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Service Announces Public Scoping Process For American Electric Power’s Proposed Conservation Plan for the American Burying Beetle

Project Covers 62 Counties in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas

January 18, 2016

A black beetle with orange spots
American burying beetle. Photo by Lindsay Vivian, USFWS.

American Electric Power is developing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to address impacts to the endangered American burying beetle (ABB) that may result from the construction, operation and/or maintenance of electric transmission and distribution lines or other associated infrastructure in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. The draft HCP would accompany American Electric Power’s request for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) to evaluate the impacts associated with alternatives associated with issuing the ITP to American Electric Power. The Service’s dEIS will consider the proposed issuance of an Incidental Take Permit, supported by an HCP and a no action alternative. We are requesting public comment on the scope of the issues that the Service should consider in its environmental review of the proposed permit under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Service will use the comments as part of the development of the environmental review as required by NEPA.

In a race against extinction, rusty patched bumble bee is listed as endangered

First bumble bee protected under the Endangered Species Act

January 10, 2017

A yellow and black bumble bee perched on a white flower.
Rusty-patched Bumble bee (Bombus affinis). Photo by Dan Mullen, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Just 20 years ago, the rusty patched bumble bee was a common sight, so ordinary that it went almost unnoticed as it moved from flower to flower, collecting nectar and pollen. But the species, now balancing precariously on the brink of extinction, has become the first-ever bumble bee in the United States — and the first bee of any kind in the contiguous 48 states — to be declared endangered.

The endangered designation is made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act for species that are in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or a portion of their range. Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius said, “Our top priority is to act quickly to prevent extinction of the rusty patched bumble bee. Listing the bee as endangered will help us mobilize partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline.”

Once common and abundant across 28 states from Connecticut to South Dakota, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces, the rusty patched bumble bee has experienced a swift and dramatic decline since the late 1990s. Abundance of the rusty patched bumble bee has plummeted by 87 percent, leaving small, scattered populations in 13 states and one province.

Importance of Resilient Coastal Wetlands to Conservation, Recreation Economy and Coastal Communities Recognized by $17 Million in Grants to States

State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and tribes will contribute an additional $20 million

January 5, 2017

Coastal wetlands are under siege from both increased development and sea-level rise. Coastal wetland habitat conservation is critical to ensure that wildlife and coastal communities continue to thrive for future generations. Over $17 million will be awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to 20 projects in 10 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 13,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.

State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute over $20 million in additional funds to these projects, which protect, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats.

“Wetlands in coastal watersheds, including on national wildlife refuges, are diverse and complex ecosystems that are vital to the nation’s economy and an important part of the nation’s natural heritage. They provide crucial habitat, including breeding grounds, nurseries, shelter and food for fish, birds and other wildlife,” said National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Cynthia Martinez. “The pressure on wetlands is increasing from the demand for land and water, as well as from the effects of climate change, and it is vital that we protect them for future generations.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Proposals from States for 2017 Endangered Species Grants

January 3, 2016

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking proposals from states and U.S. territories for federal financial assistance for conservation activities that benefit the nation’s most imperiled species.

The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (CESCF), authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act, provides grants to support voluntary conservation projects for listed species and species that are candidates for listing. For fiscal year (FY) 2017, the President’s budget requested $53.495 million for CESCF. The actual amount of funding available is based on Congress passing a final appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior.

The Service is seeking proposals in three categories:

  • Recovery Land Acquisition Grants: provide funds for the acquisition of habitat in support of approved and draft species recovery plans.
  • Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants: provide funds to support the development of Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) that protect habitat for listed species while providing for economic growth and development.
  • HCP Land Acquisition Grants: provide funds to acquire habitat for listed species associated with HCPs.

A New Beginning: Puerto Rican parrots reintroduced into Maricao Commonwealth Forest

November 30, 2016

A biologist releases a colorful parrot with radio collar..
Puerto rican parrot flying. Photo by Jan Paul Zegarra, Biologist, USFWS.

Dawn breaks at the west-central mountain region (Cordillera Central) of the tropical island of Puerto Rico. The night dew clings to every surface on the forest floor and makes fern leaves glimmer. At the Maricao Commonwealth Forest, about 1,300 feet above sea level, tropical birds call to one another announcing a new day. Today marks a new beginning for a returning resident of the forest, the Puerto Rican parrot.

The Reina Mora (Puerto Rican spindalis) shakes its painted head as the Bienteveo (Puerto Rican vireo) stoops. A foraging San Pedrito (Puerto Rican tody) catches a cricket in mid-air and three people exit from behind a blind. They walk at snail pace toward a massive 16-foot tall, galvanized steel and wire mesh cage. Thirty-one parrots are about to be set free. About two dozen people are watching from behind the blind.

Why so much interest? The Puerto Rican parrot is an endemic species of Puerto Rico, and the only native parrot in the United States. Conservation professionals have been working toward the parrot’s reintroduction to the Maricao Forest for more than 40 years. This reintroduction begins a new chapter in the history of the Puerto Rican parrot recovery program. During pre-Columbian times the parrot was abundant, but through the years, deforestation, predation, diseases and poaching caused the population to crash. In the 1970’s, chicks and eggs were captured from the wild, and a collaborative effort between state and federal agencies began. Today, the population has more than 500 birds that are distributed among state and federal facilities and, until today, only two wild locations in the El Yunque National Forest and Rio Abajo Commonwealth Forest.

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Last updated: January 19, 2016