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Friday, September 12, 2003

SOS for 700 Threatened Species

Thanks to Steve Best for this one...


At least 700 bird, mammal and amphibian species threatened with extinction, and probably many more, have no protection in any part of their ranges, according to an analysis released Thursday. Another 943 species likely face similar situations since their protected areas are too small to be effective, said the study by Conservation International and the World Conservation Union.

Presented at the World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa, the study warned of a major wave of extinctions unless nations immediately open or expand protected areas.

If nothing is done, “we will probably see the disappearance of many of these populations in the next 10 or 20 years,” said Conservation International scientist Gustavo Fonseca. “This will represent extinction to the scale that we have not seen before as a human species.”

Building on existing work by thousands of researchers around the world, the study compared a map of protected areas to maps of more than 11,000 species ranges from bird, mammal and amphibian groups.

They then identified key habitat that has no protection, and analyzed where the worst gaps exist.
Of the priority areas, 80 percent are in tropical areas, particularly rain forests and islands. Tropical islands were found to hold nearly half of all species analyzed. Below is a look at the numbers by groups.

Amphibians: 5,254 species were studied, of which 825 were found to have no protection over any part of their ranges. Of those, 346 are threatened. As a group, amphibians have significantly less coverage than mammals or birds, mainly due to their small ranges, but also because they have received much less conservation action, the study found.

Critically endangered amphibians without current protection include the Bernhard’s mantella from Madagascar and the Wuchuan Frog, found only in a cave in Guizhou, China.

Mammals: 4,734 species were analyzed, of which 260 were found to have no protection. Of those, 140 are threatened. These include one of the rarest fruit bats in the world — the Comoro black flying fox, found in the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean — and the Handley’s slender mouse opossum from Colombia.

Birds: Of the 1,183 bird species assessed by BirdLife International to be threatened, 233 have no protection. The largest concentration of unprotected birds was found to be in the Andes and Indonesia.

Critically endangered species without protection include the yellow-eared parrot — found only in Colombia’s Andes and of which fewer than 150 are known to remain — and the Cerulean Paradise-flycatcher. Found only on Indonesia’s Sangihe Island, fewer than 100 of those are known to exist.
Conservation International said additional studies were needed to better map unprotected areas, but noted that two-thirds of the unprotected species it documented could be protected by adding just 2.6 percent of Earth’s land area to protected status.

Around 12 percent of the world’s surface is officially protected but many reserves are so-called “paper parks” which in fact offer few safeguards to the resident flora and fauna.

And many protected areas are too small to be viable. In conservation, size counts, with one widely accepted school of scientific thought holding that the smaller the habitat, the fewer varieties of species it can contain.

The 10-day World Parks Congress, which ends next Wednesday, is focused on assessing progress on setting aside protected areas and mapping out future strategies for preserving the planet’s natural heritage.

A map of the unprotected areas and background are online at

Posted by Richard
9/12/2003 07:57:57 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Historic Cartagena Biosafety Protocol Comes into Effect as WTO Attempts to Legalize Biopiracy in Cancun

Kyoto isn't the only protocol every country in the world should be signing (and enforcing) immediately...the U.S. is of course the major player behind this treaty stagnating and remaining powerless as well.

Via: Sierra Club

A major environmental treaty, the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, comes into effect today, 90 days after receiving ratification by 50 nations. It recognizes the right of countries to impose conditions on allowing the import of any living organisms that have been genetically modified, including a full analysis of the risks that might be posed to the local ecosystems and human health.

One of the Protocol’s major provisions embodies the “Precautionary Principle”, recognizing that a country can forbid importation when there is not sufficient information or research results to do an adequate assessment.  The burden is on the exporting company or country to provide the proof of safety.

TheUnited Statesis not a party to the Protocol, and has stated that it has no intentions of joining it.  However, it appears that the Bush Administration is likely to threaten WTO action in order to blunt the thrust of its protective provisions.

Non-governmental organizations from around the world have vowed to resist any such attempt at international power politics that would compromise human well-being and environmental security.  “We will not let the rules of biosafety in the Protocol be undermined by the rules of recklessness and greed on display at this WTO meeting” said Vandana Shiva of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology of India.

Because theUSgovernment has allowed genetically modified crops to be planted, and foods to be consumed, without any oversight assessment at all, it had strenuously resisted the drafting of the Protocol, and was able to weaken several provisions.  Given the recentUSattack in the WTO on the European Union’s regulatory practices for genetic crops (which are generally consistent with the Cartagena Protocol), citizen organizations see the Protocol as a welcomed statement that environmental and health concerns cannot be relegated to second place after short-term economic profits.

“By means of the Protocol,” notes Philip Bereano, who participated in its negotiations on behalf of severalUSgroups, “countries can use both science and the social preferences of their citizens to evaluate this new technology, which has received very little scrutiny and is already beginning to display troublesome consequences”.

Posted by Richard
9/11/2003 02:44:22 PM | PermaLink

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

SUVs Fuel Political Fires: Huffington Slams Arnold & His Humvee

Huffington scores big political points for making a cost-effective flash animation that skewers Arnold while promoting herself as progressive on energy. Such animations are quickly and easily passed around the Internet all the time and should be a major strategy of any grassroots activist. This article in the Bee picks up on what's going on around it and ends with an equally hilarious whine from SUV and Humvee owners crying, "I'm not such a bad guy" and "Isn't this country about freedom of choice?" What a laugh...

Via: Sacramento Bee

The year has been awash in SUV backlash, and now sport-utility vehicles have been injected into the state's ultimate backlash story: the gubernatorial recall race.

A new animated Internet ad by Arianna Huffington, an independent candidate for governor, spoofs Republican rival Arnold Scharzenegger's ownership of a Hummer H2 and notes her devotion to environmentally friendly vehicles.

More SUVs are sold in California than anywhere else, but here as elsewhere the vehicles have gone beyond being a transportation choice. They're now political lightning rods.

Just three weeks ago, dozens of SUVs were set ablaze or vandalized in and around a West Covina auto dealership. Those were the latest in a series of aggressive actions by critics who link big SUVs to a national dependence on foreign oil and disregard for the environment. The estimated $2.5 million in damage in West Covina was tied to the Earth Liberation Front.

The sharpest barbs have been aimed at the biggest, least-fuel-efficient models -- including hot sellers such as the Ford Expedition and Hummer H2. Auto safety advocates have compared full-size SUVs to armored tanks, capable of causing enormous damage to ordinary passenger cars in crashes.

Huffington, whose past political commentaries have been caustically critical of SUV makers and owners, entered the firestorm when SUV proponents unearthed an opinion piece in which they said she equated driving a gas-guzzling SUV with supporting terrorism.

The SUV Owners of America, based in Washington, D.C., charged that Huffington's SUV bashing "may be encouraging domestic anti-SUV groups like the Earth Liberation Front."

After the West Covina incidents, Huffington said that what "these people are doing isn't activism. It is vandalism, and I strongly oppose it. I have nothing against SUV owners. My problem is with Detroit. The automakers have the technology to make more fuel-efficient SUVs, and that is what consumers deserve."

Last week, Huffington's campaign put up the two-minute flash film on lampooning Schwarzenegger. He's shown driving a bright-yellow, smoke-belching Hummer SUV, which plows over animals and people and recklessly rolls through a nature preserve. Schwarzenegger's animated Hummer repeatedly runs out of gas -- President Bush gives the SUV a fill-up during one fuel stop -- while Huffington's environmentally friendly red car (she drives a hybrid-powered Toyota Prius in real life) whisks by windmills and solar panels en route to the Capitol.

Huffington campaign officials said Web site hits increased 500 percent in the days after the flash film was installed.

Schwarzenegger has been a large, public target for those who despise SUVs. Hummers have been a longtime favorite of the action-film star. He's been photographed numerous times with a Hummer H2, which weighs nearly 6,000 pounds and gets 10 to 11 miles per gallon.

Workers with Schwarzenegger's campaign noted that the candidate is free to drive anything he chooses, but they also cited a report that Schwarzenegger may retrofit one of his personal Hummers to run on clean-burning hydrogen.

So, how are SUV sales doing amid all this acrimonious publicity?

In a word, excellent.

Statistics amassed by CNW Marketing Research, which tracks the auto industry nationwide, show sales of large SUVs down 5 percent through the first seven months of 2003 compared to one year ago. Nearly 410,000 large SUVs were sold nationwide through July, a stout showing in a year when overall vehicle sales have been down 2.2 percent. Sales of luxury autos, in fact, are down as much as 20 percent, according to CNW, of Bandon, Ore.

As for the most expensive SUVs, things could not be better. Sales of the $50,000-plus Hummer H2 have been impressive -- nearly 20,000 units for the first seven months of 2003. The Lincoln Navigator, which lists for about $48,000 to $55,000, topped 20,000 unit sales through July, up 32 percent compared with 2002.

Total sales for the highest-priced SUVs totaled 81,236 from January to July of this year, compared with 52,343 in the first seven months of last year -- a whopping 55.2 percent increase.

"SUVs continue to be popular among buyers, and I don't see that changing," said Len Brewster, a Detroit-based auto industry analyst. "As for what is going on in California, I think you're seeing candidates in the recall election trying to appeal to different segments of the voters."

Brewster and other industry watchers said that while other issues might be important, SUVs are a natural target for political debate.

"So much of America's culture can be wrapped up in SUVs," Brewster said. "You can have rich versus poor, environmentalists versus capitalists, energy conservationists versus oil developers. ... There are a lot of hot buttons with SUVs."

Sacramento resident Rudy Rodriguez, who said he test-drove a Hummer H2 before recently buying a new Chevy Suburban, said he believes SUVs should not be part of the political process.

"I can't believe that people are burning SUVs and accusing other people because of what they drive," he said. "(SUV) drivers are not bad people, and look at all the other problems we have in this state. I think we should be more worried about education and jobs than big SUVs."

Local SUV drivers said the backlash against large SUVs is not only real, but occasionally frightening.

"I've been screamed at in parking lots and gas stations," said Sacramentan Maggie Pence, who drives a 2002 Toyota Sequoia. "They yell that I'm killing the environment, or I'm the reason for high gas prices. It's just crazy."

Carmichael resident Paul Snowden said he likewise hears taunts when driving his 2002 Lincoln Navigator, and he admitted that he is getting increasingly angry.

"I'm tired of getting treated like a criminal because of the (SUV) I drive," he said. "This is getting way out of hand. You're supposed to have freedom of choice in this country.

"I pay my bills. I pay the price for gas, no matter how high it is. I don't take my (SUV) off-road and ruin the environment. What else do you want from me? I'm holding my tongue, but I am getting madder every time I get yelled at. I don't know how much longer I can control my temper."

Richard Niello Jr., president of The Niello Co., which operates more than a half-dozen dealerships in Sacramento, Rocklin and Concord, called harassment of SUV buyers "ludicrous."

"We're still living in a country where we have the right to choose what we drive, pay the bills for what we have and to live where we want to live," Niello said. "The kind of abuse (SUV drivers) are getting is an assault on personal rights, in my opinion."

Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, a local, nonprofit advocacy group, said she believes that, despite extreme opinions on large SUVs, public demand will ultimately set a more pragmatic course for the vehicle segment.

"That is already happening to some degree," she said. "There are more and more crossover vehicles that are smaller and more fuel-efficient than the gargantuan, in-your-face, obnoxious vehicles that incite riots. ... I think there is a tendency for consumers to want to have everything, and I believe they eventually will get it."

Posted by Richard
9/10/2003 02:53:18 PM | PermaLink

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

"Free Dog to Good Home"


This note is not meant to upset anyone, but to make as many people as possible aware of a growing problem.

My group recently received word from the San Diego Humane Society about a growing problem that their officers are encountering.  According to the Humane Society Officers, the number one growing problem are cruelty cases involving recently "Free Dog to Good Home" being used in Pit fighting.  They are seeing large numbers of recently "adopted/free" pets thrown into fighting rings with their mouths taped shut, unable to attempt to defend themselves.  The officer that spoke to our group said this is becoming a big problem and people need to be aware and take precautions.  And, these are only the cases they know about!

If you would please pass this information along so that as many people as possible are aware of this.  The Humane Society recommends (as many of you know) that if you are giving up your pet to ask for a minimum of $25.00 and do a little checking on the potential new family as well.  They would be happy to give anyone considering giving up their pet some basic guidelines to follow to try to ensure that these types of horrible things do not happen to any animal.

Thank you.

Christine Santos

Posted by Richard
9/09/2003 02:25:51 PM | PermaLink

Monday, September 08, 2003

Final Hearing in Maxxam/Pacific Lumber Case, Judge Golden Deliberates Injunction

While the recent announcement of spearheading groups like RAN, American Lands Alliance and the National Forest Protection Alliance that Boise Cascade has agreed to take a leading role in moving the timber industry forward into an age of certification and sustainability is important, as I previously wrote, the immediate effects are neglible. Meanwhile, companies like Maxxam/Pacific Lumber continue their fight with treesitters (on the ground, in the air, and in court), as the company seeks unimpeded access to logging ancient and giant redwoods. In her blog, below, Remedy is doing an excellent job breaking down what's going on and how Maxxam/Pacific's plan is frought with fabrications and represents a dangerous intervention into a fragile ecosystem that represents at least an important habitat for one species: the Marbled Murrelet. Will the judge presently presiding over the legal disputes between these parties stand up to Maxxam/Pacific's monied interests and enforce at least a temporary injunction on further corporate action in the old growth forests?

Via: Treesit Blog

Final testimony and arguments were offered to Superior Court Judge John Golden Thursday as he weighs damage done to the environment with potential damage faced by Maxxam/Pacific Lumber should an injunction be issued against Timber Harvest Plans that rely on the “fatally flawed” Sustained Yield Plan.

Posted by Richard
9/08/2003 06:56:31 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, September 07, 2003

The Rollback Machine: Keeping Tabs on the Bush Administration's Environmental Record

A lengthy treatment of which this is only the first section on why George W. Bush may be the most anti-environmental president in modern times...

Via: Grist Magazine

Just after George W. Bush took office, two memos circulated among his top administrators that set the stage for what the president, during his campaign, promoted as a new era of environmental policy. On Bush's first day in office, January 20, 2001, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card sent a memo to all cabinet members directing them to ice more than 50 regulations (many of them several years in the making) that had been approved toward the end of the Clinton administration. The rules were not to be enacted unless the White House Office of Management and Budget could prove that their benefits justified their costs to the U.S. economy.

The frozen rules included more than a dozen significant environmental ones. They called for less arsenic in drinking water, a ban on snowmobiles in national parks, controls for raw sewage overflow, stronger energy-efficiency standards, and protections against commercial logging, mining, and drilling on national lands. Of the environmental regulations that came under scrutiny, only half have since made it past the cost-benefit analysis and into the Federal Register.

In February, a second memo was sent to Bush by then-Secretary of the Treasury (and former CEO of Alcoa Steel) Paul O'Neill exhorting the president to take a strong stand on global warming. "Energy and the environment are in many ways the same problem," wrote O'Neill. "These subjects must be considered together." He urged Bush to become the first president to confirm publicly "the linkage between such [greenhouse] gasses and global climate change, [to] designate a targeted limit of greenhouse gas concentrations ... [and to] fashion a set of world interventions."

Not surprisingly, the memo wasn't long for the Bush world. (Nor was its author, who resigned from the administration last December after criticism of his allegedly ineffective fiscal policies.) The memo "was as good as thrown in the trash," said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and formerly a longtime scientist at Environmental Defense, who was recommended in O'Neill's memo as a Bush advisor. The following month, on March 13, 2001, President Bush reversed a campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, saying in a private letter that doing so would be too costly. And just days thereafter, he rejected the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, a move that provoked more international contempt for the U.S. than any other action Bush took during his first year in office.

In the two-plus years since those memos were released, Bush has come under fire both domestically and internationally for environmental policies that curry favor with U.S. industrial interests at the expense of the natural world. Even Bush's bosom buddy Tony Blair, prime minister of Britain, has challenged the president for his stance on Kyoto, equating the impact of climate change to that of weapons of mass destruction. "There will be no genuine security if the planet is ravaged," Blair cautioned last February at an international conference on the environment.

Domestically, Democrats and moderate Republicans alike are accusing Bush of having the worst environmental record in history -- of surreptitiously tearing down the regulatory framework that yielded vast improvements in the nation's air and water quality and land conservation over the last 30 years. For example, an ongoing study by the Natural Resources Defense Council entitled "The Bush Record" chronicles hundreds of efforts to weaken environmental regulations -- a tally more extensive than that of any administration (including the famously anti-environmental Reagan White House) since the U.S. EPA was established in 1971.

Even more surprising is the fact that while critics decry these changes as rollbacks, the Bush administration defends them as forward-looking: "This term 'rollbacks' is either a gross misrepresentation or grossly misinformed," said James Connaughton, director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in an interview. "You will see significant steps forward in all areas of environmental policy under this administration." [...]

Posted by Richard
9/07/2003 09:17:48 AM | PermaLink