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Former TWS President to Lead USGS Cooperative Research Units

Wed, 2014-07-23 14:18

John Organ holds tagged baby Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). Organ was recently appointed the new director of the USGS Cooperative Research Unit program. (Courtesy of John Organ)

John Organ, former president of The Wildlife Society (TWS), has been appointed director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units.

In his new position, slated to begin August 25, Organ will oversee 40 research units at universities in 38 states from program headquarters in Reston, Virginia. As part of a collaborative effort between state agencies, USGS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Wildlife Management Institute, cooperative units conduct cutting edge research for fish and wildlife conservation, provide technical guidance to cooperative agencies on natural resource issues, train the next generation of wildlife and fisheries biologists as well as provide continuing education for established natural resource professionals.

Founded in 1935 by conservationist J.N. “Ding” Darling, the cooperative research unit program “has been one of the most productive science engines for fish and wildlife conservation in this country,” Organ said. “My job will be to direct the program relative to other federal priorities, work with other cooperative agencies to ensure the viability of the program moving forward, maintaining the integrity of this historic mission, and making sure it is relevant for our current needs.”

Organ began his career in the cooperative research program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “That’s where I earned my Ph.D.,” he said. “So it’s coming full circle for me.” But for the past 35 years, Organ served with FWS Northeast Region in a variety of roles including wetland ecologist for the National Wetlands Conservation program, research biologist, and finally chief of the Region 5 Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program. Notably, he led the development of national wildlife damage management policies and helped guide management of numerous species including black bears, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and river otters.

Organ serves on numerous scientific and advisory committees and is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor of wildlife and fisheries conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is also a graduate faculty member in the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources at the Universidad Andres Béllo in Santiago, Chile, where he advises Ph.D. students in the Conservation Medicine program.

Organ served as TWS president from 2006 to 2007. Ken Williams, TWS Executive Director and previous Chief of CRU, applauded USGS leadership for selecting such a highly qualified individual. “Unit Cooperators and partners are fortunate indeed to have John as the new CRU Chief,” Williams said. “He is highly respected as a scientist, administrator, and strategist, with a long record of involvement and deep understanding of the program. There is no doubt that the Units and their Cooperators will benefit from his leadership.”

Wildlife News Roundup (July 12-18, 2014)

Mon, 2014-07-21 11:18

The following clips reflect recent wildlife-related news coverage in the media. The Wildlife Society does not independently verify any statements or assertions in these articles. The statements expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official TWS policy unless so stated. Likewise, products mentioned herein are not endorsed by The Wildlife Society unless so stated.

Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada’s Banff National Park. Parks Canada budget cuts will see a reduction of the operating season and the elimination of guided activities and education spending, among other things. (Credit: Karl Johnson)

Parks Canada Services Take Hit in Budget Cuts
(The Star)
Get out to a national park while you can — budget cuts at Parks Canada have resulted in shorter seasons and fewer guided tours, according to internal agency documents. Documents obtained by the Star reveal Parks Canada is on pace to cut more than $27 million from its planned $659.7 million 2014-15 budget, including savings of $5 million through limiting operating seasons at national parks and historic sites to “peak visitation periods.” More

 

NEWS FROM NORTH AMERICA

Study: Mountaintop Removal for Coal Hurts Water Quality and Harms Fish
(The Washington Post)
In West Virginia’s Appalachian mountains, fish are vanishing. The number of species has fallen, the populations of those that remain are down, and some individual fish look a little skinny. A new government study traces the decline in abundance to mountaintop removal, the controversial coal mining practice of clear cutting trees from mountains before blowing off their tops with explosives. More

Poaching and the Illegal Wildlife Trade Threaten Ontario Turtle Populations
(The Canadian Press via Ottawa Citizen)
Turtle populations in southern Ontario are under threat by poachers, who sell the critters on the black market as aquarium novelties or for the dinner plate. Ron Brooks, who studied turtles in Algonquin Provincial Park for 40 years, said there are no statistics on the number of turtles being poached and sold in the illegal wildlife trade. But he said it appears that poachers will collect turtles and sell them to ethnic markets for delicacies such as turtle soup. More

Arizona Enlists a Beetle in Its Campaign for Water
(The New York Times)
In this corner of America known for its vast landscapes, rugged mountains and deep river canyons, signs of the havoc created by the minuscule tamarisk beetle are everywhere. For miles along the banks of the Colorado River, hundreds of once hardy tamarisk trees — also known as salt cedars — are gray and withered. Their parched branches look like victims of fire or drought. More

Quebec and Ontario Work Together to Save the American Eel
(Montreal Gazette)
A joint operation between the Ontario and Quebec provincial governments, Hydro-Québec, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Algonquins of Ontario saw 400 juvenile American eels released into the Ottawa River for the first time in an effort to save the species in Ontario. The American eels were provided from a Hydro-Québec eel ladder at the dam in Beauharnois and transported to Voyageur Provincial Park in East Hawkesbury in the morning. More

African Elephants in Zoos Threatened by Obesity
(Discovery News)
African elephants in captivity are packing on the pounds, and experts warn that the rise in obesity is contributing to infertility, which could be detrimental to the survival of the species in zoos. To get a handle on the problem, one group of researchers in Alabama is looking for a better way to measure body fat on the already huge animals. Just like humans, elephants with excess fat are more likely to develop heart disease, arthritis and infertility. More

Conservation Group Praises New Manitobal Park to Protect Polar Bears
(Winnipeg Free Press)
Canada’s parks are under even more threat, but Manitoba at least gets higher marks for launching a process to create a huge new park to protect polar bears and other species on the Hudson Bay coastline. The findings are in the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society sixth annual review of the state of Canada’s parks. More

WILDLIFE HEALTH AND DISEASE NEWS

New Disease Afflicting Sea Otters
(KCET-TV)
A virus related to the ones that cause smallpox and chickenpox has been found in sea otters from California and Alaska, according to researchers at the University of Florida. Though it’s unknown just how virulent the virus is, scientists are concerned it could interfere with infected otters’ ability to stay warm in the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean. More

Digging Up the Seafloor Makes Coral Reefs Sick
(National Geographic)
Australia’s coral reefs are in danger, due in part to the expansion of ports to accommodate the growing number of ships loaded with coal or natural gas. That’s the conclusion of a new study looking at the effects of dredging projects on reefs in northwest Australia, reported in the journal PLoS ONE. Coral reefs need clear, warm water to thrive. More

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

River Dolphin on the Decline Due to Dams
(Nature World News)
Populations of the endangered Indus river dolphin are on the decline in part from the removal of river water for irrigation and habitat fragmentation, a new study has warned. Many freshwater marine mammals are endangered due to rapidly degrading habitat, and conservation depends on preserving what habitat is left. Officials used historical range data and information presence from fisher interviews to understand the timing pattern of range decline of the Indus River Dolphin. More

Marine and Terrestrial Wildlife Haven Becomes Four Million-Acre Biosphere Reserve
(Phys.org)
A rugged peninsula in Argentina’s Patagonia region teeming with wildlife, including southern right whales, Magellanic penguins, massive elephant seals, flightless Darwin’s rheas, and camel-like guanacos, has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Environmental, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Península Valdés on the Atlantic coast of Patagonia in Southern Argentina has the largest breeding colony of southern elephant seals in South America. More

UN Applauds Kenya’s Role in Joint Anti-Ivory Smuggling Operation
(All Africa)
Some conservationists could not believe it when news from Geneva, Switzerland, started trickling in that Kenya’s law enforcement against wildlife crime had won recognition at a United Nations meeting. Four Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Secretary General’s Certificates of Commendation were awarded to Nepal, China, Kenya and Nairobi-based regional agency Lusaka Agreement Task Force for exemplary wildlife law enforcement efforts. More

Proposed CRP Changes Open for Comment

Fri, 2014-07-18 11:54

A vegetation buffer protecting a stream on a farm in Clay County, MN. Private landowners help conserve natural resources, like the clean water and wildlife habitat from this stream, with support from the CRP program. (Credit: Clay County)

The Farm Service Agency announced this week that it is accepting comments on a draft Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The SPEIS addresses changes to CRP mandated by the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill.

The Conservation Reserve Program, administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), pays landowners to conserve ecologically sensitive land and to employ conservation practices to enhance natural resource benefits on that land. In the new Farm Bill, there are several mandatory and discretionary changes to the CRP program that the FSA is required to make. For example, FSA must target sensitive land during enrollment in the program as well as provide for both managed and emergency harvesting and grazing on CRP acres.

FSA developed an environmental assessment to examine the consequences of administering these changes – specifically the discretionary changes because they have some flexibility in how the FSA chooses to implement them.

The FSA will accept comments through September 8, 2014. Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov under docket number FSA_FRDOC_0001-0228. By hard copy, submit to: CRP SPEIS, C/O Cardno TEC, Inc., 11817 Canon Blvd., Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606.

Sources: FSA website (accessed July, 2014), regulations.gov (accessed July, 2014), Federal Register (July 15, 2014)

FWS Finalizes Protections for Garter Snakes

Tue, 2014-07-15 09:49

A narrow-headed garter snake slithers through its native streamside habitat in Greenlee County, AZ. The aquatic snake is one of two snake species recently listed as threatened due to concerns over water resources and competition from invasive species. (Credit: Tom Brennan)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized a rule listing two garter snake species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The two semi-aquatic reptiles are native to New Mexico and Arizona and have been threatened by declining water resources as well as competition from invasive species.

FWS released the final rule July 8 detailing how development – such as a proposed open-pit copper mine in Arizona – will affect groundwater supplies and in turn the garter snakes. Both species rely on riparian habitats for breeding and feeding. The northern Mexican garter snake (Thamnophis eques megalops) is largely terrestrial but derives most of its meals from streams and river-side environments. The narrow-headed garter snake (T. rufipunctatus) is more aquatic, making its home in clear, rocky streams. Anything that reduces water availability or quality will severely damage the two snake species’ prospects for prey.

FWS officials are currently developing the critical habitat for a future rule. The listing rule will go into effect August 7.

Sources: Energy and Environment News (July 7, 2014), USFWS (accessed July, 2014), Federal Register (July 8, 2014)

USDA pledges $50 million for Midwest Wetlands

Mon, 2014-07-14 12:53

A flock of ducks erupts from the fertile grasslands of the Prairie Pothole region. It is estimated that three quarters of North American waterfowl breed and nest here. (Credit: Shawn May, USFWS)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced plans to direct $50 million from the 2014 farm bill budget to conservation projects affecting the Red River of the North Basin. The funds are on top of a $35 million pledge that the agency made in February. The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service will direct the money over five years through conservation programs designed to incentivize landowners to preserve and enhance wetlands through technical and financial assistance.

The 25 million-acre Red River watershed is part of the Prairie Pothole region – Midwestern plains that encompass parts of five states and three Canadian provinces. The region is characterized by shallow depressions that collect water – perfect habitat for waterfowl and migratory birds. In fact, it is estimated that 75 percent of North American waterfowl use these seasonal wetlands – commonly referred to as “America’s duck factory” – for breeding and nesting while nearly half of the continent’s migratory bird species rest and fuel up in the fertile wetlands and grasslands during migrations.

A recent report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) brought attention to “alarming losses” suffered by the region’s natural areas. Agriculture, oil and gas drilling, and other development activities have led to serious declines in wetland and grassland area, threating not only the health of the duck population, but also the safety of residents. The Red River floods nearly every year, and the wetlands are vital to soaking up excess flow.

Conservation groups applaud the decision citing both wildlife benefits and flood protection. The region’s waterfowl are essential to economies that rely on sportsmen dollars. The duck stamp program alone brings in an average of $25 million annually for wetlands acquisition.

Sources: Energy and Environment News (July 2, 2014), Energy and Environment News (June 6, 2014), Energy and Environment News (February 14, 2014), USFWS (accessed July, 2014)

Wildlife News Roundup (July 5-11, 2014)

Mon, 2014-07-14 11:38

The following clips reflect recent wildlife-related news coverage in the media. The Wildlife Society does not independently verify any statements or assertions in these articles. The statements expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official TWS policy unless so stated. Likewise, products mentioned herein are not endorsed by The Wildlife Society unless so stated.

A newly hatched loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) makes its way to the ocean. A new ruling that designates more than 300,000 miles of land and ocean as critical sea turtle habitat will help wildlife officials focus ongoing conservation efforts. (Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife)

Feds Protect Sea Turtles with Largest Ever Critical Habitat Ruling
(UPI)
The U.S. federal government set a record, as wildlife officials designated an additional 685 miles of nesting beach and some 300,000 square miles of ocean as critical habitat for the federally protected loggerhead sea turtle — the largest such declaration in history. The newly protected nesting areas include various stretches of beach from Mississippi all the way to North Carolina. More

 

NEWS FROM NORTH AMERICA

Kansas to Pursue Prairie Chicken Breeding Program
(The Associated Press via WHEC-TV)
Kansas will develop a program for breeding lesser prairie chickens in hopes of getting the federal government to back off its listing of the bird as a threatened species, Gov. Sam Brownback announced. An Audubon of Kansas leader labeled the idea “far-fetched” and said it won’t work because game birds bred in captivity typically don’t have the skills necessary to survive long in the wild. More

Dreaded Asian Carp the Target of New Ontario Lab
(CBC News)
Canada has a new tool to battle the spread of an insatiable invasive species: an Asian carp research lab that’s the first of its kind in the country. Researchers say the Burlington, Ontario-based lab at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters will be an integral part of the battle against a fish that threatens to decimate food sources for native species in North America. More

3-D Technology Used to Help California Condors and Other Endangered Species
(Phys.org)
A team of researchers has developed a novel methodology that, for the first time, combines 3-D and advanced range estimator technologies to provide highly detailed data on the range and movements of terrestrial, aquatic and avian wildlife species. One aspect of the study focused on learning more about the range and movements of the California condor using miniaturized GPS biotelemetry units attached to every condor released into the wild. More

British Columbia Releases 5-year Species at Risk Plan
(The Canadian Press via Global News)
With about 50,000 plants and animals calling British Columbia home, the province boasts the highest wildlife diversity in Canada. But a report states some, including the prehistoric-like white sturgeon and Vancouver Island’s water-plantain buttercup, are under threat and need protection. The report sets out the government’s expectations for the management of species facing risks over the next five years. More

Florida Panthers Rebound as Wildlife Service Offers Ranchers Payment Plan
(The Guardian)
The endangered Florida panther, running out of room to prowl as its numbers rebound, may find its best chance at survival is a program to pay distrustful ranchers to protect what remains of its habitat. The payment plan proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has never been tried before on a large scale with a wide-ranging predator, officials say. Landowners could receive $22 per acre to maintain the cattle pastures and wooded scrub increasingly critical as panther terrain. More

Alberta Government Selling Endangered Caribou Habitat
(Hinton Parklander)
Environmentalists are upset over the Alberta provincial government’s continuing sale of endangered caribou habitat. But a spokesman for Alberta Environment says they are working on range plans to protect the endangered animals, with two of the plans concerning herds near Hinton that should be implemented by the end of this year. More

Florida FWC Issues 120 Citations for Online Wildlife Trafficking
(Clearwater Gazette)
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it issued arrests and warnings in 24 counties, from Polk to Escambia, as part of a four-day operation called “Operation Wild Web.” The operation aimed to crack down on the illegal selling of fish and wildlife. Katie Purcell, Community Relations Coordinator for the FWC, confirmed that 36 citations and 84 warnings were issued to 97 individuals. More

Volunteers Provide Knitted Nests to Help Rehabilitate Abandoned Bird Chicks
(KPIX-TV)
A wildlife conservation group in California’s Marin County that cares for hundreds of orphaned baby birds has enlisted an army of knitters to make nests for the rehabilitating chicks. San Rafael-based WildCare rehabilitates thousands of wild animals a year, including hundreds of bird chicks who fall from nests during spring nesting season. More

From Twitter, a Growing Collection of Communicative Conservationists
(The New York Times)
By Andrew C. Revkin: A Facebook post by the environmental journalist John Platt directed me to an excellent Twitter list of — at last count — 89 conservation biologists, journalists, educators and other people focused on using new communication tools to foster wildlife conservation and animal welfare. The list was assembled by the editors of The Dodo, a website tracking biological wonders and issues that arise when Homo sapiens interacts, for good or ill, with other animals. More

WILDLIFE HEALTH AND DISEASE NEWS

Manatee Fatalities Show Decline
(The Tampa Tribune)
If it’s not reckless boaters chopping into the backsides of manatees, it’s the red tide. Or the cold. Or some mysterious bug along the southeastern coast that is claiming thousands of acres of sea grass, starving the sea cows to death. But so far this year, the number of manatees dying is down — an encouraging sign for those working to recover the species but sure to feed an escalating debate over whether Florida’s signature marine mammal should be removed from the endangered species list. More

Outlook Still Looking Grim for Prince Edward Island Bats
(Atlantic Farm Focus)
This winter, somewhere in the Bonshaw (Prince Edward Island) area, upwards of 50 bats crawled out of their seasonal refuge and died in the snow. They were sick and starving, without the energy to fly, let alone deal with the cold. All together, the Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s fish and wildlife division is reporting that about 90 dead bats were recovered, and another 30 to 40 reported, by Islanders during the winter of 2014. More

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Creation of New Nature Reserve Protects Important Bird Habitat
(Wildlife Extra)
The Endangered Wildlife Trust is celebrating the publication of the Notice of Intent to Declare the Beaumont Nature Reserve in the Swartberg region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. “The proposed Beaumont Nature Reserve is 1050 ha in size and forms part of the Thule Conservancy, which was created in 2012,” said Cobus Theron, the EWT’s African Crane Conservation Programme’s Southern Drakensberg/East Griqualand Stewardship Facilitator. More

Fight Against Illegal Ivory Stalled in Thailand
(National Geographic)
Many of the countries involved in the illegal trade of elephant ivory have made positive steps toward stemming the crisis — except for Thailand, conservation experts announced. The Southeast Asian country has not done enough to hamper black market sales of ivory, and it remains the largest unregulated market for ivory in the world, according to officials with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. More

Bipartisan Bill on Hunting Access Dies in Senate

Fri, 2014-07-11 15:08

Sportsmen in Utah head out to the hills for a big game hunt. The ‘Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act’ – which the Senate recently rejected – would have improved access on public lands for this and other recreational activities. (Credit: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

A bill to support hunting access while also ensuring financial support for key conservation programs failed on a procedural vote on the Senate floor. Controversial amendments doomed the bill, which had easily passed the initial vote just days before.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Bill (S. 2363) – introduced in May – aimed to enhance hunting opportunities on federal land by requiring land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to be open to sporting opportunities, unless there was a legitimate reason for barring hunting or other recreation uses for individual parks and areas. It also directed funding to the North American Wetlands Conservation program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation which conserve wetlands for waterfowl and allow federal agencies to acquire land of high conservation value.

Another provision would have exempted lead bullets used by many sportsmen from EPA regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The House passed its own version of the bill in February. Environmental groups were happy to see that the Senate bill did not include exemptions to the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act that were in the House version.

Despite bipartisan support and initial optimism, chances faded fast for the Senate bill to move forward. Senators flooded the floor with over 100 amendments that ranged from small fixes to divisive revisions. For example, Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso proposed to block the EPA’s proposal to clarify the Clean Water Act’s reach and the Forest Service’s proposed groundwater protection directive. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) filed a controversial amendment to strike the lead bullet exemption.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid and many of the bill’s 46 co-sponsors called for ‘relevant amendments’ while decrying amendments like Barrasso’s as virtually ‘filibustering’ the bill with politically tough votes.

Sources: Energy and Environment News (July 8, 2014), Energy and Environment News (July 10, 2014), Greenwire (July 10, 2014), Congress.gov (accessed July, 2014)

Recent Related TWS Articles: House Passes Sportsmen’s Act

FWS Proposes Injurious Species Status for Five Snakes

Wed, 2014-07-09 16:30

U.S. Geological Survey researchers hold a 17-foot long python they captured in Everglades National Park, Florida. Since 2002, wildlife authorities have removed more than 1,800 pythons from the Everglades. (Credit: Christine Puckett, USGS)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has re-opened the comment period for a rule first published in 2010 to list nine species of large constrictor snakes as injurious under the Lacey Act. Four of the nine snake species were listed in 2012, so the current comment period pertains to the remaining five species — the reticulated python (Python reticulatus), DeSchauensee’s anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei), green anaconda (Eunextes murinus), Beni anaconda (Eunectes beniensis), and boa constrictor (Boa constrictor).

Listing would effectively ban the import and interstate transport of these species. Research shows that these snake species are a threat to human safety and can cause extensive damage to native ecosystems if released into the wild.

Since the mid-1990s, pythons and other constrictor snakes have established breeding populations in southern Florida, where environmental conditions are favorable for their survival. The presence of these non-native snakes is a result of accidental and intentional releases by pet owners. The snakes are generalist predators, meaning they will eat almost anything, mature rapidly and produce many offspring, are highly camouflaged, and can adapt to various habitats. As a result, these large snakes are causing significant disruptions to native Florida ecosystems. Studies have documented decreases in native mammal populations and indicate the snakes are competing for prey with native predators such as the indigo snake.

The Wildlife Society has sent a number of letters to the Department of the Interior and Office of Management and Budget urging officials to expedite the listing of these snakes and outlining the threats posed by the five snake species.

Comments can be submitted to FWS until July 24, 2014 by one of the two following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter the docket number for the proposed rule, which is FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015. Click on “Comment Now!” to submit a comment. Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.
  • U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

Sources: Federal Register (June 24, 2014), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (accessed June, 2014), National Park Service (accessed June, 2014), USGS (accessed June, 2014), PNAS (accessed June, 2014)

Agencies Extend Comment Period for Rule to Clarify Clean Water Act

Wed, 2014-07-09 09:32

The sun sets over wetlands in the Hochhalter Waterfowl Production Area in North Dakota, part of the prairie pothole region. Wetlands such as this one may regain protection under the EPA’s proposed rule that clarifies the types of waters protected under the Clean Water Act. (Credit: Krista Lundgren, USFWS)

UPDATE

In April the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) jointly released a proposed rule that is intended to clear up long-standing confusion over the types of waters that are covered under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The public comment period for the proposed rule has been extended by three months and is now open until October 20, 2014. According to the EPA, the deadline was extended due to numerous stakeholder requests.

Under the proposed rule, protections for most seasonal and rain-dependent streams and wetlands near rivers and streams will be reinstated. (See related TWS articles here and here.) For example, most tributary streams in the southwestern U.S. do not flow year-round and have been under uncertain jurisdiction. The proposed rule would clearly cover these waters. Wetlands such as the prairie potholes in the upper Midwest, which have a more uncertain connection to downstream waters, will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The EPA and USACE specifically ask for public comment in their proposed rule on whether there are categories of waters that could automatically be ruled outside of jurisdiction without a case-by-case analysis.

Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Email: ow-docket@epa.gov. Include EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 in the subject line of the message.
  • Mail: Send the original and three copies of your comments to: Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880.Show citation box
  • Hand Delivery/Courier: Deliver your comments to EPA Docket Center, EPA West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880. Such deliveries are accepted only during the Docket’s normal hours of operation, which are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. Special arrangements should be made for deliveries of boxed information. The telephone number for the Water Docket is 202-566-2426.

Sources: Federal Register (June 24, 2014)

Wildlife News Roundup (June 28-July 4, 2014)

Mon, 2014-07-07 10:00

The following clips reflect recent wildlife-related news coverage in the media. The Wildlife Society does not independently verify any statements or assertions in these articles. The statements expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official TWS policy unless so stated. Likewise, products mentioned herein are not endorsed by The Wildlife Society unless so stated.

A hammerhead shark at the Georgia Aquarium. Four species of hammerheads were listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. (Credit: David Biesack)

Hammerhead Sharks Get Needed Federal Protections
(Defenders of Wildlife)
Four key populations of scalloped hammerhead sharks were listed today under the Endangered Species Act by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the first time in history a shark species has received federal protections under the ESA. The scalloped hammerhead shark is a highly imperiled species and is considered globally endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. More

 

NEWS FROM NORTH AMERICA

Utah Wolverine Sighting 1st Documented in 30 Years
(The Associated Press via The Washington Post)
Utah wildlife officials have captured images of a wolverine on the northern slope of the Uinta Mountains this year, the first documented sighting of the animal in Utah since a wolverine carcass was found in 1979. More

US Catfish Program Could Stymie Pacific Trade Pact, 10 Nations Say
(The New York Times)
Ten Asian and Pacific nations have told the Office of the United States Trade Representative that the Agriculture Department’s catfish inspection program violates international law, and their objections could hamper Obama administration efforts to reach a major Pacific trade agreement by the end of next year. More

Musk Ox Invasion Keeps Nome Wildlife Managers Busy
(Anchorage Daily News)
Nome, Alaska, is used to rowdy residents, but some relatively new transplants are making a real nuisance of themselves — although unlike the colorful characters of the early 20th century gold rush days, these visitors have four legs, not two. Musk oxen are wandering into the city on the Seward Peninsula, and despite loud noises, water hoses and even a blow-up bear coated in ursine urine, they don’t want to leave. More

Researchers Lure Manitoulin Island Turtle Predators with Decoy
(CBC News)
Researchers at Laurentian University are hoping a fake turtle will shed some light on a mystery on Manitoulin Island. Jackie Litzgus, a biology professor at Laurentian University, said a decoy Blandings Turtle will be used to determine what predators might be killing turtles. More

Wildlife Officials to Review Manatee Status Change
(WPBF-TV)
Federal wildlife officials are moving forward with a status review of the manatee following a petition from a libertarian legal group representing some north Florida business owners. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it will begin a more detailed status review and analysis. It’s a step in changing the status of the West Indian manatee — including its subspecies, the Florida manatee and Antillean manatee — from endangered to threatened. More

New Parks Policy Limits Information
(Rocky Mountain Outlook)
A new communication policy directing all Parks Canada media requests go through high-ranking bureaucrats in Ottawa means Banff residents — and the Canadian public — no longer have the same access to information about their national parks as they used to. The policy to put tighter controls on the release of information means every media request, no mater how benign, must be approved at the top with the only exception being immediate public safety issues. Even standard rescue operations or wildlife issues in Banff must now get approval from national office — often a time consuming process. More

United is Using its Planes to Track Butterflies and Birds From Above
(Gizmodo)
United Airlines is working with the Smithsonian on a conservation project that will tag and track the smaller members of the animal kingdom. More specifically, the project will use radio receivers mounted on planes to create a low-altitude network of vanishing species like the monarch butterfly. All while you enjoy your complimentary beverage. More

City Smells Confound Flower-Seeking Moths
(The New York Times)
Car exhaust and other urban fumes can disrupt moths’ ability to make their way to flowers, a new study reports. “The flowers occur in patches that can be kilometers away, and these moths are almost at the edge of survival trying to find them,” said Jeff Riffell, a biologist at the University of Washington and the first author of the study, which appears in the journal Science. The research focuses on the tobacco hornworm moth, which depends on nectar for energy. Nectar from one flower provides enough fuel for just 15 minutes of flying time, so “flying around is really energetically expensive,” Dr. Riffell said. More

After the Trees Disappear
(The New York Times)
This past winter was the coldest Detroit had experienced in 36 years. Across the upper Midwest, cities shivered, and more than 90 percent of the surface area of the Great Lakes froze solid. It seemed like ideal weather to kill an unwanted insect. But it did little to stop the emerald ash borer, an invasive Asian beetle that is devastating ash trees from Minnesota to New York. More

WILDLIFE HEALTH AND DISEASE NEWS

Die-Offs of Band-Tailed Pigeons Connected to Newly Discovered Parasite
(University of California, Davis)
A new pathogen has been discovered by scientists investigating major die-offs of pigeons native to North America, according to studies led by the University of California, Davis, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. More

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Emperor Penguin Numbers to Slide as Antarctica Warms
(CBC News)
Antarctica’s population of emperor penguins could fall by at least a fifth by 2100 as the sea ice on which the birds breed becomes less secure, a new study predicts. The study urges governments to list the birds as endangered, even though populations in 45 known colonies were likely to rise slightly by 2050 before declining by the end of the century. Such a listing could impose restrictions on tourism and fishing companies. More

Technology Leading the Fight Against Poaching in Nepal
(South China Morning Post)
An animal welfare group in Nepal has concluded an experiment with Google Glass that uses the wearable computing device to help track and document the characteristics of endangered rhinos as part of efforts to combat poaching. The exercise is part of Nepal’s attempts to harness new technologies to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, which poses a threat to the country’s vulnerable and endangered species. More

Manta Rays are Worth More Alive Than Dead
(Conservation Magazine)
Manta and mobula rays, together the “mobulids” are among the most recognizable, charismatic fish in the world. They’re also particularly vulnerable, thanks primarily to the use of their gill plates in Traditional Chinese Medicine. That’s despite the fact that mobulid gill plates are not officially recognized by most practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are so many nonsensical aspects to this story that it’s hard to know where to start. More

Kangaroos Use Tail as a 5th Leg, B.C. Researcher Finds
(CBC News)
When kangaroos aren’t hopping, they use their tail as an extra limb and essentially walk on five “legs,” making them unique in the animal kingdom, a new study has found. While kangaroos are known for their fast and efficient hopping, most of the time they are actually down on all fours, grazing, said Max Donelan, a Simon Fraser University physiologist who co-authored the study published in the journal Biology Letters. More

National Wildlife Refuge System Needs More Funding

Tue, 2014-07-01 09:00

Two backpackers enjoy the solitude in Alaska’s Selawik National Wildlife Refuge. According to a recent report, the National Wildlife Refuge system requires $900 million in appropriations to meet its operations and maintenance needs. (Credit: USFWS)

Last week, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) — a national coalition of 23 wildlife, sporting, and conservation organizations including The Wildlife Society — released its annual report on the status of the National Wildlife Refuge System. CARE members advocate for a stronger refuge system including sufficient congressional funding for operations and maintenance.

The report indicates that Congress needs to appropriate at least $476 million in fiscal year 2015 to allow National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) to provide current levels of visitor services, wildlife habitat maintenance, and access for hunters and anglers. Unfortunately, services at NWRs have already been scaled back due to recent budget cuts. Funding has fallen from an all-time high of $503 million in fiscal year 2010 to $472 million in this year’s omnibus budget. CARE states that at least $900 million is required to “properly administer” the operations and maintenance needs of the system’s 562 wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts.

Meanwhile, as budgets have been tightening, the number of visitors to the refuge system has been increasing. In 2013 47.5 million people visited refuges to hunt, fish, view wildlife, and take part in environmental education programs among other activities — an increase of more than 10 million visitors since 2005. Because of recent budget shortfalls, the refuge system cannot keep up with the operations and maintenance it requires. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for administering NWRs, has been forced to cut staff and forgo critical habitat management, visitor services, and maintenance activities. For example, Tern Island in the Hawaiian Islands Refuge currently has no staff — increasing the risk of mortality due to entrapment in marine debris to the island’s many sea turtles, seabirds, and endangered Hawaiian monk seals. In Virginia’s Chincoteague Refuge, the number of environmental education participants is less than half what it was five years ago due to budget cuts and staff shortages.

In addition to providing crucial habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife, and opportunities for wildlife-related recreation, NWRs create jobs and generate income in local communities. If funding is not increased, “more than $2.4 billion generated in local economies is at stake,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, which leads CARE. “National wildlife refuges are economic engines, but without sufficient funding from Congress, those engines are going to stall.”

Sources: Energy and Environment News (June 24, 2014), America’s National Wildlife Refuges, a CARE report (June, 2014), CARE (accessed June, 2014)

Keeping Cattle Tick Fever at Bay

Mon, 2014-06-30 11:50

Robert Rodriguez (left) and Horico Garza of USDA APHIS patrol a section of the Rio Grande along the Texas-Mexico border in search of livestock that may be carrying cattle fever ticks. “Tick Riders” also search for deer that may be transporting ticks, a threat to livestock. (Credit: Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS)

During a recent horseback patrol along the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees known as Tick Riders discovered cattle fever ticks (CFTs) on four white-tailed does that had been harvested on private property in Zapata County, Texas. The find was significant — and troubling — because the does had been shot within what was believed to be a tick-free area near the Cattle Fever Tick Permanent Quarantine Zone, a strip of land running some 500 miles along the Rio Grande in Texas.

Hunting ticks is serious business in these parts. Often hitchhiking on white-tailed deer, cattle fever ticks of two species — Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) annulatus and R. (B.) micro plus) — may carry protozoan parasites that can infect cattle with bovine babesiosis, or Texas cattle tick fever. Though harmless in low numbers to deer, the tick-borne parasites (Babesia bovis and B. bigemina) rapidly multiply and attack the red blood cells of cattle, destroying the blood cells and causing anemia, fever, depression, anorexia, loss of body weight, recumbancy, and mortality in up to 90 percent of infected cattle (USDA 1976).

As white-tailed deer populations rose over the past decade in South Texas, so did infestations of cattle fever ticks, which drop off deer and lay eggs in pasture grasses where young ticks then find cattle hosts. In Zapata County alone, tick infestations in 2009 hit their highest spike since 1973, with 61 infested premises within the quarantine zone and 85 infested locations in what had been a tick-free area beyond the quarantine zone. Infestations have dropped dramatically in the past few years, in part because of new efforts to control deer. But because of the high mortality rate of cattle infected with cattle tick fever, tick incursions have significant potential economic consequences for the U.S. livestock industry. According to one report, “If there was an extended tick outbreak, the overall economic impact, including control costs, is estimated to exceed $1.2 billion” (USDA-APHIS 2013). With stakes that high, state and federal biologists, veterinarians, and private landowners are working together to eradicate Boophilus ticks and prevent their spread. A brief history of the disease shows why this is so essential.

Trail of a Deadly Pest
Cattle fever ticks may have been first introduced to America by Spanish settlers in the colonial era. During the burgeoning expansion of the United States in the 19th century, cattle tick fever was discovered as a fatal livestock disease after southern longhorns carrying cattle fever ticks were driven north, infesting pastures with ticks that subsequently infected naïve northern herds, resulting in massive die-offs. Describing an outbreak among cattle in Illinois in 1868, one account called the disease “very subtle and terribly fatal” (Texas State Historical Association).

Fear of cattle fever ticks in the North became so rampant that armed posses in Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri turned away Texas cattle drivers at gunpoint, and Kansas outlawed the driving of Texas cattle through its borders, effectively ending the Texas cattle-trailing trade. That move made economic sense: By some estimates, cattle tick fever was causing the equivalent in today’s dollars of $3 billion in annual losses to the American cattle industry (USDA-APHIS 2010).

In response to the crisis, the now-defunct Bureau of Animal Industry — along with a cadre of various state and federal animal health agencies and livestock organizations — initiated the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program (CFTEP) in 1906. The goal of the program, now managed by the USDA, was to eradicate cattle fever ticks from 15 states where the ticks had become established, including the entire southeastern U.S., Texas, Oklahoma, and southern California.

Cattle move through a dipping vat filled with tick killing insecticide at an APHIS facility in McAllen, Texas (top). Elsewhere in Texas, a buck feeds from an experimental bait station designed with rollers that apply tickicide to the deer’s head and neck (bottom). Such new devices may help prevent the spread of cattle fever ticks and the deadly livestock disease they carry. (Top Credit: Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS; Bottom Credit: USDA-ARS)

Controlling the Scourge
Eradication efforts were highly successful due to a combination of two main approaches. The first involved dipping cattle in vats of acaricides, pesticides that kill ticks on contact. Treatments occurred on a 14-to-21-day cycle over a period of six to nine months. The second approach involved “pasture vacation,” where cattle were treated with acaricides then relocated to tick-free pastures for six months. After that time they were returned to their former pastures, where ticks presumably had died of starvation. Writing in 1942, California veterinarian William MacKellar described the CFTEP as “the most extensive and sustained attack ever made on any of man’s parasitic enemies” (Gray et al. 1982).

By 1943, the cattle fever tick was declared eradicated from the United States with the exception of lands in the 500-mile-long permanent quarantine zone, a strip of land no more than six miles wide running through eight counties in southern Texas on the U.S.-Mexico border. Established under the CFTEP — and managed by USDA-APHIS and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) — the quarantine zone is still patrolled by tick riders, who inspect domestic livestock for ticks and medically treat tick-infested cattle. The riders also inspect deer hides and live-transported deer that leave the quarantine zone. Such vigilance is necessary because Mexico does not have a cattle fever tick eradication program, so tick-infested wildlife or livestock wandering north may pose a threat.

Change related to land use, climate, and other factors may pose additional threats to CFT control. According to one study, “Potential future risks include climate change, human population impacts on land-use and fractionation, acaricide resistance, and infection of wildlife with strains of B. bovis and B. bigemina pathogenic to cattle” (Pérez de León et al. 2012). The same study notes that CFT infestations have been found on exotic animals imported to regions adjacent to the quarantine zone — including red deer, fallow deer, and aoudad sheep — and suggests that burgeoning populations of feral swine also may have the potential to become CFT hosts.

New Tactics to Fight Ticks
The greatest challenge to eradication still appears to be the presence of large numbers of white-tailed deer that wander beyond the quarantine zone into tickfree areas, reinfesting vacated pastures. Continuous control of cattle fever ticks on wild deer is therefore clearly necessary using both time-tested methods and new approaches. Among the latest tactics:

  • Tick Control Barrier. To prevent cattle fever ticks from spreading into tick-free areas beyond the quarantine zone, USDA-APHIS has proposed installing roughly 70 new miles of noncontiguous game fencing in a cost-sharing agreement with private landowners — primarily cattle ranchers — in four Texas counties (Maverick, Starr, Webb, and Zapata). According to the agency’s draft environmental impact statement, such barriers have proven successful in “preventing cattle fever tick reinfestations and potential transmission of babesiosis from white-tailed deer to cattle” (USDA-APHIS 2013).
  • New Regulations. Since 2013, the Texas Animal Health Commission has adopted new rules that help manage tick infestations in livestock and wildlife. Formerly, cattle owners with infested pastures had to dip their cattle in insecticide every two weeks for nine months until ticks were gone (ARS 2010). Under the new rules, instead of systematic dipping — which is time-consuming and costly — herd owners can now use regular injections with the anti parasitic drug doramectin after the first clean dipping of all livestock. The new rules also expand TAHC’s authority to inspect and treat deer for infestation using the topical repellent permethrin or corn treated with the antiparasitic drug ivermectin.
  • Pesticides. The pesticide primarily used for topical treatment of cattle fever ticks in the U.S. is coumaphos. It has a limited residual effect and must be applied at 14-day intervals to kill cattle fever ticks before they have completed their life cycle on the host. Recent studies by ARS have shown that several members of the avermectin class of anthelmintics are also effective in controlling cattle fever ticks on cattle and white-tailed deer. Ivermectin has recently been approved for use in deer when administered orally on medicated whole corn. Doramectin, which should be administered by injection on a 25 28-day schedule, was recently reformulated into an injectable microsphere treatment akin to time-release capsules, which can protect cattle for up to four months and reduce the number of treatments (ARS 2010). Some wildlife-disease experts warn that reliance on ivermectin or doramectin will lead to increasing drug resistance. And both compounds require compliance with a drug withdrawal period to prevent residues in meat for human consumption. For example, ivermectin-laced corn can’t be used 60 days prior to or during hunting season.
  • Treatment Stations. At times when treated corn can’t be used, deer may be medicated against ticks topically with permethrin (a pyrethroid pesticide) administered by roller devices attached to conventional gravity flow deer feeders (Lohmeyer et al. 2013). A few years ago, researchers at the Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory in Kerrville, Texas (part of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, or ARS), developed such a device called the 4-Poster Deer Treatment Bait Station, which lures deer with bait then, as the animal feeds, uses rollers to apply insecticide to the deer’s head and neck. As the animal grooms it spreads the insecticide, killing ticks elsewhere on the body. This treatment does not result in tissue residues and may be used during traditional hunting season to control ticks. More recently researchers created an experimental bait station that can automatically apply a pesticide-impregnated collar to feeding deer. The collar can be remotely detached when the insecticide wears off after a period of weeks.
  • Vaccines. The Knipling-Bushland Laboratory is working with industry, APHIS Veterinary Services, the APHIS Center for Veterinary Biologics, and the Texas Animal Health Commission to field test a new anti-tick vaccine containing the antigen Bm86 for efficacy against Rhipicephalus annulatus and R. microplus. Testing involves both cattle and deer. Initial reports indicate that the new anti-tick vaccine is as effective as pesticide treatments against R. annulatus, the cattle fever tick that was the original target for eradication. Additional research by ARS is hoping to discover anti-tick vaccines that are equally effective against R. microplus, considered the most economically important external parasite of cattle worldwide.

Role of Hunting in Tick Control
Early efforts to eradicate cattle fever ticks proceeded smoothly throughout most of the U.S., in part because wild populations of white-tailed deer were not abundant due to overharvest. In the swamplands of south-central Florida, however, which were largely inaccessible to hunters, deer were abundant. Those high deer densities sustained tick populations during pasture vacation, when cattle were taken off the range. In 1932, a Florida hunter harvested a white-tailed deer infested with cattle fever ticks. Following that discovery, white-tailed deer were systematically exterminated in the Florida counties of Orange, Osceola, Highlands, Glades, Hendry, and Collier.

Such wide-scale slaughter of deer to control ticks is no longer feasible or desirable because wildlife holds great value in society, and the economic impacts of hunting and fishing help support Texas communities. However, hunting as part of a science based management approach can help control deer populations and supplement other control measures. To balance the interests of our wildlife populations, hunters, and domestic livestock producers, it’s essential to maintain sustainable and responsible management of wild deer populations in the cattle fever tick permanent quarantine area and beyond.

Wildlife News Roundup (June 21-27, 2014)

Mon, 2014-06-30 10:00

The following clips reflect recent wildlife-related news coverage in the media. The Wildlife Society does not independently verify any statements or assertions in these articles. The statements expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official TWS policy unless so stated. Likewise, products mentioned herein are not endorsed by The Wildlife Society unless so stated.

Two humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) surface off the coast of Australia. The North Pacific population has grown substantially from about 1,000 in the late 1990s to nearly 22,000 whales today. (Credit: Michael Dawes)

Humpback Whales May Lose ‘Endangered’ Status
(Scientific American)
Alaska’s humpback whales swam a little closer to losing their status as an endangered species after being federally protected for more than 40 years, a U.S. agency said. Alaska in a Feb. 26 petition asked federal fisheries managers to scrap the “endangered” classification of the central north Pacific population of humpbacks under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, citing population growth and existing regulations it says protect the migratory mammals. More

 

 

NEWS FROM NORTH AMERICA

Judge Sets 2018 Deadline for Effort to Save Canada Lynx
(The Associated Press via Valley News)
A federal judge set a 2018 deadline for the government to complete a long-delayed recovery plan for imperiled Canada lynx in the Lower 48 states. Wildlife advocates had asked U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to push the government into faster action on the snow-loving big cats, which were added to the list of threatened species in 2000. But after federal officials said budget issues and competing priorities were slowing their work, Molloy indicated in an order that he was reluctant to second-guess them. More

Tufted Puffin Seen on Atlantic Coast for 1st Time Since 1830s
(CBC News)
The first sighting of a tufted puffin on the east coast of North America in almost 200 years has people wondering how the common Pacific coast seabird made it to the Atlantic waters. Ralph Eldridge, the lighthouse keeper on Machias Seal Island in the Bay of Fundy, spotted the bird and noted it was different from the thousands of Atlantic puffins found at the Canadian Wildlife Service sanctuary on the island. More

Invasive, Non-Native Snakes Showing Up Across California
(Capital Public Radio)
Researchers at UC Davis say two non-native water snakes may threaten fragile aquatic species in California. Their study shows that about 300 individuals of the Common Watersnake and the Southern Watersnake have been found in the Sacramento area and in Long Beach. The snakes are common to waterways in the eastern United States but they are not native to California. More

Earlier Snowmelt Prompting Earlier Breeding of Arctic Birds
(Science Codex)
A new collaborative study that included the work of Wildlife Conservation Society biologists has revealed that migratory birds that breed in Arctic Alaska are initiating nests earlier in the spring, and that snowmelt occurring earlier in the season is a big reason why. The report, “Phenological advancement in arctic bird species: relative importance of snow melt and ecological factors,” appears in the current on-line edition of the journal Polar Biology. More

Report: BC’s Rising Oil Spill Risk Threatens Otters
(The Tyee)
New risks from Canadian oil tanker spills confront the 1,100 sea otters living around the Olympic Peninsula, said an internal report of March 2014 by the Washington State Ecology Department. The otters live from Point Grenville to Neah Bay on the rocky and perilous west coast of the state, about half of them around Destruction Island. Their cousins who share the Salish Sea north of the B.C. border are considered an endangered species in Canada. More

Nature Science Journal Publishes Comment Calling for Oil Sands Development Moratorium in Canada
(Vancouver Observer)
The prestigious science journal, Nature, has published a comment calling for a moratorium on new oil sands projects in Alberta, Canada, due to serious policy flaws around how oil sands-related decisions are made. The authors — who include economists, policy researchers, ecologists, and decision scientists — say the Canadian government has flawed policy that doesn’t address carbon emissions or the cumulative effect of multiple projects. More

Hammerhead Sharks’ Unique Traits May Doom Them
(Conservation Magazine)
Hammerhead sharks are some of the most easily recognizable predators in the world, and are among the better-liked sharks. They were the most popular choice when researcher Austin Gallagher and colleagues asked citizen scientists to name their favorite shark. But despite their unique appearance and their ability to capture the imaginations of regular people, hammerhead populations are in decline throughout their historic range, thanks primarily to overexploitation and to bycatch. More

Deforestation is Bad News for Fish, But Why?
(Conservation Magazine)
Fish rely on forests for their very survival. That’s because, in a way, they eat them. Debris from forests finds their way into rivers, lakes and streams. The bacteria in the water break down the leaves and bits of tree bark and dead animals. Then the zooplankton eat those bacteria, and the fish eat the zooplankton. The “boreal zone” — that is, the sub-Arctic areas of places like Canada and Russia contain more than 60 percent of the planet surface’s fresh water. More

Baby Eagle on Webcam is Allowed to Die
(Los Angeles Times)
Baby eagles die. It’s nature. But when it occurs on a webcam, it becomes personal. Over the weekend, a chick in a camera-monitored nest in Maine perished, and those watching knew that it was coming. The parents seemed to have abandoned the nest, which held two eaglets. There were calls by the public for wildlife officials to step in and save the chick. But officials decided not to, and the baby died. More

WILDLIFE HEALTH AND DISEASE NEWS

Elk Hoof Rot Disease Raises Further Questions for Wildlife Experts
(Longview News Journal via The Spokesman-Review)
Elk in southwest Washington with severe symptoms of a disturbing hoof disease will likely be euthanized to put them out of their misery as no treatment has been found, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say. The timing of the culling hasn’t been decided, according to Jerry Nelson, WDFW deer and elk section manager. Since 2008, WDFW has received increasing reports of elk with misshapen hooves in six counties. More

USDA Gives $8 million to Help Declining Honey Bee Population
(Desert Valley Times via The Spectrum)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program incentives for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for declining honey bee populations. More than half of the commercially managed honey bees are in these five states during the summer. The funds come in addition to $3 million USDA designated to the Midwest states to support bee populations earlier this year. More

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Tanzania: Poaching Almost Contained in Wildlife Management Areas
(All Africa)
There has never been a single case of jumbo poaching in the vast wilderness stretching over a 500-kilometer borderline that separates Tanzania and Kenya for nearly five years now. According to wildlife officials, mapping northern Tanzania and southern Kenya precincts, elephants and other wild animals have started to replenish in the vicinity where Wildlife Management Areas in Longido, West-Kilimanjaro and Engaresero operate. More

Invincible Super Rats Sweeping Across the UK
(ITV)
New evidence uncovered by the University of Huddersfield shows that rats across large swathes of Britain have now genetically evolved to withstand commonly available poisons. The research found that some towns had rats that were 100 percent resistant to over-the-counter poisons. Rats have long been considered deadly pests — spreading disease, damaging food stocks and damaging homes. More

Islet Lizards Can Learn to Evade Feral Cats
(Conservation Magazine)
Island species are disproportionally at risk for extinction, since they have no adaptations against exotic predators such as feral cats (Felis silvestris catus). A new study shows that naive island lizards may be highly susceptible to cats, and yet their ancestral anti-predator defenses could help them adapt to these new and future threats. More

Comment Period Extended for Critical Habitat Rules

Fri, 2014-06-27 09:36

An endangered California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) soars over Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service recently proposed two new rules related to better protecting critical habitat of listed species. (Credit: Kim Valverde, USFWS)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have extended the comment period for three proposals they announced in May that are designed to make the designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act more “efficient, transparent, and legally defensible,” as described in a recent TWS article, Agencies Propose Rules on Critical Habitat Designation.

Comments on the rules can now be submitted through October 9, 2014, a three-month extension from the original deadline. The proposed rules involve an alteration to the definition of “adverse modification” — an alteration to habitat that diminishes its value to the listed species. Federal agencies cannot permit or fund activities that would “adversely modify” or destroy critical habitat. In addition, the process used when designating critical habitat is being clarified and its purpose better defined. Lastly, the proposed policies intend to make the process of excluding certain areas from consideration as critical habitat more predictable and simplified.

Comments must be submitted separately for each proposed rule or policy.

Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal and enter the appropriate Docket Number in the search box:
• FWS-HQ-ES-2012-0096 for regulation changes for designating critical habitat
• FWS-R9-ES-2011-0072 for regulation changes relating to definition of destruction or adverse modification
• FWS-R9-ES-2011-0104 for the proposed policy on critical habitat exclusions

Sources: Greenwire (June 20, 2014), USFWS (accessed June, 2014), Federal Register (June 26, 2014)

Forest Service to Amend Travel Management Rule

Thu, 2014-06-26 10:35

An over-snow vehicle or OSV sits amidst a vast expanse of snow-covered land in the Arapaho/Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado. The U.S. Forest Service plans to revise its Travel Management Rule that regulates use of OSVs, calling for better management of these vehicles in national forests. (Credit: Brock McCormick, USFS)

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) recently proposed to amend the Travel Management Rule (TMR), finalized in 2005, which requires USFS to designate areas open to motor vehicle use. TMR was deemed necessary because of a large increase in off-road vehicle use from 1982 to2009. However, other recreational uses of national forests such as bird watching, backpacking, and hunting also increased in this same time period, leading USFS to write the TMR rule to provide sustainable use of national forest lands while balancing the needs of a diverse set of user groups.

Although the original rule gave the Forest Service authority to devise an over-snow vehicle (OSV) travel plan, it wasn’t required to do so and, as a result, not all national forests have a system in place to regulate the use of OSVs. Now, under the revised rule, USFS will be required to designate roads, trails, and areas of national forest system lands where OSV use is allowed, restricted, or prohibited.

USFS states that OSVs tend to cause fewer disruptions than other off road vehicles, such as ATVs and motor bikes, to natural and cultural resources since they do not travel directly on the ground. As a result, the proposed rule will give USFS the ability to allow OSV use “off-trail” — meaning OSVs will not always be restricted to a road or trail, but will be allowed to travel freely within a designated use area. USFS also concludes that the proposed rule falls under an exemption of the National Environmental Policy Act and will therefore not require the preparation of an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement, which if prepared, would have evaluated the environmental effects of the proposed changes to the TMR.

USFS is accepting comments on the proposed rule until August 4, 2014. Submit comments electronically by following the instructions at the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Comments also may be submitted by mail to the U.S. Forest Service, Attn: Joseph Adamson, Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources Staff, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Stop 1125, Washington, DC 20250-1125.

Sources: Federal Register (June 18, 2014), Center for Biological Diversity (accessed June, 2014)

Experts Release Recommendations on Wildlife Trafficking Plan

Wed, 2014-06-25 09:58

Two white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) enjoy the relative safety of Nakuru National Park in Kenya. Rhinos are under threat from poachers interested in selling their valuable horns illegally — one of the many aspects of wildlife trafficking the President’s Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking aims to address. (Credit: Karl Stromayer, USFWS)

The Federal Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking (Council) — an advisory body of experts in wildlife trade — recently released a list of specific recommendations on how to implement the President’s National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking announced in February. The Council is led by Judith McHale, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Affairs and includes members from the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and African Wildlife Foundation. The document will now be reviewed by the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, a panel of federal officials headed by Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell. The Council and Task Force will work jointly to implement the recommendations once they are finalized.

The U.S. is one of the world’s largest markets for both legal and illegal wildlife and wildlife products. The national strategy seeks to address these and other issues by acting as a guiding document to direct U.S. federal agencies to share information and resources to address the problem of illegal wildlife trade, which is purported to bring in over $19 billion per year to international crime syndicates.

The Council’s recommendations fall within three main categories — strengthening enforcement, reducing demand, and expanding international cooperation and commitment. In order to strengthen enforcement, the Council proposes an increase in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the three U.S. agencies mainly responsible for enforcing wildlife-related laws. The Council further recommends that U.S. federal law enforcement agencies increase the number of wildlife trafficking prosecutions, seek more serious punishments for violators, and expand undercover investigations into suspected wildlife trafficking operations.

By convening experts in behavior change and communication, the Council hopes to achieve more effective demand reduction strategies. Specifically, in order to make poaching-related activities socially unacceptable in countries where most poaching occurs, plans to facilitate behavior change should be encouraged and matching funds provided for private initiatives which engage in these pursuits.

To meet the Council’s recommendation on expanding international cooperation and commitment, the U.S. CITES delegation is encouraged to aggressively advance the President’s agenda on wildlife trafficking. Further, the establishment of an African wildlife trafficking information center, which would provide a single, comprehensive and searchable database of information relating to African wildlife trafficking is highly encouraged. The information center would also provide a credible third-party source of information on population trends of particular African species of concern, such as the African elephant and rhinoceros.

Sources: Greenwire (June 18, 2014), Federal Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking Report (June 9, 2014), USFWS (accessed June, 2014)

Thought from the Executive Director

Tue, 2014-06-24 12:19

I want to talk briefly about the TWS draft strategic plan and steps we are taking at headquarters to prepare for its implementation. The plan has been discussed in previous issues of The Wildlifer, and is accessible to members in draft form through this link. It includes a vision for the Society for the next five years, five strategic themes to help us achieve this vision, and a template for developing and implementing annual operational plans to meet the thematic goals. The schedule for finalizing the plan calls for the Council to consider input from Society members and then vote on a final plan at the October Council meeting during our annual conference in Pittsburgh.

In brief, the five themes in the plan are:

- Sustainability.Thisthemefocuses on the role of the Society in promoting and contributing to the future of wildlife conservation. Major thrusts address the production and use of sound science to inform conservation, advocacy for wildlife conservation, efforts to increase public awareness, and active engagement in developing the next generation of professionals.

- Leadership.This theme defines the Society’s role in connecting to partners in the conservation community and strengthening the voice of conservation through leadership on wildlife issues. Key objectives include serving as a primary source of scientific information about wildlife and their habitats, collaborating with conservation partners, and the promotion of professional ethics and an ethical code of conduct.

- Service. This themereflects the Society’s role in providing services and benefits to its members. Its primary elements include maintaining and enhancing communications with members, sharing information about wildlife science and management with members, sustaining a professional certification function, providing training and other forms of professional development, managing top-quality conferences, and developing other opportunities for member collaborations.

- Integration. With this theme the emphasis is on integration and networking among Society members and partners. This includes better linkages among chapters, sections, working groups, and TWS international; improved outreach and support by TWS international to the chapters, sections, and working groups; and development of networking/communication channels through the new Conservation Affairs Network.

- Business Management.This signifies our commitment to good business and management approaches in the TWS enterprise. It includes ongoing improvement and use of sound business practices in all TWS business operations, a commitment to and use of generally accepted accounting principles, the promotion of diversity as a key operational objective, and the growth of TWS assets in accordance with the Society’s financial and investment policies.

Communication is Key

These five strategic themes form the core of the new plan and a roadmap for the Society over the next five years. To one degree or another, they all express long-standing aspirations for the Society. But most if not all of them also require expanded capacities in the Society for communications, networking, and performance tracking. For example, enhanced communications channels—and especially e-communications—can play obvious roles in member recruitment and renewal, in promoting our conferences, in collaborating with conservation partners, and in networking with chapters, sections, and working groups. Becoming a more connected and supportive organization that can provide leadership in wildlife science and conservation depends on our ability to get the word out and engage partners. And that in turn requires an effective information and communications infrastructure.

With that in mind, we are currently engineering major improvements in all the Society’s communications channels. After a successful staff restructuring, we have been able to devote new resources to expand our capacity in web design and e-communications in support of the broad range of activities identified in the plan. This will enable us to better communicate The Wildlife Society’s strategic messages, promote TWS to the conservation community, and facilitate networking and cooperation among members and partners.

One major example is the redesign of our website, with a launch expected in July. The website is being designed to be more dynamic, attractive, and intuitive for use by TWS members and the public at large. It will feature a streamlined toolbar, tabs for easier navigation by users, and other user-friendly features. More importantly, it will highlight a broader range of content—including a wide range of wildlife science, management and conservation news, TWS updates from headquarters, sections, chapters and working groups, information about member benefits, policy initiatives, and TWS books and journals. We hope that you find the site more accessible and useful, and that you’ll return to it frequently for information about the Society and wildlife issues in general.

We also have designed a new website for our annual conference, which is now accessible through the TWS home page or directly at http://wildlifesociety.org/. Content about the conference will continue to be added to the site as we get nearer to the conference, to make it easier for members, exhibitors, sponsors, and potential attendees in obtaining information about the conference and encourage their attendance and participation. Registration for the conference is now open with a $50 discount for registering by August 31.

Beyond the web, we are also upgrading our electronic newsletters—The Wildlifer and Wildlife Policy News—to make them more attractive, informative, and useful to readers. In addition, we soon will initiate improvements on our member and partner web portals, so as to enhance their value to the users. Finally, we are revamping our use of social media like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to raise the visibility of the Society and encourage members, partners, and the public to take a look at us through all our e-media resources.

These are just some of the improvements that are being designed to serve the goals in the strategic plan, while improving our communications and networking. We are cognizant of concerns many have about implementing sweeping changes in the Society, including changes in the “public face” we present to the conservation community through our online communications. So we are building on our existing communication framework, with revisions that are designed to highlight what’s familiar while enhancing the user experience. Please take a look as things proceed, and let us know if you think we are on the right track.

News from Headquarters

Tue, 2014-06-24 12:10

Strategic Plan

As mentioned in the Executive Director’s address and in the May Wildlifer, The Wildlife Society draft 5-year strategic plan is provided here. We welcome feedback from members and encourage you to provide input to your Council representatives and TWS staff regarding the plan. Council and staff anticipate approving a final plan at the fall 2014 Council meeting in Pittsburgh.

New Student Chapter Approved at Northland College

The Executive Board of the North Central Section of The Wildlife Society approved the petition to establish a student chapter at Northland College (Wisconsin). The Wildlife Society approved formation of the chapter on June 5, 2014. Congratulations and welcome!

Annual Conference News

Tue, 2014-06-24 12:08

Register Now!

The Wildlife Society Annual Conference is being held in Pennsylvania for the first time! This is also only the second time in the last 15 years that the event has landed in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country. So mark your calendar for October 25-30 and plan to experience TWS live in Pittsburgh. Registration is now open and we are offering a $50 discount for everyone who registers for the full conference prior to August 31. Get a sneak peek at what’s in store for you at www.wildlifesociety.org.

Reserve your Space Today

Many alumni groups and special interest groups host meetings and receptions at our conference. These events are a great way to connect with colleagues who share your interests and educational backgrounds! If you’d like a meeting space for your group, submit your request today as spaces are provided on a first come, first served basis. There’s no charge for the space, however, you are responsible for any audio-visual and food or beverage expenses you incur.

The Request for Associated Reception or Working Group Meeting is available here. The deadline for submission of requests is June 30, 2014.

Student Travel Grants

The Wildlife Society announces the availability of travel grants for TWS student members presenting a technical paper or poster at the 21st Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. Travel grants of up to $500 will be awarded to a limited number of students.

Apply now for a travel grant through OASIS, our online site, through the link provided at http://wildlifesociety.org/student-travel-grants/. Applications and all supporting materials for student travel grants must be received by July 25, 2014.

Policy News

Tue, 2014-06-24 12:05

USDA Urged to Include Early Imaging for Wetlands Determinations

In a recent letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, TWS and other partner organizations urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consistently include early growing season imagery into the wetlands determination process.

Incorporating early season imagery ensures that temporary and seasonal wetlands are included in determinations. This is especially important in areas such as the prairie pothole region in the upper mid-west where 90 percent of wetlands are temporary or seasonal. The prairie pothole region is critical for waterfowl and upland game birds in addition to being important for improving water quality and assisting flood attenuation. If early season imagery is incorporated with current methods, such as late-summer FSA imagery and National Wetlands Inventory data, it should lead to a more accurate and transparent process.

TWS Provides Testimony to Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee

TWS provided written testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, encouraging subcommittee members to consider the recommendations of wildlife professionals as they work on the FY 2015 budget.

The testimony covered the budgets for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Within FWS, TWS supported the President’s funding request for many programs, including the operations and maintenance accounts for the National Wildlife Refuge System ($476.4 million), North American Wetlands Conservation Act ($34.1 million), and the International Affairs office ($14.6 million). TWS also supported the President’s funding request for Ecological Services, which was newly divided into three subunits in the President’s budget; $28 million for Listing, $105 million for Planning and Consultation, and $124 million for Conservation and Restoration.

The President requested a cut of $8.7 million to the budget of the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program, a key program providing funding directly to states which allows them to conserve species at-risk within their borders. TWS recommended that at least $58.7 million be allocated for this unique program, restoring the program’s budget to FY 2014 levels.

Within BLM, TWS’ outlined its support for funding the Wild Horse and Burro Management program at the requested level of $80.2 million, but only if BLM continues removing excess horses from the range at a reasonable rate and focuses resources on habitat restoration.

TWS also asked the Subcommittee to support the President’s request for the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units ($18.5 million) in USGS, and the Integrated Resource Restoration program ($820 million) in USFS.

Teaming With Wildlife Seeks Level Funding for State and Tribal Wildlife Grants

The Teaming With Wildlife (TWW) steering committee, of which TWS is a member, urged the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to restore funding to the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program (SWG) within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in written testimony.

In the President’s FY15 budget, funding was reduced to $50 million, a significant decrease from the $58.7 million appropriated in FY14. Overall, SWG has already seen a funding reduction of 35 percent since FY10. TWW requests that funding for the program, considering the fiscal constraints our nation is facing, remain at $58.7 million for FY15.

There is broad, bipartisan support for SWG within this coalition of conservationists, businesses, and farmers and ranchers. SWG is the only federal program with the goal of preventing species from being listed on the federal endangered species list. Partnerships in every state utilize the grant money to conserve at-risk fish and wildlife, including candidate species. Cuts to the SWG’s budget have impaired the ability of states and their partners to implement projects designed to protect the over 12,000 species identified in States’ Wildlife Action Plans.

Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Asked to Include Wildfire Disaster Funding Act

TWS urged the leadership of the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to include funding provisions from the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA) in the FY 15 Interior appropriations bill.

Wildfires, especially in the western U.S., are increasing in severity due to recent changes in weather patterns and climate, increased development in the wildland-urban interface, and excessive forest fuel loads. Due to a combination of high temperatures and dry conditions, the fire season has increased in length by two and a half months since the 1970s.

As a result of longer wildfire seasons, larger and more severe fires, and level funding in the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service for wildfire suppression, the cost of fire suppression has necessitated the ‘borrowing’ of an average of $375.9 million annually beyond appropriated levels between 2004 and 2012. Funds are ‘borrowed’ from other agency accounts, causing serious disruptions in agency operations, including those critical to wildlife and habitat management. This level of ‘fire borrowing’ is not sustainable.

The WDFA will fund 70 percent of the average cost for wildfire suppression over the past 10 years through the discretionary annual appropriations process. The remaining 30 percent of the 10 year average and anything beyond the 10 year average (up to $2.869 billion) will be funded from the disaster cap, used by FEMA and other agencies to fund response to natural disasters.

Take Action: Tell EPA You Support the Proposed CWA Rule

The Clean Water Act (CWA) has been a critical protector of our nation’s water for over 40 years. Unfortunately, for almost ten years, 20 million wetland acres and 2 million stream miles have been at increased risk of pollution and destruction because of two Supreme Court rulings that muddles the definition of which waters are covered under the CWA. Because of this lack of clarity, wetlands, intermittent streams, prairie potholes, tributaries, and other bodies of water that provide crucial feeding, breeding, and migration habitat for numerous wildlife species, as well as myriad other ecological services, are currently lacking protection.

Help slow the rate of wetland loss and loss and degradation of many other important aquatic habitats. Take action today and tell the EPA you support their proposed rule to strengthen the CWA and stem the loss of crucial wildlife habitat!

Visit our action center: https://votervoice.net/TWS/Campaigns

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