Raging U.S. wildfires burn homes, force evacuations, kill horses By David Ryder and Laura Zuckerman6 hours agoSmoke rising from the TePee Springs fire in the Payette National Forest is seen in an aerial picture …By David Ryder and Laura ZuckermanRelated Stories
CHELAN, Wash./SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) – Dozens of wildfires burning across the drought-parched U.S. Northwest on Tuesday have destroyed scores of structures, sparked evacuation orders for thousands of people, and killed at least 27 wild horses.More than 100 homes have been destroyed since Friday in Washington state, Idaho and Oregon, authorities said.About 200 U.S. soldiers have been called in to reinforce civilian firefighters battling almost 90 blazes that have blackened more than 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) across the country’s arid West. The mobilization was the first of its kind since 2006.To help battle the blazes, the U.S. Forest Service said fire managers are considering asking Australia and New Zealand to lend firefighters. Canadian crews, smokejumpers, and air tankers have already been assigned to northern Idaho and Montana.The year-to-date acreage burned so far is about 7.1 million acres (2.9 million hectares) nationwide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. It is the first time in 20 years that the area charred has exceeded 7 million acres by this date, the center said.Smoke rising from the TePee Springs fire in the Payette National Forest is seen in an aerial picture …In north-central Washington, a cluster of wildfires destroyed at least 35 homes and 21 outbuildings on the outskirts of Chelan, a resort town at the southern tip of Lake Chelan, sheriff’s spokesman Rich Magnussen said.Officials halved to 1,000 the number of residences under evacuation orders on Tuesday from Monday as previously burned areas cooled, while firefighters prepared to face strong winds forecast over coming days, Magnussen said.Officials expected to find as many as 50 homes and many more outbuildings burned as the county assessor continues in-person tallies, Magnussen said.In Idaho, at least 27 wild horses were burned to death by a massive wildfire southwest of Boise, said U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Heather Tiel-Nelson.Two other wild horses were euthanized, and Tiel-Nelson said more may be found killed by the so-called Soda fire, which was nearing containment on Tuesday after burning more than 280,000 acres (110,000 hectares).In west-central Idaho, dozens of residents had to evacuate their homes near the resort town of McCall. Others were told to prepare to leave at a moment’s notice.In northern Idaho, firefighters battling a 58,000-acre (23,000-hectare) blaze reported cooler temperatures and higher humidity, which let them make significant gains for the first time since it was sparked by lightning on Thursday.The so-called Clearwater Complex of fires, which was at about 25 percent containment on Tuesday, has destroyed 50 houses and 80 outbuildings near the town of Kamiah, Idaho. An elderly woman died when she fell and hit her head as she was trying to secure her backyard chickens and flee with her husband.In central Oregon, 26 dwellings were destroyed over the weekend. About a dozen large fires are burning across the state, threatening hundreds of structures, authorities said.Reporting by David Ryder in Chelan, Washington, Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho, and Courtney Sherwood in Portland, Oregon; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh)
Massive blazes across dry West drain firefighting resources By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS and TED S. WARREN1 hour ago Associated Press Videos Wildfire Scorches Washington Resort AreaNews Wildfire Scorches Washington Resort Area CHELAN, Wash. (AP) — Wildfires are putting such a strain on the nation’s firefighting resources that authorities have activated the military and sought international help to beat back scores of blazes burning uncontrolled throughout the dry West.Related Stories
Swim On! Rescued Great White Shark Likely Still Alive By Laura Geggel14 hours agoA great white shark famously saved last month by Cape Cod beachgoers is likely still alive and swimming, said a shark expert.The shark was rescued after it became stranded on a beach on July 13. Before it was released, experts pinned an acoustic tag to the shark’s dorsal fin, which is on its back. A system of acoustic receivers — located about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) south of where researchers released the shark — picked up the animal’s unique signal within two weeks of the rescue, said Gregory Skomal, afisheries biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, who helped save the shark.”It’s very encouraging that the shark was alive,” he told Live Science. „If I had to guess, if it survived for a couple days, it’s going to survive [in the long term].” [Jaws Gallery: See Amazing Photos of Great White Sharks]The young great white’s tale is a miraculous one. The shark, a male juvenile, almost died after the retreating tide left it stranded on a Cape Cod beach in Massachusetts. Beachgoers saw the shark flopping around on the sand, and poured water over its gills to help it breathe and stay cool.Videos taken of the rescue show the shark’s underside turning red, likely because of capillaries bursting under the weight of its organs that were no longer supported by the buoyant water, experts said. Moreover, the heat and lack of oxygen likely strained the shark’s body.An organized effort involving the Chatham Harbormaster’s office, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and state officials helped the shark survive. As soon as shark experts arrived on the scene, they tied a rope around the shark’s tail and used a motorboat to drag the animal into the water.An underwater photo of the juvenile white male rescued from a beach in Cape Cod.Once waterborne, the shark got some new bling: an acoustic tag.”It’s a little dart that goes underneath the skin, into the muscle at the base of the dorsal fin,” Skomal said.The tag emits a high-frequency sound that can’t be heard by people or sharks, but is recognized by receivers stationed around Cape Cod, Skomal said. When a tagged shark swims within several hundred feet of a receiver, the device detects the unique ping and records the time and date, Skomal said.Each tag lasts up to eight years, he added.The researchers don’t get the data in real time. Instead, they have to visit each receiver, pull it out of the water and download its data via Bluetooth, Skomal said.The last time the researchers saw the young male shark, it was alertly swimming away from their motor boat off the cape. Great white sharks typically hang around the area because it’s filled with grey seals, one of the predator’s preferred foods. However, great whites also eat fish, and are known to feed on whale carcasses and sometimes even turtles, Skomal said.Researchers will continue to monitor the rescued shark’s movements, as well as 40 other tagged sharks with acoustic transmitters in the area, he said. But sharks often leave the area, leaving nary a clue about their whereabouts.That’s not always a bad thing, Skomal said.”If we don’t hear from it at all for the rest of the summer, it’s even more encouraging because that means the shark swam away to a different area,” he said. „They move around quite a bit.”Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook &Google+. Original article on Live Science.
U.S. Cracks Down on Mexican Seafood After Turtle Deaths By John R. Platt | Takepart.com9 hours agoU.S. Cracks Down on Mexican Seafood After Turtle Deaths Mexico’s fishers are killing as many as 2,000endangered loggerhead sea turtles every year, and the United States government wants it to stop.If the sea turtle deaths don’t decline, and quickly, the federal government could impose sanctions on some Mexican seafood, blocking its import into the lucrative U.S. market, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced on Friday.The move came just a few days after the fisheries service proposed new rules that would protect marine mammals around the world. It also comes six months after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identified six nations—Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Portugal—as having large levels of “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing that negatively impacts endangered species.In Mexico’s case, that illegal fishing took place in the Gulf of Ulloa, an important loggerhead breeding site off the coast of Baja California. The region is also an economically valuable halibut fishery, where fishers use mile-long gillnets to catch every fish they can find. The nets routinely kill thousands of loggerheads every year as bycatch.The sea turtle action is the first “negative certification” taken under the U.S. High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, which allows the government to protect endangered marine species from fishing bycatch by nations that do not sufficiently protect sea turtles and other wildlife. The act allows the president to block seafood imports until a country improves its regulatory framework and it can be granted a “positive certification.”The drift-net act “is one of NOAA’s tools to improve bycatch management globally,” said Kate Brogan, public affairs specialist with the fisheries service. She added that “NOAA will also continue to work with Mexico to encourage actions to address the bycatch of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles,” which the agency has been doing for the past six months ago.Mexico has already enacted several new regulations to help conserve sea turtles, but conservation groups say they aren’t enough.“The regulations are only temporary,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. They will only be in place from October 2015 through April 2017, meaning they cover just the 2016 summer fishing season.RELATED: If You’re Born a Sea Turtle, the Odds Are Never in Your FavorThe regulations also allow Mexican fishers to kill up to 90 loggerhead sea turtles each year. “That’s much too high,” said Uhlemann. “Comparable fisheries in the U.S. are only allowed to kill two loggerheads a year, because [the fisheries service] believes additional deaths may jeopardize the loggerheads’ survival.”Uhlemann said she hopes the drift-net act helps address the discrepancies between the two neighboring countries’ regulations. “We are encouraging the U.S. to issue strong and swift sanctions against Mexico, to pressure Mexico to get serious about saving sea turtles and also to send a strong message to the world that the U.S. is willing to use its lucrative market to protect imperiled wildlife wherever it is found,” she said.Meanwhile, consumers seeking to protect sea turtles may want to avoid Mexican halibut or other fish from the Gulf of Ulloa. But that won’t be an easy task. “Seafood is still very poorly marked and labeled, so it’s very hard for consumers, or even seafood purveyors, to know for sure exactly where their seafood is coming from,” Uhlemann said.The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch identifies Pacific halibut as a sustainable choice only if it comes with a label from the Marine Stewardship Council Certified Fisheries.The fisheries service said the U.S commerce secretary will now develop recommendations for the president regarding which seafood products will receive import restrictions.
France to return 150 endangered tortoises to Madagascar 13 hours agoRadiated tortoises are found only in Madagascar and prized by collectors for the unique pattern on their shell case (AFP Photo/Bertrand Guay)Marseille (AFP) – Some 150 endangered baby tortoises will return to Madagascar eight months after they were found wrapped in sticky tape and hidden in a crate at a Paris airport, the centre that cared for them said Tuesday.”After several months of intensive care, the team is overjoyed to repatriate these protected animals to Madagascar,” said a statement from Tortoise Village in France’s southeastern Var region.The centre took in the tortoises after they were found in the secret compartment of a crate transporting sea cucumbers through Charles de Gaulle airport in December.The species — known as „radiated tortoises” — are found only in Madagascar and prized by collectors for the unique pattern on their shell case.They can live up to 100 years, but are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which estimates they could be extinct within 50 years as a result of habitat loss and the international wildlife trade.Around 20 of the baby reptiles died during the trip to France due to the „particularly unsuitable conditions of transport,” customs officials said at the time, adding that they were destined for Laos.Bernard Devaux, director of the Tortoise Village, described them at the time as „magnificent but very fragile.”Weighing only 20g (0.7 ounces) and measuring up to four centimetres (1.5 inches) they were too small to face a second international flight straight away.But the centre said Tuesday they were now in good shape and had gained between 40 and 60 percent in weight. They are due to fly home on August 24.”They are considered the most beautiful tortoises on the planet. You see them sold for $10,000 in New York or Tokyo and pressure is increasing as rich Chinese get involved,” said Devaux when they were found.”They represent too much money. They are beautiful so they are hunted. Maybe it would be better if they were ugly.”
California water prices set to rise next year: Fitch By Rory Carroll12 hours agoA dry canal is seen running off the Colorado River Aqueduct, in Hayfield Lake, California, United States …By Rory Carroll SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Residents of drought-ravaged California can expect to pay more for water next year as utilities pass on the cost of mandatory conservation measures to customers, a survey released by rating agency Fitch on Tuesday said.Seventy-eight percent of the 46 retail water utilities polled said rate increases would either begin next year or have already begun.The median increase in 2016 will be about 5 percent, although the largest increase will be 31 percent, Fitch said.Facing a record-breaking drought, California in May adopted emergency regulations requiring a statewide 25 percent reduction in water sales.As a result many water utilities will experience reduced financial margins in fiscal years 2015 and 2016.”The persistence of this drought has begun to outstrip the tools utilities typically use to manage the state’s hydrological cycles,” said Kathryn Masterson, senior director at Fitch.Raising water rates in California is not easy. State law requires utilities to notify all property owners in writing of the proposed change and hold a public hearing to receive protests.It also requires water changes to be limited to the actual cost of service. Many California water utilities are currently engaged in cost-of-service studies, making rate actions likely during mid- to late fiscal 2016.”Despite constitutional considerations and legal scrutiny of water rates, rate increases remain one of the most viable tools utilities have in the face of greater conservation and lower revenues,” Masterson said.In addition to rate increases, 52 percent of water utilities expect to offset lower revenues by cutting operating expenditures, 46 percent said they would dip into financial reserves, and 37 percent said they would divert from their planned capital spending, according to Fitch.Fitch said that while fiscal 2015 will show lower financial margins for many utilities, fiscal 2016 may see modest improvements, with the full rate impact benefitting financial margins in fiscal 2017, even if the drought continues at its present level of severity.(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
Magnitude 4.0 earthquake hits San Francisco area August 17, 2015 12:19 PM CNBC Videos Morning quake hits San Francisco NewsMorning quake hits San Francisco San Francisco (AFP) – A 4.0-magnitude earthquake shook the San Francisco area Monday, the US Geological Survey reported, but no major damage or injuries were immediately reported.Related Stories
Its epicenter was one mile north of Piedmont, about 13 miles (21 kilometers) east of San Francisco on the Hayward Fault.”earthquake tremors felt in SanFrancisco. Always be prepared!” the city of San Francisco said on its Twitter page.The quake hit at 6:49 am (1349 GMT), at a depth of 3.3 miles, USGS saidAn AFP correspondent in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco and near the epicenter, said he was awakened by a gentle rumble that ended with a sharp jolt after about five seconds.He said picture frames rattled on the walls and that dishes bounced around, but he reported no major damage.A 4.0-magnitude earthquake shook the San Francisco area, with thetremor’s epicenter one mile nor …Another California resident living near the epicenter also felt the ground shake.”The center was just down the street. There was no damage, it just woke us up,” photographer Frederick Neema told AFP.An AFP reporter living in San Francisco itself said she felt the quake distinctly but there was no damage in her home.Oakland police Lieutenant Chris Bolton said on Twitter about an hour after the quake hit there were no reports of damage.The Bay Area Rapid Transport system meanwhile reported a medical emergency and warned of widespread travel delays.The tremblor struck almost one year after California’s Napa Valley wine country was shaken by a 6.0-magnitude earthquake, the strongest to hit the region in a quarter of a century. There were no deaths reported, but some 130 people sought minor medical care.Napa’s was the strongest earthquake since 1989, when the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta quake in the Santa Cruz Mountains killed 63, injured 3,000 and caused widespread damage. One section of the upper span of the double-decker Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Oakland, collapsed and a major viaduct in Oakland also gave way.The Hayward Fault where Monday’s tremblor occurred runs from San Pablo Bay in the north to Fremont in the south, passing through the cities of Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward and Fremont, according to the USGS.California is the most populated state in the country, with some 38.8 million inhabitants according to US Census data, and scientists have long warned that a major tremblor could hit the earthquake-prone state.