A few days ago a letter [pdf] written by scientists at Brigham Young University -- a traditionally conservative school -- plopped onto the desks of Utah’s governor and state lawmakers. The letter is being called a “stinging rebuke” and criticizes how, in a recent session, legislators gave equal value to fringe, skeptical climate change views as they did to the broader scientific consensus that our climate is changing and we are to blame.
their October meeting, the state’s Public Utilities and Technology
Interim Committee listened to two climate change scientists -- as HCN noted here. The
first, professor Jim Steenburgh,
chair of the University Of Utah Atmospheric Science Department,
presented the more scientifically backed view that climate change is
man made. The second scientist--professor Roy Spencer,
climatologist from the University of Alabama, Huntsville--presented
skeptical views, arguing that climate change is a natural phenomena,
caused by natural cycles, not humans. (Listen to the meeting)
Spencer was specially invited to the meeting by co-chair of the panel, Republican Mike Noel, and his views were reportedly well received. Steenburgh, on the other hand, was attacked after his presentation—many lawmakers shunned his views, claiming global warming is a natural phenomenon. One representative even accused the movement to address global warming as, “the new religion to replace Communism.”Read More ...
The creation of Washington State’s current logging regulations may have been less spectacular that the infamous spotted owl timber wars of the early 90s (the President didn’t have to intervene, for instance), but they were still righteously complicated. Ten years ago, when salmon hit the endangered species list, stakeholders sat down to create a multi-trick pony: a plan to protect salmon, fulfill tribal treaty rights to harvest salmon, satisfy the federal Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts, and preserve the timber economy. They called it “Forests and Fish.”
The Forests and Fish negotiations lasted three years, and consensus was only reached after many environmental groups left the table over complaints that the timber lobby held too much sway. Key to the eventual compromise was something called ‘adaptive management,’ or a promise to adjust the rules according to best available science. Tribes and environmental groups expected that science would lead to stricter logging regulations to protect water quality, while many in the timber industry held out hope that science would eventually prove habitat wasn’t as important to salmon recovery as harvest or oceanic conditions.Read More ...
It’s been 20 years this month since the Berlin Wall was dismantled, marking the beginning of the end for the Iron Curtain that once separated Eastern Europe from much of the western world. But according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, some of the region’s wildlife still hasn’t forgotten the man-made boundary that interrupted their historic habitat. The findings of European scientists could have implications for America’s own southern border wall.
Between Germany and the Czech Republic, where an electrified fence and armed guards once barred the passage of wildlife and people alike, a series of parks and nature preserves known as the Green Belt now safeguard forests and wildlife. Most animals take full advantage of the Green Belt, but one species, the red deer, refuses to cross the invisible line where the fence once stood.
Data from radio-collared deer and the observations of wildlife biologists have shown that, with very rare exceptions, the German deer stay in Germany, and the Czech deer stay out. The deer have apparently passed down a sort of cultural memory of the barrier so that populations on either side of the former fence refuse to cross. That means the two populations are no longer sharing their genes with each other. And as the Journal article points out, the deer’s propensities are keeping them from taking full advantage of the Green Belt, “one of the biggest ecological projects in European history.”
In the United States, some 650 miles of wall have already been built between the U.S. and Mexico. The wall, ostensibly aimed at preventing undocumented immigration from Mexico to the U.S., has been repeatedly shown to be a dismal failure at blocking human traffic. But the wall has done far too good a job at keeping wildlife from traveling through its native habitat.
Read More ...
This week's HCN Reader photo looks like a magical sunrise in a winter fairyland. Although much of the West remains cloaked in the fall-to-winter transition, bits of winter peek through here - we thought this image offered a nice preview of what's to come. Add your photo to our reader pool on Flickr - we pick one a week to post on the Grange blog.
Earlier this month, I was privileged to be part of a keynote panel at the 10th
Biennial Conference for research on the Colorado Plateau. I chose, in
part, to talk about the relationship of science and public policy
making, because I had just finished writing an essay on that topic for
the soon-to-be-published science assessment on the sage-grouse.
In my talk, I referenced a sentence I helped write as one of several
science advisors to BLM: "the use of the best-available science—along
with a consideration of political, social, and economic
information—will result in the best-informed decisions."
What followed the panel was a lively discussion about the role of science in public policy; a discussion that led me to conclude that my friends in biology, ecology, conservation biology and related fields are light years ahead of other scientific disciplines in appreciating the complexities within the use of science in public policy making.Read More ...
This is my first Halloween as a dad. As the October days have waned, I’ve grown increasingly excited to check out the nearby Halloween costume store to find a perfect trick-or-treat outfit for my new baby girl.
The other day, with permission from baby’s mama, we finally went. The ghoulish masks, wicked wigs, and gory décor were truly a site to behold.
But then the real fright came.
Nestled between a swarm of cute bumble bee costumes and a pen of little piggy noses, a display of “Native American Warrior” costumes, complete with headband and mock tribal designs, stared back at me. Intended for kids aged 5 through 14-years-old, the packages said. Bloody tomahawks and plastic black hair, next aisle.
I immediately thought of all the reporting I’ve done involving Indian mascots and team names that some Native Americans have decried and have worked for decades to have removed and changed.
The West has been home to some of the most famous of these controversies, including battles over the long-time Fighting Sioux logo of the University of North Dakota.
Read More ...
By Courtney Lowery, NewWest.net guest blogger, 10-27-09
A new study shows that sage grouse, up for Endangered Species listing in February, will face even bigger population declines in the Mountain West if energy development progresses as Bureau of Land Management expects it to.
The three year study, published earlier this month in the peer-reviewed PLoS One science journal as well as here on WyoFile.com, warns that energy development plans on BLM land in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana and North and South Dakota could lead to a 7-19 percent loss of population for the bird.
The study’s authors, which include The Nature Conservancy in Lander, Wyoming, the National Audubon Society in Laramie, Wyoming and the University of Montana’s Wildlife Biology Program are clear about the goal of the research: To help decision makers craft a better oil and gas development pattern that would shift exploration to less sensitive grouse habitat. If done right, the authors say, oil and gas development could keep the sage grouse safe and off the ESA list.
One of the co-authors, David Naugle, a wildlife landscape ecologist at the University of Montana, tells the New York Times: “The answer to energy development in the West is not ‘no,’ but rather ‘where.’ I think our nation’s energy independence is paramount. Thus, the way we designed this study was to be helpful.”
How long will the health care reform debate drag on? The Hill newspaper says “deep into December and possibly beyond by a lengthy floor debate.”
If that seems like a long time, consider that the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act has been pending since 1999.
Last week hearings were held in the U.S. House of Representatives to move that legislation forward. Again.
Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, opened hearings on the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2009 by once again saying that, yes, there is a federal obligation to provide health care, and, no, the United States doesn’t deliver.
“Putting all the legal aspects aside, I think the trust responsibility can be summed up by saying that something is owned to American Indians for the lands that were both voluntarily given to the United States and forcefully taken, as well as the atrocities that were committed against their peoples,” Pallone said. “But the federal government has consistently failed to live up to this responsibility in almost every respect.”
Read More ...
There is a saying in the West that water flows toward money. That saying seems to be playing out in California this fall.The California legislature is currently considering legislation that some say will fix California’s water woes and others say is intended to result in more North State Water going to powerful agricultural corporations and urban developments on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere in Southern California.
Governor Schwarzenegger and leaders of the legislature have been meeting with some of those water interests behind closed doors. But farm, fishing and conservation groups that make up the Restore the Delta coalition say the interests they represent – and legislators who represent the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – have been locked out of the process.
Earlier in October California Senator Diane Feinstein announced that she was preparing legislation to address California’s water problems. Feinstein is considered California’s pre-eminent water broker and she has consistently favored corporate farms on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. Those corporate farms have junior water rights but senior political influence. Recently Feinstein echoed Fox News personality Sean Hannity in calling for suspension of the Endangered Species Act in order to move more water to the farms.
Read More ...
This week's reader photo seemed to all-too-perfectly match the theme of the latest issue of High Country News, which focuses on "cultural collisions" and those bringing new traditions to the West. While our recent reporting highlights cultures new to the West, this image, from the Trailing of the Sheep festival in Idaho, shows cultures that came to the West years ago who have integrated themselves into the increasingly-diverse group of people that, woven together, make up the fabric of the American West.
Add your photos to the HCN Flickr photostream - we love seeing the multitude of images our readers have been posting!