March 6, 2012
Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest National Park     Photo: NPS Photo/Flickr

Forest Service To Eliminate Most Fees

Court ruling challenges fee's legality

The U.S. Forest Service announced last week that access to most national forest land will become free following a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On February 9, the court ruled that "everyone is entitled to enter national forests without paying a cent," but did not clarify whether charging for the use of maintained facilities would make access fees acceptable. In a statement issued Thursday, the agency said it would continue to charge user fees to 26 sites that offer ammenities. "The U.S. Forest Service has charged user fees since 1965 and, since the mid-1990s, more than 90 percent of those fees have been used for improvements to the areas where the fees have been collected," the statement read.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times


Credit card

Credit card     Photo: 401K/Flickr

Credit Card Abuse Rampant At BLM

Email from deputy director suggests fraud

Credit card abuse has become "culturally rampant" at the Bureau of Land Management, according to a leaked email from the agency's deputy director. In the memo sent in February, Michael J. Pool urged state office directors and supervisors to discipline employees caught "scamming the system" by using government-issued credit cards for personal spending. Last year, two former BLM employees were ordered to pay $14,139 in restitution after being convicted of spending thousands of dollars on personal purchases, including a Swarovski rifle scope and $2,400 in Cabela's gift cards.

Read more at KSL


Shark fin

Shark fin     Photo: CBP Photography

Shark Fins Could Be Neurotoxic

Study hints at link to brain disorders

A study published last month in the journal Marine Drugs has raised concerns about a toxic chemical found in shark fins. A team of researches from the University of Florida found high concentrations of beta-methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA, in samples taken from seven sharks off the coast of Florida. Past research has hinted at a link between exposure to BMMA and degenerative brain disorders similar to Alzheimers and Parkinsons. Legislators in California recently passed a controversial law banning the sale of shark fin soup in an effort to protect sharks from overfishing.

Read more at The New York Times


Sarah Hendrickson

Sarah Hendrickson     Photo: Piotr Drabik/Flickr

Hendrickson Takes Ski Jumping Title

Utah teen wins in sport's first WC season

U.S. ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson secured the first-ever women's ski jumping World Cup title on Saturday in Zao, Japan, then won her eighth WC competition on Sunday. Hendrickson, 17, was second in a competition on Saturday, collecting enough points to clinch the overall title. "Knowing that I had already secured the overall title made it easier to jump with less pressure," Hendrickson said on Sunday. In the inaugural season of World Cup women's ski jumping, Hendrickson became the first woman to win an FIS ski jumping competition in December. She was also a silver medalist at the 2012 Junior World Championships. The event will make its Olympic debut for women in 2014.

Read more at The Washington Post


Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde     Photo: The Wolf/flickr

Valverde Wins Stage 3 at Paris-Nice

Schleck withdraws, U.S. riders 2nd and 3rd

Spain's Alejandro Valverde continued his comeback from a two-year doping suspension with a victory on Tuesday on stage three of the Paris-Nice road race. Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins finished the stage in 20th position but maintained a six-second lead in general classification ahead of American riders Levi Leipheimer and Tejay van Garden. Andy Schleck, the 2011 Tour de France runner up, withdrew from the race on Tuesday morning with a stomach illness. Valverde returned to professional cycling in January with a runner-up finish at Australia's Tour Down Under.