Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Greens Go to Bat for Threatened Woodpecker

A rushed logging project clearing 5,000 acres in a burned Northern California forest could hurt the threatened black-backed woodpecker, a "keystone species," environmentalists claim in court. The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Forest Service on July 30 in Federal Court, claiming it violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving a logging project without enough research on its environmental impact. The Center says the Forest Service fast-tracked the Bald Project without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement and the logging could have severe impacts on the threatened black-backed woodpecker. A keystone species has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance. Carnivorous predators may be keystone species, for instance, or insects that are the sole pollinators of a species of plant, upon which other creatures may depend, or a plant that provides the sole source of food for an animal during a season. The Center claims that four significant Lassen County fires in 2014 created "high-quality black-backed woodpecker habitat" and that the Forest Service's proposed salvage-logging project would eliminate 67 percent of the birds in the area. It claims the Forest Service misstated the impacts on the species by focusing on the broader population, which includes Canada and Alaska, not the Northern California population. "This resulted in the Forest Service minimizing impacts to the species by not focusing their analysis on the appropriate scale," the complaint states. "Impacts to an isolated distinct population will be much more severe than to a broader population." The center settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014, forcing the federal government to consider listing the black-backed woodpecker as an endangered species and rule on it by 2017...more

California’s Largest Fire Is Moving At An ‘Unprecedented’ Rate

Wildfires continue to rage in California, where the largest of the 21 blazes covered 65,000 acres Tuesday morning and has killed at least one person. At least two dozen homes have been destroyed by the Rocky Fire in Northern California, which jumped Highway 20 — a planned containment line — on Monday night. The blaze is only 12 percent contained and is not expected to be contained for at least another week, according to CAL FIRE, the state’s fire department. The Rocky Fire burned 20,000 acres in five hours, an “unprecedented” rate, according to Daniel Berlant, chief of public information for CAL FIRE.“We’ve been running fires here since the beginning of January,” Berlant said on KFBK radio Tuesday morning. The fire season “never really ended last year,” he added, blaming the four years of drought in the state. He said thousands of homes are still threatened...more

EPA Issues More Ambitious But Flexible Final Clean Power Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final Clean Power Plan will seek to tamp down the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power sector by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030—about 9% more ambitious than its original proposal. The first-ever final national standards to limit CO2 from power plants, released today—”the biggest, most important step we’ve taken to address climate change,” said President Obama—give states more time to develop and tailor plans. State plans are now due in September 2016, but states that need more time can make an initial submission and request extensions of up to two years for final plan submission. The compliance averaging period in the final rule begins in 2022 instead of 2020, and emission reductions are phased in on a gradual ‘glide path’ to 2030. According to documents released today, the Clean Power Plan is paired with a so-called “Clean Energy Incentive Program,” which is designed to drive “additional early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency.” It will see credits for power generated from renewables in 2020 and 2021 be awarded to projects that begin construction after participating states submit their final implementation plans...more

New Mexico not expected to fight EPA's emission-cutting rule

New Mexico properly prepared for President Barack Obama's efforts to cut greenhouse gases from power plants and won't be among the many Republican-led states expected to fight the plan, state Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said Monday. Flynn told The Associated Press that because New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez had previously brokered an agreement, the state is in position to adapt to the new rule. "I think we can look back at the decisions we made three years ago and say they paid off," Flynn said. Martinez moved to comply with the rule to allow the state to craft its own path to compliance. Flynn said New Mexico could have faced a federally imposed implementation plan. That brokered agreement targeted haze-causing pollution at the San Juan Generating Station, but carbon dioxide emissions will also be reduced by half as a result...more

The Martinez administration went along with the President on ObamaCare, and we've seen how that worked out.  Time will tell on this one.

If NM doesn't join with the other states in challenging the rule, then they are in effect saying they support the rule.  Don't Sec. Flynn and the Governor understand that?  

Move to Fight Obama’s Climate Plan Started Early

In the early months of 2014, a group of about 30 corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists and Republican political strategists began meeting regularly in the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, often, according to some of the participants, in a conference room overlooking the White House. Their task was to start devising a legal strategy for dismantling the climate change regulations they feared were coming from President Obama. The group — headed in part by Roger R. Martella Jr., a top environmental official in the George W. Bush administration, and Peter Glazer, a prominent Washington lobbyist — was getting an early start. By the time Mr. Obama announced the regulations at the White House on Monday, the small group that had begun its work at the Chamber of Commerce had expanded into a vast network of lawyers and lobbyists ranging from state capitols to Capitol Hill, aided by Republican governors and congressional leaders. And their plan was to challenge Mr. Obama at every opportunity and take the fight against what, if enacted, would be one of his signature accomplishments to the Supreme Court Within minutes of the announcement, West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, stepped before a bank of cameras for a news conference at the Greenbrier resort in his home state. Flanked by Mike Duncan, the president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, one of the nation’s top coal lobbying groups, and Greg Zoeller, the attorney general of Indiana, Mr. Morrisey announced that a group of at least 15 Republican state attorneys general were preparing to jointly file a legal challenge to Mr. Obama’s proposal. While Mr. Obama had not even put forth a draft proposal of his plans when the group started its work, the president had made plain in several speeches that he intended to act forcefully on climate change — and that he would flex the muscle of his executive authority to do so. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said in his 2013 State of the Union address. The lawyers and lobbyists wanted to be ready to fire back hard and fast when he did. In devising its strategy, the group worked closely with the office of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader whose coal-producing home state also stands to suffer under the regulation. While Mr. McConnell opposes the climate change regulations, his advisers knew that he had little chance of enacting legislation to block them in Congress. Instead, Mr. McConnell has taken the unusual step of reaching out directly to governors and attorneys general, urging them to refuse to submit compliance plans for the regulations, and encouraging a state-by-state rejection of the rules...more

Herbert pleads with Obama to stop any new monument designations in Utah

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wrote a letter to President Obama on Monday, urging the president to refrain from any new monument designations in the state. "There is a right way and a wrong way to determine land management decisions," he said. "Unilateral monuments are the wrong way. Ground up, open, public processes are the right way." Herbert noted the 1996 designation by then-President Bill Clinton creating the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, an action that still stings. "Nearly two decades later, this designation continues to be a source of mistrust, frustration and acrimony toward the federal government among local residents," he said. "I am certain that another presidential monument in Utah will likewise result in decades of resentment and conflict."...more

Utah's Governor takes a strong stand.  Our Governor was silent.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Photos of endangered animals shine on Empire State Building

Dozens of people stopped in Manhattan intersections gazing at photos of endangered animals shining on the side of the Empire State Building. Organizers say the Saturday night event was a first-of-its-kind live video projection. It drew large crowds of spectators, many taking photos with their smartphones. Images of endangered animals, including birds, tigers, bears and other creatures, shined on the south side of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The event was meant to spark conversations about mass extinction. It was organized as part of a promotion for a new Discovery Channel documentary, Racing Extinction, which is set to air in December.  AP

State Game and Fish Dept. rejects federal request to release wolf pups

SANTA FE – The state Department of Game and Fish has turned down requests from the federal government to release Mexican wolf pups and an adult pair onto U.S. Forest Service land in New Mexico this year. That followed the state Game Commission’s rejection of permit renewals for Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch wolf-holding facility in Sierra County, considered key to the federal program. Both denials are being appealed to the commission and are on the agenda for its Aug. 27 meeting. They’re the latest bumps in the road to Mexican wolf recovery, which has gotten rockier under the administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it’s the first time New Mexico has rejected the agency’s annual operational permit request. “Our desire is to work with the state as we move forward with wolf recovery. … The denial of this permit request will adversely affect our ability to recover the Mexican Wolf,” the federal agency said in a statement. Critics say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t need state permission to carry out its mandate for wolf recovery and should just forge ahead. The Fish and Wildlife Service asked the state for permits to import and release up to 10 wolf pups for a cross-fostering program. Pups up to 10 days old that were bred in captivity in other states would be inserted into active dens in the Gila National Forest, then raised in the wild by the surrogate parents. Recovery advocates say it’s critical to the success of the program that the genetics of the wolf population – bred from just seven wolves – be broadened. The federal agency also asked for a permit for the release of two wolves and their offspring into the Gila. While the plan was to release them on national forest lands in Arizona, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it wanted New Mexico’s approval in case the plan had to be changed. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Director Alexandra Sandoval rejected both requests last month, citing “the lack of a federal species management plan, i.e., recovery plan.”...more

Editorial: Feinstein water bill better than the last, but...

...The legislation's weaknesses come to light with a careful reading of the 147-page document, however.

Feinstein proposes allocating $600 million for additional storage in the form of new dams and reservoirs -- most of which would be less efficient and more damaging to the environment than alternative storage proposals.

Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says Section 312 of the bill would eliminate the requirement that Congress approve any new dams. Instead the U.S. Secretary of Interior would be able to approve a project if it is technically and financially feasible and -- here's the catch -- has what can be described as acceptable environmental impacts.

The language isn't as strong as Gov. Jerry Brown's $7.5 billion water bond, Proposition 1, that voters overwhelmingly approved last November. The measure required that any new dam projects must have environmental benefits, not just costs "acceptable" to whoever is sitting in the Secretary of Interior's office.

Feinstein says coming up with this bill, balancing all the vocal and conflicting interests, is one of the most difficult she's done in her 23 years in the U.S. Senate. We don't doubt it.

But it should pass only if it sufficiently protects California's environment for future generations -- and leaving it up to one political appointee, the Interior secretary, with no direct responsibility to voters looks dubious to us..

Someone should immediately shut off the water to this newspaper.  They can then layoff all employees, editors first.  Before they go they should explain to the rest of the employees and their families, and to any stockholders, that this is for future generations.

Sage grouse numbers surged in '14 and '15 -- report

Greater sage grouse numbers in the West have grown by nearly two-thirds since 2013, marking what could be a significant rebound to the bird's previous several years of decline, according to scientists in Western states. Western state biologists said they spotted 80,284 male sage grouse across the West in 2015, a 40 percent jump over the 57,399 that were spotted in 2014 and 63 percent over the 49,397 that were spotted in 2013, according to yet-to-be-published research compiled by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and shared with Greenwire. Sage grouse experts caution against drawing conclusions from the two-year spike, noting that sage grouse populations appear to fluctuate on roughly decadelong cycles and are influenced in the short term by precipitation. Yet the new data from state fish and game agencies is undeniably good news for Western states that are fighting to keep the bird from being listed under the Endangered Species Act. The WAFWA data are being sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service to inform its pending decision on whether grouse need ESA protection. The recent population bump "was huge," said Tom Remington, a sage grouse coordinator at WAFWA who compiled the data and presented it last month at WAFWA's summer meeting in Reno, Nev. Remington is a former director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife...more

1,200-Year-Old Arizona Pouches Contain Prehistoric ‘Chewing Tobacco,’ Study Finds

Dozens of small, fiber-wrapped bundles discovered in a cave in Arizona have been found to contain wild tobacco, the first scientific evidence suggesting that Ancestral Puebloans of the prehistoric Southwest chewed tobacco for personal use, archaeologists say. Such chewed bundles, known as quids, have been found throughout the Southwest, from Texas to California, often with teeth marks still visible. But what they contained, and what purpose they served, was uncertain until now. The Arizona quids were originally excavated in the 1950s from a trash midden at the rear of Antelope Cave, a rocky enclave filled with artifacts left by Ancestral Puebloans over an extended period around 1,200 years ago. The cave contained a wealth of materials such as arrows, basketry, and feathered ornaments, giving researchers unprecedented insights into an early phase of Puebloan culture sometimes referred to as the Virgin Anasazi. But the quids remained unstudied, languishing in museum storage for half a century, until Keith Johnson of California State University, Chico, and his colleagues, took a closer look...more

Did they chew Red Man?

Judge Rebuffs Fossil Creek Grazing

A federal judge has dealt another setback to the Coconino National Forest’s effort to renew a grazing permit on the headwaters of Fossil Creek.  U.S. Circuit Judge Wallace Tashima ruled that the Forest Service had failed to consider how continued cattle grazing will affect the ability of the endangered Chiricahua leopard frog to spread along riparian areas from one stock tank to another.  However, the judge rejected three other assertions by the Center for Biological Diversity, which claimed the Forest Service’s finding that continued cattle grazing would endanger the frog.  The ruling means the Forest Service will have to undertake additional study on how the cattle will affect the frog’s ability to move between 13 stock tanks where they currently have small breeding populations — as well as have a chance to colonize new stock tanks. The frogs can move for miles along riparian areas, but the trampling of cattle make the journey far more hazardous...more

So why do these particular frogs exist?

Ironically, the frogs have been successfully established in stock ponds created by ranchers to provide water for their cattle. Several of the stock ponds are partially fenced, to keep the frogs safe from the cattle that use the unfenced portions of the pond.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the frogs as endangered in 2002 and came up with a recovery plan in 2007, which designated critical breeding areas and other riparian corridors linking them. The grazing unit includes 22 stock ponds that can support small populations of the frog. In 2002, the drought dried up all the stock ponds and killed off all but four of the frogs. A captive breeding program in the Phoenix Zoo rescued those survivors. Eventually, the zoo produced enough frogs to reintroduce them to four of the previously occupied stock ponds.  The Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with the Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department then fenced five of the stock ponds and worked to improve the conditions for the frogs.  Since then, the frogs have spread to 13 of the 22 stock ponds in the grazing allotment, although cattle grazing has continued throughout the period. 

And here are the important points where the judge ruled against the CBD.

...the judge rejected the argument that the Forest Service failed to consider how grazing would affect the non-core habitat areas — and therefore the frogs’ chances of full recovery. The court ruled that the Forest Service did “at least consider” the impact on dispersal and non-breeding habitats, which was all it had to do to comply with the law. The judge also rejected the Center’s claim that the plan would not protect wetlands as required by the Coconino National Forest Master Plan. The Center maintained that any riparian area qualified as a “wetland.” The judge decided that the provision in the forest plan only applies to marshes, ponds, streams and other areas that stay wet most of the time. In addition, the judge rejected the Center’s claim that the Forest Service had violated a provision in its own forest plan saying cattle should eat no more than 20 percent of the vegetation in a given area. The Forest Service plan allows the cattle unrestricted access to a 40-foot section of Fossil Creek, where they would likely eat most of the vegetation. The Center maintained the plan should allow only limited access to the creek. But the judge ruled that so long as the cattle didn’t eat more than 20 percent of the vegetation on the entire allotment, the Forest Service was in compliance with the forest plan.

The June 25, 2015 court decision can be viewed here.

Texas land owner claims victory in settlement with BLM

WICHITA FALLS, Texas - A Clay County landowner can claim victory in a long-simmering dispute with the Bureau of Land Management. Family farmer Tommy Henderson on Thursday got a patent from the U.S. government on land along the Red River he claims his family has owned since 1904. Henderson said he hopes the signing of the patent at the Clay County Courthouse paves the way for dozens of other landowners to resolve a dispute with the government that has dragged on for decades. In 1984, a court decision determined the federal government owned a strip of land Henderson held deed to along the river. Other landowners along the Texas bank found themselves facing the same predicament. In officially acquiring the patent on 94 acres Thursday, Henderson said he hoped a “step was taken that will help other landowners.” “This blazes the trail,” he said. Under the agreement with Bureau of Land Management, Henderson actually purchases the land in question. The purchase is possible under a “Color of Title” stipulation that enables a landholder to buy the disputed land if he can show clear title, payment of taxes, improvements and “good faith” possession. However the price can be offset by taxes he has paid and other considerations. With those deductions from the price, Henderson said he paid about $1 per acre plus some fees. “I can live with that,” he said. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-13th Dist., who has come down squarely on the side of the landholders in their dispute with the government, said Thursday, “It is good that Mr. Henderson was finally able to get back a portion of his land that he lost in the 1980s, but it never should have happened in the first place,” In his statement, Thornberry said “Three decades to correct that mistake is ridiculous.” Henderson’s land is just a small portion of about 90,000 of disputed acres that range along the river from near Doans Crossing in Wilbarger County to just north of the unincorporated community of Stanfield in northern Clay County...more

The court decision on who owns the land remains intact - its the BLM.  And according to BLM these Color of Title patents must conform to a 1923 Supreme Court Decision on boundaries of the Red River, no matter what state title laws says.  Two previous land owners had their applications denied.

So many questions remain.  For instance, why did it take 30 years for this Color of Title remedy to surface?  Who brought this remedy forward, the BLM or a landowner?  Why was BLM holding planning meetings on this  90,000 acres if most of it could be transferred under this process?

This whole situation cries out for a legislative solution, and Congressman Thornberry promises just that:

“I am continuing to pursue legislation that I introduced with Sen. John Cornyn to protect private property rights and clear up the uncertainty that many landowners along the Red River currently face,” Thornberry said in his statement.

In the 113th Congress Thornberry introduced H.R. 4979, the Red River Private Property Protection Act, which was favorably reported out of Committee in Dec. of 2014. We are now in the 114th Congress, and of this date the legislation has not been reintroduced.

As wolves rebound, range riders keep watch over livestock

Bill Johnson’s border collie, Nip, was just doing her job when the black cow wheeled and lunged at the dog. Before wolves returned to this valley, that kind of behavior was rare, said Johnson, who — with Nip’s assistance — was driving a group of cattle up a dusty canyon. Now, cows aggressively confront any canine that gets close to their calves.  “It’s a sign that the wolves have been probing the cattle,” he said. As part of a project called Range Riders, it’s Johnson’s job to keep cows and wolves away from one another. Every day before saddling his horse and heading into the field, he logs onto the computer to see exactly where the valley’s resident wolf pack has been hanging out. On this scorching summer day, radio collar signals placed them very near the spot where the cow spooked. “They were right here at 7 a.m.,” Johnson said, reining in his mount along a small creek. Close examination of the muddy banks revealed a few smeared paw prints. Nearby were piles of scat.  Johnson dismounted, poked at the poop with an antler handle knife and declared that the wolves had dined on elk, rodents and robins’ eggs. Johnson became a range rider shortly after wolves returned to the Teanaway area four years ago. With funding from Conservation Northwest and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the project helps ranchers hire seasoned cowhands to watch over their herds and keep tabs on wolves in the hope of reducing conflicts with the new predators in the neighborhood. Seven ranch families around the state signed up this year to receive up to $9,000 each — money the conservation group raises from donors. Under a separate program, WDFW signed agreements with 41 ranchers to provide up to $300,000 in statewide subsidies for range riders and other measures — like automated lights and sirens, guard dogs and special flagging for pens — to discourage wolves from attacking livestock...more

EDITORIAL: Green activists kill jobs

Environmental activists may cost Colorado's economy hundreds of millions of dollars a year with a looming victory in the war on coal. They will cause hardship for more than 200 Colorado families, putting their breadwinners out of work. Here is how much one leading environmentalist cares about those people.

"My initial response is 'tough (expletive)'" said Jeremy Nichols, the energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, as quoted July 13 by the Colorado Independent.

WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit effectively seeking to close the Colowyo Mine near Craig. A federal judge ruled in May the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining did not fully comply with federal procedures in approving plans for the mine nearly a decade ago, explains the Colorado Consumer Coalition. Nichols made his "tough (expletive)" comment after the Interior Department refused to appeal the adverse ruling - a decision that reflects the Obama administration's complicit role in the war on coal.

"They [the Interior Department] didn't appeal, and there is nothing they can do about it now," Nichols said of the people who may lose their incomes.

The judge gave the agency 120 days to complete an environmental analysis for Colowyo that conforms to the procedures laid out in the National Environmental Policy Act. The deadline is Sept. 6.

"If the analysis is not completed within the timeframe - a tall task - the mine will be ordered to shut down," says a public statement by the coalition.

The mine's 220 employees earn an estimated $25 million annually. The value of mine's commodity production equals more than $100 million a year. The direct and indirect economic contributions of the mine total about $206.7 million annually, the coalition reports.

It gets worse. The Colowyo Mine supplies the Craig Station power plant, which means a shutdown will adversely affect power consumers in that region. Power generation in the region contributes $441.3 million to the economy, and the Colowyo Mine also provides coal for other residential and commercial consumers throughout the state. In the past, it helped supply Colorado Springs Utilities.

The likely shutdown has united Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in a fight to save the mine from extreme environmental activism.

This editorial is misguided. The enviros simply went to court to have their legal concerns addressed, and that is not "extreme environmental activism".  No, the editors should aim their arrows at the entire Congress which passed NEPA and watched while the courts have turned this into a paper-pushing albatross around the neck of any federal agency that tries to do anything. And save a few of those literary projectiles for the US Senate, which has confirmed the appointment of judges who write law instead of interpreting it. Aim your armaments at the real culprits.

The Great Plains' invisible water crisis

The prairie wind buffeted Brant Peterson as he stood in a half-dead field of winter wheat. In front of him, a red-winged blackbird darted in and out of a rippling green sea of healthy wheat. Behind him, yellowed stalks rotted in the ground. The reason for the stark contrast was buried 600 feet under Peterson’s dusty boots: Only part of the field — the thriving part — had been irrigated by water pumped at that depth from the ancient Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest underground sources of fresh water in the world. “If not for irrigation that whole field would look like this,” Peterson said, nudging the dead wheat with the toe of his boot. But irrigation soon could end on Peterson’s southwest Kansas farm. The wells under his land in Stanton County are fast running dry as farmers and ranchers across the Great Plains pump the Ogallala faster than it can be replenished naturally. Three of his wells are already dry. Within five years, Peterson estimates, he likely won’t be able to irrigate at all. The depletion of groundwater stores also is a problem familiar to farmers struggling with drought in California, where pumping for irrigation has put the state’s Central Valley Aquifer under the most strain of any aquifer in the U.S., according to NASA satellite data. But California also has surface water: reservoirs, lakes, streams, rivers, snow melt from the Sierra Nevada and a water transportation system. Western Kansas’ only significant water source is the Ogallala. Unlike in California, where national headlines, severe water-use restrictions and images of cracked earth bear testament to the ravages of drought, the crisis unfolding on Peterson’s farm and others like it across western Kansas is mostly invisible. It’s taking place underground, in a sparsely populated rural area — out of sight, out of mind for most Americans...more

Low wages in high places: U.S. proposes big pay hike for state sheepherders

MEEKER — The anglers and bikers traveling to the mountains slowed their cars to a crawl as hundreds of sheep flocked the country road north of Meeker. Ahead, a sheepherder on horseback surveyed the animals and behind them, the man’s small camper, or “campito,” was hidden by trees. From Moffat to Alamosa counties, Colorado is a big player in the nation’s sheep industry. The animals thrive in the state’s high, dry mountains. Colorado raised the third largest number of sheep in the U.S. this year and ranked third in the value of sales of sheep and goats at $87 million in 2012, the latest data available, according to a 2014 USDA fact sheet. Sheepherders — mostly immigrant guest workers from South America on H2-A visas — are responsible for the health of the flocks, day to day. The workers aren’t subject to minimum wage like other farm workers. Instead, their wages are set specially by the federal government at $750 a month in Colorado, a wage that has increased by only $50 in the past 20 years for most states, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Now, the sheep industry is girding itself for what it sees as a storm. The labor department has proposed more than tripling the minimum wage in Colorado to $2,441 a month by 2020. The industry is counter-proposing a wage closer to $1,400 a month, fearing wages any higher would upend generations-old family businesses, flooding the market with unwanted animals and sending ripples through rural economies. “I won’t be in the sheep business,” second-generation Meeker-area sheep rancher Tom Kourlis said. “If these come into play, I’m going to implement an exit strategy in September.” Immigrant rights groups in Colorado and across the country, and even the Episcopal Church, support the higher wages...more

Woman turns cattle ranch into vegan animal sanctuary

For generations, Sonnen Ranch has been a place for raising livestock, where animals, though treated humanely, were destined to be used for meat or dairy products. Now, after several rounds of fundraising, the ranch has been transformed into Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, a safe haven for farm animals, allowing the creatures to live out their lives without distress. The sanctuary’s development was the brainchild of Renee King-Sonnen, who moved to the ranch when she and Thomas Sonnen remarried. “I’m a Texas girl through and through, grew up eating barbecue, wearing boots, going to the rodeo,” King-Sonnen said. “Until I moved out here to the ranch, there was no connection to the animals that ended up on my plate. I’d experimented with vegetarianism, raw food diets, but never really called it ‘vegan.’ It all happened as a result of me living here.” Being in the presence of farm animals — and seeing their reaction after calves were sold — was enough to change her mind about her diet and lifestyle, King-Sonnen said. “The cows were so depressed,” she said. “I wasn’t prepared for the way it happened. And every year, it got harder for him to sell the calves, because he didn’t want me to see, wanted to hide it from me.” “I’d been trying to sneak them out whenever she wasn’t around,” Thomas Sonnen said. “But she’d know anyway.” Eventually, King-Sonnen laid down the law: If the “red trailer” came again to take calves to the sale barn, she’d follow it herself...more 

The title should have had something in it about a pw'd cowboy.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1459

Its Swingin' Monday and today we have a...gospel tune?  That's right, and the Pickin' On Band calls it Swing Down Sweet Chariot and you'll hear some great guitar, dobro and mandolin' pickin'.  The tune is on their bluegrass tribute to the Gaithers titled Raising The Praise


Sunday, August 02, 2015

Showdown over Spring Creek Mine expansion pits Interior Department versus environmental groups

The U.S. Interior Department's approval of expansion plans for Montana’s largest coal mine was challenged Friday in Federal District Court in Billings. The lawsuit, filed in 2014 against Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the U.S.Office of Surface Mining, involves several issues surrounding air quality, reclamation and public input for expansion plans at the Spring Creek Mine in southeastern Montana.. Spring Creek is Montana's largest coal mine, employing 280 workers and is owned by Cloud Peak Energy. Details of the mine’s latest expansion came under fire at Friday's hearing.. The Northern Plains Resource Council, the Western Organization of Resource Councils, and the WildEarth Guardians initially asked the judge to shut down the mine, but the groups conceded at the hearing that another remedy would be acceptable. Federal District Court Judge Carolyn Ostby presided over the hearing and, after more than three hours of debate, Ostby ordered the parties to work out an acceptable remedy among them. The parties have 60 days to come to an agreement; otherwise Ostby said she would decide. New air quality standards were set in place by the Environmental Protection Agency in the middle of the planning for the coal mine expansion project. Plaintiffs allege that the company failed to consider the new standards that placed stronger restrictions on air pollutants. Attorneys for the mine said a thorough independent environmental analysis was conducted and the company did not believe the air quality would be harmed by the expansion...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Rancher-type husbands

by Julie Carter

It comes up from time to time – those daily little events or things that qualify one for the “You might be a rancher’s wife if …” list.

These are a few that have been suggested.

You might be a rancher’s wife if:

  • you have blackleg vaccine in the refrigerator next to the ketchup;
  • you remodel your house just to get a mud room;
  • your stationary has a checkerboard design on it with “Purina” written across the top;
  • you have bull semen straws in the freezer next to the ice cube trays.

However, in order for there to be a rancher’s wife, there must be a rancher husband, who by the way, does not come with an operating manual or a warning label.

You know, like the one that comes with the hair blow dryer that says, “do not use while sitting in water,” or the lawnmower that says “Toxic fumes are dangerous. Do not operate indoors.”

A simple description of a rancher-type husband would be warning enough.

A rancher husband is:

  • a man who tromps in leaving a trail of dirt from his boots and a black handprint on the door and asks, “Any chance of cleaning this place up before my mother gets here?”
  • a man who eats potatoes 365 days a year but will say, “This must be third time this month we’ve had corn. Are we out of grub?”
  • a man who eats mountain oysters right off the branding fire and says, “Is the mashed tators supposed to have something gritty in them?”
  • a man who comes in from the branding fire, smokes a cigar, reeks of sweat and manly odor and says, “That damn scented candle of yours is plumb fogging up my sinuses.”
  • a man who will write a grocery list that reads: “bunch of viannie sawseges, beer, scours medicine, don’t forget the beer, 4-way or 7-way or whatever it’s called, and don’t forget the beer;”
  • a man who will get up at the crack of dawn, turn on the weather channel and sit there for two hours without moving and then say, “you can’t ‘spect me to go to the movie and jus’ sit there for damn hours without movin’.”
  • A man who will spend $56,000 on a big yellow machine who’s first name starts with DC, but won’t’ spend $28 to fix the dishwasher;

 The operating manuals for appliances or such written 25 years ago were only a couple pages long, while today’s resemble the size of the old Sears and Roebuck catalogs and seem to be just as useful in the outhouse.

Cowboy husband manuals, if they existed, would likely follow the same expansion trend. There’s a whole lot more that needs to be warned about today. In compiling this list, one ranch wife offered a disclaimer.

“In no way is my list an example of my husband. I was talking about other people’s husbands. In fact, I want to point out that there is nothing that makes me love my husband more than listening about other people’s husbands.”

Ain’t it the truth!

Julie can be reached for comment at jcarternm@gmail.com.


Fit this saddle
Simpleton Sophistication
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

             There is a saddle tree shop in Canutillo, Texas that I frequent.
            It sits near the railroad tracks north from the village center, and, it was there, I stood Sebas one day getting him fitted for a custom tree. He was fidgeting as we sat the tree on him only to go back inside and tweak and trim the uncovered pine frame for another try.
            The fidgeting only became more intense as the first train passed within 30 yards of where he stood tied to the trailer. It was bad enough without the whistle. The engineer lay on it much longer than I thought he should and we stood trying to calm the big bay horse.
The fit was still not correct so it was back to the sander along with pulling and resetting the cantle. As I sat on the tree to feel how it fit me after that adjustment, the sound of yet another train approaching prompted us to hustle back outside to be with the horse. Again, the engineer seemed to delight on standing on the whistle. He was even smiling when we made eye contact as I tried to hold the horse.
By the time he was calm enough to retie him to the trailer, it was too late to signal our own special message back to the smiling face in the lead locomotive. He was down the track and certainly out of line of sight. We could only discuss the matter and emphasize our actions if we had a chance to do it again. Better yet, we needed to finish the project and get the horse loaded and away from the tracks.
Up close and personal, trains can be disruptive. They are kind of like presidential campaigns. They are too large to ignore. They come roaring into our lives whistling and holding up traffic, and, when they do pick up steam … they run the risk of running over something and annihilating it.
Fitting saddle trees
This business about a good saddle fitting the majority of horses is nonsense. A better description might be a good saddle will fit most horses if it is big enough to pad for outliers while the rest are cloned, the same age, and the same weight.
The same reasoning can be applied if the saddle is small enough to fit the middle of the back and lay fully behind the withers. In that case, the rider has to be mini-arsed and he or she fits in a 12” tree. There just aren’t too many of those riders older than ten so that option is unsatisfactory.
It is back to the tree being large enough to pad the outliers. That means building the saddle as short as possible in length, open the front up to more than 7” across the bars, and build the gullet with at least 9” of depth. Try to find that tree on a stock rack anywhere.
The analogy is like building one size shoes for all men. The guys with sizes larger than 14 shoes would just have to wear thongs (and that does not necessarily imply the underwear variety). Everybody else would buy that size 14 EEE in whatever color you want and start stuffing them full of padding to fit.
An entirely new industry would emerge. It would evolve around the padding of feet by building socks to fill out and fit the 14 EEE shoes. Like the new hot and cold wear technology, there would be summer socks and winter socks. Professional athletes would be hired to pose with the newest offerings. Those sweating through July two-a-days would seek the new air conditioned models while the December play off cats would be wearing those toasty iterations that are guaranteed warm down to 50 below.
The fellows in thongs would become subjects of natural selection.
The point becomes if one saddle is the alternative it needs to be bigger than smaller. If multiple horses are important enough to be treated individually, they should be fitted individually. In the latter alternative, less padding is necessary, closer fit is possible, and trips to Canutillo are sanctioned without the gnashing of teeth and finding excuses to justify hauling home another new creation.
Fitting TRUMP
I am backing Trump.
Oh, yes, I have winced at the stuff he says and it is true we probably wouldn’t have been high school chums even if I had been sent to some prestigious prep school, but, right now, I am backing him. I have arrived at this decision based upon the immediate need for change. No longer can we endure the rhetoric of constitutionality and accept the reoccurrence of status quo elfdom in the aftermath.
In short, I will never again vote for anybody who hasn’t signed a paycheck in his or her private life.
Similarly, I will never again vote for anybody who has made their living off the system in any shape or form. If they haven’t devoted some efforts to primary production of goods and services, they are not experienced enough in fundamental savoir-faire to run this country much less understand constitutionality. The professional politicians are worse. They are owned by somebody, and, in every instance of making decisions between the American people and their ownership, they will side with their ownership.
Trump’s greatest asset is he isn’t owned by anybody.
Implicit in that reveals he has signed paychecks. In fact, he fits the model the Founders expected … citizen leaders who rise to the top, who will serve their nation, and then return to their businesses or their life ending pursuits within framed periods of time.
The federal government has failed in its Constitutional responsibility to manage the borders. In that shortcoming, they have promulgated regulations, corrupted laws and maintained an elitist stance that implicates the citizenry. This isn’t new. It is old news for every state post statehood on the southern border. The executive branch, with two possible exceptions, has never protected the border as set forth in the document.
Congress is demonstrably clueless.
Trump’s stance on the border is foundational. It is the single platform issue that can formulate all other policy. We either have a border or we do not. We either have a country or we do not.
So, let’s dissect how we fit the Donald into the position of President of the United States.
The president is one person so he cannot be form fitted to each state or each citizen. That is why the Framers elevated the importance of first, we the people, and then the sovereign states. In our saddle fitting analogy, therefore, he has to be expansive and there emerges a whole litany of rationale for size and scope of Donald’s reach.
Perhaps the most important and overlooked aspect of the general fitting is his political affiliation. He is running as a Republican, but his New York registration remains Independent. In the past, he has largely been aligned with liberal, mainstream radical politics of the Democratic Party. His instincts are mixed and that can be configured into importance.
Perhaps it is time to field the universal candidate. Neither party finds comfort in his presence, hence, he should alter course and run for the nomination … of both major parties.
TRUMP, the universal candidate
Since Trump is accused of being a buffoon, let’s keep it simple. We know his business savvy so it should be a mute issue. It is a given.
His first plank, therefore, is to secure the border and deal with immigration. His second and concluding plank should be to rivet the imagination and support of the American people. He should serve notice that his highest priority will be dedicated to indicting and prosecuting current and past office holders who have openly breached their constitutional oaths of office. On those two tenants, he should then take his Trump Express to the people like a train running by my parked trailer.
Quite frankly, I think it would be worth the price of admission to see Trump debate Hillary as a Democratic contender. I’d like to see him debate the other lefty candidates on the Democratic side of the ledger as well.
What would be equally thrilling, though, would be to observe him debating the field on the Republican side. Make the debates extemporaneous. No preparation or notes will be allowed, but one visual prop would be employed and that would summarize money spent by each candidate. Those monies acquired from donor extraction would be totaled in red while those monies injected by self would be summed in black. The balance would appear in real time on the dais of each individual candidate.
Then … let the spectacle begin.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “It is time for a law requiring politicians to wear sponsorship patches on their suits revealing ownership, and it is past time for a constitutional amendment for term limits.”

Baxter Black: Cowboys tough out old age

I’m closin’ in on 60 with a vengeance, Mister Jim,
And I wouldn’t ask no favors if I weren’t out on a limb
But is seems like no one’s hirin’? Cowboyin’s all I know
And I worked for you a couple times, the last, not long ago.

It’s been 10 years? Oh, really? Well ... I run into Buster Cole
And he said you might be lookin’ so I gathered up my roll
And bummed a ride off Buster. That’s him a’waitin’ in the car.
I could go back to Brawley, but that seems so dadgum far!

Yeah, I know I quit ya last time but the winter froze me out.
My knees were always achin’. Think I had a touch of gout
But now I’m sound and solid as horseshoe, Mister Jim.
You’ve got the place fixed up real nice, all lookin’ neat and trim.

You painted the ol’ bunkhouse! Man, I really liked it there.
Do ya still have Peg and Molly? Now, they were quite a pair.
They could drag that big ol’ hay sled through the snow just like a plow!
Oh, she did? I’m really sorry. Guess ya feed with tractors now.

NM Rain Mass ‘gives people hope’

BUEYEROS – The faithful gathered at a base of a huge rock, arriving from homes as far away as Idaho, to pray for rain in a land that needs every drop. Temperatures soared to near 100 under a noonday sun as the Rev. John Brasher continually mopped his face with a handkerchief. “I’m not crying; I’m melting,” he confided to the congregation in the middle of a Gospel reading. As Brasher prepared the Eucharist, a sudden gust whipped up a cloud of sand and dust, forcing many to turn their heads and squint. Wind lashed the tarps set up to provide some shade for the congregation. Welcome to the Misa del Cerro, or Mass on the Hill, an 81-year-old tradition started in the dark days of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, and faithfully observed every year since. The event is held at the foot of a butte that looms over a huge expanse of grassland. “You are still praying for rain, aren’t you?” Brasher asked the congregation. “Every day,” one man shouted. At the end of Mass, the congregation recited a prayer for rain: “Open the heavens for us and send us the rain we need for our crops, our livestock, and our well being.” Plastic chairs were collected and guitars stowed away, and a field of pickups rumbled off to Arnold Miera’s ranch nearby, where a reception was planned in the family’s big steel barn. Beef barbecue, rice, beans, salads and desserts were served cafeteria-style at long tables. Miera, 82, owner of the 17,000-acre Miera Ranch, looked every inch the cowboy in a white Stetson, jeans and a leather belt tooled with his family name. He is the son of Nestor and Feliciana Miera, who organized the first Misa del Cerro on July 25, 1934, the feast day of Saint James, the patron saint of Spain. Miera raised cattle until worsening drought conditions and personal tragedy prompted him to sell his herd in 2012. When Nestor and Feliciana arranged the first Misa del Cerro, Harding County’s population was near its peak of 4,421 in 1930, just before the Dust Bowl hammered the southern Great Plains. In the years since, young people have abandoned the harsh life of ranching to find jobs elsewhere. The county, more than a third larger than Rhode Island in area, has lost population each decade, shriveling to just 695 residents in 2010, making it New Mexico’s most sparsely populated county.

Lynn Anderson, singer who topped charts in 1971, dies at 67

Lynn Anderson, whose strong, husky voice carried her to the top of the charts with “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” died July 30 at a hospital in Nashville. She was 67. Her publicist said the cause of death was cardiac arrest. Ms. Anderson first soaked up the national spotlight as a young singer on “The Lawrence Welk Show” between 1967 and 1969. Although she was signed to an independent label, the exposure helped her nab a deal with Columbia Records in Nashville. “He felt country music was coming into its own and deserved to be on national TV,” she said of Welk in a 1987 interview with the Associated Press. “At that time, I was the only one singing country music on national TV every week. He’s one of my heroes and always will be.” And it was “Rose Garden” that sealed her country music legacy, earning her a Grammy and Country Music Association’s female vocalist of the year award in 1971. “It was popular because it touched on emotions,” she told the AP. “It was perfectly timed. It was out just as we came out of the Vietnam years and a lot of people were trying to recover. She made television appearances with such stars as Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, John Wayne and Tom Jones and performed for presidents Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. She was also in episodes of the TV show “Starsky and Hutch” and in the 1982 TV movie “Country Gold.” Ms. Anderson’s other hits included, “Rocky Top,” “You’re My Man,” “How Can I Unlove You?,” “What a Man, My Man Is” and “Top of the World” (also recorded by the Carpenters). She returned briefly to the country Top 10 in 1983 with a duet with Gary Morris, “You’re Welcome to Tonight.” Lynn Rene Anderson was born Sept. 26, 1947, in Grand Forks, N.D., and grew up in Sacramento, Calif. The daughter of country songwriters Casey and Liz Anderson, she started performing at the age of 6. An award-winning equestrian as a teenager, Ms. Anderson was voted California Horse Show Queen in 1966. In her later years she lived in Taos, N.M., where she faced a number of legal problems...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1458

Our gospel tune today is So High by Cody Shuler & Pine Mountain Railroad.  The selection is on their 2008 CD Pickin', Praisin' and Singin'