Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Some Air Tankers Could Be Back In Service This Summer As many as eight of 33 large air tankers grounded last week could be restored to service and used to fight forest fires this summer, Western lawmakers said Tuesday after meeting with Federal Aviation Administration officials. Les Dorr, a spokesman for the FAA, said the agency has agreed to work with the U.S. Forest Service and private contractors to develop maintenance and inspection programs and a system for certifying the tankers as safe to fly. Western lawmakers and governors, however, mounted a campaign to get at least some of the grounded tankers back into operation, saying their ability to drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire-retardant slurry is needed this wildfire season.... Land closures..keep writing to keep riding The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) urges motorcyclists to contact their lawmakers to support a measure to crack down on individuals who knowingly damage public land, which cleared the U.S. House Resources Committee on May 5. The measure, H.R. 3247, the Trail Responsibility and Accountability for the Improvement of Lands (TRAIL) Act, was reported out to the full House for further consideration.... 'Stalking' mountain lion slain The two Tucson men were on a Saturday mountain bike ride when a lion followed them down the trail, drew within 15 feet of them, and departed only after the bicyclists threw rocks at it, according to Arizona Game and Fish officials. The two men were unhurt. During their investigation, Koenig and Officer Aaron Hartzell saw a lion 30 feet away from them that appeared to be stalking the two officers. Koenig shot and killed the female cougar with a shotgun. Koenig said Monday that the lion didn't exhibit normal behavior when encountering humans and was killed to defuse a "dangerous situation.".... Tree-killing beetles more deadly than wildfires The tiny architects of the Western forests are coming back. In coming weeks, an army of tree-killing beetles will begin emerging, looking to satisfy their appetites by boring into lodgepole, Douglas fir, whitebark pine, Engelmann spruce and other trees in the Rocky Mountains. Their defenses weakened by drought, thousands upon thousands of trees won't have the strength to battle the bugs and will eventually die. By the time they're through, the beetles will have a larger impact on Western forests than wildfire, said Diana Six, an associate professor of forest entomology and pathology at the University of Montana.... Environmental group files suit to protect Gila chub from extinction An environmental group filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for not listing the Gila chub as an endangered species. The Fish & Wildlife Service proposed listing the fish Aug. 9, 2002. Under the Endangered Species Act, the agency has one year to issue a final rule after proposing to list a species. The Center for Biological Diversity also filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the agency for not listing the roundtail and headwater chub as endangered.... U.S. District Court Keeps No-Spray Pesticide Buffers in Place to Protect Salmon The Seattle District Court has denied a motion to suspend its January 2004 injunction prohibiting the spraying of certain pesticides near salmon streams. The pesticide industry group CropLife and grower groups had requested a stay that would remove safeguards for salmon while they appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Coughenour issued a strongly worded opinion today denying the industry request for a stay and underlining the need for the injunction’s protections for threatened and endangered salmon.... Greenpeace Conspired to Illegally Board Ship-Gov't Greenpeace conspired to break the law when it sent activists aboard a freighter carrying illegally felled mahogany, prosecutors said on Tuesday, as they dusted off a law not used since 1890 to bring the first U.S. criminal prosecution of an advocacy group. Kicking off the politically charged case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Watts-FitzGerald told a Miami court Greenpeace recruited "climbers" for the seaborne 2002 protest and footed the bill -- all indications, he said, the organization and not individual members was in "command and control.".... Wildcat clones give scientists hope of saving species The successful cloning of endangered female African wildcats, which will eventually mate with cloned males, has scientists at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans feeling hopeful that imperiled species can be rescued. The female wildcat clones, named Caty and Madge, were born a month ago at the center. The males, Miles and Otis, were born in November 2003, following work by the center and Louisiana State University that led to the world's first cloned wild carnivore, Ditteaux, an African wildcat born Aug. 6, 2003. Miles and Otis are clones of Jazz, an African wildcat born in November 1999 with the distinction of being the first successful case of an animal born after an interspecies frozen-thawed embryo transfer using a domestic female cat as the mother surrogate. The other cloned wildcats also have domestic cat surrogate mothers.... Wildlife Biologists Say Enviro Petition on Sage Grouse Is "Fundamentally Flawed" Recently released analyses by two renowned wildlife biologists shows that a petition by environmental groups to list the Greater Sage Grouse as an endangered species is "not accurate and is fundamentally flawed in numerous key areas." "A careful review of this Petition leads to one simple conclusion: This Petition is not accurate and is fundamentally flawed in numerous key areas." The analyses examined the listing petition submitted last December by the American Lands Alliance and 18 other environmental groups. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted on the petition earlier this month in deciding to conduct a formal review of the status of the sage grouse.... Odd-duck work stoppage Last month, a biologist walking through the weeds around Colma Creek flood canal in South San Francisco noticed three egg-laden bird nests hidden in the grass. As a result of this find, and thanks to an 86-year-old law, work ground to a halt on an $11 million effort to widen and clear the overgrown flood canal. It took the help of a U.S. senator for the county to acquire the necessary permits to move the birds -- a close call that caused a tremor of concern among officials driven by a need to prevent future flooding in the area.... EPA offers revised plan to carefully remove dam The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday released a revised plan to remove Milltown Dam that will send little, if any, contaminated mine tailings down the Clark Fork River. The new plan would divert the Clark Fork River during the work, eliminating all sediment releases from the most contaminated portion of the Milltown Reservoir. Work would begin in 2005, with Milltown Dam removed in early 2006 and all construction completed within four years, less than half the time originally anticipated.... BLM regional office moving to Havasu A major reorganization is in the works for the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona, including a new district headquarters in Lake Havasu City. A proposal subject to approval by federal officials in Washington, D.C. would divide the state into two or three BLM districts. A new "Arizona River District," including the Lake Havasu City, Kingman and Yuma field offices would be formed, said Diane Williams, a BLM spokeswoman.... Selling Surplus Property Will Help the State’s Bottom Line Of the 99.8 million acres that make up the state of California, how much do you think is owned by the government? One-quarter? One-third? Half? Too low. The answer is 52 percent. Yes, 52 percent, or roughly 52 million acres of the state, is owned by government agencies. And that figure might be a little low, since it accounts for just the federal and state governments. Local governments also own real estate throughout California.... Native grasses being used to control range fires few area farmers are growing some unusual crops as public land managers struggle to keep range fires under control. It is one of several native plants that farmer John Skinner grows. The high demand for the native seeds makes them much more profitable than more traditional crops.... New dam among ideas for future water needs Add another option to the study of ways to increase Washington County's long-term water supplies: a replacement dam downstream from the existing dam at Hagg Lake south of Forest Grove. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has asked that the so-called Stimson Dam be evaluated along with three other options as a group of local governments studies future water sources, says Tom VanderPlaat of Clean Water Services.... County seeks study on grazing benefits Park County needs to evaluate how a trend toward cutting grazing allotments on federal land is taking a toll the local economy, commissioners said Tuesday. And time is of the essence. Commissioners announced their intent to include a grazing-based economic impact study into the county's land-use plan, a document due in December. The idea sprouted from a similar study of Fremont County done by the University of Wyoming Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics. UW officials presented their findings Tuesday, saying that the current federal trends point to a situation with a "greater negative impact than most people realize.".... Wild bison reintroduced to Sask. prairie History was made on a piece of rolling prairie Monday when half a dozen horseback riders herded 50 bison from a sprawling holding paddock out onto the land they once roamed by the millions. It's the first time since they were hunted to the brink of extinction 150 years ago that they have set a free foot on the grasslands they once virtually covered. The shaggy beasts who strolled through the paddock gate were trucked in from Elk Island National Park in Alberta to the Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area south of Swift Current, Sask., last winter.... Suspected rustlers nabbed in Nevada cattle thefts Local law enforcement in Churchill County teamed up with state agents in Nevada and Arizona to break up a rustling ring suspected of stealing more than two dozen cattle from Nevada worth $14,000. “It was the biggest one since I’ve been here,” Nevada State Brand Inspector James Connelley said. The Nevada Agriculture Department investigated the case after a brand inspector in Arizona, Raymond Christensen, read the Nevada division’s bulletin about cattle missing from the Fallon area and then spotted brand-overs on cattle in Arizona.... USDA: Cattle brains may be turned into biofuels Cattle brains and other remains that may carry the deadly mad cow disease would be turned into biofuels under a plan announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cattle brains, skull, eyes, spinal column, small intestine and other parts suspected of harboring mad cow disease were banned from human consumption in December as a safety precaution, shortly after the discovery of the first case of mad cow disease in the United States.... Court considers cattle restitution Monday's arguments are the latest chapter in a saga that began in April 2001, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to issue reports on the prices of boxed beef. But due to initial software problems, for several days the USDA reported incorrect prices lower than the actual prices for choice and select fed cattle. In July 2002, Herman Schumacher of Herreid Livestock Market and two other men filed a federal suit against the nation's four largest meatpackers. The suit alleges that Excel Corp., ConAgra Beef Co., Farmland National Beef Packing Co. and Tyson Foods realized something was amiss with USDA's report, but nonetheless took advantage of the incorrect data by paying producers lower prices. In legal terms, the suit charges the meatpackers with "unjust enrichment," in violation of the federal Packers and Stockyards Act. History mystery: Are bones Mill Valley pioneer's Mysterious coffins found under the oldest house in Mill Valley are leading to speculation that one of the skeletons, in a wool suit with silk lining, might be the long-lost remains of John Thomas Reed, the founder of the town. The ghoulish find has residents of this leafy Marin County suburb scratching their heads while forensic experts attempt to determine the identity of the well-dressed corpse and two other similarly buried bodies and the reason they were under the house.... Wyoming author set to release next 'Joe Pickett' book Game warden Joe Pickett's next case will involve cattle and wildlife mutilations reminiscent of cases that baffled investigators in Wyoming 30 years ago. Pickett, the fictitious character created by Cheyenne mystery writer C.J. Box, will return in a fourth novel, "Trophy Hunt," which will be released next month. A subplot involves coalbed methane development. In the book, Pickett thinks the mutilations are being done by someone "practicing" to become a serial killer, since many repeat murderers often hone their macabre skills on animals....

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