Friday, February 29, 2008

Pick up the phone and speak for SW lobos

KiMo Theater

ALBUQUERQUE -- Call in and leave a message about why we need to protect our lobos. Pro-wolf messages will be played at Dia de Los Lobos.

Voices For Wolves, 505.333.0420

Dia de Los Lobos - March 14, 2008 - 7 PM, KiMo Theater, ABQ NM
A Public Rally to Voice Support for the Protection & Full Recovery of Our Mexican Gray Wolves!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

RIP Rich Genser, defender of wild nature

TUCSON -- Rich Genser, family friend, and great friend to nature and many, died yesterday.

Rich was a generous caring man who used a great combination of fire, humor and friendliness in defense of the environment. He will be deeply missed.

Pinal Cty bulldozes San Pedro River for off-roaders

Lower San Pedro River. photo

UPDATE, 3/4: CBD files Clean Water Act violation complaint against Pinal County. "Laws obviously mean little to Pinal County. We trust there will be immediate action from federal officials to halt the county's blatant disregard for well established legal requirements protecting the environment," said Robin Silver of the Center.

TUCSON -- Arizona conservationists have filed a notice of intent to file suit against Pinal County to stop the ongoing destruction of rare San Pedro River habitat — an area on the lower San Pedro River, near Dudleyville, which is federal conservation land set aside to protect an endangered migratory songbird.

On February 7, 2008, Pinal County bulldozed open an “administration use only” easement on Bureau of Land Management property after first declaring an “emergency” and exercising “eminent domain” authority to create an emergency open public crossing. However, no emergency exists; Pinal County’s actions violate multiple federal laws.

Pinal County’s actions follow years of increasing tension pitting off-roaders against property owners, the Bureau of Land Management, and local, state, and federal law-enforcement officials. The disputed area became federal conservation land in 1996, when the agency purchased a conservation easement from a local cattle operator to protect the riparian area from cattle grazing and off-road vehicle abuse and to protect the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher nesting there.

Until December 31, 2007, the area was also subject to a temporary emergency easement with Pinal County. The temporary emergency easement allowed emergency passage across the San Pedro River until Pinal County repaired the nearby Romero Road Bridge, which had been damaged in floods in January 1993. Fifteen years later, Pinal County has still not repaired the Romero Road Bridge.

The temporary emergency easement has rarely been used for an emergency, but it has been increasingly used by off-roaders. Vandalism and damage to the riparian area by off-road vehicle users has become an increasingly serious problem, beyond the control of law-enforcement officials.

On June 13, 2007, the rancher and Bureau of Land Management notified Pinal County that they were exercising their termination option within the temporary emergency easement contract, and on December 31, 2007, a temporary barrier was placed across the road to control off-road traffic. Emergency access was still allowed, but off-roaders would need to use a nearby alternative crossing. Pinal County’s actions violate statutes prohibiting destruction of federal property, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and U.S. constitutional provisions preventing local authorities from superseding federal authority.

“Pinal County feigned an emergency and violated multiple laws, apparently for the convenience of local off-roaders. Hopefully the county will correct its errant ways and avoid legal rebuke,” said Robin Silver of the Center for Biological Diversity.

- adapted from CBD

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grand Canyon NP says no to 1 time only dam flush

Grand Canyon National Park managers are fighting for better long-term management of the Colorado River below the controversial Glen Canyon Dam.

UPDATE, 3/6: Interior flood fight coverage in SL Trib and NY Times.

UPDATE, 3/4: More coverage in the LA Times and Salt Lake Tribune.

UPDATE, 3/3: Bush/Cheney Interior Dept. trying to use NBC Today show to 'green wash' controversy.

UPDATE, 2/28: Arizona Republic coverage.

GRAND CANYON AZ -- A fast-moving plan to finalize a five-year “experiment” controlling management of the Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon has set off an unusually intense clash within the U.S. Interior Department, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The fight pits the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which is pushing a plan supported by water and power interests, against the National Park Service which says the plan will harm wildlife and habitat in Grand Canyon National Park.

Reclamation proposes a single “high-flow experiment” for 60 hours beginning this March 4th followed by a two-month regime of steady flows (September – October) over a five-year period to maximize power production. No further high flows would occur during the five-year experimental period.

Since the Glen Canyon Dam was finished in 1963, the Colorado River’s volume through the Grand Canyon has been artificially regulated at the expense of its natural ebb and flow. Scientists both in and outside Interior have argued to vary water levels to more closely mimic the river’s natural rhythms, including periodic high flows to lift accumulated sediment onto beaches and aid propagation of endangered canyon fish.

Reclamation released its plan’s Environmental Assessment (EA) in early February, allowing only 15 days of public comment, and concluded that its experiment would have “no significant environmental impact” thus obviating the need for further review. The National Park Service, which was excluded from the plan’s development, is strongly objecting. In a February 19, 2008 comment letter to Reclamation’s Regional Environmental Manager Randall Peterson, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin decried the lack of any scientific basis for the “steady flow periods” or for limiting options to conducting only one high-flow event in a five-year span:
  • “It is not apparent where the 80 million dollars in research, conducted over the last 10 years has been used in this decision-making process. Our analysis shows that this document is not consistent with current best information.”; and
  • “If this EA is to reflect an experiment over the next 5 years, inclusion of additional high flow experiments must be included…Based on current scientific information, lack of inclusion of additional high flows could lead to impairment of the resources of Grand Canyon National Park.”

This finding of “significant impairment” would trigger additional reviews that would, in effect, block the plan. Consequently, there is a furious effort to force the withdrawal of the Park Service comments, led by the Office of the Solicitor, Interior’s corps of lawyers. The Grand Canyon Trust, a non-profit group, is also suing Interior to get it to honor commitments made back in 1996 to seasonally adjust flows, including more vigorous use of high-flows.

“In its last months, the Bush administration is trying to extend its control through the term of its successor – a dead man’s hand throttling Colorado River management,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that Reclamation is using the carrot of a single high-flow experiment to soften the stick of a flow regime that favors power generation. “When engineers and lawyers wrap themselves in ecological rationales, it is time to watch out.”

Ironically, the basis for steady flows offered in the Reclamation EA is not biological but “socioeconomic” citing the issue of “environmental justice” – a concept championed under the Clinton administration that has fallen into almost complete disuse during the past seven years. The “environmental justice” argument is based upon potentially higher (but unquantified) electricity costs working a hardship on poor customers.

“I doubt that the Bush administration’s embrace of environmental justice at this late date is a genuine deathbed conversion,” Ruch added, noting that the steady flow periods will take place at times that magnify the benefits for power production at the expense of environmental benefits. “The high-flow experiment in March needs to be followed by a wholly new plan.”

- from PEER

Yuma Sun editorializes against border walls

Delaware National Guard building border wall in Yuma County AZ, Aug 2007, as part of Operation Jump Start

YUMA SUN, Feb 27 08

"Physical barriers must be patrolled and maintained, and that can be costly. They also can be breached by those who are determined to do so. And building them can compromise property rights and disrupt fragile terrain...

technology... we would hope it could become the primary way to control the border rather than continuing construction of hundreds of miles of physical fences."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

ESA protection sought for desert Amargosa toad

Amargosa toad threatened by privitization of BLM lands, ORVs and water diversions

Las Vegas Review-Journal coverage

LAS VEGAS -- Today Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a scientific petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Amargosa toad under the federal Endangered Species Act due to threats from growing development, water extractions, and increased off-road vehicle use throughout its limited range in the Oasis Valley.

"ESA protection for the Amargosa toad is long overdue and will lead to better stewardship for the common good," said Daniel Patterson, an ecologist and southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility who formerly worked with BLM in the Mojave Desert. "Irresponsible off-roading, riparian area destruction, and unethical BLM proposals to privatize critical toad habitat for development on the Amargosa River near Beatty, Nevada are top threats to the toad and the fragile web of life it represents."

The Amargosa toad is presently restricted to a 10-mile (16-kilometer) stretch of the Amargosa River and interconnected spring systems in the Oasis Valley in Nevada and adjacent desert uplands. The principle threat to the species and the cause of its present reduced state is habitat destruction, degradation, and fragmentation due to urban, residential, and recreational development including unrestricted off-road vehicle use.

"The Amargosa toad is facing increasing habitat loss in the Oasis Valley along the Amargosa River and in nearby springs," said Rob Mrowka, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The voluntary conservation efforts over the past eight years, while commendable, have been woefully insufficient and have failed to protect the species and its habitat, so the legal protections of the Endangered Species Act are sorely needed. As all Nevadans are aware, water resources are scarce, and many of our native rivers, streams, and springs are being threatened by increased water use and lack of meaningful protective measures to prevent damaging off-road vehicle use in these fragile riparian environments. Protecting these resources is critical for the survival of native wildlife and ecosystems for future generations."

Mr. Mrowka recently joined the Center for Biological Diversity and will be opening an office in Las Vegas focused on preserving imperiled species in Nevada. He spent five years as the environmental planning division manager for Clark County and prior to that had a 28-year career in the Forest Service as a forest ecologist, including time spent in the Intermountain Regional and National Headquarters offices, and over five years as the Forest Supervisor for the Fishlake National Forest in Utah.

- from PEER/CBD

Monday, February 25, 2008

Anti-conservation Rs hating compromise ORV bill

Trish Groe complaining

PHOENIX -- As reckless off-road vehicle use increasingly harms Arizona's landscapes, waters, wildlife and private lands, two anti-conservation Republicans want to kill a bi-partisan compromise bill that would help provide better management of the problem.

Unwise LD3 Lake Havasu City Republicans Sen. Ron Gould and Rep. Trish Groe vow to kill the compromise bill supported by off-roaders and conservationists.

The bill , HB 2753, is sponsored by Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, who chairs the Natural Resources and Public Safety Committee.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen legislation that enjoys the support of both the NRA and the Sierra Club at the same time,” Weiers said in a release issued by the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

“The Arizona Game and Fish Commission is in full support of this legislation,” said Commission Chairman William McLean. “Irresponsible OHV use hurts wildlife, wildlife habitat, hunting, fishing and all of outdoor Arizona. We simply need to see this legislation passed.”

More than 40 senators and representatives are named as co-sponsors of this bill, which Weiers said is the best sign that it’s possible this legislation will pass this session.

But Gould and Groe aren't trying to help solve Arizona's problems, they are trying to block progress and solutions to protect the common good and enhance stewardship.

One more good reason for LD3 voters to boot Gould and Groe.

Nuts like Lutz are why GM melts as earth warms

Head-in-the-sand Republicans like Lutz do GM no favors with rude global warming denials

DETROIT -- With no apparent understanding of scientific consensus, General Motors fat cat Bob Lutz foolishly continues to call global warming a 'total crock of shit.'

Of course, Lutz is wrong, but what is not a total crock is GM going broke and cutting US workers because GM offers too many lame gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks people don't want. GM's demise is as certain as global warming related climate change.

I'd call for a boycott here but car buyers are already avoiding GM, instead buying more efficient Toyotas.

Here in Tucson, our family just bought a Dodge truck because it offered the most efficient (and powerful) clean diesel engine we power with biodiesel. The equivalent GM truck wasn't even considered because it is such a fuel hog.

As Earth, our only home, continues to warm and change climates due to our pollution, dinosaurs like Lutz and GM will melt along with the ice caps.

GM should reprimand and/or fire Lutz for his ignorant and reckless comments against our collective future.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Peaceful day on the Arizona campaign trail

LD29 south downtown

TUCSON -- The Daniel Patterson for AZ House campaign jammed today at the Peace Fair in Reid Park, and in LD29 neighborhoods.

Richard Elias, Steve Farley and Karin Uhlich were also at the Peace Fair.

Nice day, nice people. Special thanks to Jobs with Justice, J and Ruby, and the 'free hugs' people.

And Izzo gets his 300th win at MSU.

Friday, February 22, 2008

AZ debt red ink grows as Weiers/Bee Lege fiddles

Where is Tim Bee on solving the budget crisis?

PHOENIX -- Another week has gone by at the Capitol with the state going $1.2B+ deeper in debt and the GOP-lead Legislature doing little to nothing about it.

Fiscal responsibility is important to me and you, but apparently not House Speaker Jim Weiers or Senate Pres. Tim Bee.

AZ Rep. Renzi indicted, Ds or Mayes may win seat

Renzi and McCain in Baghdad supporting Bush/Cheney's war

WASHINGTON -- Arizona Republican Congressman Rick Renzi (CD1), a political dead man walking for many months, has been indicted for extortion, money laundering and wire fraud related to a scam land deal and the San Pedro River in Arizona.

John McCain campaign AZ co-chair Renzi may now be forced to resign from Congress, which if he does before May 4 would open up the seat for special election, where Dems and Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes (R) would have a good chance.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Eco scores in DC: AZ Dems, A at 94%; GOP, F at 8%

US Rep. Raul Grijalva and other AZ Dems are pro-environment

TUCSON -- Arizona's congressional Democrats scored well (94% overall), while our Republicans did terribly (8% overall) on the latest LCV environmental scorecard.

Sen. John McCain got a zero, likely in part because he almost never shows up to vote in the Senate.

People expect more environmental responsibility from their elected officials, which is another reason the GOP will suffer badly in the November elections.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jaguar reported on Tohono O'odham Nation

TON region of Sonoran Desert and Lower Rio Colorado along US-Mexico border

SELLS AZ -- Local people reported seeing a Jaguar on the Tohono O'odham Nation earlier this year.

SW PEER is investigating further.

It's possible new border walls across the Altar Valley are pushing the big cats west on to the TON.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Keep kids in school, move rodeo to weekend

Need more education in the wild west

TUCSON -- TUSD students went to school yesterday on President's Day, but get two days off at the end of the week for a rodeo.

Nothing against the rodeo, but kids should be in school Thursday and Friday.

Could it be that TUSD administrators still shut down schools for rodeo two days a year primarily to save money?

Shutting down schools for two days for the rodeo reduces education time and causes child care problems for working families.

Why not have the rodeo parade and main rodeo events on the weekend?

Monday, February 18, 2008

State of AZ turns 96 as Capitol makeover planned

Arizona's Capitol area needs more love

PHOENIX -- Arizona's birthday, aka Statehood Day, was Thursday, (also Valentines Day -- love you, wifey). We are now 96 years old as an official state. Our state centennial will be in 2012.

Architect Will Bruder makes a case for restoring and improving the Capitol area. I've been thinking about this because I'm wondering where I can live within walking or bike distance to the Capitol when elected to the House this fall. I've looked around some and it's pretty bleak, especially if you need affordable housing.

Phoenix is America's 5th biggest city, and AZ is becoming one of the biggest states. We can and must do better around State Capitol.

Bruder (and ASU) have some good ideas, but good luck getting much state money for them during this financial crunch, which should be the #1 daily priority of Legislative leaders right now, not the piles of frivolous bills getting priority.

Arizonans are prepared to elect a new Democratic majority to the State House this year. We will get down to business to help people and build bridges to solve problems, not follow the Bee/Weiers GOP failures of divisive politics and time-wasting.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Campaigning across Tucson on a cool weekend

Getting those $5 clean elections contributions

TUCSON -- I campaigned today across the city in my race for AZ House in LD29.

We started this morning on the southeast side in precinct 388 talking with voters.

The afternoon was campaigning in south downtown, and later with the Saguaro Eastside Democrats.

The snow on the mountains all around the city is beautiful.

Supporters of my clean progressive campaign are invited to our kick-off party March 6, 4-7pm, in the Courtyard of the Historic Y, 300 E. University Blvd.

Friday, February 15, 2008

AZ elk/wildlife highway crossing effort wins award

AZGFD project reducing accidents and wildlife road kill

PAYSON AZ -- Nearly ten years ago, a multi-agency project began in Arizona to incorporate wildlife-friendly components in the expansion plans for State Route 260, in a stretch east of Payson. Now the project is being recognized for its revolutionary concept and design with the 2008 National Environmental Excellence Award for Environmental Stewardship from the National Association of Environmental Professionals.

A complex system of underpasses, wildlife fencing and a cutting-edge electric "wildlife crosswalk" were incorporated in roadway improvement design. The components aimed to reduce wildlife collisions along the increasingly busy stretch of road between Payson and Heber, by allowing wildlife populations to safely cross the roadway, reducing population isolation.

"The State Route 260 project represents a truly groundbreaking collaborative effort of multiple partners over many years. It really was a labor of love, so national recognition from the environmental community is a great reward," says Norris Dodd, the Arizona Game and Fish Department's lead biologist on the project. "Even better, the wildlife components we incorporated into the design are proving very effective for motorists and wildlife."

Population growth and the ever-expanding network of highways in Arizona have led to increasing wildlife-vehicle encounters on some of the state's most traveled routes. These collisions pose a risk to drivers and cost millions in property damage each year.

Since activating the crosswalk component two years ago, the wildlife-vehicle collision rate has dropped 92 percent along the affected stretch of highway. The crosswalk was the first-of-its-kind in Arizona. It uses thermal infrared cameras that send images to sophisticated software normally used by the military to find targets. The software determines if the object is large enough-such as an elk or deer-to be a risk to motorists. Once an animal is detected, the software sends signals to electronic warning signs placed in advance of the crosswalk in either direction, and to flashing warning signs at the crosswalk.

A 3-mile stretch of elk-proof fencing near the highway will funnel animals either to the crosswalk on the west end of the fence, or to the east, where there are underpasses.

In addition to Arizona Game and Fish, several partners - Arizona Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Tonto National Forest, and contractors ElectroBraid Fence, Inc. and AZTEC Engineering, Inc. - developed the crosswalk system to work in conjunction with previously constructed underpasses and bridges being used as part of the Arizona Department of Transportation's award-winning State Route 260 reconstruction project.

The award will be presented in March at the 2008 National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) conference to be held in California. The NAEP is a non-profit organization comprised of scientists and planning experts dedicated to the advancement of ethical environmental practices worldwide.

- from AZGFD

Thursday, February 14, 2008

PEER helps Chambers win park police firing appeal

Bush Interior Dept. fired public safety whistleblower

WASHINGTON -- An update to a story I've been covering: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today upheld the challenge of Teresa Chambers to her removal as Chief of the US Park Police, according to a ruling released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The appeals court sent her case back to a federal civil service board to correct its failure to recognize that Chief Chambers was removed "in reprisal for making a protected disclosure" under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

The appeals court ruling affirmed that police and other public servants are legally protected when raising warnings about "a risk to public safety." This decision will also have broad application beyond Chief Chambers to personnel within Homeland Security and related agencies who report security breakdowns.

Read the full story.

Tucson-based ASARCO threatening El Paso again

Texans, Mexicans and New Mexicans protest against ASARCO pollution in their communities

EL PASO -- Mining corporation ASARCO, long notorious for its poor environmental practices, is threatening metro-El Paso/Juarez with moves to re-open a highly polluting smelter there.

Despite strong opposition, GOP-dominated State of Texas officials gave ASARCO the pollution permit yesterday in Austin.

El Paso officials vow to continue to fight to keep the dirty smelter off-line.

Opponents of the permit, including El Paso city officials and an area legislator, have long argued that allowing ASARCO to restart smelter operations in El Paso would pose a serious health risk to residents in El Paso, Ciudad Ju├írez — a sprawling Mexican city across the Rio Grande from El Paso — and Sunland Park NM.

State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, an El Paso Democrat, asked the commission Wednesday for the added air monitors but urged the three-member panel to deny the permit based on what he described as a history of causing pollution.

"One hundred years of ASARCO's operation has left this legacy," Shapleigh told the commission. "You will find lead in schools, yards and homes. My home was one that was cleaned up."

Erich Birch, a lawyer for the city of El Paso, argued that the TCEQ commissioners didn't have the legal authority to grant the permit, based on the ruling of a pair of administrative law judges who presided over a contested case hearing on the permit two years ago.

ASARCO is in the middle of a federal bankruptcy case that includes as much as $6.5 billion in environmental liabilities.

El Paso Mayor John Cook has said the city, which has spent about $1 million in its six-year fight against Asarco, would contest the permit in court.

"This battle is far from over," Cook said Wednesday.

Many people in Tucson and Arizona know ASARCO all too well, and we're with you in El Paso/Juarez.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

'Lake' Mead reservoir likely dry in 6 to 13 years

LAME boat harbor in 2007: going, going, gone

LAS VEGAS -- The 'Lake' Mead reservoir, also known as LAME, is drying up and could be gone by 2014-21, says the respected and independent Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

"We were stunned at the magnitude of the problem and how fast it was coming at us," said marine physicist Tim Barnett, who co-authored a paper examining the fate of Lake Mead. "Make no mistake, this water problem is not a scientific abstraction but rather one that will impact each and every one of us that live in the Southwest."

Barnett and co-researcher David Pierce, a climate scientist, said they used conservative estimates in reaching their conclusions and suggested even more dire conditions are possible. Their peer-reviewed findings will appear in the journal Water Resources Research, published by the American Geophysical Union.

Central Arizona Project officials like Larry Dozier, who's agency, budget and jobs are based on selling us dwindling bad CAP water, say it isn't so. Who are you going to believe, independent scientists, or water-hogging conflicted CAP bureaucrats? I'm with the scientists.

This is just the latest example of why trying to rely on the CAP for future water supplies, as Tucson is doing, is unwise and a potential disaster. The lower Colorado River and CAP likely will not be a reliable water source for Arizona in this hotter, drier time of global warming related climate change in the southwest.

Will our water managers and elected officials act now, or will they just pray for more rain? Developers, bureaucrats and politicians continuing to encourage millions more people to move to the southwest under these conditions is unwise and unethical.

Making tough but critical decisions to secure our water future is a top reason I'm running for the Arizona House of Reps.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Napolitano names Freeman to AGFD Commission

PHOENIX -- Governor Janet Napolitano has nominated Chino Valley resident Norm Freeman to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. He will replace Michael Golightly, whose term expires this year.

“Norm Freeman is a strong advocate for hunting and fishing and is committed to fulfilling the mission of Arizona Game and Fish,” Governor Napolitano said. “He has many varied experiences that will help him serve Arizona very well in this role.”

Freeman is currently the President of the American Saddlebred Horse Association of Arizona and a member of Board of the Chino Valley Irrigation District, as well as the President of the Carousel Charity Horse Show. He has previously served as the Vice Chair of the Chino Valley Planning and Zoning Commission.

Freeman’s work with wildlife has been extensive. Among other business ventures, he is the founder of Elemental Technology, a firm which developed wildlife tracking software for wildlife biologists and regulatory bodies. In 1994, he founded “Wildflight,” a privately funded operation to relocate wildlife, using corporate and private aircraft to move many species, including black bears, owls, hawks, eagles, osprey, and California Condors.

Freeman has been extensively involved with the preservation of California Condors in particular, participating in the California Condor Recovery Team – a multi-agency team including the Arizona Game and Fish Department – which defined the federal protocol for moving this endangered species. He also co-authored a successful behavior modification program to reduce the juvenile predation of young California Condors by coyotes.

Freeman’s appointment requires confirmation by the Arizona Senate.

- from AZ Gov.

Can we take Tucson's green talk seriously?

Walkup (R)

TUCSON -- Mayor Bob Walkup has been called Mr. Greenjeans before, but now he says he wants Tucson to go green.

Walkup talks about a regional land use plan. Sounds good. Pima County has a good one, the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, but the city has opted to not join it, even though the Planning Commission, where I and others strive to serve the common good, recommended joining the plan to Mayor and Council in 2006.

Instead of joining the county's award-winning effort, the city is right now spending significant money to do its own weaker plan to facilitate doubling city population on to state lands on the south and east sides that were annexed to be within city limits. Not much green about that, except the money being spent by the city and to be made by developers.

Maybe part of the new green attitude will include finally listening to the experts on the Planning Commission and join the SDCP.

We'll see what the council and Mayor do today with water rates. City Manager Mike Hein is recommending an 8% rate hike plan that would still omit many important conservation and environmental projects agreed upon by a diverse committee of stakeholders.

People in Tucson and Pima County are smart, and they are not too excited to 'save' water just so politicians, bureaucrats and developers can blend it with bad CAP water and treated sewage and give it to the next million people they want to move in to metro-Tucson.

The council must ask the manager and Tucson Water: why is water quality going down while rates are going up?

It is also hard to take city calls for water conservation seriously when Tucson Water doesn't even have staff anymore to enforce extreme water waste.

Tucson Water must move away from the flawed urban sprawl-addicted funding model, and instead focus on providing the highest quality water at the lowest price to existing residents and businesses.

We can do better, but only if there is true leadership, not just talk.

I believe the Mayor and Council's heart is in the right place on this, and also that they must push the City Manager harder.

Monday, February 11, 2008

AZ Republican Shadegg will retire, fearing Lord

Shadegg: Another one bites the dust

UPDATE, 2/22: Shadegg flip-flops, saying he now will stay. Watch for this resignation stunt to be one more reason voters toss him out in Nov.

PHOENIX -- Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ3) will announce this evening that he will retire from the House upon the conclusion of his current term, according to a well-placed Republican source.

Shadegg is announcing his retirement a little more than one year removed from his campaign to be House Minority Whip, which he lost to Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO). Shadegg also sought and lost out on the Majority Leader post early in 2006.

Shadegg holds the GOP-leaning suburban Phoenix 3rd district and was facing a challenge from attorney Bob Lord (D). Democrats have been high on Lord, and were viewing Shadegg as a potential target depending on how Lord performed in the early stages of the campaign.

Lord has been successful on the fundraising front, but Shadegg had done even better, and seemed prime to run for an eighth term. Shadegg raised more than $1 million last year, to close 2007 with $864,000 in the bank. Lord raised more than $600,000, to close the year with $503,000 on hand.

Shadegg -- notoriously anti-progressive and anti-environmental -- is the 29th House Republican to announce he will not seek another term.

It is not immediately known whom Republicans may run to try to succeed him.

- adapted from Roll Call

Sunday, February 10, 2008

NM wants more wolves, AZ and feds quietly hostile

New Mexico fights for lobos, Arizona & feds not helping

LAS CRUCES NM -- Gov. Bill Richardson's State of New Mexico is rightly concerned about endangered Mexican wolf survival and recovery.

Due to persecution and killing by public-lands ranchers and fed agencies under Bush/Cheney, the Mexican wolf population in AZ and NM fell 12% last year to just 52 wolves.

In 2007, "there were too many losses from the wild wolf population..." said Bruce Thompson, director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "The Department will work with citizens to ensure that more innovative wolf management is conducted in 2008, consistent with the multiple-partner wolf reintroduction effort, and any conflicts will be evaluated closely to determine resolution strategies that are most beneficial to wolf survival and conservation."

Unfortunately, there has been no similar statement from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, or fed bureaucrats in the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, all of which remain largely hostile toward endangered species and large carnivores.

As more lobos die, BLM and the Forest Service just announced for 2008 they will keep public lands grazing fees at the absurdly low welfare rate of $1.35 per month for a cow and calf. Many 'ranchers' these days on America's lands are in fact just rich hobbyists getting taxpayer subsidies to play cowboy.

AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano should join Gov. Richardson on oversight and a clear stronger state commitment to wolf survival and recovery.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Obama sweeps Clinton in WA, NE, VI and LA

Obama in New Orleans

UPDATE, 2/10: Obama also wins big in Maine.

SEATTLE -- In the Dem Presidential race, Sen. Barack Obama wins big tonight in Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana and the US Virgin Islands.

AZ guest worker idea needs consideration, scrutiny

On the Mexican border at Nogales port-of-entry

TUCSON -- A state guest worker program has been proposed in the Legislature by Sen. Marsha Arzberger (D-Willcox).

While I support the concept of a fair and secure guest worker program, I share the questions and concerns of US Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ7), Rebekah Friend, Gov. Janet Napolitano and others in Howie Fischer's article.

Immigration is a federal responsibility, and it's clear border states are very frustrated. Due to federal failures to overhaul our broken system, states are desperate to find solutions to the border and immigration crisis.

The challenge is to let people and workers move back and forth through the ports-of-entry, and not sustain or expand an exploitable labor underclass that drives down US wages.

The sad fact is the longer Washington fails to act, the more immigrants will die in the desert.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Big dam flow OK for fish, says AGFD; NPS says no

Fishing on the Colorado River in Marble Canyon

UPDATE, 2/27: Grand Canyon National Park says no to one time dam flush deal.

LEES FERRY AZ -- An experimental release of up to 40,000 cfs for 60 hours from Glen Canyon Dam proposed for early March is not expected to negatively impact the world-renowned Lees Ferry trout fishery just downstream in picturesque Marble Canyon, says the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Lees Ferry, Arizona, on the Colorado River

Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists plan to conduct fish surveys at Lees Ferry both before and after the proposed experimental high flow event.

- adapted from AZGFD

Proof that border walls block wildlife in AZ & SW

Bush/Cheney's border Berlin Walls block and harm wildlife

TUCSON -- This is a recent photo obtained anonymously of desert mule deer stuck at the border wall in southern Arizona.

These deer were trying to cross in to Mexico, maybe they heard DHS Sec. Chertoff was just in town.

Freedom of movement is critical to healthy wildlife populations, and border walls block wildlife movement. Humans just find their way around.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

SW wolves down 12% from Bush FWS persecution

Mexican wolf shot dead

ALBUQUERQUE -- Statement of David R. Parsons, former Mexican Wolf Coordinator (1990-1999) for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and current Carnivore Conservation Biologist for the Rewilding Institute.

Re: Population decline of the wild population of Mexican gray wolves in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

Today’s news of a 12% decline in the wild population of Mexican wolves is a big disappointment but, frankly, not a surprise. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its cooperating state and federal agencies stopped managing for the conservation of endangered lobos four years ago, and the population has declined in three of those four years. The stated objective for 2007 was a 10% population increase, thus the Fish and Wildlife Service fell 22% short of their goal, leaving only 52 of these critically endangered animals in the wild. Of even greater concern is that the number of breeding pairs declined from seven at the end of 2006 to only four at the end of 2007. When breeding pairs are routinely destroyed or broken apart it is hard to grow a population. Indeed, only nine new pups were added to the population, and two of those have died already in 2008.

The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, 4.4 million acres of remote public lands teeming with elk and deer, was identified by wildlife biologists as the best place for the first reintroduction of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf. The objective for this initial recovery effort was to establish a viable, self-sustaining, wild population of at least 100 lobos by the end of 2006, eight years after the first releases.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should issue an immediate moratorium on any further killing and removal of wolves until the population rebounds to at least 100 wolves, as recommended by the American Society of Mammalogists.

Ignoring science and bowing to pressure from special interests, the Bush administration, and politicians, the Fish and Wildlife Service has abandoned its legal obligation to protect, conserve, and recover the Mexican gray wolf—the most endangered mammal in North America. Rather, conflicts (whether real or induced) are routinely resolved by killing or permanently removing wolves, risking the second extinction of this rare, ecologically important carnivore.

None of this is the fault of the lobos whose only interest is to survive and prosper in the remaining wild lands of the Southwest. The wolves have shown their ability make a living in their native habitat. They eat mostly elk and deer, consistently breed and reproduce in the wild, and very few die of causes other than those inflicted by humans.

Scientific research has shown that wolves and other large carnivores improve the biological diversity and overall health of the landscapes where they live. Following the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, young willows and cottonwoods, formerly devoured by unwary elk, have returned to stream banks, beavers have returned, and songbirds are more numerous. A variety of scavengers including eagles, ravens, weasels, and foxes are flourishing from the free lunch left for them by wolves.

Southwest residents broadly support the wolf recovery effort and want to see lobos thrive in the wild once again.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a legal and moral obligation to protect and conserve endangered lobos and restore them to viable populations within their former range. But their continued authorization of excessive killing and removal of wolves is having the opposite result.

It’s like hiring a contractor to remodel your home and, instead, they tear it down. You would be outraged; and the American public should be outraged at the continued use of tax dollars by our public agencies to destroy endangered Mexican wolves. Conflicts do arise between wolf recovery and other uses on our public lands, especially livestock grazing. The Fish and Wildlife Service has a proper role in seeking to minimize conflicts, but not at the expense of the conservation of endangered lobos. Wolves have a right to exist and are legally entitled to at least equal status on public lands.

It is wrong policy to give domestic livestock higher priority than endangered wolves on our public lands. Solutions will require abandoning the tools of the past—shooting and trapping—and adopting more innovative management practices and new policies that reflect modern ethics and public sentiment favoring the conservation of wild wolves.

- from Rewilding Inst

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Environment Day at the AZ Capitol a big success

Gov. Napolitano with owl

PHOENIX -- I just returned from a great green day at the capitol with many Arizona conservationists.

Today's Environment Day at the Capitol was well attended, with spirited talks by Governor Napolitano, Corporation Commissioner Mayes, State Rep. Steve Farley of Tucson, and other state lawmakers, including some green Republicans.

The focus today was mostly on global warming and air pollution, and the urgent need for clean renewable energy and transportation in Arizona.

Special thanks to Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter for organizing this positive event. Over 20 diverse Arizona environmental, faith, hunting & fishing and public health groups participated. I was there representing Southwest Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Green is the new red, white and blue, and that was clear today at the capitol.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Obama fires up Pima County, Arizona; vote Tues.

Obamas: Barack for President, Michelle for First Lady

TUCSON -- On a cool rainy day, Michelle Obama, Barack's wife, held a great rally downtown this afternoon to a standing room only crowd in the beautiful Fox Theater.

Congressman Raul Grijalva introduced Obama to a rowdy crowd.

Obama gave a confident and passionate speech about the constant 'moving bar' used by the powers that be to try to keep people down. Many in the crowd clearly could relate.

Obama also had a strong and positive focus on education, children and Iraq. There was lots of loud cheering, applause and many standing ovations.

I was honored to have a seat on the stage behind Obama, as a candidate for the Arizona House, with other VIPs. Elected officials there in support included F. Ann Rodriguez, Ned Norris, Jr., Richard Elias, Adelita Grijalva, Tom Prezelski, Nina Trasoff, Karin Uhlich, Steve Leal, Regina Romero and Rodney Glassman.

This was a strong political rally that charged up many in southern Arizona to vote and work hard for Obama.

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, the most important day so far in this election year. If you haven't already voted early, be sure to vote tomorrow if you live in Arizona or one of the 21 other states holding primaries.

Maybe I'll see you at the polls. Volunteers and I will be working some precincts in LD29 getting signatures and $5 Clean Elections donations.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Arizona's Super Bowl Sunday, go green & politics

The real green is the money

UPDATE, Sunday night: GIANTS WIN! YES! Cool halftime show by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

I won't back down.

PHOENIX -- The granddaddy of all sports events, the Super Bowl, is about to start.

But this is nice Arizona, so why is the roof shut on the stadium? Lame.

I'm pulling for the Giants, but think the Patriots will likely win.

There's been some hype this year about 'greening up' the Super Bowl. While this is a good thought, someone I know involved in the effort said it has been a big disappointment.

There's not much green about the NFL, except the paychecks, but at least they thought 'green' this Super Bowl.

Go Green is the cheer at my alma matter, Michigan State University.

I'll be interested to see if any of the Presidential candidates show ads during the game.

Don't forget to vote Tuesday. I voted early for Obama.

Hillary was in Tucson yesterday, and Obama has not yet visited us. It may be hard for him to win an Arizona primary without a public visit to Pima County, the Democratic heart of the state.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Celebrate Prairie Dog Day today, a species at risk

Mexican prairie dog

TUCSON -- Prairie Dog Day, the Western counterpart to Groundhog Day, is Saturday, February 2nd, and it's catching on! In the past three years, the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico and Boulder, Golden, and Lakewood, Colorado have all officially proclaimed February 2nd "Prairie Dog Day."

This Prairie Dog Day, WildEarth Guardians is unveiling its first annual prairie dog report card: "Report from the Burrow: Forecast of the Prairie Dog" in Denver's City Park.

The report card grades the performance of federal and state agencies responsible for ensuring prairie dogs and the wildlife that depend on them do not disappear. The grades are disappointingly low: of the federal and state agencies responsible for prairie dog management, not one received an A or a B. Sadly, the populations of all five prairie dog species have declined dramatically over the last century.

The Mexican prairie dog of northeastern Mexico and the Utah prairie dog of southwestern Utah are listed as Endangered and Threatened, respectively, under the Endangered Species Act, and both teeter on the brink of extinction. The other three species urgently require Endangered Species Act protection. In general, prairie dogs have declined by 93 percent over the past century.

Government agencies tend to alternate between actively fighting and dragging their heels on prairie dog conservation. A proposal to allow increased shooting and poisoning of prairie dogs on the Thunder Basin National Grassland, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, is a vivid example of why that agency scored an abysmal D in WildEarth Guardians' "Report from the Burrow."

Prairie Dog Day is as much about taking action on behalf of prairie dogs as it is celebrating a day dedicated to them.

- from WEG

Welcome to the world, Owen Hayball

PALM DESERT CA -- I have a new nephew today, Owen. This is great news I just had to share.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rio Grande wild turkeys move to AZ Strip from UT

Rio Grande wild turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia

WOLF HOLE AZ -- Fifty-five Rio Grande turkeys were introduced to Arizona on Jan. 16 by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with assistance from the Arizona and Utah chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

All the Rios were released on BLM land at Black Rock Mountain in the far northwest corner of the state on the Arizona Strip (approximately 15 miles south of the Utah border). This terrain is similar to where the birds were transplanted from and their native habitat.

The Rios were donated from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources as part of a cooperative effort. Utah’s turkey population is doing very well and has areas where reductions are needed. Arizona on the other hand, is gaining a turkey population in an area that is more suited for the Rio Grande subspecies than for the more common Merriam’s subspecies. This translocation will enhance the diversity of wild turkeys in Arizona and the areas in which they can be experienced. The Gould’s subspecies has been reintroduced into the southeastern portion of the state and is doing well.

Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Manager Luke Thompson was on hand for the capture and release. “I am proud and excited to report that we have written another chapter in the history of wild turkey management for the state of Arizona,” he said. “Efforts such as this will ensure that the residents of this state can enjoy diversified habitats with full complements of wildlife species for many generations to come. It also exemplifies the department’s efforts on being a leader in progressive wildlife management.”

All 55 birds were given identifying wing tags and eight were fitted with radio tracking collars to help monitor and manage the flock’s movements and population progress. The transmitters are unique in the fact they attach much like a backpack. Nylon cord is looped over the bird’s shoulders, allowing the compact transmitter to rest comfortably in the center of the bird’s back.

The Rio Grande subspecies is very similar to the Merriam’s turkey, and it would take a side-by-side comparison to notice the differences. The Rio is slightly smaller and the banded accent tail-feathers are slightly darker. However, the most notable differences are the primary wing feathers. The Rios are mainly black with small white accent bars, while the Merriam’s are white with small black accents. This turkey subspecies prefers areas with drainages and stream beds in relatively open brush and scrub country up to 6,000 feet in elevation. The Merriam’s prefers habitat that is a drier forested area reaching elevations up to 10,000 feet.

Turkeys make excellent candidates to be introduced to new areas of the state. They have little or no impact on habitat nor do they conflict with other wildlife species for food and territory. They capture, transport and introduce well with low mortality rates. In return, they bring viewing opportunities, expanded range and offer desirable hunting opportunities.

Turkey hunting in Arizona is regulated by a draw system. Demand far exceeds available permits – some years as much as a three-to-one ratio. However, hunters interested in harvesting each of Arizona’s turkey subspecies will have to patiently wait. Populations for the Rio Grandes will not be self-sustaining for three to five years, and hunts will then be limited at best.

- from AZGFD

Mark Udall brings Senate campaign to hometown

Mark Udall for Senate

TUCSON -- US Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO2) was here yesterday talking with people and raising money for his Senate campaign.

I was there at the midtown event, and it appeared he did well.

Mark is the son of legendary former Arizona Congressman Mo Udall, and was born and raised in Tucson.

He was welcomed by Dr. Andrew Weil, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ8) and also praised by Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup (R).

Walkup also mentioned his recent 'date' with Giffords in DC where they had dinner and talked about effluent.

I appreciated the nice 'candidate' introduction I got from hostess Joan Cauthorn.

State Rep. Steve Farley (D-LD28), and Pima Supervisor candidate and Arizona Democratic Party official Donna Branch-Gilby were also there.

Udall talked about energy, water, global warming, civil liberties and other issues. He voted against the patriot act, and Bush/Cheney's Iraq war.

Udall winning a seat in the Senate is part of a critical strategy for Dems to reach 60 Senators.

Mark's cousin, Tom Udall, is running for an open Senate seat in New Mexico. The Udalls are working together in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico with a slogan, 'vote for the Udall nearest you."

I urge everyone in Colorado and New Mexico to support Udall for Senate.