Mar 272015

The greater sage-grouse cannot stay out of the news long. On Thursday, the Interior Department announced an agreement with Barrick Gold of North America and The Nature Conservancy allowing Barrick "to accumulate credits for successful mitigation projects that protect and enhance greater sage-grouse habitat on the company’s private Nevada ranch lands."

The company owns a lot of ranch lands in Nevada. Interior said a Nature Conservancy forecasting tool "will be applied to 582,000 acres of ranch lands under Barrick management in Nevada."

Because I am a lazy reporter and it is rather late at night, I'll simply paste the rest of the department's news release below, indented to make it clear this is DOI's writing, not mine, which would no doubt be riddled with typos.

But because the greater sage-grouse is a bird that seeks the limelight, there's more: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will be announcing another sage-grouse agreement Friday in Bend, Ore., with a cast of luminaries including Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills, FWS Regional Director Robyn Thorson, and BLM Deputy Director Steven Ellis. John O'Keefe, President-Elect, Oregon Cattlemen's Association, rounds out the crew. So, if you're at the Deschutes National Forest Office at            63095 Deschutes Market Rd in Bend ab0ut 1:45 p.m. (that's PT, of course), give me a call so I can listen in, or take a few photos (excuse me, digital images). I promise I'll post them here.

And, let's not forget the announcement last week in Wyoming of "the nation’s first conservation bank for greater sage-grouse."

On Tuesday, March 18, "at a ceremony in [Cheyenne] hosted by Governor Matt Mead, Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Lyons, Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth and Jeff Meyer, Managing Partner of the Sweetwater River Conservancy, formalized the agreement creating the project, which ranks as the largest conservation bank in the country," FWS said.

Don't know how I missed that one. Blink and you'll miss the latest announcement about land being managed/conserved/spruced up for the sage-grouse, all of which leads one to believe that an announcement in September that the bird has managed to avoid ESA listing is, how shall we say, in the bag?

Anyway, if you haven't already left this page long ago, here's that Barrick release:

The agreement among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Barrick establishes a conservation bank that allows the mining company to accumulate credits for successful mitigation projects that protect and enhance greater sage-grouse habitat on the company’s private Nevada ranch lands. As a result, Barrick gains certainty that the credits can be used to offset impacts to habitat from the company’s planned future mine expansion on public lands.

BLM, FWS and Barrick have all agreed to use The Nature Conservancy’s science-based Sage-grouse Conservation Forecasting Tool to quantify the benefits of habitat conservation projects on the company’s ranch lands and adjacent public lands as well as the impacts of Barrick’s future proposals for mining activities in the area. This unprecedented use of a conservation bank agreement adds to a suite of tools that can provide greater certainty to public land users by compensating for any adverse impacts their actions may have on public resources while permitting important economic activities. On a broader scale, the State of Nevada’s conservation credit exchange system, developed in concert with Environmental Incentives LLC, could facilitate other similar agreements to improve habitat and provide certainty to industry.

“This is the kind of creative, voluntary partnership that we need to help conserve the greater sage-grouse while sustaining important economic activities on western rangelands,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “This conservation banking agreement and Barrick’s partnership with The Nature Conservancy illustrates the kind of public-private collaboration that is essential to a successful effort to conserve rangeland habitat for people and over 350 species of wildlife.”

“When we first approached the Interior Department with this idea, we wanted to demonstrate that industry, regulators and conservation experts can work together to solve complex problems,” said Michael Brown, Executive Director of Barrick North America. “After many years of working with The Nature Conservancy, we are excited to see what they can do to help us improve habitat on our ranch lands and, hopefully, to provide a model for others interested in making similar improvements. We’re pulling many years of experience and cutting-edge conservation science together to protect the sage grouse, which, in turn, supports the broader ecosystem.”

The conservation bank concept commits Barrick and other land users to achieve ‘net conservation benefits’ for the greater sage-grouse by encouraging greater gains in functional sage grouse habitat through preservation and restoration than what is lost through development activities. Over time, the application of this concept should result in significant, landscape-scale improvements to habitat conditions throughout the region. Through implementation of this conservation bank, Barrick will obtain assurance that the voluntary compensatory mitigation measures taken by the company, when sufficient to provide a net conservation gain to the species, will be accounted for by BLM and the FWS as the agencies review the company’s future proposed mining operations.

The Nature Conservancy’s Sagebrush Conservation Forecasting Tool uses satellite imagery to create maps of current habitat conditions. Scientists then employ predictive computer models that simulate the natural patterns of vegetation change over time (e.g., young to mature plants), to identify which restoration actions will be most helpful to sage-grouse.

“By engaging with Barrick and the Department of the Interior, we can use our scientific and conservation planning expertise to help inform decisions that protect, manage and restore vital wildlife habitat on potentially hundreds of thousands of acres of land,” says Michael Cameron, Associate Director of the Nevada Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “Working together we can have a meaningful impact that supports both conservation and the economy of Nevada.”

In addition to its gold mining operations, Barrick owns several Nevada ranches. The company has completed a variety of habitat improvement projects on these ranches over the past 25 years, supporting mule deer, native fish and other species. The Nature Conservancy’s forecasting tool will be applied to 582,000 acres of ranch lands under Barrick management in Nevada. The agreement sets the stage for more investment in conservation of greater sage-grouse habitat, but it does not change or exempt Barrick from any existing laws and regulations governing its mining activities and its responsibility for environmental protection.

Other public land users are also stepping up to improve conservation practices. Ranchers in Oregon and Wyoming, for example, have committed to implement measures that will protect greater sage-grouse habitat across millions of acres of rangelands in return for assurances that, should the bird be listed as endangered or threatened, their operations will not be affected.

Secretary Jewell added, “Through landscape level mitigation efforts, conservation banks, credit exchanges, conservation easements, and conservation assistance programs, we are advancing partnership efforts that are redefining how we achieve our conservation goals across the American West.”

Through this sage-grouse effort and others, the Department is implementing the Secretary’s vision for more meaningful, landscape-level investments to compensate for development impacts.

Greater sage-grouse once occupied more than 290 million acres of sagebrush in the West, but the bird, known for its flamboyant mating ritual at sites called leks, has lost more than half of its habitat due to growing threats from conversion to agriculture, rangeland fire, invasive species and development.

The deteriorating health of western sagebrush landscapes has sparked unprecedented and proactive collaboration across 11 states. These collaborations are conserving uniquely American habitat that supports wildlife, outdoor recreation, ranching and other traditional land uses.

More information on the greater sage-grouse and the ongoing, collaborative work to conserve the sagebrush landscape is available at:

Mar 242015

Just the press release, m'am


Department of Energy, Department of the Interior and Army Corps of Engineers Renew Five-Year Partnership to Advance Hydropower

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of the Army for Civil Works announced today that the three agencies have extended their partnership to advance hydropower development for an additional five years. The renewal agreement signed today commits the agencies to a specific, ambitious agenda for hydropower, building upon their Memorandum of Understanding for Hydropower (MOU) signed on March 24, 2010.

At a signing ceremony at the Department of the Interior, the agencies celebrated the accomplishments of the first 5-years of this partnership, and recognized the value of continued collaboration driven by a detailed, shared action plan. The partnership will help meet the need for reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable hydropower by strengthening a long-term working relationship, sharing priorities, and aligning ongoing and future renewable energy development efforts across the agencies.

The Memorandum of Understanding for Hydropower – Sustainable Hydropower Action Plan (Phase II) announced today renews the agencies’ commitment with a second phase of collaboration. This action plan aims to support the Obama Administration’s goals for doubling renewable energy generation by 2020 and improving federal permitting processes for clean energy as called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan.

"Through the advancement of hydropower, the three agencies are helping meet President Obama's goal of generating 80 percent of our energy from clean energy sources by 2035," Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor said. "This agreement continues Interior's commitment to renewable energy projects and expands on the original MOU by adding more goals and action items."

"Our collaboration with the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers enables our nation to responsibly expand America’s largest source of clean, renewable energy" said Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. “I am excited about this opportunity to diversify our nation’s energy portfolio, boost our energy security, and reduce carbon emissions with the advanced hydropower technologies that the Department of Energy is helping to develop and deploy."

"As a leader in the hydropower industry, the Army is proud of our hydroelectric generation and greatly support the extension of the original MOU as well as the Action Plan for Phase II,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. “It will help meet the Nation's needs for reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable hydropower by building a long-term working relationship, prioritizing similar goals, and aligning ongoing and future renewable energy development efforts between DOE, DOI, and the Army Corps of Engineers."

Through continued collaboration and partnerships with other federal agencies, the hydropower industry, the research community, and numerous stakeholders, the agencies will work toward the following objectives, among others:

  • Improve the accuracy and reduce costs of water flow measurement technology, which, if successful, could increase generation at existing plants and improve the productivity of new hydropower systems yet to be installed.
  • Evaluate new superconducting generator technology that could significantly reduce the size and weight of generators for new hydropower projects, potentially leading to reduced costs and increased generator output for existing facilities.
  • Further develop low-impact, low-cost hydropower technologies suitable for demonstration and deployment at non-powered dams and conduits, where there is potential to increase U.S. hydropower generation by more than 17,500 gigawatt hours per year – equivalent to powering more than 1.5 million U.S. homes per year.
  • Develop design tools to improve the environmental performance of hydropower turbines for responsible deployment.
  • Further assess the risks to U.S. hydropower generation and water infrastructure posed by climate change.

Since these efforts were initiated, there has also been an increased interest in private hydropower development at federal facilities. Following the 2010 MOU, ten non-federal projects, comprising 33 megawatts of capacity, have come online at Bureau of Reclamation facilities, with an additional 40 projects initiated and currently in development. For the Army Corps of Engineers, three non-federal projects comprising 19.4 megawatts of capacity have also come online, with an additional 32 projects initiated and currently in some stage of development.Further assess the risks to U.S. hydropower generation and water infrastructure posed by climate change.

Over the past five years, through collaboration and partnerships with other federal agencies, the hydropower industry, the research community, and numerous stakeholders, the agencies have successfully fulfilled the commitments of the original MOU. Examples of these accomplishments include:

  • Completing numerous publicly available assessments and studies of different hydropower resources, including constructing a database for all existing U.S. hydropower infrastructure.
  • Developing tools for optimizing the operation of hydropower facilities and evaluating the potential for state-of-the-art upgrades and modernizations.
  • Funding several research projects that develop and demonstrate new hydropower generation technologies and minimize the environmental impacts of hydropower facilities.
  • Delivering a report to Congress that examines the potential effects of climate change on water available for hydropower generation at federal facilities.
  • Developing and implementing an integrative approach to assess complementary hydropower and environmental opportunities within several different river basins across the United States.
  • Improving the licensing process for the development of new, privately owned hydropower generation at existing federal dams and water infrastructure.

Renewal of this MOU will help advance hydropower development across the United States, helping further unleash the potential of this reliable, proven source of renewable energy.

To learn about the Energy Department’s work in hydropower, please visit the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s hydropower website. To learn more about how hydropower captures energy from flowing water, watch this Energy 101 video.

Mar 102015
Jewell issues wildland fire strategy for sagebrush for 2015 season

Here’s the release, and linked here     Date: March 10, 2015 Contact: Jessica Kershaw Secretary Jewell Issues Strategy to Protect, Restore Sagebrush Lands for 2015 Fire Season Report advances work with Federal, state, Tribal and non-government partners to protect economic activity and wildlife habitat vital to the Western way of life WASHINGTON, D.C. – […]

Mar 062015

See our Federal Register page for more   (and scroll down for the coral recovery plan links) On Public Inspection today FWS releases final recovery plan for the four subspecies of island fox (Urocyon littoralis). Each of the four subspecies, San Miguel Island fox (Urocyon littoralis littoralis), Santa Rosa Island fox (U. l. santarosae), Santa Cruz […]

Feb 052015

See our Federal Register page for more Posted for Public Inspection  NMFS begins 5-year reviews of 32 listed species: 17 evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) of Pacific salmon; 11 distinct population segments (DPSs) of steelhead; the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin DPSs of yelloweye rockfish, canary rockfish, and bocaccio rockfish; and the southern DPS of eulachon | More […]

CBD blasts offshore leasing proposal

 Posted by on January 27, 2015
Jan 272015
CBD blasts offshore leasing proposal

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release shortly after the Interior Department announced its offshore drilling proposal for 2017-2022. Here’s the release, pasted below: Obama Plan Will Open Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to Dangers of Drilling Obama Sacrifices Climate for Industry Profit For Immediate Release, January 27, 2015 Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 632-5308, […]