The Wildlife Policy News

Volume 21, Issue 7 | July 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:

House Bill Cuts Conservation Funding

On 16 June 2011, the House passed the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2112), reducing discretionary spending by $2.7 billion compared to Fiscal Year 2011 and cutting over $5 billion from the President’s request. The bill eliminates a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) biofuels program and includes significant cuts to conservation programs. The Wetlands Reserve Program would be reduced by 64,200 acres and the Grasslands Reserve Program by 96,000 acres. Relative to the level authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, the Conservation Stewardship Program would be decreased by $171 million and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program would be reduced by $350 million. The Biomass Crop Assistance Program, for which new incentives projects for farmers were recently announced, was eliminated. The bill also includes an amendment that would prohibit USDA from including climate change adaptation in its programs.

The Wildlife Society and over 400 business, conservation, and sportsmen groups responded to the bill’s passage in a letter to Vice President Joe Biden and Senate leaders, urging them not to depend on major cuts to conservation funding as a means of addressing the nation’s budget problems. The group recognized that conservation programs should bear some of the burden of spending cuts but that sustained investments are essential for clean water, recreational opportunities, productive farms, and minimizing impacts from natural disasters.

Sources: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, E&E Publishing, LLC (E&E News PM, E&E Daily).

Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Plan Revised

In a Federal Register notice , the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the availability of a draft recovery plan for the federally endangered Mexican spotted owl. The Mexican spotted owl was first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1993 largely because of habitat alteration by timber-management practices, which have since transitioned from old-growth logging to restoration forestry. New information gained since the development of the 1995 Recovery Plan and the rise of a different threat – stand-replacing wildfires – are cited as reasons that necessitate a plan revision. The draft plan emphasizes habitat restoration, including fuel reduction activities such as expanded thinning, and improved monitoring as key strategies for the recovery of the species.

Comments on the draft recovery plan must be received by 23 August 2011. View the Federal Register announcement for details on submitting comments.

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


Report – Energy Development Threatens Mule Deer

On 24 May 2011, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) announced the availability of a new report, Mule Deer and Energy: Federal Policy and Planning in the Greater Green River Basin, which found more can be done to protect mule deer. Specifically, the study analyzed the federal government’s approach to managing energy development and mule deer populations in the greater Green River Basin, which includes both significant mule deer herds and energy resources. The report noted that while federal agencies recognize the importance of mule deer considerations in energy development projects, there is a lack of consistency in the application of management policies meant to protect mule deer. Of significant concern are the impacts of energy development to crucial winter habitats, as specific plans for avoidance or mitigation are largely nonexistent. TRCP provided numerous recommendations in the report, including the need for improved coordination among federal agencies and development of best management practices for energy projects on mule deer habitat.

Source: Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership , E&E Publishing, LLC (Land Letter).

White House Ocean Policy Development Underway

As follow up to President Obama’s July 2010 executive order to develop a new National Ocean Policy, the White House recently released a collection of nine action plans which will form the basis of the policy. The goal of the policy is to increase coordination and planning to address issues affecting U.S. coasts, oceans, and the Great Lakes. Such issues range from climate change impacts on coastal communities to energy development such as offshore wind and oil. In addition to the release of the strategic plans, the National Ocean Council (comprised of agency representatives with supervisory roles in the oceans and Great Lakes) is conducting listening tours throughout the country. The action plan outlines were developed with input from the public and are now open for public comment .

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

Wyoming Governor Maintains Core Sage Grouse Habitat

On 3 June 2011, Governor Matt Meade (R) announced an updated executive order that calls for the maintenance of and continued development restrictions on 15 million acres of core habitat areas for the greater sage grouse. These core areas were established in 2008 by former Governor Dave Freudenthal (D) as part of a strategy designed to protect important grouse breeding grounds, or “leks,” which are sensitive to even minor disruptions. The order provides greater flexibility for management of the core areas, requires frequent reevaluation of the science and data that inform sage grouse management, and directs that the core areas not be altered for at least five years.

Source: Office of Governor Matt Mead , E&E Publishing, LLC (Land Letter).


ESA Exemptions Sought to Benefit Energy Development

Senators John Coryn (R-TX) and James Inhofe (R-OK) recently proposed amendments that would exempt at-risk species from protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) out of concern for negative impacts to energy development. Coryn’s proposal would prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from listing the dunes sagebrush lizard as threatened under the ESA and Inhofe’s proposal would exempt the lesser prairie chicken from listing. Both cited the need to protect energy development in their states from what they argue are debilitating government regulations that would follow such listings. The amendments were offered to S. 782 , the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, currently being considered by the Senate. Critics of the proposals note that listing decisions should be left to USFWS and informed by science, rather than through congressional action.

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

Natural Gas and Fracking Updates

Natural gas and an extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” used to recover unconventional natural gas deposits, continue to dominate the nonrenewable energy news. Across the country and at the national level, a number of key actions and decisions have occurred over the past month. Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley (D) issued an executive order that calls for a study examining the economic and environmental impacts of fracking and places a three-year moratorium on drilling in the state. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) recently called for a Government Accountability Office study on fracking that investigates impacts on water resources.

In Ohio, state senators passed a measure that would allow oil and gas drilling for the first time in state parks. Ohio House members and Governor John Kasich (R) are expected to follow suit. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry (R) signed a state law that requires companies to make public the often undisclosed chemicals used in fracking projects. While Texas is not the only state to pass such a law, it is particularly significant that the state’s large oil and gas industry supported the law. In addition, groups like the Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation have joined the conversation , voicing concerns about impacts to outdoor sporting activities and urging the development of best management practices.

On the national landscape, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken strides in its efforts to understand and minimize environmental impacts of natural gas development. EPA revealed its proposed permitting guidance for fracking wells with diesel fuel. With variable state regulations and no national rules, EPA’s guidance has the potential to become “de facto” nationwide. EPA also announced the sites that will serve as case studies for its research on the effects of fracking on drinking water. These include counties in Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and North Dakota.   

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency , E&E Publishing, LLC (Greenwire, E&E News PM).

NOAA Scientific Integrity Policy Revealed

On 16 June 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the availability of its draft scientific integrity policy , which covers employees and contractors participating in scientific activities and encourages scientists to publish findings and engage the media. NOAA is now one of only two federal agencies to have developed and made publically available its scientific integrity policy, a step towards fulfilling President Obama’s 2009 executive order on scientific integrity. Per the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), agencies have until August to submit their draft policies. Of the 17 remaining affected agencies, 5 have submitted drafts to OSTP but chose not posted them online and twelve agencies have yet to submit a draft.

NOAA’s draft policy is available for public review and comment until 15 August 2011. Visit NOAA’s scientific integrity website for details on submitting comments.
 
Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , E&E Publishing, LLC (E&E News PM).

TWS Update: Ashe Confirmed as FWS Director
 
On 1 June 2011, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) lifted his hold on Obama administration nominee Dan Ashe as director of the Fish and Wildlife Service when the Interior permitted its fifteenth oil and gas well in the Gulf of Mexico, the number stipulated by Vitter when he announced the hold in February. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) followed suit and dropped their holds at the end of June when Interior Secretary Salazar agreed to visit Wyoming to seek a solution to delist gray wolves in Wyoming and an Interior wild lands policy to protect wilderness was dropped. On 30 June, Ashe was confirmed by the Senate by a voice vote.

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


News Updates

Wolf Issues Mounting in Pacific NW: Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming were in the spotlight when a congressional move resulted in the delisting of the Northern Rockies gray wolf but the measure also delisted wolves in the eastern third of Oregon and Washington, placing them under the management of state plans. Since delisting, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has begun approving the removal of a few wolves and distributed depredation permits. In Washington, a draft management plan has been underway for the past five years and is likely to be adopted by the end of the year.

Revised Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan Released: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a revised version of its Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan. The plan replaces a 2008 recovery plan that was determined to be more political than scientific. Among the revised version’s recommendations are protection of old-forest habitat and lethal removals of the barred owl, a major competitor of the northern spotted owl.

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