Southwest Forest Proposes End to Mexican Wolf Baiting
Eastern Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest made an important move for Mexican gray wolf recovery this week, proposing the first-ever policy to give livestock owners some responsibility for preventing conflicts with the endangered predators. By requiring ranchers to dispose of their own animals' carcasses when they die of non-wolf causes, the policy would go a long way toward preventing Mexican wolves from developing a taste for domestic animals instead of their natural prey. The policy would also effectively ban the practice of baiting wolves into preying on livestock, which can doom wolves to government trapping or shooting -- a significant obstacle to the survival of these wolves' scanty populations.
The Center for Biological Diversity is requesting that the proposed policy be applied not just in the Apache National Forest portion of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, but also on all lands governed by the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest's revised forest plan.
Read more in High Country News.
San Francisco Warned Not to Kill Endangered Snakes and Frogs
To save two imperiled species at Sharp Park, California -- and move toward rescuing the site from its unfortunate fate as a golf course -- this Wednesday, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies told San Francisco we'll sue over harm to California red-legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes, both protected species. Activities at Sharp Park golf course, built over lagoon wetlands and managed by the county and city of San Francisco, have been hurting frogs by draining and pumping their aquatic habitat, and new evidence shows that extremely rare San Francisco garter snakes have been killed by groundskeepers mowing the grass that snakes use for basking. To make matters worse, San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department has just released a flawed plan to privatize the golf course and reconstruct flooded parts of it at the expense of frog and snake habitat.
The Center and local Bay Area groups are now calling on San Francisco to not only stop killing Sharp Park's rare herps, but to consider restoring the area's coastal wetlands as an endangered species haven.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
New Bombshell Dropped on Desert Tortoise
Delivering yet another blow to the federally threatened and increasingly under-fire desert tortoise, last week the Bureau of Land Management proposed to seize 365,000 acres of fragile Mojave Desert land to expand training grounds used by the U.S. Marine Corps for bombing, tank training, and other "live-fire" training. The land, near Twentynine Palms, California, includes habitat critical for the survival and recovery of the desert tortoise, as well as desert bighorn sheep.
Thanks to threats from disease to habitat degradation to development, the desert tortoise is now in dramatic decline, especially in the west Mojave (right where the proposed expansion would take place). And the species is in particularly dire straits since a disastrous relocation program has resulted in numerous tortoise deaths -- and the Fish and Wildlife Service just drafted a "recovery plan" that protects the reptile less than the old plan.
Read more in the Press-Enterprise.
Florida Moves Forward -- Very Slowly -- for Freshwater Turtles
Almost six months after the Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to halt turtle harvesting in four southern states, Florida finally took a small step in the right direction by restricting the practice. In light of the threat overharvesting poses to sensitive freshwater turtles, which are often sold in large numbers for Asian cuisine or as pets, last week the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission passed a rule limiting turtle takes to five per person per day (unless you're a fisherman with a license, in which case you can take up to 20).
Undoubtedly, the rule doesn't go far enough -- freshwater turtles are extremely sensitive to overharvesting, and some species could collapse because of it. In May, Oklahoma responded wisely to the Center's harvesting-ban petition by enacting a three-year moratorium on commercial turtle harvest in all the state's public waters. Luckily, Florida's below-par new restriction rule is an interim measure to hold only until the state completes a comprehensive turtle study. (And we should note that before last week, Florida allowed unlimited turtle harvesting.)
Get more from the Florida Times-Union.
Yellowstone Snowmobile Plan Overturned
Standing up for the natural values that distinguish our country's first national park, last week a federal judge threw out a plan to allow 540 snowmobiles to tear through Yellowstone National Park per day -- almost twice the number of snowmobiles that frequented the park on last count. The plan, developed by the National Park Service and meant to take effect this winter, ignores the Park Service's own data showing that all that snowmobile traffic would increase air pollution, harm wildlife, and be an immense auditory annoyance. The plan would have affected not only Yellowstone, but also Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, a scenic roadway that connects the two national parks.
To defend the lungs, eardrums, and general well-being of Yellowstone wildlife and human recreationists alike, conservation groups sued to stop the plan. Shortly thereafter, pro-snowmobile groups intervened on the part of the government, saying the Park Service did "an outstanding job" with the new plan -- but the judge hearing the case obviously disagreed. The Park Service was sent back to the drawing board to redo the plan.
Learn more from the Missoulian.
Earth Overshoot Day Highlights Ecological Credit Crunch
This past Tuesday marked a not-so-joyous milestone: Earth Overshoot Day 2008, the day when humanity had officially used up all the resources nature will provide this calendar year. Thanks to the problem of "ecological overshoot," in 2008 we gobbled up about 40 percent more resources than Earth can regenerate, worsening pretty much every pressing environmental problem we face today, from climate change to declining biodiversity to shrinking forests. And every year, as we cut down more and more trees before they can re-grow, emit more and more carbon dioxide before it can be absorbed, and catch more and more fish before they can spawn -- not to mention all our other unsustainable activities -- Earth Overshoot Day will come earlier and earlier.
For the next three months, we're living beyond our ecological means for the year, racking up charges on Mother Nature's credit card without any resources to pay it off. We'd better come up with a pretty stellar bail-out plan -- and act on it -- right away.
Learn more about Earth Overshoot Day from the Global Footprint Network.
Center Promotes Thrilling Book on Thrillcraft Consequences
thrillcraft (noun): 1) recreational machines used for "thrill-seeking" on land or water, including snowmobiles, jet skis, four-wheelers, and dirt bikes 2) one of the main threats to U.S. national forests and other public lands
If you're unfamiliar with the definition above, it's time you visited www.stopthrillcraft.org, a brand-new Web site outlining all the major problems thrillcraft can pose, from habitat destruction to noise and air pollution to human safety issues. Besides offering provocative photos, info on thrillcraft, and strategies for solving the thrillcraft problem, the site highlights a new book of essays written by scientists, economists, activists, and others called Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation. The Center for Biological Diversity has teamed up with the book's editor -- ecologist, writer, and photographer George Wuerthner -- and its publisher, the Foundation for Deep Ecology, to promote the book, along with a video slideshow based on it.
Check out the book and video now at www.stopthrillcraft.org.
Calling All Working Assets and CREDO Customers: The Center Needs Your Vote
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Each year, Working Assets donates a portion of its customers' charges to a select group of progressive organizations like ours. We're excited to be on the ballot, but the percentage of votes we get from customers will determine how much we receive at the end of the year. If you get your phone service or credit card from Working Assets or are a CREDO wireless customer, you can go to the Working Assets voting page and assign maximum points to the Center (we're in the Environment section). Please support us and cast your vote now.
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Photo credits: Mexican gray wolf by Robin Silver; Mexican gray wolves by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International; San Francisco garter snake courtesy of USFWS; desert tortoise by Beth Jackson; Barbour's map turtle courtesy of USFWS; Yellowstone National Park by Stephen Friedt; Earth courtesy of NASA; Thrillcraft cover by George Wuerthner.
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