Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Obama Interior Dept. declines to ESA list 2 desert plants

by Joshua Learn, E&E reporter,, 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.