Four Western states are attacking the credibility of key scientists helping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s revise a long out-dated recovery plan for seriously imperiled Mexican gray wolf.
Utah Wildlife Board Chairman John Bair says that no evidence will ever convince him that Mexican wolves should be allowed in Utah, even though top wolf biologists believe the Canis lupus subspecies can’t be saved unless its recovery zone extend north of Interstate 40.
“People want to use the wolf as the silver bullet to kill the culture of the West,” Bair, a gifted auctioneer and self-proclaimed “Mormon redneck,” told the board Wednesday. “There is no need to have them here other than those political reasons.”
Utah might be harbor unoccupied wolf habitat, rich with prey animals, but the states claim 90 percent of the the Mexican wolf’s historic range is in Mexico. Officials here say the FWS’s science panel is driven by personal agendas to expand the scope of Mexican wolf recovery.
Critics say the state is driving its own agenda that puts politics and emotion above science and the law, Brian Maffly reports in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Brady Willison on Tuesday fishes a stretch of the Upper Provo that cuts through the 7,000-acre Victory Ranch, a luxury destination near Francis. Until a Nov. 4 court ruling invalidating Utah’s restrictive stream access law, such streams were not available to anglers without property owners’ permission. Stream access advocates successfully sued Victory Ranch, claiming that the landowners’ practice of keeping non-guests off the river violates an easement the public has to stream beds. But without further guidance from the court, the scope of that easement is not clear, lawyers say. Victory Ranch insists the ruling should be stayed pending its appeal, which it expects to win. Brian Maffly reports on the legal tensions arising from this landmark case in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Geologist Mike Vanden Berg of the Utah Geological Survey investigates Great Salt Lake’s microbialites. These domed structures cover about 386 square miles, or nearly 23 percent of the lake’s bed, and offer a glimpse of what the Earth was like for its first 3 billion years.
In a video, Bonnie Baxter, a biologist with Utah’s Westminster College, explains how cyanobacteria form microbialites and their imporant role in the lake’s ecosystem. The Natural History Museum of Utah will incorporate a specimen into a new exhibit. —Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune
A proposed ATV trail near this spot on the Monte Cristo plateau, overlooking Mollen’s Hollow, has been cancelled. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest has revised its travel plan for Ogden Ranger District, nixing plans for two new motorized loops through roadless areas. This district is a haven for ATV riding and the district ranger is concerned that keeping motorized users on designated routes may prove difficult. Brian Maffly reports in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Utah’s Washington County says the BLM promised to allow a transportation corridor across the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area as part of a deal to set aside the land north just of fast-growing St. George. But this place is supposed to be protected for Mojave desert tortoise, conservationists say. Would road across it defeat the purpose of the preserve and invite even more sprawl? —Brian Maffly
Utah judge Derek Pullan found that the state’s “unfittingly” titled Public Waters Access Act accomplishes the opposite of public access and declared it unconstitutional on Wednesday. The ruling affirms boaters, anglers and other recreationists’ right of access to 2,700 miles of streams that cross private land. Now it’s up to the Utah Department of Natural Resources to clarify the rules for how the public use these streams. The state is expected to appeal to the Utah Supreme Court. —Brian Maffly
Utah proposes to send 4 or 5 million tons of coal through an export terminal underdevelopment in Oakland at the former Army base. The state Community Impact Board intends to loan $53 million to four coal-producing counties to invest in the project led by Oakland developer Phil Tagami. However, critics say this is an utter misuse of money that is supposed to be spent on facilities that serve the public, not private industries. —Brian Maffly reports in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Coal load-out in Levan, Utah
Brian Maffly covers public lands and environment for The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s largest newspaper.
He can be contacted at email@example.com or 801-257-8713. Follow Brian Maffly on Twitter: @brianmaffly
Bountiful resident Earl Thomas spoke to Brian Maffly about neighbors’ concerns about a proposed swap involving the national forest land he is standing on hear about Twin Hollow. Developers hope to build on some it in exchange for 160 acres the own on the ridge north of Bountiful’s Mueller Park. The Bountiful City Council is weighing whether to endorse the swap.