Week of April 26 , 2004

 

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World

U.S. Commission on Oceans calls for Local Participation, Better Coordination

Oceans in deep trouble, Great Lakes need help, too says federal report

WASHINGTON -- Citing increasing pressures from pollution, overfishing and residential development, a federal commission on April 21 called for sweeping changes in how the U.S. manages the oceans, including allocating billions of dollars in gas and oil royalties for ocean preservation. 

 

The Congressionally charted U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy released its draft report, marking the single most comprehensive review of our oceans in 35 years. After governors from all 50 states have 30 days to comment, the Commission will issue its final report to Congress and President Bush.

 

Sixty million American jobs and more than half of our nation's GDP are directly tied to ocean and coastal economies. The Commission recognized that our oceans are a critical source of food, commerce, energy, recreational opportunities and more. In fact, travel and tourism is the fastest growing sector of coastal industries.

 

Unlike last summer's politically driven Pew report, the Ocean Commission report is thoroughly balanced with facts, figures and the best available science. The scope of this report dwarfs Pew's arbitrary recommendations for ecosystem-based management, as it balances the need for conservation, trade, recreation, development, global governance and energy. This is especially noteworthy given the fact that Pew failed to consider the cost of its proposals.

 

"There is no human in Pew's ecosystem, which makes its report essentially useless for rational policy-making," said Congressman Richard Pombo, Chairman of the Committee. "Our oceans and fisheries are making great progress, but telling fishermen they cannot be involved in regional fisheries councils would be like organizing a PTA and then telling parents they cannot take part. It just doesn't make sense."

 

The Commission concluded that human actions have 

seriously jeopardized the health of the oceans, from huge and toxic algae blooms to depletion of fish stocks. Only a major overhaul of federal policy could reverse the trend, the commission found in its 413-page report.

 

While the report focused primarily on oceans, the commission also addressed the Great Lakes and urged steps to curb problems caused by pollution and invasive species such as the zebra mussel.

 

"If our report is adopted, the payoff will be great," said retired Adm. James Watkins, committee chairman. "It's now obvious that ocean resources are not limitless, nor are ocean waters capable of continual self-cleansing. The point is this: It's up to us to find ways to use and enjoy the oceans in a sustainable way."

 

The Chicago Tribune reports the Commission added "To attack the problems the federal government must work to streamline ocean management, which is spread among "a confusing array of agencies at the federal, state and local levels." The report also called for a fundamental change in how the government addresses ocean problems, urging "ecosystem-based management," which focuses on entire regions, rather than the current policy of addressing each species or habitat in isolation.

 

 

The commission recommended creation of a National Ocean Council, to be chaired by an assistant to the president, and for doubling the amount of federal funding for ocean research. The report was the government's first comprehensive look at ocean policy since the Stratton Commission issued Our Nation and the Sea more than 30 years ago.

 

The commission calls for $4 billion a year from oil and gas royalties paid to the government from offshore drilling operations to be placed into an Ocean Policy Trust Fund. The commission estimates it would cost $1.3 billion to implement its recommendations in the first year, $2.4 billion the second and $3.2 billion in subsequent years.


National

Report sets cost of endangered species protection in billions

Agencies not adding in costs of salaries, operations, maintenance and services

The yearly cost of enforcing the Endangered Species Act runs into the billions of dollars, not millions as reported to Congress by government agencies, says an audit released last week by property rights groups.  Despite the estimated $3 billion per year spent, the government has little to show for its recovery efforts, says the Property and Environment Research Center, which conducted the study for the Pacific Legal Foundation.

   

The audit reviewed 19 federal agencies that spend "significant" amounts to comply with the act and found that salaries, operations, maintenance and services associated with enforcing the ESA are not reported to Congress. For example, the report says the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining reported no "reasonably identifiable" expenditures despite having what the researchers consider millions in ESA-related costs. The report gives no specific examples of these costs.

   

Also missing from government estimates, says the report, is money spent on protecting species in foreign countries -- 517 foreign endangered species and 41 foreign threatened species from African elephants to Corsican swallowtail butterflies. In its budget for next year, the USFWS is requesting $8.6 million for international wildlife trade and conservation, but does not specify how much would be spent enforcing international laws to protect endangered species.

   

"The Endangered Species Act (ESA) may be a waste of taxpayer dollars since only a few species benefit from the government's expenditures. Fifty percent of reported expenditures are for seven species, just 0.6 percent of the ESA list," the report says. As of February, 1,260 species were officially threatened or endangered, but only a dozen species have been "recovered" and removed from the list since it was created 30 years ago as part of the government act.

    

The last report filed by the FWS in December estimates $610 million was spent in 2000, but the study says the actual cost is closer to four times that amount. The FWS administers the Endangered Species Act and maintains the list. "From 1989 to 2000, the FWS estimates that a little over $3.5 billion of taxpayer dollars was spent on ESA-related activities. We recognize today that the actual cost of protecting species, including private costs as well as government expenditures, may easily reach or exceed that figure per year," the report says.

Brian Kennedy, spokesman for the House Resources Committee, says the report shows "either a success rate of 0.01%, or a failure rate of 99.9 %" in helping endangered species recover enough to be removed from the list. The audit reviewed 19 federal agencies that spend "significant" amounts to comply with the act and found that salaries, operations, maintenance and services "clearly" associated with enforcing the ESA are not reported to Congress.

 

Congress also doesn't get a report on money spent to protect species in foreign countries -- 517 foreign endangered species and 41 foreign threatened species from African elephants to Corsican swallowtail butterflies. In its budget for next year the FWS is requesting $8.6 million for international wildlife trade and conservation, but does not specify how much would be spent enforcing international laws to protect endangered species.

   

"The government has no idea what the ESA is truly costing, but it does give us an idea of the enormous human costs of ESA regulation -- and it's often devastating," said Emma T. Suarez, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento, Calif.-based organization that defends property owners against endangered species lawsuits.

    

"People have lost their jobs, businesses, homes, farms and even their lives to protect plants, insects and fish," she said.

 

The economic impact of the Endangered Species Act is not reported to Congress. The report says $300 million a year in federal efforts and regulations to protect the habitat of the California gnatcatcher bird also caused a one-year delay on construction of a high school, costing an additional $1 million locally. Farmers in the Klamath Basin of Oregon lost nearly $54 million in crops in 2001 when irrigation water was shut off to protect the shortnose sucker and coho salmon.

      

 Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican and House Resources Committee chairman, called the report "astounding" and proof that the law "is broken." "American taxpayers are spending billion after billion to fund programs that don't work," Mr. Pombo said. "That's like buying a new set of tires every year for a car that doesn't run. But until Congress reforms the law, this is essentially what will continue to happen."

   

For a full copy of the report: http://www.pacificlegal.org/misc/esa_costs.pdf

 

 


Tribe loses at casino hearing

The 7th St. Casino in Kansas City, Kan., won't be reopening any time soon after the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma lost a key court decision Wednesday, April 7 in Topeka.

 

The Kansas City Star reports U.S. District Court Judge Julie A. Robinson denied the tribe's request for a temporary restraining order, which sought to block a federal agency's March 24 finding that tribal gambling on the land was illegal. That finding was cited as justification for Friday's city and state police raid that closed the tiny gambling parlor, which opened last year in a mobile building.

 

“We're obviously disappointed,” said tribal lawyer David McCullough after the hearing. “They have effectively closed the Wyandotte Casino.  “But it's not over,” McCullough said of the long-running dispute with Kansas authorities. “The fact that it's Indian land and beyond state jurisdiction is beyond dispute.”

 

State and local government officials hailed the ruling, which they said upheld the state's right to regulate gambling. The judge's decision turned in part on an obscure decision recently rediscovered in a 1996 case involving the Wyandotte Tribe before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver.  In that initial legal action, in which the state and other parties aimed to block the tribe's announced gambling plans for the Kansas City, Kan., site, the appeals court ordered that no tribal gambling could take place there until that case and related matters were settled.

 

That case, now before Robinson, is still pending eight years later. Lawyers for the state argued successfully April 7 that the appeals court's no-gambling order was still in effect.  Considering the dispute's history of slow motion through the courts, Assistant Kansas Attorney General Steve Alexander also told Robinson that state and local authorities simply could not allow the casino to stay open while awaiting a final decision.

 

Though the older case is now moving forward again, Robinson set a May 4 hearing on whether the tribe's latest action should be dismissed. Tribal lawyers had no comment on their next move.

 

Friday morning, two dozen agents representing Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline and other state and local law

enforcement agencies raided and closed the facility, alleging it was operating in violation of state law. Cash and more than 150 slot machines were seized, and two casino workers were charged with felony gambling crimes. The Kansas Attorney General's office Wednesday estimated the value of the seized items at $1.5 million.

 

The tribe opened the casino last August in a mobile structure across the street from City Hall after the National Indian Gaming Commission granted preliminary approval. 

 

Phil Hogen, chairman of the Indian Gaming Commission, acknowledged last fall that the casino's unannounced opening caught the federal agency by surprise and said it would conduct a review to ensure that all requirements were met.  After more than six months of review, the commission notified the tribe March 24 that the land was not eligible for gambling and gave the tribe a week to respond.

 

The tribe immediately went to court, naming the commission and nearly a dozen other federal, state and local officials as defendants, including the Kansas City, Kan., police and state law enforcement agents who staged Friday's raid.

 

Commission lawyers disclosed in court Wednesday that the agency would meet with tribal officials next week to discuss the March 24 decision. If the tribe fails to overturn the finding, the full commission would be asked to consider disciplinary action against the tribe. Lawyers for the tribe and the commission argued that point Wednesday, noting that because the March 24 finding was not a final action, it was an improper basis for Kansas authorities to close the casino.

 

The tribe claims the state had no authority on the land because it remains sovereign tribal territory.  Members of the Wyandotte tribe helped to settle Wyandotte County in the early 1800s, but the tribe has been based on its own reservation land in Oklahoma since the 1850s. It opened the casino on land it bought in 1996 next to a historic tribal cemetery.

 

When the tribe bought land next door to the cemetery and sought to have it declared as casino-eligible reservation land, Kansas challenged the action in court, where the case is still pending.

 


Court Upholds Tribal Power It Once Denied

WWASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled April 19 that Indian tribes have the authority to prosecute members of other tribes for crimes committed on their reservations. And because tribes act as sovereign nations in such prosecutions, the court said, ordinary principles of double jeopardy do not apply and do not bar the federal government from bringing a subsequent prosecution for the same offense.

 

The NY Times reports the 7-to-2 decision was welcomed by Indian tribes, which in a 1990 Supreme Court decision lost the authority to enforce their criminal laws against members of other tribes. Congress promptly amended the Indian Civil Rights Act to restore that power. The case on Monday required the Supreme Court to decide both the nature and the validity of the Congressional action.

Indian law is complex, and the answers to these questions were not obvious. The practical implications were evident, however. Under a doctrine devised by the Supreme Court in 1922, the constitutional protection against double jeopardy does not apply to consecutive prosecutions by "separate sovereigns" — typically, a state prosecution followed by a federal prosecution, or vice versa.

 

Under Supreme Court precedent, tribes lack power to prosecute non-Indians. Precedent also makes clear that a tribe exercises its sovereign authority when it prosecutes its own members, and that double jeopardy therefore does not apply. The question in the new case was whether, in exercising its restored authority to prosecute nonmembers, a tribe continues to act as a sovereign.


House Bill Would Exempt Non-native birds from Migratory Bird Treaty Act
On April 22, the House Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans unanimously passed HR 4114, a bill that would amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to exempt non-native birds from protection under the Act.

 

 Sponsored by Subcommittee Chairman Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), the bill seeks to clarify Congress' intent that non-native birds should not be protected under the MBTA. Gilchrest stated that during the first 80 years of the act, the USFWS and state resource agencies all operated with the understanding that MBTA applied only to native birds. As such, non-native, invasive birds were managed by the state wildlife agencies if

they interfered with other native species or native ecosystem functions.

 

In 2001, the D.C. Circuit Court changed this interpretation when it ruled that the non-native mute swan was protected under MBTA because the Act generically refers to "swans" and does not distinguish between migratory native species and a non-native invasive bird. The bill will now go to the full Resources Committee for further consideration.

 

The bill has additional ramifications with many suggesting the double-crested cormorant is considered non-native to the Great Lakes region and would be removed from further FWS management regulations.


Montana ranchers win easement case against U.S. Forest Service

Federal ruling has long-range national ramifications over other property rights cases

An attorney said that ranchers should challenge unfair decisions by the U.S. Forest Service, so the Mountain States Legal Foundation president and chief legal officer Perry Pendley represented Montana ranchers who prevailed in federal court over an easement that the Forest Service said did not belong to them.

     

It was a speedy trial, because only two days after hearing arguments on Dec. 10, 2003, Montana Federal District Court ruled in favor of Stephen and Jean Roth of Darby, Mont. The court held that the Roths own an easement in the Bitterroot National Forest, created in 1897, and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area, created in 1964, for Tamarack Lake Dam and Reservoir, and four ditches that deliver water to the Roths’ ranch.

     

The Roths’ lawsuit was filed by the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

     

According to the foundation’s website, in 1998 the Roths purchased 750 acres in Ravalli County. In 1990 they bought 50 adjacent acres. Both purchases included water rights to operate their Trapper Creek Ranch, including Tamarack Lake Dam and Reservoir, and four ditches. The Roths asserted that, under congressional acts adopted in 1866 and 1891, they held easements for these facilities, which the Forest Service could not prevent them from using. When the Forest Service denied them access, the Roths sued the United States under the Quiet Title Act.

    

Pendley said the judge made a great decision and rightfully so.  "The federal government came in with a pitiful case and probably shouldn’t have filed," Pendley said. The problem stemmed from federal agencies "trying to push the envelope."  He said that the Forest Service should stop objecting to people’s rights, even though they might be in a wilderness area. Pendley added, "The Roths argued that, once their predecessors had constructed the Tamarack Lake Dam and Reservoir on federal lands, pursuant to the Act of 1891, the easement authorized by Congress vested automatically."

     

The United States countered that those rights did not vest automatically; the Secretary of the Interior must have approved

that easement. The court rejected that argument because it was at odds with the position espoused by the U.S. Department of the Interior beginning in 1910, a position embraced twice by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The court also concluded that to accept the United States’ new position would be to condemn the 1891 Act of Congress to "a sort of legal purgatory."

 

Pendley said that the U.S. Forest Service had tried to force the Roths to take out a permit to access their ditches.

 

In the suit, the United States claimed that that the 12-year statute of limitations for filing a Quiet Title Act lawsuit had expired because the Forest Service had always disputed their claim. The court rejected the argument pointing to a 1998 document in which the Forest Service admitted just the opposite: the Roths had an easement.

     

Pendley said that despite the specific language of titles and patents, even patents signed by Presidents of the United States, federal agencies insist that landowners have no rights and must apply for a revocable license to access their property or sue, he said.

     

Pendley said that the Roths’ ditches had protected rights-of-way under both the 1866 Act and the 1891 Act. He said that in 1975, a Forest Service district ranger wrote a review of old records that revealed ditches "were in place prior to the creation of the Bitterroot National."

 

Pendley said that the Forest Service knew it had acted adversely to the Roths’ rights, and that the Forest Service knew the Roths’ rights to the dam and reservoir had vested automatically because the United States had taken that position for nearly 100 years. The Forest Service knew the Roths’ ditch rights predated the Bitterroot; it admitted that in 1975, he said.

    

Pendley said that ranchers need to know that they should question when federal officials tell them they do not have an easement. He said that he wondered how many people have given into the federal claims when they should not.

     

Pendley said he did not know if the federal government would appeal the decision.

 


General

GPS-enhanced EPIRB standards found lacking

Independent testing funded by the BoatU.S. and West Marine have determined that international standards for certification of GPS-equipped 406 MHz emergency beacons are flawed, BoatU.S. said last week.  The standards “fail to take into account the real-world conditions that often exist when beacons are activated,” the study found.

 

EPIRBs (emergency position-indicating radio beacons) are the marine version of the radio transmitting units that use satellite technology to locate an individual or boat in distress. They have been in use for nearly three decades, although the personal locator beacons were first cleared for use in the continental United States last July.

 

As a result of the testing, West Marine, the nation’s largest retailer of boating equipment and accessories, said it is offering customers full refunds or exchanges on two units manufactured by McMurdo Ltd., the British electronics firm.

The units are the McMurdo G4 406 MHz GPS EPIRB and the McMurdo Fastfind Plus 406MHZ personal locator beacon.

 

Both “failed to reliably acquire a GPS location ‘fix’ under operational, real-world conditions,” according to a statement distributed by BoatU.S. Buyers who “paid a premium” for the added security of GPS pinpoint position locating “are apparently not getting what they paid for and are operating under false expectations,” BoatU.S. said in the statement.

 

BoatU.S. says six units from three manufacturers were tested. All allowed a Doppler location to be derived — considered “a minimal acceptable level of distress alerting.” The six beacons were tested aboard a life raft and were floated in the water tethered to an inflatable or held by a swimmer in moderate 1- to 8-ft swells. The study showed clearly that not all these beacons operated equally.

 


Indiana

Emerald ash borer confirmed in Indiana

DNR begins steps to contain spread of pest

After receiving lab results from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, DNR officials confirmed that the emerald ash borer had infected a tree in Steuben County. This is the first confirmation of the ash tree-killing pest in Indiana. The ash tree-eating pest was discovered Monday at the Yogi Bear Jellystone campground on Barton Lake in Steuben County about 40 miles north of Fort Wayne. 

           

The adult emerald ash borer is slender with a bright metallic coppery green color. It is about one-third of an inch long. The larval, or immature stage of the insect destroys live ash trees by eating the layers under the bark of the tree that supplies nutrients. After those layers are destroyed, the tree starves to death within a short time. Infestations are most easily identified by tiny D-shaped holes that are visible on the tree's bark. The bark may also develop lengthwise cracks or fissures.

           

To date, millions of ash trees have fallen prey to the emerald ash borer and a number of Michigan counties are under quarantine. The pest also has been found a few miles east of the Indiana border near Hicksville, Ohio and a few miles to the north in Quincy, Mich.

           

State Entomologist Dr. Robert Waltz announced last week that the state would begin to take steps to contain the spread of the infestation. The first step will be a survey of the infected area. The survey will determine, first, the number of ash trees that could serve as a host for the pest. Second, the survey will determine the extent of the infestation. Both of these steps are in preparation for trapping the emerald ash borer and the

removal of all ash trees within a half-mile radius of the infestation.

 

Waltz announced the DNR is placing quarantine on Jamestown Township in Steuben County. The quarantine will forbid the transportation out of the township of any ash tree, including nursery stock, any ash logs or untreated lumber with the bark attached, and composted or uncomposted ash chips or bark chips one inch or larger. Lastly, no cut firewood from any species of tree grown in Jamestown Township may be taken out of the township.

           

Waltz also suggests steps that Hoosiers should take to help retard the spread of the emerald ash borer to Indiana. "First, do not bring into Indiana firewood from Michigan or Ohio, particularly if the bark is still attached. In general, it is best to debark all firewood if you're traveling and be sure to burn all the wood you brought with you. Under federal quarantine, it is illegal to transport firewood from infested areas to any site outside the quarantined area."

 

 

Finally, Waltz suggested homeowners can help by keeping their trees well watered and watch out for signs of this pest. "The emerald ash borer first attacks weak and troubled trees. Ash trees need an inch of water per week to remain healthy. It's important to maintain tree vigor," he said.

           

Additional information about the emerald ash borer is available on the DNR Web site at: www.in.gov/dnr/entomolo/pestinfo/ashborer.htm

 


Hoosier Riverwatch to present volunteer stream monitoring workshop May 1

Clean, abundant water is a valuable resource for all Hoosiers. Whether as a source for drinking water, water for business and industry or for recreation, it is irreplaceable. And once again this year a number of Hoosiers will become trained to help monitor this precious resource.

           

The May 1 volunteer stream monitoring workshop will be held at Ft.Harrison State Park from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The training is free, but class size is limited to 24 participants. Persons interested in participating must make a prior reservation.  The workshop will provide general education in water quality issues and hands-on training in monitoring the health of rivers and streams through physical, chemical, and biological testing.

After completion of the training, volunteers can perform stream testing for a wide variety of possible pollutants. They then submit their data to a statewide volunteer monitoring database that makes the information available to anyone. But most of all, they are then ready to widen the circle and share their new knowledge and skills with others.

                       

For reservations and directions, contact Jennifer Campbell at the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District at jennifer-campbell@iaswcd.org or by telephone at 317-780-1765, ex. 3.

           

For more info about the Riverwatch program:  www.riverwatch.in.gov.

 


Michigan

Humphries selected as DNR Director

Becky is first female to get natural resources post

Rebecca A. Humphries, a 25-year veteran employee of the Michigan DNR, was selected to be the next DNR Director.

 

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission unanimously selected Humphries, who currently is the DNR Wildlife Division Chief, from among five finalist candidates following a national search.

 

"We were very impressed with the interview performances of all the finalist candidates," said NRC Chairman Keith Charters. "I am pleased that the Commission unanimously supported selecting the next DNR Director from within the Department's ranks. Becky's experience, management approach and strong relationships with the DNR's constituent and stakeholder groups will help guide the agency toward a  successful future."

 

A "thrilled" Gov. Jennifer Granholm immediately called to congratulate Humphries, an avid hunter who becomes the

sixth woman to head a state department. "She will be great," said Granholm's press secretary, Liz Boyd. "We applaud the commission."

 

Humphries' background includes experience in four DNR divisions, with extensive field management experience. Her diverse range of duties in the agency has included area field wildlife biologist to acting resource management deputy, directing and coordinating the work of several divisions.

 

"It is imperative we move into the future of resource management in this great state with a strong commitment to our natural resources, our agency, and our many partners," Humphries said. "I look forward to working with our dedicated staff and all our stakeholders. Collectively, we can make a difference in preserving the integrity of our natural resources for future generations."

 

Humphries, an avid waterfowler and turkey hunter, replaces K. L. Cool, whose contract expires June 1.


Trout farm case settled

Michigan DNR officials announced the recent conclusion of negotiations with operators of an Antrim County trout farm. Owners of the Green River Trout Farm in Chestonia Township agreed to a series of structural modifications to their facility that will better protect the Green River, a tributary of the Jordan River.

 

"We are very pleased to announce this settlement," said DNR Resource Deputy George Burgoyne. "By this agreement, the operators of this hatchery have signaled their strong commitment to ensuring the future health of the Green and Jordan rivers. The hatchery can be operated effectively in a way that does not negatively impact the environment, so everyone wins."

 

Owners of the Green River Trout Farm agreed to the following:

● Restore the 25-foot natural vegetation buffer along the Green River

●  Fill and restore the pond closest to the Green River

●  Remove from production and fill raceways 7 and 10

●  Install double screens at the intake and outlet of the facility

●  Comply with the Jordan River Plan and Rules for future development within the Natural River District

●  Allow the DNR, to remove the existing trout farm dam and restore the Green River to a more natural, free-flowing condition.

 

The agreement allows the Green River Trout Farm to operate in a manner that offers greater resource protection for the Green River than currently exists and creates an option for the Department of Natural Resources to improve the currently impounded section of the Green River to a more natural condition.


DNR BOW program offers birding workshop for women June 4-6

The DNR Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program announced a special June 4-6 birding workshop for women at Twin

Pine Lodge near Grayling.

 

This Beyond BOW workshop is led by Michigan Audubon Society President Peggy Ridgeway. The day includes a birding trip to Hartwick Pines, a tour of Kirtland's warbler jack pine habitat and a walk at Wakeley Lake where participants will likely see loons and eagles. A variety of birds also will be seen along the scenic Au Sable River.

The $250 workshop cost includes all meals, lodging, instruction and tour fees. Twin Pine Lodge is a fly-fishing lodge on the banks of the Au Sable River. Accommodations are very comfortable and the meals are exceptional. The grounds include a trout pond, a beautiful river house and several acres of mixed pines and hardwoods.

 

Workshop information and a registration form is available at www.michigan.gov/dnr , or you may contact Lynn Marla, DNR BOW Coordinator, at 517-241-2225; e-mail: marlal@michigan.gov .

 


Spring Blooms in the Dunes at Hoffmaster State Park May 1

 The Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon today announced its annual spring event, Spring Blooms in the Dunes, May 1.

 

The day's activities begin with a morning bird hike, starting from the visitor center at 8 and 8:30 a.m., led by staff naturalists and local Audubon club members. Participants are likely to see some of the colorful birds that pass through the park each spring on their migratory routes. Binoculars are recommended.  At 1 p.m., the Michigan United Conservation Clubs' Wildlife Encounters program will present a live ‘birds of prey’ exhibit. Seating for this special program is limited, so reservations are recommended. Seats may be reserved by

calling the visitor center at 231-798-3573.

 

Other activities include guided wildflower hikes throughout the day, beginning at 10 a.m., a wildflower gardening lecture, and activities for children. Native wildflowers that can add beauty to your landscape will be available for sale by the Gillette Nature Association. The featured flower of the sale is the common trillium.

 

A state park motor vehicle permit is required for entry into the park. Permits are $6 for the day or $24 for a resident annual permit, which is valid at any state park. Parking is available in the park's large beach parking area, with a free shuttle service to the visitor center. For more info: Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center 231-798-3573.


Leave wildlife in the wild

As spring returns and Michigan’s wild birds and animals begin to produce the next generation of our living natural resources, Michigan DNR officials today reminded outdoor enthusiasts to resist handling or adopting what appear to be orphaned baby animals.

 

Wild animals are protected by state regulations and may only be kept by those who possess Wildlife Rehabilitation Permits. It is normal for many wild animal species to leave their young unattended for hours at a time. Deer, for example, leave their fawns for up to 8 hours before returning to nurse.

 

Taking a fawn home is illegal and, more importantly, usually

amounts to a death warrant for that animal. A tamed deer will walk in front of a car or try to leap through a sliding glass door. A tamed buck can and often will attack people when it becomes sexually mature and begins to view humans as rivals, not as its “friends.” Its chances of survival in the wild go down each day that it is kept as a pet.

 

Residents who discover concrete evidence of an “orphaned” animal – meaning the dead carcass of the mother is immediately nearby – can contact the nearest DNR office. The information will be investigated, and if it appears to a trained observer to be a genuinely orphaned animal, it will be taken to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator.


 2004 Bear Application

The MI DNR is sending a reminder is to all on-line license purchasers who have provided their e-mail address to the Department.

 

The application period for 2004 Black bear hunting season is underway. The application period is April 15-May 15. For details, see the Bear Hunting Guide online at www.michigan.gov/dnr .  Hunters may apply on line, at a Customer Service kiosk, or through any authorized license dealer.

 

Bear licenses are available through a preference point drawing system. In 2003, 41,667 applicants applied for 10,900 hunting licenses. About 11,250 licenses will be issued in

2004.   Information concerning last year's drawing results is found in the Michigan Bear Hunters Guide.

 

The current bear hunting regulations are established to maximize hunting opportunities while protecting the resource.  Changes this year include a new registration procedure for youth and persons with advanced illness who wish to receive the drawing success of another applicant. Also, Leelanau County has been added to the Baldwin Bear Management Unit.

 

Bear populations in Michigan are stable to increasing, depending on the Bear Management Unit.  This year's bear season promises to be a good one, weather permitting


Minnesota

Spring Rainbows

Anglers can fish Lake Superior for rainbow trout year round. This time of the year, anglers share their quest for rainbows with DNR fisheries crews, who are already out collecting eggs. The spring spawning operation at French River Coldwater Hatchery focuses on rainbow trout - steelhead and Kamloop. The facility does not have a captive brood stock, so eggs for the hatchery program are collected from Lake Superior as the rainbows return to the streams to spawn.

 

Steelhead and Kamloop are captured when they return to the river, and are held until they are ready to spawn. Steelheads are taken from both the French and Knife Rivers; most Kamloops are taken from the French River. Spawning typically begins in early April and is usually done around Memorial Day.

 

Egg collections have averaged more than 1.2 million during the past eight years. About 855,000 were gathered in 1996 as compared to about 1.6 million in 2000. Steelhead are able to reproduce naturally in North Shore streams. The Kamloops

strain has shown no evidence of natural reproduction. After hatching, steelheads spend up to two years in the stream before migrating to  Lake Superior. Fish that leave the stream after two years have a better chance of survival.

 

Harvest regulations protect Lake Superior's wild steelhead. Anglers that catch a wild steelhead must release it. The legal difference between a wild steelhead and a stocked rainbow trout is that the stocked fish will be missing its adipose fin. (See pg. 25 in the 2004 Fishing Regulations handbook.) Rainbow trout are non-native to Minnesota. They were introduced into Lake Superior in 1895.

           

The French River Coldwater Hatchery is the only state fish hatchery on the North Shore. In addition to Kamloop and steelhead, the hatchery also raises Chinook salmon.

 

The DNR operates four coldwater fish hatcheries in addition to French River. The other four are located in Alba, Lanesboro, Peterson and Remer.


State land for sale on May 11-12

The Minnesota DNR will offer two parcels of state-owned land for sale to the public at oral auction on May 11-12. The properties offered for sale are the former DNR forestry office sites in Hinckley and Pequot Lakes. Both sales include the buildings located on the sites.

 

Prospective bidders are urged to obtain full information on properties and sale conditions prior to the auction. No properties offered at auction will be sold for less than the minimum bid. The minimum bid consists of the appraised value of the land, any improvements, timber value and sale costs. All properties are sold "as is". Property data sheets are available for all parcels from the DNR, and include exact locations, minimum bids, date and location of the auction, site

description and property condition.

 

To request information about the properties, call the DNR at (651) 297-5982 or toll free at 1-888-MINNDNR (1-888-646-6367), TTY 800-657-3929. Check out the DNR Land Sale information on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us , or request information by sending an e-mail to: landsale@dnr.state.mn.us .

 

The properties are both suitable for business. Property #58019, includes 2.27 acres and buildings, is located in the city of Hinckley, in Pine County. The other property, #18153, includes one acre and buildings, is located city of Pequot Lakes, in Crow Wing County.


loon population stable; volunteers are needed

The loon population in Minnesota has remained stable during the last ten years, according to a report released by the Minnesota DNR.  The project, which summarizes observations submitted by hundreds of dedicated volunteers who counted loons on 600 lakes, is used by the DNR's Nongame Wildlife Program as an early warning system for detecting changes in the number of loons.

           

The project's report is available online: www.dnr.state.mn.us/ecological_services/nongame/projects/

mlmp_state.html .

           

Minnesota's common loon population is stable in both number of adults and number of juveniles observed on study lakes.  In order to maintain the loon monitoring program's effectiveness, the nongame wildlife program is seeking volunteers to survey loons on designated lakes in Kandiyohi,

Otter Tail, Becker, Itasca, Cook and Lake Counties.

 

Volunteers are provided with easy to follow instructional materials, maps, and data form. Volunteers need their own binoculars and/or spotting scopes and provide their own transportation. Besides counting adult loons and their young, volunteers are also asked to record basic information about the habitat that loons need to survive and thrive.

 

Interested persons should respond by May 15 by calling or e-mailing the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program in New Ulm (for Kandiyohi County): Larinda Burg, (507) 359 6035, larinda.burg@dnr.state.mn.us ; in Bemidji (for Otter Tail and Becker Counties): Katie Haws, (218) 755 2976, katie.haws@dnr.state.mn.us ; or in Grand Rapids (for Itasca, Cook, and Lake Counties): Sue Backe, (218) 327 4278, susan.backe@dnr.state.mn.us


BOW offers fishing and outdoor-skills workshops

Some dates are May 22, June 6, June 13

The Minnesota Becoming An Outdoors Woman (BOW) program is offering a number of events in May and June geared towards women wanting to learn fishing techniques and other outdoor-related skills.

 

One class will give women a chance to try a variety of activities including canoeing, fly-fishing, pan fishing, archery, map and compass and camping skills. The event will be held  May 22 at the Voyageur Outdoor Center in Minnetrista. Women can choose one class from each of the three different sessions offered. The full-day workshop costs $30 and includes lunch, instruction and equipment.

 

In addition to the May 22 event, the BOW program is offering two separate fishing events in June. The first is a parent/child fishing clinic on Sat., June 6 at the North Mississippi Regional Park in Minneapolis. The clinic will offer a variety of activities and plenty of time to fish together. The cost for the three-hour clinic is $7.00 per family, with a maximum of two children per adult.

The other event is a privately guided fishing trip June 13, on Mille Lacs, one of Minnesota's premier walleye lakes. Space is limited to the first 15 registrants. The cost for the four-hour excursion is $40, which includes equipment. The boat will launch at 9:00 a.m. from McQuiod's Inn, near Isle.

 

A current Minnesota fishing license is required to participate. To register for these events, contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367), or (651) 295-6157.

 

The Minnesota DNR's BOW program, which began in 1994, focuses on the teaching women outdoor skills in areas such as hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits. The BOW program offers a wide variety of half-day clinics and weekend workshops throughout the year. The classes are designed for women 18 years of age and older.

 

For more BOW programs, go to  www.dnr.state.mn.us/education/bow/index.html , or call the DNR Info Ctr. 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367


New York

Lawmakers take aim at popular crow hunt

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Lawmakers from New York City are asking the state Legislature to stop an annual crow hunt in the small upstate city of Auburn.

 

A state Assembly bill would outlaw competitions and contests where the goal is to kill the greatest amount of wildlife possible, said its sponsor, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a New York City Democrat. Glick's district is 250 miles southeast of Auburn, where the hunts began two years ago after as many as 100,000 crows besieged the Finger Lakes city, damaging crops at surrounding farms.

Upstate residents often regard the large black birds as noisy, dirty nuisances. In contrast, Tuesday's supporters described "the American crow" as very bright, social and beautiful.  The two-day event in Auburn attracted 208 hunters from as far away as Kentucky and Arizona in February. Hunters killed 1,061 birds. The hunt also drew 50 protesters.

 

Under state rules, crows can be hunted from Sept. 1-March 31. There are no limits on how many crows hunters can kill. Crow hunting is prohibited in New York City.

 


DEC Alerts Hikers to Muddy Trail Conditions in the High Peaks

Temporarily Avoid High Elevation Trails in the Adirondacks

With the start of a new season of outdoor hiking and recreation on public lands in the Adirondacks, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today urged hikers to be cautious and postpone taking any hikes on trails above 3,000 feet until early June.

           

DEC is asking hikers to voluntarily avoid trails above 3,000 feet, particularly high elevation trails in the Dix, Giant, and High Peaks Wilderness Areas of the northern Adirondacks, due to

muddy conditions and the potential damage hiking can cause to vegetation and the soft ground.

 

To avoid damaging natural resources and promote safety, hikers are advised to only use trails at lower elevations during the spring mud season. Lower trails usually dry soon after snowmelt and are on less erosive soils than the higher peaks.

           

For more info on trail conditions, call DEC Region 5 Lands and Forests Office in Ray Brook: 518-897-1200.


Pennsylvania

Measure to create wild turkey license passes state House

Legislation that would create special licenses to hunt wild turkeys has been passed by the state House and endorsed by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, a statewide organization with more than 25,000 members fully supporting the legislation, said Rep. Merle Phillips (R-Northumberland), sponsor of the measure.

 

"The creation of this license will allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to better track the number of wild turkeys taken during the spring and fall seasons while also raising revenue to better manage the turkey population," said Phillips, a lifelong turkey hunter.

 

The licenses are proposed to cost $20 for residents and $40 for non-residents. Revenues from the special licenses would be used to implement and fund a turkey management plan and further educate turkey hunters promoting the recreation

and safe hunting practices. Those wishing to take advantage of the license would be required to first secure a hunting license, and then apply for the new license. The number of licenses allocated will be established by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and allotments will be valid for both spring and fall turkey seasons.

 

Currently, there is no state law providing for a special wild turkey license, but a back-tag gives hunters the opportunity to harvest one turkey in the fall and one in the spring at no additional cost.

 

Phillips has been actively involved in hunting and fishing issues and in the past has worked with the Game Commission to create special youth projects, one of which will commence this Saturday, April 24 that involves youth spring turkey hunting. Phillips' legislation, House Bill 2042, now moves to the state Senate for consideration.


Commission Bans Teak Surfing

PFBC proposes other action at spring meeting

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission took action at its spring quarterly meeting to ban an unsafe boating practice known as teak surfing.

 

Teak surfing – sometimes referred to as drag surfing – is an emerging and highly dangerous fad.  The practice involves an individual holding onto the swim platform of a boat as it accelerates and then letting go to “surf” the wake.  In addition to the inherent danger of the individual losing his or her grasp of the swim platform and being hit by a moving boat propeller, teak surfers also face risks from carbon monoxide poisoning.  CO is often emitted through a boat’s engine or generator exhaust outlets.  As a result, CO can accumulate almost anywhere in or around a boat, including around or under swim platforms and the stern of a boat.

 

The Commission also adopted language prohibiting the use of a tow line of less than 20 ft.  Passengers being towed on water skis or other devices by a short line also run risks from carbon monoxide poisoning.

 

In other action at the meeting, the Commission:

Set public meetings on a request to allow the use of bait during the “harvest period” on waters managed as part of the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures only program.  The meetings will be held from 7-9 p.m. on May 12 (Monroeville) and May 13 (Leesport).      

Added a 2.4-mile section of Waltz Creek, Northampton County to the Class A wild trout list,        

Reinstated Lily Lake, Luzerne County to the Late Winter Trout Stocking Program,      

Terminated the Special Conservation Waters Program,        

Imposed a 36 " minimum size limit and a one fish daily creel limit for muskellunge at Sugar Lake, Crawford County.          

Expanded the slow, no wake zone for boating in the area of the Route 33 Access launch area in Northampton County on the Lehigh River.          

Voted to seek public comment on proposed changes to regulations establishing the minimum age of operation for       

certain boats.  It is proposed that a person 11 years of age or younger may not operate a personal watercraft or a boat propelled by a motor greater than 25 horsepower and that effective January 1, 2008, a person 15 years of age or younger may not operate a personal watercraft.  

Proposed deleting the term “slow, minimum height swell speed” from boating regulations.  Instead, attendant regulations would use the term slow, no wake speed, defined as: the slowest possible speed of a motorboat required to maintain maneuverability so that the wake or wash created by the motorboat on the surface of the water is minimal.          

Proposed removing the slow, no wake restrictions on the Horseshoe Curve area of the Youghiogheny Lake, Somerset County. 

Moved to solicit public comment on a proposed designation of a slow, no wake zone, approximately 9/10 of a mile in length, in the back channel of the Ohio River at Neville Island on the Ohio River at Coraopolis, Allegheny County.         

w Accepted for staff review a petition to establish a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit from sunrise to sunset on weekends and holidays from the Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day on Harveys Lake, Luzerne County.          

Voted to increase the allowable size of cast or throw nets on Raystown Lake, Huntingdon County to 10' radius (20' diameter).         

Took action to place restrictions on the commercial landing of finfish and shellfish in Pennsylvania.    

Proposed regulations making Lower Burrell Park Pond, Westmoreland County a catch and release only impoundment.       

Proposed a one fish daily creel limit for shad on the Schuylkill River upstream of the I-95 Bridge and its tributaries.        

Voted to seek public input on recommended open seasons on burbot and smelt taken by hook and line in Lake Erie and its tributaries.  If adopted, a daily creel limit (no minimum size) of five burbot would be implemented.  There would be no size or creel limits on smelt.          

Proposed language clarifying existing regulations as to which lures are legal for use in areas restricting angler tackle choices to “artificial lures.”


Wisconsin

UW student to study cormorant diets

Other studies show millions of fish consumed

USFWS wildlife managers, state fisheries managers, and anglers have blamed double-crested cormorants for the decline of yellow perch in Green Bay for nearly a decade.

 

But WI DNR Great Lakes specialist Bill Horns said about $90,000 from the Fox River Natural Resources Damage Assessment settlement will help fund another three-year project to find out exactly what cormorants are eating from lower Green Bay waters.

 

Sarah Meadows, a University of Wisconsin graduate student, began working as a limited term DNR employee recently. She’ll be checking regurgitated food samples from nesting colonies on Cat Island and regurgitated prey from feeding flocks spooked to flight in open water.

 

Even-so, scores of other studies have been conducted in the Great Lakes region by FWS, USGS-BRD, USDA and various

state agencies, with some still on-going.  All have shown devastating effects of cormorants on fish populations, and Meadows study is not expected to be any different.

 

A 1998 study in eastern Lake Ontario estimated that cormorants consumed 87.5 million fish that year. Lake Ontario cormorant populations continue to grow, and last year in eastern Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River island colonies, NYSDEC and OMNR biologists estimated cormorants consumed well over 115 million fish.

 

Since, 1992, NY estimates the Little Galloo Island cormorant population alone has consumed about 349 million fish, including 116 million alewives, 88 yellow perch, 44 million cyprinids (carp, minnows, chubs, dace) 24 million pumpkinseed, 21 million rock bass and 13 million smallmouth bass, showing the birds are opportunistic feeders and will target pretty much what it available in and around their island colonies.


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