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Endangered status for monarch butterfly petitioned

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A legal petition was last week to seek Endangered Species Act protection for the monarch butterfly, which a species that's declined around 90 percent in the past two decades.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety as co-lead petitioners joined by the Xerces Society and monarch scientist Lincoln Brower in petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In about 20 years, these once-common iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds, the petitioners said.

“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” said Lincoln Brower,  monarch researcher and conservationist, who has been studying the species since 1954.

“The 90 percent drop in the monarch’s population is a loss so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Some experts say the butterfly’s dramatic decline is being driven by the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born. The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a uniquely potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food.

"The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in midwestern corn and soybean fields," the petitioners say.

“The widespread decline of monarchs is driven by the massive spraying of herbicides on genetically engineered crops, which has virtually eliminated monarch habitat in cropland that dominates the Midwest landscape,” said Bill Freese, a Center for Food Safety science policy analyst. “Doing what is needed to protect monarchs will also benefit pollinators and other valuable insects, and thus safeguard our food supply.”

Monarch butterflies are known for their spectacular multigenerational migration each year from Mexico to Canada and back. Found throughout the United States during summer months, in winter most monarchs from east of the Rockies converge in the mountains of central Mexico, where they form tight clusters on just a few acres of trees. Most monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to trees along the California coast to overwinter.

In a media release, the petitioners continued:

The population has declined from a recorded high of approximately 1 billion butterflies in the mid-1990s to only 35 million butterflies last winter, the lowest number ever recorded. The overall population shows a steep and statistically significant decline of 90 percent over 20 years. In addition to herbicide use with genetically engineered crops, monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl, and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists have predicted that the monarch’s entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of its summer range in the states could become unsuitable due to changing temperatures and increased risk of drought, heat waves and severe storms.

Monarchs need a very large population size to be resilient to threats from severe weather events and predation. Nearly half of the overwintering population in Mexico can be eaten by bird and mammal predators in any single winter; a single winter storm in 2002 killed an estimated 500 million monarchs — 14 times the size of the entire current population.

“We need to take immediate action to protect the monarch so that it doesn’t become another tragic example of a widespread species being erased because we falsely assumed it was too common to become extinct,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species director at the Xerces Society. “2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, which was once so numerous no one would ever have believed it was at risk of extinction. History demonstrates that we cannot afford to be complacent about saving the monarch.”

“The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species like the monarch, and protect them, now, before it’s too late,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “We’ve provided FWS a legal and scientific blueprint of the urgently needed action here.”

“The monarch is the canary in the cornfield, a harbinger of environmental change that we’ve brought about on such a broad scale that many species of pollinators are now at risk if we don’t take action to protect them,” said Brower, who has published hundreds of scientific studies on monarchs.

Planted flowers attract classy clientelle

WILDLIFE WATCHING — "Two of my favorite things in our garden this morning," Spokane Valley pastor/photographer Craig Goodwin said Tuesday. "Tiger swallowtail butterflies and purple coneflowers. The blue flax to the left is a volunteer from some wildflower seeds I planted a couple years ago."

Travel: The Private World of Monet’s Garden at Giverny


   To enter Monet’s private world you must first walk through a dark tunnel under the busy road that separates the house and front garden, the Clos Normand, from the famous water garden. Yes, that water garden. The place with mysterious, reflective, pools and graceful willows whose branches hang low over the water, where the elegant wisteria-covered Japanese bridge frames the view of the beautiful water lilies Monet painted time and again. 


   In Monet’s time, he could walk out the front door and cross a small footbridge to reach the gate, but tourists are another matter. With all the grace of migrating wildlife, they are a hazard on what is now a busy road, so the tunnel gets them safely to a space that draws hundreds of thousands each year.


   Stepping out of the tunnel and into the filtered light of the water garden is to step back in time. Thanks to the archivists, benefactors and a team of gardeners who have worked to restore the garden, the landscape is not much different than it was when the painter was there, when he walked the winding paths or sat on a bench to study the play of light and shadow on water. Turn a corner and the view is somehow familiar. You have the feeling you have been here before. 


   Monet’s gardens are as much a masterpiece as any canvas he created. He did not move into a house in the Normandy countryside in 1883 and simply settle down to paint what was there. Instead, he approached the land around the house he continued to improve and enlarge the way he created each painting, methodically, with layers and and an obsessive attention to color and light. He set out to create the garden he wanted to paint and it soon consumed him.


   As I strolled—I was there in early September, just after the height of the tourist season, and there were fewer people sharing the paths with me than might have been a few weeks before—I marveled at the construction of what surrounded me. What seemed to be a riot of plants was as carefully thought out and orchestrated as the brushstrokes on one of his paintings.


   Vine-covered arches over the central path, thick with trailing nasturtiums, frame the entrance to the farmhouse creating a vanishing point at the front door. Giant dahlias, with blooms as big as cantaloupes, towered over me. The garden welcomed me. It embraced me.


I stopped to watch one of the gardeners, almost hidden by the plants as she crouched to remove spent blooms, and a passing guide noticed. We chatted for a few minutes and then she said something that stays in my mind.


“For Monet the garden was not about any one flower. It was about the effect, the way the colors and textures and light worked together.”


   He called it painting with nature.


   Monet never stopped working. At the end of his life, his vision clouded by cataracts, his focus narrowed to the water garden. He built a studio for the purpose of painting large canvasses of the water lilies that covered the mirrored pond. The paintings that still hang in the Orangerie in Paris today.


   I have been to France a number of times, I’ve gazed at his work in museums all over the world, and yet I’d never visited Monet’s gardens just 50 miles from Paris. I’m sorry it took me so long to get there.






Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


Zucchini Rules Garden This Year

On her Facebook wall, former Shoshone County commissioner Sherry Krulitz posts: "Our zucchini are coming on strong. Last year, they did terrible…. this year, I'm already sharing them." She also adds a recipe for the delicious looking zucchini concoction above. I agree with Sherry. Zukes are coming on early this year. So here's the question:

Question: What's your favorite way to eat zucchini?

Still and present in the moment

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap) 

The one thing I didn’t have was time. I had more to do than there would be productive hours in the day to allow. I had a thousand words to put onto paper, a house that needed tending to, emails to answer, errands to run and, on this particular week, an infant to care for. The baby is my grandchild. My first. And she has been spending several hours with me each day.

    It’s been a while since I was the sole entertainment of a four-month-old baby. I did it for years but my four babies are all grown now. I’d forgotten what tyrants the little creatures are, how they demand your full attention with no concern for your to-do lists and deadlines. But then I’d forgotten how beguiling the little creatures are, how they make you babble and kiss and coo, delighting you with a smile, bewitching you with the feel of velvety skin and hair, hypnotizing you with the way their fingers curl and wave, like ribbons in water, before wrapping around your hand as you hold them close and offer a bottle of mother’s milk.

    This day, this busy day, I woke up overwhelmed. I opened my eyes thinking about deadlines and emails and story ideas. But, of course, baby had other ideas. She would be held. She would be fed. She would be entertained. She would be comforted, cradled and soothed.

    By mid-day, the sun came out and called us outdoors. Why not? I wasn’t getting anything else done anyay.
We sat quietly on my patio, I still fidgeted a little, worrying over words and sentences, but perched on my knee, my hands wrapped around her the solid warmth of her, she sat as alert and watchful as a doe. Nothing escaped her. She lifted her head to track the progress of a plane across the sky, then turned to follow a swallow’s sweeping dive over the Lilacs. When the wind ruffled the roses climbing along the fence she kicked her legs and batted her hands. When the dogs chased one another across the lawn she laughed a short and unexpected chuckle. She startled and blinked when a Dragonfly landed on the Wisteria vine beside us.

    Watching her take in the world, instinctively still and present in the moment, I rubbed my cheek against her ear and, finally, finally, recognized the gift I’d been given.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Vandals hit garden again

The community graden at Northeast Community Center has been vandalized. Plants were pulled up and destroyed, and the water was left running in an effort to wash out the garden beds.
Jean Farmer, executive director of Northeast Community center, said this in an e-mail:
"(vandals) generally caused a lot of grief for those that have put their limited funds, energy and hearts into growing the gardens. They pay for their space and their seeds/plants and use the food to sustain themselves. They bother no one and in several years have held a harvest festival hoping to engage the community around them. I hope there are some neighbors out there who will help figure out how to stop such non-productive acts."
Please call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 if you know who's responsible for ruining part of this summer's harvest.


South Perry represented in Olympia

Brian Estes is headed to Olympia to testify before the State Ways and Means Committee, in an effort to preserve funding for WIC's farmers market's program. Womens Infants and Childrens program was one of the first programs that made it possible for low-income mothers to access healthy, local food at farmers markets, Estes said. WIC is facing budget cuts as the state attempts to balance its budget. Estes is the chair of the South Perry Farmers Market. He's getting a solid endorsement from SPBNA and encouraging neighbors to call Senator Lisa Brown's office at (360) 786-7604 in support of the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

On a side note, Hi-Co Market is carrying more and more fresh produce and considering becoming part of the Health District's "Healthy Corner Store" program.

Vintage garden table gets a new look

There are finds and then there are the finds you find all over again.

In 2006, I was invited by a Treasure Hunting reader to join her for a day of antiquing. I met her at Apple Annie Antique Gallery in Cashmere, Washington and joined Soap Lake Collector's Club for lunch at the diner there in the mall. After lunch we spent several hours looking around the mall. I bought two pieces of green Fiestaware and we were saying goodbye when I noticed a pile of items just inside the door. One of the dealers was just bringing in new merchandise and had dropped it off at the door while she moved her truck and got down to the business of tagging and displaying.

One item in particular caught my eye. It was a small round, weathered, wrought-iron table. The glass was missing but otherwise the shabby white table was in great shape. I could see it in my garden or sitting beside a favorite chair.

When the dealer walked up I asked her what she wanted for the table and she studied it a minute and said, "How about $18?"


I brought it home and put it in the garden shed until I could find a place for it. We sold the big house in the suburbs soon after and downsized to a cottage in the city, I got rid of a lot of things, but I brought the table with me. I knew it had potential.

For the last five years the table has been in the garden shed here in the city. Waiting until the time was right.

Maybe it was the unexpectedly bright sunshine on a February day, but I woke up this morning in a mood to do something different around the house. After my coffee, I moved a few things around. Declaring the end of the worst of winter, I put the white cotton slipcover on the sofa and replaced the heavier oriental rug with a lighter jute rug. I also moved the leather ottomans I've used for a coffee table since moving in.

Staring at the empty space in front of the sofa, wondering what would look good and still do the job, I remembered the iron table in the garden shed. A quick trip to Pier 1 for a new glass top and it was done. I've got a brand new look built around a fine old find.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

New mural at One World Spokane

There’s always a lot happening in the International District. Did you know each Thursday from 4pm-7pm, p.e.a.c.h. hosts a neighborhood farm stand at the One World Garden behind the café? Now visitors will be greeted with a sweet new mural. Thanks to Holly Martin for the photos and volunteers from the Life Center Church for painting.

Check out the garden today if you’re in the neighborhood and stay connected with the International District on Facebook.