Thursday, March 18, 2004


FOREST SERVICE DROPPING ENDANGERED SPECIES, RIPARIAN & ARCHAEOLOGICAL REVIEWS The U.S. Forest Service is moving to eliminate any reviews of its actions by outside agencies for compliance with endangered species, clean water, and historical preservation laws, according to a planning memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Citing what Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth has identified as "the Four Threats" (fire risk, invasive species, un-managed recreation and loss of open space), the agency plans to jettison any consultation or other "process" it deems unrelated to "the Four Threats.".... BLM's Internet blackout sidelines public River rats are having a tough time reserving a spot on the San Juan and White rivers. In Price, federal land managers cannot let the public peruse a decision on a controversial seismic exploration project. And in Moab, hikers, off-highway-vehicle riders and mountain bikers cannot access information on camping for the popular spring break season that starts this weekend. All across Utah's public lands, business is anything but usual as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the state's largest landlord, deals with a court-ordered shutdown of its Internet server.... Managing the Missouri River remains controversial After 14 years of struggles, the Army Corps of Engineers was scheduled today to adopt a disputed new Missouri River management plan that shifts water upstream in severe drought and delays environmentally friendly flow changes. Army officials planned a ceremony in Omaha, Neb., with cake and refreshments for the signing of documents formally adopting the new Missouri River Master Water Control Manual, a guidebook that will govern the operation of dams and water allocation along the 2,341-mile river.... Sierra club sponsors anti-drilling campout For years now, the club has been fighting to stop natural gas drilling on the national seashore, a 68-mile finger of sand that is part of the longest natural barrier island in the world.While drilling on the island dates back to the 1950s, the seashore had in recent decades been free of rigs. A 2002 request for drilling permits by BNP Petroleum Corp. threatened to change that. The Sierra Club quickly filed a lawsuit to stop the drilling, alleging the federal government was violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing operations that could send trucks rolling over the nests of endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles. BNP fought back, saying it had a right to drill and noting that its own personnel saved one of the first turtle nests of the 2003 season. The lawsuit failed, as did its appeal. The Sierra Club now hopes it can rally the public for a federal buyout of the mineral rights below the island, much like the 2002 buyout that prevented drilling at the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.... Interior official: Land appraisals improved after Nevada cases The federal Interior Department has reorganized land appraisals to speed land swaps and sales while curbing abuses that shortchanged taxpayers by billions of dollars, a top agency official told Congress. The appraisal system has been "fundamentally overhauled," Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett told the House National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands subcommittee meeting Wednesday in Washington, D.C.... Critters may slow W. Richland school The discovery of ground squirrels living at the site for a new West Richland middle school could delay construction -- if they turn out to be a rare species. Bureau of Land Management officials found what appears to be a population of Washington ground squirrels living on a 5-acre natural area northwest of the proposed school site. A pair of burrowing owls also lives there. Washington ground squirrels are candidates to be included on the federal and state protected species lists, said Joyce Whitney, a wildlife biologist with the BLM district office in Spokane.... New lion plan will tranquilize, airlift animals The public won, but the mountain lions may ultimately lose. Public outrage forced the Arizona Game and Fish Department on Thursday to retreat from a decision to hunt and kill lions in Sabino Canyon. But a new plan, to capture and airlift the big cats out of the popular recreation area, could end up being just as deadly as shooting them, wildlife experts said.... A six-gun saga in 4-letter words "Deadwood," HBO's newest dramatic series, premiering Sunday night at 10, takes place in the mid-1870s when the South Dakota city was a raw mining camp so thick with thieves, cutthroats, swindlers, gamblers, whores and temporarily insane fortune seekers that it was quite likely, block for muddy block, the most dangerous place on Earth. Deadwood is where James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok was assassinated, shot from behind as he played a friendly game of poker. But his murder was unusual only insofar as we remember it.... Home on the range: Sammy Baugh hits 90 Before the filming of "Lonesome Dove," Robert Duvall visited Sam Baugh on the rancher's West Texas spread. The actor listened to his rusty drawl. He observed the old man's gestures as he spun stories, the way his hands swooped and darted, the way he pointed a long finger as if toward some distant landmark along life's trail only his keen blue eyes could see. "In two hours, Sammy Baugh gave me the finishing touches for Augustus McCrae," Duvall said of his TV miniseries character, "and he didn't even know it."....

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