California national monuments pay off, and are intact so far, but not DRECP

Here’s some anecdotal evidence supporting the economic arguments for national monument designation.

Two years ago today, President Barack Obama created three new national monuments in the California desert: called Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains. Supporters held a community event to celebrate, noting that tourism to the area has increased significantly, as people come to see Joshua Tree National Park and then, go on to explore the new monuments.

Then there’s the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.

Under Zinke, the Bureau of Land Management recently filed a notice of intent to reopen the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which sets aside land for conservation, recreation and energy development.  “Lands that were set aside for conservation may now be open to inappropriate uses like mining and renewable-energy development, when there was already a consensus on areas where those sorts of uses would be appropriate,”

Another example of Trumpling the interests of locals in favor of reducing the “burdens on all domestic energy development.”  Another case where the recreation industry (and others) will have to battle the resources of the energy industry (instead of working with the industry as they did in DRECP).  Who is your money on?

Flathead forest plan revision nears finish line

I’ve been looking at the second final forest plan and EIS prepared under the 2012 Planning Rule, the Flathead. I want to commend them for some of the things they’ve done.

They have done a very good job of describing desired conditions for many vegetation characteristics based on their natural range of variation. I can tell you that this is the kind of “specific” desired conditions the drafters of the Planning Rule had in mind for providing ecological integrity. They also conducted an analysis of how vegetation conditions would change over time as a result of the plan, while factoring in expected fire regimes, and they were able to use this for some of their analysis of effects on viability of wildlife species that are closely tied to vegetation. I pretty much only looked at the wildlife parts of the EIS, but I thought the terrestrial part was well organized, and included some thoughtful discussion of what plan components actually do. One of my interests is habitat connectivity, and they have given it a more serious look than most, including actually considering and identifying specific areas to be managed for connectivity.

I was looking for problems related to at-risk species, and there are some. Regarding fire, even though they don’t call the wildland-urban interface a “management area,” it is one because a lot of plan components apply differently there.

I’ve also seen how big of a job it is to review and understand something this massive within 60 days, even with only a limited focus – and I’m someone with probably as much experience at this as anyone. It helped to have followed this process off and on from the beginning, but I have some sympathy for organizations trying to promote changes at this point in the process.   (There’s much more time to prepare for forest plan litigation.)

Next up? The Inyo is on track for “this spring.”

Firefighters and Cops Win In FY’19 Budget

You know the authoritarians are in charge when firefighters and cops get more money and everyone else gets less. That’s the bottom-line in Trump’s FY 2019 Forest Service budget.

Many dismiss the administration’s annual budget exercise because Congress makes the final appropriations decision. But, the budget reflects the administration’s philosophy and priorities. It guides how political appointees view public lands and the role of government in their management. In this respect, the proposed Forest Service budget is a caricature of the Trump Administration.

Firefighting, already enjoying the lion’s share of spending, gets an 8% boost, which would move it from 41% to 53% of Forest Service discretionary spending. With the entire FS discretionary budget slated for a 16% cut, something else has got to give . . . and give and give and give. The biggest losers are Capital Improvement and Maintenance, i.e., taking care of roads, bridges, buildings and campgrounds, which drops 74%, from $362 to $95 million. State and Private Forestry gets a 43%19% (two funds are shifted to Fire) haircut and Research is slashed by 15%. Timber, which drops 6%, isn’t exempt from the chopping block either. Perennial poor mouth Recreation & Wilderness is cut 9%.

What else goes up? Law enforcement by 2%. Marijuana growers beware!

The Bureau of Land Management is “chaining” our public lands, and BLM’s next stop could be within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

In my opinion, “chaining” looks straight outta Isengard from Lord of the Rings.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) has launched a statewide television and online media campaign in Utah to focus public attention on the Bureau of Land Management’s destructive practice of “chaining” native pinyon and juniper forests to create more forage for cattle on public lands. Now the BLM wants to chain in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Call the BLM at 801-539-4010 or learn more at suwa.org/chaining

New Tree Technologies: Chips and Capacitors

A couple of new tree technology items..

From Quebec here.

The town of Rosemère, Que., is opting for a more environmentally-friendly way of keeping roads from becoming slippery due to ice, snow and freezing rain — it’s using wood chips.

The town, located just northwest of Laval, is testing out wood chips as a replacement for salt or gravel on the roads.

Rosemère Mayor Eric Westram said they are ditching the “old, conventional way” in favour or something more eco-friendly and more efficient.

“All this salt and all those materials end up in the river,” said Westram. “So if you want to be conscientious of the environment, you have to look at other alternatives.”

He said it all began when a public works employee attended a conference on snow clearing and came back with the idea to try out the wood chips on a couple of key streets that are known in the area for becoming icy.

Westram said the wood chips are completely biodegradable and that they can help vehicles maintain traction in –30 C, compared with salt which he says works up to –15 C.

​”Wood is as natural as it comes,” he told CBC. “This is definitely the thing of the future.” The plan to use wood chips is beginning as a pilot project on a few key streets. Since the wood chips don’t disintegrate, the city has to treat the streets much less often.

Aside.. I’ve noticed in my relatively steep driveway that if I rake pine needles along one side, it keeps ice sheets from forming and makes them easier to crack, quicker to melt and safer to walk on.

This one’s more obscure but also interesting from New Scientist here..

Northern China has a smoky problem caused by autumn leaves, but now there could be a fix: simply turn them into devices that store energy.

Many roads in this part of China are lined with trees of the genus Paulownia, sometimes called phoenix trees. Despite the government’s disapproval, many locals burn the fallen leaves, worsening the country’s notorious air pollution. In Beijing alone, about 2 million tonnes of leaves and other plant waste are burned every year.

Now, Hongfang Ma at the Qilu University of Technology in Jinan and her colleagues have figured out how to turn phoenix tree leaves into organic capacitors. These could be used like batteries to store energy, potentially avoiding some of that air pollution into the bargain.

The process of making organic capacitors does release a little carbon dioxide, but not nearly as much as would be emitted if you let the same quantity of material burn or decay, says Caroline Burgess Clifford at Penn State University. “Any type of use of any waste material is a good thing.”

Oregon Raises Protections for Rare Seabird: Logging, Loss of Prey, Climate Change All Endanger Marbled Murrelet

Here’s the press release from the successful conservation groups.

PORTLAND, Ore.— Responding to a petition from conservation groups, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted today to change the status of marbled murrelets from threatened to endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.

The decision to uplist the murrelet reflects the increasingly imperiled status of the species in Oregon and represents an important step in reversing its ongoing decline toward extinction in the state.

“We applaud the commission for recognizing that the marbled murrelet warrants endangered status in Oregon,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “This decision sets the stage for the state of Oregon to take the steps that will be necessary to recover this species in Oregon.”

The marbled murrelet is a seabird that nests in old-growth and mature forests and forages at sea. Its population has declined dramatically over the decades because of extensive logging in Oregon’s Coast Range. The commission’s decision could have implications for forest protection on state and private timberlands.

“While federal laws have stabilized habitat loss on federal lands, the state of Oregon has continued to allow logging of older forests at an alarming rate and failed to adequately address new threats to the species,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “Changing the murrelet’s status to endangered will help ensure that Oregon takes the steps necessary to do its part to save this species.”

In response to a petition from multiple conservation organizations, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife developed a status review to assess the murrelet’s condition. The review demonstrated that murrelets need increased protections under the Oregon Endangered Species Act due largely to loss of nesting habitat from ongoing clear-cut logging. State protections are critical, because although many of Oregon’s Coast Range old-growth forests have been logged and converted into industrial tree farms, some of the best remaining older forests occur on state-managed lands.

“We’re pleased commissioners made a sound, science-based decision that’s exactly what these desperately imperiled seabirds need to survive,” said Tierra Curry, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science was absolutely clear that the murrelet warrants endangered status in Oregon. This protection will be critical to preserving an amazing part of our state’s natural heritage.”

The murrelet was listed as threatened in 1995. However, the recent status review conducted by Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife concluded that the “key threats identified at the time of listing have continued or increased, and many new threats have been identified since the 1990s … the life history exhibited by this species provides little opportunity for the population to rapidly increase even under the most optimal circumstances.” It also noted that the primary causes of marbled murrelet declines — loss and fragmentation of older forest habitat on which the bird depends for nesting — have “slowed, but not halted … since the 1990s,” with greatest losses occurring on lands managed by the state. The review specifically notes that existing programs and regulation have “failed to prevent continued high rates of habitat loss on nonfederal lands in Oregon.”

The Oregon Endangered Species Act requires that the commission adopt survival guidelines for the species at the time of reclassification. Survival guidelines are quantifiable and measurable guidelines necessary to ensure the survival of individual members of the species. Guidelines may include take avoidance and protecting resource sites such as nest sites or other sites critical to the survival of individual members of the species. They would serve as interim protection until endangered species management plans are developed by applicable state agencies and approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

“It is remarkable that this species has been listed as threatened for more than 20 years but the state of Oregon has never developed a plan to actually protect murrelets on either lands owned by the state of Oregon or private timber lands,” said Quinn Read, Northwest director of Defenders of Wildlife. “The status quo has failed this iconic Oregon seabird. We look forward to working with ODFW and other agencies to developing a plan that will truly protect this species and allow it to recover in Oregon.”

“This is an important step for ODFW. The agency has struggled to faithfully act on it’s core mission of protecting all native fish and wildlife in our state, but with this action to protect the marbled murrelet we hope they have turned the page,” said Steve Pedery, Conservation Director for Oregon Wild.

The conservation groups that initiated the petition to declare the marbled murrelet endangered in Oregon were Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Coast Range Forest Watch and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

What’s In the 2018 Budget for the Forest Service?

I was hoping that since some Appropriations Bill has been passed, that our friendly “people who are paid to analyze things” would share with us what was in this bill for the Forest Service. As helpful readers have pointed out, all I could easily get was the President’s budget, not what ultimately passed. I see that it’s been assailed as a “budget-buster” but that’s not necessarily for the topics we’re interested in. Links to what’s in the bill would also be appreciated.

Media Campaigns and Their Sources: Dave Skinner on the Western Values Project

From Western Values Project website.

While looking at the Western Values Project following up on the E&E News story Steve Wilent mentioned here, I found this op-ed in the Sacramento Bee about the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

This campaign against reform of the conservation fund is cleverly disguised. The group behind the ads is called the Western Values Project, but it is a front group backed by the D.C.-based New Venture Fund, an organization that runs more than 100 similar projects and has received tens of millions of dollars from environmentalist interests.

And then I found this piece, from Dave Skinner of Montana, who has posted on this blog before.. an op-ed in the Flathead Beacon here.

“Do you think either of these experienced progressive public-relations workers would generate all those press releases and produce those ads for free?

Nope — so who really foots the bill and whose “Western majority” values are being voiced?

Well, we have to go back to 2013 when WVP issued its first press release, which reads (way at the bottom) that WVP “receives financial support from New Venture Fund.”

Again, readers, but not reporters, are forgiven if they’ve never heard of the Washington, DC-based New Venture, a “501(c)3 public charity [which] supports innovative public interest projects […]” NVF began in 2006 as the Arabella Legacy Fund, taking about $725,000 from Swiss eco-billionaire Hans Wyss for an “innovative” project called Responsible Trails America (RTA). RTA hired Greens to pose as off-road users on state trail funding committees, working to divert gas-tax money from motorized to non-motorized trails. That’s innovation!

From that small start, Arabella-nee-NVF has become massive. NVF’s 2015 funding, as shown on the most recent IRS “charity” tax return available, was $315.7 million bucks! From whom? Forget it, that’s not open to public inspection. To whom? Oh, the anti-gun Americans for Responsible Solutions ($1.013 million); Sierra Club Foundation ($515,000), hundreds of grants totaling $87 million, and not a dime of it political in any way. Majority western values, my eye!

There is nothing to be found about WVP, its budget, its purpose, anywhere in NVF’s records, nor on its web site, nor in any news stories.

Worse, while there’s a smallish number of “news” stories highlighting multiple “six-figure” advertising buys by WVP in multiple states the past few years — not one single “credentialed” journalist, left, right, or straight, from Montana or elsewhere, has ever caught on to WVP’s true nature.

Western Values Project is a dark-money front, buried deep inside the Russian-doll corporate structure of an unknown, yet multi-mega-dollar “charity” called the New Venture Fund. Probably, but instead, Montana’s TV media ran these ads during news prime time — grabbing big bucks while failing to spend a penny of their windfall on, yep, actual investigative news.”

If folks say “the Koch brothers do it too” that doesn’t really help IMHO. The problem to me is that you can’t interpolate the truth from two groups that are prone to using sophisticated media campaigns to make their case. They twist the facts and intentionally talk past each other. Or as Dave Skinner said in the comments to the Flathead op-ed “The real trouble is, both sides have gotten sophisticated enough at the funding kabuki that average Americans are people are getting the full mushroom treatment.”