The Wildlife Policy News

Volume 22, Issue 1 | January 2012

Editor: Christine Carmichael
Reporter: Charlotte Weaver 

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 .

In this Issue:

Canada Withdraws from Kyoto Protocol; Quebec Establishes Cap and Trade System
On December 12, 2011 Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol to avoid $14 billion in fines for failing to meet emissions goals. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed opposition to any extension of the Kyoto Protocol framework, favoring instead a new international treaty with commitments from all major emitters, including developing nations such as India and China. Despite this setback at the national level, the province of Quebec is taking initiative to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by adopting a regulation establishing a cap and trade system as part of the Western Climate Initiative.

Quebec’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. This regulation will allow Quebec to transition toward a green, sustainable, and prosperous economy, said Pierre Arcand, the province’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks. Others, including Quebec Employers Council Chairman Yves-Thomas Dorval, consider this decision rushed and risky and worry about Quebec’s ability to maintain a competitive business environment with the added regulation. Implementation begins with a transitional year starting January 1, 2012, with reduction obligations starting on January 1, 2013. Quebec follows the state of California, which adopted a state-wide cap and trade system on October 20, 2011.

Sources: Environmental News Service (December 15, 2011), Reuters (December 13, 2011), CBC News (December 12, 2011).

Horse Slaughter Ban Lifted*
On November 18, 2011 President Obama signed into law the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (H.R. 2112). The legislation, in part, eliminated the “backdoor ban” on horse slaughter by removing language that prohibited funding for inspections, required for the horse slaughter industry to operate. While the bill does not prohibit the expenditure of funds on inspections of horse slaughter facilities for human consumption, it also does not allocate money for it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to allocate funding out from its own budget in order to provide inspections, which the agency says it will do if slaughterhouses open. 

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office, which prompted the reversal, found that the ban was backfiring since it only shifted slaughter from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico where U.S. humane slaughter laws could not be enforced. Rather than lifting the ban, some animal rights group want this issue addressed by implementing bans on horse slaughter in the U.S. as well as on the live export of horses for slaughter. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 has been introduced in support of this aim in both the House (H.R. 2966), and the Senate (S. 1176).

The Wildlife Society (TWS) recognizes the ecological damage caused by wild horses and burros (WHB) and supports euthanasia as a humane method for removal of unadoptable horses, as detailed in its Position Statement on Feral Horses and Burros in North America. Agencies charged with managing WHB populations, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), rarely employ euthanasia. However, with nearly 40,000 WHBs now roaming BLM-managed lands and virtually no natural predators to control populations, herds can double every four years, creating a pressing need for realistic management options. With horse slaughter no longer banned in the U.S., federal agencies have the option of employing euthanasia in the form of humane slaughter of WHBs for human consumption. The BLM currently has a policy against selling horses for slaughter, though that policy is shaped by public opinion.

*This story has been modified from the original version published in January 2012, which incorrectly stated that the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals supported the reversal of the ban. 

Sources: Animal Law Coalition (November 18, 2011), Cable News Network (November 30, 2011), Christian Science Monitor (November 29, 2011), The Washington Times (November 30, 2011), BLM  

Status of FY12 Appropriations for Wildlife Programs
On December 23, 2011 the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 was signed into law by President Obama, providing funding for most federal agencies, including the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, through fiscal year 2012. The combined spending packages total more than $1 trillion, $7 billion below last year’s levels. Many agencies charged with conserving and managing wildlife will be dealt budget cuts in the coming year. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will receive $1.5 billion, a $28 million dollar cut from FY 2011. The greatest cut was dealt to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which will receive $4.6 billion, $91 million less than 2011.

Over the summer many early spending bills introduced in the House of Representatives contained language detrimental to wildlife and the environment. The recently passed legislation omitted much of this language and restored conservation funding for land acquisitions, species protections and listings, state and tribal wildlife grants, and wetlands preservation. However, Representative Mike Simpson’s (R-ID) Bighorn Sheep Rider was included, providing protection to sheep ranchers on public lands despite the proven danger that domestic sheep pose to endangered wild bighorn (Ovis canadensis) by spreading diseases such as bacterial pneumonia. The rider states that no funds may be used to carry out management restrictions on domestic sheep on National Forest System lands in excess of those in place as of July 1, 2011. Simpson introduced the rider in reaction to part of a management plan for Payette National Forest which would have closed much of the forest’s land to sheep grazing.

The final bill appropriated $486.5 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), which includes $1 million for a pilot program to eradicate feral swine on refuges. TWS outlined the negative impacts of feral swine to humans and native wildlife and encouraged eradication of this non-native species in its ‘Position Statement on Feral Swine in North America, published in August 2011. $20 million of NWRS appropriations will fund climate change inventory and monitoring, an important tool in managing for climate change adaptation. White-nose syndrome (WNS), a rapidly-spreading, deadly disease that is decimating bat populations, was mentioned multiple times in the final bill which directs the FWS to fund WNS research and response activities at no less than $4,000,000 from the Recovery budget. The bill also directs the USFS and BLM to increase research and response activities for WNS and inventory and monitor suitable bat resources on their respective lands.

Sources: E&E Publishing, LLC (Greenwire, December 15, 2011), The Library of Congress

Public Scoping Period Open for Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy
On December 9, 2011 the BLM and USFS announced the opening of a public scoping period for Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) conservation planning. The agencies plan to prepare Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and Supplemental EISs to incorporate Greater Sage-grouse conservation measures into land use and management plans. Public meetings will be held in western states throughout this process. Comments from the public will be accepted until February 7, 2012 and can be sent by email to Brian Amme, Western Region Project Manager, at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . Please see the BLM website for the Eastern Region and Western Region for more information.

Sources: E&E Publishing LLC (E&E News PM, December 8, 2011), Federal Register, BLM

Fracking Controversy in New York
In New York, a draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) has been released for comment concerning hydro-fracking for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale within the state. The controversial revised plan has raised concerns from many groups who say the plan lacks sufficient details on how the state would treat and dispose of fracking wastewater, finance hundreds of new inspectors needed to police wells and protect New York City's water supply. The governor’s budget proposal currently does not include funding for the regulation of fracking.

New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is considering ways to fund regulation by creating a user fee to be paid by the drilling companies, some of whom say they are willing to pay for oversight. The DEC would need to hire 140 new workers the first year permits are issued and 226 by the fifth, costing a total of $20 million annually. The state could still incorporate funding for regulation into its budget, which will not be finalized until April 2012. 

On August 15, 2011 TWS signed a letter with other sportsmen conservation groups asking Governor Cuomo to hold a public comment period of sufficient length to capture the public’s sentiments regarding the DGEIS. The comment period on the revised drilling plan has since been extended to January 11, 2012. Sections and chapters of TWS plan to submit comments suggesting stronger baseline studies, mitigation techniques, and buffer zones to lessen habitat fragmentation.

Sources: E&E Publishing LLC (Greenwire, December 20, 2011; December 1, 2011), New York DEC

Hawai‘i Builds First Predator Proof Fence in U.S.
Hawai‘i has erected the first predator-proof fence in the U.S., which is successfully keeping mice, rats, dogs, cats and mongooses from eating seabird eggs and chicks on the northwestern shore of the island of Oahu. Hawai‘i's Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Hawai‘i Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and other community groups collaborated on the project, which marks a significant milestone in a continuing battle to recover endangered bird species threatened by predation by invasive species.

The 2,040 foot long, 6.5 foot high fence consists of a high-tech metal mesh which can keep terrestrial predators from ground–nesting seabird nest sites. The FWS funded the $270,000 fence, which was installed last March around 59 acres of the Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve. Following installation, biologists conducted an extensive effort to trap and remove predators from within the enclosure. The initial results are encouraging, with chick survival at its highest for some species since the 1990s. The overhanging fence keeps animals from climbing over, and an underground mesh skirt keeps predators from tunneling underneath. Two more fences are being installed in the state, including one which is designed to keep out carnivorous snails. Eventually biologists hope to reintroduce the endangered Hawai‘ian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis) and Newell's Shearwater (Puffinus newelli) to the reserve. The fence will also benefit native plants as well by keeping rats from eating native plant seeds.

Sources: E&E Publishing (Landletter, December 15, 2011), Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife

FWS and NOAA Propose Definition of ‘Significant Portion of its Range’
The FWS and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the opening of a public comment period regarding their proposed definition of what constitutes a “significant portion” of a species’ range, a key phrase in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that is not currently clearly defined. The policy would also provide consistency for how this term should be applied, aiding agencies in making decisions of whether to add or remove species from the federal list of threatened and endangered wildlife and plants.

Under the proposed policy, a portion of the range of any given species would be defined as “significant” if it contributed to the viability of the species and is so important that without it the species would be at risk of extinction. The vaguely defined term has lead to much debate and litigation over species listings. The new proposal requires that if a species is found to be threatened or endangered in a significant portion of its range, the entire species must be listed and protections of the ESA applied throughout its range, unless the significant portion is inhabited by a Distinct Population Segment (DPS), in which case only the DPS would be listed. 

Comments will be accepted until February 7, 2012 may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov (Docket No. [FWS–R9–ES–2011–0031]); or via mail to:

    Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS–R9–ES–2011–0031]
    Division of Policy and Directives Management
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM
    Arlington, VA 22203

Sources: FWS, Federal Register

BLM to Assess Solar Energy’s Impact on Desert Wildlife
The BLM hopes to lead solar energy developers to parcels of land called Solar Energy Zones (SEZ) which are situated to have low environmental impacts, easy access to transmission lines, and high solar resources. The effort to preemptively plan for solar development comes as developers have great incentive to develop in the southwestern U.S. due to state renewable energy mandates, tax credit incentives, and guaranteed loans. 

The BLM is currently processing 80 applications that would develop 685,000 acres of land, in a way that many biologists, conservationists, and sportsmen consider haphazard. Wildlife in the southwest that already contend with many disturbances such as highways, transmission lines, housing developments, livestock, farms, and dams may also have to contend with  solar developments and a new web of transmission lines. Solar energy projects require anywhere from 10 times to 20 times the amount of land that a traditional fossil fuel burning facility requires, creating a need for landscape-level management plans to avoid additional habitat fragmentation and ensure connective space is left for wildlife. 

Many desert-dwelling species are threatened by solar development, such as the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), endangered bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). A ‘U.S. Geological Survey study found that the BLM plans to open hundreds of thousands of acres of tortoise habitat for development. Development in the southwest is more detrimental to desert ecosystem as it can tap into scarce water resources, cause dust to rise, and disturb migratory corridors.  In an attempt to be responsive to wildlife concerns, the BLM is conducting perhaps the largest-ever government study on the impacts of solar energy on wildlife, public lands and the people who use them.

Last year, the BLM issued a draft programmatic EIS greater than 10,000 pages in length which garnered over 80,000 comments. Since then, the BLM cut the size of its proposed solar energy zones to 300,000 acres and now offers faster permitting and lowered production costs within the zones to entice firms to develop there as opposed to areas outside of the planned SEZs. An additional 20 million acres of lands are open for development outside of the SEZs, but developments there will be more cumbersome and require more intense analysis. 

Sources: E&E Publishing LLC (Greenwire, December 23, 2011), BLM

News Update: DOI Delists Gray Wolf in Western Great Lakes Region
The Department of the Interior (DOI) finalized a decision to delist the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the Western Great Lakes Region (WGL) of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The DOI is also dismissing a proposal that acknowledged for the first time the presence of two species of wolves in the WGL. The FWS had been considering elevating Canis lupus lycaon to full species status, but has decided that all wolves in the WGL will be considered Canis lupus. The agency says the wolves have exceeded recovery goals and they will continue to monitor the wolves for 5 years. Gray wolves in the WGL were delisted in 2005, 2008, and 2009, with the decision challenged and reversed in each case. The decision will be implemented on January 27, 2012.

TWS Update: USFS Issues Final Invasive Species Management Directive
The USFS has finalized an ‘internal directive for invasive species management, which became effective on December 5, 2011. TWS offered comments on July 26, 2011 suggesting additions such as: increasing collaboration between federal, state, local, and tribal agencies, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and the private sector; as well as inclusion of Cooperative Weed Management Areas and Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas to foster collaboration between entities; the addition of an overreaching goal justifying the need for invasive species management; and the inclusion of a list of best management practices for Forest Service employees and contractors as well as recreational users to reduce the spread of invasive species.

The final directive included many of TWS’s broad recommendations though no specific changes were made.  The USFS will address specific details in an additional handbook to be released at a later date.  Federal, state, local agencies and other interested individuals and groups were in agreement with recommendations to the directive.  The directive sets up an invasive species management plan that consists of prevention, early detection and rapid response, control and management, restoration, and organizational collaboration.

 
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