Thursday, September 03, 2015

Will Government Officials Be Held Accountable for Kate Steinle’s Death?

In an attempt to hold government officials accountable for the shooting death of their 32-year-old daughter Kate, the Steinle family filed a lawsuit against three government agencies. The suit alleges that those agencies are in part responsible for Steinle’s death, but experts say the family has little chance at prevailing. “Unfortunately, prior lawsuits against cities over their sanctuary policies that were directly responsible for the murder of American citizens have been unsuccessful due to sovereign immunity,” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal.  Steinle was fatally shot in San Francisco on July 1 by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. Lopez-Sanchez is an illegal immigrant who had seven prior felony convictions in the U.S. and was deported to Mexico five separate times. He was released from a San Francisco jail in April under a city law barring the jail’s deputies from informing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of his release, despite the agency’s previous notification request. The Steinles filed the lawsuit in hopes that San Francisco and the other 200-some sanctuary cities will reform their policies, which the family claims are illegal, so that no one else will experience what happened to their daughter. The Steinles’ lawsuit alleges that the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement—and San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi—directly contributed to Kate’s death by neglecting to oversee different aspects that led to her being shot. Their claim against the Bureau of Land Management is that the agency didn’t follow regulations in properly securing the gun Lopez-Sanchez stole and used to kill their daughter Mirkarimi, the sheriff implicated in the lawsuit, is accused of failing to detain Lopez-Sanchez. In a statement, Mirkarimi voiced sympathy for the family but says he was only following city policy. The lawsuit accuses Immigration and Customs Enforcement of being aware that Mirkarimi had no plans to detain Lopez-Sanchez unless they obtained a court warrant, but the agency neglected to do so...more

In Trashing Land, the EPA Has Nothing on the Forest Service

by William Perry Pendley

Americans now comprehend fully the disdain the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has for truth-telling, the rights of others, and the environment.  Forget the last six spiteful years; the Colorado mine disaster suffices.  The EPA’s wanton malfeasance—experts warned of a catastrophic blowout—unleashed three million gallons of orange arsenic-, cadmium-, and lead-laden wastewater into an Animas River tributary trashing public, private, and tribal lands and waters in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and the Navajo Nation.  Even so, the EPA has nothing on the U.S. Forest Service.  
In documents filed days ago in a federal district court in Arkansas, the agency and its lawyers demand dismissal of a $5 million lawsuit against the United States for decades of tortious use and abuse of a Scot-Irish family’s farmland settled one hundred years before the Ozark National Forest’s creation made the Forest Service the family’s neighbor.  Worse yet, Conner Eldridge, the United States Attorney for Arkansas, argues that, because the Forest Service trespassed upon Matthew McIlroy’s farm for years, the government owns the land!  The assertion, which has no factual or legal support, is asinine, absurd, and in conflict with an admonition of the Supreme Court of the United States. 

In 1808, Mr. McIlroy’s family left Tennessee, crossed the Mississippi River, and homesteaded south of the Ozark Plateau’s Boston Mountains and north of the Arkansas River at Fly Gap, Beech Grove, and Cass.  Arkansas Territory was established in 1819; Arkansas won statehood in 1836; and the million-acre Ozark National Forest, which surrounded the McIlroy farmland, was proclaimed in 1908.  

In 1933, Congress created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and put a camp in the Ozark National Forest near Cass.  After World War II, the CCC was discontinued, but in 1964 the newly created Job Corps took over the site.  Soon, Mr. McIlroy’s grandfather, W.C. McIlroy, discovered Job Corps students trespassing on and littering his property, damaging his fences, and destroying his hay; his objections went unanswered.  In 1971, W.L. McIlroy took over the farm and noticed the Forest Service had drilled a well on his property.  He protested, but agency officials said the well was on federal land, a lie repeated for decades.

In 1973, unbeknownst to W.L. McIlroy, the Job Corps used heavy equipment to tear down a 100-year old levee built upstream of the farm at the confluence of Mulberry River and Fane’s Creek to protect the farm and the Jobs Corps site.  The result was flooding and erosion downstream, alteration of the bed of Mulberry River due to silting and deposits of eroded rock, and destruction of 10 acres of farmland.  The Forest Service’s “mitigation” exacerbated the damage, widening the channel across the farm.

In 1998, when Mr. McIlroy took over the farm, he discovered a section of fence had been flattened and a sewage effluent line installed over it and across 50-60 yards of farmland to discharge waste into Mulberry River.  Then he found out the agency:  put a “temporary,” quarter-mile water line across his land that blocked entry to his farm; used the water well—even though a federal survey proved it was on the farm; brought heavy equipment onto the farm to blade dirt and drag drainage ditches; built a service road across the farm to access the well and the sewage effluent line and poured concrete on the road when it eroded; used the farmland for heavy equipment training—digging down to creek rock, causing serious erosion, destroying fences, and loosening livestock; and, dumped concrete and construction waste on its property near the farm, effluent from which washed onto the farm.

The Forest Service documented its “encroachment” but took no action.  In 2013, Mr. McIlroy filed a claim that the United States ignored, so in October of 2014, he sued.  As his case makes its way through the courts, he wonders whether his clansmen in William Wallace’s days ever saw greater abuses by “the King’s men.”

For more information: McIlroy v. United States of America

Caltrans proposes wildlife overpass on 101 Freeway

Mountain lions, bobcats and other wildlife would have less chance of becoming roadkill if the state adopts a plan to build a landscaped bridge over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, supporters of the proposal said Wednesday. State agencies, elected officials and wildlife advocates urged the state to provide the much-needed link in an area where rampant development and highways have fragmented once-continuous habitat. The 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long overpass near Liberty Canyon Road would connect the Santa Monica Mountains on the south with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains. Building the nation’s largest wildlife overpass would be ambitious, said Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service. At the proposed site, the highway has 10 lanes of pavement, including exit lanes. “I don’t know anywhere where people have tried to put such a large wildlife crossing over such a busy highway in such an urban landscape,” said Riley, who has led the mountain lion study. Scientists long ago identified Liberty Canyon as the optimal location to build a wildlife passage because of the large swaths of protected public land on either side of the freeway. On Wednesday, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority released a long-awaited study by Caltrans concluding that a wildlife overpass was feasible. The projected cost would be $33 million to $38 million, according to the report. Proponents said they plan to seek most of the money from public coffers...more

I've previously posted on a Toad Road, a Bee Highway, Prairie Dog Peanut Butter, and Birdy Birth Control.  To those we can now add a Bobcat Bridge.

Green energy company fights for life after getting billions from feds

Abengoa, a renewable energy multinational company headquartered in Spain, has been a favorite of the Obama administration in getting federal tax money for clean energy projects. Since 2009, Abengoa and its subsidiaries, according to estimates, have received $2.9 billion in grants and loan guarantees through the Department of Energy to undertake solar projects in California and Arizona — as well as the construction of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas. But in the space of less than a year, Abengoa’s financial health has become critical, leading investors to worry whether the company can survive. The company’s stock price on NASDAQ has swooned — from $29.32 on Sept. 2, 2014 to $5.62 on Tuesday...At last week’s close, Abengoa’s high-yield bondholders were scrambling amid concerns over company covenants. This came after news of Abengoa’s plans to increase capital. BloombergBusiness described Abengoa SA as “distressed,” and the company’s troubles are fueling speculation bankruptcy may be in the offing.  The investment management website recently listed Abengoa’s probability for bankruptcy at 76.9 percent...more

Three trillion trees - Study finds there are 7.5 times more trees than previously believed

A new Yale-led study estimates that there are more than 3 trillion trees on Earth, about seven and a half times more than some previous estimates. But the total number of trees has plummeted by roughly 46 percent since the start of human civilization, the study estimates. Using a combination of satellite imagery, forest inventories, and supercomputer technologies, the international team of researchers was able to map tree populations worldwide at the square-kilometer level. Their results, published in the journal Nature, provide the most comprehensive assessment of tree populations ever produced and offer new insights into a class of organism that helps shape most terrestrial biomes. The new insights can improve the modeling of many large-scale systems, from carbon cycling and climate change models to the distribution of animal and plant species, say the researchers. "Trees are among the most prominent and critical organisms on Earth, yet we are only recently beginning to comprehend their global extent and distribution," said Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the study. "They store huge amounts of carbon, are essential for the cycling of nutrients, for water and air quality, and for countless human services," he added. "Yet you ask people to estimate, within an order of magnitude, how many trees there are and they don't know where to begin. I don't know what I would have guessed, but I was certainly surprised to find that we were talking about trillions."...more

Officials say no plans to rename Mount Rainier as Mount Tacoma

Since President Barack Obama decided to rename Mount McKinley, why not also restore the Native American name of Mount Rainier, the iconic Washington state peak named for a British admiral who fought the Americans during the Revolutionary War? That’s what advocates in the long battle to rename Mount Rainier as Mount Tacoma or Tahoma want to know. “It’s a much more compelling argument to rename the mountain here than in Alaska,” said Bill Baarsma, former mayor of the city of Tacoma and president of the Tacoma Historical Society. “Why are we continuing to name this mountain after a British admiral that slayed Americans in the Revolutionary War?” Federal officials, though, say there are no plans to rename Mount Rainier and that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s order changing Mount McKinley to its Koyukon Athabascan name of Denali was unique. “This was maybe a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Lou Yost, executive secretary of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which normally approves such renaming...more

SHOCK: As Americans Bought 170 Million Guns, Violent Crime Fell 51%

On August 28, the NRA presented ATF and FBI data showing Americans have purchased “170 million new guns” since 1991, and violent crime has fallen “51 percent.” This information squares with the findings of a Congressional Research Service (CRS) study covering the slightly shorter period of time from 1994 to 2009. For those years, CRS found that Americans purchased approximately 118 million firearms, and the 1993 “firearm-related murder and non-negligent homicide” rate of 6.6 per 100,000 fell to 3.6 per 100,000 by the year 2000. It eventually fell all the way to 3.2 per 100,000 in 2011.  That is more than a 50 percent reduction in “firearm-related murder and non-negligent homicide.” Then, in 2009—the year the CRS study ended—Obama took office and gun sales began their climb to record levels, which made covering the gap between the 118 million guns that had been purchased by 2009 and the “170 million new guns” that Americans would own by 2015 an easy gap to bridge...more

Lawsuit: Western sheep operators colluded against workers

Two former shepherds from Peru are accusing key players in the sheep industry in the western U.S. of conspiring to keep wages low for foreign workers. Rodolfo Llacua and Esliper Huaman, represented by a Denver law firm called Towards Justice, are seeking to have their lawsuit treated as a class-action case seeking damages for current and former shepherds across the West. The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District court in Denver, targets the Salt Lake City-based Western Range Association and Casper, Wyoming-based Mountain Plains Agricultural Service. The companies place foreign workers with sheep operations.  "The amount they paid us never seemed right," Huaman said in a statement released by his lawyers. "Many fellow shepherds are still suffering under these low wages, and I hope that I can help benefit them through this complaint." Llacua and Huaman say in their lawsuit that the Western Range Association and Mountain Plains Agricultural Service, as well as ranchers who hire foreign workers through them, violated anti-trust laws by colluding to keep wages at the minimum levels required by the federal government. "We think that people working as shepherds should be fairly compensated, pursuant to regular market forces," said Nina DiSalvo, executive director of Towards Justice. Huaman is now working in Utah, while Llacua is in Colorado, she said. Stung into action recently by an earlier lawsuit brought by U.S. sheepherders who claimed the foreign worker program was keeping wages artificially low, the U.S. Department of Labor early this year proposed a new rule that would ramp up pay for the herders up to $2,400 a month by 2020...more

BACK IN TIME: Questions still linger about Roswell

By Bill Modisett

ROSWELL, N.M. On July 8, 1947, Lt. Walter Haut, public information officer at the Roswell Army Air Field, issued a press release that stated the air field was in possession of a “flying disc” it had gained through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers.

Thus began one of the most intriguing, perplexing incidents in the history of the West Texas-Southeastern New Mexico region. To this day, 68 years later, what really occurred near Corona, N.M., in 1947 has never been satisfactorily explained.

Haut’s news release, issued on the direct orders of Roswell base commander Col. William Blanchard, read as follows:

 “The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County.

 “The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office.

 “Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.”

The somewhat earth-shattering announcement that an actual “flying disc” had been located came as a not quite so surprising correction of sorts. About three hours after the first story was released, another story was issued that explained the “flying disc” was nothing more than the radar reflector from a wandering weather balloon that had been misidentified by the first people to see it.

Soon thereafter, Brigadier Gen. Roger Ramey went on a Fort Worth radio station to explain what, he said, had actually happened. A weather balloon, he said, had crashed on the ranch. It was nothing more. So the public’s concern about the “flying disc” that had crashed in New Mexico was supposedly resolved.

Or was it?

According to the story told by rancher William “Mac” Brazel, whatever crashed on his ranch that night occurred during a violent rainstorm, but the sound of the crash was not that of the typical thunder in the Roswell area. It was significantly different. As a result, the next morning Brazel and a young neighbor, 7-year-old Dee Proctor, went out checking for possible damage to fences or windmills.

 “No damage to fences or windmills could be found, but something quite unexpected arrested their attention: a field full of bits of pieces of shiny material unlike anything the veteran rancher had ever seen,” stated the book “Crash at Corona: The U.S. Military Retrieval and Cover-Up of a UFO” by Don Berliner and Stanton T. Friedman.

 “According to newspaper reports at the time, Mac gathered some of it up and hid it under a bush or in a shed. He kept a few pieces, one of which he took with him when he drove Dee the few miles back to the home of his parents, Floyd and Loretta Proctor, his nearest neighbors.”

During the next few decades, the military stuck to their official explanation for the crash although very few people apparently accepted it. Brazel had found weather balloons before and he knew and said that the debris on his ranch was not from a weather balloon.

Unhurried in Hachita

To appreciate Hatchita, a small town of about 30 people at the entrance to the bootheel of southwestern New Mexico, you must first appreciate the landscape that surrounds it. The two are entwined, one dependent on the other, like the towering yuccas that populate this land and the delicate yucca moths that pollinate them. Here is New Mexico in all its subtle beauty. Olive-green mesquite bushes, yucca blossoms the color of white smoke, brushy broomweed plants, and the occasional wildflower—all leaning slightly sideways from the steady nudge of the westerly wind, scattered across a valley whose reach is only halted by the Mexican border. To the south rise the Big Hatchet Mountains, crooked and imposing; to the west, the Little Hatchet, from which the town of Hachita derived its name...

There are more houses in Hachita today than people, and to understand why requires understanding the origins of Hachita, which in turn requires a trip out to the Little Hatchet Mountains.
Scattered among the low foothills are the sun-baked ruins of an old mining town. This was the first location to be called Hachita, sometime in the 1870s as part of the Eureka mining district. Miners here dropped into the earth and returned with silver, copper, and turquoise. An old headframe still stands, as do the walls of hardscrabble buildings, including a main house, a dance hall, and two powder magazines, double-walled to force an explosion to blow upward out the roof.

When the railroad arrived in the valley around 1901, bringing the possibilities of new economies, residents of Hachita built houses closer to the rails. This became “New Hachita,” while the mining camp was referred to as “Old Hachita.” As mining profits declined over the subsequent years, only the hardiest souls remained in the mountains—one old-timer lived here until the 1970s.

New Hachita did well enough to drop the “New.” A grade school and high school opened, and a two-story hotel, a giant mercantile store, and other businesses arose along Railroad Avenue, now Highway 9. (Today the yuccas follow suit, crowding against the highway as if waiting for the light to change.)

Proximity to the railroad and shipping pens made Hachita an important headquarters for area ranches. Those ranches are still around: the Hatchet Ranch, the Hurt Ranch, the Diamond A.

Lawrence Hurt is one of the owners of Hurt Cattle Company. He invites me to view a roundup, something I’ve not seen before. I arrive early that morning at a corral on his ranch; I know I’m in the right place when I see the pickup trucks, their windshields reflecting the spinning fan of the Aermotor windmill by the water tank. As the morning sun lifts itself over the Big Hatchet Mountains and the last vestiges of the night disappear in a red glow on the western horizon, Lawrence and the other men ride off on their horses into the rugged, raging beauty of the desert at dawn.

In the distance, I watch as a blue and white object maneuvers back and forth in the sky, gliding, then angling right, then left again: a Robinson R22 Beta II helicopter.

Hank Hays is at the controls. Hank has been working at the Hurt Ranch for 16 years now as, in the words of his tongue-in-cheek business card, a “Bovine Pursuit Specialist.” Hank previously flew helicopters in the US Border Patrol and cowboyed in his youth, so he came into this job familiar with both the terrain and the duties. During spring and fall roundups, he herds cattle from above—careful not to separate the calves from their mothers—letting them move safely to the corral. The helicopter saves time and money. What once took two dozen men three days can now be done by only a few in a matter of hours.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Judge blocks Endangered Species Act listing of lesser prairie chicken

The Western District Court of Texas vacated a 2014 “threatened” listing of the lesser prairie chicken Tuesday on the grounds that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) incorrectly determined that voluntary conservation action wouldn't be enough to protect the bird. The lesser prairie chicken was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act last March after FWS determined conservation efforts on the part of landowners and industry would not assuage the bird's population decline. According to the agency, the species' population has fallen 84 percent in the last 15 years due to habitat degradation and drought.  Permian Basin Petroleum Association, an oil and gas trade group, challenged the listing in court along with four New Mexico counties, claiming that the voluntary support was sufficient. Several other energy sector companies have come out in strong opposition of regulatory protections for the bird as well, claiming that land use restrictions throughout the bird's five-state Great Plains range would unduly burden energy exploration and extraction.  In his opinion, District Judge Robert Junell agreed with PBPA. “The Court finds FWS did conduct an analysis” of stakeholder participation, “however this analysis was neither ‘rigorous' nor valid as FWS failed to consider important questions and material information necessary to make a proper … evaluation,” Junell wrote in his decision...more

Texas judge halts 'threatened' listing of lesser prairie chicken 

...In a 29-page ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Junell found the Fish and Wildlife Service did not follow their own rule for evaluating conservation efforts when making listing decisions about the lesser prairie chicken. “This caused FWS to arbitrarily and capriciously list the LPC as a threatened species,” Junell wrote. The plaintiffs in the case were the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and four New Mexico counties. Defendants were the Fish and Wildlife Service, FWS Director Daniel Ashe, the Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. The plaintiffs challenged whether the FWS followed its own rules, properly explained its decision and responded to the plaintiffs’ concerns. While the judge sided with the plaintiffs on the first claim, he ruled in favor of the defendants in the other two claims. The Fish and Wildlife Service has said the “threatened” listing last year was the result of a steep decline in the bird’s population in recent years. Five states are home to the lesser prairie chicken: Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. However, a recent aerial survey by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Association found an estimated 29,162 lesser prairie chickens, an increase from 19,643 in 2013 and 23,363 in 2014...

Sen. Lisa Murkowski fights for King Cove access road as Obama visits Alaska

As President Obama treks across Alaska this week, leading Republicans in Washington say they will continue to fight the administration over its refusal to approve a potentially lifesaving road in a remote corner of the state. The Interior Department in late 2013 rejected a plan to build a road to provide direct land access to King Cove, an Alaskan community of fewer than 1,000 people accessible only by air and water. The administration — which continues to defend its decision to block the road — and other opponents argue that construction would disturb pristine areas of the protected Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Supporters say Mr. Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other officials are putting lives in danger because residents of King Cove now must rely on air transport in the case of medical emergency. Two dozen residents have been transported off the island via medevac since Ms. Jewell rejected the 11-mile road plan, according to the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican. Ms. Murkowski now is trying to force the issue by including in Interior Department appropriations legislation provisions to build the road. Her bill would facilitate a land swap between Alaska and the federal government, setting aside other parts of the state as protected wilderness and removing barriers to the construction of the King Cove road. It’s unclear whether the provisions will survive budget negotiations. The push for the road has been renewed as Mr. Obama spends three days in Anchorage and tours other parts of the state...more

“King Cove is the perfect opportunity for conservationists to say, ‘You know what, there are times when we have to make allowances and put people first.’ It would really earn a lot of good will,” said Robert Dillon, spokesman for Ms. Murkowski.

Wilderness is the exact opposite, as it puts people on the bottom of the totem pole and is by legislative definition roadless.  Put a road through a Wilderness area? Don't expect the enviros to "put people first" because of the precedent it would set.

Obama asks Congress to mark National Park Service centennial

The Obama administration is pushing Congress to pass a bill recognizing the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service (NPS) next year. Obama will ask Congress to fund infrastructure improvements at NPS facilities and establish an endowment fund for future upgrades and projects at the parks. The bill, which Obama will formally announce and send to Congress after he visits a national park in Alaska on Tuesday, would look to increase funding for an NPS volunteer program and expand eligibility for a fund that hires young workers. It would also strengthen education programs at parks and allow the NPS to provide new services for visitors, such as lodging and dining, according to the Interior Department. The National Parks Service will mark its centennial next August, and administration officials say Congress should pass legislation expanding and improving the NPS to mark the occasion...more

The World’s First Clean Oil Sands Project: An Interview With Dr. Gerald Bailey

After decades of exhaustive attempts to overcome the dirty reputation of oil sands, we finally have an environmentally-friendly and low cost method to tap into these vast resources in the state of Utah—good news both for Mother Nature and all oil and gas investors. MCW Energy Group’s CEO, former Exxon President of the Arabian Gulf region, Dr. R. Gerald Bailey, tells in an exclusive interview that his hunt for an innovative technology that simultaneously makes money and cleans up the environment is over. The race to capitalize on Utah’s vast oil sands resources is on, and only the ‘clean’—both financially and environmentally—will survive. Coming hot off of the successful launch of clean oil sands operations in Utah, while other oil sands projects are under fire from protesters, Dr. Bailey discusses:
The difference between Utah and Alberta when it comes to oil sands resources.
How new technology can—and is—extracting oil sands without harming the environment.
Why the new technology is as much about remediation as it is about extraction
How to create new revenue streams and use the resulting clean sand for other purposes.
Why it’s finally possible to make money extracting oil from oil sands cleanly—despite the current world’s depressed oil prices...more

'Jurassic National Monument' proposal gets local support

A proposal from two congressmen to convert a central Utah dinosaur fossil quarry rich in Jurassic-period bones into a national monument gained a key endorsement Tuesday from county officials. The Emery County public lands council voted unanimously to back a plan that would elevate the Cleveland-Lloyd dinosaur fossil quarry to what could be known as the "Jurassic National Monument," said Randy Johnson, Emery County's public lands adviser. The Emery County commission is also expected to back the idea. The quarry was designated a national natural landmark in 1966, and it is a mecca for paleontologists who have been coming since the 1920s to dig in what the Bureau of Land Management says is the densest concentration of Jurassic-period bones in the world. More than 12,000 fossils have been discovered. "It's a great idea. It's a national treasure out there, and it's unexploited," Johnson said. "Nobody knows about it, and it gets very little use. It deserves to be enhanced and protected." Making the site into a national monument would require Congressional approval. The idea is being promoted by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz as part of a broad eastern Utah land deal the congressman has been working on with Rep. Rob Bishop. They plan to introduce it later this year. Ethan Migliori, chair of the Emery County Commission, said he has heard only minimal opposition, and that most of it came from ranchers worried about losing cattle-grazing rights in the monument's boundaries. Migliori said they have been assured that won't happen, clearing the way for widespread support...more

You would expect Bishop and Chaffetz to have strong grazing language in their legislation.  We'll be watching to see.

The EPA Assaults the Private Sector – and the Environment

by Seton Motley

...In 2009, the federal government had at least 2,748,978 employees – and 97.6% of civilian federal employees were in the executive branch (and do you think that tally has ticked up a bit during the Barack Obama Administration?) These are the departments, agencies, commissions and boards populated by people who do very little but promulgate and impose regulations – and enforce them.

But government doesn’t even enforce their own rules well. Because in addition to being boorish and overbearing, unilateral and tyrannical – government is unavoidably, inherently incompetent. Because of (at least) two immutable rules of human nature – the Wallet Rule and the Yellow Pages Rule.

The Wallet Rule: “You go out on a Friday night with your wallet. You go out the following Friday night with my wallet. On which Friday night are you going to have more fun?” Obviously you will have more fun with my wallet than yours – because at the end of the revelry you care what your wallet looks like. My wallet? You don’t care quite so much. Government is always using other peoples’ wallets – and the Friday night party never, ever ends.

The Wallet Rule is a key component of the Yellow Pages Rule: “If you can find it in the Yellow Pages (or on – the government shouldn’t be doing it.” Private businesses are operating on their own wallets – so they will do everything better, more wisely and more prudentially than government. Including monitoring their own adherence to governments’ ridiculous regulations.

To wit: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In early August, the EPA begrudgingly admitted they spilled three million gallons of toxic bright orange mess into Colorado’s Animas River. Why was there such a huge accumulated reserve of such nastiness for the EPA to spill? Because the EPA mandates it be collected – and the mining company was in successful compliance. If the mining company had committed the spill, they would be fined – by the EPA. Likely to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. Is the EPA subject to similar fines? Of course not.

 But that was a one time assault on the environment – an accidental one-off. The EPA is usually much more careful, right? Of course not.

I like that Yellow Pages rule.  We might just employ it here from time to time.

Orphaned deer, bear attack highlights California drought's role in wildlife-human encounters

The scarcity of food in the wild has been blamed for unusual animal activity during California's drought including a recent bear attack, mountain lion sightings and an uptick in orphaned animals. Diane Nicholas believes a dearth of water and fresh vegetation in the Sierra Foothills is behind what's been the busiest year for her fawn rescue in Loomis, California, near Sacramento. For nine years, the Kindred Spirits Fawn rescue has cared for hundreds of fawns found injured on roads or caught in fences, near dead mothers in the wild or alone on suburban lawns. Nicholas, a 63-year-old interior designer, says she received more baby deer in April than in any other year and is on track to rehabilitate a record 200. Some were found stuck in nearby canals where they had gone in search of water. Five fawns came to her weighing less than 2 pounds, the first she's ever seen them so small. Others were found near underweight mothers that apparently died in childbirth. "These does have been in such poor health that when they give birth it takes it all out of them," Nicholas said. "We have to assume it's a lack of food and water." Marc Kenyon, who oversees the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's human conflict program, says rangers are also seeing an uptick in orphaned mountain lion kittens and bear cubs. He says officials need years of data before determining a drought link because unusual trends may also be driven by climate change, disease or genetics. Meanwhile, Nicholas isn't only worried about deer in the drought. A bear wandered on her property for the first time. Unusual bear activity around the state has raised alarms. An increased number of bears — in new areas — have been spotted in Bakersfield in Southern California. Statewide, there has been an uptick in black bear-human encounters, including a recent non-fatal attack on a man who lives near Yosemite National Park. Wildlife officials say it's indisputable that some bears are expanding their search for food, but populations have been thriving...more

California board drops planned grazing rule

After hearing from ranchers across the state about their different grazing practices and the numerous environmental benefits of grazing, the State Water Resources Control Board has decided to scrap efforts to regulate grazing on a statewide basis to address potential water-quality impacts. Instead, the board has proposed using a regional approach by having the state's nine regional water quality control boards pursue their own regulatory or nonregulatory strategies. The state board will consider adopting a resolution on this proposal on Sept. 16 and is seeking public comments until Sept. 3. The draft resolution comes after the state water board held public listening sessions around the state earlier this year to solicit feedback on its Grazing Regulatory Action Project, or GRAP, which the board proposed late last year. The project raised serious concerns among ranchers, who feared the new rules could limit their food-production activities while yielding little environmental benefits. Many ranchers attended the listening sessions to express their concerns about the proposed project...more

Gray wolf filmed in Black Hills

A gray wolf has appeared where he isn't supposed to be: the Black Hills. The proof of his presence looks like a clip from a nature documentary, a video that shows a lean, long and powerful gray wolf trotting up a forest hillside and stopping at a distance of about 70 yards. The wolf gives an intense stare back toward the camera for only a moment before scurrying into the safety and seclusion of the aspen- and pine-filled forest. The scene wasn't filmed in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, or Minnesota, the wolf's usual habitat. It was shot less than a week ago in a favorite elk-hunting spot by rural Hot Springs resident Lance Verhulst, who is keeping quiet about the exact location, saying only that it is north of Jewel Cave. Verhulst, 47, and a friend were driving along bumpy U.S. Forest Service roads scouting for elk at about 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 14 when they saw the animal. Verhulst recorded the whole thing on video

Fish and Wildlife faulted in red wolf shootings

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act twice in the past two years when it gave private landowners permission to kill endangered red wolves near the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina, conservationists said Tuesday in a letter to the agency. The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing three wildlife conservation groups, filed notice of its intent to sue the agency in federal court. In a 13-page letter, the attorneys said Fish and Wildlife officials allowed wolves to be killed on private land without first making an effort, required by law, to trap them alive. “Red wolves are endangered because they need protection and effective management to thrive,” Jason Rylander, an attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, said in a news release. “Allowing the killing of a breeding female wolf is the exact opposite of managing red wolves for recovery.”  Fish and Wildlife has struggled to manage the only existing wild population of red wolves, whose numbers have plunged in recent years from a peak of around 130 in 2006 to an estimated 50 to 75 animals this summer. Nearly two dozen wolves have died from gunshot in recent years, and biologists have counted fewer pups born each year – 19 last year, down from 30 to 50 in previous years. In June the agency said it would stop reintroducing wolves into the wild and will decide by the end of the year whether to improve or abandon its 28-year-old Red Wolf Recovery Program in five counties on the Albemarle Peninsula.  The effort has been marked by years of conflict between Fish and Wildlife and private landowners, and hostile relations with hunters and the state Wildlife Resources Commission. Conservationists have said that the agency is failing to meet its responsibility to protect the endangered wolves...more

 All of the problems and conflicts mentioned in the article have also happened with the Mexican wolf.  But here, the FWS has chosen to expand the recovery, whereas in NC they are may abandon the program.  A great demonstration of the difference between public and private land states.

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Groups Fight to Save Rare Weasel in California, Oregon

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to protect the coastal marten, a secretive member of the weasel family, under the Endangered Species Act. The groups, represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, petitioned in 2010 for federal protection of the rare carnivore, then known as the Humboldt marten, but the Service issued a decision denying protection earlier this year. A small carnivore related to minks and otters, the coastal marten is found only in old-growth forest and dense coastal shrub in Northern California and southern and central coastal Oregon. Once extensively trapped for their fur, the cat-like animals were once common, but now fewer than 100 of them survive in California, while an unknown, but very small, number are still found in Oregon. These martens’ historic range extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. In Oregon the marten lives in the Siskiyou and Siuslaw national forests...more

Survey aims to understand consumer attitudes on farming, sustainability

About 56% of people responding to a recent survey on agriculture and sustainability agree that "farmers and ranchers use new technologies and innovations to protect the environment." But only 47% say "The way that most of today's farming and ranching operations in the U.S. grow and raise food meets the standards of sustainability."  When presented with the statement regarding sustainability of most farming operations, the survey revealed that women are less likely than men to agree that farming and ranching practices are sustainable – 37% of women versus 59% of men responding they are in agreement. USFRA says the survey results will help farmers engage with consumers. Among additional findings:
Consumers are interested in learning more about what farmers and ranchers touch most. The survey revealed a need to frame stories about sustainability around water, soil, air and habitat.
Consumers are interested in the human impact of sustainability. Respondents shared interest in the actions farmers and ranchers are taking to improve human health through access to safe, nutritious food and the impact they are making on the local community, specifically improvements to the social and economic well-being of agriculture communities.
Consumers are interested in how agriculture is focused on the future, versus defining past successes. When discussing sustainability, respondents want to hear about future commitments to the environment versus stories about a farming operations' multi-generational history. Consumers are also interested in learning how farmers and ranchers are doing more with fewer resources and impact, while preserving the land for the next generation...more

 Learn more about the survey on the USFRA website.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1480

This tune goes out to Bobby Jones, who is home and healing.  The song is Clarinet Polka, but its done up fiddle style by Hank Singer.  I understand Bobby can't quite dance to this number yet, but we'll see in a week or so.  The tune is on Singer's 2013 CD Play Fiddle Play

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Twelfth man dies in bull run fiesta after being gored through the heart

A man in his 60s died on Sunday after being gored in a bull run in Spain, bringing the total number of deaths to 12 this year, the deadliest in 15 years.  The man who was visiting from the Basque town of Errenteria died on the spot when he was charged in the chest by a bull at the start of the run in the central town of CuĂ©llar. As usual someone captured the footage of the fatal goring and posted it on YouTube. The horrific footage shows the man being charged by the bull and dragged several meters. He was already dead by the time emergency medical staff reached him...more

Obama on Climate Change: Act Now or Condemn World to a Nightmare

President Barack Obama challenged fellow world leaders in unusually blunt language Monday to act boldly on climate change or "condemn our children to a world they will no longer have the capacity to repair." In a forceful address, Obama opened the "GLACIER" conference in Anchorage, Alaska, by declaring: "We are not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough." That includes the U.S., which Obama said "recognizes our role in creating this problem and embraces our role in solving it." Obama is using the three-day GLACIER conference — it stands for Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience — as a way both to highlight the perils of global warming and to cement his environmental legacy. He directly attacked politicians who argue that climate change isn't real, saying they "are on their own shrinking island." "The time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past," the president said. Unless the world acts more aggressively and more quickly, he said, "entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems: More drought. More floods. Rising sea levels. Greater migration. More refugees. More scarcity. More conflict."...more

Obama’s green pressure tactics exposed: Governors, climate activists help sell agenda

The Obama administration, top climate change crusaders and governors from across the country have engaged in a highly coordinated effort to publicly sell the president’s green agenda and put private pressure on opponents, according to newly released emails and other records obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The striking report from the Energy and Environment Legal Institute’s Christopher Horner — who first revealed Lisa P. Jackson’s use of private email accounts and aliases while at the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency — sheds new light on the level of cooperation among top White House officials, billionaire and climate change activist Tom Steyer, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and other backers of Mr. Obama’s global warming regulations, including restrictions on carbon pollution from power plants. The documents show frequent communication and meetings among Democratic officials at the state and federal levels and, among other environmental groups, representatives of NextGen Climate, a leading climate change advocacy group led by Mr. Steyer. The emails show Rohan Patel, a special assistant to the president and the White House deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, as a liaison between the administration and state officials and a key figure in developing the broader plan to sell Mr. Obama’s climate proposals...more

E.O. Wilson’s Wants Us to Leave Half of the Earth Alone—Here's Why

At 86, Edward Osborne Wilson, Harvard University research professor emeritus of comparative zoology, is among the most famous scientists of our time. Only Jane Goodall and Stephen Hawking can draw a larger crowd. Over the decades he’s made his mark on evolutionary biology, entomology, environmentalism, and literature. In all there have been 31 books, two of which, On Human Nature and The Ants, received the Pulitzer Prize.  My visit coincides with the completion of Brookhaven book No. 13, tentatively titled Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. Scheduled to be published in March 2016, Half-Earth is centered on the unfolding extinction crisis. “Everywhere, you see it,” Wilson laments. “In New Guinea, forests are cut wholesale. In Central America, trying to find the forests, you have to go such long distances. The extinction is accelerating. The conservation organizations, they’ve only saved 20 percent of the endangered species. It’s far below what’s needed.” Half-Earth is his answer to the disaster at hand: a reimagined world in which humans retreat to areas comprising one half of the planet’s landmass. The rest is to be left to the 10 million species inhabiting Earth in a kind of giant national park. In human-free zones, Wilson believes, many endangered species would recover and their extinction would, most likely, be averted. In many ways this respected scholar is risking his reputation of a lifetime with such a radical idea. But then, frankly, he doesn’t think he is the radical. He’s shocked at how inured we’ve all become to habitat destruction.  Supporters say he will be largely respected for his opinions in Half-Earth, even if they are somewhat harsh. Elizabeth Kolbert, who won the Pulitzer Prize this year for The Sixth Extinction, her own investigation into species decline, believes that anything Wilson writes will get a serious hearing. “I think Ed Wilson has influenced everyone working in the field of conservation today,” she told me, “and certainly he has influenced everyone writing about it. Partly this is owing to his pioneering work out in the field, partly to his wonderful books, and partly to his synthesizing intelligence. He has managed to confront the world with some pretty bleak facts without ever losing his sense of wonder.”...more

A Town Without Water

As California faces its fourth year in a drought, the farming region of Tulare County, located three hours north of Los Angeles, is at the epicenter of the crisis. To date, 5,433 residents in this rural region twice the size of Delaware are without water. Most live in East Porterville. Many homes in Tulare County, unlike other drought-afflicted areas, are not connected to a water system; they rely on private wells supplied by groundwater. And for the past 18 months, these wells have been drying up. Over the past year, Office of Emergency Services (OES), a county agency responsible with responding to large-scale disasters, implemented a bottled drinking water program, a mobile shower unit and a 2,500-gallon potable water tanks that are placed outside a home and connected directly to each home’s plumbing system. Despite the county’s efforts, it can take up to six months for a family to receive emergency assistance. Tired of waiting, many families are moving to neighboring towns and out-of-state...more

Appeals Court rules 'Big Mountain Jesus' can stay on Forest Service land

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that a statue of Jesus Christ located on a mountaintop memorial to World War II veterans is constitutional. In a Monday decision,the judges upheld a district court ruling that allowed for "Big Mountain Jesus" to remain at Flathead National Forest near Kalispell, Montana.  The judges concluded that while the 60-year-old statue did have a religious appearance, the display has some purposes that are secular in nature. "The government identified secular rationales for its continued authorization including the statue's cultural and historical significance for veterans, Montanans, and tourists; the statue's inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places; and the government's intent to preserve the site 'as a historic part of the resort', read the decision. "Although the dissent focuses on the monument's appearance, that the statue is of a religious figure, and that some of the initial impetus for the statue's placement was religiously motivated, does not end the matter." In 1953, a Knights of Columbus chapter built a monument at Big Mountain to commemorate the sacrifices of World War II American soldiers. It had a statue of Jesus with arms outstretched. The monument also had a plaque dedicated to WWII soldiers and was privately maintained. Every 10 years the permit for the monument was renewed with the Flathead National Forest. In 2010, The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded that the Forest Service not renew the permit. While the Service initially agreed, public outcry led them to reconsider...more

Shock Therapy is Saving Endangered California Condors

North America’s largest bird is on the verge of extinction, and scientists are using shock therapy to give them a fighting chance. The California condor’s wings stretch nearly 10 feet across to help them glide atop air currents while they search for a meal to scavenge. Power lines are a formidable foe for these birds because their large size makes it easier for them to be electrocuted. Now, with fewer than 500 California condors remaining, researchers are administering gentle shocks to teach the birds to avoid these dangerous obstacles. It’s common to see birds sitting atop power lines unharmed. That’s because it’s safe to touch a single line, but touching two at a time can be fatal. California condors’ large size means they are much more likely to strike two lines at a time. So scientists at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are hoping to increase California condors’ power line awareness by constructing faux power lines in training pens that gently shock the birds to instill an aversion to power lines.
Researchers started placing training power lines in condor sanctuaries at the zoo, and the birds learned to avoid the cables after receiving a few zaps. According to a study published in Biological Conservation, 66 percent of untrained condors released from the sanctuary died of electrocution, but that number dropped to 18 percent with training by 2011. “Utility lines are not a significant problem anymore,” Bruce Rideout, one of the study’s authors, told New Scientist...more

Parents of SF pier murder victim to file legal claim

SAN FRANCISCO — The parents of a San Francisco woman shot to death by a man being sought for deportation plan to file legal claims against San Francisco and federal officials in connection with her killing. Kathryn Steinle's parents, Jim Steinle and Liz Sullivan, will reveal details Tuesday of their claim against San Francisco's Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold them accountable for the woman's death. Kathryn Steinle was shot to death on Pier 14 on July 1 as she walked with her father. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a 45-year-old Mexican immigrant who was facing possible deportation, has pleaded not guilty to her murder. Her slaying touched off a national conversation about immigration policy and so-called "sanctuary cities."  AP

Maybe now we'll find out how the killer wound up with a BLM Ranger's gun.  See: Press Remarkably Incurious About BLM Agent Behind Stolen Gun Used in SF Slaying

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1479

This is Johnny Horton's 1951, undubbed recording of Done Rovin'