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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.
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.