Saturday, July 28, 2007

the "ledge" and its inhabitants

A trip today to Oakfield Ledge State Natural Area in Fond du Lac County led to a walk through the rich woodland at the top of "the ledge" - the long outcropping of dolomite that is called the Niagara Escarpment, and which stretches from southeastern Wisconsin, up along the Door peninsula, and ultimately all the way to Niagara Falls. The cliff of dolomite that forms "the ledge" in Dodge, Fond du Lac, Calumet, Brown, and Door counties harbors a wonderful plant community in some places, especially as in this state natural area. The last photo above shows the purple-stemmed cliff-brake Pellaea atropurpurea - a small cliff-dwelling fern that is a species of special concern, growing amid moss and just below an overhanging red-cedar.

The birdlife in the surrounding woodland includes Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Am. Robin, Northern Flicker, House Wren, Black-capped Chickadee, Baltimore Oriole, and Blue Jay - all common species, but in a decidedly "uncommon" place. For more about this state natural area, see:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Protect the Alaskan population of the Yellow-billed Loon

Please help protect the AK population of the Yellow-billed Loon. Go to and fill out the online form to assist in the process of obtaining protection for this species through the ESA. Researchers believe only ~ 3700 exist in the Western Arctic Reserve and northern Alaska. Sending the online form takes less than 2 minutes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

International bird conservation news; Wisconsin DNR news, WI State Natural Areas, etc.


See updates on international bird conservation news at the site of BirdLife International:

At the closer-to-home level, see Wisconsin DNR weekly news at:


Inspiring places:

Some of the best news in Wisconsin concerns the addition of many more new State Natural Areas (SNAs) within the past year. See more about this, plus links to information about all of the SNAs, maps and more, at:

I was in and on the edge of one of my favorite SNAs this weekend, Newport Conifer-Hardwoods SNA, which is within the boundaries of Newport State Park. See more about this lush place at:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Earth Charter news --- and publication available online

Toward a Sustainable World: The Earth Charter in Action was published in 2005 by the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in the Netherlands. In addition to this book being sold around the world, it is also available as a download, chapter by chapter, at the Earth Charter website. Go to and scrol down to links to the individual chapters.

About the Earth Charter

"The Earth Charter is a widely recognized, global consensus statement on ethics and values for a sustainable future. It has been formally endorsed by over 2,400 organizations, including global institutions such as UNESCO and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). A short history:

The World Commission on Environment and Development (aka "the Brundtland Commission") called for "a universal declaration" and "new charter" to set "new norms" to guide the transition to sustainable development. (Our Common Future, 1987)

A draft UN Earth Charter was developed for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but the time for such a declaration was not right. The Rio Declaration became the statement of the achievable consensus at that time.

In 1994, Maurice Strong (Secretary-General of the Rio Summit) and Mikhail Gorbachev, working through their organizations (Earth Council and Green Cross International respectively), restarted the Earth Charter as a civil society initiative. The initial drafting and consultation process drew on hundreds of international documents.

Messrs. Strong and Gorbachev convened an independent Earth Charter Commission in 1997 to oversee the final development of the text and to come to agreement on a global consensus document.

After numerous drafts and after considering the input of over 5,000 people, the Earth Charter Commission came to consensus on the Earth Charter in March, 2000, at a meeting held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The Earth Charter was later formally launched in ceremonies at The Peace Palace in The Hague.

Over the next five years, a formal endorsement campaign attracted over 2,000 organizational endorsements, representing millions of people, including numerous national and international associations, and ultimately global institutions such as UNESCO and IUCN. Many thousands of individuals also endorsed the Earth Charter.

Efforts to have the Earth Charter formally recognized at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, 2002, came very close to success, resulting in numerous public statements of support from world leaders and heads of state.
The Earth Charter is now increasingly recognized as a global consensus statement on the meaning of sustainability, the challenge and vision of sustainable development, and the principles by which sustainable development is to be achieved. It is used as a basis for peace negotiations, as a reference document in the development of global standards and codes of ethics, as resource for governance and legislative processes, as a community development tool, as an educational framework for sustainable development, and in many other contexts. The Charter was also an important influence on the Plan of Implementation for the UNESCO Decade for Education on Sustainable Development." (see this at the original site, at ).

Barbara Kingsolver and the "Ethics of Eating"

From Speaking of Faith (see original link at )

"Barbara Kingsolver describes an adventure her family undertook to spend one year eating primarily what they could grow or raise themselves. As a citizen and mother more than an expert, she turned her life towards questions many of us are asking. Food, she says, is a 'rare moral arena' in which the ethical choice is often the pleasurable choice."

See more at the link above, including an audio interview with Kingsolver. Then see the website devoted to the book and year-long "experiment" in eating only home-grown or locally grown food, at:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Massachusetts Rep Markey asks FTC for rules on carbon offset market

From the Earth Portal (see original link at )

Markey asks FTC to develop carbon offset standards

July 19th, 2007
By Michael Burnham
E&E News: Buying and selling voluntary carbon offsets is a $100-million-a-year industry today, with few signs of slowing down. It’s also largely unregulated, with plenty of room for error.
But Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wants to change that and yesterday asked the Federal Trade Commission to come up with guidelines meant to “ensure voluntary carbon offsets are productive commodities, both for consumers and for the climate,” he said in a statement.
Markey’s letter asks FTC to look at how recycled products, for instance, are marketed to consumers and establish similar guidelines for marketing verifiable carbon offset products.
His announcement came after a House hearing in which lawmakers and industry experts said greater transparency and standardization tools are needed to police such offsets.
The industry has begun earnest efforts to police itself, but stakeholders who testified yesterday before the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming disagreed over how much government intervention may be needed to ensure that the public doesn’t lose confidence in offsets as a potential tool in a mandatory carbon cap-and-trade system.
“We need to bring order to this market, to ensure that consumers don’t get ripped off, that this sort of funding for carbon reductions isn’t wasted,” said Select Committee Chairman Markey, who supports legislation that would impose the most aggressive curbs on U.S. emissions. “The question is what kind of sheriff do we need.”
Unlike the European Union, the United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol and is not subject to a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions. E.U. electric utilities and other carbon-intensive industries must cut their emissions or buy offsets on a regulated market to stay below the cap, but U.S. firms may buy offsets voluntarily on a climate exchange or directly from an offset company or project developer.
Offset companies typically buy credits from developers who use the money to plant trees, improve a building’s efficiency or build low- or no-carbon renewable energy projects. The intermediaries then sell the credits to those who want to mitigate some or all of their emissions.
The World Bank projects that the voluntary market could swell to 400 million metric tons a year by 2010. Yet several recent news and nongovernmental organization reports have called into question the voluntary market’s credibility. Some companies are selling offsets based on projects that would have happened already, while other firms are selling the same offset several times over (Greenwire, Sept. 21, 2006).
The global voluntary offsets marketplace is developing in a “regulatory vacuum” today, World Resources Institute senior associate Derik Broekhoff told committee lawmakers.
“Carbon offsets are completely intangible products, and their value depends entirely on how they are defined, represented and guaranteed,” he added. “What the market lacks are common standards for defining and guaranteeing carbon offsets in order to assure consumers that they are getting what they pay for.”
The Switzerland-based International Emissions Trading Association is one of several nonprofit groups that are developing standardized auditing tools to prove that offset vendors’ supplies equal their sales and retired offsets are the same as those advertised.
The San Franciso-based Center for Resource Solutions, for example, is developing a “Green-e” label for offset providers that would show they have opened their books to an independent supply and sales audit. The label would also enable a buyer to see where its offset comes from (Greenwire, May 17).
Also in California, a new carbon offset program run by PG&E — called “Climate Smart” — will rely exclusively on the quasi-private California Climate Action Registry to verify offset projects the utility and its stakeholders might pursue to reduce the carbon dioxide output of its customers (Greenwire, July 5). The registry has in essence established its own standards (or protocols) to loosely govern the voluntary market.
Joseph Romm, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, applauded such auditing tools. However, he suggested that federal regulators should take the lead role in developing standards for voluntary offsets as a bridge to an eventual mandatory cap-and-trade scheme in the United States.
Executives whose companies sell offsets, meanwhile, debate how great of a regulatory role the government should play.
Russ George, president and CEO of the Foster City, Calif.-based offsets provider Planktos Inc., welcomed government intervention in the voluntary market as a way to bolster its credibility with consumers.
By effectively communicating how and where its emissions-reduction credits are derived, offset providers can improve the market’s credibility without government intervention, said Thomas Boucher, president and CEO of Charlotte, Vt.-based NativeEnergy LLC.
“The voluntary offset market at this point does not need government regulation,” added Boucher, who said his company sells offsets that meet the “additionality” rule, in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
While NativeEnergy is one of more than 50 companies that sell voluntary offsets today, the Center for American Progress’ Romm suggested that the number of such companies operating in the United States may decrease if carbon caps become a reality.
“Once a mandatory cap-and-trade system is in place, I believe that voluntary offsets marketplace will largely disappear,” Romm added. “People may still wish to purchase offsets to become carbon-neutral, but then they will almost certainly just purchase credits and allowances on the regulated traded market.”
George disagreed. He pointed to a thriving voluntary offsets market alongside the regulated E.U. cap-and-trade scheme.
“We’re not going to solve [climate change] if there are competing factions,” George added. “We need to look at all of the possible solutions as fast as we can.”

record numbers of autos made last year; and McKibben's new book

From the Worldwatch Institute:

"The world's auto manufacturers produced a record 67 million vehicles in 2006, putting more cars on the road than ever before, according to a new Vital Signs Update from the Worldwatch Institute. While global production grew 4 percent last year, China increased its production by nearly 30 percent, overtaking Germany to become the third largest producer. "America's car addiction is becoming a global phenomenon with no sign of reversing," says Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner, who authored the update."
Read the latest Vital Signs Update.


See Bill McKibben's newest book at:
I'm reading it now, and will write more about it when I've finished it. I would offer this preliminary comment: if you'd like to understand the future, read this book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Climate change effects on indigenous people

Some first-world folks seem to be unfazed by the threat that climate change poses to Earth. But these threats affect far more than bird populations, or glaciers.

Indigenous people around the globe are already feeling extreme pressures from climate change. Native people in the arctic and at high latitudes generally are among those already dealing with negative climate effects. Indigenous people living on low-lying oceanic island also are at risk. To read about these issues, here are a set of links to stories from around the world:

Global Warming Threatens Traditions of Indigenous Peoples


American Indigenous Peoples Share Stories of Climate Change

International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change Statement

How climate change hits India's poor

This final link is to a large file; use only if you have a high-speed connection. Indigenous People and Climate Change: a report from researchers at the University of Oxford and the Missouri Botanical Garden:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Inspiration Part II

Arne Naess is the Norwegian philosopher originally responsible for the set of ideas known as "deep ecology". He taught at the University of Oslo, was involved in environmental activism, and many years of scholarly work, including founding the journal Inquiry. He is now in his nineties. Read an inspiring essay about Naess, his alpine garden, and his life and work at This essay is by modern-day polymath, philosopher/musician/editor/translator David Rothenberg, author of Why Birds Sing, and editor of the Terra Nova series of books. From the essay: "Care for the nature in your midst and you will endeavor to live in a way that does not damage your own place in the scheme of things. Deep ecology is not the search for the pure, empty wildness far from your home. It's knowing how to tend the grounds of your home place, to trust the land that holds you up, to learn all the beings that share your place, and honestly find the right way to live."
Another recent inspiration for me is from southeastern Wisconsin's Cedarburg Bog. This 2500-acre wetland complex is " is one of the largest and most diverse wetlands in southern Wisconsin". I've been doing bird surveys for the UW-Milwaukee Field Station in the form of "point counts" here since early June; the photo above is of the array of plants (see small pitcher-plants [Sarracenia purpurea] and round-leaved sundew [Drosera rotundifolia] along with other species) found in a mound of sphagnum moss in the bog. See more about the bog at:

An antidote to despair

At times, if we are honest about our own feelings in response to ever-widening crises, we may feel despair. There are antidotes, however - one often noted is that the antidote to despair is action. Take some action - a good beginning is educating oneself on the issues facing us now (climate change, species extinctions, loss of biodiversity, not to mention severe human rights abuses, extreme poverty, etc.).

One important path out of temporary hopelessness is to pay attention to beauty - see it along the sidewalk, in the morning and evening sky, at the water's edge...and if you're fortunate enough to be outside of a city, or near a park within a city - look "in the green world". Maybe studying and watching birds might work for you...

There are other ways and means of coping with despair. Joanna Macy, activist, Buddhist scholar, pioneering deep ecologist, writer, ecophilosopher and teacher has developed methods of "despair and empowerment work" with her colleagues and workshop participants. "Given the widespread suffering of our time, as well as the dangers confronting us, sorrow arises, and fear and anger. "Pain for our world" is a normal, healthy response; but cultural, political, and psychological factors lead us to repress this pain--at enormous cost."

To learn more, see Joanna's website at: and her books, at:

Monday, July 9, 2007

more climate change links

See the website of The Pew Center on Global Cimate Change at This is an excellent place to link to news, background information, and sources for learning more about climate change.


The Institute for Bird Populations' page on climate research can be found at:


The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds also has a climate change page, at:

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Large Numbers of Dead Seabirds off Southeastern U.S. Coast

Surge of Dead Seabirds Alarms Scientists

July 04, 2007 — By Bruce Smith, Associated Press - CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Hundreds of dead seabirds that washed up along the Southeast coast in recent weeks apparently starved to death, but experts don't know why.
The deaths of the birds -- similar to gulls and called greater shearwaters -- have wildlife officials worried about possible changes in the ocean that could have affected the fish that the birds usually eat.

"It's got a lot of folks talking and wondering," said Jennifer Koches, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Is this a canary in the coal mine issue? Is there something that serious going on out in the ocean that it should be causing us serious alarm?"

An estimated 1,000 of the dead birds have been found from the Bahamas to Florida and north to the Carolinas, said Craig Watson, a wildlife biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service. About 160 have been found along the South Carolina coast from Hilton Head to Murrells Inlet. The birds, which feed on small fish, nest on islands off southern Africa and then migrate north during the summer to the ocean off Canada. Most of the dead birds are juveniles that were born this year.

"It does look like they are starving to death," Watson said. "They are extremely malnourished." The winds on the ocean could be pushing the birds off course where they find less to eat, he said. "The other thing is the forage fish they rely on may be unavailable to them for some reason," Watson said. "Is it because there is less out there? We don't know. We are hearing that off the coast of South Carolina it could be one of the worst years on record for forage fish."

Initial tests on the dead birds do not seem to indicate bird flu or some other disease. Al Segars, a state Department of Natural Resources veterinarian, said that dehydration also was a factor because seabirds get much of the water they need from the fish they eat.

There was a similar die-off two years ago when about 600 dead birds were found, Watson said. He said some other birds have also been found in recent weeks, but the majority are the shearwaters. There is always mortality among the young birds "but this appears to be a little more," Watson said. "There are millions of these shearwaters out on the ocean. I'm not sure an event like this would impact the population that greatly unless it happens year after year," he said. "But the bigger question is, 'Why is this happening?'"

Source: Associated Press

Saturday, July 7, 2007

UNEP Report on birds and climate change; other news

A relatively recent news release from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) entitled "Migratory Birds Severely Impacted by Climate Change" is available at:

This brief report mentions that 84% of the bird species listed by the Convention on Migratory Species may be affected by climate change, including the effects of changing water levels, "Mismatched food supplies", changes in the geopgraphic ranges of prey, and the increased frquency of storms.


A recent article ("Reasonable Expectations") on the spread of invasive plant species in Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, by Julia Solomon is at: This is an introductory article to a complete section on invasives.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news is at A recent meeting on polar bears involved "Delegations from the United States, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway met at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, June 26-28, to exchange information". Impacts of climate change and changes in extent of sea ice are agreed to be serious threats to polar bears.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Linking to some "good ideas"...

Here are some links to a set of valuable ideas, useful information, and background literature for more discussion.

A) In case you've never read about it, I strongly suggest learning about The Wildlands Project; go to: They're working on reconnecting wildlands from Canada into the United States to allow free movement of species (as well as genetic diversity within those species) across a very long montane corridor.

B) Every paper from the first ten years of the journal Landscape Ecology is now available online as pdfs, at:

C) The Worldwatch Institute has been at the leading edge of sustainability and environmental research for many years. See their site at:

D) Read about the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment at:

E) Go to the site of Harvard University's Center for Health and The Global Environment, at: They're doing some amazing work there.

F) Maybe this is saving the best for last in this section; see the website of the David Suzuki Foundation at:

While you're over at Harvard (see [E] above), see the excellent collection of wide-ranging information on religion and ecology at Harvard University's Forum on Religion and Ecology at:

Thursday, July 5, 2007

UW Botanist John Curtis: his legacy, and a follow-up

Pat Durkin column, from the Green Bay Press Gazette: Thank bookworm Curtis for planting seeds - July 5, 2007

One of the more ironic, if not moronic, comments often heard in our never-ending deer debates is that Mr. or Ms. Biologist is only "book smart" and needs to spend more time in the woods to see what's really going on.

Isn't it odd that anyone who has learned to read and write would mock information and education, the most precious, widely shared benefits a society provides? Granted, some bookworms need more sunlight and fresh air, but maybe their critics should spend more time with books and less time atop barstools. A little more reading might make them more receptive and perceptive when furthering their education in the woods.

No matter where you spend your free time, one book worth owning is "The Vegetation of Wisconsin" by John T. Curtis, a University of Wisconsin botanist who died 46 years ago this weekend — July 7, 1961, to be exact. Curtis compiled incredible amounts of information about our native plants and plant communities in his brief career and relatively short age. Fortunately for us, he understood the value of documenting and cataloging his observations so those who follow might benefit from his labors.

Curtis was 48 when cancer killed him. All that information he gathered would have died with him if not for books. Equally important, of course, is that later generations of botanists share Curtis' passion for applying the rigors of plant physiology to their work, and they continue building upon the foundations he laid.

During the late 1990s, for example, a team of UW botanists led by Tom Rooney and Don Waller found Curtis' original data sheets and punch cards he filled up from 1947 to 1960 to document the plant communities in 1,400 habitat sites across Wisconsin.

With fellow botanists Shannon Wiegmann and David Rogers, the UW team located 62 of Curtis' study sites in the forests of far north-central Wisconsin, as well as scattered sites in the western Upper Peninsula and Northeastern Wisconsin. Then, they spent lots and lots of time in the woods repeating Curtis' painstaking work.

When they finished, they compared and documented changes they found in the plant communities over the past 50 years and published their findings in "Conservation Biology." Several findings should interest deer hunters, bird watchers, tree huggers and anyone else who values Wisconsin's forests.

After reviewing the 62 sites, the researchers documented a nearly 20 percent loss of native plants, a slow rise in non-native plants, and less overall variety in plant species.

Not surprisingly, the biggest impacts were caused by white-tailed deer. Whitetails aren't known to run about the forest, shovels in hoof, replacing native plants with exotics, but their diet preferences determine which plants thrive or suffer.
As deer eat away vegetation that pleases their palate, the plants that take over are typically "generalists" such as native ferns, sedges and grasses. Deer turn up their noses at those plants. In addition, invasive plants like hemp nettle, orange hawkweed and Kentucky bluegrass also take hold.

The most intact, diverse plant communities remaining from Curtis' era grow where white-tailed deer are kept in check. The best examples are on Chippewa and Menominee Indian reservations, where deer numbers are usually half of what roams surrounding lands.

The most ironic finding was that two of the three study sites suffering the largest hits to plant communities were inside state parks, where no deer hunting was allowed. Imagine that. We set aside large areas to reduce human disturbance, but allow almost all recreation except hunting, and let plant communities take a pounding by hungry deer.
Those who protest every time the DNR opens a state park to limited deer hunting should keep that in mind.
But before anyone talks too smugly, they should realize few — if any — people would have noticed those shifts in the forest's plant communities if Curtis and his colleagues hadn't documented what they found 50 to 60 years ago.
Such knowledge is possible only through combined bookwork and legwork.

See the original online at

The Endangered Species list is itself endangered

Forwarded to the Bird Conservation Alliance (BCA) list by K. Suckling, Policy Director, Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson, AZ:

Los Angeles Times July 5, 2007
Critics say species list is endangered
Though the bald eagle has rebounded, others are dying off. Critics blame an agency that's underfunded and in turmoil.
By Margot Roosevelt

The bald eagle may be soaring back from near-extinction, but hundreds of other imperiled species are foundering, as the federal agency charged with protecting them has sunk into legal, bureaucratic and political turmoil. In the last six years, the Bush administration has added fewer species to the endangered list than any other since the law was enacted in 1973.The slowdown has resulted in a waiting list of 279 candidates that are near extinction, according to government scientists, from California's Yosemite toad to Puerto Rico's elfin-woods warbler. Beyond the reluctance to list new species, a bottleneck is weakening efforts to save those already listed. Some 200 of the 1,326 officially endangered species are close to expiring, according to environmental groups, in part because funds have been cut for their recovery."It's wonderful the bald eagle is recovering — one of the most charismatic and best funded species ever," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who now works for Defenders of Wildlife, an advocacy group. "But what's happening with the other species? This administration has starved the endangered species' budget. It has dismantled and demoralized its staff." Bryan Arroyo, acting assistant director of endangered species for the Fish and Wildlife Service, acknowledges a 30% vacancy rate in the program's staff, and the fact that the agency's top position has been left unfilled for more than a year."We have a national deficit, and we are in the midst of a war," he said. "We have to live within the president's budget."The Bush administration has added 58 species to the endangered list, 54 of those in response to litigation. By comparison, 231 mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, insects and plants were protected by the president's father, George H.W. Bush, during his four years in office.Since 2000, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budgets for the sorts of interventions that saved the bald eagle — reintroducing breeding pairs, guarding nests and acquiring land — have been slashed by 15% in real dollars. Bush's fiscal 2008 budget calls for an additional 28% in cuts.Meanwhile, the endangered-species staff is rife with infighting, according to a report last month by the Interior Department's inspector general. And recovery programs, listing decisions and efforts to remove wildlife from existing protections have been heavily influenced by Bush appointees with close ties to industries that have contested the law. Julie A. MacDonald, a deputy assistant secretary of the Interior who oversaw the endangered-species program, resigned last month after the inspector general found that she had ordered scientists to change their findings, and shared internal documents with lobbyists for agricultural and energy interests.MacDonald, who owns a Sacramento-area ranch with her husband, took a particular interest in California, forcing cutbacks in proposed habitat protection for several listed species, including the Klamath River's bull trout and the Southwestern willow flycatcher, a bird that ranges from New Mexico to Southern California. Last week, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) announced he would hold hearings on reports by the Washington Post that, in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney interjected himself into a dispute over Klamath River water flows. According to the Post, after Cheney objected to the amount of water withheld to preserve fish, it was diverted to irrigation and an estimated 70,000 salmon died, including a small percentage of coho, a species listed as threatened in the region."Vice President Cheney turned the science upside down for political reasons," said Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez). "They had to close the fishing season. Taxpayers shelled out $60 million for businesses and boats."Arroyo declined to discuss allegations of political intervention, but he defended efforts to ease restrictions overall. Endangered species protection "started as a heavy-handed regulatory program," he said. "If you tally the cost of implementing every recovery program now in place, it would cost billions of dollars — and the program will never have that much funding."The agency has reached out to states, private landowners and conservation groups, Arroyo said. "It is more effective to have 20 or 30 entities pursuing conservation of a species than one federal agency alone."Three-quarters of endangered species are on private property, and property rights advocates say that overly strict rules give landowners an incentive to "shoot, shovel and shut up" — as the saying goes in the fast-growing West — rather than submit to restrictions on ranching, farming or subdividing.Arroyo said the best way to prevent that was to work cooperatively, encouraging landowners to voluntarily conserve wildlife through grants and technical assistance.

For instance, Arroyo recalled that when he was a regional official in Texas, he helped teach ranchers to cut back junipers on their land to preserve habitat of the black-capped vireo, an endangered bird. "We didn't say, 'No cattle ranching,' " he explained.As for listing fewer species, the focus is on intervening before numbers dwindle, Arroyo said. "It's not that we don't want to list species. But if I don't have to put it on the list, then I don't have to recover it."One thing all sides tend to agree on is that the act has become a captive of litigation. Of the 58 species protected under Bush, 54 were listed as a result of lawsuits by environmental groups. Meanwhile, most litigation seeking to restrict the size of "critical habitat" — land on which imperiled wildlife depends — is brought by timber companies, farm bureaus, housing developers and energy companies. The Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, an industry-funded group, has brought suit to force a review of whether to delist 194 California species on the grounds that they may have recovered. To date, the Bush administration has taken 15 species off the endangered list — more than any other administration. Some were widely applauded, such as the bald eagle, whose removal was announced last week. Others, environmental groups contend, were politically driven, such as California's Sacramento splittail, a Central Valley fish that competes for water with farmers. "Court orders are the only thing that makes the agency take any action," said Kieran Suckling of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, an advocacy group. As for the public-private partnerships that Arroyo praises, much of that funding is being diverted to "facilitate massive energy development by conglomerates in Wyoming's Green River basin," Suckling charges.Arroyo sees it differently — the costs of restricting land use to save wildlife must also be considered. "We have to implement the act within the social and economic context in which we live," he said.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


That which you love, that which you hate, that which you fear, or that which you dream can change you. Or, of course, that which surprises you. I will try to share some of all of those here, along with bits and pieces of inspiration from friends, mentors, teachers and colleagues.

A lot of conservation news and discussion will find a place here, often focused on and around birds and the natural world, but not limited to those subjects. Occasionally something of a political nature, or a philosophical one, will creep in. There will be connections to ideas about beliefs.

The name of this blog: Back in the long ago, there was a band named Buffalo Springfield. If you remember Steve Stills singing "Bluebird", you'll remember him suggesting that a bluebird could laugh. Or cry. Which may be more likely, given our present circumstances.

Climate change will be a frequent topic here; what it may mean to the natural and human world, and how it will likely affect us and everything around us. So will ideas about social justice, because these things are connected.

To start us off in that direction, and in case you need a reference or background for future discussions on these topics, go to the American Bird Conservancy's Climate Change and Birds page: . It's a fine place to learn about how a changing climate will affect wild bird species and populations. Another good reference and set of background facts can be found at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center's page on "The effect of climate change on migratory birds", at:

My daughter called yesterday from Montana to tell me she had seen a Mountain Bluebird. I was grateful that she thought to tell me, grateful that there are Mountain Bluebirds for her to see, and hopeful - that there will always be.