Archive for March, 2013

Justices uphold EPA’s policy on logging road runoff

(March 22)

Red Lodge Clearnignhouse

The Supreme Court today upheld U.S. EPA’s policy for regulating stormwater runoff on logging roads in the Pacific Northwest. The 7-1 ruling in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center backed EPA’s policy that logging roads are not industrial point-source pollution and consequently don’t require Clean Water Act permits.

The decision is a blow to environmental groups like the Portland, Ore.-based NEDC, which argued that the channeled runoff carries sediment and other contamination into forest streams, polluting their ecosystems. It was widely welcomed, however, by the timber industry. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who delivered the court’s opinion, noted that days before the court heard arguments on the case in December 2012, EPA amended its policy and formally said the logging roads are not an industrial activity — and thus do not require the permits.

Look to the World’s Forests — and the People Who Live There — for Climate Change Solutions


Huffington Post

The global dialogue around climate change tends to focus on energy policy. But there are issues beyond energy. Forest loss is now responsible for almost one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than all global transportation combined. Fortunately, real progress on this issue is within our reach. We now have a number of tools to prevent forest loss and keep the oceans at bay. One of the least appreciated is community management of forests, a proven approach that can help turn the tide.

High court to rule on forest plan challenge

(March 18)

SF Gate

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether environmental groups can challenge a federal government plan that has led to increased logging in California forests throughout the Sierra. The plan was adopted in 2004 by President George W. Bush’s administration for 11 national forests covering 11.5 million acres. In February 2012, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the government had failed to analyze the potential impact of more tree-cutting and road-building on fish in the mountain streams. Nine species of fish in those streams are listed as threatened or endangered.

The Supreme Court put that ruling on hold Monday and granted review of an appeal by the Obama administration, which argued that the suit was premature because the overall forest management plan did not authorize any specific logging projects.

USGS water study details evapotranspiration rates

(March 18)

Summit County Citizens Voice

At least 80 percent of the precipitation that falls in the hot and dry American Southwest is lost to evapotranspiration, U.S. Geological Survey scientists said in a new report that will help resource managers plan for the future. The study, published in the Journal of the American Water Resources, is the first to map average evapotranspiration rates across the continental United States. Knowing those rates is important because ir’s part of the equation for determining the amount of water available for people and ecosystems.

To arrive at their findings, the scientists compared total annual average precipitation with the long-term discharges from 838 watersheds across the U.S. Then they plugged other climate data into the equation to determine the evapotranspiration rates.

Shifting Climate Change to the Present

(March 18)

The Georgetown Public Policy Review

From a whimper to a bang, climate change is back on the agenda. President Obama must play the jobs card if he wants to win this time around. If climate change legislation is to succeed in the current political landscape, the President will need to reframe the debate around the jobs already lost, or severely at risk, because of the impact of climate change today.

Unfortunately, examples abound. According to the New York State Labor Department, Hurricane Sandy destroyed nearly 30,000 jobs in and around New York City. Ocean acidification—caused by increased atmospheric carbon—is seriously threatening commercial fishing along the US coastline. Oyster harvests in the US Pacific Northwest—worth over $110 million annually—have rapidly declined over the last five years, with thousands of jobs on the line.


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Forest Service decides to “let it burn”

(March 8)

Last year, as hot, dry conditions fueled blazes across the West, nearly 10 million acres of U.S. land were burned in what ended up being one of the costliest and most destructive wildfire seasons in the nation’s history. In the middle of all that, the U.S. Forest Service, which manages nearly 200 million acres of public land, didn’t do itself any favors when it reversed nearly two decades of national policy and ordered an “aggressive initial attack” on all blazes within the agency’s jurisdiction, no matter how small or remote.

This year, it appears the agency is moving back toward what ecologists and fire scientists have considered the best practices for almost 40 years now: fires that are sparked in remote wilderness, where they aren’t hurting anyone, should be allowed to burn. That’s because fire, as a natural part of the environment, is good for the ecosystem. Some essential animal and plant species actually thrive in fire-ravaged landscapes, and by thinning out excess timber and clearing out dry underbrush, small forest fires can help prevent large and deadlier blazes in the future.

Al Gore Wants You To Drop A Dose Of Climate Change Reality On Internet Commenters: But does mindlessly repeating the same talking points really have any effect?

(March 1)


There will always be people who ignore climate science, no matter how concrete it may be. Nevertheless, Arnold Worldwide and Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project are hoping to give the public tools to fight climate change deniers in the environment where they thrive: the Internet. Reality Drop, a social media tool launched by Al Gore this week at TED, aims to give visitors talking points that they can share in the comments section of popular online climate change stories.

One of the top stories on Reality Drop right now is a piece in BusinessWeek discussing how a tax on carbon emissions in the U.S. would be greater than any resulting revenue gain. Reality Drop visitors are encouraged to “drop reality” by rallying their social networks around the story, deciding whether it’s fact or fiction, and using pre-packaged talking points to win the argument in the comments section.

NASA: Climate change thins forests in eastern U.S.

(March 1)

USA Today

Years of drought and high temperatures have damaged not only corn and other crops nationwide but also the forests in the eastern United States. Years of drought and high temperatures are thinning forests in the upper Great Lakes and the eastern United States. Nearly 40% of the Mid-Atlantic’s forests lost tree canopy cover, ranging from 10% to 15% between 2000 and 2010, according to a NASA study released this week. Other afflicted areas include southern Appalachia, the southeastern coast and to a lesser extent, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.

Does China Really Need U.S. Coal?

(March 1)

Triple Pundit

There are many reasons to oppose exporting U.S. coal to Asia through five planned terminals in the Pacific Northwest, including huge health, safety and environmental risks. But what if the entire underlying economic rationale—China’s supposed insatiable demand for U.S. coal exports—rests on a house of cards? What if that perceived and anticipated market, even if it once existed, now no longer exists?

That’s the theme of a Greenpeace report issued this week, The Myth of China’s Endless Coal Demand: A missing market for U.S. Exports. The 18-page report identifies various factors that cast doubt on the future of Chinese demand for U.S. coal, including new national and local policies in China aimed at reducing air pollution and capping coal use, slowing economic growth, surging renewable energy growth, and increased public concern about air pollution.

International conference to tackle climate-change threats to agriculture

(March 1)

Central Valley Business Times

Scientists and policymakers from around the world are scheduled to gather March 20-22 at the University of California, Davis, to grapple with threats of climate change to agriculture and recommend science-based actions to slow its effects while meeting the world’s need for food, livelihood and sustainability.

The Climate-Smart Agriculture Global Science Conference, planned in coordination with the World Bank, builds on a 2011 international meeting on this theme in the Netherlands. Conference topics will focus on the implications of cutting-edge agricultural, ecological and environmental research for improved design of policies and actions affecting agricultural management and development; identifying farm and food-system issues, determining research gaps; highlighting emerging research initiatives; and developing transformative policies and institutions.

2013 Distinguished Lecture – Tom Tidwell: “Sustaining Forests in the Time of Climate Change”

(February 14)

“By restoration I simply mean that restoring the functions and the processes that are characteristic of healthy, resistant, resilient, ecosystems even if it’s not exactly the same systems that were there before. I can’t stress this enough what a challenge this is. The things that we all learned when we went to school, the things that we learned during our careers about what is the right prescription for this stand, what’s the right thing to do to stabilize this watershed–we need to recognize that what worked the last 20, 30, 40 years–50, 100 years, may not work in the future.”


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