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2012

  • It was a dark week in Washington state where six wolves from the  Wedge Pack were killed in three days including the alpha female. Yesterday, the alpha male was killed by a sharpshooter from a helicopter. It is not known what happened to mexican wolfthe pups.

    The death of the alpha pair and four adult wolves ends the Wedge Wolf Pack in Washington

    Washington killed the Wedge Pack because of 17 accused attacks on cows at the nearby Diamond M Ranch. Now there are only seven confirmed packs left in the remote, rugged forests of northeast Washington.

    Here in the Southwest, let us not follow the mistakes and senseless killing that now plagues recovery in the Northern Rockies.

    Let us stand firm that the removal or killing of critically endangered wolves is NOT a solution to livestock conflicts.

    New Mexico state officials implemented a kill order for the alpha female of the Fox Mountain wolf pack because of “livestock depredation” but your calls and e-mails flooded the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) office and they withdrew the order to kill her.

    You proved citizen action works! In the past few weeks, news stories, editorials, and guest columns about the Fox Mountain pack’s plight have appeared in the press all over the country.  The public outcry on behalf of these critically endangered wolves can not be ignored.

    Public support helped U.S. Congressman Grijalva send the USFWS a letter expressing strong concerns about plans to take the Fox Mountain alpha female from her family and place her in permanent captivity. The Fox Mountain alpha female should not live her life in the prison of captivity. 

    As long as she continues to run free there is hope to save her from a life in captivity. We need to keep the pressure on. Keep your voices loud and strong for the Fox Mountain alpha, one of only 58 wolves left in the Southwest.

    Contact Regional Director Dr. Ben Tuggle directly and make it clear that the Fox Mountain alpha female should be free!

    PHONE: 505-248-6920 or SEND A FREE FAX

    Here are three key points to make when you call or fax:

    1. The Fox Mountain alpha female should be left in the wild

    Wolves are social animals that rely on family members in hunting and pup rearing.  Trapping or darting this wolf, and removing her forever, will likely have the same effect on her family as killing her. And it will set us back to the policy of scapegoating wolves who occasionally prey on livestock — even when, as in this instance, the stock-owner is reimbursed.

    2. The US Fish and Wildlife Service should release many more wolves, not remove them.

    At last count, just 58 wolves including six breeding pairs survive in the wild. If the USFWS is truly concerned about the growth of the population and its genetic health, the answer is more releases of captive wolves, not more wild wolves placed in captivity.  Instead of removing this mother from her pups and mate, the Service needs to focus on expediting releases of many more wolves from captivity to strengthen the wild population.

    3. Removing or killing critically endangered Mexican gray wolves is not the solution to livestock conflicts.

    Once you’ve acted, we’d appreciate an email to let us know: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • It was a dark week in Washington state where six wolves from the  Wedge Pack were killed in three days including the alpha female. Yesterday, the alpha male was killed by a sharpshooter from a helicopter. It is not known what happened to mexican wolfthe pups.

    The death of the alpha pair and four adult wolves ends the Wedge Wolf Pack in Washington

    Washington killed the Wedge Pack because of 17 accused attacks on cows at the nearby Diamond M Ranch. Now there are only seven confirmed packs left in the remote, rugged forests of northeast Washington.

    Here in the Southwest, let us not follow the mistakes and senseless killing that now plagues recovery in the Northern Rockies.

    Let us stand firm that the removal or killing of critically endangered wolves is NOT a solution to livestock conflicts.

    New Mexico state officials implemented a kill order for the alpha female of the Fox Mountain wolf pack because of “livestock depredation” but your calls and e-mails flooded the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) office and they withdrew the order to kill her.

    You proved citizen action works! In the past few weeks, news stories, editorials, and guest columns about the Fox Mountain pack’s plight have appeared in the press all over the country.  The public outcry on behalf of these critically endangered wolves can not be ignored.

    Public support helped U.S. Congressman Grijalva send the USFWS a letter expressing strong concerns about plans to take the Fox Mountain alpha female from her family and place her in permanent captivity. The Fox Mountain alpha female should not live her life in the prison of captivity. 

    As long as she continues to run free there is hope to save her from a life in captivity. We need to keep the pressure on. Keep your voices loud and strong for the Fox Mountain alpha, one of only 58 wolves left in the Southwest.

    Contact Regional Director Dr. Ben Tuggle directly and make it clear that the Fox Mountain alpha female should be free!

    PHONE: 505-248-6920 or SEND A FREE FAX

    Here are three key points to make when you call or fax:

    1. The Fox Mountain alpha female should be left in the wild

    Wolves are social animals that rely on family members in hunting and pup rearing.  Trapping or darting this wolf, and removing her forever, will likely have the same effect on her family as killing her. And it will set us back to the policy of scapegoating wolves who occasionally prey on livestock — even when, as in this instance, the stock-owner is reimbursed.

    2. The US Fish and Wildlife Service should release many more wolves, not remove them.

    At last count, just 58 wolves including six breeding pairs survive in the wild. If the USFWS is truly concerned about the growth of the population and its genetic health, the answer is more releases of captive wolves, not more wild wolves placed in captivity.  Instead of removing this mother from her pups and mate, the Service needs to focus on expediting releases of many more wolves from captivity to strengthen the wild population.

    3. Removing or killing critically endangered Mexican gray wolves is not the solution to livestock conflicts.

    Once you’ve acted, we’d appreciate an email to let us know: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Las Cruces Sun-News report
    05/22/2012

    LAS CRUCES — The DoñaAna County Board of Commissioners joined the list Tuesday of local governments that have endorsed a proposal to establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    The commission unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday asking President Obama to designate the monument.

    “This has been a 30-year effort to gain permanent protections for our special natural areas,” said Commissioner Billy Garrett, who introduced the resolution. “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument brings history, culture, and land together in a way that our community is very excited about.”

    Dozens of supporters who spoke at Tuesday’s commission meeting applauded the commission’s support.

    “I believe the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will encourage individuals, families, and businesses to locate in DoñaAna County,” said Renee Frank, a real estate agent and president of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. “The economic studies show clearly that communities benefit with a national monument designation, and I am so proud of our county commission.”

    Fernando Clemente, a Las Cruces sportsman and small business owner, said, “We’ve got to look at the big picture, and protecting habitat through the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will protect wildlife that calls those areas home. This helps wildlife, sportsmen, and the businesses that depend on them.”

    The city of Las Cruces and town of Mesilla have also adopted similar resolutions.

  • Las Cruces Sun-News report
    05/22/2012

    LAS CRUCES — The DoñaAna County Board of Commissioners joined the list Tuesday of local governments that have endorsed a proposal to establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    The commission unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday asking President Obama to designate the monument.

    “This has been a 30-year effort to gain permanent protections for our special natural areas,” said Commissioner Billy Garrett, who introduced the resolution. “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument brings history, culture, and land together in a way that our community is very excited about.”

    Dozens of supporters who spoke at Tuesday’s commission meeting applauded the commission’s support.

    “I believe the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will encourage individuals, families, and businesses to locate in DoñaAna County,” said Renee Frank, a real estate agent and president of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. “The economic studies show clearly that communities benefit with a national monument designation, and I am so proud of our county commission.”

    Fernando Clemente, a Las Cruces sportsman and small business owner, said, “We’ve got to look at the big picture, and protecting habitat through the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will protect wildlife that calls those areas home. This helps wildlife, sportsmen, and the businesses that depend on them.”

    The city of Las Cruces and town of Mesilla have also adopted similar resolutions.

  • Starting on March 25, 2013, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance will be auctioning off a number of fun and unique items to bid on to raise money for our organization—and the more items we have the more money we can raise, so we’re asking for your help.

    Visit our auction site to learn more and to donate an item to our auction.

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  • Do you want in-depth coverage of local, state, and national environmental issues? If so, tune in to our new collaborative radio show, Earth Matters, now streaming on the Gila/Mimbres Community Radio. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NMWild), Upper Gila Watershed Alliance (UGWA), and Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP) are your alternate weekly hosts. 

    Go to the Earth Matters site to listen to current and past broadcasts.

  • By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
    Earth is rapidly headed toward a catastrophic breakdown if humans don’t get their act together, according to an international group of scientists.

    Writing Wednesday (June 6) in the journal Nature, the researchers warn that the world is headed toward a tipping point marked by extinctions and unpredictable changes on a scale not seen since the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago.

    “There is a very high possibility that by the end of the century, the Earth is going to be a very different place,” study researcher Anthony Barnosky told LiveScience. Barnosky, a professor of integrative biology from the University of California, Berkeley, joined a group of 17 other scientists to warn that this new planet might not be a pleasant place to live.

    “You can envision these state changes as a fast period of adjustment where we get pushed through the eye of the needle,” Barnosky said. “As we’re going through the eye of the needle, that’s when we see political strife, economic strife, war and famine.” [Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth]

    The danger of tipping

    Barnosky and his colleagues reviewed research on climate change, ecology and Earth’s tipping points that break the camel’s back, so to speak. At certain thresholds, putting more pressure on the environment leads to a point of no return, Barnosky said. Suddenly, the planet responds in unpredictable ways, triggering major global transitions.

    The most recent example of one of these transitions is the end of the last glacial period. Within not much more than 3,000 years, the Earth went from being 30 percent covered in ice to its present, nearly ice-free condition. Most extinctions and ecological changes (goodbye, woolly mammoths) occurred in just 1,600 years. Earth’s biodiversity still has not recovered to what it was.

    Today, Barnosky said, humans are causing changes even faster than the natural ones that pushed back the glaciers — and the changes are bigger. Driven by a 35 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the Industrial Revolution, global temperatures are rising faster than they did back then, Barnosky said. Likewise, humans have completely transformed 43 percent of Earth’s land surface for cities and agriculture, compared with the 30 percent land surface transition that occurred at the end of the last glacial period. Meanwhile, the human population has exploded, putting ever more pressure on existing resources. [7 Billion Population Milestones]

    “Every change we look at that we have accomplished in the past couple of centuries is actually more than what preceded one of these major state changes in the past,” Barnosky said.

    Backing away from the ledge

    The results are difficult to predict, because tipping points, by their definition, take the planet into uncharted territory. Based on past transitions, Barnosky and his colleagues predict a major loss of species (during the end of the last glacial period, half of the large-bodied mammal species in the world disappeared), as well as changes in the makeup of species in various communities on the local level. Meanwhile, humans may well be knotting our own noose as we burn through Earth’s resources.

    “These ecological systems actually give us our life support, our crops, our fisheries, clean water,” Barnosky said. As resources shift from one nation to another, political instability can easily follow.

    Pulling back from the ledge will require international cooperation, Barnosky said. Under business-as-usual conditions, humankind will be using 50 percent of the land surface on the planet by 2025. It seems unavoidable that the human population will reach 9 billion by 2050, so we’ll have to become more efficient to sustain ourselves, he said. That means more efficient energy use and energy production, a greater focus on renewable resources, and a need to save species and habitat today for future generations.

    “My bottom line is that I want the world in 50 to 100 years to be at least as good as it is now for my children and their children, and I think most people would say the same,” Barnosky said. “We’re at a crossroads where if we choose to do nothing we really do face these tipping points and a less-good future for our immediate descendents.”

  • Chicago Sun-Times
    October 25, 2012

    A Mexican gray wolf who has lived at Brookfield Zoo since 2010 will leave this week to prepare to enter the wild, joining 58 of the endangered animals roaming free in New Mexico and Arizona.

    On Saturday, Ernesta will be taken to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wolf Management Facility at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, NM, according to the Chicago Zoological Society. The goal is to bolster the population of a species once on the verge of extinction.

    She will then choose a mate and the pair will receive survival skills conditioning — a sort of pre-release boot camp — to prepare them for life in the wild, according to a release from CZS.

    The boot camp is to assure the wolves are good candidates for release. Biologists will observe Ernesta and her mate as they slowly transition to feedings that mimic wild wolf food patterns, such as eating native prey (road-kill deer and elk); and experience the natural condition of feeding only every several days, the release said.

    They will also go through a process of taste aversion to beef so they will avoid cattle ranches once released.

    Natural wolf behaviors have been encouraged since Ernesta first arrived at Brookfield Zoo, the release said. This includes keepers not interacting with wolves; and feeding them native prey such as elk and bison.

  • Chicago Sun-Times
    October 25, 2012

    A Mexican gray wolf who has lived at Brookfield Zoo since 2010 will leave this week to prepare to enter the wild, joining 58 of the endangered animals roaming free in New Mexico and Arizona.

    On Saturday, Ernesta will be taken to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wolf Management Facility at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, NM, according to the Chicago Zoological Society. The goal is to bolster the population of a species once on the verge of extinction.

    She will then choose a mate and the pair will receive survival skills conditioning — a sort of pre-release boot camp — to prepare them for life in the wild, according to a release from CZS.

    The boot camp is to assure the wolves are good candidates for release. Biologists will observe Ernesta and her mate as they slowly transition to feedings that mimic wild wolf food patterns, such as eating native prey (road-kill deer and elk); and experience the natural condition of feeding only every several days, the release said.

    They will also go through a process of taste aversion to beef so they will avoid cattle ranches once released.

    Natural wolf behaviors have been encouraged since Ernesta first arrived at Brookfield Zoo, the release said. This includes keepers not interacting with wolves; and feeding them native prey such as elk and bison.

  • Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
    Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012

    A coalition of conservation groups yesterday slammed a Republican proposal to restrict the president’s ability to designate national monuments, arguing that the amendment rehashes a debate that was settled more than a year ago.

    More than 30 groups, led by the Conservation Lands Foundation, are opposing an amendment by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) to H.R. 4089, a bill that would promote hunting, angling and shooting access on public lands, among other things.

    The House Rules Committee last night voted to allow votes today on all but one of the nine amendments offered under a structured rule. An amendment by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) to clarify that “stand your ground” laws do not supersede federal public safety laws was ruled out of order.

    Lawmakers last night also sparred over an amendment by Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to resolve concerns that the bill would harm wilderness areas.

    The Foxx amendment, one of eight to be debated on the floor today, would require the president to gain the approval of a state’s governor and Legislature before designating a national monument.

    It is a revival of a debate over public lands that has sparked fierce partisan battles in the 112th Congress over the federal government’s right to control multiple uses on public lands.

    Brian O’Donnell, executive director of CLF, said the House defeated a similar proposal to restrict monument designations by then-Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) during a budget debate more than a year ago on a bipartisan vote of 209-213.

    “This is an important tool to protect our national heritage,” O’Donnell said of the 1906 Antiquities Act, which has been used by more than a dozen presidents to protect such sites as the Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty. “It’s a solution without a problem.”
    Nearly a quarter of the monuments in the National Park System were originally protected under the Antiquities Act, according to a letter from 32 groups. including the Wilderness Society and Sierra Club.

    Foxx yesterday said that while the act has been used more than a hundred times since it was passed, some presidents have abused the authority.

    “In many cases the presidents have violated the spirit of the Antiquities Act by not following the rules,” she said. “I believe there is widespread acceptance of my amendment.”

    Republican critics point to the creation of the 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, which was designated in 1996 during a ceremony in Arizona, to the chagrin of some local officials who had hoped to develop a coal mine within its borders. Supporters say monuments, including Grand Staircase-Escalante, have not stifled economic growth and, in many cases, have created new jobs.

    Wilderness areas

    Heinrich said a manager’s amendment to H.R. 4089 by House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) is too vague to protect roadless lands.

    The New Mexico Democrat, who is vying for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) this November, proposed his own amendment, which clarifies that the bill does not allow oil and gas development, mining, logging or motorized activity on federal lands that are managed as wilderness.

    The Heinrich proposal mirrors an amendment by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) that was defeated along party lines during a committee markup of the bill earlier this year.
    “As an avid hunter, I strongly support increasing access to public land for hunting and fishing,” Heinrich told the Rules Committee. “But we can achieve that goal without eliminating the very wilderness protections that have protected some of the best backcountry wildlife habitat in our nation.”

    The amendment from Hastings states that provisions of H.R. 4089 are “not intended to authorize or facilitate commodity development, use, or extraction, or motorized recreational access or use” in wilderness areas.

    Heinrich said the word “intended” fails to prevent activities like oil and gas development, logging and motorized activities in wilderness areas and could open the door to special-interest lawsuits.

    “Saying that it wasn’t the intent doesn’t change what the language in the bill allows,” he said.

    Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said he could support the Heinrich amendment if it did not extend to wilderness study areas, which were identified by the Bureau of Land Management pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to be managed as wilderness until Congress determines their ultimate fate.

    “If you would deal with only those things that are legislated and defined by Congress, real wilderness, then I think you have a much more valuable amendment here,” said Bishop, who criticized wilderness study areas as the work of government bureaucrats.

    “I don’t have a problem necessarily with what your goal is trying to do,” he said. “I have a problem with that words ‘managed as wilderness.'”

    The underlying bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), has gained strong support from dozens of hunting and angling groups, Second Amendment advocates and some Democrats.

    It is still opposed by many Democrats and wilderness advocates (E&ENews PM, April 16).

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  • Brian Merchant, Treehugger.com
    August 31, 2009

    Starting tomorrow, the gray wolf is about to be hunted for the first time in decades. The Obama administration removed the wolves from the endangered species list last March. And unless a federal judge decides to halt the hunt and reopen the question of whether the species is threatened, the gray wolf hunt starts tomorrow in Idaho–and hundreds of wolves will be killed. There are now some 1,640 gray wolves in the wild, living in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Federal officials say that number is large enough to constitute a full recovery, and that the wolves no longer need protection. Wildlife conservationists think otherwise. From the New York Times:

    Wildlife advocates cite several reasons for wanting to stop the hunt. They say that the state plans do not have enough protections, that hunting will prevent the wolves from roaming the Northern Rockies freely enough to preserve genetic diversity and maintain access to the proper habitat.

    They’d like to see a steady population of between 2,000-5,000 wolves before any sort of organized hunting begins. And especially given the low-seeming number of some 1,600 wolves, I have a problem with how these numbers stack up from Idaho’s wolf hunt plans: (Stats from the NY Times)

    -The limit of wolves to be legally killed in Idaho this season is 220.

    -6,000 hunters in Idaho have bought licenses to hunt gray wolves.

    -“Idaho game officials say they would like to have a little more than 500 wolves in the state, though the official plan calls for at least 150.”

    All told, that to me looks like a recipe for mismanagement. A smaller hunt (with a target of 75 wolves to be killed) is set to take place in Montana, starting September 15th.

  • Brian Merchant, Treehugger.com
    August 31, 2009

    Starting tomorrow, the gray wolf is about to be hunted for the first time in decades. The Obama administration removed the wolves from the endangered species list last March. And unless a federal judge decides to halt the hunt and reopen the question of whether the species is threatened, the gray wolf hunt starts tomorrow in Idaho–and hundreds of wolves will be killed. There are now some 1,640 gray wolves in the wild, living in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Federal officials say that number is large enough to constitute a full recovery, and that the wolves no longer need protection. Wildlife conservationists think otherwise. From the New York Times:

    Wildlife advocates cite several reasons for wanting to stop the hunt. They say that the state plans do not have enough protections, that hunting will prevent the wolves from roaming the Northern Rockies freely enough to preserve genetic diversity and maintain access to the proper habitat.

    They’d like to see a steady population of between 2,000-5,000 wolves before any sort of organized hunting begins. And especially given the low-seeming number of some 1,600 wolves, I have a problem with how these numbers stack up from Idaho’s wolf hunt plans: (Stats from the NY Times)

    -The limit of wolves to be legally killed in Idaho this season is 220.

    -6,000 hunters in Idaho have bought licenses to hunt gray wolves.

    -“Idaho game officials say they would like to have a little more than 500 wolves in the state, though the official plan calls for at least 150.”

    All told, that to me looks like a recipe for mismanagement. A smaller hunt (with a target of 75 wolves to be killed) is set to take place in Montana, starting September 15th.

  • A photojournalist charters a flight to see just how close Shell’s offshore rig is to the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

    Turns out a photo is worth a lot more than a bunch of GPS coordinates.

    By Douglas Fischer
    The Daily Climate

    The general public has not seen images of Shell Oil Co.’s Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, on site off the coast of Alaska, and a sense of the rig’s proximity to protected lands has been hard to grasp. Until now.

     I don’t think the public has realized how close it is.
    – Gary Braasch, photographer

    Oregon-based photographer Gary Braasch flew to Alaska, chartered a plane in the town of Deadhorse, far above the Arctic Circle, and flew out to the rigs. His photographs provide, for the first time, a sense of perspective of the Kulluk rig in its environment, 12 miles offshore of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

    “The location has been published for years in Shell’s permits,” he said in a phone interview. “We just went out there and, sure enough, there it was. But having the landscape just behind it was so amazing, and I don’t think the public has realized how close it is.”

    Read full article and view pictures here

  • Phil Taylor, E&E reporter \ Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012

    The Obama administration today released a crucial new proposal that aims to protect wildlife while promoting recreation, logging, grazing and other uses on nearly 200 million acres of national forests.

    The new planning rule will make land management on 175 national forests and grasslands cheaper, more efficient and less vulnerable to lawsuits, the administration said.

    At the same time, the new guidelines will enhance collaboration between the Forest Service and the public and will require the use of the best available science to inform decisions, the agency said.

    “The most collaborative rulemaking effort in agency history has resulted in a strong framework to restore and manage our forests and watersheds and help deliver countless benefits to the American people,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Our preferred alternative will safeguard our natural resources and provide a roadmap for getting work done on the ground that will restore our forests while providing job opportunities for local communities.”

    The new planning rule — which seeks to update 1982 guidelines and replace proposals since then that were thrown out in court — is designed to make forests more resilient to threats like wildfire, pests, drought and other stressors. The rule will determine how forests and grasslands develop individual management plans, which govern activities from logging to recreation and the protection of endangered plants and animals.

    The guidelines come as forests face new hazards from climate change and a surge in bark beetle attacks that have swept across states including Colorado, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming.

    The agency said about half of its 127 land management plans are more than 15 years old and are past due for updates. The new guidelines are expected to trim the planning process from about six years to as little as three and, in many cases, cut the cost in half, the agency said.

    “Under our preferred alternative, plan revisions would take less time, cost less money, and provide stronger protections for our lands and water,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

    The final rule will be closely watched by environmentalists, hikers, motorized users, loggers, miners and ranchers, all of whom share access to the nation’s forests. Several sources today said they will need time to digest the rule before commenting.

    The agency’s draft rule a year ago drew more than 300,000 comments and was the subject of multiple congressional hearings (E&ENews PM, Feb. 10, 2011).

    Some critics warned the draft rule was too wordy and included new environmental protections that could open the door to special-interest lawsuits (E&E Daily, Nov. 16, 2011). But conservationists said the draft rule lacked regulatory teeth, gave too much discretion to local forest managers and rolled back protections for streams and riparian areas (E&ENews PM, May 16, 2011).

    “We hope that ecological, social and economic objectives are given equal weight in planning so that all of the needs of our citizens will be met by our federal forests,” said Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council, in a statement this morning.

    “We hope to see direction in the rule that forest plans provide direction to harvest timber for the many benefits it provides, including wood products, forest health and habitat diversity, and that timber management is not neglected in the planning process.”

    The agency said its final planning rule provides “strong support for vibrant rural communities” and requirements to consider a range of uses including timber, mining, grazing, energy and outdoor recreation.

    Conservationists over the past year have warned the draft rule gives forest supervisors too much discretion to decide which species should be monitored for stronger protections.

    Tom Franklin, director of policy and government relations for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said resource monitoring is key if the Forest Service hopes to successfully implement adaptive management, which is designed to give managers the flexibility to modify projects as resource conditions change on the ground.

    “They’re giving tremendous authority to line officers,” he said last June. “It appears the use of best available science is kind of optional in a sense. The line officer will determine when it is appropriate to use it.”

    While forest planners are required to use best available science in decisionmaking, such information must only be “taken into account and documented,” rather than given a lead role in planning, the draft rule stated.

    Still, many observers said the requirement to seek best available science could introduce legal challenges and increase the workload for responsible officials.

    The agency said its new planning rule also requires officials to consider habitat to support hunting and fishing.

    Click here to read a summary of the preferred alternative for the new Forest Service planning rule.

    Click here to read the final programmatic environmental impact statement for the new forest planning rule.

  • Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
    Friday, February 17, 2012

    A federal appeals court in Denver has rejected Wyoming’s and the Colorado Mining Association’s bid to allow the court’s full panel to review a Clinton administration rule barring most logging and road building on nearly 60 million acres of national forests.

    The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision affirms its October ruling in favor of the rule.

    And it provides legal backing for what many environmentalists consider to be one on the biggest conservation achievements of the past century by ensuring roughly one-third of the nation’s forests would remain mostly intact.

    Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) said he’d hoped the court would affirm District Court Judge Clarence Brimmer’s decision that the 2001 roadless rule violated federal law.

    “In a well-reasoned opinion Judge Brimmer stated that the roadless rule creates de facto wilderness areas and only Congress should have this power,” Mead said in a statement.

    “Wyoming has over 3 million acres of national forests, which would be subject to restrictions under the Roadless Rule,” he added. “I will review this decision with the attorney general and decide on a course of action.”

    For now, the court’s decision in October that the rule had not illegally created de facto wilderness or violated the National Environmental Policy Act will stand.

    “Today’s court decision gives President Obama a green light to implement one of the nation’s most important conservation polices,” said Jane Danowitz, public lands director for the Pew Environment Group. “With the last legal barrier cleared, the administration should move quickly to enforce the roadless rule as the law of the land.”

    Danowitz said that without a roadless rule, forests are threatened by “patchwork” management regimes that have allowed the gradual encroachment of industrial development.

    With decisions in both the 9th and 10th circuit courts affirming the rule, it appears unlikely that a Supreme Court challenge would prevail.

    The Obama administration last summer renewed its commitment to implementing the Clinton rule (Greenwire, June 1, 2011). It will soon decide whether to allow Colorado to pursue its own rule on 4.2 million acres of forests in the state. Colorado and Idaho were the only states to pursue their own rules under a George W. Bush plan that was later deemed illegal.

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