Monday, January 25, 2010

Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee

The Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee was established in 1974 under the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act (N.J.S.A. 23:2A-7e).
It is a committee is appointed by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection that serves as an advisory body to that office in matters of New Jersey endangered and nongame wildlife resource.

The original group consisted of five citizens with professional interest in nongame wildlife. Now, the committee consists of 11 members from four broad public affiliations.  Four members come from the research and academic community, one is a veterinarian or public health professional, three represent nonprofit organizations with strong interest in nongame wildlife, and three are appointed from the public-at-large

The Endangered and Nongame Species Program staff present Program research agenda, policies, and controversial topics to the Committee for advice on appropriate handling. The Committee formally recommends status listing changes to the State nongame wildlife list biennially. In addition, Committee members often open and pursue issues of importance and recommend action to the Program and Division.

The viewpoint of the committee members based on their personal experience and interest is of great value to the Program, Division and Department. The Committee's formal recommendations become an integral part of the State's development of policy and making of decisions, however, the role is advisory only.

There is no legal obligation for the Department to adopt the Committee's recommendations. An excellent working relationship between the Program, Division, Department and the Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee has developed over the years, and policies often reflect the ideas generated at committee meetings.

Taking a look at their meeting agenda, you'll find many of the topics that I write about here such as the "Northern Pine Snake Delisting Petition" and "Bog Turtle Research" as well as topics that are baffling - "Central Jersey Railroad Expansion" and "Trap-Neuter-Return."

Their posted minutes from meetings are far more detailed and interesting to the average citizen. Here are 2 items from their last meeting.

A banded and emaciated bald eagle found in Maine has been identified as having fledged from NJ. The bird is currently undergoing rehabilitation. This is the first time a NJ eagle has been found this far north.

Updating about White Nose Syndrome in bats, Mick Valent, Principal Zoologist, provided additional information on WNS. The sampling of bats is showing little evidence of scaring and de-pigmentation of the wing membrane. There are two possible explanations for this. First, bats that were sampled were from unaffected hibernacula and therefore didn't have any signs of scarring or de-pigmentation. The second is that bats from affected sites that had significant fungal infection (those that would have exhibited significant scarring and tissue de-pigmentation) were not surviving into the summer months.

Some bats that emerge from affected sites can survive and they appear to heal and experience normal weight-gain during the active months. The captured bats all appeared healthy based on weights and visible condition. In addition, the capture ratio of adults to juveniles suggested that the colonies sampled experienced successful reproduction this year.

The Mount Hope mine normally hosts about 10,000 bats and is known to have suffered a major impact. The NWHC has requested samples from impacted hibernacula. Two nights of collecting samples at the mine resulted in the capture of just 35 bats, including 31 Indiana bats, 3 northern long eared bats and 1 little brown bat.

The population at Picatinny Arsenal has also suffered an extremely hard impact and NYDEC staff are reporting the apparent elimination of entire bat populations in caves that previously hosted thousands of bats. Researchers have identified a compound that has proven to be effective in controlling fungal growth in the lab and is preparing to conduct a field test.

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