Environment

Scientists plead with feds to expand red wolf recovery program, in jeopardy under Trump

Photo of a red wolf, which is bordering on extinction in the wild

On the verge of extinction in the wild: the red wolf (Photo U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Whoever is the next Interior Secretary, under President-elect Donald Trump, he or she probably won’t be friendly to the endangered red wolf.  Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is considered to be the leading candidate for the post, which doesn’t portend well for the red wolf recovery program. As a U.S. House member, Fallin voted against protecting wild horses and burros in their 10-state native range. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for that program.

Nonetheless, 30 scientists sent a letter yesterday to outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe asking that the government expand, not curtail the federal red wolf recovery program.

Without adequate protections from poaching, hunting and interbreeding with coyotes — which dilutes the wolves’ gene pool — “We think there is a really, really good chance red wolves will go extinct in the wild,” said Jamie Pang, Endangered Species Act Campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity in Washington, D.C.

Although only about 40 red wolves live in the wild — all of them within five counties in northeastern North Carolina — USFWS recently proposed moving some of them to federal lands in just one county: Dare, “with no effective means to protect wolves that step outside the county line,” the letter read. Others would be relocated to zoos, which already have 225 in captivity. “The Service must stem the rapid decline of the only wild population of red wolves in the world.”

“Rather than stymie red wolf recovery and population growth by restricting the North Carolina recovery area, the Service should work to better protect the existing wild population through actions such as reducing gunshot mortality and gaining support from adjacent landowners. We strongly urge the Service to reconsider its decision to constrict the North Carolina recovery area for red wolves.”

The 1990 Red Wolf Recovery Plan called for the reintroduction of wolves into at least three areas in their historical range, which includes North Carolina and other areas in the Southeast. Earlier this fall, a federal judge imposed a temporary injunction ordering the USFWS to stop granting legal take permits. These permits essentially allow private citizens to kill or trap wolves with impunity.

“The court was clear that it’s the Fish and Wildlife Service’s job is to conserve this endangered species, not drive it to extinction,” Sierra Weaver, attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said after the September hearing. “The agency cannot simply abandon that responsibility.”

Tomorrow in Durham, there is a free screening of the documentary, Staring Down Fate.  The film tells the story of  a red wolf biologist who is diagnosed with ALS, and searches for meaning in his terminal illness while the endangered species he dedicated his career to faces another potential extinction.

The screening is sponsored by The Center for Documentary Studies and the Southern Documentary Fund: Friday, 7 p.m. Full Frame Theater, American Tobacco Campus, Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance.

 

 

Commentary

Editorial: 2017 special election isn’t the answer to GOP gerrymandering

This morning’s lead editorial in the Fayetteville Observer is on the mark with its take on the special legislative election that the a federal court has ordered for North Carolina in 2017. It points out that though the new round of voting has the potential to do some good, it doesn’t address the central problem. Here’s the conclusion:

“Republican leaders were predictably unhappy with the court decision. Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County and Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County, both Republicans, are the principal architects of the state’s voting districts. They said in a joint statement Tuesday that the ruling “would effectively undo the will of millions of North Carolinians just days after they cast their ballots.”

But that’s exactly what Rucho and Lewis did when they drew those districts, creating sometimes bizarre boundaries intended to cluster as many African-American voters as possible into as few districts as possible. Because most African-Americans are reliably Democratic, jamming many of them into a few districts – in this case, 28 of the General Assembly’s 170 House and Senate districts – gave Republicans an easier route to dominate many adjoining districts and maintain control. It was effective but, three federal judges ruled, unconstitutional….

It’s unclear if the governor or legislative leaders will appeal the decision, but we see a better route: End this gerrymandering nonsense for good by creating the nonpartisan redistricting commission that Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past – including the current leaders, albeit only when they were in the minority.

These redistricting battles are endless, frustrating and unnecessary. We all know what the better way is. Let’s make it happen.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

News

State Board of Elections orders partial recount in Durham

The State Board of elections Wednesday ordered a partial recount of ballots cast in Durham County in the Nov. 8 election.

The board voted 3-2 along party lines to recount more than 90,000 votes reported late on the night of the election because of a software problem.

The recount order comes as Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, continues to question the results of the election and refuses to concede to his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper.  

As the board heard in testimony from Durham board members and software experts Wednesday, the votes were tabulated late because elections workers were unable to read data from six memory cards used to record votes.

The software failed to aggregate the data from five of the cards because the number of votes went beyond the limits of its available memory. It’s suspected that the sixth card may have suffered from a battery problem.

Election officials told the board ballot totals were read from paper tapes and transcribed for reporting to the state while observers from both parties were on hand to monitor them.

Cooper claimed victory on election night, when he ended the night about 5,000 votes ahead of McCrory. But the governor insisted absentee and provisional ballots needed to be counted before the result could be known. Cooper’s lead grew steadily as more ballots were tallied – on Wednesday passing the 10,000 vote margin that would preclude the statewide recount McCrory has already requested. McCrory’s campaign has launched a series of election challenges and protests, alleging fraud and voting irregularities in more than half of the state’s 100 counties.

County boards of election rejected McCrory’s challenges last week, leading his campaign to ask the state board of election to take over investigations into claims of fraud and irregularities. The board declined, telling county boards to reject the governor’s protests challenging voter eligibility.

The partial recount is likely to push back the finalizing of the election results.

A federal lawsuit over same-day registration in the election was also brought by the conservative Civitas Institute last week. A preliminary hearing in that suit is scheduled for next week.

News

Triangle doctors, Planned Parenthood file suit to overturn 20-week abortion ban

Abortion TRAP

File photo

Three doctors from Durham and Chapel Hill and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in Raleigh filed a federal lawsuit today seeking to overturn North Carolina’s law criminalizing abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Attorneys from the ACLU of North Carolina and the Foundation, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America are representing plaintiffs Amy Bryant of Chapel Hill, Beverly Gray and Elizabeth Deans, both of Durham, and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

The 13-page lawsuit, Bryant et al. v. Woodall et al., alleges North Carolina’s law “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally prevents doctors from providing needed care to patients, denies women the ability to make decisions about their own bodies, threatens the health and wellbeing of women, prevents some women with fewer resources from accessing treatment at all, and prevents doctors from fulfilling their professional responsibilities and obligations as physicians.”

There were also two legal challenges to abortion restrictions filed the same day in Alaska and Missouri.

Last year, North Carolina lawmakers amended its abortion law to narrow health exceptions to the 20-week ban, following a five-year period when the state enacted 13 abortion restrictions.

The ban forces physicians caring for a woman with a high-risk pregnancy to delay necessary care until her condition imposes an immediate threat of death or major medical damage. The ban also contains no exceptions for a woman who receives the devastating diagnosis that the fetus will not survive after birth. In other cases, financial hurdles, barriers put in place by politicians, lack of a nearby provider, or clinic closures can make it impossible for a woman to get an abortion as soon as she would like.

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News

Where will President-elect Trump fall on early childhood education?

Donald Trump speakingThe reaction to President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of a new education secretary in staunch school choice backer Betsy DeVos, according to many advocates, sends a clear message from the incoming president on where he will stand when it comes to the nation’s boiling school debate.

But one pivotal education issue—early childhood education—that’s earned less than its fair share of attention during the presidential election is getting a deep dive from Education Week this week.

And while Trump has indicated some support for early childhood programs through tax deductions and credits for working families, there’s still much up in the air, the paper reports.

From Education Week:

Making child care more affordable for working families was one of a handful of education policy positions that President-elect Donald Trump tackled with some specificity on the campaign trail, promising to offer “much-needed relief” through a combination of tax deductions and credits.

But the incoming administration’s views on a number of other early-childhood initiatives championed by the Obama White House—including federal support of state-run preschool programs, home visiting, and Head Start—are as yet unknown. The early-childhood-advocacy community is still grappling with what a Trump administration will mean for those policies and many others.

On the one hand, both Trump and his vice president, former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, have made high-profile pitches on early-childhood issues. As governor, for example, Pence in 2014 made a rare appearance before the state Senate to push for a preschool program, and Indiana now has a pilot program operating in five counties.

A wise path for the Trump administration would include continuing programs that already exist, said Kris Perry, the executive director of the First Five Years Fund, citing current federal efforts to support state preschool and to link private child-care providers and Head Start.

“We’ve enjoyed eight years, if not longer, of increasing national and federal attention to early-childhood education,” said Perry. “The federal role is one of partner. There is some accountability around quality, but [federal officials are] not in the driver’s seat.”

Katharine B. Stevens, a resident scholar on early-childhood policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, believes that Trump will be focused on programs that are popular, and that early-childhood policies could be a vehicle.

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