Press Release Center for Biological Diversity
BLM Report: Illegal Off-road Vehicles Overrunning Parts of West Mojave Desert
Heavy Damage to Wildlife and Cultural Resources on Hundreds of Thousands of Acres
LOS ANGELES— A new Bureau of Land Management report finds that hundreds of thousands of acres of the west Mojave Desert were illegally overrun with off-road vehicles over the Thanksgiving weekend, including fragile desert areas. According to the law-enforcement report, BLM rangers documented illegal and destructive incursions into wilderness and “limited use” areas as well as “heavy illegal OHV use” in many areas. Rangers admit they don’t have the resources to protect both public safety and the natural resources of the public lands from destructive and illegal ORV use. The report estimates 33,000 ORVers visited the Barstow area alone.
Instead of caving to pressure from the oil and gas industry, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation has concluded that the health risks of fracking are too great, and it will not permit the controversial practice to move forward in the state. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial technique in which gas drillers blast millions of gallons of water mixed with toxic chemicals into the ground to extract gas from hard-to-reach deposits deep in the earth.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg who represented the Town of Dryden, NY in its precedent-setting fracking ban case.
“This is truly a monumental day. Governor Andrew Cuomo has earned a place in history. Never before has a state with proven gas reserves banned fracking. I believe that future generations will point to this day and say ‘This is when the tide began to turn against the dirty, dangerous and destructive fossil fuel industry.’This is a hard-fought victory that belongs to the brave people of New York who refused to give up, refused to give in. Now all New Yorkers can enjoy the safety and peace of mind that the 80 New York communities that have banned fracking already have. We hope that this determined leadership Governor Cuomo has displayed will give courage to elected leaders throughout the country and world: fracking is too dangerous and must not continue
The Associated Press reported
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he’s removing more than 52,000 square miles of waters off Alaska’s coast from consideration for oil and gas exploration or drilling.
Read story at Obama withdraws Alaska’s Bristol Bay from drilling.
Media Release American Bird Conservancy
First-ever Reserves Established to Protect Brazil’s Araripe Manakin
Critically Endangered Bird Survives on Only 11 Square Miles
(Washington, D.C., December 15, 2014) The first-ever bird reserves have been created for the critically endangered Araripe Manakin, a six-inch bird only discovered in 1996 that numbers fewer than 800 individuals and survives in the smallest of areas – 11 square miles – in northeastern Brazil.
The reserves were made possible by the purchase of one parcel of land encompassing 140 acres and through a formal agreement with a neighboring landowner, who designated 27 acres of his land as a fully protected area. Both actions were carried out by Aquasis, a Brazilian conservation organization that has led the effort to protect the species, and through support from American Bird Conservancy (ABC), an organization that leads bird conservation efforts across the Americas.
Anza-B0rrego Desert Natural History Association has two new wildflower reports
December 16, 2014 At Oyster Wash. there are Trailing Windmills/Allionia incarnata and Fremonts Desert Thorn Lycium fremontii in bloom
December 15, 2014 At the Thimble Trail Loop. were the best Asters so far this season, desert holly, and once in a while, a Creosote in bloom. Also report the first blooming Silky Dalea/ Dalea mollistChinch-weed,/Pectis papposa var. papposa ,Alkali goldenbush/ Isocoma acradenia var. acradenia
See photos,hike details and older reports at Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflowers Update.
Golden Gate Audubon held the annual Oakland Christmas Bird Count this past Sunday December 14. It is 115th year of Audubon Bird Counts and the 74th Oakland Bird Count. The preliminary total of species counted was 176, which is 7 short of the all time total. Highlights included
- A female Kingfisher eating a fish at Lake Merritt.
- An Osprey over Lake Temescal, and two at San Leandro Bay.
- Lots of owls… Western Screech, Great Horned, Long-eared, Northern Saw-whet, Barn, and Burrowing.
- Seventeen Snowy Plovers in Alameda, and one at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park too.
- A Peregrine Falcon grabbing a Northern Shoveler in Alameda.
- A Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle in Lafayette.
- Sixty-nine White Pelicans at San Pablo Reservoir, along with a family of six river otters.
- Two Barn Swallows in Alameda — the only such sighting in the Oakland count circle in the past 40 years.
- Birding by golf cart at Sequoyah Country Club… and then meeting an unusual red-hued seasonal migrant there.
Read full story at: 2014 Oakland CBC — great day, no rain | Golden Gate Audubon Society.
Press Release Center for Biological Diversity
Ignoring International Limits, U.S. Expands Fishing for Declining Bigeye Tuna
HONOLULU— The National Marine Fisheries Service today issued regulations allowing Hawaii-based longline fishermen to ignore international agreements and continue fishing for bigeye tuna after reaching the cap allowed for U.S. fishing vessels. Highly valued for sushi, bigeye tuna has been increasingly in demand for the past decade; meanwhile scientists have sounded the alarm over unsustainable fishing levels and declining populations.
“Bigeye tuna are in serious trouble, and this rule only makes it worse. Not only will these tuna pay the price, but so will the whales, dolphins and other animals that get caught on their hooks,” said Catherine Kilduff with the Center for Biological Diversity. “International limits were put in place for a reason, and this rule is simply a cynical workaround to allow fishing to go right ahead even though the limit’s already been caught.”
Today’s rule, which implements an amendment to the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region approved earlier this year (Amendment 7), dodges quotas intended to prevent overfishing by creating a separate quota for “U.S. Pacific Territories” and then allowing that quota to be transferred to Hawaii-based fishermen who neither fish in territorial waters nor land their catch in the territories.
“The United States should set an example for responsible fishing, not make a mockery of international protections for imperiled bigeye tuna that it agreed to less than a year ago,” said David Henkin, a staff attorney at Earthjustice. “If we want future generations to have fish to eat, the United States needs to live up to its commitments and limit bigeye catch by longline fishers flying the U.S. flag, wherever they fish.”
Bigeye tuna, warm-blooded predators similar to endangered bluefin tuna, swim in deep waters around Hawaii and across the Pacific Ocean. Currently at their lowest historical levels, bigeye tuna have been experiencing overfishing since the 1990s. From 1996 to 2008, the number of longline hooks set in Hawaii fishing grounds increased fourfold. On top of fishing stress, climate change threatens to warm ocean waters in a way that could kill off Pacific bigeye by century’s end.
“With thousands of dangling hooks on lines stretching up to 60 nautical miles long and 1,150 feet deep, Hawaii’s deep-set longliners create a curtain of death across huge swaths of the ocean, indiscriminately catching large amounts of other marine life along with the targeted bigeye tuna, including humpback and sperm whales, false killer whales, dolphins, sharks and seabirds,” said Marjorie Ziegler, executive director of Conservation Council for Hawaii. “The Fisheries Service should not be looking for ways to expand this extraordinarily wasteful fishery, which discards about 40 percent of the fish it catches.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org
Conservation Council for Hawaii is a Hawaii-based, non-profit environmental organization founded in 1950 to protect native Hawaiian species and ecosystems for future generations. For more information, visit http://www.conservehi.org.
Earthjustice is a non-profit, public-interest, environmental law firm. The Mid-Pacific office opened in Honolulu in 1988, and has represented dozens of environmental, native Hawaiian, and community organizations. Earthjustice is the only non-profit environmental law firm in Hawaii and the Mid-Pacific, and does not charge clients for its services. For more information, visit http://www.earthjustice.org.
New Release Yosemite National Park
Tioga and Glacier Point Roads Closed for the Season in Yosemite National Park – 2014
The Tioga and Glacier Point Roads in Yosemite National Park are closed for the season because of deep snow and icy conditions. A series of storm systems have passed through the Yosemite region over the last several weeks, resulting in snow accumulations of up to two feet of snow in the higher elevations of the park, including Tuolumne Meadows and Glacier Point. The roads generally close each fall and remain so throughout the winter until weather conditions permit reopening in the spring.Yosemite National Park is open year-round with snow removal on all other roads within the park. All roads within the park are subject to chain control or temporary closures due to hazardous driving conditions. All motorists are required to carry tire chains, even if their car is equipped with four-wheel drive, while driving in the park during the winter months. For updated 24-hour road and weather conditions for Yosemite National Park, please call 209/372-0200.
Professional photography instructor, author, naturalist and nature photographer has tips on outdoor photography in winter. He has suggestions include dealing with batteries, condensation and keeping the photographer warm. They come from his many years of photographing in Minnesota winters. You can read his suggestions on his blog at Winter [Photography] is Here | Nature and Photography.
Aquatic Park in Berkeley, CA is next to the Freeway but it doesn’t seem to bother the birds. A very urban park with dogs, bikes, strollers and even a Gondola on the water today. Numerous waterbirds and egrets also are attracted to the area. Highlights of the day were seeing Crows mob a Red-tail Hawk, a King-fisher, and my first Red-breasted Mergansers of the season. It is a good place to photograph birds as there are opportunities to get fairly close.
Most numerous were the Scaup (both Greater and Lesser) and Coots. There were also more Goldeneye than I usually see and good numbers of Horned and Pied-billed Grebe, Mallards (domestic hybrids and wild) and both Great and Snowy Egrets. The trees sounded full of Yellow-rumped Warblers, but they only made brief appearances. Also seen were a number of Monarch Butterflies and what I believe were Amanita Mushrooms.
We identified a total of 35 birds. Today’s list: Aquatic Park Bird List 12/14/14
- Coyotebrush, Chaparral Broom Scientific Name: Baccharis pilularis
- Poppy, California Poppy Scientific Name: Eschscholzia californica
- Manzanita, Bigberry Manzanita Scientific Name: Arctostaphylos glauca
To see what is in bloom including photos of flowers in bloom go to: Henry W. Coe – Wildflower Guide.
Yahoo New reported that Norway’s seal hunting program may be about to end.
Oslo (AFP) – Norways much-criticised commercial seal hunt could grind to a halt following parliaments decision to scrap a hefty subsidy for the controversial practice.
A majority of lawmakers voted late Thursday to cull a 12-million-kroner (1.3-million-euro, $1.6-million) subsidy for the seal hunt from the 2015 budget.
Governmental support represents up to 80 percent of seal hunters revenue.
Read full story at Norway scraps controversial seal hunting subsidy – Yahoo!7.
As a result of the rain the seasonal ponds have appeared in Berkeley Meadow. After not showing up at all last year, they are the largest I have seen. Green-winged, Teal, American Wigeons, Mallards, Coots, and Canada Geese were swimming and feeding in the ponds. Black Phoebes, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were fly-catching. Mushrooms have started to appear as well.
The Bay had 100’s of Scaup and many Ruddy Ducks and Coots. Highlights included a relatively close look at six male Surf Scoters and watching three Black Oystercatchers along the shore. We totaled 40 species today. Bird List Eastshore State Park Berkeley Access 12/13/14 Two other birders reported a White-tailed Kite, which unfortunately we missed. Surprisingly we didn’t see any Egrets, but did get a good look at a Great Blue Heron.
Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association has a report and photos for a wildflower hike in the Domelands area which is in the southern part of Anza-Borrgeo. Flowers found in bloom included Rosy apricot mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua var. rosacea, Ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens ssp. splendens, White-stemmed milkweed, Asclepias albicans and Nevada indigo-bush, Psorothamnus polydenius.
See photos at Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflowers Update.
Feeding Birds in winter is a great help when food is scare. Also attracting birds to your backyard can enhance birdwatching from your windows.
A couple of weeks ago we spent two hours at our kitchen windows and counted 25 different species of birds in our backyard in the Berkeley, CA flatlands. We do feed birds but don’t use a feeder. We spread seed on the ground and a table. We also have lots of vegetation for birds to perch on and hide in.
Read article on safe bird feeding from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Citizen Science Blog » Dos and Don’ts of Feeder Placement.
There are many articles just published about major changes in the bird relationships, evolution, and the new bird family tree.
The largest-ever study of avian genomes greatly expands our knowledge of bird evolution. 28 Studies by over 200 scientists were published this week in 28 papers in Science, Genome Biology, GigaScience and other publications.
Some of the changes mentioned in Birds Of A Feather Aren’t Necessarily Related : Shots – Health News : NPR are
Parrots are actually close relatives of falcons. Pigeons are more closely related to flamingos than they are to crows. And land fowl, like chickens, are related to ducks.
See the new bird family tree at Flock of geneticists redraws bird family tree : Nature News & Comment.
Read some of the more of the notable findings at An Unprecedented Flock of Genomes Redraws the Bird Tree of Life – Bloomberg.
Press Release Center for Biological Diversity
In Federal Spending Bill, Christmas Comes Early for Polluters,
Oil and Gas Industry, and Wall Street High Rollers
Bill for 2015 Funding Guts Protections for Rivers and Wildlife, Cuts Regulatory
Oversight of Financial Sector, Exposure to Toxic Chemicals, Children’s Nutrition
WASHINGTON— The U.S. House of Representatives passed a 2015 omnibus spending bill today larded with dozens of riders and funding cuts that favor corporate profits over protections for people, their health, wildlife and the country’s environment.
Included in the 1,600-page bill are provisions prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating lead ammunition that puts people and wildlife in danger; prohibitions on regulations for mountaintop-removal mining; a halt in funding to save endangered sage grouse from extinction; rollbacks of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act; and even restrictions on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ability to require healthier vegetables in food assistance for low-income families.
Press Release Wildlife Conservation Society
Experts Warn of Dangers of Veterinary Pharmaceuticals to Wildlife on the Eve of Key EU Agency Decision
- European Medicines Agency Will Soon Make Recommendation to European Commission on Use of Diclofenac in Livestock
- Diclofenac Use is Shown to Endanger Fragile Vulture Populations
- The Current Approach to Risk Assessment of Veterinary Pharmaceuticals is Flawed
BRUSSELS (December 5, 2014) – The use of the veterinary pharmaceutical diclofenac in Spain is placing Europe’s vulture populations at risk and should be banned, according to a paper published by a team of veterinarians and biologists in the journal Science this week. Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, has already been banned for veterinary use in several South Asian countries, but was recently approved for use in Spain and Italy. Traces of diclofenac in livestock carcasses are lethal to vultures who eat them, and contamination of fewer than 1% of dead animals led to the near extinction of three Asian species. Most vultures in Europe are already endangered and thus particularly vulnerable to this threat.
California Fall Color has the following fall color report for L.A. Arboretum
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, Arcadia (Peak – 75 – 100%) - Ginkgo biloba and Liquidambar are providing most of the remaining color at the LA County Arboretum, but high winds lashing California are likely to strip what’s left. About 25% of trees there have not yet peaked. GO NOW!
The four category winners were as follows:
• Behaviour & Action: Angie Luzader of the USA with a photo of a Great Egret entitled Fan of Feathers.
• Portrait: Aris Houwing of The Netherlands with a Black-necked Grebe titled Mesmerizing.
• Mammals: Michael Gibson of Australia with a Rusa Deer titled Stag and his Crown.
• Video: Jürgen Bergmann of Germany with a film featuring various bird species entitled Faszination Natur.
The overall winner was Jürgen Bergmann with his digiscoped video. (I was especially impressed with this one.)
See winning and runner up photos and videos at http://www.digiscoperoftheyear.com/en/the-winners
Press Release Center for Biological Diversity
Rare Atlantic Coast Shorebird Protected Under Endangered Species Act
Red Knot, Imperiled Long-distance Flyer, Threatened by
Loss of Horseshoe Crabs, Habitat and Climate Change
PLEASANTVILLE, N.J.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the red knot as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The robin-sized shorebird, which twice a year makes an epic 9,000-mile migration between southern South America and the Canadian Arctic, has declined by 75 percent since the 1980s. Threatened by loss of an essential food, horseshoe crabs, as well as habitat destruction, the bird is also at risk from climate change, which threatens to destroy many of its shoreline stopover areas as well as its breeding habitat in the far north. Today’s decision was made in accordance with a settlement requirement with the Center for Biological Diversity that requires the agency to make decisions on protection for 757 species.
The peak night of the 2014 Geminid meteor shower will probably occur on the night of December 13 morning of December 14. The night before December 12-13 may offer a decent sprinkling of meteors as well. Geminid meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night. A last quarter moon will rise around midnight, but Geminid meteors are bright! This shower favors Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, but it’s visible from the Southern Hemisphere, too. If you’re at a temperate latitude in the Southern Hemisphere, try waiting a little later – until close to midnight – to see the beginning of the Geminid shower.
To learn more about the Geminid meteor shower in 2014 go to EarthSky at Everything you need to know: Geminid meteor shower
Phys.org reported on the discovery a new species of mushroom on the UC Berkeley Campus. The new species is called Helvella dryophila, a beautiful black “elfin saddle” and is associated with oaks
Two researchers who recently named the first new species of mushroom from the UC Berkeley campus in more than 30 years are emphasizing the need for continued green and open space on campus, as well as a full-fledged catalog of all North American mushroom species.
Read more at Phys.org New mushroom discovered on campus is the first since 1985.
Media Release from American Bird Conservancy
Top Five Holiday Gifts to Help Birds
(Washington, D.C., December 4, 2014) Looking for that last-minute gift for someone who cares about birds? With 45 million Americans who enjoy bird watching, there certainly is a demand for such products. The experts at American Bird Conservancy have a few suggestions that can help solve that gift-giving dilemma and make a real difference for the thousands of bird species that call the Americas home.
- Bird-friendly Coffee: Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide. As a result, the way coffee is grown has a big impact on habitats—and birds. Unfortunately, most coffee on the market today is produced through destructive farming practices such as clearcutting of tropical forests and using large amounts of pesticides. Anything we can do to discourage such actions ultimately helps birds. That’s where bird-friendly coffee helps: Achieving this certification requires that coffee producers do such things as reduce or eliminate pesticide use and increase the amount of shade cover provided at coffee farms. Here are two of the many sources for coffee that helps birds: Birds and Beans, Caffe Ibis.
- ABC BirdTape: Recent studies say that up to a billion birds are killed each year in the U.S. by colliding with glass, nearly half at homes. ABC BirdTape is an affordable solution that is easily applied, removable, and lasts up to four years on outside surfaces. Most important, tests show that this translucent tape can significantly reduce bird collisions with glass windows or doors. It comes in a ¾-inch tape in a 75-foot roll or 3-inch x 3-inch pre-cut squares in a 30-foot roll. Order some now for application before the spring migration, a time when bird collisions are at their highest.
I was at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park in Berkeley today for the Roderick Lecture on “Botanizing Baja California by mule: Adventures into remote regions of Baja California, including cowboy uses of indigenous plants” by Sula Vanderplank. Before the lecture I did a short walk around the garden and took a few pictures with at compact camera. Many of the Manzanitas are starting to bloom as well as at least one species of Ribes. There is still a bit of fall color. The rains have brought out bright green in the mosses, show off the lichens, and have brought up some mushrooms. There is also a fair amount of bird activity although today the only ones I really paid attention to were Anna’s Hummingbirds and a Song Sparrow.
- Foggy Botanic Garden Photos 11/22/14 (naturalhistorywanderings.com)
Press Release Center for Biological Diversity
Record Progress Made on Backlog of Endangered Species Awaiting Protection
Spurred by Landmark Agreement to Protect Nation’s Most Endangered Species
WASHINGTON— After several decades when endangered plants and animals were allowed to languish indefinitely on a waiting list, an annual federal summary released today reveals that for the second year in a row, the number of species waiting for Endangered Species Act protection decisions remains below 150 — the lowest number since the list, in its current form, was created in the 1990s.
The steady progress the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is making in addressing the backlog highlights the success of a landmark agreement reached with the agency by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2011, which requires the Service to speed protection decisions for 757 species. The 2014 “candidate notice of review” released by the agency today includes 146 species now awaiting protection: 79 animals and 67 plants. So far under the agreement with the Center, 140 species have gained final protection and another 12 have been proposed for protection.
Press Release Center for Biological Diversity
Plans Halted for Widening Highway Through Ancient Redwoods in
California’s Richardson Grove State Park
SAN FRANCISCO— After years of opposition, Caltrans has rescinded its approvals for a controversial highway-widening project that would endanger ancient redwood trees in Richardson Grove State Park, along Highway 101 in Humboldt County. Conservation groups and local residents this week dismissed a lawsuit they filed in federal court in July in exchange for Caltrans abandoning the project approvals and agreeing to restart the environmental review if the agency pursues the project. Caltrans has been prohibited from any project construction activities by both a 2012 federal court injunction and a recent state court order.
At high tide the Emeryville shoreline is loaded with Marbled Godwits, Willets, several Whimbrel and others (today we saw one Western Sandpiper and One Black Turnstone) on the rocky area just south of the sidewalk between the Fire Station and Chinese Restaurant. We walked the shoreline and through the park next to the Marina.
Highlights besides the 100’s of birds along the shoreline included, Common Loons displaying, a Horned Grebe bobbing and dancing (we weren’t quite sure what it was doing), a Crow aggressively mobbing a Gull and getting very close looks at a Great Blue Heron. Other birders reported Townsend Warblers in the trees in the park, but we were unable to find them. We identified twenty-six species in all. See Bird list at Emeryville Shoreline Bird List 12/5/14.