ESA in the News: return of the spotted owl, and the spotted turtle (and the wolf, smelt, stork, and manatee)
Earlier today, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the Western Oregon Plan Revisions were withdrawn because "the administrative record does not adequately document compliance with the Endangered Species Act and implementing regulations." In addition, he will ask the District Court to vacate the 2008 Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat Rule, and direct the Fish and Wildlife Service do a review of the Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan. The decision reflect a complete reversal of course of the Bush Administration's last-minute decision not complete consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act before finalizing a plan for the management of forests in western Oregon. See DOI press release and National Public Radio report. Earthjustice, as well as the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics and a blog in Eugene, Oregon hooted victory.
But in Michigan, news sources are howling about the (re)listing (yet again) of the wolf. Both the Detroit News and Freep.com emphasized the return of substantial wolf counts in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin -- over 4,000 wolves are estimated in the three states -- but the Center for Biological Diversity argues that good intentions are not enough, especially in light of inadequate funding for regional wolf research. Meanwhile, in Montana, state officials are planning a wolf hunt. for its population of 1,350.
In Washington, D.C., the efforts to exempt the Sacramento Delta, and the delta smelt, from the Endangered Species Act continue to fail, but are garnering Congressional attention. See, e.g. California Drought Alleviation Act of 2009. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted "no" on Congressman Nunes' s (R-CA) amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010. The amendment attempted to override the biological opinion on salmon, by cutting off all funding. See Delta Flows.
In Florida, endangered wood storks are breeding like crazy, but a signature state tradition of animal interaction has been called into question. Swimming with Florida's manatees could soon come to an end. Citing the anti-harassment requirements in the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has published a petition threatening suit if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not enforce the rules more stringently. See TampaBay.com
And finally, in Maine, state officials are taking action to end the deaths of endangered spotted turtles protected by the Endangered Species Act. See The Village Soup and SeacoastOnline.com, photo from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.