Thursday, January 26, 2012

New York State Proposes to Allow Bobcat Hunting and Trapping in Westchester

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wants to allow bobcat hunting and trapping in Westchester County (Rockland too), at least if I’m reading a newly-released bobcat management plan correctly.

The reason seems to be not that bobcats are causing trouble or that there are too many but simply that there are enough to allow some to be killed.

In recent years, hunters and trappers have killed 400 to 500 bobcats a year. Under this new management plan, that would rise to 500 to 600. Wildlife managers think that the state’s bobcat population, estimated to be about 5,000 animals, could sustain 1,000 a year being killed.

It’s not clear to me when exactly the hunting and trapping season in Westchester would be, but it would be short and in the fall.

You can find a link to the plan on this DEC webpage. I read about it in the Adirondack Almanack (@adkalmanack on Twitter).

By the way, I find the word “harvest,” which is used repeatedly in the management plan (as in, “We believe that these harvest control measures will allow for a limited and sustainable harvest of bobcats ... ”), to be an insulting euphemism.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bird Sighting of the Week

From the CtDailyReport of the Connecticut Ornithological Association:

01/23/12 - Cheshire -- 4 BLACK VULTURES leaving the Dragon Buffet Restaurant and crossing Route 10 to Radio Shack's roof, 2:30 PM.

An hour later they were hungry for carrion.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Long Island High School Student Who Has Discovered How Mussels are Adapting to Asian Shore Crabs in the Sound

A terrific little story from the Times just dropped into my inbox. It’s about Samantha Garvey, a high school student on Long Island who is both a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search and (until very recently) homeless. Her area of research is ribbed mussels and Asian shore crabs from Long Island Sound. Here’s what the Times reported:

The mussel species, Geukensia demissa, or ribbed mussel, is native to Long Island Sound. The Asian shore crab, Hemigrapsus sanguineus, is not. It is a predatory interloper that arrived in the waters near Cape May, N.J., in 1988, and has since spread from Maine to North Carolina.
The crabs like to eat mussels.
The scientific question was whether the ribbed mussels would just sit there and be eaten by the new predator, or had nature provided them with a means of defending themselves?
Ms. Garvey collected mussels from different parts of Flax Pond, a salt marsh on the North Shore of Long Island. She compared the shell length, width, weight and other measurements of those that lived where Asian shore crabs were prevalent with those that lived in areas with few crabs.
She found that the mussels that lived in areas where the crabs were prevalent had thicker shells. Was that because the Asian shore crabs ate the mussels they could pry open most easily, leaving thicker-shelled survivors, or were the mussels able to grow greater protection in response to the predators?
In a laboratory at Stony Brook University, Ms. Garvey put some young mussels in tanks with the crabs, although the crabs were in cages. In other tanks, mussels lived alone. After 65 days, she found that the mussels that shared their tank with the crabs had developed thicker shells than the ones that lived alone.
The finding suggests that chemicals released by the Asian shore crabs in the water set off a defense mechanism in the mussels: they produce thicker shells that fend off predators. When the crabs are not around, the mussels do not pad their shells.

And it sounds as if her teacher, Rebecca Grella, of Brentwood High School, has put together a large, impressive team of high school researchers.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

From the Advocate, Big, Big Problems at Stamford's Sewage Plant

This piece about the much-admired Stamford sewage treatment plant, by Angela Carella, an editor at the Stamford Advocate, is devastating. If what she asserts is true -- and I have no reason to not believe her, although I look forward to possible responses -- it rises to the level of a scandal.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trouble at the Stamford Sewage Treatment Plant

The Stamford sewage treatment plant was exemplary for so long that it's a surprise to hear that there seems to be big trouble there.

First, a few months ago, there were complaints from a couple of shellfishermen in the Stamford-Greenwich area about how troubles with the plant's disinfectant system were forcing them to curtail harvesting oysters and clams and therefore costing them money.

Then a couple of weeks ago Stamford figured prominently in a story about how power outages at treatment plants caused sewage spills during the two big storms in the second half of last year.

Now today's Advocate has a long piece about how the cause of the problems might well be poor leadership at the plant and poor oversight in city hall. It's worth reading, here. My only quibble is that I would have liked to have seen a couple more paragraphs about how the administrative troubles have led to water pollution troubles.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Irene and the October Snowstorm Caused 47 Sewage Spills into Long Island Sound and Connecticut Rivers

You get a glimpse of the environmental havoc caused by Tropical Storm Irene and the late-October snowstorm from a story in the Courant over the weekend.

Reporter Dave Altimari took a vague statement that Connecticut DEEP Commission Dan Esty made to a state panel investigating the storms’ aftermath -- a statement that no one on the panel questioned -- dug a little deeper, and learned that failures in the backup power sources at Connecticut sewage treatment plants caused 47 sewage spills into Long Island Sound and the state’s rivers. A huge amount of sewage -- raw and partially-treated -- was discharged.

Here’s what the commissioner told the panel:

"In the course of the two storms, keeping these systems up and running emerged as a high priority — and a challenge, as backup power failed at a number of facilities, causing several discharges of untreated sewage into the environment,'' Esty said in his testimony.

Esty didn't go into detail about the discharges and the panel members did not question him....

Altimari did valuable follow-up work though. Here’s what he wrote:

… a review of DEEP's incident reports indicates the problem may have been far worse than officials said. The reports show:
--There were 14 spills in which more than one million gallons of sewage spilled.
--Sewage was discharged into 16 rivers across the state, including the Connecticut, Farmington, Housatonic, Quinnipiac and Willimantic.
--Untreated or partially treated sewage was discharged by plants in 26 communities, from the state's biggest city, Bridgeport, to one of its smallest towns, Norfolk.
--Of the 47 spills, 26 occurred during Irene and 21 during the October storm, records show.

And in what might be the understatement of the year, Esty told the panel:

"A better structure of backup [or primary] power for wastewater facilities should be explored.”

I would have liked to have seen Altimari compile some information about the consequences of all those sewage spills. The Sound’s shellfish industry was shut down for weeks, for example. Presumably beaches were closed as well.

Conservatively, the Sound contributes $5.5 billion a year to the local economy, according to EPA. If the businesses that rely on the Sound were shut down for a month because of the storms, you might be able to argue that the economic cost was one-twelfth of $5.5 billion, or $456,500,000.

That’s a lot of money to lose because backup power was inadequate. Here's Altimari's story; it's well worth reading.
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