Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fecal colliform infects users of forest stream, agency blames it on elk and advises public not to worry

This despite the fact the stream was noted to be running through piles of cow manure.

From the article: (Laramie Star-Tribune)

LARAMIE -- The Medicine Bow National Forest's hydrologist said Monday a Laramie man's report of a leg infection after wading in a stream near Vedauwoo east of here does not necessitate a public advisory.

Dave Gloss, based in Saratoga, said water quality data on the streams near Vedauwoo, a popular recreation area just off Interstate 80, indicate no serious public health threat from normal recreation activities. He did acknowledge that one small stream, the North Branch, has shown elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria in recent samplings.

* * *
"I spend a lot of time up there," Waggoner said, "and I try to keep an eye on things. We saw a creek with a lot of manure along it, so we did some water sampling and found high levels of E. coli."

* * *

Liberty Blain, [water specialist for the conservation district], said the conservation district and the Forest Service have installed five watering facilities in Lodgepole and Crow Creek drainages, and four more are being installed this summer. These facilities help limit the impact of both livestock and wildlife on streamside habitats, she said.

"We have large herds of elk up there, in excess of 50 animals, who will go right into those same areas," Blain said.
Got it? Everything is fine, just too many elk is all, which problem is being fixed by ranchers who are constructing water facilities away from the stream. Carry on.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Idaho Governor Butch Otter: We don't call it logging anymore, we call it cleaning. And "grazing" is henceforth to be known as "fuel removal."

Here's a sweet YouTube video courtesy of Western Watersheds Project that shows Idaho Senator Larry Craig helping out Idaho Governor Butch Otter in describing what it is that has lain waste to so much of that formerly-forested mountain state since they can't bring themselves to call it "logging." (satellite image of a portion of Idaho's Payette National Forest, recently selected to sell carbon credits to the public., and yes those are clearcuts.)

The sage land managers in this video then conclude by announcing that grazing will now be called "fuel removal." Good grief.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mark Rey eliminates "survey and manage" provisions of NW Forest Plans

So says the Forest Service, as of yesterday. And surprise! Environmental groups say they'll sue. These survey and manage provisions have been swatted around for over a decade now. They require the Forest Service to look for the presence of much-maligned little stuff -- lichens and snails, for example -- as well as other uncommon "sensitive species" of plants and animals prior to authorizing the kind of wholesale destruction of forest habitat that the northwest timber industry is so well known for.

Industry already tried to get rid of them once. Check out the stories from 2004 and you will see a strange resemblance -- right down to the metaphors employed in quotes from industry representatives -- to the articles circulating today.

This from today's fairly entertaining Seattle PI article:

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Acting on an agreement with the timber industry, the Bush administration has decided to quit looking for little-known snails, lichens and other sensitive species before selling timber in Northwest national forests, setting up another round of litigation over a plan created to protect spotted owls and salmon.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Friday that so-called survey and manage provisions have been eliminated from the Northwest Forest Plan by way of a final decision on an environmental impact statement signed by Assistant Interior Secretary Steve Allred and Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey.

The decision makes it easier to log islands of old-growth timber on areas of national forests and U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands designated for timber production in Western Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

"This decision is long overdue," said Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group. "We are wasting our time and money to have government employees crawl on their hands and knees and turn over rocks to look for snails and lichens and other critters."

West added that none of the species under the "survey and manage" provisions is protected by the Endangered Species Act, and the increase in logging will only fulfill the timber production promises of the Northwest Forest Plan.

That's the typical line from from industry: if it isn't endangered, what's the point of showing any mercy? Oh and by the way, let's also go ahead and get rid of the list, too.

Chris West is the same guy who has asked what gives the Forest Service the "right" to protect any non-listed species from his industry's maw.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Sigh. Another 39 million board feet to be shaved off a remote Tongass NF island

Here's a nice satellite image of Zarembo Island near Wrangell, Alaska, courtesy of maps.google.com. The island is about ten miles across from end to end. Tongass Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole said his freshly signed (yesterday) Baht Timber Sale achieves "balance" and will construct six miles of new roads, six miles of "temporary" (mmmmhmmm) roads, and will re-open an unspecified number of miles of formerly closed roads "for subsistence use." By my count that is at least 12.5 miles of roads (and probably many more) for a timber sale that is about two square miles in size. In other words: six miles of roads per square mile of denuded forest. Distributed evenly, that would mean no point in the area will be more than about 850 feet from a road.

Here's the Forest Service press release.

Their website also features illuminating responses to recent indictments of their forest management by the National Geographic and others. In these responses they champion their "model of sustainability" that they apparently use to to achieve balanced road densities and healthy fish and wildlife habitat.


Kempthorne names Wyoming rancher, legislator to lead Minerals Mgmt Service

Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne has selected Randall Luthi to head the Minerals Management Service. Luthi worked under Bush I and then was elected to the Wyoming Legislature; before that he worked for Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson. Five months ago Kempthorne put him the deputy directorship of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Slightly more informative than usual MMS news release here.

If you read between the lines, this paragraph from the release is kind of scary:

Based on his work in the Wyoming legislature, Luthi developed an understanding of the importance of royalties paid to the federal government by companies producing energy on our public lands and waters. As Majority Leader and Speaker of the Wyoming House, Luthi was instrumental in formulation of state budgets which relied heavily upon royalties and severance taxes paid by energy companies developing federal leases. In addition, he was a legislative member of the Energy Council, which is an organization comprised of legislative representatives from energy producing states and provinces and private energy-related industries that meet quarterly to learn the latest in developments in energy related technology and to discuss energy policy.

Wikipedia claims Luthi has been an aide to Dick Cheney


Reid opposes Nevada coal plants

Whoa, here comes a surprise. We've reported before on the new coal plants proposed in Nevada. Today we learn that not only is Harry Reid opposing them, he says he will do everything he can to prevent them. (Forbes).


Thursday, July 26, 2007

U.S. Forest Service to sell carbon credits

The Payette National Forest in Idaho will begin selling private individuals carbon credits (L.A. Times). It is unclear how this service will work exactly, but it seems likely to be a variation of the old game. We give the Forest Service money and the Forest Service takes the money and clearcuts old, decadent public forests to plant new, vibrant, healthy ones.

They say the money will go to "restoring wildlife habitat" and burned areas.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bleak Houses, to be sure

With recent border enforcement projects taking on weird numeric signifiers (such as Project 28), you can forgive us for a little initial confusion about the EPA's new weblaunch: US-Mexico Border 2012 Program. We'll forgive you if you have to spend a long time looking for information on any non-anthropocentric environmental issues; there isn't any. The website is devoted to the legitimate air and water quality issues surrounding the 14 border sister cities. We don't dispute that these are serious issues facing most population centers in the world, we just wish that the website at least listed the harm to humans caused by border itself.

Not to mention the land. And the animals. And the butterflies.

Is mankind now denying butterflies too?

- Lozen

Friday, July 20, 2007

One kilo beef = three hours driving while leaving the lights on at home

So says New Scientist. "Producing" a kilo of beef also produces about 36.4 kilos of CO2.

Bon appetit.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Smile, you're on candid camera!

The Border Patrol is apparently now committed to the NEPA process for the SBInet project along 262 miles of the Arizona border. And while we certainly commend the Border Patrol for engaging the public in the process, for whatever that's worth, we do find some of the enviro responses slightly puzzling:
"For our environment, our wildlife, for our natural heritage, the virtual fence is far better than a real fence that an animal can't cross through."
While we certainly agree that anything is better that the "secure fence/berlin wall," we shouldn't get all enthusiastic about a project that could become a creepy "Big Brother" nightmare. True, virtual might be better for the non-human animals, but who really knows what the Department of Homeland Security is up to? And recall, my friends, that some of the areas in question are Wilderness. So much for leaving the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable.

This project might also dissuade other charismatic megafauna.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Van gets stuck atop border fence

For the folks who think the border wall is going to work, check out this story from yesterday: A van that illegally crossed a remote, desert stretch of the U.S-Mexico border got stuck atop a metal barrier after a makeshift ramp collapsed under its weight.

You've got to hand it to the migrants for their ingenuity and optimism - I certainly wouldn't have expected a Chevy Astro to accomplish such a feat.

But this story demonstrates that people will think their way around any barrier that is erected, working in increasingly remote areas that lead, inevitably, to increased risks. A recent Reuters article titled, "More Migrants Die as U.S. Tightens Border security," reports the probability of a record number of deaths in 2007.
"Has enhanced border security increased the number of migrant deaths? Unquestionably," said Wayne Cornelius, an immigration expert at the University of California San Diego. "There is no other way to explain the sharp increase in fatalities."
Maybe this is the new immigration strategy- kill them before they can take our jobs, steal our women, and plunder our larders.

The fence is being built, slowly but surely, on our southern boundary, and if you think this isn't a public lands or conservation issue, think again.
The final five miles of fencing in San Diego will cover some of the most rugged terrain and most sensitive habitats on the border. For example, to fill an area called "Smuggler's Gulch," crews are expected to move nearly 3 million tons of dirt — enough to fill about 100,000 giant dump trucks.

Border Patrol officials say they need a fence in the gulch because its urban surroundings give agents limited time to catch people before they melt into the local population.

But environmentalists worry that shifting dirt will spill north into a federally protected estuary, disrupting a key stopover for more than 370 species of migratory and native birds.
Birds, schmirds.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tell that to the ocelot & jaguar

We were very amused to read a recent list of ways around the proposed border wall, published by the McAllen, Texas Chamber of Commerce:
Climb over it.
Tunnel under it.
Walk around it.
Fly into Canada and then walk across.
Boat across the Gulf of Mexico to another state where there are no walls. Yet.
Call East Germany survivors and ask how they did it
Walk around with a cell phone saying, “Can you hear me now?”
By an Acme kit, paint a hole on the wall and walk through
Walk backwards and say you’re leaving
Pretend you’re a Canadian- eh?
Say you’re here to deliver the tequila
Master the pogo stick
Plant magic beans next to the wall and wait
Employ the Jedi mind trick. “These are not the illegals you are looking for.”
Put on a hard hat, grab a clip board and say you’re inspecting the wall
Grab onto a huge handful of helium balloons and float over the wall
Create a human pyramid
Use a trampoline
Glue suction cups to your feet
Hide in a piƱata
Dress in black and hide in the wall’s shadow
Start a rousing game of Red Rover Red Rover
Run down the road yelling, “The Muslims are coming!”
Pole vault over
Build a Trojan Javelina and mail it to Washington DC
Employ the assistance of a giant gopher
Hitch a ride on a UFO
Use a Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak
Mail yourself
Get a boost from Yao Ming
Use a grappling hook
Stand on a pile of cases of beer
Pretend to look for a lost cat
Pretend to be Santa
Learn the Indian rope charm
Make like Evel Knieval
Anger a field goal kicker and have him kick you over
Some are funny, some are tried and true, and others are but a sad commentary on the ineffective and impractical effort the Bush Administration seems hell-bent on undertaking. The Bushies and Duncan Hunter.

- Lozen

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Oh, the irony!

Looks like we've invaded Mexico with our misplaced border wall:
COLUMBUS, N.M. — The 1.5-mile barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border was designed to keep cars from illegally crossing into the United States. There's just one problem: It was accidentally built on Mexican soil. Now embarrassed border officials say the mistake could cost the federal government more than $3 million to fix.
A small price to pay, really, what, with current estimates on the virtual border wall project (if they get it "right" the first time around) up to cool $30 billion dollars.

But what about our border to the north? So much for homeland security.

In Texas, the opposition to the wall is gaining momentum. Even The Nature Conservancy (usually staunchly apolitical) is starting to speak out about the devastating ecological effects the wall would have on their "Southmost Preserve."
The preserve hums with the energy of wildlife. Rare birds provide a soundtrack; butterflies flit in and out of the brush; ducklings splash in the water.

"It would be a real shame to lose this natural history," said Najera, a program manager with the Nature Conservancy, which acquired the 1,034-acre preserve just east of Brownsville in 1999.

The conservancy farms a portion of the land, but its main work is restoring the native Tamaulipan thornscrub habitat that is vanishing as the Valley becomes urbanized. The preserve, on the northernmost edge of a biological province that's mostly in Northeast Mexico, is home to one of two remaining large stands of native Mexican sabal palms in the United States.

The Texas tortoise, the Texas indigo snake and other threatened species live here. The Altamira oriole, black-bellied and fulvous whistling ducks, the chachalaca and Couch's kingbird, among many other birds, can be found in the wooded groves and in the tranquil wetlands.

Red-winged blackbirds and the scarlet blooms of Turk's cap provide some of the many flashes of color.

Sounds like a great place worth saving to us.

- Lozen

Monday, July 02, 2007

Chertoff tells it like it is

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff appeared on FOX "news" yesterday to give the rundown on border security in light of terror attacks in Britain and the immigration bill's defeat in the Senate. He said, somewhat cryptically:
I think the fence has come to assume a certain kind of symbolic significance which should not obscure the fact that it is a much more complicated problem than putting up a fence which someone can climb over with a ladder or tunnel under with a shovel.
Well, duh. It is more complicated than Chertoff admits- in fact, the very construction of the fence requires the waivers of all kinds of relevant environmental and cultural laws just to get the job done.
You have to level the ground. You have to put a foundation in. You have to drive in the pillars. And then you put the fencing in.
Don't forget about the messy unintentional disinterments that might further complicate things. (We note with chagrin that the O'odham grave disturbances during the construction of a vehicle barrier didn't but blip in the U.S. media.)

Oh, well. Native people are used to being ignored in mainstream press. In fact, almost all legitimate dissent is being ignored in this new "war on terror" border wall project:
Those voices of dissent range from the farmer worried about losing access to his irrigation pumps on the Rio Grande, to the Minuteman who thinks ground sensors and all elements of “virtual fencing” are ineffective; from the Democrat who calls the fence a colossal waste of money, to the Republican who says not nearly enough of it is being built; from the conservationist crying out for the ocelot, to the businessperson worried it could create bad blood with the Mexican business community.

As the debate continues, rumors and unanswered questions continue to fly, but certain elements now have been established.

By the end of 2008, DHS plans to have built 370 miles of fencing and 200 miles of vehicle barriers along the U.S. Mexico border.
In other words, the cries for the ocelot are falling on deaf ears. This should come as no surprise.

- Lozen