Summer nights wouldn't feel quite right if the open windows did not allow me to hear the occasional howling of coyotes. The wild canines provide a sonic reminder that even though I live in town, it's a small town surrounded by thousands of acres of wonderful Big Empty.
But actually, the coyote howls convey no such message. The critter manages pretty well around human settlement. Unlike many wild predators such as the wolf, the coyote has actually expanded its range in the past century, moving into the eastern United States. One even appeared in New York City's Central Park in 1999.
They're also doing pretty well in parts of the West. Upscale suburbs with big lots and greenbelts apparently offer good coyote habitat, as evidenced by recent events in Greenwood Village on the south side of Denver.
There, a coyote attacked a 14-year-old boy last December. He fought it off and was not injured. Since the start of 2008, Greenwood Village has logged 194 coyote sightings, and 20 attacks on animals, most of them pets.
On December 31st, a 66-year old Cheyenne River Sioux man died after a doctor told ambulance drivers to "take him back to his residence or dump him in a ditch" because there wasn't money for his care, recounted President of the National Congress of Indian Americans (NCAI), Joe A. Garcia, in his State of Indian Nations address on February 10th.
During his campaign, President Obama promised to appoint a Native policy advisor to his senior staff and holding a yearly summit at the White House for tribal leaders. He met with Pueblo leaders in New Mexico and was even adopted by the Crow nation in Montana.
President Garcia called on President Obama and the 111th Congress to build on those promises by investing $6.4 billion in Indian Country. As of February 13th, it looks like American Indian Nations are going to get between $3 billion and $4.2 billion in funds and bonds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which Congress finally passed after much compromise and debate. Although this falls short of what NCAI had hoped, it is an enormous improvement over the status quo.
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The effects of global warming on plants and animals are likely to be as varied as the species themselves. Some will adapt; some will even benefit. But what does the future hold for those too slow-moving, slow-growing, or otherwise unable to make the best of things? Conservation biologists have been talking, many nervously and some less so, about "assisted migration" or "assisted colonization" -- in short, picking up vulnerable plants and animals and moving them to more hospitable climes.
Now, across the pond, a team of UK scientists have conducted the first formal test of assisted colonization: The biologists moved two butterfly species 20 to 40 miles north of the edge of their existing ranges in northern England, then watched and waited. Over six years, the new butterfly populations grew and expanded in these "climatically suitable" areas -- a result the study authors say bodes well for assisted colonization as a conservation strategy.
Lots of implications here for Western critters. The Quino checkerspot butterfly in northern Mexico and southern California is blocked by development to the north and unlikely to move on its own. And yesterday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service -- prodded by a lawsuit -- announced that it would consider Endangered Species Act protection for the American pika because of its vulnerability to climate change.
Of course, when it comes to assisted colonization, countless questions remain -- if we're going to move species, which ones? And how do we make sure we're not creating more problems than we solve?
Construction is underway on a hush-hush repository deep beneath Wyoming's Sweetwater County. What will it hold? Well, it's not nuclear waste or a germ warfare facility.
I'll give you a hint: It involves a somewhat notorious science fiction author and, tangentially, Tom Cruise.
From the Casper Star-Tribune (via the AP):
Public planners . . .say the contractor hired for the project has told them it intends to build a 22,000-square-foot underground storage vault to store documents.
Whose documents exactly? Apparently, the writings of the late L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology's founder, and other church records.
But plans remain vague. County land use planner John Barton said the county also has been told the vault might hold any number of things besides documents.
"We've had everything from underground housing of sheep or hay," Barton said. "We've had a cemetery discussed. We've had mining discussed."
The shuttering of the last U.S. slaughterhouse in Illinois in 2007 and the tanking economy have created a glut of horses across the nation. Horse rescues have been filled to capacity. BLM wild horse auctions have drawn almost no bidders. These days you can hardly give a horse away, let alone sell one.
Now comes the aptly named Montana State Sen. Ed Butcher, author of a bill that would pave the way for the construction of a horse slaughterhouse in his state. Butcher told the Billings Gazette the bill addresses an escalating problem of horse abandonment and cruelty. "Horses are being kicked out on the roads, left on the land," he told the paper.
A horse owner in the central Montana farm community of Winifred, Butcher says domestic slaughter makes more sense than sending horses to Canada and Mexico, where slaughterhouses cater to horse flesh lovers around the globe and where cruel treatment has drawn fire from the Humane Society of the United States and others. A bill pending in the U.S. Congress would prohibit the transport of horses for slaughter across U.S. borders.
Butcher's bill, HB418, is scheduled for a hearing Feb. 12 before the Montana House Agriculture Committee.
Anticipating controversy, Butcher included in the bill a clause which bans a halt or delay in slaughterhouse construction by prohibiting court injunctions against it.
Butcher called horse slaughter "an incredible industry for Montana," saying it would generate jobs slaughtering, butchering, packaging and shipping horsemeat for human and canine consumption.
People who want slaughter should have the option, Butcher said. "Not every horse is Trigger. There's a lot of these horses whose working days are done."
...Texas Billionaire Developer.
Ray Ring’s January essay told the tale of one Texas billionaire you shouldn’t trust. Well, here’s another to watch out for. His name is Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, and he might try to develop a place that’s near and dear to you!
McCombs is the founder of one of the world’s largest auto conglomerates, the co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, and also the former owner of multiple pro sports teams. He’s got his hands in a lot of places.
Most recently, McCombs has been trying to bring hotshot resorts to a couple places in the West: one on the shores of Lake Powell, that huge reservoir that sits on the border between Utah and Arizona, and the other a ski resort in Southwest Colorado’s Wolf Creek. But thanks to ongoing drought in the West and the economic downturn everywhere in the world, it’s possible that both of these plans will be nixed.
In 2007, McCombs gave 10 Texas longhorn cattle (valued at $10,000) to the Navajo Nation, whose land he hoped would be leased for his proposed 50,000-acre development. Critics questioned why the gift never made headlines. Directed toward the central government of the Navajo Nation, the LeChee Chapter approved a resolution stating that further discussions of development must include them. “We will resist any move to take our land," they added. Currently, development plans are still at the "conversation over coffee" stage, says Navajo Nation Resources Chairman George Arthur.
It’s not the first time McCombs has tried the ol’ “gift” tactic. In 2005, the Village at Wolf Creek, McCombs' proposed ski resort, donated over $5,000 to the construction fund for a medical facility in nearby Creede, Colo., according to Janelle Kukuk, who led the facility's fundraising efforts. Kukuk denies any notion that the contribution was a bribe, but says, "Was it a good PR move on his part? Yeah maybe, but he wasn't the only one."
Luckily for the Wolf Creek residents, McCombs’ development is stalled, because the proposed road to his “Village” goes through Forest Service land. And an approved Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a prerequisite for building on Forest Service land. But McCombs missed his EIS deadline last year. If the Village plans ever go through (with this economy? Yeah right!), those reintroduced Canada lynx will have a steady flow of luxury SUV traffic to deal with.
Stuart Strand takes climate change seriously, and I'm not just talking about the groovy recumbent bicycle he rides to work.
The environmental engineer from the University of Washington was searching for a way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere when he came across an intriguing report. Its authors suggested that annual carbon emissions could be reduced on a global scale if we humans dump a large portion of our crop residue in the sea. Left on dry land, all those corn stalks and potato stems decompose after the harvest and release carbon into the atmosphere. But at depths of around 1,500 feet, vegetable matter decomposes extremely slowly. And because the deep layers of the ocean rarely mix with surface layers, the carbon emitted from such decomposition could remain in the sea for as long as 1,000 years.
The report lacked a few hard facts, though. So Strand began crunching numbers. He now thinks deep ocean sequestration could cut global carbon emissions by 15 percent each year. He also estimates that the sequestration process itself would produce relatively little in the way of new carbon emissions. Sure, all those bales of corn stover and wheat husks would have to be hauled to the seaside, loaded on barges and dumped in the waves, but the carbon emitted from the diesel engines involved would add up to about 8 percent of the carbon being sequestered. In other words, deep sea sequestration could prove to be 92 percent efficient. That's a heck of an improvement over the other popular solution for the climatic problem posed by crop waste: cellulosic ethanol. According to Strand, ethanol's carbon efficiency rolls in somewhere around the 30 percent mark.
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Cool (so to speak) new study just published by researchers at the University of Arizona: Using records collected by an amateur naturalist and habitual hiker named Dave Bertelsen, scientists found that in the Santa Catalina Mountains on the edge of Tucson, the flowering ranges of 93 plant species moved uphill between 1994 to 2003. Average summer temperatures in the region rose 1.8 degrees F over the same period -- so, while no one can say for sure, these findings certainly look like a fingerprint of human-caused climate change.
Bertelsen has been hiking the same trail in the Catalinas once or twice a week since 1983 ("If I miss a week, I miss it," he says). Theresa Crimmins, one of the study authors, works with the National Phenology Network, a new organization dedicated to monitoring climate-induced changes in phenology -- flowering, migration, and other regular events in the lives of plants and animals. They hope to promote more such collaborations between naturalists and pedigreed researchers.
The effect of climate change on water supply in the Colorado Basin is so hard to predict that Marc Waage of Denver Water is working with his colleagues to revolutionize the way they plan for the future, using a model called the "Cone of Uncertainty."
The cone demonstrates the depth and width of our uncertainty, extending lengthwise into the future and expanding outward toward infinite possibility. The idea is to prepare for what is common to a range of possible scenarios, setting yourself up to adapt to as many of the variations as possible.
Waage is the first to admit that this cone really just reinforces how uncertain things are. But hey! At least we know that it's a cone of uncertainty and not... a cube...or a sphere.
Don't worry. To move toward more "robust decision making" in the face of all this doubt and uncertainty, Denver Water folks will use computer modeling that can account for regulatory, environmental, technical, social and economic variables, spitting out a huge range of possible scenarios and devising more contingency plans than our human minds could ever fathom. If you aren't sure how this will make that cone of uncertainty any narrower, just remember, there are a few facts we can cling to, even if they have started to sound like a broken record:
The West continues to be the hot spot for meth in the U.S., leading the rest of the country with 65 percent of meth treatment admissions, according to a new 171-page study by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health puts Nevada first in meth use, with 2.02 percent of the population using the drug, followed by Montana and Wyoming (1.47 percent), and Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon (1.24 percent). The other western states -- Arizona, New Mexico, California, Colorado, Washington and Utah -- are all in the top 20.
The RAND survey marks a few changes:
Although meth use was originally highly concentrated among white men, users are now increasingly female and Hispanic. The emergence of meth is also a signiﬁcant concern for the criminal justice system. The majority of county law-enforcement agencies now report meth as their primary drug problem. Moreover, the share of meth-related treatment admissions referred by the criminal justice system is approximately 50 percent higher than for other substances.
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