Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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Texas lawmakers consider legislation to prevent cities from self-governance, Connecticut considers policy options to alleviate an eviction crisis, and Ohio residents await community water systems.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis breaks his silence on Trump's potential indictment and attacks Manhattan prosecutors, President Biden vetoes his first bill to protect socially conscious retirement investing, and the Supreme Court hears a case on Native American water rights.

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The 41st state has opted into Medicaid which could be a lifeline for rural hospitals in North Carolina, homelessness barely rose in the past two years but the work required to hold the numbers increased, and destruction of the "Sagebrush Sea" from Oregon to Wyoming is putting protection efforts for an itty-bitty bunny on the map.

Petition Seeks Protection for Pygmy Rabbits Across West

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Thursday, March 9, 2023   

Conservation groups in Utah and across the western United States are requesting protection for the pygmy rabbit under the Endangered Species Act.

A petition sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the world's smallest rabbit is at risk of extinction because of habitat loss and disease.

Allison Jones, a conservation biologist, said the pygmy rabbit population has been on the decline for many years, with Utah for example having alarmingly low occupancy rates between seven and 13% in areas outside the northern portions of Utah. Jones pointed out the small mammals are not likely to bounce back because of the continued degradation and fragmentation of the Sagebrush Sea.

"The pygmy rabbit as an obligate of healthy, functioning Sagebrush ecosystem is kind of a canary in the coal mine for the intermountain West sagebrush ecosystem, and the ecosystem is in big trouble," Jones asserted.

Jones explained the loss of the pygmy rabbit's habitat is being threatened by more intense fires, invasive plant species, climate change and drought as well as development and extractive practices. She called the confounding effects the "perfect storm," which could lead to the disappearance of the pygmy rabbit in portions of the Sagebrush Sea.

Vera Smith, senior federal land policy analyst for Defenders of Wildlife, said in addition to habitat loss, a new virus has also heavily affected wild rabbit populations, with the pygmy rabbit being no exception.

Smith added if the Fish and Wildlife Service concurs the pygmy rabbit population data is alarming, groups like hers would like to see a "coordinated strategy" across the Western U.S. to enable the tiny rabbits to recover.

"For us, one of the very important things that the recovery strategy would hopefully point to is that we need to be more deliberate about protecting habitat and connecting habitat across the Sagebrush Sea," Smith emphasized.

Smith argued the Endangered Species Act listing would offer the best chance at protecting not only the small rabbit, but also its rapidly vanishing habitat, which she called vital for the recovery of the species.


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