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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.
The United States Senate has passed a budget resolution which included toxic anti-environmental amendments.
The Department of Energy has released its much-anticipated “Wind Vision” report, which examines the feasibility of getting 20 percent of our national electricity production from wind energy by 2030, reducing our national carbon footprint by about 10 percent. Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark represented the conservation community on the senior review committee for the “Wind Vision.”
After receiving more than 20,000 public comments to the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), federal and state agencies today announced that they will finalize the plan in a “phased” approach – moving forward with large-scale renewable energy development and conservation on public lands in the California desert while slowing down the planning effort on the private lands. This approach is meant to address issues raised by counties and others in the public comment process. County participation is essential to make the private lands portion of the plan work, but conservationists are concerned that this “phased approach” may shift more renewable energy development to public lands and have a bigger impact on imperiled wildlife while at the same time resulting in less public lands identified as important conservation lands.
President Obama has vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline bill.
Today Senator Murkowski (R-AK) used the Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Department of the Interior budget allocations as a platform to renew her demand to build a costly, dangerous and destructive road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, despite the millions of taxpayer dollars that have already been used to ensure the health and welfare of citizens in the area. Her insistence on building the road even earned her a “Porker of the Month” award from Citizens Against Government Waste last spring.
Today, the National Park Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the official start of a public process to plan for the restoration of a grizzly bear population in Washington’s North Cascades Ecosystem.
Today, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released the official annual count of endangered Mexican gray wolves tracked in the species’ recovery area in Arizona and New Mexico. Officials are celebrating this year, because for the first time since recovery efforts began in 1998, the population has surpassed 100 individuals. However, conservationists say that while the increase from 83 wolves at the end of 2013 to this year’s 109 wolves is good, numbers alone won’t save this imperiled wolf, especially with the serious limitations and flaws in the Service’s newly released Mexican gray wolf management rule.
Wildlife conservation groups and tribes today expressed concern about a new bill in the state legislature that would hand control of state bison management to county politicians. The groups cite concerns that wildlife biologists would be replaced by politicians as the decision-makers for wild bison management and that the bill would create a patchwork of inconsistent laws that would wreak havoc on wild bison restoration in Montana.