The Environment

  Aspen Times News For Aspen ColoradoFebruary 29, 2008 11:16 Federal wildlife managers have dramatically increased the amount of land they want to designate as critical habitat for the Canada lynx, a threatened species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it wants to designate nearly 43,000 square miles in six states.

That’s more than 20 times the 1,800 square miles in three states the agency proposed in late 2006.

The agency reconsidered its earlier rulings about the lynx and seven other species after allegations that Julie MacDonald, a deputy assistant secretary of the interior, interfered in the decisions. She has resigned.

States where land would now be designated as critical lynx habitat are Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming.

Canada lynx have already been reintroduced in southwestern Colorado, and some of the animals have found their way to the Independence Pass area east of Aspen and elsewhere in the central mountains. One was spotted recently in the Summit County backcountry.

In 2000, the Canada lynx was designed a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Lynx are medium-sized cats, generally measuring 30 to 35 inches long and weighing 18 to 23 pounds. They have tufts on their ears, short, black-tipped tails, and large, well-furred feet and long legs for traversing snow.

The public can comment on the habitat proposal until April 28. Comments can be submitted at or mailed to the Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive; Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
  Environmental Groups Challenge Gray Wolf Removal From Us Endangered Species ListFebruary 28, 2008 09:52 Environmental and animal rights groups are challenging the U.S. government's removal of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies from the endangered species list.

The groups say the estimated 1,500 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are too few to ensure the species survival.

State officials have pledged to keep wolves on the landscape. But they want to let hunters kill possibly hundreds of wolves in state-sponsored hunts starting later this year to reduce conflicts with livestock and big game.

A coalition of 11 groups notified the U.S. Department of Interior on Wednesday of their plans to sue the agency after 60 days. The coalition includes the Sierra Club and the Humane Society.

  What To Do When Compact Fluorescents CrackFebruary 26, 2008 08:48 Compact fluorescent lamps contain small amounts of toxic mercury that can vaporize when the bulbs break, creating a potential health risk for infants, young children, and pregnant women. If a lamp does break, follow these cleanup procedures:

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Keep people and pets away. Open windows, and leave the area for 15 minutes before beginning the cleanup.

Do not use a vacuum cleaner, even on a carpet. This will spread the mercury vapor and dust and potentially contaminate the vacuum.

Wear rubber gloves.

Carefully remove the larger pieces and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass jar with a metal screw top lid and seal like a canning jar.

Next, scoop up the smaller pieces and dust using two stiff pieces of paper such as index cards or playing cards.

Pick up fine particles with duct tape, packing tape, or masking tape, and then use a wet wipe or damp paper towel.

Put all waste into the glass container, including all material used in the cleanup. Remove the container from your home and call your local solid waste district or municipality for disposal instructions.

Continue ventilating the room for several hours.

Wash your hands and face.

As a precaution, consider discarding throw rugs or the area of carpet where the breakage occurred, particularly if the rug is in an area frequented by infants, small children or pregnant women. Otherwise, open windows during the next several times you vacuum the carpet to provide good ventilation.
  Alaska Disputes Polar Bear ThreatFebruary 23, 2008 20:51 The polar bear can be found in just one place in America — Alaska — and is perhaps as much a symbol of the state as, say, alligators are of Florida. So you might think Alaska's politicians would be pounding on doors in Washington to protect it.

You'd be wrong.

As the federal government decides whether to list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Gov. Sarah Palin and the state's Republican congressional delegation are solidly opposed to the idea.

Listing the polar bear would trigger a plan to protect the shrinking Arctic sea ice. And that, Alaskans fear, could dim chances for a proposed project that could bring the state's next big boom: a natural gas pipeline that would tap the North Slope's vast reserves.

"This is yet another example of how a law with the best of intentions has been subverted by the lawyers for the extreme environmental organizations and the liberal Democratic leadership," Rep. Don Young said.

Alaska's elected officials reject climate models that predict a complete summer meltdown of the polar ice cap by 2030 or sooner. They also dispute a U.S. Geological Survey study that predicts polar bears in Alaska could be wiped out by 2050.

Listing polar bears as threatened "would establish a dangerous precedent based on mathematical models instead of biological observations," Sen. Ted Stevens said Tuesday.
  How Did Reichert (R) Get So Green?February 21, 2008 12:29 Last fall, two congressmen from Washington state eyed each other warily in a Capitol Hill corridor as they discussed a bill that would expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area in the Cascades.

Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Bainbridge Island, is a leading proponent of environmental protection. But he wasn't the one pushing the wilderness bill. It was Rep. Dave Reichert, an Auburn Republican, and he was trying to persuade Inslee to co-sponsor the legislation.

Inslee had no intention of signing on to a bill that could improve Reichert's environmental credentials. It wasn't personal, just politics.

"We want to beat your ass in 2008," Reichert quoted Inslee as saying. (Inslee's office declined to comment.)

"Jay, I'm not feeling the love here," Reichert responded.

Reichert may not be getting much love from Democrats in Congress. But he's found fans recently in surprising quarters — environmental and wilderness groups, energy activists and ecologists.

The man who shocked environmentalists in 2006 when he said he was unsure about global warming or what role humans might play has had a conversion to conservation that is almost religious.

The League of Conservation Voters today is expected to name Reichert one of the 10 most environmentally conscious Republicans in Congress.

He signaled his shift at least year ago when he issued a statement responding to President Bush's 2007 State of the Union speech. "Reichert rejects ANWR as energy option," the release blared, calling any oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a potential disaster.

Bush hadn't mentioned ANWR, but Reichert intended to get out front on environmental issues that resonate in the 8th District, which covers eastern King and Pierce counties.

Wilderness protection? He's there. Tougher CAFE, or fuel-economy, standards? There. Hybrid plug-in cars? There. Reducing greenhouse gases, protecting salmon habitat and reducing farmland pollution? There, there and there.

  Wolves Lose Protection Under Endangered Species ActFebruary 21, 2008 10:03 Today the Bush
administration finalized its controversial decision to remove the northern
Rockies gray wolf from the list of species protected under the Endangered
Species Act. The delisting will take effect 30 days after the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (FWS) publishes the final rule in the Federal Register
next week.

The removal of federal protections for the gray wolf puts its continued
survival in the northern Rockies at the mercy of the woefully insufficient
state management plans developed by Wyoming, Idaho and -- to a lesser
extent -- Montana. These plans call for dramatic reductions in wolf
populations in the region.

"We will support delisting of the northern Rockies wolf when the states
establish sustainable management plans that ensure viable, interconnected
wolf populations throughout the region," said Rodger Schlickeisen,
president of Defenders of Wildlife. "Unfortunately, the current state plans
seem designed to lead only to the dramatic decline and need for quick
relisting of the wolf. That's not in anyone's best interest."

Before a species can be delisted, FWS must determine that it does not
face continued threats that could undermine the species' survival. This
criterion is not met under the state management plans which ignore
scientific estimates that, for species to remain viable, there should be
several thousand individuals, and wolf populations in the northern Rockies
must be interconnected with larger wolf populations in Canada. With no
federal protections in place, existing state management plans would permit
wolf populations in the northern Rockies to be drastically reduced by as
much as 70 percent, and eliminate any likelihood of establishing
connections with Canadian wolf populations or promoting the establishment
of wolf populations in other states such as Oregon, Washington, Utah, and

"Given the tremendous public support and resources spent to reintroduce
the wolf to the northern Rockies, it makes no sense to allow wholesale
killing of wolves in the region and polarize the issue even more deeply
with this one-sided plan," said Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies wolf
conservation specialist for Defenders of Wildlife. "Instead we need a
balanced solution based on science that also addresses the needs of
ranchers, wildlife supporters, and hunters."
  Brazil Launches Zero Extinction InitiativeFebruary 20, 2008 19:07 In a pioneering effort to halt species extinction in the Brazilian Amazon, the state of Para is launching the Zero Extinction Program, the first of its kind in Brazil. The program, part of a decree signed today in Belem by Para Governor Ana Julia Carepa identifies threatened species, key sites where they live and measures to protect and conserve these threatened habitats and species.

While Pará is the second largest Brazilian Amazon state (1.25 million km2, roughly twice the size of Texas), it is first in terms of Amazon deforestation. Of the 679,899 km2 of cleared Amazon rainforest, 202,906 km2 are in Pará. Deforestation is one of the primary causes of loss of species. Biodiversity loss often leads to the degradation of ecosystems, which in turn lowers the quality of life of those dependent on them.

A key element of the Pará Zero Extinction Program is the compilation of a "red list" or list of threatened species, which includes 91 vertebrates, 37 invertebrates and 53 plant species. The most threatened species, those classified as critically endangered, are two plant species, seven fish, one bird and three mammals. The majority of these species, such as the caiarara monkey (Cebus kaapori) and the black cuxiu (Chiroptes satana) are restricted to the most deforested areas in the state, especially the eastern portion of Para.

"This red list, the first for a Brazilian Amazon state, differs from those in seven other Brazilian states in that it integrates both flora and fauna in a process
which involved considerable consultation," said Para Secretary for the
Environment Valmir Ortega. "The decree also includes excellent management tools that will enable the government, research institutions and society to get mobilized to protect these species."

The decree creates a formal structure for coordinating the Zero Extinction Program, composed of a management committee, a technical committee, the state's red list, and recovery plans for endangered species. It also recognizes Key Biodiversity Areas where listed species are found as priority regions for conservation and recovery efforts. And, it advocates advances in research, knowledge, and conservation of these species, specially the critically endangered ones.
  Tiny Step for an Endangered SpeciesFebruary 20, 2008 19:06 A record 280 species are candidates for protection under the U.S.'s Endangered Species Act, but at least one of those is now getting a chance to be saved from extinction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week it will propose that an extremely rare Hawaiian plant, Phyllostegia hispida, receive coveted protected status.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, it took nearly two and a half years for the Service to make this "emergency" designation, despite knowing in 2005 that there were just two Phyllostegia hispida plants left in existence -- only one of which is reproductively mature.

According to the CBD, "the Bush administration has protected the fewest species of any administration in the history of the Endangered Species Act, to date protecting only 58 species, compared to 522 under the Clinton administration and 231 under Bush Sr.'s administration."
  Several Shark Species Endangered By OverfishingFebruary 19, 2008 13:21 The American Association for the Advancement of Science warned about the danger of extinction that several species of sharks face, due to overfishing. In the conference held in Boston yesterday, the association declared that nine species of shark would be added this year to the list of animals that face extinction, Reuters reports.

Apparently, the most endangered species is the scalloped hammerhead shark.

"Sharks are definitely at the top of the list for marine fishes that could go extinct in our lifetimes," said Julia Baum of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and a member of IUCN shark specialist group, according to The Guardian. "If we carry on the way that we are, we're looking at a really high risk of extinction for some of these shark species within the next few decades."

Baum said, in the above mentioned conference, that, besides the scalloped hammerhead shark, several other species of shark risk extinction, including the smooth hammerhead, common thresher, shortfin mako, big-eye thresher, silky, tiger, bull and dusky. There were 126 other species already on the World Conservation Union list.

  Hammerhead Shark Added To Endangered ListFebruary 17, 2008 22:08 One of the world's most recognisable sharks is to be added to the official list of endangered species amid fears that it could soon become extinct.

The scalloped hammerhead, so-called because of its unusual snout, has been put at risk through industrial-scale fishing and the value of its fin, a delicacy in China.

The World Conservation Union is to put it on its list of 'globally endangered' species – one step below the top rating of 'critically endangered'.

Scientists have seen numbers of the shark, which grows up to 4m long, fall alarmingly. Numbers are 98 per cent down off parts of America's east coast.

The species swims in schools which tend to gather in specific places like the Galapagos Islands. The fear is that a fishing vessel stumbling across a gathering could wipe out the entire school.

Sharks are often caught by accident by long fishing lines laid out for tuna, swept up by bottom trawlers or deliberately caught for shark fin soup in China.

US marine ecologist Dr Julia Baum said: 'The oceans are being emptied of sharks. If we carry on the way we are we will be looking at a very high risk of extinction in the next few decades.'

Dr Baum added: 'Between 26 and 73 million sharks go through the Hong Kong food market each year. That's three to four times the number reported to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, which collects fishing statistics.'
  Preying On The PredatorsFebruary 17, 2008 09:40 It was not long ago that predators such as wolves, mountain lions, owls, hawks and even eagles were considered "varmints" in our country. There were "good" animals like deer and rabbits, and "bad" animals that preyed on the good ones.

Society professed that the bad ones should be killed, and the federal and state governments actually paid bounties on many species of predators and hired "predator-control specialists" to shoot, trap, gas or poison them. In some cases, the efforts were so intense that predators such as wolves and mountain loins were completely extirpated from most of their former ranges.

Then came the environmental movements of the late 1960s and 1970s. People became more educated about ecology, the role of predators and nature in general. Laws were passed, nature centers were created, books were written. Suddenly, predators were "cool," majestic, beautiful, regal animals. Wolves, owls, falcons and eagles became cult symbols.

Scientists brought them back to areas where they had been eliminated. The peregrine, bald eagle, osprey, timber wolf, alligator, grizzly bear, black-footed ferret and other predators became celebrated species as one by one they drew back from the brink of extinction and, in some cases, were removed from the Endangered Species List.

Despite all this good news, and even though our society as a whole now has a positive, enlightened opinion of predators — based on fact and science rather than myth and misconception — there are still problems.

President Bush recently gave the go-ahead to kill as many as 600 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, just 20 years after their re-introduction became one of the biggest conservation success stories of the century. Wolves were one of the first species to be wiped out by the early colonists, and they had not been seen in the northern Rockies for about 50 years.

After wolves were re-introduced as part of the stipulations of the Endangered Species Act, scientist conducted studies in the Yellowstone region that showed a tremendous increase in the ecological health of the entire ecosystem. By reducing the exploding elk population, the wolves indirectly caused overbrowsed cottonwood trees to grow back along watercourses, thereby producing nesting areas for birds, food for browsers and other benefits to the natural community.

Wolves also drove away or killed coyotes, reducing their numbers and thus helping smaller predators such as mink and foxes that coyotes had preyed on. Raptors also benefited from the increase in rabbits and small rodents, now that fewer coyotes were there. In other words, the diversity and overall health of the entire ecosystem increased dramatically due to the presence of a keystone species.
  Court Rules Against Arizona Cattlemen, For Mexican Spotted OwlFebruary 16, 2008 08:41 The federal district court in Phoenix has upheld protection of 8.6 million acres of critical habitat for the threatened Mexican spotted owl in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.

For the Mexican spotted owl, critical habitat ensures that Forest Service logging does not drive the owl to extinction or limit its recovery.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the critical habitat for the owl in 2004, but the designation was challenged in court by the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association.

The cattle growers alleged that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical habitat designation unlawfully included areas not occupied by the species, failed to rely on the best available science, and failed to account for the economic impact of the designation.

In a ruling handed down February 1, the court rejected all the Cattle Growers’ arguments.

"This was a complete victory for the Mexican spotted owl," said attorney Matt Kenna of the Western Environmental Law Center, which represented the Center for Biological Diversity in the case. "All arguments of the Arizona Cattle Growers were rejected, and the critical habitat designation was upheld."

  No Place For Predators?February 12, 2008 14:45 The days when wildlife managers viewed the cat of many names as vermin to be eradicated are long gone. Modern managers promote predators' role as guardians of ecosystem integrity, but they are also employees of the state and must balance the needs of the species with the will of the electorate. As America's great stretches of wilderness rapidly disappear into the transfigured landscapes of advancing development, the fate of the cougar depends on whether “rational and civilized people” can see that the world would be a poorer place without predators.
  Court Again Overturns Controversial Bush Environment RuleFebruary 12, 2008 10:44 A federal appeals court Friday overturned a Bush administration plan for cutting mercury emissions from power plants, siding again with states and environmental groups in an ongoing legal battle over the administration's effort to write business friendly rules for the utility industry.

The decision is one of several rulings by the court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, against Bush administration regulations that would have eased environmental requirements. Most prominently, the same court in 2006 struck down an Environmental Protection Agency rule that would have allowed coal-burning power plants more latitude to increase their output without installing pollution control devices.

"The Bush administration's track record in court is abysmal when it comes to environmental regulations," said Frank O'Donnell of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. "That's because they've illegally interpreted the law over and over again."

The latest setback for the administration comes over its effort to create an emissions trading market that would cut mercury emissions. Under the administration's plan, power plants starting in 2010 would be allowed to buy credits instead of actually cutting mercury emissions. Coal-burning utilities such as American Electric Power Co. (AEP), Southern Co. (SO) and Duke Energy ( DUK) lobbied for the plan so they could have the flexibility to decide where on their systems mercury reductions would be cheapest.

Fourteen states and environmental groups sued, saying the Clean Air Act requires all plants to cut emissions of a toxic pollutant like mercury. They worried an emissions trading market would lead to "hot spots" of mercury around plants that bought credits instead of cutting emissions.
  Higher Elevation Species at RiskFebruary 12, 2008 10:42 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled Feb. 1 that the Gunnison's prairie dog qualifies to be listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The ruling shouldn't affect the Four Corners, even though the area's prairie dog population is almost exclusively Gunnison's. The ruling is for the higher-elevation Gunnison's prairie dogs. The Gunnison's prairie dog lives between 6,000 and 12,000 feet.

The ruling pertains to the Gunnison's prairie dogs found in central and south-central Colorado and north-central New Mexico. Populations of Gunnison's prairie dog live in two separate ranges: higher elevations referred to as montane regions and lower elevations referred to as prairie populations, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"The ruling doesn't affect the prairie dogs found in the Cortez area," said Al Pfister with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ecological Services in Grand Junction.

It mainly affects the prairie dogs found in Gunnison Basin, San Luis Valley and South Park, Pfister said.

This isn't the first time the Fish and Wildlife Service has ruled a species that lives in certain geographic areas - not the entire species - is eligible for the endangered species list, Pfister said.
  State Mulls Longfin Smelt For Endangered Status; Legal Battle LoomsFebruary 07, 2008 22:12 The state Fish and Game Commission made the longfin smelt a candidate for the state's endangered species list Thursday, setting off alarms statewide among both water agencies and construction contractors.

The three commissioners voted unanimously to list the tiny fish that ranges from California to Alaska as a candidate species for one year. After a year of study, the fish could be added to the state's list of endangered or threatened species.

During that year-long study, however, the commission will limit the amount of water that can be pumped south out of the fish's habitat in the San Francisco Bay-Delta area.
Opponents said that decision will cost billions of dollars and a loss of jobs in construction as developments in Riverside and San Diego County come to a halt.

The commission also voted 3-0 to allow the incidental take of the species by California water projects, which often collect the fish in their pumping estuaries. The tiny fish die when caught up in the pumping systems.

  The Climate May Be Right For A Global Warming BillFebruary 06, 2008 20:49 Scores of climate change bills are stacking up in the legislative queue. Numerous hearings, the most recent on the polar bear, are highlighting the issue. And some regulation-averse corporate executives have even called on Congress to step in.

But despite the dramatic shift in the Capitol in favor of doing something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global warming legislation remains a long shot for this year.

Proponents always knew it would be tough to get a bill with mandatory limits through a narrowly divided Congress and past President Bush. But the first bill to advance since Democrats won an effective majority in 2006 has run into unexpected roadblocks.

Some environmentalists are complaining that it isn't strong enough, and they worry that it may even be watered down. They want to wait to take up a bill after the November election, when Democrats might capture more seats in Congress, as well as the White House.

Many business groups are no more enthusiastic, saying the bill would drive up costs and make it harder for them to compete globally at a time of anxiety about the economy.

And if the criticism from both sides isn't enough, this is of course an election year -- a time when partisan tensions heighten in Congress, making it difficult to pass anything controversial.

Still, congressional leaders are determined to press ahead.

"We must pass the strongest bill we can," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, "but we must remember that the perfect cannot be the enemy of the very good."
  OR Coho Listed as EndangeredFebruary 06, 2008 14:30 The announcement by NOAA's Fisheries Service Monday that it was listing Oregon coast coho as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act should result in little difference to Oregon fisheries, Ralph Brown said.

"They've been managed as if they were federally endangered all along," said Brown, of Brookings, who is recognized as an expert in fishing and the ocean.

"I'm not sure there will be too much difference," he said. "For those areas that haven't been listed before, they will have to review their harvest plan. I think they'll find harvest plans currently being used are based on coho being considered endangered."

A federal district court said last October the agency had erred in deciding not to list the stock in 2006 because it took into account certain information provided by the state of Oregon. The court directed NOAA Fisheries to issue a new listing decision by Monday, without considering the information from Oregon that the court identified as not being the best available scientific information.

Oregon coast coho have been the subject of debate and litigation almost continuously from the time the agency was first petitioned to list the stock in 1993.

"As the court ordered," said Bob Lohn, head of the agency's Northwest regional office in Seattle, "we have made a new determination based on the information available to us in this limited time. This schedule didn't allow us to develop and consider new information about the condition of the habitat and the benefits the coho are receiving from the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds."

  Bush Budget Calls For Arctic Oil Drilling In 2010February 04, 2008 13:10 The Bush administration on Monday again asked Congress to allow oil and natural gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying $7 billion could be raised in leasing fees from energy companies.

In its proposed budget for the 2009 spending year, which begins on October 1, the White House said it assumed the initial tracts in the refuge could be leased during 2010.

The government would share half the $7 billion in leasing revenue with the state of Alaska.

However, the Democratic-controlled Congress is against opening the area to drilling and the two leading Democratic candidates for president also have opposed energy exploration there.

The refuge, which is home to a variety of wildlife such as polar bears and migratory birds, stretches across 19 million acres in the northeast corner of Alaska.

The White House wants to offer 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares) in the refuge's coastal plain for oil and natural gas exploration leases.

The Interior Department estimates the area that would be drilled holds between 5.7 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil.