The biggest gas drilling plan yet for Green River Basin

Encana could add 3,500 gas wells SW of Pinedale, WY-

Already reeling from the massive Jonah gas field, now a new field covering 4 times as much area is planned.  The “Normally Pressured Lance” natural gas field” (Son of Jonah, as some call it) comes at a time when the formerly pristine air of the Green River Basin has wintertime air so dirty it violates the standards.

Encana project could add 3,500 gas wells in Wyo. Mead Gruver, Associated Press

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management needs to asked how new drilling of this huge magnitude can be done until the agency can be sure the residents are being protected from the activities that are already underway.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council has a story on the project too (and a map). Agency needs to protect the residents of the Upper Green River Valley. By Bruce Pendery

Ivanpah solar project would disturb thousands of desert tortoises

Desert Tortoise, Dr. Michael Connor

The Ivanpah solar thermal project consists of 5.4 square miles of high quality habitat for the Endangered Species Act protected desert tortoise, a fact that developers (and some investors) underestimated resulting in the temporary suspension of activities on phases 2 and 3 of the project site due to construction activities exceeding the incidental take limit (number of tortoises allowed to be disturbed) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set at 38 Endangered Species Act protected desert tortoises.

The temporary suspension of activities prompted the Bureau of Land Management to take a closer look, and issue a Revised Biological Assessment   () estimating the number of desert tortoise the project may impact given what we now know.  As it turns out, the initial incidental take limit of 38 was off the mark to the tune of thousands of desert tortoises:

More than 3,000 desert tortoises would be disturbed by a solar project in northeast San Bernardino County and as many as 700 young ones would be killed during three years of building, says a federal assessment issued Tuesday.

Read the rest of this entry »

BLM told by public not to develop western oil shale

It’s a dirty and marginal source of fossil fuel energy-

Oil sands of Alberta are bad enough, but they look good compared to Western oil shale. Its development will produce little, if any, net energy,  while leaving much waste and giant pits. It takes a lot of water too, and the deposits are in the driest part of the United States.

BLM hearing in Salt Lake City sees much opposition to oil shale. Salt Lake Tribune. By Brandon Loomis.

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 ?

National Parks to close, but BLM and National Forests open — Barker

Rocky Barker has a blog today about the upcoming status of public lands in the government shutdown.

National forests and BLM lands will remain open but national parks close. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman

Update. Looks like some deal was worked out late Friday night. Government remains open

If gov’t shuts down, what happens to visitors in the national parks?

Shutdown is likely. National Parks will be closed. Other public lands?

It looks more and more like a government shutdown of uncertain duration. Dept of Interior just made it clear that national parks and monuments will be closed down and “secured.”  I have to wonder what will happen come Saturday to all those currently inside of big parks like Yellowstone?

DOI said national wildlife refuges and BLM visitor facilities will be closed. I don’t know how they can bar entry to the hundreds of millions of acres of scattered BLM lands, but a lot of NWRs could have the access gates of major roads locked shut. National forests? That is the USDA. I haven’t read a statement from them.

We were on our way to some national parks, so I guess a lot of plans are being disrupted and people angry at the buffons in Congress. While others will no doubt disagree with me, I blame the tea party Republicans foremost for this totally avoidable problem of uncertain, but probably severe magnitude.

Cows, What a many Splendored Thing

Click to view in Google Maps

Last week I went out with a co-worker to check out what was going on in the Jarbidge Field Office where Western Watersheds Project has won a court victory that ends corporate ranching on 450,000 acres of public land. When we arrived we found cattle on several of the allotments even though the injunction is in place.

The ranchers are asking the judge to stay the injunction and say that they have met all of the terms of the stipulated settlement agreement (SSA) which has expired. They argue that utilization monitoring has shown that they have not exceeded the terms and conditions of their permits or the SSA and, because of this, sage grouse habitat has improved. Even if they have met the terms and conditions of their permits and the SSA, which I won’t say one way or the other, the BLM’s Analysis of the Management Situation (AMS) notes that the Jarbidge suffered the cumulative loss of 800,000 acres of sagebrush-steppe habitat from 1982 through 2006, such that 46% of the JFO is no longer sage-steppe habitat. This doesn’t even account for the massive fires which have burned since 2007 such as the Murphy Complex of 2007 and the Long Butte Fire in 2010. Sage grouse and other sage steppe dependent species are in dire straits in the Jarbidge and as the WWP press release says:

“Recent data from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game shows that sage-grouse populations in the Jarbidge Field Office are in a free fall, with declines of over 90% since 2006 alone. For example, in the Browns Bench area of the Field Office, total male sage-grouse lek counts are down from 185 in 2006 to 29 in 2010, and some areas are in an even steeper decline.”

Jarbidge FO Pastures.  Click for larger view.

Jarbidge FO Pastures. Click for larger view.

While my biggest concerns lie with the plight of the wildlife there, I also find it startling that the Jarbidge Field Office has essentially turned into a livestock feedlot. Even recreation values have been totally eliminated here. The whole Field Office has been fenced into small pastures with what amounts to a weeping sore in each caused by cattle that congregate at water troughs surrounded by feeding tubs with some kind of molasses slurry, salt blocks, and even oat hay. On top of that is the droning of military jets overhead, some of them containing training pilots from Singapore.

I guess this is what they mean by “multiple use”.  I call it a cowpocalypse.