Sunday, April 11, 2004


Use of Bitterroot forest photos to support Sierra logging called misleading The Forest Service has been accused of misrepresenting forest conditions by using misleading photographs in a brochure that urges more logging to prevent wildfires in the Sierra Nevada. The pamphlet, created by a public relations firm, explains that fire risks have risen as the Sierra's forests have grown more dense the past century. Six small black-and-white photos spanning 80 years appear beside descriptions of how the "forests of the past" had fewer trees and less underbrush, making them less susceptible to fire. The 1909 photo shows an open, park-like forest with large trees spaced widely apart. More trees and underbrush appear in each successive picture - 1948, 1958, 1968, 1979 - and finally a photograph thick with trees in 1989. However, the 1909 photo does not depict natural conditions - it was taken just after the forest had been logged. And the pictured forest is nowhere near the Sierra Nevada. It's in Montana.... Conservationists say 'whoa' to grizzly transplants in Cabinets Some critics say federal and state wildlife agencies are rushing a plan to augment the slim grizzly bear population in the Cabinet Mountains with transplants from the Northern Continental Divide. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are collaborating on a proposal to transplant one or two female grizzlies, possibly sometime this summer. At a March 29 meeting in Libby, however, it met some resistance from people who want to see improvements in habitat security, a more thorough public process and other measures to help transplanted bears survive.... Editorial: Justice Needed Tre Arrow insists he's no terrorist. His credibility might be enhanced had he not claimed earlier that the trees told him to change his name to Tre Arrow, and had he not falsely told law authorities in Victoria, B.C., that his name was Joshua Murray. Rather than quibbling over semantics, we'll focus on one clearly defined word: justice, the point to which Arrow the radical environmentalist must be brought. And if he is found guilty of terrorist acts as charged, then he should be incarcerated for a very long time.... Man Accused Of Toppling Trees In National Forest A landowner is accused of snapping or uprooting nearly 400 trees across national forest land to stop off-road vehicles. Dene Sapp, who lives just outside Jamestown, faces one count of damaging federal property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Roosevelt National Forest officials say Sapp, whose land abuts the national forest, toppled a total of 376 trees in three areas and used heavy equipment to dig trenches across dirt roads. Sapp intended to stop off-road enthusiasts, according to an affidavit by U.S. Forest Service special agent Kimberly Jones.... A decade of change in national forests U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer initially shut down logging in the Northwest during the waning days of the administration of the first President Bush. But when Bill Clinton took office, he oversaw one of the greatest periods of change regarding national forests since World War II. During the 1990s, Clinton and Vice President Al Gore put together the Northwest Forest Plan, which curtailed logging on federal land in Washington, Oregon and Northern California. Later, timber harvest on federal lands across the country also fell dramatically, as the U.S. Forest Service moved toward conservation in the wake of lawsuits filed by environmentalists, mostly over endangered species.... Old-growth logging nearing a standstill in dramatic shift To grasp just how much the Northwest woods have changed, consider this: In a region once synonymous with logging, some local mills now bring raw logs in from hundreds, even thousands, of miles away. A decade after President Clinton tried to settle the conflict between spotted owls and logging by making 85 percent of the Northwest's federal forests off-limits to chain saws, at least one company has turned to hauling logs by rail to wood-starved Northwest mills — some from across the region, others from as far as Tennessee.... Column: Greens fighting deep-forest thinning ignore facts One of the stranger developments in American environmental policy is the love affair Greens today express for forest communities. They love them. They want to nurture and protect them. This wasn't always so, to say the least. But the fascination enviros have with the forest communities they once scorned is about to be put to the test. With the approval last November of President Bush's Healthy Forests legislation, the door was opened for states to take action to thin their choked, dying forests. In Arizona, that just happened.... Decade-old forest plan hurts as it helps Ten years ago, a pair of signatures on a 4,000-page document changed the landscape of federal forests in the Northwest -- and with it a way of life. Sawmills went silent. Oregon's federal timber harvest, already in free fall, declined to less than one tenth its former size. And wildlife -- from the northern spotted owl down to enigmatic forest-floor snails -- found new protections. Called the Northwest Forest Plan and signed into action on April 13, 1994, it was the Clinton administration's sweeping attempt to settle long-escalating feuds over the purpose of the region's publicly owned forests.... Warning: Mud may flow again Debris flows that filled a garage and dumped mud on the yards of three homes in Farmington last week could happen again there and could strike other parts of Utah that were ravaged by fire. The twin mudslides on North Compton Road can be traced to a grass fire that burned 4,000 acres in the lower slopes of the nearby mountains last July. The blaze allegedly was set by a transient who wanted to go to prison so he would have a place to live. Last week's furious rainstorm, which dumped 2.36 inches of water on the Farmington east bench, was all the scorched earth needed. Water, mud and rocks thundered down the mountainside, damaging yards, vehicles and garages.... Column: See You in Court The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance's original suit against the Interior Department, BLM's parent, invoked the 1946 Federal Administrative Procedure Act, which says federal courts can compel agencies to act under certain circumstances. But the act wasn't intended to govern exactly how agencies responded to congressional mandates. Rather, a federal district court determined, it was limited to final agency decisions and "mandatory, nondiscretionary activities" -- not ongoing processes like monitoring land use. So in the Utah case, as long as BLM was doing something on its own timetable, the court ruled, the conservation group was out of luck. A panel of judges on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that judgment, saying that the obligation to protect Utah's land looked plenty "mandatory and nondiscretionary" to them. It's certainly tempting to back a decision that tries to force the BLM to stop sitting idly by while off-roaders rip up pristine Utah wilderness. (The Supreme Court "should make clear that the executive branch cannot go around invoking some imaginary discretionary authority to ignore laws it doesn't like," opined the New York Times in an editorial about the case.) But such an approach has serious consequences that could cripple the day-to-day management of federal operations.... Invasion of the Buggy Snackers (and Other Horrors) Global travel and trade have created a superhighway into the United States for destructive foreign insects, plants, animals and diseases that scientists call alien invasive species. Yet we're pretending we don't have to pay much attention. Countless other destructive alien species are on their way here unless we enact immediate trade policy changes and tougher cargo inspections. The costs will be formidable, but the alternative -- more "free trade" in this biological pollution -- is far worse.... Editorial: Public lands under attack The Bush administration is trying to stop pristine lands in Colorado from getting the protection they deserve. Several canyons and mesas near Grand Junction are part of wilderness legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat. Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said five proposed wilderness areas - Hunter Canyon, Big Ridge, Oil Spring Mountain, Cow Ridge and Dragon Canyon - will be part of a May 13 oil and gas lease auction. Oddly, the BLM didn't propose leasing federal land near some proposed wilderness areas, just the pristine lands themselves. That's particularly true for the Cow Ridge proposed wilderness. To judge from the map, it looks like the BLM is deliberately leasing parcels to ensure that DeGette can't include them in future wilderness bills.... Column: National Heritage Areas, The War Over Words Continues Based on the offerings of the deputy director for the National Park Service at a March 30 congressional hearing on National Heritage Areas, it would appear private property owners should now rest easy if their lands become targeted for heritage area declaration. To assume such, though, would be folly. But first, some background. The NPS and partnering state and local entities have created 24 NHAs encompassing 160,000 square miles of mostly privately owned lands since 1984. Advocates say NHAs are needed to preserve areas of cultural, historical, natural and scenic significance, and that the beauty of the system is that the federal government does not retain authority over the declared lands, but rather the individual property owners.... Column: National Heritage Areas, Shortcomings of the CRS Report On several fronts, a Congressional Research Service study on National Heritage Areas is misleading, misguided or outright mistaken – the latter by omission, as report authors fail to point out the absurdities of a key and common phrase used to identify private lands for public oversight. Absent from the report to Congress is mention of the term "nationally significant," a most familiar means by which environmentalists and their non-government and political cohorts justify the taking of private properties. This is the exact term, for instance, that was used as grounds for recent House passage of the Highlands Conservation Act, a $100 million-plus piece of legislation that hurts private landowners by seeking public control of more than two million acres of property, ostensibly to protect the region’s "water, forest, wildlife, recreational, agricultural and cultural resources.".... Park City offers Uncle Sam a deal Uncle Sam wants a place in Park City for himself and his military family members to relax and recreate in their off-time. And Park City wants Uncle Sam. A military resort in Utah's mountains could soon become a reality if a real estate swap proposed by Park City government is accepted by the U.S. Air Force, which has been looking to obtain a vacation destination in the area since Snowbasin's Hill Haus shut down about five years ago. This week, City Hall officially offered to give the Air Force the historic Imperial Hotel — a 100-year-old renovated lodge at the top of bustling Main Street. It has 10 rooms, a hot tub area, parking stalls, a dining room, undeveloped street-level space in a prime location and is worth about $1.35 million. All that Park City wants in return is a big patch of land and the sagebrush that grows on it.... County to lead fight over wild horses Elko County Commissioners are planning to take the lead role in a battle with the federal government over wild horse populations in Nevada. "We have a lot of ranchers in the area and we have the responsibility to step up to the plate," Commissioner Charlie Myers said. "This really has a dramatic impact.".... Miners, conservationists, even jewelers at odds over mining Those necklaces, rings and watches in the jewelry case may be a lot more expensive than many people think, conservationists contend. Jewelry also carries the cost of environmental damage from mining for their gold, silver and other precious metals, according to a new public relations campaign that is putting pressure on jewelry retailers to reject minerals from big polluters. The campaign has already prompted the president of Tiffany & Co. to shift his attention from the jewelry cases on Fifth Avenue to the Cabinet Mountains wilderness area of Montana.... Column: Saving ranchlands doesn't mean saving the rancher Few environmental issues have stirred up as much dust in the West as the debate over livestock grazing. "Cattle ruin the land," shouts one side. "Environmentalists commit cultural genocide against ranchers," shouts the other. In the early 1990s, a small group of conservationists looked beyond the hyperbole and found a third approach: supporting ranchers who wanted to raise healthy livestock while also improving the health of the land. "Keep good ranchers on the land" became their mantra. It's a nice sentiment, but the fact is that ranching is dying in the West and has been for some time. While we were debating whether or not cattle could be grazed in an ecologically sound way, the Western landscape we all care so much about was run over by a Mack truck.... Western governors explore energy solutions Governors from Western states will gather with leaders from Mexico and Canada for a summit on how to meet future energy needs in a region rich with natural resources, from oil and natural gas to opportunities for wind, solar and geothermal power. Touted as a "North American Energy Summit" by the Western Governors' Association, the three-day meeting opening Wednesday in Albuquerque will bring together governmental and tribal leaders with energy company executives, environmentalists, researchers and other experts to consider an ambitious agenda of energy issues. Among the topics to be explored: the future of oil production, gasoline and natural gas prices, reliability of the Western electricity grid, the role of nuclear power, renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency and cross-border collaboration on energy policies.... Irrigation, irritation and litigation in a remote California county On the outskirts of town, where tumbleweeds strain against barbed wire and sagebrush sprouts on the roadside, a sign reads, "Where the West still lives." One member of the Modoc County board of supervisors shoes horses for a living. Cowboy hats, boots and Wrangler jeans are the get-up of choice. But a dustup in this high desert town of 3,200 has revived the Old West's mean side, with death threats, fistfights and a sheriff confiscating guns. At the heart of the nasty dispute is water – in this case, Rattlesnake Creek.... Ranchers, scientists air beef over book A major Canadian publisher is likely to add to the woes of the beef industry by releasing a book that blames hamburgers for an "epidemic of Alzheimer's disease." Dr. Murray Waldman, a coroner with the City of Toronto and co-author of the McClelland and Stewart book, Dying for a Hamburger: modern meat processing and the epidemic of Alzheimer's disease, charges hamburger is the main source of prions, which trigger Alzheimer's. Prions, a type of malformed protein found in the brains of infected animals and humans, are credited as the cause of mad cow disease, several cases of which have been linked to Canadian cattle, and its human form, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The book is slated for release in the next two weeks.... Low-carb diets blamed for increase in rustling There's new trouble in valleys such as this one, where vestiges of the Old West live on. Cattle rustling is staging a comeback. And from ranches here in the rustic Sierra Nevada foothills to grazing lands across the western plains, cowboys know exactly what's to blame: a diet craze. The growing national popularity of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets has kept beef prices high, even after the threat of mad cow disease arose in the Pacific Northwest late last year. But law enforcement officials say that Americans' new eating habits also appear to be inspiring a new generation of rustlers to steal and sell cattle, particularly newborn calves not yet seared with identifying brands.... West's drought worsens From the brittle hillsides of Southern California to the drying fields of Idaho, from Montana to New Mexico, a relentless drought is worsening across most of the West, water supplies are dwindling, and the threat of wildfires is rising. "Most of the West is headed into six years of drought, and some areas are looking at seven years of drought," said Rick Ochoa, weather program manager at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.... Hog wild in Texas Texas is hogtied. Wild pigs are closing in on other states, too. The Lone Star State is grappling with the nation's largest population of feral pigs — squealing, rooting hordes of hogs that can destroy farmland and wildlife habitats, sully public parks, attack pets and domestic animals, and spread diseases such as tuberculosis and even anthrax to farm animals. The dreaded and free-roaming sus scrofa — also known as wild boars, piney-woods rooters, razorbacks, hawgs and a host of other monikers — now are thought to number 2 million in Texas alone....

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