 50.

Illegal trading in tiger parts "undermines the positive steps the Chinese government has taken over the years to protect the endangered animal," said Hua Ning, of the International Fund for Animals.

Since 1993, the Chinese government has banned all domestic trade in tiger parts and derivatives. Beijing will begin enforcing a new and stronger regulation today to help the country better implement an international convention to protect endangered species.

  Tests Show Promise For New Environment Friendly TechnologiesSeptember 01, 2006 15:45 Emissions of the most potent greenhouse gas, sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), could be history in less than four years, according to results of pilot tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the magnesium industry. Preliminary results show that alternative technologies have the potential to replace SF6, which is used to prevent oxidation and burning of molten metal.

By investing in innovative technologies our country=s environmental well being will improve,@ said Bill Wehrum, EPA acting assistant administrator for Air and Radiation. AThe Bush Administration understands that international collaboration will lead the way in identifying technologies that protect our global environment.

Led by EPA's SF6 Emission Reduction Partnership for the Magnesium Industry, a group of companies and researchers from Australia, Canada, Japan, and the U.S. conducted the tests and emission measurements for cutting-edge, climate friendly melt protection technologies that promise significant environmental benefits.