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How to be a responsible steward of Planet Earth.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Birds die in the billions: NY state buildings turn down lights

Kill the Lights, Not the Birds

A goldfinch in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.Credit Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

As many as a billion birds die each year in this country as they attempt to follow their seasonal routes — flying north in summer months, south in winter. Because many songbirds, sea birds, and other avians rely on stars to navigate, they grow confused by artificial lights. As a result, these birds die in droves as their ancient routes are interrupted by tall, brightly lit, glass buildings.

We can’t unplug the nation for the birds, of course. But bird lovers in New York can celebrate another conversion in their intrepid campaign to dim non-essential lights during the bird migration seasons. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York promised on Monday to begin right away turning off excess lights in state buildings from midnight until dawn as the birds fly across his state.

Mr. Cuomo said state buildings will shut down extra lighting from April 15 through May 31, when birds come to the northeast to breed, and from August 15 through Nov. 15 when they head for softer climates as far away as the Caribbean. He called it “a simple step to help protect these migrating birds that make their home in New York’s forest, lakes and rivers.”
Erin Crotty, executive director for Audubon New York, says this modest change is more than that. “It is critically important from a conservation perspective,”
she said. Besides being a source of joy for many people, birds are a vital part of our agriculture and our ecosystem. As Ms. Crotty puts it, “When birds thrive, people prosper.”

Birds are starting to gain more human supporters.

In Chicago, about 100 downtown buildings now go dark in migration seasons. Minnesota has started turning out lights in state buildings. 
In New York City, the Empire State Building has been shutting down decorative lights for decades to save the birds. 
Other city landlords joined the lights-out program for skyscrapers almost 10 years ago. 
Many of the city’s most famous towers like the Chrysler Building and the Time Warner towers now shut down non-essential lights after midnight. 

It saves birds, and, of course, electricity.

Bright lights once helped define human success, a triumph over the limits and perils of nighttime. Now we know that dimming those lights can mean a different kind of success — the survival of thousands and thousands of migrating birds.


Anna North writes on cultural topics for the editorial page and is the editor of this blog.
Follow @annanorthtweets on Twitter


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

$58 Million Approved to Protect Waterfowl and Other Bird Species in United States, Canada and Mexico

April 29, 2015

Contact: Laury Parramore

$58 Million Approved to Protect Waterfowl and Other Bird Species in United States, Canada and Mexico

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission today approved $58 million in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to purchase, lease or otherwise conserve more than 200,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds across North America.
“Wetlands provide vital habitat for wildlife, purify groundwater and protect communities from storms,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean. “With so many millions of acres of wetlands lost over the years, it is impossible to overstate the importance of North American Wetlands Conservation Act and Duck Stamp funding in setting aside and conserving them. We all benefit from healthier ecosystems and more abundant fish and wildlife.”
Of the total funds approved by the commission, $25 million will be provided through North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants to conserve more than 85,000 acres of wetlands and adjoining areas in 16 states. NAWCA is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. To date, funds have advanced conservation of nearly 8 million acres of wetland habitats and their wildlife in all 50 states, engaging more than 3,300 partners in nearly 1,000 projects. NAWCA grants are funded through federal appropriations, as well as fines, penalties and forfeitures collected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; from federal fuel excise taxes on small gasoline engines, as directed by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act; and from interest accrued on Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act funds.
Examples of projects include:
Texas Gulf Coast:  This project will restore and enhance an additional 2,800 acres of wetland habitat on private and public lands, providing important migration, wintering and breeding habitat for more than 304 bird species.
North Dakota Great Plains: This project is phase eight of a multi-year effort to establish, enhance and protect valuable wetland and associated upland habitat.  This phase will conserve more than 13,000 acres of habitat for northern pintail, long-billed curlew, mallard and many other species.
Virginia/North Carolina:  The ACC Wetlands Conservation Initiative will conserve 2,745 acres of diverse habitat, including bottomland cypress-gum swamp, emergent wetlands and pine forest. Habitat for 10 priority or high priority waterfowl species will be protected, including canvasback, black duck and greater scaup.
Grants made through this program require matching investments; the projects approved today will leverage an additional $58 million in non-federal matching funds. More information about these grant projects is available here.
Many bird species spend parts of their life cycles outside the United States, meaning effective conservation must address the needs of these species beyond our national boundaries. This is why projects funded through NAWCA occur throughout North America, to ensure a comprehensive approach to the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. This year, the commission approved a total of $21.6 million for 12 projects in Canada and $2.7 million for 12 projects in Mexico.
The commission also approved expenditures of $8.8 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve 16,044 acres for nine national wildlife refuges, through fee-title land acquisitions and lease renewals. These funds were raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps.”  For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, 98 cents go directly to acquire or lease habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Duck Stamp program has been in place since 1934 and has raised more than $800 million to acquire more than 6 million acres for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 2015-2016 Duck Stamp will go on sale June 26.
The commission-approved refuge projects are:
Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) -- Cross, Jackson, Monroe, Poinsett, Prairie and Woodruff counties, Arkansas.  Boundary approval to add 102,000 acres and price approval to acquire a 909-acre tract for $2,000,000.
Cat Island NWR -- West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana.  Price approval to acquire a 383-acre tract for $726,800.
Felsenthal NWR and Upper Ouachita NWR -- Ashley, Bradley and Union counties, Arkansas, and Union and Morehouse parishes, Louisiana.  Boundary approval for the previously established Felsenthal NWR acquisition boundary of 96,561 acres and price approval to acquire a 2,244-acre property for $3,000,037.  The property spans state lines and includes 1,383 acres in Arkansas (Felsenthal NWR) and 861 acres in Louisiana (Upper Ouachita NWR).
Laguna Atascosa NWR -- Cameron and Willacy counties, Texas.  Boundary addition and price approval to acquire approximately 1,778 acres for $1,000,000.
Mackay Island NWR -- Currituck County, North Carolina.  Boundary approval to add 1,358 acres and price approval to acquire a 288-acre tract for $944,900.
San Bernard NWR -- Fort Bend County, Texas.  Boundary addition and price approval to acquire approximately 360 acres for $1,080,480.
Red Rock Lakes NWR, Beaverhead County, Montana.  Price re-approval to renew five 10-year leases on 9,580 acres of state school section lands, for the annual lease fee of $53,562.  The commission also approved an escalation clause to permit price increases of no more than 5 percent per year, for the duration of each lease, to accommodate annual variations in rental costs dictated by Montana law.
St. Catherine Creek NWR --Adams County, Mississippi.  Price re-approval to renew a five-year lease on 502 acres of state school section lands, for the annual lease fee of $19,600.
The commission also welcomed new members: Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM) is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, an avid sportsman, and a member of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus. He was appointed to the commission in January.  Rep. Mike Thompson (CA) was appointed to the commission in March, replacing Rep. John Dingell (MI), who served on the commission from 1969 until his retirement in 2014. Thompson was a co-author of NAWCA and was recently inducted into the California Waterfowler Hall of Fame.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: FacebookTwitterFlickrYouTube.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

North Island Wildlife Recovery Association. (NIWRA)

Nestled in the district of Errington on Vancouver Island, NIWRA is a park like setting with a peaceful rustic atmosphere. When visiting the centre you will be able to view eagles, several species of owls, falcons, hawks, ravens, and black bears.

During the summer months, live raptor presentations are available for you.

The centre is a world class wildlife rehabilitation facility specializing in raptors and black bear. Magnificent eagles can be viewed through one way glass in the largest flight cage if its kind in Canada.

You will learn about Vancouver Island wildlife by booking a large group tour or just visit the centre on your own. Make sure you visit our gift shop.

Volunteers are essential to the centre, so be sure to consider giving of your time to this worthwhile cause. Even the youth can participate in volunteering by joining our Green Teen Junior Docent Program.

This is truly a "Wildlife Experience for the Whole Family"

Take a virtual tour with us in the video below:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Animal Welfare Approved

For Immediate Release
Contact: Stephanie Wuorenma
(202) 446-2138

--Cowichan Valley farm uses sustainable agriculture methods to earn Animal Welfare Approved certification for its flock of laying ducks--

COBBLE HILL, BC (APRIL 22)--The flock of laying ducks at thegoodfarm is now certified as Animal Welfare Approved. This certification and food label lets consumers know these animals are raised in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S. and Canada, using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent family farm.

Like other AWA farmers across the country, Barbara Houston recognizes the growing consumer interest in how animals are raised on farms. Managing animals outdoors on pasture or range has known benefits for animals, consumers and the environment. Houston raises laying ducks on five acres at thegoodfarm in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.

Guided by her core values of sustainability, environmental stewardship, and animal welfare, Houston believes the most important aspect of her animal husbandry practices is "creating an environment "where her ducks can be ducks!" Houston sees her relationship with the farm's ducks as a mutually beneficial one: "I am here to provide fresh water in pools and ponds, food and shelter, fresh bedding each night, and to keep them safe," Barbara says. "In return, they leave gifts in the form of wonderful eggs-whereas chicken eggs are acidic, duck eggs are an alkaline or neutral food. Plus, the eggs they produce far exceed those of ducks that are confined: It is clear in the shell, the yolk colour, and the taste. Most importantly, it is clear in the happiness of the ducks as they range and roam." Research shows pasture-based management results in tasty and nutritious eggs with more beta carotene and higher levels of beneficial conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids when compared to conventional eggs.

Houston spent some time researching appropriate farm certifications and saw AWA as the natural fit: "There are other certifying bodies, but none have standards for ducks. AWA clearly mapped out the standards for ducks and I was able to establish what I felt intuitively were appropriate high-welfare management practices for pastured ducks." She hopes that being Certified AWA--the leading animal welfare certification in Canada--will help her customers understand and support the true costs of producing food with people, animals, and the earth in mind.

AWA Program Director Andrew Gunther says, "The accountability and integrity offered by Animal Welfare Approved farmers like Barbara are unmatched in food production. We're glad to have thegoodfarm in the AWA family."

Certified AWA pasture-raised duck eggs from thegoodfarm are available at retailers, restaurants, and bakeries on Vancouver Island. For more information about the farm, visit or contact Barbara at or (250) 710-0636.

About Animal Welfare Approved 

Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) audits, certifies and supports farmers raising their animals according to the highest welfare standards, outdoors on pasture or range. Called a "badge of honor for farmers" and the "gold standard," AWA is the most highly regarded food label in North America when it comes to animal welfare, pasture-based farming, and sustainability. All AWA standards, policies and procedures are available on the AWA website, making it the most transparent certification available.

AWA's Online Directory of AWA farms, restaurants and products enables the public to search for AWA farms, restaurants and products by zip code, keywords, products and type of establishment. AWA has also launched AWA Food Labels Exposed, a free smartphone app guide to commonly used food claims and terms, available from the App Store or Google Play

A free printable version of Food Labels Exposed is also available for download at

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Family Cleans House, Finds Pet Tortoise Missing Since 1982

It's no secret that tortoises are among the most resilient animals on Earth, perfectly adapted for life in natural environments that others would find inhospitable. But for one particularly tenacious pet tortoise, that hardy sense of survival allowed it to endure for decades in the most unnatural of places.

Back in 1982, the Almeida Family was saddened to learn that their beloved pet, Manuela, a young red-footed tortoise, had gone missing. Their house was under renovation at the time, so the family just assumed that the slow-moving animal had slipped out through a gate left open by the construction crew -- disappearing into the forest near their home in Realengo, Brazil. But they couldn't have been more wrong.

The true fate of their lost pet remained a mystery for the next 30 years, that is, until recently.

Earlier last month, after their father Leonel passed away, the Almeida children returned to help clean out his cluttered storage room upstairs. As it turns out, Leonel was somewhat of a horder, so the room was jam-packed with things that he had found on the street, like broken televisions and furniture. Deciding it was mostly junk, the family set about moving it to the trash out front.

But while son Leandro Almeida was making a trip to the dumpster with a box of broken records, a neighbor asked him if he was intending to throw out the tortoise that was holed up inside.

"At that moment I was white and did not believe," Leandro told Globo TV.

Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

That's when the Almeidas learned that, amazingly, the hardy turtle had managed to survive three decades in storage.

The family suspects she had been able to sustain herself grubbing on termites which, thanks to all that unwanted furniture, was likely in abundance. And although she seemed to be surviving just fine in the dank confines of the storage room, Manuela is no doubt pleased (in her own tortoisey way) to be reunited with the family that had so long thought her gone forever.

But in the end, it's hard not to be impressed with the resiliency of life and the slow-and-steady approach to survival taken by tortoises -- both in living with us, and perhaps sometimes in spite of it.

Please note, the photos show a red-footed tortoise, though not the actual one from the story, as that image was not available to us.

Via Globo

Family Cleans House, Finds Pet Tortoise Missing Since 1982 : TreeHugger:

'via Blog this'

Killer whales learn to speak dolphin

CC BY 2.0 princesskoko/Flickr

For years scientists have known that killer whales "speak" in dialects specific to their social group. They use a series of clicks, whistles and pulses to communicate with one another, a behavior which is learned.

From one killer whale clan to another, the difference in dialect can be significant. The Smithsonian reported that in some cases, the difference can be likened to that of the difference between Greek and Roman.

So it wasn't a complete surprise when University of San Diego graduate student Whitney Musser and Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute senior research scientist Dr. Ann Bowles found that killer whales sounded a lot like the bottle nosed dolphins they were socialized with. The data was collected from two SeaWorld Parks and a Six Flags Discovery Kingdom park.

"Killer whales are adept social learners. They learn easily from each other. This is culture, and culture is a basis of their lives," Hal Whitehead, researcher at Dalhousie University, told TreeHugger. "One isolated killer whale learned seal calls."

The whales observed by Musser and Bowles were even able to mimic a sequence of sounds that trainers had taught the dolphins before they were put in with the killer whales. This suggests that their brains have high levels of neural plasticity.

Musser and Bowles also found that the killer whales had a bit of an accent. While they were able to reproduce four times as many whistles as a control group of killer whales, their whistles were at lower rates than their dolphin friends.

"It is yet another confirmation that learning is central to how killer whales acquire their vocal repertoire, and further confirms the status of the cetaceans as one of the few groups of mammals to have evolved true vocal learning," said Dr. Luke Rendell, a lecturer in biology at the University of St. Andrews.

The study was held in conditions that are increasingly controversial as evidence of whale intelligence and social complexity grows: the whales and dolphins were captive. Killer whales have been shown to suffer when trapped in small pools of water and the Dodo recently reported that free whales live more than 4 times longer than whales in captivity. While studies like Musser and Bowles' add valuable understanding to these mysterious creatures, the question remains: should humans be experimenting on animals in these circumstances?

Manon Verchot (@maverchot)

Science / Natural Sciences

Killer whales learn to speak dolphin - with an accent : TreeHugger:

Guest blog: Why I publish Open Access - BMC series blog

Guest blog: Why I publish Open Access

Simon Harold on December 6, 2012 at 10:59 am - 0 Comments

Joshua Drew, a lecturer in marine conservation biology at Columbia University, offers a personal perspective on Open Access publishing from a researcher’s point of view. Having now moved to a policy of publishing entirely in Open Access journals, he talks to BioMed Central about the benefits that this can bring to researchers wishing to get the most from their publications, together with some of the challenges that lie ahead

Open Access publishing is poised to revolutionize how science is conducted. Movement towards this publishing model will have downstream ramifications for how science is funded, collaborations established and how science is communicated. Ultimately Open Access publishing will force researchers to revaluate how we prioritize our limited resources. I believe that should researchers make a concerted effort to publish in Open Access formats we can maximize the returns on these resources.

Decreasing funding rates from federal and non-governmental agencies have forced researchers to closely evaluate how finite funds are allocated. With a shift to a user pays model, authors are now forced to allocate not insubstantial funds to publishing charges. While this is nothing new – page charges have been around for decades – the ubiquity of Open Access fees means that researchers must budget in several thousand dollars for publication.* One way this pressure may be alleviated is by altering the funding structure of grant proposals. By researchers explicitly requesting funds for publication in Open Access formats they can make the case that their outcomes will reach a broader audience and have a greater influence. Of course simply asking for more money may not be the most reliable strategy and more autochthonous methods of reallocation may be in order. This may result in scientists publishing fewer but more elaborate papers, publishing with more partners (thus spreading the publishing cost over a greater field of authors) or choosing to publish with journals that have fixed yearly costs.

By choosing to publish in an Open Access journal scientists are able to expand both their impact and their potential collaborative network. Making ones research more widely available means that more eyes, in more countries, are reading that work. This establishes the potential for unique and more wide-ranging collaborations, especially with labs in developing countries. In addition, by lowering barriers to engagement with government agencies, researchers are also more likely to translate their work into policy action. I have written elsewhere about how publishing in an Open Access format can help further conservation biology. From my perspective as a researcher and conservation biologist I would only add that the major strength of publishing in an Open Access format is that it allows for the democratization of science, putting the information in the hands of managers so that they have the most current data to make informed conservation decisions.

To me there is something fundamentally inequitable about a manager in Papua New Guinea, for example, not being able to access a paper written about reefs she can see from her office, because that paper is published in a journal that her institution cannot afford.

The crux of these arguments for publishing Open Access lies in the assumption that science published in Open Access journals will be more widely read than those in closed access journals, and that increase in communication will have follow-on impacts for researcher’s success in grants and tenure. While there is mounting evidence that articles published in Open Access journals are more widely read** the downstream implications of publishing preferentially, or exclusively in Open Access journals on promotion and funding remains to be seen.

Open Access publishing offers great potential to revolutionize how we do and how we report science. However it is important for researchers interested in sailing these waters to take a critical approach at the real risks and benefits of moving over to an alternative publishing schema. I have personally moved to a completely Open Access publishing policy and have been thrilled at the response I have gotten from my colleagues. When you couple the availability of Open Access papers with the dynamic nature of social media (twitter, facebook etc.) you can reach entirely new and engaged audiences for your work, ones which you may be entirely excluding by only publishing in a closed access model. I encourage you to give it a try.

*There has yet to be coalescence around a single Open Access model, nor does their particularly need to be. Different journals are partitioning the Open Access space according to price, inclusivity and discount structure.

**Gargouri Y, Hajjem C, Larivière V, Gingras Y, Carr L, et al. (2010) Self-Selected or Mandated, Open Access Increases Citation Impact for Higher Quality Research. PLoS ONE 5(10): e13636. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013636

Joshua Drew is a lecturer and director of the MA program in Conservation Biology at Columbia University. His research focuses on the evolution, historical ecology and conservation of Pacific coral reef systems. He recently published the article “Biodiversity Inventories and Conservation of the Marine Fishes of Bootless Bay, Papua New Guinea” and was invited to contribute this guest blog by BMC Ecology. You can follow research in his lab on twitter at @Drew_Lab

Tags: ecology, oa, open access, publishing

Guest blog: Why I publish Open Access - BMC series blog:


Human Population doubled in 50 years

We Need to Talk

Stefanie Spear | January 20, 2015

In the last 50 years, the human population has more than doubled from about 3.2 billion to more than 7 billion people today. Today’s population is fueling a corporate factory farming industry that kills more than 55 billion animals per year.


This month, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Center for Biological Diversity are teaming up to break what they call the long-standing taboo around discussions on human population, overconsumption, environmental protection and animal rights. They are bringing the conversation to top-ranked law schools across the country as part their “Breaking the Taboo” tour.

Carter Dillard, director of litigation at Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity, are visiting law schools to discuss the these pressing issues and how they can be solved through innovative policies that advance human rights, animal rights and wildlife conservation.

“One of the best ways to help humans and animals is by focusing on future generations, giving them a greener, less crowded world full of biodiversity, and helping them become a people capable of caring for it and for each other,” said Dillard.

According to the groups, population growth and meat consumption are leading causes of climate change, habitat loss and wildlife extinction. Projections show that human population will reach 10 billion to 12 billion by the end of the century with livestock production expected to double by 2070.

The tour will help answer the question, “How do we feed 10 billion people?” since what “we choose to eat has a greater impact on the environment and the lives of other animals than any other choice we make.”

“There are more young people in the world today than ever before in history,” said Feldstein. “Talking with them about the intersection between these issues, and how the policies and choices we make today in areas like family planning and agriculture will shape the future for people, wildlife and the planet is one of the most important conversations we need to have.”

The “Breaking the Taboo” tour will visit Stanford, University of Minnesota, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown and Lewis & Clark.


No Regrets

The past cannot be changed, forgotten, edited or erased; it can only be accepted.

Bill Moyers on Twitter