In what may be the single darkest day ever for U.S. national monuments and parks, “extreme politics” prevailed March 28 when the U.S. House of Representatives voted in support of H.R. 1459 (widely known as the “Anti-National Parks Bill”), according to the 950-member Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR).
If previous Presidents had been stripped of the 1906 Antiquities Act authority to create monuments, they would not have been able to preserve and protect key aspects of America, including what are now many national parks. Since President Teddy Roosevelt pushed for the passage of the Antiquities Act, it has been used on a bipartisan basis by 16 Presidents (eight Republicans and eight Democrats) to protect America’s most iconic natural, cultural, and historic places: the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, Acadia, Zion, Grand Teton, and Olympic National Parks. Half of our National Parks were originally protected using the Antiquities Act.
On behalf of CNPSR, Maureen Finnerty, the former superintendent of Everglades and Olympic National Parks, said: “For those of us who have worked for years to keep America’s national parks and monuments truly bipartisan and non-political, today’s vote is a tragic development. Now, our national parks and monuments are being treated as a political football that is being kicked around, for the sake of nothing more than crass political posturing.
The passage of H.R. 1459 marks a sad day for America. Proposed changes to the Antiquities Act are baseless, unwarranted and contrived strictly for political gain. The lawmakers in Washington who voted for this bill need to re-study American History 101 because many holding the reins of power have forgotten why our ancestors gave the White House powers to protect public lands.
Do the House Members who passed H.R. 1459 understand that a large majority of Americans want our government to continue to identify and protect National Parks and Monuments? The idea of a “public good” has been lost on these lawmakers. At no point over the past century have landmark laws established to protect the special historical places we cherish been more vulnerable to attack from inside our own government.
H.R. 1459 changes the ground rules for how the federal government will designate protected lands. The goal of bill sponsors is to have not more but less protection, less attention to places that are nationally significant resources and should be national monuments.
Today’s vote should be a wake-up call for voters. The Anti-Parks Bill is fundamentally un-American and constituents should think twice about electing people who take such a strong stance to deconstruct historic public policy that has served our country well.”
Every one of the Kansas U.S. Representatives voted to destroy the Antiquities Act. Although HR 1459 has language preventing the President from declaring private property as part of a National Monument, The Antiquities Act always limited establishment of National Monument only to property already owned by the Federal Government… just a red herring. For more about the Antiquities Act, from which National Monuments are established, is here…..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiquities_Act.
Got Barn Swallows plastering mud in the eaves? Perhaps a chubby dove is piling sticks in the window box or a pair of American Robins is scoping out the red maple for a nest site. Keeping an eye on nearby nests can make this spring a season of discovery for you and for scientists hoping to better understand nesting birds. Make this the season to join NestWatch, a citizen-science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
NestWatchers have been tracking trends in the nesting success of hundreds of species of birds across the country for nearly 50 years. Participating is easy: map any cup nest or birdhouse location on the NestWatch website at NestWatch.org. Report the species of nesting bird and the timing for how many eggs are laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many young leave the nest. Surprises may be in store as the lives of these feathered families unfold.
During the 2013 NestWatch season, participant Gerald Clark monitored a bluebird nest and noticed one egg was much larger than the others. At hatching time-twin bluebirds emerged!
“It’s the first report of twinning in Eastern Bluebirds,” says NestWatch project leader Robyn Bailey. “The finding was so notable that it was written up and published in a scientific journal. We learn new things all the time, even about a species as well studied as the Eastern Bluebird.”
Researchers are also asking NestWatchers to be on the look-out for nesting Eurasian Collared-Doves. The species was introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s, entered Florida in the 1980s, and then rapidly colonized most of North America, especially areas converted to agriculture and urban uses. More than 30 years later, scientists still know very little about their breeding habits in North America.
“We don’t know how often these doves nest in a single season and how successful they are,” says Bailey. “We’re interested in any possible effects on native species, especially other kinds of doves, so we’re asking anyone who finds a Eurasian Collared-Dove nest to report it to NestWatch.”
Monitor one nest or twenty – NestWatch can be a wonderful learning experience for the whole family. Sign up and learn more about how to find and observe nests atwww.NestWatch.org.
A new study (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159113005783)published in the scientific journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity documents what scientists describe as “remarkable” working memory performance reductions in seniors 65 and older that test positive for infection by the parasiteToxoplasma gondii. The parasite is believed to infect about one-third of the world’s population.
Special Rule Establishes Unprecedented Conservation Partnership with States to Provide Regulatory Certainty for Landowners and Businesses
Enables States to Maintain Lead Management for Conservation Efforts
In response to the rapid and severe decline of the lesser prairie-chicken, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the final listing of the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as well as a final special rule under section 4(d) of the ESA that will limit regulatory impacts on landowners and businesses from this listing. Under the law, a “threatened” listing means the species is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future; it is a step below “endangered” under the ESA and allows for more flexibility in how the Act’s protections are implemented.
In recognition of the significant and ongoing efforts of states and landowners to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken, this unprecedented use of a special 4(d) rule will allow the five range states to continue to manage conservation efforts for the species and avoid further regulation of activities such as oil and gas development and utility line maintenance that are covered under the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ (WAFWA) range-wide conservation plan. This range-wide conservation plan was developed by state wildlife agency experts in 2013 with input from a wide variety of stakeholders. The special rule also establishes that conservation practices carried out through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and through ongoing normal agricultural practices on existing cultivated land are all in compliance with the ESA and not subject to further regulation.
“The lesser prairie-chicken is in dire straits,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Our determination that it warrants listing as a threatened species with a special rule acknowledges the unprecedented partnership efforts and leadership of the five range states for management of the species. Working through the WAFWA range-wide conservation plan, the states remain in the driver’s seat for managing the species – more than has ever been done before – and participating landowners and developers are not impacted with additional regulatory requirements.”
The Service has considered the lesser prairie-chicken, a species of prairie grouse commonly recognized for its colorful spring mating display and stout build, to be a species in trouble for the past 15 years. Its population is in rapid decline, due largely to habitat loss and fragmentation and the ongoing drought in the southern Great Plains. Once abundant across much of the five range states ofTexas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, the lesser prairie-chicken’s historical range of native grasslands and prairies has been reduced by an estimated 84 percent. Last year, the range-wide population declined to a record low of 17,616 birds, an almost 50 percent reduction from the 2012 population estimate. The states’ conservation plan has a population goal of 67,000 birds range-wide.
“To date, we understand that oil and gas companies, ranchers and other landowners have signed up over 3 million acres of land for participation in the states’ range-wide conservation plan and the NRCS’ Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative,” said Ashe. “We expect these plans to work for business, landowners and the conservation of prairie-chickens.”
In addition to the range-wide conservation plan and the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative, a number of other on-the-ground programs have been implemented over the last decade across the bird’s five-state range to conserve and restore its habitat and improve its status. Key programs such as the USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program, the Bureau of Land Management’s New Mexico Candidate Conservation Agreement, the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, are engaging state and federal agencies, landowners and industry in these efforts.
Collectively, these programs – and in particular, the range-wide conservation plan – serve as a comprehensive framework within which conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken can be achieved. The various efforts are similar to a recovery plan, something that the Service normally prepares after a species’ listing. This early identification of a strategy to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken is likely to speed its eventual delisting.
However, threats impacting the species remain and are expected to continue into the future. After reviewing the best available science and on-the-ground conservation efforts focused on the species, the Service determined that the lesser prairie-chicken is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future and warrants listing as threatened under the ESA. The agency is under a court-ordered deadline to make a listing determination on the species by March 31.
The final rule to list the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened and the final special rule will publish in the Federal Register and will be effective 30 days after publication. Copies of the final rules may be found at the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov/southwest.