Monthly Archives: November 2020

Conservation Updates

Eagle Audubon Society Conservation News

December 30, 2020

Below are two items of conservation interest. We hope to have more information in the near future to keep you informed, and who might be people to contact with your opinions.

EPA hands over wetlands permitting to Florida

Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida, December 17, 2020

Note: Eagle Audubon posted information on this previously when a decision was expected but not yet reached.

TALLAHASSEE — The U.S. Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday approved a plan to hand over federal permitting authority to Florida for projects that affect wetlands, a move immediately decried by environmentalists.

Supporters praised the action as helping reduce duplicative state and federal permitting and giving Florida more control over such decisions. Florida is only the third state, joining Michigan and New Jersey, that have received the authority, according to the EPA.

“Our waters and wetlands are critical to our economy and way of life in Florida. As such, it is important for the state to be in charge and take the lead in their protection,” state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein said in a statement released by the EPA. “We are pleased that with the assumption, Florida scientists and permitters will now be accountable for state and federal wetlands permits.”

But Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, and some environmental groups criticized the decision, saying it will reduce protections for wetlands. 

Federal officials say Monarch Butterflies qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act but they won’t get it this year.

By Morgan Greene, Chicago Tribune, December 16, 2020

Monarch butterflies are still many flights away from federal protection. The popular black and orange butterflies were determined to be warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act, but they’ll have to wait behind others with higher priority, according to a Tuesday decision from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Illinois’ state insect could be listed in the future. The wildlife service intends to propose listing the monarch as an endangered or threatened species in 2024, if the insect is still found to need protection. In the meantime, the monarch’s status will be reviewed each year and an emergency listing is also possible.

“It is never good news when we find that listing an animal or a plant is warranted,” said Charlie Wooley, the service’s regional director for the Great Lakes in a Tuesday news conference. “It means there are tough challenges ahead. But a little bit of a silver lining with monarchs is that all of the efforts to conserve the species across North America have made and continue to make a big difference. ”

Monarchs’ populations dropped by hundreds of millions in the last 25 years, according to the wildlife service’s species status assessment report. The eastern population in North America, which supports about 90% of the population globally, is measured by the area the migratory monarchs occupy across winter clusters. Populations dipped from about 384 million in 1996 to 60 million last year. In 2013, they hit a low of 14 million.

To survive, the paper-thin insects must withstand drought, severe storms and rising temperatures, all exacerbated by human-fueled climate change. Insecticides are also a threat, as well as loss of milkweed and habitat — from herbicides, the conversion of grasslands to agriculture use, development and logging.

In the coming years, monarchs are expected to be more vulnerable to “catastrophic events” like severe storms and exposure to higher temperatures.

A national, coordinated effort is what’s ultimately needed to protect monarchs, said Tara Cornelisse, a senior scientist with The Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned to have the monarch listed in 2014. Instead, the monarch is stuck in limbo.

“What we can do now is, unfortunately, we kind of just watch what happens,” Cornelisse said.

Significant recovery of the species isn’t expected, Cornelisse said, so there’s hope monarchs may still be listed — ideally before 2024. Forty-seven species have gone extinct while waiting for protection under the act, she said.