Archive for the ‘Wildlife/Environment’ Category

Proposed Rule Would Let Forest Service ‘Go Local’

The Obama Administration last week proposed a new rule that would give local national forest directors more control over their natural resources. The proposed rule overturns a decades-old policy that leaves forest management decisions to officials in Washington.

The planning rule would allow forest managers additional control over the development of Forest Service land management plans. The proposed change is made with an eye to increasing forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation, and management for multiple uses of the National Forest System, including timber.

“The proposed rule will provide the tools to the Forest Service to make our forests more resilient to many threats, including pests, catastrophic fire and climate change. Healthy forests and economically strong rural communities form a solid foundation as we work to win the future for the next generation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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Amendment Seeks to Kill Funding for Wild Horse Managment

Debate continues today on the Continuing Resolution in the U.S. The bill would fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year. Many amendments have been proposed and AFBF has taken a position on 22 of them.

Today an amendment was approved that would cut $2 million from the Bureau of Land Management’s budget in protest over the agency’s wild horse roundups. Indiana Republican Dan Burton says his amendment is intended to send a signal to BLM officials that most Americans want the mustangs treated more humanely on public lands. Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says Congress passed a law 40 years ago to protect the horses on the range, but that today there are more than 40,000 in holding pens and only 30,000 in the wild.

Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis was among those opposed. She says the well-meaning horse advocates are “loving the creatures to death” by fueling overpopulation of herds that damage the rangeland they depend upon.

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USDA Unveils Proposed Forest Planning Rule

The USDA Forest Service unveiled its proposed Forest Planning Rule on Thursday to establish a new national framework to develop land management plans in the National Forest System.The proposed rule includes new provisions to guide forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation and management for multiple uses of the National Forest System, including timber.

Publication of the proposed planning rule in the Federal Register will kick off a 90-day public comment period, ending May 16. The Forest Service will use comments to develop a final rule.

The Pulse will feature a more in depth look at the proposed rule next week.

(Image: paraflyer)

Sweeping Lawsuit Filed Against EPA Could Hurt Farmers

Environmental groups are seeking protection of the Arroyo Toad and other endangered species from EPA approved ag chemicals.

Two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pesticide Action Network North America, have sued the Environmental Protection Agency, challenging the agency’s overall ag chemical regulatory program.

According to the suit, EPA did not consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the effects of EPA-registered pesticides on endangered species. The groups claim in a 400-page complaint that EPA is in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The groups are asking EPA to retroactively consult FWS and re-write current regulations, after putting restrictions on ag chemicals.

Virtually every ag chemical in use today is listed in the suit, which seeks protection for 214 endangered and threatened species throughout the U.S. including the Florida panther, California condor, piping plover, black-footed ferret, arroyo toad, Indiana bat, bonytail chub and Alabama sturgeon.

Omnibus Lands Bill Sure to Fail

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has abandoned plans to pass omnibus lands legislation but is working to pass certain pieces of the bill before the end of the session.

The omnibus bill,  titled “The Great Outdoors Act of 2010,” included the Rep. Polis sponsored Hidden Gems bill and more than 110 land and water bills from across the U.S.

Will Rousch, the Gems campaign outreach coordinator, said they are confident Polis will re-introduce the bill — which he called the Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act —this spring, in the next session of congress.

(Image: dgroup)

 

Cow Bites Wolf?

ALBUQUERQUE – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says a Mexican gray wolf found dead in southwestern New Mexico in October probably died of an intestinal rupture.

A preliminary report says the female wolf from the Morgart pack ingested a plastic ear tag commonly used on domestic cattle and that a rupture in the small intestines likely killed the animal.

(Image: Douglas Brown)

Private Fish Hatcheries Create Billions of Dollars in Economic Activity

A recently completed study by researchers at Colorado State University showed that angler spending supported by the Aquacultural Suppliers of Recreational Fish (ASRF) in the Western region of the United States contribute about $1.9 billion in output and more than 26,000 jobs to the economy of the states in the region. The Western region includes Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Results showed that every dollar of recreational fish sales can be traced to $36 of economic activity, and every $1 million spent on ASRF products is associated with nearly 500 jobs in the Western region.

Locally, this implies that production from Colorado recreational fish producers results in an estimated total economic contribution of more than a quarter-billion dollars and about 3,500 jobs.

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Record Enrollment for Wetlands Reserve Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that farmers, ranchers and Indian tribes enrolled more than 272,000 acres in the Wetlands Reserve Program in fiscal year 2010. The fiscal 2010 enrollment is the highest single-year enrollment in the program’s history. It’s also a 52 percent increase over fiscal 2009 when 179,000 acres were enrolled. There are now more than 2.3 million acres enrolled in WRP nationwide.

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Nationwide, Deer Collisions Expensive

There are an estimated 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions annually in the U.S., resulting in damages of about $1 billion according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist.

In Texas where feral hogs are a problem, hog-related traffic accidents occur at an average rate of about 1 percent of the hog population or more yearly, said Dr. Billy Higginbotham, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist.

“This means an estimated 10,000 hog-vehicle collisions for each 1 million hogs,” he said.

Expect this kind of statistic to come up in the debate surrounding efforts to increase the use of ‘wildlife crossing zones’ like the debate on HB 1238 last year.

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Bee Killer Found

It wasn’t pesticides or any mysterious effects of biotech crops that was killing bee colonies. According to research released this week, the complicated reason for the widespread collapse of bee colonies in the United States was a fungus teaming up with a virus.

According to a story in The New York Times, a group of military scientists and university entomologists has concluded that the interaction between a virus and a fungus was killing the bees. Researchers still are not sure how the lethal combination works, but the fungus and virus work together to attack the bee’s ability to absorb nutrition.

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Colorado Senators Ask USDA for Beetle Kill Funds

Beetle kill trees near Grand Lake, CO. Other western states with beetle problems include ID, WA, OR, and MT, but Colorado is considered the epicenter of the outbreak.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has asked the Forest Service to devote $49 million to battle a beetle infestation that has killed more than 3.5 million acres of pines in the Rocky Mountain region.

Senators from Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a letter last week to redirect existing funds to treat forests hit by the bark beetle.

Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet said the Forest Service should treat the infestation as a national emergency because of the potential for wildfires and threats to public safety, recreation and waterways.

“The bark beetle has created a national emergency, and work to protect public safety, infrastructure and human lives should be funded as such,” the Senators wrote. “Therefore, we encourage the USFS to supplement Region 2 funding to adequately address this disaster, which is decimating the West.”

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CFB to Fight Anti-Grazing Lawsuit

The Colorado Farm Bureau, along with 11 other state Farm Bureaus in AFBF’s Western Region, today petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to intervene in defending two agencies against a lawsuit over grazing fees on federal land. Two environmental groups, the Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity are the named plaintiffs in the suit.

The case, filed against the BLM and US. Forest Service seeks a court order to require agencies to reconsider how grazing fees are calculated and to perform environmental impact analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, (NEPA) prior to issuing grazing permits each year. Attempts have been made to use Congress to change the permit fee in the past but those efforts have ultimately failed.

According to Troy Bredenkamp, Executive Vice President of Colorado Farm Bureau, the effort seeks to increase the cost of permits and also slow down their approval process. “If the plaintiffs are successful, the Forest Service and the BLM would have to conduct an environmental impact study for every permit they issue, every year. This will raise costs to the governing agencies and also potentially cause delays in the permitting process. ”

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CRP Sign-Up Complete

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that the Agriculture Department will accept 4.3 million acres offered by landowners under the Conservation Reserve Program general sign-up. The selections preserve and enhance environmentally sensitive lands, including wetlands, while providing payments to property owners.

“Interest in this open enrollment period was high, and I’m pleased that producers and landowners across the nation continue to realize the environmental benefits of enrolling land in the CRP,” Vilsack said.

Dust Regulations Kick Up Again

The dust regulation issue that seemed dormant for several months has taken on new life, due to an Environmental Protection Agency draft standard. In a story published at www.agwatchnetwork.com, Rick Krause, AFBF environmental specialist, said that the Executive Advisory Committee for Clean Air has issued a draft letter that would cut in half the standard for what the committee calls “course particulate matter,” which is another name for dust.

Krause said while this is not a big deal in urban areas, in more windy rural areas with dirt roads and farms the draft standard would be a problem. “About the only ways you can meet the standard is to stop some of the practices you’re doing,” Krause said. “Stop driving, paving roads and stop planting crops.

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New Loan Program for Natural Resources Conservation

The Agriculture Department has launched a Conservation Loan program that will provide farm owners and farm-related business operators with access to credit to implement conservation techniques that will conserve natural resources.

CL funds can be used to implement conservation practices approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, such as the installation of conservation structures; establishment of forest cover; installation of water conservation measures; establishment or improvement of permanent pastures; implementation of manure management; and the adaptation of other emerging or existing conservation practices, techniques or technologies. Direct CLs can be obtained through local Farm Service Agency offices with loan limits up to $300,000. Guaranteed CLs up to $1,112,000 are available from lenders working with FSA.

For more information on the Conservation Loan program, contact a local FSA office or visit the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov.

(Image: CATaylor)

What Does ‘National Monument’ Really Mean?

In early March an internal Obama administration memo surfaced revealing plans for the federal government to seize more than 10 million acres from Montana to New Mexico for National Monument and/or Wilderness Area status. The proposal would halt job creating activities and dry up tax revenue essential for funding schools, firehouses and community centers. The leaked memo warrants concerns of a federal land grab. Further investigations and additional documentation are only raising greater concerns.

A landscape at Dinosaur National Monument in western Colorado.

National Monuments are similar to national parks; conservation practices and regulation all fall to the National Parks Service (NPS). The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorized the President to declare by public proclamation landmarks, structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest situated on lands owned or controlled by the government to be national monuments. The Antiquities Act allows for the president to reserve, “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The intention of the act was to allow presidents to quickly protect small areas of historical or scientific interest without congress’ consent.

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USDA Reminds Producers of Approaching Sign-Up Deadline for CRP

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) reminds producers that the deadline to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up is quickly approaching.  Farmers and ranchers have until close of business on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, to offer eligible land for CRP’s competitive general sign-up. Applications can be completed by land owners at the FSA county office where their farm records are maintained.  The 2008 Farm Bill authorized USDA to maintain CRP enrollment up to 32 million acres.

In addition to producers signing up for the first time, CRP participants with existing contracts that are scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2010, may elect to re-enroll under a new 10-15 year contract.  Cropland that is highly erodible, or within a national or state Conservation Priority Area, or is covered under an expiring CRP contract is generally eligible to be enrolled into CRP,  provided all other eligibility requirements are met.

Complete Federal Land Grab Document Released

The BLM wants to declare federal lands the size of Colorado and Wyoming combined, as off limits to multiple use.

Congressman Rob Bishop, the gentleman from Utah who kindly provided Americans with the documents that showed the Obama administration was planning another federal land-grab, has come through again. (The Pulse covered the original leaked document extensively. Read the original story here.)

Bishop’s office has release the entire BLM document titled “Treasured Landscapes” of which only pages were released a few months ago. It lays out what some consider a sweeping and detailed plan for changing the way the federal government manages land over the next 25 years.

The document lays out a sea change in the way the federal government manages land. It proposed that rather than manage individual plots of land, regardless of size, the government should consider managing entire “landscapes, ecosystems, airsheds and watersheds.”

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DOW to Host Bear Meeting

The Colorado Division of Wildlife will host a round table discussion concerning the state’s bear problems. Topics will include Public Safety, Bear Damage, Bear Season Structures and Legislative Action.

The meeting will take place Saturday August 7th at the DOW Northwest Regional Office (711 Independent Ave, Grand Junction) from 9 to 11 a.m.

USDA Announces CRP Sign-up Through Aug. 27th

USDA announced Monday that a general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program will begin on Aug. 2 and continue through Aug. 27. During the sign-up period, farmers and ranchers may offer eligible land for CRP’s competitive general sign-up at their county or parish Farm Service Agency office.

The 2008 farm bill authorized USDA to maintain CRP enrollment up to 32 million acres.

Jim Miller, USDA undersecretary for farm and foreign agriculture services, made the announcement during a conference call with reporters. “America’s farmers and ranchers play an important role in improving our environment, and for nearly 25 years, CRP has helped this nation build sound conservation practices that preserve the soil, clean our water and restore habitat for wildlife,” said Miller.

Meet the New Beetles

Take a drive through the Rocky Mountains and one can clearly see the effects of the pine beetle epidemic, but look again; another tree-killing beetle is on the rise in the Western Mountains.

Pityogenes knechteli has quietly been multiplying in numbers over the last couple years. Twig beetles, as they are more commonly know, are not normally fatal to trees; however, the already stressed trees and the unusually high twig beetle population are causing even more trees to die.

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Colorado Agriculture Groups Comment on Proposed Plover Listing

Colorado agriculture groups quickly responded to the proposed listing of the Mountain Plover under the ESA. The Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Corn Growers Association and the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers all opposed the action. Comments from several groups are listed below.

Alan Foutz, Colorado Farm Bureau

“Due to the reckless deal making of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the majority of Colorado agriculture is now in danger of being regulated under the Endangered Species Act. Colorado farmers and ranchers have made good faith efforts to work with the FWS and conservation groups to insure that the Mountain Plover is monitored and protected. The species is thriving in Colorado and the west and the proposed ruling is just one more slap in the face of the ag community, the original conservationists.

“We were at this exact same place almost 10 years ago and it is clear that the proposal to list the species is based entirely on pacifying environmental interests and is in no way predicated on sound science. The Colorado Farm Bureau opposes listing the species as threatened. As a result of its deal making, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is placing undue costs on the ag community and the American taxpayer.”

Terry Fankhauser, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association

“The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association is once again disappointed in how the Endangered Species Act is executed in relation to species being considered for listing.  The recent announcement that the Fish and Wildlife Service will consider, yet again, listing the Mountain Plover as threatened due to a court case settlement is indicative that species and those who are actually conducting conservation measures for the species are being punished.  All the while, so called “conservation groups” are collecting hefty settlement fees so they can file their next lawsuit.”

Colorado Corn Growers Association, Mark Sponsler

“Regulation for the sake of being well-intentioned accomplishes nothing productive and places expensive landmines on an otherwise healthy and productive landscape.  The Fish and Wildlife Service cannot hope to be viewed as a credible agency if it weights political agendas over facts and sound science.”

Purdue Heralds Atrazine’s Benefits

American agriculture’s oldest and most well-established herbicide, atrazine, is an inexpensive and effective way to protect corn against many types of weeds, said Purdue University weed scientist Bill Johnson.

Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the safety of atrazine for the third time since the early 1990s. In each of the two previous reviews EPA ruled in atrazine’s favor, most recently in 2006 after considering 6,000 studies and 80,000 public comments.

(Image: TaminaMiller)

Feds Propose Listing Plover as Threatened

A young mountain plover in Bent County, CO. CFB and other ag organizations worked with the FWS in 2005 to determine the health of the continental plover population. As a result of the work CFB was awarded the Department of the Interior's Conservation Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Department.

Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed listing the mountain plover as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Citing agriculture, oil and gas, and other alleged threats, a listing would affect activities in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. Parts of northeastern Utah, Western Kansas, northeastern Arizona and northwestern Texas could also be affected.

The proposed listing is a slap in the face to ongoing conservation efforts and partnerships between  Colorado agriculture and environmental groups and government agencies like the FWS and Department of the Interior. Increased collaboration between the parties has provided a wealth of information about the birds numbers, and has increased protections for the species through voluntary changes in grazing and tilling.

The FWS also intends to throw out proposed regulatory exemptions (in the form of a 4(d) Rule) for farming and ranching activities. Without common sense exemptions, farmers and ranchers across eastern Colorado would be shut down by the listing of the plover under the ESA.

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Ethanol and Biofuels Capture Headlines

USDA research shows corn ethanol is showing a better energy balance mainly because of increased efficiencies in growing corn, but also because of improvements in the distilleries.

The USDA report, 2008 Energy Balance for the Corn Ethanol Industry, reveals that corn ethanol supplies twice the amount of energy it takes to produce the fuel.

With such positive reports, its no wonder Senators are asking for action. Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, John Thune of South Dakota, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Kit Bond of Missouri are pressing President Barack Obama on his administration’s decision to further delay the entry of E15 blends of gasoline into the market. The senators asked the president for prompt action on the waiver petition and immediate consideration of an interim blend of E12.

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Colorado Takes Stance on Noxious Weed Control

Choking river banks from California to Texas, the tamarisk, or saltcedar, is a noxious and invasive tree. Colorado has not been left out of this weed’s invasion. The Colorado Department of Agriculture has adopted a policy of insectary combined with willow restoration to fight the invasion.

Recently however, the United States Department of Agriculture ended its involvement in the program reducing the invasive alien tree species. Fearing the destruction of the noxious, invasive tree through the use of the saltcedar leaf beetle, would destroy the habitat for an endangered bird species, the USDA has quietly resigned its role in the removal program.

Colorado is not convinced of the USDA’s approach to completely pull out of the program. Dan Bean, the director of the pest control program for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, believes Colorado’s approach of insectary and willow restoration works well to eliminate the invasive tree and provide new habitat for the endangered bird, the Flycatcher.

Mr. Bean notes that Flycatcher domain will be avoided and he said, “but to say no more beetles anywhere would be irresponsible.”

(image:sankax)

EPA Villans Target Amish Farmers

It seems that even the Amish are not out of the reach of the long arm of the EPA regulators.

Amish dairy farmers will face stiff penalties from the Environmental Protection Agency because of farming practices the agency considers destructive to the Chesapeake Bay.

“There’s much, much work that needs to be done, and I don’t think the full community understands,” said David McGuigan, the EPA official leading an effort by the agency to change farming practices in Lancaster County, Pa., the heart of Amish Country.

EPA hopes to steer the farmers toward new practices without stirring resentment that might cause a backlash from the Amish, who are notoriously wary of outsiders and of the government in particular.

“We are supposed to be stewards of the land,” said Matthew Stoltzfus, a 34-year-old dairy farmer and father of seven whose family, like many other Amish, shuns cars in favor of horse and buggy and lives without electricity. “It is our Christian duty.”

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DOW Landowner Voucher Committee Seeks Comment

The Colorado Big Game Landowner Voucher Program Review Committee is seeking public comment on ways to improve the Landowner Voucher Program at an open-house meeting in Limon. The purpose of the public forum is to give Eastern Plains landowners and sportsmen the opportunity to meet with committee members to discuss the allocation of big game hunting licenses through the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Landowner Voucher Program.

The meeting will be held Thursday, May 13 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Limon Community Center, 477 D Ave.

Although the DOW is facilitating the meeting, the Landowner Voucher Committee is an independent, collaborative group of sportsmen, landowners, outfitters and wildlife managers that is reviewing and recommending changes to the voucher program. Delta County Farm Bureau President, Hugh Sanburg sits on the committee.

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Climate Change and Energy Bill Expected Next Week

According to sources, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) (left) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) think the Gulf oil spill will bolster their chances for success.

Sources on Capitol Hill say Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) plan to introduce their climate change and energy bill next week, without the support of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), who was an original co-sponsor of the legislation.

In addition, Kerry and Lieberman are said to believe the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will help, rather than hurt, momentum for the legislation. Sources say the two senators believe the crisis in the gulf—which is likely to get worse before it gets better—will focus the public’s attention on the nation’s dependency on oil and facilitate the debate about reforming the energy sector.

However, the new climate bill is expected to include an expansion of offshore drilling, which is seen as a real threat to passage.  Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has threatened to filibuster the legislation. “If offshore drilling off the coast of the continental United States is part of it, this legislation is not going anywhere,” he said.

(Image: Politico)

NRDC Calls for Atrazine ban

A report released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council points to new scientific evidence and updated monitoring as reasons for the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the herbicide atrazine.

A Wall Street Journal editorial points out that since atrazine’s debut in 1959, 10 Administrations have endorsed its use.

In its press release, NRDC buried its call for a ban on atrazine in the second to last paragraph.

“Given the pesticide’s limited economic value, NRDC recommends phasing out the use of atrazine, more effective atrazine monitoring, the adoption of farming techniques that can help minimize the use of atrazine to prevent it from running into waterways,” the NRDC news release stated.

The EPA notes that eliminating atrazine would cost $2 billion annually in lost crop yields and substituting more expensive herbicides.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is committed to ensuring that atrazine continues to be available to farmers. In a Feb. 1 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, AFBF President Bob Stallman urged Jackson to support Farm Bureau’s efforts to insure the availability and use of atrazine.

The EPA in 2006 completed a 12-year review involving 6,000 studies and 80,000 public comments. In re-registering the product, the agency concluded the cumulative risks posed “no harm that would result to the general U.S. population, infant, children or other . . . consumers.” The World Health Organization has found no health concerns.

(Image: Paul L. Nettles)
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