Friday news roundup: field changes, from football to strawberries


For avid news hounds, this week saw some shake-ups, showing us that we can be ever surprised. Let's start with the important stuff.

TEBOW TRADED FROM THE DENVER BRONCOS! The West will lose Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow, whose "polarizing skill set" brought us some of the most memorable football moments of 2011. Thus, Tebowmania heads eastward, to the Big Apple. He will play for the New York Jets next season. 


Casting our eyes back Westward for the counterintuitive, (by way of the New York Times), Drew Christie brought us a fantastic animated short, in which an invasive rodent, a nutria, asks the question asked by anyone who's ever moved to a small rural town, "How long does it take to become a native?" Trust us, it's worth a watch. Nutria were brought to the Pacific Northwest from South America by fur ranchers in the late 1800s. But nutria fur coats never took off and today the rodent is largely viewed as a "toothy nuisance" (see our previous coverage). 

On Monday, 64 bison hailing from Yellowstone National Park arrived at their new home, 500 miles away at Montana's Fort Peck Reservation. The relocation, intended to repopulate parts of the West with the one ton animals, has been a long time coming

Aiming (literally) to control coyotes and boost lagging mule deer populations, Utah's Governor Gary Herbert signed two measures into law. One increases the bounty on coyotes, while the other raises funds for predator control through a small fee on big-game permits.

Also from Utah, it seems the government, specifically the National Security Agency, is spying on you, reports WIRED in this month's cover story.

More on Agencies
An update on Clean Water Act enforcement comes with Sackett vs. the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (see our Jan. 27 op-ed "Pity the Sacketts? Not much"): The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the Idaho couple will be able to challenge the agency's ruling that, due to the EPA's rights under the Clean Water Act, they shouldn't not be allowed to disturb the wetland on their property without a permit.

In news from the Bureau of Land Management, Director Bob Abbey told the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee that they should consider raising fines for oil and gas drilling violations. The fines, set three decades ago, are not currently high enough to deter the dishonest. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the Natural Resources Committee's ranking member, said during the hearing, "The fines are woefully out of date. ... We need to look at this area in the same way we should have, in retrospect ... in the Gulf." Over the past decade fines have averaged about $135 per violation, not much for global energy firms whose earnings last year topped $100 billion.

Hydraulic fracturing, the practice of injecting water, sand and a chemical of cocktails into the ground to release oil and gas, has been accused of contaminating water for a while now, but a new study from the University of Colorado at Denver's School of Public Health adds support to the case that it pollutes the air as well. Air within a half-mile of drill sites contained pollutants five times above federal hazard standards, levels likely to cause health problems. For previous HCN coverage, see "Health studies gas up" 06/21/10.)  The EPA has recently proposed new regulations designed to reduce emissions and leaks around oil and gas operations, which have been found to pollute rather more than expected

Also, the BLM has released a final plan that will allow 1,298 gas wells to be drilled in Utah's Uinta Basin by the company Gasco. The land to be drilled, sprawling across 207,000 acres, stretches across Uintah and Duchesne counties, along the West Tavaputs Plateau, near Desolation Canyon.

And from the Department of Didn't See That Coming, Arysta LifeScience, the manufacturer of controversial fumigant  methyl iodide, is pulling the pesticide from the market. A number of questions have been raised about the dangerous, damaging chemical, to blanket-kill organisms in strawberry fields, since California approved it last year. This summer, documents surfaced that showed the review process had been seriously flawed. (Read "Methyl iodide's toxic saga continues, 8/29/11.")

And with that, we await new shakeups next week.

Danielle Venton is an intern with High Country News.

Images: 1) Nutria, courtesy of lacitadelle/Flickr; 2) Strawberry fields, courtesy of benketaro/Flickr.

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