Category Archives: Native Species

Cleaning out the inbox.

GibbonBuff

 

Wyoming Woes

            Changing demographics and the death of 40 hour work week mean outdoor enthusiasts are more likely to watch birds and hike trails than take days off to hunt and fish.  It isn’t bad, but here’s the rub:  state conservation agencies are largely funded by hunting and fishing license sales.  A birdwatcher may not be paying into the system that protects their quarry, a hiker may not be paying into the system that maintains their trails.

            Western state agencies are among the worst off.  More than 90% of the Wyoming Game and Fish department’s funding comes from license sales- the state legislature provides practically no financial support, and many legislators prioritize mining, timber, grazing, and private property interests over stewardship of natural resources.

            The decline in license sales has left state agencies scrambling for new revenue.  One idea is a non-consumptive recreation fee attached to Yellowstone National Park.     The big question is whether revenue would be directed toward non-consumptive activities like hiking and birdwatching, or into the old hook-and bullet crowd.  Time will tell if we can find a compromise- and if hikers, campers, photographers and the like are willing to foot a bit of the conservation tab. .

 

Dolores River Review

I’ve written a bit about tensions on the lower Dolores River in southwest Colorado: Dolores County officials want the lower river protected; officials in neighboring Montezuma County fear protections would impact water extraction and development.

A few days ago, a Colorado court ruled the lower Dolores River should be managed, in part, for the protection of native fish species- specifically flannelmouth sucker and bonytail- fishes of the Colorado River found nowhere else on the planet.

 

Fortress of Solitude

Crazy.  That’s what I thought when I saw the new fly fishing clubhouse in Redding , California.  The new facility provides opportunities to engage the public in fly fishing, casting, tying, and other aspects of the sport- looks pretty neat.

 

One up, one down.

The good news?  Conservation efforts in Texas (of all placess) have led to delisting of the black-capped vireo.

The bad news?  The  Island Marble butterfly, found only in Puget Sound and rediscovered in 1998, is now a candidate for federal listing.  The species only occupies about 800 acres of our entire planet, mostly on public land.  Hopefully that’ll improve its prospects for survival.

Gallery

…what I did with my Earth Day weekend…

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Cleaning out the inbox: Two sides.

bonefishing-key-westOne side. 

Florida’s unlike anywhere else in the continental United States- unique ecosystems harboring thousands of species found nowhere else on the planet, shaped by wind and rain, water and tides.  They’re sensitive ecosystems, plagued by human development and associated nutrients, sediment, and the introduction of dozens of non-native species.  Hell Bay Boatworks has been a tireless advocate in the conservation of Florida’s unique aquatic resources- restoring the Everglades, mitigating pollution from agriculture surrounding Lake Okeechobee.

The other. 

We don’t blink an eye at the conservation of panthers or leopards or bison or wolves- species which range hundreds of square miles, species which, globally speaking, are pretty stable.  Little things count, and they’re often ignored.  Take the Panama City Crayfish– whose entire global population covers an area about the size of Disney World.  Of all the species which need conservation attention, those inhabiting such tiny native ranges should be the easiest to protect- they’re not fuzzy or photogenic or cuddly, and when it comes to building new condos or protecting something that looks like it’s out of a sci-fi novel, the spiny-squishy-slimy critters too often lose out.  It’s a shame, because they exist- and they’re worth protecting.

Last Best Streams: 2.0

leopolds

I had a perfectly good plan last year: winnow down all the streams in the US to the last best ones, the ones science say are least disturbed, their annual pattern of flow today most similar to the historic record.  Add in the nation’s system of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and spend the rest of my life focusing on those…

But there’s better data out there, more exhaustive- not just the great streams, the nice streams, the ones which are protected.  There’s data on the streams that should be protected, if only we had the will- political, social, or otherwise- to do so.  I’m anal about these sorts of things, so I dumped them into the existing list: something like 2,110 streams across the nation, notable for their ecological, fisheries, or cultural significance.  It’s a couple lifetimes worth of work, but I’m happy to try.  You can check out my progress on the Last Best Streams page.

Last Best Streams: #200.

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This one’s tough because it’s home.  I fished this river first, it maintained my sanity during the Recession, just out of college and underemployed.  A friend in similar circumstances would tag along, two or three times a week, sometimes, paying five bucks to stay in a nearly abandoned campground across the gravel road from the access.  Folks with full-time gigs weren’t going to risk losing them and the ones retired or underwater had bigger things on their plate; most days we had the place to ourselves.

A hundred years ago the watershed was a moonscape. Between 1888 and 1903 timber companies cut 375,000 acres of white oak and shortleaf pine, rafting logs downstream where industrial sawmills turned 800 trees a day into the beams and boards building midwestern metropolises.  By 1920 the roughest hollows and bottoms were the only timber left. After failed attempts to grow corn and wheat, locals who didn’t or couldn’t sell turned out hogs and cattle to forage what they could.  Thousands of acres burned annually, or nearly so, to rejuvenate meager pasture.

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With the Depression came federal buyouts, state parks, and national forest.  The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) projects replanted native pine, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built roads, bridges, fire towers, park offices, picnic shelters, and campgrounds.  When the war was over, everyone from Aldo Leopold to the artist Thomas Hart Benton clamored to protect the natural beauty of this landscape, and in the 1960s those protections were codified in federal law.

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A third of the watershed is now publicly owned. Mixed hardwood forests are again the dominant landcover, although fire suppression makes the forest more closed than historical conditions.  Imperiled bats and birds call the rivers home, rare flowers and ferns carpet dolomite bluffs, and hundreds of species of fish and aquatic invertebrates- some found nowhere else on the planet- call the river home.

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In a century threats to the river shifted one-hundred eighty degrees.  The river is no longer threatened by logging and livestock, but by ATVs, illegal roads, and poorly maintained horse trails.  Canoers, kayakers, and jet boats rove the river throughout the warm season, dotting gravel bars with black pocks from bonfires and leaving litter in their wake.  It’s a diverse crowd- there’s not many places you’re as liable to run across a baptismal as you are a yoga retreat.  But there’s just too many for the river and the infrastructure to support, and it’s the number of visitors and their diversity which confounds management.  Open houses and public forums are met with protests and counter-protests, one recreation group pitted against another, resentment welling up along the urban-rural divide.

It’s still pretty.  And there’s still good fishing- stocked browns and a few wild rainbows up at the top end, smallmouth bass and rock bass plus panfish, pickerel, and the occasional walleye downstream.  There’s a reason people still visit.

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