Thursday, December 08, 2016

Climate change skeptic to head EPA; McMorris Rodgers as Interior secretary?

The Trump administration appears set to take a hard right turn on environmental policy, with climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt as boss of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., a possible Interior secretary...McMorris Rodgers is a conservative six-term House member from Eastern Washington who has usually scored zero in ratings of House votes on conservation and energy by the League of Conservation Voters. McMorris Rodgers was recently named a vice chair of the Trump transition team and met with the president-elect late last month. McMorris Rodgers is a member of the House Republican leadership, charged with developing themes for town meetings and "talking points" for GOP House members when back in their districts. She picked a strategic point to join the Trump bandwagon. While questioning his remarks about women, McMorris Rodgers said she would vote for Trump in the state's May primary. The primary was held soon after Trump's victory in the Indiana primary in which he wrapped up the Republican nomination. In the National Environmental Scorecard, sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters, McMorris Rodgers has a lifetime score of 4 (out of 100). She was given a zero rating in the League's tabulation of 30 House votes in 2015...more

Dem Senator Promises He and Colleagues Will Do Everything Possible to Block Trump EPA Nominee

Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) said Tuesday that Senate Democrats will do everything in their power to block Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt from being confirmed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. President-elect Donald Trump selected Pruitt as his choice to run the EPA on Wednesday. MSNBC host Craig Melvin asked Schatz whether he and other Democrats in the Senate had any intention to try and block Pruitt’s nomination. “We’re going to do everything we can to block this nomination. This is not with any historical precedent,” Schatz said. “Even under Republican administrations, George W. Bush, they didn’t appoint the head of the EPA to dismantle the EPA.” As the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt was a thorn in the side of the Obama administration’s EPA, fighting the agency on issues relating to climate change and coal production. Trump suggested during the presidential campaign that he would be willing to significantly shrink or get rid of the EPA and the New York Times described Pruitt as being “the right man to do that.” Schatz vowed to try and hold up Pruitt’s nomination, citing his views on climate change and his hostility towards the regulations implemented by the Obama administration...more

Public lands issues face uncertain future as presidential transition nears

As President Barack Obama prepares to leave office and President-elect Donald Trump puts together his own administration, the future of public lands issues remains unclear to elected officials, environmentalists and industry supporters alike. The outgoing 114th Congress is running out of time to act on a sweeping eastern Utah public lands bill from the state's congressional delegation. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is keeping mum on the possibility of whether or not it will declare a 1.9-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument on public lands in San Juan County. Both issues are connected to each other: Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced their Public Lands Initiative (PLI) partly because they hope to avert the designation of another national monument in Utah. After more than three years of work on the initiative, the House Natural Resources Committee chair finally unveiled the bill last summer, just as U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured sites that an inter-tribal coalition wants to include in a Bears Ears monument. But the PLI hasn't gained much traction in the current Congress, and critics like Moab resident and Sierra Club representative Wayne Hoskisson have questioned whether Bishop is committed to passing the bill. Groene said he views the PLI as a “total failure,” and he believes the bill's lame-duck status in the 114th congressional session gives Obama an open invitation to declare a Bears Ears National Monument. “So we can thank Congressman Bishop for what is likely a monument designation,” Groene said. At this point, Bishop Communications Director Lee Lonsberry said he can't say whether Jewell has come up with a recommendation for or against the Bears Ears proposal. “I can't speak to any of that,” Lonsberry said. “I don't know, essentially.” With no clear indication of where the current administration is going, Utah's delegation is moving forward with the PLI, based on the assumption that the U.S. House and Senate can still approve the bill during the waning days of this congressional session. “Right now, we're just operating as though we can get it through this Congress,” Lonsberry said. Lonsberry said that Bishop met with members of the president-elect's transition team to discuss some of those priorities, such as potential land-use policies that the next administration might pursue. Bishop called the talks “positive and encouraging,” and he raised the possibility that he will work with Trump's administration to undo past national monument designations, such as former President Bill Clinton's creation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996. Republican and Democratic presidents alike since Teddy Roosevelt have used their powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act to set aside monuments that later became national parks, including four of Utah's “Mighty Five.” Bishop signaled that he may try to reverse those decisions in cases where the monuments are, by his standards, “excessive” in size, and don't necessarily protect landmarks or historic sites from imminent danger. “Any monument designation that lacks local support, is excessive, or violates the terms of the Antiquities Act will be scrutinized and is easier to abolish,” he said in a statement. While such a move is unprecedented, Lonsberry said that nothing in the 1906 law would prevent a future president from reversing a predecessor's proclamations. “It has not been done in the past, but it's not prohibited,” Lonsberry said...more

North Dakota pipeline protesters, including veterans, say they'll stay despite victory

Protesters celebrated a major victory in their push to reroute the Dakota Access oil pipeline away from a tribal water source but pledged to remain camped on federal land in North Dakota anyway, despite Monday's government deadline to leave. Hundreds of people at the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, encampment cheered and chanted "mni wichoni" — "water is life" in Lakota Sioux — after the Army Corps of Engineers refused Sunday to grant the company permission to extend the pipeline beneath a Missouri River reservoir. Earlier Sunday, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said tribal elders had asked the military veterans not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, adding the group is there to help out those who've dug in against the project. President-elect Donald Trump, a pipeline supporter, will take office in January, although it wasn't immediately clear what steps his administration would be able to take to reverse the Army Corps' latest decision or how quickly that could happen. That uncertainty, Allard said, is part of the reason the protesters won't leave. "We don't know what Trump is going to do," Allard said...more

How’s HSUS Faring Post-Election?

Today’s nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the EPA must have the execs at the Humane Society of the United States fuming. Pruitt was no fan of HSUS, putting out a public consumer alert against HSUS and opening a well-deserved inquiry into HSUS’s deceptive fundraising. Pruitt’s inquiry was also the subject of some tough questions HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle received from US Senator James Inhofe at a hearing last year. While the EPA and HSUS won’t cross paths too much, Pruitt’s going to have a nice, direct line to a President and other cabinet members. Overall, election night was a big “L” for HSUS. HSUS’s political arm went in heavily against Donald Trump, calling him essentially the worst threat that could possibly happen to HSUS’s agenda. And he won. The HSUS world generally supported Democrats. According to FEC filings, HSUS employees spent about $14,000 personally, 100% of which went to Democrats. HSUS’s political action committee made $370,000 in contributions, of which 67% went to Democrats. And HSUS’s legislative fund made about $1.1 million in independent expenditures, with 77% going to Democrats. Democrats are out of power. And of the few Republicans that the HSUS PAC did support, a number lost their bids, such as US Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Mark Kirk (IL). And lastly, the election saw HSUS ally Ed Whitfield—a Kentucky Republican whose wife, an HSUS lobbyist, got him into an ethic quagmire—resign and have his seat won by James Comer, an anti-HSUS politician and former state ag commissioner...more

Petition Filed With U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeking Updated Recovery Plan for Red Wolf

Seven animal protection and conservation organizations filed a petition today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking an updated recovery plan for the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves. The recovery plan for the red wolf has not been updated since 1990. Since that time red wolves have expanded their range in the wild, faced additional threats from increased poaching and hybridization with coyotes and seen changes in their management. With all of these changes, an updated, science-based recovery plan is needed now more than ever. The petition includes information about threats to the red wolf and provides strategies to address those threats, including reducing lethal and nonlethal removal of wolves from the wild; resuming the use of the “placeholder program,” which involved releasing sterilized coyotes to hold territories until red wolves can replace them; resuming the use of the cross-pup fostering program as a way to increase the genetic diversity of the species; identification of additional reintroduction sites; and increasing outreach and education to garner support for wolves and stop poaching...more

Bovine TB quarantine expands to 50 ranches in Alberta, Saskatchewan

The number of ranches under quarantine has risen to 50 from 40 after an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says. The number of confirmed cases remains unchanged at six. "All confirmed cases are still from one infected herd across 18 premises," said Dr. Harpeet Kochhar, CFIA chief veterinary officer. Most of the affected locations are in Alberta, while roughly five are in Saskatchewan. The total number of animals quarantined has increased to more than 26,000, up from 22,000 cattle. There is no change to the number of cattle that are to be destroyed — around 10,000 — but that number could increase. A first phase of testing is expected to be finished by early January. Animals that test positive for TB and are killed will have postmortem examinations, which could take longer. The first group of "reactors" — cows that tested positive — has been killed and so far there have been no more signs of lesions or tuberculosis...more

Wildlife meeting turns into wild shouting

A small community meeting on Nov. 30 that was organized to teach ranchers about protecting their livestock in mountain lion country turned ugly when animal rights advocates showed up to protest a permit that would allow a rancher to hunt and kill the cougar thought to be responsible for dozens of livestock deaths over the past year. The National Park Service meeting at Paramount Ranch in Agoura took place a little over a week after news broke that a mountain lion known as P-45 had attacked more livestock in the Santa Monica Mountains. Rancher Victoria Vaughn- Perling lost 10 alpacas in the Nov. 19 attack. She obtained a depredation permit allowing her to hunt the cougar. During the meeting, people in the crowd began shouting down officials who were trying to advise ranchers on how to keep their animals safe. One man called for the death of anybody who would consider killing a mountain lion that only does what it is supposed to do: hunt other animals. Another person called for Vaughn-Perling to be jailed since she had not erected the proper enclosures that could have kept her animals safe. Reid Breitman, a lawyer who represented Vaughn-Perling at the meeting, said he was “booed and vilified” by the crowd. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies stood by as the arguing in the room grew more intense. Eventually, experts were given the opportunity speak. Rebecca Barboza, a biologist with the California Fish and Wildlife Department, explained that depredation permits are allowed by law, and advised opponents to seek a change in legislation if they are not happy with what the permit allows. Biologist Jeff Sikitch discussed a park service mountain lion study that has been underway since 2002. Sikitch said the lions’ 275-square-mile Santa Monica Mountains habitat isn’t enough to keep the animal population alive. But a proposed wildlife bridge over the 101 Freeway in Agoura would allow the big cats to expand their territory into the Simi Hills and beyond, he said. Sikitch told the crowd that cougars are elusive animals that generally avoid people, but they are also opportunistic creatures that will attack livestock when given the chance. Sikitch said during a current, 14-year study of 53 mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, aggressive behavior toward humans has never been documented. An official from the Mountain Lion Foundation suggested the crowd “hold on to their outrage” and seek a change in California Coastal Commission rules that limit the type of livestock pens that can be built on ranches, or to seek a change in laws so the state Fish and Wildlife department has more discretion in how it deals with depredation permits. “The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is legally required to grant these permits, and over the past several decades thousands of mountain lions have been killed through the issuance of these permits,” state Assemblymember Richard Bloom said in a statement. Bloom said he will introduce legislation giving Fish and Wildlife more nonlethal ways to deal with cougars that kill livestock. Since the meeting, Vaughn- Perling has announced she will not act on the permit allowing her to kill P-45. [link]

I couldn't live like that. People screaming at you for defending your property and the government telling you what type pens you can build? No wonder folks are leaving in droves.

Get the hell out of there and leave it to the lefties and the lions.

California Legislature’s Gaseous Impulses


by Steven Greenhut

The California Legislature last week received a load of bad publicity because of a new law that attempts to reduce the methane output of dairy cows dramatically — putting California on the cutting edge of worldwide efforts to regulate cow flatulence. It sounds like one of those overstated internet memes, but sadly, it’s a true story. And it’s not even the most ridiculous case of gaseous emissions coming from Sacramento. Building on past laws that force California businesses to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels, the measure (S.B. 1383) will force the state’s already struggling dairy farms to reduce cow emissions to 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030. That’s an enormous burden for farms to digest. They will need to install costly new equipment — referred to as “methane digesters” — that generate electricity from piles of cow patties. The new law earmarks $50 million from the state’s first-in-the-nation cap-and-trade system, but is unlikely to offset the costs for most farms. Expect prices to go up for milk and other dairy products, and more dairies to close their operations. As a reminder of California’s other-worldliness, cap and trade attempts to force manufacturers to slash their greenhouse-gas emissions. Basically, the state caps the amount of emissions that industries can emit and then reduces the allowable amount each year. Companies can buy, sell, or trade their carbon “allowances” on a state-run auction. The state keeps the revenues, which is why industry groups filed suit arguing the process is a complex tax-hike scam. The cap-and-trade system is run by the ham-fisted California Air Resources Board — the same agency that is tasked with coming up with the specific regulations to apply to dairy farmers. As is often the case, the Legislature passes laws that are general, then leaves it to the regulators to figure out exactly how to torment California’s remaining businesses. (As an example of CARB’s thinking, the agency has proposed a plan to give poor people electric cars to help battle climate change.)
For a sense of the insanity here, the new dairy-related law includes the following edict: “To the extent possible, efforts to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants should focus on areas of the state that are disproportionately affected by poor air quality.” “Short-lived climate pollutants” is a technical term for cow flatulence. Critics note that because the gases are so short-lived, they have no impact on anything — and certainly not the global climate. But even if one believes cow methane is a crisis, it’s hard not to see the problem with a law targeted at areas with poor air quality. That means California’s Central Valley, the vast agricultural valley that spans from Bakersfield to Redding. There aren’t many dairies in the Los Angeles basin or the Bay Area. They mostly are in these rural areas, which are poor economically and not just in terms of air quality. CARB’s cap-and-trade rules — and other regulations, too — have been crushing the food processing and oil industries, which are among the region’s main employers. The latest rules are yet another urban-concocted economic assault on an area that has not experienced the high-tech boom...more

Big data in ag continues to expand

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), autonomous tractors and other technologies will continue to emerge as producers meet world food needs in the near and distant future, according to experts They believe technology will continue to emerge and make possible giant leaps throughout the next decade as agriculture industries and producers work to meet world food needs projected in 2050. Presentations at the 2016 Texas Plant Protection Assn. addressed the theme of this year’s conference: Advanced Technologies for Texas Agriculture. From smartphone apps to UAVs, speakers said there will be big changes in how food and fiber is produced. Bob Avant, program director for Texas A&M AgriLife Research corporate relations, provided an overview of farming in the next 10 years and said the “10,000 lb. gorilla” agriculture faces is feeding 9 billion people by 2050. “It’s going to affect agriculture greatly in terms of food supply,” he said. “We are going to have to increase protein production plus protect how much we waste in terms of spoilage and portions on the table.” He said farmers will continue to rely on data to make decisions in the future but noted that larger farms will be more efficient “because the equipment is getting more expensive. We will likely see more sharing or partnering on equipment use and systems.”...more

Herds of Sheep Are Invading Times Square Billboards


Sometime whilst creating filmed backdrops of sheep for the Brokeback Mountain opera, video artist Tal Yarden realized he had much a bigger pastoral project that he could turn into a series of peaceful video lullabies. The artist recently turned this footage of the retired Wyoming ranchers into Counting Sheep, the current Midnight Moment on Time Square’s electronic billboards, giving “the city that never sleeps” some sheep to count so that they might find some dreamy peace. Yarden, who has worked with Cindy Sherman and shot video for the David Bowie Lazarus musical, tells The Creators Project that Counting Sheep is the merging of two projects. The first, of course, was the documentary with his collaborator, Jessica Medenbach, in which he followed brothers Peto and Don Meike over the course of their last year of ranching. The other project was a series of “peaceful lullaby” projections on billboards in the city that never sleeps so that they would be “benevolent reminders to sleep and dream.” “The two ideas came together for me with the desire to create a meditative series of visuals that reconnect an urban audience to nature and the seasons,” says Yarden. He and Medenbach filmed the Meike brothers in the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming near Kaycee. Originally he was drawn to the area because of its connection to Annie Proulx’s story, Brokeback Mountain. “Peto Meike brought us up to the summer pastures to film and offered his dogs as assistant directors,” Yarden says. “I would ask for the sheep to move over the landscape in certain directions and the dogs would make it happen.” The artist has returned to Kaycee and the Meike ranch in various seasons to continue filming the sheep...more

Cattle Prices: Windfall to Bear Maul

Cattle markets have disappointed for most of 2016, but it was a dive into extreme territory in mid-October that brought producer frustration to a boil. Auction prices did nothing but retreat from mid-August, leaving calf and yearling prices 30% below 2015 and 60% below 2014. It was nearly Halloween before the summer lows were established. How did cattle markets fall that far that fast? That’s the question many ranchers are asking as they try to find justification in a market that has erased essentially all of the $500-plus per cow average profits they posted in 2014. In October, we described how market direction will be dictated by increasing supplies of red meat and poultry. (See “A Mountain of Meat Looms,” Drovers, Oct. 2016, page 7.)That issue hit mailboxes about the time the bear was mauling all classes of cattle, driving fed cattle prices to less than $100 per cwt for the first time since December 2010. At one point, calf prices dropped 13% in a three-week period, causing most analysts to declare them undervalued. Discussions of USDA data-sets such as red meat and poultry supplies, however, have fallen flat in ranch country. “How can we have an over-supply of beef when just two years ago we were told cow numbers were at 60-year lows,” is a common question among ranchers. And, they wonder, “Why haven’t retail beef prices declined accordingly?”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1747

Its a Country Classic day with Pee Wee King & The Golden West Cowboys performing Slow Poke. The tune was recorded in Chicago on March 5, 1951.

https://youtu.be/wwp2HLC3Cpo

Western Colorado hospitable for wolf recovery

Mike Phillips, executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF), advocated for the reintroduction of gray wolves in Western Colorado Tuesday night in Aspen. Phillips described the recovery and conservation of gray wolves as “most germane to the future of Colorado.” “I’m trying to prime the pump of education to get Coloradans to recognize the great possibilities that exist from wolf reintroduction,” he said. Despite the power of the TESF, “no private entity or conservation NGO (non-governmental organization) has the capacity to do a wolf reintroduction project. They are entirely too big in scope spatially, legally, and politically. They have to be done by either the federal or state government,” Phillips said in stressing the importance of educating the public. “Our project won’t matter if people don’t know about it,” he added. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which strives to promote ecological literacy, hosted the event. “We just want to get the information out there,” said Samuel Hinkle, an ACES naturalist. “Wolves are a controversial subject,” he explained. “We want people to know what wolves do for our eco systems.” Phillips described the benefits of wolf recovery in terms of a “trophic cascade.” Essentially, that the reintroduction of wolves in Western Colorado will have a widespread effect resulting from the predation of elk. Most directly, it has the potential to cleanse the herd and mitigate the prevalence of chronic wasting disease. If wolves have a “big enough effect on prey, it can benefit willows and Aspens for example. They can grow more robust and many species can benefit from that,” he said. However, a trophic cascade depends on “density and persistence. If wolves are an ecological engineer, it’s because they’re common and persistent.” In other words, there have to be enough wolves for enough time for an area to see any widespread benefits...more

Rebounding California gray wolf holds onto protection

The California gray wolves will keep their endangered species protections even once the rebounding animal hits a population of at least 50, state wildlife officials said Wednesday. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife published its plan for managing wolves late Tuesday, setting its policy for the species that is making a comeback to the state after it was killed off in the 1920s. "Wolves returning to the state was inevitable," said Charlton Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in a statement. "It's an exciting ecological story, and this plan represents the path forward to manage wolves." The plan marks a shift in course, dropping language from an earlier draft that directed officials to remove wolves from the list of animals protected once they reached the critical mass...more

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Environmentalism Was Once a Social-Justice Movement, It Can Be Again.


The incoming Trump administration is likely to see the greatest revival of environmentalism as a confrontational, grassroots, sometimes radical movement since at least 1970, when more than a million people took part in the first Earth Day. The vigil at Standing Rock, which surprised nearly everyone by blocking the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline through traditional Sioux lands, was a far cry from the litigation and high-level lobbying that are so much of the environmental movement’s work these days. As courts and lawmakers continue to falter in addressing climate change, with professional climate-change denier Myron Ebell heading the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition team, and Scott Pruitt tapped to lead it (Pruitt is an ally of the fossil fuel industry and key architect of the legal strategy against President Obama's climate policy) and the prospect of public lands opening to expanded mining and drilling, ever more people who believe that environmental responsibility has become a life-or-death issue are going to start acting like it. A more confrontational environmentalism will find new allies, like the Native American activists of Standing Rock and the military veterans who showed up there just before the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not approve the controversial pipeline route. It may also strain some of the relationships with wealthy funders and corporate partners that have become central to mainstream environmentalism. Activists will have to decide whether to cultivate alliances with other movements that have sprung up in recent years: the Movement for Black Lives, which has called for divestment from fossil fuels and pointed out that incinerators, waste facilities, and other pollution sources are often concentrated in poor and heavily non-white neighborhoods, or whatever comes after Bernie Sanders’s campaign, which blamed the fossil-fuel industry for blocking climate progress and promised to “keep it in the ground” in a rapid transition to renewable energy. Joining environmentalism to movements for economic and racial justice wouldn’t be new. It would shift the movement toward what you might think of as its left wing, often called the environmental-justice movement, which emerged in the 1980s as an internal criticism of “mainstream environmentalism” for being too elite, too white, and too focused on beautiful scenery and charismatic species. But it would also point toward a longer history, now mostly forgotten. For decades, environmentalism and what we now call environmental justice were deeply intertwined. Care for the earth and for vulnerable human communities belonged together. Empowering workers, protecting public health, and preserving landscapes were part of a single effort. Maybe it’s time to reclaim that older environmental movement, and see that it was an environmental-justice movement all along...more

Editorial - The Barbara Boxer Water Rebellion

Barbara Boxer has torpedoed more legislation than she’s helped pass during her four terms in the Senate. Before retiring for good (literally), the Bay Area Democrat is trying to sink a water bill that could provide modest relief to farmers in California’s parched Central Valley. Congress plans to vote this week on bipartisan legislation that would authorize a variety of water projects including port dredging, reservoirs, fish hatcheries, lake recreation and wetlands restoration. The package also includes $120 million to fix Flint, Michigan’s corroded pipes and other aging municipal water systems. Yet Ms. Boxer has blown a gasket over a rider inserted by House Republicans and her Democratic colleague Dianne Feinstein that would direct the Departments of Interior and Commerce to operate the pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta at the maximum levels allowed by law. “There is no place for that as long as I am breathing,” Ms. Boxer declared. After five years of drought, California’s Central Valley is desperate for water. During this year’s El Nino, farmers south of the Delta received a mere 5% of their contractual allocations. A half-million acres of land have been withdrawn from farm production, and groundwater tables are dangerously low. Unemployment exceeds 9% in the Valley. Even amid heavy storms, only 852,000 of the 5.5 million acre-feet of water that flowed into the Delta during the first two months of this year—enough to sustain nearly two million acres of farm land—was sent south. The rest drained into the San Francisco Bay due to a lack of surface storage in the Sierras and pumping restrictions ostensibly intended to protect endangered species...more

Two Minors Accused of Starting the Tennessee Wildfires that Killed 14

Two juveniles have been accused of starting the deadly November wildfires in Tennessee, which have claimed 14 lives so far and are still burning, PEOPLE confirms. Both juveniles have been charged with aggravated arson and booked into the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center in Tennessee, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a statement Wednesday. They were arrested Wednesday, bureau spokeswoman Leslie Earhart says. The suspects have not been identified, and the TBI says no further information is available from its office. The suspects are residents of Tennessee but are not from Sevier County, Earhart says. The suspects’ ages, genders and other identifying information was not available, she says. “During the course of the investigation, information was developed that two juveniles allegedly started the fire,” the TBI said in its statement. Earhart declined to comment further, including on how the fires may have allegedly been started. She says “it’s possible” more suspects could be arrested: “We haven’t ruled anything out.”...more

Westerman's forest-managing bill languishes as fires rage

With flames charring forests across much of the South, legislation to overhaul federal forest management remains motionless on Capitol Hill, stuck in the U.S. Senate after passing in the U.S. House of Representatives more than a year ago. Opposition from the White House helped slow the legislation, which provides a mechanism to increase firefighting dollars but also eases environmental restrictions in some instances. U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, the bill's original sponsor, said he remains hopeful that its key provisions will be included in a larger energy bill that lawmakers hope to pass by year's end. If not, the Hot Springs Republican said, he is confident that the proposal will advance once President-elect Donald Trump and his appointees take office...more

Jaguar photograph taken by Fort Huachuca trail camera

The Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently received a photograph of a jaguar taken by a Fort Huachuca trail camera in the Huachuca Mountains. Fort Huachuca is a U.S. Army installation near Sierra Vista in southeastern Arizona.

“Preliminary indications are that the cat is a male jaguar and, potentially, an individual not previously seen in Arizona,” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, regional director for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We are working with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to determine if this sighting represents a new individual jaguar.”

“While this is exciting news, we are examining photographic evidence to determine if we’re seeing a new cat here, or if this is an animal that has been seen in Arizona before,” said Jim deVos, assistant director of the department’s Wildlife Management Division. “We look forward to partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and thoroughly vetting the evidence.”

AZGFD, USFWS and Fort Huachuca personnel will notify the public when the final determination is made.

Press Release

Snow geese deaths from mine pit number in the thousands

Several thousand snow geese died after a snowstorm forced tens of thousands of the migratory birds to take refuge in the acidic, metal-laden waters of an old open pit mine in Montana last week. But the toll could have been much worse, said Mark Thompson, environmental affairs manager for mine company Montana Resources. Along with the Atlantic Richfield Co., Montana Resources is responsible for Berkeley Pit, a Superfund site in Butte. Witnesses said the pit looked like “700 acres of white birds,” on Nov. 28, Thompson said Tuesday. Since then, employees of MR and Arco have used spotlights, noise makers and other efforts to haze the birds off the water and try to prevent others from landing. The companies estimate that over 90 percent of the birds were chased off by the morning of Nov. 29, Thompson said...more

Message to new president on our dying forests

For nearly 100 years, the Forest Service managed the Forest Reserves (now the National Forest System) to meet the demand for housing products and aid in economic recoveries from domestic recessions by providing a stable supply of forest products. Our timber output topped out at nearly 12 billion board feet in 1985, but a few timber sales were not well thought-out. A concerned Congress, fueled by newly formed environmental groups, mandated restrictive legislation to tightly regulate how our National Forests would be managed. Decisions once couched in sound science were now subject to often uninformed public opinion, illegitimate science and extreme political persuasion through the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Aided by the 1987 Salvage Rider, ensuing litigation through the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) sparked what is well known as the “War in the Woods” that continues to this day. Rural economies plummeted when decoupled from raw product removal and legal property tax offsets. Many mills have closed due to lack of wood to keep them in operation and the inability of the US Forest Service to guarantee supply. The rise in green power groups as well as politically charged assertions about the government “raping the land” and “lawless logging” clouded the fact that nationally, high harvest levels in the 80s never exceeded 50% of forest growth. The timber harvests of the 80s helped lead this nation out of a deep economic recession. Today, forest growth far exceeds the ability to thin the overstocked trees because forests are not actively managed. Since the passage of NEPA and its subsequent reinterpretation by judicial proceedings, our nation’s forests suffer immeasurable environmental degradation that threaten their very existence and those who live in close proximity to them. Insects, disease and wildfire consume forests at rates not present in the historic record. With a rapidly warming climate, this damage will increase every passing year. The current framework of laws, rules and court decisions threatens clean water, local economies and preservation of our National Forests for future generations with the following results...more

Forest Service Agrees to Halt Oil, Gas Leasing in Los Padres National Fores

The U.S. Forest Service is halting new oil and gas leasing throughout the Los Padres National Forest, which prompted a federal court today to stay ongoing litigation against the agency by conservation groups. The leasing suspension will allow the Forest Service to consider the risks of fracking and drilling in the southern and central California forest to air and water quality and endangered animals like the California condor. The Forest Service suspended its leasing plan in response to an October 2016 notice of intent to sue from the Center for Biological Diversity, Los Padres ForestWatch and Defenders of Wildlife. That notice was accompanied by a letter detailing significant new information about fracking and oil development, not known when the Service approved the plan more than a decade ago. The leasing suspension places a hold on a decade-long legal battle initiated by the conservation groups to protect public lands slated for oil development. The agency agreed to suspend its 2005 decision that allowed expanded oil and gas leasing and development throughout the forest. The Forest Service’s suspension oil and gas leasing will allow officials to complete additional environmental review and consult with federal wildlife biologists under the Endangered Species Act...more

Bugs Butchering Nation’s Forests

In a towering forest of centuries-old eastern hemlocks, it’s easy to miss one of the tree’s nemeses. No larger than a speck of pepper, the Hemlock woolly adelgid spends its life on the underside of needles sucking sap, eventually killing the tree. The bug is one in an expanding army of insects draining the life out of forests from New England to the West Coast. Aided by global trade, warming climate and drought-weakened trees, the invaders have become one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in the United States. Scientists say they already are driving some tree species toward extinction and are causing billions of dollars a year in damage — and the situation is expected to worsen. “They are one of the few things that can actually eliminate a forest tree species in pretty short order — within years,” said Harvard University ecologist David Orwig as he walked past dead hemlocks scattered across the university’s 5.8-square-mile research forest in Petersham. This scourge is projected to put 63 percent of the country’s forest at risk through 2027 and carries a cost of several billion dollars annually in dead tree removal, declining property values and timber industry losses, according to a peer-reviewed study this year in Ecological Applications. That examination, by more than a dozen experts, found that hundreds of pests have invaded the nation’s forests, and that the emerald ash borer alone has the potential to cause $12.7 billion in damage by 2020...more

Editorial: Shared management plan for San Rafael Swell area worth study

The San Rafael Swell near Goblin Valley State Park is — dare we say it — worthy of a national monument.That's not to say the president should declare one, but it is an acknowledgement that the Temple Mountain area of the Swell is one of the most spectacular areas in Utah's redrock country. It's also a nod to the fact that the area has been living on borrowed time and needs more protection. As recreation grows throughout southern Utah, areas like Temple Mountain have seen the impact of visitors grow with it. New campsites and ATV trails continue to emerge, leading to a decline in the quality of landscape for those visiting. That is why an effort by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to consider a new way of managing the Temple Mountain area is welcome. And the direction BLM is headed should help get Utah political leaders' support — in large part because it could be the state and Emery County handling much of the federal-lands management. The model is one county away near Moab. Created in 1995, the Sand Flats Recreation Area is home to the legendary Slickrock and Porcupine Rim mountain bike trails, as well as more than 40 miles of Jeep trails. It's situated between wilderness study areas, national parks and the LaSal Mountains, and it receives almost 150,000 visitors each year. There are two aspects of Sand Flats that are pertinent to Temple Mountain. First, it is BLM land managed in a partnership with Grand County. Second, visitors must pay a fee that goes to maintain and improve recreational infrastructure...more


Western counties join in opposition to BLM’s land-use planning reg

One western Colorado county has sought help to halt the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0, an Obama-administration rule touted as a way of improving the management of federal lands. County officials in western Colorado have regularly lambasted Planning 2.0 and this week, Garfield County joined in with five other counties in the western United States considering suing to halt the rule, which they have criticized as a central-planning measure. The BLM this month announced that the rule was final and on Monday, Garfield County agreed to spend as much as $40,000 with the Texas-based property-rights organization, the American Stewards of Liberty, to halt it. While Garfield County is taking an active role, Mesa County officials are looking to Congress and a Republican administration under President-elect Donald Trump to deal with the new rule. “I’m hopeful the new administration will push back” on regulations that have been introduced in recent weeks and months, said Mesa County Commission Chairwoman Rose Pugliese. “People don’t realize how much power is being taken away from local field offices” under the new planning rule, Pugliese said. American Stewards of Liberty is working with several counties around the West, including Garfield County, to help them deal with the BLM, said Executive Director Margaret Byfield. The new rules, which have yet to be published in the Federal Register, appear to address how the BLM must deal with the public and state and tribal governments, but not local governments, such as counties, Byfield said. “They have no process or procedures for local governments in theses new rules,” Byfield said. Current rules require BLM managers to work with counties in a public setting as the BLM explains its management goals to local officials, usually county commissioners or the like, who are responsible for health, safety and welfare on the lands the BLM manages, Byfield said...more

Cliven Bundy, wife Carol injured in separate accidents

Relatives of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his wife, Carol Bundy, say the couple was injured in two serious accidents earlier this week. In a message posted on social media Tuesday, the Bundys’ daughter, Bailey Bundy-Rogue, said her mother Carol had been injured in a crash outside Mesquite, Nev. “This morning I got a call that my mom had been in a roll over accident,” she wrote. “She is going to be ‘OK’ but she is really banged up, bruised and in a lot pain. It’s a miracle she is with us tonight.” Bundy-Rogue said they had just returned with her mother to the family’s home when she learned her father, Cliven, 70, had been injured in a jailhouse fall. “As we were getting her all settled in at home we received a call that my dad (Cliven) had an accident in jail today. He fell really hard and is in a lot of pain. They took him to the infirmary and they told him he was fine, gave him an aspirin and threw him back in his pod. He is not OK. He is in A LOT of pain. My brother says he can hardly move and it is not OK. It’s killing me that I cant be with him.”...more

Texas Ranchers Cry Foul as Government Eyes Their Land

The Bureau of Land Management is claiming huge swaths of land near the Red River. The land’s owners are suing to keep it.

Ken Aderholt holds the deed to 700 acres of land near the Red River, on the border between Texas and Oklahoma. The plot has been in his family since 1941, and he has paid all of his taxes on it. “It has been running through generations and handed on down to me,” he said late last year. But three years ago, that lineage was threatened by a familiar culprit: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM is the Department of Interior agency in charge of administering the nation’s 247 million acres of publicly owned land. Every ten to 15 years, the bureau creates a resource-management plan, which outlines its goals and directives for the lands under its control. And in July 2013, the BLM entered the early stages of its January 2018 plan by notifying the public of 90,000 acres along the Red River that it deems to be federal land, much of which is owned by Texas ranchers such as Aderholt. Last year, the Aderholts and six other families whose land is threatened, backed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the law firm Caldwell Cassady & Curry, filed a lawsuit against the BLM. “My clients simply want to own the land they own without being under the cloud of the government’s claims,” Austin Curry, a founding partner at Caldwell Cassady & Curry tells National Review. “The case has had a very real impact on real people.” At issue in the case is the meaning of a 1923 Supreme Court decision, Oklahoma v. Texas, which concerned a dispute between the two states and the federal government over ownership of the Red River riverbed. Curry and the plaintiffs’ counsel argue that Oklahoma v. Texas clearly defines what land belongs to the BLM, Oklahoma, and Texas: Oklahoma controls land north of the river’s medial line (the line designating the river’s middle point), Texas controls land below the south bank, and the BLM controls the sliver of land between the medial line and the south bank. The thousands of acres the BLM is now claiming as its own were, in 1923, still part of the river. But in the 90 years since, the river has receded and the disputed acres have become grassland. Legally, the question is whether that change was caused by a sudden avulsion (when a riverbank is altered in a catastrophic event) or a more gradual erosion or accretion. If the changed landscape resulted from avulsion, the boundaries established in 1923 remain in effect, and the land belongs to the BLM. If avulsion cannot be proven, it must be assumed that erosion or accretion was the cause of the shift, and the land belongs to the plaintiffs. Assuming avulsion can be proven, the BLM’s legal case is that “while everyone else’s boundary followed the Red River through the gradual erosion of the riverbank, that with the 1923 case, their [the BLM’s] boundary remained fixed,” Robert Henneke, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for the American Future, said. The BLM declined to comment on the ongoing litigation, but pointed to a letter written in 2014 by BLM director Neil Kornze explaining the bureau’s legal justification. Citing Oklahoma v. Texas and Congress’s consent to a 2000 compact establishing the jurisdictional and political border between Texas and Oklahoma as the river’s vegetation line, the letter argues that a shift in the river’s boundary may cause federal land to fall within the current boundary of Texas. But the Congressional Compact explicitly states that titles to private or public land would not be affected by such a shift. Which means the case hinges on Oklahoma v. Texas’s boundaries, and the question of the river’s accretion, avulsion, and erosion remains...more 


 22 Texas Congressmen have filed an amicus brief in support of the land owners. For more background on this issue I've embedded the brief below.

 https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8Yd5M8kgeNtVndlcUxaR0p1N2s

$1,000 reward for catching ugly fish from Wyoming reservoir

GREEN RIVER, Wyo. (AP) — A $1,000 reward has been posted for catching an ugly fish out of Fontenelle Reservoir in western Wyoming. The fish are called burbot (BUR'-but) and they're not native to the upper Green River drainage. Burbot compete with native game species including trout. Burbot are eel-like but said to be good eating despite their appearance. Getting more people to fish for burbot is one way to reduce their numbers, so Game and Fish and Trout Unlimited are sponsoring a burbot raffle. Game and Fish has caught 25 burbot and tagged them with raffle tags. The Rock Springs Rocket-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/2hexzzB ) anybody who catches a tagged burbot from Fontenelle may enter a raffle with a $1,000 grand prize. The drawing will take place at a burbot fishing rally at Fontenelle Jan. 7-8.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1746

Also requested was Tony Booth and here he is with Cinderella. The tune is on his 2008 album Is This All There To A Honky Tonk. 

https://youtu.be/JnT73tq3MWQ