News Article | May 11, 2017
Karen Profita is leaving her post as executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (LSPMB) at the end of May to take a new position with the National Audubon Society. Profita took over the top post at the marketing board in November 2013, replacing Ewell Smith, who served in the position for 13 years. “I’m trading in my dead fish for live birds,” Profita told. “And you know what, they all need a healthy coastline. So that’s what it is really about. I am going to be able to focus on conservation and restoring our coastline.” Ben Mitchell, assistant executive director at LSPMB, will serve as acting director until the governor appoints a head of the agency. The marketing board organizes the Great American Seafood Cook-off annual competition, which pits chefs from a number of US states against one another for the title of America's top seafood chef. This year's event is scheduled for Aug. 5 -7 in New Orleans. Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said Friday the state will move the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off state competition from New Orleans to Lafayette to help stimulate the economy during an economic lull in region's the oil industry. Chefs compete in state competitions to earn a chance to compete in the national event. For more seafood news and updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for our daily newsletter.
News Article | May 24, 2017
(AP) — The Trump administration makes a straightforward case for slashing $427 million in federal spending to heal ailing regional water bodies such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound: State and local governments should do the work and foot the bill. Supporters of the programs argue it's not that simple. Cleaning up the nation's iconic waterways is a team effort involving all levels of government, with nonprofit groups, universities and other players pitching in and the federal government serving as coach and sometimes as referee. If Washington walks away, some participants fear, the partnerships could unravel and the cleanups falter. "Federal involvement is critical to keeping the states working together," said Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which advocates for restoration of the nation's largest estuary. "The states put in a lot of money, but the federal partnership is crucial." The proposed Environmental Protection Agency budget for fiscal 2018 released Tuesday calls for eliminating a series of initiatives targeting regional waters plagued with pollution that threatens human health, kills fish and harms tourism. A White House summary said the programs fund "primarily local efforts," although they "have received significant federal funding, coordination and oversight to date." It adds, "State and local groups are engaged and capable of taking on management of clean-up and restoration of these water bodies." Congress will have the final say about the suggested cuts, which have drawn criticism from lawmakers in both parties. The programs are popular with constituents who treasure clean beaches and good fishing. Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican and member of the staunchly conservative Freedom Caucus, was among the signatories of a Feb. 23 letter to President Donald Trump supporting continued funding of the Chesapeake Bay rescue. "We must ensure that this important work continues, and that federal funds continue to be available to support this effort," the letter said. Even with such strong bipartisan backing, advocates say Trump's opposition leaves the programs highly vulnerable. Even if they survive, they might lose some of their funding at a time when strapped state and local governments would be hard-pressed to make up the difference. "Our state is having a tremendous budget challenge as it is," said Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, a Washington state agency. Sahandy and other officials pointed out that many of the federal grants awarded under the water restoration programs require at least partial matching funds from other participants. State and local governments, Native American tribes, environmental groups and others already chip in substantial sums. But they look to EPA and other federal agencies to provide financial and administrative leadership. "The great threat is that you lose faith among state agencies and local communities that the federal government will do their share," said Brian Moore, the National Audubon Society's policy director for the Gulf of Mexico, another waterway with a cleanup program that would be defunded under the Trump budget. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has provided funds to remove contaminated sediments from harbors, fight invasive species, restore wildlife habitat and study harmful algal blooms — the most severe problems affecting the world's largest freshwater system. It's the biggest of the regional programs, usually receiving about $300 million a year — a total of more than $2 billion since President Barack Obama established it in 2010. The federal largesse not only helps pay for thousands of cleanup projects, supporters said. It gives the EPA leverage to help forge a common front among eight states — from Minnesota to New York — that compete with each other economically and can have sharp political differences. Cameron Davis, who oversaw the Great Lakes initiative as a former EPA senior adviser, said it was crucial in uniting the region around a strategy for preventing invasive Asian carp from reaching the lakes through a Chicago-area canal at a time when the states were feuding over the matter in court. "Funding has a magical way of bringing people to the table that otherwise might not pull up a chair," Davis said. Federal involvement also helped spur action in the Chesapeake Bay, Baker said. The watershed includes parts of six states and Washington, D.C., which often were at odds over responsibilities of those nearest the bay and those farther upstream. Under the program, he said, the federal government brings funding, technical assistance and "a willingness to call out a state that is not participating and therefore dragging the collective group down." "This is a prime example of the cooperative federalism that the administration talks about," Baker said. "We're totally perplexed as to why they'd want to end it."
News Article | April 21, 2017
Kentucky’s two senators, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, are both “skeptical” that human behavior has caused climate change. But since 2011, when, following years of planning and collaboration by scientists and educators, the state approved its Environmental Literacy Plan, students there are taught the reverse. High schoolers, in chemistry class, learn how methane emissions alter the makeup of the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to global warming. In a historically coal-producing state, they learn about the harmful effects of the industry; now, at public-school hosted career days, representatives from the “green economy”–from wind turbine technicians to energy-use experts–are required to be on site to offer advice. Even though Kentucky’s voting population runs red, the state is among the most progressive in the country when it comes to environmental education. The United States, however, currently has no formalized environmental education policy (and under the current administration, is unlikely to implement one), but volunteers in 48 out of the 50 states have drafted their own plans. The results have been mixed. Earth Day Network (EDN)–the advocacy organization that emerged from the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970–surveyed the status of environmental education across the 50 states.“Some are decent, some are horrible,” EDN President Kathleen Rogers tells Fast Company. “Some have the right idea but haven’t made progress.” In the U.S., EDN will advocate for environmental literacy to be added to the Common Core State Standard. Photo: Kheat/iStockThe theme of Earth Day 2017 is environmental and climate literacy, and part of the goal of the theme, Rogers says, is to rectify the country’s uneven educational landscape, and develop an environmental education platform that can be applied across the world. The educational goals are part of EDN’s larger five-year strategy, launched in 2015 and timed to Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in 2020, to advocate for environmental awareness and action around the globe; other efforts include planting 7.8 billion trees (one for each projected person on the planet) and building the world’s largest environmental service project, Billion Acts of Green, that encourages citizens to take small steps toward reducing their environmental footprint, like eating less meat and discontinuing use of disposable plastic. To launch the environmental literacy campaign this Earth Day, EDN has partnered with the March for Science, which will pass through Washington, D.C., as well as over 517 other cities that have registered as “satellite marches,” this April 22. At the center of the EDN campaign launch will be a series of teach-ins–a nod to the educational model that activated the first Earth Day–held on the National Mall; organizations from the National Audubon Society to the Princeton University Press have registered to host sessions in Washington that day. EDN and the March for Science have also developed a downloadable toolkit so any community can host a similar educational initiative. But through its three-year campaign, EDN aims to see environmental literacy move out of the grassroots realm and into policy. EDN has developed an environmental curricula for year-round use in K-12 classrooms; it’s the organization’s goal to promote mandatory environmental education in schools both in the U.S. around the world and to have its strategy serve as the backbone of that effort. Along with the World Bank Group, EDN will conduct a study of the state of climate literacy in over 50 countries and will work with educational ministers, NGOs, and other stakeholders to understand how best to promote mandatory climate education in each country. By failing to consistently educate the next generation in issues related to climate and the environment, “you won’t build an educated workforce; you won’t build an educated consumer base.” Photo: Kheat/iStockIn the U.S., EDN will advocate for environmental literacy to be added to the Common Core State Standards, which so far have been adopted by 42 states and four territories. Taking a district-by-district approach, and focusing particularly on states like West Virginia, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Idaho, which reject current scientific standards, EDN will train formal and informal educators alike in using their online resources to teach students. The current scattershot state of environmental education in the U.S., Rogers says, could jeopardize the country’s future as a global economic force. By failing to consistently educate the next generation on issues related to climate and the environment, “you won’t build an educated workforce; you won’t build an educated consumer base,” Rogers says. “We need to prepare our citizens for what we know will inevitably be the green industrial revolution—regardless of what Trump says, it’s coming.” Though education, Rogers says, is often treated like “the poor stepchild” of the environmental movement, overlooked in favor of advocating for other environmental and climate goals, that has to change. “We need a national policy that drives this kind of education not just for political reasons; we need a uniform process of educating our kids so they can grow up and get jobs,” she says. Other countries around the world are already far ahead of the U.S.: EDN has been in talks with countries like Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, and Italy, all of which are moving forward with the idea of mandatory environmental education. “They want to have an educated consumer public and they want to have an educated workforce,” Rogers says. Even though the anti-science and climate-change denying veil over the U.S.’s current administration appear like a roadblock in the environmental movement as a whole, Rogers believes it’s a temporary hiccup. “Irrespective of the political nature of anti-science thought, we will move ahead with this. It’s inevitable. It’s progress. The sun is free, the wind is free, it’s less toxic, and it makes economic sense,” Rogers says. She compares the current shift toward sustainable practices and development with the first industrial revolution when people clung to their horses and outhouses out of fear of change. The thing that bent their mind toward modernity and progress, Rogers says, was education. “You have to educate people to get them excited about changes,” she says. “We are going to see some retrenchment on the way toward implementing this educational policy, but that’s just the way it goes. It’s two steps forward, one step back, but it will happen.”
News Article | April 20, 2017
A bird in the hand may be worth two in the bush, but nothing beats 740 of them on your wall! I am completely smitten with the idea of being able to glimpse all of North America's fine feathered friends in a single place – and now I can! OK, so maybe they're illustrations of birds rather than the birds themselves, but how wonderful is this lovely, somewhat-obsessive poster of every bird in the land? It's not new to the market, but it's new to me and may be to you as well ... and it's not like birds go out of style. (Unless you're talking about "put a bird on it" birds, and then, well, you know.) The genius behind this winged endeavor is Pop Chart Lab – think, book editor meets graphic designer, together hatch scheme to "render all of human experience in chart form." As described on the company's site, the poster is "the product of over 400 hours of intricate illustration work by our talented team of artists, this unabridged aviary features over 740 fair-feathered friends drawn to scale and sorted by species, covering the continent’s complete avifauna (as designated by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) from common sparrows, jays, and owls to rarer birds such as the Greater Sage-Grouse, the California Condor, and the Whooping Crane." And the fruits of their labor can be yours in a 39" x 27" poster for $38. Visit Pop Chart Lab for a zoomable version and to order. And to get you in the mood:
News Article | February 16, 2017
FREDERICKSBURG, VA, February 16, 2017-- Berthold Schmutzhart has been included in Marquis Who's Who. As in all Marquis Who's Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.Wielding a federal teaching certificate from Austria, where he attended the University of Applied Arts Vienna in 1956, Mr. Schmutzhart has played a substantial role in art education for more than six decades. He initially spent seven years as a professor at The Werkschulheim Felbertal in Salzburg and, after moving to the United States in 1958, progressed as an independent sculptor in Washington D.C. and a teacher at the Longfellow School in Maryland. In 1963, he became the chairman of the sculpture department and worked as a professor at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, where he remained until 1994. During this time, he also spent 16 years as a lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution. Mr. Schmutzhart currently serves as a professor emeritus at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, a position which he has held since 1994.Mr. Schmutzhart has featured his artistic work at various locations, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, the Gallery of Modern Art in Fredericksburg, and one-man shows at the Fredericksburg Gallery of Fine Art and the Franz Bader Gallery. His written contributions to his field include articles that can be found in assorted professional journals and "The Handmade Furniture Book," which was published in 1981. He has also been the recipient of such honors as a first prize award from the Washington Religious Arts Council and a silver medal from the National Audubon Society in Washington.In addition to his professional endeavors, Mr. Schmutzhart has served on boards for the Market Five Gallery, the Franz Bader Gallery, and the Franz and Virginia Bader Fund, along with other organizations. He has participated as a member in the Guild for Religious Architects, the American Association of University Professors and the Soaring Society of America. He was also president of the Washington D.C. chapter of the Artists Equity Association and president of the American Austrian Society. Due to his occupational accomplishments, Mr. Schmutzhart has been listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in America: Student Vision, Who's Who in the East, Who's Who in in the South and Southwest, and Who's Who in the World.About Marquis Who's Who :Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who's Who in America , Marquis Who's Who has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Today, Who's Who in America remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis now publishes many Who's Who titles, including Who's Who in America , Who's Who in the World , Who's Who in American Law , Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare , Who's Who in Science and Engineering , and Who's Who in Asia . Marquis publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who's Who website at www.marquiswhoswho.com
News Article | October 25, 2016
A new initiative slated for the ballot in Washington state next month would create the first-ever carbon tax to be implemented in the United States. But while the initiative promises to fight climate change by making it more expensive to emit greenhouse gases, it’s caused an unexpected controversy among environmentalists. Despite the endorsement of dozens of climate scientists and economists, many environmental groups have refused to support it at all, citing concerns about the proposal’s revenue projections, its approach to the involvement of disadvantaged communities, and a lack of true investment in clean energy. Initiative 732 began as a grassroots campaign known as Carbon Washington, founded by environmental economist and stand-up comedian Yoram Bauman. If successful, it would become one of just a few ever to be implemented in North America and the first in the United States. The idea of a carbon tax is to place a tax on the carbon that people or industries emit or on the fossil fuels they purchase, thus providing an incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I-732 proposes a starting fee of $15 per ton of carbon, increasing to $25 in the second year, and then gradually growing over the next few decades to a maximum of $100 per ton. The scheme is designed to be “revenue-neutral,” meaning it won’t produce any additional income for the state. Instead, the proposal calls for a reduction in other taxes, including the state sales tax, which many activists consider one of the most regressive taxes in the nation. Because Washington has no income tax, the sales tax currently provides a major portion of the state’s revenue, thereby forcing lower income households to pay a greater percentage of their total income in taxes. “Our approach has been to directly put money back into the pockets of low-income people,” Bauman told The Washington Post. While support from individual politicians has come largely from Democrats in the legislature, the initiative has garnered endorsements from a few key Republican state senators as well. It’s also gained substantial support from the scientific community. Last week, more than 50 climate scientists from the University of Washington published an open letter expressing their support for Initiative 732. Nonetheless, the proposal has caused an unexpected controversy among local social and environmental groups. Many have expressed concerns about the initiative’s revenue projections, which they fear may actually end up costing the state money. Washington’s State Department of Revenue has estimated the proposal could reduce state income by about nearly $800 million in its first six years. The initiative’s organizers, on the other hand, predict a slightly revenue-positive effect. An independent analysis by the Sightline Institute, a Northwest think tank focusing on environmental health and social justice issues, suggested the proposal would result in an annual shortfall of about $80 million, but it has also cautioned that this number comes to less than half a percent of the state’s overall tax revenue. Taking this into consideration, and keeping in mind the uncertainties associated with budget forecasting, the institute concluded that “I-732 is revenue neutral, to the best of anyone’s ability to forecast it” and added that “as an argument against I-732, therefore, the ‘revenue hole’ case is a red herring.” Yet the issue remains a concern for some. “Despite the initiative’s intent to be revenue neutral, the state Office of Financial Management has analyzed the policy and found that enacting it would create a $797 million hole over the next three biennia in the already insufficient state budget,” the Washington Environmental Council said in a statement affirming its decision not to support Initative 732. The state chapter of the Sierra Club acknowledged the Sightline Institute’s projections, but has still decided not to support I-732, noting in a statement, “At a time when our state needs additional revenue to fund education, parks, environmental programs, and social services, we are concerned about any projected revenue cuts.” Some groups have also expressed dissatisfaction with what they see as the initiative’s failure to adequately consult with disadvantaged communities about how the measure might best serve their needs. Bauman insists the proposal is designed to benefit disadvantaged communities by reforming a regressive state tax system and putting money directly back into the pockets of low-income communities. “We think we have an incredibly strong case to be made that our policy is not only great climate policy, but great tax policy and great social justice policy,” he said. Finally, one of the biggest complaints revolves around claims that the revenue-neutral proposal, by its very nature, doesn’t specifically funnel revenue back into investments in clean energy and other climate friendly policies. Because a carbon tax, by definition, uses the market to drive change, some groups have argued that its success at reducing fossil fuel consumption is uncertain unless it’s combined with additional green investment strategies. But the revenue couldn’t be used to offset other taxes if it was instead going to be spent on energy investments. Bauman, for his part, pointed out that a few environmental groups who have declined to support I-732 are currently involved in an agreement with the TransAlta Corp., which operates a coal-fired power plant in Centralia, Wash. The agreement, signed in 2012 and in force through 2025, calls for the plant to eventually transition away from coal burning and, during that process, for all participants to “accept and not oppose the sale of coal transition power from the facility to potential buyers.” Signers included Sierra Club, the Washington Environmental Council, Climate Solutions and the NW Energy Coalition. Sierra Club’s senior campaign representative in Washington, Doug Howell, has said in a statement that “there is absolutely no connection between the historic Transalta transition agreement or the Memorandum of Understanding, which put Washington state’s only coal-fired power plant on a legally enforceable retirement schedule, and our stance on I-732. We took a ‘Do Not Support’ position because I-732 does not guarantee investments in clean energy, climate resiliency and green jobs creation are made — particularly in communities most vulnerable to climate change.” Initiative 732 has still maintained the support of other environmental groups, notably the National Audubon Society’s Washington office. According to Gail Gatton, executive director of Audubon Washington, surveys suggested tabout 70 percent of the state’s membership supported the initiative. “The message that we heard over and over from people was one of urgency,” she said. “People felt like they did not have time to wait for another solution. This is the only initiative on our ballot. It does what we need it to do, which is reduce the carbon emissions that are causing climate change. …I think for Audubon, climate policy isn’t really about money. It really is about what will reduce the carbon emissions.” Other reports have also suggested that the Sierra Club’s official “Do Not Support” stance was contested by its Washington membership. For now, the future of the initiative remains uncertain as the vote approaches. But Bauman is optimistic. A recent poll suggested that 42 percent of voters were in favor, 37 percent opposed and 21 remain undecided. These numbers are slightly up from a separate August poll that suggested 34 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed. As crunch time nears, a group of millennials from the I-732 campaign have published an open letter to the leaders of some of the national groups that have failed to support the initiative, calling on them to change their stance. Should the initiative pass, Bauman hopes that it will lead to similar measures on a national scale. “We think we have a great shot at winning a policy that’s not only going to make a big difference in Washington State, but that can potentially set the stage for bipartisan action nationally,” he said.
News Article | February 23, 2017
When former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that sweeping federal plans designed to save the greater sage grouse had been finalized less than a year and a half ago, she hailed it as an "epic conservation effort" that took years to complete. The Republican governors of Nevada and Wyoming and the Democratic governors of Colorado and Montana stood next to Jewell at the September 2015 ceremony. She revealed that the mottled-brown bird would not be listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, in large part because of the federal plans. But the election of President Trump just over a year later has federal and state officials, conservation groups, and others expecting big changes in how the plans are carried out — if they are ever fully implemented. Trump has not publicly addressed the federal sage grouse plans. But Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), Trump's nominee for Interior secretary, has been a vocal critic, comparing them at one time to Obamacare and saying he wants "state-driven solutions" for managing grouse. Trump cannot simply dismiss the blueprints, which amended 98 Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land-use plans to incorporate protective measures covering nearly 70 million acres of sage grouse habitat in 10 Western states. Amending land-use plans requires a lengthy analysis and public comment period. But some observers foresee the Interior and Agriculture departments reopening the land-use plan amendment process to revise the sage grouse plans — an effort that would take years and likely stretch well past Trump's first term in office. "Obviously, they could restart the planning process tomorrow," said Sarah Greenberger, who as one of Jewell's top counselors helped develop the plans. In the short term, the Trump administration is expected to scale back implementation measures, observers say, initially by removing funding for grouse conservation efforts from the president's fiscal 2018 budget request. And the administration could curtail efforts defending lawsuits against the federal plans. Congress is already moving to block the plans and give states more control. House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) last month filed a bill, H.R. 527, that would give governors the authority to bar any provisions in the federal plans that do not conform to state-approved grouse conservation strategies (Greenwire, Jan. 16). Western states are likewise pushing the new administration for greater flexibility in how the plans are implemented. Colorado, Utah and Wyoming want federal plans to more closely align with state grouse strategies on issues like mitigation and oil and gas leasing near sensitive grouse breeding grounds, called leks. "I think we're fairly hopeful that we can work with the new administration and new secretary of the Interior, when he's confirmed, to maximize flexibility," said John Swartout, a Republican who is a senior adviser to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and a member of a federal-state sage grouse task force. It's not clear what specific steps Zinke might take as Interior secretary. Representatives with the Interior Department did not respond to a request to comment on this story. Derrick Henry, a BLM spokesman, said the agency has not been told to change its approach to sage grouse management. "Right now, we're operating under the current [grouse management] plans," Henry said. But all the uncertainty has some of the principal architects of the federal plans concerned about the fate of the grouse. Because sage grouse occupy such a vast range across most of the Great Plains, a rangewide plan is needed to restore the bird and protect its habitat, said Greenberger, who is now vice president for conservation at the National Audubon Society. The plans established primary habitat management areas and general habitat management areas where new oil and gas drilling, some large transmission line projects, and livestock grazing are prevented or limited. The plans focus conservation measures in specific areas that are most important to the grouse, while still allowing oil and gas and renewables development. "This was an attempt to step in on the front end and do something strategic," she said. Greenberger said she understood there were going to be "growing pains" in implementing the plans. "I think on the ground in the West, there are certainly some frustrations," she said. "But there also continues to be a sense that people were really working together for something important and trying to solve a problem in a very pragmatic way." She added: "If you unravel it, we're going to be in court." The federal grouse plans already face numerous legal challenges by a wide variety of groups, including the states of Utah and Nevada, the Western Energy Alliance, and North Dakota Petroleum Council, mining companies and several counties in Nevada. If the Trump administration dismantles the federal plans, one of the first places the effort will show up is in the government's defense of these lawsuits, according to legal experts. While some have suggested the administration could order the Justice Department to quit defending the cases in court, that's not likely, observers say, because each of the lawsuits challenges some aspect of the federal government's ability to regulate activities on federal land. "It would be very hard to take a position not to defend the cases that question your authority to manage federal lands," said Nada Culver, senior counsel and director of the Wilderness Society's BLM Action Center. Instead, DOJ may work to settle the lawsuits, agreeing to make specific revisions to the grouse plans, perhaps by a certain deadline. "I would think there would be a very good opportunity to talk in settlement negotiations between the plaintiffs and federal defendants, and to really listen and resolve and revise," said Kent Holsinger, a Denver natural resources attorney who has represented the energy and agricultural industries in litigation involving sage grouse. Pat Parenteau, senior counsel at the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at the University of Vermont, agrees this is a plausible scenario. But revising the plans would be complicated, he said. That's because they amended dozens of federal land-use plans, meaning Interior and USDA would have to open a new rulemaking process that would mandate additional studies and analysis, hearings and opportunities for the public to submit comments. "You don't just snap your fingers and they're gone," Parenteau said. Complicating matters is the fact that a number of environmental groups have intervened on the side of the Interior and Agriculture departments in a handful of the lawsuits. While formal intervenors cannot block settlement agreements, they can review the terms and "object and argue to the court why the settlement cannot be approved," Parenteau said. "You can't get away with a backroom deal without public scrutiny and comment," he added. The wild card in such a scenario is the Fish and Wildlife Service, which could always reverse course and list the bird for ESA protection, said Bob Keiter, a University of Utah law professor who specializes in natural resources and public lands. "If the plans were substantially altered, that would open the door for a [ESA] listing, which most people, I think, believe would lead to more onerous protections for the bird," Keiter said. "There are a lot of things for the agencies to consider before jumping off and trying to scrap the plans wholesale." Western state leaders who want revisions to the federal plans say they're positioned to make them happen with the Trump administration. In Utah, thestate wants more time for its grouse management strategy to work before the federal plans are fully implemented, said Braden Sheppard, legal counsel for Republican Gov. Gary Herbert's Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office. Failing that, Sheppard said, the state wants to see the federal plans "significantly revised to allow for multiple-use on federal lands, or rescinded." Utah filed a federal lawsuit last year challenging the plans, arguing they undermine the state's sage grouse conservation efforts (Greenwire, Feb. 5, 2016). "We have worked really well with our federal partners to try and work within the plan," Sheppard said. "However, it's a one-size-fits-all decision, and it does not reflect the tremendous diversity of greater sage grouse habitat across the West and here in Utah." In Wyoming, which is home to nearly half the remaining grouse, the federal plan is modeled after the Cowboy State's core sage grouse area approach adopted in 2008 that identified habitat where conservation is prioritized and development discouraged. Gov. Matt Mead (R) has reaffirmed and expanded the state program through two subsequent executive orders, and he has expressed his support for the federal grouse plans. Still, the federal blueprint includes some significant differences from the state plan, including the type of mitigation requirements when disturbances do take place inside core areas. For projects in portions of the state where there's a checkerboard pattern of federal-state ownership, mitigation requirements can be different on parcels sitting side by side. "Wyoming would welcome more flexibility to implement the governor's core area sage grouse strategy," said Mike McGrady, Mead's policy adviser. "We'd like to see the mitigation standards BLM's applying better align with the core area strategy." Flexibility is also a buzzword in Colorado. Swartout said the state supports the federal grouse plans. "The goal is to try to make these plans work, and through implementation there's lots of options to make these plans work," he said. But he said Colorado wants to see some changes, including allowing oil and gas development in some cases closer to leks than the federal plans allow. Swartout said the federal strategy that the state worked out with BLM Colorado officials included a tiered-system approach to leasing near leks, where development is allowed as long as certain conditions were met for projects 3 miles from a lek, with different criteria for projects 2 miles away and 1 mile away. But when the draft plans were sent to BLM headquarters in Washington, Swartout said, the tiered system was removed. "We look forward to having a dialogue with the new people," he said. Swartout said Zinke's testimony during Senate confirmation hearings last month has state leaders feeling optimistic about the Trump administration's plans for grouse management. "He talks about appropriate balance. We need to get that balance right," Swartout said. "We actually are hopeful they'll have a greater understanding of what states need to make this work." Altering the plans, even in subtle ways, could lead to additional lawsuits from conservation groups to force the Trump administration to carry out the already approved mandates. "This was the biggest planning deal of my BLM career, and we got there with the states at the table," said Steve Ellis, the former BLM deputy director who, before retiring last year, helped craft instruction memorandums directing agency field offices how to implement the plans. "Did we always agree on all things? No," he added. "But we all agreed on the common goal, and that was to avoid a listing of the greater sage grouse." Pulling away from the federal grouse plans is tantamount to pulling away from that goal, Ellis said. "Priorities shift, but you still have to follow the plans in place or there are groups out there that will check you on that," he said. "That's where the judicial system comes in." In addition to lawsuits, environmentalists would likely start petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service to list other species in the sagebrush steppe ecosystem that the grouse and roughly 350 other species depend on. "You start having other critters pop up with petitions for listing," Ellis said. If that happens, the dominoes will start to fall for an ESA listing of the sage grouse, he said, because the service must review the status of the bird every five years. "The Fish and Wildlife Service is going to have to take another look to see if these plans and the implementation of these plans has made progress in turning the population declines around. Basically, are the regulatory mechanisms we put in place working?" Ellis said. "That is something that, before you start dismantling the plans, you need to consider." The current status of the greater sage grouse is murky, at best, in part because grouse populations are cyclical and can change dramatically from year to year. In Wyoming, for example, officials with the state Game and Fish Department, federal agencies, private consultants, and volunteers last year visited nearly 1,700 sage grouse leks and counted more than 42,300 male sage grouse. Lek counts are good barometers of grouse health because most males in an area can be found at a lek during breeding season, allowing biologists to get accurate counts, said Tom Christiansen, sage grouse program coordinator for the Game and Fish Department. The average number of male grouse per lek last year was up 16 percent compared with 2015, which was 66 percent higher than 2014. But when biologists visited nesting sites in December, they measured what Christiansen described as "poor chick production" — a sure sign that "we are looking at a decrease in our lek counts this spring." The federal grouse plans include "triggers" for adaptive management techniques to kick in when grouse populations decline significantly. That's already happened in northwest Utah, where BLM this month announced it was alarmed about an isolated population of grouse that had suffered a "serious decline" in population (E&E News PM, Feb. 6). "We are going to be arguing to the new administration that it's in their best interest to keep their plans in place," said Steve Holmer, vice president of policy for the American Bird Conservancy. "We don't see a lot of room for them to maneuver and take the legs out from under this stool." Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2017. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: AISL | Award Amount: 249.99K | Year: 2010
The National Audubon Society, the National Association of Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Earth Force, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are identifying strategies and supports that move citizen science volunteers up the ladder of engagement from contributory to collaborative to co-creative participants in scientific research. The Citizens, Science, and Conservation project is testing strategies for engaging senior citizens (ages 60+) and underserved youth (ages 16-18) residing in Illinois, North Carolina and California in conservation-focused citizen science projects. This inter-generational project is engaging 45 seniors and 45 youth from three communities located near important bird areas (IBAs) in bird conservation activities and studying how to immerse them together in authentic scientific research.
The goals of the project are to (1) learn how to better recruit and sustain deeper relationships with seniors and youth, (2) facilitate the roles seniors and youth can play as collaborators in field research and conservation science, (3) study ways that seniors and young people, as well as scientists and non-scientists, might interact more effectively while in training and in the field, and (4) study the cognitive and affective impacts of such collaborations upon both volunteers and professionals. Evaluation data on implementation, impact, and scale-up are being collected on three comparison groups of citizen scientists (new, core, and model). Audubon plans to disseminate a plan for implementing senior-youth paired collaborative and co-created citizen science programs to 2,100+ IBA programs in 42 states, 50+ nature centers and its 480 local chapters.
News Article | December 8, 2016
The annual tradition began in 1900 as a social alternative to large-scale hunting events, which conservationists feared would decimate US bird populations. Rumor the German shepherd confirms she is paws above the rest No more watching videos at work: Facebook will now default to audio Brian Flick looks for a rough-legged hawk in Spokane, Wash., during the 2013 Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Next Wednesday, birdwatchers throughout the nation will begin braving the cold for the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. The count, which runs from December 14 to January 5, includes day-long local outings throughout the country. Participants cover 15-mile wide circles, with one compiler per group, tallying every bird seen or heard throughout the day. Volunteers don’t need any previous birdwatching experience, and can participate in as many counts as they like. The annual tradition began in 1900 as a social alternative to large-scale hunting events, which conservationists feared were decimating US bird populations. Today, the practice has an additional purpose: providing valuable data to ornithological researchers. The Christmas count was first proposed by ornithologist Frank Chapman. A prolific, self-taught conservationist, Mr. Chapman hoped to bring communities together in the interest of science, while drawing participation away from a grisly social custom called the “side hunt.” “Sportsmen were accustomed to meet on Christmas Day, ‘choose sides,’ and then, as representatives of the two bands resulting, hie them to the fields and woods on the cheerful mission of killing practically everything in fur or feathers that crossed their path,” Chapman wrote in an issue of Bird Lore, which he edited, in 1900. Today’s Christmas count represents one of the most extensive and geographically diverse data sets in American ornithology. "The information collected provides valuable statistics on declines and increases in particular species, geographical shifts in winter ranges, and other indicators of the status of bird populations," Peter Berle, then the president of the Audubon Society, wrote in The Christian Science Monitor in 1986, when the tradition was 40,000 bird-watchers strong: But the Christmas bird count and the data generated have a deeper importance. As birders see the effects of pollution and loss of habitat, they have become more sensitive to the interrelatedness of all life; this is why the National Audubon Society has evolved naturally from a birding group to one of the nation's largest and most deeply committed conservation organizations. As technologies improve through the years, opportunities for citizen science have grown considerably. Today, amateurs can get involved in a number of worthy scientific initiatives, from testing water conditions to spotting storm systems on Jupiter. The Audubon Society hosts a similar event, dubbed the Great Backyard Bird Count, every year during Presidents’ Day weekend. But citizen science has limits, particularly when it comes to birdwatching. In 2010, researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Science found that citizen science bird counts weren’t always reliable. Volunteers frequently neglect to count common bird species, they said, rendering the data less useful for population studies. Amateurs were much more consistent in counting rare species. But data-gathering isn’t the only benefit of bird counts. “Voluntary citizen-based platforms are not only tools for collecting great amounts of data, they also engage the public, something that forms a basis for future interest in biodiversity and conservation,” researchers wrote in the journal Biological Conservation.
News Article | March 1, 2017
Thanks to this town’s proximity to a virtual airborne highway, aviary attractions in Summerville, SC have taken flight. Just in time for spring migration season – of both the avian and human variety – Summerville’s local merchants and naturalists are celebrating the season. This town just 25 miles from Charleston has built a bevy of avian activities that will have tourists flocking to “Flowertown” from March through May. Tourists can explore and celebrate wonderful feathered creatures in several ways that appeal to the artistic and active, the avid and the amateur. The town may be onto something. Of the 47 million Americans who avidly bird watch, nearly 18 million observe birds away from home annually, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report – Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis. With its tree-lined residential streets, nearby plantations and sprawling forests, Summerville offers a promising habitat for natural resources to thrive. The town spans a prime section of the Southeast’s extensive natural aviary habitat that is home (permanently and sporadically) to countless species of birds and other wildlife. Among the themed calendar items are guided birding walks in historic downtown Summerville and nearby Beidler Forest, a special (Prothonotary) “Warbler Blend” Coffee, bird-themed painting nights at Wine & Design, Night Flight Yoga followed by a flight of beer, the downtown B.I.R.D.S. Sculpture Trail, and even more. Downtown Summerville Guided Birding Walks Staff from the National Audubon Society's Francis Beidler Forest offer free, guided walks in Summerville on the second and third Saturdays in the spring and fall. In the spring, the group is given special access to the yet-to-be-developed, 80-acre Ashley River Park that offers a variety of habitats. Painted Buntings at Summerville’s 7-mile Sawmill Branch Trail On the third Saturdays in the spring, guided walks explore the popular Sawmill Branch Trail. This walking and biking trail offers several great birding locations, and is one of the best places in the area to see the beautiful Painted Bunting. Walks are FREE and occur from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. No registration is required. A limited number of binoculars will be available for use. More: http://sc.audubon.org/activities/guided-bird-walks Night Flight Yoga Strike an eagle or a crow pose! A leisurely walk at Beidler Forest will warm you up for Night Flight Yoga scheduled for the first and third Wednesdays of the month during migration season. Yoga happens in the warehouse at Coastal Coffee Roasters, which offers a beer flight for yoga participants following the class. Wine, soda or kombucha tea flights are available as well. Stretch Your Creative Wings Sit and sip with family or friends while painting beautiful birds at Summerville’s Wine & Design. Alight at 138 South Main Street on the first and third Thursdays of the month during migration season for a bird-themed painting night. More: https://www.wineanddesign.com/locations/summerville Sculpture Lovers: B.I.R.D.S. - Birds in Residence Downtown Summerville Visitors can “catch” more than 22 life-size bird sculptures in the open air on a walk through Historic Downtown Summerville. Birders and art lovers appreciate the chance to catch a glimpse of some of the region’s most recognizable birds in still form at stations throughout town. Born as a public art initiative to get people searching and discovering downtown Summerville, the collection includes: Barred Owl, Mourning Dove, Nuthatch, Chickadees, Bluebirds, Geese, Cardinal, Mississippi Kite and more. More: http://sculptureinthesouth.com/perm-birds.html In the world of real estate, success comes from location, location, location. The same can be said of Summerville’s avian tourism push. Much of the town’s activity links to its proximity to a world-class bird habitat, The National Audubon Society's Francis Beidler Forest. Recently named the No. 5 birding destination in the country by USA Today’s 10Best, the forest’s Four Holes Swamp is one of only 1,890 sites worldwide to receive global recognition as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. More: http://sc.audubon.org/chapters-centers/audubon-center-sanctuary-francis-beidler-forest The undisputed headliner of this old-growth cypress-tupelo swamp is the Prothonotary Warbler, a brilliant yellow-orange swamp dweller. Other species sightings reported at the 16,000-acre environment – which is threaded through with a 1.75-mile boardwalk – include: the Great Blue Heron, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Pileated Woodpecker, Mississippi Kike, Hooded Merganser, White Ibis, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, Painted Bunting, and Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, among many others. (There have been some reported sightings of the elusive Swainson’s Warbler.) The park provides a free boardwalk-specific app for iPhones to help guide your adventure at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/beidler-forest/id360958025?mt=8 Warbler Blend Coffee This coffee from local Coastal Coffee Roasters is exclusively sold at Francis Beidler Forest. Grab a bag before embarking on the boardwalk. Warbler Blend is made from beans on trees where Prothonotary Warblers nest in Colombia, before returning stateside. The blend is Rainforest Alliance-approved, and meets the rigorous environmental and social standards of the alliance. All proceeds benefit Project PROTHO, a program that recruits citizen scientists to help Beidler learn more about the warblers’ breeding biology.