U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopens comment period on proposal to list West Coast Fisher populations

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has reopened the comment period on a proposal to list the West Coast population of fisher as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service has also extended its deadline to make a final decision whether to list the species to April 7, 2016.

The Service is opening a 30-day public comment period to solicit additional information to more fully inform the final listing decision. Specifically, the agency is seeking additional information on threats to the fisher population.

The fisher is a large, stocky, dark brown member of the weasel family, and is related to the mink, otter and marten. About the size of a house cat, the fisher has a long bushy tail, short rounded ears, short legs, and a low-to-the-ground appearance.

During the reopened comment period, the Service seeks information related to toxicants and rodenticides used at marijuana grow sites, including law enforcement information on the scope and severity of this problem, and trend data related to the use of toxicants/rodenticides. Previously submitted comments are in the record and they do not need to be resubmitted.

The Service is also seeking additional information for West Coast fisher population surveys, which will help assess fisher distribution and population trends. The Service is particularly interested in the surveys in which no fishers were found.

Additional guidance on submitting public comments can be found in the Federal Register notice at https://www.federalregister.gov (search for key word “fisher”), or on the agency website at: http://www.fws.gov/cno/es/fisher/.

Comments and information can be submitted by one of the following methods:

• Electronically at http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R8–ES–2014–0041.  You may submit information by clicking on “Comment Now.”

• Paper copy, via the U.S. mail or hand delivery, to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R8–ES–2014–0041. Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/cno. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to Review Northern Spotted Owl Endangered Species Act Status

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is commencing an evaluation of the status of the northern spotted owl, as required under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
This review is the result of a petition to change the status of the owl from threatened to endangered. The review will also serve as the five-year review of the species as required under the ESA, and which was last completed in 2011. A five-year status review evaluates whether a federally protected species should remain listed, or if it meets the criteria for reclassification.

A petition from the Environmental Protection Information Center requested the northern spotted owl be reclassified from threatened to endangered under the ESA. The ensuing 90-day finding, which will publish in the Federal Register on April 10, determined the petition included substantial information that warrants further review, which automatically triggers a 12-month species review  The Service will not make any finding as to whether the status of the species has changed until after that review.

The population of the northern spotted owl, which is currently listed as threatened, is declining across most of the species’ range. The most recent available data on the owl report a 2.9 percent range-wide population decline per year, although declines as high as 5.9 percent per year have been observed in some areas.

The two main threats to the survival of the northern spotted owl are habitat loss and competition from barred owls.  Barred owls have spread westward, encroaching on spotted owl territories and out-competing them. While the Northwest Forest Plan has helped reduce habitat loss on federal lands since 1994, the threat from barred owls has intensified. Preliminary results from an experiment testing the effects of removing barred owls from select areas of northern spotted owl habitat show promise in benefitting northern spotted owls and will help inform this review.

“The best tools we have to prevent spotted owls from going extinct are continued habitat protection and barred owl management, both of which are recommended in the recovery plan,” said Paul Henson, Oregon State Supervisor for the Service. “On a positive note, the experimental removal of barred owls is showing real promise, with early reports indicating that spotted owl populations rebound when barred owl populations are reduced. Our review of the spotted owl will tell us whether current efforts to address threats are sufficient.”

The Service will use the best available scientific and commercial information, including data from the barred owl removal experiment, in the review. To assist in the review, the Service is requesting input from the public and scientific community, including information on biology, possible threats, population trends and habitat conditions for the species. Information can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, or by U.S. mail or hand delivery at Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R1–ES–2014–0061, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, Va. 22041-3803.

For more information on the northern spotted owl, visit http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=B08B.

Migratory fish return to Upper Elwha River for the first time in over a century

Thanks to a radiotracking program begun this spring, fisheries biologists confirmed yesterday that two radio tagged bull trout have migrated through Glines Canyon and are now upstream of the former Lake Mills in Rica Canyon.

Two other bull trout have also been detected above Glines Canyon, but were not located during the ground survey yesterday.  Biologists will use fixed-wing aircraft to conduct watershed-wide surveys this fall.

“To witness these first fish to migrate above Glines Canyon is both amazing and inspiring,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.  “We always knew the fish would return once the dams were removed – but these four fish passed through Glines Canyon even before the concrete was gone.”

Both of the fish currently in Rica Canyon were tagged earlier this summer at locations below the former Elwha dam site.

The radiotracking program is possible through partnerships with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington’s National Park Fund, allowing biologists to monitor the movements of radio-tagged salmonids in the Elwha River.

Each fish is equipped with a a uniquely coded radio transmitter that differentiates it from all other tagged fish. Radio signals from the tags are then detected by radio receivers and antennas.  Six telemetry stations were installed between the mouth of the river and just above the Glines Canyon dam site. These stations continually scan for and record data, documenting when individual fish pass by each station.  Biologists also manually track fish between Rica Canyon and the river mouth using handheld radio receivers and antennas

Eighty-seven anadromous fish have been radio-tagged so far.  Of that total, 13 bull trout, 2 winter steelhead, 5 Chinook and one sockeye salmon have been located above the old Elwha dam site.

More details on the migratory bull trout located above Glines Canyon yesterday.

  •      **  Fish #167 was captured and radiotagged on May 7 approximately 3.5 miles above the river’s mouth.  Before releasing the fish, biologists recorded its length as 19 inches.  This fish swam through the old Elwha dam site in late July and was detected above Glines Canyon in early August, before the last chunk of the dam was demolished on August 26.
  • ** Fish #200, measuring 20.5 inches, was radio-tagged on June 25 about a mile and a half upstream of the river’s mouth.  This fish swam past the Elwha dam site on July 20 and swam through Glines Canyon on August 24, just before the final blast.
  •      **  Bull trout are among the smallest of Pacific salmonids, and are federally listed as a threatened species.
  •      **  Rica Canyon is upstream of the former Lake Mills and begins about 2.5 miles above Glines Canyon.

Background and more information about the salmonid radiotracking program and Elwha River Restoration can be found at the Olympic National Park website: http://www.nps.gov/olym/naturescience/damremovalblog.htm

Washington’s Clean Boating Program wins $1.5 Million federal grant for waste pumpouts

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a $1.5 million grant to the Washington State Parks Department’s Clean Vessel Act (CVA) Program, which works in partnership with Washington Sea Grant to help marinas install and operate septic pumpout stations, educate marina owners and boaters about the importance of clean water and proper onboard sewage disposal, and distribute free adapter kits that make pumping easier and cleaner. The grant is one in a $16.1 million package awarded competitively to 21 states’ CVA programs. Washington, which has one of most active and innovative CVA programs, received the fifth-highest award.

“Clean water is a fundamental need for both people and wildlife, and a perfect example of how the fates of both are intertwined,” USFWS Director Dan Ashe said in announcing the grants. “Clean Vessel Act grants not only help ensure that clean drinking water, sustainable ecosystems and healthy recreational areas are accessible to the American people, they also provide a substantial economic benefit for local communities.”

This year those benefits will be especially directed to the San Juan Islands, which have rich marine habitats, heavy boating activity, and limited pumpout facilities, as well as South Puget Sound, Hood Canal and Lake Washington, longtime boating and water-quality hotspots. Washington State Parks is currently seeking sources for the 25 percent match required under the grants to fund a second pumpout boat on Lake Washington and a free pumpout service in the San Juans.

Clean Vessel Act funds come from manufacturer excise taxes on fishing tackle, import duties on recreational boats and fishing gear, and motorboat and small engine fuel taxes. Last year, Washington’s Clean Vessel Program diverted more than 5.6 million gallons of raw sewage that would otherwise have contaminated state waters, threatening fish, shellfish, and human health.

Washington Sea Grant and its partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S Power Squadron, have delivered hands-free pumpout adapters to more than 7,000 boaters. Sea Grant has also created a Google map showing all 146 CVA pumpout locations in Washington, available at www.pumpoutwashington.org.

Boaters, yacht clubs and other organizations that would like free pumpout adapters should contact Aaron Barnett at (206) 616-8929 or aaronb5@uw.edu.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife seeks comments on land acquisition proposals

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is inviting public comment through Jan. 31 on current proposals to acquire land for fish and wildlife habitat and public recreation.

Thirteen proposed land acquisitions, identified by the department as priorities for potential future funding, are currently available for review. To review the proposed acquisitions, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/acquisitions/ . Previous acquisitions and those already under way are not included on the webpage.

Written comments on the proposed acquisitions may be submitted via email to Lands@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Lauri Vigue, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

Clay Sprague, WDFW lands division manager, said the review process is designed to solicit public input on the proposals before the department seeks funding sources later this year.

“The webpage offers an opportunity to take a ‘virtual tour’ of our land-acquisition proposals, which we will be presenting at the state’s annual Land Acquisition Coordinating Forum in March,” Sprague said.

The statewide forum brings together state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, tribes, landowners and other citizens to share ideas about state land actions for habitat and recreation purposes. More information on the forum is available at http://www.rco.wa.gov/boards/hrlcg.shtml .

WDFW will seek potential funding for the current proposals from state and federal grants administered by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and the North American Wetland Conservation Act.

Sprague said land acquisition plays an essential role in meeting WDFW’s mandate to protect fish and wildlife, while also providing sustainable recreational and commercial opportunities.

“Our first responsibility is to safeguard the future of fish and wildlife in this state,” Sprague said. “With suitable habitat for many species in decline, land acquisitions are one tool we have to meet that responsibility.”

WDFW currently owns or manages about 900,000 acres in 33 wildlife areas, along with 700 public water-access sites. Those properties provide habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching opportunities that contribute significantly to the state’s economy each year.

In addition, public wildlife lands provide access to outdoor recreation for hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians, Sprague said.



Click on map for more information on each project proposal

©2009 ESRI, i-cubed, GeoEye


Army Corps of Engineers to begin annual dredging of Grays Harbor

View Larger Map

Corps officials worked with state and Federal agencies and Native American Nations to minimize harm to the aquatic ecosystem. They prepared a Biological Evaluation in accordance with the Endangered Species Act and Environmental Assessment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The officials assure full compliance with the acts prior to starting.

Potential dredging and disposal operations impacts are also avoided through implementation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-designated timing restrictions.

In addition to the environmental concerns, Corps proposed dredging is confined to removal of recently deposited sediments within the previously dredged channel. By limiting the dredging width and depth, any possible submerged cultural resources are not affected.

WDFW Land Acquisition Proposals Available Online

WDFW will seek funding for the current proposals from state and federal grants administered by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, the North American Wetland Conservation Act and the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation.

Quan said land acquisition plays an essential role in meeting WDFW’s legislative mandate to protect fish and wildlife, while also providing sustainable recreational and commercial opportunities. The proposed acquisitions described on the new webpage were developed by department staff and executive managers.

Our first responsibility is to safeguard the future of fish and wildlife in this state, with suitable habitat for many species in decline, land acquisitions are one tool we have to meet that responsibility. – Quan

WDFW currently owns or manages about 900,000 acres in 32 wildlife areas, along with 700 public water-access sites. Those properties provide habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching opportunities that contribute several billion dollars to the state’s economy each year.

In addition, public wildlife lands provide access to outdoor recreation for hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians, Quan said.

WDFW’s policy is to purchase land only from willing sellers. The department typically uses grant funding that limits purchase prices to fair-market value, as determined by a third-party appraisal.

Regardless of funding source, all land acquisitions proposed by WDFW must be approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the department.

Quan noted that WDFW is proposing only about half as many property acquisitions this year as it did during the previous two-year major funding cycle.

“Funding is tight, whether for land acquisition or operations and maintenance, so we really have to focus on those properties that provide the greatest benefits for fish and wildlife,” Quan said.

First Group of Endangered Butterflies Hatches in Prison

The partnership is coordinated by the Sustainable Prisons Project, a partnership between the Department of Corrections and The Evergreen State College that has made prison operations more cost efficient in addition to creating low-cost offender programs and jobs. The butterfly project is paid for almost entirely through grants.

“This program reinforces the value added by engaging a diversity of conservation partners in endangered species conservation,” said Linders.

The partnership also includes participation from The Oregon Zoo, JBLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Center for Natural Lands Management and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A Taylor's Checkerspot butterfly.

An offender working in the butterfly program.

An offender checks on the newly hatched Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies. 

By: Maria Peterson, Online Communications Specialist

Public comment sought on proposed land exchange between WDFW and WDNR

"This proposal continues our work with WDNR to more efficiently and effectively manage lands for wildlife that have been fragmented for more than a century," said Jennifer Quan, WDFW lands division manager.

WDFW and other agencies involved in the proposed land exchange are accepting comments on a joint Environmental Assessment document that addresses both state and federal regulatory requirements.

Because the proposed land exchange is administrative in nature, WDFW has proposed a determination of non-significance (DNS) in the Environmental Assessment under provisions of State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, which provided funding for some of the lands involved in the exchange, are also accepting public comments on the proposed action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

A copy of the joint Environmental Assessment, which includes a description and maps of the proposed land exchange, is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm .  Comments on the document can made through Dec. 16 on that webpage, by FAX (360-902-2946), or by postal mail to WDFW SEPA Desk, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

In the first phase of the land exchange, finalized in August, WDFW acquired 9,000 acres and WDNR acquired 5,100 acres.

Quan said much of the public land owned by the state in eastern Washington is arranged in a checkerboard pattern, due to the way lands were distributed after statehood in 1889. That left wildlife habitat fragmented, increasing both the cost and the difficulty of effectively managing those lands over the long term.

In one large area of central Washington, WDNR and WDFW own or manage every other square mile across a 170,000-acre landscape with different management goals and legal mandates.  Exchanging lands would allow each agency to better address its specific management goals without reducing the total amount of public land available for wildlife or recreation, Quan said. 

The primary benefits of the exchange would:

  • Protect and enhance habitat for big-game species (e.g. elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep), shrub-steppe species (e.g. sage grouse, sage thrasher, sage sparrow, Brewer’s sparrow), and forest species (e.g. goshawk, pileated woodpecker, white headed woodpecker, forest grouse).
  • Maintain public access and recreation on public lands.
  • Generate revenue for WDNR trust beneficiaries such as public schools.