Gray wolf listing challenged

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- A federal judge in Missoula will hear oral arguments June 15 on whether gray wolves in Montana and Idaho should be removed from the list of federally protected species.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy filed paperwork Monday scheduling the hearing.

"This is just a hearing on the merits of the case," said Jenny Harbine, an associate attorney with Earthjustice in Bozeman. "Generally they just reiterate the briefs, but if there is new information that's proper to come before the court, then that comes in. But usually it's just an opportunity to answer the judge's questions about the briefs that have been filed."

The hearing comes in a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of 13 conservation and wildlife groups over whether wolves can be removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho yet remain protected in Wyoming.

Wyoming plans to manage wolves as predators that can be shot on sight and the federal government said that does not afford the animals enough protection.

Warm weather speeds planting

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Sunny skies and above-average temperatures are speeding spring planting in Minnesota.

In its weekly crop weather report for Minnesota on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says spring wheat is 43 percent planted, compared with 4 percent both at this time last year and the five-year average. Oats were 66 percent planted, 53 points ahead of the average. Barley was 45 percent planted, compared with a 4 percent average.

Corn planting advanced to 13 percent, compared with 0 percent a year ago and a 1 percent average. Sugar beet planting is 15 percent complete, well ahead of average.

In most areas, thunderstorms early last week did not significantly disrupt spring fieldwork. Soil moisture is rated 79 percent adequate to surplus statewide.

New bee species discovered

LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Utah State University scientists are buzzing over the recent discovery of two unique bee species.

Biologist and postdoctoral fellow David Tanner discovered the insects in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Tanner and two graduate students were collecting data for a study on the relationship between pollinators and rare desert plants when they stumbled on the discovery.

Both of the new species are distinct forms of the genus Perdita, Tanner said. The species have not yet been named, but Tanner hopes to have a hand in the process along with Terry Griswold, a research entomologist and adjunct assistant professor in USU's biology department.

A lab operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Logan has confirmed the find.

First offshore wind farm OK'd

BOSTON (AP) -- The Obama administration has approved what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm, off Cape Cod, inching the U.S. closer to harvesting an untapped domestic energy source -- the steady breezes blowing along its vast coasts.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his decision April 28 in Boston, clearing the way for a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind was in its ninth year of federal review, and Salazar stepped in early this year to bring what he called much-needed resolution to the bitterly contested proposal.

"We are beginning a new direction in our nation's energy future," Salazar said.

But members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Martha's Vineyard have vowed to sue to stop Cape Wind from being built, saying it would interfere with sacred rituals and desecrate tribal burial sites. Others opposed to the project on environmental grounds also have said they'll sue.

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