December 4 , 2008

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Farmer defies government by draining wetlands

Bush angers environmentalists with last-minute rule changes

Election could alter salmon debate

Trout plants halted - it's a load of bullfrogs!


ND Farmer Just Keeps Filling the Potholes

Alvin Peterson never liked the deal his father made with the government forty years ago.  Peterson claims the government tricked his dying father into granting it conservation easements on his farm.  “They’ve done this in a sneaky way – you’d think you were living in Russia,” Peterson said.  “I’ve had trouble with them ever since they stole this land from my father.”  But Peterson, now 78 years old, has been giving the government heartburn for decades, as well.  He is constantly clearing the waterways that feed the prairie potholes, explaining; “I didn’t make the waterways, the good Lord did.”  Fish and Wildlife theorizes the protected potholes will attract waterfowl, but Peterson disputes that idea.  “Those wetlands, the ducks can’t survive there.  They’re so full of cattails, there is no place for them [the ducks] to breathe and no place for them to land.”  The feds aren’t throwing in the towel though.  They charged him with illegally emptying wetlands and he was convicted last month, the second time in four years.  He faces up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine, although Assistant U. S. Attorney Cameron Hayden said he won’t request jail time.  Peterson was first convicted of pothole crimes in 2004, sentenced in 2005 to two years probation and a $4,000 fine.  As soon as his probation ended, Peterson was back at work, draining the potholes again.  Then, federal wildlife agents entered his property under protection of armed U. S. marshals and filled in a waterway to re-establish the potholes.  Peterson says the bodyguards were unnecessary.  “I’d never hurt a Fish and Wildlife man,” he said.  “They suffer by living.”  Lloyd Jones, the Dakota’s refuge manager, said the government began buying conservation easements in 1958 and has spent $60 million to control some 1.5 million acres in the upper Midwest.  Although the program has not always been trouble free, disputes are generally worked out.  “Ninety-nine percent can be worked out,” he said.  “Alvin would be the 1 percent.” 

Bush Administration Changes the Rules

The Bush administration has environmentalists howling, again, due to last-minute changes to federal rules.  New rules will speed oil shale development by 2 million acres in the West.  There will be an auction for drilling rights near three national parks, changes to the Endangered Species Act, and an exemption for large farms regarding air pollution reporting.  It is hardly unprecedented as the outgoing administration tries to put rules in place that the new administration wouldn’t go for.  One of the more controversial rule changes involves the Endangered Species Act.  The changes, which environmentalists view as significant, would eliminate the requirement to conduct an independent review by either the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of any federal project that could affect a protected species.  The rule states:  “Federal agencies are not required to consult on an action when ... the effects of such action are manifested only through global processes and (i) cannot be reliably predicted or measured at the local scale, or (ii) would result at most in an extremely small, insignificant local impact, or (iii) are such that the potential risk of harm to species or habitat are remote.”  Environmental groups’ lawsuits forced the federal government to list the polar bear as threatened because of claims global warming is causing their ice-floes to melt.  Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cautioned it should not be an excuse to regulate “greenhouse gas” emissions, however. John Kostyak of the National Wildlife Federation views the rule change with a jaundiced eye.   “The agencies that are pushing these projects through are inherently biased…[and] they don’t like delays associated with endangered species,” he said.

Klamath Dams May Fall

The Bush administration is backing a plan to breach four dams on the Klamath River in Oregon and California, marking a 180 degree change from its previous position.  Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said, “We had our directive from the president to find a collaborative solution so we don’t keep pitting people against each other.”  The Klamath plan is supposed to help salmon recovery while allowing irrigators enough water to continue farming, although details are lacking on that front.  Proponents think the time is right to resolve the issue of fish versus farmers with the election of Republican senator James Risch of Idaho and Senator-elect Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, who beat Oregon’s Republican Gordon Smith in November.  “Never before has there been a better time to create a regional forum so people of the Northwest can directly influence how to recover the upriver stocks [of salmon] while making the affected communities whole,” said Chris Wood, of Trout Unlimited.  However, Norm Semanko, of the Idaho Coalition for Water, says Risch will do right by his constituents, who represent business, agriculture and statewide local governments.  “You’ve got someone (Risch) with a proven interest and understanding of the issue,” Semanko said.  At present, the discussion focuses on Klamath River dams, but the Snake and Columbia Rivers are sure to soon enter into the picture.  Secretary Kempthorne was reluctant to compare the Snake and Columbia to the Klamath situation.  “We have to evaluate each situation on a case by case basis,’ he said.

California Loses Trout to Save Frogs

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has scored another win and California sportsmen lose, big time.  The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reached a settlement with the litigious group by agreeing to stop stocking trout in 175 lakes and streams in California.  The ban takes effect immediately.  CBD and the Pacific Rivers Council sued the DFG in October 2006, charging the agency should be required to complete an Environmental Impact Statement for each lake or stream before it could plant trout in any of them.  DFG decided to negotiate rather than lose access to all the lakes and streams.  “We actually were pleased with the negotiations,” said Jordan Traverso, DFG deputy director.   “When we got into court November 7, we were told to work something out or stop the plants.”  State and federal biologists agree that the ban on trout plants will have no affect on frog and tadpole populations.  To illustrate how ridiculous the no-trout mandate is, sportsman, Tom Stienstra, reported that all the trout were netted out of a wilderness lake in the Humphrey Basin as a test, and killed to protect the frogs.  The next year all the frogs died, killed by a chitrid fungus.  Regarding the frog deaths, Roland Knapp of the Sierra Nevada Research Laboratory said, “It’s a mystery and we don’t know who the real bad guy is.”  Stienstra writes the CBD lawsuit will having a chilling effect on other sports.   “The success of this lawsuit by environmental factions should throw a scare into all who fish or hunt.  With the same premise, that an EIR is required before fish are stocked or hunting is permitted, a similar lawsuit could shut down virtually any fishing or hunting program.”  And, as they say, what starts in California will spread to the rest of the nation sooner than later.


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