News Article | May 3, 2017
“It’s going to be kind of noisy — and very smelly,” Laura Anhalt warns, laughing, as we enter our first building at the primary wastewater treatment plant in Modesto, California. She’s right: The funk of processed sewage hits quickly. Inside, a conveyor rake scrapes crumbling, sodden paper up out of a vat of water. Nearby, a large metal mouth swallows the paper pieces and feeds them through a compactor that extrudes a solid hunk of waste nearly as wide around as a human torso. Separating out the solids — unappetizing as it smells — is the first step in cleaning the water that Modesto residents wash down their sinks and flush down their toilets every day. This process happens at thousands of similar plants all around the world. But Modesto’s sewage treatment will soon be part of a novel project: Starting as early as December, the city will sell its highly treated wastewater to struggling nearby farmers. When it’s up and running, Modesto’s experiment should be California’s largest wastewater-to-agriculture reuse project, and it will mark the first time recycled water flows through a federal canal. In the past several years, California’s drought has cut back water supplies for many growers, forcing them to fallow fields. Though much of California has been deluged with precipitation this year, scientists warn that the wet weather won’t last. Climate change is expected to make the state’s dry-and-drenched extremes even more drastic. To maintain the state’s agricultural might, farmers will need new water sources that won’t dry up in the next drought. The North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program, as the project is known, will serve an area in the Central Valley, California’s most productive agricultural region. Its planners hope it will serve as a model for other drought-stricken regions of an environmentally friendly way to get water to farmers. Some environmental advocates hope so, too. The project has won the support of conservation groups like Audubon California and Ducks Unlimited because it will also provide water for the state’s wildlife refuges. But getting the project off the ground hasn’t been easy. Nearby water suppliers criticized and challenged the proposal to reroute water, fearing it might affect their own supplies. Documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request show that the water district pushing the plan had to delicately negotiate compromises to coax the project forward, in some cases offering other districts a cut of their water. In California, it seems, the best way to solve disagreements over water is with more water. The city of Modesto has two wastewater treatment plants, called Sutter and Jennings, about eight miles apart. Anhalt, or as she quippily labels herself, “the dirty water gal,” has managed both for nine years. She has a cat tattoo on her left calf and a quick laugh. She’s lived in California her whole life, apart from a stopover in another drought-stricken locale, Australia. After a visit to Sutter, where the first round of water treatment takes place, Anhalt drives me to Jennings in her red Lexus, a cat air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror. We pass row after row of spindly young trees that will eventually produce lucrative walnut and almond crops — if farmers have enough water to keep them alive. Many of the orchards display signs with the words “Worth Your Fight” and an image of a water droplet. “Ah, water!” Anhalt exclaims when I ask about them. She says they’re part of a campaign to defend farmers’ water supplies in the Central Valley. Modesto’s two plants pump out nearly 15 million treated gallons a day. The initial processing at Sutter strips out solids. Then the city pumps the water to Jennings, where further treatment breaks down organic matter and any remaining solids with digesting protozoa “bugs.” Last, the water is zapped with UV lights to disinfect it. Jennings is a vast complex that stretches over 5,000 acres, 1,000 of which are oxidation ponds extending nearly as far as the eye can see. The ponds look more like a nature preserve than a sewage treatment facility, attracting birds and birders. Anhalt tours us around a number of structures at Jennings — sometimes testing doors to see if they’re unlocked, because she forgot her keys. She easily rattles off descriptions of the complicated processes at work. For her, this is second nature. She’s been working in wastewater for 23 years. At an aromatic tank of “mixed liquor,” which contains raw wastewater and microorganisms that break down its contents, she seems pleased to be the overseer of such an enormous, complicated system. “Good stuff. It looks pretty,” Anhalt says, nodding at the brown liquid rippling with bubbles. “Not too foamy.” Later we visit what she frames as the pièce de résistance: “You just have to see the blowers.” As we wend our way through another building, a muted buzzing sound slowly builds to a deep whooshing. These machines aerate the membrane tanks to encourage processing. “I’m so excited,” she smiles. “I love the blowers.” After treatment is done, Modesto uses the water to irrigate city-owned land and sends any left over into the San Joaquin River to flow to users downstream. By the end of the year, that should change. A refurbished pump station at Jennings will send most of the wastewater into a new $100 million, six-mile pipeline. That will feed into the Delta-Mendota irrigation canal, which ferries water to farmers as part of the Central Valley Project, a federal system that manages and doles out water in the area. Ultimately, Modesto’s wastewater will reach farms about 20 miles away in the northwestern San Joaquin Valley, where growers on 45,000 acres of farmland in the Del Puerto Water District have struggled to water their crops since the drought began. By 2045, when all phases of the project are complete, these farmers should be receiving nearly 60,000 acre-feet per year from the North Valley project — enough to fill roughly 30,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Anthea Hansen, head of the Del Puerto Water District, is the one who pulled the entire project together. She’s been working nonstop for the past seven years to bring more water to farmers there. After the drought started in late 2011, and restrictions set aside more water for wildlife, allocations from the Central Valley Project to water districts in the San Joaquin Valley plummeted. The Del Puerto Water District received zero percent of its contracted supply in 2014 and 2015, and just 5 percent last year. In 2017, already a historically wet year, it will receive its full allotment, but Hansen expects that to drop as soon as next year. Because the district hasn’t been able to rely on water from the Central Valley Project, for the past several years Hansen has had to negotiate water purchases within California’s tricky water-rights system. The district has been buying excess surface supply when it’s available, and has also purchased groundwater from other districts at high prices. “We’ve survived on supplemental water, and about one quarter of our irrigated acreage is fallowed,” Hansen says. The water from the North Valley project will make an enormous difference to the farmers in her area. “It pretty much changes the course of the future for our district,” she says. Daniel Bays is one of those farmers. His grandfather moved to the area in 1957, and the family now grows apricots, walnuts, lima beans, tomatoes, and melons at Bays Ranch in Westley. His farm has struggled to get by with the minimal supply. He’s also used groundwater, but it’s often salty and can cause land to sink if pumped to excess. “It’s expensive, poor quality, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get it when you need it,” he tells me. Water from the North Valley project will still be expensive — potentially two or three times the price of Central Valley Project water — and it will only meet about a third of the water district’s need. But it will at least be reliable and high quality, something farmers haven’t been able to count on in recent years. Bays points out that this new water source is not going to dry up, because Modesto will keep producing wastewater: “People are flushing their toilets every day and taking showers,” he says. Above his desk at Turlock City Hall, Garner Reynolds has taped a photo printed out on computer paper. It shows two men in jeans standing in a field, menacingly wielding shovels at each other. The caption reads: “Discussing water rights, a Western pastime.” Turlock is also involved in the North Valley project, as is another nearby city, Ceres. Turlock is building its own 7.5-mile pipeline, at a cost of $20 million to $30 million, to transport wastewater from its primary treatment plant, as well as some wastewater from Ceres, over to Jennings. It should be complete in December 2018. Reynolds, Turlock’s regulatory affairs manager, sports a goatee and a bright aqua dress shirt. Like most of the people I spoke with about the North Valley project, he said it would be a win-win for Del Puerto growers and the participating cities, which will get paid for their recycled water. “It works for everybody,” he says. But reaching that point took a lot of effort. Negotiating water rights and diversions is notoriously arduous in California. The North Valley deal involves the three cities, the Del Puerto Water District, Stanislaus County, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Still more parties had to be mollified along the way. Westlands Water District, the biggest in the country and among the most powerful, argued that Modesto’s diversion of water away from the San Joaquin River would cut into its supply. The district also worried that the recycled water might lower water quality in the Delta-Mendota Canal, which delivers water to Westlands through the Central Valley Project. The oldest water district in the state, Turlock Irrigation District (a body separate from the city), also raised concerns. Emails obtained through a FOIA request show that in March of 2015, a lawyer representing the district sent comments to Modesto and the Bureau of Reclamation, claiming the environmental impact report for the project was inadequate and did not properly assess how it would affect groundwater. These kinds of quibbles can delay projects for months or years while water districts and agencies negotiate a solution. It fell to Hansen to break through many of these logjams and keep the project moving forward, the emails show. She repeatedly emphasized the urgency of the situation, knowing how much the farmers in her district needed water. “Sooner is better,” she wrote in an April 2016 note to the Bureau of Reclamation project lead, pushing to get paperwork completed. “I’m like a cat on a hot tin roof right now.” To quiet the complaints from nearby water districts, Modesto agreed not to use any water from the Turlock Irrigation District or the Turlock Subbasin to irrigate its ranchlands. And the Del Puerto Water District brokered a deal to deliver 500 acre-feet per year to Westlands after the North Valley project kicks off. Even though the lengthy bargaining process has been tiresome, Hansen says it’s worth it for a project that will sustain a way of life in an area where most growers are small family farmers. “We figure out how to work through the complicated system in California to get the water moved from point A to point B,” she says. “It’s very difficult, it’s fraught with heavy levels of environmental documentation and a lot of cost to make it work, but it helps us to survive.” “There’s a lot of things with California’s plumbing that I wish were different,” she adds. But if all goes according to plan, at least no growers will be brandishing shovels at one another.
News Article | March 2, 2017
PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Axalta Coating Systems (NYSE: AXTA), a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, and a proud partner and supporter of Ducks Unlimited Inc. and Ducks Unlimited de México (DUMAC), participated in a two-day field and classroom experience in Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico in February. The purpose of the trip was to witness first-hand the challenges facing mangrove conservation and the subsequent restoration work conducted by DUMAC. Sustainability and environmental responsibility are at the core of Axalta’s mission. Through the “Mangrove Experience,” several Axalta employees gained a better understanding of why it is critical for Axalta to continue to support these efforts, and for other companies to become involved. The Mangrove Experience curriculum is part of DUMAC’s Programa Reserva conducted at its educational center in the Yucatan. Established in 1989, the Programa Reserva has provided more than 550 representatives from government agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations throughout Latin America with educational resources related to conservation which they have taken back and applied to enhance conservation projects in their home countries. “Mexico accounts for about six percent of the world’s remaining wetlands, approximately 8.2 million acres. Unfortunately, more than 36 percent of the world’s wetlands have been lost in the last 100 years, primarily due to human activities,” said DUMAC Executive Director Eduardo Carrera. “DUMAC has restored and enhanced more than 1.5 million acres throughout Mexico in areas that are important for wintering waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species. With partners like Axalta, we can continue to do this work well into the future.” The “Mangrove Experience” included a boat trip to the Celestun estuary and a hike through red, black, white, and buttonwood mangroves to promote a greater awareness of how the plant grows and why it is essential to conserve mangrove wetlands. Mangroves play a vital role in the ecosystem by protecting coastal areas from flooding, providing habitats for marine and other wildlife, and by supporting managed tourism which can help the economy. “It was a wonderful experience that helped put DUMAC’s mangrove conservation into perspective,” said Rodrigo Tajonar, Human Resources and Corporate Affairs Director, Axalta Latin America. “Seeing the threats facing mangroves helped the group understand how vital this conservation effort is and how Axalta directly benefits the wildlife and water quality in Mexico.” DUMAC has classified 27 million acres of wetlands and uplands as part of its Wetlands Inventory Program and 28 key wetlands for waterfowl in Mexico are included in the Ducks Unlimited Continental Conservation Plan. Axalta became a corporate partner with Ducks Unlimited in 2015 through a multi-year wetlands conservation program. “Axalta is committed to its partnership with Ducks Unlimited and DUMAC, and we offer our enthusiastic support for wetlands conservation throughout North America and Mexico,” said Regina M. Tracy, Head of Axalta’s Global Corporate Social Responsibility. “Sustainability is fundamental to our business and we are proud to support and witness the work that DUMAC and Ducks Unlimited do each day.” About Ducks Unlimited Inc. and Ducks Unlimited de Mexico Ducks Unlimited Inc., established in 1937, is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Ducks Unlimited de Mexico was established in 1974 to carry on that work in Mexico. Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13.8 million acres across North America thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, the Ducks Unlimited organizations work toward the shared vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org. Axalta is a leading global company focused solely on coatings and providing customers with innovative, colorful, beautiful and sustainable solutions. From light OEM vehicles, commercial vehicles and refinish applications to electric motors, buildings and pipelines, our coatings are designed to prevent corrosion, increase productivity and enable the materials we coat to last longer. With more than 150 years of experience in the coatings industry, the 12,800 people of Axalta continue to find ways to serve our 100,000+ customers in 130 countries better every day with the finest coatings, application systems and technology. For more information visit axalta.com and follow us @axalta on Twitter and on LinkedIn.
News Article | February 27, 2017
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation-supported Climate Adaptation Fund will provide up to $2.5 million for projects in and around wild landscapes and urban areas NEW YORK (February 27, 2017) - Through its Climate Adaptation Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) today solicited proposals from nonprofit conservation organizations to explore and implement new methods for helping wildlife adapt to rapidly-shifting environmental conditions brought about by climate change. Building on WCS's 120-year history in long-term conservation efforts, the WCS Climate Adaptation Fund will award up to $2.5 million in grants in 2017. The grants are designed to enable wildlife and ecosystems to adapt to climate change by enhancing dynamic ecological processes and ecosystem functionality, versus projects that benefit a particular species or landscape attribute. Proposed work should focus on improving the adaptive capacity of ecosystems rather than simply conserving or restoring their historic conditions. The WCS Climate Adaptation Fund is a program made possible by a gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Past funded projects have facilitated the transition of uplands to tidal marshes in Maryland to reduce excessive inundations and erosion of wetlands (Audubon of Maryland); enabled bottomland hardwood forest stands in Indiana to drain more effectively and store more water to offset increased flood and drought events (Ducks Unlimited); and amended soil around tree plantings in Wisconsin to improve forests' ability to tolerate increased drought (Sustainable Resources Institute). Said Darren Long, Director of Climate Adaptation Programs, in WCS's Conservation Solutions division: "While the impacts of climate change on wildlife and ecosystems in wild places remain WCS's top priority, the Climate Adaptation Fund's inclusion of biodiversity-focused adaptation projects around urban areas is an important complement to our existing work. By filling this new niche-- earmarking resources specifically to enhance ecological processes and ecosystem functions--WCS is now branching into new, innovative ways of supporting resilience throughout the U.S." To be considered, applicants must incorporate climate adaptation science into their proposals and use strategic communications to increase the conservation impact of their results. The Fund also seeks on-the-ground projects using strategic communications to leverage broader impact through replication of adaptation practices across landscapes. The winning grant recipients will be non-profit conservation groups implementing on-the-ground field projects designed to initiate conservation actions for climate adaptation in landscapes across the U.S. Applicants can read the Request for Proposals, Applicant Guidance Document, and complete a Pre-proposal application using our online form no later than 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 7, 2017. http://wcsclimateadaptationfund. For more information on projects previous supported by the WCS Climate Adaptation Fund, videos, and detailed descriptions visit our web site: http://wcsclimateadaptationfund. About WCS Conservation Solutions. Conservation Solutions partners with over 3,000 field staff across 60 countries around the biggest challenges facing WCS's long-term conservation efforts: climate change, sustainable financing, economic and food security, and data and science gaps. Leveraging WCS's 100-year leadership in science and field conservation, Conservation Solutions is also home to some of our newest, most innovative partnerships that transcend boundaries, including the MacArthur-funded Intact Forests initiative to protect the world's vital carbon stores, the European Union-funded WILDMEAT Initiative, the USAID Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group, the Science for Nature and People Partnership, and the Doris Duke Climate Adaptation Fund. Working at multiple scales-- from indigenous engagement to global policy fora--Conservation Solutions helps WCS and its partners deliver on a mission to save the world's wildlife and wild places, for all people and for generations to come. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. About the Wildlife Conservation Society. WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world's oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.
News Article | November 2, 2016
NOVI, Mich., Nov. 02, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, Aria Energy announced the completed expansion of its renewable natural gas facility (RNG) at the Seneca Meadows Landfill. The expansion doubles the processing capacity of the facility to 6,000 scfm, the equivalent of 50,000 gallons of vehicle fuel per day. At full capacity, the RNG facility directly reduces methane emission from the landfill by the equivalent of over 33,000 tons per year. Landfill Gas is produced naturally as waste decomposes and consists of roughly 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide. The EPA requires that landfills of a certain size must destroy landfill gas in either a flare station or with a beneficial-use energy project to prevent it rising into the atmosphere where it would become a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Seneca Meadows pursued a solution that would turn a waste product into an asset. For over 20 years, Aria Energy, a leading provider of baseload renewable energy, has converted the landfill gas collected by Seneca Meadows landfill into useable forms of energy, helping NY meet its renewable energy goals. Aria Energy financed, built and operates a 17.6 megawatt (MW) landfill gas-to-electric power generation facility, which has been operational since 1996. The electricity produced at the site reduces the need for electricity produced using fossil fuels. In 2014, Aria Energy commissioned the initial stage of the Seneca Energy RNG project, a 3,000 scfm expandable facility, which was the recipient of the EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program 2014 Project of the Year Award and earned Aria Energy the 2014 Energy Vision Leadership Awards. Richard DiGia, President and CEO of Aria Energy said, “The Seneca Energy Project allows Aria Energy the opportunity to expand the use of renewable natural gas and reduce emissions.” Kyle Black, District Manager for Seneca Meadows said, “We are proud of our 20 year strong partnership with Aria Energy. Together, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions, conserved natural resources and helped to reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign oil. We’ve also teamed up to eliminate the energy bill for the Seneca Falls Central School District, with a savings of over $60,000 annually.” Headquartered in Novi, MI, with an office in Oakfield, NY, Aria Energy provides baseload renewable energy to utilities and other customers across the United States. Aria Energy owns and/or operates a diversified portfolio of renewable energy projects across 16 states, collectively representing 265.9 MW-equivalent of baseload renewable energy capacity. For additional information, please visit: http://www.ariaenergy.com/. In environmental controls, mitigation, and their everyday operations, Seneca Meadows exceeds regulatory requirements, providing the highest quality service for their customers and their community. The company’s commitment to excellence has earned the support of prestigious environmental organizations, such as: the National Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited, and Trout Unlimited. Their efforts have also secured such honors as the 2003 Seneca County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award, the 2009 Rochester Business Journal’s Environmental Leadership Award, the 2012 SWANA Excellence Award for landfill management, and the 2014 EPA Partnership & Project of the Year through Landfill Methane Outreach Program.
News Article | October 28, 2016
Bonnette Auctions Louisiana Outdoor Properties announces the upcoming auction of a 474+/- acre Duck and Deer Paradise. Located in East Carroll Parish, the property is very rare to the market with its abundance of duck rings and flooded Ag land areas. The Tensas flyway loads up with mallards during the winter and there is an abundance of big deer. Conveniently located 12 miles NE of Delhi, LA, the property is near the Delhi Municipal Airport and Tallulah-Vicksburg Region Airport. In addition to the 474 acres, the property features a 2,840 sq. ft. farm house that can be utilized as a small hunting lodge, three deep wells for irrigation, two metal tractor sheds, and much more. There are 82 acres in permanent easement, enrolled by Ducks Unlimited. The auction will be held onsite Thursday, November 10th at 11:00 AM CST. For more information regarding the property and the terms of the sale, visit http://www.bonnetteauctions.com/auction/300234/east-carroll-parish-duck-hunting-property-auction/. Bonnette Auctions Louisiana Outdoor Properties offers a wide array of sales services to meet our clients’ needs. We maximize our seller’s returns by using proven cost effective methods to create heightened awareness and competition for their assets. Our mission is to be the nation’s first choice asset sales and services group by innovatively developing supply and demand for our services. With rapid growth of the auction industry, we have developed into a leading auction sales group, servicing the general public, corporate institutions, governments and all sectors of the business community. Our satisfied clients are the result of our commitment to excellence. For more information on Bonnette Auctions Louisiana Outdoor Properties, visit http://www.BonnetteAuctions.com. The auction team can be contacted directly at (318) 443-6614.
News Article | December 22, 2016
LAKEHURST, ON, December 22, 2016-- Michael Dumas has been included in Marquis Who's Who. As in all Marquis Who's Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.With four and a half decades of practiced industry experience, Mr. Dumas currently parlays his artistic knowledge and skill into Nature's Studio, where he has served as the owner since 1974. Prior to becoming a prolific artist, he attended Art Instruction School and Humber College, and pursued postgraduate studies at Humber College and Cornell University. His first role in the field was as an apprentice to Lewis Parker with Lazare & Parker Studios, where he stayed for one year. In addition to working with his own studio, he served as an advanced board member for Art Impressions Magazine from 1993 until 1997, and the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival from 2010 until 2015.A member of the Society of Animal Artists and the Society of Wildlife Art of the Nations, Mr. Dumas, who has been internationally acclaimed as one of Canada's most accomplished painters, specializes in nature-oriented themes. He has had the honor of showing his work in private, corporate and public collections in Canada, Europe, Asia and the United States. His art has been featured on Canadian postage stamps and coins, in the National Museum of Canada, and forms part of the Ontario Provincial Government's permanent art collection.A shining example of skill in his field, Mr. Dumas has participated in a plethora of exhibits, including in the Royal Botanical Gardens in 1985, the Yamanaakako-Takamura Museum of Art from 1991 until 2001, and the National Wildlife Art Museum in Wyoming in 2016. He has earned many honors for his stellar work, including the Waterfowl Art Award through Ducks Unlimited, the Carling-O'Keefe Professional Conservation Award, A Singular Creation Award from the International Nature Art Competition, and the Kawartha Order of the Arts. Additionally, he has been featured in numerous editions of Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World. Looking ahead, Mr. Dumas intends to experience the continued growth and success of his artistic career.About Marquis Who's Who :Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who's Who in America , Marquis Who's Who has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Today, Who's Who in America remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis now publishes many Who's Who titles, including Who's Who in America , Who's Who in the World , Who's Who in American Law , Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare , Who's Who in Science and Engineering , and Who's Who in Asia . Marquis publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who's Who website at www.marquiswhoswho.com
News Article | November 21, 2016
Easements are becoming a popular consideration for many land owners all over the United States. With the help of real estate agents, buyers and sellers are educating themselves about easements as the demand for land, access to equity without hindering use and the increased interest in conservation drive a need to better understand the diversity of easement types and available options. United Country Real Estate brokers and agents are noticing that easements are playing a larger role in more and more of their real estate transactions. Whether it’s an access, utility or a conservation easement, it can have an effect on buyers and the selling process. Conservation easements are one way land owners and investors are not only protecting their land and gaining access to equity, but they are also potentially increasing the value of their investments. Easements, defined by law, is a right held by one person or entity to make use of land or property of another for a limited purpose. In states like Montana and Colorado, conservation easements play a part in nearly 40 percent of ranch land transactions. Ranch owners are selling rights to all or a portion of their land to an outside entity, sometimes for a hefty price, for conservation or other purposes and not only get a large payment, but in some cases it doesn’t affect the value of the property. This provides added value to properties in some cases. Many times, entities like Ducks Unlimited or Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will purchase ranch land to ensure healthy habitats for wildlife and still allow for full ranching use. “Right now the most common in Montana are no plow and no drainage easements,” said Bob Sanders, manager for the conservation program for Ducks Unlimited in Montana. “If you’re a rancher, you don’t want to plow anyway and you don’t want to drain because that’s a water source for your cattle. If you get an easement, you could be getting a big payment that is significantly more than what you paid for the ranch to begin with.” The word easements is a common term in the real estate world. Whether utility, conservation or other type, consumers will have a real estate transaction, or their currently owned property, affected by an easement during their lifetime. Unlike the many other types, conservation easements have gained positive momentum in the past several years. Land owners are seeking out entities who would be interested in placing an easement on their property. Ranchers can retrieve up to three quarters of the value of the land in a tax credit – which could mean millions of dollars for a large ranch. While sellers of land with an easement attached are educated on the terms and conditions, buyers are sometimes uninformed or misinformed. For real estate brokers like Michael Krieg, it can be an uphill battle to show buyers that the land still holds its value. Many conservation easements have broad enough terms that it won’t restrict a future owner from doing what they want on the land, such as building an additional house. Krieg said it’s about educating buyers that the property still holds value. “Let’s face it, there are some properties that are perfect for an easement,” said Krieg, broker for United Country Real Estate | Real Quest Realty in Grand Junction, Colo. “A lot of buyers even love the fact that a property has an easement. It’s all about educating them and it’s the seller’s and the buyers broker’s job to explain it. But I’ve never had a bad experience or a deal go south because of a conservation easement.” Popularity of easements has increased so much that Krieg said many investors are also seeking out ranch land currently without an easement so they can purchase the land and seek out an entity who will place one. He said it’s changing the way people are investing in real estate, especially ranch land, farmland and recreational properties. “I have big clients who are literally looking for an avenue to save them on taxes,” said Krieg. “They don’t care much about the ranch itself, but the tax credit value is attracting them for investment purposes. For example, I did an easement on a big ranch that had gravel reserves worth $100 million, but it was only a $4 million property. The buyer ended up with a $100 million tax credit after he put an easement on it.” If you’re a ranch, farm, recreational property or land owner wanting to learn more about adding a conservation or other easement to your land, Krieg and Sanders offer some advice: “Overall, don’t rely on the rumor mill to guide you,” said Sanders. “Conservation easements are a viable tool, but it’s not a one-size fits all. They are definitely a good thing, but you need to surround yourself with experts who are educated and experienced with easements. That could be your real estate agent, financial advisor, or local wildlife organization.” United Country Real Estate is the leading land seller in the United States, marketing ranches, farms, recreational and vacation properties nationally. It is the leading, fully integrated network of real estate professionals with nearly 500 offices and 4,000 agents, brokers and auctioneers nationwide specializing in lifestyle real estate. For more information about United Country Real Estate, visit UnitedCountry.com. United Country Real Estate –is the leading, fully integrated network of conventional and auction real estate professionals. The company has been an innovator in lifestyle and country real estate marketing since 1925. United Country supports nearly 500 offices and 5,000 real estate professionals across four continents, with a unique, comprehensive marketing program. The exclusive program includes the highest ranked and largest portfolios of specialty property marketing websites, unequaled national print advertising, the largest internal real estate advertising agency, an extensive buyer database of more than 650,000 opt-in buyers and additional proprietary programs to advertise local properties more broadly.
News Article | October 9, 2016
The vision came to Jonas Antoine during a drum session with the other men of the tribe. Jonas is not a medicine man, but it was a medicine dream, of the kind that visited his Dene ancestors. He was in the village of Wrigley in a remote section of Canada's Northwest Territories, standing at the cliff on the edge of town, looking out over the massive river valley, and as he beat the hand-held drum and chanted with the men he saw something out on the horizon. "I saw skyscrapers rise out of the ground," Antoine told me. "We're drumming, drumming, and I saw them. In the distance, rising out of our beautiful mountains. And I thought, 'This can't happen here.' I knew I had to stop it." Antoine is seventy-five years old, has traveled the world, seen skyscrapers in the cities of North America. But he had returned to his home to be close to the land, and in the medicine dream, his people's traditional way of life suddenly felt threatened in an existential way. "Our culture is the land. Take that away, we go away," he said. Sitting with Antoine at his home in the bush of the interior Arctic, this skyscraper portent would probably seem outrageous. Wrigley is a tiny hamlet of a hundred souls; stand on the bluff as Antoine did and look out on the Mackenzie River valley and you can see the curvature of the earth but not another sign of human habitation. Calgary, the closest city of at least a million people, is over 900 miles away. And yet, Antoine's fear is not completely misplaced, because the Mackenzie watershed does contain more than black spruce and caribou. It also hides gas and oil, about 166 billion barrels of it, the third largest energy reserve in the world. In the north, near Antoine, Canada has barely begun to tap that reservoir. Only one small 40-year-old pipeline runs through a portion of the valley: south from the regional drilling and refining town of Norman Wells, past Wrigley to Fort Simpson, and then into Alberta. Five years ago, that pipeline was leaking, at a spot just south of Antoine's home. To show me the damage, we loaded up in his battered pick-up truck and drove south on a gravel road, the only road for a hundred miles in any direction. We crossed over the Willow River on a rickety temporary bridge that seemed to have been pressed into permanent service, drove off the so-called highway and down the river bank. Antoine was wearing a Ducks Unlimited hat, stained sweat pants, bifocals, and galoshes with no socks; hardly an outfit for a long trek, but when we parked he led me into the thick forest. The mosquitoes attacked us from all sides, and Antoine lit a Player's cigarette that he pulled from a small pouch. According to Antoine, it was Tim Lennie, the chief of the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation in Wrigley, who found the leak. "He was out duck hunting, and he smelled it, and he said 'I know that smell,'" Antoine recalled. Read more: Why I Canoed 1,200 Miles to the Arctic Circle to Report on Climate Change Enbridge, the company that owns the pipeline, initially told the residents of Wrigley that only four barrels of oil had leaked. In the end, Enbridge would admit 1500 barrels spilled, and paid for a large cleanup. Antoine said he appreciates that the company dug out the ground and washed their trucks to avoid introducing invasive species, but why did Enbridge feel the need to replant? "They brought in black spruce from outside," Antoine explained. "Why? Because the paid consultants told them to. But why not let it reseed, with our own trees?" To me, the question seemed reasonable: We were in a clearing overgrown with fresh weeds, but beyond that lay nothing but millions of black spruce. For Antoine, this relatively small leak is a cautionary tale of what is to come. The Enbridge pipeline is modest and old, a nuisance. The real threat, one worthy of a medicine dream, is the Mackenzie Gas Project, a $20 billion drilling and hydrofracking and piping plan that's been debated, without resolution, for decades. When it involves the Gas Project, rumor is rampant, and any new construction project in the valley is seen as suspect. Ledcor, a government contractor, was in Wrigley last year to lay a brand new fiber-optic line. I mentioned that as a positive development, that high speed internet was coming to rural indigenous communities. Antoine swatted away my idea, as he did the bugs that clouded our faces. "It's not for the communities," he said. "They don't give a damn about the communities. It's for what's to come." "The pipeline is looming," he said. The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline plan came to prominence in the midst of the 1970s oil crises. OPEC threw up an embargo, the price of crude jumped 400 percent, and the levy was dry for too many American Chevys. Suddenly, it made economic sense for the United States to start pumping oil from the North Slope of Alaska, and so America built a pipeline. Construction began in 1974 and lasted only three years, 800 miles at a cost of $8 billion, an enormous investment and achievement. And yet, that project looked downright meager compared to plans next door. Canada knew it sat on an enormous stockpile, far more than the North Slope, and had an idea of its own to send oil and gas to its thirsty southern neighbor. The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, later called the Mackenzie Gas Project, would snake 2400 miles across the northern Arctic shore from Alaska, through the river delta, and down the valley south to Alberta. Total cost: $10 billion CDN. The government of Canada called it "the greatest construction project, in terms of capital expenditure, ever contemplated by private enterprise." It was a pre-existing engineering plan waiting for a crisis to make it feasible. In 1920, field crews of geologists, toting their drilling equipment in canoes, "discovered" oil deposits near Norman Wells. The strike was no surprise to the Dene First Nations who had lived in the area for millennia; their name for that bend in the river is Tłegǫ́hłı̨, "Where the Oil Is." As James Smith recounts in his 1977 book The Mackenzie River: Yesterday's Fur Frontier, Tomorrow's Energy Battleground, large scale production kicked in when the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands in World War II. To fuel the fight in the Pacific, Canada and America teamed up on the CANOL project, 600 miles of pumps and pipeline from Norman Wells directly west over the mountains to the coast. Across the north, airfields were laid to bring in men and equipment, and the now-famous Alaska Highway was built through the Canadian Rockies. The CANOL pipeline pumped 4000 barrels a day between 1943 and 1945, and then it was abandoned; the roads, the pumps, the pipeline, were all simply left to rot in place. You can still find rusting jeeps out there in the boreal forest. And yet engineers had proven an important point: such a pipeline was possible. From then on, the pace of northern development would be based on money and necessity, not the logistical challenge of working in the Arctic. It was a pre-existing engineering plan waiting for a crisis to make it feasible. Money and necessity: Canada had both after the 1973 OPEC oil shock. But before construction on the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline could begin, the government commissioned an inquiry to determine the environmental impact of the work. The man chosen to lead the effort was Thomas Berger, a thorough and enthusiastic young judge from British Columbia. At the time, no one could know that the Berger Inquiry, as it has come to be known, would prove a watershed. Major public hearings were held in 1975 and 1976. Berger himself traveled to 35 communities across the Arctic and asked each First Nation what effect the pipeline would have on them. More than a thousand indigenous men and women spoke on the record, a significant percentage of the First Nations in the region; even today, less than 10,000 people call the Mackenzie Valley home. They overwhelmingly said that if the pipeline went through, it would destroy them and their way of life. But business leaders and oil company executives who also testified said that the north would be destroyed if the pipeline was not built, reduced to a permanent welfare state without jobs and investment. An entourage of reporters followed Berger, and so the hearings were broadcast live, and translated in real time into half a dozen languages. The whole affair became a cultural event. As Alaska built a pipeline, the Canadians talked about one. And talked, and talked, and talked. Over 40,000 pages of testimony would go in the official record. The Berger Inquiry's final report was titled "Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland." Like the American 9/11 Commission Report thirty years later, it reads more like literary nonfiction than a standard government paper. Berger quotes Alexis de Tocqueville and Wallace Stegner, and on the opening page, takes up a broad mandate: "What happens in the North…will tell us what kind of country Canada is; it will tell us what kind of people we are." It sold 10,000 copies in its first week of publication, and became a best-seller. In a ruling that would still be considered progressive today, Berger recommended a ten-year moratorium on pipeline construction in the Mackenzie Valley while the First Nations resolved their land claims with the federal government, and that the northernmost portion of the project, the plan to pipe oil from Alaska across the ocean shore, be scrapped completely. Just off an embargo, and faced with an oil and gas shortage that could lead to war in the Middle East, Canada decided not to build the pipeline, because of the social and environmental cost to the people who lived in the north. It was a clear environmental victory, and awakened the northern First Nations as a political force. But it also only delayed construction, ensuring the battle to build a pipeline would continue. Jonas Antoine didn't participate in the Berger Inquiry because he was living in the United States at the time. When he was a young man, he moved to America to play in a traveling rock-and-roll band. He saw the country, and then eventually settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, got married, became a Packers fan, and worked as stage crew at a television station and then in a factory that made plastic trays for Burger King. His children stayed in the United States when he moved back north to Denendeh, the land of the Dene. While Antoine was gone, planning for the Mackenzie Gas Project moved ahead in fits and starts. Then, in 1994, the all-weather road paralleling the river—and eventually, as the plan goes, the pipeline—was laid in as far north as Wrigley, connecting the village to the outside world for the first time. Progress later stalled in a bureaucracy of report-issuing and payouts to local tribes, but Antoine figures that 80 percent of the pipeline prep-work has been completed. Antoine has now taken on the mantle of environmental activist. "'True courage rises as occasion.' That's Shakespeare, King John," he said, by way of explanation. Antoine's plan, with other members of his nation, is to focus on protecting the most sensitive environmental areas from the path of any future pipeline. For example, he was particularly concerned about turbine-powered pumps near the swamps where caribou breed. But there are hazards to this strategy. "You have to assess the area to protect," he said. "A complete assessment, and that includes a mineral assessment." The Northwest Territories is rich in diamonds, radium, uranium, and coal; bringing undue attention to such a spot can backfire, according to Antoine, because then resource-extraction companies seek to lay a claim. So there are other ways to defend a place and delay construction. Read more: The People Making Solar Power Where the Sun Doesn't Set "We can get huge chunks of money from the federal government for water conferences, so we do that," he said. "But does it help anything? Does anything get done?" I asked. I admit, I was suspicious. "Slowly," he said, noting that the tribe has spent a lot of money on lawyers. When the movement got started, Antoine told me "The elders came to us. 'We are your lawyers,' they said. That would have been better." It was a sentiment I had heard before, from Slavey elders at the annual Dehcho assembly in Jean Marie River a week before, that the nation should have relied more on its own wisdom than expensive consultants. Over the decades, suspicion has only grown about the deals struck by these consultants to gain the nation's cooperation in the pipeline construction. "The companies come in and announce a $500 million project," he said. "They want people to think that will be the investment in the community. But the only investment is jobs as dishwashers." When Antoine worked at the plastic tray factory, he said he learned a valuable lesson. The company made the trays as thin as possible, so they would break when dropped from waist height. That way, they could sell Burger King more trays. How would a pipeline company similarly maximize their profit? "I realized, everyone has their business," he said. "And for me, and our nation, our business is taking care of our people." Not everyone who lives in the Mackenzie valley thinks the pipeline is an inevitability. Several companies—including Northern Transportation Company, the 82 year-old barge and shipping corporation—are on the verge of bankruptcy waiting for the work to start. The local airline, North Wright, bought new planes in anticipation of construction-related demand that never came. The prime contractors have changed several times over, and the Canadian government has given extensions to work permits waiting for the price of oil and gas to go up. In Tulita, a small town north of Wrigley, I met Wendy and Ron Oe. They are Pentecostal missionaries originally from Alberta, a province that, until last year's dramatic election, was often called the Texas of Canada: conservative politics and lots of oil. Growing up among rigs and refineries, they know what a boom looks like, and don't see it in the Northwest Territories. "Every few years they drill a well here, a well there. They investigate, decide it's too expensive, and go home," said Wendy, referencing the shale exploration that began in 2011 but was quickly abandoned. Ron was more succinct. "If they were going to do it, they would have done it," he said. There was exasperation in his voice, because he wasn't just talking about the pipeline. He was talking about the road too. The gravel highway that I drove on with Jonas Antoine stops at Wrigley, and the villages of Tulita, Norman Wells, and Fort Good Hope are stranded. The Oes do odd jobs around town to make ends meet. Wendy hosts a bed and breakfast, Ron is a small engine mechanic and runs ground control at the local airstrip. The lack of an all-weather road turns their otherwise middle-class lifestyle on its head; once a year, when the snow-paved winter road opens, they drive south for a week-long shopping spree, buying all the clothing, electronics, home improvement supplies, and frozen food they'll need for the next year. For many in Tulita, Norman Wells, and Fort Good Hope, this lack of an all-weather road is both a source of frustration and a piece of evidence that the pipeline is never coming. The two are perpetually linked: A July editorial in News/North, a paper based in the territorial (and highway accessible) capital of Yellowknife, recommended that any infrastructure work that would support a future Mackenzie Gas Project, such as the road to Tulita, should be moved to the bottom of the government's priority list, as the likelihood of the project happening is so small. Or, as the Oes would say, how can they build a massive pipeline if they can't even build a road? The News/North editorial notes that the Northwest Territories government is nearly bankrupt, with only a diamond mine keeping the economy afloat. Public policy experts at the University of Calgary advocate expanding Canada's existing infrastructure corridor system to include the north. The corridors are zones of environmental clearance, a five-kilometer wide tube through which could pass pipelines, highways, fiber-optic lines, railways, electricity. One route, predictably, would follow the Mackenzie River valley. Theoretically, this reduces the cost of projects that would utilize the corridor, increasingly the likelihood that private investment will take place. The latest estimates place the cost of the Mackenzie Gas Project at $20 billion CDN, or approximately $16 billion US. In some ways, however, the cost of the Mackenzie project has gone down, falling by half in relative terms. The original price tag, $10 billion CDN in 1975, would be nearly $45 billion CDN in 2016 dollars. For comparison, the enormous (and currently stalled) Keystone XL Pipeline costs estimates are only in the $5-$8 billion US range. In June, the National Energy Board of Canada approved an extension of construction permits originally granted in 2011. The consortium of energy companies—Imperial Oil, Shell, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips—now has until December of 2022 to build the pipeline. I reached out to all four companies, and only Imperial Oil responded to a request for comment. "This extension will allow time to assess whether changes in the North American natural gas market. . . will result in improved economics for development of Mackenzie Delta gas reserves," a spokesperson said in a written statement. "The project participants remain hopeful that they can assist in the development of Canada's significant northern gas resources." The last place I expected to see a major construction site was in the furthest reaches of the Mackenzie Delta, twenty miles shy of the Arctic Ocean. And yet, there they were, a fleet of graders and bulldozers and dump trucks, laboring through the mounded silt on one of the delta's countless unnamed islands. I was four days out from Inuvik, the last town on the river, making a final push to land's end after canoeing the entire length of the Mackenzie, over 1,100 miles, to report on climate change. Every sign of civilization was behind me: no more fish camps, no more buoys or channel markers, no more barges or power boats. I was even off the charter plane flight path. The far edge of civilization, the Arctic Ocean, was only a dozen miles away. But as I rounded a bend on a shallow meandering channel, I was surprised by a flashing light at the top of a slight ridge. It caught my eye, so regular and hypnotic; at first I thought it was a safety beacon on a tower. Instead, it turned out to be the sunlight glinting off a backhoe's arm, digging in the ground in a steady rhythm. It was surrounded by other equipment, and a barge with a massive structure on the deck—a building with a peaked roof and rows of windows that looked for all the world like a suburban hotel—was docked in the river next to an earthwork ramp. Considering the pipeline delays and the state of the local economy, I assumed the construction must be military related. The refurbishment of an old Cold War radar station. Or maybe an upgraded airfield. Some new facility to counter Russian expansion in the Arctic. I didn't paddle too close, and tried to be discreet taking photos. But I was wrong. A few days later, Gerry Kisoun, the owner of a small charter boat company in Inuvik, told me the workers weren't doing construction so much as reclamation. It was an old oil drilling site, left over from the pre-Berger Inquiry days, and it was finally getting cleaned up. "The trappers up here, they could make good money," Kisoun told me. "And then the oil companies came and just started drilling, dropping dynamite into the lakes, scaring everything away. And the trappers went to our tribal leaders, and said you have to do something about this." When the Berger Inquiry issued its report, such wildcat drilling stopped, but it took decades for the site to be reclaimed. Like the Oes, Kisoun doesn't believe a pipeline will be constructed any time soon. "I honestly don't think it will happen in my lifetime. The price of oil is too low," he said. And yet, if the price does rebound, Kisoun is willing to have an open mind about development. "Our leaders are saying, we're ready to do business. There's a way to do it safely now, but we have to protect all this," he said, gesturing to the Mackenzie delta outside the window of his power boat. "We don't want another Gulf of Mexico." The First Nations find themselves in an awkward spot. Since the Berger Inquiry, most groups have settled their land claims, and thus now own enough oil and gas to roast the planet a second time over. In 2000, the Aboriginal Pipeline Group was formed and took a one-third stake in the Mackenzie Gas Project, so the Dene, Gwitch'in, and Inuvialuit would get a portion of profits. This places them in the position of both victim of climate change and potential perpetrator. In a classic catch-22, the money to pay for helping their people mitigate the effects of warming in the north may well come from producing and burning yet more oil and gas. "I sleep next to the pipeline, my pillow rests right on top of it, but I have to drive two hours to get gas." Unsurprisingly, then, tribal leaders are divided on the issue. Earlier this year, the Gwitch'in Tribal Council voted to ban hyrdrofracking in their region of the Northwest Territories. And yet at the same time, the Aboriginal Pipeline Group has expressed frustration that its oil company partners aren't serious about the pipeline and aren't moving fast enough. In 1977, Berger enclosed a letter to the House of Commons with his report, and it concludes this way: "With time, it may, after all, be possible to reconcile the urgent claims of northern native people with the future requirements of all Canadians for gas and oil." That has not happened yet, over the last forty years. Will it happen in the next forty? Alternative strategies abound to access the oil and gas or to work around the existing Mackenzie Gas Project plans. In a surprise move, the pipeline-friendly Liberal federal government just approved a massive liquid natural gas project in British Columbia. One businessman is calling for a similar, though much smaller scale, refinery in the Northwest Territories, so at least the local towns can produce gas for themselves. Fuel is extremely expensive in the north, about $8/gallon CDN when I was in Inuvik in July. Jonas Antoine expressed a sentiment I heard all over the Mackenzie valley: "I sleep next to the pipeline, my pillow rests right on top of it, but I have to drive two hours to get gas." If the First Nations have to live with the consequences of an eventual pipeline, they want the conveniences too, including a low price for fuel. Other plans call for reversing the flow of the gas project. In late June, a judge in BC halted the controversial "Northern Gateway" pipeline project—a corridor to link Alberta with the Pacific, it would have run across the northern portion of the providence—ruling that the local First Nations were not sufficiently consulted on the plan. With the American Keystone XL pipeline also halted, Alberta has to rely on so-called "bomb trains" to export its energy reserves. But if a deepwater port were built at Tuktoyaktuk, on the Arctic Ocean coast, then the Mackenzie valley could be used to pump Albertan energy to tankers bound for Chinese markets. This is no napkin-sketch idea. Bob McLeod, the premier of the Northwest Territories, calls it the "Arctic Gateway," and has been pitching it for several years. After four decades of talk, the pipeline really is still looming for Jonas Antoine. As we wrapped up our time together, I asked him whether there was anything the pipeline companies could do to move the project forward. Or would he always be set against it? "First, there must be consultation," he said, using the buzzword that canceled the Northern Gateway project in BC. "Real consultation. Consultation today is they come tell you what they done to you." Antoine wants a seat at the table, a chance to steer the pipeline away from hunting and fishing grounds, to protect water and the land. "Ok, real consultation," I said. "What else?" "Three things," he said, and ticked them off on his fingers. "Consultation, consent, and compensation." Antoine's business is taking care of his people. Travel support for this story was provided by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.
News Article | March 2, 2017
Arriving on horseback Thursday, newly minted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pledged he would devote more resources to national parks, boost the morale of department employees and bolster the sovereignty of American Indian tribes. Zinke — who was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday by a 68-to-31 vote — rode with a nine-person mounted police escort to the Interior Department’s downtown headquarters on Tonto, an Irish sport horse. The horse, a bay roan gelding standing just over 17 hands tall, is normally kept in stables on the Mall and is owned by the U.S. Park Police. While the Park Police serve as the interior secretary’s regular security detail, officers are typically not mounted. Within hours of his arrival Zinke signed two secretarial orders, including one that overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s guidance to agency managers to phase out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on national wildlife refuges by 2022. Several gun rights and hunting groups had objected to the policy, which was instituted just before Barack Obama left office, on the grounds that non-toxic copper and steel shot is somewhat more expensive. In the new directive, Zinke wrote, “I have determined that the Order was not mandated by any existing statutory or regulatory requirement and was issued without any significant communication, consultation, or coordination with affected stakeholders.” Advocates of the previous order, however, noted that it set in motion a five-year consultation process between federal officials and the states. Lead poisoning–which takes place when fragments of shot are consumed by scavengers or absorbed into the surrounding environment–is estimated to kill between 10 and 20 million birds each year, along with other species. George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy, criticized the move in statement, saying, “How shameful that this administration is casting science aside along with the welfare of wildlife.” Zinke’s second order aims to expand access to public lands for outdoor recreation and fishing; representatives from 15 organizations ranging from the Boone and Crockett Club to the National Rifle Association and Ducks Unlimited joined him as he signed the two directives. A fifth-generation Montanan, Zinke also sent an email to the department’s 70,000 employees telling them that he had spent years working on public lands issues and was dedicated to protecting America’s natural heritage. “I approach this job in the same way that Boy Scouts taught me so long ago: leave the campsite in better condition than I found it,” he wrote in a missive that was later posted on Medium. “I’m an unapologetic admirer and disciple of Teddy Roosevelt. I believe in traditional mixed use ‘conservation ethics’ doctrine laid out by [Gifford] Pinchot, but realize that there are special places where man is more an observer than a participant, as outlined by [John] Muir.” An employee with the Bureau of Indian Affairs from Montana’s Northern Cheyenne tribe played a veterans honor song on a hand drum as Zinke approached the department on C Street NW, while 350 employees waited outside to greet him. In his email, Zinke noted that he was “proud to be an adopted member of the Assiniboine-Sioux from Northeast Montana,” and that his commitment to respecting tribal sovereignty and the rights of U.S. territories “is not lip service.” Zinke is an avid outdoorsman, and the department’s home page boasts a large photo of him fly-fishing. His Medium post included a photo of him standing outside Glacier National Park with his wife, Lola. On Thursday he wrote about one of his favorite memories hiking on public lands, recalling that he suffered a painful mishap while trying to impress his future wife near the military base in California where he was training to become a Navy SEAL. “I was trying to show off some rock climbing skills I had just picked up training with the SEAL teams, but lost my hold and I broke my ankle,” he wrote. “I did what any guy would do in my situation: I stood up and kept on hiking, surely messing up my ankle a bit more. Lola and I finished the hike and I didn’t collapse in pain, but the bigger accomplishment was I won Lola’s heart.” [Trump is eager to undo tribal national monument in Utah, Orrin Hatch says] Although Zinke received much more bipartisan support than most of President Trump’s other Cabinet nominees, he also faces challenges mediating between some of Interior’s traditional supporters and conservative Republicans eager to make changes to how public lands are managed. Utah Republicans, for example, have asked Trump to unilaterally revoke national monument status for Bears Ears, a tribal site in southeastern Utah that Obama designated less than a month before leaving office. Zinke has said that reducing the $12.5 billion backlog in maintenance and operations for national parks is one of his and the president’s top priorities. But it’s unclear how much money the administration can devote to the task and other Interior Department programs, given Trump’s push to boost military funding while cutting other discretionary spending. Interior may face a budget trim of 10 percent to 12 percent, according to individuals briefed on the White House plans. These individuals asked for anonymity because no final funding decision had been made. In a sign of how contentious lands issues have become, an Instagram post this week by the Interior Department — accompanied with a quote from Zinke — attracted criticism as well as tens of thousands of likes. “I hope those jobs are filled by people focused on protection and preservation and NOT mining, logging and drilling!” one person wrote. “An attack on the sanctity of our national parks and monuments will face strong resistance!” Zinke made it clear in his note that he was adamantly opposed to selling off federal lands, as some congressional Republicans had proposed, but he wanted to give Interior employees more flexibility in how they operate. “We serve the people, not the other way around,” he wrote. “Washington has too much power. I think we need to return it to the front lines.” More from Energy and Environment: Humans have caused an explosion of never-before-seen minerals all over the Earth Antarctic ice has set an unexpected record, and scientists are struggling to figure out why For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here and follow us on Twitter here.
News Article | March 1, 2017
President Donald Trump has ordered federal agencies to rewrite an Obama administration rule that would shield many wetlands and small streams from development and pollution. Trump promised during his campaign to withdraw the measure, describing it as a classic case of federal overreach. Environmental groups say they'll fight in court to protect the rule. The likely outcome is years of continued political and legal wrangling over a long-contested issue. Some basics on the regulation and the debate: WHAT IT'S ABOUT The Clean Water Act of 1972 empowers the federal government to protect the "waters of the United States," but which waters are under the government's jurisdiction is a fiercely contested question. Everyone agrees that navigable waters such as large rivers and lakes are covered. But the status of headwaters, streams that flow only part of the year, and wetlands that aren't directly connected to large waterways is less certain. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that sought to clarify the matter only added to the confusion. Under President Barack Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers crafted a regulation that was promptly challenged by more than two dozen states and business groups. The rule establishes a legal definition of protected tributaries, saying they must have physical features of flowing water such as a bed, bank and ordinary high water mark. Organizations representing farmers, builders and property-rights advocates contend the 2015 rule imposes unfair limits on use of private lands. "A breathtaking power grab," says the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has represented opponents in lawsuits. "The rule is so broad and vague that federal regulators would be licensed to micro-manage property owners who are far away from genuinely navigable waters such as rivers, lakes or the ocean." Farm groups say it gives regulators nearly unlimited power over virtually any wet spots, from ditches to farm ponds, leaving producers uncertain about what they can do without obtaining government permits and risking fines. When the rule was issued, the EPA said it would not extend federal control over any waters that hadn't historically been covered by the Clean Water Act and would add no new requirements for agriculture. The EPA says about 60 percent of the river and stream miles in the Lower 48 states — about 2 million miles — are headwaters or have only intermittent flows. Environmentalists, and some hunting and fishing groups, say keeping those humble waterways intact and clean is essential to the larger downstream waters they feed. Also protected under the Obama rule are some 20 million acres of wetlands that don't have a visible connection to other waters but are vital for storing floodwaters, filtering pollutants and hosting wildlife. Among them: "prairie pothole" wetlands in the Upper Midwest that Ducks Unlimited calls "the most important and threatened waterfowl habitat in North America." WHAT HAPPENS NEXT Trump instructed the EPA and the Army Corps to "rescind or revise" the rule, which can't be done quickly or easily. The Obama rule hasn't taken effect because of the dozens of lawsuits pending in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Separately, the Supreme Court is considering whether the 6th Circuit should have jurisdiction over those cases. Legal experts say the Trump administration likely will attempt to have the suits dismissed while it crafts a new regulation. The president's executive order requires the agencies to follow the guidance of the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in producing a new definition of protected waters. In a 2006 opinion, Scalia interpreted federal jurisdiction narrowly, saying only "relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing" waters or wetlands with a surface connection to navigable waterways were covered. After proposing a new rule, the agencies would have to take public comments and consider them when putting together a final version. Environmental groups would be certain to challenge a rule based on the Scalia standards, saying it ignores scientific evidence. "This is likely to take years," said Jan Goldman-Carter, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation.