December 5, 2014
One of the most difficult challenges of the 21st Century is how to sustain life on our ever more crowded planet for many generations into the future. It’s a daunting task because it requires us to confront issues ranging from population growth to climate change to the importance of biodiversity in our ecosystem.
On the biodiversity front, the state of Washington has an immediate opportunity to create a paradigm shift within the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) by hiring a visionary director who will lead the state toward a sustainable future for all species.
The department’s current director, Phil Anderson, is retiring at the end of this year after slightly more than five years in the position. The state’s independent nine-member Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will select Anderson’s successor.
It’s a critical appointment that should not be rushed.
Since its creation in 1890 as a Fish Commission, the department has been focused on animals people hunt, fish and eat. Much later, species protected by the Endangered Species Act were added to the mix.
It wasn’t until 1921 that the Legislature abolished the Fish Commission and created a separate Department of Fisheries that focused on salmon caught commercially, and a Department of Game and Game-Fish. In 1987, the Department of Game was changed to the Department of Wildlife. And in 1994, state lawmakers merged the two departments into one Department of Fish and Wildlife, overseen by a commission that sets policy and goals.
It’s questionable whether these two cultures – fish and wildlife – have ever been effectively merged. And there is lingering tension between the biologists who see the value of all species and the hunters, fishers and ranchers who want wildlife managed to serve their own interests. Some current and former employees say that tension is the reason a recent survey of state agencies ranked morale in the DFW near the bottom, just above the Department of Corrections.
If the Fish and Wildlife Commission selects a change-agent who understands the important role of biodiversity in sustaining human life, it would bring the department back together and re-energize its legion of passionate young biologists.
Other states, such as Missouri and Florida, have moved away from the antiquated fish and game model to focus on protecting all species. Young biologists today recognize that less charismatic animals play a key role in our planet’s ecosystem and that we can no longer futilely attempt to pack all the nature we need into parks. We must preserve diverse wildlife in diverse ecosystems.
But the DFW seems to be moving in the opposite direction. That is evident in the department’s mismanagement of wolf hunts in northeastern Washington, where it catered to the small percentage of ranchers who refuse to abide by the state’s wolf conservation plan.
It’s important for the public and elected leaders to voice their concern to the commission – it meets Dec. 12 -13 in Olympia – that the DFW should join the broader effort toward sustainable living for all creatures, great and small.
Stevens County ranchers move sheep after wolves kill 24
A Stevens County family moved 1,800 sheep off private grazing land over the weekend to protect their flock from wolves that have killed at least two dozen of the animals this summer.
Dave and Julie Dashiell decided to get their sheep to safety rather than wait for state wildlife officials to track down and kill up to four wolves from the Huckleberry Pack, which is at least six strong and hunts north of the Spokane Tribe reservation.
The ranchers tried everything to thwart the attacks, said Jamie Henneman, spokeswoman for the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association, which is working on behalf of the Dashiells. They had a full-time herder, four guard dogs, range riders and extra help from state employees, but confirmed wolf kills kept mounting, Henneman said Monday.
“There’s a point where you’ve got to decide, do you leave and hopefully stay in business, or do you stick around until there’s just nothing left,” she said.
The Dashiells know of 24 sheep they lost to wolf attacks the past few weeks and fear the actual toll could be twice that number.
On Sunday they pulled their remaining sheep off rangeland they leased from Hancock Timber Co. northeast of Hunters in southern Stevens County. The animals were moved, with assistance from state employees, to a temporary pasture and soon will be trucked to their winter range, about six weeks earlier than planned, Henneman said.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department shot one of the wolves, an adult female, from a helicopter on Aug. 23 and set out traps in hopes of removing up to three others from the pack. But the agency pulled its traps before the Labor Day weekend to avoid conflicts with recreationists and grouse hunters.
The state responded quickly to assist the Dashiells once it was clear wolves were attacking the flock, said Donny Martorello, carnivore section manager for Fish and Wildlife.
When wolves start preying on domestic sheep, losses can add up quickly, Martorello said Monday. “The alarm bells went off for us,” he said, and the agency worked with the rancher daily on preventing more attacks.
Now that the Dashiells have removed the sheep, the state will re-evaluate what to do next, Martorello said.
“We’re certainly concerned about the behavior, the repeated depredations,” he said. “We did remove one wolf; we don’t know if we’ve broken that pattern of depredation, that prey-switching from natural prey to sheep.”
Henneman said the cattlemen’s association sees this as a case of the state falling short of protecting livestock producers.
“If this is the precedent – that Fish and Wildlife refuses to control their animals, that the rancher has to leave – we have a private property rights crisis here,” she said. “That means anyone that owns land out here … it means you’re going to get kicked out, the predator has precedence.”
Henneman also noted that other land and livestock owners in that area may be at risk from the Huckleberry Pack.
“As soon as that pack figures out that their 1,800 sheep are gone, they’re going to move on to the next site,” she said. “This is not the end to these troubles.”
Until recently the pack had spent most of its time on the Spokane reservation but now is more active north of the reservation. The Dashiells did not know the pack was that close until the attacks began, Henneman said.
Fish and Wildlife plans to reach out to neighboring livestock owners to discuss the pack and offer help to try to prevent more attacks. The agency also is evaluating compensation for the Dashiells for the sheep injured and killed by wolves.
At this time WDFW is not certain if lethal action will continue to be pursued. WDFW and stakeholders are meeting this afternoon and information from this meeting will be posted by WDFW Public affairs office under “Latest News” on their website’s homepage. http://wdfw.wa.gov/index.html
The year of our lord, 2013, could be known as the year of the big backslide, at least in terms of attitudes toward animals and the environment, as well as the general acceptance of scientific fact.
For example, CBS News reports that the number of Republicans who believe in evolution today has plummeted compared to what it was in 2009, according to new analysis from the Pew Research Center. A poll out Monday shows that less than half – 43 percent – of those who identify with the Republican Party say they believe humans have evolved over time, plunging from 54 percent four years ago. Forty-eight percent say they believe “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” up from 39 percent in 2009.
I can’t help but think this is because many people still aren’t comfortable admitting they’re animals. And this supremacist attitude is reflected in everything they do in regard to our fellow species.
Anyone who has been following the wolf issue since gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List in a handful of backward states has certainly noticed a rapid backslide pertaining to how wolves are perceived, treated and “managed” by those bent on dragging us back to the dark ages for animals—the Nineteenth Century—when concepts like bounties, culls and contest hunts were commonplace. Hunters and ranchers in the tri-state area surrounding Yellowstone National Park, as well as in the Great Lakes region, are doing everything they can to resurrect the gory glory days of the 1800s, and wolves are paying the ultimate price.
Meanwhile, in spite of great efforts to educate people about the myriad of problems associated with factory farming and the dependence on meat consumption in an ever more crowded human world, the number of ruminants raised for food on the planet today is at an all-time high of 3.6 billion, double what is was 50 years ago. Regardless of or our burgeoning human population, not only do we have a chicken in every pot in this country, we now have cow and sheep parts in every freezer and pig parts in practically every poke. This, of course, is all thanks to ever-worsening living conditions for farmed animals.
Professor William Ripple and co-authors of a research paper, “Ruminants, Climate Change, and Climate Policy,” prepared in Scotland, Austria, Australia and the United States, noted that about 25 percent of the earth’s land area is dedicated to grazing, and a third of all arable land is used to grow food for livestock, according to the report. Reducing the number of cattle and sheep on the planet, and thereby reducing the methane gas emissions they produce, is a faster way to impact climate change than reducing carbon dioxide alone, the report concluded. The researchers concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from cattle and sheep are 19 to 48 times higher per pounds of food produced than the gas emitted in the production of plant protein foods such as beans, grains or soy.
To get an idea of how unnatural and unsustainable 3.6 billion large ruminants is, think back to when vast bison herds blackened the plains. At that time there were only 50 million bison in all of North America. There are over 300 million human beef-eaters in the United States, every one of them expecting to see a fully stocked steak house, Subway or McDonald’s on every street corner.
Meanwhile, the media’s busily cooking up a spin to answer to meat’s culpability in this planet’s climate crisis. Articles on how methane from grass-eaters is a primary greenhouse gas are often accompanied by the suggestion that pigs and chickens don’t produce as much. In other words, don’t worry your little meat-addicted heads if this beef-cow-causing-global-warming thing becomes a recognized issue, you can just switch over to other non-ruminants’ carcasses—no one really expects you to become a vegetarian, after all.
One of the most outrageous spins ever concocted aired on a “Ted Talk” just last March. Allan Savory, a former Rhodesian provincial Game Officer, has been spreading the counterintuitive notion that to control desertification and stop global warming we need to turn even more cattle out onto arid land. This notion comes from a man who, as late as 1969 advocated for the culling of large populations of elephants and hippos because he felt they were destroying their habitat. Savory participated in the culling of 40,000 elephants in the 1950s, but he later concluded it did not reverse the degradation of the land and called the culling project “the saddest and greatest blunder of my life.” Now he’s trying to sell us on another blunder with even more destructive consequences. What will this guy do for an encore? Never mind, I don’t want to know.
Speaking of Africa, 2013 saw the fastest growing and second most populous continent on its way to adding another billion people to the planet. By the end of this century, 3/4 of the world’s growth is expected to come from Africa, and projections put its population at four billion—one billion in Nigeria alone. Most African countries will at least triple in population, as there are very high fertility rates and very little family planning in most regions. No one is quite sure how the continent will provide for that many hungry humans; only time will tell.
And even though China’s overwhelming population is already well past a billion, in 2013 they abandoned their one child policy and affectively doubled it by implementing a two child policy at the stroke of a pen.
Sorry, but this shit is scary, at least if you care about the plight of non-human species on this planet. Sure, cultural diversity is important—to people. But it sure as hell doesn’t trump biological diversity in the scheme of things. Regardless of what you may or may not believe about whether we were created in the image of a god, life on Earth as we know it will not go on if we humans are one of the only species left around.
The coming decades are going to test just what Homo sapiens are made of. Are we progressive and adaptable enough to learn to share the planet with others and become plant eaters, as some people have? Or is our incessant breeding and meat consumption going to put us into an all new classification—planet eater?
From Wildearth Guardians
It’s another giveaway by the Congressional cowboy caucus to welfare ranchers.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is considering a bill that would exempt the ranching industry from numerous environmental laws and further elevate the cattle industry on western public lands above wildlife and water.
Tell Committee Chair Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon that ranching industry shouldn’t be given special treatment. And if your Senator is on the committee, tell her/him as well that you oppose giveaways to the livestock industry.
The so-called “Grazing Improvement Act” eliminates environmental review for grazing permits under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Act would also double the period of grazing permits from ten to twenty years! Both would further entrench grazing on public lands—imperiling hundreds of species including sage grouse, native trout and wolves.
At a time when our public wild lands in the west are critical for providing water and wildlife habitat and ensuring resilience to climate change we cannot afford more give-aways to the cattle industry.
Energy and Natural Resources Committee members need to hear from you.
Call Senator Wyden at (202) 224-5244 in Washington, DC, or (503) 326-7525 in Portland Oregon, and then sign on to our email letter today!
October 16th, 2013 by Anja Heister
Once again, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wants to turn even more wildlife refuges into playgrounds for hunters and other “consumptive users” of wild animals.
The U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System includes 550 national wildlife refuges, thousands of waterfowl protection areas and four marine national monuments, totaling more than 150 million acres. Despite being called “refuges”, more than half of all national wildlife refuges are already open to hunters, trappers and anglers.
Consumptive users also have millions of acres of public and private lands outside the refuge system available to them to pursue their frivolous and violent activities of “recreational” trophy hunting and fishing, and trapping for fur. They should not be allowed in refuges, which often are the last remaining places for animal species already struggling for survival.
Furthermore, as the USFWS’s own 2011 survey has shown, wildlife watchers have already well outpaced and outspent wildlife killing interests. Wildlife watchers are a growing economic force, and their overwhelming preference to see living animals needs to be considered and respected.
Wildlife refuges, as the name indicates, should be true sanctuaries for wild animals where they are sheltered from the killing spree that surrounds them.
What You Can Do:
Please copy and paste the comment below to the USFWS and tell them that hunting, trapping and fishing should not be allowed in national wildlife refuges at all.
Please follow these steps to send your comment to the USFWS:
The lion population in Africa is being reduced at an alarming rate – 50 years ago there were 450,000 lions. Today as little as 20,000 remain. Lion Trophy Hunting, especially Canned Lion Hunting (where lions are shot in cages) are largely responsible for the dwindling lion population.
For the right price you can shoot a beautiful male lion, a lioness with cubs or even a lion cub – and this is done while they are in a cage and defenseless.
Canned Lion Hunting is not illegal in South Africa. The SA government also refuses to stop the issue of Lion Hunting permits or to at least limit the number of permits issued.
Sign the petition: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_Lion_Trophy_Hunting/?dOrYHdb
[Proof that nature can take care of her own, if only we’d step aside and let her…]
By Suzi Gage BBC News
The return of sea otters to an estuary on the central Californian coast has significantly improved the health of seagrass, new research has found.
Seagrass was deemed to be heading for extinction in this region before the otters returned.
But scientists found that the animals triggered a chain reaction of events that boosted the water-dwelling plants.
The research is published in the journal, PNAS.
The urbanisation of California has led to a huge increase in nutrient pollution in coastal waters, from increasing use of nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
It’s almost like these sea otters are fighting the effects of poor water quality”
End Quote Brent Hughes University of California
This is said to be the reason for the dieback of seagrass, which has also been declining worldwide.
This research suggests that the hunting to near-extinction of sea otters in the late 19th and early 20th Century may have exacerbated the problem, and conversely that their reintroduction is helping revive ailing seagrass populations, even in the face of hugely nutrient-rich water.
Links in the chain
The researchers assessed seagrass levels over the past 50 years in the Elkhorn Slough in Monterey Bay, and mapped their increases and declines.
They looked at a variety of changes that may have affected the grass, but the only factor that really matched the changes in seagrass was sea otter numbers.
They theorised that sea otters were eating the crabs which prey upon small invertebrates in the water.
These invertebrates eat a type of algae which blooms when there are more nutrients in the soil. It grows on the leaves of the seagrass, shading them from sunlight and causing them to die back.
This is quite a complex cascade of effects, so the researchers tested out their theory by comparing similar estuaries with and without sea otters, and by doing experiments in the lab, and in the field.
These experiments, which included putting cages that sea otters either could or couldn’t access, down on the seagrass, confirmed their hypothesis.
Brent Hughes, lead author of the study, said: “This estuary is part of one of the most polluted systems in the entire world, but you can still get this healthy thriving habitat, and it’s all because of the sea otters.
“So it’s almost like these sea otters are fighting the effects of poor water quality.”
Hughes described seagrass as “the canary in the coalmine” in terms of predicting levels of nutrient pollution in the water.
It also acts as a nursery habitat for many species of fish and it uses CO2 from sea water and the atmosphere, thus potentially helping with climate change.
Not only that, but it acts as protection to the stability of the shoreline.
Hughes said: “It’s what we call a foundation species, like kelp forest, salt marsh or coral reef. The major problem from a global perspective is that seagrass is declining worldwide. And one of the major drivers of this decline has been nutrient inputs from anthropogenic sources, via agriculture or urban runoff.”
These findings are of particular interest at the moment, as a ban on sea otters moving along the coast to southern California was lifted last year. The ban was in place as there was a fear the sea otters would impinge on fisheries in the area.
Hughes told BBC news: “That’s important because there’s a lot of these kind of degraded estuaries in southern California because of all the urban runoff from places like Los Angeles and San Diego.
“Coastal managers will now have a better sense of what’s going to happen when sea otters move in to their systems.
“There’s a huge potential benefit to sea otters returning to these estuaries, and in to these seagrass beds that might be threatened.”
With several important issues on deck to blog about, the spring winds blew a tree over our power lines and we spent the afternoon back in the relative Stone Age, huddled next to an outside window, straining to read printed pages by what natural light the stormy day had to offer. I decided to do some spring cleaning and throw out anything I hadn’t read or in some other way utilized in the last decade or so. Just as the power came back on I came upon the following letter I wrote after reading Richard Leakey’s book, The Sixth Extinction. This letter, which is as relevant today as when I wrote it (except that there are now 7 billion people instead of 6), was published on January 10, 2000 in the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
Ina fit of arrogant optimism bolstered by surviving the Y2K non-crisis, many are asking, “Where will we be in Y3K?” Perhaps a more pressing question is,” Which species would be able to survive another 1,000 years of mankind’s reign of terror?”
Forget computer malfunctions, power outages or other inconveniences. The new millennium finds us in the midst of a mass extinction unrivaled since a giant asteroid struck Earth 65 million years ago. Unfortunately, Bruce Willis can’t bail us out of the impending Armageddon by simply blasting a menacing death-rock to smithereens.
Our species, one in 1,413,000, is out to prove that it doesn’t take an asteroid strike to unravel life’s intricate diversity. In doing so, humans are on a collision course with destiny. We are eradicating 30,000 species per year—120,000 times the natural extinction rate of one every four years.
A recent annual survey by the Chinese government found so few of their nationally celebrated, freshwater white dolphins remaining in the Yangtze River that on Dec. 29 they were written off as living relics of an extinct species. China and India now boast more than 1 billion each of a human population that is 6 billion strong and growing. Comparing those figures with the billion inhabitants on the entire planet in 1600, any game manager would clearly see a species out of balance.
As Richard Leakey, the renowned paleoanthropologist warns, “Dominant as no other species has been in the history of life on Earth, Homo sapiens is in the throes of causing a major biological crisis, a mass extinction…And we may also be among the living dead.”
Where will we be in another millennium? Will a future Bruce Willis save us from ourselves? Or will we have gone the way of the dinosaur and the Yangtze white dolphin?