Concerned Ohioans Unite Against Bobcat Trapping Plan
Environmental activists, science educators and the Athens Ohio City Council are teaming up against a controversial new proposal by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife (ODNRDOW) to open a bobcat trapping season in the southeastern part of the state, The New Political reported Wednesday.
The Athens City Council passed a resolution opposing the measure Monday night, citing concerns that bobcats were taken off the state's threatened and endangered species list less than four years ago and that not enough research has been done to determine if the newly-growing populations can sustain a trapping season, according to a copy of the resolution obtained by EcoWatch. The city council also looked to prevent similar proposals in the future, urging "the State of Ohio to declare the bobcat a protected species and ban all hunting and trapping of this wonderful animal for all Ohioans now and in the future."
The resolution notes that bobcats do not overpopulate.
"I like the idea that there's wild animals in the woods," Athens City Councilman Jeff Risner told The Post. "They're worth more to me alive than they are dead."
The resolution further notes that the trapping proposal contradicts the ODNRDOW's own research plans.
In an October 2017 report, the department wrote, "Little is known about the density and distribution of bobcats in Ohio, as well as the population trajectory, and which areas act as source populations. Such information is critical before decisions are taken on opening a trapping season and the maximum yearly take."
The ODNR entered into a contract with the Ohio University in August 2017 to conduct such a study, which will take four years to complete.
"So why the rush and sudden turn-around??," Heather Cantino, an environmental educator and vice chair of the Buckeye Forest Council board who drafted the council resolution, asked in The Athens' News Readers Forum. "Politics and pressure from the Ohio Trappers Association seem to be trumping the DOW's own recent science-based plan to protect Ohio's top native predator species," she wrote.
Chapter 1501:31-16 of the Ohio Revised Code values a bobcat at $500.
Bobcats are making a comeback in Ohio—there were 499 verified sightings in 2017, The Columbia Dispatch reported. "We're confident the population is secure," ODNR wildlife management and research executive administrator Mike Reynolds told The Dispatch.
The proposed trapping season would last from November 2018 to January 2019 and end once a maximum of 40 bobcats are trapped in the east and 20 in the south, where Athens is located, The Dispatch reported.
But Cantino pointed out that each verified sighting does not necessarily correspond to a different animal and that the increase in sightings might be due to the increase in trail cameras installed in the past years, which the ODNRDOW itself suggested in its Ohio Bobcat Management Plan. Further, she expressed concerns that the hunting licenses themselves will be unlimited and sell for $5, meaning hunters might go over the proposed quota before the state can enforce it. Finally, not enough research has been done to determine if the quota amounts are really safe for the existing populations.
Assistant professor of conservation biology at Ohio University and the lead researcher on the bobcat study told The Dispatch he did not yet have enough information to make that call.
"I would love to have a solid answer, but it's a tough question," Popescu told The Dispatch.
Public outcry by individuals like Cantino and groups like Save Ohio Bobcats II has persuaded the ODNRDOW to extend the online commenting period until March 31 and push back the dates planned for the public hearing and vote. The Ohio Wildlife Council, a board of 8 that decides all ONDRDOW proposals, will hold a public meeting on April 11 and vote on May 9.
In her letter, Cantino pointed out that the council is composed entirely of sportspeople and does not have a biologist, though one member is a veterinarian.
"Only a massive outcry will defeat this dangerous, greedy, and ill-considered plan," she wrote.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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