Sunday, June 24, 2012

PEER responds ABQ Journal editorial on Petroglyph

ABQ Mayor Richard Berry (R)

ALBUQUERQUE -- The Journal makes some good points in 'Encourage the Public To Protect Petroglyphs', June 11.

Certainly congress and the public envisioned better conservation management for the rich and fragile Petroglyph National Monument.

Both city and National Park Service bureaucrats share blame for not protecting Petroglyph. Better cooperation is critical. NPS has authority under the enabling act establishing Petroglyph to enforce its laws on city lands in the Boca Negra and Piedras Marcadas units. NPS chooses not to because the city has not consented, but NPS wants a stronger partnership. The city has not agreed.

Petroglyph is the crown jewel of ABQ open space, but the city almost never schedules events, clean ups, etc. for volunteers there. Volunteers are important, but cannot do the job of stronger ranger patrols and consistent conservation management. Petroglyph conservation will happen only if Mayor Berry chooses cooperation to solve the long-time problems there.

We are here to help.

Daniel R. Patterson
Ecologist and Southwest Director
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

Please sign petition to clean up Petroglyph
More info and photos

Friday, June 22, 2012

Barber votes against environment, health, rights

Rep. Ron Barber (D)

TUCSON -- I'm disappointed and shocked new Congressman Ron Barber's 1st vote in the US House June 19 was to allow feds to waive environmental and public health law anywhere within 100 miles of the border. This legislation is bad for Arizona and our quality of life. It removes rule of law within Barber's entire district.

Rep. Barber’s statement this bad legislation “will make our borders more secure” is refuted by Border Patrol officials and research by the respected Government Accountability Office. Homeland Security officials have repeatedly testified to Congress under oath that environmental laws pose no security threat and the bill is not necessary. In a 2010 report by the GAO, an overwhelming majority of Border Patrol agents interviewed “reported that the overall security status of their jurisdiction is not affected by land management laws.”

I urge Senators to dismiss this devastating big government overreach and ensure the environment, public health, property rights & historic preservation are protected in America’s borderlands. DRP

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Romney admin. would be bad for environment

UPDATE, June 27: Romney's toxic record

— Dismal Land Preservation Record in MA Bodes Ill for Natural Legacy

WASHINGTON — Under Governor Mitt Romney, land preservation efforts in Massachusetts took a nose dive, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). During Romney’s tenure, sprawl accelerated, less land was protected and the Commonwealth disinvested in preservation.

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Romney created the Office of Commonwealth Development (OCD). The shift of policy embodied by OCD was moving away from permanently protecting land and instead encouraging new projects in already developed areas. The problem with this approach was that unprotected land still gets developed. As a result:
  • By Romney’s last year in office, Massachusetts was protecting fewer acres than under his predecessors. Acreage protected fell from more than 33,000 acres protected in 2001 to less than 6,900 acres in 2006 – a lower total than any year since 1991.
  • On average, 40 acres of undeveloped land were lost per day in the Commonwealth as the level of state investment in open space preservation and the amount of land protected both dropped; and
  • By shrinking the role of state environmental agencies in selecting lands for protection, some of the most environmentally sensitive lands were targeted for development while more marginal tracts are left as open space.

“What occurred under Romney was the opposite of smart growth,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former lawyer and biologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Romney’s central failing was substituting rhetoric for real investment and, as a consequence, our Commonwealth’s future generations are the poorer for it.”

Ironically, even as the amount of protected acreage went down the cost per acre went up. The cost of preserving one acre rose from $3,400 in 2000 to more than $5,000 per acre in 2006.

Besides open space policies, Romney public work projects developed natural places. Perhaps the most notorious example was his decision to drain Blue Hills Reservoir, the heart of a natural park protected since 1893. It was the largest net loss of wetlands in Massachusetts since 1990. After an administrative law judge ruled that filling the reservoir without adequate mitigation violated state law, Romney appointees overrode that decision.

After the reservoir was drained, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority buried huge concrete tanks filled with 20 million gallons of water to serve as a one-day emergency drinking water reserve for 100,000 customers, mostly in Quincy. The site was then covered with dirt and sod.

“What happened at Blue Hills epitomized the stunted environmental priorities of the Romney administration,” added Bennett. “This same approach on a national level could put our conservation heritage at risk.”

full PEER news release with links

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Politics at Obama Interior molest Mex. Wolf science

POLITICS MOLEST MEXICAN WOLF SCIENCE — Improper Pressure to Lower Recovery Threshold for Wolf Numbers and Habitat Size

ALBUQUERQUE — Despite pledging to shield environmental science from political manipulation, the Obama administration is injecting politics to alter key scientific findings on what is required to revive the struggling Mexican wolf in the Southwest, according to a scientific integrity complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, one of the nation’s highest profile Endangered Species Act recovery efforts is severely compromised.

The Mexican wolf is one of the most endangered mammals in North America. The sole wild population of Mexican wolves grew from 4 individuals in 1998 to 55 in 2003, at which time more aggressive removal was instituted. Since then, the population has plateaued, remaining below 60 wolves through 2011.

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concluded that the Mexican wolf “is not thriving” due to lack of an up-to-date management plan, illegal shooting; and genetic inbreeding. The cumulative impacts of these factors “threaten the population with failure.” The agency then convened eight experts to serve on a special Science and Planning Subgroup of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Team.

Through the next two years, this scientific subgroup unanimously concluded that Mexican wolf recovery required three populations of 200-350 wolves connected by corridors. They also found the best suitable habitat for reintroduction included southern Colorado and southern Utah. The political pushback within the FWS and from affected states against these scientific findings has been unrelenting, including –

  • Pressure to lower the number of wolves needed or jettison a numeric threshold altogether, as in this FWS email to the scientists (“he” refers to the Southwest Regional Director):
“You should not feel undo [sic] pressure at this point to accommodate, per se, but you should recognize that this is his way of telling you (at least at this point) what information he would like to see.”
  • Demands to exclude Utah and other states from suitable habitat; and
  • Attempts to prevent the science subgroup from issuing final Mexican wolf recovery criteria.

“The science on Mexican wolf recovery has become a political football,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who filed the scientific misconduct complaint today against federal and state officials. “The time for political negotiation comes after the scientific work is done. In this instance, Obama officials are attempting to improperly pre-negotiate the science to accommodate political partners.”

Under Department of Interior rules, the PEER complaint is supposed to trigger an independent scientific review with findings and potential discipline for responsible officials. Since these policies have been in effect, however, there have been several complaints but no reported findings of scientific misconduct.

“The Obama administration is skewing scientific work for political purposes in precisely the same way they accused Bush appointees of doing,” Ruch added. “Publicly exposing these behind-the-scenes manipulations may be the best way to end them.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Petroglyph Nat. Mon. imperiled, needs your help

Mayor Richard Berry inherited a mess at Petroglyph. People are calling on him to fix it.

ALBUQUERQUE — The Petroglyph National Monument is a major asset for the City of Albuquerque and New Mexico but its rich trove of cultural and natural resources is threatened by the inability of the City and the National Park Service (NPS) to cooperatively manage the two-thirds of the monument that is City-owned land, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, there are no consistent management standards or patrols protecting the invaluable rock art for which the Monument was created.

Petroglyph National Monument curves 17 miles along Albuquerque’s western horizon, containing an estimated 22,000 petroglyphs. Its urban proximity is both a charm and a curse, as its rock art, wildlife and open land are especially susceptible to human impacts, ranging from vandalism to illegal dumping. Some of the City’s areas still bear extensive off-road racing scars.

Under a five-year Cooperative Management Agreement, NPS and the City specify the delegation of their respective responsibilities for the monument. The City, however, refuses to allow NPS rangers to patrol or enforce Park Service rules on City lands, which constitute the bulk of the monument. Due to City service cutbacks, most of the Petroglyph is left unpatrolled. In a July 25, 2011 letter to PEER, NPS Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels stated –

“However, the NPS currently has no agreement with the City of Albuquerque that holistically authorizes NPS to enforce the entirety of 36 CFR Part 2 on lands owned by the city….We would welcome such an agreement and we have, in the past, proposed such an agreement with the City, but the City has not acceded to this proposal.”

The 2008 Cooperative Management Agreement must be renewed by May 2013. Today PEER is launching a citizen petition and national campaign to persuade Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry to allow NPS to provide full monument protection in the upcoming cooperative management pact.

“People want Petroglyph better protected now,” said Daniel Patterson, Southwest Director of PEER. “We call on Mayor Berry and NPS to listen and look at these problems and become stronger partners to restore and guard the monument.”

In addition to the law enforcement problems, monument assets are at risk from neglect and accumulated debris. For example, some petroglyph concentrations are inaccessible and even dangerous to visitors due to fire-magnifying tumbleweed accumulations. Construction waste left dumped over petroglyphs also endangers visitor access in Piedras Marcadas Arroyo.

“It is a disgrace that ancient rock art is obscured by both years of debris and last weekend’s vandalism,” Patterson added. “Petroglyph is not just a regional but a national treasure which deserves the same protections as other national parks.”

Visit PEER's Clean Up Petroglyph campaign center.

Sign petition to ABQ Mayor Berry.