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After a year of pledges and promises, are we any closer to saving the Monarchs?

 

Thousands of acres of milkweed will be planted in the spring—but environmental groups say the focus on habitat isn’t enough.

 

By Willy Blackmore

TakePart

 

With the White House’s Pollinator Research Action Plan and millions in donations and matching funds promised by the likes of Monsanto, 2015 was a landmark year for monarch butterfly conservation.

 

But with Friday’s news that Monsanto, DuPont, and the American Soybean Association—which are all tied to the drastic decline of monarch habitat across the U.S.—have signed on to yet another program promising to promote pollinator habitat conservation, you have to wonder what, beyond pledges and promises, is actually being done on the ground.

 

Much of the action that was promised last year—including the lofty White House goals to establish or improve 7 million acres of habitat and increase monarch populations to 225 million by 2020—will take time. Case in point: The first significant batch of habitat restoration projects that were awarded grants won’t be planted until this spring, and those plantings will take time to establish and mature. And environmental groups warn that habitat restoration won’t be enough to turn monarch populations around.

 

Still, grant money is making its way out into the world, and projects ranging from 10 to 10,000 acres in size have been funded across the country by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Monarch Joint Venture—three of the major groups facilitating the new national push on pollinator issues. All told, the various habitat restoration programs the three groups have funded amount to around 70,000 acres of new or improved habitat across the U.S.—from the Driftless Area along the Mississippi River in Iowa and Illinois to recent burn areas in California’s San Bernardino National Forest. With matching funds included, NFWF said the 22 projects it awarded grants to in 2015 will amount to just over $10 million in “total on-the-ground impact,” or, in other words, a whole lot of milkweed seed.

 

But planting more milkweed won’t necessarily offset what’s been lost over the past two decades, which have seen monarch populations drop from 1 billion butterflies down to fewer than 60 million. “There are myriad problems facing pollinators,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. And while she readily acknowledges that lack of habitat is one of those problems, she’s less concerned with Monsanto’s conservation efforts than one of its best-selling products.

 

“The science is clear,” she added. “Glyphosate is the leading cause of the monarch decline. And with nearly 300 million pounds of it drenching soils in the U.S. and killing milkweed each year,” even the newly recharged efforts to restore and improve habitat won’t be able to make up the difference.

 

Monarch populations peaked in 1996, around the same time Roundup-ready varieties of corn, soy, and other commodity crops began to be widely adopted by American farmers. Prior to that shift, milkweed was able to grow rather benignly alongside the row crops that dominate agriculture along the Interstate 35 corridor, which cuts from Texas up through the Midwest to Duluth, Minnesota, more or less mirroring the primary monarch migration path. Milkweed is the only species of plant that female monarchs will lay their eggs on, and monarch caterpillars rely on it for food throughout the larval stage. In short, if there is no milkweed, there are no monarchs. Once farmers were able to spray all their Roundup-ready crops with glyphosate, killing weeds without killing, say, corn, American farmland suddenly stopped doubling as habitat for the butterflies. Currently, there are some 400 million acres of cropland in the United States.

 

There are other types of projects that have earned new grant money—programs focused on milkweed seed production, educational programs, and other conservation efforts that fall outside direct planting in areas historically frequented by the butterflies. Additional efforts are also being undertaken with the funding and support of other public and private organizations. In 2016, for example, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest $4 million across 10 states to provide food and habitat—or rather, a variety of wildflowers—for monarchs.

 

“Every little bit helps,” Burd said. “But on the large scale, if we’re going to be serious about recovering pollinators, then we have to address glyphosate use in this country.”

U.S. Senate committee approves top sportsmen’s priorities

 

Sportsmen contacts needed ASAP

 

By Sportsmen’s Alliance

 

On Jan. 20, the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill containing some of the top priorities of the hunting and fishing community.

S. 659, the second half of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2016, includes a key provision sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R- Montana) directing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List. Despite greatly exceeding population targets for delisting, anti-hunting groups successfully persuaded a federal judge to keep wolves protected. The amendment returning wolves to the state management, which has been advocated for and supported by the Alliance, passed on a voice vote.

 

The committee also rejected an attempt by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) that would have stripped language preventing the EPA from regulating lead in ammunition. Ammunition for hunting is already regulated at the state level, and by the Fish and Wildlife Service where appropriate. The amendment was defeated 9-11. Sen. Boxer also tried to remove language allowing polar bear trophies that were taken prior to their listing on the Endangered Species List from being brought into the United States. The amendment was rejected by the same 9-11 margin.

 

“This moves us one step closer to passage of the Sportsmen’s Act,” said Evan Heusinkveld, Sportsmen’s Alliance interim president and CEO. “These bills include the most critical items for the hunting and conservation community. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a hunting and conservation issue. We’re hopeful that the Senate will look past partisan differences and take up the full package in the near future.”

 

Sen. Cory Booker (D- New Jersey), also threatened to include a ban on trapping on the 150-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, but failed to attract support and ultimately withdrew the amendment.

 

The Senate will now take up the entire package. Included is a major priority of the Sportsmen’s Alliance known as “Open Until Closed.” For decades, anti-hunting organizations have used the courts to block the opening of public lands that could, and should be, open to hunting. Language in the Sportsmen’s Act would mandate that federal public Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Lands be open to hunting unless federal wildlife managers find cause to close them. The language will protect hunting and increase hunting access on millions of acres of public land.

 

Sen. Boxer, a regular opponent of pro-hunting measures, committed to publicly fight the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act on the floor, and is seeking to organize a filibuster. Sportsmen calls are needed immediately.

 

Take Action: Call both Senator Roberts ((202) 224-4774) and Senator Moran ((202) 224-6521) today. Ask them to support the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.

Monsanto sues to keep weed killer off California’s list of carcinogens

 

The state will soon require glyphosate to bear a warning label declaring that it’s known to cause cancer.

 

By Willy Blackmore

TakePart

 

Monsanto has been on the defensive since last year’s announcement from the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm that its best-selling weed killer glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” That defense took a new step on Thursday, when the agrichemical giant took legal action in California to halt the state from adding glyphosate to a list of cancer-causing chemicals, based on WHO’s findings, under a law known as Proposition 65.

 

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced in September that it would add glyphosate to the Prop. 65 list in light of the announcement from WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. On Thursday, Monsanto officially took legal issue with that plan, filing a lawsuit against OEHHA and Lauren Zeise, its acting director, in California state court seeking to block the move.

 

The lawsuit contends that listing glyphosate essentially outsources regulation to an “unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, and foreign body,” Reuters reported.

 

However, Prop. 65, which was passed as a ballot initiative in 1986, looks to scientific research, not federal regulators, when deciding what to include on the list. The language of the law itself reads, “State government agencies have failed to provide them [California residents] with adequate protection” from chemicals that can cause cancer or reproductive harm.

 

That’s not to say that Prop. 65 is a perfect system, and any observant California resident is accustomed to coming across signs that read “WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm” throughout daily life. If you’re driving into a parking garage, pumping gas, buying aspirin, or shopping for Chinese-style salted fish, there’s likely a warning posted somewhere. Some 900 chemicals are listed under Prop. 65. Even bacon, which the IARC also recently declared a carcinogen, could soon be labeled.

 

“Generally speaking, the lead agency in California takes the position that if IARC has listed a chemical as a human carcinogen, it has to be added to the Proposition 65 list,” Bruce Nye, a defense attorney who works with companies on Prop. 65 cases, told Capital Public Radio last year.

 

Apparently, that precedent did not factor into Monsanto’s legal calculations, which is not all that surprising—the company has vehemently defended glyphosate, which it sells under the brand name Roundup, against the IARC declaration.

 

“The IARC classification of glyphosate is inconsistent with the findings of regulatory bodies in the United States and around the world, and it is not a sound basis for any regulatory action,” Phil Miller, Monsanto’s vice president of regulatory affairs, told Reuters. One such finding could make California look hypocritical here: The OEHHA concluded in 2007 that glyphosate did not present a cancer risk.

Loss of Honey Bees

 

By Brad Guhr

Dyck Arboretum of the Plains
 

We are hearing a lot in the news about the loss of honey bees, which we know is a potential threat to our food systems. But before I address this topic further, allow me to say a bit about insect diversity. The world of flowering plants is diverse with an estimated 352,000 species worldwide, but its diversity pales in comparison with the insect world that is estimated to be 15 times more diverse, with a species count of somewhere around 5.5 million species. Approximately 20,000 new species of insects are discovered each year. It is estimated that we may currently know only about 20% of the world’s existing insects. I share this to say that topics related to insects are complex and that we are far from having all the answers about any topic related to pollinators.

 

Now, back to honey bees. A 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture report states that honey bee colony loss has experienced an eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent per year. Recognized factors for this decline include viruses and other pathogens, parasites, problems of nutrition from lack of diversity in pollen sources, and sublethal effects of pesticides combining to weaken and kill bee colonies. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a name that was given about ten years ago to this population loss that is often seen suddenly in bee hives.

 

Pesticide contamination, and specifically the group of neurotoxic insecticides called neonicotinoids, is coming under increased focus as a possible cause of CCD. The insecticide is applied to the seed coat of many common crops, taken up by plant roots, and translocated to all parts of the plant, including flowers and pollen. Neonicotinoid use in crop protection has increased dramatically in the last 20 years and significant financial investments have been made to implement this effective group of insecticides.

 

Whether or not neonicotinoids that are showing up in beehives are causing CCD is not something I can answer here. Some European countries think there is a connection and have begun to ban the use of neonicotinoids. The validity of the connection between neonicotinoids and CCD is a complex issue that can only be answered with unbiased, scientific research. If chemical producers feel strongly that neonicotinoids are not contributing to CCD, I think that they would want to be pouring money into reputable research to clear their products from blame.

 

The viability of natural ecosystems and healthy food systems relies on both native pollinators and honey bee populations. Local farmer and beekeeper, Deborah McSweeney, has invested significant time researching and living this topic and also knows a lot about bee population collapse. She will be the featured presenter next Tuesday evening, January 26 as part of Dyck Arboretum’ Winter Lecture Series. Join us to learn more about this topic.

A Brief History of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

by Ted Beringer

In light of the recent armed breach and occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by men attempting to have the arson sentences eliminated for two other men who started fires on federal land, it is useful to review the history of this refuge. It is also important to understand that a recent Comprehensive Conservation Plan has been implemented in 2014 with public input from everyone who wished to voice an opinion. This process was initiated in 2008. Today through some distorted sense of logic, armed men have decided to coopt the refuge for their own personal vendetta.

Archeological research shows that people were using the area now managed by the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge 9,800 years ago. The Northern Paiute Indians hunted and fished on this land for more than 1300 years. During their 1804 Corps of Discovery Expedition, Louis & Clark were told of the Paiute by the Shoshone they met on the expedition. In 1826, fur trappers from the Hudson Bay Company told of seeing the Paiute camping along Malheur Lake.

In 1836 the first migrant wagon train began using the Oregon Trail that had been previously built by trappers and traders for horseback travel. But by 1842–1843, the Oregon Trail was teeming with European settlers from the east. However the Oregon Territory was not formed until 1848, two years after Britain and the United States agreed to territorial boundaries of the disputed land along the 49th parallel. This land had been jointly occupied by Great Britain and the United States since 1818.

To promote more settlement in land that would eventually become Oregon, Washington, Idaho and a portion of Wyoming, the United States Congress passed the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 (a precursor to the Homestead Act of 1862). To make room for the expected influx of settlers, the native Indian population was forced to relocate to small Indian reservations in Oregon. In 1859 Oregon became a state.

After passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, the arrival of European settlers accelerated further. Large cattle operations and dairies were created by enterprising homesteaders taking advantage of various federal programs. The Union Pacific Railroad laid tracks to make it easier to transport cattle and dairy products to other parts of the country like Chicago’s meat packing plants. The cultural and historical life of the Northern Paiute who had lived there for centuries was gradually disrupted by the influx of homesteaders and the environmental deterioration that followed. Diseases like smallpox further decimated the Paiute who had no immunity to combat the disease. The Federal Government tried to convince the Paiute to congregate on the Burns Paiute Indian Reservation around 1868 but this was not an adequate substitute for what they had given up. The Burns Paiute Indian Reservation was progressively reduced in size over time to a scant few thousand acres.

Then In 1870 an ornithologist and army Captain named Charles Bendire who was stationed at Camp Harney in Oregon entered the scene. Soldiers stationed at Camp Harney were ordered to quell Indian raids by the Northern Paiute who they eventually subjugated into signing a treaty that moved them onto a reservation north of Malheur Lake in 1872. While stationed there, Captain Bendire wrote an account of the throngs of birds in the region including great colonies of white herons (now referred to as Great Egrets) that lived along the lower Silvies River among the willows. The Silvies River forks and ends in Lake Malheur. However in the 1880s fashion conscious women desired the breeding plumage of the Great egret to adorn their hats. Hunters satisfied the demand but decimated the population of Great egrets at Malheur Lake in doing so.

By the turn of the century, two members of the Oregon Audubon Society, William L. Finely and Herman T. Bohlman, who were visiting the area and expecting the Great Egret population to have recovered, realized that not a single nesting pair of egrets could be found there. Finely (then president of the Oregon Audubon Society) approached President Theodore Roosevelt with a proposal to protect these birds and the great numbers of other bird species there. In 1908 by executive order, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside unclaimed government lands in the area as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds by establishing the Lake Malheur Reservation, the forerunner of the current Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. It is important to understand none of this land had been claimed by homesteaders under the federal programs that had been created to attract them.

Then in 1935, a lengthy severe drought in the area combined with the grip of the Great Depression made the land surrounding the Malheur Wildlife Refuge less productive for the cattle & dairy investments. Two large ranches, one owned by Louis Swift (owner of Swift Packing Company in Chicago), sold their land to the U.S. government. Much of this land was added to the Malheur Refuge. Also in 1935 a 65,000 acre parcel of the Blitzen Valley was purchased to safeguard water rights for the Malheur Reservation to help maintain water levels in the reserve required by waterfowl. Also in 1935, two years after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the CCC made major improvements to the infrastructure of the Malheur Reserve including constructing its roads. The CCC camps were located near the headquarters of today’s refuge. Today the refuge provides a crucial opportunity along the Pacific Flyway for tired migratory birds to rest. It provides excellent breeding and nesting habitat for 320 species of birds and as well as habitat for 58 species of mammals. Thousands of people annually visit the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to experience its spectacular array of wildlife.

Trouble with ethanol

 

 

Will new regulations mean more costly problems for boaters?

 

 

From The Fishing Wire

 

 

Unless you haven’t put fuel in your car in the past ten years, you’re probably familiar with the term E10. It refers to the 10 percent ethanol that is blended into the gasoline you buy at the pump. If you’ve owned an outboard-powered boat during that same time period, you are far more familiar with E10 than your over-the-road counterparts.
The introduction of ethanol into the U.S. gasoline supply was the result of an EPA regulation called the Renewable Fuel Standard, and it caused a lot of costly headaches for boaters at the 10 percent level. Now, the EPA is doubling down under intense pressure from the agri-industry’s ethanol lobby in Washington, increasing the mandated amount of ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent, a move dreaded by boaters and marine engine manufacturers alike.
Ethanol is derived from plant sources, mostly corn, and the government mandate has been a major boon to farmers and refiners. Basically, it is a fermented and refined grain alcohol that is denatured and then blended with gasoline. It initially found its way into the nation’s fuel supply as a replacement for a chemical additive called MTBE, which was used to increase octane and reduce emissions. After years of use, the EPA determined that MTBE was harmful to the environment, and the hunt for a replacement began. Domestically manufactured ethanol replaced MTBE, and was also promoted as a way to reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign oil. However, the use of ethanol in fuel came with a host of problems for marine engines and fuel systems.

 

 

Not long after the introduction of E10 gasoline, boats using it began experiencing problems. Almost immediately mysterious substances began clogging fuel filters that were later identified as a byproduct of mixing fuel still in the tank containing MTBE with ethanol-blended gasoline, but that was only a harbinger of things to come. Fuel lines approved for gasoline engines on boats reacted badly with the ethanol additive and started breaking down causing clogged filters; and in cases where the problem was not identified quickly, possible fuel leaks were the result. Any sludge deposits in older fuel tanks began dissolving and were pumped into the fuel system, damaging components and making a mess of filters. And boats with fiberglass fuel tanks were subject to the added nightmare of ethanol actually eating away the resin, which required replacement of the tank and in many cases, serious damage to expensive engine components like valves, carburetors and injectors.
Why were all these problems manifesting as a result of a simple switch from MTBE to a 10 percent blend of ethanol? As mentioned, ethanol is a form of alcohol and alcohol is a highly efficient solvent. So when it is introduced into older metal fuel tanks, it gradually begins to break down accumulated sediments and washes them into the fuel system. Those same properties can cause resins and fillers used to make fiberglass fuel tanks to leach out into the fuel system where they adhere to internal engine parts. Ethanol-blended fuel can also be responsible for the decomposition of rubber gaskets and fuel lines that heretofore had been approved for use in gasoline fuel systems.
Boat and engine manufacturers took on the challenge of upgrading their products to avoid these problems going forward, and have done an admirable job. Yamaha Marine was an early leader in identifying these problems and correcting them in their popular lineup of outboard engines. They upgraded fuel systems with hoses and gaskets that are resistant to ethanol’s solvent properties. The company also developed injection systems and revised ignition modules so that Yamaha outboards can run efficiently with E10, which has a lower combustion temperature and therefore a slightly lower power output than gasoline without ethanol. Even though most of the problems with E10-blended fuels have been accounted for by outboard manufacturers, there are still some issues that are inherent to the product that continue to plague boaters.

 

 

Ethanol is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the air. While this is rarely a problem in automobiles that live on dry land and have sealed fuel systems, marine applications are another story altogether. Boats live in a moisture- and humidity-rich environment, and boat fuel systems are vented to the atmosphere. Without venting, an outboard’s fuel pump would not be able to draw fuel from the tank. Venting allows outside air to enter the tank along with moisture and humidity where it contacts the ethanol in the gas.
“Water can and will collect in your fuel, and when the concentration of water molecules reaches just one half of one percent, those molecules will bond with the ethanol in the gasoline and sink to the bottom of the tank where the fuel pick up is located,” said David Meeler, Product Information Manager, Yamaha Marine Group. “This is called ‘phase separation’ and depending on the amount of water ingested into your outboard, it can result in everything from rough running to catastrophic engine damage.”
In the new brochure titled “Maintenance Matters – A Simple Guide for the Longevity of Your Outboard,” Yamaha offers the following recommendations for avoiding the potentially damaging effects of burning ethanol fuel in your outboard engine.

 

 

  1. Be sure to use a 10-micron fuel/water separating filter­—with proper flow rating for the engine—is installed in the fuel line between the tank and the outboard. This will filter out any debris that ethanol might loosen in the tank, and it will separate out and collect any water from the fuel. (Yamaha offers high-quality canister filters with large water collecting reservoirs for their outboards.) Filters should be replaced every 100 hours of operation or checked/replaced more frequently if the presence of significant water is found.
  2. Add a high-quality, marine specific fuel stabilizer and conditioner to every tank of fuel. Yamalube® Fuel Stabilizer and Conditioner is a non-alcohol-based formula that helps counter some of the problems associated with ethanol blended fuels. They caution boaters about claims from some additive manufacturers stating unequivocally that, “no additive will restore stale fuel, remove water or cure ethanol-related issues.”
  3. Add Yamalube® Ring Free Plus internal engine cleaner to every tank of fuel. It will do the job of keeping your fuel system clean and corrosion free.
  4. Buy your gas where they sell a lot of it! Today’s ethanol-blended gasolines have a notoriously short shelf life and actually begin to degrade in a matter of days after refining and blending. Purchasing gas at a high volume retailer helps insure you are buying the freshest gas. Then be sure to add stabilizer and engine cleaner at the time of purchase. This will go a long way in helping protect your investment in your outboard engine from ethanol problems.

If you are like many boat owners who only use their boats on weekends or even less frequently during the boating season, it’s advisable to keep your fuel tank level at 7/8 full with properly stabilized, fresh fuel. Keeping your tank at that level helps prevent condensation build up in the tank while the boat is not in use. Condensation occurs when any moisture in the air in the tank condenses with changing temperatures. It is another source of water entering the fuel and bonding with the ethanol.
With all of the problems associated with the use of E10 gasoline in marine engines, you would think the federal government might do something to mitigate the effects by reducing ethanol requirements. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The EPA, under the guise of the Renewable Fuel Standard, is mandating a 50 percent increase in the use of E15 gasoline, which will further exacerbate the problems associated with ethanol in marine engines. In an interview with Martin Peters, Manager, Government Relations for Yamaha Marine in Kennesaw, Ga., he laid out the case from the marine industry against the ethanol increase, along with a dire warning for owners of existing outboard engines.
“The marine industry has determined through research and testing that E15 harms outboards by doing internal damage to moving parts such as valves and pistons – devastating, irreparable damage,” said Peters. “While Yamaha could engineer outboards that will run on E15, doing so would increase cost to the consumer without increasing consumer benefits.
“More importantly, if E15 becomes the predominately available fuel in the U.S., that would leave ‘legacy’ outboards at risk of damage,” he continued. “There are more than 10 million outboards currently in service that would be destroyed by the damaging effects of E15. As an industry, we cannot allow this to happen to consumers.
“We strongly urge consumers and members of the marine industry to make their voices heard and stop the EPA from going forward with a plan to increase the amount of ethanol in the fuel supply. They can do so by contacting the EPA—or their Congressman/Senator—directly over concerns that higher ethanol blends will have on their products or by accessing a number of marine advocacy websites such as the National Marine Manufacturers Association® (www.nmma.org).”
For more information about caring for your outboard engine, check out Yamaha’s Maintenance Matters website at: http://maintenance.yamahaoutboards.com/

Sportsmen’s coalition defends federal fracking rule

 

 

SFRED: Time to modernize 30-year-old rule to protect fish, wildlife, water
 

From The Fishing Wire

 

As a new federal fracking rule continues to come under fire, a national sportsmen’s coalition is defending it as a commonsense update of 30-year-old regulations aimed at safeguarding fish, wildlife, water and other valuable resources on our public lands.
The Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition reacted to criticisms aired during a July hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The updated regulations for national public lands, released by the Bureau of Land Management in March, are intended to complement state regulations to ensure that fracking fluids and wastewater are handled safely; well casings are strong enough to stand the high-pressure fluids; and that companies disclose what chemicals they’re injecting underground.
“As the technology has advanced, where and how fracking occurs has changed dramatically in just the last 10 years while rules to safeguard our water and wildlife have not been updated for more than three decades. The BLM’s new rule is a reasonable upgrade to ensure there’s a minimum standard for national public lands that are managed for a number of uses, including hunting, fishing and recreation,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director.
Corey Fisher, the energy team lead for Trout Unlimited, noted that a recent Environment Protection Agency study of existing data on fracking revealed gaps in information, including the frequency of on-site spills, but did point out potential vulnerabilities to water sources such as inadequate well casings and spills of fracking wastewater.
“The BLM’s new fracking rule includes important changes to protect water quality, such as robust well-casing standards and the requirement that wastewater be stored in tanks rather than pits, which are more vulnerable to leaks and spills,” Fisher said. “These changes help address potential impacts to water resources on public lands. The EPA study makes clear the science hasn’t kept pace with the scale and scope of hydraulic fracturing. More study is needed, additional monitoring is necessary, and documented impacts necessitate a cautious approach and risk management that emphasizes avoiding impacts altogether.”
The BLM has said that where rules are at least as strong as the federal regulations, states can request a variance and companies can carry on as they have. The rule also applies to tribal lands. However, the fracking rule is on hold as a federal judge considers a challenge to the rule by the states of Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah and trade associations.
“The SFRED coalition appreciates that some of the biggest oil- and gas-producing states have taken steps to strengthen their rules and that many companies are responsible operators. However, it takes just one bad operator to seriously damage an aquifer or foul waterways that are vital to wildlife and communities,” said Ed Arnett senior scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The federal fracking rule is a crucial safeguard in states without their own rules—about half the 32 states with drilling on public lands, according to the BLM. It is important that we have a minimum national standard for lands that are managed for multiple purposes and are, in fact, owned by all Americans.”
Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 1500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

 

New report: Clean Power Plan key to protect drinking water, wildlife habitat

 

America’s waterways are already being stressed by climate change and President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is urgently needed to protect them, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation. Wildlife in Hot Water: America’s Waterways and Climate Change takes a comprehensive look at the science connecting global warming with changes to our lakes, rivers, streams and oceans like warmer water and more extreme weather, detailing impacts on the fish, wildlife and communities that depend on them.

 

“Hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts are experiencing firsthand how climate impacts are threatening wildlife from coast to coast — fueling warming water in trout and salmon runs, toxic algae in Lake Erie and Florida, record droughts in Texas, California and Florida, and extreme storms along the East Coast,” said Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation. “The Clean Power Plan’s flexible, achievable, science-based rules represent real progress for protecting fish, wildlife and America’s outdoor heritage from the worst impacts of climate change.”

 

Wildlife in Hot Water provides concrete examples of the bodies of waters that are suffering due to climate change, worsening wildlife habitat and threatening the drinking water for millions of Americans:

  • Toxic Algae Outbreaks: Lake Erie is once again suffering toxic algae outbreaks this summer fueled by increasing runoff from extreme weather events and warming water, one year after an outbreak shut down drinking water to nearly half a million people. To the west, scientists are directly connecting the dots between a massive, wildlife-killing Pacific algae outbreak and record-breaking warm water.
  • Warming Water and Drought: The Pacific Northwest’s salmon have been pushed to the brink by low water flows and warm temperatures, with the Yellowstone River’s trout also stressed. “As much as drought across the West is stressing people, it’s even more devastating for fish and wildlife, which can’t plan ahead or get water from far-away places,” says Doug Inkley, NWF senior scientist and lead author of the report. “They need our help.”
  • Habitat Loss: Among the most productive habitats on Earth, coastal wetlands and estuaries are now threatened with the rise of sea levels, more intense and frequent coastal storms and altered runoff. In the central U.S., land loss and drought are threatening the “prairie pothole” region (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa). More than 300 migratory bird species nest or migrate through this area, facing the challenge of finding suitable areas to nest and feed.

 

“I have been forced to close Montana’s finest cold water fisheries to protect trout from excessive water temperatures and catastrophically low water flows. Climate change affects our family’s business and threatens one of the most sustainable, unique parts of Montana’s economy,” said Dan Vermillion, a fly-fishing guide and chair of Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission. Vermillion took President Obama fly-fishing in 2009.

Equally importantly, it threatens one of the most important gifts we can give our children — cold, bountiful waters traversing valleys of healthy forests and grasslands. We must address the changing climate before it is too late. Future generations deserve nothing less.”

 

The first five months of 2015 were the hottest on record, on pace to surpass 2014’s record year. A recent study published in the journal Nature finds an increasingly visible link between global warming and extreme weather, with warmer temperatures adding fuel to superstorms like Sandy.

 

Wildlife in Hot Water details the steps needed to confront climate change and protect our waterways:

  1. Support the Clean Power Plan. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan sets first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. “The Clean Power Plan’s flexible, achievable and science-based approach represent real progress for protecting wildlife and America’s outdoor heritage from the worst impacts of climate change,” said O’Mara.
  2. Say no to new dirty energy projects. Oil, gas and coal development destroy, degrade, pollute and fragment habitat. Science is telling us that we must slow and stop the expansion of new dirty energy reserves—such as the massive coal fields in North America and the tar sands in Canada—which threaten important habitat and would lock in more carbon pollution for decades to come.
  3. Expand clean, wildlife-friendly energy and improve energy efficiency. Wind (on land and offshore), solar, sustainable bioenergy and geothermal energy can help protect wildlife, habitat and our water from climate change.
  4. Maintain fully restored Clean Water Act protections. In addition to curbing carbon pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency recently finalized a new rule restoring Clean Water Act protections to at least 60 percent of America’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands nationwide.

 

The National Wildlife Federation has issued a series of detailed reports on how climate change is hurting America’s wildlife and outdoor heritage:

 

 

Read the full report at NWF.org/WildlifeInHotWater and visit the National Wildlife Federation media center at NWF.org/News.

Senator Jerry Moran requests Lesser Prairie-chicken be removed from ‘threatened’ list

 

Congressional delegation has tried several times to end listing

 

By Justin Wingerter

Topeka Capitol-Journal

 

Kansas politicians have tried several legislative tactics to end the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s listing of the lesser prairie-chicken as “threatened.”

 

On Tuesday, August 4, Sen. Jerry Moran tried asking nicely.

 

In a letter to USFWS Director Dan Ashe, the freshman Republican senator asked that the bird be removed from its listing under the Endangered Species Act in the wake of a recent report suggesting the species is rebounding.

 

A recent aerial survey by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Association found an estimated 29,162 lesser prairie-chickens, an increase from 19,643 in 2013 and 23,363 in 2014. The Fish and Wildlife Service has said the “threatened” listing last year was the result of a steep decline in the bird’s population in recent years. Five states are home to the lesser prairie-chicken: Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

 

“Strong evidence exists indicating the dramatic rise in the lesser prairie-chicken’s population can primarily be accounted for by increased rainfall in the habitat area,” Moran wrote.

 

Moran also touted conservation efforts by local officials in the lesser prairie-chicken’s habitat area for the population rebound.

 

“These locally driven plans were put in place with landowner input to help conserve the bird in a sensible, voluntary manner,” the senator wrote. “Unfortunately, the plans were not given the opportunity to prove effectiveness because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stepped in to list the bird as a threatened species.”

 

Moran asked Ashe whether the USFWS intends to reconsider its listing of the lesser prairie-chicken after seeing the improved population figures. He also asked if the agency recognizes the role the drought of 2013 and 2014 had on the bird’s population.

 

The Kansas congressional delegation has tried several times to pass amendments or bills barring enforcement of the “threatened” listing.

 

Most recently, the state’s U.S. House delegation helped pass an amendment to the Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, H.R. 2822, on July 7. That bill could be voted on after Congress returns from its August recess in early September.

 

In June the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a Moran amendment that would bar enforcement of the listing, attaching it to a $30 billion measure to fund the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency.

 

A similar amendment offered by Moran was rejected in January when the senator attempted to attach it to legislation to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Is age old prairie the answer to agriculture’s problems?

 

By Ken Roseboro

 

An innovative project is using an age-old ecosystem to help solve problems resulting from modern agriculture. A team of scientists at Iowa State University is reintroducing strips of native prairie into Iowa’s farms as a way to reduce soil erosion, prevent fertilizer pollution of waterways, and create new habitats for wildlife, insects, and pollinators.
“Think Outside the Box”. The idea for the project arose out of discussions among agriculture experts at Iowa State who were becoming concerned about negative environmental impacts of industrial agriculture in Iowa, particularly with reduced water quality and loss of wildlife habitats.
“We were looking for something to do to address those concerns without impacting the profitability of agriculture,” says Lisa Schulte Moore, ISU associate professor of natural resource ecology and management. “We tried to think outside the box.”
Their idea was to reintroduce the once predominant ecosystem of Iowa-prairie-into Iowa’s farms, which are dominated by corn and soybean production.
Until the mid-1800s, Iowa’s landscape was dominated by prairie spreading across 85 percent of the state. But with the introduction of agriculture in the mid-19th century, Iowa’s prairie gave way to the plow and today just 0.1 percent of Iowa’s native prairie remains.
The ISU team, which included experts in agronomy, agricultural engineering, entomology, and ecology, chose the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa to conduct the prairie experiment. The 3,600-acre refuge contains the largest reconstructed prairie in Iowa.
Reduced soil loss and fertilizer runoff, increased wildlife. The project, titled STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips), began in 2007. Prairie strips were planted along with corn and soybeans on the refuge, particularly on slopes near watersheds, areas where water collects.

 

Researchers began documenting benefits in 2008. “We were able to measure responses right away,” says Moore who is the STRIPS communications lead. “The prairie strips were able to slow down water moving across farm fields, which can be erosive. It also kept nutrients in the field so they didn’t become pollutants in waterways, and there were increases in wildlife, birds, and insects.”
The STRIPS team found that converting just 10 percent of a crop field into perennial prairie can reduce soil loss by 95 percent, phosphorus loss by 90 percent and nitrogen loss by almost 85 percent. Soil loss, phosphorus, and nitrogen are three main causes of water pollution in Iowa. Excess nitrogen running off Midwest farms is also a leading cause of the “dead zone” that appears in the Gulf of Mexico each year. In terms of biodiversity, there was also a four-fold increase in native plant species, a doubling of bird species, and an increase of pollinators with the prairie strips.
Moore describes these as “disproportionate” benefits, meaning significant benefits can be realized by planting a just a small amount of prairie-and without impacting crop yields.
The benefits are starting to be backed by published research. A recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Quality found that prairie strips can remove nitrates, which pollute waterways, from cropland runoff over long periods of time.
Moore says she and her fellow researchers are excited about the possibilities of STRIPS. “With some science projects, the results will just sit on a shelf,” she says. “But with this, we have a project where the science has legs, and it’s really exciting to be part of this.”
Strong farmer interest in STRIPS. For the next phase, the STRIPS team moved the project to farmers’ fields across Iowa to see if the benefits could be replicated. There is strong interest among farmers in the project. “They are saying ‘I feel good about this practice,'” Moore says. “Farmers are interested in keeping soil on their lands and pollutants out of waterways.”
The first on-farm STRIPS project started in 2013; that grew to nine last year and will expand to 23 this year. “This has been a good fit for a lot of farmers,” says Tim Youngquist, field coordinator for STRIPS, who works with the farmers. “They’ve known in their hearts that they want to do something to improve the land.”
Gary Guthrie, a farmer in Story County, Iowa, says he got “super excited” when he heard about the STRIPS project. “Prairie strips fit with what we want to do, building diversity with insects and bees,” he says. “I’ve seen the result of soil devastation, and that informed my decision also.” Guthrie will plant four, 30-foot-wide prairie strips this year on his 145-acre farm.
Ag and environmental groups find common ground on STRIPS

STRIPS is a rare initiative where opposite ends of the spectrum-conventional agricultural and environmental groups-find common ground. The Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa Corn Growers Association along with The Nature Conservancy and Iowa Environmental Council, as well as other state and regional groups, all support the project.
What is the long-term goal of STRIPS? The project’s team will continue to document the benefits and hopefully attract more farmers, who are key to its success.
“We would like that prairie strips become a common practice on farms across the Corn Belt,” Moore says. According to one estimate, nearly one million acres of prairie strips could be planted in Iowa. Not a complete restoration but a huge improvement over 0.1 percent.
Obviously more needs to be done to address other problems with industrial agriculture, particularly with monocultures, pesticides, and GMOs. But the STRIPS project is demonstrating that sustainable solutions are available.

 

“We’ve got a chance to make Iowa a better place, one field at a time,” Youngquist says.
Ken Roseboro is editor of The Organic and Non-GMO Rporter. This article was reprinted with permission from The Organic & Non-GMO Reporter, February 2015.   See more at http://www.nongmoreport.com