Saturday, March 3, 2018

Foxconn road work endangers at-risk plants. Monarch habitat, too.

The DNR said last year that the Monarch butterfly population has "declined by 90 percent since the 1990s and need whatever help they can get from government agencies...."

On the other hand, the DNR said last week that there may be losses of some of the very host plants vital to Monarchs' survival through "the incidental taking of some plants," so let's look closer at the contradiction.

Call it another bad day in an exceptionally-bad month for the environment where the Wisconsin DNR is led with a "chamber of commerce mentality."

That was Walker's 2010 justification for putting former McDonald's store manager and home-builder Cathy Stepp developer atop the agency in 2011, while the DNR is now run literally with a chamber of commerce mentality because Stepp's recent replacement is Dan Meyer, the former Executive Director of the Eagle River, Wisconsin, Chamber of Commerce. 

For one thing, I always flinch when I see public agencies like the Wisconsin DNR use the terms "incidental taking" or "incidental take," to describe official actions that can lead to losses of endangered or threatened species - - in this case, road-building tied to the Foxconn project. 
MADISON - A project to reconstruct the I-94 and State Highway 11 Interchange may result in the "incidental taking" of two rare plants under an authorization the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources proposes to issue for the project. Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.
Remember that these fauna, flora, wildlife and other natural life forms belong to the people, held in trust for the public by state officials. Yet notice how easily "incidental taking" slides into "unintentional loss" - - and think about it: It's not really "unintentional" if the loss can be predicted. 

'Intentional, but officially tolerable,' would be more accurate. 

Two more things here from the DNR's release:

1.  The area to be "disturbed," as the DNR puts it, ain't insignificant:

The area to be disturbed under Project I.D. 1030-24-72 is 29 acres and under Project I.D. 1030-24-71 is 9 acres for a total area to be disturbed of 38 acres. 
The presence of the state threatened prairie milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii) and state endangered purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) have been confirmed in the vicinity of the project site. DNR staff determined that the proposed project may result in the incidental taking of some plants.
2. Purple Milkweed is a known and crucial host plant for endangered Monarchs like these below raised and released by Friends of the Monarch Trail on the continually-endangered remnants of the Milwaukee County Grounds.

Ironically, a separate, recent DNR posting about the Monarch situation acknowledges the species needs milkweed plants, notes its program to improve milkweed availability and says habitat loss is why the butterfly is disappearing:
The Department of Natural Resources recently learned its Natural Heritage Conservation program has won a $69,800 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore and enhance critical monarch butterfly habitat along the Mississippi River...
"Monarchs have declined by 90 percent since the 1990s and need whatever help they can get from government agencies, private industries, universities, property owners, and volunteers," says Drew Feldkirchner, who leads DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation program.
"We're excited this grant will help us restore habitat on the ground and advance our partnerships to help monarchs and many other species." 

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 8 photos

Habitat help for monarchs
Habitat loss throughout the monarch's breeding range, which includes Wisconsin, is considered the primary cause of the monarch population's crash, Feldkirchner says.
Many Wisconsin organizations and individuals are taking steps to reduce the monarch's dramatic decline and increase its chances for future recovery, says Owen Boyle, Natural Heritage Conservation species management section chief. 
The National Wildlife Federation also lists Purple Milkweed among 12 varieties sustaining the Monarchs:
The monarch butterfly population in North America has plummeted by over 90% in just the last 20 years. Destruction of America’s grasslands ecosystems, commercial agricultural practices and even conventional gardening have all contributed to the precipitous decline of this iconic species. National Wildlife Federation has launched a comprehensive campaign to help save the monarch, and there are many ways you can get involved.
One of the biggest factors in monarch decline is the increasing scarcity of its only caterpillar host plant: milkweed. Without milkweed, monarchs can’t successfully reproduce and the species declines. By planting milkweed in your own garden, landscape and throughout your community, you can help reverse the fortune of these beautiful insects.

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens

So, again, Foxconn and the road-builders rule Wisconsin politics and the political environment.

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