A team of chemists and engineers at the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Iowa reported that they found neonicotinoids in treated drinking water. It marks the first time that anyone has identified this class of pesticide in tap water, the researchers write in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. Gregory LeFevre, a study author and U of Iowa environmental engineer, told The Washington Post that the find was important but not immediate cause for alarm. The scientists collected samples last year from taps in Iowa City as well as on the university campus and found neonicotinoid concentrations ranging from 0.24 to 57.3 nanograms per liter — that is, on a scale of parts per trillion. “Parts per trillion is a really, really small concentration,” LeFevre said. “There is no EPA standard for drinking water,” LeFevre said. The pesticides, most of which were released in the 1990s, were designed to be more environmentally friendly than other chemicals on the market. The compounds work their way into plant tissue rather than just coating the leaves and stems, requiring fewer sprays. And though the pesticides wreak havoc on insect nervous systems, neonicotinoids do not easily cross from a mammal’s bloodstream into a mammalian brain.
Maine lobstermen are plagued by opioid addiction, leading to deaths, ruined lives and even fishing violations to pay for the habit. Some in recovery also recognize the challenge: Getting help to an intensely independent breed that rarely asks for it. For years, industry leaders and regulators ignored the drug use. They didn’t want to risk tainting the iconic image of the Maine lobsterman, that rough-and-tumble ocean cowboy who braves the elements to hunt lobster, the backbone of the state’s $1.6 billion-a-year industry. And the lobstermen were intensely private, preferring to battle their demons on their own and rarely asking for help.That is starting to change. As addiction surfaces in newspaper obituaries, public memorial services and fishermen’s forums, and is blamed as a motive for an increasing number of the state’s fishing crimes, industry leaders now admit that America’s deepening opioid epidemic is feeding on the labor force of the state’s most valuable fishery.
Feeding peanut butter kibbles to millions of prairie dogs – by flinging the treats from four-wheelers and dropping them from drones – could be the next big thing to help a spunky little weasel that almost went extinct. Slinky with a robber-like black mask across its eyes, the endangered black-footed ferret is a fierce predator. The up to 2-foot-long weasel feeds almost exclusively on prairie dogs, rodents that live in vast colonies regularly decimated by plague outbreaks.The disease keeps threatening the food supply of ferrets bred in captivity and reintroduced on the landscape. Biologists are increasingly optimistic that feeding plague vaccine to prairie dogs can improve the ferrets’ success rate. Starting this fall, they hope to ramp up recent plague vaccination experiments to cover as much as 40 square miles of prairie dog colonies in several states in the West. “We’re not attempting to eradicate it. That would be very, very difficult at this point. We’re just trying to manage it on selected colonies,” said Tonie Rocke, who researches animal diseases with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.They plan to treat prairie dog colonies with blueberry-sized vaccine pellets made with peanut butter, using a specially made “glorified gumball machine” to fling the pellets from all-terrain vehicles. They might also drop pellets from drones to avoid trampling the countryside.
To boost the number of beds available for low-income residents, the federal government has granted California, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York a waiver of an obscure Medicaid rule that prohibits the use of federal dollars for addiction treatment provided in facilities with more than 16 beds. Seven other states — Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah and Virginia — are seeking similar permission. The federal government is encouraging all states to seek a waiver of Medicaid’s residential treatment rule, but only if the care is offered as part of a comprehensive set of addiction services for low-income people.In addition to offering inpatient treatment to patients who need it, state Medicaid addiction programs must include all available addiction medications, intensive outpatient therapy, recovery support services such as job training and housing, substance abuse prevention programs, case management and physical health services.States also must prove that adding more residential treatment slots to the list of Medicaid treatment options will cost no more than continuing to prohibit it.
Thieves are illegally cutting down thousands of birch trees in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin to make a quick buck off city dwellers who love the paper-white logs, limbs and twigs in their home decor. The thefts have caught county sheriffs and state natural resource officials by surprise over the past few months, sending them scrambling to determine how big the problem is and how to keep it from getting worse. In the meantime, the thieves are leaving gaps in the northern landscape that will take at least a decade to refill with birch.Chief Deputy Mike Richter with the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin was among those scratching their heads when word spread that swaths of birch saplings were being felled by crooks. “And then I learned some stuff about the market,” he said. Birch items are “kind of a hot item in home decor in both contemporary and traditional spaces,” said Scott Endres, co-owner of Tangletown Gardens in Minneapolis. “Folks in urban areas appreciate the beauty of it and like to have a little of the North Woods showing up in their outdoor containers, as well as their indoor decor. Interior designers use it a lot.” Law enforcement officials in Minnesota and Wisconsin said it’s difficult to quantify how many birches have been lost to the trend. The trees being targeted are generally young — 10 to 15 years old, about 2 to 4 inches in diameter and about 10 to 18 feet high, often growing in secluded areas.
Rural America lost jobs in 2016, according to a Daily Yonder analysis of federal jobs data, as the growth in employment continued to concentrate in the nation’s largest cities. Eight out of 10 jobs created in 2016 were in the 51 metropolitan areas of a million people or more. These giant urban areas gained 1.2 million jobs between January 2016 and January of this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In rural counties, there are nearly 90,000 fewer jobs this January than in the same month a year ago. Blue counties are in metropolitan areas and gained jobs. Orange counties are in metro regions and lost jobs.Green counties are rural and gained jobs. Red counties are rural and lost jobs. The map shows a reverse in employment patterns in parts of rural America. Much of the rural South, including the Eastern Kentucky coalfields, showed job gains in 2016. For most of the last few years, some of these areas – especially the coalfields – reported job losses. On the other hand, the booming shale gas regions of Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Texas now report job losses instead of their previous gains. Williams County, North Dakota, the epicenter of that state’s shale gas industry, had nearly 5,000 fewer jobs in January 2017 than it did a year ago. The consistent theme of this latest jobs report, however, is how employment is centered in the most urban of the nation’s counties. As counties get farther away from these giant metros, employment figures worsen.In the big metro areas, the unemployment rate is under 5 percent. In rural counties, the unemployment rate tops 6 percent.The slow growth, or even decline, in rural jobs is the continuing story of the post-recession economy. Everybody lost jobs in the crash of 2008. But since the recovery began the growth in jobs has centered in the nation’s largest cities.
A new document filed in the ongoing dognapping lawsuit against the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) demonstrates the long-term, systemic pattern of trespassing, pet theft, and killing that occurs as part of PETA’s pet slaughterhouse operation at its Norfolk headquarters. Heather Harper-Troje, a former PETA employee who worked on its Community Animal Project, recently submitted an affidavit in the lawsuit making shocking claims that, during her employment, PETA regularly rounded up and slaughtered healthy cats and dogs and even misled their owners:“While employed at PETA, my primary responsibilities included gaining possession of as many cats and dogs and possible, almost all of which were euthanized.”“Ingrid Newkirk was in charge of the Community Animal Project and Ingrid became my supervisor.”“[Newkirk] said that an effort to adopt out an animal was a waste of PETA’s money and effort.”“I was specifically told by my supervisors at PETA to tell people that we would find good homes for the dogs and cats, even though we knew the animals would be euthanized.”“If we saw animals loose, even on someone’s property, we were to take them whenever we could. PETA would not hold them for five days. We would not obtain signed releases if an animal was stolen, but would euthanize the animals immediately.” PETA focused on impoverished neighborhoods because “people from low income neighborhoods were more likely to relinquish their pets to us.”“We would routinely euthanize healthy puppies and kittens and other highly adoptable animals.”“I was instructed by Erica to over-estimate the size of the dogs and cats when euthanizing them so that there would be additional drugs that could be used kill dogs and cats ‘off the books,’ meaning that dogs and cats could be euthanized without reporting their death to the State. Erica told me these instructions came directly from [Newkirk].”“Killing animals ‘off the books,’ was done so that PETA’s kill rate would not look as bad.”
Walk quickly by and you might miss the coffin-sized fissure on John Yearwood’s sprawling Williamson County ranch, now ground zero in the newest effort to gut the Endangered Species Act. The small limestone cave is home, maybe, to a seldom-seen, spider-like creature with a scary-movie name: the Bone Cave harvestman. The harvestman is known to live only in Travis and Williamson counties, and that fact is key to Yearwood and his allies’ revival of a legal strategy that has been rebuffed by courts in the past — including a case a little over a decade ago involving the same species. But with the ascendance of Donald Trump to the White House, and buoyed by what they say are developments in case law, the plaintiffs are hoping the case ultimately will be decided by a sympathetic U.S. Supreme Court. Joining forces with Williamson County officials, and represented by a conservative Austin think tank that has long fought to ease endangered species rules, Yearwood aims to attack the federal government’s authority to require habitat protections for such single-state species as the Bone Cave harvestman. Nearly 70 percent of endangered species are found in only one state. If Yearwood and his allies get their way, special federal protections will disappear for all of them. “This isn’t just about a cave bug,” said Yearwood, whose property has been in his family’s hands since the 1870s and has three of the crevices where the harvestman has been found. “It’s about the private property rights, about overreach from the government.” Yearwood said he couldn’t point to a single activity on his land that he had been prevented from undertaking because of endangered species rules — including any limits on the commercial blasting and harvesting of limestone in his quarry.
America is a nation of part-time farmers. According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, over 52 percent of farmers have a primary occupation other than farming. Sixty-one percent worked some days off the farm. Part-time farming doesn’t mean farming fewer than 40 hours a week. It means putting in long, hard hours of farm labor around 9-to-5 jobs. For many of us, it means getting up extra early to do chores before work, and heading back to the barn after a day at the office. Part-time farming is challenging but offers big benefits, especially for young farmers beginning a farm business. It boosts household income, provides access to health and life insurance and offers economic stability. Off-farm income looks good to lenders, and can help new farmers finance a farm. It gives new farmers an opportunity to learn from mistakes as they grow their operation. Part-time farmers bring specialized skills and knowledge to other career fields like education, sales and maintenance.
The Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust is a powerful economic engine that provides numerous fiscal benefits to communities throughout the state, a recently released analysis shows. The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Alabama, Conservation Alabama Foundation, Birmingham Audubon and The Conservation Fund, conducted an analysis of the return on investment in land conservation through the Forever Wild Land Trust. It found that every $1 invested in land conservation returned $5 in “natural goods and services.” The benefits include enhancing wildlife habitat and tourism, flood control and providing water quality protection that otherwise could require expensive public investments. “Alabama’s natural resources provide a wealth of economic, community and conservation benefits to the citizens of this great state. From a booming outdoor recreation industry to providing outdoor spaces for families to enjoy the great outdoors, Forever Wild is an important investment to protect Alabama’s special places,” said Roger W. Mangham, The Nature Conservancy in Alabama state director.