Climate Adaptation

CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Six tons of elephant ivory crushed to dust by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A must see.

In three parts, The Sacramento Bee breaks open a horrible truth of wildlife protection: 10’s of thousands of animals are being indiscriminately killed.

The killing agency: Wildlife Services’ brutal methods leave a trail of animal death

(S)trangled in a neck snare, was one of the most majestic birds in America, a federally protected golden eagle.* (*A golden eagle is different than a bald eagle. See here.)

"I called my supervisor and said, ‘I just caught a golden eagle and it’s dead,’ " said Strader. "He said, ‘Did anybody see it?’ I said, ‘Geez, I don’t think so.’

"He said, ‘If you think nobody saw it, go get a shovel and bury it and don’t say nothing to anybody.’ "

"That bothered me," said Strader, whose job was terminated in 2009. "It wasn’t right."

The story gets even more devastating. Click here for Part I.

Some highlights:

• With steel traps, wire snares and poison, agency employees have accidentally killed more than 50,000 animals since 2000 that were not problems, including federally protected golden and bald eagles; more than 1,100 dogs, including family pets; and several species considered rare or imperiled by wildlife biologists.

• Since 1987, at least 18 employees and several members of the public have been exposed to cyanide when they triggered spring-loaded cartridges laced with poison meant to kill coyotes. They survived – but 10 people have died and many others have been injured in crashes during agency aerial gunning operations over the same time period.

• A growing body of science has found the agency’s war against predators, waged to protect livestock and big game, is altering ecosystems in ways that diminish biodiversity, degrade habitat and invite disease.

Barred owls vs spotted owls, and the controversy and challenges of conserving the Northern Spotted Owl.

Shooting Barred Owls to Save Spotted Owls

Controversial, but it works.

Barred owls shot by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in order to save populations of the Northern spotted owl.

Forest managers in the Pacific Northwest are facing a tough decision. Environmentalists shut down logging in the national forests in the1980s and 1990s in order to save the Northern spotted owl. Considered an indicator species by biologists, meaning that a given species is studied and assumed to be indicative of the health of species throughout the ecosystem, this sensitive owl needs old growth forest to survive. Overlogging and deforestation sent spotted owl numbers plummeting. Federal courts forced the government to list the owl under the Endangered Species Act, which closed off the remaining old growth forest in the Northwest to logging.

In the last 20 years, spotted owl numbers have not recovered. This is largely because of the arrival of the more aggressive and closely related barred owl. Many scientists believe the barred owl is little different from the spotted owl, perhaps only separated by a few thousand years of living in different forests. The natural westward migration of the barred owl has threatened spotted owl populations both because the barred owl both mates with spotted owls and often eats them.

In response, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made the decision to start shooting barred owls in order to protect the spotted owl.

Anonymous asked: Hi, Michael - I noticed your post on “Great News! The DOI incorporates adaptation!” I work for a DOI agency, and am curious about the FWS approach to recovery of the northern spotted owl - this recovery plan includes a proposal to consider shooting barred owls based on a lot of assumptions, and will release a draft EIS on a research proposal this spring to do just that. I am trying to figure out how killing one species that may be expanding due to climate change is an “adaptation strategy” - it seems about as productive as killing California sea lions in the Columbia River because they kill salmon - that, by the way congregate at the base of dams that we built. Thoughts? Do a google search and you will find a few articles and public response to the proposal. I appreciate your optimism, but I am not so sure these agencies even know what adaptive management is. or means.

Thank you for the kind words and especially your confidence in my ability to respond to such a controversial issue. The issue, as I understand it, is whether the barred owl should be controlled as an invasive species in order to protect the spotted owl, an endangered species? 
 Spotted owl chicks.

The issue did get a lot of attention in 2009, when mainstream environmental media picked up the story. For example, Smithsonian Magazine wrote about it over two years ago, in an excellent piece called, The Spotted Owl’s New NemesisAn epic battle between environmentalists and loggers left much of the spotted owl’s habitat protected. Now the celebrity species faces a new threat—a tougher owl. 

The (rather meandering) article describes the history of the spotted owl, and tries to position the bird as the ultimate yardstick for measuring endangered species management and policy.

The spotted owl has been controversial for decades, and management of the species has largely failed, 

…northern spotted owls continue to move ever closer to extinction. Populations have been virtually eliminated in British Columbia, are declining at a rate of 7%/ year in Washington and are declining at an annual rate of 4% over their entire range. Source

Audubon Portland reluctantly supports the EIS to manage the barred owl, 

…the highest priority must be placed on preventing the extinction of species even to the degree that this entails lethal control of other protected species. To that degree we support moving forward with the EIS, but will not take a final position on lethal control until we are able to fully evaluate the different options presented. We must see that the fundamental cause of spotted owl populations declines, loss of critical habitat, is being adequately addressed, that lethal control of barredowls, in addition to habitat protection and restoration, is a necessary condition for spotted owls to recover, and that such an approach is practicable and will substantially improve the spotted owl’s chances for survival. 

That’s the background. With respect to whether this falls under the category of a climate adaptation adds a new layer of paradox. If the barred owl is indeed migrating to other areas due to climate change, the DOI and the FWS must show this is the case in the EIS. If they do, that will open the doors for many, many lawsuits against those that caused climate change in the first place. My understanding is that causal lawsuits are nearly a requirement of the ESA (I can’t be sure, at this point).

I need more information. It seems like the DOI/FWS can manage the barred owl under traditional invasive species management tools in order to protect an endangered species. In their EIS, they have to show that the owl did migrate and therefore causes harm to the spotted owl, but (I believe) not the reason why it migrated

Back to you - does the EIS mention climate change as a cause for the barred owl to migrate?

Thanks for the thought provoking question!

m

I didn’t know there was a Polar Bear Rug trade…

Polar bears are in big trouble from accelerating Arctic warming and a vanishing sea-ice habitat. This year’s skyrocketing fur prices and trophy hunting are also taking a devastating toll. Polar bear sport-hunting and the trophy trade are prohibited in the United States, but the international trade in polar bear parts is alive and well.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now deciding whether it will move to protect polar bears under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. At the last round of CITES negotiations, the Service led the charge to ban all commercial trade in polar bear parts — a move Canada blocked. The agency is now “undecided” on its position for the upcoming CITES meeting.

Canada still kills around 500 bears annually and leads the world in exporting rugs and hunting trophies. As polar bear numbers plummet under pressure from climate change, the Canadian territory of Nunavut quadrupled its hunting quota this season.

Tell the Service to take a stand against this excessive killing, stop the international trade in polar bear parts and lead the world in the bears’ protection.

Click here to find out more and take action.

If you have trouble following the link, go to http://action.biologicaldiversity.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=10286.

National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy Now Available for Comment

In partnership with state, tribal, and federal agency partners, the Obama Administration released the first draft national strategy to help decision makers and resource managers prepare for and help reduce the impacts of climate change on species, ecosystems, and the people and economies that depend on them. The draft National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, is available for public review and comment through March 5th. Comments can be submitted online and or by mail to the Office of the Science Advisor, Attn: National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203. In addition, there will be five public information sessions and two webinars to provide details and encourage dialogue on the strategy and its development. To register for these meetings and for more information on the draft strategy and public comment process, visit: www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov.

More than 250 comments were received during the 30-day public comment period on the proposed expansion. Only 18 comments opposed the amended regulations.

This is why I promote writing your representative and commenting on draft policies. Writing works. Only 18 letters were received in opposition of the FWS expanding hunting and fishing in 10 pristine wild-life refuges. Refuges are set aside by the Federal Government as protectionist sanctuaries for wild-life and habitat, not to be trammeled by the public nor hunters and fisherman. I’m not against hunting and fishing. I’m against f*cking with the intent of creating wild-life refuges.

USFWS Expands Hunting and Fishing Opportunities on 10 Refuges Across the Nation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the opening of Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota to big game hunting of deer and upland game hunting of turkey for the first time, while expanding hunting and fishing activities at nine other refuges. Notice of the final 2011-2012 Refuge-Specific Hunting and Sport Fishing Regulations published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2011.   

More than 250 comments were received during the 30-day public comment period on the proposed expansion. Only 18 comments opposed the amended regulations.    

“The National Wildlife Refuge System, a vital part of our shared natural heritage, offers Americans more than 320 hunting programs across the country. The Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to these programs – especially for youth and those with disabilities – wherever they are compatible with refuge purposes,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.

Among the changes are:    

While definitions of hunting categories vary by refuge and state, migratory bird hunting generally includes ducks and geese. Upland game hunting may cover such animals as game birds, rabbit, squirrel, opossum and coyote. Big game hunting may include such animals as wild turkey, deer and feral hogs. 

The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 directs the Service to permit hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation where they are compatible with refuge purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is offered on more than 300 national wildlife refuges. Fishing is offered on more than 270 national wildlife refuges. Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national wildlife refuges includes wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation.

To find hunting programs offered in the National Wildlife Refuge System, please visit:  http://www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/.

To find the final regulations, please visit: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-09-09/pdf/2011-22752.pdf.

US Fish and Wildlife releases Land-based Wind Energy Guidelines

Guidelines for siting wind turbines with respect to the:

  • Migratory Birds Treaty Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • and both the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Acts

The guidelines encourage developers and cities to take a tiered approach to building wind turbine systems in order to reduce bird collisions, minimize environmental damage while clearing land, consider impacts on immediate ecosystems from building a turbine, and monitoring the success of the project after it’s been built.

Summary here. Guidelines, here (PDF).

UPDATE: My concern, as a city planner, is with safety. Apparently they’ve exploded. I wrote about exploding turbines, here.