News Roundup – Condors, Carbon, Bay Health and More

After five years of studying the regional habitats and the environmental pressures on Turkey Vultures, the Yurok tribe of the Northern California coast has laid the groundwork for reintroducing the California Condor to Humboldt County. A memorandum of understanding that lays out a “test release” program has been signed by the tribe and a coalition of state and federal agencies as well as a wildlife nonprofit, which will result in a small number of condors being released near Humboldt Bay in the upcoming years. The North Coast Journal has more details and the Yurok Tribe’s press release here. To get a peek at our soon-to-be neighbors, the Ventana Wildlife Society (one of the parties to the reintroduction agreement) has live web cams at their condor release site in Big Sur.

California Condor. Photo courtesy of Ventana Wildlife Society.

With regulatory measures being considered for hydraulic fracturing (commonly referred to as “fracking”) in California, reports are continuing to surface undermining the industry’s asserted figures on production and environmental impact. The Marcellus shale, the site of the first fracking boom in the United States, has had its gas production overstated by 25%. The filter socks used to filter wastewater at drilling sites, which become contaminated with low levels of radioactive materials released during the drilling process, are increasingly ending up at illegal dumping sites rather than at facilities equipped to contain waste that poses health threats in cases of inhalation or direct contact. Former Vice President of Mobile Oil, Louis Allstadt, has become a vocal critic of hydraulic fracturing in his years since leaving the company, dishing out heavy criticism of industry practices backed by his insider knowledge. He recently called a press conference to urge state officials in New York (where a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing has been in effect while regulation and safety measures are considered) to block hydraulic fracturing, stating “Making fracking safe is simply not possible, not with the current technology, or with the inadequate regulations being proposed…”

Facing up to the grim realities of climate change and ocean acidification, Humboldt State University is seeking to broaden its divestment campaign against carbon-producing industries. After banning direct investment of its assets in fossil fuels 10 years ago, student activism is now driving a push to divest from companies benefitting from environmental destruction and degredation.

San Francisco Bay has just gained another stretch of tidal wetlands. After 18 years of preparation, the former Hamilton Army Airfield has been converted to a salt marsh. Coastal wetlands provide a home for numerous threatened and common species and their plant life is key to filtering and cleaning water that flows into the bay. The effectiveness of California’s Comprehensive Wetland Habitat Program has been evident in recent years, with river otter sightings on the rise and the reappearance of stingrays in Lake Merritt (an estuary connected to San Francisco Bay by a canal).

To our North, scientists in Oregon have discovered a mushroom that fruits underwater.

During the Spring, you may have noticed smaller birds (or groups of them) hounding larger birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has posted information about this nesting season phenomenon.

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