• Which environmental group should you join?

    by Marvin Sheffield, DVM

    Those Americans who think that the exit of the Bush Administration’s anti -environment and anti-wildlife policies have exited too, had better think again.

    President Obama’s selection of Mr. Kenneth Salazar as Secretary of The Department of Interior has been a a mixed bag, and a huge disappointment for those of us who have been aware of his friendship with many of the Big Agricultural Industries such as the Cattlemen’s Association, with their inappropriately large lobbying power. Shortly after he took office, Secretary Salazar prematurely  delisted the wolves of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem States, from the Endangered Species Act.  This has made them vulnerable to the would be copy cats who have wish to emulate Sarah Palin’s directives that she left in place as she resigned from the AK. governorship.  “Butch” Otter, Gov. of Idaho vows to be the first one to shoot a Rocky Mountain gray wolf. His fellow travelers in Montana and Wyoming while not as obviously vocal, are of the same mind set.

    Defenders of Wildlife is an organization of Americans who believe that our  wildlife is a wonderful legacy for future Americans to be able to see and enjoy. This organization, to which I have belonged for at least 3 plus decades, has been noteworthy in depicting the  things that humans do which have severely threatened and killed many species of wildlife, and they do their best to inform the public about these vile acts. Their only agenda is to preserve wildlife what we have before it is too late for that species.

    The National Audubon Society is not just for the birds. Preserving avian species that are in decline is only one of their missions. Their biologists  depict the species losses from agricultural pesticides and loss of habitat. They have extremely talented researchers such as  editor-at-large Ted Williams. His thorough column ” Incite,” may take on acts by the Army Corps of Engineers or municipalities that not only cause a threat to citizens, but severely degrade the very environment these projects were proposed to protect.  Audubon Magazine also points out that too many Americans are fiscally naive  regarding pollution control of wetlands, streams, rivers and larger waterways. Prevention is much less expensive than the costly remedial measures required once pollution creates adverse health issues, property loss, loss of fish, wildlife, and diminished recreational benefits for people.

    The Wilderness Society emphasizes the need to keep Wild America intact from the onslaught of ORVs, dams, recreational and  Corporate mining with its toxic tailings, which are destroying streams and wetlands In Alaska. Their primary focus is to preserve intact habitats for the many species of wildlife that cannot survive in a fragmented ecosystem.

    They also depict the ruinous decapitation of Appalachian mountain tops for the benefits of the coal industry at the expense of the citizens living in the ruined valleys with obliterated streams and once pristine lower forested land.

    The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is another excellent choice to support with your membership. They too are multifaceted, and tell it like it is.

    I mentioned the Nature Conservancy last time, however I wish to illustrate some of the admirable work done in their efforts to restore the diminutive dainty little Island Gray Fox on Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the Channel Islands.  European settlers introduced pigs and sheep in the 1850’s which subsequently became feral, and numbered in the thousands.

    This eventually destroyed much of the indigenous plant species found no where else; the pigs rooting had caused wide spread massive erosion and gullies. The Channel Islands hosted species of plants unique to their moist environment, plus the tiny four-pound Island Gray Fox was one of the resident mammals. It differs from its mainland gray fox ancestors. From  remains that have been found, scientists estimate that it must  have arrived 20,000 years ago by  drifting on some floating storm debris from the mainland. The feral sheep and pigs reduced the Island to a veritable ecological collapse.

    In addition, the resident Bald eagles that had nested on Santa Cruz island for millennia were killed when the Montrose Chemical Co. in Southern California dumped toxic wastewater into the offshore waters. This occurred after DDT was officially banned by our Government.

    As the Bald Eagles, which were primarily fish-eating eagles died off, the mainland Golden eagles began to survey the Islands and found a plentiful supply of feral pigs to dine upon.

    They also discovered the tiny diurnal gray fox, a species very naive about aerial predators, such as the mammal eating Golden Eagles. The fox population soon began to plummet. Within a decade there were fewer than 100 foxes left, and The Conservancy in conjunction with the National Park Service soon realized that drastic measures were needed to prevent this tiny fox from extinction. A program was devised so that removal of the remaining feral pigs was undertaken. This evoked some controversy by those people who seemed unaware that pigs were plentiful and can be raised anywhere.

    At the same time the Golden Eagles were humanely trapped live and relocated to the mainland of California, from whence they came.  As the Goldens were removed, hacking towers were built to raise and release Bald Eagles, which had never preyed on the tiny foxes. The towers were artfully concealed, and then remnant numbers of the tiny foxes were humanely live trapped and raised for captive breeding on the Island.  It took some watchful waiting, but with veterinary checkups, the little foxes were deemed well enough for release. From a population that once teetered on the brink of extinction, this diminutive little fox has rebounded, though not nearly as plentiful. With careful monitoring, no Golden eagles have returned, and the dominant Bald eagles rule the skies over Santa Cruz Island once more.




    posted to Cedar Street Times on August 27, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition

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