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Will the EPA act on neonicotinoid pesticides?

Honeybees may get some relief from deadly pesticides. bberwyn photo.

Honeybees may get some relief from deadly pesticides.

Conservation advocates hopeful that agency will propose new restrictions

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say the EPA may be close to cracking down on systemic neonicotinoid pesticides suspected of playing a key role in the decline of honeybees.

According to Friends of the Earth, a top EPA regulator discussed the agency’s stance on neonicotinoids at a Dec. 8 meeting of state pesticide regulators. The agency was charged with assessing the effects of the pesticides under June 2014 presidential memorandum.

At this point, there is no formal proposal for new pesticide restrictions, which would come in the form of a proposed rule subject to public input. Continue reading

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Environment: Defense bill riders may undermine greater sage-grouse conservation efforts

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More political wrangling over greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USGS.

Ranching loopholes proposed

Staff Report

FRISCO — In the West, many eyes are on a defense spending bill pending in Congress, which may include amendments that would exempt ranchers from regulations aimed at protecting greater sage-grouse and potentially strip agencies of funding for sage grouse conservation.

With a little lobbying, the western livestock industry managed to attached the Grazing Improvement Act” into the bill (§3023). Continue reading

Climate: Logging leads to long-term release of carbon from soils in Northeastern hardwood forests

Findings challenge carbon-balance assumptions of woody biomass energy boosters

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A forest health logging site on Swan Mountain near Dillon, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Logging forests may have a more significant impact on carbon storage in soils than previously believed, Dartmouth College researchers found after taking a close look at at how timber harvesting affects mineral soil carbon over 100 years.

The study found that, while logging  doesn’t immediately release carbon stored in a forest’s mineral soils into the atmosphere, it triggers a gradual release that may contribute to climate change over decades. Continue reading

Study: Human activities having a big impact on Pacific Ocean nitrogen cycle

At home in the ocean.

Along with changes to the carbon cycle, human activities are changing the net nitrogen balance of the Pacific Ocean.

‘The North Pacific is so vast it is hard to imagine that humans could impact the natural nitrogen cycle’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists studying the North Pacific Ocean said this week they were surprised to find a significant human impact to the upper ocean nitrogen cycle, primarily resulting from industrial and agricultural emissions.

The rate of deposition of reactive nitrogen (i.e., nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel burning and ammonia compounds from fertilizer use) from the atmosphere to the open ocean has more than doubled globally over the last 100 years. Continue reading

Environment: More than 100 scientists call on President Obama to protect bees from pesticide threats

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off.

Scientists call on President Obama to directly address neonicotinoids pesticide impacts to bees. bberwyn photo.

‘Body of science’ shows harmful impacts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Environmental activists and scientists are convinced that neonicotinoid and other systemic pesticides are the main cause of rapidly declining bee populations across the U.S. and this week, they directly asked President Obama to address the pesticide threat.

More than 100 scientists from different fields signed on to a new letter calling on leaders of President Barack Obama’s Pollinator Health Task Force to take action on pesticides to protect and promote healthy populations of bees and other pollinators.   Continue reading

Is the fight over organic foods an ideological battle?

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European farmers have been much quicker to embrace organic standards, resulting in a positive response from consumers.

New study looks closely at ingrained belief systems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some farmers may be resisting the trend toward organic agriculture simply because of a deeply held set of beliefs that aren’t necessarily based in fact. Making the switch to organic farming may make some farmers feel like they’re switching belief systems, which isn’t easy for anyone.

“The ideological map of American agriculture reveals an unfolding drama between chemical and organic farming,”an international group of researchers wrote in a new article in the  Journal of Marketing. “Chemical farmers argue that to make money, one must follow chemical traditions; when organic farmers make more money, it seems “wrong.” Continue reading

Report: U.S. water use drops 13 percent

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An irrigated hay field in western Colorado.

Per capita water usage drops 11 percent from 2005-2010

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that overall water use in the U.S. dropped to its lowest level in 45 years. The USGS has tracked national water use since 1950.

The new report shows that total daily withdrawals dropped about 13 percent, from about 410 billion gallons per day in 2005, to 355 billion gallons per day in 2010, mainly from improvements in water-use technologies and management.

“Even as the U.S. population continues to grow, people are learning to be more water conscious and do their part to help sustain the limited freshwater resources in the country,” said Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior.  Continue reading

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