Border wall construction expands, despite pandemic, imperiling jaguars and other animals

Border wall construction expands, despite pandemic, imperiling jaguars and other animals

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: March 30, 2020 SNIP: The Sky Island region of southern Arizona and New Mexico is a natural wonderland, one of the most biologically diverse parts of North America, where thousands of animal species live and roam across the U.S.-Mexico border. A patchwork of valleys, hills, and mountain ranges act as corridors to allow creatures such as jaguars, ocelots, black bears, bighorn sheep, and coati to move about the region. Hundreds of species are found here and nowhere else in the U.S., including jaguars, colorful birds called elegant trogons, lowland burrowing tree frogs, and brown vine snakes. But while the nation is focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration is working to expand the border wall through the region, cutting off critical animal migration corridors. The Department of Homeland Security this month paved the way to build more than 175 miles of new walls, much of it in remote, mountainous terrain. To start building the new sections, potentially within weeks or months, the Department granted waivers on March 16 to allow construction crews to not comply with 37 different laws, including the Endangered Species Act. Even as businesses have closed and workers told to stay home, wall construction continues, and review periods for environmentally sensitive projects, including oil leases on federal property, are not being postponed or extended. Besides the newly approved sections, more than 100 miles of wall are actively under construction elsewhere in Arizona, including in natural areas like Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It’s “an ecological disaster in the making” for jaguars and other species that need to cross the border...
2,000 renewable energy projects shown to have negative biodiversity impact

2,000 renewable energy projects shown to have negative biodiversity impact

SOURCE: Engineering & Technology DATE: March 26, 2020 SNIP: Researchers have claimed that more than 2,000 renewable energy facilities are built in areas of environmental significance and could be negatively impacting local biodiversity. The team from the University of Queensland in Australia have mapped the location of solar, wind and hydropower facilities in wilderness, protected areas and key biodiversity areas. Lead author José Rehbein said he was alarmed by the findings: “Aside from the more than 2,200 renewable energy facilities already operating inside important biodiversity areas, another 900 are currently being built. “Energy facilities and the infrastructure around them, such as roads and increased human activity, can be incredibly damaging to the natural environment. These developments are not compatible with biodiversity conservation efforts.” The majority of renewable energy facilities in western Europe and developed nations are located in biodiverse areas. Rehbein said there is still time for developers to reconsider facilities under construction in Asia and Africa. University of Amsterdam senior author Dr James Allan said effective conservation efforts and a rapid transition to renewable energy was essential to prevent species extinctions and avoid catastrophic climate...
Trump Administration Proposes Allowing GE Crops on Thousands of Acres of National Wildlife Refuges

Trump Administration Proposes Allowing GE Crops on Thousands of Acres of National Wildlife Refuges

SOURCE: Center for Biological Diversity DATE: March 20, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration has proposed to approve genetically engineered crops on national wildlife refuges throughout the southeastern United States, a step likely to increase use of glyphosate and other pesticides known to harm wildlife. The Obama administration acted in 2014 to phase out GE crops on all national wildlife refuges following a successful decade-long campaign by the Center for Food Safety and others. The Trump administration reversed that decision in 2018, prompting a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety challenging the action in September 2019. The proposal released this week opens the door to escalating uses of GE crops and harmful pesticides across the Southeastern Region of the refuge system, which includes 131 refuges in 10 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Only the Trump administration would aggressively promote the use of crops genetically engineered for pesticide tolerance on wildlife refuges,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s a no-brainer that this kind of pesticide-intensive agriculture shouldn’t be allowed on public lands that are critical to wildlife conservation and preservation of the unique ecosystems of the southeastern U.S.” National wildlife refuges are federal public lands specifically designated to protect fish and wildlife. The Southeastern Region is comprised of almost 4 million acres of refuge lands and waters that provide vital habitat for dozens of endangered species known to be imperiled by pesticide use — including bats, birds, freshwater mussels, and fish like the pallid sturgeon and Alabama cavefish. Genetically engineered corn and soy are typically designed...
The planet’s largest ecosystems could collapse faster than we thought

The planet’s largest ecosystems could collapse faster than we thought

SOURCE: The Daily Climate DATE: March 11, 2020 SNIP: If put under the kind of environmental stress increasingly seen on our planet, large ecosystems —such as the Amazon rainforest or the Caribbean coral reefs—could collapse in just a few decades, according to a study released today in Nature Communications. In the case of Amazon forests, stressors could cause collapse in just 49 years. In Caribbean coral reefs, it could take as little as 15 years. “The messages here are stark,” said lead researcher John Dearing, a professor in physical geography at the University of Southampton, in a statement. Those estimates come from Dearing and colleagues who examined data on how 42 natural environments—small and large, and on both land and water—have transformed. They found that larger ecosystems may take longer than small ones to collapse, but the rate of their decline is much more rapid. Ecosystem stress can come in many forms such as climate change, deforestation, overfishing, pollution and ocean acidification. “Humanity now needs to prepare for changes in ecosystems that are faster than we previously envisaged through our traditional linear view of the world, including across Earth ‘s largest and most iconic ecosystems, and the social–ecological systems that they support,” the authors wrote. Larger ecosystems are made up of smaller “sub-systems” of species and habitats, which provide some resilience against rapid change. However, once these smaller systems start to collapse, the new study finds the large ecosystems as a whole fall apart much faster than previously...
Joshua Tree issues plea after vandals strike again

Joshua Tree issues plea after vandals strike again

SOURCE: USA Today DATE: February 26, 2020 SNIP: Joshua Tree National Park is requesting the public’s help in finding the person or persons responsible for recent acts of vandalism. Since January, spray-painted graffiti has appeared on rock features in several areas within the vast Southern California park. They include Rattlesnake Canyon, the Geo Tour Road, and Skull Rock Natural Trail. Additionally, Joshua trees have been toppled or damaged. “Joshua Tree National Park belongs to all of us,” David Smith, park superintendent, stated in a news release issued Tuesday. “Using paint or chisels on rocks and trees destroys the beauty we are trying to protect in our parks. “It is our hope that anyone with knowledge of these incidents will come forward so that we can eliminate future problems. It is illegal deface any of the resources in the park.” The park requests that anyone with information about the recent vandalism report their observations via email at jotr_graffiti@nps.org. The park also is seeking volunteers for various tasks, including graffiti cleanup and patrols. Vandalism is an ongoing problem for the sprawling desert park. During the partial government shutdown that began in late December 2018, several of the park’s signature Joshua trees were destroyed or removed by vandals. [Ed note: why are humans so consistently...