Volume 16 - Issue 2

Editor: Laura M. Bies
Reporters: Timothy B. Balzer and William Blystone

Get The Wildlife Policy News (v16, i2) as a single Adobe Acrobat .pdf file! Great for those who wish to read or print the entire issue at once.

In this Issue:

  1. U.S. Forest Service Proposes Land Sales
  2. Gilchrest Holds Hearing on Hurricane Damage
  3. Deer Breeders Sue Texas Parks and Wildlife
  4. Petition Announced to List Polar Bear as Threatened
  5. Secretary Norton Resigns; Bush Nominates Dirk Kempthorne
  6. Proposed Gray Wolf Delisting In Western Great Lakes Region
  7. Bald Eagle Delisting Comment Period Opened
  8. DOT Releases Guide to Infrastructure Development
  9. Alaskan Oil spill Largest Ever on the North Slope
  10. Sporting Conservation Council Created
  11. Senate Passes FY 2007 Budget Resolution
  12. Professional Scientific Societies and Federal Biologists

U.S. Forest Service Proposes Land Sales

The President's Fiscal Year 2007 budget includes a legislative proposal that would grant the Forest Service authority to sell tracts of forest land that are deemed too isolated or inefficient to manage due to their location or other characteristics. Up to 300,000 acres are being considered for sale. The money received from the sales, which could total $800 million, would provide funding for roads and schools for states and counties impacted by the loss of receipts associated with lower timber harvests on federal lands. Comments will be accepted on the proposal until 1 May. A list of the parcels being considered for sale and maps showing their locations are available at www.fs.fed.us/land/staff/rural_schools.shtml.

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Gilchrest Holds Hearing on Hurricane Damage

On 16 March, Chairman Gilchrest of the House Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans held a hearing on the impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the National Wildlife Refuge System. Testifying were Dale Hall (Director, FWS), Don Young (Executive VP, Ducks Unlimited), W. Parke Moore III (Assistant Secretary, Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries), Evan Hirsche (President, National Wildlife Refuge Association), Michael Daulton (Director of Conservation Policy, National Audubon Society), and David Richard (Executive VP, Stream Property Mgmt. Inc.). The witness' testimonies spoke to the extent of the catastrophic devastation and urged Congress to take swift action to restore critical wildlife habitat.

Facility and habitat damages on Gulf Coast refuges were estimated to be in excess of $270 million, approximately 70% of the entire Refuge System's annual budget. According to Hirsche, over 1,400 barrels of hazardous materials are seeping into the marshes of Sabine NWR. All panelists agreed that the drastic reduction of marsh-buffers along the gulf exacerbated the damage of the hurricanes, and explicitly advocated the restoration of thousands of acres as in the best interest of rebuilding efforts throughout the coastal communities. Chairman Gilchrest agreed with the panelists and committed to pushing for increased funding towards refuge restoration.

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Deer Breeders Sue Texas Parks and Wildlife

A group of several Texas deer breeders brought suit against the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department over the ownership of the deer held in pens by deer breeders. The plaintiffs, holders of scientific deer breeding permits, are asking the Travis County Court to declare that the breeders own the deer in their pens. All wild deer are by law owned by the state, but the deer breeder argue that this public trust doctrine does not apply to the penned deer for which they hold a permit.

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Petition Announced to List Polar Bear as Threatened

On 8 February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that a petition to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act presents substantial scientific and commercial information indicating that listing the polar bear may be warranted. The agency is initiating a status review of the polar bear to determine if the species should be proposed for listing. Public comments will be accepted until 10 April. At the conclusion of the status review, a 12-month finding will be published announcing the Service's determination. If the Service determines that listing is warranted, it will publish a proposed rule to list the species. Comments should be sent to Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management Office, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503 or emailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Secretary Norton Resigns; Bush Nominates Dirk Kempthorne

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton announced her resignation in a 10 March letter to President Bush. Secretary Norton will leave the President's Cabinet at the end of March after a five-year tenure. Norton, sworn in on 31 January 2001, was the first woman to serve as Secretary of the Interior. She served in that position longer than all but six of her predecessors. On 16 March President Bush announced Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne as his nomination for Norton's replacement as the Secretary of the Interior. Kempthorne, a former Senator, is seen as a likely candidate for Senate confirmation.

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Proposed Gray Wolf Delisting In Western Great Lakes Region

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that gray wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan have recovered from the threat of extinction, prompting the Service to propose removing the wolves in this region from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. The Western Great Lakes region includes the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan as well as parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. The Service's proposal would give wolf management responsibility to the states and tribes. The reclassification effort will take several months; the delisting could be completed late in 2006 or early in 2007.

The gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes region is currently close to 4,000 animals. The Minnesota population is about 3,020 while populations in Michigan and Wisconsin are 405 and 425 respectively. The increases over the past 12 years have exceeded the population criteria identified in the recover plans. Comments on the proposal will be accepted for 90 days starting on 27 March, when the rule was published in the Federal Register. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or by mail to Western Great Lakes Wolf Delisting, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Whipple Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056.

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Bald Eagle Delisting Comment Period Opened

On 16 February the Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the comment period on the 1999 proposal to delist the Bald Eagle from Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection. To ensure the raptors are adequately protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), FWS also proposed a clarified definition of disturb - to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to the degree that interferes with or interrupts normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering habits, causing injury, death, or nest abandonment.

The BGEPA and Migratory Bird Treaty Act are expected to protect the species from disturbances if and when they are delisted from the ESA. Comments on the delisting of bald eagles can be sent to Michelle Morgan, Chief, Branch of Recovery and Delisting, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters Office, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, Virginia 22203. Comments regarding the amended definition of "disturb," and the FWS' draft management guidelines can be sent to Brian Millsap, Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MBSP-4107, Arlington, Virginia 22203. Comments can also be submitted electronically at www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/baldeagle.htm, where full text documents are available. The comment periods for all three proposals end 17 May 2006.

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DOT Releases Guide to Infrastructure Development

On 9 February the US Department of Transportation (DOT)/Federal Highway Administration, along with several other federal agencies and state DOTs, released a guide to implement an Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects. The interagency Steering Team sought to foster the development of infrastructures through practices sensitive to terrestrial and aquatic habitats. The "Eco-Logical" guide lays out concepts for integrating plans amongst agencies and advocates ecosystem-based mitigation-when the impacts of transportation and communications systems, utilities, and public institutions (or any infrastructure essential to the functioning of a community or society) are unavoidable. The "Eco-Logical" guide can be found at www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/ecological/eco_index.asp. Hard copies of the document will be available this spring.

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Alaskan Oil spill Largest Ever on the North Slope

On 18 March more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from a transmission line on the North Slope of Alaska. The spill originated from an elevated BP transmission pipeline at a spot where it dips to ground level to allow caribou to cross. The source of the spill was a quarter-inch hole apparently caused by corrosion inside the 3-mile line that leads to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The plant, 650 miles north of Anchorage, usually processes 100,000 barrels of oil daily.

Crews used a vacuum truck to recover oil that pooled in parts of the tundra, and carried fresh snow to other spots to absorb the crude. After they transfer the contaminated snow to a concrete pad, the mixture will be melted and separated. The crude will ultimately be treated and sold, according to BP officials. The goal is to collect at least 90 percent of the spilled oil. In recent days, the wind chill factor dipped to more than 70 degrees below zero at Prudhoe Bay. While making conditions difficult for the crews, it has been helpful in slowing the spread of the oil by thickening it. The extent of regulatory penalties BP faces is unknown. Officials with the state DEC said the company could be fined close to $2 million.

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Sporting Conservation Council Created

During the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Columbus, Ohio, Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced the creation of new Sporting Conservation Council.

The 12-member council will provide guidance to the Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service on resource conservation issues. The 12 members of the council are: Robert Model, chairman, Boone and Crockett Club of America; Steve Mealey, former forest supervisor and member, Boone and Crockett Club of America; Rob Keck, CEO, National Wild Turkey Federation; John Baughman, executive director, International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; Jeff Crane, president, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation; Merle Shepard, vice president, Safari Club International; Jim Mosher, executive director, North American Grouse Partnership; Peter J. Dart, president and CEO, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; Susan Recce, director, conservation, wildlife and natural resources, National Rifle Association; Christine Thomas, dean and professor of resources management, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources; Dan Dessecker, senior wildlife biologist, Ruffed Grouse Society; and John Tomke, chairman of the board of Ducks Unlimited.

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Senate Passes FY 2007 Budget Resolution

In mid-March, the Senate voted 51-49 in favor of S. Con Res. 83, the FY 2007 Congressional Budget Resolution. The resolution includes many of the cuts recommended by the Bush Administration, as well as provisions allowing oil drilling and the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and language leaving open the opportunity for reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. Also included in the resolution is language requiring the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to draft legislation for programs under the committee's jurisdiction offsetting $3 billion in federal spending over the next 5 years. Five Republicans voted against the resolution: Lincoln Chafee (RI), Norm Coleman (MN), Susan Collins (ME), Mike Dewine (OH), and John Ensign (NV). During negotiations, Republicans leaders agreed to establish a five-year, $10 billion coastal restoration and levee fund, winning over Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, and giving them the 51 votes they needed to pass the resolution.

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Professional Scientific Societies and Federal Biologists

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is collaborating with The Wildlife Society, U.S. Geological Survey, Cornell University, and the American Fisheries Society to assess the roles of professional societies in the Service and the USGS Biological Resources Discipline. Cornell's Human Dimensions Research Unit (HDRU) will implement an internet-based survey of USFWS and USGS scientists to support three assessments:

  • The values and functions of employee membership in professional societies, and the extent and nature of involvement (e.g., journal subscriptions, attendance at meetings, publications, positions on technical or executive committees);
  • employee perceptions of TWS and AFS regarding publications, policies, annual conferences, certification programs, and activities at Chapter, Section and National levels; and,
  • real and perceived barriers within the Service and the Geological Survey to involvement in professional societies.

Approximately 3,600 Service biologists will be surveyed across Ecological Services, Fisheries and Habitat Conservation, Endangered Species, Refuges, Migratory Birds-State Programs, and International Affairs in all regions. The USGS portion of the survey will target approximately 800 biologists in professional series in the 18 Science Centers and 40 Cooperative Research Units.

Approximately 36 pre-survey interviews will be conducted this spring in 3 geographic regions to explore why biologists participate or do not participate in TWS, AFS and other professional societies. Service and USGS respondents will be selected to reflect diversity in the types of factors that may influence involvement in professional societies: position, length of employment, program, and gender. Interview data will help refine the internet-based questionnaire and enhance interpretation of survey results.

The survey questionnaire will be administered by Cornell University's HDRU. In early May 2006, Service and USGS biologists will receive an email and a link to the questionnaire. Approximately 100 non-respondents from the Service and 50 non-respondents from the Survey will be interviewed, via phone, to help determine whether and how non-respondents differ from respondents.

Project results and recommendations will be published in journals specific to the fields of wildlife research and management, social science, and human dimensions. They will also be presented to the Service and USGS Directorates for consideration and action. The U.S. Geological Survey is providing funding for the survey. This effort is the result of an agreement between The Wildlife Society, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey to exchange scientific information, advance professionalism in the agencies, and elevate continuing education of wildlife biologists and managers. For questions concerning this project, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 301-897-9770.

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