Lobbyist-fueled Lizard Monitoring in Texas

dunes sagebrush lizard“Comptroller Susan Combs’ office, of course, knows doodly squat about lizards,” says a Houston Chronicle editorial on the dunes sagebrush lizard, federally listed as a threatened species. The problem is that the Texas state comptroller’s office is in charge of monitoring the lizard population to make sure the stipulations of a free-market habitat conservation plan are being obeyed.

State law forbids the US Fish and Wildlife Service from so much as reviewing the state contractor’s paperwork, an August article in the Chronicle reported. Even stranger, the editorial reports, the comptroller’s office keeps the identities of the landowners participating in the habitat enhancement program a secret.

And of course, because this is Texas, the editorial mentions that independent oil producers are worried that the lobbyist group monitoring the lizards will favor large producers over the independents.

Read the whole editorial in the Houston Chronicle, here.
Read the news article about the lizard monitoring, in the Chronicle’s oil industry news section, here.

Photo: Dunes sagebrush lizard, courtesy USFWS

Smoothing Ruffled Feathers

It took a long time to sort out, but this week the the federal Justice Department clarified its stand on native people possessing eagle feathers. The policy said that tribal members can possesses or wear feathers from bald or golden eagles. They can also lend, give or trade the feathers or bird parts to other tribal members, as long as money doesn’t change hands.

Further, tribal members can keep eagle feathers that they pick up off the ground, but they can’t kill or harass the federally protected birds to get the feathers. There’s a federal depository for eagles that were accidentally killed, and tribal members can apply to receive feathers or parts from the repository for ceremonial purposes.

The US Fish and Wildlife department also issues a few permits for tribal members to kill eagles for religious purposes.

The Summit County Citizens Voice was the article getting all the buzz. Read the article, here.
You can also check out the Washington Post‘s take on the issue, here.

But now that we have eagle situation solved, other migratory birds are an issue. An Alaskan man was stunned to find out that selling items decorated with bird feathers is illegal, the Anchorage Daily News reports. As a member of the Tlingit nation, he felt that he was just doing what his people had done for generations. He settled the case for a $2,005 fine.

Unfortunately, the article does not clarify how the federal Migratory Bird Act applies to tribal members, but it is likely that the rule is similar to the rule for eagle feathers and parts.

Read the Anchorage Daily News story here.

Photo by Dave Menke, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Montana Enforcement Disgruntled

They work long hours for low pay, just for the privilege of working with wildlife, and they’ve had it. About one-third of the game wardens in Montana have retired or resigned in the last five years, according to an article in the Helena Independent Record.

The article details the difficulties being a game warden in Montana, from the pay ($17.62 an hour, for full-timers if they manage to work just 40 hours a week) to the fact that there is no such thing as a day off. If you are thinking that this sounds familiar, and at least they are not still paying off their graduate school loans, consider this: unlike wildlife biologists or even other law-enforcement officers, almost every human they deal with is carrying a loaded weapon. (Well, except for the anglers, but I guess they have knives.)

The article is worth reading for an inside look at the life of your enforcement co-workers. If the job sounds good to you, sorry, all those openings are meaningless. There’s a hiring freeze, so only a handful of those game wardens will be replaced.

Read the article in the Helena Independent Record.

Photo: A game warden’s horse patrol in Montana may look romantic, but it’s long hours for relatively low pay. Photo courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.