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Guidance on When to Seek an Incidental Take Permit


Habitat conservation plans (HCPs) Under 10(a)(1)(B)



 

Service Proposes to List the Eastern Black Rail as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act

Eastern black rail
Credit: Tom Johnson, used with persmissions,
The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Omithology

October 5, 2018

Contacts:

Southwest Region – Lesli Gray, lesli_gray@fws.gov, 972-439-4542
Midwest Region – Georgia Parham, georgia_parham@fws.gov, 812-334-4261 x 1203
Southeast Region – Jennifer Koches, jennifer_koches@fws.gov, 843-727-4707 x 214
Northeast Region – Meagan Racey, meagan_racey@fws.gov, 413-253-8558
Mountain-Prairie Region – Steve Segin, robert_segin@fws.gov, 303-236-4578

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners are working to protect a small, secretive marsh bird that is in steep decline. Some populations of the eastern black rail along the Atlantic coast have dropped by as much as 90 percent, and with a relatively small total population remaining across the eastern United States, the Service is proposing to list the subspecies as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

After a review of the best available scientific and commercial information, the Service determined the eastern black rail meets the definition of threatened because it is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A peer-reviewed species status assessment, produced by the Service, provides a biological risk assessment using the best available information on threats to the subspecies and evaluates its current condition. It also forecasts the eastern black rail’s biological status under varying future conditions.

Partially migratory, the eastern black rail is known to appear in as many as 36 states plus multiple territories and countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America. One of four subspecies of black rail, the eastern black rail, though rare, is broadly distributed but highly localized, and lives in salt, brackish, and freshwater marshes.

The California black rail subspecies -- confined to central and southern California, western Arizona and Mexico -- is not included in this listing proposal. Two other subspecies of black rail that occur in South America are also not included in this listing proposal.

In April 2010, the Service was petitioned to list the eastern black rail under the ESA. In September 2011, the Service published a 90-day finding indicating listing may be warranted. A settlement agreement in 2013 required the Service to complete a review of the subspecies and submit a 12-month finding to the Federal Register by Sept. 30, 2018.

Population size and trend estimates from a 2016 independent assessment of the subspecies indicated declining populations of eastern black rail. Estimates for the Atlantic Coast, ranging from New Jersey south to the Gulf Coast of Florida, are between just 355-815 breeding pairs. Estimates from a Texas research project indicated a population of around 1,300 individuals for the upper Texas Coast – a noted stronghold for the bird prior to Hurricane Harvey in 2017. No true population estimates exist for interior states such as Colorado, Kansas or Oklahoma, but there are small populations in Colorado and Kansas where the bird breeds in the spring and summer. With a lack of consistent monitoring and survey results for the Caribbean and Central America, there is no evidence to suggest that the eastern black rail is present in large numbers in this region, although it is likely the birds occur there.

Primary threats to the eastern black rail include habitat loss due to continued alteration and loss of wetland habitats, land management practices that result in fire suppression (or inappropriately timed fire application that may cause direct mortalities), grazing, haying and mowing, and impounding of wetlands.

Read the full story HERE.



Service Proposes to List Rare Freshwater Crayfish, Designate Critical Habitat

Slenderclaw crayfish (Cambarus cracens).
Photo by Guenter Schuster.

October 5, 2018

Contact: Denise Rowell, 251-434-6630, denise_rowell@fws.gov
Phil Kloer, 404-679-7299, philip_kloer@fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the slenderclaw crayfish as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). At the same time, it also is proposing to designate critical habitat and a 4(d) rule describing management activities that would continue to be permitted because of the benefit to the crayfish and landowners.

With two known populations, the slenderclaw crayfish is disappearing throughout its range. Historically, the crayfish was known to live in four small streams or tributaries within the Short Creek and Town Creek watersheds, both in the Tennessee River Basin in Dekalb and Marshall counties, Alabama. Today, the population has dwindled to three streams within the Short Creek and Town Creek watersheds. These streams are found in tributaries of Guntersville Lake, a popular recreational spot in northeastern Alabama.

Several factors may be contributing to the decline of the slenderclaw crayfish. Currently, the primary threat is an invasive species called the virile crayfish, a larger, non-native crayfish, and a fierce competitor of the slenderclaw crayfish. The migrating virile crayfish has been documented in the slenderclaw’s historic range.

The slenderclaw crayfish is recognized as a Priority 1/Highest Conservation Priority by Alabama, meaning the state has been actively engaged with local and federal partners in understanding and addressing threats to the crayfish and other imperiled wildlife that share its habitat. There are currently many programs in place to help improve the slenderclaw’s habitat including the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative and the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program. Both agencies are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Read the full story HERE.



 

Alabama “Mudpuppy” to Receive Federal Protection

Credit: Joseph Jenkins

January 2, 2018

Denise Rowell, USFWS, (251) 441-6630, denise_rowell@fws.gov
Phil Kloer, USFWS, (404) 679-7299, philip_kloer@fws.gov

The Black Warrior waterdog, a large aquatic salamander found only in the Black Warrior River Basin in Alabama, is now a federally protected species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) listed the salamander as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), meaning it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A rigorous review of the best available science has found low and declining population numbers due to loss and fragmentation of its habitat and poor water quality in the Black Warrior River Basin. The highly permeable skin and external gills of the waterdog make it particularly sensitive to declines in water quality and oxygen concentration.

The Service is also finalizing critical habitat for the Black Warrior waterdog. We are designating 420 river miles of critical habitat in four units, including 127 miles of habitat already designated for other federally protected fish, mussels and salamanders. The designation includes only areas currently occupied by the species and will protect more than 50 percent of the waterdog’s historical habitat. The designation is comprised of five tributaries within the Black Warrior River Basin; Sipsey Fork (Lawrence and Winston Counties); Locust Fork (Blount, Etowah, Jefferson, and Marshall Counties); Blackwater Creek (Walker and Winston Counties); and Yellow Creek (Tuscaloosa County).

The critical habitat designation should have minimal or no impact on the forestry and coal mining community. Since there are already critical habitat designations for other species in this area, very little additional regulatory action will be necessary for the waterdog. The designation will also have no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

Establishing critical habitat will raise awareness of the needs of the waterdog and other imperiled species and focus the efforts of our conservation partners. It also alerts federal agencies that they are required to make special conservation efforts when they work, fund or permit activities in those areas.

The Black Warrior waterdog, known by its nickname, the Alabama mudpuppy, is a large, night-loving salamander that maintains its larval characteristics, including retention of external gills, throughout its life. It is found in streams within the main channel of the Black Warrior River and parts of the North River, Locust Fork, Mulberry Fork and Sipsey Fork. Sources of pollution in the Black Warrior River Basin include runoff from industrial plants, landfills, sewage treatment plants, construction, and the historical impacts of surface mining.

The Black Warrior waterdog is recognized as a Priority 2/High Conservation Concern by Alabama, meaning the state has been actively engaged with local and federal partners in understanding and addressing the impacts to the waterdog and other imperiled wildlife that share its habitat. There are 26 federally protected animals found in the Black Warrior River Basin, 15 of which are aquatic, including the flattened musk turtle.

Consideration of the status of the waterdog was required under a court-approved litigation settlement agreement with two environmental groups.

The complete listing and critical habitat rule, which becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, can be obtained by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS–R4–ES–2016–0031. A copy can also be obtained by contacting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1208-B Main Street, Daphne, Alabama, 36526.



Bat, snail, and popular plant may need endangered species protection

Fish and Wildlife Service to gather more information

Photo by Pete Pattavina, USFWS.

Decemnber 19, 2017

More research is needed on three species before U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials can determine whether to add them to the threatened and endangered species list.

More scientific and commercial information will be compiled for the Venus flytrap, located in the Carolinas; oblong rocksnail, located in Alabama; and tricolored bat, located in 38 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Service and its partners will continue to research the species’ life history, biological requirements and habitats to develop a Species Status Assessment (SSA) and 12-month finding. A 12-month finding is a decision after the SSA regarding whether the species warrants listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Today’s decision, known as a 90-day finding, is in response to multiple petitions for these species to receive federal protection. The 90-day finding decided these petitions presented substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate that the petitioned actions may be warranted.

Read the full story HERE.



Building Sand Dunes with Christmas Trees

December 1, 2017


Bill Lynn, USFWS, (251) 441-6630, william_lynn@fws.gov

With hurricane season over, and the holiday season approaching, it is time to start building dunes before the next season strikes in June. A strong sand dune system is your best defense to protect property against hurricane-associated storm surge. A simple way to build dunes is by recycling Christmas trees. Gulf State Park has recycled many leftover Christmas trees in the city of Gulf Shores to rebuild their dunes after storms. They use this simple design below:


In this design, you will need three (3) Christmas trees. Trees should be clean and free of ornaments or tinsel. Set them in or near the existing vegetated dune areas of your property. Two or three shovel full of sand should be tossed on each tree to help hold them in place. A month or so later, Gulf State Park personnel will plant more vegetation near these trees, including sea oats, seaside panicum, and beach morning glory. They wait a few weeks to allow the Christmas trees to catch sand. The decaying trees will give nutrients to the installed plants. If you do not have three Christmas trees available, one is better than none for rebuilding sand dunes.

If you do not prefer Christmas trees, sand fencing is your next best option for building dunes. Since Alabama has a sea turtle nesting population, the sand fencing design below is recommended to allow sea turtles to move around and not be tangled.

Most beachfront lots are 75 feet or less. Therefore, one roll of sand fence (50 foot) will usually suffice for most properties. The following is the recommend method for installing the sand fence.

• Cut the roll into 10-foot sections. You should get five sections.
• You will also need ten posts (two posts to support each section of fence). We recommend 4 inch by 8-foot agricultural fence post for support.
• Your first post (northern) should be installed near remaining vegetation at the east end of your property line.
• Behind the post, set a compass on top and look straight towards the Gulf of Mexico. Set the compass to 0 degrees or north (ignore the magnetic arrow).
• Orient the first section of sand fence to 45 - 50 degrees (again ignoring the magnetic arrow).
• Set the southern post giving yourself room to attach the first ten-foot section of sand fence to the post. Your first installed strand of sand fence should resemble the picture.
• From the northern post, measure 7 to 10 feet west and install the next northern post.
• Repeat. To check yourself, the southern posts should measure approximately the same distance between as the northern posts (7-10 feet).

Total cost for this sand fencing design is approximately $150.00 based on one fifty-foot roll of sand fence and ten post. If you property is a rental property, these expenses should be tax deductible as a landscaping effort. Sand fencing should not extend any more than 10 feet seaward of the existing vegetation dune line. If it is, it could interfere with law enforcement and emergency personnel response efforts.



Volunteers help U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with sea turtle nest hatchlings

Photo by Tonya Long, FWS

BY Denise Rowell, denise_rowell@fws.gov

November 6, 2017

It was a warm and breezy night on the dunes of Orange Beach, Alabama, and Lisa Graham had a special babysitting assignment. While most folks were getting ready for bed, Lisa sat on a fold-out chair plopped firmly into the sand. In front of her were four wooden stakes, with neon tape cordoning off curious onlookers.

Lisa was keeping a watchful eye on a sea turtle nest, which laid beneath the sand. A Share the Beach volunteer for more than 16 years, Graham knew the routine: a female sea turtle nested in that spot two months ago, which meant the eggs could hatch at any time.

“The nest is on day 62, and we’ve been hearing noises for about five days,” she explained. “We were hoping to get lucky and have a hatch tonight.”

But more detailed information about bat populations is not readily available, according to Nicholas Sharp, a non-game biologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

 

Share the Beach is a non-profit organization of more than 400 passionate volunteers dedicated to protecting baby sea turtles, or hatchlings. Each morning, volunteers scour the beach, looking for any signs of a sea turtle nest. Three types of turtles nest in Alabama: loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys and green sea turtles. Volunteers look for marks in the sand made by the turtle’s flippers, known as a crawl.

Read the full story: https://www.fws.gov/southeast/articles/moonlighting-in-alabama/

 



Endangered Species Listing Not Needed for Three Species of Wildlife in the Southeast

Credit: Jonathan Mays, Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission

October 4, 2017

Phil Kloer, USFWS, (404) 679-7299, philip_kloer@fws.gov
Denise Rowell, USFWS, (251) 441-6630, denise_rowell@fws.gov
Ken Warren, 772-562-3909 x 323; ken_warren@fws.gov

A unique fish that acts like a tiny salmon needs protection.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded the Barbour’s map turtle, the Florida Keys mole skink, and the Big Blue Springs cave crayfish do not face the threat of extinction now or in the foreseeable future and do not require Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections.

Based on a rigorous review of the science, the Service has determined that all three species have healthy and stable populations, primary stressors do not threaten their survival in the wild, and adequate conservation measures are in place for each.

“We are happy to announce that these three species are doing well and do not require Endangered Species Act protections,” said Mike Oetker, the Service’s Southeast Region acting director. “These species face little to no apparent threats or are the focus of ongoing conservation efforts enabling them to overcome those threats.”

These decisions bring the total of “wildlife wins” in the Service’s Southeast and Northeast Regions to 122, a result of joint at-risk conservation and recovery efforts in the Southeast. Earlier this summer, this effort to keep working lands working led by the Service, 26 states that make up the Northeast and Southeastern associations of state fish and wildlife agencies, and a host of conservation groups, businesses and utilities, drew praise from congressional appropriations leaders for its use of incentives and flexibilities within the ESA to reduce regulatory burdens and keep working lands working.

Since 2011, the Service’s biologists, working with state partners, have determined that 107 species did not need federal protection as a result of one or more of the following:
• conservation actions;
• additional information such as updated survey data;
• a lack of substantial information;
• reevaluation of threats to their survival.

Another 15 species protected by the ESA now require less protection or no protection at all as a result of recovery actions.

Read the full story here: https://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2017/10/endangered-species-listing-not-needed-for-three-species-of-wildlife-in-the-southeast/

Endangered Species Act protection not needed for two Coosa darters

Holiday Darter. Credit: Dr. Pat O'Neil, GSA

Denise Rowell, USFWS, (251) 441-6630, denise_rowell@fws.gov
Phil Kloer, USFWS, (404) 679-7299, philip_kloer@fws.gov

October 3, 2017

After a scientifically rigorous process, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has concluded instead that the holiday darter and bridled darter populations are stable, being conserved through existing regulations, and do not need protection.

The holiday darter is a small freshwater fish found in small creeks to moderate-sized rivers above the fall line in the Ridge and Valley, Blue Ridge, and Piedmont provinces of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The Service reviewed seven populations for the holiday darter, and all seven populations still exist within the current range.

The bridled darter also is a small freshwater fish native to the upper Coosa River basin in Georgia and Tennessee, and is found in small rivers with good water quality. The Service analyzed six populations and all of them are intact.

“After looking at the current status of these darters, working with partners, and reviewing all of the scientific information, we’ve determined they do not need the Endangered Species Act’s protection,” said Mike Oetker, the Service’s acting Southeast Regional director.

Bridled Darter. Credit: Noel Burkhead

Both the holiday and bridled darters face challenges stemming from declining water quality, but in its review the Service found adequate and protected habitats exist for both darters. The Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife program within the Coosa River basin will help farmers develop and implement strategies to improve water quality for these and other aquatic species.

The decision not to list the bridled and holiday darters under the ESA comes amid work on a massive settlement agreement requiring the Service to review the status of more than 400 species of fish, wildlife and plants.

These decisions bring the total of “wildlife wins” in the Service’s Southeast and Northeast Regions to 119. Since 2011, the Service’s biologists, working with state partners, have determined that 104 species did not need federal protection as a result of one or more of the following:
• conservation actions;
• additional information such as updated survey data;
• a lack of substantial information;
• reevaluation of threats to their survival.

Another 15 species protected by the ESA now require less protection or no protection at all as a result of recovery actions.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes protection for rare darter in Coosa River Basin

Trispot Darter. Credit: Dr. Pat O'Neil, GSA

October 3, 2017

Denise Rowell, USFWS, (251) 441-6630, denise_rowell@fws.gov
Phil Kloer, USFWS, (404) 679-7299, philip_kloer@fws.gov

A unique fish that acts like a tiny salmon needs protection.

The trispot darter, a small, colorful fish found in parts of the Coosa River Basin in southeastern Tennessee, northern Georgia, and northern Alabama, is disappearing.

Following a scientifically rigorous review of the darter, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing to list the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Every year this short-lived fish, which is less than two inches long, swims upstream from the larger river habitat where it usually lives so it can spawn in the vegetation of small tributaries and seeps.

The trispot is listed as a Priority 2 species of High Conservation Concern by the state of Alabama. It’s endangered in Georgia, and listed as threatened in Tennessee. Federal protections for the trispot will assist state and local efforts to protect the species by raising greater awareness of the threats to the fish and focusing conservation efforts on its behalf.

Primary threats to the trispot darters occur as as they swim back and forth to spawning areas, and are caused by challenges like excess groundwater withdrawal, drought, or man-made structures like dams and road crossings. Habitat alteration and poor water quality from pollution, sedimentation, agricultural and stormwater runoff, and development are also factors in the darter’s decline.

Read the full story here: https://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2017/10/us-fish-and-wildlife-service-proposes-protection-for-rare-darter-in-coosa-river-basin/

Bat Blitz lands in Birmingham, researchers flock to it

Photo by Joe Songer, AL.com

BY DENNIS PILLION    dpillion@al.com

June 29, 2017

Dozens of bat researchers, enthusiasts and wildlife officials from around the Southeast flocked to Birmingham this week for the Alabama Bat Working Group's annual Bat Blitz event.

The Working Group consists of bat biologists and enthusiasts working for state and federal wildlife agencies, universities, and non-profit groups, plus a few volunteers who helped conduct bat surveys at Ruffner Mountain, Turkey Creek and Oak Mountain this week.

Bat researchers and wildlife officials know there are plenty of bats in the Birmingham area.

But more detailed information about bat populations is not readily available, according to Nicholas Sharp, a non-game biologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

"We look for a location that hasn't had a thorough bat census," Sharp said. "We're trying to generate as many records as we can of what the community structure is, what the community composition is."

Shannon Holbrook, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Daphne office, said the survey would help them know if there were federally endangered or threatened species living in the area.

"Even some of the species that are considered at-risk that might come up for listing in the future, the more information we have, the more we know where they are, the better," Holbrook said.

Full Story on AL.com with photo gallery and video.

Manatee Reclassified from Endangered to Threatened as Habitat Improves and Population Expands – Existing Federal Protections Remain in Place

Partnerships bringing giant sea cow back from brink of extinction

West Indian Manatee. Credit: USFWS

March 30, 2017

Chuck Underwood, USFWS, (904) 731-3332, chuck_underwood@fws.gov
Phil Kloer, USFWS, (404) 679-7299, philip_kloer@fws.gov

On the heels of Manatee Appreciation Day, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the downlisting of the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened. Notable increases in manatee populations and improvements in its habitat allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to change the species’ status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The downlisting comes after diverse conservation efforts and collaborations by Florida and other manatee states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Caribbean nations, public and private organizations and citizens, there have been notable increases in manatee populations and improvements in its habitat.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has worked hand in hand with state and local governments, businesses, industry, and countless stakeholders over many years to protect and restore a mammal that is cherished by people around the world,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Without this type of collaboration and the commitment of state and local partners, this downlisting would not have been possible.”

In its review, FWS considered the status of the West Indian manatee throughout its range, which includes the Florida manatee subspecies, found primarily in the southeastern United States, and the Antillean manatee, found in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, northern South America and the Greater and Lesser Antilles. The downlisting means that the manatee is no longer considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future without continued ESA protections.

Read the full release...



Biologist Eases Students' Bat Fears

Northern Long-eared Bat
Photo by Shannon Holbrook, USFWS

March 2, 2017

On a fall day in Daphne, Alabama, U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Shannon Holbrook is in her happy place: in front of a classroom of students, teaching them about an often misunderstood species. Holbrook has dedicated several days to visiting local schools and teaching children about the world of bats. “When kids think about bats, they often think of the pop-culture definition….. sinister-looking and fanged, which incites fear,” says Holbrook, who works in the Alabama Field Office (AFO). “They have no idea how important this species is to our ecosystem in Alabama.”

How important? For starters, bats keep the insect population in check. They can eat hundreds of bugs every hour, including mosquitos, moths and grasshoppers. Not only do some of these insects spread diseases, many of them can also destroy crops. “Bats are critically important to the U.S. economy because they consume between 600 to 1300 tons of inspects per year,” explains Holbrook. “Bats in other parts of the world are effective pollinators for plants that only bloom at night, such as the Agave. Some are also efficient at dispersing seeds.”

Sixteen different bat species are found in the state of Alabama, and three of them are on the endangered species list: gray bats, Indiana bats, and northern long-eared bats. Their population is declining due to significant environmental threats, including wind turbines, habitat destruction, water pollution, pesticides, and a disease called White Nose Syndrome.

Photo submitted by Shannon Holbrook
These students are all smiles after learning that bats
are totally cool!

With so many potential threats, AFO biologists knew they couldn’t do this research alone. That’s why they’re teaming up with conservationists throughout the state and beyond to protect these unique animals. Alabama Power, the Alabama Department of Transportation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority have joined the AFO to help learn more about bats in the state, committing funds as well as people to the field work. Holbrook says partnerships are the only way to achieve the best available science.

“Understanding this species’ habitat use in Alabama during the critical spring and summer months is essential for future protection and conservation of important resources needed for the survival of bats. These groups are providing funds and manpower to help with the study. Without them, the study would not be possible,” says Holbrook.

The primary field work centers on radio-tagging and monitoring Indiana bats from Stanley-Carden cave. This requires aerial crews as well as ground support to document migration routes and roost stops. Scientists will also use mist-nets to capture the bats and replace the radio tags as necessary.

“We look forward to supporting this important research,” said Jason Carlee, environmental affairs supervisor at Alabama Power. “The information gathered in these studies will help us better understand the movement of bats within our service territory. That, in turn, could help us reduce the potential impacts of our activities, such as right-of-way maintenance and forestry operations, on these species.”

Scientists will kick-off their research in the spring of 2017. In the meantime, Holbrook continues to travel to different classrooms, hoping to shed some necessary light on bats in Alabama. “The kids have been really receptive during my classroom visits. They are starting to understand that bats play a pivotal role in our ecosystem, and they really aren’t that scary,” laughs Holbrook. “Hopefully, future generations will continue the bat work that we’ve started here in the state.”



2017: A Year of SMART Conservation

Photo credit: FWS.
RMS Senior Vice-President Jimmy Bullock meets with
AFO staff to discuss research of at-risk species on RMS property.

March 2, 2017

Resource Management Service (RMS), Senior Vice-President Jimmy Bullock, presented details of an innovative partnership between RMS and the Alabama Field Office (AFO) at the recent National Directorate meeting held at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Representing the National Alliance of Forest Owners, Jimmy provided an overview of a new and encouraging partnership that challenges old paradigms and promises to change the way we look at on-the-ground conservation in Alabama and beyond. Jimmy applauded the AFO’s groundbreaking effort to develop projects and tools to further shared conservation goals. This partnership creates vast conservation opportunities for both aquatic and terrestrial species.

Using new technology in an unprecedented opportunity for landscape-level ecosystem restoration, the AFO initially supported RMS through the Resource Conservation Partnership Program, on its Coastal Headwaters Forest (CHF) project. The CHF project seeks to test a new conservation model where private, working forests will be managed for longleaf pine and permanently protected from development.

Through our support of the CHF project, over 200,000 acres of RMS property will be opened to AFO biologists and partnering scientists, for the first time, which could bridge knowledge gaps and extend species’ distributions for wide ranging species like the gopher tortoise, various bats, and aquatic species.

To assist in this effort, AFO biologists have developed a mapping tool that strategically identifies locations and prioritizes survey efforts. The Species Monitoring and Recovery Tool (SMART) is based upon species richness maps and is designed to assist AFO biologists in inventory, monitoring, and recovery activities on RMS property. The species richness map was developed using key spatial layers of federally-listed, State priority, and at-risk species in Alabama.

By using the SMART tool and AFO’s extensive Strategic Habitat Unit (SHU) partnership model, we aim to assist RMS to conserve the longleaf pine ecosystem and its associated habitat matrix on their properties. By doing so, more than 40 federally listed and at-risk species will benefit. It is our hope that this innovative partnership will serve as an example for other forest managers, as well as build mutual trust and understanding between our agency, and an influential natural resource management company.



Southeastern Orchid Placed on Federal Threatened and Endangered Species List

September 13, 2016

Gary Peeples, 828/258-3939, ext. 231, gary_peeples@fws.gov
Geoff Call, 931/528-6481, geoff_call@fws.gov

Cookeville, Tenn. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is adding the white fringeless orchid to the federal list of threatened and endangered species, as a threatened species to protect and conserve the rare plant.

While the orchid is found in six Southern states – Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi - populations are small, isolated, and face a wide array of threats across their range. Because of the threat of collection, the Service is not designating critical habitat for this plant.

The listing follows the September 2015 proposal to protect the orchid. The Service has considered the orchid a candidate for the threatened and endangered species list since 1999, and in 2004 was petitioned by an outside group to add it to the list of protected species.

“Because of its small populations across six states and myriad threats, conserving the white fringeless orchid comes with challenges,” said Cindy Dohner, the Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We hope our partners will rally to recover the plant before its situation becomes more critical.”

The ultimate goal is to recover the orchid, so that it no longer needs the protective measures of the ESA. The Service will now develop a recovery plan for the species and work cooperatively with partners to conserve its habitat. The Service’s Southeast Region through an aggressive At-Risk species conservation effort is strengthening existing partnerships, building new ones, and completing a range of conservation actions including better surveys and monitoring to determine that 72 species across the region do not need the ESA’s protection. As a result, to date, another dozen species’ status has improved from endangered to threatened and in some cases like the Louisiana black bear have been removed from the list and recovered.

While the threatened status means the orchid is not facing imminent extinction, low numbers have been observed at more than half the orchid’s known locations, and threats are present throughout the plant’s range – leading the Service to conclude that it is likely to face extinction in the foreseeable future.

There are 57 known occurrences of the orchid, spanning six southeastern states, with 33 located entirely, or in part, on lands owned or managed by local, state, or federal governments. The orchid’s distribution is concentrated in the Cumberland Plateau of Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and extends into South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi, with isolated populations scattered across the Blue Ridge Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain. Most occurrences are in forested wetlands, though, some are in utility or transportation rights-of-way, where the plant sometimes thrives in the well-lit, open conditions. Finally, less than 20 percent of occurrences have ever been observed to have more than 100 flowering plants during a single growing season. Left unprotected, the plant’s range and abundance will likely continue to diminish.

Compounding the orchid’s plight is the fact that it appears to rely on a limited number of butterflies and a single species of fungus to complete its life cycle, making it susceptible to anything that threatens these creatures as well. Like most terrestrial orchids, white fringeless orchid has small, wind-dispersed seeds that lack nutrient reserves, so the young plants depend on a fungus to enhance sprouting and promote early growth. Though the orchid can self-pollinate, it has only three known external pollinators, all butterflies – the silver spotted skipper, spicebush swallowtail, and eastern tiger swallowtail.

Habitat destruction and modification from development, forestry practices, alteration of water flow, such as beaver dam removal, right-of-way maintenance, and invasive species also have resulted in the plant’s disappearance from 10 sites and affected dozens of others. Collection is an historical and ongoing problem. Hundreds of specimens were collected in the 1940s. A 1992 status survey for the species included reports of two nurseries collecting white fringeless orchid plants for resale. More recently, evidence of collecting was observed at a Georgia site in 2004; and in 2014, biologists from the Service and the State of Tennessee documented the loss of 52 plants to collecting from a roadside occurrence in Tennessee.

The orchid’s listing is part of the Service’s effort to implement a court-approved work plan addressing this listing workload and resolving a series of lawsuits concerning the agency’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing program.

The Service’s final rule listing the orchid as threatened appears in the September 13, 2016 Federal Register. Protection for this plant under the ESA becomes effective on October 13, 2016,, 30 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. For threatened plants, it is illegal under the ESA to take, damage, or destroy any such plants, from areas under federal jurisdiction or in knowing violation of any law or regulation of any State, or to possess, import, export or conduct interstate or international commerce without authorization from the Service. The ESA also requires all federal agencies to ensure actions they authorize, fund, or undertake do not jeopardize the existence of listed species.

The Service initially proposed to protect the orchid and sought public comment on September 15, 2015, and again sought public input on April 14, 2016. All comments received are posted at http://www.regulations.gov and are addressed in the final listing rule. For more information about this plant and the final rule visit http://www.fws.gov/cookeville or the Federal Register at http://www.regulations.gov, docket number FWS-R4-ES-0129.



Public Invited to Alabama Bat Festival to Kick-off Study of Bats

View live bats, demonstrations and meet regional biologists on July 24

Photo by Billy Pope

July 20, 2016

Contact: Tammy Freeman Brown, 334-832-4470, ttruett@fs.fed.us or
Denise Rowell, 251-441-6630, denise_rowell@fws.gov

The public is invited to the 2016 Alabama Bat Festival to celebrate the amazing world of bats. Bring the family to a free, fun-filled event at Jacksonville State University’s Environmental Policy and Information Center and Field Schools to view live bats, demonstrations, presentations and an opportunity to take a Smokey Bear selfie and take home prizes. The festival will also kick-off a week-long Regional Bat Blitz - a coordinated, intensive survey designed to sample the bat community in a specific area. Numerous scientists, students and professional biologists will work in teams to collect data in the Talladega National Forest – Shoal Creek District and learn as much as possible about the bat fauna of Alabama.

WHAT:    Alabama Bat Festival – A free,  family event  to learn the important role bats play in the ecosystem.
WHO:     U.S. Forest Service, Jacksonville State University Environmental Policy and Information Center and Field Schools, Southeastern Bat Diversity Network, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources -Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 
WHEN:    Sunday, July 24 from 2:30 p.m. – 5: 00 p.m. Reporters should arrive by 2 p.m. for interviews before the event.
WHERE:  Jacksonville State University, Theron Montgomery Building Auditorium Jacksonville, Alabama.

NOTE TO EDITORS AND ASSIGNMENT DIRECTORS: Reporters are invited to the Bat Festival on July 24 and should arrive by 2 p.m. for interviews.  July 26 - Bat Blitz Survey – Examples of bat video, bat facts and photographs of volunteers netting bats species can be downloaded http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/alabama/news-events/?cid=fseprd509561.  Reporters interested in covering the bat survey on Tuesday, July 26  in the Talladega National Forest, Shoal Creek District should contact the Forest Service at 334-241-8144 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 251-441-6630 no later than noon on July 21, if attending.



HELP PROTECT SHOREBIRDS ON THE GULF COAST

LOCAL SHOREBIRD STEWARD VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR COASTAL ALABAMA - MAY through JULY 2016

March 23, 2016

CONSERVIAN/Coastal Bird Conservation (CBC) is seeking local Shorebird Steward Volunteers for monitoring of beach-nesting birds on the Alabama coast. Volunteers will begin in May and continue through July. Hours are flexible. The focus of the work is monitoring and protecting beach-nesting bird breeding pairs, nests, and young, including Snowy and Wilson’s Plovers, American Oystercatchers, Least Terns, Black Skimmers, and other colonial nesting species. Stewards will work cooperatively with CBC field staff as part of a team on monitoring of beach-nesting birds, posting and signing of nesting areas, and interacting with partner site managers, and the beach-going public. The goal of the project is to build a long-term local network of dedicated volunteer shorebird stewards in Alabama to assist Conservian’s field staff to increase shorebird numbers and habitat quality. All shorebird monitoring is conducted on foot.

Qualifications: Volunteer Stewards must be responsible, in good physical condition, like working in teams, and be able to walk several miles in summer temperatures in coastal Alabama. Shorebird experience is not required, only enthusiasm. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about breeding shorebirds, and help to stabilize and restore their populations. Applicants must be at least 18 years old. If you would like work with us please send an email of interest and availability to Margo Zdravkovic, Conservian/CBC Director at MargoZ@Coastalbird.org.

Conservian will provide training and supervision. Binoculars and scopes will be provided as needed. Conservian is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving coastal birds and their habitats throughout the Western Hemisphere. Every volunteer hour contributed provides required inkind match for our grant awarded under the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Power of Flight program. All regular volunteers will receive a CBC logo patch.

Go to https://www.facebook.com/CoastalBirdConservation on Facebook for more information on Conservian’s work on the Gulf Coast.



Four Southeastern Species Do Not Require Federal Protection, Two Others Under Further Review

Southern dusky salamander
Photo by Mike Graziano

March 15, 2016

Contact: Jennifer Strickland, 404-679-7299, jennifer_strickland@fws.gov

Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a batch of 90-day findings affecting a variety of species across the nation. Biologists have determined the following species found in the southeastern United States do not require further review for federal protection at this time:

● Cheoah bald salamander in North Carolina
● Monito skink in Puerto Rico
● Southern dusky salamander in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and possibly South Carolina
● South Mountain gray-cheeked salamander in North Carolina.

With the addition of four not substantial findings, 60 southeastern species have not required federal protection as a result of either conservation actions, additional information (e.g., updated survey data), reevaluation of threats to their survival, and a lack of substantial information indicating further need for evaluation since 2010. Conservation partnerships have benefited another 11 species that have been proposed for listing as threatened rather than endangered, or are no longer in need of protection and have been proposed for delisting or delisted already.

Substantial information was presented for petitioned actions on two species. The petition to delist the endangered American burying beetle, a large, shiny black beetle with hardened protective wing covers marked by two scalloped shaped orange patterns, is currently under further review. Once found throughout the eastern U.S., the beetle is currently known to exist in only South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. In 1989 it was listed as endangered primarily due to habitat loss and degradation across its range. Service biologists now seek additional scientific and/or commercial information on the American burying beetle. To submit information, contact Brady McGee at Brady_McGee@fws.gov or 505-248-6657.

The petition to protect the yellow-banded bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act is also under further review. The bee was historically found throughout the northeastern United States, south to the higher elevations of the Appalachians, westward into the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountains, and most of southeastern Canada and into British Columbia. To present additional scientific or commercial information on this species, contact Krishna Gifford at Krishna_Gifford@fws.gov or 413-253-8619.

The notice for all findings will publish in the Federal Register Reading Room on March 15, 2016 and is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection by clicking on the 2016 Notices link under Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

For more information on the factors that influenced our decisions, visit http://www.fws.gov/southeast/candidateconservation/march-2016-batch. For more information on the 90-day finding process, visit http://www.fws.gov/southeast/candidateconservation/90-day-finding/



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comment on Draft Revised Recovery Plan for Northern Great Plains Piping Plover Population

Piping Plover
Photo by Andrew Haffenden

Contact(s):
Ryan Moehring, (303) 236-2345;
Ryan_Moehring@fws.gov


March 15, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. –The piping plover, a small, sparrow-sized migratory shorebird known for its melodic mating call, may benefit from increased conservation activities, thanks to a new recovery plan released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service).

This “Draft Revised Recovery Plan” is specific to the Northern Great Plains (NGP) piping plover population, which is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“The goal of this plan is to recover the Northern Great Plains population of piping plover and return this species to state management,” said Noreen Walsh, Regional Director for the Service in the Mountain-Prairie Region. “Using the new information we have learned about this species, and by working collaboratively with our partners, we believe we can make that goal a reality.”

Recovery plans consolidate the best available scientific information on listed species and make recommendations on actions needed to achieve recovery. They guide conservation and habitat management activities to help listed species rebound to the point they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

The Northern Great Plains population breeds along shorelines and islands of rivers and reservoirs in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska in the U.S., as well as on alkaline (salty) lakes along the Missouri Plateau, which extends into Canada. There are also small numbers breeding in Colorado and Minnesota and occasionally in Iowa and Kansas.

In the winter, the NGP population intermingles with two other piping plover populations that breed in the Great Lakes and along the Atlantic Coast. Piping plovers winter along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from North Carolina to Texas and into Mexico, the Bahamas, and West Indies.

Habitat loss and degradation, primarily due to damming and water withdrawals, are the primary threats to the NGP population on its breeding range.

Loss of suitable habitat due to development, human disturbance, predation, and sea-level rise are the primary threats to the NGP population on its wintering grounds.

To view the Full News release follow this link: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comment on Draft Revised Recovery Plan for Northern Great Plains Piping Plover Population

Piping Plover Recover Plan FAQ


Protections Finalized for Threatened Northern Long-Eared Bats

Regulations focus on significant threats to the species so conservation efforts can be focused where they have the greatest effect

Northern Long-eared bat.
Photo by Pete Pattavina/USFWS.

Contact(s):
Georgia Parham, 812-334-4261 x 1203
Georgia_Parham@fws.gov


January 13, 2016

In an effort to conserve the northern long-eared bat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a final rule today that uses flexibilities under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to tailor protections to areas affected by white-nose syndrome during the bat’s most sensitive life stages. The rule is designed to protect the bat while minimizing regulatory requirements for landowners, land managers, government agencies and others within the species’ range.

“The overwhelming threat to the northern long-eared bat is white-nose syndrome,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Until there is a solution to the white-nose syndrome crisis, the outlook for this bat will not improve. This rule tailors regulatory protections in a way that makes sense and focuses protections where they will make a difference for the bat.”

The Service listed the northern long-eared bat as threatened under the ESA in April 2015 and established an interim 4(d) rule following drastic population declines caused by white-nose syndrome in the eastern and midwestern United States. This deadly disease continues to spread westward and wreak havoc on cave-dwelling bats. In November 2015, presence of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome was confirmed in the 30th state – Nebraska.

The final 4(d) rule for the northern long-eared bat removes prohibitions that would otherwise be in place on “incidental take” of the bat in areas of the country not affected by white-nose syndrome (see map). Incidental take includes harm, harassment or mortality that occurs incidental to an otherwise lawful activity, such as clearing trees for a construction project.

Read full Press Release: NLEB 4(d) - NEWS RELEASE FINAL 1-13-16

FAQ's: FAQs NLEB Final 4d_final 01.12.2016

 

 

Last updated: October 5, 2018