Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Lawsuit: More heli-skiing, snowmobiles will scare Methow critters The U.S. Forest Service failed to take increasing winter recreation impacts into account when it approved expanded backcountry snowmobiling and helicopter skiing in the Methow Valley, conservation groups alleged Tuesday. Five groups sued the agency in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore., on Friday, taking the Forest Service to task for approving special use permits in July 2002 that expanded areas where heli-skiing and snowmobiles are allowed in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests. The permits nearly double the number of helicopter trips allowed, and nearly triple the number of clients snowmobilers can take into the backcountry....Recovery Plan Out for Rarest U.S. Trout The government is proposing a recovery plan for ``the rarest trout in America'' that might include poisoning a stretch of Sierra Nevada creek in an attempt to rid the threatened fish of nonnative competitors. The Paiute cutthroat trout is native only to part of upper Silver King Creek, which flows into the Carson River south of Lake Tahoe in California's remote Alpine County. In cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Game, the federal service wants to rid an 11-mile lower section of the creek of other fish so the Paiute cutthroat can return there as well. That would help not only the native trout, but the rare mountain yellow-legged frog, which can be wiped out by nonnative fish, the service said in the half-million dollar recovery plan released Monday. It said habitat improvements also would benefit the rare Yosemite toad.... Feds to Impound Cattle on Federal Land The U.S. government says it will remove a herd of up to 450 cattle illegally grazing on federal land, setting up a showdown with the ranching couple who own the livestock. In December, Diamond Bar Ranch owners Kit and Sherry Laney were found in contempt for grazing cattle in the Gila National Forest in violation of earlier court orders. Most of the 146,000-acre ranch, which dates to 1883, is on the Gila land. The Laneys argued that they had grazing rights based on historical use of the land predating the forest's creation in 1964. But a federal appeals court rejected that argument in 1999. In a public notice in the Silver City Daily Press last week, Laney asserted: ``Anyone who moves, drives or in any other way takes any of the livestock ranging on the Diamond Bar ... will be guilty of stealing ... and will be subject to arrest and prosecution by the county sheriff and-or brand inspector.''.... APS says it will cost $34 million to cut trees along its lines in Arizona Arizona Public Service Co. estimates it will cost nearly $34 million to cut down all the dead pine trees along its electrical lines in Arizona. APS has 2,100 miles of power lines running through ponderosa pine forests in Arizona. Experts hired by APS estimated that 748,586 dead trees will be within 150 feet of APS power corridors by 2006, and it will cost an average $45 per tree to remove them.... Old growth forest expert questions Biscuit fire salvage logging U.S. Forest Service plans to aggressively harvest trees burned in the 2002 Biscuit fire would harm old growth forest reserves for the next century and are not needed to reduce fire danger, says Jerry Franklin, a leading expert on old growth forest ecology. The only thing worse for the spotted owl habitat burned in the fire than removing large dead trees would be logging large green trees, Franklin wrote in formal comments on the draft environmental impact statement on the Biscuit Fire Recovery Project. "The consensus in the ecological community at this point is salvage logging rarely contributes anything positive to the recovery processes," Franklin said Monday from his office in Seattle.... Smokey Bear Statue Stolen During Wildfires A Smokey Bear statue was stolen from a federal fire station just outside Jamul as firefighters battled the wildfires in October. The statue was in front of the fire station housed at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex and was discovered missing on Nov. 3, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released information about the theft Monday....Ghost roads haunt owners of private land Fighting broke out shortly after A.J. Chamberlin moved onto her 28 acres in the mountains west of Boulder two years ago. Her neighbor, Walter Plywaski, believed he had a right to walk across the Chamberlin property to access federal land on the other side. His claim was based on old roads laid down years ago, maybe as long ago as gold rush days. "People were insulted; people were chased," Plywaski said of an incident in which his daughter was driven from the Chamberlin land. "Is this the way to be neighbors?" "I told her to get off my property," Chamberlin said. "We believe it's our property. They believe it's public land." Their comments came during and immediately after a recent meeting where U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., explained his proposal to resolve hundreds of similar disputes raging throughout the West - everywhere ancient roadways cross privately held land.... Claws of life Before Eugene Kumm vanished Jan. 18 on Mt. San Gorgonio, a forest official warned him about the treacherous ice on rugged Vivian Creek Trail and the need to carry a crucial piece of gear: crampons, metal spikes that hikers attach to their boots to provide traction in perilous winter conditions. The 25-year-old Seal Beach man assured the official that he had crampons in his backpack along with a sleeping bag, tent and heavy clothes for an overnight stay along the trail about a thousand feet below the 11,502-foot summit.... Bush's 2005 budget includes $105 million for Klamath water The president's budget for 2005 includes $105 million for balancing fish against farms in the Klamath Basin, an increase of 21 percent, the Bush administration announced Tuesday. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, speaking from Washington, said the Klamath Basin was serving as a model colaboratively to meet the needs of agriculture, Indian tribes, the Endangered Species Act and others. Projects include $4.6 million toward buying the Barnes Ranch to increase water storage and restore wetlands on Upper Klamath Lake, which doubles as the primary irrigation storage reservoir in the basin and the main habitat for endangered suckers. Rich MacIntyre of American Lands Conservancy, which is brokering the deal, said talks continue on a final price. There is also $2.1 million to complete removal of the Chiloquin irrigation dam on the Sprague River to restore 70 miles of sucker spawning habitat, $12 million for helping farmers use less irrigation water and protect fish and wildlife habitat, $5.9 million to develop partnerships for restoring fish habitat, and $2.5 million for new studies on restoring populations of endangered suckers.... White House seeks to ease pesticide reviews Officials admit they pretty much ignore an Endangered Species Act requirement that they consult with one another before licensing new pesticides. Now they want regulations to say they don't always have to do what they're already not doing. The Bush administration proposes allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to approve new pesticides without a formal sign-off in every case from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. "There haven't been any effective consultations in the last decade, and few before that," said Clint Riley, special assistant to the Fish and Wildlife Service director. "This has been sitting around under the cover for a lot of years.".... Counties get wolf predator request Commissioners Tuesday morning briefly discussed an e-mail sent by the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, Inc.'s chairman Robert T. Fanning Jr. to Montana counties, in anticipation of a Feb. 20 meeting of county commissioners in Helena. In the letter, Fanning called on officials to adopt resolutions under the Endangered Species Act that, among other things, would ask the "Secretary of Agriculture for immediate and meaningful predator control." He also cited a recent resolution adopted by Carbon County commissioners, declaring wolves under federal management as "problem predators" to establish controls to protect livestock there. Fanning asked that Montana counties adopt resolutions in anticipation of protracted legal battles over removing wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act. He also wants them to intervene on behalf of the federal government in an environmental group's lawsuit, which Fanning contended is "blocking wolf delisting," and to have all Montana county commissions write to Gov. Martz asking her to request in writing to Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton that wolves be immediately taken off the endangered species list.... U.S. to Rule on Beluga Caviar HE federal Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to rule this week on whether to protect beluga sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act, a move that would ban sales of beluga caviar in the United States. The species has been threatened by a loss of habitat in the Caspian and Black Seas, overharvesting, pollution and illegal trade. A final ruling, drawn up by the service's Scientific Authority, is due by Saturday. Robert R. Gabel, the chief of that division, said he could not disclose the ruling. But Greg Jackson, a special agent in charge of the service's investigative branch, said he thought that the department would list the beluga as endangered.... Now all us poor ol' cowboys and cowgirls will go hungry. What will I do without my caviar!! Those damn Ruskies are still causin' problems. .... Smith seeks species act changes Sen. Gordon Smith has introduced legislation that would change the Endangered Species Act to require more scrutiny of science used in implementation of the law. Smith's bill, introduced on the day Congress convened last week, is nearly identical to a companion measure submitted to the House last April by fellow Republican Rep. Greg Walden. Both lawmakers say changes are necessary to bring fairness to the process of protecting endangered species. Smith's bill would require greater weight be given to field-tested and scientifically reviewed data when decisions are made under the ESA. "Decisions based on bad science can take a tremendous toll on people who make their living from the land," Smith said in a press release. "Just as importantly, the environment doesn't benefit from flawed policies.".... Groups want risks to Barton Springs assessed A lawsuit by Central Texas environmentalists and others seeks to force the federal government to determine whether six pesticides detected in a popular swimming hole are harming endangered salamanders. The Save Our Springs Alliance on Monday sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday in Washington, contending that it has repeatedly failed to consider the extent to which common pesticides may might be harming endangered species. The Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson, Ariz.-based group, joined in the lawsuit. It urges a federal court to force the EPA to assess the risks and determine appropriate safeguards in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.... Column: The case of the endangered jumping mouse On December 18, 2003, Governor Freudenthal released information that Wyoming had paid $61,430 to fund the study and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife kicked in an additional $20,000 and according to DNA results, these mice were not in short supply but were actually abundant. "The DNA work shows that the mouse they called Preble’s is actually part of a healthy population of mice throughout the northern plains," said state Department of Agriculture John Etchepare. "Even better is that the habitat is in great shape from Montana to Colorado." The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the Endangered Species Act, refused to remove the mouse from the Endangered Species list in spite of the research Wyoming Governor Freudenthal released that would prove the mouse not to be endangered. "It is unfortunate that the mouse could be originally listed using such poor and unsubstantiated information," said Vern Stelter, a habitat protection biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "The fact that this mouse was listed at all is a clear call for revised federal policy to ensure that endangered species actions are more supportable and science-based in the future.".... Bush officials laud salmon 'successes' on Northwest trip With salmon runs at their highest numbers in decades -- and a presidential campaign looming -- the Bush administration has begun calling attention to salmon recovery in the Northwest as a sign of its environmental stewardship. Monday at Bonneville Dam, senior administration officials announced a proposed $10 million increase for salmon habitat restoration and called the Northwest's endangered species efforts a model for the nation. The funding increase is relatively small in comparison with the $700 million spent annually on Columbia Basin salmon, and far less than Native American tribes and conservation groups say is necessary. But administration officials emphasize the stunning salmon returns -- a simple and direct measure of results.... 3 wolf packs frequent the Foothills Three packs of wolves are living within 30 miles of Boise so it´s no surprise to federal wolf managers that people are reporting the predators in the Boise Foothills. Officials are getting scattered reports of wolves above Lucky Peak and around the Foothills as deer and elk migrate from the mountains to the Boise area, said Carter Niemeyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Idaho wolf recovery coordinator. There have not been complaints about the wolves and officials have not attempted to confirm their presence. “We couldn´t begin to have the man hours to follow up every report,” he said. Wolves have been seasonal visitors to the Foothills, following their prey to their winter range at least since 1999, federal officials believe. They have been confirmed south and west of the city for the last five years as the wolf population has rapidly grown since 1995.... Restoration project back on track With time-consuming and costly litigation out of the way, officials said Tuesday a planned $90 million restoration of San Dieguito Lagoon could begin in the summer of 2005. The restoration will create 115 acres of tidal basins on either side of Interstate 5 south of Via de la Valle, east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds in a low-lying area now closed to the sea most of the year. Altogether up to 500 acres of wetlands will be rejuvenated by the project, which Southern California Edison is financing to compensate for marine life killed by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's cooling system. The power plant's cooling system draws in millions of gallons of seawater hourly to help cool its reactors, killing small fish and other creatures.... Another Mexican gray wolf found dead near Beaverhead Another Mexican gray wolf has been found dead in the Gila National Forest. The body of a female from the Francisco Pack was discovered Thursday west of Beaverhead (east of Snow Lake), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported. Another wolf, an alpha female from the Bonito Creek Pack, was found dead Jan. 16 on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona. Officials are awaiting necropsy results to determine what killed the animals. The incidents bring to 13 the number of wolf deaths in southwest New Mexico and eastern Arizona since March.... To Reopen Monument, Cash Is Order of the Day The Statue of Liberty, a worldwide symbol of this nation's freedom, remains shuttered and closed to visitors more than two years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. National Park Service officials say they cannot afford the estimated $5 million needed to build emergency exits and reopen the statue. So although tourists can ride a ferry across the harbor to Liberty Island, they cannot walk into the bronze monument, which has yellow police tape stretched around its perimeter.... Grand Canyon bookstore reorders 300-plus copies of book Officials at the Grand Canyon National Park have ordered additional copies of "Grand Canyon: A Different View" -- a hardcover book of photos and essays advocating creation science and being sold in the park's bookstores. Elaine Sevy, a spokesperson with the National Park Service (NPS), confirmed additional copies have been ordered, indicating a quantity of perhaps hundreds before stating she did not know the precise number. However, the book's compiler -- Tom Vail of Phoenix -- told Baptist Press the park had ordered more than 300 additional copies.... Wild horses scheduled to be rounded up As many as 251 wild horses adjacent to the western edge of Lahontan Reservoir, nearly the entire herd in the area, are scheduled to be rounded up over the next week to help remove excess animals throughout the state. Bureau of Land Management officials said the roundup is set to begin around Thursday in the Lahontan Herd Management Area in Lyon County. The horses are about 45 miles east of Carson City. Based on range conditions and available forage in the herd area, BLM officials have set the appropriate management level at seven to 10 wild horses. Officials estimate there are approximately 261 wild horses in the herd area.... Feds roll out conflict fix Financial incentives and planning assistance are parts of the Bureau of Land Management's new policy and guidance rules aimed at avoiding and resolving conflicts in Wyoming that arise where coalbed methane gas production threatens to slow coal production in the Powder River Basin. BLM staff is ready to finalize the new rules and recently held an open house meeting to discuss the plan in Gillette. The federal agency is offering a 50 percent royalty rate reduction to entice coalbed methane developers to quickly harvest the gas before their operations interrupt coal production, according to BLM officials. Potential conflict areas have been mapped so both industries can coordinate plans, and the BLM will give priority to permitting coalbed methane gas wells in the identified conflict zones.... An exclusive showing of private Western art His private collection will be among those displayed at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg starting Feb. 7. What some call the West's most Western museum will present "Arizona Collects: Western Art From the State's Great Private Collections." More than 100 works will be on exhibit. The event showcases paintings, sculpture and drawings from the state's most important private collections. These works have never been seen in public before. Artwork from early pioneering artists, such as Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, will be a focal point. The artists of the famous Taos Society are featured, including Victor Higgins, who created the dramatic painting San Geronimo Day. Leading contemporary artists, including iconic Native American artists Allan Houser and Fritz Scholder, are also represented. Paintings by Cowboy Artist of America co-founder Joe Beeler and Bill Owen (who ranches in the Wickenburg area) are also showcased....

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