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Cara J

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Cara J last won the day on February 15 2015

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  1. A proposed rule that would change a provision of the Endangered Species Act that has been used for 40 years to apply protections to threatened species is reportedly under consideration by the Interior Department. Called the “blanket 4(d) rule,” the provision extends most protections offered to endangered species to threatened species, essentially treating both groups of species the same. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crafted the blanket rule in 1978 to extend to threatened species a range of protections, including prohibitions on sale and transport of listed species along with a ban on take of these species. Take is defined by the law as to “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” or attempt to do any of these. The proposed rule change would affect how the USFWS implements Section 4(d) of the ESA. That section allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to establish special regulations to protect threatened species based on their individual conservation needs, rather than prohibit all take as is done for species listed as endangered. USFWS occasionally creates a special 4(d) rule to allow certain actions that may result in take of a threatened species [...] View the full article
  2. National parks preserve habitat for hundreds of avian species in the United States. Researchers anticipate these protected areas will host even more extensive bird communities as climate change keeps transforming the landscape. “Climate change is a big driver in bird species assemblages in national parks,” said Joanna Wu, lead author on the study published in PLOS ONE. “National parks will be increasingly critical sanctuaries for birds seeking a suitable climate.” A National Audubon Society biologist, Wu and her colleagues modeled how 513 bird species would alter their distributions in 274 national parks throughout the country if atmospheric greenhouse gases persist into the middle of the century. They relied on the North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and considered possible changes in temperature and precipitation using observations from the early 2000s. “One-quarter of birds in America’s national parks could be different by 2050 if carbon emissions continue at the current pace,” Wu said, with parks at higher latitudes in the Northeast and Midwest experiencing the most turnover. “As birds move to track the climate, parks may gain species along with all the ecological interactions, habitat availability and other complications that come with that,” she said. “In [...] View the full article
  3. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to reclassify the Hawaiian goose (Branta (=Nesochen) sandvicensis), also known as the nene, from endangered to threatened. This proposal is “based on a thorough review of the best available scientific data,” the Service announced, suggesting that the population levels of this species have improved so that it is “not currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” The nene is found on the Hawaiian islands of Hawaii and Maui, where the population is estimated to be 2,800 individuals. The Service proposed adopting a rule under Section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act along with the reclassification, allowing some restricted “take” of Hawaiian geese under one of three conditions: hazing or intentional harassment of nene that is not likely to cause direct injury or mortality, when conducted by landowners attempting to manage wildlife conflicts; incidental take of nene through activities designed either to help control the populations of introduced predators of nene, or to help manage nene habitat; or actions taken by law enforcement officers related to injured, sick, or dead nene. For more information or to submit comments by the June 1 deadline, see the Federal Register [...] View the full article
  4. The Smithsonian is poised to take over the U.S. Geological Survey’s Biological Survey Unit after federal funding for the 108-year-old unit ends this year. The Biological Survey Unit was set to be eliminated during budget negotiations, but the division received funding in the omnibus spending package approved last month, allowing it to stay open until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. After that USGS plans to turn over management of the more than 1 million specimens in the division’s collection to the Smithsonian. The collection is currently housed in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where six USGS staff researchers maintain the rare, historic specimens of North American mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The BSU was created in 1885 as part of the Department of Agriculture and charged with researching farm pests, but research efforts soon expanded to general surveys of a variety of species. Today staff researchers produce scientific publications and identification guides collaborate with researchers from around the world who need to access the collection. The BSU has an annual budget of $1.6 million and is housed within the Smithsonian at no cost. USGS is currently working on a transition plan. Subsuming the division would [...] View the full article
  5. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has named Susan Combs the Interior Department’s acting assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, giving her oversight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service. Combs, a native Texan and former state senator, agriculture commissioner and comptroller, was originally nominated as the Interior’s assistant secretary for policy, management and budget last summer. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported favorably on Combs, but the nomination has not yet advanced during the congressional session. The Trump administration has not nominated anyone as a permanent assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, nor have there been nominations for director of USFWS or the NPS. See more on Combs’s appointment at The Washington Post. View the full article
  6. Do female birds need a feminist movement? A pair of researchers is suggesting that scientists tend to tune in to male birdsongs and overlook female songs, leaving an important aspect of birds’ life history out of ornithological research. In a commentary published in The Auk: Ornithology Advances, the researchers argue that understanding and keeping track of these understudied female songs can advance bird biology and fill in gaps in our understanding of bird behavior. In 2014, lead author Karan Odom, with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, wrote a paper in Nature Communications, quantifying female songs across bird families. She found that 71 percent of the females she studied sang. Another study looking at songbirds found 64 percent of all songbirds have evidence of female songs. “That awakened us, and the research community, to a bigger phenomenon than we thought there was in the past,” said Odom, who coauthored the paper with Lauryn Benedict, at the University of Northern Colorado. After discovering that the female ancestors of all songbirds also likely sang, Odom came to believe that, because female singing can differ between temperate and tropical regions, research has likely been skewed by geographic bias. “A lot of research has been [...] Read more: http://wildlife.org/female-birds-sing-too-but-do-they-go-unheard/
  7. Before Rachel Carson wrote her classic Silent Spring, chronicling the effects of DDT on birds and the environment, Carson was a student of zoology and researcher at the predecessor of the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service with a passion for wildlife. “Wildlife, it is pointed out, is dwindling because its home is being destroyed,” she wrote in 1938, “but the home of the wildlife is also our home.” The New Yorker offers a remembrance of Carson as a biologist and writer whose work helped launch the environmental movement and contributed to the passage of an array of legislation, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. Read the article here. Read more: http://wildlife.org/before-writing-silent-spring-rachel-carson-was-a-biologist/
  8. 169 Members of Congress have signed a letter supporting “robust funding” for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grant program in the fiscal year 2019 federal budget. The ‘Dear Colleagues’ letter was delivered to Chairman Ken Calvert, R-California, and Ranking Member Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota, of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The State and Tribal Wildlife Grant program is slated to be halved by President Trump’s proposed budget for the Interior Department. The Wildlife Society previously expressed concerns regarding many of the president’s proposed funding levels for wildlife and science programs, including STWG. STWG is the only federal program that directly assists state agencies in developing and executing state wildlife action plans. These plans are crucial in assisting species of greatest concern. The letter campaign was led by Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Mike Thompson, D-California. The Wildlife Society worked alongside the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the National Wildlife Federation to encourage House members to sign the letter. Read the Dear Colleagues Letter. Read more: http://wildlife.org/legislators-call-for-funding-state-tribal-wildlife-grants/
  9. Leaders from corporations, state wildlife agencies and NGOs traveled to Washington D.C. earlier this month to urge their congressional delegations to support the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 4647). The Association for Fish and Wildlife Agencies organized the two-day fly-in March 13-14. Caroline Murphy, government relations program coordinator at The Wildlife Society, participated in the event. TWS members and staff participated in the D.C. fly-in. From left to right: Paul Johansen, chief, Wildlife Resources Section, WV DNR; Caroline Murphy, TWS government relations program coordinator; Scott Warner, chief assistant, Wildlife Resources Section, WV DNR. “We had a lot of good reception from several member offices.” Murphy said, “There was a lot of excitement about this bill, its potential, and its goal of supporting science-based wildlife conservation.” The bill would redirect $1.3 billion in existing funds from energy and mineral development on federal lands and waters towards state wildlife management efforts. The money would support species that states have identified as species of greatest conservation need to help prevent them from becoming federally threatened or endangered in the future, including 21 Democrats and 13 Republicians. Since it was introduced by Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, last December, its co-sponsor [...] Read more: http://wildlife.org/combined-efforts-raise-support-for-recovering-americas-wildlife-act/
  10. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars when you come to Cleveland! With it’s location on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland provides a great opportunity to check off species on your birding list, including rare species like the red phalarope and purple sandpiper. Early October will bring some of the early migrants, including waterfowl, to the Cleveland area. For those that don’t want to travel far from the convention center, start your mornings out with some fresh air and a short 10-minute walk to the lakeshore looking for birds. On calmer days birds can be found inside the breakwall. But if it’s windy, the birds can often be found congregating in the marinas and bays. For those wanting a unique experience, a one-hour drive to the west brings you to Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, one of only two Great Lakes-type freshwater estuaries in the country, which can provide some more great birding opportunities. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, take an extra day before or after the conference to travel the Lake Erie Birding Trail, featuring 88 stops on seven loops stretching along the shores of lake, including a Cleveland loop. While not required, a guidebook can [...] Read more: http://wildlife.org/2018-annual-conference-hiking-and-birding-in-northeast-ohio/
  11. Students from The Wildlife Society’s Student Chapter at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College spent an exciting morning with former President Jimmy Carter recently at their annual wood duck box cleanup on his property in Plains. “We were delighted to spend over an hour with President Carter on a personal tour of his newest pond as students scouted how many new boxes were needed,” said Dr. Vanessa Lane, assistant professor of wildlife at ABAC. Lane said the student chapter has had the honor of maintaining, repairing and replacing President Carter’s wood duck boxes for many years. The morning consisted of unexpected entertainment when members of the Secret Service assisted in towing a van from the sandy soil. “The most memorable experience for me was seeing Dr. Lane sink the van into the sand and having a member of President’s Carter’s detail hook up a tow strap and pull her out,” said Christopher Terrazas, ABAC Student Chapter president. Students took notes of nesting success and determined what could be beneficial in the future. They cleaned old eggs, debris, and wasp nests from the existing boxes and replaced old bedding with fresh cedar shavings. “This event and any other that involves volunteer work helps [...] Read more: http://wildlife.org/students-refurbish-duck-boxes-for-president-jimmy-carter/
  12. Converting wild lands to agriculture can negatively impact wildlife, but according to a recent study, intensifying agriculture on existing farmlands can also come with a cost in different regions and can be reduced in different ways. “On a global scale, many people have advocated for agricultural intensification based on the idea that it’s less problematic to stay in the same area than to convert additional habitats to cropland,” said Lukas Egli, a PhD student at Gottingen University and lead author of the study published in Global Change Biology. To test the effects of intensification, Egli and his colleagues collected information from global datasets of the allocation and yields of important crops such as wheat, soy and maize. They also collected information about how much yield farmers would achieve with intensification. They then collected biodiversity information from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and other organizations on mammals, amphibians and birds. This included global range data for almost 20,000 species as well as habitat preferences. They particularly paid attention to how species might respond to agriculture intensification within habitat groupings. Forest specialists don’t use agricultural areas as habitat, for example, but deer do. They then combined the biodiversity distribution data [...] Read more: http://wildlife.org/as-agriculture-intensifies-can-biodiversity-be-preserved/
  13. Golden-winged warbler populations have plummeted in recent decades, even as conservationists have rushed to secure their breeding areas in the Appalachian and Great Lakes regions. Using cutting-edge trackers, researchers recently discovered that the problem could be deforestation on the warblers’ wintering grounds, and they suggest widening habitat conservation to South America to counter the species’ decline. “Factors in all these places this migratory species is using can limit populations,” said Gunnar Kramer, first author on the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We found evidence for broad-scale deforestation on nonbreeding grounds — a driver of these population trends. Nonbreeding grounds are a priority, and we should refocus our efforts to assess those issues.” An estimated 400,000 golden-winged warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) reproduce around either the Great Lakes — from Manitoba and Minnesota to Michigan and Ontario — or the Appalachian Mountains — from Tennessee and North Carolina up into Vermont. The Appalachian warblers’ numbers have shrunk by up to 98 percent, and they’ve disappeared from sites they once used to inhabit in the eastern United States. The Great Lakes warblers, on the other hand, are stable and currently constitute 95 percent of the species. From 2013 [...] Read more: http://wildlife.org/warblers-in-trouble-due-to-south-american-deforestation/
  14. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared before the the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the the House Natural Resources Committee last week to testify on the department’s proposed $11.7 budget for fiscal year 2019. Both hearings focused largely on infrastructure funding and energy development. At the Senate hearing, a proposed reduction in offshore royalty rates from 18.75 to 12.5 percent was a particular point of contention. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) expressed concern that the change would reduce available funding for programs that rely on energy royalties, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The proposed Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund would also rely on revenue from new energy leasing to address the department’s $11.6 billion in maintenance backlogs. Zinke countered that “You lower the royalties, you make [offshore development] more attractive, production increases, and revenue in some cases can increase.” He was clear, however, that the final analysis of the recommendation is forthcoming and ongoing leasing will apply the current royalty rate. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) also criticized the proposed reduction of the Land and Water Conservation Fund from $400 million to $8 million, calling it a “virtual elimination” of the fund. The [...] Read more: http://wildlife.org/zinke-defends-infrastructure-energy-plans-in-hearings/
  15. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently accepting public comments on the monitoring plan for black-capped vireos (Vireo atricapilla) if the species is removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The plan describes ways to monitor the birds and their habitat for 12 years after delisting. The plan would monitor the species and habitat in cooperation with Texas and Oklahoma state governments and partners. The birds were listed in 1987 primarily because of nest-parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) and habitat loss. The USFWS assumes the vireos are reliant on efforts to protect shrubland habitat and control cowbird populations in areas where they breed. It was originally considered for delisting in December 2016. Public comments on the monitoring plan are being accepted until April 13. You can read more about the proposed action and submit comments in the Federal Register. Read more: http://wildlife.org/black-capped-vireo-preparing-for-life-after-delisting/