Roundup Tuesday August 18, 2009

1.  Climate bill would bloat federal agencies—Amanda DeBard, The Washington Times 8/17/09

Billions of dollars and thousands of new employees are expected to be necessary to implement the proposed climate change bill.  Obscure agencies like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) could grow rather large in carrying out their new-found duties.  And the monies are not reflected in the House-passed bill.

A spokesman from the left-leaning Brookings Institution said the mission is too big for the government’s current capacity.  The cap and trade commodity market, now almost non-existent, would mushroom under the bill.  A commissioner of the CFTC said the market could grow to $2 trillion in the first five years.

The commission would have to expand by 31% initially to meet new demands for regulating the fledgling market.  FERC would oversee day-to-day trading and would need a 20%-30% workforce increase to meet its new duties.  The Environmental Protection Agency, which already regulates 330 million tons of pollution a year, would regulate 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide at 7,400 industries under the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan entity, has estimated the costs for government expansion to meet the bill’s demands at $8 billion over a 10 year period.  Around 1,500 new regulations and mandates would have to be passed for 21 or more federal agencies, years in the making.

A spokesperson for PublicCitizen, a public advocacy group, who also sits on the CFTC’s energy and environmental markets advisory committee warned, “You have to ask yourself if it is wise policy to create a new derivatives market on the heels of the collapse of derivatives markets, and I don’t think it is.”

The CFTC’s 2010 budget is $177 million, up 21% from the 2009 budget.  If the bill becomes law, that number may increase dramatically.  A FERC spokeswoman said any new funds that might become necessary would come from user fees.

The senior vice president for environment and regulatory affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce said, “I’m not sure the government is capable of handling the bureaucracy that will come if the carbon market is set up.”

2.  Chickens settling in at Provo residences—Heidi Toth, Daily Herald 8/17/09

Six Provo, Utah residents recently paid the $15 permit fee that legally allows them to raise chickens.  While several residents in northeast Provo had kept chickens without neighbor complaints for years, bird owners are now protected by law.  The Municipal Council voted to allow citizens to keep chickens in the urban area in May.

Municipal Councilwoman Cindy Clark, who pushed for the law on behalf of chicken owners without legal standing, has seen only positive feedback.  The new rules do not allow roosters and only a limited number of birds can be kept according to property size.  The birds must be cooped according to code as well.  Coops must be 15 feet from property lines, and citizens must have at least 6,000 square feet to be eligible to keep chickens.

City code has allowed miniature horses and Vietnamese pot-belly pigs, though roosters and sheep tend to show up legal or not further west.  No complaints have been called in since the ordinance went into place, though beforehand complaints came mainly due to loose chickens on the streets.

3.  Ponderosa pines:  Rugged trees with a sweet smell—Daniel Kraker, NPR 8/17/09

The largest unbroken forest of ponderosa pines in the world stretch from about an hour south of the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona to southwestern New Mexico.  In Arizona’s Coconino National Forest, tourists take hiking tours through the trees scientists have yet to know well.

The trees have an age during which their bark is black, and an age during which their bark is yellow.  “Early lumbermen who came out here thought they were two different species,” US Forest Service’s Steve Hirst says of the trees.  Originally they were called black jack and yellow pines.  In truth, the trees shed their outer bark at between 110-120 years old to reveal the yellow inner bark that is the hallmark of its “teenage” years and older.  Some locals call them “Yellowbellies”.

Aromas from the maturing pines are similarly complex, exuding butterscotch, vanilla, cinnamon and coconut fragrances, or baking cookies.  Similar to the Jeffrey pine, a chemical in the sap may exude the fragrances when heated by the sun.  The bark is thick and flaky and suggests jigsaw puzzle pieces.  In an area known for some of the highest instances of lightning strikes in the nation, the bark buffers fire potential.  When lightning strikes the sap is flash-boiled, firing the bark off away from the tree.  Other forest vegetation is not so fire resistant.

Due to a century of fire suppression in favor of timber harvest protection, undergrowth has grown unchecked and now threatens to carry fire to the crowns of the pines.  “When the crowns burn and you destroy an entire stand, they may never come back,” Hirst noted.  The US Forest Service with environmental groups and timber companies is working to thin trees and set prescribed burns to protect the dominant species.

4.  Ferruginous hawks in decline—John Trumbo, Tri-City Herald, The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington 8/16/09

A biologist with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Eastern Washington office has been studying ferruginous hawks in the Juniper Dunes area.  The hawk is a threatened species in Washington, and hawk pairs are at their lowest counts since surveys began 30 years ago.  If population declines continue, the bird could be placed on the state endangered species list.

The largest raptor of the hawk family, ferruginous hawks can be mistaken for eagles due to their wingspan of four feet or more.  They tend to be very wary of intruders and can flush unexpectedly.  They prefer desert and open grasslands, where jackrabbits and small mammals offer a plentiful food supply.  Habitat decline is considered the largest factor diminishing the birds’ presence.

In 1987, 17 nesting pairs were identified in the Juniper Dunes area of Franklin County, where only four were found last year and one this year.  Experts say expansion of agriculture pushed the hawks into wildlands, where intruding OHVs have further disturbed the hawks.  The BLM’s biologist, however, believes more is to blame than just increased ATV activity.

The dunes have seen a similar fall to a single pair in 1983.  1987 saw the largest year on record, though on average the region has seen only five or six pairs, with their presence tapering off over the past 10 years.  The BLM is actively working to protect hawk habitat, increasing efforts since last March.  Emergency ATV route closures have ensued.  The machines erode soil and destroy plants that animals like ground squirrels and kangaroo rats feed on, which in turn feed the hawks.

As the reporter and the biologist moved through the habitat, thousands of Mormon crickets, described as “a flightless katydid up to 3 inches long” made themselves known in the “knee-high brush”.  A decline in jackrabbits in the region, brought on by eradication efforts by farmers in the 1920s-1940s may have largely impacted hawk numbers.  Jackrabbits are seldom seen there to this day.  The biologist said ferruginous hawks are not adaptable like red-tail hawks are.

In the field, the biologist identified two fledglings, though the parents were apparently off hunting.  He said the birds looked healthy and well-fed.  Benton and Franklin counties in Washington have experienced ongoing growth over the last 10 years which makes for further concern in the wake of only one known nest in the region this year.

As wind farms are erected across southeast Washington and northeast Oregon, a new threat may be emerging—wind turbines.  Some reports have noted the hawks being hit by rotating blades.  Though the hawks don’t nest on ridges where the turbines are located, their hunting radius extends to 17 miles.

The federal Conservation Reserve Program pays land owners not to plant former agricultural lands, leaving them in a natural state that helps to avoid erosion and preserve habitat.  If the bird is placed on the state endangered species list, land use and planning decisions could undergo closer scrutiny where actions may impact the bird.  Still, the state does not have the power to close lands harboring endangered species.

5.  A new test for business and biofuel—Kirk Johnson, New York Times 8/16/09

A start-up company co-created by a Colorado State University professor is using a carbon dioxide-loving algae and investments from the Southern Ute tribe in southwestern Colorado and elsewhere to develop the biofuel.  The tribe’s land sits over one of the richest coal-bed methane based natural gas fields in the world.  Solix Biofuels received a number of benefits from working with the Southern Utes that could not have happened with other investors, such as a third of the company’s $20 million start-up capital, free use of land and over $1 million in equipment.

“If you’re going with strict venture capital, they’re looking for a blistering return on capital in three to five years,” Professor Wilson said.  “The Utes have a very long economic view.  They’re making decisions now for future generations as opposed to the next quarter, and that is just fundamentally different.”

The Southern Utes weren’t looking for just any alternative energy idea.  Any fuel idea that displaced land used for raising food was rejected, since the Southern Utes believe energy shouldn’t compete with food when people are still going hungry in the world.  “It’s a marriage of an older way of thinking into a modern time,” the tribe’s chairman said.

Owing to the tribe’s way of managing exceptional wealth for Native American tribes, the idea had to be feasible even if not offering an immediate profit.  And the tribe’s history of herbal medicine know-how fit well with the idea of growing algae for fuel.  “It reminded people of herbs that are helpful here, like bear root, which is harvested in the mountains,” the chairman noted.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado reports that over 200 companies are seeking a profitable, large scale way to turn algae in vegetable oil fuel.  Exxon recently acknowledged $600 million it plans to spend on its own project.  A spokesman from the Lab’s National Bioenergy Center warned that the industry was still quite young, and claims have yet to be matched with results.

Solix would grow algae in closed bags lined up vertically in water tanks next to a natural gas processing plant.  The vertical arrangement would increase yield.  The carbon dioxide waste stream from the processing plant nourishes the algae.  Waste heat from the plant may heat the algae beds during cold winters.  Natural solar radiation on the high desert plateau—noted for its solar potential—would accelerate growth of the algae.

If the idea works, Professor Wilson imagines algae farms next to carbon dioxide vent pipes at any number of power plants and factories.  The plant would sell the oil or biodiesel, and Solix would receive royalties as part owner-operator or through licensing.

A Standard and Poor’s credit rating agency director who tracks Native American economics assigned the Southern Utes’ dept the highest possible rating, AAA.  He called the tribe canny in its research and slow investment strategy.

6.  Earthquake shakes northern Nevada—AP, SLT 8/16/09

The quake was centered around 12 miles east-southeast of Rock House in remote northern Nevada near the Nevada-Idaho border.  The quake registered 4.2 in preliminary magnitude at a depth less than 9 miles from the surface.  The temblor was felt as much as 100 miles away.

7.  Researchers:  shrinking Teton glaciers will affect Utah water—Mead Gruver, AP, SLT 8/16/09

As glaciers in the Teton Range and elsewhere across the world lose surface area, water supplies below the glaciers are potentially threatened.  Since the late 1960’s, University of Wyoming researchers have found two of the largest glaciers in the Tetons lost over 20% of their surface area.  Wyoming, Idaho and less so Utah use the water, primarily for irrigation.

$225,000 for the study was appropriated by the Wyoming State Legislature in 2006, in the nation’s fifth-driest state.  One of the study’s researchers referred to the glaciers as frozen reservoirs.  The study is consistent with other recent finds, including a US Geological Survey study that showed three glaciers in Alaska and Washington state with long data tracking records were shrinking faster than anticipated in recent years.  In Glacier National Park, some predict the icons will vanish completely by 2030.

A researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder said most glaciers below 15,000 feet that have been measured are shrinking.  “The rate at which they are diminishing is more or less parallel to the increase in the rate of global warming,” he added.

Graduate students working on the Wyoming project found that Teton Glacier had lost 20% and Middle Teton Glacier had lost 25% of its surface area, while Teepee Glacier, smaller and located between the two, had lost around 60% of its surface area.  Remaining volume has proven too difficult to estimate, but the ice lost from Teton and Middle Teton glaciers has been estimated at enough to fill over 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Wind River Range glacier shrinkage also has been documented.  One of the graduate students on the project noted that while water supplies are probably boosted by melt-off, water flow eventually would decline as the glaciers shrink.  Snow has been plentiful in the region, totaling 542 inches this winter and 617 inches last winter, well above the 400 inch average.  But the fresh snows are melting off by mid summer.

Critical year-round stream flows fostered by the glaciers are what is at risk.  One of the researchers noted that July and August temperatures had been higher in the region in recent years.  Longtime Teton mountain climber Al Read said, “It just seems—I don’t have any records of this or anything—but it just seems it was much cooler then.”

8.   Power lines deserve a healthy buffer zone—Jason Bergreen, SLT 8/15/09

Citing a Bountiful accident where a branch fell, causing a power line to hit a swing set sending a toddler to the hospital, tree trimming by the power company is the best bet for safe management of trees near or under power lines.  Though downed power lines from tree branches rarely injure people, they often cause power outages.

Cottonwoods and poplar trees have a rapid growth rate and can climb to 30 feet over the 30- to 40-foot-high power lines.  Bountiful Light and Power’s director said “Trees themselves will eventually cause problems.  Weather can frustrate this.”  He said trees should be planted further than 10 feet from power lines, and small trees with slower growth rates, like maples, are preferred.  Referring to a poplar, he said “It’s going to grow right back behind you as you walk out the door.”

9.  Backpackers keep it green at European farms—Jeannie Nuss, AP, SLT 8/14/09

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), founded in Britain in 1971, matches wanderlust-hungry volunteers with farms needing farm hands around the world.  15,700 individuals have been placed at farms across Europe this year, up from 6,400 in 2004, as many adventurers are looking for cheaper and alternative vacations.  Since 2004, the number of host farms has doubled to 2,240 as well.  In exchange for a few hours of chores, visitors get food, shelter and a cheap trip.

Many volunteers hold the opportunity to eat from the land and animals they caretake in high regard.  The director of Italy’s Slow Food Study Center said, “It’s one of the ways of recovering relationships with food.”  The slow-food movement was launched in Italy against fast food norms that had overtaken the country’s rich agricultural roots.

One sponsor farmer from northwest Spain said the program fosters cultural understanding.  “WWOOF is the perfect anti-discrimination device,” he added.  “We have Germans and Israelis sitting at a table together without problems.  It’s a really great way of getting to know more of a country than only the national prejudices.”

While college students and recent grads make up a large part of WWOOF’s volunteer labor force, seeking ways to travel on the cheap, a spokesperson for WWOOF noted “The profile of farms is really diverse.”  A Charleston, S.C. mom and slow-food advocate took her 10- and 13-year-olds with her on a volunteer trip to Italy recently.

Others noted the program was instrumental in making people more aware of their carbon footprints and what they can do for the environment.  One volunteer said, “you can’t do this without learning a bunch and having a more holistic approach to life.”

WWOOF on the web:

10.  Utah travel:  Participate in an archaeological dig—SLT 8/14/09

Southwest Ed-Ventures is hosting a trip to southeastern Utah’s Montezuma Canyon Oct. 11-17.  Trained archaeologists will lead the trip from Cortez Colo., offering hands-on learning on private lands.  A Puebloan ruin sited there that dates before circa 700 A.D. will be a central worksite.  Last surveys date to 1974.  The expedition will excavate test pits into a kiva, an underground series of rooms with surface-level roof used for ceremonies by ancient Native Americans.  Information on the trip can be found in the original article.

11.  Wharton:  Increasing recreation fees a concern—Tom Wharton, SLT 8/14/09

Notably, 1997 camping fees for Zion National Park were $8, currently are $16.  Kodachrome Basin fees have increased from $10 to $16.  Tanner’s Flat camping fees have increased from $9 to $18.  The concern is that the increased fees will deter poorer visitors or visitors who can’t justify for instance $25 for a few hours’ visit.  Many visitors too resent additional costs when expecting tax dollars already are paying for upkeep and management of the areas.

Fees for state parks tend to make up for funding cuts, but the fees amount to “a regressive tax”.  Still, user fees and concessionaires have transformed many areas such as Mill Creek Canyon.  While American Fork Canyon and the Mirror Lake Highway through the Uinta mountains instilled a $6 three-day pass, 85% of collected fees go to improvements on the ground, while 15% go to administrative fees, most often connected with fee collection.

Recent annual figures show $626,000 collected in American Fork Canyon and $341,240 for the Mirror Lake Highway.  Monies in American Fork Canyon were used for trail, campsite and picnic area improvements and reconstruction, improved signage, parking for cross-country skiers and snowmobilers and wilderness rangers.  The Mirror Lake Highway cut down hazardous trees, beefed up law enforcement, placed interpretive signs, improved restrooms, added a mountain-bike trailhead and published a free map and trail guide among other projects.

12.  Mill Hollow Reservoir reopens to fishing—AP, SLT 8/14/09

The reservoir southeast of Woodland in the Uinta mountains has undergone repairs to its dam.  Recent filling of the reservoir made restocking with fish possible.  Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources have placed over 3,000 10- to 12-inch long rainbow and albino rainbow trout in the reservoir, considered one of the most popular reservoirs in the state.

13.  Redford pitches preservation of Old West community, family values—Mike McPhee, The Denver Post, SLT 8/14/09

A one-day conference of Democratic political strategists and leaders sponsored by Project New West featured a dialogue between Sundance Resort owner and environmental activist Robert Redford and US Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.  Speaking at the Colorado History Museum, Redford said “I think the New West should return to the Old West, when there was an emphasis on communities, on families and neighbors…It’s time to think about what kinds of development we want, whether we want to develop more communities or subdivisions and sprawl.”

He continued with dams and the Colorado River.  “Dams, all dams, should go away, the faster the better,” the historic attendee of University of Colorado at Boulder said.  “The Colorado River today has only half the flow it used to have.  Time and resources are running out for the West.  Compromises are needed.  I hope we wake up before we lose it for our children.”

Referring to leaders of his home state, Redford said they were “retarded and no friends of the environment.”  Utah’s delegation, with Senate Minority Leader Patricia Jones, sat in the front row.  Redford made an exception for Jon Huntsman, offering some praise.  Additional appreciation was expressed for Secretary of Interior and Coloradoan Ken Salazar, for his understanding of the West and making “good, brave decisions.

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, rallied momentum for Democratic leaders in the West.  “Now is the time to build on our successes, to build a deeper bench of candidates,” said the Senator.  “For generations, prospectors, visionaries and entrepreneurs led Americans to the West.  Now, the West is leading America.”  He added that critical water and land issues were necessary gateways on the path to the White House for presidential candidates.

In another panel discussion, Latinos were identified as the fastest growing population, though issues with schooling for their children and solidifying political power are ongoing.  An Arizona government official said while 30% of the state’s population is Latino, only 6% of that group vote.  A New Mexico official said more than 50% of Latinos drop out of school there.  A 2008 Pew Hispanic Center report identified Colorado Latinos as 12% of eligible voters.

14.  50-50 split?  Utah-Nevada water deal draws flak—Patty Henetz, SLT 8/14/09

After solidifying the proposed Snake Valley water share split between Utah and Nevada to pave the way for a massive Las Vegas pipeline, opponents have taken action to resist finalization.  Millard County, a longstanding opponent of the deal, sent a 3-page letter to Utah Department of Natural Resources citing inequities.  While on its face the agreement splits 132,000 acre-feet of water evenly between the two states, 20,000 of 55,000 acre-feet already allocated in Utah leave the Snake Valley Basin to support the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge.  The actual split becomes 59% for Nevada and 41% for Utah, according to Millard County officials.

The Great Basin Water Network is seeking release of all records of the negotiation and drafting of the agreement over the last four years.  “The secrecy gag imposed on Utah’s negotiators by the Southern Nevada Water Authority should never have been agreed to,” a spokesperson for the Network said, “It’s cut out not only those of us who are concerned about the future of the Snake Valley, it’s cut out legislators and county commissioners.”

Concerns over previous groundwater mining in the Parowan region that have left water-rights holders with worthless water shares are yet to be answered for Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan.  “[S]uppose there isn’t that much water over there?” Stowell questioned.  Stowell noted that water use in Utah, while drawing valley water tables down and at times drying up springs, tended to stay in the region.

Rep. Brad Winn, R-Ephraim added after seeing a draft of the agreement last week, “My concern at this point is we have plenty of opportunity for public response.  I trust that will take place.  Tammy Kikuchi of the Department of Natural Resources said both Utah’s director and Nevada’s counterpart would be separately reviewing comment received during the four hearings scheduled the week of August 17.

Meetings:  Aug 17—1 p.m., Baker, Nev., Baker School Auditorium; 7 p.m., Delta, Utah, Millard County fair building, 81 Manzanita Ave.  Aug 18—10 a.m., Salt Lake City, Department of Environmental Quality Building 2, 168 N. 1950 West.  Aug 20—9 a.m., Las Vegas, Southern Nevada Water Authority Board meeting, Molasky Corporate Center Suite 700, City Parkway.

View the proposal:

15.  Upscale homes proposed near Alta’s Albion Basin—Rosemary Winters, SLT 8/14/09

Almost a dozen high-end homes have been proposed along the S-curve of unpaved road leading to the basin, known for its rich array of wildflowers.  The lands belong to the estate of JoAnne Shrontz, former Alta Town Council member and granddaughter of Joe Quinney, one of the Alta Ski Area’s founders.  The application calls for subdividing 26 acres on Patsey Marley Hill—dubbed the “gateway” to Albion Basin—for homes as large as 8,000 square feet.

The Alta Planning Commission recommended denying the application to the Town Council due to water access issues, natural waterway impacts among other reasons.  Alta’s mayor said the issue should be reviewed thoroughly ahead of a final decision, likely in the fall.  Friends of Alta, a local conservation group, has said the estate would need to meet all ordinance requirements before Friends would back off of opposition.

The area at the upper end of Little Cottonwood Canyon, a major watershed managed by the US Forest Service, Salt Lake City and Alta, has had its water rights further regulated since 1991.  At that time Salt Lake City prohibited “the use of capital water rights in expanding existing contracts in watershed areas—such as Alta—outside of the contracts’ original boundaries.”  In effect, Alta has been prevented since then from extending its water system beyond 1976 boundaries.

Challenges by Albion Basin property owners who were blocked from connecting to existing water systems in federal court failed.  The Patsey Marley property was annexed by Alta in 1980, which means it could successfully challenge the law.  While a Shrontz estate attorney argues obligations for hookup go back to agreements made in the 1970’s, Salt Lake City’s Public Utilities director has said he has a 2002 agreement signed by Shrontz disallowing hookup with Alta’s water.  The estate has an established right to build a system of its own to draw water from a nearby mine.

The Shrontz estate attorney told Town Council recently that water was guaranteed to the site, and while Alta’s water line runs through the property, other options could be developed.  Plans by Shrontz, who died in 2003, to build a hotel to serve the ski resort were denied by Town Council, who refused to change the extant single-family zoning.  The 10 homes would be laid out to preserve 23 of the 26 acres.

16.  Bennett backs future of nuclear power—Cathy McKitrick, SLT 8/14/09

Bennett, who will seek re-election in 2010, said at the recent Nuclear Energy University Programs workshop, “Every study I’ve seen says that under the best of circumstances, solar and wind will never produce more than a single-digit percentage of the energy that we need.”  Bennett added that nuclear potential in this country could drive the need for up to 3 reprocessing plants, which converts spent fuels and debris to contained waste ready for storage.

Critics note 120 sites in 39 states already are stockpiling nuclear waste with no place to go.  Bennett believes America’s weak will for nuclear has been fostered by Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the 1979 film “The China Syndrome”.  HealUtah criticized Bennett’s logic as unsound energy policy.

In addition, HealUtah’s spokesperson said reprocessing takes years, leaving liquid radioactive waste and weapons-grade plutonium.  “France has over 80 tons of plutonium that they can’t get rid of,” the spokesperson added.  Bennett was instrumental in getting $43 million earmarked for nuclear research funding for universities nationwide, including $500,000 for Utah State University for 2009.

The Trib reports that Bennett’s largest campaign donor has been nuclear waste storage company EnergySolutions, which contributed $46,900 to his 2010 campaign.

17.  770 gas wells clear hurdle—Katie Burford, The Durango Herald 8/14/09

The San Juan Public Lands Center and the Bureau of Indian Affairs jointly signed a “Finding of No Significant Impact” on 770 new coal-bed methane gas wells to be drilled on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe reservation over the next twenty years.  95% of the wells would be directionally drilled from existing well pads.  The best available air emissions control technology would also be required.

The finding said “there would not be long-term significant impacts to air quality from carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, visibility and acid deposition.”  Ozone levels in the Four Corners area have been of concern, and studies have shown show oil and gas production in San Juan County, New Mexico are a prime source of greenhouse gas emissions in the area.

A Bureau of Land Management official at the San Juan Public Lands Center noted that computer models show no significant emissions increases provided that the latest compression technology is used.  While the EPA is tightening emissions standards, the tribe already is requiring that operators meet the new standards ahead of EPA deadlines. Though 965 acres of vegetation would be lost during drilling, with 450 acres lost during production, all would eventually be reclaimed.  Each well would be analyzed individually prior to drilling.

The tribe is expected to get $650 million in royalties and severance taxes and $195 million from working interests in the gas from the new wells alone.  $350 million in direct spending is expected to enter the local economy, along with creating 60 new full time jobs.  Meanwhile, gas development has sagged due to sharply falling prices over the last year.  The tribe already has around 1,300 wells in operation, with regulation shared by the BLM and the BIA.  Forecasts expect coalbed-methane gas production revenues to fall, though the tribe believes if it does not develop the wells, nearby drillers will tap the resource.

18.  Gooding sheep rancher backs off of wolf kill after herd attacked—Karen Bossick, Times-News, (Twin Falls, ID) 8/14/09

Though the Phantom Hill wolf pack killed 12 sheep earlier in the week north of Ketchum, the sheeps’ owner has reversed his original demand to have the wolves killed.  “I have to deal with the people up there, like the Forest Service and the wolf people,” the rancher said, adding “they do compensate for the sheep.”  Intensive talks with Idaho Department of Fish and Game, US Wildlife Services and wolf advocates played a role in changing his mind.  Defenders of Wildlife, an environmental group working closely with wolves and ranchers, have agreed to pay the rancher fair market value for the sheep killed, $100 and $150 per sheep.

Defenders of Wildlife trained volunteers last year under the Wood River Wolf Project to monitor wolf activity.  By alerting sheep herders, the herders can prevent attacks utilizing electric fence wiring and flagging.  A spokesperson for the group pointed out that the herd recently attacked had no dogs or herders overseeing the sheep.  They were released in the region where they were killed two days early for grazing.  Volunteers apparently were not notified of sheep presence in the area.

The Gooding rancher said he’s lost 40 head so far this year to wolf predation in the central Idaho region.  One of last summer’s kills was also attributed to the Phantom Hill pack, though the rancher named a number of other places, exclaiming “they’re all over”.  A spokesman for Fish and Game said they were considering a GPS collar on one of the wolves for tracking.  Collars currently in use identify wolf locations from the air.

Numbering around 10, the Phantom Hill pack has become the darling of many Wood River Valley residents who have frequently spotted them on Highway 75 north of Ketchum and in nearby residential areas, where residents have enjoyed their howls.  Fish and Game’s spokesman said “We’re trying to be responsible and consistent in our management of them.  We feel strongly that livestock, wild game, the public and even the wolves themselves benefit from a strong management plan.”

19.  Obama backs roadless ruling—Matthew Daly, AP, Casper Star-Tribune 8/13/09

An appeal notice filed in US District Court in Wyoming says the Obama administration will defend a 2001 Clinton administration ruling that blocked road construction on tens of millions of acres of remote national forest land.  The appeal may help settle a Wyoming case and set precedent for the nation’s forests.

Previous court opinions have see-sawed back and forth between upholding and blocking the so-called Roadless Rule, which blocks commercial logging, mining and other development on 58 million national forest acres across 38 states and Puerto Rico.  A Bush Administration rule opened remote areas to commercial development.

Last week the California-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the 2005 Bush roadless rule remarking that the rule “had the effect of permanently repealing uniform, nationwide, substantive protections that were afforded to inventoried roadless areas” in the national forests.

The Wyoming case is pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Environmental groups have challenged a federal judge’s ruling that repealed the Clinton-era roadless rule.  Groups such as Earthjustice are enthusiastic that the Obama administration is standing behind its promise to support nationwide roadless protection.

20.  Farmers say to check the tag for homegrown items—Dawn House, SLT 8/13/09

Local farmers Randy and Roland Kuwahara, who sell their fresh-picked produce grown without pesticides at a 738 W. 12300 South market, appreciate the increase in demand that buying local has brought.  A spokesman for Harmons grocery said while farmers like the Kuwaharas are in greater demand, local farms are growing more scarce.  Utah has lost as much farmland in the past 40 years as Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Meanwhile, farmers like the Kuwaharas compete with cheaper, industrial farm produce that comes from out of state and overseas.  They say that purchasing foods with the Utah’s Own label guarantees the food is raised and produced locally and keeps dollars flowing into the state’s economy.

Originally farming in the Holladay area, the Kuwaharas’ father moved to Draper when plans for I-215 commenced in the 1970’s.  Their market, which sells produce from other farmers such as Green River watermelons and cantaloupes, has only the one road sign, though a good number of word-of-mouth customers have shopped there from early on.

In addition to farming 15 acres, the brothers broker for 12 other growers and sell to Harmons, Macey’s, Dan’s, Dick’s Market and Petersen’s Marketplace, among others.  A spokesperson for Associated Foods noted the difficulty small farmers can have keeping up with demand, as well as the problems posed by coordinating with a number of small growers.  Though the number of small farmers is limited, farmers markets have doubled in grower venders, currently at 35.

21.  New SLC bar scores ‘green’ points at City Hall—Derek P. Jensen, SLT 8/13/09

The Green Pig Pug at 31 E. 400 South has been noted by Mayor Ralph Becker and his sustainability staff.  The bar has a substantial recycling program, utilizes low-flow water technology, and has incorporated 16-foot passive solar windows that face City Hall.  The bar also recycled equipment and furniture from Port O’ Call, which recently closed its doors.  Owner Bridget Gordon claims 90% of materials used are recycled, and hopes to funnel food waste to area farmers.  Salt Lake City’s Director of Sustainability said the business “should have little trouble qualifying as an “E2” business,” an energy efficiency and recycling designation the city awards.

22.  Proposed Utah, Nevada water accord could clear the way for Snake Valley pipeline—Patty Henetz, SLT 8/13/09

The agreement will split unallocated shares in the valley equally.  In addition, the final decision for a 285-mile, $3.5 billion Snake Valley to Las Vegas pipeline would be postponed to 2019.  Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said the deal would avoid a water war that would end up in the US Supreme Court.

DNR’s executive director added the deal would protect the way of life for Snake Valley’s water users.  Snake Valley residents, Millard County, the Great Basin Water Network and the National Park Service among others claim the area’s water equilibrium is already fragile, and drawdown of the aquifer would adversely affect the region.  Anticipated impacts include the drying out of meadows and the potential for large dust storms that could impact the Wasatch Front.

A spokesperson for the Great Basin Water Network said the US Geological Survey’s estimate of the valley’s aquifer included water used by area vegetation.  Shallow-rooted plants could be the first to be impacted, and loss of surface vegetation could result in high wind-blown soil erosion.

Currently scheduled for 2011, a hearing held by the Nevada state engineer will decide for Nevada whether the pipeline is granted.  Delaying the hearing to 2019 would allow the states time to make changes to general water management policies over water rights, one Snake Valley rancher said.  The proposed $3 million mitigation fund is considered insufficient by a number of opponents.

Nevada’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said while Las Vegas currently gets 90% of its water from the Colorado River, the water supply is unstable.  Nevada must develop all available water sources in the state before it can apply for more from the river.  Original grants under the 1922 Colorado River Compact afforded only 300,000 acre-feet per year owing to Vegas’ sparse population at the time.

Snake Valley, which lies mostly in Utah, is fed by the peaks of Nevada’s Great Basin National Park.  Park officials and officials from the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge fear both parks could be harmed under an agreement.

Each state under the proposed agreement would have rights to 66,000 acre-feet of water, including already allocated shares.  Nevada would be given 36,000 of 41,000 unallocated acre-feet.  A 24,000 acre-foot reserve would be divided in a 3 to 1 fashion with Nevada gaining the larger of the shares, provided engineers of both states agree drawdown would not adversely affect previously allocated shares.  If the agreement is formally established, a baseline against which future potential environmental impact could be measured would be required.

Millard County and the Utah Association of Counties argue that the agreement inordinately elevates the power of Southern Nevada Water Authority and threatens Utah’s sovereignty as well as rights to administrative and legal dispute resolution.  According to legal counsel for Utah Association of Counties, the agreement would take away Millard County’s right to be heard.

23.  Innovative wind turbines to top new downtown Portland high-rise—Abby Haight, The Oregonian 8/13/09

Four 45-foot-tall wind turbines have been erected on top of the Twelve West Building, one of the few in the nation that utilizes wind power generated on-site.  The turbines are expected to generate around 9,000 kilowatts yearly or about 1% of the building’s energy needs.  More importantly, they will serve as a learning lab for urban wind-power systems, available to other developers and urban leaders.

Critics argue monies spent on the turbines would be better spent on improved building energy efficiencies or investing in dedicated turbine sites.  A green building consultant and author of Green Building Trends:  Europe called the turbines “kinetic sculptures” that amount to a mere gesture.  His book portrays the lag in US versus Europe in energy-efficient construction.  “[T]he real game is to design a super-efficient, comfortable, healthy building,” he replied.

The $137 million building erected by sustainability leader Gerding Edlen Development Co. and designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects is seeking the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification offered by the US Green Building Council, their platinum certification.    The building includes motion-controlled lights, storm water recycling, an eco-roof garden atop the 22 story building, residential, retail and office space.

A large push for the turbines, which are generally not highly efficient in downtown areas nor structurally proven for high buildings, came from the development company, which boasts 6 platinum, 26 gold and around two dozen silver certified building projects.  A leading principal with the firm said, “We have a very strong belief that you have to innovate.  The only way we’ve gotten where we are with platinum is to take some risks.”

The company enlisted Dutch consultant and wind researcher Sander Mertens for downtown wind flow analysis, Tom Zambrano, who helped engineer the human-powered Gossamer Albatross for understanding the wind shear plane of the building and best turbine placement, and Southwest Windpower Inc. for their Skystream turbine.

24.  Lobby groups to use Town Hall tactics to oppose climate bill—Ian Talley, Washington Wire, Wall Street Journal Blogs 8/11/09

Fueling the model of enraged and disruptive protests at health care-based Town Hall meetings held by congressional representatives across the country, anti-climate rallies organized with the oil industry’s help are slated to take place this fall.  Led by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the National Association of Manufacturers, the America Farm Bureau and other organizations are funding disruptive rallies across 20 states opposing the climate bill during the August congressional recess.

Template flyers produced by the alliance EnergyCitizens, founded by API, warn “Climate change legislation being considered in Washington will cause huge economic pain and produce little environmental gain.”  The message claims the Waxman-Markey climate bill “will cost 2 million American jobs, raise gasoline and diesel prices up to $4,” as well as threaten US competition and energy security.

An API spokeswoman said they were not encouraging protesters to yell at their congressmen.  Rather, they want to empower citizens so the bill doesn’t affect energy prices.  Clean Air Watch’s Frank O’Donnell said “We’ve all seen those angry folks raising heck about health care…So I guess it was inevitable a special interest would try the same thing on the climate legislation.”

Environmental Protection Agency studies have forecast increased energy costs amounting to about the cost of a postage stamp per day.  Conservative organizations claim it could cost families thousands.  The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has forecast energy cost increases of $26 to $362 per household by 2020 depending on which scenario comes to pass.   As energy prices rise under the landmark climate bill, .the gross domestic product could shrink 9% or $1.9 trillion, according to API forecasts.


25.  Climate Security—Tribune Editorial, SLT 8/13/09

On the military’s view of climate change and national security

26.  Save some wild places from machines—David Sumner, 5th generation Utahn, assoc. professor English and environmental studies, Linfield College, Oregon, SLT 8/14/09

27.  Snake Valley water—Tribune Editorial, SLT 8/15/09

28.  Take Utah back from outlaw ORV riders—Tom Patton, former ski resort professional and longtime OHV rider, SLT 8/15/09


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