Thursday, April 20, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Nevada water plan makes Utahn wary Mike Styler, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, expects to be "chewed out by the governor for asking for $1 million." But the money is for an issue near and dear to Utahns — water — and Styler had the backing of central Utah residents. "This is a life-and-death issue for people," said Rep. Richard Wheeler, R-Ephraim. Some residents are "really nervous." Styler told Wheeler and other members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee on Wednesday that the money would pay for drilling test wells in an area where Nevada water developers may tap into groundwater that flows into Utah. The proposed project, sponsored by the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Lincoln County Water District, would pump underground water resources in eastern Nevada to Las Vegas. Utahns are worried because pumping groundwater close to the state border potentially would affect ranches and wildlife habitat in Utah....
Prairie dogs spreading like wildfire in dry weather The Pawnee National Grassland - a sprawling piece of prairie covering more than 300 square miles of northern Colorado - would seem like a perfect place for prairie dogs. But even there the burrowing rodents have become a problem. Grassland managers say the prairie dog population has about doubled during the last few years of dry weather. "Prairie dogs seem to really thrive during these dry years," said U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Steve Currey. "They seem to spread more. The colonies grow." Tammy Kanode, whose family runs a ranch adjacent to the Grassland agrees. "They keep spreading, spreading further, coming up places where we've never seen prairie dogs." That has Kanode concerned because the little critters eat a lot of grass. "They've moved across onto our property and are destroying the grass where our cattle need to graze," said Kanode. Tom Baur, another neighboring rancher agrees. "They're expanding across boundaries onto private land and that reduces the amount of forage that's available for grazing for our animals," said Baur, who serves on a committee that's been discussing the issue with the Forest Service. The Forest Service has tried corralling the critters with a fence, but the prairie dogs dig under it....
Over conservation cries, water plan approved A $14 billion water plan for urban North Texas that includes two reservoir projects far from the cities that would use the water won state approval Tuesday despite landowner objections and calls for conservation instead of new lakes. The Texas Water Development Board approved the North Texas plan after a hearing in Austin. Ranchers, timber company owners and environmentalists, who for years have fought the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir on the Sulphur River, failed to get the board to reject the plan or postpone the vote. Opponents of the smaller proposed Lake Fastrill on the Neches River, a city of Dallas project, also turned out against the regional plan. However, the board voted 5-1 to approve the plan, with chairman Rod Pittman of Lufkin voting no. The board vote is a major step forward for the Marvin Nichols project, which would dam the Sulphur River about 120 miles northeast of downtown Dallas. It is part of the official water plan for a 16-county area that includes Dallas-Fort Worth and surrounding counties....
Feds zonk Csonka for filming without permit Larry Csonka’s mother used to tell him, “Don’t make a federal case out of it.” Now, he says, he knows what she meant. Csonka, the host of a cable television show filmed in Alaska, was fined $5,000 on Wednesday for conducting commercial work in a national forest without obtaining a special use permit, a case he said could have been handled administratively. “The National Forest Service and the prosecutor’s office wanted to make an example out of it,” he said. Csonka is host of “NAPA’s North to Alaska,” a show that appears weekly on OLN and features fishing, hunting, history and customs from around the state. He called his prosecution “going to the guillotine for running a traffic light.”....
Sportsmen fight for Wyo. habitats Gordon Johnston's biography doesn't exactly shout "environmentalist." The 74-year-old resident of Daniel, Wyo., spent 21 years in the Marine Corps. He has been an avid hunter most of his life. Asked his party affiliation, the former Sublette County commissioner replies, "Hard-core, hard-ass Republican." Yet when it comes to Bush administration proposals to lease areas of the Shoshone and Bridger-Teton National Forests for oil and gas development — including the place where he's had a hunting camp for 20 years — Johnston behaves like a dues-paying member of the Sierra Club. He has met with the U.S. Forest Service and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal to lobby for keeping oil and gas rigs out of undeveloped forest areas. He worries that the energy development could harm the deer, elk and moose he hunts in the Wyoming Range south of the affluent resort town of Jackson. "It saddens me. When you lose habitat, they're gone forever," he says about the animals. Sportsmen such as Johnston are playing an increasing role in debates over the future of federal land in the West as the government seeks to sell hundreds of thousands of acres of federal forest and rangeland and continues to expand oil and gas development....
Forest managers embrace fire as tool Like an uninvited guest who stays and does the dishes, wildfire is uncomfortably helpful. Its restorative powers are necessary for a healthy ecosystem. Until the 1980s, forest managers turned the uninvited guest away at the door, and the dishes piled up - and occasionally fell over, in the form of a massive forest fire. Now, forest managers invite fire for "visits," putting it to work clearing out dead vegetation and making room for healthier trees. They call such sanctioned fires "wild-land fire use." But does the welcome mat stay out in a season like the one we're having now, with drought conditions creating the potential for extensive wildfires? The answer appears to be yes. Local forest managers have used managed fire on twice as many acres this year as they did last year at the same time, said Roy Hall, associate director of fuels management for the Southwest region of the U.S. Forest Service. And forest managers are prepared to allow this summer's wildfires to burn in certain areas without much interference....
EWEB studies fish ladder option Having seen the writing on the water, the Eugene Water & Electric Board is looking at adding a fish ladder for upstream-bound fish and a screened underwater passage for fish heading downstream at its Trail Bridge Dam on the upper McKenzie River. The improvements could reunite spring chinook salmon and bull trout from below and above the dam, greatly improving the outlook for the two threatened species. Bull trout - only 19 adults exist above the dam, according to the U.S. Forest Service's latest count - could especially benefit if reunited with other trout downstream, giving the species a genetic boost toward recovery. The changes are part of the utility's efforts to win a new license for its Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project - an undertaking that could cost as much as $100 million....
Auction ends with bid of $5.65 million on Forest Service land Bidding has stopped on 82 acres of U.S. Forest Service land northwest of here, but it is too early to tell whether the land will be awarded to the highest bidder, officials said. The Forest Service has to determine whether the bidding, which ended at $5.65 million, reached the minimum amount the agency had set before the auction began in late January of this year. The federal agency will also do another assessment on the property to see if the offer matched market value for the property. "We got to (the bidders') threshold a little faster than we thought," said Rick Maddalena, land use officer with the Truckee Ranger District. If the property goes into escrow, the top bidder's identity will be revealed, Maddalena said. Individuals or companies making offers on the parcel are identified with short code names on the Web site that tracks the auction....
Western Governors Sign Frontier Transmission, Clean Coal Deals The governors of California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, took a major step forward Monday in the effort to secure clean, reliable sources of energy for the West. At the New Frontier Power Summit in San Diego, the four governors issued a joint statement of support for the partnership, which includes implementation steps on the Frontier Transmission Line. The Frontier Line - a proposal for a high-voltage transmission line to connect Wyoming, Nevada, California and Utah - is one step closer to reality with the signing of an agreement between the four states and a coalition of investor-owned utilities. The coalition of investor-owned utilities agreed to put on paper a detailed feasibility study and conceptual plan for building the Frontier Line. The utilities participating in the coalition are Pacific Gas & Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison Company, Sierra Pacific Power Company, Nevada Power Company, and Rocky Mountain Power and Utah Power, both divisions of PacifiCorp, recently acquired by MidAmerican Energy Holdings. Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, heralded the move as a product of the Rocky Mountain Area Transmission Study, a regional transmission planning initiative created in 2003 by Freudenthal and then Governor Mike Leavitt of Utah to identify the most cost-effective transmission given the location of potential new power generation in the Rocky Mountain area....
Groups threaten EPA with lawsuit Government regulators aren’t doing enough to ensure Puget Sound’s threatened chinook salmon, the main food supply for endangered killer whales, are protected from wastewater, environmentalists said Wednesday. Several conservation groups, led by the National Wildlife Federation, are threatening a lawsuit if the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t submit its Washington state wastewater permit program to further scientific review. “Water quality is not good enough for salmon recovery and we absolutely need to address it – especially now, given the fact that we are expecting much more population growth in the Puget Sound region,” said Kathy Fletcher, director of People for Puget Sound. State and federal regulators said they needed time to review the groups’ legal claims, but countered that new permits for wastewater and runoff use the latest science to help protect the sound from pollution....
Group targets trapping in Maine An animal rights group is threatening to sue the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife under the federal Endangered Species Act unless the state restricts trapping in vast areas of the state populated by bald eagles and Canada lynx. The Animal Protection Institute, a California-based group, announced Tuesday that it intends to file federal lawsuits against Maine and Minnesota in 60 days if the states do not take steps to prevent eagles, lynx and gray wolves from inadvertent capture in traps and snares. Institute officials cited state documents showing that more than two dozen lynx and bald eagles have been accidentally trapped or snared - some fatally - in Maine during the past dozen years....
Anti-wolf group gathers support to remove species John Cranney has been roughing it the last few weeks. Living out of his horse trailer, Cranney's a man on a mission traveling around Idaho. And, his mission is to get this question on the November ballot: should wolves be removed completely from Idaho? "We've got wolves coming out our ears," Cranney said. Cranney and other members of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition need to gather the signatures of 47,881 registered voters by April 30 to have their initiative put to voters. This week, Cranney is camped outside of Vickers Western Store in Twin Falls with the organization's petition. For 17 years, Cranney has been an outfitter based in Salmon, offering fishing, whitewater rafting and hunting services. Wolves, however, have put a sizable dent in the hunting portion of the business, he says....
Urban structures become Falcons' perilous perches
Stephanie Spears leaned over the side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge with a video camera as the drawspan opened to let a construction barge pass. Spears, an environmental specialist with the bridge replacement project, was looking for the pair of peregrine falcons nesting there when suddenly one came after her. The shrieking bird with a sharp beak and hooked talons shot into the air, wheeled around and dived. "Watch your head!" Spears shouted to a handful of onlookers just as the female falcon veered away. Peregrines are said to be the fastest birds on Earth, capable of diving at 200 mph. This one was protecting three eggs. The eggs are on a jumble of powdery road grit inside one of the bridge's concrete supports, only a few feet down from the rumble and shake of thousands of vehi-cles a day crossing between Maryland and Virginia. "It's an interesting place to make a nest," Spears said. "It's probably why she gets nervous when we stop traffic -- it's so quiet." The Wilson Bridge is a dangerous place for a bird, but more of the region's peregrines are nesting on bridges, skyscrapers or other manmade structures than on the mountain cliffs that are their natural homes. Falcons are living on more than a dozen bridges in the area and have made nests on tall buildings in Baltimore and Richmond....
Sierra Club urges agency to rethink monument plan Hoping to eliminate "roads to nowhere," the Sierra Club would like the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to rethink its master plan for Arizona's newest national monuments. BLM's plan to manage Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs, for example, does "a relatively poor job" said Scott Jones, Sierra Club monument specialist. Jones, who made a presentation Wednesday to the Sierra Club's northeast Valley-based Saguaro Group, said the club's main objection is the 2,700 miles of roads that spiderweb throughout the planning areas. "Some of these roads not only lead to very sensitive, remote cultural sites, but literally run over the sites," Jones said....
Pronghorn antelope hunt set for autumn in Grand Staircase With their speed, grace and near-perfect camouflage, pronghorn antelope will present challenging targets for the five people who will be allowed to hunt the animal this fall for the first time at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The hunt is the result of a successful pronghorn reintroduction in the 1.9-million-acre monument administered by the Bureau of Land Management in southern Utah's Kane and Garfield counties. "Hunting has always been allowed in the monument plan and is consistent with the multiple-use philosophy," said BLM spokesman Larry Crutchfield. When President Clinton created the monument a decade ago, critics feared hunting would be prohibited, as it is in most national parks and monuments. The Division of Wildlife Resources, which manages the plan, will draw five names April 28 for the pronghorn hunt. Those chosen for the 10-day, buck-only hunt beginning Sept. 16 will pay $50 for a permit. Adam Bronson, big-game project leader for the DWR, said the decision to allow a pronghorn hunt this year was made after determining a viable population had been established. Bronson said he counted 198 pronghorns at the monument during an aerial census last month....
Go west young person - but pay a fee Documents provided by the Forest Service to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and recently released to the public have confirmed that the vast majority of fee sites on National Forests may not be in compliance with the new Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). Of 1,339 sites that are located within agency-designated "High Impact Recreation Areas," 981 are Standard Amenity Fee sites that are required to have six minimum amenities in order to qualify for fees. The Forest Service documents reveal that 739 of those - a full 75 percent - do not have all of the amenities the law specifies. In addition, 627 sites - 47 percent of the total - have never been previously reported to Congress as fee sites, but have not been subjected to the public participation process that the FLREA requires for newly instituted fees. The information is included in answers that Mark Rey, undersecretary of Agriculture, provided in response to Supplemental Questions posed to him in writing by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, chairman of the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, following Rey's Oct. 26 testimony before Craig's subcommittee....
BLM sells nearly 400 acres of public land The Bureau of Land Management has sold nearly 400 acres of public land for more than $2 million. Mesa Farmers Coop won a competitive bid at an auction for the property about 20 miles south of Las Cruces near the village of Berino. BLM Las Cruces Field Office Manager Ed Roberson says the sale should result in more agricultural or industrial development in the Berino area. The BLM will keep 20 percent of the revenue from the land sale. The remainder of the money will go into the Baca Fund, which is used by various federal agencies to buy unique and valuable natural resources.
State pursues title to Tanana, Kusko rivers The state of Alaska has asked the federal government to wash its hands of the entire Tanana and Kuskokwim rivers and several of their tributaries. The latest requests continue a process that already has clarified the state's ownership of the beds of nine Alaska waterways, including the Salcha River east of Fairbanks. The state asked the federal Bureau of Land Management on March 10 to issue a "recordable disclaimer of interest" in the Tanana and Kuskokwim rivers. A recordable disclaimer is a statement by the federal government that it has no ownership claim to a property. Under federal law and long-standing legal tradition, states own the beds of navigable waters. The state of Alaska and federal agencies have disagreed for decades, though, on which waters in Alaska are navigable. Resolving the disputes proceeded slowly and expensively in courts. In December of 2002, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton adopted an administrative process through which states could apply for recordable disclaimers instead. The disclaimers, if approved, in effect lift the cloud on the state's title created by the federal government's potential interest....
Column: Conservatives Speak Out for Animals Conservatives are starting to come out of the closet. No, not that closet. A growing number of prominent conservatives in America—including Pat Buchanan, George Will, and G. Gordon Liddy—are publicly coming out of the “conservatives for animals” closet, admitting that they have serious concerns about the way our society treats other animals. It’s about time. For too long, popular thinking has unfairly dictated that animal suffering somehow lies outside the scope of conservatives’ concern. Liberals are fond of painting conservatives as cold and uncaring, and claiming compassion as their own exclusive turf. Conservatives who do care—who believe it’s wrong to kill animals for a piece of fur trim on a coat or to blind rabbits just to market a new shampoo or mascara—are often afraid to speak up, afraid of being labeled a bleeding heart or, horrors, a liberal....
Column: The Emerging Environmental Majority Today's GOP-controlled Congress has shown itself to be no friend of the environment, but even by conservatives' own standards, last October's surprise was a standout. An amendment inserted at the last minute into a budget reconciliation bill would have opened up millions of acres of public lands, including tracts in national monuments and wilderness areas, to purchase by mining companies and other commercial interests. It was to be the biggest divestiture of public lands in almost a century, and it was happening completely under the radar, with no floor vote, no public hearings, and no debate. But there are outdoor organizations whose members include voters who can draw conservatives' attention. After an Earthworks staffer tipped off a counterpart at Trout Unlimited, the sportsmen's group (whose membership is two to one Republican) emailed its roughly 100,000 members and contacted regional editorial boards to spotlight the fight. News spread like wildfire—western sportsmen were outraged that public lands where they hunt and fish might be put on the auction block. Once they knew the stakes, local hook-and-bullet organizations held phone-bank days, organized letter-writing campaigns, and scheduled visits to regional Senate offices. A petition signed by 758 sportsmen's clubs affiliated with National Wildlife Federation, from the Great Falls Bowhunters Association to the Custer Rod and Gun Club, landed on elected officials' desks in Washington just weeks later. "These lands, so important to sportsmen and women, are open to every American, rich and poor alike," the letter read. "We believe it is wrong to put them up for mining companies and other commercial interests to buy at cut-rate prices." The outcry from rural and exurban voters achieved what no amount of lobbying from environmentalists in Washington alone could have....
Dean of trick roping returning to Claremore When Nacho Rodriguez speaks, trick ropers listen. Undoubtedly one of the most respected trick ropers in today’s world, he is back in Claremore for the Will Rogers International Wild West Expo. A retired Mexico City surgeon and author of books on trick and charro roping, he will be coaching and working with trick roping hopefuls while he renews friendships of a lifetime, dating back to Will Rogers. Dressed in Mexican charro style, he draws a crowd when he walks into a room. Born a couple of years after Will Rogers’ death, he grew up knowing the family. Will was a close roping friend of his father and uncle, a friendship that continued through Will Rogers Jr. and Jimmy and Astrea Rogers. Last year in Claremore he was pleased to meet Jimmy’s son, Kem. Kem and his sister, Bette Rogers Brandin, are here to present the Rogers Company Rising Star Award to a young trick roper....

2 comments:

Matt said...

There's an interesting interview on OnPoint today with a Utah state official, discussing the Frontier Line project and Montana's possible competition. You can watch it for free here or read the transcript here.

The Westerner said...

Thanks for the links.