Friday, January 30, 2015

Environmental groups pose billion-dollar challenge to ag

The 10 largest environmental organizations operating in the West collectively raise almost $1 billion each year to fund their activities, including filing lawsuits targeting farmers, ranchers, timber companies and the federal government. The lawsuits often attack farming and ranching activities, but most focus on how the government enforces the federal Endangered Species Act, a law Congress passed in 1973 to protect some plants and animals. They include salmon, sage grouse, wolves and hundreds of other species either listed or under consideration for protection. Litigation is big business for the environmental organizations, which often use the deadlines in the ESA as leverage to get their way with the government. Last year alone, they filed 526 environmental lawsuits in federal courts, according to a search of public records. The year before, the number was 1,421. One of the most litigious groups is Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm formerly called the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. The group promotes itself with the catchphrase, “We exist because the Earth needs a good lawyer.” San Francisco-based group, which boasts 94 lawyers in 10 regional and one international office, entered 2015 involved in 370 active court cases. Over the last two years, Earthjustice has collected $6.4 million in court-awarded attorney fees. Besides attorney fees awarded by courts, the nonprofit organizations also solicit donations from their supporters. Another group, the Center for Biological Diversity, has collected $2 million in attorney fees during the same time...more

Feds Don’t Actually Know How Big ANWR Is

If you want to know how big Arctic National Wildlife Refuge actually is, don’t ask the bureaucrats tasked with preserving the refuge. The Interior Department has three different answers to this question that vary by a whopping 500,000 acres — about the same size as 11 cities like Washington, D.C. “This begs the question: if the feds don’t know how big ANWR is, are they really its best stewards?” Alex Fitzsimmons, an energy analyst with the free-market American Energy Alliance, asked in a blog post. The Obama administration recently announced it would ask Congress to keep the “amazing wonder” of ANWR off-limits to oil and natural gas drilling, a move that was welcomed by environmentalists but derided by Alaska lawmakers and native tribesmen. The only trouble, Fitzsimmons points out, is that they don’t know exactly how big this “wonder” is...more

As the person who staffed the Asset Management Program for Secretary of Interior Jim Watt during the Reagan Administration, I can assure you the above is not unique. In his 2013 book Sagebrush Rebel:  Reagan's Battle With Environmental Extremists And Why It Matters Today,  William Perry Pendley writes:

The Asset Management Program was managed by the Property Review Board, a cabinet-level board that was established by presidential order, with the responsibility of developing policies on the "acquisition, utilization and disposition of federal real property," determining which lands to sell, and establishing annual targets for land sales.

I met with each "wing" of DOI, where each unit was to develop a list of surplus or underutilized property. After that experience I can assure you the federal government has no idea how much property it owns.  

Soon I will share my experience in meeting with the Property Review Board with Secretary Watt.

Near-Miss in Congress For Wilderness Study Areas

More than 2,100 square miles of protected lands in California will keep that status for the time being, as a move to strip wilderness study areas of protection failed Wednesday in the U.S. Senate. Senate Amendment 166, which had been tacked on to the bill approving the Keystone XL Pipeline, would have stripped protection from all wilderness study areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unless Congress agreed within a year to grant those areas full wilderness status. The amendment, which fell ten votes shy on Wednesday of the 60 it would have needed to become part of the Keystone bill, would have effectively ended protection on 80 California wilderness study areas managed by the BLM, covering more than 1,360,000 acres throughout the state. Millions of acres across the country are currently included in wilderness study areas. Wilderness advocates are breathing a sigh of relief, but they point out that this amendment, offered up by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, is just one of the first salvos aimed at public land protection by an increasingly conservative Congress. A pair of bills pending in both houses of Congress, S.228 and H.R.330, for example, would restrict the White House's ability to use the Antiquities Act to designate National Monuments...more

Here's the language in the amendment:

SA 166. Ms. MURKOWSKI (for herself and Mr. SULLIVAN) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by her to the bill S. 1, to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows: At the appropriate place, insert the following: SEC. X. RELEASE OF CERTAIN WILDERNESS STUDY AREAS. (a) Bureau of Land Management Land.--With respect to Bureau of Land Management land identified as a wilderness study area and recommended for a wilderness designation under section 603(a) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1782(a)), if, within 1 year of receiving the recommendation, Congress has not designated the wilderness study area as wilderness, the area shall no longer be subject to-- (1) section 603(c) of that Act; or (2) Secretarial Order No. 3310 issued by the Secretary of the Interior on December 22, 2010. (b) Fish and Wildlife Service Land.--With respect to land administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that has been recommended by the President or the Secretary of the Interior for designation as wilderness under the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.), if, within 1 year of receiving the recommendation, Congress has not designated the land as wilderness, the land shall no longer be managed in a manner that protects the wilderness character of the land.

The amendment failed, with 50 yeas and 48 nays.  Heinrich & Udall both voted nay.  The Republicans who voted nay were all from the east except for one: Gardner from Colo.

Here's some excerpts from Senator Murkowski's floor statement

 According to the Congressional Research Service, as of the beginning of this year, Congress has designated 109.8 million acres of Federal land as wilderness. Just over half of this wilderness is in my State of Alaska. We have over 57 million acres of wilderness in Alaska. Ninety percent of the wilderness under the management of the Fish and Wildlife Service is in Alaska.
   As a practical matter, there is more out there. There are more acres that are proposed for wilderness designation. For example, the Bureau of Land Management manages 528 wilderness study areas containing almost 12.8 million acres located primarily in the 12 States in the West as well as Alaska.
   We also have the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has a wilderness study process through its land use planning to identify areas to be proposed as wilderness.
   There is some history as to how we got to dealing with these wilderness study areas. Areas that are identified by agency officials as having certain wilderness characteristics--as identified under the 1964 Wilderness Act--were classified as wilderness study areas. BLM received specific direction in the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 to inventory and study its roadless areas for wilderness characteristics. By 1980 the BLM completed field inventories which designated about 25 million acres of wilderness study areas. Since 1980 Congress has taken a look at some of these. Some have been designated as wilderness and others have been released for nonwilderness uses. The BLM has also taken it upon itself to designate wilderness study areas through its land use process.
   The point here is that once an area has been designated under the BLM or the Fish and Wildlife Service study regime, it effectively becomes de facto wilderness. The designation then limits and restricts the ability to do just about anything for fear that it might impair the suitability of the area for preservation as wilderness.
   Until Congress makes a final determination on a wilderness study area, the BLM or the Fish and Wildlife Service manages these areas to preserve their suitability for designation as wilderness. Even if Congress has not acted--because it is Congress's purview to do so--the agencies have designated it as de facto wilderness.
   My amendment says we are going to change this, and we have to change this. Congress needs to reassert itself into this equation. As the final arbiter of what is or is not designated as wilderness, Congress can and should make the decisions in a timely manner about the wilderness status.
   What my amendment does is pretty simple. If Congress doesn't act within 1 year to designate as wilderness an area recommended for wilderness, the designation is released. It just goes back to multiple use. That way the agencies are not managing areas to preserve a possible wilderness designation as an option for Congress. Instead, they can get on with looking at a broader range of options for how to manage that land with the local people and other interested stakeholders through the land-use planning process that applies to each of the agencies.
   Some may argue that Congress needs more time on this. I would say we have had plenty of time to review these areas. Some of the wilderness study areas have been pending since the 1980s. That is plenty of time to figure out whether they should be put in wilderness status. Congress needs to make decisions.

Wyoming sportsmen oppose land transfer study bill

Muratore is one hunter in a long line of Wyoming sportsmen worried about a pending bill moving through the Wyoming Legislature. The bill, Senate File 56, would give $100,000 to the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments for the agency to study and identify federal lands that could be managed by the state. It was approved Wednesday on first reading by the Senate and needs two more Senate votes before it goes to the House. While the bill calls for a study of management of federal lands, and not ownership, Muratore and others worry it is just one movement toward a future land grab. State land, he said, is primarily managed for profit, such as grazing and oil and gas development, not multiple uses that include recreation. Sportsmen also worry that if Wyoming ultimately assumed control of federal land, the state would not be able to afford management and would begin selling portions to the highest bidder. “We would lose everything,” he said. “We need every bit of public land we have available to us.”...more

Wyoming lawmakers push to protect domestic sheep against expected federal grazing cuts

Some Wyoming lawmakers are pushing to protect domestic sheep in the state from a possible federal effort to remove them from public lands. The U.S. Forest Service recently curtailed domestic sheep grazing on the Payette National Forest in Idaho to protect bighorn sheep from disease. The agency is developing a larger plan to consider whether it needs to curtail domestic sheep in Wyoming and other western states to reduce the threat to bighorns. Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, is sponsoring a bill to codify in Wyoming law a plan that state agencies have used for the past 10 years to resolve possible conflicts between wild and domestic sheep. Recognizing the plan in state law will put the state on firmer legal ground if it has to fight any federal effort to evict domestic sheep producers, he said. State management agencies, hunting groups and grazing interests worked together to devise the Wyoming plan in 2004. It ranks sheep areas in the state according to their value, placing the greatest restrictions on domestic sheep in the prime bighorn areas...more

The Scandals at Justice - Moonlight Fire

New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels

Western governments have made a wrong turn in energy policy by supporting the large-scale conversion of plants into fuel and should reconsider that strategy, according to a new report from a prominent environmental think tank. Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand, the report found. It added that continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population. Some types of biofuels do make environmental sense, the report found, particularly those made from wastes like sawdust, tree trimmings and cornstalks. But their potential is limited, and these fuels should probably be used in airplanes, for which there is no alternative power source that could reduce emissions. “I would say that many of the claims for biofuels have been dramatically exaggerated,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington that is publishing the report. “There are other, more effective routes to get to a low-carbon world.”...more

Ryan Bundy arrested after allegedly brawling with deputies in the courthouse

CEDAR CITY – Ryan Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s oldest son, was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly got into a scuffle with Iron County Sheriff’s deputies when they tried to serve him with a warrant. Ryan Bundy, 42, who has property in Cedar City, was approached by deputies on his way out of court Tuesday after he had appeared in Iron County Justice Court for an unrelated 2013 incident where he was charged with a class B misdemeanor for responsibility for a nuisance. “I got a summons to go to court in Cedar City on some kind of nuisance charge,” Ryan Bundy, of Bunkerville, Nevada, said during an interview Wednesday. “It (the paperwork) says it stems from having a vehicle stored on my property without proper registration. I don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.” Authorities said the warrant was for failing to appear in a 2014 case where Ryan Bundy was charged with interfering with an animal control officer. Ryan Bundy is the oldest of Cliven Bundy’s 14 children...more

Congress hears border issues firsthand

After a day of round-table talks with ranchers and a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border in Cochise County on Saturday, a group of 21 congressional representatives have a broader view of border problems. Initiated by newly elected U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the largest group to ever come to the local border saw for themselves just what Border Patrol agents and Americans living in this area have to deal with on a daily basis. “To hear from the ranchers firsthand about the threats that come from across the border shows the needs to secure it,” said McCaul in a brief statement after the tour. McCaul is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and McSally is chairperson of the subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications. The committee on Homeland Security has proposed a bill, the Secure Our Borders First Act, that calls for the placement of more Border Patrol agents on the border, the construction of additional forward operating bases, the installation of more fencing where needed, and to begin using the latest technology in an effort to stop crime at the border, McCaul said. McCaul said the committee asked McSally what she wanted to see in the bill. After her discussions with ranchers, one of the main objectives the ranchers wanted to have fulfilled is to have the Border Patrol actually patrol the border. She explained that she offered an amendment to the bill that would put the Border Patrol on the border. “We want to increase the number of forward operating bases and have a rapid reaction capability. Ideally, the illegal activity will be detected well south of the border, so that can be deterred or interpreted as close to the border as possible,” McSally said...more

NM Federal Lands Council honors Schneberger

Laura Schneberger of Winston, New Mexico, received the 2014 Bud's Contract Award from the New Mexico Federal Lands Council (NMFLC) at the Joint Stockmen's Convention, held in Albuquerque. "Laura exemplifies the meaning of this award, and we are glad for the opportunity to recognize her hard work and dedication," said Bebo Lee, NMFLC President, Alamogordo. "She has been instrumental in organizing her neighbors and ranchers across the state to deal with Federal lands grazing and Endangered Species issues — especially the Mexican Grey Wolf. She has represented the livestock industry at countless meetings on these problems and kept the rest of us informed and involved when we needed to be." Schneberger and her husband, Matt, operate a cattle ranch in the Gila National Forest near Winston. She has been a driving force behind the Gila National Forest Permittees Association, helped lead the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association's (NMCGA's) Wildlife Committee, represented the livestock industry on the Wolf Recovery Team, all while raising and homeschooling her three children – Kristie, Ivy and Miles — on the ranch. She is fifth-generation "cow-people." When she was born, her father was working on the Sand Ranch near Benson, Arizona, and she grew up on several different cow camps in southern Arizona and New Mexico. On the Wolf Recovery team, she worked against long odds to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to abide by their own Recovery Plan and commitments that were made when the Mexican Grey Wolf reintroduction program started, Casabonne explained. "She has helped with countless fund raising events, meetings and conference calls, written comments, testified at legislative hearings, and even helped organize litigation to try to keep her family and her neighbors in business when the agencies seem to be determined to get them off the land at any cost. She has kept after it because she believes in what's right and fighting against injustice and unfair actions by our government agencies."...more

'Big Burn' on PBS depicts 1910 disaster that shaped Forest Service

It’s no spoiler to give away the ending of “The Big Burn” – the fire dies and the U.S. Forest Service lives. But that doesn’t mean the PBS documentary based on Tim Egan’s book by the same name doesn’t leave us with an unresolved cliffhanger. “It’s not surprising the fires of 1910 cast such a huge shadow on the Forest Service and had such an effect going forward,” said film writer and director Stephen Ives. “What should have been the Forest Service’s worst hour turned out to be their creation myth – forest rangers as American heroes. But I think to be fair, something like the Big Burn was so unprecedented, it couldn’t have been imagined. It ultimately revealed the flaws and complicated contradictions at the heart of our forest policy.” The hourlong "American Experience" program debuts next Tuesday at 7 p.m. It recounts the founding days of the Forest Service, when it was a collection of Ivy League college grads trying to impose order on 200 million acres of newly created national forests. They’d barely had time to rile the rowdies in logging towns like Taft and Wallace when the worst fire season North America has ever recorded blew up around them...more

Asset forfeiture generates millions in Dona Ana County; former DOJ employee calls the practice unconstitutional

Las Cruces police and the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office enforce laws that let them seize people’s property. It’s called asset forfeiture but critics call it legalized robbery. Debra Wattier lives in Las Cruces and learned about the law after her family’s truck was impounded. She told KFOX14, "They treated me like I was the criminal and I was very frustrated. I didn't handle things very well." The truck was seized the day after Christmas because her brother was caught driving it on a suspended license. The vehicle belongs to her parents but that doesn’t matter. Kelly Jameson, a spokesperson for the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, told KFOX14“By state statute we can seize a vehicle if it meets certain criteria. So if you’re caught driving with a prior DWI conviction and you’re caught driving under the influence we have the right to seize your vehicle. If you’re driving on a revoked license, we can seize your vehicle.” Last year at a conference in Santa Fe, the now former City Attorney for Las Cruces Pete Connelly was caught on camera, joking about taking people’s stuff. The video was obtained by New Mexico Watchdog, an investigative news site covering politics. “Just think what you could do as a legal department,” he told other attorneys. “We could be czars. We could be in the real estate business.” Connelly still works for the city but is no longer the head attorney. A spokesperson with the city of Las Cruces wouldn’t comment on the video but says the city has seized over 2,100 vehicles since 2006 which has generated more than $1.2 million in revenue. Brad Cates is the former director of the justice department’s forfeiture program and said, “Well he was only speaking the truth is the problem.” He said forfeiture laws were created to fight the war on drugs but now he’s against these kinds of programs. “We’ve gone from drugs to over 200 laws. So you have a law where there’s no conviction, no finding of guilt. Just a seizure without a judicial warrant. They seize your property. They take it away and the property is the defendant.” The Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office has its own forfeiture program which generated more than $200,000 in 2014...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1368

Some early bluegrass on King straight from the vinyl:  Don Reno & Red Smiley - Tally Ho.  The tune was recorded in Charlotte on April 6, 1954.  With them in the studio: William Haney, md.; Jimmy Lunsford, f; and Tommy Faile, b.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The South Carolina Resolution for the Transfer of Federal Lands

“We in the East are tired of paying billions of dollars for the federal government to mismanage federally controlled lands in the West,” says South Carolina State Representative Alan Clemmons.

Sign the Petition to Transfer the Public Lands

Cowboy musicians organize Grass March benefit concert

ELKO – Those who love swinging music, good vibes, and who support ranchers battling with the federal government over land and water rights should mark their calendars for Thursday night. Cowboy poet veteran Waddie Mitchell is hosting a Grass March/Cowboy Express benefit concert that will feature performances from the all-star lineup of Michael Martin Murphy, Don Edwards, RW Hampton, Brenn Hill and Andy Hedges. There is no cover charge but organizers will accept donations. A live auction will take place, Mitchell said, where attendees can bid on a host of items, such as beef and horse tack. The event begins around 8 or 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Stockmen’s Hotel & Casino showroom. “We’re hoping to raise as much as possible,” Mitchell said. “We were about $40,000 in the hole.” Those looking for a place to mingle will also find it at the concert. “We’ll have cocktails available in there,” he said. “A bar will be open. They can expect just good visiting and lots of good stuff to get out of the raffle.” The Grass March/Cowboy Express began near the end of September in California. Riders took to horseback and embarked on a coast-to-coast ride in an attempt to gain support from like-minded Americans. The Capitol in Washington, D.C., was the final stop...more

Advocates seek new status for gray wolves in Lower 48 to avoid Congressional intervention

Wildlife advocates have petitioned federal officials to reclassify gray wolves as a threatened species, hoping to retain at least some protections that lawmakers in Congress want to repeal. Wolves are classified as endangered across most of the lower 48 states except the Northern Rockies. "Endangered" is a more protective listing than "threatened." Brett Hartl with the Center for Biological Diversity said Tuesday's petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to downgrade the animals' status is meant to pre-empt congressional intervention. Lawmakers from the western Great Lakes and Wyoming have proposed lifting federal protections entirely in their states. That would put wolves under state control and allow hunting to resume after it was barred by the courts. Spokesman Gavin Shire said the Fish and Wildlife Service will review the petition.   AP

Federal lands fight continues as session starts

The deadline Utah lawmakers set for the federal government to turn over control of millions of acres of public land passed with the new year. The part-time Legislature convened in Salt Lake City this week to start the 45-day session, and leaders have already expressed a desire to continue a now years-long effort to take control of lands that many argue could be better managed locally and help to generate revenue to fund schools and other services. The state passed a law in 2012 demanding the federal government give up about 31 million acres, or about 50 percent of the total area of the state, by Dec. 31, 2014. The transfer still hasn’t happened though, and the state has yet to move ahead with a proposed lawsuit over the issue. There has been no indication the federal government would agree to such a transfer, and critics have argued that the state has no legal claim to the land. Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, the West Jordan Republican who has spearheaded the state’s efforts, said before the session that he sees the issue as the key to making up for the state’s relatively low per-pupil funding for public education, arguing that the state is limited in its ability to generate funds when it controls little more than a third of the land within its borders. The state would have to raise $2.5 billion in new money to reach the national average, he said, a massive amount in a state where the entire annual budget is expected to be little more than $14 billion. “There’s no other way,” he said. “Just to cover the $2.5 billion gap you’d have to double income taxes, with the assumption that you wouldn’t adversely affect the economy. I mean, you just can’t go there from here.” Republican Gov. Gary Herbert and a majority of state lawmakers have argued that Utah could better manage the lands than the federal government. Most elected officials in Southern Utah have backed the measure, with many municipalities passing resolutions in favor of a transfer...more

Bill would limit president’s power over monuments

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Republicans, introduced legislation Thursday to limit presidential power related to the designation of national monuments. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is also a co-sponsor. According to a press release from Crapo, the bill comes in advance of new designations likely to be made by the Obama administration during the next two years, potentially including the Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho. The National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act, S. 228, would require congressional approval before any new national monument designations are finalized. It would also require legislation authorizing the decision from any state in which a proposed monument is located. In addition, the bill states that the secretary of the interior shall not implement any restrictions on public use of a national monument until the expiration of a review period providing for public input and congressional approval...more

Study: Livestock Grazing on Public Lands Cost Taxpayers $1 Billion Over Past Decade

A new analysis  finds U.S. taxpayers have lost more than $1 billion over the past decade on a program that allows cows and sheep to graze on public land. Last year alone taxpayers lost $125 million in grazing subsidies on federal land. Had the federal government charged fees similar to grazing rates on non-irrigated private land, the program would have made $261 million a year on average rather than operate at a staggering loss, the analysis finds.  The study, Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, comes as the Obama administration prepares Friday to announce grazing fees for the upcoming year on 229 million acres of publicly owned land, most of it in the West. The report was prepared by economists on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity. The gap between federal grazing fees and non-irrigated private land rates has widened considerably, according to the study. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service grazing fees are $1.35 per month per animal unit (a cow and a calf), just 6.72 percent of what it would cost to graze livestock on private grazing lands. This is a marked decline from the federal fee being 23.79 percent of non-irrigated private rates when the federal fee first went into effect in 1981.  There are about 800,000 livestock operators and cattle producers in the United States. Of those, fewer than 21,000 — or 2.7 percent of the nation’s total livestock operators — benefit from the Forest Service and BLM grazing programs in the West...more

Court Rules Against Farmers’ Personal Privacy

A federal district court in Minnesota dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block EPA from releasing the personal information of farmers. Last year a radical environmental group asked the EPA for the personal information of farmers who had been issued permits to operate livestock facilities. The EPA complied and released names, addresses, phone numbers, and even GPS coordinates of these operations. Outraged, the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council petitioned to stop any further release of information. Late Tuesday, the court ruled the government could release this information. Don Villwock, President IFB is furious, “Farmers take their privacy and their records very seriously and only want to share with those who have a need to know or those who can help them in their business, but to release this information to a public database is deeply disturbing.” He added that activist groups with an agenda could use this information to harm a farming operation or do damage to its livestock. EPA has already released personal information of farmers and ranchers from 29 states. Villwock said farmers have nothing to hide but feel the personal details of their operations should not be a matter of public record, “I would ask the general public: would they like their personal information, their address, and other private information made public so criminals and others could find out exactly where you live?”...more

Indian tribes, game wardens dispute hunting rights

A continuing dispute between members of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and wardens from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is testing the limits of tribal sovereignty and the authority of state game wardens to enforce state hunting regulations on tribally owned lands outside reservation boundaries. The controversy is centered upon a remote patchwork of private, public and tribal land on the southwestern edge of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. This same area was at the nexus of a confrontation in September, when tribal police detained a state game warden for more than five hours. On Sept. 13, 2014, Warden Dirk Paulsen was stopped by officers from the Fort Belknap Law Enforcement as he drove down a designated county road in the southeast corner of Blaine County. The tribal police officers told Paulsen that he was trespassing on tribal land, blocked him from driving away and threatened to impound the state vehicle Paulsen was driving and cite him for criminal trespass. The incident was resolved peacefully after officers from the Blaine County Sheriff's Office intervened, however, the question of which law enforcement agency has the authority to regulate hunting activities in the area has never been fully resolved. The jurisdictional disagreement has resurfaced once again, during a recent hunting excursion into the disputed area roughly 12 miles west of the town of Hays. On Jan. 19, several Fort Belknap tribal members assembled on tribally controlled land just west of the reservation's exterior boundary, with the expressly stated intent of shooting a few deer and elk. Montana's big-game hunting season for deer and elk had ended seven weeks earlier, but the group of tribal members based its authority to conduct the off-season hunt based upon subsistence hunting permits issued by the Fort Belknap Fish and Game office...more

Stalled border bill does not discourage rancher

Whether it was bad weather outside or inside the Capitol, the border bill touted by Congresswoman Martha McSally has been delayed. The House was supposed to vote on it Wednesday. The delay was attributed to the blizzard that hit the northeast. But critics said that was just an excuse to buy time and get more support for the bill. Several conservative Republicans opposed the bill, and said it doesn't go far enough. Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson said the bill goes way too far and doesn't give enough funding for the agency to implement it. The delay comes on the heels of more than 20 members of Congress touring the border last weekend. John Ladd hosted the delegation on his ranch near Bisbee on Saturday. He doesn't like everything about the bill, such as giving Customs and Border Protection authority to override environmental protection laws on lands up to 100 miles in from the border, but he considered the delay as hope the bill will be changed for the better. "This isn't going to happen overnight. I think if we see any really positive developments, it's going to be at least a year,” Ladd said. Twenty-one members of Congress, including Congresswoman Martha McSally and the House Homeland Security Committee chair Michael McCaul visited the ranch of John Ladd on the border near Bisbee Saturday. The visit was part of a three-day tour from San Diego to McAllen, Texas. McSally amended the “Secure Our Borders First” act to require Border Patrol resources to be as close to the border as possible. The change is important to ranchers in Arizona because they say that the wall isn't working on its own. Even if the bill appears stalled in the House, Ladd said that he still thinks the visit was the most productive thing he's seen from Congress in 20 years...more

NM Land Commish issues suspension to SunZia

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn issued a 60-day Right-of-Entry suspension to SunZia, following a meeting with company representatives Wednesday at the State Land Office in Santa Fe. The suspension will allow the Commissioner Dunn 60 days to review the SunZia transmission line project prior to any further development within areas impacting state trust lands. "Eighty-nine miles — nearly 30 percent — of the proposed transmission line will cross state trust land. The suspension will allow our office time to ensure all necessary agreements are in place to protect state trust land and ensure state beneficiaries are receiving fair consideration by SunZia," Dunn said. "The fact that the State Land Office and its representatives were not invited to Saturday's announcement by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in Albuquerque is one example that the State Land Office and state trust land beneficiaries have not yet had a voice." Commissioner Dunn announced Wednesday that the State Land Office will hold two public meetings for stakeholders and county officials — March 10 in Deming and March 11 in Socorro — to discuss the SunZia project...more

Will Florida Allow Drones to Survey Agriculture?

Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the first agricultural-specific permit for the use of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). According to ADAVSO, the permit winner, the company will use drones as part of a precision-agriculture program. Precision-ag requires site-specific data to make farm-management decisions, like nutrient and water use. Such a program, experts say, could help an agriculture-rich state like Florida. For instance, University of Florida researchers have been testing the use of small helicopters to check citrus trees for greening, a disease that has dealt a huge blow to one of Florida's treasured industries. The uses for customized drones, proponents argue, are boundless, including for surveying fields, inspecting, mapping, monitoring moisture and growth and analyzing application results. But, a top priority in 2013 for one of the Florida Senate's most powerful Republicans was a bill limiting drone use in the state. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, along with Melbourne Republican Ritch Workman in the House, passed the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, restricting the use of drones in law enforcement.  The bill was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. At the time he was crafting the bill, Negron told Sunshine State News, "I would anticipate very minimal uses for drones, and it may end up being that because the uses are so limited, it's not practical to have one.” Contacted Wednesday, Negron said drones for police surveillance and drones for ag are two different things.  "My bill only dealt with the use of drones by law enforcement," Negron said Wednesday. "I have no objection to farmers and ranchers using civilian drones for agricultural purposes."...more

Bills filed to increase penalties for cattle theft in Oklahoma

Two bills have been filed in the Oklahoma legislature that aim to address the increase in cattle theft in Oklahoma. According to Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association President Richard Gebhart, the bills are much needed as "cattle theft has more than doubled in the last year alone." Sen. Eddie Fields, Wynona, has authored SB 299 in the Oklahoma Senate and Rep. Casey Murdock, Felt, has authored HB 1387 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Both bills increase the jail and fine penalties for cattle theft and, most importantly, combine the two. "Current state law says that the penalty is jail or a fine. OCA is in favor of convicted thieves receiving both," Gebhart said. Specifically, the bills would increase the jail time from 3 to 10 years to 5 to 15 years; increase the cap in fine from $500,000 to $750,000 and replace the 'or' with 'and', thus making the overall penalty both jail and a fine...more

A historic route used by Indians, Spaniards, and the Jackass Mail

An oriflamme or “golden flame” appeared on the red battle standard of the King of France during the Middle Ages. It is unlikely that Oriflamme Canyon was named for this, although a red banner could have marked a mining claim in the canyon. More likely, the canyon was named for the side-wheel steamship named Oriflamme that brought the first miners to the area in 1870 during the Julian gold rush. The steamship regularly stopped at San Diego Harbor as part of its route between San Francisco and the Atlantic Ocean. Oriflamme was the name first given to a mine worked in the area, and the canyon and mountain soon followed. The name, however, has little to do with the historic and scenic attributes of the canyon, which are considerable. It was the main route between Kumeyaay villages in the desert and summer encampments in the Laguna Mountains. It was the route Col. Pedro Fages took in 1772 while searching for army deserters, making him the first European to set foot in the Anza-Borrego desert that lived to write about it. In the 19th Century, cattle ranchers who had settled near Vallecito built a rough road through Oriflamme Canyon to move their cattle to summer pasture in the Laguna Mountains. Much of that road still exists as the Mason Valley Truck Trail and is part of the route of this hike. In the 1850s, Oriflamme Canyon was a leg on a transcontinental mail route called “The San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line.” It came to be known as the “Jackass Mail” because it used mules to pull wagons up the steep road through the canyon...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1367

We have another King 78 with Charlie Linville & The Fiddlin' Linvelles performing Bake Them Hoe Cakes Brown. Recorded on Oct.1, 1946.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Thanks for all the kind comments.

In my Note to Readers post yesterday I mentioned I would be spending less time in front of a computer.  Its doctor's orders.  I have a severe case of lymphedema and must spend most of my time in bed, in lymphedema pumps and with my feet higher than my heart.

They have limited my time in the wheelchair which means I have less time for internet searches and therefor you'll see fewer posts.

Some thought I was gone for two weeks and that is not the case.  I was just letting you know The Westerner may look a little different and I may miss some things.

Editorial: BLM sells out NM, nation with SunZia green light

This is one green light that should have stayed red.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s announcement that her department’s Bureau of Land Management had given the “go” to a controversial electricity transmission line across New Mexico is a threat to national security at a time of global challenges that range from radical Islamic terrorists to increased Iranian militancy to a bristling and bulked-up Vladimir Putin.

The proposed 515-mile power line would be designed to take electricity from wind and solar farms in central New Mexico to Arizona to be sold in Western markets.

Jewell says the $1.2 billion power line project by private developers that will cross land used by the White Sands Missile Range “will help unlock the abundant renewable energy resources in the Southwest, creating jobs and bringing reliable, sustainable power to a growing corner of our country.”

White Sands is an invaluable asset to the U.S. military for testing technologies and weapons to keep the nation and its people safe. The military has had serious concerns about SunZia’s alignment across the Northwest Extension. The state’s Military Base Planning Commission also opposes the alignment.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican, has been adamantly opposed to the line’s encroachment on the range. “It appears that, with one stroke of a pen, Sec. Jewell will permanently damage our national security,” he said in a written statement.

And then the Albuquerque Journal editorial pulls no punches when it comes to Senator Martin Heinrich:

U.S. Sen Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, has been equally adamant in his support for SunZia – opting to side with its eco-friendly potential over tangible concerns over national security and current economic reality. Heinrich, of course, is a darling of environmental groups and collects big campaign dollars from them. Environmental concerns are among his top five contributors, according to, and gave Heinrich $377,465 from 2007 through 2014.

If New Mexico voters don’t share Heinrich’s rather utopian view, they should take note that they can and should express their displeasure at the voting booth in 2018.

It's nice to see that New Mexico's largest newspaper is noticing what the ranching/rural community has known for a long time.  They continue to suffer under Heinrich's "utopian" wilderness and national monument designations (See here, here, here, here, here and here).

Will endangered species status help the Mexican gray wolf?

by Jeremy Miller

Earlier this month, one of the U.S.’s most threatened and controversial species received new protections that federal wildlife managers hope will allow the species to gain new ground in its home range of New Mexico and Arizona.

On January 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Mexican gray wolf, or Canis lupus baileyi, as an endangered subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. Before the new rule, Mexican grays were protected under the E.S.A. but lumped in with their larger, more northerly relative, the gray wolf, reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. Today more than 1,500 grays inhabit large swaths of the northwestern U.S.

...Under the new rule, the USFWS will seek to establish an experimental population of between 300 and 325 Mexican grays. The rules also significantly expand the boundaries of the wolves’ protected range and areas where animals can be released. The former territory comprised portions of the Gila and Apache National Forests but the new rule pushes the southern boundary for the experimental population from Interstate 10 all the way to the U.S.-Mexico border. (However, the northern boundary ends at Interstate 40, so wolves that travel to the Grand Canyon and into potential habitat beyond are not protected.)...

According to Tuggle, the rule is also accompanied by “clearer and more flexible rules to support the interests of local stakeholders” – namely, a provision that allows individuals to get permits allowing them to kill wolves that attack livestock or domestic dogs.

This “take” provision is one of several aspects of the law that has drawn criticism from environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife. The same groups have also pointed out that the law is unusual in that it defines a maximum rather than minimum population threshold.

Senate Democrats slam White House oil drilling plan

Several Democratic senators from states along the East Coast roundly criticized Tuesday the Obama administration's plan to allow offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. The move by Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Ben Cardin of Maryland comes a day after the all-Republican congressional delegation slammed the President's proposal to declare 12 million acres of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) off-limits to drilling. The Republican opponents of that plan said the White House's move would hurt Alaska's economy. Democrats on Tuesday used a similar argument, arguing a potential oil spill could be catastrophic to the economies of their states. "The fact is drilling in the Atlantic is a risk-reward proposition," Menendez said. "All of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities and all of the reward goes to Big Oil." The proposed plan released by the Department of the Interior would include 14 potential lease sales in eight planning areas -- 10 in the Gulf of Mexico, three of the coast of Alaska and one in part of the Mid- and South Atlantic, which includes areas offshore Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia...more

Wolf count meets critical threshold

Wolves in Oregon have hit the threshold for consideration of taking them off the state endangered species list. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Tuesday that the latest wolf census confirms at least seven breeding pairs — six in northeastern Oregon and one, led by the famous wanderer OR-7, in the southern Cascades. The state wolf management plan calls for a status review once there have been four breeding pairs producing pups that survive a year for three years running. That review will be presented to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission when it meets April 24 in Bend. The earliest a decision could be made would be at the commission’s June 5 meeting in Salem. The milestone was reached just seven years after wolves introduced into the Northern Rockies started moving into Oregon from Idaho...more

Worry for Solar Projects After End of Tax Credits

For more than a year now, an enormous solar thermal power plant has been humming along in the Arizona desert, sending out power as needed, even well after sunset. The plant, called Solana, was developed by the Spanish energy and technology company Abengoa and has succeeded in meeting an elusive solar goal — producing electricity when the sun is not shining — and displacing fossil-fuel-based power in the grid. “With the sun going down at 6 or 7 o’clock at night, all the other forms of solar production are essentially going to zero,” said Brad Albert, general manager for resource management at Arizona Public Service, the state’s main utility, “while Solana is still producing at full power capability. It just adds a whole lot of value to us because our customer demand is so high even after the sun goes down.” Indeed, Abengoa opened another mammoth plant on Friday in the Mojave Desert in California that uses a similar approach. But despite the technology’s success, Abengoa and other developers say they do not have plans at the moment to build more such plants in the United States. And that is largely because of uncertainty surrounding an important tax credit worth 30 percent of a project’s cost. Although the subsidy, known as the Investment Tax Credit, is to remain in place until the end of 2016, when it will drop to 10 percent, that does not give developers enough time to get through the long process of securing land, permits, financing and power-purchase agreements, executives and analysts say...more

Congressional Border Tour Shows Breaches in Barrier Fence

A bipartisan group of members of the House Homeland Security Committee spent Saturday meeting with Arizona border ranchers, seeing drones at Ft. Huachuca, and driving along the fence between Arizona and Mexico. The 19 Republicans and two Democrats will consider a new Border Security bill this week. Six of the members on the trip were visiting the border for the first time. U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson, is a member of the committee and acted as a tour guide for her colleagues. The tour took the group by areas of the border wall that had been recently breached by alleged smugglers, she said. “So they see first hand and they hear first hand the concerns and fears border residents have,” McSally said. On Wednesday, the full House is expected to take up the border security bill McSally has cosponsored. U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will be in Phoenix this week to deliver a speech on border security...more

At Newly Discovered Water Temple, Maya Offered Sacrifices to End Drought

Nestled in a quiet forest in Belize, a deep aquamarine pool holds ruins from a time when the ancient Maya turned to a "drought cult," archaeologists suggest, and hurried sacrifices to a water god to try to stave off the fall of their civilization.  At the Cara Blanca site in Belize, archaeologists report the discovery of a water temple complex: a small plaza holding the collapsed remnants of a lodge and two smaller structures. The main structure rests beside a deep pool where pilgrims offered sacrifices to the Maya water god, and perhaps also to the demons of the underworld. The find paints a picture of drought-stricken devotion during the collapse of the Maya. The pyramid-building civilization thrived across Central America for centuries, only to see most of its cities collapse after A.D. 800. Beneath Cara Blanca's white cliffs, pilgrims sacrificed pots, jars, and bowls to the temple pool's depths. The sacrifices apparently came from both near and far, pointing to the ruin as a place where people from across the region came to pray for rain. "The pilgrims came there to purify themselves and to make offerings," says University of Illinois archaeologist Lisa Lucero, who led the team that explored the ruins. She has plumbed the depths of the cenote, or natural pool, for four years, finding long-lost offerings of ceramics and stone tools in its depths. "It was a special place with a sacred function," she says. But it would seem that Chaak and the evil gods of the underworld set the Maya up for their fall, with the rain they gave and then withheld. Penn State anthropologist Douglas Kennett and colleagues have reported that stalagmite records show that high rainfall likely led to a Maya population boom that lasted until A.D. 660. That in turn set up their kingdoms for a fall when the rain stopped. Repeated droughts unseated the Maya kings, their cities collapsing starting around A.D. 800 throughout Central America. The rain shortfall may have also sparked a "drought cult" of people who, eager to placate Chaak, left a spate of sacrifices at caves and cenotes across the suddenly desperate Maya realm. Similar sacred qualities might explain why the water temple at Cara Blanca appears to be partly constructed from the cenote's tufa stone. During its construction, the floors of the shrine were sprinkled with a blanket of sacrificed potsherds and fossil teeth or claws dredged up from the pool, as well. Small water jars predominated among the ceramics. Some were painted with a water motif of wavy lines and spirals, and one bowl was painted with a jaguar, associated with water and caves in Maya mythology.  Other caves visited by the drought cult are similarly adorned with blankets of potsherd offerings, Moyes says. Human sacrifices also may have started to appear during that time in the deep recesses of the underworld's caves, the home of Chaak...more

McDonalds fights food myths with this video

McDonald's came to Caldwell to shoot a five-minute YouTube video showing how J.R. Simplot Co. prepares fries for the fast-food chain at its potato-processing plant. A Simplot spud farm near Grandview also stars. Fry potatoes are fired through a cutter at more than 60 miles per hour, partially fried, dipped into preservatives and sugar, and frozen, all at the Caldwell plant. What's McDonald's angle? To prove its fries aren't made from a mash injected into molds. The video is part of a series showing how McDonald's processes its beef, eggs, Chicken McNuggets and McRib. "There's a lot of questions about our food, and in some cases myths or misperceptions," a McDonald's spokeswoman told the Statesman. "We want to lay it all out on the table and show the honest process."...more 

Here's the video:

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1366

Continuing with the King label here is an unissued side by the Delmore Brothers (When I'm Gone) Don't Talk About Me.  The tune was recorded in Hollywood in January of 1946.