2nd Quarter 2007 Land Letter Articles
06/28/07 Green groups want more protection for second-growth Ore. forest
More than 55 years after a series of wildfires burned through much of what is now known as Oregon's Tillamook State Forest, Northwest environmental groups are hoping to persuade state managers -- and private land owners -- to apply more conservation-oriented practices in order to maintain a more diverse habitat for hundreds of animals and plant species of concern. And to highlight the drive, this month they joined with other groups in a formal petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the dusky tree vole under the Endangered Species Act. Get dusky.
06/21/07 Control over roads in parks, wilderness increasingly a court issue
Two cases in California appear to be the next front for local attempts to assert broad rights-of-way on roads that lie within the boundaries of federal lands. In the latest action, a federal judge ruled last week that a group of environmental advocates must be allowed to intervene in a case brought against the National Park Service by California's Inyo County. The county's suit is seeking "quiet title" to four roads within federal lands near Death Valley National Park. In another case, San Bernardino County officials are similarly seeking access and control over 14 roads and spurs, covering about 240 miles in the Mojave National Preserve. Park it here.
06/21/07 Spaceport threatens historic trail in N.M., critics say
A stretch of the El Camino Real, an early trade route that once linked Mexico City to Santa Fe, N.M., is threatened by a commercial spaceport to be built near the trail, landing New Mexico's segment of the Camino Real on a historic preservation group's list of the nation's top 11 most endangered historic places. The $225 million spaceport, would lie within three miles of the trail, the earliest Euro-American trade route. Also appearing on the 2007 endangered list are numerous sites of Civil War engagements that could be affected by the recent designation by the Department of Energy of a broad swath of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states as part of the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors. A joint report with SW correspondent April Reese continues here.
06/14/07 Ill. considers swapping public grasslands for resort development
Illinois lawmakers have given a first round of approval to a plan that would trade as much as one quarter of Pyramid State Park -- the state's largest park and considered an important habitat for migrating birds -- to a real-estate development firm that envisions a premium golf resort and bicycle racing complex as a precursor to a musical heritage theme park on the site. Fly over the fracas.
06/14/07 Defense report details environmental protection, cleanup activities
Over the past 10 years, the U.S. Department of Defense and its military branches spent over $42.4 billion for environmental programs that range from pollution prevention to cleanup of contaminated facilities. Of $4.14 billion requested for fiscal 2008, roughly 40 percent, or $1.7 billion, will be spent on compliance with various federal, state or local environmental laws and ordinances. The figures come as part of DOD's annual report to Congress on environmental programs. With over 30 million acres of land at more than 3,700 locations, DOD is, in effect, the nation's biggest environmental agency. Maneuver to the DoD report.
06/14/07 Utah offers many possibilities for Wild & Scenic designation
Until now, the state of Utah has not had a single stretch of free-flowing waterway given the "wild and scenic" designation by Congress. That is likely to change in the next few years, as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are currently in the process of preparing the environmental documentation to make recommendations to lawmakers sometime next year. The two agencies have evaluated thousands of miles of rivers and creeks that flow though their lands, winnowing down the list of river segments that meet eligibility criteria to nearly 230 river segments totaling over 2,000 miles. Go wild in Utah.
06/07/07 Bison return to Yellowstone as Montana worries about brucellosis
Montana officials have relented from their threat to kill a herd of some 300 bison that repeatedly roamed outside the northwestern boundaries of Yellowstone National Park looking for forage this spring. After several attempts, the recalcitrant herd was hazed back to several miles within the park and appears to be finding enough food to remain in the Cougar Meadows area, Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash told Land Letter this week. Meanwhile, Montana officials are continuing to investigate an outbreak of brucellosis north of Yellowstone. Get the latest.
06/07/07 Dearth of delta smelt shuts Calif. pumps
Citing the continued precipitous decline in the numbers of a tiny fish used as an indicator of ecosystem health, the California Department of Water Resources has declared an emergency shut down of massive pumps used to push water along the state aqueduct to Southern California. Pump it up.
05/31/07 Northwest plan sets new targets for fish survival but keeps dams
As difficult as it is for Pacific Northwest salmon to complete their round trip journey from the upper reaches of the Columbia River and Snake River systems to the Pacific Ocean and back to spawn a next generation, it is proving nearly as hard for federal agencies to establish a consensus plan to protect the iconic fish from depletion. Swim upstream.
05/31/07 Oneida Tribes cannot retake N.Y. lands but may seek more money
A federal judge this month ruled that three tribal groups representing descendants of the Oneida Tribes may press for economic redress for land sales made under duress as far back as 212 years ago. But, citing previous higher court rulings involving similar types of claims, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn determined that the tribes cannot repossess about 250,000 acres in upper New York state. Seek redress.
05/31/07 Calif. counties fret about possible loss of funding
As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) sorted through options for a revised $104 billion state budget proposal this month, several previously sacrosanct programs were nicked and pared in order to build a surplus reserve. And possibly lost in the shuffle was a $39.1 million allocation to compensate local governments for reduced property taxes paid by farmers and other landowners who agree to keep their property in ag production or open space for 10 years. Act naturally.
05/24/07 Yosemite tries, tries again on Merced River plan
If it sometimes appears that Yosemite National Park is engaged in an endless feedback loop of planning, public meetings and litigation, that's because it is. Park officials this month began a series of public workshops on their third version since 2000 of the Merced Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plan. "We're under a court order to do this," explained park planner Linda Dahl during a sparsely attended workshop in San Francisco on May 17. "But every time we do one of these processes, we do it a little better." Plan for the future.
05/24/07 Report on Esperanza blaze finds 'risky decisions' led to deaths
A five-member team of U.S. Forest Service firefighters died last October as a result of misjudgments about the severity of the Esperanza fire in Southern California and "risky decisions," including attempts to save a vacant residential building despite being in a "non-defensible" position. All five were fatally burned by a sudden, intense fire run up a steep drainage below their location, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. See the findings.
05/24/07 BLM decision favors Atlantic Rim development
The Bureau of Land Management this week gave the go-ahead for the drilling of about 2,000 new wells in the 270,000-acre Atlantic Rim section of the Green River Basin in Carbon County, Wyo. As many as 1,800 of the wells sought by development companies would be for coalbed methane extraction while the other 200 would be traditional natural gas wells. Well, well, well.
05/24/07 Lawsuit tries to prevent Sierra logging
A coalition of California-based environmental groups this week asked a federal district court to issue an injunction against logging in the Sierra National Forest meant to reduce risks of wildfires. The complaint filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Sierra Forest Legacy, the Sierra Club and the California Native Plant Society, seeks to halt the Kings River Project on the grounds that aggressive logging will further imperil the Pacific fisher. Cut through the brush.
05/17/07 Even success breeds controversy for ESA listings
The American bald eagle is not only an icon of the nation, it is also a symbol of the success of the Endangered Species Act in helping restore sustainable populations of once seriously threatened animals and plants. In preparation for removing the bald eagle from the endangered list later this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this month released its latest national survey of the eagle, finding 9,789 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states, compared to a low figure of 417 recorded in 1963. Not everyone agrees with FWS's measures of success; see why.
05/17/07 Okefenokee refuge fire poses double trouble
Firefighters from across the nation have joined the effort to control several large fires centered in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. Although crews are apparently making headway in containing the Sweat Farm Road/Big Turnaround complex fire that began in mid-April, an even larger blaze is posing a significant threat to public lands and private structures. Get fired up.
05/17/07 Sides drawn on Mount St. Helens-area copper mine lease
The Bureau of Land Management has received over 9,000 mostly opposing comments regarding a proposed lease agreement and preliminary environmental assessment (EA) for a potential copper mine on lands adjacent to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state. The lease application from Spokane-based Idaho General Mines Inc. contemplates an initial hard rock mining lease on 219 acres, called the Margaret deposit, for which the company claims a 50 percent reserved mineral interest. Potentially, the lease area could be expanded to 900 acres. Dig into the issue here.
05/10/07 Calif. diversion project benefits from compromise, community outreach
As water district officials from Sacramento and Oakland turned shovels of dirt this week during a groundbreaking ceremony for the $900 million Freeport Regional Water Project, they were also burying a dispute over water rights that stretches back 35 years. Along the way, litigation turned to compromise and community buy-in, allowing something of a consensus to guide development of the state's largest water diversion projects in decades. Even the environmental analysis documentation has been hailed as a national model for its clarity and thoroughness in exploring alternatives, while laying the foundation for future agreements that could involve novel groundwater banking programs as fresh water supplies become even more precious. Feel flows.
05/10/07 Indictments won't derail effort to control new pipeline terms, Alaska officials say
The state Capitol building was still reeling this week from the news that FBI agents had arrested and indicted three Republican politicians last Friday -- and by the subsequent guilty pleas by two oil company executives accused of bribing lawmakers regarding an oil tax and pipeline legislation last year. Nonetheless, the administration of Gov. Sarah Palin (R) continues to express confidence that lawmakers will be able to finalize a measure to hold a competitive bidding process for construction of a $20 billion to $30 billion natural gas pipeline that could run from Prudhoe Bay all the way to markets in the Midwest. Do the perp walk in Juneau.
05/03/07 Western transmission area's effects unclear as region moves ahead with projects The Department of Energy's proposed designation of a national interest electric transmission corridor through Southern California and parts of Nevada and western Arizona may have a limited effect on the region's plans for power grid upgrades because several of the most significant transmission projects are expected to be approved and construction begun well before formal designation takes place. California and its neighbors have been working on system upgrades and improvements steadily since the end of the 2001 energy crisis. Tred the corridors of power.
05/03/07 Environmentalists see politics behind spotted owl recovery plan
Prodded by litigation from both sides of the issue, the Fish and Wildlife Service last week finally released a draft recovery plan for the northern spotted owl. Much to the chagrin of environmental groups, the plan sets no specific population target and would allow federal land managers to choose what habitats to protect. Get tree'd.
05/03/07 Record Ga. blaze moves into Okefenokee Swamp; agencies see summer risks
A difficult-to-control wildfire that has closed parts of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is part of a record-setting complex of blazes currently being fought in southeast Georgia. Two large fires that began last month near Waycross, Ga., burned through more than 90,000 acres. Started after a tree fell across high-voltage electric wires on April 16, the blazes comprise the largest wildfire ever recorded in the state. Swampfire burns.
04/26/07 IG report critical of private use of NPS, BLM facilities
More than two decades after initial criticisms of the practice, the National Park Service continues to allow private individuals or exclusive clubs to monopolize desirable locations on federal lands near major metropolitan areas to the exclusion of the general public, says a recent report from the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General. In addition, the April 10 report "Private Use of Public Lands" said NPS has retained at least $2.6 million in special-use permit fees that should have been turned over to the U.S. Treasury. Investigate further.
04/26/07 N.J. proposes strict limits to river developments
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection this week proposed sweeping limits on development near rivers and reservoirs that supply drinking water and fishing opportunities. The plan would apply "Category One" status to more than 900 miles of waterways and some 1,300 acres of reservoirs in 11 counties, said DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson. Category One is the state's highest level of water-quality protection and entails a near total ban on development. See what's at stake.
04/19/07 Nevada refuge plan would cull herds by 90 percent
Saying that free-roaming mustangs and burros are destroying the ecosystem of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Nevada, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week released a draft environmental assessment for a management plan that would cut the number of animals from over 1,600 to between 100 and 200. However, wild horse advocates question FWS's population counts and assumptions about the nature of overpopulation in the 500,000 acre wildlife refuge. They claim the agency is simply trying to eradicate the animals over time. Ride over here.
04/19/07 Calif. creates 29 ocean refuges
With a unanimous vote, the California Fish and Game Commission on April 13 adopted a plan to create 29 marine protection areas along the Pacific Ocean coastline. The new sanctuaries represent 204 square miles, 18 percent of state waters, with 85 square miles of that designated as "no-take" zones where commercial fishing will be prohibited or severely restricted. Dive in to the details.
04/12/07 Calif. tries to prevent delta pump shutdown
California water officials headed back to court this week, trying to convince Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch not to finalize an order that could result in shuttering operations of a major pumping facility on the State Water Project. The judge on March 23 ruled that the state Department of Water Resources was in violation of the California Endangered Species Act because the vulnerable delta smelt and salmon were being killed by operations of the Harvey O. Banks pumping station, near Tracy. Get briefed here.
04/12/07 Colorado Gov. Ritter seeks state process for roadless areas
Expressing doubts about how future court decisions will guide federal forest management practices, Colorado's Gov. Bill Ritter (D) yesterday asked the federal government for an "insurance policy" to protect Colorado's 4.1 million acres of forested roadless areas from development. While generally endorsing a petition previously sent by ex-Gov. Bill Owens (R) last November, Ritter asked for a "state-specific" rulemaking and four modifications to the plan endorsed by his predecessor. Pursue a vehicle for off-road reform.
04/12/07 Native Americans defend Medicine Lake decision
SAN FRANCISCO -- Standing in a prayer circle in the courtyard of the federal office building here Friday, a group of about 50 Native Americans and supporters urged the U.S. government to drop continued attempts to develop geothermal energy projects on land around Medicine Lake, in Shasta County. On Nov. 6, 2006, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's determination that the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service had properly extended leases for geothermal project exploration and development at Fourmile Hill in the Medicine Lake highlands near Mount Shasta (Land Letter, Nov. 16, 2006). In February, the Department of Justice, on behalf of the agencies, filed for reconsideration of the ruling. The circle forms here.
04/05/07 New plan offered in Ore.'s Measure 37 fracas
Hoping to quell growing public concern about the potential for rampant development represented by thousands of claims for land-use restriction waivers under Measure 37, a legislative working group last week proposed a new framework for reform of the controversial law. In several respects, the proposal reflects principles previously espoused by Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) in proposing an "express lane" process for limited development plans. But it no longer calls for a six-month moratorium on the processing of some 3,300 claims for waivers or compensation that were filed before a Dec. 4, 2006, deadline. Go behind closed doors.
Above articles are Copyright 2007 E&E Publishing, Inc.Copyright 2007 The Energy Overseer, All Rights Reserved For information about speaking availabilities, call 415-648-9405