Friday, June 29, 2007

Saving America's Symbols: The Bison

I said I was going to write it, so here it is.Thanks to my fancy new newsreel, I learned of the release of a new book about the beginning of the conservation effort for the American Bison, back in Teddy Roosevelt's day, and it reminded me that I had planned to write this article.
Like the American Mustang, the Bison or Buffalo can be considered one of the founding creatures of our Nation. The constant migration of massive herds of Buffalo, and by massive I mean 30 million of the beasts, kept our great plains open and grassy, thwarting the encroachment of brush and trees. Entire cultures existed because of the Buffalo, Native Americans following the herds, hunting for what meat and hides they needed, and revering the Buffalo as they should, as a giver of life. Then, in the early-mid 1800's American settlers and trophy hunters from Europe began moving further west from the Mississippi. Buffalo were coveted for their hides and tongues, maybe their liver. The rest was left to rot. As the wholesale slaughter of Buffalo continued throughout that century (in the early days the herds were so thick you could shoot animals from a passing train) cultures and ecosystems began to suffer. Wolves, bears and mountain lions, while also coveted for their hides were also seen as competition for the elk and buffalo, and slaughtered. As more people came west and more of their life giving buffalo were taken, the great plains tribes came in to further and further conflict with settlers. By the turn of the century there were reportedly less than 30 buffalo left in Yellowstone National Park. Thats one MILLIONTH the number the great plains originally supported.
Today the American Bison continues to live under seige. While the Yellowstone population is up to a healthy 4000 animals, and South Dakota's Custer State Park holds 1,500, some of these buffalo are virtual prisoners in their supposed sanctuary. By nature the buffalo is a wanderer. This is how 30 million of them could be sustained by our American prairies. They are constantly moving to new grazing, rarely overgrazing an area. However, in Yellowstone National Park they can be rounded up and/or shot if they wander outside the park's three and a half thousand square miles. Speculation that the buffalo carry cattle diseases has ranchers in the northwest states up in arms and prepared to shoot the beasts on sight. My first response to this would be: "Don't you vaccinate your cows, man?" Furthermore, studies have shown that elk also carry the diseases, and elk are not restricted. No case of a buffalo transmitting the disease to cattle has ever been cited, and buffalo seem to naturally prefer not to mingle much with cattle. To me it seems like these animals are not 'living free' within our National Parks, but are being contained as a tourist attraction in a no-touch visual petting zoo. Animals of such dignity deserve better treatment than that.
I shall now descend from my high-horse (Really, he's 16.1!) and leave you with some links to information on buffalo and how you can help save them once again from the thoughtless and selfish actions of mankind. (So glad I'm a woman!)

Defenders Bison Page: Send letters to Congressmen urging them to stop the hazing, containment and slaughter of buffalo.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Houston, we have a widget!

Just wanted to stop by for a moment and tell everyone to check out my new newsreel on the right sidebar there. I may need to tweak my keywords in order to get the most relevant articles possible, but for now it looks pretty good!
No further updates at this time, Firefox is having severe mental problems. Proof that even having Broadband does not make my life with computers any easier.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Same old, Same new, and sustainable fishing

Let me be honest. I get really tired of trying to plug the same stories every time Defenders or WWF, or NWF or some other charity that I get regular publications from sends me a new alert. It is encouraging to see the results in their newsletters. So many actions were taken to stop aerial gunning in Alaska, so many people attended a rally in Washington, D.C., such a law was passed to protect endangered wildlife. These are truly remarkable things that every day people like you and me CAN and DO help happen. But we never seem to quite do enough. We're constantly fighting the same battles, gaining ground, losing ground, but even when remarkable things happen we seem to never win. A new species is discovered today, and tomorrow its habitat might be threatened by off-shore drilling, or expanding agriculture. How do we find balance? Where do we draw the line between saving wildlife and saving people?
My current pet beef (moo) is about sustainable fisheries...both what it means to our oceans and our planet, and what it means to people like us. Well, maybe not exactly like us, because last I checked I wasn't a starving Angola. Also as I write this I'm eating a tuna sandwich and realizing belatedly that I have no idea if the tuna I'm eating was caught in an ethical and sustainable manner. But I digress.
In the Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna have been so overfished that the population is in danger of collapsing completely. First and foremost that means there'll be no more tuna. But what else does it mean, and what problems has it caused along the line? Consider that fifty years and more ago Giant Bluefin were harvested by countless small fishing companies along the shores of the Mediterranean. Today only a handful of those fisheries survive, one of the most magnificent existing only as a tourist attraction...they make one big tuna gather a year and make a big show of it...they can't afford to fish more than that. Instead the unsustainable number of tuna caught in the Med is caught mostly by huge corporations with fleets of purse seiners and spotter aircraft. While people are appalled by the idea of land animals being hunted and shot from planes, they either don't know or don't care that the same is done to our oceanic equivalent to the buffalo. Not only that, but many of these fleets are owned by companies in landlocked portions of Europe, fish are exported, and the money to be made in the catching goes with them. Not only in the Med, but all around the world this is the way in which small fishing communities die.
And not just communities, but people themselves. Off the coast of West Africa poorly managed fleets are wiping the ocean clean in order to export highly sought after species to Europe, while sustenance fisherman are left with empty hooks. Edible by-catch is thrown back into the ocean as useless and only the best stocks are saved for export, meanwhile hungry people in the marketplaces can only afford to purchase the post-filleting head, tail and bones of fish to supplement their protein poor diets.
Fish are slaughtered before they reach full size and sexual maturity, which is not only wasteful in that we've destroyed something for less than it was worth, but also means that these fish do not reproduce before they're killed, which leaves a gap in the cycle of life.
The oceans are suffering, and people are suffering. What more needs to happen before people will take action?
Read more about overfishing in National Geographic Online, and visit the WWF and Defenders webpages to make a donation or just find a list of companies that sell only dolphin-safe and sustainably caught fish.