Roundup Tuesday September 15, 2009

1.  Trial under way in Canyonlands road fight—Robert Gehrke, SLT 9/14/09

The 10-mile long Salt Creek road that accesses Angel Arch in Canyonlands National Park could reopen if a federal judge agrees with San Juan County and the state.  Federal attorneys argued that neither the state nor the county could prove the road existed prior to creation of the park in 1964 and ownership claims were not made in the intervening years ahead of the Salt Creek Lawsuit.

A 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2005 stipulated that all RS 2477 right-of-way road disputes must be determined on a by-case basis.  The Salt Creek case is the first such case to be tried since the ruling.  The case is considered unique since almost all of the route runs up a streambed that regularly flushes signs of vehicle travel.  Assistant US Attorney Bruce Bernard argued Monday; “This is not what Congress had in mind in granting the right of way…a roving right of way that might go canyon wall to canyon wall over time.”

San Juan County’s attorney has said he will demonstrate historic use of the trail by uranium prospectors, cowboys and Jeep riders.  The Park Service closed the last 10 miles of the route to vehicle access in 1998.  San Juan County wants the gate removed, though the Park Service would still control access by requiring a park permit.

“We’re seeking to allow members of the public once again to see Angel Arch through vehicular traffic,” Utah’s Assistant Attorney General said.  Of concern are those citizens who can’t make a 20-mile round-trip hike.  Witnesses for the state testified of their trips up the wash in Jeeps decades ago.  Surveys that date back to 1911, references to a homestead, 1953 maps and mining claim documents are other forms of evidence the county and the state used to address their claim.

The Canyonlands National Park plan, indicating Salt Creek as a “major route” accessing Angel Arch, was also introduced into evidence.  The two week trial will include an on-site review of the road, though much of it may not be accessible by vehicle due to floods and erosion.

2.  Verizon explains coal rally sponsorship—Kate Galbraith, New York Times 9/14/09

Verizon chief executive Lowell McAdam explained in a letter to the Center for Biological Diversity that while Verizon chose to accept $1,000 in payment for promoting products at the “Friends of America” rally in West Virginia early in September, the act “certainly was not an expression of support for mountaintop removal coal mining or in opposition to climate legislation.”  He added that Verizon “supports the goals of policymakers who are committed to reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment.”

But other event sponsors called for participants to sign a petition against the climate bill, including coal and energy companies.  Massey Energy’s chief executive Don Blankenship said the goal of the rally was to “learn how environmental extremists and corporate America are trying to destroy your jobs.”

Center for Biological Diversity has decided to poll its members to determine whether Verizon should be dropped as its cellphone carrier.  A Natural Resources Defense Council blogger called Verizon’s statement “a few days late and a thousand dollars short.”

3.  13 rare species undergoing review—Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News 9/13/09

US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists will review 13 Utah plant, mollusk and fish species to determine whether endangered species listing might be called for.  The assessment on species such as the Cisco Milkvetch, Hamlin Valley pyrg and Gibbens’ beardtongue will take into account potential threats to the species and the health and expansiveness of the habitat.

“Some of them we don’t have a lot of information on or they are not very widespread,” a field supervisor in the Salt Lake office of Fish and Wildlife said.  “We need to take a look at them and evaluate them for distribution and abundance.”  Status reviews will follow with determinations of “threatened” or “endangered” listings or listings on condition.  The review does not mean the species will go to candidate status, one biologist assured.

Along with 16 other species across 20 states that will come under review due to a 2007 WildEarth Guardians petition that originally sought protection for 200 species, Frisco buckwheat, Ostler’s pepperplant and Frisco clover—which only grow in the San Francisco Mountains of Beaver County—will be reviewed.

Botanist Larry England said the San Francisco Mountain species “occur in these mineralized soils that a hundred years ago were actively mined for silver and gold.  They are a rare unique part of our botanical heritage and occur nowhere else in the world.”  Flowers’ penstemon is another such localized plant, found in the Uintah basin.  “The concerns are energy development and its limited habitat,” England added.

Along with the Hamlin Valley pyrg, the longitudinal gland pyrg and the sub-globose pyrg are mollusks found only in springs in Utah’s West Desert region.  “A big concern is the exploitation of water sources out there,” England said.  So too with the northern leatherside chub which is only found in rivers and streams in the southeastern Bonneville Basin.

England alluded to Aldo Leopold.  “Man is a tinkerer.  The first rule of intelligent tinkering is that we don’t throw away any of the pieces.  As we manipulate our environment, it would be well to have full representation of what our natural world is,” England said.  Tony Frates, coordinator of the rare plant guide for the Utah Native Plant Society noted plants don’t get much recognition these days.  “There is an incredible wealth of biodiversity in Utah…The bottom line is that we have barely scratched the bucket of things we should be looking at.”

Responding to private landowner concerns, Frates said “Unlike animals, plants have no rights on private lands.  This should not cause angst for any private landowner and actually, landowners can get incentives.  These are not project stoppers.”  Still, the plants play an important role and need to be protected.  “Plants are indicators of the ecosystem,” Frates responded.  “These things are sort of a tapestry of life without which our world would be incredibly less habitable.  Who knows what secrets are locked in these species?”

4.  Oilsands’ emissions surpass some countries—Mary Jo Laforest, The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail 9/13/09

A new report says Alberta’s oilsands already generate more greenhouse gas emissions than a number of European countries and 11 more years of development at the same pace could see more emissions than all the world’s volcanoes.  The Greenpeace commissioned report “Dirty:  How the Tar Sands are Fueling Global Climate Change” will be released on Monday.  Author and reporter Andrew Nikiforuk calls the oilsands the world’s largest energy project.

“The major energy projects in the Middle East…they don’t come anywhere near—none of them approach the scale and capital intensity of the oilsands,” Nikiforuk said.  The $200 billion project could increase greenhouse gas emissions threefold.  Natural gas will drive the production of synthetic oil from bitumen, and carbon capture and storage is yet to be developed in Canada.

In fact, Nikiforuk says, no commercial carbon capture and storage exists yet anywhere on the planet.  Nikiforuk believes carbon capture and storage will have the same kind of legacy that nuclear power plants have had.  “It was going to be too cheap to meter, then it became too expensive to build,” he said.

Nikiforuk believes Prime Minister Stephen Harper is very similar to former US president George Bush.  “Both men share a real dissidence and skepticism of climate change, which is a real convenient ideology if you want to accelerate hydrocarbon production,” he commented.  “The stuff cannot be produced economically and in great quantities to ease a global oil crunch,” Nikiforuk said.  “For most of the world, bitumen will not be an affordable substitute for cheap light oil and we’ve already seen the first economic correction in 2008—the whole global economy tanked when it hit $150 a barrel.”

5.  Butters:  Leave no trace with a green burial—MaryJane Butters, 9/12/09

“In the past couple of generations,” MaryJane Butters says, “we have distanced ourselves from death, much in the way that we have distanced ourselves from the production of our food and the land that nurtures our lifestyle.  And in our attempt to wash our hands of the untidy trials of life, we have lost touch with the very roots that ground and connect us all.”

As modern funerals and burials, rife with detachment, have come to be experienced as disingenuous, more natural ways of arriving at closure are coming back into consideration.  “There is no disgrace in surrendering our loved ones, and eventually ourselves, to the embrace of the Earth,” Butters says.  “It is a ritual of reunion between body and soil, not to be restrained by artificial preservation.”

Green burials achieve this objective in a way that creates no waste.  “The goal” she says “is to reduce our final footprint on the planet by melding into a cleaner, healthier and more intact ecosystem.”  Consider refrigeration or dry ice in place of chemical preservatives in preparation for a burial.  Embalming’s toxic chemicals are not prescribed by law.  biodegradable caskets, urns and shrouds offer green interment at much lower impacts on the budget than conventional arrangements.

Cremation, while considered more environmentally friendly, consumes large amounts of energy and releases pollution into the atmosphere.  Green cremations are possible at facilities that utilize high efficiency filtration systems.  Natural, biodegradable urns enhance the greenness of the arrangement.  More ideas can be found at:

Biodegradable caskets utilize traditional fibers such as recycled paper, willow, bamboo and sea grass, while cremation urns have been made from recycled silk and mulberry leaf paper.  These products and others are available from for instance The Natural Burial Company, which minimizes the distance products travel, lowering its carbon footprint as well.

Do-it-yourself options are also available from  The New York Times recently reported on a 77-year old woman who bought herself a pine coffin and uses it for showcasing quilts.  Natural burial sites differ from conventional ones in that water use is of prime concern and pesticides are not used.  Certification by The Green Burial Council too is now possible, guaranteeing stewardship for the future.  Their website offers a list of certified locations, as does .

Home burials are possible on private, rural lands.  Lisa Carlson’s Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love addresses such arrangements.  The family site can be mapped out and recorded with the deed, preferably 150 feet from a water supply and 25 feet from power lines and neighboring boundaries.


6.  Community forests—Tribune Editorial, SLT 9/15/09

7.  Other land grabs going on in our nation— 9/13/09

8.  Don’t jump aboard high-speed rail—Deseret News editorial, Deseret News 9/13/09

9.  The “climate-made-me-do-it” defense—Sean Paige, The American Contrarian Blogsite 9/12/09 Anyone following Tim DeChristopher and the global climate science debate should read this blog entry by a previous Colorado Springs Gazette editor.  Not only does it contain conservative musings, it includes articles from the Salt Lake Tribune and the Los Angeles Times that address among other things a US Chamber of Commerce call for the EPA to host a Scopes Monkey Trial-like review of global climate science.

10.  Good day for mountains—Cameron Scott, San Francisco Chronicle 9/12/09 Begins with an update on EPA review of all mountaintop removal mining permits and finishes with a template letter directed to the Council on Environmental Quality.

11.  Utah needs federal mercury regulations for gold mines—Lynn De Freitas, Maunsel Pearce, Bonnie Gestring, SLT 9/11/09

12.  Meet the real Van Jones—Judith Lewis, Los Angeles Times 9/11/09,0,6620269.story

13.  Want to build brain power on the cheap?  Go native—Rob Pudim, SLT 9/11/09

Keep in Mind

14.  Colorado man appears in court on artifact charges—Keith Coffman, SLT 9/14/09

15.  Should Cedar Breaks become a national park?—Mark Havnes, SLT 9/14/09

16.  Water measured from the sky—Kari Lydersen, Washington Post 9/14/09

17.  Utah areas make list of ‘imperiled’ land—AP, SLT 9/13/09

18.  UN officials to visit Glacier Park next week—Northwest Montana News Network, Daily Inter Lake 9/13/09

19.  RSPB accused of damaging British environment in bid to save birds—David Adam, The Observer 9/13/09

20.  Environment took hits but is making progress—Rhiannon Meyers, Galveston County Daily News 9/13/09

21.  Homegrown businesses help backyard gardeners—Dawn House, SLT 9/12/09

22.   Turning to windmills, but resistance lingers—Abby Goodnough, New York Times 9/12/09

23.  Clean water laws are neglected, at a cost in suffering—Charles Duhigg, New York Times 9/12/09

24.  Connecting the loop:  Trail association honored for work—Allen Gemaehlich, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel 9/12/09

25.  A massive idea to reforest Appalachian mine sites—Bill Estep, McClatchy Newspapers, Richmond Times-Dispatch 9/12/09

26.  Environment to round off GDP as measure of Europe’s success—Circle of Blue Waternews 9/12/09

ESR Editor’s note:  Circle of Blue in its “About” page calls itself “the international network of leading journalists, scientists and communications design experts that reports and presents the information necessary to respond to the global freshwater crisis”, associated with water, climate and policy think tank, the Pacific Institute.

27.  Bishop says Utah not getting wildfire money—Thomas Burr, SLT 9/11/09

28.  Matheson asks Herbert to reject EnergySolutions’ $3B offer—Matt Canham, Thomas Burr, SLT 9/11/09

29.  Road to Angel Arch takes detour—through court—Patty Henetz, SLT 9/11/09

30.  Trees get a ‘bank’ account—Jeremiah Stettler, SLT 9/11/09

31.  E.P.A. will review 79 coal mining applications—AP, The New York Times 9/11/09

79 permits in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee will receive additional review by the EPA to ensure proposed mines won’t pollute area waters or violate the Clean Air Act.  All 79 are expected to affect air quality.

32.  Survey:  Dioxin levels high in Vietnam near US base—AP, The Boston Globe 9/11/09

33.  Bechtel to build solar plant in California—UPI 9/11/09

34.  Army to move forward with tortoise relocation—David Danelski, The Press-Enterprise (San Bernardino County, Ca.) 9/11/09

35.  New desert tortoise translocation put on hold—Press Release, Center for Biological Diversity 9/11/09

36.  BLM to revise desert tortoise environmental assessment—Press Release, Bureau of Land Management 9/11/09

37.  Agrium sues US government, saying it should help pay for cleanup of Idaho phosphate mines—John Miller, AP, Washington Examiner 9/9/09

38.  Environmental groups say they’ll sue to stop uranium mine near Grand Canyon from reopening—AP, Washington Examiner 9/8/09

39.  Nye Co. commissioner appeals USFS roads plan—AP, San Francisco Examiner 9/08/09


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