The Wildlife Policy News

Volume 21, Issue 3 | March 2011

Editor: Laura M. Bies
Reporters: Maeghan Brass and Emily Sadowski

Wildlife Policy News is intended to foster the exchange of information about policy issues among Society leaders. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official policy of The Wildlife Society unless so stated. Please share this publication with your colleagues. Contents may be reprinted with credit to Wildlife Policy News. We welcome comments and suggestions for future issues at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Download the entire issue as a PDF

In this Issue:

President’s Budget for FY 2012 Released

President Obama released his proposed budget for the federal government for the 2012 fiscal year on 14 February 2011. The proposed budget would reduce this year’s estimated deficit of $1.6 trillion by half over the next five years and includes changes to a number of environmental and energy programs. Under the proposed budget, the Environmental Protection Agency would receive $9 billion (12 percent reduction from the administration’s previous request), the Department of Energy would receive $29.5 billion (12 percent increase) to support renewable energy and efficiency projects, and the Department of the Interior (DOI) would receive $12 billion (stable funding).

While overall DOI funding would remain essentially flat, significant new funding was proposed for land and water conservation, made possible by cuts to agency construction, some tribal programs, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). New revenue generated from mineral royalty reforms and permitting fees associated with oil and gas would bump the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to its maximum annual authorized cap of $900 million. This increase would support the America’s Great Outdoors initiative as well as land acquisition, the protection of sensitive species, and enhance states’ promotion of recreation.

At $1.7 billion, funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would remain roughly constant with the administration’s previous request, but includes increases to programs such as State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, the Endangered Species Program, and the National Wildlife Refuge System. USGS would see an increase in $11 million for its National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center program and the Bureau of Land Management would experience a decrease of $24 million, but funding for programs in wildlife and riparian management would remain relatively constant. Certain programs within the Department of Agriculture would also benefit, such as the Wetlands Reserve, Grassland Reserve, and Conservation Reserve programs with requests of 271,158, 67,000, and 32 million additional acres, respectively.

Sources: The White House, E&E News (Greenwire).

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House Continuing Resolution Cuts Funding for Conservation

On 19 February 2011, the House passed its proposed Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded until October with a final vote of 235-189. The House CR would cut over $60 billion in federal spending relative to the current funding measure expiring 4 March 2011, which is based on FY2010 funding levels.

The cuts hit many energy and environment programs hard. Some of the largest reductions were applied to the Department of Energy with over $1 billion cut, along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with $3 billion in cuts. In addition to funding reductions, restrictions were placed on the EPA, including additions to bills that affect pending greenhouse gas emissions rules, regulations regarding the Clean Water Act, and the ability of the Agency to review offshore drilling permits in the Arctic. Also approved by the House were three amendments geared toward halting plans to establish more rigid environmental protections for coal-mining in the Appalachians.

Constraints on climate change efforts were made beyond EPA, as all funds for climate services for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were fully removed. Other programs cut entirely from the CR budget include State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, and the US Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. Compared to the President’s request for 2011, spending cuts to the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Science and Land and Water Conservation Fund were $201 million, $46 million, and $348 million respectively.

The debate now moves to the Senate, with another extension or even a government shutdown possible if a funding agreement is not reached by 4 March.

Sources: E&E Publishing, LLC (Greenwire), E&E Publishing, LLC (E&E Daily), The New York Times.

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America’s Great Outdoors Initiative Plan Released

On 14 February 2011, President Obama announced the release of America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations, the Administration’s action plan for the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The Initiative was launched last April by President Obama to develop a 21st Century conservation and recreation agenda. It comprises a major effort to address Americans’ growing disconnect with the outdoors and, in part, the mounting pressures lands and natural resources face. The initiative is fueled by a three-pronged vision that seeks to (1) connect Americans to the outdoors, (2) conserve and restore the outdoors, and (3) instill a collaborative approach in the process.

The report details how the federal government plans put the vision into motion, largely by working to empower local communities to attain their conservation and recreation goals. The plan will result in accessible parks and green spaces as well as river restoration and recreational “blueways,” and seeks to ensure greater support for landowners to protect landscapes and provide access for recreation, investment in the protection of outdoor areas, and the development of a 21st Century conservation ethic. The report also calls for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, establishment of a Conservation Service Corps to engage youth in water restoration and public lands, and the extension of benefits for conservation easement donations on private lands after 2011.

View this video to listen to President Obama’s comments on the initiative. Visit the America’s Great Outdoors website to read the full report and share your comments.

Sources: The White House, America’s Great Outdoors.

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Salazar Touts Smarter Renewable Energy Development

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced on 11 February 2011 new initiatives by the Department of Interior to work towards smart and swift development of renewable energy on public lands. Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have developed proposals offering comprehensive support to renewable energy stakeholders in terms of both site selection and avoidance of impacts to surrounding wildlife or habitats.

The Draft Voluntary Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines is one of two documents released by FWS to provide information on proper development of wind energy facilities to agency employees, federal agencies, developers and state organizations. This set of guidelines offers recommendations for site selection to minimize adverse effects on plants, fish, wildlife and their habitats. These voluntary guidelines are designed to minimize impacts to federally protected migratory birds, bats, and other wildlife likely to be disturbed by operation and maintenance of wind energy facilities.

The second document, Draft Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance, provides recommendations to FWS employees and project developers responsible for assessing impacts of proposed wind energy projects to species protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The plan outlines the information needed to prepare an Eagle Conservation Program and evaluate the level of risk a facility poses to eagles and how design, siting, and operational adaption can reduce that risk.

The draft guidance documents can be found at the FWS wind energy project website. Public comment will be open for both documents until 19 May 2011.

The BLM also released its final policy memoranda that provide guidance for land managers in processing and evaluating utility-scale wind and solar energy project applications on BLM lands. They include National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Utility-Scale Renewable Energy Right-of-Way Authorizations, Solar and Wind Energy Applications: Due Diligence, and Solar and Wind Energy Applications: Pre-Application Screening).

Sources: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Register.

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Forest Service Releases Draft Planning Rule

On 14 February 2011, the U.S. Forest Service released its draft planning rule that will determine the future management of the nation’s 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands. The rule establishes a new framework for the development of all land management plans and includes provisions to guide forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation, and management of multiple uses. The Service noted that the rule is designed to speed planning efforts, utilize the best available science, engage the public, and enhance resilience to climate change, pests, and other threats. The new rule follows two previous revisions by other administrations that were ultimately rejected in court.

Visit the Forest Service Planning Rule homepage to view the draft rule and for directions for submitting comments. Comments are due by 16 May 2011. There Service will host an open forum on the proposal on March 10 in Washington, DC and public meetings will be held at other locations throughout the country during the public comment period. 

Sources: U.S. Forest Service, E&E News (Greenwire, Land Letter).

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Mexican Wolf Population Increases by Eight

gray wolf - fws

Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Federal biologists counted 50 Mexican gray wolves along the Arizona-New Mexico border this year, an increase of eight since last year’s count of 42. Twenty-nine of the wolves were found in Arizona, with the remaining 21 in New Mexico. The current population includes 14 wild-born pups that survived through the end of 2010, double the number of surviving pups in the 2009 count. Also among the population are two pairs of breeding wolves and a male and female recently released by federal biologists into the Blue Range recovery area.

Although the current count of 50 wolves falls short of the Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Program goal of 100 wild wolves by 2010, this year’s count was a reason for optimism for the species’ recovery as the past four years have been marked by population declines or steady numbers.

Sources:  E&E Publishing, LLC (Land Letter), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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WNS Spreads to North Carolina

White-nose syndrome (WNS) continues to spread across the country with recent discoveries of infected bats in southern Indiana and now western North Carolina. The disease, caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, has killed more than 1 million bats in the United States over the past five years. Impacts to endangered species, like the Indiana and gray bat, are of concern and experts believe WNS has the potential to wipe out half of the nation’s bat population. WNS was confirmed in North Carolina earlier this month when five bats from an Avery County mine tested positive for the fungus.

While no cure or treatment exists for this disease that leaves bats visibly infected with white fungus on the nose, ears, and wings, efforts are underway to better understand WNS. Preventing its potential spread via human activity (e.g. transportation of fungal spores from one cave to the next via clothing or equipment) has also been identified as an important strategy for combating the disease. As a result, cave closures have occurred throughout much of the East but most caves in the West, mainly on Bureau of Land Management lands, remain open, leading to concerns that the disease could continue to spread.

For more on WNS and to view a recently developed interagency WNS draft management plan, visit FWS’ information portal on WNS.

Sources: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, E&E News, LLC (Land Letter, E&E News PM).

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Report Says International Protection Plan for Sharks Failed

An international plan established in 2001 by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) has failed to protect shark populations, says a recent report released by the wildlife trade monitoring network (TRAFFIC) and the Pew Environment Group (PEG). The plan, approved by UNFAO, was the first program aimed at monitoring and controlling international shark trade. Ten years later, however, seven of the top 20 shark-catching countries lack national plans of action and 30 percent of all shark species are threatened with extinction. Shark populations have been falling around the world and many species have become endangered due to overfishing, largely to meet the demand for shark fin soup.

View the report by TRAFFIC and Pew Environment Group, entitled The Future of Sharks: A Review of Action and Inaction.

Sources: E&E Publishing, LLC (Land Letter), Reuters, The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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TWS Update: FWS Director Nominee Blocked by Vitter

On 15 February 2011, Senator David Vitter (R-La.) placed a hold on Dan Ashe’s nomination for director of the Fish and Wildlife Service to protest the moratorium placed on deepwater drilling permits. The moratorium in response to the BP PLC Gulf oil spill was officially removed last fall, but new requirements created by the Department of the Interior have made the permitting process move slowly.

The hold on Ashe’s nomination is not the only one in place by Vitter; he has also stalled the nomination for chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Scott Doney, for similar reasons.

Sources: E&E Publishing, LLC (E&E News PM).

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News Update: Test Group of Bison Returns to Yellowstone

All but one member of a test group of twenty-five bison allowed to roam outside Yellowstone National Park onto adjacent national forest lands have returned to the park. Ten wandered back into the park two weeks after release, fourteen were hazed back into the park after repeatedly moving onto private property, and one female was killed by wildlife managers after straying onto private property and becoming aggressive. The release of the test group marked the first time bison were allowed outside of the park since near extinction 100 years ago and is part of a multi-step Interagency Bison Management Plan. Potential reasons for the return of individuals to the park include non-ideal grazing areas, avoidance of disruptive areas, or migration to join other bison. Decisions have yet to be made about the next step of the plan and whether additional efforts will be made to release a second group.

Source: E&E News (Land Letter), National Park Service.

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