22 Mar 2008, 12:14am
Latest Fire News
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Eco-Terrorism: No Such Thing

Property-rights extremists equate McMansions to 9/11 victims

BY TED RALL, a proud New Yorker who had to laugh

NEW YORK—The United States should not build housing. Whole neighborhoods in places like Chicago and Dayton and Oakland and Newark and Memphis are dominated by abandoned houses and apartment buildings. Ten percent of our national housing stock—more than 13 million homes, enough to put roofs over the homeless three times over—are vacant year-round. So why do we let developers bulldoze fields and forests to put up soulless monstrosities?

Several “model houses” at a development bearing the typically atrocious name of “Quinn’s Crossing at Yarrowbay Communities” at the edge of Seattle’s creeping suburban sprawl went up in flames, apparently torched by radical environmentalists. I had two reactions. First, I was reminded of my wonder that such things happen so infrequently.

Then I laughed. I wasn’t alone. Time magazine bemoaned “a notable lack of sympathy for the fate of the homes” among residents of Washington state.

Quinn’s Crossing, says its Web site, was “dedicated to the ethos of putting the earth first.” In this case, putting Mother Earth “first” led the developers in “energy efficient” 4,500-square-feet McMansions. “The houses are out in the middle of nowhere, on land that used to be occupied by beaver dams and environmentally sensitive wetlands; the site sits at the headwaters of Bear Creek, where endangered chinook salmon spawn,” reported Erica C. Barnett for the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger. … [more]

21 Mar 2008, 1:56pm
Latest Fire News
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Tahoe Fire Prevention Hurt by Infighting

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press Writer [here]

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Steps to prevent catastrophic wildfires in the Lake Tahoe basin, one of the country’s most treasured natural wonders, have been hampered for years by bureaucratic infighting among agencies that often work at cross-purposes, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

The failure of the agencies to adequately protect the basin was brought to light in June when a wildfire ripped through a thickly forested ravine and destroyed 254 homes near South Lake Tahoe.

Since then, blame has fallen on the overlapping agencies that have environmental and regulatory oversight of the Tahoe basin. A commission established after the fire was scheduled to vote Friday on a report recommending ways to heal the rifts.

The AP’s review showed just how glaring the problems have been over the years.

Using Freedom of Information laws, the AP obtained more than 4,000 pages of documents from local, regional, state and federal agencies involved in planning, environmental protection and fire prevention around Tahoe, the picturesque lake straddling the California-Nevada line.

Most of the documents covered the three years before the wildfire and reveal a tangle of agencies with competing agendas. Efforts to clear trees and brush were delayed - often for years - as agencies bickered over methods and jurisdictional disputes.

The documents also show that while the wildfire heightened the urgency to thin the forest, years of delay have left the basin ripe for a repeat calamity.

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21 Mar 2008, 1:53pm
Latest Forest News
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Death by Environmentalism

by Gary Jason, Liberty Unbound [here]

A review of Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health, by John Berlau. Nelson Current, 2006, 250 pages.

For the last half century, the environmentalist movement has been a dominant influence on the cultural and political scene. This is widely viewed as a blessing, whose progressive result has been without exception the improvement of our society. John Berlau has written a book aimed at kicking that smug sense of green achievement smack in the teeth.

Gary Jason is an adjunct professor of philosophy and a contributing editor to Liberty. He is the author of Critical Thinking: Developing an Effective World View and Introduction to Logic.

Berlau makes a sharp and vigorous presentation of the view that the environmentalist movement has had some very unfortunate consequences. He begins by reviewing the history of the successful campaign by environmentalist organizations to demonize DDT and other pesticides. DDT was first discovered in the 1870s and found to be a potent insecticide in the 1930s. But it was the U.S. military that pushed its mass production at the outbreak of World War II. With the troops facing both malaria and typhus — which had killed millions in World War I — the army knew it had to find some way to combat the vectors, i.e., the disease-carrying insects (lice and mosquitoes). It gave the assignment to Merck, and one of Merck’s top chemists (Joseph Jacobs) was able to set up a plant to mass produce DDT. Starting in 1943, DDT was widely used; it stopped a number of wartime typhus epidemics.

It was then used worldwide in the 1950s and early 1960s to stop malaria, which it almost eliminated. But after Rachel Carson’s popular book “Silent Spring” (1962), in which she alleged that DDT and other pesticides were killing wildlife and hinted that they were causing cancer in people, DDT was banned. As Berlau notes:

In 1948, Sri Lanka had 2.8 million cases of malaria. By 1963, after years of DDT use, that number had dwindled to 17 cases. But then in 1964, U.S. environmentalists and world health bodies convinced Sri Lankan officials to stop spraying. By 1969, the number of malaria cases had shot back up to pre-DDT level of 2.5 million. … [more]

19 Mar 2008, 6:45pm
Latest Climate News
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More on the Mystery of Global Warming’s Missing Heat

From ICECAP [here]: If anyone would bother to look at the actual data instead of just pronouncements in the media from NOAA or GISS, they would not be surprised at all by these findings. Here is a plot of actual monthly temperatures and the trends from the Hadley global data set (HADCRUT3v) and University of Alabama satellite derived lower tropospheric temperatures covering the same period as the robots measured ocean heat content. Like the robots they show a downtrend (cooling).

It is also worth noting that Roger Pielke Sr. [here] has advocated ocean heat content as a better measure of the global changes in temperatures than surface station based trends. Work by Roger and Anthony Watts at surfacestations.org have identified major issues with the land stations. In this case the ocean heat content agrees with the land stations, so the cooling over the past 5 years is very likely real. 5 years does not a long term trend make but it does call into question claims the warming is accelerating and that immediate action is required.

19 Mar 2008, 6:32pm
Latest Climate News
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The Mystery of Global Warming’s Missing Heat

Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren’t quite understanding what their robots are telling them.

This is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record. But Josh Willis at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the oceans are what really matter when it comes to global warming.

In fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can. So Willis has been studying the ocean with a fleet of robotic instruments called the Argo system. The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans.

“There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant,” Willis says. So the buildup of heat on Earth may be on a brief hiatus. “Global warming doesn’t mean every year will be warmer than the last. And it may be that we are in a period of less rapid warming.” … [more]

All derisive comments welcome.

19 Mar 2008, 12:37am
Latest Fire News
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Patch burning: A new concept in rangeland management

A six-year research project is underway in Woodson County, Kansas where Kansas State University scientists are working to determine how viable patch-burn grazing is for raising livestock.

Patch-burn grazing is a fairly new concept in rangeland management, but has been occurring naturally for hundreds of years, said Walt Fick, K-State Research and Extension range management specialist.

Historically, Native Americans purposely started prairie fires, and lightning did the same thing naturally. Bison and other native herbivores were attracted to the new growth that comes up after the land burned; consequently, these animals moved from grazing area to grazing area — searching out the most attractive areas of new growth, Fick said.

Some ranchers are mimicking that grazing pattern by sectioning a large pasture into three or more burn areas.

“Every year, one of those sections is prescribed burned, concentrating the grazing pressure in specific areas of the pasture,” he said. “The cattle are free-roaming over the entire pasture, but tend to gravitate toward the one-third area of the pasture that has been burned, because that is where the most attractive new growth has occurred.”

“When burning, producers may create burn boundaries (fire guards), but using natural breaks would be more efficient because of labor expenses,” he added.

The main purpose of patch-burn grazing is ecology-driven; it has a high potential to increase biodiversity and wildlife habitat. … [more]

19 Mar 2008, 12:36am
Latest Wildlife News
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Number of bison killed sets record

By MIKE STARK, Billings Gazette

Roughly one out of four bison in Yellowstone National Park has been captured, sent to slaughter or otherwise killed this winter.

The unofficial tally on Monday reached 1,098, topping a previous record of 1,084, set in the winter of 1996-97. The number could exceed 1,200 in the coming days.

Park officials said there were an estimated 4,700 bison in Yellowstone before winter set in, the second-highest total ever recorded.

But as temperatures turned cold, bison began having a harder time breaking through crusty snow to find the food below. As they have done for years, groups began to wander west and north toward lower elevations.

State and federal management policies, though, are designed to keep bison from wandering too far, out of fear that they might transmit brucellosis to cattle in the area. …

A larger percentage was taken in the winter of 1996-97, when 1,084 of the estimated 3,400 bison were shot or sent to slaughter, prompting widespread outcry.

But the population rebounded to a record 4,900 in the summer of 2005. The following winter, nearly 1,000 were removed in government management and hunts, and again the population bounced back.

“It says we have a very strong and robust population,” Nash said. … [more]

18 Mar 2008, 1:31pm
Latest Fire News Latest Forest News
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Lake Tahoe fire under microscope: Governors commission to wrap up its work

Jeff Munson, Tahoe Daily Tribune, March 18, 2008

Dozens of recommendations on how to avoid disasters such as last June’s Angora fire will come to a head this week when the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission meets at the South Shore.

With a looming Friday deadline imposed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, the hand-picked, bi-state commission has met monthly and sometimes twice monthly since August to pore over thousands of documents and hundreds of public comments.

The end result of the commission’s work will be a report that provides recommendations for the protection of those in the Tahoe Basin while preserving the environment, said Todd Ferrara, spokesman for the commission.

At the heart of the matter are recommendations that could change policies or create new ones on how dead and dying trees are removed from the forest and place new responsibilities on homeowners.

The final meetings will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday and at 9 a.m. Friday in the Lake Tahoe Community College boardroom. Final recommendations will be made at Friday’s meeting.

Also at stake is how public agencies such as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the U.S. Forest Service can put measures in place to remove fire fuels in the basin without causing environmental damage to Lake Tahoe.

Finally, the commission will recommend how both states should pay for these policies.

This week’s gathering represents the last set of formal meetings. After Friday, the 70 or so recommendations will go up for a 30-day public review before being sent to the governors for action. … [more]

17 Mar 2008, 10:56pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Predator makes kills in Two Dot area

By BRETT FRENCH, Billings Gazette [here]

TWO DOT - Her voice tinged with emotion and the video camera jiggling in her shaking hand, Tonya Martin filmed and narrated the scene she found behind her ranch home March 5 - five sheep had been killed by a wolf and another five were wounded, three of them, as it turned out, fatally.

“In the end, it’s hard to watch what your animals go through,” said Martin, 36, while showing the location of the slaughter on Thursday. “It makes me question what the future will be with them.”

Martin was driving a tractor out to feed her cow-calf pairs around 8:30 a.m. on March 5 when her mother-in-law, Katherine Martin, spotted the big black wolf. The wolf trotted out of the brush, crossed the county road, went under a barbed-wire fence and paused to look back.

“We knew what it was right away,” she said. “Our first instinct was to go after it.”

At the time, Martin didn’t know the wolf had killed five of her sheep. Had she known, the .222 rifle that always rides in the tractor could have been used to legally kill the wolf. It wasn’t until the Martins investigated that they found the sheep flighty and hiding in the barren cottonwood trees along Big Elk Creek. Scattered around the drainage were five dead sheep and five others that were injured.

A veterinarian was called to patch up the five injured sheep, most of them with torn throats, but only two of those survived.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Martin said. “Some were hamstrung, their legs were broken and twisted. I’d never seen kills like it before. The sheep were scared to death.”

“It was a sad day, because I know he’ll be back, and he’ll be back with friends.” … [more]

17 Mar 2008, 5:36pm
Latest Forest News
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Environmental groups blast Idaho roadless plan

More than 50 environmental organizations have attacked Idaho’s proposed roadless plan, saying that if it is adopted by the Bush administration it could set a bad precedent for roadless areas in other states.

In a report released Thursday, the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups looked at how management of Idaho’s roadless areas would change if the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule developed by the Clinton administration was replaced by the new plan. …

The 2001 rule banned road building and logging on 58 million acres of remote national forests, mostly in the West. Idaho’s total of 9.3 million acres of roadless areas is second to Alaska, where 14.8 million acres are designated as roadless.

The Bush administration in 2005 allowed states to opt out of the 2001 rule. States were told they could petition the federal government with their own plans.

Idaho submitted its plan in 2006. At a January public hearing in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gov. Jim Risch said the Idaho plan would protect remote forests while allowing some activities in areas that should never have been designated as road-free in the first place.

A federal plan for Idaho closely follows the state’s proposal. It could be adopted this fall, said David Hensley, counsel to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. … [more]

17 Mar 2008, 5:35pm
Latest Wildlife News
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States ready to manage wolves

COEUR d’ALENE — Few animals have been as politicized and socially divisive as the wolves of the Rocky Mountains.

Now in the remaining days before the gray wolf is expunged from the Endangered Species List, state management agencies, stakeholder groups and a menagerie of wildlife groups are getting ready with their responses.

Federal hands have guided wolf recovery efforts for 13 years, but this month the management responsibility of wolves will be passed to the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The rule, posted in the Federal Register in February, will take effect March 28.

Days after the rule was posted, a coalition of 11 conservation groups charged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with violating the Endangered Species Act.

The groups, which include the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, argue wolves are not numerous enough in the Rocky Mountains to maintain a healthy, viable gene pool. They intend to challenge the service in federal court.

The lawsuits will likely be ongoing for the foreseeable future, but the states will be granted management as planned, unless the coalition convinces the court to file an injunction. … [more]

16 Mar 2008, 5:42pm
Latest Forest News
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Green, brown and bloody all over

By Boaz Neumann, Haaretz.com, the online edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel [here]

“How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment and Nation in the Third Reich (Ecology and History)” by Franz-Josef Brueggemeier, Mark Cioc and Thomas Zeller, Ohio University Press, 288 pages, $22.95

“The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany (Studies in Environment and History)” by Frank Uekoetter, Cambridge University Press, 246 pages, $23.99

Nazism and ecology? The Nazi party as a green movement? At first glance such analogies seem ridiculous, absurd, outrageous. In 1985, historian Anna Bramwell published a book in which she claimed outright that the Nazi party was a “green party.” She focused on Richard Walther Darre, the agricultural minister of Nazi Germany, and his “Blut und Boden” (”blood and soil”) ideology. Darre, wrote Bramwell, was the head of the “green” faction of the Nazi party, which greatly influenced the thinking of leading Nazis, among them Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich. Bramwell called Darre the “father of the greens” for his support of organic agriculture, restrictions on the use of mechanized farming methods, and so on. In its time, if I am not mistaken, the book was quite esoteric.

In recent years, however, a growing number of articles and books, primarily academic texts, have been written on the subject. One of the more dominant titles is “How Green Were the Nazis?” In other words, the question “Were the Nazis green?” has already been answered. Another book with a no-less- provocative name is “The Green and the Brown.” Brown, for those who have forgotten, was associated with the Nazis because it was the color of the shirts worn by their stormtroopers.

So this is clearly a difficult and emotional subject, like all historical and historiographic issues related to Nazism. Were the Nazis “green,” and if so, how green? What does that say about them? Does it change our perception of their crimes? In what light does this place the green movement and ecological activism in the 20th century?

In July 1935, Germany’s Nazi regime headed by Adolf Hitler passed the Reich Nature Protection Law. It was one of the most progressive laws of its time. First of all, it was a federal law that applied to the whole country and not just a local ordinance, as had been customary in the past. It was also unprecedented in scope: The law protected nature and the environment in the name of the German people and for their sake, and prevented damage that might have been caused by economic development in undeveloped areas. Anyone whose actions were liable to harm nature or alter the landscape in any significant way, such as developers and building contractors, had to obtain permission from the Reich nature protection office. This legislation also protected bridges, roads, buildings and other landmarks perceived as having German historical-cultural value. It imposed restrictions on advertisements that marred the landscape and, in some cases, banned them altogether. In Britain, legislation of this scope was only introduced after World War II, and in France, as late as the 1960s. … [more]

Study: Wildfires emit more global warming gases than thought

A new study has found that California wildfires emit more greenhouse gases than previously believed largely through the post-fire decay of dead wood, a finding that is raising questions about how effective the state’s forests are at storing carbon and slowing global warming.

The study by Thomas Bonnicksen, a retired forestry professor at Texas A&M University, found that four major wildfires – from the Fountain fire near Redding in 1992 to the Angora blaze at Lake Tahoe last year – are responsible for the release of 38 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, far more than the 2 million tons the state estimates that fires produce on average each year.

“Up until now, we have not fully appreciated the magnitude of the impact of wildfires on climate change,” Bonnicksen said. “This is a very important part of the problem.”

His study, which is not peer-reviewed and has been found lacking by some, is one of a flurry of reports that have begun to explore the critical role that forests play in regulating carbon dioxide, the principal atmospheric gas responsible for global warming. Traditionally, forests have been viewed as green reservoirs of landlocked carbon, soaking up and storing CO2 from the atmosphere in their leaves, needles, roots and soil.

Bonnicksen’s study casts that view into question. Forests today are so overcrowded with spindly, unhealthy trees – partly the result of decades of fire suppression – that as they burn and decay they are turning into an actual source of greenhouse gas pollution.

His study, for example, estimates emissions from just one blaze alone last year, the Moonlight fire in Plumas County, at more than 19.6 million tons, three-quarters of which are expected to occur over the next century as trees killed by the fire decay. That much carbon is roughly equivalent to the emissions from 3.6 million cars for a year.

Overall, California fires are producing so much CO2, he said, that they will defeat the state’s pioneering efforts to respond to climate change by reducing emissions elsewhere.

“No matter what anybody does in California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as long as these forests are burning, they are wasting their time,” Bonnicksen said. … [more]

For the full text of Dr. Bonnicksen’s reports, see W.I.S.E. Forest and Fire Science [here]

15 Mar 2008, 6:59pm
Latest Forest News
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Ninth Circuit: Still crazy after all these years

By Dick Little, Paradise Post [here]

Once again, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal has gone off the deep end. They ruled the United States Forest Service should not have allowed expedited logging in the National Forests, although Congress approved the process. (This process calls for “thinning” certain areas by taking only a few trees at a time from a given region).

The three judge panel said the Forest Service failed to, ” properly analyze the rule, causing ‘irreparable injury’ by allowing more than 1.2 million acres of national forest land to be logged and burned each year without studying the ecological impacts.”

The Forest Service told the court they took the actions to provide a secure “fire safe” environment, using a program approved by Congress that allowed selective logging (a process where a small number of trees in a given area are cut to thin the forest land so fire will not spread rapidly). The Forest Service told the court their actions saved thousands of homes in Southern California during last year’s San Diego fires, a statement that fell on deaf ears.

Judges on the “Ninth Circus” have shown a callous disregard for the welfare for the people and critters who reside in forested areas of the west including those of us who live in Paradise. The Ninth Circuit Court is the most overturned one in the nation, and hopefully this decision will be quickly reversed. The suit, filed by the Sierra Club, claims the federal government went beyond what the Environmental Policy Act allowed for cleaning up forest land. The three judge panel ruled the Forest Service failed to properly analyze the rules causing what it termed, “irreparable injury.”

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15 Mar 2008, 6:56pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Protection sought for snails, slugs in Northwest forests

PORTLAND, Ore. — Conservation groups want the federal government to protect 32 species of snails and slugs under the Endangered Species Act.

Tierra Curry, a biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity, says that since the Bush administration took steps to allow more logging in old-growth Pacific Northwest forests, the snails and slugs are in danger of going extinct.

The petition says they perform a critical role in the food web, consuming forest litter and in turn being eaten by wildlife.

While all 32 species are rare, seven are known to inhabit only one or two locations, making them particularly susceptible to extinction. … [more]

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