Thursday, February 22, 2007

Snowmobile makers struggle to adapt to wimpy winters

Turns out snowmobile sales are down by half and on a ten-year downward trend. And word must really be trickling down about global warming, because even the bubbleheads are starting to take notice! Article here (AP story).


Global Warming: Opportunities for Forestry

The global warming bandwagon is large and comfortable, and has room for all our friends in industry and public lands management. Since consensus that anthropogenic climate change may really be happening has belatedly enveloped even the Bush administration, forward-thinking leaders should regard predictions of warming as opportunities to be harvested.

At a conference in mid February (see article here), some 300 “managers, scientists, students, policy makers and conservationists” met to discuss the findings within a new publication by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute in partnership with Oregon State University’s College of Forestry and the Oregon Department of Forestry. The book is called “Forests, Carbon and Climate Change: A Synthesis of Science Findings.” To order the book click here, or for PDF click here.

Here are some of the book and conference recommendations below:

• reducing forest densities to keep trees
healthy and minimize the risk of stand
replacing fires and insect problems

• keeping forestland in forest use (this means
ensuring that private forestlands can be
managed profitably as forests);

• afforesting former forestlands that have been
converted to non-forest uses and reforesting
quickly and aggressively after harvest or
natural disturbance;

• using wood products and energy generated
from wood in lieu of using fossil fuel-intensive
products such as steel and concrete
and energy generated from fossil fuels; and

• changing forest management strategies to
sequester carbon through thinning, increasing
rotation lengths and other techniques
can provide forest landowners an opportunity
to profit from the sale of carbon offsets.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sordid story involving plans to mine on Mt. St. Helens

According to this scary article (Bellingham Herald), a 3,000 acre copper mine is planned on Mt. St. Helens, on the edge of the National Monument.

What makes it even more sordid than usual is that the mine is planned on the very same land that the Trust for Public Lands purchased in the 1980s and donated to the Forest Service in the name of protecting the landscape.

Why anyone would think the Forest Service -- particularly in western Washington in the 1980s -- was a worthy entity to donate land to for conservations purposes is beyond me. But they did it.

And now it will be a nice shiny copper mine. But the mining company's president says his company is "committed to environmental protection" and that people are "prejudging" that his 3000 acre copper mine is "going to be a mess."

Well, two sides to every story, right? But the author of the article did not include any indication of what a 3000 acre copper mine that is not "a mess" would look like. And it appears from the mining company's website (Idaho General Mines) that they do not have any experience yet with actually mining anything -- I believe all their projects are in the permitting or exploratory stages.

My prediction: it will be a mess. You read it here first!


Bill introduced to permit elk hunting in Rocky Mtn. National Park

The Park Service is in a pickle. Most observers agree that elk have grown so numerous in Rocky Mountain National Park that they are causing significant ecological damage. And it's no wonder: there haven't been wolves in the area for decades.

The obvious solution, of course, is to reintroduce wolves. Sinapu has been saying that for years.

But the Park Service cannot quite do that -- probably -- under their charter. Now a state congressman wants to open the park to elk hunting. He swears it won't be "Elmer Fudd" style. (Rocky Mtn. News)

The Park Service is thankfully prohibited from doing most kinds of "management" by the language in that charter that states:

The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purposes of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

The above from the Park Service Organic Act.

This language in the Service's Organic Act usually keeps them from permitting hunting. On the other hand, sometimes it permits them to kill animals, as when Olympic National Park proposed (but did not ultimately authorize) shooting mountain goats, or when Death Valley National Park started shooting burros, using helicopters in both cases.

I have often argued that if the Forest Service really finds it so necessary to cut trees, they should do it themselves rather than hire timber corporations to do the dirty work for them. This helps ensure that corporate influence doesn't start to run the agency. And it's why I don't support opening our National Parks to hunters. They are going to start expecting things, and soon we will have to deal with arguments from the NRA and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation about the importance of "wildlife management" in National Parks. Parks are places where human management of nature should only take place when a very high standard of proof has been met that it is really necessary.

And even then, it should be done as a stop-gap until we can put back all the parts. Assuming we even bothered to save them.


The Onion on biodiversity

I'd laugh but it hurts too much. The Onion adds a new, deep dimension to "loving nature to death" with a humorous celebration of "stuffed animal biodiversity."

I'm sure we'll be adoring stuffed sea turtles for many decades after we have killed all the real ones.


Richard Pombo now a lobbyist

Anyone surprised? News release here (Businesswire) and article here (San Jose Mercury News).


Monday, February 19, 2007

BLM to balance development with environment by drilling oil wells and mining coal on 85 percent of its land near Dinosaur National Mounument

The Bureau of Land Management has released its Little Snake Resource Management Plan for the area near Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado. The plan calls for all but about 160,000 acres of the 1.3 million acre area to opened to oil and gas drilling and coal mining. About 3000 new oil and gas wells are envisioned near the Monument. Grand Junction Sentinel article here.

None of this should come as any surprise, of course. After all, the former No. 2 Official for the Department of Interior is now a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry. Or at least he is until he goes to jail with Abramoff.


The Wilderness Society likes new Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell

Notice this from an article about former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth's retirement in the Seattle Times, a paradigm case of lazy journalism:

"Some environmentalists criticize Kimbell for a history of favoring industry.

"She is a strong proponent of turning the clock back in the Forest Service to the good old days where exploiting and extracting natural resources is the raison d'ĂȘtre," said Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.

But Bob Ekey, northern Rockies regional director for the Wilderness Society, had some praise for Kimbell in her current job.

He credited her for barring off-road vehicles and mountain bikes from land designated as potential wilderness. She also helped arrange meetings between opponents in a logging debate in Montana.

A timber-industry representative praised Kimbell as a Forest Service veteran who has worked throughout the agency and is willing to hear all sides.

"She's well-prepared to be the first woman chief of the Forest Service — not that we're not going to give her a bunch of challenges, too," said Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council."

I guess that means that everything is going to be okay. I mean, she arranged a meeting with everybody, right? And she's one of the upper-crust who dislikes motorbikes in areas that are supposed to be managed to provide us solitude and be disturbed only by the sounds of our Patagonia rain pants. If she hates off-road vehicles and (more importantly) the people who ride them, then deep down she's one of us.

Never mind her apparachnik history of targeting whistleblowers or her long career of pandering to industry. Kimbell knows very well where the money is going to be coming from in the next few decades -- recreation and fire -- and she will have no qualms about going after it with whatever propaganda campaign is necessary. It is so tiresome to see the weary old myth-model trotted out again and again and again by the media: well, this person says this, and that person says that, and on and on and around we go with the same old status quo.

Which is why I find it so baffling that people who seek change are so quick to embrace the soundbite. The soundbite is the language of the master narrative, the status quo, not the revolutionary or even the reformer. But that's another post.

Oh, don't miss the op-ed from Regional Forester Linda Goodman that came in right after this article, Swift-boating Stahl for the nasty things he said about Kimbell (in, you will notice, an oh-so-easily dismissed soundbite). The op-ed is a shining example of using completely irrelevant information to tar your opponent. By the time you get to the end of it you've learned that Andy Stahl hates waterfalls, clean air, wilderness areas, and women.


Twenty four Forest Service firefighter fatalities in 2006

Article here.

More novel legal theories coming out of Catron County

Catron County, New Mexico is not a very populated place, but I am pretty sure it ranks high on the number of frightened crybabies per capita. How else do you explain the place? People allegedly live there because they want to live in the wilderness, but they apparently haven't got the mental strength to cope with what living in the wilderness means. They want to live in the forest but not get their kitty-cat eaten by wild animals, and they don't want nature to scare the children. Their solution? Sanitize the place, so they can play cowboy without any fear.

Now they are saying that wolves, that's right wolves, are violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, as well as the Supremacy Clause.

Catron County held a meeting last week to discuss what to do about wolves that are threatening their children, eating their cows, destroying their lives, and yes, even infringing their 4th Amendment right to be secure in their homes.

From the article:

"Loren Cushman of Reserve spoke as a father, as Reserve school superintendent, and as a pastor. Because his daughter saw the family’s cat killed by a wolf on their property, he said, “My kids can’t play in the woods now.”

Besides his concern about the safety of children at bus stops, Cushman is also worried about the mental effect on children if they are not able to play after school. “I’m not a big believer in homework. Kids need time to play.”

Invoking “God’s word,” Cushman said, “Animals are here for our pleasure and we are to subdue and have dominion over them. Man is in charge and animals are here for our pleasure.”

The new ordinance would give Fish and Wildlife Service 24 hours to remove a wolf under federal program guidelines before Carey is authorized to kill or remove a threatening or habituated wolf, either by trapping or lethal means."

Read the article here and you'll see what I mean.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Good news for Black Mesa

The coal mine at Black Mesa on the Hopi and Navajo Indian Reservations in Northern Arizona is one of those iconic environmental issues that has captured a special place in our nation's environmental history. Activists and students of energy and lands policy have learned about (and hated) Black Mesa for decades.

One reason is that the Black Mesa coal mine has taken a little something from everyone. Strip mining under the 1872 Mining Law is bad enough, but this strip mine, in Indian Country, presents a sordid history all its own, chock-a-block with the usual characters we find in relations between Indian nations and anglo capitalists. Suffice it to say that here, as elsewhere, the Indian nations were not treated charitably.

And this mine of course is run by Peabody Coal. Not a name that evokes a sympathetic response among students of natural resource history (or social history, for that matter).

Then there's the water. Mining at Black Mesa entails sending coal via a slurry pipeline some 270 miles to the west, to the Mohave Generating Station in Nevada. Billions of gallons of very high-quality water have been pumped from beneath the Hopi and Navajo Nations, mixed with coal dust, and piped away forever. This water is irreplaceable, of course, and the pumping has, to no one's surprise, destroyed wells and springs and lowered the water table in many areas. Water, literally worshipped by the Hopi people, has vanished from sacred springs so that Californians can run their blow dryers.

And then there is the matter of the Mohave Generating Station itself. The ancient plant was finally closed a few years ago after environmentalists sued over air quality violations--the plant was single-handedly responsible for significantly diminished views in the Grand Canyon. Built in the 1960's, the Mohave Generating Station is an old, dirty plant in a business that where being "dirty" really means something.

Now for the good news.

Some months ago the Salt River Project decided to reopen Mohave, rebuild the slurry pipeline, and commence mining at Black Mesa again. Thousands of nasty comment letters later, they announced last week that they have changed their mind and backed out of the deal. This probably kills the plant and the mine and the pipeline for quite awhile--hopefully forever.

Unfortunately, we are told that Southern California Edison is giving strong consideration to taking up where the Salt River Project left off. So those of you in California, please write your representatives. This is a project that needs to be shut down forever.

Office of Surface Management Draft EIS for Black Mesa here.
Water Follies, a book that gives a concise history of Black Mesa, here.
Newspaper report on Salt River Project giving up on Black Mesa here.
Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC, and Black Mesa Water Coalition press release here.
Black Mesa Water Coalition website here.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Grand Canyon Skywalk: Former park superintendent says it desecrates nature

Whitey gets to ride his boats, fly his helicopters, drive his cars, and perch his posh lodges on the edge of the Grand Canyon, but when the locals (as in local for thousands and thousands of years) want to build a seventy-foot viewing platform everybody starts off on the rhapsodies about the grandeur of the wilderness and its incomprehensible desecration by Native Americans.

On the Hualapai Tribe's plans to construct a glass viewing platform that juts seventy feet into the Canyon, a former superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park says "It's the equivalent of an upscale carnival ride. Why would they desecrate this place with this?"

Well, why not? The rest of the place is crawling with hotels, parking lots, helicopter pads, motor boats, and landing strips.

Read the AP article here.


Ain't that the truth: Former Forest Service Chief says key to good Forest Service career is getting along with people

Former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth was interviewed by and in response to a question about careers with the Forest Service he had this to say:

"As for what it takes to make a successful career, I think first and foremost it’s a passion for natural resources and conservation. It takes a high level of professional knowledge and skill. But probably most importantly, it takes the ability to work with people—the ability to understand people, to relate to people. I think if you can do those two things—understand people and be able to work with them and maintain good relationships—you can have a great career."

I have always believed that a passion for natural resources and conservation is something you want to pay lip service to, but not actually hold, if you intend to advance in the Forest Service. The main point, I always thought, is to understand which side your bread is buttered on and work well with those who are doing the buttering. And I would say the former Chief's response pretty much proves it.


Suit Filed to Protect Polar Bears and Walrus From Oil Exploration and Global Warming

Another one from the Center for Biological Diversity. Press release is here.


More from the Mike Dubrasich mailbag

Mike Dubrasich over at has apparently (if you are naive enough to believe him) followed through on his bizarre threat to get your author fired. (See January 29 post, below). He has evidently sent letters to various officials that detail the "criminal offenses" of this website and he claims to have discovered Zadig's employer and boss, and contacted him as well as the F.B.I.. A recent Dubrasich missive ran thus:

"You work for me; I don't work for you.

I pay your salary; you do not pay mine.

You are a public servant; I am the public. Get it? You servant, me master.

I no longer tolerate eco-terrorists in my employ. I am going to monkey wrench you off the dole and out of the trough.

You think you have a right to your job, and can behave in any which way since you were hired? Think again, bozo."

His message before that one starts by describing his letter to Zadig's boss and then moves quickly into his master/servant theme. He wrote:

Fri, 02 Feb 2007 14:01:19 -0800
From: "Mike D"
Subject: Ready to cut a deal?

"It's a fairly lengthy letter, detailing your offenses. Reads like a
lawyer wrote it. I have an attorney, by the way, who loves this kind of thing.

If I send the letter out, it will cause you grief. You may very well
lose your job, and indeed your entire career. Even under the best of
scenarios, your job and career will be severely damaged.

However, I am willing to forestall mailing the letter, under certain
conditions. Those are that you agree to learn ten lessons that I will
teach you, and that you will demonstrate your acquisition of the
lessons through the performance of certain tasks that I will assign you.

Your first lesson is this: Understand the power I now hold over your
life, to ruin your job and career.

Your first task is to write me a nice email expressing your
understanding of that lesson and your willingness to learn nine more
lessons rather than undergo the troubles I could put you through."


Dubrasich's last message was short. It said: "I forbid your use of my words in any public venue at any time." Mike Dubrasich wants to be able to threaten people's jobs in secret, it seems, but I am not inclined to honor that request.


New Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell appears before congress for first time, proposes 800 million board feet of logging in northwest forests

Gail Kimball appeared before Congress for her first time as new Forest Service Chief. She got a bit of a drubbing for the "pretend" Forest Service budget that increases fire-fighting expenditures, decreases thinning and "fire preparedness" expenditures, and calls for dramatically increased logging in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

The budget represents a 4 percent cut from fiscal year 2006 and would result in a loss of 2,100 jobs in the agency.

Summit Daily News article (from the AP) here.

Given the Forest Service's new commitment to the use of categorical exclusions (a form of expedited environmental review that does not analyze environmental impacts of actions) to authorize long-term forest plans and oil and gas development, it should be easy to find the jobs to cut. There won't be much of a need for hydrologists, wildlife biologists, fish biologists, soil scientists, or most other resource managers. Mainly they just need public relations folks to run the hundreds of pointless public meetings they now want to hold.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Some rare good news: Once believed gone forever, the shortnose sturgeon delivers a surprise.

Sent: Friday, February 02, 2007 9:29 AM


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No one knows for certain, but the shortnose sturgeon may simply have been a victim of the company it kept. Never a primary target of the 18th century fishing industry, it was swept up anyway, often with schools of its larger cousin, the Atlantic sturgeon. And while the shortnose sturgeon managed to survive in several other waterways, scientists have long since concluded that it disappeared from the Potomac River about 100 years ago.

That makes it easy to understand why U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Steve Minkkinen was excited last April when one of the fish in the Potomac was captured in a gillnet, radio-tagged and tracked, was full of eggs and on a spawning run. Since then, a second female has been tagged.

That, said Minkkinen, is significant. Little information on shortnose sturgeon existed before Minkkinen's project took place. Tracking has revealed where essential seasonal habitats occur and where potential spawning may take place. Minkkinen’s work has also shown where shortnose spend their time; that will help pinpoint future sampling in hope of tagging more fish.

Here's a fish, after all, that came into great demand decades ago both for its eggs, marketed as caviar, as well as its smoked meat. Like many early fisheries, the more sturgeon the more demand increased for still more fish. That level of fishing, coupled with dams and the dumping of sewage and other pollutants, took a fast toll.

Now there is at least a glimmer of hope that the shortnose sturgeon could be reclaiming one of its early homes. "They are obviously not abundant, but there are enough to provide hope," said Minkkinen. "I think they have a fighting chance."

Since 1996, in fact, a total of 10 shortnose sturgeon have been counted in the Potomac River, but it’s not possible to know where they came from, how they got there, or if they have been there all along.

Still, Minkkinen and his partner, Matt Breece of the U.S. Geological Survey, are careful to note other encouraging signs; the two egg-laden females, said Minkkinen, behaved like resident fish. In other words, like they lived in the river for awhile.

Still, neither Minkkinen nor Breece - nor any other researchers, for that matter - can say that they know for certain that the female shortnose sturgeon that seemed on a spawning run, did in fact, spawn.

Minkkinen notes that collecting eggs is the surest way of knowing that fish have spawned; at about the time the females could have deposited their eggs, that part of the Potomac was subject to a sudden, heavy flow, curtailing sampling efforts.

Now the team will be looking at other parts of the Potomac bottom to see if they can find suitable spawning sites that they may want to revisit in the future.

Shortnose sturgeon only breed every few years and then take years to achieve maturity, a cycle that does not favor a hearty rebound for a species that is already endangered.Funding for the project runs out next spring, and Minkkinen and Breece will need $60,000 to $70,000 to continue their work. Minkkinen said part of that amount could come from non-government partners.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.