I belong to several environmental groups, among which is The Center for Biological Diversity. A recent email contained a disturbing account of actions undertaken by the Obama administration. According to the Center, the administration has “quietly passed a series of regulatory changes that limit protections for critical habitats of threatened and endangered species, making it harder to gain protection for such species, and sharply curtail citizen participation in implementation of the Endangered Species Act.
“One of the most damaging of the regulations would deny protection of species at risk of becoming extinct, or are already extinct over a significant portion of their range if they are secure somewhere else. Had this been in effect when the Act was passed, bald eagles, grizzly bears, and gray wolves would not be protected because they had healthy populations in Alaska and Canada.”
The Center’s endangered species program director, Noah Greenwald, said,”It is extremely disheartening to see the Obama administration weakening the Endangered Species Act. Our endangered wildlife, from the gray wolf to the Big Sandy crayfish, need a strong Endangered Species Act now more than ever. These wrongheaded regulations will only embolden opponents of protecting endangered species in industry and Congress.” Persons wishing to express their displeasure with the administration’s above actions should contact the White House at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact. If a substantial number of complaints are received, the president may decide to rescind the weakening regulations.
The center also calls attention to the Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that slaughters millions of native animals each year, using traps, poison and other inhumane methods. The agency has been killing as many as three million animals per year, including coyotes, bears, beavers, otters, wolves, black-footed ferrets, foxes, prairie dogs, and birds. Persons wishing to express their opposition to this senseless, deplorable killing of our native animals by the “Wildlife Services” should contact the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilack, and tell him so.
Mike Biglio, a beekeeper and President of the WNY Honey Producers, states,”Unless you eat bread all the time….you can still get grains because they’re pollinated by the wind, but most of the fruits, vegetables and almonds you consume rely on honeybees for pollination.” It’s been said that for every third bite of the food you eat, you should thank the pollinators. It’s been estimated that honeybees pollinate 80 percent of the flowering crops grown in the United States. For several decades, honeybees have experienced a phenomenon called “Colony Collapse Disorder,” and it’s effects have been worldwide. One of the causes is a parasite, the Varroa mite, which infects the bee larvae. A more recent threat to the bees is believed to be widespread use of a relatively new group of insecticides called neonicotinoids. These chemicals not only kill insects on contact, but are incorporated into the plants’ tissues when plants are treated and into plants grown from treated seeds. Bees that feed on the nectar or pollen containing the chemical suffer from a neurological disorder resulting in disorientation and inability to return to their hives.
European countries have banned using neonicotinoid treatment of seeds and flowering plants attractive to bees, and beekeepers in the United States and others have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to enact a similar ban in the U.S. Some European farmers are complaining that the ban has resulted in decreased yields of some crops, because some insect pests have developed resistance to older insecticides. Efforts are underway to develop chemicals that kill pests, but when used with caution, will do little or no harm to bees.
In a previous column, I have commented on the plight of Alabama’s official insect, the monarch butterfly. I’ll do a follow-up in a subsequent column.
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 assorted conservation topics.