Judge Halts Settlement Over Hundreds of Endangered Species, Orders Parties Back to Negotiations

Turf War or Legitimate Concern ?

Earlier, we took a look at a recent settlement struck between the Interior Department and WildEarth Guardians that seeks to clear the logjam with species listings under the Endangered Species Act.

The settlement would ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make up or down determinations on a host of species, either granting actual protections for warranted species and affording critical habitat to those that warrant protections or determining that they do not warrant protection.

At first glance, the settlement seems to have the potential to do a lot of good – assuming (big) that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does the right thing.  However, groups like the Center for Biological Diversity objected, arguing that the agreement was too weak, too vague and ultimately unenforceable.  The group also objected to the fact that the would-be settling parties went behind CBD’s back, despite its previous involvement in negotiations, pushing the group out of involvement and making unwise concessions despite CBD’s effort and strong legal interest on a vast majority of the species involved.

Today, the Court agreed with CBD’s challenge of the settlement arguing that the way that WildEarth Guardians and the Interior Department went about its settlement was inappropriate, and ordered all parties back into negotiations:

Judge Halts Settlement Over Hundreds of Endangered Species, Orders Parties Back to Negotiations – Center for Biological Diversity Press Release 5/17/2011 Read the rest of this entry »

Win-Win for Wind and Wildlife ?

Study: There exists enough already-disturbed land in the U.S. suitable for wind to produce 3,500 gigawatts of power – more power than is consumed by the entire U.S.

A new study is confirming what many have been suggesting all along; We don’t need to sacrifice wild-lands and pristine wildlife habitat to facilitate renewable energy, it’s all about proper siting.

Win-Win for Wind and Wildlife: A Vision to Facilitate Sustainable DevelopmentKiesecker JM, Evans JS, Fargione J, Doherty K, Foresman KR, et al. 2011PLoS ONE

[From Abstract]

We estimate there are ~7,700 GW of potential wind energy available across the U.S., with ~3,500 GW on disturbed lands. In addition, a disturbance-focused development strategy would avert the development of ~2.3 million hectares of undisturbed lands while generating the same amount of energy as development based solely on maximizing wind potential.

Hundreds of Scientists Denounce Congress’ Attempt to Undermine Endangered Species Act

Union of Concerned Scientists Weighs In

Attempted political assaults on the Endangered Species Act in Congress, as exist in recent budget bills, are being denounced by scientists all over the country.

Hundreds of Scientists Denounce Congress’ Attempt to Undermine Endangered Species ActUCSW Press Release 3/30/11

WASHINGTON (March 30, 2011) – Nearly 1,300 scientists today urged senators to oppose efforts to undermine the scientific authority of the Endangered Species Act, which they fear would threaten the long-term survival of all species protected by the law.

Read the letter to Congress signed by 1293 scientists

Court Victory Stops Corporate Ranching on 450,000 Acres of Public Land in Southern Idaho

Click to view in Google Maps

On February 28, 2011 Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the United States District Court for Idaho agreed with Western Watersheds Project and reimposed an injunction stopping livestock grazing on 17 grazing allotments covering over 450,000 acres of public land in the Jarbidge Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management in southern Idaho.

The allotments closed under this injunction contain some of the most important remaining habitat for sage grouse, California bighorn sheep, the threatened plant species slickspot peppergrass as well as native redband trout, pygmy rabbits and pronghorn antelope.

March 4 news story added. Federal judge shuts down some Jarbidge grazing allotments. By Laura Lundquist. Magic Valley Times News

Here is Western Watersheds Project’s News Release on this important victory:

Western Watersheds Project Wins A Federal Court Injunction Stopping Livestock Grazing on over 450,000 Acres of Public Land in Southern Idaho

Greater sage grouse, pygmy rabbit and Slickspot peppergrass have won a reprieve from livestock grazing which has decimated their populations and destroyed their habitat. Late yesterday, Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the federal District for Idaho held BLM, various Simplot corporate entities, and other corporate ranching operations to the terms of an earlier agreement, and again enjoined livestock grazing on 17 livestock grazing allotments in southern Idaho. Read the rest of this entry »

China Mountain/Browns Bench Wind controversy escalates

“I can assure you there will be a protracted legal fight using all legal means available to stop the project”

Brown's Bench, RES America proposes to put hundreds of giant wind turbines on this southern Idaho landscape © Brian Ertz 2010

Some of the really great things I enjoy about living in the west are the obscure landscapes/mountain ranges.  Unlike national parks, ‘W‘ilderness areas, National Monuments and other landscapes prominently highlighted on any western map, there are many public landscapes less conspicuous, maybe not even labeled on a common roadmap, belonging to all of us that are best known by the locals ~ sportsmen, anglers, ranchers, really hardcore conservationists and recreationists.  Landscapes that harbor habitat and wildlife that exemplify its original nature.

West of 93 on the ID/NV line

These less conspicuous areas are where I learned to hunt and fish with my brothers, places I continue to frequent to hike, botanize and view wildlife with my kids.  Public lands that have served countless generations in such an economically intangible way, uplifting our spirit and serving our truly unique and blessed standard of living.  If you’re reading this, it’s likely you know what I mean.

Increasingly, these places find themselves under threat by new energy technologies which extend the reach of our human ability to extract resources into places otherwise overlooked by industry yesteryear.

In southern Idaho, just west of Highway 93 on the Idaho/Nevada line, Brown’s Bench is just such a place.

Concerned about grouse, groups ask China Mountain developer to reconsider – Opposition Rises as Wind Farm Study Nears – Times-News

One by one, organizations weighing the land against the wind are concluding that more green energy doesn’t outweigh the risk to sage grouse.

Read the rest of this entry »

Has the Japanese Whaling Fleet Surrendered?

Activism at work.

Humpback Whale © Ken Cole

Humpback Whale © Ken Cole

I’ve never written about this here but I have been following this campaign for many years and I have been acquainted with a number of people who have volunteered for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society over those years. Of all of the anti-whaling groups out there they are the most effective but also the most controversial. They operate in international waters against a fleet of Japanese whalers who are illegally hunting in a whale sanctuary near Antarctica. Their actions have been chronicled in the popular Whale Wars series on Animal Planet.

I recently met several dedicated employees and Captain Chuck Swift of the Bob Barker, a ship named after the game show host who donated the funds to buy it, while traveling with my friend Mike Mease of the Buffalo Field Campaign and his stories were amazing. These people really put their lives at risk to save wildlife from unsustainable harvest. Chuck gave me a hoody sweatshirt that I wear with pride.

While this may be a short lived victory it is sweet nonetheless. I commend them for their dedication.

Ken Cole.

Has the Japanese Whaling Fleet Surrendered?.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Update December 2, 2010: Japanese whaling ship heads to sea

Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight by Stimulus

Big Energy companies with criminal records given billions in stimulus funds to wreak havoc on our public lands and wildlife.

The Center for Public Integrity has issued a stinging report on how the Obama Administration has bypassed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when issuing permits for energy and other projects which involve federal lands or funds. Over and over we have seen that projects are rushed through without any public oversight and in areas where they have severe environmental impacts. Wind farms on public lands without analysis of their impacts on bats, sage grouse, pygmy rabbits, and other wildlife; solar plants on public lands without sufficient analysis on endangered desert tortoise and other imperiled wildlife; power lines and other utilities permitted outside of established corridors without analysis of impacts on wildlife; offshore oil rigs in deep water without proper understanding of how to deal with catastrophic failures. All of these uses are being given a pass under NEPA.

Salazar = Extractive Industries' 'BFF'

What is the problem with this you might ask. Well, I’m sure you remember what happened in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. The Deepwater Horizon was permitted under a categorical exclusion.

In contrast livestock grazing permits are not even renewed under categorical exclusions, they require at least an Environmental Assessment that must undergo public review and can be appealed, in fact I do it all of the time.

These projects also only benefit those with existing power and money while projects, such as rooftop solar and energy efficiency improvements on existing structures which would benefit real people and not come at the expense of irreplaceable wildlife and land resources, are being forgone. It’s all about keeping the wealthy in control of our resources at the public expense.

What is next? Well in Nevada, the scourge of ranchers and water mining entities like the Southern Nevada Water Authority, ancient forests made up of old growth pinyon pine and junipers are being eyed by the energy companies as a source of biomass to fuel turbines. More on that later.

Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight by Stimulus
The Center for Public Integrity