Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Grail Bird, UFOs and Elvis

This critical review (PDF file) by Barney Nelson of the purported rediscovery of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in Arkansas, a featured article in the winter 2006 issue of Range Magazine, offers a unique perspective on the subject. Ms. Nelson is a professor in the Department of Languages and Literature at Sul Ross State University, where she has taught a course in environmental literature, and is the current environmental editor for Range Magazine. For more insight on Ms. Nelson’s views on nature and the environment, see here and here. I’d say that Ms. Nelson’s solid literary credentials make her at least as equally qualified as Tim Gallagher to write about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. It's also obvious that she is (a) an ivory-bill skeptic and (b) none too fond of The Nature Conservancy. It would be interesting to bring Ms. Nelson and Mr. Gallagher together in a panel discussion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the first time I've seen "fraud" put forth so blatantly. Even Tom Nelson's blog has only skirted around "the road to fraud".

Still, to me, it still seems more groupthink and than anything else. Where will this story go next? Fascinating.

July 12, 2006 9:02 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Ms. Nelson didn't appear to talk with Mr. Gallagher, because if she had, she could have asked him about the timing of the book release.

I did pose that question and learned that the book project developed in 2001. Tim wrote a fair amount of the book before the February 2004 sighting by Gene Sparling.

Too bad Ms. Nelson didn't do a little more research... but then that might've reduced the gist of her argument, no?

July 12, 2006 3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Nelson's scenario doesn't require Mr. Gallagher to have laid out a plan from years ago (2001) to commit fraud. Of course, Ms Nelson doesn't actually accuse anyone of fraud. She just uses examples of fraud in other wildlife situations to infer...err..."too much of a coincidence" in the IBWO story.

She is more questioning whether Sparlings innocent email "I may have seen an Ivory Bill" caught Mr. Gallagher at an opportune time to produce some suspicious sequences.

The most damning part of the article to me is the list of TNC staff, donors, and/or hanger ons that are involved in all aspects of the story. But this just shows the staff "inbreeding" that increased the chance of groupthink occurring. The condition that prevented consulting with Jackson or Sibley early in the process.

That's not really fraud. Stupid maybe, but not fraud.

July 12, 2006 11:36 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

It would be fascinating to have a better understanding of the internl politics that prevented acknowledged authorities such as Jackson or Sibley to have played some part in this. If you dig below the surface a bit, you start finding many interconnections and relationships between CLO, TNC, and some of the other partners involved in this affair.

July 13, 2006 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prof. Nelson mentions fraud and I sense she means scientific fraud. The IBWO "rediscovery" process was not conducted in the spirit of science discovery. Certainly not in the was the Pearl River search was conducted. What's the harm? The US government did not allocate new funds for the IBWO but merely shifted funds away from other projects. Critical habitat now goes wanting because of CLO/TNC super-secret probation science bad science. The last concern on anyone's mind was the welfare of the bird. TNC wants to reap all the benefit of the grail bird without the responsible science. Science needs to be done to determine what we needs to be done with the bird first. It may just need to be left to its devices. No amount of money may save the bird and there are dozens of more deserving species and habitats that really need the cash and attention.

The TNC retains the right to sell its land unless they put it into an conservation easement for perpetuity. It is the largest land resource of pristine land for developers. Annually, TNC sells millions of dollars worth of land and its state chapters do as well.

Prof. Nelson's beef with TNC comes from her own backyard (Sul Ross State is in Alpine, TX). TNC crowed about its Davis Mountain Preserve as unique (a rare oak grew on it) for years. It was truly a priceless crown jewel for TNC Texas. They up and sold it to a developer. This practice of selling short conserved land rankles many folk and it is one TNC downplays in its fund drives.
TNC retains the right to sell any land it puts into a conservation easement. This practice cheats the people that donate land and money for a piece of land they wish preserved/conserved forever and it cheats the tax payers. TNC "conserved" land stays on the tax rolls at reduced values. When a developer/NC state board member/large contributor shows with a check that wonderful, priceless land has a price. A land holder, especially those that inherit land, does not get the valuation breaks nor do they have a pipeline to the wealthy. TNC practices ultimately drive up the cost to preserve/conserve land for other groups and government agencies seeking to preserve it.

July 14, 2006 2:33 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

Wow! Those are some stinging indictments of TNC, Mr/Ms. anonymous.

July 16, 2006 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, John, that last Anonymous was somewhat a scattershot by somewhat of a scatterbrain. The Alpine story, that he recited, is not the "full" story as you probably know.

I've been a Skeptic from the start. But not because of possible "conspiracies". This story doesn't require them to explain what happened. Groupthink, errors of judgement, stubborness.....yes....but not a conspiracy of enviro groups or the CLO. Incompetence is often times the simplest and correct answer.

July 16, 2006 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scatter shot? I shceked my gun and it ain't shootin' blanks so let’s you and me get the target and count the bull’s-eyes. Looky here, first one, TNC land churning is public record. You can view years of churning by looking at national or state TNC's IRS Form 990 at Guidestar.com. Dig through, you'll find several pages each year listing sold/transfered land assets to private entities (persons or corporations) in the millions of dollars annually.

What I reckon, here's another bull’s-eye: land values are set depending on use and improvements. Land TNC buys it sets aside for conservation, non-developable by deed or wildlife is valued less. Slapping an easement on land drops its value. TNC has the financial holding power and longterm profit motive that allows it to sit on land until the right offer comes along. Taxpayers must make up of the diminished cost of the land.

This is embarassing, yet another bull’s-eye: TNC directors and their wealthy friends have used TNC resources to buy land then set aside development easements just for these wealthy folk. The best public record for this assertion is the Washington Post series on TNC done in May, 2003. TNC did not deny this practice nor did some wealthy folk who took advantage of it. Why? The TNC directors really wanted to keep "the wrong element" from developing too close.

Holy prairie patty, the last and bestest bull’s-eye: TNC retains the right to sell its conserved land not put into an easement for perpetuity. Read a TNC deed. You can ask TNC for one or check the one’s filed at the county courthouse of every county they own land.

I think you were referring to the TNC sale of its Davis Mountain Preserve as the "Alpine story." To be “less scattershot” you probably should’ve said Ft. Davis as that is the small Texas town nearest TNC developer land sale. I mentioned Alpine to set Prof. Nelson’s proximity to the Davis Mountains ('bout 60-miles away) and merely add some light to John's statement that he sensed Prof. Nelson had a “beef” with TNC.

To expand further, many folks in Texas were quite upset with TNC over the sale of the Davis Mountain preserve to a developer. None were more angry than those land holders near the preserve. Some of these locals turned away the developers because of TNC. They bought into TNC's statements that their preserve was unique and a slice of Texas heritage that should not dissappear. When TNC squeezed the developer and sold the land and set the record for a West Texas land all land values shoot up in the county. This added and immediate burden to the property owners. The increase in land values kyboshed land purchases Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. had planned in the area.

I'm hoping John will be courteaous enough for you to reveal the "full" story (love the way you use those quoty things add to the sacrasm but little truth to the discussion). I'm certain none of us really "probably" know this "full" story better'n you but I suggest none of us wait in sun without a hat for that "full" "Alpine story" though.

If all I wrote still looks all scattershooty, I got some land in Arkansas I want you to buy. Yep, IBWO's already installed. You gonna make you piles of cash fer shur.

Lastly, I never implied a conspiracy by neither TNC nor CLO separately or together. What their Inventory Team did was merely manage the product (the “IBW rediscovery”) to the maximum benefit and profit of the organizations and individuals involved. It may not be in the best interest of good science but it is best for each organization and individual. That’s not a conspiracy, that’s some good business practice. Science and conservation will suffer if proved wrong but both organziations and individuals enriched themselves immediately. Over $20 million is there's to control. The individual rediscoverers that have written books or hwo have book deals have made hundreds of thousands of dollars. The rediscoverers are making tens of thousands in speaking fees, donations and travel. Where's there's profit there ain't no conspiracy, baby! QuickeeMart don't cash no checks written on any conspiracy account.

July 17, 2006 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankfully, TNC will continue to exist if it only has opposition like you. You SO miss the point of what they do. And you miss the limitations of what they do.

Machiavelli said that there are 3 types of people. Those who know by themselves. Those who know with the help of others. And those that will never know. You are clearly not the first type. If you are the last type, then you are lost anyway and it doesn't matter. But if you are the second type then do a lot more research and thought into how the world of conservation really works.

Then, get a mentor in the conservation movement. One who can help you learn the particular limitations of TNC and the limitations of AUDUBON, etc. Go down the list. See how they work together and apart. They complement each other. They actually have to pretend at times to not get along. (and sometimes, not often, they don't)

Now, as far as the limitations of enviro orgs. Well, Mr. Trapp doesn't have a big enough blog to educate you on that!

I hope that I have helped you. Now get back out there and use that passion to do some good.

July 18, 2006 5:16 PM  

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