29 Mar 2008, 1:43pm
Latest Forest News
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Forest Planning Guidelines Revised

Forest Service gets back to work on forest plan

By K.C. Mehaffey, World staff writer, March 20, 2023 [here]

WENATCHEE — The Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests will soon resume work on its Forest Plan — the document that guides what happens on the national forest over the next 15 years — a year after the process was put on hold due to a court decision.

Last March, a ruling in U.S. District Court in San Francisco overturned a Bush Administration policy that allowed forests to develop new forest plans without a lengthy environmental review.

The Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests, which started developing its new Forest Plan in 2003, was using the new policy to revise forest plans adopted for the Wenatchee National Forest in 1990, the Okanogan National Forest in 1989 and the Colville National Forest in 1988.

A new planning rule, expected to be published in the Federal Register next week in response to the court ruling, will allow each individual national forest to determine which level of environmental review is necessary, said Margaret Hartzell, the Forest Plan revision leader for the forests.

“What we will do, when we revise the Forest Plan, is we will use the appropriate level of NEPA documentation to do that,” she said.

That means the plan could require an environmental impact statement, or it could be reviewed through an environmental analysis or a categorical exclusion, which are lower levels of scrutiny than the EIS.

“We are going to honor and pay attention to … what people have provided to us for the past couple of years, and we will be coming back and talking to even more people over the next year,” she said.

The team now hopes to have a draft Forest Plan ready for review by November, she said, and a final plan could be adopted in late 2009.

Debbie Kelly, spokeswoman for the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests, said the Forest Service will soon begin to schedule public meetings to continue the planning effort. Those interested in becoming involved can provide contact information through the Forest Plan Web site or at the Forest Service office in Okanogan, 1240 S. Second Ave., Okanogan, 98840.

28 Mar 2008, 10:25pm
Latest Fire News
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Conservationists push for meadow jumping mouse protections

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Conservationists want the federal government to take notice of the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, saying climate change and unchecked livestock grazing are pushing the rare rodent closer to extinction.
The mouse once lived in nearly 100 locations along rivers and streams around New Mexico and in parts of Arizona, but recent surveys have shown that the furry rodent is now found only in about a dozens places in the two states.

The mouse, considered endangered by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, was recently added to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of plants and animals that are candidates for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“We’ve argued that the Fish and Wildlife Service should emergency list this mouse and so we believe that all federal agencies should take steps now to protect the mouse in order to prevent its extinction. It is that imperiled,” said Nicole Rosmarino, director of WildEarth Guardians’ wildlife program. … [more]

28 Mar 2008, 10:24pm
Latest Fire News
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Hayman Fire Starter Gets 15 Years Probation

DENVER (MyFOXColorado.com) – The former U.S. Forest Service worker who started the most-destructive wildfire in Colorado history has been ordered to serve 15 years of probation and perform 1,500 hours of community service on state charges.

Terry Barton, who started the 2002 Hayman Fire, was resentenced Thursday in District Court.

Her original 12-year prison sentence was thrown out by the Colorado Court of Appeals in 2004 after the panel ruled the judge who presided over Barton’s trial may have compromised due to the fact that he was evacuated during the fire.

The court also said that the maximum sentence without a jury finding aggravating circumstances was six years – the same as Barton’s federal sentence.

The two sentences were to be served concurrently, which means Barton will have completed her prison terms on June 2. She is currently incarcerated in Texas.

The 2002 Hayman fire burned 138,000 acres in the Pike National Forest, destroying 133 home and 466 outbuildings. More than 8,000 people were evacuated.

Barton pleaded guilty to felony arson. … [more]

28 Mar 2008, 10:23pm
Latest Forest News
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Ferrioli resigns from rural task force

Cites administration’s failure on issues of rural Oregon

By KATHY GRAY, The Dalles Chronicle, March 28, 2023

Oregon Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) resigned in protest Thursday from the Federal Forest and County Services Taskforce.

“The [taskforce] has done nothing to move forward on solutions that will work in rural Oregon, and instead has concerned itself with revenue restructuring ideas, which if adopted, will drive tax increases far beyond the capacity of citizens residing in damaged rural counties,” Ferrioli wrote in a letter to Gov. Ted Kulongoski dated March 27.

In a related press release, Ferrioli said the governor, the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate have given “lip service” to rural Oregon, but turned their backs on the threats it faces.

“When I heard someone on the taskforce float a ‘trial balloon’ for a proposal for a statewide property tax, I knew it was time to walk,” Ferrioli said.

He described the taskforce as an “exercise in misdirection.”

The Federal Forests and County Services Taskforce was convened by the Governor to develop “recommendations regarding administrative, budgetary, statutory and, if necessary, constitutional changes needed to provide stable and adequate funding for the provision of essential services at the county level,” according to the Governor’s executive order 07-21 creating the task force. … [more]

24 Mar 2008, 4:45pm
Latest Fire News
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Battle lines shift for war on fire

By JOHN CRAMER of the Missoulian

An air tanker drops retardant on the Black Cat fire near Missoula last summer. Environmentalists have been using the issue of aerial fire retardant to force the U.S. Forest Service to overhaul its firefighting mission.
Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian
Watch a video of an air tanker at work fighting fires

Using the northern spotted owl as a surrogate, environmentalists took eight years to win a legal victory and the public’s attention in the decade-long effort that stopped old-growth logging in the Pacific Northwest’s national forests by the early 1990s.

Today, environmentalists are ahead of that pace in what they anticipate will be another decade-long forest campaign, having scored victories in the courtroom and public spotlight five years into an effort to force the U.S. Forest Service to overhaul its firefighting mission and practices.

Rather than using an endangered owl as their icon, environmentalists this time are spotlighting aerial fire retardants, saying the chemical red slurry is an environmental hazard - not a critical firefighting tool, as the Forest Service maintains.

“Stopping the war on fire won’t be as sexy as saving God’s ancient forests - that’s like saving Yosemite or Grand Canyon - but everyone knows the Forest Service’s whole war on fire is ecologically and financially bankrupt,” said Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics and a former Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund resource analyst who helped end old-growth logging in the Pacific Northwest. … [more]

22 Mar 2008, 12:19am
Latest Fire News
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Panel seeks emergency declaration for Lake Tahoe fire-prevention

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif.—A special panel created after last summer’s Lake Tahoe wildfire warned Friday that another catastrophic blaze is imminent and wants a disaster declaration to hasten fire-protection efforts.
Asking for the emergency status from the president and the governors of California and Nevada was among dozens of recommendations the panel approved.

The California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission wants the state and federal governments to free up money quickly, primarily to cut thick stands of trees.

The commission gave unanimous approval to a report containing more than 70 recommendations. Many of them are intended to resolve the bureaucratic infighting among overlapping agencies that has hampered fire-prevention efforts for years.

The report also recommended imposing higher taxes on property owners, requiring home owners to replace wood shingles and upgrading the Tahoe basin’s water systems, which together could cost more than $300 million over 20 years.

California co-chairwoman Kate Dargan, the state’s fire marshal, said the short-term emergency need is much less—under $10 million a year in each of the next five years to clear overgrown forests around communities.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons established the commission after the Angora Fire destroyed 254 homes and caused $140 million in property damage last June in South Lake Tahoe. … [more]

22 Mar 2008, 12:18am
Latest Wildlife News
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Iraqis take up arms against gray wolves

Hungry packs have lost their fear of humans, devouring livestock in front of farmers.

By Hassan Halawa and Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, borrowed from Wolf Crossing [here]

SAMAWAH, Iraq — The bloodthirsty enemy had gathered on the city’s perimeter, but this time, the locals were ready.

The enemy: packs of hungry gray wolves that had overcome their fear of humans and begun feasting on livestock, right in front of local farmers.

“The locals formed armed groups, exchanging shifts throughout the day in order to protect people, cattle, sheep and also children and women heading to schools from those ferocious wolves,” said Mohammed Abu-Reesha, a Samawah resident. “They appear during the day and don’t fear bullets and challenge even men holding rifles.”

The gray wolf, also called the Arabic wolf in Iraq, is among the most impressive predators in the Middle East. It grows up to 6 1/2 feet long and stands as tall as 3 1/2 feet, weighing up to 120 pounds, said veterinarian Fahad Abu Kaheela.

It has powerful jaws and can sprint at 40 mph. The wolves hunt strategically, organizing themselves into packs and communicating via howls at different tones. They’ve been prowling Iraq’s dusty wastelands for hundreds of years. But something strange happened this year. Locals believe the wolves must have crossed some threshold of desperation, a tipping point that had prevented them from traipsing onto human turf.

Some farmers speculated that the wolves migrated from deserts to the villages because of three years of sparse rains and a lack of suitable prey. Others, including vet Abu Kaheela, said the incursions began after nomadic tribes began using high fences to protect their livestock, perhaps driving the wolves to population centers.

Hussein Dakhel said a pack of a dozen wolves devoured five of his sheep while acting largely undisturbed by gunfire aimed into the air. “We understood that wolves would run if they hear the sound of man or weapons,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of species this is.”

To fight the wolves, residents set up positions at night just beyond their hamlets and armed themselves with AK-47s and pistols.

In the village of Hamidiyah, wolves attacked farmer Mohammed Slaim’s cattle. He shot at one wolf from 100 yards away.

“I hit him, but he started coming toward me, not caring about his injury,” he said.

“I answered him, along with my uncle, with a barrage of bullets, and he dropped dead 2 yards from us,” he said. “Since that day, we are committed to guarding the house in case any of them might come back.”

22 Mar 2008, 12:14am
Latest Fire News
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Eco-Terrorism: No Such Thing

Property-rights extremists equate McMansions to 9/11 victims

BY TED RALL, a proud New Yorker who had to laugh

NEW YORK—The United States should not build housing. Whole neighborhoods in places like Chicago and Dayton and Oakland and Newark and Memphis are dominated by abandoned houses and apartment buildings. Ten percent of our national housing stock—more than 13 million homes, enough to put roofs over the homeless three times over—are vacant year-round. So why do we let developers bulldoze fields and forests to put up soulless monstrosities?

Several “model houses” at a development bearing the typically atrocious name of “Quinn’s Crossing at Yarrowbay Communities” at the edge of Seattle’s creeping suburban sprawl went up in flames, apparently torched by radical environmentalists. I had two reactions. First, I was reminded of my wonder that such things happen so infrequently.

Then I laughed. I wasn’t alone. Time magazine bemoaned “a notable lack of sympathy for the fate of the homes” among residents of Washington state.

Quinn’s Crossing, says its Web site, was “dedicated to the ethos of putting the earth first.” In this case, putting Mother Earth “first” led the developers in “energy efficient” 4,500-square-feet McMansions. “The houses are out in the middle of nowhere, on land that used to be occupied by beaver dams and environmentally sensitive wetlands; the site sits at the headwaters of Bear Creek, where endangered chinook salmon spawn,” reported Erica C. Barnett for the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger. … [more]

21 Mar 2008, 1:56pm
Latest Fire News
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Tahoe Fire Prevention Hurt by Infighting

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press Writer [here]

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Steps to prevent catastrophic wildfires in the Lake Tahoe basin, one of the country’s most treasured natural wonders, have been hampered for years by bureaucratic infighting among agencies that often work at cross-purposes, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

The failure of the agencies to adequately protect the basin was brought to light in June when a wildfire ripped through a thickly forested ravine and destroyed 254 homes near South Lake Tahoe.

Since then, blame has fallen on the overlapping agencies that have environmental and regulatory oversight of the Tahoe basin. A commission established after the fire was scheduled to vote Friday on a report recommending ways to heal the rifts.

The AP’s review showed just how glaring the problems have been over the years.

Using Freedom of Information laws, the AP obtained more than 4,000 pages of documents from local, regional, state and federal agencies involved in planning, environmental protection and fire prevention around Tahoe, the picturesque lake straddling the California-Nevada line.

Most of the documents covered the three years before the wildfire and reveal a tangle of agencies with competing agendas. Efforts to clear trees and brush were delayed - often for years - as agencies bickered over methods and jurisdictional disputes.

The documents also show that while the wildfire heightened the urgency to thin the forest, years of delay have left the basin ripe for a repeat calamity.

more »

21 Mar 2008, 1:53pm
Latest Forest News
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Death by Environmentalism

by Gary Jason, Liberty Unbound [here]

A review of Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health, by John Berlau. Nelson Current, 2006, 250 pages.

For the last half century, the environmentalist movement has been a dominant influence on the cultural and political scene. This is widely viewed as a blessing, whose progressive result has been without exception the improvement of our society. John Berlau has written a book aimed at kicking that smug sense of green achievement smack in the teeth.

Gary Jason is an adjunct professor of philosophy and a contributing editor to Liberty. He is the author of Critical Thinking: Developing an Effective World View and Introduction to Logic.

Berlau makes a sharp and vigorous presentation of the view that the environmentalist movement has had some very unfortunate consequences. He begins by reviewing the history of the successful campaign by environmentalist organizations to demonize DDT and other pesticides. DDT was first discovered in the 1870s and found to be a potent insecticide in the 1930s. But it was the U.S. military that pushed its mass production at the outbreak of World War II. With the troops facing both malaria and typhus — which had killed millions in World War I — the army knew it had to find some way to combat the vectors, i.e., the disease-carrying insects (lice and mosquitoes). It gave the assignment to Merck, and one of Merck’s top chemists (Joseph Jacobs) was able to set up a plant to mass produce DDT. Starting in 1943, DDT was widely used; it stopped a number of wartime typhus epidemics.

It was then used worldwide in the 1950s and early 1960s to stop malaria, which it almost eliminated. But after Rachel Carson’s popular book “Silent Spring” (1962), in which she alleged that DDT and other pesticides were killing wildlife and hinted that they were causing cancer in people, DDT was banned. As Berlau notes:

In 1948, Sri Lanka had 2.8 million cases of malaria. By 1963, after years of DDT use, that number had dwindled to 17 cases. But then in 1964, U.S. environmentalists and world health bodies convinced Sri Lankan officials to stop spraying. By 1969, the number of malaria cases had shot back up to pre-DDT level of 2.5 million. … [more]

19 Mar 2008, 6:45pm
Latest Climate News
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More on the Mystery of Global Warming’s Missing Heat

From ICECAP [here]: If anyone would bother to look at the actual data instead of just pronouncements in the media from NOAA or GISS, they would not be surprised at all by these findings. Here is a plot of actual monthly temperatures and the trends from the Hadley global data set (HADCRUT3v) and University of Alabama satellite derived lower tropospheric temperatures covering the same period as the robots measured ocean heat content. Like the robots they show a downtrend (cooling).

It is also worth noting that Roger Pielke Sr. [here] has advocated ocean heat content as a better measure of the global changes in temperatures than surface station based trends. Work by Roger and Anthony Watts at surfacestations.org have identified major issues with the land stations. In this case the ocean heat content agrees with the land stations, so the cooling over the past 5 years is very likely real. 5 years does not a long term trend make but it does call into question claims the warming is accelerating and that immediate action is required.

19 Mar 2008, 6:32pm
Latest Climate News
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The Mystery of Global Warming’s Missing Heat

Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren’t quite understanding what their robots are telling them.

This is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record. But Josh Willis at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the oceans are what really matter when it comes to global warming.

In fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can. So Willis has been studying the ocean with a fleet of robotic instruments called the Argo system. The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans.

“There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant,” Willis says. So the buildup of heat on Earth may be on a brief hiatus. “Global warming doesn’t mean every year will be warmer than the last. And it may be that we are in a period of less rapid warming.” … [more]

All derisive comments welcome.

19 Mar 2008, 12:37am
Latest Fire News
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Patch burning: A new concept in rangeland management

A six-year research project is underway in Woodson County, Kansas where Kansas State University scientists are working to determine how viable patch-burn grazing is for raising livestock.

Patch-burn grazing is a fairly new concept in rangeland management, but has been occurring naturally for hundreds of years, said Walt Fick, K-State Research and Extension range management specialist.

Historically, Native Americans purposely started prairie fires, and lightning did the same thing naturally. Bison and other native herbivores were attracted to the new growth that comes up after the land burned; consequently, these animals moved from grazing area to grazing area — searching out the most attractive areas of new growth, Fick said.

Some ranchers are mimicking that grazing pattern by sectioning a large pasture into three or more burn areas.

“Every year, one of those sections is prescribed burned, concentrating the grazing pressure in specific areas of the pasture,” he said. “The cattle are free-roaming over the entire pasture, but tend to gravitate toward the one-third area of the pasture that has been burned, because that is where the most attractive new growth has occurred.”

“When burning, producers may create burn boundaries (fire guards), but using natural breaks would be more efficient because of labor expenses,” he added.

The main purpose of patch-burn grazing is ecology-driven; it has a high potential to increase biodiversity and wildlife habitat. … [more]

19 Mar 2008, 12:36am
Latest Wildlife News
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Number of bison killed sets record

By MIKE STARK, Billings Gazette

Roughly one out of four bison in Yellowstone National Park has been captured, sent to slaughter or otherwise killed this winter.

The unofficial tally on Monday reached 1,098, topping a previous record of 1,084, set in the winter of 1996-97. The number could exceed 1,200 in the coming days.

Park officials said there were an estimated 4,700 bison in Yellowstone before winter set in, the second-highest total ever recorded.

But as temperatures turned cold, bison began having a harder time breaking through crusty snow to find the food below. As they have done for years, groups began to wander west and north toward lower elevations.

State and federal management policies, though, are designed to keep bison from wandering too far, out of fear that they might transmit brucellosis to cattle in the area. …

A larger percentage was taken in the winter of 1996-97, when 1,084 of the estimated 3,400 bison were shot or sent to slaughter, prompting widespread outcry.

But the population rebounded to a record 4,900 in the summer of 2005. The following winter, nearly 1,000 were removed in government management and hunts, and again the population bounced back.

“It says we have a very strong and robust population,” Nash said. … [more]

18 Mar 2008, 1:31pm
Latest Fire News Latest Forest News
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Lake Tahoe fire under microscope: Governors commission to wrap up its work

Jeff Munson, Tahoe Daily Tribune, March 18, 2023

Dozens of recommendations on how to avoid disasters such as last June’s Angora fire will come to a head this week when the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission meets at the South Shore.

With a looming Friday deadline imposed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, the hand-picked, bi-state commission has met monthly and sometimes twice monthly since August to pore over thousands of documents and hundreds of public comments.

The end result of the commission’s work will be a report that provides recommendations for the protection of those in the Tahoe Basin while preserving the environment, said Todd Ferrara, spokesman for the commission.

At the heart of the matter are recommendations that could change policies or create new ones on how dead and dying trees are removed from the forest and place new responsibilities on homeowners.

The final meetings will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday and at 9 a.m. Friday in the Lake Tahoe Community College boardroom. Final recommendations will be made at Friday’s meeting.

Also at stake is how public agencies such as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the U.S. Forest Service can put measures in place to remove fire fuels in the basin without causing environmental damage to Lake Tahoe.

Finally, the commission will recommend how both states should pay for these policies.

This week’s gathering represents the last set of formal meetings. After Friday, the 70 or so recommendations will go up for a 30-day public review before being sent to the governors for action. … [more]

 
  
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