Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Officials of Western states want to keep possibly endangered species off federal list; scientists say alternatives won't protect the animals

"Candidate conservation agreements" are plans to keep an animal or plant species from being placed on the federal endangered-species list to prevent restrictions on land use that includes habitat of the species. Keeping dwindling species off the endangered list through these agreements is a growing trend in the West, where the fate of more than 1,000 species will be decided by 2018 under settlements between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and two environmental groups, Joshua Zaffos of High Country News reports. (HCN photo by Noppadol Paothong: endangered-list candidate Gunnison sage grouse)

Fish and Wildlife had a backlog of species to be considered for listing, and WildEarth Gaurdians and the Center of Biological Diversity filed lawsuits and listing petitions to speed up the process. Those groups have agreed to curtail those after the agency agreed to process the backlog. Zaffos reports wildlife managers have to determine if the conservation agreements are "producing meaningful results" before the agreements between the agency and environmental groups can affect listings.

Scientists and environmentalists are questioning "on-the-ground benefits" of candidate conservation agreements, Zaffos reports. Some agreements require landowners and users to "continue current practices and preserve existing vacant habitat without trying to restore populations or address major threats," he writes. College of Idaho professor Eric Yensen told Zaffos the agreements can "prevent poisoning, shooting and similar responses," and ease reintroductions. But, they don't stop habitat loss or development, Yensen said. Despite that, Fish and Wildlife plans to extend conservation agreements, and is accepting public comment on the how to improve them through July. (Read more)

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