Sunday, April 5, 2015

#6 Moose and the NWF - CC/Steele Landscapesandcycles Debate

A virtual debate with Jim Steele based on his interview at Heartland Institute:  
Heartland Daily Podcast | Jim Steele | January 27, 2015 
Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett (for the National Center for Policy Analysis) interviews Jim Steele, ecologist, director emeritus of the Sierra Nevada field campus of San Francisco State University

Mr. Jim Steele:  "And we trust the scientific theory because its been fairly tested by others - the theory must out perform all alternate explanations, eliminate confounding factors plus lively debate.  But, what I was finding was the scientific process was being defiled when scientists refused to debate in public. ... and any attempt to prevent that debate, in our schools, in the media, in peer reviewed science, it's only denigrating the scientific process.  ... And I think those public debates would help create real climate literacy …"

Well then Mr. Steele, let's have our Great Global Warming Science Debate.  I will accept these responses from your Heartland Institute podcast as your opening round.  I'll offer my rebuttals, evidence and questions.  I agree to post your thoughtful responses unaltered. (Though it is looking like you're going to do your best to hide and ignore these critiques of your self-certain claims. Your silence will serve to expose your hypocrisy and inability to defend your statements on an even playing field.)

In this sixth installment I'll debate your 'moose' claims which offers some insights into how you jump around to select and censor the information you share with your public.  Along with that I'll look at your unfounded hostility towards the National Wildlife Federation and how you misrepresent what they say.
"How should society contend with those who knowingly disseminate misinformation about climate science?"  Lawrence Torcello

Heartland Burnett: Let me ask you this: What first brought you to my attention was your discussion of the Moose decline.  Marketing material by the National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society were linking global warming to declining moose populations particularly in Northern Minnesota - What did you find that undermined those claims?
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Notice not for a moment is Burnett curious about how global warming might be linked to declining moose.  The issue is nothing more than another word game to win, couldn't care less about what's actually happening out there in the backcountry.

The National Wildlife Federation are not bad guys.  They are not wild eyed hippies or commies, but that's all you want to believe. l'll let them speak for themselves:

The Deepening Mystery of Moose Decline
Biologists are having a hard time pinning down the cause of a moose decline that imperils the species’ survival in several states
09-29-2014 // By John Carey

"To some researchers, however, one cause looms largest—Parelaphostrongylus tenuis, or brain worm. "

Historically, deep winter snow kept deer out of moose country, so the animals didn’t mix much. But a series of warm winters, like those the Northeast and Midwest have experienced recently, can allow deer—and brain worms—to move north into the boreal forest. It has happened before, Lankester believes, causing moose populations to crash in the 1940s and 1950s in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Minnesota ...

The leading threat in New Hampshire, where the moose population has declined as much as 40 percent in some areas during the past three years, seems to be the winter tick. ...

It could get even sadder. Both the brain worm and the tick problems are expected to get worse as global climate continues to warm. Milder winters with less snow cover enable more deer to move into moose habitat. And little or no snow in spring, when engorged adult ticks fall off moose to lay eggs, boosts tick survival. ...

Giving Moose a Boost

Wildlife managers also have other levers to pull to give moose a boost. They can reduce the white-tailed deer population in some areas or create more browse and prime moose habitat by cutting openings in the forest. In the late 1970s, for instance, the spruce budworm, a native species that experiences periodic outbreaks as part of a natural cycle, cut a devastating swath through Maine’s forest, and timber companies stepped up logging to salvage the timber. “That created moose nirvana,” Pekins says. “A population explosion of moose swept out of Maine into New Hampshire, Vermont and even a little bit of Massachusetts.” It could happen again. Another spruce budworm infestation is knocking on Maine’s northern door. “Maybe this is how we will grow more moose again.”

And so the mystery of the disappearing moose will not come to a simple conclusion. The moose’s prospects depend on complex and interacting ecological factors and relationships, and the animal’s numbers will rise and fall as those factors evolve. With climate change bringing increasingly mild winters, the species could disappear in some regions, wiped out by a triple whammy of parasites, pests and predators. But this massive symbol of the North Woods likely will continue to survive, even thrive, in other regions—and the new research will lay the groundwork for making that happen.
Steele:  Well every ecologist,
one of the text book examples of the predator pray relationships is you understand moose and wolf populations.  So I had a general understanding of what was going on.  But what, and anyone who understands the complex ecology of the moose, it was immediately obvious that the NWF was fear mongering to promote their CO2 politics.  
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Look at that mash up:
The biology of moose,
complex ecologies in a warming world,
NWF reporting,
atmospheric CO2,
But, no details.

And what's with: "anyone who understands the complex ecology"?  It's a devious thing to slip into an interpretive sort of presentation.  What's it mean?  Particularly considering most of your audience actually never did learn about those things.
Steele:  Moose are notorious for undergoing boom and bust cycles.  The moose prefer habitat that is regenerating, that when it's over grown, or if it's overgrazed by the moose, then the moose will either starve or migrate elsewhere.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Grazing?  Jim, moose are browsers.  

"Browsers consume their plant matter in the form of leaves, bark and twigs from a variety of trees and shrubs. Moose are browsers, although they do eat some aquatic plants as well."  

It's easy making your pronouncements from Southern California.  But, looking up the information from Colorado revealed a much more complex story and the cascading consequences of global warming are indeed intimately interwoven into the situation.

More collared Minnesota moose survive 2014
MInnesota Department of Natural Resources

"... Importantly, there were no deaths associated with winter tick infestations, likely due to the prolonged winter of 2013, where tick numbers were likely reduced.

As this study continues, understanding how environmental variation, predator abundance and fluctuations in parasite loads impact moose survival will provide more insight into which factors may be driving this system. ..."

~ ~ ~ 
Star Tribune Updated: February 18, 2015
Minnesota's moose numbers drop again; DNR says decline 'will likely continue'
Article by: PAUL WALSH ,

A copy of the 2015 aerial survey is available online at

"... Along with moose falling prey to wolves and bears, researchers also have pointed to several other causes that might explain the rapid decline in Minnesota. Brain worm, a parasite carried by deer, has expanded into moose territory.

Studies also have connected winter moose deaths to a warming climate. The huge animals are particularly sensitive to heat, and when it’s hot in the summer, they tend to lie in cool damp places and pant instead of eating, which stops them from putting on enough fat to get through the winter.

Another factor could be winter ticks, which attach themselves in late fall, then feast on the moose throughout the winter. Large infestations, which can reach as many as 50,000 bugs on a single animal, can kill a moose."
~ ~ ~ 

With Minnesota moose population down 35 percent, hunt suspended
By Dave Orrick | 02/06/2013 
Steele:  Some of those stories highlights declines in New Hampshire moose and the population there had been less than twenty up until the 1970s then during the warming 80s, 90s the population also went through boom and it reached over seven thousand moose, 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Stories? How? Where? What?  Why are you jumping around like that?  No details, just fancy dancing and a bunch of self-certain assertions.

But speaking of New Hampshire, why leave out the part about all the farmland that was newly vacated and how the spruce budworm rearranged forests, creating perfects conditions and: ”A population explosion of moose swept out of Maine into New Hampshire, Vermont and even a little bit of Massachusetts.”   Peter Pekins University of New Hampshire. 

You talk about others over-simplifying, why do you do it so much?
~ ~ ~
Moose Are Here to Stay in Connecticut
July/ August 2002
~ ~ ~
You also leave out that there is indeed a warming temperature trend happening in the New England states. 
Steele:  then the population suddenly declined in part, it was due to increased hunting that was promoted because people were having so many collisions with moose on the highways.  
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Oh boy, talk about simplistic, if not an obtuse description.  All because of highway collisions, hmmm.
Steele:  Now I grew up in Massachusetts and we never heard of moose in Massachusetts, you would go up to Maine to see moose, but starting in the 80s they began moving southward toward New Hampshire.  Moving southward was sort of contrary to what you'd expect from Global Warming Theory. They are saying everything is being pushed northward.
~ ~ ~ 
What about this?

"Many people are surprised to learn there are moose (Alces alces) living in Massachusetts. Moose have been absent from the state from the early 1700's. As recently as the 1970's a moose sighting was considered a rare sight. Why are moose here now? 

As early settlers cleared the extensive forests in the state for pastures and farming, moose habitat disappeared and so did the moose. This was a trend through much of New England. Habitat for moose recovered due in part to farmers moving out to the more fertile Midwest or to factories during the Industrial Revolution.
Moose are now reclaiming their former range and moving into areas where they haven't been seen for hundreds of years. 

Moose populations got a boost in northern New England states from a combination of forest cutting practices and lack of moose harvest which created ideal moose habitat and allowed for high reproduction and survival rates. Gradually, as the population increased, moose moved southward into their historic range and by the early 1980's this largest member of North America's deer family moved into northern Worcester and Middlesex Counties and began to breed and disperse through central Massachusetts."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Who's the "they"?  What's the "everything"?  
Jim, are you trying to say warming isn't happening and northward migrations aren't being documented?  

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Climate Change Adaptation White Paper Series
Alan K. Betts, June 2011 (edited 10/29/2011)
~ ~ ~ 
Climate trends in New England in recent decadesThese projected changes are consistent with the climate trends seen in the Northeast in recent decades.3,7,8,9,10 Since 1970 the annual average temperature in the Northeast has increased by 2°F, with winter temperatures rising twice this much. Warming has resulted in many other climate-related changes, including:• More frequent days with temperatures above 90°F • A longer growing season • Increased heavy precipitation • Less winter precipitation falling as snow and more as rain • Reduced snowpack in some winters• Earlier breakup of winter ice on lakes and rivers • Earlier spring snowmelt resulting in earlier peak river flows • Rising sea surface temperatures and sea level in coastal states  USGCRP (2009) – pp 31
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 1990 - 2006
Vermont’s climate has changed substantially in the past fifty years. Continuing change is certain, as the Earth’s climate is being driven towards a warmer state by the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The primary driver is the increase of atmospheric CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, which reduces the cooling of the Earth to space. The small warming from the increase of CO2 is amplified several times1 because atmospheric water vapor, another powerful greenhouse gas, increases as temperature increases. Reductions in snow and sea-ice cover at northern latitudes also amplify the warming, because less of the sun’s energy is reflected.
Steele:  And then when you look at declining moose in Minnesota that hype was, 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Oh oh, now we're back in Minnesota, sounds like a non sequitur, but OK let's consider the situation in Minnesota:

Minnesota moose die from wolves, ticks, abandonment and disease 
Article by: JOSEPHINE MARCOTTY , Star Tribune | August 9, 2014 
You think milder temperatures might have an impact on ticks and diseases? 
What’s Caused Half the Minnesota Moose Population to Die Off in Less Than a Decade? 
Mar. 6, 2014 | Liz Klimas 
"... we've lost half of our February snow depth in a twenty year period, we've seen 5, 6°F increase in August max temperature in about a sixty year period."
Steele:  in addition what you see that a lot of conservation efforts have gone into to bringing back the wolves.  They were finding from collared moose that most of the deaths of the moose were due to predation by wolves - and the other thing is, in Minnesota winters are the most stressful time for moose.
Minnesota during the time of decline, experienced some record cold snaps.  Without any scientific basis was pushing the  NWF global warming scenario and 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jim simply because you refuse to acknowledge the scientific complexities and facts doesn't mean they are not there!
Here's a very nice concise summary put together by PawNation describing the interrelated stressors and threats to moose (and other wildlife and landscapes).

Climate Change
A five-year state study that ended in 2000 concluded the decreasing population of moose in Minnesota was a natural range retraction, with the animals moving further north in response to warming temperatures. However, the state's precipitous moose population decline is exceptional, and moose populations in other areas of similar latitude are stable or increasing. 

The particular humidity in Minnesota may be to blame, as humidity weaken's the animal's immune system, making it more susceptible to illness and parasites. The moose fares poorly in warmer temperatures and experiences metabolic stress in temperatures over 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Minnesota had 125 heat-stress days in 2006, which decreased the winter survival rate of the species that year to 70 percent.

Warming temperatures mean moose suffer from tick infestations. Individuals have been found carrying between 50,000 and 70,000 ticks -- as much as 20 times greater than normal. The blood loss from this volume of ticks weakens their immune systems, and hairless patches that result from moose chewing at tick bites make them vulnerable to winter cold. Other parasites, including brain worms and arterial worms, are common in deer but fatal to moose. As Minnesota deer populations grow, they increasingly pass these parasites to moose.

Habitat Loss
While habitat loss is not as big a problem for Minnesota moose populations as for some other animals, fires and insect infestations in spruce forests have resulted in a loss of foraging opportunities for the animals. As elsewhere, much forest land has been cleared to make room for suburban development and agriculture. 

Northeast Minnesota has more traditional moose habitat, with evergreen forests and deep lakes. Northwest Minnesota is drier and warmer, made up mostly of agriculture and park land, which is not ideal moose habitat.

Increased Predation
Wolves have been observed killing moose in other regions of the United States, including the Grand Teton National Park. Wolves killed more than 50 moose in that park alone from 2010 to 2012. Wolf, grizzly bear and mountain lion populations have increased nationwide, and these are animals that normally prey upon moose. The precise impact of the higher number of these predators on the moose population as a whole is unknown. 

However, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources does not consider increased predation or hunting to be a major cause of the state's declining moose population.

Low Reproductive Rates
According to the five-year Minnesota study released in 2000, moose in that state had a pregnancy rate of 48 percent. The study attributed this low rate to chronic malnutrition, probably caused by parasite infestation. In contrast, moose in Canada and Alaska during the same period had a pregnancy rate of 84 percent. Only around 38 percent of those fewer calves that are born survive to adulthood.
~ ~ ~ 
For supporting evidence you can find plenty in here.

US Fish and Wildlife Service
~ ~ ~
University of Minnesota
Natural Resources Research Institute
Steele:  even climate scientists like Michael Mann who's also blaming global warming.  It just didn't make any sense.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
How in the world did Michael Mann get into the middle of this?
Oh yeah, that Dog Whistle thing. 

What doesn't make sense is trying to reconcile Mr. Steele's lurid claims about NWF being exclusively hung up on global warming - with the following quote from a recent National Wildlife Fund article:

"By March 2014, only 9 of the 34 Minnesota radio-collared calves were still alive. “That was a surprise,” says Glenn DelGiudice, moose researcher for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The mortality rate was much higher than we expected.” Wolves got most of them, while bears killed a few.
The adults in the study haven’t fared well either, with more than a fifth dying in just the first year. Half succumbed to infections and other ills. The others were brought down by wolves, but like the five-year old bull, many probably had underlying health problems. “To me, it seems to be a shotgun of causes,” Carstensen says."

Although getting back to the Global Warming connection you're ignoring that it's not just about the temperature on an animal's skin.  It's about eco-system warming with multiple cascading consequences rippling throughout the backcountry.  Warmer winters and parasite survival, less snow and foraging patterns plus favorite food supplies are impacted, as is the balance of competing species, etc., etc..
Steele:  So that's why I wrote that article...
While others do real science:


A Thesis Presented
by David William Wattles

Submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF SCIENCE September 2011
Department of Environmental Conservation Wildlife & Fisheries Conservation

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