4th Quarter 2007 Land Letter

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01/03/08 Wildfires, climate change, preservation, water restoration efforts top news
As we begin a new year, the editors of Land Letter offer this sampling of some of our best and most popular stories from 2007. For the second year in a row, wildfires plagued our public lands at a level unprecedented in modern times. More than 85,500 reported blazes raged across the continent during 2007 -- destroying thousands of homes and businesses along with some 9.3 million acres of forests and grasslands. Although climate change has been an issue of scientific concern and political debate for decades, 2007 was the year that global warming became a global media obsession. The implications for public lands and resources are both complex and profound. The year saw major advances in long-term efforts to stabilize populations of certain endangered or threatened species, including the removal of bald eagles and some grey wolves from the special protections afforded by the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Such positive news was frequently overshadowed by revelations of how internal agency politics influenced resource decisions within the Bush administration. What many consider a continuing battle between science and ideology will undoubtedly continue into 2008.
See what defined the resource news agenda in 2007.

12/20/07 Fed program for restoring S.F. Bay salt ponds to begin in 2008
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- This is the time of year when millions of migrating birds pay a visit to San Francisco Bay. Standing alone on the rocks or floating in flocks numbering in the thousands, they can be found at scores of sites along the bay's 1,000 miles of shoreline -- resting, nesting or foraging for food in the channels and marshes of the San Francisco National Wildlife Refuge system. Over time they will have another local playground here, in the form of restored tidal wetlands created from the 15,000 acres of commercial salt ponds that state and federal agencies bought for $200 million from the Cargill Corp. in 2003. As part of a 50-year South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, three expanses of bay wetlands -- some still used for commercial salt production -- will slowly transform from managed ponds to predominantly saltwater tidal habitat.
Follow the flock.

12/20/07 Calif. communities scramble for new supplies following judge's order
Judge Oliver Wanger dropped the other shoe last week, and the impacts are still reverberating throughout California. Judge Wanger of the U.S. District Court's Eastern District in Fresno last Friday ordered state and federal water officials to limit pumping operations at the head of the California aqueduct system in order to protect what remains of the endangered delta smelt population in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. The order confirms what many communities and water users feared most: inevitable changes to pumping operations that could severely cut the amount of water flowing to Southern California. Feel flows.

12/13/07 Calif. gauges the health of its river, levee systems
On a brisk December morning, crews from the California Department of Water Resources are preparing for another day on this stretch of the Sacramento River, measuring the depth of these narrow channels. As the small research vessel "Julie Ann" pulls out from the dock, the crew is less focused on the serene late-autumn scene than on the data being collected from the river floor below.
Go fissure.

12/06/07 Choice of museums could influence Presidio's future
The Presidio, a former U.S. Army base that is undergoing a long-term transformation into a self-supporting public park and cultural institution, will soon decide whether to build a huge contemporary art museum or a more modest historical museum in the base's Main Post area. The choice, detailed in two new architectural designs released this week, could significantly influence other planned developments and alter the character of the park far into the future. But in typical San Francisco fashion, the selection of one museum idea over another might lead to an even bigger controversy about public parking in the Presidio and adjacent neighborhoods.
And in the next gallery...

11/29/07 Court affirms Calif. listing for coho
A California appeals court this month rejected attempts to nullify California Endangered Species Act protections for coho salmon, upholding the state Fish and Game Commission's listing in 2004 of Northern California Coast coho as threatened and Central California Coast coho as endangered under state law. The ruling, issued Nov. 20, affirmed a trial court's finding on the matter.

11/15/07 Oil spill's larger implications come in waves The freighter Cosco Busan lays anchored in San Francisco Bay, ringed by spotlights in the turquoise evening. The ship, with a 90-foot-long gash set well above the water mark, has been impounded as investigators from three federal agency teams try to resolve the many unanswered questions about the Nov. 7 incident in which the Cosco Busan scraped a support tower of the Bay Bridge while trying to navigate through heavy fog. The collision ripped through the hull, quickly releasing some 58,000 gallons of fuel oil into the vulnerable bay ecosystem. One week after the incident, the political ramifications appear to be outweighing the actual environmental impacts. Sop up the latest.

11/08/07 Progress seen at Mount Rainier but flooding restoration could take years
One year after heavy rains caused an unprecedented six-month closure of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, park officials are crediting a massive volunteer effort for saving money and expediting repairs. Still, Mount Rainier officials say it could be years before restoration of all damaged roads and trails can be completed. At first, NPS estimated the damages at $36 million, but with the concerted volunteer effort and use of park personnel, that price tag has dropped to about $24 million. Budgets wash away.

11/01/07 Measure 49 splits Oregon
With less than a week before polls close on a special election, opponents of a measure to reform Oregon's controversial land-use compensation law face an uphill battle. "Our internal polls show we're down," said Dave Hunnicutt, president of Oregonians in Action and leader of the "Stop Measure 49" campaign, told Land Letter this week. Vote Yes on No.

11/01/07 NPS comes to terms with GPS geocaching
A new form of outdoor recreation, using devices that tap the Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate hidden or obscure objects in remote areas, has some public land managers and park rangers scratching their heads. The trend -- known variously as geocaching, virtual caching, letterboxing or other variations -- has blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon practiced by tens of thousands of people. Find your way.

11/01/07 Calif. adopts voluntary standards for forestry CO2 reductions
The California Air Resources Board unanimously approved the nation's first standards for forest-generated carbon dioxide reductions. The Forest Protocols, previously adopted by the California Climate Action Registry, were developed in a collaborative process over a four-year period. Manage your carbon here.

10/25/07 Blazes hit Southern Calif. with a vengeance (with Dan Berman, senior reporter)
After a three-week lull, the 2007 fire season roared back to life this week as Southern California seemingly exploded in flames from Santa Barbara to the Mexico border. By Thursday morning, state fire agency CAL FIRE reported that a dozen major fires (larger than 500 acres) had consumed nearly 450,000 acres of public and private property, destroyed well over 1,600 homes or other structures and forced the evacuation of an estimated million persons. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Sunday declared a state of emergency covering seven counties. President Bush swiftly met his request for federal assistance and was on his way to see the area on Thursday morning. State the emergency.

10/25/07 Calif. lacks adequate appraisal standards for resources, says analyst
California resource agencies have spent more than $2 billion since 2000 to acquire rights or ownership of property for parks, wildlife habitats or other conservation purposes, and voters last year approved a $1 billion bond issue for new land acquisitions. According to the state's Legislative Analyst Office, however, the agencies involved in these transactions lack standardized policies for determining the market value of such properties and are inconsistent in what they reveal to the public before approving deals.
LAO reports.

10/18/07 Will Northern Rockies wilderness designation benefit regional economy?
As Congress resurrects a sweeping plan to designate as wilderness nearly 24 million acres of public lands in five Western states, the public debate is expected to center on environmental protection issues as well as the politics of local autonomy versus "top down" federal determinations of land-use restrictions. For many proponents of H.R. 1975, however, an important underlying issue is a matter of the economic benefits associated with wilderness lands -- not lost opportunities. Born to be wild!

10/18/07 Caribou protections in British Columbia seen as first step to broad endangered species law
The British Columbia provincial government this week announced a recovery plan to restore depleting populations of mountain caribou by prohibiting logging and road building on 2.2 million hectares -- roughly 5 million acres -- of Crown lands. While the action was cheered by a coalition of environmental organizations based in both Canada and the United States, they view this as a first step toward establishing a provincial endangered species law that would afford new protections for more than 1,360 animal and plant species that are now considered "at risk" in B.C. Cross the border.

10/11/07 Calif. lawmakers sink storage bond bills; Gov. Schwarzenegger OKs flood control, ocean protections
Three weeks into a special session called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger(R) to craft a solution to California's deepening water woes, the state Legislature has come up dry. The state Senate on Tuesday rejected a bill sponsored by its President Pro-Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) that would have floated a $6.8 billion bond package February. The measure failed on a 23-12 vote, without gaining a single Republican vote. The Republican caucus favors some version of the governor's $9.1 billion plan for water infrastructure, levee repairs and programs meant to boost the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. The governor's plan has not yet been put to a vote, and Sacramento sources say it is increasingly unlikely there will be a deal reached, as lawmakers need to move on to healthcare issues in the special session. Impasse awaits.

10/11/07 Great Lakes sites pose diverse resource challenges
As part of its first comprehensive review of the status of parks in the Great Lakes region, the National Parks Conservation Association this week released a report highlighting challenges facing six popular lakeshore destinations that indicate both a wide variety of existing problems and common framework for meeting future challenges. While the list of issues uncovered by NPCA at the sites includes invasive species, water and ground pollution, crumbling infrastructure and diminished staffing, the potential solutions boil down to increased public awareness and more stable funding. Dip into the report.

10/11/07 Feds must reconsider endangered species status of coho, judge rules
Rejecting appeals by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Oregon state government, U.S. District Court Judge Garr King this week upheld a July ruling from a federal magistrate requiring a new science-based decision on whether to restore Endangered Species Act protections for Oregon coast coho salmon. In that decision, Stewart found that state and federal agencies ignored the best available science when deciding to delist coho. Hoho, coho.

10/04/07 Opposition mounts to aerial spraying for apple moth
California and federal officials are increasingly on the defensive regarding their efforts to eradicate the light brown apple moth before it can do serious damage to the state's $31 billion per year agriculture industry. The moth was first sighted in early February near Berkeley, but it since has been confirmed as far south as Los Angeles. The state has begun a controversial program of aerial spraying of a sexual pheromone intended to disrupt the reproductive cycle of the moths - in essence, confusing adult males and preventing them from locating females for mating. Sniff around.

10/04/07 Pacific Lumber plots land sales, 'kingdom' estates to exit bankruptcy
In a proposed plan for exiting Chapter 11 filed with a Texas bankruptcy court this week, Pacific Lumber Co. said it expects to raise nearly $1.2 billion in cash from the sale of Northern California timber lands -- including 6,600 acres in six groves of ancient redwood trees that are subject to a 50-year protection plan -- while selling an additional 22,000 acres for development as "trophy" properties. The land surrounds the Headwaters Forest, a 7,400-acre, old-growth forest that the state and federal government purchased from Pacific Lumber in 1999 for $480 million. King me.

Above articles are Copyright 2007 E&E Publishing, Inc.

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