Environews, Regulars and Shorts

Environews: March 2008

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the west.
by Amy Brunvand

Lake Powell:

Going, going, gone?

Lake Powell could be a dead pool within 14 years according to a January 2008 report from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The report predicts that the combined effects of climate change and human demand for water could drain Colorado River reservoirs within 14 years, saying “A water budget analysis shows that under current conditions there is a 10% chance live storage in Lakes Mead and Powell will be gone by about 2013 and a 50% chance it will be gone by 2021 if no changes in water allocation from the Colorado River system are made.” The term “live storage” means that the reservoir is high enough to generate hydroelectric power so if reservoirs fall below that level, power production would be drastically reduced. Because Colorado River water is already overallocated, the authors fear that legal battles will prevent rational decisions to preserve a river system that is the  lifeblood of human society in the Southwest. They conclude, “The challenge is to determine what combination of agricultural, environmental uses and personal consumption is achievable in the future when 10-30% less water must serve substantially more people.”

When will Lake Mead go dry?


Support Nongame

Wildlife on Utah Tax Form

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, nearly all funding to manage Utah wildlife comes from hunting and fishing licenses. If you would rather support watchable wildlife, you can donate part of your tax refund to the Nongame Wildlife Fund on line 19 of the 2007 Utah State Income Tax form. Once you’re there, enter code 01 and the amount you want to donate. Last year taxpayers donated about $37,000 to the fund which supported projects such as a songbird population survey, Mexican spotted owl habitat, and reintroduction of river otters and black footed ferrets. We don’t think that’s very much. Let’s do better this year.

Wildlife News: wildlife.utah.gov/news/08-01/wildlife_fund.php

Oil shale/tar sands threaten strip-mine development

Three things you need to know about oil shale and tar sands: 1) Extracting fossil fuels from them requires strip mining or bulldozing the entire surface area;  2) The geologic formations that contain them lie underneath some of the most wild and scenic areas of Utah, such as the Uinta Basin and San Rafael Swell, near Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and in the so called “Tar Sands Triangle” next to Canyonlands National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. 3) In Utah, the Bureau of Land Management is currently proposing more than 630,000 acres for oil shale projects and more than 431,000 acres for development of tar sands. Under the BLM preferred alternative, 1,991,222 million acres of public lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming could be decimated by oil shale and tar sands extraction. The Oil Shale and Tar Sands EIS would amend existing BLM Resource Management Plans, many of which have just been rewritten and have barely finished the public comment process. Public comments on the Oil Shale/Tar Sands EIS are open until March 20, 2008.

Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic EIS: ostseis.anl.gov./ Mail comments to : BLM Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources Draft Programmatic EIS;  9700 South Cass Avenue; Argonne, IL 60439.

BLM Resource Management plans: What now?

During the past months this column has urged readers to submit public comments on draft BLM Resource Management Plans for Moab, Monticello, Price, Vernal, Kanab, and Richfield. Now that all the public comment periods are closed, the BLM is preparing the final RMP plans which are expected to be released around summer 2008. Environmental groups like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Utah Sierra Club will review the plans and are very likely to make legal challenges if the final plans are as bad for public lands as the draft versions.

Plan a backcountry

volunteer vacation

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to get out in the sun! Utah Backcountry Volunteers has an array of spring service trips to choose from, including maintaining trails in Zion National Park, to removing invasive Russian olives in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, to restoring vehicle trails in the Wasatch National Forest.

Utah Backcountry Volunteers: www.utahbackcountry.orgr

This article was originally published on March 7, 2008.