Environews: July 2016

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the West.

Now though the season warms
the woods inherits harms
of human enterprise.
Our making shakes the skies
And taints the atmosphere.
We have ourselves to fear.
We burn the world to live.

–Wendell Berry (Sabbaths)


EPA requires Utah coal plant to cut emissions

In June, citizen groups working on air quality won a major victory when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a decision that will reduce haze-forming emissions affecting Arches, Canyonlands and seven other National Parks and Wilderness Areas. The EPA decision overrules a much weaker regional haze plan written by the State of Utah and requires the installation of emission control technologies that will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from four electrical generating units at PacifiCorp’s Hunter and Huntington power plants in Emery County, Utah by 9,885 tons each year. Groups that had challenged the ineffective Utah plan include HEAL Utah, Sierra Club and National Parks Conservation Association.

Grizzly delisting

In March, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposed removing grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem from the federal Endangered Species List. Only 136 grizzlies lived in and around Yellowstone back in 1975 when grizzlies in the lower 48 states were designated as “threatened.” Since then, the number has increased to somewhere between 674 and 839 and the bears have expanded their range by 50%.

While it’s good news that grizzlies have rebounded, compelling reasons for not delisting them still exist. Pine nuts are one of the bears’ major food sources but due to beetle infestations exacerbated by climate change, whitebark pine forests are dying. The other big problem for bears is people.

Without even waiting for delisting to occur, the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have already fast-tracked plans for grizzly bear trophy hunting. The Center for Biological Diversity says that trophy hunting reduces genetic viability of a species by targeting the biggest, strongest males, and that recreational trophy hunting has been shown to increase poaching by normalizing killing.

In any case, it may be that in a crowded world, large carnivores will always need Endangered Species protection because state management is so hostile to predators. For instance, in 2012 gray wolves were delisted, but due to state mismanagement and excessive hunting they were back on the Endangered Species list by 2014.

The last known grizzly bear in Utah, nicknamed “Old Ephraim,” was killed in Logan Canyon in 1923 by Frank Clark who later told a Deseret News reporter, “Was I happy? No, and if I had to do it over I wouldn’t kill him.”

Fake posters oppose Bears Ears

Opponents of designating a Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County Utah posted fake flyers designed to look like they came from the federal government or from environmental groups. One flyer with a forged “U. S. Department of Interior” letterhead threatened that President Obama was going to reduce the size of the Navajo reservation. Another flyer announced that Utah Navajos were excluded from a picnic supposedly hosted by Diné Bikéyah, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Friends of Cedar Mesa.

False claims on the flyers are similar to those made by Utah legislators at a meeting of the Commission for Stewardship of Public Lands last April when anti-monument legislators made allegations that tribal support for Bears Ears was a front for environmental groups.

Absurdly, Utah Representative Mike Noel (R-Kanab) has also blamed archaeological looting in the Bears Ears region on badgers digging holes.

In fact, the Bears Ears proposal originates with Indian tribes, and it would be managed by a commission, made up of one representative from each of five tribes plus three from federal agencies including U.S. Forest Service, BLM and National Park Service, giving the tribes far more influence over land management than they have now.




This article was originally published on July 1, 2016.