The Wildlife Policy News

Volume 22, Issue 3 | March 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:

President Announces Budget Request for FY 2013
On February 13, President Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 (FY13). Although final funding levels will be set by Congress through the appropriations process, the administration’s request does reveal its priorities for the next fiscal year. In the current state of budgetary constraints, the administration has requested sustained funding for most of the wildlife programs related to TWS’ work.

The President has requested a $72 million increase in funding from the actual amount appropriated in FY12 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), with funding focused on the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and cooperative species recovery. The America’s Great Outdoor Initiative would receive $5.1 billion under the President’s proposed budget, including $450 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund which represents a 30% increase from FY12 actual funding. The President’s request for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) remains relatively unchanged from actual appropriations for FY12 for these two agencies, at $1.1 billion and $4.86 billion, respectively.

Sources: Office of Management and Budget, Ecological Society of America Policy News (February 17, 2012), Bureau of Land Management (February 13, 2012), U.S. Forest Service (February 13, 2012), E&E Publishing LLC (ClimateWire, February 14, 2012)

Wildlife VET Act Reintroduced in House of Representatives
On February 13, the House Natural Resources Committee referred H.R. 3886, the Wildlife Veterinarians Employment and Training Act (Wildlife VET Act), to the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs. The legislation, which was re-introduced by Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) on February 2, 2012, aims to spur job creation and create safeguards and incentives for people to study wildlife veterinary sciences. Climate change, biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, increased human-wildlife contact, and disease spread are all prevalent threats that require the expertise of wildlife veterinarians. However, drawing veterinarians to the wildlife profession is challenging, since graduates of veterinary programs owe an average of $130,000 in student loans, and salaries for wildlife professionals are relatively low compared to those working in companion animal medicine.

If enacted, this legislation would fund new positions for wildlife veterinarians and assist recent graduates with job procurement. It will also limit the amount of student debt that one can accrue during their training by establishing scholarships and loan repayment programs. Additionally, the legislation would benefit the educational process by assisting in the development of pilot programs for institutions and increasing the amount of practical training programs.

Sources: American Veterinary Medical Association, The Library of Congress


House Panel Approves Bill to Vastly Expand Timber Harvests
On February 16, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed a bill to significantly increase timber harvests, a move which could jeopardize forest habitat. H.R. 4019, sponsored by the committee’s Chairman, Doc Hastings (R-WA), passed by a vote of 26-17. Some estimate that federal agencies will be required to increase timber harvests more than 15-fold over 2010 levels as a result of this bill. This drastic increase in timber harvest is projected to provide revenue and jobs to rural communities in the western U.S. The revenue increase is cited by proponents of the legislation as necessary to compensate for the loss of government-sponsored subsidies from the Secure Rural Schools Program, a controversial county payment program that the bill would cut. The USFS previously testified that the bill sets unrealistic harvest targets and Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) has expressed concern that the timber market will not support the bill’s mandated revenues. Some are concerned that increased timber harvests have the potential to impair clean water, wildlife, endangered species, outdoor businesses, and hunting, hiking, and fishing on public lands.

Sources: E&E Publishing LLC (Energy & Environment Daily, February 17, 2012), Oregon Wild (February 16, 2012)

Canada Announces Monitoring Plan for Oil Sands Region
On February 3, the Governments of Canada and Alberta announced a new plan to boost air, water, land, and biodiversity monitoring in the oil sands region. Canada’s Environment Minister, the Honorable Peter Kent, promised that the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring will be the most transparent and accountable oil sands monitoring system in the world.

The plan has an associated three-year implementation period with a $50 million a year price tag that will be funded wholly by industry. Beginning this spring the implementation process will bring more frequent sampling to more sites in the region. The results of these monitoring efforts will be made public and be scrutinized through a peer-review process. Annual reports will be published during the implementation process. At the end of the third year, 2015, a full external review of the entire program will take place. This type of review will take place every five years thereafter.

Sources: Environment Canada (February 3, 2012), CBC News (February 3, 2012)


BLM Failed to Analyze Grazing Impacts to Sage-grouse, Judge Rules
On February 6, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the BLM renewed grazing permits in southwestern Idaho without fully analyzing how the grazing allotments may affect the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), a chicken-like bird that inhabits 11 western states and which has been identified by the FWS as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The five renewed ranching permits cover more than 318,000 acres of public land that also contain large tracts of sensitive sage-grouse habitat.

The Western Watersheds Project (WWP) initiated the ruling by originally challenging 600 federal grazing allotments covering 40 million acres across southern Idaho and Nevada. WWP subsequently decided to concentrate on five test areas that represent a core population of sage grouse. Winmill’s 55-page ruling stated that the BLM violated the National Environmental Protection Act by failing to conduct an analysis of the cumulative impacts of grazing over an adequately wide area, and violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act by not remaining consistent with their land use plans, which govern the BLM’s actions in the region. WWP now plans to challenge other BLM grazing allotments in southern Idaho.

Sources: The Republic (February 11, 2012), The Idaho Statesman (February 13, 2012), E&E Publishing LLC (Land Letter, February 16, 2012)

Planning Rule Falls Short in Addressing Scientists' Concerns
On January 26, the USFS released its revised planning rule and Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the National Forest System (NFS). The rule will provide the structure for individual management plans for each of the 175 National Forests and Grasslands that cover 193 million acres. Scientists are airing concerns that the new plan largely ignores the threat of climate change and how it would affect species and their migration. Portions of the programmatic language regarding diversity address landscape-level concerns that may be too broad in scale and neglect impacts to populations of species at the habitat-level.

The USFS contends that this new plan will reduce costs, lower the risk of lawsuits, and use the best science possible to restore forests and protect watersheds and habitats. It is also designed to boost the resiliency of forests against emergencies (e.g. wild fire) and invasive species while also allowing long-standing industrial processes such as logging, grazing, and recreation to continue within the NFS. The USFS also added the practice of adaptive management to their rule which will utilize the most up-to-date science when crafting individual plans.

Sources: E&E Publishing LLC (Land Letter, February 9, 2012), NY Times (February 17, 2012)


Canadian Government Plans to Poison Wolves to Aid Caribou Recovery
The Canadian government plans to kill wolves, a known predator of the woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), as a mitigation effort for the decline of the species. This project has been met with much criticism, as a recent study found that tar sands projects are the cause of localized habitat loss leading to woodland caribou population declines, not an overabundance of wolves. Wolves are targeted to be killed through mass aerial hunting and the use of strychnine poisoning, which causes pain and suffering to the targeted animal. Canada’s Environment Minister has said thousands of wolves will be killed as part of the short term recovery effort in the National Caribou Recovery Plan. The recovery plan is not currently in effect, but a first draft has been received by Canadian officials and is currently under review.

Sources: LA Times (February 9, 2012), Grist (February 6, 2012), ESA Journal (abstract)

Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council Charter Renewed
The Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Agriculture have renewed the charter for the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council for another 2 years. The renewed charter will be filed with the Senate, House of Representatives, and the Library of Congress on March 8. The council reports to the FWS via the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture. Duties of this advisory council include providing recommendations for implementing the Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Resource Conservation Plan—A Ten-Year Plan for Implementation, increasing public awareness of and support for the Wildlife Restoration Program, and fostering wildlife and habitat conservation and ethics in hunting and shooting sports recreation. Additionally, the council has been charged with stimulating sportsmen and women’s participation in conservation and management of wildlife and habitat resources through outreach and education and fostering communication and coordination among state, tribal, and federal governments, industry, sportsmen and women who hunt and shoot, wildlife and habitat conservation and management organizations, and the public.

Source: Federal Register

NEWS UPDATES

EPA Denies Petition to Regulate Lead in Fishing Tackle
On February 14, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a petition to regulate the presence of lead in fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The November 2011 petition was submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Loon Lake Loon Association, and Project Gutpile. The petitioners cited section 21 of TSCA and requested the EPA to initiate a rulemaking under section 6(a) of TSCA applicable to fishing tackle containing lead (e.g., fishing weights, sinkers, lures, jigs, and/or other fishing tackle), of various sizes and uses that are ingested by wildlife, resulting in lead poisoning. Because of the existence of state level programs, the EPA maintains that additional federal action is not necessary unless a regulatory gap occurs within the state programs.

Source: Federal Register (February 22, 2012)

Sage-grouse to be the Guinea Pig for New Habitat Assessment Tool
The construction of the new Gateway West Transmission Line, slated to carry up to 3,000 megawatts of mostly wind-generated power across much of southern Wyoming and Idaho, will threaten greater sage-grouse habitat. The BLM has announced they will use the habitat equivalency analysis (HEA), to determine the trajectory of the aboveground transmission line. The HEA ranking process involves the synthesis of data from GIS maps and computer models and input from the FWS and state-level environmental regulators to rank the value of affected sage-grouse habitat along the proposed power-line routes. The HEA method is being met with much criticism, as it is a relatively untested method for analysis. The draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Gateway West project, released last August, found that the project will likely result in a federal listing of the already candidate species. The BLM hopes to release a draft report of the completed HEA process by May 2012. 

Source: E&E Publishing LLC (Landletter, February 9, 2012)

TWS UPDATE

EPA Sends Wetland Guidance to White House for Final Review
TWS submitted comments last July on the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) Proposed Guidance Regarding Identification of Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act (Guidance), which addresses the expansion of the Corps’ jurisdiction over geographically isolated waters under the Clean Water Acts. TWS supported the Guidance in its inclusion of geographically isolated waters, like wetlands, in the Corps’ jurisdiction and submitted several other comments. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) received the revised proposal on February 21, 2012 for final review.

Sources: E&E Publishing LLC (Greenwire, February 22, 2012), Earth Justice (February 22, 2012)

 
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