#LWCF: Federal Funding Bill Marks Progress for Land and Water Conservation — The Nature Conservancy


Here’s the release from The Nature Conservancy (Heather Layman):

Congress has released its omnibus federal spending package, which sets funding levels for government agencies for Fiscal Year 2016. It also contains a number of conservation and environmental provisions that will affect America’s lands, waters, and wildlife, including a three-year reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funding that program at $450 million next year. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill later this week.

The Nature Conservancy released the following statement from its global Managing Director for Public Policy Lynn Scarlett in response to the omnibus bill:

“The omnibus bill shows promise on many of the top conservation issues facing our nation today. The bill includes greater overall funding for critical land and water conservation work that supports secure and prosperous communities across America, and we are grateful for that commitment.

“We are particularly eager to see the Land and Water Conservation Fund continue its critical work for conservation and recreation. The short-term reauthorization of LWCF in the omnibus is helpful progress that will allow continued investment in the lands and waters that sustain our communities, boost our economy and safeguard our environment. And, it will do so with higher funding next year than the program has had for many years. We’re happy to see this vital and successful 50-year-old program continue to deliver important economic, recreation, and natural resource benefits to the American people.

“However, we—and many other Americans from coast to coast—believe we must continue to work toward a fully funded and permanent future for LWCF. Conserving our nation’s lands and waters is not a short-term need; it is a long-term foundation for our future. Congressional leaders on LWCF fought hard for a permanent reauthorization, and we are grateful for their dedication and persistence. We’ll do everything we can to support that continued effort to make a sustainable, long-term future for LWCF become reality.

“In another positive development, the omnibus bill makes enhanced tax deductions for conservation easement donations permanent. This ensures that one of the most effective tools for conserving private working lands across the country will be available for future generations. In addition, dozens of harmful riders that would have undermined environmental law were originally under consideration, but were dropped from the final bill. We appreciate the efforts of members of Congress who steadfastly opposed the riders.

“But we are disappointed this bill did not include a fix for the wildfire funding problem that has plagued forest health and restoration efforts for years. This was a missed opportunity, despite bipartisan support, a great deal of effort from congressional champions and broad consensus that action is urgently needed. We will continue to work with Congress to provide a solution next year.”

“In all, the omnibus bill advances the critical benefits that conservation of lands and waters provide to American communities and families. We are grateful for all of the hard work of our champions in Congress who made this possible. This omnibus is a hopeful signal for the even greater conservation policy progress we believe is necessary and possible in the very near future.”

Impacts of #ClimateChange on the Occurrence of Harmful Algal Blooms

Click here to read the publication from the Environmental Protection Agency. Here’s the summary:

Climate change is predicted to change many environmental conditions that could affect the natural properties of fresh and marine waters both in the US and worldwide. Changes in these factors could favor the growth of harmful algal blooms and habitat changes such that marine HABs can invade and occur in freshwater. An increase in the occurrence and intensity of harmful algal blooms may negatively impact the environment, human health, and the economy for communities across the US and around the world. The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide climate change researchers and decision–makers a summary of the potential impacts of climate change on harmful algal blooms in freshwater and marine ecosystems. Although much of the evidence presented in this fact sheet suggests that the problem of harmful algal blooms may worsen under future climate scenarios, further research is needed to better understand the association between climate change and harmful algae.

Microcystis bloom in Lake Neatahwanta, NY, August, 2010. Courtesy of James Hyde, NYS DOH.
Microcystis bloom in Lake Neatahwanta, NY, August, 2010. Courtesy of James Hyde, NYS DOH.

CDOT gives local bats a warm holiday gift this season

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Transportation:

December 22, 2015 – Northeastern Colorado/CDOT Region 4 – Local mosquitoes won’t be so pleased with boxes built under new bridge on US 34.

As the project to permanently repair US 34 east of Greeley finishes up, the Colorado Department of Transportation installed a special gift under the bridge for area bats!

Four large bat box houses were installed under the new bridge on US 34, each one capable of housing hundreds of bats. The installation is not a requirement, but it is something CDOT tries to do when possible in areas that are suitable for bat populations.

The boxes were built using scrap material, but it’s the thought that counts. And according to Larry Rogstad, Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager, this is a gift that will keep on giving.

“A single brown bat can eat over 1,000 mosquito-sized insects per hour. Just think what a colony of 100 bats could do in a night,” he said. “This is typical of CDOT, an agency that is always mindful of good stewardship in natural resources, including wildlife. CPW is proud of the relationship we have with CDOT on many habitat protection projects along our public highways.”

Frequently when CDOT replaces older wood bridges, bat boxes are installed to provide new homes for the local bats. The US 34 project, east of Greeley, is a particularly good one for the bat boxes. First, there was no bridge in the area previously. This section of road was wiped out during the flood of 2013 and the bridge was put in place to ensure that doesn’t happen in future high-water events.

Just like with humans, bat “real estate” is all about location. And bats love to have a safe, dry area near readily available water supplies where their main food (those annoying mosquitoes and biting gnats) hang out.

Ryan Idler, the CDOT project engineer on US 34 east, said, “If you have ever been out in this area in the spring or summer, you know there are a lot of bugs out here and that made me think about the bats. I mentioned it to our contractor (Flatirons Constructors) and they found the time to build and install the houses.”

Crews working on the US34 project installed the boxes and even added a little Batman decoration to help the new occupants feel more at home. Previous bat box installations are visited to see if there is any evidence that anyone has moved in and the results have been so successful that future installations will be planned as well.

Click here to listen to Little Brown Bat calls.

#AnimasRiver: Are the bulkhead plugs at the Sunnyside Mine affecting water levels at the #GoldKing?

General view of the Sunnyside Mine, southwestern Colorado photo via the Denver Public Library
General view of the Sunnyside Mine, southwestern Colorado photo via the Denver Public Library

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

An EPA hunt for potentially responsible parties (PRPs) is required after environmental disasters where damage is severe. EPA and state authorities have documented tens of thousands of inactive mines around Colorado and the West that leak toxic, metals-laced waste into headwaters of the nation’s rivers, with overall cleanup costs estimated as high as $70 billion. Mine owners deemed liable — if also found to be financially “viable” — can be forced to pay portions of cleanup costs so taxpayers alone aren’t stuck with the bills.

However, in this case, the EPA already has taken responsibility. An EPA crew digging into the mine set off the deluge.

Funding for cleanup has emerged as a key issue as Silverton and San Juan County leaders explore, in closed talks with the EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, whether to seek a possible disaster designation for a federal Superfund cleanup.

Local officials say they’re reluctant to begin a Superfund process if adequate funds aren’t available to get cleanup done, possibly including a permanent water treatment plant on Hennis’ property at Gladstone.

This month, Hennis granted the EPA access to the Gladstone land until March 2016. EPA crews already installed a temporary water treatment system there to filter metals draining from the Gold King. On Nov. 25, Hennis also granted consent by San Juan Corp. to let EPA crews work at the mine until December 2016.

“The EPA has been in discussions, and expects to continue discussions, with Mr. Hennis and his counsel regarding access and Mr. Hennis’ status at the site,” an EPA spokeswoman said.

EPA officials otherwise declined to discuss the Hennis dispute and funding available for cleanup of the Animas River headwaters.

An EPA contractor recently determined the Gold King portal may be located on federal Bureau of Land Management Land, not on Hennis’ property, according to Casey Carroll, San Juan Historical Society archive director, who helped the contractor find records.

That means the BLM could be considered potentially responsible.

Hennis claims his land is valuable because it is near the Silverton Mountain ski area.

His mining ventures in the once-lucrative district above Silverton began in 1996 when he bought the Mogul Mine. He later obtained, from foreclosure in 2005, the Gold King. It contains “one of the largest tellurium deposits on the planet,” Hennis said, referring to the metal used in solar panels and other applications.

“I want to see mining back in Silverton. Beyond my narrow economic interest, I want to see it back for the community. It needs good, high-paying jobs. I want to see it for our country as well. Mining can be done in an environmentally responsible fashion. The countries of the West need to bring it back. If we want to have a high-tech industry, we need to produce our own high-tech metals.”

For years, Hennis has been battling Sunnyside Gold Corp., now owned by the Canada-based conglomerate Kinross. He contends the state-backed plugging of the nearby Sunnyside Mine years ago, to reduce contamination of Animas headwaters, filled up other connected mines in the area.

Concrete bulkhead plugs inside Sunnyside created conditions where blowouts at many mines are likely, as seen in the Gold King disaster, Hennis said.

The Sunnyside closed in 1991 and, after installation of the bulkheads, Colorado officials released Sunnyside Gold from liabilities for damage to waterways. Sunnyside reclamation manager Larry Perino said the plugs aren’t to blame for the Gold King blowout.