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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

GAO Audit Critical of USFWS Monitoring

In a May 2009 audit report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a critical assessment of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracking of required monitoring reports noting the Service has incomplete information about effects on listed species from Section 7 Consultations.

The western United States, including vast stretches of federal land, is home to more than a third of the 1,317 species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Under Section 7 of the Act, federal agencies must ensure that any actions they authorize, fund, or carry out, whether on federal or private lands, do not jeopardize listed species.

The GAO audit found the Service lacks a means of tracking the monitoring reports it requires in biological opinions and does not know the extent of compliance with these requirements. To track monitoring reports, the Service relies on its biologists to keep abreast of biological opinions and follow up on required monitoring reports. At the field offices GAO visited, Service biologists could not account for all required monitoring reports in 40 of 64 consultation files (63 percent) requiring such reports. Service staff said they face a demanding workload, and responding to new consultation requests often takes higher priority than following up on monitoring reports.

Monitoring reports can play a critical role in the consultation process because they provide an evaluation of and a feedback loop on the effects actions have on listed species and the effectiveness of protective measures taken to minimize the impact of take. The lack of monitoring reports increases the risk of litigation to protect species.

Click here to learn more about the Endangered Species Act on MUIRNet-News.

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John Stewart

Forum promotes transparancey in government

New Online Forum Promotes Transparency and Openness in Government

(Washington, D.C. – May 29, 2009) The eRulemaking Program, a federal-wide E-Government project led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has launched Regulations.gov Exchange. Regulations.gov is the one-stop, online source for citizens to search, view and comment on regulations issued by the U.S. government.

In the past, the paper process limited the public’s ability to find rules and comment. Today, the public can explore new features for Regulations.gov, post opinions, engage directly with other users and with eRulemaking program staff. Regulations.gov Exchange will be open for public participation from May 21 – July 21, 2009.

“We’re always looking for new, innovative ways to engage the public, and get more people involved in the regulatory process,” said John Moses, EPA’s eRulemaking program director. “Every member of the public can post their opinion directly on Regulation.gov Exchange without boundaries, shaping and improving Regulations.gov.”

Regulations.gov Exchange promotes public engagement by actively involving citizens in the development of a major government-wide Web site, and uses new technologies that enhance the transparency of government decision-making. The public feedback will shape on-going updates of Regulations.gov, explore the impact of emerging Internet technologies on the federal rulemaking process, foster government-citizen collaboration, and promote government transparency and openness.

In 2008, Regulations.gov received more than 110 million hits and 450,000 comments on new or existing regulations. It holds 2 million documents from more than 160 federal entities.

For more information:
http://www.regulations.gov/exchange

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John Stewart

Protected Areas Map of U.S. Available

The Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) is a national database of federal and state conservation lands. It contains the most current information about publicly held conservation lands (with conservation measures available) in the U.S. It was first published for delivery to the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Center's (WCMC) World Database for Protected Areas (WDPA) in April 2009 by USGS GAP, on behalf of the PAD-US Partnership.

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John Stewart

Two-Year ‘Time-Out’ from New Mining Claims on Arizona Strip

Salazar Calls Two-Year ‘Time-Out’ from New Mining Claims on Arizona Strip Watershed near Grand Canyon National Park: Department will evaluate more extended withdrawal of lands from new mining claims

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jul 20, 2009) – After carefully considering the issue of uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has decided to segregate nearly 1 million acres of federal lands in the Arizona Strip for two years while the Department evaluates whether to withdraw these lands from new mining claims for an additional 20 years.

“I am calling a two-year ‘Time-Out’ from all new mining claims in the Arizona Strip near the Grand Canyon because we have a responsibility to ensure we are developing our nation’s resources in a way that protects local communities, treasured landscapes, and our watersheds,” said Secretary Salazar.  “Over the next two years, we will gather the best science and input from the public, members of Congress, tribes, and stakeholders, and we will thoughtfully evaluate whether these lands should be withdrawn from new mining claims for a longer period of time.”

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John Stewart

A New Generation of USGS Maps

“The public’s high regard for USGS topographic maps stretches over a century,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.  “Because Survey maps consistently describe our nation’s entire landscape, they are the standard mapping reference for scientists, land managers, property owners, and every variety of outdoor enthusiast.”

“So I am very pleased,” continued Secretary Salazar, “that this new type of USGS topographic map not only preserves the best qualities of older topographic maps but now, in a popular digital format, can better serve both specialized users and the general public.”

Arranged in the familiar 7.5-minute quadrangle format, US Topo maps are available free on the Web. Each map quadrangle is constructed in GeoPDF® format from key layers of geographic data — orthoimagery, roads, geographic names, topographic contours, and hydrographic features — found in The National Map, a nationwide collection of integrated data from local, state, federal, and other sources.

“The USGS has always been at the forefront of new mapping technologies, but what distinguishes US Topo is the new methodology for delivering the product to users from all walks of life,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt.  “These digital maps can be as simple or as sophisticated as the need dictates, easily customized on the spot.”

US Topo users can turn geographic data layers on and off as needed, zoom in and out to highlight specific features or see a broader context, and print the maps — in their entirety or in customized sections — on a wide variety of printing devices.  File size for each digital US Topo 7.5-minute quadrangle, about 15-20 megabytes, is convenient for most computer users.  Electronic analytical tools are also available for free download.  

“Everyone who learns about this new kind of USGS topographic map immediately wants to know how it compares to other electronic maps available on the Internet,” said Mark DeMulder, Chief of the USGS National Geospatial Program.  “Here is how US Topo differs from most other electronic maps:

  • Nationally consistent data quality assured to high standards
  • Looks and feels like legacy paper USGS topographic maps but has technical advantages
  • Can be used on the computer or printed to scale
  • Downloadable free from the on-line USGS Store
  • Users can select from various reference systems, e.g lat-long, UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator)
  • Direct "mash-up" capabilities with Google Maps®
  • Continuous evolution and incorporation of additional data layers.”


Further information about how to download and use US Topo, currently available coverage, and the timetable for production of US Topo maps can be found online at: nationalmap.usgs.gov/ustopo .

The prototype of US Topo, Digital Map – Beta, has been available since June 2009.  A US Topo map includes all of the content of the earlier Digital Map – Beta plus integrated contours and hydrographic features.  As the US Topo product evolves, the USGS will provide digital, historical versions of USGS topographic map quadrangles and will incorporate additional geographic data layers from The National Map.

Public feedback about US Topo will assist the USGS in improving the US Topo concept.  Send comments to:  nationalmap.usgs.gov/ustopo/ustopo_feedback .

 

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