Court Rules Fish and Wildlife Service Develop New Recovery Plan for Endangered Red Wolves

Endangered Red Wolves have lost nearly all of its habitat. A court ruling requires US Fish and Wildlife Service create a recovery plan.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must update its plan to save endangered red wolves. The decision is a result of a legal agreement reached on behalf of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. Red wolves, native to the southeastern U.S., declined to only nine known wolves in the wild, living in eastern North Carolina

“With only nine wolves known to remain in the wild, the red wolf desperately needed this good news,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science shows that the red wolf can be saved, and I’m hopeful that a new recovery plan will put the species back on the road to recovery.”

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in 2019, challenging the failure of the FWS to revise its 1990 recovery plan for the red wolf. The FWS failed to follow through on its 2017 commitment to update the recovery plan by the end of 2018. The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to create and implement roadmaps, which serves as a roadmap for species recovery. 

Red Wolves Can Recover

The agreement, approved on October 2 by a North Carolina federal court, requires the FWS to complete a final revised plan for red wolves by February 28, 2023. The Endangered Species Act requires that the agency prepare plans that serve as roadmaps to species recovery. The plan must identify measures to ensure conservation and survival, such as reintroductions. Recovery plans must include a description of site-specific management actions necessary for species recovery, measurable criteria that would result in the delisting of a species, and estimates of the time and costs required to achieve the plan’s goal.

About 20,000 square miles of public land in five states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) in the southeastern U.S. would work well to reintroduce red wolves, a 2019 report by the Center for Biological Diversity shows. The public land in the five states could support about 500 breeding pairs of red wolves. The report recommended that the FWS develop a new recovery plan for the red wolf. A new recovery plan is “critical to saving this species and fostering a future where they can survive and ultimately thrive,” according to the report.

The most endangered canid in the world

Red wolves once populated the southeastern U.S., roaming to Texas in the west, as far south as Florida, and up into the midwest. It has lost 99.7 percent of its historical range. The unlucky wolf species lost more of its historical range than any other large carnivore in the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the red wolf as “critically endangered.” They are the world’s most endangered canid, according to Defenders of Wildlife

The current dire status of the red wolf can be attributed to mismanagement, illegal killing, and hybridization with coyotes. The red wolves compete with coyotes for territory and often end up mating with them. Private landowners and livestock farmers often shoot them, mistaking them for coyotes. 

Are you tired of environmental destruction?

Are you tired of critically endangered species like the red wolves only receiving adequate protection because of a court decision? Take action on November 3 and vote for the candidate most likely to enact beneficial environmental policies.

Trump’s Wildfire Prevention Funding Cuts

Trump’s budget for 2020 cut funding for a wildfire suppression program by almost $600 million, recent research by the Western Values Project found. His administration acknowledged that 63 million acres of federal forest lands and 70,000 communities are at risk of severe wildfires. “Instead of increasing budgets to try to prevent fires, the federal government has been relegated to fighting them once they’re blazing,” according to the research.

The Trump administration cut funds by more than half for a program that develops both fire prevention and management practices. Trump also cut $45 million in forest and rangeland research money and eliminated forest service research positions. Trump failed to increase funding to deal with wildfires. The budget for the National Forest Service’s wildland fire management activities remains at $2.4 billion, and Trump’s 2021 budget proposes the same amount. 

Trump withholds funding for political purposes, according to the Western Values Project. “Trump told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down from a wildfire because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn’t support him and that politically it wasn’t a base for him,” said the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The USDA and NFS withheld $9 million worth of reimbursements owed to California fire agencies for their time spent fighting fires on federal lands.

Wildfires grow more severe every year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture budget summary for 2020 stated that over the past 10 years over 68,000 wildfires burned around 6.5 million acres on average. In 2018, California broke a record for the number of acres burned (1.7 million acres). This year, over four million acres burned and wildfires still rage across the state. 

California only owns three percent of forests

Trump blames California for the wildfires. “They’re starting again in California,” Trump said about wildfires. “I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”

California has 33 million acres of forest, and federal agencies own and manage 57 percent of them (19 million acres). State and local agencies only own three percent. Forty percent of the forests in the state are owned by families, Native American tribes, or companies, with industrial timber companies owning 14 percent (five million acres). 

The need for better wildfire funding

A 2015 USDA report predicted that the share of the budget devoted to wildfire suppression in 2025 could be over 67 percent. This amounts to two out of every three dollars the NFS receives from Congress. That likely means that funding for wildfire prevention could continue to be slashed. The same report points out that the Vegetation and Watershed Management Program plays a key role in restoring lands after wildfires. The funding for the program has been reduced since 2001. As a result, the rate of restoration the agency could have achieved across all NFS lands has decreased.

Changing the way the federal government pays for wildfire prevention is the solution. That means treating wildfires like other natural disasters. Bipartisan legislation offering a more rational approach to funding wildfires is needed, the report points out. Since wildfires in western states are likely to increase, that legislation can’t come fast enough. 

Do you want to see a more sensible approach to wildfire prevention and funding? Vote the Trump administration out of office on November 3. 

Featured image by Glenn Belz on Flickr

Water From the Air and Sun

New technology powered by the sun extracts water water from the air. The simple system gives access to regions across the US and the world lacking access to clean water

Water is necessary for life. About 60 percent of the adult human body is water. The brain and heart are composed of 73 percent water, the lungs are 83 percent water, the skin contains 64 percent water, muscles and kidneys are 79 percent, and bones are 31 percent. Given the importance of water for human health, access to clean drinking water is a human right.

Not everyone has access to water piped into their homes. Approximately 15 percent of the Navajo Nation lack access to piped water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The lack of water is one of the drivers behind the high numbers of COVID-19 cases among the Navajo, who have the highest rates of infection in the U.S. As of September 28, 2020, there have been 10,312 cases of the virus among the Navajo, and 555 deaths. They lack access to clean water at home for hand-washing, forcing tribe members to break social-distancing guidelines to haul water in. This, in turn, fuels the infection rates. 

Water from air

Enter hydropanel technology that provides clean water systems to Navajo households. Through a grant from the Unreasonable Group and Barclays Bank, Navajo households received 15 systems, with plans to install 15 more systems. The Source Hydropanel system uses solar power to extract water from the air, while fans draw in ambient air and push it through water-absorbing material. Extracted water vapor condenses into liquid and collected in the reservoir.

Cody Friesen, associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU), invented the system. His work at ASU inlcudes studying desicants, or substances that absorp water. He figured out how to use a desiccant to generate water using only the sun and air. 

“A standard, two-panel array, produces 4-10 liters of water each day and has 60 liters of storage capacity. …each panel is 4 feet by 8 feet, lasts for 15 years, and utilizes solar power and a small battery to enable water production,” said Cody Friesen, CEO and founder of Source.

“The quality of water produced exceeds the standards of every country where the systems have been deployed.”

Source hydropanel systems provide drinking water to impoverished regions

Over the company’s five-year history, the Source Hydropanel system has supplied clean drinking water to tens of thousands of people in 45 countries. “As the first truly renewable global SOURCE of safe drinking water we have the ability to reach people around the world who lack access to potable water, have variability in supply, or are concerned about the quality of their infrastructure,” said Friesen

One of the places the hydropanel system provides with clean drinking water is Martin County, Kentucky in the Appalachian region. The county’s contaminated infrastructure forces residents to live without clean drinking water. Families fill up jugs from local streams or buy bottled water. Many can’t afford to constantly buy water.

RAMP is a non-profit organization that operates a food pantry and provides emergency assistance. The organization installed a hydropanel system produce up to 3,000 bottles of water a month. 

Widely-known are the water troubles of Flint, Michigan. Plans are underway to build an array of 300 hydropanels to provide clean drinking water to several thousand people. Each of the two planned installations will produce the equivalent of up to 4,500 water bottles a month.