California condors still dying of lead poisoning

A tagged California condor in flight.

A tagged California condor in flight.

New study suggests that spent lead ammunition could make it impossible to recover the species

Staff Report

FRISCO — Accidental ingestion of spent lead ammunition is killing endangered California condors at a rate that may prevent the birds from establishing self-sustaining populations.

The condors were among the first animals to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. By 1966, the population had dropped to just a handful of birds, but a massive collaborative conservation effort helped the population grow to more than 400 individuals.

But those gains may be at risk, according to San Diego Zoo conservation biologists.

“After reviewing nearly 20 years of our mortality data on the free-ranging birds, it became clear that lead poisoning is the primary problem for the birds in the wild,” said Bruce Rideout, director of the wildlife disease laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global.

“And this is not just a problem for California condors. We can view them as an indicator species, warning us about the hazards of widespread lead contamination in the environment.” said Bruce Rideout, director of the wildlife disease laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global.

The recent study of lead impacts was done with researchers from the Wildlife Health Center at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis. The findings are published in the  January edition of the journal EcoHealth.

 

Climate: Arctic sea ice peaks for the year

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Arctic sea ice extent is declining at 2.6 percent each decade.

March surge boosts extent late in the season

Staff Report

FRISCO — Arctic sea ice grew to its maximum extent for the year on March 21, reaching 5.70 million square miles. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, it was the fifth-lowest maximum extent in the satellite monitoring era, starting in 1978. The lowest maximum extent occurred in 2011, at 5.65 million square miles.

The average date for maximum sea ice extent is March 9, just a couple of weeks after the spring equinox, but the date varies from year to year. The latest maximum on record was in 2011, when sea ice extent expanded through March 31. Through 2014, the linear rate of decline for March ice extent is 2.6 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average. Continue reading

Climate: New study projects major habitat losses for birds, reptiles in Southwest

Gray jay in Summit County Colorado

A gray jay searches for bugs in a stand of lodgepole pines near Frisco, Colorado.

A few bird species may gain some ground

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Reptile species like the iconic chuckwalla will probably experience significant habitat loss as global temperatures climb during the next few decades, scientists said this week in a new study projecting climate change impacts to southwestern birds and reptiles.

The study was done by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey,  University of New Mexico, and Northern Arizona University. Overall, the findings suggests many reptile species will lose ground as conditions get warmer and more dry.  Continue reading

Big comeback for renewable energy stocks in 2013

Public market investors bullish on wind and solar

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Renewable sources accounted for 43 percent of all newly installed energy capacity in 2013, according to a new report from UN economists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Renewable energy stocks made a big global comeback in 2013, gaining 54 percent after a 4.5 year slide during which they lost 78 percent in value, according to a new report released by economists in Frankfurt, Germany.

The improvement happened as many companies in the solar and wind manufacturing chains moved back towards profitability after a painful period of over-capacity and corporate distress, according to experts with the United Nations Environmental Program.

The 2013 improvements came despite a significant dip in investments in the renewable energy sector — the investment drop of $US35.1 billion was partly down to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems. The other main cause was policy uncertainty in many countries, an issue that also depressed investment in fossil fuel generation in 2013. Continue reading

Climate: Upcoming IPCC reports highlights need for a global carbon tax

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Can we slow our greenhouse gas emissions? A global carbon tax could help.

Ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies also high on the list

Staff Report

FRISCO — A modest carbon tax of just $0.15 per kilo could lead the world down the path of meaningful action on global warming, says a Swedish researcher who was one of the coordinating lead authors of a new report that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will present next week.

“What we need to avoid dangerous climate change is the application of strong policy instruments,” said Thomas Sterner, professor of environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg. Continue reading

Energy: Anadarko to pay $5.15 billion fine for fraud

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Trail of toxic waste catches up with corporate polluters.

Largest ever toxic waste settlement will help communities around the country

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A trail of toxic waste sites around the country finally caught up with Kerr-McGee and various subsidiaries of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation last week.

Under a settlement agreement with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice,  Anadarko will pay $5.15 billion to a litigation trust. According to the EPA, the settlement is the largest recovery for the cleanup of environmental contamination in history.

The award came after a bankruptcy court in New York found that Kerr-McGee and the Anadarko subsidiaries played a shell game, selling off assets to try and evade their liabilities for cleanups at toxic sites around the country. Continue reading

Study: Birds have highly developed weather ‘radar’

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Study offers new insight into long-distance avian migration.

‘We think that these behaviors represent a previously unknown cognitive ability …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some migrating birds may be able to sense weather patterns on a hemispheric scale, helping them optimally time their nonstop transoceanic flights.

Bar-tailed godwits, the ultra-marathon champions of migration, breed in Alaska and spend winters in New Zealand and a recent U.S. Geological Survey-led study suggests that these birds can sense broad weather patterns.

Careful monitoring of the birds suggest they time their departure  to match the best possible atmospheric wind conditions possible within a two-week window. Remarkably, not only were the conditions optimal for take-off, but they almost always provided the best possible conditions for the birds’ entire flights, as far as 7,000 miles in eight days between Alaska and New Zealand.

Continue reading

Environment: U.S. Coast Guard report rips Shell Oil for runaway drill rig

The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.

The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.

Investigators delve into potential legal violations

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —A U.S. Coast Guard report says Shell Oil didn’t acknowledge or adequately prepare for Arctic Ocean conditions before the company’s Kulluk drilling rig broke away from its towing vessel and ultimately ran aground on an Alaskan Island on the last day of 2012.

“Inadequate assessment and management of risk” was the key factor in the accident,  Coast Guard investigators concluded, calling on Shell and its partners to change their company culture to avoid complacency.

Continue reading

Oceans: Baltic Sea dead zones growing

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Hypoxic areas are growing in the Baltic Sea.

Global warming seen as factor in hypoxia

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Gulf of Mexico isn’t the only place in the world with a dead-zone problem, European researchers says hypoxia is affecting a growing section of the Baltic Sea.

Overall, the dead zones  now total 60,000 square kilometers, more than 10 times bigger than it was in 1900, according to Scandinavian university researchers. The main cause is the same as it is everywhere else — nutrient pollution from land — and warmer ocean temperatures are exacerbating the problem.

Continue reading

GOP renews attack on Endangered Species Act

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Why are so many Republicans opposed to efforts to protect and restore endangered and threatened species?

Not much substance, a lot of political smoke …

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Republican anti-environment cadre in the House is once again taking aim at the Endangered Species Act by introducing legislation that would make it even harder for federal agencies to protect animals and plants that are at risk of going extinct.

Two of the bills, H.R. 4316 and H.R. 4318, would limit the ability of citizens to challenge government decisions in court. The Republican measures are also ostensibly aimed at reducing the government’s legal costs associated with responding to endangered species lawsuits, but conservation advocates said that is an ideological red herring. Government data shows that the Department of Interior has spent far more money responding to frivolous demands for documents than on settling lawsuits.

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