Environews: November 2008

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the west.

by Amy Brunvand

Wild Bird photographs at UMNH
The Utah Museum of Natural History is currently showing photographs of wetland birds by Rosalie Winard. The show follows the release last April of “Wild Birds of the American Wetlands,” a book of Winard’s photos with an introduction by Terry Tempest Williams. Writing in Audubon magazine, Williams calls Winard’s work “a portfolio of hope” and says,“Only an artist who recognizes the redemption of the wild as it crosses and clashes with culture could create such an evocative and disturbing tension: absence and presence, at once.” 
Through February 22, 2009: Wild Birds of the American Wetlands. Utah Museum of Natural History. President’s Circle, U of U. (Stadium TRAX): www.umnh.utah.edu 
Sat., December 6, 2008, 9:30a-3:30p: Waterfoul field trip to Farmington Bay with Rosalie Winard and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologist John Luft. Register: www.umnh.utah.edu/fieldtrips
Tell the EPA to make U.S. Magnesium (former MagCorps) a Superfund site
If you have read “Canaries on the Rim” by Chip Ward you know all about the toxic pollution spewed by U.S. Magnesium. In the past, the company’s chlorine emissions were so bad the paint would strip off employees’ cars. A CATALYST magazine article from 1996 described how “‘the air is green today’ illustrated a day of moderate chlorine inundation, but ‘the bees are out’ meant that the air is so saturated that it stings the skin.” 
Citizen action led by Citizens Against Chlorine Contamination and Families Against Incinerator Risk (which became HEAL Utah) forced the company to reduce its chlorine emissions by 90%, but the pollution problem is still bad enough so that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with support from the Utah Depart?ment of Environmental Quality, is proposing to list U.S. Magnesium as a “Superfund site” on the National Priorities List.
An EPA analysis says U.S. Magnesium currently releases substances that pose cancerous and non-cancerous health risks to humans and wildlife: “Contaminants consist of: metals, including arsenic, chromium, mercury, copper, and zinc; acidic waste water; chlorinated organics; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); dioxins/ furans, hexachlorobenzene (HCB); and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These wastes are being released into the environment and are largely uncontrolled.”
U.S. Magnesium is located next to the Great Salt Lake just 40 miles west of Salt Lake City. The area is vital habitat for millions of migrating birds, and EPA reports that “many waterfowl die after coming into contact with the contamination.”
HEAL Utah encourages citizens to send comments to the EPA supporting Super?fund listing for the U.S. Magnesium site. Listing will enable the EPA to use the Superfund law to address contamination at the site and force the company to pay for its own clean up; it guarantees the public an opportunity to participate in cleanup decisions through the Superfund process; and it could finally lead to the protection of worker health and the Great Salt Lake environment from the company’s uncontrolled and unregulated toxic releases.
HEAL Utah: healutah.org; EPA proposal to list U.S. Magnesium as a Superfund site: www.epa.gov/ region8/superfund/ ut/usmagnesium/#1 Comments due by November 24.
Huntsman calls ORV damage an “abomination”
After taking a tour of the Moab area with SUWA member David Bonderman, Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. (who rides dirt bikes himself) finally gets it why there is so much fuss about off-road vehicle damage to Utah’s public lands. The Salt Lake Tribune quotes the Governor calling off-road impacts he saw as “an abomination” and “an embarrassment.” Governor Huntsman has a history of supporting off-road vehicle interests over conservation.
In 2005 he named anti-environmentalist San Juan County Commissioner Lynn Stevens as director of the Public Lands Policy Coordination Office (Stevens once led a jeep safari into Arch Canyon as an act of civil disobedience after the BLM denied a permit for the event); he opposed roadless protection for Utah’s National Forests; and he has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on questionable lawsuits to claim dirt tracks as state-controlled highways.
After seeing what’s actually on the ground, the Governor is calling for increased enforcement of off-road vehicles on State lands. It is a step towards better State government policies to protect Utah’s public lands. 
Contact Governor Huntsman: www.utah.gov/governor/index.html Utah State Capitol Complex; 350 N. State St, #200; PO Box 142220, SLC, Utah 84114-2220 801-538-1000, 800-705-2464.
SUWA protests BLM plans
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance together with the Wilderness Society and other partners have filed comprehensive protests against six Resource Manage?ment Plans (RMPs) for Utah’s canyon country. The plans determine management priorities for 11 million acres of Utah’s canyon country, about half of which are proposed as Wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. The finalized plans will be in effect an estimated 10 to 15 years and as currently written they would open 80% of Public Lands in Southern and Eastern Utah to drilling and turn over more than 20,000 miles of trails to off-road vehicles. The Bush Administration is pressing for the plans to be finalized and signed before Bush leaves office in January 2009, so it is urgent to prevent locking in policies that will be hard for the next administration to reverse. 
SUWA www.suwa.org
Airport TRAX begins construction
In October the Utah Transit Authority broke ground for construction of a new TRAX light rail line to the Salt Lake International Airport. When construction is complete, the light rail system will link the three largest traffic generators in the Salt Lake urban area: Downtown, the University of Utah and the Airport. The Airport TRAX line is scheduled to be finished by 2015.

This article was originally published on November 3, 2008.