1 Dec 2008, 12:18pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Idaho game agency says wolves hitting cow elk hard in Lolo Zone

by the Missoulian Online, 11/28/2008, [here]

LEWISTON, Idaho - Biologists with the state Department of Fish and Game say wolves are the primary cause of death among a shrinking population of cow elk in northern Idaho.

The agency estimates cow elk in a remote area designated as the Lolo Hunting Zone have dwindled by as much as 13 percent each year. A recent study of radio-collared cow elk indicates that for the most part, wolves are to blame, Fish and Game says.

State wildlife managers unsuccessfully requested permission in 1996 to allow federal trappers to kill more than 40 wolves in the region and now they want to allow hunters to take care of the predators.

“I just think it’s generally more acceptable with folks to manage populations through hunting than any other way,” Fish and Game Deputy Director Jim Unsworth told the Lewiston Tribune.

Idaho Fish and Game managers are monitoring efforts to delist wolves as federally protected animals under the Endangered Species Act, Unsworth said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comments this week on its plan to end federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies, the latest move in a lengthy debate over management of the animals.

The wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s and there are an estimated 1,500 wolves living in the Northern Rockies region, with about 700 to 800 in Idaho.

The Fish and Wildlife Service wants to have a new plan in place by the end of the year.

If the wolves are delisted, Unsworth said Fish and Game managers in Idaho will pursue permission to allow hunting of the animals in the Lolo Hunting Zone and prevent additional thinning of the cow elk population.

“That is certainly our preferred option,” Unsworth said.

If the effort to delist the wolves from the Endangered Species Act is delayed, or tied up in court battles, Unsworth said Fish and Game will consider other options under federal management rules for wolves.

State wildlife biologist George Pauley said 87 percent of the elk in the Lolo Hunting Zone need to survive each year to maintain a healthy population there. Now, an estimated 75 percent of the elk survive each year.

“When you are down in the 70s or low 80s, that is not good,” Pauley said. “We are not going to maintain a population. It will decline under those conditions.”

29 Nov 2008, 11:06am
Latest Fire News
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Burn pile blamed for Fallen Leaf fire

by Adam Jensen, Tahoe Daily Tribune, Nov. 27, 2008 [here]

Wind stoking the smoldering remnants of a prescribed burn pile likely caused a small wildfire near Fallen Leaf Lake last week, a fire official said Wednesday.

The fire started at about 2 p.m. Nov. 20 and burned about an acre near Angora Ridge before firefighters contained the blaze shortly after 5 p.m.

While it’s not uncommon for slash piles to smolder following a prescribed burn, the origin of the blaze surprised firefighters because of rain at the South Shore shortly before the fire, said Lake Valley Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Michael.

The pile was left over from a Lake Valley prescribed burn about two weeks earlier and had been checked by firefighters “several times” in the interim, Michael said.

The Fallen Leaf fire [was] started [on property owned by the Tahoe Conservancy] following a Nov. 4 announcement from Cal Fire indicating recent rains had ended the fire season in the region. … [more]

Thanks to Tallac for the hot tip. See also [here]

23 Nov 2008, 8:33pm
Latest Forest News
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Invasives rule would allow DNR to enter private property

Legislative council seeks constitutional justification [here]

by Richard Moore, Lakeland Times, 11/21/2008

A proposed rule being promulgated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources would allow DNR wardens to enter private homes and properties to conduct searches for invasive species.

The wardens would have the right to enter property whenever they “reasonably” believed an invasive species was present on the premises.

The rule has passed the public hearing stage, and a legislative council review has been forwarded to the agency. The next step is for the DNR to submit a final rule to the Natural Resources Board for approval and forwarding to the Legislature. … [more]

23 Nov 2008, 1:19am
Latest Wildlife News
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Mitchell Slough open for recreation, justices say

By PERRY BACKUS of the Ravalli Republic, Nov 18, 2008 [here]

HAMILTON - In a case with statewide implications, the Montana Supreme Court ruled Monday that Mitchell Slough is open to recreation under the state’s stream access law.

The court said the 16-mile-long slough roughly follows the historical course of a waterway mapped 130 years ago, and therefore is subject to public access and required permitting, as are other natural waterways.

The 54-page decision overturned two earlier rulings by state district courts that found the slough was not a “natural, perennial-flowing stream.”

Mitchell Slough is located east of the Bitterroot River between Hamilton and Stevensville. The Tucker Headgate directs water from the East Fork of the Bitterroot River into the slough. The water travels across private property, including that of wealthy landowners such as 1980s rocker Huey Lewis, for about 10 miles before re-entering the river.

Ditch companies and private water users have historically used water from the slough for irrigation, stockwater, and fish and wildlife purposes. They also routinely took actions above Tucker Headgate to ensure an even supply of water into the East Fork of the Bitterroot River.

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22 Nov 2008, 10:37am
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Over 200 whales trapped in Canadian ice

Sydney Morning Herald, November 22, 2008 [here]

At least 200 narwhal whales in Canada’s Arctic, trapped by winter ice and facing starvation or suffocation, must be culled, officials say.

Hunters from the village of Pond Inlet on Baffin Island discovered the animals trapped near Bylot Island, about 17 kilometres from Pond Inlet, on November 15.

The local hunters are allowed to harvest only 130 whales each year for food, according to standards set by the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans.

But department spokesman Keith Pelley said: “It’s unlikely the animals are going to survive the winter, so the hunters have been given authorisation to cull them.”

The hunters have been on the ice slaughtering the whales since Thursday and are likely to accomplish their task over the coming days, he said.

Narwhal are found mostly in the Arctic circle, and are renowned for their extraordinarily long tusk, which is actually a twisted incisor tooth that projects from the left side of its upper jaw and can be up to three metres long.

“A couple of weeks ago, when the ice was still moving, there were quite a few narwhal seen out there in the open water,” Jayko Allooloo, chairman of the Pond Inlet hunters and trappers organisation, told public broadcaster CBC.

“About a week later, they’re stuck.”

Community elders and officials feared the whales would die from a lack of oxygen as the ice grew thicker around them, Pelley explained.

There are about a dozen areas of open waters where they could come up for air, but it is a tight squeeze for them.

21 Nov 2008, 10:01pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Endangered Snail Found in Snake River Below Minidoka Dam

US Bureau of Reclamation News Release [here]

A species of mollusk has been confirmed to exist in the upper Snake River below Minidoka Dam, Federal officials announced today.

The Snake River physa, a freshwater snail, was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on December 12, 1992. It had not been collected since the 1980s and was believed to be extirpated from its Snake River habitat.

Snail samples were collected by the Bureau of Reclamation from 2006-2008 in the 11.5-mile stretch of the Snake River starting at Minidoka Dam and extending downstream. The samples were sent to a mollusk expert at the University of Michigan for taxonomic and genetic analysis.

“Results of independent analysis positively confirm the presence of Snake River physa in the Snake River below Minidoka Dam,” said Jerrold Gregg, Manager of Reclamation’s Snake River Area Office.

In accordance with the ESA, Reclamation consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on operations and maintenance at 12 Federal projects in the upper Snake River basin and in 2005 the Service issued a Biological
Opinion on this operation. As part of this consultation, Reclamation agreed to conduct a survey to determine whether Snake River physa existed in the action area.

Jeff Foss, Field Supervisor of the Service’s Snake River Office, said, “We commend the excellent scientific work Reclamation conducted with the snail survey that resulted in the collection of Snake River physa. This important confirmation will provide a greater understanding of the species and its habitat. We look forward to the final report.”

Following the discovery of the snail, discussions started between Reclamation and the Service on how this discovery might affect the 2005 Biological Opinion.

Current water operations are consistent with the existing 30-year Opinion, and Reclamation is not proposing any change in its existing operation.

The adaptive management approach included in the proposed action will allow for minor operational modifications to minimize adverse effects to physa.

The agencies will continue to evaluate new information and potential impacts to the species.

Montana State University researchers coordinated the study effort and will be compiling and analyzing all three years of the survey data. A final report, to be provided to Reclamation in March 2010, is expected to provide a better understanding of whether and how operations may affect this species.

The fact that an “endangered” snail was found below the dam may be a harbinger of hope to the Klamath and its dams, if something endangered is found below the Klamath dams! What a reason for keeping the dams: to provide “critical habitat” for an endangered species!!! — Julie Kay Smithson, Property Rights Research [here]

20 Nov 2008, 12:20am
Latest Forest News
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National forests see fewer visitors

by Michael Milstein, The Oregonian, November 17, 2008 [here]

National forests have long been prime recreation spots in the Pacific Northwest and around the nation, but new federal figures show far fewer people are visiting them since 2004 — especially in this region.

Now researchers are trying to determine why people are staying away from the prized public playgrounds, including the nearby Mount Hood, Gifford Pinchot and Deschutes national forests. …

The visitor decline turned up last month when the Forest Service released new figures from visitor monitoring in 2007. The numbers provided the first comparison against figures from 2004.

The figures are estimates based on surveys and counts around each national forest. Total forest visits dropped from 204.8 million in 2004 to 178.6million in 2007, a 13 percent decline. Visits to Oregon and Washington national forests fell from 28.2 million in 2004 to 20.5 million in 2007, a 27 percent drop.

That’s the sharpest percentage drop of any Forest Service region in the country. The next largest drop was 24.3 percent decline in the Forest Service’s Eastern Region, which encompasses several Midwest and northeastern states. …

The Forest Service developed the new counting system to replace an earlier method that wildly overestimated numbers of recreational visitors. Recreation has become an increasingly prominent use of national forests — and an important economic driver — as logging declined. …

Visits to undeveloped national forest wilderness areas also dropped, from 8.8 million in 2004 to 6.3 million in 2007. Wilderness visits typically involve longer hikes or backpacking. About two-thirds of wilderness visitors were men. … [more]

20 Nov 2008, 12:14am
Latest Climate News
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EPA Proposes “Cow Fart Tax”

Catttle Network, 11/18/2008 [here]

The Environmental Protection Agency issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on whether it is appropriate to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from automobiles under the Clean Air Act. In order to regulate automobile emissions, the EPA would first have to make a finding that all greenhouse gases endanger public health and safety and should be classified as a “pollutant.”

Essentially, the EPA is ruling on whether or not GHG emissions should be classified as endangering public safety. If that finding is made, all GHGs including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide would have to be regulated under the Clean Air Act. …

The vast majority of livestock operations would easily meet the 100 ton threshold and fall under regulation. In fact, USDA has stated that any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, or 50 beef cattle would have to obtain permits. According to USDA statistics, this would cover about 99 percent of dairy production and over 90 percent of beef production in the United States.

As the proposal stands today, the permit fees would equate to a “tax” of $175 per dairy cow and $87.50 per beef cow.

Greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act would not only adversely impact livestock producers but all farmers. Crop production emits nitrous oxide from fertilizer and methane from rice production, and fields that emit 100 tons of carbon would also be subject to permitting requirements as well. Any Florida farm with 500 acres of corn, 250 acres of soybeans, 350 acres of potatoes or only 35 acres of rice would be forced to obtain Clean Air Act permits.

Emissions from farm machinery and energy used in production might also be added. Regulation of other economic sectors will result in increased fuel, fertilizer and energy costs for all farmers and ranchers. … [more]

20 Nov 2008, 12:11am
Latest Wildlife News
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Ranchers brace for change in Washington

Idaho Cattle Association members gather in Sun Valley to discuss ‘winds of change’

By JASON KAUFFMAN, Idaho Mountain Express, Nov. 19, 2008 [here]

The outcome of the Nov. 4 election hung like an ominous storm cloud this week as members of the Idaho Cattle Association gathered in Sun Valley for their annual convention.

Convention speakers on Monday afternoon predicted that Democrats’ riding to a more powerful majority in Washington, D.C., will mean more regulation, additional listings under the federal Endangered Species Act and expansion of national monuments and wilderness areas.

For ranchers in Idaho and elsewhere in the West, the specter of change seems most tied to efforts to protect wildlife that conservationists and some federal biologists consider imperiled, such as gray wolves and greater sage grouse.

Andy Groseta, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, predicted that the Bush administration will hand off a court-ordered review of whether to list sage grouse as threatened or endangered under the ESA to the incoming Obama administration. Such a listing, which the federal government earlier rejected, could extend across Idaho and 10 other Western states.

“This administration is not going to have this review done on their watch,” Groseta said.

A December 2007 ruling by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill prompted the current review. Winmill ruled that Fish and Wildlife Service officials ignored the “best science” in rejecting petitions to list the sage grouse. The decision was appealed by Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project, one of numerous conservation groups that filed a petition for ESA listing in 2003.

Though Groseta said he was “hoping during the Bush administration we’d get some things worked out” in terms of regulatory relief, he said the Obama team has indicated a willingness to provide public lands ranchers a seat at the table when decisions are made. He said his group will continue to fight for ranchers who are getting “regulated out of business.”

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15 Nov 2008, 12:17pm
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Sign O’ the Times: Spam Turns Serious and Hormel Turns Out More

by Andrew Martin, NYT, November 14, 2008 [here]

AUSTIN, Minn. — The economy is in tatters and, for millions of people, the future is uncertain. But for some employees at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant here, times have never been better. They are working at a furious pace and piling up all the overtime they want.

The workers make Spam, perhaps the emblematic hard-times food in the American pantry.

Through war and recession, Americans have turned to the glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table. Now, in a sign of the times, it is happening again, and Hormel is cranking out as much Spam as its workers can produce.

In a factory that abuts Interstate 90, two shifts of workers have been making Spam seven days a week since July, and they have been told that the relentless work schedule will continue indefinitely.

Spam, a gelatinous 12-ounce rectangle of spiced ham and pork, may be among the world’s most maligned foods, dismissed as inedible by food elites and skewered by comedians who have offered smart-alecky theories on its name (one G-rated example: Something Posing As Meat).

But these days, consumers are rediscovering relatively cheap foods, Spam among them. A 12-ounce can of Spam, marketed as “Crazy Tasty,” costs about $2.40. “People are realizing it’s not that bad a product,” said Dan Johnson, 55, who operates a 70-foot-high Spam oven. … [more]

14 Nov 2008, 12:40pm
Latest Fire News
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Firefighters race to stop Tea Fire before winds erupt

By Thomas Watkins, Associated Press, 11/14/2008 [here]

MONTECITO, Calif. – Firefighters struggled to get control of a raging wildfire [the Tea Fire, here] Friday that destroyed more than 100 homes and injured 13 people in this Mediterranean-style coastal town that has been home to celebrities from Charlie Chaplin to Oprah Winfrey.

Firefighters said they had to work fast before the winds picked up. Evening winds known locally as “sundowners,” gusting up to 70 mph from land to sea, pushed the fire with frightening speed Thursday, chewing up mansions, exploding eucalyptus trees and turning rolling hills into a glowing nightmare.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County on Friday as residents waited anxiously for word of their homes. Many of them fled flames with just a few minutes’ notice.

Helicopter pilots worked through the night, using night vision goggles to drop water on the flames. At daybreak Friday, nearly 20 copters and air tankers were on the job, emergency officials said.

“We’re going to have a very, very tough day today for firefighting and when the winds kick up this afternoon, we’re going to have an incredibly challenging situation,” said Santa Barbara County fire chief Ron Prince. “Control of this fire is not even in sight.”

Authorities say the fire broke out just before 6 p.m. Thursday and spread to about 2,500 acres — nearly 4 square miles — by early Friday. It destroyed dozens of luxury homes and parts of a college campus in the tony community of Montecito and an unknown number of homes in neighboring Santa Barbara. The cause was not immediately known. There was no estimate for containment. … [more]

13 Nov 2008, 6:40pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Helicopter wolf control helps caribou calves

Survival rate soars after shooters thin a herd’s predators.

By Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, November 11th, 2008 [here]

[Humane and science-based culling of] wolves on the Alaska Peninsula appears to have had the desired effect — more caribou got a chance to live, according to biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

As ugly and as politically incorrect as the wolf killing might seem to some [such as urbanites who have zero wildlife management experience], they said, the helicopter [culling] that took place earlier this year saved caribou, especially young caribou, from being eaten alive.

Fall surveys of the Southern Alaska Peninsula caribou herd completed in October found an average of 39 calves per 100 cows. That’s a dramatic improvement from fall counts of only 1 calf per 100 cows in 2006 and 2007.

The success of past wolf-control programs, and of some of those still under way elsewhere in the state, has varied significantly, depending on what predators were involved [no facts given to support this statement]. In some cases, bears, eagles and climate have proved to have more influence on calf survival than wolves [no facts given to support this statement, either, especially the climate part].

In this case, however, even some groups staunchly opposed to Alaska wolf-control efforts are conceding the removal of 28 wolves appears to have played a major role in caribou calf survival. …

The southern peninsula caribou has been in a free fall for several years.

Numbering almost 5,000 animals at the start of this decade, the southern herd had shrunk to about 600 caribou by last year. A joint state-federal management plans calls for maintaining a herd of 3,000 to 3,500 animals to provide for local subsistence needs and the general productivity of the ecosystem.

Researchers studying the caribou decline concluded that the range the caribou use in and around the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge has plenty of food, and the few bull caribou shot by hunters prior to a prohibition on all hunting last year weren’t an issue.

What was fueling the decline, researchers said, was the high ratio of predators — bears and wolves — to prey in the area. The predators were killing and eating caribou faster than the animals could reproduce, leaving the population nowhere to go but down.

Caribou populations need 20 to 25 percent of calves to survive each year just to sustain herd size, given significant annual losses to accidents, starvation and predation even in the best of times.

If calf survival falls below that, the herd begins to shrink, and the shrinkage accelerates as the population becomes increasingly dominated by older animals nearing the natural ends of their lives.

In some cases, research indicates, the only way to keep the population from falling to very low numbers and getting trapped in what biologists call a “predator pit” is to reduce the number of predators. … [more]

13 Nov 2008, 4:37pm
Latest Climate News
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New Ice Age Predicted — But Averted by Global Warming?

by Mason Inman, National Geographic News, November 12, 2008 [here]

Deep ice sheets would cover much of the Northern Hemisphere thousands of years from now—if it weren’t for us pesky humans, a new study says.

Emissions of greenhouse gases—such as the carbon dioxide, or CO2, that comes from power plants and cars—are heating the atmosphere to such an extent that the next ice age, predicted to be the deepest in millions of years, may be postponed indefinitely (quick guide to the greenhouse effect).

“Climate skeptics could look at this and say, CO2 is good for us,” said study leader Thomas Crowley of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

But the idea that global warming may be staving off an ice age is “not cause for relaxing, because we’re actually moving into a highly unusual climate state,” Crowley added.

In about 10,000 to 100,000 years, the study suggests, Antarctic-like “permanent” ice sheets would shroud much of Canada, Europe, and Asia.

“I think the present [carbon dioxide] levels are probably sufficient to prevent that from ever happening,” said Crowley, whose study will appear tomorrow in the journal Nature.

Permanent Ice Sheets?

For the past three million years, Earth’s climate has wobbled through dozens of ice ages, with thick ice sheets growing from the poles and then shrinking back again.

These ice ages used to last roughly 41,000 years. But in the past half a million years, these big freezes each stretched to about a hundred thousand years long.

Meanwhile, the temperature swings during and between these ice ages became more extreme, soaring to new highs and lows.

These extreme climate swings don’t appear to be easing anytime soon, according to evidence recorded in Earth’s rocks, Crowley said. “The latest two glaciations were two of the biggest we’ve seen.”

The increasing variability is a sign that Earth’s climate will soon move into a new state, according to a computer model used by Crowley and a colleague, William Hyde of the University of Toronto in Canada. They had previously used the model to simulate past ice ages. [more]

5 Nov 2008, 7:05pm
Latest Climate News
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Green Initiatives Get Slaughtered in California, Will Media Notice?

By Noel Sheppard, Political Climate at Icecap, Nov 05, 2008 [here]

Californians by very wide margins defeated two green initiatives that anthropogenic global warming enthusiasts in the media and in legislative houses across the fruited plain should take heed…but will they?

To begin with, Proposition 7 would have required utilities to generate 40 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025.

Proposition 10 would have created $5 billion in general obligation bonds to help consumers and others purchase certain high fuel economy or alternative fuel vehicles, and to fund research into alternative fuel technology.

Much to the likely chagrin of Nobel Laureate Al Gore and his global warming sycophants in the media, these measures went down, and went down in flames:

Proposition 7 Renewable Energy Generation
Yes 3,294,158 35.1%
No 6,102,907 64.9%

Proposition 10 Alternative Fuel Vehicles
Yes 3,742,997 40.1%
No 5,581,303 59.9%

Will global warming-obsessed media share this news with the citizenry? Shouldn’t this be HUGE news given President-elect Obama’s green sympathies and his desire to enact a carbon cap and trade scheme to reduce carbon dioxide emissions? We’ll see.

4 Nov 2008, 1:19pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Sarah Palin Exonerated — Cleared of All Troopergate Charges

By LISA DEMER, Anchorage Daily News, November 3rd, 2008 [here]

A new report just released — hours before the polls open on Election Day — exonerates Gov. Sarah Palin in the Troopergate controversy.

The state Personnel Board-sanctioned investigation is the second into whether Palin violated state ethics law in firing her public safety commissioner, and it contradicts the earlier findings by a special counsel hired by the state Legislature.

Both investigations found that Palin was within her rights to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

But the new report says the Legislature’s investigator was wrong to conclude that Palin abused her power by allowing aides and her husband, Todd, to pressure Monegan and others to dismiss her ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten. Palin was accused of firing Monegan after Wooten stayed on the job.

The Palins have argued that Wooten was a loose cannon who had tasered his stepson, drank beer in his patrol car, and threatened Palin’s father, and that their complaints that he shouldn’t be on the force were justified.

The Troopergate matter became sharply politicized after Palin was announced as Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate in Tuesday’s election.

The report, released at a Monday afternoon press conference at the Hotel Captain Cook, presents the findings and recommendations of Anchorage lawyer Timothy Petumenos, hired as independent counsel for the Personnel Board to examine several complaints against Palin.

Petumenos wrote the Legislature’s special counsel, former state prosecutor Steve Branchflower, used the wrong state law as the basis for his conclusions and also misconstrued the evidence.

His findings and recommendations include:

- There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in deciding to dismiss Monegan as public safety commissioner.

- There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in connection with Wooten.

- There is no cause to believe any other state official violated the ethics act.

- There’s no basis to conduct a hearing to “address reputational harm,” as requested by Monegan.

- The state needs to address the issue of using private e-mails for government work and to examine how records are kept in the governor’s office. Palin used her Yahoo e-mail account for state business until it was hacked.

 
  
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