Archive for the 'Wildlife' Category

NYT op-ed nails it: Wolves matter in more ways than you might think

A New York Times op-ed on Sept. 28 lays out in very clear terms why wolves are an important and necessary part of our world and of their habitats and why the lifting of the endangered species protections could spell their doom in Wyoming.

And with a headline like this — ‘Why the Beaver Should Thank the Wolf’ — the piece, by author Mary Ellen Hannibal, should be the most-read online item this week.

It turns out, no surprise here, that wolves aren’t the worst of the food chain, valued only for their hides. They are an integral part of maintaining the ecosystem.

Since wolves were returned to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s (they were wiped out in the early part of the 20th century), “scientists have noted an unexpected improvement in many of the park’s degraded stream areas.”

Animals behave differently when wolves are around, and that helps the vegetation and waterways. With predators around, for example, elk don’t have time to browse vegetation down to the ground, so the plants can reproduce, and the vegetation in turn stabilizes stream banks.

This is a good line: “The wolf is connected to the elk is connected to the aspen is connected to the beaver.”

That sounds fun, but it’s very serious.

The extinction of top predators, like the endangered wolf, will have repercussions far beyond the loss of one species. Their place in the planet’s ecosystem matters.

– Linda J.

 

Time to speak out

I’ve bitten my tongue for far too long. I’ve let climate-change deniers have their say to avoid stepping on various toes and I can’t do it any longer.

Climate change is real. Period.

There, I said it.

It took a vacation to “my” Colorado mountains for a family reunion to open my eyes to how bad things really are.

If you don’t believe me or the consensus of real scientists who deal in facts, I have a challenge for you: Take a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and go up to about 9,000 feet. Take in the wonder that is around you for a while and then start looking at things in detail. You will start to notice dead and dying lodge-pole pines; in some places whole mountainsides wiped out.

You will see burn piles where last winter, after snow fell, rangers burned 5,000 piles of beetle-infested and dead trees, according to rangers I spoke with. The burn marks were evident at that altitude and they’ve already started building piles to burn this winter (when snow’s on the ground so as to not spread fire).

Who did I get this from?

  • Two different park rangers at two different locations, one as worried as I, the other slightly more optimistic.
  • A wildlife biologist who lives there (extended family member to fully disclose).
  • I also observed the destruction myself.

One of the rangers told me he started a talk at one of the campgrounds two years ago detailing how climate change is affecting the park.

Today, groups are studying a little mammal, a cousin to the rabbit, called the pika. It’s the park’s canary-in-the-coal-mine, if you will, a term I used with the ranger. Groups are studying its changing migration patterns and watching the little guys for signs of extinction. It will go first, the ranger said.

There wasn’t enough cold last year to kill the beetles that are eating the trees from the inside out. Some always survive and kill a few trees. But the trees need at least a week of below 20 degree weather in winter to kill off the bulk of the beetles. That didn’t happen.

Can I say that again? There weren’t 7 consecutive days of high temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in that part of the Colorado mountains last winter. That’s stunning. I remember that kind of cold in Denver, much less the mountains.

Then there are the fires raging all across the parched west, including the one west of Fort Collins, about 50 miles or so as the crow flies from the northern edge of the park. All those dead trees are tinder for a spark; fuel for fires started by nature or humans and quickly spread by winds that won’t quit.

Or check out Africa, where parched is taking on a whole new meaning. Or the arctic, where polar bears can’t find enough ice to survive.

How much observable data do you need?

Study what’s really happening, then come back and tell me climate change isn’t real with a straight face.

And just for fun, watch this clip of physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Real Time with Bill Maher cleaning the clock of climate denier and former GM chairman Bob Lutz using changing migration patterns as his example.

Closer to home, Kentucky didn’t have much of a winter last year. School actually got out on time, which didn’t happened in three prior years that I’ve paid attention because of a school-age child. And many of the “snow days” in those years weren’t because of snow, they were because of ice. We get ice because it doesn’t get and stay cold enough to snow.

We might have an extreme winter this year, Colorado might have little winter again, or the reverse might be true or some combination of severe storms, or drought, too much cold or not enough. Remember the deadly and destructive March 2 tornadoes? Awful early in the year, don’t you think?

That’s what climate change is: Long-term it means the planet is warming, but short-term, it means changing weather patterns, and more extreme and severe weather (droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc.).

There’s no more “normal.”

We better get used to it since politically no one seems willing to stand up to the deniers.

“Startling” new estimates detail extent of white-nose bat syndrome epidemic

A hat tip to Lu-Ann Farrar for finding this and putting in her Kentucky News Review today.  It’s an important update especially since a white-nosed bat was found in the state last April:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (PDF) has issued a report saying that at least 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats have died from white-nose syndrome since its detection in 2006.

When the disease is found in a location, the mortality rate can be 100 percent.

“This startling new information illustrates the severity of the threat that white-nose syndrome poses for bats, as well as the scope of the problem facing our nation. Bats provide tremendous value to the U.S. economy as natural pest control for American farms and forests every year, while playing an essential role in helping to control insects that can spread disease to people,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.

The disease was found in Kentucky in April 2011 in a little brown bat from a cave in Trigg County in Western Kentucky, about 30 miles southeast of Paducah. The Herald-Leader and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has collected information and reported on the disease.

 

Worth reading: ’7 billion: What to expect when you are expanding’

As the world’s population expands — a United Nations report says we will reach 7 billion people on Monday — Grist.org has been exploring issues of population growth and the environment with a series titled, 7 billion: What to Expect When You are Expanding.

I recommend some not-so-light reading for the weekend.

They are tackling some heavy topics, from Three’s a crowd: Is it unethical to have more than two children  and We can feed 10 billion of us, study finds — but it won’t  be easy to An indigenous take on family planning and population and much more.

So in between the parties this weekend and the kids’ trick-or-treating, check it out. It’s food for thought, and discussion.

– Linda J.

Cumberland darter considered for endangered listing

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing Cumberland darter as an endangered species.

The darter is only found in the upper Cumberland River system above Cumberland Falls in Kentucky and Tennessee. Historically, this species inhabited 21 streams in the upper Cumberland River system. Now, the Cumberland darter survives in short reaches of less than one mile along 12 streams.

Copies of the proposed rule are available by contacting Mary Jennings, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 446 Neal Street, Cookeville, Tennessee 38501 (telephone 931/528-6481, extension 203; facsimile 931/528-7075). The proposed rule also is available on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s websites at http://www.fws.gov/cookeville/ or http://www.fws.gov/policy/library/2010/2010-15240.html

Written public comments on this proposed rule to list these five fish species as endangered must be received or postmarked by August 23, 2010, within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register. Public hearings regarding this proposal will be held if requested. Requests for a public hearing on this proposal must be received by August 9, 2010, within 45 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

Public comments must be submitted August 23, 2010, by one of the following methods:
1. Electronically via the federal eRulemaking Portal at: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0027.
2. U.S. mail or hand-delivered to Public Comments Processing. Attn: FWS-R4-ES–2010-0027, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203. All comments, including personal information, will be available at http://www.regulatioms.gov.

Canoe the Green River — and leave it cleaner

Here’s a chance to see Kentucky’s beautiful Green River from a canoe and leave it ever more beautifulL

On June 19, The Nature Conservancy – with help from Crystal Light and Big Buffalo Crossing Canoe & Kayak – will host The Green River Fest, an organized clean-up of the Green River at Thelma Stovall Park in Munfordville.. Event participants will receive a canoe and trash bags to help clean up the river’s shore as they paddle along. Each canoe will cover a 10-mile stretch of the river.

Organizers promise entertainment, a chance to win prizes, T-shirts and refreshments.

To find out more, and reserve a spot, go to www.bigbuffalocrossing.com

Caves in Daniel Boone National Forest will remain closed to humans

Caves in the Daniel Boone National Forest and other national forests in the southeast will remain closed at part of an effort to stop to spread of a disease that is killing bats, the Forest Service said this week.

The caves were ordered closed last May. The disease, white-nose syndrome, was discovered in New York in 2006, and now is as close to Kentucky as West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri.

Scientists believe it is spread from bat to bat and my people visiting an infected cave, then wearing the same footware into one that is not infected. More than 1 million bats have died, and no cure has been found.

Our Plastic Nightmare, Now on Video

A 5-minute video shows the effects of plastics on the planet, from drilling oil and how plastics are produced to the littered bottles and plastic bags strewn along roadways and beaches, in the oceans and mountains, to the detriment of fish and animals alike.

Watch it here, from the Wild Green blog on UTNE Reader: Our Plastic Nightmare, Now on Video. How does it affect you? Will you stop and think about it the next time you are buying a bottle of water?

How many human-made products can you name that don’t contain any plastic in the product or the packaging or both?

Can you, or will you, stop buying things that contain plastic?

That’s going to be much harder for all of us, isn’t it?

— Linda J.

Some starling news about Lexington

The results from February’s Great Backyard Bird Count are in, and they show that Lexington is teeming with feathered friends.
Sixty-nine species were seen, for a total of 9,134 birds.
Here are the Top 10 species:
European Starling 2,036
Canada Goose 1,988
Rock Pigeon 607
House Sparrow 590
American Robin 486
Mourning Dove 431
Northern Cardinal 384
American Goldfinch 370
White-throated Sparrow 244
Mallard 218
A number of species, including the pileated woodpecker and yellow-rumped warbler, were represented by only one bird.
To find more details about the count in Lexington or anywhere else, go to http://u.nu/5r458.

Fight invasive species, help a Lexington creek

Volunteers are invited to participate in a restoration project for Wolf Run Creek in the Roanoke Drive greenway area, near Alexandria Drive.

Activities are planned for Saturday, March 13 and Saturday, March 20.

The Port Royal Neighborhood Association and Friends of Wolf Run are working cooperatively on the restoration project. A 2009 Neighborhood and Community Sustainability Grant was awarded by the city of Lexington to the Port Royal Neighborhood Association for the project aimed at improving water quality in Wolf Run Creek.

On Saturday, March 13, volunteers are needed to remove Bush Honeysuckle, an invasive plant that has overrun the creek bank in many areas. Volunteers are asked to bring work gloves and hand tools such as saws and loppers. Workers will meet Bruce Hutcheson, with the Port Royal Neighborhood Association, on site at 10 a.m. Saturday.

On Saturday, March 20, the restoration work will continue with the installation of creek-side native plants. Workers will be needed to install trees, shrubs and perennial plants from pots to replace the Bush Honeysuckle. Volunteers are asked to bring work gloves and digging tools such as shovels and trowels. Wendy Haven, also with the Port Royal Neighborhood Association, will coordinate the work that begins at 1 p.m.

For more information on the Wolf Run Creek project call 859 940-8234 or send an e-mail to friend@wolfrunwater.org.

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