Our dog Bodie, a collie-shepherd rez-mutt mix, may make it to his fifth birthday in October. Or maybe not. He's a car-chasing idiot and nothing we've tried, including a shock collar with five settings that range from tickle to Ted Bundy, has prevented him from racing off after anything on wheels.
We all need some exercise, though, so Martha and I take him for daily walks where he can run around. We try to find places nearby where cars and motorcycles are rare, and something wonderful just happened at one of those places.
This spot is about two miles from town. It's a quarter-mile of rocky rutted road in a narrow stretch between the railroad tracks (out of service for the past decade, so we don't have to worry about Bodie chasing trains) and the Arkansas River (the traffic of U.S. Highway 50 flows on the other side of the water, and Bodie is no swimmer).
Lawmakers are trying, for a second time, to toss a lifeline to the Forest Service. Ballooning fire-fighting costs and constrictive Bush-era budgets have been squeezing the soul (read: expenses other than fire retardant, hoses and helicopters) out of the agency. But last week, 12 senators and five U.S. reps, most of them from western states, attempted to relieve some of the strain by reintroducing the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act to both branches of Congress.Read More ...
Nancy Sienko became Colorado's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office director three years ago, in the middle of a surge of discrimination charges. While job-based discrimination complaints grew by 17 percent in the United States in the past five years, the caseload in Colorado exploded by 46 percent in the same time period. Sienko, with 31 years at the EEOC, says that whenever there’s a downturn in the economy, there’s a corresponding upturn in complaints. But that doesn’t explain Colorado’s surge, which began in 2003 when the state’s economy was fairly robust. Sienko says shifting demographics and better outreach likely account for much of the increase. It’s “good in the sense that people are aware of their rights,” she says. Unfortunately the agency’s resources are “severely diminished.” There were once as many as 40 investigators in the Colorado office -- now there are only 15, and each investigator handles a caseload of about 150. The agency has a current backlog of 2000 cases, which may take as long as two years – rather than the goal of 180 days – to resolve.
The EEOC reviews complaints of workplace discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, religion, age, disability and "retaliation" (for protesting bias). Colorado's 1,959 complaints in 2008 are a mere two percent of the national figure of 95,402, which represents a 15 percent increase nationwide over 2007. "The EEOC has not seen an increase of this magnitude in charges filed for many years," said the Commission's Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. "While we do not know if it signifies a trend, it is clear that employment discrimination remains a persistent problem."
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In words typical of claims by environmental organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently trumpeted “a big step forward for polar bear protection” when the Bush Administration agreed to designate critical habitat for the Polar Bear as part of a settlement with the group and its allies (Nature’s Voice, Jan/Feb 2009). Based on my experience with critical habitat designated for the Coho salmon, however, my guess is that the designation will not make much difference in what actually takes place on the ground.
A final critical habitat designation for Central California Coast and Southern Oregon/Northern California Coasts Coho salmon was published by the National Marine Fisheries Service (MNFS) on May 5, 1999. NMFS first proposed protection not only for the beds, banks and waters of Coho streams but also for riparian areas sized in accordance with the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS) for public land adopted a few years before as part of the Northwest Forest Plan. But the loud outcry from timber, agriculture, development interests and local governments resulted in changes. The final designation included the extent of riparian vegetation associated with Coho streams. In this region that is generally far less than the “site tree length” definition of riparian zones found in the ACS.
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Last week I attended the 27th annual conference of the Salmonid Restoration Federation. Restoration scientists, restoration technicians and young people enrolled in the California Conservation Corps gathered in Santa Cruz, California for four days of field trips, plenary addresses and workshops which showcased watershed and salmon restoration programs and projects from throughout California. You can read session abstracts and the detailed proceedings at the Federation's Website.
Back in 1982 when the first SRF conference took place, Restoration – the idea that we humans can rehabilitate the damage we have done to land and water and thereby facilitate the recovery of wildlife species, fisheries, watersheds and even rivers – was a new idea which agency managers, elected officials and most economists looked upon with skepticism. Nearly thirty years later Restoration and the Restoration Economy are widely accepted. Elected officials now compete to bring restoration dollars home while the restoration economy is hailed as an important and dynamic element of the total economy. New economic concepts like Natural Capital and restoration as an investment in Ecosystem Services have been developed to explain how the restoration economy works. By these and other measures it appears that Restoration has arrived and is firmly ensconced in the mainstream of American life and economy.
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Despite the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, Americans are enjoying longer lifespans, and fewer children are dying in infancy. Unless they're Native American, that is. The numbers for Washington state, as reported in the Seattle P-I, are shocking:
A recent state Department of Health report showed that the march against cancer, heart disease and infant mortality has largely bypassed Native Americans. In 2006, the latest year studied, Native American men were dying at the highest rate of all people, with little change since the early '90s. Their life expectancy was 71, the lowest age of all men, and six years lower than that of white men.
The news was just as grim for Native American women. Their death rate had surged by 20 percent in a 15-year period, while the overall death rate had decreased by 17 percent.
But the starkest health disparity was among babies. Native American babies were dying at a rate 44 percent higher than a decade ago, while the overall rate of infant deaths had declined.
The sad statistics have many roots, some beginning in the 1800s (diseases brought by European settlers; broken treaties and land grabs), some more recent (federal budget cuts that make it hard for Natives to afford medical care and healthy food; a statewide shortage of rural doctors).
And the inequities aren't limited to Washington State. According to the federal Native American Injury Mortality Atlas, Indian children and youth had the highest death rates in the country for motor vehicle crashes and pedestrian deaths, and a suicide rate up to 8 times the national average.
Help may be on the way, although health disparities of this magnitude will take years to reverse. Obama's budget proposes $4 billion for the Indian Health Service, a $700 million increase from last year. Tribes are also taking action to reduce suicides and promote exercise and healthy eating.
The bats of America are in dire straits. In the Eastern U.S., hundreds of thousands of hibernating bats have died from the mysterious fungal affliction known as white nose syndrome. To make matters worse, tree bats are getting whacked by wind turbines.
Bats live up to 30 years and have one of the lowest reproductive rates among mammals: sometimes just one pup per year. This means the death toll from wind turbines could be debilitating. It's unlike anything researchers have seen before in terms of a man-made structure killing bats, says Fort Collins USGS bat expert Paul Cryan. "This came at us completely out of the blue."
Concern about wind turbines' "lawnmower effect" used to be focused on birds. But now it looks like bats are suffering the most. One reason is the difference between bat and bird morphology. Bats, like other mammals, have delicate alveoli in their lungs. The thin membranes can't withstand extreme pressure changes, and suffer from "barotrauma," like scuba divers' ears and lungs when they go deep under water without equalizing properly. Ninety percent of the bats that researchers at the University of Calgary found under turbines had died of internal hemorrhaging, not from collision with the blades. In fact, only fifty percent of the bats showed signs of impact.
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President Obama today named activist and author Van Jones -- an African American -- as his Special Advisor on Green Jobs. Perhaps no one is more qualified to dole out stimulus funds for green jobs than Jones -- especially now, as more and more people are impacted by a deteriorating environment and a failing economy. The founder of "Green For All," an environmental group dedicated to bringing green jobs to the disadvantaged, and the author of "The Green Collar Economy," Jones has devoted himself to lifting people out of poverty through environmental action. His emphasis has been on environmental justice.
"We don't want to be first and worst with all the toxins and all the negative effects of global warming, and then benefit last and least from all the breakthroughs in solar, wind energy, organic food, all the positives. We want an equal share, an equitable share, of the work wealth and the benefits of the transition to a green economy," he told Mother Jones in 2008.
Coincidentally, a New York Times story published this week talked about the lack of diversity in environmental organizations.
Between 105 and 315 million gallons of water per day: by current estimates, that's the amount of water that could be swallowed by a 2.5-million-barrel-per-day-oil shale industry. It's an impressive number, but a bit of an abstraction. For a more visceral take on the impacts of oil shale, take a look at the 25 opposition letters filed against Shell Oil's water claim in Colorado's Yampa River. They'll give you a sense of the trade-offs involved -- of just who we'll leave wanting if we slake the thirst of oil shale.
As the Denver Post points out, 25 is an impressive number, too:
"There is a big target on the Yampa. Everyone is looking to tap into it," said Glenn Porzak, a water lawyer for the city of Steamboat Springs.
Water-rights applications usually generate no more than seven protest letters, Porzak said. The biggest case he was ever involved in had about 19.
"This Yampa case is big," he said.Read More ...
On February 27, Wyoming passed a set of laws designed to flesh out a legal framework for burying carbon emissions in the geologic cavities, or "pore spaces," that lie beneath significant portions of the state. The rules attempt to answer a few pertinent questions. Notably: Who will be responsible for the carbon once it's been injected into a pore space, and for how long? And, if one person wants to sequester carbon where another plans to dig for coal, drill for oil, or mine uranium, whose claim takes precedence?
It'll be awhile before anyone starts sequestering carbon on a commercial scale (probably more than a decade where coal power plants are concerned), and it's likely that any answers to these questions will change before sequestration becomes a reality. But here are two interesting issues that stick out so far:Read More ...