Friday, February 28, 2014

Crude oil and New York State's capital city

The neanderthal U.S. petroleum biz keeps on trucking, even if it is by rail more than tractor-trailer and tanker. And most folks forget this little fact: It takes burning the fossil fuel to get the tanker full of fossil fueld to the marketplace where other people then burn fossil fuel in order to buy more fossil fuel. Fossil fuel = greenhouse gas. Duh. Read about the ongoing debacle of America's new energy transportation network.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hog wild: Factory farms are polluting Iowa's water

This, buckaroos, is more than just a case of pigs in the muck. Read about the water pollution right here.

EPA lauds big retailers, others for cutting greenhouse gases

Some good PR here for some of America's biggest retailing chains and others. But it is too bad that good PR is seemingly more worthy than simply doing the right thing.
Here's the EPA release:

EPA Honors Corporate Leadership in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

– Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Center for Corporate Climate Leadership announced the third annual Climate Leadership Award winners in partnership with the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and The Climate Registry (TCR). Nineteen awards were given to 15 organizations and two individuals in the public and private sectors for their leadership in addressing climate change by reducing carbon pollution.

The 2014 Climate Leadership Award recipients are:
Organizational Leadership Award: City of Chula Vista, Sprint, and University of California, Irvine

Individual Leadership Award: Sam Brooks, Associate Director, D.C. Department of General Services, and Robert Taylor, Energy Manager, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Supply Chain Leadership Award: Sprint 

Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Achievement Award): The Boeing Company; Caesars Entertainment; Cisco Systems, Inc.; Ecolab; The Hartford; IBM; Johnson Controls; Kohl's Department Stores; Mack Trucks; and Novelis

Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Setting Certificate): Fruit of the Loom, Inc.; Hasbro, Inc.; and Kohl's Department Stores
“Our Climate Leadership Award winners have made great strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and are providing leadership nationwide in many sectors of our economy,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. "Their innovative approaches and commitment to reducing carbon pollution demonstrate that efforts to address climate change are repaid by saving money and energy, while supporting more livable and resilient communities, and a healthier, better protected environment now and for future generations."

The national awards program recognizes and incentivizes exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in response to climate change. Award recipients represent a wide array of industries, including finance, manufacturing, retail, technology, higher education and local government.

“The Association of Climate Change Officers is pleased to recognize another exceptional class of organizations and individuals who are demonstrating leadership in driving climate action into their organizational cultures,” said Daniel Kreeger, ACCO’s co-founder and executive director. “These award recipients are demonstrating critical devotion and leadership to managing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the risks and challenges posed by climate change. These recipients are role models for corporate, organizational, and individual leaders who can and should be responding proactively to climate change risks and opportunities.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Science takes on two silent invaders

The invaders - Zebra mussels and Quagga mussels - are just two among many hundreds of invasive species that are major ecosystem degraders across North America. Here's a nice feature-length look at how one scientist is going after these two mussels.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Let the EPA do its job

Too bad the EPA is not a cabinet-level agency, as its twins are in country after country. Still, Republicans in Congress, as they suck up to their rich campaign contributors (many of whom are big-time polluters and destroyers of Wild Nature), won't let our Environmental Protection Agency do its job of protecting. Here's an editorial on the subject

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Internal BLM memo shows wild horse woes

Let's get something straight: "Wild" horses are not native North American critters. And on Bureau of Land Management "managed" rangeland in the West, they compete for and usurp native mammals. Read about the woes of our federal land management agency when it crosses the horse symphony.

New images coming to Vermont conservation tags

A tag is, of course, a license plate. Putting new images on plates sold in the future is a nice idea, but event then, the revenue from the sale of "conservation" tags is chump change compared to what is spent on building roads and highways and streets and destroying Wild Nature in the process. It's a "feel good" gesture from the state transportation moguls in Montpelier, but in terms of generating significant revenue for non-game wildlife projects, it really is pretty lightweight. Here's the ins and outs.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A nice walk in the woods

I’ve snapped photos like this one likely many dozens of times; always at a spot where Wild Nature is still the big show. This photo, taken by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, looks due east, more or less, on the trail adjacent to the Washington Ditch, an aquatic link to Lake Drummond, which, at 3,100 acres, the largest natural lake in Virginia.
Both are inside Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Virginia.
From a dirt-and-gravel parking lot to a small dock on the north shore of Drummond is a 4.5-mile walk. Call it a “hike” if you want, but it’s level terrain all the way, unlike, say, the seven-mile trek up Mt. Marcy, which at 5,344 feet altitude, is the highest summit in the Adirondacks and a good, stiff hike, not a walk.
But that hike – first through a forest of hardwoods, then up (with a couple of switchbacks) through a coniferous forest to the treeline and on up to the summit rocks – is special to the human soul because it takes place in nature, not on the sidewalk (if there is a sidewalk) adjacent to a two-lane highway built to keep cars happy, not people on foot.
Same with walking at the Great Dismal.
The first thing one notices upon prepping – car trunk open – for the trek out to the lake is the forest and its trees. There are nearly 50 species in these woods. (See the whole list at
Then, particularly if yours is a springtime visit, are the sounds of nature. (On my daily fitness walks in Vermont it is both hopeful to hear some of these sounds above the din of an urban place, and saddening to realize all that’s been lost). Back to the big wetland.
It’s the third week of April and the spring migration at this latitude is at its peak. That means listen up and start identifying the birds voicing their thoughts. Some sought-after species (by northern birders like me) at the Great Dismal are the Prothonatary Warbler and Swainson’s Warbler. (Peruse the refuge’s bird checklist at
The Great Dismal is also a butterflying hotspot. My weekend visits over my years of duty at the Air Force base in Hampton, Va., were made all the more memorable by Lepidoptera like the Great Purple Hairstreak, Palamedes Swallowtail, and Carolina Satyr.
Protecting places like the Great Dismal is integral to conserving their diversity of plant and animal species. And by putting them out of reach of the myriad despoilers and their machines of “progress, we preserve them as keys to the health of the human life.
The language of preservation, in this case, includes this: “The Dismal Swamp Act of 1974 directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to: “Manage the area for the primary purpose of protecting and preserving a unique and outstanding ecosystem, as well as protecting and perpetuating the diversity of animal and plant life therein. Management of the refuge will be directed to stabilize conditions in as wild a character as possible, consistent with achieving the refuge’s stated objectives.”
Note the word “wild.” That connotes the spirit of place. And we’d better take a good, long gander at our own place. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Op-ed: Fearmongering, not science pervading elk management

The writer of this op-ed is a "hunter conservationist," whatever that is (I think I understand his point), and he's on the mark that science has taken a back seat in the management of elk in Montana. You can read his argument right here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A look at the shills, skeptics and other climate change denalists

What a crowd. The Earth - our only planet - is entering what conservationists have termed the Sixth Great Extinction - but the shills skeptics and other shrills are worried only about the goodwill of their polluting campaign contributors and the other outliers in the "clean coal" universe. Read a dissection of the denalists.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Vermont officials, legislators face daunting task of Lake Champlain cleanup

The first of many challenges has, and remains, how to improve the lake's water quality and still allow development to usurp the natural land that wold otherwise filter surface runoff into the lake and its tributaries, one 0of which, the Winooski River, I live a half-mile from. The Burlington Free Press offers this look at the cleanup.

El Tigre alive and well

Deep in the shadows of the night, "el Tigre," the jaguar, slips silently through the rugged terrain. They are rarely seen, but we know both jaguars and ocelots are here, as remote cameras document their presence in Arizona. Their mystery, beauty and power evoke a sense of awe in us, even if we only see them in a photograph.  Although we readily recognize their images, these charismatic cats are so secretive and elusive that most of us know very little about their lifestyles and habits. What are they doing out there in the wild?  How (and what) do they hunt? Where do they sleep? What sounds do they make?

More pollution for Chesapeake Bay blue crabs?

This comes down to that tired old equation, "will it hurt the economy?" Some outfit may pollute, sure, but it employs people, so it must be good Right? I hate the whole notion of putting a dollar value on every thing and looking outside and seeing "natural resources," not God's flora and fauna. Here's what the National Wildlife Federation says about the Chesapeake's blue crabs.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Poll shows most Westerners like federal control of public lands

Too bad this article doesn't also explore the attitudes of folks in the East, especially here in New England. In any case, though, the poll's findings are a stick-in-the-mud to some wacko Western politicians, including the governor of Utah.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Marine protected areas: A conservation strategy in name only?

The question posed in my headline for this posting is, unfortunately, the case, more often than not. The NY Times offers this editorial on the subject.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The toll of human "taking:" Wildlife buried alive

Naturalists, conservationists, and just-plain folks who enjoy the countryside of Wild Nature have known about this sad reality for many decades. But others and their “development” outfits, fueled by greed, fossil fuel and the dollar bill, conveniently ignore what happens to terrestrial wildlife that crawls, walks or slithers slower than a bulldozer or grader chugs along, wrecking – forever, almost always – the wild homes of those same critters.
Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen, in a May 7, 2006 essay headlined “Killing Animals for Profit,” wrote this, in part, about the burying of Gopher Tortoises in Florida – that’s the “burying alive” of the animal:
“Consider Florida’s poor, pokey Gopher Tortoise. Since 1991, the state has allowed grown-ups to bury 74,000 of them because their burrows stood in the path of future subdivisions, highways, golf courses, and supermarkets.
“Officials prefer the word ‘entomb’ instead of ‘bury’, but it’s the same dirty deed. Even on its most fleet-footed day, the average tortoise cannot outrace earthmoving machinery. Some are able to tunnel to freedom, but most suffocate slowly over a period of weeks.
“Gopher tortoises have been around for 60 million years, but the last few decades have been murder,” Hiaasen wrote. (Readers can take in the whole piece. It’s in Hiaasen’s new paperback titled “Dance of the Reptiles,” a collection of columns he’s written for the Herald.)
To learn more about this reptile, read a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fact sheet about the species at
Observers of Wild Nature have been watching, and taking field notes about, these kinds of unnatural, killing events for many decades. A field notebook of mine from the mid-1990s includes notes I took of the clearing of an urban forest in West Hazleton. That land, for more than a decade now, has been home to parking lots, retail shops, a supermarket, and a hardware store.
Among the observations I recorded on first seeing this clearing away of nature: “There goes hundreds of hibernating salamanders, likely a screech owl roosting cavity, and the tree-cavity homes of woodpeckers and nuthatches as well as the habitat for a diverse array of songbirds.” Hazleton-area residents who recall what that land once looked like are likely few in number today. But, there are many other case studies across the country.
Sadly, many such places are passed on the way to a protected natural area, a spot where Wild Nature is appreciated for, among other reasons, its positive impact to the human quality-of-life scale.
I see, and study a bit, scenes the one just described while on long fitness walks in northern Vermont. And a trip a couple of years ago to sprawl-mad Colorado Springs yielded more field notes on the local extirpation of nature.
Coming to grips with this habitat loss is made easier, and more meaningful to the observer, when thinking about it in terms of its toll on a favorite wildlife species. For me, as a longtime watcher of the herpetological world (reptiles and amphibians) that brings to mind the Red-backed Salamander. I Googled the species’ name and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (yes, there are state agencies whose mission encompasses both terrestrial wildlife and fish (unlike Pennsylvania, which has two agencies) offers this capsule of information: “This salamander is found under rocks, leaf litter, and rotten logs in deciduous, conifer, and mixed forests throughout Virginia. It nests in rotting logs or stumps or in cavities beneath rocks. It occurs at a variety of elevations, from the crest of Whitetop Mountain to areas as low as 3,000 feet.”
What happens to such animals when a front-end loader or grader shows up?
The same end as Gopher Tortoises continue suffering in Florida.

Nutria: Invasive species is a marsh-killer

I recall gawking at a dead marsh within Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland, in the 1990s. The marsh was nearly all open water and the culprit behind its disappearance was the exotic nutria. Read about it here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Polar bears, grizzlies to merge into one species

Well, this is a major happening on the biodiversity front. Reporter Andy Borowitz has the story. Perhaps there will be some wild video available in time for the 11 p.m. local news show, the one featuring the talking heads of happy news fame.

Maryland deer hunt tally up from past year

Maryland, like much of eastern Pennsylvania (notably Greater Philadelphia) is full of edge habitat; choice habitat for White-tailed Deer. This article looks at the most recent "take" of whitetails in Maryland's annual deer hunt.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vermont government and cleaning up Lake Champlain

Gov.Peter Shumlin can start by asking counties and municipalities within them to stop the clearing of forests and the subsequent conversion of that land to crap like parking lots, driveways and even lawns, all of which contribute a hell of a lot of nutrient pollution to Lake Champlain via its tributaries (Winooski River, Otter Creek, Mississquoi River, Lamoille River, etc.). Then, having declared that water quality means more than a developer's bankroll, we can all start restoring the natural landscape - the landscape that's critical toward filtering surface waters and, ultimately, to cleaning up the big lake's water. So, come on,folks. Let's get going on this. Here's Vermont Public Radio's take on the governor and the lake.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Op-ed: Don't sell U.S. coal to Asian markets

There is no such thing as "clean" coal. Whether anthracite or bituminous, the stuff is fossilized dirt, and digging it up and shoveling it into a furnace means spreading the filthy, harmful dust. The writer of this NY Times op-ed says it right. If Americans care about the atmosphere we leave for generations to come, we'd better stop burning it, and selling it, too.

Why trees matter, more than ever

All the way back to my days as a college student in the early 1970s, I pondered Americans’ love affair with the lawn – the greenest, purest, most dandelion-free turf that money (and lots of chemicals) could produce. Earning my tuition by mowing turf farms (a k a city parks) for the city of Pocatello, Idaho, just helped solidify my mental picture of it all.
In two-plus years of living in an on-base house on Robins Air Force Base, Ga., 1980-82) I finally formulated a more pleasing-to-the-eye scene: Urban trees as places liked by fellow creatures of Earth. In the case of that residential duplex, the Georgia wildlife the live oak tree attracted was enough to generate page after page of notes in an early field notebook that still has a prominent place in my home library.
Field naturalists are big note takers, recording a lot more than just the day’s high and low temperatures, but also signs of Wild Nature like the first day of swelling buds, the first early-spring appearance outside its winter burrow of the local woodchuck, and new signs of the spread of kudzu, the non-native vine that ate the South.
By planting trees native to our region of the continent (and the list of plants native to Pennsylvania alone is exhaustive), the homeowner can take pride in accomplishing many objectives.
Trees in the home yard do these things and a whole lot more:
- Trees release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide to freshen the air.
- They trap dust and dirt, and remove pollution particles from the air.
- Trees increase property values. (Read a Wall Street Journal article about this at
- They provide shade in the summer, protection from wind in the winter.
- Trees give us leaves to make the best compost.
- Trees provide habitat for birds.
-        Trees make your neighborhood a more beautiful place.
-        Trees whose spring flowers show off for humans also offer food to native pollinators.
-        Neighborhoods and homes that are barren are known to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help reduce the level of fear.
The organization Tree People ( notes on its Web site:Average temperatures in Los Angeles have risen 6 degrees F in the last 50 years as tree coverage has declined and the number of heat-absorbing roads and buildings has increased.
“Trees cool the city by up to 10 degrees, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban ‘heat islands’ and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.”
Most importantly in this age of Earth’s changing climate, trees do this: “Global warming is the result of excess greenhouse gases, created by burning fossil fuels and destroying tropical rainforests. Heat from the sun, reflected back from the earth, is trapped in this thickening layer of gases, causing global temperatures to rise.
“Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major greenhouse gas. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.”
You can read, and ponder, the top 22 benefits of trees at
So this spring, let’s plant a tree, or, better yet, a whole bunch of trees. You can learn about Pennsylvania’s native trees from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at

Yellowstone to slaughter hundreds more bison

The sadness surrounding our nation's most genetically pure bison continues. Instead of allowing these most American of mammals to roam free, just as we do with deer etc., we kiss them goodbye with rifle shots. Conservationists have long advocated a big bison range that would encompass entire swaths of some Midwest states, like Nebraska, whose human population continues falling in much of its territory.
Read about the pending slaughter.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

'Biodiversity' makes it into a headline

That in itself is astounding, given the sorrowful state of most mainstream media outlets in this age of ambulance chasing and not much else. The truly sorrowful thing to consider, as explained in this article, is just how much of Delmarva's original hardwood forests have been lost; lost to road builders, lost to home builders, lost to sprawl, wrecked by ATV cowboys, etc.

Another gas pipeline, or save bird habitat?

The fellow who's trying to keep a pipeline from being installed across a Vermont park has done alright, so far. He's gotten good media attention for his cause. Hey, the park in question is public land so it ought to be kept as is. Here's what today's media attention says.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Muddying the waters far from home

"Home" in the headline is Florida. And Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen asks, with a load of satire, just why it is that his state's governor and attorney general have joined a bid to squelch the Chesapeake Bay's cleanup plan. Why? As Hiaasen points out in this column, the likely reason has a lot to do with pending campaign contributions from Big Oil, Big Agriculture, the home-building industry and assorted other wide-eyed polluters.

The already marginal ski resorts in Pennsylvania's Poconos region are doomed to vanish one day later this century. The reason? The end of snow

This op-ed from today's NY Times lays out the case. Oh, and there is no longer a "debate" about whether climate change is real or not? It is scientific fact. So, any so-called "debate" belongs in tabloid headlines, not in the public's mind.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bill setting lake shore protections near passage in Vermont Senate

This is a positive step forward, both for fish and wildlife habitat and water quality. I note the reporter's placement of words from "opponents" of the legislation; as if the conservation goal of the legislation is anti-people and property rights. Hogwash - again.

Utah agency seeks $1M to spend against sage grouse ESA listing

In Utah, once again, science takes a  back seat to politics as the director of that state's public land "policy" office demonstrates in the quotes she gave to the author of this newspaper article. State government officials in Utah continue to find stupid ways in which to throw away taxpayers' money. Instead of working to restore and save Wild Nature,  Utah seems intent on just paving it all over.

EPA's enforcement highlights: The annual report

The Walmart fine, noted below, is nice to learn about. I was flabbergasted to see one of the new "Wlmart Neighborhood" stores last fall in Boise, Idaho. It's right off Ustick Boulevard and features, as usual, a huge parking lagoon (another spawning ground for tainted stormwater runoff).

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released its annual enforcement and compliance results demonstrating a focus on violations that have the most impact on public health.

“Our enforcement work over the past year reflects our focus on the biggest violators and the cases that make the most difference in protecting American communities from pollution,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Big cases like the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Walmart’s illegal handling of pesticides and hazardous waste resulted in nationwide reforms and billions of dollars to help affected communities. We’ve reduced deadly air toxics from refineries and chemical plants and cleaned up toxic pollution in communities. We’re working with cities to cut discharges of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater to the nation’s waters. Driving compliance and deterring violations in these sectors is a critical way EPA protects the air, water and land on which Americans depend, and creates a level playing field for companies that do the right thing.”

Highlights from fiscal year 2013 include:

-- EPA’s cases resulted in criminal sentences requiring violators to pay more than $4.5 billion in combined fines, restitution and court-ordered environmental projects that benefit communities, and more than $1.1 billion in civil penalties.

-- Pursuing justice for Gulf Coast residents through the 
Deepwater Horizon cases, resulting in over $3.7 billion going back to benefit the Gulf States and communities impacted by the spill.

-- Requiring 
Walmart to commit to cutting edge hazardous waste handling systems, as well as compliance and training programs that will protect employees and nearby residents. Walmart also paid more than $80 million in fines and penalties for mishandling pesticides and hazardous waste.

-- Ensuring that companies take responsibility and clean up the toxic pollution they create. In a landmark settlement, AVX Corporation committed to pay over $366 million to clean up contamination in Massachusetts’s 
New Bedford Harbor, the largest single-site cash settlement in Superfund history.

-- Reducing dangerous air toxics released from industrial flares at refineries and chemical plants, requiring companies to implement technologies that control emissions. A recent Clean Air Act settlement with
Shell Deer Park in Texas requires continuous monitoring of cancer-causing benzene and vehicle retrofits to reduce diesel emissions, put in place to benefit nearby overburdened communities. See another example of innovative pollution controls from Countrymark Refining.

-- Reducing emissions from coal fired power plants, requiring companies to cut pollution and conduct mitigation projects that promote energy efficiency and protect clean air for local communities. See examples from 
Wisconsin Power and Light, Dominion Energy and Louisiana Generating.

-- Working with cities to cut discharges of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater to the nation’s waters through integrated planning, green infrastructure and other innovative approaches. This helps cities manage resources better, cut pollution and improve quality of life for local residents. Recent settlements with 
Seattle and King Co., WA and Wyandotte County, KS require cities to initially provide relief to overburdened communities most impacted by sewage discharges. Other examples of innovative settlements include San Antonio, TX and Jackson, MS.

More information about EPA’s Fiscal Year 2013 enforcement results: