Terra Infirma by Ron Baird

This former Colorado state Forrest Service writer tells the truth about what is really happening to our environment in C1N’s Terra Infirma by Ron Baird.

Hot_Earth

Endangered Species Act Protection Proposed for Wolverine

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Loss of Spring Snowpack From Climate Change Primary Threat to Feisty PredatorPORTLAND, Ore.— In accordance with a historic agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed Endangered Species Act protections for American wolverines in the contiguous United States. The fierce, solitary hunters once roamed a large swath of the mountainous West, from Colorado to the Sierra Nevada in California and north through Washington and Montana. Today they are limited to Montana, Idaho, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and a single animal in California. Their dependence on persistent spring snowpack for denning makes them severely threatened by climate change.

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The wolverine has a reputation for killing prey many times its size, but it’s no match for global climate change, which is shrinking spring snowpack across the West,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “I’m glad wolverines are finally getting the protection they need to survive, but if we’re going to save the wolverine and countless other wildlife species, as well as the world we all depend on, we need to take immediate steps to substantially and quickly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Center has been working for protection of wolverines since 1995, including participating in litigation with allies to overturn a negative finding made by the Bush administration, resulting in it being placed on the candidate list. In 2011 the Center reached a settlement agreement requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service to make protection decisions for 757 species, including the wolverine, which was required to get a decision this fiscal year. A total of 54 species have received final protection under the agreement.  The wolverine is the 64th species proposed for protection with final protection expected within 12-months.

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“Our settlement agreement is moving protection forward for dozens of plants and animals that have been waiting for decades,” said Greenwald. “From the iconic wolverine to the unusual Ozark hellbender, some of America’s rarest and most unique creatures are benefitting from this agreement.”

Endangered Species Act protection for wolverines will likely put an end to plans by the state of Montana to allow wolverine trapping. It also will mean a likely reintroduction of the animals to Colorado, with today’s rule allowing for wolverines to be moved to the state under relaxed regulations that defines released animals as experimental and nonessential. Similar rules have been used to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park and the Southwest and black-footed ferrets to several areas.

“By protecting the wolverine from trapping and other threats and reintroducing it to historic habitat, we’re giving it the best possible chance to survive a warming world,” said Greenwald. “Today’s decision will allow many Americans the chance to one day see one of these magnificent animals in the wild.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Hot_Earth

Obama pulls plug on wolves life support

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Obama Administration Strips Wolf Protections Across Most of Lower 48 States

Plan Ends Prospects of Wolf Recovery in Southern Rockies, California, Northeast, Pacific Northwest

WASHINGTON— In a move questioned by some of the World’s leading wolf researchers, the Obama administration announced plans today to prematurely strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states, abruptly ending one of America’s most important species recovery programs. The proposal concludes that wolf protection in the continental United States, in place since 1978, is no longer needed, even though there are fledgling populations in places like the Pacific Northwest whose survival hinges on continued federal protection.

Most wild wolves will lose federal protection. The sates have interest in protecting wolves--a key animal in ecosystem health.

Most wild wolves will lose
federal protection. The states have little or no interest in protecting wolves–a key animal in ecosystem health.

 

“This is like kicking a patient out of the hospital when they’re still attached to life-support,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity.  “Wolves cling to a sliver of their historic habitat in the lower 48 and now the Obama administration wants to arbitrarily declare victory and move on. They need to finish the job that Americans expect, not walk away the first chance they get. This proposal is a  national disgrace and our wildlife deserve better.”

Wolves today occupy just 5 percent of their historic habitat in the continental United States. Today’s proposal means that wolves will never fully reoccupy prime wolf habitat in the southern Rocky Mountains, California and Northeast, and will hinder ongoing recovery in the Pacific Northwest.

The proposal will hand wolf management over to state wildlife agencies across most of the country – a step that has meant widespread killing in recent years. Following removal of protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and western Great Lakes in 2011, states in those regions quickly enacted aggressive hunting and trapping seasons designed to drastically reduce wolf populations. In the northern Rocky Mountains more than 1,100 wolves have been killed since protections were removed; this year populations declined by 7 percent.

“By locking wolves out of prime habitat across most this country, this proposal perpetuates the global phenomena of eliminating predators that play hugely important roles in ecosystems,” said Greenwald. “Wolves are well documented to benefit a host of other wildlife from beavers and fish, to songbirds and pronghorn.”

In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, today’s proposal maintains protections for the Mexican gray wolf as a separate subspecies. Only 75 Mexican wolves roam a recovery area restricted to portions of Arizona and New Mexico. The population has not grown as expected because of a combination of illegal poaching and government mismanagement that requires wolves to be removed from the wild or killed when they leave the recovery area or depredate livestock.

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“It’s obvious that Mexican gray wolves continue to need protection and we’re glad they’re getting it,” said Greenwald. “But it is equally obvious that wolves in the Pacific Northwest, southern Rockies, California and Northeast also need continued protection.”

Press release–The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

 

 

Hot_Earth

Poll: Majority of Americans Want Congress Out of Keystone XL Pipeline Decision, Oppose “Eminent Domain,” Worry About Water, Wildlife

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Obama Voters Strongly Opposed to Keystone; 

Strong Majority Would Feel Betrayed or Disappointed if Approved

WASHINGTON— With the U.S. Senate poised to vote on the Keystone XL pipeline this week, a new national poll commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity finds that a majority of Americans oppose Congressional intervention requiring the construction of the 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. A majority also oppose the use of “eminent domain” — taking private property without landowner approval — and are concerned about the pipeline’s impact on water and wildlife.

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Opposition was particularly strong among those who voted for President Barack Obama last year: 68 percent oppose building the pipeline, 76 percent are concerned about its contribution to climate change, and 57 percent believe approval would break the president’s State of the Union vow to fight climate change.

“President Obama promised to steer America toward a safer, saner energy policy that doesn’t sacrifice our climate and wildlife for oil company profits,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “It’s clear that most Obama voters believe this promise requires the president to reject the Keystone pipeline.”

The Senate this week is expected to consider placement of a rider on the “continuing resolution” funding bill, which would force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. If passed, the rider would short-circuit the State Department’s detailed environmental, economic and social-justice review, as well as its decision-making authority.

The national poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling on March 15, 16 and 17. It included 1,122 voters of all kinds and 536 people who voted for Obama in the 2012 election. The poll has a margin of error of + or – 2.9.

Among the results from the poll of all voters:

53 percent said Congress should not pass legislation requiring that Keystone XL be built right away.
62 percent said private property should not be taken by eminent domain to build the Keystone pipeline.
55 percent said they are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the project’s impact on water and wildlife.

“Americans take a pretty dim view of Congress, and most don’t want it anywhere near the Keystone project,” said Jerry Karnas, field director at the Center. “Keystone XL is a dangerous project for wildlife, climate and our environment. It deserves to be carefully considered by those who understand the long-term impacts, not hastily decided by politicians who’re easily swayed by the oil industry’s army of lobbyists.”

Among the results from the poll of Obama voters:

74 percent said the project is not in the “best interest” of the United States.
68 percent said they disapproved of Keystone.
76 percent said they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about Keystone’s environmental impacts.
76 percent said they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about its impacts on climate change.

Obama voters also indicated the president’s legacy and trustworthiness are at stake in the Keystone decision:

61 percent said they’d feel “disappointed” or “betrayed” if the president approves Keystone.
57 percent said approval would break the president’s State of the Union vow to reduce the threat of global warming.
69 percent said Obama’s legacy should be about clean-energy innovation and solving climate change rather than expanding oil, gas and natural gas production.

Background
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would, every day, carry up to 35 million gallons of oil strip-mined from Canada’s “tar sands” — some of the dirtiest fuels on the planet. The pipeline would cross the heart of the Midwest and deliver oil to the Gulf of Mexico, where most of it would be exported to other countries. Along the way the pipeline would cut through rivers, streams and prime habitat for at least 20 endangered species, including whooping cranes and pallid sturgeon.

The mining of Alberta’s tar sands is also destroying tens of thousands of acres of boreal forest and polluting hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the Athabasca River, in the process creating toxic ponds so large they can be seen from space. Extraction and refinement of tar-sands oil produces two times more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil and represents a massive new source of fossil fuel pollution that leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called “game over” for our ability to avoid climate catastrophe.

TransCanada’s existing Keystone I pipeline has reportedly leaked 14 times since it went into operation in June 2010, including one spill of 24,000 gallons. The State Department’s environmental reviews have pointed out that spills from Keystone XL are likely to occur, estimating that there could be as many as about 100 spills over the course of the pipeline’s lifespan.

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U.S.’s Mexican gray wolves threatened by inbreeding: Terra Infirma by Ron Baird

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Terra Infirma by Ron Baird
This former Colorafo State Forrest Service writer tells the truth about what is really happening to our environment in C1Ns Terra Infirma by Ron Baird.

Release of More Mexican Gray Wolves to Wild Needed to Stop Genetic Inbreeding

This Week Marks Four Years Since Last Release of Captive-bred Wolf

SILVER CITY, N.M.— To mark this week’s four-year anniversary of the last release of a Mexican gray wolf into the southwestern wilderness, the Center for Biological Diversity has called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to dramatically increase the number of wolves in the wild. This is needed to stave off genetic inbreeding, which scientists say may now be limiting the size and health of some wolf litters.

Under pressure from the livestock industry, the Service has ceased releasing captive-bred wolves into the wild in recent years. Unfortunately this means there’s little genetic diversity flowing into the fledgling wild wolf population, which compromises the ability of the 58 wolves in Arizona and New Mexico to grow healthily and sustainably.

“By starving the wild wolf population of new animals, the Fish and Wildlife Service is stacking the odds against their recovery,” said the Center’s wolf specialist, Michael Robinson. “Resuming the release of wolves into the wild is absolutely essential to overcoming inbreeding and ensuring the success of this wolf recovery program.”

All Mexican wolves in the world today stem from just seven animals captured alive from the wild in Mexico and the United States, the last one in 1980. After reintroduction of the wolves to Arizona and New Mexico began in 1998, the Fish and Wildlife Service had many of the most genetically valuable wolves shot or trapped on behalf of the livestock industry. Consequently the captive population will have to jump-start the wild population again.

“Too many wolves have been taken out of the wild, both by the government and by poachers. That’s a tragedy, and it puts the Mexican wolf’s future in jeopardy,” said Robinson.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Hot Earth

Big Oil claims the right to bribe under the First Amendment. Taking the Fifth is more appropriate.

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Edited by Ron Baird From PR Watch via truthout

In a new lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), big energy extractors are pushing for carte blanche in their interactions with foreign governments, making it harder to track whether their deals are padding the coffers of dictators, warlords, or crony capitalists. The United States Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the National Foreign Trade Council filed a lawsuit on October 10, 2012 against a new SEC rule, which requires U.S. oil, mining and gas companies to formally disclose payments made to foreign governments as part of their annual SEC reporting.


This lawsuit is not the only effort underway to make it easier for American corporations working overseas to bribe corrupt government officials. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also pushing for a radical rollback of a 35 year old anti-bribery statute that has been tripping up U.S. companies abroad.

 

New SEC Rule Forces Disclosure of Financial Transactions With Foreign Governments

The challenged SEC provision, which aims to bring transparency to U.S. corporate payments to foreign governments abroad in an effort to combat bribery and corruption, was required by Congress in a last minute addition to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill. Some parts of Dodd-Frank have gone into effect while others are still under assault by industry in the lengthy rule-making processes. Senators Dick Lugar (R-Indiana) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) authored the provision, which simply requires U.S. corporations to report in their annual SEC filing any payments made to foreign governments.

This legislation is a crucial step in increasing transparency and accountability in countries with a history of government corruption. In many countries, there are often huge discrepancies between what companies might say that they paid the government and what the government said it received. Formal disclosure can serve as a critical tool for activists and citizens fighting corruption and poverty, which is why the measure was backed by groups like Oxfam International and Bono’s ONE campaign.

 

“The Cardin-Lugar Amendment puts transparency — the key to citizens’ ability to hold their government to account — ahead of corruption. To do otherwise is a losing proposition for the United States and company shareholders,” Lugar said in a statement this week. The SEC worked on the rule for two years with abundant business input.

 

Lawsuit Alleges Rule too Costly, Violates Corporate Rights

The groups which filed the lawsuit allege that the SEC failed to take into account the rule’s costs and benefits and that it “grossly misinterpreted its statutory mandate” in crafting the rule and has violated corporate “First Amendment” rights.

 

African political leaders are often bribed to award oil leases.

For supporters, it is difficult to see what is so costly about inserting a few paragraphs into an annual SEC filing. “We are greatly disappointed that the oil industry is trying to use the courts to bully the SEC and push for secrecy in their payments to governments,” said Ian Gary of Oxfam. “We call on companies, such as BP, Exxon, Chevron and Shell, who are hiding behind industry associations to do their dirty work while espousing transparency rhetoric, to disassociate themselves from the lawsuit.”

 

The attorney heading the challenge to the Dodd-Frank anti-bribery rule is Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Of the six challenges that SEC regulations have faced and lost in federal court of appeals in Washington, DC since the mid 2000s, Eugene Scalia was behind four. He won a case on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last year on the Dodd-Frank “proxy access rule,” which would have allowed shareholders to play a role in nominating company directors. Scalia also helped win a case in September against the SEC on a rule which would have imposed trading limits on speculators.

 

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Tries to Gut Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Efforts to keep bribery under a veil of secrecy go beyond attacks against the SEC transparency rule. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also been waging a war against the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which was adopted after a rash of bribery scandals of foreign officials was revealed, involving more than 400 U.S. corporations. The law, introduced by Senator William Proxmire (D-Wisconsin), bans companies from bribing foreign officials in order to secure land and retain business deals, and requires public companies to file financial statements and maintain internal controls. The Department  of Justice (DOJ) and SEC are responsible for its enforcement and have been stepping up the pace in recent years, dedicating new staff and resources to a crackdown.

Now, the Chamber is actively pushing five amendments to the 1977 law, which would significantly weaken its enforcement mechanisms.

 

The value of the law was recently highlighted when The New York Times broke the story this spring that Walmex (Wal-Mart in Mexico), executives allegedly covered up millions of dollars in bribes to Mexican officials in an effort to fuel the company’s expansion in the country. Wal-Mart says it spent some $51 million on an internal investigation looking into whether the subsidiary violated the anti-bribery law and the U.S. Justice Department is also investigating.

 

According to the Chamber’s tax filings, 14 of the group’s 55 board members between 2007 and 2010 “were affiliated with companies that were reportedly under investigation for violations or had settled allegations that they violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” Chamber member Pfizer recently paid $60 million to the SEC and DOJ to settle claims that its subsidiaries bribed foreign doctors and pubic officials to gain market access for its products in Eastern Europe.

 

Major American firms frequently embrace transparency as an alternative to mandatory binding regulation. Now transparency is also taking a beating as U.S. firms fight for the right to bribe foreign governments and hide their activities from American shareholders and the citizens of the nations where they do business.

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Stanford conventional v. organic study a pile of crap.

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Terra Infirma by Ron Baird
The question, really, is how could such a stellar research institution as Stanford U. publish such a pile of crap? Analyzing 237 existing studies and determining that organic fruits and vegetables are no more nutritious than conventional (read: industrial agriculture). Actually the study seems more a hack job to pay a favor to Big Ag donors, although the researchers made a point early that internal funds were used to fund the work. Does that raise your suspicions a bit?

In the first place, they were almost certainly wrong. A number of recent studies have indicated organic produce has 10-30% more nutrients than conventional.

If they were trying to contribute to the body of knowledge, why not look into the environmental costs of industrial agriculture, such as pesticides in the water and air, the medical costs of workers exposed to such toxins.

Why ignore a whole other level of heath benefits of phytochemicals which are much more prevalent in organic produce because industrial agriculture intensive application of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and heavy watering have depleted the soil of nutrients need to produce phytochemicals.

How important are they?

Phytonutrients are nutrients derived from plant material that have been shown to be necessary for sustaining human life. Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing, compounds. Their role in plants is to protect plants from disease, injuries, insects, drought, excessive heat, ultraviolet rays, and poisons or pollutants in the air or soil. They form part of the plants immune system.

Although phytochemicals are not yet classified as nutrients, substances necessary for sustaining life, they have been identified as containing properties for aiding in disease prevention. Phytochemicals are associated with the prevention and/or treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in Western countries – cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. They are involved in many processes including ones that help prevent cell damage, prevent cancer cell replication, and decrease cholesterol levels.

So—pretty damn important. But apparently not to the Stanford researchers.

But Big Ag got it’s headline, and that’s what’s important.

A feminized fish. Photo Credit: NOAA

Tilapia a Frankenfish? Say it ain’t so

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 Terra Infirma by Ron Baird. Is my favorite fish—tilapia—really a Frankenfish in disguise? Sadly, it’s true. They are given testosterone-laden food for the first few months of life and that turns them all into males, which grow larger and faster than females. Do we know this is safe? No, we do not.

But we do know that a combination of hormones in creeks from the effluent of wastewater plants have turned wild fish hermaphroditic. Many of today’s diseases are caused by foreign hormones or chemicals that damage hormones.

A feminized fish. Photo Credit: NOAA

My poor little tilapia are also being considered to be “modified” by the anti-freeze protein gene from Arctic flatfish, as well as salmon growth hormone gene.

In fact as of 2001 there were 20 species of wild fish being tested for genetic modification, according to a report by Jaques Diof, Director General of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.

These were Abalone, Arctic Char, Catfish. Common Carp, Indian Major Carp, Goldfish, Halibut, Flounder, Loach, Lobster, Japanese Medaka, Atlantic Salmon, Chinook and Coho Salmon, Shrimp, Striped Bass, Tilapia, Turbot, Cutthroat Trout, Rain Trout and Zebra Fish.

In China and the U.S., experiments using human growth hormone have been conducted on carp. These fish have tolerance of low oxygen levels, which may produced fish that can survive in rivers too polluted for normal fish.

I believe there’s something elementarily wrong with this.

What do you think?

 

 

 

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Agent Orange resistant soybeans? No kidding.

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From Food Democracy Now
The first generation of biotech crops has failed. And failed badly. Now the biotech industry is stepping up the chemical arms race in an effort to make up for the failure of Monsanto’s Roundup. Excessive use of Roundup by GMO farmers has led million of acres of U.S. farmland filled with Roundup resistant superweeds.

To combat this, Dow Chemical is petitioning the USDA to approve a new GMO Agent Orange Soy to tolerate 2,4-D, a main chemical component of the Vietnam era defoliant linked to birth defects, cancer, and hormone disruption. On top of these horrific health problems, 2,4-D is widely known among farmers to be difficult to control during application, leading to drift onto neighboring farms, causing major crop damage and contaminating waterways.

These facts have greatly alarmed scientists and farmers alike, leading a former top Reagan USDA official to declare 2,4-D one of “the most dangerous chemicals out there.”

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