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Environment: Feds to ban genetically engineered crops, neonicotinoid pesticides in wildlife refuges

Resident bald eagle in Summit County, Colorado guarding the nest.

Recent studies show that neonicotinoid pesticides can persist in the environment, so the decision to ban them from federal wildlife refuges is good news for bald eagles. bberwyn photo.

New directive ends some long-running legal squabbles

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal wildlife and land managers say they’ll end the use of genetically engineered crops and ban systemic neonicotonoid pesticides in the next 18 months. In a July 17 memo  chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System James Kurth wrote that it’s not essential for his agency to use the potentially harmful products to meet its wildlife management objectives. Read the FWS memorandum.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service thus becomes the first federal agency to restrict the use of GE crops and neonicotinoids in farming in the U.S.

Public land and health watchdog groups have been challenging the agency over the use GE crops since 2005, including five lawsuits, two legal petitions and multitudes of administrative challenges and appeals, resulting in numerous court rulings against the agency. In one case, a judge ordered the agency to eradicate genetically engineered plants from wildlife refuges in the Southeast. Continue reading

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Court to determine whether U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must mitigate impacts of genetically modified crops

Environmental groups hail latest opinion as victory in fight against GM crops on protected lands

Migrating waterfowl rely on stopovers at wildlife refuges, where the use of genetically modified feed crops has been controversial. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A Federal court this week set the stage for resolving a long-running conflict over the use of genetically engineered crops of 44,000 acres of land in the national wildlife refuge system administered by the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg said that, even though the region has already agreed to stop planting GM crops, there may be ongoing effects. The judge set a hearing date of Nov. 5 to determine an appropriate remedy and urged the parties to meet before then to try and reach at least partial agreement.

At issue is the fact that the USFWS started using GM crops without doing an in-depth environmental study Instead, the agency relied on environmental studies done by a U.S. Department of Agriculture agency, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, according to Tom MacKenzie, spokesman for the southeast region of the USFWS. Continue reading

More oversight needed for wildlife refuge drilling

Sandhill cranes at the Bitter Lak wildlife refuge in New Mexico.

Numerous spills prompt call for more stringent guidelines, including better training for staff

By Summit Voice

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service needs rules to protect National Wildlife Refuges from spills and contamination from oil and gas drilling, according to a rulemaking petition filed this week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington, D.C. group that watchdogs federal agencies.

According to PEER, thousands of wells now operate on refuges, particularly in the south and east where the subsurface rights are privately held, with little regulation. That number is likely to skyrocket as natural gas from underground shale formations is tapped.

PEER is pressing the Fish & Wildlife Service, which operates the refuge system, to adopt rules modeled on ones the National Park Service has had in effect for more than 30 years. The rules address spill prevention and response, bonds for reclamation, proper waste disposal and reducing surface impacts. Continue reading

Feds outline a new vision for wildlife refuge system

A roseate spoonbill at a national wildlife refuge in Florida.

Salazar wants to connect a new generation to the outdoors and more access to recreation

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar participated in the  Center for American Progress’ new Public Lands Project this week, speaking about the America’s Great Outdoors initiative and unveiling his new vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Salazar announced a draft vision plan to guide the growth and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The vision document – “Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation” — was developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge Association and offers nearly 100 draft recommendations to protect and improve the world’s premier system of public lands and water set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plants for the continuing benefit of the American people. Continue reading

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