14 Dec 2008, 11:43pm
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Could WOPR resurrect industry and wildlife?

Adam Pearson, The News-Review, December 14, 2008 [here]

TYEE — Chris Foster lumbered into the fog-enshrouded forest — recognized by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a model of structural diversity for threatened species — without much expectation of eyeing the resident pair of spotted owls.

Breeding is out of season, the BLM wildlife biologist said.

And it’s a big patch of forest.

But if two management plans — one a logging ramp-up designed by the BLM, the other a new recovery plan for the northern spotted owl designed by the Fish and Wildlife Service — have got it right, this area above the main Umpqua River near Tyee could one day teem with 15 to 20 pairs of spotted owls.

And the timber industry will rebound.

Rural Oregon — especially Douglas County — will become self-sufficient again, weaning itself off federal timber payments that for nearly a decade have kept counties solvent.

Designed to do what the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan couldn’t, the BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revisions is a set of management guidelines designed to provide clean water for fish, diverse habitat for wildlife, and steady harvests for industry. … [more]

13 Dec 2008, 11:55am
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Forest experts gather in Aspen

Scientists: Questions remain about beetles and global warming

by John Colson, The Aspen Times, December 12, 2008 [here]

ASPEN — Not enough is known about the mountain pine beetle infestation of Colorado’s forests, and similar infestations in other forests around the world, to say for sure whether the phenomenon will contribute heavily to global warming in the coming decades.

That’s according to scientists, government bureaucrats, community activists and elected officials who gathered this week at The Aspen Institute to discuss a broad array of topics relating to the beetles. A local organization, For The Forest, convened the meeting. …

Colorado’s forests have been under siege by the mountain pine bark beetle, also known as the mountain pine beetle, for several years.

The current wave of infestations of Rocky Mountain forests began in Canada, where it has killed off as much as 50,000 square miles of forest, and is rapidly spreading south. Some experts believe the infestation eventually will get as far as Florida. The beetles attack primarily lodgepole and ponderosa pines, but they have been known to jump to other species when neither of their favorites is available. …

A Canadian study released earlier this year maintained that, in killing off huge swaths of forest, the infestation is “on pace to release 270 megatons of C02 into the atmosphere by 2020.”

“That is the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions that Canada is committed to reducing by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol, and would effectively doom that effort to failure, the study says,” according to an article in a Canadian environmental journal, TerraDaily. …

Other topics discussed during Thursday’s meeting included a talk by Dr. Jessica Clement of Leadville about what a community can do to prevent being destroyed by a catastrophic forest fire; and ideas from research entomologist Nancy Gillette and Dr. Ingrid Aguayo of the Colorado State Forest Service on what landowners can do to treat trees threatened by the mountain pine beetle. … [more]

13 Dec 2008, 11:47am
Latest Forest News
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Beetle-kill Salvage Planned in Colorado

By Bob Berwyn, Summit Daily News, December 12, 2008 [here]

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service has proposed speeding up the regeneration of beetle-killed lodgepole pine forests in the Lower Blue by clear-cutting large chunks of the Lower Blue River Valley.

The 4,300-acre forest-health project currently under public review would be one of the largest recent logging projects on the Dillon Ranger District in recent memory.

Because of the extent of the beetle-kill, many of the areas will be clear-cut.
Along with promoting regrowth, the project is aimed at protecting neighborhoods and watersheds from catastrophic wildfires. About 73 acres slated for treatment are within defensible space on national forest land adjacent to private land.

Logging is planned in the vicinity of Maryland Creek, Pebble Creek, Boulder Creek, Harrigan Creek, Slate Creek, Brush Creek and Spring Creek, and on the east side of Colorado 9 near Pioneer Creek and Ute Pass Road.

In a sense, the project is a race against time, as the trees start to lose commercial value within three to five years after they die.

Forest Service officials hope to start logging in 2009, but it’s not yet clear if the project is economically feasible. … [more]

11 Dec 2008, 9:29pm
Latest Climate News
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Northwest Braces for Record Cold

‘Major blast’ forecast Friday with cold to follow

By BRAD WONG, Seattle P-I, Dec 11, 2008 [here]

Winter will come barreling in to Western Washington on Friday, bringing rain and perhaps snow by the end of rush hour.

Subfreezing temperatures and perhaps more snow will follow in what the National Weather Service says may be the worst winter storm here since December 1990.

Snow will fall during the day Friday in the Cascades and Olympics. Forecasters said Seattle would see rain Friday and possibly lowland snow by the evening.

The Kitsap Peninsula, Hood Canal, the foothills and areas just north of Seattle might have the best chance for snow.

The snow will be followed Saturday by Seattle-area temperatures hovering in the 30s and the teens to 20s in the Cascades.

Snow will also be possible Saturday and again on Sunday.

“People have to recognize that we haven’t had it this cold here in a long time,” Brad Colman, the Seattle-based Weather Service meteorologist in charge, said at a media briefing.

“It’s not just a shot of a few snow showers. … It really is a major winter blast, especially cold temperature-wise.” …

In December 2007, when conditions were similar to this winter, six people died in Northwest avalanches, he said.

Cliff Mass, a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences, said the cold temperatures are a big issue for Seattle-area residents, who might see highs Sunday through Tuesday in the low to mid-30s.

Low temperatures will be “way below” those numbers. “We’re talking about pipes bursting,” he said.

11 Dec 2008, 8:58pm
Latest Wildlife News
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New Rule Unifies Domestic and International Conservation Laws to Manage Polar Bear

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service News Release, December 11, 2008 [here]

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a Special Rule under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) providing for the conservation of the polar bear. While implementing important protections provided by the ESA, the special rule, in most instances, adopts existing conservation requirements for the polar bear under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Service protected the polar bear as a threatened species under the ESA on May 15, 2008.

“When I announced the protection of the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act earlier this year, I outlined the need to continue to allow activities permissible under the stricter standards imposed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” said Kempthorne. “This rule will protect polar bear populations, while ensuring the safety of communities living in close contact with the bears and allowing for continued environmentally sound development of our natural resources in the arctic region.”

The special rule, issued under Section 4(d) of the ESA, adopts the conservation regulatory requirements of the MMPA and CITES for the polar bear in most instances; provides that incidental take of polar bears resulting from activities outside the bear’s current range is not prohibited under the ESA; clarifies that the Special Rule does not alter the Section 7 consultation requirements of the ESA; and applies the standard ESA protections for threatened species when an activity is not covered by an MMPA or CITES authorization or exemption. Further, this special rule does not affect any existing requirements under the MMPA, including incidental take restrictions, or those of CITES.

more »

10 Dec 2008, 10:37pm
Latest Fire News
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Another Arson Suspect in Esperanza Fire

By J.P. Crumrine, Idyllwild Town Crier, Dec. 11, 2008 [here]

The defense attorney for accused murderer and arsonist, Raymond Lee Oyler, now has inadvertent support from the federal government for his contention that another more likely person was an arson suspect at the time Oyler was arrested.

The previously undisclosed U.S. Forest Service investigative report was prepared last summer, but it chronicles the events of three prior fire seasons — 2005, 2006 and 2007. During the same period that Oyler is accused of setting more than 20 fires in the Banning Pass — including the Esperanza Fire in which five Forest Service firefighters lost their lives — the Forest Service was actively investigating one of its own employees.

The suspicions about Michael K. McNeil, then a fire investigator for the San Bernardino National Forest, were sufficient enough to warrant placing a tracking device on his government vehicle twice in two years. Suspicions about McNeil began as early as August 2005. By June 2006, a thorough investigation into McNeil’s past work and fire investigation capabilities had begun.

Prosecutor Michael Hestrin would not discuss how he got the report. The District Attorney Office’s Public Information Officer Michael Jeandron confirmed that state and county investigators were aware of the federal concerns about McNeil.

“McNeil was known about and was excluded as a suspect prior to Oyler being arrested,” Jeandron attributed to Hestrin. At least three of the fires for which Oyler is charged for starting were on the list of fires McNeil might possibly have started.

Mark McDonald, Oyler’s attorney, will use the report to argue that McNeil is the real arsonist. Except for the fire devices that contained Oyler’s DNA, McDonald believes this report strengthens his defense. …

In July 2007, McNeil was promoted to assistant district fire management officer on the Lassen National Forest. Subsequently, he was arrested for making terrorist threats and is in a Los Angeles County jail.

McNeil had been a firefighter in Utah and California since 1995. His entire career has been associated with unexplained, mysterious and, perhaps, arson-caused fires. … [more]

10 Dec 2008, 5:10pm
Latest Forest News
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Whitebark pine subject of petition

High-elevation tree is being eliminated across most of its range, enviros say

By JASON KAUFFMAN, Idaho Mountain Express, Dec. 10, 2008 [here]

The clock is ticking down on the whitebark pine tree, environmentalists warned this week.

On Tuesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the tree under the federal Endangered Species Act. If it is listed, the tree species would be one of very few trees on the federal list.

Across the northern Rocky Mountains, the tree faces numerous threats. The whitebark pine grows in some of the Rockies’ most inhospitable and least-visited landscapes, including high-elevation ridges and remote alpine cirques.

In south-central Idaho, the tree’s traditional range extends across the Smoky, Sawtooth, White Cloud, Boulder and Pioneer mountain ranges. Extending farther out, its range is distributed across much of the high-elevation western United States and in southwestern Canada.

Just about everywhere that whitebark pines exist, scientists report troubling declines. Though they point to a number of factors contributing to the tree’s rapid decline, scientists say mountain pine beetle outbreaks and the arrival of an introduced threat—-white pine blister rust-—are chief among their concerns. … [more]

Ed Note: not to mention catastrophic wildfires that convert old-growth whitebark pine (and other white pines such as sugar pine) forests to lodgepole pine thickets and fire-type brush. By the way, excess competition in the absence of anthropogenic fire and/or restoration forestry have weaken trees and invited beetle and fungus attacks, catastrophic fire, and the spread of blister rust (which was ‘introduced’ nearly 100 years ago).

9 Dec 2008, 9:41pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Montana wolf pack eliminated after livestock killings

Associated Press, KXTV.com, Dec. 5, 2008 [here]

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) Federal wildlife officials have killed the remaining wolves of the Hog Heaven Pack near Kalispell because of continued livestock depredations.

Officials for USDA Wildlife Services shot 19 wolves over three days two on Wednesday, eight on Thursday and nine on Friday.

Jim Williams, a wildlife manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the pack’s range included parts west and southwest of Kalispell. Trappers shot the wolves in the Brown’s Meadow and Niarada areas.

The decision to kill the wolves was made jointly by FWP and Wildlife Services after steps failed to stem cattle depredations.

The pack has been involved in eight livestock killings over the last few months. The latest occurred Nov. 18 when the pack killed a 2-year-old bull near Kila.

A total of 27 wolves have now been removed from the pack.

9 Dec 2008, 9:40pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Disease ravaging wolf pups

By Marshall Helmberger, Timberjay News, December 09, 2008 [here]

Minnesota’s wolf population has stopped growing and a new study by Dr. David Mech suggests a highly contagious canine disease may be playing a major role in that trend. The study, which appeared late last month in the Journal of Animal Diseases, reports that as many as 70 percent of wolf pups in the study population, located near Ely, are now dying of canine parvovirus, or CPV, a disease first detected in wild wolves in the 1970s.

According to Mech, young wolves up to about one year of age appear to be the most vulnerable to the effects of CPV. While a high percentage of adult wolves in the state are carriers of the disease, they appear to be able to withstand its effects.

Across the state, Mech estimates that CPV is killing between 40 and 60 percent of wolf pups and appears to be sharply limiting growth of Minnesota’s wolf population. Mech estimates that the disease is limiting the state’s wolf population growth to just four percent, or far lower than that experienced in other states with wolf populations, like Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as in Yellowstone National Park. …

Minnesota’s wolf population expanded rapidly in the wake of its federal protection in the 1970s, increasing from several hundred, mostly limited to far northeastern Minnesota, to an estimated 3,000 by the mid-1990s. But since then, the state’s wolf population has largely held steady, according to John Erb, a wolf specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. The latest statewide survey estimated Minnesota’s wolf population at just over 2,900 animals. … [more]

9 Dec 2008, 9:09pm
Latest Climate News
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UN suspends leading carbon-offset firm

Emissions trading rocked as Norwegian company is left in limbo.

by Quirin Schiermeier, Nature News, Dec 9, 2008 [here]

As international climate talks began last week in Poland, the United Nations (UN) suspended the work of the main company that validates carbon-offset projects in developing countries, sending shockwaves through the emissions-trading business.

Environmental groups have criticized the social impact of the Xiaoxi hydropower station.C. LarsonBased in Oslo, Det Norske Veritas has in the past four years validated and certified almost half of the 1,200 projects approved under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). At its meeting on 28 November in Poznan, the CDM’s executive board temporarily withdrew Det Norske Veritas’s accreditation after a spot check carried out in early November at the firm’s headquarters revealed serious flaws in project management.

The board did not specify which projects are affected, but cites problems with the company’s internal auditing processes, and says that one of its staff members was verifying CDM projects without proper qualifications. As a result, “validation activities could not be demonstrated to be based on appropriate sectoral expertise”, the board reports.

Det Norske Veritas is a risk-assessment and consulting company with about 8,000 employees in more than 100 countries. Its 2007 revenue was 8 billion Norwegian krone (US$1.1 billion). It was the largest of 19 companies entitled to validate and certify projects proposed under the CDM, which aims to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by promoting climate-friendly energy technologies, such as wind or hydropower. … [more]

Ed Note: Carbon offset trading is going belly up as that market crashes in a wave of bogosity. During the Poznan GW fest, no less. Whoda thunkit?

8 Dec 2008, 12:28pm
Latest Climate News
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Climate change protesters wreak havoc at Stansted

Thousands of air passengers were left stranded after more than 50 climate change demonstrators breached security

By Caroline Gammell, UK Telegraph, 08 Dec 2008 [here]

Armed with bolt-cutters, activists from the group Plane Stupid cut through the wire perimeter fencing shortly after 3am and chained themselves to metal fences they had brought with them.

Many of the protesters - who settled just 164ft (50m) from the runway - were driven to the airport in a 30-year-old second hand fire engine, while others arrived by bicycle and car.

The stand-off with police lasted for more than five hours as each protester had to be cut free by officers with metal cutters.

By the time all 57 demonstrators had been removed and arrested, 56 flights from the Essex airport had been cancelled or delayed, provoking fury from waiting passengers.

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8 Dec 2008, 10:25am
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New EPA Proposal Could Cost Farmers

New Gas Tax on Cows May Become a Reality

By STEPHANIE MILLER, Dublin (GA) Courier-Herald, 12/07/08 [here]

An attempt to regulate greenhouse gases could put beef, dairy and pork farmers at risk of shutting down should a new proposal become law.

The American Farm Bureau (AFB) and the Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) are concerned if an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) actually moves forward, to become part of the Clean Air Act, farmers will be hit with many fee charges many can’t pay.

“We’re really early on this, but we wanted to get people talking about it and stir the pot so that it won’t go anywhere,” said John Huffmaster, director of GFB’s Legislative Department.

Huffmaster said while the ANPR is in the public hearing phases it is important that the state’s residents let national leaders know they are against it.

“Anybody who has a problem with it can say something about it and that’s what we’re doing is trying to make sure that’s known,” he said. “The reason we’re stirring the pot is so they’ll know we’ll have a problem with it.”

According to a letter The Courier Herald obtained that was written by GFB President Zippy Duvall to various national leaders, if the regulation of greenhouse gases under the authority of the Clean Air Act is approved it could mean that farmers, or any individual who owns livestock, could end up paying as high as $175 per year per dairy cow, $87.50 per beef animal per year and $20 per hog per year. … [more]

See also: EPA Proposes “Cow Fart Tax” [here]

8 Dec 2008, 10:10am
Latest Climate News Latest Fire News
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Carbon: The Biochar Solution

By LISA ABEND / ITHACA, Time.com, Dec. 04, 2008 [here]

On his farm in the hills of west virginia, Josh Frye isn’t raising chickens just for meat. He is also raising them for their manure. Through a process that some scientists tout as a solution to climate change, food shortages and the energy crisis, Frye is transforming the waste into a charcoal-like substance called biochar that in the long run could be far better for the world than chicken nuggets. “It might look like this is just a poultry farm,” says Frye. “But it’s a char farm too.”

Burn almost any kind of organic material — corn husks, hazelnut shells, bamboo and, yes, even chicken manure — in an oxygen-depleted process called pyrolysis, and you generate gases and heat that can be used as energy. What remains is a solid — biochar — that sequesters carbon, keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere. In principle, at least, you create energy in a way that is not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative.

And the benefits only begin there. When added to thin and acidic soil of the kind found in much of South America and Africa, char produces higher agricultural yields and lets farmers cut down on costly, petroleum-heavy fertilizers. Subsistence farmers seeking better soil have traditionally relied on slash-and-burn agriculture, which generates greenhouse gases and decimates forests. If instead those farmers slow-smoldered their agricultural waste to produce charcoal — in effect, slash-and-char agriculture — they could fertilize existing plots instead of clearing more land. This in turn would reduce emissions in the atmosphere, and so on in a virtuous circle of environmental renewal.

Could it really be that simple? It appears to have been for the original inhabitants of the Amazon basin. In the 16th century, Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana wrote home describing the remarkably fertile lands he had discovered there. In the 19th century, American and Canadian geologists uncovered the reason: bands of terra preta (dark earth), which locals continued to cultivate successfully. Research revealed that the original inhabitants of the region had added charred wood and leaves — biochar — to their lands.

Centuries later, it was still there, enriching the soil. “You couldn’t help but notice it. There would be all this poor, grayish soil, and then, right next to it, a tract of black that was several meters deep,” says Johannes Lehmann, a soil scientist who worked in Manaus, Brazil, in the late 1990s. After he left the Amazon in 2000 for a job at Cornell University, N.Y., Lehmann started wondering what would happen if farmers today could make their own terra preta. He has found one answer in a field trial in Kenya, where 45 farmers achieved twice the yield in their corn crops with biochar than with conventional fertilizers. … [more]

7 Dec 2008, 9:44am
Latest Wildlife News
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Despite deaths, grizzly population grows

By The Associated Press, Caspar Star-Tribune, December 2, 2008 [here]

POWELL — The number of grizzly bear deaths in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem increased markedly this year, but the population still continued to grow.

According to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, an estimated 80 grizzlies died in the Yellowstone area in 2008. In 2007, 49 grizzlies died.

The numbers of grizzly deaths are estimated from known, probable, estimated unknown and unreported deaths from a variety of causes, according to Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team figures.

Despite the deaths, the grizzly population in the ecosystem increased an estimated 4 percent this year.

In 2007, there were an estimated 571 grizzlies. In 2008, the number increased to an estimated 596 grizzlies.

Based on those figures, the population will double in 20 years, said Chuck Schwartz, Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team leader in Bozeman, Mont.

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4 Dec 2008, 7:51pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Will payments for wolf losses continue?

Cattle group ponders decline in federal depredation dollars

By Jason Kauffman, Idaho Mountain Express, November 19, 2008 [here]

Idaho ranchers gathered in Sun Valley this week worry that they’ll lose federal payouts for wolf attacks on their herds.

The payments come through Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, led by Nate Fisher. The agency doles out $100,000 a year to cattle and sheep producers whose herds have been hit by wolves. Funding for the program comes from the federal government, which under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was responsible for the reintroduction effort.

But due to changes that are about to sweep through Washington, D.C., on the heels of the Nov. 4 election Idaho ranchers fear they may lose these federal payments.

On Tuesday, several hundred ranchers from around the state gathered at the Sun Valley Inn as part of the Idaho Cattle Association’s annual convention to discuss what the future may hold for the compensation program they consider so crucial. Cattle producers fear the Democrats’ strengthened hand in Washington as well as the possible hand-over of wolf management duties to Idaho, Wyoming and Montana may spell the end of the federal dollars. … [more]

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