Archive for the ‘Endangered Species Act’ Tag

Feds taking a second look at endangered species protection for wolverines   2 comments

October 18, 2016 By Michael Wright Chronicle Staff Writer

 

 

 

A wolverine passes through an alpine meadow near Logan Pass on Aug. 3, 2012, in Glacier National Park.BEN PIERCE/CHRONICLE

Federal officials are taking another look at whether wolverines deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act, months after a federal judge ordered them to do so.

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a 30-day public comment period on the idea of listing the wolverine as a threatened species under the law, a move intended to keep the species from reaching the brink of extinction.

The move comes six months after a federal judge sided with environmental groups in a suit over the USFWS decision to withdraw a 2013 proposal to list the wolverine. The judge ordered the agency to reconsider protections for the wolverines as soon as possible. A USFWS appeal of the decision was withdrawn earlier this month.

Opening a comment period kicks off a new environmental review process, where the agency will try to determine whether the animal should be listed. A final decision is expected in 2018.

USFWS spokeswoman Serena Baker said the agency would begin assessing the status of wolverines and that they are looking for any data the public might have about the animal and the impacts of climate change.

She said the agency will “really take an honest look at the science and let the science lead us.”

Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the review timeline is too long and that the wolverine needs protections as soon as possible.

“The idea of undertaking a two-year review is non-practical and certainly not what the court envisioned,” said Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not return a call requesting comment.

Wolverines, carnivores in the weasel family, are believed to number only about 300 in the lower 48. They are known to be in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon but are hard to find because they don’t live in large groups and range far.

The animal depends on snow to survive. Female wolverines need at least 5 feet of stable snow to build birthing dens, USFWS says. The deep snow offers security for young wolverines and can help the animals withstand frigid winter temperatures.

Environmentalists worry that warming temperatures and decreasing snowpacks caused by climate change are diminishing the animal’s available habitat, which is one reason they would like to see them protected as an endangered species.

USFWS proposed listing the animal as threatened in early 2013. But a year later, the USFWS withdrew the listing proposal. A post on the agency’s website said it found “the effects of climate change are not likely to place the wolverine in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.”

The Center for Biological diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and a litany of other groups challenged the withdrawal in court. In April, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen sided with the groups, calling the USFWS’ withdrawal of the listing proposal “arbitrary and capricious.”

“No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change,” Christensen wrote.

He added later that the USFWS needed to take action at the “earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation.”

Santarsiere said that means the agency should take final action much sooner than two years from now, adding that it “seems nonsensical to not protect these animals.”

Baker said the agency needs the time so they can use the best available science in its final decision.

Comments can be submitted at regulations.gov. The docket number for the proposal is FWS-R6-ES-2016-0106.

Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1.

CONGRESS CONTINUES ITS QUIET ATTACK ON WOLVES   9 comments

October 5, 2016 by Maggie Caldwell

The lame duck Congress looks to take a few last swings at wolves on its way out the door.

The lame duck Congress looks to take a few last swings at wolves on its way out the door.

HOLLY KUCHERA/SHUTTERSTOCK

As the upcoming presidential election consumes our attention, the most anti-wildlife Congress in U.S. history is entering its final stretch and quietly working to pass members’ last pet pieces of legislation. Much of the proposed legislation would have damaging and lasting impacts on America’s wildlife and wild lands. These include measures that could prove devastating to a variety of wolf populations.

Last week, Earthjustice went to court to defend a 2014 victory that ended the state of Wyoming’s extreme anti-wolf management plan. Wyoming had instituted a “kill-on-sight” policy for wolves in more than 80 percent of the state and allowed one wolf-killing loophole after another in the rest. Among the victims of this policy was of one of Yellowstone’s most famous animal celebrities, 832F, the alpha female of the Lamar Canyon pack. The wolf had been hailed as a heroine in the dramatic success story of gray wolves’ return to Yellowstone. She was the subject of podcasts and was featured in a National Geographic TV documentary. When she was killed, The New York Timeswrote what amounted to an obituary for the wolf.

The life of 832F is documented in National Geographic’s Wild Yellowstone series.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC/YOUTUBE

 

Earthjustice took the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to court over the agency’s decision to hand over wolf management to a state with a history of extreme anti-wolf policies—and we won. We expect a decision in Wyoming’s appeal of our victory in the next three to six months. But while the judges deliberate, some members of Congress are trying to bypass the legal process by using legislative edict to remove wolves in Wyoming and three western Great Lakes states from the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Measures like the Wyoming-western Great Lakes wolf delisting threat are appearing as legislative “riders” tacked onto must-pass government spending bills and other large pieces of legislation. Another rider would block the act’s protections for Mexican gray wolves, despite the fact that there are fewer than 100 of these highly imperiled animals left in the United States. And yet another rider would delist all gray wolves in the entire lower 48 states—despite the fact that wolves currently occupy just a small portion of their former U.S. range. These and other anti-environmental riders will be considered as part of negotiations between both political parties and the White House over how to keep the federal government funded beyond early December.

Earthjustice continues our fight in the courtroom on behalf of wolves, and you can helpgive this incredible species the chance it deserves by urging President Obama to reject any legislation that includes deadly provisions for wolves.

TAKE ACTION! Protect Wolves and the Endangered Species Act!

ABOUT THIS SERIES

2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the reintroduction of gray wolves to the northern Rockies, and since that time wolves have been under nearly constant threat of losing their protections. The Weekly Howl provides insights and education about the gray wolf and updates on the status of its protections while celeSourcebrating the iconic species as a vital part of a functioning, healthy ecosystem. Posts ran through the summer of 2015 and resumed in the fall of 2016.


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To Be or Not to Be a Wolf   2 comments

October 4, 2016 – By

During a House hearing on wolf conservation, Rep. Debbie Dingell claimed “the science is clear” that red wolves are not “hybrids” between coyotes and gray wolves. But the science is not clear — and the latest research has tipped the balance of evidence in favor of the hybrid hypothesis.

If recognized as a hybrid, the red wolf could risk losing protection under the Endangered Species Act — an outcome hunters, landowners and ranchers advocate, in part, because red wolves and other wolf species prey on livestock and deer. The new research may also influence the status of other wolf species under the act, such as the gray wolf and the eastern wolf.

In order to be eligible for federal protection under the act, a plant or animal must be classified as a distinct species, including “any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature.” However, the act lacks specific provisions for hybrids between endangered and unlisted species — making it unclear if the red wolf should continue to be protected.

At present, the red wolf is classified as a distinct species and protected under the act. The gray wolf is also classified as a distinct species and protected, but the coyote and eastern wolf, also distinct species, aren’t protected.

Scientists, legal scholars and government officials have debated the standing of hybrids under the act since shortly after its passage in 1973. Members of Congress continued that debate during a Sept. 21 House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the “Status of the Federal Government’s Management of Wolves.”

In an effort to quell the debate and advocate red wolf protection, Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, offered what she called “a few facts” in her opening statement. For example, she said, the “science is clear” that gray wolves, Mexican wolves and red wolves “are not foreign imports or hybrids.” The science is relatively clear on gray wolves and Mexican wolves (a subspecies of gray wolf), but not on red wolves.

Dingell repeated her claim later in the hearing while questioning a witness, John Vucetich, a population biologist at Michigan Technological University. She said, “The red wolf is not a coyote hybrid, even though the two animals share common ancestry.”

Despite Dingell’s claims, both the ancestry of and conservation policies for red wolves remain unsettled. In the next section, we’ll provide some context regarding how the unclear ancestry of the red wolf affects its protection under the Endangered Species Act. We’ll also explain why the latest research — a study published in the journal Science Advances on July 27 — still doesn’t conclusively settle the hybrid debate.

Classification Complicates Conservation

In 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service drafted a policy that outlined rules for deciding when hybrids should and shouldn’t be protected under the Endangered Species Act based on available research at the time. But there was disagreement over whether the policy was sufficient as written. To this day, the FWS and NMFS have neither formally adopted nor rejected that policy. As a result, the act still remains unclear on its protection of hybrids.

Gray wolf, USFWS

Meanwhile, researchers have continued to debate the family tree of North America’s wolf species and their closest relatives. As Charles Darwin himself hypothesized, different species can result from adaptation to specific environments, which gives an organism a distinct evolutionary lineage.

But sometimes distinct species interbreed, producing sterile or nonsterile hybrids. Mules, for example, are the sterile offspring of horses and donkeys. Among other animals, a number of wolf species and coyotes also interbreed, but can produce nonsterile offspring. These offspring then go on to breed with other wolves and coyotes – even with dogs in some cases.

Some scientists, such as the authors of the Science Advances paper, support the theory that there are only two distinct “wolf-like” species on the continent, the gray wolf and the coyote. Under this hypothesis, the red and eastern wolves are hybrids, the result of generations of interbreeding between gray wolves and coyotes.

Other researchers argue there are three species with distinct evolutionary lineages – the gray wolf, the eastern wolf and the coyote. Under this theory, the red wolf is considered a distinct population of, but the same species as, the eastern wolf.

Coyote, USFWS

And still others argue that there is a fourth species with its own separate lineage – the red wolf. These researchers claim red wolves have only recently undergone hybridization with coyotes in the wild, but that “pure” red wolves still exist in captivity.

In 1973, the FWS designated the red wolf an endangered species under the act and shortly thereafter began a captive breeding program with what it deemed 14 “pure” red wolves. The red wolf was extinct in the wild in 1980. In 1987, the FWS began reintroducing its captive red wolves into the wild in northeastern North Carolina. The number of wild red wolves currently tops 45 to 60, according to the FWS.

When red wolf reintroduction into the wild began, coyotes didn’t inhabit northeastern North Carolina. Today coyotes do roam these areas, putting these supposedly “pure” red wolves at risk for hybridization, says the FWS.

But as we’ve already explained, the latest research on wolf genetics suggests that red wolves weren’t a distinct species to begin with, but hybrids between gray wolves and coyotes. However, the authors of the Science Advances paper do offer a potential solution to the confusion their research may present for conservation practices.

To Be or Not to Be a Hybrid

Despite Dingell’s claim, the most recent research provides evidence to support the theory that both red wolves and eastern wolves are hybrids, not distinct species. In fact, Robert Wayne, an author on the Science Advances study and an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told us by email, “our paper did suggest both species were hybrids of gray wolf and coyote.”

Just two years ago, more research countered the hybrid hypothesis. A November 2014 reportproduced for the FWS by the Wildlife Management Institute on red wolf recovery efforts, stated: “Recent genetic data have cast doubt upon the hybrid origin hypothesis and the balance of evidence has tilted towards a North American canid assemblage composed of the eastern wolf, the red wolf, and the coyote as distinct” species. Though the authors add, “The hybrid origin hypothesis has not been conclusively refuted.”

However, previous studies had looked at “a limited fraction of the genome” of different wolf-like species, explain Wayne and his colleagues in their paper. In contrast, Wayne’s group analyzed the complete genomes of different wolf and coyote individuals, which gave the researchers a better ability to compare the hypothesis of “unique ancestry as opposed to hybrid origin.”

Red wolf, USFWS

Using this method, Wayne and his group found that both eastern and red wolves shared a great number of genes with gray wolves and coyotes — more than would be expected if they were distinct species with their own evolutionary lineages. In other words, red and eastern wolves had very few “novel” genes not found in either gray wolves or coyotes. In fact, red wolves had a higher proportion of coyote genes compared with gray wolf genes, the researchers concluded. Eastern wolves, on the other hand, had a higher proportion of gray wolf than coyote genes.

The proportions of coyote versus gray wolf genes found in red and eastern wolves, the authors argue, parallel the patterns of “European colonization and the conversion of woodland habitat to agricultural landscape” beginning in the late 1800s. This process began in the southeast U.S., where red wolves now live, only later reaching the Great Lakes region, the territory of eastern wolves, in the early 1900s, they explain.

Eastern wolf, © Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2016

In other words, earlier stresses from human colonization could have resulted in decreases in gray wolf populations in the southeast U.S. and thus more hybridization between wolves and coyotes in this region. As a result, humans themselves may have heavily influenced the “south-to-north gradient” in proportions of gray wolf versus coyote genes seen in red wolves and eastern wolves.

Still, some wolf experts, such as Linda Y. Rutledge at Princeton University, argue that Wayne’s study doesn’t conclusively settle the debate, reported the New York Times. Some of the samples his group used may have been collected from wolves that are contemporary hybrids, as interbreeding between eastern wolves and coyotes and red wolves and coyotes has also occurred more recently.

Wayne also told us by email, “This does not mean that [red wolves] should not be protected.” Why? In his paper, he and his co-authors argue the “overly strict application” of classification to “support endangered species status is antiquated” because it’s often difficult to apply theoretical concepts like “species” and “subspecies” in practice.

What’s more important, the group argued, is the “preservation of evolutionary and ecological processes and the role of an endangered [species] in this dynamic.” In fact, hybridization “is one critical example of a process that may enhance adaptation and evolution in the rapidly changing environment of the modern world,” they add. Thus, eastern and red wolves shouldn’t be excluded from protection under the Endangered Species Act solely because they’re hybrids, the authors conclude.

While questioning Vucetich, the population biologist at Michigan Tech, Dingell also said that experts agree “the red wolf is a listable entity under the Endangered Species Act under any plausible scenario describing its evolutionary history.” This is accurate, but requires some context.

For example, a Sept. 6 report regarding the FWS’ Red Wolf Recovery Program summarized, among other things, the outcome of a U.S. Geological Survey workshop on red wolf classification and conservation, which took place in Atlanta between May 24 and 26: “Scientists and legal scholars attending the USGS workshop agreed that the red wolf is a listable entity [under the Act]; though they did not reach consensus on whether it is a full species, subspecies or a distinct population segment. But the report authors added, “This consensus must be considered tentative pending publication of their findings.”

Members of a different group — the red wolf recovery team — however, couldn’t reach agreement on whether the red wolf is a listable entity, the report states. This is due, in part, to the fact that, in addition to scientists, that team includes landowners who opposed red wolf recovery efforts because they believe the FWS has illegally released red wolves onto private land.

It’s also important to note that, while experts at the USGS workshop agreed tentatively that the red wolf is a “listable entity” under the act, this doesn’t necessarily mean the red wolf will actually remain protected. The Sept. 6 report noted that a culmination of reasons might lead the FWS to swing one way or the other on this decision, including whether or not continuing to protect red wolves in the wild and captivity will be “feasible” in practice.

So Dingell wasn’t completely off the mark on the scientific agreement over whether the red wolf is a “listable entity” under the act. However, she did stretch the truth when she said “the science is clear” that red wolves are not “hybrids” between coyotes and gray wolves. The science is not clear, and the latest research suggests both red and eastern wolves are hybrids. Thus, the classification, and potentially the conservation, of red wolves, still hangs in the balance.

Source


 

Posted 10 October, 2016 by Wolf is my Soul in News/Nyheter, Wolves / Vargar

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HERE COMES TROUBLE   1 comment

Source  September 29, 2015

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The governors of Wyoming and Montana will head to Washington, D.C. this week (Tuesday, September 29th) to give their perspective on how to “improve” (ie. dismantle) the Endangered Species Act.

Please find several tweets to send off at the bottom of this post.

Western Governors’ Association Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will be joined by Governors Steve Bullock (Montana, WGA Vice Chair), Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota),Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), and Gary Herbert (Utah) at a number of meetings with congressional leaders. Governors Mead and Bullock will appear at a briefing on the topic “Improving the Endangered Species Act : Perspectives from the Fish and Wildlife Service and State Governors.” In addition to the governors’ appearance and remarks on the ESA, (which is the focus of Gov. Mead’s Chairman’s Initiative), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dan Ashe, also will be present and will make a statement.

  • Mead last month announced that the Western Governors’ Association will hold five forums around the West to collect information on how to improve the Endangered Species Act. The first will be held in Wyoming this fall. The act “touches the people and economies of Western states in a significant way,” Mead said last month in announcing the effort. “This initiative is intended to take a hard look…” Mead has focused much of his criticism of the ESA on how difficult it is to remove federal protections for a species once it is listed. He has said that since 1973, when the federal law was enacted, 2,280 species have been protected but only 30 have been taken off the list after being classified as recovered. The truth of the matter is, as Montana lawyer, Tim Preso of Earthjustice, states: “The proper measure of success of the Endangered Species Act is its track record of preventing species from going extinct”. He said he regards current calls for improving the law to be “Trojan horse efforts” to undermine key provisions.“The Endangered Species Act has been 99 percent effective at preventing extinctions, which is kind of amazing when you consider the huge amount of population expansion, and expanded human footprint on this continent since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973”.

Let us not forget that Wyoming’s wolf management plan classified the animals as unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in most areas, an approach that drew opposition from national environmental groups.

Bottom line, the Endangered Species Act works. The longer an animal or plant species is protected under the ESA, the more likely it is to recover. Today the ESA is under attack at a time when we can least afford to lose it.

The ESA safeguards ecological processes, such as predation, as well as maintaining biodiversity. Science tells us that the most effective way to mitigate climate change is by maintaining ecological resiliency. The ESA protects keystone species (such as the gray wolf and sea otter) which create more resilient ecosystems by increasing biodiversity.

  • Politicians should not be meddling in what should be science based decisions. Please reach out to the members of the Committee on Environment and Public Works – Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife via twitter. Tell them that the ESA works, leave it alone!

Republicans:

Dan Sullivan (Chairman) Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

John Barrasso Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Shelley Capito Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

John Boozman Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Jeff Sessions Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Roger F. Wicker Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Deb Fischer Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Mike Rounds Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

James M. Inhofe Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Democrats:

Sheldon Whitehouse (Ranking Member) Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Thomas R. Carper Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Benjamin L. Cardin Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Bernard Sanders Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Kirsten Gillibrand Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Cory A. Booker Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Edward Markey Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Barbara Boxer Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4

Thankyou, everyone, for your efforts here and support to protect the Endangered Species Act.

 Independent news blog report on the briefing

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Wolves and livestock can live in harmony   Leave a comment

From The Sacramento Bee August 10, 2015

Speakers for and against the preservation of the gray wolf take turns at the microphone at a 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hearing in Sacramento.

Speakers for and against the preservation of the gray wolf take turns at the microphone at a 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hearing in Sacramento. Jose Luís Villegas Sacramento Bee file

By 1924, wolves in California had been completely driven from the lands that they called home for centuries – hunted, trapped and slaughtered to near-extinction.

Now it looks like wolves are finally making their way back home to the Golden State where they belong. California is graced with rich areas of suitable habitat that can and will support a healthy wolf population, and wolves clearly want to return.

Having trekked last summer in a remote part of Siskiyou County where the now-famous wolf OR-7 traversed – and where officials announced last week a second gray wolf was spotted – I can see why wolves would choose to inhabit this rugged, wild part of our state. And I strongly believe they will – it’s just a matter of time and human tolerance.

Wolves are one of America’s most iconic species, but until recently, we were in grave danger of losing them in the lower 48 states. Thankfully, people have finally begun to see that without wolves, the ecological health of our landscapes suffers. Today, 83 percent of California voters believe that “wolves should be protected” and “are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage.”

In protecting gray wolves, it appears California is headed in the right direction. In June 2014, the state Fish and Game Commission voted to shield them under the state Endangered Species Act.

Despite the state’s support, some people still believe in the fables of the “big bad wolf.” Many don’t know about the true lives of wolves, the strong social bonds they nurture within their familial packs, or their important role in the natural world. They also don’t know that California’s extensive ranching industry can coexist with returning wolves, given the right tools.

So it is up to Californians to ensure that wolves are indeed welcome, and to provide protections as they make their way toward recovery. The state must avoid the mistakes in places such as the Southwest and in the Northern Rockies, where the first reaction is to kill as many wolves as possible instead of seeking solutions that protect both livestock and wolves.

California has the opportunity to forge new partnerships to reduce potential conflicts. Lawmakers, conservation professionals, local officials and private landowners should cooperate to help ranchers use proven, nonlethal methods – including specialized fencing, range riders and guard dogs – and develop even more innovative ones. This focus on “coexistence” should be a key part of the final wolf management plan adopted by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Defenders of Wildlife has a long history of working with ranchers in other parts of the West. I have seen firsthand the success of these efforts, such as on the Wood River Wolf Project in central Idaho, where wolves have successfully shared habitat with the highest concentration of sheep grazing on public lands in the state. We’re ready to work with the ranching community to bring these successful tools to California.

California, along with Oregon and Washington state, has an important role to play in setting the standard for managing wolves in a more principled, ethical and sustainable manner, avoiding the ruinous path followed by other western states where slaughtering wolves is considered wildlife management. I believe California can lead the way to peaceful wolf restoration and recovery.

By Pamela Flick
Pamela Flick

Pamela Flick

Pamela Flick of Sacramento is California representative for Defenders of Wildlife.

Citizens United: The Cash Cow That’s Killing Endangered Species   Leave a comment

From Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin August 4, 2015 by Rachel Tilseth

Photograph by John E. Mariott http://www.wildernessprints.com/

By Noah Greenwald, Endangered species program director, Center for Biological Diversity Source

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision isn’t just bad for democracy, it’s fueling an unprecedented attack on America’s endangered species.

Campaign contributions from polluters and other would-be defilers of the environment have been flooding into Congress since the 2010 decision — and apparently these deep-pocketed special interests are getting results.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the steady barrage of attacks levied at endangered species and the Endangered Species Act by congressional Republicans.

A new study I co-authored called “Politics of Extinction” reveals that over the past five years, Republicans in Congress have launched 164 attacks on the Endangered Species Act or an average of 33 per year. That’s a 600 percent increase in the rate of legislative attacks on endangered species since Citizens United.

By comparison, in the 15 years prior (1996-2010), there were only 69 attacks on endangered species or about five a year.

Their campaign shows no signs of letting up. Just seven months into 2015, congressional Republicans have already introduced 66 legislative attacks on endangered species, more than any year since the law was passed, including bills to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves, American burying beetles and other species and bills to undercut the bedrock clause in the law that allows citizens to go to court in defense of imperiled species.

The escalation in attacks in recent years corresponds with a massive increase in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, big agriculture and other industries that oppose endangered species protections. Between 2004 and 2014, for example, campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry increased from roughly $10 million to more than $25 million, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Of course, we can’t ascribe a direct causal link between an increase in campaign contributions and an increase in legislative attacks on endangered species, but the correspondence is compelling. The increase also corresponds to attacks on protections for clean air and water, the EPA, worker safety and a host of other regulations designed to protect public health and safety.

The vast majority of bills attacking endangered species have been introduced by Republicans including 93 percent of all attacks over the last 20 years and all 66 of the attacks introduced this year.

Since 2011, five Republicans, who have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from special interests opposed to Endangered Species Act protections, stand out for having introduced dozens of bills to weaken protections for endangered species, including Rep. Ken Calvert (R- Calif.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). In total, these legislators are responsible for 25 percent of legislative attacks on endangered species in the last five years.

In their zeal to please their special interest benefactors, these five legislators are deeply out of step with the American public. Polls consistently show that most Americans support protection of endangered species, including a solid majority of conservatives.

So far only three legislative attacks on endangered species have passed. The first was a rider on an omnibus appropriations bill that delisted wolves in Montana and Idaho passed in 2011, which has allowed more than 1,600 wolves to be killed in the two states since. The other two were approved as riders on must-pass spending bills in 2014. One allowed for trophy hunting and importation of three African animals — scimitar-horned oryx, addax and Dama gazelle. The other prohibited the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from expending any resources to protect three seriously imperiled grouse: the greater sage grouse, the bi-state population of greater sage grouse in California, and Nevada or the Gunnison sage grouse.

The use of riders on unrelated must pass spending bills has become an all too common practice in Congress to pass unpopular legislation without the sunshine of public debate. Our report documented that a third of all the bills seeking to undermine protections for endangered species introduced since 2011 were riders, including 31 pending in Congress right now. There is a real danger that some of these riders will slip through in the inevitable back room deals that occur when Congress is trying to pass a budget.

Riders like the ones already passed don’t just harm individual species like gray wolves or sage grouse, but erode the integrity of the Endangered Species Act itself, which was fundamentally written to tip the scales back in favor of wildlife on the brink of extinction. The Act’s ability to save species from extinction is severely undermined if deep-pocketed special interests can intercede whenever protections for species become inconvenient and get those protections removed or weakened.

And even the bills that don’t pass have a chilling effect on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is responsible for implementing the Endangered Species Act.

It hardly seems a coincidence that the agency has withdrawn or weakened protections for several of the species that have come under attack from Congressional Republicans, including the American wolverine, dunes sagebrush lizard and bi-state population of sage grouse, which all had proposed protections withdrawn, and the lesser prairie chicken and northern long-eared bat, which were protected, but with special rules that created gaping loopholes for harmful industrial activities to continue, such as logging, mining and oil and gas drilling.

The dramatic increase in legislative attacks on endangered species in Congress, despite broad public support for the Endangered Species Act, provides yet another example of the degree to which unregulated campaign contributions fostered by Citizens United is perverting our democracy and leading to distressing outcomes for the environment and public health and safety. If we are to save endangered species, we must get special interest money out of politics.

By Noah Greenwald

Source Huff Post Green

Alaska Confirms Massive Decline in Rare Wolves, Still Plans to Hunt Them   5 comments

From takepart by

JUN 20, 2015
Samantha Cowan is TakePart’s associate culture and lifestyle editor.

Another harvest could do irreversible damage to the wolf population.

Alaska Archipelago Wolf (Photo: Facebook)

In 1994 southeast Alaska was home to about 900 Alexander Archipelago wolves. By 2013, there were fewer than 250. Last year that population plummeted 60 percent to 89 wolves. New numbers confirm that the rare breed of wolves could have dropped to as few as 50.

But the diminishing species won’t stop hunters from trapping and killing the wolves, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is moving ahead with their 2015-2016 hunting and trapping season on the Prince of Wales Island, where the majority of the wolves live.

“Another open season of trapping and hunting could push these incredibly imperiled wolves over the edge,” Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement.

A reported 29 wolves were killed during last years hunting season—which accounts for between 33 to 58 percent of the population. Either figure means the species is in jeopardy of being completely wiped out, especially as females were hit particularly hard this season, with only seven to 32 remaining.

So, Why Should You Care? These confirmed numbers could lead to further protections for the breed—which some scientists believe are genetically different from other wolves. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is working to determine whether the species are considered threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, which could put the kibosh on hunting the animals and protect their habitat.

Such protections would impact the timber industry that logs in their range in the Tongass National Forest. The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in 2009 to save roadless areas of the Tongass.

But the biggest threat to wolves currently is hunters, which makes the forgoing this year’s harvest seem like a no-brainer.

“To maintain a viable population of Alexander Archipelago wolves on this island, Alaska must cancel the season,” said Wolfe. “We won’t get a second chance to preserve these amazing animals.”

Correction June 22, 2015:
An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that the population of the Alaskan Archipelgo wolf has declined. It is its subspecies living on Prince of Wales Island that has declined.

Petition: Stop Slaughtering Wolves for Fossil Fuel and Logging Greed!

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