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Dispatches : Politics

Deer Stands Gone Wild

Deer_stand_largeThis illegal deer stand is bigger than most Manhattan studios. Photo: St. Louis County Land and Minerals Dept.

Deer hunters wait. They find a good spot in the forest, and they wait. To get a better vantage, they might climb into a tree or build a stand by attaching a small platform to a tree. But some deer hunters are taking serious liberties with their deer stands.

"What we're into here is the tree house mentality, that we all carry from our youth," says Robert Krepps, the land commissioner of St. Louis County, Minnesota. He's referring to hunters building structures that well exceed the size and scope of traditional deer stands. County officials are finding what are essentially cabins, complete with windows, insulation, and heaters, built into trees on public lands.

"This is a group that is, more and more, going toward comfort rather than what others endure [while hunting]," Krepps says. A commenter on an Associated Press story on the trend toward ever-larger and comfortable deer stands registered his opinion quite succinctly, suggesting that if they wanted to be indoors, "These hunters should get an Xbox."

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Are Wolf Traps Inhumane?

Wolf_flickr_fremlinPhoto: Fremlin/CC 2.0/Flickr

Going into 2012 Montana's wolf population exceeded 600. Looking for more ways to keep the population in check, the state's Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Commission passed new rules on Thursday, July 12, that will allow wolves to be trapped. This is despite vehement protests; the commission received more than 7,000 comments opposing the use of trapping as a wolf management tactic.

Trapping is allowed for other species in Montana and is allowed for hunting wolves in neighboring Idaho. A trap is used to capture an animal, generally by a limb, and hold it in place until a hunter can reach it and kill it. To state the very obvious, trapping has long been viewed as inhumane by animal rights advocates. But many hunters also oppose the practice.

This spring, images of a man smiling and posing in front of a trapped wolf that was bleeding and struggling (along with more photos of the hunter and the wolf carcass) were discovered on a pro-trapping website called Trapperman.com and then shared widely online, leading to an outcry. This undoubtedly stoked the thousands of comments received by the commission urging it to not allow wolf trapping.

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House Bill Would Lift Environmental Laws, Allow Wilderness Roads

Shutterstock_23541940_USBorderPhoto: Shutterstock/Amy Walters

Last month, the House of Representatives passed an omnibus bill that would exempt the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from more than 10 important environmental laws, including the Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

The contentious legislation, dubbed the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, would essentially prevent the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior from enforcing environmental laws that might "impede, restrict or prohibit" the activities of the Border Patrol on federal land within 100 miles of the southern and northern U.S. borders.

The bill's backers say that the CBP is often hampered or slowed in its efforts to monitor and patrol federal borderlands, specifically along the southwestern border, because it must get clearance for many of those activities. Its opponents, which include high-ranking officials in both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Interior, say the CBP doesn't need such an overarching policy change.

In an interview early this year, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis told Outside that the NPS has cooperative relations with the border patrol and the Department of Homeland Security. "Now, obviously there are some areas of the border that are greater challenges than others, so I think a case by case and park by park approach is appropriate, and not one size fits all [approach]," he said.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has even come out against the bill (formerly H.R. 1505) by calling it "unnecassary and bad policy."

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'DamNation': Trailer and Q&A With the Filmmakers

Damnation-wf

If you’ve seen Red Gold, about efforts to stop the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, you know the documentary-making prowess behind Felt Soul Media. The trailer for the team’s next film, DamNation, has just been released.

Conceived by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and biologist Matt Stoecker, who is co-producing the film with Felt Soul Media’s Travis Rummel, DamNation documents the current movement to dismantle outdated and dangerous dams across the United States. It also explores the history of U.S. dam-building and focuses on the environmental and economic impacts they’ve wrought. The film, which won a 2011 Mountainfilm Commitment Grant and is being edited by Ben Knight, is due out early next year.

With the Elwha River running nearly completely free and salmon populations starting to rebound, it’s a good time to be a river. But the drama is just beginning to unfold. Watch the trailer, below, and then check out our Q&A with Travis Rummel and Matt Stoecker on the making of the movie.

What do you want people who watch DamNation to come away with, in terms of understanding the role that major dams and hydropower have played in American history and development?

Travis Rummel: There is absolutely no doubt that dams and hydropower have helped develop our country into what it is today. The industrial revolution happened next to rivers that powered mills and carried away their pollution. Many attribute the Grand Coulee and Bonneville Dams on the Columbia system with helping us to victory in World War II. We will definitely pay tribute to the role that hydropower has played in helping us get where we are today, but look at where we are. The continental United States is quickly losing its salmon and steelhead. A free-flowing river is an anomaly. We are beginning to realize the costs of divorcing rivers from the sea: beaches lacking sand and headwaters lacking salmon. Ecosystems are being stripped of the fuel that drives them. The beauty of dam removal is that it works quickly. This film is about hope and the power to restore what has been lost in the name of progress.

Matt Stoecker: Dams have played a vital role in building America. The people who built them were ambitious and well intentioned. But, like coal-fired power plants, dams have come with a high cost to the health of our shared environment. It's time for a shift to technologies that deliver truly clean energy, maximize water efficiency, and protect people and the environment. Replacing dams with such technologies achieves this vision and as the movie will hopefully show, any motivated citizen can lead an effort to remove a dam; it's how almost all of the successes have been started.

The argument for removing the outdated Elwha River dams (Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon) was such a no-brainer. What dams, in your opinion, are not such an easy call? Are there any major dams that you don't think should be deconstructed despite petitions to do so?

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Guyana at a Crossroads: Will It Tap Ecotourism or Natural Resources?

Kaieteru_wilderness_experience
Kaieteur Falls, Guyana. Photo: Wilderness Explorers

Newsweek said last week that visiting Guyana should be on your Bucket List. Then USA Today said just about the same thing. We first sang Guyana's praises back in 2009.  

Guyana is emerging as an ecotourism hot spot because it is English-speaking, politically stable, nearly completely covered in rainforest and boasts great birdwatching and fly-fishing. The number of tourists it hosts each year is (for now, anyway) minuscule compared to other tropical Latin American destinations.

But Guyana is rich in other resources, as well. Some of it in the form of oil resting under the Atlantic off the country's lush coastline. Guyana recently granted exploration rights to a Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which will look for drilling sites. Exxon and a number of other oil companies are doing the same thing. Gold and timber are also being exploited, and not always legally. Domestic and foreign agribusiness interests are looking to greatly expand water-intensive rice farming as a cash crop along previously pristine waterways.

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