Environews: November 2009

By Amy Brunvand

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

Utah wilderness debate moves forward

Last month the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on America’s Redrock Wilderness Act, a 20-year-old bill to preserve 9.4 million acres of Utah’s spectacular red rock country as wilderness. A spokesperson for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says they detected significant progress in the wilderness debate, offering this assessment in a news release: “As expected, Utah’s entire congressional delegation spoke in opposition to the bill, as did Utah’s Lt. Governor Greg Bell. But, what was noticeably absent from the discussion was a condemnation of wilderness. Each Utah member of Congress acknowledged the importance of protecting wilderness. This is a far cry from the rhetoric we heard years ago opposing the very concept of wilderness.”

See a video and read prepared testimony on the House Natural Resources Committee Website: www.resourcescommittee.house.gov/index.php (click on Committee Calendar, Oct 1)

Oil & gas processneeds improvement

A report on the controversial oil & gas lease sale of last December acknowledges mistakes were made and that the decision-making process needs improvement. The report recommends that out of 77 parcels sold at the auction, eight should be removed from leasing and 56 deferred for further study. The review team spent nine days in the field to ground-truth the maps and data provided by BLM. The report says, “In the short time available, the team was able to witness the presence of various wildlife species such as sage grouse and elk, see surrounding viewsheds, to generally assess the opportunities to site development facilities, and gain a feel for the current levels of disturbance in the vicinity.” Among reasons that the new findings differ from the BLM, the report cites “hindsight provided by various lease protests” and “interaction between the review team and the responsible land managers and their staff.” A study from the Wil­der­ness Society found that developing the 77 leases would supply the nation’s energy needs for about two days.

BLM Report: www.doi.gov/documents/ BLM_Utah77LeaseParcelReport.pdf

Wilderness Society study of the 77 leases: wilderness.org/files/UtahRMPsLitEconomic%20Analysis-final.pdf

Salazar slows oil shale fast track

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced new rules for oil shale development that slow down the Bush Administration fast-track for development. The new rules will consider water and energy needs as well as impacts on the environment and local economies.


Wolf hunt leads to predictably bad results

Four radio-collared wolves that were part of Yellowstone National Park’s wolf project have been killed by overzealous wolf hunters in Montana. Although hunting was promoted as a way to prevent livestock attacks, nearly all the wolves killed lived in wilderness areas far from any ranching.

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, and at the end of 2008 at least 124 wolves in 12 packs lived in the park. But in 2009, Rocky Mountain wolves were removed from the endangered species list, and Idaho and Montana issued wolf hunting permits.

Montana wildlife officials have admitted to poor planning, and conservation groups such as Defenders of Wildlife are pushing to restore federal protection for wolves.

Defenders of Wildlife: www.defenders.org

Yellowstone Wolf Project Annual Report 2008: www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/ upload/wolfar2008_9_09.pdf

SLC promotes reusable bags

The Salt Lake City Green program offers the following tips to help you remember to carry your re-usable bags when you head to the grocery store:

• Store bags in your vehicle.

• After you unpack your groceries, return the bags to your vehicle.

• Store a bag in your desk at work.

• Purchase a few compact reusable bags you can keep in your purse, jacket pocket, backpack or briefcase.

• Ask the kids to remind you to bring your bags as part of earning their allowance.

• Hang the bags next to the door.

Item #1 on shopping list: REMEMBER BAGS.

Salt Lake City Green: www.slcgreen.com

This article was originally published on November 2, 2009.