The Wildlife Policy News

Volume 21, Issue 6 | June 2011

Editor: Laura M. Bies
Reporters: Maeghan Brass

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:

Lethal Sea Lion Removal Reauthorized, then Stalled 

On 12 May 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) authorized both Washington and Oregon to lethally remove up to 85 California sea lions that congregate at Bonneville Dam to feed on fish as they funnel through the area. NOAA issued a new authorization letter and decision memo to address flaws in the first sea lion lethal take permit issued three years ago. Impacts to sensitive fish species including federally threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead are the greatest concern associated with the feeding habits of the sea lions around the dam. The Wild Fish Conservancy and the Humane Society responded to the new authorization with a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, arguing that sea lions do not pose a major threat to the troubled fisheries and that other factors, such as overfishing and barriers created by hydroelectric projects, must be addressed instead. Washington and Oregon have agreed not to remove sea lions until September while the lawsuit is under consideration.

Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, E&E Publishing, LLC (Greenwire). 

Proposed Rule Supports Professional Society Participation 

On 3 May 2011, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued a proposed rule amendment that would permit federal government employees “to participate in particular matters affecting the financial interests of nonprofit organizations in which they serve an official capacity, notwithstanding the employees’ imputed financial interest.” This proposed rule would amend the OGE regulations promulgated under Section 208(a) of title 18 of the United States Code which prohibits federal employees from participating in an official capacity in government affairs where they have a financial interest. Specifically, the rule would add a new regulatory exemption for employees serving in official capacity as officer, director, or trustee of a nonprofit organization.

This proposed rule is of particular interest to The Wildlife Society, as federal employees are currently being denied the opportunity to fully participate in professional and scientific organizations, largely because of inconsistent and possibly incorrect interpretations of federal conflict of interest rules. In recent years, some federal agencies have completely prohibited federal employees from serving on the boards of outside organizations, while others create conditions that make it virtually impossible to serve. By expanding and clarifying exemptions, the proposed rule is a move in the right direction regarding federal employee participation in professional societies.

Comments on the proposed rule must be received by 5 July 2011. View the Federal Register notice for directions on submitting comments.

Sources: U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Federal Register. 

New Bill Would Increase Access to Public Lands

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Making Public Lands Public Access Act (S. 901) on 5 May 2011. If passed, the bill would amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (1965) to make funds available for projects that will improve public access to federal public lands. Projects given priority would include those that secure public access to areas that have restricted access for hunting, fishing, and other recreational uses, namely through land acquisition or rights-of-way. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Source: The Library of Congress. 

FWS Announces Plan for Addressing Needs of 250+ Candidate Species 

On 10 May 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a work plan that would enable the agency to focus on species in greatest need of protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), rather than have its “workload driven by the courts.” The plan sets a six-year schedule for systematic review of a list of more than 250 candidate species for protection under the ESA. The plan would resolve a legal challenge from WildEarth Guardians, a common FWS plaintiff. In an agreement with WildEarth Guardians, FWS would adhere to the plan and begin reviewing more than 600 other listing petitions. In return, WildEarth Guardians would refrain from litigation requiring 90-day and 12-month findings on new listing petitions and set a maximum per year limit on its listing petitions. A federal judge, however, placed a hold on the settlement on 17 May, staying its approval until June 20 so as to engage the Center for Biological Diversity. The Center, also a major FWS litigant on species issues, found the plan to be vague and unenforceable and the judge determined that it must also be part of any agreement.

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

Guidance Document to Clarify CWA Protections 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed guidance document on 27 April 2011 intended to clarify which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA specifically prohibits discharge of a pollutant into navigable waters but determining which waters fall under this category has not always been straightforward. Interpretations of Supreme Court rulings over the last decade have removed federal protection for some waters and, as a result, have caused uncertainty about which waters are protected under the CWA. The draft document details the agencies’ interpretation of the statute, relevant regulations, and caselaw and sets forth guidance for determining whether a waterway, water body, or wetland is protected under the CWA.

The guidance document is open for public comment until 1 July 2011. Comments should be submitted to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it (see the Federal Register announcement for alternative submission options). More information is available at the project website. 

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Corridor Project Underway in Northern Rockies

One of the first projects to be funded under the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative seeks to identify the best migration opportunities for wildlife in Montana, Idaho, British Columbia, and Alberta. The project, overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will provide key information about connectivity between important wild areas to gain a better understanding of the ability of species to respond to changes, namely those associated with climate change. With this knowledge, land managers will be able to target protection of habitat linkages between large sections of public lands in the northern Rocky Mountains. Grizzly bears in particular are expected to benefit from the project.

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

Rat Eradication Plan for Palmyra Atoll 

At the end of April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for a $2.7 million rat eradication program for Palmyra Atoll, a coral reef island located in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii. The 250 hectare atoll is owned and managed by both FWS and the Nature Conservancy, is uninhabited, and supports diverse land crab fauna, predator-dominated fish assemblages, and large seabird populations. Inhabited by approximately 30,750 rats, the less than one square mile atoll also has the highest density of black rats on any island – 123 rats per hectare. The black rat is a non-native species on the atoll that preys on seabird chicks, eggs, and native crabs, limits native plant recruitment, and disperses seeds of invasive plants. FWS estimates that the rats are preventing eight seabird species from successfully nesting on the atoll. On 29 May, the Regional Director approved FWS’ preferred alternative proposed in the FEIS, which involves both aerial and hand application of the rodenticide brodiacoum, as well as mitigation of risks to vulnerable shorebirds.

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

TWS Update: National White-Nose Plan Unveiled

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unveiled a new national plan on 17 May 2011 to address white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that has killed more than one million bats in eastern North America since 2006. Recently detected in Maine, white-nose syndrome has now been found along the East Coast from Maryland to Canada and as far west as Oklahoma. The plan provides a coordinated national management strategy to develop a better understanding of the syndrome and its cause as well as strategies to prevent its spread, as there is no known cure. TWS submitted comments on the draft plan in December 2010, underscoring its importance and providing recommendations for improvement, such as providing greater detail and timelines for Action Plans and clarifying the overarching goal of the plan. To read the plan in full and learn more about white-nose syndrome, visit the project website.

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

News Update: More Barred Owls in Pacific Northwest than Previously Thought 

A recent government study detected more barred owls in the Pacific Northwest than previously thought. Through a species-specific survey that included playing barred owl calls at over 1,800 sites, researchers involved in the study gathered the first real data on the species’ populations in the Pacific Northwest. The study’s findings were shared with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is currently finalizing the recovery plan for the federally threatened spotted owl (which competes with the barred owl for resources).

Sources: E&E Publishing, LLC (Land Letter).

The Wildlife Society | 5410 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 200 | Bethesda MD 20814-2144| Phone: (301) 897-9770 | Fax: (301) 530-2471