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Zinke Calls for Reducing Two More National Monuments, Exposing Public Lands to Grazing and Logging

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Zinke Calls for Reducing Two More National Monuments, Exposing Public Lands to Grazing and Logging
A view from Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument—Pilot Rock. BLM / Bob Wick / Flickr

By Jason Mark

More than three months after he delivered his national monument recommendations to the White House, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke on Tuesday finally made public his list of proposed reductions and management changes to 10 monuments. The announcement came one day after President Donald Trump, in the largest rollback of protected areas in U.S. history, signed a pair of proclamations slashing the size of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.

Zinke's final report to the president is largely identical to a version of the recommendations that was leaked to the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal in September.


In addition to the reductions in the two Utah monuments Trump announced Monday, Zinke is urging unspecified reductions in Nevada's Gold Butte National Monument and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which straddles the California-Oregon border. The report also urges the president to consider changing the boundaries of two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean: Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll.

Conservation groups and some elected officials quickly criticized Zinke's recommendations. "Secretary Zinke falsely claims the Interior Department is listening to the voices of Oregonians when it comes to the agency's damaging, vague recommendation to close off public access to the Cascade-Siskiyou monument," Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and an outspoken proponent of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, said. "This is not what the majority of Oregonians signed up for when they spoke out in favor of expanding protections for this Oregon treasure. These public lands belong to all Oregonians and all Americans, not to corporations or Trump's department heads."

Environmental organizations, led by several southwestern Native American nations, are already moving to block Trump's national monument reductions, which they say are illegal.

"Yesterday, we saw the largest ever stripping of protections for America's publicly owned lands, with losses at two national monuments in Utah," Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, said Tuesday. "Today, President Trump and Secretary Zinke are doubling down on their illegal and unpopular attack on public lands and waters by proposing to rip away protections from even more of America's favorite places in the Nevada desert and the lush forests of Oregon and Northern California."

Zinke's report also calls for making changes to the management plans of another half dozen national monuments, including Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean, and New Mexico's Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. In general, the recommended changes call for allowing additional logging, cattle grazing, and/or the use of off-road motorized vehicles.

On a call Tuesday with reporters, Zinke rejected arguments that the monument reductions are in any way motivated by efforts to increase fossil fuel extraction on public lands. "This is not about energy," Zinke told reporters. "There is no oil and gas assets."

Zinke's official report to the president, however, does note that Trump's April 2017 executive order asking for the national monument review explicitly raised the issue of energy assets: "Monument designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with state, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders may also create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of federal lands, burden state, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth." The formal review of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument notes that the area contains "an estimated several billion tons of coal."

During the Tuesday press conference, Zinke also blasted critics who have complained that the monument review process has been one-sided, lacking in transparency, and deaf to public opinion. "I don't yield to public pressure," Zinke said. "Sound public policy is not based on the threats of a lawsuit; it's doing what's right."

According to an analysis by the Center for Western Priorities, 98 percent of the 650,000 public comments received by the Interior Department during Zinke's review process favored preserving national monuments at their current size.

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA magazine.

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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