Environmental reports: the good, bad and the ugly

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Following are some environmental reports, some good, some bad, and some downright ugly.
First the good. According to “World Wildlife,” in the past 100 years, the world’s population of tigers has declined by an estimated 97 percent. But thanks to the World Wildlife Fund and its member countries, especially India, the decline has reversed, from an estimated 3,800 in the wild  now, up from 3,200 in 2010.
Several weeks ago I lamented that having seen no catalpa worms, larvae of the catalpa sphinx moth, I feared that the species no longer existed. Last week a gentleman called to inform me that during summer he sees catalpa worms on some catalpa trees in the Camp Hill area. Next summer, I plan to visit the area and see for myself.
Unfortunately, the ‘bad reports’ outnumber the ‘good’ ones. In my last column, I stated that monarch butterflies were increasing, from their low numbers resulting from Roundup being used by corn and soybean growers in the Midwest and inadvertently poisoning milkweeds, on which the monarchs’ larvae feed and develop. People concerned about monarchs are now planting milkweeds in places where they are unlikely to be killed by Roundup. I wrote this before I read about the devastating winter storm that occurred last March in the butterflies’ overwintering habitats in central Mexico. Estimated numbers of monarchs killed by the storm range from 3 percent in some habitats to 50 percent in others. According to “National Wildlife,” the number of monarchs returning to the U. S. has now approached historic lows.
Other bad news continues to report melting ice in the Arctic, devastating forest fires in the West and Southeast, and other parts of the world suffering from climate change. And I should add, the possibility that president-elect Donald Trump will be influenced by the anti-environmental Heritage Foundation. The organization was established in 1977 by Paul Weyrich, Edwin Feulner, and  Joseph Coors, who were rabidly opposed to then-president Richard Nixon’s establishing the Environmental Protection Agency, the Endangered Species Act, and his generally pro-environmental positions.
In a recent article by syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, he writes that the Heritage Foundation will form “landing teams” to visit federal departments and agencies…to ask questions for the new administration. Considering the founders of the organization and the reason for its existence I suspect I would disagree with many of its positions relating to the environment.
Now for the ugly, the really ugly, as reported by the Center for Biological Diversity. “The highly secret arm of the U.S. Department of  Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed more than 3.2 million animals during the fiscal year 2015….according to data released in June. That’s more than half as many more wolves, coyotes, black bears, mountain lions, beavers, foxes, eagles, and other animals than were killed in 2014.” Also killed were 731 bobcats and 492 river otters, and 20,777 prairie dogs killed outright and an unknown number that died in their 59,000 fumigated burrows.
Coyotes now occur throughout the country and have become pests. I doubt that many find killing them objectionable. Rarely, black bears and mountain lions pose threats to humans and killing such individuals seems sensible. But killing other species on the list amounts to senseless slaughter and killing them should not be the function of a federal agency.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.

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