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ESAblawg is an educational effort by Keith W. Rizzardi. Correspondence with this site does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Photos or links may be copyrighted (but used with permission, or as fair use). ESA blawg is published with a Creative Commons License.

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florida gators... never threatened!

If you ain't a Gator, you should be! Alligators (and endangered crocs) are important indicator species atop their food chains, with sensitivity to pollution and pesticides akin to humans. See ESA blawg. Gator blood could be our pharmaceutical future, too. See ESA musing.

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Follow the truth.

"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." -- Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820.

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Thanks, Kevin.

KEVIN S. PETTITT helped found this blawg. A D.C.-based IT consultant specializing in Lotus Notes & Domino, he also maintains Lotus Guru blog.

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FWS rejects petition to delist marbled murrelet

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75 Fed. Reg. 3424 (Thursday, January 21, 2010) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17
Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2008–0095;13410–1113–0000–C5
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding on a Petition To Remove the Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or USFWS), announce a 12-month finding on a petition to remove the Washington/  Oregon/California population of the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) (murrelet) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (List) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA) (16 U.S.C.  1531 et seq.). Based on a thorough review of the best scientific and commercial data available, we find that the Washington/ Oregon/California population of the murrelet is a valid distinct  population segment (DPS) in accordance with the discreteness and significance criteria in our 1996 DPS policy. Furthermore, we find that this DPS continues to be subject to a broad range of threats, such as nesting habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and predation. Although some threats, such as gillnet bycatch and lack of regulatory mechanisms, have been reduced since the  murrelet’s 1992 listing, the primary threats to the species’ persistence continue. Furthermore, the species faces newly identified threats, such as abandoned fishing gear, harmful algal blooms, and observed changes in the quality of the bird’s marine food supply. Population surveys conducted from 2000 through 2008 from San Francisco Bay to the Canadian border document a population decline during this period. Given our current understanding of the species’ population size and trajectory, and in light of the scope and magnitude of existing threats, we conclude that the species continues to meet the definition of a threatened species under the ESA. Therefore, we have determined that removing the murrelet from the List is not warranted. DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on January 21, 2010.

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The murrelet is a small diving seabird of the Alcidae family. Murrelets spend most of their lives in the marine environment where they forage in nearshore areas and consume a diversity of prey species, including small fish and invertebrates. In their terrestrial environment, the presence of platforms in trees (large branches or deformities) used for nesting is the most important characteristic of their nesting habitat. Murrelet habitat use during the breeding season is positively associated with the presence and abundance of mature and old-growth forests, large core areas of old-growth, low amounts of edge habitat, reduced habitat fragmentation, proximity to the marine environment, and forests that are increasing in stand age and height.  The murrelet population in central California underwent a particularly significant and rapid decline between 2003 and 2008, with a decline of about 55 percent since 2007, and a 75 percent decline since 2003.  Photo from The Nature Conservancy.

For excerpts and Keithinking...
DPS Conclusion.  We consider the Washington/Oregon/ California population of murrelets to be a valid distinct population segment under the 1996 DPS Policy. This population of murrelets is discrete at the international border because: (1) The coterminous United States has a substantially smaller population of murrelets (approximately 18,000) than does Canada (approximately 66,000); (2) breeding success of the murrelet in Washington, Oregon, and California is considerably lower than in British Columbia; and (3) there are differences in the amount of habitat, the rate of habitat loss, and regulatory mechanisms between the countries (USFWS 2009, pp. 4–5). The coterminous United States population of murrelets is also considered significant in accordance with the criteria of the DPS Policy, as the loss of this distinct population segment would result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon and the loss of unique genetic characteristics that are significant to the taxon (USFWS 2009).

Threats analysis.  The Washington/Oregon/California population of murrelets was estimated to contain approximately 18,000 individuals in 2008, which represents a significant population decline since intensive monitoring efforts began in 2000, and a decline of approximately 26 percent compared to the population estimate in our 2004 5-year review (USFWS 2004, p. 18). Historical population declines have been largely caused by extensive removal of latesuccessional and old-growth coastal forest, which serve as nesting habitat for murrelets. Ongoing factors contributing to  continued population declines include high nest-site predation rates and human-induced mortality in the marine environment from disturbance, gillnets, and oil spills. Murrelet reproductive success is strongly correlated with the abundance of midtrophic-level prey. Overfishing or oceanographic variation from weather or climate events are likely to affect the marine environment, negatively impacting the availability of murrelet prey and ultimately, murrelet reproductive success.

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KEITHINKING:  Environmentalists breathed a sigh of relief with this decision.  See UPI story on the American Bird Conservancy.  Pressure remains intense, from loggers, windfarmers, and others, to delist this highly controversial and much-litigated species. See OregonLive and Columbia's TheDailyNewsOnline.  P.S.  In two years, ESAblawg has posted eight different entries on this one species.