Endangered Species Roundup
This bird – also called a lesser prairie ‘chicken’ – is at the center of a dispute that revolves around its current status. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature calls the bird vulnerable, and now, efforts are in place to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to list it as an endangered or threatened species. This week the agency will hold a final set of public hearings to help decide whether or not the bird should be listed, E&E News reports, but in the meantime, oil, gas, and wind companies are trying to dissuade the Service from doing so. If the grouse becomes protected under a ‘threatened’ banner, it will force companies to stop or change their operations in the reduced grassland areas where the grouse exists. The energy producers say their individual efforts to conserve the prairie grouse will be enough; conservationists say that those plans will be difficult to enforce, and could leave the bird exposed.
The Disputed Birds
Some of the most interesting stories involve a bit of a tussle. Recently, birds have been at the center of the dramas playing out in the world of threatened and endangered species—probably less surprising when one considers bird advocates’ fervent passion for their feathered friends.
- Wood Stork
Should the wood stork—a bird said to be recovering well from its brush with extinction in the 1970s—be upgraded from an endangered species to a threatened one? That’s the peg in a debate around this leggy charmer. Wood storks were declared endangered in 1984, after years of wetland drainage and development around these areas threatened their key habitat. Since then, the number of mating pairs has risen from 5,000 mating pairs to 12,000 spread across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. But conservation groups—among them the Audubon Society—reckons that it’s too early to shift their status. The population at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in the Western Everglades, Florida, has traditionally housed the largest nesting colony of wood storks, but in recent years, the birds have failed to nest there, Audubon says. These and other signs suggest that the bird should stay within its ‘endangered’ designation, conservationists say—even though the FWS promises that an upgrade wouldn’t remove any protections for the bird.
- Golden eagles, whooping cranes, and piping plovers
The golden eagle only has endangered status in some states, though it’s protected nationwide. The FWS is now focusing attention on the bird’s plight after a drawn-out disagreement over the impact of wind farms. Recently, they submitted to the White House a proposed policy that provides detailed guidelines for wind farm developers to avoid siting and building their farms in ways that could damage golden eagle habitat or cause more collisions. It also details how developers can acquire ‘take’ permits—allowances that let wind farms legally ‘kill’ eagles by accidental collision or invasion, if certain conservation measures are in place. The policy comes at the end of a long process that has left developers wary. Most see the guidelines as an unnecessary obstacle in the way of their farms, with few benefits for the golden eagle to make up for it, E&E News reports.