Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Off-road vehicles face new restrictions New statewide restrictions will soon ban off-highway vehicles (OHVs) from leaving established roads and trails, according to Payson Ranger District officials. "We're pretty close right now to a forest amendment that will restrict OHVs from going off road," Payson Ranger District official Walt Thole said. "We might actually have a signed decision this month to implement no cross country travel on the six national forests in Arizona.".... All-Terrain Vehicle Riders Rally in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for Road Access On Saturday, about 130 ATV riders rallied in Coeur d'Alene for greater trail and road access. "Don't lock us out" and "Forests belong to everyone," read the signs in a motor-parade that began at the forest headquarters on Kathleen Avenue, and continued to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's regional office. The Backcountry ATV Association organized the peaceful demonstration.... Grazing in Southwest Devastates Streams, Species Habitat Representing a coalition of environmental, hunting, and wildlife protection groups, Earthjustice sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service today for illegally approving a grazing plan harmful to the threatened Mexican spotted owl. The suit challenges livestock grazing on national forests in New Mexico and Arizona. The suit, filed in federal court in Tucson, is the second lawsuit that seeks region-wide enforcement of grazing standards requiring the agency to protect sensitive wildlife, including the Mexican spotted owl. The standards, put into effect in 1996, require Fish and Wildlife to monitor and protect desert, forest, grassland, and streamside ecosystems from damage due to livestock grazing. The standards called for monitoring and limiting the amount of grass cows eat and restoring damaged streams. According to information obtained from the Forest Service, up to 80 percent of grazing allotments in the region violated one or more of these standards between 2000 and 2002.... Panel says lion hunt will resume after 5-day suspension Mountain lion hunting in Sabino Canyon will resume at week's end, after honoring a five-day moratorium, members of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission decided Tuesday. In a unanimous vote, the five commissioners decided that reports of mountain-lion sightings and stalkings in the canyon on the northeast end of Tucson mean that humans are at risk.... Mended plots of prairie help to revive butterfly For much of the last century, Fender's blue butterfly was thought to have vanished, just like most of the Willamette Valley grasslands where it had long fluttered amid purple lupines. But the inch-wide butterfly was rediscovered in 1989 and scattered remnants of its population declared an endangered species in 2000. Now, the brilliant Oregon native appears to be on its way back, with new surveys in a few sites showing its numbers at some of their highest levels yet.... Suit Challenges Military Training Site A preservation group has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Army's decision to allow the Marines to conduct live-fire training in a valley many Native Hawaiians consider sacred. The Waianae Coast group, Malama Makua, said the use of mortars and shoulder-launched rockets pose serious risk of starting fires in Makua Valley on the island of Oahu. The lawsuit filed Monday night seeks to stop all training activities with the potential to start fires that could threaten cultural sites and endangered species.... Plan adopted to protect rare wildflower habitat in central Wyoming A rare wildflower found only in central Wyoming is getting additional protection from the federal government, although some argue the new rules will have little effect. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday approved a plan designating 360 acres of public land in Fremont County as critical habitat for the desert yellowhead, a rare member of the sunflower family. Two years ago, the government listed the flower as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. While that listing protected the plant itself, critical habitat designation requires federal agencies to safeguard its habitat as well.... Groups seek to protect rare flower on plateau A request to list a rare wildflower found only on the Roan Plateau under the Endangered Species Act was filed Monday by a group of botanists and conservation groups. The Colorado Native Plant Society, Center for Native Ecosystems and botanists Steve O’Kane and Janey Hines Broderick filed the request with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Parachute penstemon. They cited a dramatic increase in natural-gas drilling in western Colorado and the Bush administration’s push for drilling on the plateau, west of Rifle, as reasons to file the request. A Colorado Oil and Gas Association official called the move a “relatively common tactic” by environmentalists to try to find any way to halt drilling.... FWS again accused of trespassing A second trespassing complaint has been filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an incident that occurred on Feb. 15 at the Flying River Ranch west of Meeteetse. According to Flying River owners Dan Ochsner and Sue Barrett, the trespassing occurred the day after and next door to Larsen Ranch, the site of another highly publicized trespassing claim involving four tranquilized wolves, an FWS agent and his assistant. Though they did not see any wolves, Ochsner and Barrett said they spotted two FWS agents on their property who hadn't asked if they could be there.... Community fears big cats Two months after reports of Florida panthers frequenting the Pinecrest community near Loop Road in the Big Cypress Preserve, several wildlife agencies admit the animals may pose a safety concern to residents. "There are no known cases of panthers attacking humans in Florida," says Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officer Henry Cabbage, "However, the presence of panthers that seem to have grown accustomed to being around humans is unusual enough to deserve attention." State and federal conservation officials met with Pinecrest area residents and other concerned individuals, Mar. 6, to discuss the presence of panthers around residences and a conservation education center. Jan Michael Jacobson, of the Everglades Institute, says the problem is more than a just concern. He says he fears for his life and the lives of nearby residents.... Bison capture facility filling up Yellowstone National Park's bison pens are likely to reach capacity this week, which means trapped animals will be shipped to slaughter whether they have brucellosis or not. "Once the holding capacity has been reached at that facility, all remaining bison will be shipped to slaughter without testing," park spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews said Tuesday. Bison continue to move toward the park's northern boundary, she added.... Bears begin to emerge from dens Bears are awakening from their long winter's sleep. That means they're hungry and people need to be careful when working or recreating in bear country. Both grizzly and black bears are emerging from their dens in Yellowstone National Park, park officials announced recently. Those bruins typically look for the carcasses of winter-killed animals like deer and elk, an important food source at a critical time of year.... National Park Rangers 'Endangered' The nonpartisan park watchdog, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today issued a groundbreaking report on the critical shortage of staff in America's national parks, a shortage that directly affects the experiences of millions of visitors this summer and cripples the ability of the National Park Service to protect the nation's heritage. "America's national park rangers have become an endangered species," said NPCA President Thomas Kiernan. "President Bush--and some of his predecessors--made strong commitments to the American people about protecting our national parks. But when push comes to shove, the parks are under funded year after year by Washington."....go here(pdf) for the NPCA report.... NPS Retirees to Expose Plans to Cut Services at National Parks This Summer The nonpartisan Coalition of Concerned National Park Service (NPS) Retirees will hold a March 17, 2004, news conference to reveal previously undisclosed Bush Administration plans for cuts that will have to be made this summer in weekend and holiday services at U.S. national parks. The behind-closed-doors planning for NPS cuts in services to the public took place even as the Interior Department unveiled a late February 2004 partnership with a national travel agents group to INCREASE the number of visitors to national parks.... NATIONAL PARKS AIR POLLUTION PROTECTIONS SHREDDED In a series of recent actions, political appointees of the Bush Administration have undermined the law that protects air quality in the nation's parks, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the special safeguards for visibility and breathability of the air in our National Parks have been quietly gutted without public involvement or Congressional approval.... Ethics office says U.S. Interior official didn't act improperly The Office of Government Ethics said the Interior Department's No. 2 official, Steven Griles, did not appear to violate ethics rules by arranging meetings between Interior officials and his former lobbying clients and partners. The office, after reviewing an 18-month investigation by the Interior Department's inspector general, said it found no ethics violations by Griles in the department's awarding of more than $1.6 million in contracts in 2001 and 2002 to Advanced Power Technologies Inc., a former client.... Pact would give Indians more control of remains Tribes would have more say in the management of American Indian remains and cultural sites along the Missouri River under an agreement in the final stages of review. Known as the Programmatic Agreement, the document would replace an older one that gave little voice to the people, according to James Picotte, historic preservation officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.... Column: The States Step Up While the Bushies sit on their hands and Congress moves at a snail's pace (although news this week that Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman are scheming to force a vote on their global warming amendment to the national energy bill is certainly promising), the states are stepping up to the climate change challenge, with a bipartisan group of Northeastern governors planning to announce a historic agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. And in the Pacific Northwest, Washington is poised to issue its own similar proposal.... Column: Do you know anyone who is “just a farmer”? An older gentleman was at a social affair. People were introducing themselves to each other. This man said, “I’m just a dirt farmer.” That troubles me. Don’t get me wrong. Humility is wonderful thing. What bothers me is that some of our farmers have a poor public image and act as if there is something demeaning about the profession. They should be proud of what they do and who they are. I can’t think of a profession that deserves more honor than this handful of people who feed half the civilized world....On The Edge Of Common Sense: Farmer had a system for playing the lottery Margaret and Mel have farmed for years out on the plains. They regularly spend a few dollars a week on the lotto. Like many folks, they had a system to pick their lucky numbers, theirs included the kids' birthdays and their own. Some might harbor the impression that farmers are too tight-fisted with a dollar to gamble. Actually, it's just the opposite. Granted, they are stingy about painting the house, buying new tires, trading cattle, or selling cowdog pups, but gambling? They do it everyday!....

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