Monday, June 20, 2005

Quick endangered species roundup

Haven't done this in a while, so I'll go through my bulging folders and toss some links at you.

First, the Center for Biological Diversity reports that the Fish and WIldlife Service has a list of 286 species awaiting assessment for listing as endangered species. Average waiting time: 17 years!

Of course, the Bush administration is the slowest in history, listing only 30 species, roughly 7 per year. At a time when the biodiversity crisis is getting worse, that's bad news.

The FWS is having trouble putting together the pieces in this puzzle as well:

Wildlife officials say they have no suspects in their investigation into poisoned bait left for wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho.

"Poison cases are very hard to make, especially when it's showing up mostly on public land," said Roy Brown, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent based in Wyoming. "Short of seeing someone put it out, how do you tie it back to people?"

On June 3, Fish and Wildlife Service agents confirmed that a male gray wolf found dead last month in the wilderness area was killed by eating meat laced with a gray granular pesticide known as Temik. The pesticide is commonly applied to agricultural crops such as potatoes and sugar beets.
But the grizzly bear may get delisted in the Greater Yellowstone area. I don't know if this is good or bad, but I'm very skeptical. Even a successful grizzly population will be very low density and subject to rapid loss of genetic diversity due to random chance.

In a story which I'm sure is unrelated, the Bureau of Land Management edited a report on grazing to remove critical comments:
A government biologist and a hydrologist, who both retired this year from the Bureau of Land Management, said their conclusions that the proposed new rules might adversely affect water quality and wildlife, including endangered species, were excised and replaced with language justifying less stringent regulations favored by cattle ranchers.

The original draft of the environmental analysis warned that the new rules would have a "significant adverse impact" on wildlife, but that phrase was removed. The bureau now concludes that the grazing regulations are "beneficial to animals."

Eliminated from the final draft was another conclusion that read: "The Proposed Action will have a slow, long-term adverse impact on wildlife and biological diversity in general."

Also removed was language saying how a number of the rule changes could adversely affect endangered species.

"This is a whitewash. They took all of our science and reversed it 180 degrees," said Erick Campbell, a former BLM state biologist in Nevada and a 30-year bureau employee who retired this year. He was the author of sections of the report pertaining to the effect on wildlife and threatened and endangered species.

"They rewrote everything," Campbell said in an interview this week. "It's a crime."

Campbell and the other retired bureau scientist who criticized the rules were among more than a dozen BLM specialists who contributed to the environmental impact statement. Others who worked on the original draft could not be reached or did not return calls seeking comment.
The spotted owl is back in the news as the FWS reviews the California subspecies, no doubt wackiness will ensue.

The FWS is investigating the death of 200 endangered grey bats in Arkansas:

Several of the bats appeared to have been shot with a shotgun as they hibernated in clumps of about 170 bats per square foot, Bitting said.

Many of the bats were not killed by shotgun pellets but appeared to have been deafened by the shotgun blasts in the enclosed space of the cave.

Bats rely on sound waves to navigate, and the bats that were deafened appeared to have flown into walls and formations in the cave and died, Bitting said.

The people working on black-footed ferret recovery are underfunded, threatening a fairly successful program.

An application to list a pygmy rabbit was rejected.

A population of spruce grouse in Alaska may be a new subspecies and researchers are investigating whether it needs to be listed. Neat biology.

The CRP program helps endangered prairie chickens. CRP is a soil conservation program that pays farmers to let native plants grow wild on their fields.

More to come.