Tags Archives: News » Conservation & preserves

Visit the global News » Conservation & preserves archives for posts from all DGR sites.

Mountain Biking is a Threat to New Wilderness Designation

by George Wuerthner / The Wildlife News

Several years ago, I published a book on motorized recreation and its impacts on public lands. In doing the research for that book, one of the statistics that I found interesting is the demographic profile of the “average” motorized ORV user. They tended to be male, between the ages of 20 and 40, and had incomes at or slightly above the national average (It takes a lot of money to buy pick-ups, snowmobiles and dirt bikes).

Another interesting statistic is that most motorized users had an “outlaw” attitude and regularly violated trail closures and felt like they were entitled to go anyplace their machines could carry them. They were adrenaline junkies, and like spoiled children, they groused at being told they were banned from some landscapes.

Mountain bikers, as a demographic group, fit the profile of off-road vehicle users. They are predominately male, between 20-40, and tend to have above average incomes and often have the same outlaw attitude and sense of entitlement.

We see this sense of entitlement in the continual commandeering of trails and/or illegal construction of new trails on public lands by mountain bikers. When the Forest Service or BLM seeks to close some of these trails (very infrequently done) mountain bikers squeal like a poked pig, claiming they’re being “discriminated against.”

A good example is the reaction of mountain bikers in Wyoming to closure of the Dunior Special Management Area near Dubois Wyoming. The Dunior has been a candidate for wilderness for years.  But without seeking any permission, mountain bikers began to ride in the area and upgrade trails. The Shoshone National Forest finally closed the trails, and the mountain bikers screamed about their “loss” of access. Access that was garnered illegally.

A similar situation exists in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area on the border of Idaho and Wyoming. Mountain bikers have commandeered trails in the area and are fighting to oppose wilderness designation for the area. This conflict would not have occurred if the Bridger Teton National Forest had simply unambiguously closed the trails to mountain bikers. Afterall a Wilderness Study Area is supposed to be managed for its wilderness qualities until Congress determines its fate and mechanical access is not permitted.

A comparable conflict is being precipitated on the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana where mountain bikers are regularly riding in a wilderness study areas like the Big Snowy Mountains. Similarly, mountain bikers regularly ride in the Gallatin Range, another Wilderness Study Area on the Gallatin/Custer National Forest.

When the Forest Service limits mountain bike use, the mountain bikers scream that they are being denied access to public lands. On the contrary, most trails currently used by mountain bikers are available to anyone to walk. The only thing that is being closed is access to their machines (bikes).  Most of these users are in better than average physical condition.

While there are local and regional mountain biking advocacy groups as well the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) all promoting more mountain bike access and trail construction, there is virtually no push back from conservation groups. I am not aware of a single employee of any conservation group whose sole responsibility is to monitor mountain bike use in proposed wilderness areas and to provide push back and support to public lands managers who might want to limit mountain biking in these areas.

I believe if mountain biking isn’t controlled and contained just as motorized ORV use has been limited, we will find it nearly impossible to designate any new wilderness areas.

Indeed, some of the more aggressive mountain bikers are even seeking to scuttle the prohibition on mountain biking in designated wilderness, which will open the door to a host of other interests to argue they too should be given access to the these lands. In a sense mountain biking, to use a cliché, is the camel’s nose under the tent.

Mountain biking is part of the outdoor recreation industry that is more about physical exercise, challenging one’s prowess on a machine and use of our public lands as outdoor gymnasiums than about appreciation of natural systems and/or protecting the ecological integrity of the landscape. It’s about speed and domination.

Challenging oneself isn’t necessarily bad. We all, I think, enjoy challenges. And mountain biking is great fun. I ride my bike regularly on trails specifically designed for mountain bike use.

However, we must recognize that unlimited access to public lands whether by extractive industries like logging, mining or livestock grazing or recreational users, can threaten the wildlife and ecological whole of the land.

We have so few landscapes specifically set aside to preserve ecological integrity that we must make protection of natural function a primary function.  This is an idea that seems foreign to many mountain bikers, just as it seems incomprehensible to many motorized recreationists or a smaller sub-set of bird watchers, hikers and backpacker.

In the end, we must accept limits. One of the lessons one teaches young children as a parent is the need for restrictions on behavior. You can’t always get what you want, but you can get what you need.  Far too many mountain bikers remind me of spoiled children who put on a tantrum when they are told that no they can’t do something.

I may be optimistic, but I am hoping to see a maturing of the mountain biking culture. After all you don’t need to bike in roadless lands to get an adrenaline high.  You do need to consider one’s impacts on other people and critters.

We need wild places for a host of reason, including protecting sensitive wildlife, ecological processes, and scenic beauty. But perhaps one of the most important reasons for creating wilderness areas is that it teaches us humility and self-limits. These are lessons the mountain biking community could use.

Deep Green Resistance Southwest February News Roundup

Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests Campaign

Will Falk in a Pinyon-Juniper clearcut (Photo by Max Wilbert)

Will Falk in a Pinyon-Juniper clearcut (Photo by Max Wilbert)

Deep Green Resistance and WildLands Defense are advocating for a moratorium on all pinyon-juniper deforestation in the Great Basin and we need your help. Pinyon-juniper forests are being wantonly killed as weeds while their inherent ecological value is summarily ignored. These forests store carbon dioxide, dampen climate change, provide crucial wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and have helped humans survive in the Great Basin for millennia. A moratorium gives us time to marshall our resources to put this destruction to a permanent end.

See for yourself the destruction of Pinyon-Juniper forests and then join the fight.

Sign this petition with us and ask BLM to stop clearcutting pinyon-juniper forests

2/3/2016 BLM & the Ranching Industry: a History of Collusion
1/5/2016 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM’s False Claim to Virtue
12/13/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis
12/1/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: An Ancient Vision Disturbed

Follow our Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests campaign on Facebook for more updates.

Sacred Water Tour

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

The SNWA water grab is a prime example of how civilizations (cultures based on cities, as opposed to cultures based on perpetual care of their landbases, without resource drawdown) inevitably destroy the planet. A bloated power center, ruled by the ultra-rich and served by an underclass of poorly-paid workers, bolstered by bought-and-paid-for politicians (see Harry Reid) and misused public tax dollars,  reaches out and takes what it wants from the countryside.

One of the developers who wants the water grab has described the Mojave desert around Las Vegas as “flat desert stuff.”  They call living land a wasteland to justify its continuing plunder.  To indigenous peoples—Shoshone, Paiute, and Goshute—the land and water are sacred.

Anyone who respects land and visits this place will fall in love with it.  That’s the purpose of the Sacred Water Tour, an annual gathering organized by Deep Green Resistance for the past three years.  In coordination with local activists and indigenous people, the public is welcomed every Memorial Day weekend to tour the region.

Join us in May of 2016!

Resistance Radio: Derrick Jensen interviews Max Wilbert about the SNWA water grab
2015 Sacred Water Tour: Sacred Water Under Threat
2014 Sacred Water Tour: Report-Back
Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups
Follow our Stop the SNWA Water Grab campaign page on Facebook for more updates


Regional News

Spring Creek Canyon, Utah

Spring Creek Canyon, Utah

Spring Creek Canyon – What makes this canyon and the surrounding Hurricane Cliffs so special is its geographic location at the transition of the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin geologic provinces, giving rise to a unique collection of plant species.
Deep Green Resistance Colorado member Deanna Meyer interviewed on Resistance Radio – Recently she has been involved in advocating for the forests in her area as well as the rapidly disappearing prairie dogs throughout the mid-west. She elieves that the strategies and tactics of people who care about the living planet must shift from asking nicely to defending those they love by any and all means necessary.
More Than Words – The race to save a Northern Paiute dialect that’s down to a handful of speakers reveals what we stand to lose when a language dies.
Tell the BLM that you care about wildlands in southwestern Utah (petition)
Bighorn Sheep Die-off in Montana Mountains, Nevada
A Biocentrist History of the West – Wildlife Services, a branch of the Department of Agriculture, acts as “the hired guns of the livestock industry.”
USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife (video)
Even more about Wildlife Services and how they torture dogs and kill endangered species
A New Study Suggests Even the Toughest Pesticide Regulations Aren’t Nearly Tough Enough – The industrial agriculture system is violent. It murders humans and so many other beings – entire living communities. Policy-makers such as those in this article covering the UCLA study – people who maintain the validity of this systematic murder – are culpable and must be held accountable.
How big oil spent $10m to defeat California climate change legislation
In Utah, a massive water project is gaining ground – The project could divert 86,000 acre-feet from Lake Powell to the retirement community of St. George.
Massive Gas Pipeline Project Endures in Texas – Even in oil and gas friendly Texas, there is a growing outcry about the egregious abuse of landowners rights’ carried out by the company behind a new gas pipeline.
In Parts of the West, Grazing Cattle Are Making the Drought Worse
Lost Bones, Damage and Harassment at Ancient Sacred Site

Follow the DGR Southwest Coalition Facebook page for more news.


Deep Green Resistance News Service Excerpts

Derrick Jensen Interviewed About Deep Green Resistance, “Transphobia,” and More

Recognizing Greenwashing comes down to what so many indigenous people have said to me: we have to decolonize our hearts and minds. We have to shift our loyalty away from the system and toward the landbase and the natural world. So the central question is: where is the primary loyalty of the people involved? Is it to the natural world, or to the system?

What do all the so-called solutions for global warming have in common? They take industrialization, the economic system, and colonialism as a given; and expect the natural world to conform to industrial capitalism. That’s literally insane, out of touch with physical reality. There has been this terrible coup where sustainability doesn’t mean sustaining the natural ecosystem, but instead means sustaining the economic system.

Police Intimidation: From Dalton Trumbo to Deep Green Resistance

Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security agents have contacted more than a dozen members of Deep Green Resistance (DGR), a radical environmental group, including one of its leaders, Lierre Keith, who said she has been the subject of two visits from the FBI at her home.

DGR, formed about four years ago, requires its members to adhere to what the group calls a “security culture” in order to reduce the amount of paranoia and fear that often comes with radical activism. On its website, DGR explains why it is important not to talk to police agents: “It doesn’t matter whether you are guilty or innocent. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. Never talk to police officers, FBI agents, Homeland Security, etc. It doesn’t matter if you believe you are telling police officers what they already know. It doesn’t matter if you just chit chat with police officers. Any talking to police officers, FBI agents, etc. will almost certainly harm you or others.”

Derrick Jensen: To Protect and Serve

So here’s the question: if the police are not legally obligated to protect us and our communities — or if the police are failing to do so, or if it is not even their job to do so — then if we and our communities are to be protected, who, precisely is going to do it? To whom does that responsibility fall? I think we all know the answer to that one.

If police are the servants of governments, and if governments protect corporations better than they do human beings (and far better than they do the planet), then clearly it falls to us to protect our communities and the landbases on which we in our communities personally and collectively depend. What would it look like if we created our own community groups and systems of justice to stop the murder of our landbases and the total toxification of our environment? It would look a little bit like precisely the sort of revolution we need if we are to survive. It would look like our only hope.

Derrick Jensen: Calling All Fanatics

I’ve always kind of hated that quote by Edward Abbey about being a half-hearted fanatic (“Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast . . . a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic”). Not so much because of the racism and misogyny that characterized some of his work. And not even because of the quote itself. But rather because of how that quote has been too often misused by people who put too much emphasis on the half-hearted, and not nearly enough emphasis on the fanatic.

The fundamental truth of our time is that this culture is killing the planet. We can quibble all we want — and quibble too many do — about whether it is killing the planet or merely causing one of the six or seven greatest mass extinctions in the past several billion years, but no reasonable person can argue that industrial civilization is not grievously injuring life on Earth.

Given that fact, you’d think most people would be doing everything they can to protect life on this planet — the only life, to our knowledge, in the universe. Sadly, you’d be wrong.

Beyond Flint, Michigan: The Navajo Water Crisis

Recent media coverage and spiraling public outrage over the water crisis in Flint, Michigan has completely eclipsed the ongoing environmental justice struggles of the Navajo. Even worse, the media continues to frame the situation in Flint as some sort of isolated incident.

Madeline Stano, attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, assessed the situation for the San Diego Free Press, commenting, “Unfortunately, Flint’s water scandal is a symptom of a much larger disease. It’s far from an isolated incidence, in the history of Michigan itself and in the country writ large.”


Deep Green Resistance: a quote from the book

At this moment, the liberal basis of most progressive movements is impeding our ability, individually and collectively, to take action. The individualism of liberalism, and of American society generally, renders too many of us unable to think clearly about our dire situation. Individual action is not an effective response to power because human society is political; by definition it is build from groups, not from individuals. That is not to say that individual acts of physical and intellectual courage can’t spearhead movements. But Rosa Parks didn’t end segregations on the Montgomery, Alabama bus system. Rosa Parks plus the stalwart determination and strategic savvy of the entire black community did.


2014-02-28-build-and-strengthenPlease join us or provide material support to make Deep Green Resistance possible.

Lawsuit Threatened Over Failure to Protect Endangered Nevada Fish

By Center for Biological Diversity

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity today notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management of its intent to sue the agencies for allowing groundwater pumping that will feed Las Vegas sprawl but would dry up the springs and aquifers that sustain the Moapa dace. The dace is an endangered fish found only in the headwater springs of the Muddy River, about 60 miles north of Las Vegas in the Moapa Valley Wildlife Refuge.

The notice challenges the failure of the federal agencies to consider vital new information about how the Kane Springs Valley Groundwater Development project and the Coyote Springs Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan — both previously approved by the agencies — will impact Moapa dace habitat and the Warm Springs area of the Muddy River. The amount of groundwater proposed to be pumped in Kane Springs and Coyote valleys, for current and proposed sprawl development, is unsustainable and could drive the dace to extinction.

“Siphoning this water away will spell disaster for one of the rarest native fishes in Nevada,” said Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist with the Center. “These agencies have a moral and legal responsibility to protect this endangered species. This new science shows these groundwater pumping projects will severely affect the water flows that the Moapa dace needs to survive. Letting these projects proceed will, in all likelihood, push this fish into extinction.”

Recent groundwater-pumping tests show that groundwater developments will destroy Moapa dace habitat at a time when the endangered fish, found only in the upper Muddy River and its warm tributary springs, is showing modest increases in its numbers. The ongoing and proposed groundwater pumping and withdrawals alter the flows from the springs and negatively impact the precise flow, temperature and water chemistry that the dace require for long-term survival.

“The good efforts by the Fish and Wildlife Service to restore habitat on the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge will go for naught if sprawl developments and golf courses siphon off the precious groundwater before it reaches the springs the dace live in,” said Mrowka.

The 60-day notice is a requirement for a citizen suit under the Endangered Species Act. Click here to find out more about the Moapa dace.

Washington Post: Proposed Oak Flat copper mine debate

When former miner Roy Chavez heard about plans to develop the nation’s largest copper mine near Superior, Ariz., he thought it might be the salvation of the economically struggling town where he’d grown up and served as mayor.

But as he learned more about the proposal to tap an ore body more than 7,000 feet deep with a method known as “block cave” mining, he changed his mind. Now he fears that the project would be environmentally destructive and limit Superior’s ability to develop tourism and other industries.

“Mining is the nature of the beast in this area. I support the industry and the livelihood it provides,” said Chavez, who comes from a mining family and worked in the Magma Copper mine nearby until it closed in 1996. “But there’s a situation here with this project that just doesn’t sit well with us.”

Resolution Copper Mining, a firm owned by subsidiaries of international mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, is seeking a land swap with the federal government that would give it ownership of 2,400 acres in the Tonto National Forest, where the rich mineral vein was discovered a decade ago. In return, Resolution Copper would give the public more than 5,500 acres of land it owns in various parcels around the region.

But the land the company wants to mine includes popular rock-climbing areas and Oak Flat Campground, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 designated off-limits to mining. Native American tribes consider much of the area sacred, and they worry about earth caving in and damaging landmarks such as Apache Leap, where warriors are said to have jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to Arizona soldiers. The proposed mining area is also home to at least one federally listed endangered species, the Arizona hedgehog cactus.

Resolution Copper says the mine would become the country’s largest source of copper – supplying half a billion tons a year and meeting a fifth of national demand for 50 years. It would also employ 1,400 people on-site during peak operations, for an estimated total economic impact of $46.4 billion during its 66-year lifetime, according to the company.

To secure the land swap, Arizona Sens. John McCain (R) and Jon Kyl (R) introduced legislation in 2009.Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) added authorization of the deal to the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010, an omnibus lands bill that was pulled in late December in the face of Republican opposition.

[Editor’s Note: The Washington Post added this correction: “This article…incorrectly said that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had added authorization of the deal to the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010, a bill that was pulled in late December in the face of Republican opposition. The provision was not in the bill as it was introduced, but it was in a draft version that was leaked and publicized by opponents of the land swap in early December 2010.”]

While McCain’s 2009 bill would have basically ensured the land transfer, Reid’s would have authorized the land swap with final approval contingent on the environmental assessment process mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act and approval from the secretary of the interior.

Jon Cherry, Resolution Copper vice president for legal, external and environmental affairs, said the company is confident legislation similar to Reid’s bill will pass in 2011. Along with McCain and Kyl, Rep.-elect Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) supports the project and recently toured the mine site.

‘This is a mining town’

Superior Mayor Michael Hing said the mine would make a “night and day” difference for the town that he’s watched shrink to less than half its former size – currently about 3,200 residents – since the Magma mine closed. Hing’s grandfather came to the area from China in the 1920s to start small businesses serving miners.

“We’ve been through the ups and downs of the boom times, when strikes happened, when mines shut down,” he said. “This has always been our livelihood. This is a mining town. That’s why we live here.”

But Chavez, who now works as a planning consultant and owns a bar, and other opponents say the mine would destroy the landscape, severely affect tourism and potentially contaminate groundwater. They are particularly concerned about the block-cave method, which involves blasting a space below the ore body and using gravity to harvest the ore. This leaves large empty cavities underground. There are several other block-cave copper mines in the region, 60 miles east of Phoenix, causing the surface to collapse and crack in some areas.

In an e-mail, Cherry said the company is doing studies to ensure that groundwater will not be contaminated and that natural features such as Apache Leap will not be harmed. He said the mine would increase rather than reduce tourism, and that part of the land swap involves the company transferring land ideal for rock climbing to the public.

“The mine itself, when it’s operational, presents an attractive tourist destination,” Cherry said. “We approach our project development with a long view where the mine serves as a sustainable environmental, economic and social stimulus locally even after it closes.”

Mine opponents note that the U.S. Forest Service regularly grants mining concessions on public land and say Resolution Copper should seek one rather than taking ownership of the land. They fear that if Resolution Copper owns the land, environmental impact studies will be less comprehensive and not open to public scrutiny.

Cherry said the company needs the land swap to carry out the environmental assessments and petition for permission to mine. Resolution Copper has launched a social media campaign to build public support for the land transfer, including YouTube videos and Facebook groups. Cherry said company polling showed more than 80 percent of locals support the mine.

Public vs. private

But Daniel Patterson, a Democratic state representative out of Tucson and southwest director for the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said Arizonans are wary of privatizing public land.

“This is a state with a substantial amount of mining, but also where people generally value public lands and want to make sure corporations aren’t ripping us off,” said Patterson, who formerly worked as an ecologist for the Bureau of Land Management. “This is a corporate giveaway. There is a lot of skepticism over the fairness – taking it to Washington, D.C., rather than really analyzing it on the ground.”

Nyal J. Niemuth, chief mining engineer for the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources – a state agency that promotes mining – said the Resolution Copper project would “be like the Super Bowl,” invigorating the industry statewide for decades. He said the ore body’s discovery a decade ago has prompted significant exploration – and economic infusion – as mining companies “are trying to duplicate the find, though no one has yet.”

He called environmental and recreational concerns misguided in a state that has staked its identity on mining for more than a century.

A report from the Arizona Mining Association says the industry had $3 billion in statewide direct economic impact in 2009 – employing 9,100 people, paying $151 million to state and local governments and spending more than $2 billion on goods and services from Arizona businesses.

“This is a bright spot in our otherwise dismal Arizona economy,” Niemuth said, adding that it is especially important since the economic crisis chilled residential development. “We’re not pounding a lot of nails out here, but we live in a very complicated world. Some people want jobs; other people . . . want to oppose things.”

Max Wilbert: Plows and Carbon: The Timeline of Global Warming

By Max Wilbert, Deep Green Resistance

In June 1988, climatologist and NASA scientist James Hansen stood before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the United States Senate. The temperature was a sweltering 98 degrees.

20100725-064453-edit-300x200

“The earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements,” Hansen said. “The global warming now is large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship to the greenhouse effect… Our computer climate simulations indicate that the greenhouse effect is already large enough to begin to effect the probability of extreme events such as summer heat waves.”

Hansen has authored some of the most influential scientific literature around climate change, and like the vast majority of climate scientists, has focused his work on the last 150 to 200 years – the period since the industrial revolution.

This period has been characterized by the widespread release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), and by the clearing of land on a massive scale – the plowing of grasslands and felling of forests for cities and agricultural crops.

Now, the world is on the brink of catastrophic climate change. Hansen and other scientists warn us that if civilization continues to burn fossil fuels and clear landscapes, natural cycles may be disrupted to the point of complete ecosystem breakdown – a condition in which the planet is too hot to support life. Hansen calls this the Venus Syndrome, named after the boiling planet enshrouded in clouds of greenhouse gases.

“If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale [low grade, high carbon fossil fuels], I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty,” Hansen has said.

If humanity wishes to have a chance of avoiding this fate, it is important that we understand global warming in detail. Why is it happening? When did it start? What fuels it? And, most importantly, what can stop it?

How old is global warming?

New studies are showing that the current episode of global warming may be a great deal older than previously believed – which may entirely change our strategy to stop it.

While fossil fuels have only been burned on a large scale for 200 years, land clearance has been a defining characteristic of civilizations – cultures based around cities and agriculture – since they first emerged around 8,000 years ago.

This land clearance has impacts on global climate. When a forest ecosystem is converted to agriculture, more than two thirds of the carbon that was stored in that forest is lost, and additional carbon stored in soils rich in organic materials will continue to be lost to the atmosphere as erosion accelerates.

Modern science may give us an idea of the magnitude of the climate impact of this pre-industrial land clearance. Over the past several decades of climate research, there has been an increasing focus on the impact of land clearance on modern global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in it’s 2004 report, attributed 17% of global emissions to cutting forests and destroying grasslands – a number which does not include the loss of future carbon storage or emissions directly related to this land clearance, such as methane released from rice paddies or fossil fuels burnt for heavy equipment.

Some studies show that 50% of the global warming in the United States can be attributed to land clearance – a number that reflects the inordinate impact that changes in land use can have on temperatures, primarily by reducing shade cover and evapotranspiration (the process whereby a good-sized tree puts out thousands of gallons of water into the atmosphere on a hot summer day – their equivalent to our sweating).

So if intensive land clearance has been going on for thousands of years, has it contributed to global warming? Is there a record of the impacts of civilization in the global climate itself?

10,000 years of Climate Change

According to author Lierre Keith, the answer is a resounding yes. Around 10,000 years ago, humans began to cultivate crops. This is the period referred to as the beginning of civilization, and, according to the Keith and other scholars such as David Montgomery, a soil scientist at the University of Washington, it marked the beginning of land clearance and soil erosion on a scale never before seen – and led to massive carbon emissions.

“In Lebanon (and then Greece, and then Italy) the story of civilization is laid bare as the rocky hills,” Keith writes. “Agriculture, hierarchy, deforestation, topsoil loss, militarism, and imperialism became an intensifying feedback loop that ended with the collapse of a bioregion [the Mediterranean basin] that will most likely not recover until after the next ice age.”

Montgomery writes, in his excellent book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, that the agriculture that followed logging and land clearance led to those rocky hills noted by Keith.

“It is my contention that the invention of [agriculture] fundamentally altered the balance between soil production and soil erosion – dramatically increasing soil erosion.

Other researchers, like Jed Kaplan and his team from the Avre Group at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, have affirmed that preindustrial land clearance has had a massive impact on the landscape.

“It is certain that the forests of many European countries were substantially cleared before the Industrial Revolution,” they write in a 2009 study.

Their data shows that forest cover declined from 35% to 0% in Ireland over the 2800 years before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The situation was similar in Norway, Finland, Iceland, where 100% of the arable land was cleared before 1850.

Similarly, the world’s grasslands have been largely destroyed: plowed under for fields of wheat and corn, or buried under spreading pavement. The grain belt, which stretches across the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, and across much of Eastern Europe, southern Russia, and northern China, has decimated the endless fields of constantly shifting native grasses.

The same process is moving inexorably towards its conclusion in the south, in the pampas of Argentina and in the Sahel in Africa. Thousands of species, each uniquely adapted to the grasslands that they call home, are being driven to extinction.

“Agriculture in any form is inherently unsustainable,” writes permaculture expert Toby Hemenway. “We can pass laws to stop some of the harm agriculture does, but these rules will reduce harvests. As soon as food gets tight, the laws will be repealed. There are no structural constraints on agriculture’s ecologically damaging tendencies.”

As Hemenway notes, the massive global population is essentially dependent on agriculture for survival, which makes political change a difficult proposition at best. The seriousness of this problem is not to be underestimated. Seven billion people are dependent on a food system – agricultural civilization – that is killing the planet.

The primary proponent of the hypothesis – that human impacts on climate are as old as civilization – has been Dr. William Ruddiman, a retired professor at the University of Virginia. The theory is often called Ruddiman’s Hypothesis, or, alternately, the Early Anthropocene Hypothesis.

Ruddiman’s research, which relies heavily on atmospheric data from gases trapped in thick ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, shows that around 11,000 years ago carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere began to decline as part of a natural cycle related to the end of the last Ice Age. This reflected a natural pattern that has been seen after previous ice ages.

This decline continued until around 8000 years ago, when the natural trend of declining carbon dioxide turned around, and greenhouse gases began to rise. This coincides with the spread of civilization across more territory in China, India, North Africa, the Middle East, and certain other regions.

Ruddiman’s data shows that deforestation over the next several thousand years released 350 Gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, an amount nearly equal to what has been released since the Industrial Revolution. The figure is corroborated by the research of Kaplan and his team.

Around 5000 years ago, cultures in East and Southeast Asia began to cultivate rice in paddies – irrigated fields constantly submerged in water. Like an artificial wetland, rice patties create an anaerobic environment, where bacteria metabolizing carbon-based substances (like dead plants) release methane instead of carbon dioxide and the byproduct of their consumption. Ruddiman points to a spike in atmospheric methane preserved in ice cores around 5000 years ago as further evidence of warming due to agriculture.

Some other researchers, like R. Max Holmes from the Woods Hole Research Institute and Andrew Bunn, a climate scientist from Western Washington University, believe that evidence is simply not conclusive. Data around the length of interglacial periods and the exact details of carbon dioxide and methane trends is not detailed enough to make a firm conclusion, they assert. Regardless, it is certain that the pre-industrial impact of civilized humans on the planet was substantial.

“Our data show very substantial amounts of human impact on the environment over thousands of years,” Kaplan said. “That impact really needs to be taken into account when we think about the carbon cycle and greenhouse gases.”

Restoring Grasslands: a strategy for survival

If the destruction of grasslands and forests signals the beginning of the end for the planet’s climate, some believe that the restoration of these natural communities could mean salvation.

Beyond their beauty and inherent worth, intact grasslands supply a great deal to humankind. Many pastoral cultures subsist entirely on the animal protein that is so abundant in healthy grasslands. In North America, the rangelands that once sustained more than 60 million Bison (and at least as many pronghorn antelope, along with large populations of elk, bear, deer, and many others) now support fewer than 45 million cattle – animals ill-adapted to the ecosystem, who damage their surroundings instead of contributing to them.

Healthy populations of herbivores also contribute to carbon sequestration in grassland soils by increasing nutrient recycling, a powerful effect that allows these natural communities to regulate world climate. They also encourage root growth, which sequesters more carbon in the soil.

Just as herbivores cannot survive without grass, grass cannot thrive without herbivores.

Grasslands are so potent in their ability to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere that some believe restoring natural grasslands could be one of the most effective tools in the fight against runaway global warming.

“Grass is so good at building [carbon rich] soil that repairing 75 percent of the planet’s rangelands would bring atmospheric CO2 to under 330 ppm in 15 years or less,” Lierre Keith writes.

The implications of this are immense. It means, quite simply, that one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is to move away from agriculture, which is based upon the destruction of forests and grasslands, and towards other means of subsistence. It means moving away from a way of life 10,000 years old. It means rethinking the entire structure of our food system – in some ways, the entire structure of our culture.

Some ambitious, visionary individuals are working in parallel with this strategy, racing against time to restore grasslands and to stabilize Earth’s climate.

In Russia, in the remote northeastern Siberian state of Yakutia, a scientist named Sergei Zimov has an ambitious plan to recreate a vast grassland – a landscape upon whom millions of herbivores such as mammoths, wild horses, reindeer, bison, and musk oxen fed and roamed until the end of the last ice age.

“In future, to preserve the permafrost, we only need to bring herbivores,” says Zimov. “Why is this useful? For one, the possibility to reconstruct a beautiful [grassland] ecosystem. It is important for climate stability. If the permafrost melts, a lot of greenhouse gases will be emitted from these soils.”

Zimov’s project is nicknamed “Pleistocene Park,” and stretches across a vast region of shrubs and mosses, low productivity communities called ‘Taiga’. But until 12,000 years ago, this landscape was highly productive pastures for a span of 35,000 years, hosting vast herds of grazers and their predators.

“Most small bones don’t survive because of the permafrost,” says Sergei Zimov. “[But] the density of skeletons in this sediment, here and all across these lowlands: 1,000 skeletons of mammoth, 20,000 skeletons of bison, 30,000 skeletons of horses, and about 85,000 skeletons of reindeer, 200 skeletons of musk-ox, and also tigers [per square kilometer].”

These herds of grazers no only supported predators, but also preserved the permafrost beneath their feet, soils that now contain 5 times as much carbon as all the rainforests of Earth. According to Zimov, the winter foraging behavior of these herbivores was the mechanism of preservation.

“In winter, everything is covered in snow,” Zimov says. “If there are 30 horses per square kilometer, they will trample the snow, which is a very good thermal insulator. If they trample in the snow, the permafrost will be much colder in wintertime. The introduction of herbivores can reduce the temperatures in the permafrost and slow down the thawing.”

In the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, a similar plan to restore the landscape and rewild the countryside has emerged. The brainchild of Deborah and Frank Popper, the plan calls for the gradual acquisition of rangelands and agricultural lands across the West and Midwest, with the eventual goal of creating a vast nature preserve called the Buffalo Commons, 10-20 million acres of wilderness, an area 10 times the size of the largest National Park in the United States (Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska).

In this proposed park, the Popper’s envision a vast native grassland, with predators following wandering herds of American Bison and other grazers who follow the shifting grasses who follow the fickle rains. The shifting nature of the terrain in the Great Plains requires space, and this project would provide it in tracts not seen for hundreds of years.

In parts of Montana, the work has already begun. Many landowners have sold their farms to private conservation groups to fill in the gaps between isolated sections of large public lands. Many Indian tribes across the United States and Southern Canada are also working to restore Bison, who not only provide high quality, healthy, traditional food but also contribute to biodiversity and restore the health of the grasslands through behavior such a wallowing, which creates small wetlands.

Grasslands have the power to not only restore biodiversity and serve as a rich, nutrient-dense source of food, but also to stabilize global climate. The soils of the world cannot survive agricultural civilizations for much longer. If the plows continue their incessant work, this culture will eventually go the way of the Easter Islanders, the Maya, the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Harrapans, or the Roman Empire – blowing in the wind, clouding the rivers. Our air is thick with the remnants of ancient soils, getting long overdue revenge for their past mistreatment.

The land does not want fields. It wants Bison back. It wants grasslands, forests, wetlands, birds. It wants humans back, humans who know how to live in a good way, in relationship with the soil and the land and all the others. The land wants balance, and we can help. We can tend the wild and move towards other means of feeding ourselves, as our old ancestors have done for long years. It is the only strategy that takes into account the needs of the natural world, the needs for a land free of plows and tractor-combines.

In time, with luck and hard work, that ancient carbon will be pulled from the atmosphere – slowly at first, but then with gathering speed. The metrics of success are clear: a calmed climate, rivers running free, biodiversity rebounding. The task of achieving that success is a great challenge, but guided by those who believe in restoring the soil, we can undo 8,000 years of mistakes, and finally begin to live again as a species like any other, nestled in our home, at peace and in balance, freed at last from the burdens of our ancestors’ mistakes.

Bibliography

Climate meddling dates back 8,000 years. By Alexandra Witze. April 23rd, 2011. Science News. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/71932/title/Climate_meddling_dates_back_8%2C000_years#video

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Global Emissions. Accessed June 23rd, 2012. http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html

The prehistoric and preindustrial deforestation of Europe. By Kaplan et al. Avre Group, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. Quaternary Science Reviews 28 (2009) 3016-3034.

‘Land Use as Climate Change Mitigation.’ Stone, Brian Jr. Environmental Science and Technology 43, 9052-9056. 11/2009.

‘Functional Aspects of Soil Animal Diversity in Agricultural Grasslands’ by Bardgett et al. Applied Soil Ecology, 10 (1998) 263-276.

Zimov, Sergei. Personal Interviews, June/July 2010.

Federal Court upholds Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Ban

By Brenna Goth, The Republic, azcentral.com, September 30, 2014

A 20-year ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon will remain in place after the U.S. District Court in Arizona ruled Tuesday against mining groups that sued the federal government.

Mining associations and other groups with a stake in the industry argued that the U.S. Department of the Interior had erred in a 2012 decision to ban new mining for 20 years on more than 1 million acres of public land near the national park. They argued the ban was based on “overly cautious,” speculative environmental risks. The withdrawal decision was based on studies assessing potential impacts on water, soil and other resources.

SPECIAL REPORT: Abandoned uranium mines continue to haunt Navajos on reservation

The ban prohibits the exploration and development of new claims but does not affect previously approved mining.

 

 Photo credit, Don Bills/U.S. Geological Survey The Kanab North mine, north of Grand Canyon National Park, is not one of the mines covered under the 20-year ban, since it already exists. The U.S. District Court decision upholding the Interior Department's ban on new mines applies to new development only. Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/03/22/20-year-ban-new-uranium-mining-claims-grand-canyon-holds-court-148319


Photo credit, Don Bills/U.S. Geological Survey
The Kanab North mine, north of Grand Canyon National Park, is not one of the mines covered under the 20-year ban, since it already exists. The U.S. District Court decision upholding the Interior Department’s ban on new mines applies to new development only.
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/03/22/20-year-ban-new-uranium-mining-claims-grand-canyon-holds-court-148319

 

Judge David Campbell heard oral arguments on Sept. 9 and ruled Tuesday that then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar did not violate the law when he chose to “err on the side of caution in protecting a national treasure,” even if he did not have “definitive information.”

An Interior Department spokesperson declined to comment.

A coalition of environmental groups and the Havasupai Tribe joined the lawsuit to defend the ban, sayingthe effects of uranium mining are long lasting and may not be fully known for decades.

“This is a great day for the Grand Canyon,” said Ted Zukoski, the lawyer representing those groups, adding that the department “really did its homework” with the risk assessments.

Mining groups have 60 days to appeal.

Laura Skaer, executive director of one of the plaintiffs, the American Exploration and Mining Association, said she would need time to review Campbell’s reasoning before deciding any next steps.

New Proposals for Gas Drilling at Ouray Refuge in Utah

The Colorado Pikeminnow is an endangered fish that inhabits the Colorado River. A pair of proposals to drill oil and gas wells at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge are up for review through early April. The refuge in eastern Utah is already home to a half-dozen active wells, four endangered fish species, and rare cacti.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A pair of proposals to drill oil and gas wells at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge are up for review through early April. The refuge in eastern Utah is already home to a half-dozen active wells, four endangered fish species and rare cacti.

SALT LAKE CITY — While a national wildlife refuge may appear to be an improbable location to drill for natural gas or oil, two companies are seeking to do just that at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Utah.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released assessments on the proposals and is seeking input from the public through April 8.

Development of the wells at the nearly 12,000-acre refuge can happen because the federal government owns the land but not the subsurface mineral rights.

Over the past decade, several wells have been developed, tapping mineral rights owned by the Ute Tribe, private individuals or the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.

The Utah situation is not an anomaly. The federal agency manages oil and gas operations on one-fourth of the 558 national wildlife refuges in the system. The refuge in Utah is already home to at least a half-dozen active wells involving state-owned mineral rights.

In this instance, the environmental assessment on the proposal by Thurston Energy Operating Co. is to spend a year developing two oil and gas wells on two pads, each about 1.6 acres. The wells would be drilled to a depth of 7,000 feet and have an operational life of 30 to 40 years before being reclaimed.

Another proposal by Ultra Resources Inc. encompasses the drilling and operation of nine oil and gas wells from five pad locations, each at 1.6 acres. An environmental assessment has also been released on Ultra’s proposal, which features a project area of 1,659 acres, including 1,376 acres on refuge property.

Both assessments include mitigation measures the companies must take to offset impacts, including effects on wildlife such as nesting raptors and thriving deer populations. The federal government is also requiring steps to minimize air pollution given the Uintah Basin’s trouble with high ozone levels in the wintertime.

The refuge was established in the 1960s and serves as a “genetic” haven for the four listed Colorado River endangered fish: the razorback sucker, the Colorado pikeminnow, the humpback chub and the bonytail chub. An endangered species of cactus is also found there. It includes a diverse ecosystem made up of forests, wetlands, 12 miles of the Green River and grasslands.

The service notes it is obligated to provide maximum protection of the refuge but provide mineral owners reasonable access and exploration rights to their mineral estates.

A paper copy of the assessments can be reviewed at the Ouray NWR Office at HC 69, 19001 Wildlife Refuge Road, Randlett, UT 84063. Comments should be submitted in writing by mail to the Ouray NWR Office or by email to sonja_jahrsdoerfer@fws.gov.

More information on the proposals is available by calling the refuge office at 435-545-2522.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

Original article byAmy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News 

Two Central Texas Salamanders Receive Endangered Species Act Protection

A big win for two cool salamanders: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the Austin blind salamander and the Jollyville Plateau salamander under the Endangered Species Act and designated 4,451 acres as critical habitat for the rare amphibians.

A big win for two cool salamanders: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the Austin blind salamander and the Jollyville Plateau salamander under the Endangered Species Act and designated 4,451 acres as critical habitat for the rare amphibians.

Original post by The Center for Biological Diversity

Two Central Texas Salamanders Receive Endangered Species Act Protection

More Than 4,400 Acres of Critical Habitat Also Protected

AUSTIN, Texas— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected two Texas salamanders under the Endangered Species Act and designated 4,451 acres as critical habitat for the rare amphibians. The decision to protect the Jollyville Plateau salamander and Austin blind salamander was spurred by a landmark settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity in 2011 that is expediting federal protection decisions for 757 imperiled species across the country.

“This is a critical step toward saving these two salamanders that live nowhere else in the world. But we can’t forget that it’s also an important step for the region’s long-term water quality and health,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center lawyer who works to save imperiled amphibians and reptiles. “Protecting the clean water and habitat that these salamanders need will also protect all the plants and animals that share their landscape, including humans.”

The fully aquatic salamanders live in springs in Travis and Williamson counties in central Texas. They require clean, well-oxygenated water and are threatened by activities that pollute or reduce water flow to their aquatic habitats. Austin blind salamanders are now protected as an “endangered species” with 120 acres of protected habitat, and Jollyville Plateau salamanders are protected as a “threatened species” with 4,331 acres of protected habitat.

“Endangered Species Act protection for the salamanders also protects the springs that give drinking water and recreation to Texas communities,” said Adkins Giese. “These Texas salamanders cannot survive in waterways polluted with pesticides, industrial chemicals and other toxins so they are excellent indicators of the health of the environment.”

The Austin blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders have spent years waiting in line for federal protection. As part of an agreement with the Center, the Service agreed to issue protection decisions for them by the end of 2013.

The Service today also announced a six-month extension for its final decision on the Georgetown salamander and Salado salamander, two other salamanders the agency proposed to protect last year.

Species Highlights

Austin blind salamander (Travis County): The Austin blind salamander has external, feathery gills, a pronounced extension of the snout, no external eyes and weakly developed tail fins. It occurs in and around Barton Springs in Austin. These springs are fed by the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, which covers roughly 155 square miles from southern Travis County to northern Hays County. The salamander is threatened by degradation of its aquatic habitats from pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers. Another threat to the Austin blind salamander and its ecosystem is low flow conditions in the Edwards Aquifer and at Barton Springs.

Jollyville Plateau salamander (Travis and Williamson counties): Jollyville Plateau salamanders that occur in spring habitats have large, well-developed eyes, but some cave forms of Jollyville Plateau salamanders exhibit cave-associated morphologies, such as eye reduction, flattening of the head and dullness or loss of color. The salamanders’ spring-fed habitat typically occurs in depths of less than 1 foot of cool, well-oxygenated water. The animals live in the Jollyville Plateau and Brushy Creek areas of the Edwards Plateau in Travis and Williamson counties. Scientists have observed significant population declines for the salamander, likely as a result of poor water quality from urban development.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Feds Move to Protect Northern Az Wildflower, Cite Mining Threats

Photo credit: Lee Hughes/Bureau of Land Management

Original post by Evan Bell, Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Gierisch mallow endangered Tuesday, and proposed more than 12,000 acres in Arizona and Utah as critical habitat for the desert wildflower.

The orange perennial flower is found only in Mohave County, Arizona, and Washington County, Utah, and can only grow in “gypsum soil” found in those counties.

But that soil is also the source of gypsum used to produce construction materials such as drywall. As construction picks up, increased gypsum mining could threaten the endangered flower‘s habitat, the government said, along with recreational activities on public lands and unauthorized use of off-road vehicles.

In addition to creating critical habitat for the plant, other measures called for in the government’s action include seed management, creating “managed plant reserves” and “limiting disturbances.”

All of the land involved belongs to either the U.S. Bureau of Land Management or the Arizona State Land Department.

“The ruling should not impact any legal authorized activity” on the land, said Brian Wooldridge, a biologist for the Fish and Wildlife’s Arizona Ecological Services.

But Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner called the decision “very unfortunate.”

“BLM actually said the wildflower was doing fine or better,” Gardner said. He called it just an attempt by Fish and Wildlife to “shut the gypsum mining down.”

But environmental groups, which have been calling for years for the mallow’s protection, welcomed the news.

“We’re hopeful that this is going to save the plant from extinction,” said Taylor Jones, an endangered species advocate for the WildEarth Guardians. The advocacy group has been lobbying the government since 2007 to list the wildflower as an endangered species.

“We think that this is going to be the only way to protect this very small population from threats in the area,” Jones said.

The Federal Register notice announcing the decision concluded that, with an improving housing market, gypsum mining will make a return. There are two gypsum mines in the critical habitat area, one in operation and one that is currently shut down.

The government said such mining poses a “significant threat” to the species that could wipe out “46 percent” of the mallow’s habitat.

BLM has authorized expansion of the one operating mine, the Black Rock Gypsum Mine, into the flower’s habitat, but it could take years for that expansion to occur, the notice said.

“We work with land management agencies to determine if the project will have an adverse effect on the species and its habitat,” Wooldridge said.

But Jones said the Endangered Species Act is often too “flexible,” often blocking only about “1 percent” of activity to protect a listed species. The prospect of mining and other activity in the flower’s habitat concerns activists.

“When you have a really small population that is being hemmed in, bounded and under pressure, the more likely it is that an event will wipe it out,” Jones said.

The Gierisch mallow, which is found only in Mohave County, Arizona, and Washington County, Utah, has been declared endangered by federal officials, who want to designate 12,000 acres as critical habitat for the desert flower. Mallow facts Details on the endangered Gierisch mallow from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: - Description: A flowering perennial of the mallow family. Multiple flowers are orange on dark-red or purple woody stems that grow 1.4 to 3.4 feet tall. - Habitat: Found only on gypsum outcrops in northern Mohave County, Arizona, and adjacent Washington County, Utah, at elevations of about 3,500 feet. - Reasons for decline: Mining operations and unauthorized off-roading have damaged habitat; additionally, trash dumping and illegal target shooting have had an impact.

The Gierisch mallow, which is found only in Mohave County, Arizona, and Washington County, Utah, has been declared endangered by federal officials, who want to designate 12,000 acres as critical habitat for the desert flower.Details on the endangered Gierisch mallow from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

– Description: A flowering perennial of the mallow family. Multiple flowers are orange on dark-red or purple woody stems that grow 1.4 to 3.4 feet tall.

– Habitat: Found only on gypsum outcrops in northern Mohave County, Arizona, and adjacent Washington County, Utah, at elevations of about 3,500 feet.

– Reasons for decline: Mining operations and unauthorized off-roading have damaged habitat; additionally, trash dumping and illegal target shooting have had an impact.

 

Moapa Dace Continues Its Baby Boom

Original Post by Vernon Robison, Moapa Valley Progress

USFWS biologist Lee Simons watches as Darrick Weissenflugh snorkels through a Warm Springs stream counting dace. PHOTO BY VERNON ROBISON/Moapa Valley Progress.

It has been another good year for the Moapa dace. The population of the endangered fish has more than doubled over the past two years, according to a survey conducted last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

On August 6-7, biologists conducted their bi-annual snorkel survey of the Warm Springs area. Donning face masks, snorkels and wetsuits, the scientists slogged through the shallow waters of 17 stream reaches at the headwaters of the Muddy River counting the finger-sized dace one by one.

What they found was encouraging. The results turned up a total of 1,727 dace. That is a 46 percent increase over the 1,181 fish observed a year ago, and a 41 percent increase just since February, when the most recent survey was conducted and found 1226 fish in the stream.

“It’s good to see these numbers,” said USFWS Biologist Lee Simons. “It tells us that we are heading in the right direction. We have found what has gone awry and fixed it.”

Simons attributes the comeback of the dace population to the careful restoration of habitat that has been ongoing in recent years. Key to that has been returning the stream flow to a more optimal foraging environment for the tiny fish.

The Moapa dace, which is found only in the artesian spring-fed headwaters of the Muddy River, is a warm water fish that is adapted to somewhat rapid stream flows, Simons said.

“They dart in and out of the current feeding off of the flow,” Simons said. “That stream flow is like a conveyor belt carrying food. The dace dive into the fast water and pick it up.”

Simons claims that modifications to that natural stream flow; made, in the past, by agricultural and recreational infrastructure at Warm Springs; were what originally set the dace on the path to being an endangered species.

“We have said that if we can produce the optimal habitat, the dace will reproduce again and come back,” Simons said.

The numbers now seem to be bearing that out. The dace have not been seen in these numbers since the mid 1990s. During that time, the fish count plummetted from around 3,800 fish down to 1,000 with about five years.

Scientist attributed this sudden drop to the arrival of an invasive species to the area at that time: the tilapia. The much larger tilapia fish preyed upon the dace causing the disappearance of the native fish in some of the lower reaches of the stream.

So in recent years, a chemical eradication program has been employed to eliminate the tilapia from the system. But it is a problematic task.

“It is like a cancer where you have to kill every single cancer cell or it might come back,” Simons said. “We have to get every tilapia out of the system or the species will suddenly bounce back.”

By 2010, scientist thought that they had eradicated the tilapia. But in August 2011, a small infestation of the species popped up in the south Fork. The Nevada Department of Wildlife was called in quickly for another chemical eradication treatment which seemed to stop the relapse before it spread, Simons said.

Still, scientists are watching vigilantly for any signs of a tilapia come-back. No tilapia were reported in last week’s snorkel survey.

But the dace have yet to return to those lower reaches of the stream. The entire dace population is currently concentration in the upper reaches of the stream under the management of USFWS and the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA).

The most dramatic increase in fish population has occurred in newly restored spring flows on the Warm Springs Natural Area, owned by the SNWA. In stream reaches #2 and #3, which are located near what was traditionally the “home ranch” area of the old Warm Springs ranch, the dace population numbers have exploded. In reach #2, there were 310 dace counted this month, compared to 79 from last August (139 last February). In reach #3, 248 were counted, up from only 31 in August 2012 (127 last February).

The numbers in Pedersen Springs reach #5, which flows through the Moapa Valley Wildlife Refuge, has decreased to 85 fish, down from 94 last August (128 in February).

Just downstream and across the street, on SNWA property, reach 5.5 has also seen a decrease from the 376 observed in August 2013 to 318 observed last week. But that is still up from the 244 fish that were observed there in February.

Though this month’s survey shows a very positive increase for the dace population, there is still a long way to go before the fish is considered to be out of danger. The USFWS recovery plan for the dace sets delisting goals at 6,000 fish in five springs systems for five consecutive years, restoration of 75 percent of the historic habitat and effective control of non-native, invasive fish.

Click here to view the Dace Graph from 1994 to 2013.