The Bureau of Land Management’s attempt on Tuesday to auction nine parcels in Utah’s West Desert for oil and gas development was a bust, with just three parcels attracting the minimum bid of $2 an acre, netting the federal agency a grand total of $14,837.
The auction, which targeted nearly 15,000 acres west of Nephi, was controversial because the lands are home to Utah’s most imperiled population of greater sage grouse. Four of the parcels overlapped “priority habitat management areas” outlined under the BLM’s sage grouse land-use plans, now under review by the Trump administration.
ST. GEORGE — The Utah Wildlife Board voted Thursday to allow an additional 50 hunting permits for cougars to be issued in the upcoming 2017-18 hunting season.
The motion to increase the number of permits from 531 to 581, several of which include areas in Southern Utah, was approved unanimously in a public meeting in Salt Lake City by the board, which is composed of seven citizens appointed by the governor.
Division staff will present their recommendations to the state wildlife board on Aug. 31. They’re suggesting 579 cougar hunting permits for the year, compared to 531 last year. The reason for the increase, state biologists say, is because cougar populations continue to grow. Wildlife advocates, however, say the state’s methods are flawed.
“We think since about 2004, (cougar populations) have probably been growing by about 3 percent per year,” said Darren DeBloois, game mammals program coordinator for DWR.
There are no firm estimates on how many mountain lions live in Utah, since the animals are elusive and hard to track. DWR models suggest numbers between 1,900 and 4,000 adult animals. Authorizing hunters to potentially take 14 percent to 30 percent of the cougar population is unconscionable, conservationists say.
“This is concerning to us as scientists,” said Allison Jones with the Wild Utah Project. “It’s concerning to wildlife lovers, cougar lovers and environmental activists.”
Norm McKee’s recent op-ed in the Insider about the Skutumpah Terrace ecosystem restoration project (70,000 acres) in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM) demonstrates how different parties, all committed to a scientific approach towards land management, can disagree about the application of conservation science to specific projects. The first step in doing good science is asking good questions, and it is at this point that McKee’s analysis goes astray...
This article was published in response to "Where is the Common Sense in Getting Things Done?" Op-Ed by Norm McKee, April 27, 2017.
The 12-year saga of the Recapture Canyon ATV trail has come to a long-awaited conclusion, barring appeal.
Over 11 miles of motorized trails along the rims of the canyon will remain open and have several improved staging areas and informational kiosks, providing ample recreational opportunities to local residents and visitors alike.
The canyon bottom will remain open to hiking, biking and horseback riding, but closed to motorized use, and the illegally constructed ATV trail, which the canyon has been reclaiming on its own in the past 10 years, will get more reclamation work, obliterating and revegetating portions along its length.
Activists say the Bureau of Land Management should not offer possible oil and gas development in central Utah where a sage grouse population is already suffering from significant population declines.
The federal agency announced it is taking public comment on an environmental analysis to possibly offer just shy of 15,000 acres in Juab County for potential oil and gas leasing.
Comments are being accepted on the proposal until May 1 by the federal agency, which could make changes to its plan based on input and review.
Allison Jones, director of the Wild Utah Project, said the flood threats by the dam were unproven, and instead argued that beaver dams helped to filter sediment out of the water and act as flood mitigators.
"If you are claiming that these 20-year-old dams are a flood control hazard, I would say 'prove it,'" Jones said.
She came out to the property to support the McAdams family and to teach fourth-grade students from Oakwood Elementary about the benefits of the natural dams.
Beaver dams help control floods, slow water flows when they're high, connect water tables to floodplains and create wetlands and wildlife habitat, said conservation biologist Allison Jones.
"You have all these ecosystem services that keep the entire stream corridor functioning as it should," said Jones, with the Wild Utah Project. "Many other municipalities across the county are starting to allow beavers back to perform this critical engineering service."
Conservation is something we all can relate to — reserving our native "pantry," for its continued sustenance of our quality of life, for inspiration and for the future. Over the last couple of decades the BLM has often tried to mirror the efforts of a nation seeking the best way to utilize but also conserve its public environmental resources in the arid and also rapidly developing West. Look deeply enough and, as BLM St. George Field Office Manager Brian Tritle said, in these conservation lands you will find the reasons that make you want to live in the Southwest and keep living here. And it's not just the recreation and scenery … healthy watersheds, diverse native plants and animals, and cultural heritage define the richness of this place. At Red Cliffs, we can demonstrate that we care enough to conserve this legacy.
In the second half of the show, John and Nell focused on an iconic bird of the American West: the Greater sage-grouse. The population of this species is down 97% from historic levels, with habitat loss also happening at a quick clip, but there are major efforts under way to protect the species. Allison Jones, the Executive Director of the Wild Utah Project, joined the show to fill us in.
This Green Earth has focused on a widely used class of pesticides called neonicotinoids before on This Green Earth, in context of their impacts on honeybees as well as native pollinators. But today, John and Nell spoke with Cynthia Palmer, Director of Pesticide Science and Regulation at the American Bird Conservancy, about the heavy impact of these chemicals on birds.
Allison Jones, director of the Wild Utah Project, said the number of permits that were issued doesn't appear to be based on scientific data, adding that DWR is making the decision based on the desires of the hunting community.
In May, New Hampshire's legislature established a commendable precedent by passing its Wildlife Corridor Bill SB 376 with the goal of protecting functioning wildlife corridors because they found these to be a "public good," and directed the state's fish and game department to identify existing and needed wildlife corridors connecting wildlife habitats in the state. We strongly encourage our legislators and other public officials to follow New Hampshire's example and help make Utah's highways safer for wildlife and people.
Wild Utah Project Director Allison Jones said that increased federal regulations were a trade-off for the FWS deciding not to list the species, which would've added a higher level of regulations under the Endangered Species Act.
More of these safe passages need to be created in the Bear River Range, where the wolverine was killed. Studies show this mountain range is a particularly important movement corridor connecting the greater Yellowstone to the Uintas and southern Rockies, and is being used by wolverines, wolves and lynx.
Executive Director, Wild Utah Project
"The reason we're gathered here,” says Allison Jones, director of the Wild Utah Project, a conservation group based in Salt Lake City, “is because representatives like Mike Noel have undue influence in the Legislature on some key public land issues that the majority of the residents of Utah, many of which live in the Wasatch Front, don't feel the same way on."
"The decision to not list was very much based on those plan revisions, 99 of them, to protect sage grouse, because the bar was set high enough and promises were made. If you undo all that, of course they are going to revisit the listing decision. That's opening a can of worms," said biologist Allison Jones, executive director for the Wild Utah Project.
Allison Jones, director of the Wild Utah Project, said governors should have consulted with more legal experts and scientists before sending a joint letter in which they claimed science does not show the animals have lived north of Interstate 40. That highway runs through New Mexico and Arizona.
Lastly, public opinion surveys have repeatedly shown that most Utahns, even in rural Utah, would be fine with wolves returning. We should not stand in their way.
Last summer, the grazing permittee unexpectedly asked the Forest Service for permission to allow him to put up to 160 grazing cow/calf pairs inside the allotment for a "few days," and the Forest Service said fine. The permittee proceeded to lock more than a 100 grazing cow pairs inside the exclosure for an extended period, with the predictable result that all the vegetation so carefully studied was eaten down to stubble, the springs trampled and fouled and the ground plastered with cow-pies.