Thursday, January 29, 2004


Bush asks Congress for $760 million for 'healthy forests' The Bush administration is asking Congress for $760 million next year to remove more small trees and brush from national forests as part of a plan officials say would reduce the risk of wildfires. The amount is at least $80 million more than current spending and would allow forest managers to treat up to 4 million acres at risk of fire - an increase of about 300,000 acres over current efforts. The acreage is quadruple the amount treated in 2000, when a record 8 million acres of forest land burned. The proposal, announced Wednesday, would fully fund a law passed by Congress last fall. Most of the thinning projects - which include prescribed burns and removal of underbrush that serves as fuel for wildfires - would be focused on areas near homes and communities.... Conservative sportsmen turn against Bush But a powerful rumble of discontent is growing from what seems, at first glance, an unlikely source. Just weeks before the exemption was declared, Dale Bosworth, chief of the Forest Service, received a petition from the Northern Sportsmen Network of Juneau, Alaska. It was signed by 470 gun clubs from across the USA, 40 of them based in President Bush's home state of Texas. In places, their letter sounds like classic ''greenie'' rhetoric, calling the Tongass ''an unparalleled part of the American landscape,'' the management of which should ''err on the side of caution.'' The message, which failed to sway the Forest Service, is clear and to the point: ''We urge the Department (of Agriculture) to leave the Tongass protections intact.'' But while their agenda is similar to traditional environmentalist groups' agendas, their focus is quite different. The drive's organizer, Greg Petrich, explains, ''This isn't about the trees. What gets these clubs' attention is that the best hunting and fishing in America is threatened on land that belongs to them.''.... Montana Voters Favor Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Recovery A majority of Montana voters favor increased production of oil and natural gas in the Rocky Mountains, according to a December poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. The poll results may suggest a growing consensus among Western voters that energy production is not necessarily at odds with environmental concerns. “Montanans appear to recognize that higher incomes are key to preserving the willingness and ability to pay for higher environmental quality,” commented Richard Stroup, a senior associate of PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana. “In addition,” he noted, “many pollution control devices require the use of additional energy, so keeping energy prices reasonable will help keep the cost of pollution control down. To keep prices down, you must produce more energy.” “Ironically,” commented PERC’s Stroup, “the increase in demand has been due in part to pressure from environmental groups. They want to reduce carbon dioxide, and natural gas produces less carbon dioxide per unit of energy production than do coal and oil.”.... Rule may ban off-trail ATV riding Officials are proposing to end off-road and off-trail travel for ATVs, motorcycles and four-wheel-drives on 524,000 acres of land in the Boise National Forest in an effort to stop new “user-created” trails from being formed. The proposed rule addresses one of the four threats to national forests — unmanaged outdoor recreation — outlined recently by Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. Unofficial trail systems created by off-road vehicles in national forests have caused damage, especially to sensitive areas like wetlands, meadows and riparian areas. ATVs also spread noxious weeds when seeds get stuck to their tires. Most ATV riders wouldn´t be affected by the proposed rule because they are “very trail oriented,” said Mountain Home District Ranger Larry Tripp. “I would attribute 90 percent of this issue to occurrences during big game seasons,” he said.... Environmentalists Launch Battle for Orcas Puget Sound killer whales are among the most studied and protected animals in the world. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (search), the whales living in the Pacific Northwest inland sea can't be killed, fed or even viewed within 100 yards. But environmentalists want more, recently suing the federal government to get the whales listed under the Endangered Species Act (search) — which would allow them to file lawsuits against anyone who might impact the orcas' habitat.... National Wilderness Institute: Proposed EPA Rule Would Make Pesticide Reviews More Consistent, Help Endangered Species The National Wilderness Institute today announced support for a proposed federal rule that would make pesticide reviews more consistent, help endangered species and clear the court system of unnecessary lawsuits. The federal government is proposing to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve pesticides without requiring duplication of scientific reviews by consulting with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. This is good news for endangered species because it removes bureaucratic red tape that holds up approval of newer, better and safer pesticides. "Few people realize that habitat destruction is the No. 1 cause of species being listed on the endangered list," said Jim Streeter, the policy director at the National Wilderness Institute, an organization dedicated to using science to guide the wise management of natural resources. "Pesticides help farmers grow more food and fiber on less land, freeing up millions of acres for other uses such as wildlife habitat.".... Column, Wild About Roads: Michael Leavitt and Gale Norton Try to End Wilderness as We Know It Wilderness is not just the stuff of scenery-slick calendars or articles in outdoor adventure magazines like Outside and Men's Journal. Wilderness and roadless landscapes are the source of 80% of our nation's freshwater, our lifeblood. They are also storehouses of precious biodiversity, key to the viability and integrity of whole ecosystems. They provide critical habitat for endangered species and are the last places where we can experience the disappearing landscape that shaped our national character. And yes, they can provide spiritual solace. Unfortunately, the Bush administration dealt the system of federally protected wilderness a crippling blow in a pair of out-of-court settlements with Utah Governor Michael Leavitt, now head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The deals brokered between Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Leavitt while he was still governor were a one-two punch delivered to conservationists in a dark alley behind a federal courthouse.... Bush Declines to Issue Wetlands Regulations Responding to pressure from environmental activists and many congressional Democrats, President George W. Bush instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers not to issue new regulations interpreting the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2001 Clean Water Act decision in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (commonly referred to as SWANCC). The Clean Water Act applies to navigable interstate waterways. The federal government has in the past loosely interpreted the definition of navigable interstate waterways to include most any location subject to periodic standing water. However, the SWANCC decision held that “navigable waters” subject to the Clean Water Act do not include isolated ponds and mudflats unconnected to navigable waterways except by their potential use by migratory birds. While the decision itself was limited in scope, the Supreme Court hinted in the decision it might nullify other isolated wetlands from Clean Water Act protection if their connection to navigable interstate waters was similarly tenuous.... Parasite Infects Yukon River King Salmon A parasite that is infecting Yukon River king salmon is on the increase, leaving the fish virtually inedible with a fruity odor and ruined meat. The illness, caused by a common microorganism that targets ocean fish, was detected in about 35 percent of king salmon sampled in 2002 and 2003, said Richard Kocan, a fish pathologist overseeing a study for the federal Office of Subsistence Management. He said that's a significant increase over the number of infected fish found in 1999, 2000 and 2001.... Bison on the move: Annual migration to park borders taking shape Bison have begun moving out of Yellowstone National Park and hazing efforts have started on both the north and west sides of the park. The Montana Department of Livestock, assisted by several other agencies, hazed 18 bison Wednesday from the Madison River area back inside the park, DOL spokeswoman Karen Cooper said. "That's the first activity of any size for this season," she said, adding there were "no problems and no arrests.".... Bush reputation on environment mixed To environmentalists, George W. Bush is the archenemy. After three years in office, the president has few saving graces, as far as environmentalists are concerned. He seems bent, they say, on rolling back the nation's most important environmental rules, reversing years of progress against dirty air and water. But legions of others in business, government and everyday life say Bush deserves an "A." He has brought common sense back into environmental decision-making, and the nation's economy is better for it, they say. "The president's approach to environmental progress is predicated on the notion that economic growth is the solution, not the problem," says James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.... Mountain Lions: Tracking and Being Tracked Still, since 1890, there have been only six fatal attacks by mountain lions in California, including the most recent, out of a total of 18 in the United States and Canada. Paul Beier, professor and director of the Beier Lab of Conservation Biology and Wildlife Ecology at Northern Arizona University, has studied mountain lions for more than twenty years. He said, “To put it in perspective, more than 20 Americans are killed every year in dog attacks.”.... Top US Park Service Official Resigns over Wilderness Act Charging that the National Park Service has "accomplished relatively little in implementing either the letter or the spirit of the Wilderness Act," one of its top officials responsible for wilderness policy has resigned, according to a letter released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Enacted forty years ago this upcoming September 3, the Wilderness Act is one of the nation's premier environmental laws. As a result of the act, the National Park Service (NPS) administers some 44 million acres of wilderness spread across some 45 parks, the largest wilderness inventory on the planet. Jim Walters, a 37-year employee, retired as Wilderness program coordinator for the eight state Intermountain Region, with a stinging letter to NPS Director Fran Mainella. Even though designated and potential wilderness represent more than four-fifths (86%) of national park lands, NPS today — with Walters' departure — has only one full-time wilderness manager.... Hunters, anglers protest energy plan in Washington, D.C. “Look,” he said, “I voted for President Bush and Mr. Burns. I’m a lifelong Republican. I’m on the team. But our quarterback’s heading us the wrong way down the field. At some point, we have to change the play calling, or we have to change the quarterback.” Busse is vice president for sales at Kimber Manufacturing Inc., one of the nations leading gun manufacturers. He’s also a member of the National Rifle Association, and a lifelong card-carrying member of the GOP.... Fight looms on using land sale money for horse program in Nevada Four of Nevada's federal lawmakers said they oppose a federal plan to funnel $2.3 million from southern Nevada land sales into a financially struggling program to reduce wild horse and burro herds in Nevada and the West. But Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., the vice chairman of the House Resources Committee, said he would study the Bush administration proposal with an open mind. President Bush is set to propose in his budget next week that some profits from Bureau of Land Management land sales around Las Vegas be used to pay for rounding up and caring for some of about 38,000 free-roaming wild horses, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and an Interior Department official said Tuesday.... Duo call for study of water issues After a failed attempt to study water funding issues last year, lawmakers want to dive back in and study everything else about it. Reps. David Ure, R-Kamas, and Jim Gowans, D-Tooele, have filed HB247, a bill that would create a two-year task force to study the sticky issues of water rights and groundwater management. Rep. Mike Styler, R-Delta, has filed identical legislation under HB243. The legislation, which Ure expects to be debated before a House committee next week, seeks a $197,000 General Fund appropriation to pay for studies that would ultimately lead to a final report by 2005. Utah is facing a surfeit of water woes, explained Ure.... Study: Huge water needs loom for state by 2030 Administrators of a state-funded study said Wednesday that Colorado will need enough additional water to supply the equivalent of a new city with roughly the current population of metro Denver by 2030. The study predicted the South Platte River basin, which supplies Denver and much of northeast Colorado, will need 60 percent more water in 26 years than it has today, if growth trends hold. Residents and water experts in each of Colorado's eight river basins say coping with the shortfall could require more conservation, cooperative efforts between water interests, reuse of existing water, transferring water rights, improving or enlarging existing dams, pipelines and reservoirs, or building new ones.... Fees for water rights Colorado will soon begin collecting a new fee from farmers, utilities, cities and others with water rights to help cover operating costs for the state Division of Water Resources. Bills will be mailed out next week for the fees, which are expected to raise $1.8 million a year for the state. Agricultural water rights holders will pay $10 to $25 per right, while cities and others will pay $100 to $250.... DNA Evidence Helps Solve Cattle Rustling Cattle rustling has been around ever since there have been cows and unscrupulous cowboys, but cutting-edge DNA technology promises to change some of the old patterns. DNA testing helped convict John Baker, a Tulare County rancher accused of altering brands and documents to keep cows that he claimed had wandered into his property from neighbors' lots. "Having DNA evidence was conclusive," said William Yoshimoto, an attorney with the Tulare County District Attorney's Office and project director for the Agricultural Crime Technology Information and Operations Network. "We could try to show how the brands had been altered, but you really can't alter a cow's DNA." Baker's crime was old-fashioned, but what investigators did to prove it was unprecedented in California.... Column: COOL needs to remain a hot topic "Where's the beef" was one of the most clever TV advertising campaign lines of the past quarter-century. Today American consumers are asking, "Where's the beef from?" You could ask Congress. Unfortunately, some members are too busy producing congressional pork.... Total US cattle numbers seen at eight-year low A government report due on Friday should show the U.S. cattle herd in 2003 was the smallest in eight years and the calf crop was the smallest in 50 years as drought and prices too high to pass discouraged producers from expanding herds, livestock analysts said. "The report is expected to show that the U.S. cattle herd continued to shrink for the eighth straight year," said Bob Price, president of North America Risk Management Services. The U.S. Agriculture Department will release its semiannual cattle inventory report at 2 p.m. CST (1800 GMT) Friday. A Reuters survey of analysts produced an average estimate for U.S. cattle and calves on Jan. 1 of 95.25 million head, 99.1 percent of last year's 96.1 million head. Estimates ranged from 94.7 million to 95.8 million head, 98.5 to 99.7 percent of last year, possibly the lowest in eight years.... I've been ready for 'Dress Western Fridays' for decades -- you? Boot up. The next two Fridays are officially "Dress Western Fridays" in Fort Worth. And I have a question. When did folks in this part of Texas ever need a reminder to wear a cowboy hat? Under power of law -- or at least mayoral proclamation -- Fort Worth has been ordered to turn casual Fridays into cow-sual Fridays, turning the Stock Show into a citywide celebration for the first time, oh, probably since I posed for that photo.... Book Review: On cowboys and poetry Did you ever wonder where country music songs came from? Somebody had to write them. Somebody - maybe the writer - had to put them to music. There's plenty of poetry in a song, and chances are that a cowboy poet had a hand in your favorite country tunes. This week is the 20th anniversary of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, and to celebrate, you can read "Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion", edited and with an introduction written by Virginia Bennett (c. 2004, Gibbs Smith). Back in 1985, a group of western folklorists gathered together to share their poetry. Even the time of year was significant: the last week of January was chosen because there was a lull in ranching work. Since then, lasting friendships have been made and countless words have been shaped into poems from the heart. Author and editor Virginia Bennett writes about how the poets sent their works to her for this book. Some poems came in the mail, with hopes of the end to a draught. Others came with news of friends. Some arrived on lined notebook paper, this one with shaky handwriting, that one safety-pinned together, each poem, a piece of the person who wrote it....

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