Thursday, May 20, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Crossing the Red Line Two of the books under review, Bush Versus the Environment and Strategic Ignorance, include climate and energy policy as one example of many in a catalog of administration environmental follies. But it must be said that criticizing Bush's policies on the environment is depressingly easy to do. For more than three years now, day after day and week after week, a small circle of political appointees at the EPA, the Forest Service, the Interior Department, and the Department of Agriculture have proceeded methodically to wreck the system of environmental oversight that dates back to the Nixon administration. Apart from their silence on global warming, they have overturned rule after regulation, largely ceased enforcement actions concerning pollution of the atmosphere and water, and reined in inspectors. Their work is not inspired by a grand ideological vision—it's not like Bush's foreign policy, say, with its idea of America dominating the world. Instead it's institutionalized corruption: a steady payback to the logging, mining, corporate farming, fossil fuel, and other industries that contributed heavily to put Bush in power.... Walden reports progress in air-tanker discussion Talks between the Federal Aviation Administration), the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service aimed at designing a system to certify the airworthiness of fire tankers are progressing well, according to U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. The agencies met Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.... U.S. Touts Forestry Law Success in Court Since December, when President Bush signed a new forestry law, the government has won 17 straight court cases favoring timber cutting over challenges by environmentalists. Bush pushed for the law that sponsors named the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, saying it would reduce wildfires in national forests by thinning trees while also limiting appeals and environmental reviews of proposed timber sales. Environmentalists say the new law has undercut important protection for old-growth trees and remote, roadless areas.... Helicopter logging is gentler Although logging by helicopter makes up only 10 percent of the logging done on the Crescent Ranger District, the maneuverable aircraft are an essential tool when it comes to cutting down and removing trees with less of an impact, said Neil Bosworth, natural resources team leader for the ranger district. In order to log on Odell Butte, the logging company that bought the timber sale from the Forest Service had to use helicopters for portions because in parts the land had more than a 30 percent grade. According to Forest Service regulations, skids and tractors may be used for logging land that has less than a 30 percent grade.... U.S. Says Sierra Logging Promotion Legal A controversial ad campaign that promotes the Forest Service's plan to triple logging in Sierra Nevada forests does not violate federal law, the Agriculture Department has ruled. Citing the opinion of the department's general counsel, Inspector General Phyllis K. Fong declined a request by two Democratic congressmen to investigate the $90,000 contract given a San Francisco public relations firm.... Logs create new salmon hideaway Juvenile salmon trying to grow up in a side channel of the Sultan River now have a place to hide until they get big enough to swim to sea. And to tiny salmon, the place is huge. A helicopter was used Wednesday to drop more than 60 logs and stumps into Winter's Creek just west of town. By crisscrossing the logs over the slow-moving stream, wildlife officials created a place for tiny salmon to avoid predators, including blue herons and cutthroat trout.... State to join feds in managing wolves to speed delisting Montana's wildlife agency is preparing to join the federal government in management of federally protected wolves, the ultimate aim being to speed delisting of the animals. "We're going to take it slow, but with the federal funds recently made available we can expand the state's role while we continue to work toward the rapid federal delisting of the gray wolf in our region," said Jeff Hagener, director of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.... Feds offer looted artifact deal Federal prosecutors in the Four Corners states began a 90-day amnesty Thursday for people with illegally obtained ancient Indian artifacts, such as pots or stone tools. Looters or buyers of artifacts can return them by August 18, "no questions asked," said U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico. Federal prosecutors in Arizona, Colorado and Utah also are taking part in the amnesty.... Environmental Center criticizes BLM Otero Mesa plan The Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces says the US Bureau of Land Management is not following federal requirements in its plan for drilling on Otero Mesa. That’s despite amending the plan and opening a public comment period. The environmental center calls a provision to restore desert grasslands on the mesa untested. It says the plan has undergone no independent public or scientific scrutiny, contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act.... Column: Obesity a Thin Excuse for Supersizing Federal Land Grabs But give credit to the champions of big-government: They will never miss an opportunity to grab a larger piece of America for control by government. Taking advantage of studies showing 20 percent of Americans are "obese" (typically defined as a rather modest 20 percent above a ridiculously slender "ideal" body weight), the federal land-grabbers twisted the findings to suit their own ends and swung into action. Old CARA activists have re-created it, virtually word for word, and now call it the Get Outdoors (GO) Act. Unbelievable, isn't it? But it's true. "Obesity is a public health crisis of the first order, and the Get Outdoors Act is a sensible way to help mitigate that public health crisis," said Congressman George Miller (D-California), House co-sponsor of the bill.... Rural road war heats up again The d├ętente in the war with the federal government over road rights of way on public lands in Utah is over. Last week, the Utah Attorney General's Office "augmented" the state's earlier threat to sue the U.S. Department of Interior over thousands of contested routes across federal public lands, most of them in southern Utah. It was unclear Wednesday whether the apparent renewed threat to sue had the blessing of Utah Gov. Olene Walker, who has stated recently that her office was pursuing a non-litigation strategy for resolving the road disputes. At the heart of the issue is the ongoing debate over how much land in Utah qualifies for federally protected wilderness, which by definition must be free of roads.... Enviros sue over methane projects Four environmental groups sued U.S. Department of Interior officials Thursday, claiming they failed to reduce air pollution expected from coalbed methane development in Montana and Wyoming. They said the pollution will harm public health and cause haze in national parks and wilderness areas. The suit says the government must limit air pollution from an estimated 100,000 oil and gas wells and 23,000 miles of new roads authorized for 33 million acres in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming.... NYT Editorial: A Rare Consensus on Clean Air After more than three years of steady criticism for its regressive policies on air pollution, the Bush administration is enjoying well-deserved praise for a new regulatory initiative that will greatly reduce harmful emissions from diesel-powered construction equipment and other off-road machinery. The rule will apply to engines in more than six million pieces of equipment, everything from bulldozers to tractors and airport baggage trucks. Off-road diesel engines account for a quarter of the smog-producing pollutants and more than half of the soot from mobile sources. They are believed to be responsible for 12,000 premature deaths annually as well as hundreds of thousands of respiratory illnesses. The rule is the most important clean air initiative to originate in and be brought to fruition by the Bush administration.... Senate Bill Aims to Upgrade Miss., Ill. Rivers Senate lawmakers introduced legislation on Thursday that would spend nearly $4 billion to add seven new locks and make environmental improvements to the Mississippi and Illinois river system. Several farm groups contend that without better locks and dams on the rivers it will be difficult to compete with other countries in export markets, but environmentalists and independent reviewers have argued that future traffic projections for the river were exaggerated. The bipartisan legislation, which mirrored a proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said modernizing the lock-and-dam system on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers is necessary to handle a projected increase in freight shipments.... Sierra Club Asks Court to Disallow Judge The Sierra Club asked a federal appeals court to overturn President Bush's appointment of its newest member, saying the pick was illegally made during a congressional recess. Environmentalists object to former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor because they fear his "extremist view of the Constitution" could erode federal environmental laws, Sierra Club attorney Pat Gallagher said.... Column: Democrats Hinder U.S. Pursuit of Economic and Energy Security The Alaskan North Slope, located in the frigid regions above the Arctic Circle on the shores of the Beaufort Sea, represents one of America's most prolific oil and gas provinces and is among the most promising areas for prospective new discoveries. Major finds on the North Slope, including the Lisburne, Endicott, Milne Point and Kuparuk oil fields, as well as the Super Giant Prudhoe Bay oil field, have accounted for as much as 25 percent of domestic production. But today North Slope production is in decline, having reached its peak of just over 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 1988.... Vesicular Stomatitis Confirmed in West Texas; First Case Since 1998 The country's first case of vesicular stomatitis (VS) since 1998 was confirmed Wednesday, May 19, on a premise with nine horses and eight head of cattle near Balmorhea, in Reeves County in west Texas. VS is a viral disease that occurs sporadically in the United States, usually in the Southwest. The disease can affect horses, cattle, and pigs, and occasionally, sheep, goats and deer, causing blisters to form in the animal's mouth, on teats, or along the hooves, resulting in excessive salivation, lameness, or oozing sores. The clinical signs of VS can cause concern because they mimic those of a highly contagious foreign animal infection--foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)--which has been eradicated in this country since 1929.... USDA Admits Problems with Canada Beef Imports Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Thursday scolded the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its performance in protecting consumers against mad cow disease after the agency admitted it allowed Canadian beef imports that went beyond previously announced restrictions. Following a briefing by USDA officials on Capitol Hill, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said the USDA admitted "mistakes were made" and products were allowed entry that were not on public lists. Charles Stenholm, the Democratic leader on the farm panel, said USDA's performance marked "a breakdown in the process."....

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