Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Climate Change Delusion

When we first read about this, we thought the headline referred to the people who didn't believe in climate change: "Psychiatrists discover first case of climate change delusion."

But no. The story actually refers to a boy in Australia who is afraid of his ecological footprint.
Dr Joshua Wolf and Dr Robert Salo, of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, treated a 17-year-old patient who believed that "due to climate change, his own water consumption could lead within days to the deaths of millions of people."

The patient, who had a history of mental illness, was admitted to hospital because he had attempted to stop drinking.

He also regularly checked taps in his home for leaks "to prevent catastrophe".

The report, published in the Royal Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, said the case was the first of its kind, directly linking anxiety over climate change to psychosis. Dr Robert Salo said he expected more patients to suffer from the disorder as long as the issue remained on the agenda.
Hey, well, maybe we have this disorder too, since we aren't really expecting climate change to come off the agenda anytime soon, and we're pretty freaked out about that.

Call us crazy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't let the (remodeled) door hit you in the ass, Ted

Ted Stevens, scoundrel and longest-serving Republican Senator, was finally indicted today on seven counts of fraud for concealing gifts from oil industry executives. Read the full story here.

And another one gone, and another one gone, Another one bites the dust

Ice shelves: Get 'em while they're hot?

The latest ice shelf to break off unexpectedly and, one might add, ominously, is called the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf and it took reached its breaking point sometime last week.
Scientists say the break, the largest on record since 2005, is the latest indication that climate change is forcing the drastic reshaping of the Arctic coastline, where 9,000 square kilometres of ice have been whittled down to less than 1,000 over the past century, and are only showing signs of decreasing further.
Well, we here at DL are just not going to worry about it. Instead, we're planning for Rapture.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why oh why, Wyoming?

This frightening article shows that all the candidates for the House of Representatives seat in Wyoming agree that the Endangered Species Act needs "tweaking." Oh brother.

We think it needs tweaking too. We think it needs to be strengthened, the listing process sped up, and the agency better funded and better staffed. But that isn't really what these folks are saying.
"The sad thing about politics in America in 2008 is that we got good at politics and completely lost sight of policy," said Cynthia Lummis, a Republican. "The Endangered Species Act is the poster child for that. Politics is supposed to be a means to address policy."

Lummis said that cattle have to be managed differently at her ranch in Laramie County as compared to her ranch in Platte County.

"Unique ecosystems require a unique set of solutions," she said. "The one-size-fits-all, dictated-from-Washington solution doesn't work for Wyoming."
Well, Ms. Lummis, we agree on one thing: "Dictated-from-Washington solution doesn't work for Wyoming." You're right that that Taylor Grazing Act and the myriad laws that make grazing ubiquitous on public lands haven't been working for quite some time. But it's clear we can't trust the locals to reform these laws, since they clearly have a vested interest in the outcome. Instead, we need strong conservation-minded congresspeople to tune out the industries that have long been exploiting our public lands and who look at the ESA as a safety net for imperiled species that needs some serious mending.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Viva la Resistencia!

Our U.S. Mexico border wall is so disgusting, so embarrassing, and so odious that we've sort of stopped talking about it here at DL. It's the perfect symbol for us to bang our heads against, but we were just ending up bruised.

However, here's an item you should know about:
Mexico is creating an environmental reserve about 30 feet wide and 600 miles long on the Texas border, a “green wall” to protect the Rio Grande from the roads and staging areas that smugglers use to ferry drugs and migrants across the frontier.
How great is that?

A slightly more radical take can be found here.

Remember, until we screwed Mexico and other Latin American countries, just having vast expanses of open desert along the border was enough. Sure, people tried to come through these areas occasionally, but the back-pressure to get into the states wasn't strong enough to force people into these remote places. Now, people come, any way that they can, because they have no other choice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sharpen your pencils

We feel a ESA listing petition coming on! Not sure how much critical habitat would need to be designated, and we can already hear the ranchers whining over this one, but it looks like the chupacabra may be making a comeback!

Now, if you're like us, you probably thought the chupacabra was a myth. And it may still be. But someone in Texas apparently found a dead one and froze its head, and it isn't clear exactly what it could be. Coyote hybrid, gray fox, wolf?



If the city of Austin won't send cops to deal with the chupacabra, maybe "Wildlife Services" could be sent out?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Why of Wolves

Debra Donahue published this excellent piece in Wyofile yesterday explaining the trophic cascades that wolves are an integral part of. Thanks to Ralph Maughan for pointing it out.

Wolves belong!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Collaboration = Death

The Albuquerque Journal published a great op-ed today about the compromised recovery of the Mexican gray wolf, and the lies told by the Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle in their pages a few days back. (Unfortunately, the Journal is subscription-only, but we'll paste some highlights below)
One runs a risk rejecting a call for a "reasonable compromise" issued by a public official inveighing against "polarized groups." But the endangered Mexican gray wolf has been compromised so many times, and consequently is so close to extinction, that we must scrutinize any proposed compromise.
Indeed, if there were ever a time to scrutinize compromise, the time is now. With imminent extinction on the table, who really feels the need to bend to the will of a marginal industry?
Having shot 11 Mexican wolves since reintroduction in 1998, trapped dozens more, and killed 18 accidentally as a result of capture, not to mention terminated development of an up-to-date Mexican wolf recovery plan, it is fair to say that the service's decision-making culture is still oriented toward predator control on behalf of the livestock industry.

The agency knows that suppressing the wolf population is leading to irreversible genetic deterioration. The government has shot a genetically irreplaceable wolf, months after he ceased depredating cattle and was observed feeding on an elk, and has not acted on scientists' urgent requests to adopt a protocol to save other genetically valuable animals.

Tuggle's solution is a multi-million dollar publicly-financed fund managed by and on behalf of the livestock industry, with no rules ensuring that even a single wolf otherwise to be targeted for removal might be spared.

That may constitute traditional Fish and Wildlife Service collaboration, but it will not recover the progeny of the last few survivors of its earlier cooperative agreements.
Indeed.

And thank you, Judge Molloy, for the injunction against the delisting decision on the northern gray wolves. We're so glad about that!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cowcentrism

This article in today's New York Times discusses the plague that is affecting a population of black-footed ferrets in South Dakota. It delves into the history of ferret recovery and the efforts underway to prevent any more plague-related deaths in the colony.
But the fight is not only against the plague. While the federal Forest Service is part of the effort to protect ferrets, it has also, at the request of area ranchers, poisoned several thousands of acres of prairie dogs on the edge of the Conata Basin, a buffer strip of federal land adjacent to private grazing land. The buffer strip does not have ferrets, but it is good ferret habitat, experts say, and if they were to spread there it could help support the recovery.

But prairie dogs eat grass, and a large village can denude grazing land. The rodent, in fact, has long been detested in the West as a pest. [Emphasis ours]
Do you see how even in an article written to expose some of the imbalances of land use management they say "grazing lands?" It may strike you as semantics, but it is not. It belies the perspective that federal lands are to be purposed for a human use.
Open space = Rangeland
Wildflowers & native plants = Forage
Native wildlife = pest
The livestock industry has so pervasively shaped the culture of the west that they have even altered the vocabulary with which we describe it.

Sigh.
A decision by the Forest Service on whether to poison prairie dogs on land that has no ferrets, but is suitable habitat for them, is due out soon. A decision on whether to poison prairie dogs in ferret habitat is being delayed, said the under secretary of agriculture, Mark Rey, to see how the spread of the plague plays out.

But Mr. Rey said that to not deal with prairie dogs could hurt the program. “Prairie dogs are spreading off federal land to private land,” he said. “And our goal is to keep the black-footed ferret program with broad public support, and one way to do that is to make sure prairie dogs don’t spread onto private land.”
Right. Another way to do that would be to get a spine, Mark Rey. Don't back down on doing whatever it takes to recover black-footed ferrets, even if it means a few cowboys do some more kvetching about native animals recolonizing their native habitat.

When you look at it that way, it seems pretty simple, doesn't it?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Oh, what a world! What a world!

You know when the Wicked Witch of the West starts screaming, "I'm melting," and it seems to have solved Oz's problems?

Not so the melting of the Arctic. Not so at all.

Russian Arctic scientists were forced to abandon melting research station months ahead of time.
The scientific project, named North Pole-35, was a study designed to study Arctic flora and fauna, environmental conditions and geography.

The early exit from the research mission, which had not been expected to finish until September has been blamed on global warming and the ever-decreasing Arctic sea ice. The observed melting of ice has some scientists predicting the Arctic could be ice free far sooner than previously expected with the unknown ramifications this will have on the amount of rainfall and snow across the northern hemisphere.

"The observed rates of change have far outstripped what we projected," senior research scientist Mark Serreze of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre told the Scientific American.

"We seem to melt a little more each summer," he said.
Ah, you cursed brat! Look what you've done!

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Like an obese man saying he is going to lose weight by eating more,"

That's how Dan Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, describes the changing political landscapes of offshore drilling in this piece. Seems like, with the price of gas rising, some politicians are changing their tunes about opening up new areas for oil exploitation.

The inaccuracy of the food metaphor, however, is as follows: In the case of the obese man, at least he is trying to solve the problem at hand (weight loss). In the case of renewed interest in offshore drilling, we're only trying bring down high gas prices, and the problem at hand is really global climate change and our dependence on the stuff.
EVEN the depths of winter are proving unable to halt the climate change-induced collapse of an Antarctic ice shelf.

When the Wilkins shelf began a runaway disintegration at the end of last summer, scientists thought it unlikely the collapse would continue through the pole's coldest months.

But satellite images show losses growing in recent days, so that at last sight, only a thin and fractured ice bridge held the bulk of the giant shelf in place. Its loss would put the rest of the 14,500- square-kilometre ice shelf at risk, the European Space Agency said.
From The Age, apparently some kind of liberal rag from down under.

[Can you believe that there are really people out there who still believe global warming is a myth? I suspect this group includes a good number of "environmentalists" who traipse around the country and the globe via jet airliners, feeling smug that their day job exempts them from reducing their own carbon emissions... but I digress.]

We're oil addicts in need of rehab, not another well.

Forgive me my early morning crankiness, but that ice shelf stuff freaks me out.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Now that's using your head!

This fascinating piece in the LA Times today is all about thinking locally to act globally. It's about growing Salicornia ("Sea asparagus") on the coast of Mexico to "feed the world, fuel our vehicles and slow global warming."

Instead of using freshwater to comply with non-local food production demands, this guy is enhancing a native plant's capacity to provide food, oil, and even a heat source in ways that harmonize with the regional saltwater conditions.

Not only that, but he wants to use the melting polar ice caps and the rising sea to grow more food inland, by creating rivers in from the sea, using the salt water to grow more Salicornia where more traditional farming has failed or is resource-inefficient.

Inspiring story.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Happy with the BLM, again!

Wow! Twice in one year we can commend the BLM for a job well done! And it's only July! Here's why:
Federal rangeland managers have concluded that continuing to allow cattle to graze on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is harming the rare plants, fish and wildlife the monument was created eight years ago to protect.
We know it wasn't exactly out of the goodness of the agency's heart that this happened. There was an agonizing amount of arm-twisting and foot-shuffling and lawsuit-threatening (not to mention an 8 year delay) that compelled the BLM to comply with the Proclamation. And we're pretty sure that the BLM would have kept the cows on these public lands if the balance wasn't clearly tipping away from livestock.
The rangeland health assessment found the cattle were harming sensitive streams and springs.

The finding marks the third straight study — one by BLM and another by scientists working for conservation groups — to find that cattle were harming the monument, said Dominic DellaSala, director of the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy in Ashland....

DellaSala said it was "game over" for grazing....

"BLM has just been dragging their feet because there is a culture of livestock grazing at any cost," he said.
Sounds familiar.

The Bureau of Livestock Management plans to "go through a formal assessment of whether grazing could be modified somehow to allow cattle to remain on the monument." Wait, isn't that what your damn study (and all the previous studies) just concluded? [Shuffle, shuffle. Shift, shift.] Oh, we get it, you want to fence all the riparian areas and leave cows in the uplands.
Building the fences to keep cattle out of sensitive springs and streams would cost $4 million, [DellaSalla] said, while the grazing leases bring in just $2,000 a year.
"Game over" is right. Score one for conservation!

Friday, July 04, 2008

$50K for identifying the sickos who shoot wolves

The Fish and Wildlife Service reported yesterday three Mexican wolves have been confirmed dead due to illegal shooting so far in 2008. [You've got to love the level of discourse in the comment section on these kinds of stories.]

Conservation groups and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are offering a combined reward of $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the SOBs who shoot Mexican gray wolves. That's more than three times the per capita income of Catron County, and nothing to sneeze at.

More information can be found here.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

News from the Onion

This is very funny. If it were true, it would include visits to the national forests, BLM lands, and wildlife refuges where his legacy of disaster will be felt for generations.


Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency