Spotlight on green news & views: Musk's idea on public transit; children's climate case revs up


6412093 writes—The Daily Bucket–The Secret Life of Frogs: “I’ve been maintaining chorus frog friendly ponds in my back yard in Washington County Oregon for some time now, so when I found a 1956 study about frogs in Washington County, I read it as avidly as some folks might read the latest John Grisham potboiler. I want to make my ponds as welcoming as possible for the frogs, who are migrating into my backyard now, as they do every March. The chorus frogs have a strong homing instinct for their birth ponds.  Scientists tried moving frogs 1000 yards away, but the frogs returned, often to the very spot by their birth pond where they had been captured. I hoped this 1956 study would provide some hints to help me make the frogs happy.  I’d been getting mixed review on Yelp from the frogs, they said I was feeding swill to the tadpoles.  Well, the lettuce might of been a little limp. I want a 5 star establishment for my frogs.”

Besame writes—98 Million Monarch Butterflies Isn’t Enough: “Both the California and Mexico monarch overwintering population data have been reported now and the numbers are lower than we hoped. Monarch butterfly populations are censused during winter when the animals are less mobile. In California, monarchs are counted by volunteers organized through The Xerces Society. In Mexico, counts are overseen by World Wildlife Federation and partners who evaluate the amount of area used by clustering monarchs to extrapolate the number of individuals. In California this year, the same as last year, more overwintering sites were surveyed by more volunteers, but fewer monarchs were counted. Over 150 volunteers looked for clusters of monarchs and counted samples to extrapolate number of individuals. Solo monarchs flying around are not counted as their movement makes accuracy impossible. Twenty years of data is available for the Western Population Thanksgiving Count. In 2016, a second census was added around the New Year, so we have two years of this data set. For the Thanksgiving Count, 192,629 monarchs were counted at 262 sites. this is the second lowest number since 2012 and the sixth lowest since the census began in 1997. In late February 2018, California monarchs started moving out of this overwintering habitat, mating, and beginning their northward migration.”

Besame writes—Daily Bucket: eBird is censoring data because humans can be jerks: “Birders share information about unusual sightings so others can rush out and enjoy the visiting rarity. But not everyone has awe and respect in their hearts, some people use the information for harm. Poachers may wish to nab a bird for commercial trade (rainbow lorikeets in Australia), or falconry (gyrfalcons such as the one shown in the photo), or kill the bird for some perverted glory (trophy). And some of those who just want to see and photo the rare bird don’t respect the habitat or other birders. The perverted glory outcome happened in my area a year ago when a long-tailed duck, rarely seen here, was spotted and reported on social media. Two weeks later, a hunter shot the bird dead — in a no-hunting zone. A CDFW biologist noted that the kill ‘was possibly premeditated by trophy hunters who seek out rare species, and perhaps had been tipped off by social media posts alerting the birding community to the duck’s presence.’ For many years now, official databases on threatened and endangered species have kept location data off some species occurrence reports to keep the plants and animals safe. Now eBird, the community science bird reporting website has decided to censor location information for 325 at-risk bird taxa.”

Lenny Flank writes—Study: PNW Hobo Spider May Have a Bad Rap: “As a ‘spider fan,’ I found this interesting….. Turns out that the venom of the Pacific Northwest Hobo Spider, often blamed for bites that eat away the surrounding tissues, may not be doing so after all, that at least some of this damage may actually be from MRSA ‘flesh-eating bacteria’ introduced into the bite, and ‘spider bites’ get blamed for lots of things they don’t really do.

Eagles January 9. Nestorations.

OceanDiver writes—The Daily Bucket – eagle pair update: “No news really on my local eagle nest, except that the pair has been around regularly. You may remember that I saw the tail end of their nesting season in 2017, after which the nest was empty until the end of October. They began showing up intermittently during the winter. Anyone new to this pair’s backstory who’s interested in it, I wrote up a Dawn Chorus diary in January about them, and the local eagle situation in general:… On January 9, I saw them doing nestorations. That was a very exciting day! […] Since then, there’s been one or both at the nest most mornings when Mr O goes by on his daily circuit. These are photos from my outings on occasional afternoons.

OceanDiver writes—The Daily Bucket – Rufous migration arrival trending earlier: “My observations are incomplete and only go back a couple of decades, but based on what I have seen in my backyard, the Rufous hummingbirds are arriving for the summer breeding season earlier these days, in general, than they were in the 1990s. […] While I’ve always been a nature-lover, I’m a latecomer to phenology and documentation. The Backyard Science group here at DK has been a great way to report observations regularly and to compare what I see to what folks are reporting from other regions — which makes it all that much more interesting! So, I have good data back to 2013, but before that it’s sketchy; fortunately the return of Rufous interested me enough in the ‘90s to note it in my work planbooks, which I kept. I’m missing 7 years of data :/ but with the rest, I have constructed a graph showing arrival dates. While there are variations from one year to the next, the red line shows the general trend: earlier.”

Dan Bacher writes—Surprise: White paper commissioned by Delta Tunnels proponents says CAWaterFix would benefit fish: “The Orange County Coastkeeper has commissioned a white paper, “Making the Delta a Better Place for Native Fishes,” claiming Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels could help to restore Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta fish if built. The report is authored by Peter B. Moyle, John Durand and Carson Jeffres Center for Watershed Sciences University of California, Davis. The white paper recommends a number of positive things that can be done to restore nine Delta and long fin smelt, Sacramento River Chinook salmon and other fish species, ranging from habitat restoration to managing flows better. However, the conclusion that has drawn fire from fish and public trust advocates is that the California WaterFix in its “various manifestations” has the following “positive aspects for fishes (Appendix C. Delta Water Conveyance Alternatives. What’s Good for Fish?, p. 49).”

Dan Bacher writes—Salmon group responds to reintroduction of winter Chinooks to Battle Creek: “John McManus, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, today commented  on the historic re-introduction of winter run Chinook salmon, a species protected under the federal and Endangered Species Acts, to Battle Creek. Winter Chinook  were the first fish in California to receive federal ESA protection; the late publisher and conservationist Hal Bonslett and I were a key part of the effort to protect the winter-run chinook in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The winter run took a big hit during the drought with less than 1000 returning to spawn in 2017, a combination of the drought and poor management of Central Valley reservoirs and the Delta pumps by the state and federal governments. ‘I think everyone agrees that we need at least one backup population of winter run salmon in addition to the one that’s teetering on the brink of extinction in the upper Sacramento River,” said McManus. “Reintroducing winter run to Battle Creek is a good step towards stabilizing this unique run of salmon and hopefully rebuilding their numbers to where they can get out of the ICU unit of the Endangered Species Act’.”


8565976614_79e6962f56_b.jpg Arctic fox

Pakalolo writes—Climate Change Has Brought The Arctic’s Spring Forward 16 Days In Just 10 Years. That’s a problem: “The Arctic climate is a complex and sensitive eco-system. It is characterized by the absence of sunlight in winter, long days during summer and brutal weather. And there is nowhere else on Earth where temperatures are rising faster from climate change than in the Arctic. The Earth is experiencing earlier springs due to rising temperatures from our relentless burning of fossil fuels.  The question is how much earlier does Spring arrive. According to researchers at the University of California, Davis it depends on where you live. The study, published in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports, found that for every 10 degrees north from the equator you move, spring arrives about four days earlier than it did a decade ago. This northward increase in the rate of springtime advance is roughly three times greater than what previous studies have indicated. For example, at southern to mid latitudes such as Los Angeles, New Orleans or Dallas, the study suggests spring might be arriving a mere one day earlier than it did a decade ago. Farther north, in Seattle, Chicago or Washington D.C., it might be arriving four days earlier. And if you live in the Arctic, it might be arriving as much as 16 days earlier.”

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Lamar Smith in Fox and Oren Cass in WSJ: Not RickRolling, but Still Trolling: “It’s already a weird month for climate op-eds. While powerful pieces like Alison Spodek Keimowitz’s reckoning with leukemia and climate change or 16-year-old climate activist Jamie Margolin’s story can find good homes in online outlets like Slate and Refinery29, some newspapers appear to be more concerned with driving hate clicks than thoughtful, original, and, most importantly, honest commentary. Some might say the trolls of the modern op-ed page are doing an amazing job, and getting recognized more and more. But as Virginia Heffernan describes in a recent piece in Wired, modern trolls’ approach is hardly new or unique: present a transparently ridiculous argument as though it’s being made in good faith, wait for people to get mad about it, then enjoy how little effort it took to trigger a much larger reaction. Though Heffernan doesn’t mention climate, climate deniers are typical trolls. But instead of engaging just for laughs (‘for the lulz’), like other bad-faith online actors, professional deniers go on the offensive to not only rile people up, but to push a viewpoint that benefits their fossil benefactors. Two recent op-eds make this clear.

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—California Court to See Scopes-ish Trial for Climate Change: “On March 21st, climate change will have its day in court. Sort of. That’s the day that the California cities and the fossil fuel companies they’re suing will present ‘tutorials’ on climate change requested by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup. One part of the tutorial each side presents will be about the history of climate science, and the second on the current state of the science. (The tutorial questions are pretty rudimentary, seeing as how Andrew Dessler can answer each in a tweet.)This, as Columbia Law’s Michael Burger told McClatchy, ‘will be the closest that we have seen to a trial on climate science in the United States.’ At first this seems odd, given that Mass vs EPA and other landmark lawsuits ruled on the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But suits like this have dealt more with process and legal questions than the science itself.”

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Viv Forbes Fears a Grim Global Green Dictatorship. We’re Not So Sure About It: “These days, we’re always keeping an eye on important denier-y things happening at the highest level of the federal government. For example, we could spend some time diving into this recent op-ed in which Cass Sunstein describes a recent government report showing the billions of dollars in benefits from regulations. But sometimes we miss being able to dumpster dive for the whacky gems of the lowest denier blogs. So when we came across this post on Heartland’s blog by long-time coal guy Viv Forbes, we had to share with you. Take a moment, if you would, to bask in this glory and reminisce about the days when deniers worked out of their home offices, not the Oval Office. It’s hard to convey just how paranoid and delusional Forbes is here. The post is a rant about ;greens,’ his catchall name for environmentalists, the UN, politicians, NGOs, concerned citizens, and really anyone who doesn’t just love fossil fuels. Forbes appears to feel under siege by his own strawmen of environmentalists that, per his opening line, ‘hate individual freedom and private property.’ This nuanced and subtle motif runs through the piece: Forbes claims that “greens hate miners,” along with farmers and fishermen and foresters and suburbs and reliable power and free markets. Per Forbes, they think that even ‘fun, frills or luxuries”’have no place in our sustainable world. Apparently, greens “plan to expel farmers and graziers from most land areas” and instead produce food in factory farms and feedlots. To be fair, we can’t count the number of times we’ve seen greens campaigning for more factory farms and concentrated animal agriculture. But that’s only because you can’t count to zero.”

ybruti writes—Denied again: U.S. govt claim against climate liability lawsuit: “In 2015, twenty-one children and youths began their suit against the U.S. government for encouraging the production of fossil fuels, which are damaging the climate they will inherit. The suit survived several challenges and yesterday, March 7, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco allowed the children’s climate liability lawsuit to move forward. The suit had been argued and submitted on December 11, 2017. Quoting from the decision: Twenty-one young plaintiffs brought suit against the United States, the President, and various Executive Branch officials and agencies, alleging that the defendants have contributed to climate change in violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. They allege that the defendants have known for decades that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels destabilize the climate. The plaintiffs aver that the defendants have nevertheless enabled and continue to enable, through various government policies, the burning of fossil fuels, allowing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to reach historically unprecedented levels.They allege that climate change is injuring them and will continue to injure them. The plaintiffs claim that, in light of these facts, the defendants have violated their constitutional rights.

Walter Einenkel writes—Children’s climate change lawsuit closer to its day in court! Trump’s attempt to block rejected:The children are our future and they know that there are too many adults on the back nine who have allowed the status quo to go on for far too long. It’s been a long road, but the 21 children who launched a lawsuit in 2015 against the federal government, and have won in every attempt by the powers that be to stop them, received another huge victory Wednesday. A federal appeals court rejected Trump’s administration’s attempts to block the kids’ lawsuit, opening up a chance for this case to see a trial. From Inside Climate News: ‘We’re excited to be back in the district court,’ said Julia Olson, chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit that is representing the youths. ‘We’ll promptly ask for a new trial date for 2018 and get there as quickly as we possibly can, given the urgency of the climate crisis.’ The plaintiffs are asking the courts to force the government to enact policies that would cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and end subsidies to fossil fuel companies.”


billofrights writes—Maryland Forests at Risk: “And now for the Letter-to-the-Editor to the largest Western Maryland regional paper:  Maryland Forests at Risk. I’m writing to my fellow citizens of Western Maryland about revisions to the Forest Conservation Act, HB-766 and SB-610, in Annapolis. It was originally passed in 1991. Respected conservation organizations in our state have compiled evidence that the bill is not protecting our forests as intended.  They say we are losing thousands of acres per year, and not replanting nearly enough trees to make up for the losses.  And the state has admitted it has taken no enforcement actions other than polite meetings. Now the bill in its original form, and by the current amendments, is not regulatory in nature.  It is a process of justifications and documentation that specifies the steps that must be undertaken before forests are destroyed for development.  Then the bill spells out, depending on where the forests are and the character of the development property, what the replacement ratio is for the forests/trees lost, ranging from 1:4 to 1:1 and in a few cases, 2:1. Scientifically, these ratios are too low and cannot possibly compensate for the complexity of lost forest values. But that’s where the compromises stand today:  hardly onerous provisions.” […]



Marine Chemist writes—Monitoring Fukushima Contamination in Pacific Salmon and Soil in British Columbia: “Seven years on, since the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident, it is useful to start to bring together information from scientific studies of the impact of the contamination on the North American environment and its people. I recently wrote to communicate the most recent results of the Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide (InFORM) project. This post summarizes a recently published, peer-reviewed paper by colleagues lead by Dr. Krzyzstof Starosta of Simon Fraser University in BC working in parallel to InFORM. The open access paper was published in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry and was recently recognized with the ‘Best Paper Award by the journal. They studied the concentrations of anthropogenic radioisotopes (134Cs half-life ~2 years, 137Cs half-life ~30 years) and naturally occurring radioisotope 40K (half-life 1.25 billion years) in Pacific salmon (sockeye, chum and chinook) and in soil and roof debris collected in southern British Columbia to determine the local impact of the FDNPP accident.  […] Consistent with other monitoring in the area the results of the study indicate that given the trace levels of contamination present the impact of the FDNPP accident on ecosystem and public health in North America will be insignificant.

Marine Chemist writes—Update on Fukushima Monitoring Activities in North America: 7 Years On: “The purpose of this post is to bring the community up to date on monitoring efforts aimed at understanding the impact of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident on environmental and public health. This post is part of an ongoing series and will focus on North American monitoring, summarizing work carried out by the Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring (InFORM) project. Seven years since the peak in releases to the environment our project continues to measure environmental levels of radioisotopes that could represent a radiological health risk to living things. InFORM makes measurements of levels in seawater and common marine organisms as consumption of seafood is one of the most likely ways that residents of North America could be exposed to Fukushima derived contamination. Maximum contamination levels in seawater from Fukushima measured in waters offshore and onshore British Columbia and in the Arctic Ocean are about 8 to 10-fold lower than levels present in the North Pacific during the height of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  These levels are roughly 1000-fold below the maximum allowable drinking water standards for these isotopes.  Levels in marine organisms have not changed significantly since before the disaster.  As was reported in 2015 in this comprehensive study by Health Canada and backed up by measurements made by the international scientific community the release of radioisotopes from Fukushima will have no measurable impact on the health of the marine ecosystem in the northeast Pacific nor on public health in North America.

es-2017-02712h_0001.jpeg Study area showing the onshore-offshore sampling line occupied by the InFORM project with the support of Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Station P26 is ~1500 kilometers from the coast of North America.

Fossil Fuels

NoAprilFool writes—Coal Companies to Congress: “Let Them Breathe Money”: “Imagine, Dear Reader, the following business proposition: A faceless corporation will pay you a sum of money. The exact amount will be negotiated, but it will be an amount that you regard as more than fair and acceptable. In exchange for this money, you will allow the corporation to place special masks on the faces of each of your children that will blow polluted air into their lungs twenty-four hours a day. You will also allow the corporation to introduce measurable amounts of neurotoxic substances, such as mercury, into your childrens’ air, water, and food. As a result of this bargain, you will have more money, and the corporation will have an easier time operating its business and will be able to sell its products at a somewhat lower cost.”

SeattleTammy writes—Want Tarballs on your beach? “If your answer is ‘No!’ you have until 11:59pm Eastern to comment. Today is the final day for comments on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Managements’ 5 year plan for Offshore Drilling, which opens up 90% of our coasts to Offshore Drilling. I just received this update from Greenpeace: ‘We are approaching 920K comments just for this comment period, which puts us over 1.45 million for total comments between this comment period and the last one in August!’ Our local paper has even given us good coverage, which is unusual. Local NPR and the Seattle Times have articles. Citizens for a Clean Harbor has successfully blocked a Coal Terminal and Three Crude by Rail Oil Terminals over the past 4 years. We work with Stand Up To Oil, The Quinault Indian Nation, Surfrider, Audubon, Friends of the Earth, 350Seattle, STAND, and others.”

Walter Einenkel writes—Clean coal plant has been a money-pit disaster for years and executives have been covering it up: “One of Donald Trump’s big platforms during his campaign of lies was ‘clean coal.’ Clean coal and white supremacy. Over the summer of 2017, more stories began coming out about the Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi. This plant has been billed as America’s, and more importantly the fossil fuel industry’s first ‘clean energy’ facility that doesn’t utilize any of the known clean energy sources. The facility had already cost $7.3 billion since the project began about 8 years ago and was estimated at costing $2.4 billion. As The Guardian uncovered, the disaster going on in Kemper County has been well understood behind the scenes for some time now. But thousands of internal documents reviewed by The Guardian and a series of interviews with Kemper staff uncovered evidence that the company had information showing that the project would blow through state-imposed budget limits five years before the company decided to reverse course and become an exclusively gas-fired energy plant. […] The documents show that Kemper’s design faced what proved to be an insurmountable issue: It required vastly more maintenance downtime than originally predicted, and according to one 2014 report would be offline 45% of its first five years rather than the 25% the company had publicly projected.

4Plat_OffshoreCA-BOEMOPA.jpg Four oil rigs off Southern California

Dan Bacher writes—Debunking the Big Myth: Offshore drilling has increased off California under Governor Jerry Brown: “The Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture held the 45th Annual Zeke Grader Fisheries Forum at the State Capitol in Sacramento on March 8. Below a revised version of my testimony before the Committee exposing the huge expansion in offshore oil drilling in Southern California waters in recent years: There appears to be a widely-held misconception among fishermen, environmentalists and legislators that new offshore oil wells have not been approved off the California coast in recent years.  The reality is much different. In fact, Governor Jerry Brown’s oil and gas regulators approved 238 new offshore oil wells in state waters under existing leases off Los Angeles and Ventura counties from 2012 to 2016, an increase of 17 percent, according to an analysis of Department of Conservation data by the Fracktracker Alliance. Roughly 171 of them were still active as of a year ago. In addition, number of  active onshore oil and gas wells has jumped 23 percent from 53,825 in 2009, the year before Brown was elected Governor, to 66,516 onshore wells at the end of 2016, according to Department of Conservation data. The number of wells drilled and completed in 2014 jumped by 67 percent over 2011 to 6,896 from 4,636 on Governor Brown’s watch.

Meteor Blades writes—Republican opposition looks as if it might hamstring Zinke’s five-year offshore drilling plan: “Over the past couple of months, the avalanche of bad policy decisions and deluge of revelations about Donald Trump, his family and minions may have conspired to blur your memory a bit. So you may only vaguely remember that Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke rang in the new year by announcing the regime’s five-year plan to open up 98 percent of America’s continental shelf to oil and gas drilling. He immediately collided over the plan not just with Democrats and environmental advocates, but with a hunk of Republicans as well. Even the climate science deniers among them aren’t sanguine about what that drilling could mean should there be an accident like, say, the Deep Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico eight years ago. That Republican opposition could wreck Zinke’s entire plan. That’s the kind of hopeful environmental news we get far too little of these days.

Renewables, Efficiency & Conservation

1BQ writes—Forget “drill here, drill now.” We’ll make our fuel – from CO2 in the air! “For the first time, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are being produced on a large scale, which will enable the technology to be commercially available. About CNTs: Mattershift, an NYC-based startup with alumni from MIT and Yale has achieved a breakthrough in making carbon nanotube (CNT) membranes at large scale. The startup is developing the technology’s ability to combine and separate individual molecules to make gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from CO2 removed from the air… For 20 years, researchers have shown that CNT membranes offer tremendous promise for a wide variety of uses including the low-cost production of ethanol fuel, precision drug delivery, low-energy desalination of seawater, purification of pharmaceutical compounds, and high-performance catalysis for the production of fuels. The difficulty and high cost of making CNT membranes has confined them to university laboratories and has been frequently cited as the limiting factor in their widespread use. Mattershift’s ability to mass-produce CNT membranes unleashes the potential of this technology… ‘This technology gives us a level of control over the material world that we’ve never had before,’ said Mattershift Founder and CEO, Dr. Rob McGinnis.”

Walter Einenkel writes—Interior Sec. Zinke says wind turbines are worse for the environment than oil and coal and gas: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has one job: whatever the hell the fossil fuel industry tells him to do, he does. Last week, during an energy conference Zinke explained how the gas and oil industry should be right inside of the Department of the Interior, and according to Bloomberg, this is somehow a part of how green Zinke is. When solar facilities are built on public land, people can’t hunt or pursue other recreation there, he said, and wind turbines ‘probably chop up as many as 750,000 birds a year.’ Zinke acknowledged, however, that ‘certainly oil and gas and coal have a consequence on carbon.’ At least he acknowledges carbon, I guess? But let’s get back to these bird-killing wind turbines! Here’s USA Today from a couple of years ago. Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually — a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion deaths from cats, according to the peer-reviewed study by two federal scientists and the environmental consulting firm West Inc.


ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Emails Open A Door To the Interior of The Department of Interior: “Last week was a revealing one for the Department of Interior. According to a few different FOIA requests that finally went public, a Heartland-affiliated staffer and Trump appointee attempted to interfere with climate science at the agency and circulated climate denial blogs and reports, a top aide to Zinke met dozens of times with mining companies then made decisions that benefited them, and another political appointee potentially violated ethics rules by attending events at her former employer, the Heritage foundation. The first story, which appeared in The Washington Post on Wednesday, was based on emails FOIA’d by Joel Clement, the career Interior staffer who resigned in protest last July after being moved from working on climate change to an accounting position where he cashed checks from fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Forcing Clement to switch careers now seems to have been an incredible mistake. Clement apparently knew exactly what to FOIA to show WaPo how an assistant secretary to Zinke, Doug Domenech, and DOI staffer and Heartland regular Indur Goklany attempted to edit press materials for a climate study.


Joan McCarter writes—Trump’s USDA doing away with animal welfare rules: “One of the architects of the Bush-Cheney torture regime has just been nominated to head up the CIA, so it should not be any surprise that the Trump administration is gung-ho to allow animal torture again. The Obama rule-setting new standards for animal welfare for animal products designated as ‘certified organic’ are out the door. […] Finalized under the Obama administration in April 2016, the rule largely dictated how producers and handlers participating in the National Organic Program are required to treat livestock and poultry to ensure their wellbeing. The rule stipulated, for example, that poultry must be housed in spaces that are big enough for the birds to move freely, stretch their wings, stand normally and engage in natural behaviors. Livestock, meanwhile, must be provided access to an outdoor space year round. Ibach’s statement says that the ‘organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.’ The organic industry, however, is not so sanguine about their health absent these rules. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) sued the USDA in September for delaying this rule, and is amending the suit now that the administration is tossing it.”

Walter Einenkel writes—Trump rolls back organic farm animal welfare rules so farm animals can be treated cruelly again: “The Trump administration continues its efforts to create a world where the worst impulses of humankind are rewarded. The Hill reports that Trump’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will be rolling back an Obama-era rule that benefits one group of people over another. The Trump administration has decided to withdraw an Obama-era rule that would have set new standards for the way animals should be treated if their meat is going to sold as ;certified organic.’ The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Monday that it is officially withdrawing the final rule it delayed for the third time in November. The agency said the rule, which was set to take effect in May, exceeded the department’s statutory authority and could have had a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program. Not unlike Ajit Pai, the Republican USDA is saying that organic food industry is ‘robust.’ No need to change anything. Animals can’t talk. But gold bullion can in the swampy world of Republican leadership.

kishik writes—Saturday Morning Garden Blogging Vol.14.10 ~ I hate it when the groundhog is right: “So… second nor’easter within a week… Thank goodness, this one was a bust!  That is, at least in my neck of the woods on the south shore of Long Island.  My sister in NJ got about 10” of wet heavy snow, and our GUG up in CT got more snow than me, but more devastating, lost many trees on his property. 🙁 But by now, no matter what that damn groundhog predicted, here on Long Island in March we’re at that point in time when it is warming up enough that even with snow and storms, the days following are up and over freezing… so thankfully any snow generally doesn’t stick around that long. It really helps living on an island. We really do get the benefit of the ocean to keep things warmer than further upstate. March here really does mean that despite the cold and snow, beneath the soil, the winter season is indeed cycling towards Spring. […]  My hellebores began shooting up several bud stalks the past few weeks because of the warming temps and I see other signs of Spring in the form of tiny leaves unfolding on the mock orange, the bridal wreath spirea, the rapidly growing marsh marigold, and fattening leaf buds on sheltered rose bushes!  Daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and other bulb plants are pushing up their leaves from the earth. This is the time of year that worry novice gardeners, and they wonder if these snows will kill the new green they see pushing out and up. Have you ever wondered how plants actually survive the snow and cold?”

Continue reading...