2 Mar 2009, 12:18pm
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Alaska Board of Game reviews hunting rules

By Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, February 28th, 2009 [here]

Hard-core hunters, animal lovers and the factions in between are at war this week in downtown Anchorage as the state board that decides Alaska’s hunting rules returns to an ever-raging debate: predator control.

The Board of Game, which began work Friday, is meeting all week to decide on more than 240 proposals that would change where and how animals are hunted across Alaska.

The panel waded through hours of testimony Saturday, with speakers often pulling the board in opposite directions. Among the ideas:

• Allowing private hunters to use helicopters to land in hard-to-reach areas across Cook Inlet and trap black bears in snares.

• Boosting brown bear hunting in Chugach State Park — at least partly to keep them from wandering into nearby Anchorage.

• Renewing some existing wolf-kill programs and creating new ones.

• Giving the state new predator control options in the future, such as shooting wolves from helicopters, or using poison gas in dens on orphaned pups too young to survive on their own.

Supporters say such proposals are crucial to managing hunting in the state, while critics see needless killing. Other ideas before the board — such as bans on trapping wolverines in Chugach State Park and hunting brown bears in parts of the Katmai Preserve — are just as controversial. … [more]

1 Mar 2009, 9:41pm
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Water-vs.-ecosystem fight leaves out people who live here

By Michael Fitzgerald, Stockton Record, February 27, 2009 [here]

In the ominous Delta debate, south-state interests maneuver for reliable water. Environmentalists champion the ecosystem. No one gives high priority to the region.

Us. The Delta’s people. The Delta’s communities, economies, infrastructure, architecture, history, its other habitats and various ways of life.

“It’s not just a blank slate that can be written on by state officials,” state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, says. “It’s not just about the water, and it’s not just about the ecosystem. It’s about a place.”

Wolk spoke out this week at a hearing on the Delta Vision task force. The governor appointed the task force to find a solution to the Delta’s crisis.

Delta Vision straight away rubber-stamped a peripheral canal. It embraced two priorities: restoring and stewarding the Delta ecosystem and stabilizing the water supply.

Well, fine. But these pillars of policy leave a little something out: Drastic change to the Delta or water management policy may profoundly alter the lives of Delta residents.

Will the change be for the better? Well, consider government management of the Delta. The state and feds have managed the Delta into the intensive care unit.

The poor old dear is wheezing on the life support of water-export cutbacks and suspended fishing seasons. The thought that the same policymakers will impact our lifestyles is chilling. I’d rather turn the region over to Kim Jong Il. … [more]

1 Mar 2009, 9:27pm
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Officials admit violating Delta rules to favor salmon

By Matt Weiser, The Sacramento Bee, February 19, 2009 [here]

California water officials admitted this week they have already violated a key water flow standard in the Delta intended to protect imperiled fish.

The admission came in hearings Tuesday and Wednesday before the state Water Resources Control Board.

The hearings were held to consider a petition from the state Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to win exemptions from the standard because of drought.

Board members and Delta advocates were surprised to learn that the flow standard had already been violated while the petition was pending.

“There probably were some days where we were not meeting the outflow standards,” said Jerry Johns, deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources. “At least we had the petition in before any of these things took place.”

The agencies sought the exemption because they believe they need to retain cold water in the state’s depleted reservoirs to ensure healthy salmon runs this fall.

But in doing so, they risked violating a minimum-outflow standard in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. That standard is designed to protect other fish, including the Delta smelt and longfin smelt. It requires meeting flow targets over a certain number of days in a month, usually by releasing water from upstream dams.

The drought, in other words, posed a tough choice between fish species. … [more]

1 Mar 2009, 9:12pm
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Texas State Resources Used to Combat Fire

Fox 7 Austin, Sunday, 01 Mar 2009 [here]

AUSTIN - Governor Rick Perry put state resources into action to combat wildfire in Central Texas on Sunday afternoon. The resources include four Texas Military Forces Blackhawk helicopters that drop water and fire retardant, Texas Forest Service firefighters, contract aircraft and heavy equipment.

“Wildfires burning in Central Texas have destroyed homes and property over the weekend, but fortunately there have been no reports of lives lost,” Gov. Rick Perry said. “The state is assisting in battling this threat and will continue to provide necessary resources to protect our communities. I urge all Texans to use extreme care in outdoor activities, to be aware of burn bans in their counties, and to take precautions to protect their homes and property.”

Since Jan. 1, 2009, 3,685 wildfires have burned 118,061 acres of land across the state. These fires have threatened 1,763 homes, firefighters have saved 1,630 homes, and 57 homes were lost, according to Governor’s Office officials.

The most significant damage occurred over the weekend in Bastrop County, officials said. These damages include 25 homes destroyed and 1,000 acres burned. The fire is burning in heavy terrain, hampering firefighting efforts. … [more]

1 Mar 2009, 8:35pm
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Eleven States Declare Sovereignty Over Obama’s Action

by A.W.R. Hawkins, HUMAN EVENTS, 02/23/2009 [here]

State governors — looking down the gun barrel of long-term spending forced on them by the Obama “stimulus” plan — are saying they will refuse to take the money. This is a Constitutional confrontation between the federal government and the states unlike any in our time.

In the first five weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama has acted so rashly that at least 11 states have decided that his brand of “hope” equates to an intolerable expansion of the federal government’s authority over the states. These states — “Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, [Minnesota]…Georgia,” South Carolina, and Texas — “have all introduced bills and resolutions” reminding Obama that the 10th Amendment protects the rights of the states, which are the rights of the people, by limting the power of the federal government. These resolutions call on Obama to “cease and desist” from his reckless government expansion and also indicate that federal laws and regulations implemented in violation of the 10th Amendment can be nullified by the states. … [more]

1 Mar 2009, 8:32pm
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Grape crop tested for bushfire smoke

ABC.net.au, Feb 19, 2009 [here]

Test results are expected within weeks on how Victoria’s bushfires have damaged grape crops.

The Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation says South Australian laboratories are testing 500 gram samples of grapes from Victorian vineyards.

They are testing for a chemical that produces a smoky tainting, which is capable of ruining the vintage for some growers.

Corporation executive director John Harvey says conditions in the aftermath of the bushfires may not have been as damaging as feared.

“Probably the smoke hasn’t actually hung around quite as long as it has on previous occasions,” he said.

“In terms of the research that’s been done, the smoke has been around probably at not the most critical time in terms of having a smoke effect, so it really depends on what those results start to show.”

1 Mar 2009, 1:12am
Latest Fire News
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Texas Fire Destroys Two Dozen Homes

Fire rips through Bastrop County, destroying homes and businesses

By Laura Heinauer & Asher Price, Austin American-Statesman, March 01, 2009 [here]

At least 23 homes and nine businesses were destroyed and more than 650 acres were scorched as a fire probably caused by a downed power line rolled through a semirural stretch of Bastrop County on Saturday,

The blaze, which officials named the Wilderness Ridge Fire, sent billows of smoke skyward all afternoon, and it forced dozens of residents to evacuate their homes in the early afternoon.

At one point, more than 200 homes were threatened. One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation, but no other injuries were reported Saturday night.

Portions of Texas 71 between Bastrop and Smithville were shut down as crews from at least four firefighting airplanes, three helicopters and a host of emergency vehicles toiled to keep the fast-moving fire, fed by gusty winds and parched conditions, at bay.

County Judge Ronnie McDonald declared Bastrop a disaster zone, opening the way for state or federal help. It’s the second time in less than two weeks that the judge has declared a disaster. McDonald recently wrote Gov. Rick Perry asking for help because of record dry conditions.

The area struck by the fire is home to Bastrop’s piney woods and some of its agriculture. It is also dotted with subdivisions. Sandra Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service, which was assisting Bastrop County with the fire, said officials did not know the names of the destroyed businesses.

As night fell, officials said the fire was 40 percent contained and said they were hoping to make a stand along the Colorado River.

Officials were hoping that the fire, whipped by gusts up to 39 mph in midafternoon, would slow down as winds steadily decreased after sunset. … [more]

27 Feb 2009, 9:42pm
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Schwarzenegger declares Calif. drought emergency

By SAMANTHA YOUNG, Feb 27, 2009 [here]

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday because of three years of below-average rain and snowfall in California, a step that urges urban water agencies to reduce water use by 20 percent.

“This drought is having a devastating impact on our people, our communities, our economy and our environment, making today’s action absolutely necessary,” the Republican governor said in his statement.

Mandatory rationing is an option if the declaration and other measures are insufficient.

The drought has forced farmers to fallow their fields, put thousands of agricultural workers out of work and led to conservation measures in cities throughout the state.

State agencies must now provide assistance for affected communities and businesses and the Department of Water Resources must protect supplies, all accompanied by a statewide conservation campaign. … [more]

Note: see also Dehydrating California, Or What’s That Smelt? [here]

26 Feb 2009, 4:54pm
Latest Climate News
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Committee guts Gregoire’s emissions-cap plan

By Phuong Le, Seattle Times, Feb 24, 2009 [here]

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases linked to global warming is facing serious challenges in the Legislature.

The Senate Committee on Environment, Water and Energy today passed a version that gutted the heart of the plan by making it voluntary for businesses to participate.

The governor’s proposal would require major industries, from Boeing to Kimberly-Clark, to limit the greenhouse gases they emit, starting in 2012. The plan would create a regional market to let polluters buy and trade pollution credits.

The goal is to reduce overall carbon dioxide and other emissions in the state to 1990 levels by 2020, and to half that level by 2050. The state adopted those targets in 2008.

The Senate bill is significantly different from the governor’s plan. It asks the state Department of Ecology to design voluntary emission targets and a voluntary emissions reduction registry and report back to the Legislature.

“It’s a work in progress,” Ecology Director Jay Manning said Tuesday, adding he was pleased the legislation was still alive. He said the state would work with the Legislature to find a proposal both could support. …

Businesses have fiercely opposed Gregoire’s plan, saying it would put them at a disadvantage in an already slumping economy. …[more]

26 Feb 2009, 4:52pm
Latest Climate News
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Bill urging exit from climate initiative passes

KSL.com, February 24th, 2009 [here]

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — State lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a resolution that calls on Gov. Jon Huntsman to get Utah out of the Western Climate Initiative, a coalition formed to roll back greenhouse-gas emissions.

House Resolution 3, sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, passed the Utah House 51-9. The resolution is nonbinding, but sends Huntsman a message.

WCI seeks to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020. Six western states and three Canadian provinces are members of WCI.

Noel says he doesn’t believe global warming is human-caused. He says that capping emissions will hurt Utah’s coal-fired power plants and the overall state economy.

The bill now goes to the Utah Senate.

Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley says WCI gives Utah a seat at the table during important discussions of issues that could affect the state’s future.

26 Feb 2009, 12:46am
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Cap-and-Trade vs. Carbon Tax: CO2 Crowd Breaking Ranks with President?

The Heritage Foundation, February 25th, 2009 [here]

In last night’s speech, President Obama remarked, “So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.”

Today the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on the scientific objectives for climate change legislation, but according to a reliable source, the hearing evolved into a debate amongst Democrats arguing on the merit of a carbon tax versus a cap-and-trade.

Several members of the committee raised concerns over a cap-and-trade program and questioned whether a direct carbon tax may be the better option.

Disagreement among Congressional advocates for CO2 legislation could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to regulating carbon dioxide. It will be difficult for any bill labeled a carbon tax in a recessionary environment. Despite a cap-and-trade scheme essentially acting as a tax in disguise, a number of Democrats are beginning to point out the same flaws we’ve been pointing out for years. Cap-and-trade is costly, inefficient and unpredictable. Europe’s current carbon trading debacle is perfect evidence.

Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Ben Lieberman emphasizes that a cap-and-trade program is nothing more than a regressive tax that will raise prices and cost Americans jobs – all for little, if any, environmental gain.

If the legislators calling for carbon cuts are beginning to call a cap-and-trade what it really is, a less predictable version of a carbon tax, there is plenty of hope Americans won’t stand for it.

26 Feb 2009, 12:33am
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Report estimates revenue loss from Idaho wolves

Idaho Statesman, 02/20/09 [here]

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho could be losing as much as $24 million annually in hunting-related revenue due to wolves killing deer and elk, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game says.

The report relies heavily on a 1994 environmental impact statement related to the introduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, and then extrapolates those numbers.

“This is a projection,” said Lance Hebdon, intergovernmental policy coordinator with Fish and Game. “Is it realistic to think we would have more elk hunters if we had more elk in some units? I think that is a reasonable assumption.”

The report released earlier this week was requested by Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, who earlier this month sponsored a bill - approved 31-1 in the Senate - to give the state’s wolves to the rest of the country.

“I think this at least gives us some data with some science behind it,” Schroeder, chairman of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee, told the Lewiston Tribune about the report. “The question is, as wolf numbers increase, are we going to have to curtail hunting opportunities? Overall, I like seeing economic activity, because it drives tax revenue. Anytime I see something that drives business away, that’s important to me.” … [more]

26 Feb 2009, 12:31am
Latest Climate News
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Democrats Put Global Warming Rider In Spending Bill

By Jim Meyers, Newsmax.com, February 25, 2009 [here]

Congressional Democrats have inserted a “dangerous” rider into an appropriations bill that would allow the Department of Interior to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to a release from Republicans on the House Committee on Natural Resources.

The rider to the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill, Section 429, enables the Interior Department to withdraw two Endangered Species Act rules within 60 days of enactment.

“This would allow the Obama Administration to change rules without any public notice or public comment period, and threatens efforts to create new jobs in an already strapped economy,” the release states. …

“If the rules are withdrawn, then any project that increases carbon dioxide or any greenhouse gas emissions could have to consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on mitigation against the potential impacts on global warming and harming of the polar bear, or else face potential lawsuits,” the committee’s statement asserts.

“The threat posed to job creation and our economy would not only impact energy production, but agricultural practices, increases in livestock numbers, construction of buildings such as schools or hospitals, and any other activity that emits greenhouse gas.”

Doc Hastings, the Ranking Member of the Committee, said: “This is a backdoor maneuver to create vast new climate change powers without any public comment or involvement by the American people. … [more]

25 Feb 2009, 12:44am
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Snow just won’t go away in Darrington

By Gale Fiege, Everett Daily Herald, February 23, 2009 [here]

Darrington, Washington - It’s been a tough winter in this Cascade foothills town.

Two families are waiting to bury loved ones in the frozen, snow- covered cemetery. Town officials have already spent most of the annual $60,000 street budget on snow removal. And the high school baseball team might start the season indoors since it would be hard to run the bases in snowshoes.

Nearly 6 feet of snow fell in Darrington during the last two weeks of December. After that, staff at the Forest Service Ranger Station were so overwhelmed they stopped taking the official measurement. Most people figure the total amount of snow to fall during the past three months was close to 9 feet.

Much of it is still on the ground, in 10-foot-high piles that crowd nearly every vacant lot in Darrington. More dirty snow is stacked at the town’s little airport, which has been closed for months. … [more]

25 Feb 2009, 12:36am
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Wolf sighted in the Cascades?

By Jim Anderson, The Nugget, Sisters, Oregon, 2/3/2009 [here]

Chris Mortimer, a naturalist from California, was driving over the Santiam Pass on Wednesday, January 28, when he was shocked to see a very large, wolf-like animal dash across the road in front of him.

“Wolf!” he shouted, and pulled over to the side of the highway.

With only a small, point-and-shoot camera at his disposal, he did the best he could to document what may turn out to be the first wild wolf seen in these parts in over 100 years.

“I think it’s too far from Idaho to be part of those packs,” said John Stephenson, local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife specialist, after he and Corey Heath, Bend Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, tracked the animal over five miles from where Mortimer first observed it. “I couldn’t see any sign of it getting into someone’s pickup, or heading for a house. Could be the real thing, but we just don’t know.”

Russ Morgan, ODFW wildlife biologist stationed in LaGrande, who has had experience with wolves and is the state’s wolf coordinator, agreed that is definitely wolf-like, and contacted Stephenson and Heath asking for possible confirmation.

According to most wolf experts who have viewed Mortimer’s photos, the opinion is that the animal sighted is in excellent condition, showing “a good coat and fat on the belly,” a trait rarely seen in a “wild wolf.” This leaves some speculation that it may have been released or strayed after escaping from from captivity.

Then there’s the “wolfdog” theory. Wolfdogs, a cross-breed of domestic dog and wolf, have become popular in some circles. They possess a moderate percentage of wolf, and but tend to be more like a dog than a wolf in most situations. However, wolfdog “ownership” (which is legal in Oregon) is not to be taken lightly, as wolfdog crosses have some characteristics that can make them challenging as pets.

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