Friday, October 24, 2003


Received no comments since yesterday on H.R. 3324. The comments by Sue Krentz and Cynthia P. Coping were good stuff, but would like to have more to share with the readers of this blog, which includes some Congressional staffers.

I will be traveling today and be the banquet speaker at tonights NM Multiple Sclerosis Society Appreciation Dinner. Hope to return to blogging Sunday.

Don't hesitate to email me and let me know how I can improve this site and make it more interesting or useful to my fellow westerners.

Y'all have a good weekend.

NOTE: Click on the highlighted areas in orange to go to the article, study, report, etc.

Two Western governors raise concerns about Senate wildfire bill Governors of New Mexico and Arizona say a forest fire prevention bill stalled in the Senate fails to meet the needs of forest communities and more should be done. Specifically, the legislation needs to focus efforts to reduce fire risks in communities near forests, to provide funding for forest treatment projects, and to include clear protections for old growth forests, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, both Democrats, wrote in a letter to several senators...Forest Service says ads are inflammatory Raw feelings between Shovel Brigade members and the U.S. Forest Service have led to a media war and a decision by one district ranger not to attend a scheduled meeting with ranchers about their grazing allotments. Radio advertising began airing on local stations over the weekend stating that the Forest Service has implemented a policy of issuing citations for "operating any vehicle off-road in a manner which damages or unreasonably disturbs the land, wildlife or vegetative resources." The ad refers anyone who has received such a citation to the Shovel Brigade for help. On Saturday, an Idaho man who had been cited for resource damage for driving up South Canyon Road at Jarbidge attended a meeting there of the Shovel Brigade. During that meeting, Elko attorney Grant Gerber, who has represented the Shovel Brigade in the past, told the Free Press he has agreed to defend John Eickhof of Wendell, Idaho, as he fights the ticket. Other radio ads went further. The announcement, paid for by Mike Lattin, encourages anyone cited and "apprehended" by Forest Service personnel for such an offense to "consider them armed and dangerous" and to cooperate to the fullest extent possible. Similar ads began running in today's Elko Daily Free Press...Also see Armed and dangerous: Forest Service calls Elko ads inflammatory....Watersheds project opens office in Bozeman The Western Watersheds Project recently opened an office in Bozeman, Mont., under the direction of Glenn Hockett, according to a press release from project officials. "Western Watersheds Project welcomes having such a knowledgeable, on-the-ground director for our new office in Montana," said Jon Marvel, executive director of WWP. "We know Glenn's work will assist the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to comply with the law." Based in Hailey WWP now has offices in Mendon, Utah; Pinedale, Wyo., and Missoula and Bozeman as well as ongoing conservation work in eight western states. The group's chief target is public lands livestock grazing that WWP says destroys western watersheds and threatens or endangers species such as wolves, bighorn sheep and native fish...Research behind forest thinning comes under fire The U.S. Forest Service and environmentalists are at odds over a plan to prevent catastrophic fires on almost 8,000 acres of high-elevation forest near Leadville. The Forest Service says the combination of thinning and planned burns will allow smaller, more frequent fires to restore the kind of forest that existed there before miners moved into the area. But environmental groups argue the money would be better spent controlling fire danger in Front Range communities...Jaguar photographed near Mexico border A rare and elusive jaguar has been captured on film at a remote area south of Tucson. The photograph, released yesterday, was snapped in August by a surveillance camera hidden in an area suspected to be frequented by the endangered cat. A big cat specialist believes it shows the same jaguar photographed by a surveillance camera in December 2001. "This (recent) photograph is incredibly exciting because of the patterns of spots on the animal," said Bill Van Pelt of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. He said the recent picture was taken about five miles from the first. Exactly where the photographs were taken is being kept secret to protect it....States, Environmental Groups Challenge Bush on Global Warming: Twelve Attorneys General Challenge Politically Charged EPA Pollution Ruling Twelve states, several cities, and over a dozen environmental groups today joined forces to challenge the Bush Administration's continued failure to confront global warming. The plaintiffs are targeting the unprecedented ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency late last summer that summarily disavowed the agency's long-standing jurisdiction under the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming emissions. The states, cities and groups challenged the EPA decision in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. States challenging EPA's decision are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. American Samoa, and the District of Columbia are also named in today's petition. The cities of Baltimore, and New York also filed a separate petition today...Ranchers sue to remove wolves Ranchers and county leaders are trying to stop the Blue Range Mexican Gray Wolf reintroduction project by suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Coalition of the Arizona and New Mexico Counties Executive Director Howard Hutchinson said that individual ranchers and cattle groups joined forces to file a lawsuit to remove the wolves from the wild. The preliminary injunction that was filed about two weeks ago includes testimony from local rancher Rocky Manuz about the reintroduction project. In his testimony, Manuz addresses alleged and proven depredations caused by the wolves. The primary goal of the lawsuit is to prove the wolves are crossbreeding and to put them temporarily back into captivity until safeguards are designed to prevent the disruption of the wolves' gene pool. If this were to happen, wolves would be removed from the Blue Range Reintroduction Area that includes eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. Hutchinson said the lawsuit focuses on the high probability of wolves interbreeding with domestic canines or wolf hybrids, decreasing the purity of their endangered gene pool. He said the groups have evidence of a wolf litter that has markings that look exactly like a breed of ranching dog known as catahoula dogs. "We also believe that there have been other instances of crossbreeding with coyotes, domestic dogs or wolf hybrids," he said. "Part of our claim is that the Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to honor our Freedom of Information Act request with this genetic issue."...Fish report fallout keeps on coming The day after the release of a federal report about fish in the Klamath Basin, reaction continues to roll out from Washington, D.C., to Klamath Falls to the Pacific Coast. The most common message is that the National Research Council's report on endangered fishes in the Basin is going to change things. Members of Congress said the report refocuses restoration efforts on the Basin as a whole. Federal officials said the report will change how the Klamath River is managed. The Klamath Tribes said the report shows the need for restoration of the ecosystem. Meanwhile, a Northern California newspaper said a draft version of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on the fall 2002 Klamath River fish kill blames low flows in the river. According to the Eureka Times-Standard, a preliminary U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report says about 33,000 chinook salmon died because of low water flows in the Klamath River. The paper said it got the draft Tuesday and quoted it as saying ''decreased discharge'' delayed migration of the salmon, which died from disease in the crowded lower river in September 2002...Bear conference focuses on dealing with habituation People can, need to and are successfully coexisting with habituated populations of brown and grizzly bears, one of the world's leading authorities on bear-human interactions said Thursday. But successful coexistence isn't possible everywhere and always requires the active management of both people and bears, Stephen Herrero told a meeting of bear biologists from the United States and Canada. By allowing visitors to be close - albeit, not too close - to bears, park and refuge managers can expand the public's understanding, enjoyment and love of the species, said Herrero, a professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta...Ranching 101: Hey, Dude, Where's My Herd? "A lot of cowboys don't like dudes riding with their cattle," Bob Cochran, a cowboy who looks as if he just got off the set of a John Ford western, tells me somewhat delicately. We are moving a small herd up a mountainside, and my son and I have broken the first rule of cattle wrangling: don't ride too close to the cows. Now, instead of traveling in a nice, compact group, some are veering off toward the woods to the right, a few have chosen to go left, and the less adventuresome ones are plodding on straight ahead. With an almost imperceptible flick of his reins, Mr. Cochran signals his horse to take pursuit of the strays, and my husband, with slightly less aplomb, takes off after him. Though my husband, Robert, and our two children, Elly, 12, and Jesse, 8, are Easterners, we at least like to think we can blend into new places gracefully, without instantly being branded as tourists. In our less-than-Western garb — from my baseball cap to Jesse's nylon track pants — we are clearly dudes at the Boulder Mountain Ranch, a small outfit in southern Utah run by Mr. Cochran and Sioux, his wife...If Mad Cows Could Talk Dead mad cows can't talk. If they could, they'd probably tell you they are genuinely mad, with good reason, over the way Japan's bureaucrats and politicians have handled bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). "Blame humans, not cows," they might moo. Silly cow talk? Nope. When the latest case of mad cow disease was found near Tokyo on Oct. 6 -- Japan's eighth case since the first BSE victim shocked Japan in the summer of 2001 -- the government fell back on the now familiar tack of "round-up-the-regular-suspects" and try not to panic the voters or, rather, consumers. So far, the government has been unable to explain the causes of any of the eight cases. While touting the success of its policy of "testing" every cow in Japan, it has knowingly put out misleading information about what it has done to prevent the disease from spreading. And it ignored a warning from the European Union that, if followed, could have prevented BSE cases. The victim in the latest case was a bull whose age was surprisingly young -- 23 months old. Japan's previous seven infected cattle had been much older. The animal was brought to a slaughterhouse in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo, on Sept. 29. The bull's brain sample tested positive in the initial screening test...FDA On Animal Antibiotics Faced with growing concern about antibiotics in livestock, the Food and Drug Administration recommended a three-step process Thursday to help make sure drugs proposed for use on animals won't create dangerous drug-resistant germs. Companies proposing new antimicrobial drugs for animal use could apply the guidelines in their applications for approval, the agency said. In addition, officials said the FDA will use the guidance to evaluate antimicrobials already in use, and could move to take them off the market if it determines there is a risk to humans...CSU professor estimates $100 billion cost nationally from CWD Chronic wasting disease could have a $100 billion economic impact across the country every year under a worst case scenario developed by a Colorado State University researcher. Andrew Seidl, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics, said Thursday his estimate is based on the possibility that chronic wasting disease would be so widespread that no one would hunt or travel to view wildlife. ''The bottom line is while we really don't know what the total economic impact is going to be, we can see that wildlife is a large and important industry,'' said Seidl...US-Australia FTA could take 10 years: expert A United States trade expert says a free trade deal between the US and Australia could take as long as 10 years to be phased in. Dr Mechel Paggi from the University of California says the US will play hard ball on agricultural reform and will push for changes to Australia's quarantine provisions and the export monopoly on wheat. And he says the US is unlikely to make concessions on things like the beef quota, which limits Australian imports to the US. Dr Paggi says President Bush is facing an election in 2004, and a free trade agreement could cost him votes. "I think farmers and ranchers on both sides of the ocean are impatient," he said.
"I think the process looks to me like it will take some time into 2005 to complete, and then likely it will follow the history of the agreements with Mexico and Canada, where you have got a phase-in over a 10-year period before you have the actual free trade that we all want."...

Thursday, October 23, 2003


NOTE: Click on the highlighted areas in orange to go to the article, study, report, etc.

Aspen fire property claims hit $80M No one can measure the misery and sentimental loss caused by last summer's Aspen fire, but a not-for-profit insurance information agency has pegged property claims at $80 million. The Arizona Insurance Information Association surveyed insurance companies about claims made on losses on Mount Lemmon, said James Frederikson, executive director of the association. "We are pretty confident of that number," he said. The estimate includes claims for loss of personal property, real estate and living expenses for displaced residents, he said. Living expenses are commonly paid to policyholders in such catastrophes for up to a year. But the $80 million does not include the estimated $16.3 million reportedly spent by the U.S. Forest Service to fight the blaze that swept across nearly 85,000 acres of the Santa Catalina Mountains for nearly four weeks beginning in mid-June. Nor does it account for damage to the forest, wildlife, picnic areas, fences or roads, he said. It does not count the millions lost in electrical equipment and radio towers, he said...Forest Service team in court over disbanding Five Forest Service whistleblowers are finally getting their day in court, eight years after their elite task force that investigated corporate timber fraud was disbanded. In the early 1990s, the newly created unit squared off against what critics say was a deeply entrenched industry practice of pinching a few extra trees from federal timber sales, with total losses to the public reaching an estimated $100 million a year. The Portland-based unit covering Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska landed some big convictions, including a $1.7 million judgment for corporate theft of trees in Oregon. The Forest Service disbanded the Timber Theft Task Force in 1995 and reassigned some investigators to arrest environmental protesters instead, said Tom Devine, the attorney for the whistleblowers. Members suspected pressure from the timber industry prompted that decision, and filed a whistleblower lawsuit...It's final: No basis for cutoff The National Research Council is sticking by its story: There was no good scientific basis for the water shutoff of 2001. In its final report about coho salmon in the Klamath River and suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, the Council reaffirmed preliminary findings from January 2002 and made numerous recommendations for helping to restore suckers and salmon and get them off the list of endangered species. The council released its final report Tuesday, and the chairman of its study committee, William Lewis, held a press conference about it. The panel reiterated that there is no evidence of a "causal connection" between water levels in Up-per Klamath Lake and the welfare of its suckers, or that higher flows on the river help salmon. It also found that there was no scientific evidence to support lowering the bar for the lake level and flow targets set in the biological opinions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2002...Law Expert: Klamath a Conflict of Cultures, Not Just Science As stakeholders in the Klamath Basin react today to a long-awaited scientific report on the region's threatened and endangered fish, an environmental law expert at UC Davis says science alone cannot determine how limited water resources should be allocated among competing demands. Law professor Holly Doremus writes in the current issue of the journal Ecology Law Quarterly that, beyond the scientific analyses, the Klamath conflict represents a clash of cultures requiring value choices. "Society must choose between farming and fish, or find a way to accommodate both," write Doremus and her co-author, professor Dan Tarlock of the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Calling the Endangered Species Act a "weak catalyst" toward sustainability, Doremus says the Klamath experience confirms the act's limited ability to change long-established water allocation patterns. While the legal tools to address the Klamath Basin's water woes exist, the authors say, they are fragmented and scattered under the authority of a variety of federal and state agencies...Grizzly conflicts down 50% this year An adult grizzly was killed by a hunter Saturday night west of Meeteetse, the third in a month. While the total is about normal, the count for human-grizzly conflicts is about half last year's, wildlife officials said. "Three (deaths) is pretty close to average" during elk hunting season, said Mark Bruscino, Game and Fish bear management officer. Compared with 2002, he said the conflicts this year are about half last year's count of 212. Bruscino credits better food conditions, particularly the whitebark pine nuts that are holding the grizzlies at higher elevations and out of hunters' camps...Washington Monument to get barriers Construction will begin soon on landscaped vehicle-barrier walls to thwart terrorist attacks on the Washington Monument, the National Park Service said yesterday, but plans for a tunnel leading to the monument were put on hold. "For security of the Washington Monument, a vehicle-barrier system has final approval," said Vikki Keys, acting superintendent of the Park Service. "Work will soon go forward." But the National Coalition to Save Our Mall said the vehicle-barrier walls are unnecessary and ruinous to the scenic slopes that lead up to the monument...Drive to close historic Yosemite lodge begins Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, made progress Tuesday in his effort to dismantle the historic LeConte Memorial Lodge, a much-admired Yosemite National Park building that he has never visited. Radanovich's legislation to erase the national historic landmark from Yosemite Valley won easy approval Tuesday from the House subcommittee he chairs. A lifelong resident of Mariposa County, Radanovich said the right opportunity has never presented itself for him to enter the storybook-style cottage. "To be honest, it's either never been open when I've been there, or I haven't had the time to visit," Radanovich said Tuesday. The Sierra Club opens the 99-year-old building between May 1 and Sept. 30 each year, offering classes, lectures and music to some 15,000 visitors annually. Radanovich said he has targeted the building for closure because the Sierra Club opposes his efforts to restore more public campsites in the park. Radanovich chairs the House national parks, recreation and public lands subcommittee, which approved his Yosemite bill by voice vote after about five minutes of discussion. He suggested that he is open to a trade: keeping the LeConte lodge in exchange for more park campsites...Cascade fire is just latest agency error, residents say Heber Valley residents say the wildfire near Cascade Springs that blackened nearly 8,000 acres of forest and cost $2.5 million to douse is the latest in a series of mistakes made by officials who oversee public lands in the area. Longtime residents -- who came with grim faces and folded arms to a public hearing Wednesday at the Heber Senior Center -- told an internal review team the U.S. Forest Service should have looked at the history of the area before they started the prescription burn on Sept. 23. The fire was supposed to clear 600 acres of deadwood and undergrowth. One by one, they told the team that a decision to take sheep and cattle off the rangelands was the first mistake. Forest service and land-management officials also underestimated the canyon wind patterns and ignored conditions that exist because of a five-year drought. "I've lived over here many years," said Reed Bezzant, a former mayor of Midway. "Some of those people involved should have known better. To start a fire with this drought? And to expect a 10-foot road to be an adequate firebreak? I question their judgement." Bezzant and fellow rancher Calvin Giles say if the sheep and cattle were still allowed to graze on forest property, the undergrowth wouldn't be so dense and problematic. Bill Young, a Wasatch County councilman, said it is difficult to understand why a prescribed burn was attempted five days after a statewide fire restriction was lifted. "What changed? What was different?" Young asked. "I didn't see any cooler temperatures or more moisture here." About 60 people showed up to ask questions and voice opinions. The agitated crowd convinced the review team to answer questions in front of everyone at the meeting rather than in private meetings at "listening stations" set up around the room...Panel approves Breaks bill The House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands on Tuesday approved a bill to remove private property from the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Democrats criticized the bill, HR 1629, but did not attempt to block its approval. The legislative process gives them several more opportunities to stop the measure. It must be approved by the full Resources Committee, passed by the House of Representatives, passed by the Senate and eventually signed by President Bush. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said he would do what he can to get the bill to president's desk...Colo. river law could snag fishing guides' customers: Landowners up in arms over trespassing anglers When Don Menk stormed down to the riverbank of his property several weeks ago with a .22 rifle in hand to confront anglers casting in his trout-filled eddies, it was the latest in a growing list of skirmishes over Colorado's confusing river-access laws. The state has long struggled with clashes between property holders, who have rights to the rivers that run through their land, and recreational rafters and anglers, who float through that land and flout those property rights. The current interpretation of state law says rafters can drift through private property and anglers can even cast for fish as they cross private land - but they can't get out of their boats nor can they touch bottom because property lines extend to the middle of rivers. "The law is basic. The interpretation is complicated," Gunnison County Undersheriff Rick Besecker said...VeriPrime Launches National Animal Traceability System The first broad-based national traceability system for beef was implemented today by VeriPrime, Inc., a Wichita, Kan. firm committed to ushering in the next generation of food safety. This traceability system will encompass approximately two-thirds of the nation's beef cattle supply in VeriPrime's membership. With the help of feed yards and federally-accredited veterinarians in this patent-pending system, VeriPrime has begun recording and storing data on groups of cattle raised in the US. VeriPrime services are available to all 800,000 cattle producers in America. Retail grocers and restaurants may access VeriPrime's safety-enhanced beef products through a licensing system. VeriPrime is a member-owned, member-directed organization of producers, feedyards and retailers dedicated to implementing the next-generation food safety system. "Traceability is the backbone of our services," said Scott Crain, DVM, VeriPrime founder and CEO. "Responsible food safety and animal welfare initiatives hinge on this industry's ability to identify, track and trace-back through the use of reliable livestock data."...Appeals court affirms Pork Checkoff unconstitutional The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a federal judge's ruling that the mandatory Pork Checkoff program is unconstitutional and should end. The court rejected USDA's argument that the Pork Checkoff is government speech, and found that the program "compels [hog farmers] to express a message with which they do not agree." "Hog farmers voted it down, now two federal courts have decided the mandatory Pork Checkoff is unconstitutional and is entirely invalidated," said Hampton, Iowa hog farmer Mark McDowell, an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) member and Campaign for Family Farms spokesperson. "This is a big victory for family farmers and for democracy in America." Ag Secretary Ann Veneman said she was disappointed in the news. "I am disappointed that the US Court Appeals did not overturn the lower court's ruling. USDA regards such programs, when properly administered, as effective tools for market enhancement," she said in a statement...Cowboy High-Style Decorating The New York Times reported on a new home fashion and lifestyle trend known as "Cowboy High Style." It is has become popular with fifty-something baby boomers who were influenced while growing up by television programs like Roy Rogers and Gunsmoke. Many are building rustic log cabins in Wyoming and Montana -- some made from recycled materials. They are accessorizing their surroundings with antler lamps, animal hides, cowboy hats, saddles, and Indian artifacts. However, the spirit of the trend seems to run deeper than cowboy and Indian imagery. Architects and interior designers are using inspiration from the agrarian culture along with the lifestyle and values of old ranchers to influence their new home designs. There is even a magazine to promote this trend called Cowboys and Indians...Wild West show aims to bring history to life Atop a white horse, a Buffalo Bill Cody impersonator tips his white hat to the grandstand. A cast of gun-toting cowboys and cowgirls, Indian hoop dancers, trick ropers and stagecoach drivers lines up behind him. A voice bounces across the arena, "Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the congress of roughriders of the world." Tonight is the last chance to see a revival of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show at the Arizona State Fair's grandstand. Scottsdale entrepreneur Alan Jacoby is using the venue as a test site for the Wildest Wild West Show, which he hopes to promote in other states. Just like Cody, Jacoby one day wants to take the show abroad...

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Voluntary Grazing Permit Buyout Act

We've received our first two comments on this bill, which I'm posting below.


1. If it is public land...and we have no title to it...THEN HOW CAN WE SELL...WHAT WE DO NOT OWN...Big secret...we do have title to the land..and the minute they offered us money...gave our rights VALUE..

2. If it is public lands..and the public is entitle to use it...then how can this group lock it up for ever ....I thought it was public lands...funny how the definition changes..

3. The money should not come from the tax payers..make the rich NGO'S PAY ..BUT I AM NOT FOR IT..

4. This is a destruction of small communities...

5. The fact that the buy out will affect the ranchers in the west..will have a devastating affect on the county, state and nation...

6. This will affect the low income and rancher workers as they will not understand that this means a loss of their jobs Mr. Grijlava is supporting the loss of jobs to his people.

7. this will drive the cost of living up..and punish low income, single mothers and minorities....

This is a destruction of the freedoms our country was founded on....

Thank you
Sue Krentz

This is a letter to a Congressman

Please oppose the Shays-Grijalva bill, HR 3324, which proposes to buy the ranchers off their federal permits. The bill has several flaws.

The first flaw is the bill attempts to impose socialism onto a capitalist nation. It does not stand alone, but is part of a a comprehensive effort by socialists such as Shays and Grijalva to remove capitalism from public land, remove people from rural land, to nationalize all privately held rural land, and to eventually transfer all means of production from private enterprise to government. The bill furthers the attempts by socialists in Congress to bring America economically to her knees and become increasingly dependent on imports and vulnerable to foreign economic conditions. It is a recipe for a stagnant economic base, more commonly known as socialism.

The second flaw in the bill is its fraudulent assumptions. Ranching is not by nature harmful to the environment; most of the harmful "overgrazing" historically occurred prior to 1925. Today, modern scientific studies have shown that well-managed grazing actually benefits the ecosystem and can even improve water tables. Please consult with range management experts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. They have scientific data; the people behind Shays-Grijalva--Range Net and their tax-code abusing ilk-- have only deceit and demonizing rhetoric to support their arguments.

An additional flaw in the bill is that it bestows the lessee with new rights of ownership--to decide whether the lease will continue or not. This bill's illustrative analogy would be a bill to allow a home renter to decide whether a house should be demolished or not. This decision is not the right of the lessee but the owner. Our federal grazing land belongs to all Americans. If the lessee is ready to quit ranching, the lease should go up for bid. We should not grant a lessee an unprecedented right to sole control over the future of any parcel of federal land. What would he have done to earn it, other than cut a sweet deal for himself at the expense of every other American?

Please continue the capitalist system. No socialist nation ever enjoyed the benefits capitalism and God gave America. You cannot point to a single prosperous socialist nation. They are all poor.

Cynthia P. Coping

Good stuff. Keep those comments coming folks. Please send me your comments so I can share them with the readers of this blog. Send email to or just click on the "email me" link to your left.

NOTE: Click on the highlighted areas in orange to go to the article, study, report, etc.

In case of downed trees, investigator has suspect in mind A U.S. Forest Service investigator says she knows who knocked over more than 100 ponderosa and lodgepole pines around Labor Day and dug trenches into a dirt road popular among off-road vehicle enthusiasts. Kim Jones, special agent for the Forest Service, said a landowner in the area brought heavy equipment into the forest to cause the damage. The felled trees and trenches continue to block three roads as they cross onto a cluster of private properties leading up to Fairview Peak. Jones, who helped determine the cause of the 2002 Hayman fire, was assigned to investigate the destruction after off-roaders reported that one of the roads they have used for years looked like it had been hit by a hurricane. Jones said the damage resulted from long-standing conflicts between private property owners in the area and off-roaders who use roads that cut across those private properties...'Bale bombing' targets burned areas Dangling beneath a helicopter, a 600-pound bundle of straw in a cargo net is destined for an experiment high in the North Fork Valley. That load and many more are flown over a forest brimming with brilliant yellow larch and green firs, to a ridgeline blackened by the Robert Fire. The straw is dumped, as evenly as possible, as an emergency measure to control runoff, erosion and sediment in downslope streams. "Bale bombing" is just one version of the Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation projects being carried out on 165,000 acres burned on the Flathead Forest over the summer... Feds pass on wolverine listing The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not consider federal protections for wolverines, citing a lack of information about the species. Six conservation organizations in July 2000 petitioned the federal government to list the wolverine under the Endangered Species Act in the lower 48 states and to designate critical habitat. Wildlife officials on Tuesday said the petition doesn't provide "substantial information" indicating that listing the wolverine as threatened or endangered may be warranted...Boys ranch planned south of Magdalena It's all about immersing into the history of the land, enjoying the lore of the Old West and experiencing the excitement of the legends of the days of cowboys and Indians. This is the typical day Bayard Harris envisions with the creation of the Ranch of the Pharaoh, a camping and ranching experience for adolescent boys, located in the heart of the high desert, in the foothills of the San Mateo Mountains, between Magdalena and Datil, about 14 miles south of the Very Large Array. Harris, from Roanoke, Va., has been working toward what he calls "the ultimate cowboy experience" for young men, in hopes of offering a life experience that will stay with the young men for the rest of their lives and help guide them in decisions they make in every aspect of their lives...Wasatch County balks at bill to reseed charred land A Wasatch County official says they should not have to foot the bill to reseed private land charred by a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn that went out of control last month. ''We're a little frustrated,'' Mike Davis, Wasatch County manager, said. ''We don't have a budget for that. We'd have to go to the taxpayers and that wouldn't sit well.''...Wilderness Society Releases Wildland Fire Policy Report; Report Outlines Landmark Plan to Protect Communities Recent summers have seen large forest fires burning millions of acres across western states. And while everyone agrees that fuel loads in forests must be reduced, they disagree over where, and by how much. Recent plans, including the President's own Healthy Forest Initiative and several introduced in the Senate have attempted to address the issue, but few contain provisions for the prioritization of treatment areas. Moreover, many virtually ignore the threat of fire to communities. A new report from The Wilderness Society, "The Wildland Fire Challenge: Focus on Reliable Data, Community Protection, and Ecological Restoration," offers a science-based solution to the current wildland fire management dilemma. The report evaluates the quality of information feeding Federal wildland fire policy and assesses the challenge with a community protection focus. Further, it outlines the first steps to prioritize where fuels reduction efforts are needed, and delivers a plan to restore fire-reliant forests...Click here to view the report... BLM Responds to Alleged Hazing of Rookie Firefighters A spokeswoman for the government clarified by saying that the probe centered on two fire crews consisting of ten fire employees. That a female recruit was sexually harassed by a veteran firefighter and that other recruits were demeaned and humiliated by being forced to wear children's dolls around their necks were among the findings. The BLM specifically denied finding any evidence that rookies were ordered to strip down to their underwear and urinate on themselves, or that women were fondled, or that anyone attempted to blastedommit sodomy; allegations which were made to us by more than one source...Costs of studies blasted "The studies are robbing the agencies of their very limited resources with the real goal of privatizing and commercializing public lands," said Vera Smith of the 10,000-member Colorado Mountain Club. The analysis by the Campaign to Protect America's Lands, released in Denver, said the Interior Department spent $16 million this year on privatization studies and saved only $600,000. But John Wright, a spokesman for Interior Department, said only $2.1 million was spent in the last two years on hiring private consultants. The Campaign to Protect America's Public Lands said its $16 million figure included wages for the hours federal workers spent helping the private consultants instead of doing their jobs...Editorial:Costly local giveaways overload energy plan But during the long fight over the legislation, the focus on addressing those priorities has been diverted by costly home-state interests. Questionable programs are being expanded and difficult problems set aside as lawmakers tuck parochial benefits under the umbrella of a national energy policy. The result is a 10-year, $75 billion package filled with local jobs programs and giveaways to well-connected industries. The total is double the spending and tax breaks proposed in 2001 and threatens to push the government deeper into debt even as it reports a record $374 billion deficit for the year that ended Sept. 30...Cloud-seeding funds continue to flow Did you know that the water flowing from your kitchen faucet might have had a little help getting there? For nearly two decades, Santa Barbara County has used cloud seeding to augment local water supplies. Clouds are composed of water-vapor droplets of different sizes and temperatures. Rain or snow is formed when this vapor attaches to microscopic particles of atmospheric dust, called condensation nuclei. Once heavy enough, the particles falls out as precipitation. Cloud seeding increases condensation nuclei within a cloud. Silver iodide is injected into the clouds by generators placed on the tops of mountains or mounted on the wing-tips of small aircraft...Montana dam owners sued A federal lawsuit by two Bozeman residents says PPL Montana, Avista Corp. and PacifiCorp owe Montana decades of lease payments for their hydroelectric dams, which sit on state-owned riverbeds. The companies have never paid for use of the land, and it's time to calculate back payments and interest due to the state school trust, the designated beneficiary of state lands, say Richard Dolan and Denise Hayman. They brought the lawsuit "on behalf of the state, (their) children, the public school fund and all other beneficiaries of the school trust," says the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court at Missoula...Editorial:Troubled waters When there is enough water to go around, you build a dam. When there isn't enough water to go around, everybody has to give a damn. Everybody standing in front of Hoover Dam last week to celebrate the signing of a seven-state accord to more fairly share precious water from the Colorado River was justly happy about the deal. They also knew that the agreement is five years late, given that the water those Western states have finally agreed to share is dwindling to the point that the fighting is likely to begin again soon. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, who also signed the pact, allowed the euphoria of the moment to go to her head just a little when she said, "With this agreement, conflict on the river is stilled." Shortly thereafter, Norton regained her senses and said, "We've taken away the legal obstacles to surplus water for California water. We have not created water." Indeed they have not...Gene mutation not the likely cause of latest mad cow case The cow confirmed earlier this month as being Japan's eighth with mad cow disease did not show any mutations in its prion genes, according to research findings. The results of the study suggest that external factors may have caused the cow's infection. "It is quite unlikely that genes were the reason" for the cow's infection with the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, said Yoshio Yamakawa of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. The Holstein -- infected with an atypical form of mad cow disease -- had a different prion structure that the seven earlier cows...More mad cow cases in Italy Two more Italian cows have tested positive for mad cow disease, bringing the country's total to 113, the Health Ministry said Tuesday. The cows came from two breeding farms in northern Italy, the ministry said, citing confirmation from a Turin zoological institute that acts as the country's national control centre for the disease. Italy found its first case in cattle in 2001, after the European Union ordered mandatory tests on cattle older than 30 months destined for slaughter. Fifty positive cases were reported in 2001, 36 in 2002, and 27 so far this year. Last year, Italy reported its first case of the human form of the brain-wasting illness in a young woman in Sicily. Experts believe the human form of the illness is transmitted by eating meat from infected animals...Onassis heiress gives boyfriend a cow The gift that the heiress of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis chose for her Brazilian (news - web sites) boyfriend may not match in elegance the flawless gems her grandfather poured on Jacqueline Kennedy. But the price is quite high, for a cow. The world's richest teen-ager, Athina Roussel, 18, paid 220,000 pounds for a prize cow called Esperanca (Hope) at a cattle auction in Sao Paulo on Monday night as a gift for her boyfriend -- Olympic horseman Alvaro Affonso de Miranda Neto, known as Doda, auction organisers said on Tuesday. Doda, 30, who was also at the auction, has a cattle farm...USDA may ask Supreme Court to review beef checkoff The Bush administration may ask the Supreme Court to decide the future of a U.S. beef industry program that funds the "Beef, It's What's For Dinner" advertising campaign, a U.S. Agriculture Department official said on Monday. Last week, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the administration's request to reconsider its ruling that the government-run beef "checkoff" program was unconstitutional and should be terminated...A family ranch, run by outsiders If there's such a thing as true grit and Texas spirit, Henrietta King personified it. So it makes sense that she wouldn't let a little thing like death jeopardize the ranch her husband worked so hard to build and that she worked so hard to keep intact. Even if she was the one doing the dying. Under the terms of her last will and testament, the ranch went into a trust for 10 years -- long enough, she hoped, for her family to pay off its debts and buy out relatives who wanted to cash in their shares. The brilliance of King's plan, carefully crafted by her attorneys, still shines in an age when inheritances and progress have broken up many historic ranches by dividing them into ever-smaller pieces...Editorial: Elk escape shows danger of game farms We hate to say we told you so, but we told you so. Despite game farmers' reassurances that they keep their animals responsibly confined so they are not a threat to wild populations, a fallen tree on a fence last month near Winifred let 24 domesticated elk escape their game farm. The elk belonged to the Judith River Ranch, very close to the Missouri-Judith River Breaks area, home to world-class wild elk that draw hunters every fall and are part of the natural beauty and balance of the country. As of Tuesday, six game-farm bulls were still at large. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks authorities are hoping that a new influx of hunters this weekend in District 426 will run across the animals with their large yellow ear tags...Bair Ranch conservation clouds up Local environmentalists say opposition to the Bair Ranch conservation deal shows there continues to be a lack of understanding about the benefits of protecting large portions of land. Since the summer, when county commissioners approved in a 2-1 vote a $2 million contribution to the purchase of a $5 million conservation easement on 4,300 acres of the Glenwood Canyon ranch, Commissioner Tom Stone has questioned aspects of the deal, including whether it's appropriate to use taxpayer dollars to protect a working ranch that won't have public access...PETA wants SF Bay Area region of Rodeo to change its name An animal rights group has asked a region of the San Francisco Bay area called Rodeo to change its name in exchange for $20,000 worth of high-protein, lowfat veggie burgers. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter Monday to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, urging them to give up the name because it evokes the violent sport of rodeo, which harms animals, PETA officials said. Rodeo is an unincorporated region about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco...Cowboys' numbers crunch And the survey says ...That's what rodeo cowboys all over the United States and Canada are waiting to see as the PRCA tabulates questionnaires it recently sent members. The issue was the number of rodeos that should count in the world standings. Until last year, a rough stock cowboy -- bareback, saddle bronc and bull riders -- could officially count 125 to his season winnings. Timed event competitors -- steer wrestlers, tie-down ropers and team ropers -- were allowed to count 100. Last year, wanting to cut down travel costs for competitors, the PRCA lowered the numbers to 75 for rough stock cowboys and 50 event for those in the timed events. The number is also 50 for barrel racers, who are governed about another sanctioning body, the Women's Professional Rodeo Association. The rule also levels the playing field a bit, not allowing those wealthier cowboys and cowgirls from going out and "buying," a gold buckle by being able to travel everywhere by private plane or having the best horses based at various sites around the country. When a cowboy enters a rodeo, he must declare the rodeo "official" or "unofficial." At official rodeos, the money counts in the world standings...Rodeo performed by special cowboys It's a place where persons with disabilities can experience the joy of a cowboy's rodeo life. The Special Cowboys Rodeo Association held its seventh anniversary rodeo Sunday, this one dedicated to Audra Hardin of Collinsville, a member who lost her battle with spina biffida in August. Complete with a rodeo queen and king, the event went off without a hitch. "It takes a lot of volunteers to put on an event of this kind," said co-founder Melanie Robbins. "We wouldn't be able to do this without the volunteers." The grand entry event kicked off at 2 p.m. and all the participants who were there, rode through the arena; some with volunteer assistance and others without. The cloverleaf barrel race was the first event, beginning with the age 7 and under category. Events also included Poles and Cowboy Rescue as well as live, Texas Country music throughout the day...

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Grazing buyout bills are floated

A bipartisan pair of congressmen on Monday introduced two pilot bills in Congress they say could resolve livestock grazing conflicts in the West.
The bills -- one that applies to grazing on all public lands and one that deals specifically with Arizona -- would provide federal money to buy grazing permits from ranchers. Participation would be voluntary.
Once the grazing permits were purchased, the lands where the livestock once roamed would be permanently closed to sheep and cows, leaving more forage for wild critters.
Already controversial and likely to gain little traction in the near term, the bills, sponsored by Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., are intended as a federal experiment in an effort already under way by various environmental groups that peddle "willing-buyer, willing-seller" offers to buy out ranchers' grazing permits.
"The voluntary buyout, and I stress the word voluntary, is that proverbial win-win solution to the largest public lands issue in the West," said Keith Raether, spokesman for the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign, an environmental group that developed the legislation.
Raether said the legislation would give ranchers a "safety net, a way out of a failing industry."
The bills also would give environmental groups a powerful tool in removing cattle and sheep from the nation's forests and rangelands, which are becoming increasingly valued by the public for their natural resources.
Unlike in previous efforts toward that end, this time environmentalists are using the carrot rather than the stick approach.
And they are gaining rancher allies in the process.
In Arizona, more than 70 percent of public-lands ranchers support the buyout proposal, said rancher John Whitney IV, co-chairman of the Arizona Grazing Buyout Campaign, who conducted a written survey.
A southern Utah cattleman told The Salt Lake Tribune last month that two out of three of his colleagues support the idea...

Click here to view the NPLGC press release. You can see Shays' press release here and Grijalva's press release here. See NCBA's press release here.

Please send any comments or analysis of this bill to me at or just click on the "email me" to your left. I will post some of these comments here along with my own. If you want your comments to be anonymous I will honor that.

Looks like links to bills in Thomas isn't working, so here is the text of H.R. 3324:

1st Session
H. R. 3324
To provide compensation to livestock operators who voluntarily relinquish a grazing permit or lease on Federal lands, and for other purposes.
October 16, 2003
Mr. SHAYS (for himself, Mr. GRIJALVA, Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California, Mr. HINCHEY, Mr. BLUMENAUER, Mr. HOLT, Mr. MARKEY, and Mr. MCDERMOTT) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Resources, and in addition to the Committees on Agriculture and Armed Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned
To provide compensation to livestock operators who voluntarily relinquish a grazing permit or lease on Federal lands, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
This Act may be cited as the `Voluntary Grazing Permit Buyout Act'.
Congress finds the following:
(1) Commercial livestock grazing on Federal lands is increasingly difficult for grazing permittees and lessees due to growing conflicts with other legitimate multiple uses of those lands, such as environmental protection and burgeoning recreational use, and with congressionally mandated goals of wildlife and habitat protection and improved water quality and quantity.
(2) The recreational use of Federal lands often leads to conflicts with commercial livestock grazing on the same lands, because some recreationists damage property related to the grazing operations or disturb livestock, rendering many grazing operations on Federal lands uneconomical.
(3) A combination of sustained drought, foreign competition, changing domestic markets, industry restructuring, and individual ranch situations has resulted in grazing permits and leases becoming stranded investments for many permittees and lessees.
(4) Many permittees and lessees would like to retire, but do not have family members willing or able to take over ranch operations.
(5) Attempts to resolve grazing conflicts with other multiple uses often require extensive range developments and monitoring that greatly increases costs to both permittees and lessees and taxpayers, far out of proportion to the benefit received.
(6) Certain grazing allotments on Federal lands have, or are likely to become, unsuitable for livestock production as a result of the combined effect of the aforementioned factors.
(7) The cost of the Federal grazing program greatly exceeds revenues to the Federal treasury from grazing receipts.
(8) Many Federal grazing permittees and lessees have indicated their desire to end their livestock grazing on Federal lands in exchange for a one-time payment to reasonably compensate them for the effort and investment that they have made in a grazing allotment.
(9) Compensating permittees and lessees who relinquish their grazing permit or lease and end livestock grazing on Federal lands would help recapitalize an ailing sector of rural America, by providing economic options to permittees and lessees that do not presently exist and allowing them to restructure their ranch operations, start new businesses, retire with security, or provide a family legacy.
(10) Reasonable compensation for the relinquishment of a grazing permit or lease will help alleviate the need for permittees and lessees to sell or subdivide their private lands.
(11) A voluntary buyout program for grazing permits and leases will help resolve growing conflicts between livestock grazing and other multiple uses, and would be ecologically imperative, economically rational, fiscally prudent, and socially just.
In this Act:
(1) The term `animal unit month' means the amount of forage needed to sustain one animal unit for one month, as determined by the Secretary issuing the grazing permit or lease.
(2) The terms `grazing permit or lease' and `grazing permit and lease' mean any document authorizing the use of Federal lands for the purpose of grazing domestic livestock.
(3) The term `grazing allotment' means the designated portion of Federal land upon which domestic livestock are permitted to graze by a grazing permit or lease.
(4) The terms `permittee or lessee' and `permittee and lessee' mean a livestock operator who holds a valid term grazing permit or lease.
(5) The term `range developments' means structures, fences and other permanent fixtures placed on Federal lands for the furtherance of the purpose of grazing domestic livestock. The term does not include rolling stock, livestock and diversions of water from Federal lands onto non-Federal lands.
(6) The term `Secretary' means the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Energy, or the Secretary of Defense, as appropriate to the administration of the grazing permit or lease at issue.
(a) WAIVER OF EXISTING GRAZING PERMIT OR LEASE- A permittee or lessee may waive to the Secretary, at any time, a valid existing grazing permit or lease authorizing livestock grazing on Federal lands.
(b) CANCELLATION OF WAIVED GRAZING PERMIT OR LEASE- The Secretary shall cancel grazing permits and leases waived under this section and permanently retire the associated allotments from domestic livestock grazing use notwithstanding any other provision of law.
(c) WAIVER PRIORITY- If funds available to carry out this Act are insufficient to meet all of the offers for the waiver of grazing permits and leases, the Secretary shall give priority to the waiver of grazing permits and leases that authorize grazing on the following Federal lands:
(1) National Wilderness Preservation System unit.
(2) National Wild and Scenic River System unit.
(3) National Park System unit.
(4) National Wildlife Refuge System unit.
(5) An allotment that includes a trail within the National Trails System.
(6) National Landscape Conservation System unit.
(7) Designated critical habitat for species listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
(8) Designated wilderness study area.
(9) Roadless and undeveloped areas identified in Forest Service, Roadless Area Conservation EIS, vol. 2 (Nov. 2000).
(10) Designated Bureau of Land Management Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
(11) Designated Research Natural Area.
(12) An allotment that includes a `water quality limited' stream listed under section 303(d) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.
(13) Stream segments identified as a `study river' under section 5(a) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
(14) Stream segments identified by the Secretary under section 5(d)(1) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
(15) An allotment featuring other scientific, ecological, scenic, watershed or recreation values.
(d) RELATION TO EMINENT DOMAIN- Nothing in this Act shall be interpreted to authorize the use of eminent domain for the purpose of acquiring a Federal grazing permit or lease.
(a) COMPENSATION REQUIRED; AMOUNT- A permittee or lessee who waives a grazing permit or lease to the Secretary under section 4(a) shall be compensated at $175 per animal unit month, based on the average grazing use over the preceding 10 years the allotment was grazed, as stipulated by the grazing permit or lease and paid for by the permittee or lessee or the predecessors of the permittee or lessee. Years of grazing nonuse are excluded from this average. In the case that a permittee or lessee is in arrears of Federal grazing fees, the amount of fees in arrears shall be deducted from the amount of compensation otherwise due the permittee or lessee under this section.
(b) EFFECTS OF ISSUANCE OF CERTAIN PERMITS OR LEASES- A permittee or lessee who seeks to waive a grazing permit or lease under section 4 for a grazing allotment that was vacant or vacated as of the date of the enactment of this Act shall only be eligible for compensation under this section based on the average grazing use over the last ten years, including any years of grazing nonuse.
(c) DONATION OF EXISTING PERMIT OR LEASE- A permittee or lessee may at any time waive their claim to compensation under this section and donate to the Secretary a valid existing grazing permit or lease authorizing livestock grazing on Federal lands. The Secretary shall cancel donated grazing permits or leases and permanently retire the associated allotments from domestic livestock grazing use, notwithstanding any other provision of law.
(d) RELATION TO OTHER AUTHORITY- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect the Secretary's authority to otherwise modify or terminate grazing permits or leases without compensation. Compensation disbursed pursuant to this section shall not create a property right in grazing permittees or lessees.
(a) EFFECT ON RANGE DEVELOPMENTS- A permittee or lessee who waives a grazing permit or lease to the Secretary under section 4 and receives compensation under section 5, or donates a grazing permit or lease under section 6, shall be deemed to have waived any claim to all range developments on the subject grazing allotments, notwithstanding any other provision of law.
(b) SECURING RETIRED ALLOTMENTS AGAINST UNAUTHORIZED USE- The Secretary shall ensure that allotments retired from grazing under this Act are rendered reasonably secure from trespass grazing by livestock.
(c) RELATION TO OTHER VALID EXISTING RIGHTS- Nothing in this Act affects the allocation, ownership, interest or control, in existence on the date of enactment of this Act, of any water, water right, or any other valid existing right held by the United States, Indian tribe, State, or private individual, partnership or corporation.
The Secretary shall not issue grazing permits or leases for grazing allotments for which no valid permit or lease exists as of the date of the enactment of this Act, and shall permanently retire the allotments from domestic livestock grazing use notwithstanding any other provision of law.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a permittee or lessee may opt not to graze a grazing allotment or to graze the grazing allotment at less than the minimum permitted level and still retain the grazing permit or lease for the remainder of its term. Such nonuse shall be considered to be in compliance with the terms of the grazing permit or lease when it becomes due for renewal.
There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretaries $100,000,000, to remain available until expended, to provide compensation to permittees and lessees under section 5. None of the funds appropriated pursuant to this section shall be used by any Federal agency for administrative costs related to the purposes of this Act.

Again, please send any comments or analysis of this bill to me at or just click on the "email me" to your left. I think a compilation of these comments/analysis will assist all those who want to write or visit with their Congressman, or who may want to prepare testimony should this bill get a hearing.
Land Trusts & Charity Bill

On 10/20 I posted an ALRA alert on this issue, which you review from my postings of that date. In the alert, they mentioned that "Congressman Steve Pearce is circulating a letter to all members of Congress, asking them to sign it - it says that there should be NO special handouts to Land Trusts!!!" and then gives contact numbers to call your Congressional office. Below is the text of the letter Congressman Pearce is circulating:

October 15, 2003

Dear Majority Whip Blunt and Chairman Thomas:

The Western Caucus strongly supports the House version of H.R. 7, the Charitable Giving Act of 2003. We very strongly oppose language included in the Senate version, S. 476, the CARE Act of 2003, which gives an unfair advantage to conservation groups over other non–profit groups and the private sector and provides an alarming incentive to remove private lands and water rights from individuals and potentially place them into federal ownership, which is in direct contravention of some of our most closely held principles as a caucus committed to private property rights, free enterprise and smaller government.

As you may know, the Senate proposal would provide a capital gains tax reduction of 25 percent to sellers of property or water rights—but only if they sell to specific groups. We understand these groups may be pushing for a 50 percent capital gains reduction, which the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will cost about a billion dollars over ten years.

We believe the Charitable Giving Act is intended to encourage and benefit faith–based institutions in their efforts to extend social services to the general public. Yet incredibly, this proposal would place those very faith–based institutions, such as churches, orphanages and private schools, at a comparative disadvantage in property purchases compared to some conservation groups and government agencies, which do not perform charitable acts.

The provisions in the Senate bill will do virtually nothing to benefit sellers of land, since the beneficiaries of this tax break will be able to reduce their offering price versus any other potential buyer. Any tax break benefit will result in a reduced sale price. Even worse, this proposal will likely discourage purchase offers from parties who do not receive this tax break, since all others will have to offer a premium price just to stay even.

The Senate provision will exacerbate a current agricultural crisis by prohibiting young farmers and ranchers from entering into agriculture. As you know, the average age of farmers and ranchers in the United States is about 56 years old, and getting older. We must encourage young farmers and ranchers to enter into agriculture so we can provide the necessary food and fiber for the growing U.S. population. The Senate provision places a premium on selling farms and ranches to non–farm organizations, thereby discouraging our young people from entering into agriculture and reducing competition for land. With reduced competition for property, the landowner loses.

Tax–exempt “non-profits” already have significant advantages over private parties in the tax code. Some have grown into multi–billion dollar multinational corporations with economic power greater than nearly any individual or organization who may also want to purchase the same property. This additional proposed tax advantage tilts the playing field too far in favor of some groups instead of fairly offering everyone the same tax benefit.

Congress should not use the tax code to unfairly promote an advantage in land acquisitions by certain groups. If this is the intent of Congress, then it should be fully considered on its own merits. We believe most Members would reject this policy proposal, especially considering that Federal and State governments now own about 36 percent of all land in the United States, mostly in Western states. This provision will devastate rural communities and counties with significant federal lands that receive Payment In–Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, payments.

Please understand that while we wholeheartedly endorse and support many of the provisions of H.R. 7, and appreciate your and President Bush's leadership on those issues, our concerns about the impacts of this conservation tax credit are so strong and relate so fundamentally to the principles we stand for as a Caucus that we would have to reconsider our support for the bill if this unnecessary, expensive and damaging proposal is included in the Conference Report.


Hooray to Congressman Pearce. Please contact your Congressman and ask them to sign on to this letter.

Monday, October 20, 2003


Firefighter Pleads Guilty in Az. Wildfire A part-time firefighter accused of trying to make work for himself by starting what became the biggest wildfire in Arizona history pleaded guilty Monday. The fire Leonard Gregg started last year combined with another to form the Rodeo-Chediski wildfire, which destroyed hundreds of homes and forced 30,000 people to evacuate as it burned 469,000 acres of private, Forest Service and Fort Apache Reservation land. Gregg, who also was charged with starting a smaller fire, pleaded guilty to two federal counts of intentionally setting a fire. He could get up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in January...Senators stall forest thinning bill Democrats on Monday stalled a vote on landmark forest thinning legislation, calling for a new hearing on compromise language negotiated by a handful of senators last week. "We're not putting a hold on it forever. We're not trying to be obstructionists," said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, ranking Democrat on the Energy committee. "The truth of the matter is we're having a hard time making heads or tails out of this text." In particular, Bingaman is concerned about provisions of the bill that would eliminate administrative appeals to controversial forest thinning decisions and wants to hear testimony on the issue from legal experts and academics, Wicker said...Klamath Tribes host tour to show their plan for managing the forests The Klamath Tribes on Friday gave irrigators and others an idea of how they would manage the expansive stands of pine that cover the former reservations lands they hope to gain control of someday. A forest management plan is a key element in negotiations the Klamath Tribes are having with the federal government about the possible return of about 690,000 acres to the Chiloquin-based tribes, said Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes...Critics pan plan for land-use fee A proposal by seven Eastern congressmen to charge fees of $85 or more annually to visit public lands has Western states land activists up in arms. "What this means is you'd be a criminal every time you left the city limits," Kitty Benzar, co-founder of the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, said Friday. "We're told it would be at least $85, and these congressmen are from states with very little federal land so there's little impact on their constituents." The proposal, introduced earlier this month as a resolution by Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, would make permanent the recreation fee demonstration program, which for several years has been collecting money for public access to selected areas, including some in Colorado. Republican congressmen from Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Wisconsin make up the plan's other six co-sponsors...Click here to view the legislation (H.R. 3283)...Wolf Awareness Week Oct. 19-25; North American Gray Wolves Have Made Gains But Much Work is Yet to be Done The drive to bring gray wolves back from the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states has led to some gains in wolf populations, but many challenges remain that could easily reverse the progress made and further decimate the species, Defenders of Wildlife noted today at the start of Wolf Awareness Week. "Put simply, this species will not recover further without federal help," said Nina Fascione, vice president of species conservation at Defenders of Wildlife. "We have made significant gains and brought wolves back from the brink of extinction, but they still inhabit less than 5 percent of their original range. And, with continued illegal hunting and hostile state management plans, that 5 percent could shrink dramatically."...Kids Encouraged to Share Wild Ideas to Help Endangered Animals Mutual of Omaha is tapping into the natural creativity of today's youngsters to prove that kids can make a difference in helping to preserve our natural world. Held for the third consecutive year, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Kids' Summit 2004 essay contest encourages kids to unleash their creativity by brainstorming ways to save North America's endangered species. The Kids' Summit gathers young delegates from across the nation to discuss and learn about wildlife conservation. Kids ages 9 to 12 are encouraged to write a one-page essay explaining their idea for saving a threatened or endangered species. Mutual of Omaha will collect the essays, and one aspiring conservationist from each state will be selected to attend the Kids' Summit in San Diego on May 5-7, 2004...Near-threats, raw emotions mark clash But increasingly living cheek by jowl with grizzlies without more legal means of protecting themselves and their livestock is another issue. There are people here who are scared and angry. And, a few of them are uttering threats about the state and federal managers of an expanding bear population in the Northern Rockies that more than 20 years after being protected under by the Endangered Species Act shows little sign of actually being delisted. "Our kids can't even be kids," says Jonel Hodgskiss of Choteau. Her two sons love to fish, she says, but she won't let them wander the brushy Spring Creek bottom to fish at the edge of this small town. They may run into a grizzly. At the Miller Colony, cattle manager Jacob Hofer says he's had grizzlies charge his pickup truck more than once. The worst part, he says, is that the cattle know when bears are around and it stresses them so much they lose weight, costing the colony money that isn't covered by the Defenders of Wildlife depredation compensation program. That program pays for confirmed bear kills. Fixing fence in brushy areas is dicey, Kleinsasser says. His men work in pairs and make noise, he says. They can't carry guns because it's against Hutterite doctrine as conscientious objectors, he says. Stress from bears hurts his sheep operation, he says. The ewes had just been bred last year when the grizzly "terrorized" the band, including running some over a cliff. That spring, the ewes had markedly few twin lambs, he says...
Government, Tribe Reject Water Offer The federal government and a northern California Indian tribe have rejected a deal that would have ended a three-year legal fight over restoring water to the Trinity River. A regional water agency presented the settlement offer Oct. 14 in Sacramento to representatives of the government, the Hoopa Valley Indian tribe, and the Yurok Indians, whose reservation lies along the banks of the Klamath River...Officials say California behind Nevada in tortoise protection Environmental officials are calling southern Nevada a model for protecting the endangered desert tortoise, but say efforts in California are moving as slowly as the creatures themselves. Michael Connor, executive director of the nonprofit Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee, a 1,300-member group based in Riverside, Calif., said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is dragging its bureaucratic feet in putting into action a 9-year-old recovery plan...Emergency meeting of the shovel brigade Mike Lattin of the Shovel Brigade said in a notice that the meeting is in response to the U.S. Forest Service's policy of citing drivers on the road for allegedly damaging natural resources. An Idaho man, John Eickhof, received such a ticket and has pleaded not guilty. Lattin's notice states that the Shovel Brigade is planning a defense fund against those who receive such tickets in the future. Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, said Friday he understands Eickhoff was cited because about a quarter of a mile from the trailhead drivers need to "go down a bank and cross the river" to reach the end of the road. "I think people are upset. If this sticks, someone who is out hunting and gets off the road and runs over a bush could be cited," he said...Conservation group seeks reversal of coal-bed methane ruling A conservation group has asked the state director of the Bureau of Land Management to reverse a decision approving more coal-bed methane wells in southerneastern Montana. The Northern Plains Resource Council said it did not get a chance to comment on an environmental assessment for an expansion project planned near Decker by Fidelity Exploration & Production Co. The group said it filed a protest with state director Marty Ott, asking that the decision be reversed and project development be put on hold pending a ''more thorough'' environmental review. ''The BLM has a solemn moral and legal responsibility to involve landowners and the public when it approves methane projects,'' said Mark Fix, a rancher and Northern Plains member...'Mother Wilderness' dies at Wyoming ranch at 101 Conservationist Margaret ''Mardy'' Murie, considered by many the mother of the modern conservation movement, has died. She was 101. Murie, who was instrumental in enacting the Wilderness Act and creating the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, died Sunday at her ranch in Grand Teton National Park. She was to be laid to rest during a private family ceremony, with a public memorial planned at The Murie Center on her ranch later this year. No dates were immediately announced...County seeks increased sled limits in Yellowstone Park County has called for 23 percent more snowmobiles in Yellowstone this winter than the Park Service plans to allow. The county is asking for an initial increase to 1,400 snowmobiles per day. The NPS has set a limit of 1,140 per day. Commission Chairman Tim Morrison believes the Park Service "chose an arbitrary number" for daily winter use in Yellowstone, adding, "I don't know how much weight they (NPS) gave to historic use" at each entrance...Diverse groups decry riders on religious-charity bill Religious, taxpayer-advocacy and property rights groups are opposing the Senate bill on religious charity because of an environmental tax break they say hurts them and has nothing to do with helping church groups. But the Senate bill has a few provisions that do not directly relate to religious groups, including one that would give a tax break to people who sell land for conservation purposes. At least 34 groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union and the American Association of Christian Schools said this provision wrongly favors conservation groups over church-based social services. "It is our belief that the Charitable Giving Act is intended to encourage and benefit faith-based institutions," reads a letter dated yesterday and signed by the groups. "And yet incredibly, this proposal would place those very faith-based institutions, such as churches, orphanages and private schools, at a comparative disadvantage in property purchases compared to land trusts and government agencies, neither of which are faith-based."... New group to counter wilderness agenda With the help of two Utah congressmen, a new grass-roots group has been formed as a counterbalance to what it views as a disproportionate influence of environmental groups like the Sierra Club. Partnership for the West, a Denver-based group backed by industry, hopes to be a strong lobbying force in Congress by pushing an agenda of increased access to public lands for recreation and oil and gas development...Diverse species thrive in harsh environment The King Ranch is an idyllic environment for cowboys, cattle and cotton, but few may know it's also a biological treasure larger than Big Bend and home to a huge stand of live oak trees, 350 species of birds and miles of coastline and wetlands. Despite 150 years of use and some god-awful droughts, including one just two years ago, the King Ranch may be in better shape than ever. Spared from development, the harsh yet fertile landscape has more species of plants and animals today than it did hundreds of years ago, because much of it has been managed in ways that benefit native habitat and wildlife...Cattle ban not likely to be lifted: officials Top agriculture officials on both sides of the border are dismissing a news report that live Canadian cattle could be moving into the United States by December, saying that timeline is too optimistic. "I would be very, very surprised," said Gilles Lavoie, director general of Agriculture Canada's marketing services branch. CBC Newsworld reported Monday that the American border was poised to accept cattle under the age of 30 months, citing the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. That would end a ban on live animals imposed after mad cow disease was detected in an Alberta cow last May...Last lumber truck leaves Wetsel-Oviatt Though this was the 72-year-old man's last day, it wasn't because he was retiring. It was his last day because the company he has given almost half a century of service to was closing after producing lumber for 64 years. About 120 other people lost their jobs, too. "I never dreamed I'd be here to see the day the mill closed," Glavich said. Though many employees didn't expect to see the mill close, owner Cecil Wetsel said he knew he had to make the decision to close the company. He said the business environment in California made the decision for him. Over the past couple years, Wetsel's Workers' Compensation costs rose from $770,000 to $1.6 million per year, and the state has imposed electricity surcharges that cost the company about $20,000 a year. In addition, global competition has forced lumber prices to drop lower than they have been in 20 years in some cases. Wetsel said this combination forced the closure of the company and the end of a lot of good memories...Big Horn reinstates Kane grazing permit A bureaucratic mistake by the Big Horn National Forest has led to the restoration of one of two grazing permits previously taken away from a Sheridan-area rancher. In a Friday press release, District Ranger Craig Yancey said the Kane Land & Livestock will be allowed to graze livestock on the larger of two allotments he historically has leased, the Freezeout allotment. Still standing is Yancey's decision to cancel Kane's lease of a smaller allotment -- the Lower Tongue. The reversal comes after the grazing permit cancellations were initially reviewed and approved at the regional level. A review of the rules found that two allotments governed by one grazing permit must be treated separately for administrative purposes -- something that wasn't done when both of Kane's leases were cancelled...Thomason-Morton-York Ranch: the culmination of a dream The Thomason-Morton Ranch reached a milestone on Oct. 11 of this year, with 150 years of recorded ownership by primarily three families: the Thomasons, Mortons and Yorks. John W. Thomason left Putnam County, Ill., in the spring of 1852 by ox team and wagon and headed overland to California with his wife Druzilla Blanchard Thomason, their two children, and five other children of Mrs. Thomason's, whose last names were Blanchard and Neff. Of the seven children, five ranged in age from one year to 11 years old. He arrived in Yreka in September of 1852...The Expert Gentle readers, I have in the past (as I bet you have) always considered anyone who was considered an expert, to be just that ... AN EXPERT. I have since changed my mind. Let me explain. Recently, a so-called, self-appointed bear expert got himself and his girlfriend killed and eaten by an Alaskan Brown bear that some folks call grizzlies. It appears that this young feller, who by the way was from Malibu, Calif., spent the last several summers living in bear country in Alaska. He would film the bears coming right in his camp and getting within a few feet of him and his camera. He made the comment that the bears were just timid, fun loving party animals! T'weren't so! They did exactly what most folks with any common sense would expect them to do when challenged in their habitat. They killed the one who appointed himself an expert and chose to live in a tent amongst them...Motorized present lassoed by equine past Just about a week ago, with the afternoon sun slanting through the mesquite trees along Pantano Wash and great cactuses standing solemnly at attention, a Tucson cowboy flung a lariat at modern technology, snaring a motorcyclist and risking prosecution on charges of assault with the apparent intent to rein in progress. The same is not true of a motorcyclist. Police say they've heard differing versions of the encounter, and are in the process of sorting them out. They were told by two men on horseback that they confronted three dirt bikers on a trail near the stables. There was some kind of testy exchange that appears to have ended with the cyclists riding off and the horsemen in pursuit. One of the motorcyclists was lassoed and pulled from his bike. He was knocked unconscious and spent the night in a Tucson hospital. Later, on TV, he showed off the rope burns on his neck...

WHO's to Blame?

Blaming global climate change for health problems, particularly in the developing world, is a convenient smokescreen for the miserable results of the WHO strategy. Ever since Mexico reduced its use of insecticides -- at the WHO's behest -- cases of ages-old endemic mosquito-borne diseases are reappearing in the US. A study out this month from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found a pocket of endemic malaria in Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach hasn't suddenly become the Brazilian jungle; the malaria danger is not a question of climate, but of green anti-insecticide policies.
How many Americans have to die of West Nile Fever and other mosquito-borne diseases before pressure is applied to US agencies and the WHO to change its policies? Climate change may yet prove a danger but policies prompted by green zealots are already deadly...

Abundant Reserves Show Petroleum Age Is Just Beginning

And the age of petroleum has only just begun. For more than 80 years, geologists' estimates of the world's endowment of oil have risen faster than developers can pump it out of the ground. In 1920, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated just 20 billion barrels of oil remained in the world. By the year 2000, the estimate had grown to 3,000 billion barrels.
Every year, technological advances make it possible to draw upon petroleum resources whose extraction was once unthinkable. We can now drill wells up to 30,000 feet deep. The amount of oil that can be recovered from a single well has been enhanced by a technology that allows multiple horizontal shafts to be branched off from one vertical borehole. The ability to drill offshore in water depths of up to 9,000 feet has opened up the vast petroleum resources of the world's submerged continental margins.
The world also contains immense amounts of unconventional oil resources that we have not yet begun to tap. Tar sands found in Canada and South America contain 600 billion barrels of oil, enough to supply the U.S. with 84 years of oil at the current consumption rate. Worldwide, the amount of oil that can be extracted from oil shales could be as much as 14,000 billion barrels--enough to supply the world for 500 years...

McCain's Nose-Under-the-Tent Strategy

Who does Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) think he is fooling?
McCain's "Climate Stewardship Act" (S. 139), co-sponsored with Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), and soon to be voted on in the Senate, started out as a roadmap back to the Kyoto Protocol, the UN global warming treaty that President Bush rejected in March 2001. As originally introduced, McCain's bill would require the United States to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil energy use, to year 2000 levels in 2010 ("Phase I") and 1990 levels in 2016 ("Phase II"). Not as restrictive as the U.S. Kyoto target (7 percent below 1990 levels during 2008-2012), but close enough for government work. Too close, in fact, to be viable in today's political climate.
With or without Phase II, McCain's bill would -- like Kyoto -- establish the institutional framework for a succession of increasingly stringent controls on energy use. Indeed, Section 336 states that the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere shall determine "no less frequently than biennially" whether the bill's emission caps remain "consistent" with the "objective" of preventing "dangerous" human interference with the climate system. Commerce would become a permanent lobbyist within the Executive Branch for new taxes or caps on carbon-based energy.
So when McCain asks colleagues to support Phase I, he might as well say, "I just want to put the camel's nose under the tent -- what possible harm could there be in that?"...
ALRA Alert/Land Trusts & Charity Bill
Land Rights Network
American Land Rights Association
PO Box 400 – Battle Ground, WA 98604
Phone: 360-687-3087 – Fax: 360-687-2973 – E-mail: or Web Address:
Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE – Washington, DC 20003
Phone: 202-210-2357 – Fax: 202-543-7126 – E-mail:

COALITION: No Land Trust Tax Deal!

A broad coalition of 34 interest groups representing religious schools and churches, taxpayer advocates and property rights organizations have united in support of the House (HR 7) and against the Senate (S 476) version of the "Faith Based Initiative."
The group has signed a letter to the House and Senate committee chairmen with jurisdiction over the legislation, objecting to a favored status that would be granted to land trusts in the Senate version of the bill. It reads in part:
"The Senate proposal would provide a capital gains tax reduction of 25% to sellers of land or water rights - but only if they sell to a land trust or a government agency . . . It will do virtually nothing to benefit sellers of land, since land trusts will be able to reduce their offering price versus any other potential buyer of property . . . This proposal would place faith-based institutions, such as churches, orphanages and private schools, at a comparative disadvantage in property purchases compared to land trusts and government agencies, neither of which are faith based."
The additional cost of the Senate provision is approximately $500 million. The Land Trust Alliance is pushing for a 50% reduction, costing nearly $1 billion.
Signers include the National Tax Limitation Committee, the American Conservative Union, the American Association of Christian Schools, the American Land Rights Association and 30 others.
Separately, the Association of Christian Schools International, joined by the National Association of Evangelicals and 18 others, signed a similar letter objecting to the "glaring inequity in the Senate version." It asks Congress to support "charitable choice" as long as there is a "level playing field" for all charitable groups "rather than a special benefit bill for land trusts."
"Votes on this bill will be scored on our annual vote index,” promised Susan Kocsis of the League of Private Property Voters, which has published its annual scorecard of Congress since 1989.
Congressman Steve Pearce is circulating a letter to all members of Congress, asking them to sign it - it says that there should be NO special handouts to Land Trusts!!!
CONTACT your Congressional office - tell them to "Sign Congressman Steve Pearce's letter on HR 7 - NO SPECIAL DEALS FOR LAND TRUSTS !!!”
You can call every Congressman at (202) 225-3121. Or use this temporary free number : (800) 648-3516.

You can read the letter here and the press release here.

Sunday, October 19, 2003


Counties discuss wolf re-introduction to recovery area Ranchers, environmentalists and government employees met in a public forum last week to discuss the reintroduction of the Mexican Gray Wolf to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. A public meeting for the Adaptive Management Work Group was held last Friday. The group is a committee that was created to include local government officials in the decision-making process for the reintroduction of the wolf. Private meetings were also held on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area is the name for the wolf reintroduction area in Arizona and New Mexico. Arizona Game and Fish non-game and endangered species chief Terry Johnson said the Memorandum of Understanding for the reintroduction for the wolf is being finalized and will be available to the public on Nov. 2. County officials from New Mexico and Arizona will review the MOU until that date to ensure the language does not violate any rules pertaining to their county...Officials stand by B and B findings Rumors about who or what started two wildfires two days before a presidential visit to Central Oregon were as thick as the plumes of smoke billowing from the blazes. Arsonists. Eco-terrorists. Angry loggers. Accusations flew, both in private and in public. The timing of the fires, the presence of Secret Service helicopters and the national attention focused on the area prompted even some high-ranking agency officials to speculate on the fires' causes. "I have to admit that when it happened, I, like a lot of people, suspected arson," said Bill Anthony, district ranger for the Sisters district of the Deschutes National Forest, where the majority of the Booth and the Bear Butte fires burned... Editorial: 25 years of Public Law 95-495 On October 21, 1978, Public Law 95-495 was signed into law. More commonly known as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1978, the 25th anniversary of the law's signing has generated media interest across the state. There are a few things, however, that are not being talked about. The wilderness requirements of the act are repeatedly highlighted as successes today. Nobody wants to talk about what didn't happen. Included in the law was a section called, "Expansion of Recreation Programs." Here was an effort by the federal government to make up for all it was taking away. Unfortunately, there are few if any successes here to talk about 25 years later...CWSD opposes Wild & Scenic designation The watchdog water district opposes a national Wild & Scenic Rivers System designation, preferring to develop its own strategic plan for the Carson River. The Carson Water Subconservancy District met Wednesday in Fallon and agreed to send the opposition letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who seeks the Wild & Scenic designation. "We are trying to work with the U.S. Forest Service to do a strategic management plan for the whole watershed and then come back and look at the Wild & Scenic designation," Ed James, manager of the district said. "Our concern is that what is proposed is basically putting the cart before the horse. We want to do the study first and then the analysis."...California energy: Drilling in a sacred site? The rugged Medicine Lake Highlands, just 30 miles northeast of Mount Shasta, are situated above an active volcano. Deep below the Highlands, underground pools of boiling brine sit atop volcanic rocks. It is the steam energy in these underground cauldrons that attracted energy companies in the early 1980s, when they first acquired drilling rights to these public lands. For Indian tribes throughout the Western United States, the Highlands are important for very different reasons: They are sacred and for healing, where the tribes come to pray and gather medicinal herbs and learn the secrets of the Earth's creation...Lewis, Clark journey presents good opportunities to ask 'What if?' In September of 1805, Sgt. Patrick Gass looked westward from Travelers Rest and observed "the most terrible mountains that I ever beheld." The Lewis and Clark expedition was about to embark on the most arduous and dangerous part of its trek to the Pacific Ocean -- crossing the rugged Bitterroot Mountains over the Lolo Trail and into the jumbled drainages of northern Idaho in an effort to reach the Columbia River. The party barely made it, encountering early snowfall in the high elevations, exhausting themselves and their horses and nearly running out of food...Idaho coalition seeks to eliminate fast-breeding wolf The Canadian gray wolf's rapid recovery has been hailed as one of the Endangered Species Act's biggest success stories, but some argue that it has been too successful. In central Idaho, critics say the fast-breeding wolf is gnawing through the state's big-game herds at an alarming rate, prompting concerns that the wolf could endanger those who depend on the elk and bighorn sheep for their livelihoods. "These wolves are populating like rabbits in Australia," said Ron Gillett, a hunting guide and outfitter based in Stanley, Idaho. "They only eat meat and they hunt 365 days a year. The U.S. government dumped these wolves on us, and they're destroying our big-game herds and wildlife. "If you like wolves, then you don't like wildlife," he said...Environmentalists object to border fence The plateau at Border Field State Park gives way to steep, rugged canyons including "Smuggler's Gulch," a maze of trails long overrun by illegal border crossers until the federal government launched a crackdown in 1994, erecting a steel wall made of surplus Navy landing mats, adding patrols and installing lights and motion sensors. The Bush administration hopes to build a second fence and a patrol road, tightening the noose along this westernmost 3.5-mile leg of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. But environmentalists object, arguing the new barriers would erode soil just south of a 2,531-acre federally protected estuary that is a refuge for threatened and endangered birds, plants and fish amid the San Diego-Tijuana metropolis...Column: A foolish focus on allegedly 'lethal' dams What a strangely negative way to announce the glad tidings: This is the third (or is it the fourth -- I've lost count) consecutive annual record-setting run of homecoming mature salmon, mostly fall chinooks, bound upstream to their spawning grounds and overtaxing the fish ladders in the process. One would have thought that everybody, especially the tribal elders, would have reason to be cheery about the whole thing. Instead, the emphasis was on the 25 lost fish out of the more than 45,000 that made it successfully upstream on a single day. Not to mention a number of other days of almost equal success. And the run is not completely over yet. Something between 800,000 to 1 million total fall chinook are expected. And every one of them will be counted at stations for that purpose at the ladders they will climb. Where is the bad news in any of that?...Irate Ranchers Howl at Wolf Reintroduction Wolves get a bad rap in legend and myth, gobbling up grandmas and generally fitting a profile of the animal kingdom's version of a heartless terrorist. Ranchers will tell you that the tales of wolf attacks on livestock are no myth or legend but a significant economic fact. Of course, to hear those who hold predators in the highest regard tell it, the noble wolf is sort of like nature's vacuum cleaner, simply culling the sick and weak from among herds of deer, elk and the like. The problem with that image is that wolves aren't particular about whether the critter that makes their next meal is wild or domestic. Cows and sheep are just as delectable to the wolf palate as deer and elk. Because of their attacks on livestock, wolves have been all but exterminated in many ranching states where they once roamed in great numbers...Cowboys, Indians, and land: an old saga's new twist Environmentalists often cite native Americans as a model for protecting nature. The groups are working together to restore Maine's Penobscot River and oppose natural-gas exploration on Navajo lands. But just as the 1854 speech attributed to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe ("We are a part of the earth and it is part of us") is now considered a myth, the collaboration of environmentalists and Indians has been tenuous at best. And today it's being tested, as some tribes assert their rights to exploit - as well as preserve - natural resources. This is evident in the Klamath Basin of California and Oregon, where conservation groups oppose a plan returning extensive areas of national forest to tribes. They worry that native Americans will abuse the land. Critics say this has been the case in southeast Alaska, where Indian corporations have made vast clear-cuts on land they control. Symbolically, it's a case of cowboys and Indians representing centuries-old, conflicting cultures: They have joined forces against a more modern version of land conservation that puts endangered species way ahead of resource development...Endangered Species Act faces challenge So goes the escalating legal warfare over an Endangered Species Act requirement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the Interior Department, declare critical habitat within a year of a species being listed as endangered or threatened. The designation defines habitat considered essential to a species' survival and can severely hamper development and other activities that might harm it. The agency would prefer to spend its limited funds on other conservation efforts but has been paralyzed by dozens of lawsuits since 1997. A Justice Department official estimated that Interior has at least 30 active habitat cases at any given time, and about that many court orders to satisfy. The Bush administration and Republicans in Congress want to change the 1973 Endangered Species Act, arguing that lawsuits are the biggest threat. "I certainly would hope that the Congress would see merit in doing this because the diversion of resources into the courtroom certainly hasn't done conservation any good," said Craig Manson, assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks at Interior. The agency ran out of money for critical habitat in July, leaving many court orders unfulfilled and prompting Manson to complain that the money could have been better spent. Manson said he is working with lawmakers on changes, which he declined to specify...Range allotment is released for review Bridger-Teton National Forest officials are proposing to open three areas in the Wyoming range to domestic sheep grazing, according to a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released Tuesday. The DEIS's preferred alternative would expand domestic sheep grazing into areas closed to this use in the Jackson, Big Piney and Greys River Ranger Districts in southwest Wyoming. It would also speed up ongoing revegetation and habitat rehabilitation work in the allotments, the document said. But officials with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition were wary Thursday of the proposal, which they said could threaten bighorn sheep herds in the Wyoming range if the animals co-mingle with domestic sheep...Editorial: Fair market value for federal land Leave it to federal bureaucrats to serve as masters of the obvious. For years, the Bureau of Land Management (read: taxpayers) got ripped off in numerous land swaps, trading real estate with private parties in return for land not nearly as valuable as that given up. In response -- several of the transactions took place in Nevada -- our congressional delegation persuaded Congress to pass the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act in 1998. The law required the BLM to auction off surplus land in Clark County rather than negotiate land swaps and turn over part of the proceeds to local governments to pay for schools, parks and other infrastructure improvements. In a report issued last week, the agency revealed that -- surprise! -- allowing market forces to determine the price of property has been a resounding success...Snowmobile outfitters plagued by misinformation Snowmobile outfitters, state tourism officials and snowmobile groups say they are fighting an uphill battle to get the word out that the park will be open to snowmobiles. Glenn Loomis, who runs a snowmobile rental shop in West Yellowstone, said he encountered misperceptions when he operated a booth at the Utah State Fair. "I'd estimate that six of 10 visitors all thought that banning snowmobiles in Yellowstone was a done deal," he said. The National Park Service decided in the waning days of the Clinton administration to phase out snowmobiles from Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. Under pressure of a lawsuit filed by the snowmobile industry, the ban was reversed by the Bush administration. The Park Service has since decided to allow cleaner, quieter and fewer snowmobiles in the parks...Crapo tries to bridge salmon divide For Barb Lane of Riggins and Vickie Purdy of Eagle, the debate over Idaho salmon and water is larger than economics, science or politics. Lane, who with her husband, Gary, operates Wapiti Outfitters, has built her life around salmon and steelhead. Purdy, who with her husband, Dana, owns a 129-acre dairy farm near Eagle, sees their Boise River irrigation water as a sacred right. Like other water users and salmon advocates, they face tough decisions as they ponder Republican Sen. Mike Crapo´s evolving offer to find a collaborative resolution to the Pacific Northwest´s most intractable environmental debate...Hitting The Trail There will be food and fellowship at the break of dawn in Jacksboro today. A couple dozen outriders will saddle their horses, and eight to 10 wagons and buggies will be hooked to teams for the weeklong trek to Fort Worth and the 13th annual Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering and Western Swing Festival. The starting point is Fort Richardson, on the outskirts of Jacksboro. The parade of wagons and riders will wind up at the Fort Worth Stockyards Thursday afternoon. "We've got everybody back from last year's ride," said Elmer Richardson, one of the wagon train organizers. "And we've added a few more. We've got a couple people coming all the way from Florida." Friday will be the first official day of the weekend festival. Twenty-three chuck wagons will journey from the Railhead Market downtown to the stockyards, where they will make camp and begin cooking for a tough and demanding competition. Throughout the weekend there will be western swing music, cowboy poetry sessions, an exclusive ranch rodeo, cutting horse competition and a long list of vendors selling cowboy trappings...On The Edge Of Common Sense: Cowboys can't stop crocodilian cow South of Kansas City, on the Missouri side, it's possible to get into the woods pretty quick, both geographically and philosophically. It¹s not easy to gather cows out of that country either. Randy had called Stevo to help him gather a snorty ol' trader cow off his place. The two of them rode into the quarter section pasture. "There she is!" said Randy, pointing out a brockleface angular cow that appeared to have some camel blood in her lineage. At first sight of the two cowboys shakin' out their ropes, the cow headed for the 3-acre tank dam. Randy raced behind her as she started a circumnavigation around the tank to the left. Stevo swung back the other direction to cut her off. On the backside of the tank the riders were charging each other like jousting knights...