Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bring back the sage-grouse!


You may remember the Bush Administration's pathetic and reluctant listing of the polar bear as an endangered species. You may remember hearing sage-grouse called the polar bear of the west. This is because an ESA listing for sage-grouse could change the management of public lands across the West, much the way as we had hoped listing the polar bear would force consideration of climate impacts of any proposed action. (And it still might. Keep your fingers crossed.)

So, with that bit of background, you can understand why everyone is really excited about the new ruling in southwestern Idaho that reminds the BLM about it's obligation to sage-grouse in land management decisions.
[Judge Winwill] concluded that grazing is a key factor in the decline of species like the sage grouse, pygmy rabbit and slickspot peppergrass, and that the agency must give more consideration in the future to the impact grazing has on those species and their habitat.

Western Watersheds attorney Laird Lucas cheered the ruling, saying it should force a wholesale shift in the way the agency manages grazing across the West.

"Science has been overlooked in the past," Lucas said. "It's true we did not get a complete halt to grazing like we had asked for in this area. But for the BLM to have to handle grazing differently and follow science, we think, is on the way to good policy."
We certainly hope that is what the ruling will do. We could use some of the "change" Obama promised.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

First the collar, then the leash

They've collared the first U.S. jaguar: Macho B. We're sure it's very exciting to be watching Mr. B zip around southern Arizona, but pray tell, why can't they leave him alone? It's a disgrace to make this proud survivor wear a collar to prove that the border wall sucks.

UPDATE: They killed Macho B.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beef: It's what for dinner, if you hate pygmy rabbits, sage grouse, willow flycatcher....

The Christian Science Monitor has this great story (Can America's West stay wild?) regarding the changing economy, demography, and environment of the west. What we're confused by is the title. Are they implying that the West is "wild" with livestock operations?

No matter. The rest of the story provides a straightforward and well-reasoned argument for removing livestock from the west's public lands. Too bad not all conservation groups think this clearly. Merely labeling something "Wilderness" doesn't protect it from some of the worst abuses.
Between 1970 and 2000, nonlabor jobs fueled 86 percent of this growth. Mining, timber, and agriculture (including ranching) contributed only 1 percent. Now, 93 percent of jobs in the West have no direct link to public lands, says Rasker. But wilderness areas, in conjunction with infrastructure like airports, correlated closely with areas that saw the greatest growth.
Which makes it that much more important that the habitat within the wilderness is as intact as possible, because the edge effects intensify.
Humans get a little meat at the expense of wolves, grizzlies, bison, birds, and trout – intact functioning ecosystems.
Is it really worth it?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Beef: It's what's for dinner, if you hate the American pika

This piece in Common Dreams, titled "Hamburgers are the Hummers of Food in Global Warming: Scientists," provides some excellent stats about meat consumption and carbon footprints.
Even though beef only accounts for 30 percent of meat consumption in the developed world it's responsible for 78 percent of the emissions, Pelletier said Sunday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

That's because a single kilogram of beef produces 16 kilograms carbon dioxide equivalent emissions: four times higher than pork and more than ten times as much as a kilogram of poultry, Pelletier said.

If people were to simply switch from beef to chicken, emissions would be cut by 70 percent, Pelletier said.
And if you were to switch to vegetarian or vegan, even better for the American Pika, a cute "rock rabbit" that can't take the warming climate in its mountain homes.

And hey, if your heart doesn't melt at the sight of a pika, you might want to see a cardiologist.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Public Service Announcement

From the Arizona Silver Belt:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents recovered the body of a dead adult female Mexican gray wolf on Jan. 19, on State Highway 260, between Horseshoe Cienega Lake and A-1 Lake on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, near Pinetop. This wolf apparently died from a gunshot wound, and its body appeared to have been dumped alongside the highway. Its death is currently being investigated.

The area where F836 of the Moonshine Pack was discovered saw heavy use over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, as a large number of people traveled Highway 260 between Pinetop and Springerville. If anyone saw a vehicle that was stopped, or was being driven slowly, between Horseshoe Cienega Lake and A-1 Lake, or has any information that could be helpful in finding the person(s) responsible for the death of this wolf, please contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Office of Law Enforcement at 928-339-4232 or the White Mountain Apache Tribe dispatch at 928-338-1023 or their Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Division at 928-338-4385 ext. 231.

The Service and its partners are offering a monetary reward for information leading to the apprehension of individual(s) responsible for the death of this wolf. Persons reporting information may be kept anonymous.
There's big money in turning in one of these poachers, too. Information leading to convictions totals $52K.

From an article in the Albuquerque Journal (subscription only, sorry), it appears the Gila Livestock Growers might have some information:
Laura Schneberger, head of the Gila Livestock Growers Association, wrote in an e-mail: "Illegal shootings are the result of not removing seriously problem wolves and a lot of conflict that was completely unmanaged."
Ms. Schneburger seems to have gotten inside the heads of the poachers with this little tidbit. Interesting.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Four dozen and change

The numbers for the Mexican gray wolf population of 2008 are out, and they are bleak. Looks like there are only 52 wolves left in the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico, and- get this- only two breeding pairs. It's the same total as last year, meaning at least it hasn't dropped.

The US Fish and Wildlife would really like for the public to believe that all the poachers are responsible for this failure of this program. And, truly, those poachers are assholes who have done some serious harm.
“Except for the illegal shooting or suspicious demise of seven wolves, 2008 would have seen Mexican wolf populations on the upswing again. These mortalities are an intolerable impediment to wolf recovery. We will continue to aggressively investigate each illegal wolf killing to help ensure that anyone responsible is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Benjamin N. Tuggle, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region, said today in a release.

Since 1998, 30 wild wolves have been illegally shot.
Yeah, but Tuggle, how many wolves have you guys messed with?
The U.S. government has shot 11 wolves since reintroduction began, killed 18 inadvertently as a result of capture, and in addition has trapped and not released 34 others – for a total of 63 removed wolves.(CBD)
And why does the USFWS remove wolves? To placate the livestock industry, mostly. Mr. Salazar and his new USFWS director are going to need to act fast to put endangered species recovery back on track for this critically low population. WE WANT WOLVES!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Any guesses on who will be the next head of the US Fish and Wildlife Service?

Nah, us neither. In fact, we're so far out of the beltway, we just hope he or she isn't a belt-buckler like Salazar. Though, as the Washington Post reported today, even Salazar might have done something righteous.

Good on ya, Ken. You can work off that lousy reputation if you just keep trying. And getting President Obama to appoint a really ethical, enviro-type to head FWS wouldn't be a bad next move.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Those cute little critters, again

Faithful readers may have noticed we have developed a big-time crush on prairie dogs. We raved about Terry Tempest William's new book which is 1/3 prairie love. We showed cute photos of prairie dogs kissing in an attempt to thwart Salazar's confirmation as Secretary of the DOI. And today, we're going to link to this story in the Washington Post, regarding management of the little charmers.
WildEarth Guardians says in its report to be released Monday that North America's five species of prairie dogs have lost more than 90 percent of their historical range because of habitat loss, shooting and poisoning.

It grades three federal land management agencies and a dozen states on their actions over the past year to protect prairie dogs and their habitat.

Not one received an A.
Must. Do. Something. Soon. To. Protect. The. Prairie. Dog.

Got it?