Thursday, October 10, 2013

You are the voice of conservation, are you silent, or are you singing, "POPVOX"?

Be heard by your government!

Busy, like me? Be heard by government through POPVOX.

We have added a POPVOX widget in the right column of this blog, use it.

POPVOX is really easy to set up and use, just create a login, screen name, and offer your views on diverse pending legislation. Everyone will see your selected screen name, only POPVOX and congressional staff, and hopefully, members of Congress will see your full identification.

POPVOX is a new (2009), innovative, non-partisan startup offering YOU a simple tool to participate in democracy--and you do not have to have a geek in your pocket to make it work! It's easy. I've used it. I have not detected so much as a hint of the smell of partisanship, so far. I can see my results right away. POPVOX gives me access to legislation and the legislative process. POPVOX makes it easy for me to communicate meaningfully with my representatives. You can do it, too.

Why POPVOX? Most people do not take the time to write to their representatives. Most people are not comfortable writing to their representatives. Few take the time to email their representatives and those who do so send emails into a morass of overwhelming communications sent to public office holders, much of it dubious. If you are a skilled and regular letter writer, please continue to send your letters to Congress.

How is communication through POPVOX different? CrunchBase summarizes POPVOX succinctly,
"POPVOX does the work of aggregating, verifying, sorting, and counting opinions and delivering input to lawmakers in a transparent, structured format. It’s the only website of its kind—and it’s nonpartisan. Serving individuals, Congress, and advocacy professionals, POPVOX is akin to a “Legislative LinkedIn” – bringing transparency, efficiency, and accountability to policymaking. POPVOX is a “civic startup” – a for-profit corporation with a dual mission to scale and return value to investors while empowering individuals and making government more accountable. CrunchBase Profile
Too good to be true? Well, it's not anonymous, it cannot be insofar as Congress is concerned. Undoubtedly, POPVOX, an intermediary, collects information about individual preferences. Under your screen name, your positions and comments are posted, so POPVOX must store them under your real identity. That's a double-edge sword. My "signed" verified communications are taken seriously by my representatives in so far as their offices certainly log my opinions among others for or against specific legislation. They can hear my "stories," too, when I choose to comment on legislation. Perhaps their staffers select some of my comments or pull quotes from my comments and from others when preparing summaries for legislators? If so, that's a good thing. The downside; my positions can be used to predict my likely voting patterns. This data is collected by the intermediary, POPVOX, and my preferences and opinions can be gleaned from my repeated input on legislation under consideration.

Are my preferences collected, collated, and stored? Are they sold individually or collectively for target advertising? Don't know, we'll see. Is that a bad thing? Don't know, we'll see. Do I care? Yes. Based on my read of the Privacy Policy, this will not happen, but I found their Privacy Policy lengthy and a bit confusing. I find all detailed Privacy Policy statements are lengthy and confusing. If YOU know how to read a Privacy Policy, please comment and explain what you see in their Policy Statement. This is a for profit business, so advertising is present, but it's not intrusive, yet. The upside, my voice is heard in a reliable way.

Visit POPVOX and decide if expedient communication with Congress is for you.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Birthday irony for NASA, our national archetype for effective teamwork and problem-solving

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, opened its doors October 1, 1958 following passage of founding legislation July 29, 1958. A successful Soviet launch had put a satellite, Sputnik, into low earth orbit. Our government leadership came together in bipartisan cooperation to say, NO, we will not be outdone. NASA's liftoff began a mission that carried all of us to the moon and beyond, where none had gone before. NASA changed the way we see the universe, the earth, our nation, and ourselves. NASA brought us essential paradigm shifts embodied in iconic images, Earthrise and Spaceship Earth. NASA produced great technological leaps. NASA continues to carry us all to new places and new insights, but not today and not for the immediate future, NASA is in limbo!

Earthrise, December 24, 1968, Apollo 8, 075:48:54 mission time. Image presented in correct mission orientation as seen by astronauts Jim Lovell, Bill Anders, and Frank Borman orbiting the moon.
Sadly, 93% of NASA employees are furloughed today due to the United States Federal Government shutdown, a result of the failure of congress to work together, a consequence of poor leadership and poor teamwork allowing a small fraction of one party in one House to run away with the national agenda, a malicious effort to gain division and to distract the news cycle at the very moment all Americans, for the first time, have access to affordable health care, an achievement far more important than reaching the Moon.

Happy 55th Birthday NASA. 

Ironically, NASA taught us teamwork. NASA is our symbolic and our actual instrument for teamwork success in our greatest technological efforts.

Teamwork trainers tell us, and NASA showed us, that effective teamwork comes together in stages, simplified: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. All of these stages have value and contribute to a team effort to close in on goals. Today, Congress is held hostage by children unwilling to move beyond the Storming phase because they get attention. Parents recognize the terrible two's!

Childish barbarians have taken over Congress, let's put NASA in charge!

Monday, September 30, 2013

A field of dreams...

A personal mission and a life-long public effort

Guy Denny's very own field of dreams, an 18 year effort, offers visiting friends and naturalists a peek at the Ohio habitat that was first to fall to the pioneer's iron plow and remains scarce today. Guy's 26 acre introduced tall grass prairie sustains Ohio prairie plant diversity in luxurious abundance for the future and to share with friends and prairie advocates throughout the Midwest. Guy's generous private activity and long public career suggest that his greater field of dreams, his demonstrated dedication, reaches far beyond his local prairie restoration to include all of the state of Ohio and beyond.

A primer on prairie collection by life-long naturalist-interpreter, Guy Denny, beside his 26 acre prairie.
I joined a small gathering of naturalists to gather seeds in Guy's prairie on Saturday, September 28, 2013, National Public Lands Day.

Private lands efforts are even more important than essential public lands efforts to sustain biological diversity through the growing pressures of destructive forces bottle-necking biodiversity in the 21st century. Edward O. Wilson detailed the bottleneck dilemma causing the current mass extinction of biological diversity in his 2002 book, The Future of Life. A convergence of pressures; habitat destruction, invasive species, population growth, over-harvest, and pollution whittle away at biological diversity. These on-the-ground (and in the water) pressures are exacerbated by the accelerating increase of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere causing anthropogenic climate change. We are reducing ecosystem resiliency while upping the pressure for rapid adaptation that is overwhelming ecosystems.

Guy is leader for both private and pubic involvement. Ohio's fledgling natural areas association, The Ohio Natural Areas and Preserves Association  is Guy's most recent public effort. Guy is one of three incorporators of the new organization. Several years ago, Ohio defunded one of the most successful public natural areas and preserves systems in the Midwest. Guy, with others, campaigned successfully to keep Natural Areas alive, though still struggling and no longer an entirely stand-alone system. The new non-profit will advocate for Ohio's natural areas and lend a hand to on-the-ground management, an ongoing challenge Guy and others have worked to reduce for decades. Dedicated conservationists sport calloused palms, not just figuative pencil-grip calluses. Denny sports both, he does the work and writes about the work. Guy and friends eradicate thistle, write outdoor pieces, and organize initiatives for habitats near and far. This is grass roots effort.

Please join ONAPA today, or make a generous donation. Consider lending a hand at one of the work days, the "Give Back" days detailed at the link above.

Sawtooth sunflower spreading toward open sun along prairie trails opened by mowing firebreaks. The only important ecosystem element missing, frequent disturbance by herds of bison!

Vanishing among towering big bluestem, a prairie dominant with indiangrass.

Last of abundant obedient plant flowers.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

And the duck stamp art winner is...

Wildlife artist Adam Gimm is now a two-time winner of the prestigious federal contest to illustrate the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, the "duck stamp." Grimm's Canvasback duo took first place and will be used to produce the 81st stamp for the 2014-2015 conservation season (waterfowl hunting season). Grimm's exquisite technical realism is stamp-friendly, a beautiful work illustrating an alert male Canvasback with resting female at water's edge.The image is standard stamp fare, but more, Grimm loaded the image with subtle tension, a premonition of motion to come. The male Canvasback is evocatively alert. One get's the feeling that Grimm has captured a living moment, that instant when the male is just aware, but the female has not yet joined the alert.

Art by Adam Grimm. Image by Paul Baicich

Inside the 2013 Federal Duck Stamp Contest

The 2013 Federal Duck Stamp contest brought together 201 qualifying entries, each illustrating one of five waterfowl species selected for the 2013 contest by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Judges raising "IN" and "OUT" cards to select images for the second round.
The judging process is serious business. Judges see each anonymous numbered work, one at a time, in isolation, on their monitor and, briefly, presented in front of them. They have just moments to decide and rule.

Viewers are respectfully quiet. A whisper here, the occasional sigh rising from a watching artist or an artists companion. Beside me, a spouse hugged and comforted an artist who's work scored three "OUTS" and so, did not move to the second round. This is serious business--a life-changing opportunity for one talented artist each year. All are hopeful.

A Mallard entry illustrating an uncommon posture.
The two-day, two-round competition prolongs tension for semi-finalists, 63 entries moved on to the second round, the next day.

Entries make it to the second round with three or more "IN" selections from the five judges.
This dignified competition was hosted by Ohio's Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service organizes each year's event using the entry fees paid by artists. Ohio's ODNR and nearby Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge presented hands-on outdoor activities for hundreds of school-age children. Early experience in the outdoors is essential for children and for the outdoors of tomorrow.

"IN" This display offers viewers another peek at some of the second round art. These are all excellent choices, the judges have a tough job to do!

Your blogger attended the first day only. I wore a name tag to advertise birder support and Ohio Ornithological Society support for our National Wildlife Refuge System and the all important Federal Duck Stamp.

IPCC: "Extremely likely" people are dominant cause for present climate change

More grist for the denier's mill

The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released yesterday ups the likelihood of dominant anthropogenic influence on climate change to greater than 95%. You can be sure that the denier's message machine is gearing-up for a new round of milling out doubt-messaging--not surprising, an election is on the horizon.

This is the 5th assessment report (AR5). Tune your critical-thinking skills, each new assessment report results in the deep-pocket denier machine producing lots of thinly-cloaked, but very slick-looking and smart-sounding confusion--just enough to ensure a majority of folks are confused and hold onto doubt so they don't need to believe that we are facing three uncomfortable and unavoidable outcomes: mitigation, adaptation, suffering (LG Thompson, 2010). If we invest NOW in mitigation, we can reduce the challenge of future adaptation and ease future suffering.

Unfortunately, denial works really well and is very inexpensive. Get ready for new books purporting to reveal controversy or conspiracy. Watch for slick television ads employing Maslov's basic levels of need to reach inside YOU to convince you your immediate comfort, warmth, security, and well being depend on your doubting and resisting calls for change. Watch for the witchdoctors, too: the talking heads that tout PhD's and then talk about how scientists don't agree (that's called peer review, part of the the scientific method). Parse their arguments and you will be participating in consumer review, and you will conclude that their flatulence does not contribute to science. This is about real science--not just politics as usual. There is too much at stake.

The physical science basis for the climate change attribution is summarized in the new report, IPCC Report Summary for Policymakers. The report summarizes large quantities of new science, a meta-analysis.

A few highlights:
"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, greenhouse gases have increased"

"The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification."

 "Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system,"

"Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes... This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."
This report is worth your attention. LG Thompson's and other papers in the volume at the link above are worth you time, too. Be a smart consumer.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Environmental History Timeline, March 16, 1934

The "Duck Stamp Act of 1934" signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt March 16, 1934

The Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp, later renamed the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, popularly known as the "duck stamp", is a required purchase for those who would hunt waterfowl. Anyone age sixteen or older must posses the annual Federal Duck Stamp in order to legally pursue waterfowl anywhere in the United States and Territories. The duck stamp purchase requirement was made the law of the land in order to collect dedicated funds for wetland habitat protection.

The 2013-2014 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.
Today, bird watchers and other conservationists, stamp collectors and, of course, hunters buy Federal Duck Stamps to grow our National Wildlife Refuge System. Stamps serve as entry passes into select federal wildlife refuges that require entry fees, too. Stamp income goes to the dedicated Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, held for the purchase and protection of habitat, not subject to appropriations politics. Duck stamp dollars protect habitat! The Federal Duck Stamp is a success story, an icon of conservation, a really big deal.

Duck Stamp money amounting to over 850 million dollars has purchased or leased over 6.5 million acres of habitat, wetlands and waterfowl production areas, during 80 years of sales.

Jay N. "Ding" Darling, celebrity cartoonist and leading conservationist, conceived of the stamp idea to raise funds for habitat protection. Ding illustrated the first stamp printed for the 1934-1935 waterfowl season. Conservationist, "Honest" Harold Ickes, FDR's legendary Secretary of Interior during the New Deal and Fair Deal years, said of Ding Darling's importance to conservation, "Darling is one of the greatest enthusiasts I have ever known."  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had named Ding the first Director of the newly configured Bureau of Biological Survey (1934), immediate predecessor of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (1940). Ding Darling may be credited with launching much of our continuing effort to preserve wildlife habitat.

More information:
The Federal Duck Stamp Office, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, details all things Duck Stamps.
See how Federal Duck Stamp money is spent in your state.
See the evolution of Federal Duck Stamp law.
See all 80 Duck Stamp images.

Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition underway in NW Ohio

Hopeful wildlife artists' waterfowl art on display

Art work for the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly known as the Federal Duck Stamp or just "duck stamp" is selected annually in the largest wildlife stamp art competition, globally. This is the only such competition held by the U.S. Government. Judges evaluate around 200 entries including those of top names in wildlife art.

Poster for the 2013 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest.
Hopeful artists are gathering today, September 26, 2013 for the two-day judging and selection process beginning September 27. Winning art will illustrate the 81st Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. This year, the event is hosted by Ohio's Department of Natural Resources on Ohio's north shore at Maumee Bay State Park Conference Center, Oregon, Ohio. All art is on display and public viewing is invited and free. The winner will be announced Saturday afternoon, September 28. The competition will stream live online. To be selected as winner is prestigious and lucrative. The winning wildlife artist becomes a household name overnight among wildlife art aficionados.

Eighty years of Federal Duck Stamp sales amounting to over 850 million dollars has purchased or leased over 6.5 million acres of habitat; wetlands and waterfowl production areas. Duck stamp dollars protect habitat! The Federal Duck Stamp is a success story, an icon of conservation, a really big deal.

Hunters, age sixteen or older, must posses the annual Federal Duck Stamp in order to legally pursue waterfowl anywhere in the United States and Territories. Today, bird watchers and other conservationists, stamp collectors, and, of course, hunters buy Federal Duck Stamps to grow our National Wildlife Refuge System. Stamps serve as entry passes into select federal wildlife refuges that require entry fees (most refuges offer free entry). Stamp income goes to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, held for the purchase and protection of habitat, not subject to appropriations politics.

Visit the official competition website for more information.

Support habitat conservation: Buy a duck stamp! Go to your local Post Office and request a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. Or, buy your stamp online at the US Postal Store. Miss out on past years? Several previous year's stamps remain on sale at the US Postal Store.

See my next post, Environmental History Timeline March 16, 1934 for a little duck stamp history and additional links.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Economic incentives fail deciduous forest birds, no substitute for eastern wilderness

Investigators test econometric land use model of deciduous forests for impacts on bird habitat.

The loss of forest birds habitats under different land use policies as projected by a coupled ecological-econometric model  by Frederic Beaudry et al., 2013. Biological Conservation, Volume 165, September 2013, Pages 1-9.

Charles C. Deam Wilderness, Hoosier National Forest, Indiana. Image by author 2012.
Public policies impact habitat conservation on both public and private lands. The outcomes are often deleterious for natural systems. There's only so much we can take from landscapes and still leave intact sustainable ecosystems for the future. Deciduous forests are increasingly vulnerable. Modeling and testing policy impacts on deciduous habitats not only suggests likely policy outcomes, it can tell us when no policy of exploitation can do everything we want to do.

"Coupled econometric-ecological models can be used to evaluate alternative incentive programs and to explore the complex interactions between policy, land use change, and broad spatial scale ecological processes that are highly relevant to conservation."

Multiple threats erode ecological systems supporting deciduous forest birds; urbanization, parcelization, and fragmentation diminish habitat and complicate forest planning. Demand for forest products is incentive for efficient industrial forestry practices. Intensive management of forests for commercial products impacts eastern U.S. forest ecosystems increasingly. Intensively managed even-aged stands just do not replace maturing uneven-age forest lands for long term ecosystem maintenance. Deep forest species like Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Worm-eating Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, and many more will continue to decline under intensive forest management systems.

An argument for designated wilderness

Designated wilderness and backcountry areas, few and far between in the eastern United States, may become a last bastion for deep forest ecosystems and the birds and other wildlife that flourish only in aging forest mosaics.

Eastern states urgently need core regions of designated wilderness and/or backcountry management areas. The Eastern Areas Wilderness Act enables designation of recovering wilderness areas on federal public lands. The federal system holds a backlog of proposed wilderness areas in the east, ask congress to act! Few states support state owned public wilderness areas, Ohio is one. Eastern states, including Ohio, will determine the future of most eastern wild lands and their capacities to recover and sustain biological diversity on wild lands. Biodiversity sustainability needs State Wilderness Recovery Systems to identify and protect essential core areas from ecosystem degradations, including intensive forest management systems.

What does it take to make a wilderness in an eastern state forest: just stop interventions, stop forest management practices, and close a few forest roads that bisect large regions of maturing forest mosaics that include all local terrain positions, a local watershed is a good start. Ecosystem functions renew when we leave landscapes to nature. Roadless areas or later road removals are better, but perfect cannot be the enemy of good enough! Gated roads can be maintained for emergency access only, while allowing recovering wilderness to mature into quality ecosystems for deep forest species. Eventual removal of roads and structures will deliver fully recovered wilderness for future generations while ensuring cleaner air and water, recovering soils, recovering biological systems including rare animals, big and small. This is a debt we owe to the future.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September declared National Wildeness Month, 2013

President Obama declares September National Wilderness Month as we begin the twelve month count down to the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act of 1964, September 3, 2014.                                                                                                                                                                          Join the celebration at Federal land management agencies have joined with NGO's and other groups to sponsor celebration events (there's even a nice tee shirt!). Wilderness is the grandest vision and highest calling in land stewardship, a cause for celebration.

- - - - - - -

In September 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law, recognizing places "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Throughout our history, countless people have passed through America's most treasured landscapes, leaving their beauty unmarred. This month, we uphold that proud tradition and resolve that future generations will trek forest paths, navigate winding rivers, and scale rocky peaks as visitors to the majesty of our great outdoors.
My Administration is dedicated to preserving our Nation's wild and scenic places. During my first year as President, I designated more than 2 million acres of wilderness and protected over 1,000 miles of rivers. Earlier this year, I established five new national monuments, and I signed legislation to redesignate California's Pinnacles National Monument as Pinnacles National Park. To engage more Americans in conservation, I also launched the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. Through this innovative effort, my Administration is working with communities from coast to coast to preserve our outdoor heritage, including our vast rural lands and remaining wild spaces.
As natural habitats for diverse wildlife; as destinations for family camping trips; and as venues for hiking, hunting, and fishing, America's wilderness landscapes hold boundless opportunities to discover and explore. They provide immense value to our Nation -- in shared experiences and as an integral part of our economy. Our iconic wilderness areas draw tourists from across the country and around the world, bolstering local businesses and supporting American jobs.
During National Wilderness Month, we reflect on the profound influence of the great outdoors on our lives and our national character, and we recommit to preserving them for generations to come. NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as National Wilderness Month. I invite all Americans to visit and enjoy our wilderness areas, to learn about their vast history, and to aid in the protection of our precious national treasures.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

The NWPS encompasses 109 million acres across 44 states and Puerto Rico, and each year more than 12 million people visit wilderness areas to hunt, hike, camp, fish, bird-watch, and otherwise experience our wild public land. The first wilderness areas were designated in 1964, and, nearly every year since, additional places have been recognized for their wilderness character and permanently protected.
Doug Scott of the Pew Environment Group’s wilderness program praised the collaboration and said: “The 1964 Wilderness Act is a groundbreaking American public law, ranked by historians with the Homestead Act and the National Park Act. Since Congress began implementing the Wilderness Act in 1966, every president has signed laws designating additional areas. President Jimmy Carter signed laws protecting the largest acreage, while President Ronald Reagan signed the greatest number.
“The work of preserving our wild heritage is bipartisan. Congress has pending 25 measures to designate public land across a dozen states, totaling more than 2 million acres.
- See more at:
The NWPS encompasses 109 million acres across 44 states and Puerto Rico, and each year more than 12 million people visit wilderness areas to hunt, hike, camp, fish, bird-watch, and otherwise experience our wild public land. The first wilderness areas were designated in 1964, and, nearly every year since, additional places have been recognized for their wilderness character and permanently protected.
Doug Scott of the Pew Environment Group’s wilderness program praised the collaboration and said: “The 1964 Wilderness Act is a groundbreaking American public law, ranked by historians with the Homestead Act and the National Park Act. Since Congress began implementing the Wilderness Act in 1966, every president has signed laws designating additional areas. President Jimmy Carter signed laws protecting the largest acreage, while President Ronald Reagan signed the greatest number.
“The work of preserving our wild heritage is bipartisan. Congress has pending 25 measures to designate public land across a dozen states, totaling more than 2 million acres.
- See more at:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Earliest use of beeswax, 40,000 BP

Beeswax collected and used by hunter-gather group 40,000 years ago...

Wild honeybee comb filled with honey. Photo by author, 2013
Investigators, digging for early evidence of modern human culture at Border Cave, an early occupation site in the ancient lands of South Africa's San people, have identified complex technologies supporting material culture dating to at least 44,000 years ago. Trace analysis of well preserved organic remains of tools demonstrates the first use of beeswax in adhesives for hafting stone points at least 40,000 BP.

Lead investigator Francesco d'Errico reported the oldest use of beeswax in a recipe for hafting based on residues identified on well preserved wood. The recipe included beeswax, Euphorbia resin, and possibly egg matter supporting vegetable twine likely made with stringy inner bark. Francesco d'Errico added: "This complex compound used for hafting arrowheads or tools, which is 40,000 years old, is the oldest known evidence of the use of beeswax."

Complex materials culture is a hallmark of modernity among ancient peoples. This find suggests the early San hunter-gatherers could find, identify, and assemble ingredients for preparing adhesive, making cordage, and joining flaked stone with carved wood for the manufacture of complex tools.

"This research, funded by an ERC Advanced Grant, is published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. © F. d’Errico and L. Backwell"

Monday, August 26, 2013

Environmental History Timeline September 3, 1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law The Wilderness Act of 1964

Next year, September 3, 2014 is the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Bill was first introduced to the Senate by Minnesota's Senator Hubert Humphrey in 1956. Post war American growth had made new inroads deep into wild spaces. Concern grew as careless use and exploitation spread through America's remaining pristine wilderness areas.

The 88th Congress, the "conservation congress," passed the Wilderness Act establishing a Wilderness Preservation System with an initial 9 million acres set aside to secure the ecological and social benefits of an enduring wilderness resource for the American people.
benefits of an enduring wilderness resource to the American people. - See more at: of  for future generations a continuing resource of wilderness.

LBJ signs Wilderness Act of 1964 into law concluding an eight year debate, credits 88th Congress, labeled "conservation congress".

Excerpt from Remarks Upon Signing the Wilderness Bill and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Bill.

"Anyone that objectively studies the record of the 88th Congress I think would have to conclude that another historic era has begun this year. If the 88th had not earned already so many honorable titles, such as the education Congress, the health Congress, the full prosperity Congress, it would be remembered as the conservation Congress, because in addition to the measures before me this morning, Congress has wisely this year passed the Ozark Rivers National Riverway bill, which I signed last week; the Fire Island National Seashore bill, which is awaiting action; the Canyonlands National Park legislation, which I expect to sign shortly, creating our first new national park on this continent in 17 years. But Congress has done even more. Action has been taken to keep our air pure and our water safe and our food free from pesticides; to protect our wildlife; to conserve our precious water resources. No single Congress in my memory has done so much to keep America as a good and wholesome and beautiful place to live. I think it is significant that these steps have broad support not just from the Democratic Party, but the Republican Party, both parties in the Congress. For example, the wilderness bill has been before the Congress since 1957, but it passed this year 73 to 12 in the Senate, and 373 to 1 in the House. So it seems to me that this reflects a new and a strong national consensus to look ahead, and, more than that, to plan ahead; better still, to move ahead. We know that America cannot be made strong by leadership which reacts only to the needs or the irritations or the frustrations of the moment. True leadership must provide for the next decade and not merely the next day. That is the kind of leadership that this Congress is providing."
Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks Upon Signing the Wilderness Bill and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Bill.," September 3, 1964. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Freshwater wonders, Pectinatella

Moss animals adrift.

Magnificent bryozoan Pectinatella magnifica Hoover Reservoir

A quiet stroll and careful observing along the suspended boardwalk over the shallow north extremity of Hoover Reservoir at Galena, Ohio on a calm-water day allows discovery of water life below the surface. More than Asian carp and bluegill ripple the mirrored surface. Periscoping softshelled turtles break the surface with the just the tips of their pointy snouts. Swimming water snakes spread serpentine ripples. And, most interesting, magnificent bryozoans, moss animals, bob near the shoreline and are seen attached to debris under the surface.

Magnificent bryozoan Pectinatella magnifica is native to North America east of the Mississippi River. They spread mysteriously, probably hitching rides on ducks' feet and on other waterfowl. They appear following warm weather as their plankton food, tiny free floating plants and animals, become abundant in the water column.

Magnificent bryozoans are colonial moss animals forming gelatinous masses attached to rooted plants and heavy debris under water, but larger masses break loose and bob in ripples as they move with the wind, collecting along leeward shores. The surface of a mass supports multitudes of tiny filter feeding animals called zooids. Clusters of animals can be seen in closeup images, a microscope is needed to see an individual zooid.

Pectinatella mass found forming on a holdfast, a flooded sapling.

Pectinatella closeup

Friday, August 23, 2013

Environmental History Timeline, December 3, 1960

The "Wilderness Letter" and America's "Geography of Hope"

Writer, conservationist, Wallace Stegner submits the "Wilderness Letter," written to the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, and later reproduced in his "Wilderness Idea," in The Sound of Mountain Water (1969).  Stegner's argument for wilderness as a natural resource and more is often credited with inspiring passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. A wilderness bill had been before Congress for eight years. Stegner's words were timely and struck a cord with the 88th Congress. Stegner's letter was used to introduce the Wilderness Act which establishes the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Minnesota wilderness, Boundary Waters 2008
West Virginia Wilderness 2005

Stegner's inspiration resulted in preservation of what Stegner called, America's "Geography of Hope," America's wilderness.

Stegner wrote,

"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste. And so that never again can we have the chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, brother to the other animals, part of the natural world and competent to belong in it."

The full letter is reproduced at the Wilderness Society website.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Forest values, more than dollars makes sense

Is a mature public forest a savings bond at maturation, ready to cash out for spending money? Is a public forest more valuable than its present cash value?  Do we need intact mature public forest lands held inviolate?

Shawnee State Forest, Ohio's "Little Smokies"

Consider the following typology of forest values definitions. You decide.

Forest values:

Aesthetic value--Valuing forest for enjoying scenery, sights, sounds, smells, etc.

Recreation value--Valuing forest because it provides a place for enjoyable outdoor recreation activities.

Learning value--Valuing forest because in forest we learn about the environment through scientific observation or experimentation.

Life sustaining value--Valuing forest because it helps produce, preserve, clean, and renew air, soil, and water.

Climate mitigation value--Valuing forest because it helps mitigate climate change by removing and sequestering atmospheric carbon.

Biological diversity value--Valuing forest because it conserves genetic diversity, species diversity, and biological community diversity.

Wildlife conservation value--Valuing forest because it provides a variety of fish, game and non-game wildlife, insect life, and plant life, etc.

Economic value--Valuing forest because it provides timber, alternative forest products, fisheries, minerals, or tourism opportunities such as amenities and services including outfitting and guiding services.

Spiritual value--Valuing forest because it is a sacred, religious, or spiritually special place, or inspires feelings of reverence and respect for nature.

Intrinsic value--Valuing forest in and of itself for its existence, no matter what other people think about forest.

Historic value--Valuing forest because it holds places and things of human and natural history that matter to individuals, peoples, or nations.

Future value--Valuing forest because it will allow future generations to know and experience forest as it is at present.

Subsistence value--Valuing forest because it provides necessary food and supplies to sustain subsisting families.

Therapeutic value--Valuing forest because it inspires physical and mental renewal contributing to happiness.

Cultural value--Valuing forest because it is a place to continue and pass down to future generations wisdom and knowledge, traditions, and a way of life sustained by ancestors to the present generation.

The typology presented is modified from Brown, Gregory and Patrick Reed 2000. Validation of a Forest Values Typology for use in National Forest Planning. Forest Science 46(2).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Environmental History Timeline November, 1902

The Birthday of the Teddy Bear, November, 16 1902.

The Teddy Bear, early icon of wildlife conservation that has lost its historical identity and is fading from familiarity, was launched by a turn of the century cartoon. Teddy Roosevelt is illustrated eschewing taking a tethered bear, asserting sportsmanship, a fair chase offering wildlife a fair chance.

Drawing the line in Mississippi, a cartoon by Clifford Berryman, Washington Post. A jaunty T. R. eschews shooting a tethered bear cub. Berryman exaggerated an incident reported during a celebrity bear hunt held for Roosevelt in Mississippi. The first issue of same illustrated a large old bear, the cute cub is a redo. T. R. championed conservation, critics labeled his ilk "kit-gloved sportsmen."

Teddy Roosevelt, sportsman President, championed conservation of wildlife, forests and soil from his bully pulpit and launched a new era of federal conservation progress. Roosevelt rose to prominence in a muscular era of heavy industrialization and increasing urbanization. A growing U.S. population, disconnected from wilderness and even from rural experience, suffered under the overwhelming demands of unregulated robber-baron ruled heavy industry. Common experience surrounded urban workers in cacophonous industrial clatter and a haze of gagging coal and oil smoke. Hours were very long for adult and children workers in sweat shops; sanitation, health care, recreation were non-existent: a living hell. Advantaged families and social leaders watched suffering and loss from the side-lines as wild America was carried away by rail and consumed under inky smoke belched by industry. A modern lyric refrain repeats continuing American experience: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone."

Progressive social movements and a nostalgia for wilderness and pioneer experience related by still-living witnesses coalesced in a Progressive Era in politics, improvements in the workplace,  and the expanding federalism of resources conservation and of the growing sportsman conservationist movements ending widespread commercial slaughter of wildlife. The Teddy Bear was a warm fuzzy feeling for wildlife in the experience of advantaged youth in the United States and beyond.

The story of the Teddy Bear's founder entrepreneur is detailed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Environmental History Timeline May 9, 2013

First record of average daily CO2 concentration exceeding 400 PPM

May 9, 2013, NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory recorded an average daily CO2 concentration in the atmosphere above 400 parts per million. This is not a surprise but nevertheless it's a milestone moment in atmospheric science. Charles Keeling first began measuring CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa, Hawaii in 1958, measurement continues. Graphical representation of the data, known as the Keeling Curve, illustrates seasonal variation and the global trend. Many climate scientists suggest that we must find ways to reduce CO2 to 350 PPM, the 1990 level, to avoid catastrophic ecological, social and economic outcomes during the mid 21st Century.

Keeling Curve illustration from the keepers of the data, UC San Diego

Small amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere wield disproportionate impact on surface temperatures. This phenomenon is known as the greenhouse effect. Like window glass covering a greenhouse, CO2, methane, and other heat holding compounds known as greenhouse gases allow light to pass through to earth's surface, heating things up, but capture and hold the heat in; as CO2 and other greenhouse gases increase, more heat, long-wave energy emanated from the surface, is held in the lower atmosphere by the greenhouse gases.

Proxy data from ice core and ocean sediment core chemistry tells us surface temperature has changed in the past. Oxygen isotope ratios, CO2 and other measures indicate past temperatures. The last time CO2 PPM was this high was three to five million years ago during the Pliocene Epoch, before the advent of the current Ice House Climate and its big ice sheets that recently reshaped the earth's surface. The present global C02 increase is destabilizing global climate and ecosystems due to the unprecedented rate of increase. The rate at which temperature is changing is outpacing the capacity of human and ecological systems to adapt. The current trend suggests global CO2 concentration will reach 450 PPM in the not so distant future. Atmospheric warming is expected to continue to parallel this increase. Global warming occurs most rapidly at the poles where ice is melting at unprecedented rates. More than polar bears are at risk, many are concerned that melting of permafrost is releasing trapped methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. Permafrost areas are methane generators on ice. As the ice melts, methane frozen in the permafrost, and generated by increased decay of long accumulated organic materials, is liberated. Possible serious consequences are rarely discussed openly outside of knowledgeable circles and professional journals.

Regrettably, scientists who are willing to share their results and predict outcomes based on climate modelling are attacked both personally and professionally for coming out with their data and concerns. A small number of well funded conservative political groups defending fossil fuel subsidies successfully sustain a political climate of doubt around the issue. Dedicated scientists are portrayed as fear mongers and nefarious actors in grand schemes to divert public resources to their laboratories, ridiculous notions. If only climate modellers were subsidized as generously as energy producers! The press and special interest groups too often shoot the messengers. The press gives "equal time" to both sides of an artificial controversy. A tiny number of climate change deniers' voices are aired whenever new research brings the problem into focus. Just a few spokespersons associated with a handful of organizations are able to sustain doubt and controversy, though consensus opinion among science groups contradicts both doubt and controversy. It's kind of like giving equal time to a witch doctor when a new medical paper is published by researchers.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Return to Ohio's "Little Smokies"

American Woodcock bathing in Upper Twin Creek, Shawnee State Forest Wilderness Area. Image by Julie Davis.

Golden ragwort, blooming abundantly along roadsides and creeks.

Lousewort, another fairly common roadside flower.

Eastern redbud mingles lavender highlights with the white highlights painted by flowering dogwoods along roadsides and edges of forest openings

Flowering dogwood, common roadside highlights.

Shawnee State Forest, Scioto County, Ohio is a traditional birding hotspot, a forest full of diverse breeding birds and a stopover magnet for weary migrants bound for points north. The botany is beautiful, too. Spring wildflowers are worth the trip to Ohio's Little Smokies even if you forgot your bino's. We time our annual birder migration to deep southern Ohio to coincide with that of early warbler waves surging north into Ohio during late April, while shorebirds are still on the move, making our travels a combo trip, an opportunity to see a lot of avian diversity in one packed weekend in beautiful wild landscapes of Ohio's southern Allegheny Plateau. At least that used to be so.

These days, the trip seems a little like Forest Gump's metaphorical box of chocolates, you just don't know what you're going to get during the last of April--it's the weird weather. Two years ago, 2011 was a record wet spring, and migrating warblers were few and far between. The next year, 2012, was a record warm spring, and dry, like visiting the forest weeks later in the season. This weekend, the last of April 2013 was much cooler than usual, and very few northbound migrants were passing through on their way to Canada. Even so, the locals, the local breeding birds by themselves, are an avian adventure in song and color animating the hilly landscape among fresh greens of trees' delicate new leaves and the flowery forest floor.

We found many local breeding birds and a few migrants, too. Colorful Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Redstarts were abundant. Emphatic singing Ovenbirds were the most common territorial defenders. We found them working hard as night approached, too. We enjoyed a walk through several territories as darkness dissolved the shadows and Thoreau's Night-birds delivered their ecstatic crepuscular displays.  The American Woodcock pictured above was using our favorite mid-day lunch spot. We stopped short to wait for it to complete its ablutions but it was rudely interrupted by an ATV splashing through the stream ford that served as its bath pool.

Delicate fresh leaves of red maple, an abundant tree species.

Red maple samaras, flowers and fruit precede fully emerged leaves.

Chestnut oak, common along ridges and upper hill slopes.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Environmental History Timeline April 22, 1970

The first Earth Day, a nationwide demonstration, April 22, 1970.

Judy Moody and Denis Hayes organizing for the first Earth Day.

The first Earth Day involved 20 million demonstrators engaged in teach-in's, sit-in's, and gatherings involving thousands of schools and communities. The scale of involvement astounded founders, the media, and the political establishment. Today, Earth Day is a global celebration inspiring conservation-related activities.

Earth Day founder Senator Gaylord Nelson wrote,
Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.

Earthrise, December 24, 1968, Apollo 8, 075:48:54 mission time. Image presented in correct mission orientation as seen by astronauts Jim Lovell, Bill Anders, and Frank Borman orbiting the stark gray moon.

The image of the first Earthrise observed by human beings and broadcast to global television viewers just seventeen months earlier is credited by many as the inspiration for the groundswell of support for the first Earth Day and the modern era of popular environmentalism. The image of our blue planet, looking small, distant, and alone in the blackness of space, delivered a paradigm shift, rendering invalid the popular perception of endless resources, endless capacity for pollution and exploitation. Earth became Spaceship Earth.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Keeping the American Kestrel common, an Ohio Ornithological Society conservation priority

Colorful kestrels animate roadsides wherever adequate habitat is available. A little habitat goes a long way if birds' needs are met. Highway right-of-ways often provide hunting perches and ample mice and insects, common fare for kestrels, but nest cavities, natural or otherwise, are hard to come by. We can help.

American Kestrel. photo provided by Ohio Division of Wildlife

You can help support an American Kestrel comeback! Your small donation can help support this nest box project. Click the "gofundme" button at right to help purchase supplies and equipment. It's easy. This project is funded by volunteers like YOU!**

Kestrels capture our attention, their antics paint smiles on our faces. These airy sprites are the Tinkerbell's of the falcon family. They hover and float, or dash about in blurry bursts of energy, then they tee-up on roadside utility wires or sapling-tips for lengthy spells, nearly motionless, but for their trademark tail-bobbing and their constantly searching glances, until they spy a micro-movement below, then drop to grab and make a meal of a vole or grasshopper. No magic wands or pixie dust needed, kestrels may be diminutive little falcons, but for their bantam weight class, they are equal in armament with their larger brethren. Their needle talons and hooked bill take tiny grasshoppers in mid-air or fat voles squeaking under the thick thatch of roadside turf. Kestrels are road signs for basic habitat health!

American Kestrels are outfitted for survival, wherever their needs are met; open areas with places to perch among an abundance of insects and small rodents, and a nearby nest cavity. American Kestrels are obligate cavity nester's. That may be their principle vulnerability, their Achilles tendon. Our rural areas, particularly roadsides, are losing their cavity-pocked old tree snags. That's why nest boxes may prove essential.

University of Findlay students training for periodic monitoring of kestrel box activity, to collect data for the American Kestrel Partnership. Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative Coordinator, Amanda Conover, overseeing training: Findlay Oilers': Tracy Swanson on the ladder, Tessa Brown holding the ladder, background; Madeleine Kuieck, monitoring team coordinator, holding the ladder, foreground. Your blogger, Ohio Ornithological Society Conservation Chair, Tom Bain, behind the camera.

Working together for kestrels, The Ohio Ornithological Society (OOS) helped assemble a partnership for progress. OOS partnered with the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative (OBCI), the Ohio Department of Transportation, largest public lands holder in Ohio, the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and the American Kestrel Partnership, a Peregrine Fund effort,  to mount 25 nest boxes on highway sign back's along US route's 23 and 30 near Upper Sandusky, Ohio during December, in time to offer wintering falcons a handy roosting cavity.

This new partnership for American Kestrel conservation is the most recent in OOS's long history of working to keep kestrels common. We are excited about our new partners, particularly, the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative (OBCI) and OBCI's new coordinator, Amanda Conover. Amanda, new in her position little more than a year ago, has taken the lead in this new effort to support kestrels. Results already are in place, twenty-five kestrel boxes are mounted on highway sign-backs in Wyandot County, Ohio. Our monitoring team, students from the University of Findlay are trained, kestrels are moving in! Next year, more boxes in more highway habitat in another Ohio county, we hope.

Why the concern for a fairly common bird? Well, its two-fold: first, American Kestrels are declining in Ohio (and elsewhere), the trend is alarming; second, the time to help a species of concern is while it is still common. Waiting until species' populations are critically low is just bad conservation strategy and very inefficient use of endangered conservation dollars! Early intervention is inexpensive intervention. Let's keep common birds common! It makes sense.

So, what's the trend look like? Two important indices point to declines in Ohio kestrels. The annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count results, and the Breeding Bird Survey results. Graphical data illustrate the decline.

Audubon Christmas Bird Count data, thirty years of American Kestrels in Ohio. The decline is obvious in this early winter census graph of Ohio kestrels since my first CBC, it's personal, not just principle.

Breeding Bird Survey, 44 years of American Kestrels breeding in Ohio. The period, 1990 to 2010, shows the decline trend best, following what looks like post DDT gains during the 70's and 80's.*

Now is the time to help kestrels, OOS and partners are making it happen. More, the Peregrine Fund is leading the nation-wide data analysis effort to develop a clearer picture of what is happening to kestrel populations throughout North America, to better understand how we can help kestrels remain common. Working together, we can help kestrels animate our roadsides in generations to come.

 *speculative interpretation based on graphical pattern, not statistical tests.
**your blogger has contributed many uncompensated hours and many donated miles to this project. The OOS Board has contributed funds and hours and miles of assistance, box building.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Get rid of garlic mustard, now

Early spring is a great time to go after your local garlic mustard infestation. Garlic mustard is an invasive herb spreading rapidly through Midwestern landscapes and beyond. Its a leafy green monster crowding out native wildflowers by shading them out and by poisoning them, a chemical attack on nearby plants called allelopathy.

Garlic mustard in April. Now is the time to stop the spread, before flower stalks rise.

Garlic mustard uprooted using a spade. The soil was batted off the roots.

Most people don't have limitless time and energy to go after invasive plants so we recommend going after quantity, not quality.

How to go about it:
  • We suggest your goal during early spring is, first, to stop the plants from flowering, second, to eliminate plants.
  • Use a spade or weed fork, push it into the soil near the base of the plant to dig out or cut off the tap roots a few inches below the surface, lever the plant upward and flop it over upside down beside its hole. Bat the root ball with the tool to knock off soil, then leave it upside down to dry out.
  • Don't make perfect the enemy of good enough, do damage to as many plants as you can, don't invest a lot of time in getting every last bit of one plant if you can use that effort in getting most of five other plants. It will take more than one outing and more than one season to get rid of garlic mustard. Get recovering plants next time out. 
  • Go after outlier plants first--stop the spread. Go after the core of the infestation after you stop the spread.
  • Get the plants before they flower (during late March through April in Ohio). Don't let them flower, go to seed, grow the problem!
What if I have little time and the flowers are already opening before I can get to it?
  • You can cut off dozens of plants in minutes. Use a weed-cutter; a manual scythe, a weed-whacker, whatever, to knock the top off of the plants, make it fun. Yes, the plants will recover and try again to flower, and you can go knock off the top of the plants again later in the season.
I have lots of time and energy to devote to invasive garlic mustard control, what should I do?
  • OK, you have time, energy, and a strong back: Pull out each plant by the roots. If your soil is loose and moist, most plants and clusters of plants will pull out, tap roots and all. Try to disturb the soil as little as possible. Compost the the pulled plants if you get them before they flower. Once they begin to flower, bag 'em.
I have read that I can just spray garlic mustard with an herbicide, isn't that a whole lot easier?
  • We recommend manual methods during spring. During spring, plants grow so fast, they can out grow the impacts of some herbicide applications.
  • Use of broadcast herbicide applications will get the nearby native wildflowers by overspray unless you use extreme caution. 
  • During late fall, after most native plants are dormant, the green leafy clusters of garlic mustard leaves, the over-wintering form of the plants, are vulnerable to some very low percentage, targeted herbicide applications during warm spells (glyphosate formulations labeled for such use).
When using herbicides: always select an herbicide labeled for the purpose you have in mind, read the entire label and follow the label instructions, exactly. Today's high tech herbicides are not your grandfather's herbicides, enough said!
 More about garlic mustard from GeoEcology blog, here

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Environmental History Timeline November, 2006

Sudden honey bee colony losses alarm beekeepers, first report of colony collapse disorder (CCD)

Catastrophic honey bee colony losses reported by commercial beekeeper Dave Hackenberg in late 2006 alarmed the commercial honey bee industry. Hackenberg reported losses impacting 2200 of 3000 commercial hives at his Florida apiary. Beekeepers across North America and major segments of industrial agriculture feared widespread catastrophic honey bee losses as reports demonstrated that colony collapse was continent-wide.

Honey bees have suffered repeated sudden declines in the past, followed by rapid recoveries. More recent pathogens have delivered more serious lasting declines. The Varroa mite, a bee parasite discovered in the United States in 1987, has resulted in a 45% decline in honey bee colonies with its spread across the continent. Colony collapse disorder, so far, has followed an even more alarming pattern. CCD peaked  in many areas during 2007--2008, then eased somewhat, but crippling losses continue. CCD and a host of maladies continue to plague commercial and hobby beekeepers. Most areas see devastating 30% to 50% losses of colonies annually, depending on care, location and weather conditions. Agriculture requires immense numbers of pollinating insects, just in time*. Is agriculture at risk?

How could a spike in colony failures strike across the continent nearly simultaneously? At least half of all honey bee colonies in North America are traveling commercial pollinators. Almost all of these are trucked to the vast almond groves in California's central valley during winter, where hives from across North America potentially share pathogens, including a multitude of recently discovered bee viruses, before returning to origin apiaries. Bee viruses, vectored by the now ubiquitous Varroa mites, plague bee colonies throughout North America. Beekeepers are also concerned about the proliferation of new pesticide chemistries and technologies (possible stressors range from ubiquitous seed corn coatings, to retail suburban landscape maintenance chemicals). Multiple stressors in combination may be defeating colonies.

New agribusiness models operating at grand scales and new technologies in agriculture; nutrient delivery systems, systemic pest controls, and so on, have greatly increased acreage, acreage productivity, and agribusiness profitability in recent decades. Food production demands from the ballooning global population threaten to outstrip reliable food supply nevertheless. The future of agriculture at scale may prove to be nonlinear and unpredictable in outcomes and profitability, too much of a good thing. Already, local produce movements and clean food initiatives are bringing some purchases and profits back home to local green growers, but will there be enough pollinators left to deliver the goods? 

Honey bees are non-native, introduced to North America by colonists by 1622. Feral colonies rapidly swarmed beyond European settlements of the time. The initial 17th century ecological impacts; the losses among native bee species and other native pollinators caused by the newly introduced colonial honey bees to North America can never be known. Researchers fear that modern honey bee maladies impact native pollinators. Do ecological impacts of honey bees in North America continue?

Today, honey bees and diverse native pollinators are essential for agriculture, one out of every three mouthfuls of food consumed in North America required a pollinator to help bring it to market. A healthy diet demands healthy pollinators, whether our produce is home-grown or purchased through a supply chain from far flung mega-growers.

Honey bees cannot do it alone. Native bee species are important pollinators for agriculture and for native plant species, many of which are not effectively pollinated by honey bees. The recent honey bee crisis is occurring against a backdrop of continued long-term native bee declines. Today, both native bees and honey bees (and other native pollinators) are in crisis.

Do something for pollinators.

What can we do? Check out Pollinator Partnership.
See Scientific American 2009 CCD summary here or here.

*"just in time" is a business strategy to reduce production cost by bringing in just enough resources, just when needed. California's almond groves are manicured hectares that support local native pollinators and honey bees poorly, excepting a few weeks of almond grove bloom and a few more of stone fruit grove bloom. I stretch the just in time concept a little, herein. Honey bees are brought in to the groves for seasonal pollination services (2.5 million hives were needed for the 2013 season) in place of maintaining diverse floral support for local year 'round pollinators. During 2013, service prices per hive are rumored to have reached over $200.00 for grove owners who did not contract lower prices in advance of the colony survival projections for 2013 (colony losses expected to exceed 50% in 2013). Maybe now it will be good business to support local pollinators year 'round by re-introducing and maintaining diverse flowering plants in and around the tree groves? Trouble is, only narrow roadsides remain in major growing regions, very  limited space for native habitat restoration to take hold. How about one dedicated acre per hectare to start?