Drought Conditions at Lowest Point since Autumn 2010

usfs logoNationally, we are seeing extreme to exceptional (D3 to D4) drought conditions fall to their lowest point in more than 6 years.  Nowhere is that change more dramatic than in California.  The current (February 21, 2017) Drought Monitor for California notes the disappearance of D3/D4 from California.  At the California drought’s peak from August-October 2014, that percentage was nearly 82 percent.  As recently as early-December 2016, coverage of D3/D4 in California stood at 43 percent.

Forest Service, Sierra Nevada, snowpack, Drought

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Mexican Wolf Population Gains

mexican wolf

2016 Mexican wolf population survey reveals gains for experimental population

ALBUQUERQUE – The Mexican wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) completed the annual year­-end population survey, documenting a minimum of 113 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2016.  This compares with a minimum of 97 wild wolves in 2015.

“We are encouraged by these numbers, but these 2016 results demonstrate we are still not out of the woods with this experimental population and its anticipated contribution to Mexican wolf recovery,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle. “Our goal is to achieve an average annual growth rate of 10 percent in the Mexican wolf population.  Although there was a one-year population decline in 2015, due in part to a high level of mortality and a lower pup survival rate, there are now more Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona. The Service and our partners remain focused and committed to making this experimental population genetically healthy and robust so that it can contribute to recovery of the Mexican wolf in the future. We all understand the challenges we face as we try to increase the wild population of this endangered species."

Mexican Wolf, gray wolf

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Livers of the Rivers

texasmusselsProactive Stakeholder Collaboration Aims To Benefit Freshwater Mussels in Texas

Freshwater mussels may lack charisma, as they look like nothing more than rocks. But that belies the natural wonders of their life-history and their incredibly important role in the ecology of streams and the people and economies that rely on the same water. Work getting underway in Texas holds promise for mussels in most need.

On February 7, 2017, more than 100 stakeholders gathered in Austin, Texas, to hear from top State and Federal officials about research focused on four Central Texas freshwater mussel species considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA): the false spike, Texas fatmucket, Texas fawnsfoot, and the Texas pimpleback.  Glenn Hegar, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, recently awarded $2.3 million dollars to advance the scientific understanding of these mussel species given that conservation actions have the potential to affect the Texas economy.  These four species are unique to the Brazos, Colorado and Guadalupe River basins and lie in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s - Southwest Region’s East Texas-East Oklahoma Emphasis Area.

Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director for the Southwest Region, spoke at the gathering. He applauded the State’s mussel research program and a stakeholder process to be led by the Comptroller’s office that affords the opportunity to voluntarily conserve mussels and their habitats.  Dr. Tuggle highlighted two examples of prior success: In West Texas, stakeholders implemented a conservation plan for the dunes sagebrush lizard that kept it off the endangered species list. Secondly, the City of Georgetown, Texas, passed an ordinance to protect water quality for the Georgetown salamander that ultimately led to its listing as a threatened species rather than endangered.

USFWS, fresh water mussels

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Urban Forests and West Nile Virus

Since 1999, West Nile virus has spread throughout the U.S., frequently sickening and occasionally killing people. The virus has killed at least one person in every state in the conterminous U.S. “There are many risk factors for infection with West Nile virus,” says U.S. Forest Service research forester Wayne Zipperer. “However, risk factors are complicated and not well understood.”

Mosquitoes, such as this southern house mosquito, can become infected with West Nile virus. When the mosquito feeds on a human, the virus can be transmitted. Photo by Jim Gathany, CDC, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

urban forest, West Nile, mosquito

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House Introduces Stream Protection Rule Repeal Under the Congressional Review Act

house nrWASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH),  Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and David McKinley (R-WV) introduced H. J. Res. 38. This is a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act related to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (OSM) final Stream Protection Rule (SPR). During the rulemaking process, OSM shut out cooperative agencies – the states responsible for enforcing federal mining regulations – and ignored the existing regulatory success as the state and federal level.

water, Stream Protection Rule, Congressional Review Act

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