First-ever Reserves Established to Protect Brazil’s Araripe Manakin
The first-ever bird reserves have been created for the critically endangered Araripe Manakin, a six-inch bird only discovered in 1996 that numbers fewer than 800 individuals and survives in the smallest of areas – 11 square miles – in northeastern Brazil.
“The Araripe Manakin exists only in a narrow strip of humid forest on the slopes of the Araripe Plateau,” said Dr. Daniel Lebbin, Director of ABC’s International Programs. “Creating this reserve is a critically important step in what must be a long-term effort to protect this bird’s habitat and prevent its extinction.”
President Obama Protects Alaska’s Bristol Bay from Future Oil and Gas Drilling
President Obama has designated the pristine waters of Bristol Bay as off limits to consideration for oil and gas leasing. This action safeguards one of the nation’s most productive fisheries and preserves an ecologically rich area of the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska that is vital to the commercial fishing and tourism economy and to Alaska Native communities.
Bristol Bay is at the heart one of the world’s most valuable fisheries, helping to provide 40 percent of America’s wild-caught seafood and support a $2 billion annual fishing industry. The beautiful and remote area is also an economic engine for tourism in Alaska, driving $100 million in recreational fishing and tourism activity every year. Bristol Bay hosts the largest runs of wild sockeye salmon in the world, and provides important habitat for many species, including the threatened Stellar’s eider, sea otters, seals, walruses, Beluga and Killer whales, and the endangered North Pacific Right Whale.
Congressional Riders Undermine Grouse Conservation Efforts
Two legislative riders attached to must-pass legislation have been signed into law and now risk undercutting the west-wide efforts to protect iconic grouse species. The omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015 contains a rider to prevent protection under the Endangered Species Act for all populations of Greater Sage-Grouse. The defense authorization bill also contains a rider that effectively waives conservation measures associated with livestock grazing across large tracts of grouse habitat on public lands.
“Sage grouse populations crashed while politicians delayed ESA protection for over a decade,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “Further delay will only undercut current conservation planning efforts and dim prospects for the species to recover.” The full ABC statement is available here: http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/141210.html.
Other Sage Grouse News
USGS Finds Proposed Grouse Buffers Not Enough
“Overreach” on Sage Grouse? Hardly.
Grouse expert Clait Braun takes issue with complaints about the recent listing of the Gunnison Sage Grouse. http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_26937943/overreach-sage-grouse-hardly
Bye Bye Birdy
ABC Calls for Expanded Yellow-billed Cuckoo Critical Habitat
American Bird Conservancy is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) significantly expand its proposed critical habitat designation for the western populations of Yellow-billed Cuckoo, which was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in October.
“To save this increasingly rare bird, we’re going to have to do more than protect the bare minimum habitat,” said Steve Holmer, Senior Policy Advisor at ABC which is recommending that all current and recently occupied habitat be designated as critical habitat; that FWS identify and designate critical habitat for stopover, foraging and sheltering habitat; and that FWS identify and designate critical habitat for additional unoccupied areas with the restoration potential to form large blocks of suitable nesting cuckoo habitat.
“FWS also needs to identify and designate critical habitat along the cuckoo’s migratory pathways in order to address the threat of collisions with communications towers and other tall structures,” said Holmer. “Water withdrawals and riparian grazing are also major threats to cuckoo habitat and need to be more restricted than they are now. Pesticide poisoning is also a significant threat; FWS should prohibit the use of pesticides in critical habitat.”
Red Knot Shorebird Listed as Threatened by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Defenders of Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Defense Council welcomed the decision by FWS to formally list as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) the highly imperiled rufa Red Knot, a shorebird that flies more than 9,300 miles from south to north every spring and repeats the trip in reverse every autumn—one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom. Though the decision to list the Red Knot was hailed as an important victory by the three groups, they urge FWS to quickly designate critical habitat to better protect the bird.
Surveys of wintering knots along the coasts of southern Chile and Argentina and in Delaware Bay on the East Coast of the United States during spring migration indicate that the species experienced a serious population decline in the 2000s. Specifically, a 2011 count of the main wintering population of the bird in South America found a decline from the previous winter of at least 5,000 birds—approximately one-third of the remaining population.
“The compelling scientific case for ESA listing fueled our 10-year effort to encourage this decision,” says Darin Schroeder, Vice President of Conservation Advocacy for ABC. “While the decision to list the rufa Red Knot was certainly a protracted process, we do now have hope that future generations of Americans will be able to witness this migratory marvel.” See http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/141209.html for more.
Senate Passes Resolution Marking the 100th Anniversary of the Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon
Just prior to adjourning, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced Senate passage of a resolution calling attention to the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the last known passenger pigeon. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the passenger pigeon was once believed to constitute 25 to 40 percent of the total bird population of the United States. However, due to human pressures, the species was pushed to extinction in the early 1900s. The resolution passed the Senate by unanimous consent. Our thanks to Senators Brown and Portman for this commemoration.
“Once the world’s most abundant bird, the passenger pigeon is now extinct – illustrating the need for increased awareness and efforts to protect biodiversity among species,” Brown said. “As our world continues to feel the effects of global warming and climate change, more species will continue to be threatened. That’s why we must prioritize conservation and sustainability to help prevent other plants or animals from suffering the same fate as the passenger pigeon.”
“One hundred years ago, Americans across the eastern United States could have looked up into the sky and seen it filled with passenger pigeons,” Portman said. “Now they are extinct after being the victim of overhunting and habitat destruction. The loss of this species is one of the greatest examples of what can happen if we are not committed to conserving our wildlife. We must learn from their example, and I am proud that this Resolution brings light to this important issue.”
Legislation Threatening Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl Doesn’t Pass Congress
S. 1784, a bill that proposed to increase logging on federal forests in Oregon within the range of the threatened Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet was not approved by Congress. An amended version of the bill was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but an effort to attach the measure to the must pass Defense bill was unsuccessful. A renewed legislative effort affecting these forests is likely in 2015. Our thanks to all of the ABC supporters who took action in support of the Marbled Murrelet and Spotted Owl!
First Predator-proof Fence on Kaua’i Completed at Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
Rare native plant and animal communities that have inhabited a roughly eight-acre area at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge—including imperiled bird species found nowhere else on earth—will be protected from predators thanks to the completed installation of a predator-proof fence that stretches almost a half-mile in length.
The state-of-the-art fence took about three months to construct and will keep introduced mammalian predators, including cats, dogs, rats, and mice, out of the area so that native species such as the endangered Nēnē (Hawaiian Goose), the Mōlī (Laysan Albatross), and rare plants can flourish again in a protected environment. In addition, the absence of introduced predators make this restored site an appropriate translocation site for the threatened ‘A’o (Newell’s Shearwater) and for the reintroduction of rare native plants.
Congress Approves Bill for Duck Stamp to Provide More Habitat Conservation
The Senate unanimously approved a House-passed bill, H.R. 5069, to increase the price of Duck Stamps from $15 to $25. The President will soon sign the bill into law. Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated: “On behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I commend the U.S. Senate for approving an increase in the price of the Federal Duck Stamp today. I want to thank the bill’s sponsors, congressional leaders and millions of hunters and other conservationists for purchasing Duck Stamps and contributing to the preservation of habitat that all Americans can enjoy for generations to come.”
“At a time when millions of acres of wildlife habitat are at risk of being lost forever, congressional approval of this bipartisan legislation is a critical boost for wetlands conservation. By restoring the lost purchasing power of the Federal Duck Stamp, this legislation will give us the opportunity to work with thousands of additional landowners across the nation to maintain vital habitat for waterfowl, grassland birds and hundreds of other native species.”
Congratulations from ABC to all who worked to pass this wildlife conservation bill in a very difficult legislative climate.
Use of Window Films to Save Birds Growing
Windowfilmmag.com reports “A growing number of consumers are purchasing specialty window film not only for its energy-saving qualities, but also its bird-saving capacity.” http://www.windowfilmmag.com/2014/09/save-two-birds-with-one-film/
ABC BirdTape is available at http://www.abcbirdtape.org/
Wind Energy Faces Turbulent Future in Desert
Sammy Ross of the Desert Sun has written an interesting article about the competing interests between different forms of energy development and wildlife conservation.
http://www.desertsun.com/story/money/2014/11/24/drecp-hurt-windmill-developments/70059056/. The Bureau of Land Management is now preparing a management plan that will guide energy development in much of the federal estate in Southern California.
ABC will be submitting a comment in support of the idea of zoning the landscape to ensure proper siting for new wind projects. We will also urge the agency to analyze an additional management alternative comparing the impacts of developing industrial-scale energy on federal lands, including the effects of constructing new powerlines, to installing solar panels on already existing infrastructure such as box stores, warehouses, parking lots, schools and hospitals.
Wind Energy Co. Sues Associated Press to Prevent Release of Bird Death Totals
WASHINGTON (AP) – A company that operates at least 13 wind-energy facilities across three states is suing in federal court to block the U.S. government from releasing information to The Associated Press about how many birds are found dead at its facilities. See http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Ore-wind-farm-sues-to-block-release-of-bird-death-data-282941851.html for more.
Wind Farm Operator Pacificorp Energy Pleads Guilty in Bird Deaths at Wind Farms in Wyoming
PacifiCorp Energy pleads guilty in bird deaths at wind farms in Wyoming. ABC’s Michael Hutchins: We hope this sends a warning that “poorly sited wind projects known to pose a threat to birds will finally be held accountable.” See http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2014/12/19/pacificorp-energy-pleads-guilty-in-bird-deaths
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