Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Christmas built on memories

by Julie Carter

Christmas memories of long ago dictate what we find in the season today. Those memories, as varied as they are in location, extravagance or lack of it, belong to us. They reach a depth of emotion within that no other holiday comes close to touching.

I grew up knowing the Christmas holiday was about the celebration of family beginning with the family who started it all --Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.

Our celebrating began with the cutting of the Christmas tree. It was a family event including aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. It always entailed a few snow ball fights and body rolling down snow covered hills.

Mom only had a few strings of lights and they all went on the tree.  In sharing my Christmas memories with my youngest when he was 10, I realized the huge gap in Christmas then and Christmas today. Already thinking I was ancient, I will share that this is the son who asked if I wrote on rocks when I was in school. Presumably he meant like the Flintstones or Moses. 

He questioned the existence of electricity back then but did ask what we used for lights on the tree. I assured him we plugged our lights in but told him that in my grandmother’s day they had used candles on the tree. He shrugged and said as he walked away, “I bet they burned down a lot of trees.”

The Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog was the center of pre-holiday anticipation at home on the ranch. The pages were worn out by the time all four of us kids got our lists made for Santa. We had no shopping malls to entice, confuse, or commercialize us.

I remember my mother working tirelessly to create the perfect 10-foot Christmas tree, the exact same number of packages under the tree for all four children and make at least 15 different kinds of cookies and as many kinds of candy.

For my Dad, once the tree was cut and standing in the bay window on a stand he’d made, he was pretty much out of the Christmas preparation picture. He knew when to make himself scarce. He did spend a designated amount of time every year teasing us about scaring Santa off with a shot gun and our stockings being left empty. It could have psychologically scarred us if we had known that it could.

Midnight mass, participating in the church program wearing a bed sheet for shepherd’s clothing, setting up the nativity and always knowing it was Jesus’ birthday that we were celebrating -- all part of forever memories.

I watched my own kids overflow with excitement and anticipation for Christmas as they grew up. They too wanted lots of family around, the tree decorated, as many lights as possible everywhere, and some homemade cookies and candy to graze on over the weeks.

They would shake and squeeze packages and hold tight to the image of Santa. They understood that the season was about Jesus, not Santa Claus, but Santa was pretty nice too. 

In honor of my rural upbringing, I continued to make their Christmas memories include Christ in Christmas and not accept “Winter Festival” for a holiday name. They learned that the gifts are a symbol for the gift we received with the birth of Jesus and that saying “thank you” for both is essential, not optional.

What each generation teaches the next about Christmas is critical to Christmas itself.  If we let them take away the Christ in Christmas, the “one nation under God” becomes no nation under God.

May your Christmas be merry and blessed.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Photo provided by Julie Carter

The Christmas Tally

Counting blessings
The Christmas Tally
From our camp to yours
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

             Blessings for us have come in five packages.
            Their names are Mayci, Raegan, Emma, Indie, and Aden. They are Wilmeth grandchildren who all visibly carry their Noni’s genes. They are all blue eyed.
            On Thanksgiving, we gathered in Mesilla to celebrate. The celebration was coupled with an hour spent taking pictures for Christmas cards. We pulled the carriage out and “harnessed” the kids to it. All of them have become so proficient in posing the task was easy. We selected a couple of pictures, and, there we are … two aging grandparents and, of course, our beautiful, blued eyed grandchildren.
            Along with their parents, they will return to celebrate Our Savior’s birth, gathered in our home with the fire burning, and the trees lit. I will wince at the excess, but I will be overruled.
            “It’s special,” will be the stern remark.
            As a special Christmas gift for 1904, Tom Shelley’s wife, Hattie, wrote to family members asking them to send letters addressed to her mother and father-in-law, Emily Jane and Peter Shelley. From across Texas and New Mexico, Hattie received the hand written messages and put them in a little heart book.
On the inside page, she wrote:
December 25, 1904
To Our Mother and Father
from Tom and Hattie
Wishing you a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year
            Many of the feminine responses were couched in poetry. The stylized verse was strongly indicative of the times. Emily Jane’s sister and niece from Mayhill each wrote brief poems.
Dear Brother and Sister,                               My Dear Uncle and Aunt,
            Many a mile apart                                      The golden sun is setting
            Our homes have proved to be                    Across the barren plain
            But in the recess of your hearts                 When you read these lines my dear ones
            Keep one kind thought for me.                  May you think of me again.
                        Your loving sister,                                     Your loving niece,
                                 Nannie Joy                                                 Ella Joy
            From Elk, New Mexico, Edna Dockray continued the verse with:
            You may break and scatter
            The rock if you will
            But the Scent of the Rose
hang around it still.
            Final excerpts from Wilson Parmer’s letter suggested the trials and tribulations of a life of hard work and the difficulty of frontier existence.
“ … During this period of nearing a half a centre (sp) of life we have its gloom and its trubles (sp) and yet we are un able to penitrate (sp) what may lye (sp) before you. Yet while our harts (sp) may continue their work and lives be that of the best record lef (sp) behind,” he wrote.
            An ending quote from the stack of Christmas messages sent for the Christmas gift  request summed up the miles of distance and the directions that life took them all … When this you see remember me … tho many a mile apart we be.
            I’ve heard no verbal account of what took place when Peter and Emily Jane were presented with the little heart book, but I would suspect the treasure of all those heartfelt notes prompted excitement.
            I can imagine, though, what it would have been like when they all sat down to eat the Christmas meal. The warmth of the house would have come from heat from a wood fire (both cooking and heating). The food would have been prepared exclusively from their hands, and what gifts there were would have been meager.
            The letters from family would have been a lingering highlight, but … the joy of watching their gathered children and grandchildren would have been the most special gift of all.
            The tally
            In the Shelley book, the reference to that 1904 Christmas was immediately preceded by pages of shipping records. For years, I skimmed through those pages categorizing them as business records from the Cliff Mercantile of which Peter was the owner. There was little initial interest. When studied, though, the emergence of a broader history was revealed. Through the Mercantile, Peter bought and sold cattle for the greater community. The records showed those transactions in detail. Inspection fees were set forth as were commission fees (commission ran from 1.1 to 1.25%). If the seller had received any advance, an entry entitled “forfeit” was calculated and the final check was reduced accordingly.
A record of brands was also added. Familiar brands come to life on those pages. The 916s, the LCs, the PIT, the HWs, the 7V bar, the 303, the Cross Triangle, the quarter circle XLs, the Flying Y and on and on the history is revealed.
The Mercantile tally book reflected the fortunes of the community. Prior to 1921, the records were entered by hand. Thereafter, they were typed showing spring and fall shipping summaries.
Individual names appear and then disappear only to reappear. John and Will Henry, Ben Avery, Ely Clark, Fayette and Blue Rice, Tom and Will Shelley, Sallie Woodrow, Maggie Franks, Sloan Hightower, Sid George, Henry Woodrow, Joe Hooker, Pitts and Porter, Fleming Cattle Company, Homer Reese, Hugh McKeen, and the names continued. The Doyles, the Eakins, the Turmans, the Aults, the Fosters, the Turners, the Averys, the Wallaces, the Cloudts, and the Dinwiddies appeared as a fascinating reminder of the history of upper Gila River families unfolded.
Absent names suggest that not everybody sold cattle through the Mercantile, but chances are better than even they bought groceries there. The alternatives were slim.
In the spring of 1923, the prices for weaner steers ran $17, $22.75 for long yearlings, and $28.50 for two year olds. Mature, three year old cattle brought $33.50. Nothing was offered nor was any transaction recorded for pairs, heifers, cows, or bulls.
Those records were supremely important. They represented the summary of yearly income for those frontier families who existed solely by their own wits. What wasn’t noted, but existed in every home in that community was a similar tally book that each rancher kept. Many were leather bound, and, if they still exist, they have become heirlooms.
Christmas Tallies
I have two tally books. Both are leather bound. One was a Christmas gift. The other I made. The one I use regularly keeps my diary. At the end of each year, that diary comes out to be stored while a new one is inserted.
Earlier this year, I made one for my dad for Father’s Day. Another was presented to David Wilson for the gift he gave me in the form of a treasured Trost book. As a result, the gift of a rancher’s tally book has become a calling card of sorts.
It is in the spirit of the practice founded in the last quarter of the 19th Century by their great-great-great-great grandfather, Peter Shelley, my grandkids will each get their own “Christmas tally”. It will likely mean little in the current competition with toy stock trailers, electronic gadgetry, or the latest fashions, but maybe that will change with time.
 It is no secret I fret for the next generation steward of this range. The odds against young ranchers of the future will only increase. Costs of entry are unmanageable based on cattle returns, and, as federal lands ranchers, the scope of any long term planning is limited or nonexistent. The special managers that emerge and survive will necessarily have to be better than any of their predecessors.
They must adapt and change. They must strive for parallel enterprises to enhance their security, and they must deal with a juggernaut of negative societal assaults.
There is also hope that customs and culture are honored and perpetuated. Horse tracks as opposed to ATV tracks, cattle that fit individual ranges, rest and rotation, abundant drought water supplies, infrastructure investments, homes on the ranches, and the constant shadow cast on that land by that “manager too poor to pay for his sport” should be the goals.
There are few examples as simple or propitious to the success of ranching heritage as the tally book. It was protected. It was held close to the vest. It was seldom visible, but it was all important. Perhaps one of the five I present on Christmas day will take hold and grow a rancher.
Indeed … a true gift would be realized.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Merry Christmas … May the simplicity of a 1904 Christmas remind us of the most important things.”

On The Edge Of Common Sense

by Baxter Black, DVM

Cowboy Christmas Carol

This is the story of Tiny Slim Crachett, a genuine reprobate
Who squandered his money and wasted his love until it was almost too late.
He was just your typical cowboy, honest, brave and sincere
And he lay on his bunk one Christmas Eve night belching up nachos and beer

When a vision appeared at the foot of his bed. He stared at the apparition,
“Must be that microwave pizza I ate,” he blinked and shifted position.
“I ain’t no pizza you commonbred fool! Your brain’s as dull as your knife.
I am the ghost of Christmas past, and cowboy...This is your life!”

The scruffy old ghost looked down at the cowboy, “I’m here for a couple of things;
To find some reason to salvage your soul and, in doin’ so, earn me my wings.
“I’ve jotted some notes from the big tally book regarding your skipping on bail.
It says that your mother posted the bond. Is it true that she went to jail?”

“Well,” said the cowboy, “it was just for a year. I had to move in with my aunt!
But I got her a job when she made parole pullin’ hides at the rendering plant.”
“Yer worse than I thought! It’s a hopeless case and me, with my wings on the line.
I’ve checked through yer records for somethin worthwhile. There’s really not much I can find.

“You rattle around in your sister’s ol’ truck with no visible means of support
If sorry and worthless came bottled in pints you’d be good for a quart!
“You gypo some cows and ride a few colts, do day work if all else fails.
Shoot pool and drink beer, rope three days a week, trade chronics at all of the sales

“Your past is a trip through the cat box of life, a sorid collection of wrecks.
You’ve broke enough hearts to frighten DeBakey and written so many bad checks
“Were they laid on the ground in a line end to end they’d reach further than you could point!
Though time is a teacher, you’ve failed the grade. I can’t see a thing that you’ve loint

“But what the heck, it’s Christmas, A time of goodwill so I’m willin’ to skip the above
If we can find a single good deed you’ve done that shows kindness and love.”
“Humm...kindness and love...?” thought Tiny Slim Crachett, his mind beginning to race,
“Once a rumor got started that Mother’s old farm was covered with toxic waste.

“For the sake of my mom, I rallied the press. To a man they took up her cause!
Greenpeace rowed up and camped on the lawn, the feminists all burned their bras!
“I handcuffed myself to the Frigidaire! And went on a hunger strike!
But alas we failed. She was forced to sell at less than I would have liked.

“Thank goodness I’d just got my real estate license ‘cause the place brought near ‘43’
Though it cost the ol’ lady twenty’two thou for commission and realtor’s fee.
“So there’s my good deed. As simple as that you can count on me in a pinch.
Our problem is solved, I’m home free and clear and your wings are a lead pipe cinch!

“So, let’s drink a toast to Mom and the angels, and you, though you’re a late bloomer,
And hope they never find out it was me who started that ugly rumor!” 

DuBois Column

My column covers prairie dogs, wolves, wilderness, VIP vacations and horrible school lunches

Prairie Dogs & Interstate Commerce

Contrary to some other court opinions, a federal court in Utah has held the authority of the USFWS to regulate the "take" of threatened species under the ESA does not extend to an intrastate species.  The case is People For The Ethical Treatment of Property Owners vs. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  In 2012, the Feds issued a special rule for the Utah prairie dog that only exists in Utah.  The rule allowed a "take" of the species on private property where prairie dogs “create serious human safety hazards or disturb the sanctity of significant human cultural or human burial sites."  The People For The Ethical Treatment of Property Owners sued saying the USFWS lacked the authority to regulate a purely intrastate species on non-federal land.  The court agreed, ruling the “take” of the species does not substantially affect interstate commerce.  Courthouse News reports that several appeals courts have ruled the feds do have that authority, but for now land owners in Utah don’t have to get a federal permit to work or develop their property.


In early November four environmental groups and Dave Parsons, retired Mexican wolf recovery coordinator, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Feds alleging they have not provided a complete recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf.

In late November (and on the same day I’m writing this) the USFWS released their Final Environmental Impact Statement to their proposed rule revisions governing the Mexican wolf.  Near as I can tell their preferred alternative would a) triple the number of wolves, b) allow the initial release of wolves into the Gila National Forest and the Magdalena District of the Cibola National Forest, and c) expand the recovery area in New Mexico and Arizona to include all land south of I-10 to our border with Mexico.

Further, the USFWS lab has confirmed through DNA analysis that a female wolf inhabiting the north rim of the Grand Canyon is one of the Rocky Mountain wolf variety. In a released statement, the USFWS said the DNA results “indicate this wolf traveled at least 450 miles from an area in the northern Rocky Mountains to northern Arizona.”  This species is fully protected by the Endangered Species Act.

And finally, the Ruidoso News reports a possible wolf sighting just north Ruidoso.  A man and his wife were walking in a subdivision and witnessed two wolves attack and drag a mature doe into the Bonito River.  The man, one Alan Thomas, president of the local home owners association says it was a “vicious attack” and in a sign of things to come said, “I'm not naive enough to think there aren't predators in this part of New Mexico, but seeing two wolves appear out of nowhere and grab a huge deer right off the pavement in broad daylight was a sobering reminder to be ever vigilant when walking, jogging or bicycle riding."

New Mexico is about to become a very “wolfy” state, with the fully protected Rocky Mountain gray wolf north of I-40 and the experimental population of the Mexican gray wolf south of I-40.  This will start to impact more and more residents, even higher education.  The UNM Lobos fit right in, but the NMSU Aggies really doesn’t fit with our new “wolfy” status and they are due a name change.  I would suggest the NMSU Trappers.

Columbine-Hondo Wilderness

Senator Martin Heinrich has announced the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act has cleared the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and awaits action by the full Senate.  The legislation would designate as Wilderness 45,000 acres in the Carson National Forest in Taos County.  Heinrich says the acreage has been managed as a Wilderness Study Area since 1980.

Forest Service litigation

The Society of American Foresters has published a new study providing litigation statistics for 1989 to 2008. During that time period, 1,125 lawsuits were filed in federal court over federal land management. The Forest Service won 53.8 percent, lost 23.3 percent and settled in 22.9 percent (that means the Forest Service “lost” 47 percent of the time and money was awarded to the enviro attorneys). The Forest Service was more likely to lose or settle cases in the last six years of the study. Of the lawsuits, 78.9 percent sought less resource use within the National Forest System. Eighty two laws governed the Forest Service's land management decisions, according to the study. Plaintiffs alleged that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act in 71.5 percent of cases, the National Forest Management Act in 48.8 percent of cases, and the Endangered Species Act in 17.6 percent of cases.

NEPA is a money bank for the enviros and is preventing scientific management of our forests and endangering nearby communities.  The new majority in Congress needs to fix this.

Protesting PETA

In October two PETA workers, driving a PETA van, entered the yard of one Wilbur Zarate and from his porch absconded with the family’s pet Chihuahua.  There had been other animal disappearances in the neighborhood and that would have been the end of the story except for one thing:  a security camera on the property captured it all.  PETA euthanized the dog which had been a gift to Zarate’s nine year-old daughter.  However, the Accomack County Commonwealth's Attorney Office has refused to prosecute.  A rally has been held and over 2,000 folks signed a petition requesting he change his position, all to no avail.  The prosecutor says there was no criminal intent since there had been reports of stray dogs in the area.

According to official Virginia state records, PETA has killed almost 32,000 pets. Anyone who has followed PETA over the years knows exactly what their intent was.

Interior IG probes VIP trips

The Inspector General for the Department of the Interior has begun a review of senior Obama administration officials using a vacation lodge in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. In a Nov. 6 memo to Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall said her office would be conducting a review of his agency's "management and operation" of the park's Brinkerhoff Lodge. That review "will include an examination of management policies and practices associated with the operation of the Lodge, to include identifying what guests have used the Lodge without payment and for what purpose."

Need a vacation that includes lodging with liberals?  Just call Obama and then hope Michelle is not in charge of the menu.  Otherwise its roots and shoots for breakfast.

Michelle’s military – too fat to fight?

I’ve written before on how the Pentagon is teaming up with Michelle Obama to push her anti-meat school lunch program.  Now a group of retired generals and admirals are saying childhood obesity is a threat to national security and have issued a report titled Too Fat To Fight which claims that a quarter of 17- to 24-year-old Americans are too heavy to join the military.  The other 75 percent is not a big enough pool for you?  Instead you are calling for “for school districts to limit the sale of junk food and for national legislation to enforce those limits and to fund better school lunch options.”  In other words, more funding for Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

These generals should remember we have an all volunteer military and our kids are not exactly buying in to Michelle’s diet.  Her quest for healthy school lunches has sparked a backlash from the very people who are served the grub in cafeterias across America.  A campaign has gone viral where students take photos of their lunches and share them on Twitter using the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.

I would suggest to our friends in the military that you leave parenting on nutrition up to the parents.  And since your own report admits there is a weight problem with folks already in the military, solve your internal problem before you start barking orders at others and finally, Super Size your tanks, not the government.

I’ll close with some good news.  Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah will be the next Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.  He’s a friend to federal lands ranchers.  I’ve also just learned that Jason Knox will be his Chief of Staff.  Jason is also a friend who has attended NM Cattle Growers meetings.

Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Very Prosperous New Year!

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.

Versions of this column originally appeared in the NM Stockman and Livestock Market Digest.

Is Government Faithful to the Constitution?


When the government is waving at us with its right hand, so to speak, it is the government’s left hand that we should be watching. Just as a magician draws your attention to what he wants you to see so you will not observe how his trick is performed, last week presented a textbook example of public disputes masking hidden deceptions. Here is what happened.

Last week was dominated by two huge news stories. One was the revelation by the Senate Intelligence Committee of torture committed by CIA agents and contractors on 119 detainees in the post-9/11 era — 26 of whom were tortured for months by mistake. In that revelation of anguish and error were the conclusions by CIA agents themselves that their torture had not produced helpful information. President Barack Obama acknowledged that the CIA had tortured, yet he directed the Department of Justice not to prosecute those who tortured and those who authorized it.

The other substantial news story was the compromise achieved by Congress and the White House to fund the government through the end of September 2015. That legislation, which is 2,000 pages in length, was not read by anyone who voted for it. It spends a few hundred billion dollars more than the government will collect in tax revenue. The compromise was achieved through bribery; members of Congress bought and sold votes by adding goodies (in the form of local expenditures of money borrowed by the federal government) to the bill that were never debated or independently voted upon and were added solely to achieve the votes needed for passage. This is how the federal government operates today. Both parties participate in it. They have turned the public treasury into a public trough.

Hidden in the law that authorized the government to spend more than it will collect was a part about funding for the 16 federal civilian intelligence agencies. And hidden in that was a clause, inserted by the same Senate Intelligence Committee that revealed the CIA torture, authorizing the National Security Agency to gather and retain nonpublic data for five years and to share it with law enforcement and with foreign governments. “Nonpublic data” is the government’s language referring to the content of the emails, text messages, telephone calls, bank statements, utility bills and credit card bills of nearly every innocent person in America — including members of Congress, federal judges, public officials and law enforcement officials. I say “innocent” because the language of this legislation — which purports to make lawful the NSA spying we now all know about — makes clear that those who spy upon us needn’t have any articulable suspicion or probable cause for spying.

The need for articulable suspicion and probable cause has its origins in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which was written to prohibit what Congress just authorized. That amendment was a reaction to the brutish British practice of rummaging through the homes of American colonists, looking for anything that might be illegal. It is also a codification of our natural right to privacy. It requires that if the government wants nonpublic data from our persons, houses, papers or effects, it must first present evidence of probable cause to a judge and then ask the judge for a search warrant.

Probable cause is a level of evidence that is sufficient to induce a judge into concluding that it is more likely than not that the place to be examined contains evidence of crimes. In order to seek probable cause, the government must first have an articulable suspicion about the person or place it has targeted. Were this not in the law, then nothing would stop the government from fishing expeditions in pursuit of anyone it wants to pursue. And fishing expeditions turn the presumption of liberty on its head. The presumption of liberty is based on the belief that our rights are natural to us and that we may exercise them without a permission slip from the government and without its surveillance.

Until last week, that is. Last week, Congress, by authorizing the massive NSA spying to continue and by authorizing the spies to share what they have seized with law enforcement, basically permitted the fishing expeditions that the Fourth Amendment was written to prevent.

Today’s Chuckles

by Becky Akers

If you find yourself in need of a laugh after a week of torture, politicians, and bureaucratic lunacy, Bill Martin’s come to the rescue. He sent me these bon mots a gun shop in Texas posted on its marquee:
We like our guns locked up safe and secure like Obama’s birth records.

Criminals obey gun laws like politicians follow their oaths of office.

Guns are cheap compared to Obamacare and have better coverage.
And my favorite–
I like my guns like Obama likes his voters:  undocumented.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to Restore 'Innocent Until Proven Guilty'

by Jared Meyer

Many Americans have not heard of civil forfeiture, but this outrageous, and expanding, law enforcement tactic is becoming more difficult to ignore.

Civil forfeiture does not receive the condemnation it deserves because most people cannot believe that, in the United States, the government can take property from individuals without charging them with a crime. This is the type of behavior expected of the Venezuelan government, not of the United States, where individuals are supposed to be assumed innocent until proven guilty.

Instead of charging property owners and having to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” in civil forfeiture cases, law enforcement charges the property itself—which does not enjoy the same legal protection as do individuals. All that is necessary for civil forfeiture is suspicion based on a “preponderance of evidence” that some property was connected with criminal activity. The burden of proof to prove property not guilty is on individuals, as it is assumed to be guilty.

The government developed civil forfeiture laws to combat drug dealers and money launderers, but this system is now used to target innocent individuals. The warped logic behind civil forfeiture abuses is that property—inanimate objects—took part in crimes. People can use property to commit crimes, but it makes no sense to argue that vehicles, homes, or piles of cash willingly undertook criminal actions.
Though property is being charged, civil forfeiture victimizes innocent individuals. Take, for example, the case of Roderick Daniels. Daniels was pulled over in 2007 in Tenaha, Texas for going 37 in a 35 mph zone. Officers discovered $8,500 in cash that Daniels planned to use to buy a car. Daniels was forced to forfeit his money when the officers threatened him with money-laundering charges.

This situation is similar to the experience of George Reby, who had $22,000 stolen from him last year in Tennessee after he was stopped for speeding. Officer Larry Bates asked Reby if he had any large sums of cash in his vehicle and, when Reby answered truthfully, Bates proceeded to take all the cash under forfeiture laws. This happened even though Reby had proof that he was using the money to buy a car, evidenced by his active bids on eBay. During an interview, when Bates was asked why he did not include this critical fact in his report, Bates responded, “I don’t know.” Carrying cash is apparently all the evidence of guilt he needed.

These cases are not isolated. The value of property seized under civil forfeiture laws, including cars, homes, boats, electronics, jewelry, and other property, increased nearly tenfold from $407 million nationwide in 2001 to $4.3 billion in 2012. Over that time period, police have seized $2.5 billion in cash alone from almost 62,000 people without warrants or indictments, according to a Washington Post investigation.

Some states and localities have taken positive steps toward combatting civil forfeiture abuse. This summer, Minnesota enacted a law requiring criminal conviction before property can be taken. Earlier this month, Washington, D.C. also passed a bill to overhaul its forfeiture laws. However, civil forfeiture is not just a state and local issue. The federal government creates perverse incentives that perpetuate civil forfeiture abuse.

When federal law enforcement agencies seize property under forfeiture laws, the proceeds are transferred to the Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture Fund, where the funds can be directed to law enforcement activities.

The federal government’s role does not end here. Under the federal equitable sharing program, funds seized by local law enforcement can be transferred to the federal level to bypass state or local prohibitions against civil forfeiture, with Washington taking a 20 percent cut (which goes to DOJ's Fund). States and localities are powerless to do anything when the federal government awards forfeiture funds to local law enforcement, as federal law trumps state or local law.

There are practically no restrictions on how forfeiture funds can be used.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mimbres apple growers named Farm Family of Year

John and Josie York, apple growers in the Mimbres Valley, were named Farm Family of the Year by the state's largest agriculture organization at the 96th annual meeting of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau. When they met, John was on leave from the Navy and Josie was a student at New Mexico Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, now known as New Mexico State University. When John's stint in the Navy was done, he enrolled in New Mexico A&M, pursuing dual degrees in horticulture and biology. Upon graduation, he went to work for the soil and water conservation service, where he spent his entire career. He retired in 1992 and the Yorks moved to the Mimbres Valley, where they had purchased an apple orchard. There they grow asparagus, table grapes and several varieties of apples, including winesaps, golden delicious and Jonathans, and several antique varieties including Jonagold, Arkansas black and sweet sixteen. They market their apples through farmers markets in New Mexico and Arizona, and through word of mouth. The Yorks have four children — Craig, Daunann, Nolen and Heather — and 10 grandchildren, the oldest of which is completing her doctorate degree as a pharmacist. The Yorks have been active in the Grant County Farm Bureau for over 20 years. John York has served as president for many years, and was on the state board for a decade. They have hosted pancake breakfasts at the county fair to recruit members, built parade floats and have found new ways to involve local 4-H and FFA students into county Farm Bureau activities...more

Range-riding wolf patrol shows signs of success

In a place where wolf recovery is about as divisive as politics or religion, one program is cutting through the controversy. For the last three summers, a pilot program has put patrols on the range to keep tabs on where the wolves are, and to check up on livestock that could be nearby. Funded by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife with a match from ranchers donated mostly by the nonprofit group Conservation Northwest, the program expanded last summer to include five ranchers with cattle or sheep grazing in areas now occupied by wolf packs. The idea is to prevent wolves from killing livestock. And so far, it’s working. Twisp cattle rancher Karla Christianson, who signed on last summer, said she was initially skeptical about the program. She said she wants to get along with the wolves, but after signing the contract with the state and Conservation Northwest, she wondered what she was getting into. Her cattle spend the summer in the same area where the Lookout Pack was discovered in 2008 as the state’s first wolf pack in 70 years. It’s also where she thinks wolves killed three of her calves in 2009. Jay Kehne, outreach coordinator for Conservation Northwest, and a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife commissioner, said they started with one rancher in 2012, worked the bugs out and gradually built to five range riders last year. In addition to Christianson, they worked with ranchers in Stevens and Kittitas counties, and on the Colville Indian Reservation. When a rancher signs up for the Fish and Wildlife program, they’re eligible for up to $10,000 from the state to hire a range rider and pay for gas and other costs. “How they choose to use it is up to them,” he said. For the ranchers involved so far, Conser-vation Northwest has donated $9,000 for each of the five range riders hired. After three summers, ranchers who participated have not lost any livestock to wolves...more

Dead cow clogs Utah slot canyon, rancher’s impromptu barbecue makes things worse

Earlier this month a cow wandered into a southern Utah slot canyon. But it won’t be coming out in one piece. Some of it may not come out at all after a rancher’s effort to rescue the animal ended in its death, dismemberment and partial incineration. Now the popular hiking canyon in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is permeated by the acrid odor of rotting meat and officials are trying to figure out how to clean up the mess. The trouble started Dec. 9 when a monument visitor notified officials of an adult cow trapped in the canyon, which hikers access from the Hole in the Rock road east of Escalante. Most of the monument is grazed, but dogs and cows are not allowed in Peek-a-Boo or neighboring gulches which drain toward the Escalante River. Fences cross the monument’s range to keep cows out of slot canyons, but they often are damaged during fall storms. Monument officials believe the cow entered through a fresh breach...more 

Every cow should know you can't play peek-a-boo in a National Monument; it's forbidden.

The Carnivores Next Door


The Jutland wolf may be a harbinger of a broader recovery. According to a study published today in the journal Science, Europe is “succeeding in maintaining, and to some extent restoring, viable large carnivore populations on a continental scale.” Historically, these same carnivores—bears, wolves, wolverines, and lynx—were zealously hunted. In 813, for example, Charlemagne established the luparii, an élite corps charged with killing wolves; though the animals held out against the luparii for more than a thousand years, by the nineteen-thirties they were believed to be extinct in France. (The luparii, for their part, survive in vestigial form as the lieutenants de louveterie, volunteer wildlife officers who help manage France’s populations of boars, jackdaws, and other nuisance creatures.) In recent decades, however, the European landscape has become considerably more predator-friendly.  The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, which took effect in 1982, greatly restricted the conditions under which large carnivores could be captured or killed. At the same time, urbanization was drawing people away from the countryside and its wild inhabitants. In 1950, about half of the European population lived in urban areas; today, nearly three-quarters does.

Carnivores have also learned, in a sense, to live with people. According to Adrian Treves, a wildlife biologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, European brown bears, which are closely related to grizzlies, are shyer and more nocturnal than their American brethren. “Over many generations, the brown bears of Europe have adapted to the risk posed by people,” Treves told me. Likewise, European wolves have broadened their diet, eating not only large prey, such as deer, but also small mammals and carrion—and, in the case of at least one Greek wolf, apples and figs. As the Science study notes, a third of the European mainland is now home to at least one large predator species. Wolves have established permanent residence in twenty-eight European countries, brown bears in twenty-two, and lynx in twenty-three; large carnivores can be seen in forests, farmland, and even, at times, in suburbs. Though the study’s authors acknowledge that some isolated populations remain critically endangered, they conclude that, over all, Europe’s large carnivores are an “often underappreciated conservation success story.” And the comeback, though not without its hitches, has elicited little public fuss. Run-ins with humans are rare, and in many places traditional livestock-protection measures—including the use of guard dogs and shepherds—have been sustained or revived. “If you want to conserve large predators, you don’t need to exclude people,” Guillaume Chapron, one of the Science study’s lead authors, told me. “You just need to have the political will to coexist.”

In the Western United States, attitudes toward large predators are less measured.

I wouldn't recommend playing peek-a-boo with wolves either.

Wolf attacks are suspected cause of death of commissioner’s sheep

More sheep have been killed by a wolf or wolves in northwestern Whitman County since the county’s first attack in decades occurred on Dec. 9. On Tuesday, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials investigated three dead sheep where about 1,200 sheep are being pastured in stubble fields near the Spokane and Lincoln county borders. One of three Anatolian shepherds protecting the sheep has been missing for about a week and is presumed dead, the ranchers said. The mother and sister of the missing 4-year-old male dog also were with the sheep but are unharmed. Both wolf depredation events occurred on sheep belonging to Whitman County Commissioner Art Swannack near his ranch north of Lamont. Wildlife officials confirmed on Wednesday that one pregnant ewe was killed by a wolf or wolves. The other two sheep could not positively be confirmed as wolf kills because the remains were too sparse, said Nate Pamplin, the agency’s assistant director in Olympia...more

District court limits tiering of biological opinions

On December 5, 2014, a federal district court held that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it relied entirely on existing programmatic biological opinions to satisfy its formal consultation obligations. The court’s decision is likely to impact the manner in which FWS cross-references or “tiers to” existing biological opinions in evaluating the impacts of a site-specific project on listed species. In Native Ecosystems Council v. Krueger, the plaintiffs challenged a decision by the U.S. Forest Service authorizing commercial logging on 1,750 acres of the Gallatin National Forest. The plaintiffs brought claims under the ESA, alleging that the FWS improperly relied on previous biological opinions for the grizzly bear and the Canada lynx during the formal consultation process, instead of preparing project-specific biological opinions. The court in Native Ecosystems Council acknowledged that tiering was permissible in some circumstances, but focused its decision on whether based on the facts before it the ESA required a second biological opinion, or whether the two previous programmatic biological opinions adequately analyzed the logging project’s potential impacts on grizzly bears and Canada lynx. Op. at 4-5. The court determined a second biological opinion was necessary because the previous opinions did not address all of the potential impacts to the species identified by the Forest Service as part of the site-specific logging project. Op. at 5-13. The court acknowledged that the FWS did not need to redo the previous analysis to the extent that previous analysis was relevant to the logging project, but that it was not excused from evaluating new potential impacts of the project beyond the scope of the previous analysis, even if the FWS believed them to be insignificant...more

Group petitions for grizzly bear reintroduction in Selway-Bitterroot

The Center for Biological Diversity wants to restart efforts to transplant grizzly bears into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness along the Montana-Idaho border. The national environmental group formally petitioned Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe on Thursday to craft a new rule reintroducing the bears. The 16 million-acre area is one of six overseen by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and the only one with no resident grizzlies. FWS grizzly bear recovery coordinator Chris Servheen said the area was already approved for an experimental population of grizzlies with an initial reintroduction of 25 bears. That plan was developed in 1996, but shelved in 2001. “The funding has never been available to do it,” Servheen said. “It doesn’t expire or need renewal, and it’s never been withdrawn. But you can’t just drop money on something and it happens.” Santarsiere said the state and federal wildlife agencies shouldn’t be working on delisting grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act before they re-establish a grizzly population in the Selway-Bitterroot...more

Crucial Keystone ruling could come Friday

The Nebraska Supreme Court could rule as early as Friday on whether the governor had authority to approve a route for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state. The court heard arguments in the case in September after a lower court ruled against against a 2012 law that allowed Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) to greenlight Keystone’s route. The lower court said that law was unconstitutional, siding with landowners who challenged it. Now both sides are anxiously awaiting the Nebraska Supreme Court's decision, which could come Friday morning. The decision is key to the larger debate over the oil sands pipeline. Depending on which way the court rules, the State Department could resume its national determination review of the pipeline early next year. The Obama administration froze its review of the pipeline in April to let the Nebraska court fight play out, enraging Republicans, the oil industry and pipeline developer TransCanada. If the court doesn’t hand down a decision by Friday, the ruling will likely come early next year...more

Climate change could cut world food output 18 percent by 2050

Global warming could cause an 18 percent drop in world food production by 2050, but investments in irrigation and infrastructure, and moving food output to different regions, could reduce the loss, a study published on Thursday said. Globally, irrigation systems should be expanded by more than 25 percent to cope with changing rainfall patterns, the study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters said. Where they should be expanded is difficult to model because of competing scenarios on how rainfall will change, so the majority of irrigation investments should be made after 2030, the study said. International food markets will require closer integration to respond to global warming, as production will become more difficult in some southern regions, but new land further north will become available for growing crops. If climate change is managed correctly, food production could even rise 3 percent by 2050, the study said, as a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a fertilizing effect on plants...more 

Those scientists might want to check in with their local enviros about expanding dams by 25 percent.  Rest assured they'd let us all fry before agreeing to more dams and irrigation.

Protection sought for scenic California region

A contingent of California environmental groups, business representatives and politicians will use a visit Friday from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to push for permanent protection of some 350,000 acres of picturesque federal land near the state's famous wine country. Congress declined this session to pass legislation from Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson that would have designated the land as a national conservation area, and companion legislation by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer also faltered. That prompted Thompson and other supporters to push the Obama administration to act on its own and designate it a national monument. The difference revolves primarily around who does the authorizing. Congress approves new national conservation areas, while presidents can protect wildland and historical sites as national monuments. Officials said the practical effect is the same — permanent protection of federal land that can lead to greater recreational opportunities but also restrictions on new mining and other commercial activities. Three separate federal agencies currently manage land in the region that Thompson wants to set aside: the U.S. Forest Service; Bureau of Land Management; and Bureau of Reclamation...more

Peñasco native to head U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Estevan R. López, former director of New Mexico’s Interstate Stream Commission, as the new head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. As commissioner, López will oversee a 112-year old agency responsible for dams, hydroelectric power plants, reservoirs and canals it built in 17 states to foster development. The agency is the largest wholesale supplier of water in the nation. López, a Peñasco, N.M. native, directed the Interstate Stream Commission under the administrations of both Gov. Susana Martinez and former Gov. Bill Richardson. López worked as the Santa Fe County manager and director of the county’s land use and utilities departments before becoming the Interstate Stream Commission director in 2003. He earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and petroleum engineering from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Pres. Barack Obama nominated López to head the Bureau of Reclamation in March. López has served as the principal deputy commissioner of the agency since October...more

Thousands of cattle quarantined near Yellowstone

Several thousand head of cattle have been quarantined in Montana after a cow near Yellowstone National Park tested positive for brucellosis, the livestock disease feared by ranchers and carried by elk and bison, state livestock officials said.
 The disruption comes at a crucial moment for the region’s beef producers, who are in the midst of readying the bulk of their herds for sale at a time of record high prices for the cattle they bring to auction.
 The quarantine will for the time being place off-limits livestock belonging to the rancher whose cow tested positive — likely infected by an elk — and neighbouring producers whose herds may have been exposed through intermingling of livestock, officials said.
 But the finding will not cost Montana its prized brucellosis-free status, which allows cows to be shipped across state lines without vaccination or testing, he said.

Coyote Catalog available for hunters, landowners

The Coyote Catalog, a statewide effort connecting coyote hunters and trappers with landowners who want fewer coyotes in their areas, has been reopened by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “I encourage landowners, especially farmers and ranchers who have problems with coyote depredation, to sign up for the Coyote Catalog,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said in a news release. “Hunting and trapping are valuable tools in managing these predators.” This past season, 74 landowners signed up for the Coyote Catalog, a more than 50 percent increase over the previous year. Nearly 900 hunters and trappers also signed up. The Coyote Catalog will remain active through March 31. NDDA officials estimate livestock producers in North Dakota lost more than $1 million last year to coyotes. At the same time, coyotes are a popular furbearer species for hunters and trappers...more

Rancho Co-Owner Will Go To Trial Alone, Three Others Make Plea Deals

Jury selection will begin July 16, 2015, in the federal criminal conspiracy case involving former Rancho Feeding Corp. co-owner Jesse J. Amaral Jr. The 76-year-old cattle company executive will be tried alone as three others, implicated in the alleged conspiracy to sell for human consumption cattle known to have cancerous eyeballs, have all made deals with the prosecution. Felix Sandoval Cabrera, 55, the foreman of Rancho’s slaughterhouse at Petaluma, CA, is the latest to reach a plea agreement with the government, entering a single guilty plea to count 7 of the original indictment last Aug. 14 charging him with distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat. Earlier, Eugene D. Corda, the 65-year-old Rancho yardman, and 77-year-old Robert Singleton, Rancho’s other co-owner, also entered guilty pleas to the same sole count. That leaves only Amaral going to trial next July. The court-approved plea agreements the other three defendants have with the government are sealed, but it’s likely that all three have agreed to appear at the trial as government witnesses against him...more

Cowgirl boots

BOOT trends come and go every fall – over-the-knee, ankle, combat, wedges – but one boot remains, impervious to passing fads: the cowboy boot. The cowboy boot entered mainstream fashion beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, when actors like Roy Rogers glamorised cowboys onscreen. Its popularity has ebbed and flowed since then (John Travolta, the star of “Urban Cowboy,” could be called the Roy Rogers of the 1980s), but has never gone out of style. And in the last 10 years, the cowboy boot has experienced a new boom -- especially among women. Wade Allen, the owner of The Bull Chute Western Wear in Raleigh, says for years now he has been selling more boots to women than to men. “I never would’ve predicted that 60 to 70 per cent of my boot sales would be from selling ladies’ boots,” he said. “It’s become a fashion staple in people’s closets. It started when these suburban moms got into cowboy boots about 10 years ago and turned them into a fashion statement. Since then, younger generations have embraced the boot as well.” Designed in the mid-1800s by boot makers for ranchers, the cowboy boot features an underslung heel and high boot shaft, which protected the cowboy’s feet and kept them in stirrups while riding horses. On the day of this year’s first North Carolina State football game, local sports radio personality Joe Ovies tweeted, “As I walk up to Carter-Finley (Stadium), a couple thoughts. 1) Cowboy boots are still a thing ...” Yes, they are. Even in the heat of August, all across the stadium young women were decked out in cowboy boots and short dresses. In fact, Allen said many college girls pick up their boots at his store specifically for football games. He even carries cowboy boots branded with college logos just for that. Larry Denny of Raleigh, who sells cowboy boots at his booth at the Raleigh Flea Market at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, sees the same trend. “A lot of college girls come and get cowboy boots from me,” Denny said. “The sales are best in the fall.”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1337

Can Santa do the mambo?  That's what Terry Fell wants to find out with his We Wanna See Santa Do The Mambo. 

Artist Biography by Cub Koda

Known for his one big hit, 1954's "Truck Driving Man," Terry Fell is but a footnote in country history, but an important one nonetheless. His hit literally spawned the whole truck driving saga that is still a major part of country music's lyrical pool. He was also the first to see the promise in a young Buck Owens, signing him to a manager's contract and using him as a lead guitarist on his sessions.

Fell started his recording career around 1945 as a member of Billy Hughes' group for Fargo Records. After the lone Fargo release, Fell recorded for Courtney and 4-Star, kicking up enough noise and sales with the 4-Star singles to get signed to RCA Victor's new 'X' subsidiary in 1954. It was at his first RCA session held in Hollywood that Fell waxed his first, and biggest, hit, the two-sided smash "Don't Drop It" and the immortal "Truck Drivin' Man." At first, "Don't Drop It" was the side to watch, spawning no less than five different cover versions for two different marketplaces. But it was the flip side that became the classic, spawning innumerable cover versions and hitting again on the country charts as late as 1976 for Red Steagall. Fell stayed with RCA and show business for the next five or six years, seeing no more hits but making serious inroads into the behind-the-scenes side of Nashville. Although he continued to record sporadically for Crest, Lode, and even RCA again, he had made the successful move into songwriting and music publishing, earning far more than he ever had as a performer.