Monday, December 08, 2014

Anti-fracking protestors to rally at BLM auction in Reno on Dec 9

NEWS RELEASE: For Immediate Release, December 8, 2014

Contact: Dan Patterson, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 381-3475
Dawn Harris, Frack-Free Nevada and Nevadans Against Fracking, (775) 443-7180
Jennifer Eisele, Shoshone Paiute Tribes, Duck Valley Indian Reservation, (541) 525-0886
Bob Fulkerson, PLANevada, (775) 843-2218

Anti-fracking Protesters to Rally Outside BLM Auction in Reno 
Coalition Urges BLM to Cancel Lease Sales to Protect Water, Health and Environment

RENO, Nev. – Protesters wearing blue and carrying water jugs will rally outside the U.S. Bureau of Land Management office in Reno on Tuesday morning to protest the auction of fracking leases on public lands. The auction of over 150,000 acres in Lincoln and Nye counties in BLM’s Ely District will begin at 9:00 a.m. at the BLM Nevada State Headquarters building located at 1340 Financial Boulevard in Reno. Frack-Free Nevada and Nevadans Against Fracking, which is organizing the protest, is calling on the BLM to cancel the sale in order to protect water, people, wildlife and quality of life from the dangers of fracking.

The protest will be Tuesday, December 9, from 7:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.

“Fracking is a big risk to Nevada’s water, and without adequate clean water, we have nothing,” said Dan Patterson, with the Center for Biological Diversity, a member of the coalition. “The fracking industry wants to get its hands on Nevada, but while they reap profits, our wildlife and water supplies will pay the price. Across the state, from Reno to Austin and Reese River Valley, to Ely, eastern Nevada and Las Vegas, Nevadans want to protect our water, quality of life, lands and wildlife from the fracking push.”

Fracking uses huge volumes of water, mixed with sand and dangerous chemicals, to blast open rock formations and release oil and gas. The controversial technique is being proposed on hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands managed by the BLM across Nevada.

A typical hydraulic fracturing process uses between 1.2 million and 3.5 million gallons of water per well, with large projects using up to 5 million gallons. This water often resurfaces as “flowback,” which is often highly polluted by fracking chemicals as well as radioactive materials from fractured shale.

Fracking has brought environmental and economic problems to rural communities across the country. Accidents and leaks have polluted rivers, streams and drinking water. Regions peppered with drilling rigs have high levels of smog, global warming gases, as well as other airborne pollutants, including potential carcinogens. Rural communities face an onslaught of heavy truck traffic — often laden with dangerous chemicals used in drilling — and declining property values. Wildlife habitat is also fragmented and degraded.

“Fracking is part of a larger problem, a problem where money trumps common sense and we jeopardize our precious water for a few dollars,” said Dawn Harris of Frack-Free Nevada and Nevadans Against Fracking. “Nevada state and local officials should ban fracking to protect our water, as people in places like Denton, Texas and San Benito County, California have done.”

"Nevada’s precious groundwater should not be sacrificed for short term profits of corporations. In our arid desert, groundwater should always trump oil," said Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Communities directly affected by oil and gas fracking, as a result of these sales, were not alerted by BLM in advance of preparing lease sale.

“Nevada Tribes have a vested interest in protecting our ancestral homelands from being harmed by the oil & gas industry,” said Jennifer Eisele, of the Shoshone Paiute Tribes, Duck Valley Indian Reservation. “We have a spiritual relationship with Mother Earth and it is our duty to protect our natural resources for the future existence of ourselves and descendants. Exploitation of fossil fuels may harm our water quality and damage our agriculture, which is our primary means of economic support.”

“Water is precious in the desert. I’m afraid of fracking chemicals being injected into our groundwater,” said Jennifer Messina of Ely, a retired teacher. “People are working to promote eastern Nevada as a great place to live and visit. All our efforts are lost if fracking poisons our ground.”

“BLM has a mandate to protect the safety of the environment and human health, but both BLM and the oil and gas industry have poor records,” said Dr. Bonnie Eberhardt Bobb of Austin, Nevada, in southern Lander County. “Dangerous fracking fluids could seep in to our groundwater. Disposal of fracking waste by injection in to the ground has also been correlated with increased earthquake activity.”

This summer, Lander County Commissioners objected and filed administrative protests over BLM’s sale of oil and gas fracking leases in Big Smokey Valley. Earlier this fall, the Lander County Water Board unanimously passed a resolution opposing any drilling or fracking in the Middle Reese River Valley, near Austin, due to threats to town water sources.

Frack-Free Nevada and Nevadans Against Fracking seeks to protect Nevada's precious water, maintain the health and quality of life of Nevada communities, guard our air quality, improve agriculture and ranching, and preserve wildlife.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Op-ed: Nevada wilderness bill is wilderness in name only


Weak, bad political deals jeopardize Wovoka Wilderness.
from High Country News, by Kevin Proescholdt

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate is set to take up a deeply flawed Nevada wilderness bill in the lame-duck session. If passed, it would set terrible precedents for all future wilderness bills.

The bill, HR 5205, introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., bundles together seven separate Nevada lands bills, and after being amended by the House Natural Resources Committee, includes “special provisions” never before passed in any previous wilderness bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrote or co-sponsored two of the separate Senate bills now in the House package, and he may likely try to pass HR 5205 through the Senate while the Senate remains under Democratic control.

Here’s why the bill deserves to go down: Its special provisions weaken the protection and management for the new Nevada wilderness beyond what the already-compromised 1964 Wilderness Act would allow. For example, bulldozers or backhoes would be allowed to build massive concrete water containment structures in wilderness -- so-called “guzzlers” -- to artificially boost wildlife populations beyond what the habitat would otherwise provide. Unlike in every other wilderness, where motor vehicles are prohibited, these manmade guzzlers would likely be serviced in perpetuity by water trucks.

It is true that special provisions are usually supposed to deal only with the wilderness being designated by that particular bill, but the history of wilderness bills shows that such special provisions are often replicated and expanded in subsequent wilderness legislation. Therefore they tend to lead to a corrosion of standards for the entire National Wilderness Preservation System, weakening the very definition of wilderness.

But Nevada’s proposed law contains even worse provisions than the guzzler language; the House bill includes three precedent-setting provisions that have never before been passed Congress in any wilderness bill. These provisions are:

• Motor Vehicle Access for Hunting. HR 5205 would allow anyone claiming any kind of disability the right to drive trucks or motor vehicles into the wilderness for hunting or fishing. This would be a precedent-setting allowance. A similar provision helped sink the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act two years ago, but the House resurrected this terrible precedent in HR 5205.

• Logging for Wildfire Pre-Suppression. The House bill would allow logging roads, logging operations using trucks and heavy equipment, and the clearing of permanent fuel breaks in wilderness for any place that any local, state or federal agency might fear would burn some day. The logging provisions are bad enough, but the ceding of wilderness administration authority from the federal land management agency to a local or state agency is probably worse, and it is something that has never been done before.

• Livestock Grazing. HR 5205 declares that livestock grazing is compatible with wilderness. In one of the many special provision compromises embedded in the 1964 Wilderness Act, the law allowed livestock grazing in some wilderness areas under certain conditions, in places where it had previously existed. But it also treated livestock grazing in general as an incompatible, non-conforming use, subject to management and control by the federal wilderness-administering agency. The House language would turn the past half-century of policy upside-down, declaring livestock grazing as something to be encouraged in wilderness rather than discouraged, and it could open more of the wilderness system to its impacts, even in places where grazing has not previously occurred.

We certainly need to designate more wilderness areas in the West, and I hope we can so designate the 26,000-acre Pine Range Forest Wilderness and the 47,449-acre Wovoka Wilderness Range, but with this caveat: We need clean bills that don’t contain the weakening special provisions and that don’t set destructive precedents.

In this 50th anniversary year of the landmark 1964 Wilderness Act, it would be tragic if the corrosive provisions of HR 5205 were to pass into law and erode the standards of the magnificent National Wilderness Preservation System. Though the House of Representatives has already passed this unfortunate bill, let’s hope the U.S. Senate shows more respect for, and greater understanding of, our wilderness heritage and keeps these precedent-setting special provisions from becoming law.

Kevin Proescholdt is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a column service of High Country News. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the conservation director for Wilderness Watch, a national nonprofit.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Western Governors' Winter Meeting in S. Nevada Dec. 6-7

LAS VEGAS -- Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Chairman of the Western Governors’ Association will host his colleagues for two days of discussions on regional policy issues, at the Four Seasons Las Vegas.

Topics likely to be discussed include drought, freight transportation, transmission lines, forests and rangeland health, wildfires, energy, and services and programs for veterans.

The WGA Winter Meeting is scheduled to begin on Saturday morning, December 6 and conclude by Noon on Sunday, December 7.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nevadans to protest BLM in Reno Dec 9 for no fracking

Stand to protect Nevada's water, wildlife and quality of life.
RENO -- December 9 join Nevadans Against Fracking and Frack Free Nevada in calling on BLM State Director Amy Leuders, Senator Harry Reid, Senator Dean Heller, and President Barack Obama to halt to the lease sales, at the very least until the US Interior Dept. does the needed environmental review and Environmental Impact Statement on the sale of public lands for oil and gas drilling in Nevada.

Stand for your land: Tues. Dec. 9, 7:45-9:15a, BLM, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno NV. 

Wear blue for clean water. Carry a water jug.
 
List of public lands at risk in BLM Ely District


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nevada public lands & wildlife tour Nov 17-22

Ruby Mountains, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada
LAS VEGAS -- I'll be on tour this week across Nevada's great public lands, wildlife refuges, forests and parks. I'm also meeting with activists, anglers, tribes, and public lands/wildlife managers. Call 702.381.3475 for info and/or follow @DanPattersonUSA

Mon. Nov 17: Boulder City, Caliente, Pioche, Baker, Great Basin National Park, Ely
Tues. Nov 18: Ely, Elko
Wed. Nov 19: Elko, Battle Mountain, Winnemucca, Lovelock, Reno
Thu. Nov 20: Reno, Carson City, Lake Tahoe
Fri. Nov 21: Fallon, Austin
Sat. Nov 22: Austin, Tonopah, Goldfield, Death Valley National Park, Beatty

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My personal vote recommendations for a stronger Tucson, Pima County & Arizona

Vote early now or at polls Tue Nov 4
TUCSON -- Here are my personal recommendations on how to vote now through Nov. 4 (contested races only):

US Rep: Raul Grijalva
Governor: Fred DuVal
Secretary of State: Terry Goddard
Attorney General: Felecia Rotellini
Superintendent of Public Instruction: David Garcia
Corporation Commissioners: Sandra Kennedy and Jim Holway 
CAP Water Board: Sharon Megdal, Karen Novak Cesare and Wesley Mehl
TUSD School Board: Adelita Grijalva and Betts Putnam-Hidalgo
Prop. 122: NO 
Prop. 303: NO
Prop. 304: NO
Prop. 415: YES
Prop. 420: NO

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Obama Interior Dept. declines to ESA list 2 desert plants

by Joshua Learn, E&E reporter, eenews.net, Washington DC. 9/23/14

LAS VEGAS -- The US Fish and Wildlife Service has decided not to list two Arizona & Nevada buckwheat plants under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency will publish its findings on the Churchill Narrows buckwheat and the Las Vegas buckwheat in the Federal Register tomorrow.

FWS said stressors including climate change, livestock grazing, invasive species and others were not "causing a decline in the [the Churchill Narrows species], or its habitat, either now or into the future."

In the case of the Las Vegas buckwheat, the findings said that "habitat and individuals have been lost from 62 percent of the historical occurrences" and another 5.5 percent of its remaining habitat will be lost due to development in the future.

"However, we do not anticipate future development to be a threat to the remaining populations because most are on public lands (many of which are in conservation areas) where we do not anticipate similar losses," it added.

Environmentalists said the agency's process had benefited the plants.

"The ESA listing push was needed and positive for Las Vegas and Churchill Narrows buckwheats," said Dan Patterson, an ecologist and public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. "More resources were dedicated to surveys, discovering new populations."

Patterson added that a slowdown in urban sprawl has helped the plants and provides opportunity for better planning.

The Bureau of Land Management "must carefully manage mining, livestock grazing and off-road vehicles on public lands to ensure survival," he said. "Climate change is also a threat. The center will continue to monitor these rare plants, unique and important pieces of the desert web of life."

The Churchill Narrows and Las Vegas varieties of buckwheat have been candidates for ESA listing since 2004 and 2007, respectively.

The decisions come as part of an agreement FWS signed in 2011 with CBD and WildEarth Guardians to streamline decisions for hundreds of imperiled species.

Taylor Jones of WildEarth Guardians said his organization wasn't involved directly with conservation efforts on the buckwheat plants. But he said the group is "always concerned when the Service denies protection to species they have previously thought warranted for listing -- in this case, not that long ago -- but at least the process is moving forward and there are now many more options for seeking protections for these species in the future.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

What is Nevada US Attorney doing with criminal referrals from BLM? Status of 35 prosecution requests made on April 30th unclear as USDoJ withholds status

Daniel G. Bogden is Pres. Obama's US Attorney for Nevada.
LAS VEGAS — Two weeks after the highly-publicized armed confrontation with renegade rancher Cliven Bundy and self-styled militia supporters, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) filed 35 formal requests for prosecution with the U.S. Attorney in Nevada but all these charges have been held without action, according to records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Justice Department is also refusing to release information specifying the specific counts and the individuals named in these criminal referrals.

The cases are listed as active and have been neither accepted nor declined for prosecution during the ensuing four months after BLM filed them. Filed on April 30, 2014, the 35 criminal referrals exceed the number of all other criminal referrals filed by BLM during the rest of the fiscal year, and are five times the greatest number of cases BLM has ever filed in any one month. All are lodged with the U.S. Attorney’s Reno Branch and are assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Rachow. A 36th referral filed by BLM with the Las Vegas Branch on April 10, 2014 is similarly held in secrecy by the U.S. Attorney with no reported action. In a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden said his office “does not sit on criminal referrals from BLM.”

“A criminal referral is the toughest option available to a land management agency like BLM, but that action is toothless if the U.S. Attorney ignores it,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that in the case of Bundy who is operating without a permit, BLM has no administrative options available. “BLM cannot do its job without legal support from the Justice Department.”

In July, PEER released a threat assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concluding that continued inaction is seen as a “perceived victory” by anti-government militias which “will likely inspire additional anti-government violence over the next year.” That assessment also pointed to “the recent murders of two Las Vegas police officers [as] the latest and most severe in a growing trend of anti-government violence.”

Following the mid-April stand-off, no action has been taken against Bundy or militia snipers who targeted law enforcement officers. Bundy’s cattle also continue to graze illegally on national park and range lands.

“Cloaking these cases only adds to the impression that this is a stall, not a deliberative pause,” Ruch added, noting that PEER is already suing BLM to force release of information explaining its actions, including the criminal referrals, the fact that the situation was allowed to fester for years, as well as for the latest numbers of assaults and threats made against its employees. “Tolerating flagrant law-breaking for years is how the present situation festered to fruition. We are apparently repeating the same mistake.”

The case reports cited by PEER are drawn from databases compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) displaying information from Justice Department data-tapes reflecting the criminal workload of U.S. Attorneys offices throughout the 90 federal districts and U.S. territories.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

News: Public Lands: DHS reports BLM's Bundy Ranch retreat will 'embolden' extremist militia

DHS Sec. Johnson with Pres. Obama & VP Biden.
Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, July 31, 2014
 
The Bureau of Land Management's retreat from an armed confrontation with protesters during its roundup of cows in Bunkerville, Nev., will inspire more anti-government violence in the coming year, according to a new intelligence report from the Department of Homeland Security.

The July 22 assessment from DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis also found the United States has experienced a spike in anti-government violence or plots over the past several months compared with previous years, fueled, in part, by the perception that armed militia were victorious at Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch, the assessment warned.

The assessment highlighted three incidents since April that appear to be connected to the events in Bunkerville, including the gunning down of two Las Vegas police officers, a threat that Texas militiamen will "exterminate" federal officials who attempt a "land grab," and discussions by a Missouri-based militia movement about attacking federal convoys or helicopters it believed could be used to raid Bundy's ranch.

Information in the unclassified assessment was deemed “law enforcement sensitive” and “not to be released” to the public or media. A spokesperson for DHS did not immediately verify its authenticity this morning.

"The belief among militia extremists that their threats and show of force against the BLM during the April Bunkerville standoff was a defining victory over government oppression is galvanizing some individuals -- particularly militia extremists and violent lone offenders -- to actively confront law enforcement officials, increasing the likelihood of violence," the assessment states. "This perceived success will likely embolden other militia extremists and like-minded lone offenders to attempt to replicate these confrontational tactics and force future armed standoffs with law enforcement and government officials in 2014."

The assessment was released this morning by the government watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER.

It comes weeks after the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors hate groups, came to a similar conclusion that the Bundy standoff could inspire more violence against the government (E&ENews PM, July 11).

According to the DHS report, the spike in anti-government violence and plots since last November is a "departure" from previous years and is driven by perceived government restrictions on gun use, land and property, the assessment said.

Some violent incidents appear to be inspiring future attacks, it said. For example, the husband and wife accused of shooting the two Las Vegas police officers in June left a note explaining that the attack was the start of a "revolution" and a "new day."

"Though the initial tipping point or cause of this spike in violence remains unclear ... some of these incidents are likely intended to inspire additional violent attacks, resulting in a greater rate of attacks than in the prior four years," the assessment found.

The office has recorded five such incidents of anti-government violence or arrests for violent plotting since last November, compared with just three incidents in the prior 46 months.

PEER blasted BLM's retreat at Bunkerville.

"Like pumping [bellows] onto a smoldering ember, Interior's retreat in Nevada this spring, abetted by related reckless political rhetoric, appears to be encouraging and empowering dangerous right-wing extremists," said a statement by PEER Southwest Director Daniel Patterson, who formerly worked for BLM. "This is a form of domestic terrorism which demands a swift, clear and definitive response."

BLM said it stood down in the Bundy standoff to protect its employees and the public and that it still intends to bring Bundy to justice for illegally grazing his cows.

But its decision to cancel the roundup triggered criticism, particularly among environmentalists, over the signal it sent to other states' rights advocates who disagree with the agency's land-management policies.

In May, a Utah county commissioner openly flouted BLM's closure of Recapture Canyon to motorized vehicles by leading an all-terrain vehicle protest ride. Though the ride had been planned before the Bundy incident, it was seen as another illustration of BLM's limitations in enforcing federal land laws.

No arrests were made or citations issued in the Recapture ride.

- from Greenwire

Extremist militias on rise in US. DHS assessment uncovered by PEER finds inaction on Bundy stand-off likely to spur more violence

Militia man on I-15 aims at US officers in Nevada, April 2014
LAS VEGAS — The failure to effectively address anti-government extremists is making matters more dangerous, according to a new federal law enforcement assessment released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The assessment predicts that the “perceived victory” by renegade rancher Cliven Bundy in his stand-off with the government is “likely to prompt more violence.”

An Intelligence Assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security dated July 22, 2014, titled “Domestic Violent Extremists Pose Increased Threat to Government Officials and Law Enforcement,” notes that, “After years of only sporadic violence from violent domestic extremists motivated by anti-government ideologies, I&A (Office of Intelligence and Analysis) has seen a spike within the past year in violence. Based upon reports from state and federal law enforcement reports, this Assessment finds:

  • “I&A assesses that perceived victory by militia extremists in a show of force against the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Nevada in April will likely inspire additional anti-government violence over the next year.”
  • “I&A also assesses that the recent murders of two Las Vegas police officers is the latest and most severe in a growing trend of anti-government violence…” and
  • The “perceived victory” from the Bundy stand-off “is galvanizing some individuals – particularly militia extremists and violent lone offenders – to actively confront law enforcement officials, increasing the likelihood of violence.” 

“Like pumping billows onto a smoldering ember, Interior's retreat in Nevada this spring, abetted by related reckless political rhetoric, appears to be encouraging and empowering dangerous right-wing extremists,” said PEER Southwest Director Daniel Patterson, who formerly worked with BLM. “This is a form of domestic terrorism which demands a swift, clear and definitive response.”

The Assessment stressed that law enforcement officers will be primary targets of militia attacks since they are perceived “as an extension of state control.” As with the 1996 Oklahoma City bombing of the federal building, government facilities are also at enhanced risk.

“The law enforcement assessment suggests that timidity in the face of threats only breeds more threats,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Without a cogent enforcement strategy, we can expect more armed confrontations putting both public servants and civilians at greater risk.”

BLM has taken no further action since it backed down this past April from an armed confrontation with militias seeking to prevent seizure of Bundy’s cattle illegally grazing on federal lands. PEER has been pushing for criminal charges against Bundy and militia snipers who targeted law enforcement officers. In addition, PEER is suing BLM to force release of information explaining its actions and why the situation was allowed to fester for years, as well as statistics on assaults against its employees.

- adapted from PEER.org

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lawsuit seeks Bundy Ranch documents and attack stats on BLM staff. BLM stonewalls on Nevada standoff, post-incident precautions and lessons learned

Will Obama & AG Holder move strongly against right-wing terrorism?
LAS VEGAS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is wrongfully withholding all documents about a recent standoff with a Nevada rancher as well as statistics on assaults against its employees, according to a federal lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). BLM has taken no further action since it backed down from a recent armed confrontation between self-styled “militias” seeking to prevent seizure of Cliven Bundy’s cattle illegally grazing for 20 years on national lands at Gold Butte, Nevada.

Representing BLM rangers and other resource agency staff, PEER is seeking documents about what led up to and what followed the cattle seizure and subsequent standoff on the Bundy ranch, including –

  • Whether the U.S. Attorney declined to criminally prosecute Bundy, making seizure of his cattle the only avenue left to BLM for proceeding against Bundy--whose cattle had been illegally grazing on 160,000 BLM and National Park Service acres for more than a decade;
  • Any BLM advisories for handling similar incidents of armed resistance or livestock trespass; and
  • Steps taken to bolster the safety of BLM employees.  Media reports indicate that BLM staff have received death threats or have been targeted by armed militias.

In addition, BLM has refused to release its annual tabulation of threats and attacks against its employees. BLM has released this annual summary describing the nature and location of such incidents to PEER every year since 1996, when the organization started collecting a database of these assaults following the Oklahoma City bombing.

“Parts of the Sagebrush West are beginning to resemble Eastern Ukraine,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that BLM’s secretiveness is stoking various right-wing conspiracy theories. “To tamp down the rumor mill fueling these high-profile incidents, the BLM should be communicating more with the public not less. This information is important not only to BLM staff but also to members of the public visiting these federal lands.”

During the 1990’s when similar “Sagebrush Rebellion” incidents flared, the reluctance of the U.S. Justice Department to criminally prosecute referrals from the BLM and U.S. Forest Service frustrated land managers who felt powerless. For example, Gloria Flora resigned as supervisor of Nevada’s Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest citing Justice’s timidity.

“Allowing these calculated obstructions and armed threats to go unpunished seems to invite only more dangerous confrontations by extremists,” said Daniel Patterson, Southwest PEER Director who formerly worked with BLM, pointing to other subsequent incidents such as an illegal off-road vehicle invasion into BLM public lands closed-to-ORVs at Recapture Canyon, Utah. “Not knowing the agency’s limits invites violent ideologues to miscalculate with potentially tragic results.”

- adapted from PEER.org

Thursday, April 24, 2014

US Wildlife Refuges at risk as oil & gas regulations on very slow track

Oil well on Delta National Wildlife Refuge, LA
WASHINGTON — Despite admitting “significant damages” from oil and gas operations on national wildlife refuge lands, there are still no safeguards against spills, leaks and other preventable contamination of these preserves. The responsible agency is still on the ground floor of adopting protective rules years after announcing that it would, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), which operates the network of 562 wildlife refuges, estimates oil or gas deposits exist on nearly half of all refuges; more than 200 refuges contain oil infrastructure with more than 100 active drilling operations, including 1,700 active wells and 1,300 miles of pipeline. Altogether, drilling on refuges accounts for approximately 1% of domestic production.

Unlike other federal land agencies, FWS has no rules governing basic safeguards such as spill prevention, reclamation bonds or requirements that best management practices be employed. In April 2011, PEER filed a formal rulemaking petition urging FWS to adopt rules modeled on enhanced rules then proposed by the National Park Service. More than a year later in June 2012, FWS announced that in response to the PEER petition it would begin “promulgating regulations for administering private minerals on refuge lands” and would “conduct a thorough… analysis of the proposed regulations, most likely resulting in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).”

For months, there was no public activity until a Federal Register notice of February 24, 2014 in which FWS issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of intent to prepare an EIS, declaring:

“The Refuge System has sustained significant damages to refuge resources from leaks and spills, inadequate plugging, abandonment and reclamation.”

The notice, however, indicates that FWS has not advanced from where it was two years earlier in that:
  • “The Service is not currently proposing any specific approach for managing non-Federal oil and gas operations;”
  • FWS remains uncertain on how to address a range of issues from financial assurances to access fees to whether to pattern its approach on National Park or U.S. Forest Service rules; and
  • Without any discussion, FWS limited the scope of its consideration to private subsurface holdings, allowing federal holdings on Alaskan refuges to be left to Bureau of Land Management oversight without any refuge-specific restrictions.
“At this rate, the Obama presidential library will be built by the time these regulations are ready to be adopted,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that a major federal regulation averages between one year and 18 months from proposal to final promulgation – a timeline which should have had the refuge drilling regulations already on the books. “With scores of refuges at risk, the Fish & Wildlife Service should not be slow-walking needed protections.”

The public comment period on this preliminary notice ends tomorrow.

Besides direct contamination effects from releases, FWS points to indirect adverse impacts from oil and gas operations to wildlife such as habitat fragmentation, introduction of invasive species along roads and pipelines, increased predation of declining species and heightened exposure to disease.

PEER news release with links to documents, etc.

Monday, April 21, 2014

New photos released of Jaguar roaming near Tucson

TUCSON -- The US Fish & Wildlife Service has released new photos of an endangered Jaguar roaming the Santa Rita Mountains, Coronado National Forest.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Need a ride? Lyft Tucson launches Fri Apr 4 @ 7pm

Looking for a Lyft?
TUCSON -- Cutting edge US rideshare service Lyft launches 24/7 public operations in Tucson on Friday, April 4 at 7pm, it was announced tonight at a public party downtown.

Need a friendly, fun ride? We all do sometimes. Check out Lyft.com and download the @Lyft app. Get FREE rides!

City of Tucson, Pima County and State of Arizona should allow safe operation Lyft to compete in the open market. People deserve more choices.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Your land at risk: US Forest Service knifes its own law enforcement budget. 15% cut prompts reduced National Forest patrols

USDA bureaucrats in DC cut Rangers on US National Forests.
WASHINGTON — Even as the overall budget for the U.S. Forest Service has grown this year, its law enforcement program is hobbled by a budget reduction of roughly 15% from last’s year’s levels, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Thus far, the shortfall has resulted in orders for “office days” taking officers off patrol, mileage and shift limits and a hiring freeze as managers wrestle with how to avoid layoffs.

The reason for the shortfall appears to be bureaucratic neglect rather than a hostile Congress. The Forest Service got the precise amount of funds it requested for its Law Enforcement & Investigations (LEI) Division but that amount was lower than the prior year. The impact of this cut was compounded by 1) the fact that, unlike other Forest Service programs, LEI did not have its fire transfer dollars reinstated after last year’s budget-busting fire season and 2) LEI had to absorb the cost of employee raises.

“By asking Congress for less money, it appears that the Forest Service deliberately short-sheeted its own law enforcement program,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that LEI is responsible for protecting natural resources and the visiting public in 44 states across 193 million acres of forest lands, an area larger than the State of Texas. “Sudden cuts of this magnitude will unquestionably compromise the effectiveness of Forest Service law enforcement.”

The ink was barely dry on this year’s new appropriations package when the size of the shortfall began to become clear, internal emails reveal. Among immediate actions taken within to husband funds, include –
  • Taking law enforcement officers out of patrol vehicles and confining them for “office days” in which they are supposed to occupy themselves with paperwork. Officers could still respond to emergency requests for assistance;
  • Limiting the number of miles officers can drive and shortening shifts of officers working out in the forests on drug and other stakeouts; and
  • Freezing “all LEI hiring nationally… So anything we have vacant today will remain vacant and anything that may become vacant through attrition, will also remain vacant,” per one directive.
Nonetheless, these economy measures are unlikely to close this large funding gap in the short-term. Nor has national leadership emerged on what the overall plan will be, leaving each LEI region to cope on its own. In the meantime, there is confusion on how LEI is supposed to respond to wild-land fires, drug trafficking operations or other incidents that will require greater expenditure of resources or manpower. The Coronado National Forest in Tucson and southern Arizona, already short on Rangers, will suffer, along with forests nationwide.

“Forest Service law enforcement personnel are left in the untenable position of having to decide whether a request for assistance justifies the cost of gasoline,” Ruch added, pointing out that LEI has aggravated its fiscal plight with a number of ill-considered expensive equipment purchases ranging from military-style hardened laptops, body-mounted cameras and even drones which have never been deployed. “Far more critical than its financial deficit is the Forest Service law enforcement program’s leadership deficit.”

Link to documents, etc.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Arizona & New Mexico cooperate for wildlife restoration

AZ sent Gould's turkeys to NM in exchange for pronghorn.
CIMARRON, NM – New Mexico has larger pronghorn herds in southern New Mexico and will soon have larger flocks of Gould’s turkeys in the Peloncillo and Animas-San Luis Mountains thanks to the successes of a recent pronghorn trap operation near Cimarron, NM.

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish biologists, conservation officers and staff captured over 200 pronghorn from irrigated croplands on a ranch in northern New Mexico. The pronghorn received blood tests, vaccinations and were fitted with radio collars before being relocated on Bureau of Land Management sites outside of Fort Stanton, near Capitan and northwest of Roswell. In exchange for a flock of 60 Gould’s turkeys, forty-three pronghorn were relocated to Cochise County, Arizona, in cooperation with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

"New Mexicans benefit on multiple fronts from the outcome of this trap," said NMDGF Interim Director R.J. Kirkpatrick. "Southern New Mexico pronghorn herds increase in size, the trade with Arizona provides critical new birds to augment our turkey populations and New Mexicans can enjoy opportunities to see more wildlife in their natural habitat.”

The Department began trapping and transplanting pronghorns to new ranges in New Mexico in the 1930s and continues the practice today. The statewide population now has grown to approximately 30,000 pronghorn.

- from NMDGF

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ruling vastly expands official gov't secrecy on infrastructure safety, blocking public knowledge of risks

WASHINGTON — A sweeping new appellate court decision justifies federal agencies withholding substantial public safety information concerning dam failures, chemical spills and other critical events, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The ruling blocked PEER’s attempts to force release of the emergency plans in the event of failure of two large international storage dams on the Rio Grande River and inundation maps showing the areas likely to be flooded.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided this week that this material could be withheld because “terrorists or criminals could use that information to determine whether attacking a dam would be worthwhile.” The court’s reasoning significantly expands the scope of the exemption under the Freedom of Information Act for material compiled for “law enforcement purposes.”

“Under the standard articulated by the court, the majority of information about known risks and planned responses to virtually every emergency could be placed off limits,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who filed the complaint and argued the appeal. “This ruling will block affected communities from learning about plans to prevent and respond to chemical spills,” added Dinerstein, noting recently-plagued West Virginia, oil blowouts that fouled the Gulf of Mexico and even steps needed to prevent and respond to contamination of food and drugs.

The case involves the actions of a little-known agency called the United States Section, International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) which implements border treaties with Mexico and, in so doing, jointly operates several international dams and water treatment plants along the border. Despite acknowledging external reviews showing two major structures, the Falcon and Amistad Dams, are in “urgent” need of repair, the agency refused to release –
  • More than 75 inundation maps, showing what areas will be flooded following dam failure; 
  • A 2009 report issued by a panel of technical advisors regarding the condition of Amistad Dam (the release of which was remanded to the lower court for further consideration); and
  • Much of the Emergency Action Plans for the dams, including the “Guidance for Determining the Emergency Level”; “Notifications and Emergency Service Contacts”; “Location and Vicinity Maps”; “Summary of People/Structures at Greatest Risk”; and “Reservoir Elevation Area-Capacity Data”. 
“Basic emergency planning should not be treated as a state secret,” said Dinerstein, noting that the court had transformed a fairly narrow law enforcement exception from public disclosure into an extremely broad one without well-defined limits. “By the court’s incredibly deferential standards, virtually every federal agency could withhold maps, assessments and even phonebooks if an official can imagine a potential nefarious use for them. A vigilant public will lose access to much of the information needed to protect itself and to agitate for changes that prevent these man-made disasters from occurring.”

Thursday, January 16, 2014

People want AZ lawmakers to stand strong for fair, clean elections

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX -- Action alert today from Arizona Advocacy Network: Send this message to Democratic State Lawmakers now: 

After the last minute passage of HB2305 during the 2013 session, I currently don't believe Republican lawmakers will keep their word on any deals and neither should you. I have four respectful requests that will help you, me and the Arizona Progressive Community succeed this year:

1. Oppose Reps. Mesnard's and Boyer's attempt to refer anti-Clean Elections measures to the ballot. A deal was made in 2012 and they dishonor the parties and the Centennial Legislature that struck the compromise with citizen groups.

2. Support legislation that strengthens Clean Elections if introduced. Push for a committee hearing and passage.

3. Oppose any "HB2593 fix" to block an emergency clause. You and I need this for negotiating during the last hours of the session to ensure any compromises on legislation are honored.

4. Oppose the repeal of HB2305. We turned in over 154,000 signatures so voters could decide whether these anti-voter laws should take effect and possibly voter protect these provisions from passing again. Republicans are likely to pass portions of the law that will hurt voters and turnout on Election Day if they successfully repeal HB2305.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My view on AZ Gov. Brewer's State of the State: Capture of CPS to Gov's office, ending confirmation process

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX -- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's embarrassment at Child Protective Services’ failure is understandable, as is her desire to change the agency. I wish her good luck.

She should’ve started CPS reform by firing her pick to oversee the agency, Clarence Carter, but she hasn’t, a troubling indicator of Brewer's weakness here.

Brewer's move to capture CPS into the Governor’s office, and grant herself exclusive authority to appoint the director, ending Senate confirmation and participation by the minority, harms the public interest for democratic checks and balances. Certainly the legislature has also failed to protect Arizona's most vulnerable kids, but Arizonans may suffer more cronyism with CPS run from the Governor’s office with less oversight and transparency.

An executive branch usurpation is an executive branch usurpation, no matter their political party. Governors always want more power. But power grabs seldom benefit the common good long term.

See Brewer channels her inner Obama
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Monday, January 06, 2014

Follow @DanPattersonUSA in 2014 for breaking news & views

TUCSON -- For breaking news on environment, politics, labor, immigration, my plans and other big issues, please follow me @DanPattersonUSA &/or like my facebook page. Thanks!