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Articles by Andy Brett

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  • Phosphorous, easements, and ecosystem services

    An article in the current issue of National Wildlife Magazine highlights the troubles of a lake that might not immediately come to mind as "A Lake in Distress" -- Lake Champlain. But a number of issues have led citizens and groups in the lake basin to take action. Just one example is the phosphorus runoff that lead to algal blooms in the lake.

    The article brings together a number of recently discussed topics, including:

    • land trusts and easements, which are being used not only to preserve the land but restore it,
    • which of course helps to restore ecosystem services, in the form of retaining the phosphorous that would otherwise run off, and
    • the effects of changing land use, namely, the rise in non-point source pollution and runoff.

  • Author declines to make pun, citing ‘posting rules’

    The Milltown Dam at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers near Missoula, Mont., will be removed, returning the rivers to their original flow by 2009, according to an agreement reached this week.

    The folks over at Environmental Economics recently ran a post connecting such dam removals with cost-benefit analyses, pointing to a Time article, archived but available in PDF here.

    The case of the Milltown Dam has an interesting additional layer to it, as the dam is also the largest Superfund site in the country. Toxic waste has piled up behind the dam as a result of mining in the area, to the tune of 6.6 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment. Some waste will be completely removed while the rest will remain and be controlled at the site.

    Strangely enough, $5 million of the $286.5 billion highway bill will be used to finance a park at the site, according to a New York Times article this morning.

  • Individual legislatures take up eminent domain laws

    For all the hubbub about the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. City of New London -- that eminent domain could be applied to cases where "economic development" was the public use in question -- the response of state legislatures has been swift. The decision did not prevent states from making their own laws regarding the scope of eminent domain, and public opposition to the ruling has been widespread and bipartisan. An article in USA Today detailed the states' responses and had this to say:

    In Washington, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said his office received more calls from constituents angry about this case than it did for the Supreme Court ruling that limited displays of the Ten Commandments on public property
    "We don't like anybody messing with our dogs, our guns, our hunting rights or trying to take property from us," says [Alabama] state Sen. Jack Biddle, a sponsor of the law.

  • Gonarezhou National Park

    Writer Robert Neuwirth, author of Shadow Cities, recently traveled the world to write on the "squatter cities" that spring up in the world's largest developing urban areas. His blog has also been chronicling Robert Mugabe's campaign to "drive out the rubbish" in Zimbabwe, Mugabe's term for the government-run destruction of thousands of homes in the country.

    Sokwanele is one of the resistance groups that have formed against Mugabe. In their last email (and on their website), they highlight some of the environmental effects of Mugabe's campaign. In addition to the massive human toll, the displaced residents have moved to Gonarezhou National Park, and many have begun poaching the previously protected game and using the grasslands for domesticated animals to graze.

    The previously undisturbed ecosystem was part of a plan for a regional Transfrontier National Park, as it borders parks in Mozambique and South Africa. Sokwanele says the invasion of the park by displaced settlers has now scuttled any such plans.