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

Obama: Pygmy Rabbit “not warranted” for ESA protections

Salazar Strikes Again, Denying Meaningful Protection for Imperiled Tiny Bunny of the Sagebrush Sea

Pygmy rabbit

The declining condition of the Sagebrush Sea has been highlighted on a couple of occasions over the past couple of weeks.  In recent Washington state news we learned that jackrabbits in sagebrush habitats are diminishingPygmy rabbits were rejected ESA protections by the Obama administration last week, and earlier last year Dr. Steven Herman remorsefully described his account of the extinction of the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit:

Science is seldom followed in these endangered species “interventions”.  Politics trumps science -and conservation.

We need to remember the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit as an example of a form lost in part to the the insanity of Public Grazing.

The Sagebrush Sea is Dying

Significant threats to sagebrush habitat across the western landscape continue to threaten and diminish a variety of sagebrush obligate species.

Sagebrush habitat is among the most imperiled ecosystems in North America and the rate at which our unique western wildlife and fish communities are declining is truly alarming.

Attempting to bring the most relief in the least amount of time, environmentalists continue to push for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for a number of umbrella species endemic to sagebrush habitats, including the grand-master of the Sagebrush Sea: the Greater Sage grouse.

Prioritizing these “umbrella” species is important, because when successfully listed, the protections secured these species will blanket entire ecosystems positively affecting the diversity of fish, wildlife, and environmental values which share the explicitly protected individuals’ habitat.  It’s like hitting a plethora of birds with one stone (bad analogy).

Ken Cole (age 11) holds pygmy rabbit

Pygmy Rabbits’ Race to Recovery

So it is with the charismatic, imperiled pygmy rabbit, North America’s tinniest bunny, and the only arboreal rabbit (climbs sagebrush) on Earth !

In 2003, a coalition of conservation groups petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list pygmy rabbits under the ESA.

In early 2008, the USFWS, responding to legal pressure from conservation groups, finally issued a positive 90-day finding for pygmy rabbits, initiating a more thorough assessment of whether to protect the bunny under the ESA.

The agency dragged its feet again, prompting Western Watersheds Project et al to provide a legal reminder, again, of its court ordered obligation to the bunny …

Unfortunately, just earlier this week Pygmy rabbits were denied Endangered Species Act protections by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Laura Zuckerman, Reuters

“We find there has been some loss and degradation of pygmy rabbit habitat range-wide, but not to the magnitude that constitutes a significant threat to the species,” Bob Williams, supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Nevada, said in a statement.

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Ivanpah Power Plant – Not Clean Not Green

Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.
California Director
Western Watersheds Project

Ancient Mojave yuccas on the Ivanpah power plant site. (2009) © Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.

Ancient Mojave yuccas on the Ivanpah power plant site. (2009) © Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.

Secretary of the Interior Salazar is about to initial a series of major giveaways of public lands in California to industrial-scale solar power producers. These “fast-tracked” power plant projects have had truncated environmental reviews in the current administration’s rush to place huge chunks of public land in the hands of developers to build on them at public expense.

The Ivanpah Solar Power Plant project is a prime example. The project’s proponent, BrightSource Energy, will build an experimental “power tower” solar power plant on over five and a half square miles of high quality desert tortoise habitat in California’s Ivanpah Valley. The 1.7 billion dollar project will be primed with $1.3 billion in public “economic stimulus” funds provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The project is the first of a number of power plants proposed for public lands in the Ivanpah Valley. A photovoltaic plant is planned right next door to the Ivanpah power plant. Just down the valley over the Nevada border is the proposed Silver State power plant. These and other projects will block off the Ivanpah Valley, turn the North Ivanpah Valley into an industrial zone, and will have major consequences for rare and endangered wildlife. Although the ESA-listed desert tortoise population is declining, the Ivanpah power plant will split the North Ivanpah Valley, eliminate desert tortoise habitat, require that resident tortoises be relocated placing them and any resident tortoises at the relocation site in danger, and will severely compromise connectivity and gene flow between important desert tortoise populations. It will also impact foraging for bighorn sheep and other wildlife, a number of rare plants, and an assemblage of barrel cactus unrivaled elsewhere in the Golden State. Native Americans cultural remains including unusual stone structures will be stranded in a sea of mirrors. The agencies don’t know what these structures are, so how can they be important? No matter that the local Chemehuevi Indians don’t share that view.

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Senator Tester Betrays Montana Wilderness

Brian Peck Excoriates Senator Tester’s “Wilderness” Bill And The “Environmental” Groups Who Support It.

He explains that the “bill would set aside just over 600,000 acres of Wilderness, withdraw current protection from nearly 250,000 acres, and require that 100,000 acres be made available for logging and roading in an already fractured landscape.”

Senator Tester Betrays Montana Wilderness
By Brian Peck, New West Unfiltered 11-03-09

Feds To Consider Tortoise for Endangered Species Act Listing

Groups Applaud Finding for Rapidly Declining Desert Icon

Desert Tortoise - photo: USFWS

Desert Tortoise - photo: USFWS

Desert tortoise advocates have been waiting for this good news for a very long time.  Should a listing take place, many human intrusions into the desert tortoise’s southwest desert habitat, including livestock grazing and excessive development, will be largely halted.  The benefit of such will be enjoyed by a great number of desert wildlife species.

Feds to consider protections for desert tortoiseAP

Wildlife officials said the environmentalists’ petition presented substantial information that might warrant listing the species as threatened or endangered. Threats include urban sprawl, off-road vehicle use and livestock grazing. The tortoises’ range includes 8.4 million acres of federal public land in Arizona. Livestock grazing is permitted on more than half that land.

The News Release :

Arizona—Aug 28. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) gave the green light today on a petition submitted by WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project requesting protection (listing) for the Sonoran desert tortoise under the Endangered Species Act. The finding means that the Service will now conduct a full review to determine if the tortoise warrants being placed on the list of threatened and endangered species.

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Secretary Salazar, Senator Reid Announce ‘Fast-Track’ Initiatives for Solar Energy Development on Western Lands

A lot of ecologically important land is going to be put under the bulldozer with this.

Secretary Salazar, Senator Reid Announce ‘Fast-Track’ Initiatives for Solar Energy Development on Western Lands – Department of Interior News Release 6/29/09

And some comment :

Interior fast-tracks Big Solar on public lands – Chris Clarke, The Clade

Note the phrasing: “rapid development of renewable energy, especially on America’s public lands.”

Interior Unveils Solar Hot Spots Across West – David Frey, NewWest

Posted in energy, land development, public lands. Tags: . Comments Off on Secretary Salazar, Senator Reid Announce ‘Fast-Track’ Initiatives for Solar Energy Development on Western Lands

Animal kills by Wildlife Services more than double in ’08

Animal kills by federal agency more than double

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
Associated Press Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The number of animals poisoned, shot or snared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than doubled last year, and environmentalists who are critical of the killings renewed their effort Tuesday to limit the agency’s funding for such activities.