Perspectives on Public Lands:
The Clogged Carbon Sink: U.S. Public Lands Are the Source of 4.5 Times More Carbon Pollution Than They Can Absorb
Center for American Progress (CAP) has published an opinion editorial calling for greater balance between energy development on public lands and conservation of water and wildlife habitat. The op-ed reveals that fossil fuel extraction from public lands is major source of U.S. carbon emissions. CAP recommends reducing drilling on public lands and changing land management practices such as protecting mature and old growth forests to allow for more natural storage of carbon. The op-ed is available at http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2013/12/05/80277/the-clogged-carbon-sink-u-s-public-lands-are-the-source-of-4-5-times-more-carbon-pollution-than-they-can-absorb/.
ABC Calls for Protecting Carbon Sinks on Federal Lands
American Bird Conservancy sent a letter to the Obama administration concerning the administration’s Climate Action Policy. President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan turned the Northwest’s forests from a carbon source due to logging, into a carbon sink. This a great success that the Obama administration can build on by protecting mature and old growth forests now at risk of being logged. The letter is available at: http://www.abcbirds.org/pdfs/cap_letter.pdf
Logging Plan Threatens Listed Birds, Integrity of the Northwest Forest Plan
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has introduced legislation, S. 1784, to increase logging on over two million acres of federal forests in Oregon by truncating or eliminating environmental reviews and protections for endangered species. Sen. Wyden’s plan ignores a large number of recent scientific studies and government rulemakings indicating additional wildlife habitat conservation is needed in Oregon.
“Logging mature forests that are now protected would come at too a high a price in terms of lost habitat to endangered species such as the Marbled Murrelet, clean drinking water, carbon storage to protect the global atmosphere, and tourism and recreation. These forests are worth far more if allowed to grow,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor with American Bird Conservancy.
By increasing logging over such a large area, it undermines the Northwest Forest Plan, the regional framework protecting the old-growth forest ecosystem and endangered birds such as the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl. The Northwest Forest Plan protects many forests over 80 years old with the goal of allowing these stands to mature into old growth and over time provide additional habitat for listed species. Sen. Wyden’s proposal would eliminate the protection for much of the 80- to 120-year-old forests. This would prevent enough old-growth forests from ever maturing and filling in the gaps in the heavily fragmented landscape to create the large blocks of wildlife habitat called for by the Northwest Forest Plan.
The scientific community has strongly weighed in against the intensive logging approach being proposed by Sen. Wyden; first in a letter supporting the Northwest Forest Plan, and then in a second letter opposing legislation to expedite logging of recently burned forests important to wildlife. Another letter from the Pacific Seabird Group raises concern about the impact the proposed increase of logging and the renewed use of clearcutting on federal lands would have on the Marbled Murrelet, which nests in the top branches of mature and old-growth trees. Conservation groups have echoed these concerns with letters calling for additional habitat protection for the Marbled Murrelet, and for implementation of Recovery Action 12 which calls for the protection of burned forests to meet the habitat needs of Northern Spotted Owls and their prey.
“Creating timber production areas blows a hole into the Northwest Forest Plan in an area critical to listed Northern Spotted Owls and Murrelets,” said Holmer. “Skirting the Endangered Species Act and shutting out the public from how their public lands are managed is a disappointing step in the wrong direction.”
Forty years ago, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act—our nation’s safety net for fish, plants, and wildlife on the brink of extinction. The Endangered Species Coalition marked the anniversary with a new report highlighting a few of the great wildlife conservation accomplishments since the Act’s passage in 1973. The report highlights ten species that – thanks to the Endangered Species Act’s protections – are either steadily improving or have been recovered and removed from the list of imperiled species. They include a number of bird species including the Nēnē (Hawaiian goose), American Peregrine Falcon, American Bald Eagle, and Brown Pelican.
Threatened Listing Proposal Not Enough to Conserve Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo
ABC says that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to list the western population of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act falls short of providing the necessary protections for the imperiled bird species whose numbers have plummeted in recent decades. The ABC assertions are contained in a December 2 letter to FWS available here.
“The draft rule only proposes to list the species as threatened rather than as endangered, and doesn’t address the threats or propose more effective conservation measures such as removing cattle from riparian areas and restricting the use of pesticides in adjacent agricultural areas,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor with American Bird Conservancy.
See http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/131205.html for more information.
News on Birds and Wind Energy:
Eagle Rule Weakens Current Protections and Sanctions Eagle Deaths
ABC spoke out against the recently announced 30-year eagle take permit rule, asserting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) plan may mark a setback in protecting Bald and Golden eagles, two species that have inspired Americans for centuries. In its previous comments on this rule, ABC asked for more transparency and adaptive management through improved siting, mitigation, and compensation to minimize the impact of wind energy development on eagles. The revised rule attempts to accomplish these goals through five-year reviews of the extended 30-year permits, as well as mitigation and compensation when sites surpass their agreed-upon eagle take quota. ABC also asked for better public access to data on eagle fatalities.
Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator for ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign, said, “These rules are still voluntary, rather than mandatory, which means that only wind energy companies that choose to work collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be subject to these requirements. All others will be allowed to continue to build wind facilities until they actually kill an eagle, and we’ll have to rely on the companies themselves to be forthcoming—in our opinion, a highly unlikely scenario in every case.”
The 30-year permit action was originally proposed in April 2012 and provided for a 90-day comment period. ABC and the Conservation Law Center led a response effort and sent joint comments opposing the proposal to FWS in July 2012. TheNational Park Service opposed the proposed action, along with nearly 120 conservation, wildlife, and animal protection groupsincluding the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, National Resources Defense Council, and The Nature Conservancy. Native American groups such as the Hopi Tribe, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Intertribal Council of Arizona, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community also expressed opposition to the change. In addition, thousands of concerned citizens responded to ABC action alerts on the proposal, writing to the Department of Interior asking that 30-year eagle take permits not be allowed.
Study Shows Newer Wind Turbines Still Killing Hundreds of Thousands of Birds
A new study shows that in spite of updated designs, U.S. wind turbines are killing hundreds of thousands of birds annually—a number that may balloon to about 1.4 million per year by 2030, when the ongoing industry expansion being encouraged by the federal government is expected to be fully implemented. The findings were issued in a new study by scientists at the Smithsonian Institution Migratory Bird Center (SMBC), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Oklahoma State University (OSU), published in the December issue of the journal Biological Conservation and authored by Scott Loss (OSU), Tom Will (FWS), and Peter Marra (SMBC).
The study, “Estimates of bird collision mortality at wind facilities in the contiguous United States,” was based on a review of 68 studies that met rigorous inclusion criteria and data derived from 58 bird mortality estimates contained in those studies.
New Resources Available:
National Wildlife Refuges Benefits to Local Communities
The “Banking on Nature Report: the Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation” is out. It details the economic benefits national wildlife refuges have on the local economy surrounding them.http://news.wildlife.org/wpn/fws-releases-banking-on-nature-report/
New Map of Human Modification of Landscapes (Ecological Integrity)
A Montana University paper describes a new national “map” of human modification/ecological integrity. It combines a number of data sets on different stressors into a single index that shows the “degree of human modification” at 90m resolution for the entire US. This could potentially be very useful for conservation planning; see http://www.montana.edu/lccvp/documents/theobald2013.pdf.
Take Action: Petition to EPA to Act on Neonicotinoids
Full-page ads ran in newspapers across the country Dec. 2 to elevate our collective voice to protect the bees, birds, and other pollinators from the steep decline that they are experiencing. You can read more about the effort at the Beyond Pesticides Daily News. A focus of the effort is to urge EPA to act on the neonicotinoid pesticides, which are linked to the declining health of bees and which have also been found to be fatal to birds. We launched this effort at the same time that a moratorium in the European Union on some of these pesticides is set to go into effect. Here are some actions that you can take and help spread the word: Visit www.save-bees.org: Please check out the ad and sign the petition to urge EPA to take action. It’s easy and important.
ABC’s Bird of the Week: Ferruginous Hawk
The Ferruginous Hawk—North America’s largest hawk—is often mistaken for an eagle due to its size. The word “ferruginous” derives from the Latin word for iron, referring to the rusty brown of the species’ light color morph. (There is also a less-common dark morph). ABC’s Dan Casey, our Northern Rockies Conservation Officer, is an admirer. “I have been observing the same pair—one light morph and one dark—nesting on a small prairie hillside north of Cutbank, Montana, for five years or more.”
Along with the Rough-legged Hawk, the Ferruginous is the only American hawk to have legs feathered all the way to the toes, an adaptation that may help preserve heat on the windy, often frigid plains where it makes its home. The feathering may also protect it from the bites of rodent prey. Read the full account, including more from Dan Casey on a growing threat in the Ferruginous Hawk’s grassland home >>
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