Archive for the ‘stewardship’ Tag
Considering some recent….experiences…we’ve had while hiking, maybe it’s time to re-fresh and re-post a story about something that you, really, don’t want to see when it’s fresh. Yet…
We’ve all been there. Walking along, enjoying a pleasant day, when on the ground right in front of us is a big pile of dog poop. Or you discover a cat has decided your freshly-planted flowerbed is the perfect place to use as his private toilet. So we step over it, or pick it up, or reason that in the long run it’s fertilizer that might even be beneficial to our garden. After all, what harm could come from a few pets pooping in the environment.
Well, a lot of harm. Because the diet of our cats and dogs has changed over the generations they’ve lived with us, they’re not the same animals as the wild wolf or bobcat. As species, dogs and cats have been domesticated – lived with men – for tens of thousands of years, and in all that time their behavior and possibly even physiology – basic physical processes – have changed to they can better live with humans and enjoy the food and shelter we provide. (Some pet cats like to think they’re still wild, but they’re just fooling themselves). So the wild diets these species historically ate have been replaced with canned animal-and-grain-by-products, and crunchy-beef-flavored-kibble-bits. While most many of the ingredients in pet food is good quality (‘rendered-meat-meal-slurry’??), there are lots of other things in there, including chemicals and preservatives and artificial colors and assorted additives and even parasites and diseases carried over from some of the food sources – that cats and dogs have over time become tolerant of, but like all contaminants eventually pass through the body and end up somewhere.
And that somewhere, if it’s on a hiking trail – or edge of the sidewalk (to be washed away! Into our water systems) – or dumped from a litter box onto the ground – can cause a lot of problems for the environment:
> Modern pet food is so extra-rich in nutrients, it can cause algae blooms if it enters a stream, lake, or other water system. Algae plants (generally green or blue-green algae named cyanobacteria), always present in a healthy aquatic ecosystem, thrive on the excess nutrients and grow out of control until they block sun and oxygen from reaching deep into the water. If the thick concentrations of algae continue, all life in the lake could die.
> Dog and cat poop can carry multiple parasites and diseases that might not harm the pet but could be passed on to other animals. Infectious organisms usually need host animals to survive until they are transmitted to their next unsuspecting victim. And most of these diseases and parasites can affect humans, causing anything from flu-like symptoms to temporary changes in the brain to death.
> The Environmental Protection Agency – the US Government Department responsible for tracking and controlling many hazardous materials – has classified dog and cat waste as an dangerous pollutant, joining the list of oil spills, chemical toxins, and other things that require wearing a HAZMAT suit to clean up.
You can imagine what photos would go with this story. So here’s a totally unrelated picture of a Kodiak brown (‘grizzly’) bear exploring his home. Of course he’d probably eat any cat or dog he found pooping in his territory.
So whenever your dog does ‘his duty’ remember to pick up the poop, and at home bury the waste in approved containers that dissolve the material or seal in bags and place in the trash. It doesn’t help to leave poop to ‘naturally’ decompose on the ground – eventually the organic waste will break down, but leave behind any pathogens and chemical contaminants. Plus it will probably kill your lawn. If you have a cat, train him to go in the litter box; then it’s up to you to remove the poop and place in the trash. Despite how smart your cat might be because he learned to use the toilet all by himself (!), approximately 50% of all Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) – an Endangered Species – have been found infected with Toxoplasma gondi, a parasite which needs to pass through the intestines of cats to survive. (In humans, this is the same parasite that can cause brain defects). And those cats are not pooping into the ocean by themselves. The only way eggs of this infectious protozoan could have reached the sea is by flushed water flowing through our city sewers and into the rivers that eventually go to the ocean. Taxoplasma eggs can live up to a year, and typical water treatment used in our cities won’t kill these microorganisms.
Dog and cat poop on the sidewalk; trail; lawn; or even flushed down the toilet isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s an ecological hazard that could pollute the water, leave toxins on the ground, and pass on parasites and disease. While picking up poop might not be the most satisfying time you spend with your pet, it’s part of being a responsible pet owner, and is a small way to care for the environment and wildlife. It’s only natural.
Michonne Says: Who would have thought there was so much to say about poop. I’d rather think about the flowers and berries and good things that go in, and not think of anything that comes out.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS). Hooray! Authorized on August 25, 1916 (of course), when US President Woodrow Wilson signed the ‘Organic Act’ (really), creating the Park Service and officially assigning management of the then-35 parks to the new Department. While this month marks the official start of the NPS, the history of national parks goes back many years earlier, when in 1872 Congress established Yellowstone National Park, the first ‘national park’ of it’s type in the world, natural spaces set aside for public recreation, education, and enjoyment.
During his 1901 – 1909 terms as President, Theodore Roosevelt (‘Teddy’) used his authority under the newly-established ‘Antiquities Act’ to name as National Monuments Devil’s Tower, Wyoming; El Morro, New Mexico; Montezuma Castle and Petrified Forest, Arizona; along with a large area of what is now Grand Canyon National Park. Always an outdoorsman and concerned about America’s national resources, deeply affected by his travels in the American West and camping trips in Yellowstone and Yosemite – another of the earliest-named parks – by the end of his service as President Teddy had set aside 18 significant cultural, environmental; or otherwise unique natural areas which later were incorporated into the NPS. He also personally scouted and marked trails in each of these areas; built cabins from trees he had fallen with his own ax; identified and cataloged every plant and animal within the areas; and greeted each park visitor as they arrived. Along with taking time to run for a third term as President. Well, maybe that’s somewhat exaggerated (except for the third term part, which ‘TR’ took on in 1912), but with his energy and enthusiasm, he would have done all those things, if he could.
“If not for this this ridiculous coat and hat forced upon me by propriety, I’d proceed to climb this tree and upon achieving the top, yell out ‘Bully’! Just because I can!”. Teddy Roosevelt, the first manly-man.
Not to be outdone, Teddy’s cousin, President Franklin Roosevelt, in 1933 transferred to the Park Service 56 monuments and sites administered by the Department of Agriculture and War Department (now known as Department of Defense. Because it sounds better to ‘defend’, rather than to ‘war’). Significant in the creation of the NPS we know today, this Executive Order set the foundation for additional Parks, Monuments and Sites which have been added through the actions of every President over the past 100 years. Formalized in 1970 through an act which recognized and authorized the Park Service to include all “miscellaneous areas administered in connection therewith” (the big words make it official), today’s National Parks have grown to more than 400 individual areas; of over 84 million acres; in all 50 states and outlaying areas under US management. And more areas are added every year. That’s quite a legacy that originated from the simple action of setting aside something unique and special for the future.
So this year – or every year, actually, but particularly during this 100 anniversary – everyone’s encouraged to get out and visit a National Park, Monument, or Site near you. There’s a location within a short driving distance of more than 80% of the American population. And with hundreds of sites and millions of acres to see, we’d better start now.
Michonne Says: With all those men making parks here and there you’d think I would have heard about it. I know there’s a ‘Monument Valley’ or something like that but if the men were really interested in making something special they would have made ‘Marmot Valley’. I’d visit there.
Memorial Day was created as a time to show recognition and respect for men and women who had given up everything to help work toward a better world. Now, Memorial Weekend has become a time for vacations, sports, cook-outs and much of the remembering isn’t about those who sacrificed to make our lives better, but remembering to buy the kinds of sodas everyone likes. As we sit down at our campground, picnic site, or dinner table with family and friends it’s easy to forget why we have this day of remembrance, and the world we often take for granted. Just don’t forget to check that everyone at the table is really on the invitation list.
Creation of a new National Park; Monument; Trail; Preserve; or other unit of the National Park Service – each a natural or historic area (sometimes both!) set aside from development for the enjoyment of all people – isn’t an easy process and once accomplished should be a cause for celebration. It’s not everyday that an area is identified and protected as something so special, it’s highest value is to left alone. Since taking office in 2009, our current President has approved nineteen new National Park units; from January 2015 until today, he has designated three new National Monuments in California that protect more than 1.8 million acres of public land; unique ecosystems; and provided additional refuge for threatened and endangered species. But it seems you can’t please everyone all the time, and while everyone in the US who appreciates open spaces or wild places; or clean air or clean water; or a healthy environment should be happy, there’s a group of politicians in Washington who are upset about these new national lands – and this group just always has to be ‘Right’.
Public lands can be shaped in one of two ways: Through grass-roots organization (which can do more than just protect grass, and its roots) that inform, educate, and make aware the importance of a specific site or area, and by engaging with government officials and elected representatives ultimately result in a congressional action that is voted upon by Congress and approved by the President; or lands can be designed by the President as culturally, historically or environmentally unique and of greater importance to the people as a whole rather than any private or commercial development. As his duty and responsibility as President, the current office holder has special powers that were transferred to him when he was bitten by a radioactive spider. No, that’s not right, really these powers were created by Congress (no comment on any connection between mutated arachnids and congressmen) as part of the Office of the President, which not only allow but entrust whoever is currently President to make decisions and actions based upon his determination of what is best for the country and all its people, not just what might be fitting for a small (or influential) group. One of these powers – the Antiquities Act – was approved by Congress in 1906 to allow Presidential action in preserving and protecting American natural, historic, and scientific lands and sites. Monuments as large as thousands of acres; and as small as a few hundred square feet have been set aside through this Act, and the Supreme Court – as many say, the final word in the land – has multiple times upheld these Presidential actions.
‘Sheepstep’, the Desert Bighorn, is shocked to hear some people don’t think his home is special enough to be preserved. He’s also surprised he can stand on the side of a rock without falling off.
However recently a few members of the House of Representatives decided the best way to represent the people who voted for them is to go against this long-standing Presidential responsibility and are calling for an investigation into the Presidents’ declaration of the Mojave Trails; Sand to Snow; and Castle Mountains National Monuments in the California desert, enacted this February. Also, these representatives are questioning Presidential approval of six other monuments dating back to January 2015. Since taking office in 2009 our current President has approved nineteen new National Park units; of these five have completed extensive public and private review process, been authorized by Congress and are awaiting budgeting, land acquisition, and final organizational steps. While other proposed Park units are under review and (for a time) outside the influence of Congress, it seems the Presidential applications of the Antiquities Act is what’s got these House members upset. Assuming, of course, they really are upset about these National Monuments and not about, say, political differences that they hold against a President who belongs to a different political party and holds contrasting beliefs. Of course virtually every recent President – including those in the right wing – has declared or approved natural and historic sites: Richard Nixon created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco and Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City. President HW Bush added fourteen new National Park units and his son George Bush created or approved seven units. Under Ronald Reagan, upheld by many as the founder of the current Republican Party (and who once said “trees cause more pollution than automobiles do”) eighteen new National Park units were added. In 1906 Republican President Theodore Roosevelt created the National Park System much as we know it today.
Yet today these House representatives, elected by the people, are charging “lack of transparency and consultation with local stakeholders” by the application of the Antiquities Act. Despite extensive research, public comment, countless hours of outreach and almost endless pages of reports completed and presented to the President before he took action. No one really knows what these House members are trying to achieve. We’d like to think this is an April Fools joke – but today’s April third, not the first – so if there’s any joke in this, it isn’t for our enjoyment, but rather our loss.
Michonne Says: All these national places are for the people? What about for marmots and other animals, too? Does that mean more men will be coming into the forest and the fields? I don’t like that one bit. Or maybe it means the forest and fields will be left alone so the men can visit and play and look, but not change things. I like THAT a lot.
The Endangered Species Act, enacted in 1973 to preserve and protect plant and wildlife species threatened by habitat loss; pollution; pesticides and poisons; environmental change; and other challenges, has succeeded in saving dozens of species from extinction – plants and animals that would be gone today if not for protection the Act provides. Yet the law is neither a sharp-edged sword, nor an impregnable shield. For the action to be passed by Congress, considerations and concerns had to be addressed (just as they are with any law as it’s virtually impossible for Congress to agree on anything). One concession written into the law is, unfortunately, the acceptance of a certain number of individuals allowed as ‘take’; which is a less shocking way of saying ‘harm’ or ‘kill’. ‘Take’ has been defined as any actions that: “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect” endangered, threatened, or otherwise protected species. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has also determined that “harm” includes “significant habitat modification or degradation.” Therefore, any actions that could harm an environment that is home to a protected species is itself, protected, and this has been put into action at times when entire ecosystems have been set aside for the benefit of individual species.
But just last month, this aspect of the law was applied not to a developer wanting to fill in wetlands for construction; nor a logging company planning to clear-cut a forest; nor in response to re-routing streams and the distribution of water; but to, of all organizations, a zoo for mistreatment of animals. Today’s modern zoos and animal parks, by definition, are committed to the care, management, protection, and sustainability of wildlife and wild places, and to public education of the species in their care. Any officially recognized zoo (and we’re talking both large and small organizations) has to achieve significant and often very difficult standards of animal care; management and leadership; development and planning; educational programming; community service; health and safety for animals, staff, and guests; and be financially stable to achieve these standards. The zoological accreditation agency – the AZA – applies continuous checks and balances to help zoos reach and maintain these goals and if the zoo should fail at any obligation, its accreditation could be withdrawn and support lost.
A wolf confined to a small cement and wire cage while some random person sticks his fingers through the wire. Who’s in more danger, the wolf or the person?
Not any place who calls themselves a ‘Zoo’ holds, or even attempts to reach, these high standards. Many roadside attractions that advertise ‘pet the bear’ or ‘feed the tiger’ or ‘play with the ostriches’ (which, themselves, are all activities expressively prohibited by the AZA as being potentially dangerous to both animals and guests) are not ‘zoos’ but just animal collections. In these ‘mom and pop’ animal sideshows, care is often poor; health not addressed; living conditions a minimum; and it’s not unusual for animals to suffer and die with no one knowing (or particularly caring). The animals, themselves, are usually pets someone thought would be fun to have as babies, but soon grow into large, hungry, powerful adult animals that are always wild (there’s no such thing as a ‘tame’ wild animal). In some situations, animals were purposely bought and sold for use in roadside zoos, never knowing freedom – or taken from the wild to live a life being poked and prodded while confined within in a small plywood and cement enclosure. So on February 11 when the United States District Court ruled the Cricket Hollow Zoo of Iowa had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to provide adequate sanitation, veterinary care, and appropriate environmental conditions to tigers and lemurs, it was a significant step forward toward upholding the Act not only as a rule for species in the wild; but for all threatened wild species. By lack of care, the Court determined the animals had suffered harassment within the regulations of the Endangered Species Act and this decision was supported through experts in animal care and zoological management including veterinarians and Department of Agriculture inspectors. The final decision stated that the endangered species held at Cricket Hollow must be transferred to a licensed facility with the ability to properly care for the animals and the zoo could no longer hold nor display endangered species.
Accredited, well-managed, and responsible zoos are somewhat of a contradiction; their entire purpose is to protect, preserve, and educate us, the public, about wildlife and wild places while at the same time holding animals that may never again return to those wild places (Most experts believe that within the next 50 years the only surviving polar bears will be in zoos, the entire wild population extinct due to climate change; and in only 20 years rhinoceros may be gone from the wild with only a small population living in zoos). The last individual Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), only 200 years ago widespread in the millions across much of North America, survived a natural lifespan only because it was protected in a zoo. But there are success stories too, such as the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus), once down to only 22 individuals but through the help of zoos and research institutions now established within portions of its historic environment. No one wants a wild, free animal held in a space only a fraction of its normal territory. But the world these species knew for generations is gone, forever changed by man. And for some animals to survive – and for humans to learn and understand these wild-life; our decisions, and our actions, and our management today might be their, and our, last hope.
Michonne Says: I’ve never seen one of those ‘zoos’, but it doesn’t sound like anyplace I’d like to live, even if you do get all you want to eat and no one’s going to eat you. The zooses sound crowded and noisy and hot and without very much adventure. Sometimes men say they live in places like that too. Are those zoos for men?
This weekend (February 27) is noted as International Polar Bear Day. Last week, World Pangolin Day fell on February 20. In March we have World Frog Day; International Day of the Seal; and, perhaps because they are an unusual and not well known animal, five days are dedicated as National Aardvark Week. Within every month of the year; and throughout virtually every week of each month; there is a holiday, commemoration, celebration, or remembrance of some species, animal, wildlife, or similar collection ranging from Don’t step on a Bee Day (July 9); to Sea Serpent Day in August; not to be confused with later that same month, International Whale Shark Day (which, despite both being relatively unknown deep-ocean dwellers, are not the same animal and ‘sea serpent’ is probably a mis-identification of other ocean life). For any wildlife overlooked in other weeks March 3 is World Wildlife Day; but that is not the same as Endangered Species Day of May 20.
And all these days are important. Not, perhaps, for the individual species or group that is indicated by that day; but for our, as humans, overall remembrance of the non-human species surrounding us and with whom we share the world. Because in our everyday lives of rushing here and there, too busy to reach our next goal that we overlook where we’re at; and through (or in spite of) always-connected linked-in multi-tasking in which we get so much done, yet none of it is ever complete; we, as humans, need these pre-defined days of wildlife recognition to remember, if only for a day, there are other lives on the earth. Even if that recognition consists of a few seconds of morning news coverage, or an online update, or a pretty photo on a calendar before we resume our flurry and fluster, hustling here and there not unlike rats in a maze. Which, by the way, are recognized on April 5 as World Rat Day.
A warming climate, and melting ice, means Polar Bears can’t rest and raise their young
The Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) is experiencing unprecedented habitat loss due to climate change and could be extinct in the wild within the next 30 years. Pangolin (family Manidae) are daily trapped and poached by the thousands, served as meals at exclusive (and illegal) restaurants and could be gone, as an entire animal group, before many people know they exist. Every type Frog is an indicator species of overall ecosystem health and well being; the loss of frogs and other amphibians, it’s been shown numerous times, is the warning of impending environmental collapse. Without Bees much of the worlds agricultural crops would decline and crash, resulting in billions of dollars in economic loss and food shortages.
Yet, we need a specified day to remember ‘not to step on bees’? For entire wildlife populations that suffer challenges daily, one day a year is enough for us to ‘celebrate’ them? Perhaps, in our faster-and-more-complicated world, a ‘day’ of our attention is all these species can fare; and in that brief moment, hopefully, we are connected to the surrounding world bigger than our own daily concerns. But if we should allow these connections to dim with each check of the calendar, here one day only to be replaced the next with another ‘species of awareness’, the personal, cultural, and entirety of loss to us could be as great as the extinction of any singularly unique wild species.
Michonne Says: I keep waiting for marmot day but it never seems to come. I don’t know what would happen but a special day sounds nice. Maybe we would get treats or something. On Groundhoggy day men annoy the groundhoggies all day and that’s not good so maybe it’s better not to have a day at all, if that’s what it turns out to be.
Years ago, there was popular song titled ‘You can’t roller skate in a Buffalo herd’. (Really. Look it up. It was a different time.). In that unique 70’s way, the songwriter was probably trying to say that what initially appears to be a good idea might need a little more thought to achieve the same results. But that would have been harder to rhyme. Aside from making the common mistake of referring to the American Bison (Bison bison) as a buffalo – while the only actual buffalo are the African Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and Asian water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), both naturally living outside North America – the song offers good advice for anyone considering traveling through a group of animals that are six feet tall, weigh more than a ton, can often be near-sighted and at the same time quick to attack anything they can’t identify. Or don’t particularly like the look of. But more than a typical tidbit of ungulate advice, the song might be saying you can’t roller skate among these bulls and cows (as bison males and females are named) because they stand their ground and almost nothing can make them move: Not even a lightning storm. Or, actually getting hit by lightning.
The Tallgrass Prairie – a uniquely North American ecosystem historically reaching from the upper Midwest to the southwestern plains, and from Texas into Canada – is largely made up of grass, grass-like plants, and endless miles of relatively flat landscape. Land that, until the great western migration of settlers from the eastern states, had grown lush and rich through thousands of years of storm and drought; tornado and unstirring quiet; burning summer heat and freezing blizzards; and fire. Because fire, caused by lightning storms, is the only natural event that both destroys and restores the prairie, removing thick undergrowth, creating deep, rich soil (some of the most rich, productive soil in North America), and providing opportunities for new plant growth.
As far as we know the lightning strike didn’t cause Sparky to travel forward, or back, to the future.
Today, only a fraction of the 240 million acres of Tallgrass remains, and much of that is preserved or restricted. In those areas, the descendants of animals that thrived in this environment still live: The Prairie Dog (genus Cynomys); Coyote (Canis latrans); and of course, the Bison are only a few of the specialized animals that have learned to survive this unforgiving environment. So it’s no surprise to the scientists, researchers, and rangers who study, monitor and protect these remaining lands when in the summer of 2013 at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa an adult male bison was found that had been struck by lightning. Though alive and in comparatively fair health – for an animal that had been hit by one of the most powerful natural forces known – the Bison was weak, thin, burned over a large part of his body and was feared would not be able to survive long. While difficult to observe, it was decided to allow ‘Sparky’ – as he was named – to live out his remaining life in freedom on the plains he knew, rather than in a veterinary clinic, and Sparky was left alone. The real surprise came over two years later, when Sparky was again sighted – now having gained many pounds, looking healthy, and while bearing the scars of his ‘shocking’ experience, looking much as anyone would expect an adult male bison to look.
Which makes us wonder, if a bison can survive a lightning strike – along with other animals who persevere, and sometimes even make a comeback, in what remains of their native environment; or when transplanted into other, similar environments; or even living among us in our cities and neighborhoods; with little or no help from man and often overcoming huge challenges due to man – maybe nature, when left alone and undisturbed, can get along just fine without the intercession or interference of man. And our responsibility is to just find someplace else, to do our roller skating.
Michonne Says: This story is just another reason to live around rocks and go underground because the fire-stripes that men call ‘light-en-eng’ can’t get into rocks OR go underground. I don’t know how big these bisons are, but they would be smart to dig burrows and stay away from the fire-stripes. I don’t know why they haven’t thought of that themselves