endangered species act

National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service

With the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service debating whether to remove the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the endangered species list this summer, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is hosting a screening of two films on the species.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s Andrea Santarsiere worked on one of the films, “Trophy,” about how trophy hunting has hurt grizzly populations in British Columbia. Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are considering the option of allowing trophy hunting of grizzlies if the species is delisted.

Gary Kramer - US Fish & Wildlife Service

Do you agree that Wyoming's gray wolf is ready for delisting from the Endangered Species List?

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National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Senate is considering changes to the Endangered Species Act. 

What do you think about this?

Endangered Species Act

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Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone National Park; Jim Peaco

A delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear was expected by the first of the year but has been pushed back at least six months after a public comment period brought in thousands of letters of opposition. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director Michael Thabault says over 650,000 comments poured in, and it's going to take them longer than expected to respond. 

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Not long ago, the bright-orange monarch butterfly was a common sight in Wyoming. Now, not so much. So conservation groups are enlisting Wyomingites to help track down how many are still migrating through.

Nature Conservancy Scientist Amy Pocewicz said the species is in serious decline because the forests where they overwinter in Mexico have been disappearing. The monarch was petitioned for possible listing as an endangered species in 2014 and the federal government is now a year overdue in making that decision. 

Carol S. Bock

A national Native American conservation group says grizzly bears shouldn’t be removed from the Endangered Species List, but instead should expand the bear’s range onto tribal lands.

Ben Nuvamsa is a former Hopi councilman and a spokesman for Guardians of Our Ancestor’s Legacy or GOAL. He said the grizzly plays an intricate role in the belief systems of many tribes.

Wyoming Natural Diversity Database

When you think of pocket gophers, you may think of their holes covering large swaths of land. But in Wyoming’s Red Desert there’s a very rare species of pocket gopher and an environmental group is concerned it could soon become extinct.

This week, WildEarth Guardians filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have the Wyoming pocket gopher listed as endangered. Erik Molvar is a wildlife biologist for the group and he says the problem is that the species only lives in a specific brush called the Gardner's saltbush.

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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says it'll take most of a year to complete the process of delisting grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List.

Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik says not only will the feds require a 60 day comment period but the state will need to complete a management plan and collect its own public input. He says a hunting season would be part of that plan.

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Last fall, many groups celebrated when the federal government decided not to list the sage grouse as an endangered species and rolled out plans to ensure the bird’s populations didn’t continue to dwindle. But now a group of wildlife advocacy organizations is suing the federal government for not making those plans strong enough. 

Environmental advocates are celebrating this week after Congress passed a bipartisan spending bill that at one point included several provisions blocking conservation efforts.

After much talk of letting it lapse, the 50-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund was re-authorized to fund city parks and national park in-holdings. It also gave a 6% increase to federal land management agencies, a total of over $32 billion.

Bob Beck

  

Last weekend Wyoming’s annual sage grouse hunt began. Many hunters were worried that this could be the last hunt in a while, since the bird was facing the possibility of getting listed as an endangered species. When the chicken-sized bird started seeing declines in the 1990’s, some states stopped sage grouse hunting altogether. Wyoming continued its hunt after changing the start date and limiting the take. That will continue, even as the state continues mandated conservation efforts. 

Melodie Edwards

  

You might have heard a strange sound this last Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. It was a sigh of relief from ranchers, oil and gas workers and miners all over the West at the announcement that the greater sage grouse won't be listed as an endangered species. But you probably also heard the slapping of foreheads from wildlife advocates who say the grouse needs full federal protections if it’s going to survive.

In Tuesday’s announcement that the greater sage grouse will not be listed as an endangered species, the state of Wyoming got a lot of the credit by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe who said the state's strategy for bringing the bird back from the brink showed long range vision.

“I have to point out singularly the leadership from the state of Wyoming in designing the Core Area Strategy back in 2008. Because it was Wyoming’s leadership that showed us what was possible for sage grouse conservation.”

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With the decision not to list sage grouse as an endangered species, a new federal report says the current approach is effectively isolating the birds from each other like animals in a zoo.

U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Steven Knick worked on the report, and he says many of the sage grouse protected areas are like small islands scattered around the 11 Western states of its range.

Wyoming Game and Fish

The wolverine is one of the most elusive animals in the wild… not the easiest beast to get on camera. But Wyoming Game and Fish successfully photographed one in the Gros Ventre Range this year, the first documented there since the species was trapped out of the state in the last century. Game and Fish Supervisor Zack Walker says the photograph came as a surprise.

“We were able to get a photograph of a wolverine in the Gros Ventre, which has not been documented before. So that was pretty exciting. And then we had a number of wolverines seen in five other locations in Wyoming.”

Office of the Governor

People in Wyoming are passionate about wildlife. Just say the word “wolf” in mixed company and see what happens. And it’s the state’s long history of negotiating with the federal government over endangered species like the sage grouse and the grizzly that has prompted Governor Matt Mead this month to announce an initiative to reform the 42-year-old Endangered Species Act. I asked him, what made him decide now was the time for this.

Ryan Hagerty / USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife is asking people to weigh in on a proposal to designate Wyoming as a special area for the reintroduction of the endangered black-footed ferret.

Fish and Wildlife would work with the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish to release the endangered predator onto the property of landowners who volunteer.

Fish and Wildlife representative Ryan Moehring says that landowners will likely be eager, since the black-footed ferret’s sole diet is prairie dogs.

Yellowstone Celebrates 20 Years With Wolves

Feb 6, 2015
Yellowstone National Park

Wolves were brought back to Yellowstone 20 years ago this week. They had been missing from the Park’s landscape for almost 70 years. Their reintroduction caught the world’s attention. But wolves are still controversial and still federally protected in Wyoming.

Humans standing alongside the road howled as Canadian wolves were carried into Yellowstone through the Roosevelt arch in January 1995. Excited tourists came from around the world to watch in them Lamar Valley the next spring. They followed the animals through spotting scopes.

Melodie Edwards

When people think of ravens, they often think Edgar Allen Poe:

 A wildlife advocacy group has released its annual report card on the welfare of prairie dogs in the West, and the State of Wyoming received a "D." WildEarth Guardians spokesperson Taylor Jones says for the first time, Wyoming participated in a survey of the state’s prairie dog population. And it designated a research site to investigate the plague, which has contributed to the species’ decline. But she says the state still has a long way to go.

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Wyoming's U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis is one of several lawmakers sponsoring a bill that would delist wolves in Wyoming and the Midwest. The bill comes just months after a federal judge found Wyoming’s management plan unfit to protect the species.

Wyoming’s management plan protected 100 wolves and ten breeding pairs, but also allowed them to be shot on sight. Attorney Rebecca Riley with the Natural Resources Defense Council says it’s not the job of politicians to decide whether a species should be protected or not.

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Wednesday is the deadline for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether or not to list the Gunnison Sage Grouse, a sub-species that’s struggling in Colorado and Utah, under the Endangered Species Act.

In Tuesday’s election, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis won her fourth term in office, beating out Democrat Richard Grayson with almost 70 percent of the vote. She says Wyoming people were clear in their message that they prefer stronger state control.

"I’m looking forward to working with a Republican Senate to keep government at the federal level focused on what it was designed to do," she says. "Which is protect our borders and provide for the defense of this nation. And allow states to function in the areas of air, land, water, wildlife."

Melodie Edwards

Last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in Pinedale, taking part in a ceremony to sign up Wyoming ranchers to help protect sage grouse. These conservation agreements are called Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances or CCAA’s. They’re supposed to protect the birds on private lands, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards reports, some wildlife advocates question whether the program really has the teeth to make a difference.

The Endangered Species Act turned 40 this week, and two birds from Wyoming are ranked among the biggest successes of the law.  The Endangered Species Coalition says the peregrine falcon and bald eagle made their top-ten list. Derek Goldman of the Coalition says bald eagles can be seen regularly in some parts of Wyoming, but he adds that it didn’t happen by accident.

“We can see bald eagles almost everywhere now, but at one point 30 years ago, DDT and killing of eagles had really dwindled their numbers.”

What do you think about efforts to reform the Endangered Species Act?

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Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis will be involved in the latest attempt to reform the Endangered Species Act.  Lummis will take testimony on how the law might be reformed during a hearing in Casper on September 4th.  Lummis says the goal is not to get rid of the Endangered Species Act.

“Our goal is to make the endangered species act work.  And we have a law where only one percent of the species that have been listed have been de-listed.  To me that indicates a law that is failing,” says Lummis.

Lummis says too many species have ended up on the list due to court cases. 

In September a Congressional subcommittee will hold a hearing in Casper as Congress takes another crack at reforming the Endangered Species Act. 

Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis has for years been supportive of reforming the ESA.  While she is quick to acknowledge that it has been a good law, Lummis is frustrated that once something gets on the endangered species list it rarely comes off.  She joins Bob Beck to discuss this.

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