We just this morning launched our revamped web site and brought Critterthink over to the new site. We’ve held off on posting for a while during the transition but we’ll be back in action this week. We have really enjoyed being here at WordPress and have only good things to say about them.
Please visit us at the new site.
LONDON – Scientists warned on Wednesday that the world is on the brink of a major biodiversity crisis and called for the creation of an international body to advise governments on how to protect the planet’s ecosystems.
“All the scientific evidence points to the fact that whatever measure of vulnerability you take, whether it is local populations, species or ecosystem, we know that the rate at which we are altering them now is faster than it has been in the past,” Georgina Mace said in an interview.
Mace, director of science at the Institute of Zoology in London, is one of 19 scientists from 13 countries who signed a declaration published in the journal Nature explaining why an intergovernmental body is needed.
The U.S. Department of Interior study completed in January – concluding that the Preble's meadow jumping mouse is genetically distinct and requires Endangered Species Act protection – was just accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. This is important news in and of itself, since publication further validates the study’s conclusions and corroborates the findings of yet another new study that last month reached the very same conclusion.
The news is even more interesting, however, because the study's author, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist named Tim King, obtained the exact same specimens that Rob Roy Ramey II used when he began his campaign to eliminate the Preble's meadow jumping mouse's protection. This is important news because King also found what he very politely referred to as "a systemic error in the data." You want to guess what that means? It means that 13 of the 15 mouse specimens he looked at do not contain the genetic sequences reported by Ramey. There is a range of possible explanations for how Ramey might have reported finding genetic sequences that don't seem to exist, but none of them are very flattering for Ramey. So how does Ramey respond? From today's Rocky Mountain News:
The new findings are just "chest-pounding overstatements."
The U.S.D.I. researcher's "station in life seems to be to do scientific colonoscopies."
Almost from the day Ramey first began trying to remove Endangered Species Act protection for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, scientist after scientist began raising serious concerns about Ramey's methods and his conclusions. These are credible, professional, respected scientists, but rather than addressing their legitimate concerns, Ramey's response has consistently been to deride, attack, and insult. And now it turns out that Ramey’s data itself is corrupt.
Where does that leave us?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is supposed to make a final decision about delisting the Preble's meadow jumping mouse later this summer. If the Bush Administration really cared about good science, as they are so fond of claiming, and if they had any respect at all for the law, their decision would be a no-brainer. Alas, we all know this was never about the science or the law. This is about politics and money.
If you haven’t yet seen the Competitive Enterprise Group’s television spots attacking Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” (which opened in Denver last week) it might be worth your time. As Pat Joseph wrote in the Sierra Club's Compass blog, “You really have to watch the ads for yourself to appreciate just how farcical they are. It’s hard to believe they’re not meant as self-parody.”
Incidentally, "An Inconvenient Truth" was the 11th highest-grossing film last weekend (nearly $1.5 million), up 9% from the week before as it expanded its run to 122 theaters. Its per theater average blew the socks off of everything out there except the brand new animated release Cars. It's now showing in Denver at the Mayan.
British Columbia is a bit out of our region but we love spreading good news so here goes: The Vancouver Sun last week reported on the addition of 45 species to British Columbia's list of protected at-risk plants and wildlife. The new additions include bull trout, bighorn sheep, and prairie falcon, and in sum comprise 18 species of birds, 19 plant communities, four invertebrates, two fish species and two species of mammals. Canadian conservationists are appropriately skeptical about the on-the-ground impact of the new list since neither Canada nor British Columbia have anything quite like our own Endangered Species Act, but acknowledging species that are in trouble is always a critical first step to effective conservation and our congrats go to the folks that made this happen.
Our good friends at Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action just started a blog focusing on the worsening ozone pollution problems in the Denver Metro area. It’s called Denver Ozone. Check it out.
Representative Pombo has gotten a lot of mileage in the Endangered Species Act debate by calling it a failure over and over and over again. The logic, presumably, is that if you repeat a lie often enough people will eventually believe it. A funny thing is happening, though. The more that Rep. Pombo regurgitates the same misleading story the more that other folks – scientists, conservationists, others – are demonstrating how wrong he his.
This morning we came across yet another study showing just how successful the Endangered Species Act has been at saving our most imperiled species. This study, released March 16, 2006 by the American Bird Conservancy, found that:
"Of the 43 birds protected by the Act that breed in the continental U.S., 44% have increased since listing, and a further 19% are stable, or have been stabilized by conservation measures."
This isn't surprising but is welcome news nonetheless. Equally important is their finding that of the species that are protected under the Act but still declining (less than a quarter of them), many have only recently been added to the list, meaning that the Act's protections have had less time to work. Those that have improved since being listed have been on the list for an average of ten years longer than those that have decreased.
This report's conclusions mirror those of every other study we've seen. The Act works. The Act prevents extinction. The longer a species is listed under the Act the more likely it is to be stable or improving (i.e., it takes time to reverse the downward spiral).
Music isn't our forte at Critterthink but this one is too good to pass up. From an AP story in Forbes:
The Dixie Chicks appear to be more popular than the president these days. President Bush's approval rating has plummeted, but the Chicks are on top of the pop and country charts with their first album since publicly criticizing Bush three years ago.
On Monday morning I'll be flying to the Bay area to participate in the NetSquared conference. Although a bunch of the sessions look interesting, I'm even more enthused about meeting a whole bunch of folks thinking about and doing cool things with emerging internet and organizing technologies. I posted a little bit more about my motivations and goals on the conference blog.
The Senate yesterday confirmed Dirk Kempthorne as the new Secretary of the Interior on a voice vote, meaning the individual votes of individual Senators were not recorded. Seems like a spineless way to make such an important decision, don’t you think? Prior to the confirmation vote, the Senate voted 85-8 to invoke cloture, which allowed the actual Kempthorne vote. The only Senators willing to oppose cloture (and thus Kempthorne) were Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Mark Dayton (D-MN), Joseph Biden (D-DE), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Bob Nelson (D-FL). Senator Nelson maintained his opposition based on Kempthorne’s support for new oil rigs off the Florida coast. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), on the other hand, who had opposed Kempthorne because of the administration’s refusal to share any offshore oil and gas royalties with Gulf Coast states, withdrew her opposition after he met with her and agreed to visit Louisiana’s wetlands. We can all expect Kempthorne to loyally pursue the Bush Administration’s agenda of weakening every environmental law and every environmental protection they can get their hands on.
If you want to know more, you can check out this review of Kempthorne's environmental record (borrowed from some of our conservation colleagues).