Saturday, December 24, 2016

163 new species discovered in in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam


Cool new species found. Klingon from the movie Star Trek is one of the 163 new species discovered recently in the Greater Mekong region, according to a report released today by World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The report, Species Oddity, documents the work of hundreds of scientists who discovered nine amphibians, 11 fish, 14 reptiles, 126 plants and three mammals in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

A rainbow-headed snake resembling David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character, a dragon-like lizard and a newt that looks like a
The discoveries also include a rare banana species from Thailand, a tiny frog from Cambodia and a gecko with pale blue spotted skin and piercing dark eyes that was found hiding among the remote mountains of Laos. This brings the total new species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians discovered in the region to 2,409 since WWF began compiling new species reports in 1997.
“The Greater Mekong region is a magnet for the world’s conservation scientists because of the incredible diversity of species that continue to be discovered here,” said Jimmy Borah, Wildlife Programme Manager for WWF-Greater Mekong. “These scientists, the unsung heroes of conservation, know they are racing against time to ensure that these newly discovered species are protected.”
Highlights of the report include:
• A rainbow-headed snake, Parafimbrios lao, that has been likened to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character. It was found among steep karst cliffs in Northern Laos and while originally thought to exist in only one location, it has since been seen in a second one, increasing its chances of survival.
• The Phuket Horned Tree Agamid, Acanthosaura phuketensis, has a fearsome set of horns on its head and spine and was found among the few remaining forest patches on the popular Thai tourist island of Phuket. It is threatened by rapid habitat loss and collection for the pet trade.
• A rare banana species discovered in Northern Thailand, Musa nanensis, is already considered critically endangered due to increasing deforestation and the fact that only a handful of individual plants have been seen. However, the recent discovery of another small population has given researchers hope for the species.
• A new frog species from Cambodia and Vietnam, Leptolalax isos, has a name that is about as long as its body. At 3 cm, this diminutive amphibian is threatened by some major forces – logging, agricultural expansion and hydroelectric projects.
• A newt discovered in Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province, Tylototriton anguliceps, has stunning red and black markings that resemble a Klingon from the movie Star Trek. Its porous skin makes it especially sensitive to pesticides, the main threat alongside deforestation of its habitat.
• A gecko discovered in the remote karst mountains of Laos by a team of scientists who often had to rely on water dripping off stalactites in caves. Gekko bonkowski i is believed the discovery may hold the key to understanding lizard evolution in the Annamite Mountain Range.
• A plant from the Chin Hills of North-western Myanmar that has two petal coverings (sepals) resembling mouse ears. Discovered on Mount Victoria, Impatiens kingdon-wardii is a reminder that Myanmar’s rich biodiversity needs protection as the country rapidly opens up to development.
• A bat, Murina kontumensis, found in the Central Highlands of Vietnam with thick and woolly fur on its head and forearms.
The Greater Mekong region is under intense development pressure from mines to roads to dams, threatening the survival of the natural landscapes that make it so unique. Poaching for bushmeat or the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade puts additional pressure on the region’s wildlife, meaning many species could be lost before they are even discovered.
“Many collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars or more for the rarest, most unique and most endangered species, often buying them at the region’s illegal wildlife markets, especially in the Golden Triangle region where China, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet,” Borah said. “To save them, it’s crucial that we improve enforcement against poaching and close illegal wildlife markets as well as the tiger and bear farms that openly flaunt wildlife laws.”
WWF recently launched an ambitious project to disrupt the trade by closing down the biggest markets in the Greater Mekong region. Working with partners and across borders, WWF will attempt to significantly reduce illegal trade in key threatened species such as elephants, tigers and rhinos by promoting species protection legislation, supporting effective transboundary cooperation and improving law enforcement effectiveness at key border crossings.
The full report can be seen at: http://www.panda.org/species_oddity

Friday, December 16, 2016

New job opportunities on public lands for young adults and veterns


Public-Private Funding Supports 21st Century Conservation Service Corps
 U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced more than $350,000 in funding to engage youth and veterans in hands-on conservation projects on public lands from Big Bend National Park in Texas to North Cascades National Park in Washington State. The grants are part of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), an ongoing national effort to prepare the next generation of outdoor stewards by training and employing thousands of America’s young adults to protect, restore and enhance our nation’s public lands and waters.

Secretary Jewell’s visit to Austin is part of her nationwide tour to highlight progress the nation has made during the last eight years in protecting our nation’s lands, waters and wildlife, including engaging the next generation. [See 15 inspiring moments of how Interior is connecting kids to nature across the country.] Jewell joined youth conservation corps members at the American YouthWorks headquarters to make the announcement – which includes $39,000 for the Texas Conservation Corps – and to hear directly from corps members on how their service has benefited them.

Jewell also announced that travel company Expedia is donating $50,000 in 2017 to fund firefighting crews comprised of returning veterans. Launched during the Obama Administration, the 21CSC has raised more than $20 million in donations since 2013 from businesses, foundations and federal agencies. Expedia joins companies like American Express, REI, The North Face, Thule, American Eagle Outfitters, CamelBak, Coca-Cola, The Campion Foundation, Backwoods, the Albertson Family Foundation and Youth Outdoor Legacy Fund in a national movement to invest in and help prepare future conservation leaders by providing meaningful and lasting opportunities to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors.

“Public-private partnerships are essential for developing meaningful and effective strategies to engage youth in service on public lands, from local city parks to the crown jewels of America’s National Park System,” said Secretary Jewell. “By employing young people to restore trails, remove invasive species, rehabilitate historic structures and more, they form lifelong connections to nature and each other, while improving communities where they play, learn, serve and work. Thanks to our many partners for their generous support and for joining us in investing in the next generation of public land stewards.”

The $350,000 in funds announced today will support conservation corps to do work in the following areas:
  • American YouthWorks ($39,000): Texas Conservation Corps in Big Bend National Park
  • Student Conservation Association ($115,000): Five years of funding for youth corps in Virgin Islands National Park
  • Conservation Legacy ($39,500): Tribal youth corps in Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the border of Utah and Arizona
  • EarthCorps ($44,864): Stewardship & maintenance in North Cascades National Park in Washington state
  • Kupu ($70,000): Kahakai National Historic Trail, Kalaupapa National Historic Park and FWS National Wildlife Refuges in the Hawaii
  • Team Rubicon ($50,000): Veteran firefighting crews on public lands through 2017
Through the 21CSC, thousands of young adults and veterans work on projects across America’s public lands, including maintaining campgrounds, preserving historic sites, monitoring water quality, building trails and more. From Denali to the Everglades, youth conservation corps members are gaining work experience, helping improve the visitor experience and mobilizing entire communities in the stewardship of our parks, refuges, waters and heritage.

Investments in conservation corps programs will continue well beyond 2017. The Interior Department has worked closely with the Department of Commerce to secure $8 million for these types of programs through the RESTORE Council. To date, $500,000 has been awarded to five tribal communities (Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and Seminole Tribe of Florida) in the Gulf region. Over the past three years, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Park Foundation have helped raise private funding for 21CSC projects. More than 76,000 young people have participated in projects between 2014-2016.

Austin, along with San Antonio and Houston, are also among the 51 cities selected as part of the Interior Department’s leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative connecting millions of young people to the outdoors. Local YMCAs are coordinating efforts in each city, and the YMCA of Austin will be receiving funding through 2017 to grow participation in conservation and recreation programs. Learn how some of the first cities are already making a difference in kids’ lives.

Let’s Move and the 21CSC are part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people to the outdoors. Other efforts include theEvery Kid in A Park program to provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year. Today, the White House Council on Environmental Quality alsoannounced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between all participating agencies to ensure this program will continue. These complement the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign celebrating this year’s centennial of the National Park System. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Climate change investigated as a human rights issue

First national human rights investigation into climate change impacts proceeds despite opposition from fossil fuel companies

Manila, 8 December 2016 – The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) today initiated the next steps in the world’s first-ever national investigation into human rights harms resulting from climate change (1), despite apparent opposition from some fossil fuel companies.

A legal petition submitted by 18 individuals and 14 organisations, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines), (collectively known as the “petitioners”) triggered the national inquiry. The petition implicates 47 investor-owned carbon producers including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Suncor, and ConocoPhillips.

The CHR announced that it will start holding public hearings from April 2017, which will be webcast due to the global significance and relevance for other countries. Commissioner Cadiz, who is leading the national inquiry, acknowledged that some 20 companies have responded to the Petition. He also mentioned that independent expert submissions have been received by the Commission. The Petitioners will be submitting a consolidated reply on February 14, 2017.

Petitioners welcomed the CHR’s announcement as indicative of its continued commitment to proceed with the unprecedented investigation in a transparent and inclusive way despite surmountable challenges presented by some of the corporate respondents. The action paves the way toward finding and documenting facts, educating the community, fostering dialogue, allowing for the exchange of information, and enabling mutual understanding among all stakeholders.

“As petitioners, we will continue to advocate for our demands, including an authoritative finding by the CHR that fossil fuel companies must respect human rights and outline steps that would shift their existing business practices away from further contributions to climate change and prevent human rights impacts” said Rose Trajano, Secretary General of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, one of the petitioning organisations.

In July, the CHR requested oil, coal, mining and cement companies to comment on or answer the human rights allegations made in the petition (2). The independent non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies to share their responses. Only 11 companies volunteered their positions, with some challenging the investigation (3).

“As long as companies and governments fail to act on climate change, every day is human rights day. Today, we got much closer to our aspiration of holding those most responsible for the climate crisis accountable, in order to prevent further harm,” said Yeb Sano, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and also one of the Petitioners

“Our call has been heeded. The CHR has shown its resolve to pursue this inquiry, and it gives us great hope and inspiration. The journey is still a long way to go, but the wheels of justice are turning forward. The reality of climate change and how it affects human rights has been put on the spotlight, and ultimately, when people stand together and rise above adversity, justice will prevail.”

The national inquiry is one of the many people-powered legal actions related to climate change initiated around the globe, from Indigenous Peoples in Canada, grandmothers in Switzerland, farmers from Peru and Pakistan, to youth in the United States and Norway, and Dutch and Belgian citizens (4). In each of these cases, people are pushing back using the power of the law, because governments and fossil fuel companies are failing to protect and respect human rights.

Call for USFWS to Develop Updated Red Wolf Recovery Plan

No Recovery Plan Dooms Rare Red Wolf


Washington, DC— (December 8, 2016) — Seven animal protection and conservation organizations issued a petition today to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) urging them to fulfill their obligation to develop an updated recovery plan for the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves. The petitioners include the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Species Coalition, South Florida Wildlands Association, Wild Earth Guardians, and the Wolf Conservation Center.

The petition requests that the USFWS revise its red wolf recovery plan—unchanged since its creation in 1990—to ensure it utilizes the best available science and complies with the Endangered Species Act. While some of the analysis and many of the identified conservation actions in the original red wolf recovery plan remain relevant today, the petitioners argue that circumstances have changed and much has been learned in the intervening years.

“Experts in red wolf ecology, genetics, and biology have published significant scientific research since the plan was created over a quarter century ago,” stated Tara Zuardo, AWI wildlife attorney. “An amended recovery plan based on the best available science is vital to ensure that red wolves survive in the wild.”

The petition includes information about threats to the red wolf and strategies the USFWS could use to address those threats. The petitioners advocated that the revised plan should:

  • reduce lethal and nonlethal removals of wolves from the wild population;
  • resume the use of the “placeholder program” (which releases sterilized coyotes to hold territories until red wolves move into the territory or are reintroduced) to diminish coyote-wolf gene introgression;
  • resume the use of the cross-pup fostering program as a way to increase the genetic diversity of the species;
  • utilize additional reintroduction sites to increase population size and expand wolf range; and
  • use outreach and education to garner support for wolves and end killings of red wolves.

“The red wolf is teetering on the brink of extinction but it can be saved by implementing a revised recovery plan,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A new recovery plan would serve as a road map, outlining all the necessary steps to ensure that future generations have a chance to see these beautiful wolves in the wild.”

The petitioners request a prompt response confirming that the DOI and USFWS have begun work on an updated plan for the red wolf, a timeline for completing the recovery planning process, and implementation of recovery strategies necessary for the species.

This petition comes on the heels of a letter issued yesterday to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, calling on her to override the USFWS’ recent decision to slash its recovery program for red wolves. The letter—issued by Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and eight other members of Congress—points out that the decision was made despite scientific consensus that red wolf recovery can succeed if the agency continues and amplifies its former efforts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New national wildlife refuge in New England: Great Thicket


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized the creation of Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge, dedicated to conserving and managing shrubland and young forests for wildlife in New England and eastern New York. The approval of the refuge marks a key step, enabling the Service to now work with willing and interested landowners to acquire land.

The nation’s newest wildlife refuge joins the largest network of lands in the nation dedicated to wildlife conservation, with 565 other national wildlife refuges – at least one refuge in every state – and other protected areas covering more than 150 million acres. A hundred years in the making, the refuge system is a network of habitats that benefits wildlife, provides unparalleled outdoor experiences for all Americans, and protects a healthy environment.

Since 2009, the Obama Administration has established 17 new national wildlife refuges, from the first urban refuge in the Southwest -- Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico -- to refuges that protect working lands and the important habitat of the tallgrass prairie of Kansas’ Flint Hills, the Dakota Grasslands, and the Everglades Headwaters.

“National wildlife refuges provide Americans with incredible opportunities to experience nature at its finest,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge will give New Englanders and New Yorkers the chance to conserve important habitat in the region, ensuring current and future generations can experience the rich variety of animals and plants that call these special places home.”

“The approval of Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge marks a milestone in an exemplary partnership with six state wildlife agencies and a foundation for working with local governments and others to explore conservation opportunities,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber. “Interested landowners now have a unique opportunity to leave a legacy of conservation and to contribute to a large-scale effort that will make a difference for American woodcock, New England cottontails, monarch butterflies and other wildlife.”

Over the past century, many shrublands and young forests across the Northeast have been cleared for development or have grown into mature forests. As this habitat has disappeared, populations of more than 65 songbirds, mammals, reptiles, pollinators and other wildlife that depend on it have fallen alarmingly.

Despite significant efforts by many agencies, organizations and landowners to manage existing lands, conservationists have determined that more permanently protected and managed land is needed to restore wildlife populations and return balance to northeast woodlands. Great Thicket NWR responds to that need to preserve and manage land to benefit shrubland-dependent wildlife, such as the ruffed grouse, golden-winged warbler, box and spotted turtles, whippoorwill, blue-winged warbler and Hessel’s hairstreak.

A key step in the formation of the refuge was the completion of the land protection plan and environmental assessment. The Service made the draft plan available for public review in early 2016, resulting in more than 6,000 comments – over 90 percent of which were supportive.
Now that the plan has been approved, the agency can begin working with willing and interested landowners in 10 target areas of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island to acquire up to 15,000 acres through various methods, including conservation easements, donations or fee-title acquisition. Current refuge staff would manage all acquired lands within existing resources.

This process is expected to take decades, as the Service will work strictly with willing sellers only and depends on funding availability to make purchases. Lands within an acquisition boundary would not become part of the refuge unless their owners sell or donate them to the Service; the boundary has no impact on how landowners can use their land or to whom they can sell.

Wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 2,100 types of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, including more than 380 threatened or endangered plants or animals. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as stops to rest and refuel on their journeys of thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes.

National wildlife refuges do not just provide a boost to wildlife. They are strong economic engines for local communities across the country and provide intrinsic value to all Americans. A 2013 national report, Banking on Nature, found that refuges pump $2.4 billion into the economy and support more than 35,000 jobs. They are also excellent venues to hunt, hike, bike, boat, observe wildlife and more.


The plan and all related documents – including all comments received and how they were addressed – are available at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/refuges/planning/lpp/greatthicketLPP.html.
Direct links to more resources:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Fourth graders get free one-year family pass to federal lands and waters


As part of President Obama’s commitment to protect our nation’s unique outdoor spaces and ensure that every American has the opportunity to visit and enjoy them, the Obama Administration today launched the second year of the Every Kid in a Park program, which gives fourth graders and their families free access to federal lands and waters nationwide for a full year. Watch a video with highlights from Every Kid in a Park from last year.

Fourth graders can visit the Every Kid in a Park website to obtain a free pass that provides access to federally managed lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries. The pass – which features a new design for this year’s students – is valid from September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017and grants free entry for fourth graders and up to three accompanying adults (or an entire non-commerical vehicle for drive-in parks) at more than 2,000 sites across the country.

“Over the past year, we have been able to introduce fourth graders and their families from all over the country to America's incredible national parks and public lands through the Every Kid in a Park initiative,” said Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “As we continue to build the next generation of outdoor stewards, we want to ensure that the pass inspires every American – kids, parents, students, teachers and more – to experience the incredible natural resources and historic sites that our country has to offer.”

“The Every Kid in a Park program is unlocking natural curiosity in children by encouraging them to explore our nation’s most spectacular places,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “We’re excited to welcome this year’s fourth graders and their families to our nation’s diverse parks, public lands and waters. From feeling the spray of a waterfall on their faces to peering at animals in their natural settings to understanding our rich history and culture, introducing children to their public lands can inspire a deep, lifelong connection to our country.”

The Every Kid in a Park program continues this year as a call to action for all children to experience America’s spectacular outdoors, rich history and culture. Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to outdoor spaces.

By introducing fourth graders to public lands in their backyards and beyond at an impressionable age, Every Kid in a Park is part of a multi-pronged approach to inspire the next generation to discover all that our nation’s public lands and waters have to offer, including opportunities to be active, spend time with friends and family, and serve as living classrooms to build critical skills.
Fourth graders can log onto the Every Kid website at www.everykidinapark.gov and complete a fun educational activity in order to obtain and print their pass. Students can also trade in their paper pass for a more durable pass at participating federal sites nationwide.

Visitors to the expanded website will find several new features this year. Educators and community leaders can access educational activities, field trip options, information and tools in English and Spanish, and have the ability to print passes for their classrooms. Parents can find additional links to plan trips to nearby public lands. The website also contains a toolkit with resources for planning field trips, along with an extended list of public lands and waters to consider for field trips.

The Every Kid in a Park program will continue each year with the new class of fourth graders. After 12 years, every school-age child in America will have had an opportunity to visit their public lands and waters for free, inspiring the next generation to be stewards of our nation’s shared natural and cultural heritage.

The Every Kid in a Park program is an Administration-wide effort between the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Army, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Education.

The program is part of an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to engage young people from all ages and all backgrounds with the great outdoors. This strategy includes the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, a bold national effort to put thousands of young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s public lands and waters. In addition, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative is committed to getting millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work in America’s great outdoors.

For more information, please visit www.everykidinapark.gov and follow the program on Twitter @everykidinaparkFacebookInstagram and YouTube.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mobile phones should be repairable/recyclable


 © Greenpeace / Alex Hofford
Greenpeace/ Alex Hofford 

Nearly half of consumers think manufacturers should be responsible for recycling mobile phones

Hong Kong, 15 August 2016 -  Consumers say mobile phone manufacturers are releasing too many new models, according to a survey Greenpeace East Asia commissioned across six countries. In all countries surveyed, consumers were most likely to say that mobile phone manufacturers should be responsible for providing people with the means to recycle their phones, while 4 in 5 surveyed said that it was important that a new smartphone can be easily repaired if damaged.

“The humble smartphone puts enormous strain on our environment from the moment they are produced - often with hazardous chemicals - to the moment they are disposed of in huge e-waste sites,” said Chih An Lee, Global IT Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

“Over half of respondents across the countries surveyed agree that manufacturers are releasing too many new models, many designed to only last a few years. In fact, most users actually want their phones to be more easily dismantled, repaired and recycled.”

Mobile phones are some of the most frequently replaced of all small electronics products. A United Nations University report in 2014 showed that up to 3 million metric tonnes of e-waste is generated from small IT products, such as mobile phones and personal computers. This represents a massive waste of resources and a source of contamination from hazardous chemicals.

Key findings from the survey:

  • Chinese (66%) and South Korean respondents (64%) are more likely to have ever had their phones repaired, compared to those in the US (28%) and Germany (23%).
  • Nearly half surveyed believe that mobile phone manufacturers should be most responsible for making recycling accessible. This sentiment was strongest in Germany (61%).
  • Except in Germany (86%), over 90% of respondents surveyed in all countries said that “designed to last” is an important feature of a new smartphone.
  • 4 in 5 respondents consider it important that a new smartphone is not produced using hazardous chemicals.
  • 4 in 5 respondents believe it is important for a new smartphone to be easily repaired if damaged.This rises to as high as 95% in China, 94% in Mexico and 92% in South Korea.
  • Apart from respondents in South Korea, the most common reason for replacing their last phone was the desire for a more up-to-date device.

“We believe true innovation means gadgets designed to last, to be repaired and recycled. It is time for tech leaders to rethink the way they make our electronics so that they are as innovative for our planet as they are for our lives,” said Lee.

“If tech brands want to lead us into the future, they need to move towards closed-loop production and embrace the circular economy; something that can be good for their profits, for people and for the planet.”

Greenpeace East Asia conducted the survey as part of its True Innovation campaign, which challenges the technology sector to embrace innovation to protect our environment and our future.

While US sentiments were not included in the survey, many in the US have the same concerns about ewaste.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

California island foxes populations grow: Delisted

Interior Announces Fastest Successful Recovery; Three Island Fox Subspecies Now Fully Delisted 

WASHINGTON – Representing the fastest successful recovery for any Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed mammal in the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced the final de-listing of three subspecies of island fox native to California’s Channel Islands. The removal of the San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Island fox subspecies from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife brings the total number of ESA de-listings due to recovery to 37, with 19 of those overseen by the Obama administration. In the Act’s 43-year history, more recoveries have been declared under the current Administration’s watch than all past Administrations combined.


“The Island Fox recovery is an incredible success story about the power of partnerships and the ability of collaborative conservation to correct course for a species on the brink of extinction,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who visited Channel Islands National Park in March with fourth graders participating in the Every Kid in a Park program to witness fox conservation efforts. “The Endangered Species Act is an effective tool to protect imperiled wildlife so future generations benefit from the same abundance and diversity of animals and plants we enjoy today. What happened in record time at Channel Islands National Park can serve as a model for partnership-driven conservation efforts across the country.”

In the late 1990s, endemic island fox populations on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina islands – four of the six Channel Islands they inhabit – plummeted by over 90 percent to catastrophic levels. At the low point, fox populations had dropped from 1,780 to only 15 individuals on Santa Rosa Island, from 450 to 15 on San Miguel Island, and from more than 1,400 to 55 on Santa Cruz Island. The decline was due primarily to predation by golden eagles (which had moved in to fill a niche in the ecosystem that had been vacated by loss of bald eagles due to the pesticide DDT) and a canine distemper outbreak on Santa Catalina Island.

Listing of the four Channel Island fox subspecies in 2004 stimulated a focused, partnership-driven conservation effort involving the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, Santa Catalina Island Conservancy and Institute for Wildlife Studies. Almost immediately, fox populations began to improve due to a variety of efforts including captive breeding programs and vaccinating foxes against canine distemper. Today the San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz island subspecies are fully recovered. The fourth subspecies, the Santa Catalina Island fox has now been down listed from endangered to threatened.

“It’s remarkable to think that in 2004, these foxes were given a 50 percent chance of going extinct in the next decade. Yet here we are today, declaring three of the four subspecies recovered and the fourth on its way,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “That’s the power of the ESA – not just to protect rare animals and plants on paper, but to drive focused conservation that gets dramatic results. More than 300 experts, non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies came together to not only prevent the extinction of Channel Island foxes, but to fully restore them in record time. That’s something to celebrate!”

“The decline of the island fox, one of America’s rarest mammals, was rapid and severe,” said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. “Captive rearing, an unprecedented emergency action was critical to saving the species. Efforts to restore balance to the island ecosystem ensured their survival.”

“The remarkably rapid recovery of the island fox shows the power of partnership, focus, and science,” said Scott Morrison, Director of Conservation Science at The Nature Conservancy. “Many aspects of this recovery effort – from its scientific rigor to the collaborative enterprise that drove it – can serve as model to advance conservation elsewhere.”

The partners embarked on an ambitious effort to restore balance to the island ecosystem, which included reestablishing bald eagles to their historic island territories, removing feral pigs, and relocating golden eagles to the mainland. Also at the core of the recovery was a captive breeding and release program, which reintroduced 226 foxes to the wild. Captive and wild foxes were also vaccinated to prevent the spread of canine distemper.

As of 2015, there were approximately 700 foxes on San Miguel Island, 1,200 on Santa Rosa Island, and 2,100 on Santa Cruz Island. The Santa Catalina Island population is estimated at around 1,800 foxes; however disease remains an ongoing threat to this subspecies.

In March of 2015, the Service collaborated with Channel Islands land managers and stakeholders to publish the final Recovery Plan for these island fox subspecies. This plan equips land managers with tried and true methods to protect island foxes into the future, including an epidemic response and golden eagle management strategy.

The final rule is available in the Federal Register Reading Room today under docket number FWS-R8-ES-2015-0170 and will officially publish on August 12, 2016.

The Endangered Species Act is an essential tool for conserving the nation’s most at-risk wildlife, as well as the land and water on which they depend for habitat. The ESA has prevented more than 99 percent of the species listed from going extinct, serving as the critical safety net for wildlife that Congress intended when it passed the law more than 40 years ago. In addition, the ESA has helped move many species from the brink of extinction to the path to recovery, including California condors, Florida panthers and whooping cranes. The Obama Administration has delisted more species due to recovery than any prior administration, including the Oregon Chub, Virginia northern flying squirrel, brown pelican and now three Channel Islands Fox subspecies.

Duck Stamps: Get your Duck Stamps

The new  Federal and Junior Duck Stamps  go on sale today.  -- a day that some hunters, birders, conservationists and stamp collectors loo...