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Today the House Natural Resources Committee begins the latest chapter in their ongoing war to undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA), our nation’s premier safety net for plants, fish and wildlife on the brink of extinction, with a legislative hearing on four bills. Each of these bills is consistent with the anti-environmental report and series of anti-conservation recommendations Representative Doc Hastings and his self-appointed, partisan “ESA Working Group” issued earlier this year, which outlines an aggressive and hostile legislative strategy to weaken or even eliminate protections for imperiled wildlife.
More than 460,000 Americans filed official comments calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to scrap its controversial proposal to remove federal protections from the gray wolf and instead work to advance wolf recovery in the United States. A scientific peer review released in early February 2014 unanimously concluded that a federal plan to drop protections for most gray wolves was not based on the best available science.
On Friday, March 28, five federal and three tribal agencies announced that they will rewrite the 14-year-old Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) for Yellowstone’s wild bison. The IBMP sets guidelines for managing Yellowstone’s wild bison, and revision of the plan could mean putting an end to the controversial hazing and shipment of bison to slaughter program. Public involvement will be crucial in charting this new course.
Today marks the 16th anniversary of the start of Mexican gray wolf recovery efforts in the Southwestern United States. On March 29, 1998 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) released 11 Mexican gray wolves from captivity into the wild in Arizona as part of a program to reintroduce the imperiled wolves onto the landscape where they had been hunted, trapped and persecuted to near extinction. Today, these wolves, the world’s most endangered, are still fighting to survive. The Fish and Wildlife Service has suspended recovery planning and the lobos are still in grave danger.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will list the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Governor “Butch” Otter has signed into law a bill authorizing a newly-created wolf control board to implement widespread wolf killing throughout the state. The wolf control board, proposed by Otter in January, is funded with an initial $400,000 from taxpayers and is charged with killing hundreds of Idaho’s wolves, driving Idaho’s current wolf population of 500-600 down to as low as 150 animals. The board is expected to receive $400,000 from taxpayers annually for the next four years.
This evening, wildlife and wilderness advocates from around the region will provide testimony to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) Commission in response to their new predation management plan which would enable the agency to kill up to 60 percent of the wolves living in the Middle Fork Zone, the core of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. Tonight before the 7:00pm hearing in Boise, students from Timberline High School’s TREE Club will stage a rally outside of Idaho Fish and Game Headquarters opposing the predation management plan.
Defenders of Wildlife Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs, Donald Barry, cosigned a bipartisan letter with three other former assistant secretaries for fish and wildlife and parks from the Department of the Interior, thanking Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell for making the right decision in December to reject a highly contentious and damaging road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, despite intense political pressure to allow it. Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski continues to fight for the road, but the four former assistant secretaries from the George W. Bush, Clinton, Ford and Nixon administrations agreed that Secretary Jewell’s decision to reject the road protected irreplaceable wetlands of both national and international significance. The proposed road had previously been rejected by Secretary Bruce Babbitt in 1998.
Today, members of the Montana Board of Livestock (BOL) discussed but took no action on a joint proposal put forth by Montana’s Department of Livestock and Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to expand the tolerance zone for bison outside of and adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, which would enable bison to roam on as much as 421,000 acres federal, state and private lands west and north of the park.
Defenders of Wildlife released a report today finding that draft plans developed under the federal National Greater Sage-grouse Planning Strategy would not conserve sage-grouse. Ranging over ten western states, greater sage-grouse have experienced both significant habitat loss and long-term population declines. In 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the bird warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other agencies initiated the planning strategy to implement new land use and management plans on 60 million acres of public land to support sage-grouse recovery before the Fish and Wildlife Service makes its formal listing decision in 2015.