National Issues

Congress introduces historic fish and wildlife conservation funding legislation

Yesterday, July 6, Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (HR 5650). The legislation calls for annually dedicating $1.3 billion in existing revenue from the development of energy and mineral resources on federal lands and waters to proactive fish and wildlife conservation. The bill was prompted by the recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources.  The Panel released its recommendations in March 2016 at the National Press Club as part of the Teaming With Wildlife Fly-in.

The Young-Dingell bill proposes to invest new funding in the Wildlife Conservation Restoration program that was created in 2000 through the advocacy of the Teaming With Wildlife coalition. The program, which is part of the successful Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program, is designed to address the conservation needs of species that are not hunted or fished, including over 12,000 species identified in State Wildlife Action Plans as Species in Greatest Conservation Need. The program can also be used to support conservation education and wildlife-dependent recreation programs.

In the days ahead, members of the coalition will be launching a co-sponsor drive to secure bipartisan support for the bill and will be working with the Senate to introduce companion legislation.  The Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus and National Wildlife Federation, both members of the Teaming With Wildlife coalition played key roles in advancing House legislation. Watch for future updates on this important legislation and help spread the word by forwarding this update and using the hashtag #Funding4Wildlife on social media.

More Information:

Press Release

Blue Ribbon Panel Report 

Blue Ribbon Panel  Frequently Asked Questions

Teaming with Wildlife is a coalition of over 6,400 organizations supporting

Deciphering the mysterious decline of honey bees

Honey bees are still dying at troubling rates; a bee expert explains why.

By Elina El Niño

The Conversation

Honey bees are arguably our most important commercially available pollinator. They are responsible for pollinating numerous food plants that make our diets more exciting and nutritious, including many fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Beekeepers expect some of their bees to die off from season to season–typically, around 17 percent annually. But in recent years, losses have been more than twice as high.

As an extension apiculturist for the University of California Cooperative Extension, I talk to many people, from beekeepers and growers to members of the general public, about honey bees. Most of my audiences are concerned about how honey bee losses could affect the security of our food supply. While the massive and sudden colony collapses that occurred a decade ago have abated, honey bees are still dying at troubling rates. Laboratories like mine are working to understand the many factors stressing bees and develop strategies for protecting them.


Impacts of honey bee losses

In 2006 beekeepers in the United States reported that a mysterious affliction, dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), was causing widespread die-offs of bees. In colonies affected by CCD, adult workers completely disappeared, although plentiful brood (developing bees) and the queen remained. Beekeepers found no adult bees in and around the hives, and noted that pests and bees from neighboring hives did not immediately raid the affected hives, as might be expected.

Scientists now agree that CCD was likely caused by a combination of environmental and biological factors, but nothing specific has been confirmed or proven. CCD is no longer causing large-scale colony death in North America, but beekeepers all over the United States are still reporting troubling colony losses – as high as 45 percent annually.

While beekeepers can recoup their losses by making new colonies from existing ones, it is becoming increasingly costly to keep them going. They are using more inputs, such as supplemental food and parasite controls, which raises their operating costs. In turn, they have to charge growers higher prices for pollinating their crops.


Multiple stresses

Beekeepers’ biggest challenge today is probably Varroa destructor, an aptly named parasitic mite that we call the vampire of the bee world. Varroa feeds on hemolymph (the insect “blood”) of adult and developing honey bees. In the process it transmits pathogens and suppresses bees’ immune response. They are fairly large relative to bees: for perspective, imagine a parasite the size of a dinner plate feeding on you. And individual bees often are hosts to multiple mites.

Beekeepers often must use miticides to control Varroa. Miticides are designed specifically to control mites, but some widely used products have been shown to have negative effects on bees, such as physical abnormalities, atypical behavior and increased mortality rates. Other currently used commercial miticides have lost or are rapidly losing their efficacy because Varroa are developing resistance to them.

Our laboratory is evaluating several novel biopesticides for effectiveness against Varroa and safety to bees. These products are mostly plant-based, and are designed to be used as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) plan. IPM emphasizes prevention and monitoring of pests and using a range of control methods to minimize negative effects on the environment.

Another potential strategy is breeding Varroa-resistant bees. Our research explores biological processes that regulate the honey bee queen mating process. To breed pathogen- and parasite-resistant honey bee stock, we often need to use instrumental (artificial) insemination. We hope to help improve that process by understanding which seminal fluid proteins from male honey bees (drones) cause specific post-mating changes in queens, such as triggering egg-laying or contributing to queen bees’ longevity.

Honey bees also are exposed to viruses, bacterial diseases and fungi. For example, deformed wing virus (DWV) causes wing deformities that prevent bees from performing normal work functions such as foraging for food. Viruses have been implicated as an important factor in honey bee health declines, but we are just starting to understand how honey bees’ immune systems fight against them. We may be able to help strengthen bees’ immune responses by making diverse foraging resources, such as a variety of wildflowers, easily accessible.

Pesticide impacts

Questions about how pesticides affect honey bee health have spurred passionate debate. One key issue is whether neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that affect insects’ nervous systems, are causing widespread bee deaths. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing possible risks to pollinators from neonicotinoids. Its first results, released earlier this year, found that the pesticide imidacloprid can have negative effects when it is present at concentrations above thresholds that can sometimes be found in certain crops, including citrus and cotton.

There are many gaps in our knowledge about neonicotinoids and other types of pesticides. We have little understanding about the impacts of pesticide combinations and how they affect developing bees and other pollinators. To fill some of those gaps, our lab is testing combinations of various agriculturally important pesticides on adult worker survival and queen development.

Studies show that when bees have access to optimal nutrition, they are better able to deal with diseases and pesticides. But intensive farming and urbanization have reduced the amount of readily available forage that bees need to thrive. Research labs at UC-Davis and elsewhere are analyzing what types of flowering plants provide the best supplemental forage for bees. Growers can support bees by planting these species near their crops.


Be bee-friendly

Many people who are not beekeepers or growers want to know how they can help. One easy step is to grow forage plants, especially varieties that bloom at different times during the year. For suggestions, see our Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Plant List.

Second, reduce your pesticide use for gardening and landscaping, and follow guidelines to reduce bee exposure. Finally, you can support local beekeepers by buying their honey. Ultimately, however, making our society more pollinator-friendly will likely require some drastic and long-term changes in our environmental and agricultural practices.

Playa Recharge Summit provides answers to common questions

Playas are a major source of recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer, contributing up to 95 percent of inflow of water to the aquifer and improving the quality of that water. For those who may have doubts, it was confirmed by 14 playa experts who participated in Playa Lakes Joint Venture’s (PLJV) Playa Recharge Summit last November. The Summit was designed to get answers to questions often heard by those working in playa conservation: “How much groundwater recharge goes through playas?” “How long till the water reaches the aquifer?” and “Will that water benefit me directly?”

The scientists and researchers concurred that playas recharge the aquifer at the rates described in the USGS Recharge Rates and Chemistry Beneath Playas Literature Review (Gurdak and Roe, 2009), which is about 3 inches per year, on average. While they agreed that this rate was not fast enough to counter the amount of withdrawals due to irrigation agriculture, they also agreed that the amount of recharge could support a small family farm, a rainfed (or dryland) production system or a grazing system. They also recommended recharge through playas be incorporated into water conservation plans for municipalities that depend on the aquifer.

In addition, the benefit of a healthy playa —a playa with a grass buffer and no hydrological modifications such as pits or ditches — goes beyond simple recharge. The water that reaches the aquifer through playas is cleaner than water that enters through other channels, such as through upland soils or from around center pivot wells. Playas are wetlands and thus provide the same water cleaning services as other wetlands. Sediment, and the attached pesticide contaminants, are removed from water flowing overland through a grass buffer. After the water reaches the playa basin, denitrification occurs with the help of soil bacteria. The result is high quality water reaching the aquifer that can then be used by those living on the land.

As part of the Summit, a number of communication messages were discussed and vetted by the participants. PLJV then developed messaging that can be used by the Joint Venture partnership and those talking about playa conservation. The full report and a tip sheet on communicating about playas and recharge are available as part of PLJV’s Playas & Recharge Communications Kit. The downloadable zip file also includes the USGS Recharge Rates and Chemistry Beneath Playas Literature Review (both the executive summary and full report) and a Playas and Ogallala Aquifer fact sheet that can be printed and distributed.

The Playa Recharge Summit was funded in part by the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Participants included 14 scientists and researchers who study various aspects of playas — including hydrology, wildlife ecology, economics and communications.


Get Report & Communications Kit

U.S. won’t appeal court rulings on lesser prairie-chicken

Fish and Wildlife Service to reassess status of species

By The Associated Press

The U.S. government said May 11 that it won’t appeal recent court rulings in Texas that stripped the lesser prairie-chicken of federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The Fish and Wild Service said in an emailed statement that the Justice Department filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss its appeal of rulings in September 2015 and February 2016 by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. That court ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to make a proper evaluation of a conservation plan from affected states when the agency listed the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said despite seeking to drop the appeal, it “intends to reassess the status of the species based on the court’s ruling and the best available scientific data.”

“The USFWS will continue working with states, other federal agencies, and partners on efforts to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken across its range,” the statement said.

Oil and gas groups had opposed the threatened listing. The Permian Basin Petroleum Association said it would impede operations and cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars in oil and gas development in one of the country’s most prolific basins, the Permian Basin in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico.

The lesser prairie chicken’s Great Plains habitat has shrunk by more than 80 percent since the 1800s, and its population by 99 percent. It lives primarily in Kansas, but also in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado. About 95 percent of the bird’s range is on private lands.

In an effort to keep the bird off the endangered species list, the five states organized their own conservation program, offering economic incentives to landowners and companies that set aside land. Still, the Fish and Wildlife Service last year designated the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened, one step beneath endangered status. The classification means federal officials think the bird soon will be in danger of extinction.

Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who has long opposed listing the bird for federal protection, noted the Fish and Wildlife Service’s intention to reassess the bird’s status.

“We have certainly not seen the last of the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda,” Roberts said.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a lawsuit in 2014 seeking to force the federal government into more aggressive steps to preserve the lesser prairie chicken, said it was disappointed with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“My fear is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has gotten into the routine of bending over backward to do whatever conservative Western states want it to do to such a point that it cannot appeal court orders won by those states against it,” Kieran Suckling, executive director of the nonprofit environmental group, said.

He added that the agency’s statement that it will review the bird’s status is “just an excuse to pretend they’re still taking action” and that a review can take years and even decades.

Meyer warns against sales of public lands

Rick Olivo

Ashland Daily Press

The head of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation warned Wednesday that there is an increasingly strong movement in the United States to sell off federal lands such as National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, Bureau of Land Management lands and National Monuments.

According to WWF Executive Director George Meyer, while here has long been pressure from oil, gas and mining interests to wrest away control of federal lands, especially in the West, in the last few years, this effort has gained substantial support, becoming an issue in the presidential election campaign.

Meyer said the campaign has the support of the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and has even resulted in a current proposal to sell off the fourth most popular national wildlife refuge, Vieques, an unspoiled gem of sea and shoreland created from a former U.S. Navy Base and established in 2002. Located in Puerto Rico, a number of Congressional Republicans have advocated selling off the refuge for commercial development and using the proceeds to help pay off Puerto Rico’s $70 billion in debt.

Meyer also said, in a related matter, that House Committee on Natural Resources chairman Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican, has refused to allow a vote on renewal of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund uses royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to protect public lands and to promote outdoor recreation.

Meyer said the two issues should be of deep concern to Wisconsin residents who have drawn great benefits from both public lands and the Land and Water Conservation fund.

Meyer noted that the WWF was made up of 195 groups of sportsmen and women in the state, and is a part of the National Wildlife Federation.

“We are supporting them on this issue, but our citizens have a major interest on this issue,” he said.

Meyer recalled the “Sagebrush Rebellion” of the 1970s as one chapter of the effort to obtain control of federal lands, and said the presidential election has given the push to remove the lands from federal control and into private hands.

“Ted Cruz has put out an ad in Nevada very specifically saying he would sell off the federal lands,” Meyer. “His aides qualified that saying he would sell off all lands except for national parks and military reservations, but that leaves the refuges, monuments, forests to be sold off.”

He noted that when votes to sell off public lands have taken place in Congress, both Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and fellow Republican Seventh District Congressman Sean Duffy have voted in favor of the proposals.

“We are facing a very serious situation,” he said. “We are trying to get the word out to sportsmen and others, because this is bigger than sportsmen.”

Meyer said the federal lands are an important legacy for all of the citizens of the United States.

“The sale of federal lands in the West or in Puerto Rico would be a terrible precedent for the future potential sale of federal lands in Wisconsin,” Meyer said. “Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens and visiting tourists use federal lands in Wisconsin every year. Federal lands are a major component of Wisconsin’s economically important tourist industry.”

Closely related to this issue, Meyers said, was Congressman Bishop’s intransigence in refusing to allow the Land and Water Conservation Reauthorization Bill to come to a vote.

He noted that through another mechanism, the act has been reauthorized for three years.

“The senate has permanently reauthorized it, and now it’s got to go to the House of Representatives,” Meyer said. “That is where Congressman Duffy could really help out to get permanent reauthorization.”

Meyer noted that Duffy has not come forward with a position on the bill, and he urged Wisconsin residents to contact Duffy’s office, asking for his support.

“Senators (Ron) Johnson and (Tammy) Baldwin ultimately voted for it, and Congressman Duffy needs some encouragement,” he said.

Meyer emphasized that the Conservation Fund was not paid for by taxpayer dollars but by oil and gas royalty revenues.

“The principle of this is that U.S. citizens are selling off federal resources and the royalties form these sales are being plowed back into natural resources accessible to the public,” he said.

The payback to Wisconsin has been huge, Meyer said.

“Over the last five decades, Wisconsin has received $212 million that has been used for hundreds of state and local parks; and projects such as the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails, the St. Croix National Scenic River and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Funds from the Conservation Fund have also been used to support the Wisconsin Forest Legacy program that buys land from Wisconsin industrial forests seeking to sell their properties, as well as obtaining conservation and public access easements on more lands when they are transferred to other private companies.

“Wisconsin has received $21,500,000 for this purpose,” Meyer said. “It results in continued public land for recreational use, continued sustainable forestry practices and keeping these lands as working forests.”

Meyer called Wisconsin’s public lands vital to the state’s economy

“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that annually 2.9 million people participate in hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife watching and other recreational pursuits in the states, contributing $3.9 million to the state economy,” he said.

Meyer said that resolutions in support of retaining federal lands has passed at the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation’s annual meeting on April 8-9, while a resolution opposing the sale of federal public lands was easily adopted at the Dane County Conservation Congress’s April 11 annual meeting.

“It will pass the state meeting in a couple of weeks overwhelmingly,” Meyer predicted.

Blue Ribbon Panel: How to increase funds for State Fish & Wildlife Agencies

By Mike Toth

Field and Stream

For Dave Chanda, the bald eagle that he saw soaring over Pennsylvania Avenue when he arrived in Washington D.C. last week was symbolic of what he was in town to do.

And, he hoped, a good omen.

Chanda is the director of the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife. He’s also the current president of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, which works to collaboratively advance sound, science-based management on a national level. That objective includes working with legislators to enact conservation and management policies that benefit fish, wildlife, and habitat, and get funding to make that happen.

It all sounds a bit wonkish until you realize just how much of a conservation crisis the agencies are in, because of an acute lack of the funds they need to put toward the protection of fish, wildlife, and habitat. There’s nothing wonkish about watching a species of woodpecker or tortoise or trout disappear for good because you couldn’t afford to actively manage a species in decline.

That’s why Chanda’s bald eagle—a species that was brought back from near-extinction throughout much of its range—gave him hope.

Chanda was in D.C. to introduce the findings of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources. The panel, formed by AFWA and composed of 28 national business and conservation leaders who represented interests from Hess and Toyota to the National Wildlife Federation and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, met three times over the past year to figure out “a more sustainable funding approach to avert a fish and wildlife conservation crisis.”

In other words: How can we get more money to states so that they can pay for the programs that will save fish and wildlife for future generations?

The Third Part of the Triangle

State fish and wildlife agencies get some of their funding from the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts, those well-known excise taxes on hunting arms and ammo (P-R) and fishing tackle (D-J). What’s unique about these taxes is that they are self-imposed: hunters and anglers deliberately paying part of the cost to maintain the fish, wildlife, and habitat that are necessary to their sports.

But, as David Freudenthal, former Governor of Wyoming and National Co-Chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel, pointed out, “Money from the hook-and-bullet crowd is not enough anymore.”

The list of federally endangered and threatened species is at 1600 today, and many expect it to increase to thousands in the near future. When a species becomes listed, the financial impact to businesses, along with the cost of regulatory compliance, runs into the millions—and that’s not to mention yet another blow to our ecosystem.

“There are expectations by the public to look after non-game animals, but hunters and fishermen can’t pay for it all,” Freudenthal said. “Hunters tell me, ‘I’m buying a hunting tag for elk, but my money is going toward grizzly bears—a species that’s trying to eat the elk I want to hunt!’”

America has something to treasure, Freudenthal noted, and we need a way to protect it. “For example, the meadowlark is not a game species in Wyoming, but it’s the state bird, and people care about it,” he pointed out. “But nobody is paying a penny for the non-consumptive use of wildlife.”

According to the Blue Ribbon panel, the solution is this: Dedicate up to $1.3 billion every year from existing energy and mineral resource development revenues to funding for state fish and wildlife departments. That equates to 10 percent of the total $13 billion that is already collected from the sale of these non-renewable resources. The fund would be a permanent authorization, not an annual appropriation. Half would come from royalties and lease revenues collected on onshore energy and mineral development, the other half from offshore.


“In 1937, sportsmen said, ‘Let’s tax ourselves to save game,’” pointed out Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The P-R Act and D-J Act resulted.


“This funding is the third piece of the triangle.”


An Investment for the Future

It’s well documented that the outdoor industry, which is directly reliant on healthy fish and wildlife populations to succeed, generates $646 billion annually and supports more than 6 million jobs. At the same time, children are becoming increasingly disconnected from the outdoors, losing out on life-improving experiences and negatively impacting their well-being. And it’s largely up to the state agencies to provide that nature…which they increasingly can’t afford to do.

John Morris, Founder of Bass Pro Shops and Co-Chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel with Freudenthal, bluntly pointed this out. “I jumped at the chance to participate on the panel, because agencies are at a crossroads,” he said. “State agencies have an unbelievably important role. They’re being asked to do more and more, but they can’t rob from game species to maintain non-game species.”

Dave Chanda mentioned the recent successful attempt to keep greater sage-grouse off of the endangered species list. “The money raised for landscape-level conservation resulted in no SA listing for the sage-grouse,” he said, which prevented a tremendous loss of revenue resulting from a listing.

That’s why the bald eagle soaring over the nation’s capitol filled Chanda with such hope. Twenty years ago, there was one nesting pair left in New Jersey. Now there are 190 pairs and the species is no longer endangered—another example that on-the-ground conservation efforts and investments pay off.Learn more about the Blue Ribbon Panel report here and stay tuned for developments

After a year of pledges and promises, are we any closer to saving the Monarchs?

Thousands of acres of milkweed will be planted in the spring—but environmental groups say the focus on habitat isn’t enough.

By Willy Blackmore


With the White House’s Pollinator Research Action Plan and millions in donations and matching funds promised by the likes of Monsanto, 2015 was a landmark year for monarch butterfly conservation.

But with Friday’s news that Monsanto, DuPont, and the American Soybean Association—which are all tied to the drastic decline of monarch habitat across the U.S.—have signed on to yet another program promising to promote pollinator habitat conservation, you have to wonder what, beyond pledges and promises, is actually being done on the ground.

Much of the action that was promised last year—including the lofty White House goals to establish or improve 7 million acres of habitat and increase monarch populations to 225 million by 2020—will take time. Case in point: The first significant batch of habitat restoration projects that were awarded grants won’t be planted until this spring, and those plantings will take time to establish and mature. And environmental groups warn that habitat restoration won’t be enough to turn monarch populations around.

Still, grant money is making its way out into the world, and projects ranging from 10 to 10,000 acres in size have been funded across the country by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Monarch Joint Venture—three of the major groups facilitating the new national push on pollinator issues. All told, the various habitat restoration programs the three groups have funded amount to around 70,000 acres of new or improved habitat across the U.S.—from the Driftless Area along the Mississippi River in Iowa and Illinois to recent burn areas in California’s San Bernardino National Forest. With matching funds included, NFWF said the 22 projects it awarded grants to in 2015 will amount to just over $10 million in “total on-the-ground impact,” or, in other words, a whole lot of milkweed seed.

But planting more milkweed won’t necessarily offset what’s been lost over the past two decades, which have seen monarch populations drop from 1 billion butterflies down to fewer than 60 million. “There are myriad problems facing pollinators,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. And while she readily acknowledges that lack of habitat is one of those problems, she’s less concerned with Monsanto’s conservation efforts than one of its best-selling products.

“The science is clear,” she added. “Glyphosate is the leading cause of the monarch decline. And with nearly 300 million pounds of it drenching soils in the U.S. and killing milkweed each year,” even the newly recharged efforts to restore and improve habitat won’t be able to make up the difference.

Monarch populations peaked in 1996, around the same time Roundup-ready varieties of corn, soy, and other commodity crops began to be widely adopted by American farmers. Prior to that shift, milkweed was able to grow rather benignly alongside the row crops that dominate agriculture along the Interstate 35 corridor, which cuts from Texas up through the Midwest to Duluth, Minnesota, more or less mirroring the primary monarch migration path. Milkweed is the only species of plant that female monarchs will lay their eggs on, and monarch caterpillars rely on it for food throughout the larval stage. In short, if there is no milkweed, there are no monarchs. Once farmers were able to spray all their Roundup-ready crops with glyphosate, killing weeds without killing, say, corn, American farmland suddenly stopped doubling as habitat for the butterflies. Currently, there are some 400 million acres of cropland in the United States.

There are other types of projects that have earned new grant money—programs focused on milkweed seed production, educational programs, and other conservation efforts that fall outside direct planting in areas historically frequented by the butterflies. Additional efforts are also being undertaken with the funding and support of other public and private organizations. In 2016, for example, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest $4 million across 10 states to provide food and habitat—or rather, a variety of wildflowers—for monarchs.

“Every little bit helps,” Burd said. “But on the large scale, if we’re going to be serious about recovering pollinators, then we have to address glyphosate use in this country.”

U.S. Senate committee approves top sportsmen’s priorities


Sportsmen contacts needed ASAP


By Sportsmen’s Alliance

On Jan. 20, the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill containing some of the top priorities of the hunting and fishing community.

S. 659, the second half of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2016, includes a key provision sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R- Montana) directing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List. Despite greatly exceeding population targets for delisting, anti-hunting groups successfully persuaded a federal judge to keep wolves protected. The amendment returning wolves to the state management, which has been advocated for and supported by the Alliance, passed on a voice vote.

The committee also rejected an attempt by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) that would have stripped language preventing the EPA from regulating lead in ammunition. Ammunition for hunting is already regulated at the state level, and by the Fish and Wildlife Service where appropriate. The amendment was defeated 9-11. Sen. Boxer also tried to remove language allowing polar bear trophies that were taken prior to their listing on the Endangered Species List from being brought into the United States. The amendment was rejected by the same 9-11 margin.

“This moves us one step closer to passage of the Sportsmen’s Act,” said Evan Heusinkveld, Sportsmen’s Alliance interim president and CEO. “These bills include the most critical items for the hunting and conservation community. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a hunting and conservation issue. We’re hopeful that the Senate will look past partisan differences and take up the full package in the near future.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D- New Jersey), also threatened to include a ban on trapping on the 150-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, but failed to attract support and ultimately withdrew the amendment.

The Senate will now take up the entire package. Included is a major priority of the Sportsmen’s Alliance known as “Open Until Closed.” For decades, anti-hunting organizations have used the courts to block the opening of public lands that could, and should be, open to hunting. Language in the Sportsmen’s Act would mandate that federal public Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Lands be open to hunting unless federal wildlife managers find cause to close them. The language will protect hunting and increase hunting access on millions of acres of public land.

Sen. Boxer, a regular opponent of pro-hunting measures, committed to publicly fight the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act on the floor, and is seeking to organize a filibuster. Sportsmen calls are needed immediately.


Take Action: Call both Senator Roberts ((202) 224-4774) and Senator Moran ((202) 224-6521) today. Ask them to support the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.

Monsanto sues to keep weed killer off California’s list of carcinogens

The state will soon require glyphosate to bear a warning label declaring that it’s known to cause cancer.

By Willy Blackmore


Monsanto has been on the defensive since last year’s announcement from the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm that its best-selling weed killer glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” That defense took a new step on Thursday, when the agrichemical giant took legal action in California to halt the state from adding glyphosate to a list of cancer-causing chemicals, based on WHO’s findings, under a law known as Proposition 65.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced in September that it would add glyphosate to the Prop. 65 list in light of the announcement from WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. On Thursday, Monsanto officially took legal issue with that plan, filing a lawsuit against OEHHA and Lauren Zeise, its acting director, in California state court seeking to block the move.

The lawsuit contends that listing glyphosate essentially outsources regulation to an “unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, and foreign body,” Reuters reported.

However, Prop. 65, which was passed as a ballot initiative in 1986, looks to scientific research, not federal regulators, when deciding what to include on the list. The language of the law itself reads, “State government agencies have failed to provide them [California residents] with adequate protection” from chemicals that can cause cancer or reproductive harm.

That’s not to say that Prop. 65 is a perfect system, and any observant California resident is accustomed to coming across signs that read “WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm” throughout daily life. If you’re driving into a parking garage, pumping gas, buying aspirin, or shopping for Chinese-style salted fish, there’s likely a warning posted somewhere. Some 900 chemicals are listed under Prop. 65. Even bacon, which the IARC also recently declared a carcinogen, could soon be labeled.

“Generally speaking, the lead agency in California takes the position that if IARC has listed a chemical as a human carcinogen, it has to be added to the Proposition 65 list,” Bruce Nye, a defense attorney who works with companies on Prop. 65 cases, told Capital Public Radio last year.

Apparently, that precedent did not factor into Monsanto’s legal calculations, which is not all that surprising—the company has vehemently defended glyphosate, which it sells under the brand name Roundup, against the IARC declaration.

“The IARC classification of glyphosate is inconsistent with the findings of regulatory bodies in the United States and around the world, and it is not a sound basis for any regulatory action,” Phil Miller, Monsanto’s vice president of regulatory affairs, told Reuters. One such finding could make California look hypocritical here: The OEHHA concluded in 2007 that glyphosate did not present a cancer risk.

Loss of Honey Bees


By Brad Guhr

Dyck Arboretum of the Plains

We are hearing a lot in the news about the loss of honey bees, which we know is a potential threat to our food systems. But before I address this topic further, allow me to say a bit about insect diversity. The world of flowering plants is diverse with an estimated 352,000 species worldwide, but its diversity pales in comparison with the insect world that is estimated to be 15 times more diverse, with a species count of somewhere around 5.5 million species. Approximately 20,000 new species of insects are discovered each year. It is estimated that we may currently know only about 20% of the world’s existing insects. I share this to say that topics related to insects are complex and that we are far from having all the answers about any topic related to pollinators.

Now, back to honey bees. A 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture report states that honey bee colony loss has experienced an eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent per year. Recognized factors for this decline include viruses and other pathogens, parasites, problems of nutrition from lack of diversity in pollen sources, and sublethal effects of pesticides combining to weaken and kill bee colonies. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a name that was given about ten years ago to this population loss that is often seen suddenly in bee hives.

Pesticide contamination, and specifically the group of neurotoxic insecticides called neonicotinoids, is coming under increased focus as a possible cause of CCD. The insecticide is applied to the seed coat of many common crops, taken up by plant roots, and translocated to all parts of the plant, including flowers and pollen. Neonicotinoid use in crop protection has increased dramatically in the last 20 years and significant financial investments have been made to implement this effective group of insecticides.

Whether or not neonicotinoids that are showing up in beehives are causing CCD is not something I can answer here. Some European countries think there is a connection and have begun to ban the use of neonicotinoids. The validity of the connection between neonicotinoids and CCD is a complex issue that can only be answered with unbiased, scientific research. If chemical producers feel strongly that neonicotinoids are not contributing to CCD, I think that they would want to be pouring money into reputable research to clear their products from blame.

The viability of natural ecosystems and healthy food systems relies on both native pollinators and honey bee populations. Local farmer and beekeeper, Deborah McSweeney, has invested significant time researching and living this topic and also knows a lot about bee population collapse. She will be the featured presenter next Tuesday evening, January 26 as part of Dyck Arboretum’ Winter Lecture Series. Join us to learn more about this topic.