Lesser Known National Parks
USDA Cyanide Animal-Killing Program Needs to End
A secretive government program that kills native carnivores and birds in great numbers might be losing support, after some locations in the United States have told the federal program to get lost.
The program, called “Wildlife Services,” is a U.S. Department of Agriculture invention that, officials claim, is for predator control. It uses aerial shooting, trapping, and even cyanide bombs called M-44s, killing millions of animals per year.
The program received national attention in March of 2017 when a 14-year-old boy and his dog came upon a device near the boy’s home in Pocatello, ID. When the boy touched the device – which looked like a sprinkler – it exploded, covering both boy and dog in cyanide. The dog convulsed and died at the boy’s feet.
The USDA called it an “unintentional lethal take” and said it would stop using the traps – but only on public land. The traps still exist on private land, a constant threat to domestic animals and even humans in the area.
Now, however, certain parts of the United States have notified the USDA that their “wildlife services” are not ethical, moral, or welcome. The editorial board of the Sacramento Bee asked Congress to end the use of poisons for lethal predator control and published an expose explaining just how bad the program is.
Meanwhile, other rumblings around the U.S. show that Americans may be waking up to the dangers of the USDA’s program.
In October, state and federal officials temporarily stopped a program meant to control mountain lions in Colorado after several wildlife and environmental law groups engaged in legal maneuvers against authorities. At the same time, 16 California counties were stopped by a federal judge from using cyanide traps, snaring, and aerial gunning of coyotes.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have sponsored bipartisan legislation H.R. 1817 to ban the use of poisons by Wildlife Services. The bill is currently referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.
Wildfires Destroyed This Man’s Home; His Response is Inspiring
Wildfires in Santa Rosa, California and the surrounding area have destroyed over 3,500 buildings and forced 20,000 people to evacuate. Fire destroyed the homes and neighborhoods of people like John Graves.
Graves has lived in Santa Rosa for 25 years. He evacuated before the blaze engulfed his home, destroying it entirely. When an ABC7 reporter asked Graves about the devastation, his answer stunned and inspired.
Time to Rebuild
Graves said, “It’s mother nature at her worst, I guess. I’m sure everybody did there best, but it just didn’t work out. We’ll put her all back together. It’s only stuff.” Many people would feel angry or heartbroken after such a huge loss, but Graves is looking to the future. After the fire clears, Graves will rebuild. He has practical concerns, too: “I’m thinking I’m glad I’m insured!” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to take.”
The Kane Show, a radio show, highlighted this man’s thoughtful perspective. Now, Graves is inspiring people across the country.
Alleged Teacher Hoped Trump Voters Died in Las Vegas
Following the Las Vegas shooting, the nation mourned the 59 dead and hundreds injured by a gunman. Some, however, took the opportunity to wish death on their political opponents.
A twitter user who called herself @theresistANNce wrote, “Pray only trumptards die.” In the bio, this twitter user claimed to be a teacher. No school district has verified the teacher’s identity or employment.
Following the tweet, @theresistANNce received a great deal of backlash, and she appears to have deleted her account, which is no longer active. Unfortunately, she was not the only person to let politics get in the way of condolences.
Hayley Geftman-Gold, formerly a vice president at CBS, openly disrespected the victims, wrote on Facebook: “I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing. I’m actually not even sympathetic to country music fans bc country music fans are often republican gun toters.”
In an official statement, CBS announced that Geftman-Gold’s post was unacceptable, and that she had been dismissed from the network. CNN’s Jeff Zeleny also thought it necessary to point out that many of the country music fans present might have been Trump supporters.
Even Trump opponents abroad made a mockery of the attack. Notorious British atheist Richard Dawkins openly derided the Second Amendment and those who support it. Dawkins tweeted, “Cool dude sertin’ he’s 2nd Mendment rahts. Hell yeah!” He continued, writing “Every country has its psychopaths. In US they have guns.”
In contrast, country music’s biggest stars offered their condolences to the victims and their families. A group of country musicians and fans gathered on Monday night for a vigil to honor those who tragically lost their lives.
Trump Visits Puerto Rico, Explains Recovery Challenges
Faced with the logistic problems of restoring electricity and water to an isolated island, the Trump administration has been working non-stop to help Puerto Ricans get back on their feet. On Tuesday morning, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump landed on the destroyed island.
Trump met with local leaders, including San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. Yulin Cruz has made a name for herself by claiming the President is failing Puerto Rico. However, others claim that she has failed to attend FEMA meetings, and has more interest in television appearances than she does in the relief effort. Trump extended an olive branch to one of his fiercest detractors.
The President helped distribute goods at a relief center, though the huge crowd made clear that recovery will take time. Part of the delays result from the lack of local truck drivers who can distribute generators, food, and water to rural part of the island. President Trump mentioned that supplies from the federal government still needed drivers to transport them to hurricane victims. As he said, “We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks. On a local level, they have to give us more help.”
During his trip, President Trump was briefed by officials at the Luis Muniz Air National Guard base. He met with storm victims to hear their experiences and their needs. Following that, he met with the governors of the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on a Navy ship.
In a part of the United States plagued by an ineffective local government and weak infrastructure, recovery will not be easy. The area’s mountainous geography only makes relief efforts more difficult.
To make the situation worse, a naval base on the island is no longer open to help coordinate relief efforts. The Naval Station Roosevelt Roads used to exist at Ceiba, Puerto Rico. After protests by locals, it was eventually shuttered in 2004. Now, a part of the former military base is used as a ship recycling facility. While this might make the island more environmentally sustainable, it has resulted in one less military base for relief efforts.
Currently, the military, first responders and FEMA are all working to improve conditions on the island.  Puerto Rico is without electricity, water and transportation on many parts of the island. Food shortages are common as Puerto Ricans work to recover from the storm. Despite the difficulties faced by the administration, relief efforts are still soldiering on. President Trump maintains that the government has done an excellent job responding to this brutal hurricane season.
Trump Approves Pipeline; Activists Block Construction
Environmental activists are ramping up a new protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL).
This comes just months after the failed Dakota Access Pipeline protests, at which protesters literally destroyed the area with trash. These “environmentalTheir environmentalist message was tarnished by the heaps of trash and debris they left behind. This time around, the solar panels might actually help the environment. But will they stop the pipeline?
Legal Battles Ahead
The proposed KXL runs through Nebraska and Montana, where it faces the most legal challenges to its construction. First, Nebraska’s Public Service Commission must approve KXL’s route through its state. Next, environmental and indigenous groups in Montana have filed three lawsuits to stop KXL’s construction. The groups resisting in Montana strike similarities to those opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Lawyers in court are backed up by farmers on the land. Farmers started installing solar panels. Bob Allpress, a Nebraska farmer, In addition to legal resistance, farmers and other groups have launched a solar panel protest on the proposed route. Bob Allpress, in Nebraska, is planning to install solar panels where the route passes through his ranch. His hopes are that having to tear down a clean energy source will deter the Trump administration from continuing forward with the pipeline. Sorry, Bob, but that doesn’t seem likely.
A Plan Put in Action
In early March, President Trump approved the initiative and gave TransCanada a Presidential Permit to start building the Keystone XL Pipeline. KXL would create a more direct path to carry oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. TransCanada first proposed the project in 2008, but the Obama Administration stalled its progress at every turn.
The KXL would run 1,179 miles, and carry over 800,000 barrels of oil per day. This effectively doubles the volume of oil transport between the two cities. Proponents of the pipeline tout its job creating potential, as well as the benefits to U.S. energy security and economic growth.
We Want YOU!
Will you take a stand for energy independence? If you want to see the Keystone XL Pipeline built, you can start a petition today. The process takes just a few minutes. As soon as you publish the petition, we’ll feature it in an update to this post!
EPA Faces Unfunded Obama-era Mandates
Former President Obama left office in January, but he left behind billions in unfunded EPA mandates. The vast majority of environmental policy is implemented by the states – but the federal government is making rules that states must follow, and not providing the money it takes to implement those new regulations.
According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, “the Clean Air Act was explicitly designed to provide states with funding to cover 60 percent of their program costs. Today, the states are responsible for implementing approximately 96.5 percent of federal environmental laws and roughly 90 percent of environmental inspections.”
It is clear that the burden of implementation falls almost entirely on states. Some feel that the federal government is not acting as a good partner to the states by failing to help implement the regulations they impose.
In short, bureaucrats in D.C. can make the rules without thinking of how to actually enforce them. Congress has tried to rein in this problem.
Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) presided at a hearing on this issue in June of 2016. He explained that Obama-era regulations were not only expansive, but also expensive: “Under the current Administration, the regulatory burden imposed by the EPA on the American people has steadily increased. According to the American Action Forum, from 2009 to 2016, the EPA has finalized 163 overall regulations at a regulatory cost of $312.2 billion.”
When a new EPA rule is forecasted to cost upwards of $100 million to a state or local government, the EPA must look into less costly options in order to comply with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995. This is true of all federal agencies. However, the EPA appears eager to duck this regulation – even as it expects all state and local governments to comply with the regulations it sets for them.
USDA Plants Chemical Explosive that Kills Pet Dog
The Mansfield family of Pocatello, Idaho had never heard of an M-44 device the day one such device killed their beloved family dog, Casey, and injured their 14 year old son.
An M-44 is a small device designed to release poisonous cyanide gas. The USDA plants them to help control the coyote population.
What the USDA did not do, however, is tell the Mansfields about the deadly poison that it had planted within walking distance of their home. Dr. Mark Mansfield told the East Idaho News, ““We didn’t know anything about it. No neighborhood notifications…The sheriff deputies who went up there didn’t even know what a cyanide bomb was.”
Their teenage son saw Casey, a three year old yellow Labrador, have a seizure from the cyanide. Casey died in a matter of minutes, while the boy screamed for help.
The USDA maintains that the traps cannot kill a human – even though the trap killed an 80-pound dog. Congressman Peter DeFazio doubts the USDA’s claim that the bombs are safe for people: “These deadly traps have killed scores of domestic animals, and sooner or later, they will kill a human.”
However, the young boy still had to be rushed to the hospital as a result of the exposure to cyanide. Cyanide is so dangerous that the family won’t even take their son’s contaminated clothes out of the bag they were placed in at the hospital. They can’t even bury Casey for fear of what the cyanide could do the surrounding land.
The Mansfields are not the first everyday people to have their lives changed by hidden M-44 devices. Fox News reports that “Days earlier, a family walking in an area 52 miles northwest of Casper, Wyo., lost two dogs from an M-44 that detonated near a hiking trail they have walked for 20 years.”
Meanwhile, the USDA keeps planting these chemical explosives – without telling people who live nearby.