Hard Landing For Grebes
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Here’s one to add to the list of hazards faced by migrating birds.

Thousands of migrating birds crashed throughout Southern Utah late Monday night, resulting in a marathon rescue and collection effort that is still underway.

Wildlife officials said thousands of grebes – a duck-like aquatic bird – were likely migrating toward Mexico and probably mistook the parking lot of the Cedar City Walmart and other areas as far south as Anderson’s Junction for bodies of water. Thinking they were landing to rest atop a pond or lake, the grebes plummeted to the ground.

Though thousands of birds were killed, wildlife officials and local residents have managed to save about two thousand survivors, now recuperating in a local pond.




Deal In Durban
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For anyone following the climate change talks in Durban South Africa, there hasn’t been a lot of good news. It was looking pretty likely that no deal would be reached. the Kyoto Protocols would lapse, and there would be no international framework at all to deal with global warming and its causes.

There’s been a last minute reprieve.

Countries have agreed a deal in Durban to push for a new climate treaty, salvaging the latest round of United Nations climate talks from the brink of collapse.

The UK’s cimate change secretary, Chris Huhne, hailed the deal, finally struck in the early hours of Sunday after talks had overrun by a day and a half, as a “significant step forward” that would deliver a global, overarching legal agreement to cut emissions. He said it sent a strong signal to businesses and investors about moving to a low-carbon economy.

This is really only a framework to set standards that will have to be met by 2020. The big stepm is it will be legally binding on countries big and small, developed and undeveloped. That’s sure to cause some dissension, but at least there’s a standard to dispute. It looked an awful lot like we wouldn’t evn have that, and there would be no worldwide effort to deal with greenhouse gas emissions at all, and the future would have been pushed closer to the worst-case predictions.



Hunters And Jaguars
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There was a jaguar sighting in Arizona recently. That’s rare but not unheard of, and at first glance it reads like a typical animal wandered out of its expected range story. But there’s a sub-plot here, and that secondary story involves hunters, who have discovered the jaguars, and how they’ve handled it.

Arizona Game and Fish received the report on Saturday morning from an experienced hunter using dogs to hunt mountain lions. The dogs pursued the animal and treed it 15 feet up in a mesquite tree, and the hunter was able to obtain photographs and video.

After photographing the jaguar, the hunter quickly left the area with his dogs and observed from a distant point. The jaguar remained in the tree for about 15 minutes and then headed south.

The agency says that four of the last five confirmed jaguar sightings in Arizona have been reported by hunters, who all took responsible action to document the animal, report it to Game and Fish, and remove their dogs from the area once the animal was identified as a jaguar. These hunters have provided biologists with critical information that may not otherwise be known, information that will help increase the understanding of the species’ existence in the borderland area.

These hunters all had the opportunity to shoot first and ask questions later. Instead, they took the time to fully identify the animal their dogs had treed, and did the right thing. Good for them.





Occupy The Outdoors
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While the focus of this blog is generally narrowed to environmental and outdoors concerns, there are times when events and causes transcend any attempt to separate out one issue from its greater context. In that spirit, I heartily endorse this statement from the protestors at OccupyDC.

The bold emphasis was added by me.

The Declaration of the Occupation of Washington, D.C.

Consented to in committee November 15th, 2011

We have been captives of corrupt economic and political systems for far too long. The concentration of wealth and the purchase of political power stifle the voices of the increasingly disenfranchised 99%. Corporate dominance subverts democracy, intentionally sows division, destroys the environment, obstructs the just and equitable pursuit of happiness, and violates the rights and dignity of all life.

Occupy D.C. is an open community of diverse individuals, founded on equality for the common good. We are peaceably assembled at McPherson Square, practicing direct democracy on the doorstep of K Street, the center of destructive corporate and governmental relationships. We insist that our political and economic systems serve the people’s interests. Now is the time to advance and complete the struggles of those who came before us.

We are assembled because…

It is absurd that The 1% has taken 40% of the nation’s wealth through exploiting labor, outsourcing jobs, and manipulating the tax code to their benefit through special capital tax rates and loopholes. The system is rigged in their favor, yet they cry foul when anyone even dares to question their relentless class warfare.

Candidates in our electoral system require huge sums of money to be competitive. These contributions from multi-national corporations and wealthy individuals destroy responsive representative governance. A system of backroom deals, kickbacks, bribes, and dirty politics overrides the will of the people. The rotation of decision-makers between the public and private sectors cultivates a network of public officials, lobbyists, and executives whose aligned interests do not serve the American people.

The entrenched 2-party system overlooks public interests by pursuing narrow political goals. This climate encourages candidates to polarize voters for individual power and personal gain. Citizens’ meaningful input has been compromised by gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement, and unresponsive politicians. Residents of Washington DC continue to lack autonomy and legislative representation.

Those with power have divided us from working in solidarity by perpetuating historical prejudices and discrimination based on color of skin, perceived race, immigrant or indigenous status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability, among other things.

Corporations broke the financial system by gambling with our savings, property, and economy. They needed the public to bail them out of their failures yet deny any responsibility and continue to fight oversight. They loot from those whose labor creates society’s prosperity, while the government allows them to privatize profits and socialize risk.

Corporate interests threaten life on Earth by extracting and burning fossil fuels and resisting the necessary transition to renewable energy. Their drilling, mining, clear-cutting, overfishing, and factory farming destroys the land, jeopardizes our food and water, and poisons the soil with near impunity. They privilege polluters over people by subsidizing fossil fuels, blocking investments in clean energy and efficient transportation, and hiding environmental destruction from public oversight.

Private corporations, with the government’s support, use common resources and infrastructure for short-term personal profit, while stifling efforts to invest in public goods.

The U.S. government engages in drawn-out, costly conflicts abroad. These operations are often pursued to control resources, needlessly overthrow foreign governments, and install friendly regimes. These wars destroy the lives of American soldiers and innocent civilians and are a blank check to divert money from domestic priorities.

Government authorities cultivate a culture of fear to invade our privacy, limit assembly, restrict speech, and deny due process. They have failed in their duty to protect our rights. Exacerbated by profiteering interests, the criminal justice system has unfairly targeted underprivileged communities and outspoken groups for prosecution rather than protection.

Corporatized culture warps our perception of reality. It cheapens and mocks the beauty of human thought and experience, while promoting excessive materialism as the path to happiness. The corporate news media furthers the interests of the very wealthy, distorts and disregards the truth, and confines our imagination of what is possible for ourselves and society.

Leaders are trading our access to basic needs in exchange for handouts to the ultra-wealthy. Our rights to healthcare, education, food, water, and housing are sacrificed to profit-driven market forces. They are attacking unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, creating an uncertain future for us all.*

A better world is possible. To all people,

We, the Washington D.C. General Assembly occupying K Street in McPherson Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble and reclaim the commons. Re-conceive ways to build a democratic, just, and sustainable world.

To all who value democracy, we encourage you to collaborate, and share available resources. We stand with you in solidarity.

*These grievances are not all inclusive.

Court Backs Salmon
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Pacific salmon had their day in court, and the salmon won.

A federal judge has upheld measures required to protect endangered salmon and steelhead from three toxic pesticides.

Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, made the ruling Monday in a lawsuit brought by Dow AgroSciences, Makhteshim Agan of North America, and Cheminova, Inc. USA against the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The plaintiff companies hold registrations issued by the U.S. EPA that authorize them to sell products containing three insecticides: chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion.

Note that the companies were suinf not because their pesticides were banned, but because the National Marine Fisheries Service had ruled that they couldn’t be used in such a way that they polluted the streams that salmon depend on for their survival. It wasn’t an attempt to stop the pesticide use, it was an attempt to have them used responsibly, and the companies involved objected. That’s why they lost.

The EPA didn’t come out looking to good here either, after all, they issued the permits allowing the pesticides to be used indiscriminately. And just in case anyone thinks that the only concern here is the health of a few fish, the same pesticides are linked attention deficit disorders and development delays in children.




Coal Ash In Lake Michigan
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In the halls of Congress, Republicans are pushing legislation that would prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash as a hazardous material. Meanwhile, in the real world, real problems remain.

A section of bluff, including part of an ash-filled ravine, collapsed Monday beside the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant, sending coal ash, soil and mud onto the Lake Michigan coast.

A pickup truck, dredging equipment, diesel fuel tanks, mud and other debris landed in the lake along with an undetermined amount of coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal for electricity.

The usual assurances are being made that no harm was done, and nothing hazardous was dumped in the lake, but here’s something to keep in mind whenever the antiregulation forces, and companies that pollute, try to tell everyone that we don’t really need to worry about this stuff.

Coal ash contains 24 known pollutants, some of which, according to the National Research Council, are toxic even in miniscule quantities. Those toxins include: arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, and dioxins, along with other chemicals and compounds.



A Future For The Minnesota River
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While it features one of the largest wildlife refuges in the state, and features several smaller parks and recreation areas, for the most part the Minnesota River, as it runs through southern Minnesota, has been treated as a combination garbage dump and nuisance by the communities it flows past. The result is a river that, even though most of its length remains unaffected by development, has more than its share of pollution, and much less of its share as an outdoor resource than other rivers in the state.

That may be in the process of changing.

After decades of neglect and abuse, cities and counties along the volatile banks of the Minnesota River are plotting billions of dollars in riverside developments and spending millions to buy and refurbish land, bridges, trails and parks.

Some believe the movement will finally unlock the river’s potential as a recreational hub and a magnet for development.

“For 60 years we’ve viewed it as more of a nuisance than a resource,” said Tim Lies, the mayor of Belle Plaine. “Even in a riverfront city like mine, people don’t understand it, or are afraid of it, or are living under old ideas about how dirty and unmanageable it is.”

But decades into an agonizingly slow and monumentally expensive cleanup, a vision is forming of a third major amenity alongside the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers.

“Eventually, the way things are going, you will have 80 miles of riverfront from Fort Snelling to Le Sueur almost totally in public hands,” said Mark Themig, Scott County’s chief of parks and trails, “That’s a huge, incredible resource — far surpassing in some senses even the St. Croix.”

What the heck, let’s think really big and extend thye planning all the way past St. Peter to Mankato. A system of trails and parks along the Minnesota would bring fishermen, hunters, campers, bikers and hikers, and the money they spend to a part of the state that can certainly use it.


National Park News
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There are a few items of interest involving the national parks today. First up, it appears the Coca-Cola company used its influence to stop a proposed plan to ban  plastic bottles in the Grand Canyon.

Weary of plastic litter, Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon late last year when the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan after conversations with Coca-Cola, a major donor to the National Park Foundation.

Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled.

His account was confirmed by park, foundation and company officials.

Meanwhile, the coming Veteran’s Day weekend is the last free admission weekend for over 100 national parks and monuments this year. Before taking off to a trip to your favorite park, it’s worth taking a look at the latest report from the National Parks Conservation Association on the toll that the budget impasse and related cuts are taking on the national parks. If you’re a lover of our parks and outdoor heritage, it’s a definite case of read it and weep.

Bringing Back A Bay
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When an environment like the Chesapeake Bay has been messed up enough to create dead zones, it’s takes effort and a lot of time to bring it back. But we are learning that it can be done.

Efforts to heal Chesapeake Bay are working, finds new research from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science that incorporates 60 years of water quality data.

 Reductions in the flow of fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants into the nation’s largest estuary have reduced the size of oxygen-starved dead zones in the bay, where plants and water animals cannot live, the scientists discovered.

The healing began in the 1980s, when a concerted effort to cut nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay was initiated through the multistate-federal Chesapeake Bay Program. The goal was to restore the water quality and health of the bay.

Chesapeake Bay isn’t completely back yet, but we now know that efforts to repair a damaged environment can actually work, But it takes commitment of resources, and time. The question then becomes, do we have the necessary resolve to keep doing it?

Tree Falls, People Hear It
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You may have heard by now of the huge Sequoia tree that toppled in Giant Sequoia National Monument. What you may not have heard is that it toppled across a popular handicapped accessible trail, prompting a discussion of what to do about it.

When you’re dealing with a 1,500-year-old sequoia in a national monument, the questions aren’t just logistical. They’re environmental, emotive and potentially legal.

Officials closed the popular tourist trail, cleared the debris and solicited ideas from the public on how to deal with the fallen giant — actually two trees fused at the base.

Among the 30 or so suggestions: Reroute the trail. Tunnel under the trunks. Carve steps and build a bridge over them. Sell what would be one heck of a lot of firewood.

My guess is that they will basically do nothing. leave the fallen tree as a spectacular example of the vagaries of nature, and route a new trail around it, with the fallen tree as its centerpiece.

Infolinks 2013