18 Feb 2011, 4:58pm
Latest Climate News
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Mexico loses 80-100% of crops to freeze, US prices to skyrocket

by Lynn Herrmann, Digital Journal, Feb 11, 2011 [here]

Houston - The cold weather experienced across much of the US in early February made its way deep into Mexico and early reports estimate 80-100 percent crop losses which are having an immediate impact on prices at US grocery stores with more volatility to come.

Wholesale food suppliers have already sent notices to supermarket retailers describing the produce losses in Mexico and the impact shoppers can expect. Sysco sent out a release(pdf) this week stating the early February freeze reached as far south as Los Mochis and south of Culiacan, both located in the state of Sinaloa, along the Gulf of California. The freezing temperatures were the worst the region has seen since 1957.

According to Sysco’s notice sent out this week:

“The early reports are still coming in but most are showing losses of crops in the range of 80 to 100%. Even shade house product was hit by the extremely cold temps. It will take 7-10 days to have a clearer picture from growers and field supervisors, but these growing regions haven’t had cold like this in over half a century.”

At this time of year, Mexico is a major supplier to the US and Canada for green beans, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, asparagus, peppers and round and Roma tomatoes. Compounding the problem is the freezing cold that hit Florida in December and January. … [more]

Trillions for biomass projects fruitless

Kyodo News, Japan Times, Feb. 15, 2011 [here]

None of the government’s 214 biomass promotion projects — with public funding coming to ¥6.55 trillion — over the past six years has produced effective results in the struggle against global warming, according to an official report released Tuesday.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, which evaluates public works projects, urged the agriculture and five other ministries conducting biomass projects using sewage sludge, garbage and wood, to take corrective action.

The Administrative Evaluation Bureau found in a study of biomass projects through March 2009 that the cumulative budget totaled about ¥6.55 trillion.

The six ministries taking part in such projects, however, have yet to confirm the financial results for 92, or 44 percent, of the 214 projects, with one bureau official saying: “The figures tell everything. The ministries need to produce certain results because they are using taxpayers’ money.”

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry spent about ¥1.6 billion on a project to produce livestock feedstuff from unsold boxed lunches from convenience stores. The project was abandoned after its management firm collapsed, the report says. … [more]

Northern New Brunswick wind turbines frozen solid

by Greg Weston, Telegraph-Journal, February 15, 2011 [here]

FREDERICTON — A $200-million wind farm in northern New Brunswick is frozen solid, cutting off a potential supply of renewable energy for NB Power.

The 25-kilometre stretch of wind turbines, located 70 kilometres northwest of Bathurst, N.B. has been completely shutdown for several weeks due to heavy ice covering the blades.

GDF SUEZ Energy, the company that owns and operates the site, is working to return the windmills to working order, a spokeswoman says.

“We can’t control the weather,” Julie Vitek said in an interview from company headquarters in Houston, Texas. …

Wintery conditions also temporarily shutdown the site last winter, just months after its completion. Some or all of the turbines were offline for several days, with “particularly severe icing” blamed.

The accumulated ice alters the aerodynamics of the blades, rendering them ineffective as airfoils. The added weight further immobilizes the structures.

Vitek says workers are trying to find a way to prevent ice buildup from occurring again in the future. The shutdown has not had any effect on employment at the site, which provides 12 permanent jobs. …

Despite running into problems in consecutive winters, Morton says NB Power doesn’t have concerns about the reliability of the supply from the Caribou Mountain site. … [more]

Note: this article is not a spoof; it just appears to be one.

17 Feb 2011, 12:36am
Latest Forest News Tramps and Thieves
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Secretary Salazar joins Canadian Ambassador Doer in Celebrating Agreement to Protect Transboundary Flathead River Basin

DOI News Release, February 15, 2011 [here]

Washington, D.C. - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer in a ceremony at the Woodrow Wilson Center celebrating an agreement to protect the transboundary Flathead River Basin. The agreement reached today by British Columbia and The Nature Conservancy-U.S. and The Nature Conservancy Canada will protect the Canadian portion of the Flathead River Basin from oil, gas and minerals development.

“Our conservation challenges don’t stop at the border so it is important that our nations join together to protect our world’s natural resources and treasures, including the Flathead River Basin with its pristine lakes and alpine scenery,” said Secretary Salazar. “Completion of the agreement to protect the Basin from mining and energy development is not only an historic event, but also a wonderful celebration for the many people who are dedicated to coordinated, sustainable protection of this important watershed.”

To support the international conservation efforts, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell announced that he will introduce legislation to permanently ban oil, gas and minerals development in the Canadian Flathead basin.

Also joining the celebration were Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana; Mark Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy; and Assistant Secretary of the Interior Rhea Suh, whom Salazar credited with leading Interior’s “productive dialogue for months with our counterparts regarding cooperation on shared conservation priorities.” … [more]

See also: Debt for Nature — Financing American Endangered Species on Foreign Soil [here]

16 Feb 2011, 3:51pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Washington livestock group files suit over wolves

By Brian Danner, KOZE-AM Lewiston ID, February 16, 2011 [here]

A Washington state cattle group is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force the agency to review federal protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.

Attorneys for the Washington Cattlemen’s Association say the lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in eastern Washington. The cattle association is represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm based in Sacramento, Calif.

Foundation spokesman Harold Johnson says the government has not met its mandate to periodically review if wolves should be listed as an endangered species.

An estimated 1,700 wolves roam the Northern Rockies, including at least one breeding pack in eastern Washington. A federal judge in Montana reversed two attempts by the Fish and Wildlife Service to lift protections for the species in the last several years. (AP)

16 Feb 2011, 3:45pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Suit seeks review of gray wolf’s status, as required by law and sound science

Pacific Legal Foundation, February 16, 2011 [here]

Attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation today filed a federal lawsuit to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct the legally mandated five-year status review of the gray wolf, to determine whether the species continues to warrant listing as “endangered.”

Donor-supported PLF is the leading legal watchdog that litigates, pro bono, for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations. In this lawsuit, PLF attorneys represent the Washington Cattlemen’s Association.

The gray wolf is known to exist across the continent from Michigan in the Midwest, through to Washington State in the West.

The gray wolf has been listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act since 1978, but from that point to the present, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has never conducted a formal scientific review of its status to determine whether continued listing is appropriate.

FWS’ failure to conduct such reviews is in direct violation of the law. The ESA requires the agency to review, every five years, whether a listed species is doing better or worse, and whether it has recovered. … [more]

16 Feb 2011, 3:41pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Gov Schweitzer says Montana will kill wolves preying on elk

AP, KBZI Bozeman, Feb 16, 2011 [here]

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer says the state will defy federal protections for gray wolves and kill packs that have been hurting elk herds.

Schweitzer also told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he is encouraging livestock owners north of Interstate 90 to shoot wolves that harass their animals. He says state game wardens would stop investigating wolf shootings in that part of the state.

Livestock owners in southern Montana already have authority to shoot wolves that harass their animals.

The Democratic governor says he is fed up with years of litigation that have kept wolves on the endangered species list even as their population has grown to more than 1,700 across the Northern Rockies.

16 Feb 2011, 10:42am
Latest Forest News
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Appeals court grants standing for challenges to impaired water listing

By David Smith, Siskiyou Daily News, Feb 11, 2011 [here]

California — The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has handed down a ruling that declares that landowners whose property values have been adversely impacted by the listing of impaired waters under the Clean Water Act can have standing to challenge those listings in court.

The ruling, filed Feb. 3, concerns the case (Barnum Timber Company v. United States Environmental Protection Agency), in which Barnum challenged the EPA’s listing of Redwood Creek as impaired.

According to the decision, the district court that originally heard the case denied Barnum’s suit, declaring that the company had lacked standing to bring the case against the EPA. …

By disagreeing with the lower court, the appeals court reversed the ruling and found that Barnum does have standing to challenge the EPA’s listing and ordered that the suit be heard by the district court. … [more]

Tree octopus exposes Internet illiteracy

by mludwig, My San Antonio, 02/01/2011 [here]

Is this creature capable of exposing shocking internet illiteracy?

Donald Leu, a researcher from the University of Connecticut, conducted a U.S. Department of Education-funded study of internet literacy among so-called “digital natives,” fabricating the tree octopus to test students’ ability to evaluate information they find on the internet.

Researchers asked students to find out information about the endangered Pacific Northwest tree octopus. Students had no problem locating a Web site dedicated to the cause [here], “but insisted on the existence of the made-up story, even after researchers explained the information on the website was completely fabricated,” according to a press release.

(Author’s note: You gotta check out this Web site, you can actually buy posters and T-shirts through Cafe Press.)

Most students “simply have very little in the way of critical evaluation skills,” Leu said. “They may tell you they don’t believe everything they read on the Internet, but they do.” … [more]

15 Feb 2011, 8:04pm
Latest Climate News
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Danish Arctic research dates Ice Age

The result of a Danish ice drilling project has become the international standard for the termination of the last glacial period. It ended precisely 11,711 years ago.

Edited by Julian Isherwood, Dagbladet Politiken, 11. dec. 2008 [here]

A Danish ice drilling project has conclusively ended the discussion on the exact date of the end of the last ice age.

The extensive scientific study shows that it was precisely 11,711 years ago - and not the indeterminate figure of ‘some’ 11,000 years ago – that the ice withdrew, allowing humans and animals free reign.

According to the Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) in Copenhagen, the very precise dating of the end of the last Ice Age has made Denmark the owner of the “Greenwich Mean Time” of the end of the last glacial period and beginning of the present climate – the so-called International Standard Reference.

It took several thousand years to warm up the earth and melt the kilometre thick ice caps that covered large parts of the northern hemisphere during the last glacial period and as a result the transition from Ice Age to the current period has lacked a clearly defined point in time.

The answer has now been found in the NordGrip drilling project in Greenland. … [more]

Note: The date above refers to the end of the Younger Dryas stadial. The Bretz Floods tore through and over the Columbia Plateau, Willamette Valley, and Puget Basin from 15.3-13 kya during the Bølling and Allerød oscillations immediately preceding and following the Older Dryas stadial.

Over 60 such monster floods (jokulhlaups) draining Glacial Lake Missoula, identified in layers of silt, occurred between 15.3 and 13 kya. Additional floods came from Glacial Lake Bonneville, estimated to have covered 10 times the area of the remnant Great Salt Lake, about 14.5 kya. Glacial Lake Bonneville catastrophically drained in jokulhlaups that flowed down the Snake River to the Columbia.

More evidence of cataclysmic jokulhlaups is found in Box Canyon of the Big Lost River in Idaho, also draining into the Snake River. Discharge rates there are estimated to have been 60,000 cubic meters per second. This would be some kind of record, except that the discharge rate of Glacial Lake Missoula is estimated to have been 17,000,000 cubic meters per second, and that wins the prize.

15 Feb 2011, 7:37pm
Latest Forest News
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New brigade prompts Piñon Canyon fears

By Randy Woock, Trinidad Times Independent, February 15, 2011 [here]

Plans by the U.S. Army to station a new Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) at Fort Carson has raised concerns among some southeast Coloradoans that the swelled numbers will result in forcing an expansion of the base’s training site at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS).

The Army recently released a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which “compares and evaluates the environmental impacts associated with stationing and training” the CABs at various sites, including training at the PCMS, as well as at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington State. In the PEIS, the Army states that its “preferred” option is to establish CABs at both mentioned bases. …

Not 1 More Acre! President Mack Louden, who is also a Las Animas County commissioner, when asked if the organization was concerned with the possible swelling of population numbers at Fort Carson would lead to an excuse for the Army to expand the PCMS, said that the CAB placement was, “probably good for Colorado Springs.” “We’re fine with them moving the brigade in there, as long as it doesn’t facilitate the expansion of the (PCMS).”

Louden also emphasized the importance of attending the public meeting regarding the Army’s Environmental Assessment of increased usage of the PCMS, currently scheduled for Las Animas County residents on February 17 at Trinidad State Junior College’s Sullivan Center at 6:30 p.m.

Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition President Lon Robertson said there existed a concern that the Army could, through the stationing of the CAB, “Create the need that they haven’t been able to (in the past), to justify the expansion of (PCMS).” …

As was previously reported in the Army’s 2008 document, Department of the Army Response to the National Defense Authorization Act; Section 2831, “Army units are transforming from ‘bigger and slower, to smaller and faster,’ the training of which allegedly requires a 156 percent greater area than previous training requirements.”

The Colorado Division of Wildlife also expressed concerns about possible impacts to local wildlife from the CAB at Fort Carson and associated training at Fort Carson. …

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, who has been “advocating for (the CAB) for years,” touted the potential economic development that stationing the CAB could bring to portions of the state, adding to the reported $5.281 billion in “total direct and indirect impact of military spending in our region (El Paso County).” …

Lamborn’s communications director, Catherine Mortensen, said. “Throughout the whole process, that was never part of their consideration. They made a point to emphasize and stress that to our district because we recognize that there are those concerns, those lingering fears that the Army has an idea of expanding (PCMS) or whatever, but this is separate from that.” … [more]

See also The Piñon Canyon War [here]

8 Feb 2011, 9:48pm
Latest Forest News
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Protesters march against Forest Service

Demonstrators at Dolores office oppose road closures, travel plans

By Kimberly Benedict Cortez Journal, Durango Herald, February 05, 2011 [here]

DOLORES – Unsatisfied with progress being made through government channels, members of the public took matters into their own hands Friday, participating in a protest march against U.S. Forest Service actions on public lands.

Carrying picket signs and banners, more than 100 people marched from the intersection of Colorado highways 145 and 184 to the Dolores Public Lands Office, where a short rally was held to express public dissatisfaction with road closures and policy changes on public lands.

The event was organized by Doug and Kim Maxwell and Louie and Hellen Edwards. Officers from the Colorado State Patrol and Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office monitored the route.

“It’s one right after another the government is taking away, and it has got to stop,” Doug Maxwell said before the march began. “We want to possibly get national attention to the issue and get the whole nation to wake up to what is going on.”

Public discontent with Forest Service decisions has been growing in the wake of the release of the Mancos-Cortez and Rico-West Dolores travel management plans over the last four years. The fervor reached a new pitch last fall when the Forest Service released the Boggy-Glade travel management plan, which called for the elimination of motorized cross country travel and game retrieval and the closure of 155 miles of Forest Service roads.

Displeasure with the plan led Montezuma County commissioners to create the Public Lands Coordination Commission to study the impact of Forest Service decisions on the county.

“These are our public lands,” said Dennis Atwater, a member of the commission who spoke at the rally. “They are supposed to belong to the public, and the federal government cannot own these lands. This is not a short war. It is a long war. We are not asking for anything that doesn’t belong to us.” … [more]

8 Feb 2011, 9:47pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Trial begins in fatal bear attack on boy

By Melinda Rogers, The Salt Lake Tribune, February 7, 2011 [here]

A rustle disrupted the peaceful darkness of the campsite.

Jake Francom slept in a tent with his girlfriend in the early morning hours of June 17, 2007, when he first heard the noise. Then came the swipe, followed by sharp claws pressing his head to his pillow as he jolted awake. …

Francom shared his story of surviving a bear attack Monday on the first of a scheduled six-day trial in U.S. District Court in the case of 11-year-old Sam Ives. The boy’s family filed a $2 million lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service following his fatal mauling in 2007.

Sam camped with his mother, Rebecca Ives; stepfather, Tim Mulvey; and half-brother, Jack in a campground above the Timpanooke Recreation Area on the same day as Francom’s outing in 2007. After a night of roasting hot dogs around a campfire and nestling into the tent that Sam and Jack purchased for Mulvey as a Father’s Day present, a bear sliced through the shelter, dragged him down a trail and killed him.

Attorneys for Sam’s family argue that the U.S. Forest Service and the state’s Division of Wildlife Resources had a duty to warn the family there was a dangerous bear in the area and that it had attacked a site close to where they camped. They also believe the campground should have been closed until the bear was killed, which didn’t happen until after Sam died.

Francom’s testimony is key to their argument.

In court, Francom held up his partially shredded pillow as evidence to show Judge Dale Kimball. He testified he believes the same bear that swatted him in the head attacked Sam later in the day, just a mile from where Francom encountered him before dawn.

Francom testified he called dispatchers around 9:30 AM on June 17, four hours after he came face to face with the bear. A recording presented in court detailed a conversation between a dispatcher and Francom, and later a dispatcher and a Forest Service officer who told the dispatcher she would contact the proper officials to inform them about the bear attack and those people in turn would put any necessary safety precautions for the public into action.

Forest Service worker Carolyn Gosse never made those calls.

She testified Monday that she was flustered while at home with her two children when the Utah County Sheriff’s dispatcher called her with Francom’s report. She wrote his cell phone number down wrong and later couldn’t find working numbers for federal protection officers on-duty to pass on the bear attack information, she said.

Gosse was later fired. On the stand, she struggled to remember details, but acknowledged she didn’t make the phone calls she said she would. She instead worked on the assumption that the DWR was handling the case, since it involved an animal, she testified. …

Defense attorneys for the Forest Service are arguing the government is immune from litigation connected to the bear attack. … [more]

8 Feb 2011, 8:03am
Latest Forest News
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Six Rivers plans ‘Rivers to Ridges’ restoration

National Forest aims to step up ecological efforts at a landscape level

by John Driscoll, Eureka Times-Standard, 02/05/2011 [here]

The Six Rivers National Forest wants to pick up the pace of restoration efforts on the land as part of a larger push to address climate change, population growth and wildfires across the nation.

Just what that effort will look like is the subject of an upcoming public meeting on Feb. 16. Six Rivers Supervisor Tyrone Kelley said that the event is meant to air plans for hardwood stand restoration, sediment reduction, road work, plantation thinning, the use of prescribed fire and recreation, as well as economic opportunities that may exist.

The stepped-up restoration program, called “Rivers to Ridges Ecological Restoration” is part of a landscape-level approach. One of the largest parts of the proposed efforts would be restoring hardwood and oak woodlands on some 120,000 acres of Six Rivers, and on 145,000 acres of plantations and other logged lands.

”Those stands are overcrowded and they need to be thinned,” Kelley said.

That should help make those areas more resilient to wildfires, tree diseases like sudden oak death and to encroachment of human habitation, Kelley said. The pace of the work is currently not fast enough to deal with the growing effects of wildfires on the land, he said.

At the same time, Kelley said that while the current administration and leadership in the U.S. Department of Agriculture is focused on ecosystem restoration, there is not much money directed toward the effort. Instead, Kelly said that partnerships with state and county agencies, with tribes and the general public must be utilized to most efficiently direct the effort. … [more]

EPA Administrator Claims Regulating Drinking Water Supply Prevents Kids from Getting Autism

By Penny Starr, CNS News, February 03, 2011 [here]

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told a Senate panel that preventing children from being exposed to contaminated water could spare them from autism.

Jackson made the remark on Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in response to questioning by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who asked if a recent executive order by President Barack Obama about regulations and the regulatory process means that the EPA can put any rules in place if “the benefits outweigh the costs.”

“I think the president’s far-reaching executive order makes clear that there are some things that are hard to price,” Jackson said at the hearing on U.S. drinking water and new regulations the EPA may put in place on contaminants.

“Our science may be good, but I don’t know how you price the ability to try to forestall a child who may not get autism if they’re not exposed to contaminated water,” Jackson said. … [more]

Note: Jackson is wrong on many counts but principally on the point that EPA’s science is “good” when in fact it is rubbish junk pseudoscience. Children do not get autism from drinking water. New EPA regs will not prevent a single case of autism. The EPA gone loony is a much bigger threat to children, and adults, than drinking water.

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