Over the years, we've run a lot of stories about the spotted owl (most recently, Spotted owl or red herring? and Hostile Takeover). The threatened raptor, which depends on old growth forests, was blamed for the decline of logging in the 90s, and timber companies have continually pushed to reduce the bird's protection. Both enviros and industry sued the Bush administration over the most recent version of the recovery plan, including the amount of critical habitat set aside for the owl.
Now, the Obama administration says that rather than continuing to litigate, it will toss the Bush plan and rewrite it.
The Seattle Times reports:
Depending on how the plan is rewritten, it could jeopardize an initiative to more than triple logging in Western Oregon forests controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. And it casts into doubt a proposal to loosen restrictions on logging in owl habitat in national forests east of Washington's Cascade Mountains.
In deciding to reconsider the Bush plan, Department of Interior lawyers cited the interference of Julie MacDonald, a political appointee who meddled with at least a dozen threatened/endangered species decisions over the past several years. Interior recently filed similar motions in other politically-tainted cases, including suits over Gunnison sage grouse, Canada lynx, and bull trout. At long last, it looks like industry and political interests will finally take a backseat to science.
Whites are moving back into the city of Denver, and people of color are sprawling into suburbia, according to a case study in the Sunday edition of The Denver Post.
Hey, that’s the same story in Washington, D.C. Dubbed “Chocolate City,” D.C. is due to transition from majority black to majority white in 2014, according to some folks who made projections from past censuses.
Typical story for a lot of places: higher property values in the city drive lower-income households out. And those same property values also make it tough for certain types of land usage like urban gardens to blossom (literally) – all this because commercial ventures are more profitable.
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At first glance, I thought it was an April Fool's Day joke, the front-page headline in the Denver Post which announced that "Utah to ease liquor laws."
But upon further reading, I discovered that it was no joke. As of July 1, Utah's liquor laws will resemble those of most other states. You'll be able to walk into an establishment and order a drink, without having to join a "private club," and there will be no more "Zion curtains" to separate bartenders from their patrons.
And in a related but different new law, the state government has legalized the hobby of making beer at home in your spare time.
Years ago, federal law allowed Americans to make up to 200 gallons a year of wine for personal use, but it didn't allow for beer until 1976. Not that I paid much attention to that law, or any Colorado regulation, when I took up brewing my own in 1975. After all, the local grocery store sold "Blue Ribbon Hop-Flavored Malt Extract," and what else would you use that for?
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Tomorrow Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Mexico to discuss ways to halt the flow of guns across the border. Mexico has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, but its drug cartels are armed with high-powered weapons smuggled over the border from the United States. More than 6,000 people have died in Mexican drug wars since 2006.
Caveat: I do not own a gun, and never have. The only gun I've ever shot was a BB gun, and yeah, it was fun to hit the tin can. Many of my friends are gun owners, gunsmiths, collectors and hunters, and I support the right to bear arms -- up to a point. But we're far beyond that point in this country, and the Second Amendment has been used and abused to defend an absolute right for anyone to purchase any number of killing machines. We see the results of that paranoia-with-a-weapon play out on U.S. streets, schools, post offices, businesses and campuses every day, resulting in more than 30,000 gun deaths a year, about a third of them suicides.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said this week there is a correlation between Mexico's drug violence and the end of the U.S. ban on sales of assault weapons (the ban expired in 2004). Ninety percent of the guns confiscated in Mexico come from the United States.
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At their worst, carbon offsets are opaque, morally-ambiguous items that reek of guilt, arcane rites of penance and the potential for profiteering. When you buy an offset it's hard to tell whether your money will actually be used to plant the promised grove of trees or install, for example, a slew of compact florescent light bulbs. It's even tougher to ensure that those trees will sequester a meaningful amount of carbon, or that the light bulbs will remain intact. There's enough uncertainty in the whole process to leave you wondering what exactly you spent your money on, and whether your purchase had anything to do with the stated goal of combating global warming.
So thank goodness the folks at Beef Producer Magazine have shed some light on the situation. They've gone right ahead and grabbed the truth by the throat with an article titled, "Carbon Credits are Easy Money." (The link will connect you to a search page. Click on the top entry to read the Beef Producer article.)
You may have already guessed where this is going. Here's the lede from the story:Read More ...
How would you like to be a doctor with 37,000 patients? If you're the lone veterinarian in Washington's Adams County who treats food animals, that's how many cows, sheep and pigs await your attention. A fall 2007 survey showed that many counties don't have even a single vet trained to treat livestock. Three-quarters of newly-trained vets specialize in companion animals (dogs and cats), and the few practicing large-animal vets are starting to retire in droves.
The shortage is most acute in Midwestern farm states, but every Western state except Wyoming has at least one county with more than 5,000 food animals and zero large-animal vets. New Mexico and Montana are worst off, with at least five counties that have more than 25,000 food animals and no vets. And that's risky for public health and for food safety, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. The Billings Gazette reports:
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Yesterday, President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009. His signature ensures protection for more than 2 million acres of wilderness nationwide, and sets the long-awaited Navajo-Gallup water project in motion, delivering badly needed infrastructure and acre feet to the Navajo Nation.
More than 70,000 people in the Navajo Nation do not have easy access to clean drinking water. At least 40% of residents have to drive considerable distances to fill water drums, which makes it difficult for communities on the reservation to exist, much less grow or thrive. In Gallup, New Mexico, city wells are often contaminated by chemicals like sulfate and uranium, and water levels are dropping between 7-29 feet per year.
Historically, the Navajo have been excluded from western water allocation, as Matt Jenkins' 2008 story, "Seeking the Water Jackpot," explains. Last week, 247 Democrats and 38 Republicans voted to pass the omnibus bill, which guarantees an $870 million water delivery system that will transport 37,764 acre feet of water every year from the San Juan River in Shiprock to Gallup, New Mexcio, the Jicarilla Apache Nation in Arizona, and Window Rock, AZ. The project is set to be completed by 2010.
37,764 acre-feet is a drop in the bucket compared to the 600,000 acre feet in Navajo water rights that the Omnibus Act confirms. Infrastructure to deliver this amount of water could take up to 13 years to complete, depending on funding, but it will allow the Navajo to plan their future with more confidence.
The fruit farmers in Paonia have been a bit worried about our weird weather. Spring came early, so the trees started budding. And this week, it’s been cold – sometimes freezing. If it gets too frosty, we might be out of luck for the season.
Something else that’s on farmers' minds: H.R. 875, a bill sponsored by Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro, D-Conn. Organically-minded bloggers are saying that her husband is on Monsanto’s payroll, and we all know Monsanto is the arch nemesis of organically-minded people! But to clarify, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Monsanto hasn’t been a client of Stanley Greenberg’s (DeLauro’s husband) for more than 10 years.
Now all the organos are saying that this bill, if passed, will do in small-scale local farms.
The bill is called the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. Basically, DeLauro seeks to establish a Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services, so that foods and drugs are not regulated under the same entity. It makes sense: you don’t keep your veggies in the medicine cabinet, do you?
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March 25th: An association of Hispanic residents from two Texas barrios near the Rio Grande river file a lawsuit complaining that the Department of Homeland Security has acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The group, called Barrio de Colores, hopes to stop the Border Patrol from going forward with their plan to apply the herbicide Imazapyr to the Carrizo cane lining the river.
Carrizo cane (Arundo donax) grows in thick, claustrophobic stands along the Rio Grande. The forests can grow up to 30 feet high, and are scored by a maze of footpaths. One of the fastest growing plants on land, Carrizo cane has been used since ancient Egypt to make flutes and paper, and is still used by people in Mexico for baskets and pinatas.
Photo courtesy of U.S.
Department of Homeland
None of these qualities endear it to the Texas Border Patrol. To them, the cane just provides excellent cover for illegal immigrants and criminals, and they're on a mission to eradicate it.
At first glance, comparisons of the Border Patrol plan to the application of Agent Orange in Vietnam seem hystrionic. It's easy to understand why people don't want a chemical contained in products with names like "Arsenal," "Stalker," and "Assault" drifting over their homes, but the EPA characterizes Imazapyr as a low risk to human or animal health. Tom Dudley, an expert in tamarisk control who currently works at UCSB, says that, although he's "one of the most anti-chemical people around...not all chemicals are the same." He considers Imazapyr "pretty non-toxic."
However, disagreement about how dangerous the chemical really is, environmental concerns, and the Border Patrol's failure to invite public participation in their environmental assessment have sparked a battle between the Mexican government, the Texas Border Patrol, and communities who live along the river. Ground zero is Laredo, Texas, where the first test application of Imazapyr is scheduled to start today, unless Barrio de Colores can stop it.
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"Shock" and "terror:" that's how Colorado resident Amee Ellsworth feels about her tap water. The stuff stinks, it causes strange sounds in her toilet and washing machine; and worst of all, she's afraid it'll blow up her house. When she turns on her kitchen faucet and flicks a lighter, foot-high flames leap from the tap.
Ellsworth lives in Fort Lupton, in Weld County, home to nearly half of all active oil and gas wells in the state. Eight of them are clustered near Ellsworth's home, and at least one of those has apparently been leaking methane into her water supply. Plenty of folks may think about the collateral costs of our collective appetite for fossil fuels, but Ellsworth -- along with a handful of neighbors who've learned they too can light their water on fire -- is being forced to foot more than her share of the common bill.
You can watch a video of the flaming faucets here.Read More ...