Bring Back the Bison
On October 11 last year, the World Wildlife Foundation tweeted a video of four bison being released into Badlands National Park. They spill from the trailer at the top of the hill and tumble down into the snowy expanse below, urged on by the ululations of the staffers above. If bison can look happy, these four do. They’d soon link up with the existing Badlands herd of almost 1,200 fellow bison; like cows, they are very social creatures.Typical WWF videos get 3 to 4 million views. This one received 15 million. The discrepancy is an encouraging sign for conservationists and bison lovers. Bison are the unlikely recipients of a grassroots affection typically reserved for the pandas, elephants, and tigers. But the online love for the creatures also points to a conundrum: How does one take all that love and channel it to save America’s national mammal?Though Teddy Roosevelt led a push to bring back bison in the early 1900s, for the last half-century the constituency for returning massive herds of bison to the Great Plains has largely been limited to the nonprofit world and Native Americans. Conservationist groups such as the WWF have expertise and money to burn: more than $2 million in the past five years. They work largely with indigenous groups, for whom bison can have spiritual, social, and economic value.But the political forces arrayed against rewilding are many, and they make reasonable points. In an age when buying a new home is still easiest in recently developed areas, why restrict land from being turned to profitable use? And no matter how financially successful small- or medium-scale butchering becomes, it will be difficult to compete with the cattle conglomerates that supply the nation’s supermarkets with cheap beef. Moreover, many proposals to repopulate national parks would require closing grazing land that is currently leased to private interests.Though bison lovers have struggled to build a durable coalition, they may have surprising new bedfellows. In corners of the online Right, in a form of meme-friendly esoteric politics, “megafauna nationalists” dream of rewilding the country. It is the strange synthesis, between megafauna nationalists and others, that will likely power any new, durable projects to repopulate the great American grassland.The Decline of Bison In 2016, Congress proclaimed the bison the national mammal. It was a ray of light for a creature that had teetered on the edge of extinction not long before. At their peak, up to 60 million bison roamed the continent. Though in the popular imagination bison are solely plains creatures, their range covered most of the continent. As a young surveyor in rural Virginia, George Washington shot and killed one. They inhabited taiga forests in Alaska, scrubby brushland in northern Mexico, and eastern woodlands in Boston. Hunting them in the 1800s was the contemporary equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel: Hunters reported looking out across the plains and being unable to see grass in any direction, so thick were the bison. Bison were systematically purged from the plains, both as a technique to control the Indians and to clear a way for the great railroads carrying the arriving “iron buffalo.” By 1883, only 1,000 bison still survived, the vast majority in small, private domestic herds. Today, there are about 11,000 bison on federal lands, with about double that number elsewhere in the country.Rewilding Indian Reservations A recent initiative by the Rosebud Sioux tribe in South Dakota offers one roadmap to bringing back the bison sustainably. The tribe recently announced that it aims to build a 1,500-head herd on 28,000 acres of tribal land by 2025. It would be the largest tribally managed herd on the continent, and the Rosebud Sioux expect that the project will be financially self-sustaining.As with any conservation project, the details will be key to success. The grassland on which the bison will roam is not ideal and will require maintenance, as will the miles of reinforced fencing. But in other ways, bison require less active care than an equivalent pasture herd does. They are hardy creatures. Compared with cows, their ratio of body mass to surface area is superior, meaning they keep warm far easier. The tribe anticipates butchering 250 to 300 head a year, funding the upkeep of the herd’s remainder.Behind Rosebud’s Wolakota Buffalo Range are two legacy institutions, the World Wildlife Fund and the Department of the Interior. WWF provided consulting and an assessment of the land. DOI (through their Bison Conservation Initiative) agreed to send roughly 200 bison a year to the range from the semi-free-range herd in Yellowstone. (The prospect of passing a semi full of lowing bison bulls on the highway should itself be enough to justify rewilding.) Wizipan Little Elk, head of the tribe’s economic development arm and formerly a DOI official under the Obama administration, spearheaded the partnership.Most tribal herds are small, maintained for cultural instruction and occasional local meat sales. Most industrial bison-farming operations maintain the creatures in conditions closer to those of well-fed cattle rather than of ranging wild creatures. If Rosebud can pull off its model, it will demonstrate that a fairly cash-poor entity can marry these two purposes, raising major quantities of a massive wild animal, mainly to have it around, while still remaining financially viable.Bison Fervor Some bison lovers dream bigger, though. If one spends enough time on Twitter (I out myself), specifically certain anonymous accounts on the right, one begins to find a particular love for megafauna. It doesn’t fit neatly into any one political project, except insofar as many of the images revolve around male acts of vigor. Most are tongue-in-cheek:> tired: looking to slot machines & other addictive modern activities for examples of how to drive user engagement> > wired: looking to our pre-agricultural ancestral environment for examples of how to drive user engagement pic.twitter.com/5uKKeFthHL> > — uncanny valley girl 🔪 (@leaacta) June 24, 2020Or they’re serious, but it’s hard to tell:Some pose as policy aphorisms:You can sense patterns, but also rifts: some talk of hunting sabretooth tigers in mecha suits, others renounce technology.> There’s something so magical and enchanting about the “antediluvian” aesthetic of the prehistoric world, a world untamed by God or man, full of titanic beasts, nature as primordial chaos. We need to bring it back. pic.twitter.com/Ny8TTe90aw> > — Michel 🔱 (@Michelesonn) May 30, 2020Perhaps the idea of rewilding megafauna is appealing as an Internet meme precisely because it feels so fantastic, divorced from reality. A world where this is possible is not a world in which it’s possible to tweet about it, is it?> Megafauna nationalism pic.twitter.com/Nn826w6iKk> > — stricture (@bog_beef) June 15, 2020Obviously, a large chunk of this is purely in jest. But the impulse to restore an America with great beasts is worth taking seriously. The memeing points to a deeper, visceral hunger for moonshot projects, for doing valuable tasks in a country that feels like it’s slowly winding down.Some will find the impulse to restore an antediluvian past inherently fascist. But the visceral argument for rewilding is much simpler to distill: megafauna are fundamentally cool. Partly, they’re captivating because of their staggering distance from us. Watch a buffalo as it breathes slowly. Its nostrils and tongue are grey and purple, and on each out-breath the grasses around its head tremble. This head is larger than your torso, and yet its forelegs are almost spindly, no more girthy than your forearms. The distribution of weight boggles the mind, as directly behind the head the spine juts up a foot or more, then slopes off at a steep angle to the haunches, like an old penny-farthing bike. When it decides to get up, it takes several long seconds: It has to rock back and forth, big black eyes bulging, to find the momentum to shrug that front weight forward onto its feet. One can stand quite close to a bison (in the wild, this is not recommended) without its acknowledging your presence. Its cognition, like that of all non-domesticated animals, is orthogonal to ours. As Thomas Nagel said about bats and Wittgenstein about lions, if bison could speak, we would not understand them.But they’re cool also because of their relations to us. This creature is a beast, and yet it can make eye contact with me, it reacts to my presence, and we share a world, a country, a space. In some ineffable way we are kin. One does not have to share the Sioux cosmology to experience this truth, or to think that a country in which these animals were a more regular part of our life would be a better place. If there’s one thing every American can agree on, it’s that, despite our efforts, we feel chained to our screens, rooted to our couches, and locked away from nature. Why not bring nature bellowing back? And not just any nature, but the heaviest land animal on the continent, a symbol of national greatness?And as NYT columnist Ross Douthat has pointed out, many of our well-intentioned attempts to remove caricatures of Native Americans from public life have had the secondary effect of diminishing their presence in “the American imaginarium.” Bringing back the bison, starting with comprehensive support for any Indian reservation that wanted it, would offer a chance to re-cement Native American iconography as a source of national pride. It would also begin in a small way to undo the suffering caused by the animal’s mass slaughter.Fixing Our Missing Bison Problem And perhaps one can dream even bigger. This country is massive, and a tremendous proportion of its Midwest and West are federal land. The Department of the Interior runs a Bison Conservation Initiative (the program through which Rosebud received starter bison), but it prioritizes tending to bison genetics and managing existing herds. It should be given the resources to pursue a vastly more vigorous policy.To sustain itself genetically, a bison herd needs at least 2,000 head, a number that few herds in the U.S. reach. There is ample room for herds far larger in Nevada, Kansas, eastern Colorado, western Nebraska, and the Little Missouri National Grasslands in North Dakota. Building room for them would require land swaps and purchases from private owners, as well as broader ecological initiatives to strengthen desertified ecosystems.To take just one example of a potential site: Cherry County in Nebraska has one resident per square mile. Land could easily be accumulated from willing sellers, many of whom are desperate to cash out on increasingly valueless property. Taken together, Kansas’s two least populated counties cover a million acres and are home to fewer than 3,000 residents. The possibilities are endless. Picture a national service program that actually entices young Americans: a year under the big sky of the American West as a modern cowboy (bisonboy?). Or intentional communities dedicated to service through wildlife preservation, centered in the small towns abutting the bison range.On the consumption side, we’ve seen enough misguided overhauls of the FDA’s nutritional pyramid. What about one that emphasizes lean, native-to-America meats? (Bison bolognese is easy and delicious.) FDPIR (Food Distribution Program to Indian Reservations) currently serves up mostly frozen and canned food, along with processed sugars especially ill-suited to the native genetic makeup, contributing to obscenely high rates of diabetes. We could fund starter herds explicitly for butchering, perhaps as a partnership between the DOI and the Food and Drug Administration.Bison Nationalism What one could call bison nationalism is only the latest installment in a long line of American attempts to massively reshape the biological landscape. In 1910, facing a national meat shortage and charged with the slightly crazed optimism of the time, Congress seriously considered a proposal to import hippopotami to the Louisiana bayou. During the ravages of the Dust Bowl, the federal government planted 220 million trees in an effort to keep soil tied down.Today, conservation efforts still have the potential to spark national pride. Abroad, Saharan African nations collaborate on a continental Great Green Wall to push back the desert. In England, the semi-feral New Forest ponies roam land held in common by local residents and are cared for special park rangers. The ponies are known as “architects of the forest” for their central role in maintaining and trimming plant life.Up to this point, I have not discussed the ecological benefits bison themselves provide, largely because we simply don’t know the long-term effects of reintroducing them on a large scale into their old landscape. We have no old herds to measure. But we do know the central role they play when embedded in an ecosystem. Bison were once a keystone species on the Great Plains. Their wallows numbered over 100 million and provided habitats for mountain plovers, prairie dogs, and other burrowing creatures. More species of songbird find a home in the mosaic landscape that bison create by foraging unevenly, unlike cattle that have monotonized grazing patterns. In death, wild bison provide scavenge for wolves, bears, and ravens, and eventually high-quality soil for the prairie.Their benefits aren’t limited to simple species conservation. Bison are such heavy grazers en masse that they turn back the biological clock for springtime plants, increasing plant productivity by up to 40 percent. In Siberia’s Pleistocene Park, researchers are attempting to bring megafauna back to maintain the steppe, which sequesters much more carbon than forests do. Roving herds of bison on the American steppe would foster more plant growth, which in turn would help cement carbon in the soil, creating humus (organic matter that forms the “foundation of soil fertility”), fostering more plant growth, supporting more grazing bison. It’s hard to picture a more virtuous cycle.Today, our Native American population faces interlocking crises of sickness, disease, and climate change. Nationally, the hollowing out of the Midwest contributes to a loss of shared history, a lack of opportunity for Zoomers and Millennials, and a sense of national slackness and dissolution. It may be that both the Rosebud Sioux tribe and the online dreamers share an insight most of us are missing: The mighty bison can help on every front. It’s time to bring them back.Editor’s note: This article has been amended slightly since its original publication, to correct the identity of Wizipan Little Elk.
University police officer placed on leave after dragging female student down steps
A Maryland university put a campus police officer on leave after he was caught on video dragging a Black student down a set of steps.
The “disturbing” incident took place at historically Black university Bowie State after police confronted a group of students playing music outside a dorm.
In the video, widely shared on social media, the Black officer is seen first grabbing a male student by the arm as they are followed by a young woman.
“Stop grabbing him like that, he is cooperating,” the woman can be heard yelling.
As the group approached a set of steps the officer turned and grabbed the woman by the collar and sleeve.
With the crowd around them screaming and shouting the officer pulled her down the steps and led her to a police car.
“Out of great concern for our students and protecting the integrity of our community, I have immediately initiated an investigation into the matter. The officer involved is on administrative leave pending further investigation,” said Bowie State President Aminta Breaux.
Neither student was arrested or charged the university confirmed.
“Bowie State University is a community that embraces strong values of respect and civility in our interactions with one another,” added Breaux.
“We have high expectations for appropriate behaviour at all times from all members of our community, students and staff alike.
“We are committed to community policing in a manner that protects the safety of everyone on our campus, and will work to ensure that those we employ share our values.
“Our goal is to assure that our students feel safe on campus.”
One student said she felt the police had been heavy handed in their actions.
“I felt like the officer was very barbaric when it came to his reaction to the situation,” Casandra Williams told WUSA9.
“And I felt everything was pushed out of proportion given the severity of what was going on wasn’t really that serious to put his hands on a female, a black female at that.”
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3 ‘Strong Buy’ Stocks With Over 7% Dividend Yield
Markets are volatile, there can be no doubt. So far this month, the S&P 500 has fallen 9% from its peak. The tech-heavy NASDAQ, which had led the gainers all summer, is now leading the on the fall, having lost 11% since September 2. The three-week tumble has investors worried that we may be on the brink of another bear market.The headwinds are strong. The usual September swoon, the upcoming election, doubts about another round of economic stimulus – all are putting downward pressure on the stock markets.Which doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. As the old saw goes, “Bulls and bears can both make money, while the pigs get slaughtered.” A falling market may worry investors, but a smart strategy can prevent the portfolio from losing too much long-term value while maintaining a steady income. Dividend stocks, which feed into the income stream, can be a key part of such a strategy.Using the data available in the TipRanks database, we’ve pulled up three stocks with high yields – from 7% to 11%, or up to 6 times the average dividend found on the S&P 500 index. Even better, these stocks are seen as Strong Buys by Wall Street’s analysts. Let’s find out why.Williams Companies (WMB)We start with Williams Companies, an Oklahoma-based energy company. Williams controls pipelines connecting Rocky Mountain natural gas fields with the Pacific Northwest region, and Appalachian and Texan fields with users in the Northeast and transport terminals on the Gulf Coast. The company’s primary operations are the processing and transport of natural gas, with additional ops in crude oil and energy generation. Williams handles nearly one-third of all US commercial and residential natural gas use.The essential nature of Williams’ business – really, modern society simply cannot get along without reliable energy sources – has insulated the company from some of the economic turndown in 1H20. Quarterly revenues slid from $2.1 billion at the end of last year to $1.9 billion in Q1 and $1.7 billion in Q2. EPS in the first half was 26 cents for Q1 and 25 cents for Q2 – but this was consistent with EPS results for the previous three quarters. The generally sound financial base supported the company’s reliable dividend. Williams has been raising that payment for the past four years, and even the corona crisis could not derail it. At 40 cents per common share, the dividend annualizes to $1.60 and yields an impressive 7.7%. The next payment is scheduled for September 28.Truist analyst Tristan Richardson sees Williams as one of the midstream sector’s best positioned companies.“We continue to look to WMB as a defensive component of midstream and favor its 2H prospects as broader midstream grasps at recovery… Beyond 2020 we see the value proposition as a stable footprint with free cash flow generation even in the current environment. We also see room for incremental leverage reduction throughout our forecast period on scaled back capital plans and even with the stable dividend. We look for modestly lower capex in 2021, however unlike more G&P oriented midstream firms, we see a project backlog in downstream that should support very modest growth,” Richardson noted.Accordingly, Richardson rates WMB shares as a Buy, and his $26 price target implies a 30% upside potential from current levels. (To watch Richardson’s track record, click here)Overall, the Strong Buy analyst consensus rating on WMB is based on 11 Buy reviews against just a single Hold. The stock’s current share price is $19.91 and the average price target is $24.58, making the one-year upside potential 23%. (See WMB stock analysis on TipRanks)Magellan Midstream (MMP)The second stock on our list is another midstream energy company, Magellan. This is another Oklahoma-based firm, with a network of assets across much of the US from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi Valley, and into the Southeast. Magellan’s network transports crude oil and refined products, and includes Gulf Coast export shipping terminals.Magellan’s total revenues rose sequentially to $782.8 in Q1, and EPS came in at $1.28, well above the forecast. These numbers turned down drastically in Q2, as revenue fell to $460.4 million and EPS collapsed to 65 cents. The outlook for Q3 predicts a modest recovery, with EPS forecast at 85 cents. The company strengthened its position in the second quarter with an issue of 10-year senior notes, totaling $500 million, at 3.25%. This reduced the company’s debt service payments, and shored up liquidity, making possible the maintenance of the dividend.The dividend was kept steady at $1.0275 per common share quarterly. Annualized, this comes to $4.11, a good absolute return, and gives a yield of 11.1%, giving MMP a far higher return than Treasury bonds or the average S&P-listed stock.Well Fargo analyst Praneeth Satish believes that MMP has strong prospects for recovery. “[We] view near-term weakness in refined products demand as temporary and recovering. In the interim, MMP remains well positioned given its strong balance sheet and liquidity position, and ratable cash flow stream…” Satish goes on to note that the dividend appears secure for the near-term: “The company plans to maintain the current quarterly distribution for the rest of the year.”In line with this generally upbeat outlook, Satish gives MMP an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and a $54 price target that implies 57% growth in the coming year. (To watch Satish’s track record, click here)Net net, MMP shares have a unanimous Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, a show of confidence by Wall Street’s analyst corps. The stock is selling for $33.44, and the average price target of $51.13 implies 53% growth in the year ahead. (See MMP stock analysis on TipRanks)Ready Capital Corporation (RC)The second stock on our list is a real estate investment trust. No surprise finding one of these in a list of strong dividend payers – REITs have long been known for their high dividend payments. Ready Capital, which focuses on the commercial mortgage niche of the REIT sector, has a portfolio of loans in real estate securities and multi-family dwellings. RC has provided more than $3 billion in capital to its loan customers.In the first quarter of this year, when the coronavirus hit, the economy turned south, and business came to a standstill, Ready Capital took a heavy blow. Revenues fell by 58%, and Q1 EPS came in at just one penny. Things turned around in Q2, however, after the company took measures – including increasing liquidity, reducing liabilities, and increasing involvement in government-sponsored lending – to shore up business. Revenues rose to $87 million and EPS rebounded to 70 cents.In the wake of the strong Q2 results, RC also started restoring its dividend. In Q1 the company had slashed the payment from 40 cents to 25 cents; in the most recent declaration, for an October 30 payment, the new dividend is set at 30 cents per share. This annualizes to $1.20 and gives a strong yield of 9.9%.Crispin Love, writing from Piper Sandler, notes the company’s success in getting back on track.“Given low interest rates, Ready Capital had a record $1.2B in residential mortgage originations versus our $1.1B estimate. Gain on sale margins were also at record levels. We are calculating gain on sale margins of 3.7%, up from 2.4% in 1Q20,” Love wrote.In a separate note, written after the dividend declaration, Love added, “We believe that the Board’s actions show an increased confidence for the company to get back to its pre-pandemic $0.40 dividend. In recent earnings calls, management has commented that its goal is to get back to stabilized earnings above $0.40, which would support a dividend more in-line with pre-pandemic levels.”To this end, Love rates RC an Overweight (i.e. Buy) along with a $12 price target, suggesting an upside of 14%. (To watch Love’s track record, click here)All in all, Ready Capital has a unanimous Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, based on 4 recent positive reviews. The stock has an average price target of $11.50, which gives a 9% upside from the current share price of $10.51. (See RC stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for dividend stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
Virginia governor and wife test positive for Covid
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife have tested positive for Covid-19, his office announced Friday.
The governor, who is a doctor, was told Wednesday that a member of the staff of his residence had tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said in a statement. Northam, a Democrat, and his wife, Pamela Northam, were then tested.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign rally in Newport News, Virginia, later Friday, an event that had drawn criticism from Northam’s administration because it will bring together 4,000 people in defiance of the governor’s executive order limiting public gatherings.
“As I’ve been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, Covid-19 is very real and very contagious,” Northam said in a statement. “The safety and health of our staff and close contacts is of utmost importance to Pam and me, and we are working closely with the Department of Health to ensure that everyone is well taken care of. We are grateful for your thoughts and support, but the best thing you can do for us—and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians—is to take this seriously.”
Northam is not experiencing any symptoms, his office said, while his wife is experiencing mild symptoms.
The pair are working with public health officials in the state to trace the contacts they have made in recent days. Last Friday, Northam cast his vote during the early voting window in Virginia for the presidential election.
An official at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va., said that because Northam and his wife were on campus on Tuesday, that the school would notify public health officials about “a very small group of individuals” that Northam was in close contact with during the visit.
Northam is the second governor this week to test positive for Covid-19, after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, and his wife, Teresa Parson.
As of Friday, there have been more than 7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., and more than 200,000 deaths from the virus.
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