Wildlife Wednesday on #mypubliclandsroadtrip: Baby Bird Banding in the Lathrop Bayou in Florida 

Today, the #mypubliclandsroadtrip moves from the Washington D.C. area down to the Gulf Coast for some behind-the-scenes science. We first visit the Lathrop Bayou in Florida where the BLM Eastern States, Southeastern States Office celebrates a bumper crop of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers.

“Several years ago, I learned a valuable lesson.  Don’t just say “yes” to a field trip with a BLM Biologist without asking questions.  This particular trip involved four states, mosquitos, no-see-ums, alligators, late night drives, midnight boat rides, and no sleep.  Why did we do this?  To re-locate Red-cockaded Woodpeckers from a donor site in Georgia to a BLM managed site, Lathrop Bayou, in Florida.  

More than a hundred years ago, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker was a common sight in open stands of old hardwood pines throughout the southeast.  Unlike most woodpeckers that are content to build their homes in a wide variety of dead tree trunks, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are very particular about where they make their nests.  This species seeks out open stands of long leaf pine which have been living for at least 80 years.  But the only trees soft enough to allow the woodpeckers to carve out a nest are ones that have been infected with a disease called red-heart fungus.  Over the decades, as ancient pine forests have been thinned out, the population of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker decreased.  By 1970 they were on the brink of extinction. So when we found two existing clusters here, we were extremely excited.  We determined that, “Lathrop Bayou has the potential to house three active, reproducing clusters of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers on its 550 acres of longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat,” said Faye Winters, BLM Wildlife Biologist.  

Working with local partners, BLM has been trying to manage and restore the endangered  Red-cockaded Woodpecker population.  This year really shows how our efforts have paid off.  Nest checks recently completed at Lathrop Bayou documented 4 nest cavities with chicks! There have been up to three nests in previous years, but this is the first time we have ever recorded more than two nests successfully hatching.  We recently documented 10 adults and 9 nestlings at the site. Two of the nests are on BLM land, and the other two are on adjacent partner managed lands. All of the chicks have been banded and an attempt will be made soon to determine their sex. This bumper crop of chicks opens the door to potentially donate a chick back to Wetappo, in Georgia, where it would be paired in a new recruitment cluster to increase genetic viability. We consider the increase in the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers at Lathrop Bayou to be a huge success, one we have worked hard for and are very proud of.”

By Shayne Banks, BLM Southeastern States Public Affairs Specialist

Louisiana Public School Teachers Are Using The Bible As A Science Class Textbook

Public school teachers have the full support of school administrators and possibly state law to use the Christian bible as a science textbook, and claim evolution is just a theory equal to creationism. The only problem? It’s unconstitutional.

In Louisiana, public school teachers are using the bible as a science text book, teaching that evolution is just a theory, on par with creationism, and even assign students to poke holes in evolution theory, apparently in an attempt to promote creationism.

An investigative article published today by Slate author Zack Kopplin finds that indeed, for some public school students in the Bayou State “their science textbook is the Bible, and in biology class they read the Book of Genesis to learn the ‘creation point of view.’”

Kopplin obtained dozens of emails via a Freedom of Information Act request.

In one example, Kopplin found “Shawna Creamer, a science teacher at Airline High School, sent an email to the principal, Jason Rowland, informing him of which class periods she would use to teach creationism. 'We will read in Genesis and them [sic] some supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution from which the students will present,’ Creamer wrote.”

LOOK: Jessa Duggar And Husband Ben Prove Atheists Don’t Exist But Creationism Does (Video)

In another, Kopplin reports he “obtained a PowerPoint about the origin of life that is used in Ouachita Parish Junior High School’s life science classes. It presents evolution as just a theory and says that theories are 'possibly true’ but 'not known or proven to be true.’ Creationism is also presented as a theory and given equal footing with evolution. Students are taught that the ’[b]asis for creationism is founded in Genesis of the Bible,’ and “Creationism relies on the claim that there is a ‘purpose’ to all creation known only to the creator.”

And another: “Charlotte Hinson, a fifth-grade teacher at Caddo’s Eden Gardens Magnet School, wrote a column for the Shreveport Times in which she declared: 'My job is to present both [evolution and creationism]’ because 'God made science.’”

Hinson said that despite a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union warning against teaching creationism, she had the support of local lawyers, her principal, and the school board. The principal and school board “reminded me I did nothing wrong,” she wrote. “Times are getting harder and harder…….I feel the end is near. Be blessed!!!”

Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled the teaching of creationism is unconstitutional – ironically, including in a 1987 case about a Louisiana law requiring creationism be taught in public schools, it’s stunning that this continues.

Why does it?

In a word (OK, two words) Bobby Jindal, who in 2008 signed into law the Science Education Act, which school administrators and teachers have chosen to interpret as allowing them to teach creationism.

Why would they believe that?

Because, as Kopplin points out, Jindal told them that’s what the law was for.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who signed the Science Education Act, said it was for creationism. “What are we scared of?” Jindal asked. State Sen. Ben Nevers said he sponsored it in the Senate because “creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin’s theory.“ In April state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, a state House sponsor, confirmed the law was for creationism. The Ouachita Citizen reported that Hoffmann told it that Louisiana science curriculum policy “recommended a scientific discussion in the classroom of scientific theories including creationism and evolution.”

Travis Gettys at Raw Story notes that Louisiana lawmakers "shot down a measure in April to repeal the education law, the fifth unsuccessful attempt to do so since 2010.”


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New Diamond Celebration Desserts at Disneyland

White Chocolate Bavarian Diamond Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcake at Carnation Cafe

Meyer Lemon Crème Brûlée Tart at Blue Bayou Restaurant

Diamond Tiramisù at Wine Country Trattoria, Disney California Adventure Park

Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Chocolate Cake at the Plaza Inn, Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante, French Market Restaurant and Cafe Orleans in Disneyland park, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta at Disney California Adventure park and Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel

From the Parks Blog


Bat Research Brings the #mypubliclandsroadtrip to #WomeninSTEM Wednesday

Today’s roadtrip continues in the Big Saline Bayou, Louisiana, for a behind-the-scenes with Alison McCartney. a BLM Southeastern States District Office employee whose specialty is bats.

“The BLM’s Southeastern States District Office is currently conducting acoustic surveys on BLM tracts in Arkansas and Louisiana to determine bat species relative abundance and diversity.  We are using an Anabat SD2, which is a piece of equipment that records bat echolocation calls. Using specialized software, these calls can be analyzed to identify species. Our primary focus for the survey effort is to determine if there are any rare, threatened, or endangered bat species utilizing the tracts to better focus habitat management efforts to benefit these species, if present. 

We are also interested, however, in common species that might occur on the tracts. Bat relative abundance and diversity are considered an overall indicator of forest health. A higher abundance and species diversity of bats in an area represents a healthier more diverse forest.”

-By Alison McCartney