News for Bird Conservation Partners from American Bird Conservancy, November 2015
Ten downy endangered Hawaiian Petrel chicks were recently flown by helicopter from their montane nesting area to a new colony protected by a predator-proof fence at Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The effort was led on the ground by Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, a Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) project administered by Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawaiʻi; Pacific Rim Conservation; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge; and ABC. Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative and DOFAW supported predator control within Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve. The National Tropical Botanical Garden provided important assistance with vegetation restoration at the translocation site. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided critical funding support.
“This translocation will establish a new, predator-free colony of the endangered Hawaiian Petrel to help prevent the extirpation of the species from Kauaʻi,” said Michael Mitchell, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project Leader. “Petrels, like many other native Hawaiian species, are facing tremendous challenges with shrinking habitat and the onslaught of invasive species. Translocating the birds to Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge ensures that this colony of birds will be protected for our children and our children’s children.”
New York Governor Cuomo has vetoed legislation that would have dedicated public funding to Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) programs throughout the state. This is a tremendous victory for conservation due in no small part to bird conservationists in New York who took action to contact their lawmakers.
According to the governor’s veto message, the proposed bill was “problematic” for a number of reasons. First, the bill diverted funds from existing and effective programs. Second, the practice of releasing feral cats into the environment, a core part of TNR programs, is prohibited by law. Third, scientific evidence indicates that TNR does not reduce feral cat populations. Lastly, the governor cited the impacts of feral cats on wildlife, “including threatened and endangered species, habitats, and food sources for native predators.”
The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to protect 10 million acres of the most important sagebrush habitats from mining. This is part of the national sage grouse planning initiative, and an essential next step in preventing further declines in the Greater Sage-Grouse population. ABC has drafted a sign-on comment letter that supports the BLM’s proposal, and also asks that additional priority grouse habitat be conserved, as recommended by scientists and top grouse conservation experts.
Bird Conservation Advances
Piping Plovers Nest Safely Due to Gulf Partnership
See an ABC blog post and new video about amazing work happening on the Gulf Coast with Houston Audubon.
Hope in a Sparrow’s Song
Named for its tendency to sing in the evening hours, the Oregon Vesper Sparrow is one of western North America’s rarer birds. Only a few breeding pairs remain in the Puget Sound ecoregion, and the total population is likely fewer than 3,000. ABC’s Bob Altman explains why he’s hopeful about conservation underway now.
New Cats Indoors Resources Available
The Cats Indoors website (and the entire ABC website) has undergone a redesign and provides lots of useful information, including scientific literature, public service announcements, and outreach materials. Come check out the new look!
¿Se Habla Español? ABC has released a new Spanish language version of its popular Cats, Birds, and You brochure. This and other Cats Indoors brochures can be downloaded or ordered on ABC’s website.
Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative Webinar: The Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative (OBCI) recently teamed up with ABC to help celebrate a new OBCI white paper and to raise awareness about the impacts of outdoor cats. Click these links to view the white paper and recorded webinar.
Appalachian Reforestation Benefits Birds, Creates Jobs: American Bird Conservancy recently submitted a comment letter regarding the administration’s proposed stream protection rule. The rule would limit mountain top coal mining, and require that lands be fully reclaimed, and where appropriate, reforested using techniques developed by the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI). Here’s a recent news article about this excellent green jobs program.
Opinion: Giving Short Shrift to Bird Welfare
ABC’s Michael Parr discusses the flawed voluntary system by which wind companies are permitted to assess bird impacts and develop bird protection plans. This Op-Ed first appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
ABC Position Papers on Offshore Wind Energy and Solar Energy
Pressure is mounting to build thousands of wind turbines off U.S. coasts and waters, including in the Great Lakes. Poorly-sited facilities could pose risks to marine and migratory birds, as well as other animals. At the same time, large commercial solar arrays have the potential to harm birds, both through the so-called “lake effect” for large panel arrays, or through incineration caused by solar reflectors. ABC has developed position papers on offshore wind and solar energy to help reduce impacts to birds.
High Country News: BLM Contemplates Energy Development in Sage Grouse Habitat
High Country News reports that the Bureau of Land Management is considering leasing priority sage grouse habitat for oil and gas drilling that is likely to harm the birds. Steve Holmer, a senior policy advisor with ABC, says that because the Greater Sage-Grouse is notoriously skittish and relies on wide open landscapes for reproductive success, it’s critical that BLM keep a moratorium on all leasing in the bird’s habitat. “When you look at the amount of (existing) leases, we see no rush to develop these areas,” he says.
Endangered Species Updates
Listing a Hawaiian Ecosystem
We were glad to see federal authorities propose that a suite of 49 increasingly rare Hawaiian species be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Among the bees, shrimp, and plants put forward for protection is one bird species: the Hawaiian population of the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, a small seabird believed to have dwindled to only 240 pairs. Learn more.
25 Senators Sign Letter to President Urging Veto on All Anti-ESA Riders
A letter led by Senators Cory Booker (NJ) and Barbara Boxer (CA) was sent to the White House urging the President to veto any bills containing amendments to undermine the Endangered Species Act or prevent protection of threatened birds such as Greater Sage-Grouse and Lesser Prairie Chicken. Our thanks to the following Senators: Ed Markey (MA), Tom Udall (NM), Jeff Merkley (OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ben Cardin (MD), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Martin Heinrich (NM), Kristen Gillibrand (NY), Robert Menendez (NJ), Patrick Leahy (VT), Brian Schatz (HI), Ron Wyden (OR), Maria Cantwell (WA). Diane Feinstein (CA), Gary Peters (MI), Chris Coons (DE), Thomas Carper (DE), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Jack Reed (RI), Bernie Sanders (VT), Chuck Schumer (NY), Patty Murray (WA), and Mazie Hirono (HI).
ABC Comments on Proposed ESA Listing Rule
The Obama administration has proposed to change the requirements of Endangered Species Act listing petitions. The change, which adds burdensome information gathering requirements is raising concern among conservation groups. ABC’s comment letter is available here.
Additional Habitat Protection Needed for Threatened Marbled Murrelet
ABC submitted comments on the draft Marbled Murrelet critical habitat rule proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Based on the results of the Northwest Forest Plan’s 20-year monitoring report for the murrelet and continuing threats to their habitat, ABC is urging that the Service revise the draft proposal to designate additional critical habitat and require new protective measures for this threatened seabird that nests in old-growth forests.
Further, a coalition of national and regional conservation groups including ABC have sent a letter to the administration urging that the regional conservation of the Northwest Forest Plan be retained as the administration considering updating forest and resource management plans in northern California, and western Oregon and Washington within the range of the threatened Northern Spotted Owl.
More Bird Conservation News and Resources
Black-capped Petrel Rediscovery
The Black-capped Petrel, is diablotín, is a tricky bird to find. They spend their lives at sea, except when they are nesting on remote, inaccessible mountaintops. And they only come back to their nests at night. These birds were once common on lush, mountainous Dominica, but nesting on the island was last confirmed quite some time ago: there was a Republican in the White House and his name was Abraham Lincoln. Much of what we know about the Black-capped Petrel has changed in recent years, through a combination of high-tech wizardry and old-fashioned hard work. How did the team from EPIC and Dominica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries manage to rediscover the diablotín after over 150 years? Read about it on the BirdsCaribbean website.
Also check out a new publication on the first-ever satellite tracking of Black-capped Petrels, work spearheaded by Grupo Jaragua, the U.S. Geological Survey South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, ABC, and the Instituto Tecnologico de Santo Domingo.
Protecting Our Planet for Future Generations – President Barack Obama
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been a critical source of funding for preserving habitats and supporting wildlife conservation. After 50 successful years, LWCF expired at the end of September and is now the focus of negotiations between the White House and Congress. Read a statement from President Obama about this important conservation program.
For more information: http://dnr.state.mn.us/
This documentary is the first of its kind focusing on the spiraling loss of North American grassland birds and their habitats from Canada to Mexico.