GOP Candidate for Congress Kills Mama Prairie Dogs with Trump Jr in Montana

black-tailed-prairie-dog-public domain

Black-tailed prairie dog (Public Domain)

On May 25, voters in Montana will participate in a special election for a vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The two frontrunners are Democrat Rob Quist and Republican Greg Gianforte.  Gianforte recently got an assist from Donald Trump Jr. who campaigned with him in four cities.  One of the campaign events was shooting prairie dogs, currently in their breeding season.  On Earth Day.  Because fun:

“As good Montanans, we want to show good hospitality to people,” Gianforte said. “What can be more fun than to spend an afternoon shooting the little rodents?”

Animal advocates were horrified.  But fun:

Gianforte, whose campaign has focused on gun rights, dismissed the [Prairie Dog Coalition’s]  concerns.

“Clearly they’ve never shot a prairie dog,” he said. “They don’t know how much fun it is.”

No word on how many pregnant or nursing prairie dogs were killed in the campaign event or how many orphaned pups were left to slowly die agonizing deaths in their burrows.  But yeah, sounds like fun.

(Thanks Clarice.)

Manly Men Totally Not Compensating for Anything Hope to Kill Baby Bears in Alaska Thanks to GOP

You and I and all American taxpayers fund 16 wildlife refuges in Alaska representing 85% of our country’s federal wildlife refuges.  So we all – not just Alaskans – have a vested interest in the management of these 76 million acres.

For years, Alaskan state officials have been asking the feds for permission to extend their so-called predator control tactics to these refuges – basically seeking sanction to allow for cruel and unbalanced killing of bears and wolves.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly denied these requests and last year, the denial was made permanent via a federal rule.  This year, the Republican controlled Congress and President Trump have officially revoked that rule, creating an opening for kill-freaks to get their rocks off:

These [anti-predator] tactics include killing black bear cubs or mother with cubs at den sites; killing brown bears over bait; trapping and killing brown and black bears with steel-jaw leghold traps or wire snares; killing wolves and coyotes during denning season; and killing brown and black bears from aircraft.

Now sure, that all sounds horrible and revolting and vomity but have you considered the other side’s argument?

“Some of you will say, ‘Oh, we have to protect the wolf puppies,”‘ [Representative Don] Young [(R- AK)] told colleagues on the floor of the House.
“That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the law.”

Oh those uppity we-shouldn’t-shoot-animal-familes-in-their-dens people.  Sheesh.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) adds that anyone who gets ill thinking about sadists running down animals in helicopters for slaughter should be comforted knowing that it’s still illegal to use “gas against wolves” in Alaskan wildlife refuges.  So see, not actually worse than Hitler on the Sean Spicer scale, I guess.

And as usual with political issues, we can follow the money:

At the heart of the disagreement between state and federal wildlife managers is what each group thinks should guide its purpose. The federal government has argued that the goal on refuges and in parks should be biodiversity. The state Board of Game has an interest in ensuring maximum sustained populations for hunting.

In other words, kill the predators so there are more prey (e.g. moose and caribou) for richie rich trophy hunters who have powerful lobbying groups like the NRA behind them, supporting the revocation of this rule.  And never mind about a balanced ecosystem or any of that science stuff which, as we now know, is FAKE NEWS.

But as we have seen with other flailing attempts by the Trump administration to govern, the courts may end up sorting this out:

Geoff Haskett, former Alaska regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, […] left the agency and is now acting director of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Even though President Trump signed the congressional resolution, Haskett believes it will not give the state of Alaska carte blanche to begin predator control on federal refuges.

“It doesn’t change the laws and authorities and existing regulations that the service already has,” Haskett said. “It’s really back to square one.”

Ken Marsh, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, agreed. Without a blanket rule, federal refuge managers likely will consider predator control requests on a case-by-case basis, he said, under provisions of federal environmental law.

Thankfully, common sense and decency still have defenders. And they are willing to go to court. Stay tuned.

Feds Strip Manatees of Endangered Species Status Despite Serious Threats

manatees teco

Manatees gathered near the TECO power plant in Tampa.  (Photo via Save the Manatee)

Your tl;dr Summary:

Feds: There are more manatees so that endangered species thing is solved.

Scientists:  What about the fact that we are providing a lethal habitat for them?

Feds:  There are MORE MANATEES.

***

Data from recent years shows that manatees are being killed in record numbers due to human induced threats such as boat strikes and red tide.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced its decision to remove the animals from the endangered species list (downlisting them as “threatened”) citing an increase in population.  Current estimates put the Florida manatee over 6600. But Save the Manatee points out that population numbers were not the only issues that landed the animals there in the first place:

[H]uman threats to manatees and habitat, not low population counts, were the reason for the manatee’s Endangered Species listing. The species still faces these threats today and mitigating these factors is the standard for recovery.

Not only have the factors not been mitigated, they’re going to get worse:

We believe this is a devastating blow to manatees,” said Patrick Rose, Executive Director for Save the Manatee Club (SMC). With regard to Florida manatees in particular, Rose stated, “FWS decided to prematurely downlist manatees without a proven viable plan for reducing record-high watercraft-related manatee deaths and without establishing a long-term plan for the anticipated loss of artificial winter warm water habitat on which more than 60% of the Florida manatee population depends. A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee’s long- term survival. With the new federal administration threatening to cut 75% of regulations, including those that protect our wildlife and air and water quality, the move to downlist manatees can only be seen as a political one.”

Politics, politics everywhere and all the boards did shrink.

Downlisting is dangerous for manatees for several reasons.  It puts manatees on a slippery slope where disputed population numbers alone may be used to remove protections in future.  People will see the current measures as being adequate in saving the animal when in fact many of the issues threatening the manatee remain unaddressed.  As an example, an increasing number of manatees gather near the artificially warmed waters near power plants in winter.  There are currently no plans in place to replace these habitats if and when these power plants shut down.

The Washington Post reports:

The Center for Biological Diversity also opposed the federal reclassification, calling 2016 “the deadliest year to date” for the animals[.]
[…]
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) called it “HUGELY disappointing” and promised to reach out to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

WaPo also reminds readers about the orphaned manatee calf rescued by a Florida zoo last fall who died 3 months into his care because he had eaten so much trash off the ocean floor – a tragic example of the continuing human threat to manatees.

So yay, there are more manatees but geez, it seems like before removing them from the endangered species list the feds should conduct an in-depth and comprehensive examination of all the factors threatening the animal and obtain input from manatee advocates who study them – not just punch up a calculator.

Nobody knew that protecting lives could be so complicated, I guess.

What you can do: Contact the USFWS (and/or tweet them) and ask them to reconsider removing the manatee from the endangered species list and focus their efforts on addressing the human induced threats to the manatee’s habitat and long-term recovery.

Save

Animal Welfare in the Age of Trump

What we know about the Trump administration’s regard for animals so far is troubling.  In the early weeks of his presidency, Trump had many government websites scrubbed of information – a clear indication that transparency is not in the game plan.  Among them was the USDA website which for many years had posted inspection reports on roughly 8000 facilities (such as puppy mills, research labs, zoos and circuses) required to treat their animals humanely under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.  The searchable database allowed the public to see things like which research labs were letting monkeys die of thirst and lose body parts in fights due to negligence.  It also provided an opportunity to see which puppy mills passed USDA inspection – a low, very low, how can I say this? L O W bar – and which were repeat violators.  Several states have passed laws requiring pet stores to buy puppies only from breeders not cited for violations by the USDA.  With the inspection reports now gone, it is unclear how these pet stores, or anyone else, would find out the federal inspection history of any breeding facility.

Due to public outcry (thing I never tire of typing), the feds relented and put a “small fraction of the cache back online.”  But the most credible effort to date at holding the USDA accountable is coming from a private citizen by the name of Russ Kick.  He has set up a blog to repost the deleted documents, provide links to other sites doing the same, and ask for help from anyone who has saved any of the disappeared reports.  (Anyone wanting to support his one man effort can do so here.)

Then there is the Trump budget proposal.  While it is up to Congress to work out and decide upon the details, the proposal does give us insight into Trump’s vision for American families (and by family, I mean anyone who loves and shares their home with another being).  In a nutshell: bombs IN, poor people OUT.  Of the numerous proposed cuts within the budget, many will directly impact families if passed by Congress.  These include cuts to housing for low income people as well as:

And incidentally, the farmers who grow the food used in these anti-hunger programs will be negatively impacted as well.

It is estimated that approximately 65% of U.S. households have pets.  These include low income families.  If Americans who were previously relying on government assistance to help with things like baby formula, school lunches, and meals for homebound relatives are cut off from that assistance, pets will be impacted.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

Pets who provide enormous benefits to senior citizens and veterans, may end up being fed from the reduced food available to the owner (resulting in even less food for these already at-risk people), be surrendered to shelters or perhaps not even adopted in the first place.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

As the public learns about the proposed cuts to these essential family programs, they will rush to open their wallets and offer support.  Because that’s what we do.  At the same time, with so many valuable services being cut from the federal budget, competition for donation dollars will increase.  And compassion fatigue will set in.  Indeed, an insurance company recently debuted a television ad depicting a man feeling overwhelmed by so many worthy causes and issues in his community – the first of which is represented by a shelter dog.  Rescue groups can expect to work harder for every donated dollar and volunteer hour as compassionate people spread their resources far and wide.

What you can do:

  1.  Check to see if your Congressman signed this letter to Trump asking that the USDA documents be restored to the website.  If he/she did, call his/her office to say thank you and ask that the issue not be dropped.  If he/she did not sign, call and request that he/she support this effort.  Senator Cory Booker (D – NJ) has set up a petition.  (Note:  petitions are ok but phone calls are the thing.  Start making calls.  Plan to keep making them.  Every voice is needed – even quiet ones.)
  2. Call your elected representatives and tell them to reject the cruel Trump vision for American families outlined in his budget proposal. Demand that they stand up and fight for our shared values and rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

What’s So Great about David Vitter?

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) spends less than 1/2 of 1% of their money on animal shelters (which is where most Americans think the money goes).  The remaining 99 and 1/2% goes to a variety of other places, including political campaigns.  The largest recipient of HSUS cash in the current election cycle is Senator David Vitter (R – LA).

Currently, Sen. Vitter is perhaps best known for refusing to debate his opponent while facing a serious ethics complaint from a non-partisan watchdog group (pdf here).  The complaint involves Sen. Vitter’s alleged office expense account being used to inappropriately funnel cash to a legislative aide who oversaw women’s issues for the Senator, and was arrested for attacking his former girlfriend with a knife.  The current complaint may re-open the investigation into the Senator’s years of use of the DC Madam’s prostitution services.

Apparently considering himself an authority on the sanctity of marriage, Sen. Vitter supports amending the Constitution to prevent same sex couples from marrying, even comparing marriage equality to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  He has embraced and then attempted to wriggle out of various wacky conspiracy theories from President Obama being a secret Kenyan to health care reform legislation being a secret ploy to institute government death panels.  When BP recklessly filled the Gulf of Mexico with oil this summer, Sen. Vitter sought to cap BP’s financial liability and thus limit the amount of compensation his constituents could receive in damages from the oil monster.

For me, it’s hard to figure out where the appeal of David Vitter lies.  But apparently for HSUS, the fact that he’s co-sponsoring the PUPS bill is enough to open the cash floodgates.  Maybe the PUPS bill is good, maybe it’s not.  I can’t say I’ve looked into it enough yet although I am generally in favor of enforcing existing animal welfare laws (which we continue to fail to do) before we pile on new additions.  Regardless of the merits of the PUPS bill though, I just have to ask – is David Vitter really that great of a politician that HSUS should push so much money at him?  Especially considering the facts that Sen. Vitter has consistently outraised his opponent by a wide margin and leads in the polls by double digits?  In other words, David Vitter doesn’t need any money or support from HSUS.  So why are they spending more money to support his campaign than anyone else’s?