Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Federal court denies road into Absarokas A landowner with property deep inside the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area doesn't have the right to build nine miles of road to his land, a federal appeals court has ruled. The court found that the trust has a right to adequate access to the property. But it found that the hiking, horse and helicopter access Sievers already has is sufficient. Justices cited federal law stating that adequate access is reasonable access that allows for the private land's enjoyment "and that minimizes damage or disturbance to National Forest System lands and resources." Environmentalists, who joined the case on the Forest Service's behalf, hailed the appeals court's decision as a major victory for wilderness protection.... Alleged eco-saboteur arrested A fugitive radical environmentalist wanted in Oregon for setting fire to logging and cement trucks in 2001 was captured in Canada while shoplifting, the FBI said Monday. Michael Scarpitti — also known as Tre Arrow — was arrested by police in Victoria, British Columbia on Saturday, said Robert Jordan, the FBI's special agent in charge in Portland.... Settlement will prevent planned killing of pumas Mountain lions in the Four Peaks Wilderness Area northeast of the Valley will not be shot for a biological project as a result of a lawsuit settlement. That project proposed shooting the lions to study what effect their diminished numbers would have on the bighorn sheep population in the Four Peaks area. But eight animal-protection groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year to stop the project, claiming the work violated environmental and wilderness laws.... BLM Director: Nevada building case against sage grouse listing State protection plans like one being developed in Nevada are helping build a case against listing the sage grouse as an endangered species, a top U.S. land manager said Monday. But Kathleen Clarke, director of the Bureau of Land Management, also said several Western states are lagging behind and running out of time to help persuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep the bird off the list of federally protected species at the end of this year.... Coalition runs ads pushing for prairie dog protection A Santa Fe-based environmental group that’s pressing for federal protection for prairie dogs has taken out full-page newspaper ads in three states. Forest Guardians placed the ads today in The Santa Fe New Mexican, The Durango Herald in Colorado and the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff. The ads ask readers to urge their elected officials to help save the animals. Forest Guardians contends the demise of prairie dogs over the years has harmed other plants and animals that rely on them to provide a critical habitat.... Fish-killing ban sparks cultural war A sudden move by state regulators to ban killing wild steelhead in the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula has touched off a culture war. Many locals are seething. The mayor is threatening to sue. Area merchants wonder whether fishermen will stay away if they can't take home a trophy. Indian tribes worry the ban will worsen resentment of their tribal fishing rights.... Column: What kind of management for mountain lions? There is no question why on Jan. 8 the same mountain lion killed and ate 35-year-old Mark Reynolds, and then attacked and mauled 30-year-old Anne Hjelle: It was hungry. But the main reason is that the lion had no fear of humans: We are just another food source. Both bicyclists were on a trail a few hundred yards from homes. Last Tuesday, authorities killed two lions near residential areas, one in Mammoth Lakes and another in Morgan Hill, where three lions had entered a backyard. That's why I believe the lion sighting and potential threat in Folsom should be taken seriously by outdoor enthusiasts throughout California - lions are a threat everywhere in the state now. It has been 30 years since mountain lions were hunted, so they have no fear of us. To them, we're the next meal if they can't find a deer, dog or a cat to eat. Even worse, since passage of Proposition 117 in 1990, which affords lions the same protections given threatened or endangered species, the DFG can't thin the population.... Thomas tries to end 'venue shopping' U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., told a Casper audience Monday about his plan to prevent groups from "venue shopping" when they file public lands lawsuits in U.S. District Court. Groups venue shop when they file lawsuits in jurisdictions they think will be more favorable to their interests. Thomas' bill would require lawsuits on agency action by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service be heard by the district court "where the affected land is located.".... Internet Cutoff Ordered at Interior A federal judge in Washington yesterday ordered the Interior Department to shut down most of its employees' Internet access and some of its public Web sites after concluding that the agency has failed to fix computer security problems that threaten millions of dollars owed to Native Americans. The most recent decision covers computer connections and Web sites in the Inspector General's Office, the Minerals Management Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Office of the Special Trustee, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Office of Surface Mining, and the National Business Center.... 150 more bison captured in Yellowstone More than 150 bison were captured in Yellowstone National Park on Sunday and Monday as part of an ongoing effort to keep the animals from leaving the park. Park officials said some of the bison would be tested for brucellosis, a contagious disease that state and federal officials are worried might be transmitted to nearby cattle. So far this year, about 450 bison have been captured on the north end of Yellowstone. Of those, 154 have tested negative for the disease - including 79 young bison that have received a vaccine - and will be held at the Stephens Creek pen until release this spring. Also this year, 145 have tested positive for exposure to brucellosis and have been sent to slaughter. Another seven were sent to slaughter without being tested and one bull bison was shot and killed.... Drilling projects test commitment to new methods Two Colorado energy projects are providing a litmus test for the Bush administration's commitment to drilling the West's vast energy fields without scarring the landscape for future generations. At issue is whether directional drilling - which creates multiple oil and gas wells from a single drilling location - should be required by federal agencies. The government is expected to decide this year how best to develop federally owned energy deposits beneath the Roan Plateau near Rifle and the HD Mountains near Durango.... Otero Mesa becomes battleground for development policies When George Yates and Walter Whitford gaze out over the high-desert southern New Mexico grassland known as Otero Mesa, their visions of its future couldn't be more different. Yates is an oil and gas producer who envisions a pipeline connecting wellheads that will produce clean-burning natural gas and help keep fuel prices down. Whitford, an ecologist, fears such development will forever change the grassland -- which is owned by the Bureau of Land Management and is the largest U.S. remnant of an ecosystem that provides a home for hundreds of species of plants and animals.... Nevada gold mine plan raises prospect of polluting in perpetuity On a high-desert mountain where prospectors first struck it rich in the 1860s, the world's largest gold mining company plans a major expansion that critics say could pollute the environment for tens of thousands of years. Newmont Mining Corp.'s proposed $200 million Phoenix project would cover nearly 10 square miles of northern Nevada, reclaiming parts of an existing 3,000-acre contaminated site and spreading gold mining operations over an additional 4,300 acres beginning in 2006.... Mercury Emissions Rule Geared to Benefit Industry, Staffers Say Political appointees in the Environmental Protection Agency bypassed agency professional staff and a federal advisory panel last year to craft a rule on mercury emissions preferred by the industry and the White House, several longtime EPA officials say. The EPA staffers say they were told not to undertake the normal scientific and economic studies called for under a standing executive order. At the same time, the proposal to regulate mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants was written using key language provided by utility lobbyists.... Battle of Battle Creek: Which way to save salmon? Five years ago, a consensus was reached to resuscitate the salmon runs: remove five of the eight small PG&E hydropower dams on Battle Creek and outfit the remaining three with fish ladders. It was a revolutionary concept in the 150-year history of water development in California; it would mark the first time that dams would come down rather than go up. But today the projected price tag for a Battle Creek restoration has skyrocketed, from $26 million to about $75 million, and not a single dam has been removed.... State leaders keep water flowing Farmers, dairymen, trout producers and state leaders reached a tentative deal Monday that keeps well water flowing to farms across more than a million acres of Idaho for at least another year. The deal gives spring water users, who have long been shorted water for which they are legally entitled, money, water and a new business development effort by the state.... Proposal for water is rejected A plan by a private company to gain title to about 94 billion gallons of "wasted" water in the Jordan River/Utah Lake watershed has struck an iceberg. On Monday, the state engineer rejected three water-rights applications filed several years ago by Western Water LLC. Jerry Olds, who heads the Utah Division of Water Rights, ruled that Western Water failed on all five legal tests required by state law, including the one that says no water rights shall be granted for financial speculation or monopoly.... Stubborn drought stressing plants, humans in the West Less obvious, but more profound, are other impacts. Los Angeles' reservoirs are dwindling, the water table beneath Las Vegas is disappearing, and millions of trees in Arizona and New Mexico are dying off. A continuing drought could wipe out farmers and ranchers throughout the West, from pinto bean growers in New Mexico to cantaloupe farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley. And it could stifle the sprawling growth of the West's swimming-pool-dotted suburbs. Scientists say this present crisis may reflect the true character of the West - an arid land that Americans have not inhabited long enough to fully understand....U.S. "tick rider" agents guard against Mexican cows Federal agent Ken De Yonge rides the north bank of the Rio Grande River on horseback, hunting down illegal border crossers with a sharp eye, a sturdy rope, and a magnifying glass. De Yonge is not looking for illegal immigrants who swim the river dividing Mexico and the United States in search of jobs, or drug couriers who ferry marijuana across on rafts. Instead, this modern cowboy scans the open range for Mexican livestock who are smuggled or who stray into Texas carrying ticks infected with a deadly bovine disease. From the mouth of the Rio Grande to the border town of Del Rio, Texas, some 65 of these special border agents, called "tick riders," are the U.S. cattle industry's first line of defense against bovine piroplasmosis, also known as cattle fever, or Texas fever.... It's All Trew: If you could get the signal, radio was great fun The new movie theater was showing a silent movie about the Four 6 Ranch with a live piano player furnishing music and an old cowboy on stage narrating the film. Out in the lobby, a second technological miracle had been installed. While waiting for the movie to start, patrons took turns listening through a headphone to the Grand Old Opry fading in and out on the airwaves....

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