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Lawsuit Targets New Mexico County's Illegal Bulldozing in San Francisco River

Lawsuit Targets New Mexico County's Illegal Bulldozing in San Francisco River

The Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity sent a notice of intent Oct. 3 to sue Catron County under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for illegally bulldozing the San Francisco River. The center will seek full restoration of the disturbed areas and urge the court to impose on Catron County the statutory maximum federal fine of $37,500 per day per violation, which would be paid to the U.S. Treasury.

Catron County trespassed across private property in August to bulldoze 13.5 miles of the San Francisco River in the Gila National Forest without CWA permits or U.S. Forest Service approval. The bulldozer and other vehicles crossed or plowed through the river at least 47 times downstream of Reserve, N.M., within a national forest inventoried roadless area and through a stretch of river that is designated critical habitat for the federally threatened loach minnow.

“Catron County’s bulldozing of the San Francisco River was a deliberate attack on endangered species, the public’s national forests, federal environmental laws and private-property rights,” said Cyndi Tuell of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re not going to stand for it. The county needs to be held accountable.”

The CWA prohibits the discharge of pollutants into streams without a permit, and further prohibits the discharge of fill material into streams or wetlands without a permit. The center seeks to have Catron County comply with the CWA and complete full restoration of all damage and environmental harm caused by its unpermitted bulldozing. Should the county fail to do so in 60 days, the center will be free to file suit in federal court in order to seek court-ordered restoration and the payment of civil fines by the county to the federal government.

The bulldozing came just seven days after a press release issued by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) in which he highlighted that sheriffs in counties that patrol the Gila will not enforce roadless rules or the Forest Service’s travel-management plan, which manages off-road vehicle use. Incidents of renegades destroying public lands and endangered species habitat are on the rise in New Mexico following calls by Pearce for counties to seize control of federal public land.  

In response to the bulldozing, the Forest Service sent Catron County a letter prohibiting further activities in the river and outlining potential violations of other federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Archeological Resources Protection Act, Native Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, in addition to violating the CWA.

For more information, click here.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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