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*The following news reports/announcements (some longer than others) are from various media outlets and other organizations.

90.3/WPLN News (Nashville, TN)

Wildlife recovery takes decades. Federal wildlife officials are updating 15 Tennessee species’ progress.

Caroline Eggers, MAY 29, 2023

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is performing status reviews of several dozen endangered or threatened plants and animals in the Southeast.

These reviews are mandated by the Endangered Species Act, a law passed in 1973 to prevent extinctions — which has been successful for 99% of listed species, according to one study.

Recovery times vary, and the agency reports further declines in the populations for many Southeaterm species, some of which were listed as far back as the 1970s.

The Cumberland darter, a small, ray-finned fish, has been disappearing from streams. It is now spotted in just 17 streams in Tennessee and Kentucky and concentrated in the Daniel Boone National Forest. It was listed in 2011.

Many streams become degraded from urban and agricultural runoff, like eroding soils, herbicides and fertilizers. Sediment is the most common pollutant, with the most concentrated releases coming from construction activities. Sediment releases into streams can also be caused by extractive industries, including natural gas drilling, coal mining and logging, according to the wildlife service.

The Coosa moccasinshell is a tiny mussel, only 2 inches long, that is native to Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The endangered mussel has disappeared from several rivers and now persists in only a few streams. It was first listed in 1993.

The hairy rattleweed is an extremely rare plant with yellow flowers, found in just two counties in Georgia. Most of its habitat was cleared for pine plantations, which are used for construction and paper-product industries. It was listed in 1978.

Plant species under review in Tennessee are the Blue Ridge goldenrod, Spring Creek bladderpod, Morefield’s leather-flower and ground-plum plant.

Several other fish in Tennessee are under review, including the trisomy darter, Chucky madtom, and smoky madtom, along with 10 other mussels — the ovate clubshell, southern clubshell, fanshell, triangular kidneyshell, Alabama moccasinshell, oyster mussel, southern pigtoe, pink ring and finelined pocketbook.

The agency is collecting public comment until July 10.


Billings Gazette (Billings, MO)

Montana delegation responds to ‘cottonwood decision’ regarding endangered species

Tom Lutey, May 27, 2023

Montana’s congressional delegation is reviving bills to undo the consequences of a 2015 Endangered Species Act lawsuit that’s angered the state’s logging industry.

Republican Reps. Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke have partnered with Sen. Steve Daines on a bill to reverse the endangered species review requirements affirmed in a 2015 lawsuit known as the “Cottonwood decision.” A ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the U.S. Forest Service must review management plans whenever an area was identified as critical wildlife habitat or significant information about an endangered species became available. The Canadian lynx was the subject of the lawsuit.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, is advancing a bill, on which he previously partnered with Daines.

In the House, the Committee on Natural resources advanced a cottonwood bill sponsored by Rosendale. The Forest Information Reform Act, FIR for short, exempts the Forest Service from having to review its management when new endangered species information surfaces.

In a March hearing, Rosendale faulted review standards, post-Cottonwood, for killing a logging and vegetation project in the Lewis and Clark National Forest near Lincoln.

“We had the Stonewall project in the Helena Lewis and Clark national forests, and that would have managed, specifically managed, vegetation to benefit wildlife, specifically,” Rosendale said at the livestreamed hearing. “But cottonwood inspired litigation delayed the project.”

That hearing featured a witness Jonathan Wood, vice president of law and policy at the Bozeman-based, Property and Environment Research Center. Wood testified that delaying projects like Stonewall created environmental consequences, namely that small diameter trees and brush left untouched increased fire risk, harming air quality and water quality.

A second Montana witness, Ryan Bronson, government affairs director for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, testified that Stonewall would have reduced the forest canopy and improved grazing on federal land. Bronson suggested a pattern of elk increasingly migrating away from federal land to private agriculture and industrial forest land where habitat was better.

“I would say that probably the declining condition of the forest has a lot to do with this graph that we see here, where we used to have probably 20 times more forest being harvested, which created brows, which created that understory that they would actually be able to consume instead of having the old growth forests which wildlife just cannot,” Rosendale said. “I’m not a biologist. So, what wildlife will we find in these old forests that are choked out with dead falls?”

There wasn’t much wildlife to be found in unlogged areas.

Stonewall was a 24,000-acre project that included a 706-acre logging area, 406 acres of tree thinning and 269 acres of prescribed burning. A mile of new road was involved, along with the reconstruction of 25 road miles.

Stonewall limped into court with eight different site-specific exemptions by the Forest Service, which the court characterized as avoiding compliance with elk habitat requirements. Conservationists sued, not only over the elk issue, but also because the Forest Service didn’t reinitiate evaluation of grizzly bear matters.

Montana logging has declined sharply over the past 30 years. Softwood lumber production was 317 million board feet in 2022, less than half of what production was 20 years earlier, according to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana. The state produced 1.3 billion board feet of lumber in 1987.

By comparison, Oregon produces 5.2 billion board feet annually, Idaho 1.7 billion, Texas 1.3 billion.

The day before the House Committee on Natural Resources advanced the FIR Act, Tester joined a cottonwood bill separate from what Republicans in Montana’s delegation were partnering on.

Tester’s staff described the bill as allowing already approved recreational programs, fuel reduction and fire management programs, and restoration programs on USFS lands to continue without having to go through the formal re-consultation process every time that FWS makes designation changes. Tester is up for reelection in 2024. His previous collaborator on undoing the consequences of Cottonwood was Daines. However, Daines is now chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which makes unseating Tester a priority.



Graveyard of Extinct Elephants From 5 Million Years Ago Found in Florida

Story by Robyn White, May 26, 2023

Paleontologists from the Florida Museum of Natural History made an exciting discovery when they uncovered a graveyard of extinct relatives of elephants dating back to 5 million years ago.

The remains were first discovered early last year by Jonathan Bloch, the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the museum, and his team at the Montbrook Fossil Dig site in Levy County, according to blog posts posted by the museum.

As the paleontologists kept digging, they uncovered what would be one of the most complete gomphothere skeletons found in North America, “a once-in-a-lifetime find,” Bloch told the Pensacola News Journal.

The gomphotheres—an extinct group of proboscideans related to modern elephants—likely died about 5 million years ago. It wasn’t long before scientists discovered there weren’t just remains here, but several full skeletons, the newspaper reported.

“I started coming upon one after another of toe and ankle bones,” retired chemistry teacher and Montbrook volunteer Dean Warner told the News Journal. “As I continued to dig, what turned out to be the ulna and radius started to be uncovered. We all knew that something special had been found.”

Most of the specimens were juveniles, and to “make things complicated” the team was finding them on top of the one large skeleton, the museum’s blog post said. The large skeleton is about 8 feet tall.

The discovery of this species is not unusual for the site. However, it is the most complete skeleton found from the time period in Florida.

“Modern elephants travel in herds and can be very protective of their young, but I don’t think this was a situation in which they all died at once,” Rachel Narducci, the collection manager of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum, told the News Journal. “It seems like members of one or multiple herds got stuck in this one spot at different times.”

Gomphotheres were widespread across North America during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs. They then entered South America during the Pleistocene epoch. The last of the species went extinct during this time, around 2 to 1.6 million years ago.

The species lived in forests, grasslands and marshes. Some of them developed teeth that were specialized for all of these environments. They shared several similarities with modern-day elephants, including a trunk that stemmed from the nose. Some also had tusks.

It is possible that mammoths, which lived about 300,000 to 10,000 years ago, were direct descendants of gomphotheres. It’s also thought that they could have diverged from this evolutionary lineage at some point after the mastodon evolved.



Nearly Half of Earth’s Animal Species Are in Decline, Study Finds

By: Paige Bennett, May 25, 2023

In a study on more than 71,000 animal species around the world, researchers discovered that about 48% are declining. The research, led by Queen’s University Belfast, is one of the most comprehensive and alarming studies on biodiversity loss.

The researchers analyzed population data on mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish and insects.

The study differs from the IUCN’s Red List, which found 28% of over 150,000 species studied to be threatened with extinction. But the authors explained that the data uncovered with their methods shows that the issue is much worse. According to the study, 33% of species designated non-threatened by IUCN were in decline.

“Almost half of animals on Earth for which assessments are available are currently declining,” Catherine Finn, leading author of the study, said in a statement. “To make matters worse, many of the animal species that are thought to be non-threatened from extinction, are in fact progressively declining.”

Another 49% of the species were found to have stable populations, while only 3% were experiencing increases. These findings were published in the journal Biological Reviews.

While biodiversity loss is a known issue globally, even prompting concerns that Earth is currently experiencing a sixth mass extinction, the study authors noted that this data shows the problem is even worse than previously thought. Furthermore, unlike previous mass extinction events, “this mass extinction is the first directly induced by a single species – humans,” the authors wrote.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, human activities including land, water and energy use are driving declines in biodiversity. Agriculture alone is responsible for 90% of deforestation and 70% of freshwater consumption globally. Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change further threaten species and ecosystems.

Although extinction is a natural process, extinction rates are now 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the rates of natural extinction, WWF reported.

“This new study method and global-scale analysis provides a clearer picture about the true extent of global erosion of biodiversity that the traditional approach cannot offer,” said Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, principal investigator of the project and senior lecturer on evolutionary biology at Queen’s University Belfast. “Our work is a drastic alert about the current magnitude of this crisis that has already devastating impacts on the stability of nature as a whole, and on human health and wellbeing.”


Center for Biological Diversity

Legal Victory Moves Oregon Coast Tiger Beetle One Step Closer to Protection

Rare Beetle Threatened by Habitat Loss, Off-Road Vehicles, Sea-Level Rise

PORTLAND, Ore.—(May 25, 2023)—In response to litigation brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by August 2026 whether to protect the imperiled Siuslaw hairy-necked tiger beetle under the Endangered Species Act.

The tiger beetle once lived on coastal beaches from Northern California to Washington but has disappeared from much of its former range. The most recent surveys found them at only 17 sites in Oregon. In Washington, they’re only known to survive at three sites.

“I’m glad these tiger beetles are getting a shot at protection, but it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to do its job and protect a clearly endangered species,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center. “Without the safeguards of the Endangered Species Act, these hairy predatory beetles and their dunes habitat won’t have a fighting chance of survival.”

The species is severely threatened by habitat loss and destruction caused by off-road vehicles, climate change, coastal erosion and trampling by beachgoers. The beetles are also at risk from inbreeding and invasive species.

“These beetles face so many threats and they’re teetering on the brink of extinction,” said Read. “The agencies that manage the few remaining populations must protect them for the sake of biodiversity and future generations.”

The beetle is a fierce predator as both an adult and a larva. Adults are fast and mobile hunters that run across the sand in short bursts or short hopping flights to chase prey. The beetles run so fast that they need to stop after each burst to visually relocate their prey before continuing pursuit.

In 2020 the Center petitioned the Service to protect the beetle under the Endangered Species Act. In 2021 the Service announced that the beetle may qualify for protection under the Act.

In 2022 the Center sued the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to meet a decision deadline established by the Act. This agreement resolves the Center’s lawsuit and helps ensure the Service stays on track while considering protections for the beetle.


Florida International University News

Conservation crime scientist uncovers secrets of trade threatening world’s most endangered species

By Angela Nicoletti, May 25, 2023

Trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products is estimated to be the fourth largest illegal trade in the world.

But this destructive, devastating billion-dollar trade that threatens many of the world’s most endangered species still operates as somewhat of a mystery. What avenues are smugglers using to illegally move products, animals and plants from place to place? What countries are the biggest exporters? In which countries is demand the greatest?

These are some of the questions FIU conservation crime scientist Stephen Pires wanted to answer.

Pires — an associate professor in FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs­ — breaks down what he’s uncovered about the trade in his latest study.

How is wildlife being smuggled?

Air cargo accounted for the majority of all large-scale trafficking incidents. This confirms prior research we conducted. Other modes included personal baggage (like suitcases, backpacks, purses), mailed packages and ocean cargo, which accounted for 34% of seizures altogether.

Like air cargo, the second most common import method is personal baggage that passes through airports. Both of these modes of transport account for 83% of large-scale seizures in the U.S. indicating the need to concentrate efforts in airports in several cities that disproportionally account for most incidents.

How does the U.S. play a role in the illegal wildlife trade?

The United States is among the largest markets for both legal and illegal wildlife in the world. In this paper, we analyzed 31,270 large-scale trafficking incidents that occurred at U.S. ports over the course of a decade.

While this may seem like a lot of incidents, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. What’s seized is only a fraction of what is trafficked. It is estimated we are only seizing about 10% of total trafficked wildlife or wildlife products.

This study tracks those export trade flows to find patterns of large-scale wildlife trafficking entering the United States — not exactly the easiest thing to do. How did you approach this problem? 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is primarily responsible for preventing wildlife trafficking in and out of the U.S. For decades, they’ve meticulously entered all seizure data documenting seized or confiscated wildlife entering and exiting the United States into a database called the Law Enforcement Management Information Service (LEMIS). Using this resource, we coded all shipments that could be considered “large-scale” seizures. The goal was to eliminate analysis of small-scale seizures that could have been accidentally brought to the U.S. by an unsuspecting tourist.

Then we formatted the dataset in a way that could be used for a social network analysis. It’s basically a color-coded map that shows connections, so we can clearly see who the “central actors” in the supply chain are and which countries and ports of entry play a greater role in illicit supply chains. 

Who were some of the “central actors”?

Certain ports have emerged as important seizure hubs, regardless of transportation, like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Other U.S. entry ports, such as New York City, are highly dense and seized most illicit wildlife specifically by a single transportation mode like air cargo.

China, Mexico, and Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines) were identified as key exporting countries and should be targeted for anti-trafficking education campaigns.

We found removing just five ports from the overall network would disrupt over 66% of the illegal wildlife trade by each major mode of transportation.

How can your research guide enforcement efforts to stop illegal trade?

Trafficking patterns between major export regions and destinations remain complex and understudied, as are trafficking patterns between export countries and U.S. ports of entry. We hope this type of data can guide enforcement efforts to disrupt such networks by allocating more wildlife inspectors in potentially key U.S. ports of entry and prioritize inspecting particular modes of transport for wildlife trafficking.

How else can the illegal wildlife trade be stopped?

Apart from intercepting efforts in ports of entry, combatting the illegal wildlife trade takes many different forms.

Demand reduction campaigns in key demand countries attempt to dissuade people from wanting wildlife products emanating from endangered species. Alternatively, pressuring national governments to enforce current wildlife regulations within their borders has great potential to reduce poaching and trafficking in the most problematic places in the world. Often, we see illicit wildlife markets in major cities in underdeveloped countries operating with impunity. Shutting these markets down would do much to reduce the trade even if some of this trade displaces to online or underground markets. Finally, promoting the legal trade of farmed species that are in great demand can potentially offset the illegal trade. This method has led to population rebounds for a number of highly endangered species, like the Nile crocodile and the vicuna, for example.


Wisconsin Public Radio

Ethanol production poses harm to endangered species, Wisconsin scientist says

UW-Madison’s Tyler Lark recommends better farming practices, alternative biofuels

By Joel Patenaude, Published on May 23, 2023

While renewable fuel standards at American gas stations aim to reduce the nation’s reliance on imported and polluting fossil fuels, conservationists worry the standards are also amplifying pressure on vulnerable animals.

One Wisconsin scientist hoping to draw more attention to that is Tyler Lark, who works at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Lark said renewable fuel standards, enacted in 2007, spurred millions of acres to be converted into cropland for the cultivation of corn and ethanol production. And that new farmland replaced wooded areas, prairies and wetlands relied upon by many endangered species, such as whooping cranes, black-footed ferrets and some pollinators like butterflies.

“Something like the rusty patched bumblebee, found right here in Wisconsin, needs floral resources, the nectar and pollen, to survive,” Lark said during a recent appearance on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Morning Show.”

Lark estimates the adoption of renewable fuel standards resulted in the expansion of cropland by as much as 7 million acres since 2008. Currently, more than 80 million acres of American land is dedicated to growing corn. Between 25 and 40 percent of that crop is made into ethanol every year, he said.

On “The Morning Show,” Lark discussed how scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Protection Agency should collaborate more, agricultural practices that would help conserve sensitive habitat, and possible production of biofuels less intensive than ethanol.


CBS News

A color-changing lizard and “Muppet” orchid are among 380 newly found species – many of which are under threat

By LI COHEN, May 23, 2023

A venomous snake named after a mythological goddess, an orchid that looks like a Muppet, a tree frog with skin that looks like moss and a tree-climbing lizard that changes colors are among hundreds of new species that were recently discovered across Asia. But according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund, many of the 380 new species are already at risk of going extinct.

All of the species were found across southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong region – which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – in 2021 and 2022. That area is known for being home to some of the world’s “most biologically diverse habitats,” according to the WWF, with thousands of species of plants and animals.

A new report from the group published on Monday details the discovery of new species of 290 plants, 19 fishes, 24 amphibians, 46 reptiles and one mammal across the area. But while the new species found were described as “remarkable” by the WWF, the group also offered a warning for many.

Tylototriton thaiorum, otherwise known as the Thai crocodile newt, for example, is only known to live in one area in Vietnam and is already considered to be an endangered species. The WWF says that the area in which the newt is known to live is suffering from habitat loss because of expanding agriculture and logging, as well as communities collecting the creature to treat abdominal pain and parasitic infections.

Vietnam is also home to the newly identified Theloderma Khoii, a frog whose color and patterns make it look as though it’s covered in moss as a form of camouflage. But the report says that road construction and illegal logging threaten the forests in which it lives, leading researchers to believe it should also be considered endangered.

And it’s not just animals that are under threat. Nepenthes bracteosa and Nepenthes hirtella, two new species of pitcher plants, “have immediately been classified as Critically Endangered,” the WWF said in its report. Both plants are found only on “a single hilltop” in southern Thailand, meaning that “any significant disturbance or deteriorating in their habitat could put them at risk of extinction.” 

Cambodia’s Dendrobium fuscifaucium — a miniature orchid that resembles the Muppets who sing the song “Mah Na Mah Na” — is not specifically said to be endangered in the report, but the organization describes it as an “unusual discovery” that researchers are struggling to find in the wild. They stumbled upon the species from a nursery collection, whose owner said they bought it from a local wild plant vendor who said they found it in the wild.

“The discovery of this new species only underlines the importance of protecting these delicate plants,” the report says.

Truong Nguyen of the Vietnam Academy of Science said that the status of these newly dubbed species shows the “tremendous pressures” the region is facing, both from economic development and human population growth. These issues, he said in a foreword in the report, “drive deforestation, pollution and overexploitation of natural resources, compounded by the effects of climate change.”

“More concerted, science-based and urgent efforts need to be made to reverse the rapid biodiversity loss in the region,” he wrote. “Using the critical evidence base that is laid by scientists, we all need to urgently invest time and resources into the best ways to conserve the known and yet unknown species.”


90.5 WESA (NPR/Pittsburgh)

Aviary researchers say Ivory-billed woodpecker is endangered, not extinct

90.5 WESA | By Jillian Forstadt, Published May 22, 2023

A new study from researchers with Pittsburgh’s National Aviary suggests there is hope for the Ivory-billed woodpecker.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Ecology and Evolution, the group detailed over a decade of evidence they say showed the bird in its native, bottomland habitat in the southeastern United States.

Steve Latta, the report’s lead author and the director of conservation and field research at the National Aviary, said the collection could help keep the black, red and white species on the endangered species list.

The National Fish and Wildlife Service has considered whether to declare the bird extinct since 2021, though it has yet to announce its decision.

“Our hope is that in documenting the persistence of these birds — despite all the odds that they have faced — that we will inspire other people to care about not only the Ivory-billed [woodpecker], but all of the other species that rely on bottomland forests,” Latta said, “and also the many other threatened and endangered species that require our attention.”

Alongside citizen scientists in Louisiana’s wetlands, Latta and other researchers collected what they believe to be audio, video and photographic evidence of the species’ persistence after nearly 100 years of critical endangerment.

The Ivory-billed woodpecker experienced rapid decline in the late 1800s when the rise of the lumber industry led to habitat loss, in addition to widespread hunting and collecting.

While there have been occasional reported sightings of the bird over the last several decades, the last universally accepted record of the American subspecies occurred in 1944. (The last confirmed sighting of the Cuban subspecies occurred in the 1980s.) Still, its persistence remains the focus of debate among ornithologists.

“The standard of evidence for documenting rare birds, and especially for documenting that Ivory-billed woodpecker, has become quite high in the ornithological community,” Latta explained. “There’s been many reports — credible reports — by well-respected ornithologists. But those sightings are not verified, and so they’re not enough to meet these very high standards.”

Even for those who say they were able to capture evidence of the bird, it’s hard to do so up close. They prefer swampy old-growth forests where they typically sit high in the forest canopy and out of sight. Field researchers’ recording of the bird’s calls are faint, and the photos are admittedly grainy.

But Latta and the papers other authors say there is hope for the Ivory-billed woodpecker: forests that were clearcut in the early 1900s are regrowing, which the team is hopeful will give the Ivory-billed woodpecker a better chance at survival.

“This bird is iconic, and it represents fragility and conservation, “Latta said. “And it represents hope for endangered species.”.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first announced its intention to declare the Ivory-billed woodpecker extinct in 2021, though it has delayed formal action multiple times to allow for public comment.

Latta said classifying the species as extinct would strip it of protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act, “especially in terms of habitat and direct persecution.”

“The [possible] removal of the Ivory-billed from the endangered species list should make us collectively redouble our efforts to save species and to protect their habitats,” he added.


Center for Biological Diversity

Smalltail Shark Moves Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

WASHINGTON—(May 22, 2023)—Responding to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced today that protecting the smalltail shark under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted. The smalltail shark population has declined by more than 80% globally over the past 27 years.

“I’m so relieved that the struggling smalltail shark may get protections under the Endangered Species Act,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center. “The smalltail shark’s population has taken a nosedive over the last few decades. Along with other shark species they’re at constant risk of being killed for their fins, meat and other body parts. There’s a really good chance these sharks will go extinct without Endangered Species Act protections.”

The smalltail is found from the Gulf of Mexico south to Brazil, where it has been eliminated from waters off the coast of at least 11 Brazilian states.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature categorizes the smalltail shark as critically endangered, a designation for species at major risk of extinction. Overfishing for its meat and fins, climate change, ocean pollution and insufficient regulatory protections throughout the shark’s range are all threatening the species.

Smalltail sharks only grow up to five feet long. They live in shallow, nearshore waters, which makes them vulnerable to fishing activity. A slow-growing, late-maturing species, the smalltail shark is slow to recover from overexploitation.

Following today’s decision, the Service will open a 60-day public comment period on smalltail shark protection. The Endangered Species Act requires the agency to decide whether to list the species by October 2023.

Smalltail sharks have suffered severe population declines across their range. The core population of the species off the coast of Brazil has dropped by 90%. Heavy fishing pressure has also driven the smalltail’s numbers down in the Gulf of Mexico.


The County Press (Lapeer, MI)

Michigan’s threatened, endangered species list updated

Looking out for the well-being of animals

MAY 20, 2023

LANSING — The Michigan list of threatened and endangered plants and animals now includes 407 species after completion of its seventh update in nearly 50 years. Experts from universities, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, other conservation organizations and the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources recommended changes to the list based on recent data.

“When people come together to collaborate on conservation, we can recover rare species,” said DNR endangered species specialist Jennifer Kleitch. “For instance, trumpeter swans were just removed from Michigan’s threatened and endangered species list. Their populations have grown as a result of significant conservation efforts by many partners over decades.”

Although the trumpeter swan has been removed from Michigan’s list of threatened and endangered species, it is still federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

While 36 species were removed from the list, others still need our help, Kleitch said.

Three bat species — little brown, northern long-eared and tri-colored — have been listed as threatened due to significant population declines in the state resulting from white-nose syndrome. Rusty-patched bumblebees and American bumblebees were added to the endangered species list because, like many pollinator species, their populations are seeing large declines.

In all, 58 species were added to the list as either threatened or endangered.

Under the Wildlife Conservation Order amendment No. 6 of 2023, beavers, muskrats, cottontail rabbits, fox squirrels, gray squirrels, red squirrels, ground squirrels, opossums and weasels can now be killed, or “taken,” by landowners without obtaining a DNR nuisance control permit.

Those animals join woodchucks, skunks, raccoons and coyotes which are already on the lethal control list.

“Many threatened and endangered species rely on high-quality natural areas that benefit all of us by providing clean water, clean air and places for us to enjoy nature. When species are struggling, it can indicate declines in the functioning of those natural areas, which in turn can impact our quality of life,” Kleitch said.

You can help by learning more about rare plants and animals and their conservation needs.

“I encourage everyone to take an interest in rare plants and animals — they are fascinating! Learn more and support conservation efforts. Whether it be planting a native flower garden for pollinators or donating to a local land conservancy, we can all play a part,” Kleitch said.

—Michigan Radio



Human Activities Have Drastically Reduced Habitats for Asian Elephants

New research shows when human actions started to fragment elephant habitat in Asia and how that could help conservation efforts.

By: The Revelator, May 19, 2023, by Shermin de Silva

Despite their iconic status and long association with humans, Asian elephants are one of the most endangered large mammals. Believed to number between 45,000 and 50,000 individuals worldwide, they are at risk throughout Asia due to human activities such as deforestation, mining, dam building and road construction, which have damaged numerous ecosystems.

My colleagues and I wanted to know when human actions started to fragment wildlife habitats and populations to the degree seen today. We quantified these impacts by considering them through the needs of this species.

In a newly published study, we examined the centuries-long history of Asian landscapes that once were suitable elephant habitat and often were managed by local communities prior to the colonial era. In our view, understanding this history and restoring some of these relationships may be the key to living with elephants and other large wild animals in the future.

How Have Humans Affected Wildlife?

It isn’t easy to measure human impacts on wildlife across a region as large and diverse as Asia and more than a century ago. Historical data for many species is sparse. Museums, for instance, only contain specimens collected from certain locations.

Many animals also have very specific ecological requirements, and there often isn’t sufficient data on these features at a fine scale going far into the past. For instance, a species might prefer particular microclimates or vegetation types that occur only at particular elevations.

For nearly two decades I’ve been studying Asian elephants. As a species, these animals are breathtakingly adaptable: They can live in seasonally dry forests, grasslands or the densest of rain forests. If we could match the habitat requirements of elephants to data sets showing how these habitats changed over time, we knew that we could understand how land-use changes have affected elephants and other wildlife in these environments.

Defining Elephant Ecosystems

The home-range sizes of Asian elephants can vary anywhere from a few hundred square miles to a few thousand. But since we couldn’t know exactly where elephants would have been centuries ago, we had to model the possibilities based on where they occur today.

By identifying the environmental features that correspond to locations where wild elephants live now, we can distinguish places where they could potentially have lived in the past. In principle, this should represent “good” habitat.

Today many scientists are using this kind of model to identify particular species’ climatic requirements and predict how areas suitable for those species might shift under future climate change scenarios. We applied the same logic retrospectively, using land-use and land-cover types instead of climate change projections.

We drew this information from the Land-Use Harmonization (LUH2) data set, released by a research group at the University of Maryland. The group mapped historical land-use categories by type, starting in the year 850 — long before the advent of nations as we know them today, with fewer large population centers — and extending up to 2015.

My co-authors and I first compiled records of where Asian elephants have been observed in the recent past. We limited our study to the 13 countries that today still contain wild elephants: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

We excluded areas where elephant populations are prone to clashing with people, such as intensively farmed landscapes and plantations, in order to avoid classifying these zones as “good” elephant habitat. We included areas with lighter human influence, such as selectively logged forests, because they actually contain great food for elephants.

Next, we used a machine-learning algorithm to determine what types of land use and land cover existed at our remaining locations. This allowed us to map out where elephants could potentially live as of the year 2000. By applying our model to earlier and later years, we were able to generate maps of areas that contained suitable habitat for elephants and to see how those areas had changed over the centuries.

Dramatic Declines

Land-use patterns changed significantly on every continent starting with the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s and extending through the colonial era into the mid-20th century. Asia was no exception.

For most areas, we found that suitable elephant habitat took a steep dive around this time. We estimated that from 1700 through 2015 the total amount of suitable habitat decreased by 64%. More than 1.2 million square miles of land were converted for plantations, industry and urban development. With respect to potential elephant habitat, most of the change occurred in India and China, each of which saw conversion in more than 80% of these landscapes.

In other areas of Southeast Asia — such as a large hot spot of elephant habitat in central Thailand, which was never colonized — habitat loss happened more recently, in the mid-20th century. This timing corresponds to logging concurrent with the so-called Green Revolution, which introduced industrial agriculture to many parts of the world.

Could the Past Be the Key to the Future?

Looking back at land-use change over centuries makes it clear just how drastically human actions have reduced habitat for Asian elephants. The losses that we measured greatly exceed estimates of “catastrophic” human impacts on so-called wilderness or forests within recent decades.

Our analysis shows that if you were an elephant in the 1700s, you might have been able to range across 40% of the available habitat in Asia with no problem, because it was one large, contiguous area that contained many ecosystems where you could live. This enabled gene flow among many elephant populations. But by 2015, human activities had so drastically fragmented the total suitable area for elephants that the largest patch of good habitat represented less than 7% of it.

Sri Lanka and peninsular Malaysia have a disproportionately high share of Asia’s wild elephant population, relative to available elephant habitat area. Thailand and Myanmar have smaller populations relative to area. Interestingly, the latter are countries known for their large captive or semi-captive elephant populations.

Less than half of the areas that contain wild elephants today have adequate habitat for them. Elephants’ resulting use of increasingly human-dominated landscapes leads to confrontations that are harmful for both elephants and people.

However, this long view of history reminds us that protected areas alone are not the answer, since they simply cannot be large enough to support elephant populations. Indeed, human societies have shaped these very landscapes for millennia.

Today there is a pressing challenge to balance human subsistence and livelihood requirements with the needs of wildlife. Restoring traditional forms of land management and local stewardship of these landscapes can be an essential part of protecting and recovering ecosystems that serve both people and wildlife in the future.

(Shermin de Silva is an assistant professor of ecology, behavior and evolution at the University of California, San Diego. Reposted with permission from The Revelator.)


Maui Now

Sen. Hirono introduces Extinction Prevention Act to safeguard endangered species

May 19, 2023

Ahead of Endangered Species Day, US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Extinction Prevention Act, bicameral legislation to provide funding for some of the country’s most imperiled yet underfunded wildlife species. This includes threatened and endangered North American butterflies, various Pacific Island plants, freshwater mussels, and Southwest desert fish.

The legislation, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in the Senate, was also introduced in the House by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ).

“In Hawaiʻi, native plants are crucial to the islands’ history, culture, and environment, which is why our communities prioritize the preservation of our unique biodiversity,” said Sen. Hirono in a news release. “I’m glad to join my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation to invest in the conservation of some of our nation’s most vulnerable species. It is important that we protect endangered species so they can continue serving important ecological roles for years to come.”

The Extinction Prevention Act addresses the longstanding issue of insufficient funding which has plagued efforts to recover these at-risk species, in some cases, for decades, according to Sen. Hirono.

The act authorizes $5 million annually for each species group to fund conservation projects related to:

*restoration, protection, and management of ecosystems

*research and monitoring of populations

*development and implementation of management plans

*enforcement and implementation of applicable conservation laws

*community outreach and education

Habitat protection for these less charismatic species is chronically underfunded despite them being among the species most at risk of extinction:

*North American butterflies—one of the fastest declining groups of all endangered species—have not seen a single species improve among the 39 listed.

*The situation is equally dire in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands, where nearly 400 plant species are threatened or endangered, representing about 22% of all listed species. In Hawaiʻi, more than 200 plant species have dwindled to fewer than 50 wild individuals.

*Freshwater mussels are currently the most imperiled animal group in the country, with 70 percent of U.S. species at risk of extinction and 38 species already lost.

*Southwest desert fish are being threatened by drought and water scarcity, resulting in significant population and habitat reductions. Currently, 42 species are listed as endangered or threatened.

Eligible applicants for funding include relevant states, territories, tribal governments, or any other entities with the expertise required for the conservation of the particular species group.

In addition to Senators Hirono and Blumenthal, the bill has also been co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

This bill has been endorsed by the Endangered Species Coalition; Center for Biological Diversity; and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Freshwater Mussel Conservation and Research Center.


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Biden-Harris Administration Announces $62.5 Million Through Investing in America Agenda for Endangered Species Recovery Planning

News Release, May 19, 2023

WALL, S.D. — Today, on Endangered Species Day, the Department of the Interior announced a $62.5 million investment from the Inflation Reduction Act to help plan for endangered species recovery efforts that will be implemented over the next several years to benefit more than 300 species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The President’s Investing in America agenda is enabling the Department of the Interior to play a leading role in the transition to a clean energy economy, advancing key habitat restoration, land resilience and water projects, and environmental justice.

“Communities across the country are dealing with a crisis of extinction with climate change and habitat loss pushing more species to the brink,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda we now have new resources to advance proactive, collaborative and innovative measures in an effort to save America’s wildlife and plant species. The funding announced today will support the scientific excellence behind the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s stewardship efforts and bolster resources so the Service can continue to support recovery planning for hundreds of endangered and threatened species.”

“This infusion of Inflation Reduction Act funding will allow us to hire additional biologists so we can ensure recovery plans are in place to provide the roadmaps for on-the-ground implementation actions that are necessary to recover species and remove them from the Endangered Species list,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the recovery of threatened and endangered species is a shared responsibility.”

Biologists will initially focus efforts on recovery planning for 32 threatened and endangered species that have completed Species Status Assessments, which serve as the biological background for recovery planning, and the first part of the Services’ 3-Part Recovery Planning Framework. Recovery planning efforts for the remaining species will be prioritized and included on annual national recovery workplans. Learn more about these species and the Service’s Inflation Reduction Act-related efforts.

Today’s announcement follows the release of the Department’s restoration and resilience framework to leverage historic investments in climate and conservation to achieve landscape-level outcomes across the nation. Through the Investing in America agenda, the Department is implementing a more than $2 billion investment to restore our nation’s lands and waters, which in turn is helping to meet the President’s conservation goals set through the America the Beautiful Initiative.

The announcement also comes as the Department celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ESA and its importance in preventing imperiled species’ extinction, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.

Throughout the last 50 years, the ESA has been extraordinarily effective at preventing species from going extinct and has inspired action to conserve at-risk species and their habitat before they need to be listed as threatened or endangered. Thanks to the ESA, more than 99 percent of all listed species are still with us today and more than 100 species of plants and animals have been delisted based on recovery or downlisted from endangered to threatened.

The Service actively engages with Tribes, federal agencies, state and local governments, conservation organizations, communities, and private citizens to help inform ideas and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. The agency uses the best available science to make ESA listing determinations and develop recovery plans, which include scientific information and provide criteria and actions necessary to delist or downlist threatened or endangered species.

When species are listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, protective measures apply, encouraging innovation and collaboration that can prevent the irreparable loss of iconic American wildlife great and small, and critical habitat for generations to come. These measures include protection from harmful impacts of federal activities, authority for the Service to develop and carry out recovery plans, and authority for the Service to conserve important habitat for the species. For example, protective measures under the ESA saved the bald eagle – the very symbol of our nation’s strength— from the brink of extinction. Once a species is delisted due to recovery, the ESA requires the Service to implement a system of monitoring in cooperation with states to effectively assess the status of a species for a minimum of five years to ensure the species remains stable. Learn more about the Endangered Species program.



Excessive Foraging for Wild Mushrooms and Garlic a ‘Risk to Wildlife’ in UK

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, May 18, 2023

In the UK, experts have expressed concern that some foragers for wild mushrooms and garlic have been taking too many ingredients from protected sites, putting wildlife at risk, reported The Guardian.

The National Trust is concerned that people have been gathering foraged foods to sell them, damaging delicately-balanced ecosystems.

“Foraging brings us closer to nature and reminds us that we need to take care of it. That’s why the National Trust supports foraging for plentiful species of wild food, for personal use, in most of the places we care for,” the National Trust website says. “To protect vulnerable species and habitats we have to make sure that foraging takes place sustainably.”

The Trust adds that, in limited circumstances where they feel it is appropriate, special licenses will be issued for commercial foraging.

“If undertaken carefully and only for personal use, foraging can be good fun and help people connect with nature. However, excessive foraging, or foraging on protected sites, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), can be detrimental to our precious wildlife and negatively impact delicate ecosystems,” said Ben McCarthy, head of nature conservation and restoration at the National Trust, as reported by The Guardian.

A code of conduct has been written by the National Trust for those looking to pick ingredients like nettles and elderflowers from the nature reserves and gardens under the care of the Trust. It asks that they forage only for personal consumption, picking only what they know will be used.

The recommendation is to only pick one in every 20 plants from plants that are evidently common and abundant, and to never forage protected species.

People have been taking too much from National Trust reserves, and the Trust suspects some of these foods have been used in restaurants.

“We want everyone to enjoy the places we care for, but excessive foraging removes nature and beauty from places so others cannot appreciate them. Sadly, we have seen some examples of commercial and unsustainable foraging in recent years,” McCarthy said.

People are no longer allowed to forage for fungi on the nature reserves of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), as it was reported that foraging groups had been picking mushrooms for commercial use.

“We see this problem every year, but I think it’s worsened – we’ve certainly had more reports. I suspect that is partly down to the cost of living crisis, and I fear commercial foragers are selling stolen fungi to restaurants for money,” said Roger Stace, BBOWT land manager for Berkshire, as The Guardian reported. “We are lucky to have some incredibly rare fungus species on our nature reserves, and if people aren’t trained they could be picking and destroying these rare species.”

According to BBC Countryfile Magazine, the leaves and flowers of wild garlic are edible and first appear in March. Flowers appear from April to June, and it is best to pick leaves when young. It’s easy to confuse wild garlic with the poisonous lily plant, so reading up on the differences in Countryfile’s Wild garlic guide is recommended.

According to the Countryfile May foraging guide, hawthorn, red clover and chickweed are also available for picking this month.

Other edible wild plants in season in spring in the UK include nettles, dandelions, chickweed, elderflowers and mallow, reported The Guardian.

“We must take from the earth responsibly so don’t forage the lot, and leave plenty for wildlife. You must have permission from landowners and know exactly what you’re taking as mistakes can be dangerous,” said Rob Stoneman, director of landscape recovery for The Wildlife Trusts, as reported by The Guardian. “Don’t be afraid to get out in the fresh air to gather wild and nutritious food – it’s great for the body but more importantly the soul.”


Center for Biological Diversity

10 Reasons to Celebrate Endangered Species Act on Endangered Species Day

PORTLAND, Ore.—(May 18, 2023)—To celebrate National Endangered Species Day tomorrow (May 19) and the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act this year, the Center for Biological Diversity is highlighting 10 reasons to be grateful for the Act — one of the United States’ bedrock environmental laws. Since it was passed in 1973, the Act has saved species, secured habitats and protected entire ecosystems.

These accomplishments span the country and highlight how much this landmark law has done to protect the natural world for future generations. They include:

  1. After almost being lost to extinction, bald eagles and peregrine falcons now soar over all 50 states.
  2. Majestic old-growth forests in Washington, Oregon and California have been saved to protect spotted owls, marbled murrelets and salmon.
  3. Wolves now howl in Yellowstone National Park and beyond.
  4. More than 21 million acres have been set aside as national wildlife refuges to protect endangered species — from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.
  5. Two dams were removed on the Elwha River in Washington state, opening hundreds of miles of river for chinook and other salmon. The Edwards Dam was removed on the Kennebec River to restore Atlantic salmon, sturgeon and others.
  6. Some 20 million acres of long-leaf pine forest in the Southeast were restored to benefit red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises and people, too.
  7. Beaches from Florida to North Carolina have been protected for nesting sea turtles.
  8. en million acres of public lands in the sagebrush sea across the Intermountain West were withdrawn from mineral leasing.
  9. Fishing for Gila and Apache trout has returned in Southwest streams.
  10. The songs of Kirtland’s and golden-cheeked warblers can still be heard in Michigan and Texas, respectively.

Learn more about the 50th anniversary of the Act, including the Center’s new report, “A Promise to the Wild,” touting its accomplishments.

“Our world is so much richer and so much wilder because of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “There are more birds singing, more frogs chirping, more sea turtles swimming and more wolves howling because of what the Act has accomplished over the past 50 years. It’s extraordinary.”

Despite the tremendous success of the Endangered Species Act, it’s continued to come under attack by corporate-funded Republicans in Congress. With the help of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Congressional Republicans recently voted to strip the highly endangered lesser prairie chicken of endangered species protections. They’re also considering bills to strip northern long-eared bats and grizzly bears of protection.

“Instead of trying to yank protections from clearly imperiled animals, Congress should be increasing funding for endangered species recovery,” Greenwald said. “The Endangered Species Act is our best tool for addressing the extinction crisis and it continues to save plants and wildlife from coast to coast.”



Amazon Deforestation Drops 64% in Brazil in April

By: Paige Bennett, May 15, 2023

Preliminary data shows that deforestation in the Amazon rainforest within Brazil has seen a 64% decline compared to deforestation in April 2022. The findings represent a major shift under Brazil’s newly elected President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, who campaigned on promises to end deforestation in the country.

The data could signal hopes of reversing an alarming report from earlier this year, when the rainforest experienced record-high deforestation in February. In January 2023, Lula’s first month of presidency, Amazon deforestation declined 61% year over year, as reported by Reuters.

Now, despite a lack of staffing and funding brought about by former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil is seeing less deforestation for April and for the year as a whole so far. April’s data, from INPE (National Institute for Space Research), shows deforestation down about 64% to 321 square kilometers compared to an average of 898 square kilometers. For the year, deforestation has declined 38%, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Brasil reported.

While the numbers are hopeful, experts are concerned about upcoming data for the summer months, when deforestation traditionally peaks.

“We received the April numbers as a positive sign, but unfortunately we still cannot speak of a downward trend in deforestation in the Amazon. The numbers are at a very high level and the dry season, which is favorable to deforestation, has not yet started,” Mariana Napolitano, conservation manager at WWF-Brasil, said in a statement. “Other initiatives such as incentives for the green economy, the creation of protected areas and the demarcation of Indigenous lands, such as those that took place recently, are necessary.”

Lula plans to end deforestation by the end of the decade and recently received more than $100 million from Britain for Amazon rainforest conservation efforts, Reuters reported. Earlier this month, Lula also established six Indigenous reserves, where mining is prohibited and logging and commercial agricultural practices are restricted. These reserves contain around 620,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) of Amazon rainforest for protection.

Continued conservation efforts and enforcements could help continue a downward trend. According to WWF-Brasil, deforestation began climbing rapidly in 2012 and nearly tripled over 10 years. Deforestation surpassed 10,000 square kilometers from 2019 to 2021, when Bolsonaro was president.

Lula was previously president from 2004 to 2011. During this time, Brazil’s Amazon deforestation declined nearly 75%. The president has pledged to bring deforestation to zero by 2030; currently, Brazil’s annual Amazon deforestation rate remains high at around 11,594 square kilometers.


Santa Barbara Independent (Santa Barbara, CA)

Southern California Steelhead Remain Endangered

Conservation Efforts Not Enough to Overcome Drought and Wildfire Effects on Fish

By Jenna Haut, May 15, 2023

Despite being heralded as one of the most adaptive and hardiest of fish, plus conservation efforts dating back to the 1990s, the health of Southern California steelhead has gone from bad to worse. Human activity in conjunction with climate-related threats such as drought and wildfire have left the species with staggeringly low adult numbers, especially among populations that migrate between salt and fresh water — which are at high risk of disappearing altogether.

The Southern California steelhead will stay on the federal Endangered Species list subsequent to a review of its status in the recently released 2023 five-year plan from National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries. Although most West Coast steelhead species are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the Southern California steelhead is the only one to reach endangered status.

“Steelhead are unique in the sense that they rely on every part of the watershed from the estuary up to the smallest headwaters,” said Mark Capelli, NOAA steelhead recovery coordinator and lead author of the report. “Their health is a good indicator of the overall health of the watershed.”

The Southern California watershed runs from Santa Maria all the way down to the border. Dams, diversions, and road encroachment serve as roadblocks to stream access and have left steelhead unable to fully navigate the watershed. These blockages compounded with climate conditions, such as California’s prolonged drought and accelerated wildfire season, have led to the sharp decline in adult steelhead populations.

“Wildfires have a pretty dramatic effect on ecosystems but are also part of a natural process,” said Capelli. “But combined with the other man-made effects, they have had — and continue to have — a cumulative effect on the environment.”

Wildfires increase sedimentation in streams — meaning pools, insects, and other resources steelhead need to survive are smothered. If the burn reaches the trees and vegetation that border streams, they can also lose shade cover, leading to warmer temperatures and decreased nutrients in freshwater ecosystems.

“We’ve had our fair share of wildfires,” said Capelli of Santa Barbara’s watersheds. After the Thomas Fire in 2018 and the Alisal Fire in 2021, it is no surprise local steelhead are struggling.

Drought decreases the amount of water in streams, thereby decreasing the areas steelhead can inhabit and placing further stress on the species. Without water to swim in, fish populations cannot be restored to their full capacity.

Since the completion of the report, California had an abnormally wet winter, temporarily relieving some effects of drought. Capelli noted increased streamflow has allowed adults that survived the drought to inhabit previously inaccessible habitat. However, the resulting increase in vegetation is only more fuel for this year’s wildfire season.

Capelli assured this is all part of a natural cycle but emphasized the importance of reducing human-posed threats. The report outlines several actions to address concerns such as controlling non-native vegetation, restoring flow, and reconnecting upper and lower watersheds.

“This is an effort that cannot just be undertaken by the National Fish and Wildlife Services; it takes a diverse group of national, regional, and local stakeholders,” said Capelli.

The most important priority in conserving this species is ensuring steelhead have access to their habitat. Currently, agencies such as California State Parks and CalTrout are completing plans to remove two dams in the Southern California watershed: the Matilija Dam in Ojai, and the Rindge Dam on Malibu Creek. The removal of Rindge Dam will increase steelhead habitat by 15 miles.


Senate Democrats

News Release, May 15, 2023

Lovelett bill protecting endangered southern resident orcas signed into law

OLYMPIA, WA– Legislation to further protect Washington’s endangered southern resident orca population was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee today.

Senate Bill 5371, sponsored by Sen. Liz Lovelett (D-Anacortes), requires whale-watching boats and other marine vessels to refrain from approaching within 1,000 yards of a southern resident killer whale. The measure marks an increase in distance from the current 300-yard buffer on approach, and is based on recommendations from the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force.

“Orcas are such an emblematic symbol of Washington state’s ecosystem, but climate change and converging issues like noise pollution, food contaminants, and lack of salmon have worsened the species’ plight for years,” said Lovelett. “It’s crucial that we step in and provide as much support as possible to these iconic animals, and I’m proud of our work this session.”

“The collaboration and bipartisan votes on this bill shows the dedication of the Legislature to take care of our natural resources and wildlife,” said Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-Bow). “This new law streamlines regulations for our whale watchers and recreational boaters so they can support one another to keep our whales safe and enjoy the Salish Sea together.”

Latest reports estimate that only 73 southern resident orcas remain in existence, with at least 12 designated as vulnerable. The legislation puts in place the strictest vessel distancing requirements for orcas on the west coast, aiming to protect the critically endangered species from further decline.


SF Gate (San Francisco)

Record Bay Area rainfall leads to murky future for endangered salmon species

Amanda Bartlett, SFGATE, May 14, 2023

Bay Area biologists remain uncertain about the status of the region’s endangered and threatened salmon species after challenges posed by the recent onslaught of winter rainstorms inhibited their research and may have prevented some of the fish from successfully breeding and laying eggs.

Marin Municipal Water District ecologist Eric Ettlinger told the Marin Independent Journal the historic storms have not only prevented surveyors from monitoring the numbers of coho and Chinook salmon for several weeks but also apparently damaged a number of their spawning beds, which are referred to as redds, in Marin County, home to the largest population of coho salmon from Monterey Bay to the Noyo River in Mendocino County.

“Unfortunately, we know of some redds that definitely were destroyed and we suspect that others were destroyed and the eggs washed away,” Ettlinger told the Marin Independent Journal.

On the other hand, he noted, the rainfall has provided plenty of water in the creeks and streams where the fish hatch and spawn, helping some of them to survive and reproduce, though exactly how many were able to do so is still unknown. At last count, Ettlinger and his team recorded 99 coho egg nests in Lagunitas Creek, a 24-mile stream where the fish spawn every winter. That number is higher than in past years but still considered below average.

Coho salmon have experienced a “serious decline” since the mid-20th century, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, due to threats such as loss of habitat, overexploitation (which occurs when fish are harvested beyond the species’s capacity to repopulate) and interaction with hatchery-raised fish, as well as climatic factors such as lack of precipitation. Spawning season typically happens in December and January, and though thousands of coho salmon once made their way to the Bay Area, only a couple of hundred now return each year because of dams that have been preventing the migratory fish from swimming upstream.

Surveyors are hoping to have clearer answers regarding changes to the population by this summer, when they plan to look for, count and identify juvenile salmon. Ettlinger said record numbers of the coho smolts — more than a thousand in Olema Creek —  appear to be heading out to the ocean and could lead to significant numbers of returning adults if they do survive.

“[We’re] waiting with bated breath,” Ettlinger told the Marin Independent Journal. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how many of the young coho survived the stormy winter.”

Last month, federal officials announced the closure of the 2023 commercial and recreational salmon fishing season in California and Oregon due to the crashing populations of Chinook salmon, the main species harvested in California, according to the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN). The Chinook salmon population has dropped to 170,000, down from a million or more 30 years ago, the organization said.

“West Coast salmon are bearing the brunt of a series of problems,” said Preston Brown, director of watershed conservation for the organization, in a news release last month. “Decades-long issues are coming to a head for salmon—these include the widespread damming of important rivers and streams, wetlands and forests converted to farms and cities, radical swings of weather patterns, and the attempt to replace wild fish habitats with hatcheries. Added to that is the pollution of waterways caused by road-runoff and pesticides.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife subsequently announced it would provide about $36 million in funding toward restoration efforts.

So far, most counts of salmon egg nests are considered below average or low in Marin County. Ettlinger said he and his team have recorded about 153 adult Chinook salmon in Lagunitas Creek between November 2022 and the start of the storms, the largest number of Chinook salmon spawners since the district began counting in 2001, but all of their eggs were likely swept out by the rain.

Experts hope the fishing season cancellation will help promote the comeback of the species — and that federal and state disaster aid will continue to buoy local fishers for the time being.

“The closure is a short-term strategy to help stabilize the decline status of ocean chinook salmon,” said Ayano Hayes, a watershed biologist with the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, in the news release. “We must do what we can now to support the present fisheries from becoming further threatened, as the central coast coho salmon are already critically endangered.”


Springfield News-Leader (Springfield, MO)

‘Clinging to survival’: Missouri crayfish get Endangered Species Act protection

Ryan Collingwood, Springfield News-Leader, May 13, 2023

A pair of Missouri crayfish species were recently granted Endangered Species Act protection, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Big Creek crayfish and the St. Francis River crayfish have been declining in population due to competition with an invasive woodland crawfish species, as well as pollution from southeast Missouri mining.

“These crayfish are clinging to survival in contaminated streams, but protection under the Endangered Species Act gives them a fighting chance,” said Will Harlan, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “By protecting the river habitats of these crayfish, we’re also safeguarding drinking water and creating a healthier future for humans.”

Mining in Southeast Missouri’s “Lead Belt” has resulted in high concentrations of lead and cadmium in the crawfish, according to the nonprofit center.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed for endangered species protection in 2020 for the two types of Missouri crawfish, fearing that the native species may have their streams completely invaded within 50 years.

As part of the endangered species protections, areas essential to the conservation of the crayfish species have been designated as critical habitat.

For the two-inch, olive-tan Big Creek crayfish, that includes 1,069 river miles of critical habitat along Big Creek and Twelvemile Creek.

The dark-brown St. Francis River crayfish received 1,043 miles of critical habitat across Iron, Madison, St. Francois, Washington and Wayne counties above the Wappapello Dam.


Center for Biological Diversity

Biden’s Mediocre Mitigation Policy Skimps on Habitat Protection for Rare Wildlife

Nation’s Endangered Species Need Ambitious Action

WASHINGTON—(May 12, 2023)—The Biden administration issued a mitigation policy today that will guide how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reduces and offsets harms to endangered species when reviewing federal actions and projects.

Unlike an Obama-era policy requiring that mitigation result in a net habitat gain for endangered species, today’s policy merely requires no “net loss.”

“As the extinction crisis builds, it’s shocking to see the Fish and Wildlife Service passing up a crucial chance to save wetlands and other wild places,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Most endangered species can’t afford to lose any habitat. At best, this policy keeps species in a perilous state of endangerment. It’s unambitious and unacceptable.”

As with the creation or restoration of wetlands, creating new endangered species habitat often doesn’t work. As such, a no net loss policy is essentially a fiction and in many if not most cases, endangered species will continue to lose habitat. A net gain requirement would have compensated for this shortcoming by requiring more acres to be restored and protected than are destroyed.

“This policy continues the Biden administration’s disappointing performance on the environment,” said Greenwald. “In the face of the climate catastrophe and the extinction crisis, the administration’s performance, including at the Fish and Wildlife Service under Martha William’s leadership, has been less than underwhelming.”


AP New

Senate votes to limit critical habitat designation for imperiled species and drop bat’s protections

By JOHN FLESHER, May 11, 2023

The U.S. Senate voted narrowly Thursday to overturn two Biden administration policies intended to protect endangered species.

Senators called for reinstating a rule adopted under former President Donald Trump but rescinded by the Biden administration that limited which lands and waters could be designated as places for imperiled animals and plants to receive federal protection.

They also proposed dropping a 2022 federal designation of the northern long-eared bat as endangered.

Earlier this month, the Senate voted to undo federal protections for the lesser prairie chicken, a rare grouse found in parts of the Midwest and Southwest.

The actions, backed mostly by Republicans, represent rare congressional involvement in matters usually left to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Endangered Species Act tasks those agencies with deciding which animals and plants to list as endangered or threatened and how to rebuild their populations.

President Joe Biden threatened to veto the resolutions, which await action in the House.

“We are in the midst of a global extinction crisis for which the chief driver is the destruction, degradation, and loss of habitat,” a White House statement said.

A 2019 United Nations report said about 1 million species are in danger of extinction, with losses accelerating up to hundreds of times faster than before.

The Biden administration last June withdrew a Trump definition of “habitat” that environmental advocates said was too narrow to provide essential protection. Supporters said it would give landowners incentives to help troubled species while securing property rights.

Restoring the Trump habitat definition, the White House said, would “severely limit” federal agencies’ ability to help troubled species survive and recover.

Senators backed a resolution to reinstate the definition, 51-49. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican and its chief sponsor, argued that uncertainty about what qualifies as habitat lowers property values and hampers crucial infrastructure projects.

“Two-thirds of all endangered species are located on private lands,” Lummis said. “For these species to be recovered, private landowners must be part of the solution and not treated as the enemy.”

Joining Republicans in voting for reinstating the Trump definition of habitat were Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Independent Angus King of Maine, who often caucuses with Democrats.

The Trump rule was among several steps his administration took to scale back or alter endangered species policies, including lifting blanket protections for animals newly listed as threatened and setting cost estimates for saving species. Biden ordered a review of his predecessor’s environmental rulemaking shortly after taking office.

Under the 1973 law, federal agencies cannot fund, permit or take actions that would destroy or severely damage critical habitats. It doesn’t restrict activities on private land unless government approval or financial support is involved.

The Trump rule’s habitat definition was “unclear, confusing and inconsistent with the conservation purposes” of the law, the Fish and Wildlife Service and Marine Fisheries Service said previously.

It prevented agencies from selecting areas that don’t presently meet a species’ needs but might in the future as a result of restoration work or natural changes, they said. Global warming is expected to alter many landscapes and waters, attracting species that migrate from places no longer suitable for them.

The Fish and Wildlife Service declared the northern long-eared bat endangered last November, raising its status from threatened. It is among 12 bat types hammered by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has reduced its numbers by 97% or more in some areas.

The bat is found in 37 eastern and north-central states, plus Washington, D.C., and much of Canada.

Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, said bats contribute $3 billion annually to the nation’s agricultural economy through pest control and pollination.

Critics of the endangered listing contend it would hamper logging and other land uses that weren’t responsible for the bat’s sharp decline.

The vote on removing the listing was 51-49, with Manchin and Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar voting with Republicans. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California opposed both measures after returning to the Capitol following a long illness.


Yahoo! News

Idaho officials want Endangered Species Act protections removed from grizzly bears, plan to file lawsuit against federal government

Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho, May 10, 2023

Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Raul Labrador said Wednesday they intend to sue the federal government over its refusal to remove Endangered Species Act protections from grizzly bears.

In a 60-day notice of intent to sue, Little and Labrador said the federal government erred in 1975 when it listed grizzly bears in the Lower 48 states as a endangered species.

“Idaho’s entire congressional delegation and the State of Idaho are lockstep in efforts to delist grizzly bears,” Little said in a news release. “Idaho has continually demonstrated leadership in species management, and we have never hesitated to push back on the federal government’s overreaching actions that greatly impact a variety of activities on the ground in our state.”

According to the state’s argument, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service defined the range of grizzly protection too broadly and in violation of the ESA when the species was first listed. It says the geographic area of “the Lower 48 States” does not qualify as a “distinct population” and includes vast areas, such as states east of the Mississippi River, where grizzlies never roamed. Because of the error, the state claims grizzlies, as defined, do not qualify as a species.

The state made the same claims last year in a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking that the great bears be stripped of federal protection. That petition was rejected.

“I think the Fish and Wildlife Service appropriately responded to the state’s petition. The state really didn’t provide credible scientific backing for why the species was improperly listed,” Brad Smith of the Idaho Conservation League said.

Smith said in Idaho, only the Yellowstone population of grizzlies meet recovery goals while bears in the Selkirks and Cabinet-Yaak recovery areas don’t and the Bitterroot Recovery Area in north central Idaho has no resident grizzly bears.

In addition, Smith said Idaho’s liberal wolf hunting and trapping regulations and its intent to drive down the state’s wolf population should give the federal government pause that it would responsibly manage grizzly bears if they were to be delisted.

“Idaho has undermined its case for state management of grizzlies through the actions it has taken with wolf management after wolf delisting,” he said.

Jim Fredericks, director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the state is prepared to manage grizzlies.

“The State of Idaho has been and continues to be 100-percent committed to the conservation of grizzly bears, as the actions of local communities, landowners, recreationists and state government have demonstrated,” he said in the news release. “This action is in response to a flawed ESA listing almost 50 years ago that has now become a barrier to the delisting of recovered populations.”

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Idaho’s petition to delist grizzlies across the Lower 48, it accepted much more narrow petitions from Wyoming and Montana. The two states asked that ESA protections for grizzlies in the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems, which each have about 1,000 great bears and are meeting population objectives, be downlisted. Idaho has about 100 to 200 grizzlies, many of which spend much of their time in Wyoming, Montana and British Columbia, Canada.


Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Endangered Species Mitigation Fund allocates $4.4 million to fund 42 wildlife conservation projects in 2023

Published: Tuesday, May 9, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A total of $4.4 million was allocated to dozens of wildlife-related projects at the recent annual Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Endangered Species Mitigation Fund meeting on May 3.

The Endangered Species Mitigation Fund was created in 1997 to direct funds toward the protection, conservation and recovery of federally listed species and species of greatest conservation need, as identified in the Utah Wildlife Action Plan. The goal of the funding is to prevent additional species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act and to work toward downlisting or delisting species already listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Roughly 42 projects will be funded by the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund over the next fiscal year (from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024). The $4.4 million is an increase from past years, due to an additional $1 million of ESMF restricted funding that was approved for spending by the Utah Legislature during the 2023 legislative session.

“Conservation funding for species that are not hunted or fished is hard to come by,” DWR Assistant Habitat Section Chief Paul Thompson said. “Those of us in Utah working to better understand and maintain healthy populations for our lesser-known species are fortunate that our state legislature had the foresight to establish the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund to help preserve Utah’s biodiversity.”

The projects that will be funded each year are selected and approved by the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund Advisory Committee, a seven-person committee of diverse stakeholders and organization representatives.

This year, the funds will be allocated to the following:

*Programs and recovery efforts to help Utah species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act, including the Utah prairie dog, June sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail, Virgin River chub, woundfin, California condor, desert tortoise and several plant species. Approximately 40% of the total funds will go toward these species’ recovery efforts.

*Conducting studies to better monitor Utah’s native species populations so they can be more effectively managed in order to prevent additional listings under the Endangered Species Act. Three projects in particular will be funded this year to better understand the distribution of Utah’s mountainsnails, springsnails and freshwater mussels. Additional projects to better understand other native species include projects focusing on boreal toad, least chub, bluehead sucker, roundtail chub, flannelmouth sucker, pygmy rabbits, black rosy finch and other native bats and pollinator species.

*Matching federal State Wildlife Grant funding, which will stretch funds even further to help with additional conservation projects that benefit Utah’s native species.

Since 1997, the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund has:

*Completed more than 600 projects that benefit native fish and wildlife species.

*Dedicated more than $80 million toward native species conservation efforts.

*Helped recover populations of various species to achieve two Endangered Species Act delistings, three downlistings (from endangered status to threatened), and to prevent 28 species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act.

These recently allocated funds and projects are in addition to the $3.4 million in Habitat Council funds and the $3.9 million in conservation permit funds that were each allocated to wildlife research and habitat projects in April. Both of those funding programs use Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative, a Utah Department of Natural Resources partnership-based program, which serves as a centralized portal for funding and tracking the completion of habitat-related projects.


Center for Biological Diversity

Maine Flower Becomes Endangered Species Act Success Story

Furbish’s Lousewort Moves Toward Recovery

PORTLAND, Maine—(May 9, 2023)—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that an endangered flower in Maine is recovering under the Endangered Species Act and has been downlisted to threatened status.

Furbish’s lousewort is a nearly 3-foot-tall, yellow flower with fern-like leaves that grows only on the banks of the St. John River in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. It was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1978 due primarily to a proposed hydropower dam that would have wiped out its habitat. There are now 20 subpopulations along a 140-mile section of the river, and it was proposed for reclassification from endangered to threatened status in 2021.

“As we fight the escalating extinction crisis, it’s important to celebrate conservation successes for all the little species that make up life on Earth,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Endangered Species Act has saved 99% percent of the plants and animals under its care, from grizzlies and whales to obscure plants with unfortunate names like Furbish’s lousewort.”

Protection as a threatened species is still required because most of the flower’s range is still vulnerable to threats from development for housing, agriculture, pollution and climate change. Warming winters and more severe flood events are changing the moderate ice scour that maintains the riverbank conditions the flower needs to thrive. The flower grows only in damp shaded areas of riverbank that are neither too wet nor too sunny.

State protections are now in place for municipal shoreline zoning and several protected areas have been established for the plant. Efforts are also underway to restore degraded areas of riparian forest. In Canada the plant is protected under the Species At Risk Act and New Brunswick’s Endangered Species Act.

Furbish’s lousewort doesn’t flower until it’s three years old. The plants obtain nutrients through their roots by parasitizing other plants. The flowers have only one pollinator — half-black bumblebees, who only forage around half a mile from their nests.

“We share the planet with more than 8 million fascinating species, and their survival is now in our hands,” said Curry. “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, so it’s the perfect time to commit to halting extinction. We have to take bold action to keep the climate livable and protect wildlife and wild places.”

Furbish’s lousewort is named after artist and botanist Catherine Furbish, who spent six decades classifying and depicting the flora of Maine.


ABC News

Mexico search set to find world’s most endangered porpoises

Mexican officials and the conservation group Sea Shepherd say experts will set out in two ships in a bid to locate the few remaining vaquita marina, the world’s most endangered marine mammal

By The Associated Press, May 8, 2023

MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials and the conservation group Sea Shepherd said Monday that experts will set out in two ships in a bid to locate the few remaining vaquita marina, the world’s most endangered marine mammal.

Mexico environment secretary said experts from the United States, Canada and Mexico will use binoculars, sighting devices and acoustic monitors to try to pinpoint the location of the tiny, elusive porpoises. The species cannot be captured, held or bred in captivity.

The trip will run from May 10 to May 27 in the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, the only place the vaquita lives. The group will travel in a Sea Shepherd vessel and a Mexican boat to try and sight vaquitas; as few as eight of the creatures are believed to remain.

Illegal gillnet fishing traps and kills the vaquita. Fishermen set the nets to catch totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in China and can fetch thousands of dollars per pound (kilogram).

Sea Shepherd has been working in the Gulf alongside the Mexican Navy to discourage illegal fishing in the one area where vaquitas were last seen. The area is known as the ‘zero tolerance’ zone, and no fishing is supposedly allowed there. However, illegal fishing boats are regularly seen there, and so Mexico has been unable to completely stop them.

Pritam Singh, Sea Shepherd’s chairman, said that a combination of patrols and the Mexican Navy’s plan to sink concrete blocks with hooks to snare illegal nets has reduced the number of hours that fishing boats spend in the restricted zone by 79% in 2022, compared to the previous year.

Singh said “the last 18 months have been incredibly impactful and encouraging,” while noting that “the road ahead for saving this species is long.”

The last such sighting expedition in 2021 yielded probable sightings of between 5 and 13 vaquitas, a decline from the previous survey in 2019. The porpoises are so small and so elusive, and are usually seen from so far away, that it is hard to be sure if observers are seeing a vaquita, how many they saw or if they saw the same animal twice.

But the illegal fishing itself has impeded population calculations in the past.

According to a report by experts published in 2022, both the 2019 and 2021 surveys “were hindered by the presence of many illegal fishing boats with gillnets in the water. Some areas could not be surveyed at all on some days due to the density of illegal fishing.”

The government’s protection efforts have been uneven, at best, and also often face violent opposition from local fishermen.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration has largely declined to spend money to compensate fishermen for staying out of the vaquita refuge and stop using gillnets, or monitor their presence or the areas they launch from.


Center for Biological Diversity

Reward Raised to $15,000 for Info on Arkansas Bald Eagle Killings

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—(May 8, 2023)—The Center for Biological Diversity today increased the reward to $15,000 for information leading to a conviction for the illegal killing of four bald eagles in northern Arkansas.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a $5,000 reward last month, and the Center is boosting the amount by $10,000.

“We grieve the senseless and illegal killing of these majestic birds and want the perpetrator brought to justice,” said Will Harlan, a senior scientist at the Center. “This cowardly act against America’s national bird can’t go unpunished. I hope someone steps forward with information.”

A joint investigation by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the bald eagles were shot between mid-January and mid-February. Evidence suggests the birds were shot from County Road 3021 near the rural town of Pyatt, in Marion County, Arkansas, in the southern Ozarks.

In addition to the bald eagles, authorities found red-tailed hawks, a domestic dog and white-tailed deer in the vicinity that had also been shot and killed.

Bald eagles are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Violations of these acts carry maximum criminal penalties of up to a $250,000 fine and two years in federal prison.

Bald eagles nest in Arkansas, and they also follow waterfowl that migrate south into Arkansas during the winter months.

Anyone with information about the killings should contact the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Conway Office of Law Enforcement at (501) 513-4470 or the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at (833) 356-0824.


Bald eagles are the only eagles unique to North America, and they have been a major success story in American conservation. Chosen by Congress as the nation’s symbol in 1782, the bald eagle was subject to widespread extermination efforts for the next two centuries. When the story of bald eagles’ poisoning by the pesticide DDT was popularized in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a nascent environmental movement rallied around them. The bald eagle was one of the first species listed under the 1967 precursor to today’s Endangered Species Act.

The bald eagle’s comeback has been a strong one — a testament to the power of the Endangered Species Act. As a result of habitat protection, the federal government’s banning of DDT, and national conservation efforts, the bald eagle was delisted under the Act in 2007.

Bald eagles have a wingspan of 7 feet and can live more than 30 years in the wild. They develop their iconic white head around age four. Adults mate for life and raise their young together. Illegal shooting, habitat destruction, and lead poisoning remain the primary threats to their survival today.


CBS 58 News (Milwaukee, WI)

21 critically endangered California condors have died from avian flu

Posted: May 6, 2023, By Zoe Sottile, CNN

(CNN) — A species that conservationists once saved from the brink of extinction is now facing a new powerful threat: avian flu.

In a little more than a month, 21 critically endangered California condors have died of avian flu, according to a Friday news release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The disease has been found in northern Arizona, among the bird’s Southwest flock, which straddles the Arizona-Utah border, says the service. Avian flu has not yet been confirmed among any condors in Utah, California, or Baja California, Mexico.

The deceased birds, which officials counted from March 30 to May 5, included eight breeding pairs, according to the news release. Four condors with avian flu are currently recovering at Liberty Wildlife, an Arizona wildlife rescue.

The deaths have likely set conservation efforts back by a decade or more, the Peregrine Fund, which manages the Southwest flock, told CNN in an email.

“Because the Condor is slow to mature, taking up to eight years before they can produce young, and with an average of one young every other year,” even a single loss in the wild can have “a big impact,” said Chris Parish, the non-profit’s president and CEO. “This will change recovery as we know it.”

“We will need to double down on causes of mortality that we can control or change rates of, like lead poisoning, and be better prepared with (hopefully) vaccines and greater infrastructure to respond to events like this in the future,” he went on.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has said it was working to manage the outbreak and may consider vaccinating the endangered birds.

The Peregrine Fund added it wasn’t sure how influenza entered the condor population. The organization explained that condors are important to preserve because they “provide a critical ecological service” by “eating dead animals that can be a source of disease transmission to other wildlife, livestock, and even humans.”

The species are also considered sacred to the Yurok Tribe, California’s largest Native American tribe.

The condors, which are one of the world’s largest birds with a wingspan of 9.5 feet, almost went extinct in the 1980s, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. By 1987, the tiny population of condors left in the wild was placed into a captive breeding program in an attempt to bring the species back from the brink.

In 1992, the service began releasing captive-born condors into the wild. The population has slowly started to bounce back: As of 2020, there were a total of 504 condors in the world with 175 living in captivity and 329 living in the wild, according to a report from the Department of the Interior.

But they still face serious threats, including lead poisoning, which the birds contract after scavenging on animals that have been shot with lead ammunition.

Experts have said this may be one of the deadliest outbreaks of avian flu ever in the US. The disease has affected almost 60,000 captive poultry across 47 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Risk to humans is limited — only one human infection has been detected in the US, says the CDC.



Republicans Battle White House Over Prairie Chickens

By NICK REYNOLDS on 5/5/23

President Joe Biden is expected to veto newly passed legislation removing the prairie chicken from the federal endangered species list, setting the stage for another environmental showdown between the Democratic administration and Republicans in Congress.

A slim bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate this week invoked its privilege under the Congressional Review Act to overturn a Biden administration rule protecting the bird, which opponents say has hindered energy and agricultural development throughout the animal’s Midwest habitat.

The decision was the first time Congress voted to invoke the privilege in an effort to circumvent a decision to list a species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), drawing battle lines for a new fight between the executive and legislative branches that could come to define species management.

“This sets a disastrous precedent that could put them and other endangered species at risk of disappearing forever,” the League of Conservation Voters said in a statement after the vote.

Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall, who sponsored the legislation, said the bird’s status posed a “significant burden” for ranchers, farmers and energy producers who live and work in the prairie states that the bird calls home.

According to the most recent data available, about two-thirds of the 27,000 birds live in western Kansas, with the majority of those living on small, protected preserves isolated from the development that eliminated about 95 percent of their natural habitat nationwide.

While Biden’s decision to list the bird under the Endangered Species Act was inspired by its precarious status—once numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the prairie chicken has teetered on the brink of extinction since the 1930s—Marshall claimed the ESA was “just another weaponized tool” the president used to “attack rural America,” presenting industry with burdensome regulations that ignored the success of conservation efforts at the state and local level.

“Public and private partnerships have had great success preserving the [Lesser Prairie Chicken’s] habitats and increasing the bird’s population,” Marshall wrote in a statement after the vote. “The federal government must not handcuff these conservation efforts with burdensome government regulations.”

Advocates for the bird say the decision to delist it would likely lead to its extinction, noting that the lesser prairie chicken population has declined 97 percent since the 1960s.

“The science is clear—the Lesser Prairie-Chicken will disappear from our grasslands without these protections,” Marshall Johnson, chief conservation officer of the National Audubon Society, wrote in a statement opposing the decision. “We appreciate President Biden’s commitment to veto this resolution. Science—not politics—should dictate how we protect our nation’s threatened and endangered wildlife.”

Wednesday’s vote marks the latest volley between Republicans and the administration over the endangered status of various species. In recent years in the Upper Mountain West, lawmakers have sparred with the federal government over regulations protecting species like the sage grouse and the wolf in states like Wyoming and Montana, which Republicans say hamstrung energy developers as well as ranchers looking to protect their livestock.

Opponents of Republicans’ efforts say they are trying to circumvent needed environmental regulations on behalf of the energy sector.

Last week, members of the Republican-controlled House Committee on Natural Resources voted to advance legislation delisting the prairie chicken as well as the northern long-eared bat, while lending their support to a resolution reinstating a Trump-era rule narrowing the definition of critical habitat under the ESA that Democrats claim would cripple the government’s ability to designate new critical habitats for a species as a result of phenomena like climate change.

(Newsweek reached out to the White House via email for comment.)


The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA)

Emergency Endangered Species Act listing for imperiled Clear Lake hitch denied

The Federal fishery service is still considering whether imperiled Clear Lake minnow should be listed under Endangered Species Act through regular process.

MARY CALLAHAN, May 5, 2023

A small fish that has important ecological and cultural significance to North Bay Native American communities has been rejected for emergency listing under the Endangered Species act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still moving forward with its formal evaluation of the Clear Lake hitch, and listing is still possible through the agency’s normal process. Its findings are expected in January 2025.

The fish, which grows to about a foot long and is only found in Clear Lake, is considered imperiled by Lake County tribes and the Center for Biological Diversity, which had petitioned for the emergency listing.

Michael Fris, field supervisor for the agency’s Sacramento office, said the chronic ills that challenge survival of the hitch are too numerous and insufficiently understood to suggest an emergency listing is appropriate.

“The emergency listing provision is effective when there is a clear threat that can be addressed expeditiously by regulatory authorities and has only been used a handful of times in the history of the Endangered Species Act,” Fris said in a news release.

He said that after investing more than $1.2 million in grant funds for monitoring, research and habitat restoration already, that U.S. Fish and Wildlife remains “committed to helping the Clear Lake hitch regardless of its federal listing status.”

Plentiful rainfall over the past four months may have given the species a bit of a break in any case, with spawning numbers so far this spring looking stronger than they have in years.

“It’s been going amazing,” said Karola Kennedy, interim environmental director and water resources manager for the Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians, “because there’s an amazing amount of water, and it continues to rain. … The conditions are totally conducive to not only the hitch spawning, but everything else.”

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Fish Biologist Ben Ewing, who has been monitoring Clear Lake hitch since 2014, said he’s never surveyed as many spawning fish as this year. He’s also counted more hitch in the lake using electrofishing equipment than he has since starting those surveys in 2019.

The problem isn’t solved by a single season, however, and the tributaries remain unpredictable, reaching waist-high level one day and running dry and stranding fish a few days later.

California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot told the State Water Resources Control Board in March the hitch remained at “a perilous moment.”

Meg Townsend, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said she was disappointed by the emergency listing decision, announced Tuesday, but unsurprised.

“This is definitely a frustrating decision, but unfortunately, it’s something that doesn’t surprise us, given that the service has kept repeating that it is not inclined to use the listing power of the Endangered Species Act to protect the Clear Lake hitch,” Townsend said.

“We knew when we were asking for emergency listing that it was kind of a big ask,” she added. “We fully believe it was warranted for the hitch, but we know it’s rare.”

The conservation group and local tribes have sought endangered species listing since 2012 for the hitch, or “chi,” as they are known to Indigenous people.

The federal Fish and Wildlife Service denied the petition in 2020.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued, and the agency agreed last year to reconsider listing the chi to settle the case — a move “compatible with where the data is taking us anyway,” Fris said several months ago.

The chi population, once abundant, has virtually collapsed in recent years, with surveys conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey turning up evidence of such poor reproductive success that many feared this spring would be the last chance for the chi to produce young.

The fish, which grow to more than a foot long and almost a pound in weight, live about six years, spawning in shallow, gravely tributaries around Clear Lake that have been disturbed and altered over time by mining, water diversions, development, human-made barriers and, especially recently, drought.

The tules around the lake shore where they mature also have diminished substantially. Other threats include competition from invasive fish species and water quality issues.

The last year any significant number of juveniles was samples in the lake was 2017, according to USGS data.

The last chance for those fish to reproduce before dying is this spring.

The recognition of their situation mobilized local tribes for whom the chi are a cultural touchstone and traditional food source to reach out to the state Fish and Wildlife Department and the California Fish and Game Commission, which last winter agreed to an emergency summit on the issue.

In December, the tribes and Center for Biological Diversity submitted their petition for emergency listing.

Both the state Fish and Wildlife Commission and the 15-member Blue Ribbon Committee for the Rehabilitation of Clear Lake, which was create by state legislation in 2017, also have requested emergency listing for hitch. It has been listed as threatened with extinction under the California Endangered Species Act since 2014.

The State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Water Resources also became involved in the effort to ensure that water quality and, particularly, surface water supplies were not put at risk during spawning season by illegal or unnecessary water diversions or groundwater withdrawals.

Townsend said much of that attention and investment in training, monitoring and groundwork was a result of the emergency petition, so in that respect, it helped the hitch.

That’s what’s most important, Kennedy said.

“To me, saving the hitch is about being on the ground and doing the work. Every else is just political.”

Townsend said she still hopes the chi will be listed in two years, despite the denial of an emergency listing.

“It’s a bummer, but it’s not surprising,” she said, “and we’re really hopeful that the Fish and Wildlife Service will do what’s necessary and list the hitch in 2025.”



A Ray of Hope for Some Coral Reefs

By: Tiffany Duong, May 4, 2023

Sometimes, change is good.

Scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science have discovered a new resiliency in certain coral reefs in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Dominant, foundational coral species on those reefs have survived multiple marine heat waves so far by changing out the symbiotic algae within their cells to build heat tolerance. This adaptation could help those reefs survive into the 2060s – well beyond current projections for coral reefs as a whole.

Coral reefs are rich and vital marine ecosystems. Despite taking up less than 1% of the ocean floor, they are home to more than 25% of all marine life – providing food, shelter and habitat. In fact, coral reefs could be the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet – even edging out tropical rainforests.

Individual coral colonies are made up of “duplicated” individual coral polyps, which replicate themselves to create massive structures and reefs. Each coral polyp, itself a complete animal, contains symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae. The microscopic algae photosynthesize and provide corals with energy that the hosts use to grow. In exchange, the algae have a safe place to live within the corals and use their hosts’ waste to photosynthesize.

Climate change is causing water temperatures to increase to unprecedented levels, threatening coral health worldwide. Typically, as water temperatures increase, corals expel their helpful algae (which also give them their namesake colors) and “bleach.” Without the energy provided by zooxanthellae, the corals turn white, struggle to meet their energy needs and often die. According to The Independent, Earth has already lost more than half of its “underwater rainforests” and over 90% will die by 2050. Along the same lines, the World Economic Forum reported that 99% of coral reefs could disappear without drastic climate action in this decade.

Understanding how and why changes in this symbiotic relationship occur led the UMiami scientists to their new discovery. Their findings – that some corals can shuffle symbionts to increase heat resistance in the face of climate change – offer a “ray of hope” against this dominant and depressing coral narrative.

“There is a huge diversity of algal symbionts that associate with corals, and different species have different weaknesses and strengths,” explained Ana Palacio-Castro, the study’s lead author and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Miami and NOAA-AOML. “That is also the case for these algal symbionts – some are more resistant to heat stress.”

The scientists are studying how different species of zooxanthellae help their hosts adapt to changing oceanic conditions through increased resilience to conditions like higher water temperatures, increased acidification or sedimentation, Palacio-Castro added. However, different coral species vary in their ability to shuffle symbionts to acquire various types of resistance. So, being able to complete a “symbiont shuffle” could be a key to a coral’s survival into the future.

The team examined over 40 years’ worth of coral reef-monitoring data from Panama. During that time, three heat waves (1982-83, 1997-98 and 2015-16) occurred; comparing data on algal symbiont communities in the area during the latter two heat waves led to an understanding of how certain corals can improve their tolerance to heat stress via a symbiont shuffle.

In particular, they found, Pocillopora corals increase the amount of Durusdinium glynnii zooxanthellae during ocean heat waves. The latter are what boost the host corals’ heat tolerance. According to Palacio-Castro, thermal-resistant algae have been found to be “more selfish and share less energy” with their hosts. “Under normal conditions, these zooxanthellae might not be the most beneficial for the corals, but, under stressful conditions, these selfish symbionts become beneficial since they can better cope with stress,” she explained. “It’s not the optimal symbiont for the ideal coral world, but since we’re not in the ideal coral world, this is what they need.”

The findings are particularly salient because of how critical Pocillopora corals are to the Eastern Pacific marine ecosystem. “We have seen other coral species shuffle algal symbionts, but it was understood as a process that could not save whole reefs,” Palacio-Castro told EcoWatch. “In our study, what was new is that the coral that can shuffle its symbionts in the most important coral in the region.”

These “cauliflower corals” are “super dominant” reef-builders in the Eastern Pacific, sometimes covering 90% of the substrate. “So, the fact that this coral can shuffle symbionts and survive heat stress might help protect entire reefs in the Eastern Pacific region,” she said. “This brings us hope because these reefs will be preserved longer than we thought, and this gives us more time to figure out climate change.”

Now, the UMiami team wants to work with coral restoration practitioners to see if they can induce a symbiont switch for more heat-tolerant algae communities to prime corals before they’re put back onto reefs.

“Our goal with this paper is to show a little bit of hope, but that hope needs to be a call for action,” Palacio-Castro said. “We have some time. There’s still a lot of beautiful things we can preserve, but we need to start acting now.”


Center For Biological Diversity

Biden Administration Sued for Failing to Protect Endangered Species Habitat From Harmful Pesticides

TUCSON, Ariz.—(May 4, 2023)—The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to push it to take action to stop endangered species from being harmed by pesticides in habitats that are critical to their survival.

The Service failed to respond to a January 2019 petition to prohibit nearly all uses of pesticides in areas designated as critical habitat for endangered species, despite the Center’s prior notice that it intended to sue the agency.

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a dozen assessments in the past several years finding that various pesticides are causing grave harm to most of the nation’s most endangered plants and animals. Hundreds of other pesticides may harm these same species’ critical habitats, yet remain unassessed for their potential risks.

Yet the Service has failed to put in place any on-the-ground conservation measures to protect species from pesticides.

“Protected wildlife and plants continue to needlessly suffer and decline while the Service sits idly by,” said Stephanie Parent, senior counsel at the Center and lead counsel in the case. “Pesticides are a major factor in the extinction crisis, but the Service has literally no plan to deal with their harms. This petition should be granted so wildlife finally can benefit from practical, common-sense conservation measures to protect them from pesticides.”

The petition calls for the agency to use its independent authority under the Endangered Species Act to proactively put in place measures to protect endangered wildlife and plants from harmful pesticides.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has long recognized that pesticides pose extensive threats to endangered species. Recovery plans for 250 endangered species specifically identify pesticides as a known threat and obstacle to their recovery.

Pesticides continue to be a primary threat causing more wildlife and plant species to added to the endangered species list, including the rusty patched bumblebee in 2017 and the California spotted owl listed earlier this year.

After many years of litigation, the EPA recognized that it needed to reform its programs to address the harms of pesticides to endangered species. In the past two years the agency has requested consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service to assess threats to protected plants and animals posed by at least a dozen pesticides.

However, the Service has not completed its part of the consultation process on at least 11 of these pesticides.

For example, the EPA’s assessment of the impacts of the pesticide cyantraniliprole to endangered species found that the insecticide is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of 68 protected species and is likely to harm the designated critical habitat of 112 species. But the Fish and Wildlife Service has made no commitments to complete this consultation within the time frame required under the Endangered Species Act.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service can’t keep ignoring its duty to protect habitat that is critical to our most endangered wildlife and plants,” said Parent. “We had really hoped the Service would take this seriously instead of burying its head in the sand, leaving us with no choice but to sue.”





May 3, 2023



S.J. Res. 9 – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States  Code, of the rule submitted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service relating to “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Lesser Prairie-Chicken; Threatened Status with Section 4(d) Rule for the Northern Distinct Population Segment and Endangered Status for the Southern Distinct Population Segment” (Sen. Marshall, R-KS, and five cosponsors)

     The Administration strongly opposes passage of S.J. Res. 9, a joint resolution to disapprove of a

final rule that protects the lesser prairie-chicken from extinction. By overturning a science-based

rulemaking that follows the requirements of the law, S.J. Res. 9 undermines the Endangered

Species Act (ESA).

     The rule, issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), provides ESA protections to an

American bird species whose historical habitat on the Great Plains has diminished by

approximately 90 percent and whose populations have plummeted toward disappearance.

Following a rigorous review of the best available scientific and commercial information regarding

the past, present, and future threats, as well as ongoing conservation efforts, the USFWS listed the

Southern species of the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered, and the Northern species of the lesser

prairie-chicken as threatened. The rule also affirms and protects locally led and crafted voluntary

conservation agreements that landowners and land managers have developed in recent years, which

provide certainty for industry as well as safeguards for prairie-chicken populations.

     Almost every species that has been listed under the ESA since its bipartisan passage 50 years ago

is still with us today. The lesser prairie-chicken serves as an indicator for healthy grasslands and

prairies, making them an important measure of the overall health of America’s grasslands, a

treasured and storied landscape. Overturning common-sense protections for the lesser prairie[1]chicken would undermine America’s proud wildlife conservation traditions, risk the extinction of a

once-abundant American bird, and create uncertainty for landowners and industries who have been

working for years to forge the durable, locally led conservation strategies that this rule supports.

For these reasons, if Congress were to pass S.J. Res. 9, the President would veto it.


Defenders of Wildlife

Defenders Opposes Senate Legislation to Strip Protections from Endangered Bird


The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote today on S.J Res. 9, an unprecedented attack on the Endangered Species Act, that if made law could permanently strip protections from threatened and endangered populations of lesser prairie-chickens.

Introduced by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), the legislation will use the Congressional Review Act to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule establishing ESA protections for the northern and southern populations of lesser prairie-chicken. A CRA has never before been used to overturn an ESA listing decision.

“We knew this Congress would be filled with attacks on imperiled species and the Endangered Species Act, but we never imagined the Senate would actually vote on a measure that is likely to cause the extinction of a species,” said Mary Beth Beetham, legislative director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Fifty years ago, the United States made a commitment to use science over politics when protecting our nation’s most at-risk species. This vote flies in the face of that commitment and represents a huge breach of trust.”

Troublingly, if the CRA ultimately is made law, FWS would be prevented from issuing a rule that is “substantially the same” without another act of Congress. While the meaning of “substantially the same” is unclear, creating uncertainty in whether the agency would be able to reestablish protections in the future if declines continue is as bright as day. 

Found on only 10 percent of their former range, lesser prairie-chickens have experienced one of the most precipitous declines of any bird species in the U.S., and removal of ESA protections will be disastrous. From 2021 to 2022 alone, their populations declined by more than 20 percent; and today, only an estimated 27,000 birds remain.


WGCU Public Media (Ft. Myers, FL)

Slew of manatee deaths leading to lawsuit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By Tom Bayles, Published May 2, 2023

Major environmental groups have put the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on notice for not adequately protecting the West Indian Manatee in recent years, as more than 4,000 have died.

In November, conservationists filed a petition urging the federal fish and wildlife service to undo their 2017 decision to lower the protections for the species and restore the animal to fully endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency, by law, must determine within 90 days whether the information in the petition warrants uplisting the manatee from threatened to endangered. More than 150 days have gone by without any action by fish and wildlife, the conservation groups said.

“I’m appalled that the fish and wildlife service hasn’t responded to our urgent request for increased protections for these desperately imperiled animals,” said Ragan Whitlock, a Florida-based attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s painfully clear that manatees need full protection under the Endangered Species Act, and they need it now.”

The ESA defines “endangered” as a species on the brink of extinction, and “threatened” is a creature in peril that will likely qualify as “endangered” in the foreseeable future.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic, Miami Waterkeeper, and others sent a notice earlier this week of their intent to file a lawsuit. The notice is required before suing a federal agency.

“The government’s lack of urgency in responding to the mass deaths of manatees is deeply concerning,” said Ben Rankin, a student attorney at the Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic. “This cherished species badly needs protection from the federal government, and it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to get the fish and wildlife service to perform its legal duties.”



40% of Life in Ocean’s Biodiverse ‘Twilight Zone’ Could Disappear Amid Warming Seas

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, May 1, 2023

Just below the surface of the world’s ocean is a layer of deep where sunlight doesn’t reach. Known as the mesopelagic, its depths of 656 to 3,280 feet are cold and dark, but flash with bioluminescent light. In fact, there is more life here than in the rest of the ocean put together. One study found that 95 percent of the world’s fish hide out in this mysterious zone.

Some of the marine species in the midwater, as the layer is also known, are among the biggest on Earth, but most are small and an important part of the ocean’s food web. These creatures ferry enormous amounts of carbon from the surface of the sea into its depths as an essential part of the planet’s climate regulation process.

A new study predicts that the abundance of life hiding in the twilight zone will face considerable declines, even extinctions in some cases, as global waters warm and less food makes its way into the ocean depths.

“The rich variety of twilight zone life evolved in the last few million years, when ocean waters had cooled enough to act rather like a fridge, preserving the food for longer and improving conditions allowing life to thrive,” said Katherine Crichton, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Exeter, as The Guardian reported.

The study, “What the geological past can tell us about the future of the ocean’s twilight zone,” was published in the journal Nature Communications.

The twilight zone, which consists of about one fourth of the volume of the world’s ocean, is home to many species and millions of tons of organic matter, including lanternfish and kite fin sharks, equipped with bioluminescent skin.

The particles of food that float down from the surface of the ocean in the form of marine animal poop and dead phytoplankton are called “marine snow.”

These flecks of sustenance have been degraded faster by bacteria from past warming events so there are less available for marine creatures in the twilight zone, reported CNN.

According to the study, due to the shrinking abundance of food drifting down to the ocean’s midlayer, as much as 40 percent of the marine life living there could be gone by the end of the century.

“According to the studies we have done, 15m years ago there wasn’t all this life [in the twilight zone] and now, because of human activity, we may lose it all. It’s a huge loss of richness,” Crichton told The Guardian. “Unless we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this could lead to the disappearance or extinction of much twilight zone life within 150 years, with effects spanning millennia thereafter.”

Lead author of the study Paul Pearson of Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences said warmer oceans store less carbon due to the fact that the marine snow is being gobbled up by microorganisms closer to the surface, and the less it sinks, the more quickly carbon is released back into Earth’s atmosphere.

Crichton pointed to a bright spot of the study: Although some loss is unavoidable, the most extreme scenario can be avoided if global emissions are curbed.

“We still know relatively little about the ocean twilight zone, but using evidence from the past we can understand what may happen in the future,” Crichton said, as CNN reported.

The study focused on two warm periods — 15 and 50 million years ago — when ocean temperatures were much warmer than they are today.

“We found that the twilight zone was not always a rich habitat full of life,” Pearson said, as reported by CNN. “In these warm periods, far fewer organisms lived in the twilight zone, because much less food arrived from surface waters.”

Three possible outcomes were predicted by the study: a low-carbon possibility with 689 billion tons of total emissions from 2010 going forward; a medium-carbon scenario with 2,756 billion tons of emissions; and a high-carbon scenario with 5,512 billion tons.

“If we get to the medium or high scenario both are very bad news for the twilight zone,” Crichton said, according to The Guardian.


California Department of Fish & Wildlife

Tribe, State And Federal Partners Join To Return Endangered Salmon To Historic Habitat

 May 1, 2023

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe signed agreements to restore Chinook salmon to the mountains north of Redding, California, on May 1, 2023.

The agreements support a joint effort to return Chinook salmon to their original spawning areas in cold mountain rivers now blocked by Shasta Reservoir in northern California. The goal is ecological and cultural restoration which will one day renew fishing opportunities for the tribe that depended on the once-plentiful salmon for food and much more.

The tribe signed a co-management agreement with CDFW and a co-stewardship agreement with NOAA Fisheries, reflecting the way the two agencies describe accords with tribes. This three-way collaboration is a historic achievement that advances our common goals.

The agreements call for the agencies to include the tribe in decisions for salmon that have great meaning for the Winnemem Wintu. Three years of drought have taken a toll on endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, which migrate and spawn in the lower Sacramento River. The river can warm to temperatures that are lethal to their eggs.

During the summer of 2022, the tribe joined state and federal agencies in pursuing urgent measures to improve the odds for winter-run Chinook salmon, including transporting 40,000 fertilized eggs to the cold McCloud River above Shasta Reservoir. Many hatched, swimming down the river for the first time since Shasta Dam was completed in the early 1940s. The tribe joined agency staff in collecting the juvenile fish before they reached the reservoir, which is populated with predators. Biologists then moved them downstream around the reservoir to continue to the ocean.

The agreements will advance recovery plans for the crucial species.

“This is an historic agreement that moves us one step closer to our goal of returning wild salmon from New Zealand and creating a volitional passage around Shasta Dam,” said Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk. “It’s incredible that we can now share this vision with CDFW and NOAA. We have a long way to go, but there are now more good people working on it.”

“This is an historic day and it’s long overdue,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We can’t change the wrongs that were done in the past, but we have an obligation in the present to make it better. With this agreement we are bringing life back to the McCloud River.”

“By working together to share our knowledge and expertise, we can expand and accelerate our efforts to restore and recover Chinook salmon,” said Cathy Marcinkevage, Assistant Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region. “This species is in crisis, and I am confident that we can together drive solutions that will truly make a difference.”

The new agreements call for the tribe to contribute traditional ecological knowledge, sharing insight as the tribe once did for Livingston Stone, who established the nation’s first Chinook salmon hatchery(opens in new tab) on the McCloud in 1872. The tribe’s oral history and Stone’s reports from the time recount the tribe’s deep cultural connection to winter-run Chinook salmon, as well as practical knowledge of the species.

The agencies agreed to make the tribe a “co-equal decision-maker” and CDFW has awarded a $2.3 million grant to support the tribe’s participation in salmon measures. Agencies also agreed to evaluate the potential reintroduction of Chinook salmon that were moved from the McCloud River in California to streams in New Zealand more than 100 years ago and have strong cultural and spiritual significance for the tribe.

In 2022, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) tested an experimental system(opens in new tab) for collecting juvenile winter-run salmon that hatch in the McCloud River as part of a larger-scale future reintroduction program. DWR plans continued testing late this year. Recovery plans for the species call for an ongoing program of annual transplants of winter-run Chinook salmon to spawning habitat in the McCloud River, where they will be safer from the rising temperatures of climate change.

NOAA Fisheries recognizes highly-endangered winter-run Chinook salmon as a “Species in the Spotlight(opens in new tab),” in need of focused recovery actions. Returning the species to the McCloud River is a central element of the 2021-2025 Action Plan for the species, which is also listed under California’s state endangered species act.


The Wildlife Society


May 1, 2023 by Joshua Rapp Learn

Translocated beavers can improve the riparian ecosystem, even in arid areas of Utah

Researchers keen on restoring suitable habitat for endangered fish species in Utah are enlisting the help of industrious hydrological engineers—beavers.

Beavers are well known for their ability to alter the ecosystem around them. Their dams change the way that waterways flow, often slowing down rivers and creating extensive wetlands that a host of other species take advantage of.

Some beavers can still be found in these arid ecosystems, albeit at smaller concentrations than in lusher areas. Habitat changes due to farming, trapping, human water use and other development also means that beavers aren’t as common as they were once thought to be there. Many of those still found in the area make their dens in the river banks rather than damming up the waterways.

Wildlife managers in Utah had been building artificial dams—called beaver dam analogs—to restore water retention and improve habitat for federally endangered species like Colorado pikeminnows (Ptychocheilus Lucius), bonytail chubs (Gila elegans), razorback suckers (Xyrauchen texanus) and bluehead suckers (Catostomus discobolus), as well as state-sensitive species like flannelmouth suckers (C. latipinnis) and roundtail chub(G. robusta).

These analogs, placed in the San Rafael and Price rivers in the state’s central east, took the place of dams created by beavers (Castor canadensis), which aren’t usually associated with desert rivers.

But wildlife managers wondered whether adding more beavers might complement the infrastructure the analogs provide.

TWS member Julie Young, an associate professor of ecology at Utah State University, and her colleagues with the Beaver Ecology and Relocation Center at Utah State University, connected with people all over Utah who had collected so-called nuisance beavers—animals removed from areas after damaging human infrastructure or hydrological systems. The researchers were able to move them to these more arid areas to try to improve habitat for the imperiled fish.

First, they wanted to find out where translocated beavers may be moving once they were released. In 2019 and 2020, they implanted PIT tags in 41 of these beavers, with a subset of 35 that had VHF tracking tags. They moved 33 to the Price River and eight to the San Rafael watersheds. They also translocated six kits that only had PIT tags. As a control group, the researchers captured 24 residents from both areas and planted chips in their tails. They also placed VHF tracking tags in 14 of these 24 resident beavers.

In a study published recently in Animal Conservation, the researchers found that only about a quarter of the translocated beavers stayed in the site where they were placed for the eight weeks they were tracked. This figure is low, Young said, compared to other studies, which showed that about half of beavers typically stayed in their original release site.

But closer to 40% of the translocated beavers that left the release sites where the researchers most wanted them to dam still stayed within the larger watershed. Four of the translocated beavers were killed by predators—likely either bobcats (Lynx rufus), cougars (Puma concolor) or black bears (Ursus americanus). One was killed by a coyote (Canis latrans), and at least another three died of unknown causes. Some beavers also lost their tracking tags in vegetation, Young said.

As far as the main goal regarding dam building, it seems to have worked. “We had more dams after our study than there were before our study,” Young said. The researchers found 17 new dams on the Price River and three on the San Rafael. They believe that a few of these were made by resident beavers—the animals will often build new dams if their previous ones get washed away. In some cases, the beavers built their dams in areas that already had analog dams, improving upon the artificial system already in place.

The research area suffered from drought in 2020. This period showed how valuable the beaver dams were, as the water didn’t dry up in dammed areas as much as in areas without beavers.

“That’s why these dams are important, because it creates permanent puddles of water for the fish to [take] refuge during those times,” Young said.

The researchers plan to look further into the fish response to the beavers and their dams in future research. The drought year also negatively affected fish, but in general, Young said the response seemed positive.

“We were in probably the worst conditions for beavers—it’s a very degraded river system, and we still found some success,” she said.


Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan’s threatened and endangered species list updated

May 01, 2023

The Michigan list of threatened and endangered plants and animals now includes 407 species after completion of its seventh update in nearly 50 years. Experts from universities, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, other conservation organizations and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources recommended changes to the list based on recent data. 

“When people come together to collaborate on conservation, we can recover rare species,” said DNR endangered species specialist Jennifer Kleitch. “For instance, trumpeter swans were just removed from Michigan’s threatened and endangered species list. Their populations have grown as a result of significant conservation efforts by many partners over decades.”

Although the trumpeter swan has been removed from Michigan’s list of threatened and endangered species, it is still federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

While 36 species were removed from the list, others still need our help, Kleitch said.

Three bat species – little brown, northern long-eared and tri-colored – have been listed as threatened due to significant population declines in the state resulting from white-nose syndrome. Rusty-patched bumblebees and American bumblebees were added to the endangered species list because, like many pollinator species, their populations are seeing large declines.

In all, 58 species were added to the list as either threatened or endangered.

“Many threatened and endangered species rely on high-quality natural areas that benefit all of us by providing clean water, clean air and places for us to enjoy nature. When species are struggling, it can indicate declines in the functioning of those natural areas, which in turn can impact our quality of life,” Kleitch said.

You can help by learning more about rare plants and animals and their conservation needs. See a full list of the state’s threatened and endangered plants and animals on the Michigan Natural Features Inventory website. This website also provides additional information on what each species needs to survive and thrive.

“I encourage everyone to take an interest in rare plants and animals – they are fascinating! Learn more and support conservation efforts. Whether it be planting a native flower garden for pollinators or donating to a local land conservancy, we can all play a part,” Kleitch said.


Maui Now

Case and Tokuda introduce measure to combat invasive species in Hawaiʻi

April 30, 2023 ·

US Representatives from Hawaiʻi, Congressman Ed Case and Congresswoman Jill Tokuda, introduced the Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Protection Act, a bill to require that baggage and cargo transporting into the State of Hawaiʻi by air or sea be pre-inspected for invasive species and high-risk agricultural materials, in the same manner as similar baggage and cargo transported to the US mainland must be inspected pre-departure.

“Invasive species pose an especially grave threat to Hawaiʻi’s unique ecosystems, natural resources, and agricultural communities, in part due to Hawaiʻi’s unique geography,” said Rep. Ed Case. “Hawaiʻi is the most isolated island chain and one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world.

“However, tragically, in large part due to invasive species, Hawaiʻi has become the endangered species and extinction capital of the world. The Pacific Islands are home to 44% of the threatened and endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act, and Hawaiʻi currently has 468 species listed as endangered, more than any other state and almost half of the total endangered species nationwide.”

Case said many of these species are critically endangered and face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. “Although we will never know the true number of species that have gone extinct in Hawaiʻi, in 2021 alone nine Hawaiian species were declared extinct,” he said.

Rep. Jill Tokuda said Hawaiʻi is “losing the war against invasive pests and diseases,” and said, “farmers and producers are paying the price.”

“Every year more invasive pests and diseases enter and establish themselves in our state, and there are fewer resources for control and management. It’s hard enough to put food on our tables and shelves, and these threats to agriculture further threaten food security in Hawaiʻi,” said Rep. Tokuda.

“This bill is a needed first step to turn the tide on invasives by providing federal resources to prevent invasive species from even reaching Hawai‘i. I look forward to continuing to fight for increased biosecurity in Hawai‘i in the 2023 Farm Bill,” Rep. Tokuda said.

The Hawai‘i Invasive Species Protection Act, will require the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Inspection Service, in cooperation with other federal departments and the State of Hawaiʻi, to conduct visual, x-ray and canine inspections, as appropriate, on person, baggage, cargo and any other article destined for direct movement to the State of Hawaiʻi.

According to Rep. Case, the inspections will search for high-risk invasive species and agricultural materials. The inspections will be conducted at airports, ports, and postal sorting facilities prior to direct travel to the State of Hawaiʻi.

“Our bill further requires APHIS to work with the State of Hawaiʻi to develop and publish a list of the high-risk invasive species and agricultural materials for the State of Hawaiʻi. It pays for these inspections by increasing Agriculture Quarantine Inspection fees to cover the full cost of inspection,” said Rep. Case.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

House committee passes bill that would remove gray wolf from Endangered Species Act protections

A bill to remove the wolf from Endangered Species Act protections was passed April 28 by the House Natural Resources Committee. The proposal seeks to restore state authority over wolf management.

Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 29, 2023

A bill to remove the gray wolf from protections of the federal Endangered Species Act passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on Friday.

The proposal, tabbed the Trust the Science Act, is sponsored by Reps. Tom Tiffany (R-Wisconsin) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado).

It seeks to permanently remove the gray wolf from the list of federal endangered species and restore wolf management authority to state lawmakers and state wildlife officials.

“Activists endanger the Endangered Species Act by not removing species, like the gray wolf, when they have recovered,” Tiffany said in a statement. “It’s a scientific fact that the gray wolf population has met and exceeded recovery goals, and it’s time to celebrate this success by returning wolf management back to where it belongs, in states’ hands.”

The wolf has been protected under the Endangered Species Act in Wisconsin and many other states since a February 2022 federal district court judge ruling. The action was the latest change in listing status for the native carnivore, subject of controversy, frequent litigation and widely divergent views on how it should be managed or stewarded.

The wolf is native to Wisconsin but was extirpated by the 1960s after decades of unregulated hunting and bounties. It was re-established in the state in the 1970s following federal and state protections and as wolves naturally dispersed from northern Minnesota, at the time the only remaining wolf population in the Lower 48.

In late winter 2022, Wisconsin had an estimated 972 wolves in 288 packs, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

In the last decade, the wolf had two periods under state management authority in Wisconsin, from 2012 to 2014 and 2021 to 2022, before judicial rulings restored it to ESA protections.

Wisconsin statute requires the DNR to hold a wolf hunting and trapping season when the species is under state management.

A hastily arranged season ordered by a Jefferson County judge in February 2021 resulted in a kill of 218 wolves, 83% over the state-licensed quota, and led to two lawsuits. One in Dane County Circuit Court stopped another planned hunt in fall of 2021; the other, brought by Native American tribes and environmental groups, is pending in federal district court.

While the wolf has increased markedly in Wisconsin in recent decades, many scientists and wildlife managers favor continued ESA protections for wolves as they hope to see the species reoccupy more of its historic range.

But many livestock producers and hunters favor lower wolf numbers and generally support state efforts to manage the species. The National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Wisconsin Cattleman’s Association and Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation are among the groups in support of the Trust the Science Act.

Support for wolves is relatively strong among Wisconsin residents at large. A 2022 social science survey conducted by the DNR found 55% of residents in wolf range preferred the same number of wolves or more than existed that year (about 1,000 in late winter) and 68% of residents outside of wolf range preferred the same or more.

Wolf advocates denounced Friday’s proposed legislation and its potential to weaken the ESA.

Peter David, a retired wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission in Odana, said the ESA has been a significant piece of legislation that reflects the public interest and our moral responsibility in protecting and conserving the natural world.

“The commitment made in the ESA was not to protect other species only when it was easy or convenient or politically expedient,” David said. “It was a fundamental recognition that humans have a moral responsibility to steward the entire diversity of life that with which we share the planet. We encourage legislators to move towards that goal, not away from it.”

The vote to pass the wolf delisting bill in the House Natural Resources Committee was 21-16 along party lines, with all Republicans in favor.

Its prospects are uncertain as it would have to pass the entire House, which is narrowly in Republican control, and it would likely face an uphill battle in the Democrat-contolled Senate. Moreover, there is no Senate version of the bill.

However, Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) did introduce legislation last Congress to delist the gray wolf so it’s possible a bipartisan effort may emerge.

Even if the wolf were delisted, the DNR would be blocked from holding a hunting and trapping season until the Dane County lawsuit is resolved.


Center for Biological Diversity

Bi-State Sage Grouse Get Another Chance for Endangered Species Act Protections

WASHINGTON—(April 27, 2023)—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is reopening consideration of whether to list the bi-state sage grouse as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

“Maybe the third time will be the charm for getting this population segment the protection it so clearly deserves,” said Laura Cunningham, California director of Western Watersheds Project. “None of the science shows that the bi-state birds have benefited from the Service’s dithering.”

Today’s announcement was spurred by a May 2022 court order that said the Service illegally withdrew its proposal to list the bird as threatened and required it to reconsider the species’ protection. It was the second time the agency’s refusal to protect the bird was overturned by the courts.

“This is a great opportunity to include the most recent science on bi-state sage grouse, who’re having a tough year with the epic snowfall in their habitat,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These beautiful dancing birds need help to stop sliding toward extinction. The Service’s reopening of its decision-making process is a step in the right direction.”

Bi-state sage grouse live in a small area along the California-Nevada border in the eastern Sierra Nevada on lands originally inhabited by the Washoe and Paiute peoples. The birds are genetically isolated from other populations of sage grouse elsewhere in the West.

There are only about 3,300 birds left — far fewer than the 5,000 considered the minimum for population viability. Sage grouse are threatened by climate change and habitat loss, livestock grazing and predation by ravens. A January 2020 study by the U.S. Geological Survey determined that while some centrally located populations of bi-state sage grouse were increasing, populations at the northern and southern end were at high risk of blinking out completely.

The birds were originally proposed for listing as threatened in 2013, but the Fish and Wildlife Service abandoned the proposal in 2015. In 2018 a federal court found the Service had wrongly denied Endangered Species Act protection to the bi-state sage grouse and required the agency to re-evaluate the bird’s situation. The bird was again proposed for protection, but in March 2020 the Trump administration withdrew the proposal.

“The political gamesmanship surrounding the bi-state sage grouse’s listing status is, sadly, not unique to this imperiled species,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “We have seen far too many species stuck in extinction limbo for years before receiving protections that are obviously warranted based on the best available science. We are cautiously optimistic that the Service will now issue federal protections for the bi-state sage grouse so that it can finally begin a path towards recovery.”

Desert Survivors, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians successfully challenged that withdrawal. In 2022 a judge reinstated the original proposal to list the birds as threatened and ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a new final listing decision.

Today’s announcement initiates a 60-day comment period.



Aquatic moss in Central Texas listed as endangered

The South Llano spring moss, also known as Donrichardsia macroneuron, has been added to the list under the ESA and will be on the federal register starting April 27.

Sam Searles, April 26, 2023

AUSTIN, Texas — An aquatic moss in Central Texas has been listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The South Llano spring moss, also known as Donrichardsia macroneuron, has been added to the list under the ESA and will be on the federal register starting April 27.

The moss, last known to be at a privately-owned spring with a constant flow of mineral water along the South Llano River, is being threatened by three external issues, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

*Groundwater pumping from the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer

*Reduced and interrupted spring flow, due to an increase in the severity and duration of droughts and rain

*Encroachment of non-native plants, herbicide use and reduced water quality

“The South Llano springs moss occurs only in one small population at a remote spring site on the South Llano River, making it vulnerable to catastrophic events like drought and floods,” said Karen Myers, field supervisor at the service’s Austin Ecological Services Field Office. “By protecting this species under the ESA, we can help preserve the unique biodiversity of this ecosystem and generate conservation partnerships that benefit all of the plants and wildlife that depend on this water resource.”

The proposal to list the moss as an endangered species began in September 2021, but the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that 0.48 acres of “critical habitat” at Seven Hundred Springs be listed – the springs is the only location where the moss is found.

But due to public comment, the spring will be excluded from the list because it is owned privately.

“Since the South Llano springs moss occurs only in one privately owned spring, the conservation and recovery of this species is entirely dependent upon cooperation and coordination with the landowner,” Myers said. “Excluding the unit of proposed critical habitat will provide benefits to the species and its habitat by strengthening our positive relationship with the landowner, who has worked with the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program multiple times to improve plant and wildlife habitat on their land.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service plans to collaborate with local landowners and private land organizations to help improve vegetation management at the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer recharge zone and the upper South Llano Rive watershed, as well as the rangeland.


International Fund for Animal Welfare

bushfire recovery reconnects habitat, helps endangered species

April 26, 2023

Sydney, 26 April 2023 – Koalas and greater gliders are two of more than a dozen species benefiting from the reconnection of thousands of hectares of Australian habitat impacted by the Black Summer bushfires.

IFAW and the Great Eastern Ranges (GER) combined forces over a 15-month period to assess the impact of the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires and undertake recovery projects to help communities, wildlife and landscapes heal. This effort involved 28 local groups, 450 individuals and 3,500 hours’ worth of volunteer help.

“The scale of impact from the Black Summer bushfires was unprecedented. We have seen firsthand the trauma of local communities and the destruction of native species and the places we all call home,” IFAW Regional Director Rebecca Keeble said.

“Australia is at a crossroads—we are seeing the impacts of climate change at an alarming rate. We need to look beyond recovery to building resilience for our communities, wildlife, and landscapes which have been on the front line of these climate disasters.”

Recovery projects included tree planting, weed management, nest box installation, citizen science surveys, community education and capacity building.

At least 15 endangered species benefitted from these projects including the koala, greater glider, red goshawk, spotted-tail quoll and the black-breasted button-quail which is critically endangered in New South Wales (NSW).

The regional connectivity between core patches of habitat was also improved across 228,137 hectares of land in NSW and Queensland in the Lockyer Valley, Border Ranges and Blue Mountains. This includes bushfire-impacted land and land that, while not directly impacted, was identified as providing important habitat refugia for wildlife.

Native habitats were also increased through planting and assisted natural regeneration with more than 23,000 plants established.

“The Black Summer bushfires resulted in significant damage for people and nature over vast areas,” said Gary Howling, CEO of Great Eastern Ranges.

“There was an urgent need for evidence-based and complementary bushfire recovery projects to be rolled out to restore and reconnect vital habitat, assist wildlife and build community and landscape resilience to future climate disasters. Our partnership with IFAW enabled us to work with our regional partners to deliver a suite of these community-led activities in three badly impacted landscapes in NSW and QLD.”

IFAW and GER undertook these projects between 2021 and 2022 with local landholders, Indigenous leaders, and community groups. Similar recovery projects are underway following the 2022 flood disaster.



Protecting Large Trees for Wildlife Also Benefits Climate, Study Says

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, April 25, 2023

Standing beneath especially tall trees in a forest and looking up can invoke a feeling of awe. Large trees — especially those that are 21 inches in diameter or more — offer valuable benefits to forests, as well as outsized help with the biodiversity and climate crises. They provide unique habitat for wildlife, as well as disproportionate absorption and storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a major driver of climate change.

A new study explores the connection between protecting mature trees in national forests and objectives related to habitat conservation, forest resilience and climate change mitigation.

“These are public lands that are providing a natural climate solution and performing multiple additional services at no cost,” said systems ecologist with Eastern Oregon Legacy Lands David Mildrexler, who was the lead author of the study, as reported. “We suggest policy to keep existing forest carbon stores out of the… atmosphere and accumulate additional amounts while protecting habitat and biodiversity.”

The study, “Protect large trees for climate mitigation, biodiversity, and forest resilience,” was published in the journal Conservation Science and Practice.

A previous study found that trees protected by a rule that prohibits the logging of trees 21 inches or wider at breast height — known as the “21-inch rule” — only make up three percent of forest stems, but account for 42 percent of aboveground carbon storage, reported

However, the U.S. Forest Service recently relaxed this vital rule, which means these essential, majestic carbon stores can now be felled on millions of national forest lands in Washington and Oregon.

“Forests account for 92% of all terrestrial biomass globally, store about 45% of the total organic carbon on land in their biomass and soils, and removed the equivalent of about 30% of fossil fuel emissions annually from 2009 to 2018, of which 44% was by temperate forests,” the study’s authors wrote, as reported.

Some ancient trees can live as long as 5,000 years and accumulate and store a massive amount of carbon in that time.

“There is no action required from us but to leave these large trees standing so they can continue to store and accumulate carbon for climate mitigation and provide critical habitat,” said co-author of the study Beverly E. Law, a professor of global change biology and terrestrial systems science in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University, as reported by

The researchers said more than half of the habitats of all identified plant and animal species on Earth are found in forests.

“Ancient trees are unique habitats for the conservation of threatened species because they can resist and buffer climate warming,” wrote the authors of another study, including Gianluca Piovesan and Charles H. Cannon, as SciTechDaily reported.

The study, “Ancient trees: irreplaceable conservation resource for ecosystem,” was published last year in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

“We call for international efforts to preserve these hubs of diversity and resilience. A global coalition utilizing advanced technologies and community scientists to discover, protect, and propagate ancient trees is needed before they disappear,” the authors of the earlier study wrote, as reported by SciTechDaily.

Cutting down any number of inherited large trees means not only eliminating vital habitat, but destroying valuable carbon stores and releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere when we need to be doing the opposite.

The authors of the new study said the 21-inch rule is a good example of effective policy that addresses biodiversity and habitat conservation and recovery along with climate change adaptation and mitigation. The scientists added that these mature trees have been contributing important climate change mitigation across large tracts of Pacific Northwest forest.

“Society has a narrow window of opportunity left to avert catastrophic consequences from the intertwined climate and biodiversity crises, and forests offer major solutions at the intersection of these urgent imperatives,” the authors of the recent study wrote, as reported.


Center for Biological Diversity

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Endangered West Virginia Species From Coal Hauling

Candy Darter, Bats, Mussels Imperiled in Upper Gauley Watershed

RICHWOOD, W.Va.—(April 25, 2023)—Conservation groups notified the U.S. Forest Service today they intended to sue over the agency’s failure to protect endangered species from the harmful effects of coal hauling in the Monongahela National Forest.

Today’s notice asserts that the Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing hauling of coal above the South Fork Cherry River without ensuring that it won’t harm endangered species like candy darters. Coal hauling can also potentially harm Virginia big-eared bats, northern long-eared bats, Indiana bats, and several freshwater mussels found downstream.

“It’s shameful that the Forest Service cut corners at the expense of endangered species like the gorgeous little candy darter,” said Meg Townsend, senior freshwater attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Candy darters are already on the precipice of extinction, and they can’t take any more harm from coal mining. The Forest Service needs to immediately rescind the permit allowing this disastrous coal hauling.”

The endangered candy darter is a small freshwater fish that lives in the South Fork Cherry River and Laurel Creek — two stronghold streams for the species. These streams are designated as critical habitat by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, meaning any harm to the streams is likely to harm the fish.

The Forest Service’s 2021 permit authorizes the South Fork Coal Co. to conduct extensive road-reconstruction work — such as regrading and widening the road and removing and replacing culverts — and daily coal hauling on a road named FS 249, which runs on steep slopes above the South Fork Cherry and Laurel Creek. These activities are likely to harm candy darters in the South Fork Cherry by causing sedimentation and polluting the river.

The Forest Service road will be closed to the public for the duration of the mine’s operations.

The company was already cited for violations leading to excess sedimentation in March and April 2022, a time of year when candy darters are spawning. Along with sedimentation, coal hauling could degrade the Upper Gauley watershed with coal dust from loaded coal trucks.

“The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has a 55-year history of working in partnership with Monongahela National Forest to preserve the natural environment in the Central Appalachian Highlands, but in this case, our Forest Service partners have erred in permitting a coal haul road on National Forest land without environmental review,” said Larry Thomas, president of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. “The Forest Service failed to consider that converting a National Forest road to a heavy-use coal haul road would have direct environmental impacts and would also allow expansion of surface mining in a high-elevation remnant red spruce ecosystem that supports the endangered candy darter, native brook trout, and other at-risk species. We hope that the Forest Service will recognize this error and comply with the review requirements.”

In addition to the candy darter, the three endangered bat species all have roosting and foraging habitat around the road that is likely to be harmed by the activities authorized by the permit, and five endangered freshwater mussels live downstream in the Gauley River. Several streams that feed into Gauley River — including the Cherry River — are designated by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources as high-quality mussel streams. Though not currently federally listed, eastern hellbender salamanders also live in the Cherry River and will likely be harmed by construction and coal hauling.

“In a region full of remarkable natural features, the headwaters of the South Fork Cherry River are particularly exceptional,” said Willie Dodson, Central Appalachian Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices. “It is deeply disappointing that the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service have enabled South Fork Coal Company’s destructive practices and disregard for this special area. We are hopeful that these agencies will act quickly to address our concerns and protect the unique ecological balance of the South Fork Cherry River and the high Allegheny ridges that surround it.”

“The laws and regulations meant to protect our water quality and critical wildlife habitat are pitifully inadequate to begin with, which is obvious to anyone who’s flown over West Virginia’s scarred and fractured landscape, and those regulations become entirely ineffective when the agencies tasked with enforcing them fail to do so,” said Chad Cordell with Kanawha Forest Coalition. “In this case, the Forest Service rubber-stamped a permit allowing a coal company to convert a public forest-service road into a strip mine haul road, prioritizing short-term coal company profits over the continued existence of an endangered species. The only appropriate course of action is for the Forest Service to protect the critical habitat of the endangered candy darter by immediately rescinding South Fork Coal Company’s haul road permit.”

“Witnessing the highest elevation strip mine in the state, in the middle of rare red spruce forest, and so close to Cranberry Glades Botanical Area is the ultimate proof to me that nothing is sacred in this state as long as there is coal under it. Candy darters are one of many endangered species threatened by fossil fuel extraction and transportation, and the Forest Service’s failure to protect endangered species from the harmful effects of coal hauling is unacceptable,” said Sierra Club’s Senior Organizing Representative Alex Cole. “The harm caused by coal hauling in the Monongahela National Forest is a stark reminder that we cannot continue to advance fossil fuels at the expense of our environment, especially not on land we as citizens collectively own. We must prioritize the protection of our planet and its biodiversity, and we hope the Forest Service will take immediate action to remedy this mistake.”

The groups who signed the notice with the Center are the Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Voices, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Greenbrier River Watershed Association, and Kanawha Forest Coalition.

If the Forest Service doesn’t remediate the violation, the groups will follow the notice, which is required by the Endangered Species Act, with a lawsuit once 60 days have passed.


Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland, OR)

Oregon commission petitions to add southern resident orcas to the endangered species list

By Brian Bull (KLCC), April 25, 2023

A group of killer whales that live in the coastal waters of Oregon and other parts of the Pacific Northwest may soon be listed under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted to advance a petition to protect what are known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW.) They consist of three pods numbering 73 orcas, down from almost a hundred in 1994.

Quinn Read is with the Center for Biological Diversity, which recently joined two other groups, Defenders of Wildlife and Whale and Dolphin Conservation, in petitioning the ODFW. She told KLCC that several factors are behind the decline.

“First and foremost for these orcas, they’re at risk for starvation,” said Read. “This population depends on large part on Chinook salmon. And because Chinook themselves are endangered, it just has that impact down the line where the orcas just don’t have enough to eat.”

The earliest listed threat to orca numbers was the capture of many in the 1960s for marine parks. More recent threats include pollution, vessel traffic and noise, and inbreeding.

Read said the SRKW are well known in the San Juan Islands and Salish Sea of Canada and Washington.

“What’s less known is that they are just as much an Oregon species. They absolutely come down and forage for fish in the mouth of the Columbia and along the coast, and forage all the way down to Monterey Bay,” she said. “So this is absolutely a species that is resident to Oregon.”

The Commission will now hold a public rulemaking process before deciding whether to protect the orcas under Oregon state law. The ODFW will also consult with affected agencies, Native American tribes, and organizations. The process will take months.

In a release, the ODFW says the SRKW is already listed on the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as Washington state’s ESA.


Center for Biological Diversity

Wetland-Dependent Desert Flower Protected Under Endangered Species Act

Wright’s Marsh Thistle Clinging to Existence in New Mexico, Texas, Mexico

SILVER CITY, N.M.—(April 24, 2023)—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the Wright’s marsh thistle as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The agency also designated 159 acres in seven areas as protected critical habitat for the imperiled wetlands plant.

“Saving the Wright’s marsh thistle from extinction in a hotter, drier world would also help us protect humanity,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m so glad this pretty plant and its desert springs are finally getting badly needed protections. As the climate crisis builds, many of the steps we take to preserve species like this one will also help people cope with our rapidly changing planet.”

The thistle is threatened by water diversion, livestock grazing, invasive plants, oil and gas drilling, and climate change-driven drought.

The Service first found the marsh thistle warranted protection in 2010. But instead of providing safeguards, the agency put the species on a waiting list for protection, where it sat for the last 13 years.

The Wright’s marsh thistle requires water-saturated and alkaline soils, full sunlight, and a nearby diversity of other plants to also attract pollinators. It occurs in just eight widely separated locales in southern New Mexico, one locality in Texas and one locality in Chihuahua, Mexico. It used to be found in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.

The marsh thistle is a member of the sunflower family with white to vibrant pink flowers. The plants can reach eight feet in height.


USA Today

20 endangered condors die in Arizona amid flu outbreak; California agencies on high alert

Story by Cheri Carlson, Ventura County Star, April 24, 2023

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. – California agencies working to protect critically endangered condors are on high alert after 20 recent deaths in northern Arizona, wildlife officials said last week.

A highly pathogenic avian influenza that has infected domestic and wild birds across the country has been confirmed as the cause of death for California condors in in the Arizona-Utah flock. By April 17, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 20 condors had died. So far, tests confirmed 10 of those birds were positive for the avian flu.

The virus had not been detected in condor populations in California and Baja California as of late this week. But agencies monitoring those flocks were preparing emergency actions in case that changes, said Ashleigh Blackford, the federal agency’s California condor coordinator.

“Our concern is definitely heightened in California,” Blackford said.

More populations, more protection

Agencies have worked for decades to help the species recover. The largest flying land bird in North America – known for its bald head and black feathers – had all but disappeared in the wild by the early 1980s.

The population dropped to just 22 birds in the wild in 1982. Five years later, all remaining wild condors were placed in a captive breeding program to save the species from extinction.

By the end of last year, 347 condors lived in the wild – 183 in California and 116 in the Arizona-Utah region.

Supporting separate populations in different areas was part of the plan to help the species overcome any single event such as a virus outbreak or wildfire. The more populations and the more birds increases the odds of survival, Blackford said.

The condors also continue to rely on captive-bred birds being released into the wild.

Virus can be fatal

The avian influenza can spread quickly and appears to be almost 100% fatal for some species. But scientists didn’t know until the recent outbreak how infected condors would fare.

“Now, we know that answer, and it is an unfortunate answer,” Blackford said.

But some condors do appear to be recovering. Eight sick condors were captured in Arizona and brought to a facility for treatment. Of those, four died and four others are still receiving care and showing signs of improvement, wildlife officials said.

A setback for Arizona flock

The 20 recent deaths account for around 17% of the Arizona-Utah flock. That’s four times the number of deaths in the region last year.

“That’s a substantial setback for this flock,” Blackford said. “But it is not insurmountable.”

In all of last year, the agency reported 20 condor deaths, most of them in California. Lead poisoning is consistently the leading the cause of death and continues to be the biggest concern for agencies working to protect the species.

The birds feed on carcasses containing bullet fragments, so trying to get folks to use other types of ammunition continues to be a priority, wildlife officials said. Lead poisoning not only can be fatal but also can suppress the immune system, increasing the condors risk from other illnesses.

“If we were not losing birds to lead, then our population would be stronger,” Blackford said. “It would be more robust, and we would have healthier birds.”

(This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star)


9 News (Denver, CO)

Colorado cactus to be removed from threatened and endangered species list

A team of scientists with the Denver Botanic Gardens found that the cactus population is resilient to drought and stable in numbers.

Amanda Kesting, April 21, 2023

COLORADO, USA — A small barrel cactus found in Western Colorado will be removed from the threatened and endangered species list after scientists found that the population is “stable and resilient.”

The Sclerocactus glaucus, also known as the Colorado hookless Cactus, is one of 17 Colorado plant species currently listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

In 2008, scientists with the Denver Botanic Gardens started studying the rare plant species to see how the population was responding to environmental and human-caused stressors. The data showed that the cacti were resilient to drought and the population level was stable.

Because of these findings, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the species from the endangered list earlier this month. There is now a 60-day public comment period before the cactus will be delisted in June.

After that, the Denver Botanic Gardens will continue to monitor the the cactus population for the next 10 years.

The other 16 Colorado plant species on the threatened and endangered list are:

Eriogonum pelinophilum Clay-Loving wild buckwheat

Phacelia submutica – DeBeque phacelia

Lesquerella congesta – Dudley Bluffs bladderpod

Physaria obcordata – Dudley Bluffs twinpod

Pediocactus knowltonii – Knowlton’s cactus

Astragalus humillimus – Mancos milk-vetch

Sclerocactus mesae-verdae – Mesa Verde cactus

Carex specuicola – Navajo sedge

Phacelia formosula – North Park phacelia

Astragalus osterhoutii – Osterhout milkvetch

Ipomopsis polyantha – Pagosa skyrocket

Penstemon debilis – Parachute beardtongue

Eutrema penlandii – Penland alpine fen mustard

Penstemon penlandii – Penland beardtongue

Spiranthes diluvialis – Ute ladies’-tresses

Platanthera praeclara – Western prairie fringed Orchid


Center for Biological Diversity

Southern Resident Orcas Move Closer to Oregon Endangered Species Protections

PORTLAND, Ore.—(April 21, 2023)—The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted today to advance a petition seeking to protect Southern Resident orcas under the state Endangered Species Act.

The petition was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

In the coming months the commission will conduct a public rulemaking process and decide whether to protect the orcas under state law. Only 73 Southern Resident orcas remain alive, and their numbers have decreased in recent years. While they are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, they are still threatened by dwindling salmon runs, pollution and vessel traffic.

“Southern Resident orcas are one step closer to getting the protection they need in Oregon, thanks to the wildlife commission’s leadership,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is an encouraging sign that Oregon has moved from the sidelines of orca recovery onto the field of play. It’s about time.”

“These beloved orcas are on the brink of extinction and need and deserve all the help we can give,” said Kathleen Callaghy, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “We are happy this petition is moving forward. It’s a scientifically sound and collaborative way of formalizing Oregon’s commitments to their recovery.”

Southern Resident orcas are recognized by their unique and striking black and white coloration and their history in popular culture. These orcas have an extensive range, which includes the inland and coastal waters of Washington and the coastal waters of Oregon and California.

The mouth of the Columbia River on Oregon’s northern border is a crucial foraging area for the whales, and more than half of the chinook salmon consumed while they are in coastal waters can be traced to the Columbia Basin.

The Southern residents even have their own dialect, which is unique among orcas. They feed almost exclusively on Chinook salmon, which are also experiencing population declines because of dams, habitat destruction, and other issues.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Colleen Weiler, Jessica Rekos fellow with Whale and Dolphin Conservation. “The Southern Residents regularly forage for Chinook salmon off the Oregon coast. Oregon is part of their home. There is still a lot of work to be done for Oregon to put meaningful recovery measures in place, but this is the much-needed first step, and we thank the commission for recognizing this opportunity for Oregon to be part of saving the Southern Residents.”

Southern resident orcas are also protected under Washington state’s Endangered Species Act.

Oregon state listing would require the development of a state endangered species management plan, which would spur coordination among relevant state agencies and the development of concrete actions to address the primary threats to orcas in Oregon.


Center for Biological Diversity

Legal Agreement Spurs Analysis of California Gillnets’ Threat to Humpback Whales

Massive Fishing Nets Trap, Harm Marine Mammals, Sharks, Rays

SAN FRANCISCO—(April 20, 2023)—The National Marine Fisheries Service agreed today to complete a new assessment of the threat of drift gillnets in California to endangered humpback whales. In the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 fishing seasons an estimated 12 Pacific humpbacks were caught in the California drift gillnet fishery, according to federal reports.

The fishery uses mile-long hanging nets, left in the ocean overnight, to catch large fish like Pacific bluefin tuna, swordfish and thresher sharks.

“Humpback whales just won a key victory against destructive gillnets,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These amazing animals face so many threats off California, and absurdly huge nets are a hazard they really shouldn’t have to dodge. This agreement will help ensure whales are protected while the drift gillnet fishery winds down operations over the next five years.”

The Center sued the agency in 2022 over the fishery’s excessive harm to endangered humpback whales, which violates the Endangered Species Act. In addition, the Service’s existing 2013 review of endangered species failed to protect the humpback populations that were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2016.

In the new biological opinion the Service will consider humpback whales entangled in Southern California recently and will ensure the fishery is not jeopardizing the continued existence of the species. The agency will also consider implementing measures to minimize the fishery’s harms to humpback whales.

Fishing gear entanglements are a leading threat to migratory endangered humpbacks along the West Coast. In April 2021, 48,521 square nautical miles were designated as critical habitat for the species.

West Coast humpback whale entanglement reports increased sharply from 2014 to 2017, reaching a record high of 53 entanglements in 2016. Since then, whale entanglements have remained elevated.

During the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 fishing seasons, the Service observed fewer than 20% of the active gillnets, which means that because two humpbacks were seen tangled in nets, an estimated 11.7 were caught. Entanglements can lead to death, injury and lower calving rates in whales.

The most imperiled humpback population — which winters in Central America — has about 1,500 individuals and feeds almost exclusively off California and Oregon. The threatened Mexico population has about 2,900 individuals.

Bipartisan federal legislation that gradually ends drift gillnet use off the West Coast by 2027 was signed into law in 2022. A similar law was vetoed by President Trump in 2020.

State legislative efforts to phase out the fishery include California Senate Bill 1017, which was signed into law on Sept. 27, 2018, and directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to establish a voluntary program to incentivize drift gillnet permittees to transition out of the fishery.



‘Most Animals Move Around’: Environmental Impact Assessments Underestimate Harm on Migratory Birds and Other Wildlife

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, April 19, 2023

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an essential tool used to identify the likely environmental — as well as socio-economic and cultural — impacts of a proposed project or development prior to decision making. The purpose of the report is to find ways to reduce adverse impacts by providing information and options to those making decisions so that they will be better equipped to tailor projects to fit the local environment.

A new study conducted by a team of researchers from universities in Portugal, Iceland and England demonstrates the fallibility of some EIAs.

In the study, the research team demonstrated that more than 10 times the number of a specific bird — the Black-tailed Godwit — than was estimated in an earlier EIA would be affected by a potential airport development in Portugal, a press release from the University of East Anglia (UEA) said.

“Environmental Impact Assessments are carried out when developments are planned for sites where wildlife is protected. But the methods used to produce these reports seldom consider how species move around between different sites. This can drastically underestimate the number of animals impacted and this is particularly relevant for species that are very mobile, like birds,” said professor Jenny Gill of the UEA School of Biological Sciences in the press release.

The study, “Conservation beyond Boundaries: using animal movement networks in Protected Area assessment,” was published in the journal Animal Conservation.

Black-tailed Godwits have been the research team’s subjects for more than three decades, but the scientists point out that the Godwits, like any migrating species, tend to be underrepresented by EIAs.

“Put simply, the problem arises when assessments treat animals, which move, as if they were permanently fixed to one spot,” Josh Nightingale, Ph.D. of the University of Aveiro in Portugal, a researcher in UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, told EcoWatch in an email. “EIAs typically calculate the potential impact of a development by counting animals within the area predicted to be affected. This approach ignores connectivity – that is, animals will often move between several sites within a given area. Therefore, the total number of individual animals using the area in question might be far higher than the number present at the moment of the count, much like the number of people in a shop at a given moment will be lower than the number of people that use it regularly.”

Counting individual birds at a fixed location and time without considering how their movements fluctuate flies in the face of their natural migratory tendencies.

“We used records of individual birds’ local movements to understand how they use the whole landscape, including both the area directly affected by the proposed airport and its surroundings. We see patterns of daily and seasonal changes in who visits those areas, such that over the course of a year far more individuals visit the affected sites than counts suggest,” Nightingale said.

The researchers studied Portugal’s Tagus Estuary, a large coastal wetland where an environmental license had already been given for the construction of the new airport.

“This area is Portugal’s most important wetland for waterbirds, and contains areas legally protected for conservation. But it faces the threat of having a new international airport operating at its heart, with low-altitude flightpaths overlapping the protected area,” Nightingale said in the press release. “Black-tailed Godwits are one of several wading birds that we see in large numbers on the Tagus. The new airport’s Environmental Impact Assessment estimated that under six per cent of the Godwit population will be affected by the plans. However, by tracking movements of individual Godwits to and from the affected area, we found that more than 68 per cent of Godwits in the Tagus estuary would in fact be exposed to disturbance from aeroplanes.”

The scientists found that specific sites are important to individual birds and are not interchangeable with locations unknown to them.

“We also see that each individual bird depends on a small, unique set of sites throughout their lives (which may be several decades long). This means it’s unlikely that they can easily switch to using other, unfamiliar areas,” Nightingale told EcoWatch. “Our method finds impacts on ten times more [G]odwits than the developers’ study – given what we know about how these birds move around, our figures seem a more realistic estimate of the airport’s impact.”

The researchers also said the environmental impact of a dam-like structure across the Wash estuary in the UK — called a tidal barrage — had been greatly underestimated.

The researchers found that the tidal barrage would not only be much more damaging than initially thought for the wild birds who frequent it, but also for England’s biggest colony of common seals.

“This doesn’t just affect migratory birds – most animals move around, and often depend on patchy resources, even if they use them infrequently. Examples would include a safe place to roost at high tide, or a watering hole in the savannah, used by animals that also feed in other sites over much larger areas,” Nightingale told EcoWatch.

The locations of individual Godwits were tracked throughout their lifetimes with the aid of a network of citizen scientists throughout Europe.

“The project began in the early 1990s, and was designed to understand how individuals use sites across a migratory range, and how migratory ranges can change over time. On their annual journeys, these are birds that connect sites across vast distances, which means that conserving their populations is challenging and typically requires international cooperation,” Nightingale said. “One example of this international cooperation is the network of volunteer ringers and observers who contribute to this project, by marking birds and collecting observations of their movements. Studies like ours benefit enormously from the enthusiasm and dedication of these volunteers.”

In order to track the Godwits, the researchers fitted them with different combinations of colorful leg rings.

“Many of these Godwits spend the winter on the Tagus Estuary,” said Dr. José Alves, a researcher at the University of Aveiro and visiting academic at UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, in the press release. “So we used local sightings of colour-ringed birds to calculate how many of them use sites that are projected to be affected by airplanes. We were then able to predict the airport’s impact on future Godwit movements across the whole estuary.”

Alves added that this strategy could be used to predict the effects of many other potential projects.

“This method of calculating the footprint of environmental impact could be applied to assess many other proposed developments in the UK, particularly those affecting waterbirds and coastal habitats where tracking data is available,” Alves said.

While EIAs work well in some aspects of impact assessment, Nightingale said they could be improved.

“EIAs are extremely important for assessing the impacts of developments, particularly when conducted with the best available evidence. Currently, the requirements of EIAs are often too limited to allow the true impacts to be revealed, and despite being obliged to use the ‘best available evidence,’ that is not always done. But that means we need to improve them rather than lose them. Not considering movements of target species is a major limitation of EIAs, and our new method is intended to help plug this gap,” Nightingale told EcoWatch.

Alves hopes the data from the study will help with a current lawsuit against the proposed airport development in Portugal.

“Eight environmental NGOs together with Client Earth have already taken the Portuguese government to court to contest the approval of this airport development. We hope our findings will help strengthen the case by showing the magnitude of the impacts, which substantially surpass those quantified in the developer’s Environmental Impact Assessment,” Alves said in the press release.

Nightingale pointed out that, while the public is increasingly in favor of conservation, and scientific discoveries concerning the effects of humans on our planet show the dire need for increased stewardship of our ecosystems, political leaders often fall short.

“I think the conservation sector’s ambitions are growing, alongside public support and scientific understanding. That is all great news for nature. Political and regulatory mechanisms are lagging far behind, though,” Nightingale told EcoWatch. “There’s little point in grandly announcing an intention to protect 30% of the planet in 7 years (as was promised at the CBD COP last December in Montreal), if existing protected areas with national, European and international designation can be disturbed by short-haul flights, like the Tagus, or sucked dry by fruit farmers, as has happened to Doñana in Spain. We urgently need our politicians to understand the costs of degrading our ecosystems, and to act now to protect and restore them.”



April 19, 2023

Postal Service Spotlights Endangered Species

The U.S. Postal Service will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by issuing a pane of stamps featuring 20 photos of different endangered animals.

The stamps showcase photographs of endangered animals found within the 50 states and U.S. territories, as well as two North American species living near U.S. borders.

The 20 images are from thousands in National Geographic Explorer and photographer Joel Sartore’s “National Geographic Photo Ark,” a project to document every species living in the world’s zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries, inspire action through education, and help protect wildlife by supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts.


On Dec. 27, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the ESA into law, following a unanimous Senate vote. In the 50 years since, other nations worldwide have emulated the pioneering U.S. initiative. The ESA provides a framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats both domestically and abroad.

Under the ESA, more than 1,670 U.S. species and 698 foreign species are safeguarded to increase their chances of survival. Scientists estimate that hundreds of species have been rescued from the brink of extinction in the United States since the ESA began. A species found to need protection is listed under the ESA as either threatened or endangered, the latter defined as “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”


Border Report

U.S. fights trafficking of endangered species products at border

CBP, other federal agencies educate traveling public about what good they can and cannot bring over from Mexico

by: Julian Resendiz, Posted: April 19, 2023

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Stacey Ortega will take the sea turtle boots off your feet at the border, but she won’t make you go back barefoot.

“Whenever I have seized them, people usually have them on,” said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife inspector assigned to the Paso del Norte port of entry in El Paso. “If I were to seize your sea turtle boots, I would give you some slippers … We don’t want you to get hurt going back to your car or wherever you are going.”

Sea turtle, elephant and pangolin boots are among the endangered animal products federal officials routinely seize at the U.S.-Mexico border. Others include python and arapaima shoe wear, zebra and ocelot pelts, crocodile skins and eagle feathers and talons.

Offenders face fines of up to $500 for trying to bring such merchandise into the United States – more if they try to conceal it. But most returning Americans or visiting foreigners claim they didn’t know the products they bought in Mexico were illegal.

That’s why U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday hosted a public outreach event at the Paso del Norte border crossing.

Officials from CBP and other agencies set up tables with displays about items you shouldn’t bring across as well as information to expedite your return. That includes enrolling in programs like SENTRI and Global Entry. Those allow the federal government to do a background check on you and in return give you faster check-in at ports of entry.

“CBP used to hold events like this routinely, but the COVID pandemic restricted our ability to deliver this information,” said CBP El Paso Port Director Ray Provencio. “The information we share is available online, but this gives those who are more comfortable speaking to a person the opportunity to do so.”

At the consumer level, such knowledge not only saves you from a fine but empowers you to fight international poaching.

“This is pangolin, this is also an endangered species,” Ortega said, holding a pair of boots made of skin from a scaly Asian anteater. Eight species of pangolin are protected under international laws and two are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “The people will pluck the scales off and use them for medicinal purposes, and then the skin will be used for boots, belts, things like that. This is the most trafficked wildlife in the world.”

Mexico has strict laws when it comes to protection of endangered turtles. Penalties for killing and commercializing eight species of turtle are up to nine years in prison. That doesn’t stop criminals from killing the animals or online merchants from openly advertising sea turtle boots for sale for as low as $140 a pair.

Ortega said some travelers told her they thought the boots were imitation endangered species because of the low price they paid for them in Mexico. But they were real. “Just because you buy it in Mexico and it’s cheap, doesn’t mean it’s imitation. That’s a common misconception,” she said.


Maui Now

49 endangered Hawaiian species to gain habitat protections

April 17, 2023

The US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed today to designate protected critical habitat for 39 endangered plants and 10 endangered animals. The determination comes amid a legal victory stemming from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The ‘Akē‘akē (band-rumped storm-petrel), anchialine pool shrimp and palms known as Baker’s loulu are in line for habitat protections by June 30, 2027. The Service has until June 30, 2028, to designate habitat for the remaining 46 species

“I’m glad these fragile Hawaiian species will finally get the habitat protections they desperately need to survive,” said Maxx Phillips, the Center’s Hawai‘i director and staff attorney in a news release. “There’s just no way these special plants and animals can recover if we don’t protect their homes.”

Today’s agreement follows the Center’s 2022 lawsuit challenging the agency’s alleged failure to designate critical habitat for these 49 plants and animals. The Center argued that the species, such as the nalo meli maoli — also called the Hawaiian yellow-faced bee — are highly vulnerable to extinction because of their small population size and habitat loss. Habitat protections are now more than six years overdue, according to the Center.

Habitat loss to urbanization, damage from nonnative and invasive species, and wildfires are pushing these vulnerable species toward extinction. These threats are only made worse by the increasing effects of climate change through sea-level rise and coastal inundation.

Many of these species perform important ecosystem services. For example, native flora, especially understory plants such as the six ferns that will receive protection under this agreement, are essential to healthy watersheds and forests. Similarly, nalo meli maoli are important native pollinators, notably in highly threatened coastal habitats.

“Hawai‘i is in the midst of an extinction crisis, and habitat destruction is the number one cause,” Phillips said. “Protecting the places these unique plants and animals require for survival is crucial in our fight to keep them from going extinct.”

‘Akē‘akē: This distinct population of ‘akē‘akē, or band-rumped storm petrel, in Hawaiʻi returns to land from life at sea to mate and breed. Hawaiian mountains provide the perfect habitat for these small, oceanic birds to make burrows as nest sites for their young. Historically, they were common across all the Hawaiian Islands, but their population has declined significantly because of habitat loss.

Cyanea kauaulaensis: This shrub produces bright orange fruit. By the time it was first found in 1989 and identified as a new species in 2012, its habitat was restricted to Kauaula Valley on Maui.

Myrsine fosbergii: These small trees are found in wet, native forests of Oʻahu and Kauaʻi and are easily spotted thanks to their narrow green leaves that end in a dark purple base. Although formerly common, their populations are now limited to about 50 individuals because of habitat destruction by feral pigs and goats.

Nalo meli maoli: Included within the 49 species are seven different species of yellow-faced bees, also known as nalo meli maoli. These bees represent the spectacular rapid speciations that make Hawaiʻi a biodiversity hotspot.



The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is So Big, Invasive Species Are Now Thriving On It

Story by Clare Watson, April 17, 2023

Coastal critters thought to be strangers to the open ocean have been found amongst the seething mass of plastic waste that is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

“The issues of plastic go beyond just ingestion and entanglement,” Linsey Haram, a marine ecologist formerly at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, explained when in the process of conducting her research. “It’s creating opportunities for coastal species’ biogeography to greatly expand beyond what we previously thought was possible.”

Haram first drew attention to the emergence of coastal species on buoyant plastic rafts adrift in the open ocean with a paper she co-authored that warned this could be a new route by which coastal critters invade new, unsuspecting habitats.

Rarely documented until now, one historical example was of coastal-dwelling invertebrates hitching a ride across the North Pacific Ocean on plastic debris swept out to sea in the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Hundreds of invertebrate species clung on for six years to debris that washed ashore in North America and Hawaii in 2017.

But the extent to which coastal species, once assumed incapable of surviving long periods of time on the high seas, hopped aboard rafts of plastic waste remained largely unknown. What kinds of species are finding refuge in the refuse? What new communities are forming on the high seas far beyond their usual limits?

To answer those questions, Haram sampled debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the swirling mass of plastic buoys, buckets, bottles, rope, and fishing nets that continues to accumulate in the North Pacific Ocean, thousands of kilometers from any coastline.

Most of that plastic waste can be traced back to just five industrialized fishing nations, recent studies show, but the growing collection of unlikely passengers nestled within the Garbage Patch had for the most part been overlooked.

Now, Haram’s latest study suggests that communities of coastal species rafting on plastic waste were more common and diverse than scientists had previously suspected.

Coastal invertebrate species such as crustaceans, sea anemones, and bryozoans, were found on some 70 percent of the 105 plastic items Haram and her colleagues surveyed. The number and taxonomic richness of coastal species on those items also far outweighed the diversity of pelagic species that usually exist in the open ocean.

“It appears that coastal species persist now in the open ocean as a substantial component of a neopelagic community sustained by the vast and expanding sea of plastic debris,” the researchers write in their new paper.

Coastal invertebrates were not only surviving but apparently thriving in their newfound, floating habitat. Fern-like hydroids (related to jellyfish and corals) bearing reproductive structures were found amongst the trash, along with egg-carrying amphipods and sea anemones of various sizes.

Rather than the plastic mass being inhospitable to coastal-dwelling species, it seems that coastal critters are living long enough to reproduce – and likely competing with pelagic rafters for space and resources.

How coastal invertebrates are surviving in an environment so unlike their own is still puzzling. Somehow they are finding food in a part of the ocean so remote marine scientists called it a food desert.

What we do know is that plastic hangs around for decades, if not centuries, and the amount of plastic pollution flowing into the oceans each year is only set to increase unless new policies such as a global treaty cut back and clean up plastic waste.

Plastic is already transforming marine ecosystems in unsettling ways, and if coastal invertebrates venture out to sea aboard rafts of floating debris they might begin “fundamentally altering” oceanic communities, Haram and colleagues warn.

Of course, nature is just finding a way to survive in turbulent times. More research to sift through communities rafting upon floating plastic waste would at least help us understand the changes afoot.

Haram and colleagues expect to discover more coastal species making their maiden voyage into the high seas with future studies, and hope to understand if any differences exist between ocean gyre systems in the North and Southern Hemisphere.

“Our results demonstrate that the oceanic environment and floating plastic habitat are clearly hospitable to coastal species,” the researchers conclude.

(The study has been published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.)

****** (Findlay, OH)

New Jersey environmental agency charges itself for damaging endangered species’ habitat

April 14, 2023

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has charged itself with damaging the habitat of threatened and endangered birds it is legally bound to protect. The Garden State’s Division of Fish and Wildlife was sent a violation notice for unauthorized habitat construction for the American woodcock, which unwittingly displaced barred owl and red-shouldered hawk populations in Gloucester County. ”This never should have happened. They must also take steps to improve their clearly inadequate internal review process and meaningfully engage the public,” New Jersey Conservation Foundation head Tom Gilbert said.

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection has charged itself with damaging habitat for threatened and endangered birds that it was supposed to protect.

The work was designed to create habitat for one species of bird, but actually wound up destroying habitat for two others.

The department acknowledged it sent a violation notice and threatened penalties against its own Division of Fish and Wildlife regarding unauthorized work in February and March at the Glassboro Wildlife Management Area in Clayton, Gloucester County.

It was unclear how any penalties might work when the DEP is both the accuser and the accused. It also was not immediately clear whether any money might actually change hands. The department did not respond to questions about potential fines.

The work involved the clearing of vegetation and disturbance of soils on nearly 3 acres of what the state calls “exceptional resource value freshwater wetlands.” Before the work was done, this land was considered suitable habitat for the barred owl, which is listed as a threatened species, and the red-shouldered hawk, an endangered species.

The project also cleared and disturbed an additional 12 acres of land near wetlands known as transition areas, which also are protected.

The DEP refused Friday to discuss how the work happened without authorization.

On its website, the department wrote on Feb. 1 that the work sought to create 21 acres of habitat for the American woodcock, a member of the sandpiper family that uses its long, narrow beak to forage for earthworms in damp soil. The project was designed to create “meadow habitat.”

But in doing so, the state destroyed mature oak and pine forests in and near wetlands, and filled in some wetlands, four conservation groups said in a letter to the department in early March complaining about the work. The agency issued the violation notice on April 6.

“The wetland soil and flora that were previously undisturbed have been destroyed, and the mature forest that was already habitat for numerous rare species of plants and birds was clear-cut logged,” the groups wrote. “All trees have been cut, and all stumps bulldozed.”

Tom Gilbert, a leader of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, said, “This never should have happened. They must also take steps to improve their clearly inadequate internal review process and meaningfully engage the public.”

Jaclyn Rhoads, assistant executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, commended the state for owning up to its mistake, but said the DEP should provide a list of current projects on its website for public review.

“It is because of the public that we were able to stop further destruction of this landscape,” she said.

Agency spokesman Larry Hajna said the Fish and Wildlife Division’s Bureau of Land Management must implement appropriate soil conservation measures within 10 days and submit a plan within 30 days to restore the site. That must include removal of wood chips placed there.

By the end of April, the DEP intends to issue a notice of penalty assessment.

Fish and Wildlife will propose additional environmentally beneficial measures, which will be subject to a public comment period, Hajna said.


Islander News (Key Biscayne, FL)

Legal win ensures habitat protection for endangered Florida species which is down to their last two populations

Compiled by Ale Fadel, Islander News, April 13, 2023

After an almost 10-year fight, environmental groups in Florida have achieved an incredible verdict.

On April 10, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agreed to secure “critical habitat” for Miami’s endangered tiger beetles, who have been suffering major habitat loss from overdevelopment as well as sea-level rise.

The Service’s promise is set to be finalized by May 8.

“The Miami tiger beetles’ existence depends on protecting the last habitat they have, so this is a crucial step,” said Ragan Whitlock, a Florida-based attorney at the Center. “These tiny, ferocious beetles are down to their last two populations, and I’m so happy that the last places they live will soon be protected.”

Miami tiger beetles, nicknamed for their predatory urges and strong mandibles, are emerald-colored, gem-like insects. Sometimes difficult to see, their size is comparable to a single grain of rice. They live in two groups in Miami-Dade County, only separated by urban development, one of the most pressing issues for many other Florida endangered species as well.

The news has been especially exciting for the groups involved in the legal battle – the Center for Biological Diversity, Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association, and Tropical Audubon Society.

Their fight began in 2014 when a couple of environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, sent the USFWS an emergency petition to consider the Miami tiger beetle under the Endangered Species Act. In response, the Service included the beetle in their 2016 list, but did not assume their responsibility (as per the Act) of setting aside a critical habitat for the species. Subsequently, the Center took legal action, and the Service proposed a habitat in 2021, taking no further action afterwards.

“We’re glad to see that the Service is finally taking this action, which is crucial to the survival of this highly endangered species,” said Dennis Olle, president of the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. “It is unfortunate that it takes a lawsuit to get the Service to do its job.”

“It has been a long road, but we are thrilled that this endemic species is finally receiving the much-needed critical habitat designation it needs to survive and, hopefully, thrive once again,” said Lauren Jonaitis, senior conservation director of Tropical Audubon Society. “This critical habitat designation benefits the Miami tiger beetle by protecting its primary home, the globally imperiled, crucially important Pine Rocklands habitat.”

The Pine Rocklands habitat in south Miami is crucial indeed, especially as it has been a victim of overdevelopment in recent years, which is what originally prompted The Center to draft their 2014 petition. The beatles were originally discovered in that habitat almost 80 years ago, later found in the same place in 2007. The Pine Rocklands make up the majority, and most concentrated section, of their habitat, and is also home to many other of Florida’s endangered species.

After the legal battle, the proposed critical habitat for the beetles overlaps with the critical habitats of Carter’s small-flowered flax, Florida brickell-bush, and Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak and Florida leafwing butterflies.

According to the Center, animals who receive federally-protected critical habitat are over twice as likely to shy away from extinction. In cases where federal agencies approve projects in areas considered critical habitat, it is required that they get permission from the Service before proceeding. As is the case of the Miami tiger beetles, including more roadblocks for development on plant and animal habitats is a crucial step forward in ensuring their protection and survival.


WLRN Radio (Miami)

Sea rise could wipe out coastal nesting grounds for endangered Everglades sparrow within decades

WLRN 91.3 FM, By Jenny Staletovich, April 13, 2023

A secretive Everglades sparrow at the center of some of the most contentious debate over restoring the vast wetlands is facing an ever more dire threat: sea rise.

A new study that modeled both rising sea levels and restoration efforts to move more water into Everglades National Park concluded that in just 50 years, the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow could likely disappear from coastal nesting grounds.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey put the odds of finding sparrows in the prairies just inside South Florida’s watery wilderness then at less than 10%.

Meanwhile, an inland area that could become a refuge for the birds and holds the second highest amount of nesting will likely be too wet under ongoing restoration work.

“Restoration planning to date has been happening in isolation,” said USGS research ecologist and lead author Stephanie Romanach. “Now as decision makers [and] natural resource managers are starting to ask questions about what conditions are going to be like under climate change and sea level rise, those two conversations would really benefit from an intersection.”

Time to find an answer is also running out, she said.

“Conditions are changing really quickly on the ground,” she said. “We see conditions changing year to year. So we don’t really have a long time.”

The tiny sparrow was added to the endangered species list in 1967, fifty years after it was first discovered on Cape Sable and two decades after the park was created amid mounting evidence that the canals, levees and roads clearing the way for development in South Florida were ruining what was left of the pristine Everglades.

Today, fewer than 2,500 sparrows remain, down from a high of about 6,600 counted in the 1980s.

The birds live and nest in marle prairies in the Everglades and Big Cypress, where the rocky grasslands have a slightly higher elevation among the wetlands. Sparrows build their nests in grasses about a half foot off the ground, high enough to escape summer rains that flood the prairie and keep predators away. Such precise nesting requirements helped make the sparrow a perfect measure for restoring historic water flow across the prairies that dry out in spring and fill with wildflowers and orchids.

“If you get the water right, the sparrow will come back. If the sparrow comes back, it’s because you’ve got the water right,” Stuart Pimm, a Duke University conservation ecologist and an expert in extinction science, told WLRN after the last sparrow count. “Those things are intertwined inextricably.”

But so far, water management has failed to save the birds and may have even altered what had once been considered prime sparrow habitat west of Shark River Slough. During the last count in 2021, no sparrows were found in the area.

New water operations started by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in September 2020 aim to improve nesting grounds elsewhere. It’s not clear what will happen to the western areas.

Pimm worries the plan oversimplifies historic water patterns by moving water from the western side of the vast water conservation area north of the park directly south without balancing historic patterns.

“It’s important to be aware of the larger issue. This is a national park. It’s a wetland national park. And water management decisions have massively destroyed habitat in that part of the park,” he said. “That’s alarming and it’s worrying in all sorts of ways. What does it say for our ability to manage national parks properly?”

The new USGS findings also make clear that sea rise needs to be factored into decisions.

To get a better understanding of what the future will look like, the USGS model looked at both sea level rise and restoration plans for water management. Researchers focused on coastal habitat near Florida Bay expected to be hardest hit by sea rise. Sea level rise has already climbed about six inches in just the last 30 years.

With the coastal area expected to have less than a 10% chance for nesting, that puts more pressure on remaining nesting grounds, Romanach said.

One of those areas, just over 22,000 acres along the eastern edge of Shark River Slough, now has the second highest count of sparrows. But water operations will bring more water, Romanach said.

“As a result, it is likely to become less suitable for sparrows,” she said. “But because of its geographic position and being away from the coast a bit and already having the second highest sparrow population, it could be an interesting one to focus on for providing a refuge for seafarers from sea level rise and climate change.”

If the sparrows are to survive, management decisions need to consider how sea level rise is altering those historical landscapes where sparrows nested, she said.

“Sparrows can’t nest in mangroves. And so where is this ecosystem going? What is the trajectory?” she said. “We’re right now doing a lot of plumbing. We’re directing water. What are we aiming for, considering climate change?”

The findings also highlight the difficulty in balancing restoration with protecting a host of endangered species found in the park.

When sparrow habitat was designated in the 1970s, nearly 200,000 acres was protected, including the area west of Shark River. At the time, scientists worried the designation left out too many areas. But after conservationists sued to have the areas expanded, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instead cut the size down to just over 84,000 acres in 2007.

The area west of Shark River, the most controversial because keeping water out of the area sometimes caused flooding on tree islands to the north, was omitted. Wildlife managers said geologic testing showed the area had been sawgrass marsh. Construction of the Tamiami Trail that dammed up water created the prairie.


Center for Biological Diversity

Lawsuit Launched Over Massive Habitat Reduction for Endangered Snakes in Arizona, New Mexico

TUCSON, Ariz.—(April 12, 2023)—The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for reducing critical habitat for two endangered snakes by more than 90% from what it originally proposed to protect the animals.

In 2021 the Service reduced protection to 447 stream miles in the Southwest as critical habitat for the narrow-headed garter snake and 217 stream miles of critical habitat for the northern Mexican garter snake. That amounted to roughly 44,000 protected acres in Arizona and New Mexico. However, the agency had drastically reduced the amount of critical habitat from what it originally proposed in July 2013 — by 93% from the original 421,423 acres for the northern Mexican garter snake and a 91% reduction from the 210,289 acres proposed for the narrow-headed garter snake.

“Federal biologists are abdicating their duty to protect these species by giving them enough habitat to survive and recover,” said Robin Silver, a cofounder of the Center. “It’s disappointing to see them buckle under pressure from other interests, including ranchers and state and federal agencies, when so many species face extinction. Endangered species like these rare aquatic snakes will disappear forever if we don’t protect the places they need to live.”

The agency ignored snake experts and its own scientists before shrinking the snakes’ protected habitat. Among other things, it excluded hundreds of thousands of acres of ephemeral streams — despite noting in its own proposed rule that both the northern Mexican and narrow-headed garter snakes “rely on terrestrial habitat for thermoregulation, gestation, shelter, protection from predators, immigration, emigration, and brumation.”

Arizona and New Mexico waterways now protected for the snakes under the Endangered Species Act include 46 miles of the Gila River, 71 miles of the San Francisco River, 52 miles of the Blue River, 20 miles of the Tularosa River and 27 miles of the Verde River. Yet when it was considering the snakes for federal protection in 2013, the Service originally proposed to safeguard 1,380 stream miles for the narrow-headed garter snake.

Both garter snake species were listed as threatened in 2014. Both are disappearing as Southwestern streams continue to be degraded by livestock grazing and mining, upended by invasive species, drained for agriculture and suburban sprawl, and shrinking with climate change-induced drought.

The Center first submitted a petition to list both garter snakes under the Endangered Species Act in 2003 and had to file multiple lawsuits before the Service listed the snakes in 2014. At the time the agency had proposed protecting more than 420,000 acres of critical habitat for them.

“Protecting rivers that disappearing animals rely on benefits snakes, fish, birds, amphibians and mammals, including people,” said Silver. “It’s taken way too long to protect these snakes, but slashing their habitat is a blow they will not survive. We have to protect and restore these rivers and ephemeral waters to keep these snakes swimming and thriving.”



Wild Tiger Population Rises in India

By: Paige Bennett, April 11, 2023

The numbers of wild tigers in India has more than doubled from 2010 to 2022, based on the All India Tiger Estimation (AITE) 2022 released this week. The 2022 count includes at least 3,167 wild tigers, up from 1,411 in 2010.

This year’s All India Tiger Estimation utilized 641,449 square kilometers of foot surveys, 32,588 camera counts and 641,102 person days to determine the tiger populations. Numbers increased from 1,411 wild tigers in 2010 and 2,461 in 2018.

“Concerted efforts from tiger range countries are really encouraging,” Rajesh Gopal, secretary general of Global Tiger Forum, said in a statement. “The wild tiger status has registered an upward trend in some countries, and others are working hard to further strengthen their efforts.”

Tigers face many threats. They experience habitat loss and must compete for space and resources as humans develop more lands. This depletion of space for tigers, which are solitary animals that need wide ranges to roam and hunt, has also led to conflicts with humans. Further, tigers face poaching by humans, and their skins, bones and other body parts are sold in the illegal wildlife trade.

Today, tiger lands represent around just 7% of the animals’ original range. To combat increasing threats to tigers, India launched Project Tiger in 1973. At the time, the country had nine tiger reserves established. Now, 53 tiger reserves in India span around 75,800 square kilometers of land, as reported by CNN.

In 2010 at the Global Tiger Summit, governments agreed on a target to double global tiger populations by 2022. India more than doubled its wild tiger numbers in that timeframe and ultimately contributed strongly to the global goal as well. Wild tigers in India now make up about 70% of global tiger numbers.

More work is needed in tiger conservation around the world, though. There were about 3,200 wild tigers globally in 2010, while the World Wildlife Fund noted that there are now around 4,500 tigers in the wild, meaning nations have fallen short of reaching the target set at the Global Tiger Summit.

“Project Tiger was conceptualized with the goal of restoring tiger populations and protecting their habitats in India. Today, after five decades, Project Tiger is recognized as one of the most successful species-specific conservation programs globally,” Ravi Singh, CEO of WWF-India, said in a statement. “And to keep this momentum going and see growth and stability in tiger numbers, this exceptional conservation program will require continued dedication of combined efforts and management of human-wildlife interactions.”


The Guardian

‘Underwater and overlooked’: number of critically endangered fish species in Australia doubles

Nine new species of fish are now on the brink of extinction, with scientists calling for urgent action to control invasive freshwater species

Lisa Cox, April 11, 2023

Australia’s list of critically endangered fish has doubled in what conservationists say is a sign of the urgent need to tackle the problem of invasive freshwater species.

Nine new species, all types of galaxias, were given critically endangered status in March, a recognition that they are on the brink of extinction. One species of galaxias was also added to the endangered category.

They include the short-tail galaxias, the tapered galaxias and the East Gippsland and West Gippsland galaxias, with the additions taking the total number of fish listed as critically endangered under national laws to 18.

“These freshwater fish are some of Australia’s most vulnerable animals, with almost all of them being assessed as having a greater than 50% chance of going extinct in the wild in the next 20 years,” the conservation director at the Invasive Species Council, James Trezise, said.

“If we are serious about stopping extinctions, then we need to tackle the major threats that are driving declines of our native animals.

“Scientists have recommended a threat abatement plan be established for freshwater pest fish, yet this hasn’t happened.”

The decision to list the species follows a raft of assessments that occurred in the aftermath of the 2019-20 bushfire disaster.

The newly listed fish were once thought to be a single species, known as the mountain galaxias, but work by Tarmo Raadik, a senior research scientist at Victoria’s Arthur Rylah Institute, described the animals as distinct species.

The biggest threat to galaxiid species is invasive trout, which have caused the range of many of the fish to contract to extremely small areas, often in headwaters above waterfalls where trout are excluded.

Many have only one population left, putting them at extreme risk of extinction.

“Because there’s only a single population any normal disturbance that may occur in a forest such as a fire or sedimentation from a flood can knock out the whole population,” Raadik said.

“The other issue of being forced to these small single areas is genetic decline, they become inbred because you’ve got no genetic recruitment coming in from elsewhere.”

Mark Lintermans, an associate professor at the University of Canberra, said some of the streams galaxias were now found in were tiny pools measuring a metre in width and 10cm deep.

“So you have a drought and the stream dries up,” he said.

Both scientists said it would take a combination of translocations and captive breeding to establish new populations and reduce the extinction risk.

Lintermans said fish fell into a category he called “underwater and overlooked” and there were dozens more considered threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list that had not been assessed under Australian laws for listing.

Many of the newly listed galaxiid species had been acknowledged as threatened by other scientific lists, including the red list, for years.

The Albanese government has set a target of no new extinctions and has committed to introducing reforms to Australia’s national environmental laws.

Other animals recently added to Australia’s list of threatened species include the eastern population of the once common Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, or pink cockatoo.

Trezise said the reforms were a “huge opportunity to fix Australia’s threat abatement and conservation planning system” and national coordination was necessary to tackle major threats.

The environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, said: “For nearly 10 years the Coalition government had their head in the sand about the extinction crisis on our doorstep.

“Our target of zero new extinctions includes our native freshwater fish. Listing these 10 galaxiid species under national environmental law is a critical step to increase efforts to protect and restore these precious populations.”


Houston Public Media/University of Houston

A rare Texas wildflower gets protection under the Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the bracted twistflower, native to the Edwards Plateau, a threatened species, a month after putting another Texas plant on the endangered list.

ALEJANDRA MARTINEZ, The Texas Tribune, April 11, 2023

The bracted twistflower, a Texas wildflower threatened by growing urban sprawl, was declared a threatened species Monday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The tall, bright purple flower, which has seen significant decline across its range in the rapidly developing I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio, will receive protection under the Endangered Species Act. Close to 1,600 acres across four Texas counties — Uvalde, Medina, Bexar and Travis — have been designated critical habitat for the plant.

The protection, which comes after the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in 2021 against the federal agency, will lead to the development of a recovery plan to reintroduce the plant and prescribe conservation actions. It will also make removing, cutting, digging up or harming the plant illegal.

“Very few busy Texans in the world today pause to think about these plants … but they still play an absolutely essential role in our world,” said Michael J. Robinson, senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The once thriving Hill Country wildflower blooms in the spring and requires specific soil that is found only near the edge of Glen Rose and the Edwards Plateau region. It also needs subsurface water and a mix of sun and shade that’s provided by ashe juniper trees and live oaks. Its lavender-colored flowers supply nectar and pollen for Texas bee species.

“This is a species that could be recovered within a few decades if its remaining habitats are managed appropriately,” Chris Best, state botanist for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Texas, said in a press release.

Conservationists say wildflower populations are increasingly separated from each other to the extent that pollinators like bees that ensure reproduction can’t make it from location to location, which increases the loss of genetic diversity and hurts the plant’s ability to adapt to other threats.

The Endangered Species Act defines a threatened species as “any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” The wildflower has lost habitat to development, hungry white-tailed deer and non-native grazing animals.

It’s the second Texas plant the federal agency has listed under the Endangered Species Act this year. Last month, it added the prostrate milkweed, a rare Texas plant crucial for the survival of monarch butterflies, to the endangered list. All 24 known populations of prostrate milkweed are found within 8 miles of the Rio Grande.

“Protecting prostrate milkweed is a big deal for the monarch butterflies who lay their eggs on these plants as they fly through Texas after spending the winter in Mexico,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The creamy-white plant is imperiled by loss of genetic diversity due to clearing land. Development such as border wall construction, oil and gas drilling and building wind turbines, along with road maintenance, all destroy soil the plant needs to survive, according to an assessment by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists. President Joe Biden paused most border barrier construction in 2020.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has designated approximately 661 acres of critical habitat for the plant in Starr and Zapata counties.

The rare plant is identified by its triangular foliage with wavy margins that appear like stars. The plant wilts during droughts but uses its long stem to soak up rain during tropical storms.

The prostrate milkweed listing took effect March 30. The bracted twistflower listing goes into effect next month.


New York Times

At Least 3 California Condors Die From Bird Flu in Arizona

Exposure to the virus is expected to rise as condors, an endangered species, migrate north in the spring, the National Park Service said.

By Stephanie Lai, April 9, 2023

At least three California condors in northern Arizona have died since last month from bird flu, which could spread and pose yet another threat to the endangered species, the National Park Service said.

Officials are trying to determine whether the virus was the cause of death for five other condors. Five additional birds that were captured exhibited signs of the illness, the Park Service said.

The condor — a scavenger bird with a 9½-foot wingspan — is an endangered species that has been protected by federal law since 1967 and by California state law since 1971.

Wildlife officials with the Peregrine Fund, which manages the Arizona-Utah condor flock, collected a dead female condor on March 20 that they first believed was sickened by lead poisoning.

A positive result for highly pathogenic avian influenza was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory on March 30. Officials later confirmed that two other condors had died from the illness, a subtype of the flu.

The Peregrine Fund captured five additional birds that showed symptoms of illness and sent them to a wildlife rescue in Phoenix. One bird died shortly upon arrival. Its cause of death was not immediately clear on Sunday. Four others have been quarantined as they are tested, the Park Service said.

Test results were not yet final for five additional dead birds.

Signs of the illness in birds include lethargy, lack of coordination, holding the head in an unusual position and walking in circles, according to the Park Service, which said the highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in every state except Hawaii.

The California condor is the largest land bird in North America, native to large sections of the continent, from California to Florida and Western Canada to Northern Mexico.

By 1982, only 23 condors remained in the wild, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Scientists believe that the species has been threatened by habitat degradation, lead poisoning from lead ammunition, and the synthetic insecticide DDT, which was banned in the United States in 1972.

To prevent extinction, scientists captured the remaining birds in 1987 to breed in zoos. The birds were later reintroduced to the wild in sanctuaries and national parks. By 2020, the population had grown to 504 birds.

The infected birds were part of a population that moves between northern Arizona and southern Utah, including Grand Canyon National Park, according to the Park Service. Officials expect exposure to the virus to rise during the condors’ migration north in the spring.

So far, the avian flu has not been detected in other condors in California or Mexico’s Baja California, the Park Service said.

The United States is experiencing its largest-ever outbreak of avian flu, which started early last year. It has affected more than 58 million farmed birds and has spread to mammals, such as minks, foxes, raccoons and bears.

The outbreak has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to explore the development of avian flu tests and the White House to consider vaccinating poultry.

The virus poses a low risk to human health, according to the C.D.C., but infections in humans have previously been reported.

Avian flu is highly contagious in the wild and can spread quickly through bird-to-bird contact, environmental contamination with fecal material, and exposed clothing, shoes and vehicles.


Spectrum News 1 (Milwaukee, WI)

Wisconsin DNR releases 3,500 public comments on wolf plan

By Associated Press Madison, Apr. 08, 2023

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin wildlife officials on Friday released thousands of public comments on a new wolf management plan, some calling for the restoration of a statewide population limit and others urging a total hunting ban.

Department of Natural Resources in November released a draft of its first new wolf management plan in almost 25 years. It would eliminate the existing 350-animal population goal and recommends instead that the DNR work with local advisory committees on whether to reduce local wolf populations, keep them stable, or allow them to grow.

The window for submitting comments on the draft plan ended Feb. 28. The DNR posted about 3,500 redacted comments on its website Friday afternoon.

The comments broadly reflected all sides of the long-running debate over how to best handle the growing number of wolves in Wisconsin. DNR estimates released in September put the statewide population at about 1,000 animals.

Northern Wisconsin farmers have long complained about wolves preying on livestock. Hunters have pointed to the 350-animal number as justification for setting generous quotas during the state’s fall wolf season. Animal advocates counter that the population still isn’t strong enough to support hunting.

Several government entities in rural Wisconsin, including the Douglas, Marathon and Jackson county boards, submitted boilerplate resolutions to the DNR calling for the agency to restore the 350-animal goal, arguing that nothing has changed to warrant its elimination.

Hunting groups, including the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association and Safari Club International, also called for the agency to restore the 350-wolf goal.

“Without setting a definitive guideline on which to base discretionary management decisions, any effort to stabilize or even reduce the wolf population will be questioned and likely challenged,” Safari Club International President Sven Lindquist said in a letter to the DNR. “Establishing a population objective would provide DNR with a specific goal to point to as it makes decisions like setting annual harvest quotas and methods of harvest.”

Republican legislators introduced a bill that would mandate the DNR establish a new population goal in the final version of the plan but doesn’t say at what level. The proposal hasn’t received a hearing yet.

Conservation groups, meanwhile, applauded the lack of a numeric goal in the draft plan.

“Removing an arbitrary wolf population goal is important to make sure the numbers of wolves are adaptable,” Elizabeth Ward, director of the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin chapter, said in a letter. “As written in the plan, the goal should be for the state to have a self-sustaining, self-regulating, and genetically diverse wolf population that maintains connectivity with wolf populations in neighboring states and fulfills their ecological roles.”

The Chippewa tribes, which regard the wolf as a sacred brother, submitted comments saying they cannot support hunting wolves and imploring the DNR to include them in discussions on plan revisions.

It’s unclear when DNR officials would submit a final draft to the agency’s policy board. Agency officials said in a statement only that they’re reviewing the comments and will use them to consider revisions. They did not offer a timeline.

DNR spokesperson Katie Grant has not responded to an email from The Associated Press.

Wisconsin law mandates a wolf season but last year a federal judge restored endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the country, including Wisconsin. The move prohibits hunting the animals. If wolves were ever to lose those protections, the states would be responsible for managing the creatures and Wisconsin hunts would resume.



Rescuers Race to Free Entangled North Atlantic Right Whale

By: Olivia Rosane, April 7, 2023

Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began documenting an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) for North Atlantic right whales in 2017, 36 of the endangered species are known to have died. Researchers are hoping an entangled female whale swimming in Cape Cod Bay won’t be one of them.

Along with vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglements are the greatest threat faced by these struggling whales. This particular whale, dubbed #4545, was first spotted snared in fishing gear off Nantucket in February, but rescuers could not reach her because she was too far away and the light was too dim, the Center for Coastal Studies noted in a press release.

“Since it was first observed in February, the entanglement has developed into a highly complex and lethal one, with multiple wraps around the whale’s body and likely also her flippers,” the center wrote in a Facebook post.

The Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) attempted to free her on March 29. They succeeded in removing 200 feet of thick rope and attaching a small telemetry buoy to make it easier to find and free her later.

“[T]his is obviously a difficult situation. We worked very hard for this whale on Wednesday and she did all she could to avoid us,” MAER Director Scott Landry said in the press release. “With the telemetry buoy in place on her entanglement all of our attention will be focused on trying again.”

The eight-year-old female is an exemplar of the dangers faced by her species. There are fewer than 350 of the whales left, and they are dying faster than they are being born, according to NOAA. What’s more, only around 70 breeding females are left alive. There is evidence that the climate crisis is partly driving their decline, since a shift in ideal feeding conditions both deprived them of food and put them in the way of busier, less protected waters to search for it.

That’s why researchers are hoping for good weather this week to be able to save at least one of them.

“This will not be like veterinary surgery,” Landry told WBUR. “So we need really good conditions to go for targets that are very, very small, and very defensible by the whale.”

The would-be rescuers don’t have much time, New England Aquarium senior scientist Amy Knowlton told WBZ News.

“It’s not a good situation for sure,” Knowlton said. “I think this whale does not have a lot of time. It’s been an escalating problem because the industry has been expanding over the decades and ropes have gotten stronger.”

The New England Aquarium says that more than 85 percent of North Atlantic right whales will tangle with fishing gear at least once in their lives. Since 2017, entanglements have led to nine known deaths, 30 serious injuries and 21 sublethal industries, though only around a third of fatalities are ever documented.

“Whales can pick up gear from anywhere within their range and drag it around for weeks and months,” Landry said in the press release. “Their range is huge, stretching from Canada to Florida. Using disentanglement as a tool for conservation is helpful but has its limitations. We have no control over when or where an entangled whale will be discovered.”

Attempts to address the issue through regulations have run aground on politics, as GPB reported in March. A federal judge ruled in 2022 that existing gear regulations did not go far enough to protect the whales, but lawmakers from Maine — where fishing is both economically and culturally important — were able to push the deadline for new regulations back from 2024 to 2028.

“With that effectively suspended to 2028, I feel that the danger to outright extinction of the right whale is increasing significantly,” Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee and Arizona Democrat Raúl Grijalva told States Newsroom, as GPB reported.


Center for Biological Diversity

Washington’s Wolf Population Increased Just 5% in 2022

State Keeps Killing Wolves While Failing to Adopt Nonlethal Solutions

OLYMPIA, Wash.—(April 7, 2023)—Washington’s wolf population increased by just 5% in 2022, according to figures released today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That increase is far less than what’s necessary to achieve a healthy wolf population in the state.

The state reported a 2022 minimum population of 216, a 5% rise from 2021’s reported minimum population of 206 wolves. The number of Washington’s packs increased from 33 to 37, and breeding pairs increased from 19 to 26 at the end of 2022.

This marks the fifth straight year that growth was well below the 30% expected for a wolf population still in the early stages of recovery. Last year was marked by still more wolves killed by the state as well as an investigation into multiple wolf poisonings.

“What this report tells me is that it’s well past time to take a proactive approach to heading off conflict between livestock and wolves,” said Sophia Ressler, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission chose not to adopt comprehensive rules to curb conflict by requiring the use of nonlethal risk reduction measures. That decision means we’ll continue to see livestock-wolf conflict and Washington will keep killing a state endangered species on behalf of livestock operators.”

Today’s report shows that at least 37 wolves died in 2022, all in northeast Washington. This means that one-quarter of all wolves living in northeast Washington last year died. Of those, six of the human-caused deaths were due to the state agency killing wolves in response to conflict with livestock.

In October 2022 the department announced that six wolves in northeast Washington had been illegally poisoned earlier that year. This announcement came on the heels of ongoing conflicts with livestock and wolves within the range of the Leadpoint and Smackout wolf pack territories. Those conflicts led to a department kill-order for members of both packs. Tragically, the kill operation resulted in the shooting death of a 5-month-old pup who was a member of a third pack, which had not been involved in any conflicts.

In late 2020, following the state’s killing of multiple wolves and entire packs over the years, Gov. Jay Inslee directed the agency to draft rules for the Fish and Wildlife Commission mandating the use of nonlethal solutions prior to killing wolves. The department underwent a rulemaking process dealing with livestock-wolf conflict, but the commission voted not to adopt any of the rules.

“Killing wolves doesn’t prevent future conflict, as the ongoing problems in the Kettle Range show,” said Ressler. “I had hoped that new rules would prioritize nonlethal ways to reduce conflicts. We’ll keep pushing for commonsense rules that protect wolves and keep livestock safe, too.”


Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. With protection from the Endangered Species Act, however, the animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s.

Although wolves are protected as an endangered species under state law, the state has killed 41 wolves over the past eight years, with most of the killings occurring on public lands.



Pesticides Drifting to Unintended Flowers Could Harm Pollinators, Study Finds

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, April 7, 2023

Bees need a balanced diet of nectar, which gives them carbohydrates in the form of sugars, and pollen, which provides fat and protein, from a wide variety of plant sources. Different bee species have their own nutritional needs, but no healthy bee diet includes pesticides.

According to new findings by scientists from Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University (DCU), pesticides have been found in the nectar and pollen of flowers that were not targeted with the toxins, and this could be an extra, underestimated hazard for pollinators.

“This is the first time that a multi-field survey of pollen and nectar from crops and wild plants has been undertaken in Ireland and is critical to our understanding of pesticide residues in the Irish context,” said co-lead author of the study professor Jane Stout of Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, according to a press release from Trinity College Dublin.

The study, “Pesticide mixtures detected in crop and non-target wild plant pollen and nectar,” was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

For the study, thousands of flowers were collected and analyzed by Trinity doctoral student Elena Zioga from agricultural fields throughout Ireland.

The researchers checked for the presence of residues from the herbicides fluroxypyr and glyphosate, as well as the fungicides azoxystrobin, boscalid and prothioconazole, in the pollen and nectar of crop and hedgerow plants that were not targeted with the chemicals.

The scientists also checked for the neonicotinoid insecticides acetamiprid, imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam, some of which — imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam — had not been applied recently and were not even approved in Ireland anymore. However, these toxins may persist in the environment for extended periods of time.

The research team detected and recorded several chemical compounds, most of which came from fields where there hadn’t been a recent application of the pesticides. The most common combination was residues from boscalid, azoxystrobin and clothianidin, with the latter seeming to remain for several years post-application.

“The research takes place in the context of Ireland reaching the ambitious European Commission target in the Farm to Fork Strategy of reducing the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50%,” said co-lead author of the study professor Blánaid White of the School of Chemical Sciences at DCU, according to the press release.

In Ireland, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides are the most commonly used categories of pesticides. Crops that frequently attract pollinators, such as rapeseed, are likely to have been treated with pesticides from all these groups.

“Application of various pesticide compounds from different pesticide categories, at multiple time intervals throughout the cropping period, increases the risk of pollinator exposure to pesticide mixtures through pollen and nectar with unknown consequences in pollinator’s health,” said Zioga.

Some neonicotinoids that were banned by the European Commission in 2018 — which are known threats to pollinators — still linger in the environment.

“We found clothianidin residues in pollen and nectar of both plant species even though it hasn’t been applied for years. The fact that it remains present in pollinators’ food sources for so long is a concern,” Zioga said.

The pesticides detected by the scientists were more often mixtures of different types of pesticides rather than single compounds, which means understanding the effects these mixtures have on pollinators and other organisms not targeted by the toxins is crucial.

“Our findings can help us to understand which are the more hazardous pesticides in an Irish context, and also help us to understand what the risks associated with the different chemical pesticides are, so that we can more effectively reduce the risk associated with them,” White said in the press release.

Being exposed to multiple pesticides is concerning for the health of bees and could have serious implications for crop production, the function of ecosystems and human health.

“We don’t know the full impact on pollinators of consuming foods contaminated with multiple pesticides, and most of what is known is compound specific,” White said.

Zioga added that the effects on bee species other than honey bees needed to be studied as well.

“Moreover, the toxicity of single compounds is mainly being tested on honey bees, while we have scarce toxicity data on other wild bee species like bumble bees and solitary bees,” Zioga said.

Stout said the long-term effects of different compounds on pollinators also needed to be looked into.

+“We need to understand how different compounds move through the environment, and the rate at which these compounds degrade, so that we can understand the extent of their persistence,” White said in the press release.


Animal Welfare Institute

Press Release, April 7, 2023

Atlantic Humpback Dolphin Recommended for Endangered Species Act Listing

Washington, DC—The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced a proposed rule today to list the Atlantic humpback dolphin under the Endangered Species Act, in response to a 2021 petition filed by the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and VIVA Vaquita. Following a 60-day public comment period, NMFS has until April 2024 to make a final decision on protections.

The Atlantic humpback dolphin (Sousa teuszii) is the most endangered of the four species of coastal humpback dolphins, which are all threatened by human activities. The species is found only along the western African coast, ranging through at least 13 countries’ waters from Western Sahara south to Angola.

Scientists estimate that no more than 3,000 Atlantic humpback dolphins remain, in fragmented groups of tens to hundreds of animals, and the species is already recognized as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Atlantic humpback dolphins are among the least-known species of dolphins in the world, and this has hindered implementation of effective conservation measures. Current measures aimed at protecting this species are woefully inadequate. Although some countries in the dolphins’ range have established marine protected areas, few laws or regulations exist specifically to conserve the species.

“We are very pleased that NMFS has recognized the need to extend ESA protections to this little-known dolphin,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, AWI’s marine mammal scientist. “This listing would improve the species’ survival prospects, increase global awareness, and generate funds for important science during this unprecedented extinction crisis.”

In December 2021, after a positive “90-day finding” on the petition, NMFS began a status review to determine whether the dolphin should be listed under the ESA. Following that review, NMFS “determined that the Atlantic humpback dolphin has a high risk of extinction throughout its range and warrants listing as an endangered species.”

“Cetaceans, like most groups of large charismatic mammals, are under assault by human activities,” said Dr. Thomas A. Jefferson, marine mammal biologist for VIVA Vaquita. “The announcement by NMFS that the Atlantic humpback dolphin is being recommended for Endangered status under the ESA is great news. Such a listing will surely help those dedicated biologists and conservationists who are working hard to prevent this species from becoming extinct!”

Atlantic humpback dolphins, with distinctive humps on their backs topped by rounded dorsal fins, live exclusively in relatively shallow waters and are most common in estuarine environments close to shore. They feed on a wide variety of nearshore fish species, favoring mullet. This often puts them in direct conflict with human activities in these same areas.

The major threat to the dolphins is bycatch by local gillnet fisheries. Fisheries also deplete the dolphins’ prey. Other major threats are coastal development and noise from human activity in the coastal marine environment. Demand for Atlantic humpback dolphin meat is also apparently on the rise amid a burgeoning African aquatic wild meat trade.

“I’m delighted that the U.S. government is moving forward with protections for this gravely imperiled dolphin,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Dolphins and whales around the globe continue to be caught and killed in fishing nets, and the United States recognizing Atlantic humpback dolphins’ Endangered status will shine a spotlight on this threat.”


Axios Seattle

$2.4 million in grants seek to help endangered orcas

Christine Clarridge, April 6, 2023

More than $2.4 million in grants and matching funds will go toward efforts to boost the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population in the coastal waters of Washington.

Driving the news: The grants, awarded through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program and announced this week, will go toward a number of protections, including increasing the availability of Chinook salmon and reducing sound and vessel disturbances.

The grants will also establish a platform for the state to work with tribes and other organizations to source specific kinds of trees needed to restore complex instream salmon habitat that’s been lost to deforestation.

Why it matters: While many other whale species are thriving in the Seattle region’s seas, the Southern Residents are struggling to survive against multiple threats. On the endangered species list, there are currently only 73 of the animals.

Zoom in: More than 50 years after the orca known variously as Tokitae, Toki or Lolita was captured for public display, there are plans to return her from the Miami Seaquarium to the Pacific Northwest.


Center for Biological Diversity

Tennessee’s Barrens Darter Back on Track for Endangered Species Protections

Wrongly Denied Protection, Rare Native Fish Teeters on Brink

WASHINGTON—(April 6, 2023)—In a legal victory for the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed today to again consider granting Endangered Species Act protections for the Barrens darter. Named for its home on the Barrens Plateau of central Tennessee, the darter is one of the rarest fish in North America.

In 2019 the agency wrongly denied the Barrens darter protection despite steep population declines and widespread destruction of its headwater habitat across its tiny, fractured remaining range.

“I’m so glad the Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reconsider protections for the rare, sweet little Barrens darter,” said Meg Townsend, freshwater attorney at the Center. “Ensuring protections for the Barrens darter and its biologically rich and diverse habitat is so important because like so many species it’s staring down the barrel of extinction. These fish should never have been denied protection in the first place.”

The Barrens darter has been reduced to just a few small headwater streams that feed the Collins River between Nashville and Chattanooga, and its numbers are decreasing. Much of the species’ habitat has been damaged by water pumping for agriculture and livestock grazing, which has widened streams and increased harmful sediments that destroy the darter’s spawning areas.

As a result, two of the darter’s last seven populations have recently been lost, and the five that remain survive in fewer than roughly 6 miles of streams. Each population is tiny and isolated from the others, making them more vulnerable to local threats.

The Center petitioned the Service in 2010 to protect the darter. Despite agency scientists predicting that two more of the darter’s remaining populations might soon be lost, the agency decided not to protect the species. Today’s agreement is a result of a lawsuit by the Center, which requires the Service to make a new decision by 2025.

The Barrens darter is a unique species in the perch family that produces sounds and is distinguished by the parental care the male provides, including nest guarding. A male will establish a territory around a cavity under a flat rock and attract a female based on his body size and the quality of his nest cavity. Males produce knocks, drums and purrs to court females and defend the nest cavity from other males. Once a female has chosen to spawn, the pair will invert under the rock, and the female will adhere eggs to the underside of the rock in a single layer. The male will clean the eggs and guard them from predators until they hatch.

The Barrens darter’s headwater streams are facing the highest level of risk from agricultural impacts in all of Tennessee. Within the Barrens darter’s narrow range, poor grazing and livestock management practices have stripped streams of necessary plants that help stabilize their banks and, along with the proliferation of nurseries in the area, have damaged the Barrens dater’s habitat by widening streams and contributing high sediment loads.

“I’m hopeful the Fish and Wildlife Service will do what’s right to protect the Barrens darter and its unique central Tennessee habitat,” Townsend said. “Endangered Species Act protections are necessary to ensure we don’t lose more of the Southeast’s rich biodiversity and that these freshwater streams are protected so people, plants and animals can thrive.”



Coral Viruses Worsening Because of Increasing Ocean Temperatures, Three-Year Study Finds

By: Paige Bennett, April 5, 2023

The climate crisis has contributed to a major loss of coral reefs, and now, a three-year-long study has identified further threats to reef systems as ocean temperatures increase. Ocean warming can trigger viral outbreaks that impact coral reefs, according to the newly published research.

The researchers looked at corals in the South Pacific in one of very few studies to explore how heat can impact viral outbreaks in corals, particularly across entire reefscapes. The study is the first to look into “dinoflagellate-infecting RNA viruses” (dinoRNAVs), from what triggers them to how they impact the coral. These dinoRNAVs are viruses that infect the algae living within corals.

The study, published in the journal ISME Communications, investigated how viruses could attack the photosynthetic algae that live inside corals and give them their vibrant colors. The algae, which have a symbiotic relationship with coral, can experience more attacks from viruses as ocean temperatures increase.

Researchers collected samples from 54 coral colonies, with different reef zones, around Mo’orea island in French Polynesia. They retrieved samples twice per year from August 2018 to October 2020, noting the most ocean warming during March 2019. During this time of heightened ocean warming, reefs experienced heat-related stress, including coral bleaching.

“Our work provides the first empirical evidence that exposure to high temperatures on the reef triggers dinoRNAV infections within coral colonies, and we showed those infections are intensified in unhealthy coral colonies,” Lauren Howe-Kerr, lead author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at Rice University, said in a statement.

The team found dinoRAV infections in more than 90% of the colonies at any point of the study period. Howe-Kerr explained that the viruses differed in composition and variety for different reef zones, showing that the corals’ environment can also affect outbreaks.

About half of the sampled colonies experienced partial mortality, and ocean-facing forereefs experienced the worst of these impacts. In 2019, when ocean temperatures were at their highest during the study period, the team found more variety of RNA viruses, which could mean an increase in viral production. This was especially true in the areas that were impacted by partial mortality.

“Viral productivity will likely increase as ocean temperatures continue to rise,” said Adrienne Correa, marine biologist and co-author of the study. “It’s important to learn as much as we can about host-virus interactions, because they have the potential to alter the foundational symbiosis that underpins coral reef ecosystems.”

The authors concluded that dinoRNAVs may increase their productivity under warming temperatures, and individual and reef system health may both further influence viral productivity. Further, the researchers warned that viral outbreaks can be expected to worsen with ongoing climate change and ocean warming.


New Mexico Political Report

Coyotes will not be listed as endangered

By Hannah Grover, April 4, 2023

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied a request by environmental and conservation groups to list the coyote as endangered in the territory that overlaps with the Mexican wolves.

The groups said that the similarity of appearance to a Mexican wolf warranted the listing as a way to prevent people from accidentally killing the wolf.

However, the Fish and Wildlife Service found that the resemblance between the Mexican wolf and the coyote is not similar enough that the two canines cannot be distinguished from each other.

The agency looked at whether law enforcement struggled to tell coyotes from wolves.

“Mistaken identity accounts for only a small portion of Mexican wolf mortalities,” Brady McGee, the Service’s Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, said in a press release. “Listing coyotes under the Endangered Species Act would have a minimal impact on Mexican wolf recovery, while imposing an extreme burden on law enforcement, affecting their ability to protect the Mexican wolf in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Chris Smith, a southwest wildlife advocate with WildEarth Guardians, described the decision as incredibly disappointing. However, he said it is not a surprise. Groups like WildEarth Guardians have criticized the Fish and Wildlife Service in the past for policies that they say could harm the wolves.

Smith said the Fish and Wildlife Service does not always advance the best policies for the wolves.

Coyotes are one of the species with essentially no protection, which means they can be killed year round and using a variety of methods.

Smith said he believes the reasons the WildEarth Guardians and other groups gave for protecting the coyote within the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area were sound.

The January petition listed incidents where wolves were killed because someone mistook them for coyotes.

While it is a federal crime to kill a Mexican wolf, a person who has mistaken a wolf for a coyote cannot be convicted. This is because the McKittrick Policy requires the government to prove that the person knew they were killing an endangered species.

“We pretend to revere [wolves] and we pretend to protect them,” Smith said.

But, he said, having a lookalike species with no protections places the wolves in danger.


Office of Rep. Pete Stauber (R-8th District—MN)

April 3, 2023, Press Release

Stauber Introduces Legislation to Overturn the Northern Long-Eared Bat’s Endangered Species Listing

Today, Congressman Pete Stauber (MN-08) introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution disapproving of the northern long-eared bat’s endangered listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Senate version of the CRA was introduced by Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

“The listing of the northern long-eared bat is an example of the ESA being used to stifle development rather than its intended purpose, which is to protect species from human-caused harm,” said Congressman Stauber. “The northern long-eared bat unfortunately suffers from white-nose syndrome through no fault of humans whatsoever. The listing of the bat due to this disease declares open season for environmental groups to target desperately needed development across the bat’s entire range, which covers most of the continental United States. If we’re to build infrastructure, permit electricity transmission, mine for resources needed for everyday life, and properly manage our forests, we need commonsense habitat conservation plans that protect wildlife without harming our economy. And we need to overturn this listing.”

“This decision will have serious consequences for ongoing infrastructure projects across the state,” Sen. Mullin said. “There is no reason to disproportionately increase regulatory burden and hinder economic development when this rule will not affect the primary cause of decline for the Northern Long-eared Bat. I am strongly against one-size-fits-all regulation from Washington bureaucrats, and this is no different. We must stop this reclassification and ensure our state and other impacted states can continue efforts to protect this species without the heavy hand of the federal government getting in their way.”


The Congressional Review Act (CRA) was enacted in 1996 and provides Congress with a tool to overturn Administrative regulations. If a CRA joint resolution is approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the President, the rule at issue cannot go into effect or continue in effect.

On November 30, 2022, the Fish and Wildlife Service elected to list the northern long-eared bat. This CRA will disapprove of the listing of the northern long-eared bat.



Up to 70 North Atlantic right whales were spotted in Cape Cod Bay

Emma Bowman, NPR, April 2, 2023

About one-fifth of the world’s entire population of North Atlantic right whales were all spotted hanging out in Cape Cod, Mass., heading into the weekend.

Between 60 to 70 right whales, including a mother and calf, were seen feeding outside the east end of the Cape Cod Canal in the Cape Cod Bay on Friday, according to the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Scientists believe that fewer than 350 North Atlantic right whales, an endangered species, remain.

The wildlife officials sent out two patrol vessels to protect the whales from boat traffic.

By Saturday, the whales had seemingly moved on. The MEP did not provide details about where they might have been headed.

“No right whales have been spotted in the vicinity of the Canal today,” the officials said in an emailed statement.

The New England coast, a foraging area for the marine mammal, is one of the North Atlantic right whale’s two critical habitats designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. The other critical region — where some right whales migrate in the fall for feeding, nursery and calving habitat — spans from coastal waters off of southeast North Carolina to northeast Florida.

Meanwhile, crews have been working to untangle a North Atlantic right whale wrapped in fishing rope in the Cape Cod Bay. A team from the nonprofit Center for Coastal Studies managed to remove 200 feet of rope from the whale, the center said on Friday, but the whale remains entangled. The rescue team is monitoring sea and weather conditions for another attempt to untangle the whale.

While right whale casualties are not well documented, entanglement in fishing gear is one of the greatest threats to the animal, according to NOAA, killing at least nine right whales since 2017.



Under Proposed Biden Rule, Companies Could Lease Public Lands for Conservation Instead of Exploitation

By: Olivia Rosane, April 1, 2023

Currently, the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will auction leases for people or companies who want to use public lands for exploitative purposes like oil and gas drilling, mining or cattle ranching that disrupt ecosystems and contribute to the climate crisis.

Now, the DOI is proposing a new kind of leasing–conservation leases that would allow companies to offset environmentally harmful activities by paying to restore a degraded ecosystem or reestablish corridors for the migration of large game animals.

“As the nation continues to face unprecedented drought, increasing wildfires and the declining health of our landscapes, our public lands are under growing pressure. It is our responsibility to use the best tools available to restore wildlife habitat, plan for smart development, and conserve the most important places for the benefit of the generations to come,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement announcing the proposed policy Thursday. “As we welcome millions of visitors to hunt, fish and recreate on our public lands each year, now is the time to improve the health and management of special places.”

The conservation leasing is only one element of the proposed Public Lands Rule, which seeks to protect lands that have become increasingly vulnerable as the climate crisis worsens droughts, wildfires and extreme weather events. The proposal focuses on the BLM in particular, which manages 10 percent of U.S. lands, largely in the West, Reuters explained.  The rule builds on Congress’s direction in the  Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 that the Interior Secretary should “give priority to the protection” of BLM lands, Center for Western Priorities Deputy Director Aaron Weiss explained to The Hill. However, BLM’s role in protecting the lands it manages has never been laid out in a federal rule, Weiss said.

Other measures in the rule include

*Asking land managers to identify lands and waters in need of restoration.

*Ensuring the BLM is working with other land management agencies, like the U.S. Forest Service, to accurately assess the health of federal land.

*Using the FLPMA to mandate that BLM identify and designate Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

Conservation leasing is also a tool enabled by the FLPMA. It would allow a solar company, for example, to compensate for damaging wildlife with its installation by leasing a restoration area elsewhere, Reuters explained. Alternatively, corporations could offset greenhouse gas emissions by leasing and protecting forests. While carbon offsets in general have become increasingly controversial, the proposal itself is largely popular with environmental groups, who see it as an opportunity to further protect public lands in line with the Biden administration’s promise to protect 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030.

“For too long, our public lands, including some of the most jaw-dropping places, have been given up to mining, drilling and other development,” Environment America senior conservation program director Steve Blackledge said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. “Whether it’s the Arctic, the Mojave Desert, New Mexico’s Greater Chaco Region or Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp region, we need to choose preservation over the fleeting value of more fossil fuels or minerals. These lands make our country beautiful, and they’re essential to the wildlife we share it with.”

Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 75 days to comment.

“Our public lands provide so many benefits – clean water, wildlife habitat, food, energy and lifetime memories, to name just a few– and it’s our job to ensure the same for future generations,” Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning said in the agency announcement. “As pressure on our public lands continues to grow, the proposed Public Lands Rule provides a path for the BLM to better focus on the health of the landscape, ensuring that our decisions leave our public lands as good or better off than we found them. We look forward to feedback from the public on how this proposal will help us best uphold the BLM’s important mission.”

Weiss said that there is somewhat of a deadline for flinalizing the rule, since, if either the Presidency or Senate flips parties in 2024, Congress may choose to overturn it with a simple majority using the Congressional Review Act. This act gives Congress 60 days of session from a federal rule’s submission to reject the rule and is most often used after a changeover in parties. 

“It is very important that the Biden administration get this rule finalized within the next 12 to 13 months on the far end in order to protect it from potentially getting repealed under the [CRA] if there’s a change in administration,” Weiss told The Hill. “They have a chance to get it done, but they’re going to have to move fast.”


Wyoming Tribune Eagle (Cheyenne, WY)

Lummis, colleagues look to overturn Biden rule on endangered species

April 1, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Western Caucus Chair Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., led 17 of her colleagues in introducing a Congressional Review Act resolution to retain the regulatory definition of habitat within the Endangered Species Act.

“There is an important distinction between ‘habitat’ and ‘critical habitat’ for an endangered species,” Lummis said in a caucus news release. “By scrapping the definition of habitat within the ESA, the Biden administration is causing chaos and confusion among private property owners throughout Wyoming and the West.”

A critical habitat designation has major impacts on landowners, as it reduces the value of any private property within a designation because prospective landowners recognize the burdens that accompany a designation.

The following species found in Wyoming are currently listed as endangered: grizzly bear, whooping crane, black-footed ferret, gray wolf, yellow-billed cuckoo, Wyoming toad, northern long-eared bat, Kendall warm springs dace, Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, Canada lynx, blowout penstemon, Colorado butterfly plant, desert yellowhead and Ute ladies’-tresses.



DNA testing finds endangered eels on the menu

News Release, March 30, 2023, Peer-Reviewed Publication, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

DNA testing has confirmed widespread – and probably illegal – international trading of critically endangered European eels.

A research team led by the University of Exeter carried out “DNA barcoding” on products including jellied eels and unagi, which is used in sushi and donburi.

With European eel populations at about 5-10% of their former levels, the EU has banned the import and export of European eels.

This has sparked a highly lucrative illegal trade – with media reports of a “multi-billion pound eel mafia”. In June 2022, European authorities announced the arrest of 49 people involved in a trafficking network that moved live eels in suitcases.

The researchers analysed 114 samples and combined their results with existing published research, finding European eels – and endangered American and Japanese eels – on sale in the UK, Continental Europe, North America and Asia.

“The growing popularity of Japanese cuisine worldwide has caused an increasing demand for freshwater eels,” said Dr Andrew Griffiths, from the University of Exeter.

“The complex lifecycle of these eels – which includes migrating from rivers to spawn in the sea – means they cannot be bred at large scale in captivity.

“So the illegal trade involves catching young eels in Europe, transporting them to East Asia and growing them on in fish farms.”

The new study tested eel-based foods in North America and Europe. About 40% of North American unagi samples they analysed contained European eel.

“It’s hard to track where the eels come from, but it’s unlikely that all of those found in the samples came from the small amounts of legally exported European eels from North Africa,” said joint first author Kristen Steele, of University College London.

“It’s very possible that illegal trading brought these eels into the supply chain.”

The study also found a “stark mismatch” between the natural range of eel species and where they were commonly sold.

More European eel was found on sale in East Asia than in Europe; and more Japanese eel was found in the UK than in East Asia.

As well as concerns over illegal trade and species conservation, this suggests thousands of food miles are “hidden” in eel products.

Most traditional UK eel products sampled, like the jellied eels famously sold in London’s East End, were made from European eels. Such products may be legal, but they still involve the consumption of a critically endangered species.

The researchers stressed that factors such as habitat disturbance (including dams) and climate change are contributing to the decline of eel populations.

But overfishing also plays a role – and consumption of European eels in traditional dishes in Europe has caused recent controversy.

“Labels on eel products and menus rarely specify what species they contain, so it’s very difficult for consumers to make ethical and informed choices,” said joint first author Amy Goymer, who worked on the study as part of her Biological Sciences degree at the University of Exeter.

“Illegal trade and lack of information for consumers are likely to continue until robust traceability systems and better labelling are introduced across the supply chain.”

The results also link to the upcoming episode of BBC nature documentary Wild Isles, which focuses on freshwater animals.

European eels were once common, ascending our rivers in large numbers and supporting local fisheries, but have undergone striking declines and need active conservation and management.

(The paper, published in the journal Food Control, is entitled: “For R-eel?! Investigating international sales of critically endangered species in freshwater eel products with DNA barcoding.”)


Maui Now

Critical habitat proposed for 12 endangered species, all on Hawai’i Island

March 30, 2023

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing critical habitat for 12 species, all found only on Hawaiʻi island. The Service has also determined that critical habitat was not prudent for two additional species. All 14 species are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Approximately 122,277 acres of federal, state, private, and public lands are being proposed as critical habitat for 12 species, meaning these areas have been identified as essential for the conservation of one or more of the species for which critical habitat is being proposed.

Designating critical habitat for the loulu palm (Pritchardia lanigera) and ʻopāe pond shrimp (Vetericaris chaceorum) is considered not prudent due to concerns of potential overharvesting in the wild. The Service will hold a virtual public informational meeting and hearing on the proposal in March 2023.

Of the 14 species addressed in the proposal, 12 are plants, one is a picture-wing fly, and one is a shrimp that lives in anchialine pools (enclosed water bodies or pools with an underground connection to the ocean).

The proposed critical habitat occurs across five ecosystems on the island of Hawaiʻi: mesic forest, mesic grasslands and shrublands, wet forest, wet grasslands and shrublands, coastal, and dry forest. Each species faces threats of habitat loss and degradation by introduced ungulates, fire, drought, as well as habitat-modifying invasive plants and predation fromnon-native insects.

“We grouped these 12 species in this proposed designation based on their interconnectedness and reliance on ecosystems found only on the island of Hawaiʻi,” said Lasha-Lynn Salbosa, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office listing and classification manager in an agency news release.

The following is a short description of each species.

*Bidens hillebrandiana ssp. hillebrandiana (koʻokoʻolau) is a short-lived perennial herb that occurs in coastal and dry cliff ecosystems on rocky substrate near the shoreline. It is found on the windward eastern coast of Kohala near the northern tip of the island.

*Cyanea marksii (hāhā) is a short-lived perennial, shrub or palm-like tree and is found on the west side of the island in the district of South Kona.

*Cyanea tritomantha (‘akū) is a palm-like shrub distributed across the windward slopes of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Kīlauea, and the Kohala Mountains.

*Cyrtandra nanawaleensis (ha‘iwale) is a shrub or small tree found in wet forest ecosystems in the Puna district.

*Cyrtandra wagneri (ha‘iwale, kanawao ke‘oke‘o) is a shrub or small tree found in wet forest ecosystems along the northeast side of the island.

*Melicope remyi (no common name) is a long-lived perennial shrub found on the windward slopes of the Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea.

*Phyllostegia floribunda (no common name) is a perennial shrub found in mesic forest and wet forest ecosystems along the eastern side of the island.

*Pittosporum hawaiiense (hōʻawa, hāʻawa) is a small tree found in mesic and wet ecosystems on the island.

*Pritchardia lanigera (loulu) is a medium-sized palm tree known from the Kohala mountains-Hāmākua district and the windward slopes of Mauna Kea.

*Schiedea diffusa ssp. macraei (no common name) is a perennial climbing herb found in the wet forest ecosystem of the Kohala Mountains and the windward slopes of Mauna Loa.

*Schiedea hawaiiensis (māʻoliʻoli) is a perennial herb, and at the time of listing, occurs only at a single site in dry forest habitat between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea mountains.

*Stenogyne cranwelliae (no common name) is a vine found in the Kohala Mountains in wet forest habitat.

*Vetericaris chaceorum (ʻopāe) is a small shrimp found in inland anchialine pools of mixed salinity formed by coastal lava flows or limestone exposures.

*Drosophila digressa (Hawaiʻi picture-wing fly) has historically been found in five locations on the island in elevations from 2,000 to 4,500 feet in mesic forest and wet forest habitats.

Critical habitat is a tool that supports the continued conservation of imperiled species by guiding cooperation within the federal government. Identifying critical habitat also informs landowners and the public which specific areas are important to a species’ conservation and recovery.

The Service can also make the determination to not designate critical habitat when a designation would likely increase the threat of collection, vandalism, or incidental habitat degradation by curiosity seekers.

This announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old and is the most significant piece of endangered species legislation and is considered one of the world’s most important conservation laws.

When Congress passed the ESA in 1973, it recognized that our rich natural heritage is of “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people.”

Currently, the ESA protects 1,662 U.S. species and 638 foreign species. With ongoing threats such as habitat loss and new threats like climate change, a commitment to species conservation and the ESA continues to be vital. In every state across the country, there is staff working to conserve endangered species and the habitat they depend on.

The Service will hold one virtual public infomational meeting and public hearing: April 20, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. HST.

To register for the virtual public scoping meeting, visit our Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office website:

The proposed rule will be available for public comment for 60 days. An electronic copy of the document is available at the Federal Register: Docket# FWS-R1-ES-2023-0017


The Independent (Livermore, CA)

Rubber industry putting endangered animals at further risk: study

By Talker News, March 29, 2023, James Gamble via SWNS

A lack of transparency in rubber industry supply chains is obscuring environmental impacts and putting endangered animals at further risk, warns a new study.

The research, by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), found just two firms can trace their rubber back to its source, and four-out-of-five natural rubber manufacturers (79 percent) are yet to publicly claim traceability to the necessary level for the scale of their operations.

Conservationists say the lack of transparency in potentially unsustainable practices significantly increases the risk of deforestation and danger to critically endangered species of animals.

Tire manufacturers often compete for access to the same rubber sources, which means disclosing the locations of suppliers could give away competitive advantages.

But in their latest Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT) report, ZSL says this lack of transparency seriously questions whether enough is being done in the rubber industry to protect nature.

The report shows that four-fifths of the natural rubber manufacturers assessed are yet to publicly claim ‘traceability’ to the rubber processor level.

They found just two rubber companies – Michelin and Bridgestone – say they can trace some rubber back to where it was harvested from.

Tire manufacturers such as the two above and Pirelli, Continental and Hankook, dominate rubber supply chains.

As the companies compete for access to the same suppliers of rubber, disclosing supplier locations would mean losing competitive advantages such as better pricing or more secure supply chains.

But ZSL says this lack of transparency in unsustainable practices puts the tropical forests and endangered animals in Southeast Asia, where most rubber production occurs, at serious risk.

Sam Ginger, ZSL’s Sustainable Business Specialist who led the assessment, explained: “Tire manufacturers are the major players in the rubber supply chain, consuming over 70 percent of production.

“They often compete for access to the same rubber sources, and disclosing supplier locations could reveal competitive advantages, such as better pricing or more secure supply chains.

“However, this lack of transparency calls into question if enough is being done to protect nature.

“The majority of rubber production occurs in Southeast Asia, home to species such as endangered Asian elephants and critically endangered pangolins.”

“Unsustainable practices threaten the future of these animals through habitat loss and increased human-wildlife conflict as animals stray onto plantations.

“Without supply chain traceability, companies cannot determine if they are supporting habitat destruction and biodiversity loss.”

The ZSL assesses the majority of the world’s rubber is produced by six million smallholder farmers.

But despite the complexity of the industry, pilot projects have shown it is possible to trace rubber from processing facilities back to smallholder farms, which enables buyers to target interventions to improve farm sustainability.

Mr. Ginger added: “Buyers, investors, and organizations such as Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) are all calling for greater supply chain transparency in the natural rubber industry.

“Companies that are transparent about their supply chains can build trust with stakeholders, demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, and differentiate themselves from competitors.

“If they can also trace supply back to origin, claims of action on sustainability commitments can be corroborated.”

ZSL’s research also highlights the fact that rubber companies may not be ready for the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), to be introduced next year.

The regulation aims to reduce deforestation and forest degradation associated with the production and trade of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, timber, beef, and rubber.

Under the new EUDR rules, companies placing products on or exporting from the EU market must demonstrate that products are deforestation-free and legal.

This includes rubber derivative products including tires, gloves and apparel.

Penalties for non-compliance could reach up to four percent of EU-wide turnover, as ZSL’s research shows just seven percent of companies currently publish evidence that they regularly monitor deforestation in suppliers.

The ZSL’s assessment, published every year, also showed an additional seven percent of companies now have public deforestation policies – up from 62 percent of companies last year – and 33 percent of companies now have timebound commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, up from 27 percent last year.

Joe Horrocks Taylor, an Environmental, Social, and Governance analyst at Columbia Threadneedle Investments – which utilizes the SPOTT assessment to rate rubber manufacturers across the globe – says the EUDR should convince companies to publish the locations of their suppliers.

He said: “With agreement on the EUDR reached and natural rubber included in the final list of covered commodities, there is now an even stronger imperative for natural rubber manufacturers to disclose geo-location data for upstream production locations and to strengthen due diligence efforts.

“ZSL SPOTT’s Natural Rubber assessments are a crucial input which we use at Columbia Threadneedle Investments to be able to rate the quality of natural rubber manufacturers’ traceability, due diligence and environmental and social management.

“We engaged with seven natural rubber manufacturers and eight automotive companies in 2022, using ZSL SPOTT’s assessments and framework to focus on the most material issues.

“This is a program which we will look to expand in 2023 by working with ZSL and our financial sector peers to accelerate the pace of change in the natural rubber industry.”

The ZSL insists on the need to create traceable, transparent natural rubber supply chains in order to restore ecosystems and protect endangered animals.

They are also strongly urging all stakeholders in natural rubber supply chains to ‘put nature at the heart’ of their decision-making, and take ‘proactive steps’ toward transparency and traceability to ‘mitigate risks, build trust and use the opportunities associated with sustainable rubber’.

Mr. Ginger added: “Companies must publish lists of their suppliers – an action already commonplace for buyers of palm oil – and trace rubber to source so investments in sustainable cultivation practices can reach the farmers and environments in most need of assistance.”

(Originally published on, part of the BLOX Digital Content Exchange.)



Rewilding Could Help Limit Warming Beyond 1.5°C, Scientists Say

By: Paige Bennett,  March 28, 2023

It’s no secret that preserving and restoring wilderness areas is good for ecosystems, but a new study has pinpointed another major benefit to rewilding.

According to the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, rewilding, or preserving and restoring wildlife and wilderness areas, could improve natural carbon sinks in ecosystems, therefore boosting natural methods of carbon capture and helping the world limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists studied nine wildlife species for the study: marine fish, whales, sharks, gray wolves, wildebeest, sea otters, musk oxen, African forest elephants and American bison. In their analysis, the study authors found that protecting or restoring the populations of just these nine species could collectively help ecosystems capture an additional 6.41 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or about 95% of carbon emissions needed to be captured in order to meet the Paris agreement’s 1.5°C target.

“Wildlife species, throughout their interaction with the environment, are the missing link between biodiversity and climate,” Oswald Schmitz, Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology for the School of the Environment at Yale University, said in a statement. “This interaction means rewilding can be among the best nature-based climate solutions available to humankind.”

From 1970 to 2018, global wildlife populations declined an average of 69%, according to World Wildlife Fund. With these population losses, ecosystems lost benefits of natural carbon capturing behaviors and processes. As populations continue to decline and as species become extinct, the species’ ecosystems can go from capturing carbon to becoming sources of carbon emissions, the study found.

Despite pledges and action plans to limit warming to 1.5°C, recent studies have found humanity on track to surpass this target. A study using artificial intelligence predicted we will pass 1.5°C of warming in just 10 to 15 years, and emissions from global agriculture alone could push the planet pass the targets set by the Paris agreement.

Warming past 1.5°C is expected to bring catastrophic impacts around the world, including deadly heatwaves, extreme temperatures, sea level rise, flooding, extensive droughts, stronger storms, decline in biodiversity and more.

But the new study shows promising results of focused efforts of rewilding for the nine species analyzed in the study as well as other species around the world. Some additional species to consider for rewilding and improving carbon capture include the African buffalo, white rhinos, pumas, dingos, loggerhead turtles and green turtles.

“Natural climate solutions are becoming fundamental to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, while creating added opportunity to enhance biodiversity conservation,” the study authors wrote. “To ignore animals leads to missed opportunities to enhance the scope, spatial extent, and range of ecosystems that can be enlisted to help hold climate warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius.”



CITES Sanctions Mexico as Protections for Vaquita Fall Short

By: Paige Bennett, March 27, 2023

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has announced sanctions against Mexico, asserting that the country’s efforts to protect the critically endangered vaquita are failing.

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus) are the rarest marine mammal on the planet, with only about 10 individuals of the species remaining, according to the World Wildlife Fund. They are only found in the more shallow, coastal waters of the northern Gulf of California in Mexico.

These porpoises are especially prone to being caught as bycatch. They are often entangled in nets intended for fish, including endangered totoaba, and shrimp as part of illegal fishing operations in the vaquita’s protected habitat.

CITES announced the sanctions due to a lack of controlling the illegal fishing of totoaba and mean the country cannot export wildlife products to most other countries. The sanctions will prohibit millions of dollars worth of exports for products like crocodile leather, pet reptiles, cacti, mahogany, and other animal and plant goods.

The country must also swiftly create an action plan and implementation timeline to keep fishers and unauthorized vessels out of the protected vaquita habitat. Sanctions are expected to remain in effect until Mexico’s revised compliance action plan is submitted and considered adequate by the CITES committee.

“Mexico is rightly facing the consequences of its failure to control illegal fishing that is causing the vaquita’s extinction,” Zak Smith, director of global biodiversity conservation at Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “For decades, the international community has been urging, imploring, and begging Mexico to meet its legal obligations. Broad sanctions are appropriate and should stay in place until Mexico demonstrates results.”

Mexico has received criticism and warnings for several years about illegal fishing. Mexico has previously submitted protection plans, and revised plans, to address the issue. The country has said it would find “alternative fishing techniques,” as The Associated Press reported, and has placed traps to snare illegal nets. But the CITES committee ruled these plans insufficient.

Mexico’s government has faced violent opposition from fishers, who are trying to catch totoaba for their swim bladders, which can sell for thousands of dollars per pound. Critics have emphasized that the Mexican government has not spent money to incentivize fishers to stay out of the protected vaquita habitat, nor have they implemented training on alternative fishing methods.

The country has made some efforts, including banning gillnets in the protected areas and patrolling by Mexico’s Navy, but just this month eight illegal fishing vessels were found in the protected habitat, and 38 vessels were found in the Vaquita Refuge, the Center for Biological Diversity reported.

“While no one relishes economically painful sanctions, all other efforts to push Mexico to save the vaquita haven’t been enough,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The strongest measures possible are needed to wake up the Mexican government and prompt it to finally save this tiny porpoise from extinction.”


RFD TV (Nashville, TN)

Lesser Prairie Chicken’s listing under the Endangered Species Act is in effect today

March 27, 2023, RFD-TV News Staff, Currey McCullough

The Lesser Prairie Chicken will officially be added to the Endangered Species List today.

Just last week, the Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit in an effort to stop the listing. Officials in Kansas and Oklahoma have threatened legal action as well as county governments across five states.

If the listing holds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule will require livestock producers in parts of five states to start grazing plans to protect themselves from activities that could harm the birds.

“So, we’re not trying to set the bar for livestock operations in terms of how they operate. So there is some potential for take that occurs in grazing activities. It’s fairly limited, and the benefit to the species that we can accept that take is there is a grazing place,” said Chris O’Melia, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Center for Biological Diversity

Lawsuit Launched Against Biden Administration Over Failure to Act on Petition to Prohibit Pesticides in Endangered Species Critical Habitat

WASHINGTON—(March 27, 2023)—The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to respond to a January 2019 petition to prohibit nearly all uses of pesticides in areas designated as critical habitat for endangered species.

Since the petition was submitted, the Environmental Protection Agency has released more than a dozen assessments finding that various pesticides are causing grave harm to many of the nation’s most endangered plants and animals. But the Service has failed to put in place any on-the-ground conservation measures to protect species from the pesticides.

“By ignoring the massive threat pesticides pose the Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing many of our most endangered plants and animals to the brink of extinction,” said Lori Ann Burd, the Center’s environmental health director. “We provided a common-sense roadmap for how to protect the most imperiled species in their most important habitats, but the Service hasn’t even bothered to respond.”

The petition calls for the agency to use its authority under the Endangered Species Act to proactively put in place measures to protect endangered wildlife from harmful pesticides.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has long recognized that pesticides pose extensive threats to endangered species. Recovery plans for 250 endangered species specifically identify pesticides as a known threat and obstacle to their recovery.

The Service continues to add plants and animals to the Endangered Species list with pesticides identified as a threat, including when the California spotted owl was listed just last month.

The EPA has approved about 1,100 pesticides. In its most recent draft assessment on the impacts of the pesticide cyantraniliprole, to endangered species, it found that the insecticide is likely to adversely affect 635 of the 1,718 listed species; is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of 68 listed species; and is likely to harm the designated critical habitat of 112 species.

“Until the Service musters the political will to do its most important work, endangered species will continue to suffer,” said Burd. “Pesticides are fueling the extinction crisis, but the agency charged with preventing extinctions continues to do nothing about pesticides. This petition gives them a concrete plan for action that would have immediate on-the-ground benefits for endangered plants and animals.”



More Than Half of Australia’s Shallow Reef Species in Decline as Oceans Warm

By: Olivia Rosane, March 26, 2023

More than 50 percent of the species that live in Australia’s shallow reefs declined in numbers as ocean waters warmed over the past decade.

That’s the “alarming” finding from the country’s largest survey yet of marine life, which found that the numbers of more than 500 species had fallen.

“This is very concerning to me,” study lead author and University of Tasmania marine ecology Professor Graham Edgar told The Guardian. ‘I’ve been swimming up and down counting fish and seaweed for more than 30 years and I’ve seen first-hand the effect of warming on the system. With the direction this is going, it’s a huge worry.”

The research, published in Nature Wednesday, looked at the numbers of 1,057 common species found in 1,636 different locations. It found that 57 percent of them were in decline, with 43 percent increasing, Edgar noted on Twitter. Of the species in decline, around 28 percent of them had seen their numbers fall by 30 percent or more, according to The Guardian. That would be enough for them to qualify for threatened status on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, Australia’s ABC News reported. Within that number, 138 species would qualify as endangered or critically endangered.

There is evidence that the climate crisis is a main driver of these declines, as cool-water species were the most harmed while some warm-water species increased. The study authors noted that population numbers tended to fall after marine heat waves, and that more than 30 percent of shallow invertebrates living in Australia’s cooler southern waters faced the threat of extinction. These animals were especially imperiled because deep ocean barriers prevent them from moving further south to cooler waters, and their loss would be an especial blow to global biodiversity.

“These cold water species around Tasmania, southern Australia, 70 per cent of these species occur only in Australia, compared to 3 per cent of tropical species,” Dr. Asta Audzijonyte from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, who was not involved with the study, told ABC News. “So if a species goes extinct [in the south], that’s it. It’s gone from Earth.”

On his Twitter feed Edgar shared striking images of some of the dwindling species. These included the common sea dragon, whose numbers had declined by more than half in 10 years, and an electric ray called the coffin ray whose numbers had plummeted by more than 90 percent.

Another animal that suffered after a 2011 heat wave was the living fossil Campanile symbolicum, the only species in its family. On the flora side, endemic Tasmanian kelp saw its numbers decline by 69 percent.

The study was conducted with the help of more than 100 citizen scientists through the Reef Life Survey project, according to ABC News. While this provided an impressive level of detail, the study still only included species spotted at least 60 times, which means rare species could be falling through the cracks.

“We’re really only looking at the tip of the iceberg here. Species could be going extinct now,” Edgar told The Guardian.


WyoFile (Lander, WY)

Hageman, state officials tout circumventing Endangered Species Act

Congress delisted wolves in Montana and Idaho a dozen years ago, and now it’s being attempted for populations of grizzly bears near Yellowstone and Glacier parks and wolves across their range in the Lower 48.

by Mike Koshmrl, March 23, 2023

A Wyoming official testified this week that he supported using “whatever means is necessary” to obtain management authority over the Yellowstone area’s federally protected grizzly bears.

Brian Nesvik, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, made the remark while speaking in support of U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman’s H.R. 1245 – Grizzly bear state management act of 2023. The measure would require federal wildlife managers to reinstate a five-year-old grizzly bear delisting decision that was overturned in court — and it would prohibit future legal challenges.

“The best way to celebrate the success [of grizzly recovery] is to delist and return management to the states and the tribes where it belongs  — and to do so by whatever means is necessary,” Nesvik told a House Committee on Natural Resources’ subcommittee. “The bill you are considering today would certainly achieve the conservation outcome we feel is best for the management of grizzly bears and the people of our state.”

Earlier, Hageman charged that delisting the 1,000-plus grizzlies that dwell in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is warranted under the Endangered Species Act, and that it wasn’t fair to make the states go through a third delisting effort. The first two attempts, in 2007 and 2017, were successful before being overturned in federal court.

“Meanwhile, environmental litigants have been holding farmers, ranchers and the government hostage to their demands and for the purpose of protecting their own pocketbooks,” Hageman said. “Wyoming is done waiting on the federal government when the science has said for a long time that it’s time to act.”

Simultaneous to pursuing legislation that would go around the ESA, the state successfully petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider grizzly delisting through its usual avenues. The state’s pitch was received favorably, and the agency is in the process of completing a “comprehensive status review,” which would precede a proposed and final delisting rule — a process that could take years to unfold.

Western lawmakers pressed two other bills at the Thursday hearing that would circumvent the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) touted H.R. 764 – Trust the science act, which would reinstate federal wildlife officials’ 2020 decision to delist gray wolves throughout the Lower 48. Currently wolves are only delisted and managed by the states in the Northern Rockies, where Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have authority and hold hunts. State jurisdiction might not last, however: Petitions that seek relisting Northern Rockies wolves were initially successful, and the states are awaiting the results of a comprehensive status review that will dictate what the Fish and Wildlife Service does next.

The third effort to go around the ESA discussed in the committee comes from U.S. Rep. Matt Rosedale (R-Montana), whose bill, cosponsored by Hageman, would direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem’s 1,000-plus grizzly bears.

Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Steve Guertin testified in opposition to the spate of bills that go around the ESA. The 50-year-old conservation law demands that decision-makers heed the best-available science, he noted.

“It’s not uncommon for the Service’s listing or delisting rules to be challenged in court,” Guertin said. “The judicial systems become part of the body of law interpreting the ESA, and the [Fish and Wildlife] Service adjusts its approach accordingly.”

The ESA, which has kept 99% of listed species from going extinct, was broadly supported upon its inception in 1973. Wyoming’s congressional delegation all supported it: U.S. Sen. Clifford Hansen, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. Gale McGee and U.S. Rep. Teno Roncalio, both Democrats.

Nowadays, the ESA is frequently under attack, especially by members of the Republican Party. The federal budget bill contained a rider in 2011 that returned Montana and Idaho wolves to state management. Congress has also included provisions in spending bills that prohibit spending money on listing the greater sage grouse, a struggling species whose stronghold is Wyoming.

Tim Preso, a managing attorney for the environmental law firm Earthjustice, told WyoFile he finds attempts by Congress to legislate around the ESA “troublesome.”

“With these delisting actions, the history has been — it’s not just based on speculation — that the states don’t step in to be guardians,” Preso said. “They’ve stepped in to ramp up the persecution [of formerly protected species] and that’s why the Endangered Species Act is so important for species like these.”

Wyoming’s petition, if successful, would likely use hunting to reduce the population of Yellowstone-region grizzly bears from 1,069 to 932.

Chris Servheen, a former Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator, testified on Thursday that he was the leading proponent of grizzly delisting during the first attempt. Since then, he changed his tune as a result of state legislatures passing bills that promote “aggressive, indiscriminate wildlife killing methods into grizzly bear habitat.”

“The lack of adequate regulatory mechanisms [protecting grizzlies and wolves] is due to political interference in the management of wildlife,” Servheen said.

Wyoming Game and Fish’s director took issue with Servheen’s assessment. 

“I would certainly disagree,” Nesvik testified. “We have gone to great lengths to ensure that we have laws and regulations on the books that very conservatively manage grizzly bears within the core of their suitable habitat.”


Defenders of Wildlife

Pro-Extinction Lawmakers in House Launch New Attack on the Endangered Species Act

Proposed Legislation Would Kill Protections for Gray Wolf and Grizzly Bear Populations


Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries began their first hearings on three bills that would drastically undermine the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and efforts to combat the dire climate change and biodiversity crises. The bills under consideration are among the 13 anti-ESA bills that have already been introduced in the House this Congress, including one that a separate Natural Resources Subcommittee will consider in another hearing today.

The bills the Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee is hearing include efforts from Rep. Boebert (R-Colo.) to remove ESA protections for the gray wolf and from Rep. Hageman (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Rosendale (R-Mont.) to delist Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide grizzly bears. A fourth bill—also sponsored by Rep. Rosendale—that would override a court decision on the management of threatened and endangered species on public lands will be considered in a Federal Lands Subcommittee hearing.

“Iconic species like the gray wolf and grizzly bear continue to face cruel and unprecedented attacks at the state level, and their chances of recovery will be severely jeopardized if anti-wildlife extremists in Congress strip them of federal protections under the Endangered Species Act,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.

Grizzly bears play an outsized role in maintaining healthy, balanced and biodiverse ecosystems but numbered less than 1,000 in the lower 48 states when first listed under the ESA. Currently, they occupy roughly 2% of their former range.

Similarly, gray wolves have wide-reaching benefits for the landscapes and ecosystems they occupy but have long suffered from political attacks. Once hunted nearly to extinction, their recovery has been marred by a congressional delisting of their populations in the Northern Rockies and a Trump administration decision to delist them across most of the lower-48 states that was later reversed by the courts.

“These bills represent a disgusting, short-sighted attack from pro-extinction members of Congress eager to see our strongest law for preventing extinction weakened, even if they have to do it one species at a time,” said Mary Beth Beetham, legislative director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Congress attacking the Endangered Species Act is also a direct attack on our biodiversity and life as we know it. At this rate, bills damaging the Endangered Species Act are being introduced at a rate of more than one per week.” 

The ESA, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is America’s most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. It is effective largely because it is a science-based law. Ninety-five percent of listed species have survived and many more, such as the iconic Bald Eagle, have been set on a path to recovery. At a time when scientists have warned that one million species are facing extinction the bills under consideration would undermine the law and its science-based framework.



Biden Administration Unveils Nation’s First Ocean Climate Action Plan

By: Olivia Rosane, March 23, 2023

The Biden administration on Tuesday unveiled a new plan to work with the ocean to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.

President Joe Biden announced the publication of the first Ocean Climate Action Plan in U.S. history at the White House Conservation in Action Summit, during which he also officially named two new national monuments and asked the Secretary of Commerce to consider a National Marine Sanctuary in the U.S. waters surrounding the Pacific Remote Islands.

“We can reduce emissions by building offshore wind farms, better protect our coastal and fishing communities from worsening storms, changing fisheries and other impacts on climate change,” Biden said, as USA TODAY reported.

The Ocean Climate Action Plan has three main goals:

*Achieve carbon neutrality.

*Work with the oceans to develop nature-based solutions to store carbon dioxide, reduce the risk from the climate crisis and protect communities and ecosystems from inevitable changes.

*Work with the ocean to boost the resilience of communities to those same changes.

To accomplish these goals, the report underscored eight priority actions, among them boosting offshore wind and other ocean-based renewable energy projects, decarbonizing maritime shipping, conserving and restoring marine and coastal carbon sinks and creating more marine protected areas. The Biden administration has already promised to protect 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030.

“Guiding these actions is a commitment to be responsible stewards of a healthy and sustainable ocean; advance environmental justice; engage with communities, Tribal Nations, and Indigenous Peoples; act based on evidence, science, and Indigenous Knowledge; and integrate and coordinate actions across the Federal Government,” Ocean Policy Committee co-chairs Arati Prabhakar and Brenda Mallory wrote in a letter introducing the plan.

The Biden administration first announced its intention to draft an ocean climate plan to celebrate World Ocean Day of 2022. The final publication was widely welcomed by ocean advocacy groups.

“This Ocean Climate Action Plan is the first comprehensive approach that the U.S. has taken to leveraging the power of the ocean in the fight against climate change,” Ocean Defense Initiative Director Jean Flemma said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. “The plan should inspire a ripple effect of powerful climate actions from coast-to-coast that will slash emissions and help frontline communities. Still, a plan is only as strong as its implementation. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration to ensure strong ocean climate action policies are adopted across federal agencies and help the communities that need it most.”

Some concerns about implementation include the broader impact of certain ocean-based climate solutions highlighted for study, Inside Climate News noted. One such project would seed parts of the ocean with minerals that would encourage the growth of photosynthetic plankton. This would draw down carbon dioxide but might disrupt other natural marine cycles. Overall, however, ocean advocates are happy to see recognition of the role the ocean already plays in lessening the impact of the climate crisis, as it absorbs around 90 percent of extra warming.

“Ocean policy is often overlooked in discussions of climate action and climate solutions,” Oceana Senior Director of Federal Policy Lara Levison told USA TODAY. “There’s so much emphasis on what’s happening on land and not nearly enough focus on the ocean.”

The group overall praised the plan, but urged the administration to do more to limit offshore oil and gas drilling. Recently, Biden has come under fire for approving the controversial Willow oil drilling project in Alaska. In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that existing fossil fuel projects would take up the carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“It’s reassuring that President Biden is taking the climate crisis seriously and ensuring that our oceans are factored into the plan to address it,” Oceana’s Vice President for the United States Beth Lowell said in a statement. “To date, our oceans have helped protect us from the worst impacts of climate change, and we know they can play an outsized role in keeping the planet from warming to catastrophic levels. But in order for that to happen, countries like the United States must stop the expansion of dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.”

The group has calculated that, if the U.S. government banned offshore drilling in unleased federal waters, it could prevent more than 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere and stave off more than $720 billion in damages.



Could a 150-Year-Old Fishery Management Practice Do More Harm Than Good?

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, March 22, 2023

It may seem like good conservation practice to bolster threatened and key commercial populations of native fish by breeding them in captivity and releasing them into the wild. In fact, it has been standard practice for natural resource managers and fisheries for 150 years, according to a press release from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNC Greensboro).

The numbers of captive-bred salmon released into the wild each year are staggering. In 2016, more than two billion hatchery-raised Pacific salmon were released in the U.S.

Considering how common the practice is, what if releasing hatchery salmon into the wild was doing more harm than good?

Recently, scientists from UNC Greensboro published a study that found that the age-old fishery management method provides minimal benefit and actually damages the target species, and has an overall negative impact on ecosystems.

“Many resource managers believe that releasing captive-bred native species into the wild is always a good thing,” said UNC Greensboro freshwater ecologist and leader of the study Dr. Akira Terui in the press release. “However, ecosystems are delicately balanced with regards to resource availability, and releasing large numbers of new individuals can disrupt that. Imagine moving 100 people into a studio apartment — that’s not a sustainable situation.”

The study, “Intentional release of native species undermines ecological stability,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There is a belief that release programs are economically/ecologically beneficial because ‘release’ intuitively helps populations. This strong belief hindered the objective assessment of how hatchery releases impact ecosystems. However, ecosystems have a limited capacity to support species. If we release individuals beyond this capacity, it may harm the ecosystem,” Terui told EcoWatch in an email.

In order to predict how mass releases of captive-bred fish influence wild species, the scientists used mathematical modeling. They used more than two decades of stream monitoring data from 97 Japanese rivers to test and confirm their projections.

“In an ecosystem, the balance that allows different species of fish with similar needs to co-exist is fragile,” said Terui in the press release. “When there is a massive release of members of one species in an ecosystem without the capacity to support them, then the other species populations decline due to greater competition for resources.”

The research team discovered that the release of the captive-bred fish adversely affected the native species. Terui said studies over the past 20 years demonstrated that the fish being released into the wild are genetically different from the wild species and spread genes that reduce their ability to survive in their natural habitat.

“We found that competition with a vast number of captive-bred members of a species leads to reduced numbers of naturally bred members of the same species. Replacing naturally occurring members of a species with captive-bred individuals has the potential to reduce genetic diversity and reproductive fitness,” Terui said in the press release.

Terui told EcoWatch that captive-bred salmon behave differently from those raised in the wild, which may affect their survival.

“Hatchery individuals have a number of distinct features — for example, hatchery salmon are known to be bold. Such differences are thought to emerge through adaptation to the captive environment,” Terui said. “While there is strong evidence that hatchery fish perform poorly in the wild, the exact mechanisms behind this pattern are still unclear, as far as I can tell. That being said, hatchery fish have a number of characteristics (e.g. behavior) that may reduce survival in the wild. For example, bold hatchery individuals may better compete for food, but they may be vulnerable to predation. This is just an example, and there may be other possibilities too.”

Ecosystems depend on a delicate balance between plant and animal species and their environment, and too many individuals of a particular species can upset that equilibrium.

“If we release hatchery fish into the environment beyond what the ecosystem can support, excessive competition for resources (e.g., food, habitat) may occur within the released species and with other species. This adversely impacts ecosystems,” Terui told EcoWatch.

Terui went on to say that hatcheries should look at whether or not particular ecosystems can support new individuals before releasing them into the wild.

“Hatchery programs should carefully consider the status of the receiving ecosystem. If degraded, it is unlikely that the ecosystem can support released individuals; rather, it will exacerbate the competition for limited resources that are already compromised. In my opinion, hatchery programs are effective in limited situations — we should prioritize the conservation/restoration of the environment so that ecosystems can support healthy and sustainable populations,” Terui said.

The research team found that when hatchery salmon were released into the wild, over time the native fish had more population density fluctuations and fewer species in general. Such population instability increases the likelihood that some populations will completely disappear.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on fish hatcheries. Natural resource managers need to be considering alternate priorities like habitat conservation,” Terui said in the press release.

One way to increase wild fish populations without mass releases of hatchery fish is by removing dams that cut them off from their natural habitats.

“Dam removal may help increase fish populations. Many rivers are severely fragmented, with limited access to potential habitats in a watershed. Increasing access to potential habitats may be a powerful tool to increase the sustainability of fisheries and biodiversity conservation,” Terui told EcoWatch.


NBC News

Super-size trapdoor spider discovered in Australia

The arachnid has been named Euoplos dignitas to reflect “the impressive size and nature of the spider,” scientists with the Queensland Museum said.

March 21, 2023, By Antonio Planas

Researchers in Australia have made a big discovery: a super-size species of trapdoor spider found only in Central Queensland.

The arachnid has been dubbed Euoplos dignitas — a name “derived from the Latin “dignitas,” meaning “dignity” or “greatness” — “reflecting the impressive size and nature of the spider,” scientists with the Queensland Museum said in a statement.

The spider lives in open woodland habitats and builds its burrows in the black soils of the Brigalow Belt in Central Queensland, which is on the northeastern coast of Australia.

The species has lost much of its habitat to land clearing, which most likely makes it an endangered species, the scientists said.

While the Australian team did not detail how big their find is, trapdoor spiders are typically up to 1.5 inches long and nest underground, according to National Geographic. They are hairy tropical spiders, and their bites can cause pain and swelling in humans.

According to Britannica, the spiders construct burrows in the ground and build silken-hinged doors. The spiders then feed by quickly opening the trap doors and grabbing unsuspecting insects that pass by.

In a video posted to announce the Australian discovery of the giant creepy crawler, Michael Rix, the principal curator of arachnology with the Queensland Museum Network, said the experts were excited to “scientifically document this new species.”

Jeremy Wilson, a research assistant in arachnology with the Queensland Museum Network, said in the video that the research is exciting because “you just never know what you’re going to find.”

Wilson said naming the new species has real-life positive ramifications, because being a known species means “it can be protected.”


Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

WDFW invites public comment on status review for mardon skipper butterfly

News release, March 21, 2023

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public input on a draft periodic status review for the mardon skipper, a state–endangered species of butterfly. The public comment period is open through June 19.

Recent review of the butterfly’s population in Washington led biologists to recommend maintaining the mardon skipper’s status as an endangered species in the state.

“Although additional populations of the butterfly were documented in the southern Washington Cascades since state listing, populations of the mardon skipper in the south Puget Sound prairie have seriously declined,” said Taylor Cotten, WDFW Conservation Assessment Section Manager. “Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, and climate change are some of the threats to the butterfly’s survival.”

The draft periodic status review for mardon skipper is now available on WDFW’s website. The public can submit written comments on the document via email or by postal mail to Taylor Cotten, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 43141, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.

“Following the public comment period, we will brief the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on the species’ status and public input received,” said Cotten.

The Commission will then vote to decide on maintaining the butterfly’s endangered status. The group is tentatively scheduled to consider this topic in summer 2023.

The mardon skipper (Polites mardon) is a small, tawny-orange butterfly with a stout, hairy body. This skipper is currently found at only five small, geographically disjunct areas in Washington, Oregon, and California. In Washington, the mardon skipper inhabits prairie habitats in the south Puget Sound region and montane meadows in the southeastern Cascade Mountain Range. Suitable prairie habitat in western Washington has been reduced to less than three percent of historical cover.

WDFW regularly researches and reviews information to inform status and classification recommendations for species of conservation concern in Washington. More information is available on WDFW’s At-Risk Species webpage.

WDFW works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Individuals who need to receive this information in an alternative format, language, or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact the Title VI/ADA Compliance Coordinator by phone at 360-902-2349, TTY (711), or email ( For more information, see


Center for Biological Diversity

Tiny Virginia Fish Moves Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

Roughhead Shiner Slipping Towards Extinction in James River Basin

RICHMOND, Va.—(March 20, 2023)— In response to a legal petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the roughhead shiner, an olive minnow found only in the upper James River watershed in western Virginia, may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The 3-inch fish, named for the bumps on its head, lives in the Cowpasture River and its tributary creeks in Alleghany, Bath and Craig counties, where it is being displaced by an invasive fish, the telescope shiner.

“Endangered Species Act protection is the most powerful tool we have to prevent animals from going extinct, so it’s great news that the roughhead shiner is officially on the path to protection,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “Federal wildlife officials need to move quickly to prevent these tiny fish from going extinct.”

The Center petitioned for protection for the fish last March. In response to today’s finding, the Service will accept public comments and conduct a one-year status review that will determine whether the shiner will be proposed for protection as an endangered species.

The shiner was first identified as threatened 50 years ago and was put on a waiting list for ESA protection in 1994. The state of Virginia has identified it as a species of critical concern but hasn’t had needed funding for monitoring or restoration. Endangered Species Act protection would make funding available to recover the fish.

Fifty years after the passage of the Endangered Species Act, several freshwater fish that were once protected have now successfully recovered. These include the snail darter, Modoc sucker, Oregon chub, Borax Lake chub and Foskett speckled dace.

North America has lost 57 kinds of freshwater fish to extinction in the last 125 years, and nearly 40% of the continent’s fish are at risk of extinction because of dams, pollution, invasive species and climate change. The extinction rate for freshwater fish is nearly 900 times faster now than it has been historically.


Courthouse News Service

Four species win deeper look into Endangered Species Act protections

For the Inyo rock daisy, which grows only in particular substrate found in only one part of Inyo County, coexistence with mining interests is unlikely.

ERIC BURKETT / March 20, 2023

(CN) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will look into whether four disparate species, ranging from a humble daisy to the mighty hippo, should be protected under the Endangered Species Act thanks to petitions filed by conservationists.

Two California natives, the Morro Bay polyphyllin scarab beetle and the Inyo rock daisy, find themselves under threat by sprawl and mining, respectively. The third, the roughhead shiner — a small olive-colored minnow — inhabits the upper James River drainage region in western Virginia. And in Africa, the common hippopotamus faces threats despite its range over 38 countries as it finds itself competing for resources and space in nations working to industrialize or which are caught up in war.

Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity filed the petitions for the Inyo rock daisy and the roughhead shiner, and the center joined with the Humane Society of the United States on the petition for the hippos. A private individual, Michal Walgren of San Luis Obispo County filed the petition for the beetle, which makes its home on California’s Central Coast.

The petitions cleared a 90-day assessment in which Fish and Wildlife found “substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the petitioned actions may be warranted.” The agency will now undertake year-long status reviews during which more information will be gathered to determine whether protection under the Endangered Species Act is warranted.

While all four species face dangers, the Inyo rock daisy has some immediate concerns. Found only in the lower Inyo Mountains of Inyo County in California, the plant blooms during the hot days of summer while other plants have gone dormant. Consequently, the rock daisy attracts pollinators at a time when there are few other flowers available. The nearest town, a spot on Highway 136 called Keeler boasts about 70 people but, despite the isolation, the region is a target for mining interests.

“Because most all of the Inyo rock daisies on the planet are found on lands that are overlain by mining claims on BLM public lands west of Death Valley and there is ongoing mining gold exploration in the area, the threat is very real to the daisy,” said Ileene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The daisy’s habitat has had mining exploration by various companies for decades. As the price of gold fluctuates, it has yet to become economically feasible.”

K2 Gold Corporation, a mineral exploration company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has taken an interest in the Inyo rock daisy’s land. According to its website, the company has conducted the most extensive and comprehensive exploration in the area since 1997, although other companies have explored the area searching for gold deposits since Mobil first found gold there in 1984.

Much of the Inyo rock daisy’s range lies in the National Conservation Lands system but that doesn’t necessarily protect the species from the dangers of mining thanks to a law first enacted in 1871.

“Comprehensive surveys/studies over the last five years or so on the daisy documented how limited its habitat actually is,” said Anderson. “So those data increased our concerns about species extinction if a full-blown, heap-leach mine was ever permitted in the area. The daisy is very substrate specific, and it can’t grow just anywhere.”

That substrate occurs in a complex formation called Conglomerate Mesa, loaded with uplifts and convoluted geology which exposes unique soil layers at the surface, Anderson said. Some of those layers also contain microscopic gold. The chances of a mining operation and the rock daisy being able to co-exist are nil but so is replanting the flowering plant somewhere else.

“Rare plant transplantation is typically an abysmal failure,” Anderson said.

Environmentalists expressed hope, however.

“More native plant species are at risk of extinction in California than any other state in the U.S.,” said Nick Jensen, program director for the California Native Plant Society. “With the Inyo rock daisy, we have a case where we can see the potential extinction coming but actually have a chance to stop it.”


The Humane Society of the United States

Press Release March 20, 2023

Hippos are one step closer to Endangered Species Act protections

In response to petition, U.S. officials consider protecting hippos

WASHINGTON —After a petition and threat to sue from animal protection and conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that the common hippopotamus may qualify for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

In March 2022, Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition seeking federal protections for this iconic species, which is disappearing from the wild. After the Fish and Wildlife Service missed its June 2022 deadline to respond to the petition, the groups sent notice of their intent to sue on World Hippo day. Today’s announcement from the agency provides the legally required initial response.

Hippos are threatened by habitat loss and degradation, drought, poaching, and the international demand for hippo parts, including teeth, skulls, ivory, skin and meat.

Adam Peyman, wildlife programs director for Humane Society International, speaking on behalf of HSI and the HSUS, said: “This is an important first step towards saving hippos by providing the protections they so badly need under the Endangered Species Act. These animals face threats from climate change, poaching and the commercial demand for their skin, bones, teeth and other parts and products. Protections for hippos cannot come soon enough.”

International trade in hippo parts and products is significant, with the United States playing an outsized role. Between 2009 and 2018, the United States imported thousands of hippo parts and products, including over 9,000 teeth, 700 skin pieces, 4,400 small leather products, 2,000 trophies and 1,700 carvings. Combined, these imports represent a minimum of 3,081 hippos killed to fuel the legal U.S. trade, which remains unchecked due to the absence of ESA protections for the species.

“With the many clear threats they’re facing, hippos are a shoo-in for Endangered Species Act protections, but the Biden administration dilly-dallied an extra nine months before making this finding,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This hippo delay is just the tip of the iceberg, and it highlights that the Biden administration isn’t doing nearly enough to combat the burgeoning extinction crisis. If iconic species like hippos are waiting in purgatory for protections, that doesn’t bode well for the future of life on Earth.”

Across many parts of the United States, hippo parts and products are readily available for purchase. A 2022 undercover investigation by HSI and the HSUS revealed thousands of items made from hippo parts for sale in the United States. Products made from hippo leather, such as belts, shoes and purses, and items made from hippo ivory, such as carvings and handles on knives and bottle openers, were among the most common items found for sale. Trophies, such as shoulder mounts (the animal’s head and neck) and mounted teeth, were also available for purchase. Some of these items may have been illegally acquired or traded due to the lack of effective regulatory enforcement.

The Endangered Species Act protections that the groups are seeking would place near-total restrictions on most commercial imports and sales of hippo specimens and raise public awareness and increase funding to achieve the law’s conservation goals.

“We are pleased to see the Biden Administration’s announcement toward listing this iconic species,” says Tracie Letterman, vice president of federal affairs at Humane Society Legislative Fund. “For the last 50 years, the Endangered Species Act has helped save 99% of listed species from extinction. We look forward to supporting the administration in its work to ensure the protection of the hippo and other imperiled species for decades to come.”

Under federal law, the Fish and Wildlife Service must next decide whether Endangered Species Act listing is warranted. Given its delay in providing an initial response to the petition, the agency will likely miss its deadline for this second determination — due in four days’ time. The groups will continue to closely monitor the progress of the petition during the next phase of the process.

****** (Wollongong NSW.)

Group Applies to Save Critically Endangered Insect

Victorian National Parks Association, March 20, 2023

Environmentalists have lodged a historic application to protect the habitat of a critically endangered stonefly, in a move which could set a major precedent for the protection of species.

The Victorian National Parks Association has made the first formal nomination for a Critical Habitat Determination (CHD) under provisions to environmental laws passed in 2019.

The Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly is a critically endangered species which is only known to occur within a few square kilometres of the Victorian alps.

The VNPA’s submission for a CHD for the Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly was made to Department of Energy Environment and Climate Action Secretary John Bradley and the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act).

The SAC is expected to review the nomination on Monday.

The flightless stonefly’s habitat is restricted to forested mountain streams and springs high on Mount Donna Buang.

This extraordinary creature is at serious risk of extinction if a proposal for a mountain biking trail is given the green light.

While some of the major tracks for the Warburton Destination Bike Track proposal have been ruled out by the Planning Minister response to an Environmental Effect Statement, a number of smaller tracks remain on the table.

They could impact the Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly’s habitat.

The stonefly is one of just two wingless species found in Australia. It has a long life span of around three years and survives streams drying out over summer by burrowing into the substrate where moisture is retained, giving it high scientific interest.

“The Mount Donna Buang Stonefly is a truly remarkable creature staring down the barrel of extinction,” VNPA spokesperson Matt Ruchel said.

“We simply can’t wait any longer to ensure every measure is taken to protect this incredible stonefly which exists nowhere else in the world.

“That’s why we’re lodging the first ever application for a critical habitat determination to give this rare alpine insect protection from proposed mountain bike tracks and future development applications and the need for enhanced management of this special creature”.

“It’s extraordinary this part of our state environmental laws have never been used to protect critically endangered species given we’re in the grips of an extinction crisis.

“But we are hopeful the department and scientific advisory committee will exercise their power to save the precious stonefly. The capacity to undertake a critical habitat determination has been in place since 2019, and we are sick of waiting for government guidelines.”

“This has the potential to be a hugely significant decision affecting far more than just the stonefly.

“If we can secure a critical habitat determination for stoneflies, that would set a strong precedent for other creatures on the long list of almost 2000 threatened species .”

“The Andrews Government modernised our state threatened species laws in 2019 including strengthening the capacity for critical habitat determinations. Three years on we need to start using these tools, not leave them again sitting on the shelf, while our threatened species lists grow.”


Giants and dwarfs: The curious ‘island effect’ that makes species vulnerable to extinction

By Rebecca Ann Hughes, 19/03/2023

From dwarf hippos to oversized mice, island-dwelling animals have evolved in extraordinary ways.

The dodo – a giant flightless pigeon – is a well-known example of a phenomenon referred to as the ‘island effect.’

One consequence of the ‘island effect’ is animals going one way or the other, evolving into either giants or dwarfs.

A new study has also now found that these curious creatures are at a higher risk of extinction than other animals.

Here’s why many island species have died out and where you can still see the ones in existence today.

What is the island effect?

Mammals, birds, reptiles, and some amphibians living on islands have been shown to evolve in radically different ways to their mainland relatives.

According to the ‘island rule,’ small species tend to evolve to be much bigger while larger species shrink.

Around 10,000 years ago, islands in the Mediterranean were covered in dwarf hippos and elephants.

At the other end of the scale, the dodo of Mauritius and the Komodo dragon are examples of oversized species.

A 2021 study found that extent of animal dwarfism or gigantism depends partly on the size and isolation of the island.

Smaller, more remote islands resulted in more pronounced size changes in species.

The study also found that factors such as limited resources and space were a major cause of animals downsizing as they adapted to smaller habitats.

On the other hand, lower competition and the lack of predators meant species were often freed from evolutionary restrictions in size.

What island effect animals exist today?

Although many island species are now extinct, there are several you can still find today.

On the Philippine island of Mindoro there is a diminutive buffalo that measures 21 per cent the size of its closest continental relative.

Nearby islands are home to a spotted deer that is 26 per cent the size of its mainland equivalent.

In Jamaica’s Hutia, a giant rodent measures four and a half times its closest mainland relative.

Island giants and dwarfs are at a greater risk of extinction

According to a recent study published in the journal Science, the plus sized and pint sized island creatures are subject to an elevated extinction risk.

After examining 1,231 existing species and 350 extinct ones over the last 23 million years, the researchers found that those with the most dramatic size changes had the highest extinction risk.

This threat is also increasing, the report found, endangering some of the world’s most fascinating species.

The arrival of human settlers on islands raised the extinction rate by more than ten times.

People bring diseases and invasive predators, disrupting island ecosystems. Through hunting and habitat destruction, humans also imperil island species.


The Guardian

Breeding birds in captivity may alter their wing shapes and reduce post-release survival chances

Research into critically endangered orange-bellied parrot finds 1mm difference in length of one feather is enough to reduce survival rate by 2.7 times

Donna Lu, Science writer, Sat. 18 Mar. 2023

Breeding in captivity can alter birds’ wing shapes, reducing their chances of surviving migratory flights when they are released to the wild, new research suggests.

A study of the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot has found that in captive-bred birds, those with altered wing shapes had a survival rate 2.7 times lower than those born with wings close to an ideal “wild type” wing.

The total population of orange-bellied parrots once dropped as low as 17 in the wild, but their numbers have been bolstered by captive breeding and release efforts in Tasmania and Victoria.

The bird breeds in Tasmania and migrates to mainland Australia’s southern coast for the winter.

The study’s author, Dr Dejan Stojanovic, of the Australian National University, said there was natural variation in wing feather lengths in both wild and captive-bred orange-bellied parrots.

“When you look across the lengths of all the feathers on the wings, there’s a significant difference between the lengths of feathers in captive wings versus wild wings,” he said.

Stojanovic has previously shown that captive-bred orange-bellied parrots tend to have less pointed and shorter wings than their wild counterparts.

“There’s variation within captivity from everything from a perfect wild type [wing] to very suboptimal,” he said.

In captive-bred birds whose wings most closely resembled the ideal wild wings – and which were more likely to survive – a feather known as the distal primary flight feather was longer by a single millimetre.

“Literally the change for orange-bellied parrots is a 1mm difference in the length of one feather,” Stojanovic said. “It’s so easy not to detect it, but it has this major downstream consequence.

“Few other recovery projects have the scale and resourcing that orange-bellied parrots do.

“Despite all of that care, these changes emerged and also went undetected up until now. These results also show that these undetected changes were impacting survival – which is a key success measure for whether we’re benefiting the wild population.”

Stojanovic also analysed the wings of 16 other birds, finding evidence of altered captive wing shapes in four other species – budgerigars, turquoise parrots, sundown parrots and Gouldian finches.

“Clearly what that shows is that this phenomenon is a lot more widespread … and might actually be a [pattern] that had gone undetected,” he said. “The next phase is to understand what it is that is actually driving these changes.

“Maybe it’s a family trait, or an environment trait … we actually just don’t know.”

“We need to be better in general at scrutinising the quality of the animals that we’re breeding rather than just focusing on their quantity.”

(The research was published in the journal Ecology Letters.)


KINY (Juneau, AK)

Threatened listing proposed for sunflower sea star after population devastated by wasting disease

Friday, March 17th, 2023, By Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon

Alaska (Alaska Beacon) – The creature, with a range from Baja California to the Aleutians, would be the first sea star with an Endangered Species Act listing.

One of the world’s largest sea stars is on track to receive Endangered Species Act protections.

Federal regulators announced on Wednesday that they are proposing a threatened listing for the sunflower sea star, a creature that has been killed off in much of its Pacific habitat by disease. While the effect of a listing on Alaska and its fisheries is not certain, scientists say they don’t expect significant changes in the state in the near term.

The official proposal for the threatened listing is scheduled to be published Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service. That will kick off a 60-day public comment period, with a final listing decision due in a year.

The proximate cause of the sunflower sea star decline is Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, which wiped out about 90% of the animals across its vast range, according to NOAA Fisheries. The wasting system has hit a variety of sea star species, though sunflower sea stars have suffered especially severe harm, according to scientists. It causes legs to fall off and, ultimately, results in disintegration of the animals’ bodies. Climate change may be behind that disease, as the arrival of Pacific marine heat waves coincided with the disease outbreak, according to federal biologists.

Sunflower sea stars are distinctive and colorful creatures found from Baja California to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. They can grow up to 24 legs and be as big as 3 feet in diameter. They are considered a keystone species in the marine environment; their top food is sea urchins, and by eating the kelp-feeding urchins, they protect kelp forests that support numerous other species, including those of commercial significance in Alaska.

If it goes through, the listing will be the first for any sea star under the Endangered Species Act.

The proposed listing is unusual in other ways.

While there are some big geographic differences in population trends, with the heaviest impacts in the southern areas and less-severe impacts in Alaska and other northern areas, the listing would cover sunflower sea stars over their entire range. That is because the Endangered Species Act does not allow listings of invertebrates to be broken down into distinct population segments, as is the case in Alaska with endangered western Steller sea lions and Cook Inlet beluga whales.

Compared to the near-total wipeouts “across the board” in Lower 48 waters, declines in Alaska waters range from 40% to 100%, said Sadie Wright, a Juneau-based protected species biologist with NOAA Fisheries who helped compile the status review that led to the proposed listing.

Beyond listing, ensuing recovery work could consider geographic differences, she said during an online news conference. “Later in the process, when we’re looking at protections, we can tailor those more regionally if that’s a better fit,” she said.

There is also no plan, as of now, for designation of critical habitat, normally a part of the regulatory action to conserve listed species, officials said. That is because critical habitat is considered “indeterminable,” said Dayv Lowry, the NOAA Fisheries biologist who led the status review.

“We know that it occurs around kelp forests. We know that it’s a part of that ecosystem and an integral part of it. But the animal is also found over rock piles, sand, mudflats, eelgrass meadows. It’s found all over the place,” Lowry said in the news conference. “At this point, we’re saying the animal is protected anywhere and everywhere you encounter it.”

There are additional unknowns. Scientists are still trying to figure out the sea stars’ life cycles and lifespans and fundamental biology, Lowry said. The exact pathogen that triggered wasting syndrome is not yet identified. And any contribution of the sunflower sea star deaths to a longer-term decline in kelp forests is still unclear.

“The biggest problem that we ran up in trying to do the status assessment is that there’s a lot of information about the species that is not well known,” he said.

Also yet to be determined are any potential impacts of listing to commercial fishing.

Whatever damage is being done to the sea star population by bycatch, the unintended catch during harvest of targeted fish, it is considered a low-level threat, far overshadowed by the wasting syndrome, Wright said.

“While we want to work with commercial fisheries and the fishery management councils to gather more information and promote safe handling of sea stars that are bycatch in fisheries, we don’t anticipate significant changes to fisheries as an outcome of this proposed rule,” she said.

There is an effort to get more details in bycatch reports, Lowry said. For now, those reports often refer to sea star bycatch generically, without identifying species.

While listing will not itself fight off any disease or address climate change, it can heighten awareness and help support various research activities, the NOAA officials said at Wednesday’s news conference. Among the programs they cited was the captive-breeding research underway at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories.

The proposed listing results from a petition submitted in 2021 by the Center for Biological Diversity.

In a statement, the center hailed Wednesday’s listing news.

“Protection under the Endangered Species Act will be so important for reviving these incredible sea stars,” Miyoko Sakashita, the center’s oceans program director, said in the statement. “Disease fueled by climate change has devastated this gorgeous species, and these safeguards will help tackle threats to their survival and promote the health of the kelp forests they live in.”

Officials with Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska fishing organizations have previously expressed concerns about the wide geographic span that listing would affect.



Recovering Forests Can Offset Around a Quarter of Tropical Deforestation

By: Olivia Rosane, March 17, 2023

As deforestation continues in vulnerable and vital tropical rainforests, the recovery of secondary or degraded forests can play a role in mitigating some of the consequences of forest loss. However, it cannot compensate for that loss altogether.

A new study published in Nature Wednesday found that recovering forests in the Amazon, Central Africa and Borneo had offset the greenhouse gas emissions from slightly more than a quarter of deforestation in those regions over more than three decades.

“Our study provides the first pan-tropical estimates of aboveground carbon absorption in tropical forests recovering from degradation and deforestation,” study lead author Dr. Viola Heinrich, who earned her doctorate at the University of Bristol School of Geographical Science and is now a research associate at the University of Exeter, said in a University of Bristol press release. “While protecting ancient tropical forests remains the priority, we demonstrate the value in sustainably managing forest areas that can recover from human disturbances.”

The carbon storage abilities of tropical rainforests make them an important partner in efforts to mitigate the climate crisis. But in order for this to happen, they need humans to be good partners to them as well. Currently, that is not the case, as deforestation has turned the forests of Southeast Asia into a net carbon emitter and pushed the Amazon rainforest to a precarious tipping point. Only the Congo in Central Africa remains a secure carbon sink.

The new research looked at how the recovery of degraded or secondary forests might help both forests themselves and carbon-removal efforts. Degraded forests are forests that have lost some of their tree cover due to human activity, while secondary forests are forests regrowing in deforested areas, Carbon Brief explained. Together, they now make up around 10 percent of tropical forest cover.

The researchers tracked the growth and carbon sequestration of these recovering forests using two satellite datasets: the tropical moist forest dataset to track degradation from 1984 to 2018 and an aboveground biomass dataset to calculate sequestration. They found that recovering forests sequestered at least 107 million tonnes of carbon per year during the study period, which was 26 percent of what was lost due to deforestation in the three regions during the same time period.

Next, they used models to determine how much these forests could sequester by 2030 if they remained protected through the end of the decade and found that they could sequester 53 million tonnes of carbon per year. However, this depends not only on protection from direct human activities like logging, but also on protection from more extreme climate-fueled weather events like drought or wildfires.

“This is a big issue in the Amazon, where very large fires affect the forest. They lose carbon and the ability to recover it,” study co-author and University of California, Los Angeles, postdoctoral researcher Dr. Ricardo Dalagnol told Carbon Brief.

In addition to storing carbon, preserving these recovering forests can also benefit surrounding ecosystems and communities. For example, in Borneo, degraded forests can help with access to clean air and water and secondary forests can boost biodiversity. The study authors, therefore, called on leaders in tropical nations and globally to make an effort to protect recovering forests.

“Countries have repeatedly made pledges to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and restore deforested areas,” study co-author and University of Bristol Reader in Environmental Science and Policy Dr. Jo House said in the press release.“This is the most cost-effective and immediately available way to remove carbon from the atmosphere, alongside many co-benefits such as biodiversity, flood control and protection of [I]ndigenous peoples’ livelihoods. Yet targets are repeatedly missed due a lack of serious international co-ordinated support and political will. Our research demonstrates that time is running out.”



Giant Seaweed Blob Twice the Width of the U.S. Starts to Arrive in Florida

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, March 15, 2023

Like something out of a classic sci-fi film, marine scientists are tracking a giant seaweed blob approaching Florida’s Gulf Coast. The 5,000-mile-wide swarm of seaweed — which scientists say could be the biggest in history — is so large it can be seen from space.

The colossal seaweed mat was caused by a huge sargassum seaweed bloom. Usually found east of the Gulf of Mexico in the Sargasso Sea, sometimes sargassum blooms can become gigantic and make their way to land, reported Newsweek.

“When too much sargassum piles up on the beaches, it can be harmful to the local environment, tourism, and artisanal fisheries, etc.,” sargassum researcher from the University of South Florida Mengqiu Wang previously told Newsweek.

As the blob floats through the sea, crabs, turtles and fish use it as a breeding ground, The New York Times reported.

But as the blob gets closer to shore it can block light from getting to sensitive corals and affect water and air quality, reported The Hill.

When it comes ashore on beaches in Florida and other locations along the Gulf of Mexico, it will emit toxic fumes as it begins to rot, scientists say, and could be a threat to human health, The New York Times reported.

Rotting seaweed releases hydrogen sulfide, causing respiratory issues, said research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Brian LaPointe, as reported by NBC News.

“Following the big 2018 blooms, doctors in Martinique and Guadeloupe reported thousands of people going to clinics with breathing complications from the air that was coming off these rotting piles of sargassum,” LaPointe said.

The blob has already begun to come ashore in the Florida Keys and some places in Mexico, reported The New York Times.

“You can’t get in the water,” said travel YouTuber Leonard Shea in a recent video from Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, as The New York Times reported. “It’s not an enjoyable experience.”

The Gulf Coast of Florida has already been dealing with a recent episode of red tide, caused by an algae bloom that has killed fish and presented respiratory risks to humans.

With rising ocean temperatures due to climate change, marine environments are becoming more ideal environments for algae to grow.

Assistant research professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science Brian Barnes said the seaweed mass seems to be growing each year, with the biggest blobs occurring in 2018 and 2022, reported NBC News. Barnes said this year’s accumulation is getting close to the previous records.

“Historically, as far back as we have records, sargassum has been a part of the ecosystem, but the scale now is just so much bigger,” Barnes said, according to Newsweek. “What we would have thought was a major bloom five years ago is no longer even a blip.”

Scientists aren’t sure precisely how and why the great Atlantic Sargassum belt, as the tangle of seaweed is known, is growing, but it seems to correspond with the seasonal discharge of major rivers like the Amazon, Congo and Mississippi, The New York Times reported.

The phosphorus and nitrogen from the runoff feed the bloom, LaPointe said, as do nutrients produced by emissions from the burning of biomass and fossil fuels.

“These blooms are getting bigger and bigger and this year looks like it’s going to be the biggest year yet on record,” said Lapointe, as reported by The New York Times. “This is quite early to see this much, this soon. It just doesn’t bode well for a clean beach summer in 2023.”


The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)

Sunflower sea star, once a common sight off Oregon Coast, proposed for federal protection

Zach Urness, Salem Statesman Journal, March 15, 2023

Government officials proposed Wednesday to list the sunflower sea star, once a common sight on the Pacific coast and a key species for Oregon’s nearshore ecosystem, as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The National Marine Fisheries Service noted the sharp decline of one of the world’s largest sea stars, likely due to warming ocean waters caused by climate change, in its proposal for federal protection.

The main threat to the species, which can grow to 3 feet across and have up to 20 arms, is a lethal pathogen that causes sea star wasting syndrome, which killed more than 90% of sunflower sea stars from 2013 to 2017 in what is considered the largest marine wildlife disease outbreak on record.

“Sea stars that contract the syndrome become lethargic, develop lesions, lose their arms, and within days disintegrate into gooey masses,” NOAA Fisheries said in a news release.

The agency is requesting public comment on the listing for the next 60 days and could finalize the listing in a year.

The loss of the orange, red and purple marine invertebrates has already had a significant impact on the Oregon Coast’s nearshore environment.

Without sea stars, sea urchin numbers have exploded and wrought significant damage on kelp forests, which are critical habitat for a wide variety of species including invertebrates, fish, whales and birds.

Since 2017, the species has been rare south of Washington state and has disappeared almost entirely from southern California shores, such as the Channel Islands.

Syndrome linked to warming water

Scientists said that wasting syndrome appears due to a warming ocean, noting that outbreaks coincided with marine heatwaves. The eastern 2014 to 2016 Pacific Marine heatwave — often referred to as “The Blob” — coincided with several years of a wasting syndrome outbreak and the die-off observed in sunflower sea stars, officials said.

“The science indicates that warmer temperatures and other stressors fueling disease are pushing this species towards an elevated risk of extinction,” said Chris Yates, assistant regional administrator for protected resources in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region.

Sea stars have fared better in cooler northern waters off shorelines in Alaska, British Columbia and the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest.

What would federal listing accomplish?

By listing the species, NOAA said it could look for ways to conserve the species.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the petition that led to the proposed listing, said reducing water pollution, ocean dredging, shoreline armoring and other coastal development projects could be actions the agency could take.

Even so, officials acknowledged that without stopping ocean warming, there is only so much the agency can do.

“Listing the species as threatened may not stop the warming,” Yates said. “But it does mean that we will look for ways to conserve the species where it still has a chance to survive as part of our rich coastal ecosystem.”

Successful treatments from Oregon

There has been some hope recently in treatment for sea stars with the disease.

Researchers Tiffany Rudek and Evonne Mochon Collura, with the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, said they’ve developed a treatment for sea stars with a fatal disease. The aquarium said they’ve had success saving the sea stars by placing them in cold water baths, feeding it probiotics and providing medicated baths.

Rudek and Mochon Collura said they’d collaborating with other labs and sea star working groups on the West Coast.

They noted the treatment is in its early stages and the sample size is relatively low.

“There are sea stars dying rapidly, and what we’ve developed is working,” Rudek said. “There’s a chance it could help so many people and so many stars.”


Defenders of Wildlife

Conservation Groups Sue to Stop the Willow Oil Project in Alaska’s Western Arctic

Administration’s environmental review failed to account for project’s full climate impact


Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice and together with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit late last night to stop the massive Willow oil-drilling project in Alaska’s Western Arctic, which the Biden administration approved on March 13. This enormous new carbon source undermines President Biden’s promises to slash greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2030 and transition the United States to clean energy.

“The Biden administration’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ Willow project in the western Arctic of Alaska is a disappointing leap backwards,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Defenders of Wildlife’s Alaska Program Director.  “This would further imperil climate-sensitive wildlife including threatened polar bears, lock in oil and gas drilling and massive greenhouse gas emissions for decades, and offset the administration’s priority to rein in climate change.”

Law firm Trustees for Alaska has filed a separate legal challenge on behalf of Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic and conservation groups.

The BLM’s record of decision approving Willow essentially greenlights ConocoPhillips’ desired blueprint while ignoring pleas from around 5.6 million people, including leadership from the nearby village of Nuiqsut, asking the federal government to halt Willow. 

Even though the Biden administration describes its approval as a scaled-down version of the plan, the project will still add about 260 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere over the next 30 years, the equivalent of an extra two million cars on the road each year for thirty years. The project would cause irreparable harm to the environment, Arctic wildlife and nearby people who depend on the land for subsistence.

The legal challenge targets the Biden administration for failing to consider alternatives that could have meaningfully reduced greenhouse gas emissions and on-the-ground effects. Interior has relied on a mistaken conclusion that it could not deny nor meaningfully limit the project, and it considered project alternatives that ranged only from allowing ConocoPhillips to develop 100 percent of the available oil to allowing it to develop 92 percent of the oil. The Biden administration had the authority to stop Willow – yet chose not to. 

The lawsuit also takes the administration to task for failing to assess Willow’s full climate impact, by neglecting to consider the additional climate pollution of future development that can only happen once Willow project infrastructure is in place. ConocoPhillips has described Willow to its investors as the “next great Alaska hub,” saying it had identified a staggering amount of oil, possibly as much as 3 billion barrels, of nearby prospects that could be accessed if the Willow infrastructure were in place.

Earthjustice and its clients, together with co-plaintiff NRDC, released the following statements as the lawsuit was filed:

“It’s shocking that Biden greenlit the Willow project despite knowing how much harm it’ll cause Arctic communities and wildlife,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now we have to step up and fight for these priceless wild places and the people and animals that depend on them. It’s clear that we can’t count on Biden to keep his word on confronting climate change and halting drilling on public lands.”

“We are enraged that the Administration has again approved Willow despite the clear threats posed to the Western Arctic’s vulnerable environment and communities,” said Hallie Templeton, legal director for Friends of the Earth. “Our prior victory forcing BLM to re-do its environmental analysis should have proven that more must be done to protect our last remaining wild places from Big Oil’s exploitation. We can only hope that the court sees this for what it is: another unlawful, faulty, and disastrous decision that must be stopped.”

“The science is clear. We cannot afford any new oil or gas projects if we are going to avoid climate catastrophe. Approving what would be the largest oil extraction project on federal lands is incredibly hypocritical from President Biden who in his State of the Union called the climate crisis an ​existential threat,” said Natalie Mebane, climate director for Greenpeace USA. “Millions of people – from Indigenous groups to former vice-president Al Gore – have come out in opposition to the project. The Department of the Interior has substantial concerns about the Willow project and the harm it could cause to the climate, wildlife, and people. This is a make-or-break moment for the president’s climate legacy. He needs to listen to the people, his own departments, and himself when he says we have an obligation to confront the climate crisis. The first step is for him to follow the science and stop approving oil and gas projects.”

“We’re asking the court to halt this illegal project and ensure the public knows its true climate impacts,” said Christy Goldfuss, chief policy impact officer for NRDC.  “Permitting Willow to go forward is green-lighting a carbon bomb.  It would set back the climate fight and embolden an industry hell-bent on destroying the planet.”

“There is no question that the administration possessed the legal authority to stop Willow – yet it chose not to,” said Erik Grafe, Deputy Managing Attorney in Earthjustice’s Alaska regional office. “It greenlit this carbon bomb without adequately assessing its climate impacts or weighing its options to limit the damage and say no. The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges we face, and President Biden has promised to do all he can to meet the moment. We’re bringing today’s lawsuit to ensure that the administration follows the law and ultimately makes good on this promise for future generations.”


This is the second time the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved the Willow project.  The Trump administration first approved the project in 2020.  Conservation and Alaska Native groups challenged the approval, and the court threw it out as unlawful in 2021.  It instructed BLM to reassess the project’s full climate impacts and consider alternatives that would lessen its overall impacts.  In approving Willow for the second time, the Biden administration has failed to heed these instructions, producing an environmental analysis that falls short in these same respects.

As approved, the project includes three drill sites, gravel roads, a central processing facility, an operations center, an airstrip, hundreds of miles of ice roads, and it allows drilling and roads in the Teshekpuk Lake special area, one of the most important and sensitive areas in the Arctic. ConocoPhillips’ operations would use chillers to re-freeze thawing permafrost, to make the ground stable enough for drilling to continue.

Further, approval of Willow sets into motion a westward expansion of oil development into additional ecologically sensitive areas critical for both subsistence and the protection of wildlife species that are already threatened by climate change.

The reserve is home to polar bears, which are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, plus musk oxen, caribou, and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds. Two caribou herds – the Western Arctic and the Teshekpuk Lake herds – calve and migrate through the region and are a vital subsistence resource for Alaska Native communities in northern and western Alaska.


Scioto Post (Circleville, OH)

A Once Federally Endangered Plant Now a Historic Success in Ohio

By Jeremy Newman – 03/14/2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A once considered extinct plant species is now flourishing thanks to decades of hard work and dedication by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Natural Areas and Preserves and its conservation partners. The rare running buffalo clover has officially been removed from the federal endangered species list.

“This is an exciting development in the area of conservation and is really something we can all celebrate,” says Director Mary Mertz. “Now that this wildflower is thriving in Ohio, we will take every step to make sure it continues to bloom for years and years to come.”

Historically growing from the Appalachians to the Central Plains, running buffalo clover (RBC) derived its name from its appearance and habitat. The plant’s stolons (an above ground stem) appear to be “running” across the ground and it was once found in areas where the grazing and movement of bison helped maintain the habitat it needed to succeed. Because of its ecological connection to bison, RBC disappeared from the landscape after the large mammal was nearly put to extinction.

RBC was determined to be extinct by the federal government until it was rediscovered in West Virginia in 1983. Five years later, it was found in Ohio by Division of Natural Areas and Preserves’ botanists. After an 81-year absence, this thrilling discovery marked the beginning of the Division’s decades-long effort to ensure it not just survived but thrived.

Over the years a number of populations have been discovered on ODNR properties including a few state nature preserves. The largest population in the state is located at Boch Hollow State Nature Preserve in Hocking County. There were about 1,000 in 2010 and as of 2019, that number is closer to 7,000. With it going off the endangered species list, RBC will be downgraded to state potentially threatened. The Division will continue monitoring populations around the state and manage populations on state owned lands to ensure success in the Buckeye State.

The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves administers Ohio’s rare plant list which currently contains over 600 species.



Antarctic Seabirds Fail to Breed Amid Extreme Weather Events Linked to Climate Change

By: Paige Bennett, March 14, 2023

Typically, the start of each new year aligns with peak breeding times for Antarctic seabirds, like the south polar skua, Antarctic petrel and snow petrel. Around this time, the birds will select sites and start building their nests and laying eggs. But a new study during the time period from December 2021 through January 2022 found a steep decline in these seabirds’ nests, revealing that entire populations of Antarctic seabirds laid few, if any, eggs.

The researchers noted that there was unusually high snowfall from climate change-induced snowstorms during the time period, making it difficult for the birds to breed.

“We know that in a seabird colony, when there’s a storm, you will lose some chicks and eggs, and breeding success will be lower,” said Sebastien Descamps, first author of the study and researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, as reported by ScienceDaily. “But here we’re talking about tens if not hundreds of thousands of birds, and none of them reproduced throughout these storms. Having zero breeding success is really unexpected.”

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, shared that zero skua nests were found on Svarthamaren, an important region for breeding and raising young for not only the south polar skua but also for petrels. Here, the researchers also found just three Antarctic petrel nests active in January.

By comparison, the study noted that 20,000 to 200,000 Antarctic petrel nests were found active on Svarthamaren from 1985 to 2020, while 38 to 68 polar skua nests were active from 2011 to 2020.

In nearby Jutulsessen, another popular spot for petrels, no active Antarctic petrel nests were found in January 2022, despite the colony having 41,000 breeding pairs in the 1989/1990 breeding season and 57,000 breeding pairs as recently as 2017/2018. Again, the researchers found zero active skua nests at Jutulsessen, despite finding more than 10 such nests active here in 2016 and in 2018.

“It wasn’t only a single isolated colony that was impacted by this extreme weather. We’re talking about colonies spread over hundreds of kilometers,” Descamps explained. “So these stormy conditions impacted a really large part of land, meaning that the breeding success of a large part of the Antarctic petrel population was impacted.”

The Antarctic seabirds in the study lay their eggs on bare ground, but heavy snowfall makes this behavior impossible. Not only that, but with stronger snowstorms, the seabirds need to spend more energy to keep warm rather than breeding and raising young. The study further explained that Antarctic petrel eggs and chicks, prey of breeding south polar skuas, had decreased, possibly contributing to the complete lack of active skua nests.

“Antarctic weather conditions are changing, with mean wind speeds increasing and extreme wind events becoming more frequent. IPCC model predictions also indicate that temperature will likely increase throughout Antarctica, leading to increased snowfall, most of which occurs during episodic storms,” the study concluded. “Considering the adverse impact that snowstorms have on Antarctic seabird reproduction, these predictions are worrying. Several important Antarctic seabird populations are already declining, and the intensification of storm activity could lead to their extirpation.”


Center for Biological Diversity

New York Moth Receives Endangered Species Protections After 30 Years

WASHINGTON—(March 14, 2023)—After more than 30 years of consideration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized the listing of the rare bog buck moth as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. But the agency failed to designate any critical habitat for the moth, despite habitat protections being critical to the species’ survival.

“I’m glad the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is finally protecting this highly vulnerable moth, but it really shouldn’t have taken three decades to do so,” said Tamara Strobel, staff scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These extraordinary little moths live in one of the most diverse types of wetlands, and the government should have protected their critical habitat to give them the best chance to recover.”

The bog buck moth lives only in fens — peat-accumulating wetlands — found in Oswego County, New York, and Ontario, Canada, that have healthy populations of bog buckbean, the moth’s host plant. The moth’s unique and narrow habitat niche is listed as vulnerable in New York state and occupies less than 1% of the state.

Invasive plants, surface flooding, nutrient runoff and climate change have left populations isolated from each other and vulnerable to extinction.

In 1991 the Fish and Wildlife Service identified the bog buck moth as a candidate species for listing. In 2016 the agency added the bog buck moth to its National Listing Workplan on its own initiative without receiving a petition to list the species from an outside organization.

“It’s refreshing to see the Fish and Wildlife Service take the initiative to extend protections to the bog moth,” said Strobel. “But in the midst of the extinction crisis the world faces, such actions should be the rule, not the exception.”


The Wildlife Society

March 13, 2023


The dusky tetra was found in two different sites in Madagascar’s tropical forests

Scientists searching Madagascar’s tropical forests have detected an endangered songbird that hadn’t been seen since 1999. The dusky tetraka (Xanthomixis tenebrosa), a small olive-colored songbird with a yellow throat, was on a list of top 10 most-wanted birds created by a partnership called the Search for Lost Birds initiative. A team with the Peregrine Fund’s Madagascar Program discovered the species in two different sites—one on the Masaola Peninsula in December 2022 and another in Andapa in January of this year. “Due to the changed landscape and its cryptic nature, the searchers had to employ some resourceful detective work and impressive persistence to make the eventual rediscovery,” said Christina Biggs, lost species office with conservation organization Re:wild. “We’re thrilled and relieved to know that this little bird is still singing in the forests of Madagascar. Now comes the work to protect the spaces that the dusky tetraka inhabits, and also keep remaining wild spaces wild, so other birds don’t land on our list in the future.”


News Provided By Thai Union Group PCL

World’s Largest Tuna Company Leads Call for Restoration of Endangered Species

SFP Study Finds Dramatic Loss of Biodiversity in Longline Tuna Fisheries

BOSTON, March 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Thai Union Group PLC, one of the world’s leading seafood producers and one of the largest producers of shelf-stable tuna products, announced today its commitment to only source from vessels that are implementing best practices to protect ocean wildlife from bycatch. Thai Union’s action is based on research by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) on the risks to sharks, seabirds, turtles and other marine wildlife in the fisheries that supply the company and an analysis by Key Traceability of Thai Union’s tuna fishery improvement projects and in the highest risk fisheries that were identified in the audit.

“Environmental organizations are pointing to the biodiversity and species loss crisis that the planet is facing. The report by SFP notes the significant loss of ETP species in the Western Central Pacific Ocean region,” noted Adam Brennan, group director, sustainability at Thai Union. “We want to do more to ensure that we are sourcing from vessels that are doing everything they can to avoid and reduce bycatch.”

Thai Union is known for top-selling, household-name tuna brands, including Chicken of the Sea and John West. As part of a panel at Seafood Expo North America, the largest seafood trade show in North America and second in the world, Thai Union highlighted a new 2030 commitment for its fisheries, building on its larger seafood sustainability efforts over the past seven years. Specifically, Thai Union will:

By 2030, all vessels to implement best practices to protect endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species; and

Fulfill its existing commitment (by 2025) of 100 percent observer coverage (human or electronic) on tuna vessels through direct work with its suppliers and service providers.

“Biodiversity loss is the greatest threat to fisheries sustainability,” said Kathryn Novak, biodiversity and nature director at SFP. “Thai Union is setting new expectations for the seafood industry to protect endangered, protected and threatened species by looking at their supply chains and only sourcing from vessels actively working to address bycatch.”

A recent report by SFP on the impacts of commercial tuna longline fishing in the Western Central Pacific Ocean on ETP species found a profound loss of nature and the decline of an estimated 70 percent of several species of shark, seabird, and sea turtle populations. This region provides more than 50 percent of the world’s tuna production, most going to North America and Japan. As a result, tuna buyers are well-positioned to drive improvements to restore nature loss and rebuild populations of vulnerable marine wildlife, particularly sharks and seabirds.

Thai Union’s “bycatch audit” was undertaken as part of SFP’s Protecting Ocean Wildlife initiative, an international, industry-led effort to address marine wildlife bycatch. SFP conducted a review and assessment of Thai Union’s source fisheries using existing sustainability data to determine risks, overlaps with the company’s key products, and where the most impacts can be made to reduce ocean wildlife bycatch.

The research identified tuna longline fisheries as high risk for sharks, sea birds, and sea turtles, and recommends implementing more gear modifications to reduce the interaction rate and mortality risks associated with these fisheries. The research also found insufficient observer coverage in Pacific Ocean fisheries, consistent with Thai Union’s commitment for 100 percent observer coverage in its tuna fisheries.

Key Traceability examined if best practices to reduce bycatch are being taken by vessels in Thai Union’s fishery improvement projects (FIPs). The analysis found that many of these fisheries have documented actions around ETP management and meet or exceed the audit report recommendations.


The Conversation

Orange-bellied parrot shows there’s more to saving endangered species than captive breeding

March 12, 2023, By Dejan Stojanovic

Captive breeding of threatened species for release into the wild is an important conservation tool. But where threats to wild populations remain unresolved, this tool may not guarantee population recovery in the long term.

Our new research on one of the most endangered birds in the world shows we need to tackle underlying threats to survival if we are to save species from extinction in the wild.

Captive breeding and release is sustaining the population of orange-bellied parrots, holding extinction at bay. But most of the young born into the population each year die during their migration and winter.

Our modelling shows that if captive breeding and release stopped tomorrow, orange-bellied parrots would soon become extinct. The natural birth rate is too low to compensate for the high death rates of juveniles. So we’re locked into releasing captive-bred parrots until we can solve the underlying problems afflicting the wild population. Unfortunately, it’s not clear exactly what those problems are.

No guarantees when threats remain

Globally, captive breeding has prevented the extinction of iconic species such as the California condor.

However, despite the benefits of captive breeding, success is not guaranteed. This is especially so when captive-bred animals are released into habitats where threats remain unresolved. In such cases, captive-bred animals will succumb to the same threats as their wild counterparts.

For some species, identifying and correcting threats is straightforward. For example, removing introduced predators from islands may be a way to eliminate a threat and optimise the benefit of releases from captivity.

But the exact nature of threats is often not clear-cut, especially for species that move over large areas. This can create uncertainty about what the threats are, where they occur, and how to resolve them.

Inability to mitigate threats may result in lost opportunities for released animals to learn crucial behaviours such as migration or song, and ultimately, the decline of wild populations.

Conservationists may sometimes need to “buy time” and prevent extinction in the wild by releasing animals to ensure the continuity of animal cultures in landscapes where threats persist.

Locked into a cycle of dependency

The orange-bellied parrot is one of the most endangered birds in the world. In 2016, just four females returned to Tasmania from migration, and only one of them produced a surviving descendant. (The species migrates from its summer breeding ground in southwestern Tasmania to the coasts of southeastern mainland Australia, but these movements take a toll on the population.)

Fortunately, despite ongoing uncertainty about reducing threats, intensive conservation efforts have grown the population. More than 30 females have returned from migration annually over the past two years. Despite this success, most juvenile parrots (both captive-bred and wild-born) that leave Tasmania on their northward migration die.

Overcoming the unresolved threats that drive this high mortality is crucial for making this population self-sustaining. Unfortunately due to the practical limitations of studying a small, scattered population across remote areas, it is unlikely that this knowledge gap can be addressed in the short term. In the meantime, there are several options available.

We used simulations to compare the benefits of different management scenarios on the orange-bellied parrot. We showed that of all the potential intervention options available to the recovery project, releasing captive juveniles in autumn – to learn from wild adults, and increase the size of migrating flocks – was the most beneficial.

However, none of the interventions available to managers can directly address the underlying problem of high juvenile mortality, so their benefits were temporary. When we simulated stopping captive releases, the populations rapidly went extinct. Without addressing the underlying threats faced by the species, we found the natural birth rate too low to compensate for high juvenile mortality rates.

Until a solution is found for high migration and winter mortality rates, orange-bellied parrots will remain dependent on captive breeding and release to prevent extinction and grow the population.

Lulled into a false sense of security

Orange-bellied parrots provide a stark reminder that there is no “quick fix” for most threatened species. Although captive breeding for release can effectively prevent extinction in the short term, long-term self-sustaining populations in the wild depend on finding solutions for the threats that caused their decline in the first place. Until solutions can be found, management agencies may be locked into a cycle of conservation dependency aimed at preventing extinction, but struggle to address the threats that cause the underlying problems.

Given the global popularity and visibility of captive breeding programs, it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that they are a quick fix for the extinction crisis. However, identifying the threats to wild populations early is crucial because re-establishing “extinct in the wild” species from captivity is extremely difficult, albeit not impossible.

In the case of the orange-bellied parrot, we hope preventing extinction of the wild population through releases of captive-bred birds may buy enough time to identify and mitigate the causes of high juvenile migration/winter mortality. But we also hope our study is a reminder to policymakers that conservation of wild populations should focus on identifying and preventing threats, negating the need for captive breeding in the first place.


WIZM News Talk (La Crosse, WI)

GOP legislators ready bill calling for wolf population goal in Wisconsin

March 10, 2023, By Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A pair of Republican legislators circulated a bill Friday that would require Wisconsin wildlife officials to establish a new population goal for wolves in the state in their next management plan.

The state Department of Natural Resources has operated since 1999 under a wolf management plan that limits the statewide population to 350 animals.

As the number of wolves in the state has increased — DNR estimates released in September put the statewide population at about 1,000 wolves — hunters have pointed to that number as justification for setting generous quotas during the state’s fall wolf season. Animal advocates, however, argue the population isn’t strong enough to support hunting and wolves are too beautiful to kill.

The DNR released a draft of a new management plan in November that doesn’t include any specific population number. The draft plan instead calls for the DNR to work with advisory committees to monitor local populations and decide whether to reduce them, maintain them or allow them to grow.

State Rep. Chanz Green, of Grandview, and Sen. Rob Stafsholt, of New Richmond, began circulating a bill for co-sponsorship on Friday that would require the DNR to include a statewide population goal in its new plan.

Stafsholt said in a telephone interview that it was a “complete shock” to farmers and hunters that the draft plan doesn’t include a statewide population goal.

“I want the DNR to use science to come up with what the current population is and … we can have the discussion, argue about what that goal should be,” he said. “It’s not for the Legislature to decide what that number should be. This bill simply says we have to have a population goal to know which direction we should be managing the population.”

Stafsholt rejected the notion that the bill is designed to give hunters an argument for higher quotas, saying the DNR has always imposed tight limits on how many wolves hunters can kill each season.

Wisconsin law mandates a wolf season but last year a federal judge restored endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the country, including Wisconsin. The move prohibits hunting the animals.

The last wolf hunt in Wisconsin was held in February 2021. The DNR set the quota for non-tribal hunters at 119 animals. Hunters blew past that limit, killing 218 wolves in just four days before the DNR could shut down the season.

Green aide Carson Lee didn’t immediately respond to an after-hours email Friday seeking an interview with the legislator. Aides to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu also didn’t immediately respond to emails inquiring about the bill’s prospects.

DNR officials are in the midst of revising the plan in response to public comments. It’s unclear when a final version will be released. Agency spokesperson Katie Grant declined to comment.

Stafsholt said he hasn’t spoken to either Vos or LeMahieu’s offices about the bill but he’s optimistic about its chances, saying Republican leadership often defers to caucus members with outdoors experience.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ office didn’t immediately respond to an after-hours email.


Center for Biological Diversity

Glen Canyon Dam Operations Must Safeguard Grand Canyon’s Rare Fish, Conservationists Warn

Fish Recovery Requires Planning Now for Lake Powell’s Climate Demise

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—(March 10, 2023)—The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation must manage Colorado River flows to prevent non-native smallmouth bass populations from establishing, thereby jeopardizing threatened humpback chub in the Grand Canyon, conservationists warned in formal comments submitted today.

“Losing the Little Colorado River population of humpback chub would be catastrophic for the fish’s survival and recovery,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is an emergency situation. The Endangered Species Act requires the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure river flows that maximize protections for these imperiled fish by preventing predatory smallmouth bass from ever taking hold in the Grand Canyon.”

Most remaining humpback chub live at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. Climate-driven declines in Colorado River flows and historically low Lake Powell levels have caused warm water and smallmouth bass to begin passing through the dam into the Colorado River. If they take hold in the Grand Canyon, smallmouth bass would be impossible to control and would likely wipe out the chub’s last, largest population, which is the source for other Grand Canyon populations.

“It is sad to think that Grand Canyon might lose this important aspect of its ecology, the humpback chub, one of the few native fish species that is still holding on in this portion of the Colorado River,” said Sandy Bahr, director of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “We just cannot sit back, the Bureau cannot sit back, and let that happen. It must act decisively, and it must act now to address operation of the dam to keep the bass from establishing downstream and to save the chub.”

Today’s comments on a draft environmental assessment urge the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure flows from Glen Canyon Dam are cold enough to prevent any smallmouth bass reproduction downstream. Hydropower interests are urging less protective flows that only disrupt bass reproduction. The filing also calls for long-overdue intake screens or other dam modifications to block passage of non-native predator fish from Lake Powell into the Grand Canyon.

The comments warn that federal agencies must begin planning now for endangered fish recovery in a warmer, drier climate. That includes an always-warm Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon, when greenhouse gas pollution and declining Colorado River flows inevitably cause Lake Powell’s surface to fall below what’s required for hydropower production.

“It’s deeply concerning that four decades of endangered fish recovery has arrived at this very dire moment,” said John Weisheit, conservation director of Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper. “It’s past time for federal agencies to plan for endangered fish recovery in the context of the coming day when Lake Powell ceases to exist and sediment-rich warm water again flows regularly through the Grand Canyon.”

The current humpback chub emergency comes less than two years after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, relying on the health of its now-threatened Little Colorado River population, downlisted the fish’s status to threatened from endangered. The decision was sharply criticized for ignoring effects of climate-driven Colorado River declines.

“The emergency now unfolding in Grand Canyon makes a mockery of the chub downlisting decision and shows the danger of climate-reactive recovery planning,” said McKinnon. “Recovery programs for the Colorado River’s endangered fish need to get out in front of climate change disruptions. The status quo of playing catch-up is a recipe for extinction.”




Island-inhabiting giants, dwarves more vulnerable to extinction

Human arrival on islands catalyzed disappearance of iconic animal species


Forget the sci-fi trappings of ray guns, Pym Particles and gamma radiation: For animals both supersized and miniaturized, look no further than islands, where rodents can swell to 100 times their mainland mass and mammoths once shrank from 20,000 pounds to 2,000.

Those same island-dwelling giants and dwarves contend with far greater risks of disappearing from the planet than do other species, says a new study in the journal Science. Yet it’s not so much the size that counts, the researchers concluded, as how much that size varies between mainland and island.

Island inhabitants, even those of standard size, face more than their share of existential peril. Roughly 75% of the documented extinctions over the past 500 years took place on water-encompassed patches of land. About half of the animal species now listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature live on islands, too.

But ecologists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and elsewhere found that island-dwelling mammal species larger or smaller than their continental counterparts are even more likely to be endangered — or have already gone extinct.

Extinction risks generally rose in tandem with the size disparities between mainland and island species, meaning that the most extreme giants and dwarves were dealt the longest survival odds, the team discovered. Island-inhabiting mammals whose evolution multiplied or divided their mass by at least four were 75%-plus likely to be classified as threatened. Those that evolved to be 10 times larger or smaller than their mainland peers, meanwhile, faced at least a 75% chance of going extinct.

“We think it has to do with the associated ecological changes that go along with the morphological changes on islands,” said Kate Lyons, associate professor of biological sciences at Nebraska. “Islands are generators of evolutionary novelty. You get all sorts of weird things on islands that you don’t get on the mainland.”

Gigantism and dwarfism are notable symptoms of what ecologists call “island syndrome,” which frequently affects animal species — from the enlarged but endangered Komodo dragon to the extinct pygmy mammoth — that either immigrate to islands or originate there. Smaller mammals, like mice, generally encounter fewer predators and, having less reason to hide or flee, may evolve into giant versions of their mainland species or sister species. Larger mammals, including buffalo and hippopotamuses, tend to confront more constraints — less territory on which to forage for vegetation or prey, and smaller quantities of both — that limit their growth and ultimate size.

Species emigrating from a mainland often exhibit another trait: Being unfamiliar with the meat-eaters on their newfound home, they may lack appropriate fear of the neighbors most motivated and best equipped to kill them. The fact that some of the mammal species most prone to expanding or contracting in size also make for unsuspecting prey could help explain why island-confined giants and dwarves are so vulnerable, the researchers said.

“They’re going to be really naïve to predators, especially any large primate predator, like us, that shows up,” Lyons said. “So they’re going to be much easier to catch and kill and eat. And because islands are isolated, and there’s no source population for them, it’s also going to be easier for a new predator to drive them to extinction.

“If you think about what we know from the recorded history of what happened to a lot of these islands when sailors arrived,” she said, “they would just easily catch and eat animals with no issues.”

Data from 1,231 surviving mammal species, and fossils from 350 extinct ones, allowed Martin Luther’s Roberto Rozzi, iDiv’s Jonathan Chase and the global team to take stock of those very human footprints across 182 current and former islands. For as much danger as giants and dwarves already faced on islands, the arrival of modern humans, or Homo sapiens, multiplied the probability of extinction by 16. That far outweighed even the impacts of earlier, less advanced Homo species, whose appearance coincided with a doubling in extinctions.

Those rises in human-linked extinctions manifested as pulses in the fossil record that together represent a “protracted extinction event” stretching back roughly 100,000 years, when the first pulse occurred. Another emerged about 16,000 years ago, near the end of the last ice age, with a third arising just 2,000 years ago. That latest pulse yielded an extinction rate about 88 times higher than that of the first.

“The reason they’re pulsed like that is because Homo sapiens got to different islands at different times,” said Lyons, whose prior research has linked the extinction of large mammals with human encroachment. “It’s similar to how we got to different continents at different times — except that for islands, it took us much longer to get to some of them, especially the really remote ones.”

The pulses also help illustrate differences in how humans and other predators alter the food webs of ecosystems — differences that can lead not just to the thinning but the snipping of threads that make up those webs. Most predators, Lyons said, will not drive their prey to extinction. When the population of prey plummets due to hunting, predators have less to eat and eventually see their own numbers drop. That allows the prey population to rebound, with predators following suit, and so on.

“Humans (historically) don’t do that,” she said. “We switch prey constantly. We eat something until it’s gone, or until it’s hard to catch, and then we eat something else until it’s gone. But we don’t stop eating the thing that we were first eating. If we come across it, we’re going to continue eating it, so the pressure on that population is still there.”

Efforts to prevent the further disappearance of species might benefit from incorporating the study’s findings, Lyons said. Current conservation policies do prioritize so-called endemic species that, by inhabiting only one small part of the world — often an island — are more vulnerable to extinction. Many conservationists also triage species according to genetic diversity, so that those featuring more distinct blueprints receive more attention and resources.

“So they do tend to look at various axes of diversity that they want to try to preserve. But they don’t take into account what this study shows,” Lyons said, “which is that the species that get onto islands, and either dwarf or get giant, are at particular risk.”

(Rozzi, Chase and Lyons authored the study with Mark Lomolino, from the State University of New York; Alexandra van der Geer of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands; Daniele Silvestro, from Switzerland’s University of Fribourg; Pere Bover, from Spain’s University of Zaragoza; Josep Alcover, from Spain’s Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies; Ana Benítez-López of the Spanish National Research Council; Cheng-Hsiu Tsai of National Taiwan University; Masaki Fujita, from Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science; Mugino Kubo, from The University of Tokyo; Janine Ochoa, from the University of the Philippines; Matthew Scarborough, from the University of Cape Town; Samuel Turvey, from the Zoological Society of London; and Alexander Zizka, from the Philipps University of Marburg in Germany.)


Courthouse News Service

Seventh Circuit clears way for destruction of endangered bumblebee habitat

A soon-to-be-paved prairie is home to the critically endangered rusty patched bumblebee.

DAVE BYRNES / March 9, 2023

CHICAGO (CN) — The Seventh Circuit signed the death warrant for an 8,000-year-old gravel prairie on Thursday morning, after it denied for the second time a petition to halt the expansion of a regional airport in northwest Illinois.

Known as the Bell Bowl Prairie and located on the property of the Chicago Rockford International Airport near the Illinois city of Rockford, it is among the last remaining such prairies in the Prairie State. It is also home to the critically endangered rusty patched bumblebee, an important pollinator for food crops like plums, apples and alfalfa.

The bee’s historical range once spread over what is now the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, but it currently faces severe habitat loss. With the Seventh Circuit’s repeat denials, that habitat loss in Illinois will only continue. Construction of a planned expansion to the airport’s cargo operations began Thursday morning, with all but six of the Bell Bowl Prairie’s original 25 acres on the chopping block.

“They started scraping the sod away this morning at 6 a.m.,” said Kerry Leigh, executive director of the Natural Land Institute, the conservationist group which filed the petitions to halt the airport expansion. “It’s already started.”

The airport’s $50 million expansion into Bell Bowl has been planned since 2019, part of a cargo boom driven by its close relationship with corporations like Amazon and UPS. It’s one of the fastest-growing cargo hubs in the country; according to a 2022 report by engineering consulting firm Kimley-Horn, almost 2.4 billion pounds of goods moved through the Rockford airport in 2019 alone. This represents a 155% growth in landed air cargo weight over the preceding four years and translates into over $4.7 billion in revenue. The airport also employs over 8,000 people.

Construction on the expansion initially began in summer 2021, but halted that October after the Natural Land Institute filed a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction against the Greater Rockford Airport Authority, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Illinois Department of Transportation. Numerous federal officials, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, were also named as defendants.

Prairie watchers had found rusty patched bumblebees, which the Fish and Wildlife Service added to the endangered species list in 2017, inhabiting Bell Bowl not long after excavators moved in, and the the Greater Rockford Airport Authority agreed to pause construction that October pending further environmental analyses. The government subsequently moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction in March 2022, a motion U.S. District Judge Iain Johnston, a Donald Trump appointee, granted in August.

The FAA gave the GRAA the green light to resume construction last Friday, prompting the Natural Land Institute to file an emergency petition to stay the bulldozers with the Seventh Circuit on Monday. The organization wrote in its petition that the rusty patched bumblebee relies on Bell Bowl Prairie “for its continued survival.”

An appellate panel consisting of U.S. Circuit Judges Frank Easterbrook, Diane Wood and Michael Brennan – appointees of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively – denied that petition on Wednesday night, in a single-page response that said the Natural Land Institute had “made no showing that a stay is appropriate under the relevant factors.”

The group immediately filed a second petition requesting a rehearing before all the judges on the Seventh Circuit, which the panel again rejected in a single-page memo on Thursday morning. The panel did not offer any explanation for the second denial.

Leigh said Natural Land Institute volunteers and workers from the Fish and Wildlife Service are now in the process of moving sod from Bell Bowl to other nearby nature preserves in the hopes that the rusty patched queens will relocate with it. But she doesn’t know how effective the effort will prove. At the same time, Leigh said she is planning to form a “legislative group to examine how the existing legal protections are failing us in the 21st century.”

“The old ways of thinking still have a chokehold… we need to do away with the old ways of thinking before we can move forward,” she said.

The FAA, for its part, said it would ensure contractors only performed the most ecologically disturbing work over the cold months, when the bees and other indigenous wildlife species are dormant.

“Chicago Rockford International Airport will retain more than six acres of the Bell Bowl Prairie. This includes more than three acres of high-quality prairie,” the FAA said in a prepared statement. “Any excavation and shrub and brush clearing work in the project area will occur between October 15 through March 15 to avoid impacts to the rusty patched bumble bee and avoid the prime nesting seasons for the black-billed cuckoo and the upland sandpiper.”

For Leigh and other environmentalists who gathered in protest at Bell Bowl on Wednesday and Thursday, it’s not nearly enough.

“I grieve the death [of the prairie],” said Frank Langholf, pastor of the local Trinity Lutheran Church, at a Wednesday evening press conference. “I grieve our own feelings… of ‘what more can we do?’ I don’t know about you, but I feel like, well, there should have been something more. Something else we could have done.”

About 60% of Illinois, roughly 22 million acres, was covered in prairie when European colonists first arrived, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Now only about 2,500 acres remain.


Center for Biological Diversity

Struggling Freshwater Mussels Protected Under Endangered Species Act

Exceptions Threaten Habitat Protections for East Coast Mussels

LEXINGTON, Ky.—(March 8, 2023)—Responding to a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today listed the round hickorynut and longsolid freshwater mussels as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The agency also set aside 2,136 river miles of critical habitat from Pennsylvania to Mississippi.

“North America’s freshwater mussels filter pollution out of our waterways and support aquatic life, but they’re being clobbered by the extinction crisis,” said Perrin de Jong, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Ensuring these mussels survive and recover will mean people and wildlife have cleaner water and more resilient ecosystems.”

Today’s Fish and Wildlife Service action includes a rule that allows exceptions to the ban on intentional and incidental killing or harming the mussels for logging projects that follow state forestry “best management practices.”

“Relying on logging best management practices won’t protect imperiled mussels from extinction and habitat loss,” said de Jong. “Logging practices vary widely from state to state and the Service hasn’t defined who’s responsible for ensuring that loggers actually follow these rules when they log mussel habitat. These critters need real protection, not just words on a page.”

The Center and allies petitioned for protection of the mussels in 2010 and filed a lawsuit in 2019 to enforce a deadline for a decision on their protection.

The once common longsolid has lost 63% of its populations, and only three out of 60 surviving populations are considered to have a high chance of survival. The round hickorynut has lost 78% of its populations, and only four of 65 current populations are ranked as having high resiliency.

Mussels improve water quality by filtering small particles from the water as they eat and breathe. They reproduce by making lures that looks like fish, crayfish or worms. When their host fishes attempt to prey upon the lures, the mussels release their fertilized eggs onto the fish’s gills. Juvenile mussels develop on the gills before dropping off to begin life on their own and start cleaning the water that fish need to survive.

Species Background

The longsolid is a 5-inch long mussel with a light brown shell with darker brown stripes and a pronounced ridge. It lives in the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee river basins in Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The round hickorynut is a 2.5-inch nearly perfectly round mussel with a greenish-olive shell with a yellow band. It lives in the Great Lakes and in the Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee and Lower Mississippi river basins in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The mussels are threatened by water pollution from urbanization, agricultural, oil and gas drilling and pipelines, coal mining and coal-fired power plants, and by increasing stream temperatures and storm events caused by global climate change. The listing proposal states that threats to the species are expected to worsen.

The southeastern United States is the world center of freshwater mussel diversity, but the region has already lost 23 species to extinction. Nearly 70% of mussels are at risk of extinction due to historical collection to make buttons, dams and ongoing water pollution.


Courthouse News Service

Feds decline Endangered Species Act protections for Joshua trees

The feds say Joshua trees are not endangered and will not be endangered in the near future.

SAM RIBAKOFF / March 8, 2023

(CN) — Joshua trees will not be added to the endangered or threatened species list after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided the iconic symbols of the Mojave Desert don’t face any serious threats.

The decision, which will be published on Thursday, comes after a yearslong struggle with the environmental group WildEarth Guardians, which first petitioned the federal government to add Joshua trees to the endangered species list because of the effects of climate change. The federal government rejected the group’s petition, but the group then won a lawsuit which forced the agency to conduct the present study.

Fish and Wildlife projected the possible risks that two species of Joshua tree populations, the western and eastern species, in California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah have of becoming extinct between 2040 to 2069.

While noting climate change, wildfires, drought, and the invasive grasses as the biggest threats to Joshua trees, the agency concluded none of those factors will profoundly affect the population or range of the Joshua tree’s habitat.

“Joshua trees are projected to experience increases in average summer temperature of approximately 3.6–5.4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2040–2069, depending on the location,” the agency said in its report. “These temperature ranges are anticipated to be within the range of variability that Joshua trees have experienced in the recent past. Therefore, we consider that the majority (approximately 90%) of the current range of both species will continue to be occupied and viable in 2040–2069 and acknowledge the potential for the localized loss of occupied habitat in the warmest and driest portions of the ranges of both species.”

The agency said Joshua trees are long-living plants, with an age range of 150-300 years, and have been in their habitats for thousands of years, even during recent hotter temperatures.

But the agency noted the uncertainty regarding some of the projections made in the report, including its assessment of the effects of climate change and future policy decisions that could affect the severity of climate change.

The agency said it used the best available science in developing the report.

“WildEarth Guardians is incredibly disappointed that, for a second time, the USFWS has failed to follow clear science and law in declining to protect Joshua trees from the impacts of climate change, but sadly we’re also not surprised,” Lindsay Larris, the wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement. “The intent of the ESA is not to wait until a species is on life support before it can receive any federal protection. This is yet another example of the federal government failing to protect a species before it is too late. We should be proactively putting imperiled species on the path to recovery, not dooming them to hover on the brink of extinction if we truly value preserving biodiversity in this country.” 

Larris said the agency only focused on adult Joshua trees and didn’t take into account the effect climate change has on juvenile trees or the trees’ ability to reproduce. Nor did the agency study the actual dangers wildfires pose, since in 2020, the Dome Fire incinerated 1.3 million Joshua trees in a part of the Mojave National Preserve called the Cima Dome.

According to Fish and Wildlife’s own modeling of climate change’s effect on Joshua trees, “by the end of the century they’ll be wiped out of 90% of their range,” Larris said.

Larris said WildEarth Guardians may take the agency back to court.

In a statement, Fish and Wildlife stood by its findings.

“Through our scientific assessment, the service determined that Joshua trees will remain an iconic presence on the landscape into the future. Although the two species do not need the protections of the Endangered Species Act, the service cares deeply about Joshua trees and their roles in the desert environment,” Paul Souza, Pacific Southwest regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement. “We are coordinating closely with partners to ensure the long-term conservation of these species, including the National Park Service and other federal agencies, and the state of California, which is also considering measures for the protection of Joshua trees.”

Two species of freshwater mussels fared better with Fish and Wildlife: the longsolid and round hickorynut mussels were added to the endangered species list on Wednesday.

The mussels, which live in rivers throughout the Midwest and South, face “habitat degradation or loss from a variety of sources (e.g., dams and other barriers, resource extraction); degraded water quality from chemical contamination and erosion from development, agriculture, mining, and forest conversion; direct mortality from dredging; residual impacts (reduced population size) from historical harvest; and the proliferation of invasive, nonnative species,” according to the agency.

The decision designates critical habitat for the mussels in portions of rivers in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama, Ohio, Indiana and Mississippi.


Center for Biological Diversity

Congress Urged to Spend $841 Million to Fully Fund Endangered Species Protection

WASHINGTON—(March 7, 2023)—More than 120 conservation groups urged Congress today to significantly increase the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget for endangered species conservation from $331 million to $841 million.

Today’s letter notes that the Service currently receives less than half of the funding required to fully implement the Endangered Species Act’s mandate to recover listed species.

“As the extinction crisis worsens and the ecosystems we all depend on begin to collapse, Congress continues to act as if there were a planet B,” said Stephanie Kurose, senior endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With time running out, we need our leaders to make bold investments in saving life on earth. There’s no better way to honor this landmark law and its five decades of success than by fully funding it.”

According to the Service’s own data, hundreds of endangered animals and plants receive less than $1,000 for their recovery in a typical year, with several hundred receiving no funding. The requested budget increase would ensure every federally protected species receives a minimum of $50,000 per year to get them on the road to recovery.

“It’s a clear choice. Invest in nature and the countless benefits it brings to our economy, health and well-being or don’t and watch our nation’s wildlife disappear forever,” said Mary Beth Beetham, legislative director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Fully funding the Endangered Species Act is imperative for our future as we face down escalating biodiversity and climate crises.”

The letter also requests $66.3 million for the Service’s listing program — three times what is currently allocated. The listing program has been chronically underfunded for decades, and as a result, more than 300 species are still waiting to be evaluated for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Nearly 50 species have been declared extinct while waiting for protections because of these funding shortfalls.

On the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, 40% of the nation’s animals and 34% of its plants are threatened with extinction. Globally, an additional 1 million animal and plant species face extinction in the coming decades.



Climate Crisis Increases Human-Wildlife Conflict

By: Olivia Rosane, March 6, 2023

In 2019, an archipelago in the Russian Arctic Ocean declared a state of emergency when an aurora of polar bears muscled their way into a settlement and began nosing through the garbage.

At the time, experts said that the climate crisis likely caused the polar bear invasion, as dwindling sea ice forced them to seek food from human dumpsters instead. Now, a new study led by researchers from the University of Washington (UW) finds that this was not an isolated incident.

“We found evidence of conflicts between people and wildlife exacerbated by climate change on six continents, in five different oceans, in terrestrial systems, in marine systems, in freshwater systems – involving mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and even invertebrates,” study lead author and UW assistant biology professor Briana Abrahms said in a press release. “Although each individual case has its own array of different causes and effects, these climate-driven conflicts are really ubiquitous.”

The paper, published in Nature Climate Change, was a review of three decades of research, according to The Guardian. The research team looked for peer-reviewed documentation of conflicts between humans and wildlife that could be clearly traced to the impacts of climate change and focused on 49 incidents. Further, they found that the number of relevant studies multiplied by four in the decade of the study period.

Polar bears have historically been the poster animals for the climate crisis, and the paper found that encounters between bears and humans in Churchill, Manitoba, in Canada — already considered the “polar bear capital of the world” — multiplied by three between 1970 and 2005. However, the paper also turned up conflicts in less expected places, from Sumatra to Scotland.

“We were surprised that it’s so globally prevalent, this was one of the big takeaways of this paper,” Abrahms told The Guardian.

More than 80 percent of the incidents were caused by either temperature or rainfall changes. For example, a drought in western Tanzania in 2009 forced elephants to forage local fields for food, the press release explained. Subsistence farmers, desperate to protect their crops, sometimes resorted to killing the elephants that could munch through two to three acres a day. In another case, higher temperatures in both the air and ocean off South Africa — exacerbated by El Niño — led to an uptick in shark attacks.

Overall, 45 percent of the studies reviewed described an incident that led to wildlife injury or death, while 43 percent of the incidents led to a human injury or death, according to The Guardian. While these findings are troubling, the scientists hope that by studying these increasing conflicts, they can discover ways to help prevent them.

“Identifying these pathways allows for developing mitigation strategies and proactive policies to limit the impacts of human-wildlife conflict on biodiversity conservation and human well-being in a changing climate,” they wrote in the abstract.

Indeed, one of the incidents they reviewed had a happy ending. In 2014 and 2015, researchers noticed that a record number of blue and humpback whales were getting tangled in fishing gear off the California coast. Eventually, they figured out this was because of a record breaking marine heat wave in the Pacific from 2014 to 2016 dubbed “the warm blob,” according to the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

“With the ocean warming, we saw a shift in the ecosystem and in the feeding behavior of humpback whales that led to a greater overlap between whales and crab fishing gear,” UCSC applied mathematics researcher and lead author on a paper explaining the phenomenon Jarrod Santora said in the university press release.

In response to the data, California changed its fishing regulations to be more responsive to where and when whales are likely to be based on ocean conditions.

“These examples show us that once you know the root causes of a conflict, you can design interventions to help both people and wildlife,” Abrahms said in the press release. “We can change.”


Defenders of Wildlife

Petition Seeks to Protect Pygmy Rabbit Under Endangered Species Act

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, March 6, 2023

Conservation organizations, including Defenders of Wildlife, submitted a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today requesting protection of the pygmy rabbit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) depend on the sagebrush and grass habitats of the Sagebrush Sea for their survival and are at risk of extinction because of habitat loss and disease. This rabbit has lost considerable habitat due to development, extraction, invasions by non-native grasses, and wildfire.

“We lose more than one million acres of sagebrush every year—habitat that the pygmy rabbit depends on for survival,” said Vera Smith, senior federal lands policy analyst with Defenders of Wildlife. “The Endangered Species Act was made for moments like this; to help focus federal restoration and conservation efforts in the Sagebrush Sea and to give this little rabbit a fighting chance.”

Weighing from a half pound to just over a pound, pygmy rabbits are the world’s smallest rabbit and require intact sagebrush for virtually all of their winter diet and for cover from predators. They also need areas with deep soil for constructing burrows where they shelter from predators and safeguard their babies. The current range of the pygmy rabbit encompasses parts of Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, California, and Oregon.

“Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, pygmy rabbits are one of the most endearing and charismatic creatures of the Sagebrush Sea, but unfortunately they are also one of the most at risk of extinction,” said Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project. “Our petition demonstrates the serious threats the species is facing throughout its range, and it needs federal protection to ensure its survival into the future.”

The once vast Sagebrush Sea is under stress from fire intensified by invasive plants and climate change as well as development, oil and gas extraction, livestock grazing, and drought. An estimated 1.3 million acres are lost every year, with just 13.6% of the original ecosystem still ecologically intact, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey report. Scientists have recommended stronger conservation management for the Sagebrush Sea and identified a network of places that should be prioritized for protection because they are relatively intact or could be restored.

“We’re watching the slow-motion extinction of these tiny, mighty pygmy rabbits right before our eyes,” said Randi Spivak, Public Lands Program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is the biodiversity crisis playing out in real time. The alarm bell for pygmy rabbits has been ringing for a long time, but now the loss of their habitat is accelerating. It’s time to bring the power of the Endangered Species Act to bear and protect the habitat these creatures need to survive.”

Within the past 50 years populations of the once common pygmy rabbits have dwindled, according to state surveys. In Wyoming, the rabbit population has declined by 69%, and Utah has alarmingly low occupancy rates (7%-13%). Occupancy rates average 23% and 22% in Idaho and Nevada, respectively.

“I have studied populations of pygmy rabbits across multiple states over the last seven years and I share concerns of other researchers who have also detected population declines,” said Miranda Crowell, a pygmy rabbit researcher with the University of Nevada, Reno. “They appear to be declining and less able to recover because of the continued degradation and fragmentation of the sagebrush-steppe.”

The pygmy rabbit was first proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 1991 and then re-petitioned in 2003. In September 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the rabbits were not warranted for listing. The Service acknowledged the threat to pygmy rabbits from habitat loss and degradation, development, livestock grazing, conversion, and energy development. However, the agency said it did not have enough data to show that these threats rose to the level of extinction risk.

Now new occupancy surveys point to continuing population decline and low occupancy rates. The pace of habitat loss and degradation of the sagebrush habitat upon which the rabbit depends has accelerated to unsustainable levels.  Given the rabbit’s high dependency on sagebrush and perennial grasses, increasing loss of sagebrush habitat is a direct threat to the rabbit’s survival. Further, an emerging virus, the Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 or RHDV2, was first detected in pygmy rabbits in 2022 and poses a new serious threat to their survival. 

“As a sagebrush specialist, the pygmy rabbit relies on one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America,” said Joe Bushyhead, endangered species attorney with WildEarth Guardians. “Endangered Species Act listing offers the best and perhaps only chance to protect the rabbit’s rapidly vanishing habitat and stop its slide towards extinction.”


NBC10 Boston/State House News Service

Cape Cod Canal Reopens After Closing to Let Endangered Right Whales Move Through

Three endangered North Atlantic right whales were spotted in Cape Cod Canal on Sunday.

By Kaitlin McKinley Becker and Michael P. Norton, March 6, 2023

The Cape Cod Canal was closed from Sunday until Monday morning as several endangered North Atlantic right whales moved through the waterway.

The U.S. Coast Guard – Northeast announced Sunday afternoon that the US Army Corp of Engineers had closed the canal to all vessel traffic due to the presence of three right whales. Almost six hours later, the Coast Guard said the canal would remain closed overnight.

An Environmental Police spokesperson told the Boston Globe that the closure caused a backup of commercial vessels waiting to pass through the canal.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced at 9:30 a.m. that the canal had had reopened.

The fading North Atlantic right whale is protected under the Endangered Species Act. The whale has been in decline since 2010, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with the most recent published estimate of the population size in 2019 at 368 whales “with a strong male bias.”

Data from 2020 and 2021 “suggest the decline has continued and that fewer than 350 individuals remain.” NOAA attributed the decline to “high levels of human-caused mortality caused by entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes in both the U.S. and Canada.”

In January, federal officials invoked an emergency rule to ban lobster and crab trap and pot fishermen from working in a vast area of Massachusetts Bay over the next three months, citing threats to the endangered whale.

NOAA said on Jan. 31 that the emergency rule, which was also deployed in 2022, means that trap and pot fishermen fishing federal waters in an area known as the Massachusetts Restricted Area Wedge “must remove all trap/pot gear from this area, and may not reset trawls being actively fished, or set new trawls in this area for the period from February 1 – April 30, 2023.”

NOAA cited a “high likelihood that endangered right whales are present throughout this area and in adjoining waters during February through April” and said fishing in that area “poses a particularly high risk of mortality or serious injury from entanglement in fishing gear.”

The risk exists, officials said, when right whales are exiting Cape Cod Bay at the same time and place where fishermen are either fishing or staging their gear in preparation for the May 1 opening of federal waters in the Massachusetts Restricted Area. NOAA said it was implementing the rule “at the request of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”


Associated Press

Nations reach accord to protect marine life on high seas


WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time, United Nations members have agreed on a unified treaty to protect biodiversity in the high seas — nearly half the planet’s surface — concluding two weeks of talks in New York.

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea came into force in 1994, before marine biodiversity was a well-established concept.

An updated framework to protect marine life in the regions outside national boundary waters, known as the high seas, had been in discussions for more than 20 years, but previous efforts to reach an agreement had repeatedly stalled. The unified agreement treaty was reached late Saturday.

“We only really have two major global commons — the atmosphere and the oceans,” said Georgetown marine biologist Rebecca Helm. While the oceans may draw less attention, “protecting this half of earth’s surface is absolutely critical to the health of our planet.”

Now that long-awaited treaty text has been finalized, Nichola Clark, an oceans expert at the Pew Charitable Trusts who observed the talks in New York, said, “This is a once in a generation opportunity to protect the oceans — a major win for biodiversity.”

The treaty will create a new body to manage conservation of ocean life and establish marine protected areas in the high seas. And Clark said that’s critical to achieve the U.N. Biodiversity Conference’s recent pledge to protect 30% of the planet’s waters, as well as its land, for conservation.

The treaty also establishes ground rules for conducting environmental impact assessments for commercial activities in the oceans.

“It means all activities planned for the high seas need to be looked at, though not all will go through a full assessment,” said Jessica Battle, an oceans governance expert at the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

Many marine species — including dolphins, whales, sea turtles and many fish — make long annual migrations, crossing national borders and the high seas. Efforts to protect them — and human communities that rely on fishing or tourism related to marine life — have previously been hampered by a confusing patchwork of laws.

“This treaty will help to knit together the different regional treaties to be able to address threats and concerns across species’ ranges,” said Battle.

That protection also helps coastal biodiversity and economies, said Gladys Martínez de Lemos, executive director of the nonprofit Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense focusing on environmental issues across Latin America.

“Governments have taken an important step that strengthens the legal protection of two-thirds of the ocean and with it marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of coastal communities,” she said.

The question now is how well the ambitious treaty will be implemented.

The high seas have long suffered exploitation due to commercial fishing and mining, as well as pollution from chemicals and plastics. The new agreement is about “acknowledging that the ocean is not a limitless resource, and it requires global cooperation to use the ocean sustainably,” said Malin Pinsky, a biologist at Rutgers University.

(The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.)


The Pembrokeshire Herald (Milford Haven, Wales/UK)

Wales risks becoming loophole for ‘exploiting endangered species’ say campaigners

By Tom Sinclair, March 4, 2023

THE WELSH GOVERNMENT is being urged to support legislation at Westminster which would help end the abuse of wild animals across the world exploited to entertain British holidaymakers.

The Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill, which recently had an unopposed second reading in the Commons, would help end many endangered species including elephants, tigers, monkeys and dolphins being cruelly exploited as part of the tourism trade.

Elephant calves are deprived of food, water and sleep and then subjected to torture and beatings to force them to submit to giving rides to tourists and performing tricks. The Bill proposes a ban in the UK of the advertising and sale of practices abroad where animals are exploited, harmed and killed for financial gain.

The Bill requires legislative consent from the Welsh Assembly but the Welsh Government is refusing to support the Bill on the grounds it has not been given enough time to consider the draft law.

Unless the Welsh Government changes its approach, and supports the legislation, then either it will proceed through the parliamentary process but exclude cruel holidays advertised and sold from Wales, or the entire Bill risks being withdrawn.

Chief Executive of the charity, Save the Asian Elephants, Duncan McNair said: “It would be a tragedy if the Welsh Government jeopardised the entire future of the Bill by withholding support and also failed to legislate in Wales. At present no commitment has been made for either of these.

“There are well over 1,000 UK firms promoting these abhorrent activities abroad. If the Welsh Government doesn’t legislate alongside Westminster it risks becoming a loophole in the law, as tourists will simply book from Wales instead.”

In 2016 a British holiday maker was killed after being thrown from an elephant during a trek in Thailand.

The elephant was reportedly stabbed by its handler after it failed to respond to commands before rearing up and throwing off and crushing 36-year-old Gareth Crowe.

Prior to that in 2000 Helen Costigan’s sister Andrea Taylor was killed in a violent attack by a traumatised elephant, also in Thailand. Helen has since spoken of the shocking scenes which led to her sister’s death, yet still today 120 UK companies advertise this cruel and dangerous tourist attraction.

Helen Costigan supports the new legislation and says: “New law is long overdue to regulate an often greedy and heartless tourism industry, placing profits far above any concerns for animal welfare or human safety. I plead with the Welsh Government to support these measures in memory of Gareth Crowe and my own dear sister Andrea, taken from us so horrifically aged just 20.”

Duncan McNair added: “This Bill is a significant, long awaited and well-supported piece of legislation which is not only an important step towards protecting numerous animals from hideous cruelty, but can also prevent needless deaths such as Gareth’s and Andrea’s, both killed by animals driven to insanity by the cruelty they’d been subjected to.”

An Electoral Calculus poll carried out last year shows overwhelming support across every single UK Parliamentary constituency, including throughout Wales, for such a new law. Of those polled, 85% support a new law to ban advertising venues abroad where this type of cruelty occurs. Only 2% are opposed.

The Bill will go to Committee stage in the House of Commons on March 8.


University of Maryland, College Park

NewsWise, March 3, 2023

Case study of rare, endangered tortoise highlights conservation priorities for present, future World Wildlife Days

Researchers share ploughshare tortoise case study to show how wildlife trafficking networks could be better disrupted

Newswise —Though wildlife trafficking has been effectively disrupted since the first World Wildlife Day—established 50 years ago today via the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora—a newly published case study on one of the world’s rarest tortoise species, the ploughshare tortoise, highlights how much room for improvement still exists.

In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of the Sciences, University of Maryland Associate Professor Meredith Gore and her coauthors—Babson College’s Emily Griffin, Bistra Dilkina and Aaron Ferber from the University of Southern California, Michigan State University’s Stanley E. Griffis, the University of Alabama’s Burcu B. Keskin, and John Macdonald from Colorado State University—detail a 2018 effort to map ploughshare tortoises’ location within and around Soalala, Madagascar; nearby villages; known trafficking pathways and transit routes; and the amount of trafficking risk associated with each of those areas. The group of approximately 50 stakeholders also shared more qualitative information that might play a role in poachers’ trafficking process, such as paths of cultural and spiritual significance, tides’ influence on decision-making; and where poachers met to plan their activities.

This information was drawn onto a clear, plastic sheet that was laid across a color-based map of the region. That information was then digitized into a geographic information system, creating what the researchers’ called a “mess” that nevertheless revealed novel  information for the effective targeting of those ploughshare tortoise trafficking networks.

“Our science team used a cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral approach to think about, measure, and analyze data,” explains Gore. “Not only were we able to shift the data landscape to clarify how important water routes are to the resilience of the illicit supply chain, we were able to normalize technical spatial data with insights from traditionally marginalized voices—women.”

Gore and her co-authors argue that if a process like this were to be paired with the latest advancements in computational science, operations engineering, and supply chain management, together, researchers could dramatically disrupt wildlife trafficking networks, and thereby conserve more animals, like the ploughshare tortoise, who are already on the brink of extinction.

“As we celebrate World Wildlife Day, our recent work highlights the urgent need for interdisciplinary collaboration to address the complex global issue of wildlife trafficking,” says Bistra Dilkina, an associate professor of computer science and industrial and systems engineering at the University of Southern California. “I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with a trans-disciplinary team to synthesize a roadmap of how our different disciplines can work together to fight illegal wildlife trafficking and trade. In particular, I am excited to think deeply about the advantages that data-driven approaches in machine learning and optimization can bring to this important endeavor.”

Looking to the future, the researchers believe that with increased interdisciplinary collaborations, conservationists may one day be able to predict which path a trafficker will take, target areas where locals could undergo trainings and be empowered to play a part in preventing wildlife trafficking, better allocate limited resources to have the greatest interventional impact, and more. 

“It’s easy to reflect on the array of conservation accomplishments that have been made since World Wildlife Day was first celebrated,” says Gore. “Our hope is that interdisciplinary science will produce additional high-return investments for the conservation sector in the future, most notably by advancing knowledge about changes and shifts in patterns of wildlife trafficking networks in a changing environment.”


Center for Biological Diversity

Global Wildlife Trade Agreement Marks 50th Anniversary

50 Groups Call for Renewed Ambition at CITES to Halt Biodiversity Loss

WASHINGTON—(March 2, 2023)—Fifty organizations from around the world are urging an ambitious response to the extinction crisis as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species turns 50 years old on Friday.

Known as CITES, the treaty was approved by nations in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 1973. The convention regulates the global wildlife trade and is best known for the commercial ivory ban instituted in 1990 in response to the elephant poaching crisis.

Today’s letter to the CITES parties and CITES secretariat stresses the escalating role of exploitation, including trade, in driving species extinct. The groups’ letter calls for protecting wildlife through listings, robust science-based decision-making, and increased funding.

Championing CITES successes while detailing its failings, the letter also highlights the need for CITES to fulfill its mandate of international co-operation in protecting animals and plants against over-exploitation through international trade.

“CITES is one of the world’s most effective conservation treaties, but politics and profit-seeking are watering down its effectiveness,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Exploitation is a top driver of the extinction crisis, and CITES can shield animals and plants from its effects. But if we’re going to stop the fabric of life from unraveling, profits and politics have to take a back seat.”

CITES has 184 member countries and protects almost 40,000 species, and it was negotiated in parallel with the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which also turns 50 this year. In contrast to many international environmental agreements, CITES contains an enforcement mechanism allowing for sanctions for nations’ noncompliance with the convention.

“CITES has the punch we need to help save biodiversity and humankind, but CITES stakeholders need to take the gloves off and get ambitious about the fight ahead,” said Sanerib. “The window to fight extinction is closing but there’s still time to act. We got a glimmer of hope at the last CITES meeting when the global south helped lead the charge in regulating trade for around 500 species. Can CITES build on that momentum with a bold response to the biodiversity crisis?”

United Nations scientists have warned that the world stands to lose a million species if the international community continues with business as usual. Industrial activities — not evolutionary factors — are fueling species losses, with baseline extinction levels reaching 10 to 10,000 times the background rate. Mounting research documents the increasing threat of overexploitation of wildlife and the dire need to transition livelihoods from exploitation to restoration and research.


Traverse City Record-Eagle (Traverse City, MI)

Add 58, minus 36: DNR updates endangered species list

By Sally Barber Special to the Record-Eagle, March 2, 2023

TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan Department of Natural Resources wants to add 58 native species to the Michigan Endangered and Threatened Species List and delist 36, including 13 species which vanished since the last list update in 2009.

Listed species receive protections under state law enacted 49 years ago. Official classification provides conservation and management for listed Michigan mammals, fish, birds, insects, mussels, reptiles/amphibians, plants and mollusks.

Proposed changes bring the number of listed species to 407. DNR Endangered Species Specialist Jennifer Kleitch said endangered or threatened listing status, spotlights environmental conditions affecting Michiganders, as well as wildlife.

“Many of the rarest species are dependent on high quality natural systems that benefit all of us in Michigan by providing clean water and other benefits,” she said. “A decline in species found in those systems can indicate declines in the functioning of those systems which, in turn, can impact our quality of life.”

Experts throughout the state contributed to the required 10-year species review. But delayed by the pandemic, proposed changes are just now waiting for State Legislature approval. Kleitch said approval is expected this spring.

Proposed classifications, while drawing new attention to vulnerable populations, also mark the loss of 13 insect, mollusk, mussel and plant species, and reflects the success of decades of recovery efforts for others. The review signals positive directions for the trumpeter swan and Kirtland warbler. Reviews also determined lake sturgeon and piping plover populations holding steady.

The native (black-billed) trumpeter swan earns delisting in the updated list. Hunting wiped out trumpeters in Michigan, according to the DNR. Mute swans introduced in 1919 drove trumpeters from breeding territory, contributing to the trumpeter’s disappearance. Southwest Michigan’s Kellogg Bird Sanctuary restarted the population in the late 1980s with a few eggs from Alaska’s population.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore maintains a trumpeter swan monitoring program. Park wildlife biologist Vince Cavalieri reports four breeding pair within the park and an estimated 12 single adults.

“They’re gradually taking off on their own in the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula, spreading out from release locations and doing well in the state,” he said.

Sleeping Bear remains the primary Great Lakes piping plover breeding area. The shorebirds retain their endangered status in the new list. Habitat loss due to industrialization, and human encroachment led the species to the brink of extinction. Only 12 pair remained in Michigan by 1990.

In 2022, 71 pair existed within the Great Lakes states, of which 48 nested in Michigan. Of the 48 pair, 32 pair raised their chicks at Sleeping Bear where intensive conservation measures offer protection.

“Despite some increases in population, and improvement overall in numbers, they’re still at a point they need endangered status,” Cavalieri said.

Kirtland warblers are newly downlisted from endangered to threatened. DNR reports Michigan’s logging boom of the 1880s destroyed the species’ nesting habitat, leading to the songbird’s near disappearance. Partnerships between the DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and the Kirtland Warbler Conservation Team support their comeback.

“Nearly the entire breeding population resides in Michigan and is largely reliant on continued management and conservations efforts,” Kleitch said. “

Lake sturgeon, the oldest living fish species in the Great Lakes, retain a threatened status. The ancient and culturally significant species reaches on average six feet in length and a weight of 200 pounds. DNR research biologist Edward Baker said lake sturgeon populations continue to hover at one percent of their historic numbers despite two decades of binational, federal, multi-state and tribal recovery programs.

Baker said hydroelectric dams which restrict sturgeon access to spawning areas are the greatest modern threat to the species, while stocking is the most effective tool in reestablishing a thriving population.

“There’s no evidence that they’re continuing to decline,” he said. “All data shows lake sturgeon around the Great Lakes are starting to expand their range.”

Trillium blooms blanket forest floors heralding spring across northern Michigan. According to the U.S. Forest Service, 38 trillium species of the wild orchid exists. While white trillium thrives in northern woodlands, three species made Michigan’s new list. Painted trillium is identified as endangered and snow trillium as threatened. Prairie trillium is delisted.

Of the three mammals added, all are bats. The cave-dwelling northern long-eared, tri-colored and little brown bat each receive threatened status due to the risk of the deadly white-nose syndrome emerging among hibernating bats. As many as 20,000 bats hibernate at the hydroelectric Tippy Dam on the Manistee River in Manistee County, according to dam owner Consumers Energy.

It’s illegal to take, possess, transport, sell or buy endangered or threatened species. Listing offers enforcement authority with penalties including steep fines and possible jail time.



More Than 90 Scientists Write Open Letter Encouraging Study of Geoengineering to Cool Planet

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, March 1, 2023

More than 90 scientists from around the world have written an open letter recommending that research be done on the potential of increasing solar radiation modification (SRM) — the reflection of sunlight away from Earth’s atmosphere, sometimes referred to as “solar geoengineering” — in order to slow planetary warming and lessen climate impacts.

The scientists are not endorsing the approach, CNBC reported, as it has the potential for substantial negative effects, such as altering the planet’s systems in unforeseen ways, and would also not address the core issue of climate change: rising fossil fuel emissions and their negative impacts on the climate.

“Climate change is causing devastating impacts on communities and ecosystems around the world, posing grave threats to public health, economic security, and global stability. Natural systems are approaching thresholds for catastrophic changes with the potential to accelerate climate change and impacts beyond humans’ ability to adapt,” the letter states.

The letter’s signatories, who come from institutions like NASA, Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, point out that the only way to limit global warming permanently is to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reported CNBC.

“While reducing emissions is crucial, no level of reduction undertaken now can reverse the warming effect of past and present greenhouse gas emissions. The Earth is projected to continue to warm for several decades in all of the climate change scenarios considered by the UN’s IPCC,” the letter says.

The scientists do not believe the Paris agreement goal of keeping global heating to “well below” two degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels — ideally below 1.5 degrees — will be met.

“Even with aggressive action to reduce GHG emissions it is increasingly unlikely that climate warming will remain below 1.5-2°C in the near term. This is because reversing current warming trends will require a significant reduction in the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, which significantly lag behind reductions in emissions due to their long atmospheric lifetime,” the letter states.

Some air pollution particles released by humans have been working to counteract global heating by mixing with clouds and reflecting sunlight away from the planet.

“In contrast to greenhouse gases, another category of emissions from human activities, particulate (aerosol) emissions, can act to cool climate. Aerosols cool climate by scattering sunlight and, when they mix into clouds can increase cloud reflectivity and lifetime,” the letter states.

The scientists go on to say it is estimated that human discharged aerosols are currently offsetting about one-third of the planetary warming from greenhouse gasses.

As greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase, particulate air pollution regulations have caused aerosol emissions to decrease.

“Because the lifetime of aerosols in the atmosphere is less than a week, reductions in aerosol emissions rapidly reduce this source of climate cooling. As such, reductions in aerosol emissions in the coming few decades will rapidly ‘unmask’ a significant but very uncertain amount of climate warming,” the scientists wrote in the letter.

Technologies to remove atmospheric carbon dioxide are necessary to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, but are too expensive and difficult to implement under the current climate system, the scientists said.

“Based on analyses of a broad range of feasible greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions scenarios, recent scientific assessments indicate that holding near-term climate warming to below 1.5°C is unlikely without significant carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere. There are substantial environmental, technical, and cost challenges in using carbon dioxide removal (CDR) at the scale needed to significantly reduce global warming,” the scientists wrote. “While using CDR to remain below 1.5°C may be physically possible, these challenges and the slow response of the climate system make it unlikely that CDR could be implemented rapidly enough or at sufficient scale to entirely avoid dangerous levels of climate warming in the near term.”

The scientists say it is crucial to study these climate adaptation technologies now — using available methods such as small-scale field experiments, analytical studies, computer model simulations and observations — before the situation gets worse.

“While we fully support research into SRM approaches, this does not mean we support the use of SRM. Uncertainties in how SRM implementation would play out in the climate system are presently too large to support implementation… Indeed, we support a rigorous, rapid scientific assessment of the feasibility and impacts of SRM approaches specifically because such knowledge is a critical component of making effective and ethical decisions about SRM implementation,” the scientists said.

They added that not enough is currently known about SRM for it to be used in a “climate credit system.”

“[S]ince SRM does not address the cause of climate change, nor all of the effects of increased greenhouse gas concentrations, it likely will never be an appropriate candidate for an open market system of credits and independent actors,” the scientists wrote in the letter.

The scientists said climate risk must be assessed independently, with and without SRM, so that research findings are shielded from the influence of business interests, politics and pressure from the public.

“Where possible, governments, philanthropists and the scientific community must seek ways to expand scientific capacity for Global South researchers to both engage in and direct research on SRM,” the scientists wrote.

But testing ways to manipulate the climate could hamper efforts to develop regulations for the alternative methods, as well as distract from the necessary rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, said Lili Fuhr, deputy director of the Center for International Environmental Law’s Climate & Energy Program, as Inside Climate News reported. “A United Nations advisory committee to the Human Rights Council is currently working on a report on geoengineering from a human rights perspective. And we hear that some governments are preparing a potential resolution in the U.N. General Assembly on solar geoengineering,” Fuhr said, as reported by Inside Climate News.


Center for Biological Diversity

Frecklebelly Madtom Receives Endangered Species Protections in Georgia, Tennessee

Threatened Listing Includes Protected River Habitat But Logging Still Allowed

ATLANTA—(March 1, 2023)—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued a final rule that protects a population of frecklebelly madtom in the Upper Coosa River of Georgia and Tennessee as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The agency also proposed to designate 134 miles of the Etowah and Conasauga rivers as protected critical habitat, but the proposal would allow logging to continue.

Today’s decision comes in response to a 2010 petition and 2015 agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity and allies seeking protection for the imperiled fish.

“These cool little catfish are finally getting the Endangered Species Act protections they urgently need,” said Will Harlan, a scientist at the Center. “Protecting the frecklebelly madtom as threatened and setting aside critical habitat is a big win for these unique fish, but allowing logging to continue will muddy and clog the rivers they need to survive.”

The frecklebelly madtom has declined across its entire range in the Southeast, but the Service listed only the population found in the Upper Coosa watershed, where dams and pollution from agriculture and development are driving the species towards extinction. The madtom is also threatened by climate change, which is expected to increase the frequency and severity of droughts in the Southeast.

The Southeast’s rivers and streams are a hotspot of biological diversity, harboring 493 fishes — accounting for 62% of U.S fish species — and at least 269 mussels or 91% of all U.S. mussel species. The Coosa River is the site of the greatest modern extinction event in North America: 36 species were eliminated following construction of a series of dams. Overall, the Mobile Basin is home to half of all North American species that have gone extinct since European settlement.


The frecklebelly madtom is a small, stout catfish with a speckled stomach and four black saddles across its back. Growing to 4 inches in length, the fish occurs in medium to large rivers with clean gravel bottoms in both the Pearl River and Mobile River Basins of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Both males and females construct nest cavities under rocks, logs, mussel shells or even bottles, cans or boards by moving substrate with their heads or mouths. Like all catfish, they have barbels around the mouth that act as sensory organs. They may go weeks without eating to guard their nests. Frecklebelly madtoms use stream vegetation to avoid predators. Dams and pollution have destroyed much of the stream vegetation in their remaining rivers.


Brownfield Ag News (Jefferson City, MO)


February 28, 2023 By Larry Lee

Another effort is being made in the U.S. House to remove the gray wolf from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife.

House Resolution 764 is nearly identical to a bill that failed to move through the Democrat-controlled House in 2020, except this time, the bill also has language saying if passed, the final rule from the Secretary of the Interior shall not be subject to judicial review.  U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White from northern California restored protections for the wolf in most of the U.S. after the Interior Secretary removed wolves from the endangered species list.

The new bill has support from 23 members of Congress so far, including Jack Bergman from Michigan, Pete Stauber, and Michelle Fischbach from Minnesota, and Tom Tiffany, Glenn Grothman, Derrick Van Orden, and Bryan Steil from Wisconsin. The bill has been introduced and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources for review.


Oregon Public Broadcasting

Endangered Mexican wolf population makes strides in US

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN (Associated Press), Albuquerque, N.M. Feb. 28, 2023

The number of endangered Mexican gray wolves roaming the southwestern U.S. has topped 200 for the first time since reintroduction efforts began more than two decades ago.

Endangered Mexican gray wolves are making more strides, as more breeding pairs and pups have been documented since reintroduction efforts began in the southwestern U.S. more than two decades ago, federal wildlife managers said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the results of its annual survey in New Mexico and Arizona, saying this is the first time the population has topped 200 and the seventh straight year that the numbers have trended upward.

In all, at least 241 of the predators were counted, marking a nearly 23% increase over the previous year and a doubling of the population since 2017.

Since the first wolf release in 1998, the program has had its share of fits and starts due to illegal killings, a lack of genetic diversity and legal wrangling over management.

“To go from zero wild Mexican wolves at the start to 241 today is truly remarkable,” Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator Brady McGee said in a statement.

The annual count started in November, with members of the interagency field team conducting ground and aerial surveys of a rugged forested area along the Arizona-New Mexico line. Aside from tracking radio-collared wolves, they used remote cameras and collected scat to estimate the population.

The work is done over the winter when the population is most stable.

It’s estimated that thousands of Mexican wolves once roamed from central Mexico to New Mexico, southern Arizona and Texas. Predator eradication programs began in the late 1800s and within several decades, the wolves were all but eliminated from the wild.

The rarest subspecies of the gray wolf in North America, Mexican wolves were listed as endangered in the 1970s and a U.S.-Mexico captive breeding program was started with the seven remaining wolves in existence.

Wolf-livestock conflicts have been a major challenge of the reintroduction program over the past two decades, with ranchers saying the killing of livestock by wolves remains a threat to their livelihood despite efforts by wildlife managers to scare the wolves away and reimburse some of the losses.

Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department Mexican Wolf Coordinator, said recovery for any endangered species is difficult and this has proven to be the case for the Mexican wolf. Still, he described growth over the last year as stunning.

“By every possible measure, progress was made,” he said, pointing to 31 breeding pairs that produced 121 pups, about two-thirds of which survived to the time of the count. The survival rate for pups in their first year is typically around 50%.

The field team was able to capture and collar 21 wolves during the survey. Officials said the additional collars will help them gain a better understanding of wolf activity and help with on-the-ground management.

The cross-fostering of captive-bred pups with packs in the wild also has added to the population and has helped to address concerns about genetic diversity. This year, two of the 11 pups that were fostered survived.

Officials also documented the lowest annual total of wolf deaths since 2017 — six in Arizona and six in New Mexico for 2022. In 2020, 29 wolves were reported dead and another 25 the following year.

Environmental groups celebrated the numbers but cautioned on Tuesday that more work needs to be done to improve genetics among the wild population and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to allow wolves to roam beyond what they call arbitrary boundaries that have been established for the recovery area.

Citing low survival rates for cross-fostered pups, the groups have been pushing for more family groups — adult wolves with pups — to be released into the wild.


United Nations

Press Release, 28 FEBRUARY 2023

Stop War on Nature, Secretary-General Urges in World Wildlife Day Message, Urging Bold Action to Protect Habitats, End Fossil-Fuel Pollution

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for World Wildlife Day, observed on 3 March:

“On World Wildlife Day, we reflect on our responsibility to protect the magnificent diversity of life on our planet.  And we recognize our abject failure.

Human activities are laying waste to once-thriving forests, jungles, farmland, oceans, rivers, seas and lakes.  One million species teeter on the brink of extinction due to habitat destruction, fossil-fuel pollution and the worsening climate crisis.  We must end this war on nature.  The good news is that we have the tools, the knowledge and the solutions.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which has helped protect thousands of plants and animals.  And last year’s agreement on the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework marked an important step towards putting our planet on a path to healing.

As this year’s theme — “Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation” — highlights, we need to work across Governments, civil society and the private sector to turn commitment into action.  And we need much bolder actions now to cut emissions, accelerate renewables and build climate resilience.  Throughout, we need to place the voices of local communities and indigenous people — our world’s most effective guardians of biodiversity — front and centre.

Today and every day, let us all do our part to preserve natural habitats and build a thriving future for all living beings.”



Scientists Identify Plastic as New Threat to Andean Condors in Protected Areas

By: Paige Bennett, February 27, 2023

Plastic is everywhere and now, scientists have confirmed plastic as a new threat to Andean condors even in protected areas of Peru. Research revealed high amounts of plastic in the diets and the regurgitated pellets of these birds.

Researchers were studying Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) feeding interactions in Peru when they noticed that samples from the birds contained plastics. Even more alarming is that they found the plastic in the birds’ diets repeatedly.

“We were very surprised to find plastic in so many samples,” Victor Gamarra-Toledo, an ornithology researcher at the Natural History Museum of Peru’s National University of San Agustín de Arequipa, told Mongabay. “When we finished our field work, we began looking at the birds’ pellets — regurgitated balls that are made up of undigested matter — and we were surprised to find an excessive amount of plastic.”

Although other studies have observed plastic consumption of Andean condors in other regions, this time researchers were finding plastic in the diets of birds in protected areas. The studied birds were located in the San Fernando National Reserve along the coast and in Pampa Galeras Barbara D’Achille National Reserve of the Andes.

The team found plastic in all dietary samples collected in the coastal region and in 85% of samples collected from the Andean region. In samples collected in the coastal area, scientists primarily found microplastics. In the Andean region, samples included plastics of all sizes, from microplastics to plastic bags. They recently published the findings in the journal Environmental Pollution.

“This worries us even more, because condors are at the top of the food chain,” Gamarra-Toledo said. “Finding evidence that they are contaminated with plastic means that the links below the condor are also contaminated.”

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Red List), the Andean condor species is Vulnerable, with only 6,700 mature individuals remaining. The species may already be extinct in Venezuela.

The researchers predicted that the birds were possibly consuming plastics and microplastics up through the food chain, with their prey first eating the plastics. Alternatively, the Andean condors could be directly consuming plastic on thrown-out foods, for which they could be scavenging.

“We have found plastic in the stomachs of animals consumed by the condor, including masks used during the pandemic, as well as disposable plates,” Gamarra-Toledo told Mongabay. “This shows that the transfer of plastics can occur through direct consumption in the food chain.”

Plastic hasn’t typically been considered a concern for Andean condors, especially those in protected regions. But the study authors urged for immediate action to reduce plastic pollution. IUCN reported the common threats to Andean condors as lead poisoning, deliberate poisoning of carcasses that the birds would scavenge and other human activity meant to deliberately kill members of the species.


Center for Biological Diversity

Rare Milkweed Gains Endangered Species Protection, Critical Habitat

Plant Is Crucial for Migratory Monarch Butterflies in South Texas, Mexico

RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas—(February 27, 2023)—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the prostrate milkweed as endangered. Only 24 populations of the plant survive, in south Texas and northern Mexico, where they serve as an important food source for pollinators like bees and imperiled monarch butterflies.

The Service also protected 661 acres of critical habitat for the plant in eight south Texas units in Zapata and Starr counties. Recent border-wall construction degraded another 20 acres of habitat that were proposed for protection last year to the point that they were unsuitable for the plant and withdrawn from designation. All populations of the milkweed in the United States are within nine miles of the border, making it one of hundreds of species threatened by wall construction.

“Protecting prostrate milkweed is a big deal for the monarch butterflies who lay their eggs on these plants as they fly through Texas after spending the winter in Mexico,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For the sake of the milkweed and all the pollinators who rely on it, it’s a relief that this important native plant finally has the safeguards of the Endangered Species Act.”

Construction and maintenance for roads, utilities, and the oil and gas industry also destroy the prostrate milkweed, and additional border-wall construction on the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge threatens to uproot more of them. These activities and livestock grazing foster the spread of invasive buffelgrass, which is planted as livestock forage. Buffelgrass displaces native plants and is very difficult to control.

Under natural conditions the prostrate milkweed is thought to be able to persist at low densities. It produces so much nectar that far-flying pollinating insects such as tarantula hawks and large bees are so juiced up after visiting it that they can fly farther and pollinate other relatively distant prostrate milkweed populations. But as prostrate milkweed numbers and densities have declined, the plant is also imperiled by lower reproductive success and loss of genetic diversity.

Just 24 populations of prostrate milkweed remain in Starr and Zapata counties in Texas and in Tamaulipas and eastern Nuevo León in Mexico. Nineteen of those populations are rated in low condition, the remaining five are in moderate condition and none are in high condition — indicating acute imperilment.

The Endangered Species Act has been successful in keeping more than 99% of species under its protection from going extinct. But long delays in adding animal and plant species to the endangered list have heightened the perils and made recovery more difficult and expensive. For example, the Service must decide by the end of 2024 whether to protect monarch butterflies as threatened, 10 years after a petition seeking to protect them under the Endangered Species Act was filed.

The prostrate milkweed listing comes in response to a Center lawsuit to gain final decisions on protection for 241 plant and animal species threatened with extinction, including the prostrate milkweed and more than 35 others in Texas. The prostrate milkweed was the subject of a 2007 protection petition by WildEarth Guardians.

The prostrate milkweed’s low and sprawling leaves and stem wilt during droughts. But the plant’s subterranean tuber stays alive and after soaking up moisture from occasional tropical storms sends up stalks and pink and yellow flowers.



Endangered Bahamas bird on edge of extinction following hurricane

February 26, 2023

The endangered Bahama Warbler may be surviving on just one island following Hurricane Dorian’s devastation in 2019, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia.

A new study published in Bird Conservation International shows the bird’s distribution and ecology on Grand Bahama before the hurricane struck. But the team says that the warbler may now only survive on neighbouring Abaco island, after hurricane Dorian destroyed the bird’s forest habitat on Grand Bahama.

The research comes from the same team that found what is thought to have been the last living Bahama Nuthatch, previously thought to have been extinct.

The fieldwork was conducted by two students on UEA’s Masters in Applied Ecology and Conservation, David Pereira and Matthew Gardner, who spent three months surveying the island for the Bahama Warbler and Bahama Nuthatch.

Their supervisor Prof Diana Bell, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said, “Although more than half the endemic birds of the Bahamas are judged in danger of global extinction, there has been little international engagement to help remedy the situation.”

The Bahama Warbler is a little grey and yellow bird with a long bill and is only found on the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco in the Bahamas.

But it is now classed as an endangered species—largely because its pine forest habitat has been seriously affected by urban development, human-induced fires, fly-tipping, logging and increased strength and frequency of hurricanes.

The team wanted to assess the birds’ conservation status and determine its habitat requirements after a Category 4 Hurricane (Matthew) hit the island in 2016. They also wanted to find out more about its habitat preferences for conservation purposes.

Pereira and Gardner searched for the little bird across 464 pine forest locations in Grand Bahama. They played recorded warbler songs to attract the birds and also surveyed the habitat at each location, paying close attention to habitat damaged by hurricanes and fires.

They found a total of 327 warblers present in 209 of the 464 points surveyed. A total of 71 percent of their sightings were in forests in the centre of the island, and 29 percent were in the East.

Pereira said, “We found that the warblers were more likely to be present in sites with fewer needleless mature trees and some burnt vegetation. They seem to prefer living among taller, more mature thatch palms. This is likely because these trees are capable of surviving forest fires and are also home to insects that warblers feed on.

“They also found that the species are quite adaptable, particularly when it comes to areas that have been affected by fire. This is probably because they can forage on tree trunks and use their bills to get under burnt peeling bark.”

Their co-supervisor Prof. Nigel Collar, from BirdLife International, said, “We assume that Hurricane Matthew, which struck Grand Bahama only 18 months before our 2018 survey began, killed a significant proportion of the Bahama Warblers on the island. And it is possible that our findings on the bird’s preferences largely reflect the habitat that provided the best shelter.”

Fifteen months after the fieldwork ended, Hurricane Dorian devastated Grand Bahama with winds of 295 km per hour for over 24 hours, creating such human misery and economic damage that three years later the situation of the island’s wildlife remains unclear.

Gardner said, “It is possible that Grand Bahama’s entire population of Bahama Warblers was wiped out, but we know that the only other population of the species, on Abaco, has survived in the south of the island, where much of the forest remained standing.”

“We hope that our ecological insights will help conservation management on Abaco, but both islands now need to be surveyed,” added Prof. Bell.

This project was led by the University of East Anglia and BirdLife International in collaboration with the University of Chester.



Laguna Beach Bans Balloons to Protect Marine Life and Help Prevent Wildfires

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, February 24, 2023

The Laguna Beach, California, city council has voted to ban the sale and public use of balloons — inflated with helium or not — in order to stop a major source of marine trash and reduce the risk of wildfires. Starting next year, all balloons in the community of 23,000 will be prohibited from being used on public property or at city events, with fines of up to $500 for violators.

CEO of nonprofit Surfrider Foundation Chad Nelsen said he sees a trend to get rid of balloons that cause entanglements with turtles and other marine creatures, similar to the phasing out of single-use plastic bags, reported The Associated Press.

 “We’re chipping away at all these things we find and trying to clean up the ocean one item at a time,” Nelsen said, as The Associated Press reported.

Other parts of the country have already imposed restrictions on balloons. In 2021, Virginia and Maryland banned their intentional release, and Hawaii did the same last year, reported The Guardian.

“Even the balloon advocates and balloon industry was not opposed to banning them on the beach,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen, as the Washington Examiner reported.

Experts say that, as people become more aware of the dangers balloons pose to the environment, balloon bans are likely to increase, reported The Guardian.

Ocean Conservancy’s Associate Director of U.S. Plastics Policy Anja Brandon says cities on the coast are at the forefront of balloon bans because the effects of balloons on the environment are right in front of them, and in many places they pay for the cleanup through taxpayer dollars.

It’s not just balloons themselves that are the problem, it’s also the strings attached to them, which can cause entanglements and are dangerous when ingested by seabirds and other marine life.

“Entanglement can be deadly and devastating, especially for threatened and endangered species, such as the Guadalupe fur seal and Hawaiian monk seal, both of which suffer from dangerously high levels of entanglement in the wild,” said Adam Ratner, Associate Director of Conservation Education at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, as The Guardian reported.

For seabirds, balloons are the most deadly type of marine debris. Latex balloons are 32 times more likely to be fatal to seabirds when ingested than hard plastic.

“This is because latex balloons are made from a soft, malleable material that can easily conform to a bird’s stomach cavity or digestive tract, causing obstruction, starvation, and death,” said geospatial analyst at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management Lara O’Brien, as reported by The Guardian.

It’s important to remember that things don’t break down as quickly or even at all in the ocean as they do in the soil, said doctoral researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Kara Wiggin.

And balloons can take decades or even longer to break down if they do, meaning they are never safe, O’Brien said.

“Plastic pollution anywhere impacts the ocean everywhere,” Brandon said, as reported by The Guardian. “We just have one water cycle.”


The Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian animals back from the brink of extinction

Miki Perkins, February 22, 2023

Australia’s threatened animals live under constant pressure on all sides, vulnerable to feral species such as cats and foxes, the human destruction of their habitat, soaring levels of plastic pollution, and a rapidly warming climate.

But sometimes they also make a recovery. Twenty-nine Australian animal species – 15 mammals, four frogs, eight birds, one reptile and one fish – have pulled back from the brink of extinction to the extent they no longer meet the criteria for being listed as threatened, according to research published in the journal of Biological Conservation.

They include well-loved animals such as humpback whales, Murray cod and cassowary, and lesser-known species including the burrowing bettong and Flinders Ranges worm-lizard.

While these animals represent less than 10 per cent of Australia’s threatened wildlife, the group of highly regarded scientists behind the research says each species recovery should be celebrated, and provide lessons on the factors underpinning their success.

“It’s so easy to be depressed by the collapse of nature around us and think there’s nothing we can do, when in fact there are strategies that work – we can contribute to recovery,” says lead author Professor John Woinarski, of Charles Darwin University, who is also a member of the newly formed Biodiversity Council.

Woinarski and four other conservation scientists reviewed all listings of Australian threatened animal species and used available evidence about their conservation status to assess whether they still met threatened species eligibility criteria.

They focused solely on threatened animals because the status of most of Australia’s listed threatened plant species has not been subject to recent review.

Under Australia’s environment laws, the conservation status of threatened species is not required to be subject to formal periodic review. This contrasts with the United States, where the government must review the status and trend of every threatened species every five years.

The researchers found there were a few different pathways to recovery, and most were the result of long-term strategic management.

There has been a major increase in humpback whale numbers since commercial harvesting was banned. The Murray cod has benefited from decades of fishing regulation, captive breeding and translocation, while the southern cassowary’s recovery is due to extensive reservation of land and legislation that successfully halted habitat loss.

All other cases of recovery were due to the effective control of invasive animal species, particularly foxes and cats. On Macquarie Island, the eradication of introduced cats, rabbits and rodents between 2006 and 2014 led to a reversal of previously declining populations of many breeding seabirds, including the blue petrel and black-browed albatross.

Mammals had the best rate of recovery because the pests causing their decline, largely cats and foxes, could be controlled at a local level, and they could be relocated to island or fenced areas.

“There are many cases of local animals going down the gurgler until they are reintroduced into fenced areas,” Woinarski said.

Threatened species affected by wide-scale land clearing, forestry, climate change and changed fire regimes had not recovered, the researchers found. “Australia is not managing those threats adequately yet, and they represent formidable challenges,” the paper notes.

Much of the world’s biodiversity is in decline. Globally, cases of recovery have been recognised, but in most cases, threatened species are not recovering, and Australia is typical of this global trend.

A far larger number of listed animal species have had their listing upgraded (64 species) than downgraded (10) since the establishment of Australia’s national environmental legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), in 2000.

“This tendency for a lack of recovery or ongoing decline for listed threatened species represents a significant conservation failure,” the authors write.

At least five animal species listed as threatened under the act have become extinct after they were listed, including the Christmas Island pipistrelle, a small insectivorous bat, and the small Bramble Cay melomys, a native rat.


Oregon Public Broadcasting

Federal agency proposes California spotted owl protection

By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ (Associated Press), San Francisco, Feb. 22, 2023

Federal wildlife officials on Wednesday announced a proposal to classify one of two dwindling California spotted owl populations as endangered after a lawsuit by conservation groups required the government to reassess a Trump administration decision not to protect the brown and white birds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that California spotted owls that have their habitats in coastal and Southern California be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

That population “does not have a strong ability to withstand normal variations in environmental conditions, persist through catastrophic events, or adapt to new environmental conditions throughout its range,” which led the agency to propose listing it as endangered, wildlife officials said.

The other California spotted owl population, which lives in Sierra Nevada forests in California and western Nevada, would be classified as threatened, the agency said.

The habitat of the medium-sized brown owl with white spots on its head and chest and a barred tail is under serious threat from current logging practices and climate change, including increased drought, disease and more extreme wildfires.

Most California spotted owls live on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

How much the population has declined since conservation groups started their effort to protect it more than 20 years ago is unclear.

The only available demographic data on spotted owls living in coastal and Southern California was collected in San Bernardino National Forest and shows a decline of 9%, the federal wildlife service said.

The Sierra Nevada population shows declines ranging from 50% to 31% percent in some areas, the agency said.

The federal agency’s decision follows an agreement reached in November between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several conservation groups that sued the federal agency in 2020 over its decision not to protect the California spotted owl population.

Justin Augustine, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that sued, applauded the agency’s decision and said he was happy to see the California spotted owls could finally get the safeguards they need.

Augustine said he planned to use the 60-day public comment period to push for more protections for the California spotted population in the Sierra Nevada.

“One of the things I’ll be addressing is the issue of how to make sure that (Sierra Nevada) spotted owls are actually protected under their threatened status rather than potentially allowing some logging to occur that would be harmful,” he said.

The California spotted owl is one of three spotted owl subspecies and the last to be protected under the Endangered Species Act, Augustine said.

The other two subspecies are the northern spotted owl and the Mexican spotted owl.

The northern spotted owl habitat is in Oregon, Washington state and Northern California. The tiny owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990, sparking an intense battle over logging in the region. In 2020, the Trump Administration refused to upgrade it to endangered status despite losing nearly 4% of its population annually.

The Mexican spotted owl was first listed as threatened in the U.S. in 1993. It is found in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, parts of West Texas and Mexico.

The species is in danger of extinction due to loss of habitat to logging, development, mining and wildfires.


Washington State/Recreation & Conservation Office

New Report Says Salmon Still Struggling

February 21, 2023

OLYMPIA–A new report released by the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office shows that salmon in Washington still are struggling and face increasing difficulty brought on by climate change and other challenges.

Of the 14 population groups of salmon and steelhead in Washington listed as at-risk of extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, 10 are in crisis or falling further from recovery goals, according to the State of Salmon in Watersheds report and website.

“Salmon need our help, now,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Salmon are essential to our identity, ecosystems and economy. We can’t wait to save them–we have to invest in their recovery right away by restoring habitats and doing everything possible to repel threats to their survival.”

The biennial report and accompanying website note salmon are facing an increasing number of challenges that are being exacerbated by climate change. Those challenges include habitat loss, stormwater pollution, stream temperature, predation and barriers to migration.

“Salmon face hazards at every phase of their lives,” said Erik Neatherlin, director of the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office. “Wetter winters and more flooding brought on by climate change, combined with limited habitat for young salmon to eat and grow, are flushing young fish out of their gravel nests before they are big enough to survive. As they travel to the ocean, they face polluted waters, barriers to migration, food web issues and increased predators from birds to fish. In the ocean, global and regional shifts in ocean temperature and acidity is interfering with their ability to find food and avoid predators. On their way home from the ocean, they are met with even more barriers to survival including hotter streams, risk of disease, blocked rivers and sea lions and seals trying to eat them. That is why it requires all of us to work together to give salmon any chance of survival.”

Washington salmon populations have been declining for generations. As Washington grew, many of the places salmon live were altered or destroyed. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon in the Pacific Northwest as endangered. By the end of that decade, salmon and steelhead and bull trout populations were listed as threatened or endangered in three-quarters of the state.

The report details the challenges faced by salmon caused by climate change, habitat degradation, blocked migration routes, hydropower facilities, hatcheries, fishing and predation by other wildlife. There are, however, some bright spots in the report.

“We have some places where salmon have been growing in numbers and nearing recovery, such as the summer chum in Hood Canal and the fall Chinook in the Snake River,” Neatherlin said. “We also have seen both state and federal funding increase significantly for salmon recovery in the past year. That influx in money will help us start larger recovery projects and take bigger steps forward.”

An example of those proposed projects is the Yakima County Flood Control Zone District’s plan to setback levees on the Yakima River. The work will reactivate the Yakima River floodplain to reduce the height and speed of the river and provide more back channels where salmon can spawn, rear and migrate. Another is the work of the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, in partnership with state and federal agencies, to restore the Duckabush estuary on the western shore of Hood Canal. The project proposes to move U.S. Route 101 onto an estuary-spanning bridge, allowing the river to reconnect to its floodplain and wetlands, expanding habitat for salmon.

In addition, the report notes that since 2005, 3,750 barriers to fish passage have been corrected, more than 4,730 miles of stream have been made accessible to salmon and more than 26,000 acres of land along waterways, estuaries and near-shore areas hosted restoration projects. “There is a lot of incredible work being done to recover salmon across the state,” Neatherlin said. “To get abundant salmon populations will require us to remove barriers, discard outdated preconceptions, listen to each other and elevate our shared values. I am confident Washingtonians will rise to the challenge.”



Deep-Sea Mining Could Harm Whales and Dolphins, Too

By: Olivia Rosane, February 21, 2023

Blue whales are the largest animals on Earth, but that didn’t save them when commercial whaling wiped out as much as 97 percent of their numbers. Today, the aquatic giants are still considered Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, and while their numbers are increasing, they still face threats including vessel strikes and the climate crisis. Now, a new threat may be looming on the horizon: deep-sea mining.

Blue whales are one of the 22 to 30 species of cetaceans — the order that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises — that have been documented in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a region in the Pacific Ocean where testing for deep-sea mining has already begun. That’s one of the findings from a Greenpeace Research Laboratories and University of Exeter led study published in Frontiers in Marine Science this month, which researchers believe is the first to look at how deep-sea mining might impact cetaceans.

“Our primary finding is we don’t know how important these habitats are for these species, we don’t know which species are really using them. And then also, [on] the flip side, we don’t know so much about what the effects of mining might be in future,” study co-author and lecturer in ecology at the University of Exeter Dr. Kirsten Thompson told EcoWatch in an interview.

The Precautionary Principle

The new paper is the fourth in a series of studies Thompson has helped author that turn a critical look at deep-sea mining, the term for removing mineral deposits from the ocean floor below around 656 feet. The first two, published in 2018, focused on impacts to little understood deep-sea ecosystems and difficulties with governing the process. The third, published in 2021, challenged the notion that mining the seabed is necessary to secure enough of certain types of metals and minerals required for the renewable energy transition. Most of the environmental work on deep-sea mining to date has focused on the “irreversible damage” it could do to vulnerable seafloor ecosystems, but the new paper suggests that larger and more mobile marine animals like whales and dolphins are unlikely to remain unscathed.

“Here’s another species group that is facing a huge number of stresses from other human activities and other changes to the oceans and has also, for some species, still not recovered from centuries of exploitation,” Thompson said.

While marine mammals in general are better studied than deep-sea biodiversity — only around a fifth of marine species have even been described by scientists — those studies typically occur close to shore or to islands. There is much that researchers don’t know about how cetaceans interact with the open ocean areas that would be the focus of mining. The CCZ, for example, is an approximately 11,650,000 square kilometer (4,498,090 square mile) stretch of ocean between Mexico and Hawaii with an average depth of 5,500 meters (approximately 18,045 feet), where 17 exploratory mining licenses have already been granted. Using data from the Ocean Biodiversity Information System-Spatial Ecological Analysis of Megavertebrate Population (OBIS-Seamaps), the researchers were able to map where cetacean sightings overlapped with the CCZ. They found that it provided habitat for several species including blue whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, minke whales, beaked whales, Risso’s dolphins and dwarf and pygmy sperm whales.

“Although more survey data are needed to determine temporal and spatial use of the CCZ by cetaceans, available data clearly confirm the presence of the aforementioned species in the region,” the study authors wrote.

How might deep-sea mining in the CCZ harm the whales and dolphins that pass through?

“I think primarily something that sticks out is that it’s an industry that’s likely to emit quite a lot of noise, and for certain species that is a real problem,” Thompson said.

Mining would likely persist 24-hours a day at frequencies that could make it harder for whales to communicate and therefore lead to changes in their behavior. For example, one study found that existing underwater noise increased the risk that mother humpback whales would become separated from their calves because the human-caused noise would drown out the whales’ calls.

While there are many uncertainties about exactly what frequencies deep-sea mining would emit, Thompson argued that decision makers should approach deep-sea mining from the precautionary principle that potential harms should be avoided.

‘It shouldn’t have any commercial reality at all given how little we know,” Thompson said.

Ticking Clock

Thompson’s concern is one shared by many scientists. She is one of 704 marine science and policy experts who has signed a call for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining until its environmental impacts can be truly assessed and understood. Yet the voices urging caution face a ticking clock. In June 2021, Narau triggered something called the “two-year rule.” This meant that the UN’s International Seabed Authority (ISA) — the regulatory body that would handle deep-sea mining — then had two years to set regulations on the practice or it would proceed under existing rules. The deadline comes due on July 9 of this year.

The ISA will meet further in March and July in Kingston, Jamaica, Greenpeace noted in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. There is some momentum among world leaders to oppose the practice. During the ISA’s last meeting in November of 2022, nations including New Zealand, France, and Chile all urged a halt on deep-sea mining and argued it should not advance in 2023.

Tests have been approved, however. Around a month before the cetacean study was published, video footage of a mining trial in the CCZ leaked, showing a vessel owned by Canadian-based The Metals Company releasing wastewater from the seabed out onto the surface of the ocean.

Thompson noted that the impacts of commercial mining would be of a much greater scale than a test and that the incident exemplified the dangers of approving such a heavy industrial process in the open ocean.

“What’s also concerning is that these activities are really far offshore, they’re really far away from the scrutiny of the public or any kind of bodies that are able to manage this industry,” she said. “And I think we know from other human activities that when that happens, when things are far off shore, away from public scrutiny, then it’s very, very difficult to manage the impacts of them.”

Whales and Renewables

The paper comes as whales and renewable energy have been in the news together for a different reason. In January, a group of 12 Jersey Shore mayors wrote a letter to the federal government calling for a moratorium on offshore wind development following a spate of whale strandings along the East Coast, as the Asbury Park Press reported at the time. In this case, however, both conservationists and scientists have argued that there is no evidence that offshore wind farms significantly harm whales and that the letter and similar arguments are a cynical ploy to oppose renewable energy.

Deep-sea mining is also argued by some to be necessary for the raw materials needed to expand renewable energy and electric vehicles, yet in this case many environmentalists argue that potential harms outweigh potential benefits.

“There has been a lot of talk about wind turbines and whale deaths, but there is no evidence whatsoever connecting the two,” Greenpeace USA’s project lead on deep sea mining Arlo Hemphill said in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. “Meanwhile, the oceans face more threats now than at any time in history. This report makes it clear that if the deep sea mining industry follows through on its plans, the habitats whales rely on will be in even greater danger. Instead of opening up a new industrial frontier in the largest ecosystem on earth, we should be establishing ocean sanctuaries to protect biodiversity.”


Center for Biological Diversity

Lawsuit Challenges White House Offices for Records on Endangered Species Delays

WASHINGTON—(February 21, 2023)—The Center for Biological Diversity sued the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs today for refusing to release records on their roles in delaying protections for species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The offices had illegally delayed protection of critical habitat for shorebirds called red knots by more than seven months.

“Red knots, wolves, grizzly bears and many other beautiful but imperiled species are all suffering from constant regulatory delays by these two offices,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center. “This lawsuit seeks to get to the bottom of those delays, which are not only hurting our wildlife but also illegal under the Endangered Species Act.”

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is an office within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget that has the ability to review, change or even halt any other federal agency’s policy proposals, usually based on purported concerns about the proposals’ costs. The regulatory affairs office’s substantive review is guided by the Clinton-era Executive Order 12866, not by any grant of statutory authority. The order gives the office 90 days to review an agency proposal, but the process frequently takes much longer.

Red knots are salmon-colored shorebirds that make an epic 9,000-mile migration between South America and the Arctic every year. During migration their most critical stopover location is around Delaware Bay, where they feed on horseshoe crab eggs. Over-harvest of horseshoe crabs — mainly by the pharmaceutical industry — as well as habitat loss and sea-level rise have caused red knots to decline by more than 80% since the 1980s. Just 7,000 individuals were seen in 2022, compared with 90,000 in the 1980s. While critical habitat protection for red knots has already been delayed for many years, the current critical habitat designation process should have been completed in July 2022.

Historically the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has weakened and delayed environmental safeguards, including protections for endangered species, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. During the George W. Bush administration, it delayed for more than a year on rules designed to minimize ship strikes on critically endangered Atlantic right whales.

During the Obama administration, it rejected a Clean Air Act rule to set the ozone pollution standard at 60 parts per billion — an action that could have prevented thousands of premature deaths each year. And during the Trump administration, it was the key office implementing Trump’s so-called “2 for 1” deregulatory agenda demanding that two regulations be removed before one new regulation could be enacted.

When President Biden took office, he signed “Modernizing Regulatory Review,” a presidential memorandum that sought to reform the regulatory office by better considering “social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations” in the rulemaking process. To date the office has not acted on his memorandum.

Today’s lawsuit asserts that the Endangered Species Act specifically mandates all federal agencies, including these two offices, “shall utilize their authorities” to carry out “programs for the conservation of endangered species and threatened species.” The Center is suing under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain agency records regarding this legal obligation.

“The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is in desperate need of reform so that it puts the interests of biological diversity and public health before the profits of the worst corporate actors,” said Snape. “It is both sad and outrageous that an obscure White House office can harm our most imperiled wildlife without any accountability to the American public.”


KIVI TV (Boise, ID)

Idaho Senators reintroduce act to remove Yellowstone grizzly bears from the endangered species list

KIVI Staff, February 19, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KIVI TV) — Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo have joined Senators from Wyoming and Montana to reintroduce the Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2023.

Essentially the bill would remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) from the endangered species list and shift grizzly management to wildlife scientists in the states.

Both Risch and Crapo are in favor of removing all grizzly bears in Idaho from the endangered species list.

“Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have hit all recovery targets due to the hard work of states like Idaho. In fact, all of Idaho’s grizzly bear populations have made substantial recoveries. Increasing populations and human encounters make it abundantly clear grizzlies in our state do not belong on the endangered species list. The Grizzly Bear State Management Act is an important step in delisting grizzlies in part of Idaho, but it is time for full delisting for all grizzlies within the state,” said Senator Risch.

“Idaho’s local wildlife managers are best suited to responsibly manage grizzly bear populations while simultaneously addressing the needs of the landscape and local communities,” Senator Crapo said. “The Grizzly Bear State Management Act will restore responsibility to the right level.”

Earlier this month, petitions from Montana and Wyoming were approved to move forward by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as they may qualify to warrant removal from the endangered and threatened wildlife list. The Idaho petition, on the other hand, was denied.

Idaho’s Delegation has been working to delist the grizzly bears of the GYE since 2021.


Feather “fingerprints” reveal secrets of endangered seabirds

By Andrei Ionescu, staff writer, 2/18/23

With the largest wingspan of any living bird on Earth, the Wandering Albatross is a spectacular creature. Unfortunately, like many other tube-nosed bird species, it is currently under threat of extinction. Now, a team of scientists led by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the University of South Australia (UNISA) has found that the feathers of seabirds such as the albatross can provide clues about their long-distance foraging, which could protect these endangered species from further decline.

The experts compared 15 element concentrations in the feathers of 253 tube-nosed seabirds from the Southern Hemisphere, representing a total of 15 species. The analysis revealed that the feathers of large seabirds (weighing over 400 grams) such as the Wandering Albatross contained nutrients which did not match the availability of nutrients from their habitats. By contrast, smaller birds which foraged more locally had feathers with trace element concentrations that were 10-to-100-fold higher than those of larger species. These “feather profiles” could help scientists decipher the movements and habitats of open ocean seabirds.

“Small birds that spend a lot of time feeding on planktonic crustaceans in particular areas acquire specific elements from those areas. In contrast, larger birds do not have the same element signature because they forage across multiple ocean basins,” said study co-author Sophie Petit, a wildlife ecologist at UNISA.

“Our work with feathers may explain why species like the Wandering Albatross that breed slowly and that are difficult to study because of their open ocean habits travel over such extraordinary distances. It points at the significance of micronutrient availability and associated ocean processes in the conservation of seabirds.”

Better understanding the factors which affect the distribution of an endangered group of seabirds could help future conservation efforts. “It’s fascinating to think that highly mobile marine animals may be travelling long distances to meet their mineral needs, in addition to their energy needs. But what this also tells us is that we must continue to protect biodiverse marine areas to ensure micronutrient availability for threatened bird species,” said study lead author Lauren Roman, a postdoctoral fellow at CSIRO.

“One of the biggest threats to biodiverse marine areas is climate change, as it has the potential to affect nutrient cycles and distribution across the Southern Ocean. While more research needs to be done, this work expands our ecological knowledge about oceanic species and the significance of micronutrient availability for the survival of seabirds like the Wandering Albatross,” she concluded.

(The study is published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.)


Sarasota (Sarasota, FL)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Is Facing a Deadline to Increase Manatee Protections

A new petition asks the USFWS to move manatees from threatened to endangered status under the Endangered Species Act. The deadline for it to act is Feb. 20.

By Staff, February 17, 2023

Manatee survival has been under increasing threat for years, and more than 2,600 of the gentle giants have died since the start of 2020.

Because of that, this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) received more than 18,000 letters supporting a petition to increase protections for West Indian manatees. The petition asks the USFWS to move manatees from threatened to endangered status under the Endangered Species Act. It was filed in November 2022 by the Center for Biological Diversity, Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic, Miami Waterkeeper, Save the Manatee Club and Frank S. González García. The USFWS must respond by Feb. 20, 2023, with an initial determination.

“This overwhelming public support proves that people back stronger Endangered Species Act protection for our iconic manatees,” says Ragan Whitlock, a Florida-based attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has to reverse its lethal decision to downlist these animals who are now starving to death because of pollution,” Whitlock continues. “Protecting these incredibly imperiled creatures as endangered would help put them back on the path to recovery.”

Since the USFWS prematurely reduced manatee protections in 2017, the species’ population has declined dramatically. Pollution-fueled algal blooms sparked an ongoing mortality event that killed nearly 2,000 manatees in 2021 and 2022 combined, and fueled the collapse of the Indian River Lagoon. This two-year mortality record represents more than 20 percent of all manatees in Florida, and manatee experts predict that the animals will continue to suffer high levels of malnourishment and starvation.

A 2021 study also found that more than half of sampled Florida manatees are chronically exposed to glyphosate, a potent herbicide applied to sugarcane and aquatic weeds. Discharges from Lake Okeechobee containing glyphosate have also resulted in higher concentrations of glyphosate in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

Boat strikes are another leading threat to Florida manatees. On average, boaters kill more than 100 manatees in Florida every year—and that number is expected to increase as Florida’s population continues to expand. In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Springs Council and Suncoast Waterkeeper, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has finalized a rule to increase boater awareness of manatees and other coastal wildlife through boater education. However, not all boaters are currently required to take the education course.

After receiving the petition to increase protections on Nov. 21, 2022, the USFWS had 90 days to evaluate whether the petition to protect the manatee as endangered presents substantial information to indicate that action may be warranted. If the USFWS determines uplisting manatees from threatened to endangered may be warranted, it must complete a thorough review of the species’ status within 12 months of receiving the petition.

“If we can enact even small changes to preserve manatees,” says Whitlock, speaking to why every individual manatee matters, “that gives them a fighting chance to still be here when the Indian River Lagoon recovers.”


KXRO News Radio  (Aberdeen, WA)

Olympic Peninsula Steelhead being considered for endangered species protections

February 15, 2023

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has proposed a 90-day finding on a petition to list Olympic Peninsula Steelhead as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act.

In a filing on the Federal Register, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced a 90-day finding on a petition to list Olympic Peninsula (OP) steelhead ( Oncorhynchus mykiss) as a threatened or endangered distinct population segment (DPS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate critical habitat.

According to the filing, on August 1, 2022, the Secretary of Commerce received a petition from The Conservation Angler and Wild Fish Conservancy (hereafter, the Petitioners) to list the OP Steelhead DPS as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

Both parties on the petition are based in Washington.

The Petitioners also request the designation of critical habitat concurrent with ESA listing.

*An endangered species is defined under the ESA as “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

*A threatened species is defined under the ESA as “any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

*Species designated as threatened or endangered are called “listed species.”

Steelhead are listed as threatened or endangered in numerous waterways, but not within the Olympic Peninsula Distinct Population Segment (DPS).

The Olympic Peninsula steelhead are distinct to the region, running from just north of the Grays Harbor waterway to the top of the peninsula.

In 1996, NMFS completed a comprehensive status review of coastal and inland steelhead populations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California (Busby et al., 1996). As part of this review, NMFS identified an OP steelhead ESU which “occupies river basins of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, west of the Elwha River and south to, but not including, the rivers that flow into Grays Harbor on the Washington coast.”

The petition states that “WDFW does not sufficiently monitor Olympic Peninsula winter steelhead, and it does not monitor Olympic Peninsula summer steelhead at all” and that data to know how many steelhead are harvested each year is not available, due in part to tribal treaty fishing not maintaining the same documentation as other fisheries.

The petitions also states that “Olympic Peninsula steelhead are at risk of becoming an endangered species within the foreseeable future” and that the “ summer-run component is nearly extinct, and the winter-run component is declining and losing its life history diversity”.

They claim that due to their decline, Olympic Peninsula steelhead are likely to become endangered and warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

According to the agency, they found that the petition presented “substantial scientific and commercial information indicating the listing may be warranted”.

As part of the process, officials will conduct a status review of OP steelhead to determine whether the listing is warranted, and they are soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to the species during a 60-day public comment period to solicit comments and information on OP steelhead..

Scientific and commercial information pertinent to the petitioned action must be received by April 11, 2023.

You may submit data and information relevant to our review of the status of Olympic Peninsula Steelhead, identified by “Olympic Peninsula Steelhead Petition (NOAA-NMFS-2022-0137),” by either of the following methods:

*Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to and enter NOAA-NMFS-2022-0137 in the Search box. Click the “Comment Now” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

*Mail or Hand-Delivery: Protected Resources Division, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115. Attn: Laura Koehn.

Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on without change. All personal identifying information ( e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter “N/A” in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

Electronic copies of the petition and other materials are available from the NMFS website at​endangered-species-conservation/​candidate-species-under-endangered-species-act.


The Chronicle (Centralia, WA)

Gray Squirrel May Become Endangered Species in Washington as Its Status Is Open for Review, Comment

February 15, 2023, By Jared Gendron/The Olympian

Squirrels seem to be a common mammal encountered throughout daily life. If they’re not in your yard, they’re perched on trees or scurrying across roadways. But one species of squirrel is in danger in Washington state: the western gray squirrel.

A new review of the animal’s protective status by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recommends changing the western gray squirrel from “threatened” to “endangered” in the state. The western gray squirrel is one of three native tree squirrels in Washington state, and it has been in decline since the late 19th century, according to the status review.

The WDFW has three classifications for native animals it identifies as being in danger or requiring special care:

  • Sensitive: A species vulnerable or declining. They’re likely to become threatened or endangered in a significant portion of its range if the state doesn’t take action to remove threats. Examples of animals in the category include the gray whale, common loon, larch mountain salamander and various species of insects.
  • Threatened: A species that’s likely to be endangered in the near future in a significant portion of its range if the state doesn’t act to remove threats. Examples include the sea otter, mazama pocket gopher, American white pelican, green sea turtle and various fish and mollusks.
  • Endangered: A species that is seriously in danger of extinction throughout most of its range or within the entire state. Many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and birds are categorized here.

The primary factors endangering the western gray squirrel are habitat loss and fragmentation, Taylor Cotten, the department’s assessment section manager, stated in the release. Other phenomena like wildfires, highway mortality and disease threaten their survival.

Another factor significantly impacting the squirrel’s safety is climate change. According to the WDFW, the western gray squirrel is exposed to climate change at a moderate level and its sensitivity is at a moderate-high level. For example, climate change has shifted the impact wildfires have on habitats.

These fires continue to kill the squirrels and destroy a large amount of their habitat. The squirrel species is also sensitive to disease outbreaks like mange and the western equine encephalitis virus. Scientists predict climate change will make these outbreaks more frequent because of warmer temperatures. This trend is relevant to humans, too. One study from August 2022 found that climate hazards aggravated more than half of the 375 infectious diseases that infect humans.

Currently, WDFW classifies the tree squirrel as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. These are wildlife that require the most conservation attention, according to Mary Linders, a biologist with WDFW and co-author of the squirrel’s status review report. Linders said in an interview with The News Tribune that the department is actively taking steps to protect the western gray squirrel in several ways:

*Monitor its population.

*Assess its habitat.

*Manage the forests on WDFW-managed land to allow trees to grow larger, which supply the squirrel with one of its food sources.

*Coordinate with several parties such as federal landowners, private landowners and land trusts to protect habitats and limit the amount of trees being cut down.

The western gray squirrel is one of several species of native tree squirrels in Washington state. The others are the Douglas squirrel, red squirrel and northern flying squirrel. The Western gray squirrel is the largest tree squirrel in the state, Linders said.

The gray squirrel is mainly isolated to three parts of the state: the northern Cascade region, the Klickitat region around the Columbia River, and an area called southern Puget Trough, essentially Pierce and Thurston counties. They inhabit forested areas that contain large trees such as conifers, Oregon white oaks and Ponderosa pine.

Linders said the department doesn’t have a concrete estimate on the amount of western gray squirrels in the state but said there are probably less than a few thousand statewide.

The species plays a special role in its local ecosystem, Linders said. Aside from seeds and nuts — which the squirrels get from trees, about 50% of the gray mammal’s diet consists of truffles, which contain fungi and spores that are beneficial to trees. When the squirrel eats and then defecates the mushroom, it spreads the spores and fungi around, helping trees to grow larger.

Linders said the department is seeking input from the public to help her team assess whether they should reclassify the western gray squirrel as endangered. WDFW also asks the public for input so people can point out if the status review has any potential holes in the data. In addition, anyone can provide data that the department either didn’t have or hadn’t considered.


The Humane Society of the United States

Legal action launched to protect hippos under the Endangered Species Act

On World Hippo Day, groups highlight U.S. role in fueling hippo trade

Press Release February 15, 2023

WASHINGTON—Today animal protection and conservation groups sent a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to respond to a legal petition to protect the common hippopotamus under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service was required to respond to the March 2022 petition within 90 days, but nearly a year has passed, and the agency still has not responded.

The petition filed by Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Center for Biological Diversity seeks to secure federal protections for this iconic species, which is disappearing from the wild. Hippos are threatened by habitat loss and degradation, drought, poaching, and the international demand for hippo parts, including teeth, skulls, ivory, skin and meat.

Adam Peyman, wildlife programs director for Humane Society International, speaking on behalf of HSI and the HSUS, said: “Hippos are targeted by poachers and trophy hunters for their teeth, skins, heads and more. As the top global importer of hippo trophies, parts and products, the United States government can no longer ignore its responsibility and the critical role it can play in curbing legal trade in hippo parts. It must step up and ensure that this iconic species receives crucial Endangered Species Act protections.”

Between 2009 and 2018, the United States imported thousands of hippo parts and products, including over 9,000 teeth, 700 skin pieces, 4,400 small leather products, 2,000 trophies and 1,700 carvings. Combined, these imports represent a minimum of 3,081 hippos killed to fuel legal U.S. trade, which remains unchecked in the absence of ESA protections.

“Hippos are adored by the public, and U.S. protections would help ensure they’re around for future generations to enjoy,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Most people don’t know that the U.S. market fuels hippo loss through demand for their ivory, skins or trophies for home décor. These keystone aquatic animals deserve to thrive in the wild, not be served up to the world’s largest hippo importer.”

Across many parts of the United States, hippo parts and products are readily available for purchase. A 2022 undercover investigation by HSI and the HSUS revealed thousands of items made from hippo parts for sale in the United States. Products made from hippo leather, such as belts, shoes and purses, and items made from hippo ivory, such as carvings and handles on knives and bottle openers, were among the most common items found for sale. Trophies, such as shoulder mounts and mounted teeth, were also available for purchase. Some of these products may have been illegally acquired or traded due to the lack of effective regulations and enforcement within hippo range countries.

The Endangered Species Act protections that the groups are seeking would place near-total restrictions on most imports and sales of hippo specimens and provide awareness and funding to achieve the ESA’s conservation goals.

“When it comes to keeping hippos safe from extinction, we have no time to waste,” said Tracie Letterman, vice president of federal affairs at Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Federal protections are long overdue as hippo populations suffer from numerous threats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must step up to help ensure this species is around for decades to come.”


*The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the common hippopotamus as “vulnerable,” meaning it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. There may be as few as 115,000 adult hippos remaining in the wild in Africa today, with populations continuing to decline in most range States.

*Hippos are not listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. As a result, domestic trade within the United States is not regulated at a federal level, and imports of hippo parts and products are not scrutinized under the ESA’s strict standards.

*Hippos are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, meaning that legal trade in their parts must be controlled to prevent it from threatening their survival. Despite their inclusion on CITES Appendix II, the species’ conservation status continues to deteriorate, and at the most recent CITES Conference of the Parties, member states failed to adopt a proposed revision to hippos’ CITES listing that would have prohibited all exports of wild specimens for commercial purposes.

*Between 2018 and 2021, Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States conducted an undercover investigation of hippo parts and products being sold in stores throughout the United States and online. This investigation found a variety of hippo parts and products readily available for purchase in many states. Products found included leather products (purses, belts, Western boots and hides), raw ivory (molar teeth, tusks and full skulls), worked ivory (carvings, scrimshawed tusk, painted tusk, ivory-handled bottle openers and knives, and figurines), and trophies (full shoulder mounts and mounted teeth).



After a big recovery, the wood stork may soon fly off the endangered species list

February 14, 2023, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The ungainly yet graceful wood stork, which was on the brink of extinction in 1984, has recovered sufficiently in Florida and other Southern states that U.S. wildlife officials on Tuesday proposed removing the wading bird from the endangered species list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release that restoration of the wood stork’s habitat, especially in the Florida Everglades and adjacent Big Cypress National Preserve, led to a sharp increase in breeding pairs. Those numbers had shrunk to just 5,000 pairs in 1984, whereas there are more than 10,000 pairs today.

“This iconic species has rebounded because dedicated partners in the southeast have worked tirelessly to restore ecosystems, such as the Everglades, that support it,” said Shannon Estenoz, assistant Interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks.

In addition, the wood stork has increased its range in coastal areas of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas, officials said. The birds have adapted to new nesting areas in those states, tripling the number of colonies across their range from 29 to 99 in recent years.

Credit goes mainly to the wildlife protections provided by the Endangered Species Act, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at environmental group the Center for Biological Diversity. The act can impose restrictions on a variety of activities in areas where such species are located, such as development, mining and oil drilling.

“The act saved the wood stork and it helped preserve and rebuild vital habitats throughout the southeast, which has improved water quality and benefited countless other species who call the area home,” Kurose said by email.

Wood storks have a distinctive scaly, featherless gray head and a bright white feathered body with long skinny legs. They are fairly large, standing up to four feet (1.2 meters) tall and with a wingspan of up to 5 feet (1.5 meters). The nesting pairs lay three to five eggs per year, although the eggs are frequently targeted by predators such as raccoons and other birds.

Their bald heads give wood storks an almost prehistoric appearance, leading to nicknames such as “stonehead” and “flinthead.” Wood storks feed in shallow waters on fish, insects, frogs and crabs depending on whether it’s wet or dry season. They are the only stork native to North America.

In Florida, federal and state governments are spending tens of billions of dollars for ongoing projects to restore natural water flows in the Everglades and Big Cypress and reduce harmful nutrients from fertilizer runoff and other sources that promote unhealthy plant growth.

The Endangered Species Act has saved 99% of the species that have been on the list since 1973, with 100 types of plants and animals delisted because they have recovered or are at least stable, according to the Interior Department.

“The proposed delisting of the wood stork is a significant milestone and a testament to the hard work by federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, conservation organizations, and private citizens in protecting and restoring our most at-risk species,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will take comments on the proposal through April 17 from other government agencies, scientists, environmental groups and anyone else interested in the welfare of the wood stork. After that, the service will publish a final decision on whether to remove the bird from the endangered species list.

If the wood stork is delisted, officials said it would remain protected by other laws including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Clean Water Act. A monitoring plan would be put in place for at least five years to ensure the stork population remains stable.


Fox Weather

Record amount of manatees returned to Florida waterway in a single day

The endangered species is undergoing an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) and has seen record deaths over the last few years. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates there are only around 7,500 manatees left in Sunshine State.

By Andrew Wulfeck, February 14, 2023

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – An endangered species suffering from harsh cold as well as impacts to its habitat has a reason to celebrate with a dozen rehabilitated manatees recently returned to the Florida wild – setting a new daily record.

Specialists that make up the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership released 12 manatees at Blue Spring State Park, where waters a warm enough year-round to support the giant sea cows.

Many of the manatees were orphaned calves and suffering from malnourishment when they were discovered within the past three years.

“Over the past several years, we have been called upon to rescue an alarmingly high number of injured, sick and starving manatees off the Florida coastline,” Monica Ross, chairman of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership and director of manatee research at Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, said in a statement. “Through the efforts of the MRP partners, I am thrilled that we were able to return the highest number of manatees to their natural environment in a single day.”

The manatees spent extensive time at critical care facilities located at the Miami Seaquarium, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and SeaWorld Orlando, where specialists attended to injuries and ensured the mammals received nutrients.

Biologists declared an Unusual Mortality Event in 2020 after an unusually high number of the marine mammals were found dead, mostly along Florida’s east coast.

Observations pointed to significant seagrass die-off for causing starvation among the endangered species, especially in Central Florida, where manatees would congregate in warmer water during the winter.

According to data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, deaths peaked at 1,100 in 2021, but the rate has remained high since the record year, with 800 deaths reported in 2022.

The rescued manatees were all given unique names and GPS tracking devices that will allow biologists the chance to monitor their movements.

“Monitoring will also be critical to the continued understanding of how manatees are adjusting to the fluctuating habitat conditions they need for survival and enable animal care specialists to ensure young animals are learning migration routes and to better treat animals suffering from malnutrition or starvation due to the UME,” a spokesperson for the partnership stated.



Grizzly Bears Are One Step Closer to Losing Federal Protections

Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming seek to expand hunting to keep populations to bare minimum

By Lindsey Botts, February 13, 2023

The Biden administration is mulling over whether to remove Endangered Species Act safeguards for grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies—a move that wildlife advocates warn is premature and would jeopardize the bears’ full recovery. The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would review delisting proposals earlier this month after receiving petitions from Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming requesting that those states’ fish and game departments be allowed to take over management of the iconic carnivores.

Conservation groups and wildlife advocates quickly blasted the proposals, arguing that those states have not proven reliable stewards of another iconic species—the gray wolf—and that they shouldn’t be entrusted with managing the region’s isolated pockets of grizzly bears.

“While important steps have been taken to bring grizzly bears back from the brink of extinction in the Northern Rockies, they are still a long way from being fully recovered,” said Bonnie Rice, the wildlife campaign manager at the Sierra Club. “Removing federal protections now would be a huge mistake and a giant step backward. States have proven that they are not to be trusted in managing native carnivores—we have only to look at what has happened with gray wolves. Grizzly bears would be next on the chopping block, should federal protections be stripped.”

Since gray wolf management was turned over to those state governments, wolves in the Rockies have been persecuted to a degree not seen since the 19th century, with bounties, chokehold snares, and night-vision scopes all available to hunters as the states try to reduce the number of wolves drastically. Idaho Fish and Game estimates that the wolf population has dropped by 13 percent over the past year since some of the state’s expanded hunting measures went into effect. And in neighboring Montana, a fifth of the Yellowstone wolf population was killed over a similar period.

Each state submitted its own separate petition to remove Endangered Species Act protections from grizzlies. Montana would like to see bears around Glacier National Park and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem delisted and classified as their own “distinct population segment”—that is, a population that by definition is separate from other bear populations by distance, environment, or physiology. Similarly, Wyoming submitted a petition to delist bears around Yellowstone National Park, and officials there would also like to see bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem classified as its own distinct population segment. The Idaho petition sought to delist grizzlies throughout the entire continental United States. US Fish and Wildlife Service denied their petition because it did not present credible information that warrants further review. The agency plans to undertake a one-year review of the Montana and Wyoming petitions.

In their petitions, the governors of Montana and Wyoming both argued that grizzly bears in the region have met the recovery criteria and no longer need federal protections. Scientists and bear advocates have a different opinion. They say that while the number of grizzlies in the region have increased, true species recovery is about more than numbers. Chris Servheen, a retired USFWS grizzly bear recovery coordinator in Montana, says real recovery requires keeping populations healthy and interconnected to ensure genetic diversity.

“It’s really not a conservation plan for grizzly bears,” Servheen said of the Montana petition. “It’s a hunting plan for grizzly bears, and it’s really unfortunate that the whole plan is so hunting-centric and does not concentrate its efforts on ways to minimize conflicts with bears and build public understanding of bears.”

In Montana’s draft management plan, the word hunting is used nearly 400 times. And one of the fundamental objectives of the state’s plan is to, “[m]aximize public agreement on the role of hunting.”

Each state’s draft plan defers to its individual wildlife commissions when it comes to setting hunting objectives and rules. And that has wildlife advocates worried as state lawmakers and wildlife officials in those states have put in place policies that have been detrimental to native wildlife. For instance, legislators in Montana have passed a law that allows individuals to kill bears if they merely feel threatened—which is a hard standard to enforce given the varying degrees to which some people feel threatened by wildlife, said Erin Edge a senior representative at the Defenders of Wildlife Rockies and Plains Program.

As USFWS decides whether to remove grizzlies from the endangered species list, agency staff will have to evaluate such hunting policies and weigh them against any proposed or existing regulations that might reduce threats to future recovery. Fish and Wildlife staff will also have to consider the importance of connectivity among the six distinct recovery areas in the region. Wildlife conservation advocates say that what happens outside those areas could prevent a robust recovery.

“The states don’t seem to want bears outside of those recovery zones, and to continue to expand and to reconnect,” Edge said. “For long-term resiliency and health of those populations, we’d like to see them connected. Connection is important. It’s critical for long-term resiliency of those populations.”

If the agency determines that grizzlies do warrant delisting, agency staff will have to start a new rulemaking process that will include feedback from biologists and comments from the public. And then states will have to ensure they’re capable of managing bears by curtailing some of the worst hunting methods that are antithetical to recovery. However, at this stage, the states have cleared the lowest bar to remove federal protections, and USFWS may still very well keep grizzlies listed as threatened under the ESA to ensure that true recovery is feasible.

“Recovery is more than numbers of bears,” Servheen said. “You can have the numbers of bears, but if you don’t have the adequate regulatory mechanisms in place, you can’t pull the endangered species rug out from underneath the species. Because without regulatory mechanisms, the population would easily crash.”


Humane Society of United States

Press Release February 13, 2023

Imperiled leopards one step closer to increased Endangered Species Act protection

U.S. government agrees to decision deadline

WASHINGTON—In response to a lawsuit by animal protection and conservation groups, today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally agreed to a June 2027 deadline to determine if leopards warrant increased protection under the Endangered Species Act. Increased safeguards would ensure closer scrutiny of African leopard trophy imports and help boost funding to counter suspected population declines.

Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition in July 2016 requesting additional protections for leopards. The groups sued in November 2021 after the Fish and Wildlife Service missed its legal deadline for responding to the petition and failed to even set a timeline for its response. As part of the settlement, USFWS agreed to the new, binding deadline.

“The leopard is being driven to extinction by so many human-induced threats already, and U.S. hunters who kill these magnificent animals only to satiate their selfish desire for macabre trophies to display in their homes or to take selfies with their kills are only exacerbating their decline,” said Sarah Veatch, wildlife policy director for Humane Society International. “It is critical that this iconic species receives the full Endangered Species Act protections they so desperately need before it is too late.”

Wild populations of African leopards are thought to be declining because of habitat loss and fragmentation, human persecution, illegal wildlife trade, ceremonial use of skins, prey decline and poorly managed trophy hunting. The United States is the world’s biggest importer of African leopard hunting trophies. Between 2014 and 2018, U.S. hunters imported trophies of 1,640 leopards, more than half of those globally traded.

The leopard is legally protected as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but the animals are currently exempt from the ESA’s strictest limitations on trophy imports. The lax existing provisions facilitate the outsized role the United States plays in driving trophy hunting of the species. 

“The government left imperiled leopards to languish in legal limbo, but now we’re hoping for decisive action to protect these beautiful animals,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These iconic big cats are tanking. While we have the legal tools to help them, the government hasn’t acted. With an extinction crisis looming larger than life, we need proactive wildlife protection from the Biden administration to save life on Earth.”

The heightened protections sought in the petition would ensure closer scrutiny of African leopard trophy imports, making it more difficult to import them into the country.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the leopard as “vulnerable,” meaning it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. According to IUCN, by 2015 the sub-Saharan African leopard population had likely declined by more than 30% over the prior 22 years, and that population is continuing to decline. Leopards are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, human persecution, illegal wildlife trade, ceremonial use of skins, prey base declines and poorly managed trophy hunting.

Leopard populations in Asia and northern Africa are listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. However, leopards in 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are listed as “threatened” under the law, and those leopards are not entitled to the ESA’s full range of protections.

While leopards receive the strictest protections under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, unscientific leopard export quotas and lax application of CITES import and export requirements have allowed for a poorly regulated and unsustainable trophy industry that is fueled in large part by U.S. hunters.


Fox Business

Biden administration sued by Massachusetts lobstermen for closing waters to protect endangered whales

The Biden administration closed part of the Massachusetts coast on February 1

By Andrew Miller, Jon Street FOX Business, February 11, 2023

Massachusetts lobster fishermen have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its closure of fishing grounds done with the intention of protecting an endangered species of whale.

The lawsuit stems from the February 1 closure of 200 square miles of the Massachusetts Bay that will prevent lobster fishing until the end of April in a move that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says was necessary to protect the North Atlantic right whales from being tangled in fishing ropes.

The whales number only about 340 in the world and return to the waters off New England every spring. But the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association contends the closure is illegal and will cause economic harm to the industry.

The fishing group is waiting to hear about a court date, said Beth Casoni, the group’s executive director. The group said in court filings that the closure harms an industry that is “essential to Massachusetts’s culture, heritage, identity and economy,” and the court should reopen the fishing grounds.

A spokesperson for NOAA told Fox News Digital the agency can not comment on pending litigation.

“This action isn’t warranted, it’s overreaching and quite frankly it’s unacceptable,” Casoni said.

Gabriella Hoffman, host of the District of Conservation podcast and Independent Women’s Forum senior fellow, told Fox News Digital that the Biden administration is going about protecting the endangered whales in the wrong way.

“NOAA Fisheries is focusing its efforts on the wrong target with this proposed closure. Lobstermen aren’t imperiling the endangered North Atlantic right whale; offshore wind turbines increasingly are with the effects of geotechnical surveys,” Hoffman said. “They should focus their efforts on protecting these whales from this very obvious threat.”

The lawsuit comes as lobstermen in Maine are also clashing with the Biden administration arguing that federal rules aimed at protecting the right whale in federal waters crush the state’s $1 billion lobster industry and the blue-collar lobstermen who keep it going.

“I don’t know what we would even retrain lobstermen to do. A lot of guys are already talking about potentially selling their boats and moving elsewhere,” Patrice McCarron, the executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA), told FOX Business in an interview last month.

“The economy is so rural here that it’s, you couldn’t overstate how much losing the lobster dollars coming into the communities will debilitate everything.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.


KPVI6 TV (Pocatello, ID)

Columbian white-tailed deer make gains, but still face threats, challenges

Lauren Ellenbecker, The Columbian, Feb. 10, 2023

Columbian white-tailed deer, a species that lives among the Columbia River lowlands and floodplains in Southwest Washington, are no longer considered endangered by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The deer’s down-listing from endangered to threatened followed a recent population study that found the risk of the species facing a “serious threat of extinction” is exceedingly low. It particularly illustrated the growth of populations along the lower Columbia River, which were estimated to be nearly 1,300 in 2022. That compares with a population estimate of 545 made 20 years ago.

Essentially, the reclassification is a technicality, said Jeff Azerrad, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife environmental planner. It acknowledges that Columbian white-tailed deer don’t fit Washington’s definition of an endangered species.

Although not considered at risk of extinction, the deer continue to face a collection of challenges, particularly through habitat loss, and will remain on Washington’s priority habitat and species lists.

Altered habitats

Columbian deer are peppered between multiple subpopulations living in Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and Clark counties in Washington, and Clatsop, Columbia and Multnomah counties in Oregon. The most populous group lives around Ridgefield.

Meadows and forests with an abundance of deciduous trees are ideal habitats for the deer. Here, the animals graze on grass, sedges and forbs while remaining close to streams protected by canopy cover.

Historically, much of this habitat was lost through land use by humans, whether through agriculture, forestry or urbanization. As a result, the deer moved into divided pockets of lowlands and floodplains.

These environments aren’t ideal for deer due to flooding, which is a growing threat as sea levels continue to rise. The Washington Coastal Hazards Resiliency Network projects sea levels at the Columbia River’s mouth could rise two feet by 2100.

Although the Columbia River floodplains upriver won’t experience the brunt of this, there will be noticeable effects in areas closest to the estuary, Azerrad said. Furthermore, soil that encounters frequent flooding is likelier to host necrobacillosis, an infection that could cause disease and potential death in deer.

Wildlife officials are strategizing how to move the deer away from the floodplain to protected areas, which leads into another issue: connectivity.

Habitat vs. development

The city of Ridgefield’s human population has grown about 14.5 percent between 2021 and 2022, according to an estimate from the Washington State Office of Financial Management. With the new residents has come a wash of development, with more projected to come.

Expanding networks of busy highways, urbanization and converted conifer forests reduces deer’s ability to join other subpopulations. Azerrad said connectivity is valuable for the survival of the species because it leads to healthy reproduction, as opposed to inbreeding that could result in genetic issues.

Ian Sinks, Columbia Land Trust stewardship director, said the organization — a partner in deer and general wildlife conservation — has procured hundreds of acres of land to restore habitats, such as the Columbia Stock Ranch on Deer Island. Projects in these areas specifically touch on replanting native vegetation, which may in turn expand Columbian deer ranges.

“It’s about making secure and quality habitats,” Sinks said.

Columbian white-tailed deer have been considered an endangered species since 1967, when they were federally listed.

At that time, about 450 white-tailed deer lived in Washington and Oregon. After scientists engaged in preservation work, the population jumped to 900 nearly 40 years later, leading to the species being federally down-listed to threatened in 2016.

A mix of state, conservation group and tribal initiatives helped reestablish the deer population, such as tagging and tracking deer, restoring habitats and controlling predation. A decade ago, some of the deer from the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge near Cathlamet were transplanted to join the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge population.

Since this translocation, Clark County’s subpopulation grew to about 228 in 2022 and is now deemed sustainable, according to wildlife officials. These deer have even drifted off the refuge into adjacent lands, including Sauvie Island and the Shillapoo Wildlife Area.

Similar relocations of deer to other areas have resulted in an expansive range, yet not all gained as strong as a foothold as the Ridgefield subpopulation, Azerrad said.

Currently, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is stringing together a contingency plan for the deer in light of persistent and future threats.

“No, it’s not an endangered species, but there’s still those lingering threats and so we’re going to be certainly continuing to address those,” he said.


U.S Department of the Interior

Interior Department Takes Action to Strengthen Endangered Species Act

New proposed regulations help kick off 50th anniversary celebration of landmark conservation law

Press Release, 2/8/2023

WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a new rule to strengthen voluntary conservation opportunities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule would revise permitting under Section 10 of the Act to promote species conservation through voluntary agreements and make the process clearer, easier and more efficient.

The announcement comes as the Endangered Species Act turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the Department will celebrate the importance of the ESA in preventing the extinction of imperiled species, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, it’s critical that we reflect on the lessons learned from implementing this landmark conservation law and assess what the next 50 years of species conservation should look like,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “A collaborative approach to the biodiversity and extinction crises will advance the goals of the President’s America the Beautiful initiative and set us on a course for continued recovery and resilience.”

“It’s more important than ever to incorporate the knowledge gained from working with landowners and conservation partners in developing and permitting voluntary conservation agreements,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “These improvements will assist landowners who want to manage their lands and undertake development activities while also implementing conservation efforts for species that need help.”

The ESA provides for the protection of ecosystems, the conservation of endangered and threatened species, and the enforcement of all treaties related to wildlife preservation. This landmark law has been highly effective and credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction. Thus far, more than 100 species of plants and animals have been delisted based on recovery or reclassified from endangered to threatened based on improved conservation status, and hundreds more species are stable or improving thanks to the collaborative actions of Tribes, federal agencies, state and local governments, conservation organizations and private citizens.

ESA Section 10 permits have long been used to encourage Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances and Safe Harbor Agreements, which are voluntary landowner agreements designed to benefit candidates or listed species, respectively. They have also been used to permit the take of listed species incidental to private development activities. ESA Section 10 permits allow for a variety of activities, some of which can benefit endangered species through innovation.

This rule proposes changes to the Service’s permitting regulations to encourage more individuals and companies to engage in these voluntary programs, thereby generating greater conservation results overall. The Service also proposes technical and administrative changes to the regulations to reduce costs and time associated with negotiating and developing the required documents to support permit applications. These revisions do not significantly change the current implementation of the Section 10 program and do not expand the reach of species protections.

Section 10 of the ESA provides a voluntary mechanism authorizing the take of listed and non-listed species associated with beneficial conservation actions or otherwise lawful activities. With some exceptions, the law prohibits taking protected species and their habitats unless authorized by a permit from the Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The Service is committed to conserving our nation’s biodiversity, and stemming the ongoing extinction crisis is a central component of the Biden-Harris administration’s America the Beautiful initiative. One of the initiative’s goals is to enhance wildlife habitat and improve biodiversity—potentially preventing listings and assisting with species recovery.


Center for Biological Diversity

Lawsuit Launched Over Delay of Endangered Species Act Protection for 15 Animals, Plants

WASHINGTON—(February 7, 2023)—The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for delaying critically needed Endangered Species Act protection for 15 imperiled plants and animals. The species range from cactus ferruginous pygmy owls in the Sonoran Desert to tall western penstemons in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

“Every day that protection is delayed, these species are at a greater risk of extinction,” said Camila Cossío, a staff attorney at the Center. “These species highlight the range of biodiversity imperiled by the extinction crisis, from a tiny chipmunk in New Mexico to six Texas freshwater mussels who are vital to the health of central Texas rivers.”

Today’s notice faults the Service for unlawfully delaying endangered species protections for Peñasco least chipmunks, Mt. Rainier white-tailed ptarmigans, Texas fatmuckets, Guadalupe fatmuckets, Texas fawnsfoots, Texas pimplebacks, false spikes, Guadalupe orbs, pyramid pigtoes, South Llano Springs moss, bog buck moths, cactus ferruginous pygmy owls, tall western penstemons, and four distinct populations of foothill yellow-legged frogs. The notice also includes the delay in finalizing critical habitat protection for Humboldt martens, rare forest carnivores.

The Service has long struggled to provide timely protection to species. A recent study found that since 1992, species have waited for protection an average of nine years from the time citizens submitted a petition seeking federal listing. Under the Endangered Species Act, the process is supposed to take two years.

“The Mt. Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan is just one example of a species that’s been waiting for federal protection for over 10 years,” said Cossío. “Delays like this are far too common, and they have devastating consequences for wildlife that desperately need lifesaving federal protection.”

Species background

Peñasco least chipmunk (Tamias minimus atristriatus) is a chipmunk found only in the Sacramento and White mountains of southwestern New Mexico.

Mt. Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura) is a small bird in the grouse family. It can gain body mass throughout harsh winters.

Texas fatmucket (Lampsilis bracteate) is a freshwater mussel found in the upper reaches of major tributaries within the Colorado River basin in Texas.

Guadalupe fatmucket (Lampsilis bergmanni) is a freshwater mussel that was recently discovered to be a separate and distinct species from the Texas fatmucket.

Texas fawnsfoot (Truncilla macrodon) is a freshwater mussel found in the lower reaches of the Colorado and Brazos Rivers and in the Trinity River.

Texas pimpleback (Cyclonaias petrina) is a freshwater mussel found in the Colorado River basin in five isolated populations.

False spike (Quincuncina mitchelli) is a freshwater mussel that was once common in Texas. It was considered extinct until a single specimen was discovered in 2011. It is now found in four populations: the Little River and some tributaries; the lower San Saba and Llano rivers; and in the lower Guadalupe River.

Guadalupe orb (Cyclonaias necki) is a freshwater mussel found in just two populations in the Guadalupe River basin.

Pyramid pigtoe (Pleurobema rubrum) is a freshwater mussel found in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. It has lost nearly 80% of its range.

South Llano Springs moss (Donrichardsia macroneuron) is an aquatic moss found in west-central Texas.

Bog buck moth (Hemileuca maia menyanthevora) is a silk moth found in Oswego County, New York and Ontario, Canada.

Pacific marten (Martes caurina), also known as the Humboldt marten, is a small carnivore in the weasel family, native to the Pacific Coast. It lives in closed-canopy forests in Northern California and southern Oregon.

Cactus ferruginous pygmy owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum) is a small, fierce, day-hunting raptor found in the Sonoran Desert.

Central Coast population of yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii) is, like all yellow-legged frogs, named after the striking lemony color under its legs. This distinct population is found from the San Francisco Bay through the Diablo Range and Coast Range.

Northern population of yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii) is found primarily in Butte and Plumas counties in California.

South Sierra population of the yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii) is found in the South Fork American River sub-basin and between the Sierra Nevada and the Tehachapi Mountains that border the California Central Valley.

South Coast population of the yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii) is found along the coastal Santa Lucia Range and the Sierra Madre Mountains in California.

Tall western penstemon (Penstemon hesperius) is a flower found in the Pacific Northwest that is part of a genus of plants commonly known as “beardtongues.”


Boise State Public Radio News (Boise, ID)

Despite Idaho’s petition, grizzly bears remain on Endangered Species List in the lower 48 states

By Julie Luchetta, February 6, 2023

The grizzly bear will remain on the Endangered Species list, even after a petition from Idaho to remove it.

On Thursday, Gov. Brad Little threatened the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a lawsuit for failing to rule on Idaho’s petition to delist the grizzlies in the lower 48 states.

On Friday, the ruling came denying Idaho’s request, saying it did not contain “substantial, credible information.” Similar petitions from Wyoming and Montana, which focused on delisting grizzlies in the tri-state Yellowstone Northern Continental Divide regions, were accepted and will be reviewed in the coming year.

Andrea Zacccardi from the Center for Biological Diversity said removing federal protections would pave the way for trophy hunts.

“It takes a female grizzly bear approximately ten years to replace herself in the wild,” she said. “Grizzly bears, as opposed to some other species in our ecosystem, are not likely to rebound very quickly from aggressive hunts.”

In a statement, Congressman Mike Simpson, Chair of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, said he was disappointed with the ruling,

“As in the case of sage grouse and gray wolf populations, Idaho has shown that the state’s wildlife experts are more than capable of successful species management,” he said, adding the issue “greatly impacted the state.”

According to the Forest Service, there are currently about 80 to 100 grizzly bears in Idaho.


Hatching failure rates increase as bird species decline

By Andrei Ionescu, staff writer, 2/5/23

A recent study published in the journal Biological Reviews has found that over one in six bird eggs fail to hatch, and hatching failure increases as bird species decline. Moreover, the experts discovered that hatching failure is a much bigger problem in the case of captive threatened species, with nearly half of their eggs failing to hatch. These findings provide evidence that conservation managers could use in their decision making for creating the best possible outcomes for endangered bird species recovery.

By assessing 241 bird species across 231 previous studies to examine hatching failure, the researchers discovered that almost 17 percent of bird eggs fail to hatch, which is nearly double than the number reported four decades ago. These values are even more worrisome in the case of endangered species, with 43 percent of eggs from threatened species bred in captivity being unsuccessful in hatching.

“Around 13 percent of bird species globally are currently threatened with extinction, and things are getting worse instead of better. Species on the verge of extinction have much higher levels of hatching failure compared to non-threatened species, and breeding birds in captivity appears to be having a negative impact,” said study co-author Nicola Hemmings, an expert in Biosciences at the University of Sheffield.

“There are important considerations that we need to make – does the benefit of captivity and other interventions outweigh the reduced reproduction of these species? For many species, these practices are absolutely vital for species survival, so we need to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of different approaches to ensure that we are doing everything that we can to protect birds from extinction.”

The scientists outlined four different conservation practices associated with lower hatching rates, including keeping birds in captivity, hatching eggs in artificial incubators, feeding the birds supplementary foods, and providing them with artificial nest boxes or sites. However, despite their potentially negative impact of hatching, some of these measures may still prove important to birds’ survival and reproduction. For instance, the eggs of some ground-nesting birds are at such a high risk of predation that leaving them in the wild would most likely result in their destruction.

“With this work we hope to provide vital evidence needed to understand how effective different management practices are at improving hatching success and aid population recovery,” said study senior author Patricia Brekke, a researcher at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

“Conservation managers are doing an amazing job of preventing species decline, but they have an incredibly difficult job of making decisions when species are at the brink of extinction, on what tools to implement, and when. This kind of work provides the evidence necessary to improve decision making and hopefully improve recovery,” she concluded.


Idaho Statesman (Boise, ID)

Idaho grizzly bears near Yellowstone could lose endangered species protections 

By NICOLE BLANCHARD, February 03, 2023

One day after Idaho officials threatened to sue the federal government for failing to respond to petitions to remove grizzly bears from Endangered Species Act protections, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it will move forward with reconsidering the bears’ position — though it won’t consider Idaho’s argument.

Fish and Wildlife on Friday issued findings on petitions from Wyoming, Montana and Idaho that sought to delist grizzlies. Idaho’s petition was the broadest, asking officials to remove protections for all grizzly bears in the contiguous United States. Wyoming and Montana petitioned to delist bears in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems.

Federal officials said the claims in Idaho’s petition weren’t substantial enough to prompt further review, but Wyoming and Montana’s were sufficient to initiate a status review of grizzlies in the two ecosystems.

The status review could be the first step toward removing grizzlies from Endangered Species Act protections, which would likely lead to a grizzly hunting season in Idaho. Already the decision has prompted an outcry from conservation groups, who say it could threaten the bears’ recovery, and from Idaho politicians who blasted the dismissal of Idaho’s petition.


The Fish and Wildlife Service decision comes 11 months after Idaho’s petition was filed and more than a year after Montana and Wyoming’s petitions.

On Thursday, Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s office announced its intent to sue the federal government if officials did not respond to the petition by early April. Little’s office said federal officials disregarded the original 90-day deadline to respond when the petitions were filed.

In a statement provided to the Idaho Statesman via email, Little said his office will “continue to push back against the federal government” and called the decision an example of federal overreach.

“The response is seven months late, and it took a threat of legal action from the state of Idaho to simply receive a response,” Little said.

The federal agency’s findings kick off a 12-month review on the bears’ status in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems.

While the Northern Continental Divide area is entirely in Montana, the Greater Yellowstone zone includes parts of Montana, Wyoming and the eastern edge of Idaho. Idaho also includes the Bitterroot zone and parts of the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak zones. Grizzly bears in those areas — all in North Idaho — are not part of the consideration for delisting.

In his statement, Little said Fish and Wildife’s decision will disproportionately impact North Idaho.

If bears in the two ecosystems lose their “threatened” status, it won’t be the first time grizzly protections have changed. Since they were first listed in 1975, they were removed from Endangered Species Act protections twice, in 2007 and 2017. In 2018, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game had set up a hunt for a single grizzly in eastern Idaho before a judge returned the bears to threatened status.

While Fish and Wildlife said in its findings that grizzly populations in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide areas appear to have improved, it also noted some potential obstacles.

The federal agency applauded the three states’ recovery efforts but said “the impact of recently enacted state statutes affecting these two grizzly bear populations is of concern and will require careful consideration.”

The decision didn’t point to specific state laws, but conservation groups in recent years have sued to challenge Idaho’s expanded wolf trapping laws, arguing that they could lead to the incidental trapping of grizzlies and lynx. A judge rejected the lawsuit.


Several conservation groups on Friday issued statements criticizing Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to review the bears’ status. The Center for Biological Diversity said the move “could pave the way for the trophy hunting of grizzly bears in parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.”

Derek Goldman, national field director for the Endangered Species Coalition, told the Statesman in an emailed statement that he’s glad the Fish and Wildlife Service called out state laws that could pose a threat to grizzly recovery.

“Given the current trajectory of state policy in Montana and Idaho, state management would be a disaster for grizzly bears’ recovery and the people of Montana, Idaho and the nation,” Goldman said.

Statements from Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians expressed similar concerns.

Idaho’s congressional delegation also blasted the decision — but for vastly different reasons.

In a joint statement, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Rep. Russ Fulcher said they “condemn” the Fish and Wildlife Service decision to dismiss Idaho’s petition.

“We stand by Gov. Little and Idaho’s wildlife managers,” they said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to provide answers, transparency and science-backed reasoning for their decision is unacceptable.”

In his own statement, Rep. Mike Simpson said he was “disappointed” in the outcome. None of the lawmakers acknowledged the decision to review the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly population.


News Radio 560/KPQ (Wenatchee, WA)


Mark Rattner, Published: February 2, 2023

An Okanogan County lawmaker says more needs to be done to protect ranchers, cattlemen, and rural families from a rising wolf population.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state’s gray wolf population has grown nearly 28-percent each year since 2008.

State Representative Joel Kretz says environmentalists wanting wolves to remain on the state endangered list aren’t seeing the big picture.

“We’re saving the last wolf in the world. Urban people that don’t know any better send them money. For them, it’s an emotional fundraising thing. It has nothing to do with facts or science.” Kretz said.

Representative Kretz has introduced a new bill in Olympia. It would give counties the power to delist wolves from the endangered species list if wolf population goals have been met.

“What we’re saying is if a single county has four breeding pairs, that county can apply to be taken out of the endangered species state list.” Kretz said.

Kretz hopes his bill receives enough bi-partisan support for it to pass. He says it will help ranchers, cattlemen, and rural families bear the brunt of predatory wolves.


Endangered Species Coalition/Center for Biological Diversity/Earthjustice/Wolf Conservation Center

Celebrating 50 Years of Endangered Species Act Success

Landmark Law Continues to Save Wildlife From Extinction

WASHINGTON—(February 2, 2023)—Conservation and wildlife advocacy groups are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Endangered Species Act this year, commemorating five decades of effective and crucial protection for imperiled animals and plants.

Passed nearly unanimously by Congress and signed into law by Richard Nixon on Dec. 28, 1973, the Endangered Species Act continues to be a bedrock environmental law for the United States. The Act has been tremendously successful at preventing species that are protected under it from going extinct. The Act has saved countless imperiled species, and 90% of the plants and wildlife listed under the law are recovering on schedule to meet the timetables in their recovery plans.

“This year, as we celebrate 50 years of the Endangered Species Act, we know its role in maintaining biodiversity is more important now than ever, especially as we face a worsening climate crisis and mass extinction,” said House Natural Resources Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva. “From protecting critical habitat to creating recovery plans, the Endangered Species Act has facilitated the recovery of species like the humpback whale and bald eagle, while also protecting iconic species like grizzly bears, sea turtles and jaguars. We know this milestone is also a time to reinvigorate our defense of Endangered Species Act protections. Each year, Republicans ramp up their attacks to undermine science-based decisions about listing, delisting, habitat protections and recovery, so they can more easily dole out favors for polluters. We stand ready to continue our fight for species and their habitats over the next 50 years and beyond.”

“For 50 years, the Endangered Species Act has been our safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction,” said Bob Stanton, former director of the U.S. National Park Service. “As we look to the next 50 years, we owe it to future generations to fully fund and strengthen the law that protects our nation’s wildlife heritage.”

More than 1,747 imperiled species of plants, fish and wildlife in the United States were protected by the Endangered Species Act as of 2019, according to a peer reviewed study. Only 26 have gone extinct or are possibly extinct after being placed on the list of protected species. However, many other plants and animals — like the Bishop’s ʻōʻō, Guam broadbill and Tacoma pocket gopher — have disappeared while waiting for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make decisions on whether to protect them.

Despite its strong track record, and the support of 90% of American voters, the Endangered Species Act continues to face political threats. In 2017 more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the law. This year provides an opportunity to reflect on the law’s successes, as well as find ways to strengthen it to protect imperiled plants and animals.

In celebration of the Endangered Species Act, conservation and animal advocacy organizations will be hosting events, releasing reports and launching a website to honor this historic law. These include holding an awards ceremony for people and organizations working to save imperiled animals, educating members of Congress about the importance of the Endangered Species Act and sponsoring a series of murals highlighting endangered species.


International Fund for Animal Welfare

Bahrain releases endangered dolphins from illegal captivity

(Bahrain – 1 February 2023) – Three humpback dolphins have been released more than a year after being illegally captured for display at a public aquarium at a Bahrain tourist resort.

Indian Ocean humpback dolphins are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and their numbers are decreasing.

In Bahrain’s first-ever operation of its kind, the dolphins were released back into the ocean following a decision by Bahrain authorities to convict three fishermen for poaching the dolphins and selling them on to a resort specializing in shows featuring performing dolphins.

Working with key agencies in Bahrain—including the Supreme Council for Environment, Public Prosecution, Coast Guard Department, General Administration of Civil ‎Defense, Tails Veterinary Clinic and others—IFAW prepared the dolphins to ensure they were released in good condition.

“The release will be life-changing for the three dolphins—from confinement in a pool contaminated with rusty leaks from a poorly maintained ceiling, where they were forced to perform daily for public entertainment, they are now swimming free in the ocean,” said Brian Sharp, Director of IFAW’S Marine Mammal Rescue Program.

“The work does not end with the release of the dolphins. We will closely monitor these animals via satellite trackers, thanks to a contribution from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, as they re-adjust to their natural environment after over a year in illegal forced captivity. We should all dedicate ourselves to make sure this does not happen again.”

His Excellency the Minister of Oil and Environment and the Special Envoy for Climate Affairs, Dr. Mohamed bin Mubarak Bin Daina,‎ said the Constitution of Bahrain ensured the protection of the ‎environment and the preservation of its resources.‎ Bahrain is a signatory to international conventions such as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), and the IUCN.

Najat Tarrada, Co-founder of Tails Veterinary Clinic, said that in coordination with IFAW, the clinic provided comprehensive veterinary examinations, diagnosing the health condition of the dolphins. Tails also managed their safety during the transportation of the animals to the release site, supervised the placement of the tracking devices and helped ensure the dolphins were safely released.


Fox Weather

Western monarch butterfly population suffers due to atmospheric river storms

After the highest initial count in two decades around Thanksgiving, atmospheric river-fueled storms battered overwintering roosts and led to the loss of the iconic western monarch butterflies.

By Hillary Andrews, January 31, 2023

Western monarch butterfly proponents’ spirits soared after the highest initial annual western monarch counts over Thanksgiving in more than 20 years. Then, three weeks of storms supercharged by atmospheric rivers slammed the overwintering butterflies. The final results after a second January count showed that weather took a toll on the endangered species.

“You have severe storms, and then that means branches come down, trees topple over. We saw flooding at quite a few sites. And then we also have heard reports of monarchs being blown out of their clusters,” said Xerces Society biologist Emma Pelton.

“And if it’s too wet and too cold, they can’t regain that energy to get back up into their clusters. So higher rates of predation and mortality,” she continued.

Scientists are still crunching the numbers to get a final idea of the population drop.

The Western Monarch Count regional coordinator in Monterrey County said the groves in her area showed a 25% drop since Thanksgiving. She said other areas saw a 40% percent drop after the storms. Clusters were entirely gone in some areas.

Storm damage also prevented some observers from going out to the sites.

“On some sites, they’re still there in good numbers, and we’re hampered because of all the road closures and power outages and flooding. A lot of people just couldn’t get out safely,” said Pelton, uncertain of the exact drop in numbers.

Over 250 volunteers counted roosts and flutters from 272 overwintering sites across California and Arizona to estimate the population. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation runs the survey and counted 335,479 butterflies.

Over the winter, the butterflies huddled for warmth in groves of trees and faced day after day of tropical storm-force winds and record rainfall. Many of the trees were non-native eucalyptus which is prone to being blown over in high winds and rooted in saturated soil. Observers reported flooding, downed tree limbs and even entire trees uprooted to Xerces.

Huge mortality’ and ‘storms take it up a notch’

Xerces scientists just started the count in 2017 and are unsure what is historically normal seasonal decline. Throughout years of drought and storms, the population drops have varied from 30 to 50%.

“We do think that there’s a pretty big problem happening where we’re seeing huge mortality. And these storms take that up a notch,” said Pelton. “So we’re losing a lot of butterflies. We don’t know that it’s 100% mortality.”

She suggested that butterflies could choose another area over winter. Also, warming temperatures prompted some clusters to start mating and continue the north and eastward migration. One site posted that observers saw mating behavior which signaled an early end to winter.

Protect overwintering sites to withstand storms and droughts

“The plain fact is that if we lose overwintering sites in California, we could lose migratory western monarchs,” said Isis Howard, Xerces Society biologist. “Development, eucalyptus removal, and tree trimming all need to be managed thoughtfully if we are to leave space for these animals to survive.”

The western monarch population crashed in 2020 to only 2,000 butterflies. The 2021 population rebounded to 250,000. It’s a stark contrast to the 1980s when the wintering bugs numbered in the low millions in the West. 

“Small populations are particularly vulnerable to being snuffed out by extreme weather, so we are lucky these storms occurred in a relatively good year,” said Pelton of the tragedy after a promising initial count. “We don’t want to count on luck alone to ensure the survival of the western monarch migration.”

“This is great compared to three years ago. This is not great compared to three decades ago,” Pelton said. “We’ve seen such wild swings in the population over the last five, ten years that I really don’t think two good years in a row is an indication of a trend.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed migratory monarchs as “endangered,” but the butterflies have not been listed in the Endangered Species Act.

Monarch migration

After spending breeding season to the north and east, the monarchs return to mainly coastal California when the weather gets cold from November to February. Coastal forests offer food of winter flower nectar.

Dr. Arthur Shapiro, Professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis, says there are about 10 core wintering sites in California.  He says he doesn’t know what happened to the western monarchs over the past several years.

Shapiro doesn’t believe drought, which reduced favored monarch food like milkweed nectar, is to blame for the precipitous drop in numbers.

“What I can say is that Monarch populations had been in long, slow decline before the 5-year drought and rebounded significantly during the drought,” Shapiro told FOX Weather in 2021.

Shapiro suspects neonicotinoid insecticides may have had a role in the decline. Pesticide use is lower in drought years because many farmers leave their land fallow.

“If pesticides are a cause, I won’t say the cause of the declines, this would provide a mechanism to account for improved numbers in dry years,” he added.

Neonicotinoid pesticides accumulate in the nectar and pollen of treated crops and turf. The E.U. banned several neonicotinoid insecticides, used on crops and turf in 2013 to protect pollinators like bees.

A recent U.S. Geological Survey study also suggested that the pesticides played a role in the 57% decrease in the occurrence of the western bumblebee.


Center for Biological Diversity

Federal Officials Miss Deadline to Protect Ghost Orchid As Endangered

Decision Delayed Despite Ongoing Florida Poaching Threat

HOLLYWOOD, Fla.—(January 31, 2023)—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has missed the statutory deadline to make a decision on protecting the iconic ghost orchid, leaving the species in a regulatory limbo without crucial safeguards. The deadline was Jan. 24, but currently the Service is not scheduled to make a decision until 2026.

This delay comes as two people allegedly took a ghost orchid, and other rare orchids and air plants, from Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park late last year. In an incident report, law-enforcement officials described finding a machete and a bag filled with more than 30 rare and endangered plants. The poaching incident highlights why the famed and highly imperiled ghost orchid urgently needs to be protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“This is a most urgent matter that must not be pushed down the road,” said George Gann, executive director at The Institute for Regional Conservation. “We are deeply concerned about the growing impacts of poaching on ghost orchids and other rare plants in Florida, which make heighted protections imperative. Poaching has been identified as a key threat to the ghost orchid at the Fakahatchee, in Big Cypress National Preserve, and throughout South Florida.”

“This disastrous federal delay comes as the ghost orchid struggles to survive human greed and a multitude of other threats,” said Elise Bennett, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Endangered Species Act protection is crucial to give this hauntingly beautiful orchid a fighting chance at beating extinction. For one thing, it would impose stronger penalties for poachers. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s foot-dragging is depriving the orchid of crucial protection.”

“The heartbreaking poaching incident makes one thing clear: Existing protections for ghost orchids are not enough to keep them safe from harm, and we need action now,” said Melissa Abdo, Ph.D., Sun Coast regional director for The National Parks Conservation Association. “This tragic event, that happened inside a protected natural area no less, is a stark reminder of the threats facing nearly extinct ghost orchids and underscores the urgent need for Endangered Species Act protections. Only then will we have the tools to save this iconic species.”

Following a petition filed by The Institute for Regional Conservation, the Center for Biological Diversity and the National Parks Conservation Association, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the rare native orchid may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. The agency initiated a status review to inform a final decision, which the agency was legally required to make last week.

The orchid is one of the most famous flowers in Florida, but its population has declined by more than 90% globally. Only an estimated 1,500 ghost orchid plants remain in Florida, and less than half are known to be mature enough to reproduce. Florida populations of ghost orchid have declined by up to 50%.

The best available science shows that the ghost orchid is at risk of extinction from multiple threats, including poaching, habitat loss and degradation, and the climate crisis.

The ghost orchid’s current limited range includes the Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and additional conservation and tribal areas in Collier, Hendry and possibly Lee counties. It is also found in Cuba.


Fox 47 News (Lansing, MI)

The Endangered Species Act turns 50 this year. Here’s what it has accomplished

By: Chloe Nordquist, Posted on Jan. 30, 2023

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 turns 50 this year in December.

It protects species that are on the brink of extinction. A study by the Center for Biological Diversity found the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of roughly 291 species.

“The intent of the law is to protect the whole ecosystem that the species needs to thrive,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. The center is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on ending extinction.

As a species declines in population, they are put on the endangered list.

“The bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, the American alligator, grizzly bears, gray wolves, so many species are still here because of the Endangered Species Act,” Curry said. “Eighty percent of listed species are moving toward recovery.”

While the Act has saved species and their habitats and allowed their populations to recover, critics are skeptical.

“A lot of critics of the act say, ‘Oh look, less than 100 species have ever come off the list’, but that’s because recovery takes time. It takes time to address those threats, to prop them back up, and to get them the help that they need,” she said.

A 2019 report by the United Nations found that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.

“All of this is happening because of habitat loss, development, invasive species, pollution, pesticides, climate change, and then direct exploitation of animals,” Curry said. “Wildlife populations around the globe have declined on average 69 percent over the last 40 years.”

Experts say the Endangered Species Act is just one tool in helping protect the planet’s biodiversity. For example, this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the Fender’s blue butterfly was down-listed from endangered to threatened under the Act.

“When we decide to protect a species and give it funding, it generally does recover. Extinction isn’t inevitable, we can do something about it,” Curry said.


Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s checkerspot butterfly placed on Endangered Species List

BY RICK NATHANSON, Journal Staff Writer, January 30, 2023

With more Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterflies being raised at the ABQ BioPark than found in the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is placing the butterfly on the Endangered Species List as regulated by the federal Endangered Species Act.

The official listing goes into effect on March 2.

With the designation, there is the potential that more money will be available for conservation, habitat rehabilitation and more scrutiny over applications for mining, grazing and other permits, Elizabeth Bainbridge, a fish and wildlife biologist with the agency said Monday.

There is also generally greater public awareness for a species when it is placed on the Endangered Species List, she said.

The butterfly subspecies is found in only a few meadows, between 7,800 and 9,000 feet in elevation, in the Sacramento Mountains around the village of Cloudcroft in southeastern New Mexico, she said.

Only eight of these butterflies were found in the Sacramento Mountains last year, “and we saw no caterpillars, although they’re difficult to find in the wild, so it’s possible there’s more.”

The USFWS has partnered with the BioPark, which has raised 40 of the caterpillars in captivity. “We’re hoping to breed more in captivity this year and then take some back out to the wild as we work on trying to revegetate their habitat,” Bainbridge said.

The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly is one of a suite of native pollinators that live in the Sacramento mountains and is important to that ecosystem, she said.

These butterflies are about 2-inches wide in their adult stage. As caterpillars, they spend the winter in a type of hibernation inside a silk-like tent before emerging in the spring as a chrysalis, which later turns into a butterfly with the summer rains. The butterflies then mate “and rely on a single species of host plant, the New Mexico beardtongue, on which to lay eggs,” Bainbridge said.

The dwindling numbers of this butterfly subspecies are likely due to several factors that have degraded its habitat. These include a decade-long drought, warmer temperatures from climate change, the effects of human recreation in the meadow habitat, an altered fire regime, the introduction of invasive and non-native plants, and grazing by large animals such as horses, deer and elk.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is partnering with the U.S. Forest Service, the BioPark Zoo, butterfly experts and a handful of nonprofit organizations and volunteers “to restore butterfly habitat on the Lincoln National Forest,” Bainbridge said.


Public News Service

NM Lawmakers Weigh Next Step for Wildlife Crossings

Roz Brown, Producer, Contact, January 30, 2023

Reducing the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions is the goal of a bill before the New Mexico Legislature this session.

Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, is a co-sponsor, after steering passage of the New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Act in 2019. Stewart said residential and commercial development combined with climate change have fragmented wildlife habitat, forcing animals to cross roads with heavy traffic in some areas.

“So, it’s about a $20 million problem, between health and car accidents,” Stewart pointed out. “It’s hard to put a price on killing wildlife.”

Eddy, Lincoln and Otero counties have been identified as having some of the most dangerous highways in the state for local wildlife, frequently killed by motorists. State data also shows between 2002 and 2018, more than 11,000 deer were involved in crashes, or about 671 each year.

The state’s 2022 Wildlife Corridors Action Plan identified 11 safe-passage projects to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and restore habitat connectivity.

Jeremy Romero, regional connectivity director for the National Wildlife Federation, said the measure would create a $50 million dedicated fund to support implementation.

“Really, this bill is kind-of a next step to the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan, which was prioritized and developed via the first piece of legislation,” Romero explained. “This is the most critical step, because without the funding, we can’t accomplish these projects.”

While expensive, Romero argued wildlife crossings can be an effective solution.

“I have a lot of friends and family that have hit wildlife in various different capacities, some having a little bit more damage than others,” Romero noted. “You hear about it all the time, and it’s a big issue not only across New Mexico, but the country.”

He added it is estimated completing all 11 of the safe-passage projects would cost about $350 million.



Biden Admin. Protects Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness From Mining

By: Olivia Rosane: January 29, 2023

The Biden administration has taken steps to protect the most visited wilderness area in the U.S.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland signed an order Thursday protecting around 225,504 acres of national forest surrounding Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from mining operations.

“The Department of the Interior takes seriously our obligations to steward public lands and waters on behalf of all Americans. Protecting a place like Boundary Waters is key to supporting the health of the watershed and its surrounding wildlife, upholding our Tribal trust and treaty responsibilities, and boosting the local recreation economy,” Haaland said in a statement. “With an eye toward protecting this special place for future generations, I have made this decision using the best-available science and extensive public input.”

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was federally designated in 1964, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It stretches for around 150 miles along Minnesota’s border with Canada and covers more than one million acres of boreal woodland in the Superior National Forest. As the only temperate lake-based wilderness area in the U.S. wilderness system, it is especially popular with paddlers and has more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes. Further, it provides habitat for non-human animals including 316 bird species, almost 50 percent of Minnesota’s native fish and federally threatened species the Canada lynx, the northern long-eared bat and the gray wolf, according to Save the Boundary Waters. Finally, the mix of forest and wetlands acts as a carbon sink, preventing carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and contributing to the climate crisis.

However, in recent years concern has emerged that the area could be threatened by a plan by Twin Metals Minnesota LLC to build an underground copper and nickel mine in Ely, Minnesota, as The New York Times reported. Save the Boundary Waters warned that the plan could pollute the area’s waterways with acid mine drainage, cut down trees that provide habitat and carbon storage and require as much power as the town of Duluth, Minnesota. 

In 2019, the Trump administration renewed two mining leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota since the 1960s, according to HuffPost. Twin Metals is owned by Chilean company Antofagasta, and the Trump family is connected to Chilean billionaire Andrónico Luksic who advocated for the mine. However, the Biden administration canceled the leases around one year ago, arguing that they were “improperly renewed” by the Trump administration, as the Department of the Interior (DOI) wrote at the time.

Thursday’s decision does not cancel any existing leases. What the Public Land Order 7917 signed by Haaland does is withdraw additional portions of the Superior National Forest from mining leasing for 20 years, as the DOI explained. This could mean the end for the Twin Metals mine, according to HuffPost and The New York Times.

In a statement shared with HuffPost, the company said it was “disappointed and stunned” by the announcement, and said the minerals could have aided with the renewable energy transition.

“This region sits on top of one of the world’s largest deposits of critical minerals that are vital in meeting our nation’s goals to transition to a clean energy future, to create American jobs, to strengthen our national security and to bolster domestic supply chains,” Twin Metals Minnesota added. “We believe our project plays a critical role in addressing all of these priorities, and we remain committed to enforcing Twin Metals’ rights.”

DOI said its decision was based on more than a year of study, more than 200,000 public comments and feedback from Indigenous tribes in the area. It was embraced by environmental groups.

“Today’s science-based decision is a massive win for Boundary Waters protection,” National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters Becky Rom said in a statement. “You don’t allow America’s most toxic industry next to America’s most popular Wilderness. The Boundary Waters is a paradise of woods and water. It is an ecological marvel, a world-class outdoor destination, and an economic engine for hundreds of businesses and many thousands of people. This decision moves America ever closer to permanently protecting this beloved Wilderness.”


National Geographic (Press Release)

First Report of Rare Cat Discovered on Mt. Everest

New scientific finding marks the first documented discovery of Pallas’s Cat on the world’s highest mountain.

Washington, D.C. (January 26, 2023) —  Findings from a new paper published in Cat News have identified the first ever report of Pallas’s cat on Mount Everest, in the Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal. This groundbreaking finding is a result of the 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition, the most comprehensive single scientific expedition to the mountain in history.

From April 7 to May 2, 2019, Dr. Tracie Seimon of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoological Health Program, based at the Bronx Zoo, co-led the Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition biology field team of scientists who collected environmental samples from two locations 6 km (3.7 miles) apart at 5,110 and 5,190 m (16,765 and 17,027 ft) elevation above sea level along Sagarmatha National Park on Mount Everest’s Southern Flank. 

“It is phenomenal to discover proof of this rare and remarkable species at the top of the world,” said Dr. Seimon. “The nearly four-week journey was extremely rewarding not just for our team but for the larger scientific community. The discovery of Pallas’s cat on Everest illuminates the rich biodiversity of this remote high-alpine ecosystem and extends the known range of this species to eastern Nepal.”

The DNA analysis of scat samples collected from both sites confirmed two Pallas’s cats inhabit Mount Everest and overlap in territory with red fox. The researchers found evidence of pika and mountain weasel DNA in the samples, an important food source for Pallas’s cat. These findings also add a new species to the list of known mammals in Sagarmatha National Park, a heavily visited and protected World Heritage site.

“This is a unique discovery not only in terms of science but also conservation as this population of Pallas’s cat is legally protected under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora),” said National Geographic Explorer and co-author of the paper, Dr. Anton Seimon. “We hope that the confirmation of this new charismatic species will raise awareness of and education about the diversity of species at this iconic World Heritage Site.”

The number of tourists visiting Sagarmatha National Park and Mount Everest has been dramatically increasing, from just a few thousand in the 1970s to over fifty thousand in 2019. It is notable that Pallas’s cat went undetected in this park until 2019, and the new study demonstrates how conservation genetics and environmental sampling can be utilized as a powerful approach to discover and study cryptic and elusive species like Pallas’s cat.

Future research combining camera trap surveys and collection of additional scat samples would help to better define the Pallas’s cat population, range, density, and their diet in Sagarmatha National Park.

“The groundbreaking 2019 Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition continues to be extremely valuable to better understand the most iconic environment on our planet,” said Nicole Alexiev, Vice President of Science and Innovation Programs at National Geographic Society. “These results are a perfect illustration of why this work is important and a cornerstone of our partnership with Rolex to study and explore Earth’s critical life support systems.”

From April to May 2019, an international, multidisciplinary team of scientists conducted the most comprehensive single scientific expedition to Mt. Everest in the Khumbu Region of Nepal as part of National Geographic and Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Expeditions partnership. Team members from eight countries, including 17 Nepalese researchers conducted trailblazing research in five areas of science that are critical to understanding environmental changes and their impacts: biology, glaciology, meteorology, geology and mapping. To learn more visit:


Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources


News Release, January 26, 2023

(HONOLULU) – Small invertebrates and microfauna, like endangered Hawaiian picture-winged flies, play an important role in providing balance to our natural ecosystems.

Scientists and researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UH) and the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) are working together to re-establish picture-winged fly populations, including of Drosophila hemipeza, an endangered species. The project’s aim is to help restore ecosystem stability, support natural biodiversity, and reduce the likelihood of the species’ extinction.

Historically, D. hemipeza populations were found at multiple sites in both the Ko‘olau and Wai‘anae ranges of O‘ahu. Today, their numbers are greatly diminished, and their range is significantly reduced. It is believed that Palikea, in the Waiʻanae Range, may be the only remaining site for these flies and few are left there.

“Contributing factors to their decline include a range of issues that a lot of other native insects face: deforestation, predation and competition from invasives, native host plant destruction from pigs, and climate change,” said Kelli Konicek, Entomological Research Technician with the Hawai‘i Invertebrate Program.

Konicek and a small group of researchers are working to stem that tide, rearing D. hemipeza in a lab to introduce into the wild. Through experimentation and ingenuity working with more common and abundant fly species, and leveraging long-term knowledge developed by UH researchers at the Hawaiian Drosophila Research Stock Center, the team developed an effective mass rearing regimen that has really taken off.

“I collected four D. hemipeza individuals in May 2022, and by December I had over 1,000 flies emerge,” Konicek explained. “It’s been very successful in terms of rearing, which can be a tricky process. These files are temperamental, temperature-sensitive, and will only lay eggs in certain native plants.”

Rearing is only one aspect of the process. Keeping the flies fit and healthy enough to be introduced into nature is another. Over the last few months, the group has become proficient in that regard.

Researchers are slowly releasing these flies at a Mānoa Cliff Restoration site, containing several native host plant species in which D. hemipeza are known to breed. Native ‘ōhā wai, hāhā, and ōpuhe have been planted by a dedicated group of volunteers in cooperation with DOFAW’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program.

Releases began in October 2022 and by early January, Konicek observed the first unmarked D. hemipeza at the site, a sign that the species is successfully reproducing on its own.

“It’s really promising to observe flies at the site that we know are not lab-reared,” said DLNR Entomologist Cynthia King. “However, we’ll need to continue the introductions to increase the likelihood the species will establish in the long-term.”

“One of the reasons that it’s important to introduce this native species and others is that a lot of work has been done planting native plants and protecting areas,” Konicek explained. “One of the goals for DLNR is to create a holistic, restored ecosystem. These flies have such an important relationship with their native host plants, the big goal is to create interactions to make sure that the pieces of the environment that we are trying to restore are getting put back into place.”

In conservation efforts, small invertebrates and microfauna often receive less exposure and recognition than their larger animal counterparts, but their role in supporting biodiversity and ecosystem health should be noticed.


Daily Mail (UK)

Monstrous stingrays up to 10 FEET long are tagged in the wild for the first time: National Geographic explorers are now tracking the wondrous world of the critically endangered species

*National Geographic explorers tagged the first smalleye stingrays in the wild

*These rays are critically endangered and are rarely seen in the oceans

*The data will help experts create better processes to protect the rays

By STACY LIBERATORE for, 26 January 2023

Approximately 11 monstrous stingrays measuring up to 10 feet long were tagged in the wild by divers, allowing them to see the wondrous world of the critically endangered species.

The mission revealed these elusive smalleye rays can dive more than 650 feet below the surface and swim hundreds of miles per day – facts not previously known to the scientific community.

Smalleye rays have only been previously studied through images, but the tagging is expected to produce new information that could lead to better protection for the species.

The program will take years to gather and analyze enough data to understand these creatures, but the National Geographic explorers who tagged the rays told NatGeo that it ‘promises a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of a mysterious species.

The smalleye, given its name because of its raisin-sized eyes, has a wingspan that stretches over seven feet, weighs up to 790 pounds and is distinguished from other rays by the white dorsal spots on its back.

Using this criteria, scientists have been able to examine photo IDs to study this rare animal in southern Mozambique, one of the only locations where it is regularly seen.

While most stingrays avoid humans, the smalleye appears inquisitive, sometimes swimming within feet of scuba divers.

Before the early 2000s, there were only a few verified live sightings of smalleye stingrays.

In the past fifteen years, biologist Andrea Marshall and her colleagues from the Marine Megafauna Foundation have spotted more than 70 off the coast of Mozambique.

However, their most recent expedition is the first time these rays have been tagged in their natural habitat.

Marshall told National Geographic that she immediately dove into the waters when she spotted the first ray.

With a six-foot-long pole in her hands, she touched the animal and extracted a skin sample for further analysis.

And while the fish appeared calm, Marshall stayed aware of its stinging spin, the length of a human forearm.

One small wrong would ‘would put us in mortal danger,’ she said.

While the program is still very young, the team already sees the fruits of their labor.

Researchers have theorized that smalleye stingrays travel long distances, but this idea was only made with photographs, but the tags provide concrete evidence.

Marshall and her team are now looking to uncover why this species embarks on long stretches.

The tags also reveal smalleyes congregate around reefs at night, particularly between midnight and 6 am, which suggests the massive fish eat during the evening hours.

More exciting is the data shows these rays rest on the seafloor.

Previously, the majestic creatures have only been observed swimming – no one has ever seen one inactive.

Marshall said one of the tagged rays buried itself in the sand and the behavior may be due to them consuming large meals at once and then needing time to digest.

Melissa Hoboson, who wrote about Marshall’s mission, said many questions still remain.

‘Why are smalleyes so big? What are they doing on the reef at night? Are they giving birth in the area?’ Hobons writes.


AgNet West Radio Network

NCBA Suing Biden Administration Over Endangered Species Listing

January 25, 2023

The Biden Administration is facing a lawsuit from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) over the listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken under the Endangered Species Act. NCBA has filed a Notice of Intent to sue the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s the first step in court toward overturning the listing revoking FWS’s final rule for both the Northern and Southern Distinct Population Segments (DP).

“The lesser prairie chicken only survives today because of the voluntary conservation efforts of ranchers,” said NCBA Associate Director of Government Affairs Sigrid Johannes. “The science has proven repeatedly that healthy, diverse rangelands—like those cultivated by livestock grazing—are where the lesser prairie chicken thrives. There are numerous places where this listing goes seriously wrong and we are defending cattle producers against this overreaching, unscientific rule.”

The listing was previously set to take effect at the end of January, but thanks to pressure on the Biden administration from NCBA and our allies in Congress, the rule was delayed by 60 days. The listing will now take effect on March 27, 2023, and the states included in the species’ range are Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado.

NCBA’s lawsuit follows a letter submitted to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and FWS Director Martha Williams last week requesting a delay of the effective date of the rule and flagging particular concerns with the 4(d) rule for the Northern DPS of the bird. By permitting third parties to act as grazing authorities with the power to review and approve grazing management plans within the Northern DPS, FWS has opened the door to activist groups having oversight of cattle grazing. Without these third party-approved grazing management plans, cattle producers operating inside the species’ range will be subject to a punitive degree of civil and criminal penalties for incidental take of the bird.

“This 4(d) rule would allow environmental activist groups to become ‘grazing police’ over cattle producers. Designing a third-party verification system puts political priorities over sound science and empowers distant bureaucrats over land managers and producers with decades of experience,” said Johannes.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. In addition to NCBA, the case is being brought by lead plaintiff Permian Basin Petroleum Association along with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, and New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association.


Courthouse News Service

Endangered species success stories touted off Southern California coast

Five species on San Clemente Island off the coast of Southern California have “fully recovered” thanks to the Endangered Species Act, which turns 50 this year.

ALANNA MADDEN / January 24, 2023

(CN) — The San Clemente Island Bell’s sparrow made its way off the endangered species list along with four plants only found on the U.S. Navy-owned island in Southern California, thanks to population recovery.

San Clemente Bell’s sparrows — formerly known as the “SC sage sparrow” — are small, grayish-brown birds with distinct black streaks and white eye rings. The species was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1977, declining to 38 known individuals by 1984.

A celebratory announcement came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday highlighting its collaboration with the U.S. Navy over the last 40 years to preserve the five species under the Endangered Species Act — a law that turns 50 this year.

“This is an incredible comeback story for five of California’s unique Channel Island species that fought so hard to survive for decades,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, we can celebrate their recovery along with the 50th anniversary of one of the world’s most successful conservation laws.”

San Clemente Island is a 57-square-mile island owned and managed by the U.S. Navy about 60 miles off the coast of San Diego. The introduction of farm animals centuries before the Navy arrived and the more recent introduction of mule deer in 1962, the indigenous species on the island eventually declined.

With the removal of nonnative herbivores and protections through the Endangered Species Act, the island’s native species have slowly returned over the last few decades. The recovered plant species in Tuesday’s announcement include the San Clemente Island paintbrush, lotus, larkspur and bush-mallow.

“The Navy is proud to have shared more than 40 years of collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve the habitat and recover these species,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Environment and Mission Readiness Karnig Ohannessian in a statement. “This announcement is a milestone in our efforts and should be celebrated. The Navy remains committed to our conservation efforts on San Clemente Island, and to be good stewards of the natural resources we manage as part of our national security mission.”

Fish and Wildlife’s final rule will be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 25.



EU demand for frogs’ legs raises risks of local extinctions, experts warn

by Sean Mowbray on 23 January 2023

Each year, the European Union imports an estimated 4,000 metric tons of frogs’ legs. That sum is the equivalent of around 200 million frogs killed to feed demand, the majority of which are caught in the wild as part of a trade that’s unregulated and unsustainable, according to a group of conservationists and researchers.

In their recent paper, published in the journal Conservation, they underline that this trade is increasing the risk of local and regional frog extinctions in countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Turkey and Albania, the main source countries for the EU market.

Between 2011 and 2020, the EU imported 40,700 metric tons of frogs’ legs, equating to between 814 million and 2 billion frogs; Indonesia accounted for more than 70% of that trade. This makes the EU the largest importer of frogs’ legs originating from wild-caught species in the world.

Amid a global decline of biodiversity, this trade is likely heavily involved in reducing populations of amphibians in source countries and is linked to increasing uses of pesticides due to the loss of ecosystem services provided by wild species, according to Sandra Altherr, a biologist and co-founder of German NGO Pro Wildlife.

“Hence, the frogs’ legs trade has direct consequences not only for the frog populations themselves, but also for biodiversity and ecosystem health as a whole,” Altherr, a co-author of the new paper, told Mongabay. She described the trade as a “black box,” with little information on species traded, their origins, or the environmental impact.

This lack of transparent data is a concern, according to lead author Mark Auliya, with the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change. “As the currently most prominent species involved in the frogs’ legs trade are not listed on CITES” — the international convention on the wildlife trade — “there is no database to accurately document the volumes, species, and countries involved in international trade,” he said.

Past research from Turkey suggests that the exploitation of large-legged species is drastically increasing risks of extinction in the near term. Equivalent studies in other locations are lacking, conservationists say.

Auliya said it’s not the “prime task” of conservationists to determine the sustainability of trade through self-funded studies: “[T]hese would have to be carried out and financed by the trader side in cooperation with experts, to assure that species’ offtakes are sustainable.”

Co-author Alice Hughes, an associate professor at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in southern China, said the trade’s absence of screening also poses a disease transmission concern. “There’s no biosafety regulation, meaning that things like ranavirus and chytrid fungus can wash out into the rivers and potentially infect native populations, and this is something that has been completely neglected,” she told Mongabay.

“Europeans might think that their frogs’ legs are completely sustainable and farmed,” Hughes added. “What we know is they include both farmed and wild-caught individuals of a variety of species, many of which are not widely disclosed, and many of which are likely not to be sustainably harvested.”

Conservationists are calling for urgent action to be taken to lessen these potential impacts and ensure the frogs’ leg trade is sustainable.

“We are urging the EU to start a listing initiative at CITES to ensure at least a trade is taking place with data at the species’ level, and to cross check the sustainability,” Altherr said. “There should also be awareness about the manifold problems linked to the frog’s leg trade [among consumers], not to forget the cruel killing methods.”


Maui News

Reps. Case and Tokuda announce $2.5 M in USDA funds for invasive species prevention

January 21, 2023

Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) and Congresswoman Jill Tokuda (HI-02) announced that the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will award more than $2.5 million to Hawaiʻi’s Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program.

“Invasive species pose an especially grave threat to Hawai‘i’s unique ecosystems, natural resources and agricultural communities because of its unique geography,” said Rep. Case in a press release. “Hawai‘i is the most isolated island chain and one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world. A 2014 survey identified 9,975 endemic species in Hawai‘i. Tragically, due to invasive species, Hawai‘i has become the endangered species and extinction capital of the world. We currently have 503 species listed as endangered, more than any other state and almost half of the total endangered species nationwide.”

“I have walked through farms devastated by infestation and disease. I’ve talked with farmers struggling to keep their family farms going. This funding from the USDA comes at a crucial time for Hawaiʻiʻs ecological system which has been increasingly threatened by invasive species,” said Rep. Tokuda. “We are on the front lines of a climate crisis that has given rise to widespread infestations, and our producers are left with ruined crops and spending their hard earned money fighting these pests. They need support from the federal government, and I’m dedicated to making sure that Hawaiʻi receives its fair share of resources in future years to protect our precious crops.”

The funding comes at a time when Kona Coffee farmers were devastated last year by the combination of a drought, an infestation of the Coffee Berry Borer beetle and the coffee leaf rust fungus.

Funding is focused on the prevention of invasive species from entering the islands and for the prevention and mitigation of fruit fly impacts. Specific projects include:

*Hawaiʻi Detector Dog Program;

*Molecular diagnostic catalog for tracking invasive noctuid moth introductions in Hawai‘i;

*Integrative identification methods for Bactrocera fruit flies;

*Developing molecular diagnostic tools to determine strain and mating status of fruit fly incursions;

*Identification of Oriental Fruit Fly Larvae & Trap Captures;

*Field testing of bait stations containing a fungal pathogen to control invasive fruit flies;

*Development of protein food odor based chemical lure for female oriental fruit fly;

*Optimizing Bacterial Probiotic Establishment for Medfly Sterile Insect Technique;

*Developing an insecticide rotation to combat spinosad-resistance in three species of invasive Tephritidae fruit flies;

*Management of hala scale insect in Hawaii, and survey of its potential biological control agents in its native range;

*Enhanced mitigation and rapid response to introduced snails, earthworms, and flatworms in Hawai‘i;

*Systems Approach for the management of Coffee Berry Borer in Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico with emphasis on biological control.

“Our year-round growing cycle produces some of the highest quality crops in the world, from sugar and pineapple to cattle and specialty crops like fruit and cut flowers. Hawaiʻi’s unique crops are also more susceptible to invasive species and have no natural defenses to combat the threats. This is why we are united in fighting to secure as much funding to support Hawaiʻi’s plants and agriculture resources as possible,” said the Members of Congress.


The Spectrum (St. George, UT)

Utah loosens rules on federally-protected species of prairie dog

David DeMille, St. George Spectrum & Daily News, Jan. 20. 2023

Utah wildlife managers are rewriting some of their rules regarding the state’s federally-protected Utah prairie dog with hopes the species might be delisted under the Endangered Species Act.

Found only in the southwestern corner of the state, the Utah prairie dog has been federally listed since 1973, when its numbers dropped to about 3,000 as land was cleared for new houses, farms and ranches in and around Cedar City.

Numbers have nearly tripled since then, state managers say, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has urged the federal government to remove the species from its Endangered Species Act list.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, the Utah Wildlife Board approved an updated set of rules for prairie dogs, with members saying the state would continue to monitor and manage prairie dog populations but would have more flexibility to remove prairie dogs from places where they conflict with private landowners.

“Some of the approved changes to the current rule allow the taking of prairie dogs in situations where there are conflicts, while still maintaining a healthy population and ongoing conservation efforts,” said Kim Hersey, the mammal conservation coordinator at the DWR.

The state would distribute “agricultural control permits” through a tiered system and allow for the removal of prairie dogs over concerns of “human health and safety.”

The changes would only go into effect if the species was delisted though, which would require action from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The species is currently listed as a threatened species under the ESA.

Prairie dogs are considered key to the ecosystem as a food source for predators and because their burrows turn up the soil and can be used as homes by other animals. However, they often conflict with private interests, especially on new construction sites and agricultural land.

Some property owners in Cedar City sued over the species, saying the decades-old regulations designed to protect them had allowed the animals to overrun playgrounds, cemeteries and backyards.

In 2018, under the Trump administration, the agency passed new rules that would make it easier to remove or kill prairie dogs that ran into conflict with homes or businesses, drawing a lawsuit from the group Friends of Animals.


Oregon Public Broadcasting

Group seeks reintroduction of sea otters along West Coast

By AP staff, TUCSON, Ariz. Jan. 19, 2023

A nonprofit group that aims to protect endangered species asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday to reintroduce sea otters to a stretch of the West Coast from Northern California to Oregon.

Threatened southern sea otters occupy only 13% of their historic range, with a small population of the mammals currently living on California’s central coast, the Center for Biological Diversity said.

“Bringing the sea otter back to the broader West Coast would be an unparalleled conservation success story,” said Kristin Carden, a senior scientist at the Arizona-based group. “Not only would the sea otters thrive, but they would also help restore vital kelp forest and seagrass ecosystems.”

The petition under the Endangered Species Act recommends that reintroduction occur between San Francisco Bay and Oregon and asks the Fish and Wildlife Service to assess the feasibility of reintroduction from Southern California into Baja California, Mexico.

North America’s smallest marine mammal, sea otters rely on dense fur to keep warm, attracting commercial fur traders who began slaughtering them in the mid-1700s.

Traders nearly drove the species to extinction, wiping out 99% of the global population, the Center for Biological Diversity said. Reintroductions have helped reestablish sea otter populations in Canada’s British Columbia, Alaska, Washington State and California.


The Maui News

Moving endangered species emerges as last resort as climate warms

CHRISTINA LARSON and MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press, Jan. 18, 2023

In a desperate effort to save a seabird species in Hawaii from rising ocean waters, scientists are moving chicks to a new island hundreds of miles away.

Moving species to save them — once considered taboo — is quickly gaining traction as climate change upends habitats. Similar relocations are being suggested for birds, lizards, butterflies and even flowers.

Concerns persist that the novel practice could cause unintended harm the same way invasive plants and animals have wreaked havoc on native species.

But for the Tristram’s storm petrels on northeastern Hawaii’s Tern Island, which is just 6 feet above sea level, the relocation of about 40 chicks to artificial burrows more than 500 miles away on Oahu could offer new hope. The species is considered vulnerable to extinction, and the goal is for the young petrels return to their new home when old enough to breed.

“Tern Island is washing away,” said biologist Eric VanderWerf of the nonprofit Pacific Rim Conservation. “Climate change is causing a greater need for this — for taking a species outside its known historical range.”

A pending change to the U.S. Endangered Species Act by the Biden administration would make it easier to relocate some of the most imperiled species to places where they’ve not previously been recorded.

In response, state wildlife officials and scientists have suggested moving a portion of some species struggling with climate change, including Key deer of southern Florida, the Karner blue butterfly of the Midwest and Northeast, desert flowers in Nevada and California and the St. Croix ground lizard in the Virgin Islands.

Republicans in western states — including Montana, New Mexico and Arizona — are against the proposal saying it could wreak ecological havoc as “invasive species” get purposefully introduced.

The proposal, which federal officials expect to finalize in June, reflects a “fundamental shift in the way we think of species protection and conservation,” said University of Notre Dame biologist Jason McLachlan.

The issue goes beyond endangered species, McLachlan said, and raises questions about what should be considered “native” now that shifting temperatures are pushing some species to higher elevations or toward the planet’s poles.

Comparable temperature shifts in the past occurred over millennia, but the present one is happening over just decades and is drastically upending ecosystems. “Eventually we’re going to have to start thinking about it in ways that will make people — including me — uncomfortable,” he said. “To say this species is OK and this species is not OK, that’s asking a lot of human beings.”

To save storm petrels, VanderWerf said, scientists need to act before populations have crashed. “In 30 years, these birds will certainly be rare, if we don’t do something about it,” he said.

Relocation of species outside historical ranges is still a rarity, but U.S. wildlife officials have identified numerous threatened and endangered plants and animals already being affected by climate change: glacial stoneflies in Montana, emperor penguins in Antarctica, the Mt. Rainier ptarmigan, the saltmarsh sparrow of the Atlantic coast and numerous birds of Hawaii.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Karen Armstrong said there are no current proposals to establish new populations of those particular species. “In the future, some species’ ranges may shift due to climate change, or their current habitats might become unsuitable due to invasive species encroachment,” Armstrong said in an email. “We view experimental population establishment outside of their historical ranges as a potential tool for their management and conservation.”

One plan now being considered by U.S. wildlife officials concerns birds native to Guam, where kingfishers were decimated by brown tree snakes accidentally brought to the island around 1950 on military cargo ships.

The last 29 wild Guam kingfishers were captured in the 1980s and have been bred in captivity to buy time. Under a pending proposal, nine kingfishers would be released back into the wild beginning this year on Palmyra Island, more than 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) away.

If a relocation is successful, the kingfishers would become one of the few species ever upgraded from “extinct in the wild” to “critically endangered.”

The hope is that the Guam kingfisher, also known locally as sihek, will eventually be returned to their native island, if the tree snake is controlled, said Erica Royer, a bird expert at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C.

“This kind of intensive management is necessary for us to have a reasonable shot at holding onto some species,” said Don Lyons with National Audubon Society’s Seabird Institute.

Yet the potential danger — and scientific debate — lies in what humans can’t predict. Humanity has been moving species around for centuries, often inadvertently and sometimes causing great harm.

Examples abound: Asian carp have spread through rivers and streams across the U.S. Starlings from Europe destroy crops and drive out songbirds. Zebra mussels from Eurasia decimate native populations. And kudzu vines from Japan planted to stabilize soils have spread to dozens of states where they choke out other plants.

Scientist Mark Schwartz at the University of California, Davis said he was initially skeptical of moving species for conservation when biologists began discussing the idea about a decade ago. The rapid rate of extinctions more recently has him thinking that sitting idle could be a costly error.

“Many, many species” must be moved or could go extinct, said James Watson, a conservation scientist at the University of Queensland in Australia, where increasingly severe, climate-fueled wildfires have forced conversations on relocations. Unprecedented fires three years ago likely destroyed the last habitats of some endangered species, he said.

“We’ve already played Russian Roulette with the climate, we’re already on that ski run – we might as well take some more risks.”


Center for Biological Diversity

Sen. Schumer Wins 2022 Rubber Dodo Award

WASHINGTON—(Jan. 17, 2023)—Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer won the Center for Biological Diversity’s Rubber Dodo award today for inserting a last-minute rider into the 2023 omnibus budget bill that potentially condemns the North Atlantic right whale to extinction.

The annual award is given by the Center for Biological Diversity to a person or a group who has aggressively sought to drive endangered species extinct or destroy America’s natural heritage.

With a declining population of 340 individuals, including just 70 breeding females, the North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered cetaceans. Schumer’s rider exempts the lobster fishery from the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act until 2028, allowing right whales to be entangled and drowned in lobster gear with impunity.

“Ripping away protections for the Atlantic right whale is one of the gravest environmental errors ever made by Congress. It’s deeply unfortunate that Sen. Schumer turned his back on this magnificent species,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “Fifty years ago, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act and made a bedrock commitment to protect our irreplaceable natural heritage. I’m deeply saddened that Sen. Schumer believes this commitment should be violated when it’s politically expedient to do so.”

Sen. Schumer won the Rubber Dodo award after an online contest in which thousands cast their votes. Other nominees were outgoing Arizona governor Doug Ducey, the California Independent Petroleum Association and the Plastics Industry Association.

Despite false claims from the lobster industry, the lobster fishery is killing Atlantic right whales at nearly six times the level that the remaining population can sustain. Because the vast majority of right whale entanglements are never observed and because the industry fought efforts to require comprehensive gear-markings, it is difficult to prove the full extent of the damage that this fishery causes to right whales.

Similar to the fossil fuel industry’s attempt to deny climate change, the lobster fishery and politicians in Maine have argued that additional restrictions on lobster fishing are not justified because of lack of sufficient scientific evidence.

“It’s not only foolish for Congress to ignore the best science, the courts’ judgement and the conservation challenges facing this whale, it’s a dereliction of duty,” said Suckling. “If we lose right whales, they’ll be gone forever. Let’s hope that Sen. Schumer recognizes his error and does everything in his power to fix his mistake and ensure that right whales continue to swim up and down the Atlantic coastline for generations to come.”

Previous Rubber Dodo award winners include Interior Secretary David Bernhardt (2019), President Donald Trump (2018), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (2017), Rep. Rob Bishop (2016), Monsanto (2015), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (2014), the Koch brothers (2013), climate denier Senator James Inhofe (2012), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2011), former BP CEO Tony Hayward (2010), massive land speculator Michael Winer (2009), Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (2008) and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne (2007).

Background on the Dodo

In 1598 Dutch sailors landing on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius discovered a flightless, 3-foot-tall, extraordinarily friendly bird. Its original scientific name was Didus ineptus. (Contemporary scientists use the less defamatory Raphus cucullatus.) To the rest of the world, it’s the dodo — possibly the most famous extinct species on Earth after the dinosaurs.

The dodo evolved over millions of years with no natural predators and eventually lost the ability to fly, becoming a land-based consumer of fruits, nuts and berries. Having never known predators, it showed no fear of humans or the menagerie of animals accompanying them to Mauritius.

The bird’s trusting nature led to its rapid extinction. By 1681 the dodo had vanished, hunted and outcompeted by humans, dogs, cats, rats, macaques and pigs. Humans logged its forest cover while pigs uprooted and ate much of the understory vegetation.

The origin of the name dodo is unclear. It likely came from the Dutch word dodoor, meaning “sluggard,” the Portuguese word doudo, meaning “fool” or “crazy,” or the Dutch word dodaars meaning “plump-arse” (that nation’s name for the little grebe).

The dodo’s reputation as a foolish, ungainly bird derives in part from its friendly naiveté and the very plump captives that were taken on tour across Europe. The animal’s reputation was cemented with the 1865 publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Based on skeleton reconstructions and the discovery of early drawings, scientists now believe that the dodo was a much sleeker animal than commonly portrayed. The rotund European exhibitions were likely produced by overfeeding captive birds.



Toxic Toilet Paper Chemical Found in Endangered Killer Whales

The chemical is often used in paper processing during the manufacturing of toilet paper.

Amanda Kooser, Jan. 16, 2023

Southern resident killer whales are an endangered population of the famous black-and-white marine animals also known as orcas. A new study suggests certain chemical contaminants may be implicated in the orcas’ decline.

A team led by researchers at the University of British Columbia published its findings in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in December.  

The scientists analyzed tissue from six southern resident killer whales and six Bigg’s killer whales stranded along the coast of British Columbia between 2006 and 2018.

“They discovered that chemical pollutants are prevalent in killer whales, with a chemical often found in toilet paper one of the most prevalent in the samples studied, accounting for 46 percent of the total pollutants identified,” the university said in a statement last week.

The compound 4-nonylphenol (4NP) is associated with paper processing and is often used in toilet paper production. It’s listed as a toxic substance in Canada and can impact the nervous system and cognitive function.

“It can leak into the ocean via sewage treatment plants and industrial runoffs, where it is ingested by smaller organisms and moves up the food chain to reach top predators such as killer whales,” the university said.

The study is the first to find 4NP in killer whales. The researchers also found 4NP transfers from mother orcas to their fetuses, raising questions about how the chemical might impact fetal development.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the southern resident population — found near British Columbia, Washington state and Oregon — had only 74 individuals as of December 2020. They are listed as an endangered species in both the US and Canada. EPA points to vessel impacts, low availability of salmon and exposure to contaminants as threats to the orcas’ survival.

The chemical 4NP is a “contaminant of emerging concern,” meaning it’s neither well studied nor well regulated. The presence of the chemical in the stranded whales indicates it may have a wider impact on the marine environment and other animals. It could have implications for human health as well, since people eat the same salmon the whales do.

The university said governments could help the endangered whales by halting production of the chemicals found in their bodies and by addressing sources of marine pollution.

“This research is a wake-up call,” said Juan José Alava, study co-author. “Southern residents are an endangered population and it could be that contaminants are contributing to their population decline. We can’t wait to protect this species.”


Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon Coast’s Chinook salmon among populations under review for endangered-species listing

By Roman Battaglia (Jefferson Public Radio), Jan. 13, 2023

The National Marine Fisheries Service, also known as NOAA Fisheries, is considering a request from several environmental groups seeking to list two types of Chinook salmon as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. One population lives along the Oregon Coast and the other farther south along the Oregon-California border.

Three environmental groups sent the petition last August showing that numerous threats have caused a sharp decline in spring-run Chinook salmon. Those groups are the Center for Biological Diversity, the Native Fish Society and Umpqua Watersheds.

Unlike fall-run Chinook, the spring-run salmon enter rivers still sexually immature and remain there through the summer.

“While they’re in the rivers in the summer there’s a lot more opportunities for factors that threaten the species, like pollution, hot water temperatures, habitat issues, to affect the species,” said Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney Meg Townsend.

Townsend said they’re specifically concerned about spring-run salmon, as their fall-run counterparts are doing better. However, the fisheries service said they’ll consider all the regional Chinook salmon populations for endangered listing together.

“They [the fisheries service] have said that if the spring-run were doing badly that listing the entire ESU may be warranted rather than separating them out,” Townsend said.

ESU refers to an Evolutionary Significant Unit, a population considered distinct enough to consider for conservation separately from the entire species. The fisheries service considered a request from environmental groups a few years ago to separate the spring-run Chinook salmon into their own ESU, but that request was denied.

“The spring-run are not separate from the fall-run,” said Gary Rule, natural resources management specialist with the fisheries service. “They’re not reproductively isolated from the fall-run. So they don’t meet the criteria to be separate.”

Rule said that despite fall-run Chinook salmon doing well, if the spring-run salmon alone are at risk of becoming endangered, that could warrant both groups being protected.

Townsend said that populations of coho salmon in the same area have improved since they were listed as endangered or threatened. She hopes protections for Chinook salmon will do the same.

Now, the fisheries service will look at the research and data submitted in the petition, as well as traditional ecological knowledge from area tribes, to decide if an endangered listing is warranted. They’re starting a 60-day request for information from the public.

The fisheries service decision is due by early August.


CBS News

4-year-old whale of one of the world’s rarest species is “likely to die” after becoming heavily entangled, NOAA says

By LI COHEN, Jan. 13, 2023

One of the few remaining individuals of the rarest whale species in the world is now “likely to die” after becoming severely entangled, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

The 4-year-old marine mammal is a North Atlantic right whale, a species with only a few hundred remaining members.

The whale, identified as #4904, was first seen wrapped in lines on Jan. 8 by an aerial survey team from Florida’s Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The team found the whale roughly 20 miles east of Rodanthe, North Carolina, with “several wraps of line around the mouth and tail” and more line trailing behind it, NOAA said.

Those lines have left her with “numerous wounds across her body and whale lice on her head.”

“After reviewing documentation of this new entanglement case, NOAA Fisheries biologists have made a preliminary determination that it meets the criteria of a ‘serious injury,'” the agency said Thursday. “This means the whale is likely to die from this injury.”

At the time she was found, NOAA said it was “too late in the day” for an entanglement response team to go after her and she was too far from shore. However, the agency is working to find her again in an attempt to free her from the lines.

The young whale is the daughter of another tracked member of the right whale species, an adult female named “Spindle,” who was recently seen with her tenth calf off the coast of Georgia. This was the first time that Spindle’s daughter had been seen since May of last year in Massachusetts Bay, NOAA said, at which point she was not entangled.

The North Atlantic right whale is among the rarest whale species in the world. And the critically endangered species is fighting for survival amid an ongoing unusual mortality event that has left fewer than an estimated 350 whales of the species remaining, hitting the lowest population numbers in nearly 20 years in 2021. NOAA said that #4904 is the 94th right whale to be documented in the event since 2017 and the 22nd case of serious injury.

If she does die, it only further strains the ability of the species to continue. Female right whales are not able to reproduce until around the age of 10, and currently, researchers believe there are fewer than 70 female right whales left who actively reproduce. The animals are pregnant for a year and can only give birth to one calf at a time, and often only have calves every six to 10 years on average.

Since 2017, when the unusual mortality event began, only 57 whales have been born. This amount is far below what is needed, however, as the species must produce 50 or more calves a year for multiple years to stop the species’ decline.

Humans remain the leading cause of the species’ decline, primarily from entanglements and vessel strikes, NOAA data shows. Since its onset in 2017, 11 whales have been killed by vessel strikes while nine have died after becoming entangled. Twenty have been seriously injured from being entangled.

The news of this young whale comes just weeks after it was discovered that a humpback whale by the name of Moon rose to national attention. A vessel strike left the whale with a broken spine and unable to use her tail to propel her through the ocean. But even still, she managed to capture the hearts of many who learned of her, as she swam 3,000 miles from Canada to Hawaii on one “last journey.”


Seattle Times

Can drones count endangered rabbits in Central WA better than people can?

By Amanda Zhou, Seattle Times staff reporter, Jan. 12, 2023

It’s not easy counting Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits.

Weighing less than 1 pound, the federally endangered rabbits are hard to catch on camera as they dart between burrows. However, this year, wildlife biologists hope drones are up to the task.

For the second time in four years, wildlife biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will use drones to help them in their annual count of the elusive species near Quincy. Today, only 100 to 150 of the rabbits remain.

Biologists estimate the number of pygmy rabbits by counting the number of burrows in an area and collecting scat for genetic analysis, said Fish and Wildlife biologist Jon Gallie.

Traditionally, volunteers and staffers meticulously sweep the area for rabbits over several days.

Now, biologists hope the drones can cover more ground more quickly and identify possible burrow sites before sending a few people to confirm. The practice has become more common in the past few years, as drone technology is used more often to monitor other animal habitats like ground squirrels and salmon, Gallie said.

Wildlife biologists typically count the federally endangered species in the winter, when their tracks and scat are easy to spot, he said.

Fish and Wildlife manages two sites for the rabbits, encompassing 250 square miles. A third site was destroyed in 2020 during the Pearl Hill Fire, which researchers estimate killed 43% of all existing pygmy rabbits.

“Everything that we had worked for about a decade on, we lost overnight,” Gallie said.

The rabbits need dense sage brush and deep soil to survive. Their population has been whittled down over the decades as their habitats in the Columbia Basin have turned into farmland, Gallie said. Around 20 years ago, the last 16 rabbits were captured and placed in a zoo for captive breeding.

Though the rabbits have many predators, the survival rate of the released rabbits has shown success, he said.


Center for Biological Diversity

Oregon Butterfly Is Endangered Species Act Success

Fender’s Blue Butterfly Moved From Endangered to Threatened Status

PORTLAND, Ore.—(January 11, 2023)—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the Fender’s blue butterfly will be downlisted from endangered to threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. This action is based on the recovery of butterfly populations in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

“The Endangered Species Act has ensured the full recovery of more than 50 species, and the Fender’s blue is now well on its way,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This little butterfly was nearly lost to Oregon, but now we can celebrate its recovery along with the 50th anniversary of the landmark law that saved this species.”

The Fender’s blue is a tiny butterfly with a 1-inch wingspan. It’s found only in the prairie and oak savannah of the Willamette Valley. The species is so rare that it was presumed extinct until small populations were rediscovered in 1989.

When the Service listed the Fender’s blue as endangered in 2000, fewer than 4,000 of the butterflies were known to live in the wild. Although Fender’s blue numbers have fluctuated over the years, a 2016 survey found populations had grown to 29,000 total individuals.

Fender’s blue butterflies are completely dependent upon threatened Kincaid’s lupine, a flowering plant that is the butterflies’ primary host. The butterfly remains highly vulnerable to climate change, as rising temperatures harm the lupine and other plants it needs to survive.

The Service cited management efforts to restore and maintain prairie habitat in the Willamette Valley as benefiting the species. The Fender’s blue will continue to be protected as a threatened species, and the Service has developed a rule to ensure its continued recovery in the years to come.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, and the hopeful story of the Fender’s blue butterfly demonstrates once again that this is the most effective tool we have to stop extinction,” Read said.


Columbia Magazine

Can We Act Sooner to Save Endangered Species?

At-risk animal populations should receive protections earlier, urge Columbia researchers.

BY David J. Craig, WINTER 2022-23

Since its passage in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has in some ways been a great success, helping to prevent the extinction of hundreds of fish, plant, and animal species.

But a new study led by Columbia doctoral student Erich K. Eberhard reveals a significant flaw in the act’s administration. Eberhard and his coauthors, Princeton biologists Andrew P. Dobson and David S. Wilcove, find that at-risk species do not typically receive protection until their populations have dwindled to the point where they cannot fully recover. Inclusion in the official list of endangered species, in other words, tends to be a one-way ticket to biological purgatory: species may be prevented from disappearing altogether, but their numbers don’t bounce back to healthy levels. This is evidenced, the authors say, by the fact that of the more than one thousand species added to the endangered list over the past five decades, only fifty-four have ever rebounded enough to be removed from it.

Part of the problem, the researchers report in the journal PLOS One, is that the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the endangered-species list, takes too long to review petitions for species’ inclusion. The agency has often taken ten years or longer to evaluate petitions that are supposed to be processed within two. By the time species are finally added to the endangered list, they typically number fewer than one thousand. “For many species, this makes a robust recovery extremely difficult, if not impossible, and it substantially increases the risk of extinction,” says Eberhard, who is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology.

The researchers say that the federal government ought to allocate more money to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for assessing species vulnerability; they point out that the agency’s workload has increased significantly over the last few decades, while its annual operating budget has shrunk.

“Funding this work is essential if the Endangered Species Act is to live up to its reputation as one of the world’s most powerful environmental laws,” says Eberhard.


The Hill

The right and wrong ways to protect endangered species

BY Stuart Mackintosh, Opinion Contributor, 01/11/23

As 2023 starts, can we be hopeful that leaders increasingly understand climate change and the degradation and despoilment of our planet and all its human and non-human inhabitants? The results of December’s United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) give some reason for optimism.

Chaired by China and hosted by Canada, the meeting saw the signature of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. The framework seeks to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems and protect indigenous rights. It includes measures to halt and reverse nature loss, including putting 30 percent of the planet and 30 percent of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030 — the so-called 30-by-30 deal.

The ambitious deal lines up with the urgency of the collective task, for humans are causing the largest loss of life since the death of the dinosaurs. We are in the middle of the “Anthropocene,” and it’s bringing a mass murder of life on earth. Today 1 million species are at risk of extinction; animal populations have collapsed 69 percent in the last few decades, and still, too few citizens comprehend what is going on.

If COP15 signals leaders understand what must be done, we can start the new year with a degree of ecosystem and climate optimism, for plans are needed if goals are to be recognized and achieved. But sobriety is also warranted, for the details and implementation matter if we are to slow the mass extinction.

Two recent examples show how bad and good practices can unfold.

The Biden administration and Congress just demonstrated the conflict between goals and actual implementation, in a decision that could spell the extinction of the North Atlantic Right Whale, now down to 340 animals from 500 a decade ago. The whale is being driven to extinction because it gets fatally injured and tangled in the vertical lines attached to buoys of fishing gear used by the New England lobster fishing industry, and by boat strikes.

Action to halt this human-caused extinction led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to propose a ban on vertical line traps by what was likely to be 2024, and minimum vessel speeds and distance from whales. However, alarmingly, this crucial regulatory change has been pushed back from 2024 to 2028, after sustained successful pressure from the lobster lobby, supported by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), where many of those self-employed fishermen live. Once again, short-sighted economic interests trumped ecosystem degradation and the survival of a critically endangered animal. Yet research shows changing the trap and line design does not cut the lobster catch but could make the difference between extinction and existence for these sentient beings.

If some senators are ill-informed and demonstrating what not to do, other communities are showing us how to respond and align COP15 conservation goals with achievements, by protecting ecosystems and organisms.

Take the case of the Union Island Gecko, a reptile the size of a paperclip. The gecko is restricted to a 123-acre area of forest in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The gecko was only discovered by scientists in 2005. Rich pet owners wanted them, and poachers responded, driving down the population by 80 percent. The defenseless gecko ended up being the most heavily trafficked reptile from the Eastern Caribbean.

Conservationists responded by educating the local population, creating an understanding of the species’ importance, setting up cameras and recruiting locals to parole and protect their forest. Locals came to feel ownership of the rescue and solution, not resist it. As a result, the gecko’s numbers have rebounded. A recent survey shows the population increased from 10,000 in 2018 to around 18,000 today, a major victory.

What these two examples show is that communities using an ecosystem, or an adjacent resource that is damaging to a species in question, often pick the short-term status quo over the better long-term outcome, especially if they are not educated and supported as they change practices and behavior. Governments must bridge this gap and not cave to lobbyists who are willfully ignorant of that which they despoil and destroy. To achieve COP15 ecosystem and species goals, which we should all support, states will need to step in again and again to underpin the necessary changes.

The North Atlantic Right Whale example demonstrates we must act fast. The Union Island Gecko shows us that doing so can deliver swift results.

Preserving our ecosystems is a massive essential task. We must all change how we think and act. Doing so swiftly can help ensure life on earth is sustained in its remarkable diversity. Continuing with current practices dooms us and our economies, for we all rely on the planet’s ecosystems for survival.

Our leaders have signaled they understand this at COP15.  Now is the time for governments and communities to pursue a myriad of goals on the ground to change our hope into large and small living victories.


Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

News, Published, January 10, 2023

DWR, UDOT and other partners construct several structures to help wildlife and fish safely migrate across Utah in 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah Department of Transportation, as well as other partners, are working hard to reduce wildlife/vehicle collisions around the state and to make it easier for wildlife and fish to make important annual migrations. In 2022, the agencies and other partners installed six structures to help fish and wildlife migrate in Utah.

Here are the areas where the DWR and UDOT implemented new wildlife solutions or where the DWR and other partners installed structures to help fish migrate in Utah last year:

Central Utah

*Coordinated with UDOT on installing over 1 mile of wildlife fence on I-80 at Kimball Junction as part of a multi-year fencing project.

*Coordinated with UDOT and Eagle Mountain City on installing over 1 mile of wildlife exclusion fence and a thermal wildlife detection/alert system on State Route 73 as part of the Eagle Mountain Wildlife Migration Corridor Preservation Project.

Northern Utah

*Renovated an irrigation diversion in the south fork of Junction Creek (Box Elder County) that was blocking the migration of two fish species in need of conservation: Yellowstone cutthroat trout and bluehead sucker. Renovating the diversion improved irrigation efficiency and allowed the fish to migrate through. The project was completed in April 2022 in cooperation with Trout Unlimited and a private landowner.

Northeastern Utah

*Constructed the East Fork Carter Creek fish barrier on Carter Creek, located on the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains, to protect native Colorado River cutthroat trout from reinvasion of non-native brook trout. This project will aid in the restoration of over 100 miles of stream for native cutthroat. This is part of a larger restoration effort, including the upper Carter and Sheep Creek drainages.

Southeastern Utah

*DWR and UDOT collaborated to install signage on Highway 95 and Highway 46 to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in the area.

*Worked together with landowners in Emery County to install electric fencing along Highway 10, where many deer-vehicle collisions have occurred in the past.

Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative

The Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative was founded in 2017 to better track and study the migration patterns of different wildlife and fish species in the state and to help them make those important journeys. Most of the data comes from animals wearing GPS tracking devices or from fish tagged with implanted transmitters.

The fish and wildlife structures that assist migration vary and can include:

*Overpasses, which allow wildlife to cross over a roadway

*Bridges, which allow vehicles to cross over a river or ravine, while wildlife travel underneath the bridge

*Culverts, which allow wildlife to cross under a roadway — these make up the majority of Utah’s wildlife crossings

*Fences, which eliminate roadway crossings in certain areas and instead funnel the animals to an overpass or culvert where they can safely cross a road

*Various “fish ladders” and other structures in rivers and streams that help fish move up and downstream to meet their life history needs

Utah made history when it completed the first wildlife overpass in the U.S. in 1975 on I-15 near Beaver. Since then, at least 119 structures have been constructed around the state that allow the passage of wildlife and fish. These structures typically take several months to build, depending on the size and weather conditions, but they can take several years of prior planning and collaboration with various land management agencies, private landowners and other partners.

Wildlife/vehicle collisions

Approximately 4,900 deer were killed in vehicle collisions and removed from roadways in 2022. The number of deer killed is likely significantly higher because many incidents go unreported. In Utah, the majority of the big game animals killed in wildlife/vehicle collisions are deer, primarily because they are the most abundant big game animal in the state, but also because they migrate between winter and summer ranges each year.

“Deer typically follow the same migration routes every year,” DWR Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative Coordinator Blair Stringham said. “Many of those routes intersect roadways, which the deer will often try to cross, regardless of traffic. However, simply putting up fences can limit the migration opportunities for deer and other wildlife, and it’s not possible to fence every stretch of highway across the state. So it is important to ensure the passage of wildlife in these areas through the installation of properly placed wildlife structures.”

Studies have shown there is a 90% reduction in wildlife/vehicle collisions when there is a crossing structure and fence in the area, so the DWR has been working with UDOT to identify areas where migration routes cross roadways and these solutions can be implemented. Both agencies help fund the projects, and UDOT oversees the building and maintenance of the structures.

“Efforts like the Migration Corridor Preservation Project show that by teaming up with local governments, positive impacts can extend beyond our right-of-way,” UDOT Natural Resource Manager Matt Howard said. “We are excited to be partnering with communities to improve wildlife migration and make Utah roads safer for everyone.”


ABC News

Endangered Mexican wolf treks further north in New Mexico

An endangered Mexican gray wolf has roamed beyond the species’ recovery area into the more northern reaches of New Mexico

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press, January 10, 2023

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An endangered Mexican gray wolf has roamed beyond the species’ recovery area into the more northern reaches of New Mexico, reigniting a debate over whether the predators should be confined to a certain stretch of the southwestern U.S. as wildlife managers work to boost the population.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday that members of the recovery team have been tracking the lone female wolf and have notified ranchers in the area, although they say it’s not a threat to human health or public safety.

Wolf-livestock conflicts have been a major challenge of the reintroduction program over the past two decades, with ranchers saying the killing of livestock by wolves remains a threat to their livelihood despite efforts by wildlife managers to scare the wolves away and reimburse some of the losses.

With news of the wolf traveling north of Interstate 40 in New Mexico, state and federal wildlife officials have been reminding people that Mexican wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and that hazing or harassing the predators is not allowed, unless the wolf poses a threat to human safety.

Collared wolves have trekked north of I-40 only a handful of times since 2015, when the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area was established, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

One of the more well-documented cases involved a wolf that was captured, relocated and later found dead after heading north again. In 2022, there were reports that another female lived for months west of Albuquerque until she moved into Arizona and then back into southwestern New Mexico.

In the latest case, the wolf numbered 2754 dispersed from the Rocky Prairie pack at the end of 2022.

“We are monitoring f2754’s movements while working with our partners to evaluate management options,” agency spokeswoman Aislinn Maestas said Tuesday.

Environmentalists have been fighting in federal court to overturn a requirement that the Fish and Wildlife Service capture wolves that roam north of I-40.

In court documents, environmental groups have argued that using the interstate as the northern boundary for wolf recovery effectively curbs natural dispersal and cuts off access to the Grand Canyon and Southern Rockies. They pointed to the two regions as essential for establishing another population to meet recovery goals.

The Mexican wolf is the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America. According to the most recent survey released in early 2022, there were at least 196 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona. It marked the sixth straight year the population had increased.

There is also a small population of wolves in the wild in Mexico.

U.S. officials said they were preparing to begin this year’s survey in Arizona and New Mexico in the coming weeks.


Nevada Current

Lawsuit seeks to expel cattle from endangered wildflower habitat

By: JENIFFER SOLIS, January 9, 2023

A conservation group is suing the federal government in an effort to ban cattle from grazing in the habitat of an endangered wildflower that can only be found on about 10 acres of public land in Esmeralda County, Nevada.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice Monday of its intent to sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for failing to adequately protect the rare Nevada wildflower Tiehm’s buckwheat from cattle grazing.

Last month, the buckwheat was listed under the Endangered Species Act. federal wildlife managers also designated 910 acres in the Silver Peak Range federally protected habitat in order to support the plant’s reproduction and rehabilitation.

The notice seeks to remove cattle from the buckwheat’s federally protected habitat after the conservation group claims it discovered seven cows grazing on the habitat and destroying individual plants.

Last year the BLM assured the group all cattle had been voluntarily removed from the site.

“Tiehm’s buckwheat is one of North America’s most endangered plants, but federal officials are letting the livestock industry run roughshod over its fragile habitat,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Center’s Great Basin director, who documented the damage. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized cattle grazing as a threat to the buckwheat’s existence, but the Bureau of Land Management has done nothing to protect these wildflowers.”

The buckwheat, which produces tufts of bright yellow flowers, faces threats from predation, mining, climate change, off-highway vehicles and grazing, say federal wildlife managers.

An Australian mining company, Ioneer Corp., has proposed an open-pit lithium mine on the plant’s only known habitat, risking its extinction in the wild.

Additionally, thousands of Tiehm’s buckwheat were destroyed in a  bizarre predation event two years ago that reduced the flower’s global population by at least 50%, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Each one of these plants is precious and essential for the recovery of this endangered species,” said Donnelly. “It’s totally unacceptable that the BLM is letting cows destroy this wildflower’s protected critical habitat while greenlighting a lithium mine that could wipe out the whole species. We’re going to court to hold this agency accountable for protecting each and every buckwheat.”


WLOX News (Biloxi, MS)

State, federal scientists begin examining dead Fin whale found on Pass Christian beach

By Leslie Rojas, Published: Jan. 8, 2023

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (WLOX) -Scientists from different agencies are conducting research on a dead fin whale that washed ashore in Pass Christian.

The endangered species is now being examined by several scientists from federal and state agencies, including the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Mote Marine Laboratory, FWC Marine Mammal Research and Rescue, and many more.

Crews arrived early to start collecting samples that will determine the cause of death.

“We are doing an external review of the animal, but we will also be looking internally at all the organs and collecting samples to send them off for testing,” IMMS stranding coordinator Theresa Madrigal said.

There’s no clear answer on what caused the whale to wash ashore, but scientists believe it has to do with health problems.

“These animals are very deep dwellers. They are going to stay offshore for the most part, so when they come inshore, typically they are very sick. It’s likely this animal was sick and started to come into the Mississippi Sound,” Madrigal said.

In the past, only three Fin whales have been stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first time one has been stranded on the Mississippi Coast. The sighting is extremely rare and people like Michael O’Dwyer were shocked to hear the news.

“I thought that I would just come and observe what’s going on. It’s unusual that we see them on the beach. We see porpoises quite often. Not too often do we see whales here,” O’Dwyer said.

Scientists will continue to conduct research in Pass Christian. The cause of death will be determined once they receive lab results.


Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland, OR)

Oregon Zoo awarded $2 million to help California condors

By Alex Hasenstab (OPB), Jan. 8, 2023

The conservation of a critically endangered bird species received a major funding boost. The Oregon Zoo was awarded $2 million to support the conservation of the California condor — funding that came from the year-end omnibus bill signed by President Joe Biden.

The Condor Restoration Resiliency Project will modernize the zoo’s offsite Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, located in rural Clackamas County. The center is the second-largest of the nation’s four condor breeding facilities.

“They were the first animal to be added onto the endangered species act in the ‘70s and they’re one of the more charismatic animals and really important success stories in the conservation realm,” said Travis Koons, who runs the program.

In recent years, wildfires and winter storm power outages have forced evacuations at the center.

“We have several plans to upgrade our electrical backup systems,” Koons said. “We currently have generators that power our incubation equipment and a few other very important items critical to our operations.”

The program will also use the $2 million, championed by Sens. Merkley and Wyden as part of a package of Oregon investments, to create wildfire resiliency at the center.

“We’re actually going to be investing in improving our relationship with beavers that have made the property their home and trying to utilize some of their natural abilities to mitigate wildfire risk,” Koons said.

He added that the center will also purchase equipment to improve our firebreaks and add protective coatings to barns. The center is also considering a sprinkler system.

The California condor was one of the original animals included on the 1973 Endangered Species Act. In 1982, only 22 of these birds remained in the wild. By 1987, the last condors were brought into human care in an attempt to save the species from extinction.

The Oregon Zoo joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service condor recovery effort in 2003 with the goal of hatching and releasing as many condors as possible. Today, thanks to this recovery partnership, there are around 500 condors, with more than 300 flying free. This year, the zoo hatched a record 12 condor chicks and released eight into the wild, including three for the Yurok Tribe’s historic Northern California reintroduction.


Roll Call (Washington, DC)

Spending law presents challenges for environmental regulators

Spending bill delays action on protecting whales and prohibits certain Clean Air Act rules

By Benjamin J. Hulac, Posted January 6, 2023

The new year brings challenges to Biden administration regulators: how to handle environmentally unfriendly riders inserted by lawmakers into the fiscal 2023 spending bill.

The provisions protect the use of lead-based bullets and fishing tackle, thwart steps to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale and sage grouse, and block new climate regulations under the Clean Air Act.

Congressional Republicans touted the provisions as small wins in an omnibus spending law many of their GOP peers voted against.

Environmentalists condemned the inclusion of the whale and sage grouse riders as possibly ushering in the total collapse of both species in the wild, while Maine’s congressional delegation and its governor, Democrat Janet Mills, cheered the added whale language, which delays until 2028 new fishing gear rules drafted to protect the vulnerable species.

“There are only about 340 right whales left,” Danielle Kessler, U.S. director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said by phone. “This is really a population that really teeters on the brink of extinction,” Kessler said. “We cannot keep losing right whales to what are avoidable risks.”

The legislative add-ons became law as populations of plants and animals are plummeting in number and researchers warn humans have driven Earth into a period of mass extinction and biodiversity loss.

To blunt mass die-offs of flora and fauna, more than 190 nations reached an agreement during December talks in Montreal to set aside at least 30 percent of the world’s lands and waters by 2030. The U.S. is not a signatory to the international convention on biological diversity, the organizing mechanism behind last month’s gathering, and participated as an observer last month in Canada rather than an official party. But the Biden administration has set a goal of protecting 30 percent of its land and water before the decade ends.

Found often in coastal waters, especially during their breeding season, North Atlantic right whales can weigh as much as 70 tons, stretch more than 50 feet and live 70 years.

Nearly hunted to extinction by commercial whalers in the late 1800s, the bus-sized mammals face deadly threats from fishing gear and vessel strikes, their leading causes of death. Whales often get tangled in fishing lines that run from buoys down to the ocean floor. As whales migrate along the Eastern Seaboard, they may move through about 1 million vertical ropes, Kessler said. When they hit a rope, they often roll to the side, leading to more entanglement, she said.

“It may not kill them instantly. But it’s going to have this toll,” Kessler said, adding that entanglements also put rescue crews dispatched to untangle the animals in danger. “It’s putting those folks at risk as well.”

Maine fisheries

The Maine delegation took issue with a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rule that would require U.S. lobster and Jonah crab fisheries to use gear safer for the whales by, among other steps, utilizing fishing lines designed to break free if snagged.

Between 2010 and 2019, fishing gear was found on 62 whales out of 114 documented right whale entanglements, federal officials said.

Lawmakers from Maine bristled against the requirements of new gear under the rule, saying it was hard to find and expensive. Once the provisions to delay the NOAA rule were in place, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said the legislation sidestepped an “economic death sentence” for his state’s lobster industry.

The law authorizes $50 million for a grant program through 2032 and includes $20 million in funding for fishermen to shift to ropeless gear.

“We would like to see this money land in the pockets of fishermen,” said Kessler, adding that IFAW is working with Massachusetts fishermen to deploy a new generation of whale-safe gear.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., called the inclusion of the whale provision “terrible,” while Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., the incoming House Natural Resources ranking member, said the bill “undermines the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act and will send the North Atlantic right whale even further along the trajectory to extinction.”

Ninety-one right whales have been found dead or gravely hurt in the past five years, according to NOAA data. Entanglements may not kill a whale, but they can stress and fatigue the animal, making it harder for them to give birth.

Like right whales, sage grouse have plummeted in numbers because of human encroachment.

“Once numbering 16 million birds, the greater sage grouse population has dwindled to a few hundred thousand,” said Josh Osher, public policy director at Western Watersheds Project. “The species continues to decline due to impacts from oil and gas drilling, livestock overgrazing that leads to invasion by flammable weeds, habitat fragmentation and other human-caused factors.”

Lead ammunition

Protecting the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on and in federal lands and waters is a priority of hunting and gun clubs.

A provision in the new funding law blocks any of the money it distributes from being used to “regulate the lead content of ammunition, ammunition components, or fishing tackle” under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Bird Conservancy and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonpartisan group, petitioned the Interior Department in November to ban lead ammunition and fishing tackle from national parks. Lead threatens birds and fish when it enters the food chain, ultimately killing or contaminating wildlife species, they said.

In 2009, the National Park Service began a campaign to ban lead from parks before scrapping it, although some parks ended the use of lead in culls and other NPS sites stopped selling fishing tackle with lead in it. California began to phase out lead ammunition in state parks in 2019, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in September that it would phase out lead-based ammunition and tackle in 18 refuges, citing health risks for humans and animals.

One measure in the new law blocks steps to “promulgate or implement” new federal rules that require permits to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor or methane emissions from cattle. And another provision halts any steps to report greenhouse gas emissions from “manure management systems.”


Fox Weather

Florida’s manatee death toll falls short of record levels but remains alarmingly high

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates there are only around 7,500 manatees left in Sunshine State.

By Andrew Wulfeck, January 5, 2023

A late-year arctic blast that impacted the Sunshine State helped propel manatees’ 2022 death toll to at least 800, continuing a streak of what has been identified as an unusual mortality event by biologists.

Data released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Thursday showed the yearly death count was roughly 8 percent higher than average but sharply lower than the record 1,100 deaths reported in 2021.

Biologists previously blamed a giant seagrass die-off for causing starvation among the endangered species, mostly along Florida’s east coast.

Following the record year, state and federal agencies established a supplemental feeding program in a Central Florida lagoon, where many of the giant sea cows migrate to during the winter.

Biologists distributed more than 200,000 pounds of leafy greens in the Indian River Lagoon with the intent of doubling the amount during the current cold season.

A record-breaking arctic cold snap over the holiday season only compounded issues, dropping temperatures of some waterways to below 68 degrees and increasing the potential for cold-stress syndrome in warm-blooded mammals.

“With the cold impacting the entire state, it was definitely a statewide uptick,” said Andy Garrett, a mammal stranding coordinator at the FWC. “We don’t like to say this in this business, but before Christmas, we were quiet. And it picked up from there.”

In addition to the cold, the yearly report showed boating and birthing led the way for known causes of deaths in 34 counties across the state.

Animals found alive but suffering from malnourishment or injuries are being treated and rehabilitated at facilities from Ohio to Puerto Rico.

“We have the 79 in-house right now and over 20 that are going to be going back to being returned to the wild in the next two months by the end of February. So that’s going to put us right there in a better place,” said Teresa Calleson, a biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The USFWS believes the facilities could handle an additional 40 to 50 manatees and are prepared to open two contingency sites if an unexpected uptick in rescues happens.

The FWC said manatees are taking advantage of its feeding site in Brevard County, and biologists have observed a return of some of the animal’s natural feeding grasses in critical waterways.

“I want to caution people. We’re not going to fix the seagrass situation in the Indian River Lagoon overnight or over the course of the year. It’s going to take several years for those seagrasses to come back. And that is dependent on a lot of things that are largely out of our control,” said Tom Reinert, FWC manatee program spokesperson.

The FWC estimates there are only around 7,500 manatees left in Sunshine State, and if boaters see an animal in distress, they should inform the agency about the sighting by calling 888-404-3922.


Maine Public (Lewiston, ME)

Massachusetts declares April 24 as Right Whale Day to raise awareness about the endangered species

Maine Public, By Carol l Bousquet, January 5, 2023

Massachusetts has declared April 24 as Right Whale Day in an effort to raise awareness about the endangered species.

North Atlantic right whales number fewer than 350, according to federal fisheries estimates. The New England Aquarium says it hopes Right Whale Day will encourage Massachusetts residents to learn more about the mammals and threats posed to them by entanglements in fixed fishing gear and ship strikes.

“Despite it being right off of our coast, a lot of people don’t know about the right whale. They don’t know it’s the state’s marine mammal. They don’t know that it’s critically endangered,” said James Sutherland, the New England Aquarium’s associate vice president of public policy and advocacy.

Aerial surveys have tracked North Atlantic right whales in Cape Cod Bay and off of Nantucket from December to May.


WIBW (Topeka, KS)

Kansas leaders move to block endangered listing of lesser prairie chicken

By Sarah Motter, Published: Jan. 3, 2023

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Leaders in both Kansas and Oklahoma have moved to block the listing of the lesser prairie chicken on the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) says that he and Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) along with U.S. Representatives Tracey Mann (R-KS), Jake LaTurner (R-KS), Ron Estes (R-KS), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Stephanie Bice (R-OK), joined together to officially introduce a Congressional Review Act joint resolution of disapproval to strike down the recent listing of the lesser-prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act.

“The recent listing of the lesser prairie-chicken is terrible for Kansas’ economy but great for the climate activists who have way too much influence over President Biden. Private property in the LPC range might as well be federal lands if this egregious policy goes into effect,” Marshall said. “While high inflation is the greatest challenge facing our nation, this listing will increase financial difficulties for the Kansans who raise cattle for your hamburgers and drill oil for your gasoline. This President says lowering costs is a priority, but yet again he is making decisions that will do the exact opposite.”

Marshall indicated that if the CRA resolution is enacted, the measure would prevent the listing from going into effect.

“The decision to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened will negatively impact crucial industries in our state and place unnecessary restrictions on farmers, ranchers and energy producers,” Moran noted. “Kansas and surrounding states have contributed millions of public and private dollars to successfully conserve the habitat area and increase the population of the bird. Listing of the lesser prairie-chicken will harm our state’s wildlife conservation efforts in the future by removing any incentive for similar local efforts.”

Marshall said the CRA is part of a multi-pronged approach to stop the lesser-prairie chicken listing which was announced earlier in December.

“Agriculture and energy producers in Kansas are already suffering from the Biden Administration’s failed policies and burdensome government regulations,” said Rep. LaTurner. “The decision by Washington bureaucrats to designate the lesser prairie-chicken as an endangered species is completely unnecessary as landowner and state-level efforts to restore the LPC habitat have been successful. All this reckless listing will do is create additional red tape making it more difficult for hard-working Kansans to succeed.”

On May 21, 2021, Marshall noted that he and Moran joined colleagues to urge the U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to not list the LPC under the ESA.

“I refuse to sit idly by while the United States Fish and Wildlife Service imposes burdensome regulations on producers with no input from Congress,” said Mann. “The designation of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species in places like Kansas is unacceptable. This resolution calls for an absolute refusal of this rule, which should have no force or effect until Congress is consulted. At a time when inflation is at a 40-year high and families are struggling to fuel their cars while keeping food on their tables, we should be working to eliminate barriers for the agriculture and energy sectors, not hamstring hardworking Americans with government overreach. Since this rule threatens the livelihoods of the men and women who feed, fuel and clothe us all, I hope that all my colleagues in Congress will join me in refusing to accept it.”

On July 16, 2021, Marshall also said he, Moran and Mann led another group of colleagues to request a 90-day extension to the comment period for the proposed listing of the LPC.

“Time and again we’ve seen the Biden administration assert their overreaching and burdensome regulations on the lives of hardworking Kansans. The recent classification of the lesser prairie chicken is another example of using Washington bureaucrats to dictate how Kansans live and work. The farmers, ranchers and energy producers of the Midwest have made great strides in conserving our land and protecting our natural resources. Now it’s necessary for Congress to rein in these out-of-control regulators and restore the rights of Kansas ranchers and energy producers,” said Estes.


Los Angeles Times

California’s endangered salmon population plummets amid new threat


They’ve been pushed to the brink of extinction by dams, drought, extreme heat and even the flare of wildfires, but now California’s endangered winter-run Chinook salmon appear to be facing an entirely new threat — their own ravenous hunger for anchovies.

After the worst spawning season ever in 2022, scientists now suspect the species’ precipitous decline is being driven by its ocean diet.

Researchers hypothesize that the salmon are feasting too heavily on anchovies, a fish that is now swarming the California coast in record numbers. Unfortunately for the salmon, anchovies carry an enzyme called thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine — a vitamin that is essential to cell function in all living things.

“These are fish that returned to the river early [last] year and then spawned in the spring and early summer. They had really low thiamine,” said Nate Mantua, a fisheries researcher with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Santa Cruz. Concentrations were “worse than” the previous year.

In humans, a critical deficiency of thiamine, or vitamin B1, can lead to heart failure and nerve damage. In female salmon that are returning to rivers and streams to spawn, thiamine deficiency can be passed on to their many hatchlings, which suffer problems swimming and experience high rates of death, researchers say.

Now, with government agencies and Native American tribes fearing the collapse of the winter-run Chinook, scientists are embarking on a campaign to determine why the anchovy population has exploded off the California coast, and why winter-run Chinook are seemingly ignoring all other prey.

“The very unusual thing about their diet is that it’s been so focused on anchovies and so lacking in other things that historically they have been found eating,” Mantua said. “It is something we don’t have great information on.”

Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and UC Davis are employing new technologies, such as environmental DNA sampling and isotopic analyses of fish eye lenses, along with older methods — such as plankton sampling and fish ear bone studies — to better understand how and why the salmon ocean diet has changed.

Scientists first discovered salmon were suffering from a vitamin deficiency in 2020, after hatchery workers noticed salmon fry behaving strangely — swimming repeatedly in tight, corkscrew-like patterns before spiraling to their deaths at the bottom of the tanks. They learned a similar situation had occurred in the Great Lakes in the 1960s, when lake trout had exhibited similar behaviors after gorging on alewives, another fish chock-full of thiaminase.

State, federal and UC Davis researchers quickly treated the swirling salmon fry with thiamine — infusing the water in their tanks with the vitamin; the salmon soon recovered.

But over the last three years, thiamine concentrations in salmon eggs have continued to drop.

“We thought initially it was just a one-year thing, maybe the way we thought of COVID,” said Rachel Johnson, a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and UC Davis. “I was cautiously optimistic that the ocean was going to rearrange itself back to normal. And we just haven’t seen that.”

Chinook salmon start their lives in the rivers of Central and Northern California, before migrating downstream to the Pacific Ocean. There, they typically spend the next two to three years feeding on a variety of fish and invertebrates — such as squid — off the coast.

But ever since anchovy numbers began to balloon in 2016, they have triggered feeding frenzies among salmon and other predators. Humpback and gray whales have been seen in record numbers lunge feeding on the forage fish, and last summer San Francisco residents complained of fish falling from the sky — probably the result of birds dropping fish from their over-stuffed talons or beaks.

Mantua and Johnson are investigating whether there is a seasonal component to the winter-run Chinook’s taste for anchovies.

“Some of the diet data we have from the ‘50s and ‘70s and ‘80s show that salmon that were caught off of Central California would typically have herring, crab and krill in the winter, early-spring diets. Then juvenile rockfish would become a bigger component in the spring and early summer. And it wasn’t really until August and September that anchovies and sardines were the dominant prey item,” Mantua said.

Johnson’s lab is attempting to figure that out by examining the lenses of fish eyes.

Like an onion, the lenses accumulate layer upon layer over a salmon’s lifetime. Examining the chemical isotopes in each layer, Johnson and her colleagues can get an idea of what kinds of foods the salmon were eating and when.

“It’s kind of like a diet journal … that allows us to check in over the lifetime of a salmon,” she said.

Meanwhile, she and her colleagues at the hatcheries continue to treat fry with thiamine and inject the vitamin into egg-bearing females.

Winter-run Chinook are one of four distinct seasonal runs of salmon that populate the Sacramento River and its tributaries, but are the only one that has been declared endangered by the state and federal government. The name “winter-run” refers to the season in which sea-faring salmon return to San Francisco Bay to make their long journey to spawn in ancestral headwaters.

Those cool headwaters, however, have long since been blocked by dams, and the fish have been forced to lay their eggs in Central Valley waters in the heat of summer, causing many eggs to die. Today, the winter-run Chinook survive only through the intervention of government hatcheries and periodic releases of cold water from the same dams that block their passage upstream.

In the last several years, drought, extreme heat and debris flows from wildfire burn scars have taken a huge toll on their numbers, along with thiamine deficiency.

According to federal data, the total number of juvenile winter-run Chinook that were counted swimming downstream past the Red Bluff Diversion Dam in 2022 was 181,000 — the lowest on record. In 2021, the number was 558,000, and in 2020, it was just over 2 million.

Egg-to-fry survival was also low, said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the federal agency. Despite the fact that river temperatures remained cooler in 2022 and most eggs survived, the young salmon struggled after they hatched. A preliminary survival percentage released recently was 1.94% — once again, the lowest ever recorded. In 2021 the egg-to-fry survival percentage was 2.56%. In 2020, it was 11.46%

To give the endangered fish a better shot at survival, state and federal officials have been studying ways of restoring salmon to their traditional cold-water habitats upriver from dams, such as the McCloud River, upstream of Shasta Lake.

From last September through early December, biologists and members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe worked together on an experimental project on the McCloud River, releasing thousands of juvenile winter-run salmon and later recapturing some of them.

By mid-December, more than 1,600 of the fish had been recaptured, loaded into aerated coolers and trucked downstream of the dam, where they were released to continue their journey.

“They looked great,” said Matt Johnson, a senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The fish, he said, looked larger than hatchery raised salmon. “It was strong evidence that the McCloud provides great habitat for juvenile Chinook — not a surprise to us, given the quality and quantity of the habitat in that river system.”

He described the project as a success.

Jason Roberts, an environmental program manager for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s participation in the project was vital. He said the department’s officials want to repeat the project next year and are talking with tribal leaders and federal officials about co-managing the effort.

“In the face of climate change, we have to get winter-run off the valley floor back into their historical habitat if they’re going to have a chance of surviving,” Roberts said.

For the Winnemem Wintu, salmon are central to cultural and spiritual traditions, and leaders have long sought to return salmon to the river where their ancestors lived.

Caleen Sisk, the tribe’s chief and spiritual leader, said last year’s effort was a good step.

“I think it has the potential to achieve the restoration of salmon in rivers above the dams — not just McCloud, but this is a prime example of what could happen, and what would be good for fish,” Sisk said.

For years, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe has advocated an approach to reintroducing salmon that would involve developing a “swimway” so that fish could travel upstream and downstream on their own around Shasta Dam. The tribe also wants to use salmon that once lived in the Sacramento River but were transplanted to New Zealand more than a century ago. The salmon have been thriving in mountain rivers in New Zealand, and tribal leaders say those eggs should be brought back.

“We believe that whatever happens to salmon happens to us,” Sisk said. “Maybe this is a step that we get to return to the river too.”


Public News Service

Third of Yellowstone Elk Habitat Not Protected from Development

Eric Galatas, Producer, January 3, 2023

More than a third of all known elk habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem remains wide-open for human development, according to new analysis recently published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation.

Laura Gigliotti, the report’s author, said data collected showed which of the park’s 26 herds are most vulnerable at different points along their migration corridors. She explained elk play a major role in one of the last remaining intact ecosystems on the planet.

“And it has this large diversity of not only migratory ungulates but large predators, and all these different species that are coexisting in this ecosystem,” Gigliotti pointed out. “If we lose one aspect of that ecosystem, we’re losing this really valuable resource.”

The elk habitat at risk sits outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, which has been protected for the past 150 years and is privately owned with no zoning.

Wyoming has made moves to protect migration corridors on private lands. Gov. Mark Gordon recently approved a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture which offers landowners incentives to support critical wildlife habitat for elk and other migratory species.

As parcels of land adjacent to Yellowstone become more valuable to developers, conservationists worry subdivided land could impact the long-term health of herds. Gigliotti’s research showed elk can thrive on private lands, and can tolerate some level of human development.

“But what we typically see is that when we get to about 1% to 2% development in an area, we start to see animals start to avoid those areas,” Gigliotti emphasized.

Under the new partnership, private landowners in Wyoming can elect to tap federal dollars to replace five-strand barbed wire, which Gigliotti noted is one of the biggest barriers facing elk.

“It might be restricting movement routes of where animals can go in the environment,” Gigliotti cautioned. “One way to make this better is either to use wildlife-friendly fencing or remove fences that aren’t really serving a purpose on the landscape.”


Colorado Newsline

How Colorado plans to reintroduce wolves on Western Slope by 2023 deadline

Colorado Parks and Wildlife releases draft plan to comply with 2020’s Proposition 114


Colorado could be less than a year away from the state’s first relocation of gray wolves to parts of the Western Slope, as required by a ballot initiative passed by voters in 2020.

A draft plan released by Colorado Parks and Wildlife last month calls for the reintroduction of 10 to 15 wolves per year over the next three to five years, with an initial target of a stable population of at least 50 animals within the state.

“This draft plan represents the division’s very best effort to develop a blueprint and common-sense approach to implement Proposition 114,” said Carrie Besnette Hauser, chair of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, at the panel’s December meeting. “The goal was to develop a plan that the majority of the public will support and one that represents reasonable compromise, viability, and has room to evolve over time.”

Voters narrowly approved Proposition 114, a citizen-initiated measure backed by wildlife conservation groups, by a 51% to 49% margin in November 2020. It directed CPW to develop a plan and take steps to reintroduce gray wolves west of the Continental Divide by the end of 2023.

Under the state’s 293-page draft plan, CPW staff will work with counterpart agencies in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to capture wolves from existing wild populations in those states, and release them on state-owned and private lands at least 60 miles from neighboring state or tribal borders.

Based on criteria of habitat suitability and conflict risk, the plan identifies a northern zone centered on Glenwood Canyon and a southern zone centered on Gunnison County as the best locations for the wintertime releases of captured wolves. The first releases would occur in the northern zone in the winter of 2023-24, and the wolves will be tracked via GPS collars to help wildlife managers gather data on survival and dispersal.

Although the new law includes a provision requiring the state to compensate agricultural producers for any livestock losses caused by wolves, ranchers on the Western Slope and industry groups like the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association have remained wary of the proposal.

The state’s draft plan includes detailed procedures for compensating ranchers for livestock losses of up to $8,000 per animal. Commission Vice Chair Dallas May, a rancher from Lamar, called the plan “a great start” but told state staff that the $8,000 maximum is “insufficient.”

“Many horses and livestock seedstock are much more valuable than that,” May said. “A well-trained young ranch horse — the value of those start at $15,000. Most people have pastures of $15,000 horses that are necessary to operate their business.”

‘A momentous conservation achievement’

Gray wolves are native to Colorado and other Rocky Mountain states but were hunted to near-extinction by the mid-20th century. With the support of conservation groups, reintroduction efforts like one in Yellowstone National Park beginning in 1995 have allowed populations to recover in the northern Rockies. Studies have linked wolf reintroduction to a variety of positive effects on impacted ecosystems, like healthier elk herds and the recovery of riparian habitats previously damaged by over-grazing.

Sightings of wolves that have migrated from other states have periodically been reported in Colorado, and the state’s first breeding pair of wolves in 70 years was confirmed in Jackson County in 2021.

Dillon Hanson-Ahumada, a Southern Rockies field representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, said in a statement that CPW’s plan “marks one more step toward a momentous conservation achievement for the wilds and the people of Colorado.”

“The gray wolf is an important native species to our state, and a vital part of the wildlife heritage we all share as Coloradans,” Hanson-Ahumada said. “We will work to ensure that the final plan commits Colorado to a full recovery of wolves now and for future generations of Coloradans.”

Some environmentalists, however, object to the plan’s approach towards livestock-wolf conflicts. Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the draft plan “paves the way for far too many wolves to be shot.” Under the plan, many state protections for wolves would expire once the population reaches 200 animals, potentially leading to legal wolf hunting, as states like Montana and Wyoming have allowed.

“This disappointing proposal doesn’t require ranchers to take responsibility for preventing conflicts and will lead to government agents regularly shooting Colorado wolves from helicopters,” Robinson said in a statement. “The commissioners should reject this draft and rewrite the plan based on science.”

CPW staff will hold five public hearings throughout the state in January and February to receive public comment on the draft plan, with a final set of revisions and the plan’s potential approval scheduled for April and May. Members of the public can also submit comment through an online form until Feb. 22.


Honolulu Civil Beat

Endangered Bird Poised To Get Hundreds Of Thousands Of Protected Acres In Hawaii

Conservationists took the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to court last year to spur action that was overdue for the imperiled native honeycreeper.

By Marcel Honore, January 2, 2023

Federal wildlife officials have proposed that more than 275,000 acres of forest across Hawaii be designated critical habitat for the ‘i‘iwi bird, one of about a dozen native honeycreeper species currently headed toward extinction.

Conservationists with the Center for Biological Diversity heralded the long-awaited move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as key to saving the ‘i‘iwi. The nonprofit had sued the federal agency last year to propose a habitat as required by law for the bird, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

That lawsuit led to a deal in which the Fish and Wildlife Service would propose a critical habitat by December 2022. The ‘i‘iwi was listed as threatened in 2017, according to the suit.

“Protecting the places the ‘i‘iwi calls home will give these beautiful birds their best chance at survival,” Maxx Phillips, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Hawaii director and staff attorney, said in a release.

“It shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit, but the Service made the right call. As our forests fall quiet, federal officials must do everything possible to ensure these birds bounce back and stop sliding toward extinction,” Phillips added.

The iconic honeycreeper, known for its bright-red plumage, is among some 17 forest bird species native to the islands poised to disappear.

Their numbers have been decimated in recent years by avian malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Researchers say that warming temperatures from climate change are driving the insects higher and deeper into the birds’ forest habitats.

Compounding the problem for the ‘i‘iwi, according to both federal officials and conservationists, is the demise of native ohia trees across Hawaii. At least one million of those trees have perished across Hawaii due to the spread of rapid ohia death. The birds survive on the nectar of those trees’ lehua blossoms and they play an important role as pollinators of many native Hawaiian plants.

The ‘i‘iwi’s proposed critical habitat would encompass federal, state and private forest lands spread across three Hawaiian islands where the birds are still found: Kauai, Maui and Hawaii island.

All of the proposed area is currently occupied by the honeycreeper, according to Fish and Wildlife officials. More than 38% of that proposed area overlaps with the designated critical habitat for other endangered species, according to the federal agency.

Philip Taylor, a conservation biologist who works with the Army’s Natural Resources Program on Oahu, said that it makes sense to start with the three neighbor islands because they have the greater number of birds and better forest habitat.

“It’s better to start there, where the birds are,” Taylor said. “Oahu’s tough. There’s not a lot of acres left for native birds” with there being so many people and widespread development.

Taylor said he’s only seen ‘i‘iwi three times on Oahu since 2007, with all of those sightings occurring in the southern Waianae mountains. Further, it’s been more than a decade since the last reported sighting of an ‘i‘iwi on Hawaii’s most populous island, he added.

Designating critical habitat isn’t the same as creating a marine protected area, wilderness preserve, or some other conservation area as defined by the federal government. It also doesn’t change the ownership of that land, according to an explanation on critical habitat from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. Instead, it requires all federal agencies to make sure that any actions they take won’t affect the habitat area in a harmful way that would prevent the species’ recovery.

Fish and Wildlife, meanwhile, is scheduled to host a virtual public meeting on its proposal Feb. 10. Those interested in attending can register here. Members of the public can also submit comments on the proposal through Feb. 27 via this federal portal.

Fish and Wildlife separately announced last week that it aims to direct some $14 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help save 12 of the imperiled Hawaiian honeycreepers.


KCCI Des Moines

Meet a rainbow fish and other new species discovered in 2022

December 30, 2022

The tree of life grew in 2022 as California Academy of Sciences researchers and their international collaborators discovered 146 new animal, plant and fungi species.

The previously unknown creatures and plants were found around the world, including the mountains of California, Australia’s Queensland state, the rocky peaks of Brazil and the coral reefs of the Maldives. Scientists made discoveries on six continents and within three oceans.

Among the new species were 44 lizards, 30 ants, 14 flowering plants, 13 sea stars, seven fish, four sharks, three moths, two spiders and one toad.

Academy research associate Aaron Bauer’s work helped more than double the number of known species within a group of small forest geckos in the mountains of New Caledonia. The 28 new Bavayia geckos living across dozens of South Pacific islands bear similar brown and white markings.

“Nearly every mountain in New Caledonia hosts a unique Bavayia species, and these habitats share many of the same conditions,” Bauer said. “The result is several species that are often almost indistinguishable from one another.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco Bay Area high school students Harper Forbes and Prakrit Jain worked with Lauren Esposito, curator of arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences, to discover two new species of scorpions. The students saw images of the unidentified species on the iNaturalist online platform and conducted fieldwork to find the small scorpions, which live in the dry lake beds of Central and Southern California.

While one of the scorpions, Paruroctonus soda, is on federally protected land, the other, known as Paruroctonus conclusus, lives on a narrow, mile-long strip that’s unprotected.

“The entire species could be wiped out with the construction of a single solar farm, mine, or housing development,” Forbes said in a statement. “Mapping the biodiversity of a given area can help build the case for why that land should be protected.”

New species research is critical to identify ecosystems most in need of protection, said Shannon Bennett, California Academy of Sciences virologist and chief of science.

Indeed, conservation was one of the key topics at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference held Dec. 7-19 in Montreal.

“As we’ve seen over the last two weeks at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, biodiversity science is at the forefront of global conservation action and is key in unifying nations and equipping them with the tools and information necessary to reverse species extinction rates by 2030,” she said. “By uncovering and documenting new species, we can contribute to this landmark goal and ensure that our natural world remains rich and diverse for generations to come.”

Mountain finds

Academy research associate Julie Kierstead found a new species of onion by happenstance during a helicopter trip over California’s Klamath Mountains in 2015. When the copter landed on Minnesota Mountain for about 30 minutes, Kierstead spotted an unidentified flowering allium, part of a plant family that includes onions, shallots and garlic.

Since then, another patch of the Minnesota Mountain onion was discovered on nearby Salt Creek Mountain. Both peaks receive more rainfall than others in the region, which has allowed the onion to flourish.

Thousands of miles away, Frank Almeda, emeritus curator of botany at the California Academy of Sciences, and research associate Ricardo Pacifico identified new flowering plants on the isolated peaks of Brazil’s campo rupestre.

The harsh conditions of the mountainous region, which includes extreme temperatures, high winds and nutrient-leached soils, has caused plant life to adapt — and surprisingly thrive in such a barren environment.

Almeda and Pacifico found 13 new species of flowers as they surveyed parts of the ecosystem that botanists had never explored before.

“The shrubs on the summit were less than half a meter high,” Pacifico said. “It was like walking through a garden.”

The newly discovered flowering plants live under very specific conditions, and they could disappear due to environmental shifts driven by the climate crisis, the scientists said.

Beneath the waves

One of the seven new fish discovered this year was the rose-veiled fairy wrasse, which lives in the Indian Ocean’s “twilight zone.”

Known by the scientific name Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa, the colorful fish was found at depths ranging from 131 to 229 feet beneath the ocean’s surface off the Maldives.

“Twilight zone” reefs can be 160 to 500 feet beneath the ocean’s surface and provide a unique environment for fish such as fairy wrasses.

The name honors the fish’s stunning pink hues as well as the pink rose, the national flower of the Maldives. “Finifenmaa” means rose in the local Dhivehi language.

Hundreds of species thrive in the waters near and surrounding the archipelago nation, but the fairy wrasse is the first fish to be described by a Maldivian scientist — Ahmed Najeeb.

“It has always been foreign scientists who have described species found in the Maldives without much involvement from local scientists, even those that are endemic to the Maldives,” said Najeeb, a biologist at the Maldives Marine Research Institute, in a statement when the discovery was announced in March.

“This time it is different and getting to be part of something for the first time has been really exciting, especially having the opportunity to work alongside top ichthyologists on such an elegant and beautiful species.”


Centre Daily Times (State College, PA)

Feds: Vanishing right whale must remain on endangered list


PORTLAND, MAINE The fading North Atlantic right whale will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act, and the species requires a series of protective steps to stave off extinction, federal authorities said Tuesday.

The whales number only about 340 and they have declined in population in recent years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a review of the whale’s status on Tuesday that said the whale “is continuing to decline and has not met many of the recovery criteria outlined” in its recovery plan.

Protection of the whale is a source of dispute between conservationists and commercial fishermen because one of the top threats to the animals is entanglement in fishing gear. NOAA performed a required five-year review of the whale’s status that said the animal is continuing to decline because of the threats of fishing gear, collisions with ships and other stressors.

“There is also uncertainty regarding the effect of long-term sublethal entanglements, emerging environmental stressors including climate change, and the compounding effects of multiple continuous stressors that may be limiting North Atlantic right whale calving and recovery,” the agency said in its report.

NOAA also released recommended actions to try to stabilize the whale’s population. The actions include partnering with the Canadian government to reduce collisions and entanglements. The whales migrate every year from the waters off Georgia and Florida to New England and Canada.

The agency also recommended more research and implementation of fishing gear modifications that reduce risk to the whales. It also said there should be more emphasis placed on the removal of derelict fishing gear from the whales’ range.

NOAA’s announcement came a week after Maine’s congressional delegation announced plans to use the federal spending bill to attempt to delay new protections for the whales for six years. That would put a halt to new restrictions on lobster fishing, an industry based largely in Maine. The delegation and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement that the planned restrictions would “not meaningfully protect the right whale, but will threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Maine families and small businesses.”

Environmental groups that have called for more whale protections said the delay would hasten the extinction of the species.

 “The science is clear: humans are killing right whales faster than they can reproduce, and entanglement in lobster gear is a leading cause,” said Erica Fuller, an attorney with Conservation Law Foundation.


CBS News

Deaths of 3 endangered dolphins in Cambodia raise alarm

DECEMBER 26, 2022

Three endangered freshwater dolphins have died within 10 days of each other, alarming conservationists in Cambodia.

The death of a third healthy dolphin in such a brief period indicates “an increasingly alarming situation and the need for an intensive law enforcement be urgently conducted in the dolphin habitats,” the World Wildlife Fund said in an announcement Monday.

The latest Irrawaddy dolphin death — believed to have stemmed from entanglement in an illegal fishing line — spotlighted the need for law enforcement to help save the species, also known as the Mekong River dolphin, according to the statement.

The WWF said the body of a healthy female dolphin estimated to be between 7 and 10 years old was found floating in the river Saturday in the eastern province of Kratie. It said an examination of its carcass suggested that the dolphin, 196 centimeters (6 1/2 feet) long and 93 kilograms (205 pounds), had been hooked and wrapped in a tangle of fishing line.

Seng Teak, WWF Cambodia director, said in the statement that without immediate action “the recent increase in illegal fishing activities in the dolphin conservation areas” would destroy the Mekong River dolphin population in Cambodia.

The statement advocated stepping up day and night patrols to protect the remaining dolphins in conservation areas.

The first census of Irrawaddy dolphins in Cambodia in 1997 estimated their total population was about 200. In 2020, the population was estimated to have fallen to 89.

WWF said 11 dolphins have died in 2022, bringing the total number of deaths to 29 in the past three years.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Other groups of these dolphins are found in two other freshwater rivers: Myanmar’s Irrawaddy and Indonesia’s Mahakam on the island of Borneo.

In February, Cambodian wildlife officials announced the death of the last known Irrawaddy dolphin in a population on a stretch of the Mekong River further upstream, which appeared to be caused by entanglement in a fishing net.


Center for Biological Diversity

Court Forces EPA to Address Harms of Four Pesticides to Endangered Species

Decision Among Three Recent Rulings Chastising Agency for Not Completing Required Reviews of Pesticides’ Harms to Protected Species

WASHINGTON—(December 23, 2022)—The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals today ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to address the harms of four pesticides to endangered plants and animals.

The court chastised the agency’s repeated failure to complete assessments of pesticides’ harms to endangered species, noting that “the dysfunction” of the EPA’s “registration process has drawn attention from various quarters.”

Today’s decision marks the third time in two months that federal courts have ordered the EPA to address pesticides’ harms to endangered species. Earlier this week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the agency to address dangers to endangered wildlife and pollinators from the systemic insecticide sulfoxaflor. Last month the D.C. Circuit ordered the EPA to address its long-delayed obligation to protect endangered species from the toxic insecticide cyantraniliprole.

More than 1 million pounds of the pesticides covered by today’s order — halauxifen-methyl, bicyclopyrone, flupyradifurone and benzovindiflupyr — are used every year across the United States.

The four pesticides, which are used on a wide variety of crops, have been documented to pose serious threats to hundreds of protected plants and animals, including fish and marine crustaceans, mammals and birds.

“For decades the EPA has practiced a reckless spray-first-look-later approach to addressing the threats of pesticides to imperiled species,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The courts’ unequivocal message is that ‘enough is enough.’ EPA’s pesticide office isn’t above the law and must address the outsized role of pesticides in driving the extinction crisis.”

Today’s legal victory for the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety and Defenders of Wildlife sets court-ordered deadlines in 2025 and 2027 for the EPA to finalize biological evaluations of harms to endangered wildlife under the Endangered Species Act.

The EPA has already restricted uses of a fifth pesticide included in the lawsuit — cuprous iodide — to protect endangered salmon and other aquatic species.

“Just in time for the holidays, today’s decision is a vital victory for endangered wildlife and the rule of law,” said George Kimbrell, legal director for Center for Food Safety. “Once again, courts have confirmed that EPA’s job is not to grant the fondest wishes of pesticide companies but instead to protect the environment and do it by meaningful deadlines.”

For decades the EPA has failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act’s requirements to consult with expert wildlife agencies to reduce the harm of pesticides to protected species. As a result of ongoing pressure from the environmental community, earlier this year the EPA released its first-ever comprehensive workplan to address the challenge of protecting endangered species from pesticides.

The agency is also initiating pilot programs focused on reforming the pesticide-approval process to correct violations of the Endangered Species Act. It also committed this year to analyzing the effects of new pesticide active ingredients on endangered species before registering them.


Bicyclopyrone is an herbicide used mostly on corn. The EPA’s own risk assessment found that bicyclopyrone exceeds levels of concern for mammals and hundreds of plants protected under the Endangered Species Act, potentially affecting nearly half of all threatened and endangered species in the United States. Yet the agency approved new products combining bicyclopyrone and atrazine, a pesticide that the EPA recognizes is likely to harm more than 1,000 of the nation’s most endangered plants and animals.

Flupyradifurone is a systemic insecticide that is absorbed by plants and distributed throughout the plant to kill and deter pests. It is used on a range of crops including cotton, fruits, vegetables, orchards, grapes and alfalfa. The EPA’s risk assessment concludes that flupyradifurone may harm nearly every taxonomic group of protected species. It is “highly toxic to honeybees on an acute oral exposure basis” and “very highly toxic” to freshwater insects and marine crustaceans. It is also mobile and persistent in the aquatic environment.

Benzovindiflupyr is a fungicide used on corn, soybeans and other crops. The EPA recognizes that it has the potential to harm protected mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates. Even with steps to mitigate its harm the agency acknowledges “there are still broad risks of concern” for mammals, birds, fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Cuprous iodide — copper iodide — is an antimicrobial pesticide used to treat fabrics and other products. Because copper is very highly toxic to aquatic organisms it can adversely impact reproduction and growth at very low concentrations. Cuprous iodide can leach into waterbodies when products such as socks and sheets are washed. Once forced by litigation to look at its impacts to endangered species, the EPA changed the approval to eliminate washable uses that could leach into waterways.

Halauxifen-methyl is an herbicide most frequently used on wheat. It poses threats to endangered plants and pollinating species, such as monarch butterflies and bees that rely on flowering plants to survive. Because of the pesticide’s potential to drift, protected plants more than 2,500 feet from the application site could be harmed.

The EPA approved bicyclopyrone, flupyradifurone, benzovindiflupyr and cuprous iodide for use in 2015 and halauxifen-methyl in 2016.


The Humane Society of the United States

Press Release, December 22, 2022

Animal protection groups and veterinarians submitted petition to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to ban wildlife killing contests

Today, veterinarians and 18 organizations, led by the Humane Society of the United States, submitted a petition to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources requesting that the agency initiate rulemaking to prohibit cruel, unnecessary wildlife killing contests in the state. At least 20 killing contests that target coyotes, foxes and raccoons for cash and prizes took place across Illinois in 2022.

Wildlife killing contests are organized events in which participants compete for cash and prizes—typically guns—for killing the most, largest or smallest animals over a period of one or two days.  To achieve high kill numbers, participants use electronic calling devices to attract coyotes and foxes into rifle range with sounds that mimic prey animals or young in distress and then shoot them with AR-15-style weapons fitted with night vision and thermal imaging scopes. 

Competitors then gather at celebratory events—often with young children in attendance—to weigh and count the bodies, pose for pictures next to piles of bloody carcasses, and receive their prizes. Following the event, the animals are typically dumped like trash. Even the fur often goes to waste because the high-powered guns rip holes in the pelts. Hundreds of animals may be killed at a single contest. 

While eight states have already prohibited these cruel contests in the last few years, the Illinois DNR has failed to act. In fact, the IDNR has taken a position of opposition to legislation introduced earlier this year that would have prohibited killing contests—catering to the whims of the few Illinois residents who choose to competitively slaughter the public’s wildlife for cash and prizes. 

An April 2022 poll by Remington Research Group found that 73% of Illinois voters support banning killing contests and 83% believe that wildlife like coyotes and foxes are important to healthy Illinois ecosystems.

“Wildlife killing contests make a sadistic game of slaughtering animals for prizes,” said Marc Ayers, Illinois state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Senselessly gunning down coyotes and tiny foxes and then dumping them like trash is far outside the realm of what most Illinoisans would find an acceptable pastime. We urge the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to join the eight other states that have already taken a stand against this unconscionable, cruel bloodsport.”  

Eight states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington—have outlawed killing contests, and last Friday the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission directed the state agency to draft a similar rule to prohibit coyote killing contests. When proposing the rule, Oregon commissioners joined wildlife agencies and commissions in six of the states that have already banned killing contests in stating that they are unethical, not supported by sound science and damage the reputation of hunters and threaten the future of hunting. There is no scientific evidence to support participants’ claims that killing contests reduce coyote numbers, boost populations of game species like deer or turkey for hunters, or minimize conflicts with livestock. In fact, the best available science shows that random killing of coyotes, such as occurs during killing contests, can increase coyote numbers and increase conflicts with livestock.

The Humane Society of the United States has gone undercover to investigate many of these competitions. Investigators documented participants dragging bloody animal bodies to scales to be weighed, children playing among dead animals, competitors bragging about the “thrill” of the kill and trucks bearing license plates and stickers bragging about this sick game included sayings like “COYOTE HEARSE,” “YOTE H8R” and “KLN YOTES.” 

Groups and individuals that submitted the petition, led by the Humane Society of the United States include Harvard Law School Animal Law & Policy Clinic, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Born Free USA, Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Illinois Bobcat Foundation, In Defense of Animals, the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, Pegasus Foundation, Pettus Crowe Foundation, Predator Defense, Sierra Club – Sangamon Valley Group, Second Nature Wildlife Rehabilitation, Speak for Wolves, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, Wolf Conservation Center, state veterinarians, and faith leaders.

“The draft rule as proposed in the petition is a sensible and narrowly constructed regulation that aligns with hunting ethics,” said Ayers. “Its effect would be simply to prohibit competitions that involve the mass killing of animals for cash and prizes. It would not otherwise restrict the take of species covered. It would also not ban field dog trials, big buck contests or fishing tournaments, nor would it prevent farmers and landowners from using lethal control to protect livestock.” 


Center for Biological Diversity

Nearly 4,200 Acres of Habitat Protected for Endangered Florida Fern

PETERSBURG, Fla.—(December 21, 2022)—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected 4,195 acres of critical habitat for the endangered Florida bristle fern. The fern, found in small patches in Miami-Dade and Sumter counties, is acutely threatened by historic and ongoing habitat loss from development and sea-level rise.

“It’s a relief that this festively bright green fern has finally received the protections it needs to save its swiftly disappearing habitat,” said Elise Bennett, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Protecting places for the beautiful Florida bristle fern to survive is a crucial step in bringing it back from the brink of extinction.”

The dainty fern has no roots and grows in moist, shady areas of exposed limestone. Its Miami-Dade rockland hammock habitat has been dramatically degraded because of population growth. The plant’s populations are now also highly susceptible to further habitat loss and inundation due to sea-level rise. In Sumter County, habitat degradation from development and agricultural activities continues. Only six populations of Florida bristle fern are known to exist in the world.

Today’s proposal identifies 515 acres of land in Miami-Dade County and 3,680 acres in Sumter County as protected critical habitat. In response to public comments and new information, the final rule protects approximately 91 acres more than the original proposal.

The rule also includes new unoccupied critical habitat that is essential for the fern’s conservation, providing more diverse areas for the species to recover and adapt to changing conditions.

Species with federally protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be moving toward recovery than species without such protections. Federal agencies that fund or permit projects in critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure this habitat is not harmed or destroyed by their actions.

In 2011 the Center reached a historic settlement agreement with the Obama administration to speed protections for the Florida bristle fern, as well as a host of other species that the government had been previously petitioned to protect. To date, more than 200 plants and animals have received protection as a result of the agreement.



Endangered pink iguana hatchlings seen for first time on Galapagos island

QUITO, Dec. 20 (Reuters) – Scientists have discovered hatchling and juvenile populations of the Galapagos pink land iguana, an endangered reptile native to a sole island on the Ecuadorean archipelago, for the first time since the species’ discovery just decades ago.

Native only to the slopes of Wolf Volcano on the Galapagos’ Isabela Island, the iguana is considered critically endangered and just several hundred are left, according to estimates.

“This discovery marks a significant step forward, which allows us to identify a path going forward to save the pink iguana,” Director of the Galapagos National Park Danny Rueda said in a statement on Tuesday.

The iguanas, which can stretch up to 18.5 inches (47 cm) in length, were first discovered by national park rangers in 1986. However, scientists took decades to recognize the pink iguana as a separate species from others on the island.

Their population is threatened by introduced species on the island, particularly rodents, the national park said.

“Knowing all the aspects that make their existence vulnerable will allow us to take timely actions, mainly against invasive species and thus avoid interrupting the natural cycles of these fragile ecosystems,” Rueda said.

The Galapagos Islands, with its unique wildlife, was a key force behind British scientist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is home to a number of species not found anywhere else including giant tortoises, flightless cormorants and several species of iguanas, including the pink iguana.

The Wolf Volcano is one of the most remote spots monitored by the national park, which installed a research and monitoring station at its base.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Sandra Maler)


How can we save Ohio’s endangered rattlesnakes?

By Andrei Ionescu, staff writer, December 20, 2022

A recent study led by Ohio State University (OSU) has compared the genetics and relocation patterns among two populations of threatened rattlesnakes in order to guide conservation planning that would give these endangered creatures a better chance of survival.

According to the experts, a collection of six closely situated but isolated populations of Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes in northeast Ohio could increase their numbers if strategic alterations were made to stretches of land between their home ranges. Reconnecting these genetically disparate populations could not only help Eastern massasaugas escape extinction, but also establish a thriving habitat for other endangered prey and predator species.

Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes live in isolated spaces in midwestern and eastern North America and were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2016 due to loss and fragmentation of their habitat. The scientists examined two groups of Eastern massasaugas in Ohio – a large, genetically diverse population inhabiting the Kildeer Plains Wildlife Area in north central Ohio, and six small, separate populations clustered near each other in Ashtabula County.

By genetically analyzing blood samples of 109 snakes cohabitating in the Kildeer Plains area, the researchers found that the snakes living in fragmented sites in northeast Ohio were very distantly related, and stopped mingling three generations ago. “Once we knew that they didn’t seem to be moving around, the real question is why aren’t they moving? It’s not that big of a distance – so we focused on finding out what was stopping them from being connected,” said study lead author Scott Martin, a PhD student in Conservation Genetics at OSU.

“It seemed to be about specific features of the habitat. If the snakes in northeast Ohio were moving as far as we would expect them to, based on how the Killdeer snakes move and data on the species’ range, they should be able to move between these little sites. And yet when we look at the genetics and use pedigrees to see if there is any breeding between the sites, there’s just not.” 

According to the scientists, wooded areas, cropland, roads, and housing developments – known as “impervious surfaces” – were the main obstacles to snake relocation. By contrast, wet prairies were an ideal habitat for these snakes, offering them more possibilities to move and intermingle.

“You can imagine two snakes in the same habitat that are probably very genetically similar because they can move easily. And then in this other region you have two snakes near each other, but on either side of a four-lane highway, and they will be genetically different because snakes don’t move across that highway, and over time they’ve diverged,” Martin explained. “That means a highway would have a high resistance value and an open field would have a very low resistance value.”

These findings helped the states of Ohio and Michigan to obtain a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire land that could benefit Eastern massasaugas in both states.

“To me, this is a clear example of where Ohio State basic research has produced practical results that have then been directly used to help conserve wildlife in Ohio – in other words, achieving one of the goals of a land-grant institution, which is to provide useful, practical knowledge of value to the citizens of the state,” concluded senior author H. Lisle Gibbs, a professor of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at OSU.

The study is published in the journal Ecological Applications.


Center for Biological Diversity

Right Whale Condemned to Extinction in Senate Omnibus

Unprecedented Poison-Pill Rider Lets U.S. Lobster Fishery Drive Whale Extinct

WASHINGTON— (December 20, 2022)—With no process or accountability, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy inserted an unprecedented right whale policy rider into the omnibus funding budget released today. Schumer’s measure gives the U.S. lobster fishery six years to delay necessary actions to prevent fishing gear from entangling and killing critically endangered right whales.

With a declining population of 340 individuals and 70 breeding females, the right whale will almost certainly be on an irreversible extinction trajectory if U.S. lobster fisheries are allowed to avoid key conservation measures.

“Schumer and Leahy are extinction Democrats who just heartlessly put special interests above our nation’s beautiful natural heritage,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Right whales have migrated along New York’s coastline for thousands of years, but Sen. Schumer’s action will make this generation the last to witness these remarkable creatures. What a horrific legacy to leave to one’s grandchildren.”

The FY2023 omnibus provides some additional funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, but the funding remains a cut in real dollars after accounting for inflation. It still remains insufficient to address the decade of flat EPA funding and four years of staff attrition during the Trump administration.

Similarly, the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received additional funding compared to FY2022, but these amounts remain well short of what’s needed to address the extinction crisis.

“Sacrificing a great whale to extinction in exchange for funding the government is immoral. Doing so just to give Sen. Schumer another political chit in his pocket is simply pathetic,” said Hartl. “A hundred years from now, no one will remember or care about the trivial victories Democrats will try to claim in this legislation, but they’ll mourn the loss of the right whale.”



High Stakes Biodiversity Summit Ends With Agreement to Protect 30% of Nature by 2030

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, December 19, 2022

In a landmark deal for the protection of nature, nations meeting at the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal have reached a deal to protect 30 percent of Earth for nature by 2030.

The goal of the Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework is to protect the planet’s rich yet threatened biodiversity. It also includes objectives for the preservation and restoration of ecosystems — like wetlands and rainforests — and for safeguarding Indigenous peoples’ rights.

“Biodiversity is fundamental to human well-being and a healthy planet, and economic prosperity for all people, including for living well in balance and in harmony with Mother Earth, we depend on it for food, medicine, energy, clean air and water, security from natural disasters as well as recreation and cultural inspiration, and it supports all systems of life on earth,” the framework reads.

The agreement aims to preserve genetic diversity and guarantee that nature’s resources, such as plant-based medicines, are equally and equitably shared, BBC News reported.

“We are finally starting to forge a peace pact with nature,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres, as reported by BBC News.

The pact includes the goal of taking swift and drastic action to slow the extinction of species, which has been escalating at an alarming rate.

“An average of around 25 per cent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened, suggesting that around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss. Without such action, there will be a further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years,” the framework reads.

The deal also intends to reform $500 billion in subsidies that are harmful to the environment, reported The Guardian.

“It’s a deal with very precise and quantified objectives on pesticides, on reduction of loss of species, on eliminating bad subsidies. We double until 2025 and triple 2030 the finance for biodiversity,” said France’s Minister for Ecological Transition Christophe Béchu, who was the head of its delegation, as The Guardian reported.

The pact was made official by host China, despite an eleventh hour informal objection by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is home to the second largest tropical forest on the planet.

The DRC said it did not support the agreement and that developed countries had a responsibility to provide funding for conservation in developing countries. However, the remarks were not classed as a “formal objection” because those specific words were not used.

The passing of the Kunming-Montreal framework by China’s Minister of Ecology and Environment Huang Runqiu in the face of concerns from the DRC led to some countries denouncing the process as undemocratic. The framework is not legally binding and depends on the countries who are party to it exercising trust and goodwill.

“Legally, it’s done. Morally, what can I say? It’s over,” said Gabon’s Minister of Water, Forests, the Sea and Environment Lee White at the end of the talks, as reported by The Guardian.

Representative of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity Viviana Figueroa was pleased that the framework appreciated the importance of Indigenous peoples in the preservation of biodiversity.

“For us, it’s like a change of paradigm. They are recognising this important role that was invisible,” Figueroa said, as The Guardian reported.

Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault praised the deal, likening it to the 2015 Paris agreement, a legally binding international treaty to keep global temperatures below two degrees Celsius.

“It is truly a moment that will mark history as Paris did for climate,” said Guilbeault, as reported by BBC News.

****** (Phoenix, AZ)

As bald eagles return to nesting areas, Arizona imposes restrictions on public lands

Jake Frederico, Arizona Republic, December 18, 2022

As bald eagles return to Arizona for the upcoming breeding season, state officials are preparing to welcome the birds by implementing restrictions on public lands.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department says some portions of public land and water areas will be temporarily closed to help ensure that the bald eagles, which have traveled to the state for the winter, will have the best opportunity to reproduce.

AZGFD is encouraging outdoor recreationists, aircraft pilots, drone operators and motorized paragliders to do their part in not disturbing the state’s 94 eagle breeding areas.

The Federal Aviation Administration has also established an advisory for airspace up to 2,000 feet above ground level along the Salt and Verde River drainages, as well as Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt Lake and Alamo Lake.

“We want to give these birds every chance they can to be successful,” said Tuk Jacobson, raptor management coordinator for AZGFD.  “These young are what drive our population into the future.

The birds are pair bonding and nest building ahead of breeding season. Most of the birds will not lay eggs until January or February.

Bald eagles were first listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. At the time only 11 breeding pairs were identified in the state, but bald eagle populations have improved significantly with federal protection, and the species was officially delisted in 2007.

Threats to the species in the Southwest, such as drought, warming temperatures and lead poisoning, mean the birds are still monitored by federal and state agencies. AZGFD adheres to protective coordinated management actions by the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee.

Measures enacted by AZGFD include a winter population count, occupancy and reproductive assessment flights, the nest watch monitoring program, demographic studies and monofilament recovery program.

As of last year’s breeding season, 73 of the breeding territories in the state were occupied. Jacobson says monitoring these territories is important to make sure eagle populations remain on the uptick.

“If the eagles are not producing enough young to replace those aging adults and fill in territories, then that would turn the trajectory of the population in a direction that we would not want,” he said.

Birds will typically return to the same breeding area year after year. But in recent years AZGFD is finding about one to three new nesting locations, an indicator of a healthy population.

AZGFD is preparing for nesting season to begin in January. The agency uses a mix of on-the-ground and aerial monitoring to calculate an accurate count of the birds. Volunteers will fan across public lands near lakes and other designated points to count how many bald eagles they encounter.

In northern parts of the state, volunteers will travel along a series of roads and do their counting along their route. But in more remote and rugged regions, the state agency will conduct surveys by helicopter.  During a four-day stretch, officials will monitor from above ground and travel along lakes and other main river systems like the Verde and Salt.

The birds nest in trees that are typically within a mile of water where fish are easily accessible. In Arizona, most of this nesting will occur in desert habitats along the Salt and Verde River. A healthy breeding population can also be found at Roosevelt Lake.

A group of “nest watchers” will be contracted after breeding season to closely monitor bald eagles as they nest. About 16 of these nest watchers will monitor the progress of birds as they prepare to hatch and fledge.

Jacobson says the public can still enjoy viewing the majestic birds in the wild but should maintain their distance, especially if the bird is nesting.

Eagles are particularly sensitive to humans during breeding and nesting season. Even a slight disturbance can cause the birds to expend valuable energy when flushed. In extreme cases, the birds will abandon their nests, leaving eggs to fail or newly hatched chicks to die.

A disturbed eagle will circle its intruder and vocalize its discomfort.

“When I was a kid, there wasn’t a whole lot of them out there, so you didn’t see them,” he said. “Now people have a really good opportunity to see eagles out there, so don’t forget to enjoy them, just at a distance.”

AZGFD lists specific restrictions and closures online, along with a map of the bald eagle nest locations.


The Seattle Times

Oregon research forest will be North America’s largest

Dec. 17, 2022 By DAVID STEVES and CASSANDRA PROFITA, The Associated Press

Oregon is on its way to creating North America’s largest research forest, following this week’s decision by top state officials to separate the Elliott State Forest in southwest Oregon from its obligation to fund schools and designate the land as a place for scientific discovery.

The State Land Board voted unanimously to create the 80,000-acre Elliott State Research Forest, signaling an end to a years-long debate over how to manage the forest that was failing to generate revenue for public education.

The board advanced the transition of the Elliott from a traditional state forest to a research site by decoupling the forest from the Common School Fund, which relies on revenue from the sale of timber on state forests, among other resources, to help pay for public education in Oregon.

The Elliott forest will remain in public ownership in collaboration with Oregon State University.

The Elliott provides habitat to dwindling wildlife populations, including salmon, the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet. Oregon political leaders have been struggling for decades to find a way for the forest to comply with wildlife protection requirements while continuing to meet a legal obligation to generate revenue for public schools.

State officials said the Elliott will continue to contribute to conservation, recreation, education, local economies and more as a publicly owned, working research forest.

“The Elliott will provide a better approach for working forest management, improve conservation protections and, significantly, keep the forest in public hands,” Treasurer Tobias Read said in a statement. “We can be proud that current and future generations of Oregonians will benefit from this valuable natural resource.”

Read was joined by Gov. Kate Brown and Secretary of State Shemia Fagan in approving the final plan.

The use of natural resources to pay for education in Oregon dates back to statehood in 1859. Revenues from logging on certain state lands have historically gone to the Common School Fund. After the land board’s vote to remove the Elliott State Forest acreage, there are about 41,500 acres of land left in the fund. While state income tax and local property tax now serve as major funding sources for education, the requirement to make up for the loss in revenue from timber harvest on the Elliott is significant.

Before the plan to turn the Elliott into a research forest, the land was no longer generating enough revenue to cover the costs of managing it. The state considered selling much of it, but the sale never went through.

The vote was enabled by legislative action that transferred $221 million into the Common School Fund to replace revenue that logging on the Elliott might otherwise have generated.

Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Portland Audubon Society, was a member of an advisory committee that helped pave the way to converting the Elliott into a research forest. He is also on a new board of directors created by the land board Tuesday to oversee the research forest going forward.

“From a conservation perspective, it’s exciting because much more of the forest will be protected than was historically,” he told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “The Elliott State Forest was used to fund schools, and it was intensively logged for decades in violation of the Endangered Species Act.”

Lawsuits over charges of illegal logging fueled the state’s move to change how the forest is managed. Sallinger said there’s still a lot of work to be done to meet a statutory deadline of July 2023 to finish transforming the Elliott into a research forest that likely won’t be official until January 2024.

Right now, Oregon State University is developing a forest management plan that will need approvals, federal agencies still need to finalize a Habitat Conservation Plan for protecting threatened and endangered species in the forest, and the state will need to approve a financial plan. The board of directors for Oregon State University will also have to grant final approval for the research forest.

Sallinger said there will still be some logging in the forest in the future, but the goal of the logging operations will be to collect research data. There will also be a 34,000-acre preserve that will be the largest stretch of protected forest in the coast range, as well as stronger stream protections. Research in the forest will likely focus on ecologically responsible forestry, managing forests for climate change and improving forest management for threatened and endangered species.

“I think the Elliott will be a hell of a lot better from an ecological perspective than anything we’ve seen before,” he said. “The coast range has just been hammered over the years, so preserving what’s left and improving it is really important.”


Office of California Governor Gavin Newsom

Governor Newsom Statement on Mountain Lion P-22

Published: Dec 17, 2022

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom issued the below statement today after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that mountain lion P-22 has been humanely euthanized following a comprehensive medical evaluation that found severe injuries and chronic health problems.

“P-22’s survival on an island of wilderness in the heart of Los Angeles captivated people around the world and revitalized efforts to protect our diverse native species and ecosystems,” said Governor Newsom, whose father was a founder of the Mountain Lion Foundation and championed permanent protections for the species. “The iconic mountain lion’s incredible journey helped inspire a new era of conserving and reconnecting nature, including through the world’s largest wildlife overpass in Liberty Canyon. With innovative coalitions and strategies to restore vital habitat across the state, we’ll continue working to protect California’s precious natural heritage for generations to come.”

Governor Newsom and the Legislature last year advanced more than $100 million to fund wildlife crossings, and an additional $50 million this year for this priority – including $10 million for the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing. Earlier this year, the Governor signed the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act directing Caltrans to identify and address barriers to wildlife corridors. In 2020, the Governor signed legislation taking action against second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, which are known to cause adverse health impacts to natural predators and endangered species.

The state this year released Pathways to 30×30 outlining a strategy to achieve its first-in-the-nation goal to conserve 30 percent of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030 in order to protect biodiversity, expand access to nature and tackle climate change.


Terrace Standard (Terrace, B.C.)

Endangered wildlife committee keeps B.C.’s humpback whales on the list

North Pacific humpbacks will maintain ‘special concern’ status

KAITLYN BAILEY, Local Journalism Initiative, Dec. 17, 2022

The North Pacific humpback whale population is still at risk with a recommended status of “special concern”, announced the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) on Dec. 8.

Since commercial whaling for humpbacks was outlawed in 1966, the North Pacific population has been slowly growing, COSEWIC stated. They added that more than 4,000 whales spend time off the coast of B.C., but there are still risks.

COSEWIC reevaluates species at risk at least every 10 years.

“If you heard what sounded like a gigantic sigh of relief this week, it may have been us,” the Marine Education and Research Society wrote on social media on Dec. 9.

North Pacific humpback whales were classified as special concern on the endangered list, which is the lowest status for wildlife classified as at risk. The only statues below it are species that do not have enough information to be properly assessed and species that are not at risk at all.

If COSEWIC determined that humpback whales were no longer at risk, the government would not have any obligation to protect them or reduce their threats, Jackie Hildering, a humpback whale researcher at the Marine Education and Research Society, explained.

Funding for research and education to reduce threats to humpback whales and resources to stop the problem of entanglement and collision are all tied to the level of protection, Hildering said. Necropsies to investigate how a whale died are also linked to their endangerment status.

Furthermore, while the population of humpback whales appears to have increased from the 1960s, it is impossible to know how many are dying, Hildering said. On the though, we know threats to the whales, such as climate change, large vessel traffic, entanglement in fishing gear and noise, are increasing

“You’ll never know how many whales die. You can learn from the bodies that wash up, you can look at the scarring to get a sense of how often these threats might happen, but you can never know exactly how many there are in the case of whales,” Hildering said, after explaining that when the mammals die they usually sink.

“There’s certainly more than when we killed them, but it’s not just population growth that’s happening. They’re also shifting from somewhere else. So our colleagues in southeast Alaska were missing a lot of their humpbacks during the marine heatwave.”

For these reasons, she is thankful that COSEWIC at least maintained humpback’s special concern status. The decision was made in light of an acknowledgement that we do not know enough about the population amid known rising threats, is very positive and could set a precedent for other species, she said.

Hildering also notes there has been a shift in society to move away from thinking about whales as a population to caring about them as individuals. This mentality is not reflected in the species at risk list and the corresponding Species at Risk Act.

The act merely considers how many individuals are in a species and how many we can afford to lose without compromising the population’s vitality.

Each whale also benefits our environment and society.

“What I think people don’t realize is that what the whales are doing for us is they are fertilizing our ecosystem. Because they poo at the surface they are allowing there to be more algae so that there is more oxygen, there is more carbon dioxide being taken in and there’s more food for the whole ecosystem,” Hildering said.


Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)

State considers listing four bee varieties on endangered species act; public comment wanted

Tri-County News, Dec. 16, 2022

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking data and public comments on a petition to list the Crotch’s bumble bee, Franklin’s bumble bee, Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bee and western bumble bee under the California Endangered Species Act.

The Crotch’s bumble bee (Bombus crotchii) is found between San Diego and Redding in a variety of habitats including open grasslands, shrublands, chaparral, desert margins including Joshua tree and creosote scrub, and semi-urban settings. It is near endemic to California, with only a few records from Nevada and Mexico.

The Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklini) has the smallest range of any bumble bee in North America, occurring only in northern California and southern Oregon. In California, it historically occurred in Siskiyou and Trinity counties in grasslands and meadows ranging from 540 to 7,800 feet in elevation. It has not been observed in California since 1998 or in Oregon since 2006.

The western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis occidentalis) ranges broadly from northern Mexico to central British Columbia, Canada. In California, it historically occurred from sea level to over 8,000 feet and was found in a variety of habitat types including shrublands, chaparral, gardens and urban parks. It currently is observed in high elevation meadows, forests, riparian areas in the Sierra Nevada and Cascades as well as in coastal grasslands in northern California.

The Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus suckleyi) is a nest parasite of the western bumble bee. The range of the Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bee is limited to a subset of its host’s range, though with a more montane distribution in the Cascades, with a possibility of occurrence in the Sierra Nevada based on limited historic records.

Threats to all these bumble bees include habitat loss, climate change, disease and exposure to pesticides. Small population size is also a potential threat to the Franklin’s bumble bee. For the Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bee, threats include the decline of its host species.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife and Center for Food Safety submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to list the Crotch’s, Franklin’s, Suckley’s cuckoo and western bumble bee species as Endangered under CESA. The Commission determined listing “may be warranted,” however, that listing was legally challenged but ultimately upheld and candidacy was reinstated on Sep.30, 2022, and the list of specified bee species now have the same legal protection afforded to an endangered or threatened species.

Over the next 12 months, CDFW will conduct a status review to inform the Commission’s final decision on whether to list the species under the endangered species act. As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information regarding the species’ ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, the degree and immediacy of threats to its reproduction or survival, the adequacy of existing management and recommendations for management of the species.

CDFW respectfully requests that data and comments be submitted before Jan. 15, 2023. Submit data and comments to CDFW by email at and include “Bumble bee” in the subject line.

Data or comments may also be submitted by mail to California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Diversity Program, Attn: CESA Conservation Unit, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090.

CDFW will produce a peer reviewed report based upon the best scientific information available, which will include a recommendation as to whether the petitioned action is warranted. The report will be made publicly available on CDFW’s website for at least 30 days before the Commission considers acting on the petition.

The listing petition, CDFW’s petition evaluation report and updates on the listing process are available of the Commission’s website


U.S. Department of Interior

Department of the Interior Releases Multiagency Strategy for Preventing Imminent Extinction of Hawaiʻi Forest Birds

Efforts to conserve endangered species strengthened by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Press Release, 12/15/2022

HONOLULU — The Department of the Interior today announced a multiagency strategy that seeks to prevent imminent extinction of Hawaiian forest birds imperiled by mosquito-borne avian malaria. The strategy includes more than $14 million in funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other appropriations to address avian malaria, which causes widespread mortality of endemic honeycreepers and other forest birds.

Hawaiian forest birds are an integral ecological and cultural component to the Hawaiian Islands. They are representative of the health of the forest and remain a cultural connection between the Native Hawaiian Community and the Hawaiian Islands. Many native and endemic species evolved for centuries in isolation, free from threats such as avian malaria spread by invasive mosquitoes.

“Hawaiʻi’s forest birds are facing an extinction crisis, in part because rising temperatures caused by climate change have enabled mosquitoes to reach high-elevation areas that were once sanctuaries for these birds,” said Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz. “Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other investments, we can help protect and conserve these species through a coordinated strategy that considers Hawai‘i’s unique ecosystems and the islands’ natural and cultural heritage.” 

The Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Office of Native Hawaiian Relations (ONHR), National Park Service (NPS), and Office of Policy Analysis (PPA) are coordinating on the development and implementation of the strategy.

“The forest birds of Hawaiʻi are unique, not only because of their evolutionary history but their cultural significance to the Native Hawaiian people,” said Earl Campbell, field supervisor, USFWS’ Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office. “We must continue working with our conservation partners as we strive to preserve our forest birds for future generations.”

“The best available science demonstrates that several species of Hawaiian forest birds are suffering precipitous population declines. If resource managers don’t receive effective tools for mosquito control and bird conservation, it is likely that multiple species will be lost in the near future,” said Bob Reed, deputy director, USGS’s Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center. 

“Now more than ever, it is important to work with the Native Hawaiian Community and our partners to prevent more of Hawai‘i’s forest birds from disappearing,”said Stanton Enomoto, senior program director, Office of Native Hawaiian Relations. “The sacred nature of our forest birds as expressions of island evolution and embodiments of the gods of the wao akua depend on this timely initiative.”

“The National Park Service, along with our partners, is stepping up to address this urgent issue with a creative, landscape-scale solution to save Hawaiian forest birds. The time for action, and controlling non-native mosquitoes, is now. Partner and community support will be key to saving these birds,” said Natalie Gates, superintendent, Haleakalā National Park, which is positioned to be the first site where novel mosquito control technologies will be implemented. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park will follow in subsequent years.

Avian malaria causes widespread mortality of endemic honeycreepers and other forest birds, and a single bite by an infected mosquito is fatal for some species. Four Hawaiian honeycreepers – ‘akikiki (Kauaʻi honeycreeper), ‘akeke‘e (Hawaiian honeycreeper), ‘ākohekohe (crested honeycreeper) and kiwikiu (Maui parrotbill) – may go extinct within the next 10 years due to these combined impacts. Nine additional bird species are at risk of extinction in the foreseeable future if landscape-level management solutions cannot be implemented. 

Agencies from the Department and the state of Hawai‘i have worked together for many years with partners in the Birds, Not Mosquitoes(link is external) working group on a comprehensive initiative to prevent the extinction of Hawaiian forest birds. This strategy puts forward a unified vision and approach by the Interior Department’s bureaus and offices to strengthen internal coordination and effectiveness in collaborating with the state, the Native Hawaiian Community, and other partners. 

Investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law support the ability of federal partners to make strategic and significant ecosystem restoration investments in Hawai’i forest bird conservation, including:

*Conducting an environmental assessment led by the National Park Service and in cooperation with the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources to evaluate the impacts of deploying a new technique to manage mosquitoes, using a naturally occurring bacteria known as Wobachia, to reduce the mosquito vector of avian malaria. The proposed project area includes lands on Maui within Haleakalā National Park, adjacent state lands, and private conservation lands that are managed independently by The Nature Conservancy.

*Hiring and deployment of field staff to expand the Insect Incompatibility Technique (IIT) effort to high elevation areas on Kauaʻi.

*Increasing the Department’s and the state of Hawaiʻi’s efforts in IIT product development, packaging, registration, testing and deployment. 

*Contracting and planning for construction of additional captive care facilities in Hawaiʻi for forest bird conservation.

*Planning for translocation of some forest birds to higher mosquito-free habitats on Hawaiʻi Island.

*Funding USGS research to confirm efficacy of deploying IIT and identification and development of next-generation tools that could include biotechnology for targeting mosquitoes or increasing malaria resistance in birds.

*Incorporating Native Hawaiian biocultural knowledge into all planned conservation actions, including use of appropriate traditional cultural protocols and practices. 

Successful implementation of this plan can serve as a model approach with transferrable science applications of how to mitigate and reverse the combined impacts of invasive species and climate change at landscape scales to preserve both biodiversity and biocultural connections.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $1.4 billion overall for ecosystem restoration efforts over the next five years, building on proven projects, programs and partnerships that conserve our cherished wildlife and natural resources critical to supporting local economies, creating jobs, and strengthening communities. These investments build on the Department’s work in the recovery and conservation of our nation’s imperiled plant and animal species, working with experts in the scientific community to identify species on the verge of extinction and to build the road to recovery to bring them back.


The Hill

‘Keystone’ mountain pine of US West earns endangered species protections

By SHARON UDASIN – 12/14/22

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced on Wednesday that it would be listing the whitebark pine as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Whitebark pines are what the FWS describe as “a keystone species” that live in windy, cold, high-elevation environments across the Western U.S. and southern Canada.

“Extending ESA protections to whitebark pine is critical to not only the tree itself, but also the numerous plants, animals, and watersheds that it supports,” Matt Hogan, an FWS regional director, said in a statement.

This five-needled pine species impacts the health and life cycles of other mountain inhabitants and plays a critical role in curbing runoff from snowmelt, according to the FWS.

The trees also provide a high-energy food source to animals, the agency added.

Whitebark pine nuts are rich in fats, carbohydrates and protein — making them an important snack for grizzly bears before denning, according to the National Park Service.

While the whitebark pine plays a critical role in Western mountain ecosystems, the tree species “is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout its range,” according to the FWS.

The primary threat to the tree is “white pine bluster,” a non-native fungal disease. Other threats include mountain pine beetles, altered wildfire patterns and climate change, the FWS stated.

Scientists estimate that as of 2016, as many as 51 percent of all standing whitebark pine trees were dead, the agency added.

Providing endangered species protections to the whitebark pine will help support research efforts on conservation, while making it illegal to remove, process or damage the trees on federal lands, according to the FWS. The protections will also prohibit interstate or foreign commerce — including the import or export — of the tree.

“It’s just incredibly sad to see so many dead whitebark pines in the high country,” Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

“These exceedingly beautiful trees are an icon of our western mountains and they need all the help they can get, including protection from development,” Greenwald added.

The final rule to list the whitebark pine as a threatened species will be published on Thursday in the Federal Register but is currently available for public inspection.


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists Tiehm’s buckwheat as an endangered species and designates critical habitat in Nevada

Press Release, Dec. 14, 2022

RENO, Nev. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing its final rule listing Tiehm’s buckwheat as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The Service is also designating 910 acres of critical habitat on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the Rhyolite Ridge area of the Silver Peak Range in Esmeralda County, Nevada, to help conserve the imperiled plant. 

The designated critical habitat is currently occupied by the plant’s single population. The critical habitat would not affect land ownership or establish a wildlife refuge, wilderness reserve, preserve or another conservation area .

“Habitat loss is pushing more and more limited-range species like Tiehm’s buckwheat to the brink of extinction,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “We look forward to working with our partners on this conservation effort to protect this rare plant and its habitat.”

The Service used the best available science to designate the critical habitat. It contains physical and biological features essential to the conservation of this Nevada native species, including open, sparsely vegetated areas, suitable soil and year-round and connected habitat for pollinators. 

By designating critical habitat for the species, we can work more effectively with partners to ensure development projects are planned and designed to avoid the destruction of habitat while supporting current and future land-use plans.

Tiehm’s buckwheat is a low-growing perennial herb subject to threats such as mineral development, road development and off-highway vehicle activity, livestock grazing, nonnative invasive plant species, climate change , herbivory and small population size.

Conserving rare plants and healthy habitats ensures America’s shared natural heritage continues to endure for future generations. Flowering plants also support wildlife—including pollinators—and bring aesthetic beauty to our natural world and public lands.

The proposed and final rules, as well as the comments received on the proposed rule are available at by searching for Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2020-0017.


Center for Biological Diversity

Petition Seeks Jaguar Reintroduction, Habitat Protection in New Mexico, Arizona

One Wild Jaguar Survives in U.S. 50 Years After Being Protected as Endangered

SILVER CITY, N.M.—(December 12, 2022)—The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to reintroduce jaguars to the Southwest. The largest cat in the Americas was put on the endangered species list 50 years ago, but because of federal inaction, only a single known wild jaguar now survives in the United States.

“A thoughtfully planned reintroduction is crucial for jaguar recovery,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. “Restoring the jaguar to a small part of its historic range in the U.S. would enrich our southwestern ecosystems, genetically bolster jaguars in Mexico, and show that we love life on earth, even in its fiercest manifestations.”

The 107-page scientific petition requests reintroduction of jaguars to the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico. It also calls for the designation of critical habitat for their recovery in New Mexico and Arizona. This includes space to facilitate safe cross-border movements between the United States and Mexico.

Returning jaguars to the American Southwest would help save the largely isolated jaguars in northwestern Mexico, which have low genetic diversity. Climate change also adds urgency for the jaguar to be able to expand its range to the north.

Jaguars were placed on the endangered list in 1972. Just one jaguar is known to live in the United States today: Sombra, a male named by middle-school students in Tucson. Since 2016 Sombra has been repeatedly photographed in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona, one of the areas requested for critical habitat designation. He was almost certainly born in Mexico.

Reports and scientific studies described in the petition found the Gila National Forest and the broader Mogollon Plateau, extending northwest to the Grand Canyon, have excellent jaguar habitat. The petition seeks the release of jaguars in the Gila National Forest, which includes the Gila Wilderness and adjoining Aldo Leopold Wilderness. The Gila National Forest harbors abundant deer, elk and javelina that could support a jaguar population.

The last known female jaguar in the United States was shot in 1963 in Arizona, 159 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, in the Apache National Forest that adjoins the Gila National Forest. She had elk remains in her digestive system.

“Over eons through survival of the fittest, these exquisitely camouflaged cats helped make the mule deer’s ears swivel toward the slightest sound,” said Robinson. “Because all life is connected in ways that humans only partly understand, I truly believe that jaguar reintroduction will benefit the long-term sustainability of all living beings in the Southwest.”

Bolstered by rural community support, a reintroduction program in Argentina is returning jaguars to a region from which they had disappeared. Argentina’s initial success suggests one possible model for a future U.S. jaguar reintroduction program. This petition similarly seeks a multi-year planning process that would involve Tribal nations, local communities, scientists and others to promote co-existence.


The jaguar is the Western Hemisphere’s largest felid species and the third-largest cat globally after tigers and lions. Jaguars evolved in North America millions of years ago before expanding their range to Central America and South America. Native peoples in the United States since time immemorial depicted jaguars in artifacts, described them in oral accounts and used jaguar skins ceremonially. Explorers and colonists encountered jaguars from California to the Carolinas. Yet jaguars in the United States were killed one by one without concern for their ecological importance.


Courthouse News Service

Canadian caribou species wins Endangered Species Act protection

The population of Dolphin and Union caribou has plunged 89% since 1997.

ALANNA MADDEN / December 12, 2022

(CN) — Just in time for Christmas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday added two species of caribou or “reindeer” to its list of federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act.

Dolphin and Union caribou — also written as “Union-Dolphin caribou” — are a distinct population of barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) native to Canada. As such, the service’s endangered listing only restricts trade in Dolphin and Union caribou in the U.S. and no critical habitat has been designated.

Initially, the service proposed to list the species as threatened, but new information highlighted a 75% decline in the animal’s population between 2015 and 2018. This decline became evident again in 2020, only 3,800 animals remained — an 89% decrease from 1997 populations.

Climate change remains the biggest threat to the species, which migrate across sea ice from wintering grounds to calving grounds on Victoria Island. Many fall through the ice due to inadequate formation, and increased shipping activity doesn’t help the species either as ships break apart sea ice and increase the risk of drowning.

“This listing reflects the growing extinction crisis and highlights the importance of the ESA and efforts to conserve species before population declines become irreversible,” said Fish and Wildlife Director Martha Williams in a statement. “Climate change is having a profound impact on species around the world and addressing it is a priority challenge for the Administration.”

Hunting pressure also negatively affects the Dolphin and Union caribou, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. As of Jan. 12, 2023, all personal and commercial imports and exports, excluding those accompanied by permits for research and educational purposes, will be prohibited.

“I’m grateful that the service acknowledged Dolphin and Union caribou are at risk of extinction and gave the population the Endangered Species Act’s strongest protections,” said center scientist Dianne DuBois in a statement. “I hope the agency also uses every resource available to tackle the climate crisis and ensure these animals’ ancient migration for years to come.”

The final rule to list the Dolphin and Union caribou under the Endangered Species Act will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.


Scientific American

As the World Scrambles to Halt Biodiversity Loss, ‘Things Are Getting Worse’

More than one quarter of the more than 150,000 species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are threatened with extinction

By Andrea Thompson on December 9, 2022

The outlook for Earth’s biodiversity is grim. Pollution, disease, habitat loss and climate change are among the myriad stressors now threatening tens of thousands of species across the planet. Of the more than 150,000 species evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Red List of Threatened Species, “over a quarter are threatened with extinction,” says Craig Hilton-Taylor, who heads the IUCN Red List Unit. “The trend on the Red List is that things are getting worse.”

The IUCN announced the latest updates to the list on Friday, including 22 species whose conservation status declined. Abalones, dugongs and other marine creatures were among the species highlighted in the announcement.

The updates come during crucial international negotiations in Montreal to draft a global agreement aimed at protecting biodiversity and reversing its decline by 2030, akin to the Paris climate accord that set goals for reducing greenhouses gas emissions and limiting global warming. The climate emergency often overshadows the plight of Earth’s rapidly vanishing species, but these crises are “two sides of the same coin,” and addressing one helps alleviate the other, Hilton-Taylor says.

The Red List has a network of thousands of researchers around the world who assess the risks facing each species. These are then incorporated into a ranking that ranges from “least concern” to “critically endangered” for those species still found in the wild. (Beyond that are the categories of “extinct in the wild” and “extinct.”) Though the list holds no legal weight, it can serve as “the first call to conservation action,” Hilton-Taylor says, giving governments and conservation groups critical information needed to draft conservation plans.

The abalone is a marine mollusk widely considered a seafood delicacy. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s 54 abalone species are now threatened with extinction, primarily because of unsustainable harvesting and poaching, the IUCN says. Pollution, disease and marine heat waves exacerbated by climate change have compounded these animals’ plight.

Another ocean dweller, the dugong—a marine mammal related to the manatee—has also seen its situation worsen. The population off the coast of East Africa is now considered critically endangered, with fewer than 250 mature individuals remaining in the wild. The dugong population of New Caledonia, a French island territory in the South Pacific, is now listed as endangered. Injuries from boat strikes imperil both populations, as do oil and gas extraction in East Africa and poaching in New Caledonia.

The IUCN also spotlighted the pillar coral, which is found throughout the Caribbean. Its population has declined by more than 80 percent across most of its range since 1990, and it has moved from vulnerable to critically endangered. Of acute concern is the highly contagious stony coral tissue loss disease that has emerged in the past four years. Rising ocean temperatures and pollution can make corals more susceptible to such diseases, and the pillar coral is “really is just the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the plight of corals, Hilton-Taylor says.

There were some glimmers of hope in the updates, with seven species seeing an improvement in their status. The Yosemite toad moved from endangered to vulnerable, thanks to a comprehensive conservation plan that involved several government agencies, as well as local landholders, Hilton-Taylor says. Likewise, the inclusion of local communities was key to the Australasian bittern, a type of bird, moving from endangered to vulnerable. The bird thrives in wetlands, and conservationists in Australia worked with local rice farmers to make their fields friendly to the species, he says.

These successes show that well-designed conservation plans—ones that involve local communities and that have sufficient resources—can make a difference in reserving species declines, Hilton-Taylor adds. He and many other conservation experts hope the agreement to protect biodiversity being negotiated this month in Montreal will help make such efforts possible on a much larger scale. “We really need a global plan to protect life on earth,” he says, and it must have “ambitious, bold, measurable targets.”

One such target being considered at the current Montreal negotiations is protecting 30 percent of the planet’s lands and oceans by 2030. In a statement issued by the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society, its vice president of international policy Susan Lieberman said that in order for the negotiations to succeed, “governments must commit to: conserving and protecting ecological integrity and highly intact ecosystems (from forests to coral reefs); equitably protecting and conserving at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030; and to eliminating exploitation, trade and use of wildlife that is illegal, unsustainable, or that poses a risk of pathogen spillovers to humans, wildlife, or other animals.”


WildEarth Guardians

Conservation groups seek to protect Mexican gray wolves by listing coyotes as endangered in parts of Arizona and New Mexico

WildEarth Guardians joins in formal “similarity of appearance” Endangered Species Act petition

TUCSON, Ariz. –(December 8 2022)—In a formal “similarity of appearance” Endangered Species Act petition filed today, fourteen conservation groups are urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide better federal protection for Mexican gray wolves by listing its look-alike species, the coyote, within the wolves’ recovery area. Illegal wolf killing is the leading cause of death for Mexican gray wolves, and the similarity of appearance with coyotes is a common excuse for wolves being unlawfully killed.

“If people are going to confuse Mexican wolves for coyotes, then it makes sense to stop killing coyotes in the areas where wolves are recovering,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project. “Our petition demonstrates that even professional wildlife agents can’t seem to tell wolves and coyotes apart, and if it’s that hard to really distinguish between the species, both should be protected by the Endangered Species Act for the sake of the rare Mexican wolf.”

“Illegal mortality is the leading cause of death for Mexican wolves, and research shows that undetected wolf deaths are likely as high or higher than known wolf poaching.  Outlawing coyote killing in occupied wolf habitat in Arizona and New Mexico would be a simple and effective solution to the poaching problem,” said David Parsons, former coordinator of the Mexican wolf recovery program. “If the Service won’t prosecute people for mistakenly killing wolves, making it illegal to kill coyotes should substantially reduce Lobo mortalities.”

Today’s petition includes evidence that numerous Mexican wolves have been killed by people who believed, or claim to have believed, they were killing a coyote. This misidentification invokes a Department of Justice practice known as the “McKittrick policy” that effectively protects the killers from prosecution because it requires the government to prove that the defendants knew they were killing an endangered species when they pulled the trigger.

“Arizona and New Mexico don’t do nearly enough to regulate coyote killing in ways that would protect Mexican gray wolves. In New Mexico, coyotes can be killed year-round without even so much as a hunting license,” said Chris Smith, southwest wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “With such lax oversight and regulations, it’s no wonder that imperiled and iconic wolves end up in the crosshairs.”

“Native wild canids, whether they are Mexican gray wolves or coyotes, are essential to ecosystems and neither need lethal management,” explained Michelle Lute, PhD in wild canid conservation and carnivore conservation director for Project Coyote. “Protecting both species makes pragmatic, ecological and ethical sense.”

“The government should do everything it can to protect endangered Mexican gray wolves, and this listing would be a key step,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s an outrage that merely saying ‘I thought it was a coyote’ serves as a get-out-of-jail-free card for anyone who shoots one of these highly imperiled animals.”


Center for Biological Diversity

Scientists Demand Endangered Species Act Protection for Pacific Walrus

Ecologists, Biologists, Climate Experts Say Walrus Needs Immediate Safeguards

WASHINGTON—(December 7, 2022)—Twelve scientists urged the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to promptly protect the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity first submitted a petition to list the Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) as threatened or endangered in 2008, more than a decade ago.

Today’s letter was signed by experts in conservation biology, sea-ice melting, climate science, marine ecology and other related fields. The scientists note that Arctic warming driven by climate change is reducing the walrus’ sea ice habitat and presenting a dire threat to the survival of the species.

“It’s long past time for the government to protect the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act,” said Kristin Carden, a senior scientist at the Center. “We’ve known for decades that the sea ice walruses rely on is melting at an alarming rate. The situation is only getting worse as the climate continues to warm, and we can’t let these iconic animals become the next victims of the global extinction crisis.”

The Service responded to the Center’s initial petition in 2011 with a finding that the walrus merited protection because of its shrinking habitat. But in 2017, the Trump administration reversed that decision, denying the walrus protections.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the denial in 2021, in response to a lawsuit, because the agency hadn’t adequately explained why the walrus was no longer under threat. The Service has yet to take action following the 9th Circuit’s decision, and the walrus remains vulnerable to threats from oil and gas extraction, shipping and climate change-induced habitat degradation.

The threats to the enormous tusked Pacific walrus have only grown since the initial petition as the climate warms and studies have shown that the Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the globe. The region has lost 40% of its summer sea ice over the past several decades, and the ice-free season has grown longer, making it difficult for the walruses to conduct courtship, give birth, raise their young, and rest during foraging and molting.

According to the scientists’ letter, models predict accelerating sea ice loss through at least the year 2100. Each metric ton of carbon released into the atmosphere causes three square meters of sea ice to disappear.

Endangered Species Act protection would require the federal government to designate critical habitat and mandate that it consider the threats and harms of federal approvals of oil and gas development and other greenhouse gas-emitting activities on the species. Additionally, protections under the Act would not interfere with subsistence uses.



650+ Scientists Urge World Leaders to Stop Burning Trees for Energy

By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, December 6, 2022

More than 650 scientists have written a letter to world leaders urging them to stop the burning of trees to produce energy because it destroys wildlife habitats and undermines international biodiversity and climate pledges.

Leading up to the UN biodiversity summit COP15 — which begins on December 7 in Montréal — the scientists said countries need to stop using bioenergy from forests to generate electricity and heat, and that renewable energy sources should be used instead.

“We are writing to express our concern regarding an emerging and growing threat to biodiversity… the large-scale use of forest bioenergy to generate electricity and heat. We ask you and your countries to end all reliance on forest bioenergy and, over time, to replace it entirely with alternative renewable energy sources like wind and solar,” the scientists said in the letter.

The letter was addressed to President Xi Jinping of China, U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of South Korea Yoon Suk-yeol and Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida.

“Troublingly, because it has wrongly been deemed ‘carbon neutral,’ many countries are increasingly relying on forest biomass to meet net zero goals. This is harming our world’s forests when we need them most. Many of the wood pellets burned at power stations for bioenergy are coming from whole trees — not wastes and residues from logging, as the industry claims,” the letter said.

According to an International Energy Agency report, bioenergy is projected to make up a third of what has been deemed “low-carbon” energy by 2030, reported The Guardian.

“We must transition our energy system, but it cannot be at the cost of nature. Ensuring energy security is a major societal challenge, but the answer is not to burn our precious forests – calling this ‘green energy’ is misleading and risks accelerating the global biodiversity crisis,” said Director of Science at Kew Gardens Professor Alexandre Antonelli, a lead author of the letter, as Carbon Pulse reported.

The burning of biomass as part of the UK’s net zero plan has been supported by subsidies of $6.81 billion over the past ten years, reported The Guardian.

“The scale of this logging is alarming. For example, in 2019, approximately 5.7 million metric tons of wood pellets were exported from the United States to the UK, requiring the clearing of an area larger than the UK’s New Forest,” the letter said.

When trees are cut down to produce bioenergy, carbon that would have otherwise been stored in forests is released into the atmosphere.

“In addition to its impacts on wildlife, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently noted the critical role that forests play in keeping their stored carbon out of the atmosphere. Harvesting for bioenergy seriously harms forests and their ability to sequester and store carbon,” the scientists noted in the letter.

Wood burning releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than gas or even coal, The Guardian reported. More energy is also used in the harvesting and transporting of the wood.

Most of the wood used for biomass comes from the U.S., Canada and Estonia.

“Also disturbing is the fact that many of these trees are coming from old, biodiverse and/or climate-critical forests. For example, we know that wood pellets burned in the UK come from clearcuts of mature hardwood forests in the U.S. Southeast’s North American Coastal Plain Biodiversity Hotspot; protected forest ecosystems in the Baltics that are critical habitats for imperilled birds and mammals; and primary forests in Canada, including the boreal forest, one of the world’s last remaining intact forests and a stronghold for global bird populations. Rare species such as the prothonotary warbler, the boreal woodland caribou, and the black stork, are already declining due to the loss and degradation of these forests,” the letter said.

The letter pointed out that as many as one million species are at risk of extinction by 2100 — mostly because of the fragmentation and loss of their habitat — and that forests absorb almost a third of fossil fuels emissions.

“Wood used for biomass energy is routinely logged using harmful practices like clearcutting. On-the-ground investigations show that two of the world’s largest pellet manufacturers — Enviva and Drax — make pellets from wood clearcut from forests. Clearcutting to provide timber for wood pellets in the EU and UK is even occurring in reserves designed to protect forests and rare and threatened species (e.g. European Union’s Natura 2000 network). Studies in tropical forests have shown that once a forest has been clearcut, it takes decades, if not centuries, before it can regrow to recover its original level of ecosystem productivity and biodiversity,” the scientists said in the letter.

The letter said that if 30 percent of Earth’s land and seas is to be preserved for nature by 2030, the international community must stop relying on biomass as fuel.

“The best thing for the climate and biodiversity is to leave forests standing — and biomass energy does the opposite,” the letter concluded.


Good News Network

Two Channel Island Plants Found Nowhere Else are Off Endangered Species List and Now Flourishing

By Good News Network, Dec. 6, 2022

Two plants that live on California’s Channel Islands and nowhere else on earth have reached recovery thanks to Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections.

The Santa Cruz Island dudleya and island bedstraw are now recommended for delisting after the Fish and Wildlife Service restored their population to flourishing levels with the help of partners like the Nature Conservancy.

The ESA is the most successful conservation legislation of any nation, preventing 99% all species listed since 1973—around 291—from going extinct.

In 1997, the Service determined 13 plants on California’s northern Channel Islands needed ESA protections as a result of decades of habitat loss and alteration due to sheep grazing and soil loss caused by rooting of non-native feral pigs.

By 2000, sheep grazing ended, and by 2006, all non-native feral pigs were removed from the islands. In 2000, the Service worked with botanists and land managers to develop a recovery plan to guide recovery efforts for the imperiled plants.

Island bedstraw (Galium buxifolium) is a long-lived woody shrub with small flowers that lives on coastal bluffs, steep rocky slopes, sea-cliffs, and occasionally pine forests, on Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands. At the time of listing, population estimates were in the hundreds. Helicopter surveys from 2017 estimate more than 15,000 individual plants now occur on the islands.

The Santa Cruz Island dudleya (Dudleya nesiotica) also known as the “liveforever” is a flowering succulent perennial that lives on Santa Cruz Island. Scientists say the population has remained relatively stable over the last 25 years, with current estimates around 120,000 individuals.

“The recovery of these island plants is the result of long-term cooperation and conservation efforts by scientists and land managers,” said Paul Souza, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Southwest Region. “That’s what the ESA can bring to the table – attention, resources, and incentive for sustained conservation work that produces meaningful results.”

Isolation over thousands of years has gifted these five islands with unique animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth.


Center for Biological Diversity

Emergency Endangered Species Act Protections Sought for Clear Lake Hitch

Once An Important Food Source for Tribes, California Fish on Brink of Extinction

CLEARLAKE, Calif.—(December 5, 2022)—Together with the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake and the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, the Center for Biological Diversity urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to provide emergency protections to the Clear Lake hitch.

Today’s request under the Endangered Species Act notes that the imperiled California fish’s numbers have plummeted in recent years. Extinction is now a distinct possibility if swift action isn’t taken. The hitch has great cultural significance and has been a primary food source that has sustained the Tribes for generations.

“Our Tribe expects and relies on the state and federal agencies to carry out their responsibilities for managing land, water, and all the fish and wildlife,” said Philip Gomez, chairman of the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians. “We have come to a point where we know that the agencies must try harder, and they must welcome the Tribes to co-manage our land and waters. We call out to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to authorize emergency listing of the chi/Clear Lake hitch immediately, so they can be protected for their spawning a few months from now. None of us want this fish to go extinct on our watch, as Tribal leaders.”

“We are talking about extinction,” said Meg Townsend, senior freshwater attorney at the Center. “The hitch can’t withstand one more year of failed spawning. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to protect this severely imperiled fish for more than a decade is shocking and unacceptable. Only emergency protections can correct this grievous error and give the hitch a fighting chance.”

The last successful spawning of Clear Lake hitch was observed in 2017. The following year, extremely few juvenile hitch were collected. Almost no juvenile hitch have been observed since. Adult hitch are now also in steep decline. With an estimated six-year lifespan, the hitch can’t survive many more years of failed spawning without disappearing forever.

The primary threat to Clear Lake hitch is a lack of spring flows in lake tributaries used for spawning. This is caused by water over-withdrawal, both legal and illegal, that is being worsened by climate change-driven drought. The hitch is also threatened by fish-passage barriers, habitat degradation, pollution and predation, and competition from invasive, stocked fish, including carp and bass.

The Center petitioned the Service in 2012 to protect the hitch under the Endangered Species Act. After eight years of delay and a lawsuit by the Center, the agency finally issued a decision, but, in a bizarre move, denied the fish protections. The Center challenged this decision in federal court, leading the agency to reconsider listing the hitch, but no new decision will be made until 2025.

“As President Biden highlighted this week at the White House Tribal Nations Summit, Indigenous Knowledge is to be considered in policy and agency decision making,” said Sherry Treppa, chairperson of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake. “The Service needs to respect not only Tribal Nations but the president and take immediate action otherwise years of research, preservation and re-population efforts by local tribal nations and county will be for naught.”

“The Clear Lake hitch — the chi — is an important part of our Tribe’s culture that sustained our families for generations,” said Jesse Gonzalez, vice chair of Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians. “We as Indian people have lost so much of our ways and our culture at the hands of others, and now we’re trying so hard to hold on to what’s left, for ourselves, for our families, and for our future. I remember catching chi as a young boy and now can only hope that my children will one day have that same experience. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t give the chi emergency endangered species protections, we fear that our future generations will never have that opportunity.”

The hitch needs immediate action, including captive rearing, enforcement action against illegal water withdrawals by cannabis growers and others, control of invasive predatory fish in the lake, and work with legal water rights holders to maintain instream flows. Emergency protection under the Endangered Species Act would help ensure these things happen.

On Nov. 3, the California Fish and Game Commission took the unprecedented step of writing to the Service to request emergency listing of the hitch under the Act.

The Service has only given emergency listings to two species in the past two decades. Such listings take effect immediately upon publication in the Federal Register and last for 240 days. Simultaneously, the Service must publish a proposed rule to extend the listing beyond the initial period.

“The Clear Lake hitch is on the verge of extinction unless action is taken now,” said Michael Y. Marcks, vice-chairperson of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake. “Tribes are united in seeking protection of the hitch, which is culturally significant to The Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake. Our Tribe has strong connections and traditions to our land, and we constantly strive to conserve, preserve, and protect all our natural resources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must use its emergency authority to protect and preserve the hitch for future generations.”

“In 2004, Robinson Rancheria started the efforts for the first petition to U.S Fish and Wildlife for the hitch to be listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act,” said Irenia Quitiquit, secretary treasurer of the Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians Citizens Business Council. “Because of Robinson Rancheria’s peoples’ strong ties to the hitch, culturally and for subsistence, an emergency listing would be a great victory toward saving the hitch from extinction. Robinson Rancheria’s Tribal efforts over the past 18 years has been documented through many federal grants and tribal support efforts to continue studying the hitch. Research has proven to be effective in this hopeful goal — having the hitch listed as a federally endangered species. All Lake County California Tribes look forward to continuing the meaningful work to save the Hitch.”


Statesman Journal (Salem, OR)

Scientists along West Coast call for action to help endangered sunflower sea stars

Associated Press, December 3, 2022

ASTORIA, Ore. — Scientists along the West Coast are calling for action to help sunflower sea stars, among the largest sea stars in the world, recover from catastrophic population declines.

Experts say a sea star wasting disease epidemic that began in 2013 has decimated about 95% of the population from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, The Astorian reported.

The decline triggered the International Union for Conservation of Nature to classify the species as critically endangered in 2020. A petition to list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act was filed in 2021.

Steven Rumrill, shellfish program leader at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in his more than 40 years as a marine scientist, he hasn’t seen a widespread decline of a species on the same scale as the sunflower sea star.

The sea stars, which are among the largest in the world and can span more than 3 feet (91 centimeters), are predators to the kelp-eating sea urchin. Without them, sea urchin populations have exploded, causing a troubling decline in kelp forests that provide food and shelter to many aquatic species along the West Coast.

Rumrill contributed to a recently published roadmap to recovery for the sea star as a guide for scientists and conservationists.

“It just sort of breaks your heart to see a species decline so rapidly to the point of extinction,” Rumrill said. “At the global scale, we’re recognizing that the impacts of humans have had major impacts on populations and lots of extinctions worldwide. Here’s one that’s happening right in front of our eyes.”

The roadmap was completed in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, National Marine Fisheries Service, and state agencies in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

The sea star wasting disease is estimated to have killed over 5.75 billion sunflower sea stars, according to the document.

The source of the outbreak has not been conclusively identified, but the document points to evidence that warming ocean waters from human-caused climate change increases the severity of the disease and could have triggered the outbreak.

Rumrill said listing through the Endangered Species Act could result in federal funding to continue research.

Matthew Burks, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said whether the agency recommends the sea star be listed under the Endangered Species Act will be posted to the Federal Register by early next year.

While sunflower sea stars appear to be the most affected by the sea star wasting disease, they are among about 20 documented species of sea stars at risk along the West Coast.



Rare, critically endangered gecko making dramatic recovery in Caribbean

by Maxwell Radwin on 2 December 2022

A rare gecko no larger than a paperclip is making a comeback in the Caribbean, thanks to conservation efforts by environmental groups and the government.

The Union Island gecko (Gonatodes daudini), known for its jewel-like markings, has seen its population grow from around 10,000 in 2018 to around 18,000 today — an increase of 80%.

The gecko resides in an approximately 50-hecatre (123-acre) swath of old-growth forest on Union Island, part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. When it was discovered in 2005, the animal almost immediately became the target of exotic pet collectors, according to Fauna & Flora International (FFI), a wildlife conservation organization focused on protecting biodiversity.

The organization worked with Re:Wild and local partners like Union Island Environmental Alliance and St. Vincent and the Grenadines forestry department to develop a species recovery plan, which involved greater protected area management and expansion as well as anti-poaching patrols and camera surveillance.

The gecko’s wild population had shrunk to one-fifth its original size since being discovered. One 2017 study found that it was the most trafficked reptile from the Eastern Caribbean.

“As a Unionite and a community leader, I am extremely proud to be a part of this success story,” Roseman Adams, co-founder of the local Union Island Environmental Alliance, said in a press release. “Without a doubt, our shared, unwavering dedication and sacrifice has brought us this far. We now have to be entirely consistent with further improvements in our management and protection of the gecko’s habitat for this success to be maintained.”

In 2019, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines also managed to list the Union Island gecko on Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), meaning the species now has the highest level of protection against exploitation and illegal trade. It gives authorities around the world the power to take concrete legal action against poachers and international traders.

“It is truly a testimony to the determination of the Forestry Department — and the amazing community wardens on Union Island — that this gecko has become one of the best guarded reptiles in the world,” Jenny Daltry, Caribbean Alliance director for Re:wild and FFI, said in the release. “This is something for which the whole community of Union Island can be rightly proud.”

The island, with its well-preserved tropical dry forest and coral reefs, has a host of endemic species in need of protecting, including Caribbean diamond tarantula (Tapinauchenius rasti) and the Grenadines pink rhino iguana (Iguana insularis insularis).

“If not properly managed, the development of Union Island not only puts the future of the gecko at risk, but will impact a large number of other threatened species that are endemic to this area,” said Isabel Vique, FFI’s program manager for the Caribbean.


Federal News Network

Nevada toad in geothermal power fight gets endangered status

SCOTT SONNER, December 2, 2022

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A tiny Nevada toad at the center of a legal battle over a geothermal power project has officially been declared an endangered species, after U.S. wildlife officials temporarily listed it on a rarely used emergency basis last spring.

“This ruling makes final the listing of the Dixie Valley toad, ” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a formal rule published Friday in the Federal Register.

The spectacled, quarter-sized amphibian “is currently at risk of extinction throughout its range primarily due to the approval and commencement of geothermal development,” the service said.

Other threats to the toad include groundwater pumping, agriculture, climate change, disease and predation from bullfrogs.

The temporary listing in April marked only the second time in 20 years the agency had taken such emergency action.

Environmentalists who first petitioned for the listing in 2017 filed a lawsuit in January to block construction of the geothermal power plant on the edge of the wetlands where the toad lives about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Reno — the only place it’s known to exist on earth.

“We’re pleased that the Biden administration is taking this essential step to prevent the extinction of an irreplaceable piece of Nevada’s special biodiversity,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin regional director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The center and a tribe fighting the project say pumping hot water from beneath the earth’s surface to generate carbon-free power would adversely affect levels and temperatures of surface water critical to the toad’s survival and sacred to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe.

The Fish and Wildlife Service cited those concerns in the final listing rule.

“The best available information indicates that a complete reduction in spring flow and significant reduction of water temperature are plausible outcomes of the geothermal project, and these conditions could result in the species no longer persisting,” the agency said.

“Because the species occurs in only one spring system and has not experienced habitat changes of the magnitude or pace projected, it may have low potential to adapt to a fast-changing environment,” it said. “We find that threatened species status is not appropriate because the threat of extinction is imminent.”

Officials for the Reno-based developer, Ormat Technology, said the service’s decision was “not unexpected” given the emergency listing in April. In recent months, the company has been working with the agency and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to modify the project to increase mitigation for the toad and reduce any threat to its survival.

The lawsuit over the original plan to build two power plants capable of producing 60MW of electricity is currently before U.S. District Judge Robert Jones in Reno. It’s already has made one trip to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused in August to grant a temporary injunction blocking construction of the power plant the bureau approved in December 2021.

But just hours after that ruling, Ormat announced it had agreed to temporarily suspend all work on the project until next year. Then in late October, the bureau and Ormat asked the judge to put the case on hold while Ormat submitted a new plan to build just one geothermal plant, at least for now, that would produce only 12MW of power.

Ormat Vice President Paul Thomsen said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday that the company disagrees with the wildlife service’s “characterization of the potential impacts” of its project as a basis for the listing decision. He said it doesn’t change the ongoing coordination and consultation already under way to minimize and mitigate any of those impacts “regardless of its status under the Endangered Species Act.”

“Following the emergency listing decision, BLM began consultation with the FWS, and Ormat has sought approval of a smaller project authorization that would provide additional assurances that the species will not be jeopardized by geothermal development,” he said.

“As a zero-emissions, renewable energy facility, the project will further the Biden administration’s clean energy initiatives and support the fight against climate change,” Thomsen said.

Donnelly agreed renewable energy is “essential to combating the climate emergency.”

“But it can’t come at the cost of extinction,” he said.

The last time endangered species protection first was initiated on an emergency basis was in 2011, when the Obama administration took action on the Miami blue butterfly in southern Florida. Before that, an emergency listing was granted for the California tiger salamander under the Bush administration in 2002.

Other species listed as endangered on an emergency basis over the years include the California bighorn sheep in the Sierra Nevada in 1999, Steller sea lions in 1990, and the Sacramento River winter migration run of chinook salmon and Mojave desert tortoise, both in 1989.


Center for Biological Diversity

Two California Plants Saved From Extinction by Endangered Species Act

Channel Islands Recoveries Mark Another Success for Landmark Law

LOS ANGELES—(November 30, 2022)—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to remove two Channel Islands plants from the endangered species list because they have successfully recovered.

The Channel Island bedstraw and Santa Cruz Island dudleya were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1997 because of grazing, trampling and soil erosion caused by sheep and feral pigs. Following the plants’ protection, sheep and feral pigs were removed from the islands, which benefited not just the two rare plants but the entire ecosystem.

“The Endangered Species Act has saved the lives of 99% of the plants and animals under its care, including these two beautiful California plants,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Recovery can take decades, but the investment is worth it to safeguard the biodiversity we all depend on.”

Island bedstraw is a 3-foot-tall woody shrub with small greenish-white flowers. At the time of listing there were 19 known sites and around 600 individual plants. In recent surveys there were 39 sites and more than 15,700 individuals.

Santa Cruz Island dudleya, also known as Santa Cruz Island liveforever, is a succulent perennial, known from only one population on the westernmost tip of Santa Cruz Island in Santa Barbara County. Since the plant’s listing, the population has fluctuated from 40,000 to 200,000 individuals and has stabilized at 120,000 individuals with an increase in distribution.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a monitoring plan to ensure the plants continue to thrive. This is especially important for the Santa Cruz Island dudleya, whose single population remains vulnerable to sea-level rise caused by climate change.

The Channel Island bedstraw and Santa Cruz Island dudleya will join more than 50 species of plants and animals that have successfully recovered under federal protection, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, humpback whales, Coastal California sunflowers and Channel Islands foxes.

“Nearly 50 years into its legacy, the Endangered Species Act remains the most important tool we have to end extinction and ensure a healthy future for humans and the diversity of life that makes the Earth so vibrant,” Curry said.



Researchers Use Magnets to Remove Microplastics From Water

By: Paige Bennett, November 30, 2022

Researchers at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University) have discovered a way to use magnetic materials to quickly and affordably remove microplastics from water. The findings show the materials work to remove plastic particles 1,000 times smaller than plastics currently detectable in existing water treatment plants.

The team developed an adsorbent from nanomaterials, including iron, that attracts the plastic particles in the water, working in as little as one hour compared to other microplastic removal methods that can take several days to work. The adsorbent is mixed into water, and microplastics and even dissolved pollutants are attracted to the adsorbent. Then, because of the iron content, the researchers were able to use magnets to collect the microplastics and dissolved pollutants.

“The nano-pillar structure we’ve engineered to remove this pollution, which is impossible to see but very harmful to the environment, is recycled from waste and can be used multiple times,” Nicky Eshtiaghi, lead researcher and professor from RMIT’s School of Environmental and Chemical Engineering, said in a statement. “This is a big win for the environment and the circular economy.”

The research, published in Chemical Engineering Journal, explained that about 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of microplastics enter the oceans each year, and smaller microplastics under 5 millimeters cannot be detected and filtered out by existing water treatment technology. Some options, like filter papers or photodegradation, have been tested before, but these methods can’t capture the smallest microplastics or take a long time to remove the pollutants.

“Microplastics smaller than 5 millimeters, which can take up to 450 years to degrade, are not detectable and removable through conventional treatment systems, resulting in millions of tonnes being released into the sea every year,” co-lead researcher Nasir Mahmood said. This is not only harmful for aquatic life, but also has significant negative impacts on human health.”

The RMIT team’s developed adsorbent — as the study explained, nanopillared structures composed of two-dimensional metal–organic framework separated by carbon encapsulated iron oxide nanopillars — removed about 100% of microplastics from the water sample in just one hour.

The adsorbent is designed to be a quick, cost-effective solution to cleaning up microplastics and dissolved pollutants in water. Now, the team is looking for collaborators to scale up the project and test it in wastewater treatment facilities.

“The results suggest a promising pathway to addressing the removal of mixed contaminants from water in a single process and highlighting its potential in resolving critical industrial and domestic wastewater treatment,” the study authors wrote.



Northern long-eared bat, devastated by a fungus, is now listed as endangered

November 29, 2022, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The Biden administration declared the northern long-eared bat endangered on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to save a species driven to the brink of extinction by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease.

“White-nose syndrome is decimating cave-dwelling bat species like the northern long-eared bat at unprecedented rates,” said Martha Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency is “deeply committed to working with partners on a balanced approach that reduces the impacts of disease and protects the survivors to recover northern long-eared bat populations,” she said.

First documented in the U.S. in 2006, the disease has infected 12 types of bats and killed millions. The northern long-eared bat is among the hardest hit, with estimated declines of 97% or higher in affected populations. The bat is found in 37 eastern and north-central states, plus Washington, D.C., and much of Canada.

Named for white, fuzzy spots that appear on infected bats, white-nose syndrome attacks bats’ wings, muzzles and ears when they hibernate in caves and abandoned mines.

It causes them to wake early from hibernation and to sometimes fly outside. They can burn up their winter fat stores and eventually starve.

The disease has spread across nearly 80% of the geographical range where northern long-eared bats live and is expected to cover it all by 2025.

Another species ravaged by the fungus is the tricolored bat, which the government proposed to classify as endangered in September.

Bats are believed to give U.S. agriculture an annual boost of $3 billion by gobbling pests and pollinating some plants.

The Fish and Wildlife Service designated the northern long-eared bat as threatened in 2015. With its situation increasingly dire, the agency proposed an endangered listing in March and considered public comments before deciding to proceed. The reclassification takes effect Jan. 30, 2023.

In many cases, the service identifies “critical habitat” areas considered particularly important for the survival of an endangered species. Officials decided against doing so for the northern long-eared bat because habitat loss isn’t the primary reason for its decline, spokeswoman Georgia Parham said. Calling attention to their winter hibernation spots could make things worse, she added.

Recovery efforts will focus on wooded areas where the bats roost in summer — usually alone or in small groups, nestling beneath bark or in tree cavities and crevices. Emerging at dusk, they feed on moths, beetles and other insects.

Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies are required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to be sure projects that they fund or authorize — such as timber harvests, prescribed fires and highway construction — will not jeopardize a listed species’ existence.

For nonfederal landowners, actions that could result in unintentional kills could be allowed but will require permits.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said that it will also work with wind energy companies to reduce the likelihood that bats will strike turbines. These collisions are currently a threat in roughly half of the northern long-eared bat’s range, an area likely to grow as wind energy development expands.

The service has approved nearly two dozen plans allowing wind energy and forestry projects to proceed after steps were taken to make them more bat-friendly, said Karen Herrington, Midwest regional coordinator for threatened and endangered species.

Operators can limit the danger by curtailing blade rotation during bats’ migration season and when winds are low.

Research continues for methods to fight white-nose syndrome, including development of a vaccine. The service has distributed more than $46 million for the campaign, which involves around 150 agencies, private organizations and Native American tribes.


Sea Shepherd

A Win for Endangered Species; Sea Shepherd Lawsuit Succeeds in Protecting Māui Dolphins

Court of International Trade bans import of fish from certain New Zealand fisheries to protect the Māui dolphin

November 29th, 2022—Today, in a lawsuit brought jointly by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Sea Shepherd New Zealand (collectively Sea Shepherd) to protect the critically endangered Māui dolphin, the United States Court of International Trade ordered a ban of imports of nine fish species caught off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The ban specifically applies to set-net and trawl fisheries operating in Māui dolphin habitat.

The Māui dolphin is found only in New Zealand waters and most recent estimates suggest between only 48 and 64 individual dolphins over the age of one year remain. Sea Shepherd brought its lawsuit against the United States Department of Commerce under the Marine Mammal Protection Act because set-net and trawl fisheries that overlap with Māui dolphin habitat result in injury and death to dolphins in excess of United States standards. The preliminary import ban will remain in place until the United States makes a valid finding that New Zealand’s regulatory program for the fisheries is comparable in effectiveness to the U.S. regulatory program or until the court case is fully resolved.

“The Court’s ruling sends a strong signal to New Zealand and other countries that unless they can show their fisheries regulatory program is comparable to the U.S. regulatory program, they risk an import ban,” said Pritam Singh, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. “The Court found we are likely to succeed on two of our legal claims and that a preliminary import ban for these nine species was in the public interest. We agree.”

“This is a victory for independent science, which, in this case clearly demonstrated the technology used by the fisheries at issue – indiscriminate set nets and trawls – were putting the endangered Māui dolphin at greater risk of extinction,” said Michael Lawry, Managing Director of Sea Shepherd New Zealand. “We’re happy the Court of International Trade recognized the urgency of this situation for the Māui dolphin and agreed with us that an import ban was legally required.”

The nine fish species included in the Court’s injunction are: 1) snapper; (2) tarakihi; (3) spotted dogfish; (4) trevally; (5) warehou; (6) hoki; (7) barracouta; (8) mullet; and (9) gurnard deriving from New Zealand’s West Coast North Island multi-species set-net and trawl fisheries.

Sea Shepherd is represented in the lawsuit by Lia Comerford and Allison LaPlante of Earthrise Law Center, at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.


U.S. Department of Interior

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Critical Progress as CITES CoP19 Comes to a Close

Press Release, 11/28/2022

PANAMA CITY, PANAMA — After working around the clock for two weeks, the Biden-Harris administration announced today it has forged critical agreements to ensure legal, traceable and biologically sustainable international trade of wild animals and plants. U.S. government leaders met with over 2,000 representatives from more than 150 nations, non-governmental organizations, industry and academia at the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the world’s only forum on international trade in plants and wildlife.

Held November 14-25 in Panama City, Panama, the CoP19 and its participants took a strong stance to conserve a wide range of known and lesser-known species and improve CITES implementation on matters ranging from ending illegal trafficking in totoaba and restricting trade in live African elephants to ensuring conservation of marine turtles and curbing the illegal trade in cheetahs and jaguars.

The U.S. delegation to CoP19 was led by Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Matthew J. Strickler, supported by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources Monica Medina, and the Service’s Assistant Director for International Affairs Bryan Arroyo. In addition to the Service, which is responsible for implementing CITES in the United States, delegation members included representatives from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Justice, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, as well as committee staff from the U.S. Senate.

“With 1 million species facing extinction around the world, international trade often represents the tipping point for wildlife already impacted by habitat loss and degradation, climate change, invasive species or disease. No one country can solve these problems alone. Seeing nations come together and take a collaborative, strong stance for wildlife over the past two weeks gives me hope that together we can meet the challenge. I am very pleased with our outcomes,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Strickler.

“If CITES is to be successful in preventing the extinction of species threatened by international trade, we need to continue prioritizing investment in capacity-building efforts,” said Service Director Williams. “CITES is only as strong as each of its member nations. As part of our commitment to CITES capacity-building efforts, we have supported regional cohorts to attend the CITES Masters Course at Spain’s Universidad Internacional de Andalucía in recent years. These emerging conservation leaders are the future of CITES, and many of the delegates who demonstrated outstanding leadership at CoP19 are graduates of this course. We will continue to support global efforts to increase the capacity of parties to implement CITES and ensure all voices are heard in this critical forum.”

Notable at CoP19 were the strong voices advocating for increased protection for native species. For the U.S. delegation, increased protection for U.S. native reptiles included CITES listing of 36 species of U.S. native turtles, which are under increasing demand from East Asia and Europe. Biological and life history traits make freshwater turtles and tortoises highly vulnerable to exploitation. The turtle trade follows a boom-and-bust pattern, in which exploitation in one species shifts to another as species become depleted to a level where they can no longer be commercially exploited or when it becomes subject to stricter regulations. The CITES Appendix-II listing of alligator and common snapping turtles, all map turtles, all mud turtles except for the two species already included in Appendix I, all musk turtles, and all soft-shelled turtles (Apalone species), will complement U.S. state management efforts, reduce the risk of overharvesting, and support biologically sustainable use and legal and traceable international trade in U.S. native turtles.

The United States also co-proposed the inclusion of glass frogs in Appendix II, alongside Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, Cote d’lvoire, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Gabon, Guinea, Niger, Panama, Peru and Togo – a proposal that passed by consensus today. Glass frogs have unique transparent skin on their underside, showing their bones and internal organs. International demand for glass frogs in the exotic pet trade adds to the numerous threats they already face, including habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, invasive species and diseases such as chytrid fungus. In the U.S., demand for glass frogs in the pet trade has increased exponentially, from 13 live individuals imported in 2016 to 5,744 individuals in 2021. Individual glass frog species are difficult to tell apart. Including the entire genus in Appendix II is a critical step in ensuring that international trade does not represent an added threat to wild populations.

The United States proposed strong measures to enforce CITES provisions to end illegal fishing and trafficking in totoaba and ensure survival of the critically endangered vaquita, which now numbers 10 or fewer individual animals and is at imminent risk of extinction. Despite its protected status, the totoaba suffers from illegal fishing that has continued in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California to meet demand for its swim bladder in East Asia. Without an end to this illegal fishing, vaquita will continue to be caught and drown as bycatch. Working closely together over the past two weeks, the U.S. and Mexico agreed on a way forward to curb illegal fishing of totoaba, taking into consideration the concerns expressed by Mexico as well as the need to act immediately to avoid the vaquita’s extinction. Parties supported their joint decision by consensus.

The Biden-Harris administration is committed to ensuring transparency and inclusiveness in CITES implementation and preparation for CITES meetings, in particular CoPs. The Service began its public participation process to gather and evaluate information related to species involved in international trade and improving implementation of the convention more than two years ago, culminating in the submission of 14 species proposals and six documents the U.S. advanced or co-sponsored to be considered by CITES member nations at CoP19.



November 27, 2022/Press Release

Record number of species to be regulated by CITES after CoP19

Representatives of more than 160 governments, Parties to the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and flora (CITES), today reaffirmed their commitment to address the biodiversity crisis by adopting proposals to regulate international trade in more than 500 new species.

CITES CoP19 closed in Panama today after two weeks of negotiations on the most important issues facing the trade in endangered species of animals and plants.

The CoP adopted a total of 46 Proposals of the 52 put forward. This will bring species of, among others, sharks, lizards, turtles, fish, birds, frogs and more than a hundred tree species under CITES regulations, designed to ensure the sustainability of these species in the wild, while allowing their international trade and also contributing to the conservation of ecosystems and global biodiversity.

The CoP also reached a record number of 365 decisions as they worked to safeguard threatened wildlife species, while at the same time allowing the international trade that underpins human well-being and contributes to conservation efforts. The decisions will shape CITES’ work for the years to come.

The meeting – also known as the World Wildlife Conference – opened on November 14th and on four days ran until 10pm as the details of these decisions and resolutions were worked through and agreed. More than 2,500 people have attended the event; the ultimate decision-making body of CITES, which takes place every three years. This year the meeting was held in Panama, the first time for twenty years that a CITES CoP has returned to Latin America.

In welcoming the decisions made by the Parties, the Secretary-General of CITES, Ivonne Higuero, pointed out that they come at an important time, “The Parties to CITES are fully aware of their responsibility to address the biodiversity loss crisis by taking action to ensure that the international trade in wildlife is sustainable, legal and traceable. Trade underpins human well-being, but we need to mend our relationship with nature. The decisions coming from this meeting will serve the interests of conservation and wildlife trade, that doesn’t threaten the existence of species of plants and animals in the wild, for future generations.”

A first for the meeting was the adoption of a resolution on gender, to try to address inequality as it relates to the trade in wildlife. The meeting heard that women are more likely to lose out on the benefits of wildlife trade and work will now be done to suggest ways to tackle this issue.

The meeting also decided to work towards becoming a more inclusive forum by increasing the number of languages it works in for key meetings. Future CoPs are likely to be run in Arabic, Chinese and Russian, in addition to the current working languages of Spanish, French and English.

The contribution that CITES can make to reducing zoonotic diseases is also to be investigated. 70% of emerging diseases are estimated to be transferred from wild animals to humans. CITES is to look at the role it could play in reducing the likelihood of this transfer.

The new species that will be listed on CITES and their international trade consequently regulated, include nearly 100 species of sharks & rays, more than 150 tree species, 160 amphibian species, including tropical frogs, 50 turtle and tortoise species and several species of songbirds. All these species have seen declines in their populations over recent years.

The Parties to CITES also agreed a joint approach to support Mexico as it fights to save a species of porpoise from extinction. Numbers of vaquita in the Gulf of Mexico are believed to have dropped to fewer than twenty. It is endangered through fishing for a different species, the totoaba. Parties have agreed to a coordinated approach, designed to limit fishing in totoaba and consequently reduce the threat to the vaquita.

CITES regulates the world’s trade in threatened species of animals and plants, 183 countries and the European Union are Parties to the Convention and every three years, they take part in a meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP). This is the 19th time they have met in the past 50 years, since the Convention was adopted in 1973.

CoP19 has taken place at a crucial moment. This year has seen a number of significant scientific reports which have highlighted the need to halt, and reverse, biodiversity loss, if our planet and human well-being is to be sustained. The three main threats to wild plants and animals are habitat loss, climate change and overexploitation. It is hoped that the decisions taken in Panama will contribute to addressing these crises and pave the way for CoP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is taking place in Montreal next month. That meeting is expected to agree a Framework to address the loss in Biodiversity, to which a number of multilateral environmental agreements, CITES included, will contribute.


International Fund for Animal Welfare

world wildlife conference makes great strides for protected species

(Panama City, Panama – 25 November 2022) — The 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Panama City concluded today, with governments agreeing new protection for hundreds of species at risk from international trade.

IFAW welcomed the many important conservation decisions taken at this meeting. This included groundbreaking new controls on the international trade in shark fins, as well as greater protection for many species found in the international exotic pet trade, such as species of glass frogs and turtles.

“Over a million species are at risk of extinction if we do not change the way we treat wildlife,” said Matthew Collis, IFAW Deputy Vice President for Conservation. “Governments at CITES have shown they are beginning to grasp the scale of the challenge required to confront the crisis facing the natural world. Overexploitation of species, including through international trade, is a key contributing factor to the decline of many species.”

“Panama’s leadership of CoP19 set the tone with their ambition for this conference —to leading a game-changing proposal to ensure the majority of shark species in the international fin trade received CITES protection,” added Collis.

Nearly 100 species of sharks and rays were added to CITES Appendix II to control the unsustainable global trade in their fins and meat—a trade which has pushed some of these ecologically important predators to the brink of extinction. This brings most shark species in international trade under CITES control, meaning no trade should take place unless it is legal and sustainable.

Similar protection was granted to all species of glass frogs (frogs with semi-transparent skin through which you can see their skeleton, intestines and beating heart) and many freshwater turtle species and other reptiles, all popular in the burgeoning exotic pet trade. An analysis of U.S. import records shows that, between 2016 and 2021, imports of glass frogs increased by approximately 44,000%—from 13 live individuals in 2016, to 5,744 individuals in 2021.

In good news for elephants and rhinos, CITES member governments rejected proposals to reopen international trade in ivory and rhino horn. IFAW welcomed this decision, as any legal trade provides opportunities for criminals to launder poached elephant tusks and rhino horns into the market. Similar proposals have been repeatedly rejected by governments in previous CITES conferences.

Mr Collis said: “It is clear there is no appetite for reopening these dangerous trades. Instead, the international community must find innovative new ways to generate income for conservation without exposing animals to being poached.”

“Sadly, governments missed just such an opportunity at this meeting by failing to agree on Kenya’s suggestion to set up a fund to create financial resources in exchange for the destruction of ivory stockpiles. We urge governments to reconsider such ideas before the next conference, otherwise we will see a repeat of the divisive discussions on ivory stockpiles that have long characterised CITES conferences.”

The conference adopted a number of decisions regarding the prevention of pandemics and taking a ‘One Health’ approach to management of wildlife trade. Government agencies were encouraged to collaborate to identify and reduce risks of pathogen spillovers along wildlife trade supply chains and CITES to work with international efforts in this area. Governments agreed to keep this under review and potentially return with further recommendations at the next meeting.

IFAW was also pleased to see CITES advocate that governments continue to take action to address wildlife cybercrime and build capacity to help enforcement agencies deal with live animals seized from wildlife traffickers, both growing challenges for governments worldwide as they tackle wildlife crime.

CITES meets every three years and already offers protection to more than 38,000 species across the globe. This was the first CITES meeting hosted in Latin America in 20 years.


Center For Biological Diversity

Critical Habitat Proposed for Endangered Florida Bonneted Bat

More Than 1 Million Acres Proposed in 13 Florida Counties

PETERSBURG, Fla.—(November 22, 2022)—Following a court-ordered agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday proposed protecting nearly 1.2 million acres of ­­critical habitat for the endangered Florida bonneted bat. The native bat faces devastating habitat loss from climate change and urban sprawl.

“While I’m happy that the Fish and Wildlife Service is moving to protect more than 1 million acres of critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat, it has excluded crucial areas threatened by immediate development,” said Ragan Whitlock, a Florida-based attorney at the Center. “We hope the Service will revise the final designation to accurately reflect all the areas these charming bats need to recover.”

Although the proposal acknowledges the bats and their habitat are threatened by climate change and sea-level rise, the Service did not extend badly needed protections for unoccupied critical habitat.

The proposal also excludes “humanmade structures” in areas known to be used by the bat, which is contrary to available science showing that several bat populations depend on bat boxes and urban foraging areas to survive.

“While we welcome the Service’s reproposed critical habitat designation, we are surprised by some of their proposed limitations to area that have suffered anthropogenic disturbances,” said Dennis Olle, president of the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. “Specifically, we are disappointed by the exclusion of certain disturbed or otherwise human-modified areas that are clearly important to the survival of the Florida bonneted bat. The Service’s failure to understand this shows a surprising lack of reliance on good science.”

“We are glad to see that the Service has finally issued the proposed critical habitat and included additional areas where we know the bat resides, like the Corkscrew and Kissimmee units,” said Lauren Jonaitis, conservation director of Tropical Audubon Society. “However, we still have major concerns that the Service did not include unoccupied critical habitat to bolster against habitat loss from sea level rise and range shifts as climate changes.”

“Having already undergone major revisions we were expecting a more comprehensive and accurate proposal from the Fish and Wildlife Service that truly represents all the habitat the Florida bonneted bat is dependent on for its survival,” said Jon Flanders, Ph.D., director of endangered species interventions at Bat Conservation International. “Completely dismissing the importance of urban-based populations and their habitat needs is a massive setback for the recovery of the species.”

Development and pesticide use nearly drove Florida bonneted bats extinct before litigation filed by the Center compelled the Service to protect the bat in 2013 under the Endangered Species Act. Conservation groups sued again in 2018 and then once more this year to secure habitat safeguards for the species.

Animals with federally protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be moving toward recovery than species without such protections. Federal agencies that fund or permit projects in critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure this habitat is not harmed or destroyed by their actions.


Named for the broad ears that hang over their foreheads, bonneted bats are the largest of Florida’s 13 bat species, and the second largest in North America. The bats roost in old tree cavities and artificial structures and forage for insects over dark open spaces. They also use one of the lowest-frequency echolocation calls of all bats, so some people are actually able to hear the bonneted bats’ bird-like chirps as they hunt for insects.

Florida bonneted bats have one of the smallest ranges of any bat species. They live only in South Florida — an area that’s highly susceptible to rising sea levels, impacts by major storms, and development. Projections indicate that sea levels will rise between 3 and 6 feet within much of the bats’ habitat over the course of this century.

This week’s Fish and Wildlife Service proposal follows a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Tropical Audubon Society, and the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association.


ABC News

Endangered status sought for manatees as hundreds starve

Manatees that are dying by the hundreds mainly from pollution-caused starvation in Florida should once again be listed as an endangered species

By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press, November 21, 2022

PETERSBURG, Fla. — Manatees that are dying by the hundreds mainly from pollution-caused starvation in Florida should once again be listed as an endangered species, environmental groups said Monday in a petition seeking the change.

The petition filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contends it was an error to take manatees off the endangered list in 2017, leaving the slow-moving marine mammals listed only as threatened. They had been listed as endangered since 1973.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service now has the opportunity to correct its mistake and protect these desperately imperiled animals,” said Ragan Whitlock, attorney for the Florida-based Center for Biological Diversity.

Under the Endangered Species Act, a species is considered endangered if it is “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” A threatened species is one that may become endangered in the foreseeable future.

The petition, also sponsored by the Save the Manatee Club, Miami Waterkeeper and others, contends that pollution from fertilizer runoff, leaking septic tanks, wastewater discharges and increased development is triggering algae blooms that have killed much of the seagrass on which manatees depend, especially on Florida’s east coast.

That resulted in the deaths mainly from starvation of a record 1,100 manatees in 2021 and is continuing this year, with at least 736 manatee deaths reported as of Nov. 11, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The 2021 deaths represented 13% of all manatees estimated to live in Florida waters.

Placing the manatee back on the endangered list would enhance federal scrutiny of projects and issues that involve manatees and bring more resources and expertise to tackle the problem, said Patrick Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club.

“Re-designating manatees as endangered will be a critical first step in righting a terrible wrong,” Rose said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to determine whether restoring the manatee to endangered status is warranted and, if so, 12 months from the date of the petition to complete a review of the manatee’s status.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said in an email that officials are “aware of the petition. Service staff will review the petition through our normal petition processes.”

Meanwhile, state wildlife officials say they will launch a second year of experimental feeding of lettuce to manatees that gather by the hundreds during winter in the warm-water discharge an electric power plant near Cape Canaveral.

Last year, about 202,000 pounds (91,600 kilograms) of mostly donated lettuce was fed to manatees under the program. But wildlife experts caution that starvation is a chronic problem that will continue to harm the manatee population without greater attention to reducing pollution.

“With astounding losses of seagrasses around the state, we need to address water-quality issues to give the manatee a fighting chance to thrive and survive,” said Rachel Silverstein, Miami Waterkeeper executive director.


Public News Service (Boulder, CO)

BLM Prioritizes AZ Habitat Connectivity for Wildlife

Alex Gonzalez, November 21, 2022  

The Bureau of Land Management says it will prioritize habitat connectivity of public lands in Arizona and other states, to improve migration routes for wildlife.

The BLM administers over 12 million acres of public land in Arizona.

The agency has published a document that directs state offices to assess wildlife corridors on BLM lands and take steps to safeguard landscapes and migration routes that are crucial to native species.

Director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, the club’s organization for Arizona, Sandy Bahr said they’re happy to see the BLM take the initiative to help mitigate the effects of habitat fragmentation.

“This drives home the importance of those lands,” said Bahr, “and that there is a role in protecting those for habitat and for this habitat connectivity.”

The policy directs public land managers to work collaboratively with Tribal nations, state and local wildlife officials, conservation groups and scientific experts to conserve and restore habitats.

Bahr said the directive from the BLM encourages protection of the biodiversity for which Arizona is so well known.

The policy is a new consideration by the BLM – to protect and restore wildlife corridors and migration routes on public lands and not just monument lands, said Bahr.

She stressed the importance of these corridors, especially as climate change will present challenges to animals – including birds – in finding the natural resources they need to survive.

“Whether it’s to take advantage of rain and vegetation in a particular area, or if it’s just traditionally what the wildlife did,” said Bahr, “and then all the sudden, there was a road there. It’s really important to ensure the connections.”

Bahr said connectivity is important for many different species – not just the large mammals that usually come to mind.

The BLM says this guidance will not have any impact on private lands.



Towards a World Free of Wildlife Crime – ICCWC launches Vision 2030

20 November 2022,  News Press release

The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime has launched its Vision 2030 which will guide the Consortium’s work in the decade to come, to support Parties’ efforts to combat wildlife crime and to contribute towards a world free of wildlife crime.

ICCWC is a unique partnership between five intergovernmental organizations to strengthen criminal justice systems and provide coordinated support at national, regional and international level to combat wildlife and forest crime. It brings together Interpol, The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, The World Bank Group, The World Customs Organization and the CITES Secretariat. Cites is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The Vision aims to contribute significantly to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through the interconnection of wildlife crime to broader environmental and socioeconomic goals and through advocating the importance of criminal justice. Importantly, the work of ICCWC contributes both directly and indirectly to 10 of the 17 SDGs.

This week, at the 19th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES – or CITES CoP19, Botswana and Panama highlighted, at an ICCWC-hosted event, how the Consortium has contributed to their enforcement efforts and enhanced their responses to combat wildlife crime in recent years.

Successes include a significant increase in detection of illicit activities online and how authorities have made use of support available to enhance their responses to wildlife crime linked to the Internet. ICCWC also supported 15 of the 36 successful operations, conducted by Panamanian authorities, that contributed to the investigation of over 41 wildlife crime cases, seizures of 3,000 pieces of Dalbergia Retusa – known as ‘cocobolo’ in Latin America – and over 15 arrests for illegal logging and timber trafficking.

These are a few of the results that CITES Parties have achieved, thanks to support from ICCWC. The ICCWC Vision 2030 follows a Theory of Change methodology, designed to support and strengthen wildlife authorities, police, customs and entire criminal justice systems to ensure that they are well equipped and capacitated to effectively respond to the threat posed by wildlife crime. Five critical outcomes have been identified in the Vision 2030:

*reduced opportunity for wildlife crime;

*increased deterrence of wildlife crime;

*increased detection of wildlife crime;

*increased disruption and detention of criminals; and

*evidence-based actions, knowledge exchange and collaboration, as a basis for the achievement of the first four outcomes and to drive ICCWC’s impact.

The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Jorge Rodriguez Romero, Head of Unit of the European Commission, DG Environment, joined Parties and ICCWC partners for the launch of the ICCWC Vision and welcomed the support provided by the Consortium and the development of the ICCWC Vision 2030. At the event DEFRA announced a pledge of £4m towards the ICCWC Vision.

Speaking at the launch, the ICCWC partner organisations highlighted the importance of the Vision 2030 in combating wildlife crime around the world.

Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General of CITES, highlighted that: “Parties are at the forefront of our efforts and CITES is proud to stand alongside our ICCWC partners to continue to support their hard work to combat wildlife crime. We are extremely grateful to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that announced during the event, their contribution of 4 million GBP that will kick-start the process. Together we can make a difference, together we can overcome the threat posed by wildlife crime, together we are stronger – this is embodied by the work of ICCWC.”

The framework of the ICCWC Vision 2030 provides a roadmap, to be implemented through two 4-year Strategic Action Plans (2023-2026 and 2027-2030) that will enable addressing wildlife crime in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

“ICCWC is not only a mechanism allowing for effective collaboration amongst key international organizations. It is also much more and more importantly, it is about actionable resource bringing concrete benefits to our member countries, and ultimately to the environment and resources that we all depend on,” said Steven Kavanagh, Executive Director Police Services at INTERPOL.

“The victims of these crimes are the planet and people; these crimes affect communities and undermine the resilience of ecosystems, and the consequences are severe for our shared future”, said Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

“Wildlife crime is at its heart a development issue. We live in a world today where development is slowing, and the ranks of the extreme poor are swelling. And the three reasons behind this are tied inextricably to natural resources and environmental crime”, said Valerie Hickey Global Director, Environment, Natural Resources & Blue Economy at the World Bank Group.

“The CITES Conference of the Parties is an excellent forum to gather the international community in assessing our efforts to protect our planet’s most vulnerable species. ICCWC takes this opportunity to present to the international community the ICCWC Vision 2030 and its Action Plan, detailing ICCWC’s future endeavours to disrupt criminal syndicates’ activities and mitigate wildlife and forestry crime at global level”, said Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary-General of the World Customs Organization.

The ICCWC Vision 2030 outlines the next phase in the continuation of ICCWC’s work and follows the ICCWC Strategic Programme that will come to an end in 2023. Implementation of the ICCWC Strategic Programme has been possible through strong support from the European Union, France, Germany, the Principality of Monaco, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.



Nations vote to extend protection to over 50 shark species

By Patrick Hilsman, November 18, 2022

Nov. 18 (UPI) — Nearly 200 countries have voted to extend protection to more than 50 species of sharks at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Tuna and Flora (CITIES), the world’s largest wildlife summit.

The measure, which was introduced by host nation Panama, offers protection to approximately two-thirds of the species that are targeted in the global shark fin trade. The protection applies to the requiem family of sharks, which includes tiger sharks, as well as to several species of hammerhead sharks.

The decision, which brings the percentage of shark species regulated by CITIES from 25% to 70%, is binding for member states, who have a year to implement the changes. The measure would require shark fin exports to have correct paperwork proving they are in compliance with regulations.

A study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found that approximately one-third of shark and ray species are in danger of extinction. Additionally, research indicates that ocean-going shark populations have decreased by 70% in the past 50 years.

Overfishing and lack of regulation are believed to be the principal factors driving the the depopulation of the sharks.

Japan pushed back against the measure, lobbying to remove 35 species that are not endangered from the list. Peru, a major exporter of shark fins, lobbied to have the blue shark removed from the list.

The trade in shark fins remains a multimillion-dollar industry, with shark fin exports from Peru increasing to twice their pre-pandemic levels in 2021. Of the 300 tons of shark fins exported Peru, 160 tons came from species that have now come under regulation.


Center for Biological Diversity

Petition Seeks California Endangered Species Protection for Sage Grouse

SAN DIEGO—(November 18, 2022)—The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition today to protect greater sage grouse in the state under the California Endangered Species Act. The petition, filed with the California Fish and Game Commission, demonstrates that most of the greater sage grouse populations in California have declined significantly and are at imminent risk of being wiped out.

“It’s alarming that nearly all sage grouse populations in California continue to decline, and these magnificent birds are now only found in a fraction of their former range,” said Lisa Belenky, a senior counsel at the Center. “More legal protections are needed because threats to sage grouse and their sagebrush habitat keep increasing. Years of voluntary conservation measures haven’t stabilized these populations or provided the protections these birds and their habitat need to survive in California.”

Sage grouse risk disappearing from California because of habitat loss and other threats from land development, mining, invasive species, wildfire, climate change, off-road vehicle use and increased predation. Many of the sage grouse’s sub-populations in California are below the minimum population threshold, increasingly isolated and at imminent risk of disappearing.

Greater sage grouse are famous for their showy plumage and elaborate mating dances, during which the males make popping sounds with large, inflated air sacs. There are two separate units of greater sage grouse in the state: a northern California population in Lassen and Modoc counties and the bi-state sage-grouse population, which is found east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains straddling the California-Nevada border in Inyo and Mono counties.

The bi-state population is a genetically unique and isolated population of greater sage grouse, with nearly all subpopulations at risk of extirpation. Only the Bodie Hills sage-grouse population in the bi-state area has shown strong stability in recent years.

Under the California Endangered Species Act, once the petition is accepted as complete, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has three months to make an initial recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission. The commission will then vote on whether to move the petition forward for analysis at a public hearing.



Lesser Prairie-Chicken Now Listed Under the Endangered Species Act

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision presents an opportunity to protect the bird while bolstering rural economies.

SANTA FE, N.M. –(November 17, 2022)—The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced its decision today to list two distinct populations of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken under the Endangered Species Act. The species is managed separately in the northern and southern parts of its range, which includes portions of five states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico).

“This decision is essential if we hope to save the Lesser Prairie-Chicken from extinction,” said Jon Hayes, executive director of Audubon Southwest and vice president at the National Audubon Society. “Many people have worked through voluntary measures and agreements to avoid this moment but as we all know, you don’t put food on the table with effort, and what we have done hasn’t been enough.”

Since formal nationwide bird monitoring began in the 1960s, Lesser Prairie-Chicken populations have declined by 97 percent across their range. This decline is one of the most precipitous among all bird life in the U.S. and will ultimately lead to extinction if not addressed. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) prohibits anyone from harming an endangered species either directly or indirectly, it requires the development of a recovery plan for the species, and it generally requires the identification of critical habitat.

“Ensuring the existence of this bird for future generations will come at a cost, but these costs do not have to be accompanied by conflict,” said Hayes. “Activities like energy production will have to be curtailed in the areas designated as critical habitat for the bird, but there are ways for the agency and industry to work together.”

For example, the Fish and Wildlife Service has taken steps to create an Incidental Take Permit that energy companies can apply for allowing them to mitigate their predicted impact by restoring and protecting the Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. With rigorous accounting, we can ensure that mitigation helps restore the bird’s populations.  This idea of Conservation Banking could prove to be the path forward that will help to protect the bird while also accommodating the needs of industry.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has also worked to ensure flexibility for landowners and land managers by offering regulatory certainty through voluntary programs for agriculture and sustainable ranching. New federal investments and incentives for landowners resulting from today’s decision will also make our grassland healthier, improve the infiltration of groundwater, sequester carbon, and make the rangeland more resilient overall.

“Whether you’re a cow or a bird, you need healthy grass and soil,” said Hayes. “This is our opportunity to not only save this species, but do so while also bolstering rural economies and addressing the climate crisis.”

Audubon’s Conservation Ranching program supports market incentives for ranchers that manage their rangeland for bird habitat. Innovative partnerships like this provide a win-win solution for birds, like the Lesser Prairie-Chicken, and beef producers.

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken was first proposed for ESA listing in 1995. In the more than 25 years since that original petition, the bird has been through a roller coaster of listing decisions, court orders, and failed recovery efforts, all while the populations continue to plummet.


Defenders of Wildlife

Judge Allows Biden Administration to Delay Restoring Critical Endangered Species Act Protections

Administration will keep harmful Trump era regulations in place for now


In a major setback for wildlife protection and conservation, a federal district court today sided with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, delaying the restoration of comprehensive Endangered Species Act protections for hundreds of species and the places they call home.

The Services filed the motion in December 2021 in response to a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), National Parks Conservation Association, Wild Earth Guardians, and the Humane Society of the United States challenging harmful rules put in place by the Trump administration in 2019. The Services asked to partially rewrite flawed Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations while keeping them in place during a rulemaking process that could take years to complete. The Court agreed, allowing the 2019 ESA regulations to remain in place with no set timeline for the Biden administration to propose new rules.

Conservation groups challenged the Trump administration rules for undermining protections for imperiled species and habitat necessary for their survival, and their lawsuit was joined by a group of states, led by California, and an animal welfare group.

With today’s ruling, the Trump rules will continue to upend decades of legal clarity and undermine protections for hundreds of species that have benefited from the established policy. It is now vital that the Biden administration move quickly to reverse all the harmful changes put in place by Trump. Although the Biden administration early on stated its intent to revise the harmful Trump-era rules, it has dragged its feet over the past two years and now says that it will need two more years to complete its amendments.

The Trump-era rules allowed economic considerations to influence whether species were provided life-saving protections, allowed agencies to sideline impacts to endangered species from climate change, and reduced protections for species listed as threatened, among other harmful changes.

“Every day that harmful rules remain in place is bad for biodiversity and a blow to the Endangered Species Act,” said McCrystie Adams, acting vice president and managing attorney of conservation law for Defenders of Wildlife. “We need the Biden Administration to adopt and implement policies and rules that are commensurate with the threats to biodiversity without delay.”

“Today’s ruling means that the Endangered Species Act stays in its weakened state from the Trump administration,” said Kristen Boyles, attorney with Earthjustice. “We are in a biodiversity crisis, and the Biden administration has dragged its feet in revitalizing the world’s most effective law for species and habitat protection. The administration is out of excuses.”

“This decision pushes at-risk species like wolverines and golden-winged warblers even further into harm’s way,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Fish and Wildlife Service should have rescinded these terrible rules gutting the Endangered Species Act on day one of the Biden administration. If we’re truly going to address the extinction crisis, we need a reformed agency that acts with urgency.”

“If the Biden administration cares about climate change impacts, and cares about wildlife, it will rescind the Trump-era rules without further delay,” said Karimah Schoenhut, Senior Staff Attorney for the Sierra Club. “These unlawful Trump-era rules frustrate effective implementation of the ESA, and vulnerable species don’t have time to waste.”

“To stem the biodiversity crisis, we need swift, comprehensive action to restore and fully implement ESA protections.” said Lucas Rhoads, Attorney in the Nature Program at NRDC. “The court’s disappointing decision underscores the need for the Biden Administration to step up to protect our most vulnerable species. So far, progress has been too slow.”

“This decision is a setback to America’s conservation legacy and diminishes our ability to protect threatened and endangered species amidst the dual climate and biodiversity crisis,” said Bart Melton, Wildlife Program Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “The Biden administration should end these Trump-era regulations that undercut the effectiveness of our nation’s most effective tool in the fight to recover imperiled species.”

“Today’s decision means wildlife facing extinction must wait even longer for protections they desperately need,” said Joe Bushyhead, endangered species attorney with WildEarth Guardians. “The onus is now on the Biden administration to fix the damage from Trump’s attacks on the Endangered Species Act, and to do so quickly.”

“This decision will allow dangerous and unlawful regulatory rollbacks to remain in place, weakening the Endangered Species Act when our most vulnerable species need its protections more than ever,” said Nicholas Arrivo, Managing Attorney for the Humane Society of the United States. “There is no time to delay; the Biden administration must move swiftly to rescind these rules and make good on its promise to restore our most effective wildlife protection law.”


Prensa Latina

Panamanian initiatives stand out in forum on endangered species

November 15, 2022, Published by: Alina Ramos Martin

Panama City, Nov 15 (Prensa Latina) Panama’s proposal to preserve specimens such as the ‘carnidae’ shark and the glass frog, stood out at the COP19, which begun its second day in this capital.

During the 19th Summit of the Parties (COP19) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Minister of Environment, Milcíades Concepción stressed that this type of shark is key in the purpose of having 30% of the oceans protected, ‘because the important thing is that marine life exists’, he said.

Concepción explained that the ‘carnidae’ shark has a role similar to that of the jaguar in the forest, it protects the ocean, hence the support for the initiative among the dozens of proposals to the Cites convention, by including it in Appendix II, to regulate trade and ensure the sustainability of the species through traceability and legality.

COP19 opened the day before with clear messages about the current planetary crisis as a consequence of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.

Until November 25, some 2,500 representatives from 183 countries will also discuss the conservation of the hippopotamus, the elephant, the rhinoceros and other endangered species.

They will also take stock of the fight against fraud and vote on new resolutions, among them, the risks of zoonoses (diseases transmitted by animals to humans), an issue that has become more important with the Covid-19 pandemic.


Center for Biological Diversity

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Utah’s Least Chub

Tiny Fish Threatened by Proposed Cedar City Water Pipeline

TUCSON, Ariz.—(November 15, 2022)—The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the imperiled least chub under the Endangered Species Act.

This small fish was once widely distributed in rivers, springs, marshes and ponds in Utah’s Bonneville Basin. Significant habitat loss and alteration, as well as competition and predation from non-native species, have driven this fish to the brink of extinction.

Following a 2021 petition from the Center seeking protection for the fish, the Service had until this September to make a final listing decision but missed this deadline.

Only seven wild populations of least chub survive. In addition, there are roughly a dozen introduced populations, which provide some assurances that if wild populations are lost, they can be replaced. However, in most cases, the longterm survival of these populations is uncertain and the sites where they occur are man-made or semi-natural.

More than half of the remaining wild populations are jeopardized by proposed groundwater pumping to support human population growth in Cedar City, Utah. The proposed Pine Valley Water Supply Project would pump billions of gallons of groundwater from Utah’s West Desert, threatening the springs the chub depends on.

“The least chub is in the crosshairs of the Pine Valley Water Supply Project,” said Krista Kemppinen, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Center. “If this desperately imperiled fish doesn’t get federal protections, the repercussions could be catastrophic.”

Despite the efforts by Utah to protect the least chub, the majority of wild populations continue to decline or are in a precarious state. Restoring populations is important, and the wild places where least chub continue to survive need to be protected.

“Endangered Species Act protection would ensure the Pine Valley water grab doesn’t jeopardize the survival of this tiny native Utah fish,” said Kemppinen.


The least chub is a gold-colored minnow, typically less than 2.5 inches long, that has evolved to survive in the extreme spring habitats of the Bonneville Basin. First described in 1872, it is the only species in its genus, Iotichthys.

The least chub has been of conservation concern for decades. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for its listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2007. In response, the Service found that listing was warranted but failed to provide any protection.

In 2014 the Service reversed this finding, in part because of the implementation of additional conservation measures led by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

In 2021 the Center again petitioned for protection. The Service had until September 2022 to make a final listing decision, but has yet to do so.


Science Daily

New tool developed to monitor health of marine ecosystems and extinction risk of species

November 14, 2022, Source: Simon Fraser University

Scientists from Simon Fraser University are part of an international team of researchers that has developed a new science-based indicator to assess the state of health of the oceans — and the possible risk of extinction of their species.

Recent biodiversity studies show an unprecedented loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity on land, but the extent to which these patterns are widespread in the oceans is not yet known.

In a new study published recently in the journal Science, researchers from Spain-based AZTI Technology Centre, in collaboration with SFU and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), have developed a global indicator that measures the state of marine biodiversity based on changes in extinction risk recorded over seven decades in oceanic predatory fishes (52 populations of 18 different species of tuna, billfish and sharks).

The study reveals how, since the 1950s, the global extinction risk of oceanic predatory fishes has continuously worsened due to excessive fishing pressure until the late 2000s.

The results offer some hope after the global rebuilding of commercially important tuna and billfish species yet reveal a problem in the management of sharks captured incidentally by the same fisheries, showing the urgency of implementing actions to prevent their increasing risk of extinction.

Then, the implementation of management measures in international fisheries organizations effectively reduced fishing mortality, recovering tunas and billfishes. Yet the extinction risk in the undermanaged sharks continues to rise.

“It’s encouraging to see we’ve been able to halt declines of tunas and billfishes but the decline of sharks continues,” says SFU’s Nick Dulvy, distinguished professor and Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation.

“If we don’t do anything to mitigate overfishing and lack of effective management, the loss of these species threatens the balance of ecosystems and risk of food security and jobs in both developed and developing countries.”

The study’s authors believe it’s possible to replicate the successes of tuna and billfish fisheries management for sharks. They say oceanic sharks urgently need better management and protection from overfishing, by regulating trade, redefining priorities in international fisheries bodies and settling clear biodiversity goals and targets.

Implementing science-based catch limits and changing how and where gear is deployed can avoid and minimize the incidental catching of sharks, the study finds. This week’s CITES meeting in Panama offers a unique chance to regulate 90 per cent of the global shark fin trade.


KUOW Radio (Seattle, WA)

Still a chance to restore grizzly bears in Washington state

BY Courtney Flatt, November 14, 2022

There’s still a chance to restore grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced the reopening considerations for how to help grizzly bears in the region.

“This is a first step toward bringing balance back to the ecosystem and restoring a piece of the Pacific Northwest’s natural and cultural heritage,” said Superintendent Don Striker of North Cascades National Park in a statement. “With the public’s help we will evaluate a list of options to determine the best path forward.”

This is a second look at bringing more grizzly bears into Washington state. It comes after federal officials abruptly ended a similar review in 2020. That review had been in the works for five years, deeply dividing many ranchers and wildlife advocates.

Biologists say Washington’s grizzly bear population won’t survive without some help. Grizzly bears are endangered in Washington state.

Biologists say there may only be a handful of grizzly bears left in Washington’s North Cascades ecosystem, which is cut off from other grizzly bear habitat. The last sighting of a grizzly in the region was in 1996.

According to the National Parks Service, grizzly bears are an essential part of the North Cascades ecosystem. The bears help keep other wildlife populations in check. Grizzlies also spread nutrients throughout their habitat.

This new review process of potential environmental impacts to bringing grizzlies to the region will include an option that would give local land managers more control over managing the bears.


Oregon State University

Largest known manta ray population is thriving off the coast of Ecuador, new research shows

By Michelle Klampe, November 14, 2022

NEWPORT, Ore. – Scientists have identified off the coast of Ecuador a distinct population of oceanic manta rays that is more than 10 times larger than any other known subpopulation of the species.

The findings, just reported in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, indicate that while other populations of oceanic manta rays are typically small and vulnerable to human impacts, this population is large and potentially quite healthy, said Joshua Stewart, an assistant professor with the Marine Mammal Institute in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and a co-author of the paper.

“It’s clear that something different is happening here,” Stewart said. “This is a rare story of ocean optimism. In other regions, we typically have population estimates of 1,000 to 2,000 animals, which makes this species very vulnerable. In this area, we’ve estimated that the population is more than 22,000 mantas, which is unprecedented.”

Oceanic manta rays are the largest species of ray, with wingspans that can reach more than 20 feet. They are filter feeders that eat large quantities of krill and other zooplankton and tend to live in small subpopulations in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters, spending much of their time in the open ocean.

Oceanic manta rays were listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2018, and in 2019 their threat category increased from vulnerable to endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. The biggest threat to oceanic manta rays is commercial fishing, both as the target of some fisheries and as unintentional bycatch in many others.

The new study was led by Proyecto Mantas Ecuador of Fundación Megafauna Marina del Ecuador, a conservation organization based in Ecuador, in collaboration with The Manta Trust, the Marine Megafauna Foundation and the Ocean Ecology Lab at OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, which is led by Stewart.

Oceanic manta rays are a challenging species to study in part because they tend to spend their time in offshore locations that are hard for researchers to access, and their visitation patterns can be unpredictable.

But in the late 1990s, researchers from Proyecto Mantas Ecuador discovered that a population of oceanic manta rays aggregate in August and September each year around Isla de la Plata off the coast of Ecuador, where they are relatively easy to locate and study. It is also a popular diving area, and visitors take numerous photographs of the animals, providing researchers with a trove of data.

“Many of the photos used in our study were contributed by recreational divers who became citizen scientists when they snapped photos of manta rays,” said the study’s lead author, Kanina Harty of The Manta Trust. “We get a huge amount of information about each animal just from these photographs.”

Each manta ray has a unique spot pattern on its belly, similar to a human fingerprint, which allows researchers to identify individual animals and track their movements and locations over time. Photos of individual rays can also be used to document injuries, evidence of mating and maturity.

The researchers used data collected through their own observations and from recreational SCUBA diver photos between 2005 and 2018 to identify more than 2,800 individual rays and estimate a total population of more than 22,000.

“That is significantly larger than what we’ve seen in oceanic manta ray populations elsewhere,” said Guy, Stevens, chief executive and founder of The Manta Trust. “This is by far the largest population that we know of.”

The researchers’ findings suggest that conditions in the region are particularly favorable for a large, healthy manta ray population, Stewart said. The rays tend to straddle the region around the border of southern Ecuador and Peru, though a handful were found to have traveled as far as the Galapagos Islands.

“This work solidifies Isla de la Plata, and Ecuador more broadly, as a globally important hot spot for this endangered species,” said Michel Guerrero of Proyecto Mantas Ecuador, which is a Fundación Megafauna Marina del Ecuador project. “While this population may be healthy thanks in part to its large size, it is essential that we take the necessary steps to protect and prevent the declines that many other manta ray populations have faced.”

Manta rays are likely drawn to the area due to availability of food, the researchers said. The ocean off the coast of Ecuador and Peru is one of the most productive in the world, due to cold, nutrient-rich water rising to the surface in a process called upwelling.

“It seems that this productive upwelling region is able to support huge populations of even very large animals,” Stewart said.

Capturing manta rays in fisheries has been illegal in Ecuador since 2010, and since 2016 in neighboring Peru, but the species likely still faces threats from fishing activity, including line entanglement, vessel strikes and bycatch, Guerrero said. There were 563 manta rays identified in the study with visible injuries or scars, and more than half of those were either entangled in fishing gear or showed evidence of previous fishing line scarring.

Continued monitoring of the population is needed to understand how human activity and climate change may affect food availability, distribution and overall population health, Stewart said.

“While there is good news about this population, it is a cautionary tale,” he said. “Manta rays appear to be sensitive to environmental disruptions such as changes to ocean temperatures and food availability. They will likely be impacted by a warming climate if upwelling strength and the abundance of food changes alongside ocean temperatures.”

(Additional co-authors of the study are Anna Knochel of the Fundacion Megafauna Marina del Ecuador and Andrea Marshall and Katherine Burgess of the Marine Megafauna Foundation.)


Center for Biological Diversity

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Imperiled Southern Hognose Snake

Unique Snake Has Declined by 60%, Faces Numerous Threats

WASHINGTON—(November 14, 2022)—The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for denying Endangered Species Act protections to the southern hognose snake. The species lives in coastal plain habitat in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. It used to also be found in Alabama and Mississippi, but populations there have disappeared.

Southern hognose snakes, named “hoggies” by reptile enthusiasts for their upturned noses used for digging, have experienced a 60% population decline. The snake is threatened by habitat loss, urbanization, climate change, collisions with vehicles, invasive species, disease, human persecution and collection for the pet trade. The Service projects that by 2060 about 72% of southern hognose snake populations will be extinct, and no resilient populations will remain.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service ignored its own science when it decided not to protect the southern hognose snake,” said Chelsea Stewart-Fusek, an endangered species attorney at the Center. “These neat little snakes simply can’t adapt quickly enough to recover from the many threats they face. If the agency doesn’t protect this species now, we’re setting these animals on the path to extinction.”

The southern hognose snake lives in longleaf pine savanna, a fire-dependent ecosystem that once covered an estimated 92 million acres in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions. By the 21st century, because of forest clearing and fire suppression, longleaf pine forests covered less than 3 million acres. Threats like urban expansion and climate change-driven sea-level rise are expected to cause significant southern hognose snake declines in the future.

The Center’s notice follows an October study that found that most species are not protected under the Endangered Species Act until they reach dangerously low population sizes — a key factor in instances where species struggle to recover.

“The Endangered Species Act is very good at protecting animals and plants that actually make it on the list, but far too often the Service drags its feet, failing to protect species like the southern hognose snake until they’re nearly extinct,” said Stewart-Fusek. “If we want a real chance at recovering this species, it needs protection now.”


Daily Press (Escanaba, MI)

Wisconsin wolf plan ends state population goal

MADISON, Wis. (AP) —(Nov. 14, 2022)–Wisconsin wildlife officials released their first new wolf management plan in almost a quarter-century but the document doesn’t establish a new statewide population goal, a number that has become a flashpoint in the fight over hunting quotas.

The Department of Natural Resources adopted a wolf management plan in 1999 that calls for capping the statewide population at 350 animals. As the number of wolves in Wisconsin has increased — the DNR released estimates in September showing that the population currently stands at 970 — hunters have used that 350 number to justify generous quotas, much to the chagrin of animal rights advocates.

The draft plan the DNR released Thursday strips hunters of that argument by eliminating a statewide population goal. Instead it recommends the DNR with the help of advisory committee monitor local populations within the state’s six wolf hunting zones and decide whether to reduce the local population, keep it stable or allow it to grow.

Neighboring Minnesota released an updated wolf plan in June that calls for maintaining that state’s wolf population between 2,200 and 3,000 wolves. Recent estimates put the number of wolves in that state at 2,700.

Wisconsin DNR officials wrote that their approach is more flexible without a hard population goal.

“This plan’s goal is focused on a holistic and pragmatic approach to wolf management, conservation and stewardship,” the plan states.

Former Rep. Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in 2012 establishing an annual wolf hunt in the state. The hunt has become one of the most contentious outdoor issues in the state.

Animal advocates argue that the wolf population isn’t strong enough to support hunting and the animal is too majestic to slaughter.

Hunt supporters counter that wolves prey on farmers’ livestock. The DNR paid out more than $3 million between 1985 and 2021 to provide compensation for livestock and hunting dogs killed by wolves, according to the draft plan. Residents of northern Wisconsin have complained, too, that they’re afraid wolves could attack their pets and children.

A federal judge in February restored endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the country, outlawing hunting. But federal wildlife officials could push to remove those protections if they determine the population is strong.


Nature World News

Uptick in Pet Turtle Demand Drives Poaching, Risks 50% of Remaining Species into Possible Extinction

By Rich Co, Nov. 12, 2022

Growing demand for pet turtles is steadily fueling an uptick in poaching. According to experts, this may result in the extinction of 50% of the remaining species.

The illegal sale of reptiles online is a growing concern, according to Lou Perrotti, director of conservation programs at Providence’s Roger Williams Park Zoo.

In a recent wildlife raid, 16 turtle hatchlings the size of quarters were seized. These eastern musk turtles are infamous for spending a large portion of their lives in ponds and swamps and for producing an offensive odor when threatened.

Confiscated and Quarantined Tiny Musk Turtles

The little musk turtles were discovered being sold online by an intern with the Rhode Island Environmental Police. Each one costs only $20 according to its internet listing. The five-inch (13-centimeter) long, brown or black turtles have a yellow or white line running along the top of their heads and can live for decades.

In September, after planning an undercover purchase at the seller’s home, police arrested him. For illegally owning a reptile, the seller was fined $1,600. The turtles are currently housed in two plastic bins and are being kept in a clean, well-lit quarantine area at a zoo in Rhode Island in the hopes that they will soon be healthy enough to be released back into the wild.

Poaching Towards Extinction

Perotti claimed that there has been an increase in turtle poaching, which is becoming more ruthless and is causing thousands of turtles to leave the United States every year. He continued by saying that turtle populations couldn’t withstand such a blow from such a high rate of removal from the wild.

Wildlife trade specialists think that poaching, which is being fueled by a rise in pet demand in the US, Asia, and Europe, is a factor in the global extinction of rare freshwater turtle as well as tortoise species. Over half of the 360 species of living turtles and tortoises, according to a study published in Current Biology, are in danger of going extinct.

Twelve proposals to strengthen freshwater turtle protection have been made in response to these worries at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting being held in Panama from November 14 through November 25 where 184 nations are scheduled to attend.

Hopes for Banning, Restriction of Commercial Trade

It can be challenging to locate precise statistics on the turtle trade, especially the illegal trade. According to Tara Easter, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan who studies the trade, the number of mud turtles exported commercially from the United States rose from 1,844 in 1999 to almost 40,000 in 2017 as well as from 8,254 in 1999 to over 281,000 in 2016.

The United States along with several Latin American countries referred to data from Mexico that showed that almost 20,000 turtles were confiscated, most from the Mexico City airport, from 2010 to 2022 in their CITES call to ban or restrict the commercial trade in over 20 mud turtle species.

Freshwater turtles are among the most trafficked animals in the world, and criminal groups that target them send the reptiles to black markets throughout Hong Kong as well as other Asian cities after connecting with buyers online. They are then sold as pets, to collectors, for commercial breeding, food, and traditional medicine, as well as for use in traditional medicine. Trade is either insufficiently or completely unregulated in many nations.

Poachers, Climate Change, Predators

The lucrative industry adds to the dangers that turtles already face because some species are sought after for their unique or colorful shells, which can fetch thousands of dollars in Asia. These include habitat loss, road fatalities, and predators consuming their eggs.

Because they target endangered species as well as adult breeding females, poachers are a particular problem, according to experts. Many turtle species, which have a lifespan of several decades, take ten years or longer to reach reproductive maturity.

According to Dave Collins, the Turtle Survival Alliance’s director of North American turtle conservation initiatives, the loss of significant numbers of adults, particularly females, can plunge turtle populations into a downward spiral from which they are unable to recover. The reproduction rate of turtles is incredibly low; they lay only a few eggs per year, AP News reports.

Responsible Private Ownership

Limiting captive breeding and legal trade to address declines in wild populations is counterproductive, according to the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, which promotes responsible private ownership as well as trade in reptiles and amphibians.

Native species removal, even to keep pets, has a significant impact, according to Harold Guise, a police detective specializing in environmental cases. Guise, who handled the case, added that We cannot even begin to measure the effects of the commercialization of wildlife until it has already taken place.

It served as a reminder to Perrotti, that the once-concentrated illegal trade in Asia is now increasingly occurring in his backyard.

Perrotti expressed his skepticism regarding the existence of a market for it and the idea that people were either mass producing or mass gathering these reptiles to profit financially. He continued by saying that the idea of a $20 turtle is absurd because wildlife is not a commodity that can be sold for a profit, The Telegraph reports.


La Prensa Latina (Memphis, TN)

One million species face extinction, expert warns

November 12, 2022, By Fabio Agrana

Panama City, Nov 12 (EFE).- One million species could be wiped out if the climate crisis and the illegal trade of animals is not averted, an expert warned on Sunday.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) chief Ivonne Higuero told Efe in an interview ahead of the 19th Conference of the Parties (Cop19) in Panama that much effort was needed “at a time the world faced a terrible planetary crisis, pollution problems, climate change and the loss of biodiversity.”

“We have to put a lot of effort into this meeting, so that decisions are made to prevent this loss of biodiversity,” Higuero said. “We are concerned that up to a million species may be lost in the coming decades.”

“If we don’t make the right decisions, we are going to have many more serious problems in future,” the expert continued.

Cop19-CITES, which kicks off on Monday, is expecting over 2,500 attendees from the 183 countries that have signed the Convention, senior officials from the United Nations environment agency and representatives from international organizations and NGOs focused on environmental issues.

Attendees will address 52 proposals for amendments to Appendices I and II that safeguard the protection to threatened species globally, according to Hidalgo.

Cites Appendices I, II and III are lists of species given different levels or types of protection against overexploitation.

The dangers and threats to the wild fauna and flora identified include marine overexploitation, over-logging in forests and the exploitation of habitats of plants and animals for livestock farming, among others.

The threat of climate change adds myriad challenges such as floods, droughts, organized crime and the illegal trade of species, which is fourth in the world after the trade of weapons, drugs and humans, Higuero added.

Corruption is also a “very serious” problem and plays a “very big role” in the illegal trade of species and the money that moves across borders, CITES’ chief continued.

In order to tackle this, participants at this year’s CITES summit are aiming to strengthen cross-border work to train police and customs officers to detect illegal shipments.

“There are many stories of people who arrive with a suitcase at the airport and it’s the customs officers who say ‘it seems to me that there is something strange that is happening here, we are going to investigate this luggage’, and they have found, for example, bird eggs whose sale is prohibited internationally,” she explained.

“Now that we have this meeting in Latin America, we are realizing that we must pay more attention, and do more training workshops to be able to combat crimes relating to the illegal trade in species that are listed by CITES,” she concluded.


World Economic Forum

This model can assess species’ vulnerability better, says MIT

Nov. 10, 2022, David L. Chandler, Writer, MIT News

Wildfires, floods, pollution, and overfishing are among the many disruptions that can change the balance of ecosystems, sometimes endangering the future of entire species. But evaluating these ecosystems to determine which species are most at risk, in order to focus preservation actions and policies where they are most needed, is a challenging task.

Most such efforts assume that ecosystems are essentially in a state of equilibrium, and that external perturbations cause a temporary shift before things eventually return to that equilibrium state. But that assumption fails to account for the reality that ecosystems are often in flux, with the relative abundances of their different components shifting on timetables of their own. Now, a team of researchers at MIT and elsewhere have come up with a better, predictive way of evaluating these systems in order to rank the relative vulnerabilities of different species, and to detect species that are under threat but could otherwise go unnoticed.

Contrary to conventional ways of making such rankings today, they found, the species with the lowest population numbers or the steepest decline in numbers — criteria typically used today — are sometimes not the ones most at risk.

The findings are reported today in the journal Ecology Letters, in a paper by MIT associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Serguei Saavedra, recent doctoral student Lucas Medeiros PhD ’22, and three others.

The new work is analogous to the way Edward Lorenz’s analysis of weather patterns decades ago revolutionized that field, Saavedra says. Lorenz’s research suggested that tiny perturbations could ultimately lead to very large outcomes — famously expressed as the idea that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one place could ultimately lead to a hurricane somewhere else. “Even infinitesimally close initial conditions can diverge quite largely over a given period of time and therefore become unpredictable,” he says. With that in mind, “We said, what would happen if we apply the same kind of perspective to trying to figure out which are the most sensitive species?”

In some cases, as in aspects of weather forecasting, scientists understand the underlying physics of the phenomena and can produce equations describing their dynamics, up to a point. That’s not the case with complex ecosystems, he says, where we don’t have the underlying equations for the dynamics of even single species, much less the whole system. But over the last decade or so, he says, the team has developed mathematical techniques so that “we can have a description of the dynamics without knowing the underlying equations,” as long as there is a sufficient time series of data to work with.

The team developed two different approaches, called expected sensitivity ranking and Eigenvector ranking. Both approaches performed well in tests using large sets of simulated data, producing rankings that closely matched those expected given the underlying assumptions of the simulation’s model.

Traditional attempts to rank the vulnerability of species tend to focus on measures such as body size — larger species tend to be more vulnerable — as well as population size, both of which can be useful indicators much of the time. But, as Saavedra points out, “These species are embedded in communities, and these communities have nonlinear emergent behavior such that a small change in one place would change completely in a different way some other aspect of the system.”

The fact that species within an ecosystem may have abundances that rise and fall, sometimes cyclically, sometimes randomly or determined by external forces, means that the exact timing of a given perturbation can make a big difference — something that equilibrium models fail to account for. “Approaches based on equilibrium dynamics have this static view of species interaction effects,” Medeiros says. “Under nonequilibrium abundance fluctuations, these interaction effects can change over time, impacting the sensitivity of any given species to perturbations.”

For example, a species that is highly active in summer but dormant in winter may be strongly impacted by a summer wildfire or heat wave, but completely unaffected if the disruption happens in winter. Or, if interactions between a predator species and its prey vary over the course of a year, then the timing of a disruption can be more disruptive during some seasons than others.

The new analytical approaches are broadly applicable to any kind of ecosystem, Saavedra says, whether it be marine or terrestrial, tropical or arctic. In fact, the formulas are so general, when applied to systems with many interactions and constant flux, that some of the researchers have also applied them successfully to predicting the dynamics of financial markets.

“The techniques are quite general for any nonlinear dynamics or dynamical systems in general out of equilibrium,” Saavedra says. One student in the group who had been working on these techniques ended up working for a hedge fund, he says, and another took a sabbatical to work for a foreign bank. “He basically was able to apply these techniques, and they were working.”

But the primary goal of the work remains in the assessment of species vulnerability, and already the findings are beginning to be applied. For example, Medeiros, the paper’s lead author, is working at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, applying these techniques to the management of fisheries. “With fisheries in particular, you have a lot of data series, looking at the rise and fall of these population sizes over time,” Saavedra says. Using those data, he says, it’s now possible “to predict precisely the species that should be most sensitive to, for example, climate change, or the highest rate of fishing quotas.”

The research team also included Stefano Allesina, now at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University; Vasilis Dakos, now at the University of Montpelier, in France; and George Sugihara, now at the University of California at San Diego. The work was supported by MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative, the Martin Family Society of Fellows for Sustainability, the U.S. Department of Defense Environmental Research and Development Program, the National Science Foundation, the Department of the Interior, and the MIT Sea Grant Program.



More than half of palm species may be threatened with extinction, study finds

by Liz Kimbrough on 9 November 2022

Palm trees are iconic figures in tropical landscapes, providing food, tools, medicine and materials for homes to millions globally and playing key roles in many ecosystems. Now, researchers have determined that more than half of global palm species could be at risk of extinction.

Using novel machine-learning techniques and data from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the University of Zurich, and the University of Amsterdam investigated the extinction risk of nearly two-thirds of the palm family.

Of the 1,889 species of palms with enough data for analysis, more than half (56%) may be threatened with extinction, the researchers found. When these findings are extrapolated to all known palm species, more than 1,000 species could be threatened, researchers say. These findings have been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“Palms are the most iconic plant group in the tropics and one of the most useful too. After this study, we have a much better idea of how many, and which, palm species are under threat,” Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, a senior researcher at the University of Zurich and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

The IUCN Red List is regarded as the authority on the conservation status of animal, plant and fungal species. However, making determinations about whether a species is threatened with extinction often requires massive amounts of data and work by researchers, so scientists decided to employ artificial intelligence and machine learning to sift through the data and fill in some of the gaps. Researchers hope that AI can speed up preliminary evaluations of a species’ conservation status, reduce costs, and avoid bias toward vertebrate animals.

“This is a great application for machine learning — to address the extinction crisis facing palms,” M. Patrick Griffith, a palm expert and executive director of the Montgomery Botanical Center in Coral Gables, Florida, who was not involved in the research, told Mongabay by email. “Writing a formal conservation assessment for a palm species can be a slow, painstaking process. This paper provides a way to rapidly assess huge numbers of poorly-known palm species, and offers ways to help conserve those palms.”

Palms are found in 227 regions (countries and/or individual islands) globally and have a wide breadth of genetic diversity. Priority conservation may be given to threatened species that are more genetically different, or evolutionarily distinct, from their relatives; have unusual features that make them functionally distinct; or are known to be used by humans.

The study found that nearly half of the functionally distinct species were threatened, as well as nearly one-third of species used by humans (at least 185 palm species). Like many other threatened plant and animal species, the greatest risk to palms is habitat destruction from agricultural and urban expansion.

“This is a bit less than extrapolations based on the Red List assessment only, but is still very concerning given the many interactions between palms and other living beings,” Sidonie Bellot, research leader in character evolution at Kew, said in a press release. “These interactions range from the fungi and insects living on them, to the mammals and birds eating their fruits, to the many people relying on palm products.”

The study also identified high-priority regions for palm conservation, where more than 40% of the regionally distinct or highly utilized palms face risk of extinction. These areas include Borneo, Hawai‘i, Jamaica, Madagascar, New Caledonia, New Guinea, the Philippines, Sulawesi, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.

“Caribbean islands hold many threatened palm species, and this study identified priorities for palm conservation and research in Cuba and Jamaica, and offered some alternative species for human livelihoods in Trinidad and Tobago,” Griffith said. “These findings, along with vital local expertise in those countries, can help protect these important, compelling, and irreplaceable tropical palms.”


Center for Biological Diversity

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Endangered Species From Cattle Grazing in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest

TUCSON, Ariz.—(November 9, 2022)—The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon filed a notice today of their intent to sue the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their repeated failure to control cows illegally grazing in endangered species critical habitat, primarily along the Salt River and its tributaries.

“It’s pathetic that we need to keep suing federal officials to force them to do their jobs protecting public lands instead of ranchers,” said Center cofounder Robin Silver. “The rivers and streams on the Tonto National Forest are clearly designated endangered species critical habitat, but Forest Service officials continue to look the other way as ranchers continue cheating and imperiled animals dependent on these steams continue disappearing.”

Today’s notice follows the Center’s 2020 report and lawsuit and resulting 2021 legal agreement protecting the Verde River from cattle grazing. It aims to protect critical habitat for many threatened and endangered species, including yellow-billed cuckoos, southwestern willow flycatchers, Chiricahua leopard frogs, northern Mexican garter snakes, narrow-headed garter snakes, spikedace, razorback suckers and Gila chub.

“We’ll keep doing everything we can to stop the Forest Service’s promotion of cow-ranching abuse of our rivers and streams,” said Maricopa Audubon Conservation Chair Charles Babbitt. “There’s no place for cows anywhere along our desert waterways. They’re too destructive and they’re causing endangered plants and animals, especially songbirds, to disappear.”

The Forest Service had agreed to monitor riparian areas, maintain and repair fencing, and remove trespass cattle when they’re detected by the agency, the Center, or the public. The agency also pledged to devise ways to address invasive species and other conservation challenges facing imperiled southwestern species. That agreement came more than 20 years after federal agencies first promised to keep cows off these riparian habitats to safeguard rare plants and animals.

In a 1998 legal agreement with the Center, the Forest Service agreed to prohibit domestic livestock grazing from these and other streamside habitats while it conducted a long-overdue consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the impacts of grazing on threatened and endangered species.

Beginning in 2019 Center staff and contractors conducted surveys that found widespread, severe cattle damage — including manure and flattened streambanks — on the Verde River, a tributary of the Salt River, and its tributaries in the Tonto, Coconino and Prescott national forests, imperiling several rare species.

From September 2020 to March 2022, the Center surveyed new areas and again found widespread, severe cow grazing damage. These findings are the basis for today’s filing.


US Government Won’t Add Hammerhead Sharks To Endangered Species List

By John Liang, November 9, 2022

The US National Marine Fisheries Service has decided not to add the Hammerhead Shark to the Endangered Species List.

NMFS had received a petition last June from the Center for Biological Diversity to list the Hammerhead as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, according to a notice published in the Federal Register this week.

The center had argued that the a 2019 assessment by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature had designated the species as “critically endangered,” meaning that “the species satisfies the listing criteria under the ESA.”

However, NMFS said:

“We thoroughly reviewed the information presented in the petition, in context of information readily available in our files, and found that it does not provide any credible new information regarding great hammerhead sharks or otherwise offer substantial information not already considered in our status review report of the great hammerhead shark (Miller et al. 2014) and 12-month finding (79 FR 33509, June 11, 2014). As such, we find that the petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted.”

In a statement to, Kristin Carden, a senior scientist with the center, said:

“The Fisheries Service’s decision not to move forward with protecting the great hammerhead shark under the Endangered Species Act is disappointing and misguided. This critically endangered species has suffered a global population decline of more than 80% over the past 70 years. The agency’s failure to protect great hammerhead sharks keeps them on the path toward extinction.”


The Guardian

Ten African countries accuse EU of failing to protect hippos

Brussels’ plan to oppose a a total international ban on trade in hippopotamus products puts species at risk, says letter signed by states, including Mali, Niger and Senegal

Arthur Neslen, 8 Nov. 2022

Ten African countries have accused the EU of jeopardising the survival of the common hippopotamus by not supporting a proposed commercial trade ban, in documents seen by the Guardian.

Illegal hunting for meat and ivory is thought to have wiped out hippo populations in five African states: Algeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Liberia and Mauritania. But Brussels is planning to oppose a bid to ban the global trade in hippo products at a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) conference in Panama from 14 November.

That in turn has sparked “grave concerns about the future of this species” from 10 states – Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – which have co-authored a letter to the European Commission.

“By openly opposing our proposal, the EU is jeopardising the chances of the west and central Africa region, which are range states of more than half of the hippo populations, to adequately ensure the survival of the species,” the letter, dated 20 September, says. “Hippos have been silently dying for 30 years. We must act quickly before they become extinct.”

Hippo teeth are prized by ivory hunters, and were among the mammal parts most commonly seized in 2020, according to a European Commission report. Between 2009 and 2018, products from nearly 14,000 hippos were globally traded or shipped as hunting trophies, according to the Cites trade database.

Despite an estimated global population of 115,00-130,000, the semi-aquatic mammals have suffered an overall population decline of between 30% and 50% over the last decade.

In 2016, they were classed as vulnerable to extinction in the wild on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s red list, which said that population trends in about two-thirds of range states were declining or unknown.

Hippos, the third-largest land mammals after elephants and rhinos, are threatened by illegal hunting, habitat loss and degradation, climate crisis and by conflict with expanding human settlements.

Jan Pluháček and Rebecca Lewison, co-chairs of the IUCN’s hippo specialist group, said that hippo populations were “not experiencing these threats equally. More substantial declines were observed in west and central African countries versus stable and in some places increasing populations … in eastern and southern African strongholds. A new [assessment] is planned for 2024 or 2025.”

An IUCN analysis for the Panama conference said that because global hippo numbers have not fallen by more than 50% over the last decade, the species “would not therefore appear to meet the biological criteria for inclusion in Appendix 1”, which lists species that cannot be internationally traded due to extinction risks.

The commission is discussing its final stance on the issue with EU countries. Officials say that neither illegal trade volumes nor population declines among hippos are sufficient to justify a trade ban.

“The commission takes its commitments to preserving biodiversity very seriously,” a spokesperson said. “The EU’s ambition is to shape global efforts to halt and reverse the continued decline of biodiversity.”

Twelve conservation NGOs argue, however, that the EU’s position on hippos and other species is at odds with its own precautionary principle and biodiversity strategy.

“Many of the commission’s positions reflect a very narrow interpretation of the Cites listing criteria,” they say in a letter signed by groups including Humane Society International, Born Free and Pro Wildlife. “The commission has ignored the precautionary principle by pointing to limitations on available scientific data as justification to not support listing proposals, even when those species would benefit from monitoring to ensure international trade is legal and non-detrimental.”

Slow-reproducing species like hippos only have offspring every other year, while crocodiles can lay 60 eggs in a clutch, resulting in an “absurd” situation where the current Appendix I rules may one day support animals that could quickly recover from population declines but not those that could be wiped out, the letter said.

In September, the European parliament called on the commission to take a more ambitious position in Panama and support Appendix 1 status for hippos and other species.


JD Supra

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Revised Critical Habitat for Fisher DPS

Samantha Murray, November 8, 2022

On November 7, 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed to designate approximately 595,495 acres of critical habitat for the Southern Sierra Nevada distinct population segment (DPS) of fisher (Pekania pennanti) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The critical habitat designation would span six units in California’s Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, and Tulare Counties. The majority of the land comprising these units is owned and/or managed by federal, state, or tribal governments.

The fisher is a small, carnivorous mammal native to North American boreal forests. It is closely related to the American marten (Martes americana) and Pacific marten (Martes caurina) and is a member of the weasel family. Fishers have few natural predators, but were historically prized for their pelts, and were nearly hunted to extinction in the early 20th century. Although conservation and protection measures have allowed some degree of rebound, fishers remain endangered under the ESA.

The Service had previously published a proposed rule on this same issue on October 19, 2021, and is now revising that proposal based on the information it received during the public comment period. The Service learned a new Fisher Reproductive Habitat Suitability Model (2021 Reproductive Model) had become available and made the determination that this model, along with the comments it received on site-specific habitat areas, had become the best available information upon which to base its critical habitat designation. The Service introduced a more inclusive definition of reproductive habitat in its updated proposal. It now defines suitable reproductive habitat as including intermixed denning, foraging and dispersal areas, and explains that such habitat provides structural features for parturition, raising kits, weather protection, foraging, and cover to reduce risk from predation. The updated critical habitat designation proposal sets aside an additional 41,041 acres of habitat when compared to the previous proposal.

The Federal Register notice states that the proposed rule will be open for comments until December 22, 2022. The Federal Register notice and supporting documents are available at, under Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2021-0060.


International Fund for Animal Welfare

governments to determine fate of threatened species at forthcoming world wildlife conference

November 7, 2022

(Panama City, Panama – 07 November 2022) — The survival of many animals hangs in the balance as world governments attend the 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that begins in a week in Panama City.

In the first CITES meeting hosted in Latin America in 20 years, experts from IFAW will be on-site recommending greater protection from international trade for a range of threatened species, from elephants, rhinos and sharks to tiny glass frogs.

The protection and conservation of many animals traded for their parts or as live specimens will be affected by decisions taken by attending government representatives of 183 member countries and the EU.

“CITES is a critical opportunity that only comes around once every three years to put vital protections in place for some of the world’s most vulnerable species,” said IFAW’s Deputy Vice President of Conservation, Matt Collis.

“Since 1975, nations across the world have come together to protect threatened species by regulating trade, establishing a framework for countries to cooperate with each other to ensure that plant and animal species are not depleted by international demand. We applaud many of those critical efforts, and particularly the Latin American region for its leading role as the world arrives in Panama City next week.”

A focal point of CoP19 are several historic proposals that would change the face of shark conservation, placing nearly all shark species traded for their fins and meat under CITES oversight and controls, up from only 25% today.

Led by the Government of Panama and already supported by 40 other nations, proposal 37 calls for regulation in the trade of all requiem sharks, the core of traded shark species that includes the Endangered grey reef shark, beloved by scuba divers throughout the world, as well as species such as the dusky shark where overfishing and the trade of fins has driven it to the edge of extinction.

Additional proposals look to secure similar protections for small hammerhead sharks (proposal 38) and guitarfishes (proposal 40)—flat-bodied relatives of sharks.

Recent evidence reinforces the urgency of this action, with 37% of all sharks (and closely related rays), and 70% of species traded for their fins already at risk of extinction. Sharks and rays are the second most threatened vertebrate group on the planet after amphibians. Many requiem sharks are key predators on the world’s coral reefs, but recent global surveys indicate that reef sharks are functionally extinct on 20% of reefs, further jeopardizing the health of these ecosystems that are already devastated by the impact of climate change.

“The astounding decline in global shark populations resulting from the unsustainable global trade in shark fins threatens to push these ecologically critical predators to extinction,” said Collis. “The proposal by Panama and its partner governments offers a pivotal moment for global leaders to turn the tide for sharks and define a clear pathway for the survival of these species.”

IFAW heads to CoP19 with additional focus on wildlife crime, one of the greatest threats to wildlife in biodiverse regions like Latin America. Illegal wildlife trade, including cybercrime and what to do with live animals seized in trade, present unique challenges for enforcement agencies, and IFAW will be using the conference to promote best practices to address these at the regional and international level.

As in previous CITES conference, elephant ivory and rhino horn trade will again be contentious issues.  However, this conference will see discussion of an alternative proposal by Kenya for the development of a specialised fund for elephant conservation in exchange for the destruction of ivory stockpiles. IFAW commends Kenya’s effort to set a clear path away from ivory trade while ensuring a sustainable alternative to the benefit of both elephants and local communities

The 19th CITES Conference of the Parties is scheduled to run until Friday, 25 November.


World Animal News

Kenya’s Severe Drought Continues To Worsen As Hundreds Of Threatened & Endangered Species Lose Their Lives

November 7, 2022, By Lauren Lewis

From trophy hunting to illegal wildlife trafficking, the lives of wild animals in Africa are continually threatened. Tragically, hundreds of them have also fallen victim to yet another hazard, the relentless drought that has been plaguing Kenya for more than two years.

Cabinet Secretary for The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Heritage, Peninah Malonza, shared the news on Friday in conjunction with the release of the Ministry’s new report which examines the effects of the current drought on wildlife in Kenya’s protected areas.

According to The Impacts Of The Current Drought On Wildlife In Kenya, the deaths of 205 elephants, 512 wildebeests, 381 common zebras, 51 buffalos, 49 Grevy’s zebras, and 12 giraffes have been counted in the past nine months alone.

“I confirm that different species of wildlife have been affected by the drought with a total of 14 different species of wildlife being affected between February and October 2022,” Malonza said in a statement, further noting that the most affected areas include the Amboseli, Tsavo, and Laikipia-Samburu ecosystems. “The mortalities have arisen because of depletion of food resources, as well as water shortages.”

As per Manzola, most of the wildlife died in the months of August, September, and October. The highest number of wildlife deaths due to the drought were recorded in September and October.

“The rhino population has not been seriously affected by the drought with only one rhino aged about two years old having died,” continued Malonza, who warned that, “the continued worsening of the drought condition could affect more rhinos in overstocked rhino sanctuaries,” such as the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West National Park among others.

In addition to many of the interventions that have been and continue to be taken, Manzola stated that the Government of Kenya together with development and conservation partners will work to provide finances to destock Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West National Park, as well as other rhino sanctuaries to prevent any eminent drought related mortality of black and white rhinos in their sanctuaries.

Kenya Wildlife Service Rangers, Community Scouts and Research Teams from the Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI), as well as nonprofit organizations have been monitoring the impacts of the drought on wildlife while also collecting mortality data. The groups have been operating in the eight conservation areas as defined by Kenya Wildlife Service.


Center for Biological Diversity

Sickle Darter Protected as Threatened Under Endangered Species Act

Fish Imperiled by Pollution, Dams in Tennessee, Virginia

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—(November 7, 2022)—In response to a 2010 petition and 2015 agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a final rule to protect the sickle darter as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. But in today’s decision, the agency failed to designate critical habitat for the fish.

“It’s tragically too late for the sickle darter in the watershed where I live, the French Broad River, but with protections in place, we can still save this rare fish in other rivers,” said Will Harlan, a senior campaigner and staff scientist at the Center. “So many folks get their drinking water from or just have fun on the Appalachian rivers where these fish live, so saving this big, beautiful darter will also help a lot of people.”

The primary threat to the sickle darter is habitat loss from siltation, water pollution and dams. Siltation fills the spaces in between rocks on the river bottom that the fish needs to lay eggs and find prey. The sickle darter’s water is polluted by animal waste, domestic sewage, pesticides, heavy metals from mining, and other toxins and pathogens. Dams and impoundments have separated sickle darter populations and limited their movement. Climate change is also harming the fish and its habitat.

In Tennessee, populations of the sickle darter are still found in the Emory, Little and Sequatchie Rivers. These populations are separated from populations in the upper Clinch and the Middle and North Fork Holston Rivers in Virginia. The fish has been wiped out in North Carolina, where it was once found in the French Broad, South Fork Holston, Powell and Watauga Rivers.

“Our cities and farm fields are polluting rivers across the country,” said Harlan. “This fish is just one of many that are suffering. We have to do more to protect them, and one powerful way the Service can do that is by providing critical habitat for the sickle darter.”

The sickle darter is large by darter standards, growing to be nearly 5 inches long. It has bigger scales than other darters and a prominent black stripe on its side. It uses its large mouth and long pointed snout to feed on larval mayflies, midges, riffle beetles, caddisflies and dragonflies. Sickle darters can live up to four years.

It was first described as a species in 2007, when it was found to be distinct from the closely related longhead darter. The scientific name is Percina williamsi, honoring the renowned biologist Jim Williams, who has been working to describe and protect freshwater species in the southeastern United States for more than half a century.


Southern Environmental Law Center


The once-endangered snail darter is now a Southern success story

Last month, in a win for endangered species protected by federal law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the beloved snail darter’s recovery and removal from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife.

“We are heartened to see that the snail darter no longer faces the threat of extinction. Its growing numbers now stand as a testament to the success of the Endangered Species Act in recovering imperiled species,” said Ramona McGee, senior attorney and leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Wildlife Program. “This delisting comes as a result not only of the population’s current stability, but decades of protection and steady conservation actions that have expanded the range of this southern fish and shown the importance of preserving habitats essential for species endemic to our region.”  

The announcement was the latest chapter in a saga that made the snail darter – a small fish native to waterways in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia – the face of the Endangered Species Act and a household name in many parts of the South. 

The snail darter was thrust into the national spotlight in the 1970s when its discovery brought plans to dam the Little Tennessee River to a halt.

The Tennessee Valley Authority had been planning to build the Tellico Dam on the river, which, unlike other dams that TVA had built in the early part of the 20th century, would not generate electricity. Instead, the agency aimed to create a lake in order to draw tourism to the area. Despite strong opposition from local communities, construction on the dam began in 1967. 

After construction began, biologists found the snail darter in the river and petitioned to have it federally listed as an endangered species under the recently-passed Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service granted that, and also designated the Little Tennessee River as critical habitat for the fish.

Conservationists then sued TVA to stop construction of the Tellico Dam, which would have likely wiped out the known populations of the snail darter and degraded their important ecosystem.

The case worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and became the first major test of the Endangered Species Act, which had been passed just five years earlier. In 1978, the Supreme Court sided with the snail darter, writing in its decision that “the plain intent of Congress in enacting [the Endangered Species Act] was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.”

“The 1978 landmark ruling established the scope of the Endangered Species Act. From then on, the snail darter — a once-overlooked, tiny fish — came to symbolize the significance of the law’s protections for species big and small,” McGee said. 

After the ruling, Congress passed an exception to the Endangered Species Act that allowed TVA to finish building the Tellico Dam. But even though the dam was completed in 1979, the snail darter’s plight spurred years of conservation actions that helped the fish’s numbers climb.

Now, the snail darter serves not only as an example of the strength of the Endangered Species Act, but as an example of its success as well.


Earth 911

Earth Action: Protect Endangered Sharks

By Gemma Alexander, NOV 4, 2022

Earth911 is honoring the 52 years of Earth Day with 52 Actions for the Earth. Each week through Earth Day 2023, we will share an action you can take to invest in the Earth and make your own life more sustainable. Although most of us will never experience the ocean beyond standing on its shore, it covers more than 70% of the surface of our planet. Unfortunately, however little direct experience we have of the sea, our actions have a tremendous impact on its ecology. This week, you can act on behalf of the ocean by helping to protect endangered sharks.

Action: Protect Endangered Sharks

Ocean Ecology

There are a lot of ways that human activity harms the ocean, even from afar. Anthropogenic climate change contributes to ocean acidification and is raising ocean temperatures. That is unbalancing aquatic ecosystems by reducing food sources and increasing diseases. Blameless daily activities – like laundry and wearing masks and sunscreen – release nonpoint source pollutants and garbage. All those chemicals, cigarette butts, and pieces of plastic eventually make their way to the sea. There they alter water chemistry and form giant gyres, harming sea life from corals and shellfish to apex predators.

More directly, we harvest the ocean’s wildlife, eating species to extinction. Some species, like tuna, have been the focus of attention for a long time. And resources like Seafood Watch help conscientious diners eat seafood more sustainably. But overfishing is still a huge problem and many endangered or threatened species are not protected.


In the U.S., sharks have been partially rescued from their role as Hollywood nightmare fuel by Shark Week, but they have never really been on the menu. In other countries, shark fins are a delicacy. It has led to the horrifying practice of shark finning: catching sharks, removing their fins, and throwing them back in the water to die. Regardless of the method, shark fishing is one of the top threats to shark species. Nearly a quarter of shark species – 100 of 470 – are considered endangered, and total shark and ray populations have declined 71% in the last 50 years.

Requiem sharks make up the majority of the shark fin and meat trade, with 68% of requiem sharks already listed as Endangered and Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. But requiem sharks are one of the least regulated shark families.

Expand Shark Protection

There are a lot of ways that you can help protect our oceans. This week you can help increase protection for endangered and threatened sharks and rays. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Listing a species as endangered under CITES does not automatically protect that species. Individual nations must still enact and enforce their own laws (in the U.S. that’s the Endangered Species Act). But a CITES listing is the first step to global protection.

At the upcoming CITES convention this November in Panama, 19 requiem shark species are proposed for listing under CITES Appendix II – a list of threatened species that require protection through trade controls to maintain a sustainable population. Listing these species could help end the international shark trade. A global letter circulating online will be delivered to key delegates ahead of the conference, to ensure that they know the global public supports their vote in favor of protecting sharks.



New Yorkers to Vote on First Environmental Bond Act in 26 Years

By: Olivia Rosane, November 3, 2022

On the upcoming midterm elections Tuesday, November 8, New Yorkers have a chance to invest in a greener future for their state.

If voters approve Proposition #1, the “Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022,” they would authorize New York to sell $4.2 billion worth of state bonds to finance projects to help the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, protect its environment and better prepare for the impacts of the climate crisis.

“When it comes to the worsening climate catastrophe, it’s hard not to get depressed. But action is warranted, not hand wringing. Prop #1 moves New York forward in adapting the state to the growing climate threats,” New York Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Blair Horner said in a statement reprinted by WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

The measure was actually passed by the state Legislature and Governor Kathy Hochul as part of the 2022 state budget, Gotham Gazette explained. However, any measure that increases New York state’s bond debt must be signed off on by voters. The proposition is the first environmental bond act on the New York ballot in 26 years, according to The Guardian.

If passed, the measure would:

*Put at least $1.5 billion towards mitigating climate change.

*Put at least $1.1 billion towards flood prevention and natural restoration.

*Put at least $650 million tow