Thursday, January 29, 2004


Environmental group wary of Bush forest-thinning plan A Wyoming-based environmental group is wary of the Bush administration's $760 million plan to remove more small trees and brush from national forests. Proponents of the plan say it would help reduce the risk of wildfires on as many as 4 million acres. News of the administration's request came as good news to local U.S. Forest Service officials, as well as a spokesman for the Black Hills National Forest timber industry.... Insect Attacks May Benefit Colo. Forests The unprecedented insect outbreak ravaging Colorado forests may eventually result in thriving hillsides of aspen, improved stream flows and attractive habitat for the lynx and showshoe hare, a new report says. A dozen species of native beetles, preying on aging, drought-stressed forests, are attacking trees from the pinon-juniper woodlands of southern Colorado to high-elevation spruce and firs, Colorado lawmakers were told on Wednesday in the state's annual forest report. "In some areas, it's a jaw-dropper," said Tom Eager, a U.S. Forest Service entomologist in Montrose. He said this level of insect activity hasn't been seen in Colorado's forests since the state was settled.... It's the Water: Where to go with river low-flow? To go with the low flow, or not to go with the low flow? That was the question posed at a town-hall meeting in Guerneville last week concerning a controversial Sonoma County Water Agency proposal to cut summertime flows in the lower reaches of the Russian River by up to 70 percent in order to help restore endangered fish populations. And for most, if not all, of the estimated 500 local business owners and residents who crowded the Veterans Memorial Building for the meeting, there was only one right answer to that question: Cutting the flow during the height of the busy summer tourist season would spell financial disaster for an area that only recently recovered from the last economic downturn. To a person, they were decidedly against going with the low-flow proposal.... Green groups lose Belize dam battle approval A coalition of environmental groups yesterday lost the latest round in their legal battle to halt the building of a dam in one of the most fragile habitats in Central America. The Privy Council, sitting in London, ruled by a majority of three to two against the Belize Alliance of Conservation Non-Governmental Organisations (Bacongo), which raised concerns about the potential dangers posed by the structure.... Column: John Ehrlichman, Environmentalist When I was young, I never imagined I would one day stand in front of 250 people and say something nice about John Ehrlichman. And yet, as a PowerPoint image of him appeared behind me on a stage last November, there I was saying, "In the Nixon White House, the most consistent advocate of environmental causes was John Ehrlichman." It was Ehrlichman's idea to create the White House post of environmental coordinator and to put Whitaker in that influential job. Ehrlichman helped Nixon see the political value in signing the National Environmental Protection Act. On other occasions, Ehrlichman exhorted the president to take actions that would "keep you out in front on the environmental issue.".... Owl halts launch pad work A grouchy momma owl is getting plenty of respect at a shuttle launch pad, where work stopped to give her babies time to hatch. The great horned owl is nesting on Pad 39A, and during a relatively quiet time, with the shuttles grounded, NASA halted painting and other refurbishment while she nurtures her three eggs. On one side of the mobile launch platform, ropes block off a stairway leading down to a landing surrounded by fuel valves. There, the owl has nestled into what is essentially a painter's dropcloth.... Wyoming natural gas growth could end Natural gas production is not expected to increase in Wyoming this year, which would end 18 years of continuous growth. "We're hoping that our forecast is going to prove to be wrong, and that we'll have an increase this year," said State Geologist Lance Cook, who serves on the state Consensus Revenue Generating Group. The group comprises state officials who make periodic predictions of state revenues based in part on trends in mineral production and prices. The group's figures are relied upon by both the executive and legislative branches for budget planning.... Dry wells blamed on CBM Last spring, the water at Richard and Allison Cole's house near Sheridan, Wyo., began to change colors. On April 10, their well sputtered and went dry. The same happened to a neighbor in July and another neighbor in September. Soon, well water for four more properties in the area could also dry up. Coalbed methane development northeast of Sheridan has lowered the water in the coal seams that feeds the wells in the Beatty Spur area. The loss of well water, along with the noise of compressors and other activity, has cast a sour note on the rural neighborhood near the Montana border where coalbed methane has become a constant presence in recent years.... Public can learn about Otero Mesa But he, his wife and their 10-year-old daughter will join other El Pasoans early Saturday morning for a free bus ride to Albuquerque to learn more about a brewing conflict over the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's plans to open the area to oil and gas exploration. Opposition to the bureau's plans for 1,875 square miles of Otero Mesa grasslands and desert mountains is coming from an odd alliance of environmentalists, ranchers and outdoor and hunting interests, said Greta Miller, an organizer with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.... Fort Belknap Indian tribe sues over gold mine pollution Tribal leaders on Fort Belknap Indian Reservation filed suit in federal court Thursday in an effort to force the cleanup of two abandoned gold mines near Malta. The tribes sued the state Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, along with the mine site's current owner, Luke Ployhar. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Helena, claims the open-pit gold mines have violated the federal Clean Water Act and that polluted water continues to flow from the mines and onto the reservation.... $5.6 million lawsuit filed in dunes case Attorneys for a 19-year-old Encinitas man filed a claim Wednesday seeking $5.6 million in damages from two U.S. Bureau of Land Management rangers, Sheriff Harold Carter and Imperial County. Brian Boyd alleges BLM rangers Ray Leloup and R.C. Magill abused their power and used excessive force on him, resulting in spinal cord injuries, during an encounter in Glamis on Nov. 2. Boyd alleges he received a beating from Leloup and Magill in what began as a misunderstanding over a recreational-use permit that Boyd possessed but the rangers thought he did not. The injuries suffered by Boyd (which included a bruised spinal cord in his neck) required him to be air-lifted to San Diego because of concerns his back was broken.... Committee questions if mountain bikes allowed in National Monument Will mountain bikes, all-terrain vehicles and other "off-roaders" eventually lose some of their privileges to recreate in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument? That was a question raised by the monument's advisory committee Tuesday during its first attempt to identify management issues in its recommendation for the monument's resource management plan. The interim guidelines state "established roads and trails will remain open to use as presently authorized." Whereas the proclamation suggests "the Secretary of the Interior shall prohibit all motorized and mechanized vehicle use off road, except for emergency or authorized administrative purposes" in the monument.... Hiring a lawyer may require hiring lawyer The decision by Kane County to hire a prominent criminal defense attorney to represent officials who uprooted road signs in a national monument was made behind closed doors, in apparent contravention of state law. The three members of the Kane County Commission approved an attorney-client agreement in October with criminal defense attorney Ron Yengich. But a review of county documents obtained through the state open records law shows the decision was not made during an open meeting. Utah's Open and Public Meetings Act prohibits elected bodies from approving contracts outside of public view, said Michael O'Brien, a media-law attorney for The Salt Lake Tribune.... Outdoor group to make pitch for protecting Utah's wilds Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) officials tried vigorously last year to convince state leaders that protecting wilderness for recreationists was important to Utah's family-oriented philosophy as well as its tax base. The OIA will present consumer-research data to support its position at Friday's opening breakfast session of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show. Running through Monday, the show is expected to attract 14,000 retailers and manufacturers of recreational gear. "Our goal is to educate the American public about the physical and emotional benefits of outdoor recreation and to remind policy-makers of their responsibility to protect and increase public lands," said OIA marketing director Dana Donley of the most extensive research ever conducted on the outdoor consumer. Utah policy-makers, in particular, are targets of the educational campaign.... 'Gun rackers' oppose energy bill Move over, soccer moms. A new political constituency of swing voters has landed on the national political radar, hoping to get the attention of a Republican administration they say is in danger of losing their loyalty. Call them the gun rack pack. A handful of outdoor enthusiasts descended on the National Press Club on Wednesday to decry the threat accelerated gas and oil development on public lands poses to the hunting and fishing culture of the rural West. In the sea of dark suits that is Beltway couture, the seven Westerners stood apart in their Roper boots, Wrangler jeans, quilted down vests, dark felt cowboy hats and Western shirts with a circular bulge of a can of smokeless tobacco in the chest pocket, secured with a pearlescent snap button. "It's time I stood up and was counted," said Wyoming outfitter Courtney Skinner of Pinedale, whose family runs one of the largest elk hunting guide businesses in Wyoming. "We have to protect the things that keep our heritage going."....Editorial: Federal land sale money Nevada's governor and both its U.S. senators oppose a Bush administration proposal to divert money from Southern Nevada federal land sales into the government's wild horse and burro program. A spokeswoman for Sen. Harry Reid points out this would mean shifting funds from "one of the most successfully managed federal government programs" into "one of the most poorly managed and ineffective programs." That's true. More important, however, is the point correctly made by Sen. John Ensign, that although a $2.3 million diversion would be "a small amount of money, we're afraid of the precedent this sets." Indeed. Once one set of federal bureaucrats are allowed to tap into the BLM land sale proceeds (which have already generated a hefty $700 million) the funds will unquestionably become an attractive target for other bureaucratic raiders.... Oil-Dri lawsuit back in court Washoe County officials violated federal law when they denied a special-use permit for a company that wanted to operate a clay mine and cat litter plant in Hungry Valley, a lawyer argued Wednesday. Oil-Dri Corp. should be awarded damages for the county commissioners’ blanket rejection of the project planned for federal and private land, lawyer Stephen Mollath told Washoe District Judge James W. Hardesty. “The county just made a colossal mistake,” Mollath said. “They listened to all the public clamor out there. That’s the problem they created for themselves.” But Roger Flynn, a lawyer for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony that opposed the project, told the judge the commission’s 2002 rejection of the permit was legal because officials believed the project was detrimental to the health and safety of the community. “If the county’s actions are reasonably based on accepted environmental protections, they pass muster” under a U.S. Supreme Court decision that established federal law on such issues, he said. Nevada’s elected officials, including county commissioners, have a say about what happens on federal land if it impacts the region, he said.... Senator seeks review on lobbying The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Ethics Committee has requested a formal review of lobbying practices in the chamber to determine whether tighter restrictions are needed. Reid has repeatedly sponsored legislation and taken other action to help real estate developers, mining companies and other large economic interests in Nevada. At the same time, three of his four sons, as well as his son-in-law were paid as lobbyists, lawyers or consultants by those interest groups.... Panel of Experts Finds That Anti-Pollution Laws Are Outdated espite three decades of progress, existing air-quality laws are inadequate to prevent pollution from threatening the environment and human health, the nation's top scientific advisory group concluded yesterday. The panel, the National Research Council of the National Academies, said it was particularly concerned about ozone, an ingredient of smog that has proved difficult to curtail, and fine soot, which has been shown to be especially harmful. State and local authorities in many polluted regions are increasingly finding that even if they control local emissions, they can end up violating federal standards because of additional pollution drifting from sources outside their jurisdiction. And even though individual smokestacks and tailpipes are generally getting cleaner as a result of clean-air laws, their numbers are growing rapidly because of economic and population growth.... New World Wildlife Fund Report Finds Wildlife and Humans at Risk from Commonly Used Chemicals Seals, whales, falcons, and polar bears are among a range of wildlife at risk from chemicals used in common consumer products, according to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) analysis of recent scientific evidence on contamination of wildlife and people. "Products we use every day contain chemicals that can have serious wildlife and human health effects," said Clifton Curtis, director of WWF's Global Toxics Program. "Mounting scientific research is documenting the extent of our exposure to these chemicals." The WWF report "Causes for Concern: Chemicals and Wildlife," highlights perfluorinated compounds, phthalates, phenolic compounds and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) as the most prominent new toxic hazards. Perfluorinated compounds are used in the production of textiles, food packaging and non-stick coatings such as Teflon, while phthalates can be found in plastics (including PVC), phenolic compounds in food cans, plastic bottles and computer shells, and BFRs in furniture and TVs. While contamination of animals and humans by harmful chemicals such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) has been widely documented, the dangers of many chemicals still on the market -- and recently studied -- are increasingly clear....Click here to see or download the report.... Environmentalists seeking specific rules for farms Federal regulators gave tentative approval Wednesday to a new cleanup plan for dust, soot and other small particles in the San Joaquin Valley's air. But an environmental law group quickly threatened to sue -- again -- if the approval is made final. An EarthJustice representative said her group is not convinced of that. "If they finalize it, definitely we will be in court again," said Anne Harper, one of the group's lawyers. She said the plan is flawed for not specifying what control measures farmers will be required to adopt to reduce dust generated by their plowing and other field operations.... Mesa Water Launches Website Mesa Water has launched an official website ( ) containing detailed information about its ability to supply groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer in the northeast Texas Panhandle to the Dallas-Fort Worth or San Antonio regions. "We've reached the stage where people are coming to us on a regular basis with requests for information," said Boone Pickens, president of Mesa Water. "Since our formation four-and-a-half years ago, we've come a long, long way. We have everything required to get a project underway to supply 150,000 acre-feet of water per year to any municipality in the State of Texas, except a buyer. "It can be done at or below the cost of other options in the state regional water plans, and we can be up and running within five years of signing a contract. No other project I'm aware of can match that capability," he added. The website provides Mesa Water history and discusses present and future use of the Ogallala Aquifer and its hydrology. It also includes an illustrated description of possible modes of groundwater transportation to major Texas metropolitan centers, including routes for a high-pressure pipeline and use of the bed and banks of the Brazos River through agreements with the Brazos River Authority....Landowners consider registry for hunters If Elm Springs rancher Pat Trask has his way, hunters who oppose the interests of farmers and ranchers could end up blacklisted from much of the state's private hunting ground. Trask, who organized a meeting in Rapid City on Thursday night to promote landowner rights, wants to create a registry of outdoor organizations — and possibly even individual members — considered to be adversaries of landowners. The Landowners' Association, a dormant farm-ranch group that Trask is working to revive, would compile the registry, make it available to farmers and ranchers and possibly publish it in newspapers, Trask said.... USDA seeks $33M for cattle ID plan President Bush will ask Congress for $60 million to fund a national cattle identification system and other mad cow-related programs in his new budget proposal, the U.S. agriculture secretary said Thursday. The 2005 fiscal year appropriation request will be $47 million more than the current year, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's convention here. More than half the money, $33 million, would be directed toward developing a national identification system for the nation's 96 million cattle - a program Democrats on Capitol Hill were pushing for faster action on this week.... Adventure reads from the West Let me introduce you to the books of C. J. Box, a relatively new author who writes a good adventure story with the kind of crimes and solutions unique to our part of the world. We're talking about good, bad and sometimes suddenly dead woodsmen, ranchers, outfitters and guides, vicious poachers, dishonest developers (Are there any other kind? At least, in popular fiction?), endangered animal species, eco-terrorists and their equally radical adversaries, political hacks and half-wits in charge of government agencies, radical cults of squatters and survivalists - all stuff that obviously is imaginary, but that we Westerners know all too well exist out here in real life. Box has written three books in the series so far: "Open Season," "Savage Run" and "Winter Kill." That is the chronological sequence, and it makes sense to read them in that order for character development and the logic of Joe's family life.... Acupuncture brings relief on rodeo trail The 38-year-old cowboy, who won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association title in bull riding last year, credits the ancient art of acupuncture with helping him shake nagging injuries and topple the world's toughest bucking bulls. West and Joe Beaver, a 38-year-old roper who has battled leg and back injuries in recent years, each employ a Tulsa, Okla., acupuncture specialist. Bucking Tradition But some remember. How could they forget? "It's safe to say," Hunt declared, "I been on more bulls backwards in a rockin' chair than anyone else in the world." He would climb into the chair again, too, he said -- if the money were right. From age 19 until he turned 53, old enough to know better, Hunt took his turn on bucking bulls while seated in a rocker, or lawn chair, facing the huge animal's tail....Emu rounded up near Whitewright The lariat end of a cowboy's rope in Texas isn't always beef. It could be bird. At least, that's what happened Thursday afternoon in Whitewright. Eric Prindle got a call from a friend who said an emu was out on State Highway 11. He asked Prindle to go down and throw a rope on the big bird to get her out of the road before something tragic happened. Prindle previously worked near Dallas catching emus. He said he's learned quite a lot about the birds, and one thing to know is to "be careful of their feet.".... Youngsters get a taste of cowboy culture The Cowboy Poetry Gathering isn't always about adults sharing ideas and techniques, it's also about sharing traditions and horse cultures with a younger generation. About 150 rural and home-schooled children experienced several aspects of the Gathering Wednesday in the Elko Junior High Auxiliary building....

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