Grazing damage adjacent to a rock art site, Sonoran Desert National Monument. Photo G. Anderson/WWP.
The Sonoran Desert National Monument was established in 2001 with very specific terms about how grazing should be managed on these lands. The Proclamation basically said that grazing should be permanently banned from parts of the monument and could only continue on portions of the monument where it was found to be compatible with resource protection. (You can read all about the early days of Western Watersheds Project’s involvement with the Sonoran Desert NM, but the short version is in 2008 we had to sueto get the Bureau of Land Management to start the process of determining grazing compatibility and in 2013 we filed another lawsuit because of their flawed determination process. We won that lawsuit in 2015 the Bureau was compelled to reassess its plans.)
The 496,000-acre monument proclamation specifically identifies the need to protect and preserve:
“… [M]any significant archaeological and historic sites, including rock art sites, lithic quarries, and scattered artifacts. Vekol Wash is believed to have been an important prehistoric travel and trade corridor between the Hohokam and tribes located in what is now Mexico. Signs of large villages and permanent habitat sites occur throughout the area, and particularly along the bajadas of the Table Top Mountains. Occupants of these villages were the ancestors of today’s O’odham, Quechan, Cocopah, Maricopa, and other tribes. The monument also contains a much used trail corridor 23 miles long in which are found remnants of several important historic trails, including the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, the Mormon Battalion Trail, and the Butterfield Overland Stage Route.”
With such a rich array of archeological and cultural sites, you might think they would want to take a hard look at the effects of cattle trampling, cow pies, increased erosion, and other livestock-caused unnecessary degradation of these places.
By finding that no historic properties are affected, the agency is relieved of any obligations such as identifying historic properties, evaluating historic significance and effects, or consultation, and then, you know, actually protecting them. So, what exactly is this guy getting paid to do?
It’s appalling that the Bureau of Land Management would rubberstamp grazing authorizations like this, especially since his caveat – “if the allotments are properly managed” – is easily proven to be an baseless assumption. (That map is old, but it’s the most recent map we’ve got.) A huge percentage of western public lands managed by the Bureau are completely failing land health standards and many more have only outdated assessments or none at all.
In other words, the largest land management agency in the U.S. doesn’t even know the effects livestock have on cultural sites and, at least in Arizona, doesn’t seem to think that’s any big deal. We know that 1,400-pound cattle trampling ancient pottery will destroy it. We know that cattle tend to rub against ancient walls, toppling them over. And we know that a priceless and irreplaceable cultural legacy, spanning thousands of years of human occupation, is being destroyed everywhere that cattle are turned loose and left unattended on our public lands. So why, again, is the Bureau of Land Management allowing this to happen on lands specifically set aside to protect and preserve archaeological treasures and historic trails?
Immigration cases deciding if migrants will be legally allowed to stay in the U.S. have doubled since 2017, according to migration data released Monday.
Over 1.3 million cases are pending, with more than 110,000 pending in New York courts alone, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). Migrants wait an average of two and a half years for a judge to decide their case, Axios reported Monday.
“The number of pending deportation cases more than doubled during the Trump administration, but the court backlog still continues to grow under the Biden administration,” TRAC Assistant Professor Austin Kocher told the Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday.
Immigration courts accepted nearly 127,000 cases between October 2020 and May, compared to the 68,000 cases the courts ruled on in the same time frame, according to Kocher. Less than 4% of new cases issued deportation orders based on the migrant’s alleged criminal activity, Kocher tweeted.
“As of the end of May 2021, there were more than 1.3 million people facing deportation just in the immigration courts. That’s about the number of people that live in Dallas, Texas. And the number only grows each month,” Kocher told the DCNF.
“At this point, it seems unlikely that the president — whether Democrat or Republican — can fix the problem, and that Congress will need to step in and enact immigration reform,” Kocher added.
Nearly 28,000 removal and voluntary departure orders were issued from October 2020 through May, Kocher said in a tweet. Only around 20% of migrants issued deportation or removal orders had legal assistance.
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By Chelsea Pieterse and Kara van der BergADVERTISEMENTnull
The police have confirmed the fatal shooting of Petros Sidney Mabuza, also known as ‘Mr Big’ or ‘Mshengu’.
He was allegedly shot in Hazyview earlier today and reportedly died on his way to Kiaat Hospital in Mbombela this afternoon.
Mabuza has been in and out of the courts since 2018 on charges of rhino poaching.
In 2018 he was arrested and charged with crimes ranging from rhino horn theft to the illegal possession of rifles and live ammunition. Family of Petros Mabuza gather in the Kiaat Hospital parking lot following the news of his death earlier today.
This is a developing story. Lowvelder will keep you updated.
Poachers masquerading as rangers, magistrates allegedly taking bribes from kingpins and lenient sentences handed out to ruthless criminals – this is the current state of South Africa’s rhino crisis, according to campaigners.
Strict limits on travel due to coronavirus, imposed last year, had a positive effect on keeping poachers and smugglers at bay, with just 394 rhinos poached in the country in 2021, 30 percent fewer than the year before and the lowest yearly tally since 2011.
But with gates open again, the onslaught on rhinos and corruption inside courtrooms is once again rising, according to Jamie Joseph, head of the environmental charity, Saving the Wild.
Speaking from an undisclosed location in Africa, Joseph told the Standard: “For the last decade corruption has been driving rhinos into extinction, and it’s just getting worse.
The kingpins call the shots; we run the intel, they get arrested, but then they always get bail and never go to jail
Ms Joseph alleged that kingpins were able to “rule” because of the “dirty officers and magistrates on their payroll.”
Following the campaign’s expose on how the UK’s red list could pose a threat to African conservation efforts, campaigners have told the Standard that corruption in South Africa needs serious attention as Covid restrictions continue to ease.
The country is home to 80 per cent of Africa’s rhino population, but there are only about 25,000 rhinos left and roughly 1,000 are killed every year for their horn.
But the violent and deadly trade has brewed in the country for decades–in 2007 the country lost just 13 rhinos to poaching, the next year, that number jumped to 83. By 2014, a total of 1,215 had been killed in one year and deaths are still high.
The horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, which means they can grow back. They are considered to be worth more by weight than cocaine, and so traffickers go to great lengths to smuggle it out of, or around, Africa.
Ms Joseph, a dedicated conservationist originally born in Zimbabwe, first launched what she describes as the “Blood Rhino Blacklist” in 2017 – a list of allegedly corrupt magistrates and lawyers who she claims have taken bribes on rhino poaching and other crimes.
Her Blacklist investigations led the Ministry of Justice to suspend KwaZulu Natal Court President, Eric Nzimande.
Nzimande, who was responsible for, among other things, the appointment of presiding officers to the province’s regional courts was suspended in October 2018.
He now he faces 112 disciplinary charges, including appointing acting regional court magistrates in return for payments.
Other cases of alleged corruption in courts include the case of alleged kingpin Dumisani Gwala, who is accused of running a trafficking ring.
He was arrested with rhino horn, but has pleaded not guilty to charges of dealing in protected wildlife parts.
Donate to the stop the illegal wildlife trade, here: / ESI Media
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An eight-month intelligence-driven operation led to Gwala’s arrest in December 2014.
It was hailed a significant bust as he had been caught several times before, but the cases had either been withdrawn, or the dockets “suspiciously” went missing, according to Joseph.
The case of Gwala is still ongoing but the campaigner said his trial at Mtubatuba Court is “long overdue.”
It has been mired with controversy and back in 2017 several wildlife campaigners argued that the case needed to be moved to a different court.
The trial is now scheduled for June 28 this year after it was delayed 30 times, Joseph told the Standard.
Jean-Pierre Roux, the former police endangered wildlife detective, who arrested Gwala, said: “We faced corruption in all facets from police involvement in criminal activities, the robbery and corruption that comes after people are confronted or arrested to the corruption with the magistrates and prosecutors.
“We had to deal with all of that.”
Mr Roux, who has faced death threats for getting too close to information, claimed that some police officers left or retired from forces due to the state of the alleged corruption.
I think proper vetting should be implemented as well as background checks. But then you must take into consideration as well, that not all criminals or corrupt officials start off corrupt but they change when they come in.
“But another issue is that those good officials or rangers are afraid of speaking up out of fear of losing their lives because they might live in the same area as the criminal. They could get killed,” he added.
On the field
Ms Joseph claims that corruption doesn’t just lie inside courtrooms in South Africa but it also takes place on the fields, where rangers should be protecting the wildlife.
Ms Joseph alleged that the greatest challenge the Kruger faces “is the enemy within.”
One bust includes that of Phineas Dinda, who is a former Sanparks full corporal in the Rangers Corps.
He was arrested in Tshokwane section in May 2019 and was found in possession of trespassing the Kruger National Park, conspiracy to commit a crime, and possession of an unlicensed firearm, live ammunition and an axe, reported the Times Live.
Dinda was convicted for 16 years.
Three other SanParks employees were arrested for poaching in October 2020, according to Ewn news.
The two security guards and another worker from the technical services division were arrested during an operation between the park and the police.
In a statement published by Gareth Coleman, the managing executive of the Kruger National Park, at the time, he said: “It is always disheartening when colleagues from Sanparks are involved in criminal activities.
“It breaks down trust amongst employees which impacts our responsibilities to act as an effective conservation authority serving the people of South Africa,” it added.
Joseph, however, argues much more needs to be done as “rangers are being forced to work with poachers masquerading as rangers.”
“The thing is, you can have all the money and all the technology and all the weapons and all the soldiers in the world. But if you lose the war on corruption, you lose the war on everything,” she added.
Mark Delgado told Border Patrol agents he was scrolling through TikTok one day when he came across a video asking for drivers and offering $4,000 a trip.
He needed the money, so he reached out to the guy on WhatsApp, a messaging service owned by Facebook. They made arrangements to meet this month in the Rio Grande Valley, where the TikTok recruiter put a man in the trunk of Mr. Delgado’s Nissan Altima and piled clothes on top to try to conceal the migrant, according to court documents.
Mr. Delgado was sent on his way with a warning — stay relaxed while going through the Border Patrol checkpoint — and a promise of $5,200 when the migrant was dropped off outside Houston.
A canine at the checkpoint alerted on Mr. Delgado’s car, and agents found the migrant. Agents said Mr. Delgado begged them to cut him a break: “Can’t you let me go since this is my first time?”
A day later, at the same checkpoint, agents nabbed another man, Alvaro-Vazquez-Ruiz, who said he was recruited over Telegram, another social media app. He was promised $1,500 for every person he was able to get through the checkpoint.
He turned the fuel tank of his Ford F-350 truck into a compartment to hide a migrant, but the smugglers told him he had to transport two people, so he tried to stash the second person underneath the back seat. Agents manning the checkpoint spotted that person and swooped in to make the arrest, according to court files.
Social media apps such as TikTok, Snapchat, Telegram, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have upended the smuggling world.
Connecting a driver to a group of migrants is as easy as messaging a GPS “pin” location. Scouts can alert smugglers to Border Patrol agents so they can avoid them or, in some cases, to make sure the migrants are spotted, distracting agents while a more valuable load is sneaked through.
FBI agents in California revealed that smugglers holding illegal immigrants for ransom also use WhatsApp to arrange meetups with relatives to transfer the cash.
Recent news reports show smugglers advertise their services on social media like regular businesses. The difference is that the “customers” are desperately poor migrants willing to go $10,000 into debt for an attempt to cross illegally into the U.S.
The value and dangers of a smartphone
There seem to be few areas where social media has not touched the smuggling world and few cases where it is not a factor.
The Washington Times reviewed 25 criminal smuggling cases filed in Arizona over the past two months in which migrants were held as witnesses — court documents usually provide the information — and found 17 had indications that smartphones were involved. That’s a rate of 68%.
The actual figure could be higher because Border Patrol agents filing other cases might not report smartphone use in court documents.
In about half of the Arizona cases, migrants were guided across the border and to rendezvous locations by smartphone.
Smugglers in several cases received real-time instructions or scouting reports. One smuggler said a text message gave a pin-drop location for his pickup. Another said he was communicating via WhatsApp with the smuggling coordinator throughout his trip. When agents got on his tail, he said, he was ordered not to pull over and to try to escape.
Smuggling organizations know the value — and the dangers — of the smartphone. Criminal case files are full of reports about foot guides, drivers and boat captains who tossed, smashed or wiped data from their phones once they saw Border Patrol agents closing in.
When agents do get access to texts or apps, they can build better cases and often puncture smugglers’ stories and excuses.
Smartphones also are valuable to migrants.
“I’ve never met an immigrant who didn’t have a modern cellphone, a smartphone, that was fully plugged into the social media world and that gave them live-time intelligence information about where to go, when to go and how people upstream were doing,” said Todd Bensman, a national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.
He said the most powerful lure is the collection of selfies their relatives, neighbors and friends text back home, advertising the ease of gaining a foothold in the U.S.
Smugglers have been using Facebook and Snapchat for years, but TikTok is relatively new, according to The Times’ database. Most major social media platforms have been used to recruit drivers or connect them with migrants.
Malik Jackson was nabbed in 2019 for smuggling after a citizen tipped off authorities. He said he responded to a Snapchat ad seeking drivers, according to court documents. He told agents the ad offered $300 per person to smuggle Mexicans and $600 per Chinese migrant.
Gequon Willis, nabbed at a highway checkpoint in California in 2019, said he saw a Snapchat video titled “Want to make some money.” He had been fired from his job and needed work, so he clicked through and someone contacted him and gave him instructions.
He picked up two illegal immigrants and was to be paid $1,000 per person.
WhatsApp is the most popular platform for smugglers, according to The Times’ database, followed by Facebook and Snapchat. WhatsApp is particularly useful once drivers are recruited. Smuggling organizers use the app to relay instructions, help connect drivers and migrants and make sure they get through checkpoints.
Connecting migrants with drivers, which used to be tricky in remote areas, is now as easy as messaging a GPS pin to the driver over one of the apps. Smuggling scouts can give step-by-step directions to help migrants on foot avoid checkpoints.
Drivers about to be caught are ordered to trash phones or erase data. Smuggling networks have been derailed by undeleted texts with stash house locations or names that can be used to build cases.
Trying to crack down
Customs and Border Protection said it is “aware of the use of social media” to connect with migrants and recruit operators.
The agency’s answer: public relations.
“CBP works in close coordination with its federal, local and international partner agencies, including local community leaders to message the inherent dangers to all would-be migrants thinking of crossing the border illegally, especially those using the services of smuggling organizations,” the agency told The Times.
Neither Telegram nor TikTok responded to questions about the platforms’ use in smuggling.
Snap, the company that runs Snapchat, also didn’t answer questions.
Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp along with its own platform, said it tries to ban illegal activity such as advertising for smuggling. The company pointed to an exchange between CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Rep. Buddy Carter, Georgia Republican, at a hearing this spring.
“That’s against our policies, and we’re taking a lot of steps to stop it,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.
Mr. Carter told The Times this month that whatever Facebook is doing, it’s “clearly not enough.”
“We are facing a crisis at the border, and Facebook’s products are contributing to it. More needs to be done by them faster,” he said. “Congress has a responsibility to provide oversight over these companies, and I will continue to press them until their products are no longer used for human smuggling at the border.”
Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee have begun to probe TikTok’s use as a recruiting tool, particularly for the teenage audience that the app attracts.
Rep. John Katko of New York, the top Republican on the panel, said TikTok does have the power to flag and remove messages and can control which videos “go viral” and which clips are aimed at certain users.
“With such control, TikTok should be able to eradicate the cartel activities outlined above from the platform,” the Republicans wrote.
Illegal activity is sometimes in plain sight for those who know where to look.
Rolando Lucio, nabbed at the Falfurrias, Texas, checkpoint in December, told agents he used a YouTube video to coach the three migrants he was carrying on how to act and what to say to agents. He got tripped up when he told the agent the two migrants were family members but couldn’t remember their names.
An agent dryly wondered whether a relative wouldn’t know his family’s names. Lucio then came clean, according to court documents.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced this spring to 15 months in prison.
At times, social media accounts come back to bite the smugglers.
Edward Olivas, arrested at a Laredo, Texas, checkpoint in March, said he was a Lyft driver on a run from Laredo to San Antonio, albeit one booked outside of the app. He said he charged about $100.
When agents looked through his phone — after getting his legal consent — they found messages confirming that he knew he was smuggling and expected to be paid $2,000 to transport a Mexican woman through the checkpoint. He even checked to see whether her English was “decent.”
REUTERS (16 June 2021) — An animal advocacy group has accused the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Denver federal court of running a wild-horse adoption program that fails to prevent their resale to slaughter facilities that process them for meat, in violation of prohibitions by Congress and of federal law.
In acomplaintfiled on Monday, Friends of Animals alleges that the BLM through its Adoption Incentive Program, which pays $1,000 a head to people who adopt wild horses the agency rounds up on federal lands, unlawfully fails to prohibit the horses’ sales to “kill buyers” at auctions.
BLM spokesperson Richard Packer declined to comment.
Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral said in a statement the group wants the suspension of the “faulty program that removed any safeguard to prevent the horses from certain death.”
The government pays to house horses it captures in holding facilities or private ranches…
Zoos and aquariums are just two types of place where members of nonhuman species face lifelong incarceration for the ‘entertainment’ of our species. Many with vested interests are quick to claim that the ‘entertainment’ aspect is only part of the story; that the main reason for imprisoning other species has something to do with ‘education’ or about ‘conservation’, and there’s no doubt that both these words frequently allow a free pass from criticism or even critical thinking for these widespread and lucrative businesses.
Zoos , ‘wild life parks’, and sea world equivalents crop up frequently on social media and one doesn’t have far to look to discover that the folk myths about ‘education’ and ‘conservation’ are alive and well, and have been since long before the days of TV and film.
We may arguably live in at a time when the use of other animals is increasingly frowned upon as unethical in circuses, but meanwhile every family heading to look at imprisoned creatures for a day’s ‘entertainment’ is doing their bit – to the sound of cash registers and burger stalls – to reinforce the continuing message that humans are superior creatures and that other species exist for our entertainment.
I decided that it’s important to start to compile the best information and links into a single resource to be added to as more comes to hand, providing something to share when the subject is raised by those whose self interest blinds them to the facts. I start with a piece that I recently came across by the great Tom Regan. The other articles are in date order.
Are Zoos Morally Defensible?
1995 In this piece comprising a chapter of a larger work authored by others, Tom Regan (1938-1917) examines and discusses the ethics of zoos from the Animal Rights position, by providing valuable insights into how the sharply contrasting ‘utilitarian’ or ‘holistic’ stances affect the subject. He writes,
June 11 2021 ‘I find one statistic particularly telling about their priorities: A 2018 analysis of the scientific papers produced by association members between 1993 and 2013 showed that just about 7 percent of them annually were classified as being about “biodiversity conservation.” People don’t go to zoos to learn about the biodiversity crisis or how they can help. They go to get out of the house, to get their children some fresh air, to see interesting animals. They go for the same reason people went to zoos in the 19th century: to be entertained. A fine day out with the family might itself be justification enough for the existence of zoos if the zoo animals are all happy to be there. Alas, there’s plenty of heartbreaking evidence that many are not.’ https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/11/opinion/zoos-animal-cruelty.html
The neural cruelty of captivity: Keeping large mammals in zoos and aquariums damages their brains
It’s Time to Stop Pretending Zoos Are Good for Animals
March 9, 2020 ‘We imagine the zoo as Noah’s Ark, preserving the last remnants of endangered species. And yet, 83% of species in zoos are not endangered, or even threatened. Why are these animals kept, if the zoo is all about conservation? Of the few zoo animals that are endangered, almost none of them will be released into the wild — they’ve been bred and raised for the entertainment of humans, and would not survive in nature. But even if zoos were successfully preparing their animals for release on a grand scale, it would be an inefficient use of resources: Conservation in the wild is far more effective than captive breeding, in almost all cases.
Zoos are outdated and cruel – it’s time to make them a thing of the past
August 14 2019 ‘If zoos are so abysmal, why do they still exist on such a large scale? The answer is simple. Zooreaucracies and zoo-rocrats have a stamp collector’s mentality and an appetite and preference to please the public with iconic and non-threatened species, leading to their needless captivity and “consumption” for entertainment.
In other words, the public come first and not the animals. Is that conservation? Zoos don’t want you to know these facts because it would expose the fundamental flaws in the arguments they put out for their existence, and as a consequence merely prove that they’re in the conservation of business and not in the business of conservation.’
Are zoo animals happy? There’s a simple empathy test we can apply
April 16. 2017 ‘If we are to continue keeping animals in confinement … Making animals happier must be a top priority, and written into the budgets of zoo managers. Nevertheless, we need to remember that enrichment is just a Band-Aid solution. It serves, like the Valium given to SeaWorld’s whales, to manage the symptoms. But it can’t treat the underlying disease. Only freedom from captivity can really resolve the illness.’ https://www.salon.com/2017/04/16/are-zoo-animals-happy-theres-a-simple-empathy-test-we-can-apply/
Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors? A Critical Evaluation of the American Zoo and Aquarium Study
2010 ‘Modern-day zoos and aquariums market themselves as places of education and conservation. A recent study conducted by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) (Falk et al., 2007) is being widely heralded as the first direct evidence that visits to zoos and aquariums produce long-term positive effects on people’s attitudes toward other animals. In this paper, we address whether this conclusion is warranted by analyzing the study’s methodological soundness. We conclude that Falk et al. (2007) contains at least six major threats to methodological validity that undermine the authors’ conclusions. There remains no compelling evidence for the claim that zoos and aquariums promote attitude change, education, or interest in conservation in visitors ‘https://www.wellbeingintlstudiesrepository.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=acwp_zoae
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard