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GAO Endangered Species Act Report Released

Endangered Species Act:  Many GAO Recommendations Have Been Implemented, but Some Issues Remain Unresolved

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 protects plant and animal species that are either facing extinction (endangered species) or are likely to face extinction in the foreseeable future (threatened species) and protects the ecosystems upon which they depend.  The act includes provisions for listing species that need protection, designating habitat deemed critical to a listed species’ survival, developing recovery plans, and protecting listed species against certain harms caused by federal and nonfederal actions.  Since the act’s inception, more than 1,300 species occurring in the United States or its territories have been placed on the list of threatened and endangered species.  The Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)—collectively referred to as “the services”—are responsible for administration and implementation of the ESA, but all federal agencies have responsibilities for protecting species under the act.
 
A Government Accountability Office report issued in December of 2008 finds that almost one-third of GAO recommendations issued over the last 10 years to strengthen implementation of the act have not been implemented. 

Specifically, FWS has yet to clarify the role of critical habitat and how and when it should be designated, as recommended in 2002 and 2003.  The critical habitat process has been the subject of significant litigation, largely due to FWS not designating habitat when required, and has consumed significant program resources.  FWS has drafted a policy document that is going through departmental review, and, in 2006, the service convened a team to provide recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior regarding changes to the regulations implementing the act.  FWS does not expect the policy or regulations to be final until the spring of 2009 or later.  Delays have been caused by higher-priority work; court decisions, including adverse rulings; and other policy decisions.
 
FWS has not issued annual endangered species expenditure reports in a timely fashion, as recommended in 2003.  Reports for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 were issued in December 2008; the report for expenditures in fiscal year 2007 is expected to be issued in early 2009.  An FWS official stated that FWS has issued these reports late because of delays in receiving data from some states, but that the agency is implementing a new process to improve their timeliness in issuing future reports.  

Click here to download and read the complete report: Endangered Species Act: Many GAO Recommendations Have Been Implemented, but Some Issues Remain Unresolved

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Mexican Wolf Conservation Assessment

[Federal Register: January 9, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 6)]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR - Fish and Wildlife Service

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) Conservation Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; draft conservation assessment; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announce the availability of the Draft Mexican Wolf Conservation Assessment (draft assessment) for public review and comment. The draft assessment provides scientific information relevant to the conservation of the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) in Arizona and New Mexico as a component of the Service's gray wolf (Canis lupus) recovery efforts. Not required by the Endangered Species Act (Act), the draft assessment is a non-regulatory document that does not require action by any party. We solicit review and comment from the public on this document.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive any comments from interested parties no later than March 10, 2009.

Click her to rea the complete Federal Register Notice.

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Review of Bald Eagle in Sonoran Desert

[Federal Register: January 15, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 10)]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR - Fish and Wildlife Service

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Status Review of the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the Sonoran Desert Area of Central Arizona and Northwestern Mexico

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of continuing information collection for a status
review.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the continuation of information collection on a status review for the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the Sonoran Desert area of central Arizona and northwestern Mexico, hereafter referred to as the ``Sonoran Desert area bald eagle.'' Through this action, we encourage all interested parties to provide us with information regarding the status of, and any potential threats to, the Sonoran Desert area bald eagle. Information previously submitted for this status assessment does not need to be resubmitted, and will be incorporated into the public record and fully considered in our status review.

DATES: To allow us adequate time to consider and incorporate submitted information into our review which is due by October 12, 2009, we request that we receive the information on or before July 10, 2009.

Click here to read the complete Federal Register Notice.

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Colorado Roadless Rule Update

Wilderness Groups Pressure Colorado Governor on Colorado Roadless Rule

The ups and downs of the Colorado Roadless Rule (CRR) process stretching over 3 years are close to producing a tangible result. COHVCO, Colorado Trail Preservation Alliance and the BlueRibbon Coalition have followed this process - with a magnifying glass - and have done an excellent job of protecting motorized interests.

Recently, radical environmental groups have put pressure on Colorado Governor Ritter to make changes in the Rule, despite that fact that it was crafted using over 100,000 comments from individuals and organizations, and hundreds of public meetings around the State. The fact that the Colorado Rule enjoys support from a wide range of stakeholders across Colorado won't stop the Wilderness activist from trying to slip in a back-room deal during the change of Administrations.

In October, I attended a meeting of the Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee (RACNAC) in Salt Lake City. It was my impression that the environmental community may have been buying time, hoping to stop the Colorado Rule in the event that Senator Obama was elected President. My impression seems to have been proven correct, as there has been a recent notice of an extension that allows the next administration to "review" the CRR. The Governor's representatives to that meeting strongly supported the Colorado Rule.

Of further concern is that the motorized public cannot, at this time, support the specific language of the Final Rule because we don't have it yet. This creates the difficult situation of not being able to weigh in directly upon the argument except to support the proposed Rule, which we have already done.

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Federal Agencies Move to Ease Development of Geothermal Energy

Potential for ten-fold increase in geothermal power-generation capacity on federal lands

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management today published the Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments for Geothermal Leasing in the Western United States to make more than 190 million acres of federal lands available for leasing and potential development of geothermal energy resources.

The approved development scenario, which was analyzed in the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, anticipates a potential 5,500 megawatts of new electric generation capacity from resources in the 12 western States (including Alaska) by 2015. It also estimates an additional 6,600 megawatts by 2025 for a total of 12,100 megawatts.

“Geothermal energy will play a key role in powering America’s energy future,” said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.” “All but 10 percent of our geothermal resources are found on Federal lands and facilitating their leasing and development is crucial to supplying the secure, clean energy American homes and businesses need.”

Replenished by heat sources deep in the earth, geothermal energy is a renewable resource that generates electricity with minimal carbon emissions. Direct use of geothermal energy is used to heat buildings, plus many other uses such as in greenhouses and aquaculture, offers additional possibilities for reducing the need for conventional energy sources. The approved development scenario envisions as many as 270 western communities that could benefit from such direct uses.

The Record of Decision amends 114 Bureau of Land Management resource management plans and allocates about 111 million acres of Bureau-managed public lands as open for leasing. An additional 79 million acres of National Forest System lands are also legally open for leasing. Site-specific analysis of future leasing nominations, permit applications, and operations plans can refer back to the impact analysis and best management practices included in the Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments, thus reducing the processing time of future geothermal development. These actions will reduce the time to produce energy from federal geothermal resources.

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National System of Public Lands Announced

Secretary Formally Designates Bureau of Land Management Lands as the National System of Public Lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has signed a Secretarial Order to officially designate the 258 million acres of lands managed for multiple-use by the Department’s Bureau of Land Management as the National System of Public Lands.

“These lands constitute an invaluable recreational, cultural, economic, and environmental legacy for the nation,” Kempthorne said. “And yet, those who own these lands – the American people – remain largely unaware of their critical importance to our quality of life, their value to present and future generations, or even the purpose for which these lands are preserved in public ownership.”

As the principal steward of the public lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is directed by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 to manage the public lands for multiple-use, including recreation, conservation, wildlife habitat and economic activities, such as livestock grazing, energy and mineral production and the development of timber and forest products.

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