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Monday, September 25, 2023

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Nevada organization calls for greater Latino engagement in politics; Gov. Gavin Newsom appears to change course on transgender rights; Nebraska Tribal College builds opportunity 'pipelines,' STEM workforce.'

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House Republicans deadlock over funding days before the government shuts down, a New Deal-style jobs training program aims to ease the impacts of climate change, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas appeared at donor events for the right-wing Koch network.

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An Indigenous project in South Dakota seeks to protect tribal data sovereignty, advocates in North Carolina are pushing back against attacks on public schools, and Arkansas wants the hungriest to have access to more fruits and veggies.

Groups Call for Endangered Species Protections for Pygmy Rabbit

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Tuesday, March 7, 2023   

Advocates have filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to save the smallest rabbit species in North America, the pygmy rabbit. It lives in the so-called Sagebrush Sea of the Intermountain West, which stretches from Oregon to Wyoming. At less than a pound, the rabbit relies on sagebrush to hide from predators and for food.

Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project and also a wildlife biologist, said wildlife agencies are neglecting this species.

"There's not a lot of current research that's happening over the last several years because there hasn't been that possibility of endangered species listing looming on the horizon. We're hoping to step up the research and step up the monitoring of pygmy rabbits and learn a lot more about this disappearing species before it's too late," Molvar said.

Groups across the West filed a petition on Monday to list the pygmy rabbit under the Endangered Species Act.

Vera Smith, senior federal lands policy analyst with Defenders of Wildlife, said because the pygmy rabbit relies on sagebrush, a threat to its habitat is a threat to the species, and added wildfires are a growing problem.

"Fire's a natural part of our western habitats and ecosystems, but with climate change fires are becoming bigger and more frequent," she said. "In the past 40 years, we've seen about 26-million acres in the pygmy habitat range burn. That's about 15%."

Smith noted invasive species like cheatgrass also increase the risk from wildfires, and a contagious and deadly virus is threatening pygmy rabbits as well.

Molvar said the species also faces threat from oil and gas development and added protecting sagebrush habitat is key.

"You can't have healthy pygmy rabbit populations without having healthy sagebrush ecosystems," he said.

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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