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

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

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

Conservation Rule for Polar Bears Retained

Underlines Need for Comprehensive Energy and Climate Change Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May, 9, 2009) – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that he will retain a special rule issued in December for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, but will closely monitor the implementation of the rule to determine if additional measures are necessary to conserve and recover the polar bear and its habitat.

“To see the polar bear’s habitat melting and an iconic species threatened is an environmental tragedy of the modern age,” Salazar said.  “This administration is fully committed to the protection and recovery of the polar bear.  I have reviewed the current rule, received the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and concluded that the best course of action for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act is to wisely implement the current rule, monitor its effectiveness, and evaluate our options for improving the recovery of the species.” 

The polar bear is listed as a threatened species under the Act, meaning it is at risk of becoming an endangered species throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The law provides civil and criminal penalties for actions that kill or injure bears and bars federal agencies from taking actions that are likely to jeopardize the species or adversely modify its critical habitat.

Click here to read more from MUIRNet-News about Conservation Rule for Polar Bears Retained

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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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