Critical habitat for polar bears is finally designated

187,157 square miles of Alaskan land and (mostly) ocean to be for the bears-

U.S. Firms Up ‘Critical Habitat’ for Polar Bears. By Felicity Barringer. The Green Blog in the New York Times. Here is the web page on this from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Dept. of Interior).

This is very important, but designation of critical habitat can’t stop the ice from melting. The future of these bears looks grim.

More on close wolf encounters

What does wolves close up mean?

If a wolf approaches you, you should certainly not assume it wants to eat you.  On the other hand, watch it closely, it isn’t necessary benign.

Some people can “read” dogs, cats, horses, and other animals.  People who can’t fill in the blanks with their hopes, fears, and generalizations from other animals.

This last month we witnessed the fearful reaction of two Montana hunters to a pack of wolves nearby. Flathead Valley hunters shoot wolf, say they were surrounded. By Tristan Scott of the Missoulian. Over the years, we have posted a number of other accounts where people had “scary,” close wolf encounters.  Some folks will recall the humorous story of the Forest Service employees (from Utah) who encountered howling wolves in the middle of the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho (I don’t recall if they even saw one of the wolves), but they were so frightened by the howls they had a Forest Service helicopter fly into the designated Wilderness area to be evacuated.

I have heard no “scary” stories from people except from those already hateful or frightened of wolves, and who had a close encounter.

I’ve had two close encounters.  With the first (1997) I was so overconfident, I was just stupid. We (five of us) repeatedly approached the Rose Creek Pack on Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone when they had about 18 members.  The wolves kept trotting 50 to 100 yards ahead, stopping and bark howling. At the time I didn’t know a bark howl is a much different message than a howl.

I have posted the story how being circled by wolves was thought to be a wonderful experience.

Here is another interesting close encounter. Ken Cole posted this story today too.  It ended just fine, but it’s hard to know what the wolf was doing. Calm of the wild. Living with wolves takes some practice by Tim Lydon. Writers on the Range in the  Missoula IndependentKen also posts his own experiences.

I think if people have a scary wolf experience it is probably because they interpret most wolf behavior as something to be frightened of.  To take it step farther, a frightened person might look like prey to an otherwise uninterested wolf.

Maybe some people are natural prey.

Calm of the wild

A wolf encounter

Tim Lydon, who works in Alaska, writes of an encounter he had with a wolf there during the late summer that was very calm and seemed motivated out of curiosity more than anything.

Calm of the wild.
by Tim Lydon – Missoula Independent

This is similar to all of the “close encounters” I have had with wolves over the years in Idaho. On a number of occasions, while working near Clayton, Idaho, I actively sought out wolf encounters with the Buffalo Ridge Pack. On at least 4 occasions I encountered wolves, while on foot during the late evening or at night, and the wolves only expressed mild interest when they mistook me for other wolves after I howled.

On one of those occasions I surprised the whole pack that had come down to the steelhead pond that I was tending for the Idaho Fish and Game so that they could eat the smolts that hadn’t left the pond yet. I had been given a radio receiver so that I could monitor the wolves while they interacted with the turbo-fladry which was being tested around the pond after several consecutive years where they came to feed there.

Read the rest of this entry »

Obama to announce oil drilling and leasing moratoriums

Six month moratorium on new deep water well permits; lease auctions off Virginia and Alaska coast put in suspension. Partial ban on new spuds-

There is finally action by the Administration on oil leases and permits to drill in various places off-shore. It is expected that today the President will announce there will be no new deepwater wells spudded (to begin drilling)  in the next 6 months.  Oil lease auction sales in the western Gulf of Mexico and off the Virginia Coast are said to be canceled.  A freeze or cancelation of lease auctions is very important because once bought, cancellation of a lease by the government requires the government to repay the leaseholder. That can require a lot of money.

Lease sales and spudding in the Arctic Ocean (oh, my god, they were going to do that?) are on hold.

Meanwhile, we are waiting to see if BP was successful in their “top kill” of the big oil gusher under the Gulf of Mexico.

It occurs to me that one reason why the Administration might have been slow on this is that BP holds an important card.  If BP walks away, it’s not like the government has the knowledge or the resources to kill the gushing, ruined well.

AP source: Obama extends stop on deepwater wells. By Erica Werner and Charles Babington. Associated Press.

Update on May 28. U.S. to stop drilling already underway on 33 deepwater rigs! Reuters.

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Tracking the Oil Spill in the Gulf (map). New York Times.

Alaska Senator: Oil Company Whore

Lisa Murkowski blocks Senate bill To Raise Oil Spill Liability Cap (with VIDEO)-

Murkowski said wanted to protect the “mom and pop” oil companies from having to face large liabilities. Mom and pop oil companies?

If you can’t pay for your damages, you should not get a permit!

Story.

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Update May 18: Oklahoma Senator: Another Oil Company Whore

Inhofe Blocks Second Dem Attempt To Raise Oil Company Liability (VIDEO)

Wood bison are on the comeback

May be reintroduced to Alaska as an experimental, non-essential population.

Alaska wants to reintroduce wood bison from Canada but they are currently listed as an endangered species by the USFWS. In response there is an effort to classify them as an experimental, non-essential population under the 10(j) rule so that there will be less protection and no critical habitat designation. They would still be protected from intentional harm. It seems that the oil and gas industry is worried they won’t be able to exploit the land if there are protected species there.

There haven’t been wood bison in Alaska for 200 years or so but there are some plains bison which were introduced into the Copper River Delta in 1928.

You can read about the plan to reintroduce wood bison here.

Wood bison are on the comeback
Wild wood bison could be roaming Alaska again if effort succeeds
By MIKE CAMPBELL

Alaska Board of Game nominee cites Bible as he skins a wolf

(VIDEO): Legislature To Vote On Confirmation April 9-

I’m on vacation, but this item on Huffington Post was too good to pass up.

It is just pathetic that a person like this could rise to a position of overseeing wildlife management in such an important place as Alaska.

Story on Al Barette. Huffington Post.

Biologists seek ouster of new Alaska wildlife conservation chief

They say that the director doesn’t even have the background for an entry-level position.

In February, Corey Rossi, the Alaska Division of Wildlife, Wildlife Director, wrote an opinion piece for the Anchorage Daily News which opined that wildlife should be managed under the abundance-based management model which “requires man to work with the land to produce the maximum sustainable yield”. In other words a model which essentially treats wildlife as an agricultural crop to be “harvested” at maximum capacity.

In response, several former Alaska Division of Wildlife biologists have called for the removal of Corey Rossi as the Department’s Wildlife Director. They state that “Mr. Rossi appears to be a single issue advocate who lacks the education background necessary for an entry-level biologist position with the Division.”

The kind of management style which treats wildlife in this fashion ignores the necessity to manage wildlife with an understanding of simple ecological concepts. It also ignores the welfare of sensitive species and ecological systems which are vitally important to the welfare of wildlife and humans alike.

Biologists seek ouster of new wildlife conservation chief
Anchorage Daily News

Wolves might have killed Alaskan teacher

This might be the second wolf-caused death in North America in the last hundred or so years-

There were a lot of breathless stories about this yesterday, but the one below seems to be more current and complete.

Wolves may have killed village teacher. Chignik: Police unsure whether death happened before, after bite. By James Halpin. The News Tribune.

Wolf attacks are very rare. They seem to be the safest of all the large carnivores and maybe omnivores too, to humans. In 2005, it was decided the preponderance of evidence was that wolves caused another death in Canada — Kenton Carnegie. We discussed that for a long time.

New. 3/13/ Wolves kill teacher in Alaska. LA Times. By Kim Murphy.

3/20. The final news is that only two wolves could be found in the area. They were shot. They seem to be the wolves that likely attacked and killed her. They were in poor condition. Test shows they were not rabid. At the time of the attack the woman’s hearing was impaired by use of an Ipod. Her parents saw her as strong, independent outdoors person, and seemed to regard a wolf attack as a natural danger of the outdoors, which to their great sadness, led to her death. News reports seem to show the way it happened has not led them to any animosity toward wolves as a species.


Gordon Haber feared dead

Friend of the Toklat pack in Denali National Park thought dead in air crash-

Gordon Haber feared dead. By Craig Medred. Alaska Dispatch.

“Biologist Gordon Haber loved wolves. Most of all, he loved the wolves of the Toklat pack in Denali National Park, and it now it appears that love has cost him his life.”

Alaska’s Rat Island apparently rid of its namesake pest

Unfortunate side effect to poisoning effort was the loss of 43 bald eagles and many other birds.

Alaska’s Rat Island apparently rid of its namesake pest
By Erika Bolstad | McClatchy Newspapers

Wildfires rage in British Columbia, Alaska

Pacific northwest dry and burning as rest of West has a cool and moist summer respite-

We planned to go to B.C. and Alaska this summer. Glad we didn’t. Instead we stayed in Pocatello, Idaho where a very wet late spring and cooler than normal summer has greatly reduced normal fires and given clean skies.

On the other hand much of B.C. and Alaska have been very dry. Massive forest fires burn out of control, and Oregon and Washington too have recently suffered from extreme heat. Smoke from the fires has resulted in dense air pollution to the north, while most of Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming have escaped the smoke. The winds are now, however, blowing the smoke down into Montana, Northern Idaho, and across the Dakotas and Great Lakes.

Fires have broken out  in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, setting the stage for smoky skies further to the south. Some relatively small forest fires are now burning in Idaho and Montana (just updated), although this season will probably not see many large forest fires due to the still relatively wet wood.

You can follow the fires on Inciweb and the National Interagency Fire Center. Note: these web sites are always on my blogroll.

You can follow air quality in North America at U.S. Air Quality. This site has a lot of photos and graphics.

Stories: Workers overwhelmed as B.C. burns. Rod Mickleburgh.  Globe and Mail.

Out-of-state smoke rolls into Montana: Plume from British Columbia fire lingers in area. By Michael Jamison. Missoulian
Wildfires slow to start this year in south central Idaho. By Nate Poppino. Magic Valley Times-News writer

Fires burning wild across Interior Alaska. Smoke: Two expand beyond 800,000 acres; 30 cabins threatened. By  Kyle Hopkins. Well 30 threatened cabins doesn’t sound like a major event, but 800,000 acres in two fires does.

I should add that the desert southwest has suffered from extreme heat (more extreme than the usual during the summer)

Roadless Area in Tongass National Forest Opened to Logging by the Obama Administration

8.8 miles of new road are involved in what was once a roadless area.

“Just building the road will cost four times as much revenue as the Forest Service is going to get from the timber sale,” said Waldo of Earthjustice.

Ketchikan mill is awarded Orion North timber
Deal marks first timber sale in roadless area under Obama

Palin’s departure not likely to change Alaska’s anti-wolf programs

Unrepresentative Board of Game and science-free biologists said to be the problem-

Alaska biologists may be to blame for bad predator control policies. By Cathy Taibbi.  National Examiner.

I missed this earlier. This lengthy article is actually part 2 of Exploring Alaska’s wolf-control controversy. Government favors trophy hunting dollars over ecology.

Northern Exposure. Sarah Palin’s toxic paradise.

It’s a big beautiful state, but Palin is hardly protecting its citizens-

Northern Exposure. New Republic by by Sheila Kaplan and Marilyn Berlin Snell

Ruling might put wood bison back in Nenana Basin despite natural gas hunt

Meanwhile captive bison killing each other due to competition for food.

Sarah Palin wants a 10j rule classifying reintroduced bison as experimental non-essential so that development of their habitat can go forward unimpeded.

Ruling might put wood bison back in Nenana Basin despite natural gas hunt
Newsminer

Good news: Drilling off Alaska can’t proceed without further environmental review

Posted in oil and gas, water issues. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Good news: Drilling off Alaska can’t proceed without further environmental review

Palin & Chevron; Spill Disaster in the Making

There are 6-million gallons of crude sitting at the base of Mt. Redoubt-

Palin & Chevron; Spill Disaster in the Making. Shannyn Moore. Just a girl from Homer. Huffington Post.

Ms. Moore asks a good question:  “Why is there 6 million gallons of crude oil just sitting at the base of a live volcano? Currently, 6 million gallons of Alaska crude oil wait at the base of a volcano that has puked, spewed and gone half mad 19 times in the last 8 days.”

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ed. note: the last time Mt. Redoubt erupted the oil terminal was almost taken out. They built a dike around it later. So far it has held. Pretty reassuring!

Alaska’s Mt. Redoubt spews ash 65,000 feet, placing Kenai Peninsula residents on alert

The series of eruptions is continuing, with ashfall now likely in more populated and recreational important areas-

3/26  Alaska’s Mt. Redoubt spews ash 65,000 feet, placing Kenai Peninsula residents on alert. LA Times.

3/28  Redoubt erupts a number of times on Friday, March 27. LA Times.

Alaska’s Mount Redoubt finally erupts

Plume reached at least 50,000 feet high-

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– Although Governor Bobby Jindal may think volcano monitoring is a great waste of money, you can get good information at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
– Added 3/25/2009. Don’t  sneer at science — volcano monitoring saves lives. By Joel Connelly. Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  Connelly points out the many beautiful and merely dormant “flamethrowers” of the Pacific Northwest.
–  Added 3/25/2009. Photos of Alaskan Volcano’s Eruption. By Betsy Mason. Wired Magazine.

Scientist see holes in glacier on Redoubt volcano

Parts of glacier high on the mountain begin to melt-

Scientist see holes in glacier. By Dan Joling. Associated Press Writer

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Keep up with all the Alaska volcanoes at the Alaska Volcano Observatory

Major oil terminal beneath Redoubt Volcano could result in huge oil spill

Status of Drift River terminal is not known due to homeland security secrecy-

Will a natural disaster trigger an oil spill disaster? We don’t know because of lingering secrecy from the Bush Administration.

Story: “Drift River Oil Terminal sits in harm’s way of volcano. SECRECY: Citing homeland security, officials give out little information about the plant’s status.”  By Tom Kizzia. Anchorage Daily News.

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Palin’s Stand on Mining Initiative [Bristol Bay] Leaves Many Feeling Burned

Palin and the gold mine above Bristol Bay-

Salah Palin may have violated state law when she tried to divorce herself from the fact that she was governor to register her opposition to a ballot referendum designed to kill the Pebble Mine.

She basically endorsed the controversial Pebble mine that could destroy the world class sport and commercial  fisheries of the Bristol Bay area (including lakes and streams). The damage is due to its massive size and utilization of low grade ore. The result is huge amounts of waste

This forum has covered this awful mine proposal several times before.

It good to see the national media pick up on this.

Palin’s Stand on Mining Initiative Leaves Many Feeling Burned. By Alec MacGillis. Washington Post Staff Writer

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Resources for more information ↓

Sarah Palin: Ice queen of the Arctic

A view of Palin’s views on the environment from a major U.K. newspaper.

Sarah Palin, the Republican party’s vice-president nominee, governs an oil-rich area that has seen some of the most dramatic effects of climate change. So what’s her record on environmental concerns?

By Britt Collins. The Guardian. Sarah Palin: Ice queen of the Arctic

Governor Palin of Alaska, a big friend of oil, McCain’s VP choice

Senator McCain has announced that Alaska’s little known governor Sarah Palin will be his running mate.

As a “reform” governor, she was elected after Alaskans tired of the corruption and cronyism in the state, most of it involving kickbacks and bribes from the oil industry.

Despite her reputation for reform, she is a huge friend of big oil. She has spent most of her career in on capacity or another with the oil industry. Presumable she does out of principle what others did for a price.

Her image for clean government might have been tarnished by charges her office was behind the firing of her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper. Her sister is in a child custody fight with the trooper. Story on firing.

She is a big advocate of drilling, disbelieves human-caused climate change, and is hostile to carnivores like polar bears and wolves.

A former beauty queen, she is 44 years old (3 years younger than Obama). Her husband Todd Palin is an oil production operator on the North Slope. He is also known for his prowess at snowmobile racing.

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-more- 

Sarah Palin: Tough on polar bears. Posted by David Beard. The Green Blog. Boston Globe.
Bearing Up. By SARAH PALIN. Op-ed. New York Times.  Published: January 5, 2008

Choice of Palin Promises Failed Energy Policies of the Past. League of Conservation Voters.

Defining Sarah Palin. By Kate Phillips and Michael Falcone. New York TImes.

Investigators Are Looking at Governor About Firing. By Michael Luo. New York Times.

Aug. 31. Palin touts stance on ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’ doesn’t note flip-flop. By Tom Kizzia. Anchorage Daily News.

Aug. 31. State leaders question Palin’s qualifications. Governor’s two years of experience raise concerns about vice presidential candidacy. By Pat Forgey. Juneau (Alaska) Empire

The last days of Alaska’s kleptocracy

Alaska is a state governed by a politically corrupt elite, but the FBI is closing in.  It is a systemic problem and not surprisingly this extends to the state’s management of wildlife.

Today the New Republic has an article on what could be the end of the era. I think this article raises the question whether Alaska should have even been made a state.

“Out of the Wild.” By Charles Homans. “The last days of Alaska’s kleptocracy.”

Biologist removes cable snare from one of two Denali wolves

Biologist removes cable snare from one of two Denali wolves. By Tim Mowry. Fairbanks Daily News Miner
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Original story from April 25. Denali wolves wearing snares. Animals are roaming free with devices caught on necks. By Mary Pemberton. Associated Press.

Alaskans Weigh the Cost of Gold. Huge mine Could Imperil Salmon, Way of Life

This blog has covered this proposed gold mine earlier. Here is an overview and the latest. Alaskans Weigh the Cost of Gold Mine Could Imperil Salmon, Way of Life. By Karl Vick. Washington Post Staff Writer.

Unlike most other metals, gold is store of monetary value as well as a useful metal. As such, it is not clear that the world economy  benefits from additional mining, processing, and production of gold.

Imagine, for example, what would happen if the amount of refined gold sitting in the world’s vaults suddenly by magic doubled? Would we be better off? Millions of people would lose hundreds of billions (perhaps trillions) of dollars of investments in gold.

As an Idahoan living in a state downwind and slowing being poisoned from the huge gold pits of Nevada (mercury poisoning from them), I have no enthusiasm for gold production. Hopefully Alaskans can save their jobs and lives from this monstrosity.

Posted in Fish. Tags: , . Comments Off on Alaskans Weigh the Cost of Gold. Huge mine Could Imperil Salmon, Way of Life