Monday, August 31, 2015

Fishing a Fish Passage Site on Maryland's Eastern Shore

I don't suppose that most of our federal biologists and engineers are great oddsmakers.  They are generally competent, generally well-meaning, but speak with the protection (and osbstructionism) of the labyrinthine agencies that employ them.   Those who like to do a lot of extra work are eventually instructed not to do so.  Those who don't do a lot of work aren't told much of anything.

Some of our conservation partners tried for over a decade to convince federal and state biologists and engineers that if a dam, in place since 1775, was removed and replaced with an expensive series of step pools (called a regenerative stream conveyance), that all kinds of environmental benefits would be likely - including the passage of migratory fish, several of which are species of federal concern (called "federal trust species").   But, being a risk averse bunch, los federales didn't budge for quite awhile, arguing that the project might actually be worse than the current dam (???).  Now, let's be clear that the project partners weren't seeking financial or construction assistance from the regulators - just permits to do the construction.

At any rate, the project was constructed in 2014.  I've enjoyed catching fish there this year that have successfully migrated up from the lower river, past the step pool project, and into the headwaters of the river for the first time since 1775.  Alewife, eels, and white perch are the notable newcomes.  Sometimes it's nice to be right.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

5 Reasons to Not Buy A Shotgun Right Before Hunting Season

I know, I know.  You were walking to work and a dry, red leaf landed in front of you.  There was that one cool evening two weeks ago where you could smell the dirt.   You are seeing deer or ducks or doves on the drive home at night.

And your first thought, like mine, is "I don't believe I've been putting off buying that new gun!  I need to buy it now, before the season starts!"

But no, you don't, and here are the basic reasons why:

1) You won't read the manual.   I make a habit of thumbing through the safety provisions of the manual, and that's it.......until something breaks.  But I have to say, the two times I bought guns right before hunting season, I never had time to read the manual.   After all, we're discussing a deadly weapon that came in a box.  Read the damn manual.

2) You won't adequately test fire it before taking it afield.  Hell, you *might* get out to test fire at the range once or twice, which is not really adequate to break in a new firearm, let alone get used to its quirks.  I bought my last 12 gauge in August, several years ago, and it started cycling correctly after opening day on the second hunting season I owned it.  The misfires prior to that were pretty embarrassing.   None of these even includes the issue of testing/calibrating optics.

3)  It will let you down in extreme conditions as a result of #2 above.  What happens to that scope if it gets dunked in water?  What happens to the action of that shotgun when it's 11 degrees outside?

4) You won't have enough time to test ammo.  And putting the hammer down on a turkey at 45 yards or a pronghorn at 230 yards is not the time to find out that your new gun "doesn't like" the best ammo on the market, especially if you're deep in wild game country.  What's that one slogan, "I didn't come this far to miss."  No you did not.   You have all next summer to test different loads.

5) The price is not right.  August - November is the period of the year when gun dealers know they can get the price they want on hunting firearms.   Some black friday deals exist, and more exist after Christmas, when last year's guns need to be sold to make room for the new year models.

I can say all this without remorse, yet I myself am considering a Beretta Outlander or a Franchi Affinity for the late duck season.   Either would likely be more trouble than it's worth, but I've been putting the purchase off for two years.  Will I heed my own advise and wait until January?  I guess we'll have to see.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

EPA Clean Water Rule Horse Race Shapes Up

The EPA's much-maligned Clean Water Rule goes into effect on August 28, 2015.  The rule is a serious (if arbitrary and aggressive) attempt to clarify what water bodies fall under Clean Water Act protection.  In practice, it may matter little, as the EPA approves between 96%-99% of all completed applications to fill in, divert, and pipe streams and wetlands every year.

But for the moment, an interesting horse race has developed.  Over 40 individual federal lawsuits have been filed, or parties added to existing lawsuits to stop this Rule from going into effect.  Unlikely litigative bedfellows include the US Farm Bureau and the Waterkeeper Alliance.

On the inside track, Hon. Ralph Erickson heard from a representative of 13 states attorney generals, asking for an injunction to stop the Rule from going into effect.  Judge Erickson apparently took several hours of testimony under consideration.

On the middle track, Hon. Lisa Wood heard from representatives of another 11 states attorney generals, promising a ruling (a possible injunction) prior to August 28th.

On the outer track, a much smaller case, a West Virginia coal company (Murray Energy) spent time in a federal courthouse last week, arguing that the carte-blanche exemptions that their industry received in the purportedly science-based Clean Water Rule..........are not big enough exemptions.

Numerous other federal lawsuits are pending, but these requests for federal injunction (should any injunction be awarded) should be fairly telling.   Look for the following to happen:

1) At least one of these judges will award a federal injunction against the Clean Water Rule by August 28th.  The injunction will be upheld in appeal.

2) The judge's ruling will request that EPA re-enter the rule-making process and likely re-start the public input process.

3)  EPA will be prepared to automatically launch a new (and brief) public input process and will be guarding against making significant changes to the rule.

4) Around the time the EPA Clean Water Rule is re-released in early 2016, the remaining federal lawsuits will likely become active, forming the basis for another injunction against the Rule's roll-out.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Boy's Last Weekend Before Kindergarten

"Why are all my friends going to different schools next week?"

Our son has been attending the same preschool for 3 years, and today, he leaves it for our community's K-8 Catholic school.  Due to the complete and utter disaster that is Baltimore's public school system, all of his preschool friends and neighborhood friends are headed to several other "big sounding" schools.....not those we're accustomed to, with generic names like "North Landing" and "South River" and "Northwestern" and "Central Elementary."  

No, these kids who all live within a few miles of each other, area headed to schools with names like Immaculate Conception,  Bryn Mawr School for Girls, St. Paul's, St. Pius, Saint Francis, St. Joseph's, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and others.  The majority of these independent school systems have single-sex high schools, so the likelihood of being in class together again as teenagers is fairly low as well. So, a big change comes today in our son's life.  New friends.  New teachers.  A transition from Episcopal school to Catholic school.   It will be wonderful, but it will be different. 

We decided to let Little Man choose his activities for the weekend.  It went about as you might expect:

Friday night:  neighborhood block party with neighborhood friends

Saturday afternoon:  bouldering at our local rock climbing gym.

Saturday night:  dinner (bar with a playground) with preschool friends

Sunday morning:  brunch with preschool friends

Sunday afternoon:  Belay class at the rock climbing gym, followed by more bouldering

Late sunday afternoon:  Archery practice with Dad. 

Sunday evening:  Pizza dinner in his tree house, followed by soccer practice and earthworm hunting with Dad. 

Sunday night:  Watched Charlotte's Web with Mom. 

New chapter...incoming!