Wednesday, October 01, 2003


Pistol-packin' citizens patrol Western parks The gray Jeep Cherokee with the large gold star on the door is just about ready to roll. Two men check the gear stowed in the back: tools, medical equipment, radios, GPS device, rappelling ropes, camera, gas mask, body armor, canisters of CS gas and pepper spray, thermos of coffee, and sandwiches. They're both wearing badges, and they both have semiautomatic pistols in black leather holsters tucked into their waistbands. A 12-gauge shotgun stands upright, clamped to the dashboard. But Paul Ehrhardt and Eric (who asks that his last name not be used) are not law-enforcement officers. They're members of the "Oregon Rangers Association," a group of civilians who've taken it upon themselves to patrol the national forests where they respond to emergencies, look for illegal activity, and make citizens' arrests if necessary...Column: Recreation fees are working A trial program allowing four federal agencies to charge for the use of certain public lands remains controversial. The program is working, though, and unless critics can come up with a better idea, there is no reason to abandon it. Supporters say the program is generating money to better maintain popular recreation areas. Critics say the program is unfair to the taxpaying public that already owns the lands and facilities affected... Groups sue Forest Service over Big Hole fire proposal The Forest Service and two environmental groups evidently don't see eye to eye on a proposal to work on portions of the Mussigbrod and Middle Fork fires that burned in 2000. And now it's going to be up to a federal judge to sort it out... Burns tries to restart timber sales A rider quietly attached to the Interior Appropriations Bill passed by the U.S. Senate last week would allow logging to resume on five timber sales stopped by an environmentalist lawsuit against the Kootenai National Forest. And salvage logging proposed by the Flathead National Forest in the wake of this summer's Robert and Wedge Canyon fires would not be subject to the normal environmental reviews under the rider shepherded by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont... St. Joe River Lands Protected under Easement Agreement for Potlatch Timberlands Potlatch Corporation (NYSE:PCH) and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) today announced completion of the first phase of a conservation easement agreement that will forever secure public access, wildlife habitat and sustainable forest management on 2,710 acres of northern Idaho's scenic St. Joe River Valley. The agreement finalized this week permanently transfers Potlatch's development rights to the land and assigns access opportunities to the public. The combined value of rights transferred to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is about $600,000. Potlatch will continue to own and manage the land for timber, using third-party certified sustainable practices that meet the nation's highest stewardship standards... Senators hammer out deal on wildfire legislation Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Wednesday announced the details of a balanced, bipartisan compromise on healthy forests legislation that he said would streamline "restorative forestry" in at-risk and unhealthy forests, yet preserve public input, protect old growth and "rein in" provisions of a bill approved earlier by the House. "This agreement provides for the first-ever statutory protection of old growth, preserves the public's right to participate, and streamlines the appeals process to eliminate some of its worst abuses," Wyden said... Burn zone trespassers risk fines, jail People cannot enter the burned areas "whether by foot, horseback or vehicle" without violating the law. Roland Giller, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said many individuals are simply violating the order, risking a $5,000 fine, six months in jail, or both. All roads and trails leading into closed areas are posted and law enforcement officers are on patrol... Editorial: New ATV rules necessary Humans can affect wildlife habitat and ecosystems just by traveling through them. Usually, though, the damage done by hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers is minimal, or at least repairable. The good news is that most of the 214 million people who visit our national forests every year are proper stewards of their public lands, leaving behind footprints that disappear and taking with them only memories that last a lifetime. That's not always the case with motorized vehicles, though. The problem is especially pernicious with all-terrain vehicles...Streamlining natural gas drilling A congressional task force Tuesday recommended the creation of a single federal agency to process the permits for natural gas drilling on federal lands. The recommendation will be incorporated in the conference draft of an energy bill that sailed through both houses of Congress earlier this year... Oregon Chosen As Setting for Wolf Lawsuit Environmental groups filed suit Wednesday challenging the federal government's decision to downgrade protection for the gray wolf, a predator being restored in parts of the United States. The federal lawsuit claims the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act in April, when it changed the gray wolf from an endangered to a threatened species, loosening restrictions on killing the animal to protect livestock. Environmentalists said they sued in Oregon in part because wolves introduced in Idaho have migrated into that state, though there have been no confirmed sightings since 2001...(I'm sure it had nothing to do with the judges there, ha!!) ...Sierra shrub not unique after all; removed from danger list A small shrub once thought to be so rare it only grew on a 280-yard stretch of flood plain along the Truckee River isn't unique after all, the government said Wednesday in removing it from the federal endangered species list...Ruling could force changes in grazing practices on Gila A federal judge's ruling on Tuesday could force changes in grazing practices on some Gila National Forest allotments. Delbert Griego, a staff officer for the Gila National Forest, said "a bunch" of allotments could be affected by the ruling. "What it's going to do is force us to reconsult with the Fish and Widlife Service on grazing allotments," said forest staffer Debby Hyde-Sato. "It could cause us to graze differently on those allotments; maybe move the cows out." Allotments affected by the ruling are "either occupied (flycatcher) habitat or areas suitable for habitat if they are restored," she explained...Fish is latest in long line of species spats Getting tired, really tired, of all the debate and legal wrangling swirling around the Rio Grande silvery minnow? You're not alone. The minnow is just the latest of dozens of endangered species throughout America that have frustrated major construction projects, anti-erosion programs for private beachfront property, huge lumbering operations and, in Albuquerque's case, unimpeded access to water during a drought...Irrigators sue over salmon recovery Two irrigators associations sued the federal government as expected Tuesday over its already legally flawed salmon recovery plan. "The simple message here is 'Judge, the hydro system is not broken. ... and try not to trip over all the fish when you're crossing the river,' " said Darryll Olsen, a consultant for both irrigator associations...Cedar River's chinook get big breakthrough For the first time in more than a century, chinook salmon are getting access to prime spawning areas on the Cedar River. Since construction of Landsburg Dam, designed to divert municipal drinking water, chinook have been barred from 17 miles of the river and its tributaries southeast of Seattle...Bears bite at musk oxen population Musk ox kills by grizzly bears in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have dramatically increased over the past decade, according to studies by federal and state biologists. A number of individual Arctic grizzlies have learned how to stalk and take down the shaggy animals, said ANWR ecologist Patricia Reynolds, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service...Bill aims to keep public trails open to pack animals Jennifer Roeser was far from her Sierra Nevada pack operation Tuesday, instead venturing onto Capitol Hill to lobby against what she considers to be unnecessary regulatory hassles. Roeser, 40, and her husband run McGee Creek Pack Station in Mammoth Lakes, one of about two dozen pack operations serving the Sierra Nevada range. Unhappy with some restrictive federal planning, the pack operators helped craft legislation introduced by Mariposa Republican George Radanovich that would make it harder to restrict the pack operations...Go here to view Radanovich's press release on this hearing and his Right To Ride bill (H.R. 2966). FWP euthanizes grizzly for killing area livestock Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks recently euthanized a grizzly bear that killed 17 sheep in the Lincoln area. The 522-pound male had a history of livestock conflicts... Conservation easement largest in state history Conservationists, Plum Creek Timber Co. and state fish and wildlife officials on Tuesday announced completion of a $34 million, seven-year effort to protect from development 142,000 acres in the Thompson and Fisher river valleys of northwestern Montana. The set-aside is the largest conservation easement in Montana history. Brokered by the Trust for Public Lands, the easement protects a wide swath of Plum Creek's commercial timberland from subdivision, but allows continued timber management and logging...Tribe acquires Mustang Ranch water rights Water rights once controlled by Nevada's notorious brothel boss Joe Conforte will go to help threatened fish, a parched river and a shrinking lake. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has acquired 461 acre-feet of water rights that were once owned by the kingpin of the Mustang Ranch bordello and will use the water to increase flows in the lower Truckee River and to Pyramid Lake, officials said Wednesday... Critics say Bush plan puts 600,000 Colorado acres at risk Critics of a new Bush administration policy say it will put 600,000 acres of Colorado wilderness at risk of damage from energy development, grazing and all-terrain vehicles. Earlier this week, the administration ordered the Bureau of Land Management to give equal consideration to the commercial value of land before setting it aside as wilderness...Off-roaders get reprieve from fees Fees scheduled to take effect today for off-roaders on 300,000 acres of public land have been put on hold indefinitely while the Bureau of Land Management weighs the need and impacts of fee-for-use programs. The more than 430,000 visitors each year to Dumont Dunes, Johnson Valley, Stoddard Valley, El Mirage and Rasor Off Highway Vehicle areas could pay as much as $20 weekly, or $60 for an annual pass... Interior Department's top lawyer resigning The Interior Department's top lawyer is resigning next month, after having been nominated to serve as a federal appeals judge and initiating an agency investigation into his own conduct over cattle grazing dealings. Williams Myers III, who as solicitor for the department provides legal opinions for Interior Secretary Gale Norton, plans to step down in mid-October to return to his home in Boise, Idaho, where his wife and children are living, department officials said... Settlement reached in Campbell County rancher lawsuit A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought by a Campbell County rancher who charged the state illegally allowed coal-bed methane water to damage his private property. "I certainly hope that other ranchers will have gained because of what has gone on in my particular case," rancher Edward Swarth said Wednesday...Ranchers look to set their land aside FROM HIS SHEEP PASTURE, Terry Rooney looks down on the growing city below and muses about the time his family might have sold its 40-acre ranch for development along the swathe of land that is now Livermore's greenbelt. With local zoning laws preventing much building in North Livermore these days, though, and a City Council bent on protecting open space, he decided to take what he could get this summer, and apply for a new federal offer that would pay him to keep grazing his land. But he was turned down. So were 25 other Alameda County ranchers. Their applications alone offered to sell 12,000 acres into easements held by the federal Department of Agriculture. That equates to more than 13 times the $1.8 million the department set aside this year to protect land in the first year of the Grassland Reserve Program...Minnow dispute simmers as Congress eyes spending The fight over Rio Grande water rights and the endangered silvery minnow will come to a head next week as House and Senate negotiators resolve differences in a spending bill for federal energy and water projects. Both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill expect Sen. Pete Domenici will succeed in his bid to insert language into one of the annual federal appropriation bills mandating that legal requirements to protect the minnow "have been met" and that water deals made by the City of Albuquerque and other governments are exempt federal court action to protect the fish's habitat...Decades-Old Water Dispute Nears Settlement An end to a decades-old water dispute among pueblos and other Pojoaque Valley water users may be in sight. Attorneys for both sides have told a federal magistrate that a final rewrite of a settlement will be done January First. The case dates all the way back to 1966. The state Engineer Office sued to determine water rights of users in the Rio Pojoaque, Rio Tesuque and Rio Nambe watersheds...Vegetarian cowboy risks Canada mad cow showdown The vegetarian cowboy, best known for spurring Oprah Winfrey to spurn burgers, rode into Canadian cattle country Wednesday to warn about the dangers of meat, despite fears of a hostile reception from cattle farmers hard hit by the mad cow scare...5 selected for Cowgirls honors The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame has selected its newest members for the Hall of Fame. The four will be inducted during the 28th annual Induction Luncheon Nov. 14 at the Round Up Inn at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. Inducted this year will be Glenna Goodacre, award-winning sculptor; Ann Secrest Hanson, all-around cowgirl and one of the first female rodeo pick-up riders; Sheila Varian, premiere Arabian horse breeder; and Velda Tindall Smith (deceased), rodeo competitor and one of the founders of the Texas Barrel Racing Association...

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