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Posts tagged: endangered species act

Mountain caribou revised to threatened, rather than endangered

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The federal government has downgraded the protected status of the last remaining herd of mountain caribou in the Lower 48 from endangered to threatened. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the change on Wednesday, in response to petitions from Idaho's Bonner County and a snowmobile group. The northern Idaho caribou herd is thought to number only about 30 animals, but interacts with a much-larger herd in Canada. The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group seeking to protect the herd, said Wednesday's decision means the animals will continue to get the protection they need; the center issued a statement here saying the petition sought to remove all protection.

The divide over wolves…

Nearly 20 years after gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, deep fault lines remain in public opinion over wolves’ presence and the appropriate limits of their range, reports S-R reporter Becky Kramer. The divide was spotlighted last month, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was ready to get out of the wolf business. Agency officials have proposed ending federal protections for the 6,100 wolves in the Lower 48 states by the end of the year, with the exception of the Southwest’s Mexican gray wolves. Read Kramer's stories herehere, here, and here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review.

BLM announces travel restrictions to protect rare plant in Payette County

The only place in the world where the rare Packard’s milkvetch plant is found is in a 10-square-mile area in Payette County in the Big Willow area, the BLM says, so it’s proposing new off-road travel restrictions in the area to protect the plant. The restrictions will include three designations: Areas open for motorized travel both on- and off-trail; areas closed to all motor vehicle use; and areas where motorized vehicles are limited to designated trails.

A 127-acre area would be designated as open, to allow “hill-climbing” and other off-roading. A 5,620-acre area would be closed; and 1,620 areas would be limited; the restrictions are scheduled to start in the fall.

“This decision is necessary because the habitat for Packard’s milkvetch is at risk from damage by motorized vehicle traffic,” said Terry Humphrey, field manager for the BLM Four Rivers Field Office. “These travel designations would allow motorized vehicle use to continue on designated trails and provide for hill climbing opportunities in certain areas, while insuring the protection of the plant and its habitat for further damage.

The Packard’s milkvetch is currently listed as a candidate species for protection from extinction under the Endangered Species Act; click below for the BLM’s full announcement. The agency developed the designations after two years of study, public meetings and outreach to area recreationists.

Idaho delegation lauds new, smaller caribou habitat designation; ICL says it’s not enough for recovery

Idaho's congressional delegation is praising the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for its final designation of critical habitat for endangered woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains, which, instead of the original 375,552 acres, designates just 30,010 acres, only 6,029 of it in Idaho. That Idaho habitat is all on national forest land in Boundary County; no land in Bonner County was included.

“I am pleased that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listened to the public outcry regarding the impacts this expanded critical habitat designation would have had upon people's livelihoods,” said 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador. “This is an example of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recognizing the need for improved species management and we applaud the efforts of the men and women on the ground in Idaho who made this decision.”

Sen. Jim Risch called the final designation “more realistic than the initial proposal,” and 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson called it a “reasonable and fact-based decision.” Click below for their full statements.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Conservation League noted that the number of caribou has dropped from 46 in 2009 to just 27 in 2012. Brad Smith, ICL conservation associate in Sandpoint, said of the new habitat designation: “Unfortunately, this represents that habitat used by an imperiled herd rather than a recovered herd. More habitat must be protected to have a growing herd and achieve recovery.” He released a Q&A on the caribou habitat designation; you can read it here.

Bonner County sues over caribou protections

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) ― A northern Idaho county and a snowmobile group have sued the U.S. Department of Interior in federal court, the latest step in their bid to have Endangered Species Act protections lifted from rare woodland caribou that roam the U.S-Canadian border region. Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association filed their complaint Thursday in U.S. District Court. They're being represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group. Their complaint contends U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has failed to act on their petition lodged earlier this year contending the caribou were improperly given ESA protections starting in 1983. They want Salazar to make a decision on the petition ― and to pay for their lawsuit. Four caribou were counted south of the Canadian border during an aerial census last winter.

Federal judge rejects bid for immediate sage grouse protection

A federal judge has rejected a challenge from environmental groups seeking to force the federal government to take immediate action to increase protections for the sage grouse; such a move could have curtailed new energy production on public lands across the West, the AP reports. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Ben Neary in Cheyenne.

Idaho lawmakers propose ‘redundant’ changes to Endangered Species Act

Here's a link to my full story at on how both of Idaho's U.S. senators and North Idaho's congressman introduced legislation today to amend the Endangered Species Act to clarify that it's OK to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defense or in defense of another person, in response to the Jeremy Hill incident. However, the law already says that - in the very next section after the one the new bill would amend. A spokesman for Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said the bill would “bolster” that provision, but a national species conservation group called it “simply political grandstanding.”

Jeremy Hill of Porthill, Idaho shot a grizzly last May after it and two others wandered onto his property and were seen near his children's 4-H pig pen; he feared his six children were outside playing at the time. He was charged with a federal crime, but it later was dropped in favor of a non-criminal infraction, and Hill agreed to pay a $1,000 fine.

Species group: ‘Simply political grandstanding’

Derek Goldman, Northern Rockies representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, a national network of hundreds of groups that support species conservation, today blasted new legislation proposed by two Idaho senators and one Idaho congressman to amend the Endangered Species Act. “This is case of politicians using a single, rare and unfortunate incident to pander to extremists who want to undermine common-sense protections for wildlife,” Goldman said. “This is simply political grandstanding by politicians who want to weaken laws that protect our wildlife and wildlife habitat for future generations of Americans.” Click below for his full statement. 

Idaho lawmakers’ ESA amendment repeats provisions already in the law…

Here's something odd: I've been hunting for the existing language in the Endangered Species Act that would be modified by the new legislation introduced today by three members of Idaho's congressional delegation, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, to clarify that people can shoot grizzly bears in self-defense. It turns out that practically identical language already exists in the very next section of the ESA that follows the one the Idaho lawmakers would amend.

Their bill says, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law (including regulations), the provisions of this Act shall not apply with respect to the taking of any grizzly bear by an individual who demonstrates to the Secretary by a preponderance of the evidence that the individual carried out the taking as a result of: 1 - self defense; 2 - defense of another individual; or 3 - a reasonable belief of imminent danger posed by the grizzly bear to any individual.” This language, under the bill, would be tacked on to the end of Section 10 of 16 USC 1539.

In the existing law, in 16 USC 1540, there are two clauses, one about civil penalties, and one about criminal violations. They say: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, no civil penalty shall be imposed if it can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed an act based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual from bodily harm, from any endangered or threatened species.” And: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, it shall be a defense to prosecution under this subsection if the defendant committed the offense based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual, from bodily harm from any endangered or threatened species.”

I queried University of Idaho law professor Dale Gobel, an expert on the Endangered Species Act, to find the existing language in the law. “It's in the statute,” he said, noting of the bill with a chuckle, “It seems redundant, but other than that, why not?”

Crapo, Risch, Labrador introduce ESA changes in wake of North Idaho grizzly shooting

Three members of Idaho's congressional delegation - Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador - are introducing legislation aimed at amending the Endangered Species Act in the wake of the Jeremy Hill case, in which a North Idaho man was charged with a federal crime for shooting one of three grizzly bears that wandered onto his property; the charge later was reduced to an infraction and Hill agreed to pay a fine. The three lawmakers said their new bill would clarify that it's not a crime to shoot a grizzly bear in self defense, in defense of another individual, or out of “a reasonable belief of imminent danger posed by the grizzly bear to any individual.”

Hill said he was concerned about his children, who he thought might have been playing outside when the mother grizzly and two cubs wandered into his yard near a pen holding the children's 4-H pigs. Risch said, “Everyone who followed Mr. Hill’s case understood that he was not hunting a grizzly bear.  He was protecting his family, which he truly believed was in harm’s way. This legislation will allow an individual to act in self-defense without having to mount a costly defense for their actions, if done appropriately.  This is a common-sense change that needs to be passed.” You can read the three lawmakers' full statement here.

The Endangered Species Act already permits killing a grizzly bear in self-defense. “This just basically adds some more language to further bolster the self-defense language that's in the ESA,” said Lindsay Nothern, Crapo's press secretary. “I wouldn't call it a major change in the law.” But he said the lawmakers believe the Jeremy Hill case showed “that maybe we need to clarify the language in the law, and that's what we're doing.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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