Fish and Wildlife and integrity, a rental crisis, California homelessness and more. news in brief.


In March 2014, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden in San Jose filed a formal complaint with regional water authorities, citing heaps of garbage and human waste from large homeless camps along city waterways. The environmental group Baykeeper sued the city later that year over the camps, whose refuse endangered public health and flagging runs of steelhead and chinook salmon. For the first time, homelessness in Santa Clara County was no longer framed as just an intractable social problem; it had become a clear environmental threat. Today, nearly a year after the main camp, known as the Jungle, was closed, thousands remain homeless, wandering city streets and streambeds. Many residents wonder whether Santa Clara County jumped the gun, forcing homeless people out of camps before giving them somewhere else to go.
-Jeremy Miller

A woman is evicted from an encampment along Los Gatos Creek, in downtown San Jose.
Jeremy Miller

8,000: The number of domestic sheep grazed on seven allotments in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, where environmental groups are suing to reduce grazing.

35: The number of bighorn sheep in one herd in the same forest — well under the 125 needed for a viable herd.

Environmental groups say that Montana’s efforts to recover bighorns are jeopardized by domestic sheep, which pass pneumonia to their wild kin. Their lawsuit charges that the Beaverhead-Deerlodge didn’t provide for a viable population of bighorn sheep in its forest plan, and didn’t disclose a semi-secret deal promising not to change sheep ranchers’ grazing allotments. A judge ruled in July that one more grazing season wouldn’t cause “irreparable harm” to wildlife, and the sheep headed into the hills once again, but the lawsuit is still pending. Conservation groups approached the ranchers about buying out their allotments, but the ranchers rejected the proposal. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
-Ben Goldfarb

According to a new survey and report compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 73 percent of U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientists say that political influence is too high at the agency, while a relative majority believes their office is less effective than it was five years ago. Those figures stand out at Fish and Wildlife, compared with other federal science agencies, where staff members generally feel that scientific integrity is holding firm or is on the rise. During his first inauguration speech in 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to “restore science to its rightful place,” and later ordered agencies to draft scientific integrity policies for the first time ever. Those were welcome steps for researchers who felt politics trampled science-based management under the George W. Bush administration. Still, the implementation and effectiveness of the new policies remain fuzzy.
-Joshua Zaffos

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

174: The number of people killed in mass shootings — incidents involving four fatalities or more — in Western states since 1982. -Kate Schimel

California is in its fourth year of severe drought. In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the first statewide effort to regulate groundwater use. In this video, we hear from water experts, who discuss the invisible costs of the dry spell and what the city of Fresno is doing to recharge its groundwater reserves and develop infrastructure for surface water use.
-Zoe Meyers

Zoë Meyers

Tent cities, waste and overcrowding have created something foul in Crested Butte. Each year, thousands of tourists flock to the mountain resort town on Colorado’s Western Slope. This July saw more people recreating in and around town than ever, and there aren’t enough houses for the town’s low-wage workers to rent. Across the Rockies, when the recession ended, second homeowners bought up property to rent out to vacationers, leaving the booming local workforce short on places to live.
-Gloria Dickie

You say

Jerry Cagle: “The same thing is happening in Gardiner, Montana, apparently. I understand that a number of employees of the Yellowstone Association are unable to find housing, or to afford the rent if they could, and are thus reduced to living in their cars. A testament to their dedication, but a sad situation, indeed.”

Bonita Gibson Cremer: “I own rental property in an area of Montana popular with fishermen and hunters, but not a resort community. I will no longer offer my property as long-term rentals, due to the hassle of finding quality tenants who won’t destroy the place and who pay rent on time. Much more sensible to rent to vacationers: Considerably less ‘wear and tear’ and premium rent paid upfront.”

 Dusty Demerson: “Well, rents have risen and wages have not. Rents for retailers have risen, too. It’s a pretty tough squeeze. Not sure what the answer is, but pushing people into the camping areas is not the answer.”

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