Horse Creek Project: Losing Taxpayer Money to Harm Spotted Owls

GR:  Relentlessly, the U. S. Forest Service sacrifices forest ecosystems so timber companies can make profits.  Personally, I would like to see the Forest Service protect the forests, not sell them out. Isn’t that what we expect them to do?

Low severity fire in upper Buckhorn Creek. Small snag patches such as this one in upper Buckhorn Creek are being targeted for logging by the KNF. The damage to soils, forest regeneration, and habitat complexity will degrade some of the watershed’s only remaining old-growth forest. Photo courtesy of Luke Ruediger http://www.siskiyoucrest.blogspot.com.

“Meet the Horse Creek Project, the Klamath’s new boondoggle that will log sensitive areas while losing taxpayer money. (There’s something in it for everyone to hate!)

“The Klamath National Forest cannot let a fire go to “waste.” Following the 2016 Gap Fire, the Klamath National Forest is trying to log areas that should be off-limits: Late Successional Reserves, forests set aside from commercial timber harvest so that they can develop into old-growth forests; Riparian Reserves, areas around streams that are supposed to be off-limits to logging to prevent water pollution; and northern spotted owl habitat. The Klamath National Forest argues that logging large diameter snags, (which will stand for decades until new forests grow up around them all the while providing critical wildlife habitat) is good for the forests and for wildlife—paradoxical logic that has been rejected by both science and the courts.

“If history is any guide, the Klamath National Forest will lose money in logging owl habitat—what’s known in Forest Service parlance as a “deficit sale.” Burned forests are worth more to owls and fishers than they are to timber mills. To make a profit, timber companies need to purchase trees from the Klamath National Forest for next to nothing. In several timber sales from earlier this year, the Klamath National Forest sold a logging truck’s worth of timber for about $2.50—less than the price of a cup of coffee. The Klamath will lose untold thousands or millions of dollars on this timber sale, money that could go to protecting local communities or improving wildlife habitat.” –Tom Wheeler (Continue reading:  Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) » Horse Creek Project: Losing Taxpayer Money to Harm Spotted Owls).

Save Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge!

GR:  Global climate change and other issues beset us from all sides, but we must still try to protect and care for the small wild places that remain.

“Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last remaining protected remnants of the northern Everglades left in Florida.

“It’s a national treasure, providing ideal feeding and nesting habitat for more than 250 species of birds, including the largest colony of wading birds in the Everglades. Acting as a natural filter, the refuge also provides clean water for communities in South Florida. But now it’s in danger of being lost forever.

“Loxahatchee isn’t like most other refuges. It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) through a lease agreement with the South Florida Water Management District, which manages drinking water supplies and flood control in south Florida. Now the water management district wants to rescind the lease from the federal government, effectively closing the refuge for good.The District contends that FWS has done a poor job at raising funds from Congress to manage invasive plant species on the refuge, as stipulated in the lease agreement. These non-native plants, such as melaleuca trees and Old World climbing fern, damage the dwindling Everglades habitat. Yet the state has done a poor job itself of controlling invasive species in its surrounding Water Management District Areas. In fact, Loxahatchee became infested with Old World climbing fern from surrounding state-owned lands. Revoking the lease agreement will not solve this regional invasive species problem.” –Haley McKey (continue:  Save Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge!

NPR Poo-Poos Catastrophic Wildlife Collapse; Issues Happy Pills Instead

GR:  I have often lamented the lack of ecological knowledge among our leaders and news media.  Here’s a story by Joe Bish that illustrates the problem of ignorance among reporters.

“If you are like me, you may often wonder why such a great percentage of your fellow citizens do not fully appreciate the ecological crisis. But then, you read a report such as published by NPR below: this odious gem was printed in the wake of the recent World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report.

“I initially guffawed at the temerity of the reporter to sow doubt about the massive publication’s authenticity, mangle Stuart Pimm’s sentiments, and finally force-feed the reader a good dose of artificial happy pills. However, the more I read the article, the more insidious it became — for the simple reason it just does not convey the dire nature of what WWF published. It’s simply terrible reporting — and therein, perhaps, is one reason so few truly grasp the predicament we face. Recall this is an NPR story that probably reached multiple millions of people.

“The reporter, Rebecca Hersher, seems to have plenty of experience — see below — just hardly any that pertains to ecology. Therefore, she is left with the standard artifice of modern journalism: to manufacture controversy and look for “another point of view.”

“NOTE: Hersher came to NPR from Nature Medicine, where she wrote about biomedicine and pharmaceuticals, and started her career in science, with a B.A. in Neurobiology from Harvard University in 2011. She has been a staff member of NPR’s All Things Considered. She was one of the producers of NPR’s Peabody-winning coverage of the 2014 Liberia Ebola epidemic (work that won her the Edward R. Murrow award for use of sound.) During her time at NPR, she also embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan on an assignment with NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman.”–Joe Bish, Population Media Center (NPR Poo-Poos Catastrophic Wildlife Collapse; Issues Happy Pills Instead).

Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona

Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona

front-cover-with-white-borderThere is a new book on the birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona. The book has photographs, notes on seasonal abundance, and conservation status for the 127 species I’ve seen around my home on the Agua Fria River in the center of town.

My place is on the edge of a small 20-acre willow-cottonwood forest growing along the Agua Fria River. The forest is the dark green patch in the lower right-center of the header photograph. The river is perennial through the forest and there are large stock-watering ponds that are now used only by wildlife. Without houses or trails in its core area, the forest is a safe zone for wildlife. Thousands of birds stop to rest and forage, and many spend their summers there. Rare birds such as the Southwest Willow Flycatcher, Common Black Hawk, and Gray Hawk build nests and raise families.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo by mdf

Yellow-billed Cuckoo by mdf

In August, 2016, Felipe Guerrero identified the calls of mature Yellow-billed Cuckoos near the edge of the forest and we photographed a fledgling.  Western North American populations of the Cuckoo are in steep decline. The species is rare in central Arizona where I live, and rarer still to be producing fledglings here.

The final version of the book will be in print next month. Advance review copies in PDF format are available. Please download a copy and give me your feedback.

>>Download Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona.

Preparing The Book

In 1997, I began making lists of the birds and other wildlife I saw around my 20-acre farm on the Agua Fria River in the town of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona. After a few years, I gathered the lists together in one notebook. While doing this, I researched the various species groups (birds, grasshoppers, mammals, etc.) and compiled lists of all the species known to live in or to visit Arizona. The Arizona Wildlife Notebook, published in 2014, includes lists of all those species categorized in eleven groups (amphibians, ants, birds, butterflies and moths, dragonflies and damselflies, fish, grasshoppers and other singing insects, lizards, mammals, snakes, and turtles). The book gives common and scientific names and estimates of species health and stability. It’s a handy tool for recording species anywhere in the State of Arizona.

Birds of Dewey-Humboldt Arizona, is a chapter from the full notebook with added details and photographs for observed species. The book is a report to my community that I hope stimulates others to record their bird sightings.

I recommend uploading bird sightings to the online checklist program at http://ebird.org. Operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides basic information on bird abundance and distribution at various spatial and temporal scales. Placing sightings on the eBird website will help ornithologists and other naturalists working on bird conservation.

This book has common and scientific names alphabetized by common name, and it has an index. Finding a bird name can be tricky because the common name isn’t always what we think. For instance, the list gives Arizona’s two Robin species as “American Robin” and “Rufous-backed Robin.” The index is often more helpful. For Robins, it lists the species as “Robin, American” and “Robin, Rufous-backed.” It also gives page numbers for both species’ scientific names.

Caveat: My notes on dates of first sightings probably reflect the date I learned to identify a species, not the date the species first appeared near my home.

Protecting Birds

The past decade’s droughts, storms, and spreading deserts show that humanity is changing the Earth. Research coming from many sources shows that worldwide animal extinctions are occurring 100 times faster than in Earth’s previous mass-extinction events recorded in the fossil record.

Extinction isn’t the only concern. Total loss of a species results after years of decline. The Living Planet Index, which measures abundance levels of 14,152 monitored populations of 3,706 vertebrate species, shows that a worldwide crash is occurring. On average, monitored species declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

One of the oldest and most familiar citizen-participation activities is the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Wildlife biologists have used the Bird Count to monitor bird species populations. A recent analysis of the Count’s results show that many U.S. bird species are declining. Some of our most familiar birds appear in current counts less than half as often as they did just 50 years ago. For example, over the past 50 years, sightings of Loggerhead Shrikes, a common Arizona species, declined by 72%. The Shrike in the photograph at left is the only one I have seen in 19 years of watching at my place.

Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) wildlife biologists conclude that at least 58% of Arizona’s native birds are definitely declining and . Another 20% are of possible long-term concern. The U.S. Endangered Species Act protects only 1% of Arizona bird species.

The reason for the declining numbers is not a mystery. Researchers have shown that the declines are due to the impact of human activities, chiefly:

  • habitat destruction (building and farming)
  • resource harvests (logging, livestock grazing, and water diversion)
  • habitat deterioration caused by introduced invasive plants
  • habitat poisoning with pesticides, toxic wastes, and in the case of the oceans, acidification due to CO2 increases and increases in organic runoff from the land.

The human impact is a direct result of human construction, land clearning, and resource consumption. Our total global population is nearing 7.5 billion and we are using the Earth’s renewable resources faster than natural processes replenish them.

Unless we control our population and consumption or unless drought, disease, pollution, and rising temperature control them for us, the environmental impacts of our growth will eventually eliminate upwards of 80% of our bird species.

I believe nature conservation was the great challenge of the 20th Century, and we failed the challenge. Human beings are imposing a mass extinction that now appears destined to wipe out most animals on Earth. I hope readers of this book will recognize the danger and help me find ways to stop the extinctions.

Bird Species Numbers

According to the information published by AZGFD, 551 bird species and subspecies occur in Arizona. Regular residents number 451.

  • World estimate: 10,000
  • U.S. estimate: 1,000
  • Arizona total: 551
  • Arizona birds regularly present: 451
  • Arizona regulars of concern (S1 to S3): 260 (58%)
  • Arizona regulars of possible long-term concern (S4): 95 (21%).
  • ESA Arizona regulars listed endangered: 6 (1%)
  • ESA Arizona regulars listed threatened: 1 (<1%)
  • ESA Arizona regulars of concern: 26 (6%)

Book Details

  • Title:               Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona
  • Pages:           128
  • Identifiers: ISBN 978-1539511786 | LCCN 2016918263
  • Subjects: LCSH Dewey-Humboldt (Ariz.) | Agua Fria River Valley (Ariz.) | Birds–Arizona. | BISAC NATURE / Birdwatching Guides
  • Classification: LCC QL684.A6 .R63 2016 | DDC 598.09791–dc23
  • List Price:       $24.95
  • Description:  This book describes the birds seen around the author’s home in the center of Dewey-Humboldt, a small Arizona town. A desert stream, the Agua Fria River, passes through the town and across land owned by the author. At the confluence of two small tributaries, the river flood plain supports a 20-acre willow-cottonwood forest. Without houses or trails in its core area, the forest is a safe zone for wildlife. Thousands of birds belonging to more than 100 species stop to rest and forage in the small forest. The Southwest Willow Flycatcher (on the U. S. Endangered Species List) and several other rare bird species use the forest to build nests and raise families. The book lists 127 species observed in and around the forest. For each, the book includes seasonal abundance, conservation status, and a photograph.
  • The book will be available from:
  • Independent bookstores with books in stock

    • Gifts and Games, Humboldt Station, Humboldt, Arizona
  • Internet