Friday, May 21, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Jumbo Boeing 747 Reworked to Fight Fires The first jumbo jet converted for use as a tanker in fighting forest fires could be ready for service by July, an aviation company said. The Boeing 747 could carry 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, 10 times as much as a conventional propeller tanker, Evergreen International Aviation said Thursday. The jet was converted over the past year and has made about 50 test flights in Arizona, the McMinnville, Ore.-based company said. The jet still needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.... Roadless rule still alive after court allows appeal to progress In July 2003, U.S. District Judge Clarence A. Brimmer in Cheyenne struck down the rule, saying it illegally created wilderness areas and violated other federal laws. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, interpreted Brimmer's decision as a permanent injunction, while environmentalists argue it is temporary since the case is being appealed. Eight conservation groups took the matter to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the federal government chose not to appeal. The state of Wyoming, which brought the original suit, argued that the environmentalists cannot appeal the decision because they were not original parties in the litigation. In a two-paragraph order issued May 11 in Denver by deputy clerk Kathleen T. Clifford, the 10th Circuit Court deferred any decision on the groups' legal standing, instead allowing a yet-to-be-assigned three-judge panel settle the matter.... Senate puts nail in fee demo coffin Through unanimous consent on the Senate floor, a bill was passed that would reauthorize the National Recreation Fee Demonstration Program for the National Park Service but allow it to expire on Dec. 31, 2005, for the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. The House is considering a bill that is the polar opposite of what the Senate passed. The House bill, which hasn't yet been voted on, would grant permanent authorization for the fee demo program for all agencies.... Court Hears Arguments in Mo. River Case Critics and backers of a policy keeping the Missouri River at consistent depths, rather than allowing a spring high and a summer low, made their cases to a federal judge Friday. Shippers and southern river states argue that maintaining consistent depths on the river is vital to barge traffic. Environmentalists, tourism backers and northern states say the ebb and flow of the river is necessary to protect endangered species and encourage outdoor activities.... Grouse habitat holding back gas production Sage grouse habitat is hampering natural gas production in Bowman County and could threaten its future, an industry official says. The federal Bureau of Land Management is restricting companies from drilling within two miles of grouse leks between mid-April and mid-June, said Lynn Helms, director of the state Industrial Commission's oil and gas division. A lek is an area where male grouse dance to attract mates. The BLM is proposing to expand the restriction to three miles, between April 1 and June 30, Helms said.... Northern Nevada left off proposed land-purchase list For the first time, northern Nevada has been left off a proposed list to buy environmentally sensitive lands with money from large sales of public lands in southern Nevada. In the upcoming fifth round of public sales, all four parcels that would be bought with the proceeds are located in Clark County. And most of the money for land acquisitions would be used to buy a casino — another first.... Putin promises to 'speed up' Kyoto ratification President Vladimir Putin saved the Kyoto climate change pact from extinction yesterday and stunned environmentalists by saying Russia would ratify it. His announcement will allow the United Nations treaty to become legally binding and leaves America looking isolated on the world stage as an environmental sinner. Ending months of speculation, Mr Putin said Moscow would lend the pact its support despite advice from his own chief economic adviser to give it a wide berth. The breakthrough came at an EU-Russia summit in Moscow during which Mr Putin won Brussels' endorsement for his country to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Mr Putin said this had paved the way for his country to return the favour and ratify Kyoto.... Montana asks Wyoming to release water The state of Montana is calling on Wyoming to shut off junior water rights in the Tongue, Powder and Little Powder rivers to provide much-needed drought relief to more senior water rights holders in Montana, who officials say have priority. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation hopes it can reach an amicable settlement with Wyoming, but is prepared to take action to protect water rights under a 1950 compact the two states signed.... Game farm issue argued in court The owners of a game farm shut down by a voter-approved initiative say the closure amounted to an unlawful "taking" of their property, and they want the state to pay for it. But an attorney for the state argued Thursday that Kim and Cindy Kafka still own the property and that economic losses the couple suffered when their operation was shut down do not constitute a taking of property. The Kafkas sued the state in 2002, arguing that Initiative 143, which voters approved two years earlier, was unconstitutional and destroyed their business. The initiative banned any future game ranches in Montana, prohibited current game ranchers from transferring their licenses and banned fee hunting of elk or other game....

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