26 Apr 2010, 6:37pm
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New brucellosis “hot spots” found in Yellowstone area

By MATTHEW BROWN, AP, R&D Online, April 24, 2010 [here]

The animal disease brucellosis is emerging in new “hot spots” around Yellowstone National Park, according to new research that could complicate efforts to control transmissions of the disease to cattle.

Feeding grounds where food is left for elk as well as herds of bison inside the park have long been considered the main sources of brucellosis, which causes pregnant animals to abort their young.

But Paul Cross with the U.S. Geological Survey said a third source is now emerging: Blood tests indicate large elk herds living far from the feeding grounds have brucellosis exposure rates ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent.

That means containing the park’s bison and getting rid of the feeding grounds might not be enough to stop brucellosis transmissions to cattle in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The Yellowstone region has an estimated 100,000 elk and is the nation’s last reservoir for the disease. Over the last decade, cattle infections have appeared in all three states bordering the park.

“It’s no longer appropriate to say bison and the supplemental feed grounds are the only sources of contamination,” Cross said.

Cross was the lead author of a USGS study published online Friday by the Public Library of Science.

Co-authored by researchers from Wyoming Game and Fish, Montana State University and USGS, the study was based on more than 6,000 blood tests collected from Wyoming elk between 1991 and 2009.

Since the testing began, Cross said disease rates increased dramatically in two “hot spots” — north of Dubois, Wyo. and northwest of Cody, Wyo. Both of those areas are far from the state’s 23 artificial feeding grounds.

The study comes on the heels of another USGS report in March that found brucellosis rates on the rise across the region. Prevalence rates increased from between 0 percent and 7 percent in 1991-1992, to between 8 percent and 20 percent in 2006-2007. … [more]

26 Apr 2010, 1:08pm
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On Earth Day, Did You Thank a Hunter?

by Humberto Fontova, Townhall, April 23, 2010 [here]

In 1970, a Senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson raised his voice and called on every American to take action on behalf of the environment,” reads President Obama’s Earth Day proclamation. “In the four decades since, millions of Americans have heeded that call and joined together to protect the planet we share.”

Well, I’ve got news for our President. Millions of Americans who had never heard of Gaylord Nelson “took action on behalf of the environment,” decades before the good Senator “raised his voice.” More newsworthy still, most of these belonged to those insufferable rustics who “cling to guns and bibles.” To wit:

The Pittman-Robertson Act (1937) imposed an excise tax of 10 per cent on all hunting gear. Then the Dingell-Johnson act (1950) did the same for fishing gear. The Wallop-Breaux amendment (1984) extended the tax to the fuel for boats. All of this lucre goes to “protect the environment” in the form of buying and maintaining National Wildlife Refuges, along with state programs for buying and maintaining various forms of wildlife habitat.

For the last couple of decades hunters and fishermen have contributed over $1.5 billion per year towards Senator Gaylord Nelson’s lofty goal. To date, hunters and fishermen have shelled out over $20 billion “on behalf of the environment.” A study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that for every taxpayer dollar invested in wildlife conservation, hunters and fishermen contribute nine. … [more]

25 Apr 2010, 7:55pm
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The wolf threat to ranchers’ livelihood

Editorial, Wallowa County Chieftan, 4/22/2010 [here]

Wildlife managers say the recent wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho were successful in every way. They limited the growth of the wolf populations and the amount of damage the predators could do to other wildlife and livestock.

All of which discredits the arguments environmentalists offer that the hunts hinder wolf recovery efforts.

Hunters fell short of taking their wolf quota in either state, dispelling concerns that the hunt would become a free-for-all. …

In the wake of those hunts, the wolf populations in both states remain healthy and continue to grow, managers say. Idaho still has about 840 wolves, and Montana about 532, according to the states’ wildlife managers. …

As that political and legal battle continues, wolves continue to prey upon cattle and sheep in both states and Oregon.

In Montana and Idaho last year, wolves killed 187 cattle, 546 sheep, 20 dogs and three goats. Ranchers, however, estimate that only 20 to 25 percent of wolf kills are ever verified. …

For example, here in Wallowa County, wolves have been repeatedly sighted on private land and were run out of Joseph rancher Karl and Karen Patton’s calf pasture in the middle of the night March 26. His neighbors, Scott and Kellie Shear, have had wolves among the cattle this week. Ranchers are getting up several times in the night to conduct livestock checks in previously safe pastures. Rancher Ramona Phillips is not just scared for her cattle; she’s scared for her children. …

Phillips echoes the feelings of dozens of ranchers when she emphasizes that the issue is not just financial - it’s about stewardship. “It’s not in me to watch a wolf tear apart one my calves and just stand by,” she said. “It’s scary. I’ve always done night checks on heifers to make sure they’re calving all right, but now we’re doing checks every few hours and my husband Charley is getting up at 3 a.m. and staying out with the cattle.”

Sirens are up on the Patton ranch, but there aren’t enough sirens to go around - ODFW only has one. …

“I just talked to ODFW. According to their GPS-collared-wolf records, these wolves are spending 80 percent of their time on private land,” said rancher Rod Childers.

Judging from their rapidly expanding populations across the West, it is obvious that wolf populations are healthy. Our concern is whether we’ll be able to say the same thing about the West’s ranchers in years to come.

18 Apr 2010, 9:02pm
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Murkowski: government uses ESA to halt development

By Sean Manget, Alaska Journal of Commerce, April 16, 2010 [here]

The Endangered Species Act is being used by the federal government to stop resource development in Alaska, according to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and several panelists at a recent forum event.

This accusation follows a recent push on the part of the Republican senator to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions, an effort Alaska Governor Sean Parnell joined recently.

“The ESA is being used and, indeed, abused, to shut down economic development and regulate climate change, which it wasn’t meant to do,” Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan said at the forum, where eight panelists representing different principal players in the debate on the local level answered a series of questions issued by Murkowski.

“It seems as if they go after species in areas where it would hurt development,” said Jason Brune, executive director of the Resource Development Council, an oil industry trade group.

Brune said there have been oil platforms in Cook Inlet for 50 years, and that companies have been coexisting with the beluga whales during that time without harming the whale population.

In 2008, Cook Inlet belugas were listed as an endangered species under the ESA. Since then, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service has sought to designate the inlet as a critical habitat, meaning any new development in the area funded or developed by the federal government would need to be OK’d by NMFS before being allowed to continue. … [more]

Thanks for the news tip to Julie Kay Smithson of Property Rights Research [here, here]

14 Apr 2010, 11:32am
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Younger Dryas Megafauna Extinction Comet Theory Discounted

Clovis Mammoth Hunters: Out With a Whimper or a Bang?

ScienceDaily, Apr. 12, 2010, [here]

A team of researchers from the University of Arizona has revisited evidence pointing to a cataclysmic event thought by many scientists to have wiped out the North American megafauna — such as mammoths, saber tooth cats, giant ground sloths and Dire wolves — along with the Clovis hunter-gatherer culture some 13,000 years ago.

The team obtained their findings following an unusual, multidisciplinary approach and published them in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“The idea of an extraterrestrial impact driving the Pleistocene extinction event has recently caused a stir in the scientific community,” said C. Vance Haynes, a professor emeritus at UA’s School of Anthropology and the department of geosciences, who is the study’s lead author. “We systematically revisited the evidence for an impact scenario and discovered it just does not hold up.” …

When the last ice age came to an end approximately 13,000 years ago and the glaciers covering a large portion of the North American continent began melting and retreating toward the north, a sudden cooling period known as the “Big Freeze” or, more scientifically, the Younger Dryas, reversed the warming process and caused glaciers to expand again. Even though this cooling period lasted only for 1,300 years, a blink of an eye in geologic timeframes, it witnessed the disappearance of an entire fauna of large mammals.

The big question, according to Haynes, is ‘Why did those animals go extinct in a very short geological timeframe?’”

“When you go out and look at the sediments deposited during that time, you see this black layer we call the Black Mat. It contains the fossilized remains of a massive algae bloom, indicating a short period of water table rise and cool climate that kept the moisture in the soil. Below the Black Mat, you find all kinds of fossils from mammoths, bison, mastodons, Dire wolves and so forth, but when you look right above it — nothing.”

Scientists have suggested several scenarios to account for the rapid Pleistocene extinction event. Some ascribe it to the rapid shift toward a cooler and dryer during the “Big Freeze,” causing widespread droughts.

Haynes disagrees. “We find evidence of big changes in climate throughout the geologic record that were not associated with widespread extinctions.” …

The two attempts to account for the mass extinction event prevailing at this point include humans and celestial bodies. Many deem it possible that humans such as the Clovis culture hunted the Pleistocene mammals to extinction, as proposed by UA Professor Emeritus Paul S. Martin [here].

Alternatively, it is thought that a comet or asteroid slammed into the glaciers covering the Great Lakes area, unleashing firestorms that consumed large portions of vegetation. In addition, the dust and molten rock kicked up high into the atmosphere during the impact could have shrouded the Earth in a nuclear winter-like blanket of airborne dust, blocking sunlight and causing temperatures to plummet. …

“Something happened 13,000 years ago that we do not understand,” said Haynes. “What we can say, though, is that all of the evidence put forth in support of the impact scenario can be sufficiently explained by earthly causes such as climate change, overhunting or a combination of both.”

Does this mean the results obtained by Haynes and his coworkers rule out the possibility of a cosmic event?

“No, it doesn’t,” Haynes said. “It just doesn’t make it very likely.” … [more]

14 Apr 2010, 11:24am
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New DNR study hopes to settle debate surrounding deer predators

by RON SEELY madison.com, April 12, 2010 [here]

The number of gray wolves in Wisconsin has grown to nearly 700, prompting concerns among hunters about predation on the deer herd.

Hunters and wolves in Wisconsin share an uneasy history, and the problem is that they like to do the same thing - kill and eat deer.

The numbers of deer killed by hunters each year is well known; they shot about 196,000 during last fall’s nine-day gun deer season. But despite the speculation one might hear from a barstool at a rural tavern, the full extent of the wolf’s impact on the state’s more than 1 million deer has never moved beyond anecdote.

Now, however, science will be brought to bear on that question: How many whitetail deer in northern and central Wisconsin are killed by wolves, bears and even bobcats and coyotes?

The state Department of Natural Resources, working with researchers from the UW-Madison, has embarked on a multi-year, $1.2 million study that will track hundreds of bucks and fawns to see how they die. … [more]

Note: Does God look down on the boys in the barroom, mainly forsaken but surely not judged? Jacks, kings, and aces their faces in wine. Do, Lord, deliver our kind. — Robert Hunter

Floridians Mind-Boggled By Cold

Weird winter weather creates struggle for some Everglades wildlife, other species thrive

[Note: if it's unusually cold it's weather; if it's hot, that's climate]

By ERIC STAATS, NaplesNews.com, April 10, 2010 [here]

NAPLES — The water tables have turned at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary this winter.

“To think of where we were, and then now, it’s unbelievable,” the sanctuary’s manager Ed Carlson said. “It boggles our minds.”

Water gauges at the sanctuary’s Lettuce Lake had bottomed out this time last year, but now the lake, at about 3 feet deep, has more water in it than it did at the end of last year’s rainy season.

The rhythm of the rain at the natural wonderland off Immokalee Road in northern Collier County is off a beat or two _ and it’s thrown off Mother Nature’s timing.

All over South Florida, the winter of weird weather has made its mark.

Wading birds: Cold and hungry

Thousands of wading birds have foregone nesting this year throughout the northern Everglades, South Florida Water Management District senior scientist Mark Cook said.

“Perhaps they’re just too hungry to be sitting on their nests,” he said. … [more]

Note: If Floridians get any stupider Gaia may need to drown them as an act of mercy.

Computer Models Predicting Species’ Range Shift Due To Global Warming Fail Spectacularly

C3 Headlines, April 07, 2010 [here]

Based on a report from CO2 Science, April 07, 2010 [here]

Climate alarmists state that most species will be forced to move substantial distances from their present territories because of global warming. The climate alarmist scientists developed models to predict just how far a species would move due to the increased warmth. Researchers compared the outcome of the models to the actual empirical evidence of birds shifting their territories in the Italian Alps. Surprise! As is most often the case, the computer models were wrong.

In a further study of the utility of the climate envelope concept that was conducted in an alpine valley in the Italian Piedmont, Popy et al. employed data from two bird atlas surveys performed on a 1-km by 1-km grid (the first in 1992-94 and the second in 2003-05) in an attempt to see if there was any evidence for an expected upward shift in the ranges of 75 bird species (68 of which were detected in both surveys) over this period, during which time mean air temperature rose by a full 1.0°C.

The three researchers report that “the number of species whose mean elevation increased (n = 42) was higher than the number whose mean elevation decreased (n = 19), but the overall upward shift [29 m] was not significantly different from zero.” In addition, they state that even the 29-m increase was “smaller than would be expected from ‘climatic envelope’ models,” as the “1.0°C increase in temperature would be equivalent to c. 200 m in elevation, based on an average gradient of -0.5°C per 100 m.” In addition, they indicate that “at the European scale, no overall expansion or contraction of the distributions of the studied species was detected.”

In light of their findings, as well as those of others they cite, Popy et al. conclude that “until a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms is achieved, predictions based only on ‘climate envelope’ models should be either validated or considered cautiously,” which in our view is a pretty generous conclusion. We would suggest that such poorly-performing models not be used at all. … [more]

7 Apr 2010, 10:12pm
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Idaho wool growers file lawsuit over bighorns

Idaho Statesman, 04/03/10 [here]

LEWISTON, Idaho — The Idaho Wool Growers Association and Shirts Brothers Sheep has filed a lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Fish and Game concerning bighorn sheep management.

The groups in the lawsuit filed earlier this week contend Fish and Game has not lived up to a 1997 agreement the groups say was designed to protect domestic sheep growers from potential adverse effects to their businesses from bighorn sheep introductions.

The groups are asking for unspecified damages “in an amount to be proven at trial.”

The lawsuit comes several months after the Payette National Forest released a set of proposed updates to its plan to keep domestic sheep from intermingling with wild bighorns, citing disease transmission that kills bighorns. …

The 1997 agreement with wool growers included Fish and Game, federal land management agencies, and a bighorn sheep conservation group. The lawsuit contends that in 2007 the Forest Service began reducing domestic sheep grazing to protect bighorns. … [more]

6 Apr 2010, 5:24pm
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Environmentalists lose land linked to preserve

KHQ, April 5, 2010 [here]

Pocatello, Idaho - The federal government has canceled three central Idaho grazing allotments that were not being used by livestock, but critical to a preserve run by environmentalists.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management canceled the allotments, which total about 7,000 acres, last month for the Greenfire Preserve near the East Fork of the Salmon River.

The preserve is overseen by Western Watersheds Project, which for years has worked to curtail livestock grazing on public lands across the West.

The BLM canceled the allotments after citing Greenfire officials for making false statements on grazing applications related to the preserve.

Specifically, agency officials focused on statements made by Western Watershed[s] Project officials that they had no intention of letting livestock graze the parcels.

The Idaho State Journal reports the environmentalists have 30 days to appeal.

6 Apr 2010, 5:20pm
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Ruling leaves grazing up in the air

By Scott Sandsberry, The Yakima Herald-Republic, April 6, 2010 [here]

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has shelved its pilot grazing project in southeast Washington after a judge ruled it had acted arbitrarily in moving ahead with the program over the objections of its own biologists.

How the ruling affects a controversial cattle-grazing project in the Whisky Dick and Quilomene Wildlife areas of eastern Kittitas County in May and June, though, hasn’t been decided.

“If the state chooses to ignore the decision — because it technically applies to the 2009 authorization for Pintler Creek on the Asotin Wildlife Area and nowhere else — they do so at their own legal risk,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, the Idaho-based conservation group that had sued the Wildlife Department over its pilot grazing project.

Western Watersheds has also sued the department over its part in the management process to graze portions of the Whisky Dick and Quilomene Wildlife areas and other nearby state and private lands on neighboring pastures in eastern Kittitas County. No hearing date has been set on that case. Both cases were filed in Thurston County Superior Court.

Western Watersheds attorney Kristin Ruether said the ruling on Friday “addresses the heart of whether it’s appropriate to do commercial grazing on state wildlife areas. It may be a turning point. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Superior Court rulings are not binding on other courts, Ruether said. “But they can certainly be persuasive, especially when the facts might be so similar.”

Jack Field of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association said he was surprised by the ruling.

“I honestly don’t know how that will impact the (Whisky Dick and Quilomene plans),” he said.

Wildlife Department state lands manager Jennifer Quan said Monday that state officials haven’t decided yet “whether the decision has larger statewide implications.”

“We still have yet to make decisions about how we move forward with other permits,” Quan said.

Wildlife Department director Phil Anderson said he thought the issues related to the pilot grazing and Kittitas County projects were “apples and oranges.”

But he said Judge Paula Casey’s ruling had essentially set a new standard for grazing on state wildlife lands that the department would have to consider. … [more]

4 Apr 2010, 1:22pm
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Hazing Birds for Salmon

Hazing of birds in coastal estuaries intended to help protect migrating juvenile salmon and steelhead

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife News Releases, April 1, 2010 [here]

Tillamook, Oregon - Hazing of double-crested cormorants that eat juvenile salmon and steelhead on their migration to sea will begin the first week of April in the Nehalem and Tillamook estuaries.

Hazing of cormorants consists of disturbing the birds — scaring them without harming them — with swift-moving watercraft in an effort to protect vulnerable naturally-produced and hatchery juvenile salmonids during their peak out-migration in April and May.

Hazing will be conducted by local organizations under the direction of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.

Double-crested cormorants consume juvenile salmon during spring migration. Hazing efforts will focus in the Nehalem and Tillamook estuaries, where there are concentrations of double-crested cormorants and a number of threatened and sensitive fish species, including coastal coho, chinook, steelhead and chum.

In addition to hazing efforts, ODFW and partners are engaged in research and monitoring of fish-eating birds in relation to their impact on vulnerable fish runs, looking for long-term solutions. However, management of avian predators on fish populations is complex and requires balancing the needs of competing species within the guidelines of federal laws that include the Endangered Species and the Migratory Bird Treaty acts.

The double-crested cormorant is a waterbird found near inland waterways as well as on the coast. They fish by swimming and diving and nest in trees, cliffs and on the ground on predator-free islands.

Cormorants are protected by international treaty and federal law.

1 Apr 2010, 3:14pm
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Wrong Trout

Rogue Pundit, March 31, 2010 [here]

Last year, a record number of lake trout were netted in Yellowstone Lake, a centerpiece of the national park. One problem though…lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) aren’t native there. And they get big…the record catch for this prized game fish tops 100 pounds. The biggest one found in Yellowstone Lake thus far is 22 pounds.

Back when the goal was to encourage visitation, park officials introduced the lake trout to several of Yellowstone’s smaller lakes. During the 1980s, the fish showed up in Yellowstone Lake. They couldn’t have gotten there without help. Now, lake trout are increasingly outcompeting native species like the cutthroat trout and arctic grayling [here].

“The numbers keep going up and up, which is a signal that the effort we’ve put out hasn’t been enough to stop the population growth,” said Yellowstone fisheries biologist Todd Koel.

Koel wants to double or triple netting efforts to help cutthroat trout, which are native to Yellowstone and important to the park’s ecosystem.

The park has been catching lake trout using 1,800-foot-long nets placed off the lake bottom. The nets trap lake trout by their gills while allowing cutthroat trout and other smaller fish to swim through.

Plans call for switching to 1,000-foot-long nets that funnel fish into a box-shaped trap at their middle. More nets would be deployed than currently and they would be handled by professional crews, Koel said. … [more]

30 Mar 2010, 5:03pm
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Groups say they intend to sue over sage grouse

By MEAD GRUVER, Seattle PI, 03/29/10 [here]

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Three environmental groups say they intend to sue the Interior Department for not protecting sage grouse as an endangered or threatened species.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Desert Survivors and Western Watersheds Project said Monday the department violated the Endangered Species Act by deciding to classify sage grouse as merely a candidate for federal protection.

An Interior spokeswoman declined to comment, citing policy for matters in litigation.

The department on March 5 announced a warranted-but-precluded finding for sage grouse in 11 states. That means federal protection is considered warranted but isn’t a sufficiently high priority to pursue for the time being. … [more]

See also, Sage grouse not listed under ESA; WWP sues [here]

30 Mar 2010, 4:58pm
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Idaho Has a Minimum of 843 Wolves

Idaho’s first wolf hunt wraps up

Idaho Fish and Game News Release, March 29, 2010 [here]

At the end of the day Wednesday, March 31, Idaho’s first regulated wolf season closes statewide.

The season already has closed in seven of 12 wolf zones, and as of March 29, hunters have taken 185 wolves. The harvest limit is 220.

“The season has succeeded in halting the growth of Idaho’s wolf population,” Fish and Game Director Cal Groen said. “It showed that Fish and Game is capable of monitoring and managing a well-regulated wolf hunt.”

The hunt also showed that fears of wholesale slaughter of wolves were unfounded, Groen said. Hunters exhibited good compliance with the rules and with check-in and call-in requirements. …

At the end of 2009, Idaho had a minimum of 843 wolves in 94 packs, and 49 packs are considered breeding pairs. The average pack size was 7.8 wolves. A total of 142 wolves are radio-collared.

In addition to hunter harvest, 138 wolves were killed in livestock depredation control actions and from other causes. … [more]

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