Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dry, Bitter Fruit

This morning, I saw something very troubling in the RGJ. It's not even spring yet, and the BLM is already warning Northern Nevada ranchers of the dry summer ahead.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials said it’s possible drought conditions could again force the removal of livestock or temporary closure of grazing allotments on some federal land in Nevada this summer.

The agency’s Elko District Office has released an environmental assessment detailing how it plans to respond to varied range conditions, and has asked grazing permit holders to meet with BLM staff to assess range conditions before turning out livestock.

BLM officials said while recent storms have slightly improved range conditions in a few areas, the entire state remains unusually dry. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 60 percent of Nevada was in severe or extreme drought conditions as of Jan. 1.

Last year, the Elko district worked with ranchers to adjust their livestock operations in line with reduced forage due to the drought.

According to the BLM, forage remains of poor quality, and many water sources are drier than usual, putting more pressure on other water sources by all users, including wildlife and wild horses, and causing long-lasting damage to plants, spring areas and water quality.

“The Elko district may recommend these actions (for ranchers) again this year,” BLM spokeswoman Lesli Ellis said in a statement. “These adjustments could include delaying turn-out, adjusting grazing numbers or in some cases taking substantial non-use.”

I hate to say it, but I told you so. And more importantly, scientists have been warning us for decades on this coming crisis. And now, we're starting to pay the price for past inaction.

In the past 30 years, Arctic sea ice volume has plummeted. And in the same period of time, we've seen far more extreme weather. We can no longer deny the crisis at our doorstep.

This is why climate activists across the country called for an end to the Keystone XL nonsense and a new start on climate action. At least some on Capitol Hill actually paid attention. But ultimately, both protestors and some Members of Congress are calling on President Obama to act if Congress can't.

“Go ahead, start acting on these issues,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) urged President Obama in a Friday phone interview with TPM. “[I]f he moves forward in a broad array of measures, that will encourage industry to push the Republicans to legislate. But I don’t think we should have a waiting game for Congress to act or for industries to push Congress. We’ve been in a waiting game for decades … it’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.” [...]

“The EPA is required to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act,” Waxman said. “They’ve already proposed a rule to limit the pollution from new power plants, and they could also issue regulations dealing with existing power plants, as well as oil refineries. The Department of Energy can issue efficiency standards for household appliances. That would deal with greenhouse gases as well as saving consumers a lot of money.”

In addition, President Obama has the final word on Keystone. He can turn down that boondoggle and get the ball rolling on real climate denial.

When it comes to regulating carbon emissions, the EPA now has the authority to do so. President Obama has been waiting for Congress to do something first. But if Congress keeps doing nothing, he and the EPA will ultimately have to step up.

Again, we're already seeing the real and dangerous effects of climate change. If we fail to act soon, this will indeed become a devastating crisis. If we fail to act, we only threaten our very existence as a human race.

We're already beginning to bear the ugly, bitter fruit of inaction here in Nevada. We can't afford any more.

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