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

“Extinct” Japanese salmonid found unextinguished after 70 years

Living black kokanee found . . . enough for a recovery-

Scientist says he found Japanese fish thought extinct. Associated Press.

The fish were found in Lake Saiko, about 500 kilometers south of their native lake where they were killed off in the 1940s.

Can Vladimir Putin save endangered tigers?

Russian leader gives big boost to the International Tiger Forum-

Vladimir Putin has been making quite a name for himself in recent years as a man of outdoor activity, and one not afraid of large carnivores. He hopes to save the tiger from extinction. The International Tiger Forum hopes to raise an astonishing $350-million for tiger conservation with his help and others such as head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick.

Perhaps the weenies of the West (politicians in the interior Western United States) might emulate him when it comes to powerful impressive animals.

Can Vladimir Putin save endangered tigers? The Week

The article above says Russia sees the tiger as a symbol of national strength.  Around here it seems to be the cow, or, more likely, the sheep.

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Update: Russia, China pledge to save the tiger. By Alissa de Carbonnel. News Daily

New Hurdle for California Condors May Be DDT From Years Ago

DDT breakdown products and lead poisoning still threaten this high profile endangered species-

New Hurdle for California Condors May Be DDT From Years Ago. By John Moir. New York Times.

‘Loma Bear’ returns, caught near Carter Carter area

Rare grizzly living on the Montana plains likely to be killed

A grizzly bear that was relocated from near Loma, Montana to west of the Continental Divide last year has been recaptured on the plains of Montana after being accused of killing more sheep and some chickens. Authorities have approached the Bear Center at Washington State University to see if they can accept the bear. He will likely be killed if a home cannot be found for him.

‘Loma Bear’ returns, caught near Carter Carter area
BY KARL PUCKETT • Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer

Obama Administration Denies Big Lost River Whitefish Endangered Species Protection

Rules that isolated population is not a distinct population

The mountain whitefish of the Big Lost River Basin was denied endangered species protection by Ken Salazar’s US Fish and Wildlife Service. They argued that the fish could not be considered a separate species, sub-species, or distinct population segment even though they have been isolated from other whitefish for more than 10,000 years and their habitat is being destroyed by water diversions and livestock grazing.

Big Lost Basin Whitefish - Idaho Department of Fish Game

Big Lost Basin Whitefish - Idaho Department of Fish Game

Because of this isolation they have become genetically divergent form other populations and should be considered a distinct population segment. In fact, one report, which examined the genetic traits of these fish found them to be the most genetically distinct population.  The problem is that the USFWS based nearly their entire reasoning on genetics when little is really known about how important even slight variations may be in fish populations which are easily reproductively isolated and have very different ecological pressures as opposed to widespread land animals.  The USFWS didn’t consider distinct life history, habitat, or behavioral qualities. The idea that they are not a DPS doesn’t even pass the sniff test.

While whitefish are plentiful in many other places, this isolated population has been severely affected by irrigation dams which prevent movement up and down stream, dewater entire sections of river, and are not screened so fish are diverted into fields.

Cattle grazing has also eliminated them from some of the smaller streams such as Antelope Creek and the entire Copper Basin.

Mountain Whitefish in Big Lost River will not be protected
Idaho State Journal

Feds: No protection for whitefish
By SIMMI AUJLA – Associated Press

Millions of sea turtles dying in fishing gear, report warns

Bycatch and habitat loss have imperiled sea turtles world wide.

Green Sea Turtle in Hawaii © Ken Cole

Green Sea Turtle in Hawaii © Ken Cole

“Trawlers are completely indiscriminate. The target might be shrimp but for every pound of shrimp that might comp up with a given haul, there might have five or 20lbs of bycatch. That could be turtles, it could be all sorts of things,” said Wallace, a professor at Duke University and science adviser to Conservation International.

Millions of sea turtles dying in fishing gear, report warns
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent – Guardian UK