How the plan to drain Nevada desert valleys suddenly collapsed

Legislation from 2003 had a hidden flaw-

The small oversight that threatens the valley’s big pipeline proposal. Nevada Supreme court cites a wording error in ’03 legislation. By Emily Green and Tom Gorman, Las Vegas Sun.

The seemingly unstoppable “water witch of the West” made an early mistake.

I hope it is truly dead, but Put Mulroy may have more cards up her sleeve. Pipeline not the sole option. Authority exploring other means as predictions for Lake Mead remain grim.By Stephanie Tavares. Las Vegas Sun.

As giant Lake Mead continues to dry up, and the drain-the-desert plan maybe dead, will the economic depression in Nevada keep the Las Vegas area wet?


Wolf population growth in ID/MT/WY halted in 2009

Increased mortality has stopped the wolf population growth says USFWS-

Tally shows wolves holding steady in region after Montana, Idaho hunting seasons. By Matthew Brown. AP

The 3 state wolf population growth has stopped. Wyoming’s population, where there was no wolf hunt, grew slightly. Montana’s population dropped slightly. Idaho figures are not in, but said to be comparable to last year. Although the article above attributes the halt to the hunt, it should be noted that wolf population growth had been dropping on its own for several years.

The article says “The number of breeding packs increased slightly, from 95 to 111.” [emphasis added]. This could be because increased mortality, especially with hunting might be expected to result in more pack, but smaller packs. However, the delisting plan requires each state to count its breeding pairs, not breed packs. They are not the same. A breeding pack is a group of wolves with some pups at the end of the year. The definition of a breeding pair is different. It has to be two or more wolves with 2 pups at the end of the year and the individual wolves that produced the pups have to also be alive too at the end of the year.

Here is an opposing view from the NRDC. Big Problem: Wolf Population Declining [see note] in Northern Rockies. By Matt Skoglund. Opposing Views. Note that this headline is wrong because NRDC doesn’t say in the article that the wolf population is declining. Skoglund had originally entitled it “The Northern Rockies Wolf Population Has Stopped Growing.” It was changed when Opposing Views picked it up.

New federal grazing fee announced. No change this year, already at lowest allowed by law

Grazing formula again dictates $1.35 a month to graze a cow and a calf or 5 sheep-

A formula to set federal grazing fees designed to partially insulate grazers of federal land from the market became law in 1976. It was supposed to go up and down according to livestock prices and costs of doing business, but it was rigged in favor of costs of doing business. In 1978, $1.35 was set as the lowest possible fee for an AUM (Animal Unit Month).  Every once and a while the formula has required  higher grazing fees, but never much more.

The rock bottom fee now in force has never been adjusted for inflation. So $1.35 in 1976 is now about like 50 cents. Think about this the next time you are charged $5 or $10 to merely park your vehicle at some federal recreation site such as a trailhead.

Oh, and you can’t pay the grazing fee yourself and get the livestock removed. If this was allowed, I’d write a personal check today plus a bonus and pay the grazing fees for all the livestock grazers who pay them on the local Forest Service ranger district and get the livestock removed. I’m not a rich person. I’m merely middle class, but I have enough money in my checkbook right now to pay all of their grazing fees. They are that low — that overprivileged!

Grazing fees on public lands unchanged for 2010. Seattle Times. AP
Federal Grazing Fee Announced for 258 Million Acres: Public to Subsidize Public Land Destruction, Species Endangerment. Center for Biological Diversity.

Controversial wolf hunt over, Sweden now wants to import wolves

Purpose of import is not due to excessive wolf mortality during the hunt. It is lack of genetic diversity-

Sweden wants to import 20 genetically diverse wolves over the next five years.  Although the Swedish Parliament wants to limit the wolf population to about 200 wolves, and so had their first wolf hunt this year, apparently the population is based on too few founding wolves and suffers from inbreeding.

The ill effects of inbreeding do not go away when a population based on just a few animals grows in size. Therefore, the importation of new wolves and the hunt are not related. Regardless of one’s opinion about the wolf hunt, bringing in unrelated wolves will benefit the health of the 200 or so Swedish wolves.

The official number of wolves killed in the recent wolf hunt was 27.

Sweden to import wolves
. UPI.com

There is a lesson here for all those people who prefer a “natural” (unassisted recovery) of any animal — unless there is a large in-migration, the renewed population is not likely to be genetically healthy even if it becomes fairly large.

Mange in the mountains

Here is the story how mange came to be in the Northern Rockies-

There has been a lot of discussion of mange in this forum lately, including one thread that got out of hand. Fortunately,  Mike Stark of the Billings Gazette wrote a story about it in 2007.

Mange in the mountains. Disease used to help wipe out wolves century ago plagues animals today.

This is truly a sorry story and for more than the wolves.

Editorial on Idaho Cattle Association plan to cradle ranchers on state lands

No on a constitutional amendment to protect ranchers from competitive bidding on state lands-

Left: Condition of state land on Lake Creek photo: WWP - July 24, 1994;  Right: Condition of state land - July 18, 2007 - photo: Idaho Department of Lands

Lake Creek was the straw the broke the bovine's back - it prompted the organization of Idaho Watersheds Project (now Western Watersheds Project). Left: Condition of state land on Lake Creek, July 24, 1994 © Lynne Stone; Right: Condition of state land on Lake Creek July 18, 2007

Idaho was given over 2-million acres of federal land at statehood to be managed to provide maximum income for the public schools.. These school endowment lands do make money for the schools, but almost all of it comes from timber sales in northern Idaho.

The bulk of the stand land acreage, however, has been devoted to livestock grazing. In many years it returns nothing to the schools after administrative costs.  It is a nice thing for a few well placed ranchers — low grazing fees and no competition except when once in a while one outfit bids against another to graze the land when the 10-year lease expires.

Jon Marvel and the Idaho (now “Western”)  Watersheds Project changed this after a long battle to allow conservation and others to bid to use the land for 10 years.

Despite outbidding the ranchers only to have their winning bids overturned by the Land Board, the Land Board finally relented after losing lawsuit after lawsuit in state court. In 2007 they formally recognized the right of conservationists to bid and win some of these lands for a decade.  This not only protects and restores the usually overgrazed land;  it puts more money into the public schools. Conservationists are hardly going to snap up all the state lands. They have far too little money for that.

Nevertheless, the powerful Idaho Cattle Association, which nearly rules the Idaho legislature, wants an amendment to the state constitution to allow only ranchers to use these lands. This is at a time the public schools are reeling and Idaho school children even more disadvantaged than usual.

The Magic Valley Times-News editorializes on this latest effort on behalf of welfare ranching. Editorial: Land Board got it right: State lands open to all Idahoans.

Prepare for a disinformation battle. The livestock lobby will be talking about how a little competition will push ranch families off  “their” lands.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yea! Nevada Supreme Court Rules Against Vegas Water Claim

A great victory for rural Nevada and the land and wildlife over Pat Mulroy and Southern Nevada Water Authority-

“Plans to siphon billions of gallons of groundwater from rural Nevada were tossed out today by the Nevada Supreme Court.” Nevada Supreme Court Rules Against Vegas Water Claim. LasVegasNow.com

~more~

Nevada water pipeline: In jeopardy? Greenspace: Environmental news from California and beyond. LA Times.