Friday, February 12, 2016

Oregon refuge searched for evidence, explosives after occupiers leave

Police and federal agents searched a U.S. wildlife refuge in Oregon for explosives and evidence on Friday, a day after the last holdouts in a protest over federal control of Western land surrendered to end a six-week armed standoff. Federal authorities said the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon would remain closed for several weeks as agents secured what is now considered a crime scene. After their surrender on Thursday, protesters told authorities they had left behind booby traps but did not say whether the trip wires and other devices would trigger explosions, a law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters. Materials to create explosives could be found on the refuge, the official said, because workers there previously performed controlled burns. The final four protesters had enough food on hand to last them for many months, the official said...more

FBI ‘felt it was time’ to end Malheur occupation

The FBI held a press conference Thursday regarding the arrests of the four holdouts at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing confirmed all four occupiers were arrested without incident and with no shots being fired from either side. Reverend Franklin Graham and Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore were at the refuge gate and greeted them as they left the encampment. Bretzing said they were both crucial to the resolution of the standoff. Bretzing said law enforcement will continue to man checkpoints at the edge of the refuge because it is considered a crime scene. Both Bretzing and Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, who also spoke at the press conference, reiterated that armed occupation of federal property is a crime and will be treated as such. While Bretzing said negotiations with the four remaining occupiers, David Fry, Sean and Sandy Anderson, and Jeff Banta, had been going on for many days, the pressure was put on them Wednesday night. “We felt it was time, both for the safety of those on the refuge and officers, to up the pressure on the refuge folks,” said Bretzing...more

Woman whose family inspired Oregon standoff hopes more challenge govt

The wife and mother of two men whose imprisonment in January precipitated a 41-day standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge told Reuters on Thursday she hopes the peaceful outcome will spur further activism to curb the reach of the federal government. Speaking exclusively to Reuters, Susan Hammond, who did not participate in the standoff, said that she hoped the attention brought by the occupation would galvanize Americans to pursue legal avenues for weakening federal government control of millions of acres of land. "I don't think it's over. I think it's just beginning," she said in a telephone interview. "We have hopes that possibly this will be the beginning of a change in the overreach of federal government, but it's only the beginning." Members of the Hammond family hold differing views on the Bundy’s methods, Susan Hammond said. Hammond said she did not know the Bundy family well, but had met Ammon Bundy on more than one occasion. She suggested that the Bundys were being targeted by the government and expressed her support in the wake of Cliven Bundy’s arrest. "I cannot imagine why they would pick up an old man at the airport and charge him with something like that,” Hammond said. "It's just piling on of government bureaucracy onto the Bundy family.”...more

Supporters of Cliven Bundy say they are not surprised agents moved in on him

The Bundy Ranch without Cliven Bundy is quiet. The man that once led a self-proclaimed ranch war against Bureau of Land Management agents is now seen in a courtroom sketch trading the Constitution in his pocket for the blue uniform of an inmate. He is physically miles away from where he made his stand but in jail because of it. Supporters of the Bundy patriarch tell me they aren't surprised agents moved in on Cliven when he landed at the Portland airport. "the way it went down," his bodyguard Skipper went on to say, "There's tension and frustration." Cliven went to Oregon to support the last armed men and women holed up in a federal wildlife refuge. He was arrested upon arrival, charged with organizing what the Department of Justice calls a "massive armed assault against federal law enforcement officers." His Bunkerville bodyguard tells me, that was a mistake. "He told me he was led by God." Skipper said on the Bundy Ranch. "I advised him not to go. I even told (Assemblywoman) Michelle Fiore 'I don't like this, something is going to happen'." Cliven Bundy now faces 6 charges related to his 2014 armed standoff with BLM over unpaid grazing fees. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 7 years in federal prison and as many as 42.  John Treanor, 3News, Las Vegas.     

Cliven Bundy to stay in jail until next week; 9 more charged; refuge to remain closed

A leader in the movement against federal land policy will stay in jail until his second court hearing next week. Cliven Bundy will be behind bars in the same jail housing his sons, the leaders of an armed group that occupied an Oregon wildlife refuge. The elder Bundy was arrested Wednesday night when he arrived in Portland from Las Vegas to visit sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy. Cliven Bundy was charged Thursday with leading a tense 2014 armed standoff with federal officials near his ranch in Nevada. At his first court appearance, he asked for a court-appointed attorney. U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart said she wanted to see financial documents first. She set a detention hearing for next Tuesday, and Bundy will stay in jail until then...Federal prosecutors say nine additional people from six states have been charged in connection with the armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon says seven of them were arrested Thursday and two remain at large. That means a total of 25 people have been charged with the standoff. They all face the same felony count of conspiracy to interfere with federal workers. The newly charged include: Blaine Cooper of Arizona; Wesley Kjar of Utah; Corey Lequieu of Nevada; Neil Wampler of California, Jason Blomgren of North Carolina, and Darryl Thorn and Eric Flores, both of Washington state. The names of the two being sought haven't been released. Prosecutors say those in custody are scheduled to appear in federal court in the different states Thursday and Friday...The FBI says the Oregon wildlife preserve that was occupied by an armed group will remain closed for several weeks as authorities inspect the area and gather evidence. The last four occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge surrendered Thursday. The occupation began Jan. 2. At a news conference, Greg Bretzing, FBI special agent in charge in Oregon, said authorities would examine buildings at the refuge to ensure nobody else was hiding out. After that, he says specialized teams would look for "explosive-related hazards." He said that could take several days. Bretzing says the FBI's evidence team would collect material about any crimes that may have been committed during the occupation. Also, a special team would work with a local tribe to document any damage to artifacts and ancient burial grounds at the property...source

We must dispel myths surrounding protest

By Clint Siegner

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown sat in her office Jan. 20 and drafted a letter to the U.S. attorney general and the director of the FBI. She wrote that negotiations with the “radicals” occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge had failed and insisted on a “swift resolution to this matter.”

Local officials, including Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, made similar demands. On Jan. 26, they got what they asked for.

Authorities, including the FBI, ambushed and arrested Ammon Bundy and others on their way to a meeting in neighboring Grant County. They shot LaVoy Finicum dead. He was not holding a weapon.

Awful. Grasty and Brown knew what might happen should the FBI decide negotiations had failed. Few have forgotten the stand­offs at Waco and Ruby Ridge and that “swift” federal action often means people die — in many cases, indiscriminately.

It’s ironic, but the behavior of the judge and the governor goes a long way to make the refuge protesters’ case for them. Blind devotion to federal authority is terribly dangerous to lives and to liberty.

The protest in Harney County will certainly not be the last over federal overreach. Here is hoping people find reason next time, before demanding dangerous federal intervention.

To that end, it is time to dispel a few myths about what is going on.

Siegner dispels five myths and also catches Governor Brown in a huge inconsistency when it comes to state vs. federal power. 

A good read.

Obama to designate new national monuments in the California desert

President Obama has set aside more of America’s lands and waters for conservation protection than any of his predecessors, and he is preparing to do even more before he leaves office next year. The result may be one of the most expansive environmental and historic-preservation legacies in presidential history. On Friday, Obama will designate more than 1.8 million acres of California desert for protection with the creation of three national monuments: Castle Mountains, Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow. The new monuments will connect three existing sites — Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks and the Mojave National Preserve — to create the second-largest desert preserve in the world...more 

Endangered Mexican gray wolves could be introduced to Utah

The Federal government proposed to release a subspecies of wolf in southern Utah and Colorado. This has raised concerns among local ranchers and the Utah Farm Bureau. Conversely, wildlife advocates are fighting to introduce the Mexican gray wolf into Utah. The Mexican wolf is a threatened species found in the Southwest region of the United States. There are only 110 species left in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has surveyed the region along southern Utah and believes the habitat is suitable for the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves. Kirk Robinson, executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy, expressed his concerns about the Mexican wolf not being discussed during the legislative season. “Nobody is talking about reintroducing the Mexican wolf,” Robinson said. “Our government officials are really upset about this. They don’t want Mexican wolves or any other wolves for that matter. That is why there is such a big conflict.” Robinson shed some light as to why southern Utah needs a wolf population. “Wolf populations will help control the number of deer and elk,” Robinson said. “So those populations won’t get larger.” Robinson said a sub-population of the Mexican wolves will help boost the ecosystem in southern Utah by preying on old and sickly deer and elk, which will help with big game population control. Although wildlife advocates are making preparations for the reintroduction, not all Utahns are willing to welcome the Mexican wolf with open arms. Sterling Brown, vice president of the Utah Farm Bureau, expressed his concerns with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal. “(Mexican gray wolves) are not native to southern Utah,” Brown said. “The Federal government has written a policy that an endangered species cannot be transported or transplanted in non-native areas. Yet the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services want to expand (Mexican gray wolf territory) into southern Utah. That’s going against their own policy.”...more

A look at Western ranchers' issues with the feds

Ranchers' issues with the federal government over land is not a new phenomenon. Many ranchers on Western lands have felt the government's hand has been too heavy for years. KTVB talked to a regional ranching family and their attorney, who have been in and out of the courts for decades, fighting against what they call lawlessness on the part of the feds. Many might recognize the last name, Hage, for their historic case in Nevada highlighting deep-seeded problems in the ranching industry, and for taking on the federal government. The Hage family is still fighting that battle, after decades of trial and tribulation. "It takes an awful lot to force somebody to take that extraordinary step that you saw out there in Oregon- whether we agree with it or not- we need to step back and look at what pushed them to that extent," Ramona Morrison, E. Wayne Hage's daughter, said. What Morrison believes pushed those ranchers to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for the last 41 days is the tyranny of federal agencies. "Things were different in Central Nevada and the forest service there really did not like the ranchers," the Hage family attorney, Mark Pollot, told KTVB. Pollot says as soon as the late "Hage Senior" bought his ranch in the 70's, those administrative agencies started to throw every road-block in his way. "They started on a campaign to make it impossible for us to run that ranch through the use of administrative powers," Morrison added. Eventually, the family had to sell their cattle after the government charged them with trespassing by grazing cattle without a permit on BLM and U.S Forest Service land. The family filed a takings lawsuit under the Fifth Amendment, and after 21 days of trial, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones said the federal government entered into a conspiracy, and ruled in District Court of Reno, Nevada that the Hages deserved compensation. "Our defense was: we have rights of way, we have easements, we have water rights that are out in the federal lands," Pollot said. But, on appeal to the 9th U.S Circuit, a court reversed that decision. "The sad part of it is these federal agencies are ignoring their own laws," Morrison told KTVB. Morrison says the law requires federal agencies to recognize pre-existing rights of ranchers, like easements, forage rights and vested water rights. So what is the solution? What might fix the underlying issues for ranchers in the West and for the former occupiers in Oregon?...more

BLM: Sage grouse habitat eliminates airport sites

Representatives from the BLM told the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority board Tuesday that the federal agency’s plan to protect sage grouse eliminates many of the replacement airport sites selected in a 2008 environmental impact study conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration. During the board’s monthly meeting at the old Blaine County courthouse in Hailey, BLM biologist Ammon Wilhelm and Shoshone Field Manager Codie Martin passed around copies of a map outlining sage grouse protection areas overlaid by proposed airport relocation sites. Many of the proposed sites are on land designated as sage grouse habitat. Wilhelm said a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not list sage grouse as endangered is part of a plan intended to prevent an endangered listing in the future...more

Environmental Group Sues Over Cabinet-Yaak Grizzlies

This week an environmental group filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in federal court in Missoula, saying that grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak area of northwest Montana should be listed as endangered species. Right now the federal agency estimates there are about 50 grizzlies in the Cabinet-Yaak. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies says that number is actually closer to 40, and that the minimum number of bears necessary for the population to recover is one hundred. Therefore, the Alliance says, the bears should be up-listed from “threatened” status to “endangered” Endangered status would give the bears additional protections. The Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but Spokeswoman Serena Baker says agency biologists carefully considered which status is appropriate. "Because the population is increasing and really has been stable for a number of years, the threatened status really was the appropriate status," Baker says...more

Here’s Why EPA Could Face Criminal Charges For Gold King Mine Blowout

by Michael Bastasch

A new report details how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have violated at least two federal laws by spilling millions of gallons of mine waste into U.S. rivers, which would trigger criminal charges against private companies.

But so far, the EPA has launched no criminal investigation into the Gold King Mine incident, despite mounting evidence it acted negligently when it caused the mine blowout — the bar EPA uses for bringing criminal prosecutions against private parties.

“The government, for whatever reason, is treating itself more favorably than it would a private party,” Paul Larkin, a former federal attorney who now works for the conservative Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Federal officials aren’t immune to criminal prosecution,” Larkin said. “If these were private parties they would have opened a criminal investigation.”

 A new House natural resources committee report claims EPA officials potentially violate at least two federal environmental laws — the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. And based on EPA’s past enforcement tactics, officials could be held criminally liable for polluting waterways across three states.

New Mexico official blasts EPA over Colorado mine spill

The head of the New Mexico Environment Department is blasting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying federal officials are downplaying the long-term effects of the Gold King Mine spill. The head of the New Mexico Environment Department blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday during a legislative committee meeting in Santa Fe, saying federal officials are downplaying the long-term effects of the Gold King Mine spill. Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn told members of the House agriculture committee that the agency has been pressuring communities to get behind a proposal that calls for monitoring water quality for only a year. Flynn also argued that the proposal would look at whether the water is safe for recreation. State officials fear that heavy metals from the spill could affect crops, livestock and wildlife in the years to come. Flynn told New Mexico lawmakers that the spill could have been avoided and accused the EPA of not holding itself to the same standards set for private industry...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1562

Here's one by Louis Innis and the String DustersJug Band Boogie.  The tune is on his Bronco Buster CD Skip, Hop & Jump Country Style

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Final Oregon occupiers surrender to authorities, ending the refuge siege

The armed occupation of a rural Oregon wildlife refuge ended peacefully here Thursday after 41 days as the last four anti-government activists surrendered to FBI agents, following a dramatic and emotional hour-long negotiation with the final holdout broadcast live on YouTube. After repeatedly threatening to shoot himself, complaining that he couldn’t get marijuana, and ranting about UFOs, drone strikes in Pakistan, leaking nuclear plants and the government “chemically mutating people,” the last occupier, David Fry, 27, lit a cigarette, shouted “Hallelujah” and walked out of his barricaded encampment into FBI custody. “I don’t want to be put behind bars,” he said at one point. “I don’t want to take that risk…. I didn’t kill anybody.” The FBI said it arrested David Fry at about 11 a.m. without incident. Before he was taken into custody, agents arrested Sandy Anderson, 48, of Idaho; her husband, Sean Anderson, 47; and Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nev. They were taken to Portland to face federal charges. Fry’s surrender, which had an audience of more than 30,000 people listening live, capped an extraordinary 18 hours in which America’s growing and extreme anti-government movement morphed into something that more closely resembled a strange and nerve-racking reality TV show. And it brought an end to a bitter, five-week standoff at the snowy Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in the remote high desert of eastern Oregon, that drew international attention to anti-government extremist sentiments along with long-simmering anger over federal land-management policies in the American West...more

Ammon Bundy Moved Out of Solitary Cofinement

Jailed rancher Ammon Bundy has been moved out of solitary confinement in a dark, windowless, six-by-six cell after his plight was featured on Newsmax TV’s “Dennis Michael Lynch: Unfiltered” show. In a text message to Lynch, Bundy’s wife Lisa wrote: “I just talked to him and he said he wants you to know how grateful he is. Thank You!”  Lynch has closely followed the story of Bundy and other ranchers involved in the armed seizure of an Oregon wildlife refuge on his Newsmax TV show which airs weeknight at 9pm ET...more

House panel report slams EPA for Animas River spill, accuses administration of concealing details

A House committee investigative report released Thursday slammed the Environmental Protection Agency for the Animas River spill, attributing it to the crew’s sloppiness and accusing the Obama administration of deliberately concealing information about the accident. The House Natural Resources Committee majority staff investigation accused the EPA and Interior Department of “incompetence and willful efforts to evade consequences,” the result being that they “cannot be trusted to spearhead remediation of sites like the Gold King Mine.” “[I]t is clear that there is more to the Gold King Mine story than EPA and DOI have chosen to reveal,” said the report by the Republican majority staff. In addition, the committee faulted the three reports issued by the Obama administration, including the EPA’s own internal review and the Interior Department’s technical evaluation, saying that the reviews “offer shifting accounts of the events leading up to the spill and contain numerous errors, omissions, and inconsistencies.” Some of those “are not attributable to error or incompetence alone,” said the report’s executive summary...more

Oregon Occupiers Delay Surrendering

The occupiers of the federal wildlife refuge in Oregon did not immediately surrender to law enforcement at 8 a.m. local time Thursday, as had been tenuously agreed to the night before. Instead, they waited for Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and the Rev. Franklin Graham be there to accompany them when they surrendered. Fiore and Graham were preparing to make their way to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to help escort out the remaining occupiers Thursday morning...more

Michele Fiore, the gun-toting, calendar-posing politician who negotiated the Ore. occupiers’ surrender

It was the most cinematic of moments, and Michele Fiore was not going to miss it.

As helicopters swirled overhead and heavily armed FBI agents crept ever closer, the four frantic, fearsome anti-government occupiers still inside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge heard a familiar voice on the telephone line.

“We’re putting our big-girl panties on now, and we are taking America back.”

Michele Fiore to the rescue.

From the floor of the Portland airport five hours away, Fiore, 45, proceeded to act as the occupiers’ de facto negotiator, at times agreeing with their radical views and at others, calming them down. The Nevada state assemblywoman and occupation supporter said she had spoken to the FBI and received assurances that the Feds wouldn’t kick down the door Wednesday night. And when one of the occupiers worried that government snipers were going to kill everyone inside the cabin, Fiore insisted everything would be alright.

“We’re going to make it through this, and we’re going to write about it,” she said on the occupiers’ live-streamed conference call, monitored at one point by about 64,000 people.

By night’s end, the occupiers had tentatively agreed to turn themselves in Thursday morning, largely thanks to Fiore’s intervention, although that deal conceivably could be in jeopardy after the arrest of Cliven Bundy.

“Fiore has really given the holdouts a sense of purpose,” tweeted John Sepulvado, a reporter covering the standoff for Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Regardless of what you think of her politics — [she] clearly diffused the situation.”

The brash, blond Las Vegas grandma is one of the most colorful, controversial political characters in the country. She has posed in racy wall calendars with an assortment of semi-automatic rifles. She once wrote, produced and starred in her own movie.

She is a staunch Republican who wears cowboy boots and packs a pistol at all times — even in gun-free zones, she says — yet she also backs gay marriage and marijuana legalization. She is a fiscal conservative who at one point owed the IRS more than $1 million. And she is a congressional candidate who keeps saying outrageous things, often about shooting people in the head.

Don’t Fence Us In: Western States Seek Return of Land From D.C.

According to the United States Geological Survey, nearly half the land in the Western United States is owned by the federal government. This includes 84.9 percent of land in Nevada (hiding UFOs requires lots of space), 64.9 percent of Utah, 61.6 percent of Idaho, 61.2 percent of Alaska, 52.9 percent of Oregon, 48.1 percent of Wyoming, and 45.8 percent in California. Meanwhile, the federal government owns only about 5 percent of the land in states east of the Mississippi River. Altogether, Uncle Sam owns roughly 640 million acres of land.  In March 2012, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed the Utah Transfer of Public Lands Act into law, which instructs the federal government to relinquish more than 20 million acres of land to the State of Utah. Although Utah has yet to bring forward a suit in an attempt to enforce the law, a move that is expected to bring strong opposition from the federal government, similar legislation is being considered in nine other Western states. These states are arguing if the federal government turns over its property in the West to the states, it will result in better environmental stewardship of the land, lower management costs, and an increase in productivity. Environmentalists, support federal government land ownership in Western states because they say these lands contain the most biologically and environmentally valuable ecosystems in the nation that need to be protected by federal officials from less environmentally concerned states.  “If not for federal policies for public land management,” University of Wyoming professor Debra Donahue told the New York Times, “America would lack a world-class system of national parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas.” This is undeniably true; however national parks, national monuments, wildlife refuges, and federal wilderness areas (FWAs), essentially the only parts of the West tourists ever lay their eyes on, would be excluded from any future land transfers. Most of the land held by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, excluding national parks, monuments, and FWAs, is the result of historical accident, not environmental concerns. During the Progressive and New Deal Eras, Congress created federal agencies to control Western lands under the belief central authorities would dispassionately apply science to determine the best use of natural resources. But as Montana State University professor of economics Holly Fretwell writes, “Science cannot determine whether hiking, biking or timber harvest is a higher-valued use. Instead, management decisions—regarding recreation use, commodity production or restoration activities—depend on budget appropriations and special interest battles.”  Fretwell says this leads to gross mismanagement of public lands, leaving Western communities at risk of wildfires, soil erosion, and other environmental problems that impose steep economic costs...more

Hammond Family: Ranchers or Terrorists?

...When the Fish and Wildlife Service diverted water to create a wetland that forced out the lower ranchers, the Hammonds legally reinforced their claim they had to those water rights. When there was an attempt to withdraw Steen Mountains as a “Monument”, the Hammonds refused to sell. When the federal land agencies in collusion with the environmentalists attacked ranching for destroying the health of the land, the Hammonds built a file comparing wildlife numbers on livestock land verses the areas actively managed by the bureaucrats. Even more threatening was the success for legally defending their water rights in court when the agencies attempted to fence off access to a vital spring. In a county full of people very close to being regulated out of business, a property rights win against the aggressive tactics of the federal agencies indeed does become a threat. What transpired next was the BLM making a case to put away the Hammonds for good. The many years of regulatory cut backs in grazing and then subsequent years of building excessive dry fuel ready to catch fire became a perfect storm. In a video from 2015, there is an example of ranchers in the surrounding area who watch as their cattle and homesteads are burned out. (see video link at end of article) Fire is nothing to mess with in the high winds that constantly blow across the desert. Like in 2006, the ranchers had submitted to cutbacks and followed BLM management plans. They were now in danger of being burned out of business. The Hammonds took action. During a major wildfire, they started a controlled back fire, a common and legal practice used in ranching to save the major part of their feed and put the fire out. It worked. By this time their file with the BLM was thick. Bureaucrat after bureaucrat had made claim that the Hammonds were dangerous, threatened violence, and were aggressively hostile. Since again, all these federal employees have immunity from making false allegations. This file is very suspect. But the allegations were enough to an uninformed jury and were entered into evidence by a US Attorney in a Federal District Court, away from neighbors and friends who could testify to their falseness. The BLM had the Hammonds arrested and charged with 18 counts of arson. They used every instance they could find of the Hammonds using controlled burns to help maintain the land, a common practice among ranching for centuries and accepted, to characterize them as dangerous arsonists. The allegations were filled with criminal intent. They were enough to create the appearance that it was not common practice to start back fires on private land. In fact, it is not even illegal if the fires get away from you. In these same years the BLM and Forest Service had burned thousands of acres, the Hammonds, 140. This is the desert, not suburbia; this is ranching, where the rancher is financially motivated to protect the land he uses, pays his taxes on, and makes his living on. What is worse is how they were charged. It is troubling that a US Attorney out of the Department of Justice felt that prosecuting them on a Domestic Terrorism Law was appropriate. It is troubling that the judge in the case retired the day after Steve and Dwight were plead down to only two counts. It is troubling that despite that same judge being so moved to reduce the mandatory 5 year minimum on the grounds that the 8th Amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment, that a vindictive bureaucrat could find another US Attorney to appeal to another judge and send them back to prison. It is troubling that they were due to pay $400,000 in fines by the end of 2016 and that part of their deal, if that payment isn’t made, will involve giving the government first right of refusal if they ever have to sell the ranch...more

Are states better than the feds at protecting endangered species?

In honor of Groundhog Day, WildEarth Guardians released its annual report card for federal and state management of prairie dogs. Unsurprisingly, the environmental group isn’t too fond of PLF’s victory on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners (PETPO). Yet it’s judgment of the relative quality of federal and state management suggests that it should reconsider that opposition.

As you’ll likely recall, we obtained a groundbreaking ruling in late 2013, holding that the Commerce Clause does not permit the federal government to criminalize all human action that affects the Utah prairie dog — a species found only in Utah with no appreciable connection to interstate commerce. As a consequence of that decision, the Utah has had exclusive power to manage the species ever since. It has substantially reformed its prairie dog management program, in the hopes of simultaneously protecting property rights and recovering the species. Perhaps the biggest change is that property owners are given an incentive to allow the state to safely and humanely capture prairie dogs on private property, so that they can be moved to conservation areas on state and federal lands.

In a brief supporting PETPO in the Tenth Circuit, Utah explained that this plan will “gradually transition prairie dogs from human conflict areas that will never secure their future to preserve areas where they are unconditionally protected from take and can flourish without human interference.”

WildEarth Guardians’ opposition to the case is (slightly) surprising because it grades Utah’s prairie dog management higher than most federal agencies. It awards Utah mostly “A”s and “B”s for its management of the Utah prairie dog. In fact, it appears that WildEarth Guardians’ only criticism of the state’s management has nothing to do with outcomes for the Utah prairie dog. Instead, it faults the state for not restricting private property use and private activity as much as possible.

Prior to the case, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was charged with protecting the Utah prairie dog. WildEarth Guardians awards it a “C” for its prairie dog management. Perhaps WildEarth Guardians should reconsider its opposition to the case responsible for transferring prairie dog management from the C-student Service to the more highly-graded Utah.  link

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo hopes Mexican gray wolves will find love

Moments after a Cheyenne Mountain Zoo keeper set out a couple clumps of ground meat, LightHawk emerged from a small snow shelter nestled next to a pine tree. The zoo's newest edition sniffed around for a few minutes Wednesday morning then made her way to the food, nibbling the morsels as male wolf Leopold kept his distance. Leopold eventually took a bite, then retreated back up the snow-covered hill in the Mexican gray wolf exhibit. Kristen Cox, an animal keeper at the zoo for the last decade, said the pair were "doing real well, actually" after their introduction less than a day before. LightHawk was flown from Scottsdale, Ariz., on Tuesday to fill the void left when her sister, Weeko, died of cancer in January. She was named for LightHawk Conservation Flying, the volunteer organization that brought her to Colorado Springs. LightHawk was brought to Cheyenne Mountain to pair with Leopold in a last-ditch effort to continue their genetic lines. According to the Mexican Gray Wolf Species Survival Plan, which tracks genetic lines of wolves in human care, both Leopold and the new female have under-represented genes in the remaining wolf population...more

 Let's hope she gets the cross legged colic instead.

Dog killed in suspected wolf attack

A dog was killed Tuesday near Duluth’s Brighton Beach, and authorities said the evidence suggests a wolf may be responsible. A medium-sized golden retriever mix was walking off-leash on a trail with its owner Tuesday near the park in far eastern Duluth when the dog was killed by another canine that authorities suspect was a wolf, said Brent Speldrich, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The owner didn’t see what happened, but tracks of another canine were found near the dog, he said. Wolf interactions in the area are common occurrences, Speldrich said. “We live in a wolf range,” he said, noting this would be the second incident in recent weeks in which a wolf killed a dog in the area. Speldrich said Duluth residents should keep dogs leashed and should accompany dogs outside at night, keeping pets close...more

Fish and Game Kills 20 Wolves in Northern Idaho

According to new numbers from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Lolo elk population in northern Idaho has declined from 16,000 animals 25 years ago to fewer than 1,000 today. The biggest factor limiting elk population, the agency stated, has been predation, including by wolves.  In an effort to help bring up elk numbers, Fish and Game—with help from USDA Wildlife Services—killed 20 wolves from a helicopter last week.  Along with the wolf kill, Fish and Game upped the number of available black bear and mountain lion hunting permits, reduced rifle hunting of bull elk by half and eliminated rifle hunting of cows. The agency said it prefers to rely on hunters and trappers to manage wolf populations, but if the harvest isn't meeting management goals Fish and Game must shoot or remove the wolves itself.  Hunters and trappers have taken 20 wolves in the Lolo zone so far in the 2015-2016 season but steep, rugged terrain and winter conditions make the area difficult to access...more

N.C. County resolution opposes potential wilderness area

Mitchell County’s Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Feb. 1 voicing its opposition to the potential for land in the county to be designated, and protected, as a wilderness area. The U.S. Forest Service is in the middle of a years-long process to revise its land management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Much of Mitchell County is within the 500,000-acre Pisgah National Forest, which covers large swaths of western North Carolina. Part of the revision process involves inventorying land within forest boundaries to be evaluated to see if it meets criteria to be designated as wilderness - the highest level of protection that can be given to land managed by the federal government. Basically, the designation means the land is left in its natural condition with restrictions to human traffic. Dozens of areas within the two forests were inventoried for evaluation. Read more: Mitchell News-Journal - County resolution opposes potential wilderness area. In its resolution, the Board of Commissioners gave two reasons for its opposition: concerns that a wilderness designation will negatively impact future search and rescue efforts by limiting necessary maintenance of roadways and trails. And that a designation could result in the county missing out on funds from the Secure Rural Schools Program. Currently, Mitchell gets around $33,000 a year from the program, which provides funds to counties that contain land managed by the Forest Service. The funds, used for schools and roads, are a percentage of the receipts from timbering done on managed lands in the county. Timbering and mining are not allowed on land designated as wilderness. Nor are motorized or mechanized vehicles. Read more: Mitchell News-Journal - County resolution opposes potential wilderness area...more


Point Reyes cattle ranches targeted in environmentalists’ lawsuit

It's all here:  cattle, oysters, wilderness, national parks and a supposed deal with Congress.

A year after an oyster farm was forced to shut down at Point Reyes National Seashore, sparking a bitter controversy over the role of farming in national parks, a coalition of environmentalists on Wednesday filed a lawsuit over a bigger and more explosive target: thousands of dairy and beef cattle in the park. Many of the cattle ranches in the iconic park have been operated by the same families since the 1860s. And park service officials say they have no plans to remove them. The suit against the National Park Service, filed by three groups in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, claims that the cattle are causing erosion, polluting waterways with manure, harming endangered salmon and other species and blocking public access. The groups say park service officials are violating federal law because they are moving forward with a plan to renew 20-year leases to the ranchers without conducting adequate environmental studies on how the thousands of cows are affecting the seashore’s scenic resources, including its tule elk. Nor have officials updated their 36-year-old park management plan to consider other options, like reducing the number of ranches in the park or the size of the cattle herds, the lawsuit contends...more

As bison grow more popular, 2 views on how to treat them

Turner just rounded the corner on 77. The billionaire they used to call the Mouth of the South is a much quieter version of himself these days, thinking less about the 24-hour news cycle he invented and more about his 1.9 million acres of ranch land and what he did to nudge bison — of which he owns more than anyone else on the planet — onto the American plate. When Turner started on his quest to bring bison back, the meat showed up mostly as supper on private ranches or as a gimmick in game-centric restaurants that did not care if they were selling rattlesnake or yak. By the 1990s, his interest had driven prices up, and dozens of other ranchers had joined him. Then a mix of market conditions and bad weather contributed to a crash. Bison meat began piling up in freezers, and ranchers went bankrupt. So Turner came upon a concept Alice Waters and her Slow Food followers understand well. To save something special like the American bison, you have to eat it. He opened his first Ted’s Montana Grill in Columbus, Ohio, in 2002 with George McKerrow Jr., the Atlanta restaurateur who founded the LongHorn Steakhouse. After some stumbles (the company had to close nine of its 57 outlets in 2010), Turner’s restaurant business is back on a path of expansion, and so is bison. The average American eats about 55 pounds of beef a year, while per capita bison consumption barely adds up to a couple of burgers. But a side of bison can bring in twice as much money as beef these days, and processors say they can’t keep up with demand...more

AZ delegation: Fire Grand Canyon workers for sexual harassment

Members of Arizona's U.S. House delegation rarely agree, but when it comes to complaints of sexual harassment at the Grand Canyon, they have one demand: punish or fire guilty employees. The state's nine U.S. House members sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday, spearheaded by Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, seeking discipline for National Park Service workers who have engaged in harassment and violence. After complaints from 13 current and former employees in 2014,the Inspector General recently concluded there was "evidence of a long-term pattern of sexual harassment and (a) hostile work environment." Employees reported supervisors and coworkers drinking heavily, pressuring women for sex and retaliating when women refused or reported the behavior...more

Conservationists Ask Lawmakers to Scrutinize New Mexico Game Commission Actions

New Mexico conservation groups are calling on state lawmakers to look into recent actions taken by the New Mexico Game Commission. In a letter [attached] sent to members of the Senate Rules Committee, the Sierra Club and Southwest Environmental Center said they were concerned that actions taken by the Game Commission over the past year “do not appear to be fiscally sound, responsive to the public, based on good science or in the best interests of New Mexicans.” The groups specifically cited the Commission’s rejection of a plan to conserve the state’s most vulnerable species, its dismissal of public concerns on controversial topics such as cougar trapping, its failure to base decisions on good science, and its jeopardizing of a longstanding partnership with Ted Turner in which the media mogul has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in conservation of New Mexico’s wildlife. “By rejecting the revised 10-year State Wildlife Action Plan, the Game Commission not only threw away $800,000 in annual federal funding for conservation of New Mexico’s most vulnerable species, it made it more likely that some of those species will end up on the federal endangered species list,” said Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1561

Here's a pretty tune by Tommy DuncanWalkin' In The Shadow Of The Blues was recorded in 1954 for the Coral label and is available on his CD Dog House Blues.

Occupiers at Oregon refuge say they'll turn themselves in

The last four armed occupiers of a national wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon said they would turn themselves in Thursday morning after the FBI and other officers in armored vehicles surrounded them in a tense standoff. The four occupiers yelled at officers to back off and prayed with supporters over an open phone line as the standoff played out on the Internet Wednesday night via a phone line being livestreamed by an acquaintance of occupier David Fry. Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio, sounded increasingly unraveled as he continually yelled, at times hysterically, at what he said was an FBI negotiator. "You're going to hell. Kill me. Get it over with," he said. "We're innocent people camping at a public facility, and you're going to murder us." "The only way we're leaving here is dead or without charges," Fry said, who told the FBI to "get the hell out of Oregon." Fry and the three others are the last remnants of a group led by Ammon Bundy that seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 to oppose federal land-use policies. The three others are Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada; and married couple Sean Anderson, 48, and Sandy Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho...more

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy arrested by FBI in Portland

Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who touched off one armed showdown with federal authorities and applauded another started in Oregon by his sons, was arrested late Wednesday at Portland International Airport and faces federal charges related to the 2014 standoff at his ranch. Bundy, 74, was booked into the downtown Multnomah County jail at 10:54 p.m. He faces a conspiracy charge to interfere with a federal officer -- the same charge lodged against two of his sons, Ammon and Ryan, for their role in the Jan. 2 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns. He also faces weapons charges. The Bundy Ranch Facebook page reported Cliven Bundy was surrounded by SWAT officers and detained after his arrival from Nevada. He was arrested at 10:10 p.m., authorities said. The Bundy patriarch had traveled to Portland with plans to go on to Burns, where four occupiers had been the remaining holdouts of the refuge occupation...more