Cross Roads Observer

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Preble's Mouse and questionable science.

Want to delist some endangered species and open development in their designated habitats?

You could find a biologist sympathetic to your politcal viewpoint.

A year ago, developers welcomed the findings of biologist Rob Roy Ramey of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Interior Department's conclusion, based on his findings, that the Preble's meadow mouse no longer needed federal protections.

Ramsey was then hired as a consultant by Interior to review several other endangered species.

But subsequent research has cast strong doubts on his results.

The new study was conducted by Tim King, a USGS conservation geneticist based in West Virginia, and peer-reviewed by academic experts outside government. One of the reviewers, Eric Hallerman, a professor of fisheries and wildlife science at Virginia Tech, said King's study debunks Ramey's work.

"It contradicts it fairly strongly," Hallerman said.


King's study says Ramey's conclusions "should be considered questionable."

Hallerman said Ramey's work reflects the Bush administration's intrusion of politics in its scientific research. "It seemed to me from the get-go, he wanted to find that this was not a taxonomically valid subspecies," Hallerman said.

Does Ramey's politcal viewpoint cloud his science?

He acknowledged having strong views about endangered species.

"You cannot make everything a top priority and expect to accomplish anything, in terms of preserving species," Ramey said. "If we focused on conservation of fewer genetically unique populations and pooled our resources, we might accomplish more for conservation."

Eliminating protection of distinct subspecies is one of the key goals of developers apposed to the Endangered Species Act. It is not a viewpoint shared by most conservation biologists.

In the light of these new findings, Interior is currently reviewing the Preble's Mouse designation .

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Stealth Senate Attempt to Overturn Endangered Species Act

The rethuglican's are at it yet again. Disregarding long established Senate Traditions, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) has introduced a bill to overturn endangered species protections in the Senate Finance Committee intead of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where it would have had a difficult time making it to the full Senate.

Last September, Pombo's Anti-Endangered Spieces Bill was passed in the House. Pombo's Billed coupled with Crapo's would mean that species protections as we have known them since the early '70's would effectively come to an end.

For more background on republican's efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act read the following diaries:

Pelosi Satement in Support of ESA
Repubs ramming Anti-Endangered Species Bill through House
House Committee attacks Endangered Species Protection

The Center for Biological Diversity has provided an overview of the most damaging provisions of Carpo's Bill.

Center for Biological Diversity Overview of S.2110, the "Collaboration and Recovery of Endangered Species Act"
Introduced by Senator Crapo (R-ID) Thursday, December 15, 2005

Makes Habitat Protection Completely Discretionary (pages 18-19)
The Crapo bill would eliminate mandatory timelines to designate critical habitat for endangered species, instead giving the Secretary of Interior complete discretion to prioritize designations based in part on "minimizing conflicts" with "construction, development...or other economic activities." Even then the Secretary would not be required to implement the schedule, and citizen groups would be banned from seeking court orders to implement any critical habitat schedules or deadlines. All existing court orders to designate critical habitat would be overruled by the bill.

Makes Species Listing Completely Discretionary (pages 18-19)
As with habitat protections, the Crapo bill would eliminate mandatory timelines to place species on the endangered list, instead giving the Secretary of Interior complete discretion to prioritize listings. Even then the Secretary is not required to implement her schedule and citizen groups are banned from seeking court orders to implement any listing schedules or deadlines. All existing court orders to list species would be overruled by the bill.

Killing One Species in Exchange for Another (pages 36-41)
The Crapo bill would create a system allowing developers to buy and sell credits for destroying endangered species habitat. This senseless system would allow developers to destroy the habitat for one species (e.g. Coho salmon) because they have purchased credits to protect another (e.g. Mount Hermon june beetle). It would result in the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of essential habitat areas.

Undermines Recovery Plans (pages 21-28)
The Crapo bill would create a new convoluted recovery planning process that allows industry to rewrite and overrule the decisions of wildlife experts. A newly created "executive committee" made up of industry interests would make final edits and revisions to the recovery plan developed by scientists and agency biologists. Furthermore, the Crapo bill explicitly makes recovery plans "non-binding and advisory."

Creates Roadblocks to Listing Endangered Species (pages 16-18)
The Crapo bill would create an ambiguous priority system for listing endangered species that includes industry interests. Current law requires endangered species listings to be based solely on the biological needs of the species.

Eliminates Federal Oversight of Endangered Species (page 15)
The Crapo bill would require Fish and Wildlife Service to provide a "provisional permit" for any project on private property (except for "ground clearing") if there is no recovery plan in place. The permit would remain in effect until a habitat conservation plan (HCP) is approved. This would allow activities like mining and logging in endangered species habitat to proceed indefinitely with no federal oversight.

Restricts Wildlife Agencies from Improving Conservation Agreements (pages 50-53)
The Crapo bill would take "No Surprises"--a highly controversial administrative regulation--and make it law. The Fish and Wildlife Service would be unable to update or revoke a permit (HCP) that authorizes harm to an endangered species, even if new information indicates that the original plan was inadequate and even if it is causing the extinction of the species.

Pays Off Developers to Not Violate the Law (page 56)
The Crapo bill would create tax breaks to compensate privat/be landowners for conservation work done on private property. However, the Crapo bill fails to limit these tax breaks to landowners who engage in active conservation--the creation or enhancement of endangered species habitat. Therefore, land developers who are required to set aside some portion of their land from development would also be eligible for these tax breaks. That is, instead of paying private landowners to create new habitat, the Crapo bill would primarily be paying developers to comply with the law, creating no new habitat.

As our attention is riveted on the important disclosures of Bush's Domestic Spying Program, please let's not lose sight of the other destructive actions being taken by the GOP.

Please contact your Senators and urge them to block consideration of this ill concieved bill.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

For Sale: Siberian Tiger, 2 years-old, $70,000.

The Internet has become one of the forces driving the extinction of endangered species.  A report released by The International Fund for Animal Welfare has found that the Internet trade in endangered species is flourishing and poses a significant threat to many species.

Bloomberg Traders are using the Internet to sell thousands of products from endangered wildlife species, including live animals, ivory, tortoiseshell and stuffed creatures, the International Fund for Animal Welfare said.

The trade in products made from some of the world's most endangered species, and in the animals themselves, has ``devastating implications for both wildlife conservation and animal welfare,'' yet not all sellers may be aware their activities are illegal, the group based in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, said today in a report on its Web site.

I was surprised to find that not only are live reptiles and birds, and animal parts for sale, but you can also buy Gorillas and Tigers online.
Items for sale online have included a 7-year-old gorilla in London at 4,500 pounds ($8,129), a 2-year-old Siberian tiger on a U.S. site with a $70,000 price tag, serval cats and Amazonian parrots, IFAW said. An ``intensive'' one-week Web search by the group in January found more than 9,000 products, specimens and live creatures for sale, mainly from protected species.

Part of the reason for this Internet trade is that laws that govern the trade of endangered species are inadequate for dealing with Internet commerce.  CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is the treaty that governs the international trade of endangered species.  The CITES UNEP program provides a wealth of resources to help identify and deal with the trade of endangered species, but the existence of this information is not widely know, or distributed by cosigning countries.
``The current legal framework and enforcement efforts are inadequate to deal with this appalling situation and protect the species and individual animals involved,'' the IFAW said in the report. ``A more effective response is essential.''

The group recommended that governments act to regulate the trade in endangered species by banning the advertising of products related to those animals listed as the most endangered. Nations should also provide easily accessible information on the rules governing the wildlife trade, according to the report.

To find out more about Internet trade in Endangered Species and what you can do about it, download IFAW's report:  Caught in the Web: Wildlife Trade on the Internet.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Tierney Spews BS about Polar Bears.

Tierney over at the New York Times has provided us with another example of his 'head in the sand" opinions on the predicted effects of global warming.  This time he's suggesting that global warming will be good for Polar Bears.
First he presents us with one piece of information about Polar Bear population trends.
NYT This is not an isolated trend. Although the bears seem to be hurting in some places, like the Hudson Bay region south of here, their numbers have increased worldwide. In Canada, home to most of the world's polar bears, the population has risen by more than 20 percent in the past decade.

The chief reason for the rise is probably restrictions on hunting (for which conservationists deserve credit). In this village of fewer than 200 residents, Mr. Kalluk and the other hunters are limited each year to three dozen bears, which they allocate by drawing names out of a hat.
He then tries to argue that global warming is the reason for the increase in Polar Bear numbers.
But the increase might also be related to the recent warming, which could be helping bears in some places. After all, the bears have thrived in warmer climates than today's. In the 1930's, the Arctic was as warm as it is now, and in the distant past it was even warmer.

The doomsday reports of the melting Arctic have focused on the rise in temperatures compared with the late 1970's, but that was a particularly cold period. So the bears can cope with some global warming, which would increase the diversity of species in the Arctic - and maybe the number of humans, too.
What makes Tierney more of an expert on Polar Bears than the group of 40 bear biologists that meet in June and concluded that global warming would have a negative net impact on Polar Bears?
WP In a closed meeting here late last month, 40 members of the polar bear specialist group of the World Conservation Union concluded that the imposing white carnivores -- the world's largest bear -- should now be classified as a "vulnerable" species based on a likely 30 percent decline in their worldwide population over the next 35 to 50 years. There are now 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears across the Arctic.

"The principal cause of this decline is climatic warming and its consequent negative affects on the sea ice habitat of polar bears," according to a statement released after the meeting. Scientists from five countries, including the United States, attended the meeting."The principal cause of this decline is climatic warming and its consequent negative affects on the sea ice habitat of polar bears," according to a statement released after the meeting. Scientists from five countries, including the United States, attended the meeting.(emphasis mine)

And did he miss this recent report on the effect of global warming on the Artic regions?
AP "There are more climate changes happening up there than anywhere else in the world," Berger said of the Arctic. "Models predict drastic changes up there by the middle of this century."
"The fundamental concept is that the Arctic is undergoing some rather exceptional and rapid changes at the moment," Wiseman told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "We see this in the retreat of glaciers and sea ice.

He takes an increase in Polar Bear numbers thought to be related to hunting restrictions and tries to turn it into a criticism of the predicted effects of global warming.
Why does the New York Times let this man put pen to paper?

Monday, August 01, 2005

US-Australia Climate Pact is Diversionary

The US, Australia, China, India, South Korea, and Japan have negotiated a climate pact in secret that policy experts believe is a diversion from some members rejection of the Kyoto Protocol.   Instead of establishing emissions reduction targets, the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate calls for developing new technologies to reduce the production of greenhouse gases.  The call for new technologies is nothing new.
Nature News Experts caution that there isn't really anything new within the pact itself. Both the United States and Australia have long promoted technological solutions as the best way to tackle climate change. "The United States already has bilateral technology cooperation agreements with all the countries involved," points out Fiedler.
Energy experts say that new technologies, such as renewable energy systems and more efficient vehicles, are a vital part of climate-change measures. But they add that emission targets are the best way to act now.

The creation of this pact is thought to be a means of deflecting attention form the US's and Australia's rejection of the Kyoto protocol.
Climate-policy experts say that although the aims of the pact are worthwhile, it contains no new financial commitments or targets. Australia and the United States are the only two developed nations not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and experts say the pact is likely to be used by them to deflect pressure to accept future versions of the protocol.
"They want to say 'Leave us alone, we're already doing something'," says Jeff Fiedler, a climate-policy specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington. Talks about what to do when the protocol expires will begin in earnest in November.

The problem here is that the partners in the pact are taking the easy route instead making the hard choices needed to deal with this problem today not sometime in the future.>
"I don't see this announcement as a threat, but it reflects a way of thinking that could threaten effective action," says Michael Grubb, an energy economist at Imperial College in London.
"Technology cooperation is being presented as an alternative to the hard issues of building incentives for energy efficiency and low-carbon technology investment by the private sector, which has to include regulating carbon emissions," says Grubb.

Bush has argued that trying to meet the Kyoto Protocol emissions targets would harm the US economy.  Bush seems to have little faith in our nation's can-do technological know-how.  A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that not only do we have the know-how, in addition the US economy would benefit from steps that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
UCS UCS recently examined the economic impact of  gradually increasing our nation's use of renewable electricity from about 2.5 percent today to 20 percent by 2020. The end result: more than 355,000 new jobs in domestic manufacturing, construction, operations, maintenance, shipping, sales, finance, and other industries. This is nearly double the number of jobs that would be created by producing an equivalent amount of electricity from fossil fuels during the same amount of time. These 157,480 additional jobs would generate an additional $8.2 billion in income and $10.2 billion in gross domestic product. Increased renewable energy development would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 434 million metric tons per year.

We don't need to wait for research to develop new technologies to start doing something about global warming.  Those technologies are available and their adoption would help our weak economy.  It's really a pity Bush has so little faith in our Nation's ability to solve problems.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Roadless Area Conservation Act Introduced in House

The Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2005, introduced in the house on Thursday, would protect 58.5 million acres of National Forest lands from commercial logging and road building.  This Act would reinstate one of the most popular rules put in place by Clinton and then overturned by Bush.
ENS Conservationists announced their strong support for a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday that would permanently protect much of the nation's last pristine National Forest land.

The bill codifies the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, promulgated by President Bill Clinton, which was overturned by the Bush administration in May.

The Act would still allow construction of temporary roads when human safety or forest health would benefit.

Protection of roadless areas has strong public support and scientific backing.

"This legislation listens to the will of the American people," said Robert Vandermark of the National Environmental Trust. "Before the Bush Administration officially repealed the Roadless Rule over four million public comments were submitted in support of protecting all our roadless areas."

The Roadless Rule was approved following years of scientific study and more than 600 public meetings across the country. During its consideration, 2.5 million Americans wrote the Federal government in support of the rule, making it the most popular in American history. Since then, another 1.8 million comments were received by the Bush administration opposing their plan and urging reinstatement of the original protection policy.

That's right 2.5 million in support of roadless protection and 1.8 million opposed to Bush's plan.  The voice of the people stated loud and clear.  Please encourage your Rep. to support the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2005.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Pelosi statement in support of ESA.

At a news conference organized by several environmental organizations in support of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Democratic House Leader, Nancy Pelosi provided a statement in support of ESA.  At this meeting 150,000 petitions in support of ESA were delivered to the White House.

Source "Thank you to the environmental activists who have converged on Washington this week to talk to your elected officials about the Endangered Species Act. We need to raise awareness in Washington and around the country because the Endangered Species Act itself should be on the "threatened" list right now. You are the cavalry coming to storm the Hill.

"You know that all species are part of a web of life, and we owe it to our children to protect animals and plants from extinction. The Endangered Species Act provides a safety net for wildlife, plants, and fish that are on the brink of extinction.

"Unfortunately, the Bush Administration takes the same approach to the Endangered Species Act that it takes to all the other major environmental laws that protect our air, water, and lands. Their approach is to appease, abuse, and assault.

"They appease their corporate supporters. To the Bush Administration, endangered species are simply an obstacle to the business practices of their corporate supporters, whose views on the environment are vastly different from responsible companies.

"They abuse the scientific evidence for protecting the environment. In a confidential survey of U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees earlier this year, large numbers of agency scientists reported political interference in scientific decisions.

"And they assault our environmental laws through regulatory changes and court cases. For example, the Forest Service is allowed to proceed with logging and road-building in endangered species habitat without assessing the affects on the endangered species.

"The Endangered Species Act is under attack in Congress as well.

"The nation rejoiced this spring when the Ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought to be extinct, was spotted in the woods and swamps of eastern Arkansas. The nation's capital rejoiced a few days ago when a baby panda was born in the National Zoo. We need to build on these happy events.

"I don't need to tell you why we should save all endangered species, not just the glamorous ones, like pandas. The web of life is essential to our own survival. It is not up to us to decide which of God's creations should live and which should disappear from the face of the earth.

"Thank you again for coming to Washington. You are the cavalry! You can be sure I join with you in this fight to save the Endangered Species Act."

I am heartened to see the Democratic leadership does not consider environmentalism a damaged brand and is willing to speak out on this important issue.  This week the House Resources Committee Chairman, Richard Pombo, began hearings on his proposed Anti-Endangered Species legislation.  After these hearings he intends to rush the bill to a vote on the House floor.  This bill would dismantle many of the government protections that endangered species are currently guaranteed under ESA.  He has consistently claimed that ESA is not working.  The evidence does not support his claims.  The Endangered Species Act needs strengthening, not dismantling.

Since the Bush Administration took office it has tried to subvert ESA.

NYT Regrettably, the Bush administration is not waiting for this debate to take place. Since the day they took office, Bush officials have tried to subvert the law administratively and in the courts. They have slowed the process by which species are listed as threatened or endangered, cut scientists out of important wildlife decisions, encouraged and then sided with industry lawsuits against habitat designation, and tortured the very meaning of the act to evade its obligations.

This attack is now culminating in a direct assault on ESA.  Please contact your Representative and ask them to oppose Pombo's efforts to eviserate ESA.

For more background on ESA and Pombo's bill, please read this previous diary.