Category Archives: environmental news

Parking It, Part 2: Make way for the flames

AMARILLO, Texas — We had every intention this morning of parking our fifth wheel RV at Copper Breaks State Park just south of Quanah, in Hardeman County.

Then something got in the way.

Fire, man! Flames! Lots of ’em.

We knew about the fire that had broken out. We called the state park office to inquire about any fire danger. That was four days ago. The ranger said the park was open “at this moment.” There was no imminent fire danger, she said, “right now. But you would do well to call us as you get closer to your departure date.”

Deal. Then I forgot to call ahead before we set out from Collin County.

About an hour or so on the road, the phone rang in the truck. Texas Parks & Wildlife headquarters in Austin was on the other end of the call. “I’m so sorry to tell you but Copper Breaks is not accepting any arrivals today” because of the fire danger. She asked if we had any alternate preferences. I mentioned Lake Arrowhead State Park near Jolly. “Hold on, I’ll get back to you,” she said.

Lake Arrowhead had limited availability; only water sites were left. We decided to come all the way to Amarillo.

The point of this blog, though, is to say a good word about TP&W’s alertness, that the agency was able to get in touch with us and inform us of the danger in plenty of time.

You might know already that I am a giant fan of the Texas state park system. We do all we can to support it financially. We enjoy the amenities. The parks are well-groomed. They are customer friendly.

TP&W also is willing to keep a sharp eye out for those of us who forget to do their due diligence before hitting the road.

Candidate calls a halt; his issue lives on

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was one of those 0-percenters who sought to catch fire among the huge field of Democrats running for president of the United States.

He didn’t ignite. Today he ended his campaign.

That’s the bad news … for Inslee. The good news is that his signature issue, climate change and Donald Trump’s ignorance of its significance, lives on.

Gov. Inslee had vowed to make climate change/global warming the linchpin of his campaign. Sure, he said he felt strongly about other issues, but this one really floats his boat.

As for Trump, he calls climate change a “hoax.” He said it’s cooked up by China, which wants to undermine and destroy the U.S. fossil fuel industry. The president is blowing it out of his backside.

Inslee sees the issue as the nation’s premier national security concern. So do many other Americans. I am one of those millions of others who stands with Inslee and others who want the government to pay attention to the tangible evidence that climate change is having around the world … and to acknowledge that humankind is at least partially responsible for the damage it is inflicting on Planet Earth.

Gov. Inslee vowed today to remain active in the dual-edged pursuit of (a) talking up the dire peril that climate change is posing and (b) the peril the nation faces if it re-elects Donald J. Trump to another four years as president.

Keep up the fight, governor. I stand with you.

Trump now wants to kill off endangered species?

This is far from a flash, but here goes anyway: Donald John Trump is off his ever-lovin’ rocker.

The Trump administration now wants to seriously weaken a 1973 law — signed by a Republican president — that helped save several valuable species of wildlife from extinction.

Yep, Donald Trump is taking dead aim at the Endangered Species Act. He wants to weaken provisions that allow for the protection of these species. He claims the regulations are too burdensome.

According to Smithsonian.com: The new rules also impose limitations on how threats are assessed. Officials used to take into account factors that could harm species in the “foreseeable future,” but now lawmakers have more discretion in deciding what “foreseeable future” should mean. So they may choose to disregard climate factors—like rising sea levels and extreme heat—that will likely impact species several decades from now.

President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law in 1973. At the time of its enactment, species such as the American alligator and the bald eagle were in serious trouble. Their numbers had plummeted. The eagle had suffered terribly by consuming fish that were poisoned by DDT. The alligator had been hunted to near extinction along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

Trump endangers the Endangered Species Act

So what in the world is this president trying to do? Why on God’s cherished Earth does this man seek to endanger wildlife that has become part of the American landscape. Consider, too, that the Endangered Species Act helped save the creature that symbolizes the nation itself: the bald eagle!

The Trump administration continues to make moves it aims to help industry, with little or no regard to the consequences they might deliver to God’s cherished creatures.

This is the mindset of an administration led by someone with zero interest — let alone knowledge — of matters he cannot comprehend.

Protecting wildlife? Hah!

Why are we ignoring deforestation in the climate change debate?

I am delighted to hear the Democratic Party presidential primary candidates debate among themselves about how they intend to attack the scourge of climate change/global warming.

They recognize the obvious, that it poses a grim and dire threat to our national security. They are challenging Donald Trump’s ridiculous assertion that climate change is a “hoax” cooked up by the Chinese, who are trying to “destroy our fossil fuel industry.”

There. That all said, I am wondering about what I believe is a missing element in the climate change debate.

While the candidates talk about carbon emissions and their impact on the atmospheric temperature and the changing climate, I hear next to no one mention deforestation as a key part of the crisis.

What’s going on in many regions of the world? Human beings are encroaching further and more deeply into habitat occupied exclusively by wildlife. To do that humans are wiping out millions of acres of forestland annually. Why is this important? How does it contribute to the changing climate worldwide?

Trees consume carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. CO2 warms the atmosphere, while oxygen cools it. With more CO2 being thrown into the air with less oxygen present to counteract its impact, well … what do you think happens? The atmosphere warms up. Those polar ice caps are exposed to warmer air. The ice melts. The oceans’ levels rise. You know how this goes.

And yet we hear precious little from these men and women running for president that speaks directly to ways to pressure other nations to curb their deforestation efforts. What’s more, the European Union is the leading importer of goods produced from the deforestation epidemic that continues full throttle throughout the world.

This plague is occurring throughout Latin America, in Africa, in Southeast and South Asia. Lush forests are disappearing daily.

Developing countries are looking for places to grow, to improve industrial capacity, to find places where their residents can live, rear their families and continue their search for success and happiness. I don’t begrudge them those desires.

However, the cost of all this hideous scarring of our planet is too great to ignore.

We’re going to elect a president in 2020. If we keep the current guy in power, climate change will continue to get short shrift from the White House. We need someone in power who at a bare minimum is going to refocus our effort to curbing this terrible trend.

We also need to apply a lot more of our focus on finding ways to stop obliterating Earth’s forest lands. Without those trees, we are doomed to suffocate in an ever-warming environment.

‘Don’t Mess With Texas’? Let’s make it count

We all know the phrase “Don’t Mess With Texas.” It has become some sort of political battle cry. Right-wingers have adopted it as a defiant call to those who might want to, um, “reform” certain laws and customs.

It truth the phrase was born in the 1980s as an anti-littering slogan during the time Garry Mauro was serving as the state’s land commissioner. The General Land Office took up litter abatement as a critical issue facing the state.

Mauro and those who have followed him into the Land Office, though, have yet to take the next step in the effort to rid the state of litter that sullies our state’s vast landscape.

I want to bring up an issue I’ve raised before in other forums.

I bring you the Bottle Bill.

A bottle bill works in the states that have them. I grew up in Oregon, where the bottle bill has become a way of life. Rather than tossing bottles into the garbage, you save ’em and take ’em to the store where you get a return on the deposit you paid when you purchased the beverage the bottle contained.

The Oregon bottle bill, as I recall it, was enacted during the time Republican Tom McCall was serving as governor. The Legislature approved it in 1971 and has amended it a couple of time since then.

I remember a study done by media in Oregon that examined the amount of trash tossed along Interstate 84 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River; they also looked at the same length of highway on the Washington side of the Columbia. They found much more trash — namely glass bottles — in Washington than in Oregon.

OK, what does this mean for any other state, especially Texas, where my family and I have lived since 1984? It means the state hasn’t discovered what residents of other states, including my home state, have learned: bottle bills help abate litter.

I know that the grocery lobby opposes any effort to enact such a law in Texas, or any state that doesn’t have such a law on the books. They contend it is costly to process the bottles brought in by customers.

I don’t expect the next Texas Legislature to move on this matter. There is no interest among legislators to approve a law that requires such a fundamental change in consumer attitudes.

Sure, many communities have vibrant recycling programs. My wife and I live in Princeton and are happy to fill our recycling bin with items to reused/repurposed. They include glass bottles.

Still, we see a lot of litter strewn along our state’s thoroughfares. To their shame, too many Texans are still “messing with Texas.”

Climate change gets the attention it deserves

If there was an issue that won the day during the two nights of Democratic presidential candidates’ joint appearance, it had to be climate change.

The Republican president these men and women want to replace has ignored the issue, other than to declare it is a “hoax.”

It is no such thing. The Democratic candidates have spoken at varying levels of enthusiasm about the need to deal with climate change and the existential threat it poses to our national security.

I am glad to hear these candidates raise the level of attention to this dire issue. I am delighted they have elevated the issue to the front rank. I want to them to keep the issue in front of us for as long as it takes.

Donald Trump’s non-response to the climate change crisis is to promote exploration of fossil fuels, the burning of which is one of the primary sources of carbon emissions that are warming Earth’s atmosphere and, thus, are changing the climate that surrounds the planet.

Climate change is the signature issue of one of the Democratic presidential candidates: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. He makes no apology for his intention to make the issue his front-and-center talking point as he campaigns for the White House. Nor should he.

Climate change won’t elect Jay Inslee in November 2020 to the presidency. However, the issue will continue to be discussed openly and fully by the Democratic contenders for their party’s nomination.

Whoever emerges as the nominee to face Donald Trump must keep the climate change volume turned up. I trust that nominee will continue to sound the alarm.

Wow! That’s all one can say about that storm

This picture came from the Washington Post’s website, which leads me to believe it’s the real thing. It’s no Photoshop product, or the result of some other photographic trickery.

It is a picture of what occurred over Dallas, Texas, yesterday. The storm produced high wind, heavy rain and it knocked over a construction crane in the city’s downtown district.

They call this phenomenon a “microburst.” It was deadly, indeed. One person died when the crane crashed into a building, cutting the structure virtually in two.

I got an inquiry from a friend downstate who asked if had experienced any of that mayhem. I told her “no,” and noted that we got a bit of rain and a little bit of wind in Princeton, which is about 40 or so miles north of Dallas.

I have heard it said about Texas weather — whether it’s on the Gulf Coast or in the Panhandle, where we have lived during our 35 years in Texas — that “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes …” I also have heard it said of the Panhandle that “You can experience all the seasons of the year in just a matter of minutes.”

Let it also be said of North Texas, where we now call home, that meteorological violence can erupt just on the other side of our neighborhood.

Storms such as the one that roared Sunday over downtown Dallas can produce magnificent images … but they aren’t to be trifled with.

Wow!

Wanting climate change to get a full hearing in 2020

Climate change is not the “hoax” that Donald Trump says it is.

Therefore, I want the issue to take center stage during the 2020 presidential election campaign. I keep seeing data that tell us about warming global temperatures, shrinking ice caps, rising sea levels, coastal communities facing an existential danger.

Yet the president does nothing about any of it. He says he wants to boost fossil fuel production, which means an increase in carbon emissions that scientists blame for the warming atmosphere.

Most of the Democrats running for president tell us they subscribe to the notion that climate change poses a legitimate national emergency and is a threat to our national security. I happen to believe them.

I also want there to be commitments — ironclad, cast in stone, signed in blood if need be — that the United States is going to resume its investment in alternative energy sources.

Indeed, one of the Democratic candidates — South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — noted the other day that such investment could produce literally thousands if not millions of jobs for Americans. Thus, such an emphasis not only would save the planet from its self-destruction, but it also would Americans to work.

Hmm. How’s that for “putting America first”?

It works for me.

If you want to declare a national emergency, then let’s turn away from this nonsense about migrants seeking entry into this country. The national emergency exists in the changing climate that threatens the entire planet.

Lake Meredith makes a huge recovery

It’s nice to have your worst fears proven to be unfounded.

Lake Meredith sits north of Amarillo, providing water to several communities throughout the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains. There was a time not many years ago when the water level at the lake dropped to frighteningly low levels.

By 2013, the lake stood at 26 feet of depth. They closed marinas at the National Recreation Area. The water level dipped below the intake sources used to transport the water out of the lake basin.

Amarillo stopped taking water from the lake.

Man, I was worried about whether the lake could ever recover. Well, it has. It has come back in a major way. Park officials began eradicating the ultra-thirsty salt cedars they planted years ago to help stem erosion along the lakefront. The eradication effort seems to have helped.

The lake level now stands at 76 feet. The Panhandle has been getting drenched in recent days, or so I understand. The Canadian River watershed that feeds the lake has been getting plenty of rainfall.

The U.S. parks system that runs the lake has been increasing the recreational opportunities throughout the NRA to lure tourists to the area. They were doing so years ago when the water levels were so low.

Now it appears that the lake’s health is looking better all the time. Boating activity has returned.

OK, the lake levels aren’t yet at the historic high of 103 feet, which Meredith reached in 1973. At this rate, though, I am not going to bet against the lake getting pretty damn close to that level.

I am so happy to see Lake Meredith regain its health.

This amendment issue is worth all Texans’ support

It’s not often that a Texas constitutional amendment election gets my juices flowing, but this year is going to present one for my wife and me.

Hey, we’re retired these days and we spend time cruising around Texas hauling our fifth wheel recreational vehicle behind our pickup. When we travel in Texas, we make it a point to spend as many nights as we can at one of the state parks.

So, the Legislature has decided to send a measure to voters this fall that dedicates a lot of money to maintain and improve our state park network.

I am all in on this one!

According to the Texas Tribune: In a big win for outdoor enthusiasts and day trippers alike, legislation that would ensure that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission always get the maximum amount of money they are allowed to receive through a state sporting goods sales tax has passed both the House and Senate and heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.

The 1993 Legislature approved a law that dedicated 94 percent of sales tax revenue to the state parks, with 6 percent going to the Texas Historical Commission. In the years since then, the state has been forced to use that revenue to balance the budget, depriving the parks system of money it needs for maintenance, upkeep and improvement of the system.

The constitutional amendment would ensure the state spends as much money as possible on parks, according to state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, author of the bill.

My wife and I recently moved to Collin County. We live with easy driving distance of several first-class state parks. We have enjoyed Lake Tawakoni, Lake Bob Sandlin, Eisenhower and Lake Arrowhead state parks.

We are — and this is not an overstatement — gigantic fans of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the state park system. We have enjoyed many of our state parks over the years. We purchase the annual pass that waives our entrance fees; we see it as an investment in what we believe is a first-class network of parks.

We obviously aren’t alone in making ample use of our state parks. TP&W Commission Chairman Ralph Duggins noted in an email that pressure on the parks is coming from a booming population and said that “this bill will give voters the chance to assure their future with a predictable, dedicated and sustainable funding stream.”

I am often highly critical of state government. Not on this matter, though. The Texas state park network is worth all Texans’ support.