Today is the 11th annual Endangered Species Day! The U.S. Senate helped to start this day of celebration of conservation and service for species by passing a resolution in 2006 marking the day. In the years that have followed, local governments have passed similar resolutions and Endangered Species Day has become an opportunity for both committed activists to engage in actions that protect our vanishing wildlife and for others to learn more about the importance of protecting imperiled species and ways that they can help to achieve this.
Winning entries were announced in the 2016 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest. The entires were chosen from more than one thousand submissions from very talented young artists around the country. The art submissions represent either land or ocean dwelling species that lives in or migrates through the United States and its waters, or a plant that is found in the United States, and has been placed on the threatened or endangered species list.
The Grand Prize winning entry is from Miles Yun who will be coming to Washington, D.C. soon to accept his award!
The 11th annual Endangered Species Day is coming up in weeks. On Friday, May 20th, events will be held around the country to celebrate successes in protecting imperiled species and to engage in service to keep up the fight.
You can find events near you at www.endangeredspeciesday.org. Events are registered frequently as May 20th approaches, so check back if you don’t see something. Or, download the toolkit and organize your own event!
If you are not attending an event, you can still make a difference. Pledge to make a change on Endangered Species Day to benefit vanishing wildlife. Here are a few ways you can take action:
Give up meat for 24 hours. The global demand for meat is creating a world of problems. Water pollution, habitat loss, climate change and wildlife conflicts are all problems that can begin to be addressed by taking meat off your plate.
Walk, bike, or take public transit to school or work: Small steps can make a difference! Pledge to leave the car at home and find alternative ways to get to work or school. Lowering your carbon footprint is a step towards addressing climate change and using less fossil fuels reduces the threats posed to endangered and threatened species in their production and transport.
Make conscious consumption a priority: Pay attention to what you buy for 24 hours. Is it sustainable? Keep a log of your impact for the day! Does the snack food you bought contain palm oil? Were pesticides used in growing the fruits and produce on your plate? Being aware is the first step in making change.
With thanks to months of activism, earlier this month the New Hampshire Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules voted to object to the reopening proposal on a trapping and hunting season on bobcats! The committee voted that the bobcat proposal is in violation of federal law under the Endangered Species Act because Canada Lynx and bobcats share the same range in NH. Opening a season on bobcats could than in turn harm the endangered Canada Lynx. The committee also took value in court decisions in other states have found state wildlife agencies liable for bobcat trapping because of the impacts on the Canada Lynx and therefore, the proposal was not a financially responsible decision. During the NH Fish and Game Commission meeting where the commissioners voted on passing this proposal, some commissioners expressed concern that this proposal will be costing the department money they did not have. However, the commission went ahead and passed the proposal by a close one vote, 5-4.
What does this mean? The NH Department of Fish & Game now has 45 days, from April 1st, to address the two objections to the proposal or they can choose to withdraw the proposal completely. Simultaneously, the House Fish & Game & Marine Resources Committee (a legislative committee not associated with the Fish & Game Department or Commission) will review the merits of the bobcat season.
The Endangered Species Coalition added in the wonderful victory through email action alerts and motivating activists to attend and testify at public hearings. I would like to give a big shout out and thank to NH chapter of HSUS and Voices for Wildlife for their extremely hard work advocating for this victory.
However, we are not out of the woods yet. We will be monitoring both the agency’s response to the objections as well as the legislative committee’s review of the proposal and will alert you via our Northeast Wolf and Carnivore Activist Facebook Group as we hear more. In the meantime, enjoy this significant victory for the bobcats and thank you for your continued advocacy on this issue!
Last week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) posted this brief update to a press release it had issued earlier that week:
UPDATE March 31, 2016: The four wolves of the Imnaha pack associated with recent depredations were shot and killed today by ODFW staff on private land in Wallowa County.
That brief notice marked the latest in what has been an excruciatingly frustrating several months in Oregon.
Imnaha pack pups. Photo credit ODFW
The pack that was singled out for what the state terms ‘lethal control’ was the Imnaha pack. It had become the target of state killing due to recent depredations of livestock. ODFW swiftly carried out the order, killing four members of the Imnaha pack: OR4, the father of OR7 (Journey), his likely pregnant mate, and two yearling pups.
Putting aside whether the state should have acted so quickly to kill these wolves, this action is part of what is becoming a familiar and disturbing pattern in Oregon’s dealings with gray wolves. Over the last several months, legislators and state officials, including Governor Kate Brown, have acted with increasing hostility towards the state’s burgeoning wolf population.
In November, the ODFW Commission voted to remove gray wolves from the state endangered species list with just over 100 wolves occupying the entire state. This action alone was a red flag that the Brown administration was putting politics over science and sound ecology. Oregon is a state rich in landscapes suitable for gray wolves. Their presence would not only enrich the ecosystem, but if the Northern Rockies are a guide, it would draw tourist dollars. It is estimated that wolf-related tourism including photography exhibitions and other non-consumptive activities bring in more than 30 million dollars to areas around Yellowstone. But in order to draw wolf-enthusiasts, Oregon needs wolves and while 110 is a nice start, it’s just that—a start.
The ODFW is not alone in creating more obstacles for wolf recovery. Not comfortable to sit on the sideline while the Commission stripped gray wolves of state endangered species protections, the legislature pushed through a bill that both reaffirms this delisting and effectively prevents judicial review. Conservation organizations, activists, scientists, and even members of the U.S. Congress spoke out against the legislation. The governor quickly signed it into law.
Oregon is a beautiful state that has earned its place as a leader on environmental issues. Decisions like those being made by ODFW and the Brown administration put that reputation at risk and threaten Oregon’s wolf recovery.
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) March 16, 2016 — Eight members of Congress will be recognized today by leading national conservation groups for their critical role in protecting the Endangered Species Act.The “Champions of the Endangered Species Act” reception will feature former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and honor Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and House members Don Beyer (D-VA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA).
The honorees will be recognized by the Animal Welfare Institute, Audubon, Born Free USA, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Endangered Species Coalition, Environmental Defense Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, the Native Plant Conservation Campaign, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, WildEarth Guardians, and Wildlands Network.
The groups jointly issued the following statement:
“We celebrate and honor these conservation leaders whose vision and leadership has created a legacy of immeasurable benefit to our environment, to our nation’s most imperiled wildlife, and to our communities. Their tireless support for wildlife is vital as powerful special interests continue efforts to weaken or eliminate the Endangered Species Act and other bedrock conservation laws grounded in science.”
The Endangered Species Act is more at risk today than ever before, as several members of Congress continue to push legislative agendas designed to undermine the Act, threatening public lands and iconic wildlife. Collectively, the legislative attacks on the Endangered Species Act introduced by this Congress represent the most sweeping attacks since the landmark conservation law was passed 43 years ago.
The repeated attacks come despite strong public support for the Endangered Species Act. A July 2015 poll found that 90 percent of U.S. voters support the Endangered Species Act, affirming similar findings from previous polls over the last decade.
Endangered Species Coalition statement in response to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announcement that it is preparing to remove Endangered Species Act protections from grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region:
“The Endangered Species Act is a critical safety net that has prevented 99 percent of protected plant and animal species from going extinct, and the restoration of the Yellowstone grizzly bear is another example of how the Endangered Species Act works to protect and recover species from the brink of extinction.”
“Nevertheless, the Endangered Species Coalition is concerned about:
The lack connectivity to date between grizzly bear populations;
The impact of climate change on bears, bear foods, and bear habitat;
Dwindling funding for grizzly bear conservation;
Ongoing human-bear conflict in certain areas and the associated grizzly bear mortality.”
“The Endangered Species Coalition will carefully scrutinize the draft delisting rule and conservation strategy to ensure it supports a healthy, stable population of grizzly bears into the foreseeable future, connectivity between bear populations, as well as strong protections in core grizzly bear habitat. Any delisting rule should also include robust monitoring of population trends, mortality and habitat conditions, as well as continued funding for vital conflict reduction work that maintains and improves social tolerance for grizzly bears. Finally, we expect strong commitments from states to manage bears carefully and conservatively, to allow grizzly bears to expand to suitable bear habitat.”
“The restoration of the Yellowstone grizzly bear to is an amazing Endangered Species Act success story. Thanks to decades of dedicated conservation efforts by federal, state and tribal wildlife officials, wildlife conservation groups, sportsmen and landowners, more than 700 grizzly bears roam the greater Yellowstone region, where there once were as fewer than 150. We need to ensure that grizzly bear conservation endures for future generations.”
In 2014, a U.S. district court ruled that wolves in the Great Lakes region must be protected due, in part, to the “virtually unregulated” killing of wolves in the area. Prior to regaining these protections, wolves in Wisconsin were subject to brutal and indiscriminate trapping and the use of packs of dogs to pursue wolves to their death. Aggressive hunting and trapping led the wolf population in Wisconsin to plummet, and scientists found the state likely to be drastically underestimating the number of wolves killed. In issuing her ruling, the judge wrote, “at times, a court ‘must lean forward from the bench to let an agency know, in no uncertain terms, that enough is enough.'” This case, she wrote, “is one of those times.”
All of this was known to members of the House when they passed the Ribble Amendment seeking to delist wolves in these four states. We know this because tens of thousands of you spoke out in person and online to deliver this message. The representatives that supported this reckless legislative rider put both the Endangered Species Act and the future of gray wolves at risk. The Act calls for species to be listed or delisted based on science, not on the feckless whims of politicians seeking reelection.
If there is a silver lining, it is that this bill is so laden with assaults against wildlife and wilderness that it is unlikely to become law. In addition to the legislative delisting of gray wolves, the bill seeks to:
Prevent the regulation of lead ammunition and fishing equipment under the Toxics Substances Control Act. Despite millions of birds suffering slow, painful deaths annually due to lead, the SHARE Act blocks the federal government from regulating this deadly material (s. 203).
Create a loophole in federal law to allow trophy hunters to import polar bear “trophies” into the United States. In a giveaway to big money lobbying groups like the Safari Club, the House created an exception to federal law for the purpose of allowing hunters to bring polar bear parts into the country. This action encourages the killing and stockpiling of soon-to-be-listed species with the knowledge that anti-wildlife members of Congress will create new law for the benefit of wealthy big game hunters (s. 302).
Block the enactment of restrictions on the bloody ivory trade. Elephants are being pushed closer to the brink of extinction every hour by poachers profiting from the sale of elephant ivory. Recent restrictions put into place by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be halted should the SHARE Act become law (ss. 1003, 1006).
Redefine hunting to include trapping. This redefinition would potentially open millions of acres to indiscriminate and outdated leghold traps and snares. These devices are banned in many countries, put wildlife in peril, and jeopardize public safety. Rewriting the definition of hunting to include this barbaric practice will put endangered and threatened species at new risk for the benefit of an extreme minority that continue to pursue this dying activity (s. 603).
We expect more reluctance to passing the SHARE Act’s companion law in the Senate and will advocate forcefully for a veto should legislation of this sort clear that chamber.
NOAA Fisheries is the branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration responsible for legal protection of marine life and the recovery of protected species. The Southern Resident orca (killer whale) were added to the Endangered Species List in 2005 after NOAA determined the population was in danger of extinction.
While all orcas are still considered to be one species, Orcinus orca, there are ten known ecotypes that are ecologically unique. Each ecotype is further divided into unique populations that are typically genetically and acoustically separate. For this reason, the Southern Residents are considered a Distinct Population Segment.
The Endangered Species Act mandates that NOAA Fisheries assign critical habitat for listed species or populations. Critical Habitat (http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/saving/CriticalHabitatFactSheet.html) is a set of legally designated areas that are directly or indirectly necessary to conservation, based on the presence of certain biological or physical elements. These can be within or outside of the geographic range of the population in question. Critical habitat serves as a legal acknowledgement of environmental properties that are necessary to survival and long term recovery. NOAA can manage activities within these areas to prevent harm to the whales, or damage to the environmental features they depend on.
For the Southern Residents, NOAA identified water quality, availability of prey species, and conditions for travel, resting and foraging as key environmental features. The current critical habitat includes about 2,560 square miles around the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Combined with Canada’s designated critical habitat, this covers the inland waters of the Salish Sea, where the Southern Residents are commonly seen from May to October. This does not include offshore areas, military sites or coastal waters less than 20ft deep.
In order to designate critical habitat, federal agencies must clearly identify the physical and biological features necessary for individual survival and population growth. By fully understanding what aspects of the environment are essential, the agency can better manage human activity in a way that does the least harm to these features.
Since 2005 and the initial listing of Southern Residents as endangered much has been learned about where they travel and what they need for survival. One of the major findings is that they range far outside the current critical habitat protections of today – in and around Puget Sound. In fact, 2 of the 3 pods (K and L pods) swim into the open ocean in late fall and hunt for food along most of the Pacific Coast from Washington to central California. This entire area was initially left out of the critical habitat designated following listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Another newly learned requirement for survival is the issue of sound and noise within areas the whales feed and occupy. The phenomena of echolocation is the way the whales communicate among themselves, as well as to find and capture food – salmon mostly. In essence, the language the whales use is transmitted via sound waves through the water, and outside noises, like ship noise, naval sonar noise, or other interferences are counter-productive for whales, sometimes even deadly.
CURRENT CRITICAL HABITAT AND PROPOSED EXPANSION FOR SOUTHERN RESIDENT ORCAS MAP (CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY)
On January 24, 2014, The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned NOAA Fisheries to expand the designated critical habitat. On February 24, 2015 NOAA agreed that revision was warranted. They are in the process of determining what the new critical habitat should include. We need to push them to move faster. The whales lives are at stake.
That expansion would include a much broadened area along the coastline down to Point Reyes, just north of San Francisco. Additionally, the petition asked them to limit excessive noise within the entirety if the protected area. Both of these additions would be very helpful to the protection and recovery of the whales.
In addition to being exposed to pollution and boat traffic, they are threatened by a decrease in prey. Salmon comprises 80-90% of their diet, unique among Orcas. Salmon numbers have declined throughout their entire range, and throughout the entire year. Unfortunately, NOAA has made little headway in recovering salmon in most of the northwest.
There is ample opportunity for NOAA Fisheries to become more active relative to salmon restoration, including, but not limited to the Columbia & Snake Rivers, the Klamath River and the San Francisco Bay Delta systems in California. Historically, these three systems were the highest producers of salmon on the west coast. All have had extreme losses of historic wild salmon populations, and all now have Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed populations of salmon, and some have several populations that have gone extinct. Recovery of these salmon stocks is key to expanded critical habitat being supportive of recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whales.
The time is now to expand the Southern Residents’ critical habitat! If they are to survive and recover to healthy, self sustaining populations, they have to have the places they live and feed protected, reduced toxins in their waters, ample salmon as a food source, and reduced sound levels for communication.
Take a moment (it’s worth it!) to see why they are so special:
These whales are unique, beautiful and highly social animals. They are a key part of the marine environment. Our children and grandchildren will marvel at their sight, but only if they continue to exist.
Albemarle Peninsula, N.C.—Private landowners in the five counties of North Carolina where red wolves roam signed a petition, sent to U.S Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe, expressing their support for keeping endangered red wolves on their land.
The Service has identified local landowner support in the five-county area—Beaufort, Dare, Tyrrell, Hyde, and Washington counties—as a key component in its consideration of whether to continue the red wolf recovery program in North Carolina. In the past two years, the Service eliminated the recovery coordinator for the program, stopped reintroducing red wolves into the recovery area until it completes a review of the program, stopped sterilizing and removing coyotes (which hybridize with red wolves), and issued permits to landowners to kill individual red wolves. Read the full press release from the Animal Welfare Institute…