August 2, 2019
Keeping animals off endangered species list
By Ben Long/Outdoor Life
Photo by Dan Dzurizin/flickr
Remember the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? That's the philosophy behind the  Recovering America's Wildlife Act  that is currently making its way through Congress.

The legislation is basically an “Endangered Species Prevention Act” that aims to recover imperiled wildlife species before they reach the point they need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. State wildlife agencies and sportsmen’s groups are among those applauding the measure.

“It’s a great bill and we’re happy to be in support of it,” said Andrew Wilkins, government relations representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Wilkins notes that state wildlife agencies and tribal wildlife managers are on the front lines of conservation. However, those agencies often work on a tight budget. State managers are often sandwiched between providing for popular game animals, which pay the bills through license revenues, and other, non-game species that people value but don’t generate revenue for the state.

Students helping restore alligator snappers
By Nara Schoenberg/Chicago Tribune
Photo by USFWS/flickr
North America’s largest freshwater turtle can grow to more than 240 pounds, with a slimy, algae-crowned shell, gaping jaws capable of snapping a broomstick in half, and a hooked beak, perfect for slicing up prey.

The alligator snapping turtle has been described as a monster, a dinosaur throwback and, in a newspaper headline, “the big ugly.”

But don’t tell that to Catherine Zdunek. Smiling wistfully during a recent interview, Zdunek ran fingers tipped in lavender nail polish over the dry, spiky shell of a young alligator snapper named Roger. “This one was my little baby,” Zdunek, 18, said of the 7-inch turtle, which she helped care for this past year as a student at Chicago’s Whitney Young Magnet High School. Roger indulged his human admirer by sitting still, his eyes open, his fearsome jaw politely shut.

Zdunek put her hand to her heart: “I think he likes me!”

Amazon destruction rises under new leader
The New York Times
Photo by CIFOR/flickr
The destruction of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil has increased rapidly since the nation’s new far-right president took over and his government scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching and mining.

Protecting the Amazon was at the heart of Brazil’s environmental policy for much of the past two decades. At one point, Brazil’s success in slowing the deforestation rate made it an international example of conservation and the effort to fight climate change.

But with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, a populist who has been fined personally for violating environmental regulations, Brazil has changed course substantially, retreating from the efforts it once made to slow global warming by preserving the world’s largest rain forest.

While campaigning for president last year, Mr. Bolsonaro declared that  Brazil’s vast protected lands were an obstacle  to economic growth and  promised to open them up  to commercial exploitation.

Long odds to bring back Florida seagrass, coral
Photo by fotospielwiese/flickr
Seagrass beds and coral reefs are two vitally important habitats for a variety of popular sportfish—including tarpon, redfish, snook, speckled trout, bonefish, permit, cobia, snapper, and groupers—as well as the forage fish and crustaceans these predators eat.

Increased salinity levels in Florida Bay, due to a lack of freshwater moving through the Everglades, has combined with poor water quality, hurricanes, and coral diseases to take a significant toll on these critical habitats over the last three decades. In fact, hyper-saline conditions in 2015 led to historic seagrass loss in Florida Bay, and it’s estimated that Florida’s natural coral reefs have experienced as much as a 90-percent loss in some areas.

But with funding and support from sportfishing conservation organizations, proactive steps have been taken at the local, state, and federal level to address the root causes of both seagrass and coral mortality. Here’s how.

Why are young ruffed grouse dying off?
By Dennis Anderson/Star Tribune
Photo by Jean-Guy Dellaire/flickr
If ruffed grouse hunters enjoyed last year’s season, they’re in luck: The annual fall and early winter ritual that will begin in mid-September will be similar.

Or not.

Put another way: The Great Grouse Mystery continues.

Until recent years, spring drumming counts undertaken by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff and cooperators to estimate the size of the ruffed grouse breeding population correlated, approximately, to hunters’ fall sightings and harvests.

Which, if still true, would mean the number of ruffed grouse that hunters see and harvest this fall will be approximately similar to the number they encountered and harvested last year — because the average statewide drumming count was the same both years: 1.5 drums per stop.

Yet whatever connected the spring drumming counts to fall sightings and harvests over a period of many decades seems to have disconnected, a phenomenon never more true than in 2017, when spring drumming counts showed an unprecedented 57% increase from 2016, yet many hunters that fall reported one of their worst seasons.

“Some places should be preserved from development or exploitation, for they satisfy a human need for solace, belonging, and perspective.” 

- Sigurd Olson
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