“Away, away, from men and towns, To the wild wood and the downs, — To the silent wilderness, Where the soul need not repress — Its music.” Percy Bysshe Shelley
Project FeederWatch is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.
ID numbers are mailed to first-time participants in their instructional kits.
The number is printed above the mailing label (for U.S. participants, the number is printed on a letter in the kit, not on the envelope).
From October through February, it takes about three weeks from when you join or renew for an ID number to be activated online.
If you signed up more than three weeks ago and do not have your ID number, contact the FeederWatch office in your country.
Instructional kits start shipping in October to participants who sign up between March and September and can take 3-4 weeks to arrive.
If you are giving FeederWatch as a gift, you may download and print a gift recipient notification certificate to give immediately.
ARTHUR R. MARSHALL LOXAHATCHEE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Full Moon Guided Canoe Trips
Friday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 6, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Meet at the Lee Road Boat Ramp to enjoy a guided moonlight canoe tour through a portion of the Refuge interior.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants and bring a flashlight and bug spray.
Canoe rental from Loxahatchee Canoeing is $32; you may not bring your own.
(One canoe seats 2 to 3 people.)
‘Ding’ Days to celebrate 25th
There must be 25 ways to celebrate “Ding” Darling Days, happening at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island October 19-25, 2014.
This year celebrates 25 years for the annual eco-festival, which started in 1989 as a one-day Family Fun Day and has grown week-long with
free and discounted tours, free nature presentations, and, still, its ever-popular Sunday Family Fun Day kick-off.
Here are 25 ways the refuge is celebrating its silver anniversary in October.
The debut of the Discover Ding GPS-based game app – the first of its kind in the refuge system with an unveiling at 11 a.m. on Family Fun Day, Oct. 19, and tutorials throughout the day and at 9:25 a.m. daily during the week. Look for the walking cell phones!
25 “Ding” Things Silver Scavenger Hunt weeklong with 25 fun prizes.
Free Silver Anniversary reusable tote bags filled with books and other goodies, while supplies last, on Sunday Family Fun Day.
Free 25-minute archery demonstrations and clinics on Family Fun Day.
Special free 25th anniversary presentations by Heather Hensen’s Ibex Puppetry troupe on Sunday, featuring a new surprise refuge creature.
Free admission to Wildlife Drive on Sunday.
Free naturalist-narrated refuge tram tours Sunday on a first-come basis.
Free weeklong traveling exhibit of 2014-2015 Federal and Junior Duck Stamp art work in the free Visitor & Education Center.
25% off all Tarpon Bay Explorers tours Monday through Saturday – including tram, paddling, and nature cruise excursions.
25 stunning images of mating great blue herons at a special free photographic presentation by Sallie Rich on Coastal Bird Day, Monday, Oct. 20.
Free Great Florida Birding Trail presentation by Mike Kiser on Monday.
Free Beach Walk at Perry Tract on Beach & Water Day, Tuesday, Oct. 21.
Free 25-minute stand-up paddleboard clinics on Tuesday and Thursday.
Free wilderness paddles into the Refuge’s Lady Finger Lakes to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act on Monday and Wednesday (experience necessary).
Free Calusa presentation and walk on Calusa Day, Thursday, Oct. 23.
Free birding tram tours to Bunche Beach on Thursday and Friday. (Reservations required: 239-472-8900)
Free Estuary Exploration tram tours on Thursday and Friday. (Reservations required: 239-472-8900)
Free refuge admission to bikers and hikers only on Trails Day, Friday, Oct. 24. (Wildlife Drive is closed to all vehicular traffic other than special Tarpon Bay Explorers tram tours.
First 25 bike rentals free at Tarpon Bay Explorers on Friday.
Free Scat & Tracks program with walk to the new Wildlife Education Boardwalk on Friday.
Free Animal Olympics throughout Friday at Bailey Tract.
Free admission to Wildlife Drive for everybody on Saturday’s Conservation Art Day, Oct. 25.
Plein-air artists along Wildlife Drive on Saturday.
25-cent Silly Photo Booth pictures on Saturday.
Free meet-and-greet with federal duck stamp artists on Saturday.
For more information and a full “Ding” Darling Days schedule, visit www.dingdarlingdays.com
The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail Facebook page
The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail Facebook page is becoming more popular than ever.
We now have over 5,300 fans who enjoy daily posts about Florida’s amazing wildlife and top quality birding and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Stay in touch and visit our Facebook page TODAY and please click the Like icon to receive our daily posts in your news feed.
If you are already a fan of page, thank you.
Please help us spread the word and make MyGFBT the most popular birding and wildlife viewing Facebook page in Florida!
Sign-up for Hog Island 2015
Registration begins Wednesday for Project Puffin’s 6-day birding and nature programs for adults, teens, and families at the legendary Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine.
Instructors include: Pete Dunne, Stephen Kress, Scott Weidensaul, and Paul Winter
Perennial favorites such as Field Ornithology, Joy of Birding, and Family Camp return alongside exciting new programs:
Hands-on Bird Science and Breaking Into Birding.
Visit the Hog Island website for the full schedule and detailed program information.
Spaces can be reserved with a $100 deposit as soon as sign-up links go live Oct. 15th.
Involve your Organization
In 2014, over 50 Audubon chapters and other organizations offered scholarships to inspire their members with new experiences and leadership training.
If you are affiliated with such a group, please consider sending someone to a Hog Island program in 2015.
Space can be reserved in the organization’s name until you choose a participant.
2015 Schedule and Information
Save $50 by typing “EARLYBIRD” into the code field during registration (expires Dec. 15th)
Always dreamed of working on Hog Island? We are currently accepting applications for a full time Program Manager.
Get your calendar today!
Our first ever Cornell Lab calendar is full of gorgeous photographs and fascinating facts about our feathered friends.
As you use your calendar throughout the coming year, I hope you’ll enjoy the stunning images of the birds that endlessly inspire us with their beauty, songs, and fascinating behaviors.
Support the Cornell Lab today and bring these birds into your home!
Of Interest to All
Port Everglades announces $1.6B improvement plan
Port Everglades released its 20-year master plan, which promises to create thousands of jobs and pour $1.6 billion into infrastructure improvements.
The plan encompasses eight projects that expect to create nearly 15,000 direct jobs. Most are temporary construction, but about 7,000 are estimated to be permanent. Overall, the plan can possibly support 135,000 indirect jobs statewide over the next 15 seven years, it estimates.
Currently, the port supports 11,700 direct jobs locally and about 201,000 jobs statewide.
Major improvements would add more space for ships by adding five new berths and widen and deepen the channel by 50 feet to allow for more freight to enter the port.
One of the port’s capital improvement projects will be delivered in December when it will open its newly renovated, $24 million Cruise Terminal 4, which will allow for larger cruises to dock at the port. The terminal has a revamped transportation area, 172 parking spaces, and 50 check-in counters for passenger embarking and debarking.
Construction is already underway for a $14.9 million improvement to the port and convention center’s security checkpoint on Eisenhower Boulevard and a $42.5 million overpass for Eller Drive to carry traffic over neighboring rail tracks to expedite cargo to the port.
The largest project, expected to be delivered in 2016, is the Florida Power & Light Next Generation Clean Energy Center. The $1 billion project will replace FPL’s Port Everglades Power Plant that was demolished in July 2013 and is expected to be fuel-efficient. It’s estimated to create 650 construction jobs.
Deepening and widening the navigation channels to Port Everglades by 50 feet is expected to be completed in 2022 at a cost of $368.7 million. It’s projected to create 2,222 direct construction jobs, 2,567 indirect jobs and 1,491 permanent jobs.
Port Everglades is a self-supporting Enterprise Fund and uses its profit to pay for its planned capital improvements, said port officials. The port had revenue of $143 million in fiscal year 2013
Emon Reiser|Reporter|South Florida Business Journal|Oct 8, 2014
Florida, South Carolina ports continue to prep for Panama Canal expansion
Port Everglades executives on Monday met with Panama Canal Authority (ACP) officials to review their strategic alliance and receive an update on the canal’s expansion program.
About 79 percent complete, the Panama Canal expansion involves the construction of a third lane of traffic to accommodate the passage of bigger ships and double current capacity. The port and ACP signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in 2011 to renew their alliance first forged in August 2009. The MOU commits both parties to share best practices, marketing activities and various data.
”Our partnership with Port Everglades further strengthens our shared goal of promoting trade growth in the region,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Luis Quijano in a press release. “As we approach the completion of our expansion program, we look forward to pursuing even more mutually beneficial activities with [the] port.”
The port provides service to 70 countries, is a U.S. gateway for trade with Latin America, and has the shortest, straightest entrance channel in the Southeast, Port Everglades officials said. Florida East Coast Railway recently opened an intermodal container transfer facility at the port that can provide even greater ship-to-rail connectivity from South Florida to points throughout the United States, they said.
”The future expansion plans at both Port Everglades and the ACP are destined to give each of our residents and visitors better access to the growing global economy,” said Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief.
Meanwhile, the Port of Charleston, S.C., marked a milestone with a project aimed at serving larger ships. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a draft integrated feasibility report and environmental impact statement for a harbor deepening project at the port, which is served by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway.
Launched in 2011, the project calls for deepening the harbor to 52 feet to handle post-Panamax vessels. Following the completion of the Panama Canal expansion and raising of the Bayonne Bridge in New Jersey, larger vessels are expected to call on the East Coast more frequently, port officials said in a press release.
“The port’s ability to handle post-Panamax vessels 24 hours a day without tidal restriction is critical to the future competitiveness of our state port system,” said Jim Newsome, president and chief executive officer of the South Carolina Ports Authority. “Completion of our harbor deepening project ensures that [we] will continue to grow above the market average and remain a top 10 port.”
[Still, there is no guarantee that the Post-Panamax ships will stop at any Florida port. There are approximately 450 land miles that freight must travel just to get out of Florida; Ports such as Savanna, Charleston and Port Elizabeth are much more centrally located and their overland infrastructure is already in place. Probably, the only freight that will come to Florida is that which is destined for consumption in Florida.]
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
Published October 7, 2014 08:09 AM
Sea Turtles in Hawaii getting tumors and we are the cause
Hawai’i’s sea turtles are afflicted with chronic and often lethal tumors caused by consuming non-native algae, “superweeds,” along coastlines where nutrient pollution is unchecked. The disease that causes these tumors is considered the leading cause of death in endangered green sea turtles. The new research was just published in the scientific journal PeerJ.
Turtles that graze on blooms of invasive seaweeds end up with a diet that is rich in a particular amino acid, arginine, which promotes the virus that creates the tumors. Scientists at the University of Hawai”�i at Mānoa and their NOAA colleague estimate that adult turtles foraging at high-nutrient grazing sites increase their arginine intake 17—26 g daily, up to 14 times the background level.
“For years, local ocean lovers have known that our green turtles have had awful tumors on their heads, eyes and front flippers,” said UH Mānoa Marine Biology Professor Celia Smith, who worked with Kyle S. Van Houton of NOAA’s Turtle Research Program on this study. “Many hypotheses were offered to explain the tumors, but we kept coming back to the observation that urban reefs – those near dense populations – are the sites with greater numbers of sick turtles. We had no mechanism for this disease.”
More than 60 percent of turtles in Kāne”ohe Bay have been observed to bear tumors. Kihei, Maui, has been called a “ground zero” for fibropapillomatosis, the disease that is caused by a herpes virus and manifests as tumors in turtles. Humans appear unaffected by the disease.
Van Houtan and colleagues previously described an epidemiological link between tumors and coastal eutrophication, that is, the enrichment of coastal waters with nutrients from land-based sources of pollution such as wastewater or agricultural fertilizers. This new study analyzed the actual tissues from tumored green turtles and the amounts of arginine in the dominant algae forage species from across Hawai’i.
The analysis revealed remarkably high levels of arginine in tissues of invasive seaweeds harvested under nutrient-rich conditions, such as those affected by nitrogen from land-based pollution. These are the same conditions that promote algal blooms. The non-native algae “superweeds” grow so quickly when fertilized that some can double their weight in a period of two days.
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa|October 7, 2014
Read more at University of Hawai’i.
Earth’s Magnetic Pole Could Reverse Within A Single Human Lifetime
Over the course of millions of years, the Earth’s magnetic field can reverse, so that compasses point south rather than north. There has been plenty of speculation that we’re heading for another such event quite soon. Now evidence suggests that the last such event happened much faster than previously thought – suggesting the next one could too.
The records of these events, known as geomagnetic reversals, is written in magnetized volcanic rocks that maintain the polarization of the Earth’s field at the time they cooled. On average, they happen every 450,000 years, so at 786,000 years since the last one, we’re overdue – although a brief reversal that almost immediately undid itself happened around 40,000 years ago.
One outstanding question has been how rapidly these reversals can occur. While one study estimated change measured in degrees per day for one ancient event, most calculations suggest such events take 1,000-10,000 years.
So the publication in Geophysical Journal International of the claim that the last reversal, known as the Brunhes-Mutuyama event, happened in under a century represents a challenge to orthodoxy.
The authors, including Berkeley graduate student Courtney Sprain and her supervisor Professor Paul Renne, are not the first to suggest the last flip was unusually fast, but Sprain says the evidence they have found in the Suilmona Basin, east of Rome, is very clear. “The paleomagnetic data are very well done. This is one of the best records we have so far of what happens during a reversal and how quickly these reversals can happen,” says Sprain.
Volcanoes upwind of the basin, including Sabatini and Vesuvius, erupted frequently during the reversal, and the changing magnetic field can be seen in the sediments laid down. Argon-argon isotopic dating allowed Sprain and Renne to date the ash layers far more precisely than has been done before.
“What’s incredible is that you go from reverse polarity to a field that is normal with essentially nothing in between, which means it had to have happened very quickly, probably in less than 100 years,” said Renne. “We don’t know whether the next reversal will occur as suddenly as this one did, but we also don’t know that it won’t.”
Prior to the reversal, the team detected a 6,000 year period of instability. In light of the evidence that the Earth’s magnetic field is currently weakening and that changes in orientation are accelerating, it’s possible we are about to experience something similar, although we still have no idea what drives such events.
University of California – Berkeley. The path of the Earth’s North Magnetic Pole as it moved from Antarctica 789,000 years ago to its current home in the Arctic at a rate of 2° a year.
A forthcoming geomagnetic reversal looms large in the minds of catastrophists who predict all sorts of disasters as the next one, such as widespread deaths from cosmic radiation while the planet’s magnetic shield is down. The fact that past events have not been associated with mass extinctions seems not to register in these theories. However, the electrical grid could become far more vulnerable to solar storms.
Stephen Luntz|October 15, 2014
Collier County settles lawsuit against state over unauthorized oil drilling near Immokalee
NAPLES, Fla. – Collier County commissioners agreed Tuesday to end a fight with the state’s environmental agency, securing installation of a deep monitoring well and the hiring of experts to ensure there was no contamination from unauthorized oil drilling at a well near Immokalee.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the settlement with the state Department of Environmental Protection, and 3-2 to join the DEP in its lawsuit against the Dan A. Hughes Co., a Texas-based oil driller caught using unauthorized procedures at the well.
Document: Stipulated settlement agreement between Collier County and Florida Department of Environmental Protection
The Hughes’ Co. was caught late December injecting a dissolving solution at a high pressure into the ground to force openings in rock formations before state regulators had a chance to review the procedure, according to the DEP.
The technique, never before used in Florida, has concerned regulators about potential groundwater contamination and environmental damage.
In exchange for the county withdrawing its June petition challenging DEP, the state agreed to install an 1,850-foot groundwater monitoring well – to the base of the county’s drinking water – to ensure there was no contamination from the drilling. The monitoring well is deeper than those outlined in a separate agreement the state made with Hughes.
The state also agreed to hire experts not tied to Dan Hughes or Collier Resources to study whether there was any contamination. The experts also will study any possible impact on nearby wells that have been plugged.
In addition, DEP will seek more authority to address “new technologies and include greater protections,” which includes an increase in fines, authority to consider an operator’s past history in other states while permitting, new technology to monitor active wells in real-time, and higher bonds required of operators to cover cleanup costs.
“The department commits to work collaboratively with the county to address its concerns as the legislative process moves forward,” the settlement agreement states.
There is still an element of mistrust between county officials and state regulators, stemming from the way regulators notified the public about the unauthorized drilling several months after the fact and handled the incident before enforcing tougher sanctions against the driller only after months of mounting public outcry and pressure.
Commissioners Fred Coyle, Donna Fiala and Tim Nance said they voted to join the state in its lawsuit against the drillers so they could have a voice in the matter.
If there’s is a modicum of doubt that state regulators would change course or drop the litigation, then joining the suit gives the county a seat at the table, County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow said.
The county ought to hold the environmental department’s feet to fire, Coyle said.
“I have concerns about FDEP,” he said.
“The Hughes people have said on the record that they kept FDEP informed about what they were doing and I have a feeling they’re right,” Coyle said. “I really believe we don’t know what went on between the state and Hughes and that we’re going to be surprised and disappointed when we find out.”
Conservancy of Southwest Florida leaders endorsed the agreement between the county and the state, saying it accomplishes what the group hoped to do.
“We’ve got meaningful investigation, enforcement and have a legally binding agreement,” said Jennifer Hecker, conservancy director of natural resources. “Now a lot more needs to be done with actually regulating oil operators to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The Hughes company agreed in an April consent order with DEP to a $25,000 fine and to hire an independent expert to monitor the area’s groundwater. That’s when the state informed the public of the procedure.
County officials, with the support of the conservancy, filed a petition with DEP in June to demand the state include provisions for more oversight, safeguards and accountability at the oil well. Commissioners argued that the DEP allowed Hughes to frack and deposit chemicals in the ground that weren’t disclosed on permits. Despite multiple requests for information, the state kept Collier County in the dark.
Herschel Vinyard, secretary of the DEP, has made several trips to Collier County talk to commissioners, the public and the media. Vinyard and the DEP have pulled all of Hughes Co.’s permits in Florida and filed a lawsuit in Collier County, arguing the company must comply with its consent order.
Document: Letter from DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard to Collier County commissioners
The Hughes Co. counter sued, saying it has met every state requirement. The company answered all regulators’ questions before moving ahead with the procedure. The company agreed to put forward a $1 million bond in case any environmental damage is discovered.
Commissioner Georgia Hiller, who with Commissioner Tom Henning voted against joining the state’s lawsuit, said the focus needs to be on regulatory changes in the state legislature.
“That’s where the issue really will get addressed,” Hiller said. “Looking for home rule on this matter is critical.”
The major concern with the Hughes Co. is whether there has been any groundwater contamination and those tests are ongoing, she said.
“Hughes has already agreed to set $1 million aside, so when there is real evidence of injury we can pursue a suit against them,” Hiller said. “Let DEP do what they have to do. I care about what happen to the environment and what potentially could happen to citizens.”
Greg Stanley |Naples Daily News|Oct 14, 2014
This proposed pipeline would be even bigger than Keystone XL
Meet Energy East: It will be 2,858-miles long, putting it right up there with some of the longest pipelines in the world. It would pump about a third more crude than Keystone XL was intended to. It’ll be bigger than the Druzhba pipeline, which carries oil 2,500 miles from Southeast Russia to the rest of Europe.
“Bigger” is the point. There’s no sense in extracting crude from Canada’s tar sands if you can’t sell it in extreme bulk, and a big part of selling it is figuring out how to get it to people. The fight against Keystone XL complicated plans to sell it to the U.S., so the crude had to be moved through preexisting channels instead.
Canada’s other big pipeline hope, the Northern Gateway, would pipe crude from the Alberta tar sands out to the energy markets in Asia. But it was first stalled by protests from Canada’s First Nations (which were ignored), and then kneecapped in a surprise ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court that gave First Nations living on the land the pipeline was going through the right to veto it. That has proved harder to ignore.
With the Asian and the U.S. markets sidelined, Canada is now aiming for Europe. TransCanada announced this week that it is close to submitting its federal application to build Energy East: $12 billion dollars of pipeline, all set to pump Alberta crude to the refineries and export terminals of Quebec and New Brunswick. Execs hope to have the pipeline approved by early 2016.
If it’s built, it will be the longest pipeline in North America, and the third largest in the world. Boosters say that unlike those other loser pipelines, Energy East is actually going to get built, because in a way it’s already been approved: It’s a massive retrofit and expansion of a natural gas pipeline that was already there to begin with.
Will it work? The practice of retrofitting an old pipeline instead of building a new one has already been used with some success, as in the case of Enbridge’s Line 9B reversal project. But wait, that’s also been delayed — probably not forever, but delayed nonetheless.
Tar sands crude is still making it to market; one analysis of recent Energy Department data claims that U.S. oil imports have soared 60 percent since TransCanada first applied to build Keystone. Producers have just moved it into the country using alternative channels, especially oil-by-rail.
Meanwhile, Energy East has other problems. There’s the matter of Arthur Irving, the billionaire who controls the refinery and much of the port at the pipeline’s terminus in St. John, New Brunswick. TransCanada was so nervous about being gouged by Irving that the company considered ending the pipeline several miles inland, though the two have since reached an agreement.
More uncertain is the business of Quebec: The pipeline will have to pass through the province in order to reach the coast, and Quebec is not a fan of tar sands. The province passed a fracking moratorium two years ago, despite being sued for the decision under NAFTA. A Quebec judge already temporarily shut down TransCanada’s exploratory work at the site of the proposed export terminal so that beluga whales could leave the area and migrate further south.
How much sway do whales hold with Quebec in the long term? Is Energy East just another pipe dream? We’re about to find out.
Heather Smith|16 Oct 2014
Calls to Action
Tell President Obama: Stop the approval of 2,4-D – here
Stop Destructive Mountaintop Removal Mining – here
Stand up for clean water by adding your name – here
Keep the East Coast off-limits to Big Oil & Gas – here
Tell The Shopping Channel- No More Real Fur – here
Clean up a billion tons of toxic waste with one new rule – here
Tell the BLM to deny Idaho for Wildlife’s permit – here
Birds and Butterflies
The danger to birds from open pipes
Open pipes, widely used for a variety of purposes across the western U.S. landscape, have been reported as a “potentially very large” source of bird mortality according to research by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The finding was part of a peer-reviewed study accepted for publication by the “Western North American Naturalist” and authored by Charles D. Hathcock and Jeanne M. Fair.
“Based on these preliminary findings … open bollards and pipes pose a potentially large-scale threat to birds, and research on the impacts of this threat, especially to cavity-nesting birds, should be encouraged and considered in management plans,” the scientists said.
The study looked at pipes in three circumstances and documented cases of the pipes causing bird deaths in northern New Mexico. In one study area, the scientists looked at a 25,303-acre site at LANL on the Pajarito Plateau on the eastern flanks of the Jemez Mountains. More than 100 uncapped, 4-inch open bollards (short posts) were examined. About 27, or more than 25 percent, of the open pipes contained dead birds. Also within LANL, the scientists looked at 88 open pipes used to anchor gates. These pipes had diameters of 3.5 inches or 4 inches, and 11 percent contained dead birds.
In the third scenario, the scientists conducted a preliminary assessment of open pipes on gates along a highway on federal land north of LANL; 14 percent of these open pipes contained dead birds. This gate configuration—with open pipes anchoring the gate on either side – is very common in the western United States.
Western Bluebirds accounted for 61 percent of the identifiable affected bird species. Other species identified included: Ash-throated Flycatcher, Acorn Woodpecker, Spotted Towhee, House Finch, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Western Scrub-Jay.
American Bird Conservancy|October 9, 2014
Read more at American Bird Conservancy.
Building Collisions Kill Millions of Birds Every Year. What Can We Do About It?
If you’ve ever heard the “thock” of a bird crashing into a window before falling lifeless to the ground, you know how sickening and terribly sad that sound is.
Collisions with buildings kill somewhere between 365 million and 988 million birds each year, according to a February 2014 estimate from researchers at Oklahoma State University and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in Washington, D.C.
Birds just don’t see clear glass as an obstacle. When they’re looking at the window, they’re seeing the reflection of sky or trees instead of a pane of glass. They think they’re following a clear flight path. That mistake can be deadly; at least half of the birds who hit windows die from their injuries or because another animal killed them while they were stunned and couldn’t escape or protect themselves.
There are also other factors.
Did you know that most birds’ eyes are on the sides of their heads? “Birds have got this fantastically comprehensive visual field,” says vision scientist Graham Martin of the University of Birmingham in England. “But the best vision for most birds is actually out sideways.”
Martin has made some other fascinating discoveries about birds: in some big birds, such as eagles and some vultures, he has found a gap between the visual fields of the left and right eyes that leaves a blind spot roughly above where birds’ “foreheads” might be.
As a result of this gap, the birds may not even see a building or a wind turbine ahead. “They’re flying with the assumption—that has been a pretty good one for the last God knows how many millions of years—that there won’t be anything sticking up in the way,” Martin says.
The Humane Society of the United States has a list of ways to make windows visible to birds, which is an excellent start.
Daniel Klem, a biology professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Penn., helped establish what’s now known as the two-by-four rule: most birds won’t fly through a space less than two inches high between horizontal stripes or four inches wide between vertical stripes. Now it’s important that the people responsible for the construction of new buildings start paying attention to this rule.
Christine Sheppard, who serves as bird collisions campaign manager for the American Bird Conservancy, agrees.
“You have to get to the architects,” says Sheppard. Five years ago, she helped the U.S. Green Building Council develop a way to calculate a building’s lethality to birds. In 2011 the council launched a pilot program to give credit for collision deterrence as part of its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program, which certifies buildings as environmentally responsible.
Several companies now offer ways to make windows safe for birds. Many involve the application of various patterns of visual markers of a specific size, color and spacing to the exterior glass surface to provide the necessary visual signals for birds to avoid impact. Others sell perforated film, which covers the entire window and makes the glass opaque from the outside.
Hopefully, beginning with these small steps, the world can eventually become a safer place for birds.
Meanwhile, the Humane Society has a list of what to do if you find a bird who has flown into a window:
- Gently cover and catch the bird with a towel and place her in a paper bag or cardboard box (with air holes) that is securely closed.
- Keep the bird in a quiet, warm, dark place, away from activity.
- Check on the bird every 30 minutes, but don’t touch the bird.
- If the bird seems to recover, carry the container outside and open it. Then step back, remain quiet, and see if the bird flies away. If she doesn’t fly away, carefully take her back inside.
- If the bird doesn’t recover within a few hours, but is still breathing, contact a wildlife rehabilitation representative.
Judy Molland|October 14, 2014
Eight Intriguing Migration Mysteries Solved With BirdCast and eBird
Artwork by Luke Seitz
Scientists are learning more than ever about autumn bird migration, but there are still plenty of unsolved mysteries. What forces dictate their departures and arrivals? Why do they choose the routes they do? And why do some birds end up far off course?
In the past, rare sightings have been chalked up as vagrants—anomalies of bird movement that couldn’t be predicted and might never happen again. But as time and data points have piled up, it’s become clear that many rare sightings are the result of regular, if infrequent, patterns. As we gain an understanding of these patterns, we can use them to unravel migration mysteries and know when and where to look for rarities.
Two of the programs leading the way in this effort are BirdCast and eBird. The eBird project provides the raw sightings data (when bird watchers like you report your sightings to the project). BirdCast combines the sightings data with meteorological data and weather surveillance radars (which can “see” birds just as they can “see” raindrops—as in the map above). These data sources allow BirdCast’s team to develop weekly, region-specific predictions to let North American birders know which birds to look for and when—as well as to understand rarer phenomena like these eight migration mysteries:
What’s that “peep” in the night? Ever go outside on a crisp September evening and hear what sounds like a spring peeper in the sky? Except, it’s fall… and frogs don’t fly? Lots of songbirds migrate at night and call to each other with very short, faint notes. The calls of Swainson’s Thrushes are among the most distinctive of these “night flight calls,” and they are loud enough that you can actually hear the birds as they fly overhead. Your best bets for hearing this peep in the night sky will come immediately after a cold front passes, particularly when birds fly into areas with poor visibility (like fog) and light pollution where calling increases dramatically (birds tend to call more frequently when disoriented). See this post to hear the call notes and learn how to identify them.
Where did all those Northern Lapwings come from? After Hurricane Sandy in late October, 2012, dozens of Northern Lapwings showed up in the northeastern U.S. Never before had a tropical system’s passage brought such a bounty of this visitor from Eurasia. In fact, most hurricanes tend to take American birds and deposit them in Europe, not the other way around. But by analyzing meteorological data, the BirdCast team discovered that the hurricane’s counterclockwise circulation was augmented by high pressure over the North Atlantic and winds blowing from Europe. The result was east-to-west winds that delivered many American birders a new species for their life list. See the full story on vagrants from Sandy in the BirdCast archives.
What drives cameo appearances of Fork-tailed Flycatchers in fall? These spectacular birds are one of the species birders look forward to seeing when they plan a trip to Central or South America, where they are fairly common. But almost every autumn (especially in September) the tables turn and a few Fork-tailed Flycatchers come to visit birders in the eastern U.S. On closer examination, these rarities usually belong to the savana subspecies, which breeds from Brazil to Argentina and winters in Amazonia. In other words, these birds don’t belong in the U.S. The evidence suggests that when most Fork-tailed Flycatchers are migrating, some individual birds overshoot and wind up over the ocean, where they then fly downwind and end up making landfall in the U.S.
Where did all the Blackpoll Warblers go? Blackpoll Warblers are fairly common spring migrants all the way up through the eastern states. Not so in fall, when they are rarely sighted in states south of the mid-Atlantic. That’s because their main fall migration route takes them out over the open ocean. The birds often fly nonstop over the Caribbean en route to their winter grounds in South America.
Why do Chipping Sparrows migrate twice? We often think of migration as a straight shot from breeding grounds to wintering grounds. But quite a few species—including the familiar Chipping Sparrow—take a detour to accommodate their molt. These so-called molt migrants take a short migration trip to one area where they grow new feathers. Then they resume their migration to wintering grounds. For instance, Chipping Sparrows in the Front Range of Colorado migrate eastward to molting sites such as the Pawnee National Grasslands, then continue to Mexico.
What are Purple Gallinules doing in Newfoundland? When Purple Gallinules—which typically live in subtropical and tropical marshes—began showing up in Portugal, Maine, Newfoundland, Iceland, and Ireland, the BirdCast team took notice. They think an autumn drought in the Caribbean caused many gallinules to disperse in the winter of 2013–2014. Because Purple Gallinules are very strong fliers, and sensitive to changes in wetlands, they are very prone to wandering way out of their traditional range. And thanks to the now worldwide network of birders entering their sightings into eBird, the BirdCast team is able to convert these unusual sightings into data.
What’s a Blue-footed Booby doing in California? The Golden State boasts a huge collection of cool birds, but the Blue-footed Booby is not usually one of them. It’s a tropical seabird typically found along the Mexican coast and south to South America—but in fall of 2013, many dozens of Blue-footed Boobies were reported along the California coast. When the BirdCast team looked into meteorological patterns, it appeared that unusually warm sea surface temperatures may have caused the move, along with a similar pattern in Elegant Terns. The suggestion is that prey fish moved north to find cooler waters, and so the boobies moved with them.
Why do Long-billed Curlews winter in both California and Mexico? Long-billed Curlews breed in grasslands and open country of the central and western U.S. In winter, you can find them in coastal and interior California, as well as in landlocked wetlands of the Southwest and Mexico. By putting together species distribution models from eBird data, it appears these two populations may employ different migration routes. Curlews from the Great Basin may travel westward to winter in California, while Great Plains curlews travel south to reach Mexico.
(Illustrations by Luke Seitz|joint project of computer scientists and bird biologists|Cornell Lab|Oregon State University|University of Massachusetts, Amherst|other partners.)
victoria|October 9th, 2014
The Laysan Albatross Made an Amazing Comeback. Will It Be Enough?
They survived tremendous losses from feather hunting in the 1910s. Despite dangers from industrial fishing and plastic pollution, Laysan Albatrosses are today the second most abundant albatross in the world. But virtually all of them nest on tiny, flat coral atolls, where rising sea levels caused by climate change pose a real danger. The main Hawaiian islands of Kauai and Oahu may represent the brightest hope for the species—but only if they can survive alongside humans. Read the article and find out what you can do to help.
Watch an Albatross Grow Up in this highlight video of Kaloakulua, the chick from our 2014 Laysan Albatross camera. Browse the full timeline here.
Let Them Eat Berries
When the leaves fall and the insects vanish, birds turn to berries and other native fruits to get through the season. Planting native shrubs and trees is a great way to augment your bird feeders—and now is a good time to plant. Our Citizen Science blog has a list of top 5 native berries plus recommendations specific to your area.
The West’s Beleaguered “Rain Crows” Finally Get Protection
Yellow-billed cuckoos used to be a common sight along rivers all over the West, until dams, livestock grazing, water withdrawals and other factors devastated their populations. Back in 1998 the Center for Biological Diversity’s Noah Greenwald wrote his first Endangered Species Act petition seeking protection for yellow-billed cuckoos — and last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to grant it. (The agency had already proposed to protect more than 500,000 acres of critical habitat for the bird in nine states.)
Sometimes called “rain crows” for their habit of singing before storms, these birds were once found from the shores of Lake Washington in Seattle to the mouth of the Colorado River. Today they live only in small, scattered populations in the West.
Their new Endangered Species Act protection is the latest final decision resulting from our historic agreement to speed decisions for 757 species around the country; 138 species have been protected so far.
Read more in The Press-Enterprise and act now to protect yellow-billed cuckoos’ critical habitat.
[Maybe there is still hope for critical habitat designation for the Florida Panther.]
Audubon Works to Save Critical Piping Plover Habitat
Last month, Audubon filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers to protect rare nesting habitat for the threatened Piping Plover in New York.
Fewer than 3,600 Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers survive today, with 20 percent of them relying on the shores of New York for nesting and breeding. With work on the well-intentioned but misguided Fire Island Inlet to Moriches Inlet Stabilization Project slated to begin imminently in September, Audubon New York stepped in and was granted a Temporary Restraining Order to protect this critical and rare plover habitat.
Audubon supporters like you have been pressing for an improved plan to ensure the plovers are protected and the plan is in compliance with federal law. Unfortunately, the Corps has ignored us and government scientists who recommended that the project be revised. The US Army Corp of Engineers has a responsibility to make sure this project is done right from the start.
You can still help urge the Corps to modify their plan. More than 20,000 Audubon members have already stepped up to help out, and it’s not too late for you to send a letter to the Corps!
The case is being reviewed by the courts, with the next conference with the judge scheduled for December 16.
Audubon Advisory|October, 2014
Bird Cam Super Fans
Exclusive Raptor Rapture Sign-up
Hog Island Audubon Camp, home of osprey pair Steve and Rachel, is now offering early enrollment to Bird Cam Super Fans. Public registration begins Oct. 15th for Raptor Rapture, which runs July 15-19th 2015. As a loyal fan of the inspiring nest group, you are eligible to reserve a space today.
Thirty fortunate adult campers will have the opportunity to live on Hog Island, with Rachel and Steve, while taking part in our six day session called Raptor Rapture. Because you have been a devoted Bird Cam Super Fan we are pleased to give you the very first opportunity to sign up for the camp—one week before registration is open to the general public. For those who have already fallen in love with Ospreys and puffins, I can think of no better way to build on your passion than by attending Raptor Rapture and seeing the birds you’ve been watching on explore.org up close.
Osprey biologist Dr. Rob Bierregaard will direct the session with other raptor biologists on the instructor team.
Questions? Contact the Hog Island office at 607-257-7308 ext. 314 or email@example.com
Live cams are made possible by a generous grant from explore.org.
Thousands of Care2 Members Fight to Save Britain’s Nightingales
While there’s no doubt that there is a pressing need for affordable housing and the regeneration that often comes with it, that shouldn’t come at the expense of established wildlife. Unfortunately, a new house building venture in Kent, South East England, threatens to displace the UK’s largest nightingale population, something that Care2′s international community is passionately fighting against using our petition site.
The plan, which was approved by the local Medway Council, is to build 5,000 new homes on the Lodge Hill site in Chattenden, Kent, which is internationally recognized as a key area for nightingales. This scheme, which has also received backing from the Ministry of Defense, comes despite the objections of key wildlife groups, including the Kent Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and Natural England.
This is particularly controversial because the new home plan is actually part of the Medway Council’s Core Strategy. That 15-year housing plan was withdrawn at the end of 2013 because an independent review found that the housing plan at Lodge Hill was in direct conflict with the government plans to protect what are known as SSSIs or Sites of Specific Scientific Interest. Lodge Hill was once again affirmed as an SSSI as recently as March of this year. The SSSI status is provided for within the law, and so this isn’t some meaningless title and should have meant the site is protected.
Despite this, the MoD submitted a revised plan that it contends eschews the problem by relocating the birds. The MoD therefore continues to support allowing the site to be built on, something that on Thursday the 4th of September, Medway Council’s Planning Committee approved. The council contends that this is a vital regeneration effort that will bring thousands of new jobs into the area and, as above, that these revised plans would allow for an alternative nightingale habitat on a 304-hectare site 14 miles north of Lodge Hill.
Wildlife campaigners remain skeptical, however, chiefly because there is no evidence that relocating nightingales is even possible as this has never been tried before. As such, this is a gamble, and one that conservationists say could do serious damage to the nightingales and to this precious habitat as a whole.
The nightingale is a songbird classed as an “amber list” species in the UK. This means that while it is not considered the highest conservation priority, which would be a red status, it has an “unfavorable” conservation status throughout Europe and so is seen as a sensitive population. In addition, nightingales have seen a moderate decline in breeding numbers in the past 25 years. In fact, a 2012 survey suggested that there may be as few as 3,300 breeding pairs left in the UK.
This is doubly as concerning because, according to the RSPB, the birds’ UK population is internationally important due to the fact that about a fifth of the world’s population of nightingales actually resides for part of the year in the UK and a great many of them at Lodge Hill.
However, it’s not just nightingales that are at risk. The area contains a number of badger setts, bat roosts and foraging sites, populations of crested newts, slow worms, grass snakes and adders, as well as fauna that is classed as declining in the UK. The planners would not know this, though, Kent Wildlife Trust alleges, because they failed to carry out a thorough invertebrate and botanical survey.
John Bennett, Chief Executive of Kent Wildlife Trust, told the Telegraph: “This development will result in the mass destruction of habitat and wildlife that cannot be replaced. The country cannot afford to lose out most previous highly protected wild places like Lodge Hill, which after all is supposed to be protected in law.”
There is a chance to stop the plans going forward, however. The Committee’s green light for these plans is subject to the approval of the Secretary of State and Minister for Housing, Eric Pickles. The Conservative-led coalition government has also been keen to bill itself as the greenest government ever, despite evidence such as the badger cull that might say the contrary. For this reason, Prime Minister David Cameron is also being petitioned by campaigners to directly intervene and speak out against these plans.
Steve Williams|October 8, 2014
South Florida butterflies win federal protection
Two South Florida butterflies won federal protection as endangered species Monday, with wildlife managers planning to scorch their former habitats with fire to clear the way for the return of the plants they eat.
The Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak and Florida leafwing butterflies once ranged as far north as Broward and Palm Beach counties. Today they pollinate and lay eggs only in isolated pine rocklands in extreme South Florida, with the Florida leafwing found only in one section of Everglades National Park.
They join other South Florida butterflies, such as the Schaus swallowtail and Miami blue, as species struggling to survive the loss of habitat and other threats, from mosquito spraying to disease. Of the 160 butterfly species in Florida, about 20 have declined significantly, with most of those found in South Florida, said Mark Salvato, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We have butterflies from a variety of habitats becoming imperiled in South Florida,” he said. “By blinking out, they’re telling us that something is wrong in these habitats.”
Monday’s announcement came as part of the settlement of a lawsuit with the Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson, Arizona-based environmental group that had gone to court against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over delays in deciding whether to protect species under the Endangered Species Act.
“This is an important victory for these two struggling Florida butterflies,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida attorney for the Center. “This designation should help protect the rare and disappearing pine rocklands that are important habitat for a host of Florida species.”
The government announced that it would designate 11,539 acres in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties as critical habitat for the Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak and 10,561 acres for the Florida leafwing. Most of the land is already under federal control, such as parts of Everglades National Park and the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge.
The primary reason for the two butterflies’ decline is the loss of pine rockland habitat to development and an absence of fire in the habitat that remained. Without fire, either caused by humans or by lightning, fast-growing vegetation will crowd out the pineland croton plants on which these insects depend for food.
The three-inch Florida leafwing, which looks like a dead leaf when its wings are closed, has vanished from 96 percent of its historical range. The one-inch Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak is gone from 93 percent of its range. Both butterflies had only been discovered in the 1940s.
The best way to restore them to some of their old habitat is with fire, Salvato said, using prescribed burns in places such as Everglades National Park, Big Pine Key and various patches of pine rocklands under the control of the Miami-Dade and Monroe county governments. His recovery outline will be ready in two months or so, he said, and will set out prescribed fires as the key step in returning the butterflies to lands on which they used to live.
“First and foremost, we need to get habitat restoration going,” he said. “These butterflies occur exclusively in pine rockland habitat, and there’s not much of that left. Everywhere their habitat is, it’s degraded. The first thing is prescribed burns. That’s going to be the big one.”
Once habitat is restored, they will consider reintroducing the butterflies to their old territory, possibly through captive breeding, he said.
Other reasons for their decline include parasites, disease, butterfly collectors and the use of pesticides for mosquito control. Most recently, a new Walmart has been announced for some of the land in southern Miami-Dade County used by the Bartram’s hairstreak. Federal wildlife officials are in talks with the developer.
A future threat is sea-level rise, since both species live only at low elevations. But Salvato said that if land managers act quickly, they can save both butterflies.
“I’m pretty optimistic,” Salvato said. “The population in the Everglades of the Florida leafwing is doing well. The hairstreak has a number of populations. It’s something to work with.”
David Fleshler|Sun Sentinel
[Next, we need critical habitat designation for the Florida Panther.]
About 75% of flowering plants rely on pollinators, such as the graceful monarch butterfly.
But sadly, pollinators-especially monarchs-are on the decline worldwide. In fact, in California alone, the number of overwintering monarchs up and down the coast since the mid-1990’s has declined by nearly 90 percent.
Since Pollinator Week is June 16-22, there’s no better time than now to help these beautiful, hard workers and a great way to do so is to turn your yard or garden into a welcoming haven.
The best way to both help monarchs and attract them to your yard is to provide milkweed-an important host plant and food source for their caterpillars.
There are many different types of milkweed plants, so be sure to check which are indigenous to your region before planting. Here are five types that are native to the eastern two-thirds of North America, except for showy milkweed, found from the central states west to California and Oregon.
- Whorled milkweed prefers really dry and sandy soils. Its white flowers appear between July and September and also entice native bees.
- Butterflyweed’s orange flowers attract many butterfly species in addition to monarchs, including tiger, spicebush and pipevine swallowtails.
- Common milkweed blooms purplish flowers from early to mid-summer. Be sure to plant with caution, as this plant’s aggressive nature can take over a garden.
- Swamp milkweed prefers wet conditions in the wild but many gardeners find that it will also take to the average garden soil.
- Showy milkweed boasts clusters of pink, star-shaped flowers and thrives in most western habitats, except deserts and high mountains.
Five Top Spots for Birding in Florida
Here in Florida, birding and wildlife viewing is a big deal – even bigger than you might imagine.
In fact, birding is second only to beach-related activities as a form of outdoor recreation for both visitors and residents. The trend is still on the rise, so count on seeing more and more people carrying binoculars and spotting scopes around the Sunshine State.
If you’re already into birding, you probably know that Florida is considered one of the best places in the world for the activity. Here are five of the top spots you don’t want to miss:
* Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – For Titusville, having one of the state’s most diverse wildlife habitats on your doorstep is a good thing. In January, the area hosts the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, which is the largest of its kind in the country. Birders flock to the area en masse to get a look at migrating waterfowl and all manner of shorebirds along Black Point Wildlife Drive, a 7-mile loop around salt marsh impoundments. Whether you’re visiting for a day or a week, you’re sure to check a few species off your life list here.
* Everglades National Park – When wildlife lovers dream, they more than likely dream about the Everglades. Not only is it a National Park, it’s also designated as an International Biosphere Reserve for its ecological importance. Residents of Everglades National Park include the Florida panther, American crocodile, the rare Ghost orchid, manatees and much more. For a good day trip, check out the Anhinga Trail and the Shark Valley tram. www.nps.gov/ever
* Dry Tortugas National Park – Located about 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, Dry Tortugas National Park is a little difficult to reach, but the reward is well worth the effort. Catch a ride on the Yankee Freedom Ferry, a high-speed catamaran that can get you there in just a couple of hours. Go in the spring and you’ll be rewarded with the rare sight of thousands of Sooty terns and Brown noddies nesting on Bush Key. www.nps.gov/drto
* J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge – Year-round birding and wildlife viewing is terrific on Sanibel Island. At “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, you can drive around the 4-mile Wildlife Drive and get looks at Roseate spoonbills and Gray kingbirds. Take a walk on the Indigo Trail in the summer months, where Mangrove cuckoos can be found. www.fws.gov/dingdarling
* STA5/Lake Okeechobee – It’s not a National Park or a National Wildlife Refuge, but STA-5 is one of the best birding spots in South Florida. Stormwater treatment areas are designed to filter out excess nutrients that would otherwise flow to the Everglades, but they also turn out to be excellent places for birding. To access STA-5, you’ll need to register a visit with one of the local Audubon Society chapters. The birding is fantastic year-round, and you’ll definitely add a few life-listers at STA-5. www.hendrygladesaudubon.org
If five locations aren’t enough, don’t worry. The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail covers the entire state, with 514 official sites to explore. Check out www.floridabirdingtrail.com for more information.
Partnership to protect panthers solidified
Big cat reality TV is coming to a zoo near you.
Naples Zoo and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida announced a $150,000 partnership Monday that will help fund a panther research program built around wildlife video cameras. The zoo is donating the money and will use videos from the research to educate the 360,000 or so visitors it sees each year.
“The study at the panther refuge is going to bring us into the future and advance those techniques,” said David Shindle, a panther biologist at the Conservancy’s North Naples campus. “This study is very intense. We currently have 67 cameras on the refuge and more to the south. It’s labor intensive and it’s large-scale, but it needs to continue.”
The Conservancy, with help from government agencies such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, monitors panther activities in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge near Immokalee and at Picayune Strand State Forest. These Collier County preserves are home to dozens of adult panthers and kittens.
The money will fund three years of research, allowing scientists such as Shindle to gather more information on these reclusive predators.
“I’ve always been involved in trying to explore better ways, more cost-effective ways, and, more importantly, non-invasive ways to monitor the panther population,” Shindle said.
The Naples Zoo is adding a panther exhibit that will feature the video research as well as other wildlife activities captured throughout the preserves.
The research will be shared with FWC, the Florida Wildlife Research Institute, Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Panther Capture Team, a group of scientists and wildlife experts who track and sometimes capture panthers for research.
The Florida panther population has rebounded over the last 15 to 20 years, from a few dozen in the 1990s to as many as 200 today. The recovery was based largely on introducing several female Texas cougars into the Florida population, which increased the genetic diversity in the South Florida cats.
The partnership will also fund research into the habitat and habits of white-tailed deer in South Florida. Monitoring deer populations, Shindle said, will help biologists understand panther habitat and prey needs.
“Partnering with the Conservancy to ensure sound and important research on panthers will not only provide important message points as we prepare to introduce a new panther exhibit at the zoo, but it will serve as a powerful tool to connect guests with wildlife native to Southwest Florida,” Naples Zoo President Jack Mulvena said in a statement.
Conservancy President Rob Moher said the partnership comes at a time when pressure to develop roads, neighborhoods and commercial corridors on panther habitat is increasing with the recovering economy.
The research may help establish protocols for feline research and recovery efforts across the world.
“Not only is this research the framework for the future of understanding future panther recovery efforts, but this is published research that will be looked at all around the world,” Moher said. “This is not the only big (or little) endangered cat in the world.”
David Shindle and Rob Moher from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida speak about panther research. Video
Chad Gillis|news-press.com|September 8, 2014
Puma concolor coryi
• Appearance: Coloration is fawn but can vary from a grayish to reddish yellow. Adult females weigh between 70 and 100 pounds, with males growing to 100 to 160 pounds. Long tail.
• Feeding: Solitary predators that typically hunt during dusk and dawn hours. Prey includes white-tailed deer, wild hogs and other animals. Ambush prey, typically digging claws into flank and breaking spinal cord with their powerful jaws. Can consume 30 pounds or more per feeding.
• Habitat: Once found throughout most of the Southeastern U.S., the Florida panther is now found only in South Florida, largely in Collier County.
• Reproduction: Females can breed as early as 18 months old, males typically at 3 years. Gestation is 92 to 96 days, producing one to four kittens.
Sources: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Wildlife Research Institute
Florida Panthers Leaving Their Marks Across More of Polk
Florida panthers are moving through more parts of Polk County, according to state wildlife officials.
In February, a state biologist photographed panther tracks in the Green Swamp not far from U.S. 27 north of Davenport.
A panther was injured after it was hit by a vehicle east of Fort Meade in April. The animal is scheduled to be returned to the wild after its rehabilitation.
In recent years, Florida panthers have been tracked or photographed in the Avon Park Air Force Range east of Frostproof and at Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park east of Haines City.
“Panther Crossing” signs were erected several years ago along State Road 60 east of Lake Wales, not far from where a panther was hit and killed by a vehicle in 2007.
These big cats, which once ranged all over much of the Southeast, declined due to human persecution and loss of habitat to the point that the last surviving animals’ only refuge lay in remote areas of southwest Florida south of the Caloosahatchee River by the time they were classified as an endangered species in 1973.
The more frequent number of confirmed sightings is one measure of recovery efforts that have sought to increase the population of an animal that was once in danger of disappearing from the Florida landscape the way Carolina parakeets and ivory-billed woodpeckers did.
They are the last large native predator roaming Florida’s landscape.
Their extinction would signal the loss of wild Florida, supporters say.
Red wolves also once roamed Florida’s wilds, but the last one was reportedly shot near Lake Kissimmee in the 1920s.
But the increased number of panther sightings is not all good news.
Every panther whose presence has been documented in Central Florida so far has been a male, according to a state wildlife scientist.
“Once they go north of the Caloosahatchee River, they don’t return, which limits the breeding pool,” said Jennifer Korn, Florida panther specialist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Males are more likely to roam for a couple of reasons.
They usually require a territory of at least 200 square miles, an area about 10 percent of the size of Polk County, to avoid conflicts with males that have already established territories.
They also roam in search of mates, unaware that there are none to be found upstate.
Female panthers tend to remain closer to the site where they were born, Korn said, though some have been establishing territories closer to the Caloosahatchee River in recent years.
“The last female panther found north of the river was one captured in Glades County in the 1970s,” she said.
Florida panthers, which appeared on the verge of extinction 40 years ago, have been the focus of an extensive recovery effort.
One of the key parts of the recovery effort was to bring in Texas cougars to improve the Florida cats’ genetic makeup.
Years of inbreeding among a small population had created a situation where undesirable recessive traits, ranging from heart defects to reproductive problems, had become common.
In addition to restoring the population’s genetics, the recovery effort involved constructing wildlife underpasses beneath busy highways, expanding protected habitat and extensive monitoring.
The underpasses were designed to reduce the number of panthers being hit and killed by vehicles.
Nevertheless, 74 panthers have been killed by vehicles within the past five years, according to FWC statistics.
The other measures were designed to provide more room for the remaining panthers to hunt and breed and to track their movements.
Korn said protecting habitat where panthers are likely to disperse continues to be a key part of the recovery strategy.
“There’s a lot of work to create protected corridors,” she said, explaining it has involved a mixture of land purchases and acquisition of conservation easements on large tracts of agricultural land that offers relatively undisturbed lands where panthers can roam.
Scientists have known for decades that Florida panthers occasionally prey on cattle and other livestock.
Recently, there have been increased discussions of coming up with a compensation program for livestock owners when there is a confirmed panther attack.
Meanwhile, as the Florida panther population has increased from fewer than 30 animals in the 1980s to between 100 and 180 today, FWC officials have stepped up efforts to collect valid reports of sightings of Florida panthers and Florida black bears, which also occasionally find their way to Polk County, or their tracks.
According to a recent news release, in the past two years FWC officials report receiving 1,537 panther sightings, 275 of which have been verified.
Even though many of the sightings turn out to be other animals or are unidentifiable, wildlife officials stress they encourage the public’s participation.
“Someone’s excitement about seeing a Florida panther or black bear may translate into important scientific information if that sighting is reported to the FWC,” said Carol Knox, the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management section leader.
“By doing so, they are contributing to conservation of Florida’s largest land mammals.”
To submit photographs of panthers or panther tracks, go to www.MyFWC.com/PantherSightings.
In southwest Florida, man and panther vie over goats and state’s true nature
It’s not the Florida he or hundreds of other nervous Collier County residents ever imagined. Florida is supposed to be about shopping centers, golf courses, theme parks and watching pelicans at the beach. Cardinals are pretty and welcome, but tree frogs are noisy unless you turn up the air conditioning.
Five years ago, Freyre and his wife retired to a spacious patch of southwest Florida that borders wilderness teeming with animals that make the couple think twice about nighttime walks — bears, coyotes, snakes.
And panthers, those sleek nocturnal hunters that Freyre calls “lions.”
Freyre, 77, knows the panthers lurk in those woods because he wakes regularly to find that sometime in the night some beast has dragged off another one of his goats.
August was a bad month. A big cat was using his yard like a Taco Bell.
Freyre called Mark Lotz, the panther sleuth. He ought to have him on speed dial.
Lotz, whose last name happens to rhyme with “goats,” is a panther biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In the winter, he helps catch the endangered species to fit them with radio collars that track their every movement.
When he isn’t catching panthers, Lotz patiently coaches a growing number of Floridians about how to live with the rising population of lions in their midst. For many, the panther is the wild heart of Florida. Remove it and Florida is gone. Others would be happy to see the cats removed from the neighborhood, if not the wild entirely.
Freyre, a New Jersey resident for most of his life, is a member of the latter group.
He lives in Golden Gate Estates, a development that was born as a real estate swindle in the 1960s to trick Yankees into buying swampland. The state eventually bought back the dampest acreage and turned it into a state forest. The dry part, north of Alligator Alley, became home to the Freyres and 22,000 other people.
The 4-square-mile development is suburban yet wild to the extreme. Glittery Naples lies to the west. The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, the Fakahatchee Strand, Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park are just east. Just around the corner from Freyre’s homestead is a Walgreens and a Hungry Howie’s.
And so, apparently, are the panthers. They’re 7 feet long from nose to tail and can weigh as much as 150 pounds. They normally eat deer, opossums, small alligators and hogs. But they don’t shy away from gift chickens and unprotected herds of domestic livestock.
“Cat food,” Lotz says.
Lotz is 44, divorced, quiet, athletic and funny. During panther-catching season he is often the biologist tapped to climb the tree where a tranquilized panther might have fallen asleep. His job is to secure the panther by rope and lower it gently to the ground. He is the only known Floridian to have been injured by a panther: During one exciting capture a panther fell from a tree onto his knee, resulting in surgery.
“Are panthers dangerous?” he is often asked.
Lotz has been trained not to sugar-coat his answer. Mountain lions, the close panther relative, have attacked and killed hikers in Colorado and California. It has never happened in Florida.
“But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t,” Lotz says.
In the 19th century, the panthers wandered almost to Texas. Feared by settlers, they were often shot on sight.
They steadily vanished from their multistate range and by 1980, scientists weren’t confident that panthers existed anymore. But a tracker hired by the state found them. Government agencies bought wilderness land to protect habitat.
Panthers had been isolated in southwest Florida for so long they suffered from birth defects that threatened to doom them anyway. In 1991, biologists released a few Texas cougars into South Florida so they could refresh the gene pool. Afterward, the cougars were removed. The panther population has since climbed from about a dozen feeble animals to more than 150 healthy ones.
All the while their habitat has continued to shrink, giving way to golf courses, shopping malls and subdivisions. Looking for new wild land, some young male panthers have roamed into Georgia. But more have headed west into Golden Gate Estates, where kids ride bicycles, climb monkey bars and play soccer. And homeowners sometimes claim tax exemptions by raising a few goats or chickens in the back yard.
In 2005, nobody in southwest Florida reported losing any livestock, according to a government report. In the year that ended June 2013, panthers killed 25 goats, cows, lambs and house cats.
Arturo Freyre’s telephone rang at 6:30 a.m. recently. It was a neighbor telling him that two of his goats were running in a panic down the street.
He had lost four goats the previous week and had spent a lot of time with Mark Lotz, who had even set up motion-sensitive cameras around the property.
Freyre shook a can of goat food in the direction of his pasture. That usually brings them running. Two came. Two didn’t.
He made the usual call.
“Mr. Lotz, I know you probably don’t want to hear from me again, but . . .”
Lotz headed over. He knew he would be little comfort to a man bewildered about what it sometimes means to live in Florida. Freyre came from Cuba in 1948 to learn how to fly airplanes. He enjoyed a long career in commercial aviation and lived in a place with sensible buildings and no lions. These days he looks at the world through the prism of Fox News. “I loved America when it was America,” he said.
“I don’t understand why you environmentalists don’t just move the panthers to public land,” he told Lotz. “That would solve the problem.”
Lotz explained that panthers, bears, bobcats and alligators come and go. A decade ago, biologists relocated a panther. That night the panther trotted 30 miles back to its favorite chicken coop. It’s better, Lotz says, to protect your livestock. Then the panther will move on.
When he retired to Florida in 2009, Freyre built his house, planted squash, raised chickens and got himself a dozen goats to qualify for his tax write-off. With money from a wildlife organization intended to help livestock owners cope with panther and bear predation, he actually started building a shelter. But he never quite finished it — there are a few gaps in the fence.
“Anyway, I’m an old man,” he said. “It’s very hard for me to round up my goats and get them into the shelter.”
Lotz is no Sherlock Holmes. But he is pretty good.
He followed a turkey vulture’s circling shadow into the woods and then tracked a foul scent to a fly-covered goat killed last week.
His real target were the goats that had disappeared the night before. Now Lotz crept through thickets of ferns and palmettos. He inched through tall grass like a golfer looking for a lost Titleist. He stopped. Pointed at grass lying at an angle as if something large had been dragged across.
He found the goat 10 feet away, below the branches of a Brazilian pepper. Freyre backed away in horror. “A lion must have done this!” he yelled.
Lotz described the attack: Springing, the cat had grabbed the 80-pound goat’s flanks with its powerful claws, then reached under with its massive jaws to clamp shut the wind pipe. The goat died from suffocation.
“Oh, my God,” Freyre cried.
They’re not his pets, he said, but he really enjoys having them around. His young niece in New Orleans loves them — she has given them names like Bambi.
Lotz never found the second goat. Perhaps the panther had buried it for a later dinner. Perhaps the panther was in the vicinity guarding its kill.
“Are we in any danger?” asked Freyre.
One last chore. Mark Lotz collected the memory cards from the four cameras in the woods. At Freyre’s picnic table he popped them into his laptop.
An image appeared — the nose of something brown sniffing the camera lens.
“Is that one of those mountain lions from Texas that are in the wild?” Freyre wanted to know.
Lotz avoided sighing. It’s a common question. If the animals now wandering southwest Florida are Texas cougars, goes the logic, they aren’t panthers and therefore deserve no protection. They can be moved or killed.
“No,” Lotz said. “It’s a Florida panther. Anyway, Texas cougars and Florida panthers mated centuries ago.”
“Are you sure that’s not a mountain lion? It must be 200 pounds. Maybe bigger.”
“No, the largest panther we’ve ever caught was 154 pounds. This is a young male. About 100 pounds.”
Unconvinced, Freyre removed his straw hat and held it in front of stomach like a shield.
“What am I going to tell my niece?” he asked. “I can’t tell her that Bambi is dead.”
JEFF KLINKENBERG|Staff Writer|Tampa Bay Times|September 13, 2014
spot an invasive species? I’ve Got 1
Invasive species in Southwest Florida have a huge potential to negatively impact our native ecosystems and we need your help to thwart that problem. Now, it’s easier than ever to report an invasive species if you spot one. All you need to remember is “I’ve Got 1.”
The Conservancy is a member of the Southwest Florida CISMA – Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area – and we’re working together to document and study all reported sightings of invasive animals like the Burmese python.
If you spot what you believe to be an invasive species, there are three easy ways to report your find!
Once your sighting is pinpointed on the map, researchers will be able to use that information to determine the areas into which these invasive animals are expanding.
So if you think you spot an invasive species, just remember… “I’ve Got 1!”
New report: 100,000 elephants killed
Words we live by: Stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand.
A recently released report confirms poachers slaughtered 100,000 elephants in Africa in the last three years.
100,000 elephants: their majestic bodies and intelligent eyes reduced to lifeless heaps. Entire herds destroyed. Mothers, young, all killed in cold blood.
More elephants are now being killed in Africa than are being born. This is what the path to extinction looks like.
Is this grim? Yes. Is it heart-wrenching? Absolutely. Is it a reason to give up hope?
No. Not now. Not ever.
Here at WCS we’re determined to win the war to save elephants – and we’re on the ground, battling to do so. We already have a clear goal and action plan: Stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. Supporters across the globe have rallied around us and we’ve accomplished amazing things in the last year.
Here’s what we’ve accomplished and where we’re headed.
Stopping the killing.
Thanks to our generous 96 Elephants donors, we hired 12 new ecoguards in Conkouati-Douli National Park in the Republic of Congo – they just started their 6 week training course on October 1. Protection by vigilant ecoguards means that elephants are now venturing into areas of the park they were once too scared to access.
Now, the Nigerian government has asked us to take over management of Yankari Game Reserve, home to the last viable elephant population in that country. Start up costs, plus recruiting, training, and supplying ecoguards all need to be covered – but one thing’s for sure – when the resources are secured, we know how to protect those elephants on the ground.
Stopping the trafficking.
We’re working hard to protect elephants at every step in the supply chain. Just last month, we helped catch six suspected poachers in a late night raid in Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique. After carefully gathering intelligence on this gang for more than 10 months, the raid recovered more than $150,000 worth of elephant tusks, as well as five guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
We continue to ramp up law enforcement efforts to catch traffickers smuggling ivory out of places such as Ruaha Park in Tanzania. Right now, we’re in the process of selecting and training sniffer dogs to assist various law enforcement agencies with tracking down cashes of ivory, ammunition, and other illegal materials.
In less than a year, our 96 Elephants campaign has helped pave the way for bans on ivory sales in New York and New Jersey. Plus, the federal government has announced its intention to implement a ban. In the meantime, we’ve set our sights on our next U.S. target: California – the second largest market for ivory in the country. We’re gearing up with local partners to not only close loopholes that allow for the sale of illegal ivory, but also stiffen the penalties for those caught doing so.
Stopping the demand.
We’re actively working in China – the number one consumer of ivory – where our innovative awareness-raising campaign is educating consumers that ivory products mean dead elephants. Key to this is a website where citizens can go to learn more about the crisis and share their photo along with a pledge not to buy ivory. And along with many other tactics, we’ve set up ads in Beijing International Airport, blanketing a corridor that carries millions of passengers between Africa and China.
And that’s only a sampling of what we can accomplish for elephants in the next year!
This movement has come incredibly far in a year and together I hope one day we count down from 96 elephants killed each day…to 90…to 10…to 0.
Liz Bennett|Vice President|Species Conservation|Wildlife Conservation Society
Destruction of Carbon-Rich Mangroves Costs up to $42 Billion in Economic Damages Annually
Globally Coordinated Action and Policy Interventions Required to Stem Loss of One of the Planet’s Most Threatened Ecosystems
ATHENS – Mangroves are being destroyed at a rate 3 – 5 times greater than the average rates of forest loss, costing billions in economic damages and denying millions of people the ecosystem services they need to survive, according to a new report launched today by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
The Importance of Mangroves: A Call to Action launched today at the 16th Global Meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, describes how emissions resulting from mangrove losses make up nearly one-fifth of global emissions from deforestation, resulting in economic damages of some US$6 – 42 billion annually. Mangroves are also threatened by climate change, which could result in the loss of a further 10 – 15 per cent of mangroves by 2100.
Found in 123 countries and covering 152,000 square kilometers, over 100 million people around the world live within 10 kilometers of large mangrove forests, benefiting from a variety of goods and services such as fisheries and forest products, clean water and protection against erosion and extreme weather events.
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Mangroves provide ecosystem services worth around US$33 – 57,000 per hectare per year. Add to that their superior ability to store carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and it becomes clear that their continued destruction makes neither ecological nor economic sense.”
“Yet, the escalating destruction and degradation of mangroves – driven by land conversion for aquaculture and agriculture, coastal development, and pollution – is occurring at an alarming rate, with over a quarter of the earth’s original mangrove cover now lost. This has potentially devastating effects on biodiversity, food security and the livelihoods of some of the most marginalized coastal communities in developing countries where more than 90 per cent of the world’s mangroves are found.”
“By quantifying in economic terms the value of the ecosystem services provided by mangroves as well as the critical role they play in global climate regulation, the report aims to encourage policymakers to use the tools and guidelines outlined to better ensure the conservation and sustainable management of mangroves,” he added.
The report argues that in spite of the mounting evidence in support of the multitude of benefits derived from mangroves, they remain one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. The report describes financial mechanisms and incentives to stimulate mangrove conservation, such as REDD+, private sector investments, and the creation of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions for developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing national capacity.
Mangrove degradation and loss is predicted to continue into the future if a business-as-usual scenario prevails. The Importance of Mangroves: A Call to Action offers readers and especially policymakers many management and protection measures and tools that are available for use at national, regional and global scales to help ensure a sustainable future for mangroves.
Policymakers, it says, should consider several of these, including integrating mangrove-specific goals and targets into the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals agenda, as well as better coordination of global action on mangroves through the development of a Global Mangrove Commission, and the streamlining and coordination of Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
Protecting these long-term reservoirs of carbon, and preventing their emissions from being released back into the atmosphere is, the report says, a sensible and cost-effective measure that can be taken to help mitigate climate change.
· By 2050, South-East Asia will potentially have lost 35 per cent of the mangrove cover it had in 2000, with associated negative ecological and socio-economic impacts.
· Ecosystem service losses in South-East Asia from the destruction of mangroves has been estimated at more than US$2 billion a year over the period 2000 – 2050, with Indonesia predicted to suffer the highest losses at US$ 1.7 billion per year.
Climate Change Regulation and Mitigation
· Research is increasingly pointing to the role of mangroves as significant carbon storage systems, sequestering vast amounts of carbon – about 1,000 tons per hectare – over thousands of years, making them some of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on the planet.
· One study carried out in the Potengi Estuary in Brazil on 1,488 hectares of mangroves found that the forest trees and sediments were retaining concentrations of heavy metals that would otherwise cost US$13 million to treat in a zeolite plant.
· A large number of commercially important fish species such as snapper, mullet, wrasse, parrotfish, sharks and rays utilize mangroves during all or part of their lives, with the mangrove providing critical food, shelter and refuge functions.
· It has been estimated that 30 per cent of the fish caught in South-East Asia are supported in some way by mangrove forests; a figure approaching 100 per cent for highly mangrove-dependent species including some species of prawn.
· It was estimated that the annual average landing of mangrove-associated fish and blue crab in the Gulf is 10,500 tons, with an estimated total value of US$19 million to local fisheries.
Extreme Weather Events
· The complex network of mangrove roots can help reduce wave energy, limit erosion and shield coastal communities from the destructive forces of tropical storms, cyclones and tsunamis.
· The mangrove-lined “hurricane holes” in the Caribbean have been a well-known safe haven for vessels for centuries, and of the 20-odd established hurricane holes recommended for boaters needing to ride out storms in the Antilles, 16 gain such a reputation because of the presence of mangroves.
· In Vietnam, extensive planting of mangrove has cost of US$1.1 million but has helped reduce maintenance cost of the sea-dyke by US$7.3 million per year.
· Mangroves form the foundation of a highly productive and biologically rich ecosystem that is home to a spectacular range of species of birds, mammals, invertebrates and fish which help to support people through fisheries, tourism and cultural heritage.
· The combination of clearance and degradation has meant that globally about 16 per cent of mangrove tree species and some 40 per cent of the animal species dependent on these ecosystems are now considered vulnerable and/or at risk of extinction. The mangroves of Australia are home to over 200 species of birds, and at least 600 different fish species are known to occur in mangroves across the Indo-Pacific region.
Policymaker guidelines for the improvement, management and protection of mangroves include the development of protocols to Regional Seas Conventions that promote protection and sustainable use of mangroves, and the implementation and enforcement of national laws and policies relevant to mangrove protection and management. Others include:
· Create a Global Mangrove Fund to support “climate resilience” actions that conserve and restore mangroves, and protect the carbon stored within them;
· Encourage mangrove conservation and restoration through carbon credit markets such as REDD+, the “Bio-Rights” mechanism and corporate and private sector investments;
· Promote economic incentives such as Payments for Ecosystem Services as a source of local income from mangrove protection, sustainable use and restoration activities and ensure beneficiaries of mangrove services can find opportunities to invest in mangrove management and restoration planning;
· Explore opportunities for investment into Net Positive Impact biodiversity offsets by the corporate and business sectors as a way to finance the protection and sustainable use of mangroves;
· Ensure that mangroves are addressed in wider Marine Spatial Planning and policy frameworks.
Access full report here
UNEP|October 7, 2014
Snow Leopard Catches Marmot (Photos & Video)
One of our research cameras in Kyrgyzstan has captured amazing photos of a snow leopard carrying a freshly killed marmot. See the pictures and video below!
[scroll down to see the video]
Like the author of a good suspense novel, this Kyrgyz snow leopard spares us the gruesome details of what’s to come.
This California Highway Is Hindering Puma Genetic Diversity
Interstate 15 is big. It stretches across 10 lanes through the Santa Ana and Santa Monica mountains. It also keeps puma populations away from each other.
A study of 354 pumas in California by scientists from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine found that pumas in Santa Ana and Santa Monica had significantly lower genetic diversity than pumas in other parts of the state. This lack of genetic diversity was caused by human developments like the I-15. Over time, pumas have been forced to inbreed and their genetic diversity has plummeted.
“The lack of diversity is likely to cause serious problems within the next 20-50 years,” said Dr. Paul Beier, of North Arizona University, who works on the science-based design of wildlife corridors. “We know this because the Florida panther (same species as puma) also suffered lack of genetic diversity in the 1980s and 1990s that caused serious heart defects, sterility in many males, and susceptibility to infections.”
During the study, one puma got lucky and managed to cross Highway 101. He re-invigorated some of the genetic diversity among the pumas he encountered on the other side. But this is rare, especially as human populations around San Diego and Los Angeles grow and continue to develop the landscape.
Preventing a lack of genetic diversity in land-bound species will require urban planning that takes animal movements into consideration. One solution is to leave large pieces of land undeveloped. Another is to create crossing structures so animals can get past highways and railways with no danger of being struck by a moving vehicle.
“I suspect that lack of genetic diversity is a problem only for a handful of populations today, and that most puma populations are genetically healthy,” added Beier. “But this could become a problem in more places as human footprint on the landscape grows.”
Manon Verchot|TreeHugger|October 11, 2014
This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.
Marijuana Farms Are Poisoning This Mink-Like Animal With Rodenticides
As the market for legal weed has blossomed in some states, so too has the use of rat poison on pot farms deep in the western woods, to keep rodents away from the aromatic plants. These are the same woods where a rare cat-sized mammal called the fisher lives in the cavities of trees and feeds on smaller animals—animals whose little bodies are full of the pot farmer’s rodenticide.
The fisher, whose numbers and range are already precariously low due to two centuries of trapping and logging, has been relegated to the same patches of public land in California, Oregon and Washington where illegal pot farming has taken hold. The threat of rodenticide has become widespread enough for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to announce Monday a proposal to add the fisher to the national list of endangered species.
When biologists assess the grow sites after raids, they often find packaging for large quantities of potent commercial rodenticides and other toxins, which are being used without regulation and in large quantities at grow sites. Rats and squirrels can survive three to seven days after eating the rodenticide, so the doomed animals roam around, falling prey to the fisher. One or two poisoned meals won’t kill a fisher, explains Mourad Gabriel, executive director of the Integral Ecology Research Center. But eating like that regularly will.
“It’s filling up slowly with these anti-coagulant rodenticides,” Gabriel says. Without immediate human intervention, like a vitamin K injection, “that fisher is going to succumb to the exposure levels and die.”
A study published in 2012 in the journal PLOS One found rat poison in the bloodstream of 79 percent of fishers they tested. More recent studies have put the number above 80 percent.
Environmental groups have pushed for years for protection for the fisher under the Endangered Species Act. Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity see its listing as key to the fight against plans to increase logging of public forest lands known as the “O&C lands” in western Oregon. Logging is also a significant stress driving down fisher populations, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“In addition to Endangered Species Act protection, the strong protections provided by the Northwest Forest Plan for old forest habitat need to be maintained, including on O&C lands,” Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement following the listing announcement. “And the dangerous rodenticides being used by illegal marijuana growers that have poisoned fishers need to be completely banned.”
The threat to the fisher is the latest of a string of recent news of ecosystem damage caused by marijuana farms. Streams are frequently diverted, without permit, to irrigate marijuana crops, using copious amounts of freshwater and posing a threat to the water supply in drought-ravaged states like California. In other waters, fertilizer and pesticide runoff is sparking blooms of toxic blue-green algae.
Zoë Schlanger|Newsweek|October 7, 2014
Florida manatees on collision course with extinction
The news last week that yet another endangered Florida manatee was struck and killed by a boat created barely a ripple in the media cycle.
The reports read like just another police blotter item, verifying that the 10-year-old female manatee had died from “blunt force trauma” after being struck by a boat off Riviera Beach.
It marked at least the 53rd time this year one of the charismatic marine mammals has been killed by a watercraft.
The sad truth is that despite their protected status, manatees continue to be relentlessly assaulted by habitat destruction, cold-stress mortality and red tide events.
But watercraft strikes continue to be the leading cause of death for manatees, killing, on average, more than 80 a year — a fatality count that by itself represents more than seven times the number of manatees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates can be killed without impairing the species’ recovery.
Despite this disturbing trend, new research reveals that regulators not only have failed to keep track of how many permits they issue every year for the new docks, piers and boat ramps that increase watercraft access to Florida’s waterways, they have failed to determine the cumulative impacts of the thousands of projects they approve on manatees.
A Center for Biological Diversity study reveals that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued more than 4,000 permits for watercraft structures from 2008-13 without giving any consideration to the projects’ cumulative impacts on manatees. And possibly thousands more were granted by the state of Florida. Over the same period, more than 500 manatees died after being struck by watercraft and countless others sustained injuries.
The study details how the Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps have purposefully sidestepped analyzing the cumulative impacts of permitting these projects in favor of a streamlined permitting process designed to expedite the permits.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the Army Corps is required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure actions it permits, individually and cumulatively, do not result in harm to individual manatees or jeopardize them as a species.
To skirt this legal requirement, the Army Corps and Fish and Wildlife Service developed the Manatee Key, a streamlined process for quickly identifying those projects with serious affects to the manatee while letting all other projects proceed with minimal analysis.
Evaluated individually the impacts of these projects may appear to be minimal, but when considered together the true environmental impacts are clear — the projects result in the preventable deaths of manatees.
Use of the Manatee Key should be suspended until a full investigation can offer a true picture of impacts to manatees. And the evidence suggests there’s much to be learned.
The Center for Biological Diversity study reviewed records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. However, there’s strong indication the information provided by the corps likely represents only a portion of the permits issued for watercraft facilities.
For example, the National Marine Fisheries Service reported that during a similar time-frame, 2006-10, the corps authorized 9,195 permits just to construct docks, and from 2000-09, the state of Florida authorized 10,266 facilities allowing watercraft access.
The report makes evident that the federal and state regulators responsible for permitting new structures in Florida’s waterways have virtually no idea how those structures are impacting endangered manatees.
And especially in this year when officials are evaluating whether to downlist manatees from endangered to threatened, it’s imperative that regulators do everything in their power to ensure a true accounting of the growing threats to these treasured marine mammals.
Jaclyn Lopez|Florida director|Center for Biological Diversity.
Rare fern in Miami proposed for endangered species list
A small, rootless fern found only in Miami’s rock ridge and one other place on the planet may be added to the endangered species list, U.S. wildlife managers announced Wednesday.
The Florida bristle fern, discovered a century ago growing in dense mats in shady hammocks near Coral Gables, once flourished in the pocked rock of the coastal ridge. Botanists found it clinging to the limestone floor and in sinkholes in at least 12 hammocks between Everglades National Park and Miami. But as early as 1938, they began to note its disappearance, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report.
In 2009 when federal wildlife officials nominated the plant for protection, biologists found it in just 10 spots in Miami-Dade County and two in Sumter County west of Orlando, where it sprouted from boulders. An inventory concluded there were fewer than 1,000 individual plants.
Botanists now worry the moss-like fern may vanish entirely as development continues to shrink its dwindling habitat and rising seas make that habitat more inhospitable.
“We have to rethink how we build our communities and where we build,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida-based attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued in 2011 to speed the protection of endangered species including the fern. “Florida is not making new land.”
Because the fern grows in such a specific place, it can also be considered an important measure of the health of the habitat, Lopez said.
In South Florida, the fern sprouts from pockets of limestone where water collects, making it susceptible to changes in groundwater. As seas rise, the fern’s coastal habitat will likely shrink. Saltwater may also push further inland through the region’s porous rock, making groundwater salty. Planners and water managers are now wrestling with how to control saltwater intrusion, from updating canal pumps to redistributing water through Everglades restoration projects. Those projects, ironically, are supposed to reverse drainage work that helped speed the fern’s disappearance decades ago when canals were dredged.
The public will have until Dec. 8 to comment on the proposal. Federal officials will then review the comments along with recommendations from scientists and agency staff before deciding whether to list the fern.
If the fern is listed, the agency will consider designating a critical habitat and coming up with a plan for saving it.
Firefighters Save Two Adorable Bear Cubs Trapped Inside a Tree
Hearing desperate cries coming from a wooded area nearby, a concerned cabin owner in Milltown, Wisconsin, ventured out to find the snouts of two baby bear cubs sticking out of a hole in a huge cottonwood tree.
Unsure as to whether the cubs were truly stuck, the woman decided to return to check on them the next day — and the snouts were still there.
After calling the authorities to help, two wardens from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, along with Tammi Larson, who runs a wildlife rehabilitation facility in the area, went to the scene.
When they arrived they discovered the pair of bear cubs who appeared to have crawled into the tree, but were unable to crawl out.
“In 15 years of being a warden I haven’t seen bears caught in a tree before. I’ve seen lots of bears, just none that were trapped like that,” warden Jesse Ashton said.
Ashton believed that when the cubs had climbed into the tree, some dead debris had fallen down behind them, sealing the hole and trapping them inside.
As mother bear was nowhere to be found, Larson said that she had likely been killed by hunters or a vehicle, but thankfully the cubs were old enough to survive on their own.
“They couldn’t get out, but they had chewed a little hole so one of them could stick his snout through and cry,” Larson said.
Knowing that they didn’t have the equipment to free the cubs, the wardens asked for the help of the local Milltown Fire Department. Armed with a chainsaw, the firefighters carefully cut an opening in the base of the tree, while one of the baby bears looked on from his hole.
“We cut a hole in the tree and then we all backed off and waited,” warden Phil Dorn said. “The cubs crawled out and ran back into the woods.”
Although in pretty good shape considering, Larson could see that the bears were dehydrated so she offered them some watermelon to help quench their thirst, which they ate right away. The cubs stuck around the scene for a while checking out the onlookers before eventually scampering off.
With all three of North America’s bear species, the black bear, the grizzly bear, and the polar bear, threatened by habitat loss and other human-created issues, these two babies are fortunate to have such a lucky escape.
Bears play an important role in the ecosystem, and protecting them is everyone’s responsibility.
Abigail Geer|October 8, 2014
India’s Tiger Protection Squad Ensures No Poaching
“Tyger, tyger, burning bright,” wrote William Blake in his famed poem. And now it appears that thanks to a dedicated team belonging to the Special Tiger Protection Force(STPF), tigers will once again shine bright in the forests of Maharashtra.
The expertise of these trained hands was on display in February at the Ashta village which falls in the buffer zone of the Tadoba- Andhari tiger reserve of the state.A tiger had strayed into the village in the buffer zone of the reserve. This team managed to lure away the tiger from the village without any damage to human lives, while simultaneously managing a crowd of villagers who had gathered out of curiosity as well as fear. This was probably the first time that a tiger venturing into a human inhabited area was spared from being mauled by the crowd.
Since 2012, the STPF has been deployed in two tiger reserves in Maharashtra, one at Tadoba and the other at Pench tiger reserve. Tadoba is believed to be home to about 50 tigers, according to experts.
The tiger population in India was 1706 in the last survey conducted in 2011by the National Tiger Conservation Authority; over half the total tiger population of the world.
Swapnil Ghure, who heads the STPF says, “There has been no poaching incident in Tadoba since the STPF has been inducted. In a conflict situation they are helpful in two ways: to control the mob and ensure safety of wild animals besides monitoring wildlife.”
Instances of poaching are usually more common in summer when tigers approach water bodies and become easy targets for poachers. The summer of 2012; when the STPF was first introduced in Tadoba witnessed three instances of suspected poaching. In 2013, two incidents had evidence of poaching, but was not confirmed. The summer of 2014 showed brighter results with not one occurrence of poaching in Tadoba.
The STPF was formed following guidelines from the government to protect the tigers. Funds were released by the Government as early as 2008 to raise, arm, train and deploy the special tiger protection force in 13 sensitive tiger reserves. Karnataka was the first state to deploy the STPF in 2012. Other states soon followed.
The main duty of the STPF members is to protect the tigers and their cause by taking anti-poaching measures in the park. Controlling mobs of villagers is just one of the other tasks to facilitate the main objective of protecting tigers.
“We patrol the forests; our strength is in our numbers. We can take on a big group that is doing illegal activity inside forests and ensure the safety of wildlife animals from poachers, “said a female officer of the force.
Ramya Naresh|October 12, 2014
Are Cheetahs Dying Because We’re Making Them Walk Too Far?
Cheetahs are marvels at sprinting, but new research says that it’s not the cheetah’s natural predators that are pushing them dangerously close to population collapse, but the fact that mankind’s intrusion into their territories is making the cheetah have to walk father to find its prey.
Previously, scientists had assumed that because hyenas and lions are often seen stealing a cheetah’s prey, they might be one of the main factors responsible for the cheetah’s decline. Yet a new study shows that it might be humans encroaching on cheetah territory that’s really to blame here.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, focused on how cheetahs burn their stores of energy and what effect environmental factors might be having on this ability.
Traditionally, it’s been thought that to achieve the impressive speeds cheetahs can reach–up to 120 km/h in short bursts and 93km/h for more sustainable short-term running–there is a heavy cost in terms of the energy the cheetahs use up. Therefore, holding on to every precious calorie would count. Except that’s not what this latest study found.
By studying 19 wild cheetahs from two separate reserves, one in the Kalahari Desert and the other from the wetter Karongwe Private Game Reserve, the researchers found that the cheetahs don’t actually burn much more energy when running than other mammals of their size.
The researchers could tell this by the fact that, prior to following the animals over a two week period, they put tracking collars on the animals and injected the cheetahs with what’s known as heavy water, water that has an abundance of the isotope deuterium and for that reason is traceable. As such, and as well as making behavioral observations, the researchers were able to collect the cheetahs’ feces and figure out how much water, and therefore how much energy, the cheetahs were expending each day.
What the scientists found, however, was that while the cheetahs weren’t expending much more energy during the actual hunting of prey (because they sprint relatively infrequently), they were being forced to walk many, many miles–sometimes cheetahs traveled up to nearly 30.6km a day–and expend relatively large amounts of energy in order to just reach their hunting grounds–and that’s likely due in part to human encroachment where we have either contributed to habitat loss and driven the prey further afield, or have put up barriers that the cheetahs must navigate around, adding many kilometers to their journeys.
Lead researcher Dr Michael Scantlebury from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences is quoted as saying:
“What our study showed was that their major energy costs seem to be incurred by travelling, rather than securing prey. If you can imagine walking up and down sand dunes in high temperatures day in, day out, with no water to drink you start to get a feel for how challenging these cats’ daily lives are, and yet they remain remarkably adapted and resilient. They can even withstand other species, such as lions and hyenas, stealing their prey. The reality may be that human activities – for example erecting fences that inhibit free travel or over-hunting cheetah prey – are forcing cheetahs to travel ever-increasing distances and that this may be compromising their energy more than any other single factor. Our study, which is the result of ten years’ of research, seriously questions previously held assumptions about the factors affecting population viability in large predators threatened by extinction.”
To be sure, this is only a small study but its findings do indicate that we at least need to pause and reassess how we set about preserving cheetahs. Currently, there are between 9,000 to 12,000 cheetahs remaining in Africa (though some reports put that figure as low as 7,500). In the 1900s there were more than 100,000. That shows a staggering decline in a species that, unfortunately, already has a limited gene pool, and now conservationists fear that the cheetah’s numbers have dwindled so low that, without intervention, population collapse may not be far off.
The bright side is that this study shows that some of the ways we can help the cheetahs may be relatively simple. For instance, removing barriers like heavily guarded livestock holdings so that the cheetahs have a more direct route to their prey might be one option–this could also be managed to benefit farmers by keeping their livestock away from more direct routes to prey and therefore out of danger. There’s also the fact that this research may go some way to warding off more extreme interventions, like culling hyena populations in a misspent effort to help the cheetahs.
To be sure though, there is a need to keep gathering data like this because it’s through such studies that we’ll get a true and accurate picture of the cheetah’s habits and needs, and be able to do the most good with our conservation efforts.
Steve Williams|October 7, 2014
When Bees Go Extinct, These 10 Foods Will Follow [INFOGRAPHIC]
Humans often overlook the vitally important role that bees play in our lives. Bees are seen as pests or a nuisances that are too be avoided lest one land on your arm and sting you! But, we rarely consider the bigger picture and recognize that without bees, some of the foods we eat every day would disappear. Every third bite of food we take is made possible thanks to our pollinator friends. That measures out to 90 percent of agricultural crops in the United States, which contributes an average of $19 billion to our economy. So, as you can see – without bees the agricultural system in the U.S. would virtually collapse.
Which is a bit troubling seeming as bee populations have been on a rapid decline since 2006. It is estimated that for the past decade, beekeepers have seen a steady decrease of their bee populations by 30 percent each year. The average beehive can include 60,000 worker bees, so a 30 percent decline would mean a loss of 18,000 bees. When you consider the fact that it takes 1.6 million domesticated bee colonies to pollinate California’s almond crops every year, this massive loss across the nation’s bee colonies should not be taken lightly.
The Bulletin of Insectology definitively named the pesticides (specifically neonicotinoids) which are sprayed on our agricultural crops as the prime cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which has lead to the disappearance of bees. Among the many species we stand to lose due to human activity, the bee is intrinsically linked to our own survival, and it is imperative that we do all we can to protect the bee species.
To illustrate how dire nature of this, here are the top 10 foods we stand to lose, if we lose the bees.
Kate Good|OneGreenPlanet|Earth Monster|October 13, 2014
What You Can Do To Save Bees
The good news is there is still time to save the bees, but it requires fast, pointed action. To learn more about what you can do to save bees and to get started, check out these resources – and share what you’ve learned with all your friends!
AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE FLORIDA SENATE AND THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Project Title: Technical Review of Options to Move Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades
Wendy Graham, Director, UF Water Institute (Project Leader); Karl Havens, Director, Florida Sea Grant College Program; Thomas Frazer, Director, UF School of Natural Resources and Environment; K. Ramesh Reddy, Chair, UF/IFAS Department of Soil and Water Science
Mary Jane Angelo, Director, UF Environmental and Land Use Law Program; Peter Frederick, Research Professor, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
Project Period: Start Date; Execution; End Date: March 1, 2015
The south Florida regional landscape has been engineered to provide flood protection and water supply for (1) a population that has grown to over 8 million residents and that contributes hundreds of billions of dollars annually to the Florida economy; and (2) a large and productive agricultural area south, east, north, and west of Lake Okeechobee. The regional hydrologic system, called the Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project, functions well in meeting its primary intended purposes, which were identified when the project was authorized in 1948.
Today it is recognized that this flood control and water delivery system that serves Florida’s human population effectively also has caused considerable adverse impacts to the natural ecosystems of south Florida, including the St. Lucie Estuary, Caloosahatchee Estuary, Lake Okeechobee, and the Florida Everglades.
Such impacts stem from large deviations in the quantity and quality of freshwater delivered to these systems relative to a pre-engineered time period. The main location for surface water storage in the C&SF system is Lake Okeechobee, which was designed with two large canals that now have the capacity to carry large volumes of water to the St. Lucie Estuary and the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
Historically, no water flowed from the lake to the St. Lucie, and only a small amount of (much cleaner) water flowed to the Caloosahatchee. Currently, movement of water to the south is constrained by the capacity of much smaller canals, and by other factors including a need to prevent overtopping of levees in the Water Conservation Areas (a flood risk) and by legal limits for phosphorus loading to the Everglades.
Water in Lake Okeechobee has become highly polluted with phosphorus and other nutrients from agricultural sources north of the lake. In spite of Best Management Practices (BMPs) implemented in the watersheds, high nutrient loads to the lake continue, in large part due to legacy nutrients accumulated in the system.
The result of all of these factors is that when there is excessive rainfall in the northern basin and rapidly rising water levels in the lake, large discharges are made to the two estuaries. Large freshwater discharges reduce the salinity of the estuaries, harming biota that are adapted to higher salinity conditions. They have also been associated with algal blooms fueled by the nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee.
For decades, planning has been underway to develop solutions to these problems, and most notably, this resulted in a program called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) that is being implemented by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), its local partner the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), and the US Department of Interior (USDOI). Recently, these agencies have been focusing their efforts on a component of CERP, the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), which was designed to expedite restoration in the Central Everglades.
Recently, after a particularly wet season in the region and large regulatory discharges to the estuaries, concerns arose about the timing of completing CERP, especially about the timing of construction and completion of projects that would reduce damaging estuary releases and increase the flow of clean water south to the Everglades. Stakeholders have questioned whether there are more immediate solutions especially to the problem of high discharges of poor quality freshwater to the estuaries. In response to the recommendations of the Florida Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, the Florida Legislature recently appropriated $232 million of funds to accelerate projects that are intended to take pressure off the estuaries and send clean water to the Everglades. The Florida Senate also recognized the value of an independent review of agency-adopted and other proposed plans to move even more water to the Everglades to:
(1) ensure that existing evaluations of plans by the agencies are technically sound; and
(2) possibly identify innovative, new approaches that have not previously been considered.
(1) An interdisciplinary academic review team from the University of Florida Water Institute will review relevant reports and documents and interview scientists and engineers at the lead management agencies. The UF review team will also gather information from other agencies, organizations, and other individuals with expertise on issues related to reducing regulatory discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries and increasing the flow of water from the lake to the Everglades.
(2) The UF review team will develop a report for the Florida Senate that provides a summary and an independent assessment of this regional water management issue. The final synthesis document will include the following sections:
A Historical Perspective of the Regional System - this section will be a concise overview of the pre-C&SF hydrology and water quality and how and why the C&SF system was constructed. This section of the report will include a discussion of the historic approach to manage water without considering the environmental needs for variation in hydrology, amount of water delivery or nutrient content of the water and nutrient loads.
The Current State of the System - this section will focus on how water is managed now and the current state of water quality in the context of the current legal and institutional environment.
Restoration Plans - this section will include an inventory and assessment of current and proposed restoration plans developed by the state and federal agencies, as well as other plans proposed by stakeholders or identified by the review team. Examples of these plans include, dispersed water storage, Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells, Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs), the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), Plan 6, and River of Grass planning process. Constraints to solving hydrologic, water quality, and habitat issues will be identified as well as potential solutions. Review of plans will include breakdown of legal and institutional constraints that may limit or impact the feasibility of particular plans. Evaluations will be conducted based on readily available information. No new data collection or modeling will be conducted. However, recommendations for additional data collection or modeling to further evaluate new restoration options may result from the analyses.
Future Uncertainties – this section will consider uncertainties regarding rainfall, evapotranspiration, temperature, sea level rise, land use, population demographics, and legal and institutional framework that could affect the outcome of any restoration programs.
Options – this section will identify policy and project options for improving water management and note advantages and disadvantages associated with each option.
The final report will include references to all sources of material used to develop assessments and evaluations.
Approach – The UF review team will meet these objectives by thoroughly reviewing existing documents that have evaluated water storage, water quality, dispersal, and treatment options in the regional ecosystem by holding fact finding meetings to view presentations and ask questions of experts from the SFWMD, USACE, DOI, other agencies, and interested parties, and through closed review team meetings. The review of plans will consider an assessment of whether they meet their stated objectives, whether they may have unintended consequences, and what constraints exist to them achieving their desired outcomes.
The review activities will occur in fall 2014 and early winter 2015, with production of the final report in February 2015.
Support of relevant agencies to provide needed scientific information is critical for this project. The Florida Senate will make special requests of the agencies to support this activity in a timely manner.
National Park Service Prepares To Search Everglades For ‘Lost’ Ancient Settlements
Archeologists are heading to the Everglades this week to look for the remnants of a Native American settlement. The National Park Service is trying to find the location of a settlement discovered back in the late 1960’s and then lost.
For centuries, the Everglades has been home to a wide array of plants and animals, but it has also been home to humans. In the 1968, a dredging operation of Anhinga Slough revealed artifacts like bone tools that may have been used as hunting weapons. But Margo Schwardon with the National Park Services’ Southeast Archeological Center says both the site, and the artifacts, were eventually lost to time.
“The site didn’t get recorded as we would today,” Schwardon says. “We didn’t have GPS. And we basically just have the ranger’s old field notes that talk about this discovery and we don’t know where the site was, other than what he drew on some sketch maps.”
Everglades officials now preparing to rebuild a bridge that winds through Anhinga Slough, but before any construction gets underway, the National Park Service wants to have a look at the area and see what lies beneath the water. Using the old notes and sketch maps, they’re hoping to find the site where the artifacts were originally found in 1968.
Meanwhile, the Southeast Archeological Center rediscovered the missing artifacts about seven years ago. They now reside at the Center’s Tallahassee location.
Water Quality Issues
H.R. 5078 - Waters of the United States
The bill passed the House Sept. 9th by a vote of 229-179.
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 5078, which would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) from finalizing specified draft regulations and guidance needed to clarify the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The agencies’ rulemaking, grounded in science, is essential to ensure clean water for future generations and reduce regulatory uncertainty, and is responsive to calls for rulemaking from Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Clean water is vital for the success of the Nation’s businesses, agriculture, energy development, and the health of our communities. More than 115 million Americans get their drinking water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that are at risk of pollution from upstream sources. The protection of wetlands is vital for hunting and fishing. When Congress passed the CWA in 1972, to restore the Nation’s waters, it recognized that to have healthy communities downstream, we need to protect the smaller streams and wetlands upstream. Clarifying the scope of the CWA helps to protect clean water, safeguard public health, and strengthen the economy.
H.R. 5078 would derail current efforts to clarify the scope of the CWA, hamstring future regulatory efforts, and create significant ambiguity regarding existing regulations and guidance. It would deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water. In addition to vitiating the specified draft regulations and already withdrawn guidance, the bill would call into question “any successor document” or “substantially similar” proposed rule or guidance, even if all stakeholders reached consensus. If enacted, H.R. 5078 could also incite further litigation that would only magnify confusion and uncertainty among affected stakeholders.
Furthermore, H.R. 5078 would further delay any action to clarify the scope of the CWA for up to two years by requiring State and local governments to engage in further consultations even though they were engaged and consulted during the development of the proposed rule and they continue to be consulted as the agencies proceed with rulemaking.
In the end, H.R. 5078 would sow more confusion and invite more conflict at a time when our communities and businesses need clarity and certainty around clean water regulation. Simply put, this bill is not an act of good government; rather, it would hinder the ongoing rulemaking process and the agencies’ ability to respond to the public as well as two Supreme Court rulings.
If the President were presented with , his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.
Oil Industry Wastewater Dumped Into California Aquifers
Documents obtained by the Center reveal that nearly 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into Central California aquifers — the same ones that supply drinking water and crop irrigation. The wastewater was injected directly into the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells, which are used by the oil industry to get rid of waste contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants.
“Clean water is one of California’s most crucial resources, and these documents make it clear that state regulators have utterly failed to protect our water from oil industry pollution,” said the Center’s Hollin Kretzmann.
While much more testing is needed to understand the full threat to the environment and public health, there’s certainly enough evidence for Gov. Jerry Brown to halt fracking and rein in this surge in oil industry wastewater that California clearly isn’t prepared to dispose of safely.
Read more in our press release.
[It wasn’t problem enough to suffer the worst drought in California’s recent history, now someone comes along and contaminates the little water there is left.]
PAST PRESIDENTS URGE IKES TO SUPPORT CLEAN WATER
You have all received previous action alerts from the Izaak Walton League urging you to support the rulemaking effort to restore some of the wetland and stream protections under the Clean Water Act. (Click here for a short “Clean Water” video.)
The protections for upstream wetlands and streams were lost as a result of two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers are proposing to restore some of those protections. A short description for this process is that it is simply an effort to clarify for ALL parties which wetlands and streams remain protected, and which need case-by-case evaluation.
Both of us have worked on this subject since the first unfortunate Supreme Court decision. Neither of us are scientific experts, but we are well informed on the specifics of this issue. Please add your voice to those of the over 280 Ikes and friends who have already weighed in.
You know as well as any citizens in the USA today that our wetlands and headwaters play a vital role in our overall natural resource index of wellness. You also know that we’ve lost far too many wetlands, and that the destruction of over 50% of our original wetlands nationally has hurt us financially with flooding, soil losses, and degraded surface and groundwater resources.
You also know the price we continue to pay in the loss of biodiversity and sustainability; amenities that feed our souls and enrich us while we are here.
The proposed rulemaking process does not attempt to restore all the protections our wetlands had prior to the Supreme Court decisions. From 1974-2001, while the more protective regulations were in force, we farmed, we managed our forests, we met our construction needs, we planned and built our communities. During that period (1974-2001) our economy was generally strong, and our employment robust.
Some groups appear to have forgotten these facts, as well as their responsibility to be factual. A campaign has been launched that vilifies EPA, screams out in language that portrays this as the biggest government land grab in history and that it would prevent routine farming practices. Talk about emotional, and unsubstantiated, hysteria. Yet this campaign of fear and misinformation unfortunately seems to be working. The wetlands destroyers just succeeded in passing a bill against this rule in the U.S House.
Ikes like farmers! Many of us are connected to families with farm histories. For decades, Ikes have recognized the need to support taxpayer participation in the cost of private land conservation. Many Ikes work in construction and in diverse ways in our communities. All of us understand the need to recognize the rights of property owners and individuals AND the rights of the broad community. Since our country was founded, we’ve debated and we’ve balanced these rights. Balancing and discussing these diverse needs contributes to what makes us a great nation.
That is what this issue is all about; framing a modest set of regulations and allowing the exemptions that originated with the Clean Water Act, until the Supreme Court decisions threw the process into confusion and exposed millions of acres of our remaining wetlands and nearly 60% of our nation’s streams to destruction.
It is time to call a halt to allowing us to be out-worked by a national campaign of misinformation and outright lies! Let us stand up, work together, and let our government and our political partners know that we want our water protected. Commerce is integral to a strong economy, but without vital natural resources, commerce is lessoned. Clean water is vital to life itself. Remember, less than one-half of one percent of all the water in the world is available for human consumption, and today there are over 7 billion of us on this planet that must share that small percentage.
Can we count on you to send in a comment to the EPA supporting this clean water rule? And please, let your elected representatives know you care and ask your neighbors to help out as well.
Please note, the comment period to the EPA has been extended through November 14. Sample comments are under the yellow button below, but you are also able to edit and/or write your own, as well.
Jim Madsen|Dave Zentner|Past Ike Presidents
Great Lakes & Inland Waters
A Restored Kissimmee River in Sight
Also, a new fact sheet from Audubon explains the danger of too many nutrients in the Lake Okeechobee Ecosystem.
The remarkable Kissimmee River Restoration Project is approaching completion after decades of construction. Agencies are preparing to operate the finished project in the coming years.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is moving forward with a rule to protect water for the restoration project. The rule, known as a water reservation, is a tool under Florida law to protect water for fish and wildlife or public health and safety. Once the rule is developed, it will legally protect the quantity and timing of water flowing into the Kissimmee River, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, and floodplain for the natural system
At a public SFWMD meeting last week, Audubon advocates and environmental partners told water managers that water for Kissimmee Restoration must be fully protected. Water for our ecosystem cannot be siphoned away to utilities and other thirsty water users in the Central Florida area. Click here for more information about this meeting.
Once complete, Kissimmee River Restoration Project will be the largest functioning restoration project of its kind in the world. The project restores 40 miles of the river and floodplain and almost 25,000 acres of wetlands. The benefits of the project are already unmistakable, and it isn’t even fully operating yet.
Earlier this month, Audubon’s Everglades Conservation Team joined our environmental partners in the Everglades Coalition on a trip to see the Kissimmee River Restoration project first hand. The group saw Swallow-tailed Kites, Everglade Snail Kites, Limpkins, Crested Caracas, and much more!
Click here to read more about this trip.
Excessive Nutrients Threaten Health of Lake Okeechobee Ecosystem
Just a little south of the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee is in need of help. Pollution continues to enter the Lake at alarming rates from fertilizer, stormwater, and wastewater in the Okeechobee watershed. Audubon has produced a new fact sheet that explains why high phosphorus is a problem for our treasured lake and gives a vision to fix it. Click here to download.
What happens to a river when a dam is removed?
A study of the removal of two dams in Oregon suggests that rivers can return surprisingly fast to a condition close to their natural state, both physically and biologically, and that the biological recovery might outpace the physical recovery.
The analysis, published by researchers from Oregon State University in the journal PLOS One, examined portions of two rivers – the Calapooia River and Rogue River. It illustrated how rapidly rivers can recover, both from the long-term impact of the dam and from the short-term impact of releasing stored sediment when the dam is removed.
Most dams have decades of accumulated sediment behind them, and a primary concern has been whether the sudden release of all that sediment could cause significant damage to river ecology or infrastructure.
However, this study concluded that the continued presence of a dam on the river constituted more of a sustained and significant alteration of river status than did the sediment pulse caused by dam removal.
“The processes of ecological and physical recovery of river systems following dam removal are important, because thousands of dams are being removed all over the world,” said Desirée Tullos, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering.
“Dams are a significant element in our nation’s aging infrastructure,” she said. “In many cases, the dams haven’t been adequately maintained and they are literally falling apart. Depending on the benefits provided by the dam, it’s often cheaper to remove them than to repair them.”
Oregon State University|October 9, 2014
Read more at University of Oregon.
Moving forward for a healthy Flint River
When Georgia’s Flint River appeared on our America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2013 list, American Rivers and our allies were in the middle of a legislative battle that spanned two full sessions of the Georgia General Assembly. It was a long, hard fight, but in the end, Flint Riverkeeper and many Georgia Water Coalition partners including American Rivers were successful in bringing about major improvements to a bad piece of legislation, the Flint River Drought Protection Act. A vastly improved bill (though not an entirely necessary piece of legislation) passed the Georgia House and Senate in March of this year.
That said, there is plenty of work still to do to set the Flint on a path toward recovery. The Most Endangered listing called attention to the over-allocation of the Flint’s waters—a fundamental problem that the Drought Protection Act doesn’t really address. But as soon as another dry year arrives, it will become even clearer that a long-term solution needs to be found.
Thankfully, this year has been relatively normal on the rainfall gauge so far. But now that it’s midsummer, the river is dropping. In the upper Flint, this means that very soon, the river will be too low to be worth paddling. In the past, this point typically arrived closer to autumn, but due to the damage the river system has suffered, it now arrives earlier in the year—even in a year with normal rainfall.
And that’s just one of many storylines we highlighted in our Running Dry report on the upper Flint River, which came out last year. What we’ve seen since then is that the Running Dry report has very effectively changed the conversation. It’s begun to focus decision-makers’ attention on the low-flow problems plaguing the upper Flint. We’re hard at work right now on taking the next steps, mapping out ways to begin restoring healthy flows in the river in collaboration with the water suppliers in the basin and a wide array of other partners.
It’s our hope that State of Georgia officials will see the need for a holistic, basin-wide, science-based approach to restoring flows in the Flint. We’ve got to manage the waters of the Flint River basin sustainably, and keep all of the many people who depend on the Flint in mind, for today and future generations.
Ben Emanuel|July 8th, 2014
River restoration bids come in over budget; timelines have changed, but projects will be completed
Bids for three of five shoreline restoration projects along the St. Clair River are over budget, changing the timeline for completion of the projects.
“The whole reason for the projects is the removal of beneficial-use impairment for fish and wildlife habitats,” said Melanie Foose, area of concern coordinator with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
“Whether those projects are done this fall or this spring, we’re still looking at getting those projects finished.”
Bids for habitat restoration projects at Cuttle Creek in Marysville and the Marine City dredge cut in Algonac were over budget, but officials hope construction on the projects still will move forward this fall.
Bids for a habitat restoration project encompassing four miles of Crispin Drain on Harsens Island were almost $2.5 million over budget. Construction likely won’t start this fall.
“The EPA and the DEQ decided to go ahead with Marine City dredge cut and Cuttle Creek drain and they’re going to seek more funding and, hopefully, do Crispin Drain at a later date,” Clay Township Supervisor Artie Bryson said The three drain projects, and shoreline restoration projects in Port Huron and Cottrellville Township, are being funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The projects are being spearheaded by the EPA and DEQ to restore fish and wildlife habitat and remove the St. Clair River as an area of concern. The St. Clair River was listed as an area of concern in the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada.
The five projects will include dredging, construction of habitat, removal of impediments to habitat and planting natural vegetation.
Bryson said the Crispin Drain project was expected to cost $850,000, and the lowest bid was about $3.4 million.
Bryson said he expects contractors anticipated delays since construction season was scheduled to run concurrent with duck hunting season. He’s hopeful future construction could take place during the summer.
Marysville City Manager Randy Fernandez said the Cuttle Creek habitat restoration received a grant of a little more than $1.4 million, but the lowest bid was slightly more than $2.3 million. “We’re potentially underfunded by around $900,000,” Fernandez said. “This week, we have been in contact with the DEQ, who has in turn been in contact with the EPA, to see what the next steps would be. … We’re still very positive that the project will be up and going before the end of the year, hopefully in November at the latest.”
Fernandez said the delay in construction could push the finish date into the late spring. He said the city is working with the DEQ to avoid any conflicts with golfers, because the creek runs through the city golf course.
“Given that we’re dealing with a golf course, we need the majority of this work to be done on or before April 1,” Fernandez said.
St. Clair County Drain Commissioner Bob Wiley said the estimated cost for work on the Marine City dredge cut — which runs from the St. Clair River in Algonac inland and north to Cottrellville Township — was about $800,000.
Wiley said the lowest bid was just under $1 million.
Wiley said small changes to the planned restoration and some extra EPA funding will make up the difference between the estimated and actual cost.
He expects to sign an agreement with contractors and start work within about three weeks.
“What this project’s going to do, it’s going to basically stabilize the outlet of the drain in the river,” Wiley said. He said crews also will remove phragmites and restore fish habitat.
Wiley said crews will continue to work on the project while weather permits and finish what’s left in the spring. Rose Ellison, an EPA environmental scientist, said crews have started to prepare shoreline stretches in Port Huron and Cottrellville Township.
The $320,000 project just north of the Municipal Office Building in Port Huron will include the removal of invasive species and the addition of rocks and logs in the water to create fish habitat.
Ellison said crews will plant native plants and develop a more natural shoreline. “There’s a little shallow shelf there, which is not very common in the upper part of the river,” Ellison said. “It’s been eroded, and the shoreline is steep.” Ellison said the work at Cottrellville Township Park between Marine City and Algonac also is underway. The cost of the project is about $2.5 million. “They’re getting ready to start placing stone in the water,” Ellison said.
She said the submerged rocks will create fish habitat. She said crews also will remove some metal docks and sea wall, replacing those with a softened, more natural shoreline.
She said submergent and emergent native vegetation will be planted.
Beth LeBlanc|Times Herald
Offshore & Ocean
Satellite Imaging Helps Us See the Ocean Floor
Our oceans remain largely a mystery to us, even though 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Roughly 95% of the ocean is unmapped, and we still have a great deal to learn about all of the wildlife that lies beneath the waves.
Case in point: The massive tube worms discovered deep underwater in an area where scientists previously believed life was impossible. The creatures didn’t seem to get that memo, as they were in fact thriving…and they were found only 25 years ago, illustrating how much we don’t know about what’s hiding in the ocean’s depths.
No wonder, because exploring the depths of the ocean is extremely challenging. Humans can’t breathe underwater, and there’s only so far we can dive. In the pitch-black environment beneath the sea, pressure is extreme. The amount of time people can spend below the surface, even in pressurized submarines, is limited, and their health must be monitored carefully.
Consequently, much of the research done on the ocean occurs not through direct observation, but instead through the use of technology like remotely operated vehicles, cameras, radar, sonar, and now, satellites.
Satellites, it turns out, are changing the game when it comes to deep-sea mapping, which has long been a goal of researchers, yet something that’s remained stubbornly out of reach. Historically, it’s been accomplished by trolling ships back and forth, a slow, painstaking process that still leaves huge swaths of the ocean floor unmapped because it’s just not feasible to get the coverage needed to get detailed specifications of the entire ocean floor.
Satellites, however, can take in a much broader picture, and thanks to multiple passes over the Earth, their imagery can be refined and sharpened to remove artifacts and create a crisp, clear, fascinating, and, it turns out, revolutionary image of what lies beneath.
The equipment used by researchers measures very fine variations in the Earth’s gravitational field, which yields information about the structure of the Earth’s crust even when it’s buried under silt (as is the case for the ocean floor). Instead of measuring what’s happening beneath, they actually look at sea surface topography; the bumps and troughs created by gravitational pull from features far below. While these changes might not be apparent to the naked eye, they can be read by scientific equipment, revealing seamounts, long-dead volcanoes, deep rifts and areas of seafloor spreading.
To the astonishment of researchers compiling these data, gravity surveying has revealed some fascinating information about seafloor spreading, with thousands of extinct volcanoes distributed across the ocean floor. Even the Gulf, thought to be a well-understood region thanks to regular ship traffic and monitors, is actually revealing new secrets. These maps provide a wealth of new information about the structure of the ocean floor and, by extension, the history of the Earth, as much is written beneath the waves; like the history of when and how continents started pulling apart.
You won’t find Atlantis (or any missing aircraft) on these maps, but they do provide incredibly valuable insight for scientists in a variety of fields including oceanography, geology and paleontology. Another field is very interested in gravity mapping, as well: The oil and gas industry, which is highly dedicated to finding new areas of the ocean to explore in search for oil and gas deposits. Even as gravity mapping tells us more about the ocean, it could also put the ocean in danger by highlighting new areas of the world’s oceans to exploit.
s.e. smith|October 10, 2014
While Ocean Warms, NASA Study Reveals Deep Sea Hasn’t
The cold waters of Earth’s deep ocean have not warmed measurably since 2005, according to a new NASA study, leaving unsolved the mystery of why global warming appears to have slowed in recent years.
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, analyzed satellite and direct ocean temperature data from 2005 to 2013 and found the ocean abyss below 1.24 miles (1,995 meters) has not warmed measurably. Study coauthor Josh Willis of JPL said these findings do not throw suspicion on climate change itself.
“The sea level is still rising,” Willis noted. “We’re just trying to understand the nitty-gritty details.”
In the 21st century, greenhouse gases have continued to accumulate in the atmosphere, just as they did in the 20th century, but global average surface air temperatures have stopped rising in tandem with the gases. The temperature of the top half of the world’s ocean — above the 1.24-mile mark — is still climbing, but not fast enough to account for the stalled air temperatures.
Many processes on land, air and sea have been invoked to explain what is happening to the “missing” heat. One of the most prominent ideas is that the bottom half of the ocean is taking up the slack, but supporting evidence is slim. This latest study is the first to test the idea using satellite observations, as well as direct temperature measurements of the upper ocean. Scientists have been taking the temperature of the top half of the ocean directly since 2005, using a network of 3,000 floating temperature probes called the Argo array.
“The deep parts of the ocean are harder to measure,” said JPL’s William Llovel, lead author of the study, published Sunday, Oct. 5 in the journal Nature Climate Change. “The combination of satellite and direct temperature data gives us a glimpse of how much sea level rise is due to deep warming. The answer is — not much.”
The study took advantage of the fact that water expands as it gets warmer. The sea level is rising because of this expansion and water added by glacier and ice sheet melt.
Carol Rasmussen|NASA Earth Science News Team|October 6, 2014
Continue reading at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Keep Florida’s Shorelines Beautiful and Safe for All
Each October, volunteer boat captains and their crews coordinated by Audubon’s Florida’s Coastal Island Sanctuaries, Tampa Bay Watch, and Sarasota Bay Watch visit bird nesting islands and foraging habitats in west central Florida’s estuaries, lakes, and rivers to remove fishing line and other trash that pose an entanglement threat to birds and other wildlife.
A Saturday in October with a high tide is chosen because this is the only time of the year when almost no birds are nesting on the bird colony sites in this region of Florida. That means that volunteers can remove the deadly line, balloon ribbon, lures, and other fishing gear snagged in mangrove trees and saltmarsh habitats without endangering chicks or eggs in the nest or frightening fledgling birds. The higher tides allow boat captains to safely approach islands surrounded by shallow water, seagrass and mudflats, and oyster beds.
Fishing line is hard to spot, entangled in the mangroves or washed up on marsh and beach shorelines, but it is a clear hazard to wading birds. Nesting pelicans and wading birds sometimes even deliberately collect it, mistaking it for the softer grass materials that they use to line their nests. Once a leg or wing is entangled in the line, it becomes a remorseless killer. A single long line stretching across a bird island can persist for years, entangling many birds.
Audubon and Tampa Bay Watch began the fishing line cleanup in 1993 after a sobering survey at Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge at the mouth of Tampa Bay, where staff found over 50 dead birds snared in line. Sarasota Bay Watch, a newly formed group, has been a fishing line cleanup partner with Audubon for six years.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists report that entanglement in fishing gear is the primary cause of mortality of Brown Pelicans, killing adults as well as young, inexperienced birds. Of course, other birds and wildlife as dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and otters also fall prey to this insidious, invisible killer.
Pre-registration ensures that captains and their crews have permission for this once-a-year event from landowners and managers to otherwise restricted bird nesting sites. Audubon and the Bay Watch groups have coordinated this activity with park, refuge, and wildlife area managers and receive their full support and participation.
An important component of the fishing line cleanup has been the outreach to fishermen. Newspaper and other media coverage have helped spread awareness of the need for fishermen to properly dispose of line and other fishing gear.
Audubon Florida Newsletter
Wildlife and Habitat
5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Sea Otters
We’re excited to put the spotlight on these amazingly cute and intelligent superstars of the marine world! Here are 5 exciting facts you otter know about sea otters!
1. Sea otters are social animals and a group of them is called a raft. To humans, rafting is a sport or a leisurely weekend activity, but to otters rafting is a way of life! If you see one otter, there’s a good chance that many more are swimming nearby. Sea otters prefer to swim in same-sex groups called rafts. These groups can range from just ten otters to larger groups of hundreds or thousands. Something cute to note is that rafting sea otters can often be seen holding each others’ paws to prevent themselves from floating apart while sleeping.
2. Baby sea otters are absolutely adorable, but it’s hard work being a sea otter mom.
Can you imagine being a new mother and having to swim through waves with an infant sleeping on your stomach? Sea otter moms do it all the time.
Born in the water with only the ability to float, sea otter pups cannot swim until they reach 2 months old and shed their newborn fur coat (lanugo). During this time frame, the female otter serves as her baby’s crib, ferry, groomer, and feeder
At 2 months old, an otter pup will learn to swim and dive on its own, but life doesn’t get any easier for mom until the pup is weaned after 6 months of age. This is due mainly to the fact that sea otters do not have blubber to keep them warm. In order to regulate temperature, an adult otter must eat approximately 25% of their body weight each day and that doesn’t even include the additional amounts mothers need to eat to nurse their babies.
According to a June 2014 research study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, a female sea otter requires 14 hours of hunting per day to gain enough energy and nutrition to care for a 6 month old pup. Unfortunately, this means that otter mothers are more suceptible to health issues and mortality by the time the pup can be weaned. Some otters will abandon their babies to ensure their own survival, particularly when faced with food limitations within an area.
Since sea otters normally give birth to one pup every year, an otter mom’s job really is never done!
3. Sea Otters are one of the few mammals on earth that use tools to hunt and eat. Most of us will admire sea otters for their cute looks and silly antics, but they’re also a smart species. They belong to a small club of mammals that use tools to hunt and eat. Since shellfish like clams and crab make up a large portion of their diet, sea otters have to find clever ways to crack their shells open. This is usually done by finding a rock, placing it on their stomach, and then hammering the shellfish into the rock until it yields the meat within.
Even cooler is the fact that sea otters have their own convenient hiding places for their favorite rocks. Each of their forelegs has a pocket of skin which can be used to safely store the otter’s tool of choice and their freshly caught prey while diving to and from the surface.
4. Sea otters are marine super heroes! If the image that pops into your brain of is that of furry caped crusaders swimming around and battling crime at sea, this may seem like an exaggeration. However, sea otters do play a crucial role in the marine ecosystem. Sea otters are considered a keystone species in their environment because they prevent small yet destructive species like sea urchins from overgrazing on kelp. Sea urchins naturally have voracious appetites and can rapidly destroy kelp forests when their populations grow too large.
But why is kelp so important? Thousands of species rely on kelp forests for food and shelter including fish, birds, shellfish, and other animals. It also helps to absorb from powerful waves resulting from storms that can cause damage to the coastlines. That’s why sea otters are important.They’re protectors of the kelp and keepers of the peace and balance in the marine world.
5. California’s southern sea otters are a threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th century fur trade, southern sea otter populations are on a long road to recovery, aided by organizations and individuals dedicated to species conservation. In 1977, the Endangered Species Act listed sea otters as “threatened” and granted them protection under federal law, but population growth is slow due to both natural and human made threats such as water pollution, predators, food limitations, and illness.
The US Geological Survey released their annual sea otter census report on September 22, 2014 which revealed that the average population size of wild southern sea otters currently lies at 2,944. Compared to last year, the growth is deemed negligible but it does show continued stability. Once population averages surpass 3,090 for three consecutive years, sea otters will be under consideration for removal from the threatened species list, marking a great milestone in the species’ recovery.
To find more information about what you can do to help protect sea otter populations and improve the nearshore ecosystem, visit our partners at www.seaotters.com. Be sure to also follow them on Facebook to see how they’re celebrating Sea Otter Awareness Week with the live cam, giveaways, contests, events and more.
Milaena Hamilton|Animal Planet|October 15, 2014
Olives Growing in Popularity as Disease Plagues Citrus
When Vicki Hughes gets a call from a Florida farmer interested in olives she knows what he’s facing in his orchards.
“I meet a lot of Florida citrus growers and they are all just sick of dealing with greening,” said Hughes, who has served at the director of the Georgia Olive Growers Association for the past two years. “They are ready to do something different, and they are set up for trees already. It is a natural thing for them to consider shifting from one kind of tree to another kind of tree.”
In two weeks, olive growers from around the Southeast will converge on Lakeland, Georgia, the epicenter for a growing industry that got its start only a few years ago.
Many of the people who come to the conference may be from Florida, where growers for years have fought canker and now citrus greening, a disease that is impossible to prevent, causes deformed fruit and eventually kills trees.
“If we were unable to grow citrus then olives could be a good alternative for us, especially here in North Florida,” Florida Extension agent Trevor Hylton recently told folks in his two north Florida counties, Leon and Wakulla. “Olive is a very ancient crop; it was mentioned in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible 30 times. If it can survive that long, it must be a very resilient plant.”
Farmers have been eager to learn more about olive-growing since Georgia Olive Farms started growing the fruit five years ago. The Shaw family that owns the operation has accommodated them – sharing the knowledge they’ve gathered since 2009. So many people want a consultant to help them start an olive operation, the Shaws ask Hughes to help answer questions and show people around the operation.
“We’re trying to be as helpful as we can be,” said Jason Shaw. “We have people out here (at the farm) all the time.
“We are farmers, we are trying to farm and make a living, but we also are doing everything we can to grow the industry.”
This year, the olive growers moved the convention to fall, when visitors could see the process of milling olives into oil. (The fruit goes from the field to the mill in a single day most of the time for freshness’ sake.)
The group also is working with researchers at the University of Georgia to help advise new growers and to hone the profile and standards of Georgia-grown olive oil.
In coming years, the olive growers association hopes to have a lab certified to analyze oil for grading and sell.
“We aren’t just trying to benefit Georgia growers. This would benefit growers all over the U.S.,” said Hughes. “We want the first lab to be in Georgia, of course, but it won’t be the last one.”
To find out more about the September 25 conference in Lakeland, Georgia, which is $75 for members and $150 for nonmembers, go to www.georgiaolivegrowers.com
Allison Floyd|September 12th, 2014
Global Warming and Climate Change
Poland will buy in to climate change plan IF it gets aid
Poland says it will need cash and help in curbing its emissions if it is to sign up for a new decade of EU green energy policy at talks this month, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The document shows the 28 EU member states are broadly ready to agree a new set of 2030 goals to follow on from 2020 energy and environment policy, although Europe’s biggest power Germany says it will not agree a deal “at any price”.
Poland has always been the most reluctant of EU member states to sign up for ambitious climate policy before the rest of the world.
It argues that EU emissions account for only a small part of the world’s pollution, and that Poland needs help in moving away from its heavy dependency on coal, the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels.
The briefing document, drawn up by EU officials ahead of a summit of EU leaders on 23-24 October, says Poland is not convinced about the need for a deal now, but “is working in the spirit of not blocking an agreement”.
Members of the current European Commission, meant to step down at the end of this month making way for a new set of officials, say the EU must decide now on its negotiating position ahead of U.N. talks on a global pact on tackling climate change to be hosted by Paris next year.
The executive EU Commission outlined in January its vision for 2030 goals, including a 40% cut in carbon emissions compared with 1990 levels, an improvement in energy efficiency to 30% versus business as usual and a target to get 27% of energy used from renewable sources.
EurActiv|October 10, 2014
Read more at EurAcitv.
Fish Forced Poleward
Large numbers of fish will disappear from the tropics by 2050, finds a new University of British Columbia study that examined the impact of climate change on fish stocks. The study identified ocean hotspots for local fish extinction but also found that changing temperatures will drive more fish into the Arctic and Antarctic waters.
Using the same climate change scenarios as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, researchers projected a large-scale shift of marine fish and invertebrates. In the worst-case scenario, where the Earth’s oceans warm by three degrees Celsius by 2100, fish could move away from their current habitats at a rate of 26 kilometers per decade. Under the best-case scenario, where the Earth warms by one degree Celsius, fish would move 15 kilometers every decade. This is consistent with changes in the last few decades.
“The tropics will be the overall losers,” says William Cheung, associate professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre and co-author of this study, published today in ICES Journal of Marine Science. “This area has a high dependence on fish for food, diet and nutrition. We’ll see a loss of fish populations that are important to the fisheries and communities in these regions.”
Cheung and his colleague used modeling to predict how 802 commercially important species of fish and invertebrates react to warming water temperatures, other changing ocean properties, and new habitats opening up at the poles.
“As fish move to cooler waters, this generates new opportunities for fisheries in the Arctic,” says Miranda Jones, a UBC Nereus Fellow and lead author of this study. “On the other hand it means it could disrupt the species that live there now and increase competition for resources.”
This study follows previous research that looked at change in fisheries catch in relation to ocean warming since 1970.
The University of British Columbia|October 10, 2014
See more at The University of British Columbia.
Twenty Things You Can Do To Address The Climate Crisis!
Getting your mind around climate change is hard. Confronting it requires us to deal with the ways that coal, oil, and gas have shaped nearly every aspect of our world, from our built environments to our economic systems — even our ideologies and patterns of thought. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t concrete actions each of us can take, right now. Here are 20 examples of things YOU can do (some details are US-specific).
1. Reorganize the mode of production so that surplus and capital is distributed equally throughout society, and workers have decision-making power over their labor.
2. Find out about fossil fuel projects being built or proposed in your neighborhood (most of which can be found in the records of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or the Environmental Protection Agency) and mobilize your community against them. Read these excellent resources on how to start organizing your community and spread them far and wide.
3. Understand that while climate change affects us all, there are specific populations who are more vulnerable than others — these are low-income communities, communities of color, coastal communities and communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction. Find a frontline organization near you and offer to support their work. Ask them what kind of help they need and take direction from them.
4. Lay off the policeman, the commodities trader, the real estate agent and the speculator in your head.
5. Read about what the crisis could potentially look like — go HERE or HERE or HERE or HERE or HERE — and think about what this could mean for you personally, or for people and places you love.
6. After you’ve read about the crisis, let yourself feel grief. Don’t ignore your feelings, either through resignation or through forced optimism. Feel what you feel.
7. Talk about your feelings with your family and friends. Talk about what matters to you, about what the climate crisis threatens in your life. And when they are ready, talk with them about taking action. You will learn things that you didn’t know about your loved ones, and you will discover allies in unexpected places.
8. Find out if your local politicians have ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Call out any politician that participates in or is a member of groups designed to give corporations the power to write the law.
9. Become an active voice in your community, writing letters to the editor in local papers and building an internet presence to spread information.
10. Do not fall into the trap of feeling contempt for your fellow human. These feelings are guaranteed to undercut your work. If you encounter resistance, consider carefully where that resistance comes from. Radical empathy is not only good for the soul, it will actually make you a more effective activist.
11. Look in the mirror. Do you see someone with job security? Someone who is in a position of privilege within your society? Think about how you can use this privilege to destroy the systems that created it — for instance, you may have less to lose than others by getting arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.
12. Stay awake — there are all kinds of great resources for staying up-to-date about the climate crisis, and the more you know, the better you will be able to understand this moment.
13. Build resilience — support spaces that are growing food, going off-the-grid, or supplanting the capitalist state in providing for our basic human needs. If you are able to do so, consider building these spaces yourself.
14. Don’t blame the poor — don’t blame the worker whose industry job is the only job he could get, don’t blame the woman who buys carbon-intensive food for her family because that’s all that her budget and her neighborhood has to offer, don’t blame the big family in the developing world that doesn’t have access to family planning. The poor are not the problem. If you need to blame anyone, blame the ruling class that controls the options available to poor people in the US and around the world, and whose policies, consumption habits and ideology are far, far more responsible for the crisis.
15. Again — don’t blame the poor. Seriously.
16. Walk by yourself at night under the dark sky. Recognize that you only have one life, that you have more power than you realize, and that there is a grace and a joy that comes from using that power for something bigger than yourself.
17. Recognize that the climate crisis is complicated — no one person is going to solve it by themselves, and any “list” that suggests as much is probably lying, or at the very least advancing an individual-based value system that sounds suspiciously like advertising.
18. Go ahead and make changes to your consumption habits. But also remember that no slave was ever freed by individuals choosing to purchase products that are free from slave labor.
19. Truly addressing the crisis will require building people power on a scale that the world has never seen before.
20. Build that power. I wish you so much more than luck.
Patrick Robbins|thischangeseverything.org|October 7th, 2014
Audubon’s Climate Initiative Launches with a Bang
By any yardstick, the response to Audubon’s climate change and birds report was a resounding success. More than 1,170 news stories, editorials, letters to the editor and op-eds were published in papers around the country—and the world.
We got our share of tweets and Facebook posts, with more than 30,000 earned social media mentions from thousands of individuals and organizations. And here’s a big number: we generated more than two billion earned media impressions (impressions are “opportunities to see” the message) through print, TV and radio, web, and other social media outlets.
As the implications of Audubon’s science sinks in, it leads people to the right question: what can we do to protect birds from a warming world?
One of the ways Audubon tried to help answer that question was through a Telephone Town Hall that drew 7300 participants. The passion and enthusiasm for solutions from the callers was evident during the hour-long session. Everything from planting bird-friendly native plants, to the importance of the EPA rule to reduce carbon pollution, to local partnerships with faith and other groups, to specific species and their response to global warming were part of the discussion.
As Audubon launches a campaign to “spread the word,” chapters are answering the call. Armed with a PowerPoint, fact sheets, a short DVD, and other tools, chapter leaders are taking the message to their chapters as well as to their larger community. State directors and other staff can’t keep up with demands to visit chapters to discuss the report. And Audubon continues a series of meetings to inform state and federal agency partners, along with Members of Congress and their staff.
Support is coming from many quarters. Audubon received a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award for the study. The honorees will be recognized in the November issue of Popular Mechanics, available on newsstands October 14, and were also celebrated at an awards ceremony in New York City.
Looking at global warming through the lens of birds and how they will fare as climate patterns shift is bringing a new way of talking about a heretofore tricky subject and a new focus to the backyards across America.
Audubon Advisory|October, 2014
The Planet Just Had Its Warmest September On Record, Continuing Hot Streak
This past September was the warmest since records began in 1880, according to new data released by NASA this weekend. The announcement continues a trend of record or near-record breaking months, including May and August of this year.
The newly released data could make it very likely that 2014 will become the warmest year on record.
September temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) compared to the 1951-1980 average. (PHOTO: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies)
Dr. Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and climate modeler at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told The Huffington Post last month that although these temperature records are significant, they are just one piece of the data that “point[s] towards the long-term trends” of warming. He cautioned against focusing too intently on any one month or year, but rather the broader scope of human-caused climate change.
Obama Calls For More Ambitious Approach To Climate Change In U.N. Speech Video
In a speech at the U.N. Climate Summit, President Obama called for a more ambitious global approach to environmental issues, and noted a new push to boost what the White House calls “global resilience” in the face of climate change.
We embedded video of the president’s speech here and posted updates below.
Closing his remarks, Obama repeatedly uses the words “ambitious” and “ambition,” calling for the world’s largest economies to move past fears that new climate rules could hamper business.
“We have to raise our collective ambition,” the president says of the need to meet a global challenge. He later adds that the world’s children deserve that kind of ambition.
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Obama says, “There is such a thing as being too late.”
After listing achievements toward minimizing climate impact by the U.S., Obama says, “But we have to do more.”
He then touches on some of the initiatives and plans that were included in a lengthy White House message that went out just before noon today.
The president acknowledges that America bears some responsibility for climate change, saying, “We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part.”
But he also says countries that are struggling to build their own industries can’t repeat the mistakes others have made in what he calls the “dirty phase” of development. He also notes partnerships with China and with African nations.
Saying that the effort to fight climate change can only succeed if both developed and developing nations join with the U.S., Obama says, “Nobody gets a pass.”
He later adds, “Nobody can sit on the sidelines on this issue.”
Saying that no city and no nation are immune from the effects of climate change, President Obama lists areas that have been hit by severe weather and climate conditions. He notes the tidal flooding that often hits parts of Miami, the forest fires that now ravage the Western U.S. for much of the year, and the flooding that hit New York City itself along with Hurricane Sandy.
“So the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it,” he says.
Our original post continues:
As NPR’s Christopher Joyce reported for All Things Considered on Monday, climate activists are looking for solutions from business as much as they are from politicians.
Noting recent problems in adopting sweeping new agreements on a global approach, Chris said that this climate summit “is different: binding agreements are not on the table. Instead, it’s a pep rally to get world leaders to volunteer something to limit warming.”
The goal of the meeting, he reported, was to boost the chance that at next year’s big climate meeting in Paris, progress toward a new treaty can be made.
The White House says that to help local officials deal with the impact of catastrophic events such as droughts, floods, coastal storm surges, and public health problems, the U.S. will release data gathered by NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies.
“These datasets are being made available via a user-friendly interface on USGS’s Earth Explorer website,” the White House says.
The president will also note a series of agreements the U.S. has entered into as part of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, as initiatives being undertaken by governments and businesses in areas ranging from methane gas mitigation to palm oil and from hydrofluorocarbons to forest preservation.
Bill Chappell|September 23, 2014
Studies Confirm Humans Play Significant Role in Altering Climate
Two separate studies have confirmed the extent of human influence on climate change—and, for once, carbon dioxide is not the usual suspect.
“This study has shown for the first time that the drying of the monsoon over the past 50 years cannot be explained by natural climate variability, and that human activity has played a significant role in altering the seasonal monsoon rainfall on which billions of people depend,” Dr Polson said.
One team has just found that air pollution dimmed the skies of northern Europe, reflected sunlight back into space, reduced evaporation, and increased river flow.
The second group reports that similar aerosol pollution had a quite different effect on the Asian monsoons: in the second half of the 20th century, the darkening skies reduced temperatures and cut the summer monsoon rainfall by 10 percent.
The two seemingly contradictory findings underscore two clear conclusions. One is that climate science is complex. The other is that human activity clearly influences the climate in different ways.
Both studies are concerned with an era when there was, worldwide, more concern about choking smog, sulphuric aerosol discharges and acid rain than about man-made global warming. They also both match complex computer simulation with observed changes in climate during the second half of the 20th century
Nicola Gedney, a senior scientist at the UK’s Meteorological Office, and colleagues report in Nature Geoscience that she and colleagues looked at the growth in aerosol pollution, especially in the Oder river catchment area of central-eastern Europe, that followed the increased burning of sulphurous coal in Europe right up till the late 1970s.
The consequence of that burning was a reduction in sunlight over the hemisphere. But this began to reverse with clean air legislation and a widespread switch to cleaner fuels. River flows, which had been on the increase, were reduced.
“We estimate that, in the most polluted central Europe river basin, this effect led to an increase in river flow of up to 25 percent when the aerosol levels were at their peak, around 1980,” Dr Gedney said. “With water shortages likely to be one of the biggest impacts of climate change in the future, these findings are important in making projections.”
Meanwhile, a group led by Debbie Polson, a researcher in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences, Scotland, focused on aerosol pollution and the Asian summer monsoons, which provide four-fifths of the annual rainfall of the Indian subcontinent.
They report in Geophysical Research Letters that they calculated annual summer rainfall between 1951 and 2005, used computer simulations to quantify the impact of increasing aerosol emissions and greenhouse gases during that time, and factored in natural variations, such as volcanic discharges.
They found that, overall, levels of rain during the monsoon fell by 10 percent, and this change could only be explained by the influence of aerosols from car and factory exhausts.
“This study has shown for the first time that the drying of the monsoon over the past 50 years cannot be explained by natural climate variability, and that human activity has played a significant role in altering the seasonal monsoon rainfall on which billions of people depend,” Dr Polson said.
Tim Radford|Climate News Network|October 13, 2014
Massive Methane Hot Spot Detected by Satellite
One tiny section in the U.S. is responsible for a significant amount of the country’s methane emissions, according to new information released by scientists from NASA and the University of Michigan.
The Four Corners area seen in red produces the largest concentrated amount of methane emissions in the U.S.
On this map, lighter colors are higher than average; darker colors are lower.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan
In a study published this week, they analyzed satellite-gathered data and found that an area about 2,500 square miles, near the “Four Corners” where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah connect, produces the largest concentration of these greenhouse gas emissions ever found in the U.S., more than triple the previous estimate based on ground-gathered information. While carbon emissions are more plentiful and have attracted most of the attention as the driver of climate change, methane has been found to be an even more potent greenhouse gas.
The researchers looked at data from 2003-2009 and found that in that time, that area released 590,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere annually, nearly three and a half times the previous estimate for the area. That’s about 10 percent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s official estimate for the whole country during those years. The hot spot persisted during the entire observation period.
Fracking has been widely identified as a culprit in boosting methane emissions. But this new analysis indicates that older methods of fossil-fuel extraction are just as harmful, with methane emissions added to carbon emissions to multiple the environmental damages from fossil fuels. Fracking wasn’t widely used in the area during the period studied; the boom didn’t kick off there until 2009. But it is a major coal-mining center. And New Mexico’s San Juan Basin is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country, a process in which methane-heavy natural gas (composed of about 95-98 percent methane) is extracted from pores and cracks in coal to use for fuel. In the process, it produces significant leaks (and well as coal mine explosions.)
“The results are indicative that emissions from established fossil fuel harvesting techniques are greater than inventoried,” said the study’s leader author Eric Kort of the University of Michigan. “There’s been so much attention on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but we need to consider the industry as a whole.”
In March, President Obama announced a blueprint for methane emission reduction that included addressing emissions from coal mines.
Anastasia Pantsios|October 10, 2014
Category 3-4 Hurricane Gonzalo bears down on Bermuda
Bermuda is bracing for one of the most powerful storms in recent years.
Hurricane Gonzalo is churning through the North Atlantic, tracking for the island with wind speeds topping 125 miles per hour as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The storm was listed as a Category 3 hurricane after briefly reaching Category 4 status earlier when wind speeds reached 130 mph, before weakening slightly.
The storm is moving in a westerly direction at 9 mph and is expected to brush Bermuda on Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service. But Gonzalo’s path is still uncertain enough that officials aren’t yet ruling out a direct hit on the island.
Bermuda is now under a hurricane warning. Gonzalo is expected to cause powerful, gusty winds, heavy rains and flooding as it closes in.
The storm hit the Virgin Islands on Monday, causing some property damage and power outages.
Meantime, Tropical Storm Ana in the Pacific also is on the radar.
The storm is strengthening and could reach hurricane status by this weekend, according to forecasters.
Ana’s winds measured 70 miles per hour, close to hurricane strength. It is forecast to intensify into at least a Category 1 hurricane with wind gusts up to 100 miles per hour by Friday, officials said.
If it stays on its current track, it will directly impact the Hawaiian Islands by this weekend into early Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Hurricanes are a rare occurrence in Hawaii, the agency said. Only three storms have made a direct landfall on the islands in the past 55 years.
Shelby Lin Erdman|CNN|October 15, 2014
Genetically Modified Organisms
Indigenous Peoples Unite to Stop Genetically Engineered Trees
GE Trees: Another Form of Colonization
(Qualla Boundary, North Carolina)–In the shadow of Columbus Day and the legacy of colonization in the Americas, the Indigenous Environmental Network  and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees). Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest.
The Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp focused on building an information-sharing and mobilization network of tribal representatives and community members to address the unique threats posed by GE trees to Indigenous Peoples, their culture, traditions and lifeways. Steering Committee members of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees  were invited to present concerns about the social and ecological dangers of GE trees.
“All trees and the variety of life that depend on forest biodiversity have historically and will in the future continue to be a necessary part of Indigenous culture and survival, which GE trees directly threaten,” stated BJ McManama, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.
The action camp, which took place in the mountains of North Carolina, detailed threats of genetically engineering forms of native trees traditionally used by eastern Indigenous Peoples, specifically the American chestnut.
Cherokee participants expressed fears that American chestnuts, genetically engineered with DNA from unrelated species, would negatively impact their traditional lifeways, saying that GE trees are dead trees with no soul.
“I’m very concerned that GE trees would impact our future generations and their traditional uses of trees. Our basket makers, people that use wood for the natural colors of our clay work-there would be no natural life, no cycle of life in GE tree plantations,” said Lisa Montelongo of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.
Genetically engineered eucalyptus trees also threaten Indigenous lands in the US South. GE eucalyptus plantations, proposed by GE tree company ArborGen, are planned from South Carolina to Florida to Texas. The future development of millions of acres of non-native and invasive GE eucalyptus trees would threaten Indigenous lands throughout the region with devastating impacts including depletion of water, contamination with toxic herbicides and pesticides and loss of biodiversity.
“This needs to be stopped immediately. This is not how the forest was meant to be used. The forest gives life to The People, but these GE trees mean death. They are not for The People, they are only to make money for a few rich people,” said Danny Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation, based in Florida.
100% of participants at the camp oppose the release of GE trees.
Contact: Jay Burney|Media Coordinator|Campaign to STOP GE Treesfirstname.lastname@example.org
Colorado is the Next State Fighting for GMO Labels
The battle against GMOs is being waged once again, this time in both Oregon and Colorado. Both states will go to the polls to decide whether or not foods containing GMOs should be labeled as such.
GMOs have been used in the United States for almost 20 years without mainstream conflict, but in recent years, the issue has been brought front and center. In fact, GMOs use is one of the most hotly debated food issues worldwide.
In Colorado, citizens will be voting on Proposition 105. It won’t ban GMO foods outright, but would require foods with GMOs sold in the state to have “produced with genetic engineering” clearly visible on the label by July 2016. Food sold in restaurants, meat from animals that had not been genetically engineered and alcoholic drinks would be exempt from the labeling requirements.
Amid the calls for clear labeling, the FDA stands by the stance it took in 1992, saying that genetically-modified crops are no different than regular crops. Additionally, the National Academy of Sciences has reviewed GMO research multiple times over the years, and has found no evidence that eating genetically modified food is hazardous to anyone’s health.
That’s not stopping Coloradans from taking the issue to the polls. The outcome of the GMO vote may influence the rest of the country’s perception on the issue, since the state is often used as a test case for national issues.
It won’t be smooth sailing to get the proposition passed, however. The group opposed to labeling, the “No on 105″ Coalition has raised $9.7 million to fight the proposition, with huge donations from Monsanto, Pepsi Co, J.M. Smucker Co., and others. This echoes what happened in California and Washington last year, when the anti-labeling groups far outspent the groups that supported labeling. Both states’ labeling campaigns ultimately failed in the polls.
Despite that, some remain optimistic about Colorado, and similarly Oregon, when it comes to the GMO labeling battle. After all, Vermont, Connecticut and Maine all passed labeling legislation, albeit with caveats limiting the laws’ power.
Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs at the Center for Food Safety feels the individual state votes may lead to the FDA coming up with a labeling standard.
“We could have as many as five states by the end of this year with mandatory labeling,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “Is the FDA going to allow them to dictate national policy, or will they step in with a federal blueprint? I suspect we are not going to see a patchwork go on much longer before the feds step in.”
Brandi|Diets in Review|October 11, 2014
Big Win! Monsanto Reports $156 Million Loss in Q4 as Farmers Abandon GM Crops
Are you invested in Monsanto stock like Bill Gates, who owns hundreds of thousand of Monsanto shares worth about $23 million? It might be time to pull out since the company just reported over $156 million in losses for the fourth quarter.
“For the quarter ended Aug. 31, Monsanto reported a loss of $156 million, or 31 cents per share, compared with a loss of $249 million, or 47 cents per share, in the same period last year.”
It’s a tough time for biotech, and thank goodness. Monsanto’s losses were attributed to farmers in major agricultural zones favoring soy over GMO corn because of falling crop prices – largely caused by Syngenta’s release of MIR162 corn, which has been completely refused by Chinese officials repeatedly – which have depressed both local and foreign corn bushel prices.
There is a looming $1 billion dollar class action lawsuit Syngenta will face, currently pending in three states over the release of AGRISURE VIPTERA® 4. All three class action suits were filed this past week in Federal Courts by U.S. farmers.
Syngenta also just happens to be the company that has covered up the true toxicity of Atrazine, and the company has been sued in six different states to clean up more than 1000 water systems in six states where the herbicide has been found polluting rivers, streams, and lakes.
Soybeans sales are still around $200 million, doubled from previous years, but they account for a much lower market share than the GMO corn products which Monsanto sells and promotes for use with their toxic herbicide, RoundUp.
Adjusted losses for the biotech bully come to 27 cents a share, three cents worse than estimates.
While it would have been nice to take down this Agri Business giant for different reasons, it seems the company’s partner in crime, Syngenta, is doing the work of dismantling the GMO paradigm for us.
In the last two years, Monsanto has reported huge losses, so we must be doing something right. If this trend continues, and it should if we continue the good fight, then we can all hope to see the GMO Empire crumble in due time. Continue raising awareness and purchasing non-GMO, organic foods. Voice your words with your dollar.
Christina Sarich|October 12th, 2014
Widespread Glyphosate Contamination in USA
Most comprehensive study reveals glyphosate and AMPA in the environment over 9 years and across 38 states.
The most comprehensive research to date on environmental glyphosate levels exposes the widespread contamination of soil and water in the US, as well as its water treatment system. Looking at a wide range of geographical locations, researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) analysed 3732 water and sediment samples and 1081 quality assurance samples collected between 2001 and 2010 from 38 states in the US and the district of Colombia. They found glyphosate in 39.4 % of samples (1470 out of 3732) and its metabolite AMPA (α-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid) in 55% of samples. Water samples included streams, groundwater, ditches and drains, large rivers, soil water, lakes, ponds and wetlands, precipitation, soil and sediment, and waste water treatment plants.
These results are to be expected when the use of glyphosate has steadily increased in the US (and similarly in Canada) over the years, particularly since the introduction of genetically-modified crops tolerant to the herbicide. The rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds also means that farmers need to spray more chemicals than before in order to protect their crops (see Monsanto Defeated by Roundup Resistant Weeds, SiS 53). Glyphosate accounted for 32-36% of all pesticide (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) use in the US in 2007 according to EPA data. It is the top pesticide in agriculture and the second for home and garden and commercial settings. Agricultural use has gone up from 3 180 tons (of active ingredient) in 1987 to 82800 tons in 2007. Non-agricultural use of the herbicide has also risen steadily in the US, from 2270 tons in 1993 to 9300 tons in 2007 (Figure 1). The common use of glyphosate in urban areas is also exacerbated by the impervious surfaces of cities, resulting in substantial pesticide inputs to urban drainage systems. Until recently data had been lacking on glyphosate occurrence in the environment, though studies published over the last couple of years are raising concerns. Detecting glyphosate in surface waters, rain and even groundwater, contradicts the producers’ claim that its chemical propensity to bind to sediment will prevent it from leaching into groundwater supplies (see  GM Crops and Water – A Recipe for Disaster, SiS 58).
Figure 1: Use of glyphosate and planted hectares of corn and soybeans from 1987-2008
Data collection had previously been limited not only by glyphosate’s high solubility and polarity which make its detection more difficult, especially at environmentally relevant levels, but also due to the official line taken by authorities that glyphosate is safe. This makes assessment of its presence in our environment less of a priority, and hence left unstudied and unregulated. The safety claim has also encouraged farmers to overuse glyphosate, mostly sprayed on crops “post-emergence” or after crops and weeds have emerged from the soil and often applied repeatedly throughout the season, especially with the rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds. In addition, they are liberally used on non-GM crops as a desiccant (drying agent) to facilitate harvesting (see  How Roundup® Poisoned my Nature Reserve, SiS 64).
To address the lack of knowledge in this area, researchers at the USGS began developing their own methods in the 2000s, using solid-phase extraction and liquid chromatography/mass spectroscopy, which is able to detect both glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA at levels as low as 0.02 μg/l (0.02 part per billion, ppb) for both compounds.
The results are shown in Table 1. Glyphosate and AMPA were most frequently detected in soil, followed by drains and ditches, rain and large rivers. For soil and sediment, and soil water a total of 45 soil and sediment samples were collected from seven sites in Mississippi and Indiana, with both glyphosate and AMPA being detected at least once in samples from all seven sites. Both were detected in 90 % of sediment samples with concentrations frequently above 10 μg/kg, with an average of 9.6 μg/kg. In 116 soil samples glyphosate and AMPA were detected in 34.5 % and 66.5 % respectively. Large rivers showed average levels of 0.03 μg/kg in 53.1 % of samples tested. Least frequent but detectable levels were found in groundwater samples, with 5.8 % and 14 % of samples testing positive for glyphosate and AMPA respectively.
Glyphosate is claimed by biotech proponents not to leach into groundwater supplies, but this work and a previous study performed in Catalonia, Spain have both detected its presence in groundwater supplies , a major source of drinking water.
The present study also found an increase in concentrations over time, showing higher levels from 2006-2010 compared to earlier years (2001-2005), consistent with rises in both agricultural, home and commercial use of the herbicide. Temporal patterns however, were not recorded and these likely change with agricultural seasons.
The study highlights the ubiquitous contamination of the environment with glyphosate herbicides at ever increasing levels. This herbicide is highly toxic to humans, farm animals, and wildlife, and at levels as low as 0.1 ppb; there is indeed a strong case for halting its use altogether (see Ban GMOs Now, Special ISIS report).
- Battaglin WA, Meyer MT, Kuivila KM, and Dietze JE. Glyphosate and Its Degradation Product AMPA Occur Frequently and Widely in U.S. Soils, Surface Water, Groundwater, and Precipitation. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 2014, 50, 275-290. DOI: 10.1111/jawr.12159
- Sirinathsinghji E. Monsanto Defeated By Roundup Resistant Weeds. Science in Society 53, 40-41, 2011.
- 2006-2007 Pesticide Market Estimates, 3.4 Amount of Pesticides Used in the United States: Conventional. US Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/pestsales/07pestsales/usage2007_2.htm
- Sirinathsinghji E. GM Crops and Water – A Recipe for Disaster. Science in Society 58, 8-10, 2013.
- Mason, R. How Roundup Poisoned My Nature Reserve, SiS 64, to appear
- Ho MW and Sirinathsinghji E. Ban GMOs Now, ISIS, London, June 2013, http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Ban_GMOs_Now.php
Synthetic Biology Could Open a Whole New Can of Worms
PYEONGCHANG, Republic of Korea, Oct 7 2014 (IPS) – Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is the world’s leading producer of vetiver. In the southwest of the country, vetiver production is hard to ignore.
Driving into Les Cayes, the largest town in the south, one is greeted by fields of vetiver on either side of the road. The same is true if driving from Les Cayes to Port Salut. Steep hillsides of the green grass line many of the ridges between the two towns.
Synthetic biology differs from conventional genetic engineering in its technique, scale, and its use of novel and synthetic genetic sequences – raising new risks to biodiversity.
Haitian vetiver is highly regarded among perfumers, and it is a key ingredient in some of the finest and most expensive perfumes in the world.
However, struggling Haitians who farm this product could be dealt another harsh blow with the introduction of a new industry – synthetic biology. Although still undefined, synthetic biology can be described as ‘extreme genetic engineering,’ and refers broadly to the use of computer-assisted, biological engineering to design and construct new synthetic biological parts, devices and systems, and to redesign existing biological organisms.
“In countries like Haiti there are high-value agricultural exports that form a significant part of the economy, and those high-value low-volume goods are slated to be created by companies like Evolva and could replace the truly natural products,” Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner with the civil society group Friends of the Earth U.S., told IPS.
“Evolva is creating synthetic biology flavors and fragrances which could be offered at a much cheaper price and would ultimately remove the need for different farmers of flavours and fragrances.”
Haiti’s vetiver crop is processed by 10 distillers, but it provides jobs for some 27,000 farming families in the southwest. For these farmers, the vetiver plant has important conservation benefits, preventing soil erosion, and helping maintain water quality.
The global value of the synthetic biology market reached 1.6 billion dollars in 2011and it will further grow to 10.8 billion by 2016, increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.8 percent.
Haiti’s share of worldwide vetiver exports grew from 40 percent in 2001 to over 60 percent in 2007. But in the wake of the worldwide financial crisis, Haiti has seen a sharp reduction in vetiver exports. The country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, produces about 50 to 60 tons vetiver annually, about 50 percent of the world’s supply.
An estimated 60,000 people in Haiti’s Les Cayes region depend on vetiver as their primary income source. The crop is grown on 10,000 hectares.
Before 2009, Haiti’s vetiver crop was valued at approximately 15-18 million dollars per year. In recent years, Haiti’s export earnings from vetiver have declined to around 10 million per year.
Synthetic biology differs from conventional genetic engineering in its technique, scale, and its use of novel and synthetic genetic sequences – raising new risks to biodiversity.
Friends of the Earth International is urging caution and has made several recommendations to the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 12) being held here from Oct. 6-17.
“We are recommending a moratorium on the environmental release and the commercial use of synthetic biology, specifically because of the lack of international regulations and virtual lack of environmental and safety assessments anywhere in the world. We are encouraging the CBD to stand behind the precautionary approach which countries have already agreed to by being signatories to the CBD,” Perls said.
“This is a new and emerging issue and needs to be treated as such. Many of the concerns have to do with the environmental, cultural, social impacts of this new technology, including what would happen if a product like ginseng here in Korea were to be produced using synthetic biology. The impact that it would have on small famers across this country could be immense.
“It would also have a large impact on countries like Brazil where the feed stock would be grown in order to produce these synthetic biology organisms, which will churn out whatever you’ve designed it to churn out,” she added.
While biotechnology has been portrayed as a panacea for climate change and other societal ills, Friends of the Earth said the claims that genetically engineered plants and microbes can sequester more carbon in the soil and produce more fuels when processed than conventional methods have yet to be proven.
The group noted that “in the wake of these unfulfilled promises” emerges synthetic biology, a more extreme form of genetic engineering, which has also been touted as the solution to the climate crisis.
But the group said synthetic biology is not a sustainable solution to the climate crisis and has the potential to create an entirely new set of problems.
The Philippines is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of coconut oil. Twenty-five million people in a population of 100 million are directly or indirectly dependent on the coconut industry for their livelihoods and domestic food security.
Neth Dano, program manager with the ETC Group, told IPS, “There is a lot at stake for the Philippines” on this issue because synthetic biology could potentially replace coconut oil in the global market.
“In the Philippines, coconut production is not done in a plantation way, it’s small scale. And in the structure of rural economies, in most cases the coconut producers are among the poorest ones,” Dano explained.
Dano said the CBD as the United Nations body responsible for looking at potential impacts of development on biodiversity and also primarily for conservation of biodiversity can do a lot to address the concerns over synthetic biology.
“The CBD is the only body in the United Nations that had taken up synthetic biology so far and addressed the concerns on its potential impacts on biodiversity,” Dano said.
Dano noted also that most of the commercial beginnings of synthetic biology were related to climate change.
“The earlier research and development efforts were focusing on algae that actually would produce biofuels. And biofuels were seen as a solution to address this problem of massive greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. So it was actually presented as a solution to climate change as a mitigation strategy,” she said.
“The big oil companies invested so much in the development of biofuels from synthetically modified algae but the investments did not deliver, so now they’ve shifted their attention to low-volume high-value and this is where the lauric oils come in,” Dano added.
Desmond Brown|Edited by Kitty Stapp
Acquisition of Africa’s SeedCo by Monsanto, Groupe Limagrain: Neo-colonial occupation
Addis Ababa 7 October 2014 – The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) is deeply concerned about the recent acquisitions by multi-national seed companies of large parts of SeedCo, one of Africa’s largest home-grown seed companies. Attracting foreign investment from the world’s largest seed companies, most of who got to their current dominant positions by devouring national seed companies and their competitors through mergers and acquisitions, is an inevitable consequence of the fierce drive to commercialize agriculture in Africa.
The deals in question involve French seed giant Groupe Limagrain, the largest seed and plant breeding company in the European Union, who has invested up to US$60 million for a 28% stake in SeedCo. In another transaction, SeedCo has agreed to sell 49% of its shares in Africa’s only cottonseed company, Quton, to Mahyco of India. Mahyco is 26% owned by Monsanto and has 50:50 joint venture with the gene-giant to sub-license its genetically modified (GM) bt cotton traits throughout India. Interestingly, Mahyco also specializes in hybrid cotton varieties, unlike Quton, who also produces open-pollinated varieties (OPVs) of cottonseed.
These acquisitions follow close on the heels of Swiss biotech giant Syngenta’s take-over in 2013 of Zambian seed company MRI Seed, whose maize germplasm collection was said at the time to be amongst Africa’s most comprehensive and diverse. Taken together, this means that three of the world’s largest biotechnology companies, Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, all now have a significant foothold on the continent in markets for two of the three major global GM crop varieties: maize and cotton.
SeedCo, like so many other seed companies around the world, began life as a farmer-led and owned organisation to improve the availability of quality maize seed in 1940. Today it describes itself as Africa’s largest seed company, operating in 15 countries across the continent and has significant market shares in Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. SeedCo also has access to government and donor-funded input subsidy programs in Zambia and Malawi and has set its sights on potentially lucrative markets in Nigeria and Ghana. In July 2014, SeedCo and Limagrain began discussions with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) for a collaborative research project on maize lethal necrosis in Africa.
The creation of an predominantly privately owned seed industry in Africa is a vital component of the Green Revolution push, which equates agrarian transformation in Africa with the adoption of commercial (corporate) certified seed and other expensive inputs such as fertilizer. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), for example, claims to collaborate with 80 small and medium sized seed companies across Africa and has also organised public-private-partnerships between seed companies and public research institutions. How many of these newly established entities will remain independent of global seed industry players remains to be seen.
Multinational capture of local seed companies is a process that has long been underway in South Africa, a country much further down the Green Revolution path than any other in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 1999 and 2000 Monsanto purchased two of the country’s largest seed companies, Carnia and Sensako, and the Missouri based company now enjoys a dominant position in South Africa’s commercial seed market. In 2012 the largest domestic seed company, Pannar Seed, was taken-over by US firm Pioneer Hi-Bred, itself a subsidiary of the DuPont chemical company. The purchase not only gave Pioneer access to Pannar’s vast maize germplasm collection and agro-dealer network in South Africa, but also the company’s long established footprint in 23 other countries across the continent. Even the smaller South African companies are now seen as fair game, with Link Seed being taken over by, ironically, also Limagrain in 2013.
Apart from the concerns raised above, there are numerous worrying implications arising from these deals. What, for example, will be the implications of Mahyco’s (and thus Monsanto’s) involvement in the cotton seed sector in Africa through its SeedCo interests given their focus on hybrid and GM cotton seed, as opposed to SeedCo’s current focus on OPVs? Under what terms will Limagrain’s involvement in the proposed public private partnership with CIMMYT (and future project’s that its stake in SeedCo)inevitable bring? Monsanto’s involvement with public research bodies in Africa through the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project has been uncovered as bio-piracy instead of benevolence. Further, how will Limagrain benefit from SeedCo’s involvement in input subsidy schemes in Malawi and Zambia? From the outside this appears to be another case of scarce African agricultural budgets being used to subsidize the multinational seed industry.
AFSA believes that solutions to Africa’s agricultural challenges can be found in the collaboration between its small-scale farmers and public researchers, with the former taking the lead in setting the research agendas and objectives. A key part of public investments in R&D and extension should include identifying, prioritizing and supporting work around participatory plant breeding, participatory variety selection, farmer-managed seed certification and quality assurance systems, identifying and supporting the development of locally important crops on the basis of decentralized participatory R&D, farmer to farmer exchanges and so forth. The encroachment of the international seed industry, which focuses almost exclusively on genetically uniform varieties, subject to UPOV 1991 style intellectual property protection, takes us further away from this agricultural vision and closer to neo-colonialism of Africa’s food systems.
Dr. Million Belay Coordinator of AFSAemail@example.com
The Ghost in the GMO Machine
While independent research shows that Chlorpyrifos, a Dow Chemical insecticide used in Kaua‘i’s GMO fields, can cause significant harm to children nearby, Dow is intent on convincing the EPA otherwise.
The bodies and minds of children living on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i are being threatened by exposure to chlorpyrifos, a synthetic insecticide that is heavily sprayed on fields located near their homes and schools.
For decades, researchers have been publishing reports about children who died or were maimed after exposure to chlorpyrifos, either in the womb or after birth. While chlorpyrifos can no longer legally be used around the house or in the garden, it is still legal to use on the farm. But researchers are finding that children aren’t safe when the insecticide is applied to nearby fields.
Like a ghost drifting through a child’s bedroom window, the airborne insecticide can settle on children’s skin, clothes, toys, rugs, and furnishings.
In fact, it’s likely that the only people who needn’t worry about exposure to chlorpyrifos are adults living far from the fields in which it is sprayed. That includes civil servants who work for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates the stuff, and executives with Dow Chemical, the company that manufactures it.
In a regulatory process known as re-registration, the EPA will decide in 2015 whether it still agrees that chlorpyrifos is safe for farming, or whether it will order a complete ban, as Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pesticide Action Network have demanded in lawsuits filed in 2007 and in 2014.
Dow has long insisted that its chlorpyrifos products are safe, despite tens of thousands of reports of acute poisoning and multiple studies linking low-level exposures to children with lower IQ. The company also has a long history—going back decades—of concealing from the public the many health problems it knew were linked to chlorpyrifos.
In 1995, the EPA found that Dow had violated federal law by covering up its knowledge of these health problems for years. In 2004, then-New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer found that Dow had been lying about the known dangers of the pesticide in its advertising for nearly as long. Together, the EPA and the State of New York have levied fines against the company approaching $3 million.
On Kaua‘i, subsidiaries of four transnational chemical companies—Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, and BASF—spray chlorpyrifos and several other potent pesticides to protect their experimental genetically engineered crops (GMOs) against a wide variety of bugs and weeds. Because of the heavy pesticide use, Kaua‘i’s GMO testing fields are among the most toxic chemical environments in all of American agriculture. The island, with its precious ecosystems and diverse wildlife, seems particularly ill-suited to be a laboratory for such experiments.
In two incidents in 2006 and 2008, all students at the Waimea Middle School on Kaua‘i were evacuated and about 60 were hospitalized with flu-like symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Many people in town blamed the outbreak on chlorpyrifos dust and vapors that they believed had drifted from the nearby GMO test fields. The corporations denied that any illnesses were caused by their products and officials only tested for a few of the possible chemicals that could have contaminated the school and children.
The companies conduct their experiments on Kaua‘i because it has a 12-month growing season, and they can get in three or four crops each year. As Steve Savage, a former research manager for DuPont, has stated that they protect their GMO crops with chemicals to protect their large investments.
“The pesticides used on the seed farms are mostly just there to protect these very valuable seeds from pest damage,” he said. “That is more challenging because there is no winter to set-back the populations of things like insects. Some of the tropical weeds are also very challenging to control.”
There’s no doubt that chlorpyrifos is efficient at killing insects. But the question before the EPA re-registration process is, “What is it doing to children?”
The last time chlorpyrifos went through the re-registration process was in 2000. (The EPA is required to do that every 15 years.) At the time, Dow was fighting off several lawsuits from families with children poisoned by the chemical. It also faced an almost certain regulatory crackdown by the EPA. A large number of children and adults were being poisoned by more than 800 different chlorpyrifos-containing products that were commonly used around the house, including Dursban, Raid, Black Flag Liquid Roach and Ant Killer and Hartz Mountain Flea and Tick Collar. Chlorpyrifos applied by pest control operators also often led to serious health effects.
Under the terms of an agreement between Dow and the EPA, chlorpyrifos products for indoor use were taken off store shelves at the end of 2001 and were banned in schools, parks, and at day care centers. They continued to be used on the farm under the trade name Lorsban.
Dow Chemical started selling chlorpyrifos in 1965. In 1972, when the EPA banned DDT and other bug-killers, chlorpyrifos was there to take their place. There was a time when chlorpyrifos was invited into most homes in America on a daily basis. Approximately 21 to 24 million pounds were used annually in the U.S., of which about 11 million pounds were applied in the home, where the chemical’s main job was to kill termites.
Because of its extensive use in the home before the ban in 2000, the vast majority of the U.S. population was exposed to chlorpyrifos or its environmental breakdown product, trichloropyridinol (TCP). A 1998 Minnesota Children’s Exposure Study found that 92 percent of the 89 children evaluated had measurable amounts of TCP in their urine. A 1998 study of 416 children in North and South Carolina found TCP in the urine of all the children evaluated.
Chlorpyrifos belongs to a class of pesticides known as organophosphates, which are designed to interfere with the way insect brains operate. They can also interfere with human brains. Some people are more sensitive to chlorpyrifos based on their genes, according to the EPA ].
A 2000 EPA review of “incidents” caused by chlorpyrifos notes, “Children under six were three times more likely to be hospitalized, five times more likely to be admitted for critical care in an intensive care unit (ICU), and three times more likely to have experienced a life-threatening outcome or death when exposed to an organophosphate than when exposed to non-organophosphate pesticides.”
By 1984, the number of chlorpyrifos poisonings in the home had begun to rise, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
The Poison Control Centers found that the annual number of reported chlorpyrifos poisoning cases before 2000 was close to 7,000. Many of these exposures involved small children who never developed symptoms, but several hundred cases per year were serious enough to require special medical attention. At least three children died. For example, in 1996, among the victims who received medical follow-up care, 567 experienced moderate, major, or life-threatening effects.
“These data do suggest that inhalation or dermal exposure can lead to life-threatening effects,” the EPA said in 2000.
The EPA accused Dow of concealing what it knew about the negative health effects of chlorpyrifos from 1984 to 1994 when CBS News investigated an incident in which the parents of a disabled child obtained a judgment against Dow for injuries that a court found were caused by a prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos.
Under the Federal Insecticide, Rodenticide, and Fungicide Act (FIFRA), the nation’s main law regulating pesticide use, pesticide manufacturers like Dow are required to report to the EPA any complaints they receive about pesticide poisonings within 30 days. The law is designed to warn the EPA of all known health dangers associated with a product so it can prevent further poisonings and save lives. The EPA fined Dow $876,000 for 327 violations of FIFRA, but it failed to investigate any deeper.
The EPA never determined how many lives were ruined or lost as a result of harm caused by chlorpyrifos or Dow’s cover-up. Nor did the EPA ever open a criminal investigation to find out who at the company knew about the health problems or why they didn’t report them to the EPA. The EPA never determined whether responsibility for the cover-up extended all the way to the top of the corporate ladder or was limited to lower-level employees.
The EPA’s disinterest in investigating Dow was shared by Congress. A review of the Congressional Records from 1994 to 2014 revealed that only one Member of Congress— – Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont— — spoke out about any concerns over chlorpyrifos. Congress’ indifference toward the chlorpyrifos poisonings stands in stark contrast to its recent grilling of General Motors CEO Mary Barra over the deaths of drivers caused by accidents due to faulty ignition switches.
It may no longer be possible to conduct such an investigation. The EPA has destroyed many of the relevant documents, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Colaizzi.
Dow, meanwhile, asserts that chlorpyrifos has never been proven to be a danger to public health, despite the fines. “The information in question involved unsubstantiated allegations made in the course of litigation,” said Dow spokesman Garry Hamblin. He claimed the company “never agreed that this material represented ‘factual information’ which the company needed to report to EPA. As a means of resolving the dispute, [it] paid a negotiated settlement for late delivery of information and changed its reporting practices to better address EPA’s expectations.”
But Dr. Janette Sherman, an internist and toxicologist with a workers’ compensation practice in Detroit and Maui, disputes Dow’s assertions of innocence. She examined some of the most seriously injured victims, including:
- 9-year-old Joshua Herb of Charleston, West Virginia, who became a quadriplegic after his home was treated with chlorpyrifos. He had been exposed in utero to Dursban and another organophosphate, propetamphos. A court found that animal tests performed at Duke University showed that chlorpyrifos, when combined with the other chemical, caused “catastrophic destruction” of the nervous system in lower doses than it would have alone. Dow settled his case for a reported $10 million; and
- The Ebling sisters in New Albany, Indiana. Connie, 9, and A.J., 6, had developed seizures, incontinence, and learning disabilities after their apartment was repeatedly sprayed with Dursban. One day, Connie was admitted to a hospital following a round of intense seizures. “I found her face-down in her eggs,” her mother told a reporter in the hospital room one evening. The young girl sat on her bed, gaping at a visitor, drooling, and hooting as she struggled to assemble a simple puzzle.
“The children were the most tragic,” said Sherman. “These kids had no future whatsoever. None.”
Sherman developed medical histories of the victims and testified about them in court. She also wrote about them in 12 articles that were published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
In 1999, an article in the European Journal of Oncology described eight children with a pattern of similar birth defects. Each had a history of in utero exposure to chlorpyrifos during their first trimester. All eight had birth defects of the brain, including four who had a missing or defective corpus callosum, the band of nerves connecting the two hemispheres in the brain. Five had heart defects. Other defects affected the eyes, the face, and the genitals. All of the children were developmentally disabled, and all but one required feeding, diapering, and constant monitoring.
Sherman explored family histories for alcohol consumption and maternal smoking for possible alternative explanations. She interviewed parents and other family members, reviewed medical files, and conducted physical examinations of six of the children.
Monitoring for pesticide levels was not conducted during any of the pregnancies. Thanks to Dow’s failure to report the incidents in a timely manner, a significant amount of time elapsed before pesticide contamination was even considered as a possible cause, or before other parents could be warned about the hazards known to be associated with exposure to chlorpyrifos, according to Sherman.
In advertisements, Dow tried to assure the public that when used as directed, chlorpyrifos is “safe.” The state of New York deemed that such claims were false, and in 1994 Dow agreed to stop making them.
But a 2004 investigation by then-New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer found that Dow had continued to make misleading claims for a decade, including these statements:
“Chlorpyrifos is one of the most important, safe and widely used insecticides in the country.”
“No significant adverse health effects will likely result from exposures to Dursban, even at levels substantially above those expected to occur when applied at label rates.”
Spitzer’s office fined Dow $2 million for making these and dozens of other “fraudulent” safety claims. “Pesticides are toxic substances that should be used with great caution,” Spitzer said at the time. “By misleading consumers about the potential dangers associated with the use of their products, Dow’s ads may have endangered human health and the environment by encouraging people to use their products without proper care.”
The EPA says that the number of chlorpyrifos poisoning reports in home settings declined by 95 percent in the decade after 2001, when urban uses were banned.
In 2004, researchers at Columbia University found that babies born in upper Manhattan after January 1, 2001 were larger and longer — and had less chlorpyrifos in their umbilical cord blood plasma — than babies born before that date.
Several recent studies show that chlorpyrifos, as it is used today, still harms the developing brains of children.
“Toxic exposure during this critical period can have far-reaching effects on brain development and behavioral functioning,” said Virginia Rauh, a professor at the Columbia University’s School of Public Health. “Some small effects occur at even very low exposures.”
In 2008, another Columbia University study of 265 children found that, after pregnant women were exposed to chlorpyrifos, their babies had a lower intelligence rating.
In 2011, researchers at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York linked chlorpyrifos to a reduction in a child’s ability to solve problems.
From 1998 to 2011, the CHAMACOS (Center for Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas) studies were conducted on farm workers near Salinas, California. The studies examined associations between prenatal and postnatal exposure to low levels of organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos and cognitive abilities in school-age children. The studies found that higher concentrations of chlorpyrifos in the mothers’ urine were linked to declines in working memory, processing speed, verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, and IQ of their children. Children of mothers with the greatest urinary concentrations had an average deficit of seven IQ points compared with those in the lowest concentrations— — the equivalent of being a half-year behind their peers, according to The Nation http://www.thenation.com/article/178804/warning-signs-how-pesticides-harm-young-brain
The EPA says it will consider these human epidemiological studies before it makes a final re-registration decision. But according to a June 25, 2014, memo written by the agency’s Health Effects Division, the EPA appears ready to dismiss them in favor of two unpublished, non peer-reviewed studies conducted by Dow scientists in 2013.
These studies claimed that chlorpyrifos cannot possibly do any harm to bystanders, even at “the highest possible concentration in the air,” the EPA memo said. It reasoned that, “if there is no hazard to the vapor for these pesticides, there is no risk.”
The memo goes on to say, “The results of these studies have significantly changed how [the] EPA considers the hazard to chlorpyrifos.”
The two Dow reports were based on the company’s own experiments with five groups of lab rats. Sherman said a peer review would have questioned some of the assumptions made by the authors of the study. The lab rats were given chlorpyrifos through the nose but, in reality, children also absorb the chemical through the skin, by putting toys in their mouths, by rolling around on the rug, and even through breast milk. She also said that the sample size—five groups of eight rats each—is not statistically significant.
While the EPA so far seems content to rest its decisions on industry-sponsored studies with lab rats, independent research clearly shows that chlorpyrifos can put children’s futures at risk. Advocates, meanwhile, wait for the EPA to rule on their seven-year-old petition, demanding that the pesticide be banned completely, on farms as well as in houses.
Paul Koberstein|Earth Island Journal|October 11, 2014
Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Take on GMO Foods (Video)
With the continued controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the Right to Know labeling initiative in Oregon that will be on the November ballot, I thought it was perfect timing to feature this Bill Nye video explaining his take on genetically modified foods.
What’s his take? He says, let’s farm responsibly, require labels on our food and carefully test these foods case by case.
Stefanie Spear|October 15, 2014
Fracking Footprint Seen From Space
An unexpectedly high amount of the climate-changing gas methane, the main component of natural gas, is escaping from the Four Corners region in the US Southwest, according to a new study by the University of Michigan and NASA.
The researchers mapped satellite data to uncover the nation’s largest methane signal seen from space. They measured levels of the gas emitted from all sources, and found more than half a teragram per year coming from the area where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet. That’s about as much methane as the entire coal, oil, and gas industries of the United Kingdom give off each year.
Four Corners sits on North America’s most productive coalbed methane basin. Coalbed methane is a variety of the gas that’s stuck to the surface of coal. It is dangerous to miners (not to mention canaries), but in recent decades, it’s been tapped as a resource.
“There’s so much coalbed methane in the Four Corners area, it doesn’t need to be that crazy of a leak rate to produce the emissions that we see. A lot of the infrastructure is likely contributing,” said Eric Kort, assistant professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the U-M College of Engineering.
Kort, first author of a paper on the findings published in Geophysical Research Letters, says the controversial natural gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing is not the main culprit.
“We see this large signal and it’s persistent since 2003,” Kort said. “That’s a pre- fracking timeframe in this region. While fracking has become a focal point in conversations about methane emissions, it certainly appears from this and other studies that in the U.S., fossil fuel extraction activities across the board likely emit higher than inventory estimates.”
While the signal represents the highest concentration of methane seen from space, the researchers caution that Four Corners isn’t necessarily the highest emitting region.
“One has to be somewhat careful in equating abundances with emissions,” said study contributor Christian Frankenberg at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The Four Corners methane source is in a relatively isolated area with little other methane emissions, hence causing a well distinguishable hot-spot in methane abundances. Local or more diffuse emissions in other areas, such as the eastern U.S., may be convoluted with other nearby sources.”
ClickGreen Staff|ClickGreen|October 10, 2014
Continue reading at ENN affiliate, ClickGreen.
Fracking Fractures Argentina’s Energy Development
AÑELO, Argentina, Oct 8 2014 (IPS) – Unconventional oil and gas reserves in Vaca Muerta in southwest Argentina hold out the promise of energy self-sufficiency and development for the country. But the fracking technique used to extract this treasure from underground rocks could be used at a huge cost.
The landscape begins to change when you get about 100 km from Neuquén, the capital of the province of the same name, in southwest Argentina. In this area, dubbed “the Saudi Arabia of Patagonia”, fruit trees are in bloom and vineyards stretch out green towards the horizon, in the early southern hemisphere springtime.
But along the roads, where there is intense traffic of trucks hauling water, sand, chemicals and metallic structures, oil derricks and pump stations have begun to replace the neat rows of poplars which form windbreaks protecting crops in the southern region of Patagonia.
“Now there’s money, there’s work – we’re better off,” truck driver Jorge Maldonado told Tierramérica. On a daily basis he transports drill pipes to Loma Campana, the shale oil and gas field that has become the second-largest producer in Argentina in just three years.
“That water is not left in the same condition as it was when it was removed from the rivers; the hydrologic cycle is changed. They are minimizing a problem that requires a more in-depth analysis.” — Carolina García
It is located in Vaca Muerta, a geological formation in the Neuquén basin which is spread out over the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro and Mendoza. Of the 30,000 sq km area, the state-run YPF oil company has been assigned 12,000 sq km in concession, including some 300 sq km operated together with U.S. oil giant Chevron.
Vaca Muerta has some of the world’s biggest reserves of shale oil and gas, found at depths of up to 3,000 metres.
A new well is drilled here every three days, and the demand for labor power, equipment, inputs, transportation and services is growing fast, changing life in the surrounding towns, the closest of which is Añelo, eight km away.
“Now I can provide better for my children, and pay for my wife’s studies,” said forklift operator Walter Troncoso.
According to YPF, Vaca Muerta increased Argentina’s oil reserves ten-fold and its gas reserves forty-fold, which means this country will become a net exporter of fossil fuels.
But tapping into unconventional shale oil and gas deposits requires the use of a technique known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – which YPF prefers to refer to as “hydraulic stimulation”.
According to the company, the technique involves the high-pressure injection of a mix of water, sand and “a small quantity of additives” into the parent-rock formations at a depth of over 2,000 metres, in order to release the trapped oil and gas which flows up to the surface through pipes.
Víctor Bravo, an engineer, says in a study published by the Third Millennium Patagonia Foundation, that some 15 fractures are made in each well, with 20,000 cubic metres of water and some 400 tons of diluted chemicals.
The formula is a trade secret, but the estimate is that it involves “some 500 chemical substances, 17 of which are toxic to aquatic organisms, 38 of which have acute toxic effects, and eight of which are proven to be carcinogenic,” he writes. He adds that fracking fluids and the gas itself can contaminate aquifers.
Neuquén province lawmaker Raúl Dobrusin of the opposition Popular Union bloc told Tierrámerica: “The effect of this contamination won’t be seen now, but in 15 or 20 years.”
During Tierramérica’s visit to Loma Campana, Pablo Bizzotto, YPF’s regional manager of unconventional resources, played down these fears, saying the parent-rock formations are 3,000 metres below the surface while the groundwater is 200 to 300 metres down.
“The water would have to leak thousands of metres up. It can’t do that,” he said.
Besides, the “flowback water”, which is separated from the oil or gas, is reused in further “hydraulic stimulation” operations, while the rest is dumped into “perfectly isolated sink wells,” he argued. “The aquifers do not run any risk at all,” he said.
But Dobrusin asked “What will they do with the water once the well is full? No one mentions that.”
According to Bizzotto, the seismic intensity of the hydraulic stimulation does not compromise the aquifers either, because the fissures are produced deep down in the earth. Furthermore, he said, the wells are layered with several coatings of cement and steel.
“We want to draw investment, generate work, but while safeguarding nature at the same time,” Neuquén’s secretary of the environment, Ricardo Esquivel, told Tierramérica.
In his view, “there are many myths” surrounding fracking, such as the claim that so much water is needed that water levels in the rivers would go down.
Neuquén, he said, uses five percent of the water in its rivers for irrigation, human consumption and industry, while the rest flows to the sea. Even if 500 wells a year were drilled, only one percent more of the water would be used, he maintained.
But activist Carolina García with the Multisectorial contra el Fracking group told Tierrámerica: “That water is not left in the same condition as it was when it was removed from the rivers; the hydrologic cycle is changed. They are minimising a problem that requires a more in-depth analysis.”
She pointed out that fracking is questioned in the European Union and that in August Germany adopted an eight-year moratorium on fracking for shale gas while it studies the risks posed by the technique.
YPF argues that these concerns do not apply to Vaca Muerta because it is a relatively uninhabited area.
“The theory that this is a desert and can be sacrificed because no one’s here is false,” said Silvia Leanza with the Ecosur Foundation.
“There are people, the water runs, and there is air flowing here,” she commented to Tierramérica. “The emissions of gases and suspended dust particles can reach up to 200 km away.”
Nor does the “desert theory” ring true for Allen, a town of 25,000 people in the neighbouring province of Río Negro, which is suffering the effects of the extraction of another form of unconventional gas, tight gas sands, which refers to low permeability sandstone reservoirs that produce primarily dry natural gas.
In that fruit-growing area, 20 km from the provincial capital, the fruit harvest is shrinking as the number of gas wells grows, drilled by the U.S.-based oil company Apache, whose local operations in Argentina were acquired by YPF in March.
Apache leases farms to drill on, the Permanent Comahue Assembly for Water (APCA) complained.
“Going around the farms it’s easy to see how the wells are occupying what was fruit-growing land until just a few years ago. Allen is known as the ‘pear capital’, but now it is losing that status,” lamented Gabriela Sepúlveda, of APCA Allen-Neuquén.
A well exploded in March, shaking the nearby houses. It wasn’t the first time, and it’s not the only problem the locals have had, Rubén Ibáñez, who takes care of a greenhouse next to the well, told Tierramérica. “Since the wells were drilled, people started feeling dizzy and having sore throats, stomach aches, breathing problems, and nausea,” he said.
“They periodically drill wells, a process that lasts around a month, and then they do open-air flaring. I’m no expert, but I feel sick,” he said. “I wouldn’t drink this water even if I was dying of thirst….when I used it to water the plants in the greenhouse they would die.”
The provincial government says there are constant inspections of the gas and oil deposits.
“In 300 wells we did not find any environmental impact that had created a reason for sanctions,” environment secretary Esquivel said.
“We have a clear objective: for Loma Campana, as the first place that unconventional fossil fuels are being developed in Argentina, to be the model to imitate, not only in terms of cost, production and technique, but in environmental questions as well,” Bizzotto said.
“All technology has uncertain consequences,” Leanza said. “Why deny it? Let’s put it up for debate.”
Fabiana Frayssinet|Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez|Translated by Stephanie Wildes
This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.
This is outrageous. Fracking companies are polluting our water with cancer-causing chemicals, and lying about it. Tell the EPA to set the record straight and admit that fracking is toxic.
It’s breast cancer awareness month, and one fracking company thought it would try and ‘do its bit’ by painting a bunch of fracking drill bits pink. They even made a splashy website and held a press conference to pat themselves on the back.
There’s just one problem: Fracking pumps millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the ground — including chemicals linked to breast cancer, like Toluene and Benzene. And when those chemicals inevitably leak into local groundwater supplies they also cause flammable faucets, earthquakes and more!
This would almost be funny, something for the late night comedy shows. Except that for over a year the EPA itself has been covering up research proving that fracking contaminates groundwater.*
So I’m headed to EPA headquarters tomorrow along with nurses and fracking-impacted families to demand they stop the cover up, and admit fracking is poisoning our water, land and climate.** Will you stand with me and all the families impacted by fracking, by signing on to our EPA message?
You’re also invited to join us, or your local Global Frackdown event – there are over 250 planned worldwide!
To make our event at EPA more interesting, we’re issuing a personal dare to Administrator Gina McCarthy: If she’s reviewed the research, and is convinced fracking is so safe, then she needs to drink the fracked water presented to her by our friends in Dimock, PA.
We’re calling it the #FrackWaterChallenge, and we hope it will spur the EPA to take some real action, for a change, on fracking.
But McCarthy and the EPA aren’t likely to listen to us unless we can bring the support of tens of thousands of people like you with us. McCarthy has been ignoring us for months, even literally turning her back on an impacted resident from Dimock, and walking away when he tried to ask her why EPA wasn’t helping his town.***
That resident turned fracktivist, Craig, will be with me in D.C. tomorrow. But I need you to sign on in support so we’re not the only ones who show up to demand EPA take action. Will you sign on here?
Drew Hudson, and the team at Environmental Action
PS – This is just one of hundreds of great events planned all over the world to call attention to the dangers of Fracking. Please take a minute to check out the map, and sign up to join (or host!) an event near you this weekend.
* Americans Against Fracking, EPA action more info page
** Global Frackdown event, Director McCarthy Will You Take the #FrackWaterChallenge?
*** Emily Wurth, What Will it Take for the EPA to Act on Fracking?, Food and Water Watch Blog, September 29th, 2014
Victory for Greenpeace Campaign as LEGO Dumps Shell Oil
After an intense three-month campaign by Greenpeace that included the most viral video in its history, LEGO announced that it is ending its partnership with Shell Oil Company.
“It’s a massive victory for the million people globally who called on LEGO to stop helping Shell look like a responsible and caring company rather than a driller intent on exploiting the melting Arctic for more oil,” said Greenpeace’s Ian Duff. “To maintain respectability in the face of growing opposition to Arctic drilling, Shell needs to surround itself with decent and much loved brands—museums, art galleries, music festivals, sports events. LEGO’s announcement is an important step towards blowing Shell’s cover.”
Greenpeace targeted the promotional relationship between the Danish toy company and the multinational energy giant due to Shell’s extensive drilling activities in the Arctic, which threaten the area’s ecosystem and fuel climate change. While the company suspended its activities there last year following legal challenges and operational mishaps, it’s said it will resume drilling in 2015.
The Greenpeace campaign played on the warm and fuzzy association both children and adults have with the versatile, building-block toys to stage a series of attention-grabbing protests. Its video, “LEGO: Everything Is NOT Awesome,” attracted nearly six million millions views and helped trigger over a million signatures on its petition. Protests also included a “play-in,” where children built Arctic animals out of LEGO at Shell’s London headquarters; worldwide recreations of famous protests made from LEGO; lifesize “LEGO” figures descending on a LEGO store in New york’s Rockefeller Plaza; and tiny LEGO figures taking over a gas station in Denmark.
Early in the campaign, LEGO tried to punt, saying that Greenpeace should be talking instead to Shell about its Arctic drilling instead of LEGO. Yesterday it conceded.
“We are determined to leave a positive impact on society and the planet that children will inherit,” said LEGO CEO Joergen Vig Knudstorp in the statement. “We don’t agree with the tactics used by Greenpeace that may have created the misunderstanding among our stakeholders about the way we operate.”
The marketing partnership between Shell and LEGO goes back to the ’60s. Since 1966, LEGO has sold sets that included Shell gas stations, race cars and tanker trucks, among other items.
“The tide is turning for these fossil fuel dinosaurs that see the melting Arctic as ripe for exploitation rather than protection,” said Duff. “The message should be clear; your outdated, climate wrecking practices are no longer socially acceptable, and you need to keep away from the Arctic or face being ostracized by society.”
Anastasia Pantsios|October 9, 2014
Growth in energy
Marysville Ethanol plant provides market for corn producers
MARYSVILLE — Matt Frostic, of Frostic Farms in Applegate, said having an ethanol plant in Marysville gives him a nearby market for the corn he grows.
“It’s more profitable to transport to a local ethanol plant than to have to ship the product far away,” Frostic said. “In 2004 and 2005, we started seeing an uptick in demand. Now, with increased technology, Michigan is seeing corn surpassing the demand for (food and ethanol) product.”
Frostic said corn prices have bottomed out.
“It’s part of the cycle,” Frostic said. “In 2008, a bushel of corn sold for $6, now it could sell for $3.50. Overall, things are still positive, though; the market just has to regulate itself out.”
Frostic said one positive sign for the ethanol industry is that ethanol is being shipped out of the United States to other countries.
“It’s crazy that we are importing oil to the United States while we are exporting ethanol,” said Jeff Sandborn, Michigan Corn Growers Association chairman.
A number of farmers and officials, including U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, toured the Marysville Ethanol, LLC, plant on Tuesday.
“Ethanol production is one step in trying to wean ourselves off our foreign dependence on oil,” Miller said. “It’s also a good part of our overall energy portfolio alongside solar and wind power.”
Miller said Michigan’s Thumb leads the state in ethanol, wind and solar production.
“It’s good to see that Marysville Ethanol plant buys all of their corn from local corn farmers,” Miller said. “This is really a state-of-the-art, high tech production facility.”
Marysville Ethanol produces 50 million gallons of ethanol each year, said Manouch Daneshvar, Marysville Ethanol vice president.
“We buy from 170 local corn farms within a 150-mile radius; corn is delivered to us on 12,000 trucks and we deliver ethanol using 4,000 trucks,” Daneshvar said. “The impact of our facility is far-reaching. It takes farmers, plant workers, drivers and many more to produce this product.”
Marysville Ethanol is one of five ethanol plants in Michigan that produce a total 250 million gallons of ethanol each year, Daneshvar said.
Jim Zook, Michigan Corn Growers Association executive director, said all five plants are producing at full capacity.
Alvin Ferguson, of Ferguson Farms in Allenton, said he enjoyed touring the plant, as most of his corn is sold to Marysville Ethanol.
“It’s good to see and know where your corn is going and who your buyer is,” Ferguson said. “We also buy the corn byproduct back from them to feed to our livestock.”
Going from grain to ethanol takes about 65 to 70 hours.
“The ethanol then goes into gasoline,” said Aric Metevia, Marysville Ethanol plant manager. “When you see gas marked as “E10,” that means 10 percent of the gasoline blend is ethanol. That means there is 10 percent less gas fumes going into the air.”
Federal policy dictates that gasoline refineries blend certain volumes of ethanol into their gasoline.
If that changes, demand for ethanol could decrease, or it could increase.
“The ethanol industry is status quo because there has been a policy debate for the past two years, and that debate could keep going for another two years, but plants will not expand before they know what the outcome of the debate is,” Zook said.
Zook said consumer demand can be stronger than policy, though.
“If consumers demanded more vehicles to be E85 compatible, which is gasoline with 85 percent ethanol in it, then producers would meet that demand,” Zook said.
Sandborn said the auto industry needs to fully catch up to the ethanol trend in order to increase demand for the product.
“The thing about ethanol is that we don’t have to wait plenty of years to renew our ethanol crop like you do for oil,” Sandborn said. “Each year we are getting better at producing corn, while it is becoming harder to get to oil.”
Nicole Hayden|Times Herald
We Can Do Better: The Unintended Consequences of EPA’s “Clean Power Plan”
Most people agree that it is time to seriously reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). EPA is actually required by law to reduce power and industrial GHG emissions in the U.S., and they certainly deserve an “E” for effort so far. But effort without good outcomes doesn’t really count. Sadly, the EPA’s rule as proposed would create unintended consequences that will prevent essential long-term carbon reductions in the U.S. power sector.
Here’s why: the rule’s main approach to reducing emissions is — not renewables, not energy efficiency, not even carbon capture or nuclear, but — switching practically overnight from coal to natural gas-fired electricity. This is like a binge diet to lose weight in two weeks (a really bad idea) by switching from donuts to bagels (an even worse one).
We all know binge diets avoid the balanced nutrition and long term program needed for healthy, sustained weight loss. In the same manner, the EPA’s sudden shut down of coal plants will put reliability and affordable power at risk, leaving massive amounts of new gas-fired power as the only answer to keep the lights on and electric bills tolerable.
And just like bagels are a really high carb replacement for donuts, natural gas is a high carbon replacement for coal. And what about renewables, the “vegetable” of a balanced diet? Once our power markets are saturated with new natural gas plants, there will be no room left for new, zero carbon power, no matter how cheap it becomes. When you’re full of bagels, who has room for vegetables?
NRG sees renewables, carbon capture, and innovative distributed energy technologies as the foundation of a clean energy economy that can thrive without risking catastrophic climate change. We’ve already begun our own carbon reduction regime by building one of the largest renewable energy fleets in the country. And we believe that the U.S. will benefit from rapid clean energy growth, helping stave off the worst of climate change, while demonstrating the commercial success of clean technologies.
We are concerned that the EPA’s rule, as proposed, is poised to create a new “dash to gas,” locking in decades of yet another carbon-dense fossil fuel, while locking out the increasingly economical clean energy sources the world needs.
The good news is that simple revisions to EPA’s rule can easily be addressed to result in greater overall emissions reductions at a lower cost. To see how, we encourage you to read NRG’s recommendations to the EPA in our “Glide Paths Instead of Cliffs” white paper.
This topic will be discussed during a mega-session at Renewable Energy World Conference, North America, which takes place in Orlando, Florida December 9-11, 2014.
Steven Corneli|October 15, 2014
Gov. Scott: Florida Gulf Coast Restoration Moving Forward
~Plan includes 30 projects in Florida totaling more than $100 million~
Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the funding of the third and largest set of early restoration projects, as approved by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees. Nearly $88 million represents 28 projects, which will take place throughout many communities along the Panhandle. Additionally, two U.S. Department of the Interior projects will take place at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Escambia County and total approximately $15 million.
Governor Scott said, “Today’s announcement of more than $100 million in funding is great news for families in the Panhandle. We must protect our state’s natural treasures so future generations of Floridians will be able to enjoy our state’s great natural treasures.”
Across the five Gulf States, $627 million will be allocated to implement 44 projects that will continue restoration of the natural resources and associated lost recreational services, which were affected by the spill. This third phase of early restoration includes many proposals suggested by Florida citizens, such as oyster and scallop restoration, seagrass restoration, artificial reefs, living shorelines, recreational beach restoration and state park improvements. Public comment was essential to the development of the final plan and projects.
On April 20, 2011, BP agreed to provide $1 billion in early restoration funds to the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees for early restoration projects. The Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have trustee representatives for the state of Florida. With the third phase of early restoration, Florida’s portion, $100 million, will be completely funded; however, state officials will continue to participate in developing projects for the federal agencies to propose for implementation in Florida.
Senate President Don Gaetz said, “My hope – and that of all Northwest Floridians—is that these projects selected by local leaders will produce a true return-on-investment and be managed with careful stewardship.”
Representative Clay Ingram said, “I am excited that six projects have been approved for Escambia County, and I applaud Governor Scott and FDEP Secretary Vinyard for their continued work to restore Florida’s Gulf Coast, which was so badly damaged as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
“I am proud of the work that is being done to restore Florida’s Gulf Coast,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “We will continue to work with the local communities on implementing these projects and look forward to future restoration.”
“I have been impressed with the coordination of both DEP and FWC on creating a suite of projects that will positively impact the Panhandle,” said Escambia County Commissioner and President of the Florida Association of Counties Grover Robinson. “One of the boat ramps in the first phase of early restoration projects, Mahogany Mill, took an adverse legacy and turned it into an environmental asset for our county. I look forward to many more significant improvements for our Gulf Coast communities.”
Santa Rosa County Commissioner Lane Lynchard said, “The Santa Rosa projects approved today demonstrate an additional step forward in our long-term recovery from the oil spill. These projects, as well as others to come, will have a lasting, positive impact on our environment.”
Walton County Commissioner Sara Comander said, “I am excited the Trustees have approved the Walton County projects as well as other regional projects benefiting our county, which will allow visitors and residents to make the most of our beautiful natural resources.”
“We are very pleased the third set of early restoration projects have been approved,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “These projects will enhance important fisheries and help Florida retain its prominence as the Fishing Capital of the World.”
Early restoration represents an initial step in recovery. In the first two phases of early restoration, the state of Florida proposed a dune restoration project, four boat ramp enhancements in Escambia County and two coastal conservation projects that are taking place across many Panhandle counties. There has already been much accomplished by these projects and it is expected that the third phase will bring further successful restoration to the Gulf Coast communities. Assessment of injuries to our Gulf’s natural resources is still ongoing and ultimately, the responsible parties are obligated to compensate the public for the full scope of natural resource injuries caused by the spill.
For more information on the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, specific project information and to review the projects that have already been implemented visit www.deepwaterhorizonflorida.com.
latashawalters|Oct. 9, 2014
A new concept in EV charging
There is no doubt that the EV industry is here to stay, too much money has been invested and too many people have transferred over from old-style technology. However, while EV technology itself continues to develop, efficiencies are improved and prices continue to fall, there have been ongoing concerns about recharging systems of the future. However, a company by the name of Ubitricity in Germany may well have come up with a solution which could be the answer to all our prayers!
Ubitricity has created a system of electric vehicle charging stations which are based on lighting poles which are present in every village, town and city in the world. So how does this system work and could it really be a game changer for the electric vehicle market?
Smart cables and meter readers
The company has partnered with German energy provider Grundgrun to fit an initial 100 city light poles with the new recharging system. The smart cable and Ubitricity meter simply slot into the light fitting with the other end of the smart cable plugged into the electric vehicle in question. It is then simply a case of flicking the switch, using the power supply which goes to the lighting pole and hey presto, your electric vehicle will be recharged.
Quote from ElectricForum.com: “Are we on the verge of significant savings for electric vehicles?”
Even though there will be an initial charge for the Ubitricity meter, when you bear in mind the availability of these potential new recharging stations and the relatively small cost to convert, this will be minimal in the scheme of things. In many ways this solution seems too simple, too straightforward and perhaps more importantly, too cost-effective. However, sometimes it is the simple things in life which make such a difference!
BOB SHETH|Electric Forum|October 8, 2014
Read more at ENN Affiliate Electric Forum.
Judge Blocks Potential FPL Plant Bordering Big Cypress Reservation
A circuit judge has blocked the possibility of Florida Power and Light building a power plant bordering the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in Hendry County.
It came down to one word: utilities.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida was locked in a legal battle with Florida Power and Light, Hendry County and McDaniel Reserve Realty Holdings.
The fight was over whether an ordinance the county passed in 2011 allowing for a solar and gas-powered plant to be built on property next to tribal land lined up with the Hendry County Comprehensive Plan.
The ordinance rezoned the land under a policy whose permitted uses includes, among other things, “utilities.” FPL, which owns the land, said that word meant a power plant.
Judge Donald Mason disagreed.
Samuel Tommie lives on the reservation. He has concerns about possible environmental harm and the loss of Seminole artifacts if a plant was built on the site.
Tommie said he is happy with the ruling.
“I’m glad that the judicial system is in place to hear my tribal concern,” he said. “And that I feel like that we did have a chance to put our voice out there and put our argument out there and be heard.”
FPL spokesperson Sarah Gatewood said the company is reviewing the court’s decision.
“We’ll continue to work with Hendry County and all the local stakeholders to secure all the necessary approvals that we will need for any kind of potential project on that property in the future.”
Gatewood said FPL has no specific plans for the land.
County plans wetland preserve in Fort Gratiot
People are getting a park, property owners are getting flood relief, nature is getting a hand and the county is getting a discount — all on 75 acres in Fort Gratiot.
What will be christened the Veterans Memorial Wetland Preserve began when the state Department of Environmental Quality ordered a property owner to replace or repair wetlands destroyed without permission.
The Kettlewell family spent about $512,000 mitigating the wetlands damage on a parcel along the west side of Parker Road between Keewahdin and Carrigan roads.
The St. Clair County Drain Commissioner’s office paid the Kettlewells about $155,000 to do some additional work on the site to help prevent flooding in the area served by the Howe-Brandymore Drain. And then the Kettlewell family donated the 75-acre site to the county.
Drain Commissioner Bob Wiley said a pond, flood plains and water control weirs on the parcel will mitigate surges of stormwater in the drain. Flood waters after a heavy rainfall will collect in the pond at the preserve, then will be released slowly to protect downstream property owners.
“It will help the people in the drain district and it will also be something we can utilize for a nature preserve,” Wiley said.
A wide, flat berm circling the pond will allow walkers to explore the wetlands. Wiley said he hopes to eventually to add picnic tables, benches and a more permanent walkway.
The drain commissioner’s office will purchase the weirs for about $67,000. He said the Parker Road project allows the drain commission to complete a needed project at low cost, with benefits to people in the drain district and to people looking to enjoy the outdoors.
“Pieces of the puzzle started falling into place, where we could get the project done and get this drain cleaned out and flowing better,” Wiley said. “In the process, we were able to create this really nice wetland preserve where about $500,000 in development came from a private property owner.”
Michael S. Rossow, a project manager for the engineer firm TetraTech, said the project has taken 15 years to come together. “It takes a lot of dedication, especially on the drain office’s part,” Rossow said.
Wiley said he expects the pond and wetlands to be completed by next June, but people likely will be able to walk around the property in late spring. He expects work to clean out, deepen and widen the Howe-Brandymore Drain work to be completed some time in the fall. Wiley said once the drain commission gets a price on seeding materials, he’s hoping volunteers will help to landscape the wetland preserve.
The wetlands project isn’t the only development planned for Parker Road. Fort Gratiot is buying a little more than 101 acres just north of the drain office’s new wetlands.
Fort Gratiot Supervisor Jorja Baldwin said the township was prepared to purchase the property from the Kettlewells in 2012, but township officials realized the property contained some wetland violations.
Baldwin said the township would not have been able to afford to fix the violations.
The Kettlewells resolved those violations by creating and restoring about 20 acres of wetlands on the drain office’s property, Baldwin said.
“By creating all of these wetlands, the property that we were interested in, which had a wetland violation, has now been mitigated,” Baldwin s aid. She said the township lawyer is reviewing a purchase agreement for the more than 100 acres of property for about $270,000. Baldwin said the property would be used for Little League diamonds and soccer fields. Baldwin said the township currently leases property on State Road from the Port Huron Area School District for baseball leagues.
She said the lease is year to year, and the fields are becoming crowded.
“Our programs are large enough that we need a permanent solution,” Baldwin said.
Soil excavated to create the wetlands will be piled on the township parcel to create a sledding hill.
She said the mixture of the sports complex property and wetland property on the west side of Parker Road, and the township bike path and Fort Gratiot Pond on the east side of Parker will make for diverse offerings for people in the area.
“What an achievement to have all this — to have 100 acres within a mile of your commercial district,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin said the Parker Road property will be purchased with the township’s share of parks millage money.
“We’re purchasing it with our parks millage money, but it’s not going to leave a tremendous amount of money for development,” Baldwin said.
“We’ll have to fundraise to develop sports fields.”
Beth LeBlanc|Times Herald
EPA working on new permit rules to better protect wetlands
The Environmental Protection Agency is working on new development regulations aimed at reducing the loss of wetlands in areas such as Southwest Florida.
“We’re trying to protect stream systems, specifically those stream systems that have connectivity to downstream waters,” said Thomas McGill, chief of Wetlands Coastal and Ocean branch for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Waters near rivers and streams are protected (under the proposed rule).”
Dozens of residents, politicians, scientists from EPA and FGCU met at the Harborside Event Center Tuesday to discuss federal permits and loss of wetlands in Southwest Florida.
EPA’s new rule will look at what waters are considered to be waters of the United States — systems protected under the Clean Water Act. It’s meant to clear up confusion between EPA — which comments on environmental impacts — and the Army Corps, the permit issuing agency.
That confusion has led to the loss of some wetlands in Southwest Florida and across the country.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report this year that says Lee County lost 8.7 percent of its wetlands, and Collier has lost 3 percent over a six-year period. Southwest Florida is considered one of the “hot spots” in the nation for wetland loss.
Fifty percent or more of wetlands in Lee and Collier have been lost since 1850, and, despite federal laws and regulations designed to protect those wetlands, the loss continues.
“In the ’80s and early ’90s, people started realizing that what happens upstream effects downstream,” said Win Everham, an FGCU ecology professorate. “What we used to have were seasonal wetlands all over the landscape, and we’ve replaced them with stormwater ponds. We’re becoming the land of 10,000 ponds.”
Brad Cornell, with Audubon Florida, compared historic maps of Florida’s uplands and wetlands to what the landscape looks like today. The old map shows uplands, seasonal wetlands, shallow wetlands, deep wetlands and lakes and rivers. The modern map looks like a gray grid.
“We have lost a lot of the uplands — they’ve been turned into retail and agriculture — and almost all of the shallow wetlands are gone,” said Brad Cornell, with Audubon Florida. “We’ve lost about 40 percent since 1850, and 70 percent of the shallow wetlands. And it has a consequence for life in Southwest Florida, whether you’re a bird or a human.”
In 1850, Audubon estimates there were 2.5 million wading birds in the Everglades system — which includes the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee, Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park.
As of 1995, 90 percent of those birds were gone, and now an estimated 100,000 wading birds are all that’s left in South Florida.
The forum was hosted by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, which held a similar lunch presentation Tuesday in Naples.
Conservancy Policy Director Jennifer Hecker said the public will be better off addressing these ecological issues now than in the future.
“It’s just going to add to the total price tag, because we’re going to have to do even more to restore those wetlands than if we do it now,” she said.
Lee County’s wetlands have been lost mostly to agriculture, mining and development.
Chad Gillis|news-press.com|October 15, 2014
Ranchers hoping state will help preserve land
DESOTO COUNTY – There is no sign advertising the Candy Bar Ranch, no big arched entrance or folksy logo, just a gravel drive off State Road 72 and a plain metal gate.
Like many of his neighbors in this rural area 17 miles east of Myakka River State Park on the border between Sarasota and DeSoto counties, Candy Bar owner Jim Lanier likes to fly under the radar. He’s even reticent to talk about how many cattle he has. Cows are like cash here, and it’s never wise to boast about how much money you have lying around.
Lately, though, Lanier has been eager to invite visitors onto his property, smiling from underneath his cowboy hat as he shows off the 838 acres of pine woods, marshes, oak hammocks and broad pastures. The 73-year-old rancher has been busy extolling Candy Bar’s conservation value. He wants to leave a legacy, one that would safeguard the ranch from development.
Candy Bar is among 10 ranches covering 13,116 acres in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties that are included in two new applications to the state’s Florida Forever land conservation program.
The properties include rare habitats, three miles of Myakka River frontage and a range of imperiled species. Two of the ranches are adjacent to Myakka River State Park. All are connected to a wide swath of conservation land surrounding the park.
Ranch owners and conservation groups are hoping to capitalize on an expected influx of state tax revenue into Florida Forever to expand on the extensive corridor of preserved lands in eastern Sarasota County.
Such conservation efforts had little chance of securing state funding in recent years after lawmakers drastically reduced the Florida Forever budget during the Great Recession. But property owners and conservation leaders say they are encouraged by a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would devote an estimated $5 billion in real estate taxes collected over 10 years to land-buying efforts in Florida.
“We want to get landowners interested in conservation on the list for when funding becomes available,” said Debi Osborne, who developed one of the recent Florida Forever applications as director of land protection for the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast in Osprey.
Polls show the ballot proposal is extremely popular, but even if the amendment does not pass, Gov. Rick Scott and his opponent Charlie Crist are talking about devoting much more state tax revenue to conservation.
The ranchlands near the Myakka River east of Interstate 75 – and farther east toward the Peace River – have become a focal point in the region for protecting water resources, wildlife habitat and traditional agricultural uses. Many large tracts have already been preserved, increasing the conservation value of surrounding properties.
The area resembles a large green jigsaw puzzle on maps, with various preserves named after long-time ranching families. As the real estate market picks up and development kicks back into gear, conservation advocates are racing to add key pieces before they are lost to other purposes.
More than 100,000 acres already have been protected in the region known as the Myakka Island, making the total conservation holdings larger than 22 of 58 national parks.
The centerpiece of the conservation corridor is the 37,000-acre Myakka River State Park. State and county officials have slowly worked to buffer the park, established in 1934, by purchasing conservation easements on nearby ranches or buying them outright.
“The area’s resource value is so high for so many reasons,” said Julie Morris, director of conservation for Venice-based Wildlands Conservation.
Morris helped assemble a seven-ranch deal in Sarasota and DeSoto counties that includes the Candy Bar property. The ranches were added to the Florida Forever priority acquisition list in June. The project would extend the eastern edge of the Myakka Island corridor of preserved lands. Another three ranches in Sarasota and Manatee counties are included in the Florida Forever funding application put together by Osborne. That proposal is being evaluated by state officials today to determine if it should be a funding priority.
All 10 ranches connect to existing conservation areas around the Myakka Island.
Protecting large, unbroken tracts of undeveloped land has “tremendous” value for wildlife, Morris said. Many species struggle when isolated by development into smaller populations or are “sensitive to human activities.”
The local ranches contain ecosystems considered especially important to protect, including a “very rare” expanse of dry prairie and thousands of acres of pine flatwoods, which are being lost to development at a rapid clip. Other distinguishing features include the Myakka River waterfront, a sawgrass marsh and significant tracts of relatively pristine wetlands and forests.
The ranches are home to imperiled species such as the crested caracara, eastern indigo snake and wood stork. Black bears, bobcats, deer and wild turkeys all roam the area.
Limiting development on the properties also helps recharge groundwater supplies and curtail water pollution, Morris said.
The Myakka Island has been targeted by local conservationists because it represents one of the last, best chances to preserve large chunks of contiguous land in the Sarasota region. Such properties are under increasing development pressure.
Among the three parcels included in the Florida Forever application going before state officials today is the McCall Ranch, now being called the Orange Hammock Ranch.
A 15,000-home development once was proposed for the land, which is within the city of North Port, but the project fell apart during the recession.
The property owner recently filed for bankruptcy protection, and the ranch was claimed by the mortgage holder, who is interested in selling, Osborne said. Developers have explored buying sections of the ranch, which conservationists covet because of its location near other preserved lands and vast expanse of undisturbed natural areas.
Another property included in the same proposal – Triangle Ranch in Manatee County – also has been up for sale. The owner said in a letter to the state that he wants to see the land preserved but can’t be picky about the buyer.
“It may well fall into the hands of someone with little, if any, interest in its unique conservation value,” wrote owner Anthony G. Carlton, a distant relative of the Carlton family that sold significant conservation holdings to Sarasota County.
Triangle Ranch – one of the properties bordering Myakka River State Park – has such high conservation value that the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast secured an option to buy the land, but still must find funding. The Myakka River snakes through the ranch and the property has 220 acres of sawgrass marsh that are considered important for the river’s water quality.
Farther east, the seven-ranch deal on the border between Sarasota and DeSoto counties is in an area where phosphate mining companies have been active.
Lanier, the Candy Bar Ranch owner, calls phosphate mining “the big gorilla in the canary cage.”
“They’re buying properties in this area,” Lanier said, adding: “We feel pretty strongly about keeping this corridor in agriculture out here if at all possible and of course this amendment is going to have a lot to do with the outcome of that.”
Even if the constitutional amendment passes, though, it will take years for state officials to work their way through the Florida Forever priority list. Lack of recent funding has contributed to a huge backlog of conservation priorities.
State Department of Environmental Protection officials estimate the total value of the 2 million acres already added to the Florida Forever priority acquisition list at nearly $5 billion. Conservation advocates say that’s a conservative figure, and put the the value closer to $10 billion.
Yet only $129 million has been devoted to the program over the last six years, less than half of what lawmakers once spent every year to buy conservation lands in Florida.
The constitutional amendment would ensure the state goes back to earmarking hundreds of millions annually towards conservation programs, but the backlog of projects means funding could still be tight.
To stretch available dollars, state officials often focus on acquisitions that include matching funds, whether from local governments, private individuals, or other sources.
Sarasota County voters approved a special tax for conservation purchases. Most of the annual tax revenue is obligated to pay off bonds sold to finance previous land deals, although there is $2.1 million available for property acquisition next year.
Conservation easements also tend to be looked on more favorably by state officials, a fact that could help the Southwest Florida ranch deals. The easements are cheaper than buying land outright. They restrict development, but ownership and land management remain in private hands.
That is important for Lanier and his neighbors, who want to see agricultural activities continue on their ranches.
Born in Arcadia, Lanier grew up working his family’s DeSoto County ranch.
He became a veterinarian and owned the Animal Medical Clinic in Sarasota before handing the business over to partners eight years ago.
Running the Candy Bar Ranch still keeps Lanier plenty busy, though. He maintains a herd of Charbray cattle on the ranch, which he bought from a family that had owned it for generations.
The daily routine varies. In recent weeks it has centered around mowing the pastures to keep the weeds down. That might seem tedious to some, but Lanier finds it therapeutic, calling his John Deere mower his “psychiatrist.”
“You can solve a lot of the world’s problems as you bump along,” he joked recently while riding around the property in a cowboy hat, black jeans and a plaid short-sleeve shirt, his four-door Toyota truck bouncing slowly over dirt tracks worn into the pasture and pine forests.
Along the trail are pens for trapping wild hogs, drinking ponds for the cattle, a friend’s beehives, solar-powered wells and feeding stations for wild game. A flock of up to 30 turkeys regularly visits the ranch house. The Charbray hide from the sun in shady groves.
The landscape changes from seasonal wetlands to wide pastures and undisturbed forests. Pointing to a dense hammock of cabbage palm and oaks, Lanier remarks on how beautiful the trees are when they sway in a breeze.
He finds beauty everywhere on the ranch: The spiky expanses of saw palmettos that stretch underneath the pines, the long black bodies of the eastern indigo snakes.
“I would sure rest better in my grave knowing this was still in agricultural use and not a shopping center,” he said.
Vote Yes on 1
On November 4, a historic conservation initiative will give Florida voters a chance to directly decide the future of Florida’s water and environmental sensitive lands. The Florida Water and Land Conservation, Amendment 1, dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.
Protecting our water is a critical area of focus for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. We are a strong and active supporter of Amendment 1 and encourage citizens to Vote Yes on 1 on November 4. This amendment is our best opportunity to address threats to water quality and keep pollution out of our waters without any increase in taxes.
The Conservancy joins many others in endorsing Amendment 1 – including the Florida Water and Land Legacy, a coalition of conservation and civic organizations, businesses and concerned citizens who share the mission of protecting Florida’s most cherished waters and natural areas.
This group was successful in placing Amendment 1 on the ballot, giving Florida voters the chance to support clean drinking water, protect our beaches, rivers, lakes and streams and restore our natural treasures including the Everglades. In addition, Amendment 1 has received the endorsement of The News-Press.
You can support the campaign in a number of ways:
• Sharing Facebook and Twitter posts,
• Forwarding informational emails to your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues;
• Submitting a letter to the editor of your local paper, explaining the importance of Amendment 1
To learn more and find out how you can help, call Conservancy Environmental Policy Specialist Jeremy Frantz at (239) 262-0304 x267 or visit http://voteyeson1fl.org.
Cadillac Announces Its Latest Plug-In Hybrid Car: The CT6
Global product chief Mark Reuss has set the stage next year for the debut of Cadillac’s newest rear-wheel-drive, luxury sedan: the CT6. The Cadillac CT6 will be the highest-end product out of the current model range, sitting just above the CTS and the XTS thanks to its 8 inch longer body and 25 kilogram weight-loss.
GM has even patented their new-improved wielding technique which Reuss claims allows the use of an innovative mix of aluminum and high-strength steels with stamped and cast parts, which in turn will provide a much stiffer shell. Reuss himself called it “The world’s most advanced body structure.” This should lead to both a quieter, and more comfortable ride.
According to The Detroit News, Reuss has announced that the CT6 will boast a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. In addition to this, there will in fact be a plug-in hybrid version, with the ability to reach an impressive 70 miles per gallon.
The CT6 faces fierce competition as it is set to battle it out with the likes of: the Audi A8, the BMW 7 Series and the Jaguar S-Class, because of its size, stature, and presumably similar price range. Despite this though, new president of Cadillac, Johan de Nysschen claims that it will not be competing in the same class as the Cadillac CT6.
The Daily Kanban recently reported that de Nysschen said: “CT6 is not positioned against S-Class, 7 Series or [Audi] A8. It will have more advanced technology, better dynamics, similar refinement but it is smaller.”
The design of the new hybrid vehicle hasn’t been unveiled yet, but many are speculating it may take design cues from Cadillac’s forthcoming Elmiraj. But is this just a way of fueling the fire and adding heat to the competition?
De Nysschen seems confident that the Cadillac will outperform its German and English rivals. We already know that the CT6 is due to be a whopping 350 kilograms lighter than the 7 series. With those kinds of promises, it’s easy to see why Reuss, de Nysschen and the Cadillac team may currently be feeling smug.
Cadillac is starting to up their game with the success of the CTS which won over many of its critics. Sales were also up with 2013 proving to be a very good year for Cadillac and consequently its parents company General Motors too. Despite a decrease in last months sales of 1.3% in the US, on the global front Cadillac really isn’t doing too badly. A 10% sales increase in 2014 through to August shows how well sales have been progressing, mainly because of sales gains in China.
And it’s not just sales that are up too – Cadillac’s average transaction price has been over $49,000, which trumps rival German luxury brands.
The question now is, can they keep up this strong, productive and driven motive? We’ll have to wait til late next year to find out, but if one thing’s for sure, it’s that Cadillac is most definitely not to be taken lightly.
Callum Newcombe|October 7, 2014
Mercedes-Benz Unveils the Future Truck 2025: A Self-Driving Truck That Can Save Thousands of Lives Every Year
Mercedes-Benz Unveils the Future Truck 2025: A Self-Driving Truck That Can Save Thousands of Lives Every Year
Mercedes-Benz has taken another giant step towards autonomous driving, as they recently officially unveiled the Future Truck 2025, an invention that Mercedes is hoping will revolutionize the haulage business, in their favor.
Though the project was announced in July, Mercedes has just recently given us even more of an insight in to what the Future Truck could do, and its features.
It seems that Mercedes is spearheading the promotion of the Future Truck 2025 with the angle of safety. They claim that the Future Truck 2025 will save thousands of life each year because as Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, a board member for Daimler, explains, “Once the highway pilot takes over, it never get’s tired, it’s always 100 sharp, it’s never angry, it’s never distracted,” taking away many of the flaws of a human pilot.
While many may see this as a great improvement and another step in the right direction towards completely hands-free driving, others are likely to see this leading to widespread job cuts across the haulage industry. But as Mercedes and Daimler are keen to stress in the promotional video that was launched, the driver is still very much essential to the operation.
The driver still has to drive to and merge on to the highway and reach a set speed in which the highway pilot will take over. The driver’s seat then rotates 45 degrees, leaving the driver able to focus their attention on other factors of their journey in a more comfortable position. The cockpit features a chic decor with a spacious design. If the exterior isn’t quite futuristic enough for you then you can be assured that inside the Future Truck 2025, that the modern days average trucker’s cockpit interior design is not at all apparent.
Some of the most notable features on the Future Truck 2025 are actually the lack of some industry standard features. Headlights have been scrapped, and instead are LEDs which look fantastic. They possess an ambient and gracious quality while at the same time are a great indicator of who is controlling the vehicle at any point, as the colors change from a white to a blue once the highway pilot becomes the primary driver of the vehicle.
Another drastic change in the current design of the Future Truck 2025 are the cameras that now replace the wing-mirrors.
Another smart idea that definitely has its benefits, not to mention inner-city driving, but the cameras give a clearer and much broader picture of what’s on the road for the driver to see.
The Future Truck may be over a decade away according to Mercedes, but the goal makes clear their desire to lead the race in revolutionizing the future haulage business. It’s a given that the current prototype will probably be a completely different vehicle by the time that Daimler and laws are ready for the production of these kinds of vehicles, but it will be interesting to see whether proposed changes and introductions will stick or whether more improvements will be in place by the time that these kinds of vehicles hit the roads.
Callum Newcombe|October 7, 2014
FRA releases DEIS for Public Comment on All Aboard Florida Project
PRESS RELEASE NUMBER: DOT 10-14
CONTACT: FRA Public Affairs
SUBJECT: Environmental Protection
KEYWORDS: AAF, All Aboard Florida, NEPA, DEIS
ABSTRACT: WASHINGTON – The U. S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Orlando to West Palm Beach section (Phase II) of All Aboard Florida – Operations LLC’s (AAF) passenger rail Project.
WASHINGTON – The U. S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Orlando to West Palm Beach section (Phase II) of All Aboard Florida – Operations LLC’s (AAF) passenger rail Project.
“Our role is to ensure compliance with federal environmental laws so that communities remain safe and experience as few adverse impacts from this project as possible,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “That is why we are having a robust comment period to hear from as many people as possible before any other action is taken.”
The DEIS is a milestone in the clearance process for all known environmental impacts before pre-engineering, design and construction can begin on the Project. Publication of the DEIS begins a comprehensive 75-day public comment period that is nearly twice as long as the time period required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. The DEIS examines four alternatives, including a No-Action Alternative for the 168.5 mile proposed alignment between West Palm Beach and Orlando. The document includes environmental analysis for both Phase I and Phase II, and lays out potential impacts from the project on cultural resources, navigation, wetlands, floodplains, biological resources and natural ecological systems, as well as land use.
Although the overall environmental impact of the project will be minimal, with some beneficial impacts anticipated in air quality, transportation efficiency and noise, the document identifies a dozen adverse impacts across four alternatives. The DEIS proposes nineteen distinct mitigation strategies for the adverse impacts identified.
“Public involvement and input is critical in evaluating alternatives and ensuring a thorough analysis of all aspects of the project,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “The FRA welcomes public involvement in this process and is committed to ensuring AAF’s compliance with all applicable Federal standards and regulations.”
FRA invites the public, governmental agencies, and all other interested parties to provide written comments on the DEIS. Public information meetings on the DEIS will be held throughout the comment period. Complete information on the comment process, public open houses, and the full DEIS can be found on either the FRA or AAF websites, www.allaboardflorida.com or www.fra.dot.gov.
The Administration is publishing this document in coordination with the Federal Aviation Authority, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Public notice will be made through a notice in the Federal Register, newspaper ads, and press releases.
FRA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in January 2013 for Phase I of AAF’s Project, which would provide rail service on the 66.5 miles between West Palm Beach and Miami. Although the DEIS was initiated for Phase II of the Project, (West Palm Beach to Orlando), the document analyzes the cumulative effects of both phases of the Project since train operations will cover the full corridor between Miami and Orlando.
AAF currently has an application pending for a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Although the NEPA process and the consideration of a RRIF loan are separate and distinct processes, the environmental review is a mandated prerequisite for eligibility and consideration of a RRIF loan.
AAF’s Project proposes to construct and operate a privately owned and operated 235-mile intercity passenger railroad system that would connect Orlando with Miami, with intermediate stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The Project would be implemented in phases and includes adding double track to existing rail right-of-way between Cocoa and Miami and building a new rail right-of way between Cocoa and Orlando. The Project would include 32 passenger trains daily and travel between 79 mph and 125 mph.
U.S. Department of Transportation|Office of Public Affairs|Washington D.C.|Sep19, 2014
Plastic bag makers launch push to overturn ban
Plastic bag manufacturers on Friday passed their first hurdle in their effort to delay and eventually repeal California’s new ban on single-use plastic shopping bags before it takes effect.
The office of Attorney General Kamala Harris cleared the way for the groups to begin collecting signatures for a referendum on the ban on the November 2016 ballot.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 30 signed the first statewide ban on plastic bags, citing a “torrent” of plastic pollution in parks and waterways. It followed one of the fiercest legislative battles of the year.
If opponents of the law submit more than 500,000 signatures by January, the ban would not take effect until voters weigh in.
A national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers says voters will be on their side when they learn the law, SB270, authorizes a 10-cent fee for paper bags that are now often provided for free.
“If this law were all owed to go into effect, it would jeopardize thousands of California manufacturing jobs, hurt the environment, and fleece consumers for billions so grocery store shareholders and their union partners can line their pockets,” Lee Califf, executive director of the American Plastic Bag Alliance, said in a news release.
Under the state ban, l agree grocery stores must stop carrying single-use bags by July 2015. Pharmacies, liquor stores and convenience stores must comply the next year.
An environmental group that supports the ban has vowed to fight the referendum. “We are confident that Californians will repeat history by rejecting an effort by an out-of-state, special-interest, polluter-funded misinformation campaign to overturn a popular law,” Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, said in a news release.
Records show the American Plastic Bag Alliance has spent at least $140,000 lobbying the California Legislature and the governor’s office in the first six months of the year.
Fenit Nirappil|Associated Press|10/11/14
Top 10 Most Important Items to Recycle
Recycling is one of the most important things we can do to preserve our planet.
On a daily basis, more than 100 million Americans participate in recycling used and old materials in their household and offices.
Are you one of them? Or are you trying to sort which items you can recycle and which ones belong in the compost or the garbage?
To help you out, the National Recycling Coalition has put together a list the top ten most important items to recycle.
#1: Aluminum. This is because aluminum cans are 100 percent recyclable and can also be recycled over and over again. Even better, turning recycled cans into new cans takes 95 percent less energy than making brand-new ones. So how about starting with all those soda and juice cans?
#2: PET Plastic Bottles. Americans will buy about 25 billion single-serving bottles of water this year, according to the Container Recycling Institute. Worse yet, nearly 80 percent of those bottles will end up in a landfill. Let’s put a stop to that. Making plastic out of recycled resources uses about two-thirds less energy than making new plastic. And because plastic bottles, more than any other type of plastic, are the most commonly used type, they are usually the easiest to recycle.
#3: Newspaper. This is a pretty obvious one, right? It seems like a no-brainer to set up a recycling bin next to your garbage can for newspaper and any other scrap paper. So why should we recycle paper? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, paper makes up about one-third of the all the municipal waste stream in the U.S. That’s a whole lot of paper, and since we know that recycling all that paper conserves resources, saves energy, and doesn’t clog up the landfills, there’s no reason not to do it.
Once you have those in place, let’s move on to the rest of our list.
#4: Corrugated Cardboard. Old corrugated cardboard (OCC) represents a significant percentage of the commercial solid waste stream. In 1996, the U.S. generated 29 million tons of OCC, or 13.8% of our municipal waste stream. Approximately 90% of that comes from the commercial or non-residential sector, the places where we work. So next time UPS delivers a big box to your office, be sure to break it down and recycle it. (After you’ve emptied it, of course.)
#5: Steel cans. Just like aluminum, steel products can be recycled over again without compromising the quality of the steel. We’re talking about steel cans, but maybe you have some steel auto parts or appliances ready for recycling too? More than 80 million tons of steel are recycled each year in North America, and recycling steel saves the equivalent energy to power 18 million households a year. You can learn more about steel recycling by visiting the Steel Recycling Institute website.
#6: HDPE plastic bottles (HDPE stands for high-density polyethylene, a common and more dense plastic, which is used for detergents, bleach, shampoo, milk jugs.) HDPE plastics are identified by the logo on the bottom of the container. (Three arrows in the shape of a triangle.) Check the number inside that logo: numbers 1 and 2 are recyclable almost everywhere, but 3 through 7 are only recyclable in limited areas. And don’t forget to rinse and clean all of your HDPE containers in the sink. Any remaining dirt or food particles can contaminate the recycling process.
#7: Glass containers. Recycled glass saves 50 percent energy versus virgin glass, and recycling just one glass container saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours. Recycled glass generates 20 percent less air pollution and 50 percent less water pollution, and one ton of glass made from 50 percent recycled materials saves 250 pounds of mining waste. Wow!
#8: Magazines and #9: Mixed paper. There are so many reasons to recycle all kinds of paper that it makes no sense not to. First, recycled paper saves 60 percent of energy versus virgin paper, and also generates 95 percent less air pollution. Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water. Sadly, though, every year Americans throw away enough paper to make a 12-foot wall from New York to California. Let’s work on changing that!
#10: Computers. Computers can be recycled in a couple of ways, depending on the state of the machine. Giving old, working computers to friends and family members or donating them to nonprofit organizations not only keeps the computer entirely out of the waste stream, but it presents computer access to someone who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Non-working computers can be sent to recycling centers where they are dismantled and valuable components are recovered.
Of course, there’s also reducing and reusing, and if you choose those, you will have even less to recycle!
Judy Molland|October 14, 2014
27 Awesome Ways to Reuse Food Scraps
1. Make broth. Celery tops, onion and garlic skins, carrot peels, and other food scraps are great for flavoring your vegetable broth. Just save the scraps in a freezer-safe container until you have enough to cook them up. When the broth is done, strain out the solids and toss them into your compost bin.
2. Use old lemon peels to infuse liquor. Check out this simple recipe for lemon brandy. You can also use this technique to make lemon vodka, rum, tequila…pretty much any liquor you like!
3. Save those kale stalks. Most recipes for kale and other dark leafy greens call for removing the leaves from the stems, but there is a lot of nutrition in those kale stalks! Try this recipe for kale stalks with chili and garlic.
4. A small slice of citrus peel keeps brown sugar from hardening. Just make sure that you store the sugar in the refrigerator, so the peel doesn’t rot.
5. Is your garbage disposer stinky? Throw citrus peels into the garbage disposer to destink it.
6. Apple peels make a tasty tea. If you want to make this recipe vegan, go for agave nectar or maple syrup in place of the honey or skip the sweetener all together.
7. Use apple peels to clean aluminum cookware. You can get the deets from DIY Network.
8. You can actually eat carrots without peeling them, but if you want to peel your carrots, save the peels. You can use them to make carrot oil, which is a great addition to your DIY beauty regimen.
9. Cucumber peels deter pests. You can find a list here of how to use cucumbers to deter ants, moths, mites, wasps, and silverfish.
10. Reuse those broccoli stems. Like kale stems broccoli stalks have tons of nutritional value. Just slice away the tough outer skin and try some of these recipes!
11. Does your kiddo eat his sandwiches with the crusts cut off? Save the crusts in a container in the fridge and grind them into breadcrumbs.
12. After making almond milk, dry the leftover pulp in the oven and use it in any recipe calling for almond flour. Try these almond flour muffins to start.
13. Next time you get a bunch of beets, save the leafy tops. Wash them well to get all of the dirt off, and you can cook them up just like you would Swiss chard, a close relative to the beet.
14. Did someone say chard? Check out this recipe for quick-pickled Swiss chard stems!
15. After cutting the top off of your pineapple, don’t toss it in the compost. You can actually use that top to grow another pineapple.
16. Save the bottoms of your green onions, too. You can plant them in a pot or your garden to grow new onions.
17. Speaking of onions, you can use the skins to make fabric dye. Both yellow onions and red onions work to make dye.
18. Reuse celery leaves. Celery tops are full of nutrients and flavor. Green Talk shows you lots of ways to cook and store celery leaves.
19. Use coffee grounds to deodorize your hands and cutting board after chopping garlic and onions. Rub them on, then rinse away. It seriously works like magic!
20. Next time you make a romaine salad, save the lettuce hearts to grow more lettuce. Here’s how!
21. Use potato peels as a natural remedy for warts.
22. You can reuse the pulp left from juicing veggies to make broth. Just like tip #1, you’ll probably want to strain out the solids when the broth is done.
23. Leftover fruit pulp adds fiber and vitamins to your smoothies.
24. Instead of tossing peach pits into your compost, try this recipe for peach pit jelly.
25. Got tomato scraps? Use them to make tomato sauce.
26. Save those cracker crumbs. The crumbs from the bottom of that bag of crackers work great as breading or to top off a casserole. If there aren’t enough in the box, mix them with your other breadcrumbs. Maybe crumbs you made from those bread crusts (#11)?
27. Infuse vinegar with citrus peels. Just like with infused liquors, you can experiment with different sorts of citrus and different vinegars.
Got some food scraps that are destined for your trash or compost bin?
Before you toss those out, take a look at these creative ways to reuse them.
We have a serious food waste problem. While a lot of the food that goes to waste worldwide is on the supply side, we as consumers can do our part to reduce food waste as well. These ways to reuse food scraps are just one aspect of how we as consumers can reduce food waste. Check out some of these articles for more tips and ideas to reduce food waste at home:
With 30-40 percent of our global food supply going to waste, anything that we can do to maximize the food we have can help. Check out these awesome ways to reuse food scraps to help you put a dent in the food waste in your kitchen!
Pig supplies rebounding from virus
Litters, feed supplies up, but issue not eradicated
DES MOINES, Iowa — A virus that killed millions of baby pigs in the past year and led to higher pork prices has waned thanks to warmer weather and farmers’ efforts to sterilize their operations. And as pigs’ numbers increase, sticker shock on things like bacon should ease. Already, hog supplies are on the rise, with 5.46million baby pigs born between June and August in Iowa, the nation’s leading producer — the highest quarterly total in 20 years and a record 10.7 surviving pigs per litter, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.
It’s a significant turnaround from a year ago when the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus was wiping out entire litters. Since the virus first showed up, the federal government rushed to give conditional approval for a vaccine, and those in the industry began taking precautions, such as disinfecting trucks, equipment and clothing.
“We’ve gotten better at managing biosecurity and establishing health protocols,” said Greg Lear, a producer near Spencer, Iowa, who lost more than 800 baby pigs last December. “I think Mother Nature helped us with sunshine. It doesn’t like sunshine and warmer temperatures.”
It’s clear the industry is managing the virus, but it’s far from eradicated. Two new cases were confirmed by South Dakota veterinary officials in the past week, bringing the state’s total to 38 farms. And there’s reason to be cautious, Lear said, as the virus thrives in colder, wetter environments like those found in fall and winter.
As baby pigs died across the country, pork supplies dropped and prices rose, setting a monthly average retail record of $4.20 per pound the week of Aug. 14 — an 11percent increase over the $3.76-per-pound a year earlier, the USDA said.
Consumers didn’t seem to be scared by the high prices, though, as demand dropped only about 3 percent in the most recent quarter compared with a year ago, the USDA said.
“We’ve been talking for some time about consumers starting to push back, and we have seen that in certain degrees — but not maybe what we had expected,” said Lee Schulz, a livestock economist and assistant professor at Iowa State University. “From a pure price standpoint, it’s a bit surprising that we’ve seen such robust demand.”
This year’s anticipated record-breaking corn and soybean harvests are playing a role in increased producer profits as well, because of a drop in the cost of feed.
Producers are hoping to cash in by raising more hogs. Missouri reported 40,000 more sows, Iowa added 30,000, and Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana and Oklahoma each added thousands, the USDA said in a Sept. 29 report.
It takes about six months to raise a pig to market weight, so the increased supply could mean a slight drop in consumer prices this winter and a more noticeable decline in the spring, Hurt said, noting his models for profit by the end of 2015 are about $30 per animal.
David Pitt|Associated Press|10/11/14
Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey & Other A-List Celebrities Featured in Eco Video Series
Conservation International has partnered with a number of A-List celebrities, including Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Harrison Ford, Edward Norton, Robert Redford, and Penélope Cruz, to create a video series that personifies elements of our planet to explain the environmental crises we are facing from the Earth’s perspective.
As part of the campaign Nature is Speaking, each of the celebrities lend their voice to an aspect of our planet – for example, Spacey is the rainforest, Cruz is the water, Norton is the soil, and Roberts is Mother Nature. The mantra of the campaign is “Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.”
Julia Roberts is Mother Nature https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmVLcj-XKnM
Kevin Spacey is The Rain Forest https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBqMJzv4Cs8
Edward Norton is The Soil https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dor4XvjA8Wo
Robert Redford is The Redwood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e66bnuxV2A
Harrison Ford is The Ocean https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rM6txLtoaoc
Penelope Cruz is Water https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwV9OYeGN88
Ian Andrew|October 6, 2014
Let’s slow down, for the sake of ourselves and our planet
The Amazon rainforest is magnificent. Watching programs about it, we’re amazed by brilliant parrots and toucans, tapirs, anacondas and jaguars. But if you ever go there expecting to be overwhelmed by a dazzling blur of activity, you’ll be disappointed. The jungle has plenty of vegetation — hanging vines, enormous trees, bromeliads and more — and a cacophony of insects and frogs. But much of the activity goes on at night or high up in the canopy.
Films of tropical forests don’t accurately reflect the reality of the ecosystems. They’re skillfully edited shots acquired over many months. Our media-nurtured impatience and urgent sense of time often prevent us from seeing how life truly unfolds.
Nature needs time to adjust and adapt to biosphere changes. After life appeared on Earth, atmospheric oxygen gradually went from zero to 20 per cent, oceans appeared and disappeared, mountains thrust upward and then eroded, continents moved on tectonic plates, climate cycled between ice ages and warm intervals, magnetic poles reversed and re-reversed. Life flourished because species and ecosystems evolved over time.
The fossil record also indicates periods of rapid change, including mass extinctions when up to 95 per cent of living things were wiped out. Each time, survivors changed, adapted to new conditions and flourished. Still, recovery took millions of years. Humans have been around for a mere 150,000 years. We’re an infant species, but our precocity has allowed us to expand exponentially. Now our technological power and consumptive demand are undermining the planet’s life-support systems on a geologic scale.
We’ve become impatient. We’re so demanding that we’re unwilling to slow down and ensure our major projects are sustainable for human society and the biosphere. Over the past century, we’ve burned increasing amounts of finite fossil fuels that were stored and compressed over millions of years, exacerbating conditions that lead to climate chaos. We’ve clear-cut vast tracts of forest that have evolved over millennia, flooded huge areas under large dams, depleted our oceans with over-efficient fishing technology and spread vast quantities of toxic waste throughout the planet’s air, water and soil.
Governments rationalize these actions by claiming to do proper environmental assessments, but continue to impose restrictive time limits on assessment processes while reducing the number of scientists and other staff who do the work. It takes time to acquire scientific information, and it can’t always be done on a strict timetable.
If we truly desire a sustainable society, we require vibrant and abundant nature. To recognize that nature isn’t separate from us and fully understand how it provides critical services, we need patience to learn its secrets. We can’t survive, let alone be healthy and flourish, without clean air, clean water, clean soil and food, photosynthesis and biodiversity. But we’re overwhelming nature — and ourselves — with the incessant demands of our ramped-up consumer culture.
Fortunately, people are starting to remember that we’re part of nature and that what we do to the natural world we do to ourselves. They’re taking notice of the drastic impacts we’re having on Earth, our only home, and demanding that we show more care.
In New York on September 21, more than 300,000 people turned out for what was billed as the largest climate march ever, one of 2,646 marches in 162 countries. Leaders of some of the world’s largest corporations are calling for climate action and carbon pricing, and distancing themselves from organizations that have worked to stall progress. Even the heirs of the Rockefeller Standard Oil fortune announced they’ll withdraw their investments in fossil fuels, including the Alberta oil sands.
With the Blue Dot Tour, the David Suzuki Foundation and I are hoping to encourage all Canadians to become part of this growing movement to protect the air, water, soil and biodiversity that we and our children and grandchildren need to survive and be healthy. Like nature, social movements sometimes take time to evolve and unfold. We don’t always see their impacts as they happen. If we expect a dazzling blur of activity and immediate results, we’ll be disappointed.
Let’s slow down, breathe, listen, look and feel. Only then will we understand our place in the world and what we must do to live well on this small blue dot spinning in an enormous universe.
By David Suzuki.
Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area
Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area stretches for 40 miles along the course of the only free-flowing tributary to Lake Okeechobee. Framed by bald cypress swamps and hardwood hammocks, Fisheating Creek has long been valued for its scenic quality unmarred by houses and other human intrusions.
Strategically located in relation to Big Cypress Swamp, Okaloacoochee Slough, Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area, Lake Okeechobee, and the Lake Wales Ridge, Fisheating Creek is critical to the long-term welfare of Florida panthers, Florida black bears, swallow-tailed kites, whooping and sandhill cranes, crested caracara, and a number of other species native to the area.
Here you can paddle along the creek enjoying the scenery and the abundant wildlife, hunt for deer, feral hog, and Osceola turkey, fish, picnic, and camp.
Exciting Campground Changes!
Fisheating Creek campground continues to get better and better. A new vault toilet and outdoor shower are in place at the Depot swimming and camping area. One thing continues the same, our concessionaire Fisheating Creek Outpost continues to provide high quality service to campers and paddlers as well as exciting and fun interpretive programs.
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