Endangered mouse nears ‘zero’ in southern New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists are asking for an independent investigation into U.S. Forest Service practices in southern New Mexico, saying hundreds of grazing violations on the Lincoln National Forest have pushed an endangered mouse closer to extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity in its request pointed to a November report that looked at the condition of the habitat used by the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, the connectivity between those patches of habitat and how long the tiny rodent has been missing from those areas. The report indicated that the mouse’s population in one stretch of southern New Mexico was near zero.

Robin Silver, a cofounder of the group, wrote in a letter sent last week to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen that local and regional forest officials have failed to issue any noncompliance letters to ranchers who graze in the area despite more than 330 instances in which cattle were found in locations that had been fenced off for the mouse.

“We’re witnessing an extinction in progress,” Silver said in statement sent to The Associated Press. “We hope an inspector general’s investigation can shed more light on this tragic situation and give these adorable little mice a fighting chance at survival.”

While it’s unclear whether forest officials will consider the request, regional agency spokesman Shayne Martin said Thursday that several projects have been dedicated to establishing critical habitat for the mouse and looking at what strategies might work best over the long-term to bolster the population.

“What I can say is that our agency has put significant scientific research behind all actions taken, to include restoration of critical riparian areas for all species,” Martin said. “We’ve also worked closely with ranchers to ensure that grazing in these areas follows adaptive management measures that considers the full array of human and environment effects.”

The mice live near streams and depend on tall grass to hide from predators. They hibernate for about nine months, emerging in the late spring to gorge themselves before mating, giving birth and going back into hibernation. They normally live about three years.

The latest study aims to set the stage for long-term habitat planning for the mouse. So far, the focus has been on improving those patches of habitat that are considered healthier and have more potential for supporting the mouse.

The research suggests that efforts start with patches immediately adjacent to those areas already occupied by the mouse and then address the occupied patches before moving outward. The report states any successful long-distance dispersal by the rodents to colonize new meadows would be extremely unlikely.

Biologists say growing mouse numbers is a challenge because of the small population they have to start with and the lack of more suitable habitat.

Three decades ago, the mice were found at 17 locations in the Sacramento Mountains on the Lincoln National Forest. Now, it’s just one. The report noted that the downward trajectory of the population continued in 2020.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2016

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Report: Endangered Mouse Nears ‘Zero’ in Southern New Mexico | New Mexico News

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists are asking for an independent investigation into U.S. Forest Service practices in southern New Mexico, saying hundreds of grazing violations on the Lincoln National Forest have pushed an endangered mouse closer to extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity in its request pointed to a November report that looked at the condition of the habitat used by the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, the connectivity between those patches of habitat and how long the tiny rodent has been missing from those areas. The report indicated that the mouse’s population in one stretch of southern New Mexico was near zero.

Robin Silver, a cofounder of the group, wrote in a letter sent last week to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen that local and regional forest officials have failed to issue any noncompliance letters to ranchers who graze in the area despite more than 330 instances in which cattle were found in locations that had been fenced off for the mouse.

“We’re witnessing an extinction in progress,” Silver said in statement sent to The Associated Press. “We hope an inspector general’s investigation can shed more light on this tragic situation and give these adorable little mice a fighting chance at survival.”

While it’s unclear whether forest officials will consider the request, regional agency spokesman Shayne Martin said Thursday that several projects have been dedicated to establishing critical habitat for the mouse and looking at what strategies might work best over the long-term to bolster the population.

“What I can say is that our agency has put significant scientific research behind all actions taken, to include restoration of critical riparian areas for all species,” Martin said. “We’ve also worked closely with ranchers to ensure that grazing in these areas follows adaptive management measures that considers the full array of human and environment effects.”

The mice live near streams and depend on tall grass to hide from predators. They hibernate for about nine months, emerging in the late spring to gorge themselves before mating, giving birth and going back into hibernation. They normally live about three years.

The latest study aims to set the stage for long-term habitat planning for the mouse. So far, the focus has been on improving those patches of habitat that are considered healthier and have more potential for supporting the mouse.

The research suggests that efforts start with patches immediately adjacent to those areas already occupied by the mouse and then address the occupied patches before moving outward. The report states any successful long-distance dispersal by the rodents to colonize new meadows would be extremely unlikely.

Biologists say growing mouse numbers is a challenge because of the small population they have to start with and the lack of more suitable habitat.

Three decades ago, the mice were found at 17 locations in the Sacramento Mountains on the Lincoln National Forest. Now, it’s just one. The report noted that the downward trajectory of the population continued in 2020.

The U.S.

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Japan spacecraft carrying asteroid soil samples nears home

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese spacecraft is nearing Earth after a yearlong journey home from a distant asteroid with soil samples and data that could provide clues to the origins of the solar system, a space agency official said Friday.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft left the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth, a year ago and is expected to reach Earth and drop a capsule containing the precious samples in southern Australia on Dec. 6.

Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency believe the samples, especially those taken from under the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors.


Makoto Yoshikawa, a Hayabusa2 project mission manager, said scientists are especially interested in analyzing organic materials in the Ryugu soil samples.

“Organic materials are origins of life on Earth, but we still don*t know where they came from,” Yoshikawa said. “We are hoping to find clues to the origin of life on Earth by analyzing details of the organic materials brought back by Hayabusa2.”

JAXA, the space agency, plans to drop the capsule containing the samples onto a remote, sparsely populated area in Australia from 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles) away in space, a big challenge requiring precision control. The capsule, protected by a heat shield, will turn into a fireball during re-entry in the atmosphere at 200 kilometers (125 miles) above ground. At about 10 kilometers (6 miles) above ground, a parachute will open to prepare for landing, and beacon signals will be transmitted to indicate its location.

JAXA staff have set up satellite dishes at several locations in the target area to catch the signals, while also preparing marine radar, drones and helicopters to assist in the search and retrieval mission.

Without those measures, a search for the pan-shaped capsule with a diameter of 40 centimeters (15 inches) “would be an extremely difficult,” Yoshikawa told reporters.

For Hayabusa2, it’s not the end of the mission it started in 2014. After dropping the capsule, it will return to space and head to another distant small asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey slated to take 10 years.

Hayabusa2 touched down on Ryugu twice, despite its extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples during the 1½ years after it arrived there in June 2018.

In the first touchdown in February 2019, it collected surface dust samples. In July, it collected underground samples from the asteroid for the first time in space history after landing in a crater that it had earlier created by blasting the asteroid’s surface.

Scientists said there are traces of carbon and organic matter in the asteroid soil samples. JAXA hopes to find clues to how the materials are distributed in the solar system and are related to life on Earth.

Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and therefore may help explain how Earth evolved.

It took the spacecraft 3½ years to arrive at Ryugu,

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As Election Nears, Trump Makes a Final Push Against Climate Science

“The real issue at play is the National Climate Assessment,” said Judith Curry, a former chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology who said she has been in contact with Dr. Maue, the new chief scientist. “That’s what the powers that be are trying to influence.”

In addition to Dr. Curry, the strategy was described by Myron Ebell, a director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a former member of Mr. Trump’s transition team, and John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabamain Huntsville.

Dr. Christy, a critic of past National Climate Assessments, said he was asked by the White House this summer to take on a senior role at NOAA, according to E&E News, but declined the offer. He said he understood the role to include changing the agency’s approach to the climate assessment.

Ms. Curry and the others said that, if Mr. Trump wins re-election, further changes at NOAA would include removing longtime authors of the climate assessment and adding new ones who challenge the degree to which warming is occurring, the extent to which it is caused by human activities and the danger it poses to human health, national security and the economy.

A biased or diminished climate assessment would have wide-ranging implications.

It could be used in court to bolster the positions of fossil fuel companies being sued for climate damages. It could counter congressional efforts to reduce carbon emissions. And, it ultimately could weaken what is known as the “endangerment finding,” a 2009 scientific finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that said greenhouse gases endanger public health and thus obliged the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Other changes in the works could include shifting NOAA funding to researchers who reject the established scientific consensus on climate change and eliminating the use of certain scientific models that project dire consequences for the planet if countries do little to reduce carbon dioxide pollution.

Dr. Noble, the new chief of staff, has already pushed to install a new layer of scrutiny on grants that NOAA awards for climate research, according to people familiar with those discussions.

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Tropical Storm Epsilon forms, as Atlantic nears busiest hurricane season

The storm is forecast to intensify, attaining hurricane status before making a run toward Bermuda later in the week. The only other Epsilon to form, in 2005, didn’t do so until Nov. 29 that year, putting us more than five weeks ahead of that record pace.

The current track forecast favors a glancing blow to Bermuda rather than a direct hit, but that could change with subsequent updates. Bermuda has already had a number of tropical scares this year, including from Paulette, a Category 1 hurricane which made landfall with 90 mph maximum sustained winds Sept. 14.

Tracking Epsilon

While Epsilon was a minimal tropical storm at midday Monday, gradual strengthening is likely over the next several days, and Epsilon is likely to become a hurricane by Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said. It is forecast to pass near or just to the east of Bermuda on Friday and Saturday.

A close pass would mean probable tropical storm conditions for the British territory of nearly 65,000, with winds exceeding 40 mph and heavy rains. A closer shave could bring the ring of Epsilon’s stronger winds closer, with the potential for hurricane-force winds of 74 mph and above.

After departing from near Bermuda and pulling north, Epsilon may never really weaken as a tropical system. Instead, Epsilon will begin to transition into a different type of storm, acquiring the characteristics of a nor’easter-like mid-latitude low-pressure system. In fact, energy from the jet stream may even briefly intensify the storm as its wind field expands in size.

Looking ahead, hurricane season may take a breather, but it won’t be fully over even after Epsilon. While a less-favorable atmosphere and cooling waters increasingly hinder tropical storms as autumn progresses, there are other factors that could encourage storm development — like the arrival of broad-scale rising motion that will overspread the western Atlantic in the coming weeks.

That will make it easier for any systems that do form to develop and intensify.

Historical context

Only one other year has necessitated dipping into the Greek alphabet. That was 2005, the same season that featured Hurricanes Rita, Wilma, and Katrina. That year made it six names into the Greek list, concluding with Zeta.

Since the hurricane season doesn’t officially wrap until Nov. 30, there is plenty of room for more this year. So get ready for Eta, and Theta, and possibly even Iota.

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