Sen. Cruz and Sen. Lee, Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee, poke fun at dead tigers

April 28, 2014

Ted Cruz, demonstrating that he is of the Not Ready For Honorable Service Club, posted this photo on his Facebook page, ridiculing the Endangered Species Act and the plight of tigers everywhere (I’m not a good enough Panthera tigris expert to identify which subspecies* this one is; they are all threatened, and trade in the skins of tigers is proscribed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)).

Cruz said:  “Did a little shopping for the office with United States Senator Mike Lee in Houston today.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said: “Did a little shopping for the office with United States Senator Mike Lee in Houston today.”

I posted this on Facebook with little comment — it’s just disgusting that public officials would be so cavalier about U.S. law and responsible citizenship like this.  Oddly, someone took offense claiming that we shouldn’t impinge on the First Amendment rights of conservatives.

Shooting threatened and endangered species is not covered by the First Amendment. (YIAAL).

In discussions on my Facebook timeline, I wrote this to those taking offense at criticisms of these two yahoos:

We cannot hope to know the anguish in the hearts of Ted Cruz and Mike Lee that this majestic, endangered, animal was slaughtered.

But we can note that this photo was a genuine lapse in judgment, and we should question whether either of these men is fit to serve you coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, let alone fit to sit in Congress and wreak destruction in our names.

Our national policy is to protect endangered species. Partly that’s done out of respect for creation and our inability to recreated such magnificent things once they are gone. Partly it is done out of the real understanding that as endangered species go, so go we. We do not know, cannot know, which species are the critical ones that make it possible for us to survive on this planet. We shouldn’t be in the business of experimenting with the wiping out of the human race the penalty paid if we goof.

Protecting endangered species produces huge benefits. Not only did we bring back from the brink of extinction the bald eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon and brown pelican when we banned DDT use on crops, we discovered that we’d endangered several species of bats that, now they’ve recovered from DDT, keep our cities free from disease carrying mosquitoes — much cheaper than even DDT at the acme of its cheapness.

And then there are the other benefits. Digitalis to treat heart disease came from a threatened species in tropical climes. Because we’d protected habitat for the spotted owl, when the National Institutes of Health put out the call for massive amounts of Pacific yew, from which to extract a chemical that had shown promise to cure cancers, we had enough of the trees to answer the call right away — and tamoxifen was tested and found very useful, and is today out there fighting cancers.

So what if these two clowns want to jab at environmentalists? Isn’t that allowed, even when they have to urinate on our national symbols to do it?

Sure, it’s allowed. But people who do that? They’re not qualified to be called leaders. Such a lapse in judgment is enough that, in a just world, they’d be asked to resign immediately.

Martin Luther King, Jr., promised that someday the words of the prophet Amos would come true, and justice will roll like a mighty river.

That day is not today. Today we have Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, proving true the words of the prophet Jagger: “Let’s think of the wavering millions// Who need leaders but get gamblers instead.”

Gambling like that does dishonor to this establishment we call the USA.

_____________

They make Anthony Weiner look chaste and noble.

If you’re on Facebook, perhaps you’d like to join in discussion there; I’d like to have your thoughts here.

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Interesting update: Meanwhile, back in Sane America, which is far away from these two guys, The National Zoo/Smithsonian teamed up with Portugal. The Man to release a very rare piece of music, to raise money to help rescue the Sumatran tiger, of which only 400 remain alive.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute teamed with agency DDB New York to put the dwindling tiger population in perspective on Earth Day. They enlisted Portugal. The Man to record an exclusive song, then pressed 400 copies on degradable vinyl, so that with each play the record would diminish until the song disappeared, not unlike the dire situation facing our striped feline friends from Sumatra.

Can you get a copy to listen to?  Though there are only 400 copies, I’ll wager it’s easier to listen to this song than it is to get a straight answer about endangered tigers from the Senate offices of these two senators pictured above.

Update #2: Here’s an infographic that suggests why it’s important to keep tigers alive.  They are canaries in our coal mine we call Earth.  Lee and Cruz appear to be cheering on the destruction of all humanity.

Thanks to Lars for pointing out that all tigers are one species, and the different populations are subspecies.


Eagles! We reduced DDT, and the eagles recovered

January 28, 2013

Love this photo, from the great folks at Yellowstone National Park:

Chris Daniel photo of a bald eagle in Yellowstone National Park, in the snow

From the Yellowstone NP Facebook site: An adult bald eagle perched along the Firehole River on New Year’s Day, near a trumpeter swan that it had either killed or was scavenging. Adult bald eagles usually remain in or near their nest territory throughout winter provided they have access to sufficient prey. Photo courtesy of Chris Daniel. (kd)

It’s a reminder of progress we’ve made in environmental protection.

While bald eagles may not have been the most endangered animal protected under the Endangered Species Act, or any other law, they became the most famous.  In the late 18th century Congress voted to designate the bald eagle as our national symbol.  At the time, the continent was still lousy with the creatures.  But from the arrival of Europeans after 1492, eagles had been hunted mercilessly.  By the early 20th century it was clear the animal was bound for extinction, like the great auk and other species (see here for technical information on the auk).

Ben Franklin complained the eagle was a dirty carrion eater, in a smart and funny polemic favoring the American turkey as the national bird.  Franklin couldn’t know how hunting and in-breeding would suck the nobility out of even wild turkeys over the next 200 years, until species protection laws and hunters pushed governments to invigorate stocks of wild turkeys again.  Compared to the eagle’s troubles, though, the turkey’s genetic torpor and limited habitat was almost nothing.

Americans tried to save the eagle.  After 1890, and during the run on great bird feathers that excited the fashion world and led to the senseless slaughter of millions of America’s most spectacular birds, we passed a federal law against hunting and shooting eagles for sport or no reason.  It was a toothless law, and the decline of eagle populations begun in the early 16th century continued unabated. Migratory bird treaties, providing more legal heft to bird protection, didn’t help the eagles either — not enough of them crossed borders, at least not that hunters and law enforcement could see.  The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, kicking into action in 1941, provided teeth to eagle hunting restrictions, and hunters stopped shooting them so much.  Between 1940 and 1950, eagle populations stabilized, with a good bunch in Alaska, and a few nesting pairs spread from Oregon to Maine, Lake of the Woods to Florida Everglades.  There were so few eagles, and they were spread so far apart, that most Americans could not see one without major effort and travel.

Bird watchers noticed trouble in the 1950s.  Young eagles stopped showing up for the Audubon Christmas bird count, and at the Hawk Mountain migration counts.  Adults went through the motions, migrating, hunting, building nests, laying eggs for all anyone knew, and hatching young that had been seen, sometimes, to fledge — but then the young birds died.  Between leaving the nest, and returning to mate up and breed, the young birds simply disappeared.

Research showed deeper trouble.  On careful observation the birds were seen to be frustrated in hatching and raising chicks.  Sometimes the eggs wouldn’t hatch.  If they did hatch, the chicks died.  The few who lived to fly out, died soon after.

Rachel Carson called attention to the trouble in her 1962 claxon call on pesticide and chemical pollution, Silent Spring (50 years ago in 2012).

Doctor Science at Obsidian Wings wrote a paean to seeing bald eagles in the wild, with a brief and kind mention of this blog. You should go read it there.

Protecting birds?  The Steve Milloys, CEIs, AEIs, Heritage Foundations, CATO Institutes and other dens of smug cynicism and bad citizenship have it all wrong.  It’s not about power for environmentalists.  It’s nothing so cheap or mean.  Heck.  Often it’s not even about protecting the birds so much.

It’s about protecting our own dreams, and places we have to inspire those dreams.  Frederick Jackson Turner postulated that there is something mystical and magical in a frontier that helped form the American character and make us hard-working, smart, and noble.  He was right, of course.  Those frontiers are not simply frontiers of settlement in the wilderness anymore.  We have to work to find them, to declare Alaska the “Last Frontier,” or government reform and Cold War enterprise as the “New Frontier.”  But we still need frontiers.

Eagles still soar there.  Wherever eagles soar, in fact, we find those frontiers, those places to dream and inspire.  The Endangered Species Act isn’t about saving animals and plants.  It’s about saving our own souls.

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Plan to save the spotted owls

August 2, 2011

A lawyer complains in the Wall Street Journal that the plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) intended to help the endangered spotted owl should be dismissed because, well, the spotted owl is still endangered, and after all, didn’t the spotted owl personally shut down the entire lumber industry in the Northwest?

Well, no, the owl didn’t shut down the mills.

But before we discuss, can we at least read the shorthand version of what USFWS has to say?  Here’s the press release on the plan:

Plan Marks New Route for Recovering Northern Spotted Owl and Promoting Healthy Northwest Forests

Contact:
Janet Lebson
503-231-6179
janet_lebson@fws.gov


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a final revised recovery plan for the threatened northern spotted owl, stepping up actions that so far have helped stem but not reverse the old-growth forest raptor’s decline. The revised plan identifies three main priorities for achieving spotted owl recovery:  protecting the best of its remaining habitat, actively managing forests to improve forest health, and reducing competition from barred owls, a native of eastern North America that has progressively moved into the spotted owl’s range in Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

“For more than 20 years, northern spotted owl recovery has been a focal point of broader forest conservation efforts in the Pacific Northwest,” said Robyn Thorson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Northwest Regional Director. “This revised recovery plan is based on sound science and affirms that the best things we can do to help the spotted owl turn the corner are conserving its habitat, managing the barred owl, and restoring vitality to our forests.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will use the recovery plan to work with land managers in the Pacific Northwest such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, as well as other federal and non-federal landowners, to advise them on habitat management activities that can benefit the spotted owl and contribute to improved forest health.

Because about 20 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands and about 2 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands are potentially affected by recovery plan recommendations, the three agencies worked together on key recommendations related to forest management. Both agencies provided formal letters of support for the plan’s recovery goals.

“This recovery plan is a welcome update to the state of the science surrounding the northern spotted owl,” said Cal Joyner, Deputy Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service. “The plan will help us implement a mix of actively managing and protecting habitat to best contribute to conservation and recovery.”

“The recovery plan provides space to develop ecological forestry principles and to actively manage our public forests to achieve the twin goals of improving ecological conditions and supplying timber,” said Ed Shepard, Oregon/Washington State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. “We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the Fish and Wildlife Service as we put the science from the recovery plan to work in our planning, in evaluating proposed timber projects, and in improving forest health.”

Overarching recommendations in the revised plan include:

  • Conservation of spotted owl sites and high-value spotted owl habitat across the landscape. This means the habitat protections provided under land use plans on federal land will continue to be a focus of recovery, but protection of other areas is likely needed to achieve full success (including some of the lands previously slated for potential timber harvest on federal lands, and possibly non-federal lands in certain parts of the owl’s range where federal lands are limited).
  • Active management of forests to make forest ecosystems healthier and more resilient to the effects of climate change and catastrophic wildfire, disease, and insect outbreaks. This involves an “ecological forestry” approach in certain areas that will restore ecosystem functioning and resiliency. This may include carefully applied prescriptions such as fuels treatment to reduce the threat of severe fires, thinning, and restoration to enhance habitat and return the natural dynamics of a healthy forest landscape. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends this approach in areas where it promotes ecosystem function and is in the best long-term interest of spotted owl recovery. The agency also strongly affirms adaptive management principles to continually evaluate and refine active forest management techniques.
  • Management of the encroaching barred owl to reduce harm to spotted owls. Most of the recovery actions the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has carried out since finalizing the spotted owl’s 2008 recovery plan deal with the barred owl threat. A major part of this is developing a proposal for experimental removal of barred owls in certain areas to see what effect that would have on spotted owls, and then to evaluate whether or not broad scale removal should be considered. This portion of the 2008 plan was not significantly revised.

“While the new recovery plan has been refined and improved from the 2008 version, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to implement the most important recommendations,” said Acting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Rowan Gould. “We have begun to address the barred owl threat, improved survey protocols, and developed incentives for private landowners to voluntarily participate in recovery actions. We look forward to expanding conservation partnerships to contribute to the spotted owl’s recovery.”

Since the northern spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 21 years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and recovery partners are benefitting from far more information on what factors most affect its survival and productivity. This includes a broader body of scientific knowledge on the species itself and forest ecosystem dynamics — including variables such as climate change and the role of natural disturbances such as wildfire. Recovery partners also are taking advantage of new science and technology to develop more precise tools for analyzing how different strategies can contribute to recovery.

In addition, land managers have made significant strides in advancing active forest management techniques to promote the health and resilience of forest ecosystems. The recovery plan emphasizes the concept of adaptive management to apply new knowledge and science to those techniques on an ongoing basis. This is a more mainstream approach today than in 1994 when the Northwest Forest Plan was created to address the needs of several forest-dependent species, including the spotted owl, and the region’s timber industry.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a final recovery plan specific to the spotted owl for the first time in 2008. As the agency and recovery partners moved forward in implementing many recommendations in the 2008 plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a targeted scientific revision to some portions of that plan after facing legal challenges and critical reviews from leading scientific organizations in the conservation community.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tapped the knowledge and perspectives of public and private sector experts over the last two years in developing this revised plan, the draft of which was released in September 2010. The agency held more than 30 workshops and meetings with public and private partners throughout the spotted owl’s range to share information, evaluate options, and incorporate valuable input during the revised plan’s development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted public comments on the draft revised plan for a 90-day period and received more than 11,700 comments. In April 2011, the agency released an updated Appendix C, relating to a new habitat modeling tool, for an additional 30-day public comment period and received about 20 public comments.

The revised recovery plan does not include recommendations from the 2008 plan for a new habitat conservation network of “Managed Owl Conservation Areas.” Rather than creating a potentially confusing new land classification, the plan identifies the scientific rationale and parameters for habitat protection and will revise the spotted owl’s designated critical habitat to reflect the latest scientific information about areas essential for the owl’s recovery. Identifying this habitat through the critical habitat process — as the ESA intended — will be more efficient and provide land managers and the public with additional opportunities for review and comment.

For a recovery timeline, Frequently Asked Questions, related information, and the recovery plan itself, visit www.fws.gov/oregonfwo.

America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Service’s Endangered Species program, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.

-FWS-

Stay tuned for the response, and my response to the response.

_____________

Oooooh, bonus!  Story in the Daily Astorian says saving the spotted owl habitat also ties up carbon, helping out with the fight against global warming.


For sage grouse, not a nickel’s difference between Bush and Obama

March 9, 2010

Sage grouse don’t vote. If they did vote, they’d have a difficult time picking between Democrats and Republicans on their own life and death issues.

Of course, there aren’t enough sage grouse to make much of a difference on election day. That’s the problem.

Courting sage grouse - Gail Patricelli, UC-Davis

Courting sage grouse - Photo from Gail Patricelli, University of California - Davis

Last week the U.S. Department of the Interior released a decision on the fate of the sage grouse:  Near enough to extinction to merit protection under the Endangered Species Act, but too far down the list of endangered plants and animals to merit action on anything at the moment.

That means that the vanishing habitats of the little, magnificent bird, can be crushed by trucks making tracks across westerns prairies, deserts and mountains searching for oil.

Exxon-Mobil 1, Sage Grouse 0.  One might must hope that’s an early game score, and not the population counts.

Jim Tankersly explained the situation, more dispassionately, in The Los Angeles Times:

Reporting from Washington — The Interior Department declared Friday that an iconic Western bird deserves federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, but declined to offer that protection immediately — a split decision that will allow oil and gas drilling to continue across large swaths of the mountainous West.

The department issued a so-called “warranted but precluded” designation for the greater sage grouse, meaning that the bird merits protection but won’t receive it for now because other species are a higher priority.

My childhood was marked by rapidly plummeting bird populations all around us.  Stopping the use of DDT benefited some of them, the Endangered Species Act benefited others.  Conservation efforts of groups like Ducks Unlimited and the Audubon Society saved others, and helped all of them.  While I lived near a great river, a view of a heron, egret or crane is not what I recall from my childhood.  Our children know the birds well.

Land birds, like turkeys, are even more rare.  Turkeys, mostly in eastern forested areas, at least well out of the Mountain West, made dramatic recoveries with massive aid from state game commissions.  I recall one column from the Washington Post’s recently retired hunting and outdoors columnist, Angus Phillips, in which he confessed that with the aid of professional guides paid from the paper’s expense accounts, in more than 15 years of hunting he had heard, but never seen, a wild turkey. This was two weeks after we had come upon a flock just off the side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the first I’d ever seen.

I remembered Phillips’ confession a few months later as I sat in the cold, at dawn, in a field at the Land Between the Lakes preserve of the Tennessee Valley Authority with other staff and members of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, when a guide summoned seven magnificent, lustful wild turkey toms to race across a field toward the lustful hen sounds the guide made with a part of a birth control diaphragm as a calling device.

In my years tramping the west for fun, in the months camping with the Scouts, in the professional tramping with the Air Pollution Lab and the Senate and the Utah Wilderness Commission, and just for fun, I’ve never seen a sage grouse.

Whether my children get such an opportunity, and their children, is a decision for the moment left to private interests, especially private groups with a financial stake in trampling out the nestings where the youth of grouse are grown.

Exxon-Mobil, will you and your colleagues go easy on the grouse, please?

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