Monthly Archives: January 2011

Edds and Onds

Boxes, boxes, boxes. My life is all about boxes. Lifting them is getting easier, so either I’m responding well to the workout involved in lifting everything I own four times, or The Raven packed all the heavy stuff first. Either way works for me.

Speaking of light stuff, here are a few site-related small things.

1) It’s been a while since I mentioned it here, so in case you were noticing those nifty looking photos that show up next to some commenters’ comments, and wondering where the button was that would give you one, it’s here. The icons are called Gravatars — Globally Recognized Avatars — and you just upload the image of your choice to the Gravatar site, after signing up with the email address you use to comment with, and cello! Your beautiful face — or whatever image you upload — shows up in that icon spot, as well as on many, many other sites that have Gravatars enabled.

2) Did you know yoou can subscribe to this site by email? It’s true. All you need to do is click this link, fill out the pop-up (which will be harder to do for some of you who’ve turned pop-ups off) then respond to the verification email that shows up in your inbox a minute later. You’ll get each day’s worth of posting in a single email, and the system will send you no other email of any kind ever except for confirming if you unsubscribe.

3) That badgy thing in the upper right hand corner that shows my RSS feed subscriber and Twitter follower numbers sometimes doesn’t show numbers. This is a known issue. You didn’t do anything wrong, though perhaps I did by not writing a routine that caches the last-accessed numbers for display when Twitter failwhales on it. (If any of you actually knows how to do that, drop a line. Cause I don’t.)

4) I haven’t heard from soul one about the Carnival of The Arid. We have a minimum participation threshold of one. You could be that one. Or someone else could if you spread the word to them.

Of course, once the box dust settles I’ll be soliciting entries from deserty bloggers. But why not beat the rush?

New Office

new office

Cheap cameraphone image of Coyote Crossing World HQ.

This is just a short post to note that after yet another move in the back of the Jeep — bringing the total such mileage involved to 880 since June 2008 — the Coyote Crossing Computer Machine is now ensconced in its new office, with a connection to the Internets and a new and much smaller desk and everything.

In other words, this is the first post from the new place.

We should actually be completely moved in within a few days. We’re downsizing significantly, and much of what’s been taking so long to get our move completely on is figuring out which large items we are parting with. Also sleeping in and dithering and procrastinating, the last of which this post also represents: I have a two-hour drive ahead of me as soon as I hit “post” on this post.

This blog also feels compelled to confer a special badge of heroism on The Raven, who not only packed all of my books — a not insubstantial tonnage even after slashing the size of the collection by about two thirds back in ought eight — but dusted every single one.

The boys are not yet moved, but they’re starting to understand that big changes are afoot. That will be a hundred-mile drive to remember.

And now, if you don’t mind, I have to drive a vacuum cleaner to Los Angeles.

The Return of Carnival of The Arid: February 15

It’s 2011, and I’m moving back to the desert from Los Angeles, and I thought “what better way to mark that occasion than to revive the Carnival of The Arid?” So I’m reviving the Carnival of The Arid.

In 2009 we held the CoTA for about six months running, and response was good and varied. You can see the archives here. Though participation slackened a bit by the end of the run, I think 18 months is enough time for everyone to have built up a good backlog of deserty posts.

A blog carnival, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is a recurring event in which bloggers submit posts for inclusion in a big list of posts, often but not always centered on a particular theme. A good example is the Tangled Bank, a very popular blog carnival devoted to the sciences launched by PZ a few years back.

Submissions —  due Feb. 10 — should have something to do with a desert somewhere in the world. (If you’re not sure whether your work is desert-related, check out this definition at Wikipedia, and if you’re still not sure, send it in anyway.) Submissions can be scientific in nature, or history, or travelog. Images are welcome, photographic or otherwise. Discussions of culture and politics are welcome if they’re desert-related. The one restriction, other than geographical, is that — at least when I’m compiling it — paeans to destroying the desert probably won’t make it. (Developers and ORVers take note.) Paeans to preserving or protecting the desert are fine, as are alerts of current pressing issues.

So spread the word. Submissions can be linked here in comments or emailed to me by Feb. 10 at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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. If you know of someone whose work might qualify, let them know, or let me know, or both. Retweet and email and link from Facebook and send telegrams. Thanks!

Western Watersheds sues to stop Ivanpah SEGS

[Some good news for your MLK Day.]

WWP Sues to Stop Fast Tracked Power Plant in CA

For immediate release -January 17, 2011

LOS ANGELES — On Friday January 14, 2011 Western Watersheds Project filed suit in federal court to halt construction of the Ivanpah solar power plant project being built in the Mojave Desert on public lands in eastern California near the Nevada border. The project site consists of 5.4 square miles of high quality habitat for the threatened desert tortoise.

“No project can be considered clean or green when it involves destruction of habitat for a species listed under Endangered Species Act on this scale,” said Michael Connor, California Director for Western Watersheds Project. “The Department of Interior is tasked with siting energy projects in an environmentally sound manner. Instead it is allowing thousands of acres of important desert tortoise habitat to be bulldozed when there are alternative ways of generating power.”

Threatened by habitat loss, habitat degradation, disease, and predation by ravens and coyotes, the Mojave population of the desert tortoise was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. Since then, populations have continued to decline. The Ivanpah Valley is home to the most genetically distinct of the five recognized California desert tortoise populations. Desert tortoises on the Ivanpah power plant site are one of the highest elevation breeding populations known, and the area provides essential habitat connectivity through the mountain passes to desert tortoise populations in the neighboring valleys.

“The environmental review for this project was rushed and inadequate -the agencies did not even determine how many desert tortoises were on the site, nor did they determine what impact blocking the north Ivanpah Valley with an industrial-scale power plant would have on connectivity with other tortoise populations,” said Connor.

The site located in relatively undisturbed Mojave Desert near Mojave National Preserve, is prime habitat for 19 other rare animal species including desert bighorn sheep, golden eagles and burrowing owls, and several rare plants in addition to desert tortoise. There are impressive stands of barrel cactus, and centuries-old Mojave yucca.

“The federal government’s rush to approve this ecologically disastrous project is a textbook example of how NOT to address our energy needs,” said Western Watershed Project’s attorney Stephan Volker. “Virtually every significant environmental law was shortcut to shoehorn this destructive project into this ecologically irreplaceable site, despite the known availability of cheaper and better power sources including conservation, roof-top solar, and energy development in existing industrial zones,” added Mr. Volker.

The 1.7 billion dollar power plant project is being underwritten with $1.3 billion in federal loan guarantees and “economic stimulus” funds. Secretary of the Interior Salazar approved the project in October.

Western Watersheds Project’s mission is to protect and restore watersheds and wildlife on public lands throughout the American west through education, research, public policy initiatives and litigation. Western Watersheds Project has offices in six western states including California.
Read the complaint.

Lost and Ancient Archives

In May 2008, as long-time readers of this blog know, I left the San Francisco Bay Area where I had lived for a quarter century and moved to the Mojave Desert.  I remember the next month through a bit of a veil. There was a lot of work hauling stuff. There was a tempestuous, unpleasant and ill-advised rebound relationship that corkscrewed into the ground that July. There were trips back to the Bay Area to sign legal documents pertaining to the house and relinquishing my ownership claim thereto. There was finding places in the desert to sleep until my rental in Nipton started July 1. There was a two-week trip to New England to see whether it worked between me and Ill-Advised Rebound Relationship Woman, and finding out that it didn’t. For a homeless guy with no life, I had a lot going on.

But aside from those major points I’ve been soft on detail. Over the last few years I’ve gotten into the habit, bad or not, of using the blog as a journal – not only for the writing end of things, but for the remembering what happened in my life end of things. In June 2008, though, I wasn’t blogging. Ill-Advised Rebound Relationship Woman was persuasive, and she spoke to me often – or fulminated in my direction, more accurately – about her dim view of blogging in general, of my blog in particular, and of the effect of my blog on my writing. (She was also adamant that none of my blog’s readers ever learn that we were involved, which warning sign I somehow missed, and thus I resort to the awkward circumlocutions here.) It was a couple months before I decided I had best not heed her feedback. In June, I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be blogging again, and so up until this weekend I had forgotten a lot of the daily impressions, encounters and thoughts that I would have otherwise documented on this here web log site.

Of course a few weeks later I started blogging again AND keeping company with The Raven, and so now I not only have archives but old emails to The Raven to help me retain detail, not to mention The Raven herself, though she more often relies on me in that regard. But June was a blank spot for any details not involving endless phone calls in which my flaws were enumerated. Those, for some reason, stuck with me.

So flash forward to MLK Weekend, 2011. We’re moving, of course, and in the process I’m cleaning out the Jeep yesterday morning, and in a spot beneath the pile of maps I find a three-subject spiral notebook I don’t recognize, and I open it. It’s almost entirely blank, pages oxidized and mildew-foxed and brittle, blue lines baked off the paper. The first nine pages are in my handwriting.

I’d kept a journal of the first week of June 2008, then put it in the Jeep before I parked it at the San Francisco airport. I flew to New England for more in-depth criticism and in the next two weeks I forgot that the journal existed.

A few things about it jump out at me: 

  • I apparently write just as pompously when I don’t expect an audience
  • Far too many of my plant and wildlife identifications are followed by question marks and then unverified
  • Even in a week that might well have qualified as the worst in my life, the desert and my fellow denizens there are an immense and immediate source of solace.
  • Even given the last, I spent a lot of time trying to talk to people, generally women people, outside of the desert.

I’ve only edited a little, mainly to protect the privacy of people I haven’t talked to in years, and adding links and in one case a note to make my shorthand clearer.

— C

Sunrise Rock Thursday June 5 2008

Sunset at Sunrise. A moon two days old hangs above a dwindling horizon band of crimson.

I have left my wife. I have left my home. I have left everything I knew in the Bay Area. This month includes the biggest changes I have made in my life perhaps ever. Leaving Buffalo was leaving nothing. Moving to DC was temporary at the outset. I have left a home I made, a career and a network of friends I made, and put everything I own in a storage locker in for fuck’s sake Barstow, and

and here I sit. The campsite on Cima Dome, where I have been coming for 12 years, longer than I lived in Pinole by twice, coming here even before we moved to Richmond, for a quarter of my life I have been coming here, sometimes feeling as though my life only truly moved along when I was here and all the rest of it mere maintenance.

Go to the source, they say, go to the source in times of crisis, and here I am though these days are as much resolution as crisis. The desert has called me for a quarter century, since the trip in June 1984. 24 years ago last week, as Matthew pointed out the other day.

Have I felt this calm before? This feeling of arrival, inevitable and a relief, feeling like a long-held breath finally let out?

[Ill-Advised Rebound Relationship Woman] said this evening that my voice sounded, on the phone, as if the desert was working on me. The sunset lit up the buttes in the NY Mountains, washed the rock fins at the south end of Kessler Peak in Navajo Red, and I am here. I am finally here, part of the desert.

The full tour of Nipton today. Fred: “and I need to get rid of these goddamned cattails.” Minivan full of obnoxious pubescent girls at the Trading Post, and their mother apologized, looking for sympathy. I offered some insincerely. Apples laying around on the ground beneath the tree from which they fell.

Friday June 6

Busy day so far. It’s about 12: 45.

  • No coyotes heard last night
  • many satellites
  • 2 meteors
  • woken by dawn light, long before sunup, looked around, colors fantastic, went back to sleep.
  • woken by sun rising north of Kessler Peak two weeks before solstice!
  • laid around, loafed, procrastinated, listened to cactus wrens, dozed, rewoke, sighed, got pants and boots more or less on, unpacked stove, filled pot, lit stove (shaking each propane can to gauge fill-th), boiled water, put coffee in French press, went to shit, saw cactus wren, talked to cactus wren, cleaned up, came back, plunged plunger on press pot, poured coffee, drank coffee, dozed more, got solar panel,  plugged phone in, checked time — 7:30 am. Jesus. Ate orange.
  • Talked to [Ill-Advised Rebound Relationship Woman]
  • drank more coffee
  • spilled coffee on pants and hat – a feat.
  • watched flock of sage sparrows.
  • saw non-cactus wren. Bewick’s? Kinda big for Bewick’s.
  • Said goodbye to [I-ARRW] – 8:45.
  • drank more coffee
  • walked to road
  • watched ants removing debris from hole, most of it plant-based, which blew away in the wind.
  • walked among junipers
  • thought of camping among junipers with [I-ARRW]
  • started hearing sound like bandsaw cutting sheetmetal
  • returned to camp, made oatmeal
  • ate oatmeal
  • heard Icterus parisorum in distance
  • visited three times by hummingbird, green and dun
  • wrote email to Darya as side-blotched lizard sought shelter under my thigh
  • worst asleep-leg ever due to fear of crushing lizard
  • walked to tall rock to send email
  • found source of metal saw noise – a cicada-sized, cicada-shaped, cicada-colored insect. Not sure what it was.
  • sent email
  • watched family of antelope ground squirrels, at least three individuals, cavorting and a bit nervous about me
  • called Sharon to say “hello from Cima Dome,” talked for 4-5 minutes
  • noticed white-flowering shrub that had been covered in bees at 9:00 had one bee at 12:00

[resume writing at 3:24 pm]

what else was there?
Desert swallowtails in relative abundance
a couple ravens
those ants – one of them carried out an old yellow chartreuse object, looked like a dicot seedling. probably an iodine bush fruit, possibly one that blew into the anthill opening.

Yellow Encelia, or Enceliopsis? Purple asters by the campsite. Buckeye about to bloom. Looks like last week was grand here – Yucca baccata and Mojave mound cactus w/ week-old spent bloom. Lots of green fruit on the JTs.

Mid-sized, light brown raptor being chased away by smaller birds. Didn’t get a good glimpse. Small fat lizard hauling ass away from me – desert iguana? Baby Sauromalus?

Chollas and prickly pears blooming this week, canary-yellow flowers opening mid-day.

The buzzsaw bugs have quieted. Don’t recall having heard any in a couple hours. Cactus wrens noisy as usual

Finished the Stegner letters. Read the inscription from Becky there, felt sad. I love her so, but what can I do? I have not felt married to her for a year, perhaps longer. Grieving Zeke together – that’s about it.

The wind is relentless. Blowing constantly. My arms are sunburned and I am a little queasy.

[I-ARRW] says it’s raining there.

Wish she was here. I’m lonely.

Nap time.

About 4:15 –

big skinky-looking guy, maybe 8″ in nose to tail, bluish head and dark body, walked haltingly across a meter of open sand a few feet from my nose.

Earlier, maybe 10:00, found an old burrow. Tort? Squirrel? Dunno. Unused at least this year, though – a webbing of grass awns across it.

5:30 more orioles heard, not seen. Possible shrike? very strong black bill, kinda cresty. Song chip note, staccato, do DIT, do DIT, do do DIT do.

Crickets starting up. Coyotes tonight?

God, this wind. Relentless. Like Mojave.

Near Sunset:

There’s a Sphaeralcea near my pillow. I think I noticed it on a previous visit. It’s in bloom, two brilliant orange flowers set against gray-green velvet leaves.

I remember the fist time I noticed Sphaeralcea, or globemallow. It was in 1990, I think – the time I took the VW to Arizona. My god, that was 18 years ago. I woke in the roadside rest area near Boron, and it was blooming there – and everywhere else along the road from Barstow to Tucson, along the crazy 45-mph summer Mojave road, my shoulders knotting.

It’s so easy to sit here and miss the life I used to have in the Bay Area. Used to have. It’s not the life I had last month, or this time last year. Zeke is gone. Faultline is gone. Earth Island Journal? I was a stone that passed that surface and made no ripple.

I go to Thistle’s house, to Becky’s house now, and all I see is my depression grown head-high with monstrous thorns. So many dreams unrealized. So many hours spent not looking at that patch of ground where we planted him.

I burst into tears tonight with missing Thistle. Thistle. Who barely deigns to show interest. But I won him over, I did, and he spent our last hour together sitting at my knee. And now that hurts.

And what happens next week? Patience. Do I fall in love with [I-ARRW’s dog] and then miss him the way I miss Thistle?

Cactus wren’s rattling call.

Globemallow always calls to mind that morning, excitement and worry mixed, and embarking alone into a new world. That time I missed Becky, who was frightened of everything.

I still miss her, and she’s not scared any longer. I guess I can take some small part of the credit for that.

Sat June 7: Baker, CA Starbucks

Last night [lying on the ground] I read by odd bluish light of the battery lantern. My forearms illuminated, sunburned red showing pale violet, and I watched as I read. Small crickets ventured past tiny pale spiders, aggressive but gentle, and they ran back and forth beneath the light hunting. One ran up my arm from the elbow to my thumb, jumped off. A darkling beetle headed my way methodically; I flicked a few grains of coarse sand at it and it stopped. It was perturbed. It did a defensive headstand for a second, then turned and went the way it came.

One light gray, slender thing landed on my left arm. A grasshopper, I thought at first, and then got a closer look. A mantid, and it regarded me and the lamp warily, both of us. I turned my forearm one way and another and it moved, upset, staying just in shadow. A tickling at my elbow – a red ant meandering, heading roughly toward the mantis, and I hoped for some excitement – my forearm a Serengeti and the mantis a mighty hunter. But it was not to be – the ant would not wander within range, and eventually the mantis flew off.

Wisdom and Balance

Looking back at 2010, I see that so much of what I wrote here was angry. I am still angry about those things, of course. I will still write about them here. But in 2011 I’m going to make sure and put some joy in here as well. Otherwise I’m just renting too much space in my head to the green desert-pavers. Let’s call this my one New Year’s Resolution, voiced in – and inspired by – Cactus Ed’s words quoted below.

Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast… a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.

The last few days

Greek coffee On our way back from signing the lease on our new digs yesterday, we pulled off the freeway to get something to eat and ended up on a couple miles of twisty, dark road east of San Bernardino. About three minutes after I suggested that maybe I’d led us astray and that there was nothing out there, a small and in the low light slightly disreputable looking Greek place hove into view off the starboard bow. We shrugged and went in. We’ll be back. A lot. It was fantastic. I should have suspected, of course, given that we were in Yucaipa, from the Greek Ευκαιπεπαομνγ, which translates loosely as “authentic and good to eat.”  Best Greek coffee I’ve ever had. When I raved about the coffee to the lovely proprietress who had made each cup, the elderly man in residence hustled behind the counter to show off the briki in which it had been brewed. If you’re ever in Ευκαιπα, you should go.

It was a good day overall. We signed the lease on our new place – we get the keys tomorrow and start measuring things – and then spent the rest of the day soaking up the ambiance of our new neighborhood. I have a strong feeling of yes about this change, and I’ve adjusted the tagline of this blog just like I said I would. We checked out the art museum (closed on Mondays), the library (ditto), the street scene along Palm Canyon (mostly not closed on Mondays) and sat and ate some acceptable Mexican food while looking up at the “low” foothills of San Jacinto a block west. Our new place is in a neighborhood that while rather low-key has a completely ridiculous number of walkable amenities, including not only branches of each of our banks but a thrift store with $5 levis and tame saguaros and hotels for when friends come to visit and a wine place with tastings and bighorn sheep and a bicycle store and a running shoes store and a cats-n-rabbits food store and I may have mentioned the mountain.

Odd thing: During the course of the day The Raven and I discovered that each of us feels that the only acceptable Xmas tree is made up of bare manzanita branches, which is strange to discover only after weathering three consecutive Xmi with a person.

Anyway. We’ve been gearing up for the change and are both excited by possibilities and daunted by the amount of work we’ll have to get done in the next three weeks or so. Moving the boys will be interesting. We’ve thought of enticing Thistle with tales of the Coachella Valley’s big carrot festival, but that way lies confrontation. For the last week or so I’ve made a game of putting Nosy in his cat carrier and letting him walk right out again to much praise. Boy, is he gonna be pissed when he finds out.

Speaking of Mongolian barbecue, we also had a very nice and very long late Ethiopian lunch with the proprietor of the world’s most popular closed blog this weekend, who was in town for the Modrun Language Association confab. We then dropped him off at his airport shuttle and drove off to eat yet again. In sum, we have been spending restaurant money like hungry sailors on shoreleave in North Berkeley. Unwise as a long-term policy, but oh so much fun.

New home


This may or may not be a photo of the kitchen in the apartment for which we’re signing a lease on Monday. The photo is from a real estate agent’s website — the building’s been on the market for a while — and there are a few apartments in the building. But if it isn’t our new kitchen, it’s substantially similar, with the knotty pine and the Saltillo tile floor and the sunlight.

It’s a two-bedroom place, right in downtown Palm Springs in a neighborhood with a Walkability Index of 88 — only slightly less walkable than the one we’re in now. (By comparison, my place in Pinole had a score of 54, the place Zeke and I lived before that in Richmond came out at 68, and let’s not even talk about the walkability score of the last place I lived. We’ll have good coffee places within a few blocks, a library and a world-class art museum in the same radius, and a couple of highly rated Mexican places a stone’s throw away.

But the thing I like best about the place we’ll be leasing on Monday is what we’ll see when we look out our living room window:


I was telling someone about the place last night and I realized that we’ll be seeing the Sonoran Desert out the front windows, and — assuming there’s any view at all — the Mojave out the back, 20 miles northeast atop the Little San Bernardino Mountains.

Looks like I’ll have to amend the blog’s tagline slightly.

This will be home number 34 for me, if I count correctly which I probably don’t, and I have a good feeling going in.

Chris Clarke’s Résumé

Curriculum Vitae
Chris Clarke
(213) 254-5382

Free-lance Writer 01/92 – present
I have written articles for publications across the United States, as well as in Japan and the UK. Emphases include environmental politics, science, and natural history. Write regularly at highly acclaimed blog Coyote Crossing ( and at, Los Angeles’ public television station’s online component.

Communications Consultant Desert Protective Council 06/2009 -12/2011
Contract position. Responsible for the public face of the organization. Updated, redesigned and trouble-shot website and email newsletter. Redesigned, edited and produced quarterly newsletter El Paisano. Press and public speaking liaison.

Co-Founder, Solar Done Right 06/2010 – present
Set outreach and press strategy for coalition of public land activists, solar power and electrical engineering experts, and biologists. Co-produced “Wrong From The Start,” a 2011 white paper on public lands solar policy that gained widespread national press exposure. Designed and built website at

Press Contractor, Earthjustice 07/2009–07/2010
Contract position. Worked with Media Director, attorneys and clients to craft press strategies on issues ranging from pesticide spraying to dam removal. Coordinated press on watershed victory representing three environmental justice groups against Chevron over refinery expansion.

Publications Director Earth Island Institute 04/2002 – 02/2007
Managed all aspects of Earth Island Institute’s Publications Department, including production of quarterly magazine Earth Island Journal, email newsletter Island Wire, web site and other organizational publications.

Garden Columnist Contra Costa Times, Knight-Ridder 06/2000-12/2002
Wrote features and biweekly column for Contra Costa Times Home and Garden Section. The column was reprinted frequently in newspapers across the United States.

Editor/Director Faultline Magazine 04/1997 – 06/2003
Launched California-based environmental web publication June 2001. Edited and published at least weekly.

Assignment Manager Verde Media 02/2000 – 06/2000
Assigned, tracked and edited stories for startup environmentally-oriented new media company. Set up newsroom with largest environmental reporting staff in the country.

Editor in Chief Earth Island Journal 01/1999 – 07/1999
Edited copy, researched stories, wrote features and news items, and supervised production of award-winning quarterly environmental journal. Managed all aspects of production, content generation and management of Earth Island Journal during sabbatical of long-time Editor-In-Chief.

Editor Earth Island Journal 01/1998 – 12/1998
Edited copy, researched stories, wrote features and news items, and supervised production of quarterly publication. Requested by organization directors to act as Editor-in-Chief for two issues, and given broad discretion to introduce editorial and design improvements.

Host, Terra Infirma/Terra Verde, KPFA FM 05/1996 – 06/1998
Interviewed guests and presented programmed content for weekly hour-long environmental radio show. Wrote news and programming scripts. Interviews included then-head of Greenpeace USA, Nigerian activists responding to execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa; late forest protection and labor activist Judi Bari.

Editor Terrain, Berkeley Ecology Center 06/1992 to 10/1997
Edited, produced and otherwise managed monthly environmental publication with a reputation for scientific rigor, quality writing, balanced research, and a lively and humorous editorial voice.

Experienced public speaker. Broad expertise in natural history, gardening, and other scientific fields. Other interests include history, paleontology, wilderness travel.

Sometimes I hate being right

An article on the Mother Jones site takes Obama’s administration to task for failing to protect endangered species:

Obama is barely beating Bush at protecting new endangered species—and he’s far behind his Democratic predecessors. So far, his administration has added 59 species to the endangered list. However, that includes 48 species from the Hawaiian island of Kauai that were originally cleared for approval by the Bush administration.

“They have protected new species at a very slow rate,” says Andrew Wetzler, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s land and wildlife program, “and they have really not demonstrated that wildlife conservation is a priority.” Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “don’t have the ideological opposition to endangered species protection of the past administration,” says Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, but “they haven’t really aggressively turned the program around or been effective at getting it started. They are sort of in this Neverland.”

I really wanted to be wrong on this one. In late 2008 I wrote:

The Obama-Biden campaign did release an Energy and Environment policy brief, an honestly wonderful document that does address some major habitat-related issues: restoring the Great Lakes, Gulf Coast, and other wetlands; protecting National Parks and National Forests, and rationalizing water use in the arid West, praiseworthy initiatives all.

The document also details plans to protect and restore clean air and water, has an environmental justice plank more far-reaching than Bill Clinton’s, and speaks in support of sustainable agriculture. It’s a great document and I support its implementation in full, as should you.

It’s also a woefully incomplete document.

It mentions the Endangered Species Act not once.

It doesn’t even mention endangered species. The word “endangered” does appear once in the nine-page document, on page eight:

Barack Obama is also an original cosponsor of the [2007] Combat Illegal Logging Act, which would prohibit the importation of illegally harvested wood products.  This would make foreign companies much less likely to engage in massive, illegal deforestation in other countries.  Saving these endangered forests preserves a major source of carbon sequestration.

The Combat Illegal Logging Act is an important law, finally passed this year as an amendment to the Farm Bill, written by a coalition of environmentalists, organized labor, and representatives of the domestic wood products industry, which extends the scope of the Lacey Act to include regulating timber imports. Though there’s argument over its effectiveness, it probably will help protect forests in the Amazon, Siberia and Southeast Asia. It’s also a done deal, and the Obama-Biden campaign document offers no expansion, strengthening, or extension of it, merely reporting a past co-sponsorship of a bill that failed to pass in its original form.

The omission of any mention, in the Obama-Biden campaign’s environmental policy document of the US’s keystone species-and habitat-protection law is disappointing in the extreme, but it doesn’t mean the President-Elect hasn’t gone on record as regards ESA. In a March, 2006 letter to a constituent who wrote to support strengthening the ESA, Obama replied:

“The goal of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 is to conserve and protect both the species that are threatened or in danger of extinction and the ecosystems upon which they depend. It currently protects more than 1,200 animal and plant species, of which approximately 25 are found in Illinois. The law can become controversial, however, when projects that may conflict with the ecosystem of species listed as threatened or endangered are proposed in a particular area.

I strongly support the goals of the Endangered Species Act, which has paved the way for a number of species — such as the bald eagle — to return from the brink of extinction. However, during the past 30 years the Endangered Species Act has not always worked perfectly. With all of its accomplishments, we have learned not only what works, but also what is ineffective. Consequently, the Endangered Species Act needs to be updated and improved. And that means moving past rigid ideological positions so that we can reach consensus on the right solutions.

This concord-flavored language may appear reasonable at first reading, but there is nothing in those paragraphs that would be out of place in a speech by former Representative Richard Pombo of California, the worst enemy the ESA ever had. The law becomes controversial when actually enforced against developers of the kind of projects that prompted the passage of the law in the first place, and we must therefore “improve” the Act so that all voices and interests are reflected, not just those of the rigidly ideological wildlife biologists with their non-economically based scientific study and data and such. Language like this has been used to cover over every single weakening of the ESA since its inception, from the development of the Habitat Conservation Plan and Multiple Species Conservation Plan compromises, to the erosion of the Critical Habitat process, and the Executive Branch decisions to impede the listing process.

Two years later, the administration has failed to prove my suspicions wrong – and aside from a few grumbles like those mentioned in the Mother Jones piece, the mainstream green movement has been silent on the administration’s woeful wildlife protection record.