Friday, September 30, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

House Votes for New Limits on Endangered Species Act By a vote of 229 to 193, the House of Representatives moved Thursday to undo some of the central provisions of the 32-year-old Endangered Species Act and to require that agencies enforcing the law reimburse property owners if the law's impact reduces the value of their land. Environmental groups expressed dismay at the measure, which, if enacted, would represent one of the most far-reaching reversals of environmental policy in more than a decade. Leading House Democrats also said it created an unlimited financial entitlement for landowners. The prospects for Senate passage are cloudy at best; even the bill's sponsor, Representative Richard W. Pombo of California, the chairman of the House Resources committee, said he did not expect quick action in the Senate. The vote, which came after the defeat of a rival measure that reworked the law but required enforceable protections for animals and plants in danger of extinction, was the culmination of a 12-year legislative mission by Mr. Pombo. The Bush administration gave its formal support to the measure a few hours before the vote....
Environmental Activists Target Small Property Owners While Calling Fifth Amendment a 'New Entitlement' The environmental community is in an uproar this week over a proposed measure that would reform the Endangered Species Act by including within it modest property rights protections for small landowners. The "Threatened and Endangered Species Reform Act" (TESRA) is being debated now and is expected to face a vote today in the House of Representatives. If green lobbyists and their congressional allies get their way, American property owners will continue to have their rights trampled by the Endangered Species Act, says the National Center for Public Policy Research. "In light of the enormous outcry over the dreadful Kelo v. New London ruling, it's hard to believe that anyone would so vehemently oppose protecting the property rights of American landowners," said Peyton Knight, director of the John P. McGovern MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "Indifference to the suffering of small property owners would be bad enough, but actively seeking to harm them is beyond the pale." Knight refers to the onslaught of anti-property rights rhetoric that has poured out of the environmental community this week as a result of the proposal that landowners should receive compensation when the government takes their property under the Endangered Species Act. Under current law, the ESA takes private property without paying the owner a dime....
Column: Pombo-Cardoza wildlife bill corrects many flaws As a Stanislaus County supervisor, I have witnessed firsthand the shortcomings of the current Endangered Species Act and the pressing need for reform. The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005, sponsored by Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, does just that. It will enhance the ESA by shifting the focus of the act away from unproductive litigation back to its original goal -- the actual recovery of species. In 2002, when more than 128,000acres of Stanislaus County was proposed as critical habitat for vernal pool species and plants, we were troubled to learn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had not based its decision on scientific or economic data, but simply on aerial photography. When pressed, the service acknowledged that it did not seek more accurate information and mapping from our county and other local governments because they were rushing to comply with an unrealistic court-imposed deadline. Our problems were further compounded when the service used only boilerplate economic analysis to review the economic impact on our county. When pressed as to why they didn't prepare an analysis that was specific to the proposed designation in our region, the response again noted a need to rush to comply with a court order. Unfortunately, in the haste to meet arbitrary court-imposed deadlines, the service actually designated parking lots and housing subdivisions as critical habitat for fairy shrimp....
Deal preserves land along North Rim Flagstaff environmental group Grand Canyon Trust will begin ranching on the Arizona Strip next year in what they're calling a move to conserve about 880,000 acres of public land between the Grand Canyon and the Utah border. The environmentalists say they're saving the land from impacts of more cattle, seeking to graze as few head of cattle as possible and fence off more sensitive areas. "We'll ensure we're managing livestock in an as ecologically responsible way as possible," Grand Canyon Trust ranch director Rick Moore said. "...We think this will be a place to go out and take a real hard look at ranching in an arid environment." The Trust plans to reduce the 2,175 cattle allowed to be rotated around the pastures per year by about 10 percent and hire a rancher out of Wyoming to manage the new North Rim Ranch. "This area has been severely impacted by grazing," Moore said. The ranch has not been worked in recent years while a sale was pending....
Court order stalls Forest Service daily operation Bitterroot National Forest officials had planned to spend Thursday at the Darby Public Library talking about plans for forest management. But a Wednesday court order effectively tied the agency's hands and halted much of what the Forest Service does. Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Dave Bull said the agency will still be cleaning bathrooms, but that's about it. The order handed down from a U.S. District Court in California suspended a variety of projects on national forests because the public did not have the opportunity to comment on them or file appeals. The court found that public notice, comment and appeal provisions are required in all categorical exclusions - actions that were deemed not to have a significant effect on the environment and don't require environmental review. "There is a whole range of administration decisions that we make internally," Bull said. "Anything that did not have public notice, comment and appeal is effected." "The decision could suspend 100 or more projects underway in the Northern Region," regional forester Gail Kembell said in a news release. "Projects conducted by contract, permit or other means - like reducing hazardous fuels, improving wildlife habitat, repairing roads, fixing a toilet and even cutting firewood could be affected." Bull said officials at the national level were still scrambling to see how wide-ranging the order is and pursing legal remedies....
Thinning democracy When the Bitterroot National Forest decided to finally release the final Environmental Impact Statement for its preferred alternative on the Middle East Fork Hazardous Fuels Reduction project last Thursday, it was an invite-only affair. If you weren’t one of the lucky members of the community, the “credentialed press,” the Ravalli County Commissioners or the State Senate, you were likely to be escorted from the public building by armed (and armored) Forest Service law enforcement officers. That’s what happened to Bitterroot Valley residents and avowed conservationists Stewart Brandborg, Larry Campbell and Jim Miller. The three members of Friends of the Bitterroot (FOB), a local conservation group, say they have no history of criminal or violent behavior, yet their presence at the meeting was apparently deemed dangerous by Bitterroot Forest Supervisor Dave Bull, who later told the press that the men were removed by armed guards because the agency wanted to provide a “safe environment.” “The only violence inflicted here is that of the Forest Service against public participatory process guaranteed in the United States Constitution,” says Brandborg, 80, whose father was the Bitterroot forest supervisor from 1935 to 1955....
Agencies claim success in bison plan Federal and state agencies claim success in carrying out a five-year-old plan for managing bison that leave Yellowstone National Park, even though the plan still is in the first of its three phases. The assessment released Thursday determined the five agencies are not ready for the next step because five of the 14 objectives in the bison management plan have not been met. The unmet goals include inoculating bison against the disease brucellosis by administering vaccine using means such as darts fired from rifles. Steps to meet the various remaining objectives have been initiated, said Yellowstone spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews. The agencies said they have been successful in meeting the management plan's main goals, which include keeping bison and livestock apart, and preventing the potential spread of brucellosis to cattle from bison that enter Montana in search of forage....
Judge lets cougar hunt stand On Saturday, the mountain lions of the Black Hills will need their eagle-sharp eyesight, all their cagey, elusive instincts, and their ability to remain invisible as South Dakota's first-ever mountain lion hunting season gets under way. A judge's ruling late Thursday, after an all-day court hearing, clears the way for hunting to begin Saturday as scheduled. Circuit Judge Max Gors said the Mountain Lion Foundation and other opponents who had sued to stop the season failed to show that hunting will cause irreparable harm to the Black Hills lion population. The opponents argued that there was insufficient data to justify a lion season - warning that hunting could result in extinction of the big cats in South Dakota. As the largest - and often most misunderstood - predator in the state, the Black Hills mountain lion will now go from stalker to stalked. The season, which was approved earlier this year, has created more controversy than excitement in the state. Wednesday, the Mountain Lion Foundation, a national conservation agency, filed its lawsuit to stop the season before it began....
It's Always Fair Game for Wild Pigs Her quarry in these golden Mendocino hills was Sus scrofa, a squat, muscular wild boar with coarse dark hair, hairy ears, a thick armor-like hide and skewers for tusks, which is now overrunning the countryside to become the latest plague of California. Along with states like Texas, Florida and Hawaii, California has become a prime habitat for pigs, so much so that the state Department of Fish and Game has begun offering advanced wild boar hunting clinics to encourage people like Mrs. Straub, a 29-year-old executive secretary from Santa Rosa, to hunt pigs. The pigs are a nonnative hybrid species that can run up to 25 miles an hour and whose meat is prized by cooks - Mrs. Straub and her husband, Randy, among them. They flourish in all but two counties of the state, and their moonlit sashaying in search of grubs and acorns along Highway 1 near Carmel has become so treacherous to motorists that the state Department of Transportation put up "Pig Xing" signs last year. In a sense, Mrs. Straub and her pork-loving brethren are ground troops in an escalating war between man and beast. Although culinary politics here lean more toward organic broccoli than firearms, wild pigs are regarded as fair game by state fish and game officials, who have declared a 365-day open season on pigs, with no bag limit. Wild pigs, prolific breeders, can double their population every four months, causing environmental havoc. The fish and game department puts the population at 100,000 to 250,000 statewide....
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is Taking Aim at Wetlands After decades of slowing down, the loss of United States wetlands that are home to migratory birds and endangered species may start climbing again, following decisions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open up 11,000-15,000 acres of wetlands in 15 states since 2004 in the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision narrowing Clean Water Act protections, according to an analysis conducted by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). Nearly five years ago, the Rehnquist-led Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Clean Water Act did not protect so-called "isolated" wetlands that provide critical habitat for migratory birds. The 15 states with the most wetlands exempted by the Corps' aggressive implementation of that decision since 2004 are: Nebraska (2,970-3,139 acres); North Dakota (2,134-2,474 acres); Florida (1,699-1,884 acres); Illinois (643-1,332 acres); Texas (642-887 acres); Georgia (539-1,104 acres); South Dakota (479-704 acres); Colorado (469-872 acres); Wisconsin (434-641 acres); Indiana (407-645 acres); Ohio (259-325 acres); California (215-344 acres); Minnesota (169-356 acres); Iowa (150-274 acres); and New York (140-205 acres)....
Congress Looking At Renewed Coastal Drilling A move is already underway to open up California’s coast to oil exploration. In the past, a large majority of Californians has strongly opposed any more oil and gas drilling off of our coast, but some members of Congress are hoping current events will cause people to take another look. “We’re looking at prices going up significantly during the winter months,” says Jeff Smith of PG&E. “The estimates right now are forty to fifty percent higher.” Some say the solution is renewed offshore drilling for California. New congressional legislation would end the longtime ban on energy development along the coast. The bill passed the House Resources Committee with support from both Republicans and Democrats. Opponents say it's a sham....
Column: Bush appointee’s assault on parks has deep roots Ten years ago this October, my fax machine rattled and hummed. It coughed out a couple of sheets of “minutes” transcribed from what had been an unpublicized closed meeting in West Yellowstone. Few people knew it had occurred. Details were passed on by an anonymous source with the hope they would be divulged in a newspaper column I was writing. Readers soon learned about the infamous “brainstorming session” that involved members of various Greater Yellowstone area chambers of commerce arrayed under the nebulous banner of the Yellowstone Gateway Alliance. The Gateway Alliance was led by Paul Hoffman, who in recent weeks as a Bush administration political appointee has come under fire again for orchestrating another brainstorming session, this time at the U.S. Interior Department. Hoffman, who once was a congressional aide to Dick Cheney, today serves as a deputy assistant Interior secretary. Beyond public scrutiny, he has been quietly rewriting the government manual that guides management principles in our national parks....
Woman fights to keep cabin in park bounds An 83-year-old woman moved a step closer to keeping her summer home inside Rocky Mountain National Park Wednesday when a U.S. Senate committee approved a deal that would provide her with a lifetime lease on the cabin. The National Park Service wanted to evict Betty Dick when her lease expired July 16, but after the intervention of two U. S. senators and a congressman, a compromise appears near. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved a bill that essentially extends Dick's lease, allowing her to rent the cabin and eight surrounding acres for $300 a year for the rest of her life. Under her previous lease, Dick got the cabin and 23 acres for $300 a year. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said the Park Service faces 186 similar disputes in 29 locations. He said he plans to introduce legislation setting up a process to settle them without resorting to "private legislation" like the bill resolving the Colorado case....
Alaska proves a prime hiding spot for man accused of abuse With a land mass constituting one-fifth of the continental United States, there are simply too many places to hide in Alaska. And that's the vexing part for Alaska State Troopers, who are scouring the vast Alaska wilderness and its sparsely populated communities for the man known as Papa Pilgrim, the patriarch of a self-styled pioneering family accused of sexually abusing one of his 15 children. But in Alaska, it can take a long time to ferret someone out of the wilderness, even if they want to be found. So it's worse when the person is Robert Allen Hale — Papa Pilgrim's real name — an experienced outdoorsman who apparently doesn't want to be found....
Herd killed to stem bovine TB The slaughter of a cattle herd this week in northwestern Minnesota is part of an ongoing effort to contain an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis, officials said. Eighteen Minnesota herds are under quarantine and will be tested for possible TB infection. Terry Bolding, veterinarian for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, said it's still not clear where the TB originated. It may have come from cattle in another state, or it may have been spread to cattle by whitetail deer. He said it's possible for people to get the disease, but unlikely. They would have to drink unpasteurized milk from an infected cow or get sneezed on by an infected animal. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to test about 500 deer killed by hunters this fall. Bolding said that if the disease is in deer, it will be much harder to control....
Cowboy up? Fort Worth hollers "heck yeah" Steve Murrin is the informal mayor of "the stockyards," a small area of "Wild West" saloons, steakhouses, honky-tonks and clothing stores that blossomed in the middle of a poor neighborhood. The Fort Worth Stockyards used to be the heart of a vibrant cattle industry within the city limits. Then, says Murrin, it became skid row. Now it's a tourist attraction - men wearing various authentic 19th-century cowboy costumes, for example, drive longhorn cattle down the brick streets twice every day - but it's also the home of Billy Bob's Texas and the White Elephant Saloon, a storied and superb live-music venue. The Cowtown Coliseum - an ornate Spanish-style building that holds rodeos on weekends - dominates a stretch of the Stockyards area....

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

Testimony Supports More Cattle Grazing on Public Lands Dr. Richard L. Knight, Colorado State University Professor of Wildlife Conservation, testified today before the Senate’s Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests. A noted wildlife biologist, Knight called ranching “the oldest sustainable use of Western lands” and said “more than any other justification, the timeless traditions of ranching legitimizes its existence and continuation.” Chairman Larry Craig (R-Idaho) called the hearing to review the grazing programs of the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, including proposed changes to grazing regulations, and the status of grazing permit renewals, monitoring programs and allotment restocking plans. Knight’s testimony focused on scientific evidence supporting ranching’s benefits to biodiversity and chastised politically-motivated attempts to end public lands grazing. “The reciprocal demonization of ranchers and environmentalists – the so-called ‘rangeland conflict’ – has dominated public debate for too long. It has not contributed to on-the-ground solutions,” says Knight. “It has divided people who might otherwise be united by common goals: the conservation of magnificent open spaces, scarce water resources, and imperiled wildlife. If it continues, both sides will lose what they purport to defend.”....
Historic kane and two mile ranches bought by the grand canyon trust and the conservation fund The Grand Canyon Trust (GCT) and The Conservation Fund (TCF) announced today that they have finalized the landmark $4.5 million conservation purchase of the Kane and Two Mile ranches from the Kane Ranch Land Stewardship and Cattle Company. The ranches, consisting of approximately 1000 acres of private land and associated water rights, and 850,000 acres of grazing leases on public lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Arizona State Land Department, stretch from the Grand Canyon’s north rim to the Utah border and connect three national monuments, two national recreation areas and eight wilderness areas. The Trust and The Conservation Fund have created North Rim Ranch LLC as the official holding company to own and operate the ranches. “The purchase of the Kane and Two Mile Ranches demonstrates one of the most important and innovative public-private conservation efforts of our time. Thanks to the leadership, vision and support of our partners, we will be able to do our part to make sure that this spectacular landscape and vital wildlife habitat will be preserved for future generations,” said Mike Ford, Nevada and Southwest Director of The Conservation Fund, which led the fundraising effort. “BLM looks forward to partnering with Grand Canyon Trust and The Conservation Fund to continue the multiple-use management of the public lands on the Kane and Two Mile ranches,” said Rob Roudabush, acting BLM Arizona Strip District Manager....
House set to act on overhaul of Endangered Species Act The nation's most prominent and contentious environmental law, the 1973 Endangered Species Act, could be in line for a major overhaul that would limit habitat protections while giving new rights to property owners. Legislation by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo would eliminate "critical habitat" for plants and animals where development is limited; would allow political appointees to make some scientific determinations; and would require the federal government to compensate property owners whose development plans are blocked to protect species. The fast-moving bill was approved by the Resources Committee last week and was set for a House vote Thursday. Pombo, a conservative rancher from California's Central Valley, has been aiming for more than a decade to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, arguing it forces landowners to bear unreasonable burdens to protect plants and animals, leads to costly lawsuits and isn't successful enough in recovering species....
Environmental Groups Applaud Efforts to Secure Strong Endangered Species Act In an attempt to thwart efforts by Congressman Pombo to weaken the Endangered Species Act, Congressmen Miller (D-CA), Boehlert (R-NY), Dingell (D-MI), Gilchrest (R-MD), Dicks (D-WA), Saxton (R-NJ), Tauscher (D-CA), and Kirk (R-IL) have introduced a bi-partisan amendment that would eliminate Rep. Pombo's damaging provisions and preserve the intent of the act to recover threatened and endangered plants and animals. The amendment is supported by a wide array of conservation organizations, including the Izaak Walton League of America, Trout Unlimited, the American Bird Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, The Ocean Conservancy, and the The Wilderness Society, in addition to Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense, and the World Wildlife Fund. "This bi-partisan amendment is a responsible alternative to Congressman Pombo's irresponsible bill," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. "We applaud these members' efforts to secure a stronger and more effective Endangered Species Act." The legislation not only addresses the current problems in Congressman Pombo's bill, but also improves the current law....
Bush administration scales back conservation program Changes are in store for a conservation program that pays farmers to take fragile land out of production, the Bush administration said Wednesday. An estimated 35 million acres of farmland are idled each year at a cost of nearly $2 billion through the Conservation Reserve Program, the Agriculture Department's biggest farm conservation effort. The department on Wednesday announced that only farmers and ranchers who own the most environmentally sensitive land would get new 10- to 15-year contracts, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. Other farmers and ranchers who have gotten such contracts in the past will be offered only contract extensions of two to five years. "We'll offer re-enrollments for those contracts that provide the highest level of environmental benefits, and extensions for the vast majority of other contracts," Johanns said. Contracts will expire on an estimated 26 million acres from 2007 through 2009. Officials expect many farmers and ranchers will drop out because they don't want short-term contracts....
Feds answer governor's roadless questions A federal official told Gov. Dave Freudenthal this week he expects the state and the federal agency to come to an agreement on roadless areas should Wyoming choose to petition for a certain fate. U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mark Rey told Freudenthal in a letter dated Monday that a national committee will review state-submitted petitions for roadless areas, but stopped short of saying what that committee will look for. "We foresee that each petition will be unique and specific to the management, resources, and other circumstances for inventoried roadless areas in that State; therefore, each petition will be evaluated on its own merits rather than against specific criteria beyond those already provided in the rule," Rey wrote. And, in answer to Freudenthal's questions submitted to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns in July, Rey said there is no standard to which petitions will be held. "We expect that the final decision will be one in which the Governor and the Secretary of Agriculture will be in agreement," Rey said....
Group pledges funds for ranchers An environmental group has offered to help pay ranchers for livestock killed by wolves if Rocky Mountain National Park decides to reintroduce the predators to reduce its overabundant elk population. Washington-based Defenders of Wildlife has paid more than $500,000 to ranchers in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico for confirmed losses to wolves and bears. The group also has spent $470,000 on projects to keep wolves away from livestock. It pledges similar support in Colorado. "No matter how and when wolves come to Colorado, we will commit these funds," said Jonathan Proctor, who heads the group's Denver office. "We hope to save wolves by preventing conflicts in the first place," he said. Rocky Mountain National Park Superintendent Vaughan Baker said the group's offer would be taken into account when a decision is made....
Prairie dog poisoning postponed Appeals filed by opposing sides over a new U.S. Forest Service plan to control prairie dogs will delay prairie-dog poisoning for at least 60 days on federal grasslands in South Dakota and Nebraska. The poisoning could have begun next week but now will be delayed at least until late November, Forest Service officials say. The Nebraska National Forest, which administers the Buffalo Gap and Fort Pierre national grasslands in South Dakota and Oglala National Grassland in Nebraska, on Aug. 3 issued an amendment to its forest management plan that would have allowed prairie-dog poisoning to begin shortly after Saturday, Oct. 1. The control plan is aimed at preventing prairie dogs on federal grasslands from encroaching onto adjoining private land. But seven conservation groups appealed the amendment, contending it would kill too many prairie dogs. On the other end of the argument, six counties and six grazing groups in South Dakota and Nebraska filed an appeal Monday, contending that the amendment would not kill enough prairie dogs....
Land swap plan raises concerns A proposed three-way land exchange that could significantly alter public holdings near two Wyoming communities has many Platte County residents deeply concerned, although people in the Big Horn Basin were expected to show strong support. Although the exchange has not yet been formally proposed, Western Land Group of Colorado, hired by Wheatland-area Notch Peak Ranch owner Pat Broe to facilitate the transfer, held public open houses this week in Wheatland and Lovell to gauge public opinion. The deal would take away some Forest Service lands from users in southeast Wyoming, while opening new areas to public use in the Big Horns. As it stands, Broe would trade off about 2,979 acres of scenic land at Devil's Canyon near Lovell to the Bureau of Land Management. In return, the U.S. Forest Service would give Broe about 4,597 acres adjoining his ranch in the Laramie Mountains, and the BLM would turn over about 483 acres in the same area. The Forest Service would acquire from Broe three separate parcels in southeast Wyoming totaling 804 acres. In all, 3,783 private acres would go to the Forest Service and BLM. Federal lands which would become private total 5,080 acres. After appraisals, Broe has agreed to pay a dollar value on any discrepancy in the exchange to the federal government....
No protected status for amphibian Colorado's boreal toad was removed as a candidate for the federal endangered-species list Wednesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That could be good news for ski-slope developers - and maybe even for the toad itself. An exotic fungus that is hammering the warty, high-elevation amphibian made it a candidate for endangered-species protection in 1995. One of the mountain toad's habitats was right on the Breckenridge hillside the Vail Resorts Development Co. wanted for its Peak 7 expansion. To win approval for the project, the developer agreed to deed 56 acres of sensitive wetlands to the town, build new toad habitat when it builds a new base area and fund a toad study. "Would we have agreed to build new toad habitat or fund the study if it was not a candidate for listing?" said Alex Iskenderian, Vail's vice president of development. "No. Significant moneys were involved." Several state road projects have added costly toad underpasses....
U.S. Bans Beluga Caviar Imports to Protect Sturgeon The U.S., which imports three-fifths of the world's beluga caviar, will ban shipments of the eggs from the Caspian Sea region to protect falling sturgeon stocks. Legal trade in caviar is worth about $100 million a year, with black market trade worth as much as five times that amount, says CITES, the Geneva-based Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which lists sturgeon as threatened, rather than near extinction. Stocks of the fish have declined as much as 30 percent since mid-2004, according to a study published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Sept. 16. The Bush administration in March gave nations around the Caspian Sea -- Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Russia -- six months to furnish the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with a coordinated management plan to address over-fishing and poaching of sturgeon or face a halt to trade....
Editorial: Endangering species ALTHOUGH THE South was victimized by two devastating hurricanes this year, it was also the site of a heartening natural event: the discovery that the rare ivory-billed woodpecker is not extinct after all. There will be fewer such hair's-breadth escapes from extinction, though, if Congress passes pending legislation that would gut the Endangered Species Act. The law has been a bulwark of environmental protection since it was enacted in 1973 with unanimous approval from the Senate and just five opposing votes in the House. Without it, the grizzly bear, the American alligator, the Florida panther, the bald eagle, and the peregrine falcon would likely no longer exist in the lower 48 states. To increase the lamentably short roster of saved species, Congress should be working to strengthen the law, not weaken it. Legislation in the House, which could be acted on as soon as today, strikes at the existing law's core by greatly limiting the designation of critical habitat land. Under the bill, that designation would go only to areas that are necessary to save a species from imminent extinction but not to areas needed for its long-time recovery, a goal of the current law. Congressman Martin Meehan of Lowell, a critic of the bill, believes that the change would create small, isolated habitat ''islands" that could not lead to species survival....
BLM will go forward with horse contraception The Department of Interior ruled Wednesday that birth control may be used on the Pryor Mountain herd of wild horses in Montana and Wyoming. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management put off plans to inject 20 mares with contraceptives after two wild horse advocacy groups petitioned to block the program earlier this month. The department's board of appeals ruled that there is not sufficient evidence to show that the action should be blocked. The fertility control effort in the Pryor Mountain herd is overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which uses the contraceptive PZP, porcine zona pellucida, to control the number of wild horses. The herd, which ranges on the Wyoming-Montana state line south of Billings, has about 165 horses. The BLM has said its target population, based on the size and quality of the existing rangeland, is between 45 and 142 horses....
Drillers want year-round access For the second winter in a row, federal land managers have approved a short-term exemption for a small-scale "demonstration" of winter drilling in critical big game winter range in the Pinedale Anticline. The day after that Sept. 15 approval, a trio of natural gas developers jointly submitted another proposal, this time asking that seasonal stipulations be removed altogether and year-round drilling become the industry standard in the winter ranges. Anschutz Pinedale Corp., Shell Exploration & Production Co. and Ultra Resources say a year-round drilling scenario "will shorten the development time period in all areas affected by seasonal restrictions by up to 50 percent lessening habitat and wildlife disturbances overall," according to the proposal. Bureau of Land Management officials are moving quickly to process calls to remove seasonal restrictions in critical big game wintering ranges in the area, citing the many benefits of a year-round drilling program. The general idea is to allow the construction phase to happen without delay so the production and reclamation phases can begin sooner....
Ski area gets BLM pass Colorado's most extreme venue for skiing received long-sought approval Wednesday to let skiers venture out on its daunting slopes without guides. The remote Silverton Mountain ski area, whose easiest run is equivalent to the most difficult at most resorts, previously had held only a short-term permit to take 80 skiers a day out in guided groups. After three years of review, the Bureau of Land Management agreed to let Silverton lease 1,300 acres of terrain for the next 40 years, with up to 475 skiers a day allowed to take to the ultra-steep runs. "It's pretty big news," said Silverton Mountain owner Aaron Brill, who several years ago pored over topographical maps to find a site for the type of ski area he wanted to create. Now headed into its fifth season, the area will provide guided-only skiing options this winter because of the preparation involved in getting the area ready for unguided skiing, Brill said. Unguided skiing likely will begin in April after the most extreme avalanche danger has passed....
BLM raising fees at Sand Mountain User fees for off-road vehicles at Sand Mountain will double beginning Saturday in a move the Bureau of Land Management says is needed to maintain the recreation site and protect a rare butterfly. "The BLM is not driven by specific profit margin objectives as are private sector businesses, but it must attempt to recover costs for which funding is no longer available through appropriated funding sources," said Don Hicks, BLM field manager in Carson City. "We want to continue providing a clean and enjoyable recreation experience at Sand Mountain." Under the new rates, annual passes will jump from $45 to $90. Weekly passes will cost $40, up from $20....
Diminishing water supply threatens E. Washington farmers Without water, the Columbia Basin region would look like the sagebrush-covered desert it was before farmers and irrigators transformed it into some of the top-producing farmland in the United States. Thanks to water, 119 crops are grown in the Columbia Basin. In fact, Grant, Franklin and Adams counties are the first-, second- and fifth-largest potato-producing counties in the U.S. But this region's future is endangered because of its diminishing water supply. Much of the region relies on the vast Odessa sub-area aquifer for its water. But more water is being withdrawn from the aquifer than is being recharged. Wells in the sub-area are drying up or seeing a significant reduction in output due to the aquifer's dropping water table — as much as 400 feet since the 1960s. In fact, some wells are 2,000 feet deep. Farmers and people in area communities can't afford to continue drilling deeper for water because it's so expensive....
Portable sawmill offers unique on-site service Buying rough sawn lumber and beams at wholesale pricing, while enjoying excellent customer service, used to be a dream for local homeowners, ranchers and woodworkers. Thanks to Timberline Custom Saw-milling, it is now a dream come true. Since April, owners Mike and Barb Miller have offered lumber and beams for builders and private parties for use in homebuilding, barns, corrals, decks, fencing and crafts — all at the customer’s own site. Timberline’s way of doing business is the opposite of traditional sawmilling, where customers must trans-port their own logs to a stationary mill and later return to pick up the sawn lumber. “The portable sawmill is unique in that it can be transported to the log site and the logs are milled to the customer’s specifications on the spot,” said Mike Miller. This saves time, effort and expense — savings that are passed on to the customer....
Farm Freeloaders in Foreign-Aid Food Fight What's the WTO got against food aid? The organization has another word for sending developing countries free stuff: dumping. If that sounds a touch cynical, consider the circumstances under which the food aid program was developed in 1954. The U.S. was simultaneously experiencing a spike in agricultural production—notably wheat—and eager to solicit the goodwill of newly emerging states. Letting taxpayers buy and ship surplus carbohydrates evidently seemed like a good idea. Fifty years later, according to Oxfam, food aid still rises with surplus production and falls when supply is tight. When a bumper crop threatens to destabilize prices, the feds sweep in to buy and give away. Having trouble hawking California raisins? Soybean oil? Corn? Wheat? Rice? There's an African village with your name on it. The importance of food aid as an export outlet is nowhere near what it once was, but the business of disaster aid has given other industries an interest in maintaining the status quo. According to a July report by the Minnesota-based Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy (IATP), it's the shipping industry—not agribusiness—that has emerged as the lobbying behemoth behind food aid. The U.S. requires that 75 percent of procurement, processing, bagging and shipping be handled by U.S. firms. Fully a third of the money taxpayers spend sending free food (typically bought at 11 percent over market price) goes straight to shipping costs....
Empire Ranch where the real West was filmed The Old Tucson site was built as the set for "Arizona" starring Jean Arthur and William Holden in 1939. It just stayed in what is now Pima County's Tucson Mountain Park and grew as more films and TV shows were shot there. It came into its own in the 1960s when a man who's name is permanently linked with it took it over - Bob Shelton. Bob brought in the big guns. Space prohibits naming all the classics shot there over that great 30 years, but start with the classic John Wayne/Howard Hawks trilogy - "Rio Bravo" (1959), "El Dorado" (1966) and "Rio Lobo" (1970). But that wasn't the first time Hawks and Wayne were here. "Red River" (1948) was shot on the Empire Ranch, a bit further away and a lot closer to the real West. Started in 1876 on 160 acres bought by Walter Vail and Herbert Hislop, it grew to over 1 million acres at one point.
The discovery of silver helped and it was acquired by the Boice family in 1928 who sold it to Gulf American in 1969 but ranched it until 1975 when Anamax Mining bought it for its water and leased it to rancher John Donaldson. The Donaldsons still graze it, but the BLM acquired the ranch buildings and 42,000 acres in 1988. In 2000 it was designated the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Every Year the Empire Ranch Foundation has a Round-up, Western Art Show, and sale from the very buildings were John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru and Montgomery Clift filmed "Red River" and where well before that, the Vails fought off real Apaches and others to build the biggest ranch in the Southwest....
Matagorda Heritage Day planned for Oct.8 Matagorda County residents can celebrate the history of one of Texas’s oldest towns on Oct. 8 at the annual Matagorda Heritage Day. The event that began over 40 years ago will include a parade, carnival, karaoke contest, barbecue, fish fry and beer garden. The Art League of Bay City will be sponsoring an art show and there will be the annual Charles Siringo look-a-like contest. Siringo was a cowboy turned author who was employed by famed rancher Shanghai Pierce and other Matagorda area ranchers during the 1800s. The contest is open to ages 16 and above and the entry fee is $25....
Cowboys help kids explore new frontiers in reading Floral City Elementary School students recently had a rootin', tootin' kickoff for this year's Accelerated Reader program. During the event, featuring real cowboys, students were encouraged to keep in mind this year's theme: To Explore New Frontiers - Read. Accelerated Reader, commonly known as AR, promotes reading on an individual level. When a student reads a book, he or she then takes a comprehension test on a computer and the child is awarded points. Points are rewarded in a variety of ways throughout participating schools. At Floral City, Accelerated Reader was highlighted in the school's outdoor pavilion with presentations by longtime local rancher Valentine Rooks and high school rodeo performer Dakota Shipp. Rooks, dressed in Wranglers, boots and cowboy hat, described the life of a rancher and demonstrated how to crack a whip. He told the children about early Florida Crackers and how they earned the name with their whips. He said his mama knew when to get dinner out when she heard the cracking whips getting close to home....

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico. Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing. Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly. Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped. 'My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?' Usually dolphins were controlled via signals transmitted through a neck harness. 'The question is, were these dolphins made secure before Katrina struck?' said Sheridan....

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Verne's monster of the deep caught on camera

A GIANT squid, the elusive behemoth of the deep that inspired Jules Verne, has been observed alive for the first time, scientists reported yesterday. The creature, which is as long as a London bus from tentacle tip to tail, has been filmed by Japanese researchers using a baited underwater camera, shedding new light on the lifestyle of one of nature’s most enigmatic living wonders. The first observed specimen measured about 26ft (8m) in total, with 16ft tentacles. Even so, it was something of a titch by the standards of the species as a whole, with the largest yet washed ashore, in New Zealand — at 59ft — more than twice as big. The giant squid, Architeuthis dux, has been known since the 16th century from dead specimens washed up on beaches or snared by fishermen’s nets, and from the occasional fleeting sighting when it has neared the surface. But it had never before been seen in its natural deep-water environment. Its size, fearsome tentacles and beak have captured the imaginations of sailors and writers, for whom it has become an emblem of the terrors of the deep. In Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Captain Nemo’s submarine Nautilus was attacked by a “squid of colossal dimensions” that almost destroyed the vessel....

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NEWS ROUNDUP

Schwarzenegger Fires Flood Control Panel Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday fired all six members of the state Reclamation Board, an agency that oversees flood control along California's two biggest rivers and had recently become more aggressive about slowing development on flood plains. The Republican governor replaced the members — who serve indefinite terms at the governor's pleasure — with seven of his own appointees, most with ties to agriculture and the engineering profession. One board seat had been vacant since spring. Five of the fired members had been appointed by Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and one had first been appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, then reappointed by Davis....
Protesters tell Pombo: Hands off Species Act A group of environmentalists, farmers, and fishermen gathered in Stockton Monday to protest legislation by Rep. Richard Pombo that it says tears holes in the federal safety net for wildlife living on the brink of extinction. The group, following a brief news conference, hand-delivered to Pombo's Stockton office the signatures of 3,000 Californians objecting to Pombo's revised version of the Endangered Species Act. Former Rep. Pete McCloskey -- a Republican like Pombo -- co-authored the original 1973 law and stood nearby when President Nixon signed it into law. McClosky said he's so angry about Pombo's bill, he is tempted to leave retirement, move from his home in Yolo County and oppose the former Tracy city councilman in the next congressional election....
Editorial: Does protecting endangered species cost too much? While it is noble that great measures have been taken to protect the desert tortoise and mohave ground squirrel, one has to wonder how these animals have been placed at such a high priority that we must now spend millions of dollars to protect them. Because environmental activists say the burrowing tortoise is threatened by cattle, people and mines, millions of dollars are spent to save the turtles at the expense of ranchers and highway drivers. There are nearly 4 million acres of California desert which has been set aside as critical habitat for the desert tortoise. It appears the desert tortoise is so sacred, those willing to protect them will do so by killing anything that doesn't have a shell on it....
Farm Bureau Calls for House to Pass Improved ESA To improve and strengthen what has worked in the original Endangered Species Act, the American Farm Bureau Federation is calling on the House to pass H.R. 3824, the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act. In a letter sent Monday to House members, AFBF President Bob Stallman explained how more than 75 percent of ESA-listed species inhabit private lands, and, therefore, cooperation with private landowners, many of them farmers and ranchers, is essential for species to recover. “H.R. 3824 provides for voluntary species recovery agreements that allow private landowners the flexibility to take actions that benefit species recovery, producing a ‘win-win’ situation for species and landowners alike,” Stallman noted. He further noted that landowners deserve more involvement in consultations about how to save species....
Grizzlies make inroads in Idaho Cattle ranchers Larry and Deanna Orme have been charged by a grizzly and already have lost eight calves to bears this year. Blair and Velma Calaway, also ranchers, had a bear ransack their cabin near Yellowstone's southwest boundary. The ranchers have learned to tolerate grizzlies. Whether other Idahoans do will play a critical role in determining whether the bears continue to thrive. "I view that as an evolutionary process in Idaho," Chris Servheen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator, told the Idaho Statesman. "The average person who works, lives or plays in bear habitat has changed the way they act." The grizzly grows to 600 pounds, can run faster than a horse, and occasionally eats people. There was about one human injury per year from grizzly bears in the backcountry in Yellowstone from 1970 through 1997...
Forest Service official upholds timber harvest appeal A Forest Service official has overturned a proposed timber harvest in the Kootenai National Forest because it did not adequately address potential effects on grizzly bears. In June, Bob Castaneda, Kootenai Forest supervisor, approved the North East Yaak timber sale in the Cabinet Ranger District. His decision authorized logging 13.5 million board feet of timber on about 1,860 acres in the Three Rivers Ranger District. It also cleared the way for harvesting in old growth on 116 acres and thinning another 286 acres, plus six temporary roads. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Ecology Center appealed the decision to the Forest Service's regional headquarters in Missoula. On Monday, Lynn Roberts, Forest Service appeal deciding officer, ruled that the environmental impact statement did not adequately address effects of the project on grizzly bears....
Biologists count fewer grizzlies with cubs Bear biologists, trying to gauge the health of grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park, saw fewer females with cubs in 2005 than in any year since 1997. But they cautioned Tuesday that the dip isn't necessarily an indication that the Yellowstone population, which the federal government hopes to remove from the endangered species list soon, is declining. More likely other factors affected how many females with cubs were observed this year, including a "bumper crop" of cubs in recent years that left many females unable to breed, and persistent snow at some feeding sites that kept away bears that otherwise would have been counted, the biologists said....
Wilderness designation for Dominguez Canyon debated Federal wilderness designation for the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Study Area could bring too many tourists and damage its fragile desert ecology, a rancher with grazing rights in the area warned the Delta County Board of Commissioners on Monday. “We were there for years and didn’t have any problems until there was this wilderness (study area) designation,” said Oscar Massey, who has been wintering cattle in the Dominguez Canyon area for more than three decades. Ponds that he built there to water cattle have also benefitted wildlife, Massey said. “There’s quite a population that uses that water, elk and deer,” he said. He counted a herd of 1,400 elk last winter in the area, Massey said. “You put that ‘W’ on a map,” and tourists will flock to see the newly designated wilderness, he said....
International Wilderness Conference To Convene in Alaska How can human beings coexist with the wilderness, sustaining themselves and the lands they inhabit? That is a critical question in many parts of the world and the focus of an international meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, September 30 to October 6. More than 1,100 delegates from 55 nations will be in Anchorage for the 8thWorld Wilderness Congress (8WWC), a meeting described as the world’s longest-running public environmental forum. The meeting’s theme is “Wilderness, Wildlands and People: A Partnership for the Future,” with sessions devoted to addressing “the practicalities of realizing benefits to human communities from protecting and sustaining wilderness, wildlands and wildlife,” said Vance Martin, president of the WILD Foundation, a principal organizer of the congress. “I’m hoping we can learn from that,” said Liz Close of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), “and bring people in this country closer to their wilderness and make sure that people understand the benefits that are derived from this land.”....
Column: Our Parks in Peril Is Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA), the chairman of the House Resources Committee, joking? Did he really circulate a razed-earth anti-parks bill as a rather mean-spirited joke, or was he for real? It’s a little hard to tell with him, but the national parks sections are certainly laughable. If Pombo’s bill was a joke, it was an elaborate one, paid for with federal dollars: • Section 6302 requires the National Park Service (NPS) to raise $10 million by selling advertising in official maps and guidebooks, as well as placing billboards on buses, trams and vans. The Interior Department would also be required to sell commercial sponsorship of visitor and education centers, museums trails, theaters and other facilities. Thus the “Exxon/Mobil Visitors Center” or other such designations. (If the place was already named after an individual, it would get a reprieve); • Section 6306 requires NPS to sell for private use any park that receives less than 10,000 visitors per day. Most of the 15 parks that meet that designation are in Alaska, and all are national treasures. The parks that would go on the block for poor performance include 23 percent of total park system acreage....
Editorial: Storms emphasize faults in energy bill It seems like only yesterday — but it was Aug. 8 — that Congress, after years of dithering, finally got around to passing a major energy bill. It was a low-octane flop, in our opinion, larded with too many corporate welfare handouts and subsidies for pie-in-the-sky energy panaceas, while skimping on the regulatory reforms required to move the country toward more domestic production and self-sufficiency. But that was before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita laid bare the fragility of the nation’s energy infrastructure and led to price spikes that got the public’s attention. Whatever gets the public angry also draws the attention of politicians, so two new energy bills are being considered by Congress that will go back and fill gaps left by the earlier effort. The August bill adroitly sidestepped the controversial issue of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and outer continental shelf to drilling, for instance. But one new bill would open ANWR to drilling and give states the power to overrule federal offshore drilling bans. Apparently, backers of the new measures are betting that Americans had a change of attitude after gasoline prices jumped to more than $3 per gallon and experts began predicting a 70 percent jump in natural gas prices for some parts of the country this winter. Many Americans still may care about alleged threats to caribou herds and potentially ruined views from beachfront highrises — but not if such aesthetic abstractions begin taking a big enough bite out of their pocketbooks....
Interior Secretary Says U.S. Will Push Search for Energy Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said Tuesday that after the two destructive gulf hurricanes that battered the nation's energy heartland, the Bush administration would intensify its push to expand energy development on public lands including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in the nation's coastal waters. "The vulnerability of having all the energy supplies and refining and processing capacity in one geographic area reinforces the idea that we need diversity of supply," Ms. Norton said in an interview. Citing government reports on the increasing demand for petroleum and natural gas and the sustained high prices that tend to result, she said, "The hurricanes have brought more attention to the fundamental issue." While Ms. Norton took no position on a Congressional proposal to end a 25-year moratorium on oil leases on the outer continental shelf and to eliminate internal departmental appeals of administration decisions to lease public lands, she did not reject its approach....
Republicans take aim at energy restrictions Hoping to ride the wave of concern resulting from Gulf Coast hurricanes, U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin and other congressional Republicans are trying again to loosen some restrictions on oil and gas development. The proposals didn't make it in the recently approved energy bill, but supporters say Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- which hit some energy suppliers on the Gulf Coast -- show the need to eliminate some environmental restrictions if the domestic energy supply is rattled. The bill, set for committee review this week with a possible House vote as early as next week, calls in part for an end to seasonal stipulations -- such as big game winter closures -- for industry in times deemed by the president as a "significant adverse effect on the supply of domestic energy resources." The measure, pushed by House Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., and supported by Cubin, also would suspend legal challenges to energy lease decisions, and would force private landowners to comply with industry when subsurface minerals were at stake....
Feds wary about proposed Utah land swap The Interior Department has reservations about a Utah land exchange along the Colorado River, expressing little interest in nearly a quarter of the land it would get in the deal and treading carefully on the sensitive issue of how lands would be appraised. But Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Chad Calvert said in testimony to the House Resources subcommittee Tuesday that he hopes the concerns can be worked out. And a state official said he thinks the land exchange remains on track. The state is seeking to transfer 45,000 acres along the Colorado River to the Bureau of Land Management. Much of it is environmentally sensitive, including parcels near Arches National Park, a portion of the renowned Slickrock bike trail, the Corona natural arch and lands inside a wilderness study area. In exchange, the state would get about 40,000 federal acres with oil and gas or other development potential....
Gathering horses If they could do it again, the 30 mustangs rounded up in Sandwash Basin on Tuesday morning probably wouldn't follow the "Judas" horse into the trap. But as it stands, the helicopter hovering above and the domestic horse trained to lead wild horses into the trap proved effective enough to draw the wild horses into the holding pen. Bureau of Land Management officials hope to have 200 mustangs rounded up in the Sandwash area by the end of the week. If the crews from Cattoor Livestock Roundup hit their goal, the mustang population in the area northwest of Maybell will be down from about 360 horses to about 160. BLM will auction 50 of the 200 horses this weekend at Sandwash corrals. The remainder will be sent to the BLM's wild horse adoption facility in CaƱon City....
Nevada files opposition to Yucca rail corridor land restrictions The federal Energy Department hasn't laid the proper groundwork to justify restricting public land use along a proposed railroad corridor to Yucca Mountain, Nevada argues in a statement opposing the plan. "It's poor planning and the wrong agency is in charge," Bob Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said Tuesday of the Energy Department plan to build a railroad to haul radioactive waste across the state. Loux filed a seven-page letter Friday opposing the Energy Department proposal to withdraw 308,600 acres from public use across parts of Lincoln, Nye and Esmeralda counties. Public comments end Wednesday. "Apart from causing impacts and disruption to existing land users, the proposed action has the potential to negatively affect the environment, grazing allotments, mining and energy development activities, property values, the economy, important cultural resources and more," the state said....
New religious group advocates environmentalism Three University professors have joined a newly-formed alliance created to oppose a proposed Congressional bill that would change the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Noah Alliance, a partnership of Jews and evangelical Christians, issued concurrent statements by the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life opposing the bill. Signatories include rabbis, a Nobel laureate and 30 prominent Jewish scientists, as well as ecology and evolutionary biology professors David Wilcove, Daniel Rubenstein and Simon Levin. Wilcove, who is affiliated with the Wilson School, said he hopes the religious slant of the Alliance will "appeal to people who are primarily motivated by their religious faith to consider what their religion may say about obligations to protect species on Earth."....
Thousands of head of cattle dead or imperiled Hurricane Rita hit the heart of Louisiana beef cattle country, drowning thousands of head, dispersing others 10 to 15 miles inland and leaving those surviving with brackish water and no forage, state officials said Tuesday. "We’re in a pretty serious crisis right now," said Paul Coreil, director of the state’s extension service. His agents are helping the Louisiana Agriculture Department and the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association coordinate emergency deliveries of fresh water, baled hay and fencing material to the marshy, low-lying coastal parishes of southwest Louisiana. Ranchers enlisted neighbors and anyone who had a pickup, horse or airboat to coax cattle out of the water and to higher land, he said. Extension agent Andrew Granger in Vermilion said cows were run out of the water and onto state Highway 82 where a temporary cattle pen held the livestock until they could be trucked to safety. The region has upwards of 200,000 cattle, mainly part of Brahman-cross cow-calf operations....
Tanker crash leaves lengthy cleanup Hazardous materials teams are still cleaning up an oil spill west of Platteville following a fatal accident Sunday in which a semitrailer plowed into a small herd of cattle on Colo. Highway 66. The Colorado State Patrol, meanwhile, confirmed Monday that officials are not seeking charges against the owner of the farm from which the cows escaped. According to the state patrol, the owner of the cows cannot be cited criminally because Colorado is legally an “open range state.” “Livestock — horses, sheep or cattle — have the permission to roam on state property, including highways,” Colorado State Trooper Don Moseman said. “There’s no law requiring farmers to fence in livestock.” “We’re a Western, rural state,” Moseman said. “We can’t control deer or elk either, but there are a lot more wild animal accidents than ranch animal accidents.”....
Montage captures a piece of Texas history It is a symbol of early American life that most Texans have had the opportunity to see. Some roll freely with the wind, some, worn and broken, stand still - a reminder of how life once was on the Texas countryside. They are windmills and Hunt County photographer Rick Vanderpool has captured their essence in his newest photographic montage titled, “Who has seen the wind?” Vanderpool, of Commerce, became known for his montage of the word Texas. “Looking for Texas” was the first of several montages Vanderpool has created. His windmill montage is his sixth Texas-inspired project. “Who has seen the wind?” contains about 100 pictures of windmills from across the United States....

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

Durango lawyer wins forest ruling A Durango lawyer has successfully overturned the part of the Bush administration's Healthy Forests Initiative that barred appeals by the public on small forest projects. Matt Kenna, representing the Western Environmental Law Center, had asked that the U.S. Forest Service be held in contempt for not enforcing a July order that applies to all forests nationwide. The judge declined to hold the Forest Service in contempt this time, but said he could in the future. On Friday the agency agreed to follow the July ruling. Kenna had argued the Healthy Forests Initiative violated the 1992 Appeals Reform Act, which allows the public to comment on and appeal all Forest Service projects. "The Forest Service is committed to fully and immediately complying with the judge's order," said Jim Maxwell, press officer for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service. The Washington, D.C., office is drafting instructions that could be ready by today to specify which projects must allow public comment, Maxwell said. The judge said emergency acts dealing with wildfires or hurricanes are exempt, but he offered little guidance about what other projects might not require public appeal....
Bill aims to waive energy rules Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have Republicans in Congress again calling for relaxing environmental restrictions on energy development on public lands in the West. They say those restrictions get in the way of oil and gas companies providing energy to the public. So House Resources Committee chairman Richard Pombo on Monday proposed legislation eliminating many rules that energy companies have complained about. Pombo's legislation, scheduled for a committee vote Wednesday, is part of a multipronged GOP effort to cut back environmental regulation in the wake of the storms. Pombo's bill would allow the Interior Department to waive limitations on drilling - such as those protecting wildlife in winter - in the event of a "significant disruption" in supply. Not all the exemptions would require an emergency. The bill would approve the use of private workers paid by the gas industry to process permits for drilling on public lands and would bar appeals of drilling decisions by the BLM....
Family patriarch indicted on sexual assault charges A man who lived with his wife and 15 children inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park - and engaged in a widely publicized feud with the park service - has been charged with numerous counts of sexual assault and incest. Alaska State Troopers searched Monday for Robert A. Hale, 64, who goes by the name Papa Pilgrim. "He could be anywhere," said agency spokesman Greg Wilkinson. Hale was indicted Thursday by a state grand jury on 30 felony counts, including 10 counts of sexual assault, one count of kidnapping, eight counts of incest, eight counts of coercion and three counts of assault. The indictment lists just one victim....
Judge won't stop killing of Calif. pigs Thousands of wild pigs on Santa Cruz Island can be destroyed, a federal judge ruled Monday, but a businessman pledged to continue his fight to save the animals. The National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy, which co-own the island, say the pigs must go because they're damaging archaeological sites and threatening native species like the endangered Santa Cruz Island fox. The pigs are descended from animals that ranchers brought to the island in the 1850s. Rick Feldman, a Santa Barbara businessman suing to stop the killings, said he would appeal federal Judge Dickran Tevrizian's decision to reject a preliminary injunction....
Editorial: Creatures cannot survive without habitat According to the chairman of the House Resources Committee, it's not the eagles, owls, minnows and lizards that stand in the way of development, profits and the paving of North America. No, indeed. It's just all those troublesome forests, rivers, prairies and deserts that the little critters insist on living in that stand in the way of the new Manifest Destiny. Thus the chairman, California Republican Richard Pombo, has crafted a major rewrite of the 32-year-old cornerstone of American environmentalism, the Endangered Species Act. It purports to call upon the federal government to come up with "species recovery plans" for identified flora and fauna while making it much, much easier for developers to have their way with the lands that those very species live on, under and above. Good politician that he is, Pombo makes his bill, already rammed through his committee and referred to the full House, sound like a workable compromise, the kind that might lead to the rescue of more endangered species without all those nasty and expensive lawsuits. The only problem is, it cannot work....
Editorial: 'No regulation without compensation' The law, now 30 years old, is badly in need of updating, though it won't happen without a fight, given the leverage the act gives green extremists bent on trampling private-property rights, dictating land-use policies and obstructing energy development. Even talking about reform can open one to accusations of being indifferent to the wanton slaughter of eagles, whales, bunnies and butterflies. But in spite of such risks, a few intrepid politicians are stepping forward to rein in the rogue law. And they will need all the support they can get. There are three or four changes we think are critical to an updated Endangered Species Act, starting with a strengthening of the science behind it. As people in Colorado learned the hard way, after the rodent formerly known as the Preble's meadow jumping mouse was exposed as a fraud, federal officials sometimes act to protect a species with only a vague idea about its true identity or status. About a third of the animals removed from the endangered species list over the years were on the list because of flawed science. Given the law's incredible power to impact property values, dictate development trends, limit access to public lands and hamper the economy, Americans deserve assurances that the law's regulate-first, worry-about-the-science-later approach is reversed. It's time to start compensating people when Endangered Species Act protections adversely impact their property values. Regulators and environmentalists hate this idea and are reluctant to relinquish their license to regulate at will, with little regard to how their actions are impacting people's lives. Paying compensation would not only be the fair and constitutional thing to do, since the Fifth Amendment requires that citizens be paid when government's actions deprive them of the full use of their property, but it would also underscore the fact that regulations come with a price tag, which someone must pay....
Feds cut back habitat for snowy plover The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday announced that West Coast beach-front critical habitat for the threatened western snowy plover will be cut back by nearly 40 percent, continuing a Bush administration policy of reducing habitat protections for threatened and endangered species to reduce economic losses. The bulk of the cutbacks came from beaches in California on Monterey Bay, Morro Bay and the San Diego Bay island city of Coronado, where a report had estimated that protecting nesting areas from development and human contact would cost nearly $200 million over the next 20 years due primarily to limiting recreation. "The economic analyses are playing an increasingly significant role in determinations of critical habitat," said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Al Donner in Sacramento, Calif. "That's triggered by court decisions that have directed us to do more rigorous economic reviews of proposed critical habitat and their impacts."....
Area under habitat conservation plans could soar Timber companies, developers, local governments and others are seeking federal permission to nearly triple the 37 million acres that fall under the nation's controversial and underfunded habitat conservation program. Of the 433 pending plans listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, most are in the West and South, where development and timber-cutting most frequently collide with endangered species, records obtained by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer show. In the Pacific Northwest, more than two dozen habitat plans are officially under review, according to Fish and Wildlife records released under the Freedom of Information Act. One of the largest is a 9.1 million-acre deal in Washington that would shield much of the state's private timber industry from prosecution for harming salmon, steelhead, bull trout and 47 other kinds of fish. Approval of the 50-year "Forests and Fish" deal is expected later this year....
Author sets out to discover the real Timothy Treadwell The short, heartless version of the story was simply: "The Doofus Dies." At least, that's how some Alaskans saw it, says Nick Jans, the Juneau-based author of a new book, "The Grizzly Maze," about Timothy Treadwell's fatal obsession with Alaska's huge coastal brown bears. Two years ago, he might not have argued, knowing only the earliest details of how a big grizzly had just killed Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, in a bear-haunted thicket of Katmai National Park. Treadwell, it was thought, had only himself to blame, having invited such danger by fashioning himself as a "bear whisperer" who could walk within a few feet of a lounging Katmai brown bear, turn his back and calmly smile into his camcorder. He gave the bears names like Booble and Mr. Chocolate. Sometimes he touched them with his hand....
Ranchers try to save livestock from flood Cattlemen on boats, barges and horseback Monday tried to save what's left of their herds after floods unleashed by Hurricane Rita in coastal parishes from Lafourche to Cameron. Their counterparts in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes - two areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina less than a month before – watched as Rita swept away cattle that survived the first storm. Ranchers across coastal Louisiana badly need trucks, hay and a place to house the surviving rescued cattle, said Bob Felknor, director of Louisiana Cattlemen's Association....
Lawyers fight over exhuming millionaire's body Lawyers are scheduled to argue Thursday before the Texas Supreme Court whether to exhume the body of rancher John G. Kenedy Jr. for DNA tests to determine if the supposedly sterile millionaire fathered a daughter with a maid. At issue is an inheritance estimated between $500 million and $1 billion - including a 400,000-acre, oil-rich ranch near Kingsville - left to two charities. In the lawsuit, Dr. Ray Fernandez and his mother Ann Fernandez claim Kenedy had at least one out-of-wedlock child with Maria Rowland Goates, Ann's mother. Judge Guy Herman had ordered Kenedy's remains exhumed after preliminary genetic testing appeared to support the Fernandezes' claim. But lawyers for the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation and the John G. Kenedy Jr. Charitable Trust appealed, saying Kenedy's estate was legally settled years ago....
Synthetic saddlery Like most every Wyoming rancher, Tom Harrower has an interest in saddles. The difference between Harrower and other ranchers is his particular interest in plastic saddles. That's right, plastic saddles. A native of Kemmerer, Harrower manages the family ranching operations. A 1965 graduate of Western College of Auctioneering in Billings, Mont., he has rubbed shoulders with thousands of buyers and sellers. Over the past 40 years he began developing an appreciation for unusual horse-related items. That interest evolved from his ranching background and hands-on experience with saddle horses, draft horses, buggy horses and several pairs of oxen. Along the way Harrower became seriously interested in plastic saddles and equipment made in Lusk and in Scottsbluff, Neb. For the past four years, he has researched, documented and compiled the history of the All Western Plastic Co....
The Vaquero way The presiding spirits of this rodeo, known as the Carmel Valley Ranchers' Days, are the brothers Bill and Tom Dorrance, inventors of what is often called natural horsemanship. The Dorrances are legendary in this part of the world. Bill, who died in 1999, and Tom, who died in 2003, left a legacy that has helped transform the relationship between people and horses. While popular culture has given due attention to "horse-whispering" — thanks mostly to the Robert Redford movie — the Dorrances' story is a California story, little known outside horse circles. BILL and Tom Dorrance grew up in eastern Oregon. Born in 1906, Bill was older by four years. They came from a family of ranchers and were surrounded by horses and cattle all their lives. In the 1930s they settled in California, where they found themselves exposed to the vaquero tradition — a way of working with horses that brings into play not just horsemanship but roping and rawhide braiding. The Dorrances came to value the vaquero approach, which is as much a philosophy as a methodology. "Listen to the horse," Tom would famously say. "Try to find out what the horse is trying to tell you." On the ranch, the brothers needed quiet horses that were cooperative and capable of acting as partners in the endless work of finding, moving, herding, separating and tending to cows, calves and bulls....
It's All Trew: You can't get some things off some people's minds We often quote my father, J. T. Trew, who used to say, "I'll go anywhere you want to take me just so we get back home by dark-thirty." When we suggested flying somewhere, Mother was ready to climb on board but Dad would say, "Y'all go on and enjoy yourselves. I don't plan on getting any higher off the ground than the stirrups on a tall horse." Bill Moore, a longtime friend from the Clarendon/Goodnight area, was a good cowman, fun to be around and a good conversationalist, that is if you were willing to talk about cows. Start with any subject from politics, war, weather, pretty ladies or the price of eggs in China and by the third sentence Bill would be back on cows. We tried every gambit we could think of to keep the conversation on other subjects, all to no avail. When with Bill, we talked cows....

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Monday, September 26, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

Buy one now: Parks put up for purchase U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, chairman of the House Resources committee, has proposed to raise money by selling off 15 national parks, including seven in Alaska, according to a draft bill circulating Friday. Park supporters declared themselves outraged. But Pombo's spokesman, Brian Kennedy, said the 285-page draft is not to be taken seriously. Its purpose, Kennedy said, was to come up with proposals that would raise as much money for the federal government as oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Pombo ardently supports. Drilling opponents should see that if Congress doesn't open ANWR "it would be outrageous and absurd alternatives, like selling national park units," Kennedy said. "So you see the joke."....
Drilling is hot, as is its debate From the Front Range to the Western Slope, energy development in Colorado is escalating at a record pace that will generate more than $8 billion in revenue this year - a 60 percent increase in just two years. The projected 3,950 new drilling permits - up by a third since last year - and nearly 29,000 operating wells in 2005 are both records, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says. "This is the first time that we've had oil and gas production from one end of the state to the other," said state Department of Natural Resources director Russell George. "The real question for us as public managers is, 'How do we manage and balance all of the effects?"' George said. The drilling has drawn opposition from groups as diverse as Weld County housing developers concerned that well pads are gobbling up prime real estate, and La Plata County hunting guides worried that development will harm forests. Gas seeps, linked to drilling in Garfield County, have released methane and benzene into creeks and wells and pushed residents to demand a study of possible health impacts. With the increasing national reliance on natural gas, experts expect the industry to have a big presence in Colorado for three or four more decades....
Old La Sal's defenders fear the sting of developer's drills A few years ago, William Perritt fell in love with the La Sal Mountains. He purchased 6.6 acres with an eye on eventually retiring in the Deer Haven subdivision of Old La Sal, some 40 miles southeast of Moab. But now, an exploratory seismic survey proposed for federal lands surrounding his piece of heaven has angered Perritt and other nearby landowners. During a community meeting Tuesday night, representatives from Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp. and the Forest Service outlined project details and responded to questions from residents and business owners who are concerned that opening the area to oil and gas exploration will damage land and wildlife, endanger the aquifer and disrupt the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of Old La Sal. Bill Barrett Operations Manager Michael FitzMaurice said the company will use small “buggy” drills in roaded areas. Elsewhere on the 13,693-acres project site, a portable drill transported by helicopter will be used to drill holes for specialized explosives that create ground vibrations, revealing the underground geologic features of the area through a process called three-dimensional geophysical seismic testing....
BLM OKs more winter drilling The Wyoming Bureau of Land Management has issued a "finding of no significant impact," opening the way for more winter drilling in big game winter range in the Pinedale Anticline. Anschutz Pinedale Corp., Shell Exploration & Production Co. and Ultra Resources Inc. filed a joint proposal to drill a "demonstration project" of up to 45 new wells using 32 drilling pads per section with directional drilling in order to reduce impacts to wildlife and habitat. BLM officials ultimately decided to lift seasonal restrictions this winter for up to 52 wells, concurring with industry officials who say there are benefits to year-round drilling. Directional drilling allows operators to sink multiple wells from single well pads on the surface. The companies have also agreed to carpool workers into the area during the winter and use extra pollution controls.
Producers: Pick up the pace Energy producers around Pinedale and in the Powder River Basin say time is of the essence for their development projects, because lingering questions and drawn-out projects reduce cost efficiency for companies. Specifically, many producers said here Friday that regulatory changes and requirements have slowed development, which means projects and planning efforts are "on hold" as companies wait to see how things shake out. At the same time, company representatives said they were still ramping up production in their respective areas. J.R. Justus, asset manager for Shell Exploration & Production Co., said in a presentation to about 200 people at the ninth annual Wyoming Natural Gas Fair Friday that his company was trying to drill year-round in the Pinedale Anticline in order to maximize efficiency and reduce the overall time spent on the field....
Three Wyoming Black Hills thinning projects stalled Three timber-thinning projects on more than 50,000 acres of the Black Hills National Forest in northeast Wyoming have been stalled by environmental appeals. The delays show that despite changes in federal regulations and a new federal law to speed up such decisions, forest management disputes can still bring logging and thinning to a halt. The three projects in the Bear Lodge Ranger District of the Black Hills would have resulted in the sale of almost 35 million board feet of timber. But the U.S. Forest Service withdrew each of the proposals this summer. Biodiversity, an environmental group based in Laramie, appealed the projects, saying they were based on incomplete data, failed to protect sensitive species, old growth timber stands and, most importantly, allowed extensive logging in one of the most remote parts of the Black Hills. Nichols said old-growth timber and stands left to die and decay through natural process provide valuable habitat for such species as goshawks, pygmy nuthatches and bats....
Editorial: It’s time to fix Endangered Species Act As it is applied today, the law is a blunt instrument that has been used against farmers, ranchers, loggers and others to halt activities and developments that don’t meet the wishes of certain litigious special-interest groups. In the name of fish, many farms, ranches and irrigation projects have been threatened or damaged. In the name of birds, timber operations have been hobbled or halted. Instead of protecting endangered species, the law is used as a lever to dictate the management of public and private lands. Judges have replaced professional land managers as the final arbiter of what is best for a certain species, watershed or region. After all of the lawsuits and billions of dollars that have been drained from the pocketbooks of farmers, ranchers, timber operators and the public, one would hope that many species have been rescued from extinction. Hardly....
Editorial: Reform plan will endanger species An effort to supposedly improve the Endangered Species Act will instead gut one of the nation's most important environmental laws. The 32-year-old law needs to be revamped to reduce some time-consuming bureaucratic procedures. But HR 3824 instead rips out the heart of the law. Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., the bill's provisions take aim at the most essential steps for preserving endangered wildlife and plants. The bill passed the House Resources Committee last week 26-12, with eight Democrats voting "yes." Most species become endangered because their habitats have been damaged, so the Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to identify and preserve critical habitat. Pombo wants to eliminate this most fundamental provision. His plan also would erase the requirement that before federal agencies take action, they first must examine how their decisions might affect endangered species. It makes no sense to let federal agencies look only after they have leapt, when it might be too late....
Editorial: Species act reform is long overdue It's about time. The wheels on the Endangered Species Act have been wobbling and squeaking for years, to the great discomfort of many Americans, and finally, Congress is taking tangible steps to fix the problems. Rep. Rick Pombo, R-Calif., has proposed a top-to-bottom overhaul of the Endangered Species Act through legislation that is poised to clear the House Resources Committee. Even some liberal Democrats on the committee announced that they agree with some of the proposed changes. And that is a refreshing acknowledgment, considering that the standard, robotic defense of the 1974 law is that it is some kind of unassailable, sacred book that has grown, as a result of case law, to volumes of books. For years, environmental groups have been clinging to that idea, arguing that the law isn't broken, so why fix it. But that has become a ridiculous claim, because the Endangered Species Act clearly is broken. That's why it has risen to the top of the legislative priority list for dozens of interest groups, ranging from Realtors to recreation groups. Government officials, too, have pointed to inefficiencies and high costs associated with the act....
Debate: Is the future of grizzly bears in danger? The federal government's proposal to take grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem off the Endangered Species Act's threatened species list represents a tremendous achievement. It also demonstrates America's enduring commitment to wildlife conservation. The National Wildlife Federation - one of the nation's largest conservation groups - has reached this conclusion only after a thorough review of the facts and documents on which the proposal was based. Two major reasons led us to our decision: First is the success on the ground. Because of the law's protections and the focused management efforts it has stimulated, the grizzly population in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem has been growing at a rate of 4-7 percent a year for 15 years. There are now more than 600 bears in the population, and all demographic and distribution parameters in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Recovery Plan have been met or exceeded. Second, according to the Endangered Species Act, once a species meets the goals set for its recovery, federal protection as a listed species must cease if adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to assure that the species will not again decline....
Bears aren't out of the woods yet Grizzlies and Yellowstone -- bears and geysers. People have been coming from around the world to see the national park's main attractions for decades. Now, the Bush administration wants to remove the Yellowstone grizzlies from the list of species protected by the Endangered Species Act. I think delisting is premature, because we need more bears, more habitat and true habitat protection to do the job right. Yellowstone's grizzlies need more than Yellowstone Park; they also need millions of acres of surrounding national forest. This land has seen some oil and gas development as well as logging and road-building through the years, but the big question is what will happen in the future. The grizzly by nature will eat almost anything, has a long memory and is mighty inquisitive. This is fine, except that almost all Yellowstone grizzlies die because humans kill them. Once a bear develops a taste for a picnic basket or unprotected human garbage, that bear has a bullet with its name on it....
As Population of Yellowstone Grizzlies Grows, Further Protection Is Up for Debate By all accounts the turnaround of the Yellowstone grizzly is an all-too-rare success story of the Endangered Species Act. After dwindling to 200 or so by the 1970's, the number of the big bears in the mountains and grassy meadows around Yellowstone National Park has grown to more than 600, thanks to the federal protections given to the species in 1975. "It's the biggest success story under the Endangered Species Act because grizzly bears are one of the toughest species to manage," said Chris Servheen, who has been working on efforts to protect and to re-establish grizzlies in Yellowstone and elsewhere for 25 years and is coordinator for grizzly bear recovery for the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service in Missoula, Mont. While there is widespread agreement that the story is a good one, however, there is disagreement on the next chapter. The Fish and Wildlife Service, saying that the mission to bring the bear back has been accomplished, will propose removing the bear from the list of threatened species this fall and, after a comment period, make a final decision in 2006. Delisting has happened for only about 15 species out of the 1,830 on the imperiled list. But opponents of delisting say the bear is still endangered, primarily because of threats to critical food sources. Both sides say the science is on their side....
Bear advocates question deliberate grain spills On Aug. 26, several tons of corn spilled along the southern edge of Glacier National Park when a handful of freight cars left the tracks in an early morning railroad accident. But what wasn't an accident was the railroad's cleanup response, which involved tipping and spilling nearly 20 additional corn cars in order to open the line as soon as possible. "I understand Burlington Northern has a corporate bottom line, and that is to make money," said Brian Peck, a grizzly bear recovery specialist with the Great Bear Foundation. "But I think they have a responsibility once it's spilled not to make the situation worse. And I think they would be hard-pressed to say they haven't made the situation worse." Peck is involved because history has shown grain and corn spills south of the park can be bad news for grizzly bears, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Derailments, spills and bears first made headlines back in the late 1980s, when railroad policy was to simply bury the spill on site. But rains caused the corn and grain to ferment, drawing sharp-nosed bears from miles around....
NASA Technology Monitors Wildlife Habitats From The Air Two rare species, California spotted owls in the Sierra Nevada and the Delmarva fox squirrel in the mid-Atlantic U.S. have something in common. Using NASA technology, scientists have been able to identify habitats to help forest managers monitor and protect these species and other wildlife. The recent research shows that airborne laser scanning with Light Detecting And Ranging (LiDAR) can be especially valuable in ensuring that forests and other lands continue to be diverse, healthy, and productive, while still meeting the needs of society and the environment. The study, funded by the NASA/University of Maryland Vegetation Canopy LiDAR (VCL) mission and a NASA Interdisciplinary Science (IDS) Program grant, was published in the June 2005 issue of the journal Remote Sensing of the Environment. "When we compared the data gathered from the LiDAR, including information on canopy height and cover, to measurements taken on the ground, we found that LiDAR was very accurate, even in extremely rugged mountainous terrain," said Peter Hyde of the Department of Geography, University of Maryland-College Park, and lead author of the study. "The use of such technology is advantageous compared with field-based measurements of forest structure that are very time consuming and often limited by accessibility, resulting in relatively small field studies."....
Federal trappers kill wolf blamed for attack on cow Federal trappers killed one gray wolf Friday and are hunting another from the Chesimia Pack that roams an area of north Idaho between Dworshak Reservoir and Elk River. The pack killed a cow earlier this month, the third cow death blamed on the wolves this summer. The pack is also blamed for killing several hunting dogs on its home range over the past year. Officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is charged with protecting gray wolves, authorized the trappers to kill two adult members of the pack. Wolves in most of Idaho are protected under the Endangered Species Act as a nonessential experimental population. The special designation allows wolves that prey on livestock to be lethally removed....
Victims of Mojave Preserve wildfire blame Park Service policies They hoped to spend a comfortable retirement in their rural retreats. Instead, they spent the summer picking through ashes to salvage melted mementos. Many of those who lost homes when wildfire swept the Mojave National Preserve in late June say their property was destroyed as much by bad policy as bad luck. And they blame the National Park Service. "They can call it a preserve, but they haven't actually preserved anything here in the 10 years they've had it," said Sandi McIntosh, 61, who said her home and horses escaped mostly undamaged by a stroke of luck. Scattered across the federal lands were tracts of private homesteads, including cattle ranches. The Park Service discontinued grazing leases and bought out nearly all the ranches. In a decade, those who had built vacation homes on the range found themselves surrounded by land either designated wilderness or managed as if it were. Cattle were gone and wild burros were being removed. After the wettest winter in memory, grass grew deep with few grazing animals to eat it. With the onset of hot weather, the fuels became tinder-dry....
Head of BLM spends day in Farmington Protecting the environment and boosting business are not mutually exclusive tasks, according to the woman who oversees more than 2,000,000 miles of the nation’s public lands. Kathleen Clarke, director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), was in Farmington on Saturday to participate in a community clean-up in conjunction with National Public Lands Day. Communities throughout the nation celebrate National Public Lands Day, but Clarke said she decided to spend the day in Farmington because she was impressed with the spirit of cooperation between the community and the oil and gas industry. “I heard about the CUPID (Clean Up and Prevention of Illegal Dumping) clean-up and was impressed,” Clark said. “This is exactly the kind of stewardship we need. I wanted to come here and showcase the cooperation between the people and industry that goes on in this community. She said even if oil drilling does increase in Farmington and the Four Corners area, the BLM will continue to re-vegitate wells that have gone dry. “Grass and grazing lands won’t be affected at all,” she added. “There are still federal laws in place that will protect grazing lands.”...posted especially for Bill Humphries....
Editorial - R.S. 2477 ROADS: Where wilderness is at issue, lawsuits will continue The governor's office announced the other day that the state and counties will record a list of roads in each county that cross public lands. The purpose is to identify rights of way across federal lands granted under an 1866 law commonly known as R.S. 2477. The announcement by Lynn Stevens, the state's public lands policy coordinator, suggested that recording these lists, coupled with an agreement now in the works with the federal Bureau of Land Management about how roads across BLM-managed lands will be maintained, would put an end to legal struggles over most of these roads in Utah. We doubt that. If the state and counties continue to press aggressively for rights of way on jeep trails and similar roads through sensitive federal lands in Utah where potential wilderness designation is at stake, the environmental groups will rightly continue to wage legal war against these claims. Ultimately, these disputes will have to be decided by the courts....
An Interview with Charles Sullivan I began my many years of activism during the latter part of the seventies. I began with Earth First! defending our National Forests from degradation and destruction under the auspices of the U.S. Forest Service. It is never in the mainstream news, but we are living in the midst of the greatest extinction crises since the disappearance of the great reptiles some sixty-five million years ago at the close of the Cretaceous Era. That crisis is anthropogenic in nature--it is human induced. We have an ethical obligation to fight for the right of those plants and animals to exist and to fulfill their own respective evolutionary destinies. I have been on the front lines of the wild forest movement. I have participated in direct actions on behalf of the forests. I have committed acts of civil disobedience that were outside of the law. The words of Thoreau have inspired me to act. He said, 'Let your life be a friction against the machine.' Unjust laws exist. When we encounter unjust laws we should not hesitate to break them. The trouble with America today is not civil disobedience. It is civil obedience. Progressives tend to be too civil and too obedient. Our political enemies do not have that problem....
Migrants leaving ugly mark on land Illegal immigrants drop an average of 6 to 8 pounds of waste during their journey, according to government estimates. With an estimated 1 million people crossing into Arizona each year, that amounts to 4,000 tons of garbage. The worst areas are at smugglers' "lay-up" sites, where travelers wait to be transported to areas such as Tucson and Phoenix. Backpacks and clothes practically pave the ground, left behind so that more people can be packed into vehicles, or when the immigrants try to change their appearance from dusty hikers to indistinguishable citizens. Federal and state money to address the problem has trickled down, but it's not enough, resource managers say. Citizen cleanup efforts exist, but volunteers can't keep up. Neither can landowners. Ranchers Tom and Dena Kay, whose property touches five miles of border, said they haul out a pickup load of garbage a week. "It makes you very, very angry because there's such lack of respect of the land and the people living here," said Mrs. Kay, 62....
Rancher envisions major ski resort near Missoula For now, the ski trails on the Maclay Ranch are just freshly turned bands of brown earth. But they are the beginnings of what Tom Maclay hopes will someday be a world-class resort rivaling Vail, Sun Valley or Lake Tahoe. In Maclay's vision for the mountains south of Missoula, skiing will extend beyond the 2,960-acre ranch where his great-grandfather settled in 1883. Maclay wants to put skiers on Lolo Peak in a national forest near the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and market an extraordinary vertical drop of 5,342 feet. Skiers — possibly as many as 7,500 a day — would descend north-facing slopes to the ranch and its alpine and Nordic skiing, 2,200 houses and condominiums, and a resort village. Golf, a hotel, conference and sports centers and access to excellent fly fishing are part of the four-season Bitterroot Resort plan. Critics worry about harm to public land and wildlife and about overloading this increasingly popular swath of Montana....
Rancher gets reprieve on lease A 21,000-acre ranch in the heart of a 40-square-mile area that state officials want to develop won a reprieve from a Denver judge Thursday, allowing the cows to keep their home on the range - at least for now. Chuck Pancost, an Arapahoe County rancher who feared he and his 800-head herd of Angus cattle would be evicted from their leased land this week, will be able to stay at least temporarily. Denver District Court Judge Catherine Lemon granted Pancost a stay from an eviction order that had been issued by his landlord, the State Board of Land Commissioners. The stay will enable Pancost to remain until the courts hear his challenge of the eviction order, which may take up to two years. Pancost has lived on 21,000 acres of state land board property east of Aurora for more than 30 years. He's raised four children there and calls the property the Pancost Ranch. But the land is at the center of a redevelopment plan state officials are working on that likely will call for building thousands of new homes on what once was home to the Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range....
In California, Agriculture Takes Center Stage in Pollution Debate On a clear day, San Joaquin looks like a bucolic farming community, complete with almond groves, cornfields and orange trees. But most of the time the valley -- trapped between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges, with two major highways running north to south through it -- is smoggy, filled with air that has fostered widespread respiratory disease. Fifteen percent of the region's children have asthma, a rate three times the national average. Fresno -- the valley's biggest city -- has the third-highest rate of asthma in the country, and the San Joaquin Valley rivals Los Angeles and Houston for the dubious title of worst air quality in the nation. On bad air days, some schools hoist a red flag so parents can keep their children indoors; on good days, they raise a green flag. Agriculture does not occupy a prominent place in America's environmental policy debates, but farming has arguably more of an impact on the land, air and water than any other sector in the U.S. economy, environmental and industry experts say. In addition to producing airborne emissions, farms take up nearly half of the nation's land, and nutrient-laden runoff from farms affects such waterways as local streams and the Gulf of Mexico....
A century worth of memories The old smoke house is the only building that remains on the homestead that Buntrock's grandfather, Albert, farmed more than 100 years ago. The original house burned down in 1934, was rebuilt and now that's where Buntrock's twin brother Duane and his wife Judy live. The Buntrock Brothers farm is one of 57 - and the only one in Brown County - named Century Farms this year in South Dakota. Dwight Buntrock said it's believed his grandfather, Albert, came from Germany to South Dakota, by way of Minnesota, in 1884. In 1886 or 1887, a Timber Culture - a homestead law allowing people who plant and care for trees on their land to receive free acreage - was enacted on the land. According to records, Albert Buntrock made full payment on the land in December of 1892. However, the wooden sign that sits at the end of the driveway to the Buntrock Brothers farm references the year 1897. "Anyway you look at it, it's still been well over 100 years," Dwight Buntrock said with a laugh. "In the Buntrock family tradition, we were just late applying for it."....
In Utah's west desert, you treasure what you have So it goes for virtually everybody who calls the tiny ranching communities of Partoun, Trout Creek and Callao home. Located at least 90 miles from the nearest city and 50 miles from the closest paved road, the 100 or so people who reside out here live in a challenging environment and face daily hurdles that most other Utahns cannot possibly grasp. They wouldn't have it any other way. "I've been bitten by rattlesnakes. I've been thrown off of horses. This place has its challenges," says Callao rancher Cecil Garland. "But I've lived overseas. I've lived in Montana. I've lived in Las Vegas. And nothing compares to this. I live in a land of indescribable beauty and solitude. The conditions are harsh at times, but the wide open spaces out here are something to be most treasured."....
Ranches reveal fate of the West Three ranches, three counties, three very different development scenarios - all within one valley. In a microcosm of what's going on throughout Colorado and the rest of the West, three of the last real cattle ranches in the Roaring Fork Valley are headed toward conversion into luxury subdivisions. The ranches are located within about 12 miles of one another, as the crow flies, but the geopolitical oddities of the Roaring Fork Valley place them in three different jurisdictions. Because of that, they will end up looking vastly different....
Longtime clown has serious calling, sobering message A Montana rancher says he has been coming to the Pendleton Round-Up for about 14 or 15 years. But he doesn’t come to watch, he comes to work. Loyd Ketchum and his wife, Ashlee, operate a ranch near Miles City, Mont. He runs about 125 “momma cows,” Ketchum said, “just enough to keep us in debt.” Ranching comes naturally to Ketchum. “It’s something I grew up around and enjoy … and my wife does.” But Ketchum is not known for the work he does with momma cows. He’s best known for working with bulls. Ketchum is in the cowboy protection business and is a professional rodeo bullfighter....
Peasant tries polo, the sport of royalty When you say polo, the first image for most people is a line of fashionable clothes or expensive cologne and a guy named Ralph. Me, I think about galloping horses, smacking a ball with a stick, and a couple of guys named Roberto and Esteban down in Argentina. Earlier this year, I was chosen to be part of a small delegation of young people from across the United States to go to Argentina and Uruguay as part of a leadership exchange. So, a couple of weeks ago, I wrapped the twine on my last hay bale, put the cattle on fresh pasture, kissed my family goodbye and struck out for the southern side of our hemisphere. We kept a hectic schedule on the trip, but one weekend allowed for a couple of hours of free time in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Most of the crew opted to go shopping. I asked if I could catch a game of polo....
On the Edge of Common Sense: He was hit by a tyrannosaurus Holstein 'Isn't that Larry's heifer?" asked Dick. The two-year old black whiteface was running down the fence line along Highway 90. Traffic was moderate on the 4-lane highway. The shoulder was not smooth. Arroyos and ridges thick with rocks and brush made any chase risky. "Pull over!" said Dick. The south gate was new. It had a cattle guard but no cattle gate beside it. Dick turned the frightened cow back to the north. "Call Larry!" he shouted to his wife in the truck. Larry's wife took the call. Within five minutes Larry had appeared and stationed himself by the north gate to turn the heifer. She was smart enough or scared enough to stay off the highway but she became unreasonable. Larry knew her well. She would actually eat feed out of his hand. He was surprised by her rowdy behavior. It is a common flaw in cowmen. They form opinions about specific animals. They come to trust them. I've seen grown men put two-year-old kids on the back of tame Brahma bulls. But cows can revert to their primitive behavioral origins. I don't mean baby calf, I mean buffalo, mastodon, tyrannosaurus Holstein! It is a scientific phenomenon called "getting on the fight!"....

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