More on the bees


I’ve mentioned em before (as has NewMexiKen) but Meredith sent along this article from the Washington City Paper. It’s been the best to date:

But it’s not bananas making bees crazy on a global scale. The heart of the question seems to be: Is [Colony Collapse Disorder] something correctable—if we stop trucking bees cross-country and feeding them Oreo filling and having them pollinate crops chocked full of pesticides, will they stop dying? Or have we set something larger in motion that doesn’t just affect the bees directly under human stewardship, but bees everywhere? And who’s next? Other insects, mammals, and eventually humans?

The best line, however, reminded me of Meri’s impending move to Baltimore, and her two cats:

Anyone who’s ever taken a cat to the vet, much less cross-country, knows that most animals do not like car rides.


Won’t somebody think of the bees?

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Actually, plenty of people are. NewMexiKen was wondering back in April (along with the New York Times) and here in Silver City bees have been an issue for the past several weeks.

Today in Salon, four experts tackle the declining-bee-population problem:

The buzz about the alarming disappearance of bees has been all about people food. Honeybees pollinate one-third of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that end up in our homey kitchen baskets. If the tireless apian workers didn’t fly from one flower to the next, depositing pollen grains so that fruit trees can bloom, America could well be asking where its next meal would come from. Last fall, the nation’s beekeepers watched in horror as more than a quarter of their 2.4 million colonies collapsed, killing billions of nature’s little fertilizers.

But as a Salon round table discussion with bee experts revealed, the mass exodus of bees to the great hive in the sky forebodes a bigger story. The faltering dance between honeybees and trees is symptomatic of industrial disease. As the scientists outlined some of the biological agents behind “colony collapse disorder,” and dismissed the ones that are not — sorry, friends, the Rapture is out — they sketched a picture of how we are forever altering the planet’s delicate web of life.

Head on over to check out the latest (hint: it’s not cellphones).

Using fire to restore watersheds

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I’ve got an article (PDF) in today’s Daily Press discussing a recent project in the Mangas Watershed to restore fire into the natural cycle of the ecosystem. A big part of the article details the cooperation among the agencies involved in the process, but the real interesting stuff if the way prescribed burns are helping the ecosystem in southwest New Mexico.

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Bruce Anderson, a Gila National Forest wildlife biologist, provided these before-and-after photos from one of the areas that was treated with fire. As you can see from the photos above, the area is returning to more of a “woodland” system, as opposed to a heavily forested (with piñon and juniper) system. The first photo is from August, while the second photo was taken more than a year ago in April 2006.

Here’s what he said about the project:

During the past several years, project partners completed a number of prescribed burns, totaling more than 55,000 acres, in the Mangas watershed area. In addition, more than 250 erosion control structures were completed along rills in the watershed.

The difference has been drastic. Bruce Anderson, a biologist with the Gila National Forest, told the Daily Press his agency was “very supportive” of the type of habitat restoration the Mangas project fostered.

“We’re seeing tremendous results,” Anderson said. “We’ve been doing this since 2000, and we’ve seen a very definite increase in the amount of deer use in these areas, as well as many of the other species.”

One of the constants during the past two years has been the number of Forest Service employees (and others) explaining the benefits of prescribed fires. Even after the tragic Los Alamos fire, and a resulting ban on prescribed burns, those who work in forests know that fire is a natural part of the ecosystem. I was told yesterday that fire traditionally swept through areas of the Mangas Watershed every 8-11 years, based on tree ring samples.

Fire (like water and energy) is a complex topic here in the Southwest. It can be incredibly hazardous, especially to homes within the Wildland Urban Interface. But it can also play a vital role in restoring the forest to a more natual state.

10 Tips for preserving biodiversity this Earth Day

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Via Facebook of all places (I’m friends with Ranger Rick!) comes this National Geographic Green Guide item on Earth Day:

While global warming and human expansion have us focused on dropping the carbon pounds—switching light bulbs, reducing gas mileage and buying carbon offsets—vast numbers of species continue to lose their native habitats and food supplies. Globally, 23 percent of mammals, 12 percent of birds and 32 percent of amphibians, alongside nearly 8,400 plant species, are on the World Conservation Union’s 2006 Red List of species threatened with extinction. Here in the U.S., indigenous plants and animals once protected by the Endangered Species Act must fend for themselves.

Head on over and see what you can do this Earth Day to help protect dying species.

Politicizing U.S. Fish and Wildlife

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Yep, as I was saying yesterday, so much of what the Bush Administration does is for political gain. Sometimes, they also helps out their buddies in industry. Take, for example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

And at the center of it is one Julie A. MacDonald, appointed by Bush to be the deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks at the Interior Department. The very ugly details of her malfeasance have been exposed by an inspector general report. (Update: MacDonald, by the way, has a degree is in civil engineering and has no formal educational background in natural sciences.)

Ms. MacDonald, whose job is to oversee policy decisions on endangered species and other wildlife, sent internal agency documents to industry lobbyists (e.g. she twice sent “internal Environmental Protection Agency documents — one involving water quality management — to individuals whose e-mail addresses ended in ‘,”) and generally ran roughshod over agency scientists.

Here’s how she works: MacDonald just made stuff up. If scientists recommended a certain action, MacDonald would alter the recommendation or simply ignore it if it threatened industry or landowners in any way.

MacDonald was apparently in a state of constant battle with career scientists and others at the agency, over issues that, at times, impact New Mexico:

MacDonald tangled with field personnel over designating habitat for the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher, a bird whose range is from Arizona to New Mexico and Southern California. When scientists wrote that the bird had a “nesting range” of 2.1 miles, MacDonald told field personnel to change the number to 1.8 miles. Hall, a wildlife biologist who told the IG he had had a “running battle” with MacDonald, said she did not want the range to extend to California because her husband had a family ranch there.

No regard for sciencists or their work, or for policy experts and career employees. Simply put, look out for No. 1 whenever possible.

What Richardson Vetoed

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Craig Roepke, the Interstate Stream Commission deputy director, just passed along a list of the studies that would have been completed on the Gila this year, if Gov. Bill Richardson hadn’t axed the funding yesterday:

  1. Extinction Risk Analysis for Spikedace and Loachminnow ($30,000)
  2. Land-Use and Land Management of the Gila and San Francisco Rivers ($50,000)
  3. Characterizing Hydrogeomorphic Conditions and Developing Stage-Discharge-Habitat Relationships for Key Ecological Attributes ($535,000)
  4. River Channel Flows, Geomorphology and Habitat ($100,000)
  5. Impacts of Nonnative Fishes on Native Fish Assemblages in Gila River Drainage ($40,000)
  6. Riparian Vegetation Analysis ($75,000)
  7. Bird Surveys on the Gila and San Francisco rivers ($25,000)
  8. Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Analysis of the Upper Gila River and San Francisco River ($50,000)
  9. Flow Regime Analysis ($10,000)
  10. Historic Hydrologic Data ($10,000)
  11. Historic Geomorphic Surveys ($10,000)
  12. Historic Species Surveys ($10,000)

TOTAL: $945,000

Jon Goldstein, Richardson’s deputy communications director, said he could not confirm Mayor James Marshall’s comments regarding Silver City’s cut of Capital Outlay Funding. He did convey give this statement on the Governor’s reason for vetoing the money:

The appropriation language was problematic and didn’t include the proper balance. The different parties have not reached consensus yet on this issue, and, until that happens, it’s going to be hard to move forward. The governor remains committed to helping the parties reach consensus in the months ahead.

More in today’s Silver City Daily Press.