The Environment

  Reporting on Environmental Issues DownJuly 31, 2006 22:09 People who look to TV’s broadcast networks for news on the environment have likely been disappointed for several years.

An ongoing study shows environmental coverage, after picking up dramatically in the first several months of the Bush administration in 2001, pretty much vanished after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that same year.

That’s not a surprise to me, and if you’re found you way to Watchdog Earth, it’s probably not a surprise to you. But on Friday, at journalism symposium I attended in New York City, seeing the actual numbers was disappointing.

The symposium was put on by the Michigan State University environmental journalism program, headed by former C-J reporter Jim Detjen. It was held in conjunction with the summer meeeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists board, of which I am a member.

Andrew Tyndall, of the Tyndall Report, presented a series of tables that track environmental coverage on ABC CBS and NBC dating to 1988. In them, he tracks minutes by year devoted to environmental subjects, as well as the top stories by year.
  Whale Lover Spouts Bad News About Ocean PollutionJuly 31, 2006 11:35 Toxic metal content in whales seems to be off the chart according to a famed whale biologist who just complete a round-the-world trip to study whales and pollution. Read the article for more information.
  Souvenirs Add To Decline Of Endangered SpeciesJuly 31, 2006 10:38 Holidaymakers are being urged not to buy souvenirs abroad which will contribute to the decline of endangered species. A charity has now released an online guide to what not to buy on holiday.

ARKive bills itself as an "online Noah's Ark" which collects and catalogues images, films and audio recordings of the world's species. It has launched a holiday guide to endangered animals that are commonly offered to tourists.

"When you are abroad, there's a natural temptation to try or buy items that you can't find at home," said ARKive's director, Richard Edwards, "But the sad fact is that this can often involve the deaths of animals that are already on the brink of extinction. The aim of our new ID guide is to help travellers make more conservation-friendly choices from menus, in shops and when making excursions."

The guide ( includes coral jewellery and souvenirs, shark-fin soup, edible sea urchins, and shahtoosh, a shawl made of Tibetan antelope hair. It also advises against paying to watch performing bears or paying for a posed snap with a chained animal such as a monkey.
  Animals Scramble As Climate WarmsJuly 27, 2006 11:39 Alarming anecdotes — such as polar bears drowning as they swim farther in search of scarce Arctic sea ice — dramatize the issue. But a recent flurry of scientific reports, field observations and official actions suggests nature's struggle with rising temperatures is well underway:
As Earth and its atmosphere grow warmer, the planet's wild inhabitants take cover where they can: cooler waters, deeper forests and canyons, higher slopes or nearer the poles, north and south.

But climate scientists say if global warming continues unabated, the scramble for habitat will grow much harder for millions of species of mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, insects and more. Recent studies argue that as many as one-quarter of them could begin to disappear this century — and that warming has wiped out some already.

"Nature is sending us a warning signal," says Patty Glick, a climate-change specialist at the National Wildlife Federation. "These species aren't just going extinct because they're weak. The ecosystem in which they live is changing."
  Hottest Destination In 2100: AspenJuly 27, 2006 11:36 A study released by the city of Aspen says the town could be as hot as Texas by 2100.

The study released yesterday by the Aspen Global Change Institute says the average temperature in Aspen has increased by three degrees in the past 25 years.

Besides eliminating skiing, it will be difficult to find enough water to deal with the growing population and higher temperatures. The report says hay fields and other crops will require more water.

Rafting seasons and fishing seasons will be shorter because the snow will melt earlier.
  Misleading Press About Pombo's Endangered Species ChangesJuly 27, 2006 11:08 The article linked below is an example of misleading press regarding Richard Pombo's proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act. The biggest misnomer is the concept that 'science' or 'scientific analysis' will be applied under his changes. The federal government already uses science to determine endangered species habitat and species numbers. The problem is that the Bush administration has appointed political officers to supervise all scientific research done by the feds. Take the global warming studies that were 'massaged' earlier in the Bush presidency. Thus, gutting the ESA to apply politically-biased federal 'science' to it essentially would make the Act effectively useless.
  Feds Reject Wyo Wolf PetitionJuly 25, 2006 09:15 Wyoming's dispute with the federal government over wolf management appears headed back to court.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Monday denied the state's plan to manage endangered gray wolves inside the state, culminating a yearlong agency review of the plan.

In addition to almost certainly sparking a return to the federal courtroom, the action means further delays in the delisting of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, including in Montana and Idaho, even as the wolf population in the region soars.

“Everybody wants to get wolves delisted and managed by the state fish and game agencies, and we want to do everything we can to make that happen, but at this time we just cannot go forward with delisting proposals,” said Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's gray wolf recovery coordinator.
  Senate To Debate Drilling For Oil, GasJuly 24, 2006 10:27 The Senate is expected to decide this week whether to open vast areas off the coast of Florida to oil and gas drilling, a debate with billions of dollars in energy royalties at stake that could affect the ability of coastal states like California to prevent drilling off their shores.

Senate Republicans want to allow drilling in Lease Area 181, a portion of the eastern Gulf of Mexico south of Florida's Panhandle that is believed to contain one of the nation's largest untapped reserves of oil and natural gas. Proponents claim that opening the new area could help rein in the high energy prices consumers are paying and reduce America's dependence on foreign sources.

"There's nothing we can do this year that would have more impact in helping us contain the price of gasoline and natural gas than passing this bill," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

But environmentalists and many California officials are worried the bill, if approved, could be merged with a more sweeping House measure approved last month that would end the quarter-century federal ban on drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and offer states lucrative financial incentives to approve oil and gas exploration.
  Gila Trout No Longer Endangered SpeciesJuly 19, 2006 23:02 After 40 years on the federal endangered species list, the Gila trout may soon go from endangered to threatened, opening the possibility for catch-and-release fishing of the species.

A final ruling by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected Aug. 17.

"The species is no longer in danger of extinction," according to a Fish & Wildlife news release,

The species, believed to have come from a common ancestor of the rainbow trout, was first officially classified in 1950 and recognized as endangered in 1966.
  Helping Species That May Not Be ThereJuly 16, 2006 22:29 As many regions of the United States rapidly urbanize, multispecies conservation plans have become a popular method for trying to balance development and ecological needs.

The basic idea is to let builders develop a certain area in exchange for setting aside biologically important land elsewhere for open space and habitat. The arrangement appeals to government agencies and developers because it allows them to consolidate the protection of numerous species into one agreement instead of dealing with them one at a time.

But a new report suggests the balancing act might not be meeting its full potential to protect plants and animals.

Many of the conservation plans have fundamental flaws that limit or overestimate their conservation potential, according to a study led by researchers from San Diego State and UC Davis.

The sweeping survey examined 22 multispecies plans in California and five other states. It found that, on average, 41 percent of plants and animals covered in such plans haven't been proven to exist in the designated areas – a sign that these plans lacked important biological data, according to the report.
  Steve Israel Marks Endangered Species DayJuly 14, 2006 08:53 Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) today spoke on the subject of environmental protection and conservation to 100 students at Huntington’s J. Finley Middle School. Other speakers were John and Adriana Vater, co-owners of Spa Adriana, Beth Fiteni from the Neighborhood Network, and Katherine Edelen from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The purpose of the event was to mark Endangered Species Day and to draw attention to the Endangered Species Act, which the Congressman claims is under threat in Congress.

"I'm delighted today to speak to these fine students about the need to protect our earth," Rep. Israel said. "Conservation is about preserving today's resources for tomorrow's generation. We need a partnership between governmental leaders, local businesses and private citizens to achieve this end."

"Conservation is one of the most important issues we face today," John Vater added. "We hope to not only educate students about environmentalism, but more important to inspire them to take action themselves to enact positive change."
  Steve Israel Marks Endangered Species DayJuly 14, 2006 08:52 Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) today spoke on the subject of environmental protection and conservation to 100 students at Huntington’s J. Finley Middle School. Other speakers were John and Adriana Vater, co-owners of Spa Adriana, Beth Fiteni from the Neighborhood Network, and Katherine Edelen from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The purpose of the event was to mark Endangered Species Day and to draw attention to the Endangered Species Act, which the Congressman claims is under threat in Congress.

"I'm delighted today to speak to these fine students about the need to protect our earth," Rep. Israel said. "Conservation is about preserving today's resources for tomorrow's generation. We need a partnership between governmental leaders, local businesses and private citizens to achieve this end."

"Conservation is one of the most important issues we face today," John Vater added. "We hope to not only educate students about environmentalism, but more important to inspire them to take action themselves to enact positive change."
  Senate Reaches Deal On Offshore DrillingJuly 13, 2006 09:17 Senators who want to open new areas of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas production heralded what they called a historic compromise Wednesday.
The agreement was supported by a key Florida senator, Republican Mel Martinez, who previously had vowed to block anything he perceived as a threat to the state's multimillion-dollar beach-related tourism industry.

The deal, promoted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and several Gulf Coast lawmakers, would open an 8 million-acre segment of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to production while barring drilling within 125 miles of the Florida coastline.

"This agreement will make America more energy independent," said Frist, who hoped to schedule a Senate vote on the plan before the end of the month.

Drilling proponents say the new area that would be open to production contains more than 1 billion barrels of oil and more than 5 million cubic feet of natural gas.

"We've been wondering where we can get crude oil," said Sen. Pete Dominici, R-N.M., head of the Senate energy committee. "Now we can go there and get it."
  Signonsandiego.Com > News > Business -- Mercury Higher In Some Canned Tuna, Study FindsJuly 12, 2006 09:55 Canned tuna from Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico can contain mercury levels 30 percent to 50 percent higher than the federal limit, according to a study released yesterday by an environmental group.

Defenders of Wildlife said that it found the highest concentrations of the toxic substance methylmercury in tuna from Tuna Real of Ecuador, Calmex of Mexico and Sardimar of Costa Rica.

Canners in Ecuador and Mexico typically buy from fishers who drop their nets near schools of dolphins to nab the mature tuna that routinely swim nearby.

  Proposal Could Jump Start Wolf Collaring & Helicopter HuntingJuly 12, 2006 09:18 A federal plan for handling cattle and sheep predators in designated wilderness areas could breathe new life into a proposal to land helicopters in millions of acres of pristine forest in Idaho for the purpose of tracking gray wolves, environmentalists say.

A proposal before the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division, which traps and shoots wild animals known to prey on livestock, would tweak a 1993 agreement between the two agencies.

The revision would update Forest Service policy to allow as "last resorts," animal sharp-shooting from helicopters, all-terrain vehicles and poison baiting in protected wilderness areas, Katie Armstrong, a Forest Service spokeswoman, said Monday.

Still, an approval by a regional forester would be required, so the policy change is not a "back door way to open up wilderness areas to motorized vehicles," she said.
  Endangered Species Wolf Killed, New Pack ReleasedJuly 11, 2006 15:08 So... Five cows are more valuable than saving an endangered species?

A female endangered Mexican gray wolf targeted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permanent removal from the wild has been killed, according to the agency and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Officials were seeking to remove the male and female that made up the Nantac pack because the animals had been involved in the killing of at least five cows. The male was killed in June by the wolf recovery team under a permanent removal order.

The female was shot Thursday, according to Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown.

The Fish and Wildlife Service began releasing wolves into the wild on the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998 to re-establish the species in part of its historic range. The agency estimates 32 to 46 of the wolves live in the wild in the two states.

Slown said a male and female, known as the Meridian pack, were released in southeastern Arizona on Thursday. She said the pair was raised in captivity.
  Bald Eagle Success StoryJuly 10, 2006 10:27 At a time when the country's feathers are frequently ruffled by military and diplomatic challenges to its global dominance, one classic American symbol is stronger than it has been in a long time: the bald eagle.

Declaring the last few decades of recovery efforts a success, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is poised to release the bald eagle from the federal list of endangered species.

Last century, the species had a close call with extinction in the country that has considered it a national symbol since 1782. Biologists believe there were once more than 100,000 bald eagles in America, but that population plummeted as humans hunted them, devoured their natural habitat with development, and released deadly pesticides like DDT into the environment. By the early 1960s, there were only 417 breeding pairs of bald eagles left in the lower 48 states, prompting Congress to pass the Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act and declare the bird an endangered species.

  Endangered Right Whale Gets AssistJuly 10, 2006 09:20 Thousands of square miles off Alaska have been designated as critical habitat for North Pacific right whales, considered the most endangered whale in the world.

The federal rule published last week designates some 36,750 square miles in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska as critical habitat for right whales. The rule takes affect Aug. 7.

At least 11,000 of the slow-moving whales -- prized by commercial whalers for their oil and baleen -- once swam the waters of the North Pacific. The whales were listed as endangered in 1973 and there are now believed to number fewer than 100 in waters near Alaska. A few hundred more may remain closer to Russia.

With so few whales remaining, scientists were challenged to come up with proper criteria for designating habitat, said Brad Smith, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Anchorage.
  Navy to Use Active Sonar During ExercisesJuly 08, 2006 07:50 The Navy said it will use active sonar during warfare exercises off Hawaii as early as this weekend, after reaching an agreement with environmentalists who claimed it poses a threat to whales and other sea life.

The settlement reached Friday prevents the Navy from using the sonar within 25 miles of the newly established Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument during its Rim of the Pacific 2006 exercises. It also imposes a variety of methods to watch for and report the presence of marine mammals.

Navy officials have said the value of training to detect stealthy submarines would have been severely diminished without the sonar, which bounces sound off objects in the ocean.

"We want to ensure that the U.S. Navy and its partner navies get the benefit of this opportunity to train in anti-submarine warfare," said Rear Adm. James Symonds, director of environmental readiness.

  Bottled Water Isn't Healthier Than Tap, Report RevealsJuly 07, 2006 11:09 Looks like bottled water can be environmentally expensive and not necessarily better for you than tap water...
  Croplife America Seeking ‘Modernization’ Of Endangered Species ActJuly 07, 2006 09:12 We don't agree with the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act or the proposed 'modernizations' to the Endangered Species Act, but the following article has an interesting discussion of pesticide application, indemnification for the EPA (which it probably needs to some extent), and the practical impacts of the ESA.

The Endangered Species Act is like a nagging backache for many farmers. They know it’s there, but it’s not going to stop them from doing a day’s work unless it turns into a sharp, stabbing pain; something akin to a lawsuit filed by Friends of the Earth or the Environmental Defense Fund.

When the Endangered Species Act became law in 1973, few would have argued with the legislation’s intent: Conserving threatened or endangered species of plants or animals that were in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range.

But, instead of focusing on rescuing gopher tortoises and silvery minnows, the law has become a vehicle for what some have called a “bottomless pit” of lawsuits because of government agency shortcomings and ambiguities in the law itself, according to ESA watchers.

  Whalers Kill Prey In Front Of Shocked TouristsJuly 06, 2006 10:16 Norwegian hunters shocked a boatload of Arctic tourists during the weekend by harpooning a whale in front of them.

About 80 tourists were aboard the trawler Reine, which was heading for areas off the Arctic Lofoten Islands known for their abundance of whales, when the incident happened. The area is popular with Norwegian whale-hunters, who have killed more than 400 of this year's quota of 1,052 minke whales.

  Conservation Planning Loopholes Threaten Imperiled Species, Researchers SayJuly 01, 2006 05:46 Widely used multispecies habitat conservation plans that permit the incidental "take" of threatened or endangered species often include species that are not confirmed to be present in the planning area, according to a Forum article in the July 2006 issue of BioScience.

The plans frequently fail to provide adequate conservation measures for such species, the article argues, and as a result, species that are present but not confirmed to be are placed in increased danger.
Habitat conservation plans are intended to allow development to occur that is compatible with conservation of species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Permit seekers often list multiple species in their plans, because if a species not covered by the plan is subsequently listed under the act, this could hinder the continued activities of the permittee. The BioScience article, by Matthew E. Rahn of San Diego State University and two colleagues, analyzed 22 multispecies plans approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service before 2005. On average 41 percent of the species covered in the plans had not been confirmed as present in the planning area, a result the authors describe as "alarming." Furthermore, most of these unconfirmed species lacked any species-specific conservation measures. The authors point out that if a species is in fact present but not confirmed as such and therefore not studied, a multispecies habitat conservation plan could actually represent a threat. Most multispecies conservation plans call for nonuniform land use, and such use represents a danger if it is not tailored to the species being protected. Rahn and colleagues argue that "assumptions of occurrence should be justified" in multispecies conservation plans. They suggest that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been inclined to issue permits for multispecies conservation plans in the absence of data, relying instead on professional judgment. Rahn and colleagues term that a "dangerous practice" and suggest that it may help explain why species in multi-species habitat conservation plans fare poorly compared to species with dedicated plans.