Huffing and Puffing: The wolf’s strange journey on and off the endangered species list

A good blog on the delisting, relisting, and delisting of the wolf in the Northern  Rockies-

Huffing and Puffing. By Kevin Taylor. The Pacific Northwest Inlander.

Among other things, I like the discussion of the snail darter from back in the 1970s when Congress decided to build a real white elephant of a dam and doom this tiny fish.* Congress has interfered with the ESA before. People should remember that.

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* The snail darter inhabited only the area to be flooded by the Tellico Dam. If it was built, the darter was extinct (or so it was thought . . . more were found later elsewhere). This was the first time the cabinet level Endangered Species Committee or “God squad” was used. The God Squad, however, looked at the matter and decided the Tellico Dam was such a piece of rancid congressional pork that the country would be better off economically, not even to mention the snail darter, if the dam was never completed. This after the dam was 90% done!! Congress loved its pork though, and over-road the Committee and the ESA, and finished the damn dam, violating residents property rights in the process, in the opinion of many whose land was put permanently underwater.

Judge Halts Settlement Over Hundreds of Endangered Species, Orders Parties Back to Negotiations

Turf War or Legitimate Concern ?

Earlier, we took a look at a recent settlement struck between the Interior Department and WildEarth Guardians that seeks to clear the logjam with species listings under the Endangered Species Act.

The settlement would ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make up or down determinations on a host of species, either granting actual protections for warranted species and affording critical habitat to those that warrant protections or determining that they do not warrant protection.

At first glance, the settlement seems to have the potential to do a lot of good – assuming (big) that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does the right thing.  However, groups like the Center for Biological Diversity objected, arguing that the agreement was too weak, too vague and ultimately unenforceable.  The group also objected to the fact that the would-be settling parties went behind CBD’s back, despite its previous involvement in negotiations, pushing the group out of involvement and making unwise concessions despite CBD’s effort and strong legal interest on a vast majority of the species involved.

Today, the Court agreed with CBD’s challenge of the settlement arguing that the way that WildEarth Guardians and the Interior Department went about its settlement was inappropriate, and ordered all parties back into negotiations:

Judge Halts Settlement Over Hundreds of Endangered Species, Orders Parties Back to Negotiations – Center for Biological Diversity Press Release 5/17/2011 Read the rest of this entry »

Interior/WildEarth Guardians agree to analyze backlog of candidate Endangered Species

The list of species the federal government has been more or less forced to consider for ESA protection has been growing longer and longer over the years, and yet it acts very slowly, complaining that species are being added at too fast a rate. Much of the agency’s tiny budget was eaten up responding to new petitions and defending itself from lawsuits trying to force it to consider various species for ESA protection.

Yesterday, however, it was announced the Department of Interior had made a deal with WildEarth Guardians to analyze 251 species in the backlog over the next 6 years. Officials say this will help clear the backlog. In the last four years WildEarth Guardians was filed about 700 petitions to list species. With this deal, Guardians will be allowed to file only up to ten new ESA petitions a year. Guardians will also ask to have all its pending lawsuits in the matter dismissed.

There is no assurance the government will list any species in the agreement, although it is likely quite a few will end being listed. Some, such as the greater sage grouse, are much more controversial than others. The sage grouse is controversial because it has been heavily impacted by the politically potent livestock sector as well as oil, gas, and wind development.

This is an agreement only with Guardians and does not prevent any other group from filing petitions.

Under the ESA, it was not supposed to work this way. The law’s supporters expected the environment-conscious government would discover and list species on its own accord with citizen petititions to list a species serving only as backup. The reality has been much to the opposite, however.

This deal has yet to be approved by a federal judge.

Interior Dept. strikes deal to clear backlog on endangered species listings. By Juliet Eilperin. Washington Post.

Wild Earth Guardians web site on the agreement

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More on 5-12-2011. The deal includes the sage grouse. Felicity Barringer at the New York Times tells how the sage grouse got to where it is. A Bird’s Convoluted Conservation Odyssey

Interior to Publish Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Delisting Rule

Salazar announces wolves delisted in Rockies and hunting can begin – Idaho Statesman

Wolves will be delisted in the Northern Rockies except Wyoming on Thursday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

The rule would reinstate the 2009 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the gray wolf in Idaho and Montana, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northern Utah.

Download NR Wolf Delisting Reissuance

Western Watersheds Project expects to file litigation in U.S. District court challenging the delisting rider.

Montana proposes 220-wolf hunting quota for 2011 season

If filled, the quota will result in estimated 25% reduction in state wolf population-

Montana’s wolf hunt is expected to be easier on the state’s wolf population than Idaho’s. With the congressional delisting of the wolf in the Northern Rockies, Montana and Idaho can pretty do what they want in terms of wolf quotas.

State wildlife officials propose 220-wolf quota for 2011 season. By Eve Byron Helena Independent Record.

Also, Obama administration takes wolves off endangered species list. AP.  They are also delisting the Great Lakes population, which is certainly ready. Unfortunately, all three states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have fallen to tea party governors. Michigan’s seems as bad as Wisconsin’s notorious Scott Walker.

New Mexico’s Rep. Steve Pearce spreading lies and hysteria

Long time wildlife foe, Pearce spreading lies about protecting lizard and jobs-

Politics and reality clash in New Mexico. Posted on May 1, 2011 by Bob Berwyn. Summit County Citizens Voice.

Although he was out of office for a couple years, newly elected Pearce (R-US Rep)  is up to his old tricks, made meaner for these lean times.

Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says protecting the lizard will cost no jobs, Pearce says it will have a big effect.

My view is these people (Republican office-holders like Pearce) can play around with causing a default on the national debt without worrying about jobs, but they won’t let this get past them  — a lizard versus oil jobs is just too good for rabble rousing to let it pass.

Kiren Suckling executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity called, “Congressman Pearce’s campaign of misinformation and hysteria is a threat to democracy.” A healthy democracy requires good information and trustworthy politicians. When people like Pearce abuse their positions of power and promote hysteria with fear mongering, they undermine the foundation of democracy and civil society.” This is from “Group Calls on New Mexico Congressman to Recant False Statements About Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. News Release.

Ivanpah solar project would disturb thousands of desert tortoises

Desert Tortoise, Dr. Michael Connor

The Ivanpah solar thermal project consists of 5.4 square miles of high quality habitat for the Endangered Species Act protected desert tortoise, a fact that developers (and some investors) underestimated resulting in the temporary suspension of activities on phases 2 and 3 of the project site due to construction activities exceeding the incidental take limit (number of tortoises allowed to be disturbed) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set at 38 Endangered Species Act protected desert tortoises.

The temporary suspension of activities prompted the Bureau of Land Management to take a closer look, and issue a Revised Biological Assessment   () estimating the number of desert tortoise the project may impact given what we now know.  As it turns out, the initial incidental take limit of 38 was off the mark to the tune of thousands of desert tortoises:

More than 3,000 desert tortoises would be disturbed by a solar project in northeast San Bernardino County and as many as 700 young ones would be killed during three years of building, says a federal assessment issued Tuesday.

Read the rest of this entry »