About these ads

Environment: Federal court uphold 20-year ban on uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area

A legal road on the Kaibab National Forest leads to this lookout spot on the rim of the Grand Canyon near the Saddle Mountain wilderness area. PHOTO COURTESY LEIGH WADDEN.

New uranium mining on lands near the Grand Canyon is at issue in a legal battle.

Judge says environmental studies followed the law and that the government has the right to err on the side of caution

Staff Report

FRISCO — A 20-year ban on uranium mining on lands surrounding the Grand Canyon withstood a legal challenge from industry interests and local governments this week, as U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell ruled in favor of the federal government.

“The Court can find no legal principle that prevents DOI from acting in the face of uncertainty. Nor can the Court conclude that the Secretary abused his discretion or acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or in violation of law when he chose to err on the side of caution in  protecting a national treasure – Grand Canyon National Park,” Campbell wrote in his Sept. 30 ruling that dismissed the lawsuit.

Salazar announced his intent to withdraw the lands in 2009 and the decision was finalized in 2012 after extensive studies to assess the potential impacts to the environment. Overall, the reviews showed that there was low risk for serious contamination of water sources, but that the consequences could be serious.

A U.S. Geological Survey study found water from 15 springs and five wells in the region where dissolved uranium concentrations exceeded EPA maximu concentrations for drinking water. The agency was uncertain whether these concentrations resulted from mining, natural processes, or both.

The USGS also found that floods, flas  floods, and debris flows caused by winter storms and intense summer thunderstorms transported substantial volumes of trace elements and radionuclides, and that fractures, faults, sinkholes, and breccia pipes occur throughout the area and are potential pathways for downward migration of contaminants.

Conservation groups and Arizona’s Havasupai Tribe praised the decision.

“The Havasupai support the withdrawal of the lands from mining for the protection of our homes and our water. The ruling today by Judge Campbell recognizes the unique and important resources on the lands south of Grand Canyon that are our aboriginal homelands and within the watershed that feeds our springs and flows into our canyon home,” said Havasupai Chairman Rex Tilousi.

Continue reading

About these ads

Florida panthers catch break from National Park Service

Big Cypress National Preserve closes some motorized backcountry routes in response to environmental lawsuit

big_cypress_natlpreserve

Ribbons of trails cut through Big Cypress National Preserve.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Florida panthers will get at least a temporary reprieve from dirt bikes and off-road vehicles, as the National Park Service agreed to cut motorized in Big Cypress National Preserve.

The agreement with conservation groups requires the park service to close an extensive network of motorized secondary and user-created trails until it conducts an environmental analysis. The park service must also work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure protection for panthers and other rare species in the area. Continue reading

Congress eyes widespread public land pay-to-play fees

oih

More public land fees ahead?

‘Stealth’ bill pending in House after passing committee without a hearing

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In a classic bit of stealth lawmaking, House Resources Committee chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) last month opened the door for more widespread recreation day use fees on federal lands.

Without a committee hearing, Hastings sent HR 5204 (The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act of 2014) to the floor of the House, where it could, according to critics, become law without any public hearing at all as a rider to a budget bill. Continue reading

Yellowstone NP launches lottery for snowmobile permits

snowmobilers

Snowmobilers can apply for a permit lottery to lead a non-commercial guided tour in the Yellowstone National Park this winter.

Slots for non-commercial guided tours up for grabs through early October

Staff Report

FRISCO — Strict limits on snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park mean access is by permit only, and those permits are now available via a lottery, with spots available for non-commercially guided snowmobile trip into Yellowstone National Park this winter. Applications can be submitted online at http://recreation.gov through October 3, 2014. Continue reading

Mystery solved: Scientists document motion of rocks at Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa

kj

Study solves mystery of Death Valley’s moving rocks. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Wind, water and ice are shown once again to be key geological drivers

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists have not only solved the mystery of the moving rocks at Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa — they documented the movement on video and even took measurements by attaching GPS units to some “non-native” rocks as part of a research project in the Southern California desert.

Some of the rocks weigh up to 100 pounds and leave behind distinct tracks as they scoot across the dry lake bed. Scientists have been studying the area for decades, but nobody has seen the process in action until now, according to a press release from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UC San Diego). Continue reading

Biodiversity: Will grizzlies return to the North Cascades?

Grizzlies are roaming farther north and encroaching on Polar bear habitat, PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

Will grizzlies once again roam the North Cascades? Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

National Park Service launches 3-year study on possible restoration

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a big move for grizzlies and wild ecosystems, the National Park Service this week launched a three-year environmental study to evaluate to possibility of restoring the apex predators to the North Cascades.

“This is the first stage of a multi-step process to help inform decisions about grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades ecosystem,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The National Park Service and our partners in this effort haven’t made any decisions about the bear’s restoration at this time as federal law requires us to look at a range of options, including not restoring grizzlies to the area.” Continue reading

Morning photo: RMNP!

A little taste of high country heaven

fdhf

Trail Ridge Road view.

FRISCO — Dylan and I had a chance to visit Rocky Mountain National Park as part of the crowdfunded Climate Ranger project, meeting with a team of scientists who are monitoring conditions in the park’s alpine tundra as part of the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. The monitoring is part of a global program aimed at trying to track climate-induced changes with long-term data, because we won’t know what climate change is doing unless we study it closely. We’ll do more reporting on this topic in the next few days, but for now, a few pics from the Park. Click on the panos to see the full-size versions. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,516 other followers