Tuesday, February 28, 2017

America’s Endangered Species Act … is also an Endangered Species


Readers of the prestigious Washington Post woke to an alarming headline last week announcing the Republican Administration’s intent to gut and/or dismantle the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). This was not sensationalist journalism but, sadly, our new reality. In fact, Senate Republicans held a hearing on February 15, 2017 to effectively begin the process of weakening the ESA, an Act that was first signed into law in 1973. Chairing that hearing was Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, who has a history of favouring the oil and gas industry over environmental issues. 
   
The Republicans’ war on wildlife is nothing new. They have been waging this war for a very long time. They have always viewed Nature as a direct threat to business, private land ownership and the profitability of resource exploitation industries such as logging and mining. Indeed, “since the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, they have made 233 legislative attempts to either dismantle the Act or target specific endangered species.” (Source: IFLScience)

New this time around, however, is the fact that the Republicans are now in full control of the conversation. Politically speaking, that is. The average American, we are told, probably doesn’t agree with too much tampering to the existing ESA. It has been reported that the vast majority of Americans (fully 90%) support the Act, this according to a national poll conducted in 2015.

For more than 40 years America’s ESA has been successfully protecting species, including its iconic national symbol, the bald eagle. It has also brought the American alligator, the Stellar sea lion, the peregrine falcon and many, many other plant and animal species back from the brink of extinction. Data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that the ESA has saved 99% of listed species from extinction. In fact, scientists say that some 227 species would already be extinct without it. (Source: Center for Biological Diversity)

What does all this mean for Canada and Canadian wildlife?

We share this beautiful continent with our neighbours to the south, so what happens in the USA unfortunately doesn’t always stay in the USA. Already, biologists have pointed out the sheer lunacy of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Wildlife does not know what a border is and migration routes traverse all three nations on this continent.

Here, around the Great Lakes, we are particularly jittery about the Republicans’ next steps and any successful attempt at destroying their ESA. We share the Great Lakes with the United States, and if biodiversity and the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes region — its watersheds, wetlands and deciduous forests — are in jeopardy to the south of us, it is going to most definitely impact the bio stability of the entire region eventually. Just as frightening would be the concurrent weakening of America’s EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Increased pollution and contamination, and an uptake in fossil fuel extraction, coal mining and fracking combined with a much-weakened ESA are a recipe for ecological and environmental disaster in the long term.

I don’t believe this is an exaggeration or alarmist rhetoric. So much of wild North America is under threat as it is. Many species are teetering on the brink while others are losing ground – literally – every day. Biodiversity is a fragile and interconnected web, so the loss of just one species affects all others. Those species that are on the brink and losing the battle need even more protection, not less. They will surely falter if protections are pulled.

Then, there is the war that Republicans feel is their right to wage – their manifest destiny – to eliminate any species (humans included) that stands in the way of their worldview, their progress, their profits. Native species in their rifle sights include most notably wolves, coyotes, cougars and bears. We should not forget to add to any list of beleaguered species under attack the west’s wild mustangs and wild burros, regularly rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The carnage is going to be gruesome.

North America is one continent. Our mountain ranges, our prairies, our lakes and our forests do not recognize borders. Wildlife crosses freely, oblivious to the politics of their survival or demise. Their only hope is our attention, our awareness and our advocacy. Hands across the border, we must reach out to our fellow environmentalists in the U.S. and show our support for their efforts and for their resistance – organizations such as the wonderful Center for Biological Diversity or the Canadian/American cooperative, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative – to name but two.

Even as we in Ontario face some battles over Ontario’s ESA in the current climate in which Wynne’s economic woes threaten to outweigh her government’s obligation to the ESA, we must not ignore what is happening in the U.S. Other countries may easily mock the Trump Administration; they can rail and rant and dismiss him as unstable or incompetent. He is. That’s not in question. But Canada is the only other country in the world together with Mexico that will directly bear the brunt of the brutal, short-sighted machinations of the new U.S. Administration. The health and wellbeing of the entire continent is at stake if the ESA and the EPA are vitiated.

We may stand some distance from the border, but we must, however, stand in opposition to any gutting of America’s ESA if we care at all about North American wildlife – indeed,  if we care at all about the future of life on earth. It is incumbent upon us to be vigilant and to work harder than ever as advocates for the voiceless. As my Twitter community of friends and followers would say – it’s time to #resist.

To follow information about Ontario’s ESA visit Ontario Nature.
To follow the USA issue visit the Center for Biological Diversity and check out their #EARTH2TRUMP movement.




Monday, February 6, 2017

Spreading the Word about Salthaven ...

Local Heroes for Wildlife!


Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Centre is a local treasure, a haven of hope for wildlife in distress. This not-for-profit organization relies on donations in order to do their caring, compassionate work - feeding, housing and rehabilitating sick and injured wildlife. 

I encourage you to visit www.salthaven.org to learn about their work and how you too can help Canadian wildlife. Please consider a donation...for the love of wildlife!

I enjoyed writing this awareness-raising article for Salthaven, about a little squirrel who defied death:

http://www.thelondoner.ca/2017/02/03/salthavens-patient-of-the-week-a-winters-tale

Thursday, February 2, 2017

World Wetlands Day 2017

It's hard to say "happy" or "celebrate" this year on World Wetlands Day. The world has changed so much in the last few months, and not for the better. Our planet is in jeopardy. The earth's environments, wildernesses and biodiversity will face even greater threats in the coming months and years. 

No, this is not America. It is Canada. But we share a continent with America, and that's troublesome because migratory birds and animals know nothing of borders and surely won't be able to negotiate walls. 

So many Canadian and American scientists work together, collaborate and share knowledge. What happens to them? To the spirit of cooperation for the common good, for the preservation of life and for the planet? 

In fact, I would go so far as to say there's not a corner of the globe that is not going to be negatively impacted by the narrow-minded, self-serving, repressive, anti-science, anti-environment, hate-filled reactionary thugs who have taken over the White House.  

But enough of anger. For now. For one day. I would rather share this with you. A moving tribute to Nature, in all its splendour and ancient glory. From the writings of John Muir, this short film:



Monday, July 11, 2016

July



This is a bit of a departure for the Wetland blog - poetry. July was my mother's month. Not only was it the month of her birth, it was also her favourite time of the year.  She loved the sun, the warmth and revelled in the return of the foliage, the fauna and her feathered friends.

This is my tribute to her, remembering and missing her this July, Marion Terry White, July 25, 1931 - March 5, 2015.

July

On these summer mornings
so lush and
achingly lovely, wrapped in their hazy veils
heavy-lidded in the slumbering heat
fleeting and therefore precious
I often think that my mother is still alive
somewhere
tending her garden
bending over the bedding plants
parting the shrubbery with her hands
watchful, vigilant, protective
or listening at the open window
a joy rising in her to see the birds
take wing
thrilling at the wren’s song
watching the hummingbirds
sup, stroking the dog’s head
slowly all the while
he, faithful and adoring at her side
she, taking it all in –  the bumblebees in the black-eyed-susans
the cicadas in the trees
I almost expect to hear the phone ring
the excited voice, telling me some tale
about her day – the strawberries washed and sugared
the peonies clipped
the dog walked and oh, I saw a deer!
How are you? What are you up to today?
What are you working on?

Today I am working on remembering
today that is my job, my sole task
all others I sweep impatiently aside
so that I may stay with these memories
and revive summers past
a vain attempt, I know, to make it real again
to somehow give her
one more summer day.



©Victoria White, July 7, 2016

Are you a Beaver Believer?

Beavers should never have been extirpated as "nuisances" but perhaps we humans are finally gaining some wisdom:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-07/usu-dgb070816.php

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wetlands Under Threat


The world over, wetlands are under threat from development, a push to clear land for more agricultural development and from oil exploration, as in this case in Florida. A must-read if you are concerned about our disappearing wetlands: 

https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/oil-drilling-and-wetlands-dont-mix-especially-big-cypress

Monday, May 2, 2016

What Were You Doing on Save The Frogs Day?

Illustration courtesy of Save the Frogs.com

Save The Frogs Day was celebrated this year on Saturday, April 30 with hundreds of events planned all around the globe. It is very encouraging to see that so many people care about amphibians and are acting on behalf of threatened and endangered frogs and toads. Preserving habitat is so critical to their survival. Protecting and supporting wetlands rather than draining them is absolutely vital. 

One easy thing we can do if we live in built-up areas where roads and highways intersect habitat is to be mindful of the fact that we actually share the road with other species. These small animals face incredible danger on a busy road and, unfortunately, they can't know what it is they are crossing.

So it is up to us to be cautious, caring and mindful. Slowing down, keeping to the speed limit and even stopping (safely!) to help a toad across the road - these are all ways in which we can reduce needless amphibian deaths.

And that mindfulness should extend to all animals, large or small, especially this time of year when their activity is heightened. They are out foraging for food, building nests and looking after young.

So be careful out there this spring. Watch out for deer, raccoons, opossum, squirrels, voles and moles, turtles and snakes.

And a special note for Londoners: Please slow down, people, along Harry White Drive at White Oak Road! White's Wetland ESA takes up the entire northeast corner and is home to all of the above! Obey the speed limit and/or reduce speeds. Please do not interpret "country road" as your license to drive "like a bat out of hell."




Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day Greetings 2016 from White's Wetland



I'm hoping that this tiny oak has a chance to become a mighty oak one day. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Our Disappearing Songbirds

























Please consider attending the screening of The Messenger on Monday, April 25 at the Hyland Cinema in London, Ontario. A portion of the proceeds from the evening's event will support The Thames Talbot Trust and its efforts to preserve local natural heritage and habitat. 

The film was shot in part at Western University (UWO). 

If you love birds, a must-see.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Return



Anticipation.

Each spring we eagerly await the return of birds and animals to the wetlands. Many are just passing through, on their way to somewhere else, but we welcome the sight of them and are glad of their safe passage and return. We watch them pause and rest for a few days before moving on. Some stay. Spending spring and summer at the wetlands, much to our delight. The robins are back, the geese and a mallard pair. They join the throngs of winter birds that never left.

A doe appears at the edge of the woods, and in the morning mist that shrouds the tamaracks at dawn, the promise of spring is heralded by the sharp, shrill clarion call of a red-winged blackbird. 

Who will arrive next? 

We await with anticipation!