Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fantastic news for salmon- if they can wait for it


Today's big news in the world of fish: Four dams along the Klamath River are slated for removal. Hurrah!

From the NY Times:
The agreement is the product of years of often bitter negotiations among electric utilities, government officials, commercial fishers, farmers, native tribes and environmental groups. It calls for the breaching and removal of four Klamath River hydroelectric plants owned and operated by PacifiCorp.

PacifiCorp, which is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., appears ready to go along with the agreement when -- and if -- officials from Oregon, California and the Interior Department make the pact official through a number of policy measures.
Why would the corporation agree to this? Because they love fish?
PacifiCorp executives appear ready to remove the dams rather than pursue expensive fish-saving modifications that would have cost the utility more than $300 million. A study by the California Energy Commission determined that dam removal would cost about $100 million less than the modifications.
Oh, well, whatever works!

UPDATE: Maybe not such a great deal for wildlife and conservation after all.
Klamath Riverkeeper’s position on a final dam deal:

The package of Klamath agreements and legislation can win the support of Klamath Riverkeeper if it adequately addresses the following issues:

1. Four dams out by 2020 A final hydropower agreement that will remove the dams no later than 2020 must be publicly released and integrated into the KBRA.

2. Sufficient drought planning to prevent fish kills and protect refuges The parameters of a drought plan must be outlined clearly and specifically in the package and must protect fisheries and refuges.

3. Mandatory compliance with clean water laws The agreement must uphold state and federal clean water laws and require compliance with mainstem and tributary pollution limits (TMDLs) mandated by the Clean Water Act.

4. Mandatory compliance with the Endangered Species Act The agreement should not undermine the integrity of the ESA or provide loopholes for non-compliance by any party.

5. California funding for dam removal by 2012 California must secure its financial commitment toward the costs of dam removal by 2012. The state must consider funding mechanisms other than general obligation bonds that may include environmentally damaging projects like a peripheral canal.

6. The federal government as removal agent The U.S. Department of the Interior must take absolute and final responsibility for removing the four dams.

7. No 60-day right of withdrawal for states California and Oregon cannot back out of the agreement, and should take an active role in funding and supporting dam removal on the Klamath River as a necessary step toward river restoration.

8. A federal finding for dam removal based on FERC record The secretarial finding prescribed in the Agreement In Principle should rely on the existing FERC record. Additional studies should be limited to data gaps in the existing record and studies to ensure that removal is safe for downstream communities.

9. Limit PacifiCorp’s immunity to dam removal The agreements and legislation should limit immunity to the act of dam removal. PacifiCorp should still be accountable for decades of damages its dams have caused to public health and fisheries in the Klamath basin.
Can we get a "better than nothing?"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Conservationists Sue to Protect Endangered Jaguars From Arizona Game and Fish Department

The Center for Biological Diversity takes the cake with the headline of this press release. So many animals in Arizona need protecting from the "Maim and Squish Department" right now that we're so glad someone is finally taking them to ask.
“Snaring and other risky actions undertaken by the Arizona Game and Fish Department broke the law by putting jaguars at risk even if they had never captured and unnecessarily killed Macho B,” Robinson [of CBD] added. “The department is still putting jaguars at risk.”

Today’s lawsuit is independent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ongoing investigation into any violations that may have led to the death of Macho B.

“We hope that the Fish and Wildlife Service will seek accountability and justice for the loss of the last known jaguar in United States,” said Robinson. “Our suit is about preventing future harm to jaguars in the United States.”
Hear, hear.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Today's most accurate headline: We're Screwed!

Today, the merry pranksters with a mission, The Yes Men, issued a "special edition" of the New York Post, which they distributed throughout the Big Apple.The Gothamist describes it this way:
The front page story, "WE'RE SCREWED," covers, in Bizarro-world Post fashion, the catastrophic events which the scientific community expects humanity to endure due to climate change. [T]he culture jammers have also distributed 85,000 copies of the print edition city-wide.

The fake Post is timed to coincide with a meeting of world leaders to discuss climate change at the U.N. Tuesday; the Yes Men emphasize that while their edition of the Post is a hoax, all the facts in the tabloid are accurate.
No joke.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton is focus of corruption probe

(Headline verbatim from LA Times)
The investigation's main focus is whether Norton violated a law that prohibits federal employees from discussing employment with a company if they are involved in dealings with the government that could benefit the firm, law enforcement and Interior officials said.

They said investigators also were trying to determine if Norton broke a broader federal "denial of honest services" law, which says a government official can be prosecuted for violating the public trust by, for example, steering government business to favored firms or friends.

The Interior Department's Office of Inspector General began the investigation during the waning months of the George W. Bush administration and more recently made a formal criminal referral to the Justice Department. Norton is the first Bush official at the Cabinet secretary level to be the subject of a formal political corruption investigation.
Back when she quit, folks speculated that she was somehow caught up in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal and was getting out while the getting was good. Maybe so, but it sounds like she also might have had a better offer.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Middle Fork Wolves spared... for now

Today's Albuquerque Journal had a story titled: Mexican Gray Wolves To Be Spared, Despite Cow Deaths. Since the ABQ is subscription only, here are a few free bits for ya'll:
In a decision issued Thursday, Brian Millsap, deputy regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the Middle Fork Pack, which includes four pups, would remain in the wild until at least Nov. 1, although the pack's alpha wolves have killed at least seven cattle in the last two months.
Yay for reason! Yay for wolves! Yay for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (and you know how rarely we've said that in recent years)!

Oh, wait.... what's this about November 1st? And whose cows are these anyway?
The cows are owned by Mexican businessman Eloy Vallina, who operates the Adobe and Slash ranches, which stretch over hundreds of thousands of acres. Vallina runs other cattle operations in Chihuahua, Mexico, and owns thousands of acres on the west side of Ciudad Juarez.
Poor, poor struggling cowboy, just trying to make a living. Ya right!*

You may remember the Adobe-Slash Ranch from the tragic baiting incident of fall 2007.

And if you feel bad about the 7 cows, here's a tiny violin for you: The Adobe-Slash Ranch is the site of the livestock-caused removal of at least four packs of Mexican wolves: the Pipestem, Saddle, Aspen, and Durango.


*We strongly recommend a review of the link. Very informative about the traditional values and custom and culture of the western livestock industry.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hug your cheeseburgers tonight

Ha ha. Hyperbolic right-wingers from Canada are afraid that the Endangered Species Act is going to take their hamburgers away. This was all exposed on FOX News' Glenn Beck Crazy Hour:
Cattlemen in this country own and manage most of the lands that are covered by the Endangered Species Act, that are subject to control. So you ask: Why is Cass Sunstein’s [nominee for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator] hatred and animus toward meat eating such a big deal? It’s because he’ll be in a position to be able to use the Endangered Species Act to put cattlemen out of business. And then the price of your steak goes up. And then the price of your cheeseburger goes up.
Hug your cheeseburgers tonight, because they too are about to become an endangered species.
Aside from the obvious inaccuracies, one wonders why they didn't mention that carnivores will be the first to go under directions from Obama's death panels.

Let's hope that Cass Sunstein has half the power the nutbars think he does. We could use some real reform.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Killing Wolves for Fun is Unethical

The New York Times just came out with this great piece about the ethics of hunting wolves for sport.
A case might be made for the right to hunt for food and to manage wildlife populations, but surely some of the more than 14,000 people who bought wolf-hunting licenses are interested in neither wolf sandwiches nor animal husbandry: they simply enjoy hunting.
And hate wolves.
Some note that hunting is a challenging activity. No doubt. As is juggling flaming axes while blindfolded. And drunk. But not everything difficult is desirable. Or ethical. Pickpocketing, too, is tough....

Inflicting death is not an acceptable leisure activity.
Unless you are a psychopath.
Beyond what it inflicts on the wolf — pain, death — hunting damages us. It coarsens us. It inures us to suffering. One measure of a society is how it treats the week and vulnerable, including animals, including those deemed “wild” or outside the bounds of society.
The argument is not that we shouldn't kill animals, but that we shouldn't kill them wantonly, and not for kicks.

(We can hear the wolf-haters railing against the liberal elite east-coasters already.)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Beyond the "Green Fire" passage

Aldo Leopold was one of the greats: thoughtful, intelligent, articulate, and passionate. He comes up a lot lately because it's his 100 year anniversary in the Southwest, and folks are honoring his contribution to our understanding of native ecosystems.

The most oft-quoted passage is the one wherein he shoots a wolf only to have second-thoughts when witnessing the fierce green fire die in her eyes. It's a tear-jerker. But just a few paragraphs more and Leopold says this:
I know suspect that just as a deer herd lives in fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear if its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades.

So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his [sic] range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf's job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future to the sea." Emphasis ours.
And since we are preventing wolves from killing livestock, we have lost the potential for ecological restoration. The problem of "a range pulled down" by too much herbivory isn't solved simply by having wolves back on the land- it takes a reduction in the herbivore population too. So, really, we need both an increase in wolves and a decrease in cattle/sheep. Stopping at one and ignoring the other- while politically expedient- is ineffective. Ahem.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

In the spirit of "No Compromise"

We here at DL have some pretty strong views regarding the seemingly endless stakeholder processes regarding public lands management. In addition to boring us to death, we're offended at the great pretense that everyone has a voice. Not everyone has a voice- unless the Lorax magically appears. When conservationists come to speak for the trees they are told their stake is equal to or less than the stakeholders who seek to make an extractive living, or an extractive hobby, or both. It offends us.

Earlier today, we were told that we need to listen to people and consider their needs. Well, we listen to plenty of people: Dave Foreman, Judy Bari, etc. More importantly, listening to people and considering their needs is too narrow. What about the non-people entities like the Mexican gray wolf whose numbers are in the mere dozens? Why isn't listening to them important? Surely, the lands of the Gila National Forest have been in their families for generations too.

We've already compromised too much. We've given up rivers, native wildlife, old growth forests, potable springs, grizzly bears in the SW, jaguars in Texas, healthy polar bear habitats, untold acres of topsoil, Glen Canyon, mountain tops, and on and on and on.

That's our half. If you want to meet in the middle, it means No More.