Isn’t it enough that the once expansive wetlands of California’s great Central Valley have already been drained, squeezed dry, filled with agricultural runoff, and put under plow and bulldozer, reducing them to less than 10% of their original area? We now have to put new power lines through them also? Why? The question is raised by several conservation groups, including some representing hunters who want to save the waterfowl so they can shoot them for recreation! (an aside for my reconciliation ecology class: Robin would have loved this, eh?) as reported in this LA Times blog:
Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Assn. are calling on members, waterfowl hunters and conservationists to voice their concern and opposition to a new power line construction proposal, stating that the suggested routes will negatively affect many of the waterfowl habitats and hunting areas in central California (for maps of area involved click here).The Transmission Agency of Northern California Transmission Project would place transmission towers and lines along approximately 600 miles, including portions of numerous wildlife refuges.
‘Ducks Unlimited and waterfowl hunters are not opposing the new energy in the region, we would just like to see wetlands and other wildlife habitat protected from the placement of power lines in these proposed routes,’ Rudy Rosen, director of Ducks Unlimited Western Regional office said.
“Ducks Unlimited and waterfowl hunters are not opposing the new energy in the region, we would just like to see wetlands and other wildlife habitat protected from the placement of power lines in these proposed routes,” Rudy Rosen, director of Ducks Unlimited Western Regional office said.
The DU website states that less than 250,000 acres of wetland remain of an area that once encompassed 3 million to 5 million acres. The proposed power lines will threaten this relatively small acreage that wintering and breeding waterfowl are dependent on.
Waterfowl experts say that large power lines impact birds, especially in foggy conditions when large waterbirds such as geese, cranes, herons and swans are killed or injured when they hit the lines.
“California’s Central Valley winters or provides migration habitat for 60% of the Pacific Flyway’s waterfowl and 20% of North America’s waterfowl population,” added Rosen. “This is not just a California issue but should be addressed by everyone in the U.S.”
And wouldn’t that be a better use for that organic matter, in a more global scheme of things? Sure, you can make your landscape look nice, your flowerbeds and shrubbery healthy, and perhaps even more naturalistic, with some good old nature-grown mulch. What could be so bad about that? Well, it kinda depends upon where that mulch is coming from. What if it is made of wood harvested from the cypress forests on the Louisiana coast? The same forests which are probably the best buffers against the next Katrina or Rita? And what if you have no way of knowing if that bag of mulch in the hardware /garden superstore contains any of that valuable Louisiana cypress? This story in Mother Jones sure has given me much to ponder before our next trip to the garden store, which I suspect will come sooner rather than later now given the nice spring we are in the midst of (but I can put any mulch-related bad karma on to my better half’s account since she’s the one with the green thumb!).
This paragraph from the excellent article really rung my irony-meter (and you know how I like that):
After the 1920s, when loggers hacked down the last of the old growth, the timber industry more or less forgot about cypress. With levees newly in place, the Gulf of Mexico crept inland, and the second-generation cypress matured in shallow, brackish water. They grew tall but skinny, making them worthless for lumber—you might get one decent plank out of a whole log—so nobody bothered to cut them. That is, until a housing boom cranked up the demand for landscaping mulch. Between 2000 and 2004, new home construction in Louisiana soared by 56 percent. After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, home construction spiked another 26 percent; in addition to mulch surrounding new construction, homeowners replaced mountains of old mulch that were washed away.
So, here’s the development cycle for you: Build new homes along the lovely Gulf coast by clearing some of the forests that keep that coast lovely and protected from hurricane damage; cut down more of that same protective forest to make mulch to make your new homes lovelier; watch all that lovely mulch get washed away along with your home when the next really big hurricane or two come along; and a couple of years later… rinse, and repeat?!!
Ain’t it wonderful how we keep coming up with new ways to unintentionally threaten our own habitats while trying to make them look prettier? O Biophilia where will you lead us next?
From Wetlands International comes this short video about the loss of peatlands and how that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The film highlights one of the projects run by this NGO to restore peatland in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. It is being shown at major international meetings such as last December’s UN Climate Conference in Bali and the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn in May 2008 as part of an effort to advocate for more peatland restoration efforts to mitigate against greater CO2 and methane emissions. Of course, you don’t have to wait until then to watch the video and read this report and this more comprehensive one to convince yourself that the world needs more peat: