San Franciscans will vote on the fate of the Hetch Hetchy, lets hope they get it right and by right I mean, DRAIN IT!

Pre-1913 Hetch Hetchy

About ten years ago three friends and I hiked part of the PCT and visited Yosemite. The book I packed along for the trip was John Muir’s Yosemite. Cliche? Perhaps. Good book? Yes.

I was totally awestruck by the beauty of the Yosemite valley, it really can’t be described in words. It must be experienced in person. But the fact that Mr. Muir  used equal weight, reverence and awe when describing the Hetch Hetchy to me was astounding. Because I knew that the Hetch Hetchy was under water. Now, the under water part can be fixed.

San Franciscans can vote to drain the Hetch Hetchy and right a wrong over 100 years in the making. Here’s more. What a strange bunch of bedfellows this has… please ignore party lines and just pull the plug.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CALIF. — This fall San Franciscans will vote on a local measure with national implications: It could return to the American people a flooded gorge described as the twin of breathtaking Yosemite Valley.

Voters will decide whether they want a plan for draining the 117-billion-gallon Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park, exposing for the first time in 80 years a glacially carved, granite-ringed valley of towering waterfalls 17 miles north of its more famous geologic sibling.

The November ballot measure asks: Should city officials devise a modern water plan that incorporates recycling and study expansion of other storage reservoirs to make up the loss?

The measure could eventually undo a controversial century-old decision by Congress that created the only reservoir in a national park and slaked the thirst of a city 190 miles away.

The battle over Hetch Hetchy, first waged unsuccessfully by naturalist John Muir, had turned the Sierra Club from an outdoors group into an environmental powerhouse. The fight gained momentum in recent years when unlikely allies joined forces.

On one side are Republican lawmakers and environmentalists, including Ronald Reagan’s former interior secretary, who want the dam removed and valley restored. On the other are Democratic San Franciscans, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, fighting to hold onto the city’s famously pure drinking water in a drought-prone state.

“Eventually it will be broadly understood what an abomination a reservoir in a valley like Yosemite Valley really is,” Donald Hodel, the former interior chief, told The Associated Press. “I think it will be hard to quell this idea (of restoration). It is like ideas of freedom in a totalitarian regime. Once planted they are impossible to repress forever.”

New study links Chinese apparel companies to river pollution. Suprised? Not in the least.

Red polluted water flowing from a sewer into the Jian River in Luoyang, north China's Henan province in December 2011. Red dye was being dumped into the city's storm water pipe network by two illegal dye workshops. ( STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A recently released study has linked Chinese apparel companies who supply many major brands and retailers in the US and around the world to devastating pollution of rivers. As fly fishers and environmental stewards we should man up and find other places to manufacture the gear we use.

I’m doing my part by making my SmithFly gear in the US where we have more strict regulations and protections in place to prevent these kinds of things. It would have been much easier for me to just go where everyone else get’s their stuff made, but I chose the path less traveled.

As I’ve said before the people of these third world countries will eventually figure it out.

For us, in the Buckeye State, it took setting a river on FIRE to figure out we had a pollution problem. Now, after DECADES of hard work by countless groups and individuals, in the those same watersheds we can find beautiful anadromous Steelies. A true turn around. We can help these countries avoid the calamity we suffered by being good neighbors and not supporting their lax regulations.

One of the myth’s about overseas manufacturing is that it’s just the cheap labor that keeps costs down. No, in fact it’s also the lax regulations and lack of oversight that let businesses dump waste directly into streams from industrial processes. No permits, no extra equipment, no dumping fees, no inspection costs = cheaper in the short run, but more costly in the long run. Negative externalities.

Here’s what the HuffPo has to say about the new study…

The sassy spring colors flooding into America’s stores are also polluting Chinese rivers, according to a new report.

Textile suppliers of Zara, H&M, Ann Taylor, Guess, Target, Disney and Uniqlo, among other big brands, have violated China’s environmental laws by contaminating water supplies with chemicals from dyes and printing, according to a new report released from the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based nonprofit whose founder, Ma Jun, won this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia.

The report, entitled “Cleaning up the Fashion Industry,” bases its findings on the Institute’s online database of 90,000 environmental supervision records from Chinese government agencies, dating back to 2004. As of February, 6,000 of the Institute’s records were from textile plants, according to the report.

The report also tracked down the names of 48 international brands who source goods from polluters, in hopes of convincing fashion’s big names to establish stricter rules for suppliers.

When chemicals used in dying and printing are released into water supplies, they hurt both humans and animals, causing mass deaths of aquatic life and diseases like cancer in humans, according to the report. Access to water is limited in China, where one-fifth of cities have unhygienic water supplies and 300 million rural residents lack safe drinking water all together, according to ChinaDaily.

While the Chinese government does regulate water pollution, manufacturers have found a myriad of ways of getting around the rules, including constructing secret pipes or directly dumping wastewater into rivers. Many factories in the Institute’s database have violated standards multiple times. “Fines and punishments that are inflicted are insufficient to prevent factories from accruing repeat violations,” the report writes.

The Institute hopes that disclosing the relationships between international brands and suppliers who pollute might be more effective. Before releasing its report, the Institute sent letters to the CEOs of the 48 companies outlining the violations and received responses from 16. Many of the international brands named, like H&M, Walmart, Burberry and Adidas had already begun investigating violations. Others, like Abercrombie & Fitch, Puma, Guess and Zara have yet to address or respond to charges.

Overfishing and Population growth, Food for 9 Billion. Using dynamite in one the most biodiverse fishing grounds in the world? Bad Idea.

PBS Newshour and APM’s Marketplace, two of my favorite new outlets, had a very interesting story last night on over fishing in the Philippines and how it relates to population growth and family planning, or lack there of. Here’s a quote from the transcript, hit the links above for audio and video. At the very least, it seems as though the people in charge over there know what the problems are. The problem is one of implementation.

SAM EATON, Homelands Productions: The Danajon double barrier reef off of Bohol Island in the southern Philippines is one of the richest marine biodiversity hot spots had the world.

But just a short boat ride away, more than a million people depend on these fishing grounds for their food and livelihoods. Rice may be the staple food of the Philippines, but fish provide most of the protein and daily diet. And as the population of communities like this one soar, nearly tripling in the last three decades, the effect on the reef has been devastating.

Fishermen are resorting to extreme tactics to boost their declining catch.

NAZARIO AVENIDO, patrol volunteer: We capture one boat this morning.

SAM EATON: Nazario Avenido and his group of volunteers operate 24-hour patrols, trying to protect their local fishing grounds. Illegal fishing has become rampant. Many use dynamite or cyanide, indiscriminately killing everything within their reach.

Avenido has confiscated more than 50 boats and hundreds of illegal nets in recent years.

Today, he seized this boat. Its owner, who escaped capture, was using a banned net that wreaks havoc on spawning grounds and sensitive corals. Avenido says the violators aren’t bad people. They’re just hungry.

NAZARIO AVENIDO: Because there is no other solution, especially when they are a very poor family.

SAM EATON: Poor in a country that has one of the highest population growth rates in all of Southeast Asia, every year adding about two million more mouths to feed.

How to Tag a Fish Every 2.4 Seconds

Wired mag has an interesting article on microscopic fish tagging. Cool stuff.
The US government’s fish-tagging operations used to be a lot like its intelligence-gathering: slow, imprecise, and occasionally responsible for the torture and death of innocent subjects. No more. The Fish and Wildlife Service now uses AutoFish, a mobile system that employs sensors, cameras, and computer algorithms to inject microscopically coded tags into 60,000 fish a day—without removing them from the water. Each $1.3 million automated rig is part of a program to ID-tag the millions of hatchery-raised fish that the US releases into the Great Lakes every year. The tags will provide fishery managers with comprehensive data that’ll help them boost low populations, avoid overstocking, and even satisfy Native American treaty obligations.

Audobon’s Long Lost Engraving – Found

Norwalk Ohio's $3 bank note featuring the Long Lost grouse engraved by Audobon.

What is it with Norwalk? The tiny little Ohio town has popped up in the news twice in the last few days. First, in Norther Ohio’s  Morning Journal with a report of Coyotes cornering people in a public park. That sucks.

And this morning in a really nice piece on NPR’s Morning Edition about a newly re-discovered piece of work by James Audobon.

The piece in question shown above at the bottom of a Norwalk 3 dollar bill, I will hold the puns thank you, is a little engraving Audobon did at the start of his career, a little piece of clip art for the banking industry that apparently was thought to have been never used, or if used, destroyed when the US went to a single currency. But alas the little bill has triumphed and flushed from the tall grass of history and is now flying into the national spotlight.

Unfortunately the radio piece featured some folks with no real interest in the Grouse family. They painted it as a poor choice for Audobon and the Banks, and made it out to be a sad little bird of no consequence. I’m sure they meant no ill-will toward the little bird but they could have painted in a little bit more positive light. The disparaging and belittling tone they used when referring to the Grouse family was disappointing to folks like us who think of the Ruffed Grouse as the king of all upland birds.

In fact, Audobon’s work did not depict a Ruffed Grouse at all like I was picturing during the radio broadcast in my early morning traffic, it depicted the Heath Hen, a member of the Grouse family but not a Ruffed Grouse. The Heath Hen is actually more closely related to the Greater Prarie Chicken. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the Heath Hen and Its extinction. Fascinating stuff and an interesting study in over hunting and  the first real example of bird conservation.

Perhaps this story will re-kindle interest in the Heath Hen and who knows we could end up reading about Heath Hen sightings in the future like we did recently with the Ivory Billed Woodpecker.

Its not long until the Grouse opener, see you in the woods.

The Heath Hen (Tympanuchus cupido cupido) was a distinctive subspecies of the Greater Prairie-Chicken, Tympanuchus cupido, a large North American bird in the grouse family, or possibly a distinct species.

Heath hens lived in the scrubby heathland barrens of coastal North America from southernmost New Hampshire to northern Virginia in historical times, but possibly south to Florida prehistorically. The prairiechickens, Tympanuchus species, on the other hand, inhabited prairies from Texas north to Indiana and the Dakotas, and in earlier times in mid-southern Canada.

Heath hens were extremely common in their habitat during Colonial times, but being a gallinaceous bird, they were hunted by settlers extensively for food. In fact, many have speculated that the Pilgrimsfirst Thanksgiving dinner featured heath hens and not wild turkey. By the late 18th century, the heath hen had a reputation as poor man’s food for being so cheap and plentiful; Thomas L. Winthrop related that they could be found on the Boston Common and that servants would sometimes bargain with a new employer for not being given heath hen for food more often than two or three days a week.

Extinction

Owing to intense hunting pressure, the population declined rapidly. Perhaps as early as the 1840s, at any rate by 1870, all heath hens were extirpated on the mainland. There were about 300 left on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, off Massachusetts, but by 1890 this number had declined to 120-200 birds, mainly due to predation by feral cats and poaching. By the late 1800s, there were about 70 left. These were protected by a hunting ban and by the establishment in 1908 of the “Heath Hen Reserve” (today the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest), and the population rapidly grew to almost 2000: by the mid-1910s, observing the birds on their lekking grounds had become something of a tourist attraction. However, a destructive fire during the 1916 nesting season, severe winters, an unusual influx of predatory goshawks, inbreeding, an excess number of male individuals and apparently an epidemic of blackhead disease, which might have been transmitted by poultry, brought the numbers down quickly; after a last recovery to 600 in 1920, the population began its final decline.

In 1927, only about a dozen were left – a mere two being females – despite being afforded the best protection according to contemporary science; that number had declined to a handful, all males, by the end of the year. After December 8, 1928, apparently only one male survived (Gross, 1931), lovingly nicknamed “Booming Ben”. He was last seen on his traditional lekking ground between West Tisbury and today’s Martha’s Vineyard Airport on March 11, 1932 – early in the breeding season -, and thus presumably died, about 8 years old, days or only hours afterwards from unknown causes.

Heath hens were one of the first bird species that Americans tried to save from extinction. As early as 1791, a bill “for the preservation of heath-hen and other game” was introduced in the New York State legislature[2]. Although the effort to save the heath hen from extinction was ultimately unsuccessful, it paved the way for conservation of other species. Ironically, the establishment of the reserve on the open shrubland of what was then called the Great Plain in the Vinyard may have accelerated the heath hen’s extinction. Fires were a normal part of the environment, but with the attempt to suppress fires instead of enforcing ecological succession with controlled burns, open habitat quality decreased and undergrowth accumulated until a normally limited fire would have disastrous consequences, as it did in 1916.[1] Lack of awareness of the region’s historical fire ecology also led the state legislature to require firebreaks when protecting the heath hen.[1]

Realizing the degradation that has affected the State Forest (and although it does hold remarkable biodiversity, prevents it from being utilized to its full potential), reestablishment of the original shrubland/heath/woods mosaic and eventual introduction of the closely related Greater Prairie-Chickens as an “umbrella species” that serves as an indicator of good habitat quality has been discussed since the late 1990s.

New DU CEO announced

A new CEO was for Duck Unlimited was announced. What would we do without DU? To developers wetlands are to be filled. To most members of the non-hunting populace wetlands are a nuisance and an eye sore. But if you spend time in or near a wetland, you know just how important they to the eco-system as a whole. Thankfully there are organizations like DU out there doing the kind of work they do. Sounds like Mr Hall will be a welcome addition, keep up the good work.

MEMPHIS, Tenn., April 14, 2010 – Ducks Unlimited Inc., America’s leading wetlands and waterfowl conservation group, announced today that H. Dale Hall has been named the organization’s new chief executive officer. A former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2005-2009), Hall is widely respected as a visionary conservationist and one of the country’s most effective wildlife professionals.

“We are extremely pleased that Dale Hall is stepping into this key role for Ducks Unlimited,” said DU President John R. Pope. “Dale is a consummate conservation leader whose energy, vision and dedication will help our organization meet the serious challenges facing North America’s waterfowl. In light of increasing threats to the quantity and quality of our continent’s waterfowl habitat, he is uniquely qualified to lead DU at this critical juncture.”

During Hall’s 31-year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), he served in numerous roles at field office, regional, and national levels. As director, he was responsible for approximately 7,500 USFWS employees working out of the national headquarters and nine regional offices. Before joining the USFWS in 1978, Hall spent four years in the U.S. Air Force, where overseas assignments took him to Italy and the Philippines, and a year managing a commercial aquaculture operation in Mississippi.