11 Jan 2009, 10:53pm
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Congress Gets an Early Start to a Banner Year for Wilderness

by Paul Spitler, The Wilderness Society, January 7, 2009 [here]

Congress took an important first step today towards making 2009 one of the most important years for wilderness designation in nearly two decades.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., today introduced the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, S. 22, which includes 16 separate wilderness bills totaling more than two million acres across nine states. Once passed, this will be the largest expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System since 1994. … [more]

11 Jan 2009, 10:52pm
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Timber companies appeal lynx change

by Ann Butler, Durango Herald, January 08, 2009 [here]

Timber industry organizations have filed an appeal of the lynx amendment to the management plan for national forests in Colorado.

The Colorado Timber Industry Association joined the Intermountain Forest Association in appealing the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment, which was released in November. It would apply to all seven national forests in Colorado, including the San Juan and Rio Grande in Southwest Colorado, and the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming.

“In particular, our members question the Forest Service’s decision to virtually eliminate pre-commercial thinning in lodgepole pine stands in lynx habitat,” Carl Spaulding, the president of the association, said in a written statement. “Lodgepole pine typically regenerates in very dense stands. Pre-commercially thinning those dense stands is a critical step in long-term forest management and in avoiding the forest conditions that have contributed to the current pine beetle epidemic.” … [more]

11 Jan 2009, 12:55pm
Latest Climate News
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Googlers Blamed for Global Warming

Revealed: the environmental impact of Google searches

Physicist Alex Wissner-Gross says that performing two Google searches uses up as much energy as boiling the kettle for a cup of tea

The UK Sunday Times, January 11, 2009 [here]

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.” … [more]

11 Jan 2009, 12:13pm
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Piercing Cold Grips Euros

Slovenia with record low temperature -49

MINA, Jan 10, 2009 [here]

Slovenia registered the lowest temperatures ever. At the Bohin resort, a half frozen weatherman standing outside, reported minus 49°C.

Slovenian Media have reported recommendations of the meteorological institute of Germany, which alarms over the risks of having piercings –- the metal earrings on people’s body could cause dangerous freezing.

No metal objects attached to the body should be worn, warns the media, for people who must venture outside. For everyone else, Slovenian media urges its citizens to stay in their homes.

9 Jan 2009, 5:35pm
Latest Fire News Latest Forest News
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Fire, climate and thinning

Sierra Summit: Conversations and observations about California’s mountains — Tom Knudson’s Blog, Scaramento Bee [here]

January 8, 2009

My recent article about the Moonlight Fire in Plumas County - and how scientists now believe climate change is helping to spark more destructive wildfires - drew a number of responses about the value of thinning over-crowded stands before a fire starts. You might think of it as preventative medicine - and while controversial among some environmentalists - it has been shown to reduce the damage caused by today’s increasingly severe fires.

From Chester, Jay Francis, forest manager at the Collins Pine Company - wrote to say that the same day the Moonlight Fire began (Sept. 3, 2007), another fire started on his company’s property about 15 miles to the west. “Officials estimated it had been burning for about 10 hours (overnight) when they first arrived on scene yet they were able to catch it with just 1 engine and a water tender,” Jay wrote in an email. “Human caused, probably a cigarette, but probably not intentional. The big difference is that our fire was in an area that had been biomass thinned about 12 years ago and then logged again (for the 4th time) about 3 years ago. Quite a contrast.”

Jay attached a photo of the Collins Pine fire, shown immediately below. A few smaller trees have obviously been killed, but many more bigger ones survived. Now compare that with a different photo - one at the bottom of this blog. That picture, which I took this fall, shows an over-crowded mixed conifer stand in the Plumas National Forest north of Indian Valley that not been thinned and was severely burned by the Moonlight fire. Not much living remains. … [more]

and a blog comment, by oldforester:

As a ‘65 Cal graduate forester and retired U.S. Forest Service District Ranger from the Lassen National Forest with 33 years of forest fire fighting experience, I can state without reservation that restoration forestry, including forest thinning, is the only way that we can maintain our vast and beautiful forests. They must be returned to conditions similar to what the pioneers encountered over 100 years ago: fewer conifer trees per acre with sunlight feeding the wealth of plants which provided food and cover for a greater variety of animal life than we now find. The only way to return to these conditions is through sound forest management practices. Forest fuel loadings must be reduced or we will see more fires with greater devastation to watersheds, wildlife habitat and people. Those truly interested in a healthy forest ecosystem and carbon sequestration, realize that we must tend the garden as the Lord ordered Adam those thousands of years ago. The native peoples did it, now it is [our responsibility].

9 Jan 2009, 5:33pm
Latest Climate News
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The Coldest Weather Possible In Nearly 15 Years

from Accuweather.com, Jan 9, 2009 [here]

Bitterly cold air bottled up over the depths of the Arctic will plunge southward next week, gripping the eastern two-thirds of the nation.

The frigid air will likely arrive in two waves. The first shot will blast the Midwest and Northeast early next week. The second, which will prove to be the harshest, will encompass virtually all places east of the Rockies by next weekend.

Expert Senior Meteorologist Elliot Abrams reports, “Joe Bastardi has been talking about a daytime temperature below zero in Chicago and a nighttime low near 0 in New York City… and if one of these Arctic highs makes the plunge south and east, those ideas will turn out right.”

Blustery winds will usher in the arctic air, resulting in even colder and potentially dangerous…

The air Friday over a portion of Alaska was colder than the air anywhere else in the northern hemisphere. That is the source region for the air coming into the northern Plains next week.

There are early indications of a reinforcing shot of arctic air settling over the East in the days leading up to Inauguration Day.


A Plowable Snowstorm all the way to New York City

For cities like New York and Pittsburgh, this could be the biggest snowstorm of the season so far. The storm produced 3 inches of snow across Chicago Friday morning, resulting in over 200 flights to be canceled and extensive travel delays in and around the city. Gusty winds led to delays around New York City Friday afternoon, ahead of the storm.

The storm is still in the development stages and only will grow stronger later tonight and Saturday causing heavier snow to develop. People across the southern Ohio Valley could experience a thunderstorm later tonight into early Saturday and it is that energy that will move north into the cold air mass lying across Pennsylvania into New Jersey, resulting in heavy snow. At times, the snow will come down at the rate of 1-2 inches per hour, resulting in a quick cover of snow on roads and extremely poor travel.

9 Jan 2009, 12:09pm
Latest Forest News
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Public Lands Fee Alert from the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition

THE FIX IS IN [here]

Report Charges Federal Land Agencies With Suppressing Public Participation In Fee Decisions

DURANGO, CO The Western Slope No-Fee Coalition today released a report charging the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management with intentionally suppressing public involvement in the implementation of access fees on public lands.

The report, entitled “The Fix Is In,” provides examples from around the country showing that the federal advisory committee process that is supposed to bring the public to the table when fee decisions are being made is instead keeping the public out.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) requires that new Forest Service and BLM fees, as well as fee changes, be recommended for approval by Recreation Resource Advisory Committees, or RecRACs, before they can be implemented. Committee members are appointed by the Forest Service and the BLM to represent a variety of public lands users. The FLREA requires that the agencies document general public support for each fee proposal they submit, before the RecRAC can recommend approval of the proposal.

The most fundamental problem with the process, according to Western Slope No-Fee Coalition President Kitty Benzar, is the committee selection process. “Members are supposed to represent the public, but they are hand-picked by the Forest Service and BLM. They are from groups that are beholden to the agencies for their particular recreational activity, and are likely to do the agencies’ bidding,” she explained.

To date, the RecRACs have approved at least 523 fee increases and 228 new fee sites in less than two years. Only 27 fee proposals have been turned down.

“It’s a rubber-stamp operation,” said Benzar.

The report cites and substantiates numerous cases where fee proposals have been approved without the required documentation of public support, and even in the face of documented public opposition. … [more]

7 Jan 2009, 11:30am
Latest Wildlife News
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Opposition Rising to IDFG Fee Increases

Save Our Elk: Urgent Call to Action [here]

After years of Mismanagement, Fraud and Abuse, the Idaho Fish and Game is asking for a Fee Increase. The issue is coming up for vote in January and we need to voice our opinion that we, as sportsment do not take kindly to our fees, which should be directed to fish and game type issues, going to anything but!

Now is the time to Voice Opposition to the proposed Idaho Fish and Game 20-30% fee increase

The Idaho Fish and Game is making an outrageous request of the Idaho Legislature to approve a 20-30% fee increase. Timing couldn’t be worse-this bloated fee increase comes as our state is facing the worst recession in years. Our Governor has ordered State agencies to tighten their belts and reduce spending by 4-7%. What gives the IDFG the right to expect a ridiculous fee increase when other state agencies are facing layoffs and cutbacks? The IDFG is acting like a spending “prima donna” and for some reason they believe they should not demonstrate the same spending discipline as other state agencies. The legislature must tell the IDFG to hold the line on fees and consider CUTTING its budget the same as all other state agencies. It is outrageous that the IDFG is vain enough to even consider making this bloated, ridiculous fee increase request, and shows just how out of touch this department has become with the sportsman and citizens of Idaho. Call or write your local representative today and voice your opposition to their requested 20-30% fee increase.

5 Jan 2009, 1:18pm
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Charity homes built by Hollywood start to crumble

by John Harlow, The Sunday Times, January 4, 2009 [here]

Residents of a model housing estate bankrolled by Hollywood celebrities and hand-built by Jimmy Carter, the former US president, are complaining that it is falling apart.

Fairway Oaks was built on northern Florida wasteland by 10,000 volunteers, including Carter, in a record 17-day “blitz” organised by the charity Habitat for Humanity.

Eight years later it is better known for cockroaches, mildew and mysterious skin rashes.

A forthcoming legal battle over Fairway Oaks threatens the reputation of a charity envied for the calibre of its celebrity supporters, who range from Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt to Colin Firth, Christian Bale and Helena Bonham Carter.

The case could challenge the bedrock philosophy behind Habitat for Humanity, claiming that using volunteers, rather than professional builders, is causing as many problems as it solves.

April Charney, a lawyer representing many of the 85 homeowners in Fairway Oaks, said she had no problems taking on Habitat for Humanity, despite its status as a “darling of liberal social activists”. She said the charity should have told people that part of the estate had been built on a rubbish dump.

One man pulled up his floorboards to find rubbish 5ft deep under his kitchen. Other complaints include cracking walls and rotting door frames that let in rats and ants. Many residents have complained of mildew and mysterious skin rashes. … [more]

Ed Note: But it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

5 Jan 2009, 1:09pm
Latest Climate News
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Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979

by Michael Asher, Science(Blog), January 1, 2009 [here]

Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close.

Ice levels had been tracking lower throughout much of 2008, but rapidly recovered in the last quarter. In fact, the rate of increase from September onward is the fastest rate of change on record, either upwards or downwards.

The data is being reported by the University of Illinois’s Arctic Climate Research Center, and is derived from satellite observations of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions.

Each year, millions of square kilometers of sea ice melt and refreeze. However, the mean ice anomaly — defined as the seasonally-adjusted difference between the current value and the average from 1979-2000, varies much more slowly. That anomaly now stands at just under zero, a value identical to one recorded at the end of 1979, the year satellite record-keeping began.

Sea ice is floating and, unlike the massive ice sheets anchored to bedrock in Greenland and Antarctica, doesn’t affect ocean levels. However, due to its transient nature, sea ice responds much faster to changes in temperature or precipitation and is therefore a useful barometer of changing conditions.

Earlier this year, predictions were rife that the North Pole could melt entirely in 2008. Instead, the Arctic ice saw a substantial recovery. Bill Chapman, a researcher with the UIUC’s Arctic Center, tells DailyTech this was due in part to colder temperatures in the region. Chapman says wind patterns have also been weaker this year. Strong winds can slow ice formation as well as forcing ice into warmer waters where it will melt.

Why were predictions so wrong? Researchers had expected the newer sea ice, which is thinner, to be less resilient and melt easier. Instead, the thinner ice had less snow cover to insulate it from the bitterly cold air, and therefore grew much faster than expected, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

In May, concerns over disappearing sea ice led the U.S. to officially list the polar bear a threatened species, over objections from experts who claimed the animal’s numbers were increasing.

4 Jan 2009, 1:06pm
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Richardson withdraws as Commerce nominee

New Mexico governor cites pending investigation of business dealings

NBC News, Jan 4, 2009 [here]

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.

“Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact,” he said Sunday in a report by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”

A federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson’s political activities won a New Mexico state contract worth more than $1 billion. Richardson said in a statement issued by the Obama transition office that the investigation could take weeks or months but expressed confidence it will show he and his administration acted properly. … [more]

Ed Note: Sponge Bill thrown under the bus. Too much payola, even for the Obribeme Administration.

3 Jan 2009, 11:08am
Latest Climate News
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Saving Lives with Coal

by Paul Driessen, Townhall.com, Jan 3, 2009 [here]

There is no such thing as “clean coal,” environmentalists insist. Burning coal to generate electricity emits soot particles that cause respiratory problems, lung cancer and heart disease, killing 24,000 Americans annually.

It’s the kind of claim that eco-activist Bruce Hamilton says “builds the Sierra Club,” by generating cash and lobbying clout for his and similar groups.

It’s also disingenuous, unethical and harmful.

Since 1970, unhealthy power plant pollutants have been reduced by almost 95% per unit of energy produced. Particulate emissions (soot) decreased 90% below 1970 levels, even as coal use tripled, and new technologies and regulations will nearly eliminate most coal-related pollution by 2020, notes air quality expert Joel Schwartz.

Moreover, the vast bulk of modern power plant particulates are ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate. “Neither substance is harmful, even at levels tens of times greater than are ever found in the air Americans breathe,” Schwartz says.

The alleged death toll is based on speculative links between pollution and disease, and unwarranted extrapolations from responsible estimates to levels that grab headlines and prompt contributions.

Coal helps keep American homes, businesses, factories, airports, schools and hospitals humming, and provides myriad benefits that never get mentioned by anti-coal factions. Even if we accept these groups’ assertions as fact, the benefits of coal should be considered in any policy debate – just as we acknowledge (and strive to reduce) motor vehicle deaths, but recognize the value of transporting people, products and produce.

Coal generates half of all US electricity, and 60-98% in twenty-two states, according to the Energy Information Administration. Modern, state-of-the-art, low-pollution coal-fired generators have replaced both antiquated power plants and monstrous industrial furnaces that were the backbone of our nation’s steel-making and industrial might just two generations ago. They improve and save millions of lives.

Imposing excessive new regulations, or closing coal-fired power plants, would produce few health or environmental benefits. But it would exact huge costs on society – and bring factories, offices and economies to a screeching halt in states that are 80-98% dependent on coal: Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. … [more]

2 Jan 2009, 11:20pm
Latest Forest News
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BLM Western Oregon Plan Decisions Released

For release: December 31, 2008 [here]

Portland, OR – The BLM has issued the six Records of Decision (ROD) for the Resource Management Plans (RMP) that were developed under the Western Oregon Plan Revisions. With this action, the BLM has completed its revision of the land use plans that will guide the management of 2.6 million acres in western Oregon in the BLM’s Salem, Eugene, Roseburg, Medford, and Coos Bay Districts, and the Klamath Falls Resource Area of the Lakeview District. The RMPs also comply with all applicable Federal laws including the O&C Lands Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

The RODs formally adopt the Proposed Resource Management Plan (PRMP) that was put forward in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which was released in October 2008. Overall, when fully implemented, the six land use plans are expected to increase the timber harvest from current levels, increase receiprs to the O&C Counties, meet the conservation needs of the northern spotted owl, increase habitat for marbled murrelet, maintain water quality, and improve habitat for Federally-listed fish.

According to BLM Oregon State Director Ed Shepard, “Substantially all of the existing older and more structurally-complex forests outside the Late-Successional Management Areas would not be available for harvest until the year 2023. This means that the issue of harvesting old growth forest on BLM lands is ‘off the table’ for the next 15 years.”
more »

30 Dec 2008, 11:31pm
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Fed and US Treasury Give-Away (Looting) $8 Trillion and Counting

New Bank Credit Lines Rated by Moody’s Drop to Six-Year Low

Bloomberg.com, Dec 17, 2008 [here]

… The $8.5 trillion committed by the U.S. to rescue the financial system hasn’t succeeded in unlocking credit markets that seized up with the collapse of the subprime mortgage market in 2007. …

Economy rescue: Adding up the dollars

CNNMoney.com, Dec 4, 2008 [here]

[$7.2 trillion committed and $2.6 trillion already spent.]

Financial Crisis Tab Already In The Trillions and Counting

CNBC.com, Nov. 28, 2008 [here]

Given the speed at which the federal government is throwing money at the financial crisis, the average taxpayer, never mind member of Congress, might not be faulted for losing track.

CNBC, however, has been paying very close attention and keeping a running tally of actual spending as well as the commitments involved. And there’s been quite a jump since we last tabulated things two weeks ago.

Try $7.36 trillion dollars. That’s more than double what was spent on WW II, if adjusted for inflation, based on our computations from a variety of estimates and sources. …

Fed Covers Up Financial Crisis–Bailout Cost May Be Much Higher

Investment-blog.net, Nov. 12, 2008, [here]

While the government is clearly spending a lot of taxpayers’ money to bail out financial firms, the tally is even bigger than most Americans (economists and pundits included) are probably aware or willing to admit.

The bailout bonanza has gotten so big and happened so fast it’s the true cost often gets lost in the discussion. Maybe Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke prefer it that way because the tally so far is nearly $3.5 trillion, and that’s before a likely handout for the auto industry.

Yes, $3.45 trillion has already been spent, as Bailoutsleuth.com details:

$2T Emergency Fed Loans (the ones the Fed won’t discuss, as detailed here)
$700B TARP (designed to buy bad debt, the fund is rapidly transforming as we’ll discuss in an upcoming segment)
$300B Hope Now (the government’s year-old attempt at mortgage workouts)
$200B Fannie/Freddie
$140B Tax Breaks for Banks (WaPo has the details)
$110B: AIG (with it’s new deal this week, the big insurer got $40B of TARP money, plus $110B in other relief)

Tallying up the “true” cost of the bailout is difficult, and won’t be known for months if not years. But considering $3.5 trillion is about 25% of the U.S. economy ($13.8 trillion in 2007) and the U.S. deficit may hit $1 trillion in fiscal 2009, hyperinflation and/or sharply higher interest rates seem likely outcomes down the road.

Ed Note: and none of that includes the Obama Stimulus Package, now pegged at $775 billion:

Obama economic team tries to allay worries about stimulus plan

LA Times, Dec 24, 2008 [here]

Vice President-elect Joe Biden met with seven advisors for an hour here as Obama vacationed in Hawaii. With the incoming administration acknowledging the stimulus plan could cost as much as $775 billion over two years, Biden seemed intent on reassuring Americans the money would not be wasted. …

29 Dec 2008, 10:51pm
Latest Climate News
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New Jersey, Pennsylvania farmers don’t like the smell of a federal ‘cow tax’

By Bill Wichert, Lehigh Valley Express-Times, December 28, 2008 [here]

The rear end of a cow could become the next source of financial hardship for farmers.

Facing lower milk prices and higher operational costs, dairy farmers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania say they couldn’t afford the so-called cow tax, a suggestion made by federal officials to charge permit fees for livestock as a way of regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s just another expense a farmer doesn’t need,” said Layne Klein, whose family has been running a dairy farm for 73 years in Forks Township. “I guess you’d call it one more nail in the coffin.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raised the concept in a recent report on possible greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act. Those regulations also could be extended to small businesses, schools, hospitals and churches.

In its comments on the EPA proposal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the regulations might force permitting requirements on dairy farms with more than 25 cows, beef cattle operations with more than 50 cattle, swine facilities with more than 200 hogs and farms with 500 or more acres of corn.

The permit costs would mean $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 a head for beef cattle and $20 per hog, according to Liz Thompson, a research associate with the New Jersey Farm Bureau. A herd of 75 dairy cows would carry a price tag of about $13,000.

“It’s almost incredulity,” said Thompson, describing the reaction of some farmers. “‘What, are you kidding me?’” … [more]

Ed Note: for more on the EPA’s proposed “cow flatulence tax”, see [here]

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