The Daily Grist: March 1

Supersize America
Bill McKibben Weighs in on the Immigration Question

With all the political infighting surrounding the Sierra Club election, there's been precious little discussion of the core issue: Is it appropriate for environmentalists to want to limit immigration? Bill McKibben charts these choppy waters -- only on the Grist Magazine website.

Huge Tracts of Land
Bush Administration Accelerates Oil and Gas Leasing in Rockies

The Bush administration, as part of its broader effort to accelerate oil and gas development on the Rocky Mountain front, is moving ahead with plans to lease large tracts of environmentally sensitive land in Utah and southwestern Wyoming. This has prompted protests from varied quarters, including a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton signed by 100 members of Congress. Enviro groups noted that many of the tracts being leased were eligible for federal wilderness status, and that the land, projected to be worth about $80 an acre in annual revenue, was leased for $20 per acre per year, a rather generous bargain for oil and gas companies, many of which were large Bush contributors. One such contributor, Stephen Gose of Montana-based Retamco Operating Inc., dismissed criticism, saying that the Clinton administration -- which had tried to protect the land -- was "beholden to the extreme conservationists."

Missouri Loves Company
New Missouri River Management Plan Sparks Protest

A massive new plan to manage the Missouri River, released by the Army Corps of Engineers on Friday, managed to please exactly nobody, in keeping with the tenor of 15 years of debate over the future of the "Big Muddy."
Conservation groups immediately protested and filed lawsuits, saying the plan ignores broad scientific consensus -- captured in a 2002 National Academy of Sciences report -- that the only way to restore the sandbars and wetlands needed to nurture the river's endangered and threatened species is to reestablish its natural ebb and flow, letting the river rise in the spring and fall in the summer. "They're proposing just to make it an industrial ditch, and to hell with everything else," said Chad Smith, spokesperson for conservation group American Rivers. Local politicians and business interests along the river also protested, claiming that even the modest flexibility in the plan's environmental provisions would make the river "unpredictable" and hurt the barge industry.

Breaking Wind
U.K. Military Accused of Thwarting Wind-Power Development

The U.K. Ministry of Defense is blocking efforts to expand wind energy in the country, said a group of top scientists today. The MoD objected to 48 percent of applications to build land-based wind turbine farms in 2003 because it doesn't want turbines within 46 miles of air defense radar installations. While the MoD claims that the turbines interfere with radar, only one other European country, Germany, has a similar prohibition, and that with a much smaller three-mile limit. A government report on Friday said that the U.K. is falling off course in its efforts to boost production of renewable energy. The nation has an official goal of getting 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2010; scientists said the MoD is, in effect, subverting that goal.

For more environmental news and humor visit Grist Magazine

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