Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Death by design: National Park Service vs tule elk

Peter Byrne, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

Instagram users love the captive tule elk hoofing Tomales Point at the northern tip of Point Reyes National Seashore.

The sleek, befurred mammals seem to commune with tourists who stroll a well-traveled trail in the preserve. Tule elk are Yoda-like, with big, brown eyes. They trumpet, munch flowers and make love in harems.

According to a 1998 National Park Service brochure, “Given the mild climate and lush habitat of Tomales Point, the elk live in a virtual paradise.”

Let’s take a closer look. Using the fact-focusing lens of science, we learn that hundreds of tule elk inside the preserve are dying in agony from starvation and thirst and eating poisonous plants. They are trapped in an ecological hellscape operated by a bureaucracy that fences the animals away from forage and water for political reasons.

Read more at https://bohemian.com/death-by-design-how-the-national-park-service-experiments-on-tule-elk/

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State water regulators to consider emergency limits on as many as 2,400 Russian River users

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State regulators are considering sweeping drought emergency rules that would let them suspend the diversion of water from the Russian River by as many as 2,400 homes, businesses, municipal agencies and other users. The proposal, which would cover both the upper and lower parts of the watershed, could greatly extend the list of more than 900 water suppliers, agricultural producers and property owners already notified there has been too little rainfall for them to exercise their water rights this year.

The draft regulation goes before the state water board next Tuesday and could account for substantial monthly savings, depending when diversions are limited, Erik Ekdahl, deputy director of the state water board’s Division of Water Rights, said during a virtual Sonoma County Town Hall on the drought last week.

Those affected would include residents of both Sonoma and Mendocino counties, a region singled out by Gov. Gavin Newsom in April for being at particular risk of water shortage after two dry years because of its dependence on a reservoir system subject to rapid depletion in the absence of regular rainfall.

With storage in Lake Mendocino, the smaller of the reservoirs, diminishing by the day, state regulators are hoping they can slow its consumption by reserving withdrawals for those with the oldest, most senior water claims and, potentially, curtailing even them.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/state-water-regulators-to-consider-emergency-limits-on-at-least-1600-russi/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

Video: Recovery and resiliency in California salmonids

Friends of the Gualala River

Video: Friends of Gualala River (FoGR) celebrated Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2021, with a free webinar on salmonids presented by Dr. Jacob Katz, senior scientist with California Trout. Click on the image below to go to the FoGR website and watch the video.

California Trout is a non-profit dedicated to protecting and restoring the state’s 32 species of salmonid fish. Dr. Katz directs the organization’s Central California region where his work focuses on redesigning California’s antiquated water infrastructure to help restore habitat for declining salmonid populations.

Once, before the waters of the great Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers were dammed, impounded, pumped, and channeled into hundreds of miles of concrete canals in the state and federal water projects, millions of Chinook salmon swam upstream in spring and fall runs from the Pacific Ocean through the San Francisco Bay Delta to natal streams where they could spawn.

There, juvenile fish could hide from predators and feed off the rich supply of invertebrates found in the marshes and floodplains. Fattened and strengthened for the rigors of life in the ocean, they migrated back down the rivers and out to the Pacific for a period before returning to complete the cycle of life.

But today salmon teeter on the brink of extinction with their populations plummeting to a few thousand, their habitat severely reduced and degraded. Demands on water in the state are sky high, and water wars are protracted and unproductive.

Is the extinction of these iconic California natives inevitable? Or, could there be a possible solution in the notion of sharing water and habitat rather than fighting? Would flooded rice fields prove as rich a nursery as the marshes and floodplains of old? Would ranchers, farmers, and water districts be amenable to engineering a cooperative solution? California Trout and Dr. Katz seem to have found a way.

Here along the North Coast, the salmon and steelhead runs are also threatened and endangered. While our terrain and ecosystems differ from the Central Valley, the root problems are the same: extraction and degradation of water and natural resources are destroying the fish.

In the Gualala River watershed, there is the prospect of beginning salmonid restoration through the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy’s acquisition and management of the Mill Bend property in the estuary. State and federal regulators are interested. Intelligent stewardship means that much more will need to be done along the main stem of the river and upper portions of the watershed where the needs of fish will have to be integrated with working lands to reconnect and restore habitat.

Dr. Katz’s presentation is part of FoGR’s outreach program to educate the community about the extraordinary natural resources found within the Gualala River watershed and to increase awareness and commitment to its stewardship.

This presentation was hosted by Friends of Gualala River’s (FoGR) Education and Outreach Committee on Earth Day, April 22, 2021.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Eel River to some, Wiya’t to the tribe that fishes it

Arthur Dawson, PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Eel River runs through Lake, Mendocino, and Trinity counties before reaching the Pacific Ocean in southern Humboldt County. Its name was given by Josiah Gregg in 1850 as he was exploring and looking for land to settle. Coming upon a group of Indigenous Wiyot fishermen, he traded a frying pan for some Pacific lampreys, which he mistook for eels.

Those Wiyot fishermen had probably been up most of the night — a good time for catching lamprey. Some of the best fishing spots were in the breaking waves at the river’s mouth. Waving redwood-splinter torches over the water, they attracted the lamprey with the flames. With quick reflexes and a carved stick, they snatched them from the water. And because lampreys are so slippery, the Wiyot twirl them over their heads before setting them on dry ground — otherwise they can slide off back into the river.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/eel-river-to-some-wiyat-to-the-tribe-that-fishes-it/

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Op-Ed: New priorities needed for California’s next drought

Darius Waiters and Brandon Dawson, CALMATTERS

As California faces another dry year, the state will have to decide whether to allow the violation of water quality standards in the Delta.

A series of key decisions await Gov. Gavin Newsom as the state heads back into a potential drought.

So this seems like the right moment to review what happened last time: Water was prioritized for big agriculture at the expense of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, endangered species and California communities. The State Water Board, in a review of the drought of 2014-15, found operations “not sustainable.”

We hope Newsom will prevent a repeat of that disaster by setting new priorities for a prolonged drought: Protecting the human right to water for drinking and sanitation, protecting public health for those who live adjacent to our rivers, and protecting endangered species.

Sadly, the operation plans for the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project are starting to look like a repeat of 2014 and 2015. The projects plan to deliver 5 million acre-feet of water – 1 million from the SWP and 4 million from the CVP – from the Delta largely to corporate agribusinesses, regardless of the impacts to the Delta, people, fish and wildlife.

We are now hearing that the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation may petition the State Water Resources Control Board to waive water quality standards in the Delta again, as they did in 2014 and 2015.

Read more at https://calmatters.org/commentary/my-turn/2021/03/new-priorities-needed-for-californias-next-drought/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WildlifeTags , , ,

‘We’re getting hit left and right’: Dwindling salmon runs to restrict 2021 commercial season

Isabella Vanderheiden, THE TIMES STANDARD

Dwindling Chinook salmon runs have forced the Pacific Fishery Management Council to shorten the commercial salmon fishing season. The Sacramento Valley fall-run Chinook salmon runs are projected to be half as abundant as the 2020 season while the Klamath River fall Chinook abundance forecast is slightly higher than the 2020 but is still significantly lower than the long-term average.

During a press briefing on Friday morning, John McManus President of the Golden State Salmon Association said the added restrictions will deal a blow to commercial fishermen.

“You may wonder why we’re in this predicament this year, there are some near term and some longer-term reasons why but at the end of the day, we’re seeing a decline in our salmon runs here in the state of California,” McManus said. “In large measure, because of what’s happening in their freshwater habitat where they’re just not getting enough to give us healthy populations year in and year out.”

A normal salmon fishing season brings in about $1.4 billion statewide and employs approximately 23,000 people, McManus said.

“The salmon out of the Central Valley are caught in the ocean, not only off California but all the way up along the Oregon coast. This is a major economic shot in the arm for coastal communities and for inland communities as well,” he said.

According to the CDFW website, commercial salmon fishing typically opens on May 1 but this year the season is “closed in 2021” from the Oregon border down to Humboldt Bay’s south jetty.

Read more at: https://www.times-standard.com/2021/03/12/were-getting-hit-left-and-right-dwindling-salmon-runs-to-restrict-2021-commercial-season/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Habitats, Land Use, WildlifeTags , , , , , ,

“Apocalypse Cow:” Point Reyes National Seashore launches a propaganda war targeting independent journalism

Erik Molvar, COUNTERPUNCH

Grab your popcorn: The battle over livestock destruction of natural ecosystems at Point Reyes National Seashore is heating up. For years, conservationists have pointed out the ecologically catastrophic toll that beef and dairy ranching has been having on native coastal prairies, the wildlife that depend on these places, and public health and safety. As the news media has caught on, the tide of public opinion has turned against the livestock producers, in favor of protecting the very rare tule elk population and shifting management of the National Seashore away from livestock production toward public recreation and enjoyment. Now, a National Park Service unit is launching a propaganda war in a desperate effort to control the media narrative, and to cover up decades of laissez-faire mismanagement of livestock operations leasing Park Service lands on the National Seashore.

The flap centers around an investigative journalism piece titled “Apocalypse Cow: The Future of Life at Point Reyes National Park,” which ran in The Bohemian and the Pacific Sun, two local weekly newspapers that serve the counties surrounding Point Reyes National Seashore, and subsequently in Counterpunch. The article characterizes the Park Service analysis of environmental effects of cattle ranching on Point Reyes as “deeply flawed scientifically, culturally and ethically” and “politicized.” It’s a long and in-depth article, covering the politics of Point Reyes, and highlighting the ecologically harmful confinement of elk behind a massive fence on sometimes-waterless Tomales Point, the negative impact that cattle operations are having on climate change, commercial ranching’s destructive influence on rare and protected species of fish and wildlife, water contamination by livestock manure, and the contrast between coastal Miwok stewardship of Point Reyes’ native ecosystems and today’s destruction of those ecosystems at the hands of commercial ranching. Based on responses to the article, the locals seem to appreciate the insightful reporting.

The Park Service is doing its utmost to discredit the piece. On its webpage, “Frequently Asked Questions about the General Management Plan,” the Park Service has a section called “Corrections regarding misinformation published in the press.” The Park Service alleges errors; The Bohemian checked the verity of the article and stands behind it as factual reporting.

Read more at: https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/22/apocalypse-cow-point-reyes-national-seashore-launches-a-propaganda-war-targeting-independent-journalism/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Habitats, Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Park Service pushes back on ‘Apocalypse Cow’

Staff, THE NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

The Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) responded last week to an investigative report published in the North Bay Bohemian and Pacific Sun in early December.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, PRNS staff sent out an email newsletter titled “Corrections to Media Coverage on the General Management Plan Amendment” to an unknown number of recipients. The agency posted the same text to a Frequently Asked Questions page of its website under the subtitle “Corrections regarding misinformation published in the press.”

The newsletter presents itself as an effort to correct alleged “factual inaccuracies” in “Apocalypse Cow: The Future of Life at Point Reyes National Park,” an investigative article by Peter Byrne published in the Bohemian and Pacific Sun on Dec. 9, 2020. However, PRNS management’s statements about the facts presented in the article are demonstrably inaccurate.

Two month’s prior to the seashore park’s posting of these public facing messages, on Dec.15, PRNS’s Melanie Gunn emailed the Pacific Sun’s editors contesting the accuracy of several facts as reported in “Apocalypse Cow.”

The editors reviewed Gunn’s allegations and decided that the article was accurate. In a Dec. 21 email, news editor Will Carruthers informed Gunn that the article was factually correct and offered to participate in an electronic meeting with Gunn and Byrne to discuss the documentation of the facts.

Read more at: https://bohemian.com/park-service-pushes-back-on-apocalypse-cow/

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , ,

County residents asked to take down bird feeders, bird baths

Laura Hagar Rush, WINDSOR TIMES

While humans struggle with COVID-19, a migratory bird faces a different epidemic

On Feb. 8, California Fish & Game took the unusual step of asking residents of Sonoma County and several other counties to take down their bird feeders and bring in their bird baths because of an outbreak of salmonellosis among an innocuous little brown bird called the pine siskin.

Veronica Bowers of Native Songbird Care & Conservation in Sebastopol said the outbreak actually began in fall, but that it — like another outbreak we could name — has grown over the winter.

Bowers said that Sonoma County has its own very small population of pine siskins, but that the ones that are getting ill are pine siskins that have migrated south in the thousands from the boreal forests of Canada.

They’re coming in larger numbers than usual this year, a phenomenon called an irruption, and that’s often accompanied, she said, by a salmonellosis outbreak.

The pine siskins aren’t bringing the disease. Rather they’re picking it up from local birds when they congregate at bird feeders or when they use improperly-cleaned bird baths.

“There are a lot of wild birds who are carriers of it, and they just remain asymptomatic, but they’re shedding it by pooping at bird feeders and bird baths,” Bowers said. “There’s probably some immunity among our population of songbirds that are frequenting bird feeders here in California, but for whatever reason that population of pine siskins that come down from further north are just highly susceptible to the salmonella bacteria.”

Typical signs of the illness are lethargy, puffy or fluffed up appearance, and occasionally swollen or irritated eyes. The disease is usually fatal. The last serious outbreak happened in 2014-2015, Bowers said.

Read more at: https://www.sonomawest.com/the_windsor_times/news/county-residents-asked-to-take-down-bird-feeders-bird-baths/

Posted on Categories Forests, Habitats, Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Global greenhouse gas emissions over the last century have made southern China a hotspot for bat-borne coronaviruses, by driving growth of forest habitat favoured by bats

Research News, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

A new study published today in the journal Science of the Total Environment provides the first evidence of a mechanism by which climate change could have played a direct role in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study has revealed large-scale changes in the type of vegetation in the southern Chinese Yunnan province, and adjacent regions in Myanmar and Laos, over the last century. Climatic changes including increases in temperature, sunlight, and atmospheric carbon dioxide – which affect the growth of plants and trees – have changed natural habitats from tropical shrubland to tropical savannah and deciduous woodland. This created a suitable environment for many bat species that predominantly live in forests.

The number of coronaviruses in an area is closely linked to the number of different bat species present. The study found that an additional 40 bat species have moved into the southern Chinese Yunnan province in the past century, harbouring around 100 more types of bat-borne coronavirus. This ‘global hotspot’ is the region where genetic data suggests SARS-CoV-2 may have arisen.

“Climate change over the last century has made the habitat in the southern Chinese Yunnan province suitable for more bat species,” said Dr Robert Beyer, a researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology and first author of the study, who has recently taken up a European research fellowship at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany.

He added: “Understanding how the global distribution of bat species has shifted as a result of climate change may be an important step in reconstructing the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
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