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Rural News

Will a Williamson County lawsuit upend the Endangered Species Act?

My Statesman | Posted on March 28, 2017

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.

From boardroom to barnyard: Why most American farmers farm part-time

Farm and Dairy | Posted on March 27, 2017

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.

Forever Wild program generates solid economic return to Alabama

Alabama News Center | Posted on March 25, 2017

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.


Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban Americ

The Conversation | Posted on March 23, 2017

We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today. 1. Poverty is higher in rural areas 2. Most new jobs aren’t in rural areas 3. Disabilities are more common in rural areas 4. Rural areas are surprisingly entrepreneurial

Return of the grizzly?

High Country News | Posted on March 23, 2017

The draft plan, currently under public comment, offers four alternatives for recovery, with the aim of one day achieving a population of 200 grizzlies. They range from taking no action to augmenting the population with transplanted bears from northwestern Montana and/or south-central British Columbia. One would see the initial translocation of 10 closely monitored bears with the intention of reaching 200 within 60 to 100 years. Another would move in five to seven bears per year for up to a decade. And an expedited approach could lead to 200 bears in a mere 25 years. If the North Cascades bears are ever going to bounce back, says Wayne Kasworm, acting grizzly recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it will take that kind of intervention. Though a small population has long existed on the British Columbia side of the Cascades, major river valleys, human development and railways have prevented those grizzlies from moving south across the border, says Kasworm. But trapping and moving bears can be difficult. Not all survive the stressful journey. Some slip their radio collars and wander off. Others attack livestock or pets. Transplanting grizzlies to restore a population isn’t entirely new, though — and it’s worked before.

Latest: Gray wolves delisted in Wyoming

High Country News | Posted on March 23, 2017

In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced endangered gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, and they soon spread throughout the Northern Rockies. After a series of lawsuits, in 2011 Congress delisted wolves in Montana, Idaho and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah. (“How the gray wolf lost its endangered status— and how enviros helped,” HCN, 6/6/11). In Wyoming, wolves remained listed until 2012, when they came under state management. Conservation groups sued, and federal protection was restored in 2014.
In a March 3 ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision. Wyoming’s wolves will again be placed under state management, and Wyoming will implement its 2012 plan, which allows wolves to be shot on sight across most of the state. “This decision highlights that Congress should not step in to block judicial review under the Endangered Species Act,” wrote Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso in a statement. Plaintiffs say they may ask for a rehearing.

Genetic Engineering Can Help Us Save Animals’ Lives

Futurism | Posted on March 23, 2017

From tackling cancer to eradicating single-gene mutations, the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool is often portrayed as the eighth wonder of the world by many. We look to CRISPR regarding how it affects us as a species, but the implications of the CRISPR Cas-9 system extend far beyond just humanity. The gene editing tool’s precision and efficacy can be implemented in manipulating the genetics of our agriculture as well as animals. It would be wrong, however, to think that this is humanity’s first attempt at the genetic manipulation of crops and pets alike—to be fair, we have been doing it since the inception of human civilization itself. Thirty thousand years ago, our ancestors were the first individuals to manufacture genetically modified organisms (GMOs) before it was cool. Through selective breeding or artificial selection, wild wolves in East Asia were selected for docility. With more obedient animals at their side, humans from 32,000 BCE could optimize their hunter/gatherer lifestyles. After several millennia, the artificially-selected wolves began to resemble the dogs we see today. Crops weren’t spared from our genetic coercion either. In fact, humans had domesticated several forms of wheat since 7800 BCE. However, our greatest success in genetic modification through artificial selection comes from corn. So how does CRISPR work? Unlike other gene editing tools in the past, CRISPR works to propagate sequences through generations at a 97% effectiveness rate. The system is naturally found in viruses, but researchers were able to manipulate the tool to essentially work as a copy and paste function for any desirable genetic information. The advent of CRISPR is revolutionizing business, with corporations taking advantage of the easy-to-use genetic engineering to even edit pets

LaPorte County creates morgue for cats, dogs

North West Indiana Times | Posted on March 22, 2017

Owners of pets killed on the road will get a chance to provide them with a proper burial under a new program in LaPorte County.LaPorte County Animal Control officer Jane Bernard said the effort is about providing closure and peace of mind for owners wondering about the fate of their missing dog or cat."We just thought that as a good community we want to take care of people's pets," she said.For years, the LaPorte County Highway Department has taken deceased cats and dogs found along roadsides directly to a composting pile containing wild animals that suffered a similar death at its main location at 1805 5th St. in LaPorte.Road crews on Thursday were instructed to take all bodies to the LaPorte County Small Animal Shelter at 2855 W. Ind. 2, next to the fairgrounds.Bernard, who's also the director of the shelter, said bodies will be scanned. If there's a microchip with contact information, an attempt will be made to reach the owner.Contact information will also be gleaned from any ID tags.

Cyanide trap injures Eastern Idaho boy, kills dog

Capital Press | Posted on March 22, 2017

An eastern Idaho sheriff says he’s investigating after a cyanide trap placed by federal authorities to kill coyotes injured a 14-year-old boy and killed his dog. Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen tells the Idaho State Journal that the device activated Thursday near the Eastern Idaho city of Pocatello.Nielsen says the boy was taken to a hospital to be tested for cyanide poisoning but was not seriously injured and was released. The dog, a 3-year-old Lab named Casey, died.

Prisoners train wild animals and rehabilitate themselves

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 22, 2017

More than a dozen men in orange, with the initials of the Arizona Department of Corrections stenciled on their shirts, are caring for 35 wild horses and burros on grounds about 50 miles southeast of Phoenix. The men shovel fresh hay into stalls, the wind carrying wisps into the air. They start to groom the horses.  Bear, the horse, isn’t happy. Rick Kline picks up Bear’s right foreleg, and tries to clean the dark horse’s hoof. Bear keeps shaking his head and tail, stomping out his discomfort.  “It’s okay,” Kline says quietly. He tries again. And again. Eight tries later, Bear accepts Kline’s calm commands.Kline, an inmate at the Arizona State Prison in Florence, helps care for and train wild horses and burros the state captures and offers for adoption. The Bureau of Land Management funds and oversees a program that annually provides about 120 wild horses and burros for adoption, according to its website. The mission is to reduce the population to prevent overgrazing.First, the animals need to be domesticated after they’re transferred from a holding facility. Inmates train and care for the horses and burros for three or four months at the prison.Inmates gain an education beyond learning to train horses.