Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mosiac, prairie dogs, and Rwanda

Terry Tempest Williams' latest book, "Finding Beauty in a Broken World," is a gorgeous analysis of how to survive that which seems unbearable. The book is written in three sections: the first, about learning to make mosiac in Italy; the second, about prairie dogs as something more than varmints; and the third, trying to heal the deep wounds of Rwanda post-genocide. She manages to link these bits together like a mosiac, creating something bigger than the fragments of stories she shares, bound by her own grief and joys. It's a page turner, and it ends with one wishing it were longer.

The parts about Rwanda were devastating, but equally so were the parts about prairie dogs. We especially appreciated that the author lets humans and animals stand side by side in this book, without apology. She understands that we are all a part of life, equally, and our whole world is diminished by extermination of any living thing. Terry Tempest Williams is an eloquent advocate of conservation, and a damn fine writer to boot.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The homes they don't show

This devasting photo was in the NY Times today, to illustrate the extent of the 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash spreading in Tennessee this week.
Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal, contains toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead and selenium that can cause cancer and neurological problems....

About a dozen homes were directly affected. Some were swamped with mud and another was swept off its foundation. Three have been declared uninhabitable.
Anyone else wonder what critters got trapped under this toxic dump? How will this affect the wildlife of the area?

Surely, that info will be forthcoming, but in the meantime.... sad.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

And you sir, are no Ed Abbey

Counterpunch has an article titled thus: "How to Make Bruce Babbitt Look Like Ed Abbey: Salazar and the Tragedy of the Common Ground," regarding the tragic appointment of Ken Salazar to the head of the Department of the Interior. You should just read it. It cautions against the cooperative play-nice comments from the conservation community, warning about Salazar's record and what can be expected in terms of environmental protection in his DOI.
...Big Green’s docile genuflections to Salazar won’t make those table-scraps go down any smoother.
No kidding. If we read one more article with The Wilderness Society/Sierra Club/Defenders et al praising Salazar's potential, we might just puke.

Given Dirk Kempthorne's record as Bush's DOI, his endorsement of Salazar should make Salazar himself blanch. Why don't the Big Greens see this as problematic?

And so, while we appreciate the nay-saying by the media-dominating Center for Biological Diversity, why, pray tell, haven't they talked about the perils of public lands livestock grazing? Even in the extended Democracy Now interview, CBD didn't manage to discuss this issue- what's up with that? Is oil development the only issue these days?

Ah, Ed Abbey. Where did you go? Fortunately, your words live on: This web page randomly loads five quotes from Cactus Ed each time you visit.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Raúl Grijalva, Man of Grace

Today's AZ Daily Star has an interview with Raúl Grijalva, who discussed why he thinks he didn't get the Secretary of the Interior appointment under President-elect Barack Obama.
How disappointed are you?
"The disappointment is that we thought we were equal to the task, and we still think it, but we didn't get it. We came extremely close. Now you move on. I have a good job. I have a good committee."
What's next?
"The problem is going to be that the (Interior) agency is so messed up in a variety of ways; Bush left a really horrible legacy in there. We will continue to press the fact that there has to be some structural, ethical reforms and work with the secretary to get that done. We will push where we need to. We are not going to leave it behind."
Where did your bid go wrong?
"It was a Catch-22 for the transition team. They had to get someone from the West, preferably a Latino with environmental creds, you know, with some record on these issues. I thought up to that point, we had really good support nationwide from Indian country. We were always there in the hunt. When I look back, I'm going to figure out what the deficits were that kept me from getting picked. We are a little more assertive about some of the issues than others. That possibly played a role."
Mr. Grijalva, your assertiveness may have blocked you from playing a different part in this moderate administration, but we NEED you and all of your assertiveness on your committee to keep advocating for wild places. You have spoken more clearly and consistently on conservation issues than other other politician, and you exemplify the change we had hoped to see in Mr. Obama's administration.

We hope you feel better soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why cowboy hats scare us

The photo of Ken Salazar in the ten-gallon hat yesterday had us cussing because it just seemed so inappropriate for a press conference, unless one were trying to convey via costume where his allegiances lay. It wasn't as if he needed to keep the sun off his brow.

No, Salazar wore that hat to signify the power position of western ranchers over public lands and to signal reassurance to anyone afraid of the black man standing behind him and the green machine that worked to get him elected.

Those of us working in the West understood immediately the significance of his costume; its a cue to the extractive industry establishment that he's one of them. It's terrible, really, because those guys have been driving the western public lands to ruin for, oh, 130 years now. It's disappointing that even Barack Obama is suckered by these symbols.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008



Each of the thousand words that this picture conjures has four letters.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A round for Mr. Grijalva

It is no small consolation that Raúl Grijalva, beloved of many, will maintain his position on the House Natural Resources Committee and continue to chair the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. While we were seriously rooting for him to get the DOI Secretary position, having him as back-up under bad news like Salazar softens the blow just a little bit.

But here's our shit list:
Big Nationals. Refusing to endorse for DOI- lest they offend someone who might get the job- the national green groups remained mum on Grijalva, who EVERYONE knows would have been the best conservationist for the job. Talk about politicians!

Rahm Emanuel. We have no idea whether or not he was responsible for scuttling Grijalva because of money, but if he is, he's a bastard.

And, yes, today we're even pissed at Barack Obama, who promised us change and gave us the same glad-handling cowboys to run the west. SSDD. We were so hopeful, so inspired. Some would say, so stupid. We would have expected this from John McCain and Sarah Palin. Ouch.
The good news is there is plenty o' eggnog and more than a splash of rum to be had. And Mr. Grijalva, we'll be tipping one back for you. Thanks for all you do.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Don't that just say it all

The Public Lands Council (PLC) and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) applauded a decision by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Commerce to make final, jointly published, revised regulations, for the consultation process under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). (PLC)
With these corporate cowboy associations, their reactions follow a straightforward dichotomous key:
1. When these guys are applauding............Bad news for the environment.
1. When they are whining.......Good news for the environment.
But, ah, here's something very telling:
The Public Lands Council (PLC) has represented livestock ranchers who use public lands since 1968....Our members own more than 120 million acres of the most productive private land and manage vast areas of public land, accounting for critical wildlife habitat and the nation’s natural resources.
Because if you've seen the public land they "manage," you wouldn't be tempted to confuse it with the productive land they hold onto to sell to the highest bidder. As for "accounting for critical habitat," well, that's telling too, because for them, it's a numbers game of how much they can get paid from state and federal wildlife agencies (e.g. NRCS) to not degrade the public lands habitats any further. Straightforward accounting.


Taking what they want

After eight years, the Bush Administration finally got what they wanted- a weakened Endangered Species Act. The new regulations, finalized yesterday, eliminate the requirement that agencies consult US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists when determining whether dams, towers, highways and other projects will likely harm federally-listed imperiled species.
Kempthorne, who characterized the new rules as a common-sense streamlining of bureaucratic processes, acknowledged that there was disagreement within the department regarding the rules, which take effect in 30 days.

Under current law, agencies must submit any plans that could harm species on the endangered list for review by scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the Endangered Species Act. The process has been criticized by home builders groups and the oil and gas industry for delaying costly projects.(LA Times)
Right, because home building and oil and gas development is more important than preserving species on the brink of extinction. Instead, you'll have the usual crappy BLM decisions:
"I'd reckon the sage grouse will do fine here among the rigs."

"Yup. Git 'er done."
How demoralizing for the the agency biologists, to be told that their opinion is nothing more than a unnecessary roadblock.

Another one for Mr. Obama and (fingers crossed) Secretary Grijalva to fix.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Like having election jitters all over again

Remember how hard it was to sleep on November 3rd? We do. And now, with the delayed appointment for the Secretary of the Department of the Interior Cabinet position, we're twitchy all over again.
Still unclear is whom Obama will tap for interior secretary.

Officials close to the transition said support for John Berry, the director of the National Zoo and a former assistant secretary at the Interior Department, was growing. But these officials also said Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and California Rep. Mike Thompson were still in the running. (AP)
We can't take it any more and we want Grijalva! We're not alone. PEER got 106 green groups together to endorse Grijalva. Newspapers are endorsing him. The Huffington Post sang high praises.

Can't you just feel the love for this guy? Hopefully Mr. Obama can too. 'Cause this time around, this position is as critical as commander in chief for those of us who care about imperiled species. After too many years of Dirk Kempthorne, we're really ready for a change.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Balance Nature... Eat a Fetus!

Well, we're more than a little bit surprised that the folks who usually oppose the reintroduction of native predators on public lands in the southwest have taken up.... uh.... population control?

We're with them on the "majestic wolves" part, but what's with the bloated veal?

Here's what we really don't get: How is it that people who raise animals for slaughter try to tug on the public's heartstrings when some native predator gets there first? Really, would you rather be eaten in some beautiful place or swung from some shackles until a stun gun gets you between the eyes, all the while surrounded by hundreds of shitting, bleeding, moaning brethren?

Give us the great outdoors and a quick crush of the jugular any day.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Huff Po on W. the environmental Scrooge

W. To US: "Drop Dead to You All, and to All a Good Night" (Huffington Post)

The article calls out all of Bush's bad last minute regulations and rule changes, not the least of which is the gutting of the Endangered Species Act. It's really quite a list, though, so check out the link. And then, be sure that you write to and remind them that we're counting on the Obama administration to reverse this treachery.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Filing ESA litigation? Get in line.

Ah, November. The month when Barack Obama was elected and, well, the world just seemed a little sweeter, the skies a little bluer, and the sun a bit more sunny. Little birds tied ribbons to our pigtails. Stars twinkled show tunes. Yep, it was awesome. Then, hope sprang eternal for Grijalva's appointment as Secretary of the DOI and then, so much thanks-giving, and then....

LAWSUITS. Lots of them.

1. List the Pacific Walrus, would you Kempthorne?
2. A decision on the Canadian lynx, perhaps?
3. Maybe a little something more for the coral reefs?

And that's just this week!

If only Dirk Kempthorne could be tried for crimes against nature....