Archive for the ‘Fish and Wildlife Service’ 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 A USFWS appeal of the decision was withdrawn earlier this month.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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Feds Approve Maine Trapping Plan Allowing Rare Canada Lynx to Be Harmed, Killed   Leave a comment

From: Center for Biological Diversity

Two Canada Lynx kittens after being processed....

Two Canada Lynx kittens after being processed. Credit: James Weliver / USFWS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

13 Federally Protected Lynx Trapped in First Month of Trapping Season

ORONO, Maine — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a permit today allowing trappers and state agents to injure or kill federally protected Canada lynx during Maine’s trapping season and as part of state-run predator control programs. The permit approval comes less than a month into Maine’s 2014 trapping season, during which 13 lynx have already been reported captured albeit released alive. Two lynx required veterinary treatment for injured toes.

“Maine’s trapping plan simply doesn’t do enough to ensure that threatened Canada lynx are not harmed or killed,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Fish and Wildlife Service should never have granted this permit — it’s definitely a setback for recovery of these beautiful cats in Maine.”

Wildlife advocates say the state’s plan to minimize harm to lynx, which is required in order to obtain the federal “incidental take” permit, falls far short of what is actually needed to safeguard the forest-dwelling cats from trapping, to which they are particularly susceptible. The state plan requires trapper education — primarily through the distribution of a new DVD to all licensed trappers — and management of a mere 6,200 acres of state forest for lynx reproduction. Even within this small mitigation area, however, Maine intends to allow trapping. To monitor “take” of lynx, the state is relying almost exclusively on trappers to voluntarily report when they accidentally capture or kill a lynx.

“The state of Maine keeps asserting that traps don’t really hurt lynx, and trappers will reliably self-report when their traps injure lynx,” said Daryl DeJoy, executive director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine. “This is not scientifically based conservation; it is relentless self-delusion, at best. And lynx are going to be paying for it with injuries and with their lives.”

The final permit includes coverage for several new activities that were not considered by the Fish and Wildlife Service in earlier draft rounds of the permit. In addition to Maine’s recreational trapping program, the state added to the final permit its Predator Management and Animal Damage Control programs. As part of these state-funded programs, the state pays trappers to kill wildlife such as coyotes, beaver and foxes. The predator management program pays incentives and gas money to trappers who will travel to remote parts of the state to kill coyotes, as part of Maine’s effort to maintain high deer populations. Within these programs, the state will also allow the use of cable restraints, which capture animals around the neck but are designed to not asphyxiate them. However, cable restraints designed for smaller mammals may kill, larger, non-target species, such as lynx. The state plans to phase in use of cable restraints in the general trapping program. Maine will also open the state to use of larger traps than previously allowed.

Background
The Canada lynx is a wild cat of northern latitudes and snowy climes. It weighs between 14 and 31 pounds, has large, furred paws, long, black ear tufts, and a short, black-tipped tail. In the lower 48 states, it is found only in a few areas, including Washington state, the northern Rockies and Minnesota. In the Northeast the only breeding population of lynx is in northern Maine, where several hundred live. The lynx was listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2000. Because of the threat of Maine’s coyote-snaring program to the lynx, the state and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service commenced negotiations on an incidental-take permit in 2002. A lawsuit brought by wildlife groups against the state’s trapping program a few years later led to an interim plan for lynx protection, until the Fish and Wildlife Service approved Maine’s permit application for the “incidental take” of lynx under the trapping program.

Wildlife groups reject the near-exclusive reliance on trapper self-reporting as the means by which the state and the federal government monitor lynx take. Lynx activists say more active law enforcement, including unannounced inspections of trapper operations, as well as lynx exclusion devices on all killing traps, padded or offset trap jaws, and a ban on the use of chain drags and wire snares, are needed to ensure that the fewest lynx possible are hurt or killed in traps. In addition, wildlife advocates say the trapping plan should hold the state to a higher standard of proof than trapper self-reporting that lynx are not injured by trapping. A previous study of radio-collared lynx in Maine showed that after being caught by trappers, only three of six lynx survived a month.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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