Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Anniversary ESA!

Today is the 36th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, a benchmark piece of legislation that has protected dozens of species from extinction. Signed, improbably, by Richard Nixon, it has added layers of legal protection to about 1900 species.

The WildEarth Guardians have launched a new campaign:
[E]nvironmentalists have pledged to file petitions and lawsuits over the next 36 days to persuade the Obama administration to make protection of endangered plants and animals a priority.
Unfortunately, it looks like an overhaul of the ESA may be a priority for the Obama Administration:
The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering wide-ranging revisions to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, the agency director said in an interview last week.

"There is no question there are places we can make improvements in the way we do business," the service director, Sam Hamilton, said. "We are taking a hard look ... to see regulatory-wise, administrative-wise, are there ways to improve?"
This is worrisome because Sam Hamilton has an ugly track record.
"No matter which way you turn, somebody is not going to be happy," Hamilton said. "Our focus is on trying to recover endangered species; our goal is to try to get them off the list. So as long as we keep our eye on that goal and work on definitions and work on policy to further that goal, we'll be in good shape."
Unfortunately, there is more than one way to get species off the list. Extinction is a sure-fire technique; premature removals works, and never listing a species is another. It seems that the Obama Administration is willing to try them all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BLM to Field Offices: Pretend to Care

The AP has filed this story, "BLM to field offices: Mark fences for sage grouse." Basically, the agency is going to mark new fences and guy wires to protect sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse and lesser prairie chickens, because the fences are currently death traps for the ground-dwelling birds.
Studies have shown that barbed-wire fences can be deadly when these bird species fly into the fences without seeing them, although the number of birds killed depends on a variety of factors. Mortality tends to be a problem in places where large numbers of birds congregate frequently near fences.
Sounds pretty good right?

Right. Except what about the fences that already exist? Going flag those too, right? Not so fast. The BLM is going to evaluate existing fences and think about whether or not to flag those.

God help us. When the BLM sets out to evaluate something, some uncomprehendingly long time later the answer will be that cows are going to save the fucking planet.

No mention of FENCE REMOVAL. Or STOPPING NEW CONSTRUCTION in sage-grouse habitat. Much better to litter the landscape with the white vinyl strips that will last, say, a year? Uh huh.

And anyway, the BLM is just doing this half-assed thing to try to avoid an ESA listing by pretending the species is already protected on public lands. Duh.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

If it walks like a duck....

Is it any wonder that Ken Salazar's Fish and Wildlife agency declined to list the prairie dog as an endangered species?
Regarded by most farmers and ranchers as a nuisance, the animals are considered a keystone species among biologists.
Exhibit A:

Doesn't quite look like a biologist, does he? Hmmm....

The NY Times today ran a bit about Salazar's "cautious" approach. Cautious, our ass. He's a industry hack.
Daniel R. Patterson, an Arizona state representative and a former employee in the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, said that he has been disappointed but not surprised by Mr. Salazar’s record so far. He said that as Colorado’s natural resources director, in the Senate and now at Interior, Mr. Salazar had been consistently friendly to energy, mining and agricultural interests, sometimes at the expense of the environment.
At the expense of wolves, prairie dogs, polar bears...

Take 'em to court, WildEarth Guardians.