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AVMA helping veterinarians take on telemedicine By Katie Burns

AVMA | Posted on September 5, 2017

The AVMA is providing guidance and soon a toolkit to help veterinarians take on telemedicine in practice. On July 21 at its regular annual session in Indianapolis, the AVMA House of Delegates passed a policy on telemedicine and accompanying revisions to the Model Veterinary Practice Act, which is a model for state practice acts.Dr. Lori Teller, District VIII representative on the AVMA Board of Directors, said ahead of the regular annual session of the House that the AVMA has spent more than two years thoughtfully and thoroughly considering the potential impacts of telemedicine on the public and the profession. She updated HOD members on the Association's activities in the area of telemedicine.In 2016, the AVMA Practice Advisory Panel completed a comprehensive report on telemedicine. In 2017, the Association solicited feedback on the report from members, stakeholders, and the general public. The "Policy on Telemedicine" draws on the report and the feedback."Telemedicine is a tool that may be utilized to augment the practice of veterinary medicine," according to the policy. "The AVMA is committed to ensuring access to the convenience and benefits afforded by telemedicine, while promoting the responsible provision of high quality veterinary medical care." Per the policy, "Given the current state of technological capabilities, available research, and the current state and federal regulatory landscape, the AVMA believes that veterinary telemedicine should only be conducted within an existing Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR), with the exception for advice given in an emergency until that patient can be seen by a veterinarian."

Corps Of Engineers Takes Proactive Approach To Stop Asian Carp In Mississippi River

Wisconsin Public Radio | Posted on September 5, 2017

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is updating procedures at a lock and dam on the upper Mississippi River to stop the spread of Asian carp. Previous methods for operating spillway gates at Lock and Dam 8 in Genoa created variations in the flow of water through the dam, allowing the invasive species to swim through places with a slower current.Nan Bischoff, project manager for USACE's St. Paul district, said researchers from the University of Minnesota helped USACE identify these imbalances and adjust the way they use the gates."By rebalancing how we are passing flows, we do eliminate those areas where the Asian carp can get through," Bischoff said.So far, Asian carp have taken over the Mississippi River through parts of Iowa, about 100 miles south of Lock and Dam 8.

A Texas Farmer on Harvey, Bad Planning and Runaway Growth

The New York Times | Posted on August 31, 2017

A century’s worth of unchecked growth, he’ll tell you, has brought prosperity to many. But it also has altered the landscape in ways that have made both the droughts and the floods more destructive and made that prosperity fleeting. Much of the region sits atop the overtaxed Gulf Coast Aquifer, and though efforts have made over the last 40 years to limit withdrawals from it, enough water has been sucked out of it that the ground still subsides in some places, altering runoff patterns and allowing flood waters to gather. What’s more, those more than 2 million newcomers to the region are living in houses and driving on roads and shopping in stores built atop what once was prairie that could have absorbed at least some of the fury of this flood and the next. What once was land that might have softened the storm’s blow is now, in many cases, collateral damage in what could turn out to be a $40 billion disaster.It will take months before the full weight of Hurricane Harvey’s ruinous rampage along the Gulf is realized, and it will be years before a full recovery. And in the space between those two points, my friend would tell you, there might just be a moment to consider how best to rebuild, to pause and rethink how and where we build, to reflect not just on whether we’re altering the weather, but whether there is a way to make ourselves less vulnerable to it. Perhaps we could build differently, or set aside land that would both help recharge the dwindling water supplies in times of drought and slow the floods when they come.

As Houston Looks to Recover, Small Towns Now Bear the Brunt

The New York Times | Posted on August 31, 2017

For the streets of Newton, a small town on the Texas side of the Louisiana state line, to become impassable, “the flood would have to be biblical,” Kristen Rogers was told when she peeked into the sheriff’s office looking for guidance. “That’s what they said about Houston,” replied Ms. Rogers, who was looking for a dry way out of rural Texas on her way to Florida.But as Houston, the urban behemoth that has so far been the focal point in the unfolding drama of Hurricane Harvey, began gingerly to assess the devastation, the storm marched on to conquer a vast new swath speckled with small towns that are home to millions of people who were shocked anew by Harvey’s tenaciously destructive power. Officials faced a population in dire need, but far more difficult to reach.Flooding and rain, topping 47 inches in some areas, pounded 50 counties in southeast and lower central Texas with a combined population of roughly 11 million people. The area includes more than 300 towns and smaller cities that felt the storm’s punishing force, even as Harvey was downgraded to a tropical depression on Wednesday. In contrast to Houston, where the weather began to clear and a few children even returned to playgrounds, many people in these remote areas are still in desperate need of rescue. “There are a lot of places that are not accessible by car or truck or boat, and we need to get to the survivors to get them critical aid,” said Deanna Fraser, a FEMA spokeswoman.

Farmers, experts: solar and agriculture ‘complementary, not competing’ in North Carolina

Southeast Energy News | Posted on August 31, 2017

On a 120-acre farm in Biscoe, North Carolina, near the edge of the Uwharrie National Forest, a flock of hair sheep takes shelter from the summer sun beneath a row of solar panels.  They provide a valuable service to O2 emc – the Cornelius-based company that owns this solar installation – by preventing weeds that could block sunlight and decrease the panels’ efficiency.“What we’re trying to do is put agriculture and solar right next to each other,” says Brock Phillips of Sun-Raised Farms, who owns and manages the sheep. “It can be quite symbiotic if implemented correctly.” Building on an April analysis from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and the state’s agricultural agency, the latest study finds that less than a third of 1 percent of North Carolina’s 4.75 million acres of cropland now houses solar panels – belying criticisms that large-scale solar arrays are threatening the state’s traditional farms. With a new law adopted this summer expected to more than double the state’s solar capacity – mostly in the form of utility-scale installations – the numbers will undoubtedly increase.

Deer feeding ban expands into northern Minnesota

Duluth News Tribune | Posted on August 31, 2017

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Monday it is expanding its total ban on deer feeding into 11 new counties as a precaution against the spread of chronic wasting disease.The ban on feeding deer started Monday and will last through February 2019.

Texas’ immigration legislation collides with Harvey

The Washington Times | Posted on August 31, 2017

Texas’ crackdown on illegal immigration is about to run smack into Harvey, with local officials saying they’ll refuse to comply with a new state law that goes into effect Friday requiring police to check immigration status for those they believe to be in the U.S. illegally. Known as SB4, the law would be the furthest-reaching crackdown of any state. It punishes leaders of sanctuary cities, including police officials, and spurs officers to determine immigration status of those they encounter. A number of cities had already sued to block the law. But Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said there’s no need to wait for a judge to decide, calling for the state to suspend the law. He said his city won’t be enforcing it during hurricane relief efforts.

Harvey’s Hidden Side Effect

New Republic | Posted on August 31, 2017

74 incidents of excess air pollution have been reported since the hurricane hit, totaling more than one million pounds of emissions. More is on the way.

Texas hurricane exposes flaws in flood protections

High Country News | Posted on August 31, 2017

“Today, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America estimates that homeowners covered by federal flood insurance pay just half of the “true-risk cost” to insure their properties. In the highest-risk areas, they pay just a third.” A series of disasters has left the NFIP struggling financially. Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy devastated the flood insurance program’s budget and today, the program is about $24 billion in debt. As climate change fuels an increase in disasters, storms of the same caliber may become the norm.“There is actually a 50 percent chance within a 10-year period the NFIP will once again experience Hurricane Sandy-size losses,” Roy Wright, the director of the NFIP, wrote.Financial concerns aside, there are other problems as well. The program encourages people to build and stay in areas that flood constantly. There’s no incentive to leave because taxpayer subsidies rebuild homes and buildings, even if those structures have repeatedly flooded.Attempts to overhaul the NFIP have not been successful and repeatedly have been met with backlash. In 2012, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) introduced the Biggert-Waters Act, a law that would increase the rates for business properties in special flood zones and properties that experience repeated flooding. These proposed increases would have led to an enormous spike in premiums. According to a 2013 RAND Corporation study, premiums in flood prone areas in New York City would have increased by $5,000 to $10,000 a year. Even Rep. Waters was outraged once the numbers came in and was part of a bipartisan effort to draft a bill to make sure premiums wouldn’t suddenly spike. In 2014, Congress passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which delayed the Biggert-Waters reforms for two years. Today, premiums now have slowly begun to increase. The current White House proposal for the program would certainly lead to more financial headaches. As part of deciding which areas are riskier, FEMA creates flood maps—but many of them are out-of-date. Funds had been previously allocated to update them, but Trump’s proposed 2018 budget included cutting $190 million from this effort. Without that money, FEMA would be forced to find money from somewhere else to fund mapping.Financial solvability aside, the NFIP is must be reauthorized by September 30. 

An alternative to wolf control to save endangered caribou

Science Daily | Posted on August 31, 2017

The iconic woodland caribou across North America face increasing predation pressures from wolves. A short-term solution to caribou conservation would be to kill wolves. But a new government policy looks at reducing the invasive species moose numbers propping up the wolf population. Researchers have now evaluated the effects of this policy on the caribou population. What happens when invasive and native species are eaten by the same predator? If the invasive species is abundant, the native species can go extinct because predator numbers are propped up by the invading species. This process is called "apparent competition" because on the surface it "appears" that the invading and native prey directly compete with each other, but really the shared predator links the two prey.This is exactly what is happening to the iconic woodland caribou across North America. Prey like moose and white-tailed deer are expanding in numbers and range because of logging and climate change, which in turn increases predator numbers (e.g. wolves). With all these additional predators on the landscape, more caribou become by-catch, driving some herds to extinction.Following the reduction of moose using sport hunting, wolf number numbers declined, with wolf dispersal rates 2.5 × greater than the reference area, meaning that dispersal was the process leading to fewer wolves. Caribou annual survival increased from 0.78 to 0.88 for the Columbia North herd, located in the moose reduction area, but survival declined in the reference area (Wells Gray). The Columbia North herd probably stabilized as a result of the moose reduction, and has been stable for 14 years (2003 -- 2017). By expanding their comparison across western Canada and the lower 48 states, they found that a separate herd subjected to another moose reduction was also stable, whereas at least 15 other herds not subjected to moose reductions are continuing to decline.