Backcasts archive: Through July 4, 2008


Blog calendar: July 2 | July 1 | June 30

posted July 2, 2008

Hunting for headlines: Jail time for rogue whalers rates editorials space

We've breached, er, broached the subject of the five rogue whalers from the Makah Tribe many times since their September 2007 unauthorized hunt of a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

And this may well be the last report, for federal judge has sentenced two Makahs to serve time in jail for the offense. You can read all about it here.

But what's even more newsworthy to us is that the Seattle Times dedicated over half its Editorials space today to the issue, a hunting issue, which in honor of such an impressive journalist move we'll run in its entirety here:

A whale of a conceit

Five Makah whale hunters, the gang that could not shoot straight, finally ended up before a federal judge as stubborn as they were.

Two Makahs were sent to jail and three ended up on probation via a plea deal as a result of last September's botched, illegal whale hunt in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Even from a distance, the arrogance and frustration that fuel this case are evident. The Makah Tribe has a long-standing application for a waiver from the federal government to take whales. The tribe is unique in that it has a treaty right to hunt, which was last exercised in 1999. Since then, a foot-dragging environmental challenge – in essence an administrative stall – has been under way.

The five men who killed a gray whale last fall had run out of patience, and made a lot of bad choices. They were also stunningly inept on the water. What they lacked in skills they made up for with smug self-confidence.

They obviously assumed they would not be held accountable by tribal legal proceedings, and they were not.

Their violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act lurched along with plea negotiations complicated by attempts to limit whale hunting while on probation, which caused two of the defendants to back away.

Enter United States Magistrate Judge Kelley Arnold in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

He cut through the baloney: "They decided to take the law into their own hands. They defied their own community and the laws of this country, which they well knew."

The two men sent directly to jail can only be upset with themselves. However empowered they felt by communal frustrations with the federal regulations, they had no right to initiate a hunt. They were properly held accountable, which included the judge taking away the right to hunt whales from all five while on probation.

The tribe's frustrations have their own validity. The Makahs are owed a fair, timely assessment of their formal application to take whales. Opponents hiding behind and exploiting federal environmental laws need to be held accountable as well.

Compounding frustration with conceit only gets people in trouble.

Hats off to the Seattle Times for tackling what many sportsmen and subsistence hunters (and, yes, antis, too) would consider a critical issue; we'll let our readers decide if you took the right tack.


posted July 1, 2008

Guess where in the world (of outdoors) these quotes come from?

If you judge news by the quotes, then today's headlines were big in the world of outdoors – or were they?

Take a look at the following quotes and guess the subject of the stories from which they were lifted:

1.) "… If you pull out that one thread, the whole web suffers."

2.) "It's like eating an elephant – you've got to eat it one bite at a time."

3.) "It will be out there, the family name."

Any guesses?

Well, it's a tough chore, so we'll forgo the suspense.

No. 1 is not about spider webs, but the plundering of sharks in the Mediterranean Sea, where, according to the Washington Post, the population of sharks has declined by 97 percent during the last 200 years.

The point of the quote is that for every action there is a reaction, and by overharvesting sharks, the top predators in the food chain, marine ecosystems run amok.

"Sharks are just one part of the ocean's web of life," said Margaret Bowman, who directs the nonprofit Lenfest Ocean Program, which has helped fund three shark studies. "But these studies show if you pull out that one thread, the whole web suffers."

Not only is the Mediterranean hurting for sharks, the Post reports, globally all but two of 21 species of open-ocean sharks and their cousins, the rays, are facing the risk of extinction.

The popularity of shark-fin soup and targeting the toothy denizens to compensate for the decline in stocks of other, bony fishes are the primary culprits in the demise of sharks in the Mediterranean.

Certainly you thought quote No. 2 would come from some hunting feature from Africa, right?


It was issued by U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jason Kirchner to illustrate how firefighters can't be called upon to battle every, single one of the more than 1,000 blazes now burning for a second week in central and northern California, the Associated Press reports from San Francisco.

Those raging in remote areas where firefighters face the greatest danger will be unattended.

"We've got to pick the battles we can win," Kirchner added.

Hey, it's a long process when it comes to containing Golden State wildfires. Last year, for example, a fire in rugged Santa Barbara County burned four months and more than 240,00 acres before being controlled, the AP reports.

And if you thought quote No. 3 was reserved for the naming of something important, like a mountain or a national park, think smaller, much smaller.

Indeed, California high school teacher Jeff Goodhartz, 55, single and childless, has paid five grand for the privilege to carry on the family name in the form of … a worm.

A sea featherworm that is translucent with a flamboyant blue tuft and swims in the mangroves along the coast of Belize now will have the species name goodhartzorum, the Associated Press reports from Los Angeles. (The discoverer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography curator Greg Rouse, has not yet decided the genus name.)

You see naming rights for new species can be purchased from Scripps through a research fund-raising program that debuted this year.

And $5,000 is just chicken feed in name-a-species ventures.

Vast sums of dough have been coughed up for such acknowledgments, and the rarer and more evolved the organism, the more cash it nets, according to the AP.

Dig this (although it's not for a worm): The Wildlife Conservation Society collected $650,000 from GoldenPalace.com in 2005 so that the Internet casino could put its name on a monkey species in Bolivia. Callicebus aureipalatii means "Golden palace" in Latin, but the newly discovered primate is informally known as the "GoldenPalace.com monkey."

And last year the Florida Museum of Natural History took in more than $40K from an anonymous donor for a species of Mexican butterfly.

So break out your checkbooks, because still waiting to have their name tags filled by Scripps are a sea slug ($15,000), a brace of bone-feeding worms ($25,000 apiece) and a rare, hydrothermal vent worm ($50,000).

Wow, who knew, worms actually do fetch a bigger bundle.


posted June 30, 2008

After Alaska griz attack, it's clear all-night mountain bike races aren't worth it

"A midnight race along a salmon stream is probably a pretty bad idea when the salmon are there."

After a bicyclist suffered severe injuries during a grizzly attack in the wee hours yesterday, some folks are going to say that an all-night bike event through bear territory is perhaps the dumbest thing they've ever heard of.

The teen-age girl who was mauled during just such a race in Anchorage, Alaska, was bitten on the head, torso and thigh sometime around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, according to the Anchorage Daily News and the McClatchy Newspapers wire service. She suffered a puncture to the lung cavity, and one emergency responder said these were the most extensively traumatic injuries he'd seen in 24 years on the job, the Daily News reports.

The bicycle helmet the girl was wearing may have prevented further injuries, according to Rick Sinnott, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, whose quote leads this item. She underwent surgery Sunday, according to the news sources.

The girl was among some 60 participants in a 24-hour race that began at noon Saturday and was to end at noon Sunday. Organizers called the event after the attack.

"We're all shattered," race director Greg Matyas told the Daily News.

While a prerace safety meeting outlined the dangers of bears and moose and the injured racer had bear bells and a light on her bike, as well as a light on her helmet, Sinnott told the Daily News that the motion of a two-wheeler combined with the bear's surprise could trigger what was an "unintentionally provoked" attack.

Yesterday's attack at Anchorage's Far North Bicentennial Park comes 15 days after a sow with tow cubs charged a pair of joggers here. Signs that had been up before the race to warn of the June 14 griz incident were updated by Sinnott to include the news of Sunday's mauling.

And recreation at the park will continue, according to the Daily News.

But Backcasts is betting organizers of all-night mountain bike races will think long and hard before scheduling another event in grizzly territory. And here's to hoping they just don't do it. Sorry, it's just not worth – not even close to worth – what was reiterated yesterday as a very real chance of a bear attack.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site. He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade, including stints at the Los Angeles Daily News and Seattle Times. The Evergreen State is where he now makes his home. Click here to email him.

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