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The first gray wolf known to travel west of the Cascade Crest in Washington state was confirmed this week after local officials found it killed by collision with a vehicle on Interstate 90 between North Bend and Snoqualmie. Despite this wolf’s unfortunate death, conservation organizations see its dispersal this far west as an encouraging sign of progress in wolf restoration.
“Rep. Tsongas’ amendment was the appropriate and logical response to the sage-grouse provision that would further jeopardize the imperiled grouse and give western states unparalleled and unprecedented veto power over the management of millions of acres of federal lands. We deeply appreciate her efforts to conserve the sage-grouse, federal lands and the myriad of species that depend on those lands. It is truly unfortunate that others on the committee weren’t persuaded to vote for her amendment to strike and are willing to turn millions of acres of federal lands over to the control of the states.
Today the House Armed Services Committee introduced a provision in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes unprecedented language from Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) that would undermine the outcome of ongoing state and federal collaboration and prevent greater sage-grouse from receiving Endangered Species Act and other protections for a decade or more—regardless of the bird's prognosis for survival. The measure would also essentially turn over management of western federal lands that are home to the species to the states.
Greater sage-grouse populations declined by at least 55 percent range-wide from 2007 to 2013, according to a new study by leading sage-grouse experts released by the Pew Charitable Trusts today. Populations declined even more steeply in some areas, including the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, which suffered a 76 percent loss over the seven-year period. The total number of birds counted in 2013 was the lowest ever reported in science. While the authors of the study acknowledged that sage-grouse populations tend to cycle over 10-year periods, they were uncertain if the birds will rebound from their current, precipitous drop, or if it “may be the start of a complete population collapse.”
Slow but steady growth in Oregon’s wolf population has triggered an Oregon Wildlife Commission review of whether state Endangered Species Act protections are still warranted for the species, a process that started today after the Commission was briefed by wildlife officials on the status of Oregon’s wolves. Wildlife conservation groups have expressed strong opposition to any proposal that would remove or weaken state protections for Oregon’s gray wolves, citing concerns the population is not fully recovered and still faces significant threats.
Defenders of Wildlife has petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list two shark species, the smooth hammerhead shark and the bigeye thresher shark, under the Endangered Species Act.
The Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced they will build a concrete dam across the lower Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana. The dam will cause irreparable harm to the nation’s largest wild population of endangered pallid sturgeon, an ancient fish species with ancestors dating back to the time of dinosaurs, living in the upper Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers as well as several other fish species using the lower Yellowstone.
National and local conservation groups called on the U.S. Forest Service today to rescind its brazen move to revive a gaping loophole to the Colorado Roadless Rule, announced this morning. The loophole paves the way for Arch Coal – the nation’s second largest coal company – to build roads and scrape well pads over thousands of acres of otherwise-protected, publicly-owned National Forest and crucial wildlife habitat in the state.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) granted the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) a waiver from a legally-bound conservation deadline on Tuesday that was designed to conserve the lesser prairie chicken. The association failed to meet a March 31st deadline to acquire enough permanently-protected property to offset habitat loss from oil and gas drilling in the lesser prairie chicken’s dwindling range. Broad exemptions were included for oil and gas developers when the birds were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2014, under the condition that WAFWA commit to a minimal amount of permanent conservation protection to offset further impacts to the species’ habitat. The Service gave WAFWA until March 31st to ensure that 25 percent of the mitigation for oil and gas development came from permanently-protected mitigation credits that were consistent with approved conservation banking standards. WAFWA failed to meet this legal deadline. But instead of holding the association accountable for this violation, the Service simply extended the deadline for two more years, a decision that could have serious adverse impacts on the already threatened grouse population.
Senator Harry Reid, a longtime champion of America’s environment, announced that he will retire at the end of his current term.