Environmental bits | VailDaily.com

Environmental bits

Nicole Frey

A new Internet mapping program is helping truckers find truck stops that have “plug ins,” so they can still operate their heaters, air-conditioners and run electrical appliances without having their engines on.

The new technology, developed by scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratories in Golden and other federal agencies, could reduce diesel fuel use by about 800 million gallons each year and also reduce other emissions. Along with environmental benefits, reducing the time trucks idle can reduce engine wear and other maintenance costs.

There are currently fewer than 50 station in 11 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

The two main types of idle reduction locators are IdleAire at http://www.idleaire.com and Shurepower at http://www.shurepower.com. For more information, visit http://www.eere.energy.gov/cleancities/idle.

The Colorado Straw Bale Association will host its fifth annual conference from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 20 and 21.

The conference on the sustainable and energy-efficient building practice will feature speakers, including the former building inspector for Pitkin County, architects, engineers, natural building experts and authors at the Straw Bale-Waldorf School of the Roaring Fork. There will be a presentation of Straw Bale Building around the world.

Chris Magwood, managing editor of the Last Straw publication, author and builder of more than 40 straw bale homes, will talk about moisture and pre-fabricated walls. Passive solar design, space planning, alternative heat sources and mechanical systems will also be covered, and there will be an afternoon of outdoor demonstrations on earth and lime plaster techniques, earthen floors, photovoltaics and straw bale tools and techniques.

For more information and a full list of presenters and schedule, visit http://www.coloradostrawbale.org.

Sen. Max Baucus, D- MT and Sen. Ron Wyden, D- OR, recently introduced legislation to give rural communities money without selling national forests, as is currently proposed.

More than 300,000 acres of Forest Service land is on the chopping block to provide half the current level of funding going to fund schools and roads in rural counties that have national forests.

Although the forest parcels to be sold are largely inaccessible chunks of land, little used by people, the plan to sell has been condemned by an array of interest groups and politicians from both sides of the isle.

Baucus and Wyden’s bill would re-authorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000 and provide full funding for rural schools by closing a tax loophole, which has allowed government contractors to avoid paying taxes.

“Our bill will fully fund the rural schools program without selling even one acre of our prized public lands,” Baucus said in a press release. “Our public lands shouldn’t be put up for sale to the highest bidder.”

As the U.S. Forest Service, environmentalists, conservationists and other government officials look at roadless areas to determine if they should be preserved or developed, the Forest Service is sneaking onto those lands, according to research by the Heritage Forest Campaign.

The report says the Forest Service is conducting “new activity” in more than 20 roadless areas, even though nothing should happen while talks are still taking place. The activity includes oil and gas drilling in Colorado, Nevada and Utah; logging and road construction in Alaska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming; and roads, phosphate exploration and mining in Idaho.

For a copy of the report, visit http://www.ourforests.org.

Visit the Forest Planning Center at http://www.forestplan.org, to sign up for the Forest Planning News, a monthly update from the Wilderness Society about U.S. Forest Service policies and planning efforts across the country. Contact forestplan@tws.org.

Staff writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or at nfrey@vaildaily.com

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