Backcasts archive: Through Aug. 29, 2008


Blog calendar: Aug. 29 | Aug. 27 | Aug. 26

posted Aug. 29, 2008

Alaskans feel their more highly valued gems aren't their salmon, but mines

The result of this week's vote up north reveals Alaska residents believe mining is more critical to the state economy than fishing.

More than 57 percent of voters rejected an initiative that, according to the Associated Press, would have restricted large, new mines from releasing toxic pollutants into water that would adversely affect the health of humans or salmon.

Had it passed, the ballot measure would have required mines adhere to stringent water-quality standards, which initiative proponents maintain are needed to protect wild salmon streams.

But it appears voters may have missed the boat by placing greater value on mining over salmon.

Of course, we appreciate that mining has played a huge role in Alaska and likely now will do the same for many years to come. The former can certainly be said of the state salmon fishery, and even more so (see statistics below); however, due to this vote the role of salmon in the state's future may be in peril.

Here are the numbers, according to the AP:

  • The Bristol Bay salmon fishery – which advocates of the ballot measure maintain is at serious risk from the development of Pebble Mine for the recovery of copper and gold deposits – contributes more than $250 million a year to the state's coffers and keeps 12,000 people gainfully employed.

  • Mining provides nearly $200 million annually to state and local tax revenues and more than 5,500 jobs.

    We know our apples and oranges fairly well, but, just the same, don't these stats point to salmon as being more valuable than mining?

    Go figure. No, really, somebody needs to compute this.


    posted Aug. 27, 2008

    Cows apparently have a thing for pointing toward the poles

    Riddle us this: If you tip a cow, what direction will it fall?

    The answer: No one will hear it.

    Hmm, sounds like I may have mixed up my riddles, again.

    Oh, I know how to fix this. Since you're probably running after the tipping and since tipping usually takes place in the dark, we probably don't know what direction they fall.

    But apparently, according to no less a bovine source than the Los Angeles Times, cows tend to end up pointing the same direction – north-south, just like a compass needle.

    It's something that's also apparently gone unnoticed heretofore by countless farmers, herders and hunters, the Times reports. Indeed, yes, apparently, again, satellite imagery from around the globe studied by German scientists has revealed that two-thirds of the big, domesticated animals line up toward magnetic north while grazing and resting.

    In anticipation of your next question we'll lift this right from the Times: The resolution of the images was not sufficient to tell which ends of the cows were pointing north, however.

    So, is the point that Herefords aren't as dumb as we thought?

    Good question.

    Deer in the Czech Republic do the same thing, according to similar results, but, even so, we're not nearly ready to put cattle in the same smarts category as deer (though they are curiously both ruminants).

    While the article notes that bats, birds, bees and whales use their magnetic senses for navigation, it's not clear what benefit this all would have for cows, especially since there is no research regarding whether cows (or deer, for that matter) have magnetic particles in their brains.

    A big thanks goes out to the Times just the same for providing the quote of the week, which comes from Tulare, Calif., diary farmer Rob Fletcher who, after stating he was unaware of the likely north-south positioning of his herd, said, "I don't spend a lot of time worrying about stuff like that."

    And we were particularly taken with the kicker in the article: Experts acknowledged that the research almost certainly has no practical applications.

    So why are we bringing you this important news? Because it's a slightly skewed view of the world of outdoor sports, just like our subheadline suggests. (Hey, remember, as the feature states, hunters for eons weren't hip to the animal magnetism of cows.)


    posted Aug. 26, 2008

    Puppy scares bears, so what is it with New Jersey and wild outdoor tales?

    A scrappy cocker spaniel-poodle puppy, appropriately called Pawlee, proved no match for a sow and two cubs, rocking the bears back on their paws until they skedaddled right out of his owners' back yard in Wyckoff, N.J., the Associated Press reports.

    Just 8 months old but a strapping 15 pounds, Pawlee (we like the name but prefer Pauly) used his menacing bark to get the bruins to retreat.

    The cubs scurried up a tree when the cockapoo sounded the alarm; eventually they rejoined their mother and all three took off for the woods.

    In no way do we mean to diminish Pawlee's heroics (Fran and Andrew Osiason and their children Jacob, 9, and Eden, 6, must be very pleased with their pooch's actions), but we have to wonder why New Jersey is home to so many wild outdoor tales.

    The AP reminds us that a tabby cat named Jack in 2006 chased a bear up a tree in his West Milford yard.

    And consider from last year:

  • Just exactly what was that really, really big feline tramping through field and forest in rural Vineland, N.J.?

  • Don't eat the squirrels near Ringwood, N.J.

  • Deer of course shouldn't be attending elementary school, but one whitetail crashed the party that is grade school in Aberdeen, N.J.

  • And police in Middletown, N.J., are certainly familiar with the coyote problem that led to a child being attacked there.

    Many may beg to differ, but New Jersey certainly is living up to its reputation as the Garden State … the Garden of Wild Animals, that is.

  • Got a similar take or differing view? Post on our Message Board or our Mailbag. And if you have a news tip, send it our way.

    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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