A Mexican gray wolf runs inside a holding pen at the Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

Public review begins for expansion of Mexican wolf habitat

The Interior Department this week opened to public comment and review its proposal to expand the range of federally protected Mexican wolves.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been attempting to reintroduce wolves into parts of Arizona and New Mexico with little success. A small population of about 75 wolves is restricted to a recovery area,  and when an animal roams beyond those borders, it must be recaptured and returned.

Allowing wolves more room will increase their numbers and genetic diversity, biologists say. Livestock growers and others oppose any expansion of wolf territory.

Federal officials earlier this year proposed delisting gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes but preserved the endangered species status of Mexican wolves.

The agency is considering five alternatives, and the public has until Sept. 19 to comment.

A Mexican gray wolf runs around inside a holding pen at the Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

Who killed the Mexican gray wolf? Feds investigate

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the killing of a female Mexican gray wolf that had been denning with pups in New Mexico.

The animal, known as F1108, was found in late June shot to death, authorities said. Her pups were assumed to be dead.

The 6-year-old female was born in the wild, captured with her pack and placed in New Mexico's Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

She and a male were released in May and placed in a temporary pen in the Gila National Forest. The male, known as M1133, left the den site and appeared to be returning to Sevilleta, where he was born, when he was recaptured by wildlife authorities.

The female whelped her pups, but signals from her radio collar indicated that she, too, was on the move. F1108 was found dead some distance from the Gila Wilderness.

Federal authorities provided no further information except to say the case is under investigation.

Endangered species protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes were removed...

Helicopters herding wild Mustangs during a Bureau of Land Management roundup in Nevada.

Western drought prompts feds to truck water and food to wild horses

Persistent drought in the West has prompted federal agencies to begin hauling water to wild horse herds in Nevada and restricting public lands grazing across the region.

 In one part of Lincoln County, Nev., the Bureau of Land Management said it is trucking 25,000 gallons of water per day, five days a week to four locations at a cost of $5,000 per day.

Temperatures in the state have soared well above normal, and at the same time Nevada has received scant rain -- 0.1 to 0.5 inches recently. The result, the BLM said, is “sparse, poor-quality forage,”  which also impacts wildlife and livestock that depend on federal land.

Agency workers have reported that some of the wild Mustangs were not drinking the trucked-in the water or eating supplemental hay, suggesting the animals were in stress. A federal veterinarian is expected to examine the animals this week.

More than 60% of  the state is experiencing severe or extreme drought. In neighboring New Mexico, 93%  of  the state&...

Fires burn around the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig site.

Calculate BP's gulf oil spill damage broadly, report says

The federal damage assessment of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill should take into account the broader economic and social impacts of the 2010 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Research Council.

The group recommended that the federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program consider "ecosystem services" when it calculates the impact of the BP spill, a difficult-to-measure analysis of the services performed by an ecosystem.

In the case of the oil spill, the reported noted, the NRDA could consider the role of Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem in mitigating hurricane flood damage and put a price on that function.

The damage assessment is now underway by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program usually calculates natural resources that are lost and suggests restoration strategies. The resource assessment will be used when determining how much...

A mother of two in Matlab, Bangladesh, prepares to receive a hormone shot that will protect her from pregnancy for three months. Bangladesh has made access to contraceptives a priority, unlike many fast-growing nations in Africa.

Global population growing faster than expected, U.N. says

This just in: Humanity is growing faster than we thought.

In advance of World Population Day, United Nations demographers have once again revised official projections -- upward. This meticulous band of number crunchers doesn’t mean to be alarmist, but its statistics can be startling:

--Nigeria, the West African nation slightly larger than Texas, is on track to surpass the United States as the world’s third-most populous country by 2050. The size of its population may rival that of China by the end of the century, unless something dramatic happens.

--The number of people living on the African continent is set to nearly quadruple by the end of the century, rather than merely tripling, as previously projected.

--The world’s population is on track to reach 9.6 billion by midcentury and nearly 11 billion by 2100, which is 700 million more than was projected two years ago.

The reason for the higher figures? A slew of recent household surveys in African countries revealed...

Work begins on heliostat-construction buildings at BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar power plant in the Mojave Desert.

Feds give solar plants priority over mining on public lands

Utility-scale solar plants have been given priority over mining claims on federal lands, according to a decision announced Friday.

The federal Bureau of Land Management withdrew more than 300,000 acres of federal land in six Western states from eligibility for new mining claims in an effort to preserve the land for commercial-scale solar energy development.

The decision, published in the Federal Register, formalizes an earlier announcement to prohibit new claims for the next 20 years on public land previously identified for solar development in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

The bulk of the withdrawn land -- nearly 150,000 acres -- is in California.

The decision is in line with President Obama’s recent climate change pronouncements, challenging the Interior Department to approve an additional 10,000 megawatts' worth of renewable energy projects on public lands by 2020.




Canyon del Muerto, part of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, New Mexico.

U.S.' 1st Atmospheric Trust Litigation case to begin in New Mexico

A federal judge in New Mexico on Wednesday will hear opening arguments in a first-of-its-kind case: Whether the state has violated its public trust duty to protect the New Mexico’s atmosphere.

The lawsuit—the nation’s first Atmospheric Trust Litigation case to be heard on its merits -- questions if when New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board repealed greenhouse gas regulations, the action absolved the state of its duty as trustee of the atmosphere.

Nineteen-year-old Akilah Sanders-Reed and the Santa Fe-based conservation group WildEarth Guardians sued the governor and the state in 2011, relying on the public trust doctrine, “which requires all branches of government to protect and maintain certain shared resources fundamental for human health and survival,” according to the group.

Last summer a federal district court ordered the case to go forward, ruling, “Plaintiffs have made a substantive allegation that…the state is ignoring...


May global temperature ties as third warmest on record

Last month was among the hottest Mays in the 134-year global record, tying with 1998 and 2005 as the third warmest.

According to an analysis released Thursday by the National Climatic Data Center, May’s combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces was 1.19°F above the 20th century average of 58.6°F.

The agency reported that regions experiencing record warmth included north-central Siberia, west-central Australia, parts of northern and eastern Europe, portions of northern Africa and the Philippines.

Overall, the average global land temperature was the third warmest on record, 2.00°F above the 20th century average.

There were exceptions. Western Greenland was hit by record cold. And at the South Pole in Antarctica, minimum temperatures for May broke records on two days.

Daniel Sperling is a a professor of civil engineering and environmental science and policy at UC Davis.

UC Davis professor Daniel Sperling wins Blue Planet Prize

Daniel Sperling, a UC Davis civil engineering professor and international transportation expert, has won the Blue Planet Prize.

The prize, given annually by the Asahi Glass Foundation of Tokyo, comes with an award of about $500,000. It recognizes outstanding achievements in scientific research and its application to solving global environmental problems.

The foundation said Sperling, the founding director of UC Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies, “has devoted his career to mitigating climate change and accelerating the global transition to cleaner, more efficient transportation and energy.”

In remarks posted on the foundation’s website, Sperling said he would commit “the rest of my career to leveraging the tremendous reservoir of knowledge embedded in universities to enhance public policy, in particular policy that shifts the world away from the pending disaster of climate change.”

“Humans are engaged in a risky experiment that need not...

Rising temperatures could force sparkling-wine makers out of traditional regions -- such as Champagne, France -- while opening up production in countries such as India and Chile.

Warming temperatures taking the sparkle out of some wines

Business is not so bubbly for sparkling wine makers. Climate change is bringing higher temperatures to regions like Champagne, France, where delicate vines are succumbing to heat.

In interviews with wine publication Decanter, winemakers in France's Alsace area say warmer climate is changing the taste of their traditional wines, altering the smell, sugar and acidity.

The changes have reconfigured the sparkling-wine map. Wine-growing regions such Chile, India and China are ramping up production of sparkling wine.

A Mexican gray wolf runs inside a holding pen at Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

Latest attempt to reintroduce Mexican wolves to the wild fails

A pair of Mexican wolves that had been waiting for their final release into the wild in Arizona are heading back to captivity after federal officials determined that the alpha male of an existing  pack behaved aggressively toward them.

Authorities with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had pre-positioned the male and female in a temporary pen since they were removed  in April from the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.  The wolves had been in a fenced area to allow them to acclimate to the release area in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, in what authorities believed to be unoccupied wolf habitat.

The pair and their newborn pups were waiting to be released but wildlife officials noticed another wolf pair acting aggressively toward the penned wolves, indicating that they would defend their territory against the interlopers.

It was the second setback for the program in recent weeks. A male wolf was recaptured after he left his mate and their pups after being released...