Thursday, April 15, 2004


Group claims Forest Service conflict in judging Biscuit fire salvage appeals An environmental group has petitioned the government to change the rules for deciding appeals of the Biscuit fire salvage logging plan, arguing that the U.S. Forest Service has a conflict of interest because it stands to gain millions of dollars from selling burned timber. Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, based in Eugene, formally asked Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to change the rules so that administrative appeals of timber sales are heard by an administrative law judge rather than the regional forester. Because the proceeds from salvage sales go directly to a salvage trust fund controlled by the Forest Service, rather than to the U.S. Treasury, the agency has an inherent conflict of interest, said Andy Stahl, director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.... Court weighs challenge to government worker tracking The court heard arguments in an appeal by former U.S. Forest Service worker Tamera Meredith, convicted of two arson counts involving forest fires set in 1998 in the Umpqua National Forest. Authorities said Meredith, a fire prevention technician, set fires so she could earn overtime fighting them. Investigators put an electronic tracking device on her Forest Service truck, and she was seen setting one fire by people in a surveillance plane who tracked the vehicle. Meredith is challenging her convictions on grounds that secretly tracking her amounted to a warrantless search that violated her protection against unreasonable searches under the state constitution.... An interview with Bush's point person on species and parks Craig Manson is the man President Bush selected to protect America's critters. And like many top dogs in this administration, he's not exactly considered a good friend of the environmental community. As assistant interior secretary for fish, wildlife, and parks, Manson implements the Endangered Species Act, determines the direction of the National Park System and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and oversees some 30,000 employees.... Family Gas Empire vs. Governor on a Mesa Out West Ever since the wildcatting days of the 1920's, the Yates family has left its mark on the oil patch of southeastern New Mexico. The headquarters of Yates Petroleum, a futuristic building with a glittering skyway that juts out in the otherwise hardscrabble town of Artesia, stands as a gleaming symbol of its might. Yet while the family is one of New Mexico's wealthiest, and the state's largest contributor to state and federal political campaigns, that has not stopped Gov. Bill Richardson from clashing with it over plans to drill for natural gas. Their fight involves a pristine area of desert grasslands and cattle ranches known as Otero Mesa, which stretches northeast from the Hueco Mountains in Texas to the Guadalupe Mountains in southern New Mexico.... Thousands of Rocky Mountain Drilling Permits Go Unused With the oil and gas industry clamoring for the Bureau of Land Management to speed up the processing and issuance of drilling permits, The Wilderness Society today revealed that more than 6,000 drilling permits have not been used over the past decade. Haefele and Dr. Pete Morton co-authored The Wilderness Society report entitled "Drilling in the Rockies? Not so Fast!" Their research found that as much as 60 percent of the leases currently held by the oil and gas industry are not in production. That amounts to 23 million acres throughout the Rocky Mountain West, and 31 million acres nationally, that are leased but not being used.... One-fourth of permitted wells not being drilled, figures show Roughly a fourth of oil and gas wells with permits approved by the Bureau of Land Management have not been drilled, despite skyrocketing oil and gas prices that have prompted Republicans in Congress to demand more access by oil companies to public lands. More than 7,000 oil and gas wells that received permits in the last 10 years have gone untouched, prompting conservationists to question why the Bush administration has been advocating opening new land to drilling and streamlining the permit process. However, Andrew Bremner, director of government affairs for the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States, said there is a certain amount of guesswork in oil and gas drilling. Producers seek permits for an area where they suspect there may be oil or gas, but they don't know which wells will produce until drilling starts. At a cost that can reach $1.5 million per well, permits unlikely to succeed are abandoned.... Cannon: Combine school trust lands to raise money Utah's school trust lands need to be consolidated to raise more money for Utah schools, said Utah Rep. Chris Cannon on Wednesday. Within the next two to three months, Cannon plans to introduce in Congress what he called the first of many bills that would consolidate school trust lands through land swaps with the federal government.... What will become of the Sagebrush Sea? The Owyhee’s close call with becoming a national monument spurred environmentalists, ranchers and recreationists into action. Whether for or against wilderness preservation, these groups realized they must act quickly to safeguard their interests—whether it be protecting the land or keeping it free of rules and regulations. Thus was borne the Owyhee Initiative Working Group—a consortium of ranching, environmental and recreation representatives assigned the task of coming up with an Owyhee wilderness proposal to present to Sen. Mike Crapo, who would then take it to Capitol Hill. This week, after more than two years of meetings, wrangling and negotiations, the Owyhee Initiative Working Group finally reached a compromise for a wilderness proposal and unveiled it to the public.... Sage grouse protection study to continue The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that substantial evidence exists to warrant an in-depth investigation of the greater sage grouse. Officials announced the finding Thursday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will launch a 12-month study to determine whether the greater sage grouse should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, said Sharon Rose of Fish and Wildlife's Denver office.... Column: Renewable Energy, Enviros and New Job Creation The global warming controversy took a new twist this week. Global warming handwringers are now trying to make it a "jobs" issue. "Investing in renewable energy such as solar, wind and the use of municipal and agricultural waste for fuel would produce more American jobs than a comparable investment in the fossil energy sources in place today," a new report from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley states. Probably not coincidentally, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson issued a joint recommendation this week for more renewable energy use in part to "create lasting jobs." The Berkeley researchers say that increasing renewable energy use, mostly agricultural biomass burning, could create as many as 240,000 new jobs by 2020. That's compared with only about 75,000 new jobs if the nation sticks to fossil fuels, according to the researchers. But even giving the Berkeley researchers the benefit of the doubt, renewable energy as a jobs issue is downright silly. Our recovering economy added 308,000 jobs in March alone. Who cares about a comparatively measly 240,000 jobs that only might be added over the next 16 years?.... The Great Divide Kermit the Frog was right: It’s not easy being green. And these days, it’s harder than ever. Not only are even the most levelheaded activists labeled “eco-terrorists” by seemingly moderate conservatives, but mainstream enviros—faced with the nation’s most ecologically disastrous White House ever—are growing increasingly inquisitive about the effectiveness of the modern environmental movement. And if that weren’t enough, now the Sierra Club—the United States’ most recognized environmental group, whose decorated history, dedicated membership, and dollar-rich wallet is the envy of nonprofits and even small governments everywhere—is facing a power struggle that threatens to tear the 112-year-old organization through its core.... Students, teachers organize to support environmental issues Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum. Where that vacuum consists of a lack of appreciation and support for the health of Mom Nature herself, it must seem especially repugnant. Earth Team to the rescue. This new network, designed to nurture the next generation of environmentalists, had its seed planted in 1999. That was when a group of East Bay activists tried to figure out a special way to celebrate Earth Day 2000.... Column, On Earth Day Remember: If Environmentalism Succeeds, It Will Make Human Life Impossible Earth Day approaches, and with it a grave danger faces mankind. The danger is not from acid rain, global warming, smog, or the logging of rain forests, as environmentalists would have us believe. The danger to mankind is from environmentalism. The fundamental goal of environmentalism is not clean air and clean water; rather, it is the demolition of technological/industrial civilization.... Ranchers want feds to start killing wolves Proposed rules giving ranchers far more flexibility to kill problem wolves still don't go far enough, angry ranchers and landowners told federal officials here Thursday night. Although new rules under consideration would let ranchers kill any wolf spotted near livestock, several people said that wasn't enough. And several ranchers said the federal government should start killing wolves because the predators are overpopulated and constantly attacking livestock.... Speaker reflects on links affecting world The world can be divided into four basic types, a noted scholar of nature and environmentalism told an overflow crowd at the Museum of the Rockies Thursday night. The four land types are: the city, the surrounding suburbs, the "working landscape" of farms and ranches and mines and managed forests, and wilderness, where human presence is minimal. And when people argue about the environment, it's usually because of conflicts between one area and another, William Cronon said. The working landscape is butting into the wilderness, for example. Or the city and suburbs are butting into undeveloped land.... Burns open to trading Front leases Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., says he is open to the possibility of trading natural gas leases on the Rocky Mountain Front, Montana's rugged landscape embroiled in the debate about meeting the nation's energy demand. Burns made the statement when he met with representatives of the Montana Wilderness Association at his Washington, D.C., office. If Congress approved the trading of Front gas leases, leaseholders would swap their rights for federally owned leases elsewhere, not necessarily in Montana. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has introduced measures that would direct the Interior Department to study the feasibility of lease trading.... "Land Conservation for Conservatives:" Protecting America's Great Places Prominent land protection advocates from around the United States will be featured speakers at the "Land Conservation for Conservatives" conference to be held in Albuquerque on May 22. The conference is being produced by REP America, the national grassroots organization of Republicans for environmental protection (, in cooperation with ConservAmerica, a non-partisan sister organization dedicated to building a conservative constituency for conservation ( The conference will be held in the historic La Posada de Albuquerque Hotel.... Wife of ambassador to Japan asks agriculture secretary to allow private mad cow tests Former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, wife of the U.S. ambassador to Japan, is asking the Agriculture Department to reconsider its refusal to let American meatpackers do their own tests for mad cow disease. Such testing could promote confidence in U.S. beef and help re-establish exports to countries that ban it now, Baker said in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.... Japan to Relax Requirement for U.S. Beef, Nihon Keizai Says Japan, which has insisted that the U.S. test all cattle bound for Japan for mad cow disease, will relax that requirement, the Nihon Keizai newspaper said. The government's Food Safety Commission yesterday decided to exempt cows younger than 20 months from the test, the newspaper reported, without saying where it obtained the information.... Senate report recommends special NAFTA panel deal with future cases of BSE Canada and its North American trade partners should set up a special secretariat to help ensure future cases of mad cow disease don't send the beef industry into another economic tailspin, says a report by a Senate committee. The federal government should also encourage the development of more beef slaughtering facilities in Canada through venture capital funding, the committee says.... Late Cowboy's Ex-Wife Sues Tobacco Co. The ex-wife of a rodeo cowboy who died of throat cancer has sued a chewing tobacco company, claiming that it caused his death by getting him hooked on its product. Susan Smith contends U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. targets the sport of rodeo, enticing aspiring cowboys to take up the habit the way her ex-husband did when he was 13. Kent Cooper, a 13-time qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo in saddle bronc riding, used Copenhagen chewing tobacco for nearly 30 years, most of which he spent on the pro rodeo circuit. The Albion resident dropped the habit about four years before he died in 2002, at age 47....

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