Wednesday, May 19, 2004


Forest board member criticized for Daschle ad A member of the Black Hills Forest Advisory Board was criticized Wednesday for appearing in a political advertisement, then he was elected chairman of the group. Deadwood campground owner Tom Blair appears in a television ad for Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. Blair praises Daschle for his work on forest issues, and a caption in the ad identifies Blair as a member of the advisory board.... Wilderness areas remain in grassland plan The new management plan for the national grasslands in this region, affirmed by a top U.S. Department of Agriculture official, recommends two new wilderness areas in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in southwest South Dakota. Recommended are a 23,890-acre wilderness area at Indian Creek northwest of Sheep Mountain Table and a 14,820-acre wilderness area in the Red Shirt area. Congressional action is required to create wilderness areas. Sens. Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., have not taken positions on the proposals.... Tribal cultural experts travel to the Badger-Two Medicine area "We want to tell the public about the sacredness of the area and the whole Badger-Two Medicine because of the treaty rights," said Keith Tatsey of the Blackfeet Extension Office. "The main thing is the developers are not taking us into consideration yet, but they will have to." Tatsey reported Monday that he would be taking a group into the 150,000-acre area bordering the western edge of the Blackfeet Reservation. Long under fire for potential development for oil and gas, the U.S. Forest Service issued a moratorium on exploration and development when former Forest Supervisor Gloria Flora established the new policy in 1997. But the war in Iraq and an aggressive national energy policy have put the entire Rocky Mountain Front in Montana in developers' sites, making previously protected places potentially open to industrial development.... Long-awaited job competition appeals rights measure introduced Bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday would expand federal employees' opportunities for challenging agency decisions to outsource work, and would open the door for union involvement in job competition appeals. The bill would amend the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act to grant "agency tender officials," the formal representatives of in-house teams, and other officials elected to represent team members, legal standing to protest job competition decisions at the General Accounting Office after losing agency-level appeals. Drafted by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and co-sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., it would apply to challenges of contests started after Jan. 1, 2004.... Cubin wants money for firefighter pilot insurance Wyoming lawmaker Barbara Cubin is keeping an eye out for possible legislative maneuvering related to the grounding of 33 tanker planes used to fight wildfires. The Republican congresswoman said she plans to try to attach a proposal she has been pushing to provide federal death and disability benefits for aerial firefighters. Because the aerial firefighters work for companies that contract with the federal government they are not eligible for the death and disability benefits that other firefighters receive.... Lion killed in Sabino Canyon is 2nd by Game officials A mountain lion shot over the weekend is the second lion shot by Arizona Game and Fish since April, when the cats were reported stalking humans in Sabino Canyon. Trackers hired by the agency shot and killed a lion stalking a mountain biker in the Sonoita area in mid-April, Arizona Game and Fish spokesman Tom Whetten told the Arizona Daily Star.... Will growth take the wild out of wilderness? Rangers who patrol wilderness lands for the U.S. Forest Service learned yesterday they will face an increasingly tough task of protecting those special places as the population soars and demands on public lands skyrocket. Forest Service researcher Ken Cordell told an audience of about 40 rangers in Aspen that the country's population is expected to double in the next century, and a significant amount of that growth will occur in rural areas close to wilderness. "We need to think of the implications of this population growth," he told the rangers, who came from throughout the West for the Wilderness Ranger Academy, a special event hosted by the Aspen Ranger District.... Why do we love wilderness? A national survey shows people don't give a hoot if wilderness areas give an economic boost to tourist towns like Aspen. They like wilderness lands for what they do for nature. A recent survey showed the two highest-valued aspects of wilderness are protection of air quality and water quality, according to Ken Cordell, a U.S. Forest Service researcher from Athens, Ga. Providing wildlife habitat and providing protection for endangered species ranked as the third and fourth highest-valued characteristics of wilderness.... Editorial: Airborne firefighting In Southern California, wildfires have returned with fury unabated from last fall. Across the West, drought and a hot spring have reduced water supplies, leading fire officials to say that the current blazes have the potential to be as terrible as the 2000 and 2002 seasons'. Many hands and much luck will be required to avoid catastrophic losses. Many aircraft also will be needed, and policy-makers should investigate the airplanes now idling at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Ariz. Davis-Monthan is the home base of the 355th Wing of the 12th Air Force, but it also serves as a major storage area for excess and decommissioned aircraft. More than 5,000 aircraft now sit there, including many air tankers that might be refitted to drop fire retardant.... Forest Service calls snowmobile regulations a success Separation of snowmobiles from quieter forms of winter recreation in a popular Sierra meadow appears to be working well three years after the regulations were put in place, U.S. Forest Service officials said. But the woman who led efforts to ban snowmobiles from most of the Tahoe Meadows insists the government is failing to address continued trespass of the machines into wilderness areas.... Editorial: Saving Montana's Rocky Mountain Front - again Responsible natural resource development works in many places around Montana. Responsible mining and drilling will be a part of Montana's future. But there are some places that development simply isn't responsible. One of those rare, special places is the Rocky Mountain Front - 100 miles of breathtaking landscape where mountains collide with plains south of Glacier National Park. The Front has been described as an American Serengeti. Here all of the wildlife Lewis and Clark observed on their trek of 1805-1806 still flourish, except for buffalo. It's one of the few places anywhere where grizzlies inhabit mountains and plains. Defenders of the Front have waged repeated battles over the years to conserve this beautiful public land. But each victory for local conservationists gives way to new development plans. The latest push comes from a small Canadian firm that proposes drilling three exploratory gas wells.... Environmentalists sue over Medicine Lake geothermal plans Environmental groups have sued the federal government over geothermal projects it has approved in the remote Medicine Lake Highlands region considered sacred by Indian tribes. The suit, filed Tuesday and announced Wednesday, challenges approval of the first two geothermal power plants proposed by Calpine Corp. Both would be built within the Medicine Lake caldera, the remnant of an ancient volcano 30 miles east of Mt. Shasta and 10 miles south of the Lava Beds National Monument in northeastern California.... Crews use electricity to stun, remove non-native fish from Yampa Pfeifer and his crew of five Fish and Wildlife employees have been trolling the Yampa River for the past week on boats equipped with 30 horsepower engines on the back and anodes on the front. The anodes --metal spheres hung from rods extended about 12 feet in front of the boat -- emit a positive charge of about 4 amps that temporarily stun fish, said Mark Fuller, a fisheries biologist. That morning, they pulled 42 pike from the river in about an hour and 15 minutes. Pfeifer called it an average morning. The week before, they pulled 102 pike from the same area. The stretch of the Yampa the crew trolled was upstream from critical habitat for the humpback chub, pikeminnow, and razorback sucker -- all endangered species.... Federal whistleblower quits, alleges politicization of science A federal biologist who said his team's advice was illegally ignored prior to a massive 2002 Klamath River fish kill has resigned, accusing the government of politicizing scientific decision-making and misleading the public. Michael Kelly had sought federal whistleblower protection after he complained the Bush administration violated the Endangered Species Act by pressuring for altered scientific findings by the review team he led for the National Marine Fisheries Service, now NOAA Fisheries. "My efforts were ultimately unproductive," Kelly laments in his resignation letter, released Wednesday through Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which represented Kelly in the whistleblower case first reported by The Associated Press.... Massive bear study ready to start An unprecedented grizzly bear population study covering 8 million acres of the northern Rockies is set to begin June 15, and other research has revealed some surprising findings about grizzly behavior in the Swan Valley. Those topics headlined a Wednesday meeting of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Subcommittee in Kalispell. U.S. Geological Survey scientist Kate Kendall outlined a complicated logistical picture that has taken shape for the upcoming DNA-based population study. Roughly 170 people will be involved with collecting bear hair samples from more than 8 million acres considered occupied by grizzlies. The area stretches from the Blackfoot River basin to the northern border of Glacier National Park and from the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front to some areas west of U.S. 93.... Groups seek grizzly trophy hunting ban Conservation groups want the U.S. government to ban American hunters from bringing grizzly bears killed in British Columbia back across the border as trophies. The groups contend the hunts, which are legal in British Columbia, threaten the long-term survival of the bears on both sides of the border. Since American hunters make up about 80 percent of the foreigners who visit Canada each year to hunt grizzlies, the groups hope such a ban could dramatically cut the number of bears killed. Some bear experts question the groups' contention that the hunts are a major threat, and Canadian hunting guides say they would oppose such a ban because of the potential loss of business.... Preble's Mouse Exceptions Permanent A special rule that allows for the threatened Preble's jumping mouse to be killed or trapped was made permanent Wednesday in a decision hailed by some as a victory for Front Range farmers and ranchers. Under the rule, the mouse, found only in Colorado and Wyoming, can be killed, wounded or trapped as part of rodent control, agricultural operations or other specific activities. The rule was set to expire on Saturday, regional Fish and Wildlife director Ralph Morgenweck said.... Greenpeace acquitted in U.S. ship-boarding case A U.S. judge on Wednesday acquitted environmental protection group Greenpeace on charges it conspired to break the law by sending activists aboard a freighter carrying illegally felled mahogany. The politically charged case dusted off a law not used since 1890 to bring the first criminal prosecution by U.S. authorities of an advocacy group for civil disobedience. U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan granted a Greenpeace motion to dismiss the charges after the prosecution rested its case on the third day of trial, a Greenpeace lawyer said. The judge ruled federal prosecutors had failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.... Darwinian shift: survival of the smallest It's a rule every weekend angler knows: Throw back the small fish. It helps the population survive long term. Right? Wrong. Mounting evidence suggests that by harvesting only the biggest fish - or biggest mammals, for that matter - mankind is unwittingly forcing many species to evolve rapidly. This process, called "contemporary evolution," isn't taking place over centuries. It's on a fast track that can happen within a few decades. At a minimum, these changes can reduce a species' economic value. At worst, they can help drive it to extinction. And while that may not be news to biologists, it's throwing a Darwinian challenge to those who manage wildlife, preserve habitats, deal with endangered species, and control invasive species.... Panhandle hunter says he shot threatened bear in self defense A deer hunter charged with shooting and killing a black bear, a threatened species, says he acted in self-defense. William Kevin Holland, 42, of Pensacola, said Tuesday that he shot the bear on Feb. 13 after it stood on its hind legs 50 to 70 feet away and then dropped down on all fours and came toward him. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrested him Friday.... Column: Federal Agency Using Local Fire Code to Attempt Land Grab The responsibility of local fire districts around the nation are abruptly changing from fire protection to facilitating access to private properties by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), under the auspices of fire protection. USFWS's agenda is to look for and map endangered species and wildlife habitats. This is happening through the establishment of Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP), which are severely restricting or eliminating private property rights around the nation. Local adoption of an international fire code, called the Urban Wildand Intermix Code (UWIC), is the first step toward creating a local HCP. Following is an open letter sent to all fire districts and district boards in Santa Cruz County, California.... Prairie butterflies Dana Ross had suspicions about the hilltop meadow near Corvallis. The grassy area seemed to be a suitable home for a rarely seen prairie butterfly, but only a hike to the top would confirm it. The Corvallis resident quickly hiked to the hilltop, where he found an estimated 500 of the imperiled butterflies flitting through the meadow. Ross's discovery last month in Benton County's Beazell Memorial Forest is only the second population of Taylor's checkerspot known to exist in Oregon after its rapid decline during the past century.... Park County considers lone course in wolf lawsuit Instead of joining a coalition, Park County Commissioners are leaning toward filing as a lone intervener in the lawsuit filed by the State of Wyoming against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To best support the state's "dual status" wolf management plan, the county should do it alone instead of with the Wolf Challenge Initiative, County Attorney Bryan Skoric told commissioners Wednesday. The commissioners had considered three options, two of which involved various levels of jumping on board with the Wolf Challenge Initiative (WCI), a coalition of governments and special interest groups unified in their support of the state-proposed "dual status" plan to remove the wolves from Endangered and Species Act protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the plan in January and approved single-status (trophy game) plans in Montana and Idaho. Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank filed suit April 22, saying the state has a right also to consider the wolf a "predator" that can be shot on sight due to the animals negative effect on Wyoming residents.... BLM apologizes for missing mark over range deal The Bureau of Land Management apologized Wednesday for spending seven years studying a possible gun range site, only to abruptly drop the plan saying it didn't conform with BLM policy. The decision was better late than never, said the agency's new Redding-area director, Steve Anderson.... W. Utah wilds area gets a green light After changes to pacify earlier widespread opposition, the House Resources Committee endorsed Wednesday a Utah wilderness bill — but one where creating new wilderness takes a back seat to far bigger goals. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is pushing the bill mostly to block a proposed nuclear waste repository on the Goshute Reservation in Skull Valley, an action he says in turn would help protect Hill Air Force Base in upcoming base closure fights. Wilderness that the bill would create would block a railroad needed for the waste repository sought by the Goshutes. "It would make it impossible to have the repository there," Bishop said. He said that, in turn, would help to protect the vast Utah Test and Training Range operated by Hill.... Questar faces Wyoming drill delay over sage grouse Federal clearance for Questar Corp. (nyse: STR - news - people) to drill a natural gas test well near Pinedale, Wyoming has been delayed about a month because of concerns over a chicken-like bird called the sage grouse, Chief Executive Officer Keith Rattie said on Wednesday. Rattie said the Bureau of Land Management halted the test drill because waste from the sage grouse was found in the area, which may mean it breeds there. About 80 percent of Wyoming is considered greater sage grouse habitat.... Tribes propose casino to end Colorado land claim Two Oklahoma tribes stand to make more than $1 billion over a decade from a Colorado casino proposed to resolve the tribes' land claims, the project developer said Tuesday. Financial projections also show the state of Colorado collecting $1 billion over the same period, said Steve Hillard, chief executive officer for the developer, Council Tree Communications of Longmont, Colo. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes last month filed a federal land claim to 27 million acres in Colorado, where the tribes lived until their forced removal to Oklahoma in the 1860s. Hillard said the tribes would drop that claim if allowed to build the casino.... Summer Escapist Movie Offers No Escape from Politics When a Hollywood disaster movie opens on Memorial Day weekend, there may be some drama outside the movie theater as well as inside: Liberal and conservative groups are both recruiting volunteers to hand out flyers explaining the "facts" on global warming. "The Day After Tomorrow" is a climate disaster movie about the apocalyptic effects of global warming. It is, by all accounts, more fiction than fact -- but even so, liberal activists at believe "everyone will be talking about it -- and asking 'Could it really happen?'" says the movie premiere offers "an unprecedented opportunity to talk to millions of Americans about the real dangers of global warming and expose President Bush's foot-dragging on the issue.".... Congressmen present plan to resolve irrigation dispute Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg are looking to settle a dispute that has held up the transfer of irrigation projects on the Lower Yellowstone River for nearly six years. The Republican lawmakers outlined a deal during hearings Tuesday and Wednesday. The main impediment to the transfer from the federal government to local irrigation districts has been a disagreement over whether the projects can continue to be powered using virtually free federal electricity once they are operated by the local irrigation districts. Burns and Rehberg are proposing a gradual phase in of costs for the power, and the Bureau of Reclamation and power companies are looking over the plan.... White House backs aqueduct sign-over The Bush administration Wednesday endorsed a bill to sign over the title of two federal aqueducts to local Utah water users, saying it would make it easier to finance improvements to better protect the water and to prevent drownings. However, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John Keys, a Utahn, said many minor changes are still needed in the bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah. But he told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday that if those "technical corrections can be addressed, I believe the department could support passage of this legislation." The bill would transfer title of the 42-mile long Salt Lake Aqueduct (from Deer Creek Reservoir to Salt Lake County), the 22-mile Provo Reservoir Canal (also known as the Murdock Canal) and a 4-acre maintenance shop site to the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy.... Drought's consequences may be catastrophic Montana's sixth straight year of drought shows no signs of breaking this summer and could sound the death knell for family farmers and Main Street businesses alike, a new state report shows. The Governor's Drought Advisory Committee released its report on the 2004 growing season Thursday and concluded the odds for continued drought across much of the state is very high and the potential for the enduring drought to damage the 2004 crop is likewise high.... U.S. quietly OKs imports of banned Canada beef The Agriculture Department allowed American meatpackers to resume imports of ground and other processed beef from Canada last September, just weeks after it publicly reaffirmed its ban on importing those products because mad cow disease had been found in Canadian cattle. In the next six months, a total of 33 million pounds of Canadian processed beef flowed to American consumers under a series of undisclosed permits the USDA issued to the meatpackers, permits that remained in effect until a federal judge intervened in April....

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