Trump may gut the Endangered Species Act

January 31, 2017 by  
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The former head of Trump’s EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, has called for the Endangered Species Act to be drastically overhauled, with many of the key provisions completely scrapped. The 1973 act was created to prevent the extinction of hundreds of species – however Ebell insists the act is a “political weapon” that does little to protect wildlife. While he’s not a current member of Trump’s team, his words should worry anyone who cares about conservation, because they seem to be in line with GOP lawmakers set on repealing the law . In a speech in London , Ebell stated, “The endangered species act doesn’t do much for protecting endangered wildlife, but it does a huge amount to control private property land use, and it is enforced very selectively, so that some landowners are not affected but people with exactly the same habitat, their use is limited or eliminated. It is a political weapon and I am very interested in reforming, and I don’t know if we will see that any time in the next decade, but I hope so.” Related: Trump presidency could spell the end for wolves in America’s West Some researchers suggest an alternate approach: privatizing the protection of wildlife . George Wilson, an adjunct professor at Australian National University, has proposed giving landowners authority over the endangered species on their own land. This may sound strange to many in the US, but it’s an approach that’s been used in countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa in years past. Essentially, landowners would take the lead in regulating hunting, eco-tourism , and conservation programs, instead of the government. The logic behind the proposal is this: when the government takes on the duty of protecting a “public good” like wildlife , humans don’t have an incentive to help and may resent the regulations created. If those landowners are given control and offered ways to profit off tourism or hunting, they may be interested in helping those animal populations grow and thrive. Related: This could be the United States’ first endangered bee species Of course, the downside is that privatization can simply result in the wealthy hoarding wildlife, creating hunting grounds full of captive animals. On the other hand, South Africa has used these policies successfully to maintain and even grow wildlife populations in the past century. It’s certainly no substitute for the protections offered by the Endangered Species Act, but it could provide a lifeline for vulnerable species if the landmark legislation is repealed. Via The Independent and Markets Insider Images via Wikimedia Commons and USFWS Endangered Species

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Trump may gut the Endangered Species Act

Snow-free images of Arctic polar bears show the harsh reality of climate change

December 29, 2016 by  
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When Patty Waymire headed to Barter Island, Alaska a few months ago, she expected to take lots of photographs of polar bears frolicking in freshly fallen snow. However, once the photographer arrived at her destination, a stark reality became evident. Not only was there no snow for frolicking, but there was no ice to be seen either. The typically snow-covered island was warm and dry, and the water’s edge was met with sandy beaches rather than icy ground. Waymire took photos anyway, capturing still frames of the ever-unfolding saga that pits climate change against the survival of one of the Earth’s most majestic creatures. One of Waymire ’s images—aptly entitled “No Snow, No Ice” (above)—shows a lone polar bear perched at the edge of a brown, sandy shoal which should have been white with snow at that time of the year. That startling photograph won an honorable mention in the 2016 National Geographic Photographer of the Year contest in the Environmental Issues category. Monica Corcoran, director of the photography contest, noted that the polar bear appears to be “in a meditative Buddha stance” which contributes to the image’s impact. Related: Photo of frail polar bear illuminates the tragedy unfolding in the Arctic Alaska’s Barter Island is situated off the state’s northern coast in the Arctic. The relatively small island has served as a major trading hub and was also home to a large whaling village prior to 1900. All the while, polar bears have roamed the island’s icy shores doing what polar bears do: hunting prey, raising young, and just living. In early October, at the time of Waymire’s visit, the island would normally have been covered in snow, according to locals. However, unusually warm weather all year has ushered in a less-than-impressive autumn and winter, and the resulting scene of fluffy white polar bears cast against drab brown dirt inspired the California-based photographer to show the world what climate change really looks like. In a series of 33 images , Waymire documented several Barter Island polar bears, including some young cubs, both on land and in the water. Without a date stamp, one might think the photographs were captured in the midst of the warmest summer months, because there is not a single snowflake or ice crystal visible in any of the images. But, since we know the photos are from October, we must accept the sad reality that they represent: an ever-changing climate in which even the coldest climes are not exempt from global warming. For now, the Barter Island polar bears are surviving, but with the growing impact of climate change on their habitat and food sources, it’s only a matter of time before they disappear just like the snow. + Patty Waymire Photography Images via Patty Waymire

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Snow-free images of Arctic polar bears show the harsh reality of climate change

IUCN warns giraffes are in the process of a ‘silent extinction’

December 8, 2016 by  
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Giraffe populations have plummeted so drastically in the past 30 years, they are now considered vulnerable to extinction. In 1985, 151,702 to 163,452 of the magnificent creatures graced the earth, but in 2015 those numbers dropped to just 97,562, a 36 to 40 percent decline , according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The group has called on governments assembling in Cancun, Mexico at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference to take action now before we lose giraffes forever. IUCN updated the status of giraffes on their red list , an authoritative catalog of animals from Least Concern to Vulnerable. Illegal hunting, civil wars, and habitat loss due to deforestation and farming have all played a part in their altered status. Related: Scientists just discovered there are four separate species of giraffes If you were unaware giraffe populations were plunging, you’re not alone – IUCN’s Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group Co-Chair Julian Fennessy told The Guardian giraffes are in the process of a “silent extinction,” and many conservationists didn’t even know about giraffes’ plight. ICUN Director-General Inger Andersen said there are over 85,000 species on the red list, with over 24,000 at risk of extinction, but some species are not on the list because they haven’t yet been studied. Andersen fears before they can even be described, they too will be facing extinction. She said, “This red list update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought. Governments gathered at the UN biodiversity summit have the immense responsibility to step up their efforts to protect our planet’s biodiversity – not just for its own sake but for human imperatives such as food security and sustainable development.” + International Union for the Conservation of Nature Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Daniel Ramirez on Flickr

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IUCN warns giraffes are in the process of a ‘silent extinction’

Irish town plans to plant world’s largest giant redwood grove

November 11, 2016 by  
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Lookout northern California ; a small town in central Ireland is vying for the title of most-populous giant redwood grove . Birr plans to plant and grow as many as 3,000 of the massive trees, and you can buy one of your very own. According to the Irish Times, the trees are planned for planting on 20 acres of land at Birr Castle Estate, near the town of Birr in County Offaly. The estate’s owner Lord Rosse, also known as Brendan Parsons, wants to plant a grove of the world’s largest living organisms, which grow to be over 300-feet tall. Redwoods thrive in northern California’s year-round temperate client, but Birr is known to be so cold in the winter that jokes are made about its name. Despite the climatic disparity, Parsons feels his plan is a solid one. “We are experimenters by nature,” the 80-year old lord told the Irish Times. “Trying new things in Birr is an old tradition. It’s absolutely cut out for Birr, this. We never do what other people do. The redwood grove will add a fantastic new dimension to Birr Castle Demesne, in line with the project we already have going on here – and also because of the new concept of a different sort of diaspora, an arboreal diaspora.” Related: Poachers are destroying California’s giant redwood trees According to Parsons, the “arboreal diaspora ” concept comes from the fact that giant redwoods once grew in Ireland – roughly two or three ice ages ago. So he wants to give them another shot at taking root in Irish soil en masse once again. And he is already apparently having some success. “At the moment, we have nine redwoods growing in ones and twos across the demesne: four of one species, five of the other,” he notes. “They were probably planted around the time of the third earl’s death, in the 1860s.” He says the coast redwoods seem to be doing the best, particularly those planted in the wettest places. What with redwoods being an endangered species and all, such a project can’t be cheap to undertake. So Parsons is offering folks an opportunity to participate by sponsoring trees at a cost of 500 Euros (about $540 US) per tree as a tribute to family members who are either living or have lived abroad. You can get yours today by visiting www.giantsgrove.ie . Via Irish Times Images via Kirt Edblom and IceNineJon , Flickr Creative Commons

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Irish town plans to plant world’s largest giant redwood grove

Peru is releasing half a million baby turtles to save species from extinction

November 3, 2016 by  
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When it comes to things in this world that make us smile, baby turtles rank quite high on the list, so the news that Peru is releasing 500,000 yellow-spotted Amazon River turtle tots into the wild is really something to celebrate. The National Service of Protected Natural Areas by the State (SERNANP), a government-run conservation group, has been setting the babies free in batches, with the first waddling into the wild in October and more to be freed in mid-November. The Amazon River turtle is a threatened species, and wildlife conservationists hope this massive baby turtle reintroduction project will give the turtles a stronger chance at survival in the long run. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM-SgOjtzks When full-grown, the yellow-spotted Amazon River turtle (P. unifilis) is one of the largest turtles in South America, and locals call them Taricaya turtles. They can measure up to 18 inches long and weigh as much as 17 lbs and, in ideal conditions, live up to 70 years. Protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) appendix as well as the US Endangered Species Act, populations of the yellow-spotted Amazon River turtle have been in decline for years. Conservationists hope this massive release will change all that. Related: 3,800 critically endangered turtles found stacked in a shipping crate headed for China The baby turtles were conceived in the wild and, in order to give them a better chance at survival, volunteers and employees from SERNANP collected the eggs in August. They were then incubated in man-made habitats for 70 days, the same amount of time they would remain in their underground nests in the wild. Turtle eggs are a target for hungry predators desperate for an easy meal, so nests are often raided leaving few, if any, eggs to reach maturity. So far, around 17,000 turtles have been released. Two more phases will bring the grand total to around 500,000 baby turtles, who will live out the rest of their natural lives in the wild and hopefully reproduce successfully, securing a stronger future for the at-risk species. Via Treehugger Images via Harvey Barrison/Flickr and Wikipedia

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China makes it illegal to eat endangered species

July 13, 2016 by  
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A new law in China makes it illegal to eat members of an endangered species , a major step forward in protections for wild animals. However, animal rights activists claim the legislation doesn’t go far enough, because it fails to address other threats. Captive breeding, public performances, and consumption in non-food products (i.e. traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM) are still allowed under the new law, and conservationists argue that these uses are what motivates the largest portion of endangered species poaching. China’s new law specifically bans the sale of food products made from endangered species recognized by the state government. Writing for The Shanghaiist , Robin Winship said that “simply restricting the sale of endangered animals as food, while nice and all, does not nearly suffice” when it comes to protecting those animals. In this way, China’s wildlife policies are not unlike its environmental protection efforts, which are criticized widely for being too soft to resolve very real problems. Related: Increased demand for lion bones threatens the species more than ever Because the law doesn’t address breeding and medicinal uses of endangered animal parts , many animals will continue to be bred and killed for use in TCM . For instance, stomach bile from bears is used in elixirs, despite a total absence of scientific evidence of any human benefit. In order to collect the bile, bears are bred in captivity, forced to live in cramped cages, and the animals often die from botched surgical attempts to extract their bile. Meanwhile, rhinoceros horns are also highly sought after, to be ground to a powder and used to treat a variety of ailments, again without any evidence that the treatment works. Many other animals are carved up for so-called medicinal purposes, with plenty of other endangered species bred as exotic pets or to be killed for some other senseless reason, like fashion. There are a lot of unanswered questions about how the new law will be enforced, considering the difficulties (or perhaps impossibilities) of identifying whether an animal is being sold as a food ingredient or for medical purposes, or whether an animal was wild-caught or captive bred. Without implementing clear procedures for permits or licensing for legal uses, China’s government may have just passed a law it can’t possibly enforce. Via Good Images via Wikipedia ( 1 , 2 )

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Malaysia just established a massive 1-million-hectare marine park

June 1, 2016 by  
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After over 13 years of negotiation and planning between conservation groups, the government, and the fishing industry, Malaysia recently established a massive 1-million-hectare marine park. The new one million-hectare Tun Mustapha Park, located by the Sabah Province in the Coral Triangle, is home to endangered species such as dugongs and green turtles. About 360 fish species, over 250 hard coral species, and vegetation such as mangroves add to the richness of this ocean space. Unsustainable fishing practices such as blast fishing had damaged the area, but a 2012 research team discovered that out of the reefs they examined, about 57 percent could be classified as ” excellent ” or ” good .” However, they also noted pollution and heard 15 bombs from blast fishing. They didn’t see many sharks or sea turtles, which is typically a signal that an ecosystem is struggling. Related: Scientists discover a 600-mile-long coral reef in the most unlikely place The fishing industry profits from being able to use the area, but so do local communities. Around 80,000 people survive off fishing in the region. As officials worked out the details of the Tun Mustapha Park, they had to balance conservation with the needs of locals. Their solution is designated fishing zones for ” sustainable uses “, which were set up with the input of the fishing industry and locals. The Sabah Parks department confirms the park will be “a multiple use, managed area” with spots for artisanal and commercial fishing as well as areas under “strict protection.” According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia, damaged regions will be allowed to recover. This could take three to five years for areas that haven’t been too badly harmed, but five to ten years for areas in worse condition. There’s also potential for ecotourism : with 50 islands in the Tun Mustapha Park, visitors could enjoy activities from diving to volunteering in turtle nesting locations to lounging on white sand beaches. WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini said , “The Park’s gazettement should act as a model and an inspiration for marine conservation in the Coral Triangle and worldwide.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Malaysia just established a massive 1-million-hectare marine park

Tiger populations have increased for the first time in 100 years

April 11, 2016 by  
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Wild tiger populations are on the rise for the first time in 100 years, according to a new report released by the World Wildlife Fund . The number of tigers living in the wild has increased over previous estimates, tracing a silver lining around the future of the species. The big cats are still endangered, but continued efforts to support reproduction and reduce threats against wild tiger populations could see populations continue to grow in years to come. Read the rest of Tiger populations have increased for the first time in 100 years

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Tiger populations have increased for the first time in 100 years

Solar-powered Watly provides internet, energy, and drinking water for Ghana residents

April 11, 2016 by  
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When it comes to renewable energy in developing nations, sometimes a solid multitasker is the way to go. That’s the idea behind the Watly system, a solar-powered machine that stores electricity, purifies water, and connects local residents to the internet . After running a pilot program with a stripped-down version of the machine in Ghana, the company is gearing up to create Watly 3.0, a bigger, better renewable energy machine. Read the rest of Solar-powered Watly provides internet, energy, and drinking water for Ghana residents

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Two widely used pesticides threaten 97 percent of endangered species

April 8, 2016 by  
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America has a pesticide problem. There are no two ways about it. Although the acreage of farmland across the country is waning, pesticide use is as prevalent as ever in agriculture, in urban settings , in public parks , and on school grounds. Bees are dying off, people are getting sick, and there is no end in sight. Now, a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study warns that two widely used pesticides—malathion and chlorpyrifos—are likely to cause harm to 97 percent of endangered animals and plants in the United States. Read the rest of Two widely used pesticides threaten 97 percent of endangered species

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Two widely used pesticides threaten 97 percent of endangered species

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