9 Dec 2007, 1:26pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Judge: Study grouse again

BOISE, Idaho — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ignored expert advice when it decided to deny federal protection to the sage grouse, and the agency must reconsider its decision, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

In a decision highly critical of the agency and its decision-making process, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said the service also failed to use the “best science” available when deciding not give the declining species protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Such protection could have dramatic consequences in Wyoming, where state and industry officials fear it would shut off millions of acres to livestock grazing and energy development.

John Emmerich, deputy director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said Wyoming has vast areas of sage grouse habitat and the bird is widely distributed across the state.

“If a species like that gets listed, it’ll have huge ramifications,” he said… [more]

9 Dec 2007, 1:25pm
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Grizzly attacks evoke response

BILLINGS, Mont. — Grizzly bears, the West’s largest and most fearsome predators, are back in a big way in the Northern Rockies — rising in numbers, pushing into new territories and mauling hunters who stumble across them in the wild.

While state and federal officials laud the bear’s remarkable comeback from near-extinction last century, others say it’s time to lift the remaining protections that helped them recover and point to the recent grizzly encounters as evidence.

“We’ve got grizzly bears eating people who come here to hunt,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commissioner Vic Workman, who fended off a grizzly during a Nov. 25 hunting trip near Whitefish. “It’s getting out of whack. We’ve got too many bears.”…

The biologist in charge of restoring grizzlies acknowledges they appear to be on track toward recovery in some areas. For example, in central and western Montana they’ve expanded their range by more than 2,300 square miles over the last two decades…

But Christopher Servheen, grizzly recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said it will take at least five more years of research to show the bear’s progress is not fleeting.

While there is no comprehensive data on grizzly-human conflicts, an Associated Press tally shows at least a dozen grizzly bear attacks reported since April. Seven victims were injured, including several severely… [more]

9 Dec 2007, 1:22pm
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Truck plows through bighorn sheep

THOMPSON FALLS, Mont. (AP) — At least 25 bighorn sheep lapping up salt-based de-icer on Montana Highway 200 have been struck and killed by vehicles this year, including seven struck by one semitrailer east of here earlier this month.

Witnesses told Bruce Sterling, a wildlife biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, that the truck’s brake lights never came on as it passed a readerboard asking drivers to slow down because sheep congregate on that part of the highway and that 18 had already been killed this year.

The trailerless semi slammed into the herd, killing at least seven sheep, cutting some in half, Sterling said. Others may have been fatally injured, but wandered away before dying, Sterling said…

In an effort to reduce sheep deaths, which have topped 350 since Sterling began keeping records in 1985, FWP has tried putting salt blocks out away from the highway, with little success.

“Salt is a natural mineral the sheep routinely seek out,” Sterling says, “and finding it on the road has become a learned behavior over the course of many years. It’s difficult to put salt blocks out and expect them to find it.”

They’ve fired cracker shells near the herd, and the loud explosion works — for about a half hour.

Then they’re back, licking up the de-icer again.

“Our saving grace is that the sheep aren’t active at night,” Sterling says. “They go up into the cliffs to bed down at night. If they were down on the road at night, I don’t know if we’d have any left.”… [more]

Ninth Court Blocks Life-Saving Thinning

A Bush administration rule that allowed expedited logging on national forests saved thousands of homes during the recent wildfires in California, Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell said today.

Kimbell cited “some real vivid examples” in California where the Forest Service practice of logging without first analyzing its effect on the environment saved homes and lives.

“The hazardous fuels treatments were instrumental saving thousands of homes” in southern California during recent wildfires near San Diego and Lake Arrowhead, Kimbell said.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the practice Wednesday, saying it violated the National Environmental Policy Act. Kimbell said the administration was considering whether to appeal…

In its opinion Wednesday, the three-judge appeals court panel said the Forest Service had failed to properly analyze the rule, causing “irreparable injury” by allowing more than 1.2 million acres of national forest land to be logged and burned each year without studying the ecological impacts.

The justices ruled that the Forest Service can no longer exempt such projects from environmental analysis until the rule itself can be properly analyzed.

The ruling sided with the Sierra Club and Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign…

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called the decision an assault on common sense and reason.

“The court’s overzealous interpretation of environmental regulation is placing lives and personal property in danger,” said Issa, adding that the appeals court “placed greater weight on the concerns of a special interest group than the lives and welfare of Americans threatened by wildfires.”

The case is Sierra Club v. Bosworth, 05-16989… [more]

7 Dec 2007, 2:54pm
Latest Fire News
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USGS Study Finds Ash from Southern California Fires May Pose Problems to Health and the Environment

Ash from last month’s southern California fires may pose problems to health and the environment, according to preliminary results from a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study released to the Multi-Agency State and Federal Task Force.

Samples collected from two residential areas burned by the Grass Valley and Harris wildfires indicate that the ash contains caustic alkali materials and can contain somewhat elevated levels of metals such as arsenic, lead, zinc and copper. Ash from burned wildlands can also contain caustic alkali materials, though at lower levels than the residential ash.

“These findings are consistent with the scientific knowledge about wildfire ash that has led counties in California to issue advisories regarding appropriate precautionary measures to avoid health problems associated with exposure to the ash,” said Dr. Geoffrey Plumlee, a USGS lead author of the study. .. [more]

7 Dec 2007, 2:52pm
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NM Jumping Mouse a Candidate for Endangered Species Protection

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is among a handful of species from the Southwest that is being considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency released a list of the latest candidates Thursday. They include the mouse, a snail and a frog from Arizona, a fish from Tennessee and a variety of buckwheat found in Nevada. The list names 280 plants and animals in all.

As for the mouse, agency officials in New Mexico say it once was found in about 100 locations from the Jemez Mountains in the north, down through the Rio Grande Valley to the Sacramento Mountains in the south. Now, the mouse can be found in about 10 places.

“It’s literally on the brink of extinction,” said Nicole Rosmarino, the conservation director of Forest Guardians, a Santa Fe-based environmental group that has been monitoring the mouse… [more]

For additional information regarding the meadow jumping mouse, see [here]

7 Dec 2007, 2:50pm
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Anti-wolf group responds to state management plan

Coalition wants all wolves out of Idaho

Wolves are on the minds of many Idahoans following this week’s unveiling of the state’s plan to manage the species if it’s delisted from federal protection early next year.

But wolves are in the hearts of the Idaho Anti-wolf Coalition, a group that passionately wants all wolves removed from Idaho.

The group, led by Stanley outfitter Ron Gillette, doesn’t trust the federal or state government to manage wolves, which they say are wiping out elk populations. The coalition is circulating a petition to back Idaho out of the recently released management plan and to refuse cooperation with the federal government.

“This is a crisis that’s going on,” said Twin Falls hunter Tony Mayer at a meeting hosted by the group Tuesday night at the Turf Club in Twin Falls. “This is a despicable situation. It’s an epidemic. It’s a problem.”

The group says any number of wolves in Idaho are too many, and they blame the government for what they call a wildlife crisis… [more]

6 Dec 2007, 7:53pm
Latest Forest News
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Big Sky Coalition promotes legislation, education to boost logging

Clark Fork Chronicle - Nov. 29, 2007 (Repost)

Environmentalists with common sense

by John Q. Murray

The Big Sky Coalition is moving forward with legislation, hopes to participate on the Bitterroot National Forest’s restoration committee, and may seek to launch education campaigns directed at East Coast and West Coast environmentalists, organizers told the Chronicle Tuesday.

The group, which characterizes itself as “environmentalists with common sense,” drew an eye-popping 650 people to a public informational meeting in Hamilton earlier this month, with the crowd overwhelmingly in support of increased logging on the national forests as a way to mitigate catastrophic wildfires. The group has already received over $10,500 in donations.

The summer’s smoke in the valley-again-frustrated a lot of Bitterrooters, explained organizer Tom Robak. “After the smoke started to die down, we spent a lot of time talking to people, and everybody had the same message—this is getting old. We need to try something different.”…

The group is considering a similar meeting in Missoula as they continue to build an environmental organization with a full-time staff that can participate in decision-making regarding public lands. They also hope to continue to develop broad public support to push legislation through Congress…

One potential approach is to require litigants suing to stop a project to post a bond. “In an emergency situation, if you are going to stop a project, you need accountability,” [organizer] Sonny [LaSalle] said…

The Big Sky Coalition is establishing partnerships with the Montana Wilderness Association, the National Wildlife Federation, and Montana Trout Unlimited. “Having a healthy forest and healthy habitat is beneficial to everything and everybody,” Sonny said…

“I’ve been involved in public meetings for 40 years and I’ve never seen a turnout like that,” Sonny said. “It sends a message to me that people really are frustrated and they want change. The status quo is not acceptable anymore and the Forest Service and our elected officials need to be responsive to that change.”… [more]

6 Dec 2007, 3:37pm
Latest Forest News
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Project unites rival forest views

A conservationist, a logger and a Forest Service manager work together

Tim Lillebo, Scott Melcher and Maret Pajutee trail decades of hostility as they tramp through the forests that slide east off the Cascades into central Oregon.

Yet, here they are — an environmentalist, a logger and a Forest Service manager — side by side amid the towering ponderosa pines along Indian Ford Creek.

The three have joined forces in an unusually friendly effort to repair a 1,200-acre patch of fire-prone forest just east of Black Butte Ranch.

“This is a great opportunity after absolute war,” said Lillebo, an advocate with the conservation group Oregon Wild… [more]

6 Dec 2007, 3:23pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Extinction threatens 54 bird species often seen in Oregon

Comprehensive listing - A new watch list finds even common thrushes and flycatchers are in trouble

More than 50 bird species that spend at least part of their lives in Oregon, including a few seen in Portland backyards, are nearing the brink of extinction, according to a new assessment that’s one of the most comprehensive ever attempted.

The list includes some Northwest species, such as the spotted owl and marbled murrelet, that are well-known because they’re in trouble. But it also holds lesser-known species such as Lewis’s woodpecker, the willow flycatcher and the varied thrush.

The appearance of the varied thrush on the new watch list compiled by the Audubon Society and American Bird Conservancy surprised Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland. Frequent sightings might make it seem that the relative of the robin, which breeds in the Coast Range and Cascades, is doing all right, he said. “That’s seen around Portland all the time over the winter.”

But breeding-bird surveys show that the species has declined nearly 25 percent during the past 40 years, probably because of fragmentation of its forest habitat… [more]

4 Dec 2007, 9:09pm
Latest Fire News
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Oregon’s Largest Sitka Spruce Breaks Apart in Storm

(SEASIDE, Ore.) - Oregon’s largest living thing, the National co-champion Sitka Spruce tree in southern Clatsop County, was severely damaged by the weekend storm that struck the Oregon coast.

Known as the Seaside Spruce or the Klootchy Creek Giant, the tree had shared the title of the country’s largest Sitka spruce with another one in Washington’s Olympic National Park. At seventeen feet in diameter and 206 feet tall, it was not only the largest of its kind, but was also the first tree designated as an Oregon Heritage Tree.

After the December 2006 storm, officials from Clatsop County, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee determined that the tree was too weakened by time and nature to save, but that public interest in the tree and its unique history merited a response of letting the tree stand and letting nature take its course.

Clatsop County Parks officials erected a fence a safe distance away from the tree, and installed interpretive materials telling the story of the dying tree.

Media reports indicate that the tree split apart early Sunday morning at approximately 75 feet above the ground. This event had been expected since a December 2006 windstorm opened up an old lightning scar running from 40 to 80 feet above the ground. It was along this scar that the tree ultimately failed on Sunday… [more]

4 Dec 2007, 1:29pm
Latest Forest News
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TRPA loosens oversight of tree cutting

Agency tries to make it easier to create defensible space

from the Tahoe Daily News [here]

Annie Flanzraich, North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Nov 29, 2023

KINGS BEACH - Despite some dissent from local fire chiefs, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board changed its ordinances Wednesday to allow property owners to remove trees that are 14 inches or less in diameter without a permit.

Under the new code, property owners can cut those trees without a permit, unless they are in a shoreline area. A TRPA permit is required to remove trees with a diameter greater than 6 inches on the area between the structure and the shore.

Board members said the ordinance change was part of TRPA’s effort to encourage Tahoe homeowners to create more defensible space around homes and structures for fire safety.

However, many fire chiefs had hoped the shoreline provision would be struck from the ordinance.

“One thing that has been very evident is that fire doesn’t know boundaries,” South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Lorenzo Gigliotti said on behalf of other basin fire chiefs. “It doesn’t pay respect to shorezones, it doesn’t pay respect to scenic boundaries - fire knows no bounds.”

Still, board members argued that it was necessary for some compromise to be reached between protecting scenic resources and defensible space.

“That’s a compromise, and that’s as far of a compromise as I want to go,” said TRPA board member Bruce Kranz. “We need to do something; we need to get this out to the public to let them know we’re serious.”

In September, Lake Tahoe fire chiefs presented a nine-point plan to the TRPA with specific rules they said needed to be changed to make the basin safer.

One of the points in the letter addressed giving homeowners more control over removing trees that could pose a fire danger on their property.

That nine-point plan resulted in talks between the TRPA and the fire districts, and eventually this ordinance change.

The ordinance passed with an 12-1 vote, with TRPA board member Steven Merrill voting against it.

“This is one of the cases where there is tension between fire safety and scenic standards,” Merrill said.

3 Dec 2007, 11:58pm
Latest Forest News
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Connaughton to Lead Eastern Region of the U.S. Forest Service

NEWS RELEASE
USDA Forest Service
Washington, D.C.
Release No. 0724 Released 12/03/2023

WASHINGTON, November 30—U.S. Forest Service Chief Abigail R. Kimbell today appointed Kent P. Connaughton as Eastern regional forester (Region 9). Connaughton will oversee 15 national forests in 20 eastern states. He is currently Associate Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry in Washington, DC.

“Kent brings a wealth of experience in managing national forests and cooperating with State and private forestry programs that will serve him well in this new assignment,” said Chief Kimbell.

While in the Washington Office Connaughton was responsible for federal protection of the nation’s forests from fire, insects, and disease, as well as programs to support sustainable management of non-federal forests, conservation education, and tribal relations.

“I am very pleased to have this opportunity and challenge,” said Connaughton. This region is known for its size and geographical dispersion, and I look forward to carrying out the high standards set by Chief Kimbell.”

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University, a Master of Forestry degree from Oregon State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the Society of American Foresters, and was elected Fellow of that professional society in 1991.

2 Dec 2007, 7:32pm
Latest Forest News
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Cyclone-like conditions have hit Oregon before

by George Taylor, Director, Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University

As I write this on Thursday night, a powerful storm is forming in the western Pacific near Japan. Cold air from East Asia moving over the warm waters of the Kuroshio Current is causing rapid storm development. This is enhanced by moisture from two decaying typhoons, Mitag and Hagibis, which have moved into the mid-latitudes. Everything is setting up for a big West Coast event.

The predictive models are beginning to come together in agreement regarding what comes next. They are suggesting that, by tonight, strong winds will begin to affect the Oregon coast. Monday and Monday night look rather windy in the inland valleys.

And then the rains are expected to arrive. The storm will be tapping copious amounts of subtropical moisture, producing an “atmospheric river,” the type of condition that gives us our wettest rain events. Because of its original tropical location, the “river” is a very warm one, and high freezing levels are expected. A “rain on snow” event, caused by a combination of melted snow and heavy rain, might occur. We may get a big windstorm followed by a big flood. It’s still too early to tell, but by the time you read this, we’ll have a better idea.

The storm will kick up some pretty big surf as well. The U.S. Navy wave model is predicting 25- to 30-foot waves for our coastline early next week.

And just how big a windstorm will we have? According to the National Weather Service, the kid of storm we get about once every five to 10 years. In other words, BIG! In fact, this storm has caused NWS officials to issue a wind warning that they have never used before…

Shades of 1962, when a dying typhoon moved into the North Pacific, regained strength and turned into the Columbus Day Storm, the most powerful storm to hit the Northwest on record. That storm had winds comparable to a Category 3 or 4 hurricane… [more]

Thinning objections thwart collaboration

Unsigned editorial, Arizona Daily Sun, 11/30/07

It’s certainly good to hear that a sixth major thinning project has been officially proposed for the forests surrounding Flagstaff.

What’s not so good is to learn that outsiders from Tucson and New Mexico have raised objections to a plan already arrived at by local compromise.

The thinning plans are the collaboration of the Coconino National Forest and the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership. When complete, they will cover nearly 100,000 acres of what’s known as the wildland-urban interface.

Not only will the forest emerge healthier, but local communities will be safer from catastrophic wildfire.

The partnership is a model of collaboration and consensus-building by business, conservation and academic interests, in addition to the Forest Service.

It was created in part out of frustration with the adversarial and litigious process involved in getting forest thinning projects approved. When environmentalists would take the Forest Service to court, it was not only costly to taxpayers but prolonged the wildfire risk to local communities…

But two outside environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity of Tucson and Forest Guardians of New Mexico, have longstanding objections to the cutting of almost any old-growth tree. They rightly point out that Southwest forests have already lost most of their large trees to logging, and they contend no more can be spared. The goshawk, they add, is not as adaptable as ERI scientists believe.

But if aggressive thinning isn’t conducted, including in some old-growth stands, there won’t be any trees left at all, big or small. And that means no goshawk, either. We learned that locally in the Pumpkin Fire, which scorched stands of unthinned old-growth pines near Kendrick Peak down to bare earth because it reached the crowns… [more]

 
  
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