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There is no catch and release of alligators, except in Lake Eufaula

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama is a sportsman’s paradise with freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing and even hunting year-round. Hogs and coyotes can be taken all through the month of August. But for the lucky few who drew an alligator tag, August is alligator hunting season.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division wants this year’s hunt to be safe for the hunters and fair for the game species. The WFF is reminding Alabama alligator hunters that they may not capture an alligator and release it because they prefer a bigger trophy gator.

Tag holders are not allowed to release an alligator after it has been captured. The only exception is the Lake Eufaula Zone where hunters must release any alligator that is less than 8 feet in total length. In all other alligator hunting zones, culling is prohibited by law.

“Many folks who have been going to classes for years and are now getting the training online understand about culling,” said WFF director Chuck Sykes. “However, I think some hunters have abused our leniency in enforcing the regulation. We just want to make sure that everybody is aware that culling is not a legal practice. This is not a fishing trip where you practice catch-and-release. This is a cold-blooded animal that expends a great deal of energy during the fight and that could end up as an unexpected mortality.”

“When you have 5,000 or so people apply for one of these coveted tags, we don’t want people abusing the process and making it look like a catch-and-release fishing tournament,” Sykes said. “We just wanted to clarify that culling is not allowed.”

This regulation has been in effect since the 2018 Alabama alligator season.

“Just as you don’t capture and release any other game animal, hunters are not allowed to practice releasing alligators unless they are hunting in the Lake Eufaula Zone, where there is a minimum harvest length of 8 feet,” said Wildlife Section Chief Keith Gauldin. “A captured gator is your gator, so be sure to review the training videos on the website. The videos give you helpful tips on how to judge the size of an alligator.”

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Gauldin said there is a direct correlation between the distance from the gator’s nostrils to its eyes and the total length of the animal. If the distance from the nostrils to the eyes is 10 inches, the estimated total length of the alligator would be 10 feet.

To learn more about alligator hunting and the no culling regulation the WFF has six training videos for hunters and the public to view.

Gauldin said that in the past, the WFF has seen social media posts of hunters capturing alligators, having their pictures taken with it, and then releasing the animal to go pursue a bigger gator.

“We don’t want hunters to cause any undue stress on these animals,” Gauldin said. “By regulation, an alligator is considered captured once it is secured with a snare around a leg or the head and is secured boat-side and in control. It must be immediately dispatched and the temporary tag applied. We want to stress that before hunters pursue an alligator and throw a hook at it or any of the legal means of catching an alligator, they should view that gator and estimate its size closely. They need to make sure that’s the one they want to harvest.”

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Gauldin said another rule that will be closely enforced this year involves boats providing assistance during the alligator hunt.

“When hunting parties have multiple vessels involved, only the boat with the tag holder can have the capture equipment in it,” Gauldin said. “The other vessels that are assisting can only have spotlights, but no capture equipment.”

The only approved capture methods are hand-held snares, snatch hooks (hand-held or rod/reel), harpoons (with attached line) and bowfishing equipment (with the line attached from arrow to bow or crossbow).

This not Louisiana, as seen on the TV show “Swamp People” where the hunters tie a chain to a tree and bait it with a pork shoulder. The use of bait is not allowed at all in Alabama.

Gauldin said that WFF’s Enforcement Section will be out in full force during the alligator season to make sure that Alabama’s hunting regulations are followed.

“There is a high likelihood hunters will be checked by a Conservation Enforcement Officer at least on one of the nights of the season,” Gauldin said. “It’s a good idea to put all of your identification, hunting license and alligator tag in a Ziploc bag for easy access instead of having to dig it out of your wallet at one o’clock in the morning. Have that ready for presentation when you get checked. It will make it easier for our officers and make for a more timely check for the hunters.”

Gauldin warned against drinking and gator hunting.

“We want hunters to have a good time but a safe time,” he said. “Combining alcohol and alligator hunting is not a good idea.”

Gauldin also warned that everyone on a gator hunt should have a personal flotation device.

“It’s a good idea to have that PFD on if the boat is under throttle, especially at night,” Gauldin said. “Obstructions are much harder to see at night. We just want them to have a safe hunt.”

Alabama has five alligator hunting zones in South Alabama, the traditional range of alligators in the state.

The Southwest Zone has the most tags at 100. The Southwest Zone includes all of Mobile and Baldwin counties north of I-10 and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke and Monroe counties that lie east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84. The 2020 season dates are sunset on August 13 until sunrise on August 16 and sunset on August 20 to sunrise on August 23.

The Coastal Zone will have 50 tags. It was created just last year to address the rising interaction between alligators and people along the Coast, where the WFF receives most of its nuisance alligator complaints. The Coastal Zone includes the private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties that lie south of I-10. The 2020 season dates are the same as the Southwest Zone.

The Southeast Zone has 40 tags this year. It covers the private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, and Russell counties, excluding Alabama state public waters in Walter F. George Reservoir (Lake Eufaula) and its navigable tributaries. The 2020 season dates are sunset on August 8 until sunrise on September 7.

The West Central Zone will get 50 tags. It includes private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox, and Dallas counties. The 2020 season dates are sunset on August 13 to sunrise on August 16 and sunset on August 20 to sunrise on August 23.

The Lake Eufaula Zone has 20 tags this year. It includes Alabama state public waters in Walter F. George Reservoir (Lake Eufaula) and its navigable tributaries, south of Highway 208, Omaha Bridge (excluding Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge). The 2020 season dates are sunset on August 14 until sunrise on October 5. The Lake Eufaula Zone is the only zone that allows daytime hunting.

Alabama’s alligator hunters consistently harvest between 65 and 70 percent of the available tags.

While Louisiana and Florida may have more alligators than Alabama, the world record was taken in 2014 by Mandy Stokes of Camden. That gator was 15 feet, 9 inches long and weighed an incredible 1,011.5 pounds. The Stokes alligator shocked many people who thought that a gator had to be over 60 years old to be that big. Analysis of the leg bone of the alligator showed that it was only 24 to 28 years old.

The oldest known alligator is Muja who was hatched in a zoo in Germany sometime in the 1930s. In 1937, he was transferred as nearly an adult to the Belgrade Zoo where he has lived for the last 83 years.

August is also the month to renew your hunting and fishing licenses.

Alabama is world renown for the plethora of hunting and fishing options for sportsmen. Whether it is fishing for red snapper, cobia, spotted sea trout, flounder, amberjack, yellowfin tuna or croaker off the Alabama Gulf Coast; hunting for whitetail deer, hogs, coyotes, alligators, raccoon or fox in Alabama’s forests; fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bluegill in Alabama’s lakes; or hunting sandhill cranes, turkeys, geese, ducks, doves, quail, crows, and other fowl; or small game hunting for squirrels, rabbits, opossum, beaver and nutria, Alabama has an outdoor sport for you.

The SEC college football season has already been pushed back three weeks and shortened by two games due to the coronavirus crisis. Attendance is likely going to be limited to just 25 percent capacity or less if they can somehow manage to salvage the 2020 season. High school and youth sports have never been more dangerous to play due to the coronavirus global pandemic and it is even now dangerous to be in the stands as a spectator.

Hunting and fishing would provide a safe recreational activity the whole family can enjoy where social distancing is actually normal.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with over nine years at Alabama Political Reporter. During that time he has written 8,297 articles for APR. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Humanity faces climate “suicide” without U.S. rejoining Paris Agreement, says UN secretary general

Humanity’s survival will be “impossible” without the U.S. rejoining the Paris Agreement, he said.

Mark Hertsgaard

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United Nations Secretary General António Guterres

“The way we are moving is a suicide,” United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said in an interview on Monday, and humanity’s survival will be “impossible” without the United States rejoining the Paris Agreement and achieving “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, as the incoming Biden administration has pledged.

The secretary general said that “of course” he had been in touch with President-elect Joe Biden and looked forward to welcoming the U.S. into a “global coalition for net zero by 2050” that the UN has organized.  The U.S. is the world’s largest cumulative source of heat-trapping emissions and its biggest military and economic power, Guterres noted, so “there is no way we can solve the [climate] problem … without strong American leadership.”

In an extraordinary, if largely unheralded diplomatic achievement, most of the world’s leading emitters have already joined the UN’s “net-zero by 2050” coalition, including the European Union, Japan, the United Kingdom, and China (which is the world’s largest source of annual emissions and has committed to achieving carbon neutrality “before 2060”).

India, meanwhile, the world’s third-largest annual emitter, is the only G-20 country on track to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, despite needing to lift many of its people out of poverty, an achievement Guterres called “remarkable.” Along with fellow petrostate Russia, the U.S. has been the only major holdout, after Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement soon after becoming president four years ago.  

The new pledges could bring the Paris Agreement’s goals “within reach,” provided that the pledges are fulfilled, concluded an analysis by the independent research group Climate Action Tracker. If so, temperature rise could be limited to 2.1 degrees Celsius, the group said — higher than the agreement’s target of 1.5 to 2 degrees, but a major improvement from the 3- to 5-degree future that business as usual would deliver.

“The targets set at Paris were always meant to be increased over time,” Guterres said.  “[Now,] we need to align those commitments with a 1.5 C future, and then you must implement.” 

Reiterating scientists’ warning that humanity faces “a climate emergency,” the secretary general said that achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 is imperative to avoiding “irreversible” impacts that would be “absolutely devastating for the world economy and for human life.” 

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He said rich countries must honor their obligation under the Paris Agreement to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries limit their own climate pollution and adapt to the heatwaves, storms and sea level rise already underway. 

The trillions of dollars now being invested to revive pandemic-battered economies also must be spent in a “green” way, Guterres argued, or today’s younger generations will inherit “a wrecked planet.”  And he predicted that the oil and gas industry, in its present form, will die out before the end of this century as economies shift to renewable energy sources.

The secretary general’s interview, conducted by CBS News, The Times of India, and El Pais on behalf of the journalistic consortium Covering Climate Now, is part of a 10-day push by the UN to reinvigorate the Paris Agreement before a follow-up conference next year. 

That conference, known as the 26th Conference of the Parties, or COP 26, was supposed to take place this week but was postponed due to the pandemic.  On Dec. 12, 2020, Guterres will mark the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement by convening a global climate summit with Boris Johnson, who as prime minister of the UK is the official host of COP 26, which occurs in Glasgow, Scotland, next November. 

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A total of 110 countries have joined the “net-zero by 2050” coalition, the secretary general said, a development he attributed to the growing recognition of the increasingly frequent and destructive extreme weather events climate change is unleashing around the world and the “tremendous pressure” governments have faced from civil society, including millions of young people protesting in virtually every country as well as more and more of the private sector.  

“Governments, until now, thought to a certain extent that they could do whatever they wanted,” Guterres said.  “But now … we see the youth mobilizing in fantastic ways all over the world.”  And with solar and other renewable energy sources now cheaper than carbon-based equivalents, investors are realizing that “the sooner that they move … to portfolios linked to the new green and digital economy, the best it will be for their own assets and their own clients.”

For a global economy that still relies on oil, gas, and coal for most of its energy and much of its food production, moving to “net zero” by 2050 nevertheless represents a tectonic shift — all the more so because scientists calculate that emissions must fall roughly by half over the next 10 years to hit the 2050 target.  Achieving those goals will require fundamental shifts in both public and private policy, including building no new coal plants and phasing out existing ones, Guterres said. Governments must also reform tax and subsidy practices.

There should be “no more subsidies for fossil fuels,” the secretary general said.  “It doesn’t make any sense that taxpayers’ money is spent destroying the planet.  At the same time, we should shift taxation from income to carbon, from taxpayers to polluters.  I’m not asking governments to increase taxes.  I’m asking governments to reduce the taxes on payrolls or on companies that commit to invest in green energy and put that level of taxation on carbon pollution.”

Governments must also ensure a “just transition” for the people and communities affected by the phase-out of fossil fuels, with workers getting unemployment payments and retraining for jobs in the new green economy.  “When I was in government [as the prime minister of Portugal], we had to close all the coal mines,” he recalled.  “We did everything we could to make sure that those who were working in those mines would have their futures guaranteed.”

The “cycle of oil as the key engine of the world economy is finished,” Guterres said.  By the end of the 21st century, petroleum might still be used “as raw materials for different products … but the role of fossil fuels as [an energy source] will be minimal.”

As for fossil fuel companies’ stated ambitions to continue producing more oil, gas and coal, Guterres said that throughout history various economic sectors have risen and fallen and that the digital sector has now displaced the fossil fuel sector as the center of the global economy.

“I’m totally convinced that a lot of the oil and gas that is today in the soil,” he said, “will remain in the soil.”

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Clean water advocates want a comprehensive water plan for Alabama that creates jobs

Under new leadership, a plan for preserving clean water and fair access to it may be within reach in Alabama.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Environmentalists are optimistic about making progress on water resource issues and the state’s climate change preparedness under the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden and next Congress, particularly because the president-elect is indicating that economic gains go hand-in-hand with protecting the environment.

“It’s really exciting to see the Biden administration put jobs in the same conversation with their climate and environmental policies, because for too long there has been that false argument that jobs and the environment don’t go together — that you can’t have a regulated business sector and create jobs,” said Cindy Lowry, executive director of Alabama Rivers Alliance.

On a recent post-election call with other advocates, Lowry said that the current policy outlook reinforced the importance of voting. There have been some steps forward for conservation during the presidency of Donald Trump, she said, like the president’s signing of the Great American Outdoors Act in August, but the administration has prioritized industry interests.

Under new leadership, a plan for preserving clean water and fair access to it may be within reach in Alabama.

“We have spent so much time and energy as a movement trying to defend and basically just hold the line against so many of the rollbacks, and now we can focus on moving forward on certain areas,” Lowry said.

Julian Gonzalez, a clean water advocate with the nonprofit Earthjustice in Washington D.C., said on the call that the incoming Congress will be the “most environmentally aware Congress we’ve had.” Still, the real work remains.

“Everything needs to be one conversation, and you should be able to go call your Congressperson and say, ‘How are you going to fix America’s water problem?’ and they should have an answer, but right now that’s not the case,” Gonzalez said.

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For Alabama’s water advocates, priorities are what to do with coal ash, how to prepare for droughts and flooding, improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure and providing relief to communities that have been affected by environmental degradation.

While production of coal ash has reduced due mostly to market-driven decreases in the burning of coal, enough facilities still use it that Alabama is developing its own permitting process and regulations for storing it. The Biden administration can provide leadership on the issue, Lowry said.

While many people associate water issues with drought, Lowry said the topic encompasses much more than that. Pipes that contain lead need to be replaced. There’s plenty of water, she said, but the state needs a comprehensive water plan that prepares communities for drought management, especially as more farmers use irrigation, which uses more water.

Her organization has been working toward a state plan that can ensure fair access to water without depleting the environment of what it needs to remain stable.

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With the increased frequency and intensity of storms being attributed to climate change, water infrastructure will need to be upgraded, Lowry said. Many communities rely on centralized treatment centers to handle their wastewater, and many of those facilities are overburdened and experience spills. Storms and flash floods push old pipes and at-capacity centers past their breaking points — pipes leak or burst and sewage pits overflow.

Lowry said that there has been some progress in recent years on funding infrastructure upgrades in communities and states. It’s a more bipartisan conversation than other environmental issues, and communities that have been hit hard by multiple storms are starting to have new ideas about how to rebuild themselves to better withstand the effects of climate change.

Still, Alabama’s preparedness efforts are all reactionary, which is why a comprehensive water plan is a priority, she said.

“Policies like that — proactive policies that are really forward-thinking about how we will make decisions if we do run into challenges with our environment — are something that this state has not been very strong on,” she said.

Lowry hopes for more emphasis on environmental justice, with official agencies working more with local municipalities to provide relief to communities hurt by pollution and weather events. Such problems are characteristic of the Birmingham area, where Lowry is based, and the Black Belt.

She wants to see stronger permitting processes for industry projects and easier access to funding for cleanups in communities that need them. North Birmingham activists have been trying for years to get a Superfund site there on the Superfund National Priorities List.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to address these problems, Lowry said. Having multiple avenues for access to funding is important so that all communities have options. Smaller communities can’t always pay back loans, so they need access to grants.

Lowry emphasized that new jobs must be created without exacerbating climate change. Although Alabama tends to look to heavy industry for economic gains, she said she’s hopeful that a different approach by the Biden administration will trickle to the state level.

Lowry also said that conversations about climate change in Alabama have to be put in terms of what is happening in Alabama.

For her and other environmentalists working in the Deep South, it’s all about relationships and establishing trust. The environment becomes a less partisan issue when you focus on the basics, she said, because everyone wants clean water.

“I’ve found it much more easy to have conversations with elected officials at the state level in places like Alabama, where people do kind of grow up a little closer to nature and conservation, and [by] just kind of meeting people where they are,” Lowry said.

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Alabama Political Reporter partners with Covering Climate Now

We’re making a commitment to inform you, our readers, about the parts of climate change that are within your spheres of influence.

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Covering Climate Now logo

Climate change is a complex and evolving subject. It is often difficult to comprehend on a personal and community level, yet its effects are already being felt on those levels, whether we realize it or not. Climate science researchers project catastrophic consequences for every place and organism on Earth if current trends continue, and most say that humanity is somewhere inside a critical window for action that may prevent the worst.

At Alabama Political Reporter, we believe that within this context, journalism’s role is to make sense of this topic as it relates to our state. Every person on the planet is doing something about climate change for better or for worse, intentionally or not. We’re making a commitment to inform you, our readers, about the parts of it that are within your spheres of influence. APR is excited to announce a partnership with Covering Climate Now (CCN), a global journalism initiative co-founded in 2019, by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, in association with The Guardian. In partnering with CCN, we join more than 400 news outlets globally with a combined audience approaching 2 billion people.

CCN will work with APR as we craft climate coverage stories that will show the real impact those changes are having on communities, as we hold businesses and politicians accountable for how they are addressing climate change — or aren’t — and how poor people and people of color are disproportionately impacted.

Through this partnership, APR‘s stories will be available to a wider audience, and APR will occasionally publish articles from other outlets that are relevant to our readers. Our focus will be projections for our region and prevention.

APR began a more concerted effort to cover climate change during the summer of 2019. Throughout the year, we talked with state experts, such as James McClintock, a professor of polar and marine biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who has spent decades researching climate change. APR looked at how people communicate about climate change, how climate-change-induced heatwaves and stagnation are affecting air quality and how Auburn University planned to use a $3 million grant to fund climate change education.

With a new administration entering the White House in January will come changes in how the federal government addresses the threat of climate change. President-elect Joe Biden’s appointment of former U.S. secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry as special envoy on the climate crisis is a sign that a Biden administration plans to tackle climate change head-on.

Kerry was instrumental in the international effort to craft the Paris climate agreement, and he will likely approach climate change as a foreign policy issue.

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“America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,” Kerry tweeted on Nov. 23.

Biden also recently appointed numerous climate advocates to senior economic leadership positions, including climate change advocate Neera Tanden, as White House budget director. Tandem is president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

“President-elect Joe Biden has committed to a government-wide strategy to combat the climate crisis — a plan that must start with investing in clean, renewable energy so we can put people back to work,” said Lori Lodes, executive director of Climate Power 2020, a partnership of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. “This team of outspoken advocates for climate innovation and leadership will be meaningful allies for Biden’s vision of immediate and bold climate action on day one of the new administration.”

With the incoming administration refocusing on the climate crisis, APR believes that it is critical to refocus coverage on a topic that will continue to impact Alabamians for decades, and generations, to come.

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We hope that through factual reporting, with a focus on the human impact, APR will give our readers and state leaders better information with which to make decisions that can affect lives and our environment for the better.

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Environment

Pike County Public Fishing Lake will be temporarily closed beginning December 23

During the closure, water levels at the lake will be lowered by approximately 6 feet.

Brandon Moseley

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Pike County Public Fishing Lake (VIA OUTDOOR ALABAMA)

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries announced this week that it will temporarily close the Pike County Public Fishing Lake near Troy for maintenance beginning Dec. 23, 2020. The lake is expected to be closed for four to six weeks.

During the closure, water levels at the lake will be lowered by approximately 6 feet in an effort to control excessive aquatic plant growth around the bank fishing areas. The lake will be reopened for fishing when the water level reaches full pool.

Until Dec. 23 the lake will be open for all of its normal recreational activities. Alabama is a sportsman’s paradise with year-round freshwater fishing, hunting and saltwater fishing opportunities that the whole family can enjoy.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made many activities including youth sports, sporting events, gyms, concerts, theaters, museums, arcades, roller rinks, parties, dining out and shopping malls too dangerous due to the threat of spreading the virus. The outdoor sports of hunting and fishing allow the whole family to participate while still maintaining social distancing.

Hunting and fishing in Alabama does require a license, but these are available at many different retailers, your county courthouse and online directly from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Lifetime licenses are also available.

Money used from fishing licenses as well as the sale of hunting and fishing gear are used to preserve and protect Alabama’s diverse wildlife resources and their habitats.

More information about the Pike County Public Fishing Lake is available online.

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The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: marine resources, state lands, state parks, and wildlife and freshwater fisheries. More information is available online about the ADCNR.

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