Friday, October 03, 2003


Hearing set to discuss curbing drugs in parks A joint field hearing will be held in Sequoia National Park to discuss the growing problem of illegal drug production on public land. The hearing was announced by Doug Ose, R-Sacramento, chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs. The hearing will be held jointly with the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, chaired by Rep. Mark Souder, R-Indiana...House committee approves Berners Bay land swap A House committee has approved a bill for a complicated land trade proposal that opponents fear will spoil the aesthetic and recreational value of Berners Bay, north of Juneau. The House Resources Committee approved the bill Wednesday...Rock Creek Mine appeal denied The regional office of the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula has denied an appeal from a coalition of seven environmental groups and a separate appeal by a Libby woman challenging the Kootenai National Forest's approval last June of an operating plan for the vast silver and copper mine near Noxon. "I find the Forest Supervisor has made a reasoned decision and has complied with all laws, regulations, and policy," McAllister informed the appellants. But she still got it wrong, the environmentalists said. The mine should never be built and the coalition will sue in federal court to stop the mining project and protect the public, representatives of the groups said Tuesday... Senate Republicans Act to Stabilize Public Lands Ranching U.S. ranchers grazing cattle on public lands may be seeing some relief from the current administrative backlog disrupting the cycle of grazing permits. Efforts by Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), with help from Senators Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) resulted in a provision for grazing permit protection included in the Senate fiscal 2004 Interior Appropriations bill. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) were critical in the success of the effort. The Bush Administration also provided key support for the ranchers. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) are now working with members of the House to reiterate the importance of having this provision included in the final Interior Appropriations Act...Utah Weighs Penalties for Forest Service The state is considering citing the U.S. Forest Service for air-quality violations after its prescribed burn near Heber City last week became an unruly wildfire that blanketed the Salt Lake and Utah valleys with unhealthy soot... Editorial: Forest fires misunderstood As huge wildfires raged across the West in recent years, their smoke signaled that something is drastically out of whack with our national forests. Unfortunately, the flames' true message may have been misunderstood by the public and political leaders. Most North American native forests evolved with fire and are thus well adapted to survive periodic blazes. How often wildfire should occur depends on the ecosystem. The ponderosa pines in Colorado's Front Range, for instance, should burn at least every couple of decades...Potential for bias raised on spotted-owl review The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has asked a Portland-based institute with financial ties to the timber industry to lead a scientific review of the threatened northern spotted owl - a high-stakes effort that could have far-reaching implications for the Northwest and its forests. The nonprofit group Sustainable Ecosystems Institute last year received 44 percent of its revenue - more than $270,000 - from Pacific Lumber, a California-based timber firm, according to federal tax returns. The money paid for a major study of marbled murrelets in Northern California... Conservation and animal groups want better protection for lynx Conservationists and animal protection groups contend a federal agency is failing to protect lynx in parts of Colorado and New Mexico. The groups, in a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Santa Fe, claim lynx are dying because the Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services is using poisons and other lethal means to kill carnivores such as bobcats, mountain lions, bears, coyotes and foxes...Wolf plans scrutinized Wolf management proposals by the three northern Rockies states grappling with growing wolf populations are in the hands of a panel of wolf experts which will determine if the plans will maintain the current wolf population. Wyoming, Montana and Idaho must have plans in place for managing gray wolves before a petition to take the animals off the endangered species list can be submitted to federal officials...Editorial: Adding fuel to the fire If the U.S. Senate needs a push to complete negotiations on a compromise forest management bill, here is a good one: the "Poplar" fire, now in the process of devastating nearly 8,000 acres of forest on the Grand Canyon's North Rim. Add those once-handsome acres to the 22 million scorched since the great drought-inspired woodland holocausts began in earnest in 2000. Nothing will improve in America's western forests until the rains return and Congress acts. Which form of relief arrives first remains an open question...Rio Grande Water for Sale Lion's Gate Water, a Canadian company operating in New Mexico, announced today that it has offered to sell up to 392,000 acre feet of water to the Mexican Government, specifically, the City of Juarez. "Juarez is in dire straights," said Dr. William Turner, of Lion's Gate Water. "The negotiation of international treaties for the supply of water is a never-ending process. Not only are international treaty negotiations implacable, in the post 9/11 world, there is no public funding to build the necessary infrastructure." In June 2003, Lion's Gate Water applied for all of the un-appropriated water that evaporates from the surface of Elephant Butte, Caballo, and Cochiti reservoirs in New Mexico. "This water is wasted and under the water law of the American West, this kind of waste is illegal," said Dr. Turner. In 1979, the U.S. Court of Appeals prohibited the City of Albuquerque from storing San Juan-Chama transmountain project water in Elephant Butte reservoir because the extreme waste of water in a desert environment could not be tolerated. It is locally said, 'Elephant Butte is where we spread our water to dry.' "No longer," said Dr. Turner...Endangered predators thrive in West Eight years after federal biologist Ed Bangs began reintroducing gray wolves into the northern Rockies, the wolf may be taken off the federal endangered species list within a year. Within two years, if all goes according to plan, the grizzly bear population that lives in and near Yellowstone National Park also will be taken off the list. And far to the south, National Park Service biologists Elaine Leslie and Chad Olson are eagerly awaiting a critical step in the effort to bring California condors back to the Grand Canyon area. Sometime in October, the first chick hatched in the wild in northern Arizona since the condors were reintroduced in 1996 is expected to take to the air...Audubon Bighorn sheep's existence disputed For years, it was widely accepted that the Audubon bighorn sheep was a distinct subspecies that had inhabited the river breaks and badlands of Eastern Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. But with development along the Missouri River corridor in the late 1800s, in addition to the introduction of cattle and sheep to the plains, the Audubon slowly disappeared. The last-known Audubon sheep died in the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to written records. One hundred years later, however, researchers published their findings that concluded there never was a distinct Audubon subspecies. What's more, they also ruled out another recognized subspecies in California and added a new subspecies in the Sierra Nevada mountain range... Nature Conservancy digging to regain wetland from reclaimed farmland An excavator this week was chewing a big hole in dikes constructed decades ago to create farmland on the marshy edges of Upper Klamath Lake. Soon the lake's water will spill across fields that for years served as pastureland on Goose Bay Farms. With the regained wetland, The Nature Conservancy is trying to establish new habitat for young, endangered suckers, said Leslie Bach, a hydrologist with the conservancy...Federal agency to redo habitat plan for threatened Arkansas River shiner Agricultural groups declared victory in a yearlong court battle with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency's plan to protect the Arkansas River shiner. U.S. District Judge LeRoy Hansen this week dismissed the group's lawsuit against the service after the agency agreed to jettison its policy outlining a habitat area for the pinky-sized minnow and draft a new one. The coalition of 17 agricultural and ranching groups from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and New Mexico sued last year over the agency's plans to protect the fish. The shiner has been listed as a threatened species since 1998... 4th endangered wolf found dead in 2 weeks The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the deaths of four endangered Mexican gray wolves over a two-week period. The fourth wolf, the dominant male of the Gapiwi pack, was found Sunday on a road near the northern edge of the Gila Wilderness...EPA vote blocked by Democrats Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., and his Democratic allies blocked a committee vote Wednesday on President Bush's nomination of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency in a bit of partisan theater designed to dramatize their pique with the administration's environmental policies...

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