Destroying PFAS: Less Than Meets the Eye


On the long list of things you need to worry about is the problem of PFAS. “PFAS” is an acronym for perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances. It’s a class of chemicals composed of long chains of carbon molecules very strongly bonded with fluorine atoms, and they are damned near indestructible. Other chemicals break down by bacterial…

Notes on John Prine’s “Paradise”


At the Bonnie Raitt concert WC attended recently, Raitt lamented the loss of John Prine, her friend, co-performer and colleague. “Hold John close to your heart,” she urged us, before performing “Angel from Montgomery,” the Prine song she has sung most often. It’s on Prine’s astonishing first album, along with other unforgettable songs like “Sam…

Game Changer: The Rosemont Copper Mine


WC recognizes that long blog posts about mining law aren’t exactly light reading, and that, rightly or wrongly, most readers aren’t all that interested in the arcana. But Center for Biological Diversity v. Davis might be one of the most important mining law decisions in the last half century, and merits at least a brief…

Jackson Browne Was Right


Oh people, look around you The signs are everywhereYou’ve left it for somebody other than youTo be the one to careYou’re lost inside your housesThere’s no time to find you nowYour walls are burning and your towers are turningI’m going to leave you here and try to get down to the sea somehow Jackson Brown, “Rock…

Another BUCIP: Red Dog Mine


BUCIP is the acronym for Big, Ugly, Complicated and Intractable Problem. One of Alaska’s BUCIPs is northwest Alaska’s Red Dog Mine. Most readers will have never heard of Red Dog Mine, but it’s the largest zinc mine in North America, as well as a very significant source of lead, silver and cadmium. It’s located in…

Alaska Native Villages Need Not Apply


The National Park Service already has an environmental assessment out for the proposed repairs to the Denali National Park Road at Polychrome Pass. Readers may recall the existing road crosses a rock glacier and climate change has accelerated the glacial flow, carrying off the road. The Park Road is closed east of Polychrome Pass. You…

Infernal Engines


Boise, Idaho is officially classified as having the Køppen Climate Classification subtype “Csb,” Mediterranean Climate. That means there’s not a lot of rain, although it isn’t a desert landscape. In fact, it’s raining as WC writes this blog post. And one of the delights of rain here in the North End of Boise is that it…

Sawtooth National Recreation Area, July 16, 2016

Loving ‘Em to Death


WC has written before about the looming crises in public use of recreational lands. Those crises will worsen as the rest of the Boomer Generation retires and seeks to recreate. National Parks and Wilderness Areas, in particular, are starting to suffer damage from the sheer number of visitors who are flocking to them. Yellowstone National…

Male Greater Sage Grouse in full display, Snake River Plain, Idaho

A Modest Victory for Greater Sage Grouse


There was another modest victory for Greater Sage Grouse via the federal courts last week. Readers may recall that the Trump Administration had repudiated the painfully negotiated multi-state, multi-agency Greater Sage Grouse Management Plan and proceeded with a series of oil and gas leases in critical sage grouse habitat across the Intermountain West. It was…

Oregon Coast Notebook: The Ugly


Several readers took WC to task for his Lincoln City Syndrome post. The Oregon Coast, they said, is still beautiful, is still relatively undisturbed, is still a wonderful place to visit. WC, they said, is a cranky old man. Yes, but. The sea wrack is laced with plastic fragments. This is not healthy, normal or…

Walt Kelly's 1971 Earth Day Poster

Earth Day, 2021


WC understands that Earth Day is supposed to be aspirational, that we should be positive, focused on making the environment better. WC has been mostly focused on that task his entire adult life. As a board member of Alaska Conservation Foundation and now Idaho Conservation League, WC has invested a lot of time, money and…

Plutonium Is Forever: the Idaho National Lab


You’ve probably never heard of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). It’s a Cold War-era research facility that’s still active today, located on 890 square miles of sage brush steppe in eastern Idaho, on a chunk of the Eastern Snake River Plain, about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls. Located in the high desert, surrounded by…

Greater Sage Grouse male, lekking, Bennett Mountain, Idaho

WC Thanks the Lawyers


As we emerge from the environmental nightmare of the Trump Administration, WC wants to thank some folks who are largely responsible for minimizing the damage done: the nonprofit law firms that litigated against the madness. They didn’t win all of the lawsuits, but they won most of them and the result is that, as bad…

Hardly a “Triumph”


The EPA estimates there are more than 15,000 abandoned mines across the West that are leaching dangerous chemicals into the environment. Sometimes it’s windblown dust, laced with arsenic, cadmium lead and other toxic heavy metals. More often it’s groundwater discharging from mining adits and shafts, laced with dangerously high levels of dissolved heavy metals, running…

Fourteen Pages of Lawyers


The U.S. Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia – the D.C. Circuit – issued a decision last week on the Trump Administration’s attempts to throw out the Obama Administration’s Clear Power Plan. As you might expect, there were lots of lawyers involved. Platoons, companies, entire brigades of lawyers. The list of lawyers in…

The Consequences of Greed


U.S. District Judge David Barlow – a Trump-appointed federal judge – killed the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to lease 59 parcels in Utah’s Uinta Basin for oil and gas development. His December 10 decision was a very near thing, and serves as a lesson in both the consequences of greed and the serious deficiencies…

There's a reason she looks uncertain

Call WC “Mr. Suspicious”


Thanks to some smart reporting by Juliet Eilperin and Desmond Butler at The Washington Post we now know that U.S. Geological Survey Director James G. Reilly had been suppressing a report on polar bear populations that has the potential to kill oil well drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Under pressure from the Post…

Loving Our National Parks to Death


In 2019, eleven U.S. national parks had five million or more visitors. If you include all units administered by the National Park Service, there were more than 327 million recreational visits. That basically the entire population of the U.S. It’s great that we love our national parks, but there’s an increasing concern that we are…

Tom Collier, Pebble Mine Partnership CEO, testifies before Congress (Source: Gray DC)(GRAYDC)

Is Every Mine Promoter a Liar?


A long time ago, WC was stuck defending a young bank robber. It was court-appointed; there was no option for declining. The 20-year old bank robber had three accomplices, all of whom were testifying against WC’s client. The District Attorney wouldn’t make a plea offer, for reasons completely unrelated to the bank robbery charge. So…

Dead migratory birds collected from White Sands Missile Range and sites in Doña Ana County, N.M. (Photo Martha Desmond, New Mexico State University)

Anthropocene Extinctions


Migrating birds are dying by the hundreds of thousands, maybe by the millions. We don’t know why. All across New Mexico, lethargic, dying birds are being reported. Oh, there are lots of theories, probably as many as there are ornithologists: that they are starving because of depressed insect populations, forced by wildfires to migrate before they…

Pebble Mine Aerial Photo (Bill Roth / ADN archive 2013)

Not Even Close, John Shively


John Shively assures us that Pebble Mine is safe in his recent opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News. He promises Pebble Mine will be constructed and operated without jeopardizing the world’s most important wild salmon fishery. Let’s have a look at his arguments and see if he’s right. Most of his opinion is an argumentum ad…