Nearly 50 percent of Britain’s butterfly species could disappear

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | May 27, 2022

Britain could see a drastic drop in its butterfly species soon.

24 out of 58 species in the country are at risk of going extinct according to a new report by Butterfly Conservation. The BBC reported there are five more species on the list than the last time data was compiled 11 years ago. Adonis Blue butterflies were recategorized this year to be more threatened. Swallowtails are also more at risk than in 2011. Wood Whites were moved to the endangered category, while groups attempt to save the British midland insects.

Large Heath butterflies are affected by climate change, according to the new report. As the northern area of the country becomes cooler and damper over time, butterflies in the area are more at risk of becoming endangered. The Large Heath joined the endangered list this week. The Scotch Argus can also be found in the northern portion of Britain and is now listed as vulnerable but not endangered.

Previous conservation work in Great Britain has, however, saved a few species. The Large Blue butterflies were declared extinct in the late 1970s, but are now being found in British grasslands. Colonies are thriving according to conservationists in the country. The Duke of Burgundy has now been found in southern Britain, where its caterpillars have more vegetation to eat.

Widespread lead poisoning found in bald eagles

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | February 17, 2022

New research from across the U.S. found many bald and golden eagles have lead poisoning.

The study examined 1,200 eagles from Alaska to Florida and found 46 percent of bald eagles and 47 percent of golden eagles had chronic lead poisoning. The eagles tested reside in 38 different states. According to the research, they are continually exposed to toxic heavy metals throughout their life spans.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Raptor Coordinator Brian Millsap coauthored the study. He said the research shows that “lead reduces the rate of population growth for both of these protected species.” While bald eagles were taken off the endangered species list in 2007 according to NBC News, Millsap said the golden eagle’s population is not as stable. He said the population could tip into overall decline due to the lead exposure.

The study is the first of its kind. Todd Katzner, a supervisory research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the study’s lead author, said the study illuminates how the lead in the environment can negatively impact eagles within the continent. The eight-year research project found lead can have lethal effects on the birds at a population level. The study suggests the exposure could impact the growth of both eagle species’ population moving forward.

Scientists believe lead can be entering the birds’ bodies via their food consumptions. The concentrations of lead spiked in the winter months, when it is harder for birds to find meals and eagles start to scavenge for meals for longer.

The lead exposure also leads to a reduced growth in bald eagles by nearly four percent.

Wolves to regain federal protection

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | February 11, 2022

Gray wolves will soon regain federal protections across the country following a district court ruling.

On Thursday Senior District Judge Jeffery S. White in northern California ruled a Trump-era decision to end protection of wolves did not adequately consider the threats still present to the species. Prior to the ruling, the Biden administration defended the policy decision in court. The New York Times reported the decision applies to 44 U.S. states. Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming’s wolves will remain unprotected, since the species lost protections before the Trump administration’s decision. New Mexico’s wolves, however, never lost protection because they are considered a separate population.

When wolves were formally removed from the endangered species list in October 2020, hunting increased sharply in various states. Wisconsin cut its wolf hunting season short because more than 200 wolves were killed in less than 60 hours. The state’s quota is 119. Wolves were one of the original species protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The protection of the animals, however, has remained controversial in the Western U.S. where some ranchers lose livestock to the predators.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland expressed concern for the population prior to the ruling, saying she was alarmed by the number of wolves being killed in an essay for USA Today.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing the decision from the court and the service’s conservation of wolves is expected to begin again soon.

More monarch butterflies are migrating this year

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | November 26, 2021

More monarch butterflies are migrating to the western U.S. as wintery weather appears in other parts of the country, a sign of habitat loss slowing.

In the past 20 years there has been a more than 80 percent drop in the amount of monarchs that migrate, according to the National Wildlife Federation in 2018. Others speculate the numbers have fallen more than 99 percent. Over a million butterflies used to make the trip in the late 1900s, but now only thousands make the trek. The numbers are picking up significantly in 2021, NPR reported, with more than 100,000 monarchs hitting California already.

The endangerment of monarchs has occurred over the past few years. National Geographic charges humans and man-made climate change as the reason why this is happening. There are projections for monarch numbers to drop drastically in the next 20 years, leading to definite extinction.

Increases in carbon dioxide levels impacts the growth of milkweed plants—monarchs only food source as caterpillars. The plants are becoming too toxic for the caterpillars to consume, so the insects die off before metamorphosis. Planting milkweed is a way to help save monarch butterflies from extinction alongside decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.

Another reason for this is monarchs are being shaped differently because of climate change. The wing size of the butterflies is changing. The mutation helps monarchs travel longer, but the lack of food could kill off the butterflies before the increased wingspan could help or harm the species.

The increase in monarchs migrating this year is a good sign, but it doesn’t take monarchs off the endangered species list yet.

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

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.


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

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

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