This week, the Department of the Interior denied a request to build a road through remote wilderness areas of Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The nearby city of King Cove, Alaska (pop. 938) had been advocating building a road that would connect King Cove to Cold Bay, Alaska, a move conservation organizations feared would severely damage the refuge and set a horrible precedent for future wilderness refuge management decisions.
Our president, Jamie Rappaport Clark, had this to say about the decision:
“The Department of the Interior was faced with a very difficult decision to make on the proposed Izembek road, but ultimately it has made the correct one given the wildlife and wilderness resources at stake.
The proposed road would have significantly damaged an ecologically sensitive and critical part of the refuge that migratory species like the Pacific Black Brant depend upon. It also would have set a dangerous precedent for the future of wildlife refuge and wilderness area management across the country.
Secretary Salazar takes his responsibilities for the Alaskan Native community very seriously, but in this case he was not persuaded that building a road through a wilderness refuge was the best solution to a difficult problem. National wildlife refuges are special places we as a nation have set aside as safe havens for wildlife. The Interior department has made a responsible choice to protect the integrity of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and the wildlife refuge system as a whole.”
Want to learn more about how Defenders works to protect national wildlife refuges? Click here.
Over the years, Defenders has worked with numerous collaborators and experts to prevent and mitigate conflicts between humans and wildlife, particularly with predator species such as wolves, grizzly bears and panthers. Recently, Defenders hosted a policy forum in Washington, D.C. on the topic of coexistence to bring many of these partners together.
Opening remarks were delivered by Defenders president Jamie Rappaport Clark, who stressed that peaceful coexistence should be the new norm when it comes to living with predators, not the exception. And she praised the forum panelists for their pioneering work in making that happen.
Wolves are one of many animals that depend on coexistence efforts like those discussed during this forum.
Following a brief video produced by Defenders on helping people coexist with wildlife, a diverse panel of four experts from various fields and locations took turns discussing their coexistence work.
First up was Lawrence Schoen, a board member of the Blaine County Commission in south central Idaho. Schoen spoke about his involvement in Defenders’ Wood River Wolf Project, which uses a combination of deterrents and good old-fashioned foresight to keep nearby sheep separated from wolves in the area.
He was followed by Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, who spoke of his experiences with coexistence projects in Florida as “proactive, adaptive solutions” to human-panther conflicts.
Next up was Nancy Gloman, vice president of field conservation for Defenders of Wildlife, who reiterated the organization’s long-term vision of human populations as tolerant, appreciative and accepting of the wildlife around them.
And closing out the panel was David White, chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (a section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), who tied all the panelists remarks together by discussing coexistence efforts at the federal level. Some of NRCS’ landscape conservation initiatives include the protection of the sage grouse in key agriculture areas.
Defenders is committed to a collaborative approach to living with wildlife, and the variety of different perspectives that comes from experts like these panelists will go a long way towards bridging the gap between humans and wildlife.
The Department of the Interior may not be what one would call a higher power, but on September 14, they graced us all by designating the nation’s 558th National Wildlife Refuge Unit in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo —“blood of Christ” — Mountains.
Spanning throughout southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are known for breathtaking landscapes and abundant recreational opportunities. Numerous types of uncommon, region-specific wildlife also call the place home, including the Canada lynx, Gunnison sage grouse, Rio Grande cutthroat trout, and Lewis’ woodpecker.
The land was donated by conservationist Louis Bacon and encompasses 77,000 acres of his Trinchera Ranch property in the mountains. These acres, combined with the anticipated donation of his 90,000 acre Blanca Ranch later this year, will mark the largest private land donation ever received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The donation also represents an unusual three-way agreement between the federal government, a private land owner, and an environmental land trust (Colorado Open Lands, a local organization dedicated to land conservation). Under the agreement, the land will technically remain under Bacon’s ownership, but will have restrictions on development and increased habitat protections as overseen by the Fish and Wildlife Service as well as Colorado Open Lands.
So what does it all mean? Colorado now has 77,000 more acres that will be actively managed for the preservation of the wildlife and habitats within it. Further, it represents a level of cooperation between several organizations that is not about money or showmanship, but hopefully the increased preservation of diverse wildlife in an area filled with it. It represents a hope that separate parties with often disparate interests can work together to protect valuable land and the wildlife that goes along with it.
To learn more about the Department of the Interior’s establishment of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, please read their news release on the conservation announcement.
Canada lynx are highly elusive forest cats that can be found in what will be the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area.
A new report released today by the Environmental Working Group and Defenders highlights the massive wildlife habitat loss stemming from unlimited and unregulated crop insurance subsidies like the ones on the pending 2012 farm bill.
New research from the report indicates that, between 2008 and 2011, over 23 million acres of viable wildlife habitat were converted into cropland, particularly in areas of the Midwest and Great Plains. The loss of these wetlands and grasslands now pose a significant risk to the long-term survival of songbirds and waterfowl, as well as several at-risk species, such as swift fox, mountain plover, sage grouse, and lesser prairie chicken. The secondary pollution effects of crops in these areas with the use of chemicals and fertilizers has also been observed, leading scientists to worry that pressure on these species will only increase.
Much of the conversion from wildlife habitat to cropland has occurred as a result of crop insurance subsidies. Because these subsidies lower farmers’ risks of plowing crops in certain vulnerable wetlands and grasslands, they provide greater incentives for farmers to work there and eliminate prime areas of wildlife survival. Further, these crop insurance subsidies are not currently subject to payment limits and conservation requirements.
Sage grouse are one of countless species that rely on private farm land for their survival.
With the release of this report, Defenders and EWG are hoping to influence Congress to make changes in regards to adding conservation requirements as they prepare to outline legislation for the 2012 farm bill. New “conservation compliance” provisions could require growers to implement basic elements of environmental protection as part of an agreement to receive crop insurance subsidies. While there is much work still to be done, it is the hope that this report will highlight the vulnerability of wildlife and allow for genuine impacts on the upcoming farm bill.