Defenders In the News

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February 18, 2016
Pallid sturgeon, © USFWS

A proposal to remove a rock weir from Montana’s Yellowstone River so an endangered, primeval fish species can reach its spawning grounds could cost far more than government plans to construct a new dam and fish bypass at the site for $59 million. Environmentalists who back the no-dam proposal say it would be worth the added expense to ensure the recovery of a small population of endangered pallid sturgeon on the lower Yellowstone. But a representative of farmers who rely on water diverted by the weir, which is a kind of dam, warned that removing it could leave them short.

February 11, 2016
Mojave, © Chip Carroon

President Obama designated three new national monuments in the California desert Thursday, expanding federal protection to 1.8 million acres of landscapes that have retained their natural beauty despite decades of heavy mining, cattle ranching and off-roading. The designation was requested by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who for a decade has sought to protect land that wasn't included in the 1994 California Desert Protection Act. That measure covered nearly 7.6 million acres, elevated Death Valley and Joshua Tree to national park status and created the Mojave National Preserve.

February 11, 2016

We are going to have a viable population of wolves in the far northern reaches of California, and it will be with the grudging cooperation of our ranchers. That was the takeaway from a public hearing held last month in Yreka (Siskiyou County), where the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife invited public comment on its draft plan for accommodating our new four-footed residents, and where there were as many Stetsons in the audience as you’d see at a cowboy poetry convention. Yes, there was some foaming at the mouth, some evidence of the government-hating libertarianism this region is known for. “We don’t want people in Sacramento telling us how to live our lives,” grumbled one rancher.

January 26, 2016

Right whales won’t really be much more protected off South Carolina waters, even though it’s now designated critical habitat. Federal fisheries managers on Tuesday expanded the habitat for the perilously endangered right whale, a move that includes adding to the winter calving grounds off the state coast as far as 35 miles out. The designation of the waters comes 10 years after the first reports of newborn right whales off South Carolina startled observers.

January 11, 2016

A coalition of environmental groups has won a new government review on whether fishers need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. The cat-sized predator lives in forests in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest. On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published notice in the Federal Register that it was reconsidering its 2011 decision that ESA protection for fishers was not warranted.

January 7, 2016
manatee, © Tracy Colson/USFWS

On any given winter day, a visitor to Blue Spring State Park in Orange City might see anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of manatees in the park's spring run, a far cry from the herd of 11 that famed oceanographer Jacque Cousteau photographed at the park in 1970. Considering similar increasing numbers of manatees in waterways throughout the Southeast and the protections put in place over the past three decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Thursday changing the status of the huge marine mammals from endangered to threatened on the federal endangered species list.

January 6, 2016

U.S. officials will consider an alternative to a dam proposed on the Yellowstone River over worries it could hurt an endangered fish species that dates to the time of dinosaurs, after a judge on Tuesday approved a settlement in a lawsuit over the project. The agreement comes after environmental groups successfully sued to stop the $59 million dam along the Yellowstone near the Montana-North Dakota border.

December 14, 2015
Elephant, © Kelsey Schwenk

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has raised continual controversy since its enactment more than four decades ago, inciting many a heated debate over the need to protect threatened plants and animals versus how such protections could crimp land use or economic development. But a surprising new analysis shows that the Act might not be quite the economic threat that critics believe it is — at least, not anymore.

December 2, 2015
Polar bears, © Joan Cambray

The Sierra Club on Wednesday released a report on the final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, concluding that the landmark trade deal would be a significant setback in efforts to combat climate change and protect the environment. "In its more than 6,000 pages of binding rules, the deal fails to even mention the words 'climate change,'" the report reads.

November 30, 2015

From steamy lowland jungle and lush cloud forests to rich coastal mangroves and underwater oases, Latin America is home to a cornucopia of diverse plants and animal species. With rampant corruption, poor enforcement, and a high number of endemic and endangered species, the illegal wildlife trafficking business is booming in Latin America. Catering to consumers’ taste for exotic pets, purses and meat, traffickers are smuggling billions of dollars’ worth of wildlife and animal products – including bird feathers, crocodile shoes, caiman purses, and turtle eggs – from Latin America into the U.S. As one of the world’s largest consumers of illegal wildlife products, the U.S. is a key actor in the global wildlife trade, accounting for some $6 billion of legal and $2 billion of illegal wildlife trade annually.