Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Ibbotson V Edwards: In which Ibbotson becomes desperate to land a blow, any blow

On 6 January 2014 Patricia Edwards had this article written on behalf of the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition published in The Daily Examiner:


Moose call driven by cash worry


IN February last year the government in the American state of Minnesota cancelled its annual moose hunting season and surprised hunters by instead declaring its intention to track and study the animals with the aid of radio tracking technology.
At about the same time, the state of New Hampshire approved $695,000 for a four-year study of its moose population. The New Hampshire study also involved tracking individual animals fitted with radio collars.
What is the reason for this about-turn on American animal protection?
Moose are vanishing from the Canadian and North American landscape at an unprecedented rate.
The New York Times recently reported an almost complete disappearance of one of Minnesota's once thriving moose populations which in the 1990s numbered around 4000 animals. It also detailed a second population that had abruptly declined from around 8000 to fewer than 3000 animals in an equally short space of time.
The studies and tracking are expected to help identify the cause of the alarming decline by informing scientists about where and why the moose have died.
In the meantime there are already indications that shorter, warmer winters and hotter summers, with associated heat stress, increasing parasitic loads through altered climate-driven life-cycles, and forest defoliation and destruction through outbreaks of pine-bark beetles, are combining to bring about changes that the moose have been unable to adapt to.
In the way of the African elephants, moose, being large-leaf, flower, fruit and shrub feeding (browsing) animals, play an important role in the food chain lifecycle by creating and maintaining grassland habitat for grazing animals.
One concern raised by their deaths is what effect their disappearance will have on the natural ecosystem and the other animals that ultimately depend on them.
Another issue is that New Hampshire's moose-based tourism generates an annual income of $115m.
So naturally the looming inevitable loss of tourist dollars, if and when the moose cease to exist, is the main catalyst for the hunting ban by the government and the instigation of scientific research.
Sadly, always the human order.
The right moves, for all the wrong reasons.
The reader will note that the terms climate change or global warming are not used. Indeed this piece is based on a New York Times article on the same subject which begins; Across North America — in places as far-flung as Montana and British Columbia, New Hampshire and Minnesota — moose populations are in steep decline. And no one is sure why.

This didn’t pause the pen of the Clarence Valley’s climate change denier-in-chief John Ibbotson who ignored the balance in the New York Times article - I suspect because he sees red anytime he catches sight of an Edwards’ signature. 

On 11 Jan 2014 he replied on The Daily Examiner letters to the editor page:


Moose population
IN Voices of the Earth (DEX 6/1) there was an article on North American moose, based on a NY Times article (14/10). It was a misleading green article from the world's greenest major paper.
It effectively said that across the US and Canada, experts have reported that moose populations are dwindling at alarming rates and global warming and its many side effects are responsible.
Not quite so. And overall the moose population is increasing.
There are problems with some moose populations but it is a patchwork of ups and downs across the continent and it has nothing to do with AGW.
For example, there are problems in Minnesota, Montana, and in Colorado too, but Colorado has been restocking with excess moose from next door in Utah. On the other hand, in Maine, with 76,000 (3/4 of the lower 48 total), they're increasing, while in New Hampshire they have nearly disappeared, although that is a special case because the moose had been hunted to extinction there.
Starting in the 1970s a new population had been built up but it is hard to say what is causing its demise this time. Quite likely it has been hunted to "extinction" again.
And blaming AGW is wrong as we need to remember that global warming, by definition, means the whole world, not just cherry picked hotspots selected to "prove" a particular point of view.
In the Canadian moose provinces, the populations in the Yukon 70,000, the NW Territories 50,000 and Ontario are stable, while in Quebec the population has doubled to 120,000 since the 1990s. Further north in Alaska, which has the most moose (200,000), the population fluctuates but is stable.
So why does it vary so dramatically from area to area and year to year?
The best research has been by Alaska, which has been doing it for more than 50 years. Not only does it have the largest population of the biggest moose, which are twice as big (2m at the shoulder with 2m wide racks) as those seen in Yellowstone, but it is an important food resource for the bush population.
Alaska has found that the biggest factor affecting populations is snowfall. The second is wolf predation and the third hunting and road/rail kill. (In heavy snow years the moose walk along the railroad tracks and try to butt the trains out of the way. They never win but they have derailed trains.) In other US states, man outhunts the wolves.
Man may even be the major cause in the northern US states. When jobs are scarce, like they have been since the GFC, poaching becomes a bigger problem.
As for the ticks. They do occur over most of the moose's range. They are significantly worse in states that have large white tailed deer populations.
They don't have much effect on the deer, which groom themselves and each other, something the moose don't do. And for states such as Minnesota, which has 1,000,000 deer and less than 4000 moose, it is hard to blame the moose for the tick numbers, particularly as in "no deer" areas there are few, if any, ticks.
This makes one a little leery of the final piece of advice in the NY Times article by a biologist (really?): "The solution to the tick problem might be, paradoxically, more moose hunting. ...We should kill more if we want healthy moose." Talk about not understanding the problem.
And all this sounds like a replacement for the non-disappearing polar bears, which have doubled in numbers since the AGW fiasco started.
John Ibbotson

Needless to say Mr. Ibbotson is attempting to mislead yet again by decrying the 162 year-old New York Times as a ‘green’ newspaper, building an unnecessary straw man from the article in order to immediately knock it down with ‘dodgy’ facts and, arguing from a classic misunderstanding of the dynamics of global warming leading to long-term climate change.


On February 6, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced they were suspending their moose hunting program in the state indefinitely. The decision was made after the state’s strongest population in the northeast corner of the state saw a 35 percent decline from 2012 to 2013 (4,230 to 2,760) and a 70 percent decline since 2006 (8,840 to 2,760). Just weeks earlier, the DNR had initiated an aggressive moose mortality research project to determine just what is killing the animals. The $1.2 million project will focus on collaring 110 moose and tracking their activity. As of February 13, the agency had reported that they lost the signal for three of the collared moose – if the animals have died, the researchers may have the first opportunity to recover the carcasses and assess cause of death.
While Minnesota is reporting the most dramatic declines, other states throughout the animals’ southern range are also seeing declining populations. In New Hampshire, there are now estimated to be 4,600 moose when the population was once around 7,000 animals. In the Rocky Mountain west, Montana and Wyoming have reported population declines as well and have reduced hunting tags as a result. Montana reported a 40 percent drop in available tags from 769 to 463 between 1995 and 2010. In addition, the Jackson Hole, WY moose herd is at 919 animals, about a quarter of the state’s objective of 3,600 animals. Only Maine has shown a growing population of moose with a recent aerial study estimating more than 75,000 animals, mostly in the more isolated northern part of the state.

The Standard Examiner 30 October 2013:

OGDEN -- Although moose populations are on the decline in many parts of the northern United States, here in Utah, the animals seem to be holding their own -- for now.
"Our populations are not particularly declining, but they are stagnant in some areas," said Phil Douglass, Northern Region outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
However, this population stagnation concerns DWR officials enough that they have biologists looking into it.
"We've initiated some studies here in Utah to try to get a handle on what's happening with moose mortality," Douglass said.
"Some parts (of the state) are doing OK, others we're concerned about, so we're studying it right now, trying to find out what's happening."
One of those places where moose are doing particularly well is the Ogden area. The moose population here has been so robust that, three or four years ago, wildlife officials relocated about 40 of the animals out of the area.
"We thinned the population here to what the surrounding habitat can support," Douglass said. [Utah has been involved in a moose transplant program since 1973]

Moose have wandered into Colorado occasionally, but there was no breeding population until animals were introduced to North Park from Utah and Wyoming in 1978 and 1979. Populations have expanded to nearby counties (and Rocky Mountain National Park), and animals have been transplanted to the Upper Rio Grande drainage and Grand Mesa. Individual moose may also wander widely from their usual mountain haunts, to the edge of the plains, for example, where they sometimes graze alongside cattle. [There are an estimated 2,300 moose in Colorado]

The Star 16 October 2013:

Moose populations are thinning out in certain parts of Ontario, mirroring a disturbing pattern across other parts of North America....
Brant Allison, senior northwest regional biologist with Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources, says that moose “are important to the biodiversity of the province.”
Allison said he is seeing declines in Canadian jurisdictions near Minnesota, including Manitoba and the northwestern and northeastern parts of Ontario.
“We are definitely concerned,” he said, adding that biologists in Ontario have been in touch with their counterparts in Minnesota and Manitoba to see what the current research reveals.
“We are watching. They’re still trying to figure it out,” he said.
In the southeast part of Manitoba, some of the moose hunts have been closed for roughly past year....
In the Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia, a recent study found that an epidemic of pine bark beetles led to a loss of trees and left the moose more exposed to human and animal predators.

CBC News 15 October 2013:

According to B.C.’s Ministry of the Environment, moose populations have dropped by 50 per cent since 2005 in the Prince George region.
Other regions in B.C. have seen declines of almost 70 per cent in the same time.

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