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A judge last Friday upheld the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to end its program that relocated California sea otters from a significant portion of southern California coastal waters, important to the survival of the species, to an island off the coast with the goal of creating a second healthy population. As a part of this program, the Fish and Wildlife Service created a “no-otter zone” in response to complaints from fishermen that moving otters to a new location could interfere with their fishing activities. The “no-otter zone” provision removed the sea otters from their natural habitat and gave fishing groups exemptions from Endangered Species Act protections.
Today Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced sweeping decisions with far-reaching consequences for the imperiled greater sage-grouse, the Sagebrush Sea and hundreds of fish and wildlife that depend on this vital landscape.
A district court in Arizona put the brakes on an environmentally destructive exploratory drilling project in the Coronado National Forest near Patagonia, Arizona, saying the Forest Service failed to conduct the appropriate environmental review before fast-tracking the approval of the “Sunnyside” project. In October 2014 conservation groups Defenders of Wildlife and the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance (PARA) filed a lawsuit claiming the Forest Service’s approval violated environmental laws and posed a threat to endangered species in the area.
In a victory for conservation of Alaska’s wild public lands, the U.S. District Court today upheld U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s decision to protect Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and its designated wilderness. Last year, the court dismissed most of the legal claims made by King Cove and the state of Alaska, allowing only limited claims to go forward. The federal government has repeatedly studied a proposed land swap and road through the refuge, and consistently rejected the project because of its negative effects on the ecological resources and wilderness values of the refuge.
Ben Prater has joined Defenders of Wildlife as the Southeast Program Director, opening a new Defenders’ regional office based in North Carolina.
Defenders of Wildlife applauds Senator Feinstein’s call to designate two national monuments in the California desert region. Senator Feinstein wrote a letter to President Obama earlier this month urging him to use the Antiquities Act to designate three new National Monuments: Mojave Trails, Castle Mountains, and the Sand to Snow totaling 1.4 million acres. National monument designations will mean that these special places will be forever protected for the benefit of California’s desert wildlife and future generations.
Today the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released photographic evidence of a new pack of gray wolves established in Siskiyou County in northern California. The pack has been named the “Shasta Pack” and consists of two adults and five pups, all captured on camera. The pups are approximately three to four months old and all appear to be healthy.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has released a position statement on their role in the recovery of the Florida panther.
Today Governor Brown signed a bill into law that will renew the California Sea Otter Fund for the next five years. The fund is critical to research, recovery and protection of threatened California Sea Otters, and was set to expire in December 2015. Senator Bill Monning authored, and Defenders of Wildlife and Friends of the Sea Otter sponsored, the bill to renew the fund. Since 2007 the California income tax form has included the option for Californians to voluntarily contribute to the fund, resulting in over $2 million raised to protect sea otters.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has unveiled a proposal that offers bold new options for protecting manatees.