Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears Are No Longer Considered Threatened

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears Are No Longer Considered Threatened

2:41 PM ET  June 22nd 2017

(HELENA, Mont.) — Protections that have been in place for more than 40 years for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area will be lifted this summer after U.S. government officials ruled Thursday that the population is no longer threatened.

Grizzlies in all continental U.S. states except Alaska have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1975, when just 136 bears roamed in and around Yellowstone. There are now an estimated 700 grizzlies in the area that includes northwestern Wyoming, southwestern Montana and eastern Idaho, leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conclude that the population has recovered.

“This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement.

Grizzly bears once numbered about 50,000 and ranged over much of North America. Their population plummeted starting in the 1850s because of widespread hunting and trapping, and the bears now occupy only 2 percent of their original territory.

The final ruling by the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Yellowstone grizzlies from the list of endangered and threatened species will give jurisdiction over the bears to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by late July.

That will allow those states to plan limited bear hunts outside the park’s boundaries as long as the overall bear population does not fall below 600 bears.

Hunting bears inside Yellowstone would still be banned. The bears roam both inside and outside the park, and their range has been expanding as their numbers have grown.

The Obama administration first proposed removing grizzlies as a threatened species by issuing an initial ruling in March 2016. The 15 months that have passed since then have been used to by federal officials to evaluate states’ grizzly management plans and respond to themes of concern generated by 650,000 comments from the public, including wildlife advocates and Native American tribal officials who are staunchly opposed to hunting grizzly bears.

Some 125 tribes have signed a treaty opposing trophy hunting grizzly bears, which Native Americans consider a sacred animal.

Thursday’s ruling is certain to be challenged in court by conservation groups that argue the Yellowstone bears still face threats to their continued existence from humans, climate change and other factors. Tim Preso, an attorney for environmental law firm Earthjustice, said his organization will look closely at the rule.

“We’re certainly prepared to take a stand to protect the grizzly, if necessary,” he said. “There’s only one Yellowstone. There’s only one place like this. We ought not to take an unjustified gamble with an iconic species of this region.”

Matt Hogan, the deputy regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s eight-state Mountain-Prairie Region, said he is confident that the science behind the decision and the management plans the states will follow will withstand any lawsuit.

“We feel like this species is more than adequately protected in the absence of (Endangered Species Act) protections,” Hogan said.

Endangered Species Act protections set strict rules meant to protect species from being killed or their habitat being harmed, as opposed to state management practices that can include hunting or trapping as a means to keep an animal’s population in check.

Wildlife officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have been managing the bear population alongside federal government officials for decades. Those states have submitted management plans that have been approved, and will follow strict regulations to keep a viable population of above 600 bears, Hogan said.

Scientists also studied the effects of climate change on grizzly bears and their food sources, such as the nuts of whitebark pine trees, which are in decline.

“They found grizzly bears are extremely resilient, extremely flexible and adaptable,” Hogan said.

That adaptation has meant switching from nuts to a meat-based diet. That carries the risk of bringing the bears into greater conflict with ranchers protecting livestock and hunters searching for elk and deer, and grizzly deaths caused by human conflicts are on the rise, said Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney for the wildlife advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity.

“Added to those threats will be trophy hunting,” she said.

The federal agency will continue monitoring the grizzly population over the next five years, and certain factors would prompt a new federal review of the bears’ status, such as a high number of female deaths for three consecutive years.

The ruling does not directly affect other populations of grizzlies that are still classified as threatened but which wildlife officials consider recovered, such as the estimated 1,000 bears in the Northern Continental Divide area of Montana and Idaho.

Federal resources used to prepare the final rule on Yellowstone’s bear population will be shifted to planning for lifting protections for the bears living in the Northern Continental Divide, Hogan said.

If You’re A Poor Person In America, Trump’s Budget Is Not For You

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

If you’re a poor person in America, Trump’s budget is not for you

March 16 at 11:40 AM

If you’re a poor person in America, President Trump’s budget proposal is not for you.

Trump has unveiled a budget that would slash or abolish programs that have provided low-income Americans with help on virtually all fronts, including affordable housing, banking, weatherizing homes, job training, paying home heating oil bills, and obtaining legal counsel in civil matters.

During the presidential campaign last year, Trump vowed that the solution to poverty was giving poor people incentives to work. But most of the proposed cuts in his budget target programs designed to help the working poor, as well as those who are jobless, cope.

And many of them carry out their missions by disbursing money to the states, which establish their own criteria.

“This is a budget that pulled the rug out from working families and hurts the very people who President Trump promised to stand up for in rural America and in small towns,” said Melissa Boteach, vice president of the poverty to prosperity program at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington.

The White House budget cuts will fall hardest on the rural and small town communities that Trump won, where one in three people are living paycheck to paycheck — a rate that is 24 percent higher than in urban counties, according to a new analysis by the center.

The budget proposes housing “reforms” that add up to more than $6 billion in cuts while promising to continue assisting the nation’s 4.5 million low-income households. If enacted, the proposed budget would result in the most severe cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development since the early 1980s, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Trump’s budget plan, by the numbers

President Trump just released his budget plan for the next fiscal year, which proposes some big changes in government spending. Here’s a look at what agencies are helped and hurt by the proposal. (Video: Jenny Starrs/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

It would also eliminate the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal agencies.

The administration’s reforms include eliminating funding for a $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, one of the longest continuously run HUD programs that’s been in existence since 1974.

The program provides cities with money to address a range of community development needs such as affordable housing, rehabilitating homes in neighborhoods hardest hit by foreclosures, and preventing or eliminating slums and community blight. It also provides funding for Meals on Wheels, a national nonprofit that delivers food to homebound seniors.

Robert Rector, a senior fellow who focuses on welfare at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think tank, calls the community block grants a “slush fund for urban government.”

The White House touts its cuts to what the administration characterizes as “a number of lower priority programs” as a way to “promote fiscal responsibility.” In actuality, it guts federal funding for affordable housing and kicks the financial responsibility of those programs to states and local governments.

Gone would be $35 million in funding for well-known programs such as Habitat for Humanity and Youth Build USA, fair housing planning, and homeless assistance, among other housing help for needy Americans.

Other targets include funding for neighborhood development and a home-buying program through which low-income individuals help build their own homes. Trump also plans to cut the Home Investment Partnership Program, the largest federal grant to state and local governments that is designed to create affordable housing.

“There is no coordinated plan for how to fulfill the same mission. Saying states, local governments and philanthropy are going to help is just passing the buck,” said a HUD official who is not authorized to speak to the media.

The official said workers at the agency Thursday morning were feeling “demoralized” and “worried.”

“This is just a tough, tough time,” the official said. “HUD is no different from any other domestic agency in just feeling as though these cuts are all very arbitrary and unnecessary.”

Poor people need not lean on community banks for financial help, either, because Trump plans to eliminate the $210 million now dedicated toward Community Development Financial Institutions. The program, administered through the Treasury Department, invests in community banks that provide loans and financial services to people living in some of the most distressed communities of the country.

“Cutting that program would be nothing short of a disaster, and the ripple effect would be felt in urban areas and some rural areas all over America,” said Michael A. Grant, president of the National Bankers Association, a lobbying group for black-owned banks.

The administration would also eliminate the Energy Department’s weatherization assistance program, which dates back to 1976 when Gerald Ford was president. Since then, it has provided states with grants that have helped insulate the homes of about 7 million families, using low-cost techniques that have large payoffs, saving money for those families and curtailing U.S. energy consumption. It has also helped establish weatherization job training centers in states such as Utah and New York.

Also on the chopping block: the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known widely by its acronym LIHEAP. This program, part of the Health and Human Services budget, helps homeowners cover monthly energy costs, or repair broken or inefficient furnaces and air conditioners. The program is usually underfunded; LIHEAP says that on average, only about 20 percent of the households that qualify for assistance receive benefits before the money runs out. Congress sometimes adds funding during emergencies or energy shortages when costs spike.

Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate the Community Services Block Grant, a $715 million program within HHS that funds more than 1,000 local anti-poverty organizations around the country. The organizations provide services ranging from job training to food assistance to more than 16 million people in 3,000 counties. The grants also help communities respond quickly to natural disasters, plant closures and other economic shifts.

Without the grants, there would be little coordination between faith groups, local governments, private companies and nonprofits in addressing the needs of the poor — “just a few unconnected programs that don’t have nearly the impact they have now,” said David Bradley, who founded the National Community Action Foundation and wrote the legislation behind the grants in the early ’80s.

Bradley, though, is “absolutely confident” that Congress will reject the proposal.

“This is the work of a radical right that goes hard after anti-poverty programs,” he said.

The Trump budget would also target the Legal Services Corp., an independent agency that provided $343 million to 134 legal aid organizations for the poor who are tangled up in cases of wrongful eviction, custody disputes, child support or domestic violence.

Legal Services was launched as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty with the support of the American Bar Association led by Lewis F. Powell Jr., who later served on the Supreme Court. President Richard Nixon later created a free-standing corporation to administer legal aid funds.

“Here each day the old, the unemployed, the underprivileged, and the largely forgotten people of our Nation may seek help,” Nixon wrote in a 1971 message to Congress. “Perhaps it is an eviction, a marital conflict, repossession of a car, or misunderstanding over a welfare check — each problem may have a legal solution. These are small claims in the Nation’s eye, but they loom large in the hearts and lives of poor Americans.”

In 2015, Legal Services offices closed 755,774 cases — more than 100 for every lawyer and paralegal employed. About 70 percent of its clients are women, and the majority of its clients are white and between the ages of 36 and 59. The program provides lawyers only to people earning no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which is currently $15,075 for an individual and $30,750 for a family of four.

“We have a legal system that was created by lawyers for lawyers and assumes you have a lawyer,” said James J. Sandman, president of Legal Services Corp. “If you’re a tenant facing eviction and you’re up against a landlord who has a lawyer, if you’re the victim of domestic violence from someone who has a lawyer, you are not playing on a level field. Legal aid is about fairness in the justice system.”

Alaska’s rural poor get hit by the budget proposal, too, despite having two Republican senators. The Agriculture budget would eliminate the Denali Commission, designed to deliver services to remote, rural communities in Alaska, including Native Americans. The commission, established in 1998, contributes to the construction of health-care facilities, water and sewer systems, power generation and communication systems.

The budget would also zero out funds to help native Alaskan villages obtain access to clean drinking water and modern sewage systems.

Cuts to the Agriculture budget also eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority that encourage economic growth in distressed rural communities. And while the budget allocates $6.2 billion to “serve all projected participants” in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, that is $150 million less than USDA had budgeted.

The White House proposed shrinking Job Corps, a program administered by the Labor Department that provides education and job training to more than 60,000 young people and disadvantaged youth. The proposal called for closing centers that do a “poor job” of preparing students for the workforce, but did not elaborate on how many of the 125 centers nationwide would be targeted.

Job Corps, which was created in 1965 as part of President Johnson’s anti-poverty agenda, helps young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 earn high school diplomas and receive vocational training.

The program faced scrutiny several years ago for going over budget and has been forced to freeze enrollment multiple times since 2011 because of the monetary shortfalls. In 2013, a report from the Office of Inspector General found that the budgetary missteps were caused by inaccurate cost estimates and inconsistent monitoring of actual costs. But since then, the program has taken several steps to keep better track of costs and payments.

The Trump administration would also ax the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which aims to help low-income job seekers age 55 and up find work by pairing them with nonprofit organizations and public agencies. The loss of the program could serve as another setback for older Americans who are still struggling to find steady work after the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate for workers 55-plus was 3.4 percent in February, according to the most recent jobs report. But the rate rises to 7.1 percent if workers with part-time jobs who want to be working full-time, and those who have given up on the job search within the past year, are included, according the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School.

The goal of the senior employment program is to help participants find permanent work by providing them with training and job experience. Workers are assigned part-time jobs and paid the minimum wage, with the hope that the experience can help them find jobs that are not subsidized by the government. In its budget proposal, the Trump administration called the approach “ineffective” because up to one-third of participants do not complete the program. Of those who do finish, about half succeed in finding more permanent jobs.

Not everyone, though, believes the cuts will be a disaster for the poor.

Rector, of the Heritage Foundation, said the cuts cannot be evaluated in isolation when they represent less than 1 percent of the $1.1 trillion the government spent on more than 80 poverty programs last year.

“The basic line from the left is ‘this program alone is standing between the poor and destitution,’” Rector said. “We have a very large welfare state, and there is waste in that welfare state. It’s important to prune the waste and make these programs much more effective.”

Jonnelle Marte and Caitlin Dewey contributed to this article.

Read more on the budget: 

Who Is Jon Huntsman President Trump’s Pick To Be The U.S. Ambassador To Russia?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) Former Utah governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has accepted President Donald Trump’s offer to serve as the next ambassador to Russia, several senior administration officials told CNN.

If confirmed, Huntsman would become one of the highest-profile US ambassadors, helming the diplomatic mission to a country that has seen its relationship with the US become increasingly strained in recent years. Huntsman would also take on the post amid ongoing questions about connections between Russians known to US intelligence and Trump campaign advisers — and just months after Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
The post would be the third ambassadorship for Huntsman, who previously served as US ambassador to Singapore and China. Huntsman was the ambassador to China during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Huntsman’s selection comes two weeks after the Utah Republican was first floated as a contender for a top diplomatic post.
One senior administration official said Huntsman was tapped because he is a “brilliant guy,” “tough” and understands what Trump wants.

A hitch in California as bilingual education is restored

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

A hitch in California as bilingual education is restored

December 31 at 11:45 PM
While Californians passed a ballot measure to bring back bilingual education in the upcoming school year, educators say a challenge to getting the programs started will be finding more bilingual teachers.Nearly 20 years after banning most bilingual education, Californians voted in November to let schools restore it for English learners and English speakers whose parents want them to learn Spanish, Mandarin and other languages to compete globally.

Educators say growing interest in bilingual programs will boost already high demand for teachers trained and credentialed to teach the classes. Schools that already have such programs in California — and in other states, including Utah and Oregon — have brought teachers on visas from overseas to meet the need.

“There is already a shortage for bilingual teachers with just the demand we have right now,” said Joshua Speaks, a spokesman for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The overwhelming vote in favor of Proposition 58 is a huge turnaround from the backlash to bilingual education that followed a surge in immigration to California in the 1990s. Since then, some schools started bilingual programs, but parents of English learners had to sign annual waivers for their children to participate, and many districts were reluctant to take on the paperwork.

With the measure passed — 73.5 percent of voters supported it — many schools are expected to expand bilingual offerings or start programs. Among the most popular models are dual-language immersion programs mixing English learners and English speakers in the classroom and splitting instructional time between English and another language.

California’s Department of Education estimates that the state has at least 350 dual-language immersion programs, although the vast majority of the state’s 1.4 million English learners are taught using English immersion. Robert Oakes, a department spokesman, could not say how many districts will start bilingual programs but expects that many will.

“There is a hope and an expectation there will be a big expansion,” he said.

California already had a teacher shortage that followed the economic downturn. Areas where teachers are needed most include special education, science and bilingual education, Speaks said.

To be authorized to teach bilingual classes, teachers must take extra courses and exams. In the 2014-2015 school year, the state issued about 400 bilingual authorizations, Speaks said.

Cristina Alfaro, a professor of dual-language and English-learner education at San Diego State University, said her program annually graduates about 60 bilingual teachers.

“We don’t even credential enough to meet the demand for San Diego, and we have a lot of people from out of state and throughout the state who call us,” she said. “My phone rings off the hook.”

The lack of bilingual classrooms in California over the last two decades, especially at the high school level, has contributed to the dearth of bilingual teachers, said Nicole Knight, executive director of English Language Learner and Multilingual Achievement at Oakland Unified.

To meet the demand, school districts have looked overseas. Los Angeles Unified, which has more than 500 teachers in dual language immersion programs, brought nine teachers and two support staff on visas for Mandarin programs, said Barbara Jones, a district spokeswoman. In Oakland Unified, the district has brought visiting teachers from Mexico and Spain.

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