endangered species

Governor Matt Mead released his plan for Sage Grouse conservation in Wyoming earlier this month, but September’s federal deadline to decide on endangered species listing is rapidly approaching. Scientists across the west are now engaged in a discussion of whether or not states are doing enough to adequately protect the bird’s numbers.

An upcoming panel at the University of Wyoming will attempt to address some of those issues.

Wikimedia Commons

Cecil the lion was a favorite and well-known animal in the Zimbabwe Hwange National Park. Earlier this month he was killed by an American hunter and once the internet found out, it wanted justice. Now, a debate is raging on social media over big-game trophy hunting – both illegal and legal. Wyoming doesn’t have African Lions, but it does have mountain lions, elk, moose, bears, and a good number of big-game hunters. Renny MacKay is communications director for Wyoming Game and Fish.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Polar bears are one of the species that’s been hardest hit by climate change. But scientists have long thought the bears might be capable of effectively hibernating in summer, to save energy during a longer open water season. New research from the University of Wyoming disproves that hypothesis though. Merav Ben David is a professor of wildlife ecology and one of the authors of the new study. She told Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce that without hibernation, it’s an increasingly long and hungry summer for the bears.

commons.wikimedia.org

Yellowstone’s grizzlies are unique in the world of bears. That’s according to a grizzly expert scheduled to speak in Jackson this week.

Yale wildlife biologist Dave Mattson spent 13 years in the field studying Yellowstone grizzlies. He says Yellowstone bears eat things like earthworms, pond weeds and pine seeds that no other grizzlies in the world do. And that’s not all.   

Commons

A plague vaccine might help bring one of the most endangered mammals in North America back to Northwest Wyoming where they were discovered. Black Footed Ferrets may be restored to the Pitchfork Ranch near Meeteetse, because their food, prairie dogs, are coming back.

Ben Ramsey

In the small town of Pinedale, people have a lot of opinions about sage grouse. That’s because Pinedale just happens to sit in the middle of some of the best sage grouse habitat in the state. It’s also in the middle of some of the best oil and gas fields in the country. So when a Pinedale math teacher joined forces with a sage grouse conservation project, it started a community conversation.

Department Of Wildlife

It’s been five years since Governor Matt Mead signed an executive order giving special protections to the state’s greater sage grouse populations. Now that order says it’s time to re-evaluate the plan and make sure it’s actually doing its job. The goal is to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife not to list the grouse as an endangered species come September 30.

At a public meeting this week in Buffalo, the state’s sage grouse team heard ideas for increasing the Powder River Basin grouse populations. A new Pew Charitable Trust report shows that the area’s sage grouse are close to extinction with a 98 percent chance that in 30 years there will be less than 50 birds left there. Wildlife biologist Erik Molvar with the environmental group WildEarth Guardians says the coalbed methane industry played a role in the decline.

commons.wikimedia.org

After lengthy discussions, Jonah Energy has agreed to hold off on plans to drill some 3500 gas wells near Pinedale until an environmental impact statement is complete.

Governor Mead’s Sage Grouse Implementation Team could not reach a consensus on Tuesday on whether to include the area—known as the NPL or Normally Pressurized Lance—as protected habitat. Wyoming Game and Fish sage grouse coordinator Tom Christiansen says, the team didn't agree on whether or not to adopt the area into the grouse's core area habitat.

The Western Governor’s Association has released a special report outlining numerous programs Wyoming and other western states have adopted to stop the rapid decline of the greater sage grouse. But Wildlife Biologist Erik Molvar with WildEarth Guardians says sage grouse numbers have been plummeting and it’s going to take more than local, voluntary efforts to turn things around.

“It’s going to require range-wide commitments to science-based protections that are mandatory.”

USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr

The endangered Wyoming Toad’s population numbers could get a boost from a new plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Wyoming Toad is the most endangered amphibian in North American, and lives only in Albany County.

The toad’s numbers started decreasing in the 1970s, for reasons mostly unknown. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a plan that would allow landowners in key habitat areas to either sell their land to the agency, or forfeit future development rights to their land in return for financial reimbursement and habitat monitoring.

Last month, Wyoming’s wolves were put back on the Endangered Species list, after a court ruled that the state’s management plan was inadequate. It’s the latest battle in a long-running conflict over wolf management in the West. Author Nick Jans has been following that conflict for decades and jumped into the fray earlier this year with his new book, titled “A Wolf Called Romeo.” As he told Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard, he wasn’t always a wolf advocate.

Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the Canada lynx as threatened with extinction in the Continental United States. It has also reduced its critical habitat.

The Canada lynx is one of the few native cats in North America. Its habitat is specific to thick boreal forests that accumulate deep snow and are home to the lynx’s favorite food, snowshoe hare. It has enormous paws that it uses to traverse deep snow and elude predators with smaller feet. 

With winds and low precipitation causing fire danger to escalate in rangelands around the state, the Bureau of Land Management is keeping a close eye on sage grouse habitat. Senior Resource Advisor Pam Murdock says they’re working hard to control the fires.

"I know that there are a few going on currently," she says. "We have one, I was just informed of yesterday, that did get ignited over the weekend that was in sage grouse core area up in the Bighorn Basin."

She says it isn't easy juggling conflicting priorities. 

commons.wikimedia.org

The clock is ticking about whether to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species.  Such a listing could all but shut down mineral development in the bird’s habitat.  The state has already tackled sage grouse protections.  Now it’s the federal government’s turn.  It’s been 30 years since the Lander Resource Management Plan was revised.  And so the Bureau of Land Management took the opportunity to put more protections in place for the grouse while they were at it. 

The Lander Resource Management Plan is hundreds of pages and covers a lot of ground. 

Willow Belden

When energy development happens on public lands, companies have to reclaim the land. That means restoring the landscape after it’s been disturbed. But exactly what’s required varies from one part of the state to another. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports that agencies are making those rules more consistent, in hopes of helping keep sage grouse off the endangered species list.

The Wyoming Supreme Court must decide whether Gov. Matt Mead was justified in withholding documents regarding grizzly bear management.

Grizzly activist Robert Aland has appealed a recent district court ruling that Mead was justified in withholding records.

Aland had asked Mead for records supporting his contention that the state's grizzly population is healthy enough that federal Endangered Species Act protections are no longer needed.

New report seeks to help states protect sage grouse

Mar 29, 2013

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a report that’s meant to help states figure out how to protect sage grouse and keep them off the endangered species list. 

Bob Budd with the Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust helped put the report together. He says the document provides information about the key threats to sage grouse, but leaves it up to states to develop or revise their conservation plans.

Various ecological groups in the Rocky Mountain region have joined together to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to list the boreal toad as endangered.

Once populating much of the coniferous forests of the Western United States, the boreal toad’s numbers have plummeted in the last two decades. Currently, the amphibian is only found in 1% of its original breeding area in the Southern Rockies.

Wolf hunting season ends

Dec 31, 2012

Wyoming's wolf hunting season ends today.

Hunters are allowed to kill a total of 52 wolves ... but as of Friday afternoon, they had taken only 43.

It's Wyoming's first wolf hunting season since the federal government reintroduced wolves to the Yellowstone ecosystem in the 1990s.

Besides those taken during hunting season, 25 wolves have been killed around Wyoming this year because they were considered predators.

Groups file third lawsuit over Wyoming wolves

Dec 7, 2012

Environmental groups have filed a third federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's move to end federal protections for wolves in Wyoming.
 
The Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals filed suit today/yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
 
The groups say Wyoming's management plan classifying wolves as predators that can be shot on sight in most of the state is inadequate. They want the court to reinstate federal protections.
 

The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are offering a new incentive to get farmers and ranchers to protectcertain species – including sage grouse – on their properties.

Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman says they want ranchers to do things like shifting their grazing patterns, in order to preserve sage grouse habitat. If a rancher signs on, he or she would get certain protections, if sage grouse end up on the Endangered Species List.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead defended the state’s wolf management plan this week, saying it’s been peer reviewed by scientists.

Conservation groups are welcoming a federal report spelling out how sage grouse should be managed in 11 Western states to avoid new federal protections.
 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's draft report advises the states and federal land management agencies to act immediately to stop the loss of sage grouse habitat and populations.
 
The Fish and Wildlife Service announced in 2010 that sage grouse deserved protection under the Endangered Species Act. The agency pledged to make a final listing decision by late 2015.