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News and information about environmental and land management action involving federal agencies

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U.S. Forest Service, BLM, USFWS, NPS, Energy, EPA
John Stewart

Interim directive for inventoried roadless areas issued

The U.S. Forest Service, with jurisdiction over the National Forests and Grasslands, makes decisions about what projects can take place on those lands. In simultaneously upholding and overturning the 2001 Clinton roadless rule, the courts have created confusion and made it difficult for the U.S. Forest Service to do its job. The directive will ensure that USDA can carefully consider activities in these inventoried roadless areas while long term roadless policy is developed and relevant court cases move forward.

This interim directive changes procedural requirements for Forest Service projects in inventoried roadless areas. It does not prevent the Secretary from either approving projects that he believes are in the interest of forest stewardship or prohibiting projects he believes are not. The Secretary will work closely with the US Forest Service to implement this interim directive.

This interim directive does not affect roadless areas on National Forest System lands in Idaho - Idaho is exempt from this interim directive. Idaho developed its own roadless rule through the Administrative Procedures Act. That rule already prescribes how decisions with respect to forest management and road building in roadless areas in Idaho are to be made.

This interim directive will last for one year and can be renewed for an additional year.

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John Stewart

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Says Western Sage-Grouse Not a Sub-species

The Service was petitioned by the Institute for Wildlife Protection seeking ESA protection for the western sage grouse, which occurs in northern California, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and possibly parts of Idaho. The Service concluded in 2003 that the western sage grouse is neither a distinct population segment nor a valid subspecies of the greater sage grouse, and therefore was not eligible for protection under the ESA. The Service’s decision was sent back to the agency by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration of whether the western sage grouse may be a subspecies. The court upheld the Service’s determination that the western sage grouse is not a distinct population segment of the greater sage grouse.

Today’s announcement is included in the Service’s decision that the listing of greater sage-grouse is warranted for ESA protection but is precluded by higher listing priorities. The greater sage-grouse will be placed on the candidate list for future action, meaning the species would not receive statutory protection under the ESA and states would continue to be responsible for managing the bird. The Service also determined that the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse, found in California and Nevada and formerly known as the Mono Basin population, meets the necessary criteria for recognition as a Distinct Population Segment under the ESA, and that adding this population to the federal list of threatened and endangered species is warranted. However, listing the Bi-State DPS of the greater sage-grouse at this time is precluded by the need to list candidate species with that have a higher priority need for protection under the ESA. It will be placed on the list of candidate species.  The Service will review the status of the Bi-State DPS and the greater sage-grouse annually, as it does with all candidates for listing, and will propose them for listing when funding and workload permit.

The finding on greater sage-grouse incorporates the birds referenced in the petition to list a western subspecies, which will therefore be included on the list of candidate species.

The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a large, ground-dwelling bird, measuring up to 30 inches in length, is two feet tall and weighs between two to seven pounds.  It has a long, pointed tail with legs feathered to the base of the toes and fleshy yellow combs over the eyes.  In addition to the mottled brown, black and white plumage typical of the species, males sport a white ruff around their necks.  The sage-grouse is found from 4,000 feet to over 9,000 feet in elevation.  It is an omnivore, eating soft plants (primarily sagebrush) and insects.

Greater sage-grouse are found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, eastern California, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. They occupy approximately 56 percent of their historical range.

For more information regarding today’s findings, please visit the Service’s web site at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/sagegrouse.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

 

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John Stewart

Waterfowl Hunting is Economic Boom

New Report Shows Waterfowl Hunting’s Contribution to U.S. Economy

Waterfowl hunters spent $900 million on a variety of goods and services from food, transportation, guns and decoys to hunting dogs, clothing and other incidental expenses in 2006, according to a new report issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These trip and equipment-related expenditures generated more than $2.3 billion in total economic output for 2006, which resulted in $157 million in federal and state tax revenues, supported more than 27,000 jobs, and generated more than $8.5 million in employment income.

“The financial support provided to conservation, and the economy as a whole, is significant,” said Rowan Gould, acting Director of the Service. “Waterfowlers, like many other sportsmen, have a proven track record in their contributions to the U.S. economy, and that’s certainly something to take comfort in during these tough economic times.”

The report, The Economic Impact of Waterfowl Hunting in the United States, is an addendum to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. The report shows more than 1.3 million people, 16 years of age and older, hunted waterfowl in 2006.  Waterfowl hunters represented 10 percent of all hunters, 7 percent of all hunting trip-related expenditures, and 6 percent of all equipment expenditures.

According to the report, waterfowl hunters tend to be younger, have higher educational achievements, and are more affluent compared to all hunters. The majority (74 percent) of waterfowl hunters live in the South and the Midwest.

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John Stewart

Energy and the Environment: Myths and Facts

Believing that prudent policies require a well-informed citizenry—one well versed in the facts—a survey research conducted by Zogby Associates, to determine what Americans believe about energy and environmental issues and the extent of their knowledge has been released.

Building on similar research from 2006, the second edition reports the January 2009 responses of 1,000 Americans, chosen to be representative of public opinion generally, on matters such as the sources energy, the extent of the oil supply, the rate of global warming, the safety of nuclear power, and the promise of renewable energy sources.

The survey found that the views that many Americans hold about a wide range of these issues remain, in key ways, inaccurate. For example:

• Forty-nine percent of respondents believe Saudi Arabia exports the most oil to the U.S., while just 13% correctly identified Canada as our top foreign supplier. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. imported 58.2% of its petroleum (including crude oil) in 2007, but only 16.1% of all imports came from Persian Gulf countries.
• More than 67% believe we can meet future energy demand through conservation and efficiency. Historically, in contrast, energy demand actually increases alongside efficiency gains. And because energy use is not static, conservation leads to only marginal reductions in demand. the EIA projects global energy consumption to increase 50% from 2005 to 2030 and U.S. energy use to increase 11.2% from 2007 to 2030.
• Just 37% correctly answered that no one has ever died from the actual generation of nuclear power in the U.S.  though the U.S. has not built a nuclear-power reactor since the nuclear meltdown at three Mile Island in 1979, 104 active reactors safely generate roughly one-fifth of our nation’s electricity.
• Sixty-three percent of those surveyed believe that human activity is the greatest source of green- house gases. In fact, such emissions are significantly smaller than natural emissions. the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for just 3.27% of the carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere each year, while the biosphere and oceans account for 55.28% and 41.46%, respectively.
• Less than 28% correctly believe that U.S. air quality has improved since 1970. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the six most common air pollutants have decreased by more than 50%; air toxins from large industrial sources have fallen nearly 70%; new cars are more than 90% cleaner, in terms of their emissions; and production of most ozone-depleting chemicals has ceased.  These reductions have occurred despite the fact that during the same period, gross domestic product tripled, energy consumption increased 50%, and motor vehicle use increased almost 200%.

Click here to download a copy of Energy and the Environment: Myths and Facts

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John Stewart

Cumulative Impacts of Large-Scale Renewable Energy Development in the Western Mojave

Cumulative Impacts of Large-Scale Renewable Energy Development in the Western Mojave: Theoretical Effects on Physical Connectivity, Gene Flow, and Habitat Fragmentation

Abstract:

To help slow our contribution to climate change, California’s Governor has issued an executive order requiring an unprecedented one-third of statewide electricity production to come from renewable sources by 2020. California’s West Mojave Desert contains ample renewable energy resources and undeveloped expanses, thus many large-scale renewable projects have been proposed for the region. Such renewable energy development, however, will have ecological consequences of its own, including fragmentation of sensitive ecosystems, and barriers to species movement and gene flow.

This project examines the cumulative impacts of large-scale renewable energy development, urban expansion, and climate change on two of the Mojave’s flagship species: the bighorn sheep and desert tortoise. The results indicate that climate change impacts to species connectivity can be compounded by renewable energy developments, which decrease core and highly suitable habitat and can act as major obstacles to migration and gene flow. To help maintain connectivity within the West Mojave, renewable energy planners can reconsider developing projects within critical or highly suitable habitat, within connectivity pathways, and surrounding important source populations and climate refugia for the bighorn sheep metapopulation. Conservation organizations can prioritize existing landholdings important to connectivity, consider purchasing additional land or easements to protect connectivity, and support planning efforts by providing expertise to conduct additional connectivity analyses.

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