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Special Features Section, Superior Express

Straight from the Horse's Mouth

Bald eagles break nest record in 2014


Straight from the Horse's Mouth, by Duane Lienemann, UNL Extension
I have tried to relay information to anyone who will read my words or listen to me on the continual attack on agriculture and particularly animal agriculture. I am now saddened to report it appears our own government is on the verge of doing the thing I worry about. We are used to the EPA zeroing in on us, but not the USDA and Health and Human Services.
Here is the crux of the matter. Every five years, USDA and HHS review the dietary guidelines for American food consumption. So Congress once again directed the secretaries of agriculture and health and human services to publish dietary guidelines containing "nutritional and dietary information" for the general public. That seems rather routine and innocent; however, they have released this 571 page report and it caught my attention for several reasons.
`The new report recommends what should be included in the dietary guidelines that will be issued later this year. Unfortunately it looks to me like there is some ideology that is taking place in the manufacturing of this document and I think it needs to be pointed out. The report blatantly leaves lean red meat out of what it considers to be a healthy diet! This should not be disconcerting to the entire livestock industry but also a great concern to dietitians who support consumption of lean red meat and to families who want to provide a balanced menu.
It is hard for me to understand why the agency tasked with promoting agriculture would encourage people not to eat meat. But then you don't have to think back to far to remember they also tried to instigate Meatless Mondays as well as our school lunch programs. I won't delve into the fiasco that our school lunch program has become. I believe these are misguided dietary guidelines, and our farmers and ranchers deserve more of an ally in the USDA, rather than an adversary. These misleading dietary guidelines will not only confuse consumers, but would also harm Nebraska's livestock industry which is the engine that drives our state.
We need to urge the HHS, USDA and our Congressmen to consider the impacts and then reconsider the recommendations in the report. As our farmers and ranchers continue to seek ways to feed a growing global population, our government should find ways to empower, not hinder, our producers. Dietary guidelines have historically been based on healthy eating and nutrition but it looks to me that they are now more interested in an "environmental agenda" rather than a complete health concern.
When you read through the document, you become concerned that the report's obsession with "sustainability issues" goes well beyond both the groups' expertise, and its clearly defined mission. To me, this has an ideological slant and a not-so-veiled agenda that has permeated the political and even educational fields.
This document repeats alarmist, unsubstantiated and deeply flawed assertions about land use that were first promulgated by a United Nations agency with scant agricultural understanding and that have been debunked since they first came out. These assertions contradict decades of scientific consensus. The overall guidelines also ignore easier and more effective ways that we can reduce carbon footprints, if that is really their concern.
We in agriculture ask for science based and fairly reviewed information, but it looks to me that producers and animal scientists were not invited to be a part of this important committee. That is troubling. We need a scientific and health based approach to nutrition, and that includes meat. Farmers, ranchers and consumers deserve better from the USDA. We all know that good protein, zinc and iron sources like lean meat should be part of a healthy diet. This group should not base their report on the buzzword of "sustainability," ideological agendas, or concerns based on global climate change but instead should base their guidelines on what is good for the consumers and those who provide our meals!
Previous attempts to provide government guidelines have given the public pervasively incorrect or harmful advice, forcing repeated retractions, causing public confusion and cynicism. Government advice on total carbohydrate and fat intake, specific advice on eggs,coffee, salt, caffeine, milk and cholesterol intake, have been proven damaging to public health and businesses or just incorrect. (Read NY Times "The Government's Bad Diet Advice.") Given the poor track record of government and diet guidelines, I think this study and report needs a complete overhaul! If you share my concern for this direction that is being taken, or even if you agree with it, the public is encouraged to view the independent advisory group's report and provide written comments at You have a period of about 45 days to express your thoughts and provide your comments. I will need to continue discussion on this topic as there is much more troubling "revelations" in this report. In the meantime I suggest you read up on this latest saga and see for yourself!

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Bald eagles break nest record in 2014

A record 146 bald eagle nests were surveyed in 2014 by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and its partners, with 111 of the nests being active.
Bald eagles were on federal and state endangered species lists as late as 2007 and 2008, respectively. In less than a quarter century the species has gone from a nonexistent breeding species in the state to one that is relatively numerous, according to Joel Jorgensen, game and parks' nongame bird program manager.
In the early 1980s, when federal recovery plans were written to save populations in the lower 48 states, the recovery goal for Nebraska was set at 10 breeding pairs. In 1991, Nebraska recorded its first active and successful bald eagle nest in approximately a century. In 2007, the number of nests had grown to 54 active nests. In 2014, there were 111 active nests.
"Bald eagles have relatively slow rate of reproduction compared to a prolific species, such as doves," Jorgensen said. "It takes about three months for a bald eagle pair to successfully nurture two or three eggs into independent young eagles. If a bald eagle pair is experienced and lucky, they will raise two and sometimes even three eagles a year. Our data shows that Nebraska bald eagle pairs have produced, on average, 1.8 eagles per year."
The most common source of nest failure in Nebraska is the nest tree blowing down, usually from winds associated with a severe thunderstorm. Unlike other species, bald eagles will not re-nest in the same year if their nest fails. "Considering all of this, and also that a number of immature and adult bald eagles die every year from various causes, we have still added about five nests each year in Nebraska," Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen said the increase of nesting bald eagles in Nebraska has occurred over a time period when other species and natural communities have declined. He said other species have been added to the list of endangered species and others are being considered. "While broad generalizations should be taken in stride because there is always ebb and flow in nature, there is no question conservation of our state's biodiversity is increasingly challenging," he said.

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