Biden to Suspend Oil and Gas Leases in Alaskan Wildlife Refuge


Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | June 2, 2021

The Biden administration is suspending all oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in order to take a deeper look at the environmental impacts of drilling in the region, the Interior Department announced on Tuesday. 

The Refuge is a 1.6 million-acre stretch of tundra on Alaska’s North Slope and is home to endangered polar bears whose population have been in dramatic decline due to diminishing sea ice. The region also provides important calving habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd.

Under the Trump administration, the Bureau of Land Management began administering an oil and gas program in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. The opening of the coast to drilling signified the culmination of a four-decade-long effort by the oil industry to gain access to the refuge. The lease sale on January 6, 2021 resulted in 10-year leases on nine tracts covering more than 430,000 acres according to the Department of the Interior. Imposing more restrictions on development in the region or ending the leases altogether would undo a signature policy of the Trump administration. 

The suspension of the leases follows the Biden Administrations official review of the activity in the Refuge. The review found multiple defects in the Record of Decision supporting the leases, such as the lack of analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives and other legal deficiencies. The suspensions, notably, do not go as far as environmental groups might hope as they do not void the leases all together. However, the initial executive order to review the leases left open the possibility the department would establish a new environmental review process to address legal flaws in the program itself. 

On the Radio- Budget cuts for Australia’s Department of Environment and Energy


5930021422_f346dcb9fc_o
The melomys were the first mammalian extinction caused by global warming. (Alan C/flickr)

Eden DeWald | June 25, 2018

This week’s segment focuses on changes within the Australia Department of Environment and Energy.

Transcript:

Budget cuts threaten Australia’s ability to protect its endangered species.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Australia is home to over 7,000 native species, 506 of which are listed under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Australia’s Department of Environment and Energy is responsible for coming up with recovery plans for these endangered species, but federal budget cuts may hinder these plans.

The department is cutting up to sixty staff members, a move that draws concern from conservationists in Australia. Monitoring endangered species is an essential step in moving to protect them.

Endangered species that have a recovery plan fare better than ones that don’t. Biologist John Woinarski approved a recovery plan for the heavily endangered—and now extinct—Bramble Cay melomys, but the plan was never implemented. The melomys were the first mammalian extinction caused by global warming, and Australian environmentalists consider this to be a warning.

For more information, visit our website at iowa environmental focus dot org.

From the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

On the Radio: Iowa native species making a comeback


An osprey nest at a northwest Iowa nature center. (Evan Bornholtz/Flickr)
An osprey nest at a northwest Iowa nature center. (Evan Bornholtz/Flickr)

September 29, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at ongoing efforts by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to reintroduce the osprey, a native predatory bird, to Iowa. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

 

Transcript: Ospreys

An Iowa Department of Natural Resources program aims to increase populations of a native predatory bird throughout the state.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus

Six ospreys from Minnesota were relocated to Iowa this summer in an effort to increase nesting populations. Three of the six were released near Clear Lake in north central Iowa and the other three near Swan Lake in Carroll county. The Iowa DNR started the program in 1997 and since their first successful nesting in 2003 have produced 141 wild osprey at 78 different nests.

Ospreys are birds of prey that generally feed on fish and are known for the bone-crushing strength of their talons. These raptors can have wingspans of nearly six feet and within a lifespan can travel the equivalent of two and a half times around the globe.

For more information about ospreys, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://www.iowadnr.gov/insidednr/socialmediapressroom/newsreleases/vw/1/itemid/2087

http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/WildlifeStewardship/NonGameWildlife/DiversityProjects/OspreyRestoration.aspx

Endangered mussel may be making a comeback in the Iowa River


The Higgins' eye pearlymussel, an endangered species which was found in the Iowa River during this year's Mussel Blitz. (USFWSmidwest/Flickr)
The Higgins’ eye pearlymussel, an endangered species which was found in the Iowa River during this year’s Mussel Blitz. (USFWSmidwest/Flickr)

After a week of scouring along the Iowa River, researchers and volunteers from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources made promising findings regarding Iowa River’s mussel population, a critical indicator of the waterway’s aquatic health.

The experts found 20 different species during the 2014 Mussel Blitz, an annual research project to assess the health and diversity of Iowa’s mussels. Among them was the Higgins’ eye pearlymussel, an endangered species which was reintroduced to the river in 2003 by stocking fish with young specimens, at the time just the size of a grain of salt. Researchers found six adult Higgins’ eyes in the Iowa River during the Mussel Blitz, indicating that the species was able to mature in the waterway.

While mussels thrived in Iowa waterways for centuries, most have faced heavy setbacks due to damming, fluctuations in water levels and chemicals in the water. 43% of North America’s 300 mussel species are in danger of extinction, including 78 endangered or threatened species in the Midwest.

Since their primary threats are sedimentation and pollutants, mussels are important to Iowa’s waterways as indicators of aquatic health. Reproducing populations of mussels indicate good water quality and wildlife diversity, and mussels help purify the aquatic system by acting as natural filters. They’re also an important food source for otters, herons and some fish.

Endangered butterflies in Iowa


Photo by Roger Smith; Flickr

 

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, one-fourth of Iowa’s native butterflies are endangered, threatened, or are of special concern.

Head over to the Des Moines Register to read an excellent piece on our butterflies, and to find out what you can do to help.

Global Conservation Gathering to Take Place in Des Moines


Photo by wrightbrosfan; Flickr

The Blank Park Zoo has had a hand in aiding endangered species since 1997. The zoo is now gaining global attention as it hosts a conference that will gather conservation representatives from all over the world. Continue reading

Trumpeter swan population bounces back in Iowa


Photo by pmarkham, Flickr.

Trumpeter swans are making a comeback in Iowa. This species used to nest throughout our state, but hunting and wetland drainage for farming depleted their population.

Now, Iowa protects trumpeter swans from hunting, and wetland conservation efforts are restoring their natural habitat.

These efforts have resulted in about 50 nesting pairs of trumpeter swans in Iowa today – 15 years ago, there were no nesting pairs in our state.

Listen to a radio segment on the swans’ resurgence from Iowa Public Radio here.