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Trip shot: Tonto National Monument

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 Leftover shot of cactus in the hills of Tonto National Monument in Arizona.

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Impromptu kayaking trip

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 6:30 a.m.: Come up with idea for an early morning kayaking trip because I can’t sleep even though it’s the weekend.

7 a.m.: Grab 4-liter Sea to Summit dry bag containing compass (in case I get lost), whistle (in case I need help) and Gerber knife (in case of something), and slip out while everyone else is asleep.

7:15 a.m.: Drive off with kayak, paddle, backup paddle (in case I lose the paddle) and life vest lashed to or otherwise stowed in the Jeep.

7:24 a.m.: Reach the shore, ease into the kayak with the plan of circling the Island of No Worries, begin paddling upstream.

7:35 a.m.: Spot a yellow and orange bobber tangled in a mass of tree limbs reaching up from the river. Liberate it with the knife (so that’s why I brought it), spot a fishing lure in the same mass and collect it as well. Continue on.

8:05 a.m.: Reach the upstream tip of the island, begin traveling downstream on the other side.

8:15 a.m.: Round the downstream side of the island and begin back upstream to the port.

8:25 a.m.: Land at a weed-covered boat ramp that I didn’t notice when I started. Load up the kayak.

8:35 a.m.,: Drop by my favorite downtown, non-franchise coffee shop, discover it doesn’t open until 9:30 a.m. on the weekend. Bah.

 

Coral indictments

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  LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury has returned three indictments charging three people and two companies with trading live corals protected by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

According to the U.S.Department of Justice:

Renaissance Aquatics, Inc. and Lim Aqua-Nautic Specialist, Inc. – both located in Inglewood – and Chet Bryant, 37, of Houston, were charged with unlawfully importing live, CITES-protected corals from Vietnam and submitting false records to conceal their unlawful activity on seven occasions over a five-month period. According to court documents in this case, the corals were hidden from view in shipments containing other wildlife. The indictment also charges Renaissance and Bryant with conspiracy and attempting to unlawfully export live coral.

Jose Torres, 42, of Gardena, was charged with unlawfully attempting to export to Mexico 20 varieties of live, CITES-protected corals. The indictment also alleges that Torres submitted false records to the USFWS that omitted the corals and understated the size of the shipment.

Jorge Vazquez, 39, of Garden Grove, was charged with unlawfully attempting to export live, CITES-protected corals. Transportation Security Administration officers found the corals hidden in Pringles potato chip cans during a baggage inspection at Los Angeles International Airport. Vazquez later admitted that he packed the corals into the Pringles cans, then placed the cans in his mother’s luggage for her to transport to Mexico.

Prision sentence in narwhal tusk case

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From the U.S. Department of Justice:

A resident of Brinnon, Washington, was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to six months in prison and a $25,000 fine for trafficking ivory from protected species. David L. Boone, who operates Boone Trading Company, participated in an operation that illegally smuggled narwhal tusks taken from the threatened Arctic whales into the United States from Canada, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Boone also trafficked in sperm whale teeth and walrus tusks.   
According to records filed in the case, between 2006 and 2008, Boone purchased narwhal tusks from a Canadian and a resident of Tennessee. Narwhals are Arctic whales often called the ‘Unicorn of the Sea’ because of their prominent tusk. While native Inuit of northern Canada are allowed to hunt narwhal, it is illegal to import tusks into the United States. Boone purchased tusks knowing they had been smuggled across the border from Canada, he then sold the tusks on the black market at a huge profit.

 Additionally, in October 2011 Boone sold sperm whale teeth to an undercover law enforcement officer, and in February 2012 bought and sold a walrus skull and tusks. The transactions were illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The Canadian exporter of the narwhal tusks plead guilty to multiple counts of money laundering and was sentenced today in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine to more than 5 years in prison. In addition to BOONE, three other United States citizens were prosecuted and convicted for their participation in the narwhal tusk smuggling scheme – one in the District of Maine, and one each in the Districts of Massachusetts and Alaska.

The court directed that the $25,000 criminal fine be paid to the Lacey Act Reward Fund. Monies deposited into this Fund are used to reward persons who furnish information leading to successful enforcement actions against those who traffic in illegally taken fish and wildlife.

Company pleads in Rosewood oil investigation

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From the U.S. Department of Justice:

Young Living Essential Oils, headquartered in Lehi, Utah, pleaded guilty in federal court to federal misdemeanor charges regarding its illegal trafficking of rosewood oil and spikenard oil in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Company voluntarily disclosed its rosewood oil violations and has been cooperating with government investigators. Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, the Company was sentenced to a fine of $500,000 and $135,000 in restitution, a community service payment of $125,000 for the conservation of protected species of plants used in essential oils, and a term of five years’ probation with special conditions. The conditions include the implementation of a corporate compliance plan, audits, and the publication of statements regarding its convictions.

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DashCam: Wildlife in Town

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My family surprised me with a dashcam for Father’s Day so I can record the scenery when we drive through mountains or other interesting locations. So far, I have only had the occasion to use this in town, and the attached footage is as exciting as it gets.

Photo: Walking Stick

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  Another photo from our “get out of the house and enjoy these final nice days” picnic.

I rarely see walking stick insects (members of the Phasmatodea order) in the wild, but I don’t know if it’s because they are uncommon or because they are so well camouflaged. My son found this one within minutes of stepping out of the Jeep.

Plea in Abalone Plot

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From the U.S.Department of Justice: 
  

SAN DIEGO – Chula Vista, Calif., resident Yon Pon Wong pleaded guilty in federal court on Aug. 31, 2017, to illegally importing $3 million of abalone.

In pleading guilty, Wong, doing business as Lucky Company, admitted that he imported the abalone using commercial invoices that falsely identified the seller. The 43 importations Wong referred to occurred between February 2012, and July 2015, and involved a total of approximately 67,500 kilograms (148,500 pounds) of abalone. The invoices falsely stated the seller to be Exportadora De Mariscos De Mexico, SA de CV, at the false address of Calle Cubilete No 110, Fracc Capistrano, Tijuana, Mexico. As part of his plea, Wong agreed to forfeit $500,000 of proceeds of the illegal importation.

Abalone is a highly regulated fishery in Mexico. The laws of Mexico require that commercial invoices have sufficient information on them to allow tracking of the seafood to its lawful origin. An invoice lacking the true name and address of the vendor does not permit authorities on either side of the border to trace the origin of the product.

Photo: Lilly pads

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  Lilly pads floating on a lake. Photo from our “get out of the house and enjoy these final nice days” picnic. Also saw two frogs hop into the water as we approached the lake.

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Plea in coral smuggling case

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  From the U.S. Department of Justice:

A resident of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty today to two felony violations of the federal Lacey Act for collecting, purchasing, falsely labeling, and shipping protected marine invertebrate species as part of an effort to subvert Puerto Rican law designed to protect corals and other reef species, the Department of Justice announced.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Aristides Sanchez was the owner of the Arecibo-based saltwater aquarium business, Wonders of the Reef Aquarium. A large part of the business was devoted to the sale of native Puerto Rican marine species that are popular in the saltwater aquarium trade. Sanchez sent live specimens to customers in the mainland United States and foreign countries by commercial courier services, Justice officials said.

One of the most popular items that Sanchez sent off-island was an organism from the genus Ricordea. These animals are known as “rics,” “polyps,” or “mushrooms” in the aquarium industry. Members of the genus form part of the reef structure and spend their adult lives fastened in place to the reef. These animals are colorful in natural light, but what makes them particularly interesting to aquarium owners is that they “glow” under the UV lights that are typically used in high-end saltwater aquariums.

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Mountaineers rescued on Grand Teton

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  Courtesy the National Park Service:

MOOSE, WY—Grand Teton National Park’s Jenny Lake Rangers, Teton Interagency Helitack, and the Teton Interagency Contract Helicopter came to the rescue of two mountaineers Tuesday, August 15, 2017. 

The mountaineers, Nick Marucci, 30, of Salt Lake City, Utah,mand Laura Robertson, 23, of Orem, Utah, were attempting to complete the Grand Traverse when they became mentally and physically exhausted after five challenging days in the high mountains.
Marucci and Robertson ascended Teewinot Mountain and Mount Owen on the first two days of their journey before cool temperatures, rain, and hail hampered their progress on Sunday. On Monday, the two climbers ascended a portion of the North Ridge of the Grand Teton despite limited visibility and wet, icy conditions. After ascending a few hundred feet, suffering minor injuries, and loosing manual dexterity due to the cold, they called for help at 4:15 p.m. Their call was forwarded from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center.

Jenny Lake Rangers took the call and attempted to talk the mountaineers through various escape route possibilities. Rangers stationed at the Lower Saddle also attempted to reach their location but were unable to do so due to the wet conditions. The rangers then advised Marucci and Robertson to descend to a small ledge and spend the night in their tent before descending two rappels further to the Grandstand feature the following morning.
After discussing options with the climbers to make the long descent out of the mountains Tuesday morning, it became clear that they were too exhausted and an aerial rescue would be the safest and most expeditious form of rescue. Rangers conducted a reconnaissance flight before configuring the helicopter for short-haul rescue. Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual or gear is suspended below the helicopter on a 150 to 250 foot rope.

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Trip Shot: Natural Bridge

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Location
: Natural Bridge State Park, Wisconsin

Conditions: Cloudy, wet from recent rainfall. Temps 60s F with a light touch of humidity.

Gear: Hiking shoes, pocket camera.

Away from the din of the water parks and go kart tracks and resort hotels that are The Dells, down country roads, past cornfields, tucked away amongst a stand of trees on a lonely Wisconsin hill is the wonder that is Natural Bridge State Park.

The site is delightfully remote. No crowds or lines or shops selling $3 bottles of cola. A state park sticker is required to enter, but there is no gate or ranger. Just a short road that leads to an empty parking lot and primitive restrooms. 

It’s best to memorize the map posted on the trailhead bulletin board. Signage on the trail is sketchy, but that’s part of the appeal. The path is simple and winds through a quarter mile of forest before emptying into a clearing surrounded by sandstone cliffs and the headline feature, the arching bridge, rocky with saplings and other vegetation clinging to its span. 
 

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