Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy Rebirthday Wild Lobos!

Ten years ago yesterday was the day that Mexican wolves were first released in Arizona. Ten years later, very few breeding pairs exist (three, to be exact) and very few wild wolves are surviving. But, hey, there are 52 wolves in the southwest, which is 52 more than there might have been if not for the protections and provisions of the Endangered Species Act and the conservationists who have held the Fish and Wildlife Services' feet to the fire.

The Washington Post just got this piece up about it. The usual whining rancher can be found talking about how she can't sleep at night for fear of wolves, but the Washington Post did a good job sussing out the statistics:
"I'd really like to see them gone," said Barbara Marks, who chairs the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association's wildlife committee and operates a cattle ranch with her husband that includes 225 acres of private property and 71,775 acres of public land."In the middle of the night you wake up in a cold sweat when you hear your dogs barking, wondering if somethings wrong."
Guess you should just kind of suck it up, Ms. Marks. The majority of Americans, who collectively own those public lands you pillage at a profit, want to save endangered species. When you wake up in the night and worry that something is wrong, think about this: It might be you.

Ah-ooooohhhh!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Even charismatic megafauna are screwed these days

Well, it certainly does suck for the jaguar in the southwest. It used to be that you could at least save the sexy mammals, if not the lowly insects. Nowadays, not so much. Here's the abbreviated version of the tale of the spotted cat:

1. The jaguar was wiped out at the behest of the livestock industry.
2. The species was considered extirpated in the U.S.

3. A rancher encountered one, snapped some photos.

4. Endangered Species Act protection was gained. (Not as simple as it sounds, but you know...)

5. The U.S. starts putting the economic screws to Mexico under NAFTA, flooding the agricultural markets, ruining the economy and any prospect of Mexicans staying home to make a living.

6. Department of Homeland Security decides to build a fortress in jaguar habitat to thwart the undocumented economic refugees coming for a better life roofing subdivisions in Phoenix.

7. US Fish and Wildlife Service decided (coincidentally) not to designate critical habitat, which allows the walling of its cross-border habitat to continue unmitigated.

8. Probable second extirpation. Don't let the door hit you in the ass, Jaguar!

The longer and more eloquent version of the story can be found here. And while the Reuters article doesn't advocate for removing the border infrastructure, the Bush Administration, or Michael Chertoff immediately, we're just glad that this charismatic researcher of a charismatic species is speaking out. Send your supportive checks to Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project.

You know, while there still are jaguars to detect.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sad news for bats

Bats have often gotten a bad rap as blood-sucking omens of evil. Lately, though, a more comprehensive understanding of their significance as pollinators and insect predators has been gained.

So this is not good: Bats Perish, and No One Knows Why.
In what is one of the worst calamities to hit bat populations in the United States, on average 90 percent of the hibernating bats in four caves and mines in New York have died since last winter.
I once saw a mother bat nursing twins while hanging upside-down in a cave. I was amazed then, and now, how like a small flying bear she was, how much of an individual she was among the thousands of bats "just like her" in the same chamber. It's a wonderful sight, awe-inspiring and overwhelming. I can only imagine how the folks who are finding the massive die-offs must feel.
“It’s just that I know I’m never going to see these guys again,” [the scientist studying the bats] said. “We’re the last to see this concentration of bats in our lifetime.”
So sad.

Sorry folks. I know this post is incredibly depressing. I also know that today, that's the news.

Friday, March 21, 2008

La Migra, El Muro, and the Supreme Court

There has been a lot of buzz on the border lately, and I don't mean the helicopters that have to chase people through the desert. (Hey, Chertoff, I thought the wall was going to stop that? What happened?) I'm sitting fifty yards from a border surveillance tower this week at an undisclosed to everyone-except-the-US-Government location, trying to figure out what happened to our country. Bear with me as I make my way to the wildlife news.

I'll get there, but I wanted folks in other parts of the country to know that the wall hasn't actually slowed immigration down here in southern Arizona. Migrants are still pouring across the border. Semana Santa might be slowing things down a little bit, but they are still coming in droves. Ladders, baby. Desperation, poverty, hope, and $4000 is still bringing people to la frontera. We're going to have to give them something farther back.

Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife upped the ante with an petition to the Supreme Court to hear their pleas that the REAL ID waivers are unconstitutional. I think they are onto something, and I wish them well. The REAL ID waivers have wrought a lot of damage here in southern Arizona, and the pain of the wall at the San Pedro River is keenly felt.

Texas, on the other hand, is still suffering from anxiety of what's to come. Read this.

And speaking of REAL ID waivers, San Diego has a plan to protect wildlife corridors in southern California.
More than five years in the making, the South Coast Missing Linkages Project assembled by a partnership of government and private conservation agencies, aims to protect 69 travel routes for animals in an area that stretches from Santa Barbara County to south of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Ever the naysayer, I'm wondering if they've actually seen the border south of San Diego anytime lately?
“For wildlife to survive, you need linkages, because the protected areas aren't big enough,” said Ray Sauvajot, chief of planning, science and resource management for the National Park Service.
Basically, we'll be needing the entire North American continent back.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"The Unbearable Whiteness of Green"

Mr. Obama's astounding speech on race yesterday gave me the opportunity to use this interesting bit from the Seattle Times about the homogeneity of race and class in the environmental movement:
"The Prius people, the polar-bear crowd are great...We're not mad at them. We like them! At the same time, if the only people who can participate are the kind who can afford to put solar panels on their second home, the green movement is going to be too small to fix the problem. If we want to beat global warming, there's no way to do it without helping a lot of poor people. If you design a solution that does not do that, it's a solution that's too timid."
Mr. Obama spoke about the issues that face us all and the need to rise above traditional divisions in order to address them:
We need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Emphasis mine.

Because life can't just be good for us any longer. We can't just go on feeling smug with our 100 percent post-consumer diapers and our organic milk lattes. It will not work, and it will not accomplish anything. The shit is hitting the fan, folks, and time is running out to do something about it. Electing a president who gets that would be a good start.

With Bill Richardson as Secretary of the Interior. What do you think?

Rug Hunting

You'd have to watch an ad to see this article in Salon, so I'll try to sum it up. It's about how an ESA listing for the polar bear would affect hunting interests.
After all, those darn regulations could interfere with your bringing home a furry white rug for your living room floor....
Of the approximately 600 polar bears shot in Canada, about 15 percent of those are killed by sports hunters, many of them American, who pay between $20,000 to $35,000 for the chance to do so.
Isn't that sick?
Should the species be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, American hunters could still go to Canada to try to kill them. But the hunters would be less likely to make the journey because they'd face more problems importing the head or hide. And, really, who wants to shoot a polar bear if you can't mount its ferocious, teeth-baring head on your den wall to show off to your buddies?
Oh my! What if? That would be horrible! How would anyone know what a champion asshole you are?

Good thing they are opening up a gray wolf season- A trophy head of one of those critters can be the new Boy Scout Badge of Butch Otter-dom.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Unfortunately, no other large mammals will have that option

"Improvements at Land Border Push Smugglers West, to the Pacific" tells the story of migrants who were stranded at sea this week after an attempt to cross the maritime border failed. People are using surfboards, jet skis, and simply swimming across to get to the US. The piece really focuses on the new surge in ocean-based illegal entry, but leaves the obvious unstated: The Border Wall IS NOT WORKING!

The high-tech surveillance, the reinforced steel walls, and the Minutemen have only succeeded in pushing traffic to new and improved outlying areas, not in stopping immigration.

Well, duh. Because the border wall idea is insane.

I know, I know, and anyone else who lives along the border knows that the wall won't work. But it's a damn shame that it will work to keep in/out wildlife. For them, there are no life-vests.

Chin up, kids.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Arizona Loves Jaguars!

I don't know how I missed this a few days back, but here's another pro-predator opinion in the Arizona Republic. The piece really nails the Fish and Wildlife Service for being under the thumb of a security-crazed Bush Administration:
Here's the political rub. If jaguars are going to re-establish themselves in Arizona and New Mexico, they need what scientists call "habitat connectivity." That means the jaguars have to be able to cross the border, and that means plans for a border fence would complicate any recovery plan.

It's politically easier for Fish and Wildlife not to put itself in direct conflict with the Department of Homeland Security.
Yes, and we all remember how they avoided conflict and destroyed the San Pedro River connectivity just last fall. Thanks again for that! But uh-oh, now the opinion piece treads in dangerous territory- by comparing the jaguar recovery to the Mexican wolf:
One reason cited was the fact that much of the jaguar population is in Mexico. This is unconvincing.

The entire population of endangered Mexican wolves lived in Mexico when the recovery effort for that animal began.
Clearly, the answer would be to retract the recovery plan for the Mexican wolf too, don't you think?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Not a dry eye in the house

This anonymous op-ed ("Second extinction near for reintroduced wolves") in today's Arizona Daily Star struck a nerve. It's the true story of a woman who loves the land as much as ranchers claim to, and who lives among the ghosts of the Mexican gray wolf. She really sums it up:
The citizens of our nation have gone through a lengthy democratic decision-making process with regard to the Mexican gray wolf, a process that actually started with the passage of the Endangered Species Act... The overwhelming majority supports the lobo's recovery...The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is legally and morally bound to carry out our decision. And, in the face of the possible second extinction of the Mexican wolf in the wild, I am losing patience, and I am outraged.
I'm outraged too. And I'm outraged that more species are going extinct every day. And will continue to do so until we systematically address the excessive lifestyles of the developed world that rides on the back of the developing one. No, really. The wolf can't come back unless we all agree that there need to be limits on what we take from the planet. (Twice.)

Sigh.

Anyone else think that the Fish and Wildlife Service should be renamed? It sure the heck isn't serving polar bears. I suspect that they will have to list polar bears. But they won't designate critical habitat, and they won't provide any meaningful links to the causative factors imperiling the species. Instead, they'll spin their over sized wheels and allow more oil and gas to be plundered from the Arctic, put into combustion engines, and spewed into the air, thus completed the closed loop of Arctic devastation.

Don't mind me. I'm just not getting enough anti-depressants in my drinking water. Better go get myself a glass.

Friday, March 07, 2008

It never crossed their mind that wolf-haters might become wolf-baiters?

Huh. High Country News today is covering a story today about the investigations into the unpleasant wolf-baiting incident in Catron County and the mysterious disappearance of two wolves and their radio collars.
“I don’t think we had ever considered before the possibility that somebody might actually lure the wolf to the point the wolves actually commit strikes,” [Spokesperson for the Fish and Wildlife Service] says. “We had not considered that people would do something underhanded in order to bring about a wolf being removed. Maybe that was just incredibly naive on our part.”
Ya think? The Catron County Lunatics have been intimating that they'd like to kill wolves for years- and all the better if they can set up the feds to do the dirty work. Mike Miller, who now denies previous statements about baiting a wolf to provoke her third strike, wasn't just stupid to admit this activity to a reporter- he was probably actually a little bit giddy to have achieved such success.

Furthermore, Miller might not be as stupid as he seems, since he might not end up being charged with anything:
The criminal investigations face significant challenges, according to a Fish and Wildlife source. In interviews with law enforcement officials, Miller reportedly denied making the statements attributed to him by HCN. Furthermore, according to the Interior Department, the fact that Miller branded cattle on private land within half a mile of a known wolf den does not in itself violate federal wolf reintroduction rules, which give ranchers wide leeway in how they operate even when wolves are nearby.
Don't they always give ranchers a ton of leeway? The whole wolf-recovery program in the southwest is designed to appease this special interest group.

Enough is enough. Or, as the wealthy permittee of the Adobe-Slash Ranch might better comprehend, ¡Ya basta!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How's that again?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has admitted that it knew about the wolf-baiting incident in Catron County before it "removed" the "problem" wolves from the wild. This from the Center for Biological Diversity's press release:
The [agency]confirmed that it ordered the removal from the wild of the Aspen Pack of Mexican gray wolves late last year due to their predation on cattle owned by the Adobe/Slash Ranch, just nine days after learning that an employee of the same ranch may have illegally baited another pack of wolves by deliberately branding a pregnant cow on the verge of giving birth within half a mile of the wolves’ den.
Michael Robinson, conservationist extraordinaire had this to say about the bullshit:
Today’s revelation that the Aspen Pack were removed despite Fish and Wildlife Service being aware of the alleged deliberate baiting of wolves on the same ranch paints a tawdry picture of the Bush administration in bed with the endangered wolves’ worst enemies
It sure doesn't seem like they really plan to recover wolves in the southwest, despite the the public support.

More wolves, less politics.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Like trying to put a lid on a pot of boiling water

The New York Times ran an editorial today about "Border Insecurity." While it doesn't specifically mention the environmental impacts- except to say that the wall cuts through wildlife refuges but not gated communities- it does sort of lay-out the impossibility of an infrastructure-based solution to the immigration dilemma.
Let’s agree that any country needs to control its borders and ports, and that this one has done too little on that front. But that worthy goal founders when the overall strategy boils down to simplistic components — bits of fencing and technological cure-alls — rather than a comprehensive solution that also attacks the reasons people cross illegally. Despite what critics of “amnesty” say, immigration reform has never been a choice between legalization and enforcement, because legalization is enforcement. Only by bringing people onto the books and being realistic about the supply of visas, letting people in through ports of entry, instead of chasing them across the desert, will the country restore sanity and order to this broken system.
Unless, of course, we want to just start shooting migrants outright, like Nicholas Corbett "allegedly" did.

Monday, March 03, 2008

If you are frothing at the mouth to kill wolves, how do you feel about pronghorn?

Science Daily issued this press release today: Are Wolves The Pronghorn's Best Friend?
Over a three-year period, researchers radio-collared more than 100 fawns in wolf-free and wolf-abundant areas of Grand Teton National Park and monitored their survival throughout the summer. The results showed that only 10 percent of fawns survived in areas lacking wolves, but where coyote densities were higher. In areas where wolves were abundant, 34 percent of pronghorn fawns survived. Wolves reduce coyote numbers by killing them outright or by causing them to shift to safer areas of the Park not utilized by wolves.

"This study shows just how complex relationships between predators and their prey can be," said Berger. "It's an important reminder that we often don't understand ecosystems nearly as well as we think we do, and that our efforts to manipulate them can have unexpected consequences."
So, in other words, this study is a basic lesson in ecology.

A bunch of conservation groups have filed a notice of intent to sue over the gray wolf delisting rule, saying it was based on some fuzzy math and not enough protections in the states wolves' inhabit (i.e. a bunch of bloodthirsty yahoos hoping to hang wolf skins on their walls).