4th Quarter 2006 Land Letter Articles

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12/21/06 More aggressive import screening is cost-effective, says study
Prescreening of imported plants and animals that are likely to become problematic invasive species is not only possible but also cost effective, according to a new study. The report, "Risk assessment for invasive species produces net bioeconomic benefits," finds that strict import screening programs, such as that used by the Australian government to prevent potentially invasive plants from entering the country, have economic benefits that far outweigh the costs of controls.

12/14/06 Oregon flooded by last-minute Measure 37 claims
More than 1,000 claims poured into state offices on the last day before a change in rules governing claims under Oregon's Measure 37 took effect Dec. 2, part of a deluge of new claims filed during the past month that has swelled the total number filed since the controversial land-use initiative was passed into law in November 2004. Total claims under Measure 37 exceed $6 billion. See what's in the file here.

12/14/06 Conservationists celebrate protections for Mont.'s Rocky Mountain Front
Among the many 11th-hour actions by the lame-duck 109th Congress last week was passage of a tax extender bill that contained an amendment to prevent federal lands agencies from issuing new permits for drilling or hardrock mining along the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana. The provision, slipped into H.R. 6408 by Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D), would permanently extend a 1997 moratorium on oil and gas leases for federal lands stretching over 100 miles southeast from Glacier National Park. Check the maps here.

12/07/06 Stronger safeguards needed to protect water quality near extraction A new study released today concludes that federal agencies that issue mining permits frequently fail to accurately assess the potential for acids and toxic metals to leak into rivers, and that, in a majority of cases conditions meant to mitigate contamination are ineffective. Dig into the story here.

11/30/06 Closing the door to invasive species They arrive by land, by sea or though the air. Sometime they are imported on purpose, but often they are unwelcome hitchhikers that stow away inside the hulls of cargo ships or in packing materials carried from distant lands. While most fail to establish new colonies, some will thrive in their new environment, and if not identified and contained, they can spread rapidly. They are exotic, invasive species-plants, animals and microorganisms -- and in very real ways, they threaten to choke out native species while causing billions of dollars in year in direct damage and costs for control. Read the complete article here.

11/16/06 After the blazes are out, restoration efforts continue
With smoke still lingering over the 175,000-acre burn area in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest of north-central Washington, just a few miles from the Canadian border, helicopters hovered above the canyons. At their designated altitude, they dropped a payload -- not of fire retardant but half-ton bales of straw that would disperse on impact to spread material along the steep slopes. The goal was to establish mulch material to minimize erosion before the rains begin. Click here to read the complete article.

11/16/06 Wash. Audubon groups take on state, Weyerhaeuser over spotted owl
The Seattle and Kittitas County chapters of the Audubon Society have filed a lawsuit against Washington state resource agencies and the Weyerhaeuser Corp., seeking to halt logging on about 100,000 acres of timberlands where they say northern spotted owls have been identified. Represented by the Washington Forest Law Center, the groups contend that despite recent protections enacted by the state Department of Natural Resources and the Forest Practices Board, populations of threatened spotted owls will continue to erode unless logging is halted on the public and private lands. Look here.

11/16/06 Emergency restrictions imposed at Golden Gate beaches to minimize snowy plover disturbances
One of the longest-running disputes at the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) flared up again this month, as park officials imposed emergency restrictions on beach access to protect two sites used by western snowy plovers. In particular, owners of dogs that were previously allowed to run and play "under voice control" at Ocean Beach and along Chrissy Field on San Francisco Bay, must keep their dogs on leash in two portions of those areas. Run with the dogs here.

11/09/06 New public uses offered for toxic shipyard Nearly ten years after adoption of a redevelopment plan for the Hunters Point Navy Shipyard on San Francisco Bay, a community-based design group is pressing for a major expansion of a planned 60-acre waterfront park to accommodate more varied public uses. See the plan.

11/09/06 Former NPS director Bill Whalen remembered for great achievements and spirited activism The flag was at half-staff, and an honor guard of four mounted National Park Service police stood outside the Fort Mason Officers Club, as family and freinds of William J. Whalen III met to celebrate the memory of a remarkable man and an equally remarkable career. Join the ceremony.

11/02/06 Record fire season not over, officials warn Even before the Esperanza fire in Southern California claimed the lives of five Forest Service firefighters, this year was already considered among the worst for wildfires across the U.S. See why here.

11/02/06 Parties must wait for decision on forest plan rule Judge Phyllis Hamilton told parties she is not ready to rule on summary motions in two consolidated cases challenging the Bush administration's revisions to a planning rule that affects all 192 milion acres of national forest. During oral arguments in San Francisco, Nov. 1, both sides agreed the revision amounted to a "paradigm shift" in how the Forest Service directs local units to devise forest managemen plans. But what the government described as "changing to a more flexible and less prescriptive framework, the plaintiffs criticized as "moving from a protective standard to a weaker one." Find the court report here.

10/26/06 No perfect solution for Salton Sea restoration, but many options
The Salton Sea, California's largest lake and long a desert refuge for vacationers and hundreds of species of migrating birds, will inevitably shrink in volume and lose surface area over the next two decades, as about half of current inflows are diverted to help quench Southern California's unflagging thirst for water. Exactly how to prevent or mitigate the worst problems associated with this situation -- increased salinity, worsening air quality, continued threats to the local economy and the virtual elimination of fish and wildlife -- has become a top priority for government officials, agricultural groups, Indian tribes and environmentalists. But it is also a conundrum, as starkly differing visions of how to preserve and restore this inland sea have made it difficult to reach consensus on a workable, affordable strategy. Read all about it here.

10/26/06 New tax law spurs interest, activity in easement transactions
A recently passed law that provides generous tax deductions to landowners who enter into irrevocable conservation easements on their properties is already spurring new transactions involving thousands of acres of forest, ranch and farmlands. However, because the deduction carries an end-of-2007 sunset date, private land trusts across the country are scrambling to complete easement transactions and to inform potential users of the program about its availability. Look for the report here.

10/19/06 Storm clouds gather over tribal lands rights-of-way for energy
A little-noticed provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 has uncovered contentious issues about the renewal of rights-of-way across tribal lands for energy facilities. Section 1813(a) of EPAct directs the departments of Energy and Interior to provide an historic assessment of the rights-of-way valuation issues and to offer recommendations for Congress for methods of resolving problems and providing compensation for land use. Follow the news.

10/19/06 Complex forest land exchange in Oregon collapses
The proposed Blue Mountain Land Exchange, involving nearly 50,000 acres of federal forest land and private property in the Blue Mountain region of northeastern Oregon, has fallen victim to rising land values, declining timber values and a time-consuming process for approval. The complex deal, valued at more than $41 million, had been in the works for eight years, although the U.S. Forest Service began its formal process for evaluating the transaction in 2002. See what's behind the headline.

10/19/06 Montana mine OK conditioned by protections for grizzly bears, bull trout
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Oct. 13 determined that the proposed Rock Creek silver and copper mine in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana will not pose a significant danger to protected bull trout, and that mitigation plans funded by the developer will "produce a net positive effect for the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem grizzly bear population."

Above articles are Copyright 2006 E&E Publishing, Inc.

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