Trump Admin Denies Endangered Species Protections to Pacific Fishers Across Most of Their Range
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Thursday it would deny Endangered Species Act protections to the weasel-like Pacific fisher throughout most of its West Coast range, only protecting a subset of its population in the California Sierras.
"The Trump administration's denial of protection for fishers is an unwarranted gift to the timber industry that ignores key science on these at-risk animals," Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) endangered species director Noah Greenwald said in a press release. "These awesome forest weasels face huge threats, including the logging of their old-growth forest homes, rodenticide poisoning and a warming world. They absolutely should have been granted much broader safeguards."
BREAKING: The Trump administration just denied Endangered Species Act protection to Pacific fishers across most of… https://t.co/qVVe936JKH— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1589478408.0
Tens of thousands of Pacific fishers once lived in the woods from Southern California to British Columbia, but, beginning in 1900, their numbers started to decline as trappers sought them for their pelts and loggers destroyed their habitat, Reuters explained. In recent years, they have also been threatened by rodenticides used to protect illegal marijuana farms and the climate crisis.
There are now only two populations: 100 to 500 in the southern Sierra Nevadas and around 3,000 in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Studies have shown that they are genetically distinct, the Sierra Sun Times reported. It is the first and smaller of these populations that FWS announced Thursday it would protect as endangered.
The Sierra population does face unique threats, Defenders of Wildlife explained. It was listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act of 2016 and is partly at risk from climate-related tree loss. Wildfires burn through its habitat, and a drought from 2011 to 2015 combined with warmer temperatures led to a rise in native bark beetles, which killed more than 130 million trees in the Sierra Nevada region.
FWS argued that the larger population did not need protection because it was not in danger of extinction, "nor likely to become so in the foreseeable future," Reuters reported.
The agency also determined that existing conservation efforts were already ensuring the success of the northern population.
"Voluntary conservation efforts by state and private timber owners have contributed to the Northern California-Southern Oregon population of fisher appearing stable within a large range of suitable habitat," Paul Henson, state supervisor for the FWS Oregon office, told the Sierra Sun Times. "Over two million acres of private land have been enrolled under six conservation agreements protecting existing and promoting new fisher habitat, with three additional applications in process. The heavy lifting done by our partners greatly alleviates the need for regulation."
But wildlife advocates disagreed.
"While the decision to list the Sierra Nevada fisher is a great step towards the recovery of this critically imperiled population, it is disappointing to see the West Coast population left without protections," Pamela Flick, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said in a press release. "Both populations face a wide variety of threats and need federal protections in order to survive and thrive."
Even this much protection has been the result of a long fight, as CBD explained:
The Center for Biological Diversity, along with Sierra Forest Legacy, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and others first petitioned for endangered species protections for fishers in 2000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found they warranted protection in 2004, but that such protection was precluded by listing of other species. Following further litigation, the agency proposed protection for the fisher in 2014, but again reversed course in 2016 denying protection. Represented by Earthjustice, the groups sued and the decision was remanded resulting in the species again being proposed for protection in 2019 and then finally again partially denied today.
Greenwald told Reuters that CBD was looking at Thursday's ruling to decide whether to bring another court challenge.
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
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As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
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<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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