Friday, April 29, 2016

Earls decision a 'slap in the face' for Alberta ranchers, but some experts say Canadian beef industry dropped the ball

As the reaction from a decision by the Earls restaurant chain to begin sourcing its beef from the U.S. instead of Canada continued to rile Albertans, experts say the move should be a wake-up call for the Canadian beef industry. Supporters of Alberta’s ranchers and feedlot operators continued to take to social media on Thursday to urge a boycott of the Vancouver-based chain, which announced this week it would be buying beef from Kansas instead of Alberta as part of its new commitment to serving only Certified Humane beef. Earls, which uses more than 900,000 kilograms of beef per year, was looking for a supplier that could provide it with a consistent supply of beef free of antibiotics and steroids, and slaughtered according to criteria set by animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin.
“There was (and is) simply not enough Certified Humane, antibiotic, steroid free beef in Alberta to meet the volume we use, and those we tried were unable to consistently meet our supply needs, not even a portion of it,” said Earls spokeswoman Cate Simpson in an email. The chain’s decision quickly drew the ire of Alberta beef producers, many of whom felt insulted by the Earls announcement. Bob Lowe, who operates a ranch near Nanton, said he took it as a “slap in the face.” “I’d like to challenge anyone from Earls to come out to our operation and show us what we’re doing wrong,” said Lowe. “To insinuate that cattle producers, feedlot operators, anybody who works with livestock of any kind in Canada is not looking after animals humanely . . . Well, that really hurts.” Lowe said he was frustrated by Earls’ implication that there is something wrong with the use of growth hormones, which he said actually make cattle ranching more environmentally friendly by allowing producers to raise more beef with less water and fewer acres of land.
But University of Saskatchewan assistant professor Eric Micheels — who specializes in bioresource policy, business, and economics — said he doesn’t believe Earls is saying there is anything wrong with Canadian beef production practices and animal welfare standards. Rather, he said the chain’s decision to source elsewhere is an indication that the Canadian industry has underestimated consumers’ desire to know more about the food they eat. “Agriculture groups, in general, have been very reactive to this type of shift in consumer preferences,” Micheels said. “They are slower to respond than firms in other industries.”...more

U.S. Interior Secretary just ripped into corporate climate doubters

Sally Jewell has a blunt message for companies that get mixed up with climate doubters. “There is nothing like a company’s reputation,” said Jewell, the secretary of the U.S. Interior Department, following a Thursday morning urban hike in Canada’s capital region with Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. Jewell, who previously worked as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corp prior to its merger with Exxon in 1999, explained that any business that deliberately tries to confuse the public, will wind up paying the price. “It takes years to build (a good reputation) and then can be stripped down in a hurry and if a company is irresponsible in sharing misinformation they need to be held to account," said Jewell, who has also worked as a business executive in the banking and retail industries, prior to joining the Obama administration in 2013...more

Hunting wolves near Denali, Yellowstone cuts wolf sightings in half

Visitors to national parks are half as likely to see wolves in their natural habitat when wolf hunting is permitted just outside park boundaries. That's the main finding of a paper co-authored by the University of Washington appearing April 28, 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE. Its authors examined wolf harvest and sightings data from two national parks -- Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park that straddles Wyoming, Montana and Idaho -- and found visitors were twice as likely to see a wolf when hunting wasn't permitted adjacent to the parks. "This is the first study that demonstrates a potential link between the harvest of wildlife on the borders of a park and the experience that visitors have within the park," said lead author Bridget Borg, a Denali wildlife biologist who completed this research while earning her doctorate from the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks...more

Before, you could do only one thing - view the wolves.  Now you have three options - hunt, trap and view.

Deadliest month ever for Florida panthers, with nine killed

This April will go down as the bloodiest month yet for the Florida panther. So far, nine of the endangered cats have died, all but one killed along Southwest Florida highways and roads. Seven were males, almost all of them at the young age when they start looking to establish their own territory. Altogether, 20 panthers have died this year, a number on track to outpace last year’s record-breaking 41 fatalities. Why so many died, wildlife officials say, is simply a gory measure of their success. “It’s not the best way to document that increase, but it’s still a fact we have to take into account,” said David Schindle, Florida panther coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The number also speaks to the increasing pressure from development on the wide-ranging panthers — particularly males, which each need a territory of about 200 square miles. In recent months, the notoriously shy cats have made some unusual appearances: In March, a panther was photographed sitting on the porch of an east Fort Myers house. Two weeks later, a visitor to the Corkscrew Swamp spooked a panther sitting on a boardwalk and videotaped it racing past her...more

Ammon Bundy offered to plead guilty to spare other militants

Three days after he was arrested on a remote highway north of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January, Ammon Bundy offered to plead guilty to a felony conspiracy charge for occupying the refuge if the government would drop charges for other defendants and allow the remaining occupants to go home safely. The plea deal, which prosecutors rejected two weeks later, was revealed yesterday in a legal filing from Bundy's attorney Mike Arnold in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. "On January 29, 2016, when more government initiated violence seemed highly probable, Mr. Bundy reached out on his own initiative, through legal counsel, in an attempt to facilitate a speedy resolution, offering to take all responsibility for the protest," Arnold wrote. "This is the kind of leadership and responsibility with which Mr. Bundy has been known throughout his life, and certainly throughout this protest." The government formally responded Feb. 10 -- one day before the remaining four occupants peacefully exited the refuge -- stating "it is simply too early to discuss resolution of the case," Arnold wrote in the 24-page filing. Since then, Malheur occupants including Bundy have been charged with five additional felony charges. Bundy's filing yesterday asked the court to grant a 30-day extension to yesterday's deadline to file preliminary legal arguments...more

Cliven Bundy Trial Set Back to 2017

The Nevada federal trial of ranchers Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy and 15 others accused of breaking federal laws during an April 2014 standoff has been pushed back to Feb. 6, 2017. U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy A. Leen on Tuesday granted a request to cancel the May 2 trial date, due to scheduling conflicts with Oregon Federal Courts. "Failure to grant the request would likely result in a miscarriage of justice," Leen wrote. In addition to postponing the Bundys' trial date, Leen designated the trial a complex case and set deadlines for pretrial motions and other proceedings. She gave federal prosecutors until May 6 to produce discovery evidence. Prosecutors and 13 of the 19 defendants, including Cliven Bundy, asked for the complex case designation. Leen said the case qualifies as complex due to the 16 felony counts against 19 defendants, the "voluminous" discovery, and the hundreds of potential witnesses. She said more than 100 witness interviews have been done already, with more coming. The government will call 30 to 45 witnesses, and seven of the defendants face separate criminal charges in Oregon...more

 That's the way the feds do it:  Get the judge to deny you bail and then keep movin' the trial back.  That increases the odds you will settle.

Anti-Fracking Groups Are Recruiting Greenies To Get Arrested For The Movement

Anti-fossil fuel campaigners are ramping up their “leave it in the ground” efforts by recruiting protesters willing to get arrested for demonstrating against hydraulic fracturing, emails acquired by The Daily Caller News Foundation reveal. In an email sent April 22 to college students and other anti-fossil fuel activists in Colorado, an environmentalist group calling itself “Break Free Colorado” directed anti-fracking protesters “willing to risk arrest, nonviolent direct action” to attend seminars teaching them how to get arrested. Instructors at the group’s April 30th and May 1st training seminars are tasked with teaching anti-fracking protesters how to engage in non-violent civil unrest tactics that lead to arrests. More than 40 campus anti-fossil fuel crusaders on college campuses have been arrested over the past two months. Eight anti-fossil fuel campus activists at Northern Arizona University (NAU) have been arrested since Monday for refusing to leave a building they were occupying in protest of the school’s fossil fuel assets. Similarly, nearly 40 anti-fossil fuel students at the University of Massachusetts were arrested while holding up in a federal government building in hopes of forcing UMass’ investment group into divesting fossil fuel assets...more

EPA: La Plata County won’t get full reimbursement for Gold King

Environmental Protection Agency officials told dismayed La Plata County commissioners on Wednesday not to expect compensation for some Gold King Mine spill costs. For seven months, county staff has sunk several hundred hours into drafting a cooperative agreement asking the EPA to fund up to $2.4 million over 10 years for spill-related costs and preparation measures for future emergencies. Others, including tribal communities and the state of New Mexico, have drafted similar documents asking for a long-term river monitoring system. But EPA officials said Wednesday the cooperative agreement program is not designed to cover anticipated expenses. Furthermore, the federal agency ended its emergency response activities on Oct. 31, and is using that date as a reimbursement cutoff for response costs. And, the agency is considering its own future costs to evaluate and clean the mining district that has been recommended for Superfund status. “The intent is not that this co-op agreement would cover future activities,” Superfund remedial program director Bill Murray said. “For Superfund sites, we don’t often have future costs included. The program is not designed to provide for a lot of what is in there.” The cooperative agreement outlines several tasks or funding requests. The EPA reimbursed the county for one task – $9,700 for a tour of regional Superfund sites – and is evaluating another – costs incurred from Aug. 6 through Dec. 31, 2015, that total $249,224. Earlier this year, the county received about $200,000 from the EPA for costs incurred immediately after the spill. But Murray said the EPA won’t cover continued monitoring of spill effects and water quality, a future response plan, continued outreach and public education. County staff said the EPA is contradicting itself, having told the county months ago to cast a wide net of demands in the cooperative agreement...more

Proposed Legislation Aims to Ensure Input of Local Communities in Federal Land Management Decisions

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on the discussion draft of “Locally-elected Officials Cooperating with Agencies in Land Management Act (LOCAL Management Act).”
The enormity of federal land ownership in numerous states has caused immense problems for counties, contributing to diminished tax bases and a range of duplicative and costly regulations that lack local input.
The  draft legislation is designed to mitigate these challenges by requiring federal land agencies to more closely consult and cooperate with local governments that are burdened by federal intrusion.
 “The most common complaint I hear from locally elected officials in my district is that they are rarely consulted, rarely respected and often bypassed by federal land managers in the decisions that directly affect their communities and the local economy, Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) said.


Fate of Arizona's only free-flowing river now in judges' hands

The fate of the Southwest's last free-flowing river is now in a few judges' hands. A panel will determine whether the state must reconsider its ruling that there is enough water to support a large housing development planned for Sierra Vista. Attorneys for the federal and state governments argued Thursday over water rights in the Arizona Court of Appeals in a suit that could make it more difficult for some developers to secure a 100-year water supply. The Arizona Department of Water Resources ruled years ago that developer Castle & Cooke had adequate water supply to build a roughly 7,000-unit residential and commercial project called Tribute. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and two Arizona residents sued, saying that the development's groundwater pumping would deplete the aquifer and dry stretches of the San Pedro River during summer. The development would increase the basin’s pumping by about 30 percent, according to court filings.  Fort Huachuca, an Army base, has cut its pumping by two-thirds and spent millions of dollars helping groups such as the Nature Conservancy recharge water into the aquifer, whose springs sustain the river.  The real-estate development would use about the same amount that Fort Huachuca has given up. "This is a facilitated robbery by ADWR," said Robin Silver, a party to the suit who owns property along the river. At the same time, a bill in the Arizona Legislature would allow Sierra Vista and other rural cities to permit development without 100-year water-supply certificates, which could green light the Castle & Cooke project. Both chambers approved the bill but have to reconcile some amendments before sending it to Gov. Doug Ducey...more

Editorial - BLM falling down on the job

Reason No. 297 why the federal government should cede control of a large swath of its sweeping Nevada real estate portfolio to those who actually live here:

For years, the Bureau of Land Management has done a miserable job of managing wild horse populations in the West. Thanks to that dereliction of duty, the BLM recently informed ranchers in northeastern Nevada that there will be further restrictions on grazing permits because wild horses have overrun certain areas, compromising the health of range lands.

The move could suck $1.8 million out of the Elko County economy. A cynic might suggest that all of this is no accident, given federal land managers have been squeezing ranchers for years.

At any rate, Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday said he may go to court to force the feds to more aggressively address the wild horse issue. He found support from Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation. “Unfortunately, the BLM has not lived up to its end of the bargain” on this issue, said Rep. Cresent Hardy, adding that the agency’s failure could “rob hard-working Nevadans of their livelihoods.”

This is all well and good, as far as it goes. But this is a symptom of a larger issue.

Environmentalists routinely dismiss concerns about Washington overseeing some 85 percent of Nevada’s acreage, arguing the federal government’s vast resources make it a more appropriate manager of these land holdings than the local yokels. But is it really so fantastical to posit that if these lands were under the domain of state or local interests, the wild horse problem would have been sufficiently confronted by now?

Instead, ranchers in Elko County — some of whom have been working the land for generations — now face financial strain thanks to the inaction of federal bureaucrats sitting in their comfortable beltway offices more than 2,000 miles away.

National Elk Summit slated next week

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will host representatives from 18 states and two federal agencies at a two-day summit Tuesday and Wednesday. The conference will address successes, challenges and strategies affecting elk populations, public lands management, habitat, hunting, public access, scientific research, disease and other timely topics. “This is an invaluable opportunity for us to rub shoulders with our partner agencies that do so much to look after elk and elk country,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “It also gives the state and federal agencies a chance to discuss commonly held challenges and solutions to a myriad of land and wildlife issues.” Directors or assistant directors from 18 states will participate. Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and RMEF will attend. Steven Rinella, award-winning author, RMEF life member and host of the TV Show “MeatEater,” will address the summit as well as RMEF President/CEO David Allen, other RMEF executive staff and board members...more

New Mexico leaders voice support for methane curbs

A coalition of city and county leaders, including Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, urged the Obama administration in a letter Thursday to swiftly adopt stringent regulations aimed at capturing methane emissions from oil and gas operations. They are the most recent public officials to weigh in on a mostly party-line debate over how and if methane emissions should be captured, with Democrats expressing support for new regulations, citing health and environmental ramifications, and Republicans objecting to additional government reach and its potential to constrict the oil and gas industry. In coming days, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release the first of two sets of highly anticipated federal methane regulations; the second is expected to be released by the Bureau of Land Management this summer. In the letter released Thursday, 68 officials from Colorado, Pennsylvania and New Mexico emphasized the harmful health consequences that have been associated with leaked methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to a warming climate — 80 times more than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release. In the oil-rich, northwestern corner of New Mexico, the amount of leaked and vented methane is said to be higher than the amount of gas produced, and it has created a 2,500-square-mile methane cloud over the Four Corners that was discovered via satellite by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 2014. It is the highest concentration of atmospheric methane in the nation...more

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Environmental Laws Threaten Safety in Borderland Communities

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on impediments imposed by federal land management regimes in securing the international borders of the United States.
Federal land management regulations create obstacles for the United States Border Patrol in effectively securing the border. This leaves borderland communities both environmentally degraded and vulnerable to smuggling operations.
“It is a fact that drug cartels and human traffickers have long used our unsecured borders to conduct their operations—and thousands of people have died as a result. […] But federal government has chosen to favor environmental regulations over national security interests and human lives, this emergency continues. […] Traffickers and drug lords could care less about bats, ocelots, and Sonoran Pronghorn. And yet, land managers at the Department of the Interior have blocked Border Patrol from accessing these lands, so that they can secure our borders, enforce our laws, protect tour land, save human lives and our precious species,” Subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said.
Panelists shared their personal experiences navigating these dangers, highlighting the continuing need to facilitate border patrol access to federal land. Commissioner of Boundary County, Idaho and former Border Patrol agent, LeAlan Pinkerton, described the environmental regulations restricting border security operations.
“The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers have affected a number of measures to inhibit the Border Patrol’s ability to access the border areas. They have placed gates on roads not previously gated. They have not provided keys in a timely fashion. They have changed locks on gated roads currently in use without providing keys in advance. They have removed culverts, decommissioned roads, dug tank traps and placed large boulders in roadways, etc. The USFS seldom gives any notification or fore-warning that such measures were scheduled or taking place,” Pinkerton stated.
Witness Tricia Elbrock, testifying on behalf of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, called for a federal overhaul of land use regulations to ensure border security.
“Our region from Arizona to Texas has a wide variety of federally owned lands ranging from the Bureau of Land Management and USFS to wildlife refuges and monuments. Many of these federal designations don’t allow for appropriate surveillance. Mountains near us have been burned to the ground due to fires started by illegals. Federal land use regulations need an overhaul to address the specific and special needs of the borderlands. Law enforcement agencies and the Border Patrol need access to every inch of federal lands to be able to protect our families and communities,” Elbrock stated.
Land managers can take years to issue permits needed to effectively patrol the border, if granted at all. The Committee aims to guarantee access to federal land necessary to install security technology, maintain roads and secure basic patrol access.
“It seems clear to me that we are placing environmental priorities over our national security. It is inexcusable when permitting […] takes so long that what’s needed for border security is no longer applicable,” Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said.
Click here to view the full witness testimony.

Defense bill would allow states to nullify federal sage grouse plans

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is celebrating the House Armed Services Committee's early Thursday passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, legislation that could block implementation of federal sage grouse management plans in Utah and other Western states. The massive bill also prevents any change in the bird's conservation status for 10 years. Conservation groups and wildlife organizations said the sage grouse provision in the bill threatens protections for the bird. But Bishop has argued that the nearly 100 land-use management plans adopted by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service to address threats to the imperiled bird jeopardize the nation's military readiness and in particular operations at the Utah Test and Training Range. HR4909 passed the committee at 2:30 a.m. Thursday after more than 16 hours of deliberation and despite efforts by key House Democrats who argued the bird poses no significant threat to the nation's military. Bishop, however, was able to get the rider in the bill that allows states with sage grouse populations to nullify the federal sage grouse management plans, which have been controversial in many states throughout the West...more

Is Thomas Jefferson alive and well in Utah?

Can't wait to see that nullification language.

My imagination is running wild.

Bunkerville standoff figure plays media card in bid for freedom

Pete Santilli is playing the media card in a bid to gain his release from federal custody in the criminal case stemming from the Bunkerville standoff. In court papers this week, defense lawyer Chris Rasmussen argued that Santilli was covering the April 12, 2014, armed confrontation between the Bundy family and law enforcement as a member of the media. He hosts the Internet-based Pete Santilli show from Cincinnati on YouTube. “The court should carefully consider the chilling effect on the media that the detention of the main journalist covering the Bundys would have on other journalists interested in these land issues,” Rasmussen wrote. “Santilli is situated much differently than the other defendants. His role as a journalist here in Nevada and Oregon should be considered in his release. Santilli never carried a firearm, never threw a rock, never came into any type of physical confrontation with government officials.” Federal prosecutors, however, do not share Rasmussen’s opinion. They contend in court documents that Santilli and his web-based Guerilla Media Network are not part of the mainstream media and that his podcast espouses anti-government rhetoric and conspiracy theories...more

How Safe is our U.S. Border? Border Community Members Share Their Story

Many communities on the U.S. border live in fear from illegal activity coming across from Mexico. Agriculture operations are constantly being harassed by drug runners and human traffickers. This video shows the struggles a community goes through with the border not being secure.

Researcher spent 10 years waiting for ghost cougar to appear. Now he’s calling it quits

After 10 years of patiently waiting for Nova Scotia’s ghost cougar to appear, a determined researcher working in the dark forests of Kejimkujik National Park is calling it quits. The elusive cougar has long been a source of intrigue and myth in Nova Scotia, and even inspired an episode of the Trailer Park Boys. But Chris McCarthy’s decade-long quest has failed to turn up any evidence that eastern cougars still roam the big park in western Nova Scotia. “We haven’t had any success in detecting any, and so after a decade we think we’ve put enough effort into it for now,” says McCarthy, the park’s manager of resource conservation...more

Sierra Club: Border Wall Would Harm Endangered Species

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposed border wall would harm threatened and endangered species, the Sierra Club claims in a new campaign. The Sierra Club’s Tucson affiliate is heading what it calls the Borderlands Project. In a video produced locally and marketed internationally, the group says the Trump wall proposal will not accomplish its intention - to curb illegal immigration - but will harm wildlife. “Border Patrol says over and over again that it only slows somebody down by five minutes," said Scott Nicol, a co-founder of the No Border Wall Coalition. "It’s basically a speed bump, but it’s a speed bump that is going to destroy critical habitat and also do tremendous damage to agriculture and ecotourism and the economy of an already very poor area,” Nicol said. Proponents of a border wall have repeatedly called it an integral step in stopping illegal immigration and that it must be built before any consideration of immigration reform. Among them is state Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, whose district includes the northernmost part of Pima County. “My oath of office is to protect the American people - not a species of animals," Smith said in an interview several months ago with Arizona Public Media when he was asked about wildlife and a wall...more

Why Malheur Wildlife Refuge is seeing green after the siege

The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge which ended in February has left an unexpected legacy to the park, one that appears to be in conflict with the occupiers' original intent.
Since the siege on the refuge ended in early February, the park has seen a surge of financial support.

While disgruntled farmer Ammon Bundy initiated the takeover with his armed supporters to protest federal ownership of land – such as Malheur in Harney County, Ore. – his 41-day occupation of the refuge appears to have worked against his agenda: Malheur has witnessed an outpouring of donations and visitors. Neither the park nor the occupiers could have anticipated the kind of interest the occupation would eventually spark.

“It was a curse for the refuge and the [Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge] group, and it was kind of dark days,” Gary Ivey, president of the independent nonprofit Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, told Oregon’s Bend Bulletin. The organization has raised over $75,000 in new memberships and donations since January. “It’s also a blessing because there’s been a lot more broad support and [the refuge is] more well known now.”

Malheur held its annual Harney County Migratory Bird Festival earlier this month and it was an unprecedented success. According to the festival’s website, “Tours filled up faster than we could keep up” and many of the events sold out before the three-day festival. 

...The occupation even started bringing in funds before the Bundys left the premises. Soon after the occupiers took over Malheur, a pair of Oregon brothers started an online fundraiser for the refuge and other related interests.

“For each day the unlawful occupation continues, the pledged funding for these groups will increase. It is our hope that the nonnative occupiers will see the futility of their wrongful takeover and peacefully go home!” brother Zach and Jake Klonoski pleaded on the site The Klonoski brothers’ mother is US District Court Judge Ann Aiken, whose resentencing of ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond became the Bundys’ rallying cry.

...“We need the final donated amount to be big, so that history records that the Bundys raised a ton of money against their own cause through their futile occupation,” write the Klonoski brothers. And when the occupation did end after 41 days, $135,647 was pledged to the GoHome campaign. In other words, each day the Bundys prolonged their occupation, $3,154 was raised for Malheur.

...“Bundy’s stated goal was to turn the refuge over to local ranchers, loggers and miners,” writes Triple Pundit’s Tina Casey. “But instead he set off a surge of public support for national parks in general and the Malheur refuge in particular.”

One has to wonder how much of this is wishful thinking - or even outright spite for the Bundys - or if this is indeed an accurate portrayal of the lasting affects of the takeover.

EWG’s "Dirty Dozen" list once inflammatory, now discredited

As they have done for the last 20 years, the Environmental Working Group issued its annual so-called “dirty dozen” list concerning pesticide residues and produce. In an attempt to re-spark interest in its list, EWG debuted a new fruit in the number one position this year. In response, the Alliance for Food and Farming issues its annual call for reporters and bloggers to read the actual United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program report that EWG states it uses to develop its list before covering the “dirty dozen” release. This USDA report states that the findings show “residues do not pose a safety concern.” One of the main reasons for declining coverage of the “dirty dozen” is not only are more reporters and bloggers reading the actual USDA report, but EWG’s “list” has been discredited by the scientific community. A peer reviewed analysis of the “dirty dozen” list found EWG uses no established scientific procedures to develop the list.  This analysis also found that EWG’s recommendation to substitute organic forms of produce for conventional forms does not result in a decrease in risk because residue levels are so minute, if present at all, on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables...more

Massive seagrass die-off hits Florida Bay

The shallow coastal waters of Florida Bay are famed for their crystal clear views of thick green seagrass – part of the largest stretch of these grasses in the world. But since mid-2015, a massive 40,000-acre die off here has clouded waters and at times coated shores with floating dead grasses. The event, which has coincided with occasional fish kills, recalls a prior die-off from 1987 through the early 1990s, which spurred major momentum for the still incomplete task of Everglades restoration. “It actually started faster as far as we can tell this year,” said James Fourqurean, a Florida International University marine scientist who studies the system. “In the 80s, it continued to get worse for 3 years.” Fourqurean and government Everglades experts fear they’re witnessing a serious environmental breakdown, one that gravely threatens one of North America’s most fragile and unusual wild places. When most people think of the Everglades, they envision swamps — but sea grass is just as important, if less romanticized.  And although there is at least some scientific dissent, Fourqurean and fellow scientists think they know the cause of the die-off. It’s just the latest manifestation, they say, of the core problem that has bedeviled this system for many decades: Construction of homes, roads, and cities has choked off the flow of fresh water. Without fast moves to make the park far more resilient to climate change and rising, salty seas, the problem will steadily worsen.  Holding dead grasses in her hand in a National Park Service boat in the more than half-a-million-acre estuary, Jewell told a group of staff and reporters, “This is what we get when we don’t take care of Florida Bay.”...more