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Covering recreation and environmental issues within California
News and information about the environment

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Polar Bear 4(d) rule – Q’s and A’s

Q: What is a special 4(d) rule?

A:  In some circumstances, the standard regulatory provisions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for a threatened species may not be the necessary and appropriate provisions for the conservation of that species. In those situations, the Secretary has the discretion under section 4(d) of the ESA to determine in a special rule those measures and prohibitions that are necessary and advisable for the conservation of that particular species. When the polar bear was determined to be a threatened species under the ESA on May 15, 2008, then  Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne exercised his discretion under section 4(d) of the ESA to determine in a special rule those measures and prohibitions necessary and advisable for the conservation the polar bear.

Q: What is the polar bear 4 (d) rule and what does this allow people to do?
A:  For the polar bear, the special rule: (a) in most instances, adopts the conservation regulatory requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for the polar bear as the appropriate regulatory provisions for the polar bear; (b) provides that incidental take of polar bears resulting from activities outside the bear’s current range is not prohibited under the ESA; (c) clarifies that the Special Rule does not alter the Section 7 consultation requirements of the ESA; and (d) maintains the standard ESA protections for threatened species when and activity is not covered by an MMPA or CITES authorization or exemption.

Q: Why didn’t the Secretary rescind the polar bear 4(d) rule?
A: The Administration is fully committed to the protection and recovery of the polar bear.  Secretary Salazar reviewed the current rule, received the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and concluded that the best course of action for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act is to wisely implement the current rule, monitor its effectiveness, and evaluate our options for improving the recovery of the species.

Using the best science available, Interior will closely monitor the success of the polar bear rule in helping the species recover, to determine if it needs to be adjusted or if there ways we can improve management practices to better protect the polar bear’s habitat.

In addition, the Secretary made this determination because even if the rule were withdrawn, by law a nearly identical interim special rule that was put in place when the polar bear was first listed as threatened would take effect. The final special rule is essentially identical to the interim special rule, except the incidental take exemption for activities within the United States was expanded from activities outside of Alaska to activities outside the range of the polar bear.

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Conservation Rule for Polar Bears Retained

Underlines Need for Comprehensive Energy and Climate Change Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May, 9, 2009) – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that he will retain a special rule issued in December for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, but will closely monitor the implementation of the rule to determine if additional measures are necessary to conserve and recover the polar bear and its habitat.

“To see the polar bear’s habitat melting and an iconic species threatened is an environmental tragedy of the modern age,” Salazar said.  “This administration is fully committed to the protection and recovery of the polar bear.  I have reviewed the current rule, received the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and concluded that the best course of action for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act is to wisely implement the current rule, monitor its effectiveness, and evaluate our options for improving the recovery of the species.” 

The polar bear is listed as a threatened species under the Act, meaning it is at risk of becoming an endangered species throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The law provides civil and criminal penalties for actions that kill or injure bears and bars federal agencies from taking actions that are likely to jeopardize the species or adversely modify its critical habitat.

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Public Workshop Set for Geothermal Energy on Federal Land

Regional Sessions Will Address Benefits of Recently Completed Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to Western States

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The public and members of the geothermal industry are encouraged to join the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service at seven regional training sessions intended to encourage environmentally sound development of geothermal energy across the Western U.S.   The seven sessions listed below begin in early April in Denver and end in Salt Lake City in June. 

The training will provide an understanding of the process involved in leasing geothermal resources on Federal lands and will describe the benefits of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for geothermal energy (www.blm.gov/geothermal_eis) published in October 2008. Each training session will be three hours in length. The project management staff from the PEIS team will be present at all meetings. The sessions are free of charge and do not require registration.

Topics will include applicable laws and regulations, identification of lands open or closed to geothermal development, the nomination and leasing process, and a review of leasing stipulations and Best Management Practices provided in the PEIS and Record of Decision.

 Dates, times and locations of the training sessions are as follows:

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Revised Critical Habitat Designated for Canada Lynx

(Feb 24, 2009) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a revised critical habitat designation for the Canada lynx, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  In total, approximately 39,000 square miles fall within the boundaries of the revised critical habitat designation in the States of Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington.

Critical habitat is a term defined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations or protection.

Areas designated as critical habitat for the Canada lynx include boreal forest landscapes that provide one or more of the following beneficial habitat elements for the lynx including snowshoe hares for prey, abundant, large, woody debris piles that are used as dens, and winter snow conditions that are generally deep and fluffy for extended periods of time. All of the designated areas have recent verified records of lynx occurrence and reproduction and as a result are considered occupied.

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Federal Agencies Move to Ease Development of Geothermal Energy

Potential for ten-fold increase in geothermal power-generation capacity on federal lands

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management today published the Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments for Geothermal Leasing in the Western United States to make more than 190 million acres of federal lands available for leasing and potential development of geothermal energy resources.

The approved development scenario, which was analyzed in the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, anticipates a potential 5,500 megawatts of new electric generation capacity from resources in the 12 western States (including Alaska) by 2015. It also estimates an additional 6,600 megawatts by 2025 for a total of 12,100 megawatts.

“Geothermal energy will play a key role in powering America’s energy future,” said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.” “All but 10 percent of our geothermal resources are found on Federal lands and facilitating their leasing and development is crucial to supplying the secure, clean energy American homes and businesses need.”

Replenished by heat sources deep in the earth, geothermal energy is a renewable resource that generates electricity with minimal carbon emissions. Direct use of geothermal energy is used to heat buildings, plus many other uses such as in greenhouses and aquaculture, offers additional possibilities for reducing the need for conventional energy sources. The approved development scenario envisions as many as 270 western communities that could benefit from such direct uses.

The Record of Decision amends 114 Bureau of Land Management resource management plans and allocates about 111 million acres of Bureau-managed public lands as open for leasing. An additional 79 million acres of National Forest System lands are also legally open for leasing. Site-specific analysis of future leasing nominations, permit applications, and operations plans can refer back to the impact analysis and best management practices included in the Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments, thus reducing the processing time of future geothermal development. These actions will reduce the time to produce energy from federal geothermal resources.

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Some Pollutants Declining in Willamette and Columbia Rivers

A study released by U.S. Geological Survey reports the Willamette, a large river associated with 70 percent of the population of Oregon, is getting cleaner in regard to some persistent toxic pollutants that are a legacy of past management practices. A 257-mile portion of the Columbia River between Umatilla, Oregon, and Skamokawa, Washington, is also showing a similar trend.

These findings are based on research by U.S. Geological Survey biologists. For 15 years, they have tracked environmental contaminants in the Pacific Northwest using ospreys and a variety of fish as environmental indicators. Ospreys are a good indicator species of aquatic ecosystem health because they eat almost exclusively large fish caught within a short distance of nest sites spaced at fairly regular intervals along large rivers. They often are directly exposed to pollutants that accumulate in aquatic food chains.

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