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Friday, November 30, 2012

Bill Introduced to Protect Ohio River Basin from Asian Carp

U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) yesterday introduced a bipartisan bill to help prevent the invasion of Asian carp into the Ohio River basin.
Although several federal agencies have been combating Asian carp, none have been designated as the lead agency to coordinate the federal response with state and local partners in the Ohio and Upper Mississippi River basins.
The Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act would allow the federal government to build a more effective partnership with state and local entities fighting to end the spread of Asian carp. This bill would place the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in charge of coordinating a new federal multi-agency effort, which would include the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Army Corps of Engineers. This multi-agency effort would include providing technical assistance, best practices, and other support to state and local governments working to stop the spread of the Asian carp.
“Southwestern Pennsylvania’s iconic three rivers – the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio – are vital for both commerce and recreation. The spread of Asian carp in the Ohio River threatens this, and the federal government must act as a cooperative partner with state and local governments to stop this invasive species and protect the Ohio River basin’s ecosystem and economy. The Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act will help do just that, and I urge my colleagues to join us in defending the Ohio River basin against this invasive species,” Sen. Toomey said.
“The continued movement of Asian carp up the Ohio River could grind to a halt Ohio’s multi-million dollar fishing and boating industries,” Sen. Brown said. “The Ohio River basin remains dangerously vulnerable to an Asian carp invasion. The Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act is a bipartisan bill that would ensure a definitive plan to control and prevent Asian carp from entering streams and rivers in our state. We must move aggressively and quickly to protect our waterways.”
Sen. Toomey sent a letter to Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway in October, asking him to identify ways the federal government can work with states to combat the spread of Asian carp in the Ohio River. The full letter is available here.
Executive Director Arway thanked the senators for this bipartisan bill.
“The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission appreciates and applauds Sen. Toomey’s leadership in addressing the Asian carp invasion front on the Ohio River. Counties in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Great Lakes and Ohio River watersheds account for more than one-third of all fishing licenses and boat registrations sold in the commonwealth. As an Ohio River and Great Lakes state, we see the bill as complementary to efforts to keep Asian carp from entering Lake Erie by attacking the problem further downstream before the destructive fish get closer to potential pathways between the Ohio River and Great Lakes watersheds,” Executive Director Arway said.
Environmental and waterway organizations praised this effort to protect our waterways from this invasive species.
“We must preserve the rich resources of Pennsylvania, and we thank and support Sen. Toomey in this legislative effort to protect what belongs to the citizens and is in the public interest. Asian carp must be stopped before they decimate the biology of this great part of our state,” said R. John Dawes, executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.
“Asian carp infiltration up the Ohio River poses a serious threat to the aquatic life in some of our most invaluable waterways in Western Pennsylvania. Any efforts to more effectively combat these invasive species are very welcome and badly needed,” said Charles Bier, senior director of conservation science at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
“Pennsylvania Sea Grant applauds this important effort, and supports increased coordination among state and federal agencies to protect our waters from the spread of Asian carp. It is essential that states, beyond just those in the Great Lakes basin, receive the support and resources needed to battle this destructive invader. Without a well-coordinated approach, Asian carp, which can act like giant aquatic vacuum cleaners, threaten to transform the food web in our rivers, impacting both environmental and economic value, and potentially wiping out our most valuable native species,” said Sara Grisé, coastal outreach specialist for Pennsylvania Sea Grant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012



 Department of Environmental Protection to Assess Economic Impacts of Storm on Industry

The U.S. Department of Commerce approved Governor Christie’s request for a declaration of a federal fishery resource disaster as a result of the devastation to the commercial and recreational fishing industries caused by Hurricane Sandy.

“I sincerely thank Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank for acting swiftly to respond to my request for help for New Jersey’s fishing industries, which sustained serious losses during the storm,” Governor Christie said.  “My administration will be working closely with federal officials in assessing the extent of the storm’s economic impacts and in developing a response that will help the fishing industry in this time of great hardship.”

Sandy resulted in significant losses for the industry in New Jersey, damaging or destroying vessels, ports, facilities, and equipment. It also left coastal areas that the industry needs severely damaged or inaccessible. The Commerce Department’s declaration also applies to New York’s fishing industries, which also sustained heavy losses during the storm.

"We are taking action because of the storm's devastating impact on the people who live and work in coastal communities that were hit hard by Sandy,” said Acting Secretary Blank. “Many of these hardworking Americans depend on a robust fishing industry to support their families and local economies. This disaster declaration is part of a coordinated federal effort to help the region rebuild. The Obama Administration is committed to bringing all available resources to bear to support state and local partners as well as affected communities as recovery continues.”

A federal fishery disaster declaration triggers a federal economic transition program to provide disaster relief for impacted aspects of the industry, including commercial fishing operations, charter fishing operators, processors and owners of related fishery infrastructure affected by the disaster.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has already begun preliminary work to assess economic impacts of the storm to the industry and will be teaming up next week with officials from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to visit commercial and recreation fishing operations that were impacted. They will also be assessing the cascading impacts of storm had on other parts of the state’s economy that support the commercial and recreational fishing industries.

“Our fishing industries need our help recovering from the devastating affects of this natural disaster,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. “This formal disaster declaration is the first step in the road to recovery for industries that are important to the economy and identity of shore and to the entire state. We will continue to work closely with the industry as we work through this process.”

In 2011, New Jersey’s commercial fishing industry landed roughly 175 million pounds of seafood, generating over $1.3 billion in economic activity. The economic impact of recreational fishing also supports approximately 8,500 jobs and $1.4 billion in annual sales.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act authorizes the Commerce Secretary to declare a fishery resource disaster and a catastrophic regional fishery disaster, respectively, which allows Congress to appropriate federal relief funds for assistance to alleviate harm resulting from a natural disaster.

Upon appropriation of funds by Congress,  Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will work closely with members of Congress and the governors of impacted states to develop financial assistance plans to help coastal communities and the fishing industry. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Releases Annual List of Candidates for Endangered Species Act Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released its Candidate Notice of Review, a yearly appraisal of the current status of plants and animals considered candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Three species have been removed from candidate status, two have been added, and nine have a change in priority from the last review conducted in October of 2011.

There are now 192 species recognized by the Service as candidates for ESA protection, the lowest number in more than 12 years. This reduction reflects the Service’s successful efforts to implement a court-approved work plan that resolves a series of lawsuits concerning the agency’s ESA Listing Program. Since its implementation, this agreement has significantly reduced litigation-driven workloads and allowed the agency to protect 25 candidate species under the ESA, and propose protection for 91 candidate species.
The agreement will continue to allow the agency to focus its resources on the species most in need of the ESA’s protections over the next five years, said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.\

“We’re continuing to keep the commitments we made under this agreement, which has enabled us to be more efficient and effective in both protecting species under the ESA, as well as in working with our partners to recover species and get them off the list as soon as possible,” said Director Ashe. “Our ultimate goal is to have the smallest Candidate List possible, by addressing the needs of species before they require ESA protection and extending the ESA’s protections to species that truly need it.”

Ashe noted that the work plan will enable the agency to systematically review and address the needs of every species on the 2011 candidate list – a total of more than 250 unique species – over a period of six years to determine if they should be added to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

Candidate species are plants and animals for which the Service has enough information on their status and the threats they face to propose them as threatened or endangered, but developing a proposed listing rule is precluded by the need to address other higher priority listing actions. Candidate species do not receive protection under the ESA, although the Service works to conserve them. The annual review and identification of candidate species provides landowners and resource managers notice of species in need of conservation, allowing them to address threats and work to preclude the need to list the species. The Service is currently working with landowners and partners to implement voluntary conservation agreements covering 5 million acres of habitat for more than 130 candidate species.

Today’s notice identifies two new candidate species: Peñasco least chipmunk (Sacramento and White Mountains, New Mexico) and Cumberland arrow darter (Kentucky and Tennessee). All candidates are assigned a listing priority number based on the magnitude and imminence of the threats they face. When adding species to the list of threatened or endangered species, the Service addresses species with the highest listing priority first. The nine changes in priority announced in today’s notice are based on new information in the updated assessments of continuing candidates. These changes include five species that increased in priority and four that lowered in priority.

The three species removed from the candidate list include elongate mud meadow springsnail, Christ’s paintbrush, and bog asphodel. Based on protections for almost all sites, the identification of additional sites, and updated information on threats, the bog asphodel no longer needs the protection of the ESA. The removal of the springsnail and paintbrush is based on the successful conservation efforts by other federal agencies. Efforts by the Bureau of Land Management for the springsnail fully addressed the threats from recreational and livestock use of the springs where the snail exists. Also, three additional populations of the springsnail have been discovered, making this species less vulnerable to random, naturally occurring events than previously thought.  For Christ’s paintbrush, the U.S. Forest Service has successfully implemented numerous conservation actions that have ameliorated most of the previously known threats and established long-term monitoring programs to document their effectiveness on conservation actions. There is a long-term commitment by the Forest Service, through a 2005 Candidate Conservation Agreement and 2012 Memorandum of Agreement with the Service, to continue to implement conservation actions for this species.

The Service is soliciting additional information on the candidate species, as well as information on other species that may warrant protection under the ESA. This information will be valuable in preparing listing documents and future revisions or supplements to the candidate notice of review.

The Service also has multiple tools for protecting candidate species and their habitats, including a grants program that funds conservation projects by private landowners, states and territories. In addition, the Service can enter into Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs), formal agreements between the Service and one or more public or private parties to address the conservation needs of proposed or candidate species, or species likely to become candidates, before they actually become listed as endangered or threatened. CCA participants voluntarily commit to implementing specific actions removing or reducing the threats to these species, thereby contributing to stabilizing or restoring the species. Through 110 CCAs, habitat for more than 100 species is managed on federal, state, local agency, tribal and private lands; many CAAs have multiple cooperators focusing conservation actions in an area supporting a single or multiple species.

Another similar tool is the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAAs). While these voluntary agreements are only between the Service and non-Federal landowners, they have the same goals as CCAs in addressing threats to candidate species, but with additional incentives for conservation actions on non-Federal lands. More than 71 landowners in 18 states have enrolled in CCAAs that cover over 1 million acres of habitat for 41 species.

The complete notice and list of proposed and candidate species appears in the Federal Register and can be found online at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/cnor.html. 

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 www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.