Monday, June 30, 2008

Public Lands Ranchers Need to Suck It Up

The Arizona Republic put out a very cool editorial yesterday on the recently published Mexican wolf poll: Public's Call of the Wild. They said it better than we could:
Ranchers who continue to enjoy the privilege of leasing public land to graze their cattle need to show an appreciation for this new understanding of how to manage the public land.

The effort to re-establish healthy populations of wolves in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico reflects the public will.
....
Public support for ranchers is likely to erode unless ranchers show more respect for public wishes. The public wants wolves in the wild. Ranchers who want to remain on the public land are going to have to accept that.
Or not. They could just take a nice federally-sponsored buy-out, shore up their personal finances, and abandon the myth of the cowboy. It would be better for them economically, better for us ecologically, and better for the wolves.

Friday, June 27, 2008

This oughtta scare the bejeezus out of you

One of the more popular posts here on DL is the one about the end of the world: December 23, 1012. Seems like people googling for insight into the Mayans' prediction of the end of time find us here a lot, talking about global warming.

2012 is still four years away, and no one in their right mind would argue that 2008 is really going swimmingly, this was still a bit of a shock to my system: North Pole May Be Ice Free for First Time This Summer. (National Geographic)
Arctic warming has become so dramatic that the North Pole may melt this summer, report scientists studying the effects of climate change in the field.

"We're actually projecting this year that the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time [in history]," David Barber, of the University of Manitoba, told National Geographic News aboard the C.C.G.S. Amundsen, a Canadian research icebreaker.

Firsthand observations and satellite images show that the immediate area around the geographic North Pole is now mostly annual, or first-year, ice—thin new ice that forms each year during the winter freeze.

Such ice is much more prone to melting during the summer months than perennial, or multiyear, ice, which is thick and dense ice that has lasted through multiple cycles of thawing and refreezing.
Yikes! How many carbon offsets do we have to buy to get this reversed?
But given the rapid changes now evident in the Arctic, the ultimate fate of the North Pole—in fact, all permanent ice in the Arctic—may be all but assured. Almost all models have the Arctic completely ice free in the summer by 2100.

"We jokingly call [perennial ice] an endangered species," [another scientist] said.
Ha ha?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Baiting Ends Badly

I can't think of any instances where feeding wildlife for the purposes of up-close encounters ends well for the critters. In New Mexico this week, the usual trajectory of "Feed the animal, animal becomes nuisance, animal is relocated/destroyed" had an unusual twist. A human was eaten along the way.

A man in Pinos Altos, NM (near Silver City) was killed, eaten and buried by a mountain lion at his home this week. A lion was subsequently killed (though not yet confirmed to be the same lion that ate the man).

It appears that someone may have been feeding the mountain lions in order to photograph them. Sounds likely, given this report on chain of events in the small town:
Mountain lion sightings are not uncommon around Pinos Altos....Residents who live on a road behind Nawojski's home have reported recent lion sightings.

Tom Bates, who lives on the road about a mile south of Pinos Altos, said he found a cougar "just hanging around" next to his garbage cans one night two weeks ago.
"It was really a shock," said Bates, who described the animal as "totally docile."

Winona Tavernier said she spotted a cougar lingering near an outbuilding about two weeks ago, "hanging around closer than we thought it should be."

Jack Griswold, who takes daily walks along the road, had three encounters with a lion the week before Nawojski was killed. When he was walking his dog in the same area two days later, a lion followed them home and up their driveway.
Either someone was feeding those lions or the deer population has collapsed. Mountain lions just don't do that kind of thing, unless something is wrong with the animal or it has become habituated.

Our condolences to the family, and to the mountain lions, who are also victims here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Supreme Court Rejects Hearing Case on Border Wall Waivers

It sucks. The Supreme Court rejected without comment the case about the that the REAL ID Act provision that gave the Department of Homeland Security the authority to waive all laws interfering with the construction of the border fence.
“This decision leaves one man — the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security — with the extraordinary power to ignore any and all of the laws designed to protect the American people, our lands, and our natural resources,” Oliver Bernstein, a spokesman for the [Sierra Club], said in a statement.
We're stunned.

Wolf Blogs

Ralph Maughan's Wildlife News does an unprecedented job of keeping tabs on the western environmental news, particularly as it pertains to wolves. We were glad to see that it picked up the story about the southwest wolf recovery poll and that this post of his has been very popular. We must say we were also pleased to see a link to us on there- very flattering!

Another website worth checking out if you are interested in southwestern wolves is this one: "Mexican Gray Wolf." Not a blog per se, but a good resource for regularly-updated information in the wolf recovery program.

The wolf issue is heating up as the summer progresses, and the ranchers sure didn't like those poll results. Check out this piece in the Arizona Republic. It's interesting that the author suggests that if the government simply started asking ranchers for help- i.e. eyes and ears on the ground- they would be happy to recover the wolves. Or that sort of seems to be what she's saying.
We don't know for sure whether wolves can co-exist in Arizona today. However, we believe that the $18 million in taxpayer money spent on the program would be better spent if it was utilized to recognize the values provided by these ranch families and make them a partner by providing them resources in exchange for their expertise and information about the area and the animals who roam in it.

They can help. They just haven't been allowed to partner, nor have they been approached with resources to create the necessary partnership.
Oh, we get it. The ranchers want MORE MONEY to let native wildlife live on public lands.

Such a deal!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Border Wall as Obstacle Course

The border wall is such an abject failure that even the right-wing cranks admit it isn't working. This week's Tucson Weekly (an alternative "news"paper) has a cover story called, "Let's Climb the Wall." Basically, it breaks the wall story down to this: It's ineffective, it's expensive, and it does more harm than good.

Well, duh!

This author though is a very interesting character. He seems to really like cowboys and really hate the feds. Check out this spring's earlier screed against wilderness. Or this one about the domestic security, the old fashioned kind involving security doors and deadbolts. Or this one about migrant trash in Ironwood Forest National Monument. Each one features some poor rancher whose livestock operation is somehow threatened or altered by the border politics. In every case, the government is screwing these noble folks by failing to do enough to fix the immigration issue.

It's almost like the next article is going to suggest we give the cowboys more subsidies to offset how hard it is that Mexicans and central Americans are dying for a better life.

Pass the Kool-Aid.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Reconquistas!

Turns out people in the U.S. Southwest really want the Mexican gray wolf back in its former turf in Arizona and New Mexico.

Today, a polling firm in New Mexico released some extremely positive results of research in these two states about voters impressions of Mexican gray wolves and the recovery effort. This from the AP:
The 19-question poll, released Monday, showed 77 percent of Arizonans and 69 percent of New Mexicans support or strongly support reintroducing wolves on public lands in their states, while 21 percent of New Mexicans and 13 percent of Arizonans oppose the program.

In New Mexico, 64 percent chose the statement that “the wolf is a benefit to the West and helps maintain a balance of nature.” Twenty-one percent agreed the wolf “kills too many elk, deer and livestock and does more harm than good.”

In Arizona, 76 percent of the respondents chose the positive statement; 13 percent the negative one.
It's good that most people realize the importance of top predators and hopefully, this will provide a shot in the arm for the recovery program. It may even push some fence-sitting politicians out of that uneasy balance. Memo to politicos: Your constituents want wolves. Represent them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A sense of entitlement, factually in error

The "Property Rights" crowd is crowing about the recent ruling in the Hage v. U.S, which is actually a really crappy precedent for those of us who care about public lands. Let's examine this particular item of roostering from the Las Vegas editorial board, shall we?
Back in the 1980s, it became an article of faith among well-meaning "environmentalists" that grazing cattle on arid Western lands serves to "destroy fragile ecosystems."

Western ranchers presented evidence that desert plants developed in an ecosystem that needs large ungulate grazers to churn their seeds into the soil, to fertilize wetlands, to carry moisture into arid valleys and thus benefit tortoise populations -- which is why more tortoises are found on grazed land than ungrazed.
Has anyone actually found proof of these large native ungulates in the Mojave desert tortoise habitat? And, as near as I can tell, the only lands that are ungrazed in desert tortoise habitat are, 1) only recently so, or 2) so dry as to be worthless to grazing. It isn't really a fair statement. It's like saying that there are more tortoises where there is some grass, there are only cows where there is some grass, and therefore, tortoises prefer to be around cows. Not entirely accurate, is it?

Next,
The ranchers argued that grazing prevents the buildup of excess tinder that can make range fires more frequent and severe, that game species profit from the ranchers' water improvements and efforts at predator control.
Tinder? "Range" fires? Let's face it folks: the most flammable things on the western public lands are the invasive species, plants that came in and are spread by cows. What did all the "game" species do for water before the ranchers "improved it?" (Hint: they drank from the springs that were undeveloped and free-flowing before the ranchers diverted them.) And predator control? Don't get me started. That has screwed up more ecosystems than Las Vegas.

And the ruling?
"It sends a pretty important message to the government that if you screw with a small ranching family and put them out of business, you have to pay big bucks," exults Lyman "Ladd" Bedford, a San Francisco-based lawyer who has argued the case since Hage first filed his lawsuit.
Groan. It sends the message that the federal government is supposed to put the preferences of one businessman ahead of the will of the public on public lands.

That isn't true, and it isn't right, and I hope that the Forest Service appeals the ruling.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken

The fight to re-list the highly imperiled cactus ferruginous pygmy owl has most recently turned back to another yearlong status review. That's good news, I suppose, since the Bushies won't be in charge by the time the decision gets made. It's bad news for the owl, which has a total population of 30 individuals in Arizona.

Called, "The little bird that stopped bulldozers and shaped growth on the Northwest Side for several years" by the Arizona Daily Star, it is no mystery why the developers hate it. But who knew that the Arizona Business Community News would publish this piece of anti-owl propaganda?
"To save the pygmy owl in Arizona, let’s domesticate and eat ’em"
Basically, the author posits that pygmy owls should be raised and eaten like chicken.
Just allow The Owl to be freely taken and create a market for this new, exotic, and formerly endangered food source.
Um, ok. I realize, of course, that this is a piece of satire, but not so fast.... None other than Gary Nabhan, venerable icon of desert slow-food types, has been pushing a similar concept, FOR REAL.
He has spent most of the past four years compiling a list of endangered plants and animals that were once fairly commonplace in American kitchens but are now threatened, endangered or essentially extinct in the marketplace. He has set out to save them, which often involves urging people to eat them.
We note, as a point of clarification, that most of these "endangered species" have not been on (or on and then off) the official endangered species list prior to Mr. Nabhan's providing recipes for them. Except for the Carolina flying squirrel, which is.
For some wild species, however, like the foot-long, pink-fleshed Carolina flying squirrel, a harvest would create too much pressure on a tiny population.

The squirrels used to make regular appearances in Appalachian game-meat stews. But as their forests declined, so did the squirrel population; they are now on state and federal endangered species lists. Even if catching them were legal, Mr. Nabhan says a trapper would be hard-pressed to bag more than half a dozen a season.

Because the squirrel was once so important to the diets of North Carolina and east Tennessee, Mr. Nabhan included it on his list, along with a recipe for the thick vegetable stew called Kentucky burgoo.
I wonder if you can substitute Mt. Graham red squirrel instead?

Ick.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Climbing as a Political Act

If you live out west and you care about the environment, you might well have some mixed feelings about climbers. You know, the folks who hang around Joshua Tree, crushing plants. Or the Rocky Mountains, trashing cliff ecosystems. Or... well, the list goes on. Maybe you like climbers, or maybe you don't, but it's true that climbers are hardly ever politically inspired or inspiring. (Unless you count "Legalize it.")

Until today. A climber in NYC scaled the 52 stories to the roof of the New York Times building with a banner that read: “Global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week.” He wore a T-shirt that linked to his website (http://thesolutionissimple.org/) where he posted the following message:
Emissions are still climbing. So am I. But the solution is simple:

1 – Stop Cutting Down Trees. Plant More Trees.
2 – Make Everything Energy Efficient.
3 – Only Make Clean Energy.

The cost of action is no argument. The cost of acting now is far less than the cost of acting too late. But the time for action is running out, fast.
Thanks for the little bit of panic in my morning coffee, Alain.

Really, though, I'm happy that someone took a creative personal risk to speak out. Let's hope that the Times at least gives him an article, and not just a blog lead on it's webpage. Or better yet, makes a front-page endorsement of his message.

UPDATE: "Malaria "has climbed the building. A second climber (wearing no less a message than "Malaria") has scaled the NYTimes building this afternoon. Is this some kind of trend?