Saturday, January 31, 2004


Logging, grazing restrictions lifted to cut wildfire risk Hoping to lower wildfire danger, the U.S. Forest Service broadened its plan Friday to ease logging and grazing restrictions in parts of the Rockies set aside as habitat for the Canada lynx. The agency said it was amending its lynx management plan for seven national forests in Wyoming and Colorado to allow fire suppression work.... Lynx plan may fall short, agency admits The U.S. Forest Service released a blueprint Friday for managing lynx in most of Colorado's national forests that the agency acknowledges may damage lynx habitat and might not significantly improve the cat's chances for survival in the Southern Rockies. The draft environmental impact statement announced by the agency Friday proposes to establish rules and guidelines for conserving lynx populations while allowing other activities to continue on 12 million across of national forest land in Colorado, but the new proposal is significantly weaker than the original recommendation by a group of lynx biologists and scientists that was the basis for the environmental study. The new plan carves out blanket exemptions from the rules for oil and gas exploration, energy transmission facilities and forest-thinning work....Grazing proposal contested Three environmental groups have taken the Forest Service to task over its proposed update of grazing allotments in the southern portion of the Gravelly Range, in southwest Montana. But a local rancher says the groups are just looking for a way to push cows off public lands. The Gallatin Wildlife Association, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Native Ecosystems Council filed lengthy appeals on the environmental assessment to update the Antelope Basin-Elk Lake allotment management plans. The assessment will direct management of domestic livestock on 11 allotments in the southern Gravelly Range over the next decade.... Rancher: Environmentalists aren’t seeing big picture Bob Sitz, a Harrison rancher and Antelope Basin permittee, said the groups appealing the grazing allotment decision aren’t seeing the big picture. “These appeals are just agenda-driven to harm the permittees or drive them off the range,” said Sitz. Cattle and sheep have been grazing in Antelope Basin since the 1880s and since 1959 the land has been managed intensively, he said. “Over that time, we’ve sprayed sagebrush, there’s been a lot of burning and quite a number of water developments have been built – all to create a diverse environment,” he said. “I’m not saying everything is perfect, but hopefully when we need to we can make corrections with the cooperation of the Forest Service.” The agency recognized the importance of the grazing allotment back in the early 1960s, when it implemented a pasture rotation system. That grazing system was one of the first in the country. Since then, Sitz said the Forest Service has collected a wealth of data on how the vegetation has reacted to different management scenarios....Column, The War in the Woods: Resistance is Fertile Grassroots forest activists certainly aren't taking the latest assault on our public forests lying down. That is unless they're laying there locked to something, blocking chainsaws from carrying out the terms of the Wyden/Feinstein/Bush Stealthy Timber Initiative. These folks, many seasoned veteran activists and many newer fired-up folks with new energy and ideas, know it's up to the citizenry to voice their displeasure, bring attention to the issue and try and still the saws in any way they can creatively think up. Between Greenpeace, the National Forest Protection Alliance (NFPA), Forest Guardians, the various Centers for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Forest Alliance, Heartwood and others 100% of proposed timber sales are being monitored. These groups are ready to launch whatever is necessary to defend our forests -- from education, letter writing campaigns, lawsuits, to market campaigns (especially in Alaska's case) to Civil Disobedience. Here's a sampler of what's about to break loose: .... Water quality watchdogs In early October, forest activists in Oregon and Washington won a major victory in that argument. Hoping to halt aerial pesticide spraying designed to kill the native tussock moth, which attacks evergreens (including Christmas trees), activists pointed out that the U.S. Forest Service plan crossed several waterways. If the pesticide — toxic by definition — got into the stream, didn't the spray nozzle on the helicopter count as a point source of pollution, just like a factory pipe? The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals agreed in 2002, and the Supreme Court in 2003 let that decision stand. So for the West, at least, aerial spraying near streams requires a water-pollution permit. That includes spraying anything that harms water quality on any land — public or private — where there's water quality to protect.... Editorial: Forest Plan Losing Its Way If the Bush administration is serious about staving off catastrophic fires in the Sierra Nevada's old-growth forests, it will allocate the full $760 million authorized in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act for clearing undergrowth and dead trees. Unfortunately, the current plan aims to save money by financing the job with private logging in the Sierra. Companies that clear a certain amount of brush and saplings would earn the right to take a set number of larger, sometimes much larger, trees. The Forest Service would also shift tree-thinning funds deeper into the forests and away from the towns endangered by potential fires. The plan makes too many radical departures from the Sierra Nevada Framework, a carefully balanced plan of forest management and preservation developed over 10 years by the federal government and Western states.... China announces cloning of endangered Siberian ibex China announced Friday that its scientists have cloned a Siberian ibex, a threatened mammal that dwells in the crags of central Asia, in a feat sure to heighten debate over whether cloning can help reconstitute endangered species. The week-old Siberian ibex is ``full of pep'' and ``exhibiting a strong will to survive,'' a state television newscast reported. The mountain goat-like Siberian ibex, which state television described as ``one of the most endangered animals in China,'' was born after cloned cells were placed in a common goat in western China.... Column: How Industry Hijacked 'Sound Science' Gov. Kathleen Blanco seized the opportunity to buttonhole President Bush on his visit to New Orleans recently and pitch the long-awaited coastal restoration plan. The president reportedly replied that he'd support it, provided it was based on "sound science." To which our governor, in good faith, replied that she agreed. How could she not? Who could be against sound science? But chances are that the president and the governor meant very different things by the term. And that difference is a major factor in the holdup. Time was, science took the lead in America's environmental policy. Rachael Carson, Barry Commoner and other researchers sounded the alarm, and others went on to point out exactly what needed fixing and how.... Editorial: Don’t take sportsmen for granted Hunters and fishermen from Montana and elsewhere descended on Washington, D.C., this week to lobby against the president’s energy bill and his push to develop important wildlife habitat like the Rocky Mountain Front. And nearly 500 gun clubs nationwide recently came out in opposition to some of the Bush administration’s logging policies. Still more outdoorsmen are joining forces with “The Green Elephant,” the nickname for the organization Republicans for Environmental Protection, to oppose the administration on such matters as snowmobiles in Yellowstone and relaxed pollution standards for factories. Well-accustomed to deflecting attacks from tree-hugging liberals, Republicans suddenly find themselves under fire from an unexpected direction – from the hook-and-bullet crowd.... Study: Wind farms more lethal to birds than first thought A new study of bird deaths in the wind farms of the Altamont Pass suggests the problem is more serious than previously thought, and raises questions about a 1998 plan to address the problem by replacing aging wind turbines with a smaller number of modern machines. The study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates that about 500 birds of prey are killed by wind farms in the Altamont each year, including red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls and golden eagles. Previous estimates, based in part on studies paid for by wind farm operators, put the number at between 160 and 400 raptors a year.... County renews more permits for wind farms Alameda County officials renewed the operating permits Thursday for 2,106 wind turbines in the Altamont Pass, over the objections of an environmental group that claims wind farm operators have been slow to address the problem of bird deaths. Meeting in Dublin, the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments voted unanimously to renew 20-year permits governing 15 wind farms. The three-member board noted that wind farm operators are working with county, state and federal regulators to find ways to reduce the number of bird deaths.... Bill would ban lights shining on ocean Declaring "light pollution" harmful to birds and sea life, environmentalists and fishing enthusiasts joined forces yesterday to support a bill that bans residents along the shoreline from aiming light fixtures into the ocean. Despite reservations raised by the Department of Land and Natural Resources about enforcement, House Bill 1743 got initial approval from the joint house committees on Energy and Environmental Protection and Water, Land Use and Hawaiian Affairs. It now goes the Judiciary Committee. Katie Swift, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said outdoor lighting that shines into the ocean can disorient the endangered hawksbill sea turtle, which may deter it from nesting on a beach.... Sound of silence Getting a table at Jackie LaFever's sports bar and restaurant is easy this winter. So is finding a room at Vernetta Steele's motel - or most that are still open in town. This town just outside Yellowstone National Park is much quieter than normal, and for many residents, the mood is bleaker. While snowmobiles still cruise the powdery streets of the self-proclaimed "snowmobile capital of the world," the numbers are far below those in previous years. Residents blame it on a federal judge's ruling that reversed Yellowstone's snowmobile rules just hours before the start of the season in December and on the confusion and uncertainty that have surrounded the issue for months.... Wranglers round up wild horses Nevada wranglers conducted the last wild horse roundup in Nevada for at least six months Friday, removing animals south of Lahontan Reservoir, where they have wandered from federal to state land to find food and water. U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials want to reduce the 261-horse herd to no more than 15. They could complete their work near Silver Springs by this weekend. The helicopter-guided roundup began Thursday. By midday Friday, 145 horses had been captured.... More than 130 businesses back Boulder-White Cloud resolution More than 130 Idaho businesses have signed a letter supporting efforts to designate the Boulder-White Cloud and Pioneer mountains as wilderness, and Custer County economic development efforts could get a boost in the deal. The plan, championed by Rep. Michael Simpson, R-Idaho, could also lay to rest the wilderness issue which has been debated for more than 30 years. Preservation of those two adjacent mountain ranges has been a point of contention for decades. Simpson claims he also has support from all-terrain-vehicle and snowmobile retailers whose machines would be banned from the federal wilderness area. Off-road enthusiasts would be assured of other undesignated areas of central Idaho they could visit. Simpson is trying to strike a bargain with Custer County officials to get the deal off the ground. He is calling for the government to give 16,000 acres of isolated tracts of federal land to Custer County, which would sell the land. The proceeds would be earmarked for economic development and a community education center in Challis.... Counties agree on foothills preservation plan A plan to preserve 600,000 acres of corporate and privately owned timberland has been agreed upon by top officials in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties. The Cascade Foothills Initiative is expected to be signed Monday afternoon at a Seattle ceremony by county executives John Ladenburg of Pierce County, Ron Sims of King County and Aaron Reardon of Snohomish County as, well as state Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland. It will combine conservation easements and land acquisitions to discourage housing development along the edges of the forests in the three counties. The plan is to use grants, donations and perhaps taxpayer dollars to limit land-use changes in areas that have traditionally sustained wildlife and the timber industry.... Ex-Rancher Blasts U.S. Mad Cow Measures It's been eight years since former rancher Howard Lyman outraged many in the beef industry by predicting on national television that sloppy meat processing practices would bring mad cow disease to the United States. Safe to say that Lyman, the central figure in Oprah Winfrey's ballyhooed legal fight with cattle ranchers, is feeling validated since the disease was discovered last month in a cow in Washington state. And Lyman says the federal government's decision this week to ban cattle blood in livestock feed isn't enough to protect against more mad cow cases. Every cow should be tested for the disease, he said.... Will Bovine Serum Be Next On The List For Drug Regulators? Aside from steaks and stews, where do you find cow blood? In drug production. It turns out that cow serum — a purified derivative of cow blood — is commonly used to produce many of the new biologic drugs on the market. These drugs can do everything from fight cancer to help rheumatoid arthritis patients walk again. Many are proteins or other cell-based products that can't be otherwise mass-produced.... U.S. beef exports may resume to Mexico U.S. beef exports may soon resume to Mexico following a mad cow scare and officials say if Japan can be persuaded to resume imports, other countries may follow. "I think Mexico looks more imminent than some of the Asian markets," said Phil Seng, chief executive officer of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).... 205 cows killed show no infection Testing has shown that 20 cows killed Saturday at a Boardman dairy were not infected with mad cow disease, agriculture officials said Thursday. Tests of another 185 cattle killed at three Washington dairies have also been negative, they said....USDA offers incentives for sheep producers Lower farm income and extreme drought in sheep-producing areas have taken a toll on the nation's sheep flocks, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer $18.8 million in incentives to encourage producers to keep their ewe lambs for breeding stock. The program, announced this week by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, comes as the nation's sheep numbers dwindle. The most recent July inventory numbers peg the nation's lamb crop at 4.13 million, down 5 percent from the previous year....New California Law on Agricultural Trespassing Goes Into Effect On January 1, California's new tougher standards for those convicted of trespassing on farms and ranches went into effect. Gov. Grey Davis signed SB 993 in October after it passed the California Assembly 63-5 and the state Senate 37-0.... Ranch life inspires artist When JW Brooks set out to capture his interpretation of the American cowboy in a picture, he didn't look any farther than his own childhood on the ranches of Wyoming and Colorado. The 31-year-old artist and custom hat designer said his experience on the ranches taught him that modern rodeo began with ranch-hand jobs and said he tries to depict that connection in his art.... Gold Buckle Media Preparing to Launch New Western Sports and Lifestyle Television Channel Gold Buckle Media announced today that it plans to launch a new national television channel dedicated to Western sports, music, and lifestyle programming. The company plans to begin broadcasting via cable and satellite in June of this year.... On The Edge Of Common Sense: There's a story behind those pink, fuzzy slippers Some blamed the incident on her fuzzy slippers. Brenda is a top hand, and like many ranch women, is especially good at calving heifers. Because of her skill and stamina, she and her husband, Perry, had synchronized 110 first-calf heifers to calve within a two-week period. Of course, when they bred them they didn't anticipate those two weeks would fall in a period of clear skies and 40 degrees below zero. She kept two horses saddled in the barn, each on a 12-hour shift. She checked the heifer lot night and day, almost hourly, nipping back in the warm house for a bite or a nap. She would slip off her cap, Carhartt coveralls and boots, then dive under the electric blanket....

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