Feds decline to reclassify gray wolf under Endangered Species Act

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What happens when the states try to manage wolves…

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/246578-feds-decline-to-reclassify-gray-wolf-under-endangered-species-act

Gray wolves across most of the Lower 48 are classified as endangered, which is more protective than a threatened designation. Advocates hoped a change to threatened would pre-empt intervention from members of Congress who want to lift federal protections altogether.

http://flatheadbeacon.com/2015/06/30/wildlife-officials-reject-petition-to-reclassify-wolves/

Wildlife Officials Reject Petition to Reclassify Wolves

Advocates sought to designate gray wolves as a threatened species to pre-empt removal of federal protections

South Carolina Congressman Wants to Neuter Migratory Bird Treaty Act

http://www.bornfreeusa.org/weblog_canada.php?p=4945&more=1

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

 by 06/19/15

Hudsonian Godwit

I’m a Canadian, so I’m not entirely familiar with how things work legislatively in the bustling and powerful nation to the south of me. But, what I do know is that there is a Republican congressman from South Carolina who wants to place a rider on an appropriations bill that “prohibits the federal government from prosecuting any person or corporation for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”

The Act, first passed in 1918, has the word “treaty” in it because it is an agreement between two separate, sovereign nations—Canada and the U.S.—and there is a reason for such a mutual understanding.

Look at the word “migratory.” Just four years before the law came into effect, the once most abundant bird species in North America had become extinct, and others were gone or on the verge. It was recognized even then, and all the more so now, that apart from any moral or aesthetic consideration, these birds performed valuable utilitarian services (such as the non-toxic control of insects) and that the health of the environment depended on the diversity of wildlife.

Even as the great Industrial Revolution rolled out of Europe and across America, it was as true then as it is now that the very foundation of our lives, and our ability to do commerce, depends on the viability—the health—of the environment from which we have sprung, and upon which we ultimately and totally depend. No gram of food, drop of water, or breath of air exists but for the workings of the nonhuman, “natural” world. And, we are corrupting all of that at an alarming rate.

How can people who don’t realize that get elected to high office?

A large percentage of protected species are essential to Canadian interests, but how can we protect them when they are migrating to, or through, the U.S.? People continue to kill even the most benign and beautiful of songbirds; or simply mow down habitat; or shoot hawks, herons, Hudsonian godwits, or hummingbirds.

What is particularly incomprehensible is that this unscientific, unneighborly, unilateral decision should come at a time when we are seeing so much loss not only in birds, but in other wildlife species, in America and worldwide. Wildlife species that were abundant in my childhood are now being listed as threatened or endangered. Even still, common species are not as common. In the 1970s, a drive from my home to Lake Simcoe, about 45 miles to the north, was filled with sightings of Savannah sparrows, bobolinks, thrashers, vesper sparrows, meadowlarks, kestrels, barn swallows, and so on. Now, I can make that drive in the absence of seeing any of them; they are not necessarily endangered yet, but they are clearly in serious decline.

Meanwhile, what was once Eurasia’s most abundant bird species, the yellow-breasted bunting, has seen a 90% decline in population since 1980. It is a migratory songbird, roughly the size of our native song sparrow—but it lacks protection. Robins and rails, sandpipers, and shrikes need protection wherever they occur, and they know nothing of politically chosen borders.

The yellow-breasted bunting has been over-hunted in regions, especially China, where there is nothing like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or legislation to enforce it.

We can’t keep destroying what is so essential to us, even those who see no inherent value in the song of a hermit thrush, the dramatic stoop of a falcon, the cheerfully bright colors of a goldfinch or tanager, or the drama of a flock of scoters flying in a string just over the breaking waves in the low light of a coastal dawn.

I understand that the president and the senate have the ability to veto the bill, but it seems a shame to promote such divisiveness in the first place. I can only hope, for the sake of all, that compassion prevails.

Keep Wildlife in the Wild,
Barry

Washington residents split on reintroducing grizzly bears

http://www.king5.com/story/tech/science/environment/2015/06/15/north-cascades-reintroducing-grizzly-bears-debate/71252514/

Teresa Yuan, KING 5 June 15, 2015

NORTH BEND, Wash – The debate to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades has drawn support and criticism.

The National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service drafted a plan to bring the endangered species back to the North Cascades almost 30 years ago as the their numbers were dwindling.

This process has been slow until public meetings held by the federal government around Western Washington in March. In total, nearly 500 people showed up.

The government received more than 3,000 comments throughout the process, with grizzly bears being called “man-eating monsters” to “mystical creatures.”

Under the federal government’s plan, the protected grizzly bear would be returned to federal lands running from the Canadian border to Wenatchee, and extending west to Darrington and North Bend.

Biologists believe there used to be as many as 100,000 grizzlies on the West Coast. Now, there may be only two dozen left in Washington.

In one of the 3,000 comments, a supporter wrote: “Grizzly bears are an icon that represent healthy wilderness eco-systems in the Pacific Northwest. To sustain an integral part of what makes our country unique and wonderful we must sustain umbrella species such as the grizzly bear.”

On the other side, someone posted: “As much as I love wildlife, I am not supportive of re-introduction of grizzlies to Washington state. I also find that hiking in Glacier and Yellowstone to be extremely scary, and I want a wild place to go where I don’t have worry about grizzlies.”

The federal government is expected to make a final recommendation in late 2017 about whether or not to reintroduce the grizzly bears back to the North Cascades.

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

NOAA investigates Steller sea lion deaths near Cordova


(L-R) Kate Savage (NOAA), Noah Meisenheimer (NOAA), Lt. Matthew Keiper (US Coast Guard), and Sadie Wright (NOAA) collect samples from a dead Steller sea lion near Cordova, Alaska. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the deaths of several Steller sea lions southwest of Cordova.

Julie Speegle, spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, Alaska region, says 15 dead sea lions were discovered in the area on June 1.

“Three to five of them had wounds that our biologists could definitely say were human-caused wounds,” Speegle said. “So that indicates that these Steller sea lions had been deliberately killed.”

Killing sea lions violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which only allows limited exceptions for subsistence hunting by Alaska Natives

These particular animals were from the western stock of Steller sea lions, which are also listed under the Endangered Species Act.

NOAA law enforcement is looking for information from anyone with details about the event…and are offering an award up to $2,500 dollars for information leading to a conviction.

Arizona sues feds over regulations on Mexican gray wolves

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Madeleine Winer, The Republic

The Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Attorney General’s Office have filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging it has failed to update its Mexican-wolf recovery plan.

The state is asking the secretary of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a modern plan that would improve Arizona’s involvement in recovery efforts and establish a target number of Mexican wolves for the area.

“If you think about wildlife management, part of what you want is for a target number of animals for there to be a balance in the rest of the biotic community,” said Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department assistant director for wildlife management. “You don’t want to have too many of the one thing. We want a healthy population of wolves in balance with social, economic and wildlife needs in the state of Arizona.”

The current Mexican-wolf recovery plan, established in 1982, allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain a captive breeding program and re-establish the population with 100 Mexican wolves released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in Arizona and New Mexico in 1998. Currently, deVos said, 109 wolves inhabit Arizona.

The Game and Fish Department claims the 1982 plan fails to identify how many animals would constitute recovery of the population and allow the wolves to be removed from the list of endangered species in the future. For decades, there have been conflicts between ranchers and the wolves.

More: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2015/06/08/arizona-sues-feds-regulations-mexican-gray-wolves/28721223/

With Friends Like the Obama Administration, Endangered Species Don’t Need Enemies

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/noah-greenwald/with-friends-like-the-oba_b_7339268.html

by

Endangered species program director, Center for Biological Diversity

From gray wolves to Cheat Mountain salamanders, the more than 1,500 endangered species in the U.S. face threats like never before. In addition to the ever-present threat of habitat loss caused by our growing footprint on the planet, species now face growing threats from climate change, invasive species, over-exploitation and pollution.

Given the growing magnitude of threat to endangered species, one would think the Obama administration would pull out all the stops to save our precious wildlife heritage. Instead, the administration and its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have quietly been rolling out a series of regulatory changes that threaten to cripple the Endangered Species Act, dramatic changes that would never have flown under the Bush administration.

Here’s a breakdown of those policies and why they matter:

In July 2014, the administration finalized a policy first conceived under the Bush administration that severely limits when species qualify for endangered species protection. Under the Act, a species qualifies as endangered if it is “in danger of extinction in all or a significant of portion of its range,” meaning that a species need not be at risk everywhere it occurs to receive protection.

The new policy, however, sets a much higher bar by requiring not only that a species be endangered in a portion of its range, but also that the loss of that one portion threatens the survival of the species as a whole. The policy also specifies that historic portions of a species’ range can never be considered significant.

If this policy had been in place when the Act was first passed, the bald eagle would never have been protected because although it had been wiped out across much of the lower 48 states, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska had strong populations that were not at risk of extinction.

Many other species that have similarly been wiped out or are at risk across large parts of the U.S. are sure to be denied protection because of this disastrous policy. Indeed, several already have, including the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl and American wolverine.

The second regulatory change forwarded by the administration severely undermines protections for endangered species’ critical habitat. The Endangered Species Act requires protection of critical habitat for all endangered species. The designation of “critical habitat” has proven to be an essential tool with species that have designated habitat being twice as likely to be recovering as those without it.

Critical habitat protects species by prohibiting federal agencies from “adversely modifying” — that is, hurting — critical habitat for endangered species in actions they fund, permit or carry out. The Obama administration’s policy could enable more habitat destruction by redefining “adverse modification” as only those actions considered to potentially harm the entirety of a species’ designated critical habitat, a change that will give a green light to the many federal actions that destroy small portions of critical habitat. If enacted, the new proposal could allow the proliferation of projects that harm a species’ habitat without assurance that the cumulative effects will be taken into account — a particularly problematic development because the Fish and Wildlife Service already has a dismal record of tracking and limiting cumulative impacts on wildlife.

The third regulatory change proposed by the administration earlier this month lets federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, off the hook from quantifying or limiting the amount of harm to endangered species allowed under overarching management plans, including regional forest plans, plans for individual national forests, plans for BLM resource areas and many others.

This will all but ensure that cumulative impacts from individual timber sales, development projects, oil and gas drilling operations or other projects will never be considered or curbed, increasing the risk that species will be driven to extinction from a death by a thousand cuts.

The most recent proposal by the Obama administration limiting the scope of the Endangered Species Act was issued just this week. It would place crippling burdens on citizens filing petitions to protect species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, ultimately making it more difficult for imperiled species to get lifesaving protections.

The proposed regulations bar petitions seeking protection for more than one species and require petitioners to provide advance notice of the petition to all states in the range of the species; to append any information from states to the petition itself; and to certify that all relevant information has been provided in the petition.

This disastrous proposal will not only make it less likely species will get the life-saving protections they need, but it’s fundamentally undemocratic, cutting the public out of endangered species management. Many environmental and other statutes allow citizens to petition the federal government for action. This proposal marks the first time that an administration has placed obstacles to citizens filing petitions for federal intervention and thus has the potential to set a very concerning precedent.

The Endangered Species Act was passed precisely because states were not doing enough to protect wildlife. In many cases, states remain opposed to protection of species. Forcing citizens to go through these very same states in seeking protection of species runs directly counter to the purpose of the Act.

In combination, these policies represent a rollback of endangered species protections that Tea Party Republicans in Congress couldn’t hope for in their wildest dreams, yet they’re being forwarded by the Obama administration perhaps as an attempt to appease critics of the Act.

If this is indeed the intent, it will fail because criticisms from states, industry and others do not come from a desire to see the Act work better but rather from a desire to see protections for endangered species watered down.

And if these changes are implemented, they’ll get their wish, effectively undermining the conservation law that has saved not only bald eagles and brown pelicans, but gray wolves, grizzly bears, humpback whales and many more.

Feds restore protected status for Great Lakes wolves!

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/02/20/gray-wolves-endangered/23726317/?fb_ref=Default

Associated Press 6:58 a.m. EST February 20, 2015

Traverse City — Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region are protected by federal law once more.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing a rule Friday designating wolves in Michigan and Wisconsin as “endangered” and those in Minnesota as “threatened.”

The rule complies with a federal judge’s order in December that overruled the agency’s earlier decision to revoke wolves’ protected status and hand management authority to the states.

It means sport hunting and trapping of Great Lakes wolves is no longer permissible.

A spokesman says the agency hasn’t decided whether to appeal the court ruling. Legislation to overturn it has been introduced in Congress.

More than 50 scientists this week signed a letter to Congress saying wolves occupy a small fraction of their former range and still need legal protection.

copyrighted wolf in water

Bills to end Endangered Species Act protections for wolves introduced in Congress

 

Two bills have been introduced in the U.S. House this week to strip federal Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in several states. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., introduced HF 843 that would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing wolves under the Endangered Species Act in Minnesota,… Duluth, 55802Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

2015-02-12 15:56:22

Two bills have been introduced in the U.S. House this week to strip federal Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in several states.

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., introduced HF 843 that would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing wolves under the Endangered Species Act in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Meanwhile, Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., introduced HF 884, broader legislation that would restore wolves to their earlier unprotected status under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule from 2012 in not just the Great Lakes states but also Wyoming.

Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Sean Duffy, R-Wis., are among several co-sponsors on both bills.

Kline, who manages a fifth-generation family farm in southeastern Minnesota, where few if any wolves exist, said individual states should be able to manage the big predators without federal interference.

A summary of Kline’s bill says that “the overpopulation of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes region contributes to the decline of livestock, pets and other animals in the wild.”

“Wolf attacks are a concern for farmers and livestock producers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, where the overpopulation of gray wolves is directly linked to the decline of livestock and other animals,’’ Kline said in a statement Thursday. “This bipartisan legislation will remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list and return management to the states, providing greater flexibility and giving states exclusive jurisdiction over the wolves within their own borders.”

The proposed legislation is in response to a federal judge’s ruling in December that wolves in the Great Lakes states be immediately placed back under full protection of the Endangered Species Act, under the government’s original 1978 ruling to protect the animals which had been hunted, trapped and harassed to near-extinction at the time.

The judge ruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2012 rule delisting wolves in the Great Lakes region, handing wolf management back to states and tribes, was improper. The federal agency has not yet decided whether to appeal the judge’s order. But thecopyrighted Hayden wolf in lodgepoles legislation introduced this week, if passed and signed into law by the president, would take precedent over the judge’s ruling.

The legislation is supported by groups such as the Minnesota Farm Bureau and Minnesota Farmers Union.

Wolf supporters, however, say wolves are in integral part of thriving ecosystems and that the legislation is an overreaction by politicians and wolf opponents who continue to wrongly cast the animals as storybook demons.

“This legislation is an end-around a series of federal court rulings that have determined that state and federal agencies have acted improperly” in managing wolves in recent years, said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, in a statement Thursday. “This bill is just the latest act of political bomb-throwing and gamesmanship, and lawmakers who want balance on the wolf issue should reject it.”

In January the Humane Society and 21 animal protection and conservation organizations petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to list grey wolves as officially “threatened’’ across most of the U.S. That would continue federal oversight but enable some wolves to be trapped and killed by federally-approved trappers if the animals cause problems near pets or livestock.

Animal Welfare Groups Push for Lesser ‘Threatened’ Status for Gray Wolf

http://wxpr.org/post/animal-welfare-groups-push-lesser-threatened-status-gray-wolf

A coalition of animal rights groups is pushing to downgrade federal protections for the gray wolf, hoping to compromise with opponents who want to remove protections altogether.

Gray wolves are back on the endangered species list in most U.S. states.
Gray wolves are back on the endangered species list in most U.S. states.
Credit ifaw.org

The groups are asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the gray wolf as threatened rather than endangered.

Wolves are currently endangered in Wisconsin and Michigan, thanks to a court ruling in late December that put the wolf back under federal protection.

But some members of Congress are pushing to change that status through legislation.

Now the Humane Society of the United States and twenty other wildlife protection groups are advocating for what they call a compromise plan to give the wolf the less-restrictive designation of ‘threatened.’

Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle says it could give managers and property owners more flexibility, even allowing lethal control in some cases.

“We feel that this petition provides a way forward that gives something meaningful to both sides.  More active management of problem wolves, but maintaining federal protections.”

Wolves are on the endangered species list in most of the lower 48, except for parts of the Northern Rockies.

A federal court ruling in December re-listed wolves as endangered in Wisconsin and Michigan, and threatened in Minnesota.

The ruling put a stop to wolf hunts in all three states.

Delist or downlist? Michigan wolf debate rages on following federal ruling that blocked hunting

http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2015/01/delist_or_downlist_michigan_wo.html

Wolf Hunt
 

LANSING, MI — The debate over Michigan wolves — and whether the state should be able to proceed with future hunts or lethal removal — rages on in the wake of a recent federal decision that returned the Great Lakes population to endangered status.

U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, a Republican whose district includes the entire Upper Peninsula, is working with colleagues from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Wyoming on bipartisan legislation that would reportedly remove federal protections that now block local wolf management in Michigan and other states.

“The language we are looking at would be narrow and would address the recent court decision,” Benishek said in a statement provided to MLive. “It would not seek to change the Endangered Species Act, but would be designed to meet the need in our region for responsible stewardship of the wolf population. We are finalizing the details now and are hoping sometime in the next few weeks.”

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, on Tuesday introduced a resolution that, if adopted, would offer support for the pending federal legislation and encourage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Michigan Department of Natural Resources to appeal the federal court ruling.

Jill Fritz, state director of the Humane Society of the United States and the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected coalition, said it would be difficult to comment on the pending federal legislation because she has not seen the language, but she noted her group “would oppose any action to strip federal protections from Great Lakes Wolves.”

HSUS and other animal protection groups this week submitted a petition asking the USFWS to “downlist” all gray wolves in the contiguous United States by reclassifying them as a threatened species — rather than an endangered one.

The proposal, if adopted, would allow USFWS to work with state and local wildlife authorities to kill or remove nuisance wolves attacking livestock, which has been an issue for farmers in Michigan and other states.

“If wolves are downlisted to threatened status across the board, then if there are concerns about depredation on livestock and they want to use lethal controls, they can do so,” said Fritz.

“What it would not allow is that wolves return to management under the states, which did not work. The states, particularly Minnesota and Wisconsin, started off with these aggressive killing and population reduction programs that really threatened to stop recovery of wolves in its tracks.”

Wolves in Michigan and other Great Lakes states were removed from the federal endangered species list in 2012, but U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled last month that the removal was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated federal law.

Federal endangered status trumps Michigan laws that had allowed the for lethal removal of problem wolves and a pending law reauthorizing the Natural Resource Commission to name new game species and establish hunting seasons.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to slightly more than 600 wolves, up from just six in the 1970s. Hunting advocates argue the population warrants stronger management to reduce conflicts with livestock and comfort levels around humans.

As MLive reported earlier this month, there were 35 wolf attacks on livestock or dogs in Michigan last year, up from 20 in 2013 but lower than the 41 in 2012.

Twenty-two wolves were killed in late 2013 during Michigan’s first-ever wolf hunt. There was no hunt last year, when voters rejected two separate wolf hunting laws, but a newer version is set to take effect in April.

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