Colorado Articles – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists http://www.environews.tv The Final Frontier of Investigative Reporting Sat, 24 Aug 2019 19:45:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 21904165 Wild Horses May Hold a Solution to Slowing Spread of Fatal Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer, Elk http://www.environews.tv/022718-wild-horses-may-hold-solution-slowing-spread-fatal-chronic-wasting-disease-deer-elk/ http://www.environews.tv/022718-wild-horses-may-hold-solution-slowing-spread-fatal-chronic-wasting-disease-deer-elk/#comments Tue, 27 Feb 2018 10:06:34 +0000 http://www.environews.tv/?p=15128 (EnviroNews Colorado) — A Colorado State University scientist is investigating the role wild horses may play in slowing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a 100 percent fatal and contagious brain-destroying infection, ravaging the country’s deer and elk herds. The findings take on increased significance considering recent…

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(EnviroNews Colorado) — A Colorado State University scientist is investigating the role wild horses may play in slowing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a 100 percent fatal and contagious brain-destroying infection, ravaging the country’s deer and elk herds.

The findings take on increased significance considering recent research by Canadian and German scientists who found that the dreaded prion disease is easily transmitted to cynomolgus macaques (Macaca cynomolgus). Genetically speaking, this monkey is the closest thing to humans that can be used in laboratory research. Last year, Health Canada (the country’s equivalent to the Centers for Disease Control) issued a health advisory, warning that the “most prudent approach is to consider that CWD has the potential to infect humans.”

Making the situation even bleaker, the first cases of CWD were recently diagnosed in Montana and an explosion of the disease in other herds around the country, even the notion of a mitigating technique is welcome.

But can wild horse really help slow the spread of this deadly disease across the vast landscapes of the West? We explore that proposition below, but first a little background on the prion itself.

Prions: The Unkillable Killer

Prions (pronounced: \ˈprī-än\, or pree-on) are malformed proteins that cause abnormal folding of certain otherwise normal proteins in the brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Lacking a cell nucleus, a prion is not a bacteria or a virus, nor is it even alive — though it behaves much like a living, reproducing pathogen.

Prion diseases include transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow disease”) in cattle, “scrapie” in sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

First discovered in Colorado in 1967 in captive mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), CWD has since spread to wild and captive cervids including mule deer, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni), moose (Alces alces shirasi) and caribou (Rangifer tarandus). Thus far, the infected animals span the U.S., two Canadian provinces, Norway, and South Korea.

Captive Elk With Chronic Wasting Disease at the Sybille Wildlife Research Unit

Symptoms of the “zombie deer disease” include severe weight loss (wasting), stumbling, and listlessness, with the disease eventually leading to death in all cases. The spread of the sickness has exploded in cervids throughout the West over the past decade, with about one-half of Colorado’s deer herds and one-third of its elk herds believed to now be infected.

CWD spreads through animal-to-animal contact and the contamination of food sources. Humans can increase the dispersal through the transportation of live animals, infected carcasses or contaminated crops; products made with cervid urine, saliva, or feces; and wildlife management practices that cluster animals together, such as federal and state agencies baiting and rounding up elk into wintertime herds.

Testing a Deer for Chronic Wasting Disease

While a single case of CWD has yet to be found in humans, the CDC and other government agencies recommend that hunters take precautions when dressing deer and to test meat before eating. Disturbingly, prion illnesses can incubate in the human body for several decades before manifesting symptoms.

For years, Dr. Mark Zabel, Associate Director of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, has been trying to stop the spread of CWD. In a phone interview with EnviroNews, he said studies have shown that horses are “atypically resistant” to prions and that there has “never been any case of naturally occurring horse prion disease.”

Good News for Horses, But What About Deer and Elk?

Zabel said he has “pretty strong evidence” he hopes to publish this year demonstrating that one of the most common ways for CWD to spread is when cervids browse on vegetation contaminated from infected saliva, urine, and feces. Hence, he said it’s possible that horses can consume some of the CWD-tainted material and “interrupt that indirect transmission of CWD prions from cervid to cervid.”

There are of course many obstacles to this plan, the most obvious being whether horses could even make a dent in the sheer amount of contaminated vegetation in the forest and whether the resulting ecosystem impacts would outweigh any benefits. Another hitch is that after consuming the prions, the horses would just release them back into the environment in their manure.

Wild Horses in Wyoming — Photo: Images by Ottilia

While acknowledging the limitations of the proposal, Zabel said that, “As prions traverse through the alimentary tract of an animal… the titers decrease.” What that means is, even though the prions would still be present in a horse’s manure, after it digests them, they would be far less concentrated, as well as sequestered in a substance cervids have no interest in browsing.

With his expectations firmly in check, Zabel is curious to find out if “[by tweaking] the indirect transmission just a little bit… [if] those processes would be enough to interrupt the indirect transmission of prions, and [if] that might be enough to stop the spread across the landscape into new areas.” He has applied for funding to test the hypothesis.

If Horses Can Put a Damper on CWD Prions, What Then?

As of March 2017, a total of 59,483 wild horses (Equus ferus) roam free on public lands across 10 western states, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Since the 1971 passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the BLM has managed these creatures through sterilization and by setting population limits in herd management areas (HMA) to “protect scarce and fragile resources in the arid West and ensure healthy animals.”

Additional specimens are rounded up and kept in pens or sold. The BLM currently houses 44,493 horses in off-range pastures, corrals, and sanctuaries and removes thousands more from the wild every year, with anywhere from half to the majority of the creatures getting adopted, though advocates offer evidence of some horses being sold for slaughter.

Wild Horse on the Western Landscape — Photo: Images by Ottilia

Author and wild horse advocate William Simpson told EnviroNews in a phone interview that he wants the BLM to release captured wild horses into the forest to gobble up vegetation that may be contaminated with prions and reduce wildfire fuels, the way he’s doing on his WildHorse Ranch in the Cascade-Siskiyou region of Northern California.

Does The Wild Horse Belong on the American Landscape?

Most studies estimate wild horses, along with dozens of other species of megafauna, such as giant sloths, wooly mammoths, and saber-tooth tigers, disappeared from North America around twelve thousand years ago — the most likely extinction culprits being rapid warming and overhunting.

Some scientists, such as Ross Macphee, curator of the Division of Vertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, claim that domestic horses contain much of the same genetics as their wild ancestors, with other studies corroborating that evidence.

Wild Horses Battling for Position — Photo: Images by Ottilia

Wild horse advocates assert that returning the animals to their ancestral range, including the forest, makes ecological sense. Indeed, a 2017 study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution concluded that wild horses likely lived in “post-glacial forests,” a finding backed by several other studies.

“Horses have evolved on this biome, so putting them out there is just reintroduction of a proven native species,” said Simpson, adding that this method is the only one “that [would allow] scientists to study wild native horses in their environment, abating the prion problem.”

For Simpson, it’s not only about prion mitigation. He argues wild horses can also cut back on vegetation responsible for fueling California’s recent large wildfires, though a recent body of science points to climate, rather than fuels, as the main driver.

Wild Horse — Photo: Images by Ottilia

Gary MacFarlane, Ecosystem Defense Director for Friends of the Clearwater in Moscow, Idaho, maintains that releasing horses in public forests would do more harm than good. “I think [the introduction of horses is] kind of a manipulation of the national forests and I don’t think it’s right, especially in wilderness [areas],” MacFarlane said in a phone interview with EnviroNews. “The idea of wilderness is to have a few places where we decide not to consciously exert our will and let nature roll the dice.”

Though CWD has yet to be found in free-roaming deer or elk in Idaho, MacFarlane is concerned about the spread. However, informed by his degree in range management and the interaction between animals and the vegetation they eat, he points to what he believes to be the root cause of CWD’s spread: “[the] North American wildlife management model.”

MacFarlane asserts that over the last century, state fish and game agencies focused so heavily on propagating game species that they “didn’t look at the unintended consequences.”

Wild Horse on Western Landscape — Photo: Images by Ottilia

Combined with development and grazing that have reduced available habitat, an increasing number of deer have been forced to congregate in the few remaining winter ranges, MacFarlane explained. And it’s in those ranges that the highest disease transmission likely occurs.

Other than Simpson’s ranch and Zabel’s still unfunded proposal, there are no concrete schemes to introduce wild horses onto the land for the purpose of prion abatement or fuel reduction, and certainly not in national forests or wilderness areas.

Wild Horse — Photo: Images by Ottilia

Even if the horse angle is unfeasible, as CWD continues to spread like wildfire, perhaps Zabel’s research will open other doors that might lead to a solution.

All of the excellent photographs of wild horses featured in this article were provided by Images by Ottilia. You may visit their Facebook page here:https://www.facebook.com/ohmphotos/

OTHER REPORTS ON PRION DISEASE BY ENVIRONEWS:

HEALTH ADVISORY: Venison, Elk May No Longer Be Safe to Eat – Study: Deadly Chronic Wasting Disease Could be Moving to Humans

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Alberta, Canada – Early results from an ongoing study testing human susceptibility to chronic wasting disease (CWD), a growing epidemic among deer and elk, has led Health Canada to warn “that CWD has the potential to infect humans.” Chronic wasting disease is an…

(EnviroNews Nature) – In the late 1980s, farmers in Great Britain started to notice their cows stumbling around, acting strangely and losing weight. The problem got continually worse, until in 1993, more than 36,000 cattle in the UK died in a single year from mad cow disease. Prior…

(EnviroNews Utah) – PRION: a word that many have never even heard before, but little do they know that this deadly and virulent “pest” may be lurking right on their dinner plate, or inside their cute little pets Fluffy and Rover, or even right in dear ol’ Gramma’s…

(EnviroNews Utah) – North Salt Lake City – In a shocking admission Thursday night at a heated town hall meeting, a VP from Stericycle has admitted that the company is allowed to accept and burn deadly and arguably indestructible brain-destroying prions at its North Salt Lake incineration facility…

Dr. Brian Moench of UPHE Discusses the Potentially Deadly Burning of Prions by Stericycle Medical Incinerator

(EnviroNews Utah) – Following Stericycle’s simply flabbergasting admission last Thursday night where they acknowledged that they are allowed to accept and burn deadly and largely indestructible prions, protestors took to the streets outside one of the country’s last standing hazardous medical waste incineration plants. Prions are the malformed…

(EnviroNews Utah) – According to documents on the Department of Environmental Quality website, Stericycle’s permit needs to be renewed by August 19, 2013. The company’s current permit expires on Feb. 19, 2014. Regg Olsen is listed as the contact at the Department of Air Quality (DAQ) in charge…

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Governments in CO/UT/NM/AZ Deliberately Derailed Mexican Wolf Recovery, Documents Reveal (Investigative Report) http://www.environews.tv/122017-governments-co-ut-nm-az-deliberately-derailed-mexican-wolf-recovery-documents-reveal/ http://www.environews.tv/122017-governments-co-ut-nm-az-deliberately-derailed-mexican-wolf-recovery-documents-reveal/#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 13:27:37 +0000 http://www.environews.tv/?p=14751 (EnviroNews Colorado) — After decades of deliberation the final revision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan (the Plan) was released at the end of November, but former USFWS officials tell EnviroNews it strays far from scientists’ minimum recommendations for recovery of the…

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(EnviroNews Colorado) — After decades of deliberation the final revision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan (the Plan) was released at the end of November, but former USFWS officials tell EnviroNews it strays far from scientists’ minimum recommendations for recovery of the gray wolf subspecies.

Meanwhile, a series of documents reveal lawmakers and agencies in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona — the four states central to recovery efforts — have been deliberately hamstringing wolf revival efforts for years.

David Parsons, former Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the USFWS from 1990 to 1999, told EnviroNews Colorado that instead of working to expand and stabilize wolf populations, the agency watered down the Plan and “essentially turned its mission over to the states” of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona — states that have repeatedly opposed many aspects of wolf recovery.

The Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), a.k.a. “el lobo,” was hunted to near-extinction during the late 1800’s and 1900’s. In 1976, it gained protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and by 1982 the USFWS launched the original Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan to keep the keystone predator from being wiped off the face of the earth.

The agency’s captive breeding program released three lineages of Mexican wolves into the wild in the U.S. starting in 1998, with Mexico releasing wolves in 2011. Today, 113 of these creatures inhabit central and southern Arizona and New Mexico while 31 wolves live in the northern Sierra Madre Occidental of Chihuahua and Sonora in Mexico.

Despite this modest rebound in numbers, poor genetic variability and limited high-quality habitat free from human encroachment means the future of the Mexican wolf remains bleak.

In 2014, Parsons joined a coalition of conservation groups in a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona against the USFWS for delaying completion of the Plan. In 2016, a court settlement required the agency to finish the plan by November 2017.

To achieve full recovery, the final Plan recommends the release of more captive-bred specimens in an effort to establish two “genetically diverse Mexican wolf populations distributed across ecologically and geographically diverse areas in the subspecies’ range in the United States and Mexico.” The estimated $178 million cost of recovery is to be borne by federal and state governments and NGOs.

The Plan’s ultimate goal is to increase Mexican wolf populations in the U.S. to 320 wolves and 200 in Mexico over the next 25 to 35 years, at which point the USFWS would remove the subspecies from the Endangered Species List.

Mexican Gray Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)

In late 2011, the USFWS convened the Science and Planning Subgroup of the Recovery Team (the Subgroup) — staffed with independent scientists — which recommended a minimum of 750 wolves in the U.S. and 100 in Mexico, with three separate populations of 200 to 300 wolves, before delisting.

Parsons said that faced with these numbers, ranchers “just went ballistic.” Though stakeholders were sworn to secrecy, the Subgroup’s internal working draft was leaked and pro-ranching and hunting voices, including U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), pushed back hard against the Plan.

“They just blew the thing up in the media,” said Parsons. “Fish and Wildlife Service, true to fashion reacted by just quitting — they canceled the next meeting of [the Subgroup]… and never held another one.”

In November 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region’s Biological Report for the Mexican Wolf determined that wolf numbers wouldn’t be based on science alone, but also what is “socially acceptable in light of the expected ongoing issues around livestock depredation and other forms of wolf-human conflict.”

“They essentially asked the states how many wolves they could tolerate,” Parsons said. “They called it a social tolerance limit based on their perception of social tolerance and not backed by any science whatsoever.”

Parsons also pointed out that, aside from the special interests associated with ranching and hunting, polls have shown the vast majority of the public in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado are in support of Mexican wolf reintroduction and recovery.

Dave Parsons With Wolf Pup

Another bone of contention within the Plan is the way it limits the Mexican wolf’s range to south of Interstate 40, which runs east to west across northern New Mexico and Arizona.

The Science and Planning Subgroup recommended including sections of eastern Arizona and New Mexico, the Grand Canyon region of northern Arizona and southern Utah, and the Southern Rockies area of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado as “three major core areas of suitable habitat… capable of supporting Mexican wolf populations of sufficient size to contribute to recovery.”

A 2015 study published in Biological Conservation concluded that “most of the [Mexican wolf’s] historic range in Mexico is currently unsuitable due to human activity” with a high probability of wolves in those regions being killed by people.

However, due to “geopolitical reasons,” the USFWS chose to leave out the Grand Canyon and Southern Rockies regions in the Plan, according to notes from an April 2016 Mexican Wolf Recovery Planning Workshop in Mexico City, Mexico.

Mexican Gray Wolf — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Parsons said the reason these two areas were excluded involved pushback from the state governments of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, maintaining that “state game and fish departments are controlled by game commissions and game commissions in most western states are appointed by the governors and they are stacked primarily with hunters and ranchers.”

“State governments are generally beholden to livestock and hunting interests, particularly outfitters,” wrote Bryan Bird, Southwest Director for Defenders of Wildlife, in an email exchange with EnviroNews Colorado.

He said that the opposition is “emotional and not based in fact,” pointing out that wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies hasn’t had “any measurable affect on hunting success and there are programs in place for wolf and livestock coexistence.”

While some may disagree with the assertions made by Parsons and Bird, there’s no question these four states have opposed myriad components of wolf recovery for years.

In 2015, the governors of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona sent a joint letter to then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and USFWS Director Daniel Ashe stating they “do not support recovery of the Mexican wolf across regions and landscapes that are not part of the subspecies’ historical range.”

The letter insisted the states would “oppose the expansion, release, and occupancy” of Mexican wolves north of I-40 and that the focus of the recovery should be in Mexico. The governors argued the Endangered Species Act does not “specifically authorize” recovery of a species outside its historical range, and asserted that to do so would be “neither necessary nor scientifically supported.”

Parsons contended that the historical range question isn’t “settled science,” explaining that for a “species that was once continuously distributed from Mexico City to the Yukon and is capable of dispersing [hundreds], even thousands, of miles, it is impossible to draw a bright line that demarcates the range boundaries of different subspecies.”

Historical range aside, he said “the key issue that gets overlooked in this debate is where is the best available habitat for recovery of Mexican wolves today?”

Mexican Gray Wolf at the Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In a quest for clarity, EnviroNews contacted all four of the governors’ offices involved. Arizona and New Mexico did not respond, but the offices of Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Herbert (R-UT) did. EnviroNews made relentless attempts with both Governors to get one query answered. That question:

In a joint letter dated November 13, 2015, signed by Governors Hickenlooper, Herbert, Ducey and Martinez, to then-Secretary Sally Jewell and Director Dan Ashe, the Governors stated, “Our States oppose the expansion, release, and occupancy of Mexican wolves north of I-40 in the States of Arizona and New Mexico and into Utah and Colorado.” Since the entire states of Colorado and Utah lie north of I-40, is your position that Mexican wolves have no place in Colorado or Utah’s wilderness whatsoever?

The answers to that question were less than satisfactory. After significant delays, Shelby Wieman, Deputy Press Secretary for Governor Hickenlooper, told EnviroNews the Governor simply couldn’t offer any clarity because, “at this point, given the complexity of the plan, and the issue itself, we’re just going to stick with [our original] statement. That’s all that we would like to comment at this point,” Wieman concluded.

The statement Wieman was referring to comes from Bob Broscheid, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who said in a statement to EnviroNews Colorado:

Our initial sense is that this is good plan from a Colorado perspective, though we continue to review it to ensure our interests [are] adequately reflected. The plan does appear to be based on sound, and the best available science, reflecting the true historic range of the wolf. Colorado appreciated the opportunity to participate in the entire recovery planning process.

After asking Herbert’s office whether el lobo should be allowed to exist at all in Utah, following days of repeated requests and what seemed like an initial willingness to answer the question, Anna Lehnardt, Digital Media Director for Governor Herbert, told EnviroNews, “I’ve checked in on this, and we don’t have a comment at this time.”

The 2015 joint governor’s letter also brought up a concern with the possibility of the Mexican wolf mating with the gray wolf (Canis lupus), which the governors said would “threaten the genetic status of Mexican wolves” and impede recovery. But the governors aren’t the only officials working to stymie the return of the Mexican wolf across these western states.

In 2016, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission passed a resolution opposing the release of any wolf subspecies into the state, while urging the Mexican wolf remain within its historic range.

Also in 2016, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish sued USFWS to stop the release of captive wolves into the state. While the preliminary injunction was initially granted, it was later overturned and the case is now back in federal court.

In 2011, the New Mexico Game Commission backed out of the Mexican Wolf Recovery program altogether.

In 2010, the Arizona Game and Fish Department sent a letter to Congress asking for the gray wolf, including the Mexican wolf, to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act.

In 2010, Utah passed Senate Bill 36 requiring its own Division of Wildlife Resources to remove any wolves found within state lines. The state also threatened legal action against the USFWS if the Plan recommended expanding the range of Mexican wolves into the state.

Regarding Senate Bill 36, EnviroNews also asked Herbert’s office, “In March of 2010 you signed Senate Bill 36 into law directing Utah’s Division of Wildlife Services to remove any wolf found within Beehive State boundaries. Is it your position that wolves have no place in Utah’s ecosystem at all?” To which EnviroNews got the same answer from Lehnardt: “We don’t have a comment at this time.”

Mexican Gray Wolf at the Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

While the future of the Mexican wolf is less dire than it was in decades past, Parsons and conservationists believe the current Plan is insufficient for full recovery of the subspecies.

“Limiting the numbers and range of the Mexican gray wolf is a major blow for ecologically relevant recovery,” Bird concluded.

On November 29, Earthjustice, on behalf of Parsons, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Endangered Wolf Center, and the Wolf Conservation Center, filed a sixty-day notice of intent to sue for violations of the Endangered Species Act in the Plan.

The groups argue the Plan “contains shortcomings that will hinder — if not prevent — Mexican wolf recovery and [that it] threatens to lead to the extinction of this iconic species.”

On the heels of its minor rebound from the brink of annihilation some thirty-six years after the launch of the original Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, the fate of this majestic and misunderstood animal will now be in the hands of the U.S. federal court system.

OTHER GREAT STORIES ABOUT WOLVES FROM ENVIRONEWS

Victory for Mexican Gray Wolves: Court Stops Injunction, Allows Releases from Captivity to Proceed

(EnviroNews Nature) – Denver, Colorado – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) can continue to release Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) from captivity into the wild after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an injunction halting the program on April 25, 2017, which conservationists say…

Wyoming Wolves Stripped of Endangered Species Act Protection – Shoot-on-Sight Policy Restored

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Gray wolves (Canis lupus) will no longer be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the state of Wyoming. That was the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on March 3, 2017, which also happened to be…

These Species Should Be ‘Endangered’ But Aren’t Due to Political Horse Trading, Report Reveals

(EnviroNews Colorado) – Special-interest politics – not sound science – decides the fate of species on the brink of extinction in the U.S., according to a new expose’ from the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species (Suppressed), profiles ten…

It’s Done: Trump Signs HJR 69 into Law Allowing Slaughter of Alaskan Bear Cubs, Wolf Pups

(EnviroNews Alaska) – Washington D.C. – On April 3, 2017, President Donald Trump signed House Joint Resolution 69 (HJR 69) into law. The legislation rescinds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2016 Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule (Refuge Rule). The Refuge Rule was enacted to protect native…

Bill Allowing Slaughter of Alaskan Bear Cubs, Wolf Pups, Sails Through Senate to Trump’s Desk

(EnviroNews Alaska) – Washington D.C. – On March 21, 2017, in a 52-47 vote, the Senate passed House Joint Resolution 69 (HJR 69), a Congressional Review Act resolution to rescind the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule (Refuge Rule), which has been in…

Center for Biological Diversity Sues Trump for Signing HJR 69 Allowing Slaughter of Bear Cubs, Wolf Pups

(EnviroNews USA Headline News) – Washington D.C. – The Center for Biological Diversity (the Center) filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Anchorage, Alaska, on April 20, 2017, against the U.S. Department of Interior (Interior) and Secretary Ryan Zinke, after President Donald Trump signed House Joint Resolution…

Shocking Video Shows the Guts of HJR 69: Trump’s Alaskan Bear Cub/Wolf Pup Killing Bill

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Elk Hunting Group Wants to Expand Wolf-Killing Derby into Montana: $1,000 Bounty per Wolf

(EnviroNews Montana) – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), which has funded wolf-killing derbies in Idaho to the tune of $150,000 since 2013, is now seeking to expand its $1,000-per-kill bounty program to the neighboring state of Montana. RMEF provides funds to the Foundation for Wildlife Management (F4WM),…

WA State Stops Bloodshed After Massacring Profanity Peak Wolf Pack To Appease Cattle Ranchers

(EnviroNews Washington) – Olympia, Washington – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced October 19, 2016, that it would spare the remaining four members of the now demolished Profanity Peak Wolf Pack, after already having killed seven of its wolves (Canis lupus) to appease cattle ranchers….

Five Environmental Groups Sue USDA Over Idaho Wolf-Killing Program

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Boise, Idaho – On June 1, 2016, five prominent environmental organizations filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services for killing over 650 wolves in the state of Idaho over the past decade. Wildlife Services is…

Federal Government Sued For Killing Wolves in Oregon

(EnviroNews Oregon) – Five environmental groups filed a lawsuit on February 3, 2016, in U.S. District Court against the federal agency Wildlife Services, over what they say is the illegitimate killing of wolves in the state of Oregon. WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Predator Defense, and Project…

Idaho Wolf-Killing Contest Killed for One More Year – Kind of…

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Facing a lawsuit from conservation groups, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has revoked a permit allowing for a “predator derby” to take place on approximately three million acres of public lands in north-central Idaho near the town of Salmon. The derby originally called for…

California the First to Ban Predator Prizes While Idaho Forges Ahead With Wolf-Killing Derby

(EnviroNews California) – Van Nuys, CA – Will not allowing prizes for California wildlife hunting derbies deter such events from taking place? Groups like Project Coyote certainly think so. On December 3, with a 4 to 1 vote, the California Fish and Game Commission passed a motion prohibiting…

Poll Closed: Should U.S. Government Maintain a Wolf-Killing Program? Yes or No? – View Results

(EnviroNews Polls) – In December of 2015, several environmental groups, spearheaded by WildEarth Guardians, won a pivotal lawsuit against Wildlife Services, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agency, for its wolf-killing program in Washington State. On February 3, 2016, WildEarth Guardians, in concert with four other groups, filed…

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These Species Should Be ‘Endangered’ But Aren’t Due to Political Horse Trading, Report Reveals http://www.environews.tv/121717-species-endangered-arent-due-political-horse-trading-report-reveals/ http://www.environews.tv/121717-species-endangered-arent-due-political-horse-trading-report-reveals/#respond Sun, 17 Dec 2017 12:33:16 +0000 http://www.environews.tv/?p=14723 (EnviroNews Colorado) — Special-interest politics — not sound science — decides the fate of species on the brink of extinction in the U.S., according to a new expose’ from the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species (Suppressed), profiles ten…

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(EnviroNews Colorado) — Special-interest politics — not sound science — decides the fate of species on the brink of extinction in the U.S., according to a new expose’ from the Endangered Species Coalition.

The report, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species (Suppressed), profiles ten species of animal, insect, and plant — including Mexican wolves, ocelots, north Atlantic right whales, and Pacific leatherback sea turtles – the survival of which remains uncertain, thanks to industry meddling with politics surrounding the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“[We] are concerned that the prevalence of special interest, industry representatives inside the Trump Administration is intensifying the suppression of science in endangered species decisions,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition.

The greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), North American wolverine (Gulo gulo), dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus), and Hermes copper butterfly (Lycaena hermes) are species that the report says are in desperate need of listing under the ESA, yet all have been denied this protection.

Once 16 million strong across 11 states, greater sage grouse numbers have plummeted to approximately 208,000 after half of the species’ historic sagebrush habitat was destroyed by oil, gas, and coal extraction, grazing, real estate development, and other threats.

Suppressed notes the wild bird’s “extreme sensitivity to oil and gas development,” citing a paper that documented a reduction in numbers after drilling wells within a few miles of a lek, or mating location.

Greater Sage Grouse — Sage Hen Hollow, Utah — Photo by: Emerson Urry — for: EnviroNews

In 2011, the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy recommended that no oil and gas leasing, no mining, and only limited energy infrastructure development should occur on priority habitats if the species is to be preserved.

Yet, the Suppressed report found that “after pressure from state governments and oil and gas officials,” local resource management plans allowed up to 70 percent habitat destruction in critical areas. Suppressed also highlights other development loopholes, and reveals wells drilled up to 0.6 miles away from leks in some states.

Today, even the weak protections that do exist are being undermined by Department of Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, according to the Endangered Species Coalition and other conservation groups.

“Secretary Zinke has signaled an intent to relinquish federal responsibility for sage grouse habitat conservation, and instead focus on scientifically discredited practices like captive rearing and predator control, which pander to ranching interests but do nothing for sage grouse, and will likely worsen their declines,” Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project, told EnviroNews Colorado.

“Under Secretary Zinke, science is taking a back seat to political considerations when it comes to wildlife protections,” Huta said to EnviroNews. “Since long-time industry officials and opponents of endangered species are now in leadership positions in the Department of Interior, is it really any wonder that science isn’t guiding decisions on greater sage grouse [and] Mexican wolves?”

Where the sage grouse is concerned, aside from energy extraction, livestock grazing reduces vegetation, making it difficult for birds to hide from predators and keep their nests safe, while hunting is still allowed in eight of the eleven states where the species resides.

Adding insult to injury, invasive cheatgrass is displacing native plants and creating fuel for wildfires, which can negatively impact grouse habitat. West Nile virus has also taken a toll on the bird. Without Endangered Species protection, conservationists worry the future of the greater sage grouse looks bleak.

The prospects for the North American wolverine aren’t much better. Thanks to trapping and habitat loss, the total number of animals has dwindled to between 250 and 300, remaining in just a few regions in the continental U.S, scattered throughout the Northern Rocky and Cascade Mountains. The loss of essential snowpack due to climate change is now one of the predator’s biggest threats.

North American Wolverine

Also in dire straits is the dunes sagebrush lizard, which lives only among shinnery oak trees in the Mescalero and Monahan Sand Dunes of New Mexico and Texas. Energy development from the solar, wind, oil and gas sectors, coupled with off-road vehicles, and sand mining (for fracking), continue to whittle away this reptile’s remaining habitat.

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

Another unlisted species, the Hermes copper butterfly, lives in small colonies in San Diego County, California and Northern Baja California, Mexico. Of 57 known historic populations, only 17 remain – again, thanks to habitat loss from human encroachment and ravaging wildfires.

Hermes Copper Butterfly (Lycaena hermes) — Photo by: Douglas Aguillard

Unfortunately, even listing a species under the ESA doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. The following organisms are technically “protected” under the ESA, yet haven’t received enough safeguards for recovery, according to the report:

• Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) — With only 53 of the wild cats remaining in Texas and a meager handful in Arizona, Trump’s proposed border wall would likely impair this species’ connectivity with populations in Mexico.

• Mexican wolf (Canis lupis baileyi) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently released Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan ignored its own scientists’ recommendations for minimum numbers and range required to rebound this subspecies of gray wolf.

• Pacific leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) — This long-distance swimmer struggles to survive against driftnets, egg harvesting, boat propellers, and plastic pollution.

• Pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) — Dams on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers have cut off the chances for this rare fish to repopulate its native waters.

• San Jacinto Valley crownscale (Atriplex coronata var. notatior) — This annual plant grows only in the floodplains of Riverside County, California, and remains at risk from agricultural and real estate development.

• North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glaciali) — Thanks to entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes, seismic surveys, military sonar, and pollution, only about 450 of these majestic sea mammals remain.

Science is supposed to rule the day when it comes to the Endangered Species Act. However, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species makes a strong case that the energy, real estate, ranching, hunting, fishing and other industries are the real power behind the throne.

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Colorado’s Controversial Black Bear, Mountain Lion Killing Plan, Defanged in Federal Court http://www.environews.tv/110817-colorados-controversial-black-bear-mountain-lion-killing-plan-defanged-federal-court/ http://www.environews.tv/110817-colorados-controversial-black-bear-mountain-lion-killing-plan-defanged-federal-court/#respond Wed, 08 Nov 2017 11:41:35 +0000 http://www.environews.tv/?p=14471 (EnviroNews Colorado) Denver, Colorado – Good news for wild critters and those who love them, as a federal court has temporarily blocked a controversial plan to kill mountain lions (Puma concolor) and black bears (Ursus americanus) on public lands in Colorado. The ruling marks the most recent in…

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(EnviroNews Colorado) Denver, Colorado – Good news for wild critters and those who love them, as a federal court has temporarily blocked a controversial plan to kill mountain lions (Puma concolor) and black bears (Ursus americanus) on public lands in Colorado. The ruling marks the most recent in a string of victories for environmental groups against the federal government.

The joint motion, handed down November 6, 2017, by the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, stems from a lawsuit launched in April by conservation groups WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) and the Center for Biological Diversity (the Center) against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services (WS) program for green-lighting a plan that would cull predators to study whether such actions would increase mule deer populations.

Wildlife Services is an arm of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and contracts with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Conservation groups have long criticized Wildlife Services for its practice of killing important keystone predators as a form of “management.” In 2016 WS killed a total of 2.7 million animals, including 1.6 million native species.

The agency must now put its predator control practices on hold in parts of the state until August 2018, at which point it is required to submit a new Environmental Assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to determine the overarching ecological impacts of the plans.

CPW’s Piceance Basin Predator Management Plan and Upper Arkansas River Predator Management Plan would eliminate between 15 and 45 mountain lions and 30 to 75 black bear over a period of three years on Colorado’s Western Slope and over half of the mountain lion population in a 2,370-square-mile area in south-central Colorado.

The temporary ban also blocks the deployment of M-44s — spring-activated devices containing poisonous sodium cyanide capsules used to kill coyotes, foxes, and wild dogs.

In 2016, APHIS reported 60 coyotes intentionally killed by M-44s in Colorado along with three foxes and two ravens unintentionally killed.

“Our ultimate goal with challenging this Environmental Assessment is that we really want Wildlife Services to take a hard look at what they’re doing and the effects on the environment,” said Stuart Wilcox, Staff Attorney for WildEarth Guardians, to EnviroNews in a phone interview.

“In the meantime we have some interim protections against some particularly egregious practices that they carry out,” Wilcox continued. “We mark this as a partial win and we hope that it leads to bigger changes when they redo this analysis.”

Banning of the M-44 ‘Cyanide Bomb’

M-44 cyanide injectors are registered as pesticides with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and may only be used for “control” of coyotes, foxes, and wild dogs that are “vectors of communicable diseases or suspected of preying upon livestock, poultry, and federally designated threatened and endangered species.”

In March, a 14-year-old boy and his dog were sprayed by an M-44 near Pocatello, Idaho, injuring the boy and killing the dog. In response, the conservation group Western Watersheds Project sent a petition to Jason Sukow, Director of Wildlife Services Western Region, calling for a ban on the lethal gadgets.

On April 10, Sukow replied with a letter explaining the agency had launched an inquiry into the incident and, in the meantime, would remove all existing M-44s from state lands and place a moratorium on deploying any new ones. The agency also promised to provide a 30-day notice if and when it decides to use the devices again.

A lawsuit initiated by the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote/Earth Island Institute, and Animal Welfare Institute against Wildlife Services in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, yielded an October settlement where the agency agreed not to use pesticides, traps, or M-44s nor conduct aerial shooting in “wilderness areas” in 16 counties across Northern California until 2023 while they put together a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

In June, Wildlife Services issued implementation guidelines for M-44s detailing where they can and cannot be placed. The contraptions may be set within seven miles of a ranch where livestock has been killed by wild canines or “can be reasonably expected to occur,” yet not in areas where “exposure to the public and family and pets is probable.”

M-44s cannot be set within a half mile of a residence without permission from a property owner, nor in national forests, national or state parks (with exceptions for protecting threatened or endangered species), wildlife refuges or wilderness areas.

Maximum density of M-44s is not to exceed 10 devices per 100 acres of pastureland or 12 within a square mile of open range.

Lastly, all cyanide injectors must be inspected weekly and warning signs must be prominently placed, with the agency acknowledging “most people know nothing about M-44s and their hazards.”

Recent court rulings indicate that Wildlife Service’s long-standing predator control practices might need to be revamped. The courts seem to corroborate what conservation groups have been saying all along, namely, that the agency ignores the best science and turns a blind eye to the ecological impacts of its wildlife management practices.

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