Roundup Friday September 4, 2009

1.  Further anti-pollution riots break out in China—Jonathan Watts, The Guardian 9/2/09

Fears of industrial contamination and lagging pollution controls are to blame.  The 2,000 people involved in the riot are the latest in a rash of violence protesting pollution over the past month, this riot near a chemical plant in Quanzhou, Fujian Province.  Cars were destroyed, rioters threw stones at officers one official was taken hostage.  The demonstration attempted to sabotage a tannery blamed for foul odors and escalated cancer rates.  Locals noted tensions climbed as the stench grew worse.

Reports said four factory employees were badly beaten, along with the Chengping Village chief and at least one policeman.  Authorities reported that the weekend situation had been restored to order, though local informants said access to the plant continued to be blocked by at least 100 demonstrators.

“Don’t believe what the government is saying,” resident Zhang said via telephone.  Anonymous online postings showed police in riot gear and cars rolled over.  A local government website attributes the odor problem to a sewage leak at Quangang Urban Sewage Plant.  Quanzhou residents, however, say the chemical factory had been dumping industrial waste since opening three years ago, trashing the nearby seashore and threatening the health and economy of the locale.

“Nobody wants to buy our fish.  We can’t earn any money.  The fishing boats have been abandoned on the shore,” said a local named Liu.  Quanzhou officials could not be reached for comment.  State-run Straits Metropolitan News accused “unlawful elements” for the riot, listing but 200 participants.

Recent disturbances in Shaanxi and Hunan provinces resulted in 15 arrests, according to authorities.  Lead poisoning of over 2,000 children instigated the unrest.  Government officials have acknowledged the need to do more to protect environmental health.  “Environmental quality is not satisfactory and environmental protection work is arduous,” Zhou Shengxian, China’s Environmental Protection Minister said to The People’s Daily.

2.  Greens, new-energy backers at odds over use of desert—Michael Riley, The Denver Post 9/3/09

California’s Mojave Desert has become an object of conflict between environmentalists who want to see the desert protected and alternative energy development spurred by federal stimulus monies and renewable energy mandates.  “Their model is ‘You must kill land to save land,” one individual commented.  The area is slated to decide whether to accept 66 new projects covering 577,000 acres utilizing photovoltaic panels, sun-concentrating mirrors and collectors mounted on 70-foot poles.

The projects could be impeded by environmental reviews, protest litigation, and a lack of transmission capacity in the Mojave region.  And there is no shortage of environmental concerns.  Great Plains environmentalists worry wind turbines could impact migratory birds in Texas and sage grouse in Wyoming.  National Park Service scientists are concerned that southern Nevada concentrated solar projects could draw down water levels in warm-water caverns that host the endangered electric-blue pupfish.  Environmentalists around the Mojave object to projected heavy water use and impacts on the endangered desert tortoise among other habitat concerns.

Wildlands Conservancy’s conservation director said; “To knowingly run out and destroy pristine habitat in the name of saving the environment is ludicrous.”  Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., agrees, and will legislatively attempt to establish an 800,000 acre national monument that would bump or shrink 17 solar and 6 wind projects.

Renewables company leaders are chagrinned.  “I got into this business because I feel it’s the right thing to do for the future of this country,” a Lightsource Renewables co-founder said.  Feinstein’s proposed monument and a lack of transmission capacity have stalled one of the company’s projects.  “It’s not ‘We’re either going to have a solar plant or we’re going to have this piece of desert left alone’,” he added.  “It’s ‘We’re either going to have a big solar power plant out here in the desert or we’re going to have burnouts and blackouts’.”

The Mojave has high solar potential, 340 days of sunshine and 120-degree temperatures in summer.  Some see a harsh and unattractive desert environment ripe for development.  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said at a Yale speech last year; “If we cannot put solar-power plants in the Mojave desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it.”

Still, utility-scale solar projects demand enormous space, some as much as 45 square miles of desert, terrain that is scraped clean and divides habitat.  Sun-tracking mirrors can be mounted on towers as much as 300 feet high, with fields spanning hundreds or thousands of acres.  Ambient temperatures around the installations can reach as much as 800 degrees, thus the apt moniker dubbed by environmentalists “bird-zappers”.  They cook birds and bats passing near the towers in mid-flight.

Divisions in the Sierra Club over the mega-installations typify opposing concerns.  A Sierra Club representative said; “The scale of these things is just awesome.”  Professional staff at the Club are enthusiastic about the installations as a means to fight global warming, reducing CO2 emissions for large-scale electricity production.  Many volunteers for the Club however oppose the destruction of habitat.

“It’s that compromise thing.  The minute you get into compromise, historically it’s always a problem for conservationists,” Sierra Club field representative Joan Taylor said.  She believes slower development and siting on already disturbed land is the way to go.  “We don’t need to sacrifice the values of protecting habitat and biodiversity in order to combat global climate change.”

Renewables in the Mojave also face the need for pricy new high capacity transmission lines.  Such a proposed line from the Imperial Valley to San Diego, as well as Green Path North—a proposed transmission line to Los Angeles, is being fought by environmental groups.  Mojave locals too are up in arms over the massive installations.

One nearby resident said of a proposed 17,000 acre plant; “We’re not talking about the amount of room that’s taken for a natural-gas plant or the amount of room taken for an oil well.  We’re talking about thousands of acres being scraped off, and it can never come back.”  A BLM chief who saw outcry over Bush administration oil and gas drilling was not shocked by the volume and intensity of public interest and input.  “Clearly we’re talking about federal lands that we manage for the public.  Every site location that is proposed is going to have some resource conflict.”

3.  Effort in NM to keep medications out of Rio Grande—Susan Montoya Bryan, AP 9/2/09

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, New Mexico’s largest water utility district has initiated a widespread public education campaign to keep pharmaceuticals out of the significant Rio Grande waterway.  Recently scientists found caffeine in the Rio, alerting to the likelihood of other contaminants.  Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals have turned up in irrigation waters in the Rio Grande Valley as well.

Along with the US Geological Survey’s studies, the New Mexico Environment Department found trace amounts of the antidepressant amitriptyline in the waterway near Santa Fe.  The water authority will regularly test raw and treated drinking water and wastewater to assess pharmaceutical presence and amounts and locations.  Albuquerque residents will also be educated on proper disposal of unused or outdated medicines.  Preferably, residents will mix the medicines with water and cat litter, seal the mix in a disposable container and throw it out.

Fliers will accompany bills to residents beginning in October, with posters for pharmacies and legislated pharmaceutical take-back programs in the works.  The response, officials said, comes not from any indication of approaching toxicity levels, but from wanting to respond proactively.  “It’s our life line here and we are now using it for drinking water and we don’t want it polluted downstream or here,” a Bernalillo County Commissioner and vice chair for the water authority said.

Over a half million Albuquerqueans utilize the Rio Grande’s water via the water authority.  Santa Fe and Las Cruces are expected to draw from the Rio in the near future.  El Paso, Laredo and other Texas cities too draw from the river along with countless farm interests in the long river valley.  A nationwide Associated Press investigation identified traces of pharmaceuticals in drinking water supplies for at least 51 million Americans and numerous waterways.

Everything form antibiotics to psychiatric drugs to endocrine-disrupting sex hormones were found.  Human excretion is the largest source of the residues, though manufacturers, health care facilities and residents are known to dump unused medications into the sewage systems, running eventually into rivers and streams.

Parts per trillion tests will occur in the Albuquerque region of the Rio Grande, about one twentieth of a drop of water diluted in an Olympic-sized swimming pool 2 meters deep.  Though drug companies, water providers and some scientists dismiss dangers at such low levels, other scientists believe minute amounts over decades and in combination with other drugs could cause harm, especially because the pharmaceuticals are designed to impact the human body.

Sex hormones and psychiatric drugs among others have been found in some studies to hurt water-borne species.  A limited number of studies have found minute concentrations of some drugs can disturb human cell function.  The water authority plans to participate in a year-length study sponsored by the American Water Works Association Water Research Foundation to monitor filtering technique effectiveness for pharmaceuticals.

A spokesman for Amigos Bravos, a group that discovered pharmaceuticals in Valley area irrigation ditches, called it a “first step in the right direction.”  He added that the science on pharmaceuticals in water sources was still coming together, though studies are finding impacts on aquatic life from minute percentages of pharmaceuticals and caffeine.  “The big question is what’s the impact on human health.  That’s what people are worried about.”

The Bernalillo County Commission chair added; “If you don’t start being proactive about it, when you do have a problem then you’re spending millions and millions of dollars to clean up the water…We don’t want it to get critical.”

4.  At least two hunters fill their tags on the first day of Idaho’s first wolf season—Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman 9/2/09

A Kamiah, Idaho resident called in a pack of wolves with a hand call that mimicked the sound of a wounded coyote.  An 80-pound she-wolf drew into close range where the hunter picked her off with a .243 Northern Idaho’s Lolo Zone.  He called it “luck of the draw.”  Around 10,000 wolf tags had been sold as of early this week, though Fish and Game could not confirm actual hunters in the field.

An archer camping in the Sawtooth Zone near Stanley woke up to find a wolf squaring off with his horse, put together his rifle and shot the animal.  “He said he had bought a wolf tag but never planned to use it,” Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s wolf manager said.  “He was going to have it framed.”

Even while a federal judge in Montana is reviewing arguments that could halt the hunt or reinstate wolves as an endangered species, hunting activity seems slow over most of the state’s wolf-ripe regions.  Over a dozen environmental groups are seeking to have the hunt terminated and the wolves returned to the federal endangered species list after delisting in May placed the animals under state control in Idaho and Montana.

Idaho set a 220 wolf limit in an estimated population of 1,000.  Montana has set its limit at 75 in an estimated 500 wolf population.  Montana’s season is set to open Sept. 15.  The director of Boulder White Clouds Council, a pro-wolf group, monitored wolf packs Tuesday in and around Stanley and reported little hunting activity.  “I just don’t know how to deal with a state that doesn’t realize wildlife has a purpose besides being shot,” she responded.

Some hunters have expressed interest in waiting for the wolve’s hides to thicken, towards late October and November.  Others have seized the opportunity to cruise for a kill.  Three such hunters visited the Thorn Creek Butte Summit about the Middle Fork of the Boise River close to Idaho City.  A warden who stopped them to check their tags reported seeing fresh wolf tracks and scat in the area.  “You guys are in the right ballpark,” the warden told them.

5.  Layton man pleads guilty to freeing minks from farm—Pamela Manson, SLT 9/3/09

William Viehl could receive up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for releasing hundreds of minks from a South Jordan farm on August 19, 2008.  22-year-old Viehl and 20 year old Alex Hall both were indicted for opening hundreds of pens and destroying breeding records at the McMullin mink farm.  Allegations charged over $10,000 in damage, though most of the 600 or so minks from the farm were recovered.  Both were charged with a misdemeanor stemming from a similar incident at the Matthews mink farm in Hyrum Oct. 19, 2008.  Hall has yet to go to trial.

6.  Plans for coal-fired power plant canceled—Judy Fahys, SLT 9/2/09

The Intermountain Power Plant (IPP) in Delta requested a termination of the plant’s air quality permit on August 12 for a 900-megawatt expansion to the plant.  “Since IPA (Intermountain Power Agency) does not intend to approve the development and construction of the currently permitted third coal-fired power plant (“Unit 3”) at the IPP…it seems appropriate to cancel or revoke the Unit 3 approval order issued on August 3, 2004.”  A new permit will have to be sought if further development takes place.  After environmentalist opposition—citing nearby national park air quality and the state’s refusal to require clean-coal technology; and infighting between the plant’s proponents that resulted in a breach-of-contract lawsuit, IPA began the process of scrapping the plant in July.

7.  Canyons’ future:  Fewer cars, more buses?—Jeremiah Stettler, SLT 9/2/09

Envision Utah, a local private-public partnership that specializes in public input-based urban visioning projects, has facilitated the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow project ahead of next year’s revision of the county’s Wasatch Canyons Master Plan, dating to 1989.  Over 5,000 comments were gathered on a range of issues, from dogs to transportation, development to watershed protection.  The survey focused on the seven major Wasatch watershed canyons:  City Creek Canyon, Red Butte Canyon, Emigration Canyon, Parley’s Canyon, Mill Creek Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The planning process will hopefully guide long-term planning and development over the next 20 years.  More public transportation was favored, such as more substantial bus transportation or a rail system that could serve Big and Little Cottonwood, perhaps closing the canyons to motor vehicle traffic and allowing only shuttles for skiers, hikers and visitors at peak recreation hours.  Such a move could increase bicycling safety and lower canyon air pollution.

Alta’s mayor said; “The road into Little Cottonwood Canyon has been at capacity for the last 20 years.  Anything we can do to move people up and down more efficiently through public transportation…would be a positive.”  The director for Ski Utah agreed, citing concerns that the industry “doesn’t degrade along with the increase in use.”  A spokesman for the Utah Transit Authority said they would be supportive of the public’s interest.

Dog comments in the survey about equally split 369 comments.  Half complained of interference with cyclists and watershed quality, while half supported the first-rate dog walking terrain.  Most agreed current regulations were fair.  Bicyclists and motorists squared off in the surveys, though dedicated bike lanes or parallel bike paths could remedy the situation.

Save Our Canyons’ executive director said; “Over the course of time, there has been a recognition by the public at large to protect a lot of these areas.  The shift is going more toward conservation.”  Watershed issues were the second hottest topic, and 30% of online survey takers ranked the environment as the canyons’ primary value.  Most preferred limited development to ensure the health of the canyons.

Envision Utah has suggested the possibility of buying or exchanging property to slow growth.  They will follow up the public comment by generating a handful of alternative strategies that would attain the goals and values most responded to, such as providing for the city’s water supply, over the next 30 years as population is expected to double.

8.  Emotional EchoHawk eager to serve ‘First Americans’—Patty Henetz, SLT 9/2/09

Speaking at Utah’s Native American Summit Wednesday at Thanksgiving Point, newly appointed Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk reflected on dark Native American history as well as the moment he was offered the position by the Obama administration.  Echohawk is a former BYU law professor and Indian tribal law expert.  “There are some dark chapters in this country when it comes to Indian affairs,” EchoHawk said.

All too familiar with the history of the federal government with respect to Indians, controversially interpreting the Constitution in order to break treaties, push tribes off traditional lands and commit atrocities against the indigenous peoples, EchoHawk said he hesitated when offered the position.  “They used a good line,” he added; “They said, ‘Your country is calling you into service’.”

Reflecting on the way the country had for almost 300 years “beat down, cheated and murdered tribal people” Henetz reported; he turned to Dee Brown’s 1970 classic, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. In his speech, EchoHawk recounted some of the details of the war on tribes from 1860 to 1890 that are central to the book, such as the Bear river Massacre in southern Idaho in 1863 that killed almost 500 non-combative Shoshone.

“The assistant secretary is the face of the federal government when it comes to Indian affairs,” EchoHawk said emotionally.  “I want only to do what is right and just for America and for native people, the first Americans.”  The Oklahoma Pawnee Nation member received a standing ovation.  EchoHawk’s Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education maintain 10,000 employees and a $2.5 billion budget.  He represents 562 tribes that hold 66 million acres of sovereign lands.

Leaders of the six Utah tribes also spoke.  Utah Division of Indian Affairs Executive Director Forrest Cuch found the speech emotional, and the audience pleased.  “They would be disappointed if they heard him talking from his head instead of his heart,” he said.  “We’re going to stand by him,” Cuch said on behalf of the tribes at the summit, “because we consider him a native son of Utah.”

9.  Horse-carriage ban is sought by PETA—Melinda Rogers, SLT 9/2/09

The popular Salt Lake City tourist attraction drew the attention of activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) after a 12-year-old  black half-draft horse was spooked Saturday by the sudden sound of a carriage door opening against the carriage’s metal sign.  The horse bolted with the passengers still clinging to the carriage in their seats. Though driver Jason Kirton was able to halt the first bolt, the horse wouldn’t calm down, and bolted out of Kirton’s hands as he tried to calm the horse on the ground behind the Gallivan Center near the Wells Fargo building.  The second time the horse launched with a family of seven still aboard, the driver was left behind.  The horse charged and overturned a bike-mounted police officer trying to halt the carriage then crashed into a parked car at Main Street and 300 South.

A resident driving eastbound on 300 South nearly struck the runaway carriage with his 1986 Suburban.  “It probably would have been a lot worse had they gone head-on with me rather than the parked car,” the resident said.  He contacted PETA.  In a letter to Mayor Ralph Becker and the city council, PETA criticized the city for the carriage operation, inhumane working conditions for the animals and safety hazards created for the public.

“Horses are forced to work in extreme weather conditions while walking on hard pavement next to passing cars and busses, which can terrify them.  Local cyclists, pedestrians and motorists are put in harm’s way when cumbersome carriages are pulled by frightened, unpredictable animals,” the letter said.  The letter also calls for a ban on horse-drawn carriages similar to ones in Biloxi, Miss.; Reno, Nev.; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Santa Fe, N.M.  A spokeswoman for Becker said the mayor would review the request and respond if necessary.

One city council member was waiting to review police reports before any action was taken.  He said no “immediate plans” existed for a change in regulations, though the council wanted to find out more about the incident and whether it suggested a pattern needing redress with regulation.  Carriage for Hire, who owns and operates the buggy, said PETA’s claims were not accurate.  Owner Annette Overson who started the business in 1987 said the company has 25 horses that each work 2-3 shifts per week, each about 5 hours.  The Clydesdales, Belgians and Percherons are bred for work.  The stable takes good care of the horses she said, with round-the-clock access to food, water and veterinary care if needed.  A misting system cools the horses during hot days, and regular inspections have been satisfactory.

“I think it would be too bad for the City Council to entertain the idea of closing down a business over a single incident,” Overson said.  “We feel like we’re ambassadors to the city.  We get people all day and all night when drivers are out asking for information, suggestions and directions.  Our drivers enjoy the horses.  We don’t do this because we’re making a lot of money, we do this because we love what we do.  We love our animals.”

Still, other crashes have happened.  An April incident sent a Logan driver to the hospital when his carriage went off the road and rolled over.  A 4th of July incident in 1999 at This is the Place Heritage Park hospitalized 9 people when the horse got out of control.  When one horse’s halter fell off the two-draft horse team, one of the horses bolted down the main street of the village before tearing away from the wagon.

Nevertheless, Kirton and Overson point to the holiday tradition the carriages have become for Utah families, and the heavy business they do on Valentine’s Day.  Having driven since 2002, Kirton said,” Our horses are very calm and very stable.  They’re used to the noises they hear in the city.  What happened to Jim [the horse] was something entirely unusual.  I know it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t Jim’s fault.  It was something external to us.”

10.  Climate change bill to boost nuclear power plants—Amanda DeBard, The Washington Times 9/1/09

Current climate bill legislation would allow operating nuclear power plants in states with unregulated rates to up their prices, upping their profit margins in the bargain.  Another advantage for the technology is other fuels would become more expensive under the bill.  Their rate hikes would come from the added expenses under cap-and-trade legislation, but carbon-free nuclear power plants would have no pollution bills to foot, and so would turn a profit.

The president of the Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA) said “this is exactly what is supposed to happen.”  The market-based shift would presumably discourage fossil fuel production and use.  While the Environmental Protection Agency has seen a possible 13% increase in electricity rates by 2020, the American Public Power Association has predicted as much as a 20% hike early in the bill’s tenure.

Of 104 existing US nuclear power plants, 46 operate in states that do not regulate prices for electricity.  No control exists in these states either for how much nuclear power can generate for profit.  Hydroelectric power could fare similarly, while coal-fired power plants, the dirtiest of electricity producers, would likely see the highest rate hikes.  Some large nuclear holdings could make as much as $2.6 billion a year in additional profit under the House-passed bill, consulting firm Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. said.

EPSA’s president said the monies would probably be reinvested in the businesses.  Carbon-free businesses like the nuclear industry could expand under such conditions, expanding carbon-free energy supplies.  In markets saturated with nuclear power, prices would not be expected to rise.  Coal-heavy markets on the other hand would see the sharpest increases.

A senior vice president with the American Public Power Association, representing community owned electric utilities, said the profits would be substantial.  “There could be a very large amount of money moving from consumer’s pockets to power companies with no environmental benefits.”

11.  2,500 acres added to Bonneville Shoreline Trail connection—Aaron Falk, Deseret News 9/1/09

Senator Bob Bennett, R-Utah and Salt Lake County mayors dedicated the 2,500 acres that stretch a mile in length around Hidden Valley Park, 11700 S. Wasatch Blvd.  The link moves the trail further down from Sandy to Corner Canyon in Draper, preserving ancient history.  “It is part of what our state has been,” Bennett pronounced, “and it helps us understand the forces that created this beautiful scene.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon talked of family outings on the trail, exploring and viewing the valley.  Corroon added that as population grows, open space protection was critical.  “As we grow, we lose that elbow room that we all love the West for,” Corroon said.  Negotiations between the Trust for Public Land, South Valley municipalities and WaterPro, the land’s previous owners, were initiated in 2007.

12.  Utah’s eat-local movement transforming u-pick into fine dining—Kathy Stephensen, SLT 9/1/09

Copper Moose Organic Farm sponsors farm-to-table dinners that feature organic vegetables and meats from local and regional producers.  The middlemen, semi-trucks and warehouses have been skirted by rising interest in intimacy with food from farm to table, as well as familiarity with the grower.  Harvest dinners, culinary classes, restaurants and caterers all are offering and enjoying the local fare.

“People are inherently drawn to farms and growing food, it’s such a part of our historical culture,” said Daisy Fair, manager of the one-acre Copper Moose Farm.  “It’s just in the last generation that we have lost touch with growing our own food.”  Fair has built the farm up to offer Community Supported Agriculture to over 50 families weekly, including produce, eggs and honey.  U-pick days offer members the opportunity to pick ripe produce, visit the farm and feed resident chickens and ducks.

The first farm-to-table dinner was offered last year, and all three held this summer at $125 a plate sold out rapidly.  “It’s so beautiful to eat out in the field,” Fair said, “and it’s a fun way to connect people with the land where their food is being grown.”  California and Oregon both have long sponsored such venues America’s sustainable food movement got its start.  The Plate and Pitchfork, one such venue, has offered a traveling farm-to-table restaurant replete with tables, grills and propane burners for set-up on Portland-area farms.  Chefs and wine makers both host the dinners.  Each of the dozen dinners the restaurant sponsors feed 112.

“When we started, local and sustainable weren’t something people talked about,” the Pitchfork’s owner said.  “The change since then has been immense.”  Clientele effuse over better taste and better health for the environment, since foods are grown and enjoyed locally.  “My favorite moment is when I take someone to a farmers market for the first time, and they sample a cherry or a peach and they get this instant sugar bomb, owner Erika Polmar said.  “It’s not what a cherry that has been picked before it is ripe and been transported 1,500 miles tastes like.”

Copper Moose’s farm-to-table evenings tour the garden and harvest the evening’s meal.  Local food purveyors speak about their products, special guests like Taylor Made Beef, Beehive Cheese, and High West Distillery.  Rebecca Brenner, owner of Park City Holistic Health leads guests in dinner preparations.  To the general experience of hesitation, she says; “It’s so full of fantastic flavor it does all the work for you.”

One Copper Moose attendee said, “I love knowing that between the food and me, there’s been no truck, no gas, no shipping across several states.”  Eileen Dunn, owner of Park City’s Done to Your Taste Catering, recently began offering farm-to-table dinners for clients as well.  Dunn uses local farmers’ eggs and meat and utilizes organic produce from her own garden.

“Now we are moving into the fall, so you’ll see more squashes and corn on the menu,” she said. “We are going to add canning, freezing and dehydrating to our repertoire.”  Dunn shuns the idea that farm-to-table is a passing trend.  “It’s a new way of eating, and it’s where we are all going.”

13.  Kane County loses dispute over roads—Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News 9/2/09

Local access to federal lands was hobbled Tuesday as the majority opinion laid down by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled Kane County had “no right” to put up signs in direct opposition to federal land manager stipulations.  The county had argued that roads falling under the RS2477 designation stretching back to the Civil War era in the 1.3 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, area wilderness and recreation areas constituted sanctioned “rights of way.”

The states have argued these rights of way have been “explicitly” preserved since the RS2477 statute was put in place.  Kane and Garfield counties exemplify the fulcrum of the dispute.  These county-claimed roadways, though often no more than unpaved trails, the counties argue have been in constant local use.  Around 2,200 “Class B” roads have been recorded by the state public lands planning office that may be up for dispute.  Monument and wilderness area designations eliminated many of these roads from traditional uses, pitting environmentalists against local government officials.

14.  Appeals panel rules against Kane County’s sign swap—Tom Wharton, SLT 9/1/09

A split decision in a Denver federal appeals court found Kane County had no authority to tear down off-highway vehicle restriction signs and put up signs encouraging use in Bureau of Land Management-managed lands such as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  Kane County has not tipped its hand on whether or not it will appeal the decision in a long history of conflict.

The county replaced 31 signs in 2003 with its own signs, designating hundreds of roads in the monument and other BLM-controlled lands open for off-road vehicle use under Reconstruction-era statute R.S. 2477, which originally intended road development throughout the West.  While existing roads were grandfathered, the law was repealed in 1976.  The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society sued the county in 2005 over the issue, and US District Court found Kane County had not sufficiently proven ownership, leaving the decision of use up to the federal government.

Two US Court of Appeals judges agreed, while one, a former Utahn, argued that it wasn’t incumbent upon Kane County to prove county ownership of the roads in court.  He agreed too with Kane County that the environmental groups had non standing and only complicated the property issue.

“By holding that counties have no valid existing rights to manage or maintain roads over federal land without first going to court, the majority today has made mutual accommodation more difficult,” Justice McConnell wrote.  Kane County can appeal to all Tenth judges and if it loses can take the issue to the US Supreme Court.

Kane County Commissioner Doug Heaton expressed disappointment.  “I think federal government power has been increasing markedly and local government and private citizen power has decreased, and that is not a good thing,” Heaton said.  “But I am confident that the county commission will do the right thing and obey the law.   I am not sure where we will go from here.”

Heidi McIntosh, associate director of Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance argued the court found that the county cannot act with disregard for the law, tearing down BLM signs closing areas to protect resources and archaeological sites.  As the ruling cited the Constitution’s Supremacy clause, McIntosh said, Sagebrush Rebellion proponents, who defend the idea that federal ownership of public lands is not constitutional, were distanced from their argument.

“The Sagebrush Rebellion is based on a fallacy, but it’s always good for the court to remind people of the status quo,” McIntosh said.  She pointed out that 908 miles of open road in the monument still offered sufficient public access.  The issue of whether the roads in question are legal rights of way under RS 2477 was not addressed in the majority opinion.  A policy analyst for the Utah Association of Counties, a party to the suit on behalf of Kane County, was optimistic about the silence.

“We are encouraged that the 10th Circuit majority opinion made it crystal clear that not a single road in the monument has been deemed invalid,” the analyst said.  A US District Court in Salt Lake City is slated to hear RS 2477 claims in September.  McIntosh said San Juan County would argue the National Park Service was not authorized to close the Salt Creek Road in Canyonlands National Park since it met with RS 2477 designation standards.

Pat Shea, former BLM director and Salt Lake City attorney who joined environmentalists and two other agency directors in the Kane County case, hopes Kane County residents and political leaders will utilize the opportunity the monument presents for a tourist economy.  “It’s always nice when you win but when it is winning over an effort to have bad public policy, it still leaves a distaste in my mouth because of how much money was spent,” Shea said.

15.  Herbert views fire, criticizes federal policies—Mark Havnes, SLT 8/31/09

Governor Herbert, after flying over the remnants of the 10,000 acre Mill Flat fire which destroyed at least 3 buildings and nearly burned another 600, criticized the decision to let the fire burn.  “A lightning strike may be a good way to manage resources,” Herbert said of the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to let the fire clear old growth and foster forest health Sunday, “but [it] may not be the best practice.”

The conditions that made Mill Flat ripe for an uncontrolled burn exist across the public lands in central and southern Utah.  Herbert plans to discuss the issue further with BLM and forest service officials.  Herbert also criticized wilderness area restrictions.  Though the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness Area where the fire first took root July 25 was protected, Herbert argued livestock grazing would have dampened the dangerous conditions that stoked the blaze.

“With wilderness, our hands are tied behind our backs,” Herbert said.  “It sets us up for a tragedy.”  One option might be to let sheep graze those areas, Herbert offered.  The fire burned slowly through mostly dead vegetation throughout August, monitored by officials.  Saturday’s heavy winds spurred the fire out of control, rapidly moving towards residences.

One area resident, speaking at a town meeting Sunday, lamented the billions she expected it would cost to fight the fire when it could have been snuffed out in the early stages for relatively little.  She was the only evacuee from New Harmony, and has taken refuge in a temporary Kanarraville Red Cross shelter at an LDS ward.

A second homeowner in the area said the Forest Service “screwed up.”  Early surveys of the fire left him feeling tragedy was on its way.  His brother said; “My solution is the first five days [the fire] is nature made, after that it should be treated as manmade.”  Herbert defended taxpayers from footing the cost.  “It appears the Forest Service started the fire; they should take responsibility,” he said.

16.  Carrot-toting tourists making Arizona burros obese—Felicia Fonseca, AP, Kansas City Star 8/31/09

Wild burros in the historic gold mining town of Oatman, Arizona are getting fat on carrots and other handouts the half million tourists a year feed to the animals.  The Bureau of Land Management has initiated a campaign to get the burros back out into the desert foraging for grass and shrubs, and into more appropriate body size.  “The town has really encouraged burros to be down there; it’s part of the draw of Oatman,” the head of the BLM horses and burros in Phoenix said.  “We want to try to work with them to have burros around town, but we don’t want the people feeding them.”

Oatman’s boasts the honeymoon spot of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, hosts staged shootouts, tour bus holdups and shotgun weddings in the Hollywood style of the old West.  Local population stands at only about 120.  A dozen burros—descendants of donkeys that were released by gold miners after the federal government shut down the mines post-World War II—roam streets home to gift, craft and antique shops.  “If it weren’t for the burros, the rest of us wouldn’t be here,” says a chamber of commerce official.

The BLM is expecting the plea to be a hard sell, though they compare the campaign to telling Yellowstone National Park visitors to quit feeding the bears.  “As the feed is diminished over time, I think they’ll start wandering out and remember what’s out there for dinner,” the BLM head said.  Storekeepers too have been advised not to feed the animals.  BLM-drafted scripts for gunfighters and shop owners say bluntly the burros are being loved to death.

Slogans being shopped around town include:  “No Diet-Busting Cubes or Carrots—Please! and “Keep Oatman Burros Happy and Healthy—No Extra Food,” and “Give Burros Care, not Carrots.”  The BLM notes that burros in the desert are much healthier, without behavioral problems and pain from hooves growing too thick to walk well.  “It’s a matter of educating the public, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” the chamber official said.  “We don’t want to discourage people from coming here because they can’t feed the burros.”

“BLM is certainly not going to put a carrot cop up here to make sure that nobody feeds the burros,” the chamber spokesman added.  “They don’t have the funding nor the manpower.”  The owner of Amargosa Toads is opposed to cutting the animals off.  Aggressive burros have been kicking in her gift shop door, gnawing on the door panel and on books.

“I’m sure they can learn to forage, but people come from the entire world to feed the burros,” she said, calling herself grandma to the burros.  “I don’t agree to feed wild animals at all, but if they have been fed their whole lives, how can you take that away?”  The BLM could exercise the option of putting the animals up for adoption if it turns out they won’t forage.

17.  Forest Service, environmentalist defend handling fire—Tom Wharton, SLT 8/31/09

A 2008 fire assessment that included 600 Utah communities placed the New Harmony region of Washington County at 11 on a risk scale of 1 to 12.  The US Forest Service has been building firebreaks since 2002 around the 50,000 acre Pine Valley Wilderness Area above the town to shore the town up against the possibility, clearing broad bands of flammable brush and cutting treelines back away from the town.  Even the choice of letting the region burn after lightning ignited the fire on July 25 was a strategy intended to burn off accumulated materials in the wilderness area in part to protect the town.

The fire broadened slowly from 2 to 100 to 1000 acres, when federal firefighters were called in to actively manage the blaze.  Unexpected high winds gusted through southwestern Utah early Saturday afternoon forcing firefighters into a hurried defense of homes as the blaze jumped again to 10.000 acres, forcing partial evacuation and drawing the ire of Utah Governor Gary Herbert.

“It appears the Forest Service started the fire,” Herbert said during a regional visit Sunday.  “They should take responsibility.”  Herbert resented the wilderness designation in the Pine Valley Mountains, the second largest wilderness area in the state next to the high Uintas, for practices contributing to fuel buildup.  Herbert’s suggestion was that sheep could be used to keep grassy fuels at bay in the wilderness area.

Utah wilderness activist Dick Carter, who participated in the push to get Pine Valley designated wilderness in 1984, called Herbert’s criticism “simple-minded rhetoric”.  He pointed to 2007’s Milford Flats fire, Utah’s largest, where grazing and a lack of wilderness designation had no effect on the intensity or the acreage consumed.

“This fire was waiting to happen as well as a whole slew of others, whether they are in wilderness or not, because we have been in a deep and prolonged drought and that a significant climatic weather change has occurred,” Carter argued.  “We have shorter winters, especially in the southern part of the state, much longer summers, deep drought conditions, and we continue to have lightning.  Those factors will assure us of a major fire.”

A spokeswoman for Herbert moderated his position Monday.  She said Herbert “believes the Mill Flat fire has demonstrated a need to take a closer look at some of the policies in place and perhaps make some modifications to prevent similar incidents in the future.  He is not interested in assigning blame, but instead on focusing on refining current policy.  Gov. Herbert believes very strongly that the state of Utah should not have to pay any costs associated with fighting the Mill Flat fire, and appreciates the Forest Service’s offer to cover those costs.”

A forest ranger for the district serving the wilderness area noted grazing is allowed in wilderness areas.  Cattle graze the Pine Valley mountains in summertime.  He said the big problem was fallen trees.  “We have an unhealthy ecosystem with a lot oaf stressed trees so bugs are able to kill them,” he commented.  “We have 35% dead trees in tight vegetation above the towns of Pine Valley, New Harmony and Leeds, and one day that will burn.  It’s not if, it’s when.”

The Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands’ 2005 commissioned fire risk assessment observed the encroachment of homes on forests.  One such home destroyed in the blaze had been built on stilts, allowing homeowners to store as much as a ton of fire-prone hay under the building.  The ranger added “New Harmony is no longer New Harmony…It’s out of harmony and it’s been out of harmony a long time because we have failed to understand the consequences of growth and that’s the thing Governor Herbert and others will have to deal with.”

Federal stipulations of Forest Service managed wilderness areas require district rangers to gain permission from forest-wide and regional managers before chain saws can be used, helicopters can land or drop water or fire retardants.  Permission had been granted as of Thursday.  The 10 most at-risk communities in the state-wide study completed in 2008 are:

Elk Meadow, Beaver County; Currant Creek Mountain, Duchesne County; Fruitland, Duchesne County; Orange Mountain, Duchesne County; Pinyon Ridge, Duchesne County; Rabbit Gulch, Duchesne County; Mammoth Creek, Garfield County; Quichipa, Iron County; Eureka, Juab County; Kanosh, Millard County.

18.  UW gets sequestration funding—Jeff Gearino, Casper Star-Tribune 8/31/09

The Department of Energy has put up over $8.4 million for 7 sequestration technology projects across the nation, almost $1 million of it going to the University of Wyoming for a regional carbon sequestration technology training center in Laramie.  Officials say the project will cultivate the workforce needed for the growing CO2 storage industry in the state.  Major players hope the industry will help keep coal viable in Wyoming.

Training for site development, operations and monitoring of sequestration sites will be the central mission of the institute managed by the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.  Wyoming’s heavy dependence on carbon-based industries makes it especially vulnerable to federal actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the face of global warming.  Supporters see carbon capture and sequestration reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants to almost zero, utilizing depleted oil and gas reservoirs and saline aquifers.

The UW CCS Technology Institute will operate using an industry-standard model for training and offering career pathways for grads and professionals in the Rocky Mountain region, DOE officials say.  Wyoming leads the nation in sequestration developments.  Ownership and regulation issues were dispensed with by new state laws last year, and local officials believe the potential for sequestration benefits in Wyoming are huge, securing the state’s coal resources and growing a number of  new skilled worker positions similar to those in the gas industry.

19.  India’s idol rituals take toll on the environment—Liz Neisloss, 8/31/09

Hindus in India celebrate the birthday of elephant god Ganesha by creating colorful idols of increasingly large size and dropping them in India’s nearby ocean, rivers and lakes.  As the event has gained in popularity, some statuary has grown to the point that cranes must be used to move them from trucks into the water bodies.  Scientists say the gold, red, pink green and other colorful paints contain lead and mercury that are poisoning plants, fish, irrigation and drinking water, eventually climbing the food chain to humans.

Other Hindu god idols such as Saraswati and Durga are immersed in the festivities as well, that see as many as hundreds of thousands of the idols deposited in India’s bodies of water each year.  A study conducted at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay has been tracking idol immersions, estimating as many as several hundred thousand idols manufactured yearly in Mumbai alone.

The study recommends “Forbidding the disposal of painted idols, ornaments and decoration” as the only way to guarantee protection of India’s water bodies.  Some Indian states are experimenting with mobile immersion tanks and encouragement of mud idols, but the study’s researcher believes even eco-friendly mud idols could damage waterways.

“The number of idols is so high,” the researcher said, “no matter what the material, there will always be an impact.  Even organic substances in large quantities can cause a problem.”  The researcher has suggested a “dry immersion”, sprinkling the idol with water in a symbolic gesture and re-using the idols.  But religious rituals with deep social and cultural links could prove difficult and slow to change.

A polymer-lined tank such as the more than 100 tanks installed in Mumbai offer linings that can be rolled up after use, allowing materials to be separated into biodegradable and non-biodegradable and assigned to compost piles or landfills.  Water is filtered, though contamination still exists and tens of thousands would be needed.

20.  China investigates third spate of lead poisonings—Li Xiaowei, Bloomberg News 8/31/09

A routine blood test on 1,000 children from Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan, revealed 200 kids with “excessive” levels of lead, according to China Daily and hospital director Wu Ling.  China is the world’s largest metals consumer, and two other lead-poisoning issues in the past month have broadened a nationwide probe into the southern province of Yunnan.

Excessive lead found in toys, melamine-tainted milk and pet food has been killing children and dogs, and China is working urgently to regulate health standards at plants.  One of the recent lead-poisoning issues resulted in the shuttering of two smelters in Shaanxi and Hunan provinces after 2,000 children tested “above normal” for lead in their blood, Xinhua News Agency reported.

China Daily reported led levels at greater than 100 micrograms per liter of blood.  A government investigation is expected to report on the case this week.  Excessive lead poisoning can lead to intelligence deficiencies, impaired kidney function and anemia.  Due to excessive lead content, Mattel Inc. recalled 21 million toys of Chinese manufacture in 2007.

An environment bureau official said the high lead levels could be due to car exhaust rather than industry, the China Daily reported.  Local parents say a nearby industrial park is to blame.  The Wugang Manganese Smelting Plant in Hunan province was shuttered in August when 1,354 neighboring children tested with excessive lead levels.  The Wugang government has ordered the overhaul of more than 100 plants in the region, Xinhua said.

Caijing magazine cited officials who said the Hunan and Guizhou factories often re-use lead containing residues as a cost-saving measure since rising steel production has increased manganese demand.  The untreated lead could pose a significant health risk if released into the environment, Cajing said.

At a lead and zinc smelter in Changquing, Shaanxi province, hundreds broke in and occupied the industry after 851 children tested above normal for lead in the bloodstream.  The unrest has spurred China to shut down over 400,000 metric tons of annual smelting capacity due to failure to meet environmental standards.  Smelters may be forced to merge or close permanently due to the poisonings.

In Henan province, China’s largest lead producer, over 120,000 tons of output was shut down, though China’s largest lead producer was running normally.  Lead doubled on the London Metal Exchange in 2009 after China posted record purchases.  One significant use of lead is for car batteries.


21.  Time for Sevier County to move to clean and green—Jim Kennon, president, Sevier Citizens for Clean Air and Water, SLT 9/2/09

22.  Evidence abounds that global warming isn’t our fault—Richard W. Flygare, Questar Market Resources, SLT 9/2/09

23.  Enough is enough—Tribune Editorial 9/2/09 On the Kane County vs. BLM sign swap ruling

Keep in Mind

24.  Environmentalists slow to adjust in climate debate—David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post 8/31/09

25.  ‘Non-GMO’ seal identifies foods mostly biotech-free-William Neuman, The New York Times 8/28/09

26.  Rock closes Zion Weeping Rock Trail—Brett Prettyman, SLT 9/3/09

The trail was closed due to a rock slide that covered the trail Wednesday.  No one was reported injured.  Officials expect to repair the trail sometime after Labor Day weekend.

27.  Utah’s DEQ director nominee clears first hurdle—Judy Fahys, SLT 9/1/09

28.  Recession helps EU cut 2008 CO2 emissions—Reuters, 8/31/09

29.  Energy retrofits not so stimulated by stimulus bill—Justin Moresco, 8/31/09

30.  Wolves are set to become fair game in the West—William Yardley, The New York Times 8/31/09

31.  New Urbanity:  The rise of a new America—Tasha Cook, KUER Salt Lake City, Ut. 8/31/09

32.  Street car proposal closer to being a reality—Richard Pratt, Utah 8/31/09

33.  Herbert may reject fire money—Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret News 8/31/09

34.  2 meetings on Snake Valley plan—Ami Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News 8/31/09

35.  BLM working to manage 13 wildfires in Utah—Kirk Yuhnke, Fox 13 News Utah 8/31/09,0,5001854.story

36.  Feds, Illinois sue Midwest Generation to stop air pollution—Environment News Service 8/27/09

37.  A crucial climate vote lost with Ted Kennedy’s death—Grist, The Guardian 8/27/09

38.  US Sen. Edward Kennedy, champion of the environment and clean energy, dies at 77—Larry West, Environmental Issues Blog, 8/26/09

ESR editor’s note—’s “About Us” page says “ was acquired in March 2005 by The New York Times Company…is recognized as a top 15 content site”.  The site utilizes “helpful experts, eager to share their wealth of knowledge to visitors…we offer solutions in the form of over two million hand-crafted, original articles, recipes, product reviews, videos, tutorials and more.”

39.  ‘Living’ roofs:  Unusual crop protects homes from the elements—Betsy Cohen, The Missoulian 8/26/09

40.  Groups seek mining ban across Bristol Bay watershed—Elizabeth Bluemink, Anchorage Daily News 8/26/09

41.  Climate warming predicted for Utah—Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News 8/27/09

42.  Wolf licenses selling fast—John Cramer, Ravalli Republic, Bitterroot Valley, Montana 9/2/09

43.  Utah awaits word on Idaho wolf hunt—Brandon Loomis, SLT 8/31/09

44.  Roan Plateau wells could exceed 3,000—Mark Jaffe, The Denver Post 9/2/09

45.  ‘Code of the West’ released—John Cramer, Ravalli Republic, The Bitterroot Valley, Montana 9/3/09

46.  One man’s trash—Katie Murphy, The New York Times 9/2/09

47.  Secrecy clouds credibility of poll on Tester’s wilderness bill—Bill Schneider, 9/3/09

48.  Challenge to energy mandate thrown out—Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services, Arizona Daily Sun 9/3/09

49.  Judge sides with forest managers over grazing—Mead Gruver, AP, Casper Star-Tribune 9/3/09

50.  Bear that mauled man was healthy, Utah officials say—Brett Prettyman, SLT 8/31/09

51.  Clunker program’s environmental merits questioned—NPR 8/23/09

52.  For early man, it wasn’t easier being green—Christopher Joyce, NPR 8/23/09


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s