Last week, the Idaho Statesman newspaper published an article about recreational vehicle impacts on wolverines in the Payette, Boise, and Sawtooth National Forests. The piece focused on a study investigating questions about the extent to which snowmobilers and skiers disturb denning female wolverines, and researchers' desire to find out whether winter backcountry recreation really does threaten the animals. Now that the wolverine is up for consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act, answering this question has become pretty important.
Snowmobilers, backcountry skiers, and advocacy groups all have a stake in the outcome of this study. The script of the traditional Western endangered species conflict [PDF] calls for outraged recreationists to accuse environmental advocacy groups and the federal government of infringing on their rights, while environmental advocacy groups evoke wilderness and science to enforce their aims. Meanwhile the researchers remain stuck in the limbo of trying to maintain objectivity while taking shots from all sides. Wolves and spotted owls are probably the best examples of this predictable drama, which serves--over and over again, ad nauseum--as a proxy for deeply rooted values conflicts.
If the US Fish and Wildlife Service determines that wolverines are threatened, land managers may have the latitude to make land use changes to remote backcountry in order to protect wolverines--if researchers determine that human disturbance actually does result in den abandonment.
Hidden in the Statesman article, however, is a line that suggests that the wolverine case could turn out differently: "The study about wolverines is co-sponsored by the Idaho Snowmobile Association."
For four years Boston-based photographer Eirik Johnson, a Seattle native, travelled around Washington, Oregon, and northern California taking pictures of loggers and fishermen. His photographs, collected into the series "Sawdust Mountain," are on display at the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington until this Sunday. The series depicts the visual impact of natural resource extraction--clearcuts and slash piles, dams and gill nets--alongside the social impact of collapsed natural resource-based industries. Former timber boom towns like Aberdeen, Wash., decorated with murals of men using cross-cut saws in old growth forests, now have abandoned log dumps and factory buildings and a population struggling to find an economic alternative to timber.
The photographs document both man's awesome ability to alter the natural environment and his adaptability: mills now cut less desirable species like alder instead of fir or cedar, forest workers salvage cedar shakes from old growth stumps, and nurseries and hatcheries produce millions of seedlings and eggs to supplement natural supply. These images are disturbing but not judgmental, inviting sympathy for the people still dependent on the natural resource-based economy rather than animosity. The photos and the people in them are sad and gray and hushed, hunched beneath a perpetually cloudy and beautiful sky, and the series comprises what Johnson describes as a "melancholy love letter of sorts" to life in the rural Northwest.
the University of Washington exhibit Johnson's work is accompanied by a
collection of old-growth logging photographs taken in the late 1800s
and early 1900s by the likes of Darius Kinsey and Carleton Watkins.
The Sundance Film Festival is underway at Park City, Utah. This year the annual event is being covered by the alternative media news program Democracy Now!. Today, Democracy Now aired an interview with Sundance founder and LA native Robert Redford.
Redford was asked to describe Utah where he owns land and a home. He did not hesitate - describing what he called Utah's "theocratic stance" and alleging that it is "overdeveloped". You can listen to or read the interview by following this link.
Late in the interview, Goodman asked Redford for his opinion of the Obama Presidency and by implication the Democratic Party’s control of the federal government for the past 12 months. It is a question that is on the minds of many left-leaning and progressive Americans: why does government under the Democrats seem less confident and effective compared to government under the Republicans? Redford suggested the problem was essentially that Obama is too nice a guy; that he went for bipartisanship rather than aggressively using the mandate he had been given. He contrasted this with Bush II who had no legitimate mandate but acted as if he did.Read More ...
When I first saw the headlines coming out of Arizona regarding a push to regulate tribal ceremonies, I couldn't help but think tribal sovereignty might be in danger.
But then I learned that the effort is coming from tribal leaders themselves in response to the three Sedona, AZ deaths and 19 illnesses that took place as a result of a non-Indian sweat lodge in October.
The horror-inducing mock Native American ceremony was led by spiritual guru James Ray, who's being investigated for his role in the situation. His lawyers have said his actions weren't criminal.
citizens have long said that Native-based sacred rituals shouldn't be
propagated by new-age spiritualists who really don't have a solid
foundation in what they are trying to do.
Deer hunting season is over in the West. And if you were a good aim, your freezer is chock full of venison — looking a lot like the meat section at Costco. But be warned, new research suggests that eating game shot with lead bullets may expose you and your family to lead, a poisonous heavy metal.
A large federal study recently discovered that deer hunters and their families have, on average, 66 percent more lead in their bloodstream. And although none of the participants in the study had blood lead levels high enough to be considered poisonous, experts are still concerned.
The lead-exposure-via-wild-venison connection was brought to attention by Dr. William Cornatzer, a long time hunter, Peregrine Fund member, and professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks. After attending a Peregrine Fund meeting about the California condor — a bird whose populations suffered in part from eating lead-riddled animal carcasses — Cornatzer theorized that humans, just like the condor, are exposed to lead by eating wild deer shot with lead bullets.
Read More ...
Weyerhauser – the nation’s largest timber company – has announced that it will convert itself into a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). The company’s stock rose about 7% when the conversion was announced in December.
The Weyerhauser announcement came as no surprise to those familiar with western forest management; it has been under discussion for several years. Many forest products companies with large forest holdings have already converted to REITs or created REITs to complement other operations.
Large corporate owners control a good amount of the West’s prime development property. Once remote, these holdings are now on the fringes of cities like Seattle and Portland. Where I live along the Redwood Coast, timber giant Green Diamond Resources (formerly Simpson) owns forest lands – now mostly clearcuts and tree plantations - on hills and ridges surrounding the Humboldt Bay Metropolitan Area (where the cities of Eureka and Arcata are located).Read More ...
Ray Ring’s response to Andy Stahl’s letter (12-21 & 1-4 edition) taking exception to a point in Ray’s article on the Clinton Administration’s roadless area rulemaking ( 11-9 edition) was not adequate. While there are partisans within the Forest Service on each “side” of the roadless debate, anyone who works closely with the agency knows that its management levels overwhelmingly retain and support the Forest Service’s long-standing bias against any action which closes land to commercial exploitation - including the Clinton Roadless Rule. Therefore it is implausible to imply that pro-roadless protection and anti-roadless protection intimidation of underlings was equally practiced.
If you want to understand the Forest Service, follow the money. You will find that information on how budgets are developed is the most difficult information to extract from Forest Service managers. The anti-land protection bias within Forest Service organizational culture is tied to that budget process which continues to be dominated by the timber sale program. In order to build their organizations and retain staff positions, district rangers and forest supervisors must compete for funds with other management units; competition to get out the cut - and thereby to secure a larger budget - is the primary form this competition takes. Until these budget incentives change, anti-land protection bias will continue as a prime feature of Forest Service organizational culture.Read More ...
In 2007, the Oxford American Dictionary named "locavore" the word of the year. As most High Country News readers know, locavores are people who choose to consume food that is locally grown, harvested, or produced, usually within 100 miles of the purchase point. The locavore movement came into being after a small group of people realized that the food they ate wasn't just sustenance, but a political, social and ecological choice and statement. They realized that eating food grown and produced close to home builds local economies, fosters accountability from producers, reduces fossil fuel dependence and carbon output and usually results in healthier and more environmentally sound food. As with many good ideas, the idea of eating locally grew, slowly at first, and then rapidly, until just four years after the movement started, "locavore" received official imprimatur as part of the popular lexicon.
I think it's time to start a locavore movement for energy generation and distribution. Call it the "logen" (local + generation) or "lenergy" (local + energy) movement. Whatever you call it, it would follow the same principles of the locavore movement. People would use energy sources available to them locally. Local energy generation and distribution would result in cleaner, greener energy consumption. Since most places in the U.S. aren't located near fossil fuel or uranium deposits, the majority of energy sources would be renewable. Even if there are locally available fossil fuel or uranium sources, the capital costs of extracting, processing and generating electricity from these sources are usually prohibitive except for huge multinational corporations. As more communities generate and consume their own energy, less carbon will be emitted into the atmosphere and fewer communities will suffer the ecological destruction that is inherent in energy resource extraction.Read More ...
Recently, the U.S. Forest Service announced another attempt to revise its planning regulations.
While the agency takes aim at making its decision-making more
collaborative, at the same time it's running into conflict from other
planning processes at the state level.
Many readers are probably familiar with the Forest Service's saga of revision, as the agency has made several attempts to rework these regulations in the recent past. Somewhat predictably, the focus and approach of the various regulations has varied with the presidential administration in power at the time the rewrite was initiated. Readers interested in a short but eye-crossing synopsis of all that might read "Reinstating the 2000 Rule" on page 67059 of the December 18, 2009 Federal Register [PDF]. That summary offers a window into some of the difficulties facing the Forest Service.
This time around, the agency has said that it wants to focus on a number of principles that it hopes will guide the planning rule development process, including an emphasis on "restoration, conservation, and the improved resilience of ecosystems; watershed health; climate change response; species diversity and wildlife habitat; sustainable National Forest System lands; proactive collaboration; and working across landscapes." The agency has emphasized that this will be an "open, collaborative process."Read More ...
If you have yet to read Jonathan Thompson’s feature Wind Resistance in the December 09-January 10 edition you have a treat in store. By describing in vivid detail the politics surrounding wind power development in Wyoming, Jonathan elucidates what may be the largest cultural change which the West has experienced in this century so far – the mainstreaming of preservation.
As western urbanization, industrialization and flight to rural areas has accelerated, more and more westerners discover that they have become preservationist. No matter that your background is in one of the West’s traditional extractive industries; no matter that you are a Republican; no matter that you are a friend and colleague of Dick Chaney….you find yourself none-the-less highly motivated to protect western landscapes that you have come to love. If you go down this path you are likely to find yourself in coalition with local environmentalists whom you have attacked and disparaged for years.
Is this just standard NIMBY behavior or does it indicate a basic shift which will change western politics fundamentally? It is probably too early to tell. But the Wyoming wind story is not the only indication that change has occurred. Consider, for example, the following resolution passed recently by the National Grange and California State Grange: