OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior Secretary will lead BLM after judge ousts Pendley from public lands role | Trump, Biden spar over climate change at debate

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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior Secretary will lead BLM after judge ousts Pendley from public lands role | Trump, Biden spar over climate change at debate | Trump official delays polar bear study with potential implications on drilling: report

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FILL-IN THE BERN: The Department of the Interior will not name a new acting director to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after it’s leader was ousted by a federal judge, top officials told employees in an email obtained by The Hill.

Instead the job will be left to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

A Montana-based U.S. district judge on Friday ruled William Perry Pendley, the controversial acting director of BLM, “served unlawfully … for 424 days” and enjoined him from continuing in the role.

The decision was in response to a suit from Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who argued Pendley, whose nomination to lead the BLM was pulled by the White House last month, was illegally serving in his role through a series of temporary orders.

A Wednesday email makes clear that Interior will not be placing the top career official in charge of the nation’s public lands agency, as its department manual dictates.

“I understand there may be some questions about the ruling on Friday regarding William Perry Pendley’s leadership role at the Bureau of Land Management,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond wrote in an email to BLM staff.

“Secretary Bernhardt leads the bureau and relies on the BLM’s management team to carry out the mission. Deputy Director for Programs and Policy, William Perry Pendley, will continue to serve in his leadership role.”

Judge Brian Morris, an Obama appointee, ruled Friday that Interior and the White House improperly relied on temporary orders far beyond the 210 days allotted in the Federal Vacancies Reform Act while also violating the Constitutional requirement to seek approval from the Senate.

“The President cannot shelter unconstitutional ‘temporary’ appointments for the duration of his presidency through a matryoshka doll of delegated authorities,” he wrote.

Pendley has sparked controversy over the course of the year he has led BLM due to his long history opposing federal ownership of public lands as well as comments he has made questioning climate change and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Putting Bernhardt at the helm of the agency appears to comply with the court order from Morris.

But critics say the move centralizes power for the agency in the highest political circles after relocating more than 200 Washington, D.C.,-based positions to Grand Junction, Colo., in order to bring employees closer to the lands they manage.

The move leaves just 61 BLM employees in Washington.

“Secretary Bernhardt’s decision to centralize final decision-making in Washington,

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Report highlights impacts of changing climate on B.C. Interior forests landscape



a tree in a forest: The Interior Douglas Fir biogeoclimatic zone is characterized by tall mature Douglas fir trees and a grassy understory conducive to mule deer. It's also vulnerable to climate change, which makes its reforestation a particular challenge, a new B.C. Forest Practices Board investigation has shown.


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The Interior Douglas Fir biogeoclimatic zone is characterized by tall mature Douglas fir trees and a grassy understory conducive to mule deer. It’s also vulnerable to climate change, which makes its reforestation a particular challenge, a new B.C. Forest Practices Board investigation has shown.

The dry Douglas fir forests of B.C.’s Interior offer a stark illustration of how climate change is going to alter the province’s landscape, as well as the forest sector’s shortcomings in looking after the woods, according to new research by the B.C. Forest Practices Board.

Technically, the region is referred to as the Interior Douglas Fir (IDF) biogeoclimatic zone, an area of dry forest and grassy understory that covers a swath of the Interior that stretches from the Kootenays and the Okanagan up into the Cariboo plateau.

It covers five per cent of the province now, but shifting climatic conditions are expected to nearly double it in size over the next 60 years. However, research by the forest practices board has shown that the forestry industry is doing a mediocre job of managing the area for the future.

Timber companies relied too much on clearcutting and didn’t do enough selective harvesting that leaves a varied age structure of trees behind that mimics natural disturbances, which leave shade to help new trees in the IDF to regenerate. That is important because lumber producers running out of usable trees in areas ravaged by the mountain pine beetle are increasingly looking to the IDF as another source of timber.

“(The region) is not insignificant,” said board spokeswoman Darlene Oman, “(and) the board thought the results are important because they have implications for the longer-term timber supply. If the province is expecting these areas to produce a future crop of trees and they’re not necessarily growing back the way they think they are, that has timber-supply implications, and then it also has implications for wildlife habitat.”

In its investigation, and report on the IDF , the board found that timber firms were meeting replanting objectives and doing a good job of increasing the diversity of tree species that were replanted — getting away from lodgepole-pine monoculture — but weren’t always applying best-management practices.

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Investigators looked at harvested cut blocks in four different areas that were logged between 2007 and 2017, and found that 60 per cent of them, 44-of-69 sites, were in poor or marginal condition and unlikely to be healthy forests once they reach free-growing status.

“These sites may not grow to healthy forests in the long-term, and that has implications for future timber supply and other values, such as wildlife habitat,” said forest practices board chairman Kevin Kriese in releasing the report.

Kriese said the board is asking the province to reassess its long-term objectives for reforestation and update those along with the standards it expects timber companies to meet, in light of expected changes due to climate change.

In its conclusions, the forest practices board requests that government respond to the

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Report highlights impacts of changing climate on B.C. Interior forests

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Kriese said the board is asking the province to reassess its long-term objectives for reforestation and update those along with the standards it expects timber companies to meet, in light of expected changes due to climate change.

In its conclusions, the forest practices board requests that government respond to the board by Feb. 21, 2021, and if it accepts the recommendations, submit a progress report on the measures it’s taking within 12 months of the report’s publication.

And the big decision may be whether to let the IDF become a major source of timber for forest firms to harvest at all. The IDF zone is one of B.C.’s driest ecosystems that could be pushed into becoming more grassland than forest by changes in rainfall coming with climate change, said University of B.C. forestry expert Sally Aitken.

“And the forest management practices can accelerate that or slow that depending on how they’re done,” said Aitken, a professor and associate dean in UBC’s department of forests and conservation sciences. “That zone is a tricky one to manage.”

The type of timber harvesting that works best in the zone, partial cutting versus clearcutting, that maintains ecological conditions for successful regeneration is a more expensive type of management, Aitken said.

“Therein lies the challenge,” she said. “Is that the right place to be our wood basket for the province?”

Aitken added that the IDF is also a fire-adapted landscape, but forest-fire suppression has let too many fuels build up in the forest understory. Now drought leaves it more vulnerable to fire.

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NOAA pick is critic of Weather Service, dire climate forecasts

The position, pushed forward by the White House pending completion of ethics and security reviews, would put Maue in a leadership position within the agency. As chief scientist, Maue would be tasked with helping to establish its oceans and atmosphere research priorities as well as playing a role in enforcing its scientific integrity policy.

The White House and NOAA declined to comment, and the Commerce Department that oversees NOAA did not respond to a request for comment.

The NOAA scientific integrity policy is meant to prevent political influence from interfering with its scientific work as well as the communication of NOAA scientists’ findings. The current acting chief scientist, Craig McLean, initiated an investigation into NOAA leaderships’ actions during the controversy surrounding the agency’s support for President Trump’s inaccurate claims regarding the path of Hurricane Dorian.

Maue is a meteorologist who serves as the developer of weathermodels.com, a site that displays computer model information using eye-catching graphics to make their simulations accessible to professionals and hobbyists. He was previously an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, which was involved in efforts to question the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change.

Along with Patrick Michaels, a well-known climate change contrarian, Maue penned a 2018 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal challenging the climate change projections made in 1988 by noted former NASA scientist James Hansen, which other researchers, backed up by peer-reviewed studies, have found were prescient.

He has harshly criticized climate activists and Democrats for pushing for cuts in fossil fuel emissions by linking extreme weather events to global warming, but he does not dispute the fact that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the planet in ways that are causing significant impacts. He has also spoken out against scientists who link rapid Arctic climate change to weather extremes taking place outside the Arctic.

In recent months he’s been harshly critical of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and his linking of the state’s deadly wildfire season to climate change. Climate studies show global warming is amplifying wildfire risks, making blazes more intense and frequent than they were a few decades ago.

For example, a study published in August shows California’s frequency of fall days with extreme fire-weather conditions has already more than doubled since the 1980s.

Maue is also known for tracking and evaluating the accuracy of weather forecasting models and has a lengthy social media history of criticizing NOAA’s National Weather Service for falling behind Europe, the U.K. and Canada when it comes to the accuracy of its computer modeling. But he has also praised the agency’s recent efforts to close the gap.

A recent pattern of NOAA hires

Maue’s forthcoming appointment comes amid increased White House attention to what is typically a low key government agency. Earlier this month, the White House named controversial climate contrarian David Legates as deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for environmental observation and prediction. Legates, a professor at the University of Delaware, is affiliated with the Heartland Institute, a

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student climate protesters urge their universities to go carbon neutral

As West coast wildfires color the skies dystopian red and orange and an aggressive hurricane season batters the US Gulf coast, college students are demanding their schools take bold action to address the climate crisis.



Ramkumar Raman et al. holding a sign posing for the camera: Photograph: Jim West/Alamy


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Photograph: Jim West/Alamy

Caitlyn Daas is among them. The senior at Appalachian State University and organizer with the Appalachian Climate Action Collaborative (ClimACT) stands on the frontlines of her school’s grassroots push to go “climate neutral”, part of a years-long, national movement that has inspired hundreds of institutional commitments to reduce academia’s carbon footprint.

That concept, ‘our house is burning,’ was a metaphor. But really in 2020, it is literal.

Laura England

Carbon neutrality commitments typically require schools to dramatically cut their carbon emissions by reimagining how they run their campuses — everything from the electricity they purchase to the air travel they fund. Colleges across the country, from the University of San Francisco to American University in Washington DC have already attained carbon neutrality. Other academic institutions, including the University of California system, have taken steps to fully divest from fossil fuels.

But as young activists like Daas urge their universities to do their part to avert climate disaster, many are frustrated by tepid responses from administrators whom they feel lack their same sense of urgency and drive. Appalachian State, part of the University of North Carolina system, has committed to reaching net-zero emissions decades down the line, but Daas and her fellow activists fear that’s far too late. She’s baffled that an institution devoted to higher learning is seemingly ignoring the science around the climate emergency.



a group of people holding a sign: The Detroit March for Justice, which brought together those concerned about the environment, racial justice and similar issues


© Photograph: Jim West/Alamy
The Detroit March for Justice, which brought together those concerned about the environment, racial justice and similar issues

“If our voices don’t matter, can you please stop telling us that they do?” Daas says.

College activists concerned about the climate crisis have largely focused their efforts on two popular movements that go hand-in-hand: reaching carbon neutrality, and divesting university endowments. Broadly, the term “net carbon neutrality” means that a campus zeroes out all of its carbon emissions, says Timothy Carter, president of Second Nature, a nonprofit focused on climate action in higher education. This can be achieved through modifying campus operations, often with the help of alternatives, such as renewable energy certificates and voluntary carbon offsets (activities that atone for other emissions). In Second Nature’s definition, investment holdings don’t factor in a school’s carbon footprint. Carbon neutrality often falls within a wider umbrella of climate neutrality, which also incorporates justice and other concerns.



a man walking across a grass covered field: Students walk at the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina on 7 August 2020. Photograph: Jonathan Drake/Reuters


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Students walk at the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina on 7 August 2020. Photograph: Jonathan Drake/Reuters

Divestment campaigns, meanwhile, pressure universities to shed investments in fossil fuels in their endowments. “We cannot truly be climate neutral if we continue to invest in a fossil fuel industry,” says Nadia Sheppard, chair of the Climate Reality Project campus corps chapter at North Carolina State University, where

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How to build a garden to withstand the Pacific Northwest’s hotter and drier climate

Until rain began falling Friday, the only thing coming from the skies across western Washington lately has been ash. Anxious homeowners have been glancing at their landscaping the last couple of weeks and filling online garden forums with questions about drought, fires and ash.

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But garden experts say there’s little to worry about — if you’ve been caring for your plants. And there are steps to take to make a drought resistant garden.

Western Washington is experiencing “abnormally dry” weather, according to the Pacific Northwest Drought Early Warning System, a collaborative government effort that monitors weather conditions for the Columbia River basin and surrounding region, including all of Washington state.

Central Washington is experiencing a moderate to severe drought, according to DEWS. Many parts of Oregon are in extreme drought.

Get used to it, experts say. It’s climate change.

“It’s definitely gotten hotter,” said Linda Chalker-Scott, a Washington State University professor, urban horticulturist and author. “Maybe not every summer. But when you look at long term trends, we know that the average temperature is going up in summer, and we’re getting less rainfall.”

There’s nothing from stopping homeowners from watering their thirsty landscapes, except maybe the water bill. But, Chalker-Scott suggests planning and planting landscapes that are less dependent on supplemental water.

The weather has changed to the point where spring planting season is something to be avoided unless gardeners are installing a vegetable garden or putting in annuals, she said.

“Spring is a really bad time to plant. Summer is the only worst time,” Chalker-Scott said. “The tree is not able to put out a lot of root growth because there’s just not enough water to support that.”

Instead, fall and winter are the seasons that are best for planting trees, shrubs and perennials. She suggests mid-October as the start of the planting season. Even deciduous plants, those that lose their leaves, will grow roots during fall and winter.

Fall colors might be arriving sooner than usual, said garden designer and author Sue Goetz.

“Some trees kick out fall color early if they are super stressed,” Goetz said. “If trees are stressed, it is usually because they are newly planted in the last few years and just need to get their roots deep in the ground.”

Homeowners concerned about fire should concentrate on where they plant more than what they plant. Chalker-Scott debunks lists of “flammable plants” put out by governments and other agencies.

“It’s just not really based on science,” she said. “It’s based on anecdote, just conjecture, nothing else.”

Fire defense experts suggest creating a defensible space around homes that might be subject to wildfires.

Homeowners concerned about air quality should plant more trees, Goetz said.

“It is well studied how dramatically trees can help reduce air pollution,” she said. “So, I imagine our large trees are working hard.”

Keeping plants healthy means avoiding bare earth, Chalker-Scott said. The best way to do that is with ground cover or mulch. She recommends wood chips, not

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Gardeners should plan now for Washington’s hotter, drier climate

Until rain began falling Friday, the only thing coming from the skies across western Washington lately has been ash. Anxious homeowners have been glancing at their landscaping the last couple of weeks and filling online garden forums with questions about drought, fires and ash.

But garden experts say there’s little to worry about — if you’ve been caring for your plants. And there are steps to take to make a drought resistant garden.

Western Washington is experiencing “abnormally dry” weather, according to the Pacific Northwest Drought Early Warning System, a collaborative government effort that monitors weather conditions for the Columbia River basin and surrounding region, including all of Washington state.

Central Washington is experiencing a moderate to severe drought, according to DEWS. Many parts of Oregon are in extreme drought.

Get used to it, experts say. It’s climate change.

“It’s definitely gotten hotter,” said Linda Chalker-Scott, a Washington State University professor, urban horticulturist and author. “Maybe not every summer. But when you look at long term trends, we know that the average temperature is going up in summer, and we’re getting less rainfall.”

There’s nothing from stopping homeowners from watering their thirsty landscapes, except maybe the water bill. But, Chalker-Scott suggests planning and planting landscapes that are less dependent on supplemental water.

The weather has changed to the point where spring planting season is something to be avoided unless gardeners are installing a vegetable garden or putting in annuals, she said.

“Spring is a really bad time to plant. Summer is the only worst time,” Chalker-Scott said. “The tree is not able to put out a lot of root growth because there’s just not enough water to support that.”

Instead, fall and winter are the seasons that are best for planting trees, shrubs and perennials. She suggests mid-October as the start of the planting season. Even deciduous plants, those that lose their leaves, will grow roots during fall and winter.

Fall colors might be arriving sooner than usual, said garden designer and author Sue Goetz.

“Some trees kick out fall color early if they are super stressed,” Goetz said. “If trees are stressed, it is usually because they are newly planted in the last few years and just need to get their roots deep in the ground.”

Homeowners concerned about fire should concentrate on where they plant more than what they plant. Chalker-Scott debunks lists of “flammable plants” put out by governments and other agencies.

“It’s just not really based on science,” she said. “It’s based on anecdote, just conjecture, nothing else.”

Fire defense experts suggest creating a defensible space around homes that might be subject to wildfires.

Homeowners concerned about air quality should plant more trees, Goetz said.

“It is well studied how dramatically trees can help reduce air pollution,” she said. “So, I imagine our large trees are working hard.”

Keeping plants healthy means avoiding bare earth, Chalker-Scott said. The best way to do that is with ground cover or mulch. She recommends wood chips, not bark. Chips

Read more