Sunday, February 01, 2015

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Convenient forgetfulness

by Julie Carter

Men, in general, have a built-in gene making them masters at forgetting to mention important details that often dictate the outcome of a situation, up to and including the moment they could lose their lives or an important part of their anatomy.
The obvious incidents include forgetting to mention the existence of a wife, or some wild tale about why they didn't arrive home until the day after they were expected.

Cowboys, however, have different types of "Did I forget to mention that?" stories.

Ranch stories of this nature will sometimes involve a simple request to the wife along the lines of "Could you go get our black bull out of the neighbor’s pasture today?"

What the head cowboy may have forgotten to mention is that once she finds the black bull in the four-section brushy pasture, she will likely have to break up a fight between him and the neighbor's resident bull.

Then she will have to persuade the black bull that he would prefer to leave the neighbor's young heifers so she can drive him back to his ranch home. On the way out, she'll have to repair the fence that he tore up running away from home.

Being a sensible wife, she will know that the black bull, which is usually cooperative, will need to come to the pens at the headquarters, to discourage the same scenario from happening all over again.

These kinds of projects are common to the status of "ranch wife" who is not usually surprised by the omission of the finer details of the request.

Instead, a fair amount of get-even plotting will occupy the span of time it takes for the ride over to the neighbors, as well as the return trip.

When calves are shipped from the ranch, a permit from a state brand inspector is part of the process. The inspector in this case was about 5 feet tall and wore a pistol that came down almost to his knees. His demeanor indicated that he failed to recognize he was not God.

The ranch boss asked his wife to go help the brand inspector count and sort the calves, penning the heifers and steers separately.

The calves, at one end of a long corral alley, began to file by the little woman so she could determine their male or female status before directing their destination.

As the calves peeled away from the bunch, their speed of departure picked up, making the "viewing" considerably more difficult. The brand inspector suspected he would have to come to her rescue.

The cowgirl wasn't the least bit nervous about this assignment, and expeditiously called to the inspector, "In," for the heifers and "By," for the steers.

A couple of hundred calves were sorted very quickly this way, with no slowing of the steady stream of cattle down the alley. When it was all done, the inspector told the cowgirl he'd never seen anybody, male or female, sort cattle that quickly.

What he had failed notice was that all the heifer calves were specifically earmarked. To make her call, all she had to do was glance at their heads as they came toward her. She figured it was information he didn't particularly need, so she "forgot" to mention it. Thereafter, she enjoyed a reputation as a very astute and competent cattle woman.

No mention was ever made that she shared the same "forgetfulness" indicative to the male species of her profession. That quiet fame happens at the ranch and stays at the ranch.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Preservation at the expense of History

Management of Values
Preservation at the expense of History
Darlene’s memory
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            New Mexico pioneer, Fred McCauley, was known to say, “I’d rather be a pig farmer in hell than have a farm at Redrock.”
            His contention was not lost among listeners. The narrow valley at Redrock is prone to flooding and years of effort can be wiped out in a single event. As kids, we all knew about the flood of 1941 even though many of us didn’t come along for a decade. The flood was both monstrous and devastating. Accounts of hearing it come were akin to the onrush of multiple trains with the breaking and crashing of trees.
            Although subsequent floods were larger, the 1941 Gila flood impacted more people on the basis of concentration of farming and the absence of protective structures. The interesting thing, though, is the assessment by the descendents of those people who endured the event. It wasn’t the raw exposure to nature that cut short the lives and expectations of those generations.
            It was government and the culprit was not local or state government. The foe was invariably … federal government policies.
            The prelude
            The call came out of the blue.
            “Where are you goin’?” Hank asked without identifying himself.
“All right, where are you and where did I miss you?” was my response knowing immediately who it was.
My childhood friend had seen me on a cross street in Deming as I made my way to the courthouse to visit with the county manager and to declare cattle numbers to the assessor’s office.
“Call me when you finish,” was his short order instruction in a conversation that lasted less than a minute.
I wound up at his kitchen table with his wife Nancy’s extended family eating ribs, beans, potatoes, and fresh tortillas. The meal was right out of ranch history as if it we had broke for lunch at a 1959 New Mexico branding complete with blue skies and bawling calves.
I had never met Nancy’s mother, Mrs. Blakey, but I knew who she was. I knew generally where she and her deceased husband, Bud, had ranched as I knew she was a sister of the second generation McCauley clan from White Signal.
 She informed me it was my grandfather, Albert Wilmeth, who met her family at the depot in Deming with a team of horses and a wagon to haul their possessions to Grant County in 1904. I questioned her about the likelihood of it being Grandpa Albert in 1904 since he would have only been 12 years old and a hundred miles from home by himself with a team and a wagon.
“It was your grandfather, Albert Wilmeth,” was her terse response.
We laughed and told stories of our family and with its extended outcross connections. Mrs. Blakey’s son, Ray, her daughter, Mary Ethel, Mary Ethel’s husband, Randy, and Ray’s daughter, “little” Nancy held court as Hank and I smiled and filed conditional interrogatories. It was a homecoming of sorts predicated on pioneering New Mexicans who are forever linked to the nebulous government term “history value”.
We are a true and original family of Grant County history.
When the Gila River McCauleys were discussed, Mrs. Blakey suggested she would claim unconditional ties to “Uncle Fred” and “Hap’s bunch” and then (one must assume) conditional ties thereafter. She then informed the gathering that Albert and Sabre Wilmeth’s only daughter, Mary Effie, had wed Hap and that Mary was my aunt.
Peace and tranquility were further assured.
Nearly all stops were pulled as we discussed successes and failures, killings and marriages, births and deaths, humor and darkness, family and enemies, and then and now. Central to it all that captivated the dreams that gave rise to seven generations was this big land. We are forever linked to its singular foundation.
If that isn’t the value of history … nothing is.
Preservation at the expense of History
There is a problem, though.
The entire premise of federal land agency management has been limited to the condition of current production or less. That is a devastating standard to stake lives and futures.
On a broader scale, there is not a business venture anywhere that has thrived when locked into the status quo with changing growth restraints. In New Mexico, that condition has been created by the endemic, utter fascination of the federal government’s zeal for land ownership and its resulting and crippling management tactics.
In state ownership, market place relationships exist and mutually beneficial relations have been created and perpetuated. That relationship is at arm’s length. On the whole, state government hasn’t stifled enterprise development nor has it thrust itself into dominion status. The relationship is not normally even discussed and land stewards would most likely fight for its continuation. Both parties benefit from mutual successes.
The federal relationship is completely different.
 Ranchers universally equate their relationship with the federal government on a scaled basis. That scale, measured from bad to good, does not reveal mutually beneficial outcomes. The measure plots oppression and our eventual destruction.
That is a terrible predicament.
This matter will emerge from every conversation within historic family meetings. It wasn’t the floods, or the massacres, or the deaths of infants that incur the most vigorous wrath. Those matters were issues of life and the need to simply overcome. They are placed in simple juxtaposition to the humor, the skill, or the respect assigned to those who have gone before us.
The tyranny of the federal land agencies is expansive. The lack of market conditions and any foundational mandate to honor private property rights has given rise to their self assigned mission to protect. That "protection" has created indecision, decadence, misuse of resources and environmental chaos. For many years they have disallowed the private capitalization of improvements, barred parallel enterprise development, and splintered customs and culture.
This has also contributed directly to the devastation of historic families.
The service and the reminder
Yesterday, we gathered to celebrate the life of Uncle Hap and Aunt Mary’s second child to survive infancy.
Darlene McCauley was born March 6, 1940 and she now rests on hallowed ground at the Mesa Cemetery at Cliff. She is the third of the Albert and Sabre Wilmeth grandchildren to mark the conclusion of full life. Her obituary describes in written form the events of her life that were discussed and shared in expanded words among family and friends following the internment.
Darlene brought us together.
She brought us home to that wonderful country that attracted our great and great-great grandparents over a century ago. A number of us drove south along the Gila River to the mouth of the Mangus to revisit where, arguably, Darlene spent the happiest days of her life as a child. We remembered many things both directly and through recollections of others.
We reached out and touched each other.
I know Darlene would agree that being part of this historic family is one of the few earthly things that have lasting significance. In our various endeavors, it remains.
In our journeys, our relationship with God has become ever more important, but there was an immoveable connection between Him and where he placed us. Perhaps we suffered a bit of misconception of equating Him with our surroundings, but, nonetheless, that relationship formed a bridge to Him that now stands paramount.
There are consequences.
We have an unabashed assessment that our stewardship and impact on our surroundings is important. We reject the notion that an absentee owner knows more than we do and must continually guide, moderate, and direct our actions in order to save these surroundings.
How dare them, or, it, as the matter pertains!
There are too many that now suspect that the value of history has been morphed from its original premise and has little to do with the blood, effort, and lives of our founding predecessors. We are absent from the process. Federal resource management plans are being formulated accelerating the constraints that have already crippled an entire, epic way of life. History is being transformed through administrative action from being a managed value to being a nebulous corruption of generational displacement. It now constitutes whatever a special interest wants and leaves in its wake contempt for its true meaning.
What we are learning, though, is that our earthly salvation rests solely within families, the locals who actually have a stake in the outcome of lives.
We must make the value of history come alive in our midst and in the actions of Congress. No longer can we rely on someone else to do it.
We are important, and we must assure future generations an opportunity to make these surroundings as fruitful and healthy as God promised and … intended.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “’Nearly all stops’ was conditional on avoiding discussion of a particular shooting!”

Baxter Black: Only take a minute

In my travels I have been on lots of family farms where the whole family is involved in the work. During calving season it is not uncommon for the “rancher” to allow his wife to take the 10 p.m. heifer check.

It’s a practical decision because she’s fixed supper, done the dishes, helped the kids with their homework, got ‘em off to bed, returned the phone calls, is workin’ on the books and she’s up... and away! And he’s been asleep in the Barcalounger since 8:30 p.m. Of course, this obligates him to the 2 a.m. heifer check. Which is also a practical decision, ‘cause if he’s over 50, he’s up anyway!

I wrote a poem about a rancher who needs his wife’s help in the middle of the night. Many wives relate to the story. Melody has her version. She said her favorite part in the poem comes after he wakes her up and explains how easy it will be, “It’ll only take a minute, you can leave your nighty on!”

Melody married Dusty with her eyes wide open. They were both from a cattle family and students at Dixie College. They were heading home on a break and had made arrangements to stop by a neighbor’s calving lot while the neighbors were at a Farm Bureau meeting up north. There was an abandoned cowboy shack where they could spend the night. Though it was not furnished, it had running water.

The young couple arrived in a driving rain. Afoot, they pushed the handful of heifers into the calving lot, sloshing through the mud, splashing through puddles, slashing, slushing, sliding and slipping through the organic sea floor sludge.

Dusty threw them some hay and they trudged to the singlewide.

Livestock Grazing in National Monuments - What A Mess

by Frank DuBois

Several days ago I posted that Senators Hatch & Lee of Utah would be introducing the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Grazing Protection Act.

They did, in the interim, introduce an amendment to the Keystone Pipeline legislation then being debated in the Senate.  Here is the language in their amendment:

SA 44. Mr. HATCH submitted an amendment intended to be proposed to amendment SA 2 proposed by Ms. MURKOWSKI (for herself, Mr. HOEVEN, Mr. BARRASSO, Mr. RISCH, Mr. LEE, Mr. FLAKE, Mr. DAINES, Mr. MANCHIN, Mr. CASSIDY, Mr. GARDNER, Mr. PORTMAN, Mr. ALEXANDER, and Mrs. CAPITO) to the bill S. 1, to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

    At the appropriate place, insert the following:
    (a) In General.--Notwithstanding any rule or regulation of the Bureau of Land Management, within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in areas administered by the Bureau of Land Management, any grazing of livestock that was established as of September 17, 1996, or the date that is 1 day before the designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in accordance with Presidential Proclamation Number 6920 (whichever is earlier), and any grazing of livestock that has been established since that date, shall be allowed to continue subject to such reasonable regulations, policies, and practices as the Secretary of the Interior considers to be necessary, on the condition that the Secretary shall allow the grazing levels to continue at current levels to the maximum extent practicable.
    (b) Permits.--In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary of the Interior may issue new permits (or renew permits) for the grazing of livestock in the areas described in subsection (a).
I've highlighted the important language.

Its disturbing to see they are having these problems in this Utah monument, when they have friendlier grazing language than New Mexico has in its two new national monuments.

On Sept. 18, 1996 President Clinton issued Presidential Proclamation 6920 creating the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  The relevant grazing language in that proclamation is:

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to affect existing permits or leases for, or levels of, livestock grazing on Federal lands within the monument; existing grazing uses shall continue to be governed by applicable laws and regulations other than this proclamation.

That's the standard, boiler-plate language for grazing, i.e., the proclamation was to have no impact upon grazing.

Let's move forward to March 25, 2013, when Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation designating the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument with this grazing language: 

Laws, regulations, and policies followed by the BLM in issuing and administering grazing permits or leases on lands under its jurisdiction shall continue to apply with regard to the lands in the monument, consistent with the purposes of this proclamation

Notice the language I've highlighted.  This ties grazing directly to the purposes section of the proclamation.  Clinton's says "Nothing in this proclamation" affects grazing, while the Obama proclamation does just the opposite.

Then on May 21, 2014 Obama signed a Presidential Proclamation designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and with the following grazing language:

Laws, regulations, and policies followed by the BLM in issuing and administering grazing permits or leases on lands under its jurisdiction shall continue to apply with regard to the lands in the monument, consistent with the protection of the objects identified above.
Again we see the move from "Nothing in this proclamation" affects grazing to tying grazing directly to provisions in the proclamation. And instead of a generic tie to purposes, the consistency language is for each object identified in the proclamation.

Why the interest in these consistency languages?  Because they are highly discriminatory against livestock grazing, placing it a tier below any of the objects or purposes listed in the proclamations.  If the BLM plans an action to protect an object and there is a conflict with a grazing practice, grazing will be diminished.or eliminated.  If a current ranching practice is determined to be in conflict, it will have to be discontinued.  If a rancher proposes a range improvement project or any other new activity which is determined to be in conflict, it will be disallowed.  This is confirmed now by the BLM's own planning documents.  The Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument's scoping report lists the following as the first three grazing issues to be resolved in the planning process:

What are the potential impacts of livestock grazing on the Monument objects? How can any adverse impacts be avoided or otherwise mitigated?

Should any areas within the Monument be made unavailable for livestock grazing?

Should voluntarily relinquished grazing permits be allocated to other uses?

Under the Clinton language, grazing is on an equal footing with the other uses when management decisions are made.  Under the Obama language, grazing is subservient to the other uses or objects.

No doubt this has been a goal of the environmental community for some time.  I would like to know when the consistency language was first put in a proclamation and did an agency push for the new language or did it come from outside interests? 

We now have one agency, BLM, with at least three different grazing languages in national monuments.  Congress has the authority to fix this.  Its time for some "consistency" of our own.

It's Only Fair to Pay People to Protect Endangered Species, Argues Reason Foundation Study

An incisive new study, Fulfilling the Promise of the Endangered Species Act: The Case for an Endangered Species Reserve Program, by Reason Foundation research fellow Brian Seasholes deftly outlines a win-win-win strategy for protecting endangered species in the United States. The current dynamic in which private landowners and threatened species both lose is illustrated by the case of Missouri farmer Craig Schindler. Underneath Schindler's fields is a cave that harbors the grotto sculpin which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may soon declare "endangered." As the Reason Foundation study explains:
Based on an economic impact analysis carried out for Fish and Wildlife, the 18 acres Craig estimates he will have to sacrifice for the sculpin is worth some $90,000 and produces approximately $7,000 in crops annually.
“They’re cutting my living down,” Craig told the local Perryville News, “I have cattle and grow crops, but if you take 18 acres away from a guy, that’s quite a bit."
Fish and Wildlife also proposed to place buffer zones around sinkholes that lead to caves with sculpins. Under the listing, Craig could face up to $100,000 and/or a year in jail for killing or injuring just one sculpin, or even harming its habitat. So, in addition to losing the use of 18 acres, he will have to spend thousands of dollars to fence the buffer zone in order to prevent livestock on the rest of his ranch from inadvertently harming the sculpin. “I’m going to have to pay for this fence out of my pocket, and lose the ground for cattle to graze on,” he said. But even that will not immunize him from prosecution under the ESA because local Fish and Wildlife personnel have the power to decide if his uses of other land, such as fertilizing crops and grazing livestock, harm the sculpin.
What must the government pay for demanding that Schindler give up the use of his land and protect the sculpin? Not a cent.
Seasholes continues:
With the proposed listing of the grotto sculpin, Craig Schindler discovered the upside-down world of the Endangered Species Act. In return for harboring rare wildlife, he was to be punished by having his property turned into a de factofederal wildlife refuge but paid no compensation.
This situation is in stark contrast to most other government “takings” of private property. For example, when the government wants to convert private land for a public good, such as a highway or military base, it pays landowners the market value for the land taken. It is legally required to do so because of the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution which states, “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” The takings clause seeks, “to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole,” according to a 1960 Supreme Court decision. But in a 1994 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that “partial” takings of the sort that Craig would experience as a result of a listing of the grotto sculpin are not protected by the Fifth Amendment. To add insult to injury, if the grotto sculpin were to be listed under the ESA, Craig would still have to pay taxes on the land he would not be able to use.
So what's the solution?...more

Supreme Court Gets Another Chance to Kill Crazy Raisin Regulations

Last week the Supreme Court announced it would revisit the important case of Horne v. USDA. The case, which I first wrote about here in 2013 after attending the Court’s first hearing on it, centers on a USDA program that forces those who traffic in raisins (“handlers,” in USDA raisin parlance) to turn over cash or a significant part of their crop—sometimes almost fifty percent—to the USDA without compensation.

In Horne, the eponymous family, which markets raisins, sued the USDA to force the agency to compensate them if the USDA forced them (along with raisin handlers around the country) to turn over cash or almost half their raisin crop to the agency in return for the purported privilege of handling raisins.

The Hornes effectively sued to stop the government from stealing their raisins, arguing that the USDA program amounts to an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment.

...While the Horne case concerns the USDA’s raisin programs, the case outcome could have widespread impact for farmers around the country—and could put an end to a host of superfluous, wasteful USDA programs. Why? Because the USDA’s raisin marketing order program is just one of dozens of similar programs.

Similar USDA marketing order programs are in place for almonds, apricots, avocados, cherries (both sweet and tart), Florida and Texas citrus, cranberries, dates, grapes, hazelnuts, kiwifruit, olives, many onions and pears, pistachios, California plums and prunes, many potatoes, raisins, spearmint oil, tomatoes, and walnuts.

These programs are responsible for pervasive regulation of the respective industries.

The spearmint oil marketing order, for example, governs all spearmint oil sold in the country. It “authorizes volume control measures to regulate the marketing of spearmint oil through annual sales allotments,” according to the USDA. “Spearmint oil produced in excess of a grower’s allotment is placed into a reserve pool and used later to fill production deficiencies and unexpected demand.”

Note the government’s use of passive voice, which I italicized. The words “is placed… and used” sound a whole lot more constitutional than the more accurate “we take… and use.”

Obama's Climate Plan Could Threaten U.S. Forests


    President Obama’s signature environmental initiative, his Clean Power Plan, is designed to fight climate change and crack down on America’s carbon-emitting power plants. But behind the scenes, a dispute is raging over obscure language that could promote the rapid destruction of America’s carbon-storing forests.
    This highly technical but consequential fight over the Environmental Protection Agency’s approach to “bioenergy”—energy derived from trees, crops, or other plants—has gotten lost in the larger hubbub over the Obama plan’s impact on coal, and the potential upheaval in an electricity sector that will be forced to rein in its greenhouse-gas emissions for the first time. But while the overall plan was hailed by environmentalists and attacked by industry when it was unveiled in draft form last June, the EPA seems to be taking industry’s side on bioenergy.
    A November 19 EPA policy memo suggests that the administration intends to treat electricity produced from most forest and farm products as carbon-free. In an interview with POLITICO this week, an EPA official tried to walk back the memo, calling it a mere “snapshot in time,” emphasizing that no firm decisions will be made until the plan is finalized this summer. But in private meetings with advocates on both sides of the issue, the EPA has indicated that it intends to exempt most biomass from its carbon rules.? (The EPA official requested anonymity to speak about a still unfolding and unfinished rule-making process.)
    This would not be the first time Obama has disappointed conservationists, who are upset about his recent plan to allow some offshore drilling and his general “all-of-the-above” approach to energy, even while they celebrate his disdainful rhetoric about the Keystone pipeline, his new efforts to block drilling in the Arctic, and his continuing support for wind and solar power. But the arcane disagreement over biomass could have an outsized impact on the American landscape. Princeton University researcher Tim Searchinger has calculated that if government electricity forecasts are correct, treating biomass as carbon-neutral would produce a 70 percent increase in the U.S. wood harvest, consuming more than four times as many trees as Americans save through paper recycling programs. If the rest of the world adopts similar rules, the global timber harvest would more than double, he says.
    Carbon regulation was never supposed to produce mass deforestation. “The stakes are so high because producing even a small amount of bioenergy requires cutting down a huge amount of trees,” says Searchinger, a former attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund who has published several papers on bioenergy.
    Searchinger is the lead author of a new World Resources Institute report demonstrating the limited energy potential of biomass, along with the massive potential for destruction that could result from a global embrace of bioenergy. The report concludes that producing just 20 percent of the world’s energy from biomass by 2050, an oft-cited goal, would exhaust 100 percent of the world’s current food and fiber harvest, meaning it would require all the crops we now use for food and all the timber we use for houses and paper. WRI also found that on most of the world’s land, solar panels would produce 100 times more energy than biomass, a testament to the relative inefficiency of photosynthesis.

A Long-Term View of Snowpack in New Mexico

By Sierra Rayne

One of the latest climate change talking points is snow. If it isn't climate change causing too much snow in the Northeast, it is causing too little snow in the West. Whatever the problem -- no matter how internally incoherent and contradictory -- climate change is the problem.

At the New Mexico Daily Lobo (the newspaper of the University of New Mexico), there is an interview with "a professor of Earth and planetary sciences specializing in large-scale climate change, about the state of climate change today and what the future looks like for New Mexico" in which the recent declines in New Mexico's snowpacks are discussed:

"I was a lead author on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report that came out in late 2013 -- that is assembled by the United Nations every six or seven years -- to assess climate change research...Among the things we're studying in my research group is the ongoing decrease in snow pack that is certainly predicted to occur as the climate warms up. We're seeing evidence of that in the data, and that has consequences for stream flow in a significant way. As snow pack at high elevations decreases, we have shorter snow seasons, the snow melts earlier, and evaporation rates go up. That's what we've been seeing for the past several decades."
If one looks at late season snowpack data for New Mexico, it is clear that some of the stations have significant declines in their snowpack over the last three decades on the benchmark beginning of March and April measurement dates.

But what needs to be discussed is our very poor understanding of long-term trends in snowpack, because this will tell us about whether the recent declines in some regions are part of a cycle and something not as unsual as very short-term records might suggest. The long-term view generally helps temper the short-term alarmism.

Of the 58 snowpack monitoring sites for New Mexico in the USDA National Water and Climate Center database, the average date of installation is 1982. Just 13 of the sites have snowpack records extending back before 1970, and only 7 of the sites provide snow data dating back to at least 1950. Thus, we have a very incomplete record of long-term snowpack data in the state. The dataset is heavily biased towards just the last few decades -- of which the snowpack tended to be higher than the historical average in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This doesn't do much to inform us about the causal relationships for trends over this short timespan, and is likely to lead to spurious conclusions.

HOMESTEAD: Owen Brothers built prosperity

The Owen Brothers Livestock Co. was started on a shoestring budget in 1935 in San Saba County. By 1954 it was one of the largest of its kind in Central Texas. Bill and Kelly Owen started their business right after the Depression. “As far as we were concerned, the Depression was still on,” Bill told the Standard-Times. “Our livestock numbers were so few we could haul them all in a pickup truck and trailer.” “It was a gamble all the way,” Bill Owen told the Standard-Times in 1965. “The banker wouldn’t lend Kelly and me any money, but he did agree to hold our check until our first load of livestock was sold. That ‘cold check’ put us in the cattle and sheep business.” At the time, Bill was operating a stockfarm and Kelley worked for an oil company. Their grandparents, John R. and Elizabeth Favers Owen and William Thomas and Nancy Duncan Linn, were pioneers of San Saba County. The Owen brothers wintered their first lambs on a partnership deal in 1934-35. They first owned 700 head but increased their number of lambs every winter until they hit their peak of 20,000 head in 1945, according to an account in a San Saba County history book written by Martha Burnham, daughter of Bill Owen. “They would buy and sell for other ranchers, sometimes handling as many as 40,000 lambs per year,” Burnham recalled. “They encouraged others to try wintering lambs, and the venture became so popular that San Saba was called the ‘grazing mecca.’ By 1951, the profits on gain and pasturage on lambs meant an extra million dollars additional income to the county.” In 1951, when the seven-year drought started in Texas, Owen Brothers found a cattleman’s paradise in South Dakota. The rich lands along the Missouri River furnished an abundance of tall gumbo and gamma grasses along the Rolling Plains. The brothers purchased several ranches, totaling about 38,000 acres, and leased grazing lands from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In its heyday, Owen Brothers would ship from 2,000 to 3,000 head of cattle, usually filling 40 to 50 or more rail cars, to South Dakota grass in the summers, Bill Owen told me in an interview in 1966. The cowboys counted on 43 to 45 head of cattle per car. A 100-car train was hard to manage, he said. “Too many cattle at the rest stop.” The longest train he recalled shipping had 107 cars...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1369

Our gospel tune today is Holding To The Right Hand by the Lonesome River Band.  The number is on their 2014 CD Turn On A Dime.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Obama to Immigration Agents: Ask Illegal Immigrants If They Qualify for Executive Amnesty

There’s been a shocking turn in the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. “The Obama administration has ordered immigration agents to ask immigrants they encounter living in the country illegally whether they might qualify under President Barack Obama’s” executive amnesty, reported the Associated Press Wednesday. Reporter Alicia Caldwell wrote that these new policies “mark an unusual change for U.S. immigration enforcement, placing the obligation on the government for identifying immigrants who might qualify for lenient treatment”– aka temporary amnesty and all that goes with it, including work authorization and access to some government entitlement programs. “It’s akin,” Caldwell continued, “to the Internal Revenue Service calling taxpayers to recommend they should have used certain exemptions or deductions.”...more

Father, son bag charging 700-pound boar in North Carolina

A father-and-son hunting team killed a 707.5-pound wild hog earlier this month deep in the mountains of North Carolina with a single shot. The North Carolina Sportsman reported that Bruce Florence and his son, Jonathan, were on the side of a mountain on Jan. 16 in Transylvania County when the two split up. Bruce sat down while Jonathan investigated a rustling in the brush.His son managed to flush out three small hogs and just when he was just about to emerge from the thicket, he recalled, "the big boy blasted out." "He headed straight for my Dad," Jonathan told the magazine. Bruce, an experienced hog hunter who has killed some in the 150-pound range, likened the Russian boar to a charging buffalo. "He was bee-lining right at me," he said. Bruce estimated that the hog was about 30 yards away when it angled just slightly to expose its vitals. Bruce pulled the trigger of his .25-06 rifle and dropped the massive beast...more

Dead 'Bear Lady' may have been killed by the animals she was famous for feeding

A woman known as North Carolina's 'Bear Lady' may have been killed by a bear. The remains of Kay Grayson, 67, were found in a well-known bear path just 100 yards from her isolated home in Tyrrell County on Monday. Authorities could only find bones, hair and ripped clothing, which had likely been there for two weeks after she was reported missing. Awaiting the results of a post mortem examination, Sheriff Darryl Liverman told he believe it is likely she was attacked by a bear. 'Based on what we saw, we do believe that she was dragged into the woods by bears or multiple bears,' he said. 'The remains were on a path that was used by bears. Her clothing had been ripped by what appeared to be bears.'...more

Friday, January 30, 2015

Environmental groups pose billion-dollar challenge to ag

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

Feds Don’t Actually Know How Big ANWR Is

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

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

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

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

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

Near-Miss in Congress For Wilderness Study Areas

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

Here's the language in the amendment:

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

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

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

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

Wyoming sportsmen oppose land transfer study bill

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

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

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

The Scandals at Justice - Moonlight Fire

New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels

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

Ryan Bundy arrested after allegedly brawling with deputies in the courthouse

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

Congress hears border issues firsthand

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

NM Federal Lands Council honors Schneberger

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

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

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

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

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

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1368

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