Written by Melanie Gade with contributions from Courtney Sexton and Haley McKey
The Future of Sage-Grouse is Still Uncertain
This week the federal government announced the conclusion of an unprecedented planning process to conserve the greater sage-grouse, an imperiled bird that occurs on more than 60 million acres of public land in the Sagebrush Sea. Citing this achievement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that the sage-grouse does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. Federal officials, western governors, and industry cheered the news. But the sage-grouse declined to join the party. While the government’s plans to protect sage-grouse will be a great step forward for wildlife in the Sagebrush Sea, they are too little too late. In fact, the plans don’t even include the steps that the agency’s own scientists said would be necessary to help sage-grouse recovery. The final plans fail to protect sage-grouse wintering areas, manage invasive species, shield sage-grouse breeding habitat from development disturbance, and address the effects of climate change on sagebrush habitat. Science must be the driver in wildlife conservation and public lands management.
The Unlikely Connection between Fruit and Bears
You may scratch your head at first and wonder why folks in Missoula would start a fruit exchange program in an effort to reduce human-bear conflicts. Turns out it’s not just humans that like apples and plums now and again, bears do too! Working with local residents, agencies and other organizations, Defenders is helping support a pilot project in Missoula, Montana called the “Missoula Valley Fruit Exchange.” Through Facebook, the project connects local residents who have a surplus of domestic fruit on their properties with other members of the community who want the fruit. This program encourages folks to pick their fruit and share it, instead of letting excess fruit stay on tress, which can lure bears into trouble. This pilot project was recently featured on local NBC news – check it out!
It’s Sea Otter Awareness Week!
This annual event highlights the vital role sea otters play in the California nearshore ecosystem. Each year, zoos, aquariums, filmmakers, researchers, educators and the public participate in various events, talks and activities highlighting sea otters, their natural history and the various conservation issues sea otters are faced with. Sea otters once numbered in the hundreds of thousands worldwide, but their population fell to a mere fraction of its former size due to the fur trade of the 1800s. Now protected under the endangered species act, sea otters are on the road to recovery, but still need their habitat protected from pollution, oil spills and more. Celebrate sea otters by learning about these fascinating marine mammals and how you can help them.
18th Florida Panther Death this Year
Sad news this week: A breeding female Florida panther became the 18th to die on Florida roadways in 2015. Known as FP219, this panther and her brother were orphaned at three months of age when their mother died of unknown causes. She was raised in captivity and successfully returned to the wild in January of 2013. She overcame these challenges and went on to have two litters of kittens before she died. Her death is a very sad ending to what was a fantastic success story for the Florida panther. This incident underscores a primary threat to panthers: road collisions are the leading cause of mortality for these unique big cats. Learn more here about what Defenders of Wildlife is doing to help panthers, including protecting and restoring habitat, helping people share the landscape with panthers and making roads safer for panthers and other wildlife to cross.
Calling All Seattleites! Please Join Us on October 7
If you’re in the Seattle area, please join us for an exciting evening at the Seattle Aquarium to learn about the intertwined fates of wild salmon and the orcas living off the coast of Washington and Oregon. This orca population — called the southern resident orca — faces several threats, the primary being a loss of their main food source: the Chinook salmon. Dams in the Columbia River Basin block hundreds of miles of salmon spawning habitat, and collectively the 400-plus dams in the Columbia River basin account for an estimated 80% decline in all salmon species in the watershed. This event will include discussions from distinguished authors, experts, and scientists about how we can work together to stop the decline of both species and support their recovery. Tickets are selling out quick, so get yours soon!