Thriving ranches and thriving wildlife.
Working lands stitch together the patchwork of landscapes that create the character of the West and the open space valued by so many, both people and wildlife. The Working WildChallenge is a landowner-led effort that recognizes the challenge of ranching with wildlife, and facilitates constructive dialogue between wildlife managers and working lands stewards to solve problems through peer learning, public policies, and increasing access to technical and financial assistance. Our approach leads to stronger partnerships, more resilient ranches, and ultimately, better-connected landscapes.
THE FOUR C's OF THE WWC
Conflict prevention, Control, Compensation & Collaboration
Conflict prevention tools need durable sources of funding to allow producers to implement these nonlethal methods within an adaptive framework.
Lethal control is a critical tool in managing large carnivores on working landscapes; supporting, not undermining, conflict prevention.
Compensation for losses to predation is a reasonable and important form of public support for policies that expand the ranges of widely-valued wildlife like wolves and bears.
Collaboration engages landowners early and meaningfully in decision-making processes and is critical to both effectiveness and equity when developing wildlife policies and land management plans.
Wildlife News from the West
Santa Fe New Mexican
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by May 26 whether to relist the bird under the Endangered Species Act to comply with a court order spurred by three conservation groups suing the agency in 2019.
Germany’s wolf population has risen sharply in recent years — as has the amount of farm animals killed. Wolves are a protected species, but farmers are fed up. Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner recently announced the launch of Germany’s new federal center for livestock and wolves.
“Just as the wolf is entitled to protection, so are our livestock,” Klöckner said. “We need them to maintain and preserve our cultural landscape.” The return of the wolf, she said, should not “lead to the existence of livestock being threatened in some regions of Germany.”
In a five-year status review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended that grizzly bears in the lower 48 states remain protected under the Endangered Species Act — drawing immediate complaints from officials in Wyoming and western states. “The grizzly bear in the lower-48 states is not currently in danger of extinction throughout all of its range, but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future,” the report, released late last month, concludes.
The Durango Herald
The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners continues to oppose gray wolf reintroduction into the Western Slope, a plan narrowly approved by Colorado voters in November. Commissioners passed a resolution March 23 called “Making Montezuma County A Sanctuary From Wolf Reintroduction.”
The nonbinding resolution is a position statement that says bringing wolves to the county threatens the livestock industry, poses a danger to the local economy and could transmit diseases to pets and humans.
Wyoming News Now
The U.S. Bureau of Management is accepting public comments through the end of April on plans to remove some 3,500 wild horses from public land in southwestern Wyoming. The federal agency seeks to allow between 1,500 and 2,165 wild horses in areas of the Red Desert outside Rock Springs. An estimated 5,105 wild horses currently live in those areas.
The roundups could begin as soon as July and be completed this year or occur over several years. The horses would be sent to holding facilities where they would be prepared for adoption. Horses that don’t meet adoption criteria would be sent to off-range pastures.
Wildlife advocates recently sued federal officials in a bid for greater protections for monarch butterflies, northern spotted owls and eight other species. The lawsuit comes after federal officials said the species named in the lawsuit need protections, but that other imperiled plants and animals have higher priority.
A federal judge has blocked a Nevada project that would expand livestock grazing across 400 squares miles (1,036 square kilometers) of some of the highest priority sage-grouse habitat in the West and accused the government of deliberately misleading the public by underestimating damage the cattle could do to the land.
The ruling comes as scientists continue to document dramatic declines in greater sage-grouse populations across 11 western states — down 65% since 1986 and 37% since 2002, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally helped pay for a Colorado program to kill dozens of mountain lions and black bears in an experiment to determine if the predators were partly responsible for declining mule deer populations, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Marcia Krieger in Denver found that Fish and Wildlife failed to do a required analysis of the program’s environmental effects, possibly so it could fast-track federal funding for most of the $4 million program.
The Wyoming Legislature passed a bill March 29th that strips the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission of the authority to close any of Wyoming’s 22 winter elk feedgrounds and gives that power to the governor.
The bill requires the Game and Fish Department and Commission to submit any proposal to close a feedground to the Wyoming Livestock Board for review before it heads to the governor.
In order to save one endangered species, California scientists are having to relocate another iconic creature that is, regrettably, eating it. The California department of fish and wildlife is in the process of moving mountain lions over 100 miles away from struggling populations of bighorn sheep, which are unique to the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The United State Geological Survey (USGS) released a groundbreaking report today showing that Greater-Sage Grouse populations have declined 80 percent since 1965, a more dramatic decline than previously thought. There are more than 350 different species of wildlife and plants as well as hunters, ranchers, and whole communities that depend on a healthy sagebrush steppe.
New York Times
Several bills are headed to Mr. Gianforte’s desk that would allow for more killing of wolves in the state to drive down their numbers. Practices that are being proposed include the use of spotlights at night, which is considered unethical because it temporarily blinds the animal; hunting animals by luring them with bait like wild game or commercial scents; night vision scopes and widening use of neck snares that catch and choke animals to death. Other controversial predator proposals allow hunting black bears with hounds, a practice outlawed a century ago, and placing limits on where wandering grizzlies can be moved, which conservationists say could lead to more bear deaths.
Helena Independent Record
As the human-wildlife interface continues to expand across Montana, the potential for conflicts with grizzly bears increases as well. But Kalispell-based grizzly bear biologist Tim Manley says it doesn’t have to be this way.
By forging relationships with landowners and educating communities on ways to prevent grizzly bear conflict, Manley has flipped the script on people’s willingness to coexist with bears, according to this story by Tristan Scott.
A bill removing grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species List was introduced today by Senator Cynthia Lummis. The bill titled The Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021 was drafted alongside Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho, and Senator Steve Daines of Montana.
The Herald Times
Using funds from the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Program, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has acquired a perpetual conservation easement on the 1,121-acre Coal Creek Ranch in Rio Blanco County. The property will remain in private ownership and continue functioning as a working ranch, protecting critical habitat and migration routes for a host of wildlife species.
A booming Bozeman, Montana threatens to subdivide working landscapes that elk rely on for winter range and important migratory pathways. Maintaining the viability of working lands in Gallatin county is essential to preserving intact elk populations in the future.
In the latest sign that gray wolves — one of the iconic species of the American West — are continuing to expand their presence back into California, state wildlife officials are reporting that a 2-year old male wolf from Oregon who first entered Northern California two months ago has made it all the way south to rural Fresno County.
The 500-mile journey, by a radio-collared wolf known as OR-93, is the farthest south any wolf has been confirmed in California in 99 years, since a wild gray wolf was killed in a steel trap in 1922 in eastern San Bernardino County.
Measures to expand and monetize wolf hunting are moving through the Montana State Legislature, creating clashes about values and vocabulary
Montana Free Press
This week the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee heard testimony on two bills that passed out of the Senate earlier this month with near-unanimous Republican support. Senate Bill 267 would allow for the“reimbursement for receipts of costs incurred relating to the hunting or trapping of wolves.” Another measure, Senate Bill 314, would remove bag limits, authorize hunting with bait and legalize nighttime wolf hunting (a practice known as spotlighting) on private land.
National Audubon Society
Populations show a jump of more than a third in some areas. The National Audubon Society created the Conservation Ranching Initiative (ACR) in order to support ranchers while protecting and renewing grassland habitats and increasing populations of grassland birds. Audubon range ecologists partner with ranchers to develop habitat management plans customized to make their land more bird-friendly through practices including rotational grazing and minimizing the use of chemicals.
Audubon’s science team has developed a Bird-Friendliness Index to quantify ACR’s impact on vulnerable grassland and aridland birds. It measures the abundance, diversity, and resilience of the bird community on ACR-certified ranchland, and compares them to conventionally managed lands.
Federal protections for the lesser prairie chicken could be enacted this spring as a federal judge in 2019 called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide by the end of May. The lesser prairie chicken is a species of grouse native to southeast New Mexico and parts of West Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.
Lee Nellis expands on his previous essay about the limits of collaborative conservation by offering “specifications” for a new Western myth. He proposes four public policies we would adopt if were were guided by a new myth: 1) separate landowner incomes from commodity production, 2) remove public lands from partisan politics and places them in trust, 3) grant citizenship to wildlife and 4) end land speculation.
Once on the verge of extinction, the rarest subspecies of the gray wolf in North America has seen its population nearly double over the last five years, U.S. wildlife managers said recently. The results of the latest annual survey show there are at least 186 Mexican gray wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.
A new study in the journal Science documents declines across hundreds of species over recent decades, and finds years featuring warmer, drier autumns are particularly deadly.
High Country News
Traditional sources of conservation funding are dwindling, and some believe national park visitors should step up. Lawmakers are looking at ways to increase conservation revenue from the millions of tourists who visit national parks each year.
Ailanthus has spread to all but six U.S. states and has gained a foothold on every continent except Antarctica. But there may be a new weapon for fighting back against one of the most invasive species on the continent. The fast-growing tree, native to China, is also a “motel” for harmful non-native insects, like the spotted lanternfly.
Los Angeles Times
The latest gray wolf to make the long journey from Oregon to California has trekked farther south than any wolf tracked in the last century. He brings either hopes of needed genetic diversity or anxieties of predation, depending on who you ask.
The number of monarch butterflies that showed up at their winter resting grounds in central Mexico decreased by about 26% this year, and four times as many trees were lost to illegal logging, drought and other causes, making 2020 a bad year for the butterflies.
(Subscription) The grizzly bear questions will only get tougher for Interior secretary nominee Deb Haaland. If confirmed, the New Mexico Democrat will confront legal, scientific, management and, yes, political challenges concerning grizzlies far more specific than the Republican queries that pressed her during her two-day confirmation hearing.
Legislation that would have overhauled New Mexico’s wildlife management agency stalled in a Senate committee yesterday after a lengthy debate in which opponents warned that proposed changes to the distribution of hunting tags would devastate guides and outfitters and cost rural communities jobs and revenue.
The Colorado Sun
It will take time to ensure that scientists and ranchers, wildlife activists and the rural Western Slope counties where wolves will be reintroduced all have a say on the divisive issue.
Idaho State Journal
An Idaho state House panel yesterday introduced legislation allowing the use of snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, powered parachutes and other methods to hunt and kill wolves year-round and with no limits in most of the state.
The final stats have been compiled on Greater Yellowstone grizzly bears for 2020 and with a few notable exceptions, it was a normal year. The annual report of Grizzly Bear Management Captures, Relocations, and Removals was recently completed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Biologists keep track of such things as bear conflicts with people and livestock and relocations.
The president’s executive order is short on details, but sportsmen’s groups are pushing for it to create more wildlife habitat, and hunting and fishing opportunities. WLA’s policy director Zach Bodhane suggests that habitat leases should be a critical piece of the government’s strategy. Ultimately, he says, leases offer flexibility at a time when all conservation cards should be on the table.
During 2020, G&F captured 26 grizzly bears in 27 capture events in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts. Thirteen captures were a result of bears killing livestock (primarily cattle) and 13 were captures involving bears that obtained food rewards (pet, livestock food, garbage, fruit trees), or were frequenting developed sites or human-populated areas unsuitable for grizzly bear occupancy. This is a continuation of a trend of fewer captures in Wyoming.
The idea isn’t simply to buy up private property or establish traditional easements. Instead, groups like the Western Landowners Alliance, which represents 15 million acres across the western United States and Canada,
see an opportunity to rethink what conservation means.
“Conservation as usual isn’t working, and this is an opportunity to actually do something different and change that trajectory, but it’s going to involve economics and people who live and work on the land,” Lesli Allison, the group’s executive director, told E&E News.
A recent poll of 500 registered voters in Montana shows widespread backing for the conservation of wildlife, including protection of migration corridors for big game species. Large majorities favor highway crossings, private land conservation, and restricted development.
An outbreak of salmonella is killing finches across the western United States. The deaths are believed to be related to an outbreak of salmonellosis, a common and often fatal bird disease caused by salmonella bacteria. The problem appears to be especially bad along coastal Northern California, Oregon and Washington state.
GOP congressman pitches $34 billion plan to breach Lower Snake River dams in new vision for Northwest
The Seattle Times
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson unveiled an energy and infrastructure proposal that would end litigation over endangered salmon in the Northwest, authorizing the removal of four dams on the Snake River in Washington beginning in 2030. The ambitious $33 billion plan serves as a new vision for the Northwest, providing the chance for a fresh start.
Field & Stream
The Biden administration delayed a ruling finalized in the Trump administration’s last days that would significantly weaken bird protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Biden administration’s one-month delay of the new rule will allow for the re-opening of a 20-day comment period for the public to engage with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Biden administration is sticking with a decision to remove the gray wolf from Endangered Species Act protections, at least for now. In a brief letter to an environmental attorney sent Thursday, a senior Fish and Wildlife Service official reiterated the reasons the wolf merited the delisting accomplished during the Trump administration.
The number of western monarch butterflies wintering along the California coast has plummeted precipitously to a record low, putting the orange-and-black insects closer to extinction. An annual winter count by the Xerces Society recorded fewer than 2,000 butterflies, a massive decline from the tens of thousands tallied in recent years and the millions in the 1980s.
The discovery of an elk with chronice wasting disease (CWD), an inevitably fatal disease, in Grand Teton National Park last month could be a harbinger of trouble in the Yellowstone region. It’s also put a spotlight on government-led elk feeding in big feedgrounds, which could provide an opportunity for disease to spread.
Range Writing: Natural Resource News
With the continued spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the hypothesis that wolves could be the “best defense” or “first responders” against further spread has been getting increased airtime. But here’s the deal: just as wolves may reduce CWD spread, wolves may not reduce CWD spread. The impact of wolves on CWD dynamics is little more than speculation at this point.
A quarter of bee species haven’t appeared in public records since 1990, according to a study out today, suggesting that some species have become rare enough that nobody is observing them in nature.
Montana Public Radio
Former Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Martha Williams was appointed on Wednesday as second-in-command at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Biden Administration. As principal deputy director of FWS, Williams will oversee a federal agency tasked with managing wildlife and habitat across the country.
A recent study from Wyoming shows that when the two predators overlap, wolves kill kittens in high numbers and push adults to starvation. While mountain lion populations have expanded across most of the American West, wolves are still trying to recolonize parts of their historic range. Since wolves affect mountain lion abundance so greatly, the study suggests that in places where wolves and mountain lions overlap, officials should implement more restrictive hunting quotas on cats to avoid a crash in their population.
A pair of endangered Mexican gray wolves and their seven pups have been sent from a zoo in New Mexico’s largest city to Mexico as part of conservation efforts in that country. The pack of predators will eventually be released into the wild after they learn to hunt and survive on their own.
Helena Independent Record
Two northwest Montana lawmakers are considering a number of bills that could moderately or significantly change the way Montana manages wolves.
Pending litigation over the Trump administration’s delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act could complicate Colorado’s efforts to reintroduce the wolf to the state.
Pronghorn and mule deer alter their natural movement nearly 40% of the times they encounter fences, according to a Wyoming study that could change how wildlife managers worldwide alleviate the toll imposed by such barriers. Furthermore, researchers observed six different types of altered movements — an important nuance that expands the traditional thinking about fences.
The acquisition of nearly 1,200 acres of private land near the New Mexico-Colorado border will go a long way to protect a migration corridor for elk and other animals. The transfer was completed following three years of negotiations with land owners, the Rocky Mountain Elk foundation and the Bureau of Land Management. The federal agency paid about $900,000 for four private in-holdings located within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
The Trump administration has cut designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl by millions of acres in Oregon, Washington and California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it would remove 3.4 million acres of critical habitat protections for the bird, including all of what’s known as the O&C Lands, which is big timber territory in Western Oregon.
The Trump administration has completed a review of plans to ease protections for a struggling bird species in seven states in the U.S. West, but there’s little time to put the relaxed rules for industry into action before President-elect Joe Biden takes office
Helena Independent Record
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allocated $250,000 to protect Montana livestock from grizzly bear depredation in 2021. The money pays for federal Wildlife Services agents to use lethal and non-lethal control of grizzly bears suspected of attacking cattle and other livestock. In 2020, ranchers reported 148 possible grizzly kills or injuries of livestock, of which 124 were confirmed.
An environmental group has no legal standing to challenge the specifics of recovery plans for endangered species, a U.S. district judge in Montana has ruled, rejecting the the Center for Biological Diversity’s challenge over the details of a recovery plan for grizzly bears in the continental United States.
Conservationists know the most important thing to do for wildlife is to protect their habitat. Now, research shows good habitat is just as important in regions where wildlife migrate. Earlier this month, eight scientists published an eight-year study emphasizing the need to protect large swaths of prairie in eastern Montana and Canada from more development, so pronghorn antelope can continue their historic spring and fall migrations.
For the first time in more than a generation, chinook salmon have spawned in the upper Columbia River system. For decades, tribal leaders and scientists have dreamed of bringing the fish back to their native beds. Since 2014, the Columbia River tribes have worked on a plan that examines habitat, fish passage and survival among other things.
Penn State News
It may seem counterintuitive, but forest fires are actually beneficial to spotted owls, according to Penn State biologist Derek Lee. Lee analyzed the results from every published scientific study about the effects of wildfire on the threatened birds, summarizing his results in a paper published in 2018 in the journal Ecosphere. His results have important implications for management of forests inhabited by spotted owls, which assumes that fire is a major threat to the owls.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW)
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is seeking volunteers to fill two openings on the Habitat Partnership Program State Council. The Council is the oversight body for the Habitat Partnership Program (HPP), which works through 19 local committees to resolve conflicts between agricultural operators and big game as well as assisting CPW to achieve management objectives for deer, elk, pronghorn and moose. The deadline for nominations to be received is February 19, 2021.
Starvation and unexpected weather are to blame for a statewide die-off among migratory birds in New Mexico earlier this year, researchers said. Biologists from multiple agencies collected hundreds of samples of warblers, swallows and other birds to be analyzed. The researchers found that nearly all the birds were severely emaciated, already starving when they moved into New Mexico.
National Wildlife Federation
An article focused on migration routes of pronghorn sheds new light on the important factors and the cumulative effects from habitat conversion and fragmentation of migratory routes.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Wildlife officials have announced plans to cull between 500 and 700 Yellowstone bison from the population and no longer enroll the animals in a brucellosis quarantine program. The plan attempts to balance conservation strategies with strategies to prevent the spread of brucellosis.
Wildlife advocates sued the federal government Tuesday in a bid to force officials to do more to conserve Canada lynx, a snow-loving cat that has struggled to survive in parts of the U.S. West. Attorneys for Friends of the Wild Swan, Rocky Mountain Wild and other groups filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Montana.
Helena Independent Record
A new atlas of migration corridors in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming published by the U.S. Geological Survey can help elk, mule deer, antelope and other animals by focusing efforts to reduce man-made obstacles along their journeys. The new migration atlas documents 26 migration corridors, 16 migration routes, 25 places where wildlife linger while migrating and nine areas where animals congregate during winter.
Northern Ag Network
Malta-area rancher, president of the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, and WLA member Leo Barthelmess penned an op-ed for the Northern Ag Network that lays out all the reasons why landowner voices are so important on the issue of how Montana can better support the working lands that support wildlife movement and migration.
A new study grounded in the northern Rockies explores the role of wildfire in the finely tuned dance between plants and their pollinators. Previous studies have looked at how fire affects plants, or how fire affects animals. But what is largely understudied is the question of how fire affects both, and about how linkages within those ecological networks might respond to fire disturbance.
A recent study applied a return-on-investment (ROI) perspective to explore better ways to target private-sector conservation engagement under the ESA and identify factors that affect incentives for participation in voluntary conservation. In their study, Epanchin-Niell and Boyd found that incentives may be enhanced through increased availability of programmatic agreements, regulatory assurances, technical and financial assistance, and tailored protections for threatened species.
Gov. Mark Gordon has selected seven members to serve on the state’s first local migration corridor working group to offer guidance on one of the most critical big-game migratory pathways in the region, located in south central Wyoming.
The Trump administration announced plans Thursday that ease protections for sage grouse in the West, prompting an outcry by critics who say the move paves the way for widespread mining and drilling and ignores a federal court ruling. U.S. officials plan to formally publish supplemental environmental impact statements (SEIS) on Friday for the management of greater sage grouse habitat on public lands in seven states.
Bureau of Land Management
The BLM Wyoming State Office plans to offer 383 parcels totaling about 483,017 acres in an oil and gas lease sale the week of March 15, 2021. This includes 285 parcels nominated for the March sale as well as 141 parcels totaling about 244,086 acres that the BLM deferred from lease sales earlier this year because they overlap Greater Sage-Grouse priority habitat.
A large coalition of landowners and conservationists has landed a nearly $900,000 grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to study ways to reduce the financial and social burden of predator populations on livestock. Maura Bennett of the Ag Information Network of the West and Colorado Ag Today reports.
For grizzly bears to survive, farmers and ranchers need nonlethal tools that can reduce conflict before lethal means are required. But financing and educating people about those tools is the first hurdle. Now, with the help of a Conservation Innovation Grant of more than $886,000 announced last week, landowners and landowner group leaders hope to figure out how to do that.
For the first time, state and federal wildlife biologists have come together to map the migrations of ungulates across America’s West. The maps will help land managers and conservationists pinpoint actions necessary to keep migration routes open and functional to sustain healthy big-game populations. The study includes maps of more than 40 big-game migration routes in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
To fend off rising bear trouble in rural Japan, farmers and conservationists have teamed up to deploy robots in wolves clothing. Officials say there have been no bear encounters since the faux canids with glowing red eyes and bear-tuned motion sensors were installed.
Federal protections for greater sage grouse and wild horses could become major points of contention for Senate and House appropriators working to finalize fiscal 2021 funding legislation in the lame-duck session. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s $35.81 billion Interior-Environment spending bill released today includes language forbidding the Interior secretary from using any appropriated funding “to write or issue” a rule listing the greater sage grouse for protection under the ESA.
A coalition of environmental and fishing groups are suing a water district in southern Oregon over an aging, privately owned dam that they say hinders the passage of struggling salmon populations in the pristine North Umpqua River.
Montana Public Radio
The $894,000 Conservation Innovation Grant awarded last week comes from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Half of the 20 groups in the coalition awarded that money are in Montana. The grant provides three-year funding with one central goal.
“To scale up conflict reduction efforts,” says Alex Few.
Artificial light should be treated like other forms of pollution because its impact on the natural world has widened to the point of systemic disruption, research says. Hormone levels, breeding cycles, activity patterns and vulnerability to predators are being affected across a broad range of species.
The state of Washington will take over management of most wolves within its borders early next year, after the U.S. government announced that gray wolves in the Lower 48 states would be delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act.
High Country News
For generations, elk and mule deer in the remote South San Juan Mountains along the Colorado-New Mexico border have migrated from summer’s alpine meadows down to the grassy lowlands where they spend their winters. Most of the higher portion of this major migration corridor lies on U.S. Forest Service lands, but the ungulates’ path also cuts directly through some of the largest privately owned properties in the region. If those parcels were sold and developed, their loss would cut off the seasonal wildlife flow.
Intermountain Farm & Ranch
A meager return of sockeye salmon to central Idaho this year despite high hopes and a new fish hatchery intended to help save the species from extinction has fisheries managers trying to figure out what went wrong. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game plans to form a working group to understand why only 27 of 660,000 juvenile fish raised in the hatchery and released in central Idaho in 2018 survived the two-year, 1,800-mile round trip to the ocean and back to return as adults. Fisheries managers expected about 800.
Trump administration returns management and protection of gray wolves to states and tribes following successful recovery efforts
US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS)
More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed under the ESA, the Trump Administration and its many conservation partners are announcing the successful recovery of the gray wolf and its delisting from the ESA. U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced that state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states with gray wolf populations, while the USFWS monitors the species for five years to ensure the continued success of the species.
Restoring native habitats to at least 20 percent of the world’s land currently being used by humans for farming, ranching and forestry is necessary to protect biodiversity and slow species loss, according to a newly published study conducted by a team of environmental scientists.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Preliminary data suggests livestock conflicts were the primary cause of known grizzly bear deaths outside of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem monitoring areas in 2020. Frank van Manen, supervisory research biologist for the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, presented highlights from this year’s grizzly bear research and monitoring report to the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee on Wednesday.
Duluth News Tribune
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday will announce a new rule to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states. The move will hand wolf management back to individual states and tribal governments.
A bighorn sheep from the Cleman Mountain herd in central Washington state has tested positive for Mycloplasma, a bacteria that causes pneumonia in wild bighorn populations. The bacteria is usually fatal across a significant portion of the herd and there is no treatment for wild bighorn sheep and no preventative vaccine. Past pneumonia outbreaks among bighorn sheep in Washington and other parts of the western United States have been linked to contact between wild sheep and domestic sheep or goats that carry Mycoplasma but are unaffected by the bacteria.
A federal judge has upheld restrictions on 14,000 acres of land designated critical habitat by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2018, the Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association and the Otero County Cattleman’s Association sued the Fish and Wildlife Service seeking to overturn the protections in New Mexico.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has denied protection to wolverines under the Endangered Species Act, frustrating conservation groups who argue the species faces an existential threat from the climate crisis. According to the ruling announced on Thursday, the FWS considers wolverine populations in the lower 48 states to be stable and threats against wolverines to be less significant than they previously thought. The agency is consequently withdrawing a proposal to federally protect the species.
The Salt Lake Tribune
U.S. and tribal officials are celebrating completion of a $34 million fish bypass system at a Nevada dam that will allow a threatened trout species to return to some of its native spawning grounds for the first time in more than a century.
Citing the government’s repeated reversals and refusals to protect a cousin of the greater sage grouse the last two decades, conservationists are suing again to try to force the federal listing of the bistate sage grouse along the California-Nevada line. The Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court in San Francisco last week against the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sweet Water NOW
Wyoming Game and Fish Director and Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President have penned a joint editorial calling for changes to grizzly bear protections under the ESA citing a booming population and expanded range.
The immediate public concern as wildfires have ravaged portions of Eastern Washington this month is the human suffering, destruction of property and the pall of hazardous smoke. Behind the headlines is the silent anguish of wild creatures. The rate of wildlife survival and recovery will hinge on nature’s cooperation with rain, a fall green-up and a mild winter.
Western Slope Now
Gray wolves stood on the top of nature’s food chain in Colorado over eight decades ago, but were eradicated from most of the western united states by the 1930s. Now after 80 years, the reintroduction of gray wolves will be on the ballot for Colorado. Voting yes to proposition 114 means getting the first wolf paws on Colorado ground by 2023.
The question on Colorado’s November ballot marks the first time that voters, not the federal government, would direct state wildlife managers to script a recovery plan for wolves.
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Watersheds Project said yesterday they intend to file a lawsuit contending that several federal agencies are relying on an outdated plan to save the Gunnison sage grouse, a rare bird found only in Colorado and Utah.
The program focuses on increasing beneficial pollinator habitat in the county. Two pollinator seed mixes are available for county landowners for free to grow their own pollinator garden. Pollinator gardens provide habitat and food sources for native pollinators, including bees, butterflies, moths, and others.
Casper Star Tribune
After a successful debut last year, the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton has expanded its sagebrush-growing efforts to enhance habitat for the greater sage grouse. For this second season, inmates are engaged in the sowing and care of more than 40,000 sagebrush seedlings that will be transplanted in disturbed sagebrush ecosystems across Wyoming this fall.
Idaho senators say grizzly bears in the GYE are a conservation success story and Congress should remove them from the threatened species list. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in July reversing the delisting of the great bear because of a lack of “concrete, enforceable mechanisms” to “ensure long-term genetic health of the Yellowstone grizzly.” Now a bill making its way through the U.S. Senate’s committee process may remove the bear from the protected list, at least in the Yellowstone area.
The Empora Gazette
Lesser prairie chickens don’t really bother Mike McCarty. He likes them just fine, but doesn’t think people understand how hard it is to balance wildlife conservation and being a rancher and farmer in southwest Kansas. “Yes, we need to protect our wildlife and everything,” he says, “but we also need to protect our people, our agriculture.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service declared today the western population of yellow-billed cuckoo still warrants federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. In a noteworthy defeat for mining and ranching organizations, the federal agency rejected a petition to strip away the bird’s status as a threatened species.
Three Mexican wolf pups have successfully been cross-fostered into a pack in northeastern Arizona, according to state Game and Fish Department officials. They said biologists used remote trail cameras late last month to document eight Mexican wolf pups in the Hoodoo Pack in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.
World Wildlife Fund
Human-driven biodiversity loss has pushed much of the world into a crisis, as vertebrate animal populations have experienced an average 68% population loss since 1970, according to a report released this week. The “Living Planet 2020” study shows anthropogenic land use has been the biggest driver of biodiversity loss, with invasive species and climate change also becoming growing threats to millions of species.
More than 300,000 acres have burned in Washington state since Labor Day, when high winds and temperatures created perfect conditions for fast, destructive fire. Ashley Ahearn headed to Bridgeport, Washington, where the Cold Springs Fire has burned more than 170,000 acres and is still threatening homes and wildlife.
The Trump administration plans to lift endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the nation by the end of the year, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service said yesterday. “We’re working hard to have this done by the end of the year, and I’d say it’s very imminent,” Aurelia Skipwith told the Associated Press.
San Francisco Chronicle
The tule elk, whose magnificent antlered presence is one reason about 2.5 million people visit Point Reyes National Seashore each year, may be at risk of dying from dehydration, say wildlife advocates who are demanding a fence be removed which they say is cutting the elk off from water. Their demands have reignited a long-simmering feud in the seashore where tule elk have been at odds with private cattle and dairy ranchers at Point Reyes, widely considered a gem of the National Park System.
Colorado Public Radio
In June, a state biologist watched an adult gray wolf cross the road in front of her followed by a dark gray puppy. The sighting could mean a group of grey wolves isn’t just living in Colorado for the first time since humans eradicated the species in the 1940s; the predators could be breeding as well.
Society of Environmental Journalists
Painting one of a wind turbine’s three blades black led to a dramatic decline in bird mortality along the Norwegian coast, new research shows. Bird death from turbine collisions dropped by 71.9% where a turbine blade was black, compared with unpainted turbines at the same wind farm, according to findings published last month in the peer-reviewed journal Ecology and Evolution.
Salt Lake Tribune
In Utah, mountain goats are among the most interesting wild ungulates, but Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials’ effort to expand the nonnative species’ range is drawing criticism because the goats could harm the fragile alpine environments and rare plant communities.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
A citizen-led council’s work writing the state’s long-term vision for grizzly bear management nears the end. Members of the governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council tweaked recommendations addressing bear distribution, outdoor recreation and proposed hunts, reaching a consensus on all items except hunting. The council will present its final report to the governor’s office Sept. 1.
The state of Washington has killed the last two known wolves in the so-called Wedge pack in Stevens County, which had been preying on livestock, the Department of Fish and Wildlife said yesterday. Investigators for the agency found that the pack was responsible for 16 livestock depredations since May. The agency had previously killed one wolf in July in an unsuccessful effort to alter the pack’s behavior.
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon
The working group will review the effectiveness of corridor designation on the migratory herd and evaluate the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s draft risk assessment report. It will also make recommendations about additional opportunities for conservation as well as examine the impacts of all restrictions on development and use of lands encompassed in the designated corridor. To apply to serve on the working group apply through this form. Applications are due September 18, 2020.
A half-century after being added to the endangered species list, Lahontan cutthroat trout are thriving with help from a Native American tribe at a remote lake in northern Nevada.
Habitat conservation and protection of biodiversity is of growing importance for many states. In Nevada, the effort is being backed up with new high-tech tools designed to guide strategies for protection of vulnerable plant and animal species.
The Fence Post
[Rancher Dusty] Downey is among 82 ranchers from Texas to the Dakotas using protocols designed by the National Audubon Society to reinvigorate grassland ecosystems to increase populations of imperiled birds.
Casper Star Tribune
Wildlife officials say they have killed a grizzly bear after it killed a cow on private land in southwestern Montana outside Yellowstone National Park. The adult male bear had killed a cow in Park County last week and was euthanized following consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
U.S. News & World Report
Although scientists often worry most about the loss of the world’s predators, a comprehensive new study finds that plant-eating herbivores are the animals most at risk of extinction. About 1 in 4 species of herbivores, 25.5%, are considered threatened, endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s scientific authority on extinction risk, according to a study in yesterday’s journal Science Advances.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are proposing to define “habitat” in the Endangered Species Act for the first time, in response to a 2018 Supreme Court decision.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has killed one of the three members of an endangered wolf pack in the northeastern corner of the state in an attempt to reduce the pack’s attacks on cattle. The adult, non-breeding female member of the so-called Wedge wolf pack that has repeatedly preyed on cattle on public and private grazing lands in northeastern Stevens County was killed Monday.
The Denver Post
Ballot measure to widen wolves’ comeback could threaten partnership between conservation community and agriculture. Colorado’s statewide wolf-reintroduction ballot initiative is rankling rural communities, rekindling old conflicts over the purpose of public lands. It’s straining the hard-won partnership that ensures, if not pure nature, the conservation of open landscapes in the face of Colorado’s population growth and development boom.
A rare frog has been found beyond its known range in the Southwest. A U.S. Forest Service volunteer recently photographed a Chiricahua leopard frog in an earthen stock tank near the town of Camp Verde in central Arizona. Biologists later confirmed that at least 10 of the frogs were living there. The aquatic frogs were thought to be only in eastern Arizona, western New Mexico and northern Mexico but historically were more widespread.
The author of “Eager,” a book about beavers, suggests ranchers should be rewarded for wolves appearing on their property. Ben Goldfarb points to similar programs in Sweden, Arizona and Montana.
The Mercury News
California’s only known gray wolf pack has eight new pups. Eight youngsters were tallied in the Lassen Pack in northeastern California, according to an April-through-June report from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Genetic testing of their excrement shows at least four are male and two are female, according to the agency.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its initial review of a petition to list the dunes sagebrush lizard under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has concluded that the petition presents substantial information indicating listing may be warranted. Accordingly, the Service will now begin an in-depth review of this species to determine whether it should be listed under the ESA.
Conservation groups asked the federal government Wednesday to provide Endangered Species Act protections to a southeast Alaska wolf population they say is under threat from factors including the loss of habitat and hunting and trapping.
With greater sage-grouse numbers continuing to decline throughout their range in the western United States, one state is engaging ranchers to preserve habitat for the bird, known for its elaborate mating rituals.
A two-year search for wolves in Washington’s South Cascades has found none, a scientist said Wednesday. Researchers tested the DNA of thousands of scat piles sniffed out by dogs. Many piles looked like wolf droppings, but all turned out to be from dogs. “If wolves are in the South Cascades, they are lone wolves.”
Negotiations among environmentalists and state and federal officials in Arizona and New Mexico have resulted in a set of recommendations and other provisions that environmentalists say will help protect the threatened Mexican spotted owl while allowing forest thinning projects to move forward.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday affirmed a 2018 Montana District Court decision that struck down federal efforts to remove Yellowstone grizzlies’ “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act. The delisting in 2017 turned over management of the species to the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park, allowing the states to plan bear hunts.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks captured and euthanized a subadult male grizzly bear about five miles west of Shelby on June 19. The bear had been involved in multiple conflicts between Ethridge and Ledger this spring, and attempts to prevent incidents were unsuccessful. In consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the decision was made not to relocate the bear because its undesirable behavior appeared engrained and posed a human safety risk.
Conservationists say Nevada’s unprecedented interpretation of state water laws to restrict groundwater pumping for development in the desert northeast of Las Vegas could help prevent the extinction of a tiny endangered fish. The order that the state engineer issued this week in a decades-old legal battle is expected to curtail development across 1,500 square miles that share the same groundwater supply in the driest state in the nation.
The News Tribune
The state of Washington on Friday authorized the killing of two wolves in the Togo pack in Ferry County because of repeated depredations of cattle grazing in the Kettle River Range. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the pack has been involved in seven cattle depredations in the past 10 months.
U.S. News & World Report
A federal judge has upheld U.S. Forest Service grazing plans that allow the lethal removal of grizzly bears that are caught killing cattle in the Bridger-Teton National Forest of Wyoming.
Many people care about the future management of Mexican wolves, judging by the 40,000-plus public comments submitted during a Fish and Wildlife Service review period that expires tonight. The public outpouring put the issue atop the federal government’s “what’s trending” list of regulatory actions today and underscored the tricky choices ahead as FWS reviews the “nonessential experimental population” and management of the wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Following calls from landowners for additional conflict prevention capacity at the 100+ person meeting convened by WLA near the Gravelly Range in Montana in November, an additional range rider has hit the ground in the region. The new range rider is working to prevent grizzly bears from preying upon livestock in response to increasing bear activity. “We’re trying to protect livestock, and we’re trying to keep bears out of trouble,” said John Steuber, Montana state director for U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.
When drought reshuffles the green-up of habitats that mule deer migrate across, it dramatically shortens the annual foraging bonanza they rely on. That is the main finding of a new University of Wyoming study, which shows the benefits of migration are likely to decrease for mule deer and other migratory herbivores as drought becomes more common due to ongoing climate change.
USDA staff at the Agricultural Research Service are searching for the Asian giant hornet (AGH) in hopes of preventing a serious threat to the U.S. beekeeping industry. “If AGH were to become established in Washington State, it could pose a serious threat to the beekeeping industry. AGH could subsequently impact the state’s billion-dollar agriculture industry.”
U.S. officials will delay the repair of an impassable northern Idaho road in important grizzly bear habitat near the Canadian border because of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
The Trump administration’s proposed narrowing of Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections will have a “likely negative” impact on birds that includes “increased” mortality, according to a Fish and Wildlife Service study made public today.
From beetles to butterflies, Scientists and landowners are working together to bring endangered insects back from the brink
Stories of an “insect apocalypse” came to a head in 2018 as scientists sent out the alarm on the dramatic loss of populations around the world. But there’s another less-told but equally important story of bringing uncharismatic minifauna back from the brink through cooperation among sometimes-opposing groups: private landowners, public officials and conservation activists.
States are facing significant shortages of conservation officers, who help protect natural resources and wildlife. The COVID-19 global health pandemic has triggered major budget cuts, further threatening funding for environmental conservation and could result in additional cuts to conservation districts that are already cash-strapped and understaffed.
U.S. News & World Report
A coalition of conservation groups sued the U.S. government Tuesday over livestock grazing in a Wyoming forest, saying grizzly bears are too often killed by ranchers and wildlife managers for pursuing cattle in such settings. Forest officials decided in October to allow livestock grazing to continue across more than 260 square miles (690 square kilometers) in the Green River headwaters of Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Migratory birds may be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change compared with birds that stay put during the winter, scientists reported May 26 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found that residential birds in North America have expanded their ranges into warming northerly areas since the 1970s, while the breeding grounds occupied by migratory birds have shrunk.
One Mexican gray wolf died after being caught in a trap in April and another was found dead in the wild, bringing the total to more than a dozen that died in the first four months of the year in New Mexico and Arizona. Environmentalists say a combination of lethal management by U.S. wildlife officials and private trapping is making it difficult to recover the species. But ranchers say they face constant pressure from the wolves, pointing to the more than two dozen cattle that were killed just last month.
For farmers and ranchers, prioritizing sustainability extends far beyond their own land. That’s how a unique initiative called Farmers for Monarchs was born. The collaborative involves farmers, ranchers, landowners, researchers, academic institutions, government agencies, conservationists and businesses, all working together to sustain monarch butterfly populations on farms and ranches across the country.
Birds living on river banks are ingesting plastic at the rate of hundreds of tiny fragments a day, according to a new study. Scientists say this is the first clear evidence that plastic pollutants in rivers are finding their way into wildlife and moving up the food chain.
The Lewiston Tribune
The EPA issued a report Tuesday detailing summertime water temperature problems on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers and assigning significant responsibility to federal dams. The report said dams on both rivers play a role in raising water temperatures above 68 degrees — the state water quality standards of Washington and Oregon, and the point at which the water becomes harmful to salmon and steelhead. The causes of the increasing water temperatures are known as Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. A draft TMDL is now out for public comment through July 21, 2020.
Conservation groups yesterday asked the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to sharply limit the number of endangered wolves that are killed over conflicts with livestock. The state has killed 31 wolves since 2012. The conservation groups want the wildlife commission to amend its rules to require that livestock producers use appropriate nonlethal deterrence methods to prevent conflict between livestock and wolves. The new rules would ensure that the state kills wolves only as a last resort.
NM Political Report
Kendra Chamberlain at New Mexico Political Report unpacks the controversy over New Mexico’s stream access law, and the pending lawsuit between pro-access groups and the state. She writes, “Groups on both sides of the dispute all have different ideas about what’s at issue, and what’s at stake, but all parties are quick to point out the dispute is incredibly complicated. And while there’s no shortage of opinions on the topic, stakeholders on both sides of the fence seem to agree on one thing: it was a 2014 opinion issued by then-Attorney General Gary King that started the whole thing.”
Three environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the U.S. government from killing coyotes and other predators in Idaho until environmental studies are carried out. The Western Watersheds Project and two other groups are also asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho in the lawsuit filed Thursday to rule that an eastern Idaho facility in Pocatello that manufactures poison to kill predators is operating in violation of environmental laws.
Attorneys for the U.S. government and the state of Wyoming urged an appeals court yesterday to throw out much of a judge’s ruling that blocked the first grizzly bear hunts in the Lower 48 in almost three decades. The case is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It involves more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park that had their protections stripped away and then restored by a judge in Montana just as hunting was scheduled to begin.
The Bend Bulletin
Environmentalists have failed to convince the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that grazing authorizations unlawfully harmed bull trout on seven allotments in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. The appellate court has rejected allegations from the Oregon Natural Desert Association and Center for Biological Diversity that more than 100 federal grazing decisions — including permit approvals and operating instructions — violated the forest’s management plan over a decade.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has rekindled an Endangered Species Act debate with its proposal for a large, multistate critical habitat for the western yellow-billed cuckoo. The Army Corps of Engineers cautions that the proposal could complicate operations of a key California dam. Tribes have worries of their own. Some bird lovers, meanwhile, want more than the proposed 493,665 acres spanning seven Western states.
The Daily Sentinel
The lack of recognition of migration corridors — areas through which large numbers of wildlife migrate and thus serve a vital role for long-term survival — in public land management plans is resulting in lost opportunities to conserve wildlife. Fortunately, the BLM acknowledges the need to amend these plans, and its intent to begin a public process creates an opportunity for Coloradoans to be part of a solution to conserve big game habitat.
The world has lost more than one quarter of its land-dwelling insects in the past 30 years, according to researchers whose big picture study of global bug decline paints a disturbing but more nuanced problem than earlier research. From bees and other pollinators crucial to the world’s food supply to butterflies that beautify places, the bugs are disappearing at a rate of just under 1% a year, with lots of variation from place to place, according to a study in yesterday’s journal Science.
Gillette News Record
Three measures of conflict between livestock and wolves – livestock conflicts with wolves, compensation for depredations caused by wolves and the number of wolves lethally removed in response to conflicts – decreased as the population of wolves in Wyoming stabilized around the management objective.
The Daily Chronicle
Washington’s wolf population grew at least 11% between 2018 and 2019, despite the death of 21 wolves from hunting, lethal removal and predation. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists documented a minimum of 108 wolves in 21 packs and 10 breeding pairs in 2019. The state’s annual wolf survey, published Monday, sets a minimum number of wolves and packs in the state and guides management decisions for the year to come.
March marked the 25th anniversary of wolf reintroduction. After a quarter-century, there are factual answers to lingering concerns, questions and fears. This is the third in a series that has so far has addressed questions and concerns regarding the decision to reintroduce wolves, whether managers introduced the “wrong wolf” and what effects wolves have had on Greater Yellowstone’s ecosystem. But how have wolves affected ranchers, hunters and others who share the landscape with these long-absent predators?
One of the oldest canine breeds on the Iberian Peninsula, Serra da Estrela dogs have been guarding livestock against attacks by Iberian wolves and stray dogs for centuries. While some shepherds still use dogs, the tradition has died out in many areas. Complemented by other coexistence measures, the program intends to reduce livestock predation through providing shepherds with free guard dog puppies, in turn enabling the recovery of the endangered Iberian wolf.
California took a major step yesterday toward giving mountain lions protection as an endangered species. The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to approve Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions as candidates for California Endangered Species Act designation. That launches a yearlong status review by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which will prepare a peer-reviewed status report. The commission will make a final decision at the end of that period.
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
The USDA Wildlife Services (WS) program has identified 12 states where it will implement nonlethal strategies to reduce or prevent depredation on livestock by wildlife. The fiscal year 2020 budget allocated $1.38 million for nonlethal predator damage management and research to the program that is part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agency.
The Fish and Wildlife Service today increased the number of species covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, even as the agency prepares to narrow the law’s protections. In the first revision of its kind since 2013, FWS added a net total of 67 bird species to the protected list, which now numbers 1,093.
The Fish and Wildlife Service today reopened a debate over the best way to protect the Mexican wolf. Facing legal pressure, the agency announced plans to revise the “nonessential experimental population” designation and management of the wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico. The plans require drafting an environmental impact statement supplement.
National Parks Traveler
A new report claiming that bison are damaging the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park is drawing criticism from a park wildlife biologist who questions whether the scientists behind it are “looking too narrowly” at the range. The study by Oregon State University researchers contends that bison “have become a barrier to ecosystem recovery in the iconic Lamar Valley.” Bison, they say, have 10 times the impact elk have on the valley’s vegetation.
When it comes to grizzly bears in Montana, hunting is more of a sociological and political tool rather than a biological one. “Whether or not there’s a hunting of grizzly bears really is a social and a value-driven issue,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks administrator Ken McDonald. “Biologically, it’s a management tool that’s available to us once bears are delisted. Whether we utilize that tool or not is a bigger question that the public generally needs to weigh in on.”
The candidate conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA) potentially applies to over 26 million acres managed by energy companies and departments of transportation across the United States. Via the agreement, public and private partners can voluntarily adopt conservation measures that are beneficial to the monarch butterfly, which is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
The killing of four Mexican gray wolves by U.S. wildlife officials has drawn the ire of environmentalists who say management of the species is undercutting efforts to restore the endangered predators to the American Southwest. The USFWS took the action after nonlethal means failed to get the predators to stop killing cattle. The latest deaths highlight a conflict that has persisted since reintroduction began more than 20 years ago. Over the last year, ranchers have seen a record number of cattle kills as the wolf population has increased.
In the ongoing effort to reduce conflicts between grizzly bears and livestock producers on the Rocky Mountain Front, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks are continuing a carcass collection and removal service again this spring. Carcasses of dead livestock and other animals are significant attractants for grizzly bears, particularly in the spring as the bears emerge from winter dens. Carcass dispersal or removal helps reduce attractants that might otherwise draw bears into conflict with people or livestock.
A plan to help in the battle against devastating wildfires creates fuel breaks 400 feet wide along 987 miles of roads in southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon that will be tied into an existing fuel break system in northern Nevada. The BLM on Friday released a final environmental impact statement for the Tri-State Fuel Breaks Project, opening a 30-day comment period. The agency said creating fuel breaks by clearing vegetation will help firefighters stop wildfires and protect key habitat for sage grouse and other wildlife.
This is the second in a series of articles looking at the impact of reintroducing wolves in Yellowstone National Park 25 years ago. In an effort to separate fact from fiction, this article explains what we know and don’t know by allowing federal, state and local wildlife and livestock managers to respond to common questions and concerns regarding wolves.
A group of wolves from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, arrived at Yellowstone National Park on Jan. 12, 1995. The wolves were penned and given time to acclimate to the environment before the first of them were released on March 21, 1995. The purpose of this article, and others to follow, is to examine the reasons, controversies and ramifications of reintroduction. They will separate fact from fiction and reality from fable by allowing federal, state and local managers to respond to persistent claims and concerns.
A federal appeals court is ordering a U.S. district judge in New Mexico to reconsider a case involving a fight over critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in the American Southwest. Groups had sued arguing that a 2014 decision by the USFWS to set aside thousands of acres for the cats was arbitrary and violated the statute that guides wildlife managers in determining whether certain areas are essential for the conservation of a species.
Wildlife advocates yesterday asked a U.S. judge to force the government into deciding whether the snow-loving wolverine should be federally protected as the rare predator becomes vulnerable to a warming planet. The request comes in a lawsuit filed in Montana almost four years after U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered wildlife officials to take swift action to protect the animal.
Legislation sending just under $400,000 to a state board to use to kill problem wolves in Idaho headed to the governor’s desk yesterday. The state Senate voted 26-4 to approve the budget bill that taps money in the state’s general fund to kill wolves that prey on livestock or wildlife.
The researchers found that farms with diverse crops planted together provide more secure, stable habitats for wildlife and are more resilient to climate change than the single-crop standard that dominates today’s agriculture industry.
A federal appeals court yesterday rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the endangered jaguar. Reversing a trial judge’s 2017 opinion that had been hailed by environmentalists, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the federal agency was “arbitrary and capricious” in its decisionmaking.
According to a Facebook post from Montana FWP Prairie Bear Monitor, people may now legally shoot grizzly bears with paintballs if they come too close to homes or other possible areas of threat, such as barns, grain bins or schools.
Longtime Wyoming researcher Arthur Middleton wondered what that could look like in practicality. So he assembled a team of economists, lawyers and biologists to run the numbers and probabilities of what would be the impact of either raising park fees for conservation efforts outside of park boundaries, or levying some form of tax to help pay for those efforts. What they found could be a basis for a statewide, or regional, conversation for conserving those wildlife that call Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the surrounding three states home.
Legislation proposed Friday by Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) would require Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to remove gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection.
A federal judge’s order nixing yet another attempt by the Trump administration to revise greater sage grouse protections may prove to be a costly bureaucratic mess. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush yesterday threw out rule changes adopted by the BLM in 2018 that shortened public comment times and administrative protest periods involving oil and gas lease sale parcels that overlap sage grouse habitat. Bush’s order requires BLM to conduct a “notice-and-comment rulemaking” to adopt these changes and comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws.
Pew Charitable Trusts
In Nevada, as in much of the American West, roads and other development have cut through or encroached on migration routes that wildlife has used for centuries. That has led to an increase in costly—and often deadly—animal-vehicle collisions, and a recognition of the need for solutions, such as overpasses and underpasses for wildlife to use to cross roads.
Biologists looking for endangered species on private property would be required to keep much of what they find secret under a proposal poised for quick approval by the Arizona Legislature. Opposition has unsuccessfully argued that if the new policy becomes law it will hinder public monitoring of recovery plans for endangered plants and animals. Supporters say the shield is needed to protect private property rights.
Northern Broadcasting System
There are those who contend Yellowstone’s northern bison herd, numbering 4,000 and approximately 10 times larger than historical size, is leaving a damaging impact on the land. There are those who would argue the shifting landscape is more a part of the natural process that includes a very large herd of ungulates, like the bison and elk. One thing that all agree on is that Yellowstone National Park, and its surrounding ecosystems, are a treasure to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. How to best accomplish that is still up for debate.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a noticeably shrunken but still sprawling critical habitat for the threatened western yellow-billed cuckoo. In a long-awaited revision today, the federal agency proposed designating approximately 493,665 acres across seven Western states as critical habitat. The move would extend ESA protections to parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has begun developing the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan (Plan) in accordance with New Mexico Senate Bill 228, the Wildlife Corridors Act (Act). Public meetings will be held from February 25 to March 18, 2020 throughout the state.
This well-reported article from Elizabeth Stewart-Savery covers all the angles of the wolf reintroduction controversy in the state. A comprehensive and nuanced introduction to this important issue at a time of outsized rhetoric.
The Washington Post
In a lawsuit filed Thursday, environmental groups have accused the U.S. Forest Service of failing to keep livestock and wild horses out of streams and other wetlands on forest land in southeastern Arizona, resulting in damage to habitat required by the New Mexico jumping mouse, an endangered species found only in the Southwest.
Idaho Fish and Game
On February 20, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted nine proposed modifications to wolf hunting and trapping for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, extending wolf hunting opportunity, opening more areas to wolf trapping and extending trapping seasons.
Casper Star Tribune
Environmental groups are suing over plans for a potentially huge Wyoming gas field they say would endanger pronghorn in Grand Teton National Park by hindering a migration route between the park and a basin.
The Wildlife Society
A new study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management suggests managers may need to overhaul guidelines meant to protect greater sage-grouse by focusing less on factors like grass height and vegetation cover and more on broad impacts to the landscape.
Montana Public Radio
A Wyoming rancher was awarded nearly $340,000 last month after disputing wildlife managers’ initial offer to pay for several livestock killed by grizzlies and wolves. While the large payout is unusual, Montana ranchers say it’s calling attention to funding issues for livestock losses on their side of the border.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
The BLM will publish six draft supplemental environmental impact statements (SEISs) on Friday for management of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on public lands in seven Western states, highlighting the collaborative process undergone in 2019 to develop plans that reflected the needs of western communities and Greater Sage-grouse habitat. Public comments will be accepted through April 6, 2020.
The Washington Times
State officials say brucellosis has been found in elk in southwestern Montana’s Ruby Mountains, the latest evidence that the disease continues to slowly spread among wildlife in the Yellowstone region. Two elk tested positive for exposure to the disease during recent sampling by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
After losing a calf to a confirmed wolf attack earlier this month, Anatone rancher Jay Holzmiller is doing all he can to prevent another such incident — and he wants to see a more proactive approach from state officials.
Interior announces grants to 11 western states for big game winter range and migration corridor scientific research
Department of Interior
Today, the Department of the Interior announced another round of $3.2 million in grant funding for 11 western states, bringing the Department’s and other stakeholders’ support of big game species habitat conservation and scientific research for migration corridors and winter ranges to more than $22 million. These grants are a part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to execute on Secretary’s Order 3362.
Utah House Bill 125, which expands the use of hunting predators to manage ungulate herds such as elk and deer, is one of the predator wildlife management bills moving through this year’s legislative agenda.
A federal judge yesterday ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service must redo an endangered species analysis that allowed other agencies to approve the Rosemont Copper project in the Coronado National Forest. The site lies within the range of America’s only jaguars, northern Mexican gartersnakes and other endangered species in the Santa Rita Mountains outside Tucson.
More wildlife overpasses and underpasses are coming to highways in the western United States, thanks to a better understanding of migration corridors boosted by GPS collar technology.
Wildlife managers relocated or killed substantially fewer grizzly bears in northwestern Wyoming in 2019 compared to 2018. Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials say abundant natural food such as berries helped keep bears away from livestock and other non-natural sources of food.
An arbitration panel ruled January 27th that Wyoming Game and Fish Department should pay a Hot Springs County rancher $339,927 for stock killed by grizzly bears and mountain lions, almost four times the offer that Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulations allowed.
The Trump administration’s controversial narrowing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act will reduce environmental protections that can be expected from industry, the Fish and Wildlife Service predicted today. In proposed new regulations that have immediately prompted heated debate, the federal agency today acknowledged diminished private mitigation as one likely result of limiting the law’s coverage to the intentional killing of migratory birds.
Some northern New Mexico ranchers are asking state wildlife managers to do something about herds of elk they say are damaging property and eating hay that was stockpiled for cattle over the winter. Members of the Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association reported the damage earlier this week and notified the agency that they would have to start shooting the elk. State law allows landowners to lethally remove animals that are causing damage on private property.
The Bismarck Tribune
Thirty bighorn sheep are running free on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation as part of a new agreement between the state of North Dakota and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. The bighorns brought from Montana were released Tuesday as part of a plan to reestablish the sheep in the western part of the state.
The House Natural Resources Committee voted today to approve a suite of bills along party lines, including legislation that would overturn the Trump administration’s controversial rules revising the Endangered Species Act. The full committee also voted to approve two bills that would advance the establishment of wildlife corridors on federal and Native American lands nationwide.
Idaho’s top wildlife official on Tuesday requested authorization from state lawmakers to spend $408,000 to count wolves. The expense would become part of the agency’s annual budget to keep a running tally of the number of wolves in the state. Idaho stopped counting wolves in 2015 after it was no longer required to do so by USFWS following the lifting of protections for wolves under the ESA.
Montana Public Radio
State and Federal wildlife managers are offering a first-of-its-kind summit on grizzly bear education in Helena this week. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is bringing together groups across the state involved in human-bear conflict education to make sure they’re using consistent messages. The summit will also compile a catalogue of education offerings and other resources, ranging from grants for electric fencing to bear spray demonstrations.
Two environmental groups have given notice they intend to file a lawsuit to stop a proposed underground natural gas pipeline from Idaho to Wyoming the groups say will harm protected grizzly bears and other wildlife.
The western monarch butterfly population wintering along California’s coast remains critically low for the second year in a row (29,000 butterflies compared to compared to about 4.5 million in the 1980s). Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in the Western United States due to the destruction of their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases.
Some areas in Idaho would be declared wolf-free zones and other areas where the animals have killed livestock would have increased wolf-killing opportunities under legislation proposed yesterday by state Sen. Bert Brackett. The state Senate Resources and Environment Committee voted to clear the way for a hearing on the measure.
Casper Star Tribune
Conservationists worried that continued livestock grazing in a Wyoming forest could endanger grizzly bears are preparing to sue the U.S. government. Western Watersheds Project, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection allege a 2019 decision to allow grazing to continue in a large area of Bridger-Teton National Forest violates the ESA.
Environmentalists are asking federal wildlife managers to use the Endangered Species Act to protect a fish found only in the Rio Grande in Texas and the Pecos River in New Mexico. WildEarth Guardians filed the petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday, saying it is part of a campaign focused on vulnerable species found in rivers and streams across the West.
People and Carnivores
People and Carnivores recently completed an update to their large carnivore conflict management resource which includes a list of peer-reviewed research papers, summarized and categorized, from the last 20 years focusing on North America.
A humpbacked Colorado River fish that’s been federally protected for more than half a century has escaped from the edge of doom, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. In what officials are calling an Endangered Species Act success story, the federal agency is proposing to downlist the humpback chub from endangered to threatened status. The move would retain protections for the fish but also signify its “partial recovery” and ease some regulatory requirements.
The Washington Times
In one of the most significant changes proposed by the new executive order, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers won’t be the only people at the decision-making table when it comes to migration corridors. The governor will also have help from landowners and others on the ground and the state will support the formation of local working groups to help inform the designation of new corridors.
A new bill introduced in the Wyoming Legislature this week would create a new compensation program for ranchers whose livestock is killed or damaged by gray wolves outside of game hunting zones. the legislation would create a $90,000 fund to compensate ranchers for any losses related to gray wolf attacks, and would be active for two years.
The grizzly bear’s future as a protected species will get another gander, as the Fish and Wildlife Service today initiated a full-bore study of the iconic animal. The review will mark the federal agency’s first comprehensive update on the grizzly bear since 2011 and could lead to proposed revisions of its Endangered Species Act status.
One day after a measure to introduce wolves was placed on this year’s ballot, CPW announced that a wolf pack was spotted, photographed and video recorded by hunters in Colorado back in October.
Colorado Public Radio
It’s official, wolf reintroduction will be decided on Colorado’s 2020 ballot. On Monday, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced the campaign had gathered an estimated 139,333 valid signatures — above the 124,632 signatures needed to earn a place the 2020 ballot. If it passes, the measure would require state wildlife managers to reintroduce wolves to Western Colorado by the end of 2023.
Jackson Hole News&Guide
A study by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team shows that late season elk hunts provide food sources in the form of gut piles for resident grizzly bears, but the timing of transient bears moving into the park does not coincide with the hunting season.
The Interior Department is moving to formally define “habitat” in the Endangered Species Act, part of an anticipated second wave of changes to the bedrock conservation law under the Trump administration. According to a notice published Monday, the addition to the ESA is undergoing interagency review.
Natural Resources Defense Council
Article by NRDC staff attorney Zack Strong shows how organizations (USDA-Wildlife Services, NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife), when focused on shared values, can work together to provide agricultural producers valuable tools to prevent damage and losses caused by predators.
A draft executive order released by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon lays out rules for how the governor will designate wildlife corridors. Rancher Marissa Taylor served on the advisory group that helped shape the EO. She responded positively to the draft order, with particular praise for its acknowledgement of private landowners’ efforts to preserve migration habitats.
Lawmakers introduced a flurry of bills before leaving the capital for the holidays, including legislation to delist the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act. S. 3140 would direct the Interior Department to issue a rule removing the gray wolf from federal protections.
The Waterton Biosphere Reserves efforts to prevent conflict prevention stand as an example for communities facing conflicts with grizzly bears for the first time as the population continues to expand its distribution.
Grizzly bear and wolf predation is one of the biggest challenges that ranchers face. Potential solutions can benefit livestock producers, conservationists and wildlife agencies. Over 100 people with a stake in grizzly bear management in Montana convened with the Western Landowners Alliance, Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance and Madison Valley Ranchlands Group at the Alder Firehall Nov. 15.
Casper Star Tribune
A series of recommendations sent to the governor Monday laid out a possible blueprint for how Wyoming could protect and preserve its iconic migration corridors for years to come.
Tri-State Livestock News
Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) has released a wildlife guide produced by and for landowners and practitioners constructively engaged in one of the greatest conservation challenges of our time—how to share and manage a wild, working landscape that sustains both people and wildlife.
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