Saturday, September 13, 2003


Case study for the fire bill White House political adviser Karl Rove himself couldn't craft a better script for the president's Healthy Forests Initiative than the one seven environmental groups have now written in Central Oregon. It's all there, in one neat story line to deliver to the U.S. Senate when it debates a fire bill this fall: a dangerously sick forest; a community plea for help; a long, inclusive planning effort; a broad agreement to thin the woods; a huge fire; and, even as trees go up in flames, environmental groups filing an appeal to bring everything to a screeching halt... Owner of Reno ranch targeted for preservation won't sell A plan to preserve the historic 1,000-acre Ballardini ranch in the foothills south of Reno is in jeopardy now that the owner no longer wants to sell...Machine may develop markets for forest slash Timber industry representatives, environmentalists and forest researchers from across the country will be in Central Oregon next week scrutinizing the performance of a machine that might develop new markets for material from projects intended to reduce wildland fire threats...Rural homeowners to pay CDF fire fee State legislators have quietly passed a $77 million bill that would charge thousands of rural property owners a first-ever state fee for fire protection...Imperial water deal churns again The soap-opera saga of a crucial water deal for California took a step backward Thursday, when a top Interior Department official accused Imperial Valley leaders of backpedaling on key parts of the long-negotiated pact. The renewed jousting between Imperial and the Bush administration came as the state Senate sent Gov. Gray Davis three bills that would implement the historic Colorado River deal, which would stabilize the water supplies of 20 million Californians and possibly head off decades of litigation...STRIVING TO BALANCE SALMON & AGRICULTURE Last month, Idaho Rivers United, and groups like it, claimed dams and reservoirs along the Snake River were harming endangered salmon. They had initially given the Bureau of Reclamation 60 days to fix the problem or face a lawsuit. But now, both sides have agreed to discuss the issue, which has become a battle over water rights... Fire burns spotted owl habitat More than half of the known activity areas for spotted owls in the Deschutes National Forest have burned in the B & B Complex fire, which is nearing 91,000 acres... Salamander's entry on species list contested Led by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a panel of Central Valley planners and government officials looked into the proverbial crystal ball Friday when they met to discuss the Valley’s future if the California tiger salamander is listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service...Desert land chief walks fine line Now, as the first woman to head the California Desert District for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, she's in the middle of a contentious battle over those dunes... USPP's resolution called a 'bold step;' Group pledges to help balance water deficit Bill Branan, who is the National Audubon Society's representative on the Upper San Pedro Partnership, believes the organization "took a bold step into the future" last week by pledging to save the San Pedro River...BLM plans seven prescribed burns The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is planning seven prescribed burns in southern Wyoming this fall. The burns could begin as soon as Monday, according to the BLM...Anthrax kills 10 cows in Tripp County Anthrax has killed 10 cows on a Tripp County ranch, in the second appearance of anthrax in South Dakota livestock this year...Animal welfare lobbyists concerned about live sheep exports The Federal Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss, is being urged from all sides to end the live sheep impasse and accept responsibility for a shipment of 57,000 Australian sheep rejected by Saudi Arabian authorities two weeks ago, after claiming that they an unacceptably high level of 'scabby mouth' disease...The Monkey Wrench Guerrillas "Stay away from your old friends . . . don't use computers or telephones for anything . . . strike your enemies suddenly," the radical leader told his minions. "I love you all, and I'm praying for you to make it count." Such advice may sound as if it came straight from Osama bin Laden. Yet it was recently uttered by Rod Coronado, the 37-year-old de facto leader of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a secretive cabal of environmental radicals who are prime suspects in last week's torching of scores of Hummers and other SUVs in the San Gabriel Valley...Santa Fe To Help Out Silvery Minnow The Santa Fe City Council agreed Wednesday to sell up to 2,500 acre-feet of San Juan-Chama water to protect the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow... WTO Issues Measure to Cut Farm Subsidies The World Trade Organization issued a draft resolution Saturday to force member countries to cut farm subsidies, but it didn't go as far as many developing nations have demanded and some called it unacceptable...
Cow shooting sparks debate over remnant of Old West: open-range laws

Kent Knudson had been fed up with cows wandering onto his property for years. So when he came home one afternoon and found a herd in his back yard, he promptly got his .22-caliber rifle and fired.
A red-and-white pregnant cow fell to the ground kicking, and died by Knudson's shed.
Problem was, Knudson violated open-range law, a remnant of the Old West. And he learned the hard way that cows still rule the range: He was handcuffed and jailed, charged with a felony...

Thermopolis rancher seeks probe of BLM office

The lawyer for a Thermopolis rancher is asking federal inspectors to investigate the Bureau of Land Management office in Worland for misuse of public funds, trespass, blackmail, perjury and other allegations.
The BLM office and Frank Robbins have been in a dispute for years over a number of issues, including trespass and other charges against Robbins and accusations that the BLM has unfairly - and sometimes criminally - made a target of Robbins.
"The Worland BLM has continually harassed Frank Robbins while Robbins conducted his lawful operations on both BLM and his private land," Karen Budd-Falen, Robbins' attorney, said in a nine-page letter this week to the inspector general's office at the Department of Interior.
Earlier this year, Robbins and the BLM signed an unusual and controversial agreement allowing Robbins to continue grazing operations on BLM land. In exchange, both parties agreed to put on hold the charges against one another.
The inspector general's office is already investigating the agreement, as is the staff of Rebecca Watson, assistant secretary for the Interior Department, who oversees the BLM and other agencies.
But the letter from Budd-Falen asks inspectors to look at several particular accusations against the BLM office in Worland involving "illegal and unethical actions" and certain employees who "clearly have violated federal law and regulation."...

Friday, September 12, 2003

Testimony tells story of farmers vs. fish

...The good, bad and ugly of the Endangered Species Act's impact on the Rio Grande silvery minnow and availability of water for the residents of the Rio Grande Valley were discussed during a special congressional hearing in Belen on Saturday...
Jessica Sanchez of Red Doc Farms in Bosque, representing the New Mexico Cattle Growers, New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and the Rio Grande Water Rights Association, opened with a greeting in Spanish and told about her family's roots going back 400 years to Juan de Oñate in the Rio Grande Valley.
"My family established the rules of the water and land with Spain, Mexico and then with the United States with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo," Sanchez said. "And now they say that there is a danger of us losing these rights and our water that is like the blood that runs through our veins." ...

Also, see Environmentalists Want Congress Out Of Minnow Discussions

Bureau head explains near shut-off of Klamath Project The head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation this week responded to lawmakers who asked nearly three months ago why farmers almost lost their supply of irrigation water in the middle of the growing season. But the response from Reclamation Commissioner John Keys shed no new light on what lower-level Reclamation officials have said all along: water conditions changed radically as the season progressed, making it hard to predict how supplies would hold up...Private firm to review status of owl, murrelet Bending to criticism that they lean too far in favor of wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials for the first time will hire a private business to help determine whether threatened species should keep their federal protection...Agency backs wolf plan Montana's Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission on Thursday backed the state's plan for managing gray wolves once the animals are removed from federal protection, an official said... IDAHO ATTORNEY GENERAL BACKING UP FEDERAL CHALLENGE OVER WOLVES IN SAWTOOTH NATIONAL RECREATION AREA Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is backing up a federal challenge over wolves in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The Idaho republican says he filed a "friend of the court" brief earlier this week in support of an appeal of US District Judge B. Lynn Windmill's injunction. Windmill banned the US Fish and Wildlife Service from enforcing wolf reintroduction regulations in the Stanley Basin... Wolf suspected in sheep deaths A recent rash of sheep killings in northern Utah has the Division of Wildlife Services thinking wolf, but director Mike Bodenchuk stops just short of labeling the culprit, citing a lack of physical or visual evidence. "I cannot confirm the presence of a wolf there. The killings suggest a wolf and I am comfortable saying it is a large canine," Bodenchuk said. "I can say it wasn't a coyote or a bear or a lion." ...Wildlife officials craft rules on wolves State wildlife officers now have official guidelines governing what to do if wild wolves wander into Colorado from Wyoming or New Mexico. At the Colorado Wildlife Commission meeting Wednesday, Wildlife Division Director Russ George said the commission and the legislature have banned reintroduction of wolves in Colorado...OPM mulls salary increase for federal firefighters Federal firefighters could get a salary boost under an Office of Personnel Management proposal to raise the entry-level General Schedule grade for those jobs...Conservation groups OK’d to defend amendments Four conservation groups have been given the green light to wade into a thorny lawsuit that, if successful, would turn back the clock on 10 years of forest management. The suit was filed in June by Montanans for Multiple Use and 13 co-plaintiffs, including timber, mining and off-road vehicle interests. Flathead and Sanders counties also joined the industry groups... 2 plead guilty to illegally making forest trail Two Salt Lake County men charged in connection with an Eagle Scout project gone awry pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally constructing a trail in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Wendell Burt and Scott Vanleeuwen appeared before U.S. Magistrate Brooke Wells, who fined them $50 each and ordered them to pay $35,286 in restitution... Hike for freedom That is the sort of inspiration that the Sept. 11 memorial flag on top of Peak 1 has brought to people since it was first placed on Sept. 16, 2001. It's why Kurt Kizer put it there in the first place, and why he has organized group hikes to replace it on the anniversaries since. "I was very happy to see the Forest Service come to the right decision," Kizer said later in the afternoon about getting the necessary permit to organize the hike. As late as Wednesday, the Forest Service was prepared to deny the permit based on policies that ban permanent structures or memorials on public land...Infusion for forests in works Top officials in the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain region in late August allocated up to $9 million for several large-scale forest health projects - and Front Range communities at risk from wildfire stand to benefit, said regional forester Rick Cables... Two groups file protests to halt BLM logging project Two environmental groups filed a formal protest this week over a project to log Bureau of Land Management lands near Clancy and Unionville, saying they fear the work will harm water quality... Recovery plan for Gila trout revised A revised version of the 10-year recovery plan for the endangered Gila trout was published in Wednesday's edition of the Federal Register. "New genetic and scientific information gathered since 1993 warranted revision of several components of the recovery plan, including criteria for downlisting and delisting the species," according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife news release...Agency can file for instream flows An instream flow plan that outlines the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's beneficial use of Wyoming's water for trout restoration meets state law and constitutional muster, according to Wyoming Attorney General Patrick Crank...West Nile prompts sage grouse closuresThe Wyoming Game and Fish Commission closed three northern counties to sage grouse hunting Thursday because of West Nile concerns. Since August, 11 sage grouse in Johnson, Sheridan and Campbell counties have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne virus, and officials are worried how the area's population will be affected...
The Tax-Exempt Destruction of our Forests

A friend of mine from Montana said to me recently, "the State's on fire again", referring to the catastrophic loss of vast areas of its forests this year. The same can be said of New Mexico, Colorado, and other States for whom these forest fires have become an annual event. Everyone knows that our national parks and forests are not being managed correctly. Because of "environmental" policies and restrictions, they are tinderboxes waiting to explode from a lightning strike or a careless camper.
Why then do we give a tax exemption to one of the most active pressure groups opposing forest management, the timber industry, and the use of the many products that flow from this most renewable natural resource? Why has it been allowed to abuse its tax-exempt status by openly lobbying when the IRS forbids this?...
In August, Public Interest Watch petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the activities of the Dogwood Alliance, including their collusion with EarthFirst! extremists. PIW wants their tax status revoked based on the Dogwood Alliance's substantial lobbying (not disclosed on their annual tax return) and their proclivity to use "disparaging and inflammatory" language to promote their causes. The tax-exempt status the IRS grants does not permit this. Despite this, the Alliance has paid for radio ads and openly lobbies for more restrictions on the timber industry...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered to reconsider denial of delisting petition

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its denial of a petition to pull two species of suckers from the government's list of endangered species.
Oregon District Judge Robert E. Jones made his ruling last week in a lawsuit brought by seven people from the Klamath Basin who petitioned to have the Lost River and shortnose suckers delisted in fall 2001. Jones ruled their petition was wrongfully denied.
The Lost River and shortnose suckers were listed as endangered in 1988.
On Oct. 19, 2001, James Buchal, a Portland attorney, filed a petition on the behalf of the seven to have the coho salmon removed from threatened status and the two kinds of suckers removed from the endangered species list.
Buchal said the government is using "junk," or unsupported, science to keep the suckers listed...

PETA's Medical Front-Group

As our new ActivistCash profile reveals, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is a wolf in sheep's clothing. PCRM is a fanatical animal rights group that seeks to remove eggs, milk, and meat from the American diet. Despite its close ties to violent animal-rights zealots and "above ground" animal activist groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), PCRM has successfully duped the media and much of the general public into believing that it represents the medical community. Here are a few highlights from our profile:
-One of the most farcical aspects of American culture in the last few years has been the advent of lawsuits blaming restaurants and food companies for individuals' obesity. Even before such cases became the stuff of late-night television comedy, PCRM was demanding tobacco-style federal lawsuits against meat producers and fast-food restaurants. Claiming that "meat consumption is just as dangerous to public health as tobacco use," PCRM recommended back in 1999 that the Justice Department "begin preparing a case against major meat producers and retailers."
-A heart surgeon with connections to [the violent animal rights group] SHAC and a deep association with PCRM, Jerry Vlasak told the crowd at the "Animal Rights 2002" convention: "I think we do need to embrace direct action and violent tactics as part of our movement ... I don't think we ought to be criticizing someone, whether we're criticizing [them] because they're writing letters, or whether we criticize them because they're burning down fur stores or vivisection labs."
-[PCRM president Neal] Barnard is PETA's "medical advisor" and regularly writes for PETA's publications. He admitted in a sworn deposition (International Primate Protection League v. Administrators of the Tulane Educational Fund, 1992) that PCRM has been housed at PETA headquarters in the past. He also acknowledged requesting and receiving money from PETA, and using a PETA-owned car to drive back and forth from work. According to Barnard's deposition, PETA even paid the salaries of some of PCRM's staffers.

Saving the Animals, Not the Bureaucrats

An interesting article from Governor Bill Owens:

...When the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973, it represented the best intentions of man to fix mistakes of the past. The result of those good intentions of Congress was, without a doubt, the most far-reaching and powerful federal law ever enacted.
But some unintended consequences came along with the ESA as well. Thirty years later, by just about any objective measure, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) can be considered nothing better than a colossal failure.
In the years since the ESA was passed, the federal government has added more than 1,300 species to the federal protected list. Fewer than 30 species have been removed. If “endangered” designations and de-listings are truly a measure of species recovery, that would be a ratio of 45 failures for every one success...

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Droughts of the Central and Southern Rocky Mountains

The authors of this study concluded:

...Severe drought is no stranger to the central and southern Rocky Mountains of North America. Episodes of extreme dryness are naturally recurring products of various climate "regime shifts" in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. There is, therefore, no compelling reason to associate any such drought of the present or future with global warming, as climate alarmists are readily inclined to do, having stated publicly in many venues that increases in both floods and droughts can be expected to accompany CO2-induced increases in global temperature...
Greenhouse Gas Control: Implications for Agriculture

...Farmers would be especially hard hit by higher energy prices. A national program to reduce emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2010 would require higher energy prices equivalent to a tax on gasoline of approximately 50 cents per gallon. Such a tax would cause net profits for farmers to fall by between 15 and 44 percent, depending on the crop. (See the table on this page.) Total annual U.S. farm production expenses would rise more than $23 billion, causing net national farm income to fall by 51 percent...
...We conclude that proposals to control greenhouse gas emissions pose a very serious threat to agriculture in the U.S. due to the energy-intensive nature of the industry. Programs that seek to cap or reduce emissions lead to higher energy prices, which would reduce farmers’ net income and profits. Proposals to pay farmers and ranchers to sequester carbon in their soil are superficially more appealing, but they are likely to lead to higher energy costs, new regulatory burdens, and emission permit costs that exceed whatever revenues might be earned...
Enervated by Enlibrators

This week, Capitol Hill is awash in "enlibra." The word became an overnight sensation after Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt was nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Invented by Leavitt a few years ago, the pseudo-Latin term is supposed to refer to a new approach to environmental regulation, an effort to "bring balance" in the use of our natural resources.
Not since Viagra has a new marketing term so captivated our elected representatives. Enlibra, however, is more than a brilliant form of political marketing. It is a new way of repackaging policy to make a governor's pro-pollution measures seem as hip and trendy as ordering a double-espresso macchiato at Starbucks.
Though enlibra sounds like some ancient principle derived from Caesar Augustus, its origins can be traced to a meeting a few years ago in the Utah governor's office. According to one former staffer who attended the meeting, Leavitt came into the room and said, "Let's invent a word. Let's invent a word that means balance and reasonableness in environmental debate." After some informal discussions, the result was enlibra -- the type of trendy term that could promise a better night's sleep, better sex or, in this case, a "balanced" environmental policy. It may be the first manufactured political trademark...

Black copters over Oregon(ad view required)

The helicopters were indeed black, and when they came thwocking through the clear blue skies above Redmond, Ore., on the afternoon of Aug. 19, Don Berry happened to be having a slow day selling campers and fifth wheels at Courtesy RV. "We just stood there in the lot, my friend Chuck and me, watching," he says before launching into a bit of detail that government sources will not confirm. "They were Chinook military helicopters -- huge things with round noses. There were three of them, and they were moving in tight formation, lollygagging over the woods, zigzagging near [the town of] Sisters and out toward Black Butte," some 25 miles to the northwest.
The copters were in Central Oregon, officials from the U.S. Forest Service would later note, to do reconnaissance in advance of an Aug. 21 visit to the dry, wooded region by President George W. Bush. "They were doing routine surveillance," according to Ron Pugh, a Forest Service special agent. The president planned to speak in Camp Sherman, a little town near Black Butte, and to call, controversially, for the "thinning" of 20 million acres of fire-prone public forests.
Don Berry is detached from the fray over Bush's Healthy Forest Initiative, but as the choppers flew near Sisters that day, he gazed skyward for much of their 90-minute flight. "They came right over the top of us," he remembers, "and we watched them land, and then I looked up at the mountains, where they'd flown."
"Chuck," Berry said at that point, "I hope what I'm seeing out there is a cloud."
It was not a cloud. That afternoon, Forest Service lookouts detected high columns of smoke rising from what would soon be called the Bear Butte and Booth fires. The fires were initially about 14 miles apart. They were first noted within two hours of one another -- at 1:30 p.m. and 3:23 p.m., respectively -- and they quickly became sprawling infernos. Still burning, they have now merged and have eaten across nearly 90,000 acres of remote forest dominated by lodgepole pine and Douglas fir.
The "B & B" fires were first noticed 11 days after Central Oregon's most recent lightning storm, and they are now doing battle with 2,200 soot-smeared firefighters, most of whom are camping out on the rodeo grounds near Sisters. The fires have cost taxpayers over $20 million in firefighting fees; forced hundreds of homeowners to temporarily evacuate; closed roads; and thrashed Central Oregon's tourist economy. As yet, though, no one knows how the fires started; no one can say whether the helicopters had anything to do with the flames.
Which means that speculation is spreading like, well, wildfire...

Congress Studies Minnow Ruling

Taking water from farms to save a minnow does more than overstep the Endangered Species Act, Belen grower Jessica Sanchez said — it’s killing a family livelihood that goes back four centuries.
Sanchez, whose family grows chiles, watermelons and tomatoes south of Albuquerque, testified Saturday at a field hearing of the House Resources Committee that recent federal-court rulings on water sources for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow have devastated her family’s harvest.
“I remember when I was younger, (my grandfather) would take us out to the chile fields and he would show us how they irrigate and care for the land, just as his forefathers taught him before,” Sanchez told the panel of five committee members. “So it’s sad for me to see that he has lost over 30 percent of his crop this year due to the judgment regarding the silvery minnow and the willow flycatcher brought forth by the Endangered Species Act,” or ESA, as some referred to it...


Arizona caveman evicted from home in U.S. national forest A man was evicted from an Arizona cave he had lived in for 11 years, after pleading guilty to using a national forest for residential purposes. Thomas Crawford had a bed, books and clothes arranged on hangers, along with pots and cutlery for cooking in his cave in the Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona. He was arrested Friday after a Flagstaff resident reported a suspicious camp...Scientists seek public link with lynx People who live in northern Minnesota are asked to keep a watchful eye for signs of the elusive lynx in the Superior National Forest and nearby areas. The lynx is a long-legged cat with black tufts on the ends of black-tipped ears and a black tip on its tail. An adult lynx stands about two feet tall at the shoulder...
Heat and light SO FAR this year, some 2½m hectares (6m acres) of North American forest have been consumed by fire, and several fires are still blazing in the west of the continent. The United States' Forest Service reckons it will spend around $900m in 2003 on putting fires out, and the damage such fires have caused probably cost several times that figure. A long drought, high winds and extraordinarily high temperatures have also created tinder-box conditions in Europe, where fires have destroyed at least 500,000 hectares of forest and killed more than 30 people... No protection for many threatened species They have found hundreds of endangered species live in areas which offer them no protection at all. The report is the work of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (Cabs) at the US-based Conservation International, and IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas... Wildlife officials vote for less state protection of otter The Colorado Wildlife Commission has voted to change the river otter's status from ''endangered'' to ''threatened,'' a move that will give the animal less protection. Larry Nelson, endangered species coordinator for the Division of Wildlife, said otter numbers are sufficient in four major Western Slope river drainages, the Colorado, Gunnison, Green and Dolores...Winery Agrees to Protect Habitat of 'Celebrated' California Frog, Other Endangered Species Environmental Defense today is popping the cork for the celebrated California red-legged frog, an endangered species that is now beneficiary of a landmark habitation protection agreement signed by the Robert Mondavi Winery... Swinomish may sue over tide gates The Swinomish Tribe yesterday announced it plans to sue over the use of gates that block salmon from Skagit County estuaries. Tide gates are used largely by farmers to keep salt water out of farmland that abuts Puget Sound. The tribe notified one of the 12 Skagit County diking districts, elected bodies that regulate the use of the gates, that in 60 days it could be sued... County, officials fight for road access While driving through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Hole in the Rock Road this summer, a recreationalist may have appreciated the wilderness areas in Garfield County. But after traveling about 15 miles on the road and approaching Kane County lines, signs indicating all-terrain vehicles and dirt bike are not allowed may have deterred visitors to the county, said Kane County Sheriff Lamont Smith... First Alberta beef shipments cross U.S. border Producers, packing plants and politicians cheered the first exports of boneless Alberta beef Wednesday while Canada moved closer to deals with Mexico and the Philippines to open their borders to other beef products. Two truckloads carrying 36,000 kilograms of boxed beef cuts from Lakeside Packers in Brooks, Alta., crossed the border into Sweetgrass, Mont. by mid-morning Wednesday. "It's a big step," said Brooks Mayor Don Weisbeck, whose southern Alberta city has been feeling the crunch since the discovery of one cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy May 20 prompted more than 30 countries to ban Canadian beef... Bubonic plague found in Montana deer, hunters cautioned Montana officials have diagnosed bubonic plague in a mule deer that was found near the Big Hole River in western Montana...US Urged to Introduce Animal IDs THE National Pork Producers' Council has urged the United States Department of Agriculture to accelerate implementation of a national animal identification system to ensure a rapid response to any foreign animal disease...PETA warns American diet is harming children Feeding youngsters fattening food such as hamburgers is child abuse - according to a local billboard paid for by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals... Rodeo adds special event for bull riders A special bull-riding event called "Bulls Night Out" is just one of the numerous changes announced Tuesday for the 2004 edition of the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show and Rodeo...GAO Refutes Bush Over Meat Labeling Government cost estimates of a new program that will require meat packages to be labeled with their countries of origin are "questionable and not well supported," congressional auditors said in a report released Wednesday. The General Accounting Office report undermines an argument against the labeling requirements, which are set to take effect in September 2004...

Wednesday, September 10, 2003


To: Volunteer Leaders and Staff

From: Carl Pope and Bruce Hamilton

RE: New leadership of our Stop Bush/Beat Bush Campaigns

We are facing environmental assaults from the Bush Administration and theCongress unlike anything we have witnessed. The Board of Directors and theConservation Governance Committee have resolved that our efforts to stop
these attacks, and then to defeat George Bush in 2004, should be our ourhighest organizational priorities. To accomplish these goals they havecalled on all branches of the Sierra Club to align their activities and resources with these objectives.
To carry these programs out we have adopted three primary strategies: raising people's sights by promoting visionary solutions to environmental problems; building community by establishing one-on-one, personal relationships with our friends and neighbors ; and using guerilla warfare to stop attacks on the environment.
We must hold Bush and other public officials accountable by exposing the impact of their policies where they are most vulnerable to public counterpressure; we must build an informed community of environmental citizens who understand what Bush is doing because they are talking with their friends and neighbors about this; we must inspire them to action with a vision of where America should and can go.
To stop the Bush Administration assault on the environment we have designed and are starting to implement a huge public education and public mobilization effort. We are also coordinating through the Integrated National Conservation Action Committee to plan and fund an aggressive lobbyingprogram to head off the assault in the Congress and to hold elected officials and President Bush accountable before and after votes and administrative actions that attack environmental programs.
We are also gearing up a separate huge voter education effort (the Environmental Voter Education Campaign) for 2004 and a powerful 2004 electoral program (Sierra Club Political Committee).
A cultural challenge that we face within the Sierra Club is that we have tended to design and run separate independent conservation programs on a wide variety of topics: Conservation Law, Environmental Partnerships,Population Stabilization, Forest Protection, Green Trade, Energy and Global Warming, Lewis and Clark. We do not believe we will be able to defend the environment from Bush's policies or ultimately beat Bush unless we do coordinate and align our various programs in a completely unprecedented way. Our resources and volunteers and staff must be intensely focussed on our overarching goals and our chosen strategies. Each of our activities must be designed and coordinated to the maximum extent possible to work together to stop Bush.
For the past 9 months the two of us have been trying to coordinate this effort from the staff side. We have also been carrying out our other duties as Executive Director and Conservation Director. We plan to remain deeply involved. These mega-efforts must be the highest priority for the two of us for the next 14 months. We also realize these mega-campaigns need full time senior staff leadership, focused around the clock, leadership which does not get pulled off to address other critical Sierra Club business. We need to manage these efforts on a full-time and much tighter
As a result, we have approved a reorganization of our senior staff. We are giving a special national assignment to two of our most talented strategists and campaign managers. We are also reassigning and elevating other key staff members to achieve maximum alignment and coverage.
Starting immediately Legislative Director Debbie Sease will become the National Campaign Director. Debbie will oversee and coordinate the entire Stop Bush effort. At the same time Northwest Senior Regional Staff Director Bill Arthur will become the Deputy National Campaign Director for Field Operations. Bill will continue to report to National Field Director Bob Bingaman, but he will assume a national role of planning, aligning and coordinating all of the field programs focused on stopping Bush.
All of the various major programs of the Club the legal program, the legislative program, the political program, the field program, the partnerships program etc. will feed into this overall effort. Holding them accountable for their contribution to this overall effort will be the joint responsibility of Debbie and Bill. (They will continue to be supervised by the present staff structure for activities other than the Stop Bush campaigns, and in a formal, administrative sense.) Volunteer leaders will continued to determine policy issues which arise in the implementation of each program. But Debbie and Bill, along with the PEAC Committee, will be charged with ensuring that the entire national organization carries out the Board mandate that stopping, as well as replacing, Bush, are the Sierra Club's highest priorities for the next fourteen months.
Devoting Debbie Sease and Bill Arthur to these national campaign management tasks will leave some significant holes in our management structure, but luckily we are blessed with a deep bench of talent in the DC office and Northwest Region.
In the Northwest, Kathleen Casey will be assuming the role of Acting Northwest Regional Staff Director between now and November 2004. Other staff members will also be asked to take on additional acting duties and we will be adding some staff to make sure the essential work is accomplished in Bill's absence.
In the DC office Melanie Griffin will take on an acting assignment as National Programs Director in addition to her ongoing duties as Director of Environmental Partnerships. At the same time Debbie Boger, our Senior Representative on Energy issues, will assume a full time acting assignment as Deputy Legislative Director. Between the two of them they will take over most of the former duties of Debbie Sease, freeing her up to devote full time to the vital National Campaign Director role.
As we move forward with implementing this aggressive effort, we must prioritize our work. Some of the tasks that we have routinely done in the past may no longer be done, or may be done in a new fashion. Tasks which used to get attention as top priority may now have a lower priority. Some traditional efforts may need to be deferred or dropped. It is important that we all respect the need for that flexibility and keep our eye on the bullseye -- stopping Bush.
Debbie Sease has already begun the transition and is in the process of contracting with a management consultant who can help us pull together a comprehensive set of campaign plans and help us identify key bottlenecks, choices, and opportunities. This is the most complex and difficult thing we have ever undertaken. We are going to reflect the seriousness of that challenge by reaching out in new ways to new sources of professional expertise.
Debbie and Bill will be joining a set of senior volunteers and staff who have been charged by the Board to steer this effort. The Public Education and Alignment Committee (PEAC) is chaired by former President Jennifer Ferenstein, and also includes President Larry Fahn, VP Chuck McGrady, and Board member and former President Robbie Cox. The lead senior staff working closely with this committee are Carl Pope, Bruce Hamilton, Deputy Executive Director Maggie Fox, Debbie Sease, Field Director Bob Bingaman, Political Director Margaret Conway, Media Director Kerri Glover, and
Communications Consultant Kim Haddow, and now Bill Arthur. As you can see, this has the attention, involvement and support of the highest level of the Club volunteer and staff structure.
Raising funds for this effort has also been made one of the highest priorities for 2004 by the Board.
In the coming months we expect these megacampaigns will touch every part of the Sierra Club -- if we are doing our job correctly. We will be having a dialog with the Council and the Board at the annual meeting later this month to explore the opportunities -- and the challenges -- which this moment poses.
This campaign, and these temporary staff assignments, will run through November 2004.
In the meantime, please join with us in thanking these stellar employees for taking on this increased responsibility to help lead us to victory.
Bush plan to streamline forest rules nears completion

Managers of the nation's 155 national forests are getting more leeway to approve logging and other commercial projects with less formal environmental review under a Bush administration plan on track to be in place by the end of the year.
A final draft of the new forest management rules obtained by The Associated Press drew immediate fire from environmentalists. They accused the administration of bowing to the timber and paper industries and weakening standards for protecting endangered or threatened species.
The new rules will be reviewed by the White House's Office of Management and Budget before going into effect this fall.
The plan would overhaul application of the landmark 1976 National Forest Management Act, which sets the basic rules for management of nation's 190 million acres of forests and grasslands and protects forest wildlife.
The final rules would leave intact some of the most controversial proposals from an earlier version released last November. Like that version, the final plan would give regional managers of the Forest Service more discretion to approve logging, drilling and mining operations without having to conduct formal scientific investigations known as environmental impact statements...

Burning Questions

This summer, there was a fire in the San Juan National Forest near Vallecito, Colo., and the people at the U.S. Forest Service did something novel about it.
Well, not exactly something - more like nothing. For the most part, they stood back, kept an eye on it, and let it do what fires do. After a few weeks and some rain, it went out on its own, at no loss in lives or property.
That may sound about as sensible as an army staying in the barracks while the country is being invaded. But in recent years, the federal government has figured out that trying to snuff out every puff of smoke in the woods is a losing battle. Sometimes, it has concluded, the best policy is to let nature have its way.
This is a big country, and much of it is heavily wooded, prone to drought and therefore susceptible to combustion. Fortunately, an occasional burn can be a good thing. It clears out brush, debris and small trees that serve as kindling for the flames, thus preventing a buildup of fuel that can produce an even bigger conflagration.
But inaction is not the natural tendency of politicians or government agencies...

Jarbidge campground squabble

U.S. Forest Service officials are still awaiting a legal opinion saying the government owns and may demolish improvements at a Jarbidge campground.
"We want to get results hopefully in the next few weeks," said District Ranger Bill Van Bruggen.
Meanwhile, relations between the Forest Service and the Private Lands Conservancy, which bought the private land on which a public campground mistakenly was built after a surveying error, have deteriorated.
The conservancy contests the government's right to remove improvements made on land the conservancy owns.
The dispute is part of a larger battle over who should control Jarbidge land-use issues in general - the Forest Service or a coalition of conservancy officials and members of the Shovel Brigade volunteer group whose work to restore South Canyon Road brought a lawsuit from the federal government...


Reducing Wildfire Threat in Anchorage Through GIS The Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) has recently taken aggressive steps to reduce its risk of wildfire. In 2001, the MOA was declared a community at risk for wildfire by the USDA Forest Service. A community at risk is defined as having a wildland/urban interface that has dangerously high wildfire risks...State, federal officials join critics of Sierra forest plan U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and state Resources Secretary Mary Nichols joined critics of federal plans to manage 11.5 million acres of Sierra Nevada national forest Tuesday. Environmental groups said they gathered more than 30,000 postcards and letters to be sent to the U.S. Forest Service protesting Bush administration changes to the Sierra Nevada Framework adopted in the closing days of the Clinton administration...Report Finds Global Warming Taking a Toll on Parks; Saving Natural Treasures Demands New Policies on Heat-Trapping Gases World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today warned that reductions in heat-trapping gas emissions from burning fossil fuels are urgently needed to protect treasured national and state parks from global warming. The warning comes as WWF releases a new report on the latest scientific research on warming and parks at a 10-year global forum of park managers, scientists and policymakers now underway in South Africa...A plea: Never buy wolf The number of Coloradans buying wolves and wolf-dog cross- breeds is skyrocketing and space to take care of the animals once they become unwanted is becoming scarce. Sanctuary owners, state wildlife officials and ranchers are concerned that if there aren't enough facilities for those animals, owners may simply turn them loose in the wild to fend for themselves... Gallatin Forest would expand Taylor Fork grazing allotment The Taylor Fork drainage south of Big Sky is a wondrous place filled with wildlife: grizzly bears and moose, wolves and elk. It's so important to animals, and to people who enjoy wild places, that the federal government has spent or promised to spend nearly $15 million to buy thousands of acres of private land there. The drainage also hosts hundreds of cattle during the summer months. Now the Gallatin National Forest is proposing to raise the number of cows by 13 percent and increase the number of acres where they can graze...Secretary Norton Announces Signing of Environmentally-Sensitive Pilot Projects, Encourages Passage of Healthy Forests Initiative Interior Secretary Gale Norton today announced three Healthy Forests Initiative pilot projects to reduce the threat of wildland fire are ready for implementation. Secretary Norton announced the signing of decisions to implement the Pahvant Interagency Fuels Reduction Project in central Utah, the Interagency Portneuf Fuels Management Project in southeast Idaho, and the Mesquite Hazardous Fuel Reduction project in southeast Nevada...Agency Proposes New National Park Passes The Interior Department is proposing creation of a nationwide outdoors pass to standardize fees in national parks, forests, dams, recreation areas and other federally owned public lands... Holistic Management and Ranching: New Hope for the Old West? Bitter conflict over land use and economic development has divided the American West for decades. A new landscape interpretation and decision-making framework, Holistic Management TM, challenges notions on both sides and has made for some unlikely allies amongst ranchers and environmentalists. Proponents of Holistic management claim their method can revitalize both Western ranching and the natural ecosystem...
Land for peace: An end of 'grazing war'?

By Brent Israelsen
The Salt Lake Tribune

WEST FORK MADISON RIVER, Mont. -- In the Standard Creek drainage of this world-class fishery, two watering troughs are fed by a pipe connected to a spring a few yards away.
The spring is surrounded by a fenced "exclosure" that keeps cows away.
Inside the fence, grasses and other plants grow lush and tall. On the outside, the grass is stubble, the ground mostly barren. "This is state-of-the-art Forest Service grazing management," George Wuerthner, editor of the book Welfare Ranching, says mockingly.
Wuerthner is an ecologist for the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign, a new Oregon-based group seeking to remove cattle and sheep from 257 million acres of rangelands administered by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
But unlike previous environmental efforts to crack down on grazing, this one is based on the carrot rather than the stick, says Andy Kerr, the campaign's director.
Under the proposal, the federal government would offer ranchers top dollar to give up their grazing privileges.
Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., is expected soon to file a bill called the "Voluntary Grazing Permit Buyout Act of 2003." The legislation calls for the federal government to offer ranchers $175 per "animal-unit month" (AUM), a grazing permit measurement that equals the amount of forage needed for one cow and her calf for one month.
Once bought out by the government, the AUMs would be permanently retired, meaning cattle and sheep could never roam that grazing allotment again.
So far, the campaign has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Watersheds Project and Forest Guardians.
Instead of producing a tiny portion of the nation's meat and wool, the public lands would be used for augmenting and recovering wildlife species, improving watersheds and providing additional recreational opportunities for the West's growing population, the proponents say.
The buyout idea is largely the brainchild of Kerr, who gained national prominence last decade during the spotted owl vs. timber industry battles in the Pacific Northwest.
Part provocateur and part policy wonk, 49-year-old Kerr says he realized a few years ago that environmental groups would eventually win their war against grazing. But it would be a war of attrition, in which ranchers would continue to be beaten down by restrictions, lawsuits and depressed beef prices until they were forced into bankruptcy or another line of work.
There had to be a faster, more humane way to get ranchers and livestock off the public lands, Kerr said.
The idea of a nationwide buyout was the most obvious alternative. But to be successful, Kerr reasoned, it had to offer an attractive rate, one that would allow ranchers to "recapitalize" their livelihood.
The proposed $175 per AUM figure amounts to a significant premium over current market rates, which range from $40 to $130 in Utah, according to Craig Warren, the Logan-based appraiser for Western Agcredit, an agricultural lender.
Paying $175 per AUM would be akin to the "golden parachute" severance packages in the corporate world.
"We're offering [ranchers] a 'golden saddle,' " quips Kerr.
Across the West, 25,000 ranchers hold about 18 million AUMs. If they all took advantage of the buyout, it would cost the U.S. Treasury about $3.2 billion. In Utah, ranchers hold about 1.9 million AUMs, worth about $333 million under the buyout plan.
Kerr argues the buyout would eventually pay for itself.
Currently, the federal grazing program loses $124 million a year.
If other costs are factored in -- soil loss, predator control, water degradation, endangered species, the dewatering of streams and the spread of weeds -- livestock production on public lands costs taxpayers at least $500 million a year, according to a study commissioned by the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity and conducted by economists from the University of Kentucky and the BLM.
While ranchers such as Arizona's Herb Bundy almost universally dismiss such statistics as "hogwash," many others have expressed an interest in Kerr's plan, which the campaign announced in April 2002 in a letter to all public-lands grazing permit holders. The campaign plans to send a follow-up letter after Shays' bill is introduced.
In Arizona, where persistent drought has sent many livestock operations over the financial brink, most ranchers appear to support the federal buyout proposal, says Mark Salvo, who runs the campaign's office in Phoenix.
In an informal survey of grazing permit holders in Arizona -- conducted by the Whitney family's Circle Bar Ranch in Fountain Hills, Ariz. -- 152 of 228 respondents said they favored the buyout plan. The state's largest newspaper, The Arizona Republic, has thrown its editorial support behind the proposal. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., is drafting legislation similar to Shays' that would apply only to ranchers on public lands in Arizona.
Bundy, who runs cattle on the Arizona Strip south of the Utah border, says he opposes any buyout proposal, mainly because of its potential detriment to rural communities.
"But I have a brother [Ethan Bundy] who has a permit inside the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and he doesn't think it's such a bad idea."
Some Utah ranchers also are champing at the bit.
"I've talked to several guys on this, and I'd say about 60 percent are in favor of it," says Ferron rancher Kash Winn, who runs cattle on BLM land in the San Rafael Swell and on Forest Service land on the Wasatch Plateau.
Ranching associations, however, are a different story. The Arizona Cattle Growers Association is against the proposal. Representatives of the Utah Farm Bureau and the Utah Cattlemen's Association say their groups probably would oppose the idea too, although no formal vote has been taken.
Both Utah groups have taken positions in the past generally opposing retirement of grazing permits. Ranching advocates' principal argument is that retiring public-land grazing permits will harm rural economies.
"Most of our small ranching communities are dependent on ranching," says Brent Tanner, Utah Cattlemen's executive vice president.
Kerr acknowledges some communities would be hurt, but he argues they would fare better under a buyout now than if the ranchers simply went out of business a decade or two from now.
Winn seems to agree more with Kerr.
"It would hurt some rural communities, no doubt, because ranchers would leave for other places. But I don't think it will have any major effects [on rural Utah]. I don't think personally it will have as much impact as people think."
If Winn were to sell the 2,100 AUMs he holds, he would receive $367,500 under the Voluntary Grazing Permit Buyout Act.
"That would get me out of debt," says Winn. "I've already purchased some private property, and that's the direction I'm heading."
Winn calls the proposed grazing buyout plan a win-win situation because many public-land ranchers need a way out from under debt and the increasingly costly burden of environmental restrictions, which are not likely to ease.
"It would be the cheapest end to a lot of problems, in a lot of cases. But it's got to be totally voluntary," Winn says.
One potential benefit to society may be an increase in wildlife, both for the hunting and nonhunting public to enjoy. Wyoming state biologists have estimated that one cow eats enough forage to support 6.9 bighorn sheep, 10.8 antelope, 7.8 deer or 2.1 elk.
The Gallatin Wildlife Association, a sportsmen's group in southwestern Montana, supports the buyout, says Glenn Hockett, the group's president. Hockett expects his parent organization, the Montana Wildlife Federation, will follow suit.
Barry Reiswing, manager of the National Elk Refuge adjacent to Grand Teton National Park, also favors the proposal, saying it will solve many problems in wildlife sensitive areas.
Although this is the first time anyone has proposed the federal government be the financier, buyouts are not a new concept.
In recent years, environmental groups have become increasingly active in raising money to purchase grazing permits, which then have been "retired" by the BLM or Forest Service.
The largest of those occurred in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, where the Grand Canyon Trust spent $600,000 to end or drastically reduce grazing on 350,000 acres.
And last month, a consortium of conservation groups spent $250,000 to buy out an 87,000-acre Forest Service grazing allotment bordering Grand Teton, where livestock conflicts with bears, wolves and other wildlife are legion.
There is one major risk, however, to those types of buyouts: Current federal statutes do not guarantee that retirements will be permanent.
The Grand Canyon Trust recently encountered resistance from the Bush administration over grazing retirements. The trust, which had initially balked at supporting Kerr's proposal, is reconsidering its position, says Bill Hedden, the group's Moab representative who negotiated the Grand Staircase-Escalante deal.
"We now believe that something along the lines of the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign may be the answer."

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Water Wars

One of the less well-known attacks on capitalism and trade that can be expected at the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico will be on water privatisation. A related concern and inevitable complaint will be directed against excess energy consumption, allegedly leading to a warming planet, which will apparently make water supplies even scarcer.
While these attacks, made by a mixture of green groups, unions and socialist governments, will not make the headlines -- the debates about agricultural subsidies and access to drugs are of more immediate concern -- they will persist and grow over the next decade. Water will be the resource issue of the 21st century and the allegations made about how capitalism and trade exacerbate water wars must be combated today.
A few weeks ago at the Stockholm Water Symposium, the United Nations proclaimed that between 2 billion and 7 billion people will be affected by water scarcity by 2050. Since the low-end projection for the number of people on the planet in 2050 is 7 billion, this should be some indicator of how alarmist the UN has become on water...

Green for Greenbacks? Bush's Record Under Fire

Ah, America! The spacious skies! The purple mountain majesties! The amber waves of grain! If you want to see them, you'd better hurry up because the Bush administration is rapidly selling them off to its campaign contributors from the energy, mining and timber industries.
If that sounds like hyperbole to you, read two scathing magazine articles on our president's environmental policies -- a good piece in the September-October issue of Mother Jones and an even better one in the September issue of Vanity Fair.
"George W. Bush is compiling what is arguably the worst environmental record of any president in recent history," writes Osha Gray Davidson in Mother Jones...

Why property is important

Imagine you have just purchased a two-bedroom condo in New York City. You saved for 10 years to buy it. It is conveniently located, has a beautiful view and you plan to turn one of the bedrooms into a home office for your consulting business. You paid $300,000 for the condo, but you are thrilled to have it.
After signing the check for the down payment, you are all set to move in your furniture, computer and personal effects. You hear a knock at the door.
Two armed agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service want to talk to you about your condo and your plans to run a consulting business from that second bedroom. You see, your condo has been designated as critical habitat for the endangered Manhattan cockroach...


U.S. Fish and Wildlife won't list mountain plover as threatened The mountain plover won't be placed on the threatened species list because new information indicates the bird's population is holding steady, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday. Studies show agricultural areas provide alternate nesting habitats for the bird rather than destroying nesting areas as feared, the agency said...BLM sees positive results from work to rehab areas burned in Grizzly Gulch Fire Progress is being made to repair damage from the Grizzly Gulch Fire of 2002 which burned near Deadwood and Lead, an advisory council to the Bureau of Land Management heard last week...Wildfire evacuees return home Evacuees were returning home Monday as mild weather helped firefighters gain on a wildfire that had blazed through old brush and timber. The fire, in the San Bernardino National Forest about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, was 35 percent contained early Monday after charring about 1,300 acres, the U.S. Forest Service reported... A Battle for Turf Where the Grizzlies Ruled A major potential threat, they say, is a copper and silver mine that is planned in the bears' remaining habitat. Nine environmental groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in July to overturn approval for the mine given by the Kootenai National Forest. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service signed off on the mine, saying it would not harm the bears...Builders take aim at Alaskan timber restrictions The National Association of Home Builders is urging the U.S. Forest Service to ensure an adequate supply of timber nationwide and to protect the economic livelihood of builders and other local businesses in Alaska by exempting the Tongass and the Chugach National Forests from consideration under the proposed Roadless Area Conservation Rule for national forests."Placing restrictions such as the ones in the Roadless Rule on timber harvests will result in higher and more volatile lumber prices, and will negatively affect housing affordability across the nation," said Jerry Howard, NAHB's executive vice president and CEO...Investigators look for cause of Aspen wildfire While dozens of firefighters tried to contain a wildfire that devastated a mountaintop community earlier this summer, a smaller group was focused on a much more delicate but nevertheless important task. Investigators using a combination of science and old-fashioned detective work were looking for clues that would answer the key questions: How did the Aspen fire start? And Why?...Americans to Lend Hand to Their Public Lands on Sept. 20 Thousands of Americans will take part in those and hundreds of other projects on Saturday, Sept. 20, as part of the 10th annual National Public Lands Day (NPLD). Each year, the country's largest volunteer, hands-on effort draws volunteers from every state to provide the "Helping Hands for America's Lands."...Ranger keeps cool during bear encounters One day about 10 years ago, Harry Tullis got up, went to work and was charged by a 700-pound grizzly bear. But it was just another day at the office for Tullis, who since 1989 has worked as a wilderness ranger for the Juneau Ranger District on Admiralty Island, home to one of the densest bear populations on earth...Where We Agree On Preserving Forests Edward O. Wilson is fighting battles from 20 or 30 years ago ["Selling Out Our Forests," op-ed, Aug. 28]. Today, nobody in the Forest Service is making an "economic argument for increased road-building." We have learned that what we leave on the land is more important than what we take away... World Parks Congress tackles obstacles Conservationists gather in South Africa this week to discuss how to preserve the planet’s natural heritage, with experts warning that more than 11,000 species of animals and plants risk extinction... Big Straw may be fiscally 'unfeasible' The price tag for moving water from the Utah border to the Front Range isn't known, but it's likely to be a shocker. "We are not far enough along to give a dollar estimate," said Blaine Dwyer of Boyle Engineering Corp., which has a $500,000 contract to study the costs of the Big Straw proposal...>"You Just Can't Win With the Environmentalists" Eco-friendly windmills are killing birds in the Altamont Pass.......... At one point in time, the environmentalists didn't want us to harvest old-growth redwood trees. Then, they extended their purview. Now, they don't want us to cut down any trees for fear that a lumber company would make a profit. Far better to have huge wildfires than to risk that. The same goes for oil drilling. Once, they objected to drilling in the Arctic Preserve. Now, that has broadened into no oil drilling at all. They just never are satisfied...

Monday, September 08, 2003

Ranchers, CBD debate wolf removal

Traps have been set in western New Mexico to remove at least one Mexican Gray Wolf.
Rancher Fred Galley said three calves were injured and two cows were killed because wolves have been stalking his cattle over the last seven weeks. One of the cattle was weakened by wolves and killed by a bear, but injuries caused by wolves made the cow easy prey for the bear, Galley said.
He owns Rainy Mesa Ranch and his cattle graze in the Gila National Forest.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said there was no proof that wolves had been a factor in the injuries...

DNA confirms Washington grizzly sighting A DNA analysis has determined that hair samples taken in May from a barbed-wire fence east of Chesaw, Wash., were left by a grizzly, a scientist said... Authorities scratching their heads over stripped yew trees Roughly 40 yew trees have been found illegally felled and stripped of bark on public lands near this Southern Oregon town...Esmeralda County Voters Draw Their Pens; Grand Jury Investigation into Nevada Brand Inspector a Go Wednesday , residents, concerned citizens and Nevada Live Stock Association members initiated a petition drive in Esmeralda County to request a special grand jury to investigate Nevada State Brand Inspector, Jim Connelley, for allowing the illegal confiscation of an Esmeralda County rancher's cattle. The petition alleges that Mr. Connelley played a key roll in collaborating with the Federal government in the July, 2001 seizure of 62 head of rancher Ben Colvin's cattle, in direct violation of seventeen Nevada laws... Environmental Groups Demand Idaho Water, Threaten Agriculture Claiming the federal government is violating the Endangered Species Act over management of 10 Upper Snake River Dams, a coalition of environmental groups recently filed a notice of intent to sue. To Idaho irrigation and agriculture interests the threat is monumental. If a lawsuit commences it has the potential to dry up over one million acres of irrigated crops with an economic impact of over a billion dollars per year... Enviros cut noses to spite own faces We are truly disappointed by a play for Idaho water by Idaho Rivers United and the Idaho Conservation League, in an unwise feint toward their ultimate goal of breaching Snake River dams...Regional activist questions open-range, wolf laws Kent Knudson is battling against open-range laws in Snowflake after being arrested for shooting a cow that wandered onto his property. Knudson became an open-range activist after the events that followed the death of Dee Johnson's cow. Since the incident, he has posted his arguments against open-range ranching on the Internet to promote the cause against the laws...
Howling Mad

Dean Warren has a story to tell about how Mexican Gray wolves stole one of the best parts of his life.
He was on horseback on a mountain trail south of Rose Peak, in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, when four wolves attacked him and his six blue tick hounds, setting off a ferocious struggle.
"Picture 10 animals in a dogfight under your horse, and you know what I'm talking about," says Warren, then a rancher and range deputy for the Greenlee County Sheriff's Office.
"I'm being attacked by wolves!" he hollered into his police radio. "I need help!"
He yelled and fired shots into the air, but the wolves kept coming. The desperate brawl lasted two hours. Warren's fighting retreat brought him to Sawmill Cabin, where he closed himself inside a barn, the animals pacing and howling outside.
Something--probably the arrival of rescuers--caused them to quit, and Warren, 62 years old at the time and a crack outdoorsman, headed home, considering himself lucky. If his horse hadn't been accustomed to dogs, he says he could've been thrown to the ground and injured or killed.
But the funny part, the tragic part, the unbelievable part, is the idea of a cowboy, alone, in a death struggle with vicious animals--and what's running through his mind, apart from not turning into wolf kibble?
"I definitely felt threatened, but I knew that if I shot those wolves, I could pay a huge fine and maybe get years in jail," says Warren. "Hiring a lawyer would break me. I don't have that kind of money in my hip pocket."
Welcome to the government's version of the Wild West...

A long article, but interesting.
Lube That Chain Saw, Bush is set to roll back protections under the Northwest Forest Plan.

...WHEN THE NORTHWEST Forest Plan took effect in 1994, the intent was to find a balance between the needs of the timber industry for wood from public land and the need to preserve forest ecosystems. It hasn't exactly worked out as advertised for the loggers.
In the intervening years, the annual harvest has only run at about 25 percent of what loggers say they were promised by the federal government, largely a result of environmental groups tying up timber sales in court. When the Bush administration took office in 2001, the message from the Northwest timber industry, which donated more than $1 million to the campaign, was to rejigger the plan so there would be fewer impediments to logging. The feds listened, much to the chagrin of the enviros.
Within the next two weeks, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management—the two agencies that administer federal lands in the Northwest—will unveil changes to the forest plan's provisions, known as "survey and manage," to monitor mollusks, red tree voles, lichen, and other flora and fauna unique to Northwest forests. (The survey-and-manage species, as they are known, did not include such animals as the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet, both covered under the much-stricter Endangered Species Act.) The idea behind survey-and-manage is to ensure that before timber is cut, biologists clamber about the forests to discover what species might be harmed. Discovery of a red tree vole nest, for example, could result in 10 acres of forest being deemed unsuitable for logging...


From: "mike hardiman"

Fellow Americans: Apparently, we may have the Land Trusts on the run - Congressmen Herger, Blunt, Pombo and Cannon are really speaking out for us - we may win this!!! PLEASE PLEASE forward the email below to your lists, and act on it yourself, we can win this issue and keep private property on the same playing field with the gigantic, super-rich "non-profit" Land Trusts. Your activism has made a HUGE difference - this is the NUMBER ONE legislative priority for the Land Trusts, and it is up in the air now. They are fighting hard for this Tax Favoritism for themselves - at the expense of schools and churches - in the Faith Based Initiative, incredibly enough!!!!! KEEP UP the great work - we can beat the big boys! Mike Hardiman
Text: ONE MORE DAY!!! The vote on the Land Trust Tax Scam has been put off AGAIN - until Tuesday evening, September 9!!!
This is the SECOND TIME that the House of Representatives tax-writing committee, the Ways and Means Committee, has delayed its vote on the Land Trust Amendment to bill number HR 7.
GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS like YOU have made a HUGE difference!
The Nature Conservancy (assets - $3.4 Billion, annual budget - $750 Million) and the other super-rich Land Trusts thought they had everything sewn up by flooding the Capitol with dozens of lobbyists.
HOWEVER, then Congress heard from their constituents, from the people, from YOU!!!
NOW the issue is in doubt - there is no telling which way the Ways and Means Committee will vote. YOUR effort is needed ONE MORE TIME!!!
HERE is the issue: The Land Trusts are demanding a loophole for themselves in HR 7 that will discount 50% off of capital gains taxes for a seller of land - BUT - only if the land is sold to a Land Trust or government agency! If the land is sold to anyone else, forget it - no tax break.
HERE are the many reasons why this is a rip-off of landowners, churches, private schools, small communities and taxpayers. PLEASE take these reasons and act on the ACTION ITEMS BELOW!!!!!!!!
ONE. The only ones who will benefit from this special tax break are Land Trusts, NOT the seller of the land. This proposal will severely devalue private property. It allows Land Trusts and government agencies to cut their offering price for land, because no other entity will be able to compete with a 50% capital gains tax cut available ONLY if land is sold to them. The landowner loses out with devalued property. Effectively the only beneficiary is the Land Trust!
TWO. This Tax Favoritism proposal will discourage private parties from even bidding on land, so many times the only offers for land will be made by the land-gobbling Land Trusts and government agencies. Do you think you will get a fair price from them???
THREE. It will damage the economic and property tax base of communities since more and more land will become tax-exempt. This increases the tax burden on remaining private lands and businesses, and hurts schools, fire, police and other government services. All the while, the Land Trusts sit back and watch, not paying any taxes themselves.
FOUR. HR 7, the Faith Based Initiative that the Land Trusts are attempting to amend, is intended to encourage churches, orphanages and private schools to promote social services. And yet the Land Trusts desire to place themselves at an advantage over churches, orphanages and private schools in this very bill!!! Social service non-profits are NOT eligible for this proposed tax deal - ONLY Land Trusts!
FIVE. It will hand over more land to government agencies, since this Tax Favoritism proposal permits the tax break for sales of land ONLY to Land Trusts or government agencies.
SIX. It will cost, according the House-Senate Joint Taxation Committee, $948 million - nearly a BILLION dollars added to America's national debt, just to feed the Land Trusts hunger for more power.
SEVEN. Land Trusts, since they are "non-profits," ALREADY have huge business advantages over private individuals, since they don't pay taxes and contributions to them are tax deductible. The Nature Conservancy for example has $3.4 Billion in assets and a $750 Million annual budget - and pays NO taxes! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!
EIGHT. WATER RIGHTS. The Land Trusts are demanding that this Tax Favoritism include sales of water rights, damaging the future of communities.
*** ACTION *** ACTION *** ACTION ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
VOTE NO on the Land Trust Amendment to HR 7 !
THANK OUR FRIENDS ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! These four listed below are fighting for private property rights, the United States Constitution and for YOU.
THANK THEM! Tell them PLEASE keep up the great work!!!
Rep. Wally HERGER is a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee. He is a long-time Champion for private property rights, and has been leading the fight for us on Ways and Means. PLEASE THANK HIM and let him know how much we appreciate all his good work. Contact Derek Harley -
Rep. Chris CANNON is Chairman of the 50 member Western Caucus. He has rallied westerners and all property rights supporters in opposition to this Tax Favoritism for Land Trusts. You can THANK HIM by contacting: Trevor Kolego -
Rep. Roy BLUNT is senior member of the House Republican Leadership. He sounded the initial warning bell on this Land Trust Tax Scam and has been working hard to keep HR 7, the Faith Based Initiative bill, focused on helping social service agencies, not Multibillion Dollar Land Trusts. THANK HIM by contacting: April Ponnuru -
Rep. Richard POMBO is Chairman of the Committee on Resources. He has been on the front lines of every property rights battle. He has been this time as well, fighting to keep a level playing field for private property versus the gigantic, hugely profitable "non-profit" Land Trusts. You can THANK HIM by contacting Laura Hylden -
Here are a handful of key Ways and Means Committee members who are playing it "close to the vest" and are undecided on whether to hand over this huge tax break to the Land Trusts. They have all been lobbied heavily by the land trust lobbyists crawling all over the Capitol. They need to hear from YOU!!!
TELL THEM, using the reasons listed above, pick out the ones that you think are most important, and TELL THEM that the wealthy Land Trusts ALREADY enjoy plenty of tax advantages and do not need any more.
ALSO - Send that same message you your own House member - because the Land Trusts may attempt a legislative end-run at some later date if they can't grab their special carve-out now.
Contact your own House member AND the key House Ways and Means Committee members listed below.
-----You can call every Representative at (202) 224-3121. A TEMPORARY TOLL FREE NUMBER is (800) 648-3516.
HERE are the three key members of the House Ways and Means Committee:
Committee Chairman William Thomas (R-CA) -- (202) 225-2915 -- FAX
(202) 225-8798 – E-mail:
Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) – (202) 225-7761 – FAX (202) 225-8673 – E-mail:
J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) -- (202) 225-2190 – FAX (202) 225-3263 – E-mail:

How The West Was Sold

...Cotton Basinger hooks a thumb into his belt, and gazes out over the cactus-and cottonwood-dotted valley where he has grazed cattle for 50 years. Like others in this rural, southern Arizona settlement of windmills, barbed wire, and pickup trucks, he's angry that environmentalists recently were able to outbid another local rancher to lease 162 acres of prime, state-owned grazing land just down the hill.
In May, New Mexico-based Forest Guardians offered about $2,000 per year for the picturesque riverside habitat, which the group plans to restore. It marks the first time in Arizona that nonranchers have been allowed to compete for coveted state grazing leases. But to Mr. Basinger, it's all part of a long-term agenda. "They're just going to make it too expensive to ranch anymore," he says. "And that's exactly what the environmentalists want."
Mr. Basinger may be right. Western public-lands ranchers have long been targeted by environmental groups, who claim that cattle grazing destroys ecosystems, isn't competitive with Midwestern factory farms, and only survives through government subsidies.
But now, after years of fighting ranchers over stewardship of public lands in the courts, local public hearings, and statehouses, environmentalists are turning to their wallets at auctions. Their approach may be summed up as: 'If you can't beat 'em, outbid 'em.'...


Logging rules relaxed to deal with beetle infestation SILT, Colo. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service is making use of new, more relaxed rules to rush through a logging project in the Flat Tops Wilderness to reduce the spread of beetles. The Little Box timber harvest, about 17 miles north of Silt, is being conducted under one of five new categorical exclusions, or CEs, that allow sales to go forward without an environmental review process... Slurry system protects homes La Plata County residents seeking to fire-proof their homes have one more weapon available with the introduction of slurry spraying machines available through a Mancos-based company...Washington concocts new spoils system Under the guise of flexibility, the Bush administration is quietly engineering a corporate takeover of government. President Bush has ordered all federal agencies to solicit bids from private corporations to replace 425,000 civil service jobs by the next election. That’s nearly one-quarter of the entire permanent federal work force.The National Park Service has been one of the first agencies slated to implement what the Bush administration calls “competitive sourcing.� According to agency documents, the plan entails potential replacement of 11,000 employees – more than two-thirds of the Park Service’s permanent workforce... Front drilling battleground As the federal government pushes for oil and natural gas development in the Rocky Mountains, nowhere does the debate hit closer to home than here, where the plains roll up to the Front's extraordinary peaks. Many folks on Choteau's Main Avenue won't discuss oil and gas development; they fear losing customers or friends, no matter what their opinion. A survey in Teton County showed a near split down the middle between those who support "environmental quality" and those who support "development of natural resources." ...Lands Council refutes Bush's forest initiative SANDPOINT, Idaho -- The Lands Council is using a Panhandle fire to dispute the Bush administration's Healthy Forest Initiative. The conservation group argues the 650-acre Myrtle Creek fire burning eight miles west of Bonners Ferry demonstrates how backcountry logging projects are ineffective at reducing forest fuels and protecting communities from wildfires... BLM considers sage grouse habitat conservation plan It's been called the icon of the West and the "spotted owl" of the western sagebrush steppe. But proposed listings of the dwindling number of sage grouse under the federal endangered species act would affect management of federal, state and private lands throughout the birds' range in parts of Utah, the Great Basin and the northern Great Plains...Biologist keeps close tabs on Wyoming's wolves On a trail in the Upper Green River Valley, wolf biologist Mike Jimenez sees the first clue that the alpha female of the Green River Pack has passed this way... Hatcheries are no substitute for quality habitat A full seven months before his August trip to the Northwest, President Bush foreshadowed the administration's new salmon policy in his State of the Union Address. The president said that "the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command and control litigation, but through technology and innovation." He was partly right...

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Grazing On Public Lands Necessary For Health of Rural Utah

...Recently, lawsuits have been filed against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by the Western Watershed Alliance (WWA) to stop the renewal of allotments for Utah's livestock producers that allow them to graze on public land. WWA believes there should be absolutely no livestock grazing on public land, period.
Public land grazing has been a hotly debated topic for years. For a long time the claim was made that the land was overgrazed to the detriment of native wildlife species. In the past that may have been true in various areas, but over the years, mainly due to the educational efforts of extension range specialists at western land grant universities and technical assistance providers in federal and state resource agencies, the public rangeland is in much better condition today.
The lawsuits, unfortunately, will be decided not on rangeland health, but rather on procedure, the inability of the BLM to do its mandated monitoring of rangelands. The monitoring has not been done because the agency simply has lacked sufficient budget to do so. The losers, if these lawsuits are successful, will not only be the health of Utah agriculture, but the very quality of life of every resident who enjoys Utah's beauty and open spaces. How so? ...

The author, Jack M. Payne, is vice president for University Extension, director of Utah Cooperative Extension Service and dean of Continuing Education at Utah State University.
Yellowstone blaze lit up fire debate

With a dull roar 15 years ago today, Old Faithful erupted at 3:30 p.m. as ash began to rain from the sky. Off to the west, an air tanker flew in low and dropped a slurry of magenta retardant on a hillside across from the geyser. Sharp tongues of flame appeared out of the black smoke as the North Fork Fire crested the western ridge.
A firestorm was brewing on the edge of one of the nation´s most-loved natural attractions. When the day was over, 200,000 acres of forests had been blackened. Millions of Americans watching on TV were told it was the destruction of Yellowstone...

This is a special report on the Yellowstone Fire by Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman, with some discussion of current fire policy. For the other article in the special report see New growth in Yellowstone shows benefit of natural fire
Grazing Permit Buyout Makes Room For Bears

...A recent buyout of livestock grazing permits -- made possible with the financial help of a little-known organization in Utah -- virtually guarantees that cattle will roam no more on a huge chunk of land east of Grand Teton National Park.
The deal is the largest of its type in the 27-million-acre greater Yellowstone ecosystem and the latest in a growing trend of free-market buyouts of grazing permits in sensitive places around the West.
Despite the removal of domesticated red meat from grizzlies' diet, this latest buyout is good news for the animals. When bears eat cows, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is bound by law to pay ranchers for the losses and to remove or kill the offending bears...
After nearly a year of negotiations, they and the Walton Ranch struck a deal. The National Wildlife Federation agreed to pay the Walton Ranch $250,000 for their grazing allotment. The Waltons have used the cash to buy grazing leases on private land in Idaho.
And the U.S. Forest Service agreed to end livestock grazing in the allotment, which is sandwiched between the park and the Teton Wilderness Area, another important range for grizzly bears...
The retirement of the grazing permits by the Forest Service is not permanent. Subsequent forest managers could reinstate grazing, but most people associated with this buyout say that is unlikely.
The buyout is similar to a transaction that occurred in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah last year. In that deal, the Grand Canyon Trust paid several ranchers $600,000 for grazing permits. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which administers the monument, then agreed to end or drastically reduce grazing on 350,000 acres inside the federal reserve...
Minnow Fight Brings Congressmen to Belen

...The fight between fish and people continued Saturday morning in Belen as members of the U.S. Congress held a hearing about the endangered silvery minnow.
The chairman of the committee on resources listened to stories from farmers who are struggling to make a living.
"When it comes to water it's very difficult to try and deal with the endangered species and deal with the need people have for water," said Rep. Richard Pombo of California.
The republican legislator says the endangered species act needs to be changed considering a recent ruling which allows the federal government to use water to protect the minnow in spite of long-standing water rights.
Pombo said that in some cases, the endangered species act "just got off what Congress originally intended."
Farmers from Belen testified about their current woes brought on by the drought and told legislators that they were concerned that protecting the minnow would make matters worse.
"It's caused families to change much of their livelihood, how they support their families," said Yolanda Tabet, whose family grows alfalfa.
Tabet's husband Phil says that his ancestors have farmed in Belen for a century, but he decided farming was too unpredictable anymore, and made his family’s primary income a restaurant.
He says that it seems legislators are finally listening to the people.
"It's finally sinking in," said Phil Tabet. "They're finally hearing us. And I really believe that this meeting was a very good meeting"...