Category: public lands

Federal judge nixes Wolf Creek development scheme

Forest Service violated federal law with land swap approval

A map included in a feasibility analysis shows the lands near Wolf Creek proposed for a trade.

By Bob Berwyn

*Read previous Summit Voice coverage here

A federal court judge has put an end to a 30-year battle over a proposed resort development at Wolf Creek Pass.

Ruling that the U.S. Forest Service violated federal law when it made an arbitrary and capricious decision to approve a land exchange near Wolf Creek Ski Area, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch set aside the agency’s 2015 approval for a land trade that would have enabled large-scale resort development., The decisions says the Forest Service failed to look closely at the environmental impacts of its decision, and failed to listen to the public before making its decision. Continue reading “Federal judge nixes Wolf Creek development scheme”

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New interior secretary begins stint by re-authorizing use of toxic lead hunting ammunition

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An endangered California condor soars over Zion National Park. As carrion eaters, condors are especially susceptible to lead poisoning. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Let them eat lead …

Staff Report

Toxic lead is back on the menu for many wildlife species, as newly appointed  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke revoked a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service order that had banned lead hunting ammunition on federal wildlife reserves after a years-long campaign by wildlife advocates.

The USFWS order was finalized the day before Donald Trump was inaugurated as president. In his reversal, Zinke made no reference to the extensive body of science showing that lead ammunition is harmful to wildlife.

His first move as Interior Secretary should make it clear that anybody who had been hoping Zinke would be a reasonable voice in the new anti-environment administration was sorely mistaken. Along with the rest of Trump’s cabinet picks, Zinke seems likely to move ahead at full speed in dismantling as many environmental protections as possible. Continue reading “New interior secretary begins stint by re-authorizing use of toxic lead hunting ammunition”

Sunday set: National Parks in Austria

Mountains, rivers wetlands …


During the past few months I’ve been able to visit several of Austria’s national parks, including the Donau Auen, a spectacular bosque river landscape that starts practically in downtown Vienna and extends all the way to the border with Slovakia. The Donau Auen is one of the biggest remaining natural river landscapes in central Europe and stands as testament to the power of grassroots activism. When plans for a giant hydropower plant were revealed in the early 1980s, students, teachers, artists and others banded together to occupy the area, eventually winning the public relations battle and leading to preservation of the area.

While Austria is best known for its mountain landscapes, the Neusiedler See is located on the eastern border of Austria, where the mountains tilt away to the great steppes of the northernmost Balkan region. The other two parks in shown in this set are in the heart of Austria’s Alps, featuring classic mountain landscapes. Most Austrian parks are just a few decades old and were inspired by national parks in the U.S. Indeed, the concept of public places as showcases of ecological diversity and preservation is probably one of America’s best exports.

Somebody is trying to take away your public lands

Congress once again toys with extremist agenda

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GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate continue to pursue extremist anti-public lands legislation. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Congress may not be able to get it together to deal with issues like crumbling infrastructure or deadly opiate epidemics, but when it comes to trying to strip Americans of their unique public lands heritage, there’s no shortage of legislation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is warming there are four bills pending in the House and Senate natural resource committees that could affect public lands — and not in a good way. One of the measures would block the creation of new national monuments and parks, while others could enable the transfer of federally managed public lands to state governments. Continue reading “Somebody is trying to take away your 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”