NEWS WORTH NOTING: Lawsuit launched over Trump administration failure to protect 9 at-risk species; CDFW releases guidance document for Delta conservation planning

Lawsuit Launched Over Trump Administration Failure to Protect 9 At-risk Species

Protection Wrongfully Delayed for Longfin smelt, Sierra Nevada Red Fox, and others

From the Center for Biological Diversity:

The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect nine imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act, including the San Francisco Bay Delta population of longfin smelt and the Puerto Rico harlequin butterfly.

The eight animals and one plant live in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Today’s notice also covers the Berry Cave salamander, Hermes copper butterfly, Sierra Nevada red fox, red tree vole, gopher tortoise, magnificent ramshorn snail and a large flowering shrub called marrón bacora.

“The Trump administration’s appalling hostility toward protecting our wildlife is driving these species toward extinction,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “We can save creatures like the Sierra Nevada red fox, but we have to act quickly before they disappear.”

This is the second notice to sue the administration that the Center has filed in less than a week. Last week’s notice covered 26 species for which the administration failed to make determinations and provide protection or designate critical habitat.

All nine species in today’s notice have been found to warrant protection as threatened or endangered species. But their protections have been delayed under a provision of the Endangered Species Act that allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to withhold protections if they are making “expeditious progress” listing other species.

Yet the Trump administration is not making expeditious progress in listing species, which makes delaying protection for the nine species illegal. To date, the administration has only listed 16 species — the fewest protected by any administration in its first two years since the Reagan administration, when James Watt was Interior secretary.

By comparison, the Obama administration listed 72 species and the Clinton administration listed 196 during their first terms.

“The Trump administration’s foot-dragging is putting rare animals and plants at risk of disappearing forever,” said Greenwald. “Just last year a freshwater snail known as the Ozark pyrg went extinct while waiting for protection. Even if species do finally get protections, the delays are likely to make recovery more difficult and expensive.

If the administration does not list the species under the Endangered Species Act, the Center will file suit in 60 days.

Click here to continue reading.

Species Background

Sierra Nevada red fox — The Sierra Nevada red fox lives in remote, high mountains in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges of California and Oregon. The Center petitioned for protection of the fox in 2011 and filed a lawsuit in 2013 to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a decision on the animal’s protection. The fox has suffered drastic population declines due to logging, grazing, poisoning, trapping and off-road and over-snow vehicles. Only around 70 adult foxes are known to survive in California, and the size of the small Oregon population is unknown.

Red tree vole, North Coast population — The North Coast population of red tree vole is a distinct population of the red tree vole that is only found along Oregon’s northern coast. Red tree voles live nearly their entire lives in trees. They have been nearly wiped out by a long history of logging and wildfires in the North Coast, including the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.

Puerto Rico harlequin butterfly —This small, dark-brown butterfly with black and deep orange markings is associated with rare soil types likely related to the nectar plants it needs for feeding. The butterfly is only known from the Mariaco Commonwealth Forest and the coastal cliffs in a small area in Quebradillas, where it is severely threatened by urban sprawl. Only a handful of individuals have been seen in recent years, and the harlequin’s status following Hurricane Maria is unknown.

Eastern gopher tortoise — Gopher tortoises have shovel-like front legs and strong, thick back legs to help them dig intricate burrows, which are used by more than 360 other species. Gopher tortoises in Louisiana, Mississippi and western Alabama are already protected under the Endangered Species Act, but those in eastern Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina still await protections. The tortoises need large, unfragmented long-leaf pine forests to survive. They are severely threatened by development-caused habitat loss and fragmentation, which limits food availability and options for burrow sites. It also and exposes them to mortality from being crushed in their burrows during construction, run over by cars or shot.

Longfin smelt — Longfin smelt were once one of the most abundant fishes in the San Francisco Bay and Delta; historically they were so common that their numbers supported a commercial fishery. Due to poor management of California’s largest estuary ecosystem, which has allowed excessive water diversions and reduced freshwater flow into the Bay, the longfin smelt has undergone catastrophic declines in the past 20 years.

Magnificent ramshorn — This snail is endemic to the lower Cape Fear River Basin in North Carolina. It is currently extinct in the wild because of massive alteration of its historic habitats by dams, development and pollution. Two captive populations keep hope alive, but stream restoration is badly needed to restore this species to the wild.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

CDFW releases guidance document for Delta conservation planning

From the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today released the Delta Conservation Framework as a comprehensive resource and guide for conservation planning in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through 2050.

The framework provides a template for regional and stakeholder-led approaches to restoring ecosystem functions to the Delta landscape. It incorporates feedback from a series of public workshops initiated in 2016, prior planning efforts and the best available science on Delta ecosystem processes.

“The history, culture, politics and ecosystems of the Delta are complex. The Delta is also connected in many ways to the lands, watersheds and communities that surround it,” said CDFW Delta Policy Advisor Carl Wilcox. “If the Delta Conservation Framework is used as a guide toward future conservation project planning and implementation, it is possible to achieve the vision of a Delta composed of resilient natural and managed ecosystems situated within a mosaic of towns and agricultural landscapes, where people prosper and healthy wildlife communities thrive.”

The Delta Conservation Framework includes broad goals that acknowledge the importance of effective communication, community engagement and education, making decisions based on science, and working collectively on conservation permitting and funding. The framework suggests multiple strategies that could be used by all Delta stakeholders to move conservation forward.

CDFW initiated the process to develop the Delta Conservation Framework to maintain and increase conservation momentum in the Delta.

 More information about the process used to develop the framework, materials presented in the public workshop series, and electronic copies of the Delta Conservation Framework, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Watersheds/DCF

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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