19 May 2010, 11:58pm
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Rehberg introduces bill to limit executive action

by Jed Link, Clark Fork Chronicle, May 13 2010 [here]

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) have joined forces in introducing the bipartisan Limit Executive Actions Suspending Energy (LEASE) Act of 2010. This legislation would prevent the executive branch from circumventing Congress to create laws with regard to climate change regulation. Most recently, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) unilaterally suspended oil and gas leases in three Western states.

“An unelected bureaucrat doesn’t have the authority to make policy over the objections of the American people and Congress,” said Rehberg, a member of the Congressional Western Caucus. “While protecting the environment is important, so is protecting the economy, and the last thing we need is Washington picking winners and losers in an already struggling economy.”

“Once again, we are seeing one-size-fits-all policy being crafted by some in Washington who don’t understand the unique needs and strengths of South Dakota,” Herseth Sandlin said. “This legislation will ensure that until Congress acts, rural communities are protected from agencies acting on their own and issuing regulations that could harm our energy and agricultural producers, and other industries.”

The LEASE Act prevents the head of federal agencies from taking administrative actions to regulate greenhouse gas emissions without express statutory authorization from Congress. Prohibited actions include issuing secretarial orders or regulations and monitoring, mitigating, predicting or documenting so-called greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this year, BLM settled a lawsuit filed by several well-funded special interest groups to suspend 61 oil and gas lease sales in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. The lawsuit alleged that BLM did not analyze the impacts of climate change as would be required by Secretarial Order 3226, which was issued by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in the final days of the Clinton Administration. BLM also postponed all of its upcoming 2010 lease sales after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to incorporate climate change evaluation into all decision-making at the Department of Interior (DOI). These regulatory decisions were made without consulting Congress. … [more]

19 May 2010, 11:57pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Endangered Sea Lions Munch Endangered Salmon

At Bonneville Dam, the sea lions continue to munch endangered salmon, despite hazing — and a lethal injection program

By Scott Learn, The Oregonian May 13, 2010 [here]

BONNEVILLE DAM — Despite a flurry of shotgun-fired firecrackers, rubber buckshot and lethal injections that have killed 10 California sea lions this year, the amount of salmon eaten by sea lions at the first dam along the Columbia River is approaching record levels.

That’s the word from Robert Stansell, a fish biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who has monitored the sea lion’s often surprising behavior since he started at Bonneville in 1982.

“These animals do learn over time,” Stansell says. “Every time I think I know something, the next year they throw me a curveball.”

The lethal-take program, requested by Oregon, Washington and Idaho, is the first in the nation to kill marine mammals to save threatened or endangered salmon and steelhead since Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972. The Columbia is home to a multibillion-dollar salmon restoration effort.

But it’s not easy to rebalance nature at the base of a mammoth hydropower dam, even with observers on the dam from dawn to dusk to track the sea lion dietary preferences, shotgun-armed hazers on boats and along the dam, and four sea lion traps on shore below the dam’s north powerhouse.

Salmon eaten by California sea lions at the hydropower dam — 140 miles upstream but a prime spot for catching salmon before they swim up the fish ladders — are down this year. But the 73 spotted so far are up from last year and newcomers have spiked, signs opportunistic colleagues may be replacing animals trapped and killed at the dam. … [more]

19 May 2010, 11:55pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Recovery of one native species deepens struggle of another

by Paul Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 5, 2010 [here]

The distinctive beep bore bad news for the reintroduction of elk in Wisconsin. Bad, but not unexpected.

The state’s elk biologists had steeled themselves for the day the next mortality signal would sound.

It happened Monday. When Laine Stowell followed the electronic trail to the bank of the West Fork of the Chippewa River, all that was left of the female elk was hair, a few bones and a radio collar.

The elk had fallen prey to gray wolves, probably of the Torch River Pack, reasoned Stowell.

The incident highlights the recovery and burgeoning population of a native predator species long linked to wildness in northern Wisconsin.

It also underscores the challenges facing another native as it struggles to re-establish itself in the Badger State.

The loss was especially noteworthy because it reduced the state’s elk herd to 131 animals - the same place it started last May.

It meant the elk herd, for just the second time in the 15-year effort to re-establish the native animals, would not show annual growth.

Of course, there are still two to three weeks left in what biologists call the “elk year,” before the next round of calves are born and before the herd renews its struggle for growth.

“We could still lose some,” said Stowell, elk biologist for the Department of Natural Resources, his voice indicating such an event was more likely than not.

Only in 2006-’07, when the herd declined by 3%, has an elk year ended in the red.

The herd started in 1995 with 25 elk transferred from Michigan to the Clam Lake area. The project was made possible in large part by funds raised by Wisconsin members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. …

According to DNR estimates, Wisconsin had 702 to 746 wolves during the winter of 2009-’10, an increase of 75 to 100 animals from the previous year.

Wolves have been the leading cause of elk mortality since reintroduction. According to DNR data, 44 of the 143 known elk deaths since 1995 have been due to wolves. … [more]

17 May 2010, 11:13am
Latest Wildlife News
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Cattle ranchers again must cope with limited grazing

by Scott Sandsberry, Yakima Herald-Republic, May 16, 2010 [here]

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — For the second straight year, the state has withdrawn its livestock grazing plans on state wildlife lands in eastern Kittitas County.

Facing the loss of its sole range ecologist and ongoing litigation from Western Watersheds Project, an Idaho-based conservation group, the state says there will be no cattle grazing this year on the Whisky Dick and Quilomene wildlife areas.

Opponents of the grazing plan, the primary issue being the use of state wildlife lands for livestock, celebrated the state’s decision. But Kittitas cattle rancher Russ Stingley must continue to graze his cattle on already well-thinned pastures. His only alternative is to sell some of his livestock.

“We’ll possibly have to sell off some cattle — probably 100 or so if we can’t find a home for them,” said Stingley, who has about 500 head. “Depends on if this is a drought year — if they shut off our (irrigation) water earlier than usual, we won’t have much choice.”

Stingley’s grazing permit on the Whisky Dick and Quilomene, part of a regional, multi-partner conservation plan, has been off-again, on-again. … [more]

17 May 2010, 11:07am
Latest Wildlife News
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Joseph rancher reports another wolf attack

By Kathleen Ellyn, Wallowa County Chieftain, 5/14/2010 [here]

Joseph rancher Tom Schaafsma discovered a slaughtered calf in his cow-calf pasture Thursday, May 13, and has reported it as a wolf attack. The pasture is on Upper Prairie Creek east of Joseph and was three-eighths of a mile from Schaafsma’s home on Tucker Down Road. Rod Childers, wolf committee chairman for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said that Schaafsma reported that wolves had been seen in the area for three days prior to the kill.

The calf has been examined by wolf program coordinator Russ Morgan of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, but the agency has not yet confirmed the kill as wolf predation.

Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen reported that wolves were back out near the calves that same evening and ranchers who had come to assist Schaafsma were able to haze the wolves back into the timber. The wolves were back again within a few hours. Schaafsma, who had been provided with a radio receiver to monitor the collared wolves was able to identify one of the wolves as the alpha male of the Imnaha pack, Steen said.

Given the fact that the wolves were seen in the area for three days preceding the kill and continued to enter the pasture after the kill, Steen said he was surprised by the agency’s reluctance to confirm the kill. “We don’t need this nonsense,” he said. “They’re right in the middle of the damn herd of cows. They’ve obviously found a food source. This is something our producers don’t need.”

Imnaha pack wolves are known to regularly run the area. Cattleman Karl Patton, whose ranch is four miles north of Schaafsma’s, chased four wolves out of his home pasture within sight of his home on March 26. “Every time it snows I go back and have tracks of at least one wolf on my place,” Patton said. “I’ve got to move my cows, but I cannot put my cows on my spring cow/calf pasture because wolves are there nearly every day.”

A full report and ODFW decision is expected by Saturday afternoon.

17 May 2010, 10:54am
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Stelle returns to role as Pacific Northwest’s ’salmon chief’

The Obama administration has picked the chief architect of one of the failed Columbia Basin salmon restoration plans of the past …

By JEFF BARNARD, Seattle PI, May 14, 2010 [here]

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Obama administration has picked the chief architect of one of the failed Columbia Basin salmon-restoration plans of the past to implement a new plan it hopes will finally pass legal muster.

Will Stelle takes over June 1 as northwest administrator of NOAA Fisheries Service in Seattle.

He held the post under the Clinton administration from 1994 to 2000, when many of the 13 protected stocks of Columbia Basin salmon were first put on threatened and endangered species lists. The government was also struggling to find a way to make hydroelectric dams, which are an important source of power in the region, less lethal to fish.

In a teleconference Friday, Stelle said he is not surprised none of the salmon that went on the endangered species list have come off. …

Stelle oversaw development of the 2000 plan for balancing dams against salmon, known as a “biological opinion,” which was struck down by the same federal judge weighing the current plan, U.S. Circuit Judge James Redden. Four of the five plans have failed to survive legal challenges.

The 2000 biological opinion acknowledged that it may be necessary to breach four dams on the lower Snake River in Eastern Washington. …

Salmon advocates and Rep. Doc Hasting, R-Wash., were both unhappy with Stelle’s appointment. …

Hastings, who opposes dam breaching, sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke asking for detailed disclosures from Stelle about any conflicts of interest that may have developed during the last 10 years he worked as a Seattle natural resources attorney.

“With this selection, the administration has apparently decided to take a step backward into the controversies of the past, rather than selecting a new person who could lead this agency into a fresh start,” Hastings wrote. … [more]

Note: See also Spring Chinook Report April 30th [here] which reports record salmon runs, largely due to changing ocean conditions and having nothing to do with hydroelectric dams.

17 May 2010, 10:43am
Latest Wildlife News
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Outfitters licensed to kill wolves in Lolo Zone

Elk’s decline in region prompts Idaho Fish and Game to allow guides to shoot reintroduced predators

By Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, May 15th, 2010 [here]

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has authorized four outfitters or their licensed guides to kill as many as five wolves each in the Lolo Zone this spring.

The unprecedented move was made out of concern over the declining elk herd in the rugged mountains in the Upper Clearwater River basin.

“Wolves pioneered into that area and have been unmanaged the last 15 years and we have watched the elk decline to a population of 2,100 and recruitment is not happening,” said Jeff Gould, chief of the agency’s wildlife bureau in Boise. “So this is an effort to improve on calf elk survival and cow elk survival and elk recruitment levels that will result in a population increase.”

Elk in the Lolo Zone have been in decline for decades. The long-term slide was blamed on changes in habitat. The herd’s numbers took a nosedive during the harsh winter of 1996 about the same time wolves were reintroduced to Idaho. Department officials expected the herd to make a rebound after efforts were implemented to improve habitat, black bear and mountain lion populations were reduced and the number of hunters was capped in the area. But as those actions were occurring, more and more wolves moved into the area, and the department now says wolves are the primary cause of elk mortality in the zone made up of hunting units 10 and 12.

Idaho held its first ever regulated wolf hunt last fall through March. The department set a statewide harvest goal of 220. Hunters killed 188 wolves during the seven month season. Many of the wolf hunting zones closed after individual quotas were met. But the 27-wolf quota for the Lolo Zone was not met. Hunters killed 13 wolves there. … [more]

Note: see also Lolo Elk Decline [here]

17 May 2010, 10:35am
Latest Wildlife News
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Montana to at least double 2009 wolf hunt quota

MATT VOLZ, AP, May 13, 2010 [here]

HELENA, Mont. - The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission plans to at least double the number of gray wolves that hunters can kill this year.

Commissioners voted Thursday to accept a staff recommendation to increase the quota of wolves in this year’s hunting season. After a public comment period, they will vote in July whether that final number will be 150, 186 or 216 animals.

Last year’s quota was 75.

According to state wildlife computer models, the proposed quotas would reduce the state’s wolf population between 8 percent and 20 percent from last year’s minimum count of 524.

The proposed quotas do not include wolves killed by wildlife officials responding to complaints of attacks on livestock. Some 145 wolves were killed that way in 2009.

17 May 2010, 10:29am
Latest Forest News Tramps and Thieves
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Death on the border

But Washington refuses to act

By ABBY WISSE SCHACHTER, NY Post, May 14, 2010 [here]

A war is raging in Mexico, yet Washington still refuses to make securing the border a priority: It’s more interested in bashing Arizona’s immigration-enforcement law.

Yet it’s not hard to see why Arizonans are afraid. No, the ongoing Mexican drug wars haven’t crossed seriously into the United States yet. But Mexico has seen some 22,743 people killed in drug-related violence since December 2006.

And things aren’t dying down. After one recent bloody attack, Mexico City’s La Reforma newspaper reported, “The situation is becoming more and more like all-out urban warfare.”

The violence is getting closer to us, too. Three people linked to the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez (just over the border from El Paso, Texas) were shot to death on March 13. An explosive device was used in an attack on the US consulate in Nuevo Laredo earlier this year. Cartel gunmen have stepped up direct assaults on Mexican military squads sent to police the border.

And on March 27, an American rancher, Robert Krentz, was murdered on his Arizona property by someone local law enforcement describes as “a scout for a [Mexican] drug-smuggling organization.”

As if predicting his own demise, Krentz warned of the danger in a 2007 letter to Congress written with his wife about the increased criminal activity along the border across from their ranch: “We are in fear for our lives and safety and health of ourselves and that of our families and friends.”

Last year, the Border Patrol apprehended 241,453 people and confiscated a record 1.3 million pounds of marijuana — in the Tucson, Ariz., sector alone. Nearly a fifth of all those apprehended already had a US criminal record.

The FBI now calls the Mexican drug cartels the most important organized-crime threat to the United States. Nor is the danger limited to the borderlands or to drugs. Human trafficking networks flow from Mexico through states like Arizona to the entire country. Phoenix, Ariz., has become one of the world’s capitals for kidnapping.

The feds can’t even promise to secure the border. At a recent Senate hearing, the best Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin could say was, “We are geared to deter the impact of the increased violence in Mexico.”

You begin to see why Arizona passed its controversial law. Wisely or not, lawmakers were reacting to a real public concern.

Yes, the flow of illegals to the US has slowed by nearly half in the past year — but that’s clearly a temporary ebb, thanks to the recession. And immigration is a separate issue from fears that Mexico’s drug violence will come north.

In Washington, however, President Obama and others are more interested in complaining about the Arizona law than in securing the border.

For years, conventional political wisdom has been that the border problem must be tackled as part of “comprehensive immigration reform” — and the president recently noted a lack of “appetite” on Capitol Hill for tackling that issue. (Obama presumably also lacks the appetite — he was a key vote in killing the last such reform bill in the Senate three years ago.) … [more]

14 May 2010, 8:39pm
Latest Fire News Latest Forest News
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Forest Treatments Under Wildfire Plan Reviewed

By Tammy Gray-Searles, AZ Journal, May 14th, 2010 [here]

A total of 7,416 acres in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests were treated to reduce fire danger in 2009, the Navajo County Board of Supervisors learned Tuesday.

Board members heard a report on fire protection activities that took place in 2009 as part of the Sitgreaves Communities Wildfire Protection Plan, which was created in 2004, after the Rodeo-Chedeski wildfire. According to the report, 90,545 acres have been treated since the plan was adopted, and 6,629 parcels have been assessed for treatment.

The report also notes that $1 million in grant funds were awarded for fire mitigation within the plan area in 2009.

Of the 7,416 acres treated in the last year, 5,023 were Forest Service land, 523 were privately owned and the remaining 1,870 belong to the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

On Forest Service land, 2,961 acres were treated using prescribed fires to eliminate excess fuel, and 2,062 were treated by mechanical thinning.

Part of the fuel removed was used at the biomass plant in Snowflake, which included the removal of biomass fuel from 435 acres.

The report notes that an agreement with Renegy and Future Forest will allow the removal of additional biomass fuel from Forest Service land in upcoming years.

“An important agreement was reached between Renegy Holdings Inc. and Future Forest LLC concerning biomass transport and delivery. Cleaner air will be a major benefit from the agreement. More biomass will be removed from the forest, ultimately resulting in less smoke from prescribed burns and wildfires,” the report states.

A total of 11,000 acres of Forest Service land north of Highway 260 is scheduled for thinning in upcoming years.

On the Fort Apache Reservation, all of the 1,870 acres treated in 2009 were treated through mechanical thinning and none by prescribed fire, but the report notes that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has burned “an extensive backlog of slash piles.” Since the start of the plan, a total of 23,515 acres on the Fort Apache Reservation has been treated. The report points out that maintenance is now needed on land that was treated in 2002 and 2003.

All of the private land treated during the last year was also treated using mechanical thinning.

Officials are now looking at ways to maintain treated areas while continuing work in untreated areas. A cooperative agreement is expected to help with ongoing maintenance.

The report notes, “Maintenance of previously treated areas and new treatments are being addressed with a cooperative initiative between the City of Show Low, Homeowners Association Management Company, Arizona Division of Forestry and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.” … [more]

Thanks for the news tip to Julie Kay Smithson, Property Rights Research [here, here]

Kerry’s Powerless America Act

Editorial, Investors Business Daily, 05/12/2010 [here]

Call it cap-and-trade or bait-and-switch, but John Kerry and Joe Lieberman continue to tilt at windmills with a bill to restrain energy growth in the name of saving the planet.

The bill introduced Wednesday and sponsored by the two senators is called the American Power Act, an Orwellian phrase if ever there was one. Like President Obama’s offshore drilling program, for every “incentive” there is a restriction. It’s as if Hamlet were to be appointed Secretary of Energy.

The legislation has little to do with developing America’s vast domestic energy supply. It’s cap-and-trade meets pork-barrel spending. It’s about regulations, restrictions and research. It does not deal with exploiting America’s vast energy reserves but with finding ways to mitigate their alleged harmful effect.

To that end, the bill creates some 60 new agencies and projects to eat up our tax dollars and buy support … [more]

Questions posed for Kerry, Lieberman on new climate-energy bill

by Paul Driessen, CFACT, May 12, 2010 [here]

The new Kerry-Lieberman climate bill mandates a 17% reduction in US carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. It first targets power plants and refineries that provide reliable, affordable electricity and fuel for American homes, schools, hospitals, offices and factories – and then, in six years, further hobbles the manufacturing sector itself.

The House-passed climate bill goes even further. It requires an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Once population growth and transportation, communication and electrification technologies are taken into account, this translates into emission levels last seen around 1870!

House Speaker Pelosi says “every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory,” to ensure that America achieves these emission mandates. This means replacing what is left of our free-market economy with an intrusive Green Nanny State, compelling us to switch to unreliable wind and solar power, and imposing skyrocketing energy costs on every company and citizen.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is implementing its own draconian energy restrictions, in case Congress does not enact punitive legislation.

It’s time to ask these politicians some fundamental questions. … [more]

Potential cost of Kerry-Lieberman Cap & Tax: $69 - $145 Billion per Year

The Hockey Schtick, Wednesday, May 12, 2010 [here]

The Kerry-Lieberman Cap & Tax bill establishes a price collar for CO2 emissions with a floor of $12 per metric ton (increasing annually by 3% + inflation) and ceiling of $25 (increasing annually by 5% + inflation). According to the EPA, US emissions of CO2 in 2009 were 5787 million metric tons. Thus, if the legislation is applied to all US emissions, the cost would be $69 Billion (floor) to $145 Billion (ceiling) annually, increasing ~6 to 8+% each year forever.

The American Power Act: A Climate Dud

by Chip Knappenberger, MasterResource, May 12, 2010 [here]

“The global temperature “savings” of the Kerry-Lieberman bill is astoundingly small—0.043°C (0.077°F) by 2050 and 0.111°C (0.200°F) by 2100. In other words, by century’s end, reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 83% will only result in global temperatures being one-fifth of one degree Fahrenheit less than they would otherwise be. That is a scientifically meaningless reduction.”

Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman have just unveiled their latest/greatest attempt to reign in U. S. greenhouse gas emissions. Their one time collaborator Lindsey Graham indicated that he did not consider the bill a climate bill because “[t]here is no bipartisan support for a cap-and-trade bill based on global warming.” But make no mistake. This is a climate bill at heart, and thus the Kerry-Lieberman bill sections labeled “Title II. Global Warming Pollution Reduction.”

So apparently someone thinks the bill will have an impact on global warming. But those someones are wrong. The bill will have no meaningful impact of the future course of global warming. … [more]

13 May 2010, 10:47am
Latest Climate News
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Snowstorms kill hundreds of cattle as Cardston County declares emergency

By Jamie Komarnicki, Calgary Herald, May 12, 2010 [here]

Ranchers in southern Alberta’s Cardston County are in emergency mode after a barrage of spring snowstorms killed hundreds of cattle.

Losses are mounting as melting snow reveals calves that succumbed to the winter-like weather of the past couple of weeks, said Reeve Cam Francis.

The county declared itself a “disaster area” earlier this week, Francis said, noting that some ranchers lost more than 100 calves.

“It’s been devastating. A lot of cattle got piled up from the wind, cows got trampled, some cows were pushed into the dugout and drowned,” Francis said.

County officials haven’t tallied the number of cattle lost.

The situation is particularly dire because the snowstorms hit during calving season, when the newborns are especially vulnerable, said Francis.

Shawn Pitcher is still tallying the losses, but figures up to 15 per cent of his 300-head herd was killed.

Furious winds drove the cattle close together, which in turn led to some of the calves getting trampled, he said. Other cows sought shelter in the low-lying areas, which, as the temperature rose, became filled with water. Cows became stuck in the mud or drowned, Pitcher said.

Now, the rancher is dealing with the diseases that have struck the survivors.

“We’re treating calves like crazy, trying to get them over their pneumonia,” Pitcher said. … [more]

Note: the record late snows are sure to have also affected wildlife.

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