18 Nov 2009, 9:24am
Latest Wildlife News
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UI Prof Suspended for Big Horn Sheep Findings

By JOHN MILLER, Idaho Statesman, 11/15/09 [here]

BOISE, Idaho — A University of Idaho professor suspended from sheep research duties since June has repeated claims that wild bighorns don’t catch fatal diseases from domestic sheep, despite pledging not to disseminate information on the issue until the school completes an inquiry into her work.

An August interview with Marie Bulgin, head of the UI’s Caine Veterinary Teaching and Research Center in Caldwell, appeared in October’s edition of The Shepherd: A Guide for Sheep and Farm Life, an industry journal based in New Washington, Ohio.

In the story, Bulgin insists there’s no proof bighorns die after catching diseases from domestic sheep on the range.

“It’s the bighorns’ own pathogens that are killing them - not something they are picking up from domestic sheep or goats,” she is quoted as saying.

Wildlife advocates said her comments are virtually identical to those that helped lead to the UI inquiry. …

“It’s inappropriate for her to be doing this, pending conclusion of this review by the University of Idaho,” said Craig Gehrke, regional director of The Wilderness Society in Boise, on Friday. …

In June, Bulgin was suspended from leading the Caine center as UI administrators intervened to address concerns about the integrity and accountability of their researchers’ work and contributions to shaping public policy.

Bulgin also agreed to relinquish her involvement in sheep disease research and pledged to UI College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean John Hammel “to not write or disseminate any information until such time as the charges filed against me have been concluded,” according to a June 17 letter from Bulgin to Hammel obtained by The Associated Press.

University officials said they were aware of the article and are considering it as they continue their review. … [more]

17 Nov 2009, 2:12pm
Latest Climate News
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EPA Issues Climate Change Gag Order on Civil Servants

Agency Threatens Discipline for Off-Duty Warnings on Cap and Trade Failures

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, November 9, 2009 [here]

Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered two of its attorneys to remove a video they posted on YouTube about problems with climate change legislation backed by the Obama administration or face “disciplinary action”, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The couple had received clearance for posting the video but EPA took issue with its content following publication of an op-ed piece by the two in The Washington Post on October 31.

The video, entitled “The Huge Mistake”, is by Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel, two EPA enforcement attorneys speaking as private citizens. The video explains why the cap and trade plan endorsed by President Obama will not accomplish its goals, let alone effectively curb climate change. On November 5, 2009, EPA ethics officials ordered the two veteran employees to –

* Remove your climate change video from You Tube by the close of business on Friday, November 6, 2009;

* Edit your You Tube video by:

(i) Removing the language starting at 1:06 min – ‘Our opinions are based on more than 20 years each working as attorneys at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the San Francisco Regional Office.’

(ii) Removing the images of EPA’s building starting at 1:06 min …

(v) Remove [sic] the language starting at 6:30 min – ‘In my work at EPA, I’ve been overseeing California’s cap-and-trade and offset programs for more than 20 years.’

* All future requests for approval of an outside writing activity must be accompanied by a draft of the document that is the subject of the approval request

“EPA is abusing ethics rules to gag two conscientious employees who have every right to speak out as citizens,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who has re-posted the original video [here] and its script. “EPA reversed itself because someone in headquarters had a tantrum about their Washington Post essay.”

Williams and Zabel, who are married to each other, go to great lengths in the video and other writings to provide disclaimers affirming that their views are personal and do not represent the agency. However, EPA now objects to them even referring to their on-the-job experience as the basis for their views.

“How is government supposed to be transparent when public servants are forbidden from discussing the nature of their work?” asked Ruch. “EPA and every other federal agency should have simple, clear guidelines so that government workers can express themselves freely without political prior restraints.”

In August, EPA Administrator Jackson issued an all-employee statement saying the agency will operate as if in a “fishbowl” but left ambiguous whether and how employees may publish papers or communicate with Congress and the media. By contrast, a few agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have dispensed with any pre-approval of employees’ unofficial expressions, as long as they are accompanied by a short disclaimer.

14 Nov 2009, 6:03pm
Latest Climate News
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Paper Mills Drunk on Black Liquor

Biofuel Tax Incentives Become Black Liquor Boondoggle

by Chris Clayton, DTN ProgressiveFarmer.com, Nov 13, 2009 [here]

OMAHA (DTN) — Thanks to a 2008 Internal Revenue Service ruling, American taxpayers will shell out at least $6 billion this year to subsidize an “alternative fuel” that has actually been the main fuel used in paper mills for decades.

In the first six months of 2009, payments to the paper industry for black liquor could reach $2.5 billion, according to the Congressional Joint Committee. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)”Black liquor” sounds like a trendy new drink, but in fact it’s a byproduct of the paper-making process, which paper mills use to run their boilers. Responding to inquiries from paper companies late last year, the IRS says black liquor could qualify for a 50-cent-a-gallon alternative-fuel subsidy Congress created in the 2005 highway bill and extended in the 2007 energy bill.

The provision’s intent seemed to be spurring the development of new fuels. It was only expected to cost $265 million over five years.

For the struggling pulp and paper industry, the subsidy is very good news, turning some money-losing operations into profit makers. It’s bad news for supporters of ethanol, biodiesel and other renewable fuels.

Tom Buis, the chief executive officer of renewable-fuels group Growth Energy, says unhappiness over the loophole could discourage Congress from expanding renewable-fuels subsidies or creating new ones. By his understanding of Congress’s intent, paper mills “would never qualify” to the degree they have. “The cost,” he noted, “is pretty significant.”

Indeed, owing to the black-liquor controversy, Congress may not renew the 50-cent credit, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this year. But even assuming the credit lapses, the controversy continues. A $24 billion cellulosic credit dubbed “son of black liquor” is in line to replace it. … [more]

13 Nov 2009, 2:23pm
Latest Climate News
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Orwellian Limey Fart Rationing Proposed

Note: this article is not a spoof.

Everyone in Britain should have an annual carbon ration and be penalised if they use too much, the head of the Environment Agency will say.

The UK Telegraph, 09 Nov 2009 [here]

Lord Smith of Finsbury believes that implementing individual carbon allowances for every person will be the most effective way of meeting the targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

It would involve people being issued with a unique number which they would hand over when purchasing products that contribute to their carbon footprint, such as fuel, airline tickets and electricity.

Like with a bank account, a statement would be sent out each month to help people keep track of what they are using.

If their “carbon account” hits zero, they would have to pay to get more credits.

Those who are frugal with their carbon usage will be able to sell their unused credits and make a profit.

Lord Smith will call for the scheme to be part of a “Green New Deal” to be introduced within 20 years when he addresses the agency’s annual conference on Monday.

An Environment Agency spokesman said only those with “extravagant lifestyles” would be affected by the carbon allowances.

He said: “A lot of people who cycle will get money back. It will probably only be bankers and those with extravagant lifestyles who would lose out.”

However, some have criticised the move as “Orwellian” and say it will have a detrimental impact on business.

Ruth Lea, an economist from Arbuthnot Banking Group, told the Daily Mail: “This is all about control of the individual and you begin to wonder whether this is what the green agenda has always been about. It’s Orwellian. This will be an enormous tax on business.”

Under the Climate Change Act, Britain is obliged to cut its emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050. This means annual CO2 emissions per person will have to fall from about 9 tonnes to only 2 tonnes.

10 Nov 2009, 2:49pm
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Totalitarian Space Lizards

‘V’ aims at Obamamania

By Glenn Garvin, McClatchy/Tribune News, November 3, 2009 [here]

Imagine this. At a time of political turmoil, a charismatic, telegenic new leader arrives virtually out of nowhere. He offers a message of hope and reconciliation based on compromise and promises to marshal technology for a better future that will include universal health care.

The news media swoons in admiration — one simpering anchorman even shouts at a reporter who asks a tough question: “Why don’t you show some respect?!” The public is likewise smitten, except for a few nut cases who circulate batty rumors on the Internet about the leader’s origins and intentions. The leader, undismayed, offers assurances that are soothing, if also just a tiny bit condescending: “Embracing change is never easy.”

So, does that sound like anyone you know? Oh, wait — did I mention the leader is secretly a totalitarian space lizard who’s come here to eat us?

Welcome to ABC’s “V,” the most fascinating and bound to be the most controversial new show of the fall television season. Nominally a rousing sci-fi space opera about alien invaders bent on the conquest (and digestion) of all humanity, it’s also a barbed commentary on Obamamania that will infuriate the president’s supporters and delight his detractors. …[more]

10 Nov 2009, 10:59am
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Maya Murals Give Rare View of Everyday Life

By Andrea Thompson, Live Science, 09 November 2009 [here]

[Click for larger image]

Recently excavated Mayan murals are giving archaeologists a rare look into the lives of ordinary ancient Maya.

The murals were uncovered during the excavation of a pyramid mound structure at the ancient Maya site of Calakmul, Mexico (near the border with Guatemala) and are described in the Nov. 9 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The find “was a total shock,” said Simon Martin of the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, who studied the paintings and hieroglyphs depicted in the murals.

The Maya have been studied for more than a century, but “this is the first time that we’ve seen anything like this,” Martin said.

The Maya, like many other societies, left more traces and accounts of the lives of the ruling classes — the royalty, religious orders and artisans — than of the lower orders of society that made up the bulk of such civilizations.

“We almost never get a view of what other layers of society are doing or what they look like, so this is one of the things that makes [the murals] so special,” Martin told LiveScience.

The murals were found on the walls of one layer of the mound structure — Maya built over the top of older structures, creating buildings in layers like onions, Martin explained. While other layers were scraped up and destroyed in the effort to build over them, the layer with the murals appears to have been carefully preserved, with a layer of clay put over the murals, ostensibly to protect them.

This careful preservation “might suggest that it was something pretty special,” Martin said.

The images on the mural show people engaged in mundane activities, such as preparing food. Hieroglyphic captions accompany each image, labeling each individual. In each case the term “aj,” meaning “person,” is used and followed by the word for a foodstuff or material. For example, the terms “aj ul” (”maize-gruel person”) shows a man with a large pot, dish and spoon with another man drinking from a bowl, and the term “aj mahy” (tobacco person) depicts two men, one holding a spatula and the other a pot that likely holds a form of the tobacco leaf. … [more]

10 Nov 2009, 10:50am
Latest Wildlife News
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Teen forced to shoot polar bear after getting trapped on ice floe in Nunavut

The Canadian Press, 11/09/09 [here]

CORAL HARBOUR, Nunavut — Battling hypothermia and freezing skin, a trapped teenage hunter was forced to shoot and kill a polar bear as he waited for more than a day to be rescued from a large chunk of drifting sea ice in the Canadian North.

The teen and his 67-year-old uncle, who had gone out polar bear hunting, were reported overdue late Saturday, said Ed Zebedee, director of the Government of Nunavut’s protection services branch.

The snowmobile the pair were riding broke down approximately 18 kilometres from Coral Harbour, a tiny community on Nunavut’s Southampton Island in the northern part of Hudson Bay.

As they walked towards the community to get help, they became separated. A large chunk of ice broke off, setting the teen adrift, said Zebedee.

The uncle was picked up Sunday morning. Searchers on snowmobiles located the man as he walked on the pack ice off the coast of the island.

His nephew, meanwhile, remained lost.

Sometime between Saturday and Sunday, the teen, who was armed with a rifle, encountered three bears, likely a female and two older cubs, on the same large ice pan.

One bear, likely the adult, simply got too close.

“He did have to shoot the polar bear to protect himself,” said Zebedee. “There were two other bears on the ice pan but they stayed away from him so he didn’t shoot at them at all.”

The two cubs remained with the carcass and the teen managed to position himself as far away as he could from the remaining animals. …[more]

10 Nov 2009, 10:47am
Latest Wildlife News
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Wyoming makes argument for managing gray wolves

By MATT JOYCE, Salt Lake Tribune, 11/09/09 [here]

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rejection of Wyoming’s management plan for gray wolves was an “arbitrary and capricious” decision, the state claims, and a federal court should order the agency to transfer wolf management to Wyoming.

Wyoming made the argument Monday in a brief filed in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. The state filed suit in June after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed course and decided to leave gray wolves in Wyoming on the endangered species list while delisting them in Idaho and Montana.

The state’s case is part of long-running legal battles over gray wolves in the region. Politicians, biologists, ranchers, hunters and environmentalists have been fighting over wolves since before they were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s.

The agency’s main reason for rejecting Wyoming’s wolf management was the state’s plan to classify wolves as a trophy game species for licensed hunters in the state’s northwest corner - the bulk of the animals’ range - while classifying them as a predator species in the rest of the state, meaning anybody could shoot them at any time.

The agency said Wyoming needs to manage wolves as trophy game statewide to assure that wolves survive.

In its Monday filing, the state argued that the service’s position is not biologically defensible. The best scientific information available proves that the predator classification wouldn’t prevent the state from maintaining its share of a recovered population, the state said.

“If the court sees things our way, the service is going to have to amend the current delisting rule to include us,” said Jay Jerde, Wyoming deputy attorney general.

A spokesman for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division declined to comment on the state’s arguments. The federal government’s response is due Dec. 14. Arguments in front of U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson are set for Jan. 29. … [more]

9 Nov 2009, 11:58am
Latest Forest News
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A push to thin forests to curb wildfires

By Dave Moller, The Union, Nov 9, 2009 [here]

The Nevada County supervisors will be asked Tuesday to send a letter to Rep. Tom McClintock asking him to continue to push a bill to thin California’s forests to protect them from runaway wildfire.

The county has 218,000 acres of federal land that are “at least 10 times as dense as their historic structure, choked with unnatural fuel loads that render the forest unhealthy and vulnerable to catastrophic fire and present an overwhelming threat to public safety in wildland-urban interface areas,” career firefighter and Board of Supervisors Chairman Hank Weston wrote in documents to fellow supervisors.

The bill co-sponsored by McClintock, the area Republican congressman, would have local communities identify thinning projects needed on public lands that would halt fire danger to nearby watersheds and communities.

The California Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention and Community Protection Act also asks for less-stringent environmental assessments of the project to avoid delays and expense.

Enacting the bill would allow California counties to work with professional land managers and fire experts to “manage federal lands in their backyard and protect themselves in the face of inaction from the federal government or the delay tactics of outside environmental fringe groups,” according to the bill’s summary.

The board also will consider turning over $43,000 in federal forest reserve funds to the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County for wildfire suppression projects.

Warming forests

by the Baker City Herald Editorial Board, November 04, 2009 [here]

It turns out that a warmer climate might not be a universal disaster.

Turning up nature’s thermostat could help trees in some Northwest forests grow faster, according to researchers from Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service.

Which sounds like a good thing in several respects — more timber to harvest and more acres of the old growth habitat that certain animals prefer, to name two examples.
We wonder, though, whether we will glean the full range of benefits from faster-growing forests.

Specifically, we’re skeptical of the notion that we have, collectively, the political will to revive Oregon’s moribund timber industry, even if the supply of raw material gradually rises along with average temperatures.

This worry seems to us especially trenchant in Northeastern Oregon.

The researchers predict the biggest increase in tree growth rates will happen in the Blue Mountains. Trees grow relatively slowly here now in part because winter temperatures are much lower than in the temperate forests of the Western Cascades and Coast Range.

So far so good.

The key question, though, is what do we do with our more fecund forests?

Because if we continue the policies of the past two decades — that is, to favor leaving trees over cutting them even when stands become overcrowded — then our forests could fall victim to the same warming trend that spurred their growth.

Warming, after all, won’t be limited to winter.

Scientists predict that summers will be hotter, too. And that means wildfires are likely to burn hotter and move faster.

Mix in hundreds of thousands of acres of dense forests and you have a volatile concoction.

We’re not advocating for reviving clearcut forestry in the Blues. But in the warmer future, a hands-off forest policy might be a curse rather than a blessing.

3 Nov 2009, 5:08pm
Latest Wildlife News
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WA State picks moderate road to wolf recovery

by K.C. Mehaffey, Wenatchee World, Oct 16 2009 [here]

OLYMPIA — In an effort to make the gray wolf’s return to Washington more palatable to ranchers, the state is proposing what may be the most generous compensation package in the West for livestock killed by wolves.

“Wolves need two things,” said Madonna Luers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman. “They don’t need land-use restrictions. They just need a healthy prey base, and human tolerance. So to build that, we need to reach out to the industry that is most directly impacted by this, and that is the livestock industry,” she said.

The compensation proposal is one of many plans to help wolves recover after a 70-year absence, spelled out in a 249-page draft environmental impact statement released last week.

The state will host meetings in Wenatchee and Okanogan in early November, and the public has until Jan. 8 to comment on any aspect of the proposal before the state develops and adopts a final plan next year.

Four alternatives, including no action, are explored. The state’s proposal is a middle-of-the-road plan compared with two other alternatives — one with a greater emphasis on protection, and one that allows more lethal control when wolves kill livestock or reduce deer and elk herds. … [more]

2 Nov 2009, 10:06pm
Latest Wildlife News
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NRA asks to join wolf lawsuit

By EVE BYRON, Independent Record, October 13, 2009 [here]

The National Rifle Association is asking a federal court judge to allow the group to join a lawsuit regarding the removal of wolves from the list of animals protected under the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho.

In documents filed late Friday, Chris Cox, an NRA executive director, said the organization’s members hunt in states where wolves are now present and “have experienced anger and frustration during times when their state wildlife management authorities were powerless to take necessary action to control their states’ problem wolves.”

He adds that if the 13 conservation groups that sued to retain gray wolves’ protected status are successful in their lawsuit, that NRA members will lose their ability to hunt and enjoy recreational opportunities in Montana and Idaho “due to the threat to themselves, their pets and their prey from problem wolves.” … [more]

1 Nov 2009, 6:21pm
Latest Fire News
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LA Times Accuses USFS: Missed opportunities let Station fire become a disaster

By the time heli-tankers arrived in force, the blaze had leaped Angeles Crest Highway. The last best chance to prevent a catastrophe had vanished.

By Paul Pringle, LA Times, November 1, 2009 [here]

On a sizzling August morning, as flames burned unchecked down the road, fire crews milled about at an Angeles Crest Highway ranger station. Others were parked along the pavement — a critical line of defense — their engines quiet and hoses slack.

It was more than an hour after first light, and some six hours after U.S. Forest Service commanders had determined that the fire required a more aggressive air attack. But the skies remained empty of water-dropping helicopters — tankers that were readily available.

Then, after the sun had heated the hillsides above La Cañada Flintridge, and as the first chopper finally began unloading on the flames, the fire gathered speed and shot over the highway, turning tall pines into torches. The last best chance to stop the blaze without significant losses vanished.

“That’s what turned into the Station fire,” said one firefighter who saw the flames jump the road about 8 a.m. on Aug. 27.

Drawn from interviews and records, a picture of the fateful Day 2 of the Station fire raises troubling new questions about the U.S. Forest Service’s response to the blaze when it was still small and considered relatively easy to contain.

The conflagration eventually killed two Los Angeles County firefighters, destroyed about 90 dwellings and devastated one of America’s most-visited national forests. The largest fire in county history, it was not fully contained until Oct. 16. … [more]

Ed Note: IMHO this is yellow journalism, especially considering that a year ago the LAT published a long screed condemning the use of aerial firefighting tools at all. Interesting how those who would ground the aircraft and ban fire retardant are the first to whine when the aerial drops on a fire in their neighborhood are an hour late (according to their expectations).

Second-guessing the first responders is unfair. There are always lessons to be learned, and certainly the Station Fire will be thoroughly investigated. That is quite different than a rush by the Media to assign personal negligence to firefighters based on very flimsy evidence.

The fire management decision space has indeed been muddled, and that is a serious problem, but much of this fire’s outcome was foreordained by the lack of fuels management over decades across that high-risk landscape. Those decisions — that allowed the fuels to build up — are the ones that should be investigated.

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