Defenders In the News

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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.

November 28, 2015
Wildlife overpass, © Kylie Paul

Rob McInerney had a safety-code rating for everything happening in a photo of a roadway – until he saw the goat. The CEO of the International Road Assessment Program looked for speed limit signs, how the road lanes were divided, whether there were parking or sidewalk areas, the presence of pedestrian crossing facilities and how closely people appeared to be following the rules. There was no workshop dedicated to animal crashes at the Second Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety that brought delegates from 116 nations to Brazil recently. Yet when asked, many quickly observed how animals were a regular hazard for their drivers.

November 17, 2015

The US government has failed to properly protect the red wolf, one of the world’s rarest wolves, by allowing a member of the species’ small wild population to be killed, conservationists have claimed. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been taken to court by a coalition of environmental groups that argues it has not properly protected the endangered red wolf, with estimates of just 50 to 75 of the animals left in the wild in North Carolina. A lawsuit filed with the US district court for the eastern district of North Carolina states that the FWS permitted a landowner to kill an adult female red wolf in June that was known to have mothered a total of 16 pups through four litters.

November 9, 2015

The bear arrives around 8 p.m., snuggling her 400 pounds of girth between the house and the adjacent row of bushes. It's quiet there, and she won’t be disturbed. She even has access to the neighbor’s apple trees. When UM senior Tana Wilson went home to Libby for the weekend on Oct. 24, she found she wasn’t the only guest. This female black bear had been consistently staying the night in her family’s yard. The Wilsons aren’t the only western Montana family to host a bear this fall. A bear in the hallways of Bozeman High School made national news. Jamie Jonkel is a bear biologist for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Region 2, which covers 1,500 square miles of western Montana. On a normal year, he receives around seven calls per day. This year, he receives around 40, or an increase of approximately 600 percent. There are six other wardens in Region 2 who receive similar amounts of calls.

October 25, 2015

There’s no question that the Endangered Species Act has had some major successes...But an endangered listing typically serves as an option of last resort for declining species in America — something that can swoop in when numbers get frighteningly low. There are many species that aren’t yet listed as endangered but whose numbers are threatened by pollution, loss of habitat, and other factors. That’s why a new report from the Center for American Progress recommends that the federal government create a new category under the Endangered Species Act — “at risk.” An at risk species would be a lower category than the ESA’s threatened or endangered listing, and wouldn’t afford a species any legal protections. But it would encourage voluntary efforts to conserve the at-risk species’ habitat, and would prioritize federal funding for incentives for this voluntary conservation.