Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NEWS ROUNDUP

A vote for expanding Piñon Sen. Wayne Allard slid slightly off the fence Monday, saying he would support the Army’s plans to buy more than 650 square miles of ranch land in southeast Colorado to expand a training area. But Allard, a Republican whose voice is key in deciding whether Army plans move forward, left a large obstacle in the Defense Department’s path, saying it should get acreage to expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site only from those who want to sell. “I’m not willing to pick a fight with my House colleagues, yet,” Allard said during a news conference Monday at Fort Carson. “But we do want people to move forward.” The fight Allard alluded to is brewing over a measure pushed by Reps. John Salazar, D-Colo., and Marilyn Musgrave., R-Colo., that would block Army spending on expansion planning. That measure has passed the House and could come up for Senate consideration in early September....
State says elk herd is bigger than thought A northwest Colorado elk herd is two to three times larger than originally believed, state wildlife officials say. The Bears Ears herd is now estimated at 23,000 to 45,000, state Division of Wildlife officials said. Previous estimates put the herd at 11,000 to 15,000 animals. The new count is based on a spring survey of elk herd ranges using three helicopters and one airplane. "We used a grid system to count the elk on the ground," DOW wildlife biologist Darby Finley said. "We flew over 1,754 miles of winter range and counted 4,119 elk." Some northwest Colorado landowners had complained for years that the DOW elk estimates were faulty. "There's way too many elk in some places," rancher John Smith said. "They move into these meadows too early and rub out the growth. They kill the edible brush."....
River ruckus Congress recognized the unique features of the lower river in 1986 when it passed the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act. The act, signed by President Reagan, also designated a 7.7-mile stretch of the White Salmon from BZ Corner to just above Northwestern Lake as a national scenic river that would remain forever free-flowing and buffered by a corridor protecting it from development. The scenic stretch lies upstream from Condit Dam, which is scheduled for demolition next year. The designation was unique for another reason: All 1,874 acres in the protected river corridor were in private ownership. The principal landowner was, and remains, SDS Lumber Co., which owns 725 acres in the protected corridor. SDS initially agreed to exchange that land with the Forest Service for timber land outside the boundary. Last year, SDS logged a key area along Spring Creek, a tributary within the scenic area corridor that had been designated in the management plan for a nature trail and picnic area....
Researcher pins blame for grouse on drought An environmental researcher said Monday that drought "is the big driver" when measuring detrimental effects on sage grouse populations. Renee Taylor, of Taylor Environmental Consulting in Casper, Wyo., spoke during a presentation to the Montana Petroleum Association's annual meeting in Billings. She listed conclusions of her examination of seven study areas across Wyoming where oil and gas development has occurred over the past 30 to 40 years. She is preparing a professional research paper that should be completed in six weeks and will be made available for critical analysis and peer review, she said. Taylor said sage grouse have maintained their breeding grounds, called leks, over time in existing oil and gas fields. Despite loss of habitat, intense activity and drought, the average number of sage grouse males is basically the same now as in 1970, she said....
Interior Dept. official says action must be taken on sage grouse The federal government must take immediate action to conserve shrinking sage grouse populations _ even as questions remain over the cause of the bird's decline, an Interior Department official said Monday. In recent months, the Interior Department tightened oversight of some new oil and gas activity in Wyoming and Montana in a bid to slow development in areas with high numbers of sage grouse. That came despite questions raised by industry representatives who argue evidence linking sage grouse declines to drilling are inconclusive. Julie Jacobson, deputy assistant secretary for minerals management at the Interior Department, said a lawsuit hanging over the agency has forced it to act before the bird can again become a candidate for the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2005 rejected a petition to have the bird listed as threatened or endangered. A lawsuit pending before a federal judge in Idaho seeks to force the government to reconsider....
Unofficial race big success - maybe Officially, there were no winners or losers at the unofficial Gore Canyon whitewater festival that might or might not have taken place 10 days ago at the Bureau of Land Management's Pumphouse Recreation Area. Like the sound of one hand clapping or a tree falling in the forest with no one around, it was impossible to determine whether the annual celebration of the classic Class V stretch of the Colorado River south of Kremmling took place this summer, even though it obviously did. From the land management vantage point, the non-permitted, non-event went off without a hitch. Or didn't, depending on your semantic perspective. In the absence of a legal permit necessary to conduct an official river race or group gathering, BLM rangers were present in full force at the river put-in and takeout, enforcing federal codes prohibiting an organized race through Gore Canyon on a par with the semi-organized races that have taken place on the third Saturday of August for nearly 20 years now....
Battling to save a unique species They saved starving pioneers. They were fed to refugees. They were even used to pay Mormon tithing and Salt Lake City public-works employees. "In a way," historian D. Robert Carter said, "the June suckers from Utah Lake helped build Salt Lake City." On Monday, Utah officials made the latest installment on repaying that debt. Department of Natural Resources workers introduced the first of 43,000 hatchery-bred suckers at Utah Lake State Park as part of a recovery plan to pull the species back from the brink of extinction. But Reed Harris, recovery-program director, said there is more to this effort. "We're not talking about saving fish," he said, "but saving an ecosystem."....
Kempthorne Wins 2007 Rubber Dodo Award The Center for Biological Diversity presented Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne with the first annual Rubber Dodo Award on Friday. Since his confirmation as secretary of interior on May 26, 2006, Kempthorne has not placed a single plant or animal on the federal endangered species list. The last listing (12 Hawaiian picture-wing flies) occurred on May 9, 2006 - 472 days ago. The previous recordholder was James Watt, who listed no species for 376 days between 1981 and 1982. Watt's refusal to list species resulted in a 1982 congressional amendment to the Endangered Species Act, which established firm timelines for listing species and litigation consequences for violating the deadlines. Kempthorne's refusal prompted Ed Markey (D-MA) to introduce H.R. 3459, the "Transparent Reporting Under ESA Listing Act," on August 4, 2007. It would amend the Endangered Species Act to require the secretary to explain the scientific basis of decisions to deny Endangered Species Act protections to imperiled plants and animals....
Activists take aim at lead bullets Lead bullets are the target of those working to save the endangered California condor. State lawmakers and wildlife authorities are on separate paths that could produce a ban on hunters using lead bullets in the condor's range, mostly along the coast from Santa Barbara to Big Sur. “Lead ammunition is probably the No. 1 factor impeding the recovery of the condor,” said Allison Alberts, director of conservation and research for the San Diego Zoological Society. Powerful forces have lined up to block a ban. Hunting and gun-rights advocates say a better course would be to expand voluntary measures to protect condors. They warn that the lead alternative – vastly more expensive copper – has not proven to be safer. They also fear cuts to wildlife programs funded by hunting-related taxes and economic losses in rural communities if large numbers drop out of the sport....
Removal from list was right decision The decision to remove Everglades National Park from the United Nations' list of endangered world heritage sites recognizes and applauds the unprecedented efforts and continuing commitment of South Florida's community, the State of Florida and the federal government to save this world-class ecosystem. Some have misinterpreted the criteria used by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee and the administration's support for removing the park from the list. The committee's decision does not in any way signal a lessening of our commitment or an end to the Everglades restoration efforts. This administration wholeheartedly supports the ongoing national initiative to comprehensively restore and preserve the River of Grass and its vital ecosystem. To date, the United States and State of Florida have spent about $7.1 billion for projects designed to improve water quality, increase water supplies, recover threatened and endangered species and restore natural habitat. The Government Accountability Office reports that of the 222 separate Everglades restoration projects that it estimates will cost at least $19.7 billion over the next decades, 43 have been completed, 107 are underway and 26 are in design or planning phases. The remaining 46 projects, to be launched in coming years, will complete the current restoration plan....
Tribe must haul own water Ethel Whitehair ran out of water again over the weekend, emptied every bucket and pot, drained the barrels lined up outside her front door. The community well was closed until Monday. Water from a well at a nearby windmill could supply the sheep, but it was untreated and made Whitehair's skin itch. At another windmill down the road, vandals had torn the cover off the storage tank. Deep inside, a car battery steeped in the soupy dregs, the surface stirred by the bloated bodies of three dead crows. So Whitehair waited, as she had so often during her 87 years on Arizona's Navajo Reservation. She waited for her children to come and haul water from the good well. She waited for someone to end an unthinkable water crisis. It is a wait shared by nearly 80,000 others who must haul water to meet basic needs. They live far from a water pipeline, and their communities barely have enough water to sustain what few lines exist....
Activist ices plans to paint global warming line around US city amid complaints A global-warming activist has withdrawn a proposal to paint blue lines across a swath of the city depicting the level the ocean could rise to if Greenland's ice sheets keep melting. The project, known as "lightblueline," had attracted criticism from some residents who feared their properties would lose value if they were located on the wrong side of the predicted flood zone. "If you're below the line, there's a stigma," resident Jerry Beaver told The Los Angeles Times for its Sunday edition. Beaver is a real estate developer who owns property that would be deluged if sea levels rise 23 feet (7 meters) - a scenario predicted by some scientists if Greenland's ice continues to thaw. Bruce Caron, the activist behind the project, disputed residents' concerns the line would have impacted property values....
With coal production, cleaner skies could mean more landfills As U.S. coal-fired power plants work to create cleaner skies, they will likely fill up landfills with millions more tons of potentially harmful ash. More than one-third of the ash generated at the hundreds of coal-fired plants in the U.S. is now recycled - mixed with cement to build highways or used to stabilize embankments, among other things. But in a process being used increasingly across America, chemicals are injected into plants' emissions to capture airborne pollutants. That, in turn, changes the composition of the ash and cuts its usefulness. It cannot be used in cement, for example, because the interaction of the chemicals may keep the concrete from hardening. That ash has to go somewhere - so it usually ends up in landfills, along with the rest of the unusable waste....
Idaho wildfires cost feds millions Idaho is taking a large chunk of this year's national firefighting budget, and wildfire managers say some of the communities they are defending have done little to protect themselves. The federal government has spent an estimated $125 million to fight large wildfires in Idaho this summer, 12.5 percent of the $1 billion spent so far nationwide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Fire managers say much of that money goes to equipment and firefighters who increasingly find themselves hosing down homes ahead of flames rather than battling wildfires head on. "The bottom line is you've turned these firefighters, these highly trained and experienced firefighters ... into a very expensive maintenance crew," said Jim Smalley, manager of Firewise, a national program that educates homeowners on how to protect their property from wildfires....
Ski resort battles blaze with snow machines The Wood River Valley continues to fight the 33,000-acre Castle Rock Fire by any means available: garden hoses, sprinklers and hand-dug barriers. Sunday, they brought out the snow machines. As the fire advanced toward Bald Mountain, the region's most popular skiing site, the Sun Valley Resort started the machines to protect the mountain and several structures at its summit from embers pushed by high winds. Officials turned on the chairlift when flames began to lick its seats. "The winds are pushing that fire to the east," said fire information officer Bob Beanblossom. "But we've got structure protection in place."....
Horses Killed By Train On Bridge Near Reno Two horseback riders escaped injury but their mounts were killed when they were struck by a Union Pacific train on a bridge west of Reno, authorities said. The unidentified riders were crossing the Truckee River on a railroad bridge when kayakers in the river told them of the oncoming train. The riders dismounted and jumped to safety but were unable to get the horses off the bridge, the Washoe County sheriff's office said. Sheriff's Sgt. Harry Dixon said the horses were owned by a local rancher who had allowed a volunteer caregiver to exercise the animals. He said case would be forwarded to Union Pacific Railroad police, who were considering trespassing charges against the riders.
UFO incident has a life of its own Roswell, N. M., home of a famous UFO incident in 1947 that officially was attributed to a radar experiment, is home to a yearly UFO festival and numerous other activities. But Southwest Nebraska was the site of a similar incident more than a half-century earlier -- the first recorded "UFO crash" in modern history. In case you're not familiar with the Dundy County incident of June 6, 1884, as reported the next day in the Nebraska State Journal, here are the highlights: It seems rancher John W. Ellis, three of his cowboys and several others were rounding up cattle when "they heard a terrific rushing, roaring sound overhead and, looking up, saw what appeared to be a blazing meteor of immense size falling at an an angle to the earth. A moment later, it struck the ground out of sight over the bank. Scrambling up the steep hill, they saw the object bounding along half a mile away and disappear in another draw." Galloping to the scene, they found scorched grass for yards around, and dazzling light so bright that it burned the face of one of the cowboys, singed his hair and blinded him, at least temporarily. After the object cooled somewhat the next day, a party including E.W. Rawlins, a brand inspector, reported finding scattered machinery including what looked like the blade of a propeller screw that looked like brass but was extremely light in weight; as well as a fragment of a wheel with a milled rim....

1 comment:

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