Federal Agencies Urged to Follow Refuges and Ban Dangerous Pesticides
A coalition of wildlife conservation and food safety organizations are calling federal land managers to halt the use of dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides due to harm to pollinators. Letters were sent to the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Forest Service. The National Refuge System managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already taken this important step for public safety and wildlife conservation.
On June 20, 2014, President Obama issued a Memorandum, “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” that acknowledges the urgency of taking action on pollinator declines and recognizes that pollinator protection is critical for domesticated honey bees but also, more broadly, for all native pollinators including hummingbirds and perching birds. Ultimately, measures to protect pollinators will affect the very sustainability of the ecosystems on which all species rely.
“As stewards of public lands in the United States, the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Forest Service have a critical role to play in the President’s initiative, both in ensuring the viability of pollinator habitat and in protecting wildlife from toxic, persistent and systemic pesticides,” said Cynthia Palmer, Birds and Pesticides program director for American Bird Conservancy. “Federal agencies are well-positioned to promulgate an agency-wide suspension on the use of neonicotinoids.”
Hundreds of recent studies detail the worrisome effects of neonicotinoids on bees, birds, and other wildlife. Europe has enacted a two-year moratorium on uses of neonicotinoids, and many U.S. companies as well as state and local legislatures are reining in their use. First introduced in the U.S. in 1994, the neonicotinoids are highly toxic to a broad range of invertebrates and to birds and other wildlife. They persist in the soils–from months to years–and are prone to run-off and groundwater infiltration.
Barely a month after the President issued the Memorandum, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a formal decision phasing out, by 2016, all neonicotinoid use in agriculture on thousands of acres of National Wildlife Refuge lands. USFWS Chief Jim Kurth stated “We have determined that prophylactic use, such as seed treatment, of the neonicotinoid pesticides that can distribute systematically in a plant and potentially affect a broad spectrum of non-target species is not consistent with Service policy.”
“It’s time for the United States government to take a step back, suspend neonicotinoid use, and assess what impacts these chemicals are having on wildlife — and on human health as well,” said Palmer.
Conservation Groups, Scientists Call for Stronger Critical Habitat Protections for Endangered Species
The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed by 207 conservation groups, criticizing a proposal that weakens habitat protections for endangered species. Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies are prohibited from “adversely modifying” — that is, hurting — critical habitat for endangered species in actions they fund, permit or carry out. The proposal will enable more habitat destruction by redefining adverse modification as only those actions considered to potentially harm the entirety of a species’ designated critical habitat, a change that will give a green light to federal actions that harm small portions of critical habitat without assurance that the cumulative effects will be taken into account.
Also 50 scientists sent a separate letter to the agencies echoing conservationists’ concerns, faulting the proposal’s lack of scientific foundation and highlighting the urgent need for the administration to develop the capacity to track cumulative impacts to endangered species habitats.
“Critical habitats are just that — the special places that allow species to survive. We must not let them erode and watch species die slowly,” said Dr. Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke professor of conservation ecology at Duke University and one of the signers of the scientists’ letter.
The scientists’ letter highlights the critical habitat of Northern Spotted Owls as an example of how the current proposal undermines recovery prospects for species. In 2012 the USFWS designated approximately 9.5 million acres of critical habitat for the owls, but stated that “the determination of whether an action is likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat is made at the scale of the entire critical habitat network.” Because of the size of the total critical habitat designation, even if a federal agency proposed eliminating 10,000 acres of habitat, it would not likely diminish the conservation value of the entire critical habitat network.
Birders Use Data to Try and Prevent Window Collisions as Birds Fly South
From Innovationtrail.org – As birds return south for the winter, they can face some deadly obstacles, like windows. One report estimates up to a billion birds a year may die from collisions with glass windows in the U.S., and that could be up to 10 percent of the population in the country. BirdSafe Pittsburgh is a new initiative that enlists bird-lovers to help collect data that could help keep birds more safe. It’s a pilot program which kicked off in the spring with the National Aviary, conservancies, and other groups and it’s similar to monitoring efforts in other urban areas like New York and Chicago. At 6:30 in the morning on a recent Sunday, a dozen or so people gather by a fountain in the courtyard of PPG Place—tall glass buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh for training on collecting dead or injured birds for BirdSafe’s monitoring program.
Matt Webb is the organizer of this morning’s training. He works for the American Bird Conservancy at Powdermill Nature Reserve,doing research on bird collisions with windows, trying to develop bird-friendly glass. Webb’s one of the few people in the country doing this kind of work. But Webb’s hoping to track birds in a methodical way, getting data that scientists can use. The information collected could help test popular theories about bird collisions–like whether turning out the lights in skyscrapers at night is really effective for protecting birds. For the full story see http://innovationtrail.org/post/birders-use-data-try-and-prevent-window-collisions-birds-fly-south.
4 Reasons Why it’s a Bad Argument to Say Cats Kill More Birds Than Wind Turbines
By Chris Clarke in REWIRE – A recent Nature article offered up some shocking statistics about the number of wild animals likely killed by outdoor domestic cats each year, and it’s gotten a lot of buzz. According to the research, outdoor cats — most of them ferals — kill as many as 20 billion wild animals in the U.S. each year, including at least 1.4 billion birds. Some people, prominent environmentalists among them, are citing these truly shocking numbers to argue that the threat wind turbines pose to birds and bats is numerically far smaller, and thus not a big deal.
But that’s a really bad argument, fatally flawed both logically and ecologically. Here are four reasons why: http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/wildlife/4-reasons-cats-bird-kills-dont-excuse-wind-turbine-bird-kills.html
Hunters Urged to Stock up on Non-Lead Bullets/Shot
ABC is urging hunters to protect the environment and non-target wildlife by voluntarily switching to non-lead ammunition. Millions of birds are poisoned every year following ingestion of either shotgun pellets mistaken for grit or seeds, or lead particles left in gut piles following hunts. Among the birds most impacted are Bald Eagles, hawks, vultures, California Condors, and Mourning Doves.
“Hunters have historically strong outdoor ethics, and as more and more of them are learning how lead bullet fragments left in gut piles or lead shot scattered on the ground can poison and kill scores of animals—including Bald Eagles, California Condors, hawks, ravens, and doves–they are voluntarily switching in ever-greater numbers to readily available, lead-free alternatives,” said George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy.
Non-lead ammunition can be more expensive, but claims by some that this is prohibitive for hunters have been shown to be vastly overstated. For example, the cost of most premium lead and non-lead ammunition is now about the same according to Cabelas, one of America’s leading outdoor outfitters. According to user reviews on the company’s website, many hunters are so satisfied with the performance of the non-lead ammunition that they say they will never go back to the old lead versions. Seehttp://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/140911.html for more.
Botulism Kills Thousands of Ducks at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Oregon Wild is concerned about the botulism outbreak whose root cause is the diversion of water for agriculture on National Wildlife Refuge lands being leased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For details about the latest outbreak that has killed thousands of ducks see the following AP story at http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2014/08/botulism_kills_thousands_of_du.html. Oregon residents are being encouraged to contact their Senators in support of providing more water for wildlife at http://org.salsalabs.com/o/1780/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=16507.
Feral Cats Pose a Serious Health Threat to Humans
An ABC letter published by The Baltimore Sun: In late August, Richard Henry Lee Elementary School in Glen Burnie had to close its doors because a feral cat had found its way into the building. In closing the school, officials demonstrated prudent concern for the health and well-being of students. Read more at:
Wind Project in Missouri to Relocate Due to Migratory Bird Concerns
A proposal to construct a large wind power plant near Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, a globally Important Bird Area in northwest Missouri has been withdrawn. Warnings that the energy facility would kill unacceptable numbers of birds helped convince the project’s backers to relocate the proposed facility.
“In this case the developers and owners listened to our concerns and reacted in an admirable way,” said Hutchins. “The example they have set deserves to be applauded.”
“This is a great victory for birds,” said Anita Randolph of Audubon Missouri, who helped lead the fight to stop the original facility. Other leading critics of the now-abandoned project include Greater Ozarks Audubon Society and Burroughs Audubon Society of Greater Kansas City.
Profiles of Ten Endangered American Species – Monarch Butterflies Have Declined by More Than 90 Percent
Our children are less likely to see monarch butterflies, a bumblebee, and a host of other once-common wildlife species due to farm pesticides, declining ocean health, climate change and dirty energy production, according to a new report by the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, Vanishing: Ten American Species Our Children May Never See, highlights ten disappearing species and the causes of their dramatic population declines. The report can be viewed and downloaded from the website:vanishingwildlife.org
“As the situation for many species grows ever more dire, our direct actions are able to rescue some of them from extinction,” said Dr. Peter Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden. “This list should inspire hope and at the same time lead us to devote full attention to the species most in need.”
The ten species in the report are the mountain yellow-legged frog, monarch butterfly, North Pacific right whale, great white shark, little brown bat, whitebark pine, rusty patched bumblebee, greater sage-grouse, polar bear, and the Snake River sockeye salmon. The greater sage-grouse’s habitat once encompassed nearly 300 million acres, but their range has declined dramatically as humans have moved in to graze livestock and drill for oil and gas, without regard for sage-grouse habitat needs. Hundreds of miles of roads have fragmented sage-grouse populations, which are in peril due to aggressive degradation of their habitat.