Friday, May 19, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

House Votes to Keep Offshore Drilling Ban The House rejected an attempt late Thursday to end a quarter-century ban on oil and natural gas drilling in 85 percent of the country's coastal waters despite arguments that the new supplies are needed to lower energy costs. Lawmakers from Florida and California led the fight to maintain the long-standing drilling moratorium, contending that energy development as close as three miles from shore would jeopardize multibillion-tourism industries. The moratorium bars oil and gas development in virtually all coastal waters outside the western Gulf of Mexico, where most of the country's offshore oil and gas wells are concentrated. A measure, offered by Putnam and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., to continue the prohibition on drilling for natural gas which some lawmakers argued was less of an environmental threat than oil was approved 217-203 and inserted into a $25.9 billion Interior Department spending bill....
Oil-patch study of cattle eases some fears A long-awaited $17-million study on cattle health and oil and gas emissions in Western Canada has provided some reassuring answers while raising a new batch of concerns in the oil patch. For the interprovincial study, the largest on-farm research project of its kind, a collection of blue-ribbon scientists looked at how air contaminants affect reproductive success and general cattle health downwind of oil and gas facilities. The work took place from 2001 to 2003, and involved 33,000 cattle from 205 herds. The 716-page report says the scientists found no links between increased risk for stillbirths, abortions and unsuccessful pregnancies and chronic low-level exposure to sulphur dioxide or volatile organic compounds, such as benzene. The researchers did not examine data on the effects of sour gas or hydrogen sulphide on reproductive health in cattle as thoroughly or on two key reproductive indicators. However, the study did find a number of surprising associations between oil and gas pollution and cattle health. For example, it found that newly born calves exposed to high levels of sulphur dioxide had death rates 1.4 times higher than those exposed to lower concentrations. It also documented severe immune function changes in calves inhaling low amounts of benzene and toluene. Newborns exposed to sour gas, a highly toxic compound found in a third of all natural gas supplies, needed more medication than non-exposed calves....
Landowners have questions about request for water well permits Landowners have questions about a company's request for 21 water well permits in an oil field where nearly 1 million gallons of salt water spilled from a cracked pipe earlier this year. The State Water Commission, which must approve the permits, has been asked to schedule a public hearing on the requests from Zenergy Inc. The Tulsa, Okla.,-based company is drilling in the Foreman Butte oil field west of Alexander. Zenergy has 10 temporary permits for water wells and wants them made permanent, along with permits for 11 new wells. It uses the well water to dilute highly concentrated salt water that comes up with the oil, to try to prevent equipment problems. The Foreman Butte oil field, estimated to be about 9,000 feet deep, is known for its salty water. The spill in January sent toxic water into Charbonneau Creek, killing creek life and forcing ranchers to move their cattle for more than two months. The creek empties into the Yellowstone River, but officials said the Yellowstone did not appear to have been harmed by the spill. Landowners want to know how the 21 wells sought by Zenergy would affect groundwater that supplies their cattle....
Column: Out-of-state animal rights activists slopping hogwash on Arizonans New York-based Farm Sanctuary has an extreme political agenda they hope to impose on Arizona. We're talking about out-of-state animal rights activists and the ballot measure they want us to support in November. Their goals have little to do with protecting animals and the environment and everything to do with reducing production and consumption of meat products grown by Arizona and American farmers. Do not be fooled, hogwash is hogwash. The hogwash they are feeding you is that Arizona farmers do not treat their animals humanely or protect the environment because of modern and safer animal confinement practices. They will play on your emotions. They ignore decades of sound science. And they smear anyone who doesn't share their radical views, all to promote their extreme animal rights agenda. They did it in Florida in 2002. Now they've come to Arizona....
Trapper Kills Suspect Gator A trapper killed an 11-foot, 5-inch alligator Thursday morning that appears to be the reptile that killed a 23-year-old woman who was snorkeling in Juniper Creek on Sunday. The male alligator was caught on the fourth large hook baited with beef lung and left along the creek east of Lake George overnight, 300 to 400 yards from where Annmarie Campbell was killed. The body of Campbell, an artist from Paris, Tenn., and a former Marion County resident, was pulled from the reptile's jaws by her ex-stepfather and another man. The large alligator has marks on its snout as if it had been in a confrontation and has a stab wound in its right eyelid....
Young promises reprisal for vote on Tongass The House voted Thursday to prohibit the Forest Service from spending federal funds to build new logging roads in the Tongass National Forest. The Forest Service has lost an average of $40 million a year -- and $48 million last year -- to subsidize a dying logging industry that employs only 300 Alaskans, the sponsors of the measure said. "Think of that: (for) every job, $150,000 in taxpayer subsidies for that one job," said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. He said he's all for logging "but not when the taxpayers are being ripped off." The vote was 237-181. Most of the Democrats and 68 Republicans voted for it. Alaska Congressman Don Young said he was "adamantly opposed to this sneaky amendment." He said it violated the spirit of representative government, because it affects only his state, and he didn't want it. Taking a page from Sen. Ted Stevens' playbook, Young said he would make note of who voted against him and retaliate in future legislation. "Each one of you, think about this, in this room: This should be a representative form of government, and what you're doing is dead wrong, and I shall not forget it," he said....
Fire-defense costs searing o protect people from wildfire and restore the forests' health, a report released Thursday estimates 1.5 million acres in 10 Front Range counties must be "treated" by tree thinning and prescribed burns. The price tag: At an average cost of more than $400 an acre, treatment could hit $15 million annually for 40 years - or a total tab of $600 million. "The numbers are overwhelming," said Rocky Mountain regional forester Rick Cables. Pay now or pay later, Cables said, pointing out that Colorado's largest fire - the 138,000-acre Hayman in 2002 - cost $240 million in firefighting, economic losses and rehabilition. The money, he said, instead could have been used to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. The Front Range Fuels Partnership Roundtable, a consortium of 30 organizations formed in 2002 after the state's worst fire season, spent two years developing 10 recommendations on how to focus and speed up the work....
White House wants limits on competitive sourcing out of funding bill The Bush Administration wants Congress to alter language in pending appropriations legislation that prevents several key agencies—such as the Agriculture and Interior departments—from participating in certain E-government initiatives and limits the agency’s use of competitive sourcing. H.R. 5386, the Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for fiscal 2007, precludes the agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, from spending more than $3.4 million on competitive sourcing programs without first submitting a proposal to the congressional appropriations committees detailing a reprogramming of funds proposal. USDA’s Forest Service may not use more than $2.5 million for competitive sourcing activities, but is exempt from having to send a report. The language also prohibits the agencies from using funds in the bill for E-government projects like SAFECOM, a program led by the Homeland Security Department to improve public safety response among all levels of government, and Disaster Management....
Lightning brings rash of wildfires As predicted, the drought, combined with an abundance of natural fuels in the Gila National Forest and a rash of recent lightning strikes, have produced the first series of wildfires for the season. Nine blazes were reported burning throughout the forest Wednesday afternoon. Five of the fires were being staffed by a total of about 75 wildland firefighters and crews, including the Silver City and Gila Hotshot crews, seven forest service engines, a helicopter based in Reserve and a C-130 slurry tanker plane. Smokejumpers, who had just practiced a jump early Wednesday morning, were dispatched in their twin-engine Otter later in the afternoon to jump one of the blazes, officials said. Fire management officials at the local, state and federal level have been predicting an active fire season since the beginning of the year. Lightning storms that passed through the area on Monday night are blamed for the new blazes. Three fires were discovered on the Quemado Ranger District, four on the Reserve, one on the Black Range and one on the Glenwood Ranger District....
House panel's vote endangers Utah's wildlife protection plan A little over six months after Utah and other states submitted action plans to the Interior Department designed to keep at-risk wildlife off the Endangered Species List, a congressional committee has approved a budget that would slash federal funding for those state programs. The House Appropriations Committee this week approved an $18.5 million cut in state wildlife grant programs, a move, that if enacted, could cost Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources nearly $320,000 - almost a 40 percent cut from the originally proposed budget. And those reductions actually slice even deeper because much of that federal money is used to leverage funding from other sources. Though Capitol Hill battles remain to be fought - 170 representatives and 56 senators have signed a bipartisan letter urging the funding be restored - Utah wildlife officials say the long-term prognosis isn't good....
Researchers can't confirm rediscovery of ivory-billed woodpecker Three seasons of searching still have not produced the icon that would forever settle the dispute: a single photograph of a clearly identifiable ivory-billed woodpecker. "We probably wouldn't be truthful if we said we weren't a little disappointed. We've put a lot of effort into this," Cornell University researcher Ron Rohrbaugh said Thursday. Last year Cornell researchers stunned bird-lovers everywhere by announcing that the ivory-bill had been rediscovered after 60 years, by happenstance, in an Arkansas swamp. Before that, the magnificent bird was thought to have vanished along with the stately hardwood forests of the southern United States where it had flourished for centuries. Cornell, this nation's Citadel of ornithology in bucolic Ithaca, N.Y., said Thursday that it still believes the ivory-bill was spotted two years ago, but it no longer plans to go on spending $1 million a year, mostly from private donations but including some federal funds, to prove it. Critics say the inability to get a photograph of the bird supports their doubts about Cornell's original announcement. Before it ended last month, the most recent effort to locate the woodpecker involved 20 full-time biologists and more than 100 amateur volunteers, plus all the technology Cornell could muster: automatic sound recorders and camouflaged time-lapse cameras hidden deep in the forest, laser rangefinders, GPS units, even ultralight aircraft....
Environmentalists divided on Bush immigration plan Environmentalists are split over the impact of the Bush administration's plan to protect the southwestern U.S. border against illegal immigration while other groups are ignoring the debate altogether. The Center for Biological Diversity says sending in the National Guard, construction of border walls, low-flying aircraft and new roads will harm the desert environment and affect endangered species. Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and former Sierra Club director, says immigration leads to an explosive growth in population, which the environment cannot sustain. The heavy hitters on the environmental scene, however, are sitting on the sidelines of the policy battle including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund....
Wolf foes howl at state managers Sheep, elk and dog carcasses, bones, skulls and wolf tracks the size of a human head—that's what two Croy Canyon residents claim is scattered around their property six miles west of Hailey. "Our dogs were bitten by wolves at three o'clock in the afternoon," said Jennifer Swigert, who lives with her husband Kevin, a fifth generation Idahoan, in a remote area of Croy Canyon. "I love animals, I always have, but this is insane—people are at a total risk of getting fanged up." The Swigerts, who attended a wolf management meeting Wednesday night with Idaho Fish and Game officials in Hailey, claim wolf numbers are growing in Croy Canyon and the animals are becoming increasingly aggressive towards dogs, horses, and humans....
Gillett pledges he'll rid Idaho of wolves Ron Gillett is determined to rid Idaho of wolves, and he's pledged that he won't quit until he's accomplished that goal. Gillett, the president of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, unsuccessfully tried to place the issue on the November 2006 ballot. To do so he needed 47,881 signatures from registered Idaho voters. He claims he collected about 40,000 signatures, but only about 13,500 were from registered voters. "On this first go-around we didn't tell anybody we were going to get the signatures, we said we'll try," Gillette said. "Mark my word, on this second go-around we will get it, no question." Gillett, who lives in Stanley and owns the Triangle C Ranch lodge, said wolves are the "most cruel, vicious predators in North America," and that he's concerned about the safety of his grandchildren. He added that wolves depredate livestock and are decimating elk herds, which is ruining his livelihood....
Going to the birds An evidentiary hearing in the state's lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management over its oil and gas drilling plans for Otero Mesa took a closer look at the federal agency's provisions to protect the aplomado falcon. U.S. District Court Judge Bruce D. Black held Wednesday's hearing to examine whether the BLM consulted and planned adequately for the impact their plans could have on the raptor's habitat. In June 2003, when the BLM was still evaluating its options for oil and gas development on the stretch of Chihuahuan Desert grassland, it said it needed to consult formally with the Fish and Wildlife Service because drilling was ''likely to adversely affect'' the bird of prey. In September of the same year, the agency reversed that opinion. Andrew Smith, a U.S. Department of Justice attorney representing the BLM, has said the BLM did consult, albeit informally, with the Fish and Wildlife Service and that the few documented falcon sightings in the Otero Mesa area did not warrant changes to the BLM's contested plan. The testimony of Joy Nicholopoulos, former head of ecological services for the Fish and Wildlife Service in New Mexico, confirmed his claims, and noted decision reversals are not unusual for federal agencies....
Predators Causing Big Losses to Livestock Farmers Cattle and calf losses from animal predators and non-predator causes in the United States totaled 4.05 million head in 2005, USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service reported. Cattle and calf losses from animal predators totaled 190,000 head. This represented 4.7 percent of the total losses from all causes and resulted in a loss of $92.7 million to cattle farmers and ranchers. Coyotes and dogs caused the majority of cattle and calf losses accounting for 51.1 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively. Cattle and calf losses from non-predator causes totaled 3.86 million head or 95.3 percent of the total losses. Respiratory problems were the leading cause of non-predator deaths accounting for 28.7 percent, followed by digestive problems at 16.8 percent. Farmers and ranchers throughout the United States spent $199.1 million on non-lethal methods to control predators....
Former Hannibalian tracking Billy the Kid Five years ago former Hannibalian Steve Sederwall moved to New Mexico to begin an investigation to determine if the man buried there in 1881 as Billy the Kid was the real William Bonney. He does not believe that he was. Since then Sederwall and Lincoln County, N.M., Sheriff Tom Sullivan have traveled to several other states to investigate the stories of more than one man who had claimed to be Billy after the death of the one buried as Billy in Lincoln County, N.M. The mystery has not been solved, but Sederwall is currently investigating the life of a John Miller, who had told people he was the real William Bonney. Sederwall explained one more incident that is being investigated. "The Kid's attorney was A.J. Fountain, and he and his 8-year-old son Henry were murdered in Lincoln County. They never found the bodies. We may be able to find those bodies."....
DNA twist to Old West case An answer to the John Wesley Hillmon mystery might be found in the DNA, after all. Work begins early today to identify the coffin's remains at the 127- year-old grave of the man at the center of an epic insurance fraud case. And now, the 11th-hour discovery of a Hillmon descendant could make the job much easier. University of Colorado law professor Mimi Wesson, who is leading the Hillmon exhumation along with CU anthropology professor Dennis Van Gerven, received a surprise e-mail last month from Sandra Hillmon. Hillmon, a rancher from Lawrence born in 1848, was reportedly shot accidentally by his traveling companion March 17, 1879, as the two were making camp near Medicine Lodge, Kan. Because Hillmon was covered by no fewer than three life insurance policies, the companies holding those policies withheld payment, suspecting an attempt at fraud by Hillmon, his wife Sallie, and Hillmon's camp mate. The dispute was the subject of six trials over 20 years, and the case twice reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In the first Supreme Court ruling in Mutual Life Insurance Co. vs. Hillmon, the court in 1892 created what endures today as the "state of mind" exception to the hearsay rule. Hearsay is an out-of-court statement presented in court as true and usually ruled not admissible....

Thursday, May 18, 2006

FLE

Legal loophole emerges in NSA spy program An AT&T attorney indicated in federal court on Wednesday that the Bush administration may have provided legal authorization for the telecommunications company to open its network to the National Security Agency. Federal law may "authorize and in some cases require telecommunications companies to furnish information" to the executive branch, said Bradford Berenson, who was associate White House counsel when President Bush authorized the NSA surveillance program in late 2001 and is now a partner at the Sidley Austin law firm in Washington, D.C. Far from being complicit in an illegal spying scheme, Berenson said, "AT&T is essentially an innocent bystander." AT&T may be referring to an obscure section of federal law, 18 U.S.C. 2511, which permits a telecommunications company to provide "information" and "facilities" to the federal government as long as the attorney general authorizes it. The authorization must come in the form of "certification in writing by...the Attorney General of the United States that no warrant or court order is required by law." Information that is not yet public "would be exculpatory and would show AT&T's conduct in the best possible light," Berenson said. But he did not acknowledge any details about the company's alleged participation in the NSA's surveillance program, which has ignited an ongoing debate on Capitol Hill and led to this class-action lawsuit being filed in January by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Some legal experts say that AT&T may be off the hook if former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was in office at the time the NSA program began, provided a letter of certification. (Other officials, including the deputy attorney general and state attorneys general, also are authorized to write these letters.) Injecting additional complexity is 18 U.S.C. 2511's prohibition on disclosure. It says that telecommunication companies may not "disclose the existence of any interception or surveillance or the device used to accomplish the interception or surveillance"--except if required by law. Unlawful disclosures are subject to fines....
Bush denies eavesdropping on U.S. phones President Bush insisted Tuesday that the United States does not listen in on domestic telephone conversations among ordinary Americans. But he declined to specifically discuss the government’s alleged compiling of phone records, or whether it would amount to an invasion of privacy. “We do not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval,” Bush said in an East Room news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. “What I’ve told the American people is we’ll protect them against an al-Qaida attack. And we’ll do that within the law,” Bush said. The president’s new press secretary, Tony Snow, later insisted that Bush’s comments did not amount to a confirmation of published reports that the NSA’s surveillance was broader than initially acknowledged and that it included secretly collecting millions of phone-call records. Bush said, “This government will continue to guard the privacy of the American people. But if al-Qaida is calling into the United States, we want to know, and we want to know why.” However, he did not respond directly when asked whether it was a violation of privacy for the National Security Agency to seek phone records from telephone companies....
Verizon denies giving NSA phone records Verizon Communications Inc. says it did not give the government records of millions of phone calls, joining fellow phone company BellSouth in disputing key assertions in a USA Today article. The denials leave open the possibility that the National Security Agency requested customer calling data from long-distance companies like AT&T, Sprint and MCI in 2001, but not from companies that were mainly local phone companies, such as Verizon. Verizon has not provided customer call data to the NSA, nor had it been asked to do so, the company said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday. The statement came a day after BellSouth Corp. issued a similar denial. "One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers' domestic calls," the statement read....
Bush agrees to full NSA oversight by Congress The White House, in an abrupt reversal, will allow the full Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees to review President George W. Bush's domestic spying program, congressional officials said on Tuesday. Two days before the program was expected to dominate Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden's Senate confirmation hearing as CIA director, the Republican chairmen of the Senate and House panels said separately that Bush had agreed to allow full committee oversight of his Terrorist Surveillance Program. The program, which allows the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens without first obtaining warrants, has stirred an outcry in Congress among lawmakers who believe Bush may have overstepped his constitutional authority. Up to now, the White House has sought to avoid full committee oversight by limiting briefings to subcommittees from each panel. Initially, the administration shared program details only with the chairmen and vice chairmen of the committees and party leaders in the House and Senate....
The Right Call on Phone Records On Thursday, USA Today reported that three U.S. telecommunications companies have been voluntarily providing the National Security Agency with anonymized domestic telephone records -- that is, records stripped of individually identifiable data, such as names and place of residence. If true, the architect of this program deserves our thanks and probably a medal. That architect was presumably Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and President Bush's nominee to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The potential value of such anonymized domestic telephone records is best understood through a hypothetical example. Suppose a telephone associated with Mohamed Atta had called a domestic telephone number A. And then suppose that A had called domestic telephone number B. And then suppose that B had called C. And then suppose that domestic telephone number C had called a telephone number associated with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The most effective way to recognize such patterns is the computerized analysis of billions of phone records. The large-scale analysis of anonymized data can pinpoint individuals -- at home or abroad -- who warrant more intrusive investigative or intelligence techniques, subject to all safeguards normally associated with those techniques. Clearly, there is a compelling national interest in understanding and penetrating such terrorist networks. If the people associated with domestic telephone numbers A, B and C are inside the United States and had facilitated the Sept. 11 attacks, perhaps they are facilitating a terrorist plot now. The American people rightly expect their government to detect and prevent such plots. The Telecommunications Act of 1934, as amended, generally prohibits the release of "individually identifiable customer proprietary network information" except under force of law or with the approval of the customer. But, according to USA Today, the telephone records voluntarily provided to the NSA had been anonymized. In addition, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 explicitly permits telecommunications companies to provide customer records to the government if the government asks for them. So it would appear that the companies have been acting not just in the public interest, but also within the law and without encroaching on the privacy of any of their customers....
Nothing Personal When I shop at the Giant, because the bar code on my Bonus Card is no longer readable, I instead use an "alternate ID": my phone number. When I call my cable company, the service rep can use my phone number to find my records. When I get a new credit card in the mail and call to activate it, the credit card company can tell it's me because of the phone line I'm using. According to defenders of the Bush administration's domestic phone call database, which includes regularly updated information about the calls made and received by some 200 million Americans, my grocery store, my cable company, and my credit card company can identify me based on my phone number, but the National Security Agency can't. At least, that's the implication when people say the database is legal because the information in it has been "anonymized"--i.e., stripped of names and addresses. But as USA Today pointed out when it revealed the existence of this program, phone numbers can readily be linked to names and addresses using publicly available information. The claim that there's really nothing personal or private about the phone call records--which tell the NSA who calls whom, when, and for how long--is therefore a tenuous basis for defending the legality of data collection that ordinarily requires a court order or the customer's consent. Tenuous legal arguments are what we've come to expect from the Bush administration when it defends controversial measures aimed at fighting terrorism, including coercive interrogation techniques, improvised military tribunals, and the indefinite detention of unilaterally identified "enemy combatants." The arguments are weak partly because President Bush doesn't really think he needs them. When it comes to terrorism, as Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch observe in a new Cato Institute analysis of the president's constitutional record, "the Bush administration comes perilously close" to Richard Nixon's position: "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal." Officials at Qwest, the one major phone company that refused to give the NSA its customers' records, were not persuaded by that argument. They knew they could face hefty penalties under at least two statutes, the Communications Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, if they revealed this information without their customers' consent unless they were legally required to do so....
Judge Keeps Papers Sealed in AT&T Spy Suit Secret documents that allegedly detail the surveillance of AT&T phone lines under the Bush administration's domestic spying program can be used in a lawsuit against the telephone giant, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, but the records will remain sealed. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker rejected a bid by AT&T Inc. to return the records that were given to the privacy advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation by a former AT&T technician. But Walker said the records would remain under seal until it can be determined whether they reveal trade secrets. ``The best course of action is to preserve the status quo,'' Walker said. The hearing is the first in a lawsuit challenging the administration's secretive domestic surveillance program. The lawsuit, filed by EFF in U.S. District Court, accuses AT&T of illegally cooperating with the National Security Agency to make communications on the company's networks available to the spy agency without warrants. ``They are asking this court to suppress evidence of AT&T's criminal activity,'' EFF lawyer Maria Morris said in arguing that the records remain part of the case....
Congress may make ISPs snoop on you A prominent Republican on Capitol Hill has prepared legislation that would rewrite Internet privacy rules by requiring that logs of Americans' online activities be stored, CNET News.com has learned. The proposal comes just weeks after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Internet service providers should retain records of user activities for a "reasonable amount of time," a move that represented a dramatic shift in the Bush administration's views on privacy. Wisconsin Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is proposing that ISPs be required to record information about Americans' online activities so that police can more easily "conduct criminal investigations." Executives at companies that fail to comply would be fined and imprisoned for up to one year. Until Gonzales' speech, the Bush administration had explicitly opposed laws requiring data retention, saying it had "serious reservations" about them. But after the European Parliament last December approved such a requirement for Internet, telephone and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, top administration officials began talking about it more favorably....
The Ultimate Net Monitoring Tool The equipment that technician Mark Klein learned was installed in the National Security Agency's "secret room" inside AT&T's San Francisco switching office isn't some sinister Big Brother box designed solely to help governments eavesdrop on citizens' internet communications. Rather, it's a powerful commercial network-analysis product with all sorts of valuable uses for network operators. It just happens to be capable of doing things that make it one of the best internet spy tools around. "Anything that comes through (an internet protocol network), we can record," says Steve Bannerman, marketing vice president of Narus, a Mountain View, California, company. "We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their (voice over internet protocol) calls." Narus' product, the Semantic Traffic Analyzer, is a software application that runs on standard IBM or Dell servers using the Linux operating system. It's renowned within certain circles for its ability to inspect traffic in real time on high-bandwidth pipes, identifying packets of interest as they race by at up to 10 Gbps. Internet companies can install the analyzers at every entrance and exit point of their networks, at their "cores" or centers, or both. The analyzers communicate with centralized "logic servers" running specialized applications. The combination can keep track of, analyze and record nearly every form of internet communication, whether e-mail, instant message, video streams or VOIP phone calls that cross the network....
Bush stomps on Fourth Amendment THE ESCALATING controversy over the National Security Agency's data mining program illustrates yet again how the Bush administration's intrusions on personal privacy based on a post-9/11 mantra of ''national security" directly threaten one of the enduring sources of that security: the Fourth Amendment ''right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." The Supreme Court held in 1967 that electronic eavesdropping is a ''search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, recognizing that our system of free expression precludes treating each use of a telephone as an invitation to Big Brother to listen in. By 2001, the court had come to see how new technology could arm the government with information previously obtainable only through old-fashioned spying and could thereby convert mere observation -- for example, the heat patterns on a house's exterior walls -- to a ''search" requiring a warrant. To read the Constitution otherwise, the court reasoned, would leave us ''at the mercy of advancing technology" and erode the ''privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted." This decision, emphasizing the privacy existing when the Bill of Rights was originally ratified in 1791, was no liberal holdover in conservative times. Its author was Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the majority. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the dissent. This issue should not divide liberals from conservatives, Democrats from Republicans. These two decisions greatly undermine the aberrant 1979 ruling on which defenders of the NSA program rely, in which a bare Supreme Court majority said it doubted that people have any ''expectation of privacy in the numbers they dial," since they ''must 'convey' [such] numbers to the telephone company," which in turn can share them with others for purposes like ''detecting fraud and preventing violations of law." Unconvincing then, those words surely ring hollow today, now that information technology has made feasible the NSA program whose cover was blown last week. That program profiles virtually every American's phone conversations, giving government instant access to detailed knowledge of the numbers, and thus indirectly the identities, of whomever we phone; when and for how long; and what other calls the person phoned has made or received. As Justice Stewart recognized in 1979, a list of all numbers called ''easily could reveal . . . the most intimate details of a person's life."
Mexico vows to sue if Guard detains Mexico said yesterday that it would file lawsuits in U.S. courts if National Guard troops on the border become directly involved in detaining migrants. Mexican border officials said they worried that sending troops to heavily trafficked regions would push migrants into more perilous areas of the U.S.-Mexico border to avoid detection. President Bush announced Monday that he would send 6,000 National Guard troops to the 2,000-mile border, but they would provide intelligence and surveillance support to U.S. Border Patrol agents, not catch and detain illegal aliens. "If there is a real wave of rights abuses, if we see the National Guard starting to directly participate in detaining people ... we would immediately start filing lawsuits through our consulates," Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez told a Mexico City radio station. He did not offer further details. Mexican officials worry that the crackdown will lead to more deaths. Since Washington toughened security in Texas and California in 1994, migrants have flooded Arizona's hard-to-patrol desert, and deaths have spiked. Migrant groups estimate that 500 people died trying to cross the border last year. The Border Patrol reported 473 deaths in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. In Ciudad Juarez, Julieta Nunez Gonzalez, local representative of the Mexican government's National Immigration Institute, said yesterday that she would ask the government to send its migrant protection force, known as Grupo Beta, to more remote sections of the border....
Bush Turns to Big Military Contractors for Border Control The quick fix may involve sending in the National Guard. But to really patch up the broken border, President Bush is preparing to turn to a familiar administration partner: the nation's giant military contractors. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest, are among the companies that said they would submit bids within two weeks for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build what the administration calls a "virtual fence" along the nation's land borders. Using some of the same high-priced, high-tech tools these companies have already put to work in Iraq and Afghanistan — like unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment — the military contractors are zeroing in on the rivers, deserts, mountains and settled areas that separate Mexico and Canada from the United States. It is a humbling acknowledgment that despite more than a decade of initiatives with macho-sounding names, like Operation Hold the Line in El Paso or Operation Gate Keeper in San Diego, the federal government has repeatedly failed on its own to gain control of the land borders. Through its Secure Border Initiative, the Bush administration intends to not simply buy an amalgam of high-tech equipment to help it patrol the borders — a tactic it has also already tried, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, with extremely limited success. It is also asking the contractors to devise and build a whole new border strategy that ties together the personnel, technology and physical barriers....
PLF UNVEILS THE RAPANOS BLOG

Oral argument has been held, and a decision is pending, in Rapanos v. United States, Pacific Legal Foundation's latest case before the United States Supreme Court. In order to keep the media and public up to date on this landmark environmental law litigation, PLF today goes "live" with the RAPANOS BLOG dedicated to news and commentary on the case. In Rapanos, PLF is challenging an astonishing federal power grab, a scheme that could have the feds micromanaging private property nationwide. Traditionally, zoning has been the prerogative of local governments, in keeping with the Constitution's limits on the national government in our federal system. But in recent years, federal regulators have attempted to become arbiters of land use through a contorted interpretation of the Clean Water Act. The Act's plain language gives the federal government oversight over property that abuts "navigable waters." In defiance of common sense, the feds have now defined that term to mean almost any water, anywhere. As Investors Business Daily puts it, "If collected rainwater drains into a gully, thence into a ditch, thence into a river, it's now deemed under government control." Thus, the predicament of PLF's client, John Rapanos: The feds claim the right to nix his plans to develop his property in Michigan--even though it is miles from the nearest "navigable water." The Christian Science Monitor calls Rapanos "a landmark case over the scope of federal power" to regulate private property....
NEWS ROUNDUP

Plan protects both wild, domestic sheep The recent decision on bighorn sheep in the Medicine Bow Forest Plan shows that participatory democracy is not for sissies. Nor for fools. Laramie’s Biodiversity Associates was vocal regarding the outcome of a decision on bighorn sheep habitat, but its opinion expressed more heat than light. If this small group had prevailed in its appeal of the Forest Plan, the result would have been less habitat for Wyoming’s wildlife, a decrease in the likelihood that Wyoming citizens would lend their time and expertise to collaborative problem-solving, and the loss of an important economic and management component provided by several long-time ranching families and their communities. As it is, the group further alienated the folks who should be its allies in trying to preserve the state’s healthy ecosystems, habitat and trademark vistas in the face of massive energy development. The issue is the management of domestic sheep herds, and their potential conflict with wild bighorn sheep. The two subspecies do not compete for habitat, but some studies have shown disease transmission from domestic sheep to bighorns. A natural separation is the best way to keep the animals apart. For three and a half years, the Wyoming Statewide Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group met and labored in order to craft a sensible and operable plan to manage for a healthy future for Wyoming’s bighorn sheep population, while maintaining the viability of domestic sheep ranches. The members, who were wildlife biologists, environmentalists, ranchers and government officials, produced a thoughtful and practical set of recommendations....
Living on the fence – Catholic rancher copes daily with illegal immigration Spread out on 42,000 acres of beautiful mountains and high desert valleys in southern Cochise County, the Krentz family ranch sits just miles from the International Border. A rancher all her life and having grown up in the area, Susan Krentz knows every square inch of the property like the back of her hand. The ranch has been in the family for generations dating back before Arizona became a state. Standing about five and a half feet tall, Susan’s dusty boots and jeans tells the story of hard work on a ranch. Taking on the responsibility of working such as large ranch is shared by her husband, and daughter. In the forest above her home where she hiked as a child, signs posted by the United States government warn people that illegal immigration and human smuggling may be encountered in the area. For the last decade, she has seen a major increase in the number of immigrants on her property. In the first week of May, Krentz said Border Patrol removed more people from her ranch than the number of cattle that graze the land. “In eight days, we had 500 people removed from our ranch. That is a tremendous amount of people to find. Border Patrol tells us for every person that they find an estimated five to 10 slip into the desert,” she said....
Ranchers say border boundaries not always clear s it possible to accidentally end up in Mexico? Some cattle ranchers in Southern Arizona say, "Yes." They say there are no clear borders on their land and it's hard to tell when you've stepped into another country. "If I fix it, they'll just cut it again," says cattle rancher Bob Heilig who owns 13,000 acres. That's about nineteen square miles of land that borders Mexico; land that, he says, is hard to contain. "Snip, snip, snip and they just go right on through," Heilig says of illegal immigrants who travel his ranch daily, carrying wire cutters. Helig took News 4 on a tour, showing how easy it is to get lost because there are no clear markings dividing the border. Heilig says the most frustrating part for ranchers when fences are cut is that it's up to them to either fix the wire or lose their cattle....
Air Force: Range fire caused by air training munitions There is no vegetation to hold the dusty land in place after a fire burned about 27,000 acres of rangeland in southeastern New Mexico. A heavy coat of dirt sticks to the windows and covers the floors of Jeff Essary’s home. Reminders of the fire that devoured more than 700 acres of his land are nearly constant, he said. Essary, his newborn son, his daughter and his wife were among 100 families evacuated from their Floyd homes Nov. 30 after a fire spread from the Melrose Bombing Range. The wind-driven fire was caused by training munitions, according to an Air Force press release issued Tuesday. A B-1B bomber from Texas on a training flight over the Melrose Bombing Range released a bomb dummy, and its spotting charge — roughly equivalent to the charge of a shotgun shell — sparked the blaze in the arid grassland....
Wild-horse activists seek to halt roundup Mustang advocates and Gov. Bill Richardson want the Carson National Forest to stop a scheduled summer roundup of wild horses from the Jicarilla Ranger District, and instead use chemical contraception to control herd size. One concern is the possible sale to slaughterhouses of older animals that go unadopted, said Patience O’Dowd , founder of the Wild Horse Observers Association in Placitas. Also, darting the horses with a chemical contraceptive saves on the cost of transporting and feeding the animals until adoption time, she said. “It makes sense on a taxpayer level, and it makes sense on a humane level,” O’Dowd said. Kendall Clark, acting forest supervisor for the Carson National Forest, said the agency is willing to consider using contraception , but that the plan to gather 75 horses this summer from the Jicarilla district — between the Jicarilla Apache tribal lands and Bernalillo — will go forward....
Walden-backed forest bill approved U.S. Rep. Greg Walden's controversial bill to speed the ability of federal forestland managers to make timber salvage decisions is now on its way to the Senate. The Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act HR 4200, co-authored by U.S. Reps. Brian Baird, D-Wash., and Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D., passed the House by a vote of 243 to 182. "Thousands upon thousands of foresters, scientists, firefighters, local government officials, and private landowners agree: Federal forestland managers need the authorities provided by the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act for the future of America's national forests," Walden, a Republican from Hood River and chairman of the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, said in a prepared statement. The bill gives natural resource managers 30 days after a wildfire or other natural catastrophe affecting more than 1,000 acres of public lands to come up with a plan, followed by a 90-day public comment period, Walden said. Administrative or judicial appeals still would be allowed following the comment period, he said....
Definition of ‘road’ travels gray area But amid the discussions over the future of Colorado's roadless areas, there's confusion over what exactly a road is and what kind of motorized vehicles will be allowed in roadless areas if they're protected. Some roads in the national forest may not be considered a road at all and could still legally carry motor vehicle traffic through a roadless area. Many off-road vehicles are welcome in roadless areas because they use trails, not roads. So, what kind of road comes to mind when people talk about roadless areas? "The general public thinks about it the way you'd look it up in Webster's," said Vera Smith, conservation director for the Colorado Mountain Club. "A paved road or a dirt road you can take a regular vehicle on." The definition of a road depends on which Forest Service regulation you're reading. The 2001 Clinton-era Roadless Rule, which under its 2005 rewrite still protects 58 million acres of national forestland nationwide until states make recommendations to the Forest Service for roadless areas' fate, defines a road according to a definition under Title 36 in the Federal Register: A road must be a motor vehicle travelway over 50 inches wide unless designated or managed as a trail. The Roadless Area Task Force also uses the definition for a road found in Title 36. The WRNF 2002 forest plan says that roadless areas have no motor vehicle paths greater than 50 inches wide. There is "nothing that prohibits a motorized trail (in a roadless area) that is for vehicles under 50 inches," said WRNF forest planner Rich Doak....
USDA FOREST SERVICE LAUNCHES NATIONAL EFFORT TO DEVELOP CONSERVATION LEADERS OF TOMORROW U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service today launched its new and improved Junior Forest Ranger (JFR) program by enrolling nearly 100 fifth-grade students from Denver’s Ellis Elementary School into the conservation education program. "The future of our natural resources and their management will one day be in the hands of today’s youth," said Kent Connaughton, Forest Service associate deputy chief for state and private forestry, at an event here at Recreation Equipment Inc.'s flagship store. "The new JFR program can help prepare our young people for this important responsibility by connecting them to the land and fostering their interest in effective land stewardship." First introduced in 1954 as part of a public service campaign for the Smokey Bear fire prevention program, the JFR program was designed to encourage a fire prevention ethic in children. Within three years, one million children were recruited, which led to Smokey being assigned his own zip code. The updated program includes more components to enrich children’s (ages 7 to 13) understanding of the spectrum of land management activities, covering topics such as fire ecology and ecosystem management. Upon enrolling in the program, children will receive an Adventure Guide designed to stimulate their enthusiasm for outdoor activities and their understanding of the environment. The guide will also provide kids with information on Forest Service programs and volunteer opportunities and youth programs in their area. Participants will also receive an embroidered badge, an agency pin, an individual oath pledge card and a program card to permit access to the web-based JFR Clubhouse....
Study leaps to defense of Colorado jumping mouse Echoing a study released in January, a newly published research paper concludes that the Colorado- dwelling Preble's meadow jumping mouse is a distinct subspecies that deserves federal wildlife protections. The new paper, published May 10 in the online edition of the journal Animal Conservation, concludes that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erred in February 2005 when it proposed rescinding Endangered Species Act protections for the mouse, which is currently classified as "threatened." The agency's decision to delist the Preble's mouse - potentially removing a costly barrier to Front Range development projects - was based on the findings of a genetic study by biologist Rob Roy Ramey, who was working at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science at the time. Ramey announced in 2003 that Preble's is genetically indistinguishable from another mouse common to the region. But in January of this year, a team led by Tim King of the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that Ramey was wrong and that the mouse is genetically distinct. In response to King's findings, the Fish and Wildlife Service delayed its planned Feb. 2 delisting decision until Aug. 2. The federal agency also reopened the public comment period on the Preble's issue. The comment deadline is today....
They're Not Just Passing Through The ospreys have landed. Finally. A pair of the birds, which apparently migrated to Upper Newport Bay during the winter, are among the first of the raptors to nest in Southern California in recent decades, environmentalists say. And officials who watch over the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve in Newport Beach said they couldn't be more enthused. "I never thought that it would happen," said Russ Kerr, a volunteer naturalist at the reserve who built the nest in 1993 in hopes ospreys would settle in. "They always migrate here in the winter, but they would always fly back to wherever they came from." Kerr's nest sits on a 4-foot-wide platform atop a telephone pole on Shellmaker Island, a small, brushy outcropping in Upper Newport Bay. But the man-made nest sat vacant for the most part. A single osprey once settled in but left a few days later. Last year, a pair were spotted eyeing the nest but were driven away by possessive gulls. This year, a pair were able to secure the nest for themselves, and three osprey chicks hatched this month....
Last male purebred Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit dies The last male purebred Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit has died, leaving just two females in a captive breeding program created to try to save the endangered species from extinction. The tiny rabbits are found only in Douglas County in north-central Washington. None is believed to exist in the wild, which means that the two females -- Lolo and Bryn -- are the only known purebred pygmy rabbits left in existence. "This is a population that has existed since before the last ice age in Eastern Washington. The loss is something we can never calculate," said Jon Marvel, executive director of the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project, which works to protect pygmy rabbit populations across the West. "Any time we lose a species, it diminishes us all." Biologists captured 16 rabbits in a remote area of Douglas County in 2001 to start the captive breeding program. The last of those rabbits, Ely, died March 30 at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, said Dave Hays, an endangered-species biologist who oversees the program for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife....
Foundation files lawsuit to remove federal protection of fish A conservative foundation filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging Endangered Species Act protection for Central California tiger salamanders, two years after the federal government declared the animals were threatened. The Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on the grounds that government's designation was invalid and illegal. The foundation filed the complaint on behalf of the Home Builders Association of Northern California, the California Building Industry Association and the Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation. "The Central California tiger salamander has not been shown to be in danger," said foundation attorney Reed Hopper. "To the contrary, it has more breeding sites in Central California than the government claims." The foundation said the listing violated federal law because the agency failed to use the best scientific data available, did not estimate the current population of adult salamanders, and ignored existing regulatory programs for protecting the fish....
Wrap artists to discuss Colorado river installation Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the artists who have wrapped everything from the Reichstag in Berlin to the Pont Neuf in Paris, will speak about their latest controversial project Tuesday at Severance Hall in Cleveland. The 7 p.m. lecture and discussion, organized by the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, will focus in part on "Over the River," a long-delayed and as-yet unapproved project to suspend seven miles of transparent fabric over sections of the Arkansas River in Colorado. The project is tentatively scheduled for a two-week period in the summer of 2009. But first, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who go by first names only, need approvals from the federal Bureau of Land Management and other government agencies. The proposal has aroused controversy over whether it would deface the canyon flanking one of the most rafted rivers in the West and whether it would turn rural Fremont County into a massive traffic jam....
LDS church, BLM, ACLU settle Martin's Cove case An agreement has been reached on the management of Martin's Cove, a stretch of federal land where many Mormon handcart pioneers died in a blizzard 150 years ago. The Bureau of Land Management announced the agreement between the agency, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday afternoon. The settlement calls for the BLM and the church to use separate and distinct signs to clearly identify public land and public access. Last year, four Wyoming residents filed a lawsuit arguing that the BLM should not have entered a 25-year lease with the LDS church to manage the site, which is west of Casper. The lawsuit claimed that LDS tour guides at Martin's Cove proselytized to visitors. Attorneys for the BLM and the church have denied those charges. Megan Hayes, the Laramie attorney who filed the federal lawsuit, said the agreement ensures that people can have access to public lands without having to go through the church visitor center area that is nearby....
Energy working group faces uncertainty What was once hailed as a model in cooperation is now mired in chaos and confusion as a community advisory board in Pinedale is being revamped again by a federal agency, and members are wondering about their role. The Pinedale Anticline Working Group, or PAWG, was developed six years ago as energy development began booming in the area. The group, developed by the Bureau of Land Management, was designed to bring community members and others together to monitor the development and make recommendations. But this month, many of the members' terms expire, and rather than renew their terms -- as BLM has done in the past -- the agency has allowed the terms to expire and is seeking new nominations. The PAWG's federal charter expires in August but is expected to be renewed, but now there is a gap between all but two members' terms and when the charter runs. Bob Barrett, a PAWG member representing the public at large, said the group has become "window dressing."....
Shoulda been a cowboy Some cooks today have rediscovered chuckwagon cooking in their interest in the history of the American West and out of a nostalgia for the most primal of cooking. Tom Perini is at the forefront of that movement. Born into a family of true cowboys, Texas rancher Perini realized that he preferred cooking to working cattle, and in 1983 turned his family's ranch into a destination restaurant. Perini's fascination with chuckwagon cooking is an important part of the Buffalo Gap, Texas, steakhouse. "The type of food we serve is very much like what you might have eaten from the chuckwagons," Perini said. Perini will give lectures on what life was like on the cattle drives, and will give cooking demonstrations during
the Chuck Wagon Gathering and Children's Cowboy Festival in Oklahoma City on Memorial Day weekend. Through his association with Pace Foods, Perini travels the country with chuck wagon in tow, giving lectures and demonstrations on cowboy cooking life....
Rodeo association bucks $17 million offer to relocate The ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy will not be relocating to Albuquerque after all. New Mexico had offered a $17 million deal in February to have both the headquarters for the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association and the museum move from Colorado Springs. But Monday, the board of trustees for the ProRodeo Hall of Fame voted unanimously to stay in Colorado Springs, prompting the association board to vote Tuesday to suspend its decision to relocate. "The state is withdrawing the offer, and the deal is now off the table," said Jon Goldstein, spokesman for Bill Richardson, New Mexico's governor. The news was greeted with relief at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. "Everyone is pretty happy about it," said Larry McCormack, executive director for the museum. "I wanted it to stay here all along. We'll just keep doing what we're doing." In February, Richardson announced that the PRCA's headquarters and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, both of which had been in Colorado Springs since 1979, would be relocating to Albuquerque. The move would bring 85 full-time jobs, a $3.35 million payroll and about 50,000 annual visitors to New Mexico. However, the decision to relocate came as a surprise to the trustees for the museum....

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Dog fight The Colorado Division of Wildlife last month asked the Colorado Wildlife Commission to ban prairie dog hunting on public land from March 1 to May 31. The DOW proposal is aimed at protecting prairie dog mothers while they have dependent pups, DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said. "If you hunt during that period and the females have dependent young, the dependent young often die, as well," Hampton said. Under current law, hunters on the Western Slope can kill prairie dogs year-round with no limits. Moffat County commissioners on Tuesday signed a letter to the Wildlife Commission saying they oppose limiting prairie dog hunting. The Moffat County Land Use Board, a residents group that advises county commissioners on natural resource issues, also strongly opposes the DOW proposal, Comstock said....
5,000 acres in Catron County protected Some 5,000 acres of the Horse Springs Ranch in Catron County and a vital wildlife corridor that it provides are being protected under a new conservation easement. The easement was arranged by The Trust for Public Land and will protect property at the heart of the 16,000-acre ranch in southern New Mexico, the trust and its partners announced Tuesday. The easement will let rancher Jay Platt and his family work the land, but will protect it from development in the future. The easement was funded with $2.7 million from the state-administered, federally funded Forest Legacy Program and a $900,000 grant from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "Some of the things that made this ranch desirable to the Forest Legacy Program the wildlife, the water, the forests are the things that make me love ranching it, and make me proud to one day pass it on to my sons," Platt said....
Army Could Condemn Land For Pinon Site Expansion Army officials said they haven't ruled out the possibility of condemning private land to expand its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site training grounds in southeastern Colorado. The Army has said it's seeking an additional 418,000 acres to expand the site near La Junta. In a letter to Democratic Congressman John Salazar, Assistant Army Secretary Keith Eastin said the Army might turn to eminent domain as a last resort. Salazar said that's discouraging because officials at the Army's Fort Carson near Colorado Springs have said they were interested only in buying land from willing sellers. Salazar said he will support farmers and ranchers who oppose using condemnation for the expansion and do what he can to prevent it. Several ranchers around the 240,000-acre site have called the Army's expansion plan a land grab. About 400 landowners attended a meeting last Saturday in Pueblo to oppose it....
Author claims first traverse of Comb Ridge These days, when thousands of weekend warriors hike the Appalachian or Continental Divide trails every summer, it seems nearly impossible that there could be a 120-mile long geographic feature in the United States left largely unexplored as late as two years ago. But there is. Or was. And if you drive from Durango to Lake Powell through Blanding, Utah, the highway cuts right through it. The sandstone outcrop named the Comb Ridge rises from the desert on the Navajo Nation near Kayenta, Ariz. and bulges eastward before sweeping north to Blanding more than 100 miles away. The 600-foot-high anomaly slopes gradually up from scrub cedar and piƱon to the east, peaks in dramatic fashion in sharp sandstone formations, and drops in sheer cliffs and overhangs on its western face. The first full-length traverse of this unique knife-edge curve, the subject of David Roberts' Sandstone Spine, took place during 18 days in September 2004. Granted, two and a half weeks of hiking through dry washes and over slick cap rock - even with an 80 pound pack and without a single mile of trail to go by - doesn't amount to a major assault on Everest, or even Denali. But Roberts' story of this adventure with two mountaineering and climbing friends, Greg Child and Vaughn Hadenfeldt, squeezes in enough history and culture to compensate....
Salazar calls for inquiry into Wolf Creek project Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., called for a federal probe into whether political influence played a role in the government's review of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek Project. Salazar, speaking to reporters on a conference call, said a former top U.S. Forest Service official has alleged improper political influence and flaws with the way the agency handled an environmental analysis of a development that could house as many as 10,000 people. Ed Ryberg, who retired recently as head of the Forest Service's winter sports program, "believes there was improper political influence," Salazar said. "If that is so, that is wrong," Salazar said. "The only way you get to the bottom of the allegations is if you have an investigation. An investigation is in fact warranted." The Forest Service's review of the Wolf Creek application focused on road access to the village rather than on the overall environmental impact of the development. The agency ruled in April that Texas billionaire and developer Red McCombs must build two routes to his 287-acre village. Bob Honts, chief executive of the Village at Wolf Creek, reacted to Salazar's call for an inquiry by saying: "We followed the appropriate process. I think you're going to find that everything was done the way it was supposed to be done."....
Ex-BLM firefighter's confession allowed in Nevada arson case An ex-firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management says federal agents coerced him into confessing to starting three wildfires in Nevada, but a judge ruled prosecutors can use the admission at his arson trial next month. Mark E. Morgan, 34, had been scheduled to go to trial in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, but lawyers for both sides asked for a delay until June 20 because they are working toward a plea agreement that would include restitution. Investigators allege Morgan started the fires that burned hundreds of acres of national forest land last August because he was bored and needed the money, according to court documents. After repeatedly denying any role, the Reno resident eventually admitted in December that he started two of the fires with a cigarette lighter and the third with a flare gun, which he disposed of in the city dump, according to a transcript obtained by The Associated Press....
Arizona Snowbowl Snowmaking Controversy Continues What do you get when you combine a desert-dwelling ski resort, a sacred mountain range, and proposals to use reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking? If you’re thinking a huge community controversy spanning four years (and counting), over 20 environmentalist and tribal groups, and endless days spent in courtrooms, then you’re right on target. In 2002, Arizona Snowbowl, located about seven miles northwest of Flagstaff, announced plans for resort improvements—including snowmaking—in response to short seasons with little snowfall. Case in point, during the 2001-02 season the resort was open for only four days due to a combined 87 inches of precious white stuff. And although the skies graciously dumped on the resort during the next few seasons, the 2005-06 winter again only allowed a measly 15 days of operation. So what do you do if nature won’t willingly give you snow? You make it. However, Snowbowl’s idea for snowmaking is spraying effluent from a local wastewater treatment plant across 205 of its 777 skiable acres—land that is considered sacred by Native Americans, thus beginning the long journey through the wonderfully complex (not to mention lengthy) world of environmental impact assessments, public comment, and legal battles....
Critics see Tongass as waste of U.S. funds Critics of the government's logging policy in Southeast Alaska are pressing an amendment in the U.S. House that would prohibit government spending to build logging roads in the Tongass National Forest. Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., one of the amendment sponsors, told reporters Monday the Tongass logging program loses an average of $40 million a year. "The taxpayers I represent are investors in the U.S. government," he said. From their perspective, he said, the Tongass is a loser: The government is spending more to build logging roads and administer the logging program than it is receiving from timber sales. "You've got an enormous waste of money," Andrews said. "You've got a policy that makes no sense from the point of view of the environment." He has joined forces with Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, on an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill that could be up for debate on the House floor later this week. Their efforts are backed by a diverse coalition that includes Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Alaska Coalition and other environmental groups....
Rare frogs die from bacterial infection Seven endangered frogs rescued from an Inland mountain creek following the devastating 2003 wildfires for fear looming floods would wipe them out died of a bacterial infection at the Wild Animal Park in Escondido, a veterinary pathologist said Tuesday. The deaths last month of the mountain yellow-legged frogs were a major setback for the amphibian that is nearing extinction, leaving federal and state biologists to consider how best to keep the species going. "There are so few frogs and in so few places, we could end up losing them all together," said Kathie Meyer, a wildlife biologist with the San Bernardino National Forest who helped rescue the frogs. Adam Backlin, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, estimated that 200 frogs remain across the San Bernardino, San Jacinto and San Gabriel mountains, making them one of the Inland region's most endangered species. He and Meyer said a captive breeding program -- a rare step that was undertaken with the California condor -- is still on the table, in which tadpoles or juveniles would be captured in the wild....
Western gray squirrel fails to get federal protection The federal government snubbed the western gray squirrel for endangered species status, but Washington state is outlining plans to save the three remaining pockets of the native tree squirrel in Washington from extinction. The western gray squirrel has been listed as a threatened species in Washington since 1993, when surveys indicated a decline in its populations in its traditional territory. The exact number remaining in the state is unknown. The most recent surveys counted 281 squirrels. State law prohibits killing them or destroying their nests. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife released its recovery plan this month for saving the animals from extinction. The plan calls for improving known habitat, importing squirrels from other areas for genetic diversity and capturing and treating the elusive animals for mange, a skin disease caused by parasitic mites. The state also plans to work with private land owners and other government agencies to protect squirrels from disturbance from logging operations and road building....
Carp in Utah Lake pose health risk for humans The millions of carp causing problems for Utah Lake's native fish also may pose a health threat to humans. Elevated PCB levels have been found in carp collected from the lake, leading state and Utah County officials Tuesday to issue a fish-consumption advisory. The Utah Department of Health recommends that adults eat no more than one 8-ounce serving of carp from the lake per month. The fish should not be consumed by children, pregnant and nursing women, or women who may become pregnant. The advisory will be posted on signs at access points to Utah Lake. PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls — are man-made chemicals that were used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment, said John Whitehead, a hydrologist in the state Department of Environmental Quality. They're also "probable human carcinogens," according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and can cause harmful health effects such as reduced ability to fight infections, low birth weights and learning problems. "They're not really known to cause cancer in humans, but they can cause cancer in animals," said Jason Scholl, a toxicologist with the state health department. Those cases were the result of prolonged exposure to PCBs, Scholl said. PCB levels detected in the carp from Utah Lake were below EPA screening levels for non-cancer effects, he said, meaning the health risks from eating the fish are minimal....
Grizzly-Polar Bear Hybrid Found -- But What Does It Mean? The animal confirmed last week to be half polar bear, half grizzly bear is certainly weird, scientists say, but he's not necessarily a symbol of global warming or anything else. Last week, DNA analysis confirmed that the bear's father was a grizzly and his mother was a polar bear. The bear's white fur was interspersed with brown patches. He also had long claws, a concave facial profile, and a humped back—all grizzly characteristics. "It's of interest because it's rare, but that's kind of it," said Rosa Meehan, the chief of marine mammal management with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, Alaska. "I don't think there's more to it than that." Meehan is overseeing a review of how changing environmental conditions in the Arctic are affecting polar bears. The study aims to determine whether the animals warrant federal protection in the U.S. as an endangered species....
Center for Biological Diversity Takes First Step In Lawsuit to Protect Two Native Southwest Fish Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for illegally denying protection to the roundtail and headwater chubs under the Endangered Species Act. In denying protection for the two fish on May 3, 2006, FWS did not find the two species are safe from extinction, but instead denied protection based on technical grounds. FWS determined that the population of roundtail chub in the lower Colorado River Basin is not significant to the species as a whole, and that listing the headwater chub is warranted but precluded by higher priority actions. “The Bush administration has the worst record of protecting the nation’s wildlife of any modern presidency and will go to any length to avoid protecting the nation’s wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, Conservation Biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The roundtail and headwater chubs need the safety net of the Endangered Species Act, not political shenanigans by the Bush administration.” The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal scientific petition to gain protection for the two chubs in April 2003, documenting a precipitous decline in both species....
Case to Protect Hundreds of Wildlife Species Nationwide Moves Forward Judge Gladys Kessler ruled this week that the Center for Biological Diversity, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and Forest Guardians can proceed in a federal lawsuit that charges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) with unlawfully delaying protection for 263 wildlife species. All 263 species are currently listed as candidates for protection as threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, meaning FWS concedes they are sufficiently endangered to warrant protection, but such protection is precluded by work to protect other species. To date, at least 24 candidate species have gone extinct while waiting for protection. "The court's ruling is a victory for the nation's wildlife, bringing literally hundreds of plants and animals one step closer to the protection they need to avoid extinction," stated Noah Greenwald, Conservation Biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity. The Endangered Species Act allows FWS to declare species' protection "warranted but precluded" as it did in the case of these candidate species, but it must demonstrate that it is making "expeditious progress" in protecting other species that are of a higher priority. However, despite an increasing budget for listing, the Bush administration has protected the fewest number of species of any administration since the Act was passed....
BLM's oil, gas lease sale rakes in $54M The Bureau of Land Management's Utah office reaped record-setting revenues from its oil and gas lease sale on Tuesday. The BLM sold leases on 262 parcels for just over $54 million during the day-long auction at its Gateway offices in downtown Salt Lake City, nearly doubling the previous high of $28 million, set in September of 2004. "We had a lot of interest, a lot of spirited bidding," BLM spokeswoman Lola Bird said. That interest was apparent by the fact that the agency sold leases on the bulk of the 295 parcels that were originally offered up - which translated into 392,000 acres out of 438,000 offered. The highest bid was $3,000 per acre. But the sale also underscored that this was perhaps the most controversial energy lease auction the Utah BLM has staged. Nearly $30 million was generated off the sale of parcels that previously had been protested by conservation and outdoor recreation groups. Tuesday's largest single parcel sale, a 1,875-acre tract which went for $3.7 million, was a protested parcel in Carbon County....
Proposals could let nuclear wastes in Utah Utah could see a few forms of nuclear waste come to the state if plans discussed at a Senate hearing Tuesday move ahead. Approval of a federal interim storage facility for commercial nuclear fuel could move fuel rods to the Private Fuel Storage site on the Skull Valley Goshute Indian reservation — and a plan to recycle nuclear waste could make additional waste eligible to be stored at EnergySolutions' facilities. Neither idea has been approved nor given money to proceed just yet, but Congress has options to make either proposal work. At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday, Paul Golan, the government's top Yucca Mountain official, said "the department continues to have an open mind on interim storage." He said the department does not believe it has the authority under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 — the law that guides the government's plan to store nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas — to move ahead with interim storage, but if Congress allowed it, the department would be open to the discussion. "Interim storage is less important than moving Yucca Mountain forward, but we understand that the commercial utilities are running in to a storage situation." Golan said....
Feds OK St. George airport After a decade of review, the Federal Aviation Administration has determined that a new airport near St. George could result in slightly more aircraft noise but won't substantially disturb the serenity at Zion National Park. The decision, in a new environmental impact statement from the FAA, overcomes a major obstacle for the city's airport plan and puts the project on the verge of winning final approval. It also comes despite previous objections from the Grand Canyon Trust, which prevailed in a 2002 lawsuit that claimed the FAA had failed to fully consider noise impacts over Zion National Park and forced the agency back for more study. "It's been over 10 years for us in this process. There's been about $4 million spent, so this is the most comprehensive airport environmental study ever done in the nation," said Larry Bulloch, public works director for St. George. "We feel it has met everyone's needs." According to the FAA analysis, Zion National Park could actually end up quieter overall if the new airport is built. That is because larger jets would be able to land at the new airport, replacing the current smaller, propeller-driven planes. More passengers could travel on fewer flights. In addition, the jets would travel faster, so they would be over the park for a shorter period of time....
Wooly workmanship A sweaty man emerges from a plywood trailer. He is bent at the waist, like a wrestler posed for the start of a match. Wyoming prairie dust swirls in the air around him as he makes his way to a camper trailer for lunch. His fingers are wrapped with tape and smeared with lanolin. The buzz of shearing tools has silenced for an hour, and the wind dominates the ear. After a cold drink and a sandwich, work will begin again. Claudio Pereira, 31, is one of a crew of seven sheep shearers from Uruguay, hired to clip the wool from about 3,500 sheep at Bill Taliaferro’s ranch northwest of Rock Springs. Taliaferro runs the ranch, Green River Livestock, with his family. It takes three 11-hour days for the shearers to complete the task. The men work for Fairchild Shearing of Buhl, Idaho. The Fairchilds and their three shearing crews of Australians, New Zealanders, Uruguayans, and a handful of Americans, travel from February to June and then again from September to November. These crews will see the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming before their work is done....
Doctor Proctor making his name known among cowboys The first time he displayed his power and prowess, summarily ejecting a would-be rider in Rod Chumley's practice arena, the bull they called K24 got a reputation. "The first time he bucked," says Steve Katich, the Ferry County rancher who raised him, "you knew he was a superstar." The first time he came out of a bucking chute in competition, the bull they called K24 got a name. "Somebody get a doc for Proctor!" people shouted, with the bull's would-be rider, an up-and-comer named Shane Proctor, lying unconscious on the arena floor. Hmm ... Doctor Proctor, thought Chumley, a Wenas-area rancher and one of the bull's owners. That's got a nice ring to it. The first time he got under the bright lights in Las Vegas, at October's 2005 Professional Bull Riders finals, the bull they now called Doctor Proctor let the tour's rookie of the year, Kody Lostroh, stay aboard for all of 4.3 seconds. A month ago, Lostroh got his rematch ... and couldn't even stay on for two seconds. "About a jump and a half," grins Lostroh, one of the top 20 riders in the PBR's premier tour, the Built Ford Tough Series. "Both times I been on him, he jerked the rope outta my hands. Gotta be a pretty strong bull to do that."....

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

FLE

FCC commissioner calls for probe of phone companies working with NSA

The Federal Communications Commission should investigate whether phone companies are violating federal communications law by providing calling records to the National Security Agency as part of an anti-terrorism program, an FCC commissioner said Monday. ``There is no doubt that protecting the security of the American people is our government's No. 1 responsibility,'' Commissioner Michael J. Copps, a Democrat, said in a statement. ``But in a digital age where collecting, distributing and manipulating consumers' personal information is as easy as a click of a button, the privacy of our citizens must still matter.'' USA Today reported last week that AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. began turning over tens of millions of phone records to the NSA after the spy agency requested the records shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The paper reported that the NSA is building a massive call databank to analyze calling patterns. The telecommunications company Qwest said it refused to cooperate with the NSA after determining that doing so would violate privacy law. An FCC investigation, if undertaken, would be the second attempt this year by the government to explore an aspect of an NSA program. The Justice Department sought to investigate the role of its lawyers in the warrantless eavesdropping program, but it ended the inquiry last week because its lawyers were denied security clearances....

BellSouth denies giving information to National Security Agency

BellSouth said in a statement that it doesn't contract with the National Security Agency to supply customer calling information. "As a result of media reports that BellSouth provided massive amounts of customer calling information under a contract with the NSA," it said Monday, "the company conducted an internal review to determine the facts. Based on our review to date, we have confirmed no such contract exists and we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA." USA TODAY first contacted BellSouth five weeks ago in reporting the story on the NSA's program. The night before the story was published, USA TODAY described the story in detail to BellSouth, and the company did not challenge the newspaper's account. The company did issue a statement, saying: "BellSouth does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority." In an interview Monday, BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher said the company was not asking for a correction from USA TODAY. Asked to define "bulk customer calling records," Battcher said: "We are not providing any information to the NSA, period." He said he did not know whether BellSouth had a contract with the Department of Defense, which oversees the NSA....

FBI Acknowledges: Journalists Phone Records are Fair Game

The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reporters' phone records in leak investigations. "It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration," said a senior federal official. The acknowledgement followed our blotter item that ABC News reporters had been warned by a federal source that the government knew who we were calling. The official said our blotter item was wrong to suggest that ABC News phone calls were being "tracked." "Think of it more as backtracking," said a senior federal official. But FBI officials did not deny that phone records of ABC News, the New York Times and the Washington Post had been sought as part of a investigation of leaks at the CIA. In a statement, the FBI press office said its leak investigations begin with the examination of government phone records. Officials say that means that phone records of reporters will be sought if government records are not sufficient. Officials say the FBI makes extensive use of a new provision of the Patriot Act which allows agents to seek information with what are called National Security Letters (NSL). The NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government....
NEWS ROUNDUP

Energy development called a threat to U.S. natural, cultural resources The federal government's rush to develop energy on millions of acres of federal land in the West is leaving vast natural and cultural resources languishing, the head of the National Trust for Historic Preservation says. Richard Moe, head of the National Trust, said the nation is in danger of losing a critical part of its heritage as archaeological sites and artifacts in such places as Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients and Utah's Nine Mile Canyon lie undocumented and unprotected. The misnamed Nine Mile Canyon stretches for 75 miles from around Price to Myton, Duchesne County. According to Jerry Spangler, an Ogden archaeologist who is now the director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, a 45-mile section hosts many examples of ancient Indian rock art. Tens of thousands of rock art images are in Nine Mile Canyon, he said. About 1,000 archaeological sites with rock art, granaries or other cultural resources have been documented, Spangler added, "and we estimate that that represents only about 10 percent of the total." In a report to be released today, the National Trust says only 17 million acres of the 262 million acres that the Bureau of Land Management oversees in 12 Western states have been surveyed to identify cultural resources....
Park Service, locals at odds over road's fate The National Park Service has proposed turning a washed-out road in north-central Washington's upper Stehekin Valley into a trail for hikers and horseback riders, but the idea is meeting opposition from residents of the rural community. Stehekin sits at the end of Lake Chelan, accessible by boat, floatplane or on foot. The community is surrounded by wilderness area, the North Cascades National Park and U.S. Forest Service land. The 23-mile Stehekin Valley Road leads away from the lake into the national park, but parts of it have been impassable for months. The Park Service made the lower 12 miles accessible to vehicles, but the upper 11 miles remain closed....
Gila plans to use herbicide to kill salt cedar The Gila National Forest plans to use a herbicide to kill salt cedar along the Gila River of southwestern New Mexico. The U.S. Forest Service has been illing salt cedars, also known as tamarisk, with Darlon 3A for several years in the San Francisco River drainage, and decided to expand the program to three forks of the Gila River. Salt cedars, which are not a native plant, crowd out cottonwoods, willows, alders and other native vegetation. "They really take a lot of water," said Don Luhrsen, a wildlife specialist with the Gila National Forest. "They also produce salt, which makes the area too saline for other plants." The proposal would pull out, roots and all, those salt cedars that have trunks less than 2 inches in diameter, Luhrsen said. Crews would cut down larger ones and paint the chemical on the stump. No spraying is planned....
Owl decision is delayed until June 2 The pygmy owl will stay "delisted" at least until June 2, a federal judge decided Monday. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton declined environmentalists' requests to put a temporary hold on the federal government's mid-April decision to remove the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl from the endangered-species list. Bolton set a June 2 hearing here on a request from the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife for an injunction blocking the delisting for a longer period. Bolton's reasoning was that environmentalists couldn't prove that any new development in owl habitat is imminent. Six developments — four on the Northwest Side, one near Sahuarita and one near Apache Junction — have all been freed from federal reviews of their effects on the owl by the delisting. But they still must get their federal Army Corps of Engineers permits processed....
Debate: Are Ariz. owls a distinct subspecies? Research that suggested splitting pygmy owls in Southern Arizona, south Texas and Mexico into separate subspecies will be a key point at today's hearing on the future of the Arizona owls' endangered status. Environmental groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will argue over whether the Arizona birds represent a significant portion of the entire range of pygmy owls and deserve protection as an endangered species. One issue is whether Arizona's owls are genetically different from those in Mexico. Glenn Proudfoot, a veteran pygmy owl researcher, told the service in a written comment last fall that the pygmy owls in Southern Arizona and the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa are genetically separate from those in other parts of Mexico, and that those in Arizona and northern Sonora appear to have been separated from those in Sinaloa for some time. Given that, the birds in Arizona and Sonora should be managed distinctly from the others, he said....
Green groups see red over Pombo Web site The long-simmering stew between national environmental groups and Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, has spilled onto the powerful House committee chairman's Web site. Environmentalists contend Pombo is improperly torching his political adversaries and spreading lies on the committee's taxpayer-funded Web pages. "Propaganda is legal," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, "but the taxpayers shouldn't be paying for it." Pombo argues that his sites -- one titled "Earth Day" and a second focused on reforms of the Endangered Species Act -- shine light on eco-myths and the fund-raising machine behind a movement that spends millions of dollars to block environmental policy reforms. "It's all part of the policy debate," Pombo said. "Hey, these groups can't scream that my site is political and turn around and say their stuff is educational. They can't have it both ways."....
Lined up, ready to fight In anticipation of what could be one of Arizona's worst fire seasons, federal and state agencies have positioned small air tankers throughout the state. At least 14 single-engine AT-802s are in place from Marana to Show Low, waiting for the call. Fred Mascher, Arizona State Land Department single-engine air-tanker manager, said the versatile firefighting planes are at strategic locations and readied a month earlier than last year. "The potential for wildfire is catastrophic this year," Mascher said. The concern is over extremely dry vegetation caused by a record winter drought. In most years, at least some pockets of Arizona get enough rain to lessen fire risk, but this fire season, every inch of the state is susceptible to wildfires....
Groups say BLM can do better Two oil and gas lease sales in Colorado and Utah this month are examples of how the Bush administration's focus on oil and gas is opening hundreds of thousands of acres to drilling at the expense of fish and wildlife habitat, said Brian O'Donnell, director of Trout Unlimited's public lands initiative. An auction in Utah today will be the largest government lease sale in state history. Another in Colorado last week was one of the largest on record there. Both push into sensitive lands, including habitat for endangered ferrets in Colorado and parcels in Utah known for Indian rock art and scenic views. The Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the Interior Department, is responsible for managing energy and mineral rights, wilderness, wildlife habitat and historical and archaeological sites on millions of acres of public lands, mostly in the West. Hunting and fishing groups say energy development shouldn't be the BLM's dominant activity. But while President Bush's proposed 2007 budget asks for $25.4 million in new money for the oil and gas program, including $9.2 million to expedite energy permits, it seeks no increase for caring for riverbanks and other wildlife habitat, they say....
Ex-interior secretary urges activism A former U.S. cabinet member on Sunday gave a cautiously optimistic prognosis for the future of the West, and of the nation’s changing political winds, at a conference in Aspen. But Bruce Babbitt, a former U.S. secretary of the interior, dashed any presidential hopes his fans might have had when asked if there was any chance he would be running to replace George W. Bush in 2008. He was the final speaker at the Sopris Foundation’s weekend conference, “Innovative Ideas for a New West,” which drew speakers from around the nation and the world to the Aspen Institute campus. Babbitt called the conference an “extraordinary Western enterprise,” which he deemed critical to revitalizing political momentum among a segment of the population somewhat demoralized by Bush administration policies, including efforts to sell off an increasing amount of public lands and to expand energy exploration throughout the West and along the coasts....
Az man 1 of 5 indicted for ecoterrorism in Washington A new grand jury indictment returned Thursday alleges that five people were behind the firebombing of the University of Washington's horticulture center in May 2001. Only one of the five, Briana Waters of Berkeley, Calif., had previously been indicted in the case. The new indictment in U.S. District Court in Seattle also named Justin Solondz, 26, formerly of Jefferson County, Wash., and William C. Rodgers, of Prescott, Ariz., who committed suicide in jail after being charged with other acts of ecoterrorism. Two others referred to in the indictment were not identified. The UW fire, one of the Northwest's most notorious acts of ecoterrorism, was set early on May 21, 2001. The horticulture center, which was rebuilt at a cost of about $7 million, had done work on fast-growing hybrid poplars in hopes of limiting the amount of natural forests that timber companies log. The Earth Liberation Front, a shadowy collection of environmental activists, claimed responsibility five days after the fire, issuing a statement that said the poplars pose "an ecological nightmare" for the diversity of native forests....
Utah campground closed because of plague A campground at Natural Bridges National Monument has been closed because of bubonic plague detected among field mice and chipmunks. Plague also has been found this spring in rodent populations at Mesa Verde National Park and Colorado National Monument. National Park Service officials said there never has been a reported human case of bubonic plague originating from the parks or national monuments. "We come down on the conservative side when it comes to closing campgrounds," said Joe Winkelmaier of the U.S. Public Health Service. "We just like to be sure when it comes to plague." Several weeks ago, park rangers noticed a large number of dead field mice at Natural Bridges, about 40 miles west of Blanding. Chief Ranger Ralph Jones showed that tests indicated they died from the plague....
Elk keep aspens from thriving A bundle of scraggly, decrepit sticks poked out of the ground alongside Bear Lake Road. Therese Johnson, a Rocky Mountain National Park biologist, crunched through the dead winter grass to examine the branches. “This aspen is dead,” she said. The sticks never grew to become a full-fledged aspen tree. Their roots could be a decade or more old, but they never grew taller than a couple of feet, Johnson said. Elk have gnawed the branches repeatedly, keeping the tree from thriving. Nearby, taller aspen show the teeth marks of elk — dark gouges in the trunks about 6 feet from the ground. The holes could leave the trees vulnerable to fungal diseases, but that isn’t what worries park employees the most. Around Johnson’s ankles, tiny twigs shoot up from the soil. They should become young trees that replace the older, dying aspen, but their ends have been nibbled by elk. Without natural predators or hunters to keep them moving, the park’s elk herd has grown to as many as 3,000 animals and tends to stay in the same spots, Johnson said....
Historian's DVD shows the Glen Canyon of old W.L. "Bud" Rusho liked Glen Canyon Dam. But while he worked to document the dam construction in the 1950s and early '60s, in his words, "I fell in love" with the amazing southern Utah canyon that the dam eventually drowned. Glen Canyon Dam is seen under construction in 1963, with the Colorado River starting to back up behind it. Last week Rusho released "Glen Canyon Remembered," a DVD that provides a haunting glimpse of the canyons that have been lost beneath the waters of Lake Powell. Running one hour, 10 minutes, with extras such as a historic film, the DVD is available at Ken Sanders Rare Books, 268 S. 200 East. Besides the lore of the river and the beauty of the vanished canyons, the DVD provides stories about the massive archaeological salvage project that attempted to save some of the region's prehistoric treasures. It describes the history of the region, including John Wesley Powell's two explorations; surveys for railroads and dam sites; the "discovery" of Rainbow Bridge, which had been known to Indians in the area; ill-fated gold dredging; river-running; early filmmaking in the canyon; and the mysterious disappearance of the young artist Everett Ruess....
Supreme Court favors state in water dispute over dams Maine won a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday upholding its water regulations such as requiring fish passage as part of federal licensing of dams. The paper company S.D. Warren had argued that the state had no business meddling in licenses of five dams along the Presumpscot River between Sebago Lake and Portland because water simply backed up behind the hydropower dams and spilled over its turbines without pollution being added. But the state Board of Environmental Protection decided the dams provided a "discharge," qualifying for regulations under the Clean Water Act because of the changes in water flow, temperature and oxygen level. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court agreed. The Supreme Court case was the first heard by Justice Samuel Alito and among those heard in the first term of Chief Justice John Roberts, who had each been criticized by environmentalists for past opinions. But the court voted 9-0 in favor of state regulation....
High court accepts Duke pollution case The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to use a lawsuit against Duke Energy Corp. to consider giving federal regulators and environmentalists more power to force pollution reductions. Justices next fall will take up a lower court decision that said power plants don't need permission to release more pollutants into the air when modernizing to run for longer hours. Charlotte-based Duke was sued over improvements at eight plants in the Carolinas. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said that although the plants would operate more hours and pollute more each year, the hourly rate of emissions wouldn't increase. The dispute may affect pending suits that raise similar issues, including cases against Duke's new Cinergy unit and American Electric Power Co., according to a brief filed by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on behalf of 14 states and the District of Columbia. "In the 4th Circuit and wherever else the decision is applied, sources of pollution will be able to undertake physical changes that increase actual annual emissions without any scrutiny," Spitzer's brief argued. The suit was filed by the federal government in December 2000, just before President Clinton left office. The Bush administration pressed ahead at the lower court levels, but urged the Supreme Court not to review the 4th Circuit ruling....
Column: How to Think Sensibly, or Ridiculously, about Global Warming The crusade to fight global warming with tough reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions has entered its war-room phase. Already we are seeing the fruits of a multi-million dollar PR campaign: lavish cover stories in Time magazine (“Be Worried, Be Very Worried”), Vanity Fair, and Wired; multiple global-warming scare specials on PBS, HBO, and the network news; and, finally, the imminent release of Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Soon the Ad Council will begin airing TV spots pulling on the usual heartstrings: We have to stop global warming for the children! One of these ads--featuring a montage of kids counting down “tick, tick, tick”--is reminiscent of the infamous 1964 anti-Goldwater ad. Unfortunately, the green warriors substitute propaganda for persuasion, insist that there is no debate about the science of climate change, and demonize any scientist who dares dissent from their views. They advocate putting the U.S. and the world on an energy starvation diet, to the exclusion of a wider and more moderate range of precautions that might be taken against global warming. Underlying this effort is a sense of panic over two things: the collapse of the Kyoto Protocol, and frequent polls showing that Americans aren’t buying into global-warming alarmism. The latest Gallup poll on environmental issues found that only 36 percent of Americans say they “worry a great deal about global warming”--a number that has hardly budged in years. Global warming, Gallup’s environmental-opinion analyst Riley Dunlap wrote, puts people to sleep. Even among those who tell pollsters that the environment is their main public-policy concern (who are usually less than 5 percent of all Americans), global warming ranks lower than air and water quality, toxic waste, and land conservation....
Biotech causes uproar with diarrhea treatment A tiny biosciences company is developing a promising drug to fight diarrhea, a scourge among babies in the developing world, but it has made an astonishing number of powerful enemies because it grows the experimental drug in rice genetically engineered with a human gene. Environmental groups, corporate food interests and thousands of farmers across the country have succeeded in chasing Ventria Bioscience's rice farms out of two states. And critics continue to complain that Ventria is recklessly plowing ahead with a mostly untested technology that threatens the safety of conventional crops grown for food. "We just want them to go away," said Bob Papanos of the U.S. Rice Producers Association. "This little company could cause major problems." Ventria, with 16 employees, practices "biopharming," the most contentious segment of agricultural biotechnology because its adherents essentially operate open-air drug factories by splicing human genes into crops to produce proteins that can be turned into medicines. Ventria's rice produces two human proteins found in mother's milk, saliva and tears, which help people hydrate and lessen the severity and duration of diarrhea attacks, a top killer of children in developing countries. But farmers, environmentalists and others fear that such medicinal crops will mix with conventional crops, making them unsafe to eat....
Tegelers hit the trail with authentic chuckwagon It's a “shootout” of sorts. But happily it simply matches the taste of chicken fried steak, beans, biscuits and apricot cobbler among friends of America's western history instead of a deadly six-shooter. There are 70 certified historic chuckwagons - along with many less-aged but authentic chuckwagon competitors - hailing from locales as far ranging as Georgia to California; and a couple from this county, Lonnie and Barbara Tegeler proudly help represent the Lone Star state's Cowboy traditions with his family's historic No. 23 Rocking T Chuckwagon. Here's a little chunk of this sturdy wagon's long/hard-working history: The Rocking T Chuckwagon has been in the Tegeler family for almost a century, originally bought by Lonnie's grandfather Herman before 1910. It was the primary mode of transportation for Herman, wife Dora and sons Raymond and Leroy - including taking corn and cotton crops from the fields, delivering cotton to the Phillipsburg cotton gin and hauling feed and supplies from “the larger community” of Kenney....