February 9, 2018
Eastern Cougars are Extinct. So What Are These Folks Seeing?
By Cara Giamio/Atlas Obscura
Photo by Art G/flickr
It was 1983 when Todd Lester saw his first and only East Coast cougar, in the wilds of West Virginia. He had been out hunting the day before, and his redbone coonhound, Trigger, had run off. Lester got up at the crack of dawn to go look for his dog.

“I spotted something moving coming down the hill, and it looked like [Trigger],” he says. “I thought it was him. It saw me about the same time, and it was a mountain lion. It looked at me just a second, turned around, and headed back up the hill.”

Some time later, he went out hunting again. This time, he ran into a couple of game wardens. When he asked them about what he had seen, they scoffed: “They said, ‘You didn’t see a cougar—they’ve been extinct here for a hundred years,” Lester recalls now. “They said, ‘You probably saw a dog.’” And I said, ‘No, I was looking for a dog when I saw it!’”

On January 22, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced that, starting in late February, the eastern cougar would be  removed from the federal Endangered Species list  and declared officially extinct.  
Cape Town Running Out of Water, and Other Cities May Follow
By Scott Moore/The Washington Post
Photo by Gilbert Sopakua/flickr
Officials in Cape Town, South Africa, recently announced that the city will run out of water, perhaps as soon as April. On “ Day Zero ,” Cape Town will turn off the taps, leaving some 4 million people without basic access to water. Residents are bracing for the worst, with many  fearing a breakdown in public order  amid  rising social tensions .

But Cape Town isn’t the first or only major city to face the risk of running dry. In 2015, Sao Paulo, Brazil, faced a similar drought-driven disaster, with officials  warning residents  they might need to leave the city limits to find enough water to bathe. In the end, drastic water restrictions and short-term technical fixes averted catastrophe for Brazil’s largest city.

These aren’t isolated incidents. Here are three things to know about climate change and urban drought:
Who Owns the River Bed? Lawsuit May Clarify Murky Issue
By Jason Blevins/Denver Post
Photo by Mobilus in Mobili/flickr
A federal lawsuit pitting an angler against a landowner on the Arkansas River seeks to clarify Colorado’s murky laws governing public access to streams and rivers.
Colorado Springs fisherman Roger Hill has had repeated run-ins with Mark Warsewa, whose property spans the Arkansas River between Texas Creek and Cotopaxi. Hill likes to wade from public land nearby and fish in the river near Warsewa’s place.

“I own the bottom of the river,” said Warsewa, who bought the property in 2006.

Hill has  sued Warsewa in U.S. District Court,  arguing the bottom of the river actually is public property. His lawyers point to a federal doctrine called “navigability for title,” which holds that if a waterway was used for commercial activity at the point of statehood, the state owns the stream bed and the public has access.
Some Surprisingly Good News on Coastal Land Loss
By Bob Marshall/nola.com
Photo by CWPPRA/flickr
Just when you think the news could never turn brighter - it provides two surprises.

The first: The Trump administration has agreed to fast-track the permitting process for the Myrtle Grove diversion, cutting the expected five-year process to two years.

For Louisiana, a state still losing 16 square miles of its coast every year, this is very big news. I'm encouraged, but a little wary. They claim this won't mean skipping any of the legally required checks to make sure the project won't make things worse for the long list of species - and people - impacted by the project. But this comes at a time when the same administration is cutting budgets at many of the agencies the law requires to do these checks.

We'll see.

The second piece of good news: John White, the state superintendent of education, is all in favor of finding a way to make Louisiana-specific environmental education mandatory for K-12.
Tips to Take Better Pictures of Bald Eagles
By Laura Erickson/Audubon
Photo by Mick Thompson/flickr
As Bald Eagle populations have rebounded dramatically in recent decades, it’s easier than ever to encounter an eagle nest anywhere from a remote forest to a tree next to the Walmart parking lot. But even though Bald Eagles are no longer listed as endangered or threatened in the United States, and many of them have grown surprisingly tolerant of human activity, photographing their nests comes with important caveats, both ethical and legal.

Bald Eagles are protected from disturbance and harassment by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the  Migratory Bird Treaty Act , and doing anything that eagles respond to can be interpreted as a disturbance, distracting them from what they should be doing to successfully raise their young. Here are some precautions you can take in order to get a great Bald Eagle nest shot while staying on the right side of your conscience—and the law. 

- Howell Raines  
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