By Eoin Higgins
Environmental groups on Friday condemned the announcement of a new rule proposed by President Donald Trump that would further weaken the Endangered Species Act by making it easier to destroy habitats vulnerable species rely on for survival.
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The Trump administration allowed a mining company to write its own report for how proposed mines in Idaho would affect protected species in the area, the AP reports.
A Chinook salmon leaps through white water in May 2001 in The Rapid River in Idaho. Documents show the U.S. Forest Service allowing a mininc company to write it's own environmental report which has the purpose of examining the potential effect the open-pit mines would have on salmon, steelhead and bull trout protected under the Endangered Species Act. Bill Schaefer / Getty Images<p>Before the lobbying efforts, which included meetings with top officials at the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service had rejected Midas's request to be involved in the drafting process because its mines would likely harm fish.</p>
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Fed Agency Plans Are Not Adequate to Prevent 99.8% of U.S. Endangered Species From Suffering Climate Crisis, Study Says
While the planet continues to heat up, almost every single one of the 459 species listed as endangered in the U.S. will struggle as the climate crisis intensifies, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
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The Kirtland's warbler, a small songbird that nests only in the young jack pine forests of Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario, was one of the very first animals placed on the U.S. list of endangered species. But now it has recovered enough to come off that list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Tuesday.
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A coalition of some of the largest environmental groups in the country joined forces to file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Trump administration's maneuver to weaken the Endangered Species Act.
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The Parties to CITES agreed to list giraffes on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today at the World Wildlife Conference or CoP18 in Geneva. Such protections will ensure that all giraffe parts trade were legally acquired and not sourced from the poached giraffes trade and will require countries to make non-detriment findings before allowing giraffe exports. The listing will also enable the collection of international trade data for giraffes that might justify greater protections at both CITES and other venues in the future.
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By Jennifer Weeks
The Trump administration has announced rule changes that alter how it will enforce the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which protects threatened and endangered species and their habitats. Among these changes, officials can now consider potential costs in deciding whether to list a species. The new policies will make it easier to delist species, and are likely to shrink areas set aside as critical habitat to help species recover.
1. Americans Support Protecting Endangered Species<p>Critics of the Endangered Species Act say the law is <a href="https://www.hcn.org/articles/endangered-species-weakened-species-protections-would-be-vulnerable-to-political-influence" target="_blank">too bureaucratic and costly</a> to private interests, and that states should have a bigger role. But when Ohio State University's Jeremy Bruskotter and Ramiro Berardo and Michigan Technological University's John Vucetich reviewed 20 years of data on public views of the law, they found that over that time, <a href="https://theconversation.com/support-for-the-endangered-species-act-remains-high-as-trump-administration-and-congress-try-to-gut-it-95279" target="_blank">roughly 80 percent of Americans</a> consistently supported it.<br></p><p>Notably, while liberals strongly favored protecting <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/endangered-species" rel="noopener noreferrer">endangered species</a>, nearly 75 percent of conservatives did so as well. In a 2015 survey, more than 70 percent of hunters, farmers and ranchers supported the Endangered Species Act.</p><p>Why, then, are critics of the law so determined to weaken it? The authors point to research showing that "policy outcomes in America are heavily influenced by 'economic elites' and business interests who … have greater clout with, and access to, policymakers" than average voters.</p><span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0b6f28914ba857474e3d7f17f3910bea"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DojGPBV4U0w?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
2. States Aren’t Equipped to Take Over<p>Some regulators and members of Congress have pushed to delegate responsibility for listing and protecting endangered species to states. But University of California, Irvine legal scholars Alejandro Camacho and Michael Robinson-Dorn found that state statutes <a href="https://theconversation.com/turning-power-over-to-states-wont-improve-protection-for-endangered-species-87495" target="_blank">were much weaker</a> than the Endangered Species Act. And states would have to massively increase spending to maintain the levels of protection that exist now.</p><p>"States have substantial authority to manage flora and fauna in their boundaries," the authors wrote. "But species often cross state borders, or exist on federal lands. And many states either are uninterested in species protection or prefer to rely on the federal government to serve that role."</p><p>The authors found room for better consultation between federal agencies and states, but argue that rather than dismantling the Endangered Species Act, Congress should provide enough funding to achieve the law's goals.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2MjEzMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODQ2NTE3NH0.YmVLje6DJu0Ar66GPuZpbPnIOPOf0E_a-8dCtcZ8vBU/img.jpg?width=980" id="c0fcf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eac8c99f71be1898e5d307b1b118645d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Trump administration is proposing to downlist the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) from endangered to threatened. Once abundant throughout the Northeast, the beetle is now found in just five states.
3. Regulators Need to Set Priorities<p>As it stands, conservation agencies don't have enough funding or time to write recovery plans for more than <a href="https://theconversation.com/new-data-tool-can-help-scientists-use-limited-funds-to-protect-the-greatest-number-of-endangered-species-105255" target="_blank">1,600 listed species listed</a>. Choosing which ones to protect raises complicated tradeoffs between science and values. And without recovery plans, species are unlikely to rebound.</p><p>Arizona State University biodiversity scholars Leah Gerber and Timothy Male sought to develop an effective system for guiding these choices. They designed a decision tool called Recovery Explorer that uses an algorithm to identify the <a href="https://theconversation.com/new-data-tool-can-help-scientists-use-limited-funds-to-protect-the-greatest-number-of-endangered-species-105255" target="_blank">most cost-effective choices for recovery</a>, based on factors such as geography, biology and the likelihood that funding will actually lead to recovery.</p><p>"Scientists and policymakers now have an opportunity to develop a more workable strategy to improve the Endangered Species Act," they write. "And for those species that are deemed worthy of protection, the next steps will be to promote their recovery and be willing to pay for it."</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2MjE0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzI1ODE5M30.-85lxPePdzpE3qEAc_HTG7PImvoG9G7qXc7kaXYiHps/img.jpg?width=980" id="e81e0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="adb9b6b00be9779c922f0e524d93a4f4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Camera trap footage of a female gray wolf and pups in Lassen National Forest in Northern California. The state listed the wolves as endangered in 2014, but farmers and ranchers have challenged this policy.
4. Species Can Rebound with Help<p>The American bald eagle is often cited as an example of an endangered species that has made a successful comeback. But its cousin, the osprey (<em>Pandion haliaetus</em>) is an <a href="https://theconversation.com/ospreys-recovery-from-pollution-and-shooting-is-a-global-conservation-success-story-111907" target="_blank">even more spectacular case</a>.</p><p>Ospreys were abundant across North America up through World War II, catching fish in rivers, lakes and harbors. But like bald eagles, they were devastated starting in the 1950s by DDT and other insecticides, which poisoned the birds and prevented them from successfully hatching eggs. By the mid-1960s populations had plummeted.</p><p>Ornithologist Alan Poole believes that Ospreys' disastrous decline helped make the case for banning DDT and other insecticides that were lethal to wildlife. The other key, he writes, was widespread construction of poles to support osprey nests:</p><blockquote>"Within just a few miles of where I live along the Massachusetts coast, over 200 Ospreys now nest each year, lured in by abundant nest poles we've built on wide-open marshes. Fewer than 20 Ospreys were found here in the 1960s."</blockquote><p>While ospreys were never formally listed under the Endangered Species Act, Poole believes they were near the brink of extinction 50 years ago. He calls their recovery "a reward for all who value wild animals, and a reminder of how nature can rebound if we address the key threats."</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2MjE2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzgwNTg0NX0.EA-X6tRUjexCQs-r7neYAdN5jKcea8xLUXcSU87xMhY/img.jpg?width=980" id="f7b63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8cf26b9794b1d6bc09acc7cd8a029f6e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Ospreys on a nesting platform at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland.
5. Some Species Are Running out of Time<p>Thousands of right whales once swam in the North Atlantic, but today there are <a href="https://theconversation.com/high-tech-fishing-gear-could-help-save-critically-endangered-right-whales-115974" target="_blank">only about 411 left</a>. This critically endangered species is threatened by collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear, which can cause traumatic injuries that slowly kill or cripple the animals.</p><p>Michael Moore and Hannah Myers of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution say it's critical to develop alternative gear for lobster and crab fishermen that will eliminate ropes from the water column, where whales are likely to swim into them. Options in development include pop-up buoys that fishermen summon with an acoustic signal and sensors that acoustically identify traps on the ocean floor.</p><p>While some fishermen call these technologies unaffordable, others are helping to test them. "Just as no fisherman wants to catch a whale, researchers and conservationists don't want to put fishermen out of business," Moore and Myers assert. "In our view, ropeless technologies offer a genuine opportunity for whales and the fishing industry to co-exist if they can be made functional, affordable and safe to use."</p>
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The Trump administration announced sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act Monday in a move that could make it harder to protect plants and animals from the climate crisis, The New York Times reported.
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John Paul Stevens, the retired Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion granting environmental agencies the power to regulate greenhouse gases, died Tuesday at the age of 99. His decision gave the U.S. government important legal tools for fighting the climate crisis.
Many fish, marine mammals and seabirds that inhabit the world's oceans are critically endangered, but few are as close to the brink as the North Atlantic right whale ( Eubalaena glacialis). Only about 411 of these whales exist today, and at their current rate of decline, they could become extinct within our lifetimes.
From 1980 through about 2010, conservation efforts focused mainly on protecting whales from being struck by ships. Federal regulations helped reduce vessel collisions and supported a slight rebound in right whale numbers.
Deadly Encounters<p>Whalers pursued right whales for centuries because this species swam relatively slowly and floated when dead, so it was easier to kill and retrieve than other whales. By the mid-20th century, scientists assumed they had been hunted to extinction. But in 1980, researchers from the New England Aquarium who were studying marine mammal distribution in the Bay of Fundy off eastern Canada were stunned when they <a href="https://www.canadianwhaleinstitute.ca/habitats" target="_blank">sighted 26 right whales</a>.</p><p>Conservation efforts led to the enactment of regulations that required commercial ships to <a href="https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/endangered-species-conservation/reducing-ship-strikes-north-atlantic-right-whales" target="_blank">slow down</a> in zones along the U.S. Atlantic coast where they were highly likely to encounter whales, reducing boat strikes. But this victory has been offset by rising numbers of entanglements.</p><p>Adult right whales can produce up to an estimated <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/mms.12230" target="_blank">8,000 pounds of force</a> with a single stroke of their flukes. When they become tangled in fishing gear, they often break it and swim off trailing ropes and sometimes crab or lobster traps.</p><p>Lines and gear can wrap around a whale's body, flukes, flippers and mouth. They impede swimming and feeding, and cause chronic infection, emaciation and damage to blubber, muscle and bone. Ultimately these injuries weaken the animal until it dies, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsu008" target="_blank">which can take months to years</a>.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTU1NjEyMi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDE3OTAyNH0.W5agEwKjibM2AyhELkXhzKSssFMYXh-ubMFKApinqp0/img.png?width=980" id="9ab7d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1c03b11cfd3e2ef2603f1ea300ec75d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Fishing rope furrowed into the lip of Bayla, right whale #3911.
Michael Moore / NMFS Permit 932-1905-00 / MA-009526 / CC BY-ND
Solutions for Whales and Fishermen<p>The greatest entanglement risk is from ropes that lobster and crab fishermen use to attach buoys to traps they set on the ocean floor. Humpback and minke whales and leatherback sea turtles, all of which are federally protected, also become entangled.</p><p>Conservationists are looking for ways to modify or eliminate these ropes. Rock lobster fishermen in Australia already use <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeeieRr7sTw" target="_blank">pop-up buoys</a> that ascend when they receive sound signals from fishing boats. The buoys trail out ropes as they rise, which fishermen retrieve and use to pull up their traps.</p><p>Other technologies are <a href="https://www.wnpr.org/post/innovations-fishing-gear-could-change-lobster-industry-help-endangered-right-whale" target="_blank">in development</a>, including systems that <a href="https://ropeless.org/november-6th-2018-presentations/" target="_blank">acoustically identify traps on the seafloor</a> and mark them with "virtual buoys" on fishermen's chart plotters, eliminating the need for surface buoys. Fishermen also routinely use a customized hook on the end of a rope to catch the line between traps and haul them to the surface when the buoy line goes missing.</p><span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0ea6135b2648717554e2de7efd027ca9"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ylQ5q7Ivs2o?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
A Rebound is Possible<p>The <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/" target="_blank">Endangered Species Act</a> and <a href="https://www.fws.gov/international/laws-treaties-agreements/us-conservation-laws/marine-mammal-protection-act.html" target="_blank">Marine Mammal Protection Act</a> require the U.S. government to conserve endangered species. In Congress, the pending <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1568/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+3729%22%5D%7D" target="_blank">SAVE Right Whales Act of 2019</a> would provide $5 million annually for collaborative research into preventing mortalities caused by the fishing and shipping industries. And an advisory committee to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently recommended <a href="https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/team-reaches-nearly-unanimous-consensus-right-whale-survival-measures" target="_blank">significant fishing protections</a>, focused primarily on reducing the number of ropes in the water column and the strength of the remaining lines.</p><p>Consumers can also help. Public outcry over dolphin bycatch in tuna fisheries spurred passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and led to <a href="https://swfsc.noaa.gov/textblock.aspx?Division=PRD&ParentMenuId=228&id=1408" target="_blank">dolphin-safe tuna labeling</a>, which ultimately reduced dolphin mortalities from half a million to about 1,000 animals annually. Choosing lobster and crab products <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsy194" target="_blank">caught without endangering whales</a> could accelerate a similar transition.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTU1NjEyNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzkyOTY5NX0.8G1DWmV8X9s37jlPBPxbY2X99EwZ8hdzxupVLrjghDc/img.png?width=980" id="e380d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b95b1987283f474ecab6e95fabe1093d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Population trends in the North Atlantic and southern right whale species (estimates for North Atlantic species prior to 1990 are unavailable; southern estimates prior to 1990 on decadal scale). Illegal whaling caused a downturn in the southern species in the 1960s.
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The study looked at 31 populations of 19 species of marine mammals and sea turtles in the U.S. that had been granted endangered species protections and found that around three-quarters of them had increased in size.
The trispot darter fish was thought to be entirely extinct in Alabama for more than 50 years until it was discovered in 2008 in Little Canoe Creek. Now, 10 years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has finalized protections for the 1.5 inch fish, earmarking more than 180 miles of river as "critical habitat."