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Wednesday, December 7 2005

Wildlife at Risk…From the Budget?

As Congress reconvenes in Washington, D.C. after a Thanksgiving holiday break, one of the first things on the schedule is the deliberation of a massive budget bill that could spell disaster for wildlife and public lands across the U.S.

Both House and Senate passed different versions of a budget last month. Now they must figure out a way to combine the two and put that final bill to one last up-or-down vote.

What is so bad?

* More than 300 million acres of public lands-your public lands-could be sold to developers at bargain-basement prices if a series of mining provisions make it into the final bill, possibly becoming one of the biggest taxpayer rip-offs in a very long time.

* Both budgets cut important Farm Bill conservation programs, which are popular incentives for farmers that encourage them to use wildlife-friendly practices on their lands. More than half of all land in our country is dedicated to agriculture, making the management of farmland very important for wildlife.

* A provision in the Senate budget would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, sacrificing one of America’s most wild places for a small bit of oil.

Call or email your senators and your representative.

Urge them to oppose any final budget bill that includes these harmful provisions.

Learn more about the bad things in the two budgets.

Thank you in advance for speaking up on this issue!

Sincerely,
The National Wildlife Federation Team

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+ Don S @ 03:09pm

Sunday, October 16 2005

Farm bill conservation programs need your support

This article from Babe Winkelman’s syndicated column points to the need for sportsmen to make a ruckus now in order to save the farm bill conservation programs.

These programs, such as CRP, Wetlands Reserve Programs, and other important means of helping farmers and ranchers preserve habitat, are on the chopping block along with many other programs post-Katrina.

Part of the basic purpose of government is health and security. CRP, WRP, etc., don’t just benefit wildlife, they benefit humans by cleaning our water. If you want to step up for these programs, call Senator Sam Brownback at (202) 224-6521, and/or Senator Pat Roberts at (202) 224-4774. Ask them to send you in writing their stances on full funding in the 2007 Farm Bill for conservation programs.

+ Dan @ 02:37pm

Wednesday, September 21 2005

Tips for hunting the rut

Kansas deer hunting shows up big again on ESPN.com’s Outdoors section. The main thrust of the article is on tree stand selection for maximum success during the rut, but us Kansans can’t help but notice - whether good, bad, or indifferent - the way that the rest of the nation is coming here for deer hunting.

+ Dan @ 11:23am

Wednesday, September 14 2005

Senate: Keep the mercury pumping

In the category of “Disappointing but not surprising” is this news from the United States Senate: on a vote of 51-47, the body voted to keep in place the EPA’s rules on mercury emisssions from power plants.

The rules set in place by the EPA are dangerously unaggressive, and over a 15 year period, will put hundreds of tons of mercury in our waters - four times as much as we would have to using the best available technology.

The battleground now really shifts to the state legislatures, which have the authority to require the technology Congress won’t.

+ Dan @ 03:19pm

Thursday, August 25 2005

Record tuna also sets mercury record

For all of the excuses and finger pointing that goes on with mercury, a few things are clear: one is that mercury levels are increasing in local waters, and another is that human sources of mercury get the blame.

While the effect is unknown for deep-sea fish, fish from coastal waters are certainly accumulating mercury in great quantities. As one example, the Delaware News Journal carries this article on a record-breaking tuna, which came in on the scale at 873 pounds. (And imagine that fight!)

Perhaps not surprisingly, the fish also carried a new level of mercury contamination. The quote from the article:

The mercury also was nearly twice the highest level of mercury ever found by the FDA in fresh or frozen tuna steaks….

As always, pregnant women and small children should probably minimize fish consumption, especially for critters high on the food chain, such as tuna and swordfish.

+ Dan @ 02:56pm

Wednesday, July 6 2005

The bird mashers in Altamont

Wind power advocates like to reassure people that great strides have been made in protecting birds from getting killed in wind turbine complexes.

Maybe, but as this article from the Associated Press goes, that may not quite be the case.

Here’s the killer quote:

An estimated 1,700 to 4,700 birds are killed each year in the 50-square-mile Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, and of those fatalities, between 880 and 1,300 are federally protected raptors such as burrowing owls, red-tailed hawks and golden eagles, according to a study released last year by the California Energy Commission.

“Altamont is killing more birds of prey than any other wind farm in North America,” said Jeff Miller, a wildlife advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Incredible numbers of raptors are being killed there, and it’s hard to believe it’s not having effects on the populations.”

Kansas, being in the center of the country, has a great deal of migratory birds to think about, including ducks and geese, as well as raptors.

While KWF doesn’t have anything against wind power in and of itself, the lack of siting guidelines is a failure to be good stewards to our world.

+ Dan @ 04:05pm

Tuesday, June 21 2005

Federal Government: red now green, day now night

The Kansas City Star carries this remarkable story on the federal government’s new grazing standards for public lands.

Here’s the killer quote:

The original draft of the environmental analysis warned that the new rules would have a “significant adverse impact” on wildlife. That phrase was removed. The agency now concludes that the grazing regulations are “beneficial to animals.”

That’s quite an edit.

Playing politics with conservation standards is nothing new, of course, and is hardly limited to the federal government. It’s exactly this kind of nonsense that requires sportsmen to watchdog the government and make sure it’s taking care of the resource.

+ Dan @ 11:43am

Tuesday, May 31 2005

A round-up of conservation links

No urgent news is jumping out at us from the world of conservation, so here are a few outdoor stories from the Great Plains and beyond that have caught the eye over the past few days:

The Kansas City Star carries this story on Kansas scenic byways. Three Kansas roadways, including the Flint Hills Scenic Byway, the Post Rock Scenic Byway, and the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway, have been nominated for National Scenic Byway designation, which can help fund the development of communities and attractions along those roads.

You know it’s a big fish when it takes two hours of fight to get it to the boat. Andrew Miller had to call friends on his cellphone for help in getting the state’s new record grass carp out of the water. The fish weighed in at 67 pounds.

Zebra mussels seem to have disappeared from Cheney Reservoir. This is very good news for a variety of reasons, but the invaders, which can kill off game fish and screw up water lines, are still present in El Dorado. Boaters have to be very responsible in all of Kansas waters, making sure to empty out live wells and bait wells before leaving the reservoir. Other tips on keeping zebra mussels from spreading are at the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks website.

And finally, speaking of boating on Kansas waters, two Wichita anglers won this weekend’s tournament in the Grand National Walleye Cup series at Wilson Lake on Sunday. Doug Duncan and Tim Brockman brought in a six-walleye limit weight of ten and a half pounds, for which they received $1,000. Not a bad day at the lake.

+ Dan @ 03:05pm

Friday, April 29 2005

USA Today covers the Missouri River

USA Today carries this story on the woes of the Missouri River.

While the article is a pretty good introduction of why this is an important story, it unfortunately minimizes the role that the Army Corps of Engineers has played in this debacle. The Corps’ insistence on managing and maintaining the Missouri as a barge highway - despite the warnings of river scientists employed by the Corps itself - has made the situation much worse than it needs to be.

That’s the reason that the Kansas Wildlife Federation has joined in a lawsuit brought by the National Wildlife Federation and other colleagues against the ACE’s management regime. For more information on that, you can visit NWF’s page on the topic. While you’re there, sign up for NWF action alerts.

+ Dan @ 11:23am

Monday, April 11 2005

Kansan one of the 2005 National Wetlands Awards winners

Congratulations are in order for Barth Crouch, who is one of the winners of the 2005 National Wetlands Awards.

If you’ve been to a Pheasants Forever or a Quail Unlimited function in the state, you’ve probably met Barth, who has done an enormous amount of work for our state’s upland bird populations as PF’s regional biologist.

But Barth has also been a tremendous source of energy and knowledge for our state’s wetlands, particularly its playa lakes. He’s one of the founders behind the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, and he’s also on the Board of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture. Barth also helped craft the new extension of the CRP to include playa wetlands.

Congratulations to Barth Crouch!

+ Dan @ 04:42pm

Wednesday, April 6 2005

Another state gets ready to tackle mercury emissions…

If the Feds won’t tackle mercury emissions, it’s up to the states to get it done. Minnesota legislators have joined the ranks of those who have recognized this, with the bi-partisan introduction of a bill to require a 90% reduction in mercury emissions from coal-fired power-plants in the state.

Why 90%? Because that’s the realistically available level of control given the technology on the market today. By contrast, the EPA’s new rules only require a 50% reduction over a fifteen-year period. The EPA’s plan puts 4 times as much mercury in the air from power plants as we would if the best available controls were required.

+ Dan @ 12:14pm

Thursday, March 24 2005

EPA ignored its own science in drafting mercury rules

MSNBC carries this Washington Post story detailing how the EPA ignored its own data when drafting its mercury emissions rules.

The EPA’s new rules put in place a market-approach, in which mercury emissions are capped and emission permits for mercury are traded. In a meeting with Wildlife Federation affiliates, EPA leadership insisted that this was a more cost-effective strategy than simply clamping down on mercury emissions entirely, and that part of the reason was that there were more costly and serious threats from coal-fired plants than just mercury.

That insistence seems contradicted by this quote from the story:

What they did not reveal is that a Harvard University study paid for by the EPA, co-authored by an EPA scientist and peer-reviewed by two other EPA scientists had reached the opposite conclusion.

That analysis estimated health benefits 100 times as great as the EPA did, but top agency officials ordered the finding stripped from public documents, said a staff member who helped develop the rule. Acknowledging the Harvard study would have forced the agency to consider more stringent controls, said environmentalists and the study’s author.

This is nothing new. At both the state and federal level, good science is routinely beaten out by economic or political considerations. That’s why groups like Kansas Wildlife Federation are such a necessity - there must be an independent, non-governmental watchdog for our natural resources.

+ Dan @ 01:37pm

Friday, March 11 2005

More on mercury

The EPA will announce new rules next week governing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The good news is that mercury emissions from coal burning will finally come under some kind of regulation. That can’t happen quickly enough, as evidence continues to mount up that the toxic metal presents a major new threat. This story from the Boston Globe, for example, details how mercury is being found in songbirds and other forest-dwelling species. Previously, mercury was thought to only be a threat to fish and birds (and people) that ate the fish.

The bad news is that the new controls are less than what the law might actually require. The Clean Air Act would have required the best available controls, which currently filter about 90% of the mercury coming out of a powerplant. Under the new rules, the EPA will require a 70% reduction by 2018. Call me impatient, but I don’t see why we should have to wait 13 years.

What does this mean practically? Let’s say for the sake of argument that a power plant is currently emitting 100 pounds of mercury per year. Under the Clean Air Act as it’s been written and interpreted, that would drop to 10 pounds per year. Under the new rules, that same power plant might put 1,000 pounds more of mercury into the air by 2018. The worst part is that this is easily avoidable given current technology.

The Washington Post has more on the story. If you get a registration screen, use “register@kswildlife.org” as your email and “topeka” as your password.

+ Dan @ 12:37pm

Friday, March 4 2005

Mercury round-up

A lot of breaking news on mercury today that deserves the attention of anyone who eats fish or cares about wildlife or unborn children. (I think that’s everyone.)

The Albuquerque Tribune carries this outstanding editorial calling for state action. New Mexico’s older coal-fired power plants are a signifcant source of mercury emissions and other pollution in the United States. Current New Mexico law prohibits the state from having stricter standards than the federal Clean Air Act; given that the Administration’s under-ambitious plans for mercury emissions, this editorial is calling on the state Legislature to step up.

In North Carolina, the state’s Attorney General is taking action against the EPA for allowing coal plants in other states to pollute North Carolina’s waterways. North Carolina also has stricter standards for mercury emissions than the federal government.

In Washington, the state legislature is looking at a bill that would tackle mercury from obsolete automobiles. In essence, the bill would require auto recyclers to take mercury out of cars before compacting them. Dismantled cars will be a mercury emissions source for at least another 10 years, though certainly not on the scale of coal-fired power plants.

The New Jersey legislature is also looking at a similar bill. New Jersey may be reacting to recent news that there’s a lot more mercury in the state’s fish than the US EPA anticipated.

Finally one of the objections from the power generation industry to new regulations on emissions is that scrubbing technology is too expensive. ADA-ES, an environmental technology company, announced yesterday that its new product reduces mercury emissions by 90%, even on Wyoming coal, which has been particularly problematic for scrubbing technology. This is good news for Kansas, which burns a good deal of Wyoming coal.

+ Dan @ 01:09pm

Tuesday, March 1 2005

Mercury exposure lowers IQ, costs US economy billions

Fox News carries this report from the Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Health and the Environment. The report details how each year, hundreds of thousands of babies are born with lower IQs as a result of mercury exposure while in the womb.

The Kansas Wildlife Federation is part of a national coalition of organizations that is pushing the Bush administration to work for more aggressive reduction of mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. The administration has essentially proposed a 30% reduction, but much higher reductions are possible given current technology. Because of mercury’s effect on unborn children, KWF is particularly making an effort to involve faith-based organizations that haven’t necessarily worked on environmental issues before. So far that’s included the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and Texas Democrats for Life.

The issue is a particular concern for Kansas, as we see more fish consumption warnings go up across the state. While Kansas is only 32nd in population, we are 19th in mercury emissions. Yet the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s web page manages not to mention emissions, instead treating it as a household hazard.

To find out how you can become involved in protecting children from mercury exposure, call us here at 785-232-3238, or email to info@kswildlife.org.

+ Dan @ 03:09pm

Wednesday, February 9 2005

Defending hunting

One of the great things about the Kansas hunting scene is that there’s no real “anti” movement here; we don’t have to worry about PETA or the Humane Society coming into the Legislature and blowing our traditions out.

But as James Swan points out in this column on ESPN Outdoors, that’s not enough all by itself. Just as one example, the Humane Society is on a national campaign to stop archery hunting, and with $95 million to spend, they’ve got the resources to have an impact in more than one state. And I don’t think anyone believes for a second they’ll stop with getting rid of bowhunters.

Nationwide, about 6 percent of the population goes hunting, and yet that small minority funds a great deal of our nation’s habitat and restoration. We need to be a lot better at explaining to the rest of the country about the benefits we bring to America’s outdoors.

Mr. Swan gives some great examples of worthwhile projects that will help us communicate to non-sportsmen about the positive impact we have on the American outdoors. While you’re looking at supporting those, you might also take a moment and check to see if your KWF membership is up to date.

+ Dan @ 02:55pm

Tuesday, February 8 2005

Wetlands and property

One of the issues that comes up when dealing with wetlands is the question of landowner rights. Environmental laws that protect wetlands are often labeled as being intrusions into the rights of the property holder.

On the other hand, laws that protect downstream property rights for surface waters are established and more or less unquestioned. No one really argues that landowners should have the right to build dams where ever they want with no regulation, or that surface water diversion rights should be unregulated.

Laws that protect wetlands perform the exact same function - they protect the quantity and quality of water available for the downstream user.

Here’s one excellent example of the value that wetlands provide: the erosion of coastal wetlands in Louisiana. As it turns out, this isn’t just a crisis for the state’s wildlife and for the Gulf of Mexico - it also turns out that the loss of coastal barrier wetlands is endangering the state’s oil and gas industry. Flood control is one of the more important economic functions of wetlands areas.

To the Pacific Legal Foundation, that’s not a good enough reason to have a law. The PLF is going to attempt to get a Supreme Court ruling to get a Michigan man off the hook for his chronic violations of the Clean Water Act. This is the Foundation’s second attempt; the Court refused to intervene last year. Hopefully, they’ll do so again this year, as their SWANCC decision has already created enough problems as it is.

+ Dan @ 04:13pm

Thursday, January 27 2005

The Dark Side of Wind Power

A powerful combination of article and editorial from the Massachusetts paper, the North Adams Transcript. The Berkshire Hills are one of the many places in New England that have been targeted for commercial wind energy.

In Kansas, the issue of wind power is often portrayed as an issue of property rights. One key question in that regard is “what effect do my actions have on my neighbor’s property and its value?” Take a look at some of the quotes regarding the noise impact of wind turbine installations on their neighbors. Here’s one example:

In New York, Pastor Kathleen Danley lives two good-size fields from the Fenner wind-power plant, and describes the noise as “a loud clothes dryer; that would probably be the closest sound, that constant turning sound.”

She explains, “We were told that the windmills had been redesigned so as not to be noisy, but the grinding noise goes on 24 hours a day (when they are operating) and at times is far worse than other times.”

When people ask why wind turbines are incompatible with the Flint Hills, stories like these provide part of answer.

+ Dan @ 10:45am

Friday, January 14 2005

NRA targets hunters

The National Rifle Association has created a position dedicated to helping hunters. Dawson Hobbs, formerly a legislative liason for the Kansas Legislature, is now the NRA’s Manager of Hunting Policy.

There’s lots of work to be done, and I’m sure the NRA can make really important contributions for America’s hunters. Hopefully they’ll be able to address the habitat issues that are causing great problems for the hunting and angling public.

+ Dan @ 05:00pm

Thursday, January 6 2005

Bad news for wind turbines

I’ve been in any number of hearings and meetings where I’ve seen people from the wind power industry say that the impact of commercial wind turbines on wildlife is insignificant.

Two news articles in the past week beg to differ.

From the Wichita Eagle we have this article: “Wind turbines decimate bats.” A study of wind turbines in West Virginia found thousands of bat dying as a result of the wind installations there. Why is that important?

Bats serve an important role in nature, and their populations are thought to be in decline, scientists said. The bats getting killed in Appalachia devour insects that pose grave threats to crops such as corn and cotton. They also feast on pests that can spread disease, such as mosquitoes.

Then yesterday’s USA Today carried this story: “Wind turbines taking toll on birds of prey”. The story tries to localize the raptor kills to the Altamont Pass, but in reality, most wind installations located in a migratory pathway are going to generate bird kills.

There are places for wind turbines and places where they must not be. Kansas needs really siting requirements in place.

+ Dan @ 05:42pm

Wednesday, December 15 2004

Good news about whooping cranes

While we all know the bad news about the whooping cranes that were shot in Kansas, it’s good to keep in mind that there is good news on that front as well. The Kansas City Star has this article from Brent Frazee on the whooper’s come-back.

It’s too early to declare victory, of course, with only 460 or so of the birds in existence. But by the same token, that’s a bigger number than we’ve seen for 100 years now. Wildlife officials estimate that the whooping crane population is growing by 4% each year. Unlike the days of my childhood, extinction no longer seems imminent.

+ Dan @ 11:15am

Wednesday, December 8 2004

NWF, KWF, and the EPA

The title of this post is quite an alphabet soup, but it is accurate.

This past week, representatives from National Wildlife Federation affiliates met in Washington DC with senior leadership from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Kansas Wildlife Federation was one of the more than 20 state groups that sent a representative.

While it’s hard to have an open dialogue with so many people in one room, the meeting did show that there is truly nation-wide interest on the part of hunters and anglers in regards to the issues of mercury emissions and wetlands.

What we communicated as a group is a level of frustration with the White House’s initiatives in these two areas, mostly because we view the policies as self-contradictory. While it’s great that the President wants to add 3 million acres of wetlands in America, it’s hard to do this when the EPA is still telling the Corps that “isolated wetlands” enjoy no protection.

If you’re a waterfowler, you know how important seasonal wetlands such as prairie potholes are to the success of duck and goose migration and nesting. A policy to add wetland acreage is laudable, and very possible, but only if we close up a loophole that currently places about 20 million acres at risk.

Our other agenda item was on mercury. The White House has floated a plan that would cut mercury emissions by 30% over 5 years and 70% over 15 years.

The problem is that it’s possible to do much better. It’s realistic and cost-effective to cut mercury emissions by 90% by 2010. While we can discuss the right mechanism to cut those emissions, the nation is not served when the goals laid out are so modest.

Mercury is a special issue for Kansans: we’re 32nd in population in the country - and 18th in mercury emissions.

+ Dan @ 06:07pm

Friday, November 12 2004

Confessions in Whooping Crane shootings

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has announced that it has received confessions from the shooters of two whooping cranes.

The shooters in question were a party of seven people from southwest Kansas, who apparently believed they were shooting at sandhill cranes.

As excuses go, that’s particularly thin. A quote from the LJ World story sums that up:

Jim Kellenberger, a hunting education instructor and retired game warden, said the conditions weren’t an excuse for shooting the birds.

“We teach all the kids in hunter education that you have to identify the target before you pull the trigger,” Kellenberger said. “If you can’t ID something, you just don’t shoot.”

It should be noted that the sandhilll crane season in Kansas has been in place since 1992, and this is the first shooting of whooping cranes in that 12 years.

The Kansas Wildlife Federation is putting together a reward fund for the landowners in this case who turned in the responsible party. If you wish to contribute to the fund, you can mail a check to the KWF office, or give by credit card by calling us here at (785) 232-3238.

+ Dan @ 09:11am

Wednesday, November 10 2004

Mountain lions in Kansas

The question of mountain lions in Kansas comes up pretty frequently. The predators seem to pass through the state from places like Colorado and New Mexico, but it’s doubtful they stay too long here.

A woman in Colby says she’s spotted a mountain lion near her place. Her neighbors seem to shrug it off:

Carson said others have seen the cat. “We all leave it alone,” she said. “We all get along with it.”

+ Dan @ 10:20am

Turkeys not destroying crops

The successful increase in turkey populations in Kansas has a cost: many Kansans believe that turkeys are responsible for the decline in quail populations or that turkeys are causing massive amounts of crop damage.

But research that’s come out from Purdue University shows little crop damage from turkeys. Field biologists worked for two years to try to find significant damage to corn and wheat fields in Indiana from turkey populations, using night vision cameras and tracking devices.

What they found instead was that nocturnal animals such as deer and racoons were the pillagers, doing 95% of the damage.

The word can’t get spread fast enough: California grape growers are looking for crop depredation permits to kill turkeys, believing that the birds are destroying their vineyards. (Warning: this link has a lot of annoying pop-ups.)

+ Dan @ 10:16am

Monday, November 1 2004

Web resource for landowners with quail

While looking for information on the new “bobwhite buffers” program, I came across this website for the Missouri Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

The MASWD has a useful online newsletter called “The Covey.” This is a great little resource, full of land management techniques, information on government programs, and this particular issue has some info on why turkeys are not a threat to bobwhite quail.

Highly recommended. I looked for a Kansas equivalent, but couldn’t locate it - if you know of one, please email to info@kswildlife.org.

+ Dan @ 02:02pm

Tuesday, October 26 2004

Playa lakes now part of Conservation Reserve Program

This story from about playa lake enrollment in the CRP is fairly old, but there’s so much information these days that some things slip under the radar.

Simply put, this is really good news. Playa lakes are the “intermittent wetlands” that are so often derided by groups like the Kansas Farm Bureau, and it’s true that these areas may not be wet for more than two weeks out of every two years.

But as the story shows, there’s a lot of enlightened self-interest involved in preserving these areas as well, since they are the recharge zones for the Ogallala Aquifer.

If you have land that might qualify for this new initiative of the CRP, contact the Kansas office of the Farm Service Agency, and ask about enrolling your land in “CP23a”, the CRP program for playa lakes.

Also, if you want to learn more about why playas are so important, you can check out the website of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture, a collaborative effort between conservation organizations and government agencies.

+ Dan @ 10:25am

Wednesday, October 20 2004

Audubon Bird Counts

The Wichita Eagle carries this AP story on the National Audubon Society’s “State of the Birds” report. If you’ve participated in an Audubon Bird Breeding Survey, then your observations are part of this report, which looks at American bird populations from 1966 to 2003.

There is some good news in the report, though unfortunately you have to dig to find it. That good news is overshadowed for a lot of us by the sharp decline in quail and prairie-chicken. Species considered as “grassland” and “shrubland” birds are having a particularly difficult time.

As we talk about what’s happening with quail in Kansas, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is a phenomenon seen in many places in America, not just here.

+ Dan @ 12:49pm

Wednesday, October 13 2004

Quail are having a hard time in many places

From the Wichita Eagle comes this story about quail in Georgia.

Whenever I do a public speaking engagement, quail and their decline in Kansas is always a subject. But as this story shows, quail aren’t just having a hard time here.

A telling quote from the article:

Biologists cite the elimination of hedgerows and weedy strips between fields, and the reliance on pesticides that don’t discriminate between true crop pests and bugs that quail eat.

I was talking to a landowner the other day who told me about how he hasn’t seen quail on his property since spraying for grasshoppers 5 years ago. While habitat is an important question, how much food the quail have to eat also needs some attention.

+ Dan @ 11:38am

Thursday, October 7 2004

National Wildlife Federation Releases “Blueprint for America’s Wetlands”

We received this email from the National Wildlife Federation today, which is looking for organizations to sign onto its new agenda for wetlands preservation and restoration. If you belong to a club, group, or organization that wants to take action that will keep wetland areas intact, please take a look at their Blueprint.

Hunters and anglers across the country have time and time again shown their support for protection of wetlands. Sportsmen and women know that wetlands are critical to both humans and wildlife. Yet the nation continues to lose around 130,000 acres of wetlands per year and what remains, is increasingly degraded. What will it take to save America’s wetlands for future generations of humans and wildlife?

NWF has attempted to answer this question in the form of a “Conservation Blueprint for America’s Wetlands.” The Wetlands Blueprint sets out an aggressive and comprehensive agenda, in the form of 10 essential steps for the protection and restoration of the nation’s wetlands. We would like to ask for you to join us in endorsing and promoting this critical Blueprint.

(more…)

+ Dan @ 04:18pm

Tuesday, September 28 2004

Kansas gets walleye ‘Super Bowl’

The folks in Geary County haven’t just gotten a walleye tournament, they’ve landed the walleye tournament.

This story in the Kansas City Star has the details. The short and sweet version is that the Professional Walleye Trail will hold its 2005 championship tournament at Milford Lake. (If you get a “registration required” screen, use “register@kswildlife.org” as your id and “topeka1″ as your password.)

The last championship brought a crowd of somewhere around 4,000 people, so this should be a good deal for area motels and restaurants.

What brings the championship to Kansas? The great fish landed during the last walleye tournament. Once again, Kansas proves it has world-class resources - the question is whether outdoorsmen and women here will do what it takes to maintain them.

+ Dan @ 04:32pm

Friday, September 24 2004

NWF: Sportsmen a Bigger Factor Than Ever

Our sister organization in the DC area, the National Wildlife Federation, recently this around to the 47 state affiliates, and it’s very interesting reading on how hunters and anglers are beginning to become important voting groups in elections:

CANDIDATES COURT SPORTSMEN

Even before NWF released its poll on the attitudes of hunters and anglers on key conservation issues back in July, members of Congress and even the presidential candidates themselves have been courting sportsmen to a greater extent than in years past. The Bush Administration has issued several executive orders, including one expanding hunting opportunities in wildlife refuges and one announcing the “Cooperative Conservation Conference” would be held next year (see this link for more.) It has launched The Bush Cheney ’04 Sportsmen’s Team site and posted several fact sheets on the Interior Department’s website defending its record.

Meanwhile, Senator Kerry has released his “Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights” and participated in a magazine interviews along with the President. He’s even taken the initiative to call prominent outdoor writers.

For its part, NWF continues call on both presidential candidates - and all politicians for that matter - to address the major conservation issues that are of concern to hunters and anglers, including the impacts of mercury pollution on recreational fishing, the impact of oil and gas development on key wildlife habitat and the continued loss of wetlands due to current government policies. In fact, NWF has just launched a new “Blueprint for the Conservation of America’s Wetlands” that sportsmen’s groups can endorse. Ultimately, members of Congress and other politicians will be asked whether they too support this more ambitious agenda that can truly help protect and restore wetlands.

For more information about the blueprint contact Julie Sibbing at Sibbing@nwf.org.

+ Dan @ 01:28pm

Wednesday, August 25 2004

Mercury in Fish Almost Everywhere

48 of the 50 states in the union now have a mercury problem in their fish, with the greatest single source being emissions from coal-fired power plants.

While this problem’s been brewing for a long time, it’s just now starting to get the serious national attention it deserves. Take a look at this search on Google News for ‘mercury’ and ‘fish.’

The E.P.A. is putting a brave face on the matter, insisting that mercury levels aren’t rising, it’s just that we have better monitoring. While the technology exists today to reduce mercury emissions by 90%, the current administration proposal is to reduce mercury output by 26% over 6 years.

The problem here is that mercury “bioaccumulates” which means that it increases in concentration as it moves up the food chain. In essence, it perists in the environment for years. Even if emissions are coming down, the mercury emitted this year will be around for a long time.

In Kansas, KWF is watch-dogging a proposal to build a complex of coal-fired powerplants along the Misourri River. Our sister organization, the National Wildlife Federation, is working in Congress to keep the current law in place, which would reduce mercury emmissions sharply.

For more on what mercury does and why it’s a problem, check out this handy reference site.

+ Dan @ 05:07pm

Friday, August 6 2004

Reminder: Two Weeks Left for Platte River Input

A reminder that commentary to the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the proposed Platte River recovery plan is due by August 20th. If you don’t know about the issue, or don’t know how to send commentary, the National Wildlife Federation has made it easy for you: just click on this link and you’ll be taken to NWF’s letter page, where you can send your comments off in a few seconds.

This issue is important to Kansas not just because of the Platte’s enormous role in the Central Flyway, but also because it gets to the heart of most of our water issues here in the state: overallocation. Governments across the West have awarded more water rights than there is water. Getting out of that jam is going to take quite a bit of time and effort.

+ Dan @ 11:09am

Thursday, August 5 2004

Walleye Championship at Wilson Lake

The rest of America keeps on discovering what we have to offer in Kansas, as Lake Wilson will be host for the Great Plains Championship of Walleye Fishing.

This will be a two-day tournament, August 14 and 15. Top prize is $2,000, and you just might get on TV, as the tournament will be filmed by the syndicated fishing show, Walleye Wisdom.

If you want to look at registration, head on over the tournament website, WalleyeCup.com.

+ Dan @ 02:27pm

Thursday, July 29 2004

West Nile Virus

The Abilene Reflector-Chronice has this story on controlling West Nile Virus.

Bottom line is that spraying probably won’t help very much, either in terms of actually controlling the bugs or halting the disease. The most effective thing governments can do is to address storm drains and to keep after homeowners and landoweners to address potential mosquito breeding sites.

The one bit of good news in the story is that children are no more susceptible to WNV than adults.

+ Dan @ 03:28pm

Tuesday, July 20 2004

Platte River Input Needed by August 20th.

Kansas is one of the most important stops along the Central Flyway for migratory birds.

But all of the Great Plains states are important for that migration route, and Nebraska’s Platte River plays a critical part for cranes, shore birds and waterfowl.

Like many rivers west of the Mississippi, the Platte is over-allocated - more water is awarded for pumping out than actually flows in.

Right now, our partners in the National Wildlife Federation and the Nebraska Wildlife Federation are working hard to make sure that management plans for the river take wildlife into account.

You can help by sending in your comments to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. NWF has made it easy for you: all you need to do is to click on this link and you’ll be taken to NWF’s letter page, where you can send your comments off in a few seconds.

And if you want to take a look at what’s at stake, National Geographic has some highlights of this year’s crane migration through the Platte River area.

+ Dan @ 01:48pm

Thursday, June 24 2004

Migratory Bird Management Shift Proposed

Steve Sorensen, KWF President, sends along this email:

There is bad news in Washington regarding migratory bird management. The Fisheries Subcommittee of the House Resources Committee is conducting a hearing Thursday, June 24, on H.R. 3320, introduced last fall by Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.). The bill would place all activities under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act under the auspices of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, instead of the Fish and Wildlife Service. It would also exempt the agency from the National Environmental Policy Act.

Please take a moment and contact your U. S. Representative (go to http://www.house.gov/) and ask him what kind of politics they are playing in Washington. Putting the Agriculture Department in charge of migratory birds is like putting a weasel in charge of the rabbit hutch. It will be interesting to see how they respond to your inquiry. Excluding non-native birds from the migratory treaty act is a good move, since it would allow control of such invasive species as mute swans, which have wrecked havoc on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Steve sends along the following article, which is quoted in its entirety, as it’s behind a paid subscription wall. Click on “more” to see it.

(more…)

+ Dan @ 10:53am

More Pork for the Corps

Yet more pork for the Army Corps of Engineers: the Kansas City Star reports that a $3.1 billion measure to expand the locks on the Upper Mississippi River has moved out of committee. (If you get a registration screen for the article, enter “register@kswildlife.org” as the user name and “topeka” as the password.)

This is one of those Army Corps projects that might have made sense forty years ago, but today is a waste of dollars no matter how you slice it. Two different investigations by the National Academy of Sciences and a White House audit have found that the assumptions behind the lock expansion are deeply flawed. The Corps says that the expansion is needed because more traffic is coming on the river - but no one else foresees that expansion in traffic.

The answer, as always, is to call the Kansas representatives and ask them what’s going on. Senator Brownback’s office is (202) 224-6521, and Senator Roberts’ office is (202) 224-4774.

+ Dan @ 10:46am

Tuesday, June 22 2004

Judge Tells Corps to Keep Going

Bad news from the court system: a federal judge has told the Army Corps of Engineers to keep using the Missouri River as a highway.

The link above is from the Bismarck Tribune, and contains one of the better write-ups I’ve seen of the history of this issue. For more on this, see previous posts here and here.

The bottom line on this is that the Corps sees itself as an agency that builds Big Projects. But times change, and now sometimes those Big Projects hurt more than they help. America’s rivers and wetlands need a 21st-century Army Corps of Engineers.

+ Dan @ 09:44am

Tuesday, June 8 2004

Kansas Bowhunting: Best in the Nation?

The headline of this article from Buckmasters.com caught my eye, simply because of the title: “It Just Doesn’t Get Any Better Than Kansas.”

I know a lot of resident bowhunters aren’t terribly glad to see out-of-state hunters coming in, taking big prize bucks and paying high fees for land leases. I’ve talked to many people who have been shut out of places where they hunted for years because of the boom in this new industry. Even so, there are a couple of things in the article worth noting, especially this quote:

I found out later that he was in a bidding war - on e-Bay of all places - for Kansas tags while we were on the phone. It’s a somewhat complicated arrangement to explain, especially with new regulations for 2004, but the short version would be that Kansas landowners receive a portion of the allocated non-resident archery tags, which they can issue/use in the manner they see fit. I guess you could call it a government subsidy for the farmers (to help make up for some of their deer-related crop damage), but the Kansas Wildlife and Parks folks wouldn’t be happy about it being described that way.

Well, if the shoe fits…. Transferable deer tags are in essence meant to be a secondary income for landowners. I don’t necessarily see a problem with that, nor do I see a problem with out of state hunters coming into Kansas. Where I see the giant, economy-sized problem is with the number of tags that get issued - especially when those tags are issued regardless of the condition of the habitat.

Kansas may be unbeatable now, but as we continue to take more deer than we’re growing, we not only lose a trophy deer population and a second income for landowners, but we also lose the great past-time and tradition for residents as well.

+ Dan @ 12:28pm

Thursday, May 20 2004

Jail Time for Filling in Wetlands?

This story from the New York Times has shown up on various websites: a Michigan man faces federal prison for filling in wetlands.

Is it outrageous that this man faces more jail time than some drug dealers? Or that a non-violent first-time offender is looking at a five-year sentence?

Possibly. On the other hand, if he’d constructed a dam illegally, depriving his downstream neighbors of water they had a right to, he’d be prosecuted and no one would be at all surprised. If he’d killed 40 ducks out of season without a permit, he’d get prosecuted, and again, no one would be surprised. By filling in seasonal wetlands, he’s harming wildlife and water quality, but because it’s water we can’t see, some people get baffled and up in arms.

One of the ways we can fix the West’s water shortage is to treat groundwater as carefully as we do surface water.

+ Dan @ 02:54pm

Chronic Wasting Disease Not Found in Missouri

It’s not often that not finding something is news-worthy, but here’s an exception: a study of the Missouri deer herd found no evidence of chronic wasting disease.

Let’s hope they keep not finding it - there hasn’t been a lot of good news on CWD.

+ Dan @ 02:41pm

Tuesday, May 18 2004

Illinois Geologist: Corps Makes Flooding Worse

From the Missouri Coalition for the Environment comes this news: a multi-million dollar review by the Army Corps of Engineers has seriously understated the risk of flooding on the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers.

Why would the Corps, an agency that spends billions on flood control, under-estimate the risk of flooding? Dr. Nicholas Pinter, a geologist from Southern Illinois University, reviewed the Corps’ data, and found that the Corps presenters consistently manipulated the data in their study to make big dams look more efficient and make levees look less problematic.

What the press release doesn’t really explain is why levees exacerbate floods. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, but many flood control measures, such as culverts, rip-raps, channelization and levees, end up making the problem worse instead of better. That’s because what all of these structures have in common is that they concentrate the water and aim it in one direction, increasing speed, flow, and destructive power. Think of the difference between a garden hose - a fast, powerful flow of water - versus pouring a bucket out.

+ Dan @ 11:15am

Thursday, May 13 2004

Californians Come to Kansas

Interesting and fun story from the LA Daily News: a 12-year old boy from Pasadena gets his bird in the Governor’s Turkey Hunt. Take a look at the story; Tim Hoffman didn’t just get a 19-pounder in the one shot event. He also won the National Wild Turkey Federation’s youth writing contest, along with some nice prizes, with this essay.

Two things that pop out at me here. One is that I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have a week like that when I was twelve. What a go-getter kid! The other is that I know there is good hunting in California. If someone’s willing to bring his kids to Kansas from there, that says a lot about what we have here. It’s too bad more Kansans (like many in the Legislature, for instance) don’t realize what a special place we have.

+ Dan @ 08:55am

Tuesday, May 11 2004

Chronic Wasting Disease Lingers

Not exactly a day-brightener, but it’s worth reporting: chronic wasting disease apparently lingers in the environment. The disease is not only tranmissable from animal to animal, but also from ground to animal, for as long as two years. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is acting to kill off as many infected animals as possible, in an attempt to limit possible sources of new disease exposure.

CWD is apparently similar to Mad Cow Disease, whereby prions infect the brain tissue of the animal. It’s important to point out that cooking doesn’t protect you from the disease.

+ Dan @ 02:52pm

Thursday, March 25 2004

Sunshine is the Best Sterilizer

It’s not strictly a wildlife issue, but it’s important to know: the leadership of the State Legislature is trying to relax rules on lobbyist disclosures.

People are often surprised to hear my contention that government is far less corrupt these days than at any time in the past. But if we’re going to keep working towards the ideal of a government that actually reflects what the voters want, as opposed to special interest groups, it’s important to keep tabs on lobbyists - including me!

A really good case in point: this article from the New York Times, showing that somehow, United States Senators pick stocks better than professional mutual fund managers. Huh.

+ Dan @ 09:34am

Monday, March 22 2004

The Corps Diagnoses Itself

Melissa Samet of American Rivers sends along this gem of an editorial from the Billings Gazette, in which the Assistant Secretary for the Corps gives the most accurate self-diagnosis I’ve seen in some time.

In case you’ve missed it, the Army Corps was told by the courts and by different scientific and accounting minds that it must A) quit using the Missouri River as a barge highway and B) modify flows for fish and wildlife. The Corps’ current operating plan calls for it to keep using the river for barges and ignore fish and wildlife.

Lawsuits are expensive and eat up time. But this is a perfect example as to why sometimes, you don’t have any other alternative.

+ Dan @ 01:29pm

Monday, March 8 2004

MSNBC Gets “Isolated Wetlands”

Most of the reporting I’ve seen on the “isolated wetlands” issue gets the story wrong. The most common error is an implication that the issue is over and that the conservationists have won.

This story from MSNBC.com gets the issue exactly right. All the pieces that are usually missing are in the story, including how duck hunters helped bring pressure on the President, how the Corps is still enforcing the White House’s rulemaking that endangers isolated wetlands, and how a normally rock-solid Republican vote is being eroded. Excellent reading, if you want to catch up on the latest developments in the issue.

+ Dan @ 11:17am

Thursday, March 4 2004

Even in New York, They Know It

The Grey Lady of American news, the New York Times, has weighed in with a pretty pointed editorial on just what’s at stake in the Missouri River management plan. If you haven’t kept up on this issue, this editorial gives you some of the facts, and neatly summarizes our opinions as well.

+ Dan @ 08:03pm

Tuesday, March 2 2004

The Wind Power Hype Is Dying Down

The folks at Protect the Flint Hills sent along the following article from the Baltimore Sun, detailing how wind power generation presents a tremendous risk to the Chesapeake Bay. Registration is required, but you can use our user id: kwfkwf, and our password, “topeka.” (You’re welcome.)

+ Dan @ 05:20pm

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