22 Jan 2008, 5:06pm
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Bitter cold

(CNN) — Bitter cold gripped most of the United States on Monday, with temperatures dipping below normal from coast to coast.

Temperatures in the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains were about 30 degrees below normal, CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider said.

“It’s very hard to find any part of the country that’s warm,” Schneider said… [more]

22 Jan 2008, 2:32pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Reps. Young and Miller in Dog Fight Over Wolves

Conservative Rep. Don Young of Alaska and liberal California Rep. George Miller are going at it like wolves. Actually, like dogs and wolves. And the question, as Young sees it, comes down to: Who do you love more - dogs or wolves?

Young thinks Miller’s bill to protect wolves from aerial hunting is, well, a sheep in wolves’ clothing. What Miller calls the “Protect America’s Wildlife Act,” Young derides as the “Wolves Are Cute Act.” He says by protecting wolves, Miller’s bill would help predatory wolves continue killing pet dogs and other wildlife across his home state.

The Alaska congressman has been sending shockingly graphic e-mail letters to his colleagues with gory photos of dog carcasses, the victims of killer wolves, similar to the tactics of extreme anti-abortion literature. One of his “Dear Colleague” e-mails sent last month featured a photo too gruesome to share of a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Chesie who Young said was so viciously attacked by wolves that all that was left of her “was a couple chunks of collar sitting on top of three or four pieces of intestine.” (And that’s a dead-on description from the looks of the grotesque photo Young attached of the maimed dog, whose head and face was the only body part still intact.)

“These facts aren’t pretty, but they’re facts,” Young wrote, “and should Rep. Miller’s bill become law, more dogs will meet Chesie’s tragic fate.”

This week, another e-mailed letter from Young features Buddy, the beloved 10-year-old Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever of one of his constituents who was ripped to shreds by wolves. This time Young spared his colleagues a graphic photo, choosing instead to include this cute picture of Buddy in happier times.

And in his letter Young proposed a solution to resolve the dog vs. wolves conflict: Let’s send Miller to the wolves… [more]

19 Jan 2008, 4:31pm
Latest Climate News
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PNW Research Station Scientists Receive in 2007 Nobel Peace Prize

PORTLAND, Ore. December 10, 2007. The October announcement that several PNW Research Station scientists shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, came as a surprise to many employees. Even to the winners.

Ralph Alig, Ron Neilson, and David L. Peterson, co-recipients of the Prize with former Vice-President Al Gore, were recognized for their work on the climate change synthesis report as members of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPCC). The panel was honored for its efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about human-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.

Alig, along with Neilson, contributed to the 1998 Special Report on Regional Impacts. “My contributions centered on the team’s development of a large-scale model to examine opportunities in forestry and agriculture to sequester greenhouse gases,” explains Alig, team leader for Land Use and Land Cover Dynamics. “We continue to enhance the model [and to] examine adaptation and mitigation opportunities.”

“ An e-mail was sent around the office,” recalls Neilson about how he learned of the announcement, “but at first, I didn’t put two and two together. It’s still a bit of a shock. It’s still sinking in.” The Mapped Atmosphere-Plant-Soil-System Model developed by Neilson and his team was part of the report on regional impacts of climate change. The model helps predict vegetation distribution, growth, and disturbance dynamics under current and future climatic conditions.

Peterson says he heard the announcement about the Nobel Prize while driving in the Colorado Rockies after attending a climate change meeting. Peterson, team leader for Fire and Environmental Research Applications, contributed research findings on understanding the effects of climate on fire and other ecosystem disturbances. “It’s great that the scientific community can work together across disciplines and borders to address the issue of climate change,” says Peterson who is a member of the 1995 Second Assessment Report, Working Group II. “It seems appropriate; shows what the international scientific community can do when focused on a critical issue that affects everyone on the planet.”… [more]

18 Jan 2008, 11:27pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Feds may slash butterfly habitat in half

Environmentalists call federal proposal ‘recipe for extinction’ for endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly

Federal wildlife officials Thursday proposed slashing by almost half the amount of land they designated earlier as “critical habitat” for the Quino checkerspot butterfly, one of Southern California’s most endangered animals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed reducing the amount of land targeted for special treatment under the Endangered Species Act from 172,000 acres to 98,000 acres. Officials said the revision was necessary to focus on saving those areas where significant butterfly populations still exist.

As in the past, the agency’s strategy for saving the insect focuses solely on Southwest Riverside County and the Otay Mountain area of southern San Diego County —- the only known places where the butterfly still lives… [more]

16 Jan 2008, 1:55am
Latest Wildlife News
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Lawmakers: Wolves still endangered

By Gazette News Services [here]

Five congressmen from the House Natural Resources Committee want to delay a plan to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rockies from the federal endangered-species list.

In a recent letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the congressmen wrote that states “hostile to wolf conservation” could reduce today’s 1,500 wolves to “as few as 300″ if the predators lose protected status.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which Kempthorne oversees, plans to announce the delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies next month.

That would allow Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to host public hunts for the animals. The states already are setting hunting seasons and quotas.

Last year, more than 140 wolves were killed in the Northern Rockies by federal and state officials and ranchers in response to wolves’ preying on livestock.

The Dec. 17 letter to Kempthorne was signed by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.; Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.; Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md.; and Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J.

Wolves in the Great Lakes region were removed from the endangered species list in 2007.

11 Jan 2008, 12:50am
Latest Fire News Latest Wildlife News
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USGS Scientist Reveals 2007 California Wildfire Impacts on Wildlife

The Southern California wildfires in late 2007 impacted more than humans. Wildlife also suffered. Listen to USGS Biologist Robert Fisher describe what USGS scientists discovered about the wildfire impact on wildlife by listening to episode 25 of CoreCast, the USGS podcast.

“Certain groups of animals seem to be disproportionately impacted by the fires, such as non-forest salamanders and shrews,” said Fisher. “We are not sure whether there is a physical change in the landscape after the fires where these animals do not have enough wet habitats to live in or whether there is a toxic effect of ash that may be directly causing mortality.”

Scientists are also concerned about the wildfire impact on the landlocked southern steelhead rainbow trout population in the Santa Ana Mountains of Orange County, Calif., because it may be the last genetically pure form of its kind in these mountains. Most other fish populations in this area have been wiped out over the past 20 years due to drought and flood conditions.

“When I was in the Santa Ana Mountains in July, there seemed to be a little more than 100 rainbow trout of all different size classes, scattered in about a quarter of a mile in the canyon, primarily in 10 to 12 pools,” said Fisher. “So it really is a restricted area, a restricted population, and any additional stresses in that type of situation are really going to have an impact on them.”

While examining a post-wildfire burn site, scientists observed extreme dry ravel events - a river of rocks - falling down hillsides and filling up the pools of water where the trout live. If the trout survived the dry ravel, the next impact could be when rain mixes with the dry ravel, and the mixture begins to move. This mixture could fill in the creek systems in the canyon and remove the rest of the water sources, Fisher said… [more]

Decision on Listing Polar Bear Postponed

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Federal officials said Monday that they will need a few more weeks to decide whether polar bears need protection under the Endangered Species Act because of global warming.

The deadline was Wednesday, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it now hopes to provide a recommendation to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in time for a decision by him within the next month.

The department has never declared a species threatened or endangered because of climate change, Hall said.

“That’s why this one has been so taxing and challenging to us,” he said.

Environmental groups that petitioned to protect polar bears, arguing that warming threatened their habitat, said they would go court to ensure a timely decision.

“We certainly hope that the polar bear will be listed within the next month,” said Kassie Siegel, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity… [more]

8 Jan 2008, 6:12pm
Latest Forest News
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Biomass would help decrease fire danger, and heat high school, too

The idea of turning thousands of tons of forest waste into heat for South Tahoe High School is a step closer to reality thanks to a $243,500 grant from the U.S. Forest Service.

The grant would pay for half the cost of a biomass boiler at the school, which can convert chipped forest material into heat and energy. If implemented for the 2007-08 school year, the biomass boiler would be the first for a California public school - and proponents of the idea say it would help reduce the threat of a catastrophic wildfire in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“No one has done a project like this in California,” said Steve Morales, district facilities manager for Lake Tahoe Unified School District.

With an annual 25,000 tons of forest waste in the basin, including debris such as branches and pine needles, the fuel is there to propel a wildfire. Politicians including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., have pushed for the reduction of forest fuels with environmental agencies signing on.

“There is a lot of interest in this and the facts are Tahoe is going to save a bunch of money putting this in,” said Bruce Goines, U.S. Forest Service biomass utilization coordinator for the Pacific Southwest region.

Morales said a biomass facility could consume as much as 2,200 tons of chipped material from forest waste each year. Although it represents only 9 percent of total annual forest waste, many say it’s better than nothing in protecting a pristine lake and communities with few evacuation routes out of the basin.

Hurdles remain. Permits from El Dorado County Air Quality Management Board and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency must be obtained, followed by a bidding process. Lastly, a supplier has to be found to deliver the forest waste in bulk. And that’s what worries Rex Norman of the U.S. Forest Service.

“The technology of biomass is doing great, but it’s the supply chain, the system, that has to be built,” said Norman, a spokesman for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

“We’ve got the fuel. We’ve got the technology. It’s what’s in between that’s the problem,” Norman said. “It’s the access to the material and a reliable supply chain.” … [more]

Important Note: this news report is from May, 2006.

7 Jan 2008, 12:21am
Latest Climate News
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A Nation of Dim Bulbs

The nasty little surprise hidden in the new energy bill.
by Andrew Ferguson
The Weekly Standard 12/31/2007, Volume 013, Issue 16 [here]

On December 19, President Bush signed an energy bill that will, among many, many other things, force you to buy a new kind of light bulb. He did this because environmental enthusiasts don’t like the light bulbs you’re using now. He and they reason, therefore, that you shouldn’t be allowed to have them. So now you can’t.

Ordinary consumers may be surprised, once they understand what’s happened. They probably haven’t known that the traditional incandescent light bulb, that happy little globe shining so innocently from the lamp in the corner, has been a scourge of environmentalists for many years. With their stern and unrelenting moralism, the warriors of Greenpeace have even branded lightbulb manufacturers “climate criminals” for making incandescents, which are, they say, a “silent killer.” …

American environmental groups have long called for an outright national ban on the old-fashioned bulbs. But then they came to the realization, as a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council told the New York Times this spring, that such a ban might “anger consumers.” “We’ve given up a sound bite, ‘ban the incandescent,’” the spokesman said.

Instead the groups joined with the Bush administration this year in advocating a steady increase in federally mandated efficiency standards for light bulbs. The effect of the tightened standards is to make it illegal to manufacture or sell the inefficient incandescent bulb by 2014. So it’s not a ban, see. It’s just higher standards. Which have the same effect as a ban-a slow-motion ban that’s not really a ban. Not surprisingly, in long, self-congratulatory remarks at the bill signing last week, Bush neglected to mention that he and Congress have just done away with the incandescent light bulb. Maybe most of us won’t notice until he’s back in Crawford…
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4 Jan 2008, 2:41pm
Latest Forest News
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Hunter-gatherers: Noble or savage?

The era of the hunter-gatherer was not the social and environmental Eden that some suggest

HUMAN beings have spent most of their time on the planet as hunter-gatherers. From at least 85,000 years ago to the birth of agriculture around 73,000 years later, they combined hunted meat with gathered veg. Some people, such as those on North Sentinel Island in the Andaman Sea, still do. The Sentinelese are the only hunter-gatherers who still resist contact with the outside world. Fine-looking specimens—strong, slim, fit, black and stark naked except for a small plant-fibre belt round the waist—they are the very model of the noble savage. Genetics suggests that indigenous Andaman islanders have been isolated since the very first expansion out of Africa more than 60,000 years ago.

About 12,000 years ago people embarked on an experiment called agriculture and some say that they, and their planet, have never recovered. Farming brought a population explosion, protein and vitamin deficiency, new diseases and deforestation. Human height actually shrank by nearly six inches after the first adoption of crops in the Near East. So was agriculture “the worst mistake in the history of the human race”, as Jared Diamond, evolutionary biologist and professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, once called it?

Take a snapshot of the old world 15,000 years ago. Except for bits of Siberia, it was full of a new and clever kind of people who had originated in Africa and had colonised first their own continent, then Asia, Australia and Europe, and were on the brink of populating the Americas. They had spear throwers, boats, needles, adzes, nets. They painted pictures, decorated their bodies and believed in spirits. They traded foods, shells, raw materials and ideas. They sang songs, told stories and prepared herbal medicines.

They were “hunter-gatherers”. On the whole the men hunted and the women gathered: a sexual division of labour is still universal among non-farming people and was probably not shared by their Homo erectus predecessors. This enabled them to eat both meat and veg, a clever trick because it combines quality with reliability.

Why change? In the late 1970s Mark Cohen, an archaeologist, first suggested that agriculture was born of desperation, rather than inspiration. Evidence from the Fertile Crescent seems to support him. Rising human population density, combined perhaps with a cooling, drying climate, left the Natufian hunter-gatherers of the region short of acorns, gazelles and wild grass seeds. Somebody started trying to preserve and enhance a field of chickpeas or wheat-grass and soon planting, weeding, reaping and threshing were born… [more]

3 Jan 2008, 6:31pm
Latest Climate News
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A cold spell soon to replace global warming

MOSCOW. (Oleg Sorokhtin for RIA Novosti) – Stock up on fur coats and felt boots! This is my paradoxical advice to the warm world.

Earth is now at the peak of one of its passing warm spells. It started in the 17th century when there was no industrial influence on the climate to speak of and no such thing as the hothouse effect. The current warming is evidently a natural process and utterly independent of hothouse gases.

The real reasons for climate changes are uneven solar radiation, terrestrial precession (that is, axis gyration), instability of oceanic currents, regular salinity fluctuations of the Arctic Ocean surface waters, etc. There is another, principal reason—solar activity and luminosity. The greater they are the warmer is our climate.

Astrophysics knows two solar activity cycles, of 11 and 200 years. Both are caused by changes in the radius and area of the irradiating solar surface. The latest data, obtained by Habibullah Abdusamatov, head of the Pulkovo Observatory space research laboratory, say that Earth has passed the peak of its warmer period, and a fairly cold spell will set in quite soon, by 2012. Real cold will come when solar activity reaches its minimum, by 2041, and will last for 50-60 years or even longer.

This is my point, which environmentalists hotly dispute as they cling to the hothouse theory. As we know, hothouse gases, in particular, nitrogen peroxide, warm up the atmosphere by keeping heat close to the ground. Advanced in the late 19th century by Svante A. Arrhenius, a Swedish physical chemist and Nobel Prize winner, this theory is taken for granted to this day and has not undergone any serious check… [more]

27 Dec 2007, 12:44pm
Latest Forest News
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Forest plans different approach to salvage logging

Supervisors from Plumas County and the Plumas National Forest have reached an understanding when it comes to recovering damaged timber from September’s Moonlight Fire.

The Forest Supervisor Alice Carlton was before the Plumas County Board of Supervisors Dec. 18 to update them on salvage and restoration on the Moonlight and Antelope fires, Secure Rural Schools legislation and the off-highway vehicle route-designation status.

While county supervisors were interested in all three issues, it was the timber salvage information they were particularly keen to discuss.

Although forest representatives are still crafting their approach to get approval to log the majority of timber involved in this year’s two major wildfires, approval has been gained for four roadside timber sales for hazard trees through a streamlined approach.

These initial projects are the simplest to get through the federal approval process. By following the National Environmental Protection Act process, the sales are planned requiring less documentation and with fewer regulations to follow than traditional sales… [more]

26 Dec 2007, 8:33pm
Latest Wildlife News
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San Francisco police probe fatal zoo attack

By Jim Christie

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco police on Wednesday investigated whether a Siberian tiger had help in escaping its zoo habitat before it killed a teenager and injured two other people on Christmas Day.

Police told a news conference at the San Francisco Zoo that they were treating the city-run facility as a crime scene. Investigators are looking into whether the tiger, which had mauled a zoo employee last year, had been taunted before its rampage. Police also indicated they were considering whether someone might have let the 9-year-old tiger, known as Tatiana, out of its exhibit.

Police shot and killed the tiger after it turned toward them as they attempted to divert its attention from one of the injured victims on the ground.

Zoo spokeswoman Lora LaMarca said zoo officials could not comment on how the tiger got out of its habitat, a grotto surrounded by a 15-foot (4.5 meter) moat and 20-foot (6 meter) wall. “It is an ongoing police investigation and it is still being looked into,” LaMarca said.

San Francisco’s medical examiner identified the victim of the fatal attack as Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, of San Jose, California. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The two other victims, 19- and 23-year-old brothers from San Jose, were reported in stable condition at a San Francisco hospital… [more]

23 Dec 2007, 10:52pm
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Representative says wolf reintroduction is ‘ineffective’

Rep. Stevan Pearce is expressing his discontent with regards to the direction the Mexican gray wolf recovery program is heading in New Mexico.

“I am disappointed more of my colleagues could not see the wisdom in eliminating an unsuccessful, ineffective program that has not only failed to produce results, but also threatens the lives and livelihoods of New Mexicans,” he said. “We have tried the reintroduction program for 10 years and have seen only growing problems and more wolf-human interactions.”

Pearce said he believes the time has come to concede that wolves cannot successfully be reintroduced into New Mexico, and is disappointed Congress has not yet reached that view.

“I will continue working to ensure that we are protected from these captive-bred habituated wolves,” he said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must take active steps to better manage problem wolves and guarantee that farmers, ranchers, their families, and their livestock are not repeatedly stalked and attacked.

“I will furthermore continue working to educate my colleagues with regards to the problems associated with this program.”

Pearce said the vote by Congress this past June to continue the recovery program was a setback. The congressman said he intends to put more pressure on those who he believes have only wasted tax dollars and created what he termed “a menace within our communities.”… [more]

23 Dec 2007, 8:03pm
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Alaska Wolf Attacks

Neither the three women nor their dogs heard the pack of wolves creeping up behind them as they jogged on Artillery Road in the frigid morning air.

Camas Barkemeyer, 26, her dogs Buddy, a 3-year-old American bulldog, and Ginger, a 6-year-old husky, were among that group on Fort Richardson a little after 10 a.m. Thursday. One minute it was peaceful. Then she glanced back and saw the pack of about eight wolves spanning the road, only a few feet behind.

A melee ensued, accompanied by screaming, snarling, blood and pepper spray.

“The thought went through my head: ‘What dog? What dog am I going to let go?’ ” Barkemeyer said. “It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever been through.”

The increasingly emboldened Elmendorf wolf pack is blamed for killing one dog and wounding another in Eagle River this week as Anchorage saw its seventh wolf attack in the past month, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game…

Links to all Alaska wolf attack stories on Wolf Crossing [here]

 
  
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