Attention-grabbing Information Gadgets – Watts Up With That?

Opinions and News Briefs by Kip Hansen — 3 February 2024 — 1100 words/4 minutes

Over the last few days there have been a few interesting general news items touching on topics that I have covered here in the past.  I’m just going to mention them, with my opinions, and give links to the original stories.

[Note:  There are hardly ever “original” stories, almost all that become visible in your news feeds are re-writes of some other coverage elsewhere.  Were it important, I would track down the earliest version of each one.]

Gray Wolves

The U.S. Wish and Wildlife Service has issued a ‘finding’ — an official statement — on the Gray Wolf:

“After an extensive peer-reviewed assessment using the best available science, the Service today announced a not warranted finding for two petitions to list gray wolves under the ESA in the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western United States. This finding is not action-forcing; the legal status of gray wolves does not change as a result of this finding.”

“Gray wolves are listed under the ESA as endangered in 44 states, threatened in Minnesota, and under state jurisdiction in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and portions of eastern Oregon and Washington. Based on the latest data as of the end of 2022, there were approximately 2,797 wolves distributed across at least 286 packs in seven states in the Western United States. This population size and widespread distribution contribute to the resiliency and redundancy of wolves in this region. The population maintains high genetic diversity and connectivity, further supporting their ability to adapt to future changes.”

“To accomplish this and address the concern about nationwide recovery for gray wolves, the Service will undertake a process to develop a first-ever nationwide gray wolf recovery plan by December 12, 2025. Recovery plans provide a vision for species recovery that is connected to site-specific actions for reducing threats and conserving listed species and their ecosystems.”  [underlining emphasis mine – kh]

What this means depends on your opinion about the re-wilding of Gray Wolves in the United States.   On the most basic level, US FWS has decided not to change the rules about Gray Wolves.  FWS attempts to de-list the Gray Wolves from Endangered to Threatened have been repeated successfully challenged in Federal court by conservation activists groups —  the resulting in the fact that 5 of 6 previous FWS’s issued rules on Gray Wolves have been shot down by courts.

There is a report  from the FWS dated December 2023 available here [.pdf].  This report basically finds that wolves are doing fine and don’t need to be protected under the Endangered Species Act [ESA].

Nevertheless, FWS is not going to try again, at this time, to lessen protections for the Gray Wolf.

PBS NewsHour reprinted a piece by Associated Press’sMatthew Brown and titled it: “Feds won’t restore protections for gray wolves, propose national recovery plan”.

How’s that?  The “won’t restore” is what the FWS calls “a not warranted finding for two petitions to list gray wolves under the ESA in the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western United States.”  The petitions demanded restoration of full Endangered Species status for the wolves in the Northern Rockies and the Western United States – which the FWS has declined to do – as “not warranted”.

Expect more legal challenges and noisy advocacy and pushback to that advocacy.  The topic of wolves produces a lot of opinions, viewpoints and emotional response [ mine here ]

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Lake Oroville Dam water release

Who says “people never learn”?  The California Department of Water Resources made this announcement on 30 January 2024:

“Ahead of forecasted winter storms this week, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) began increasing water releases to the Feather River today from the Oroville-Thermalito Complex. These releases provide flood control protection for downstream communities and are coordinated closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water operators. Feather River recreation users are advised to remain alert as river flows are expected to be swift and cold and may change based on projected weather forecasts.”

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has a terrific video of the event (2:20).

Why is the interesting news?  Let me refresh your memory, when in 2017 the DWR failed to release adequate amounts of water prior to heavy rains.  This created the Oroville Dam Crisis  and resulted in the evacuation of 180,000 people.  At that time, Anthony Watts’ hometown was close enough for the Oroville Dam story to be local news and this crisis was covered here at WUWT.

The Great Salt Lake: Personhood ?

The U.S. State of Utah says “Not so fast, Lefty!”

Oddly covered in the Climate Crisis News cabal outlet Inside Climate News (ICN), we get this as:

Utah Legislature Takes Aim at Rights of Nature Movement

“Nonhuman entities like corporations and municipalities have long had “legal personhood” in U.S. law. Now, Utah lawmakers want to prevent lakes, forests and other parts of nature from having the same legal status.”

“Lawmakers in Utah are advancing legislation aimed at stopping a growing “rights of nature” movement that has coalesced around efforts in the state to save the Great Salt Lake, which is drying up as a combination of climate change, development and agriculture drain on its freshwater sources.” 

“With activists promoting legislation recognizing that the Great Salt Lake has a right to exist, lawmakers in Utah’s House of Representatives on Tuesday voted in favor of a bill that would prohibit state and local governments from granting “legal personhood” to lakes and other bodies of water, animals and plants, among nature’s other constituents. The bill also prohibits governments in the state from granting legal personhood to artificial intelligence.”

Of course, the ICN slants the issue way off to the left, but the issue is about what is known as the Rights of Nature movement.  A specious legal argument that posits that lakes, trees, rivers should be granted Legal Personhood, with advocates appointed to act on their behalf under the law. 

The Utah House of Representatives has passed HB 249 which states:

“       63G-31-102. Legal personhood restricted.
51          Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a governmental entity may not grant legal
52     personhood to, nor recognize legal personhood in:
53          (1) artificial intelligence;
54          (2) an inanimate object;
55          (3) a body of water;
56          (4) land;
57          (5) real property;
58          (6) atmospheric gases;

59          (7) an astronomical object;
60          (8) weather;
61          (9) a plant;
62          (10) a nonhuman animal; or
63          (11) any other member of a taxonomic domain that is not a human being.
64          Section 3. Effective date.
65          This bill takes effect on May 1, 2024.”

This bill is expected to pass the state Senate and to be signed into law by the Governor of Utah.  So not just “no personhood for the Great Salt Lake”, but, sorry Hal 9000, no personhood for you either.

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Author’s Comment:

I see many more interesting things than my current life allows me to write about.  I thought I’d try a little different format and bring a few of these to the forefront. 

Let me know in comments if this type of thing is any good.

Thanks for reading.

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