Saturday, June 12, 2004


2004 Study on the state of the environment

Pacific Research Institute, a free-market policy research think tank, has just released the ninth annual review of the nation's most critical environmental trends. A FREE download of the study, based on the latest government statistics, is available here.

The report, the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, is widely cited by prominent journalists, lawmakers, and business leaders as an illuminating and indispensable resource.

This year's edition has received national media attention in outlets such as: The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, CNNfn,, and more than 1,500 radio stations nationwide.

The Index features important statistics and trends in:

* Air quality

* Water quality

* Toxic releases

* Climate change

* Species and habitat conservation

* Public land management

The Index is published each year by the Pacific Research Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan policy think tank based in San Francisco.

Ninth Circuit, Once Again, Upholds Decision Ordering Federal Fisheries Agency to Treat Hatchery Fish Equally

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a petition for rehearing en banc by environmentalist groups seeking to overturn Pacific Legal Foundation’s landmark victory in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans. The environmentalists requested a rehearing by the full Ninth Circuit Court after a three-judge panel denied their attempt to appeal the federal trial court decision in February. The Ninth Circuit's decision once again upholds Judge Hogan's 2001 ruling that Oregon Coast coho salmon had been illegally listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

"We welcome the news that the Ninth Circuit has rejected this latest attempt by activists to overturn Judge Hogan’s correct decision setting aside the listing of the Oregon Coast coho," said PLF attorney Russ Brooks. "The court’s latest rejection of the environmentalists’ position should make it loud and clear that the federal government must fully comply with Judge Hogan’s ruling and that anything less will not pass legal muster."

Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans is one of the most groundbreaking environmental decisions of the last decade. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (now "NOAA Fisheries") acted illegally by counting only naturally spawned salmon, and disregarding hatchery spawned salmon, when deciding whether or not to list the Oregon Coast coho as a protected species. Rather than appeal the district court’s decision, NOAA Fisheries chose to comply with the order and instituted status reviews of 26 salmon and steelhead listings across the Western states. Several environmentalist groups, however, appealed the decision....

This Is Not Your Father's Sierra Club

The Sierra Club has increasingly aligned itself with animal-rights activists, and even has a national leader best known for steering the animal liberation "navy." Sierra Club board member and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society leader "Captain" Paul Watson told activists at an animal rights conference: "We should never feel like we're going too far in breaking the law, because whatever laws you break to liberate animals or to protect the environment are very insignificant."

Sierra Club Board Chair Lisa Renstrom notes: "The Club could begin to include animal rights positions in decades to come as members and the American public acknowledge the impact of our high animal protein diet on sustainability." Perhaps that's why Club chapters have pushed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals's Vegetarian Starter Kit.

The Club's "sustainable consumption committee" issued a report in 2000 that listed "eating less meat" as a "Priority Action for American Consumers," right alongside "buying a fuel-efficient car." Joan Zacharias, one of this committee's leaders, is scheduled to address the "Animal Rights 2004" convention in Virginia next month. Her influence is seen in the committee's stated goal of developing "stronger ties with vegetarian organizations."....

Friday, June 11, 2004


Sharon and I will leave Friday for Casper, Wyo. to accompany the NMSU rodeo team to the Collegiate National Finals Rodeo. I will have my laptop and will do my best to keep the blog current. That will depend upon hotels, connections, etc.

We will return the evening of June 21st.

Keep checking in and wish us luck.

NMSU Rodeo Team Sets Sights on Nationals

LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State University rodeo team members are bringing their gear, regional momentum and a lot of determination to the College National Finals Rodeo, which starts Sunday in Casper, Wyo.
“It’s what they worked for all year. I think we’re ready to go,” said NMSU coach Jim Dewey Brown.
Eleven NMSU competitors qualified for the finals.
Leading the team are Mandy Sproul of Pearce, Ariz., who is the fifth-ranked competitor in the nation in women’s all-around standings, and Clay Snure of Rodeo, N.M., who is ranked sixth in the nation in men’s all-around.
Sproul is fifth in the nation in goat tying and eighth in breakaway roping.
Snure leads the nation in tie-down roping and is 21st in steer wrestling.
Brown expects Sproul and Snure to compete well at nationals.
Other nationally ranked Aggies are bull rider Justin Sanderlin of Morenci, Ariz., fourth; steer wrestler John Pete Etcheverry of Carlsbad, 19th; team roping header Jarred Evans of Apache Creek, N.M., fourth; and team roping heelers Kody Gentry of Dell City, Texas, 11th, Aaron Thomas of La Mesa, N.M., 13th, and Jared Davis of Tombstone, Ariz., 18th.
Other NMSU women earning the trip to nationals are Janelle Manygoats of Winslow, Ariz., and Brooke Wimberly of Bosque, N.M., in breakaway roping; and Misty Fudge of Big Horn, Wyo., in goat tying.
Last year NMSU sent four men and two women to nationals.
In team standings, the Aggie women are ranked fifth in the nation, while the men are 11th. Both NMSU teams finished the season as champions in the Grand Canyon Region.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the high national ranking, both with the teams and the student athletes,” said Frank DuBois, former secretary/director of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, who helped establish rodeo scholarships at NMSU. “I’m proud that Clay and Mandy were two of my first recruits for the DuBois Scholarship. I hope we can continue to recruit those kind of student athletes to the NMSU rodeo program.”

Thursday, June 10, 2004


Prehistoric artifacts threatened by off-road trails Seeking to preserve prehistoric artifacts, the Forest Service wants public feedback on a plan that could close or reroute a number of roads and trails on a small portion of the Tahoe National Forest between the Prosser Lakeview Estates subdivision and Prosser Reservoir. "This is a sensitive area being intensively used with notable damage being done to the land and to prehistoric archaeological sites," said Truckee District Ranger Joanne Roubique. "We need to put measures in place to change how people travel through the area.".... Tent caterpillars denuding acres of aspens Like a Sci-Fi horror flick it begins innocently enough. First you notice tent-like structures nestled between branches on your aspen trees. Then you see creepy crawly things squirming inside. Soon the creepy crawly things are spreading out over your trees and your trees have no leaves. Soon seemingly dead aspen line Angel Fire roadways and spread over grey, leafless acres. Then the hungry critters begin dropping to the ground, on your vehicles, your house … you. Crossing roadways, leaving a trail of slime where the critters met their doom under the wheels of speeding vehicles.... Column: Forest Service Delay Cost Cabins Our 70-year-old family cabin at Pine Lodge recently burned to the ground in the Capitan Wilderness Area of Lincoln National Forest. I am one of many cabin owners who are outraged by the gross mismanagement of the National Forest Service in handling the Peppin Canyon fire. The forest service failed to aggressively respond to a small, 12-acre lightning fire, allowing it to burn for several days. Initially they said it was only "undergrowth burn" and was contained. The forest service during this 15-day period reassured property owners they were protecting property. The fire quickly got out of control. The forest service did absolutely nothing to protect endangered property. After the fire, one firefighter said we should sue the forest service for their lack of any effort to protect property.... Western senators back avalanche bill Alaska Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, along with senators from other Western states, are proposing a bill that could lead to more funding for avalanche forecasting. David Hamre, avalanche expert for the Alaska Railroad, told a Senate panel Tuesday that avalanche fatalities are on the rise, and if the current trend continues, avalanches could surpass tornadoes as the nation's most deadly natural hazard.... Study supports new gas wells A proposal to drill new gas wells in the HD Mountains of southwestern Colorado hits a benchmark today with the release of a long- awaited draft environmental impact statement that recommends the project proceed. U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officials said Wednesday the draft document indicates the preferred action is development of 211 coal-bed methane well pads, which could support up to 300 wells. It also involves building 94 miles of roads and disturbing almost 1,000 acres. Environmental groups issued a swift rejection of the plans Wednesday.... Judge halts assurances against endangered species 'surprises' A federal judge on Thursday temporarily halted the government's recent practice of assuring private landowners that they won't face unanticipated requirements for protecting endangered species after a development project is approved. The ruling was immediately hailed by environmentalists as a breakthrough and attacked by home builders as a huge threat to private development. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan's ruling bars, at least for the next six months, federal agencies from providing any such future blanket assurances under the Clinton-era "no surprises" rule. The rule, adopted in 1998, has given home builders, timber and mining companies and other developers some immunity against unforeseen twists in providing species protections.... Dunes big business for Valley A large crowd of Imperial Valley business owners, leaders and members of the public turned out to the Barbara Worth Golf Resort here Thursday night to celebrate the work of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce and hear the keynote speech of American Sand Association vice chairman Bob Mason. Mason gave an overview of the organization's efforts in promoting off-highway vehicle recreation as well as motorized access to public lands such as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.... Environmentalists sue to protect swallowtail butterflies Tropical swallowtail butterflies are coveted by collectors for their showy, colorful wings, often drawing a price of more than $3,000 for a pair. But the Portland-based Xerces Society and the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity want the seven rarest species protected by the Endangered Species Act. They recently filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland to force the government to include them on the list.... Chihuahuan Desert inventory helps preserve area parks If you see someone trapping snakes at Fort Davis or people electroshocking fish in the Rio Grande, they’re probably researchers working on the National Park Service’s Inventory and Monitoring Program. Things are happening in the National Park Service, as its people fulfill their mission to preserve and protect our heritage in a time of ever-increasing environmental stress. Things were simpler back in 1916 when the park service was created. Most early parks – Yellowstone, Zion – were relatively isolated and protection was a matter of guarding the boundaries. Since then the number of national parks has increased to nearly 400, and the list of those with important natural resources now totals at least 280.... Lynx gives birth in state's first confirmed lynx den in decades Scientists have found further proof that lynx are homesteading northern Minnesota - a den with three healthy kittens. Lynx L07, one of 13 carrying radio or satellite collars in Minnesota, settled down last month 25 miles north of Two Harbors to have her kittens. It's the first confirmed lynx den in Minnesota in decades and another sign that the elusive forest cat may be making a comeback in the area.... Federal rules could limit Vegas water search with well drilling Federal restrictions could prevent southern Nevada water officials from drilling test wells on protected land in the Desert National Wildlife Range north of Las Vegas, officials said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday monitoring wells might only be allowed along existing roads, not in wilderness study areas in the 1.6 million-acre range.... Column: They Wouldn't Wait in the Lobby Folks at the National Park Service were buzzing this week over an effort to have the superintendents of the national parks lobby Congress on a bill that funds improvements in roads and bridges in the park system. Apparently, some of the nearly 400 superintendents -- all of whom are career employees -- were unhappy with a June 4 "Dear Superintendent" letter from Jeffrey K. Taylor of the NPS legislative and congressional affairs office here.... Groups protest 76 BLM leases Gov. Dave Freudenthal wasn't alone in his protest of federal oil and gas lease parcels this week. Several environmental groups also protested a total of 76 lease parcels that were included in a Bureau of Land Management auction Tuesday in Cheyenne. Among the groups was the Wyoming Outdoor Council.... Summer snowflakes surprise Sierra Rain saturated area valleys and snow fell in the Sierra late Tuesday into early Wednesday, but no controls were placed on mountain highways. “Roads are still very warm so the snow mostly stuck on the grass and trees,” said Jim Wallmann, National Weather Service meteorologist. “There have been reports of up to three inches in Stateline.”....

Federal judge keeps Laney from returning home

Jun 10, 2004, 19:52

A federal judge still will not let Kit Laney return home.
The rancher "can't go to Catron County," Judge John Conway's administrative assistant told the Daily Press.
Laney, since his April 8 release from jail, has been under court order to steer clear of his Diamond Bar Ranch in the Gila National Forest.
Conway last week continued Laney's case until Aug. 10 in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.
The rancher was arrested March 14 on five counts of assault on federal officers and three counts of obstruction.
The confrontation took place while contract cowboys hired by the Forest Service were rounding up cattle belonging to Laney and Sherry Farr, who were grazing livestock in the national forest without a permit.
Conway last week also allowed Laney to dismiss his attorneys and represent himself, a move the judge's administrative assistant called "very bizarre."
Laney "doesn't like what (his lawyers) are telling him," said the assistant, who predicted Conway will appoint "standby counsel" to help Laney.
Until about three weeks ago, Laney was required to wear an electronic monitoring "bracelet" so authorities could monitor his whereabouts. He has been living on a ranch in Otero County.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Report Says Sage Grouse Holding Their Own The sage grouse, a once-abundant game bird under consideration for federal protection, faces serious threats to its survival, a new report says. While sage grouse populations across the West appear to be stabilizing, the report says the bird's habitat is beset by urban sprawl, loud highway traffic, wildfires and drilling operations. The report published by a coalition of state wildlife agencies is the first comprehensive analysis of the sage grouse's status across 770,000 square miles of 11 Western states.... States, Feds Feuding Over How to Handle Resurgent Wolf Population The unexpectedly strong comeback of the wolf in the northern Rockies has created a great snarling and gnashing of teeth, but it's not the sound of the mighty predators bringing down elk or the occasional cow. It's the wrangling over what to do now that wolves have re-established themselves. Since the gray wolf was reintroduced to Wyoming and Idaho in 1995 — eight years after it was brought back to northwestern Montana — the population has grown twice as fast as anyone believed possible. Last summer the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that the process of removing the wolf from the endangered species list could begin, once the three states came up with acceptable management plans to control the population.... N.D. Probes Disappearance of Pelicans Wildlife officials estimate nearly 27,000 American white pelicans have abandoned their summer nesting grounds at the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge north of here. The question is why -- and where they went. "It's like they packed up and left in the middle of the night -- except they didn't pack up, they just left," said Ken Torkelson, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bismarck.... Family of Mexican gray wolves to be rounded up A pair of Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico will be captured and relocated because they moved outside the boundaries of a wolf recovery program and killed a newborn calf. The pair set up territory in the San Mateo Mountains southwest of Socorro, outside the recovery program boundaries along the New Mexico-Arizona state line in southwestern New Mexico. The wolves killed the calf about a month ago. "We have to get them," said John Oakleaf, program field coordinator. The female wolf has given birth to pups, and project workers are trying to determine whether the pups are still alive. Then they will trap the family.... Poisoned meat found in Jackson Poisoned meat bait that has killed or sickened 25 dogs in Wyoming and Idaho now has been found inside the town's limits, leading authorities to rethink their theory that wolves are the main target. In addition, the Wyoming Veterinary Laboratory recently confirmed that two hot dogs found in mid-April in east Jackson contained the pesticide commonly sold as Temik, Rudd said. While it was initially believed the poison baits were an attempt to kill wolves, Rudd said finding them in town could mean whoever is spreading them is less discriminatory.... All Ecosystems Are Equally Productive Under Drought Conditions When push comes to shove, all ecosystems have the same maximum rain-use efficiency, a measure of total plant growth per unit of precipitation. The finding indicates there’s an upper limit to ecosystems’ productivity, said Travis E. Huxman, a plant physiological ecologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He and a team of researchers calculated the upper limit, which they call RUEmax (maximum rain-use efficiency). Life depends on the productivity of plants, Huxman pointed out, adding, “RUEmax defines the limits of that production.”.... BLM to reveal options for up to 500 gas wells The federal government has proposed drilling as many as 500 natural gas wells in and around the San Juan National Forest in the Durango area, drawing criticism from some local activists. In an environmental impact study to be released today, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, will reveal seven options to develop natural gas in the area. These plans will propose drilling anywhere from 117 to 500 gas wells in the region, covering more than 125,000 acres.... Counties subcommittee drafts new policy on right-of-way claims A new policy on contentious right-of-way claims drafted by a Colorado Counties Inc. subcommittee could be the first step in counties claiming roads across public lands. The Mining Law of 1866, known as Revised Statute 2477, allows governments or individuals to assert right-of-way claims on constructed highways over public lands. But there has been much disagreement on local, state and federal government levels about how the law should be interpreted.... BLM Plans to Ignore Lion’s Share of Public Comments on Otero Mesa Earthjustice notified the Bureau of Land Management today that its decision to refuse the public an opportunity to submit electronic comments via e-mail and facsimile on the proposed oil and gas development on the Otero Mesa is inconsistent with both federal law and the government’s standard practices. On May 19, 2004, BLM issued a supplement to the proposed oil and natural gas development plan for Sierra and Otero Counties, NM, and informed the public of the agency’s intention to accept only U.S. mail comments on the plan. In a letter addressed to Linda Rundell, director of the New Mexico BLM, Earthjustice, The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, and the Southwest Environmental Center informed BLM that refusal to allow electronic comments on the plan interferes with the public’s rights under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the E-Government Act of 2002. Accordingly, the letter demands that the agency post a revised proposed rulemaking by Friday to open up the plan to broader public participation.... BLM says it will take public’s comments via e-mail, fax The Bureau of Land Management says it wants to hear from the public about proposed oil and gas development on Otero Mesa, and e-mails and faxes are welcomed. An agency official responded to criticism from several groups who said the BLM wasn’t accepting comments that were sent in via e-mail and faxes.... Feds Want More Alaskan Land for Drilling The federal governments wants 387,000 more acres available for oil and gas drilling in Alaska, a proposal criticized by environmentalists. The move announced Wednesday is part of a proposed Bureau of Land Management amendment to a 1998 development plan for the northeastern region of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.... Governor protests BLM sale of oil, gas leases in Wyoming Wyoming's governor filed a formal protest this week against an oil and gas lease sale on public lands west of the Wind River Mountains. In so doing, Gov. Dave Freudenthal became the third Western governor in less than a year to challenge the Bush administration's push to develop energy resources in environmentally sensitive areas. Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt last year requested that 15 new gas wells proposed near the White River in the Book Cliffs be delayed for further study. And earlier this year, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson condemned the Bush administration's plans to expand oil and gas exploration on the Otero Mesa.... Industry Groups Argue for Weakened Clean Water Protections Attorneys for the oil industry filed a motion today seeking to narrow the scope of the federal Clean Water Act as it applies to preventing oil spills in many streams, ponds, wetlands and other waters. Conservation groups that have intervened in the litigation warned that well over half the nation’s waters—ranging from neighborhood creeks and fishing holes to drinking water supplies—could lose federal protection if the oil industry’s argument is successful. At issue in the litigation is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s oil spill prevention program, which is designed to prevent discharges of oil into the waters of the United States, and to contain those discharges if they occur.... FBI Warns of Eco-Terrorism Threat The FBI warned law enforcement agencies of the potential for criminal activity in response to a call for action in support of a convicted eco-terrorist, according to the weekly bulletin issued by the agency and obtained by Fox News. "Supporters of anarchist and convicted arsonist Jeff Luers have designated Saturday, June 12, 2004 an 'International Day of Action and Solidarity with Jeff 'Free' Luers,' alternatively entitled 'J12,'" the FBI said in the bulletin. "J12 events are planned in Eugene, Oregon; Olympia, Washington; San Francisco and Modesto, California; Lawrence, Kansas; Morgantown, West Virginia; Worcester, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine; and Lake Worth, Florida.".... Study Ranks Bush Plan to Cut Air Pollution as Weakest of 3 A research firm that the Bush administration commissioned to analyze its plan to lower emissions from coal-fired power plants compared the plan with two competing legislative proposals and concluded in a report released Wednesday that the administration's plan was the weakest. At the invitation of the environmental coalition Clear the Air, the international research firm Abt Associates, which often conducts studies for the Environmental Protection Agency, used the same methodology in assessing all three. It found that the administration's plan, called the Clear Skies Act, would save as many as 14,000 lives but that the other bills would save more - 16,000 in one case and 22,000 in the other.... Column: A Water Grab's Bill Comes Due Water in the West has never made sense, thanks to states drawn with straight lines and watersheds that won't stay put. Then there's California, where hydrology and demography rebound off each other in opposite directions. Two-thirds of the people live in the south, while two-thirds of the surface water is in the north. This mismatch between nature and culture has made the south dependent on water imports, and to some, this is evidence of Southern California's parasitic self-indulgence. Yet northern cities have no reason to be smug, since many of them are water thieves themselves. Two years after Los Angeles had colonized the Owens Valley and begun its desertification, San Francisco performed an even more brazen act of hydrological abduction: It built a dam inside a national park and transformed one of the most scenic valleys in California into a giant bathtub. Yet these same northern cities reacted with self-righteous indignation when the Bush administration recently proposed that residents of San Francisco and other Bay Area communities pay more -- a lot more -- for the right to exploit a national treasure.... Wild West Rodeo High-Tails It Out of China A posse of real-life American cowboys have called off their summer rodeo in the Chinese capital after just a few weeks and ridden off into the sunset. "They left on Sunday, they didn't explain why," said their interpreter. "Their friends drove up and picked them up." The cowboys said the audiences were falling to a trickle because of poor advertising and scheduling, they were being told how to do their job and the paychecks did not always arrive on time. They also said many of the local horses and cattle were too small or too tame to buck.... Future of Tequila Mix equal parts botany, science and Mexican agro-history, then add a jigger of marketing to describe the culture of tequila. Most of us who sip a margarita or savor a fine shot of tequila don't wrap our brains around the complex question of where tequila comes from. Mescal de tequila was the first mescal to be codified and recognized by its geographic origin (Tequila, in the state of Jalisco) and the only mescal known internationally by that name....

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

Trial for Catron County rancher Kit Laney set for August

A rancher accused of assaulting U.S. Forest Service rangers who were helping impound his cattle this spring will go on trial Aug. 10.

The court date for Kit Laney, 43, was set at a federal court hearing here last week.

Laney waived his right to a jury trial, and will be allowed to represent himself.

"He did both against my advice," attorney Troy Prichard said Tuesday. "The judge ordered me to be with him in an advisory capacity. That's new ground for me."

Laney had been under electronic monitoring for several months. The electronic monitoring was removed after the hearing.

Laney was indicted on five counts of assault on federal officers and three counts of obstruction after his arrest March 14 during a roundup of cattle that belonged to him and his ex-wife, Sherry Farr, on the Gila National Forest.

Laney is accused of threatening to trample federal officers with his horse and trying to release some of the impounded livestock.

Laney and Farr did not have a permit to graze the cattle.

Last December, a federal judge awarded the Forest Service grazing fees and damages after finding the couple in contempt of court for grazing cattle on allotments in violation of the earlier court rulings. The judge ordered the cattle removed.

Laney and Farr contended the roundup was illegal and that the impoundment was potentially a criminal offense.

They have maintained they own a vested fee interest in areas the federal government controls and that such an interest is similar to owning mineral rights or another easement.

Courts have rejected those arguments repeatedly since the mid-1990s.

The Forest Service sold about 450 head of rounded-up cattle for about $211,000, saying that would help pay the cost.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Locals lobby for Forest changes They are captured in a video prepared by a group of Douglas County business and community leaders who are frustrated by a slow political process that does not allow land managers to immediately clear out dead wood and replant damaged forests. Calling themselves Communities for Healthy Forests, the 15 core committee members hope to promote a grass-roots effort that represents the people. The video, presented to a crowd at Monday's Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce noon forum at the Holiday Inn Express, is the first step in spreading the group's message throughout Oregon, the West and hopefully across the country to Washington, D.C.... Firefighters Criticized For Saving Turkey and Eggs During New Mexico Wildfire Firefighters who saved a wild turkey and her eggs while fighting the Peppin Fire near Capitan, N.M., are being criticized by at least one property owner who charged they did not do enough to save 12 cabins that burned down. Paula Cairns, of Boerne, Texas, who owns one of the destroyed cabins, said she was angry that forest officials publicized they had saved the turkey but said little about the destruction of her family's cabin. "We were flabbergasted (when we heard about the turkey). We felt like it was very insensitive, that no efforts were made to preserve our area of the forest. We would have loved for them to come in and do a fire line around our area," said Cairns, whose family has owned the cabin for more than 50 years.... Politics hold sway in Biscuit logging, wilderness plan Nine days before the U.S. Forest Service announced an unprecedented blueprint for restoring slopes burned by the Biscuit fire, the president's point man on national forests slipped into Portland to share sushi with a political adversary. Inside a private tatami room at the Sinju Restaurant in the Pearl District, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey told Josh Kardon, chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, of the government's decision to take truckloads of blackened trees from the Siskiyou National Forest. The plan for the first time would allow loggers into roadless forests in the Lower 48 states set aside by President Clinton. That is just the sort of approach that earned President Bush low marks from environmental groups and Democrats such as Wyden. But Rey had brought a sweetener, something that Wyden and Gov. Ted Kulongoski had been pushing for: more protected wilderness.... Cleaning up after old-time miners Brown scum floats on the beaver pond at the top of American Fork Canyon. While the iron oxide occurs naturally, it would not have found its way into the pond without mining. The pond is fed by a small but rapidly flowing water source emerging through an earthern plug that seals the abandoned Pacific Mine.... Fees to use public land taking hike The sticker shock hit Tom Younger with all the impact of a Super Slam arrow. When the president of Columbine Bowmen received the bill for the annual special use permit on U.S. Forest Land on the Rampart Range just southwest of Denver, he nearly fell to the floor of his Fort Lupton home. The $240 fee the club had paid for nearly four decades to operate an archery range on 60 acres of national forest had, in one fell swoop, escalated to $7,560.... Is wolf comeback waning? After flourishing for a quarter-century in the forests of northeast Minnesota, the timber wolf population in the state has peaked and may be shrinking. That change in direction has surprised wildlife experts and defied earlier predictions that protection offered by the Endangered Species Act would allow the wolf to spread across the state.... Column: The Great Refinery Shortage There are plenty of reasons gas costs so much, but one of them is that the United States doesn't have enough refineries. The National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association says that the last new refinery built in the United States was Marathan Ashland's Garyville, La., plant—and it was completed in 1976. According to this report, between 1999 and 2002 refining capacity in the United States rose only 3 percent, squeezing up prices since demand grew much faster than that. Who's to blame for the fact that refining supply can't keep up with our thirst for oil? Probably you.... 10,000th Salmon Saved From Drying Creeks The month of May saw the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) and its volunteers rescue their 10,000th endangered salmon from drying creeks and release it into a safe flowing stretch downstream. This marks a milestone that began six years ago when SPAWN discovered water levels dropping in important "nursery habitat" leaving coho salmon and steelhead trout juveniles dying in the evaporating pools located in the Lagunitas Watershed's, San Geronimo Valley in Marin. "We are just giving these fish one more fighting chance to survive in their habitat, which we have altered to the fish's detriment," said Todd Steiner who directs SPAWN and galvanized this effort. "These fish would meet certain death without our intervention.".... Big Hole ranchers offered $1 million to keep water in river The federal government is offering to pay Big Hole Valley ranchers $1 million to leave their irrigation water in the river. The goal is to leave enough water in the stream to protect the fluvial arctic grayling. The upper Big Hole is the only place in the lower 48 states where those rare fish still live.... Wolf turns up dead in Colorado A young wolf from a Yellowstone pack was found dead along Interstate 70 west of Idaho Springs on Saturday, the first confirmed wild wolf in Colorado in 69 years. The appearance of the female wolf, designated No. 293, was confirmation that Yellowstone wolves, reintroduced in 1995, are attempting to establish new territories hundreds of miles from home. Wolves have been sighted in southern Wyoming for the past two years, but 293's appearance so deep into Colorado astounded even one of the country's top wolf biologists.... Editorial: Myths and truths about wolves The howls echoing across Colorado are humans reacting to the appearance of a lone wild wolf in our state. Depending on the person, the outcry signals either love or hate. What's needed, though, is more understanding of the facts and less fighting over the myths. The discovery doesn't mean wolves have re-established a viable population in Colorado. It does, however, confirm biologists' predictions that the species is working its way south from Wyoming. When will a full-fledged wolf pack make its home permanently in Colorado? It could be next year, or it could take a decade.... Elk devouring future of beavers, wetlands The industrious beaver, nature's supreme wetlands engineer, is having a tough time recolonizing its former strongholds. During the early 20th century, hundreds of the large rodents paddled through ponds of their own making in the park's high valleys that flank the Continental Divide. But recent studies suggest beavers now number no more than several dozen. Trapping once was a major cause of the beaver's decline in Rocky Mountain National Park. But now beavers have run into a different problem. Elk..... OHV group drops suit over roads An off-highway-vehicle group has dropped its lawsuit against Emery County and Utah, which the group accused of shirking their duty to protect road rights of way on federal lands. The Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL) filed a lawsuit May 3 in 7th District Court to force the county and state to open routes in the San Rafael Swell that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had closed to motor vehicles. The group last week withdrew its action, apparently after becoming satisfied that the state and county are doing their jobs.... Column: Taking a look at genetic diversity For the multitude of plants, animals and insects living in British Columbia and Pacific Northwest forests, there is no reason to believe that logging or the many forms of natural disturbance result in a net loss of genetic diversity. The numerous species of ferns, mosses, lichen, and fungi are so prolific and widespread that it is hard to imagine inbreeding or temporary local loss of habitat as a serious threat. For the trees and other plants there are nearly always some seeds or seedlings ready to spring back to replace the old forest. These contain the genetic material of their parents. Most birds, mammals, and other animals either escape to surrounding forest or adapt to the new environment. Some species, such as salamanders, will survive in reduced numbers initially but there is no evidence that their genetic diversity is lost as they eventually recover in the new forest. Other species, such as field mice, will increase in numbers after logging but there is no reason to suspect significant change in the genetic make-up of the population. Most genetic work with trees simply involves controlled breeding programs using normal sexual reproduction by fertilizing seeds with pollen.... Grand Canyon is ailing, but panel can't agree on a prescription But all is not well in this crown jewel of America's national park system. The salt cedar and trout are invaders, part of a wave of alien fish and plants that have moved in and devoured or crowded out the native species. The sandy shorelines are washing away. And once-buried Indian archaeological sites are slipping into the river. The Grand Canyon is in deep trouble, and the government-appointed panel assigned to come up with solutions is torn by competing interests and cannot muster the political will to act decisively.... Activists seek rules to prevent whale collisions Environmentalists looking to protect whales from collisions with ships in Alaska and on the West Coast hope to import proposed East Coast restrictions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that calls for tighter restrictions on vessels to reduce ship strikes on the North Atlantic right whale along the East Coast. The notice was published in the Federal Register June 1. NOAA will take comments until Aug. 2. Environmentalists say NOAA should issue a rule that applies to the coasts off Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington because of problems with whale strikes.... Montana recommends bison hunt State wildlife officials are recommending allowing a limited hunt of bison that leave Yellowstone National Park in search of winter forage. Ranchers and livestock industry officials worry that wandering bison could transmit disease to cattle. Allowing hunters to shoot up to 25 bison each winter was the preferred alternative in an environmental assessment released Monday by Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.... Japan PM Has 'Banned' U.S. Beef for Lunch with Bush Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, showing he himself had no qualms about U.S. beef -- banned in Japan due to concerns over mad cow disease -- ate beef tenderloin when he lunched with President Bush (news - web sites) on Tuesday. "The beef was delicious. And the prime minister ate it too," said a senior Japanese official who accompanied Koizumi to the lunch at the Georgia resort of Sea Island ahead of the Group of Eight nations summit....

Monday, June 07, 2004


CBS visits for grizzly delisting show Staff members from the CBS-TV news program "60 Minutes" were in Cody this weekend taping interviews for an upcoming program about delisting grizzly bears. "It won't air until September," said Leslie Stahl, a 60 Minutes reporter who conducted interviews with two wildlife biologists, a county commissioner, cattle producer and environmentalists concerning the effects of delisting.... Dog Poisonings Blamed on Anger at Wolves Two rangers at a campground store knew immediately what was wrong: The couple's pet Sammy was the latest victim of a poisoning spree -- likely aimed at wolves -- that has killed eight dogs and sickened 13 others. Authorities believe someone has been putting poison in hot dogs and balls of meat and scattering them along roads in western Wyoming and eastern Idaho.... Yellowstone wolf found dead near Denver A young wolf from Yellowstone National Park was found dead near Denver last weekend, nearly 500 miles from her home, and officials were trying to determine how she got there and how she died. The 2-year-old wolf had broken legs and was believed to have been struck and killed by a vehicle on Interstate 70 about 30 miles west of Denver, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, Mont. She may have migrated on her own but could have been killed elsewhere and dumped in Colorado.... Sage grouse numbers rebound, but status still uncertain The number of sage grouse, proposed for possible listing under the Endangered Species List, is increasing in Idaho's deserts, but biologists remain concerned about the effect of wildfires on critical sagebrush habitat. Spring counts of the birds are up at breeding grounds from northeastern Idaho to the Owyhees, state wildlife program coordinator Tom Hemker said Monday. In the Twin Falls region, grouse have increased 113 percent since 1994.... Nevada relic surfaces as Lake Mead water drops Another southern Nevada relic is emerging as drought lowers the water level at Lake Mead. Months after foundations of buildings in the old Mormon town of St. Thomas became visible near Overton, the subsiding water has revealed a concrete water tank from the construction of Hoover Dam in Boulder Basin. The circular structure, 15 feet deep and 115 feet across, was built in 1931 to clean Colorado River water used to wash gravel. Seven years later, it disappeared beneath the rising waters when Lake Mead was filled.... County votes against BLM police powers There was a unanimous thumbs down by the Elko County Board of Commissioners to a proposal by the federal Bureau of Land Management to increase its law enforcement authority on public lands. Commissioners voted on Thursday to go on record with strong opposition to the BLM's plan to allow law enforcement rangers to make arrests for drug and alcohol-related offenses. Commissioners voted after Elko County Sheriff Neil Harris said it was the responsibility of himself and his deputies to enforce drug and alcohol laws on public lands in Elko County.... An element of distinction Some towns have casinos. This one has helium. Make light if you will, but the lighter-than-air gas is an important resource, with uses including medical imaging and rocket propulsion. Thanks to the Ladder Creek Helium Plant in this Eastern Plains town, Colorado is helium country.... Federal appeals court says cross in Mojave federal park is unconstitutional A federal appeals court ruled Monday that an 8-foot cross in the Mojave National Preserve is an unconstitutional governmental endorsement of religion. Ruling 3-0, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court that had ruled against the cross, which has become both a war memorial and a place of worship at a Southern California desert site known as Sunrise Rock. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a retired National Park Service employee who objected to the religious symbolism of the steel-pipe structure, which sits about 10 miles south of Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and Barstow..... Las Vegas plans to pipe water, upsetting its unwilling donors Water agency officials here are scrambling to meet the seemingly unquenchable demand for water, as the region suffers through one of the worst droughts on record. They are also opening old wounds that pit rural areas against one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation. Among the plans under consideration by the Southern Nevada Water Authority: drawing groundwater from remote areas, piping it into the Las Vegas area, and compensating farmers for taking land out of production so the water once slated for irrigation can be used by thirsty subdivisions. The plans are triggering protests, just as they did when they were first filed in 1989. In February, the SNWA released details of the plan in a report, and the state held hearings on the issue in late March.... Federal law hurts industries, panel told The federal Endangered Species Act is entering its 30th year, but it is not working, local residents and officials told the U.S. House Committee on Resources Monday. Representatives from the agriculture community, the city of Carlsbad, the Carlsbad Irrigation District, state Rep. Joe Stell, D-Carlsbad, and the state Department of Energy and Minerals testified at the hearing. While they came from a variety of backgrounds, the majority of those who testified agreed that immediate action must be taken to revise the act.... It's All Trew: Agriculture changed rapidly after Dust Bowl The greatest changes in agriculture came in the 1930s and 1940s when farmers converted from horse and team power to tractor farming. After the Dust Bowl and an extended drought ended, Mother Nature relented and the rains came. The result was no one, especially the farmer and the grain storage industry, was prepared for the abundance of grain harvested. All farm storage filled quickly and grain elevators overflowed. Railroad grain cars were scarce, scattered all across the Great Plains in the northern grain belt....

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Sorry, this is all I got done before Blogger went down last night.


Editorial: Firefighters can do jobs without large air tankers Since the mid-1950s when we began using air tankers on wildland fires, we have relied primarily on older, surplus military aircraft. They served us well, reliably, and safely for many years. However, as fire seasons passed, these aircraft aged, and the stresses of working in a wildfire environment, where frequent and aggressive low-level maneuvers and high levels of turbulence are the norm, began to take a toll. That toll turned tragic. In the last decade accidents began to happen. Most recently, in 2002, two air tankers fell from the sky, with the crews giving their lives. We must guard against the possibility that not only additional crews, but also lives and property on the ground could be lost in a crash. That's why we terminated the contract for these tankers pending a determination that they can be operated safely. The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the tankers have potential structural problems that might lead to a catastrophe if we send them to fight a fire. The NTSB has further determined that there is no means to immediately ensure the air worthiness of these aircraft.... Column: We aren't safe while wrapped in fuel In 2002, the federal government spent $1.6 billion fighting wildfires that destroyed almost 900 homes and commercial buildings. During last year's California wildfires, 23 people died and over 2,900 homes were destroyed, leading to insurance claims in excess of $2 billion. After a century of promises from the federal government that, given enough resources, we can control fire, Nature's will remains beyond our control, as are the spiraling costs of fire suppression. We need a proactive approach based not on throwing money and technology at fires after they start, but on consideration of entire landscapes - protecting communities before they are in danger, restoring healthy ecosystems and allowing natural fires to burn where we do not need to put them out. Only by taking into account the whole landscape can we target scarce resources and avoid unnecessary expenses. We need to plan for fire across landscapes at risk, employing strategies of community protection, practical forest management and fiscal restraint. We need to accept that we live in a fire landscape, and we need to plan accordingly.... CBM industry fears grouse listing Talk about protecting sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act is worrying the coal-bed methane industry. The industry has been benefiting from good news over the past year or so. Drilling permits are again being issued after they were suspended during an environmental study, and gas prices are climbing out of a slump. But the industry stands to lose if sage grouse are federally protected. "Anywhere where there's sagebrush habitat, any industrial activity in that area will be curbed," Devon Energy spokesman Todd Ennenga said....