Court restores federal protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears

With their population expanding, can Yellowstone grizzlies co-exist with humans?

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September 24 at 11:38 PM

A U.S. District Court judge restored federal protections Monday to about 700 grizzly bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park, canceling planned hunts in Wyoming and Idaho and overturning a Trump administration finding that the iconic population had recovered.

In a 48-page order, Judge Dana L. Christensen wrote that the case was “not about the ethics of hunting, and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts.” Instead, he said, the ruling was based on his determination that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had illegally failed to consider how removing the Yellowstone bears from the endangered species list would affect other protected grizzly populations, and that its analysis of future threats to the bears was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The decision sided with multiple conservation and tribal organizations that sued Fish and Wildlife after it delisted Yellowstone grizzlies in 2017, and it supported one of their primary contentions: that the isolation of the bear population, which is expanding outward but remains unconnected to the other major U.S. grizzly population near the Canada border, makes it genetically vulnerable.

“The Service appropriately recognized that the population’s genetic health is a significant factor demanding consideration,” Christensen wrote. “However, it misread the scientific studies it relied upon, failing to recognize that all evidence suggests that the long-term viability of the Greater Yellowstone grizzly is far less certain absent new genetic material.”

In a statement, Fish and Wildlife said it was reviewing the ruling and noted that it means the bears’ management — in the hands of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho since last year — now returns to the federal government.

Nevertheless, the agency said, “we stand behind our finding that the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear is biologically recovered and no longer requires protection. . . . Our determination was based on our rigorous interpretation of the law and is supported by the best available science and a comprehensive conservation strategy developed with our federal, state, and tribal partners.”

The ruling came amid heightening criticism of the Endangered Species Act from conservatives who say it imposes steep burdens on private landowners and industry while failing to restore imperiled populations back to their historic levels. The Department of Interior proposed regulations this summer that would overhaul the law, while GOP lawmakers have proposed a slew of bills that would remove protections for specific species from the list and bar them from being listed in the first place.

“This is a prime example why Congress should modernize the Endangered Species Act. We should elevate the role of states and local experts who are on the ground working with the grizzly – and other endangered species — on a daily basis,” Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso (R), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in a statement Tuesday. He added: ” The grizzly is recovered in Wyoming. Period.”

Monday’s ruling was the latest legal setback for the Trump administration’s environmental agenda. Federal courts have ruled against Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Commerce Department on several fronts, including a decision last month that blocked the administration from modifying a ban on imports of all seafood caught with gillnets in Mexico because the practice threatens the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.

Grizzlies in the Lower 48 were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1975, by which point the predators had been eradicated from 98 percent of their historical range and the Yellowstone-area population had dropped to fewer than 140 bears.

The federal government first delisted Yellowstone grizzlies in 2007, when their numbers had rebounded to well above 500. But that decision was also overturned in federal court, which found that the animals’ survival was threatened by the loss of a key food source because of climate change. Last year, Fish and Wildlife said it had concluded that the dwindling availability of that food, whitebark pine seeds, did not pose a major threat to the population.

The grizzly decision was a victory for an array of groups that sued to retain protections for grizzlies and argued that Wyoming’s hunt — which would have allowed the killing of up to 22 bears — would pile unnecessary deaths onto mortality levels that are increasing because of bear run-ins with hunters, ranchers and cars.

Supporters of the hunt, including the National Rifle Association and some ranching groups, argued that it was necessary to control the grizzly population and might remove “problem” bears. Federal scientists said a limited hunt would not harm the population.

“We’re glad the court sided with science instead of states bent on reducing the Yellowstone grizzly population and subjecting these beloved bears to a trophy hunt,” said Bonnie Rice, a senior representative with the Sierra Club, one of the organizations that sued. “Changing food sources, isolation, inadequate state management plans and other threats that grizzly bears continue to face warrant strong protections until they reach full recovery.”

Republican Party Declares Moral Bankruptcy ~ The New Yorker

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The Republican Party officially filed for moral bankruptcy on Tuesday morning, a move that many in the nation considered long overdue.

In filing for moral bankruptcy, the Republicans will formally attest that they have no morals, standards, or ethics on their balance sheet, and will agree to cease all activity as a political party in exchange for indemnity from any and all legal actions.

Harland Dorrinson, a Washington attorney who specializes in moral bankruptcies, said that, by making its moral vacuum official, the G.O.P. could theoretically break itself up and sell off the parts, but, he warned, “There are no buyers.”

“From Lindsey Graham to Ted Cruz to Mitch McConnell to Chuck Grassley, all of the Republican Party’s assets could only be described as toxic,” he said. “Their breakup value is zero.”

Further complicating such a sale, Dorrinson said, is the fact that the lion’s share of the Republican Party is already owned by the National Rifle Association, Koch Industries, and the Russian government.

“All of those entities are going to take a major loss on their investment,” he warned. “The Kochs have been trying to sell Paul Ryan for months, and they can’t give him away.”

While bemoaning the demise of a once legitimate political party, Dorrinson did see one silver lining. “The bankruptcy of the Republican Party will be presided over by Donald Trump, and no one has more experience in this area,” he said.

September’s full Harvest Moon peaks Monday night, but the show will be best in the West

It’s the first full moon of fall.

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Right on the heels of Saturday’s autumnal equinox, Monday’s full moon is the first of fall across the Northern Hemisphere. Frequently called the Harvest Moon, September’s full moon tends to coincide with the harvest as the warm breezes of summer begin to turn direction and the frozen winds of winter approach.

While the moon will be quite bright at 97 percent illumination or beyondthrough Wednesday, according to space.com, this year’s Harvest Moon will be full at 10:52 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, in Washington and across the East Coast of the United States.

The way the September moon orbits Earth “keeps the bright, gorgeous lunar orb seemingly pinned to the twilight sky for several nights in a row,”according to Sky and Telescope. The gap between each day’s moonrise is at or near its shortest length of the year.

This means more bright light on consecutive evenings for anyone out and about. It is also a great time to lazily gaze at the sky, assuming sky conditions cooperate.

West of the High Plains, it is a different story. Scattered cloudiness may be of minor concern, but it is more clear than not as you head toward the West Coast.

Per timeanddate.com, Monday’s sunset in Washington is at 7:01 p.m., and moon rise is at 7:13 p.m, although there may not be much to see.

Given the proximity of sunset and moon rise in Washington and other locations in the region, the moon will climb into Monday evening’s sky during “blue hour,” which is a favorite time for photography, thanks to the pleasing light and contrast that tend to come in the period between sunset and dusk.

Capital Weather Gang Photographer Kevin Ambrose has in the past also brilliantly shown how the Harvest Moon lines up with monuments on the Mall.

This Earth-sky alignment can also set the stage for great photo opportunities during Tuesday morning’s sunrise and moon set, which are also quite close to one another, coming at 6:58 a.m. and 7:16 a.m., respectively. But once again, clouds may be a problem.

Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning may present opportunities to at least catch peeks of the moon. On Tuesday, sunset and moonrise are at 7:00 p.m. and 7:42 p.m. On Wednesday morning, sunrise and moonset are at 6:59 a.m. and 8:17 a.m.

Editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes illustrated how Graham has made up his mind on Christine Ford testimony & more

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that Ford’s testimony alone won’t be able to sway his vote. “What am I supposed to do, go and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation? … I’m just being honest: Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this,” said Graham, before the publication of the New Yorker story.

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Sick to Your Stomach? #MeToo

The Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh with Chuck Grassley, leader of an all-male chorus that makes up the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Credit Pool photo by Jim Bourg

WASHINGTON — The Capitol is covered in mud.

Again.

Somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind, I can recall a time when the sight of that white dome thrilled me. As a teenager, working for a New York congressman, I felt privileged to walk the same marble corridors where some of America’s most revered leaders had walked.

I can also vaguely remember a time, back before the travesty of Bush v. Gore, when I felt awe walking past the Supreme Court. And if I try really hard, I can summon the lost sensation of pride in covering the White House.

But all that is utterly changed.

It was wrenching to watch the futile Iraq war unfold, with its tragic echoes of Vietnam. It is jarring to think I could live through three sagas of impeachment. But I most dread the rhyming history we are plunged into now: the merciless pummeling of a woman who dares to obstruct the glide path of a conservative Supreme Court nominee.

It is unnerving to think how far women have come, only to find ourselves dragged back to the same place.

 

We are still watching a bookish university professor from the West, who tried to anonymously report an alleged blight on the character of a man about to ascend to a lifetime of power, get smeared as a demanding, mixed-up, uptight, loony fantasist.

Like Eve with the apple, she schemed to “come out of the night like a missile and destroy a man,” as Republican Senator Alan Simpson said of Hill.

We are still watching on the Republican side of the panel an all-white male chorus — two of these singers were there tormenting Hill three decades ago — plotting to win at all costs.

 

But it quickly became apparent that Thomas was lying.

Signs in a corridor of Yale Law School’s main building Friday morning. Credit Alyssa Peterson

His friends and supporters had talked publicly about how, at Yale Law School, Thomas was a regular patron of X-rated movie houses and enjoyed describing the porn to friends afterward.

But that was not introduced into testimony by either the Republicans or the Democrats. Instead, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch — who is still on the Judiciary Committee at age 84 for this new kangaroo court — suggested that a man as esteemed as Judge Thomas could not possibly know the language of porn, that anyone who talked like that was “a psychopathic sex fiend or a pervert.”

Hatch preposterously accused Hill of scavenging her testimony about Long Dong Silver from an old law case, and her story about Thomas asking “Who put pubic hair on my Coke?” from the novel, “The Exorcist.”

No one was trying to figure out the truth or do what was best for the court and the country. Republicans only cared about ramming through a right-wing justice. Even though they were the majority, Democrats were cowed by Thomas wrapping himself in the charged symbolism of the civil rights movement he had always scorned. And they were gun-shy after criticism of their initial bungling of Hill’s revelation. (Does that ring a bell?) Joe Biden, the committee chairman, canceled the testimony of Hill’s backup witnesses from work.

Teddy Kennedy was mute, hobbled by his own past sins. The feminists were less concerned with Hill’s humiliation than with using her as a bludgeon to block a justice who would be devastating on women’s rights.

After a three-day F.B.I. investigation, the White House declared Hill’s charges “unfounded.” Then agents were pressured by Republicans into providing affidavits suggesting that Hill had embellished her testimony, as Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson wrote in “Strange Justice.”

Anita Hill was alone, in a hearing room full of Republican liars and Democratic cowards, getting ripped apart as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty,” in the immortal words of Kavanaugh pal turned Hillary henchman David Brock; and this in front of her elderly parents, farmers from Oklahoma.

Post #MeToo, the Republicans know they have to be more careful on the surface. Their wet work to discredit Christine Blasey Ford will have to be outsourced and done mostly outside the hearing room; consider the sordid, outrageous attempt by Ed Whelan — a friend of Brett Kavanaugh’s who heads a prominent conservative think tank on, ahem, ethics — to throw suspicion on a look-alike classmate at Georgetown Prep. Backed by the Swift Boat p.r. slimers, as Politico reported, Whelan even tweeted a floor plan to the house the student grew up in.

Dr. Blasey is dealing with some demonic forces not in play with Professor Hill: a vicious partisan internet that drove her out of her house and being discredited not merely by the White House but personally by a president who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault, who has consistently defended predators such as Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Roy Moore, and who is advised by the same man who enabled Ailes’s loathsome behavior at Fox News.

We haven’t forgotten our history. But we still seem doomed to repeat it.

Review: Blood Is Never Simple in ‘The Sisters Brothers’ ~ NYT

Joaquin Phoenix, left, and John C. Reilly in “The Sisters Brothers,” directed by Jacques Audiard. Credit Magali Bragard/Annapurna Pictures, via Associated Press

The first time you see Eli and Charlie Sisters, they are raining down death in the night. It’s 1851, somewhere in the Oregon Territory, and the sky is as black as a bottomless well. Voices and gunfire puncture the gloom as Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) descend, entering a cabin and shooting dead one man after another. By the time the ground is littered with corpses, a nearby barn has caught fire and so has a stable of unfortunate horses. We sure messed that up, Eli ruefully observes as the uneasy antiheroes of “The Sisters Brothers” are swallowed up by darkness.

The French director Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”), making his English-language debut, grabs you quickly in a busily plotted movie that tracks the Sisters as they pursue others. They work for the Commodore (a foreboding Rutger Hauer), an enigmatic kingpin with an apparently limitless number of enemies for Eli and Charlie to hunt down. The sly, smiley Charlie is the Commodore’s favorite and perhaps the movie’s, too, just because killing comes naturally to him. The brothers have an appetite for destruction, but only Eli gets indigestion. Delicately played by Mr. Reilly, who opens up his character one emotion at a time, Eli is a seeming conundrum; he’s also the movie’s ace in the hole.

Westerns were made for bloodshed, and “The Sisters Brothers” delivers as expected. After some fussing and narrative table setting — the Commodore makes Charlie the lead man on their next assignment, creating some jokey sibling jostling — the movie settles back down to its deadly business. The brothers are to meet John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), a detective the Commodore has hired to track down Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed). It’s unclear what the Commodore wants with Hermann and whether he’s been aggrieved or robbed. Like the audience, Eli has been left in the dark about some details, a shared ignorance that hints where our sympathies should land.

The mission, as Charlie likes to call the hunt, grows tricky. Adapted for the screen by Mr. Audiard and Thomas Bidegain from the novel by Patrick deWitt, the narrative soon forks. As Charlie and Eli gallop toward gold-rushing California (the movie was shot in Spain and Romania), the story begins to regularly switch over to John and Hermann, who meet in a frontier settlement. John, a gentleman graced with one of Mr. Gyllenhaal’s mysterious accents, has been tracking Hermann but not nearly stealthily enough. Hermann reaches his hand out to John, having assumed that he might have found a kindred spirit, someone with whom he can speak and commune.