Saturday, June 26, 2004

GAO TESTIMONY, S. 2543(pdf)


Comments on Provisions of S. 2543, a Bill to Establish a Federal Program and Criteria for National Heritage Areas

Provisions of S. 2543 would establish a systematic process for identifying and designating national heritage areas, addressing many of the concerns identified in GAO’s March 2004 testimony. At that time, GAO reported that no such systematic process exists, noting that the Congress has, in some instances, designated heritage areas before the Park Service has fully evaluated them. S. 2543 contains provisions that would require that a suitability study be completed and the Park Service determine the area meets certain criteria before the Congress designates a heritage area. While the bill defines heritage areas more specifically in terms of their national significance, the criteria outlined in S. 2543 will benefit from guidance that the Park Service has recently developed to guide the application of the criteria. This guidance will improve the designation process.

Provisions of S. 2543 would limit the amount of federal funds that can be provided to heritage areas through the Park Service’s budget. In March 2004, GAO testified that from fiscal years 1997 through 2002 about half of heritage areas’ funding came from the federal government. Specifically, for 22 of the 24 heritage areas where data were available, $156 million of the areas' $310 million in total funding came from the federal government. Of this, over $50 million came from Park Service funds dedicated for this purpose, $44 million from other Park Service programs, and about $61 million from 11 other federal sources. S. 2543 would restrict annual dedicated Park Service funding for heritage areas to $15 million. Individual areas may not receive more than $1 million in a given fiscal year and $10 million over 15 years.

Furthermore, S. 2543 includes provisions that could enhance the Park Service’s ability to hold heritage areas accountable for their use of federal funds. In this regard, S. 2543 (1) establishes a program that would provide the Park Service with the direction and funding needed to manage the agency's and the heritage areas’ activities; (2) establishes a schedule and criteria for reviewing and approving heritage areas’ management plans; (3) identifies criteria for use in reviewing areas' plans; (4) requires that the plans include information on, among other things, performance goals and the roles and functions of partners; and (5) requires areas to submit annual reports specifying, among other things, performance goals and accomplishments, expenses and income, and amounts and sources of funds. GAO has identified potential amendments to S. 2543 that would further enhance areas' accountability.

S. 2543 includes provisions that address some of the concerns GAO identified in March with regard to heritage areas' potential restrictions on property owners’ rights and land use. For example, S. 2543 allows property owners to refrain from participating in any planned project or activity within the heritage area. Furthermore, the bill does not require any owner to permit public access to property and does not alter any existing land use regulation, approved land use plan, or other regulatory authority.
Mad Cow Discovery Downplayed By Government, Industry

An initial test of one animal has failed to rule out mad cow disease, but people who eat U.S. beef should not be alarmed because the animal never entered the food chain, agriculture officials say.

The Agriculture Department said the result was "inconclusive" for the brain-wasting disease. The carcass was being sent to the USDA National Veterinary Laboratory in Ames, Iowa; results were expected in four days to seven days.

"No matter how the confirmatory testing comes back, USDA remains confident in the safety of the U.S. beef supply," John Clifford, deputy administrator of USDA veterinary services, said in announcing the finding late Friday. "This animal did not enter the human food chain or feed chain."

Clifford declined to identify the animal or its location until testing is complete. It is "very likely" final testing could turn up negative, he said.

Norman Schwartz, president of Bio-Rad Laboratories in Hercules, Calif., said the initial test was performed at one of his labs. "They are designed to catch everything. You are catching every possible suspicious sample," Schwartz said Saturday.

In the first case of mad cow discovered in the United States, a Holstein on a Washington state farm was found to have the disease in December, leading more than 50 countries to ban imports of U.S. beef. Japan and South Korea, two of the biggest export markets, have their bans in effect.

The department this month expanded national testing for the disease in response to that mad cow scare. More than 7,000 cattle have been tested under the program, which seeks to check about 220,000 animals over the next year to 18 months.

Agriculture officials and representatives of the U.S. beef cattle industry quickly sought to play down a potential threat to consumers.

"This is not at all unexpected," Clifford said. "Inconclusive results are a normal component of most screening tests, which are designed to be extremely sensitive so they will detect any sample that could possibly be positive."

At the American Meat Institute, a trade group, spokeswoman Janet Riley said: "Regardless of the test outcome, beef is safe because the infectious agent is not contained in beef and the tissues that can contain the infectious agent are removed, and do not enter the food supply. Consumers can continue to enjoy beef in safety."

Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF USA, a cattlemen's group, urged calm in the live cattle markets, which dropped 20 percent after U.S. officials reported the first mad cow case in December.

Mad cow disease, known also as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, eats holes in the brains of cattle. It sprang up in Britain in 1986 and spread through countries in Europe and Asia, prompting massive destruction of herds and devastating the European beef industry.

A form of mad cow disease can be contracted by humans if they eat infected beef or nerve tissue, and possibly through blood transfusions. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease, so far has killed 100 people in Britain and elsewhere, including a Florida woman this week who was believed to have contracted the disease in England.

The government last year conducted mad cow tests on tissues from 20,543 animals, virtually all of them cattle that could not stand or walk and had to be dragged to slaughter. After the December case, the government initially doubled the number of animals to be tested this year to 40,000.

With many foreign governments still reluctant to ease bans on U.S. beef, the testing program was expanded at a cost of $70 million to include as many as 220,000 slaughtered animals, following recommendations from an international scientific review panel. About 35 million cattle are slaughtered each year in the United States.
U.S. Awaits Conclusive Mad Cow Results

Government and beef industry officials urged consumers Saturday not to worry about the safety of meat as they await conclusive results of tests to determine whether the United States has a new case of mad cow disease.

State-level agriculture officials, meanwhile, wondered whether the animal detected in preliminary tests was from their areas. Until more exacting tests are done, the Agriculture Department would not identify the animal, the state it came from or the facility in which it was killed. The follow-up process could take four to seven days, the department said Friday.

A screening test designed to give rapid results had indicated the animal had mad cow, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. Such tests cannot confirm whether the animal truly had the brain-wasting disease, so the department labels the results inconclusive.

The more exacting tests were being done at the department's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, which diagnosed in December the nation's only confirmed case of BSE, in a Washington state Holstein.

"The inconclusive result does not mean we have found another case of BSE in this country," Dr. John Clifford, deputy administrator of the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said when he announced the preliminary finding. "Inconclusive results are a normal part of most screening tests."

The department remains confident in the safety of food in the United States, Clifford said. Meat from the animal did not enter the human food supply or livestock feed, he said. Keeping the carcass out of the supply chain is one of several federal safeguards against introduction of BSE into the food supply. These include rules that bar use of the most potentially at-risk cattle parts, such as brains and spinal cords.

People who eat products containing the protein can contract a rare but fatal disease similar to BSE, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The new preliminary results announced Friday was done at an unidentified regional laboratory under an expanded BSE surveillance program. Under the expansion, the department was increasing testing by about tenfold, to more than 200,000 animals, over 12 to 18 months. The regional labs, run by states, began their work June 1, and Clifford said more than 7,000 cattle have been tested under the expanded system.

Officials in several states said they had received no word from the government that their states were involved in the new incident.

In Washington state, the deputy director of the state's agriculture department, Bill Brookreson, said Saturday he had heard nothing to indicate his state had a part in the new case. If it were involved, his agency probably would have been notified, "but there are no guarantees," he said.

The department has not notified Florida officials that the animal was from their state, said Liz Compton, a spokeswoman for Florida's agriculture department. Spokespeople for agriculture departments in Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Iowa and Wisconsin also said they had received no word that the animal was from their state.

Beef industry officials echoed the U.S. Agriculture Department in saying people can continue to eat beef safely.

The infectious agent for BSE is not in beef, and tissues that could contain the agent are not allowed in the food supply, said Janet Riley, a spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute, a trade group. The group's president and chief executive officer, Patrick Boyle, said the preliminary test result shows the government's food supply protections are working. He said he was planning to eat a steak.

The preliminary test results must be considered inconclusive while the more exact testing is under way, said Norman Schwartz, president of Bio-Rad Laboratories in Hercules, Calif., who said Bio-Rad's rapid test found the result that USDA announced Friday.

The screening effectively identifies tissue that could contain the BSE protein while not falsely identifying clean samples as contaminated, Schwartz said. The testing process is new, and errors might creep in if lab officials make mistakes, he said.

"It's just kind of our cautious nature to say we want to see the thing confirmed and make absolutely sure before we raise the red flag," Schwartz said.

Congressman: Some large air tankers could be flying by July 4 The chairman of a House forest subcommittee said Friday the U.S. Forest Service could have the first group of decades-old heavy air tankers, grounded last month, under contract to fight fires by July 4. "We're making headway," Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said following a meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., with representatives of the Forest Service, Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and the Bureau of Land Management. Walden said the Forest Service and FAA have given tanker contractors the criteria they must meet to have their planes certified as airworthy, and the first inspections could be completed by early July.... Group wants Feds to give up forests A group of Wisconsin legislators is proposing that management authority for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest be turned over to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker's Task Force on Forestry issued a press release last week saying 25 legislators back the proposal. Rep. Donald Friske, R-Merrill, Assembly Speaker John Gard, R-Peshtigo, and Rep. Mary Williams, R-Medford, sent a letter to the White House asking that management authority of the forest be transferred from the U.S. Forest Service to the DNR. The legislators are proposing a 25-year trial period pilot program for transferring management.... River runs through dam protester's life It has been 25 years since Sacramento native Mark Dubois chained himself to a rock in the Stanislaus River Canyon as officials closed the gates on New Melones Dam and allowed the reservoir to fill. He was ready to let the rising waters drown him if it would save the canyon, with its caves and prehistoric Indian sites and whitewater rapids, from being lost forever under the lake. The reservoir was eventually filled in 1982, but Dubois' stand caught the public's attention around the globe and did manage to stop the rising water for a time.... Lynx dens might mean cat's back For years, scientists weren't sure whether Canada lynx were still living in Minnesota or just passing through. But in the past couple of weeks, they've found two lynx dens, proof the state now has a breeding population of the federally threatened species. "It's a further indication that we do have females able to breed and successfully raise young,'' said Ron Moen, a biologist with the University of Minnesota-Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute, which is collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service on a lynx study effort.... Judge asks why 3 rare species aren't protected A federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to explain what prevents it from listing rare species in four Western states as endangered or threatened. The ruling by Judge Ann Aiken in Portland, Ore., was hailed Friday by environmental groups as a victory in efforts to protect the Tahoe yellow cress plant, the southern Idaho ground squirrel and the sand dune lizard.... California Rancher Receives Excellence in Conservation Award The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today presented its 2004 Excellence in Conservation Award to Michael J. Byrne, a California rancher. He was recognized during the NRCS Honors Awards ceremony at the USDA complex in Washington, D.C. "This year's Excellence in Conservation Award winner epitomizes the best in efforts to conserve, maintain and improve the environment and its natural resources on America's private working lands," said NRCS Chief Bruce Knight.... Watching endangered wildlife on the Net Conservationist Stephen Kress sees the big picture when it comes to putting live video of remote seabird colonies on the Internet. He hopes to build support for seabird restoration efforts from Maine to California by giving the birds a worldwide stage. Five years ago in Maine, the Audubon Society began streaming live video of puffins, loons and terns nesting on coastal islands onto the Internet for Project Puffin, which was principally a research tool.... Ranchers take less water from Big Hole, but levels still dropping Ranchers have reduced their take of upper Big Hole River irrigation water by 165 cubic feet per second, but the stream is still flowing at only 25 percent of that amount. Since the irrigation-reduction program began on Monday, the river's flow at a measuring station in Wisdom has dropped steadily, from 100 cfs on Sunday to 41 cfs Thursday. The flow rate is critical because it will help determine the survival of the fluvial arctic grayling, a rare fish that is the subject of a request for emergency listing under the Endangered Species Act.... Landlocked rainbow trout may get federal protection Federal regulators may grant landlocked rainbow trout behind Calaveras and San Antonio dams protection under the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups working to restore historic runs of marine steelhead trout to Alameda Creek say the rainbows are descended from them. Genetic studies back up their case, they say. The rainbow trout may serve as breeding stock for restoring steelhead runs. But granting the fish federal protection also could create new regulatory headaches for ranchers and water agencies.... Tarahumara frogs reintroduced to Santa Ritas Once commonplace in Santa Cruz County, the Tarahumara frog disappeared from the area in the early 1980's, possibly due to heavy metal contamination from nearby mining. But Arizona Game & Fish officials say they plan to reintroduce about 400 Tarahumara frogs and tadpoles to the habitat in the Santa Rita Mountains Saturday. "They will be carried into the mountains in plastic bags and containers in biologists' backpacks," said Debbie Freeman, spokeswoman for Game & Fish. The frogs were collected as eggs in Mexico in 2000 and reared at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facilities and at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in the Tucson Mountains.... Coal train derails A Union Pacific coal train derailed Thursday night on Orchard Mesa, spilling more than 400 tons of coal into a stretch of the Gunnison River listed as critical habitat for endangered fish. No one was injured in the 5:15 p.m. train wreck. Immediately upon hearing of the spill, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dispatched a boat to assess damage, said Grand Junction Fire Department Battalion Chief John Williams. That stretch of river is critical habitat for the Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker, both native endangered species, said Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.... Editorial: Fixing Up the National Parks For the most part, the history of the National Park Service is a sad tale of an idealistic vision undermined by the government's neglect. Despite some bursts of growth and the public's enormous support for America's national parks, Washington has chronically failed to pay the bills. The parks' operating budgets have nearly always been too skimpy, and in recent years a substantial backlog of deferred maintenance has built up. Every now and then, a politician offers to do something about it. In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower began a successful 10-year campaign, called Mission 66, to spend a billion dollars upgrading services and facilities. And during the 2000 campaign, George Bush promised to do away with the maintenance backlog within five years. But what this administration is likely to be remembered for is telling us how big the problem is, not solving it.... Trekking examined on Mormon trail Increased use of the historic Oregon-Mormon Pioneer trail by people re-enacting the Mormon handcart trek is being studied for potential environmental and recreational effects. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began conducting "handcart treks" in Fremont County's portion of the trail in 1999 to give Mormon youth a sense of what their ancestors endured on their westward journey from Illinois to Utah in the 19th century. About 1,000 participated in 1999, and, by 2002, that number was 12,000, according to an environmental assessment from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.... Report: Nevada lands bill would help Reid friend Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid is co-sponsoring a bill that would benefit one of his close friends by removing a federal easement on the friend's property, making way for development on 10,750 acres, according to a newspaper report Friday. The move would help Reid friend Harvey Whittemore, a senior partner in a law firm that has employed all four of Reid's sons, move forward with plans to build 50,000 homes and 10 golf courses on land northeast of Las Vegas, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Times said that the land could be worth as much as $5 million, but that the bill defines "fair market value" based on a 1988 appraisal, bringing the cost to Whittemore down to about $160,000.... Site a treasure trove of artifacts from ancient Utah Around the year 1000, people now known as the Fremont Indians built villages in the unforgiving terrain of central Utah's Range Creek, likely chosen as a place easy to defend against potential invaders. Nearly a thousand years later -- long after the Indians abandoned their Book Cliffs homes -- rancher Waldo Wilcox showed his own passion for defense. He and his family spent nearly 50 years keeping artifact hunters and vandals away from the remains of the Fremont pit houses, granaries and pottery.... A small town with a big past Wind, sudden and rude, slams about unlatched gates in the aging shipping pens - empty now except for weeds and untamed dust devils dancing behind the weathered timbers. These days, quail and mockingbirds sing lonely serenades in the stockyards on the north side of this old cow town. But once, not all that long ago, the Magdalena shipping pens vibrated with the bellowing and bleating of livestock and the hooting and cussing of cowboys. Between 1885, when the pens were built, and 1971, when the rail line between here and Socorro was closed, hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep moved through this stockyard onto train cars bound for markets back east....

Friday, June 25, 2004


Forest Service plan shot down by court A federal court has put the skids on a U.S. Forest Service plan that would have allowed logging on Monroe Mountain in the Fishlake National Forest. In a 30-page ruling released Wednesday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overturned a U.S. District judge's decision to dismiss a Utah environmental group's challenge of the "Monroe Mountain Ecosystem Restoration Project." The appeals court said the plan, which would apply to 50,000 acres, did not adequately address possible impacts to several critters identified in forest regulations as "management indicator species." The Forest Service, the appeals court ruled, "must gather quantitative data on actual [management indicator species] populations that allows it to estimate the effects of any forest management activities on the animal population trends.".... Bill aims to increase feds' property taxes If you're preparing to pay your annual property tax bill, you probably would like to have the same property tax rate that Uncle Sam gets when tax time comes due. It's less than a $1 per acre, based on the federal 'Payment In Lieu of Taxes' paid by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The former federal agency owns 235,000 acres in the county while the Forest Service owns approximately 600,000 - that's 75 percent of the county's 848,592 acres.... Litigation put on hold The county's attempt to buy time for a political settlement of the fate of South Canyon Road has the blessings of the U.S. Attorney's office. Elko District Attorney Gary Woodbury received word Wednesday that Assistant U.S. Attorney Blaine T. Welsh does not have a problem with asking a U.S. District Court to delay further action on the Jarbidge settlement for six months while the county seeks congressional action to resolve the dispute. County officials have asked the Nevada congressional delegation to seek a legislative resolution that would have Congress declare that South Canyon Road is a county road in the wake of a court ruling challenging the settlement agreement between the county and the U.S. Forest Service.... Groups want Jarbidge road closed Elko County Commissioners reacted bitterly to a demand from environmentalists that the U.S. Forest Service immediately close the South Canyon Road near the Jarbidge River and deploy agents over the July Fourth weekend to restrict public access. "That road will not be closed," Commissioner John Ellison said during Wednesday's meeting. Jarbidge District Ranger Dan Dallas said as far as he was concerned the road would remain open during the holiday weekend.... Greenpeace steps up S. Oregon logging protest Greenpeace continued to spotlight destructive logging practices on U.S. public lands Thursday, this time in Oregon’s Umpqua National Forest, administered by US Forest Service. Four activists attached themselves to a three-ton cargo container placed in the middle of active logging operations at the site of the ‘Peanuts’ Timber sale, where felling, yarding and hauling of old growth trees is underway by the D.R. Johnson company. Surrounded by stumps, the bright yellow container, which reads ‘Bush’s Forest Destruction Stops Here’ is the latest staging ground for Greenpeace’s campaign calling for a moratorium on commercial logging of ancient forest on public lands.... McCain’s exchange idea spawns federal water control fear U.S. Sen. John McCain’s draft amendment to the Yavapai Ranch land exchange bill has caused quite a stir back in Arizona. The draft appears to expand federal jurisdiction over the Verde River Basin. “We were a little concerned about the draft,” Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Director Herb Guenther said. ADWR had been discussing the “Verde River Basin Partnership” legislation with McCain’s staff, but the draft needs more state presence and less federal presence, Guenther said. Local officials who obtained a copy of the draft from sources other than McCain’s office had stronger comments about it.... Group seeks hikers to document waterways Forest Guardians is a Santa Febased environmental group formed 15 years ago in response to degradation of public lands by private industry. Recently, the group formed Watershed Guardians to document the effects that private cattle grazing has on streams and rivers in national forest areas. So here’s where the excuse to go hiking with a camera comes in: Watershed Guardians is assembling volunteers to document changes to waterways in Arizona and New Mexico by digitally photographing them. The photos will be filed by GPS coordinates and posted on the group’s Web site. Watershed Guardians said the images could help change the grazing policy of the National Forest Service to be more environmentally friendly.... FERC approves 50-year dam habitat plan The federal agency that regulates hydropower dams has approved a 50-year habitat conservation plan as part of the relicensing process for Rock Island, Rocky Reach and Wells dams on the Columbia River. The agreements were developed by the Chelan County and Douglas County public utility districts. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval of the plan took effect Monday. The FERC order commended all of the participants in the negotiations for developing a plan that "aids in the recovery of the endangered species and helps to prevent additional listing of Mid-Columbia salmonids.".... Baucus upset that trees not thinned Legislation that gave the U.S. Forest Service authority to thin trees to reduce the risk of wildfire has gone largely unused, Sen. Max Baucus charged Wednesday at a Senate hearing. "I don't think the Forest Service has done a very good job," said Baucus, D-Mont. "I think there's something wrong up there. I don't know what it is, whether it's management, dollars, lack of mission or guidance. But they're not getting the job done we all thought they would." Baucus, who helped pass the Healthy Forest Restoration Act last year, said the Forest Service has used the law to thin only about 12,000 acres in Montana's nine national forests.... Cattle grass bank stirs controversy The "forage for conservation" exchange is the idea of the Heart Mountain Grass Bank, which is run by The Nature Conservancy as part of the 15,000-acre property the nonprofit organization bought in 1999. Nature Conservancy administrator Laura Bell got the grass bank off the ground in 2001 with funding from foundations and local backers. Pilot projects included a critical elk winter range project on Sheep Mountain on the Shoshone National Forest, and a fuel reduction burn project on the Bald Ridge allotment of the Forest Service in 2002. Based on the BLM's work with the Heart Mountain Grass Bank, that idea is beginning to take root, said Tricia Hatle, BLM range and wild horse specialist. Not only does it allow the agency to rest or improve the public lands, but it can also improve grazing opportunities, she said. "Before we were only using 50 percent of the AUMs (animal unit months, a standard measure of grazing activity), but a grass bank allows for ranchers to run full numbers out there," Hatle said. "It's a great opportunity to help the environment all the way around.".... Sage grouse of Western plains seen as next 'spotted owl' Hundreds - soon to be thousands - of oil and gas wells pound the earth outside Pinedale, drilling for a natural bounty that is bringing much-needed revenue to a recovering state that once served as a backdrop to the Marlboro Man. But the energy boom spawned by the Bush administration, conservationists say, comes at the expense of the greater sage grouse, whose last robust population lies directly in the path of the drilling. "This is a robbery of national proportion," says librarian turned activist Linda Baker, who commutes to work every day past the beehive of drill pads and pipelines in the Jonah Natural Gas Field and equally rich Pinedale Anticline. "It's as far from balanced public land management and multiple use as you can get.".... Area to be off-limits until further notice All access to the Rio Grande bosque from Cochiti Dam to the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge will be closed indefinitely starting Friday. While city officials relaxed as the sun set over Albuquerque, they said the fire could have easily been much worse because it ripped through a dense wooded area that happens to be home to the endangered willow flycatcher. The mayor said federal restrictions applying to endangered species habitat barred the city from clearing brush in the area, a fire prevention tool officials are using after two major bosque fires threatened homes last year. "I respect the need to preserve the endangered species habitat, but in my opinion we just lost the habitat today by not clearing some of it in the short term," he said.... Off-Road Enthusiasts Protest Federal Agency's Political Use of Endangered Species Act The 30-year-old Endangered Species Act is being abused to pursue a political agenda that is unrelated both to the spirit and letter of the law, a group of off-highway motorsports enthusiasts contend, and it's time for reform. More than 200 people attended a rally on Friday, June 18, outside the offices of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service here to protest a decision that, on its face, appears to violate both federal law and peer-reviewed, unimpeachable science. The Fish & Wildlife Service recently announced its intention to leave a plant called the Peirson's Milkvetch [cq] on the federal endangered species list. This decision was issued despite a three-year scientific study by a respected biologist, Dr. Arthur W. Phillips III, that conclusively demonstrated that the plant was not just surviving, but thriving. The PMV is also prevalent in a part of the same desert ecosystem south of the California/Mexico border.... Lawsuit set to gain cutthroat protection Environmental groups announced Wednesday they will sue over a Bush administration decision not to list Columbia River cutthroat trout under the Endangered Species Act. In July of 2002, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service withdrew a 1999 proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the cutthroat in Oregon and Southwest Washington as a threatened species. The agency cited relatively healthy populations of river-dwelling cutthroat, assuming those resident fish would be able to produce offspring of the sea-run variety. On Wednesday, two years after the Bush administration withdrew the listing proposal, environmental groups said they will take the issue to court. The Pacific Rivers Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Natural Resources Council and WaterWatch delivered a 60-day notice of intent to sue.... Pregnant Bat Halts High School Construction An Ohio congressman is calling on federal officials to immediately conduct surveys after a pregnant, endangered bat was found near a northeast Ohio school construction site. During a survey by a private company hired by the school last Thursday and Friday, officials netted 16 bats near the school property, including a pregnant Indiana bat that is on the endangered species list. In the meantime, all construction at the 123-acre Lakeside High School in Saybrook Township has been halted until June 30 at the earliest, when officials from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to discuss the matter. "A $44 million project (is) being held hostage by one pregnant bat," said LaTourette, a Republican from Madison in northeast Ohio. "I can't believe local officials have to wait 10 days for a meeting.".... Wyoming Wants Gray Wolves Delisted The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's failure to adequately manage the gray wolf has directly and negatively affected the citizens of Park County, commissioners wrote in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. The three-page letter, dated June 15, served as a 60-day notice of intent to sue the service for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act. "Park County intends to file a civil action to require you to comply with the ESA, its implementing regulations and applicable interagency peer review guidelines," commissioners wrote. "Park County asks that you (approve) the Wyoming plan as written and, by proceeding without delay, to delist the gray wolf.".... The Bureau of Land Management to Again Auction Off Wilderness-Quality Land in Utah The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is continuing its sell-off of wilderness-quality land in Utah with its latest quarterly lease sale scheduled for June 25, 2004. Although the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) protested the sale of 25 of the parcels, the BLM announced on Monday that it has decided to offer the protested parcels for lease at the auction. The sale will include approximately 30,000 acres of wilderness-quality land.... Mantle Ranch sells for $6 million A Rock Springs, Wyo., resident has purchased the Mantle Ranch, a private holding within Dinosaur National Monument, for $6 million. Jim Carollo finalized the deal with the Mantle Ranch on Monday, said Tim Mantle, who, along with his wife, has taken care of the historic 520-acre ranch for the past 40 years. "The beauty of it is the federal government don't own it," Mantle said.... EPA removes ban on new drilling in Gulf of Mexico Under mounting political pressure, the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday lifted an eight-month ban on new oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico imposed out of concern that drilling could be contributing to the "dead zone" at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The decision marked the end of a peculiar episode in which the agency blocked exploration at a time when gasoline and natural gas prices are at record highs and the Bush administration has called for more domestic production....

Thursday, June 24, 2004


American Prairie Overlooked No More Ever since European pioneers first saw North America's midsection more than 200 years ago, most people have considered its vast expanse of prairie to be "the great American desert," a barren landscape meant to be either crossed or plowed under. More than 90 percent of it has been turned into farms, towns and commercial developments. Even many environmentalists working to protect spectacular mountain ranges, wild rivers and old-growth forests have viewed the prairie as little more than empty land. That perception is rapidly changing. Across the Midwest and beyond, projects to preserve or restore prairie landscapes are winning broad support. Environmental groups are investing millions of dollars in them. When naturalists who run prairie preserves call for volunteer help, they are often overwhelmed by the number of people who turn up.... Pilot says firefighting airtankers are "absolutely safe" Thirty-three firefighting airtanker planes the Forest Service grounded across the nation this spring, reportedly because of mechanical problems, are "absolutely safe," according to a Silver City pilot. Bill Waldman, who works for the Aero Union Corp., one of the companies that leases the aircraft to the Forest Service, said he has been flying the machines for 36 years. The Forest Service's citing of safety concerns in grounding the airtankers "is a red herring," according to Waldman. The real reason for the decision, he said, was that the agency was concerned about its liability after federal officials determined the Forest Service is responsible for ensuring the airtankers' airworthiness. The agency does not "have the expertise to do so," Waldman said. "So, because of the liability, they canceled the contract.".... Column: Restoring Klamath Heartlands In Oregon’s Klamath Basin -- renowned for its water disputes -- a remarkable and little-noted story about land is unfolding. The current story begins 50 years ago, with a since-repudiated federal policy toward Indian tribes called “termination." It involves the chance to right a profound injustice, and an opportunity to achieve forest restoration on an unprecedented scale. However the story ends, it marks a profound moment in the history of Oregon and the West. When the Klamath Lake Treaty of 1864 reserved to the Klamath and Modoc Indians and the Yahooskin Band of the Snake Indians “the Klamath heartlands, including Upper Klamath and Agency lakes, as well as the Williamson and Sprague drainages,” that two-million-acre territory contained one of the greatest ecological treasures of the American West.... NRA head blasts feds for shortchanging hunters The president of the National Rifle Association said Tuesday that a government assault of red tape, rising costs and closure of millions of acres of public lands limits the ability of average hunters to pursue game. In a speech before the Outdoor Writers Association of America and a subsequent press conference, NRA president Kayne Robinson said the most vulnerable hunters are being driven out of their sport by factors that make hunting more elite and legally difficult.... Pesticide controls near salmon streams remain in effect pending appeal Controls on the use of pesticides around salmon streams will remain in force through the summer growing season while judges in California review a legal appeal. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied motions from pesticide manufacturers and farmers to lift the controls while the court considers the case, said Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice in Seattle. The first hearing will be in September. "The court protections will keep pesticides out of our salmons streams while the government complies with its obligations under the Endangered Species Act," Goldman said.... Habitat for Species Recovery Seen Wanting The Bush administration is approving only about one of every two acres that federal biologists propose setting aside to help vanishing species recover. Between 2001 and 2003, the government cut 42 million acres from plans to create nearly 83 million acres of critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, a National Wildlife Federation study found. The administration also more often cited economic reasons to justify decisions to reduce acreage. In 2001, that rationale was used to trim about 1 percent of the acreage; by 2003, that had risen to 69 percent. The federation contends the administration is trying to undermine the Endangered Species Act.... Suit Filed to Save Coastal Cutthroat Trout Earthjustice, representing the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Pacific Rivers Council and WaterWatch, filed a formal 60-day notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for illegally denying protection for Columbia River and southwestern Washington populations of the coastal cutthroat trout under the Endangered Species Act.... Norton: Sage grouse listing would hurt energy production Interior Secretary Gale Norton says listing the sage grouse as an endangered species could significantly impact energy production and grazing. "Some say the grouse could become the spotted owl of the intermountain West," Norton told Western governors at their annual meeting Tuesday. "But the sage grouse occupies nearly 12 times as much land as the northern spotted owl." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether the once-abundant game bird is in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.... Column: The Nature Conservancy joins forces with the US Corps of Engineers The $5.3 billion needed for the ecosystem by the environmentalists would be funded primarily by the federal government. For years, environmentalists have blocked the updating of these badly-needed lock and dam improvements and it has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars for the delay. This project is now allowed to move forward, but with excessive ecosystem structures being demanded and an agreement that The Nature Conservancy be a partner. It is not clear whether the shipping funds or the federal government will pay for fish passages, floodplain restoration, water level management, backwater restoration and wing dam and dike restoration. But what is clear is The Nature Conservancy has partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help maintain the Mississippi River’s ecosystem even though the Corps has their own environmentalists.... FERC must respond to Hells Canyon dam petition A federal court Tuesday ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to answer a 7-year old petition from a coalition of environmental groups asking the agency to examine the impacts Idaho Power Co.'s Hells Canyon dams have on threatened or endangered Snake River salmon and steelhead. The order by the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals gave FERC 45 days to answer either yes or no to the group's petition asking for further analysis.... Jarbidge River proposed as critical trout habitat The Jarbidge River, home to the southernmost population of bull trout and a source of contention between the federal government and citizen activists, would be declared critical habitat for the threatened fish under a proposal the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday. The proposal targets 131 miles of the river and its tributaries in northeastern Nevada and southwestern Idaho that the agency believes is crucial to the species’ recovery.... Big Hole irrigators agree to save water and save species Several southwest Montana ranchers plan to stop irrigating more than 15,000 acres to protect a shrinking population of arctic grayling that they want to keep off the endangered species list. Irrigators began shutting off their water this week along the Big Hole River, home of the last native population of river-dwelling arctic grayling, and preventing any water from moving downstream and away from an area where grayling spawn.... County warns it may sue over wolf protection The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's failure to adequately manage the gray wolf has directly and negatively affected the citizens of Park County, commissioners wrote in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. The county is supporting a plan, rejected by the FWS, that would allow the wolves to be shot as a predator in most of the state. The three-page letter, dated June 15, served as a 60-day notice of intent to sue the service for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act. "Park County intends to file a civil action to require you to comply with the ESA, its implementing regulations and applicable interagency peer review guidelines," commissioners wrote.... Video of panther attack spurs wildlife agency investigation A Florida panther spent weeks feasting on easy prey at an Everglades petting zoo, leading a local resident to set up a video camera and film the panther attacking a tethered goat. Now he is under investigation for possible violation of wildlife laws. It is the latest fight over panthers, people and the value of wilderness, as a growing population of panthers tries to survive among the Miccosukee villages, housing developments and tourist attractions of the western Everglades.... Park's snowmobile study cost: $6 million and rising Controversy doesn't come cheap. More than $6 million has been spent in recent years studying whether snowmobiles should be allowed in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks - and the National Park Service is gearing up for another round. Since 1996, the money has paid for 4,200 pages of studies and analysis, 90,000 pages of related documents and responses to more than a half-million comments from the public.... Cutting roads: Advisory group, BLM struggle to develop Missouri Breaks plan The number of roads open in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is shaping up to be one of the most difficult issues in formulating a Resource Management Plan for the area. Grazing permittees want to ensure access to their Bureau of Land Management allotments. Conservationists want minimal road access to maintain the area's wild character and protect wildlife. And sportsmen are divided between those who want few roads to ensure game animals mature and those who want vehicle access to make hunting and retrieval of game easier.... Advocates Lobby to Keep Wild Horses Don't blame the wild horses for overrunning the West, their protectors say: It's the millions of cattle grazing public rangeland that should be rounded up, not the mustangs. The advocates are making themselves heard loud and clear here in Nevada, where more than half the nation's 32,000 wild horses live. Every week for the past two months, they've staged anti-roundup demonstrations at the state capitol in Carson City. And they've picketed the Reno office of the Bureau of Land Management to protest its efforts to cut wild horse populations nearly in half across the West.... Moab site named troubled treasure Campaign for America's Wilderness on Wednesday released "Wild . . . for How Long? Twelve Treasures in Trouble," spotlighting a dozen of the nation's wild lands facing threats of logging, road building, drilling and off-road vehicle abuse. Environmentalists are using the report — released just two months before the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act — to generate public support for wilderness protection.... More sensitive BLM offers paint swatches A color like desert tan doesn't blend well against a background of juniper trees and shouldn't be used to paint oil and gas field facilities in vegetated areas, according to a new Bureau of Land Management policy. Paint is one tool in the Best Management Practices (BMP) approach the BLM wants its project managers to consider when reviewing applications for permits to drill, said Rebecca Watson, the assistant secretary of the Interior for Land and Mineral Management.... Freudenthal: State, federal lands not equal Contrary to reports from state officials on Monday, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said on Tuesday that he was indeed aware that the State Lands Office was preparing to offer state mineral lease parcels in the same Pinedale region that he protested several federal mineral lease parcels earlier this month. Oil and gas industry leaders questioned why the governor would list environmental and legal concerns over leasing federal lands for mineral development in the same region that he approved the sale of state mineral leases.... Now this truly is a mammoth auction Head of triceratops, tooth of T-rex. Dinosaur embryos on the half shell. Exquisite fossil fish. The skull of a saber-toothed tiger. And a one-story-high woolly mammoth skeleton from Siberia. All for sale. Guernsey's -- a New York auction house known for its sales of a $3 million Mark McGwire baseball, meteorites from Mars and 200,000 pre-Castro Cuban cigars -- puts dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures on the auction block this week.... Toxic pollution rose 5 percent in 2002, reversing trend Toxic chemical releases into the environment rose 5 percent in 2002, marking only the second such increase reported by the Environmental Protection Agency in nearly two decades, and the first since 1997. The increase reversed a recent trend and was a big turnaround from last year's report by EPA that chemical releases in 2001 had declined 13 percent from a year earlier.... Venereal disease found in South Dakota cattle Five cattle herds in western South Dakota have been struck by a venereal disease that is endemic in many Western states but uncommon in South Dakota, Dr. Sam Holland, state veterinarian, said Wednesday. He identified the malady, which is caused by a parasite, as trichomoniasis. The infection causes infertility and abortions in cattle. Holland said the disease is rare in South Dakota. Only one case was reported last year, he said.... The Hank Williams Story More than 50 years after his death, Hank Williams's short life and enduring music are the subjects of a darkly entertaining documentary airing tomorrow on PBS. Born Sept. 17, 1923, in Mount Olive, Alabama, Williams wasted no time settling into a stormy existence that inspired songs such as ``Cold, Cold Heart'' and ``I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.'' Director Morgan Neville shot this latest installment of PBS's ``Masters'' series in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana and Florida, a land of flat fields, tall trees, and plenty of shacks. We meet several 80-something members of Williams's band -- the Drifting Cowboys -- along with his son, grandson and widow. Interspersed are clips of Williams, his largely absent father, and other family members and friends now dead....

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Hoeffel says Valley Forge gift was a casualty of turf war

Warring bureaucracies may have been behind Monday's sudden decision by the National Park Service to cancel fund-raising for the American Revolution Center at Valley Forge - a day before it was due to receive a $10 million check from the Oneida Indian Nation.

U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D., Pa.) said yesterday that a "turf battle" between the National Park Service and the staffs of various congressional appropriations subcommittees may have burst into the open at a very inappropriate time.

"There is no way they should have canceled the gift ceremony," Hoeffel said. "I think the Park Service hit the panic button here."

But Hoeffel and several other members of the region's congressional delegation said yesterday that they were committed to making sure that the project remains on track.

The American Revolution Center is a $100 million museum project being developed in partnership with the Park Service's Valley Forge National Historical Park. So far, the State of Pennsylvania has committed $20 million to the project, and Montgomery County $2.4 million. The gift from the Oneidas, along with other donations, would have put the project more than a third of the way toward its goal.

But the Park Service said that language contained in the appropriations bill for the Department of Interior that passed the House on Thursday night forced the cancellation.

The bill calls for written approval from both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for any partnership project over $5 million, and it said that until that written approval is received, all fund-raising must stop....

Air-Dropped Fish Affecting Amphibians Throughout the world, frogs are dying en masse, a phenomenon that concerns scientists because the extremely sensitive amphibians are among the first species to react to wider environmental problems. Global warming, increased solar radiation, windblown pesticides, pollution and diseases all are being explored as possible reasons why the populations are croaking. Yet Vredenburg found a simpler explanation is one major cause: They're being eaten by trout air-dropped into pristine mountain lakes across the West and in areas as remote as the Andes in South America, on every continent except Antarctica. It's another example that interfering with nature brings unforeseen consequences.... Beating the budget clock: How some agencies bring sanity to financial management A handful of agencies such as EPA and the Forest Service have already convinced Congress to appropriate much of their funding with no expiration dates attached. At the Forest Service, for instance, all but $53 million of its annual $4.8 billion budget is appropriated as no-year money. This makes it much easier for the agency to meet its mission and manage its money, said Hank Kashdan, the agency’s program and budget analysis director. “It increases our ability to carry out our programs prudently,” he said. For instance, some of the Forest Service budget is spent on research, and it is hard to predict when a particular research project will be completed. It is also hard to predict how many forest fires there will be. “During a busy year, we can have the majority of our employees working on fire suppression. There isn’t always time to get the money for everything else spent,” Kashdan said. Not all agencies are so lucky.... Editorial: Common sense wins in court case Supreme Court decision last week isn't as much a defeat for environmentalists as it is a victory for common sense. The justices unanimously ruled that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other environmental groups can't file lawsuits to force the BLM to better protect wilderness areas. The ruling, in essence, means that the BLM can do the job it has been charged to do without having to worry about lawsuits being filed over what should be day-to-day decisions. Managing public lands already is a difficult task. Organizations and individual citizens unhappy with decisions made by the BLM, Forest Service or other government entities readily file lawsuits and tie up processes set out in law by months, if not years.... American Indian Historic Sites Looted Mysterious petroglyphs etched in hundreds of volcanic boulders east of Reno have survived the elements for centuries. Volunteers are now hoping the artifacts will survive the ravages of modern man. The American Indian artwork -- depicting bighorn sheep and stick-people figures -- is endangered by vandals and collectors as Nevada's sprawling growth and a soaring number of off-road vehicles have taken civilization to the doorstep of once remote backcountry sites.... Activist files civil suit for alleged Eighth Amendment violations tree-sitting activist, arrested on the Bitterroot National Forest in 2002, has filed a civil suit in Missoula federal district court against Forest Service officials and area law enforcement officers for allegedly violating her constitutional rights as a detainee and protester during her arrest. Rebecca Kay Smith, an environmental activist with the organization Earth First! is claiming $250,000 in punitive damages and $100,000 in compensatory damages in the lawsuit filed by her attorney, Tom Woodbury on Monday. "Police officers have to abide by rules of conduct when dealing with detainees," said Woodbury. "The truth of the matter is convicts and prisoners get more rights then what she was given.".... Govs. Owens, Napolitano Elected as WGA's New Leadership Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado was elected Chairman of the Western Governors' Association today saying: "We have an opportunity together to tackle some of the most important issues facing the West." Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona was elected Vice Chair. Owens said his priorities for the year will include working with Congress as it considers reforms to the Endangered Species Act. A copy of Owens remarks and other background material, including resolutions adopted by the governors, are available on the Web at Lieberman criticizes panther program Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., has sent a second blistering letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about efforts to restore the Florida panther. "The substantial federal investment in efforts to protect the Florida Panther is placed at risk by failures in scientific analysis of the habitat needs of the panther, as well as failures to implement the requirements of federal law effectively," Lieberman said.... Column: The Restoration Paradox What happens when a protected species starts eating another protected species? In the early days of species protection and environmental regulation, such a question likely didn't come up. After all, most species faced decline from habitat encroachment and toxins in the environment. Today however, we confront a restoration paradox: what do we do when the restoration, reintroduction or protection of species starts to endanger other species? Seals and sea lions protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act chomping on threatened and endangered salmon is an example that springs to mind. We also had a case on the Columbia river: federally protected Caspian Terns (Migratory Bird Act) making a significant dent in the annual migration of listed salmon stocks. Salmon advocates wanted the birds moved to another island to protect the young fish. Bird advocates wanted the Caspian Terns left alone. The first time I encountered this paradox was a number of years ago while talking to the manager of the local wildlife refuge. He mentioned that Blue Heron rookeries were being devastated by Bald Eagles.... MANAGING NATURE: Success on the prairie For a waterfowl researcher, the Nickolaisen WPA is a dream come true because it's a haven for nesting ducks. That's no coincidence. Through a cooperative effort between the Bismarck-based Delta Waterfowl Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a 36-square-mile block that includes Nickolaisen and adjacent private lands is being intensively managed for predators in an effort to boost nesting success. Known as the "Cando block," the 23,000-acre site is one of 10 across North Dakota being trapped to remove predators. The results are striking. Since predator trapping became an annual event in 1999, nesting success on the Cando block has flirted with 80 percent -- far above the 20 percent figure biologists often cite as necessary to maintain a duck population. Nesting success in other North Dakota trap blocks has ranged from 38 percent to 61 percent. According to Roger Hollevoet of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Devils Lake, removing predators at Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Grand Forks has helped nesting success reach nearly 60 percent. By comparison, nesting success on untrapped control sites last year dipped as low as 11 percent.... Panel says spotted owl protection more important than ever A panel of scientists says protecting old growth forest habitat for the northern spotted owl is more important than ever because the bird faces new threats from its cousin the barred owl, West Nile virus, and sudden oak death. The ten scientists have spent the past six months assembling the latest scientific information on the northern spotted owl for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.... Phoenix fighting odor from algae Phoenix has spent $370,000 in extra water treatment because of algae blooms that have killed thousands of fish in the Salt River water system. The treatment, powder activated carbon, is mostly to control odor and is in addition to the usual filtration and chlorination. Officials assure residents that the water is safe to drink, said Annie DeChance, public information specialist for the Phoenix Water Services Department.... Dugout canoe not as old as hoped A dugout canoe found by scuba divers at the bottom of Lake Pend Oreille is too young for scientists to discover its age through carbon dating. Wood samples taken from the boat reveal it is less than 380 years old but probably more than 100 years old, said Mary Anne Davis, associate state arcahelologist with the Idaho State Historical Society. It may have been used by fur traders, American Indians, explorers or early settlers, historians believe. "Radiocarbon dating is not very accurate for fairly recent deposits or objects," she said.... Plans for Revolutionary War Museum Delayed The National Park Service on Monday postponed plans to accept $10 million from the Oneida Indian Nation toward a planned Revolutionary War museum, citing a directive from Congress to reevaluate spending. The decision angered Oneida leaders, who had planned to offer what would be the largest private donation yet toward the $100 million American Revolution Center at Valley Forge to honor their ancestors' role in helping the colonists break away from England. "If you don't want the money, fine, don't take it," Ray Halbritter, an Oneida representative, said in a statement. "But don't deny us the opportunity to honor the memory of both countries' patriots, whose blood hallowed this place.".... Project tries to get cattle to eat weeds Sheep and goats have been used for years to control noxious weeds in parts of the West, but can cattle be trained to do the same without starving? That's the question researchers are studying in a field test at the Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historical Site at Deer Lodge. Frederick Provenza at Utah State University has been researching this possibility for the past 20 years in a livestock behavior modification program. Now, the area field test has piqued the interest of ranchers in the Deer Lodge Valley.... State offered own leases in same area it protested At the same time that Gov. Dave Freudenthal was protesting the sale of some federal mineral leases in the Pinedale region, the state was offering its own mineral leases in the same area for sale. "It wasn't an intent on his part to protest the federal leases and not the state leases. It was just a circumstance where he didn't realize we had a lease sale," said State Land Director Lynne Boomgaarden. The State Lands Office typically schedules its state mineral lease auctions within days of the federal lease auction, but the governor's office is not notified of the leases for sale.... Wyoming rancher sentenced in prairie dog killings A Wyoming rancher who admitted illegally poisoning thousands of prairie dogs on federal land in Montana apologized in court Tuesday as he was fined and sentenced to probation. "I acknowledge this mistake,'' said Stanford M. Clinton Jr., 73, of Recluse, Wyo. Clinton owns the Three Bar Ranch in Wyoming and Montana. "This was not a malicious act. I'm genuinely sorry it happened.'' U.S. Magistrate Richard Anderson ordered Clinton to spend one year on supervised probation, fined him $1,500, ordered restitution of $3,500 and directed him to perform 200 hours of community service work in Montana.... Activists aren't budging from BLM land A Greenpeace encampment in Curry County remained in an old-growth section of forest outside of Glendale today, even though a U.S. Bureau of Land Management-imposed deadline to leave the tent village came and went by Saturday morning. Members of the international environmental organization went about the weekend normally, though they acknowledged the overriding possibility of BLM enforcement officers carrying out the eviction. The 48-hour deadline to leave the solar-powered geodesic dome camp was announced Thursday.... US House passes spending with DOE oil and gas research funding The US House June 17 passed on a 334-86 vote a spending bill that largely keeps federal oil and natural gas research funding intact for the upcoming fiscal year slated to start Oct. 1. Overall, the 2005 Interior Appropriations bill carries a $19.5 billion price tag. It funds the budget of the US Department of the Interior, including several federal agencies of critical importance to companies that drill on federal land and in federal waters. Annual agency budgets of interest to producers include the Bureau of Land Management, the Minerals Management Service, and the US Geological Service. The bill also funds fossil fuel research under the Department of Energy. The White House this year, like during the past 3 years, wants Congress to cut back federal oil and gas research, but legislators always restore funding back to historical levels.... Central Gulf of Mexico Sale 190 nets $364 million in high bids The US Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) accepted high bids totaling more than $364 million on 542 Gulf of Mexico tracts in its oil and gas lease Sale 190 Mar. 17. This sale indicates the continued strong interest of major and independent oil and gas companies in the Gulf and a continuing interest in shallow-water areas, with 61% of the tracts receiving bids for tracts in less than 200 m of water.... Column: Get serious about habitat and species protection But this column is not about the economics of forest management. Like most Oregonians, I assumed the real agenda of these "environmental" groups was truly to protect wildlife and their habitat. This has turned out to be anything but the case. As Oregon and other Western states have watched huge areas of federal forests burn in recent years, we've also started to see the true colors of these groups -- and it's not green. The Biscuit Fire burned more than 500,000 acres of forests, much of which was wilderness area set aside specifically as a haven for species such as the northern spotted owl. This area is a moonscape now -- blackened and charred by the fires of 2002. Oregon State University scientists predict a recovery of close to 200 years if no active management is implemented in this area.... Column: EPA chief Mike Leavitt hits the swing states Have a look at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt's calendar over the last several months and you'll notice that it appears to be in lockstep with the Karl Rove playbook. "I'd hardly call it coincidence," said Beth Viola, a leading environmental strategist for the Kerry campaign, "that after the EPA spends nearly four years pandering to industry, all of a sudden Leavitt is waltzing around battleground states in a green mantle -- doling out grant money, announcing new initiatives, threatening industry with enforcement actions, making amends to swing voters like hunters and anglers [who are] disgruntled about rollbacks. It's quite a show." Leavitt's recent wave of swing-state politicking has won his agency the moniker "Election Protection Agency" in Beltway circles, according to Aimee Christensen, director of Environment2004, an organization committed to motivating voters on environmental issues.... An interview with Hollywood eco-crusader Laurie David Those who are quick to snub Hollywood environmental activists as dabblers in eco-chic or peddlers of a pet cause would likely have a change of heart after shooting the breeze with Laurie David. David began her career booking comedians for David Letterman and met her husband Larry David -- co-creator of Seinfeld and creator and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm -- when he was a no-name angling for a five-minute spot in her lineup. She went on to produce comedy specials for HBO and MTV and develop sitcoms for 20th Century Television. More than a decade into her Hollywood career, David turned her Tinseltown savvy toward a very different kind of client -- the environmental movement. After signing on as a member of the board of trustees of the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1999, David began holding influential eco-salons in her home to educate the leading lights of Hollywood, persuading them to open both their minds and their pocketbooks.... Editoriall: No aid for roads in Tongass forest These days, when Washington appears ready to slash any program not directly related to national security, an excellent candidate for excision is the wasteful, destructive subsidy to loggers for cutting roads in national forests. The House of Representatives has taken the first step toward sanity by narrowly approving an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill that would keep the U.S. Forest Service from subsidizing logging roads in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska in fiscal 2005 - an amendment applauded by both environmentalists and fiscal watchdogs.... Species plan wins state, federal OKs State and federal wildlife agencies on Tuesday approved Riverside County's landmark plan to protect endangered species while allowing development to occur amid the population boom in its fast-growing western half. The plan calls for creating a 500,000-acre reserve system that would protect 146 species, from majestic bald eagles to delicate butterflies and tiny kangaroo rats. The county already has purchased about 370,000 acres and will need to buy the remaining land from willing sellers, leaving about 130,000 acres yet to be acquired. The plan's total cost over 75 years is estimated at $2 billion and relies heavily on future state and federal funding. The county will pay about $1 billion, more than half of which will come developer fees, Lashbrook said.... Environmentalists to Sue Feds Over Turtles Environmental groups said Tuesday they plan to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for allegedly failing to protect certain sea turtles from entangling fishing lines. Longline fishing -- a practice where fishermen set many hooks on lines that sometimes are miles long -- leads to "needless injury and deaths of hundreds of threatened and endangered leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles" in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic, the groups claim.... Settlement reached in Lolo forest logging suit Proclaiming it "a winning formula," environmentalists joined Lolo National Forest Supervisor Debbie Austin Tuesday in announcing a settlement in a lawsuit challenging the forest's plans for logging land burned during the summer of 2000. The solution: dropping all plans to log trees burned in parts of the forest where there are no roads. Instead, the Lolo will spend its post-fire funds on the rehabilitation or obliteration of more than 500 miles of existing forest roads in the Superior, Alberton and Ninemile areas....

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

NMSU Ropers Corral National Honors

CASPER, Wyo. – Two New Mexico State University rodeo team members finished in the top 10 during the College National Finals Rodeo Saturday, helping the men’s team capture 11th place in the nation.
Calf roper Clay Snure of Rodeo, N.M., won the final round and finished in third place overall in the nation. Team roper Jared S. Davis of Tombstone, Ariz., along with partner Rene Rodriguez of the University of Arizona, finished fourth in Saturday’s competition and eighth in the nation.
Snure tied his calf in a sizzling 8.2 seconds, his fastest time in the week-long competition.
“He was just Clay, calm, collected and ready to go,” said NMSU Coach Jim Dewey Brown. “He put the pressure on them.”
The team roping finals didn’t go smoothly for many of the competitors, said Brown, with some teams missing their steers, or being penalized for mistakes.
“Team roping wasn’t very fun to watch tonight,” Brown said. “Everybody fell apart.”
Bad luck hit the NMSU team, too, as Davis, the heeler on the team, only roped one of the calf’s legs. But their speed made up for it, and even with a 5-second penalty the Davis/Rodriguez team finished in 11.4 seconds. Had they not been penalized, the time would have been their best of the competition.
The NMSU men’s team scored 252.5 points to earn 11th place.
“I’m pretty tickled with the outcome,” Brown said, especially when considering that the team struggled in the early rounds of the finals.
“We did pretty good for not having a good rodeo,” he said.
Brown said having many of his young team members qualify for nationals will help next year’s team.
“It’ll be good next year,” Brown said. “We’re still pretty young. It’s just going to take a little time, but we’re going to get there.”
Other NMSU men competing at nationals were bullrider Justin Sanderlin of Morenci, Ariz.; roper and steer wrestler John Pete Etcheverry of Carlsbad; and team ropers Jarred Evans of Apache Creek, Kody Gentry of Dell City, Texas, and Aaron Thomas of La Mesa.
NMSU women competing at nationals were Mandy Sproul of Pearce, Ariz., in goat tying and breakaway roping; 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.


Editor’s note: For more news from NMSU’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics, visit our World Wide Web site at

Forest Service Policies Threaten Rural Travel Businesses Attempting to Recover From Recession Some seasonal businesses operating in the rural West are under increasing pressure from the Forest Service to pay higher fees or reduce their use of national forests to levels that will force them out of business. In South Dakota, for example the Forest Service is trying to charge a fee equal to $25 dollars per person per day for hiking. In other areas guest ranches are being forced to reduce their use with little or no valid justification. "Many of these businesses are just recovering from the steep recession that occurred in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq war," said David Brown, Executive Director of America Outdoors, the nation's leading association of outfitters and guides. "These businesses have faced higher insurance and fuel costs, among other challenges, and managed to survive. While we understand and appreciate the agency's authority to collect fees and manage use, the Forest Service approach in some areas is cold-hearted. When an outfitter charges $100 a day for a guided hike and the Forest Service wants a $25 fee, the business cannot survive.".... A burning policy issue That policy of letting some fires burn, under special circumstances, is known in the U.S. Forest Service as "fire for beneficial use." The policy has been expanded under the new White River Forest Plan to include more of the 2.27 million-acre forest than earlier plans did. It's designed to reintroduce fire into the fire-dependant forest ecosystems to bring them back into balance after nearly 100 years of aggressive fire suppression by humans. Fires actually help keep forests healthy by renewing the vegetation. But letting fires burn can be devilishly tricky. Any fire that's allowed to continue must fit a narrow set of circumstances that include location, the proper weather, fuels and even computer-generated fire behavior models.... Governors press for air tankers Gov. Bill Richardson led his fellow Western governors in hammering a federal forest official to get more air tankers released for use in fighting fires. The governors of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Montana and South Dakota are meeting in Santa Fe through Tuesday. Richardson, a Democrat, has pushed hard to get the federal government to allow some of the air tankers that had been used to fight fires in the West back in service.... Rainbow Family gathers on Modoc National Forest Each year for over thirty years, the Rainbow Family has held an event on public lands they call the Gathering. This is a very loosely structured event that attracts anywhere from 8,000-20,000 people. Gatherings are held in rural areas, usually some distance from the nearest town. The climax of the Gathering is on July 4, when participants gather in one place to pray for world peace and Mother Earth. This year the main location for the gathering is located in the southern Warner Mountains in Homestead and Bearcamp Flats. This area is just south of the South Warner Widerness on the Warner Mountain Ranger District.... For smoke jumpers, it's flight and (fire) fight Walter Wasser epitomizes the smoke jumper's desire for adventure and uncertainty. At 49, Wasser has jumped on more fires -- 297 -- than any other firefighter with the Bureau of Land Management. A U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper assigned out of Winthrop, Wash., has Wasser beat by just four jumps. Smoke jumpers occupy an elite position as "initial-attack" crews in fighting wildland fires. They jump into remote areas wearing puncture-proof Kevlar clothing and helmets with face masks that look like wire baskets.... Corps of Engineers wins river ruling The Missouri River can operate without changes sought by environmentalists to save endangered fish and birds, a federal judge ruled Monday. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled Monday in favor of the Army Corps of Engineers on all counts. His 51-page order came nearly a year after a different federal judge ordered the changes and, when corps leaders refused to act, cited them for contempt. Magnuson, a St. Paul, Minn., judge, blocked the contempt citation last year after taking over the river litigation. Conservation groups will weigh whether to appeal.... Nation's water czar seen as honest broker When Bennett Raley was named the Bush administration’s top water official, environmentalists who battled him for years feared the worst from the cowboy-turned-lawyer. Three years later, many environmentalists say Raley has been a surprise. He helped wrangle rival water agencies into signing a landmark Colorado River accord last year. And environmentalists cheered when ideas they had been urging for years turned up in a program aimed at helping cities face looming water shortages. The 47-year-old Coloradan has shown an ability to get along with people on all sides of an issue. It’s a trait he’ll need as Western states race to cope with one of the most severe droughts in modern times. As assistant interior secretary for water and science, Raley oversees both the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation.... Column: 'Endangered Species'Cost USA Billions At a time when this nation is engaged in a war, putting the lives of its soldiers in harm's way to end the threat of Middle Eastern terrorism, it would seem inconceivable that it would also be wasting billions to protect some species of salmon or the shortnose suckerfish. But it is. Unfortunately, when the truth is revealed, the mainstream press often ignores it. For example, on April 14 of this year, the Pacific Legal Association, in association with Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC), released a study that demonstrated the mind-boggling costs of the Endangered Species Act.... Editorial: Let's welcome the wandering wolves For many Coloradans, wolves are a symbol either of all that should be protected and preserved in the wild or of aggressive government intrusion threatening all that is good about rural life. Between the two, middle ground can be tough to find. But that's precisely what the state's wolf-management panel should be aiming for. The panel met for the first time recently after the discovery of the first gray wolf in Colorado in nearly 70 years - a single dead female from Yellowstone National Park found on I-70 30 miles west of Denver. But there was little agreement as to whether the state should accommodate naturally migrating wolves, catch them and relocate them, or kill them on sight.... House passes long-stalled bill to pay Western Shoshone for land A measure to reimburse thousands of Western Shoshone Indians for the loss of their ancestral lands passed the House of Representatives on Monday, putting the bill in reach of becoming law after years of dispute. The Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Act passed on a voice vote. The bill would provide about $145 million to as many as 6,000 of Nevada's Western Shoshone Indians, who lost their homeland to settlers and others in the 19th century.... Greenpeace activists still camped at southern Oregon site A 48-hour deadline for Greenpeace has come and gone and the activists are still camped at the site of the proposed timber sale, 38 miles west of Galice. The Bureau of Land Management ordered Greenpeace to leave the area by this Saturday morning, after revoking a camping permit. This, after activists protested at a logging sale near Glendale last week.... Court hears challenge to Pennaco's coalbed mining leases A lawyer for conservation groups told a federal appeals court Monday that approval of methane gas leases in northeastern Wyoming was based on faulty environmental analysis that should be redone. Attorney Susan Daggett of the law firm Earthjustice argued that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's sale of three coalbed methane leases to Pennaco Energy Inc. were illegal because the review of potential effects on the water and air was inadequate. Two members of a three-judge panel, which will rule later, asked for more information about recent analyses of gas drilling in Wyoming's Powder River Basin.... Yellowstone cutthroat trout in trouble, but there is hope They're sly, these fish. They hide out in pockets and pools, button-shaped eyes trained over thousands of years to watch for predators from above. These are gloomy days for Yellowstone cutthroat, an iconic fish of the West that has survived thousands of generations and, until recently, thrived in a protective stronghold at Yellowstone Lake. Non-native lake trout, whirling disease and the ongoing drought have pushed the population down to levels not seen since the 1950s, when cutthroat were heavily fished and eggs were removed for hatcheries.... House unanimously OKs tribal forest bill The House of Representatives on Monday unanimously approved H.R. 3846, the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004, introduced by Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA). The legislation establishes a process for tribes to work with federal agencies to perform hazardous fuels reduction and forest health projects on federal lands adjacent to tribal lands in order to prevent catastrophic wildfire.... State could send away county helicopter during next fire The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department helicopter has played a major role in fighting recent Bosque fires and is credited with saving a number of homes. But now, with wildfires becoming more frequent and fewer airborne firefighting assets available, the State Forest Service says the water-dropping helicopter is no longer welcome. The forest service has issued a statement saying the department’s helicopter doesn't have an “Intra-Agency Card”, which certifies that it has adequate radios, maintenance and a trained crew for fires. Sheriff Darren White says his crews are certified and their helicopter is safe, but just doesn't have the official intra-agency certification.... New Online Database Gives Public Access to Recent History of Conservation Ballot Measures Across the country, dozens of state and local governments each year vote to raise public funds in support of land conservation. In fact, over the last five years over 640 ballot measures have been approved by voters, creating over $26 billion in funding for parks, conservation and recreation. For the first time, a public database is available online to research these statistics. Developed by the Trust For Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, the new LandVote Database serves as the premier source of information about conservation ballot measures. The database, accessed online at , brings together a five-year, comprehensive history for all conservation-related ballot measures that have been voted on since 1999. A full ten-year database dating back to 1994 is expected by October, well in advance of the November elections.... Column: Grant of highway rights cannot be revoked Revised Statute 2477 was adopted by Congress in 1866. It provides that "the right of way for construction of highways over public lands not reserved for public uses is hereby granted." In 1976, Congress presumed to revoke this granted right. Subsequently, federal land managers and self-appointed public land guardians have objected to certain state road claims. They say that these claimed roads were not "mechanically" constructed or that they were not constructed "before 1976," or that they "go nowhere," or that they are impassable to modern passenger cars and therefore cannot be "highways," notwithstanding that in 1866 carrying places between water bodies for canoes were also termed "highways." I suggest to Rep. Pombo that these objections to state road claims are specious and irrelevant and that a radical redirection of the R.S. 2477 discussion is in order. This redirection concentrates on three heretofore ignored considerations: the literal words of the statute; the nature of a grant made by a sovereign; and the retained rights of member states in the federal union.... Editorial: Lincoln County land sales In Washington on Wednesday, Nevada's congressional delegation introduced a bill designed to speed up the designation of pipeline routes to bring purchased groundwater to drought-stricken Las Vegas from rural Lincoln and White Pine counties to the northeast. The bill is also designed to overrule a March federal court ruling which -- based on an obstructionist lawsuit by the environmental extremists at the Sierra Club -- delayed the sale of BLM lands north of Mesquite by more than two years. Nevada's five federal lawmakers said they modeled the act after a program that has sold off almost 8,200 acres of former federal land -- raising $1.4 billion in the process -- in the Las Vegas area. (Eighty percent of Clark County is controlled by the federal government.) Like the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1998, the Lincoln County measure would set aside 5 percent of auction proceeds for schools. But it differs in designating 45 percent of the proceeds for Lincoln County economic development, while returning only 50 percent of the funds to the federals....Western Governors Support Regional Presidential Caucus/Primary to Increase Western States' Influence in Elections Western governors today called for a regional presidential caucus and primary in the West to draw attention to regional issues and increase their states' influence in future presidential elections. "A 2008 regional caucus will strengthen the role of Western states in the presidential nominating process and will focus attention on the region's unique issues, including public lands, energy, immigration, water and tribal concerns," said Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, chairman of the Western Governors' Association, who sponsored the resolution adopted by the governors.... Column: Tilting at Wind Farms Even though the way we explore and produce energy has changed dramatically in the past two decades, environmental groups, and their allies in Congress remain blinded by the smog of past battles. For instance, the House of Representatives last week passed three bills aimed at reducing gasoline prices for consumers. Unfortunately, none will become law this year because most Democrats are too busy tilting at political wind farms — paying homage to outdated environmental symbolism and filling the fundraising coffers of the Sierra Club — rather than lowering energy prices for their constituents.... Eco-extremists rely on violence Utah's legacy of activism in the name of earth, plants and animals reaches back to the earliest days of Edward Abbey's lament against the construction of roads in the desert and Sierra Club leader David Brower's fight to stop dams on the Colorado, Yampa and Green rivers. Those were gentler days. Last Monday's arson at a West Jordan lumber company, supposedly because the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) was upset at the pollutants emitted by forklifts, was the most recent in a decade of violent attacks at Utah establishments, including animal farms, leather shops and fast food restaurants.... Calif. Wine Country Clashes With Ecosystem In Sonoma County, the grape is king. But as California winemakers seek to capitalize on the popularity of their chardonnays and cabernets by spreading vineyards over as many acres as possible, they have steadily encroached on the rivers, streams and creeks that crisscross the scenic valley. The rapid narrowing of the wooded corridors along these waterways worries wildlife specialists and environmental researchers, who say their studies show that these riparian, or streamside, lands play a complicated and vital role in the ecosystem, far beyond providing water for farmers and wildlife. But proposals to require wider corridors have run into heated opposition from vineyards.... FBI accused of 'scare' tactics Police in Portland and nine other cities across the country received an FBI bulletin earlier this month warning that radical environmentalists planned to protest on June 12, and that "eco-terrorism" could not be ruled out. Portland police responded by stepping up patrols where "eco-terrorists" might hit and by placing the building the FBI warned them about under surveillance. The targets of the bulletin and the surveillance, however, turned out to be events publicized on the Internet to gather support for an Oregon activist jailed for arson.... House dumps sled ban After a debate that seemed to pit nature against the economy, an effort to impose a ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks was rejected by the House of Representatives by a vote of 198-224 on Thursday. The attempt to ban the snowmobiles was an amendment to the $19.5 billion Interior Department's fiscal year 2005 spending bill.... Nye County officials seek to keep their water If the Las Vegas area is like a thirsty cottonwood spreading its roots in a dry season, Nye County wants to be like a rototiller. In response to the Southern Nevada Water Authority's renewed push to tap groundwater in rural areas, Nye County officials have filed a barrage of protests and pre-emptive water applications meant to keep their most precious natural resource from flowing down a pipeline to Las Vegas. The filing frenzy began last month and now includes 13 applications for new water rights and more than a dozen protests of similar applications from Clark County as well as entities that Nye County fears will sell water to Las Vegas.... Deathbed remark prompts fight over ranch Shortly before Ray Fernandez' grandmother died, he says she made a startling statement that made him question his family history. ‘‘You look like your grandfather — John Kenedy,'' Maria Rowland told him from her nursing home bed. Fernandez, 44, thought she meant the former president or his son, and brushed it off as something said by an ailing 93-year-old woman. But the words haunted him. He traveled to Waco to pull his mother's baptism certificate. The line for the father's name was blank. He asked a librarian, was there a local John Kenedy?.... A young horse trainer tangles with a cruel man's pride "The Work of Wolves" sometimes reads like the work of golden retrievers. It's a little too big, a little too beautiful, and it jumps all over the place, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Kent Meyers's new novel is the kind of book that demands and rewards fierce loyalty. Meyers lives in South Dakota, which serves as the setting and thematic reservoir for this philosophical western that manages to corral native American spirituality, Nazi Germany, Old Testament myths, and unbridled capitalism. If Paula Cole is still wondering where all the cowboys have gone, she should meet Carson Fielding, the sensitive, steady-eyed hero of "The Work of Wolves.".... It's All Trew: Panhandle has plentiful wind Few of Nature's elements have been cursed as much as the wind. Here in the Texas Panhandle, with nothing to slow it down, the wind is thoroughly cussed and discussed daily. If it blows too hard we complain about the damage and if it doesn't blow we complain because the windmills don't pump water for the livestock. Recently, I acquired a book giving some facts about wind I didn't know. It seems in 1806, British Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort developed The Beaufort Wind Scale giving titles and descriptions of the various wind velocities. Here are those titles and the original descriptions. I have taken the liberty and added the relative Texas Panhandle versions.... Drooler’s new dance Apparently there’s no end to rattlesnake stories. Maybe it’s the drought. Maybe overpopulation of people causes more encounters with the noisy leg-less twisters. Maybe the Post Office should develop a snake stamp. Maybe the poisonness slitherers should be declared endangered and the government can throw away another $100 million “saving” them. But don’t express those thoughts to Drooler Hodkins who is distinctly anti-rattlesnake. He does, however, adore bullsnakes because they can exterminate a rattler. Drooler claims he wants to open a bullsnake breeding farm and has applied for a government grant to help with any problems such as breech births. Drooler’s hostility toward rattlers stems from a camping trip. He’d been hired to scour the brush and coulees for stray cattle on a jillion acre ranch....