Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cuts in carbon emissions won't stop climate from changing

It's too far gone for any reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to make any substantial difference at this point. And still, Americans keep on motoring across a landscape that's increasingly comfortable for cars, not humans who cycle or walk. Read this op-ed for the decisive finding on where the world is right now.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beavers and trees or trees and beavers?


Thursday, June 19, 2014

What sidewalks are for (not bicycling!)

Here's the letter to the editor I submitted yesterday to the Burlington Free-Press, Vermont.

Local bicycling safety expert Tim Rogers said most cycling groups tell bicyclists to avoid riding on a sidewalk if possible.
“Sidewalks have a lot more conflicts than people realize,” Rogers said. “If you want to ride on the sidewalk, you’re a fast-moving pedestrian.”

I walk a great deal, both for transportation and exercise. I’m also the survivor of a traumatic brain injury sustained in 2007, a life-threatening injury suffered when I was hit by a car as I was bicycling.
Seven years later, I remain an advocate for both walking and bicycling. But it’s not enough for me to yell at others – all of them bicyclists – while trekking along a sidewalk in Williston or Essex Junction.
Note the word “walk” is one of two syllables in “sidewalk.” That means this: Sidewalks are for people who choose to walk. And they, not cars or bicyclists, have the right-of-way.
Bicycle lanes in Chittenden County are marked in several ways: Signs, lines painted on the pavement, and even on-pavement logos of cyclists.
Let’s all give each other room, whether we’re walking, cycling or steering a motor vehicle. But let’s remember that sidewalks are for walking and walking only.
Lt. Col., USAF, Ret.
222 Eastview Circle
878-5152 land line
570-401-3116 cell

Monday, June 16, 2014

The federal agency that kills wildlife, no questions asked

This just in from PEER (Public Employees for 'Environmental Responsibility):
Wildlife management in the U.S. has increasingly centered on eradicating critters deemed troublesome.  At the apex of this mortality industrial complex is the ironically named Wildlife Services. It is an arm of USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, whereWildlife Services dispenses “Animal Health” in the same way Genghis Khan spread “Villager Health.” 
Last year, Wildlife Services dispatched 4 million birds, bobcats, beavers, coyotes and other wildlife. That jaw-dropping number is not even a record –it killed 5 million in 2008.
Wildlife Services acts with almost no environmental oversight, functioning as a backdoor subsidy to agriculture and aquiculture industries to kill any wildlife labeled a nuisance.  It also poses a danger to its own staff, where aerial gunning accidents are virtually an annual occurrence. Moreover, its reliance on powerful poisons presents a public health risk that persists even into our current era of Homeland Security.
Distressingly, Wildlife Service’s reach is growing.  It appears to be influencing Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to increasingly employ mass wildlife eradication in the name of conservation. Here are two examples:
  • Cormorant Control.  To benefit catfish farmers, FWS is renewing “Depredation Orders” to kill double-crested cormorants for eating fish – their natural diet – in 23 Eastern states.  These orders result in elimination of more than 50,000 cormorants a year by conservative estimates. These orders are so open-ended that the entire population of these cormorants may be “culled” in some states.
Meanwhile in the West, Wildlife Services is behind a scheme to convert into killing platforms the tunnels and blinds used for decades by researchers on Oregon’s Sand Island to study the West’s biggest pelagic bird rookery.  The plan is for Wildlife Service teams armed with sniper rifles, silencers and night vision goggles to shoot 20,000 double-crested cormorants at short range as mating begins.
PEER has been contacted for help by horrified scientists and even FWS retirees distressed that this agency chartered to protect wildlife now routinely eschews effective non-lethal strategies to embrace slaughter under the guise of wildlife management.  Help us wrest conservation from the hands of the exterminators
Jeff Ruch
Executive Director

P.S. Politicians love a win-win but these scenarios are often too good to be true.  In the world of toxic waste, a win-win is returning a highly contaminated site to reuse at little cost.In New Jersey, this practice is called “pave-and-wave.” A classic example is Gov. Christie’splan to convert a particularly nasty old landfill into a solar plant – a plan rooted in eco-fantasy and an unraveling cover-up.
P.P.S.  After the standoff between Cliven Bundy and his band of well-armed but unbalanced militia, rangers inside the BLM had a lot of questions about how this operation was planned and even what it was supposed to accomplish.  When we asked BLM, it refused to answer, so we will have to drag those answers out in federal court.
P.P.P.S. Follow breaking developments on Twitter and Facebook

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Democrats see winning issue in carbon-reduction plan

Well, gosh,maybe they do. But I still think it's going to take major changes in how Americans go about their daily lives to make the really sweeping reduction in our carbon emissions it's clearly going to take to even avoid the worst catastrophes of climate change. The NY Times offers this look.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A coal-ming debacle, a future threat, and the Brook Trout

Just a few years into my residency in the Hazleton area, I partnered with an enduring friend to form what we nonchalantly called the Friends of the Nescopeck. We didn’t have a treasury or nonprofit status from the IRS, or even a snail-mail address. But we had a mission – to gather data that might ultimately lead to a cleanup plan for a big mistake of the past.
We collected water samples – weekly – from collection sites throughout the Nescopeck Creek watershed; ranging as far downstream as Nescopeck borough. On one memorable day, I got my first glance at the mouth of the Jeddo Mine Tunnel. It’s an engineering marvel, for sure, but the death knell for miles and miles of downstream waterways and their aquatic life.
We poked around quite a bit that day in Butler Township; admiring the relatively clean water of a beaver-created pond next to the outfall channel of the heavily polluted tunnel discharge waterway.
And then we rambled upstream – the Little Nescopeck Creek – just to get a look at the general quality of the riparian woods and the creek’s water.
Well, well, I recall saying. Below me, at a point where the creek is barely six feet from bank to bank, swam a real honest-to-gosh Brook Trout. Two decades later, the merger of Jeddo water with the creek Mother Nature created remains the end-point for trout in the Little Nescopeck.
The Brookie is the only trout that’s really, truly, native to much of the Applachian region, from Georgia north to Maine and on up into the coastal provinces of Canada.
And even now, after long-ago realization of what makes a creek, run or river right for this coldwater-loving fish, the future is tenuous for the Brook Trout.
The effects of acid mine drainage, while ugly in their own right, pale when considered alongside the wholesale loss of coldwater systems throughout the East.
“In collaboration with many conservation organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed and released an ambitious strategy for responding to accelerating climate change and addressing its impact on critters like brook trout. The Service and joint venture are working on a climate change monitoring program, targeting 400 sites aimed at taking a closer look at how air and water temperatures impact brook trout.”
The single most important factor affecting brook trout is water temperature, which is why biologists are concerned about this species as climate change accelerates. Brook trout thrive in water temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit or less. They will die after only a few hours in water temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just as it is for migratory songbirds, a key to trout population survival is high-quality habitat.
The FWS again: “Fragmented populations, habitat loss, invasive species, degraded streams, longer droughts, more intense wet periods, and temperature changes have some of the best coldwater fisheries biologists joining forces to ensure these trout survive for the next generation of anglers.   
“We are not trying to prove what causes climate change one way or another,” says Mark Hudy, a coldwater fisheries biologist for the U.S. Forest Service based at James Madison University. “We are trying to determine what management actions we can take to make the trout more resilient to the changes we are seeing. Bottom line is that the current distribution of brook trout will change.”
Climate change’s unpredictability poses unique challenges. How to address changes in precipitation remains a concern, according to Doug Besler, a coldwater fisheries biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
“We might get the same amount of precipitation annually, but what if it comes in bunches at times of the year that aren’t considered normal?  That’s one of the many things we worry about because it’s very hard to plan for that kind of unpredictability,” Besler says.
Other questions remain unanswered.
“Some of these changes are going to affect these fish and their habitat in ways we cannot imagine today,” says Steve Moore, lead fisheries biologist for the National Park Service in the Smokies.  “What if the normal stream temperature goes from 62 degrees to 65 or 66 degrees?  We don’t know the answer to that one."
Many times while living in Conyngham, my Sheltie Kestrel and I stood near the Little Nescopeck where it flows past the edge of Whispering Willows Park in the borough. No trout in that water. But chattering Gray Squirrels nearby kept the dog’s attention.
Are we going to repeat the Jeddo Tunnel mistake again by altering our planet’s climate?
Learn more at www.fws.gov/northeast/fisheries/pdf/EBTJV_Conservation_Strategy_July08.pdf

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A paltry start in curbing climate change

That's the premise behind this NY Times op-ed I just read. And the headline is on the mark. I read nothing in the EPA's plan to curb the burning of coal any mention of individual Americans' carbon footprint. Where is the plea from President Obama to everyone to live more quietly and simply turn the lights off earlier each day? Growth for the sake of growth is the meandering spirit of the EPA plan. And that's not good enough.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rejuvenating the green groups and climate change

I long served on the board of Pennsylvania Audubon, the state's office of National Audubon, and recall sitting through many meetings focused on such things as Audubon's Important Bird Area program. Now, as this NY Times article makes note of, the agenda at Big Green is climate change and refocusing the outreach on that pressing issue has meant changing basic operations. Read the article and let me know what you think.