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Political must-reads

Josh Marshall talks about McCain’s repeated problems with the truth, and some of the issues he may have with getting out of public financing for the Republican primary campaign.  (Paul Kiel has a more detailed analysis).

Barbara O’Brien looks at several articles that analyse the challenges of being a woman/being black in a US presidential campaign, and others that talk about “what went wrong” with Hillary’s campaign.


An end to Federal protection of wolves

The New York Times is reporting that wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have lost federal protection.

“Wolves are back,” said Lynn Scarlett, the deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior, in a telephone conference call with reporters. “Gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains are thriving and no longer need protection.”

The 66 wolves that were introduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid 1990s has now expanded to an estimated population of 1300. Another 230 wolves live in Montana, which they settled on their own. What’s really shocking is the target population sizes

State management plans allow for wolf hunting, or outright eradication in some places — including most of Wyoming — with a target population of 150 in each of the three states.

That few? That really doesn’t strike me as a viable population size either in genetic terms, although I am not an expert on minimal viable population sizes in wolves. The Times reports that

Biologists cited by the environmental and wildlife groups say that target population is too small, and suggest instead that 2,000 to 3,000 animals are the minimum needed.

The Fish and Wildlife Service appears to disagree

“Wolves are resilient, and their social structure is resilient,” said Ed Bangs, the gray wolf recovery coordinator for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. Mr. Bangs said that even with federal protections in place almost one in four wolves die each year, either naturally or from human action, and yet the population has still been rising at a rate of about 24 percent a year.

But talking about minimum viable populations misses the point. The reason to have wolves isn’t to protect the species from extinction – as long as there are healthy populations in Canada, this subspecies isn’t at risk of extinction. The ecosystem needs its top predators. In Yellowstone they have had a profound effect on the landscape. Aspen stopped regenerating in Yellowstone around 19201 but the reintroduction of wolves has allowed aspen, willows and cottonwood to regenerate in riparian areas2.  Healthy wolf populations is likely to mean a healthier ecosystem overall.

  1. Ripple,W.J., Larsen, E.J., 2000. Historic aspen recruitment, elk, and wolves in northern Yellowstone National Park, USA. Biological Conservation 95, 361–370.
  2. Ripple, W.J., Beschta, R.L., Restoring Yellowstone’s aspen with wolves, Biological Conservation (2007), doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2007.05.006

Not just inspiring – Organised!

Markos posted this email from one of his readers at dKos:

I wanted to relate what i saw in cleveland today, because i’m sure reporters miss this type of thing.

went to see michelle at cleveland state u…a great place for an event considering bo’s [Barack Obama’s] demographic. i ‘sign in’ to become a volunteer to see michelle.

at the end, they announce that bo is gonna appear at cleveland public hall sat. night, and to get ‘prefered tix’ i need to go to a church up the street to get them. so, i go to get tix and as they hand them to me, they remind me that i can early vote at the board of elections right across the street from the church! hahaha…genius!

same thing when i go to the cleve campaign to get yard signs…they sign me up as a volunteer.

one event, with their best demo, where i can get tix to another event, plus early VOTE! plus 3 opportunities to volunteer, plus 4 yard signs.

They always say that organisation wins elections.  Elections tend to be fought in swing states – you rarely see national politicians here in Oklahoma; things were very different in Michigan.  In another post Markos talks about the ground operation that Obama has built, not only in swing states, but also in deeply Republican states (is Oklahoma an exception, or did his strategy just not work here?)  Markos writes

Watching Obama build his incredible ground operation across the country, I can’t help but hope that this newly built infrastructure stays in place through November.

This brings to mind Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy for the Democratic party.  It also makes me think of COP in the last TT elections.  Although they failed to win any seats, they also built a national infrastructure for the elections, much like the NAR did in 1986.  Without money and patronage I suspect that will be (has been?) allowed to decay.

I and the Bird #69

I and the Bird #69 is up at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Invasive plants journal launched

The Weed Science Society of America has launched a new journal, Invasive Plant Science and Management. The first issue is expected in the first quarter of 2008. The society is soliciting articles in:

[T]he biology and ecology of invasive plants in rangeland, parkland, prairie, pasture, preserve, urban, wildland, forestry, riparian, wetland, aquatic, recreational, rights-of-way, and other non-crop settings; genetics of invasive plants; social, ecological, and economic impacts of invasive plants; design, efficacy, and integration of control tools; land restoration and rehabilitation; effects of management on soil, air, water, and wildlife; scholarship in education, extension, and outreach methods and resources; technology and product reports; mapping and remote sensing, inventory and monitoring; technology transfer tools; and regulatory issues.