Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Purchase of CUT land never meant to solve bison/cattle issue The number of bison killed by Yellowstone National Park officials this winter is more than double the number of cattle living within 10 miles of the park. A total of 216 bison have been killed this winter, with 42 more going to slaughter in a day or two. Most of the the cattle living just north of the park belong to the Church Universal and Triumphant, which in 1998 was given $13 million for land and conservation easements intended to provide wildlife habitat.... Column: Who Owns the Sierra Club? The deliberate rigging of the 2004 Sierra Club Board of Directors elections--to keep reformers off the Board--smacks of a desperation so deep, that it begs the question--what does the old guard have to hide? Internal Revenue Service forms show $47,898,118.40 in anonymous donations were given to the Sierra Club Foundation in the year 2000, and $53,593,640.00 in 2001. The LA Times reports, "Each of these donations was more than double the amount of all funds raised in each of the previous four years." When angry, reform-oriented, incumbent members of the Sierra Club Board of Directors asked executive director Carl Pope, who gave the money -- he wouldn't say. When it was suggested that law required him to share the information with his Board -- he couldn't remember. So they asked again -- and he wasn't telling.... Regional director apologizes to Larsen A Meeteetse rancher has received a written apology from the regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an incident involving alleged trespassing. "I apologize to you if our wolf monitoring team inadvertently used your land to place radio collars on four wolves we had tranquilized," director Ralph Morganweck wrote to Ralph Larsen of the Larsen Land Co. on March 11. A copy of the letter was sent to Sen. Mike Enzi, who has asked for an investigation by the departments of Interior and Justice, as requested by the Park County commissioners.... Suit seeks to save Gunnison sage grouse The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should grant emergency protection for the Gunnison sage grouse, an imperiled species unique to southern Colorado, according to a group of conservation organizations. The conservationists have requested that a federal judge order protection for the grouse, which they say has suffered from habitat destruction, grazing, drought, motorized recreation and poor land-use planning. The species now also faces a new and potentially deadly threat: the arrival of West Nile virus. Last year, the disease killed off a significant number of greater sage grouse in Wyoming, leading biologists to fear for the Gunnison species' future.... Park Service orders managers not to discuss cuts in service National park superintendents are being told to cut back on services -- possibly even closing smaller, historic sites a couple days a week or shuttering visitor centers on federal holidays -- without letting on that they are making cuts. Former employees of the National Park Service, critical of how cuts are being handled, yesterday released a memo e-mailed last month to park superintendents in the Northeast from the Park Service's Boston office. Among the memo's suggestions for responding to tight budgets this year are shuttering visitor centers on federal holidays or during winter months, closing parks Sundays and Mondays, and eliminating all guided ranger tours and lifeguards at some beaches.... G&F explains its decision to go after mountain lions State game officials moved slowly and studied several alternatives before deciding to kill Sabino Canyon mountain lions to protect people, a top Game and Fish official wrote the governor this week. "Mountain lions along the northern edge of Tucson have been a growing concern for months," said the letter, the Game and Fish Department's first detailed explanation of its decision to hunt and kill lions in the canyon. "The department had reports from the public of dogs being killed in their yards, as well as numerous calls of lions exhibiting aberrant behavior in close proximity to humans," said the letter, sent by Sue Chilton, chairwoman of the State Game and Fish Commission.... Diversity Survey Causes Broadside Norris McDonald, head of the African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA), fired a broadside at 21 environmental groups for not filling out a survey he was conducting on diversity in hiring, collaborating and other activities in the environmental community. Such groups as the Conservation Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Wilderness Society did not complete the survey. Four did: Environmental Defense, the Environmental Law Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute. "The refusal of the groups to complete the survey conveys the appearance that there are discriminatory practices being shielded from public view," AAEA said in a statement.... Editorial: Still fighting for the Dunes The old saw about not counting chickens before they hatch fits the efforts to elevate the Great Sand Dunes to national park status. Far from giving Coloradans an excuse to relax, recent news underscores how important it is to finish the job of preserving the dunes' unique ecosystems. For five years, residents of the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado have worked with Colorado's congressional delegation to expand the existing national monument into a full-fledged national park. Unlike the small monument, which includes only the dunes themselves, the larger park would preserve and protect the entire complex ecosystem around the dunes, covering hundreds of square miles and harboring an array of rare plants and wildlife.... Cubin worried about appraisal office Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., and government oversight groups are concerned about a new office to overhaul a land appraisal process that led the Interior department to exchange federal properties for less valuable private lands. Cubin said the 4-month-old Appraisal Office does not require department appraisers to consider the "public interest value" of lands. The department was created in the wake of a Bureau of Land Management plan to basically hand over $117 million worth of mineral rights to the state of Utah. Interior Department Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett told Cubin that everything the department did is in the public interest, but the new office is not required to consider the "public interest value" unless instructed to do so by Congress.... Editorial: Interior's weak ethics A report on alleged ethical lapses at the U.S. Department of the Interior is an egregious example of buck-passing. Far from resolving controversies concerning Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, the report questions the department's overall commitment to ethical conduct and fairness. Interior Secretary Gale Norton says the inspector general's report clears Griles. Not quite. In reality, the 146-page document shows Griles may have overstepped proper behavior on two specific matters: a dinner his former business partner hosted for top Interior employees, and coal-bed methane drilling in the Wyoming's Powder River Basin.... Energy vs. Environment: Official calls for balanced strategies America will not sacrifice its fish and wildlife "in a singly focused effort" to satisfy a voracious energy appetite, Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson said Wednesday. But public lands provide Americans with 30 percent to 35 percent of the energy they use each day, Watson said in a telephone interview from Spokane, where she addressed the 69th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. "So you cannot put all public land off limits to oil and gas development," she said. "That would cause huge, fundamental problems in our economy." "There has to be a balance," said Watson, whose duties include oversight of the Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation.... Off-road explosion hot topic Off-road vehicle use has become the most politically volatile land-use issue in the country, reports the New York Times. A new front in this "war" is conflicts among off-roaders themselves. The Times traces the dispute to the end of World War II, when jeeps and dirt bikes first became available to general consumers. But it wasn't until 1972 - when President Nixon signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to regulate the activity on federal lands - that the government took an active role in managing its impact. Meanwhile, the popularity of off-roading has exploded. The number of off-highway motorcycles increased 146 percent from 1998 to 2002, while Americans purchased almost double the number of ATVs in the same time frame.... Tree-cutters tiptoe to take care with owls An owl survey is temporarily keeping tree-cutters from felling dead and dying trees that are endangering electrical lines on federal land in the fire-prone San Bernardino National Forest, officials said Wednesday. Edison is moving crews into the Forest Falls area, between Big Bear and Yucaipa, to work on the private lands within the forest, he said. A biologist, working for the company, is using pink flagging tape to mark areas that need further study to comply with long-standing federal rules designed to protect sensitive species, Barreira said.... SUV arson grand jury indicts Caltech student A graduate student with alleged connections to a radical environmentalist group was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of firebombing and vandalizing dozens of sport utility vehicles, authorities said Wednesday. Billy Cottrell, 23, a physics student at California Institute of Technology, was indicted in connection with vandalism that damaged or destroyed about 125 vehicles at car dealerships and homes in the San Gabriel Valley last August. The indictment was returned Tuesday and announced Wednesday.... Column: The unbearable lightness of Kerry’s allegations Last year, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — who at the time was watching his presidential hopes disappear in the face of the Howard Dean juggernaut — sided with environmentalists who were accusing the Bush administration of using political muscle to influence a key environmental decision in the Pacific Northwest. The decision involved a long-standing dispute between farmers and environmentalists in Oregon’s Klamath River Basin. The farmers wanted water to be diverted from the river to help save crops from drought, while the environmentalists opposed the diversion because it would kill thousands of salmon.... Coalition tries to block court order on pesticides A coalition of pesticide makers and farm groups in Oregon, Washington and California yesterday sought to block implementation of a federal court order banning the use of some pesticides along salmon streams pending an appeal. The coalition filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Seattle to block a recent court order banning the use of cholorothalonil and dozens of other toxic pesticides along thousands of miles of salmon-bearing waterways, said Heather Hansen of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests.... Governor attends first brucellosis task force meeting The time is right and the money is available to fund long-term solutions to Wyoming's brucellosis problems, if they can be found, Gov. Dave Freudenthal says. The governor wants his newly-formed brucellosis task force to develop the best practices and measures the state might take to eradicate the disease from both wildlife and domestic cattle in the state.... That’s windy! Well, gentle readers, March did come in like a lion — a roarin’ lion. It’s been purty much windy all month. A couple of days ago our little ole burg of Wellington has gusts of 92 mph. I ain’t makin’ that up. THAT’S WINDY! Now, I live out about 10 miles north of town and I’m not sure exactly how high our winds were here at the O-NO Ranch, but I will tell ya that it blew all the hair off my two ole tom cats. I ain’t makin’ this up! Why, they looked like a couple of Tyson fryers with four legs and a long tail....

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