Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Something worth howling about!

Great news to howl about!  http://t.co/13LFfu5K5j

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund

It’s time for Congress to fully fund and permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Contact Congress and tell them to fully fund and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). I have worked as a professional wildlife biologist for over 34 years and seen first hand the critical good work that can only be accomplished by these funds. I’ve also seen the increasing need for these funds as more human impacts to wildlife occur. I recently visited the latest oil spill in California where I live. Hundreds of volunteers worked for weeks to do their best to clean up after a pipeline ruptured spilling thousands of gallons of oil on state beaches and the ocean. Many marine mammals and sea birds as well as other organisms were impacted. This type of impact occurs more frequently and is one of the many reasons why LWCF funding is needed. As we continue to depend on oil/gas products for energy, wildlife are impacted in the extraction, production, management and use of this energy. Please support this legislation and see that the critical work funded by LWCF can continue.

Without action, this critical and popular law will expire at the end of September. Please tell Congress to support the bipartisan legislation that will permanently authorize and fund LWCF at its Congressionally-approved level, including HR 1814 in the House, and S 338 and S 890 in the Senate.

For fifty years, LWCF has helped safeguard America's cherished places. It has preserved lands in every county, supporting National Parks like the Grand Canyon, and protecting vital wildlife habitat, neighborhood parks, and historic places, while providing access to public lands for outdoor and wildlife-based recreation. As a constituent and supporter of bird conservation, I appreciate that LWCF funds have helped to protect bird habitat and provide greater opportunities to enjoy birdwatching.

LWCF is not funded from taxpayer dollars, but instead reinvests a small portion of federal offshore drilling fees into the long-term conservation of important natural places. While LWCF is authorized to spend $900 million every year, it has been chronically underfunded. More than $17 billion has been diverted away from these crucial projects.

Please support legislation to fulfill the promise of this landmark law and continue the bipartisan legacy of protecting our nation's open spaces and clean water for the benefit of people and wildlife everywhere.

For more information on things got to where they are now, read Ted Williams article. As always, Ted pulls no punches in telling things that need to be told and then fixed.

Stop Cheating Our Wildlife by Ted Williams July/Aug Audubon Magazine

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ninth Circuit Blows Hole in Habitat Conservation Plans

This is a much needed ruling because developers and local government have leaned too hard on locking down these terms for 30-50 years when in reality things are very likely to change over such a period of time. Now additional land can be protected. This mainly affects those "covered" species included in HCPs and those species that aren't included in such a plan can already have a change in listed status and/or critical habitat.

Ninth Circuit Blows Hole in Habitat Conservation Plans

Punching a hole in the faith local governments and developers in California have placed in habitat conservation plans, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that federal wildlife agencies retain the discretion to designate additional land as critical habitat even after an HCP has been approved.

The case is important because local governments and developers in California have relied heavily on the HCPs adopted in the 1990s for certainly in planning future development. The Ninth Circuit ruling reinforces the idea that the HCPs are not iron-clad and wildlife agencies can put protect additional land at their discretion, thus diminishing the certainty HCPs are designed to create. Adopted in 1999, the Western Riverside plan was one of the largest and most comprehensive HCPs.

Ruling in a case involving the Santa Ana sucker, a small fish that lives in the Santa Ana River, the Ninth Circuit upheld the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's 2010 decision to add some 1,400 acres (and possibly another 5,000 acres) to the fish's critical habitat pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act. The court rejected the claim from a variety of local government agencies that the habitat designation was "arbitrary" because the wildlife agency should have waited for implementation of the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan before designating additional habitat.

By William Fulton on 29 June 2015 - 5:12pm

Friday, June 26, 2015

Study finds pet owners reluctant to face up to their cats’ kill count

The cartoons are the only thing that might be considered funny about this story...

Meanwhile on the local level, I came across a stretch of bike trail recently with cat food scattered along the pavement and several half gallons of curdled milk cut open so that they provided liquid refreshment for a colony of feral cats across the American river from Camp Pollock. 

Another illegal feral cat colony in the Parkway. I reported the location to County Park rangers. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Squirrelly encounters

I was out in the afternoon Wednesday enjoying a very rare light rain on the American River Parkway bike trail when I avoided the first of two suicide ground squirrels but the second got under my front tire and slammed me to the ground. I was riding my bike with larger 700 cc tires instead of my usual small 20 inch ones for anyone wondering. Previous squirrel encounters have been with smaller wheels and never resulted in me crashing.

I was moving in a straight line at moderate speed next to the golf course by CSU Sacramento when it happened. Admittedly, the rare rain had me a little distracted. My front wheel reversed and I went down on my left side pretty hard. It cracked my helmet and rung my bell but other than feeling woozy for a few minutes I mostly had minor bruises and a few scrapes. My helmet visor flew off as did my glasses, both survived but drew blood in the process. My wallet in the front pocket of my cargo shorts took a lot of the impact. Another rider saw the takedown and said it was impossible to tell what happened. I wobbled over to a bench and had a nice chat with an older dog owner before turning back for home.

The squirrel was not seen and apparently made it underground. This is the same spot I previously saw a Red-shouldered hawk grab an adult ground squirrel and make off with the limp prey until it came back to life, shook free and dropped to the ground. Maybe the same squirrel? The golf course has a large ground squirrel population to go with lots of Canada geese and other species present.

I’m still glad to have been out on the trail before the rain ended and happy I still bounce before breaking. Laurie went down on her bike coming from a meeting with a state legislator downtown earlier the same day. She got lots of attention and likewise only had a few bumps and bruises fortunately. Neither of us was too stiff the next morning and it’s always good to get a free safety reminder.

Enjoy & ride safe!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Sagebrush Sea on PBS, good but not good enough

PBS Nature series recently featured "The Sagebrush Sea". The program did a great job of introducing the variety of life and beauty of this ecosystem but missed the chance to do a more detailed analysis of how and why the ecosystem and key species such as the sage grouse are threatened. Habitat fragmentation, increased fire frequency due to invasive cheatgrass spread were covered in the program but the cause or connection between these major impacts to the sagebrush ecosystem wasn't. Livestock grazing and production are the root cause of the transformation from a perennial bunchgrass system to the annual cheatgrass one now in place. Too controversial to discuss now? I hope not. 

For a detailed discussion, follow this link to The Wildlife News review of the program. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

USFWS "chicken" out on plan to protect CA/NV sage grouse?

As recently as last December U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered the scale of threats facing the Mono Basin greater sage grouse population so high that the birds were given maximum priority for listing. This population is located in eastern California and western Nevada and is also known as the bi-state population. Fragmentation and geographic isolation from other sage grouse populations add to the risks faced by the six populations that haven't exceeded 2,500 birds in the last decade. The agency's decision ignores scientific recommendations for reversing the birds' steep decline and relies on unproven conservation agreements with state and local communities. 

A ten-year study of the bi-state population released last year showed it was holding it was own. Only one subpopulation showed significant decline and appeared “to be the only one with compelling evidence within the bi-state that is currently at risk of extinction.” The study, led by US Geological Survey biologist Peter Coates, concludes that “the preponderance of evidence suggests that sage-grouse populations are stable within bi-state DPS in its entirety over the period of 2003–2012.” 

Stable perhaps but those low population numbers are still reason for concern.
The bi-state distinct population segment (DPS), which was proposed for listing as “threatened” in 2013, is an isolated and important subset of a species that is eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The 2013 listing proposal cited the small population size and “inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms,” coupled with multiple threats from livestock grazing, invasive plants such as cheat grass, fire, energy development, mining, infrastructure and urbanization of habitat.

“The Service’s backpedalling in claiming that unfinished management plans and voluntary, cooperative agreements will protect the species is untrue, and smacks of political expediency” said Michael Connor, California director of Western Watersheds Project.

Given the known threats to bi-state sage grouse, the conservation measures proposed today do not protect adequate protection. Specific shortcomings include: 1) failure to protect sage grouse nests with adequate grass cover to hide eggs from predators; 2) calling for livestock to reduce flammable cheat grass — a practice has not been proven to be effective; 3) no restrictions on geothermal leases that would cover 143,000 acres of habitat; 4) no restrictions on mining; and 5) no requirement to limit overall disturbance density to under 3 percent of habitat.

This important population of sage grouse remains in serious trouble and efforts to restrict hardcore mining, geothermal development and off-road vehicle access within it's habitat have been inadequate.