Category: public lands

Feds move to better protect carnivores in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges

New rule bans some predator control practices

A brown bear in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.
A brown bear in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Photo via USFWS.

Staff Report

Alaska’s native bears and wolves — at least those living in national wildlife refuges — may get a break from the federal predator control program, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week finalized new regulations that ban the controversial practice of culling carnivores through aerial gunning, baiting, trapping, and killing mother bears and cubs and wolves and pups in their dens.

The practices are legal under Alaska state law, and wildlife conservation advocates say they’re used to artificially inflate deer, moose and caribou populations for hunting. But the killing conflicts with the USFWS conservation mission on national wildlife refuges. Continue reading “Feds move to better protect carnivores in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges”

New guidance requires closer look at climate impacts from activities on public lands

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.
New guidance for federal agencies will require closer scrutiny of climate impacts of developments on public land. Photo courtesy BLM.

CEQ updates NEPA rules with an eye toward greenhouse gases

Staff Report

Public land managers and other federal agency decision-makers will no longer be able to shy away from considering climate change as they consider new projects.

Saying that emissions from any given proposal are only a small fraction of global emissions “is not an appropriate basis for deciding whether or to what extent to consider climate change impacts under NEPA,” the White House Council on Environmental Quality wrote in new guidance that directs agencies to quantify greenhouse gas emissions and to choose alternatives for projects that minimize climate impacts. Continue reading “New guidance requires closer look at climate impacts from activities on public lands”

Climate: Death Valley sets heat record in June

Death Valley heat record
Ripples on Mesquite Flat sand dunes, Photo courtesy Death Valley National Park.

Average temperature for the month more than 6 degrees above the historic norm

Staff Report

The deadly heatwave that spread across the southwestern U.S. in June also brought a new record high average temperature to Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth. According to the National Park Service, last month was the warmest June on record in the national park, with the average temperature for the whole month registering at 101.9 degrees Fahrenheit — about 6 degrees above the long-term average.

Death Valley’s average daily high temperature this June was 115.5 degrees Fahrenheit and the average overnight low was 88.2 degrees. In spite of a record-setting average temperature, Death Valley only set a new daily record one day last month, with 126 degrees recorded on June 21, 2016. The highest temperature ever recorded in Death Valley in June was just a few years ago: 129 degrees on June 30, 2013. Continue reading “Climate: Death Valley sets heat record in June”

Court deal a win for fee-free public lands access in SoCal

Public lands access activists make progress in fight against recreation fees. @bberwyn photo.
Public lands access activists make progress in fight against recreation fees. @bberwyn photo.

Settlement addresses pesky Adventure Pass fees on 4 Southern California national forests

Staff Report

A long-running and stubborn battle by activists against the spread of public lands access fees has paid off once again in Southern California, where the U.S. Forest Service agreed to designate and mark free parking areas for hikers who aren’t using developed facilities.

The court-sanctioned deal stems from yet another legal battle over federal recreation fees. Public land agencies started charging for access to plug alleged budget holes; public lands advocates have been trying to limit the spread of the fees and make sure they’ve only levied in the places specifically authorized by Congress — namely at developed recreation sites, and not just for general hiking access. Continue reading “Court deal a win for fee-free public lands access in SoCal”

Study eyes climate threat to Crater Lake

Warming temps could affect clarity, quality of famed Oregon lake

crater lake climate change
A new study shows how global warming may affect Crater Lake. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Unique climatic conditions that combine to make Oregon’s Crater Lake one of the clearest bodies of freshwater in the world are expected to become more rare as the Earth gets warmer. The changes could impair the lake’s clarity and health, scientists said in a new study published in early May by the U.S. Geological Survey. Continue reading “Study eyes climate threat to Crater Lake”

Activists slow fracking juggernaut in western Colorado

State BLM officials call for new studies on Mesa County project

fracking rig in Colorado
A fracking rig in Garfield County, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Conservation groups and community advocates in western Colorado have slowed the fracking juggernaut at least temporarily, as federal land managers last week decided to redo an environmental study for a controversial plan to drill 108 new wells on 52,000 acres near the Grand Mesa. Under the proposed master development plan, the wells could produce up to 8.7 million barrels of oil over the next 20 years.

The agency said it made the decision based on the fact that the environmental study for the fossil fuel development project didn’t include any analysis of hydraulic fracturing, likely because of some behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the developers and Bureau of Land Management officials. But when the Western Colorado Congress and the Western Environmental Law Center challenged the plan, state BLM officials reversed course. Continue reading “Activists slow fracking juggernaut in western Colorado”

Activists seek humane treatment for livestock stranded in desert by outlaw rancher Cliven Bundy

Cattle grazing continues to degrade vast tracts of public lands in the West. PHOTO COURTESY BLM.
Activists shine spotlight on abandoned livestock in Nevada desert. Photo courtesy BLM.

Activists launch online petition launched to spur action

Staff Report

Feral cattle that may be descended from livestock owned by outlaw rancher Cliven Bundy is roaming the Nevada desert, and activists say the cows deserve humane treatment. To that end, they’ve launched an online petition to focus national attention on the fate of the cattle.

The petition claims the cows are descendants of cattle owned by Cliven Bundy, who lost his grazing privileges in the early 1990s yet continued to graze in defiance of federal regulations, laws and court orders for decades, leading to the infamous Bundy Ranch standoff, when federal agents backed away from a confrontation with the outlaw over his failure to pay grazing fees. Continue reading “Activists seek humane treatment for livestock stranded in desert by outlaw rancher Cliven Bundy”