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 »

Interior to Publish Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Delisting Rule

Salazar announces wolves delisted in Rockies and hunting can begin – Idaho Statesman

Wolves will be delisted in the Northern Rockies except Wyoming on Thursday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

The rule would reinstate the 2009 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the gray wolf in Idaho and Montana, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northern Utah.

Download NR Wolf Delisting Reissuance

Western Watersheds Project expects to file litigation in U.S. District court challenging the delisting rider.

Interior Releases Report Highlighting Impacts of Climate Change to Western Water

Escalation of Western Water Wars Loom

The finite availability of western water is part of the reason Ralph Maughan previously posed the question : Will the resource sucking “sin city” be reclaimed by the desert ?  Perhaps eventually, but in the meantime – despite setbacks, the Southern Nevada Water Authority keeps stretching its tentacles in a continuing effort to draw-down surrounding water resources:

Hundreds Protest Las Vegas Water GrabGreat Basin Water Network Press Release

Nevadans and Utahns made it clear once again that Las Vegas won’t take water from rural Nevada without a fight.

This at a time when the Interior Department has announced a report commissioned by the Bureau of Reclamation – which has presumably brushed up on its 9th grade math – highlighting the impacts of climate change to western water resources – including a projection of an 8 to 20 percent decrease in average annual stream flow in several river basins, including the Colorado, the Rio Grande, and the San Joaquin.

Interior Releases Report Highlighting Impacts of Climate Change to Western Water ResourcesInterior Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today released a report that assesses climate change risks and how these risks could impact water operations, hydropower, flood control, and fish and wildlife in the western United States. The report to Congress, prepared by Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, represents the first consistent and coordinated assessment of risks to future water supplies across eight major Reclamation river basins, including the Colorado, Rio Grande and Missouri river basins.

Budget deal stops BLM Wild Lands inventory

So much for Harry Reid’s promise that the budget bill wouldn’t be used to carry anti-environment riders

Around Christmas, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the administration would be pursuing a BLM Wild Lands initiative, vague direction to BLM to inventory lands which exhibit wilderness characteristics for future Congressional Wilderness designation consideration.

It was a brief respite from Obama’s anti-environment Interior Department.  Now that relief is being defunded, more anti-environment funding cuts carried by the budget bill:

Budget deal stops BLM Wild Lands inventoryIdaho Statesman

The budget deal prohibits the Obama administration from spending federal funds on its proposed Wild Lands initiative.

Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson authored the provision to stop the Bureau of Land Management from carrying out its inventory of public lands with wilderness characteristics.

Will the proposed budget cut funds to administer environmentally destructive subsidized uses of publics lands like welfare ranching ?

Why is Obama prosecuting Tim DeChristopher, the gas-lease pranker?

A good question, given all the unprosecuted, indeed celebrated, criminals at high levels-

Tim DeChristopher was convicted at his trial after not being allowed to explain the motives for his prank. Do Motives Matter? The DeChristopher Verdict. The New York Times. By Kirk Johnson.

Inside traders, coal and oil company disaster creators, military contractors break the law with no fear. Two Justices of the Supreme Court plot openly with the Koch Brothers, but who gets convicted? As climate crime continues, who are we sending to jail? Tim DeChristopher? By Bill McKibben. Grist Magazine.

Some people are outraged. Read below (written shortly before his trial).

Why is Obama prosecuting Tim DeChristopher, the gas-lease pranker? Jeremy Bloom. Red, Green, and Blue.

Tim DeChristopher Goes on Trial for Disrupting Oil Lease Auction

DeChristopher may get 10 years for unconventional method of protecting Utah’s beautiful canyonlands from oi companies-

We have had many stories on this, but not for quite a while. Tim DeChristopher could be punished far more than the Wall Street investment bankers who stole billions. He bid against oil speculators at a Department of Interior (BLM) oil and gas lease auction in 2008. He had no money, however.

Trial of eco-activist who punk’d BLM begins. Greenspace in the New York Times.

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Note. He was quickly convicted. Webmaster.

Salazar: Sonoran desert tortoise is “Warranted, but precluded” from federal protection

Tortoise Takes Place in Line For Federal Listing

Sonoran Desert Tortoise

The Sonoran desert tortoise is the next in a long line of imperiled species that the Obama administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has determined is “Warranted, but precluded” from the comprehensive federal protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Sonoran desert tortoise now an endangered species candidate – KVOA.com

“Much like the Saguaro cactus, the Sonoran desert tortoise is symbolic of the rich Southwestern desert,” said Steve Spangle, the Service’s Arizona field supervisor. “A collection of various conservation partners have made great strides to better understand and protect the Sonoran desert tortoise, but our comprehensive analysis shows an increasing magnitude of threats is offsetting some conservation efforts. This candidate conservation status should increase opportunities for reversing this trend.”

It will be interesting to see how the alternative “candidate conservation status” measures will bring much needed protections to the tortoise, particularly given the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s acknowledgement that those conservation measures deployed have already fallen short.

Tortoise Takes Place in Line For Federal Listing News Release 12/13/10

In his finding, Secretary Salazar determined that the Sonoran desert tortoises may be threatened by all five factors the agency uses in deciding whether a species qualifies for Endangered Species Act protection: 1) habitat loss and destruction; 2) overutilization; 3) disease or predation; 4) inadequate legal protections; and 5) other factors. Under the Act, the tortoise needs only to qualify under one of these factors to warrant listing.

Read the rest of this entry »