Archive for November, 2012

Research-driven Green Revolution is possible even in dry regions

(November 15)

Gulf Times

Despite the worrying news of increasing drought and the unpredictability brought by climate change, agricultural research is providing practical solutions to reduce vulnerability in marginal areas and increase farmers’ productivity in higher-potential dry areas. ICARDA’s– the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas – research suggests that a number of simple approaches and practices for better managing natural resources can improve the lives of rural communities.

Despite the proven benefits of interventions, a food secure future in dryland regions is impossible at a larger scale without effective implementation. This requires participatory learning, involving farmers in the development and dissemination of new technologies, and equipping them with the skills and knowledge to maintain productivity in drier conditions.

EPA seeks existing data for nationwide fracking study

(November 14)

Redlodge Clearinghouse

Federal regulators are reaching out to industry, environmentalists and researchers for any peer-reviewed data that shed light on hydraulic fracturing’s effect on drinking water. U.S. EPA plans to sift through the research to inform its own study of the widespread oil and gas extraction method known as fracking. The report, due to be complete in 2014, will assess the safety of the practice, which involves blasting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water and sand underground.

Scientists at Missoula climate workshop relate changes to forest users

(November 10)


As a climate scientist, you can talk about seasonal change in precipitation. But finding a way to relate the hard science to the interests of forest managers, lumber mill owners, trout fishermen and downhill skiers requires some research of its own. “We’re trying to explain that these things are already with us,” said Penny Morgan, a fire ecologist with the University of Idaho who led the Northern Rockies research team at the workshop. “This is a chance to communicate how does it play out in the Bitterroot Valley or around Missoula? We’re trying to show people what’s vulnerable to change.”

Pine beetle working group seeks state, federal funding for war on tiny pest

(November 9)

Rapid City Journal

Federal, state and local governments are spending millions of dollars a year in the Black Hills to battle the mountain pine beetle, yet members of a pine-beetle working group said Thursday that the fight needs more money. And members of the Black Hills Regional Mountain Pine Beetle Working Group intend to ask for help from Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the South Dakota Legislature. Neiman Timber Co. estimates that enough trees have been damaged beyond commercial value by pine beetles in the current infestation to keep the Spearfish saw mill running for five years. And every day the beetles swarm, more valuable timber is lost. The state is in a pine beetle mitigation effort that will have spent $8 million by the end of 2014. The state money has been committed to work in Custer State Park, other state property and assistance for private property owners battling the bugs on their land.

The U.S. Forest Service expenditures on behalf of the beetle battle have been even greater. And more money could be headed for national forests in states plagued by beetles through a proposal in Congress that would allocate $200 million through the multi-year federal Farm Bill. That legislation is hung up over disagreements between the Senate and the House.

Evidence in soil shows future change

(November 8)

Round Up Daily

New Mexico State University’s College of Agriculture has been conducting research on Las Cruces soil to predict future climate change. Soil holds the record of the past; when researchers dig trenches and look at the soil of Las Cruces they can tell when there was a significant change in the environment. By uncovering the past, researchers now have a solid prediction of climate change for the future said Curtis Monger, professor of plant and environmental sciences at NMSU.

Yellow Jacket water district fights for right to tap White River

(November 7)

The Denver Post

A western Colorado water district is fighting for rights to divert and store huge amounts of water from the White River — enough to sustain a large city — for uses that include oil shale industrial development. Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District has proposed to build reservoirs east of Meeker to store the water and make it available to oil and gas companies. “There’s plenty of water in the White River,” Yellow Jacket attorney Sarah Klahn said. “There ought to be an effort to keep water in this state, rather than letting it flow downstream to California.” A coalition of residents whose taxes fund Yellow Jacket, a governmental district, opposes the project.


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Better Forests From Miniature Trees

(October 25)


We think of forests as full of tall, soaring trees. But newly engineered dwarf trees might actually do a better job revitalizing our woodlands. Researchers say that smaller engineered trees can provide more wood, better drought protection, and more greenhouse mitigation. Steven Strauss, a biologist at the University of Oregon says: “We think dwarf trees will tend to use less water, and take resources from the environment more efficiently due to larger roots relative to shoots.”

Researchers modified plant hormones that influence several aspects of growth and development. The researchers say that depending on the genes selected, they could modify trees to be almost any height. Dwarf trees have a bigger root mass to height ratio, making them ideal for cleaning up an area after a spill, or securing soils from blowing away. And shorter, thicker, and straighter trunks might create higher-value wood products in many tree species, as well as saving on water in drought-stricken regions.

Climate change report calls Utah policies ‘risky’

(October 25)

The Salt Lake Tribune

Utha’s water and other national resource policies do not prepare the state for the impacts of climate change, according to a new report by the environmental group Utah Rivers Council. The state is putting at risk its vital water supply, its farms and ranches and the well-being of its urban population.

The report is an update and a call to action, which takes the Utah Division of Water Resources to task for failing to account for the impacts if global warming and changing precipitation patterns. The group proposes stronger conservation plans, both statewide and in communities such as those in Washington County. It also calls for farmland protections and changes in Utah’s tax system so that property taxes no longer subsidize water use.

Climate change-caused fires raise regulatory questions

(October 24)

Idaho Statesman

As factors outside the market change, such as the severity and frequency of wildfire induced by climate change, the institutional structure must also change to accommodate new conditions. This summer’s wildfires provide a clear, and frightening, example of how climate change might alter the conditions in which our market activities occur. As demonstrated by the wildfire studies, contemporary wildfire patterns represent two related things: uncertainty, and the sudden requirement that homeowners and communities bear the costs of everyone’s climate-altering behavior. The future of wildfire, and its effects on Idaho, is uncertain because our existing patterns of behavior, including our institutional and regulatory structures, emerged over a period in which both wildfire risk and human settlement patterns and expectations were substantially different. And the increased wildfire risk — and actual damage to homes and livelihoods — forces homeowners and residents to bear the costs of climate-affecting behaviors without the legal protections that generally accompany changes in the rights and responsibilities associated with land ownership.

Wyoming’s extreme wildfires may be sign of future

(October 21)


More than 1,300 fires burned about 600,000 acres across Wyoming this season. The fires started earlier than normal, ended later and in some areas burned hotter and more erratically. State, federal and local agencies spent roughly $90 million fighting them. The Arapaho Fire consumed about 90 buildings and cost more than $16 million. With no trees or shrubs to hold down the soil, rain caused walls of mud and silt to fill creek beds, culverts and ditches. And the size and severity of the Arapaho Fire may be a harbinger of things to come. Overgrown and fire-prone forests, rising temperatures and more people on the landscape mean Wyoming may not only see more fires, but more catastrophic ones.

White River National Forest acreage for gas drilling to shrink

(October 21)

The Aspen Times

People have an extra month to comment on a federal study aimed at cutting nearly in half the acreage in the White River National Forest that is readily available for gas leasing.

Forest officials have given the public until Nov. 30 (instead of Oct. 30) to submit comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), a 622-page document aimed at directing oil and gas drilling on the forest for the next 15 to 20 years.

The proposed action is one of four alternatives being considered in the DEIS process, ranging from leaving the leasing program as it is to ending all new leasing on WRNF lands. The agency, in its proposed action described in Alternative C, strikes a middle ground by reducing the WRNF acreage that is readily available for leasing from the current level of 417,000 acres to 260,000 acres.

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