GilmerFreePress.net

Nature | Environment

Nature, Environment

WV Legislation Would Support Healthy Forests and Expanded Recreational Opportunities in WV

The Free Press WV

Restoring and improving the health of West Virginia’s state park lands while creating expanded public recreational opportunities are the goals of West Virginia Senate bill SB270 and its House companion HB4182.

“Through a proper management program implemented in coordination with the Division of Forestry and our state park superintendents, West Virginia state park lands will be maintained in a way that will ensure their health and well-being for years to come,” said Steve McDaniel, Director of the Division of Natural Resources.

Director McDaniel continued, “With the passage of this legislation we can create wildlife habitats, build additional hiking trails and develop additional recreational amenities to offer to our visitors at West Virginia State Parks.”

West Virginia Division of Forestry Director Barry Cook went on to discuss the need for this initiative in terms of the overall health of the woodlands in West Virginia’s State Park System.

“Select state park properties have overmatured to the point that we are in even greater danger due to the accumulation of fuel on the forest floor,” said Cook. “As the woodlands stand today, a lack of access puts the Mountain State at risk of losing all beneficial value of the properties held within these parks.” 

Both the Division of Natural Resources and the Division of Forestry agree the continued undermanagement of these properties will result in a substantial loss to the health and well-being of West Virginia’s woodlands. 

Governor Jim Justice said opponents to the Legislation really aren’t well-informed on the subject and have used scare tactics and untruths to make the public think it is nothing more than a clear-cutting timber operation.

Learn more about the plan at http://4ourfuturewv.org.

Push to move U.S. public land managers west wins new support

The Free Press WV

From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Bureau of Land Management oversees some of the nation’s most prized natural resources: vast expanses of public lands rich in oil, gas, coal, grazing for livestock, habitat for wildlife, hunting ranges, fishing streams and hiking trails.

But more than 99 percent of that land is in 12 Western states, hundreds of miles from the nation’s capital. Some Western politicians — both Republicans and Democrats — are asking why the bureau’s headquarters isn’t in the West as well.

“You’re dealing with an agency that basically has no business in Washington, D.C.,” said Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who introduced a bill to move the headquarters to any of those dozen states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington or Wyoming. The Bureau of Land Management manages a combined 385,000 square miles (997,000 square kilometers) in those states.

Colorado Republican Rep. Scott Tipton introduced a similar measure in the House, and three Democrats signed up as co-sponsors: Reps. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jared Polis of Colorado and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado.

Some Westerners have long argued federal land managers should be closer to the land they oversee, saying Washington doesn’t understand the region. Now they have a powerful ally in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Montanan who is leading President Donald Trump’s charge to roll back environmental regulations and encourage energy development on public land.

Zinke said in September he wants to move much of the Interior Department’s decision-making to the West, including the Bureau of Land Management, which is part of the agency.

The Washington Post reported last month Zinke’s plan includes dividing his department’s regions along river systems and other natural features instead of state borders, and using them to restructure oversight.

A big part of the bureau’s job is to lease drilling, mining and grazing rights on public land to private companies and individuals. That puts it at the center of a heated national debate over how those lands should be managed, and by whom.

Some recent disputes:

— Much of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, created by President Barack Obama and greatly reduced by Trump, is on Bureau of Land Management land.

— Rancher Cliven Bundy’s long battle against federal control of public land, which culminated in a 2014 armed standoff in Nevada, began on bureau acreage.

— More than 50,000 square miles (123,000 square kilometers) of Bureau of Land Management land in the West is at the heart of a debate among conservationists, ranchers and energy companies over how much protection to give the shrinking population of the greater sage grouse, a ground-dwelling bird.

The bureau manages more public land than any other federal agency, ranging from about 1 square mile (3 square kilometers) in Virginia to nearly 113,000 square miles (293,000 square kilometers) in Alaska. That doesn’t include national parks or national forests, which are managed by other agencies.

It has about 9,000 employees, with fewer than 400 in Washington. The rest are scattered among 140 state, district or field offices.

“The larger issue is that states and counties that are predominated by public lands are deeply affected by decisions made by BLM,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance in Denver, which represents the oil and gas industry. “So it makes sense (for the headquarters) to be in a state where there are a high percentage of public lands.”

In Nevada, where the Bureau of Land Management manages 66 percent of the land — a bigger share than any other state — Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei called the idea intriguing but stopped short of endorsing it.

“I’m excited about the fact that they’re looking at it,” he said.

Amodei said he has spoken with bureau officials in Washington who know so little about Nevada they thought the land under a highway interchange was wildlife habitat.

Few say moving the bureau’s headquarters would tilt its decision-making toward commercial use or preservation and recreation.

But some environmental groups question whether it would produce real benefits.

Aaron Weiss, media director for the Center for Western Priorities, said Zinke has been limiting opportunities for local comment on national monuments and BLM planning, and moving the headquarters West wouldn’t reverse that.

Weiss also suggested Zinke could use a headquarters move as a cover to get rid of employees he considers disloyal.

“We absolutely question his motives,” Weiss said.

Zinke’s spokeswoman, Heather Swift, said Weiss’s claims are false. More than 2 million people submitted comments during the Interior Department review of Bears Ears and other national monuments, and Zinke held more than 60 meetings with local people, she said.

Zinke doesn’t believe his proposed reorganization will result in job cuts, Swift said.

Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s public lands program, said the Bureau of Land Management is already decentralized, and moving the headquarters would waste money.

“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” he said.

Some Bureau of Land Management retirees also are skeptical of the move.

The bureau needs a strong presence in Washington for budget and policy talks, said Steve Ellis, who was the agency’s deputy director when he retired in 2016 after 38 years in civil service, both in Washington and the West.

“The relationships in the West are so important, but the relationships in Washington are also important,” Ellis said. “You need the both for the agency to be successful and thrive.”

Study: Treated Oil, Gas Wastewater Leaves Radioactive Contamination

Over time, treated oil and gas wastewater is leaving radioactive deposits in the stream beds where it is released, scientists have found.

A team of Duke University researchers found highly elevated levels of radium in the mud where three Pennsylvania treatment plants released wastewater. That’s even after the water was treated to greatly reduce its radioactivity, said Avner Vengosh, the professor of geochemistry who led the research team.

“We found that, indeed, there is a large enrichment of radioactive elements in those stream sediments,” Vengosh said. “It’s about 600 times the level that we found upstream.“

The Free Press WV
Treated oil and gas wastewater flows into a stream in western Pennsylvania. A new Duke study finds stream sediments at disposal sites such as this one have levels of radioactivity that are 650 times higher than at unaffected upstream sites.

The industry says the brine and other water from oil and gas wells contains some naturally occurring radioactive elements, but only at very low levels. Vengosh and his team have been focusing on the ways these elements become concentrated in stream beds.

Vengosh noted the treated wastewater was from conventional oil and gas wells, not fracking wells - although he said the Duke researchers have found similar issues where fracking wastewater had been released. He added that Pennsylvania stopped the release of treated wastewater from fracking operations some years ago.

He said one troubling issue is how high these concentrations can get - as high as ten times the radioactivity of low level radioactive waste from, say, a hospital or power plant.

“So they are exceeding the level that this site should be, defined as a low radioactive disposal site,” Vengosh said. “Obviously, they are not - it’s the middle of a stream in Pennsylvania.“

He said most of the nation’s oil and gas brine is injected into deep disposal wells, although the geology in Pennsylvania often makes that impossible. Vengosh said treating the wastewater isn’t enough.

“I don’t think there is a direct human health risk immediately from those sites,” he said. “But there is a chronic contamination of the environment. Even the treatment, it’s not sufficient to address this problem.“

Oil and gas wastewater is sometimes used to melt the ice on roads. Vengosh said that also may not be safe.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Climate change diet: Arctic sea ice thins, so do polar bears

The Free Press WV

Some polar bears in the Arctic are shedding pounds during the time they should be beefing up, a new study shows. It’s the climate change diet and scientists say it’s not good.

They blame global warming for the dwindling ice cover on the Arctic Ocean that bears need for hunting seals each spring.

For their research, the scientists spied on the polar bears by equipping nine female white giants with tracking collars that had video cameras and the bear equivalent of a Fitbit during three recent springs. The bears also had their blood monitored and were weighed.

What the scientists found is that five of the bears lost weight and four of them lost 2.9 to 5.5 pounds (1.3 to 2.5 kilograms) per day. The average polar bear studied weighed about 386 pounds (175 kilograms). One bear lost 51 pounds (23 kilograms) in just nine days.

“You’re talking a pretty amazing amount of mass to lose,” said U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist Anthony Pagano, lead author of a new study in Thursday’s journal Science .

Researchers studied the bears for 10 days in April, when they are supposed to begin putting on weight so they can later have cubs, feed the cubs and survive through the harsh winter. But because the ice is shrinking, the bears are having a harder time catching seal pups even during prime hunting time, Pagano said. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service lists polar bears as a threatened species.

Polar bears hunt from the ice. They often wait for seals to pop out of holes to get air and at other times they swim after seals. If there is less sea ice and it is broken apart, bears have to travel more — often swimming — and that has serious consequences, such as more energy use, hypothermia and risk of death, said University of Alberta biology professor Andrew Derocher, who wasn’t part of the study.

The study found that on the ice, the polar bears burn up 60 percent more energy than previously thought, based on these first real-life measurements done on the ice. A few of the bears travelled more than 155 miles (250 kilometers) in about 10 days off the northern coast of Alaska in the Beaufort Sea, Pagano said. The average bear female burned about 13,200 calories a day — six times more than an active human female.

“Just to break even they have to capture at least one seal every five to 10 days — and that’s just to break even,” said study co-author George Durner, a USGS research zoologist. “And if they don’t do that they’re going to lose weight.”

The ice cover in the Arctic grows in the winter and melts in the summer. Because of climate change, the ice is shrinking and thinning more and earlier, he said.

As the ice dwindles, “we are essentially pulling the rug out from underneath the polar bears,” Durner said.

The bear videos showed researchers all sorts of usually private aspects of polar bear life, including courtship and hunting. They recorded dramatic, and at times, bloody seal hunts from the bear’s perspective.

“You’re seeing everything it is seeing,” Durner said.

Researchers only tracked female bears because males can’t keep collars on — their heads are too small and their necks too big — Pagano said.

Blaine Griffen, a Brigham Young University biology professor who wasn’t part of the study, praised the USGS work, noting that past studies have looked at resting polar bears and polar bears on treadmills in the lab.

In the long run, climate change “will result in smaller bears that produce fewer cubs and that have lower survival rates,” Griffen said in an email.

All over the Arctic, scientists have seen evidence of weakened polar bears, Pagano said. Last month, a video of a starving polar bear went viral, but it is from a different part of the Arctic and unlikely to be related to global warming, Durner said.

“If it’s bad for polar bears, it might be affecting us in other ways — us being humans,” Durner said. “It’s part of a larger picture.”

Click Below for More...

Page 1 of 112 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »



The Gilmer Free Press

Copyright MMVIII-MMXVIII The Gilmer Free Press. All Rights Reserved