Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Endangered Species Act’

Fight for the Flight: Monarch Butterfly Status Under Review

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

By: Julianne Maksym, Intern 


A monarch butterfly emerges from a chrysalis in the wild. (Courtesy: US Fish & Wildlife Service)

As the summer leaves turn brown and children head back to school, flutters of black and orange wings flitter through the skies over the beaches in Cape May. As part of its yearly migration from Canada to Mexico, the monarch butterfly passes through New Jersey in search of a warmer climate for the blistery cold winter months. Multiple generations make the trek, leaving in the fall and returning in late spring.

 

During the summer months, the monarch can be found throughout the United States where milkweed, the species’ host plant, is plentiful. Milkweed provides nutrients to hungry caterpillars as well as space for mature females to lay their eggs. Although an adult monarch may lay up to 500 eggs in its lifetime, it has now been discovered fewer and fewer butterflies make the migration each year.

 

Losses of habitat and milkweed plants, the insect’s sole food source, are having tremendously devastating effects. According to a petition from butterfly advocates, the North American population has declined by more than 90 percent based on comparisons of the most recent population size estimates to the 20-year average. Numbers of monarch butterflies east of the Rockies dropped to the lowest record ever, signifying a decline of more than 90% since 1995. Monarch numbers west of the Rockies showed a similar decline of more than 50% since 1997. These figures suggest a significant predicament as the North American population represents the vast majority of all monarchs in the world. Without it, the entire species is vulnerable to extinction.

 

On December 29th, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would be conducting a status review of the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has reason to believe a listing may be necessary due to considerable evidence from a petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Dr. Lincoln Brower. The petition stated that habitat destruction and loss of milkweed due to pesticide use are two of the most contributing factors to the declining monarch population. Other factors include disease and predation, overutilization for commercial purposes, and lack of existing conservation procedures.

 

To begin the status review, the Service is requesting scientific and commercial data and other information through a 60-day public information period. The Service is specifically seeking information regarding the following:

  • Subspecies’ biology, range and population trends, habitat requirements, genetics and taxonomy
  • Historical and current range, including distribution patterns
  • Historical and current population levels and current and projected trends;
  • Life history or behavior of the monarch butterfly that has not yet been documented
  • Thermo-tolerance range and microclimate requirements of the monarch butterfly
  • Past and ongoing conservation measures for the subspecies, its habitat or both
  • Factors that are the basis for making a listing determination under section 4(a) of the ESA

 

Starting on December 31, information can be submitted via www.regulations.gov by entering docket number FWS-R3-ES-2014-0056 in the search box and clicking on “Comment Now!” The information collection period will be open until March 2, 2015.

 

Until a decision has been made, take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is the monarch butterfly. Consider planting a few milkweed plants in your garden or speaking out against the overuse of pesticides. As much as the monarch butterfly’s migration is a group effort, the conservation of these beautiful creatures is even more so.

 

Julianne Maksym is a graduate wildlife intern for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Climate Change is Threatening the Existence of the World’s Most Amazing Bird

Monday, December 15th, 2014

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

The Rufa red knot (a shorebird) named "Moonbird," or "B95," photographed in a crowd of birds at Fortescue, NJ. Credit: Christophe Buidin.

The Rufa red knot (a shorebird) named “Moonbird,” or “B95,” photographed in a crowd of birds at Fortescue, NJ. Credit: Christophe Buidin.

“Moonbird is the most famous, charismatic member of a group of mid-sized shorebirds called Rufa red knots, whose numbers have plummeted so dramatically in the past several decades that they just became the first bird ever listed under the Endangered Species Act with climate change cited as a “primary threat.”

 

Rufa red knots are among the avian world’s most extreme long range flyers (especially in light of their relatively small size). They travel vast distances — some flying over 18,000 miles — in the course of an annual migration that begins in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and extends all the way up to the Canadian Arctic (and back again).

 

Which brings us to Moonbird’s distinction: Because he is so old — he is at least 21 — he is believed to have flown as many as 400,000 miles in his lifetime. The distance to the moon varies, depending on where it is in its orbit, but the average distance is about 237,000 miles. Thus, Moonbird has not only flown the distance it takes to reach the moon — he has also covered the bulk of the return voyage.

 

Assuming that Moonbird is still living — the last sighting was in May — there are reasons to wonder whether there will ever be another bird that is his equal. Why? Simply put, his subspecies has been devastated, and climate change will only make matters worse — making extreme survival of the sort that Moonbird has achieved that much more difficult.”

 

Washington Post Science and Environment Reporter Chris Mooney explores Moonbird’s journey, threats to the species, and the recent Endangered Species Act listing of the Rufa Red Knot:

 

Learn more:

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

Wildlife Beach Restoration Groups Applaud Endangered Species Act Designation for Red Knot

Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Shorebird now federally protected as threatened species under Endangered Species Act

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

A red knot in breeding plumage along the Delaware Bay. © Bill Dalton

A red knot in breeding plumage along the Delaware Bay. © Bill Dalton

Wildlife conservation organizations leading the efforts to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bay beaches for at-risk shorebirds today applauded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to designate the Red Knot, a migratory shorebird, as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. A “threatened” designation means a species is at risk of becoming endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

 

“This federal designation will make a big difference in strengthening the protections of this incredible shorebird,” said David Wheeler, Executive Director for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

“Here in New Jersey, we are restoring the vital beach habitat that had been decimated by Hurricane Sandy, and this designation ensures the safeguards we are providing can be complemented along the East Coast,” Wheeler added.

 

Since the 1980’s, the Knot’s population has fallen by about 75 percent in some key areas. Wildlife biologists believe the major threat to the Red Knot is the dramatic decline of horseshoe crab eggs, an essential food source at the most critical stop over during their 8,000 mile trip from southern wintering grounds to Arctic breeding territory. High-energy horseshoe crab eggs provide nourishment for Red Knots to refuel and continue their journey.

 

“This is an important and needed step in the conservation and recovery of the Red Knot. It is an essential step in preventing the extinction of this amazing long distance traveler,” stated Tim Dillingham, Executive Director for American Littoral Society.

 

The largest concentration of Red Knots is found in May in the Delaware Bayshore of New Jersey and Delaware, where the shorebirds stop to gorge themselves on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs. In just a few days, the birds nearly double their weight to prepare for the final leg of their long journey.

 

“The major decline of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay is one of the largest threats to the survival of the shorebird,” explained Dr. Larry Niles, a biologist who leads the beach restoration efforts for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and American Littoral Society, and has studied Red Knots for three decades. “Agency groups have been working hard for the last two years, and will continue for the next two years going forward to rebuild the habitat damaged by Hurricane Sandy that the horseshoe crabs rely on. This work is integral to the recovery of the Red Knot and the shorebird’s best hope for survival.”

 

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the New Jersey Recovery Fund to remove 8,000 tons of debris and added 45,000 tons of sand to the beaches just before the annual spring arrival of the Red Knot in 2013.

 

Learn More:

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Help Northern Long-Eared Bats Become Listed as Endangered Species

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Photo Credit: MacKenzie Hall

Photo Credit: MacKenzie Hall

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the public comment period on a proposal to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Comments will be accepted through Thursday, December 18, 2014.

 

The public is invited to submit comments one of two ways:

(1)  Electronically:  Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov.  In the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS–R5–ES–2011–0024. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”

(2)  By hard copy:  Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:  Public Comments Processing, Attn:  FWS–R5–ES–2011–0024; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

During the previous comment period, from June 30 to August 29, 2014, USFWS received over 65,800 comments on this issue!

 

Why is it so important?

The Northern Long Eared Bat, like many other bat species in the United States, is in danger of extinction due to White-Nose Syndrome, impacts to hibernacula, summer habitat loss and wind farm operation. Listing a species as endangered, under the protections of the Act, increases the priority of the species for funds, grants, and recovery opportunities.

 

How Else Can You Help Protect Northern Long-Eared Bats?
These tips were pulled from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Northern Long-Eared Bat Fact Sheet:

  • Do Not Disturb Hibernating Bats
  • Leave Dead and Dying Trees Standing: Where possible and not a safety hazard, leave dead or dying trees on your property. Northern long-eared bats and many other animals use these trees.
  • Install a Bat Box: Dead and dying trees are usually not left standing, so trees suitable for roosting may be in short supply and bat boxes can provide additional roost sites.

 

Learn more:

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.