Opinion | To Nurture Nature- Neglect Your Lawn – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By Margaret Renkl
Contributing Opinion Writer

April 15, 2019

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Wildflowers and weeds in lawns attract pollinators.
Credit
Getty Images

Image
Wildflowers and weeds in lawns attract pollinators.CreditCreditGetty Images
NASHVILLE — “Nothing is so beautiful as Spring,” the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush.” I say that poem to myself every day now because I can’t think of any place more beautiful than the American South in springtime. The flowering trees — dogwoods and redbuds and serviceberries, the crab apples and peaches and cherries — are in full glory, and the woody shrubs, cascading with blossoms, are like something out of a fairy tale: forsythia and quince and lilac and bridal veil spirea. Every time it rains here, the streets are paved with petals.

But the flowers I love best are the tiny ones, so tiny they’re mostly invisible from a car window. Exquisite little flowers, most of them smaller than my pinkie fingernail, are blooming all around my house right now, and they have wonderful names: woodland violet, spring beauty, daisy fleabane, pitcher’s stitchwort, bird’s eye speedwell, yellow wood sorrel, purple dead nettle, creeping Charlie, stickywilly, dandelion and a host of others I can’t name.

Most people call them weeds. Unlike Hopkins, most people don’t love them.

A few of these flowers aren’t native to Tennessee, and some of the non-natives can be invasive. Those I pull up or mow under, but the others are beneficial, early-blooming wildflowers that pollinators love. Long before my actual pollinator garden is lush with cultivated flowers, the flowers I didn’t plant are blooming, an ankle-high meadow growing in the place where most Americans grow grass — or try to grow grass. Wildflower seeds are carried on the wind, on the coats of wild animals and in the digestive tracts of birds. Anybody who’s paying attention would see them for the gifts they are: flowers that arrive, through no effort at all, to feed the bees and the butterflies.

But Americans generally aren’t paying attention. Too enraptured with the idea of a lawn that unrolls from the street to their very door, a carpet of green that remains green even when grass is supposed to be dormant, they see these homely little wildflowers as intruders, something to be eradicated.”

Opinion | Why Are We Still Slaughtering the American Bison? – The New York Times

By Richard Conniff
Contributing Opinion Writer

March 30, 2019

Bison in Yellowstone National Park.CreditCreditJosh Haner/The New York Times

“In a 120-acre pasture on an Indian reservation in northeastern Montana, five prime examples of America’s national mammal rumble and snort. They shake their enormous heads and use them to plow aside the snow to get to their feed. In the night, I like to think, they put those shaggy heads together to ruminate on the weird politics of the American West and blast clouds of exhausted air out their shiny nostrils.

These five, all males, arrived last month from Yellowstone National Park, the last great refuge of the wild bison that once dominated the American landscape from Pennsylvania to Oregon. Their arrival marks the beginning of what will ostensibly become a pipeline sending surplus bison from Yellowstone out to repopulate portions of their old habitat.

Since 2000, it has been the custom to send 600 or 1,000 prize Yellowstone bison to slaughter every year at about this time to keep the park’s booming population at roughly 4,000 animals. The meat goes mainly to tribal nations. Even so, the culling is perverse and wasteful: Yellowstone is home to genetically pure wild bison, coveted by national parks, Native American tribes and conservation groups across the West.

But Yellowstone is also home to a notorious disease called brucellosis, dreaded by cattle ranchers everywhere. And while Congress in 2016 designated the American bison the national mammal, everyone knows that title comes with fine print reading “other than cattle.” And when it comes to cattle — a species that is not native to North America — the politics always gets weird.”

The Vanishing Flights of the Monarch Butterfly – By Sue Halpern| The New Yorker

By Sue Halpern5:00 A.M.

“Monarch butterflies east of the Rockies typically start the journey in Canada and the upper Midwest, aiming for the Oyamel-fir forests in Mexico’s Transverse Neovolcanic Mountains.Photograph by Sylvain Cordier / Getty
Walking around my family’s property in upstate New York last summer, I noticed something I hadn’t seen in years: scores of monarch butterflies flying around the milkweed that rings the perimeter of the yard. Six months later, at the end of January, biologists attending the Trinational Monarch Science Meeting, in Mexico City, confirmed what I and many others had been seeing throughout the summer and fall: the eastern monarch population was a hundred and forty-four per cent larger than it had been a year earlier. The announcement offered a modicum of hope amid dire warnings of mass extinctions and ecological catastrophe. Just two weeks earlier, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation had issued a finding that the monarch population west of the Rockies dropped by around ninety per cent in the past year and is on the verge of collapse.

Monarch butterflies migrate. Though they weigh less than a gram, they travel thousands of miles each fall to overwintering sites that provide the right microclimate to enable them to survive for months with little food or water. To track these migration patterns, citizen scientists have been gluing small tags on monarchs’ wings since the nineteen-fifties. The data from recovered tags is continually overlaid on maps that show where the butterflies are going and where they are coming from. That’s how we now know that monarchs east of the Rockies typically start the journey in Canada and the upper Midwest, aiming for the Oyamel-fir forests in Mexico’s Transverse Neovolcanic Mountains. In the spring, the butterflies lay eggs in Texas before dying; successive generations move northward in a kind of relay race that follows the proliferation of milkweed, their host plant. Monarchs that begin their journey west of the Rockies do something similar: after wintering on the coast of California, shielded by stands of eucalyptus or Monterey pine, they move inland to the Central Valley, but also north to Washington State and southern British Columbia, and to Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, and possibly Montana.

One day in July, walking around our pond as my dog hunted for frogs, I watched two monarchs mate overhead, and, when they separated, I followed the female as she laid an egg on the underside of a nearby milkweed leaf. Milkweed is the monarch’s host plant because it contains a toxin that is poisonous to the butterfly’s predators. Monarch caterpillars chew the leaves and ingest the poison, which will protect the butterflies that they eventually become. I took the leaf with the egg and brought it inside.”

Source: The Vanishing Flights of the Monarch Butterfly | The New Yorker

Why a Border Wall Could Mean Trouble for Wildlife – By John Schwartz – The New York Times

John Schwartz
By John Schwartz
Jan. 24, 2019

“As the fight continues over President Trump’s demand to extend the border wall between the United States and Mexico, one thing is clear: Whatever the wall’s effect on immigration might be, it would have an impact on the environment of the borderlands.

About 650 miles of border wall already exist along the 2,000-mile boundary between the two countries. Most of it has been built on federal land where the terrain provides no natural barrier. Mr. Trump has called for a 1,000-mile wall, which would extend farther across land that includes important habitats for wildlife.

A Customs and Border Protection policy says the agency “will integrate environmental stewardship and sustainability practices into operations and activities.” But Congress has given the agency the power to waive environmental protections like the Endangered Species Act. Such laws could require the government to produce an in-depth environmental impact analysis of a new project, develop less-damaging alternatives and perform environmental monitoring after construction.

A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection was unavailable because of the partial government shutdown, a result of the political standoff over funding for the wall.

An article published last year in the journal Bioscience, which has been signed by more than 2,900 scientists, said the administration’s plan would “threaten some of the continent’s most biologically diverse regions” by blocking free movement of many species and contributing to flooding. More than 1,500 native animal and plant species would be affected by the wall, the paper said, including 62 listed as endangered or vulnerable.

Here are some of the possible effects that an extended border wall could have on wildlife.

Animals would be cut off
An extended border wall would impede the movement of many species and would put creatures already under pressure in peril.”

Help Birds Survive the Winter by Skipping Fall Yard Work – by Sara Burrows


“There are a billion fewer birds in North America than there were 40 years ago, and a fifth of the bird species on the continent are listed as “vulnerable” to population collapse over the next few decades.

You can help many of them survive the winter by putting down the garden tools and going easy on yard work this fall, the Audubon Society says.

“Messy is definitely good to provide food and shelter for birds during the cold winter months,” says Tod Winston, Audubon’s Plants for Birds program manager.

Here are the Audubon Society’s top 5 tips for helping them make it ’til spring:

Save the seeds. Some tidy gardeners might snip the stems of perennial flowers in the fall. But the seed heads of coneflowers, Black-Eyed Susans, and other native wildflowers provide an excellent source of winter calories for birds.”

Source: Help Birds Survive the Winter by Skipping Fall Yard Work

The Race for Alaskan Oil: 6 Key Takeaways – By Steve Eder and Henry Fountain – The New York Times

By Steve Eder and Henry Fountain
Dec. 3, 2018

“FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most pristine landscapes in the United States. But that may soon change as the Trump administration seeks to exploit an untapped trove of oil beneath its coastal plain.

Since Congress approved a measure last December to open the coastal plain to oil exploration, the Department of the Interior has been charging ahead with a plan to sell drilling leases as early as next year. Trucks weighing 90,000 pounds could begin rolling across the tundra even before then to conduct seismic tests that help pinpoint oil reserves.

The hurried approach has alarmed some government specialists and environmentalists, who say that risks to wildlife and damage to the tundra are not being taken seriously enough. And it comes as the Trump administration moves more broadly to exploit fossil fuels in Alaska and beyond, erasing restrictive policies that were designed to protect the environment and address global warming.

The New York Times examined how, in the space of about a year, the refuge’s coastal plain — known as the 1002 Area — went from off-limits to open for business. Here are six takeaways.”

Drilling in the Arctic: Questions for a Polar Bear Expert – By Henry Fountain and Steve Eder – The New York Times

By Henry Fountain and Steve Eder
Dec. 3, 2018

Andrew Derocher is a biologist at the University of Alberta who has researched polar bears for more than three decades. He is also a volunteer adviser to Polar Bears International, a conservation group.

He discussed the status of polar bears in the Arctic amid a warming climate, and the potential impact of oil and gas exploration. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Worldwide in the Arctic, there are roughly 25,000 polar bears in what scientists consider to be 19 subpopulations. Over all, how are they doing?

A. People assume that because we’re concerned about polar bears from a conservation and management perspective, that all polar bears must be doing terribly. That’s not the case. Polar bears are doing just fine in many parts of their distribution, and with 19 different populations around the Arctic, we have 19 different scenarios playing out.

. . . .    The interview ended:

What do scientists know about the impact of oil and gas exploration and production on polar bears?

One of the things that’s pretty cool about bears in general and polar bears in particular is each bear has an individual behavior pattern, or personality, if you want to call it that. Some bears just don’t seem to care — they are just not worried by people, not worried by snow machines or all-terrain vehicles or trucks going by. Yet others are extremely wary, don’t like it and will move away quickly from disturbance.

By and large, I think polar bears are fairly robust to disturbance, but once they have small cubs they tend to be quite timid.

One of the concerns we have is den abandonment. If you harass a bear around a den, there’s a greater likelihood that she will leave it with her cubs. And that is not a good thing. Young cubs are not that well developed and rely on the dens for protection. Moving them around is never a good idea.

We have to accept at least the basic premise that disturbance is not going to be beneficial for the bears. Then the question is, just how bad is it going to be? That’s difficult to say. But anything that adds on to the current impacts of sea ice loss is not going to be good for the population.”

Henry Fountain covers climate change, with a focus on the innovations that will be needed to overcome it. He is the author of “The Great Quake,” a book about the 1964 Alaskan earthquake. @henryfountain 

Your Children’s Yellowstone Will Be Radically Different – by Marguerite Holloway – The New York Times

“In the United States, Yellowstone National Park is the only place bison and wolves can be seen in great numbers. Because of the park, these animals survive. Yellowstone was crucial to bringing back bison, reintroducing gray wolves, and restoring trumpeter swans, elk, and grizzly bears — all five species driven toward extinction found refuge here.

Bison in Yellowstone.
But the Yellowstone of charismatic megafauna and of stunning geysers that four million visitors a year travel to see is changing before the eyes of those who know it best. Researchers who have spent years studying, managing, and exploring its roughly 3,400 square miles say that soon the landscape may look dramatically different.

Over the next few decades of climate change, the country’s first national park will quite likely see increased fire, less forest, expanding grasslands, shallower, warmer waterways, and more invasive plants — all of which may alter how, and how many, animals move through the landscape. Ecosystems are always in flux, but climate change is transforming habitats so quickly that many plants and animals may not be able to adapt well or at all.

Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872, is one of the Unesco World Heritage sites threatened by climate change. It is home to some of the country’s oldest weather stations, including one at Mammoth Hot Springs. Data from the park and surrounding area has helped scientists understand and track climate change in the Western United States.

Since 1948, the average annual temperature in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem — an area of 34,375 square miles that includes the park, national forests, and Grand Teton National Park — has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers report that winter is, on balance, 10 days shorter and less cold.”

Lawmakers- Lobbyists and the Administration Join Forces to Overhaul the Endangered Species Act – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The Endangered Species Act, which for 45 years has safeguarded fragile wildlife while blocking ranching, logging and oil drilling on protected habitats, is coming under attack from lawmakers, the White House and industry on a scale not seen in decades, driven partly by fears that the Republicans will lose ground in November’s midterm elections.

In the past two weeks, more than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives and amendments designed to weaken the law have been either introduced or voted on in Congress or proposed by the Trump administration.

The actions included a bill to strip protections from the gray wolf in Wyoming and along the western Great Lakes; a plan to keep the sage grouse, a chicken-size bird that inhabits millions of oil-rich acres in the West, from being listed as endangered for the next decade; and a measure to remove from the endangered list the American burying beetle, an orange-flecked insect that has long been the bane of oil companies that would like to drill on the land where it lives.

“It’s probably the best chance that we have had in 25 years to actually make any substantial changes,” said Richard Pombo, a former congressman from California who more than a decade ago led an attempt to rethink the act and is now a lobbyist whose clients include mining and water management companies.”

 

David Lindsay:
Ouch. It all sounds so good, but it is rotten. Here is a comment I strongly endorse:
et.al.nyc
great neck new york5h ago
Times Pick
This “anti-science” Republican administration does not understand how species are inter-related. If one species is being polluted to extinction, it follows this will also affect humans, especially infants and children. We may choose to compensate landowners and industries, but there is no way to compensate a child sickened by changes to our ecosystem. These species are simply the “canaries in the coal mine”.

Reply446 Recommended

Orcas of the Pacific Northwest Are Starving and Disappearing – The New York Times

By Jim Robbins
July 9, 2018
“SEATTLE — For the last three years, not one calf has been born to the dwindling pods of black-and-white killer whales spouting geysers of mist off the coast in the Pacific Northwest.

Normally four or five calves would be born each year among this fairly unique urban population of whales — pods named J, K and L. But most recently, the number of orcas here has dwindled to just 75, a 30-year-low in what seems to be an inexorable, perplexing decline.

Listed as endangered since 2005, the orcas are essentially starving, as their primary prey, the Chinook, or king salmon, are dying off. Just last month, another one of the Southern Resident killer whales — one nicknamed “Crewser” that hadn’t been seen since last November — was presumed dead by the Center for Whale Research.”