Monday, February 15, 2010

The canary has fallen off its snowy perch

Not sure what to say that Bill McKibben didn't say far more eloquently in this op-ed in the Washington Post re: how snowstorms actually are evidence of global warming.
In most places, winter is clearly growing shorter and less intense. We can tell, because Arctic sea ice is melting, because the glaciers on Greenland are shrinking and because a thousand other signals send the same message. Here in the mountains of the Northeast, for instance, lakes freeze later than they used to, and sometimes not at all: Lake Champlain remained open in winter only three times during the 19th century, but it did so 18 times between 1970 and 2007.

But rising temperature is only one effect of climate change. Probably more crucially, warmer air holds more water vapor than cold air does. The increased evaporation from land and sea leads to more drought but also to more precipitation, since what goes up eventually comes down. The numbers aren't trivial -- global warming has added 4 percent more moisture to the atmosphere since 1970. That means that the number of "extreme events" such as downpours and floods has grown steadily; the most intense storms have increased by 20 percent across the United States in the past century.
He makes the point that the snowstorms in Washington, D.C. are the backdrop for much-needed global warming legislation. Hopefully, the snowbound Senators can see the big picture.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mexican wolves: The good, the bad, and the ugly

First, the good: √Āndale pues! The Mexican Mexican wolf program looks to be getting off the ground. (Despite the ugly ambitions of Arizona Game and Fish Department, we hasten to add.)

BTW, the decline in Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico is really much worse than the stories last week (including this blog's) suggest. At the start of 2009, there were 52 wolves. 31 pups were born during the year, bringing the total to 83. At the end of the year, there were only 42. Not all pups make it, even in good years. But this was a very bad year for wolves.

And now for some more good: The Arizona Republic said Ya Basta to the ranchers today:
Wolves are on public land. Those privileged to hold grazing leases have a duty to accommodate other public uses of the land.

Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest director for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says he's "determined" to "see more Mexican wolves in the wild."

He had better make that clear to the ranchers.
Those rugged individualists sure are the whiney type. We join the AZ Republic in hoping the agency plugs its ears.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mexican wolf numbers dropped in 2009

Image via.

Not that they have ever been high enough to begin with- but Mexican gray wolf numbers dipped about 20 percent in 2009, from 52 [in 2008] to 42 individuals estimated to be remaining in the wild. Full story from the AZ Daily Star (thanks Tony Davis, as usual).
An unusually poor survival rate among wolf pups appeared to play a key role in last year's population decline, officials indicated. Thirty-one pups were born last year in seven wolf packs. Seven survived, the wildlife service said.

Normally, the wild wolf pup mortality rate is about 50 percent, Tuggle said. Only four of the non-surviving pups were found dead, meaning that the rest either "slipped under the census or they are no longer on the landscape," he said, meaning they are dead.
Isn't that sad? The mortality among the pups is a worrisome and perhaps self-perpetuating trend: it may be an issue of genetic fitness and breeding declines due to the low number of wolves out there.

But the pup mortalities are not the only problemo:
Two wolves were confirmed to have been shot to death last year. Tuggle said he is not ruling out the possibility that the other six dead wolves were shot. Those deaths are under law enforcement investigation.
If you've for any info on the wolf deaths, there's a pretty penny reward in sharing that info with the appropriate officials. (See sidebar on our blog.) It is illegal to kill a federally-protected endangered species and these wolf-killers are criminals. Godspeed the federal investigation and prosecution of these SOBs.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Debrief on Macho B

Our last couple of posts have been about the Inspector General report which found the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) and its subcontractor intentionally captured Macho B in violation of the Endangered Species Act. We're not surprised. Given AGFD's unfortunate ties to extractive interests (handing out 'habitat' money to ranchers, permitting ORVs, selling bighorn and killing predators to protect tag-worthy prey), the incompetence and perhaps malfeasance when it came to getting a collar on Macho B is par for the course.

But still.

Macho B was more than one of the last few jaguars to roam the borderlands. He was a integral part of keeping the land wild. He was big enough to munch on mountain lions and elusive enough that most people looking for him never caught a glimpse. He didn't cause any trouble; he kept to himself. Perhaps this was more mystery than managers could take- perhaps they needed to know where he went in order to maintain their dominance over all things. Perhaps they needed grant money and being able to track Macho B with a GPS collar made it easier to answer the questions funding would like to ask. Perhaps it was an ill-formed idea about stopping the border wall or, perhaps, it was a way of nodding acquiescence. The IG report didn't explain the whys, and all the blogosphere can do is speculate on the basis and rue the outcome.

But still.

Macho B had a name, a history, and a international fame. If we can't save Macho B from poor judgment and cover-your-ass obfuscation from the bureaucrats, how will we save anything?

This is why it is imperative that the USFWS bring charges against AGFD and its subcontractor- to send a message that, when it comes to recovering endangered species, there is a zero-tolerance policy on fucking up.