Tag Archives: Endangered Species

9/9/2011 Center for Biological Diversity: Court Approves Historic Agreement to Speed Endangered Species Act Protection for 757 Imperiled Species

9/9/2011 Center for Biological Diversity:Court Approves Historic Agreement to Speed Endangered Species Act Protection for 757 Imperiled Species: For Immediate Release: Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495:Walrus, Wolverine, Albatross, Fisher, Mexican Gray Wolf, Sage Grouse, Golden Trout Among Those Fast-tracked for Protection: TUCSON, Ariz.— A federal judge today approved a landmark legal agreement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requiring the agency to make initial or final decisions on whether to add hundreds of imperiled plants and animals to the federal endangered species list by 2018. The court also approved an agreement with another conservation group that it had previously blocked based on legal opposition from the Center.

“The court’s approval today will allow this historic agreement to move forward, speeding protection for as many as 757 of America’s most imperiled species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “The historic agreement gives species like the Pacific walrus, American wolverine and California golden trout a shot at survival.”

The Center wrote scientific listing petitions and/or filed lawsuits to protect the 757 species as part of its decade-long campaign to safeguard 1,000 of America’s most imperiled, least protected species. Spanning every taxonomic group, the species protected by the agreement include 26 birds, 31 mammals, 67 fish, 22 reptiles, 33 amphibians, 197 plants and 381 invertebrates.

“With approval of the agreement, species from across the nation will be protected,” said Greenwald. “Habitat destruction, climate change, invasive species and other factors are pushing species toward extinction in all 50 states, and this agreement will help turn the tide.”

Individual species included in the agreement include the walrus, wolverine, Mexican gray wolf, New England cottontail rabbit, three species of sage grouse, scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper (‘i‘iwi), California golden trout and Rio Grande cutthroat trout — as well as 403 southeastern river-dependent species, 42 Great Basin springsnails and 32 Pacific Northwest mollusks.

The agreement, formalized today with the judge’s approval, was signed by the Center and the Fish and Wildlife Service on July 12. Already dozens of species have been proposed for listing, including the Miami blue butterfly, one of the rarest butterflies in the United States.

While the agreement encompasses nearly all the species on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s official list of “candidates” for Endangered Species Act protection, two-thirds of the species in the agreement (499) are not on the list. This corresponds with the conclusion of numerous scientists and scientific societies that the extinction crisis is vastly greater than existing federal priority systems and budgets.

“The Endangered Species Act specifically allows scientists, conservationists and others to submit petitions to protect species,” said Greenwald. “These petitions play a critical role in identifying species in need and help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the ever-expanding task of protecting species threatened with extinction.”

The species in the agreement occur in all 50 states and several Pacific island territories. The top three states in the agreement are Alabama, Georgia and Florida, with 149, 121 and 115 species respectively. Hawaii has 70, Nevada 54, California 51, Washington 36, Arizona 31, Oregon 24, Texas 22 and New Mexico 18.

An interactive map and a full list of the 757 species broken down by state, taxonomy, name and schedule of protection are available here.

Highlighted species are below.

Species Highlights

American wolverine: A bear-like carnivore, the American wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family. It lives in mountainous areas of the West, where it depends on late-spring snowpacks for denning. The primary threats to its existence are shrinking snowpacks related to global warming, excessive trapping and harassment by snowmobiles.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to list the wolverine as an endangered species in 1994. It was placed on the candidate list in 2010. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2013 and finalize the decision in 2014 if warranted.

Pacific walrus: A large, ice-loving, tusk-bearing pinniped, the Pacific walrus plays a major role in the culture and religion of many northern peoples. Like the polar bear, it is threatened by the rapid and accelerating loss of Arctic sea ice and oil drilling.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 2007. It was placed on the candidate list in 2011. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2017 and finalize the decision in 2018 if warranted.

Mexican gray wolf: Exterminated from, then reintroduced to the Southwest, the Mexican gray wolf lives in remote forests and mountains along the Arizona-New Mexico border. It is threatened by legal and illegal killing, which has hampered the federal recovery program, keeping the species down to 50 wild animals.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to list it as an endangered species separate from other wolves in 2009. It is not on the candidate list. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2012 and finalize the decision in 2013 if warranted.

Black-footed albatross: A large, dark-plumed seabird that lives in northwestern Hawaii, the black-footed albatross is threatened by longline swordfish fisheries, which kill it as bycatch.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to list this albatross as an endangered species in 2004. It is not on the candidate list. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection, determine it does not qualify, or find that it is warranted but precluded for protection in 2011.

Rio Grande cutthroat trout: Characterized by deep crimson slashes on its throat — hence the name “cutthroat” — the Rio Grande cutthroat is New Mexico’s state fish. It formerly occurred throughout high-elevation streams in the Rio Grande Basin of New Mexico and southern Colorado. Logging, road building, grazing, pollution and exotic species have pushed it to the brink of extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 1998. It was placed on the candidate list in 2008. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2014 and finalize the decision in 2015 if warranted.

403 Southeast aquatic species: The southeastern United States contains the richest aquatic biodiversity in the nation, harboring 62 percent of the country’s fish species (493 species), 91 percent of its mussels (269 species) and 48 percent of its dragonflies and damselflies (241 species). Unfortunately the wholesale destruction, diversion, pollution and development of the Southeast’s rivers have made the region America’s aquatic extinction capital.

In 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity completed a 1,145-page, peer-reviewed petition to list 403 Southeast aquatic species as endangered, including the Florida sandhill crane, MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow, Alabama map turtle, Oklahoma salamander, West Virginia spring salamander, Tennessee cave salamander, Black Warrior waterdog, Cape Sable orchid, clam-shell orchid, Florida bog frog, Lower Florida Keys striped mud turtle, eastern black rail and streamside salamander.

Only 18 of Southeast aquatic species are on the candidate list. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will issue initial listing decisions on all 403 plants and animals in 2011.

Pacific fisher: A cat-like relative of minks and otters, the fisher is the only animal that regularly preys on porcupines. It lives in old-growth forests in California, Oregon and Washington, where it is threatened by logging.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list the fisher as an endangered species in 2000. It was placed on the candidate list in 2004. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2014 and finalize the decision in 2015 if warranted.

Cactus ferruginous pygmy owl: A tiny desert raptor, active in the daytime, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl lives in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. It is threatened by urban sprawl and nearly extirpated from Arizona.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 1992. It was protected in 1997, then delisted on technical grounds in 2006. The Center repetitioned to protect it in 2007. It is not on the candidate list. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2011 and finalize the decision in 2012 if warranted.

42 Great Basin springsnails: Living in isolated springs of the Great Basin and Mojave deserts, springsnails play important ecological roles cycling nutrients, filtering water and providing food to other animals. Many are threatened by a Southern Nevada Water Authority plan to pump remote, desert groundwater to Las Vegas.

In 2009, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list 42 springsnails as endangered species, including the duckwater pyrg, Big Warm Spring pyrg and Moapa pebblesnail. None are on the candidate list. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will issue initial listing decisions on all 42 species in 2011.

Scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper (‘I‘iwi): This bright-red bird hovers like a hummingbird and has long been featured in the folklore and songs of native Hawaiians. It is threatened by climate change, which is causing mosquitoes that carry introduced diseases — including avian pox and malaria — to move into the honeycreeper’s higher-elevations refuges. It has been eliminated from low elevations on all islands by these diseases.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 2010. It is not on the candidate list. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2016 and finalize the decision in 2017 if warranted.

Ashy storm petrel: A small, soot-colored seabird that lives off coastal waters from California to Baja, Mexico, the ashy storm petrel looks like it’s walking on the ocean surface when it feeds. It is threatened by warming oceans, sea-level rise and ocean acidification.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 2007. It is not on the candidate list. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2013 and finalize the decision in 2014 if warranted.

Greater and Mono Basin sage grouse: Sage grouse are showy, ground-dwelling birds that perform elaborate mating dances, with males puffing up giant air sacks on their chests. The Mono Basin sage grouse lives in Nevada and California. The greater sage grouse lives throughout much of the Interior West. Both are threatened by oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, development and off-road vehicles.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to list the Mono Basin sage grouse as an endangered species in 2005. It was placed on the candidate list in 2010. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2013 and finalize the decision in 2014 if warranted.

The greater sage grouse was petitioned for listing in 2002 and placed on the candidate list in 2010. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2015 and finalize the decision in 2016 if warranted.

Miami blue butterfly: An ethereal beauty native to South Florida and possibly the most endangered insect in the United States, the Miami blue was thought extinct after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 but rediscovered in 1999. It is threatened by habitat loss and pesticide spraying.

It was petitioned for listing as an endangered species in 2000 and placed on the candidate list in 2005. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it on an emergency basis in 2011. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was required to propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2012 and finalize the decision in 2013 if warranted. In August, the agency protected the butterfly on an emergency basis.

Oregon spotted frog: The Oregon spotted frog lives in wetlands from southernmost British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to northernmost California. It is threatened by habitat destruction and exotic species.

ABC World News: Spirit Bears: The Next Environmental Superstar

ABC World News: Spirit Bears: The Next Environmental Superstar: REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK By DAVID WRIGHT (@abcdavid): GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST, British Columbia, Canada, Oct. 13, 2010: The Great Bear Rainforest is not an easy place to get to. It’s a wilderness area the size of Switzerland, all but cut off from the rest of civilization. Our ABC News team traveled by float plane. There are no roads here and no landing strips except for the flat stretches of water along the fjords. What brought us to this remote corner of Canada is the spirit bear — “Canada’s panda” — black bears with white fur because of a genetic variation.

With no more than 500 of them on Earth, spirit bears are more rare than pandas.

Click here to see a slide show of spirit bears

The spirit bear is the marquee species for a region that’s also crowded with whales, wolves and eagles.

“It’s a magnificent bear,” said Ian McAllister, director of the nonprofit conservation group Pacific Wild.

Today, the Great Bear Rainforest faces a threat — a massive oil pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia, Canada. The plan would turn the spirit bear’s home into a superhighway for supertankers.

“They want to bring Big Oil to this coast,” McAllister said. “The only thing that’s standing between that is really the spirit bear, the concerted efforts from conservationists and the First Nation [native] people.”

Conservationists Call in the Cavalry: So the naturalists who long fought to protect the rain forest called in the photographic equivalent of the Green Berets — the International League of Conservation Photographers. “It is a SWAT team of photographers that are deployed to an area that needs immediate media attention,” said the organization’s president, Cristina Mittermeier.

“Some of them do large-format landscapes. Others are extraordinary wildlife photography shooters,” she said. “We have an underwater photographer. The idea is to create a snapshot of this area.”

Thomas Peschak, a photographer with Save Our Seas Foundation, spent most of his time in the frigid water eye-to-eye with the fish.

“There’s large sea stars, colonies of Steller sea lions, humpback whales, orcas,” Peschak said. “This place is just bursting at the seams with life. It’s one of the richest systems on this planet.”

Landscape photographer Jack Dykinga waited for hours for just the right light as aerial photographer Daniel Beltra worked from the open door of a helicopter.

Beltra spent the summer over the Gulf of Mexico, documenting the Deepwater Horizon spill in dazzling camera shots that make environmental disaster look like modern art.

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen’s assignment was to capture images of the spirit bear.

“You have to have patience and passion,” he said, sitting quietly in the woods. “You have to have both of those. There are very few spirit bears, so if you want to see them you have to put in the 18-hour days for six days at a time just to see a glimpse of this white bear.”

Marven Robinson, our guide, is a bear tracker for the Gitga’at Nation tribe, which is native to the region. The Gitga’at Nation consider the spirit bear sacred.

“We call it ‘moskam al.’ Moskam means white and al means bear,” he said.

Robinson said that until recently, his tribe spoke about the bears only in whispers.

“We weren’t even allowed to talk about it,” he said. “If we were sitting at the dinner table, you know, and someone mentioned that they’d seen one. … They’d tell you, ‘Shh, keep it quiet.'”

Pipeline Through the Rain Forest: The residents of Hartley Bay, Robinson’s hometown of 150, held a potluck dinner for the visiting photographers. Among the delicacies was fresh seal meat and smoked sea lion.

Helen Clifton, a tribal elder, said the elders strongly oppose the pipeline.

“We, the red race, were to be keepers of the land,” she said. “We need all of you to help our spirit bear that we have out there.”

But proponents of the pipeline say there’s no cause for alarm, that the pipeline would skirt the Great Bear Rainforest. The oil would travel through the region only in modern, double-hulled tankers and guided by tugboats. They add that the pipeline would bring jobs to the region.

“We believe the potential for a spill is remote,” said John Carruthers, president of the Northern Gateway pipeline project. “We’ll also put in very thorough plans in the event of a spill, but the public needs to know we can respond very effectively if there is one.”

The Enbridge oil company, unfortunately, has had some practice. An Enbridge pipeline in Michigan burst this summer, spilling 1 million barrels of oil into the Kalamazoo River, which flows into the Great Lakes. Last month, one of the company’s pipelines in suburban Chicago started to leak.

It’s little wonder that the fishermen are skeptical and worried that an oil spill could destroy their way of life. “This is my bread and butter,” one said.

The Search for the Spirit Bear Continues: The second day of our hunt for the Spirit bear involved a strenuous hike into an even more remote patch of woods. Robinson, our bear tracker, said the area was off limits to everyone. Only he and his guides were allowed to enter.

The moss was so thick and soft, it could be used as a pillow. The place was so quiet that the only sound, besides the rapids, came from the salmon swimming upstream and the ravens flapping their wings overhead.

There was plenty of evidence that bears recently had been there — fresh salmon killed on the rocks of the river and fresh bear droppings in the woods.

We hid quietly by the side of the river.

“This is where the bears are most likely coming to feed on salmon,” Robinson said. “[With] the carcasses all over, you know, there’s good signs.”

The Search for the Spirit Bear Continues: Almost immediately, a white form emerged from the woods — a lone wolf surprised to see humans. Black bears arrived. We waited and waited until the light faded. Disappointed, we trudged out of the woods. On our last day of shooting, we set off early in hopes of better luck. And suddenly, there he was in an open field at the edge of the woods.

“It really feels like a ghost,” said National Geographic photographer Nicklen. “You feel like you’ve seen a ghost — the way they so seamlessly slip back into the forest and they’re gone again. You have to look at your pictures to realize what you’ve just seen. It’s just amazing.”

7/13/2011 NRDC Elly Pepper's Blog: Explaining Extinction

Elly Pepper’s Blog: Explaining Extinction: Why the Interior Appropriations Bill’s Extinction Rider Is So Bad: Have you ever tried to explain extinction to a kid? It’s not easy. You’ll inevitably get questions like: “There isn’t even one?” “Couldn’t they come back some day?” “So I won’t ever get to see one?” They just can’t fathom that something could be completely erased from nature.

I can see where they’re coming from—the permanence of extinction is hard to wrap your head around. And it’s what makes it so disturbing that the GOP is messing with a law that prevents extinction in a must-pass budget bill. Indeed, the 2012 House Interior Appropriations bill contains a rider that would bar all new listings of endangered species and critical habitat designations (p. 8), but allow the delisting and downlisting of species. While Rep. Dicks (D-WA) attempted to strike this harmful provision during the Appropriations Committee markup yesterday, his amendment failed by a vote of 23-26 (notably, 3 Republicans – Reps. Dent (R-PA), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), and Wolf (R-VA) – crossed party lines to support endangered species). Next stop: a vote by the full House.

In defending the extinction rider, Republicans claim that they’re just trying to modify the Endangered Species Act to make it more effective and more manageable for the Fish and Wildlife Service to implement. Then why does the provision prevent any new species from being protected and prohibit the Fish and Wildlife Service from doing its job? Call me crazy, but that sounds like an attempt to make the Act as ineffective as possible!

Members supporting the extinction rider don’t think enough species are being recovered under the Endangered Species Act. But species driven to the brink of extinction (which is essentially what it takes to receive protection under the Act), aren’t going to recover overnight. Instead, it takes time and hard work. Since the Endangered Species Act has only been around since 1973, most listed species haven’t been protected long enough to recover to the point of delisting. However, thanks to the Act, most of them now have stable populations, which is a huge accomplishment!

Photo Courtsey of Fish and Wildlife Service

Republicans also claim that this provision will save money. Wrong again! Instead, barring FWS from designating critical habitat for currently listed species would nullify the most effective means of endangered species protection, leading to prolonged recoveries that will cost taxpayers more money in the long run. Further, preventing listings and critical habitat designations will lead to the extinctions of species that provide us with quantifiable benefits, such as pest control that reduces pesticide costs for farmers.

Obviously, Representatives supporting this terrible rider are listening to oil companies, developers, and corporate polluters—not the American public, the vast majority of which love wildlife. A Harris Interactive Poll conducted this year found that Americans strongly support the Endangered Species Act. Indeed, 92% of respondents agreed that decisions about wildlife management and which animals need protection should be made by scientists—not politicians. Further, 90% agreed that the Endangered Species Act has helped hundreds of species recover from the brink of extinction. Plus, every year, Americans spend about $18 billion just to watch wildlife.

Kids don’t understand extinction because it’s just so horrible. On the other hand, politicians don’t understand just how horrible it is. We must continue to emphasize to them that once these plants and animals are gone, we can’t bring them back. And we must remind them that if this provision passes, we’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.

Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study

CO River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study: The Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado and Lower Colorado Regions, in collaboration with representatives of the seven Colorado River Basin States (non-federal Cost Share Partners), submitted a Proposal in June 2009 to fund the “Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study” under Reclamation’s Basin Study Program. In September 2009, the Study was selected for funding. The Study, which began in January 2010, is projected to be complete in July 2012. It will define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin and the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water for approximately the next 50 years, and will develop and analyze adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances.

The Study will characterize current and future water supply and demand imbalances in the Basin and assess the risks to Basin resources. Resources include water allocations and deliveries consistent with the apportionments under the Law of the River; hydroelectric power generation; recreation; fish, wildlife, and their habitats (including candidate, threatened, and endangered species); water quality including salinity; flow and water dependent ecological systems; and flood control.

Additional Study information is provided in the “Plan of Study” and “Public Involvement Plan”.

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.usbr.gov%2Flc%2Fregion%2Fprograms%2Fcrbstudy.html&h=ef2be

Send your friends e-postcards – Celebrate Endangered Species Day

Celebrate Endangered Species Day Five years ago the U.S. Senate set aside the third Friday of May to promote the conservation of wildlife, fish and plants threatened with extinction. This year the Senate is once again in unanimous support of the holiday, and May 20 — today — is it. So drop your regular-Friday routine for two minutes and send your friends e-postcards reminding them that species everywhere, from the flashy greater sage grouse to the warty boreal toad, are in trouble — and that if we all pull together, we can save them. The Center for Biological Diversity and its supporters (you) have already put a long list of needy plants and animals on the road to recovery, but there’s always more work to be done.

After you’re finished sending postcards, take another few minutes to take action. The Center has an online Take Action page where you can sign up for email alerts, find out about local events, share actions, learn about people working for conservation across the country and get tips on other things you can do to help save species. (And don’t forget to share our Take Action page on Facebook, so everyone you know can see what you’re doing to help and join in.)

You and your friends can help offline, too, through activities like attending public meetings, organizing events, writing to your local newspaper — and just spreading the word about how important it is to safeguard rare species and the last wild places they call home.

So go ahead and celebrate Endangered Species Day right: Give yourself a pat on the back for all you’ve done so far, then keep on doing it.

Go to the Center’s website to learn more about our campaigns to save the species in the postcards below: the Hawaiian monk seal, boreal toad, piping plover and sage grouse.

Click on an image to send an Endangered Species Day postcard.