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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.


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.


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 notices critical habitat for polar bears and vermilion darter

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75 Fed. Reg. 76086 (Tuesday, December 7, 2010) / Rules and Regulations
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS–R7–ES–2009–0042; 92210–1117–0000–FY09–B4 / RIN 1018–AW56
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) in the United States
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Final rule.

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), designate critical habitat for polar bear (Ursus maritimus) populations in the United States under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, approximately 484,734 square kilometers (km2) (187,157 square miles (mi2)) fall within the boundaries of the critical habitat designation. The critical habitat is located in Alaska and adjacent territorial and U.S. waters. DATES: This rule becomes effective on January 6, 2011.

Polar bears breed during the summer months. Habitat degradation to the major populations is contributing to declining cub survival rates and unstable denning conditions.  Image available from the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals originally from Alaska FWS.

EXCERPT RE: ICE HABITATS: Polar bears live in an extremely dynamic sea-ice environment. Much of polar bear range in the United States includes two major categories of sea ice: Land-fast ice and pack ice. When we refer to sea-ice habitat in this final rule, we are referring to both of these types of ice. Land-fast ice is either frozen to land or to the benthos (bottom of the sea) and is relatively immobile throughout the winter. Shore-fast ice, a type of land-fast ice also known as ‘‘fast ice,’’ is defined by the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment as ice that grows seaward from a coast and remains stationary throughout the winter and that is typically stabilized by grounded pressure ridges at its outer edge. Pack ice consists of annual and heavier multi-year ice that is in constant motion due to winds and currents. It is located in pelagic (open ocean) areas and, unlike land-fast ice, can be highly dynamic. The actions of winds, currents, and temperature result in the formation of leads (linear openings or cracks in the sea ice), pressure ridges, and ice floes of various sizes...

One of the expected outcomes from climate change in the Arctic is that the distance between the southern edge of the pack ice and coastal denning areas will increase during the summer. This is likely to result in an increase in use of terrestrial areas during the summer and early fall (Schliebe et al. 2008, p. 2). Should the distance become too great, it could reduce polar bears’ access to, and hence the availability of, optimal feeding habitat and preferred terrestrial denning locations during critical times of the year...

Sea ice is rapidly diminishing throughout the Arctic, and declines in optimal polar bear sea-ice habitat have already been documented in the southern Beaufort and Chukchi Seas between 1985–1995 and 1996–2006. In addition, it is predicted that some of the largest declines in optimal polar bear sea-ice habitat in the 21st century will occur in the Chukchi and southern Beaufort Seas. Patterns of increased temperatures, earlier onset of thawing and longer melting periods, later onset of freeze-up, increased rainon- snow events (rain in late winter which may cause snow dens to collapse and result in mortality of the denning  bears (adults and cubs)), and potential reductions in snowfall are occurring.


75 Fed. Reg. 75913 (Tuesday, December 7, 2010) / Rules and Regulations
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2009–0079; MO 92210–1117–0000–B4 / RIN 1018–AW52
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Vermilion Darter
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Final rule
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), designate critical habitat for the vermilion darter (Etheostoma chermocki) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We designate as critical habitat approximately 21.0 kilometers (km) (13.0 miles (mi)) of stream in 5 units within the Turkey Creek watershed in Jefferson County, AL. DATES: This rule becomes effective on January 6, 2011.

The vermilion darter is a narrowly endemic fish species, occurring in sparse, fragmented, and isolated populations. The species is only known in parts of the upper mainstem reach of Turkey Creek and four tributaries in Pinson, Jefferson County, Alabama. Suitable streams have pools of moderate current alternating with riffles of moderately swift current, and low water turbidity. The vermilion darter was listed as endangered (66 FR 59367, November 28, 2001) because of ongoing threats to the species and its habitat from urbanization within the Turkey Creek watershed. Photo by Steve Barnett/Birmingham News file, available at

EXCERPTS RE: WATER QUANTITY AND QUALITY: Much of the cool, clean water provided to the Turkey Creek main stem comes from consistent and steady groundwater sources (springs) that contribute to the flow and water quantity in the tributaries (Beaver Creek, Dry Creek, Dry Branch, and the unnamed tributary to Beaver Creek). Flowing water provides a means for transporting nutrients and food items, moderating water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels, and diluting nonpoint- and point-source pollution. Impoundments within Turkey and Dry Creeks not only serve as dispersal barriers but also have altered stream flows from natural conditions...  Factors that can potentially alter water quality are decreases in water quantity through droughts and periods of low seasonal flow, precipitation events, nonpoint-source runoff, human activities within the watershed, random spills, and unregulated stormwater discharge events. These factors are particularly harmful during drought conditions when flows are depressed and pollutants are concentrated. Impoundments also affect water quality by reducing water flow, altering temperatures, and concentrating pollutants. Nonpoint-source pollution and alteration of flow regimes are primary threats to the vermilion darter in the Turkey Creek watershed.\

LINKS: See Center for Biological Diversity; Outdoor Alabama; Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.