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Southern California Conservationists Are Tied in a Long Battle With Crayfish

Crustacean invaders are choking out local species, amphibians especially at risk

The invaders began arriving in Southern California half a century ago. They lurk in ponds, slower streams, and creeks in the Santa Monica Mountains, prevailing over all the watershed area. A kind of ubiquitous omnivore, red swamp crayfish (procambarus clarkii) eat anything, ranging from plants to snails to amphibian and insect larvae. Experts say the invaders, originally from South Central United States and northeastern Mexico, could potentially choke out the ecosystem for every other species that calls Los Angeles County’s Malibu Creek home.

Gloved hand holding up a red crayfishPhoto by Yao LiIntroduced to California in the 1960s as bait for sport fishing, red swamp crayfish (procambarus clarkii) eat anything, ranging from plants to snails to amphibian and insect larvae.

Annie Mitoma, a student worker at Pepperdine University's volunteer center, took over the Malibu-based school’s crayfish removal program in the Autumn 2014 semester. During a field trip to Malibu Creek in October, Mitoma and the two other volunteers were accompanied by two technicians from Mountains Restoration Trust (MRT) — an organization founded 30 years ago to protect and restore the Santa Monica mountain area. In July  2014, the trust received $800,000 grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife  to eradicate crayfish in Malibu Creek watershed by March 2017.

Within three months, with the help of more than 400 volunteers, Mountains Restoration Trust has removed about 14,400 crayfish from Medea Creek and at least another 3,000 from upper Las Virgenes Creek, both of which are part of the Malibu Creek watershed, said Kyle Troy, one of the technicians. "It is a quite promising beginning,” she said “We hope there are more volunteers come to join us."

Troy put on the waterproof overalls and rubber boots, an outfit that made her look rather like Super Mario, waded into the stream, and picked up a minnow trap set there the day before. Inside were three crayfish, a big one and brick red colored and two small ones in drab grey. She pinched the big one on its back lightly. Its carapace and claws were covered in bumps, and its blue veins were visible under the tail. It feebly waved its narrow and long pincers in the air.

"Female, seven. Male, three. Male, three," she called out as she turned each one over and measured the length by a ruler. Each crayfish's gender could be easily identified …more

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Bobcats Are the Latest Victims of Rat Poison in California

Poisons meant to kill rodents are indiscriminately killing everything else, including birds and animals that prey on them

The recent deaths of three bobcats in Santa Cruz, CA are yet more tragic evidence of the toll rat poison is taking on our wildlife and how it has infiltrated the environment. One of the bobcats still had a young kitten with her, who ran off when Duane Titus, with Wildlife Emergency Services, approached them. The two other bobcats were hit by cars.

Bobcat in the wildPhoto by Dave HarperA wild bobcat in Contra Costa County. Most animals are not exposed to just one poison but a toxic cocktail of several different types of poison.

We know that when predatory animals — like bobcats, mountain lions, and birds of prey — eat poisoned rodents, they often bleed to death or become very ill. We also know that even if rat poison does not kill an animal directly, it can affect their health pretty seriously. Some of the sub-lethal effects include reduced oxygen supply, weakness, anorexia, depression, excessive thirst, liver damage, and increased bruising. The two bobcats that were hit by cars may have been weakened and slowed down due to the presence of anticoagulant poisons in their systems: Recently, several racehorses who had consumed just trace amounts of rat poison died of internal bleeding after exercise.

What impacts might rat poison have on a raptor — eagle, hawk, or owl — pursuing prey at high speed? A Cooper’s hawk killed in Berkeley a few years ago by a cat that was barely more than a kitten was probably weakened and downed in the first place, making it possible for such a small cat to catch it. That hawk tested positive for several different rat poisons. Most animals are not exposed to just one poison but a toxic cocktail of several different types of poison.

State and federal regulators have imposed new regulations limiting the types of rat poison that can be purchased over the counter. As of July 2014, Californians can no longer purchase “second generation” rat poisons at hardware and other stores; as of April 1, 2015, no one in the United States will be able to buy them over the counter. But two huge problems remain. Pest control companies and agricultural users were exempted and can still use the very worst poisons.

Regulators have stated that pest control companies use poison “more responsibly” than homeowners. While any …more

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Obama Attacks Republicans’ Climate Denial but Offers No New Green Initiatives

However, the President's State of the Union speech didn't didn't tout his “all of the above” energy strategy either

President Barak Obama insisted forcefully before his newly empowered opposition on Tuesday that he would hold the line against attacks on his domestic and international climate agenda. But even though he called out climate deniers once again, the president offered no concrete sign of new initiatives on the horizon in his remaining two years in power.

President Barak ObamaPhoto by David Souza/ “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists,” Obama said. “Well, I’m not a scientist, either.”

After repeatedly using his executive authority to advance climate measures, Obama pivoted in his State of the Union address to making sure that Republicans did not undo what he has sought to accomplish on climate change.

That crucially applies to the international arena, where Obama recommitted America to help lead efforts in forging an international climate deal.

“I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts,” Obama said. “I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action,” Obama said.

In the last 18 months, Obama has used his executive authority to introduce the first rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants, a joint US-Chinese emissions cutting deal, a pledge of $3bn to an international climate fund for developing countries and – just last week – new curbs on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

As on other high-visibility occasions, Obama used the speech to re-affirm climate change is occurring and to stick it to Republicans for climate denial. That will score Obama points with environmental groups heading into a year that set to culminate with climate talks in Paris.

In June 2013, when rolling out his climate action plan, Obama dismissed climate deniers as members of “the Flat Earth society”.

In Tuesday night’s address, he stepped on the Republicans’ new “I am not a scientist” meme, which casts doubt on climate change while avoiding outright denial.

In one of his best lines of the night, Obama said: “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists – that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.”

Calling out climate deniers – …more

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Canned Hunting and Cub-Petting are Big Business in South Africa

South African government must regulate this growing industry to protect lions from trophy hunters and over-eager tourists

It is difficult to imagine an Africa without one of its most popular and revered creatures, the lion. Known by many as the King of the Jungle, the lion has traversed the wide-open spaces of Africa for centuries, capturing the hearts and imaginations of people around the world. Unfortunately, lions no longer roam as freely as they once did.

 Lion CubPhoto by Tambako The Jaguar, on Flickr Canned hunting and cub-petting are deeply intertwined, part of a cyclical process that turns lions into profit in South Africa.

In the last fifty years alone, approximately 50 percent of Africa’s lions have disappeared. What has happened to them all? In South Africa, many have fallen victim to poachers. Recently, lions have also faced the threat of canned hunting — hunts in which animals are confined in an area from which they cannot escape — to increasingly detrimental effect. 

Not only is canned lion hunting legal in South Africa, it is a flourishing industry, popular especially amongst those who travel from outside the continent to shoot big game for trophy and sport. The industry is so popular, in fact, that in 2012, it generated approximately 807 million South African rand, roughly 70 million US dollars. Canned hunting is not the hunting of wild lions, however, but rather captive ones, and whereas trophy hunters often claim “fair chase” as a key element in their hunting activities, canned hunters simply pay to kill a lion in an enclosure.

The canned hunting industry has thrived in South Africa in large part because it is under-regulated. As Chris Mercer, co-founder of South Africa’s Campaign Against Canned Hunting, put it via email, “[The] government, to protect the canned hunting industry, has adopted a strained and unrealistic definition, based on silly permit conditions.” Essentially, anyone interested in bringing a lion trophy home through a canned hunt can do so, as long as they possess a permit, adhere to symbolic regulations, and have enough money to pay for the experience (some hunters pay as much as $38,000 to kill a lion).

Some hunters and wildlife conservation advocates argue that canned hunting can help conserve threatened species. That for every captive lion killed, a wild lion is saved. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute suggests that, “establishing captive populations for …more

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Why Is the FBI Harassing Activists in Cascadia?

Surveillance increases alongside environmental activism in the Pacific Northwest

This article originally appeared at

In August 2014, two activists with the environmentalist group Rising Tide spent a week riding the backwoods highways of Idaho monitoring a megaload — a big rig hauling equipment for processing tar-sands oil that’s wide enough to take up two lanes of road, too high to fit under a freeway overpass, can be longer than a football field, and can weigh up to one million pounds.

 MegaloadPhoto by Nicholas Brown A megaload in Missoula Montana. Megaloads are often moved at night to avoid traffic, questions, and complaints.

They had no idea that they would soon be wrapped up in a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe that encompassed three states and several environmentalist groups.

Helen Yost of Moscow, Idaho, and Herb Goodwin of Bellingham, Washington, have spent years travelling through the bioregion of Cascadia to halt megaloads, from Washington and Oregon to Idaho and up through Montana. They are used to harassment from law enforcement. That week, Goodwin said, the two were stopped on average twice a night, by law enforcement agencies ranging from state troopers to local police in Moscow and Standpoint, Idaho.

Usually carrying equipment to upgrade and expand tar sands mining in Alberta, Canada, megaloads make a torturous crawl along rural roads at night to avoid traffic, questions, and complaints. But activists like Goodwin and Yost have been remarkably successful at organizing the people in mountain country. In August 2013, more than a hundred people in Idaho participated in a four-day mobile blockade of a megaload on US 12 headed for the Nez Perce reservation. The Nez Perce Nation said the megaloads threatened treaty-reserved resources, historic and cultural resources, and “tribal member health and welfare.” Tribal chair Silas Whitman was one of the blockaders arrested, while activists from Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), the group Yost helped form, played important support roles.

Rising Tide North America’s network, spun out of the Earth First! grass-roots environmentalist movement in 2005, now spans the Cascadia bioregion, with chapters in Seattle, Spokane, Olympia, Bellingham, and Vancouver, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Moscow, Idaho; Missoula, Montana; and Vancouver, B.C. In the last six months, network members have collaborated on an average of a blockade per month, and have helped to spearhead the movement against fossil-fuel …more

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2014 Was the Hottest Year on Record

The past year was the 18th consecutive year in the US in which the annual average temperature was above normal

Climate scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the 2014 global temperatures today, and the news they delivered is a blow to climate deniers who argue that climate change-driven global warming isn’t happening.

The scientists revealed that 2014 was the hottest year in 134 years of record keeping, with seven of 12 months equaling or tying with previous global records for that month. In addition, seven consecutive months set new records for surface ocean heat, and December 2014 was the 358th consecutive month in which the combined global land and ocean surface temperatures was above average.

In the US the past year was the eighteenth consecutive year in which the annual average temperature was above normal. And 13 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred in the 21st century; the other two took place in 1997 and 1998, strong El Niño years. February 1985 was the last month where global temperature fell below the twentieth century monthly average.

“When we have major El Niños, there is a redistribution of heat from ocean to the atmosphere, so when you have an El Niño event you have very warm conditions,” said Thomas R. Karl, direcotr of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “This year we did not have significant El Niño.”

On a more local level, Alaska, Arizona, California, and Nevada all had their hottest year since records were kept. Denmark and Sweden had their warmest years on record, and Finland had its second warmest. Parts of Australia and Eastern Siberia also saw their warmest years.

“People are always asking, why do we think this is going on,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He said that they looked at multiple variables including volcanoes, weather patterns such as El Niño, land-use change, and greenhouse gas emissions. Of the latter, he said, they found a correlation between increases in emissions and higher temperatures.

“While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” he said. “The trends are continuing so we anticipate further records.”

In response to a question about whether the findings had caused the scientists to make any personal …more

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Major Disease Outbreaks are Inevitable in Our Increasingly Connected World

In Review: Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

The next big human epidemic may not come from your neighbor’s sniffles – it may come from a cave, a tree in a tropical forest, or a duck pond. Spillover poses this unique quandary: Diseases in wildlife are now able to spread across the whole human race, and if you catch one of these bugs, you are likely to die from it.

I burial boys, gli operatori incaricati di sepellire i morti di Ebola nel cimitero allestito a Kenema - foto di Luigi Baldelliphoto by Luigi Baldelli by Medici con lAfrica Cuamm, on FlickrAs we have seen with the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa, our modern transportation systems are excellent ways for virus or bacteria to roam throughout the world, invading new hosts and wreaking havoc.

Science writer David Quammen introduces us to the complicated origin and spread of “zoonosis” – diseases which originate in animals but can be passed along to humans. Some are well known, like AIDS and Ebola. Others are more rare and perhaps not as dangerous.

And of course, as with all good ghost stories, Quammen notes that there may be more contagions out there, incubating in animal populations, that can jump the human/animal barrier and cause frightening symptoms, suffering, and death. Especially since the human population is increasing and many people are moving into previously untouched habitats, such as tropical forests, which can be rich breeding grounds for germs and viruses.

And as we have seen with the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa, our modern transportation systems are excellent ways for virus or bacteria to roam throughout the world, invading new hosts and wreaking havoc.

 In Spillover, David Quammen follows researchers on the trail of
different zoonosis back to the origin of the outbreaks in remote places.

Quammen describes a number of zoonosis, including SARS, bird flu, and Lyme disease, which he has been tracking for years as a journalist for the National Geographic and other publications.

In Spillover, he follows researchers on the trail of different zoonosis back to the origin of the outbreaks in remote places – from …more

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