The Environment

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  Judge Throws Out Bush Environment LawMarch 31, 2007 23:26 A federal judge has thrown out a new law from the Bush administration that allowed forest managers more power when approving logging and other projects without the long process of environmental reviews. The judge decided the government did not adequately consider the effects the new rules would have on the environment and did not gather appropriate public opinion on the issue.

The ruling affects all 155 national forests and 192 million acres of national forest. The judge added that the rules could not be enacted until proper environmental reviews are conducted.

The rules were already being challenged by 15 environmental groups that brought two lawsuits against them. The judge's ruling is for both cases.

Some forest managers had supported the new rules, claiming lengthy studies sometimes take as long as seven years to complete. The rules would have called for studies to be completed in two to three years.

 
  Interior Assistant Secretary Manipulated Endangered Species ScienceMarch 30, 2007 09:05 A report released today by the Inspector General of the Department of Interior, IG, found that Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald, who has no biological training, rode roughshod over numerous decisions by agency scientists concerning protection of endangered species.

The report also found that MacDonald violated federal ethics rules by sending what the IG's office called "nonpublic information" to industry lobbyists with groups such as the Pacific Legal Foundation. This self-proclaimed "national leader" in the effort to reform the Endangered Species Act has successfully mounted a number of legal challenges to critical habitat reviews on behalf of their clients such as the California Farm Bureau, the Washington Farm Bureau, and the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association.

The report was conducted at the request of Congressman Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The Inspector General was asked to investigate based on an anonymous report that MacDonald had "bullied, insulted, and harassed the professional staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to change documents and alter biological reporting regarding the Endangered Species program."

"Through interviewing various sources, including FWS employees and senior officials, and reviewing pertinent documents and e-mails," the IG wrote, "we confirmed that MacDonald has been heavily involved with editing, commenting on, and reshaping the Endangered Species Program's scientific reports from the field."

MacDonald admitted that her degree is in civil engineering and that she has no formal educational background in natural sciences, such as biology.
  Report Raps Interior Official Over LeaksMarch 29, 2007 15:44 A government official broke federal rules and should face punishment for leaking information about endangered species to private groups, the Interior Department's watchdog said.

The department's deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks acknowledged releasing information that was not supposed to be made public to organizations such as the California Farm Bureau Federation and Pacific Legal Foundation, according to the agency's inspector general.

Environmentalists and other critics contend Julie MacDonald undermined federal endangered species protections. In the report by Earl Devaney, Interior Department officials describe MacDonald as a political appointee bent on manipulating science to fit her policy goals, which they said favor developers and industry.

The report said MacDonald:

_Removed more than 80 percent of almost 300 miles of streams that were to be protected to help bull trout recover in the Northwest's Klamath River basin.

_Tried to remove protections for a rare jumping mouse in the Rocky Mountains based on a questionable study.

_Pressured the Fish and Wildlife Service to alter findings on the Kootenai River sturgeon in Idaho and Montana so dam operations would not be harmed.

 
  Don't Undermine Endangered Species Law, Dicks WarnsMarch 29, 2007 09:00 U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks issued a stern warning Wednesday to the Bush administration not to weaken the Endangered Species Act, in the wake of a leaked U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service document that suggests the agency was considering an overhaul to the rules.

Dicks, at a hearing of the Interior appropriations subcommittee he chairs, told Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall that he should get congressional approval for any far-reaching changes to regulations underpinning the law.

"If you're going to make these kind of fundamental, sweeping changes, they ought to come up to Congress, rather than being done by regulation in a way that looks as if it is very critically undermining the intent of the act," Dicks, D-Bremerton, told Hall.

Hall responded that endangered-species revisions, first reported this week by the online magazine Salon, were only part of a draft that has since undergone further changes. And decisions about any changes in the rules haven't been made, he said.

He assured Dicks, "I will not support anything, even going to the secretary [of the Interior] that our field staff and I can't support."

 
  World's Tallest Man Ties KnotMarch 28, 2007 09:40 After searching high and low, the world's tallest man has married a woman two-thirds his height, a Chinese newspaper reported Wednesday.

Bao Xishun, a 7-foot-9-inch (2.36-meter) herdsman from Inner Mongolia, married saleswoman Xia Shujian, who was 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 meters) tall, several days ago, the Beijing New reported.

Bao's 28-year-old bride is half his age and hailed from his hometown of Chifeng, even though marriage advertisements were sent around the world, it said.

"After a long and careful selection, the effort has been finally paid off," the newspaper said.

Bao was confirmed last year by the Guinness World Records as the world's tallest person.

Bao was in the news in December after he used his long arms to save two dolphins by pulling out plastic from their stomachs.

The dolphins got sick after nibbling on plastic from the edge of their pool at an aquarium in Liaoning province.

Attempts to use surgical instruments to remove the plastic failed because the dolphins' stomachs contracted in response to the instruments, Chinese media reported.
  Climate Zones To DisappearMarch 27, 2007 11:36 UP TO two-fifths of the Earth will have a hotter climate by the end of the century, according to a study that predicts the effects of global warming.

The changes — which will have a devastating effect on biodiversity in areas such as the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests — will wipe out numerous animals that are unable to move to stay within their preferred climate range. They will have to evolve rapidly or die out.

Lead author John Williams, of the University of Wisconsin, said: "How do you conserve the biological diversity of these entire systems if the physical environment is changing and potentially disappearing?"

Studies already suggest that animals are shifting towards the poles at six kilometres a decade.
  New Bush Plan To Gut Endangered Species ActMarch 27, 2007 11:34 The U.S. Interior Department is preparing a wide-ranging set of regulations which substantially weaken the federal Endangered Species Act, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Biological Diversity.

"These draft regulations slash the Endangered Species Act from head to toe," said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "They undermine every aspect of law - recovery, listing, preventing extinction, critical habitat, federal oversight and habitat conservation plans - all of it is gutted."

The draft regulations would:

* Remove recovery of a species or population as a protection standard;
* Allow projects to proceed that have been determined to threaten species with extinction;
* Permit destruction of all restored habitat within critical habitat areas;
* Prevent critical habitat areas from being used to protect against disturbance, pesticides, exotic species, and disease;
* Severely limit the listing of new endangered species; and
* Empower states to veto endangered species introductions as well as administer virtually all aspects of the Endangered Species Act within their borders.

"Kicking responsibility for endangered species protection to the states will make it nearly impossible to restore national oversight when states fail to protect endangered species," stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel R. Patterson. "State biologists will be under enormous political pressure to accommodate development interests while lacking, in many cases, even rudimentary legal protection to defend scientific concerns about species survival."

Following the collapse of former U.S. Representative Richard Pombo's efforts to legislatively weaken the Endangered Species Act in 2006, the Bush administration pledged to use administrative rulemaking to accomplish some of the same objectives.
  Water Deliveries Jeopardized By Endangered-Species RulingMarch 25, 2007 11:56 The state's largest water-delivery system, which serves millions of people from the Bay Area to Southern California, will have to shut down in 60 days unless water officials comply with the state endangered-species law, a judge ruled.

The decision, which sent shock waves through water agencies up and down California on Friday, says state water officials failed to obtain a required state permit allowing them to kill threatened or endangered salmon and Delta smelt.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch, in a lawsuit filed by a sport-fishing group, ruled that the Department of Water Resources was violating the California Endangered Species Act, but said he would delay turning off the pumps for 60 days to allow state agencies to comply. The ruling also said the 60-day clock will not start ticking until it becomes final following a 15-day comment period.

While the two-month delay offers a chance for both sides to work out a compromise and avoid a shut-off, state officials also said they would ask the judge to reconsider, arguing that they are trying to develop a long-term conservation strategy and that shutting off the pumps would deal a devastating economic blow.
  Gore Takes Climate Fight To CongressMarch 21, 2007 14:46 Al Gore - star of an Oscar-winning movie, former US vice president and the object of 2008 presidential speculation - on Wednesday took his crusade against global warming to Capitol Hill.

Glad-handing like the lifelong politician he was until losing the 2000 presidential race to George W Bush, Gore called his return to Congress "an emotional occasion."

But he did not mince words on what he termed the current climate crisis: "Our world faces a true planetary emergency."

Gore testified before a joint House panel dealing with energy, air quality and the environment and was to address the Senate Environment and Public Works committee later in the day.

At the House hearing, he was flanked by cardboard boxes that he said contained some 516,000 letters calling for congressional action to stop global warming.
  American Crocodile No Longer Endangered SpeciesMarch 20, 2007 12:28 The American crocodile has rebounded from close to being extinct. The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service says it has been lowered from an endangered to a threatened species on the federal list.

The reptile still remains protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. But the reclassification signals that scientists believe it's no longer on the brink of disappearing in South Florida, its only U-S habitat.

The change in status is largely ceremonial since all the same protections remain under federal law, making it illegal to harass, poach or kill the reptiles.

Endangered status means an animal is at a foreseeable risk of extinction. Threatened status means a species could become endangered in the future if protections are not maintained.
  Florida Buys Time For Ridge Of Rare SpeciesMarch 20, 2007 08:40 It might not look like much, but there's nowhere else on Earth like it.

The sandy strip of land jutting at most about 300 feet above sea level and running 150 miles down the middle of the state was once the only bit of dry ground poking up through a shallow prehistoric ocean. What grew there 2 million or 3 million years ago - and still grows today - wasn't pretty: a sparse, sandy habitat covered with underbrush.

Scrub: Even the name sounds ugly, preservationists admit. But for dozens of species, it's food, shelter - and survival.

Indeed, the scrubby Lake Wales Ridge, extending from Lake County south to Highlands County, is home to one of the highest concentrations of threatened and endangered species in the world - 33 plant and 36 wildlife species are listed - and is the only habitat just like it on the planet.

But over the years, more than 85 percent of it has been plowed under for citrus groves and paved over for housing developments. Now, in an effort to protect what's left, the state has added 11,000 acres in south Polk County to its list of lands targeted for conservation, called Florida Forever.

"We are really pleased," said Jeff Spence, director of Environmental Affairs for Polk County.

Saving the 11,000 acres near Lake Wales, he said, would prevent further degradation of parts bordering U.S. Highway 27 and two miles of lake frontage on Crooked Lake, a state-designated "outstanding" water body. The area includes what has been termed "one of the best remaining unprotected" scrub habitats, and 13 other natural communities, including cypress swamps, flatwoods, sandhill, freshwater marshes and seepage slopes, which are bogs where diverse plant life thrives.
  Climate Scientist Says Government Censorship Has Confused PublicMarch 19, 2007 21:58 A top government climate scientist told Congress today that political appointees without scientific backgrounds are corrupting the scientific process and confusing the public by censoring scientists and improperly editing their research on global warming.


"I believe that the nature of these edits is a good part of the reason for why there is a substantial gap between the understanding of global warming by the relevant scientific community and the knowledge of the public and policymakers," said James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "There has been so much doubt cast on our understanding that they think it's still completely up in the air."


Also sitting at the witness table were two former Bush administration political appointees — Phillip Cooney and George Deutsch — who have found themselves at the center of separate recent climate science controversies.


In January 2006, Hansen complained that NASA officials, including Deutsch, were insisting that his lectures, media interviews and papers be approved in advance by public affairs staff at NASA headquarters. Deutsch, a former intern for George W. Bush's re-election campaign, had no scientific training.
  Bush Administration Reinterprets Species LawMarch 19, 2007 11:44 This is completely ridiculous and ignores 20 years of good research into the importance of diversified habitat for species health.

Tired of losing lawsuits brought by conservation groups, the Bush administration issued a new interpretation of the Endangered Species Act that would allow it to protect plants and animals only in areas where they are struggling to survive, while ignoring places they are healthy or have already died out.

The opinion by U.S. Department of Interior Solicitor David Bernhardt was posted with no formal announcement on the department's Web site on Friday.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall, contacted in Washington, D.C., said the new policy would allow them to focus on protecting species in areas where they are in trouble, rather than having to list a species over its entire range.
  Petition Filed To Protect Pygmy Owl Again As Endangered Species In Arizona And MexicoMarch 15, 2007 10:08 Conservationists filed a petition today to re-establish protection for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl as an endangered species. The petition asks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the owl as endangered in three possible ways: in just Arizona in the Sonoran Desert as a whole (Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico) or throughout the range of the western subspecies (Arizona, Sonora and Sinaloa). All three entities qualify for Endangered Species Act protection.


"The pygmy owl should never have been removed from the endangered species list," said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity and primary author of the petition. "The pygmy owl is near extinction in Arizona and sharply declining in northern Sonora. It desperately needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive."


The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl was listed as an endangered species in Arizona in 1997. In 2003, a federal court ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to better explain its decision that the Arizona population is "distinct" from birds in Mexico. In response, the agency removed the population from the list in 2006, arguing that while the pygmy owl is highly endangered, it does not qualify as a "distinct population segment" because it is not significant to the species as a whole.


"The court did not order the agency to delist the pygmy owl," said Jenny Neeley, southwest representative of Defenders of Wildlife. "Our petition includes data that illustrate that the pygmy owl is in danger of extinction throughout the entire Sonoran Desert."
  Lifting Chinese Tiger Trade Ban A Catastrophe For ConservationMarch 13, 2007 14:06 Any lifting or easing of the current Chinese ban in tiger trade is likely to be the death sentence for the endangered cat species, a new TRAFFIC report says.

The report, Taming the Tiger Trade, warns that Chinese business owners who stand to profit from the tiger trade are putting increasing pressure on the Chinese government to overturn the 1993 ban. This would allow domestic trade in captive-bred tiger parts for use in traditional medicine and for clothing to resume.

According to WWF and TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring programme of WWF and IUCN-the World Conservation Union) the Chinese ban has been essential to prevent the extinction of tigers by curbing demand in what was historically the world’s largest consumer in tiger parts.

In compliance with the resolutions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the ban has virtually eliminated the domestic market for tiger products in traditional medicines.

“In the early 1990s, we feared that Chinese demand for tiger parts would drive the tiger to extinction by the new millennium. The tiger survives today thanks in large part to China’s prompt, strict and committed action,” said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC.
  15,590 Reasons To Put At-Risk Species FirstMarch 13, 2007 11:50 David Cameron opened up a second front in his green crusade yesterday by demanding more action to protect endangered plants and animals, as well as tackling climate change.

The day after the Conservatives announced their controversial proposals to raise taxes on flying, the party leader insisted: “My vision of a greener future may start with the vital need to tackle climate change but it certainly doesn’t end there. We need to open up a second front in the green revolution . . . we need a greener Earth as well as greener skies.”

He told business leaders in the City of London that as well as curbing greenhouse gas emissions, more should be done to protect endangered species.

He said that 15,590 species were threatened with extinction because of man’s activities, and that the extinction rate had doubled since the Industrial Revolution. “One quarter of all mammals as well as one in eight of every bird species is judged to be at high risk of dying out for ever over the next few years because of mankind’s relentless grab for finite resources of our shared home,” he said. “This unconsidered cull of our natural inheritance has implications which reach well beyond our generation.”
  Wolves Off Of Endangered Species ListMarch 12, 2007 09:19 For three decades, the federal government has listed timberwolves as an endangered species in the western Great Lakes region.

That ended at midnight Sunday, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service turned over management of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to state and local officials.
Shooting wolves in the area won't be a federal crime anymore, although state laws still prohibit it in most cases.

Thirty-five years ago, there were about 500 wolves in northern Minnesota, with none reported in Michigan or Wisconsin.

Today, there are an estimated 3,000 wolves in Minnesota and 500 each in Michigan and Wisconsin.
  Service Evaluating Hawaii Species ListMarch 12, 2007 09:02 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing whether 69 Pacific plant and animal species are properly placed on the federal endangered species list.

While a few of the species being considered are from other parts of the Pacific, most are Hawaiian.

They include such charismatic animals as the 'alala, or Hawaiian crow, which now survives only in captivity; the 'io, or Hawaiian hawk; the koloa, or Hawaiian duck; the Big Island's yellow palila; O'ahu's 'elepaio; and the puaiohi, or small Kaua'i thrush, which has responded well to captive rearing and reintroduction into the wild.

Among the plant species on the list for review are the Mauna Loa silversword, a group of exceedingly rare but beautiful cyanea, the small Nihoa island fan palm Pritchardia remota, the giant Big Island fan palm Pritchardia schattaueri, and a small native Kaua'i violet with the romantic name nani wai'ale'ale.

The service is required every five years to review each species on the endangered species list, looking into trends in their populations and locations, any new information about their biology or threats to them, and any efforts made to conserve them. The goal of the review is to determine whether they should be reclassified. Some might be extinct, so they can be removed from the list, and some might not any longer be in danger and could be removed. Some might be moved from endangered to threatened status or vice versa.
  Brown Pelicans Are No Longer Imperiled, U.S. Agency SaysMarch 11, 2007 17:16 Brown pelicans – including the kind seen regularly by San Diego County beachgoers – no longer are endangered and should be removed from the nation's list of imperiled species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in its first comprehensive review of the birds' status in nearly 30 years.

A spokeswoman said the agency has money for the official delisting effort, which is expected to start by year's end.
The Fish and Wildlife decision follows a long campaign by the Endangered Species Recovery Council, a La Jolla-based conservation group that said the pelicans had recovered from steep declines in the 1950s and 1960s. The council aimed to show that the federal Endangered Species Act works despite controversy about its effectiveness.

“We try to . . . make sure that species get the help they need when they need it,” said Bill Everett of Julian, a seabird biologist and founding member of the council. “Let's not spend a lot of time and effort trying to help species like the pelican that don't need it anymore.”
  U.S. Accused Of Silencing Experts On Polar Bears, Climate Change / Scientists Told Not To Speak Officially At ConferencesMarch 09, 2007 13:41 The federal agency responsible for protecting Arctic polar bears has barred two Alaska scientists from speaking about polar bears, climate change or sea ice at international meetings in the next few weeks, a move that environmentalists say is censorship.

The rule was issued last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but was made public this week. The federal government has proposed listing the polar bear as a threatened species, and the wildlife agency is receiving public comment on the proposal.

"It's a gag order," said Deborah Williams, a former high-level Interior Department official in Anchorage, Alaska, who received documents on Wednesday from Alaska scientists who chose to remain unnamed. The documents make the subjects of polar bears, climate change and sea ice off limits to all scientists who haven't been cleared to speak on the topics.

Two of the memos are copies of those prepared for Craig Perham and Janet E. Hohn, who are traveling to Russia and Norway this month and in April. The scientists "will not be speaking on or responding to these issues'' of climate change, polar bears and sea ice, the memos say. Before any trip, such a memo must be sent to the administrator of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington.
  Wolves Need TimeMarch 09, 2007 08:27 A federal proposal to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list attracted more opponents than supporters to a public hearing Wednesday, with many voicing concern that neighboring Idaho could decimate wolf populations if it is allowed to manage the animals.

About 60 people attended a meeting and public hearing at Pendleton's Red Lion Hotel to discuss the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to take the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains off the endangered species list. Five meetings have been held in Western states that would be affected by the decision, with the last scheduled today in Spokane.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services estimated there were 1,243 gray wolves in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana in 2006. The majority, 713 wolves to 46 breeding pairs, were in central Idaho.

The agency said the minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rockies is 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves for three consecutive years, a goal that was achieved in 2002 and has been exceeded every year since then.
  Lawmakers Criticize Bush EPA Budget ProposalMarch 08, 2007 13:03 The Bush administration's plan to cut some $500 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's budget shortchanges vital environmental programs and is unacceptable, members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee told the agency chief on Wednesday.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson endured a litany of criticism during the budget hearing, with committee chair Barbara Boxer leading the charge.

Boxer, a California Democrat, called the budget proposal "shocking," highlighting a $400 million cut to wastewater treatment projects, a $35 million cut to air pollution monitoring and a $7 million cut for the toxic waste cleanup program.

"This budget sends an unmistakable message to people who are concerned about our health and a clean environment - you are not a high priority," said Boxer, who questioned Johnson's commitment to the agency's mission to protect public health and the environment.

"I don't think an EPA administrator should sit back and take the kind of cuts to programs that you are taking and you in essence are endorsing," Boxer said. "Your job is to fight for the environment."

Johnson defended the $7.2 billion spending plan and said it provided the agency with ample resources to meet it goals.

 
  Alaska Questions Science Of Polar Bear ListingMarch 08, 2007 09:11 The range of rationalization in these arguments from the side of the anti-environmentalists is truly amazing.

Officially, the state of Alaska has not decided whether to back a federal proposal to list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

But speaking at a federal hearing, Gov. Sarah Palin's point person on polar bears stopped just short of saying it was a lousy idea.

Tina Cunnings, a biologist and a special assistant to the commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, questioned whether polar bears really need sea ice to survive. She said polar bears are adaptable to use land for hunting, and though their preferred food, ice seals, may be declining, bears are adapting to alternative food sources.

She also testified that a listing in the United States ultimately could harm bears in Canada because Inuit villagers would no longer have an incentive to preserve them for American hunters. An ESA listing would ban importation of polar bear trophy hides.

"We are concerned that a listing of polar bears under ESA in the United States may actually be harmful for the conservation of polar bear populations internationally," she said.

In a state dependent on the petroleum industry for most of its revenue, and actively trying to spark another economic boom in the form of a natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48 states, the fear of restrictions on development from the Endangered Species Act may outweigh the desire to add more protections for America's polar bears on a warming planet.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been vague about what a recovery plan might entail if polar bears are listed as threatened. But the law requires federal agencies to evaluate their regulatory actions with respect to any threatened species if habitat, in this case, sea ice, is designated as critical.

Supporters of the listing want the federal government to declare global warming as the direct cause of harm to polar bear habitat, sea ice, and consider limits on utilities and industry producing greenhouse gasses, not only in Alaska but throughout the country.
  Craig, Crapo Introduce Endangered Species Reform BillsMarch 07, 2007 11:15 Idaho's two U.S. senators have introduced bills in Congress to make changes to how the Endangered Species Act is administered.

A slimmed-down version of one of the bills that focuses primarily in tax incentives for landowners was introduced in the Senate Finance Committee in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, presented a bill that both the committee chairman and the ranking minority member have signed on to, giving it a good chance of passing on the Senate floor, said Lindsey Nothern, press spokesman for Crapo.

Crapo was also optimistic as he discussed the legislation last week in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

"I'm positive about this legislation because we developed it in a very open, collaborative manner," the senator said.

The bill offers technical assistance and protection from incidental take provisions and encourages landowners to get involved in projects that will help protect endangered species and their habitat, Northern said. The bill stops short of a formal wildlife habitat program. Grants given to property owners to protect endangered species would not be treated as taxable income.

 
  UN Official: Brazil Biofuel Deal RiskyMarch 06, 2007 09:30 A proposed ethanol alliance that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to forge with President Bush later this week poses both opportunities and risks for the environment, a top U.N. environmental official said Monday.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said growing international demands for ethanol and other biofuels can threaten the Amazon rain forest if safeguards are not put in place because the world's largest remaining tropical wilderness is a target area for agriculture.

Brazil's main biofuel is ethanol made from sugarcane. While sugarcane cultivation is minimal now in the Amazon, some environmentalists fear that growing demands for the fuel could push cane growers into the rainforest.
  Critics Take Aim At Polar Bear ListingMarch 05, 2007 08:55 Needless to say... we support the polar bear listing...

A marked decline in sea ice off Alaska's coast is not enough to take the drastic step of listing polar bears — a species dependent on ice — as threatened, critics said Thursday at the first of three public hearings on the proposal.
Restrictions that could kick in with a listing under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming would be too burdensome, given the unknowns about the future of polar bears, such as the extent of the loss of Arctic sea ice in the next 100 years and whether the animals would face extinction, according to opponents.

"The listing likely will force anyone in America whose business requires the emission of greenhouse gases to go through an additional layer of consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service, creating delays and expenses," said Marilyn Crockett, deputy director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, a trade group.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking testimony through April 9 on the proposal to list polar bears as threatened, or likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. The more drastic listing under the law is "endangered," in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

 
  Groups Sue to Stop Land Exchange of Endangered Kangaroo Rat HabitatMarch 02, 2007 22:12 The Center for Biological Diversity and San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society will shortly file suit to stop a land exchange that will eliminate a 1,170-acre endangered species reserve on the former March Air Force Base (now March Air Reserve Base). The March Preserve supports one of the last, best populations of the endangered Stephens’ kangaroo rat as well as a host of other imperiled plants and animals.

“The March Preserve was set aside for this endangered mammal nearly 15 years ago and is now one of the backbones for conservation of the Stephens’ kangaroo rat,” said Drew Feldmann, president of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. “This is prime occupied habitat, absolutely vital to the survival of the species. It is unfortunate that the Fish and Wildlife Service would release the preserve for development without considering the full impacts.”

The March Preserve was originally set aside in perpetuity in 1990 to mitigate the loss of habitat that resulted from the expansion of Highway 215 and the 215/60 interchange. In 1996, the March Preserve was included as one of the core reserves for the Long-term Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Habitat Conservation Plan. It provides a key connection for gene flow among connected areas and conserves the northern range of the species. The elimination of the preserve has been styled as an “exchange” for other Stephens’ kangaroo rat habitat farther east, but the new habitat is outside the plan boundaries and will not maintain the integrity of the core reserve system.
  Suit Filed to Protect Polar Bears and WalrusMarch 02, 2007 22:11 Polar bears and walrus are facing a serious threat in the Arctic from expanding oil and gas exploration because federal regulations don’t assess the combined risks posed by such activity and global warming, according to a suit filed today in federal court by environmental groups. The suit challenges U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations that allow harm to the animals through oil and gas activities in the Beaufort Sea and adjacent coastal plains, where global warming is shrinking ice sheets that are critical to survival of the species.

“Polar bears can suffer harm from activities such as drilling, seismic work and transportation which disturb feeding, cause abandonment of maternity dens and generally disrupt polar bear life cycles,” said Earthjustice attorney Clayton Jernigan, who filed the suit on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment.

The Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t assess impacts in the context of a warming Arctic, and failed to demand that appropriate protective measures be taken by those engaged in exploration, said Kassie Siegel, climate program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Siegel was lead author of the petition that convinced the federal government to propose listing the polar bear as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming.
  Senator Reid Works To Protect Endangered And Threatened SpeciesMarch 02, 2007 13:45 U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada cosponsored bipartisan legislation to create incentives for private landowners who help protect threatened or endangered wildlife.

"This bill is a win-win for both endangered species and landowners around the country and here in Nevada," said Reid. "Private landowners play a vital role in preserving the environment and its inhabitants, especially since their backyards are home to threatened plant, insect, and animal species. This legislation will enable individuals to take action themselves to protect our nation's endangered species." The authorization for spending under Endangered Species Act expired on October 1, 1992. The new tax bill, S.700, will provide a permanent stream of funding—$400 million in tax credits annually—plus additional deductions and exclusions to private land owners who have property where endangered species are found.




The habitat protection easement tax credit is available to taxpayers who develop a habitat management plan to maintain an environment that would reduce threats to the species. By placing an easement on private land, they can then enter into an agreement with a federal or state agency. A perpetual easement gives rise to the most valuable tax credit: 100 percent of the difference between the value of the property prior to entering the agreement and the value after entering the agreement. A 30-year easement gives rise to a tax credit worth 75 percent of the difference.