Archive for the ‘Overpopulation’ Category

Friends of Animals Don’t Want Deer Shot; Want Deer Eaten by Coyotes

Photo by angies. Some rights reserved.

White-tailed deer density in Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge National Historical Park has increased an estimated 600% in the past two and a half decades, grazing on more than their share of a variety of undergrowth and leaving the forest without the necessary diversity of seedlings and saplings that keeps it healthy.

What to do about the deer?

About five years ago, the National Parks Service (NPS) notified the public of their intent to prepare a deer management plan. Many meetings, public comments, a draft EIS, more meetings, and many more public comments later, NPS published the Final White-tailed Deer Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.

Based on the final EIS, NPS prepared a Record of Decision cementing their plan to move forward with Alternative D, as laid out in the final EIS. Alternative D (“Combined Lethal and Nonlethal Actions”) called for a mix of chemical reproductive control and spy-thriller-worthy sharpshooting “by specially trained professionals.” The reproductive control, however, would only be used “when an effective chemical agent [becomes] available on the market.” The alternatives laid out in the EIS were largely based on a study concluding that the reintroduction of predators such as Coyotes has “been shown not to exert effective control on white-tailed deer populations.” Predator reintroduction didn’t even make the cut.

So sharpshooting* it is!

Or…not so fast. Shortly after the Record of Decision was published, animal-friendly Friends of Animals (FOA) filed a complaint in a district court, arguing that “NPS failed to adequately consider the reasonable alternative of increasing the local coyote population,” among other things. The court sided with NPS. FOA followed up with an appeal to the Third Circuit, and on June 20, 2011, the Third Circuit affirmed the decision.

During all this back and forth (minus a short stay after the initial complaint), the National Park Service was moving forward with the lethal part of their plan. According to a deer FAQ on the NPS website, more than 600 deer were “removed” from Valley Forge between November 2010 and March 2011. But the best part? More than 18,000 pounds of venison were donated to food pantries, soup kitchens, and other organizations across Pennsylvania.

 * * *

* Lest you worry that humans be sharpshot, check out this excerpt from the EIS:

Sharpshooting would primarily occur at night (between dusk and dawn) during late fall
and winter months when deer are more visible and few visitors are in the park. In some
restricted areas, sharpshooting may be done during the day if needed, which could
maximize effectiveness and minimize overall time of restrictions. In this case, the areas
would be closed to park visitors. In both cases, qualified federal employees or
contractors would be located in elevated positions (e.g., tree stands) or in clearly marked,
high clearance government vehicles on park-owned roadways or trails as appropriate.

Two New Studies Predict a Bigger, Warmer Future (probably not a good thing!)

Photo by JD Hancock. Some rights reserve.

Assuming that the world is able to make it through next year’s looming apocalypse, new studies by both the United Nations and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program indicate more long-term socio-environmental problems facing humankind over the next century.

First, the United Nations released a report early this week indicating that, contrary to the popular belief that the world’s population will eventually stabilize at a figure just above 9 billion by the middle of this century (Google indicates that the current global population figure is approximately 6,775,235,700, and is expected to reach 7 billion before the end of this year) , population trends indicate that this figure will instead continue to grow at a steady rate, potentially reaching a staggering 10.1 billion people by the year 2100.

The reasons for these revisions of population data are plentiful and convoluted. Population experts have stated that a large part of the problem has to do with miscalculated fertility figures in third-world countries, especially those in Africa, where lack of family planning services and available resources has resulted in a staggering overpopulation problem, with the current 1 billion people speculated to more than triple by 2100. Overpopulation has been a constant hot-button issue in today’s culture; Planned Parenthood and other family planning services nearly faced losing their government funding earlier this year over the Republican House of Representative’s ideological opposition to abortions, despite the fact that only 3% of their budget goes directly to abortions, with the rest going to, among other things, contraception distribution and awareness that would help prevent overpopulation in the U.S. in the coming decades. Jonathan Franzen’s blockbuster novel from last year, Freedom, introduces the character of Walter Berglund, who’s Sisyphean concern in the book is finding a hip, sexy way to market overpopulation as a concept to teenagers. British naturalist and academic David Attenborough, meanwhile, gave a lecture in March to the Royal Society of the Arts in London urging action on the issue of overpopulation, from a number of cultural and environmental perspectives. Here, he addresses the role it plays in global warming:

“…But the impact of these extra millions of people has spread even beyond the space they physically claimed. The spread of industrialization has changed the chemical constituency of the atmosphere. The oceans that cover most of the surface of the planet have been polluted and increasingly acidified. And the earth is warming. We now realise that the disasters that continue increasingly to afflict the natural world have one element that connects them all – the unprecedented increase in the number of human beings on the planet,”

This statement nicely segues into the second study mentioned, a report on the rising global sea level by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program that also, serendipitously (in that it further links the two studies), makes a startling and revisionist prediction about the world in 2100. Their troubling study finds that, contradictory to U.N. figures from 1990, sea levels could rise as much as 1.6 meters over the next 89 years. The last six years have been the warmest overall on record in the Arctic, causing glaciers and ice caps to melt at a rate more rapid than expected two decades ago. Over the last five years, these melts have caused over 40% of the total global sea rise; thus if current trends continue, the crisis in the Arctic would threaten coast lines and low-lying islands much earlier than anticipated.

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