Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Oh great, another Idahoan is running our nation's natural landscape: Jim Caswell to head the Bureau of Land Management

The White House announced today that they have nominated Jim Caswell to be the new director of the Bureau of Land Management.

Caswell is a former timber-friendly Forest Supervisor from the Clearwater National Forest in northern Idaho. He was an opponent of Clinton's efforts to protect roadless lands and has headed the Idaho Office of Species Protection, which in Idaho means the protection of loggers, miners, and ranchers against eastern liberals and elites.

He has decried the cost of critical habitat designation for endangered species and he champions local control over natural resources and the earth. He prefers that Idaho's chinook salmon should find a way to survive the dams. He does not favor wolves or grizzly bears or bull trout on the endangered species list, and has worked to remove them from that list. He has often mused about why animals can't just get along with people.

He will join former Idaho senator and governor, Dirk Kempthorne, at the Department of Interior. In his position as Director of the BLM, Caswell will oversee approximately one eighth of the United States.

The White House announcement is here; a statement by Kempthorne is partially reported here (Miami Herald).


Sonoran pronghorn rebounding -- with hauled water

The continent's fastest mammal went from 140 individuals to just 21 in 2002. Biologists took to herding the remaining animals into pens in the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports the population is around 85, with some 18 new fawns this year.

This is the result of hauling water into the harsh, nearly waterless refuge, which is among the most arid places in North America and traversed by the famed Camino del Diablo.

Artificially hauled water is not uniformly beneficial. It also attracts ravens, which eat desert tortoise eggs. (pdf of scientific study; see also this article describing juvenile desert tortoises as "walking raviolis" for ravens.)

But in this case artificial water may have saved, at least for now, one of our rarest animals.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Finally, a legal hook for the border fence

As you've read in these pages before, there haven't yet been any great strategies to stop the border infrastructure nightmare that is being foisted upon the desert southwest by the Tough-on-Terror Bush Administration. But, hey, this week, we found a few good reasons to hope:
1. The International Boundary and Water Commission said that a controversial 700-mile fence along the US-Mexican border may violate the 1970 Boundary Treaty, which resolved all pending boundary differences between the United States and Mexico. This is the first legal hook we've seen that could stop parts of the wall from destroying the Colorado River, the Santa Cruz River, the San Pedro River, and the Rio Grande, among others.
2. The New York Times published an article about the environmental impacts of the fence, which is great, since any attention to the issue is good attention. (Most of this week's media was instead focused on the intricacies of the immigration bill instead).
3. Other people are blogging about it.

So, line your legal dockets with International Water Law. Read Science Tuesday. And Blog. Together, we've got to fight this tooth and nail.

- Lozen

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Tongass NF: where the 1980s still haven't happened

You have to appreciate the Tongass National Forest administrators. They stop at nothing. Not time, not history, not science, and certainly not public opinion. The Tongass NF is where the current Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gail Kimbell made her name.

Today the Tongass NF announced a plan to construct 33 miles of road--some undisclosed amount of it in federally designated roadless areas and old growth preserves--to facilitate planned logging of 61 million board feet of timber. They will also construct a new log transfer facility at Burnett Inlet. Oh and all this is happening on a remote island (satellite image via Just like the old days, which everyone else thought ended decades ago.

You can read a short summary of this fine plan here (federal register).


This just in: Oil drilling is good for the oceans, says US Minerals Management Service

Everybody likes a win-win story, and thanks to our far-sighted and thoughtful government-industry partnerships, those stories are coming to life every single day. Even in our oceans, which those scoldy government-funded (i.e., socialist) scientists have said will be essentially devoid of life in less than fifty years.

Be of good cheer, because the Minerals Management Service has just discovered that oil platforms provide valuable marine habitat. And with just a little bit of that "We can do it" attitude America is so well known for, someday there will be enough oil platforms to make up for the worldwide loss of corals from global warming.

Those geniuses over at MMS also had this to say:
The scientists reported, among other findings, that the diversity of fish species generally decreases with depth. At the shallower water wrecks, where corals were growing, reef fishes were present. At the deepest water wrecks, no corals were found, nor were community structure and fish density significantly different over the wrecks as opposed to away from them. Therefore, scientists conclude that, in the deepest water, the upper levels of offshore platforms will attract considerable marine life, but the platforms are not likely to attract fish at their deepest levels.

Note that the study only looked at shipwrecks, not oil platforms, but when is the MMS going to let a thing like that get in the way of good news for oil drilling? Anyway, the more you make oil platforms look like a shipwreck, and the longer you leave them there, the better off the oceans will be.

Now go do your part for the oceans and drive somewhere.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Border Compromise

The major infrastructure provisions of the "Bipartisan Immigration Deal" regarding border security are an improvement over 700 miles of double-layered wall, but we're still going to get more than half of that along the U.S. Mexico boundary. The compromise includes:
* 18,000 new border patrol agents (and their trucks & trash)
* 370 miles of "fencing" and 200 miles of vehicle barriers
* 70 ground based radar and camera towers
* Four unmanned aerial vehicles
Lacking any real specificity as of yet, it is probably safe to assume that there were no rules incorporated in this compromise regarding the maintenance of wildlife corridors or mandating ecological review of the 370 miles of walls we'll be getting here in the borderlands. We don't pretend to know the impacts of the other compromises contained in the deal, but we suspect that conservationists in Bush's home state will be looking closely at the bill after being screwed last week by a lack of federal cooperation on wildlife refuges.

Was it too optimistic to hope for an immigration reform package that wouldn't also perpetuate the war economy along the border and would also reduce the ecological footprint of what is really an economic policy decision?


- Lozen

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jeffrey St. Clair, Point Nine: The environmental movement is dead.

From Counterpunch:

9. The environmental movement is dead. (DOA: April 2, 1993.) It is a co-opted exoskeleton of its former self, largely controlled by cautious politicos and neoliberal hacks like Gore, who suckle from grants doled out from oil industry seeded foundations (such as Pew, W. Alton Jones and Rockefeller), and who advance free-market incentives over regulation, lobbying and public relations over real mass movements and direct action.

True? False? Maybe?