News about energy and the environment

US Forest Service Prevents Its Own Scientists From Talking About Study

Sep 17, 2015
Courtesy of US Forest Service / InciWeb

The US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station is preventing one of its scientists from talking about a study he authored in the journal “Science.” As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the agency even unsuccessfully requested that Science editors hold the article or remove his name from the study.

Westlands Water District website

The Westlands Water District has reached an agreement with the federal government in a decades-long dispute over who is responsible for water runoff from westside growers’ fields. In the deal, Westlands will assume responsibility for managing the wastewater, which is often laced with toxic chemicals like selenium from the soil. Westlands will also agree to retire at least 100,000 acres of farmland. The water district estimates that a federally-run cleanup plan would have cost the government around $3.5 billion. It’s unclear how much the district will spend on the drainage solution.  


Light rain, cooler temperatures and higher humidity in the last 24 hours have helped firefighters in their effort to contain the Rough Fire. The blaze has now consumed 139,000 acres and is 40 percent contained, though officials expect the containment number to rise later today. 

While the rain has helped the fight, it wasn't been enough to extinguish the fire. It also has forced firefighters to change their tactics, by making it more difficult to intentionally set brush on fire in efforts to contain the main blaze by depriving it of fuel. 

William Shewbridge, Creative Commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

The Rough Fire burning in California’s Sierra Nevada has consumed over 110,000 acres of forest. The blaze is now threatening a treasured grove of ancient trees.

Firefighters in Kings Canyon National Park are clearing the area around the Grant Grove of Giant Sequoia trees as the Rough Fire burns miles away.  Fire official Michael Johnson says while Giant Sequoias typically can endure fire, the state’s drought has stressed the forest.

The smoke from the Rough Fire near Hume Lake has now spread throughout communities in the San Joaquin Valley. As FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports, this is causing the Valley’s air pollution to spike to potentially dangerous levels.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a health alert for the rest of the week for several counties including Fresno, Madera and the valley portion of Kern County. They’re recommending people to limit their outdoor activities.

Courtesy of US Forest Service / InciWeb

Update: Thursday September 10th 4:00 PM
The Rough Fire continues to grow today as new mandatory evacuation orders are in place for Grant Grove and the community of Wilsonia in Kings Canyon National Park. The fire has now consumed over 110,000 acres and is just 29 percent contained. The Red Cross has opened an evacuation shelter in Sanger for residents displaced by the blaze. 

Original post: Wednesday September 9th

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

While the Rough Fire has now consumed over 100,000 acres of forest, a valiant effort from firefighters has thus far helped save the community of Hume Lake from the blaze.  FM89's Ezra David Romero takes us to the front lines to hear exactly how that happened. 

On a reporting trip two weeks ago in the Sierra Nevada I was told to evacuate the Hume Lake Christian Camps area as the Rough Fire burned a mile and half away from the camp. Smoke was thick and ash began to fall from the sky.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The lack of rain and snow over the past four years has affected the agriculture industry statewide. That impact includes one of the smallest farmed creatures: the honeybee. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports that with a lack of flowers to pollinate because of weather conditions bees are struggling and some beekeepers are even leaving the state.

As Gene Brandi and I approach a colony of honeybees near a field of blooming alfalfa east of Los Banos he uses the smoke from a canister of burning burlap to calm the bees, which in turn quiets my nerves.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California’s drought is having a devastating effect on its forests. Aerial surveys around the state show more than 20 million dead trees so far. And the drought has a partner in crime – the pine beetle. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, if this deadly combination continues it could drastically change California’s forested landscape.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno City Council could carve out an exemption from water conservation rules for backyard fruit and vegetable gardens. The goal is to encourage more urban farming.

The exemption, proposed by Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, would allow for daily drip irrigation of backyard gardens.

Soria says current watering rules are too restrictive, and could be deterring people from growing their own food especially in poor areas.