Court: EPA must consider environmental impact when setting ethanol mandate

The U.S. appeals court in Washington unanimously ordered the EPA to reconsider its Renewable Fuel Standard for 2018 because it failed to account for the potential impact of full-throttle corn production on endangered species and habitat. Even though the decision was directed at agency deliberations that took place in 2017, the Sierra Club, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the EPA will have to take the ruling into account in writing the RFS for 2020.

Interior agency will ‘maximize water deliveries’ to Southern California

State officials are expected to fight the Trump administration’s proposal to “maximize water deliveries” through the Central Valley Project to Southern California, including farmers in the Westlands Water District, the largest agricultural water district in the nation, says the Sacramento Bee.

Utah Representative sets his sights on Endangered Species Act

Rep. Rob Bishop, a fierce opponent of the Endangered Species Act, recently steered five bills meant to ultimately dismantle the law through the House Natural Resources Committee, which he chairs, says The Washington Post.

Illegal pot farms wreak havoc on national forests

Mexican drug cartels, operating illegal marijuana farms on public lands, are polluting forests and saddling the federal government with millions of dollars in clean-up costs. Trespass marijuana farms are thought to number in the hundreds of thousands in California alone. The sites “wreak havoc on the land, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of pounds of garbage, leaching caustic chemicals, polluting watersheds, and damaging the habitat of endangered and at-risk species,” reports High Country News.

New bills seek to undermine Endangered Species Act

Six Republican bills could change the face of the Endangered Species Act, says High Country News. For example, the Federally Integrated Species Health Act, introduced by California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert,  would turn management of endangered salmon species entirely over to the Fish & Wildlife Service. As of now, the National Marine Fisheries Service co-manages endangered salmon with FWS.

Coho salmon die in ‘witch’s brew’ of stormwater runoff

Coho salmon face fatal levels of pollution in 40 percent of their range in the Puget Sound Basin, chiefly because of stormwater runoff, says a study published in the journal Ecological Applications.

Ecology program has prisoners planting sagebrush

Under a program funded by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), prisoners in six states are planting sagebrush, a plant native to Western grasslands that has been depleted by development and by ranchers' preference for other grasses that make better forage for livestock. Sagebrush provides valuable habitat for big-game and birds, while providing enough shade to keep moisture in the soil.

New study says biodiversity is crucial to ecosystem health

A new analysis of data from a number of sources, by researchers at Smithsonian and the University of Michigan, found that biodiversity plays an even greater role in ecosystem resilience and overall health than previously thought—more important than even temperature and nutrients. The analysis was published in the journal Nature.

Western monarch butterflies on verge of extinction, says study

Monarch butterflies west of the Rocky Mountains are facing extinction, as the number wintering in California has plummeted by more than 90 percent since 1980, says a study published by the journal Biological Conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is debating whether to grant endangered species status to the insect.