Saturday, April 30, 2016

Flake, McCain Call for Revised Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan

Posted on Apr 29 2016
Washington, DC– U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) today introduced the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan Act to direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to publish the first revised recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico in 34 years. As a result of the 1982 Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan, an experimental population of wolves were placed in Arizona and New Mexico and since that time, land owners and public officials have voiced concern about the program.

This legislation would require that the USFWS work with state and local entities to ensure they have input in the drafting of a new recovery plan. In addition, if the USFWS does not comply with the plan, then Arizona and New Mexico are able to supplement or assume management of the recovery process. This bill also includes a provision that would require automatic delisting of the Mexican gray wolf as an endangered species once conservation goals have been reached.

“This is an important issue to Arizona, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to consider the effects the Mexican gray wolf population has on the people of Arizona and our economy when revising the outdated recovery plan,” said Flake. “I am pleased to introduce this legislation with Senator McCain that would look to landowners and public officials to build a plan and increase state involvement in the recovery and management of the wolf population.” 
“Despite the federal government spending more than $20 million dollars on the Mexican gray wolf program over the last 18 years, it still hasn’t reached its stated population goal of 100 wolves,” said McCain. “This bill would provide state wildlife authorities and ranchers a stronger decision-making role in the reintroduction and management of the Mexican gray wolf, and put the program on a path towards being state-led and more responsive to local stakeholders on the ground.”

Background: On April 26, Arizona courts reached a settlement with the USFWS to establish a recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf by Nov. 2017.
On Feb. 1, Flake introduced an amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act that would require the immediate delisting of the wolf.
On April 7, Flake along with McCain and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Chris Steward (R-Utah), and Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Director Daniel Ashe calling for a fair consideration of management that would bolster a binational approach to handling the Mexican gray wolf population.
On Dec. 21, 2014 Flake and McCain requested an extension of the comment period on the final Environmental Impact Statement of the revised Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program. The request gave an extended 30-day public review of the program.
On Sept. 17, 2013 Flake along with McCain and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) sent a letter to Secretary Jewell calling for a hearing in Arizona on this issue

Press Release

And just where are Little Tommy YouDull and Marty Hiney on this issue?  Do they support the feds violating state law?  As U.S. Senators from NM they would have been given advance notice of the release.  What did they tell the USFWS? Do they support this legislation?

Gray wolf pups released into N.M. wild

Biologists, wildlife experts and officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hiked through the Catron County wilderness last week, carrying a small backpack containing a controversial and potentially illegal parcel. Tucked inside a perforated compartment slumbered two 9-day-old Mexican gray wolf pups, their eyes and ears still sealed shut. They weighed just a pound each. The federal government says the introduction of the young Mexican wolves into the New Mexican landscape is essential in recovering the endangered species, and something they are legally bound to do under the Endangered Species Act. But the New Mexican Game and Fish Department blasted the agency over the April 23 release of the pups, saying Friday that the management of wildlife falls under the state’s jurisdiction. The state agency said the Fish and Wildlife Service’s actions show a disregard for New Mexico law and may harm wildlife management throughout the state. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service blatantly disregarded states’ rights when they released Mexican wolves into New Mexico without obtaining the necessary state permits,” said Lance Cherry, a spokesman for the Game and Fish Department. “It is imperative that the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish remain the primary authority in all matters involving wildlife management in New Mexico for the benefit and best interest of our citizens.” Cherry said the department is currently evaluating the event and “weighing our options at this time.” The release occurred just days after the Fish and Wildlife Service settled a lawsuit by agreeing to create an updated wolf management plan for the region by 2017 and also follows an announcement by the agency that it would begin releasing wolves this summer to increase the species’ population in New Mexico and Arizona, and to boost the genetic variation of the wolves within both states. In response, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department said it would take legal action to prevent the wolf releases...more

And just where are Little Tommy YouDull and Marty Hiney on this issue?  Do they support the feds violating state law?  As U.S. Senators from NM they would have been given advance notice of the release.  What did they tell the USFWS?  Do they support the McCain/Flake legislation just introduced? 

Oregon standoff defendants' motions: Dismiss charges due to vagueness, government overreach

A ream of legal motions reveal some of the defense arguments in the pending federal conspiracy case against more than two dozen people indicted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Some of their lawyers are urging the court to dismiss specific counts of the indictment. They argue that the conspiracy charge is "unconstitutionally vague'' and that the charge of carrying a firearm in the course of a crime of violence won't hold up because the conspiracy didn't rise to a crime of violence, according to legal briefs filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland. For example, Joseph O'Shaughnessy's court-appointed lawyer Amy Baggio argues that the conspiracy charge filed against 26 defendants allows for "arbitrary enforcement.'' It accuses the defendants of conspiring to impede federal officers from their duties at the refuge through "force, intimidation or threats.'' The defendants disrupted the work of officers from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and disregarded law enforcement orders to leave the property during the 41-day occupation, prosecutors allege. Leader Ammon Bundy has said he and the others were protesting the return to prison of Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond, and to demonstrate against federal control of public land. Baggio contends the conspiracy statute, enacted in 1861, fails to define what "force, intimidation or threats'' consist of, and suggests prosecutors are using its vagueness "to quash political dissent against the federal government.'' "The statute fails, however, to provide appropriate limiting language so as to avoid chilling the exercise of constitutionally protected rights, including the very core First Amendment right of gathering together to protest policies and conduct of the federal government,'' Baggio wroteBaggio also filed a motion to order prosecutors to provide more detailed information to support their allegations so defense lawyers can better prepare a defense. For example, the defendants urged the government to identify the officers and employees whose work was impeded at the refuge and what duties were impaired. For another count accusing defendants of possessing firearms in a federal facility, the defense lawyers ask prosecutors to identify the buildings that represent a federal facility. Per C. Olson, David Fry's court-appointed lawyer, submitted a motion to dismiss the charge of carrying firearms in relation to a crime of violence, contending the underlying allegation of federal conspiracy doesn't amount to a violent crime...more

Awash in Mexican heroin

When federal officials talk about a flood of heroin entering the country, they are not exaggerating. In recent years the amount of heroin produced in Mexico has more than doubled – from less than 60 tons to more than 140 tons last year. It’s cheap. It’s plentiful. And all of it is destined for buyers in the United States. There is so much of the powerful opiate either sold here or in transit through New Mexico to other parts of the U.S. that local busts involving pounds of the narcotic worth six figures hardly make news. Heroin addiction once seemed more like a New Mexico problem since the state was always at the top of the nation in per-capita overdose deaths. But now, as heroin overdoses hit small towns in the Midwest and the suburbs on the East Coast, the outcry is national as cheap Mexican heroin has filled a market void left by the crackdown on prescription pain killers like Oxycontin and Percocet. New Mexico, as a border state, is a transit state for all drugs coming north from Mexico, whether the drugs are smuggled into California, Arizona or through the ports of entry in southern New Mexico or El Paso. Waite said part of the equation in reducing the amount of heroin and other drugs is seizing those drugs when they are being moved through New Mexico. A drug organization based in Hobbs, for example, can get heroin and methamphetamine from their “homies” in Albuquerque, who in turn took delivery of the drugs from associates in Phoenix. State Police, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies routinely seize heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine originating in Tijuana passing through New Mexico on the way east to Chicago, Kansas City, Cincinnati and points north and east. The drugs are transported on trains, commercial buses, rental cars or semi-trucks...more

Friday, April 29, 2016

Earls decision a 'slap in the face' for Alberta ranchers, but some experts say Canadian beef industry dropped the ball

As the reaction from a decision by the Earls restaurant chain to begin sourcing its beef from the U.S. instead of Canada continued to rile Albertans, experts say the move should be a wake-up call for the Canadian beef industry. Supporters of Alberta’s ranchers and feedlot operators continued to take to social media on Thursday to urge a boycott of the Vancouver-based chain, which announced this week it would be buying beef from Kansas instead of Alberta as part of its new commitment to serving only Certified Humane beef. Earls, which uses more than 900,000 kilograms of beef per year, was looking for a supplier that could provide it with a consistent supply of beef free of antibiotics and steroids, and slaughtered according to criteria set by animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin.
“There was (and is) simply not enough Certified Humane, antibiotic, steroid free beef in Alberta to meet the volume we use, and those we tried were unable to consistently meet our supply needs, not even a portion of it,” said Earls spokeswoman Cate Simpson in an email. The chain’s decision quickly drew the ire of Alberta beef producers, many of whom felt insulted by the Earls announcement. Bob Lowe, who operates a ranch near Nanton, said he took it as a “slap in the face.” “I’d like to challenge anyone from Earls to come out to our operation and show us what we’re doing wrong,” said Lowe. “To insinuate that cattle producers, feedlot operators, anybody who works with livestock of any kind in Canada is not looking after animals humanely . . . Well, that really hurts.” Lowe said he was frustrated by Earls’ implication that there is something wrong with the use of growth hormones, which he said actually make cattle ranching more environmentally friendly by allowing producers to raise more beef with less water and fewer acres of land.
But University of Saskatchewan assistant professor Eric Micheels — who specializes in bioresource policy, business, and economics — said he doesn’t believe Earls is saying there is anything wrong with Canadian beef production practices and animal welfare standards. Rather, he said the chain’s decision to source elsewhere is an indication that the Canadian industry has underestimated consumers’ desire to know more about the food they eat. “Agriculture groups, in general, have been very reactive to this type of shift in consumer preferences,” Micheels said. “They are slower to respond than firms in other industries.”...more

U.S. Interior Secretary just ripped into corporate climate doubters

Sally Jewell has a blunt message for companies that get mixed up with climate doubters. “There is nothing like a company’s reputation,” said Jewell, the secretary of the U.S. Interior Department, following a Thursday morning urban hike in Canada’s capital region with Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. Jewell, who previously worked as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corp prior to its merger with Exxon in 1999, explained that any business that deliberately tries to confuse the public, will wind up paying the price. “It takes years to build (a good reputation) and then can be stripped down in a hurry and if a company is irresponsible in sharing misinformation they need to be held to account," said Jewell, who has also worked as a business executive in the banking and retail industries, prior to joining the Obama administration in 2013...more

Hunting wolves near Denali, Yellowstone cuts wolf sightings in half

Visitors to national parks are half as likely to see wolves in their natural habitat when wolf hunting is permitted just outside park boundaries. That's the main finding of a paper co-authored by the University of Washington appearing April 28, 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE. Its authors examined wolf harvest and sightings data from two national parks -- Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park that straddles Wyoming, Montana and Idaho -- and found visitors were twice as likely to see a wolf when hunting wasn't permitted adjacent to the parks. "This is the first study that demonstrates a potential link between the harvest of wildlife on the borders of a park and the experience that visitors have within the park," said lead author Bridget Borg, a Denali wildlife biologist who completed this research while earning her doctorate from the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks...more

Before, you could do only one thing - view the wolves.  Now you have three options - hunt, trap and view.

Deadliest month ever for Florida panthers, with nine killed

This April will go down as the bloodiest month yet for the Florida panther. So far, nine of the endangered cats have died, all but one killed along Southwest Florida highways and roads. Seven were males, almost all of them at the young age when they start looking to establish their own territory. Altogether, 20 panthers have died this year, a number on track to outpace last year’s record-breaking 41 fatalities. Why so many died, wildlife officials say, is simply a gory measure of their success. “It’s not the best way to document that increase, but it’s still a fact we have to take into account,” said David Schindle, Florida panther coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The number also speaks to the increasing pressure from development on the wide-ranging panthers — particularly males, which each need a territory of about 200 square miles. In recent months, the notoriously shy cats have made some unusual appearances: In March, a panther was photographed sitting on the porch of an east Fort Myers house. Two weeks later, a visitor to the Corkscrew Swamp spooked a panther sitting on a boardwalk and videotaped it racing past her...more

Ammon Bundy offered to plead guilty to spare other militants

Three days after he was arrested on a remote highway north of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January, Ammon Bundy offered to plead guilty to a felony conspiracy charge for occupying the refuge if the government would drop charges for other defendants and allow the remaining occupants to go home safely. The plea deal, which prosecutors rejected two weeks later, was revealed yesterday in a legal filing from Bundy's attorney Mike Arnold in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. "On January 29, 2016, when more government initiated violence seemed highly probable, Mr. Bundy reached out on his own initiative, through legal counsel, in an attempt to facilitate a speedy resolution, offering to take all responsibility for the protest," Arnold wrote. "This is the kind of leadership and responsibility with which Mr. Bundy has been known throughout his life, and certainly throughout this protest." The government formally responded Feb. 10 -- one day before the remaining four occupants peacefully exited the refuge -- stating "it is simply too early to discuss resolution of the case," Arnold wrote in the 24-page filing. Since then, Malheur occupants including Bundy have been charged with five additional felony charges. Bundy's filing yesterday asked the court to grant a 30-day extension to yesterday's deadline to file preliminary legal arguments...more

Cliven Bundy Trial Set Back to 2017

The Nevada federal trial of ranchers Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy and 15 others accused of breaking federal laws during an April 2014 standoff has been pushed back to Feb. 6, 2017. U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy A. Leen on Tuesday granted a request to cancel the May 2 trial date, due to scheduling conflicts with Oregon Federal Courts. "Failure to grant the request would likely result in a miscarriage of justice," Leen wrote. In addition to postponing the Bundys' trial date, Leen designated the trial a complex case and set deadlines for pretrial motions and other proceedings. She gave federal prosecutors until May 6 to produce discovery evidence. Prosecutors and 13 of the 19 defendants, including Cliven Bundy, asked for the complex case designation. Leen said the case qualifies as complex due to the 16 felony counts against 19 defendants, the "voluminous" discovery, and the hundreds of potential witnesses. She said more than 100 witness interviews have been done already, with more coming. The government will call 30 to 45 witnesses, and seven of the defendants face separate criminal charges in Oregon...more

 That's the way the feds do it:  Get the judge to deny you bail and then keep movin' the trial back.  That increases the odds you will settle.

Anti-Fracking Groups Are Recruiting Greenies To Get Arrested For The Movement

Anti-fossil fuel campaigners are ramping up their “leave it in the ground” efforts by recruiting protesters willing to get arrested for demonstrating against hydraulic fracturing, emails acquired by The Daily Caller News Foundation reveal. In an email sent April 22 to college students and other anti-fossil fuel activists in Colorado, an environmentalist group calling itself “Break Free Colorado” directed anti-fracking protesters “willing to risk arrest, nonviolent direct action” to attend seminars teaching them how to get arrested. Instructors at the group’s April 30th and May 1st training seminars are tasked with teaching anti-fracking protesters how to engage in non-violent civil unrest tactics that lead to arrests. More than 40 campus anti-fossil fuel crusaders on college campuses have been arrested over the past two months. Eight anti-fossil fuel campus activists at Northern Arizona University (NAU) have been arrested since Monday for refusing to leave a building they were occupying in protest of the school’s fossil fuel assets. Similarly, nearly 40 anti-fossil fuel students at the University of Massachusetts were arrested while holding up in a federal government building in hopes of forcing UMass’ investment group into divesting fossil fuel assets...more

EPA: La Plata County won’t get full reimbursement for Gold King

Environmental Protection Agency officials told dismayed La Plata County commissioners on Wednesday not to expect compensation for some Gold King Mine spill costs. For seven months, county staff has sunk several hundred hours into drafting a cooperative agreement asking the EPA to fund up to $2.4 million over 10 years for spill-related costs and preparation measures for future emergencies. Others, including tribal communities and the state of New Mexico, have drafted similar documents asking for a long-term river monitoring system. But EPA officials said Wednesday the cooperative agreement program is not designed to cover anticipated expenses. Furthermore, the federal agency ended its emergency response activities on Oct. 31, and is using that date as a reimbursement cutoff for response costs. And, the agency is considering its own future costs to evaluate and clean the mining district that has been recommended for Superfund status. “The intent is not that this co-op agreement would cover future activities,” Superfund remedial program director Bill Murray said. “For Superfund sites, we don’t often have future costs included. The program is not designed to provide for a lot of what is in there.” The cooperative agreement outlines several tasks or funding requests. The EPA reimbursed the county for one task – $9,700 for a tour of regional Superfund sites – and is evaluating another – costs incurred from Aug. 6 through Dec. 31, 2015, that total $249,224. Earlier this year, the county received about $200,000 from the EPA for costs incurred immediately after the spill. But Murray said the EPA won’t cover continued monitoring of spill effects and water quality, a future response plan, continued outreach and public education. County staff said the EPA is contradicting itself, having told the county months ago to cast a wide net of demands in the cooperative agreement...more

Proposed Legislation Aims to Ensure Input of Local Communities in Federal Land Management Decisions

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on the discussion draft of “Locally-elected Officials Cooperating with Agencies in Land Management Act (LOCAL Management Act).”
The enormity of federal land ownership in numerous states has caused immense problems for counties, contributing to diminished tax bases and a range of duplicative and costly regulations that lack local input.
The  draft legislation is designed to mitigate these challenges by requiring federal land agencies to more closely consult and cooperate with local governments that are burdened by federal intrusion.
 “The most common complaint I hear from locally elected officials in my district is that they are rarely consulted, rarely respected and often bypassed by federal land managers in the decisions that directly affect their communities and the local economy, Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) said.


Fate of Arizona's only free-flowing river now in judges' hands

The fate of the Southwest's last free-flowing river is now in a few judges' hands. A panel will determine whether the state must reconsider its ruling that there is enough water to support a large housing development planned for Sierra Vista. Attorneys for the federal and state governments argued Thursday over water rights in the Arizona Court of Appeals in a suit that could make it more difficult for some developers to secure a 100-year water supply. The Arizona Department of Water Resources ruled years ago that developer Castle & Cooke had adequate water supply to build a roughly 7,000-unit residential and commercial project called Tribute. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and two Arizona residents sued, saying that the development's groundwater pumping would deplete the aquifer and dry stretches of the San Pedro River during summer. The development would increase the basin’s pumping by about 30 percent, according to court filings.  Fort Huachuca, an Army base, has cut its pumping by two-thirds and spent millions of dollars helping groups such as the Nature Conservancy recharge water into the aquifer, whose springs sustain the river.  The real-estate development would use about the same amount that Fort Huachuca has given up. "This is a facilitated robbery by ADWR," said Robin Silver, a party to the suit who owns property along the river. At the same time, a bill in the Arizona Legislature would allow Sierra Vista and other rural cities to permit development without 100-year water-supply certificates, which could green light the Castle & Cooke project. Both chambers approved the bill but have to reconcile some amendments before sending it to Gov. Doug Ducey...more

Editorial - BLM falling down on the job

Reason No. 297 why the federal government should cede control of a large swath of its sweeping Nevada real estate portfolio to those who actually live here:

For years, the Bureau of Land Management has done a miserable job of managing wild horse populations in the West. Thanks to that dereliction of duty, the BLM recently informed ranchers in northeastern Nevada that there will be further restrictions on grazing permits because wild horses have overrun certain areas, compromising the health of range lands.

The move could suck $1.8 million out of the Elko County economy. A cynic might suggest that all of this is no accident, given federal land managers have been squeezing ranchers for years.

At any rate, Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday said he may go to court to force the feds to more aggressively address the wild horse issue. He found support from Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation. “Unfortunately, the BLM has not lived up to its end of the bargain” on this issue, said Rep. Cresent Hardy, adding that the agency’s failure could “rob hard-working Nevadans of their livelihoods.”

This is all well and good, as far as it goes. But this is a symptom of a larger issue.

Environmentalists routinely dismiss concerns about Washington overseeing some 85 percent of Nevada’s acreage, arguing the federal government’s vast resources make it a more appropriate manager of these land holdings than the local yokels. But is it really so fantastical to posit that if these lands were under the domain of state or local interests, the wild horse problem would have been sufficiently confronted by now?

Instead, ranchers in Elko County — some of whom have been working the land for generations — now face financial strain thanks to the inaction of federal bureaucrats sitting in their comfortable beltway offices more than 2,000 miles away.

National Elk Summit slated next week

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will host representatives from 18 states and two federal agencies at a two-day summit Tuesday and Wednesday. The conference will address successes, challenges and strategies affecting elk populations, public lands management, habitat, hunting, public access, scientific research, disease and other timely topics. “This is an invaluable opportunity for us to rub shoulders with our partner agencies that do so much to look after elk and elk country,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “It also gives the state and federal agencies a chance to discuss commonly held challenges and solutions to a myriad of land and wildlife issues.” Directors or assistant directors from 18 states will participate. Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and RMEF will attend. Steven Rinella, award-winning author, RMEF life member and host of the TV Show “MeatEater,” will address the summit as well as RMEF President/CEO David Allen, other RMEF executive staff and board members...more

New Mexico leaders voice support for methane curbs

A coalition of city and county leaders, including Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, urged the Obama administration in a letter Thursday to swiftly adopt stringent regulations aimed at capturing methane emissions from oil and gas operations. They are the most recent public officials to weigh in on a mostly party-line debate over how and if methane emissions should be captured, with Democrats expressing support for new regulations, citing health and environmental ramifications, and Republicans objecting to additional government reach and its potential to constrict the oil and gas industry. In coming days, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release the first of two sets of highly anticipated federal methane regulations; the second is expected to be released by the Bureau of Land Management this summer. In the letter released Thursday, 68 officials from Colorado, Pennsylvania and New Mexico emphasized the harmful health consequences that have been associated with leaked methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to a warming climate — 80 times more than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release. In the oil-rich, northwestern corner of New Mexico, the amount of leaked and vented methane is said to be higher than the amount of gas produced, and it has created a 2,500-square-mile methane cloud over the Four Corners that was discovered via satellite by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 2014. It is the highest concentration of atmospheric methane in the nation...more

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Environmental Laws Threaten Safety in Borderland Communities

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on impediments imposed by federal land management regimes in securing the international borders of the United States.
Federal land management regulations create obstacles for the United States Border Patrol in effectively securing the border. This leaves borderland communities both environmentally degraded and vulnerable to smuggling operations.
“It is a fact that drug cartels and human traffickers have long used our unsecured borders to conduct their operations—and thousands of people have died as a result. […] But federal government has chosen to favor environmental regulations over national security interests and human lives, this emergency continues. […] Traffickers and drug lords could care less about bats, ocelots, and Sonoran Pronghorn. And yet, land managers at the Department of the Interior have blocked Border Patrol from accessing these lands, so that they can secure our borders, enforce our laws, protect tour land, save human lives and our precious species,” Subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said.
Panelists shared their personal experiences navigating these dangers, highlighting the continuing need to facilitate border patrol access to federal land. Commissioner of Boundary County, Idaho and former Border Patrol agent, LeAlan Pinkerton, described the environmental regulations restricting border security operations.
“The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers have affected a number of measures to inhibit the Border Patrol’s ability to access the border areas. They have placed gates on roads not previously gated. They have not provided keys in a timely fashion. They have changed locks on gated roads currently in use without providing keys in advance. They have removed culverts, decommissioned roads, dug tank traps and placed large boulders in roadways, etc. The USFS seldom gives any notification or fore-warning that such measures were scheduled or taking place,” Pinkerton stated.
Witness Tricia Elbrock, testifying on behalf of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, called for a federal overhaul of land use regulations to ensure border security.
“Our region from Arizona to Texas has a wide variety of federally owned lands ranging from the Bureau of Land Management and USFS to wildlife refuges and monuments. Many of these federal designations don’t allow for appropriate surveillance. Mountains near us have been burned to the ground due to fires started by illegals. Federal land use regulations need an overhaul to address the specific and special needs of the borderlands. Law enforcement agencies and the Border Patrol need access to every inch of federal lands to be able to protect our families and communities,” Elbrock stated.
Land managers can take years to issue permits needed to effectively patrol the border, if granted at all. The Committee aims to guarantee access to federal land necessary to install security technology, maintain roads and secure basic patrol access.
“It seems clear to me that we are placing environmental priorities over our national security. It is inexcusable when permitting […] takes so long that what’s needed for border security is no longer applicable,” Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said.
Click here to view the full witness testimony.

Defense bill would allow states to nullify federal sage grouse plans

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is celebrating the House Armed Services Committee's early Thursday passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, legislation that could block implementation of federal sage grouse management plans in Utah and other Western states. The massive bill also prevents any change in the bird's conservation status for 10 years. Conservation groups and wildlife organizations said the sage grouse provision in the bill threatens protections for the bird. But Bishop has argued that the nearly 100 land-use management plans adopted by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service to address threats to the imperiled bird jeopardize the nation's military readiness and in particular operations at the Utah Test and Training Range. HR4909 passed the committee at 2:30 a.m. Thursday after more than 16 hours of deliberation and despite efforts by key House Democrats who argued the bird poses no significant threat to the nation's military. Bishop, however, was able to get the rider in the bill that allows states with sage grouse populations to nullify the federal sage grouse management plans, which have been controversial in many states throughout the West...more

Is Thomas Jefferson alive and well in Utah?

Can't wait to see that nullification language.

My imagination is running wild.

Bunkerville standoff figure plays media card in bid for freedom

Pete Santilli is playing the media card in a bid to gain his release from federal custody in the criminal case stemming from the Bunkerville standoff. In court papers this week, defense lawyer Chris Rasmussen argued that Santilli was covering the April 12, 2014, armed confrontation between the Bundy family and law enforcement as a member of the media. He hosts the Internet-based Pete Santilli show from Cincinnati on YouTube. “The court should carefully consider the chilling effect on the media that the detention of the main journalist covering the Bundys would have on other journalists interested in these land issues,” Rasmussen wrote. “Santilli is situated much differently than the other defendants. His role as a journalist here in Nevada and Oregon should be considered in his release. Santilli never carried a firearm, never threw a rock, never came into any type of physical confrontation with government officials.” Federal prosecutors, however, do not share Rasmussen’s opinion. They contend in court documents that Santilli and his web-based Guerilla Media Network are not part of the mainstream media and that his podcast espouses anti-government rhetoric and conspiracy theories...more

How Safe is our U.S. Border? Border Community Members Share Their Story

Many communities on the U.S. border live in fear from illegal activity coming across from Mexico. Agriculture operations are constantly being harassed by drug runners and human traffickers. This video shows the struggles a community goes through with the border not being secure.

Researcher spent 10 years waiting for ghost cougar to appear. Now he’s calling it quits

After 10 years of patiently waiting for Nova Scotia’s ghost cougar to appear, a determined researcher working in the dark forests of Kejimkujik National Park is calling it quits. The elusive cougar has long been a source of intrigue and myth in Nova Scotia, and even inspired an episode of the Trailer Park Boys. But Chris McCarthy’s decade-long quest has failed to turn up any evidence that eastern cougars still roam the big park in western Nova Scotia. “We haven’t had any success in detecting any, and so after a decade we think we’ve put enough effort into it for now,” says McCarthy, the park’s manager of resource conservation...more

Sierra Club: Border Wall Would Harm Endangered Species

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposed border wall would harm threatened and endangered species, the Sierra Club claims in a new campaign. The Sierra Club’s Tucson affiliate is heading what it calls the Borderlands Project. In a video produced locally and marketed internationally, the group says the Trump wall proposal will not accomplish its intention - to curb illegal immigration - but will harm wildlife. “Border Patrol says over and over again that it only slows somebody down by five minutes," said Scott Nicol, a co-founder of the No Border Wall Coalition. "It’s basically a speed bump, but it’s a speed bump that is going to destroy critical habitat and also do tremendous damage to agriculture and ecotourism and the economy of an already very poor area,” Nicol said. Proponents of a border wall have repeatedly called it an integral step in stopping illegal immigration and that it must be built before any consideration of immigration reform. Among them is state Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, whose district includes the northernmost part of Pima County. “My oath of office is to protect the American people - not a species of animals," Smith said in an interview several months ago with Arizona Public Media when he was asked about wildlife and a wall...more

Why Malheur Wildlife Refuge is seeing green after the siege

The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge which ended in February has left an unexpected legacy to the park, one that appears to be in conflict with the occupiers' original intent.
Since the siege on the refuge ended in early February, the park has seen a surge of financial support.

While disgruntled farmer Ammon Bundy initiated the takeover with his armed supporters to protest federal ownership of land – such as Malheur in Harney County, Ore. – his 41-day occupation of the refuge appears to have worked against his agenda: Malheur has witnessed an outpouring of donations and visitors. Neither the park nor the occupiers could have anticipated the kind of interest the occupation would eventually spark.

“It was a curse for the refuge and the [Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge] group, and it was kind of dark days,” Gary Ivey, president of the independent nonprofit Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, told Oregon’s Bend Bulletin. The organization has raised over $75,000 in new memberships and donations since January. “It’s also a blessing because there’s been a lot more broad support and [the refuge is] more well known now.”

Malheur held its annual Harney County Migratory Bird Festival earlier this month and it was an unprecedented success. According to the festival’s website, “Tours filled up faster than we could keep up” and many of the events sold out before the three-day festival. 

...The occupation even started bringing in funds before the Bundys left the premises. Soon after the occupiers took over Malheur, a pair of Oregon brothers started an online fundraiser for the refuge and other related interests.

“For each day the unlawful occupation continues, the pledged funding for these groups will increase. It is our hope that the nonnative occupiers will see the futility of their wrongful takeover and peacefully go home!” brother Zach and Jake Klonoski pleaded on the site The Klonoski brothers’ mother is US District Court Judge Ann Aiken, whose resentencing of ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond became the Bundys’ rallying cry.

...“We need the final donated amount to be big, so that history records that the Bundys raised a ton of money against their own cause through their futile occupation,” write the Klonoski brothers. And when the occupation did end after 41 days, $135,647 was pledged to the GoHome campaign. In other words, each day the Bundys prolonged their occupation, $3,154 was raised for Malheur.

...“Bundy’s stated goal was to turn the refuge over to local ranchers, loggers and miners,” writes Triple Pundit’s Tina Casey. “But instead he set off a surge of public support for national parks in general and the Malheur refuge in particular.”

One has to wonder how much of this is wishful thinking - or even outright spite for the Bundys - or if this is indeed an accurate portrayal of the lasting affects of the takeover.

EWG’s "Dirty Dozen" list once inflammatory, now discredited

As they have done for the last 20 years, the Environmental Working Group issued its annual so-called “dirty dozen” list concerning pesticide residues and produce. In an attempt to re-spark interest in its list, EWG debuted a new fruit in the number one position this year. In response, the Alliance for Food and Farming issues its annual call for reporters and bloggers to read the actual United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program report that EWG states it uses to develop its list before covering the “dirty dozen” release. This USDA report states that the findings show “residues do not pose a safety concern.” One of the main reasons for declining coverage of the “dirty dozen” is not only are more reporters and bloggers reading the actual USDA report, but EWG’s “list” has been discredited by the scientific community. A peer reviewed analysis of the “dirty dozen” list found EWG uses no established scientific procedures to develop the list.  This analysis also found that EWG’s recommendation to substitute organic forms of produce for conventional forms does not result in a decrease in risk because residue levels are so minute, if present at all, on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables...more

Massive seagrass die-off hits Florida Bay

The shallow coastal waters of Florida Bay are famed for their crystal clear views of thick green seagrass – part of the largest stretch of these grasses in the world. But since mid-2015, a massive 40,000-acre die off here has clouded waters and at times coated shores with floating dead grasses. The event, which has coincided with occasional fish kills, recalls a prior die-off from 1987 through the early 1990s, which spurred major momentum for the still incomplete task of Everglades restoration. “It actually started faster as far as we can tell this year,” said James Fourqurean, a Florida International University marine scientist who studies the system. “In the 80s, it continued to get worse for 3 years.” Fourqurean and government Everglades experts fear they’re witnessing a serious environmental breakdown, one that gravely threatens one of North America’s most fragile and unusual wild places. When most people think of the Everglades, they envision swamps — but sea grass is just as important, if less romanticized.  And although there is at least some scientific dissent, Fourqurean and fellow scientists think they know the cause of the die-off. It’s just the latest manifestation, they say, of the core problem that has bedeviled this system for many decades: Construction of homes, roads, and cities has choked off the flow of fresh water. Without fast moves to make the park far more resilient to climate change and rising, salty seas, the problem will steadily worsen.  Holding dead grasses in her hand in a National Park Service boat in the more than half-a-million-acre estuary, Jewell told a group of staff and reporters, “This is what we get when we don’t take care of Florida Bay.”...more

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The dark side of the sun — Soda Mountain Solar project

By Sidney Silliman
The California desert is a uniquely American landscape. The Joshua trees, giant boulder piles, mountain ranges, and night skies brought the adventurous here for decades, and the depiction of our iconic desert landscapes in movies and on television shaped the nation’s view of the West.

Our desert is an important place for recreation. Visitation increases every year as more and more people come to appreciate the spectacular resources and recreation opportunities. More than 3 million people visit our desert national parks alone each year. Many smaller desert communities are building their livelihood around the growth in tourism.

Despite broad public support for maintaining the unique qualities of the desert, the Obama administration continues to make harmful decisions that undermine our public lands, our tourism economy, and our faith in its ability to lead us to a green-energy future without destroying what we value most. The administration just approved an unwanted project, Soda Mountain Solar, above the opposition of local communities, the administration’s scientists, the National Park Service and tens of thousands of Americans. The opposition to the decision is intense. Desert folks are disgusted with an administration that continues to put projects in bad places even as it assures us it will do better.  Despite two national planning processes for renewable energy taking years and costing untold millions of dollars, the administration is permitting another bad project to roll forward.

Soda Mountain Solar is the most controversial renewable energy project in the country. The power plant is proposed to be sited directly adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve, a remarkable national park. The project will harm desert bighorn sheep, kit fox, burrowing owl and desert tortoise even though the project technology can easily site it elsewhere. Soda Mountain Solar does not have a buyer for its energy. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power rejected the enormous economic cost and environmental harm of Soda Mountain. Other power agencies repeatedly refuse to buy the power.

Wildfire rehab effort going well so far in Idaho, Oregon

Scientists say a $67 million rehabilitation effort following a wildfire in southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon is starting off well thanks to good precipitation over the winter. About $14 million has been spent since October as part of a five-year restoration plan to develop new strategies to combat increasingly destructive rangeland wildfires in the West. "This fire occurred in an area that has a lot of different terrain, different ecotypes," said Cindy Fritz, a natural resource specialist with the Boise District of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. "There's a ton of variety out there, and we'll be able to see how our treatments work." She said about half of the $14 million has been spent on seed, and the other half was spent on labor and operating costs. The new wildfire approach ordered by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell last year is credited with preventing many small rangeland wildfires from getting big. But the Soda Fire scorched 436 square miles of sagebrush steppe that supports cattle grazing and some 350 species of wildlife, including sage grouse. Jewell's order calls for a "science-based" approach to safeguard greater sage grouse while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin. The bird did not receive federal protections under the Endangered Species Act last fall, but various efforts to protect sage grouse habitat have been put in place. Part of that effort is making sagebrush steppe resistant to wildfire and more resilient should a wildfire occur. On-the-ground specifics of how to actually achieve those goals are being tested in the areas scorched by the Soda Fire...more

Rhetoric vs. Reality - American Lands Council

    Recently, an east coast political hit squad who call themselves 'Campaign for Accountability' (CfA), released an article in which their Executive Director, Ann Weisnmann, regurgitates multiple lines of rhetoric that are not new in the public lands debate, but are no closer to the truth than the first time they were hatched. Fortunately, lies told repeatedly are still just lies and the truth can be proven with facts.
    According to Weismann, the Transfer of Public Lands (TPL) to the states is a "patently unconstitutional cause" and we must STOP talking about it! Last year her group even went so far as to file claims of fraud against leading TPL spokesman Ken Ivory to stop our efforts to educate and organize the Transfer of Public Lands movement. Did she forget these frivolous claims were dismissed in every state in which she attempted these Stalin-like suppression of speech maneuvers? No, but she did get headlines in 58 newspapers the day she filed the claims, so her real objective of smearing our spokesman was probably successful in her eyes.
    The truth has never stopped Weismann and her allies from pushing their deceptive rhetoric. For example, their primary "legal evidence" for opposing TPL is a few low tier lawyers with very limited expertise on the subject. Opponents of TPL conveniently forget to inform their readers of the many legal white papers, law reviews, and independent studies of Constitutional law, Statehood agreements, and Supreme Court cases that validate the States' rights to govern the lands, resources, and people within our own boundaries (see HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE for a few examples). Opponents don't want you to know about the legitimate findings of the nation's foremost experts like Ronald Rotunda, who is considered the Michael Jordan of constitutional law. They don't want you to know about the Official Legal Analysis commissioned by the State of Utah in which Rotunda and a highly credible team of co-authors show the transfer of federally controlled public lands to the states is completely constitutional.

    Rotunda's works have been cited more than 1,000 times by state and federal courts at every level, from trial courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, yet Weismann and other opponents never cite him. Is there any wonder why?
    Because opponents have no substantive arguments against TPL, they typically resort to deception. For example, Ms. Weismann claims that Ken Ivory is running around trying to "drum up support" for the  Transfer of Public Lands. In reality, Ken is continuously invited to speak at major events because of the very fact that so many people are already supportive of the Transfer of Public Lands and want to know more about it. In fact, a growing number of Americans hunger for these true principles of freedom upon which our nation was founded and upon which the sovereignty of the states and the balance of powers in our nation are hinged. Rather than being "unsuspecting victims", as twisted in Ms. Weismann's usual pattern of casting doubt, people all over the nation are seeking greater understanding of these very issues that so profoundly affect our lives and livelihoods.
    In another tall tale, Weismann and company like to assert that Ken Ivory started the American Lands Council, as if he did so to get rich. Another false claim. ALC was founded by county commissioners in the West, who then asked Rep. Ivory to be their spokesperson and educate the surrounding states concerning the history of the public lands and the legal responsibilities of both Congress and the states concerning the matter. People like Weismann call out Mr. Ivory's salary but fail to tell us they make far more! kettle.
    For example, according to 2014 tax records (see page 7), Ann Weismann took over $196,000 in compensation from the "non profit organization" (CREW), while Executive Director Melanie Sloan took over $252,000. Their Senior Counsel took over $152,000. And they are making an issue over ALC's President giving up his successful law practice to earn $135,000 a year (see page 7)? The opposition groups pay more in fundraising fees than ALC has ever paid its top executives! (see page 1, 16b) We have yet to see what pay raise Ms.Weismann has received from her new founded "non profit organization" because to date, Campaign for Accountability has declined to release their 2015 financial records. What kind of "accountability" is that? With foreign billionaire George Soros likely footing the bill, our opponents seem to be able to pay themselves very handsomely to weave their web of deception.
    Critics like Weismann also like to point out that Mr. Ivory's salary was nearly half of ALC's budget. This might be a big deal if ALC's budget came anywhere near the $2.8 budget of Ms. Weismann's 2014 employer, but is hardly cause for alarm in the case of ALC's very modest budget which averages less than $300,000 per year. Opponents like Weismann neglect to mention that it was indeed half of the budget because American Lands Council is an educational organization, and Mr. Ivory was our primary educator. As an organization, the American Lands Council does not throw money away on meaningless extras, but puts our our membership-based income into giving knowledge and courage to elected officials and those who choose them...precisely what our members are relying on us to do.
    In another attempt to suppress the truth, Ms. Weismann points out that her organization "released dozens of emails showing how Ivory used his legislative email account to promote ALC". What she neglects to point out is that her organization reviewed more than 5,000 emails from Mr. Ivory's state email account through a Government Records request, and requested all communication records from every organization throughout the west in which Mr. Ivory may have communicated over the past six years that he has been in office. The result of this witch hunt was nothing more than 23 random emails -- over a 6 year period -- which were sent from Ken's legislative email address simply because it is the account which the recipient had used to contact him. In other words, he received an email about the work of the American Lands Council and hit reply instead of switching to another email account, and for this CfA wants him locked up! By the way, each of the emails is public and none show any wrong-doing or dark motives.
    Last, but certainly not least, Ms. Weismann and friends always try to tie Ivory and the American Lands Council to outside groups, claiming that Ivory is responsible for "anti-government militants, such as those who took over Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge". This is another desperate attempt to distort the facts. ALC and Ivory have both repeatedly expressed the need for legal and constitutional avenues of resolving the issue of our public lands, and have never advocated any means of compelling a lands transfer in any way other than through legislative and judicial paths. This is and remains our true aim, and because we are on target, we are taking flack from those who prefer increased federal control over our lives and lands.
    It is an age-old truth that when people cannot stand on facts, they will turn the debate into an attack on character. We encourage all to do their own research. Do not fall for the scare tactics of opposition groups likely more concerned about the continuation of their own salary than promoting the truths and freedoms that benefit us all.

Commissioner Dunn Opposes Federal Land Grab in Senate Energy Bill: “A Slap in the Face to New Mexico’s School Children”

Commissioner Dunn Opposes Federal Land Grab in Senate Energy Bill: “A Slap in the Face to New Mexico’s School Children”

Santa Fe, NM (April 27, 2016) – New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn today issued the following statement in opposition to an aspect of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 (S. 2012), which passed the United States Senate on April 20, 2016, on the basis that the legislation will take away land from State Land Trust beneficiaries – including public school children – for new wilderness area designations in New Mexico.

Commissioner Dunn states:

“Following a review and analysis of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016, I am strongly opposed to a portion of this legislation as sponsored by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and supported by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The Senate energy bill seeks to designate 21,420 acres within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico, for the purpose of creating the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and Rio San Antonio Wilderness areas. President Obama’s 2013 designation of Rio Grande del Norte has already impacted 38,788 acres of State Trust Lands, which were originally set aside by Congress in the Enabling Act of 1910 for the benefit of public schools, universities, hospitals and other important institutions in New Mexico.

The Senate’s new wilderness area designation encompasses 1,280 acres of State Trust Lands. With low oil prices already impacting revenues from State Trust Lands, the designation of these new wilderness areas will only add insult to injury and further reduce revenues in support of New Mexico’s school children. In total, the federal government has set aside 162,000 acres of State Trust Lands in recent years for national monuments, wilderness study areas and conservation agreements for threatened species in New Mexico. The fact that the Senate is authorizing this new land grab without providing any acreage in exchange to the State Land Trust is tantamount to a slap in the face to New Mexico’s school children.

Congress can fix this problem by transferring or exchanging federal acreage from the Bureau of Land Management to the New Mexico State Land Office for the benefit of our State Land Trust. I originally proposed this idea to New Mexico’s congressional delegation during a visit to Washington in February. Such a deal would ensure that the State Land Trust remains whole and intact as we seek to maintain revenues for public school children and other important beneficiaries.”

The State Land Office is responsible for administering 9 million acres of surface and 13 million acres of subsurface estate for the beneficiaries of the State Land Trust, which includes schools, universities, hospitals and other important public institutions.


Way to go Commissioner Dunn! First the NM legislators speak up on the mouse/water issue, and now a state-wide elected official steps forward on wilderness lockup legislation. 

Please take the time to thank Aubrey Dunn by either phone, 505.

Deal sets into motion Mexican Wolf recovery plan

A settlement announced Tuesday between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several environmental groups that had filed a lawsuit over the agency’s stalled recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf could help restart efforts to boost the endangered animal’s numbers in New Mexico and Arizona. Under the deal, the Fish and Wildlife Service is required to develop a new wolf management plan before the year’s end. Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement Tuesday that the new plan “should trigger new releases of captive-bred wolves into the wild and establish new Mexican wolf populations. “After four decades of delay, a scientific road map for recovery of the Mexican gray wolf will finally be a reality,” he added. The settlement comes just a week after the federal agency announced it would move forward with wolf releases in New Mexico this summer, despite the state’s objections, and the state threatened to sue if the releases move forward. The settlement says the agency must release a new recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf by Nov. 30. It also requires the agency to pay $56,467 in legal fees to the environmental groups. In the ongoing debate over the federal agency’s plans to release Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico, the state has cited the lack of current science and the need for a new federal management strategy. It has twice denied the agency a permit for wolf releases. New Mexico Game and Fish Department Director Alexa Sandoval told The New Mexican in January that releasing the wolves without a management plan would be like “driving with blinders on.”...more

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How climate change is causing a bumper crop

Climate change is ruining our planet, increasing the rates of extreme weather events, helping spread dangerous diseases, killing off endangered wildlife and bringing ruin to local farmers — with exceptions. In fact, a new study in Nature Climate Change suggests that some local farmers are actually seeing higher crop yields because of the carbon that we're pumping into the atmosphere.
Now this does not mean climate change and carbon emissions are good for the planet, but it does suggest that the impacts of global warming are far more complex than we once thought. "Most of the discussion around climate impact focuses only on changes in temperature and precipitation," said lead author Delphine Deryng of NASA's Goddard Institute in a press statement. "To adapt adequately, we need to understand all the factors involved." Let's get one thing out of the way — carbon emissions are not good. But in this new study, scientists claim that too much carbon isn't always bad news for crops — and that, indeed, some crops may flourish even as our seas rise and our planet careens toward utter destruction. Comforting, right? The key, the authors write, is water storage. Plants usually take in carbon dioxide through tiny holes in their leaves known as stomata. When these holes open, water inevitably leaks out. If there is a high concentration of carbon in the air, plants seldom need to open their stomata and so conserve moisture. Scientists call this phenomenon carbon fertilization.  But until now, there was scant evidence that carbon fertilization could occur outside of a laboratory setting. So 16 top climate and plant scientists from around the world scoured the latest crop models and data from ongoing field experiments, and calculated how much more efficiently crops will use water if climate change continues unimpeded. Their results suggest that wheat crops will begin to use water 27 percent more efficiently, soybeans will increase their efficiency by 18 percent, and that corn and rice would both become roughly 10 percent more water efficient. Then, the scientists calculated the expected crop losses due to rising temperatures, including extreme weather conditions. They conclude that we'll probably see a net gain in wheat crops despite rising temperatures, but that corn is in trouble and expected to take a net loss...more

Clean water crisis threatens US

The United States is on the verge of a national crisis that could mean the end of clean, cheap water. Hundreds of cities and towns are at risk of sudden and severe shortages, either because available water is not safe to drink or because there simply isn’t enough of it. The situation has grown so dire the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence now ranks water scarcity as a major threat to national security alongside terrorism. The problem is being felt most acutely in the West, where drought conditions and increased water use have helped turn lush agricultural areas to dust. But dangers also lurk underground, in antiquated water systems that are increasingly likely to break down or spread contaminants like lead. The crisis gripping Flint, Mich., where the water supply has been rendered undrinkable, is just a preview of what’s to come in towns and cities nationwide, some warn...more

EPA launching new water infrastructure effort after Flint

Federal regulators plan to begin working with state and local officials on an assessment of drinking water infrastructure in the wake of the Flint, Mich. crisis. The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it will begin discussing— with state regulators, utilities and groups outside government — steps they can take to implement safe drinking water laws. The agency will focus on issues like state and federal oversight of drinking water and ways to help low-income communities disproportionately impacted by water problems. The effort will look at implementation of rules guiding lead and copper levels and how to regulate other chemicals that might be found in drinking water. White House officials will also conduct a study of the science and technology behind national drinking water regulations and issue recommendations for federal regulators...more

Study to quantify economic benefits of outdoor recreation

...In remarks at the National Geographic Society April 19, US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell laid out a vision for actions the nation can take to build upon America’s rich conservation legacy and pass on healthy public lands and waters to the next generation. The secretary delivered the remarks during National Park Week to help mark the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. During the speech, Jewell called for a “course correction” for conservation that includes inspiring all Americans from all backgrounds to connect with public lands; implementing smart, landscape-level planning to support healthy ecosystems and sustainable development; and greater investments in national parks and public lands to prepare for the next century of conservation. During her remarks last week, Jewell also announced that the federal government will undertake a first-of-its-kind study to analyze the impact outdoor recreation has on the nation’s economy. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis feasibility study will present detailed and defensible data on the importance of outdoor recreation as a distinct component of the economy that can help inform decision making and management of public lands and waters. “By producing credible data on the tangible economic benefits of public lands, we can help the public and Members of Congress better understand the benefits of investing in them,” Jewell said. “Industry estimates show that consumer spending for outdoor recreation is greater than household utilities and pharmaceuticals combined – and yet the federal government has never fully recognized or quantified these benefits. This project is the start of a multi-year effort to count these contributions in a comprehensive and impartial way.”...more 

And where are similar studies on oil & gas industry, mining, livestock grazing, timber production, etc.?  

Note the studies are to help "Members of Congress better understand the benefits of investing" in public lands.  In other words, a government study to support additional spending by government agencies.  That's a nice gig if you can get it.

National Parks Are Used Mostly by Older White People: Here’s Why That Needs to Change

Utah official: BLM 'impotent' to deal with wild horse problem

SALT LAKE CITY — A frustrated Beaver County commissioner complained to a top U.S. Department of Interior official that the agency is like a gelded horse and "impotent" to solve the wild horse problem in the West. Jim Lyons, deputy assistant secretary under Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, was in town last week to talk sage grouse management. But he received an earful about the wild horse population problem in Utah. "This is the worst managed horse population, but you guys always seem to pick on grazers," complained Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney in a Friday exchange with Lyons. "It has to come down from Congress. Congress has to step it up. … You guys are like a gelded horse. You're impotent. They do not give you the skills to manage this problem." Lyons did not disagree on the agency's challenges. "We recognize the problem with the wild horses," he said. "We don't have the resources." Afterward, Lyons said it's clear Western leaders need answers. "Obviously we will set to work up a briefing," he said. "The wild horse and burro problem is a significant issue when it comes to sage grouse. My worry also is that the (overpopulation) results in poor rangeland conditions, and in some ways that is inhumane. We simply don't have the capacity." Whitney said he's been to Washington, D.C., twice and is meeting Tuesday with Neal Kornze, the Bureau of Land Management's national director, to again plead for action on Utah's wild horse population problem. Range population estimates of wild horses and burros in 10 Western states as of March 2015 are 58,150, well above the BLM's targeted levels of 26,715, according to the agency. In Utah, the appropriate management level for wild horses and burros is 1,956, but there are more than twice that many animals — 4,906...more