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July 4th (or any day!) is a Good Day to Initiate Positive Changes in our Economy and Environment

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This post is being offered as a work in process. Readers are encouraged to submit constructive comments, all of which will be considered in final development of the post.

The inspiration for this post has come from: University of Wisconsin professor Bassam Shakhashiri, who has informed so many children and adults in the Madison area through his “Science is Fun” shows.

The post is also inspired by the Steve Miller Band’s performance of the song “Fly Like an Eagle”, played to a full capacity Breese Steven Field venue in Madison, Wisconsin, on July 1, 2016. The song can be heard and the lyrics read by clicking on the above description. It is well worth listening too and applies more now due to all the strife in the world than ever before.

Due to wars, poverty and the threatening and dangerous changes to climates around the world (23 people died from extreme rain fall and flooding in West Virginia), president Obama and other world leaders have told us actions to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are “urgent”. Certainly, former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson (1916 – 2005) founder of the first Earth Day, held April 22, 1970 (and every 46 years thereafter on April that same date), would see little to celebrate our country’s 240th birthday today.

Record levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and oceans, leading to deadly heatwaves, storms, and record levels of global average temperature. Travel via driving and flying contribute more than one-third of the U.S.’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

According to a study by Sabrina McCormick, Jaime Madrigano, and Emma Zinsmeister: “Preparing for Extreme Heat Events: Practices in Identifying Mortality”, published in April 2016 in the journal Health Security, the authors make the following assertion:
“Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme heat events. These events affect cities in increasingly abrupt and catastrophic ways; yet, many of the deaths caused by exposure to heat have gone unnoticed or are inaccurately identified, resulting in a lack of urgency in addressing this issue. We aim to address this under-identification of deaths from heat waves in order to better assess heat risk. We investigated death records in New York City from 2010 to 2012 to identify characteristics that vary between deaths officially categorized as caused by heat wave exposure (oHDs) and those possibly caused by heat (pHDs). We found that oHDs were more often black and of a younger age than would typically be expected. We also found that there was a lack of evidence to substantiate that an oHD had occurred, using the NYC official criteria. We conclude that deaths from heat waves are not being accurately recorded, leading to a mis-estimation….”

Science shows us that the global warming is contributing to higher sea levels and a 30 per cent increase in the acidity of the oceans, leading to declines of species and in losses to fishing and tourism industries, worldwide.

Meanwhile, poverty  and income inequality in the United States and elsewhere are having devastating effects on millions of individuals, families and so many unfortunate children. A recent study shows children growing up in poverty suffer permanent brain damage.

President John F. Kennedy told us in 1961 to”Ask not what your country can do for, ask what you can do for your country”. The best thing U.S. citizens can do everyday is to minimize their daily and annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Second Continental  Congress on July 4, 1776, reads as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …”

Our government officials at the state and federal level have failed in not passing legislation that meaningfully reduces Wisconsin and the U.S.’ catastrophic levels of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. What is needed is that our government at the federal and state level should by now have enacted programs which offer meaningful positive financial incentives (dollars) to the public to reduce total annual motor vehicle driving, flying, and using electricity and heating that have been derived through fossil fuel burning.

Reducing the amount of fossil fuel burning in the state and country would have “cost reducing” benefits as well, such as reductions in oil spills, train derailment explosions, and the financial and cost of expanding highways, airports and fossil fuel fired power plants.

Burning fossil fuels, whether this is done in highway motor vehicles, jet airplanes, sea going ships, recreational motor boats, gas or coal-fired electricity generation plants,  or in furnaces to heat one’s home, has a pronounced adverse effect on public and animal health, worldwide, by increasing breathable air particle pollution while at the same time adding to the record high and ever growing, catastrophe creating, quantities of heat generating greenhouse gas volumes in the atmosphere.

The mounting volumes of these gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous  oxide) are known to be warming the planet, accelerating rising sea levels around the world, causing more acidic and warmer oceans (bad for sea life and coral reefs), stronger and more costly and deadly storms (Hurricane Sandy, Houston, TX and West Virginia floods), and unparalleled drought and wildfires (California , Alberta Canada, Africa, Australia, Middle East, which has led to major upheavals in countries’ economies, population migrations and known calamities of major human and other life fatalities.

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), monthly global average temperatures for May 2016 were the highest recorded monthly average global temperatures recorded since the agency initiated monitoring Earth’s monthly temperature values  in 1880, setting a string of consecutive record high monthly average temperatures for our Earth’s combined global ocean and land surfaces in the 137-year record.

May 2016 was characterized by warmer to much warmer than average conditions across Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Central America, northern South America, northern Europe, Africa, Oceania, and parts of southern and eastern Asia, according to the Land & Ocean Temperature Percentiles map above. Areas with record warmth included much of Southeast Asia and parts of northern South America, Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and northern and eastern Australia. Near- to cooler-than-average conditions were present across much of the contiguous U.S., central and southern South America, and much of central Asia.

The sooner that people living today accept the fact that their own actions – such as driving gasoline and other greenhouse gas emitting fuels powering their highway motor vehicles, and choosing to fly today’s jet fuel (a fossil fuel) powered airplanes, and using electricity derived from burning fossil fuels and burning natural gas (another fossil fuel) – and deforestation and cement paving  and other human activities that are known to be adding to the already known dangerous and abnormally high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and warming and acidifying of the earth’s oceans – the better off  things will be for all future life on Earth.

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The Documentry: “Racing Exctinction”

According to leading scientists, the earth is in the midst of its “6th extinction”, and only a major societal, political and economic change away from an extraction, exploitation, and conservation minded citizenry will prevent the otherwise inevitable.

Trailer for the Documentary: “Racing Exctinction”.

Viewed at Sundance Cinema, Thursday, June 2, 2016, Madison, Wisconsin and highly recommended to anyone who cares about the dangers jeopardizing all earth’s species should the status quo be upheld.

Sponsor by Endangered Species Coalition; Friends of Wisconsin wolf; International Crane Foundation; Wolf Watcher Coalition; Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison and Dane County; The Humane Society of the United States; Alliance for Great Lakes Wildlife; Alliance for Animal; The HO-CHUNK NATION.

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Listen to “Fly Like an Eagle” by The Steve Miller Band

Naomi Klein: “We’re out of time on climate change. And Hillary Clinton helped get us here.”

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Naomi Klein shared her latest conclusions on how close Earth is to the “tipping point” on global warming and climate change in an April 7, 2016 opinion piece in The Guardian.com, and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton actions that have made things worse, not better.

Unfortunately, there are so many other federal and state politicians, virtually all so-called public and commercial-funded  media sources, and others who have also “helped” us get where we are now –some have even shown they understood and were aware of the significance of the problem being created (oil industry, possibly auto, truck and airline industries, highway, bridge and airport building industries, coal mining industry, possibly others) yet, almost unbelievably,  chose to continue selling the fuel despite knowing the the significance and potential for calamity for current and future generations.

The path to achieving sustainability on Earth for humans and most other species living on our planet is, unfortunately, rapidly narrowing. It could soon close, say the great many of IPCC climate scientists, and as a result jeopardizing the lives of children living today and in the future. Indeed, there are far too many people in the U.S. and most other developed countries who have not seen fit to overcome their dependence on fossil fuels for activities such as driving motor vehicles, flying jetliners, using products and services made more readily available because of subsidized fuel costs, conserving energy in their homes and mansions, and their choice of a lifestyle which is grossly overdependent on the burning fossil fuels in spite of the now widely accepted crisis which the president of the United States appropriately calls “urgent”.

In short, our continuing with our “business as usual” economy – one centered around the philosophy that we should “eat, drink and be merry” now, while throwing caution to the wind; a philosophy that we can eat our cake and still have it for tomorrow – is unfairly going to saddle the children of today and tomorrow with a planet that is, for all intents and purposes, dying, and thus less likely to sustain life in the not too distant future.

When you place a large kettle of cold water on a hot stove burner, one would not expect to see the water immediately come to a boil. It would take several minutes of heating for the water to reach the boiling point of 212 degrees F.. So it is with adding more greenhouse gases to the volumes of such gases already present in the atmosphere. At some point, scientists predicted the surface waters of Earth’s oceans would begin to show warming. Such warming has now been measured, along with the increase in sea level from thermal expansion and the melting of glaciers, worldwide. The warming of the oceans is increasing, ever so slowly because of the tremendous volume of water the Earth’s 5 oceans, but increasing at a faster rate with the continuing accumulation of more and more atmospheric greenhouse gases, which are cumulative over time

Clearly, our burning such vast quantities of fossil fuels in transportation and for electricity today, while paying nothing for the great harm being inflicted on future generations, is a monumental injustice. The damage being created by the present and recently passed generation’s fuel burning activities is undoubtedly huge and devastating to future societies and animal life – stronger and more deadly storms, worse flooding, longer droughts, hotter heat waves, and impairments to water and other life-sustaining resources and infrastructure.  Calling this anything other  than a crime against humanity seems too kind. The human and economic cost linked to people and animals who will be more exposed to degraded living conditions and more dangerous weather extremes is very real and predictable. Those of our society set on continuing to uphold the status quo of “business as usual”,  as our earth continues to warm under the blanket of a thicker greenhouse gas laden atmosphere have chosen the wrong path.

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the international bestsellers, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate (2014), The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) and No Logo (2000). Each book has been translated into over 25 languages worldwide. She is a contributing editor for Harper’s and reporter for Rolling Stone, and writes a regular column for The Nation and The Guardian that is syndicated internationally by The New York Times Syndicate. Additionally, her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Globe and Mail, El Pais, L’Espresso and The New Statesman, among many other publications.

Naomi is a member of the board of directors for 350.org, a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. She is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute and a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics. In 2004, her reporting from Iraq for Harper’s won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. In 2014 she received the International Studies Association’s IPE Outstanding Activist-Scholar award and in 2015 she received The Izzy Award honoring outstanding achievement in independent journalism and media. She holds an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of King’s College, Nova Scotia. (Photo by Kourosh Keshiri.)

Meanwhile, Tensions Rise Between Sanders and Clinton over Fossil Fuel Financing …

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Fossil fuel money being used to finance presidential campaigns? Does that surprise anyone? During an event at State University of New York at Purchase last week, Hillary Clinton accused the Sanders campaign of lying about her when she was confronted by a Greenpeace activist, who asked whether Clinton would continue to accept money from fossil fuel companies. In response, Sanders called on the Clinton campaign to apologize during a rally in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “The truth is that Secretary Clinton has relied heavily on funds from lobbyists working for the oil, gas and coal industry. According to an analysis done by Greenpeace, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and her super PAC have received more than $4.5 million from the fossil fuel industry. In fact, 57 oil, gas and coal industry lobbyists have directly contributed to her campaign, with 43 of them contributing the maximum allowed for the primary. And these are not just workers in the fossil fuel industry, these are paid registered lobbyists. Secretary Clinton, you owe our campaign an apology. We were telling the truth.”

Source: http://www.democracynow.org/

Artist’s Rendering of State of Wisconsin’s Gift to the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks Owners

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker committed Wisconsin taxpayers to contribute $250 million, or $400 million with interest, over the next 20 years, to pay for the Milwaukee Bucks new arena. That will supposedly cover roughly half the cost of this “investment” of State of Wisconsin funds. The other $250 million will be paid by the Milwaukee Bucks’ wealthy owners.

The NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks convinced the State’s Republican lawmakers and Governor Walker last August that this would be a sound investment for the state for the next 20 years, albeit a condition for keeping the Bucks franchise in Wisconsin.

Global warming and the need to drastically cut the air travel emissions that professional sports teams emit to Earth’s atmosphere, free of charge, will be just one of the many changes required to keep climate extremes and Earth’s rising ocean levels at bay. Big arenas like the  Buck’s new arena could become symbols of a day gone bye-bye. Too bad for the investors in this white elephant and all professional sports team owners and big time athletic colleges, too. Only time will tell how big a white elephant the new Milwaukee Bucks and the State of Wisconsin’s new pro basketball sports team arena will turn out to be.

Instead of Climate Change Legislation, Wisconsin’s Legislature and Governor Pass Laws to Relax or Prohibit Protection of State’s 15,074 Lakes, Rivers and Streams

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Just in the past year, the GOP-led Wisconsin Legislature, at the behest of mainly agriculture, construction and real estate interests, has approved numerous bills to relax or prohibit state and local efforts to regulate, safeguard or even monitor the state’s lakes, rivers, and streams. Between January 2011 and December 2015, those special interests contributed about $2.7 million to Republican legislators and nearly $9 million to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Here are a few of those controversial measures:

Assembly Bill 603, which creates new standards for placing structures along the shores of lakes and rivers, and prohibits counties from using zoning ordinances to regulate or restrict shoreline construction projects, like boathouses and fishing rafts, among others. The measure, which was backed by agriculture, construction and real estate interests, was signed into law by Walker.

The 2015-17 state budget, which was approved by the legislature and signed by Walker last summer, prohibits Dane County from making wastewater, sewage and other water quality decisions. Instead, the Department of Natural Resources is in charge of water quality decisions for Dane County. The DNR is required to base its decisions on water quality standards outlined in state law, rather than stricter local standards, and to make decisions on applications to revise the plan for new real estate developments within 90 days. The DNR is also banned from working with the county or its other local governments on the water quality plan or changes to it. The non-fiscal measure was tucked into the budget and passed at the request of developers.

The 2015-17 state budget, which prohibits counties from adopting zoning rules stricter than state law when it comes to what shoreline property owners can do with their property. Zoning rules govern how close structures can be to water, lot sizes, building maintenance, and vegetation, among other things, in order to protect water quality in streams, rivers, and lakes. The plan strips at least 20 counties of their right to have zoning and shoreland protection rules stricter than state law. The non-spending measure was inserted into the budget with the backing of construction and real estate interests.

Senate Bill 459, which loosens state regulations and restricts local control involving waterways and the land around them, dry lake beds, wetlands, storm water control systems and other man-made ditches, and rules governing the repair of piers and boathouses. The measure, which was approved by the legislature and sent to Walker, is backed by agriculture, construction, real estate, and business interests.

SB493, which would reduce the state’s authority to regulate fish farms. The measure, which was approved and sent to Walker, expands the permissible bodies of water where fish farms can be built; loosens requirements on the amount of water that dams on fish farms may control or discharge; and exempts man-made ponds, wetlands, and roads on fish farms from DNR permit requirements. The measure was backed by the agriculture and restaurant industries.

Text from Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

State of Wisconsin Would Upset Gaylord Nelson

This opinion was published in The Cap Times, March 16, 2016
By Dave Zweifel – Editor Emeritus

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Gaylord Nelson*, the late Wisconsin governor and senator, would often confide to friends that if he were king he’d make it tough for big, smoke-belching manufacturing plants to locate in the state.

To say that publicly wouldn’t have sat well with the state’s business gurus. Nelson would have been pilloried for having an anti-business attitude and holding back the state’s economy, but he firmly believed that Wisconsin was a unique place, a natural wonder that needed to be protected for eternity.

And while the state never had a policy to keep big manufacturing plants out, it did develop laws to protect its natural beauty, adopting strong environmental safeguards for everything from the state’s towering northern forests to its thousands of blue-water lakes. Manufacturers were expected to follow those regulations and the Department of Natural Resources was charged with making sure they did. We didn’t want any Gary, Indianas, in our midst.

It wasn’t just Democrat Nelson who carried the torch to protect Wisconsin from potential polluters. A Republican named Warren Knowles did too. The two Wisconsin politicians grew up not too far from each other, Knowles in River Falls in Pierce County and Nelson in little Clear Lake in Polk County, about an hour’s drive to the north.

They knew firsthand Wisconsin’s rushing rivers, its fresh and unpolluted air, its varied landscapes that beckoned folks to enjoy the great outdoors. It was their love of Wisconsin’s unspoiled beauty that resulted in the two of them pushing the state to buy land and preserve it for the people.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program wound up protecting over a half-million acres for posterity and keeping Wisconsin as true to its natural roots as possible. The state became known for its environmental protections and was considered a model of how states could balance the interests of businesses, conservationists and environmentalists for the benefit of all.

I am struck by how much that’s changed under Scott Walker’s tenure as Wisconsin’s governor.

A recent story in the Wisconsin State Journal described how the current leadership of the DNR is hurriedly putting together a reorganization of the department that many fear will reduce the department’s ability to keep tabs on potential polluters. That is coming on top of several laws passed in the state Legislature’s most recent session that will harm our state’s waters.

And that’s on top of a gradual reduction in DNR staff, including educators and foresters, and decimation of the department’s Science Bureau. And that’s still on top of the Walker administration’s directive to the DNR to sell off some of the land preserved by the Knowles-Nelson fund.

In short, where just a few years ago the state’s environmental interests were on equal footing with those of businesses and developers, the playing field has been tilted in favor of the latter groups.

Wisconsin is already starting to show scars. The proliferation of controversial megafarms called CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) continues unabated around the state, often in areas where private wells and groundwater aquifers can be contaminated. In Kewaunee County, a high concentration of cows in CAFOs and the resulting liquid manure is suspected in the contamination of numerous residential wells.

Other CAFOs have experienced devastating accidental spills of manure, the most recent in Grant County, where two miles of a pristine trout stream were poisoned. Yet the CAFOs seem to get routine approval. One proposed to be opened near the town of Saratoga in Wood County, complete with 5,300 cattle producing enough waste to equal that of a city of 106,000 people, is being fought relentlessly by the local people, but the fight may all be for naught.

The DNR’s deputy secretary, Kurt Thiede, said the planned reorganization, which is targeted to occur as early as June 1, is aimed at taking best practices from other states. Arizona, Iowa and Tennessee were given as examples.

There was a time when other states came to Wisconsin to learn about the best ways to protect their natural resources.

No more.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.

Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day, celebrated in the United States and around the world annually, on April 22, since 1970. His last book was “Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise”.

Aldo Leopold was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book “A Sand County Almanac” (1949), which has sold more than two million copies.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to Hold Four Public Informational Hearings on its Proposed General Permits on Nonmetallic (Including Frac Sand) Mining Operations

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On March 16, the Department of Natural Resources released the public notice for the reissuance of the following two WPDES Nonmetallic Mining Operations general permits:

Nonmetallic Mining Operations (Non-Industrial Sand and Other Aggregates), WPDES General Permit No. WI-A046515-6: This general permit covers nonmetallic mining operations defined under Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code 1400 to 1499, except SIC Code 1446 (Industrial Sand). Typical operations covered under this general permit include mining and processing of construction sand, gravel, stone, rock and other aggregate.

Nonmetallic Mining Operations for Industrial Sand Mining and Processing, WPDES General Permit No. WI-B046515-6: This general permit covers nonmetallic mining operations defined under SIC Code 1446, Industrial Sand.

WPDES General Permit Nos. WI-A046515-6 and WI-B046515-6 authorize and regulate discharges of storm water and process wastewater from operations whose primary income-producing activity is nonmetallic mining. The proposed general permits and fact sheet are available on the WPDES permits on public notice webpage.

In late March and early April, the DNR will hold four public informational hearings on the proposed general permits. See the public notice for more details.

Unseasonably Warm Weather in Wisconsin

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Below is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Outdoor Report summary for March 10, 2016. However, conspicuous by absence is any mention that Wisconsin’s unusually warm weather this month is at all related to human activities that cause climate change. Some of the many sources of fossil and other fuel combustion that emit greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in Wisconsin include: fossil fuel burning in highway motor vehicles (gasoline and diesel oil); jet aircraft (refined oil/jet fuel); electric power producing plants (primarily coal, and natural gas – methane); natural gas burning for heating homes, buildings, churches and other buildings, recreational utility vehicles; road construction vehicles; in cement and asphalt manufacturing; in snowmobiles, boats, motor vehicles used in tractors and other agricultural machinery, in lawn mowing, in logging, and in other miscellaneous motorized products that burn fuel. Other greenhouse gas emissions may come from mining operations including sand and gravel mining and mining for metals, and from animal livestock propagation for food sales.

Despite the findings and recommendations from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concludes the climate change problem is “urgent”, as does President Obama, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker and the state’s Republican lawmakers have refused to even hold a citizen hearing regarding the growing threat of climate change, not just to Wisconsin’s future economy, but also the quality of life future residents and visitor to Wisconsin will be provided, as well as the threats of a changing climate to animal and plant life in Wisconsin for generations to come.
Unseasonably warm weather melts snow cover, slows maple tapping efforts

Wisconsin has experienced some unseasonably warm weather in the last week with daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s and even a low 70 reported in Milwaukee. The warm weather has melted most of the snow cover statewide, with just snow surviving in some forested areas of the Northwoods. Snowmobile and cross-country ski trails are now closed statewide and most will remain so even if the state does experience a late season snowfall.

State park and forest trails that were groomed for skiing are now open again to hiking, but most properties are reporting that rail-trail, mountain bike and horse trails are closed, as conditions are soft and muddy and use of trails in these conditions can cause significant damage to trail surfaces.

With the general inland game fish season now closed except on those waters open to game fishing year-round, only a few panfish anglers have been venturing out, but ice conditions are rapidly deteriorating and many shorelines in southern and central Wisconsin are opening up, making access difficult and dangerous.

Most anglers on Green Bay are removing fishing shelters prior to this Sunday’s deadline as waters are rapidly opening up. Anglers were out in high numbers around Sturgeon Bay last weekend with many limits for whitefish reported. Anglers were open water fishing the Fox River at Voyageur Park for walleye but success rates have been low, though with the warmer weather that is expect this to change.

Raccoon, skunk, muskrat, mink, and opossum activity has increased as temperatures have increased and snow has departed. Wild turkeys have been strutting and starting their spring courtship. Flocks are breaking up and the large groups of toms and jakes have already decreased in size as they establish their spring pecking order.

With the warm weather and south winds there has been a significant increase in spring migrants sighted this week, including red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, robins, song sparrows, swamp sparrows, bluebirds, turkey vultures and more. Other early migrants returning to breeding territories include American woodcock, great blue herons and eastern meadowlarks. There was a heavy waterfowl migration across the southern half of the state, including common goldeneyes, all three mergansers, green-winged teal, pintail, wood ducks, and many others. Greater white-fronted geese are moving through in numbers, as are large flocks of Canada geese and occasional cackling, snow, and Ross’s geese. Canada geese are staking out territory and will begin nesting soon. Sandhill cranes are courting and dancing. Bald eagles are incubating eggs and some great horned owls already have chicks.

Maple syrup season has gotten off to a very slow start due to mild temperatures, especially overnight lows staying above freezing. One producer placed out 670 taps late last week and harvested 370 gallons of sap on Monday. The 10-day forecast does not show any significant changes to overnight lows. The concern is that trees will bud out soon resulting in an early end of the season.

A number of observers reported seeing leopard frogs, spring peepers have been heard in the south and salamanders were active with the warm temperatures. Unfortunately the warm weather has also brought out reports from shed hunters and maple tappers finding the first ticks crawling around on them.

In Wake of Flint, Michigan’s Lead in Its Drinking Water, U.S. EPA Sends Letters to All State Governors to Ensure Protection of Public from Lead in Its Drinking Water

As with many environmental pollution and resource destruction activities, once  the problem reaches a crisis stage, which might also be called “the tipping point”, the impacts or “unintended consequences become  essentially “irreversible” —  that is, the damage is done and there is no way to return things to the earlier preconditions.

The problem of excessive greenhouse gases in our atmosphere from too much fossil fuel burning by humans over the past 100+ years is a comparable  situation, but is occurring on a much larger scale, of course. There will be essentially no going back to previous conditions that existed on earth before global warming  from human activities began sticking up its ugly head.

To return to the lead in drinking water problem, the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on February 29th sent letters to all state governors and water regulators across the U.S. promising greater enforcement of rules to protect citizens from lead in their drinking water, in the wake of the drinking water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, where many children tested extremely high concentrations of lead in their bodies, high enough to cause irreversible brain damage. The EPA is urging every state in the U.S. to locate all water lines in their jurisdiction that could potentially be distributing lead-contaminated drinking water to the public, which apparently was already required of every state in the U.S..

As reported in the Detroit Free Press Sunday, millions of lead service lines remain buried in cities across the nation, but in many cases water utilities are uncertain where those lines are, making it difficult for EPA to monitor many utilities’ compliance with the lead testing requirement, even at locations most likely suspected to have high concentrations of lead already in their public’s drinking water coming out of the tap.

The EPA, having already been criticized by some for not moving more quickly in Flint after learning of the elevated lead level in at least one home in February, 2015, and two months later, found to be not practicing corrosion control as was required, said it is now increasing its regulatory oversight over state programs – “to identify and address any deficiencies.”

The EPA outlined its plans in two letters sent Monday: One, from agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to governors in 49 states; and a second, with more detail, from Deputy Assistant Administrator Joel Beauvais in the EPA Office of Water, to state regulators. The state of Wyoming did not get letters because it has not taken primary responsibility for drinking water, so it remains with EPA.

In January, McCarthy issued an emergency order taking over testing and putting other requirements on Michigan and the city of Flint, saying they were delaying implementation of recommendations made by the federal agency. That came, however, some 20 months after Flint switched water sources and the state Department of Environmental Quality, with primary responsibility, failed to require corrosion control, which apparently allowed lead to leach from aging lines into residents’ taps.

While the state DEQ has borne most of the blame, the EPA has been criticized for not moving more decisively to restore corrosion control and react to fears of widespread lead contamination after the state acknowledged in April of last year that it did not believe it had to require corrosion control under the 25-year-old Lead and Copper Rule at that point. It has since acknowledged the mistake.

McCarthy said in her letter that her staff “will be meeting with every state drinking water program across the country to ensure that states are taking appropriate action to identify and address” any issues of lead levels being above acceptable levels.

She also called for states to do more to ensure that the public receives “better and quicker” information on lead risks, and said her agency will be working with states to make sure there is “adequate and sustained investment” in regulatory oversight of drinking water laws. She said EPA will be looking to help find financing for the “upgrading and replacement of aging infrastructure, especially for poor and overburdened communities.”