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Service Proposes Protections for Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Under Endangered Species Act

September 21, 2016

A close up shot of a black and yellow bumble bee with dark orange spot collecting nectar from a flower.
Rusty patched bumble bee. Photo courtesy of Dan Mullen/Creative Commons.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, citing a steep decline in the species’ numbers throughout its range. The rusty patched bumble bee, once widespread, is now found in scattered, small populations in 12 states and one Canadian province.

Twenty years ago, the rusty patched bumble bee was an abundant native pollinator found across a broad geographic range that included 28 states and the District of Columbia, from Connecticut to South Dakota and north into two provinces in Canada. The rusty patched bumble bee is now found only in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin – and Ontario, Canada. Abundance and distribution of rusty patched bumble bee populations have declined by an estimated 91 percent since the mid to late 1990s.

Threats to the rusty patched bumble bee include disease (for example, from infected commercial honeybee colonies), exposure to pesticides, habitat loss, the effects of climate change, the effects of extremely small populations, and a combination of these factors.

Endangered Species Act Protection Not Needed for Four Southeastern Animals

September 20, 2016

A close up photo of a semi translucent gray-silver crayfish walking on rocky substrate.
Angular dwarf crayfish. Photo: Chris Lukhaup, USDA Forest Service.

Responding to requests to add them to the federal threatened and endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that the angular dwarf crayfish, Icebox Cave beetle, Clifton Cave beetle, and the Virgin Island coqui do not need such protection.

“To receive Endangered Species Act protection, the species must be facing threats that would likely cause extinction or threaten existence in the foreseeable future,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director.  “They face little to no apparent threat or are the focus of ongoing conservation efforts enabling them to overcome threats.”

Previous reviews found that the two cave beetles warranted inclusion on the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) list of protected wildlife and plants, but doing so was precluded by higher-priority species. With this decision, the Service has reconsidered those species, taking into account recent conservation efforts, species abundance, and changes in threats. This decision marks the first time the Service has considered the angular dwarf crayfish for the endangered species list.  In January 2014, the Service published a 90-Day finding stating that the Virgin Islands coqui, a small frog, may warrant listing under the ESA.  The Service examined the best historical and current information for the coqui to make its determination in this 12-month finding.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to List Pearl Darter as Threatened

September 20, 2016

A small, long fish with dark spots and a long dorsal fin in an aquarium.
Pearl darter. J.R. Schute, Conservation Fisheries Inc., Photo used with permission.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the pearl darter is likely to be at risk of becoming endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, the Service proposes to add this small, snub-nosed fish to the list of protected wildlife as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

At the same time, the Service has concluded that critical habitat cannot be determined because additional information is needed to complete the required analyses of potential impacts from a proposed designation.  The pearl darter is currently listed as endangered in Mississippi by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

“The Southeast Region’s rich biodiversity is like no other in the nation,” said Cynthia Dohner, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We need to conserve wildlife and their habitats for future generations because this conservation can also help ensure cleaner streams and rivers for people to use and enjoy as well.”

Service Releases Access Plans for Three Sisters Springs for the Upcoming Winter Season

September 15, 2016

The silhouette of a manatee photographed underwater from below.
Silhouette of a manatee. Photo: USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has established updated, science-based protocols to help determine when Three Sisters Springs is open for in-water wildlife viewing this winter.

“Our goal is to be fully transparent on how we make day-to-day decisions for in-water public access to Three Sisters Springs this winter,” said Joyce Palmer, the new Project Leader for the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “We know that cold weather and high tides increase the likelihood of higher numbers of manatees inside the springs, but other factors will also be considered to ensure manatees are not disturbed.” “We also will take into account manatee distribution, behavior, and water visibility when we determine if Three Sisters Springs will be open to visitor in-water access,” said Palmer.

New Report Reveals Southern Landowners Want to Help At-risk Wildlife Species

Four out of five landowners state wildlife is top reason they own land, and the key motivator to conducting forest management in future

September 13, 2016

A forest with green understory and longleaf pine trees.
A longleaf pine forest. Photo: USFWS.

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Amid rising numbers of at-risk wildlife in the South, the American Forest Foundation (AFF), a leading forest conservation organization that works with family forest owners, today released a new report that reveals private and family landowners in the South offer a solution to helping at-risk wildlife species.

Across 13 southeastern states, Southern forests rank at the top in terms of biodiversity when measured by the number of wildlife and plant species. But, due to forest conversion to non-forest uses such as agricultural land, housing development and commercial expansion, fragmented waterways, natural fire suppression and an influx of invasive species, a significant number of the South’s wildlife species are now at risk. Currently, there are 224 forest-dependent species listed as endangered or threatened, with 293 candidate and petitioned species that could be listed in the near future.

At the same time, these Southern forests supply much of the raw material for consumer wood products worldwide, and support nearly 1.1 million people in rural communities with employment.

Southeastern Orchid Placed on Federal Threatened and Endangered Species List

September 13, 2016

An orchid with white flowers.
A white fringeless orchid. Photo by USFWS.

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, outh 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.

Fish and Wildlife Service to Gather More Information On Two Rare Reptiles in the Southeast - A Salamander Does Not Need Further Review

September 13, 2016

A lack salamander with gray spots stands in greenery.
A Fourche Mountain salamander. Photo by Michael Spencer, herpetologist.

A Caribbean skink and a Florida lizard need more study to determine whether they need to be included on the federal list of endangered and threatened species.

More scientific and commercial information will be compiled for the Lesser Virgin Islands skink found in and around St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands as well as the Florida scrub lizard found in central and south Florida. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will complete this work and use it to develop a 12-month finding for both species. The Service and its partners will continue to research the reptiles’ life history, biological requirements, and habitat threats, as part of the 12-month finding.

At the same time, the Service announced that a salamander, the Fourche Mountain salamander, found in the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas, does not need the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) protection. The salamander lives in the Ouachita National Forest, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service takes the salamander into account in its land management plans and works with the Service to take care of the salamander and its habitat. Conservation partnerships like this have made it possible for the Service to determine that protecting the Fourche Mountain salamander is not needed.

Science leads Fish and Wildlife Service to significant changes for red wolf recovery

September 12, 2016

A reddish gray wolf with black markings looking past the camera.
Red wolf at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Photo by John Froschauer, PDZA.

Recovery of the red wolf in the wild is feasible with significant changes that must be implemented to secure the captive and wild populations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today it will begin implementing a series of actions based on the best and latest scientific information gathered over the past 21 months. Today’s announcement comes after a two-year, two-step evaluation of the entire red wolf recovery program, including the evaluation of the captive population and the non-essential, experimental population in Eastern North Carolina, that began in 2014 with a peer-reviewed program assessment by the Wildlife Management Institute. This review was expanded last June to include the recommendations of a red wolf recovery team that examined feasibility of recovery in the wild, population viability, red wolf taxonomy, the historical range, and human dimensions.

This team completed a report with a series of options earlier this month. The steps announced today by the Service are guided by that work.

Download the transcript.

Teddy Roosevelt, the Teddy Bear and the Deep South

September 7, 2016

A woman in jacket and hat with a very wide smile holds three black bear cubs
Southeast Region Director Cindy Dohner with Louisiana black bears cubs. Photo: USFWS.

Friday, September 9, is National Teddy Bear Day. So the National Wildlife Refuge System is celebrating National Teddy Bear Week. We’re commemorating conservation giant Theodore Roosevelt and his impact on west-central Mississippi and northeastern Louisiana, where the story that created the teddy bear toy unfolded.

Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Mississippi and Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana are steeped in history and folklore. They honor wildlife the conservation legacy of the 26th president of the United States and founder of the Refuge System, Theodore Roosevelt.

The refuges also honor Holt Collier, a widely admired African American outdoorsman of the 19th century. Collier was born a slave, fought for the South in the Civil War and became a hunter/guide extraordinaire. “He’s reported to have killed more bear than Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone,” says Theodore Roosevelt Refuge Complex project leader Mike Rich. “I believe TR said that he was the best hunter he’d ever seen.”

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Last updated: September 21, 2016