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REGION 8: Service Updateto the Western Association of Wildlife Agencies Winter Meeting in San Francisco, California
California-Nevada Offices , January 7, 2009
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by Alexandra Pitts, External Affairs
Personnel Changes, National Level: U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall retired January 3, 2009. Rowan Gould has been appointed acting Director and former Deputy Ken Stansell remains on board as Special Assistant to the Director. All political appointees will resign January 20 and, upon the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on January 21, the Administration will work with Congress to confirm the President’s nominee for the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.

Assistant Director for the National Wildlife Refuge System Geoff Haskett has been selected as Region 7 Director in Alaska. Replacing him is Greg Siekaniec, formerly the refuge manager of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

Hannibal Bolton has also been named at the new Assistant Director for Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration.  In his new position, Bolton will oversee the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, which administers federal grant programs that provide hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes and other funding to help states, insular areas and the District of Columbia conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife and their habitats, as well as the hunting, sport fishing and recreational boating opportunities they provide

Service Western Regional Directors 2009: Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon (R1) Robyn Thorson; Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico (R2) Dr. Ben Tuggle; Moutain-Prairie Region, Denver, Colo. (R6) Steve Guertin; Alaska Region, Anchorage, Alaska (R7) Geoff Haskett; California and Nevada Region, Sacramento, Calif. (R8) Ren Lohoefener

Region 8 Regional Director Steve Thompson retired August 3, 2008. Ren Lohoefener, then Region 1 RD in Portland, Oregon replaced him. Robyn Thorson, formerly Regional Director in Fort Snelling, Minnesota replaced Lohoefener in Portland.

Climate Change:  The success of the Alaska Climate Change Forum in 2007 resulted in the Director requesting that each region of the Service hold a climate change workshop or conference as an important step in building employee awareness and engagement in addressing climate change, and in beginning to build the network of partnership that will be required to meet this challenge.

 

The Service’s Region 2 (Southwest) and Region 8 (California and Nevada) in coordination with USGS hosted a joint climate change workshop in 2008 to address issues specific to the southwestern portion of the U.S. Information about the workshop and links to the presentations can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/Climatechange/workshop.html

 

Region 8 and Region 1 (Pacific) are hosting another climate change workshop in San Francisco January 29-30 which will focus on natural resources and coastal management. Information about this workshop can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/pacific/Climatechange/meetings/Coastal.html

 

Klamath Restoration Agreement and Hydropower Agreement: Since 2005, the Klamath Settlement Group, which is a diverse group of 28 parties,  has been engaged in the difficult task of developing a consensus based solution for long standing disputes in the Klamath Basin.  The group is led by Tribes and irrigators.  Until August 2008 DOI was represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Steve Thompson.

 

In January 2008, the KSG completed two-years of precedent-setting negotiations, and made Draft 11 of the 257-page Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) available for public review.  The proposed agreement includes a water balance for the irrigation Project, Refuges, lake, and river; community sustainability measures, including ESA assurances, power cost security, and economic development; and habitat restoration and fish reintroduction programs focused on long-term fish recovery.

 

In parallel, throughout 2008, federal agencies and the States of California and Oregon negotiated an agreement-in-principle with PacifiCorp, a private utility that owns four hydropower dams on the mainstem of the Klamath River that block access to 300 miles of salmon habitat.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently weighing PacifiCorp’s application for a new 30-50 year license to operate its dams. 

 

On November 13, 2008 the federal government, the state of California, the state of Oregon and PacifiCorp announced an Agreement in Principle (AIP) that takes the first critical step down a presumptive path toward a historic resolution of Klamath River resource issues and the Klamath River dams. 

The AIP provides a flexible framework for the presumed transfer of four dams from PacifiCorp to a government designated dam removal entity (DRE), which would then undertake the removal of those dams, and sets a timeline for the signing of a final agreement.  Under the AIP final authority for dam removal must be granted by the Secretary of the Interior following an assessment to confirm the current view of the United States and governments of California and Oregon that dam removal is in the public interest.

 

Delta Smelt Update: On December 17, 2007 U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (NRDC v Kempthorne Case No. 05-1207 E.D. Cal), issued an interim order directing the Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a new Biological Opinion (BO) by Sept. 15, 2008 for the operation of two major export pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Intent of a new BO would be to increase protection for the threatened delta smelt. The court’s interim order applied to export pumping by US BOR and CA Dept. of Water Resources until the new BO is completed.

 

After requesting and receiving an extension, the Service delivered the BO to US BOR on December 15, 2008.

 

The Service has determined that the continued operation of these two water projects as described in the Biological Assessment (BA) is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the delta smelt and adversely modify its critical habitat. The BO is accompanied by a Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) intended to protect each life-stage and critical habitat of this federally protected species. US BOR is currently reviewing the BO, including the RPA, to determine if the BO can be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the intended purpose of the action, is within the agency's legal authority and jurisdiction, and is economically and technologically feasible.

 

Changes in the Carrying Concealed Weapons Regulations on National Parks and National Wildlife RefugesPreviously, the carrying of concealed weapons was not permitted in National Parks or National Wildlife Refuges.  Revised regulations were issued on December 10, 2009 and are scheduled to take effect on Friday, January 9, unless they are stayed by the courts due to lawsuits filed by the Brady Campaign as well as the National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. 

 

The new FWS regulations state" ...persons may possess, carry and transport concealed, loaded and operable firearms within a national wildlife refuge  in accordance with the laws of the state in which the wildlife refuge, or that portion thereof, is located, except as otherwise prohibited by federal law."   Similar regulations were issued for National Parks. 

 

Except for the Federal law that prohibits weapons within federal buildings, refuges will follow state laws and will be contacting state Fish and Wildlife Agencies to clarify the particular state laws and regulations covering concealed weapons.

Contact Info: Alex Pitts, , alexandra_pitts@fws.gov



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