November 23, 2017

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Solicit Public Input on Conservation Agreements Policy under the Endangered Species Act

Press Release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

November 21, 2017

Contact(s):

Ivan Vicente
703-358-1730
ivan_vicente@fws.gov


 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the NOAA Fisheries are actively working to engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and protect imperiled species, even before they are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The agencies are committed to strengthening the delivery of voluntary conservation tools, such as Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA), by making it easier to work together on conservation efforts, thus are soliciting public review and comment on whether to revise the existing CCAA policy and accompanying regulations.

Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances are designed to provide an incentive to landowners to implement specific conservation measures for declining species that are not currently listed under the ESA. To participate in a CCAA, non-federal property owners can voluntarily implement specific conservation measures that reduce or eliminate threats on their land to species covered under the agreement. In return, they receive assurances that they will not be required to undertake any additional conservation measures nor be subject to additional resource use or land use restrictions, even if the species becomes listed under the ESA.

In order to improve the process for working with states, tribes and private landowners, the Service and NOAA Fisheries finalized a revision of the CCAA policy on December 27, 2016.

The policy and regulation revisions did not change landowner requirements for participation in the program, but rather clarified and simplified the standard for approving CCAAs. These changes were designed to encourage more landowners to participate in these agreements, and to speed up the approval process, by making the approval standard simpler and clearer. However, these changes have been interpreted in different ways by some members of the public, with some interpreting it to be a higher standard while others considered it to be a lower standard than the previous policy.

Based on comments received, the agencies will decide whether and how to revise the policy and regulations. The notice will publish in the Federal Register on November 22, 2017. Written comments and information concerning these notices can be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to
    • FWS/NOAA Fisheries policy notice at Docket No. [FWS-HQ-ES-2017-0074]
    • FWS regulations notice at Docket No. [FWS-HQ-ES-2017-0075]
  • U. S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-HQ-ES-2017-0074] or [FWS-HQ-ES-2017-0075]; Division of Policy, Performance and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike – MS: BPHC Falls Church, VA 22041-3808.

Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before January 22, 2018. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

For more information, please visit: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/ccaa-policy.html

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Cantwell To Trump Administration: Don’t Cut Taxes For Corporations By Raising Entrance Fees To National Parks

Press Release from the office of Sen. Cantwell, member of the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources:

Seattle, Washington – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) joined with leading outdoor enthusiasts and small businesses to call on the Trump Administration and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to withdraw the National Park Service’s (NPS) proposal to nearly triple national park entrance fees.

On October 24, the National Park Service announced a proposal to almost triple the peak season entrance fees at 17 of the most popular national parks. Beginning in 2018, fees to enter these parks during the 5-most-popular months would jump from $25-$30 to $70 per vehicle. The entrance fee increases would impact: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah, and Joshua Tree National Parks.

“We are here today because the Park Service plans to almost triple the entrance fees at the 17 most visited and most iconic national parks across the country – including Mt. Rainier and Olympic,” said Senator Cantwell. “As corporate tax breaks are also being discussed, I don’t know why park fees then have to be raised. To me this price increase is unconscionable.” 

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation is a major economic driver. In Washington state alone, outdoor recreation accounts for more than 201,000 direct jobs, $26.2 billion in annual consumer spending, $7.6 billion in wages and salaries, and $2.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.

“With the Park Service Centennial just last year, we have begun a big conversation about how to get more people into the parks – and more people enjoying the outdoor economy. Increasing the fee, is not exactly what I think will do that. These are wonderful places, and they are public lands, and should be affordable for everyone,” said Senator Cantwell.

During the event, REI released a statement saying, “REI stands firmly by our longstanding, nonpartisan view of the outdoors. For 80 years, we have worked with leaders from both parties to protect America’s iconic outdoor places and create access to transformative outdoor experiences.”

The fee increases proposed by Secretary Zinke will price out many visitors and deny American families, veterans, young people, and seniors the opportunity to visit and experience some of our nation’s most popular and iconic national parks.

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Open Thread – 22nd Day, 11th Month, 2017

64 Unexplained “Booms”

<<<Source>>>

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Public Access Dispute Solved in Central Oregon

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The public will continue to have access to 43,000 acres of central Oregon’s prime elk country thanks to a group effort including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Bureau of Land Management, Crook County, Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) and the Waibel Ranches, LLC.

“We are pleased that all parties could come together to provide continued access to a part of Oregon revered by elk hunters and others,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Opening or improving access to our public lands lies at the core of our conservation mission. We hear time and time again from our members how important it is that we carry out this public access work.”

At issue was what was thought to be a public road through private land south of Prineville in the Crooked River drainage that provided access to the southern end of Ochoco National Forest. RMEF provided title work and research that showed continuous public use of the road since the late 1800s.

Waibel Ranches, LLC facilitated the construction of the new road at their own expense and at their own initiative. They did so in order to provide access to the same public lands as a means to reduce the liability, trespass, poaching and littering associated with public travel along the old Teaters Road.

“It’s great to have a partner like RMEF to help find solutions to public land access issues,” said Dennis Teitzel, Prineville BLM district manager.

“This project provides access for hunters and all others that could have been lost without the cooperation and efforts of several organizations. The landowners should be thanked for their willingness to work to solve a problem for the benefit for all,” said Richard Nelson, OHA Bend Chapter past president. “It shows what can be accomplished when all work on a solution instead of locking in to an adversary position.”

Since 1986, RMEF and its partners completed 875 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Oregon with a combined value of more than $57.4 million. These projects protected or enhanced 793,317 acres of habitat and opened or secured public access to 90,073 acres.

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Open Thread – 21st Day, 11th Month, 2017

Well, I Know That…But Who is Orchestrating the Accusations and Why?

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Data from: Compensatory selection for roads over natural linear features by wolves in northern Ontario: implications for caribou conservation

*Editor’s Note* – This editor would like to know two things. One, does the study account for fluctuations in wolf densities? In other words, while one probably cannot argue that the availability of corridors, man-made or natural, increases the rate of depredation of prey, how does this rate vary according to the variance of wolf populations and prey populations?

Second, is this fundamental suggestion within this study, a generalization that can be carried over to other predator/prey relationships that seem to require travel corridors to carry out their kills?

Abstract
Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Ontario are a threatened species that have experienced a substantial retraction of their historic range. Part of their decline has been attributed to increasing densities of anthropogenic linear features such as trails, roads, railways, and hydro lines. These features have been shown to increase the search efficiency and kill rate of wolves. However, it is unclear whether selection for anthropogenic linear features is additive or compensatory to selection for natural (water) linear features which may also be used for travel. We studied the selection of water and anthropogenic linear features by 52 resident wolves (Canis lupus x lycaon) over four years across three study areas in northern Ontario that varied in degrees of forestry activity and human disturbance. We used Euclidean distance-based resource selection functions (mixed-effects logistic regression) at the seasonal range scale with random coefficients for distance to water linear features, primary/secondary roads/railways, and hydro lines, and tertiary roads to estimate the strength of selection for each linear feature and for several habitat types, while accounting for availability of each feature. Next, we investigated the trade-off between selection for anthropogenic and water linear features. Wolves selected both anthropogenic and water linear features; selection for anthropogenic features was stronger than for water during the rendezvous season. Selection for anthropogenic linear features increased with increasing density of these features on the landscape, while selection for natural linear features declined, indicating compensatory selection of anthropogenic linear features. These results have implications for woodland caribou conservation. Prey encounter rates between wolves and caribou seem to be strongly influenced by increasing linear feature densities. This behavioral mechanism – a compensatory functional response to anthropogenic linear feature density resulting in decreased use of natural travel corridors – has negative consequences for the viability of woodland caribou.<<<Read More>>>

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House Natural Resource Committee Letter to President Trump

*Editor’s Note* – Anyone with any sense of sanity might want to ask why it is that the President of the United States is considering a “restructuring” of the Department of Interior when he has failed so miserably in making appointments within that department. It has been nearly one year since he walked into the White House and still positions remain vacant. Is this part of his restructuring plan?

2017-11-16_cnr_to_president_trump_re_doi_reorg
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Open Thread – 18th Day, 11th Month, 2017

What? You Actually Believed “They” Weren’t Spying on You?

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Open Thread – 16th Day, 11th Month, 2017

Murderer, Rapist, Child Molester and We Let Him Become President. I Guess It Matters Who You Are and Whose “Side” You’re On

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Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Issuance of Depredation Permits for Double-Crested Cormorants

SUMMARY: This notice advises the public of the completion of an environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI). The EA analyzed the potential impacts of a proposal to make decisions on depredation permit applications for the annual take (i.e., lethal removal) of up to 51,571 double-crested cormorants, Phalcrocorax
auritus, across 37 central and eastern States and the District of Columbia. The EA considered two alternatives: The proposed action; and the reduced take alternative (which is the preferred alternative). The scope of the EA is to issue permits to manage cormorant damage at aquaculture facilities, protect human health and safety, protect threatened and endangered wildlife, and alleviate damage to property. Based on the analysis contained in the EA, the Service finds that the preferred alternative would not constitute a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, as outlined in the accompanying FONSI.<<<More>>>

Press Release
Service’s Environmental Assessment Balances Protection of Aquaculture with Conservation of Cormorant Populations

November 14, 2017

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken action towards providing relief to fish production facilities that are suffering significant economic losses due to predation of their fish stocks by double-crested cormorants. The Environmental Assessment released today was completed by the Service under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services. It evaluated options for issuing individual permits to lethally control cormorants (known as depredation permits) while ensuring the long-term health of the cormorant population.

Cormorants can feed on fish raised for human consumption and on fish raised for other commercial purposes. In addition, cormorants may cause economic damage to property as well as other damage and conflicts associated with increasing populations.

The EA analyzed options for the issuance of depredation permits for cormorants where there is either significant economic damage to aquaculture facilities, significant damage to native vegetation, significant impact on a threatened or endangered species or significant human safety risks.

It provides a strong biological foundation to ensure cormorant populations are managed responsibly and in compliance with federal laws and regulations, while balancing economic development, human health and safety, endangered species management and other priorities.

Upon publication in the Federal Register on November 15, 2017, aquaculture facility managers and property owners across 37 central and eastern states and the District of Columbia will be able to apply for individual permits for lethal take of double-crested cormorants. The Service expects to begin issuing actual permits prior to cormorant migration this fall.

This review did not include potential damage to recreational and commercial fishing by cormorants. Over the next year, the Service will engage stakeholders in order to assess the biological, social and economic significance of wild fish-cormorant interactions, and to identify a suite of management alternatives. This will include identifying the monitoring needs necessary to address the issue and gathering better scientific information that could be used in the NEPA review and decision making process.

The scale and complexity of the issues involving cormorant control to protect wild free-swimming fish populations is substantial, and not as easily assessed as the impacts on aquaculture. The Service will work with states and tribes to compile scientific information regarding the biological and economic effects of cormorants or their removal on wild fisheries.

The Service is also currently working with state fish and wildlife agencies to assess comprehensive management options for cormorants across the United States.

For more information, please visit: https://www.fws.gov/birds/management/managed-species/double-crested-cormorants.php.

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