Happy Earth Day!!
Wildlife Photos Copyright Jim Robertson
No matter where you stand on the issue of the border wall between the United States and Mexico, we can all agree that the deleterious harms a border wall could have on wildlife is not getting the attention it should. Barriers currently cut across roughly 40 percent of the nearly 2,000-mile long border. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 precipitated the addition of a variety of fencing types, concrete vehicle barriers and sensors.
Researchers found that where barriers are already in place, wildlife is impaired. Impacts include disrupting their migration patterns and limiting the dispersal of populations, which promotes inbreeding between subpopulations of a species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicts a wall may negatively affect 111 endangered species, such as jaguars, ocelots, jaguarundi and Mexican wolves, and 108 migratory bird species, including sparrows, warblers and hummingbirds. Four wildlife refuges, such as Lower Rio Grande Valley, Buenos Aires and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges, and fish hatcheries could all be negatively impacted.
These protected species and all animals should be able to access food, water and safe habitat. Walls and fences already in place are destroying the habitat connectivity that wild animals depend upon to fulfill these basic needs. Essential migratory routes may span from country to country, as a means for animals to access appropriate habitats in different seasons. A herd of bison, for example, is known to visit a pond on Mexico’s side of a barrier—as it is the only year-round water in the area—and cross into the U.S. to feed on native grasses.
The ability to roam is important since access to mates and a healthy-sized population maintains genetic diversity. Walls and fences prevent animals from following natural migration patterns and divide healthy-sized populations, leading to inbreeding and a loss of genetic diversity. Resulting mutations can eventually weaken species, making them more vulnerable to diseases and disasters such as floods, fires and climate change.
North America’s cat species are among the species most imperiled by current and future barriers. Any hope for jaguars to repatriate part of their former U.S. range depends upon any remaining jaguars in the U.S. having access to jaguars in Mexico. Few ocelots still reside in the U.S., and a fence separates them from a larger, more genetically diverse population in Mexico. Jaguarundis have been protected in the U.S. since 1976, but the last known individual died on a Texas road in 1986. A population south of the border is the only hope for this species to again flourish in its former U.S. range.
Only around 100 Mexican gray wolves remain north of the border and a few dozen south of the border. Passing across the border is essential for the two populations to maintain genetic diversity. The ferruginous pygmy owl depends upon mating between populations in Arizona and Mexico, but only flies as high as 4.5 feet. The proposed height for a new wall would be impassable for many species.
Much is at stake for wildlife as well as the integrity and health of habitats situated on the borderlands. If it is decided that the expansion of the wall must happen, wildlife biologists and others must be consulted to guide the process so that any foreseeable harms to wildlife are minimal and habitat connectivity is preserved and restored wherever feasible. We need to explore creative options such as designing wildlife crossings, leaving gaps in barriers for small animals, and having removal barriers to allow for migration or breeding seasons.
When constructing national policy, there are many important issues facing decision makers, but we should take the needs of animals and conservation into account as well. Congress and President Nixon did as much in enacting the Endangered Species Act in 1973. “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us,” wrote Aldo Leopold. “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
BILLINGS, Mont. — In control of Congress and soon the White House, Republicans are readying plans to roll back the influence of the Endangered Species Act, one of the government’s most powerful conservation tools, after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other activities.
Over the past eight years, GOP lawmakers sponsored dozens of measures aimed at curtailing the landmark law or putting species such as gray wolves and sage grouse out of its reach. Almost all were blocked by Democrats and the White House or lawsuits from environmentalists.
Now, with the ascension of President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans see an opportunity to advance broad changes to a law they contend has been exploited by wildlife advocates to block economic development.
“It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used for control of the land,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop. “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”
Bishop said he “would love to invalidate” the law and would need other lawmakers’ cooperation.
The 1973 act was ushered though Congress nearly unanimously, in part to stave off extinction of the national symbol, the bald eagle. Eagle populations have since rebounded, and the birds were taken off the threatened and endangered list in 2007.
In the eagles’ place, another emblematic species — the wolf — has emerged as a prime example of what critics say is wrong with the current law: seemingly endless litigation that offers federal protection for species long after government biologists conclude that they have recovered.
Wolf attacks on livestock have provoked hostility against the law, which keeps the animals off-limits to hunting in most states. Other species have attracted similar ire — Canada lynx for halting logging projects, the lesser prairie chicken for impeding oil and gas development and salmon for blocking efforts to reallocate water in California.
Reforms proposed by Republicans include placing limits on lawsuits that have been used to maintain protections for some species and force decisions on others, as well as adopting a cap on how many species can be protected and giving states a greater say in the process.
Wildlife advocates are bracing for changes that could make it harder to add species to the protected list and to usher them through to recovery. Dozens are due for decisions this year, including the Pacific walrus and the North American wolverine, two victims of potential habitat loss due to climate change.
“Any species that gets in the way of a congressional initiative or some kind of development will be clearly at risk,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Fish and Wildlife Service director under President Bill Clinton. “The political lineup is as unfavorable to the Endangered Species Act as I can remember.”
More than 1,600 plants and animals in the U.S. are now shielded by the law. Hundreds more are under consideration for protections. Republicans complain that fewer than 70 have recovered and had protections lifted.
Hindustan Times: Man-animal conflict increases as Kerala faces severe drought
INDIA Updated: Feb 19, 2017
As Kerala slips into an unprecedented drought, wild animals have started raiding human settlements in search of water and food, endangering lives of people settled in fringe areas of the forest.
Last week three people were gored to death by elephant herds in separate incidents in the forested Idukki and Wayanad districts.
In the drought-hit Wayanad – the north Kerala district saw 72% deficit rainfall during the last two monsoons – people say besides elephants, other animals like, bison, deer and boars, made regular incursions into their villages.
Pepper plantation worker Nagappan, 34, was gored to death by a tusker three days ago in the district. About one-third of the district has forest cover.
According to forest officials, usually nearly 800 elephants are spotted along the Kabani riverbanks, a favourite summer habitat of jumbos in the Nilagiris, but this year their numbers dwindled to 120 as the river has partially dried up.
“Devoid of food and water, the elephant herds have become aggressive. Small crackers or fire torches fail to deter them these days. Bison and deer are behaving like domesticated animals,” said Velayudhan, a farm labourer of Thalappadi in Wayanad.
Another farmer in Ambalavayal said he lost crops worth Rs 2 lakh in the last three weeks as animals raided his farm.
“Two weeks ago, a tusker strayed almost seven km inside the human settlement.
We dug up 12 small ponds deep in the forest to check this menace,” said Wayanad district collector, BS Thirumeni.
Fed up with monkey menace, a 52-year-old widow had committed suicide in Thiruvananthapruam last week following which forest officials put up monkey traps in the area. Her relatives claimed she resorted to the extreme step after her frequent pleas fell on deaf ears.
WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY Public Release: 13-Feb-2017
A team of scientists reporting in the journal Nature Climate Change say that negative impacts of climate change on threatened and endangered wildlife have been massively underreported.
Said co-author Dr James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and University of Queensland: “Our results clearly show that the impact of climate change on mammals and birds to date is currently greatly under-estimated and reported upon. We need to greatly improve assessments of the impacts of climate change on species right now, we need to communicate this to wider public and we need to ensure key decisions makers know that something significant needs to happen now to stop species going extinct. Climate change is not a future threat anymore.”
Nature Climate Change
For people who worry about the nation’s (and the world’s) rapidly dwindling wildlife, the only vaguely good news about Donald Trump’s election might just be that he doesn’t care. This is a guy whose ideas about nature stop at “water hazard” and “sand trap.” Look up his public statements about animals and wildlife on votesmart.com, and the answer that bounces back is “no matching public statements found.” It’s not one of those things he has promised to ban, deport, dismantle, or just plain “schlong.”
More good news (and you may sense that I am stretching here): Trump is not likely to appoint renegade rancher and grazing-fee deadbeat Cliven Bundy to head the Bureau of Land Management. When Field and Stream magazineasked Trump early this year if he endorsed the Western movement to transfer federal lands to state control (a plank in the Republican platform), he replied: “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold.”
This was no doubt the real estate developer in him talking, but his gut instinct against letting go of land will surely outweigh the party platform. “We have to be great stewards of this land,” Trump added. “This is magnificent land.” Asked if he would continue the long downward trend in budgets for managing public lands, Trump said he’d heard from friends and family that public lands “are not maintained the way they were by any stretch of the imagination. And we’re going to get that changed; we’re going to reverse that.”
This was apparently enough, in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s upset election, for Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, to suggest that “we share common interests in the protection of America’s wildlife and our great systems of public lands, which provide endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, wildlife observation, and other pursuits that all Americans value.”
Meanwhile, pretty much all others active on wildlife issues were looking as if the floor had just dropped out from under them, plunging them into a pool of frenzied, ravenous Republicans. At the website for the Humane Society, where a pre-election posting warned that a Trump presidency would pose “an immense and critical threat to animals,” an apologetic notice said, “The action alert you are attempting to access is no longer active.”
They have reason to be nervous. Trump has surrounded himself with political professionals who do not think sweet thoughts about wildlife. Newt Gingrich, for instance, loves animals—but mainly in zoos rather than in inconvenient places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Reince Priebus, a likely choice for chief of staff, was part of a Tea Party revolution in Wisconsin that put Gov. Scott Walker in power. Just to give you a sense of what that could mean for a Trump administration, Walker handed over control of state parks and other lands to the hook-and-bullet set while shutting out biologists and conservationists. Chris Christie? Rudy Giuliani? Let’s just not talk about them.
Trump’s main advisers on wildlife appear to be his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and they seem to care only about hunting and fishing. Donald Jr. has publicly expressed a wish to run the Department of the Interior, though his only known qualification for the job is his family name. More likely, as he told Outdoor Life during the campaign, he will help vet the nominees for Interior, “and I will be there to make sure the people who run the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and so on know how much sportsmen do for wildlife and conservation and that, for the sake of us all, they value the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.”
You may be stumbling over that Christ-like phrase “for the sake of us all.” But you should really be worrying about the “North American Model.” It’s a code phrase for managing public lands primarily for hunting and fishing and only secondarily, if at all, for nongame species—or for hiking, bird-watching, camping, or other uses. In practice it can mean eradicating wolves because hunters consider them competition for elk or moose. (Donald Jr.: “We need to reduce wolves and rebuild those herds.”) It can mean cutting back funding for songbird habitat and spending it instead on fish stocking.
Like his father, Donald Jr. has opposed selling public lands, mostly because it “may cost sportsmen and women access to the lands.” But he believes states should help govern federal lands, calling shared governance “especially critical when we pursue our idea of energy independence in America. As has been proven in several of our Western States, energy exploration can be done without adverse affects [sic] on wildlife, fisheries or grazing.” (America has come tantalizingly close to energy independence under President Obama—without moving new drilling rigs onto public lands—and there is no evidence for the broad-brush notion that energy exploration is harmless to wildlife.)
Two other major considerations to keep in mind: If Trump goes ahead with his favorite plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, it would cut off vital migratory routes and habitat for jaguars, ocelots, desert bighorn sheep, black bears, and many other species. (It might also impede the flow of fed-up Mexicans heading south.)
Likewise, trashing the Paris Agreement on climate change, as Trump has promised to do, would gain the United States nothing and risk committing the planet irrevocably to warmer temperatures, extreme weather events, and massively destructive coastal flooding. That doesn’t make sense even from a business perspective, and much less so for wildlife. The first documented extinction of a species by human-caused climate change occurred this year, when the Bramble Cay melomys succumbed to rising sea levels in its South Pacific island home. Thousands of other species also face disruption of their habitat and the likelihood of imminent extinction.
The bottom line is that a Trump administration is likely to be good for mining, drilling, logging, and the hook-and-bullet set. But for wildlife and for Americans at large? We are facing four dangerous years of self-serving gut instinct and reckless indifference to science, with the damage to be measured, as climate activist Bill McKibben put it the other day, “in geologic time.”
If you are feeling as if a Trump victory is the end of the world as we know it, you may just be right.
| September 27, 2015
Earlier this month an obscure Los Angeles area regional public lands agency—the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority—announced the first stages of a five-year plan to build one of the largest wildlife corridors in the world. The goal is to create a natural looking bridge that will allow a small cougar population in the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area the chance to escape north into much larger public lands, while at the same time allowing northern mountain lions the chance to move south and help out the badly inbred and lethally infighting Santa Monica cougars.
The proposed bridge will leap over Highway 101, an eight-lane, east-west freeway in LA’s northern suburbs that sees 175,000 car trips a day. The bridge will be built at Liberty Canyon in the suburb of Agoura and when completed will be 200 feet-long and 165 feet-wide. It will be landscaped to blend in with the brushy hills and sound walls along the edge of the bridge will “mitigate traffic noise and block light in order to make the crossing more conducive to wildlife,” says the project study report. The bridge will extend beyond the 101, reaching over an access road south of the highway, necessitating the construction of a tunnel. Estimated cost of the entire project: about $57 million.
Despite the report’s dull bureaucratic language—mountain lion sex is blandly described as “the exchange of genetic material”—at its heart the proposed Liberty Canyon wildlife corridor represents an astonishing effort to reverse decades of suburban sprawl and fragmentation of the region’s surviving open spaces.
The campaign’s iconic poster boy is the famous “Hollywood lion,” also known by its wildlife ID number, “P22.” In 2012, P22 crossed two major freeways and migrated roughly 40 miles from the Santa Monica Mountains along the coast to Los Angeles’s 4300-acre Griffith Park on the city’s eastside. There he took up residence, feeding on the park’s mule deer and soon became a national celebrity of sorts.
Air quality deteriorated to officially “hazardous” levels Thursday in Singapore — a key Southeast Asian business and transit hub — as choking smog blew in from Indonesia’s neighboring island of Sumatra, where forests and brush are being illegally burned to clear land for oil palm plantations and other farming.
The Singapore government’s three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit 319, its highest level so far this year, around midnight local time. The country’s National Environment Agency lists a level of 201-300 as “very unhealthy,” and above 300 as “hazardous.” Thick gray smoke shrouded the island city-state’s gleaming skyscrapers and crept into homes, even as many residents were staying indoors in attempt to escape the pollution.
Singapore, which prides itself on its clean environment, has been cloaked by the haze in varying degrees this year for about three weeks, the worst such episode since mid-2013.
“The hazy conditions in Singapore have further deteriorated since last night, as denser haze from Sumatra has been blown in by the prevailing southerly winds,” Singapore’s National Environment Agency said in an advisory.
The agency advised healthy persons to “avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion,” and urged the elderly, pregnant women and children to minimize outdoor exposure.
The conditions also cast a shadow over festivities for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, as people headed to mosques to celebrate the culmination of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. While some covered their mouths to block out the haze, none wore masks, as prayers conducted inside the mosque required them to wash their faces. Mustafa Muhamad, 61, said the bad air quality was causing some of his friends to say prayers at home instead for the festival of sacrifice.
“The haze is very bad, there are less people in the mosque this year. Coming to the mosque to pray used to be very nice because we would mingle around after,” the teacher explained. Housewife Asnah Mohamad, 62, said she and a friend used their headscarves to cover their faces as they travelled to a mosque.
“My husband cannot leave the house because he has a heart condition so I represented him to collect the meat offerings,” she told news agency Agence France-Presse, referring to the traditional practice of sharing the meat of a sacrificed goat or sheep. “We hope it gets better soon. But what can you do? Go over there (to Indonesia) and pour water on the fire?”
Businesses complained of low customer turnout, especially for a holiday, local media reported. The Singapore Sports Hub complex suspended all outdoor activities.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin called for calm in a Facebook post late Thursday.
“At all times refer only to official channels for information and do not circulate speculations,” he wrote.
For the past two decades, smoke from Indonesia has been spreading to other parts of Southeast Asia during the region’s annual mid-year dry season, when plantation owners and other farmers deliberately start brush and forest fires to clear land.
Southeast Asia’s most damaging cross-border haze came in 1997 and 1998, when the smog caused an estimated $9 billion in losses in economic activity across the region. Parts of Malaysia and Thailand have also occasionally been affected.
The haze situation has been made worse this year by an El Niño weather system, which produces tinder-dry conditions.
Under pressure from neighboring countries, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has pledged to crack down on companies and individuals behind the burning —a cheap but illegal way of clearing large tracts of land. During a visit to the haze-stricken islands of Borneo and Sumatra this week, Widodo called on local residents to do their part.
“I’m taking this opportunity to ask the community not to carry out burning, whether at the farms, in their own yards or on the streets,” Widodo told reporters.
He said the government was trying its best to extinguish the fires by dropping water from helicopters and inducing rain through cloud-seeding.
Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency told AFP that 2,081 fire “hotspots” were recorded on Thursday in the worst-affected region of Indonesia’s Kalimantan territory on Borneo, and 290 on Sumatra.
A total of 27 companies are being investigated in connection with the forest fires, Indonesian authorities said, while 140 individuals are being questioned. A Singapore-listed company is among those under investigation.
Yana Rusinovich Watson
by Captain Paul Watson
For centuries, the oceans have fed humanity. But in the last century, humans has destroyed oceanic eco-systems with an ecological ignorance that is insane.
The fisherman has now become one of the most ecologically destructive occupations on the planet. It’s time to put aside the outdated image of the hardy, independent, and hard-working fisherman working courageously to feed society and support his family.
No longer does the typical fishermen go to sea in dories with lines and small nets. Today’s industrial fishermen operate multi-million dollar vessels equipped with complex and expensive technological gear designed to hunt down and catch every fish they can find.
One manufacturer of electronic fish locators (Rayethon) even boasts that with their product, “the fish can run but they can’t hide.
And for the fish, there is no safe place as poachers hunt them down mercilessly, even in marine reserves and sanctuaries.
We humans have waged an intensive and ruthless exploitation on practically every species of fish in the sea and they are disappearing. If we don’t put an end to industrialized fishing vessels and heavy gear very soon, we will kill the oceans and in so doing, we will kill ourselves.
Scientists revealed that widespread malnutrition is affecting the fish, bird, and animal populations of our oceans. Not only are we depleting their populations, we are starving the survivors.
We are feeding fish to cats, pigs, and chickens, and we are sucking tens of thousands of small fish from the sea to feed larger fish raised in cages. House cats are eating more fish than seals; pigs are eating more fish than sharks; and factory-farmed chickens are eating more fish than puffins and albatross.
With other factors like global warming, chemical pollution, and ozone depletion causing plankton populations to decline, we are waging a global assault on all life in our oceans. The fish cannot compete with our excessive demands. We have already removed 90% of the large commercial fish from the sea. Chinese demand for shark fins is destroying practically every species of shark in the ocean.
Whereas the fishing industry once targeted and destroyed the large fish, they are now focusing on the smaller fish, the fish that have always fed the larger fish. Of the top ten fisheries in the world today, seven of them now target the small fish. If the fish are too small to feed to people, they are simply ground up into fishmeal to feed domestic animals and farm raised salmon or tuna.
And now Japanese and Norwegian fisheries are extracting tens of thousands of tons of plankton from the sea to convert into a protein rich animal feed.
Recently a report on the State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture released by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concludes that 80% of all marine fish stocks are currently fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion; including stocks of the 7 largest prey fisheries. Very few marine fish populations remain with the potential to sustain production increases, and more have now reached their limit than ever before.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is based on the ecological reality that commercial fishing is destroying our oceans.
We all know this. We are all aware of this diminishment. We feel it in our gut. The ecological reality is not only staring us in the face. The problem is that we are in absolute denial and we refuse to acknowledge that by stripping life from the seas, we will be undermining the foundation for our survival on land.
The public is becoming aware of the gravity of the ecological predicament that threatens life in the sea. And this is very encouraging. I can’t think of anything more important than the preservation of diversity in our oceans. Perhaps we can adapt to global warming, and perhaps we can survive a mass extinction even of species on land. But I know one thing to be an ecological certainty and that is if we kill the oceans – we kill ourselves.
In diversity is the preservation of life.
We must stop eating the oceans. Eating fish is for all intents and purposes – an ecological crime. There are no oceanic sustainable fisheries – not a one. That little sustainability card that some people carry around to pretend to be ecologically correct.
Some may think that a call to ban all commercial fishing is radical. Sea Shepherd view it as a very conservative and essential policy that we must implement to save the oceans and ourselves.
It looks like the fish are turning the tables on humanity. Not by choice but because ecological realities have boomeranged back upon humankind.
Tins of tuna fish now contain warnings that the product should not be eaten by pregnant women or young children because of high levels of mercury and other toxic heavy metals.
Farm raised salmon contain antibiotics, growth hormones and even a dye to colour the flesh a pleasing pink while still alive.
Long-living fish like halibut, cod, orange roughy and swordfish contain large amounts of heavy metals. When you can live over a century like a halibut, you accumulate decades of toxins. When you live high up on the food chain, you build up mercury and other heavy metals.
Orcas in the Pacific Northwest of the United States are the most chemically contaminated animals in the world. Beluga whales in the St Lawrence River are treated as toxic waste when they die.
We treat the oceans like sewers and then act surprised that the fish that is eaten is polluted.
Humans can be wilfully blind and deliberately ignorant when it comes to food. We would never eat a piece of fish sitting in a bowl of mercury, arsenic and PCBs garnished with a lump of human fecal material on top.