Bird flu toll in Miyagi, Chiba kept down to [only?] 270,000 chickens

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/26/national/bird-flu-toll-miyagi-chiba-kept-270000-chickens/#.WNgLGTsrLIU

KYODO

The chicken cull sparked by the nation’s latest bird flu outbreaks fell short of the originally planned goal of 300,000 Sunday as authorities in Miyagi and Chiba prefectures opted to settle for roughly 209,000 and 62,000 chickens, respectively.

The two prefectures north of Tokyo were spurred into action by outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5 strain of bird flu at local poultry farms.

Agricultural officials in Chiba finished their cull on Saturday.

The Miyagi Prefectural Government will bury the carcasses underground and disinfect the poultry houses, officials said. It initially planned to kill 220,000 chickens but later reduced it by about 11,000.

The two culls began Friday, with help from Self-Defense Forces personnel.

Since November, the H5 virus has devastated poultry farms in Niigata, Aomori and Miyazaki prefectures as well as Hokkaido.

According to the Miyagi Prefectural Government, a total of 96 chickens were found dead over a three-day period through Thursday at a poultry farm in Kurihara. Six tested positive for bird flu in a preliminary screening.

In Chiba, 118 chickens were found dead over the same three-day period at a farm in Asahi and 10 tested positive in a preliminary test.

Subsequent generic exams detected the highly virulent H5N6 strain of avian influenza in both cases.


Also:  220,000 More Birds Culled in Japan’s Northeast due to Bird Flu

 

TOKYO – Japanese authorities announced on Friday that some 220,000 more birds in the northeast of the country have been slaughtered due to an outbreak of bird flu that has reappeared since the end of 2016.

The latest outbreak was detected on a farm in Miyagi prefecture after hundreds of dead chickens were analyzed throughout the week and were subsequently found that they were infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5.

Regional authorities on Friday began slaughtering all the birds on the farm with help from the Japan Self-Defense Forces, a process that will continue until Sunday.

In addition, the transport of birds and eggs within a radius of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) around the three affected farms has been prohibited, state media NHK television said.

According to the NHK, Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai said at a press conference that this is the first outbreak of bird flu detected on a farm in this prefecture.

The outbreak of the virus in this northeastern region follows outbreaks in the country’s southwest, in Miyazaki in January and in Saga in February.

The number of birds slaughtered in Japan has reached around 1.39 million so far since the bird flu was again detected in the country in November 2016 after the 2014 outbreak, prompting the Ministry of Environment to raise the alert to the highest level.

http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2433443&CategoryId=13936

Wolves need federal protection

http://bismarcktribune.com/news/opinion/guest/wolves-need-federal-protection/article_030ddd4a-8116-5f45-aa00-05b19554c64a.html

by Collette Adkins

The tragic killing of a gray wolf mistaken for a coyote in North Dakota’s Walsh County recently is a painful reminder of why wolves still need federal endangered species protections.

This poor creature was the first known wolf in North Dakota since one was confirmed in Bowman County in December 2014. Before that, hunters in McKenzie County killed one in 2012.

These wolf deaths are bad for North Dakota’s ecosystems, which are out of balance without large carnivores.

Because wolves target the weak, diseased, old and injured, they help keep prey populations of deer and elk more vigorous. Wolves also promote biodiversity by preventing prey from overgrazing vegetation, degrading habitat and harming other native wildlife.

The death of this wolf is a blow to wolf recovery in the state.

Although wolves elsewhere in the country have made significant progress under the protections of the Endangered Species Act, they are nowhere near fully recovered.

Wolves have returned to only about 10 percent of their historic range in the United States and could return to areas of North Dakota with abundant prey, such as the Badlands — if people would stop killing them.

Indeed, with Endangered Species Act protections, the wolf population in Minnesota grew and wolves dispersed to begin repopulating Wisconsin and then Michigan. Recovery to additional Midwest and Great Lakes states depends on the protections afforded by the act.

But if elected officials from those areas have their way, wolves will be stripped of federal protections. Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are pushing for removing those protections to appease livestock producers and trophy hunters. They have introduced legislation in Congress, HR424 and S164, that would remove federal protections without any review by the courts and turn wolf management over to states.

As an attorney working for more than a decade to protect wolves and stop cruel wildlife exploitation, I know these bills would be devastating.

We’ve already seen how states treat wolves when they are allowed management. As soon as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolf protections — prematurely — in 2012, Minnesota and Wisconsin worked to open trophy hunting and trapping seasons, contributing to a 25 percent decline in Minnesota.

When the court restored protections, wolf populations in Minnesota began to rebound. That shows that the Endangered Species Act works.

Wolves are an important part of our natural heritage but were driven to the brink of extinction across much of the country more than a century ago. They deserve a real chance at recovery. And, for starters, that means continued federal protections in Minnesota and across the Midwest and more tolerance for them on the ground.

One day, hopefully, we’ll see them breeding again in North Dakota.

Collette Adkins is a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

 

French parliament votes to install cameras in slaughterhouses

January 18, 2017

Amid rising reports of animal abuses at meat processing facilities, France’s parliament has voted that slaughterhouses be required to install surveillance cameras to monitor workers’ interactions with live animals.

The proposed legislation, which was approved by 28 members on Jan. 12, would give the country’s nearly 1,000 slaughterhouses until Jan. 1, 2018 to install CCTV cameras everywhere live animals are handled, including monitoring the transport process and while they’re being held in stables, reports Politico.

FRENCH PEOPLE CAN’T ENOUGH HAMBURGERS

According to the bill, the footage from each slaughterhouse would only be viewable to veterinarians, approved government officials or animal-welfare inspectors and would be kept on government file for a month. The bill also proposes the creations of a national Committee on the Ethics of Slaughterhouses, which would oversee and mete out harsher penalties to facilities caught violating the law.

The move comes amid heightened scrutiny of the country’s meat industry. In 2016, animal rights activist group L214 released troubling footage showing numerous animal abuses at several French meat-processing facilities inclduing workers killing animals without stunning them first, throwing lambs into walls, and hitting live animals.

Though the bill passed in parliament—where just four MPs opposed the legislation—it must still be approved by France’s senate. According to Reuters, the vote could happen as early as February.

More:
Cameras to be installed in all slaughterhouses in Israel (Jerusalem Online)
http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/in-israel/local/cameras-to-be-installed-in-all-slaughterhouses-in-israel-14480

Israel Moves to Install Cameras in Slaughterhouses to Prevent Cruelty (Haaretz)
http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.694463

Grizzly No. 122, ‘The Boss’ of Banff, wakes up from winter hibernation 

By Daniel Katz, Bow Valley Crag & Canyon

The biggest, baddest grizzly in Banff, No. 122, also known as ‘The Boss’, was spotted Wednesday morning wandering the railway tracks near Castle Junction, the first confirmed sighting of a bear in the mountain national parks so far this year.

No. 122 was first seen by a member of the public, who called in the sighting to Parks Canada.

“He’s just in the Castle Junction area, and is feeding on grain along the railway tracks there,” said Steve Michel, human-wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, stating Parks staff verified the sighting after receiving the report.

Mid-March is the time when large male grizzlies come out of their winter hibernation and begin to be active on the landscape in search of their first meals in months.

Believed to be approximately 16 years old, No. 122 is considered to be one of the largest, most dominant grizzlies on the landscape.

Sporting a thick coat of fur grown over the winter, Michel said No. 122’s weight is estimated to be between 400 and 500 pounds currently.

He was last collared from 2012 to 2013, and wildlife officials found that his range covered more than 2,500 square kilometres in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay parks, mostly along highways and railways. Despite being hit by a train many years ago, he continues to use habitats heavily developed by humans to exploit food resources there.

“Because the Bow Valley is a very busy place and there are a lot of humans that occupy this landscape, he’s well-adjusted to humans and human facilities, and he seems to be relatively indifferent to our presence,” said Michel.

Michel added that snow on the ground will likely cause No. 122 to stay close to railway tracks in order to find food sources.

“We expect to see that he will continue with that behaviour for the next few weeks, and then as additional foraging opportunities become available, such as the first green grass starts to emerge, and dandelions and digging roots, any of these vegetation options he will take advantage of,” said Michel. “He certainly will take advantage of any opportunity he can to find carcasses on the landscape, animals that haven’t survived the harsh winter.”

Starting in May No. 122 is expected to roam the landscape in search of females as we get into the spring breeding season, which will dictate most of movements through May and June.

“Because of his size, he is certainly one of the more dominant grizzly bears that we have in the Bow Valley, and he certainly travels through the landscape with a significant amount of confidence,” said Michel.

Since ‘The Boss’ is not currently radio-collared, it is unknown when he first emerged from his den this season.

He has fathered a number of other high-profile bears in the area, based on a limited DNA analysis of five cubs from two different females. That study revealed he was the father of all those five offspring, and it is possible he may have sired many others, says Michel.

He bred with No. 72, a well-known female from the Lake Louise area, which resulted in two offspring, No. 142 and No. 143.

He also sired three cubs with female grizzly No. 64, a high-profile bear from the Banff area. The litter of that coupling resulted in bears No. 144, 148 and 160.

Grizzly No. 144 was the male who was destroyed by Alberta fish and wildlife officers in 2015 for killing sheep and llamas on a farm near Sundre, and No. 148, a female, has been seen on numerous occasions touring between Canmore and Banff. Last summer, a section of the Legacy Trail outside the Banff east gates closed due to No. 148 travelling close to the bike path.

Over the weekend, fresh grizzly tracks were seen on Kananaskis Country Golf Course, indicating bears were starting to wake up in the region.

John Paczkowski, ecologist with Alberta Environment and Parks, says they do not yet have GPS collar data showing that bears are active.

Parks Canada officials in Waterton and Jasper national parks stated that as of Wednesday they have not received reports of any bears on the landscape.

Sows and cubs usually come out of their dens in middle to late May, depending on the weather, because mothers are still nursing their young and spring is a difficult season to find food.

“Typically, it’s the adult males who come out first, and then the females with cubs are last, so it would be over the next month or even more we’ll see them come out depending on the sex and the reproductive status,” said Paczkowski.

With the arrival of warmer weather, Michel says people need start being aware of the fact that bears are waking up.

“People should now be thinking about bears, and they should be thinking about bears around their homes and campsites with respect to managing attractants … garbage, recycling, bird feeders, barbecues, pet food — all that stuff needs to be really secure,” he said. “When people are out enjoying the landscape, whether it’s hiking or snowshoeing or skiing, they need to be thinking about travelling in a group, being bear aware, carrying bear spray with them and making sure their dogs are kept on a leash.”

DKatz@postmedia.com

http://www.thecragandcanyon.ca/2017/03/23/grizzly-no-122-the-boss-of-banff-wakes-up-from-winter-hibernation

 

What U.S. Poultry Producers Do Not Want You to Know About Bird Flu

http://www.alternet.org/food/what-poultry-producers-dont-want-you-know-about-bird-flu

Once again, bird flu is back in the U.S. From 2014 through mid-2015, 48 million chickens and turkeys were killed in the U.S. to prevent the disease’s spread and protect famer’s profits.

Factory farmers routinely fight to keep images of how poultry are raised out of public view, so consumers do not lose their appetites and will continue eating their products. Industrial farmers also fight hard to keep images of how chickens and turkeys are “euthanized” out of the public view.

It is easy to see why. To prevent the spread of bird flu, healthy, floor-reared turkeys and broiler chickens are herded into an enclosed area where they were administered propylene glycol foam to suffocate them. Michael Blackwell, chief veterinary officer at The Humane Society of the United States, likens death by foam to “cuffing a person’s mouth and nose, during which time you are very much aware that your breathing has been precluded.”

“Ventilation shutdown” is also used to kill healthy birds and prevent the spread of the flu. It raises the barn temperature to at least 104F for a minimum of three hours killing the entire flock—a method so extreme that even factory farmers admit it is cruel. During the 2015 outbreak, “Round the clock incinerators and crews in hazmat suits,” were required for the bird depopulation reported Fortune—a sequence likely to occur again.

Factory farmers like to blame bird flu on “migratory birds,” denying that high-volume production methods allow the spread of the disease. But the fact is, factory farms house 300,000 or more egg layers in one barn versus only tens of thousands of birds in “broiler barns” which is why the flu spreads so quickly among egg-laying hens.

Moreover, we the taxpayers compensate factory farmers for their self-induced losses and appalling farm practices.

“The poultry industry appreciates the fact that the USDA helps protect the health of the nation’s livestock and poultry by responding to major animal disease events such as this,” said a letter from the National Association Egg Farmers to Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics during the previous bird flu outbreak. But please “provide indemnification for the whole flock and not just the surviving,” the letter asks.

The only interaction most people have with poultry production is the prices they pay at the grocery store. When prices are low, people do not think twice. When prices jump—as they likely will with the new bird flu outbreak—few realize the higher prices are a direct result of the conditions that make low prices possible because they invite disease.

If an egg carton said, “30,000 hens were suffocated with propylene glycol foam to keep this low price,” would people buy the eggs? Would anyone buy a Thanksgiving turkey whose label said, “thousands of healthy turkeys were smothered to keep this low price?”

In addition to hiding the round-the-clock suffocation of birds to prevent bird flu’s spread, factory farmers assure the public that bird flu is not a threat to humans so people should keep eating their products. Sadly, their claim is not totally true.

During a bird flu outbreak, the unethical and deceptive practices of poultry producers are in full view. Yet, it is not hard to find healthy, protein-packed alternatives to factory farm-produced poultry products. By doing so, the U.S. public sends a strong message to poultry producers.

Al Gore Blames Unrest on Global Warming

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/783784/Al-Gore-GLOBAL-WARMING-climate-change-Brexit-EU-referendum

Is CO2 behind Brexit?! Al Gore says GLOBAL WARMING led to shock Leave victory

IN ONE of his most astonishing claims ever, the former US Vice President Al Gore insisted that the Brexit victory was impacted by climate change and rising temperatures.

PUBLISHED: 12:01, Sat, Mar 25, 2017

Al Gore, who nearly became US President in 2000, has said that the causes of Brexit, and even the Syrian Civil War, could be traced to climate change.

The environmental activist revealed the bizarre claim during a speech to fans in London ahead of the release of his new environmental film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

Mr Gore, who was Vice President to Bill Clinton between 1992 and 2000, said the rising temperatures fueled the discontent the led to the Brexit referendum outcome.

He explained that extreme weather conditions were creating political instability “the world will find extremely difficult to deal with”.

GoreGETTY

Gore said that the growing temperatures led to the Brexit referendum outcome

Mr Gore told the audience at the Advertising Week Europe event in London that the “principal” cause of the Syrian Civil War had been the worst drought in 900 years, which forced 1.5 million people to move from the countryside to the cities.

He said that this created a “political powder keg situation” that Syrian government officials privately feared would explode into a war.

This then triggered a mass refugee wave into Europe, causing even greater political instability within the EU and helping convince UK voters to leave the Union last year.

The former presidential candidate said: “This collision between the power of industrial civilisation and the surprising fragility of the Earth’s ecosystem now poses a great danger that could even threaten the future of human civilisation itself.

“One of the lines of investigation scientists have been pursuing has led them to the conclusion that significant areas of the Middle East and North Africa are in danger of becoming uninhabitable.

“And, just a taste of this, to link it to some of the events that the UK and European Union are going through – think for a moment about what happened in Syria.”

Week Europe event in LondonGETTY

The former presidential candidate told an audience at the Advertising Week Europe event in London

Al Gore feels good after climate change conversation with Trump

This contributed in some ways to the desire of some in the UK to say ‘whoa, we’re not sure we want to be part of that anymore’

Al Gore

Mr Gore added: “Before the gates of hell opened in Syria, what happened was a climate-related extreme drought.

“From 2006 to 2010, 60 per cent of the farms in Syria were destroyed and 80 per cent of the livestock were killed.

“The drought in the eastern Mediterranean is the worst ever on record – the records only go back 900 years, but it’s historic.

“And 1.5 million climate refugees were driven into the cities in Syria, where they collided with refugees from the Iraq War.

“Wikileaks revealed the internal conversations in the Syrian government where they were saying to one another ‘we can’t handle this, there’s going to be a social explosion’.

“There are other causes of the Syrian civil war, but this was the principal one.

“This produced the incredible flow of refugees into Europe, which is creating political instability and which contributed in some ways to the desire of some in the UK to say ‘whoa, we’re not sure we want to be part of that anymore’”.

extreme weatherIG

He said that extreme weather conditions were creating political instability

CO2 emissions GETTY

Did CO2 emissions make the difference for Brexit voters?

Mr Gore’s alarming explanation comes just after current US Defence Secretary, General James Mattis, confirmed that the American military was taking climate change seriously.

He said: “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.

“Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defence must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.

“The effects of a changing climate – such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others – impact our security situation.”

Full Story: http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/783784/Al-Gore-GLOBAL-WARMING-climate-change-Brexit-EU-referendum

From Canada to Siberia, Permafrost Thaw Produces ‘Hell’s Mouth’ Craters, Sinking Lands, and 7,000 Methane Pockets Waiting to Blow 

robertscribbler

In places like Canada and Siberia, a memory of ice ages long past is locked away in the very soil. There, dig about three feet down, and you’ll encounter a layer of frozen earth running from 200 feet to almost a mile deep in some places. It’s like a great glacier secreted away underground and covering about 19 million square kilometers of the Northern Hemisphere. We call this frozen ground permafrost.

An Enormous Pile of Sequestered Carbon

Permafrost generally forms in regions where the mean annual temperature is below zero degrees Celsius. And the presently large expanse of permafrost has formed over the past 2-3 million years in which long, cold ice ages and short, and somewhat warmer interglacial periods have dominated.

(Recent research indicates that up to 120 billion tons of carbon could release from thawing permafrost this Century due to the warming that is now being caused…

View original post 1,040 more words

Arctic Entering Its Hottest Period in 2.5 Million Years as Last Remnants of Laurentide Melt Away

robertscribbler

“This is the disappearance of a feature from the last glacial age, which would have probably survived without anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.” — Adrien Gilbert

*****

There are many ways to tell the Earth’s temperature. One is by measuring how warm the atmosphere is near the surface. Another is to track the heat content of the world’s oceans. Still another is by taking account of melting glaciers and comparing thaw lines with times in the geological past.

And according to new research, the present state of the Barnes Ice Cap — which is the last tiny remnant of the once vast Laurentide Ice Sheettells a tale of heat not seen in 2.5 million years.

(NASA satellite shot of the last melting remnant of the Laurentide Ice sheet on August 30 of 2016. Want to see a time lapse of Barnes Ice Cap melt from 1984…

View original post 483 more words

Dahr Jamail | Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39957-release-of-arctic-methane-may-be-apocalyptic-study-warns

Thursday, March 23, 2017
By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

On a lake, plumes of gas, most likely methane from the breakdown of carbon in sediments below the lake, keep the water from freezing in spots, outside Fairbanks, Alaska, October 21, 2011. As the Arctic warms, the threat of abrupt methane releases is rising, too.  (Photo: Josh Haner / The New York Times) On a lake, plumes of gas, most likely methane from the breakdown of carbon in sediments below the lake, keep the water from freezing in spots, outside Fairbanks, Alaska, October 21, 2011. As the Arctic warms, the threat of abrupt methane releases is rising, too. (Photo: Josh Haner / The New York Times)

A scientific study published in the prestigious journal Palaeoworld in December issued a dire — and possibly prophetic — warning, though it garnered little attention in the media.

“Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic,” reads the study’s abstract. “But the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic.”

The study, titled “Methane Hydrate: Killer Cause of Earth’s Greatest Mass Extinction,” highlights the fact that the most significant variable in the Permian Mass Extinction event, which occurred 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of all the species on the planet, was methane hydrate.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

In the wake of that mass extinction event, less than 5 percent of the animal species in the seas lived, and less than one-third of the large land animal species made it. Nearly all the trees died.

Methane hydrate, according to the US Office of Fossil Energy, “is a cage-like lattice of ice inside of which are trapped molecules of methane, the chief constituent of natural gas.”

While there is not a scientific consensus around the cause of the Permian Mass Extinction, it is widely believed that massive volcanism along the Siberian Traps in Russia led to tremendous amounts of CO2 being added to the atmosphere. This then created enough warming to cause the sudden release of methane from the Arctic sea floor, which kicked off a runaway greenhouse effect that led to sea-level increase, de-oxygenation, major oceanic circulation shifts and increased acidification of the oceans, as well as worldwide aridity on land.

The scenario that humans have created by way of the industrial growth society is already mimicking these eventualities, which are certain to worsen.

“The end Permian holds an important lesson for humanity regarding the issue it faces today with greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and climate change,” the abstract of the recent study concludes.

As the global CO2 concentration continues to climb each year, the threat of even more abrupt methane additions continues to escalate along with it.

The Methane Time Bomb

The methane hydrate situation has, for years now, been referred to as the Arctic Methane Time Bomb, and as been studied intensely.

A 2010 scientific analysis led by the UK’s Met Office, published in the journal Review of Geophysics, states clearly that the time scale for the release of methane in the Arctic would be “much shorter for hydrates below shallow waters, such as in the Arctic Ocean,” adding that “significant increases in methane emissions are likely, and catastrophic emissions cannot be ruled out.… The risk of rapid increase in [methane] emissions is real.”

A 2011 study of the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), conducted by more than 20 Arctic experts and published in the Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Sciences, concluded that the shelf was already a powerful supplier of methane to the atmosphere. The conclusion of this study stated that the methane concentration in the atmosphere was at levels capable of causing “a considerable and even catastrophic warming on the Earth.”

Scientists have been warning us for a number of years about the dire consequences of methane hydrates in the Arctic, and how the methane being released poses a potentially disastrous threat to the planet. There has even been a study showing that methane released in the Arctic could trigger “catastrophic climate change” that would cost the global economy $60 trillion.

Of course, that level of planetary heating would likely extinguish most life on the planet, so whatever the economic costs might be would be irrelevant.

“Highly Possible at Any Time”

The ESAS is the largest ice shelf in the world, encompassing more than 2 million square kilometers, or 8 percent of the world’s total area of continental shelf.

In 2015, Truthout spoke with Natalia Shakhova, a research associate professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, about the ESAS’s methane emissions.

“These emissions are prone to be non-gradual (massive, abrupt) for a variety of reasons,” she told Truthout. “The main reason is that the nature of major processes associated with methane releases from subsea permafrost is non-gradual.”

Shakhova warned that a 50-gigaton — that is, 50-billion-ton — “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the ESAS is “highly possible at any time.”

This, Shakhova said, means that methane releases from decaying frozen hydrates could result in emission rates that “could change in order of magnitude in a matter of minutes,” and that there would be nothing “smooth, gradual or controlled” about it. She described it as a “kind of a release [that] is like the unsealing of an over-pressurized pipeline.”

In other words, we could be looking at non-linear releases of methane in amounts that are difficult to fathom.

A study published in the prestigious journal Nature in July 2013 confirmed what Shakhova had been warning us about for years: A 50-gigaton “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is highly possible.

Such a “burp” would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. (For perspective, humans have released approximately 1,475 gigatons in total carbon dioxide since the year 1850.)

The UK’s Met Office considers the 50-gigaton release “plausible,” and in a paper on the subject added, “That may cause ∼12-times increase of modern atmospheric methane burden, with consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming.”

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Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Senate votes to lift limits on hunting Alaska grizzlies and wolves on federal land

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/03/21/senate-votes-to-lift-limits-on-hunting-alaska-grizzlies-and-wolves-on-federal-land/?utm_term=.6baf206d0e36
March 22

The Senate voted Tuesday to abolish a rule restricting specific hunting practices on national wildlife refuges in Alaska — including trapping, baiting and aerial shooting — on the grounds that state officials should be able to set the terms for wildlife conservation on public land within their own borders.

The 52-to-47 vote, which was almost entirely along party lines, represented the latest instance of Republicans using a powerful legislative tool — the Congressional Review Act — to eliminate regulations that President Barack Obama’s administration finalized before he left office in January. Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine) joined Republicans in backing the measure, and the measure needs only President Trump’s signature to become law.

With Trump’s support, congressional Republicans are working systematically to undo several environmental, labor and financial safeguards the previous administration put in place toward the end of Obama’s term. Under the 1996 law, any rule wiped off the books cannot be reinstated in a “substantially similar” form.

Although a disproportionate number of the regulations that have come under fire address energy and the environment, the larger debate has focused on whether the federal government has the right to establish sweeping rules Americans must live by or whether power should be devolved to the states.

During a sometimes-emotional debate Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats sparred over how best to define sportsmanship as well as state sovereignty.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) noted that the issue of managing wildlife “is something in Alaska that we take very, very seriously.” Recalling how she watched her grandparents and parents lobby for Alaska to become a state, she added, “It was all about fish, it was all about salmon. That’s one of the reasons we fought for statehood.”

But Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who spoke just before Murkowski, said the idea of allowing the killing of mother bears and cubs as well as denning wolves and pups would be putting “the federal stamp of approval on methods of take that the public views as unethical.”

“I don’t think that’s standing up for hunters,” he said. “I fear that it is endangering something that is critical to our culture and a way of life.”

Heinrich added that he had recently taken his 13-year-old son, Carter, on his first elk hunt, where “he soon learned that the hard work comes after you pull the trigger.” As his son painstakingly stripped the meat of the elk they had shot, the senator said, “Anything less would be unethical, and disrespectful to that magnificent wild animal.”

The National Rifle Association backed overturning the rule, as did the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska chapter of Safari Club International. In mid-January the state of Alaska challenged the regulation, along with an earlier hunting rule issued by the National Park Service, in federal court.

Environmental and animal welfare groups, by contrast, lobbied against the measure.

For years the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had negotiated on an annual basis how to establish hunting and fishing regulations for national wildlife refuges in the state, which encompass tens of millions of acres. But in 2013 the Alaska Board of Game, which is made up of political appointees, rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rules and instructed the state fish and game agency to write the regulations on their own.

In a statement after Tuesday’s vote, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said that in his state, “many hunt for survival, both personal and cultural. Alaskans have been able to maintain these strong and life-sustaining traditions through a rigorous scientific process that allows for public participation and ensures we manage our fish and game for sustainability, as required by the Alaska Constitution.”

 But Ashe and other defenders of the rule said some of the changes envisioned by state officials, such as allowing people to fly into a place where grizzlies or caribou had gathered and begin hunting that day, could disrupt the natural predator-prey balance in the wild. Ashe warned that while some hunters may want to decrease the number of bears and wolves so that the numbers of other popular game species, such as moose and caribou, rise, there will be unintended ripple effects.

“There’s a natural tension between what the state wants to do, and what the federal law compels the Fish and Wildlife Service to do,” he said.