The Wildlife Policy News

Volume 22, Issue 2 | February 2012

Editor: Christine Carmichael
Reporter: Will Roberts and Maggie Thomas

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:

Draft National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy Released
A partnership of federal agencies and other organizations, co-led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), released the first ever “National Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Climate Change Adaption Strategy” in January, 2012. The strategy, prepared by federal, state, and tribal representatives, marks a historic step in helping decision makers and resource managers better plan for and reduce the impacts of climate change on native wildlife and the people and economies that depend on them.

The draft document will be available for public comment until March 5, 2012. Comments can be submitted online or by mail to the Office of the Science Advisor, Attn: National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203.

Sources: Fish Info & Services Co. (January 20, 2012), National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (January, 2012)

Pennsylvania Cuts Funding for Hydraulic Fracturing Research
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) has cut funding for all research related to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas in the commonwealth for FY 2012. Scientists worry that the cut will leave many unanswered questions about the effects of fracking on the environment, particularly how this process may affect wildlife, climate, and plant life. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ budget will decrease from $780,000 to $251,683, a 68% cut from last year’s appropriations.

This reduction in funding is in contrast to 2010, when former governor Ed Rendell’s (D) administration approved nine research projects on climate change and four projects on the effect of drilling on wildlife. This year, however, just one drilling-related study has received funding, despite the initial call for proposals by the Department in March 2011 asking specifically for studies that examine the effects of climate change on energy extraction. Department Secretary Richard Allan questioned the necessity of many of the proposed research projects, claiming similar questions are being addressed by other projects within the agency.

Sources: E&E Publishing LLC (Greenwire, January 20, 2012), NPR (January 18, 2012) 

Golden EagleWind-Power Developer First to Request Permit for Take of Bald and Golden Eagles
West Butte Wind Power LLC has requested a permit from the FWS for the “take” of bald and/or golden eagles. The wind power company is the first to apply for a take permit under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act under regulations the FWS adopted in 2009. As it currently stands, the Oregon-based project would allow the company to kill a maximum of three eagles over the next five years, assuming the company meets all other conservation commitments.

The proposed project would include 52 wind turbines and is located in an area not heavily used by eagles. The main goal of the FWS is to “maintain stable or increasing populations of eagles protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act," said Chris McKay, Assistant Regional Director for Migratory Birds and State programs in the FWS's Pacific Region. Bird advocacy organizations such as the American Bird Conservancy cautiously commended West Butte Wind Power for applying for the permit because it provides more opportunity for participation by the conservation community through public comment and review of regulatory documents.

The FWS released its draft Environmental Assessment of the project on December 29, 2011 and the Department of the Interior released its draft project proposal on January 3, 2012 with a public comment period open until February 2, 2012.

Sources: E&E Publishing LLC (Landletter, January 5, 2012), MSNBC (January 4, 2012)

Comment Period Extended for Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy
On October 17, 2011, Environment Canada extended the comment period for the proposed Recovery Strategy for the Boreal population of Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada an additional 120 days, with a revised deadline of February 22, 2012. The extension resulted from Environment Canada’s desire to consult with more aboriginal communities before finalizing the recovery plan. 

The species was listed as threatened under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA) in 2003. Due to habitat loss, both from anthropogenic and natural causes, populations of Woodland Caribou underwent periods of rapid decline before 2002. Complicating the recovery of this species, it is very difficult for localized populations to recover from distinct instances of mass decline because of the unique life history strategies of these animals.

Comments can be submitted online or by mail to: Recovery Planning Environment Canada, 4th Floor, Place Vincent Massey, 351 St. Joseph Blvd., Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3.

Sources: Species At Risk Public Registry (October 17, 2011), Government of Canada

White House Proposes Moving NOAA to Interior
In an effort to streamline government agencies, President Obama proposed a consolidation of six business-oriented agencies under the Department of Commerce (DOC) on January 12, 2012. Most notably, the plan calls for moving NOAA to the Department of the Interior (DOI).

The White House contends that this reorganization will save American tax-payers $3 billion while also increasing efficiency and effectiveness. Before this is possible, Obama will need a broad consolidation authority granted by Congress in order to reorganize any federal agencies, bureaus, or departments.

NOAA is the largest agency within the DOC with a budget of $4.6 billion (about 60% of the DOC). Some are concerned that with a move to the larger DOI, NOAA will lose some of its clout and autonomy. The exact details of a NOAA to DOI transfer are still undecided, although many believe that aligning NOAA with other scientific and natural resource agencies like the FWS and the U.S. Geological Survey will benefit both the DOI and NOAA.

Sources: E&E Publishing LLC (E&E Daily, January 18, 2012), Washington Post (January 22, 2012), Washington Post (January 13, 2012)

Obama Rejects Contentious Keystone XL Pipeline
President Obama rejected the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline on January 18, 2012. Obama was forced by Congress to make a decision by February 21, 2012 due to a provision included in a payroll tax cut bill passed in December, 2011. The State Department, which has authority over the pipeline since it crosses international borders, recommended rejection of the plan, in part due to the limited time to assess any alternative routes or possible environmental threats.

The 1,700 mile pipeline, which was expected to transport over 700,000 barrels of oil per day from oil sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of the U.S., has manifested into an issue at the forefront of the division between environmentalists and business advocates. Some republicans in favor of the pipeline are viewing Obama’s decision as an example of the President appeasing radical environmentalists, rather than providing an estimated 10,000 temporary construction jobs. Conservation groups, however, are weary of the proposed route’s proximity to sensitive grasslands, aquifers, and wildlife habitat.

TransCanada, the company proposing the pipeline, vows to continue applying for alternative plans and will attempt to remain on schedule with a version of the pipeline being operational by late 2014.

Sources: CNN Money (January 18, 2012), New York Times (January 18, 2012)

Environment Canada Warns of Oil Sands' Impact on Habitat
Environment Canada recently released a presentation detailing possible impacts to wildlife, land, air, water and climate from the oil sands industry. Of particular concern are the heavy metal and hydrocarbon contamination in the Athabasca River in western Canada and the potential harms to downstream communities.

The presentation also outlines greater warnings of the industry’s processes, stating that greenhouse gas emissions from the industry would increase around 900% from 1990 levels by 2020. Airborne pollutants from the extraction process can also contribute to acid rain and particulates which could have a devastating effect on Canada’s surface waters, landscape, and wildlife. Another danger to wildlife is the displacement of species due to habitat loss and fragmentation from mining facilities.

The report is in great contrast to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Peter Kent’s assertions that the harms of oil sands development are being exaggerated by environmentalists. The Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that the oil sands sector provides 100,000 direct and indirect jobs to Canadians and will contribute over $1.7 trillion to Canada’s economy by 2025.

Source: Vancouver Sun (December 21, 2011), E&E Publishing LLC (Greenwire, December 22, 2011)


Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife RefugeEverglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge Established
On January 19, 2012, Florida became home to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. In accordance with President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar accepted 10-acres of land in south-central Florida from The Nature Conservancy to officially establish the refuge. The plan aims for a total refuge and conservation area of 150,000 acres, with about two-thirds of the total land, or preserved through conservation easements.

Sources: Federal Register (January 19, 2012), FWS

Photo: FWS Director Dan Ashe with Secretary Salazar announcing establishment of Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Credit: Tami Heilemann/DOI

Groups Aim to Save Birds by Changing Standards for Mine Claim Pipes
On January 26, 2012, The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) called for federal action to update standards for mining claim pipes to prevent bird entrapment and death; the metal or PVC pipes that mark claims and are frequently mistaken as suitable nesting sites by the birds. When birds enter these vertical pipes they often cannot escape due to the smooth surface of the metal or plastic construction materials. ABC views these deaths as a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In Nevada, 854 claim pipes recently examined contained nearly 900 dead birds.

Sources: E&E Publishing (Greenwire, January 26, 2012), Chattanoogan (January 25, 2012)


Forest Service Planning Rule Released
On January 26, 2012, the U.S. Forest Service released the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule, which governs management of the 193 million acre system. TWS offered comments on May 16, 2011 suggesting additions such as: stronger measures for fish and wildlife conservation, a requirement to implement the best available science like that of the Endangered Species Act and other relevant statues, stronger standards and specific goals with respect to impacts on wetlands and riparian systems, discretion afforded to the responsible official, the importance of monitoring information in a way that facilitates successful adaptive management, and increased resources for critical wetlands information.

Sources: USFS, USDA (January 26, 2012)

 Invasive Snake Rule Announced
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced on January 17, 2012 that the FWS has finalized a rule banning the importation and interstate transfer of four invasive constrictor snake species (Burmese python, yellow anaconda, northern African rock python, and southern African rock python). The move is intended to secure sensitive habitats and native protected species across the country. The snakes have achieved breeding populations in south Florida and are wreaking havoc on the Everglades Ecosystem and surrounding areas. On December 9, 2011 TWS advocated the listing of these species along with five other non-native constrictor snakes. The five other species TWS recommends listing are the reticulated python, Beni or Bolivian python, green anaconda, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, and boa constrictor.

Sources: FWS (January 17, 2012), Federal Register (January 23, 2012)

Photo: DOI employees holding a boa constrictor. Credit: FWS

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