Saturday, November 15, 2003


Editorial: Congress leans on its shovel Every year about now, the days grow short, the leaves fall and the last flicker of hope for fire legislation dies in Congress. This year should be different. The wildfires that swept Southern California and much of the West this summer were unstoppable, blackening huge swaths of forests, obliterating thousands of homes and killing dozens of people. The public demands action. Congress already has a reasonable forest health and fire plan in its hands. Yet all that was true last year, too. And the year before. And the year before that. Each time, by the November recess, fire legislation in Congress has been a political ember gone cold...A fire dream team: Rehabilitating federal lands Every fire season, leaders are assigned and teams of emergency rehab specialists are assembled to set up Burned Area Emergency Response, or BAER, operations in communities where federal lands have been destroyed by fire. They worked in the aftermath of the Los Alamos fire in New Mexico and they have been to Southern California before. But this year is like no other. As with last month's firefighting effort, the work ahead in the aftermath of Southern California's firestorm may be the most challenging ever...Activists Plan Fight for Marine Mammals The Navy won a backroom congressional victory last week that allows it to get out from under laws that protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, but in the process it touched off what could be a bruising battle over the future of one of the nation's most popular environmental measures. Environmental advocates and their congressional allies, including a handful of Republicans, are promising to mount a concerted effort next year to overturn the Navy provisions and to turn protection of the appealing and often endangered marine creatures into an election-year issue...Feds: Grizzly delisting proposal may come in 2004 A proposal to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list could be released as early as next year, federal officials said. Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said he feels all the demographic goals for grizzly bear recovery in the Yellowstone Ecosystem have been met. Servheen made the comments last week at a Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Subcommittee meeting in Bozeman, Mont., where officials discussed progress in delisting and recovery efforts. Servheen said delisting could be proposed as early as late 2004 or early 2005, once a grizzly conservation strategy is signed and management plans in the forests surrounding Yellowstone National Park are updated...Ranchers, feds swap jobs U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists building corrals? Ranchers sifting through wetlands protection paperwork? It may sound odd, but an exchange program through the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to bridge the sometimes-contentious gap between the two groups. Since this summer, ranchers and government officials have been trading places, working in each other's environments to get an idea of their priorities and the obstacles they face...Off-road fans and environmentalists clash on Imperial County battlefield Adrenaline. Beauty. Community. They're the ABC's of off-roading -- the three things that many riders say they come to the sand dunes near the tiny community of Glamis in Imperial County to experience. "I don't go to the (Colorado) River and I don't go to the beach. I don't take trips to Hawaii. This is where I come," said John Baker as he sat inside a 450-horsepower sand buggy Friday. "It's the ultimate E-ticket ride."...Group wants to keep sage grouse off endangered list Hoping to prevent sage grouse from being listed as an endangered species, a citizens' group advising the Bureau of Land Management is asking for more resources to be devoted to the bird. The Northwest Resource Advisory Council decided to ask the bureau to fund and monitor sage grouse habitat and conservation efforts. The council also recommended the federal agency defer to successful local grouse conservation plans in Colorado whenever possible and avoid micromanaging local studies and overriding or conflicting with established local plans...BLM questions conservancy director's use of access road Federal land managers have expressed concern about what appears to be preferential treatment on west-central Idaho's Craig Mountain for supporters of the Nature Conservancy. Bureau of Land Management Field Manager Greg Yuncevich labeled as inappropriate the conservancy's use of a limited-access road on its Cove Gulch property to drive contributors in so they could hunt birds...Open space: For farmers, profit is bottom line If a belt of undeveloped land surrounding Lodi -- especially the area between that city and Stockton -- is going to be preserved, then action is going to have to meet rhetoric in a one-word bottom line: Profit. The drive for preservation can be summed up in three words: Follow the money. It's as simple and complicated as that. Farmers and open space landowners will hold onto their land only while it remains affordable to do so. Once it's not, they will end up selling their land to developers and move on. "You've got to make dirt pay," is how Lodi grower David Phillips puts it...Editorial: EPA owes business owner an explanation for 1999 raid McNabb, owner of American Carolina Stamping, was the target of an EPA raid four years ago. His business, American Carolina Stamping, was targeted with questionable tactics and apparently with questionable cause. Armed agents wearing flak jackets - more than 30 of them - descended on McNabb's Transylvania County business in April of 1999. McNabb says he was handcuffed and held while his business was searched and samples were taken from his business. What was all this about? You could say that's a question that took years to answer. More accurately, you could say it's a question that hasn't been answered...

Friday, November 14, 2003


Forest Service workers say privatization effort is unfair to them Dozens of Forest Service employees in Utah and Montana are spending their last days on the job after becoming some of the first victims of the Bush administration's program to cut costs by privatizing government work. In March, the 41 members of the Content Analysis Team - which analyzes public comments on proposed policy changes for several agencies - were told their jobs were going to be put out for bid...Column: Bush Puts Out a Contract on the Spotted Owl...As it now stands, the Bush administration has produced far less timber for its clients than did the Clinton administration. The natives are getting restless. With the numbers stacked against them, the Bush team has attacked the counters. Sound familiar? Remember Palm Beach County? The Bush crowd now echoes one of the most paranoid accusations of big timber: that the Fish and Wildlife Service is intentionally undercounting the owl population in order to suppress logging on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest. The Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bush flacks charge, is too biased in favor of guessed it...wildlife...National grazing lands conference slated for Dec. 7 Nearly 2,000 participants are expected to attend the second national conference on grazing lands December 7-10 in Nashville, Tennessee, according to USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. The conference, hosted by the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, is designed to provide a forum for exchange of information and to increase public awareness of the economic and environmental benefits of grazing lands...Commercial benefit of Tahoe forests nearly nil Despite the state's having fire-prone forests that need to be thinned, it looks to other states and countries to buy its forest products, according to a report released by the California Department of Forestry. "We're getting those products from somewhere where there are fewer environmental regulations, such as Canada," said Christy Daugherty, a CDF forester stationed at South Lake Tahoe. "If you live in a house built of wood, why not get it locally. People get their produce locally." The report is titled "The Changing California Forest and Range 2003 Assessment."...Justice Dept. backs ruling against roadless initiative The Bush administration on Thursday weighed in to support a Wyoming judge's ruling that a Clinton administration roadless initiative was illegal. In 2001, President Clinton signed a rule preserving 58 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land as roadless. Industry groups launched an attack on the rule. Environmentalists have appealed the decision of U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer. In an amicus ("friend of the court") brief submitted to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Justice Department lawyers argued that environmentalists have no right to appeal. "When the executive (branch) ... determines to end litigation over a discretionary regulatory policy, a private party does not have standing to use the judiciary to override that," government lawyers wrote in Thursday's brief...Forest Service sued over grizzly habitat A Missoula environmental group has filed a motion in federal court to force the National Forest Service to comply with a 2001 agreement to improve habitat conditions for grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk mountain ranges. The agreement with the Kootenai, Idaho Panhandle, Lolo and Colville national forests resulted from a lawsuit filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. The Forest Service agreed to develop an environmental impact statement that would primarily propose reductions in road densities on the forests. The Forest Service completed the environmental study in March 2002, but the agency has yet to approve "records of decision" that would effectively amend forest plans with standards that would reduce road densities, so the environmental group decided to return to court to force action...Feds release final draft of Cook Inlet oil leases With a few advisory restrictions, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service last week released its final environmental impact statement for the 2.5 million acres in Cook Inlet that it plans to sell for oil exploration in two portions, identified as sales 191 and 199, beginning next year and then again in 2006. The alternative the agency settled on takes into consideration the potential threat to endangered species, marine and coastal birds and archaeological and visual resources. MMS suggests the areas near the Barren Islands and the lower Kenai Peninsula be excluded from the sales... Environmentalists say FCC violating bird rules on towers, carriers say evidence lacking Wireless carriers continued their push for more research on whether tower facilities kill large numbers of birds, while environmental groups shook their collective finger at the government, alleging the Federal Communications Commission is breaking the law in comments filed with the agency on the effects of communications towers on migratory birds. The American Bird Conservancy, the Forest Conservation Council and Friends of Earth deplored the FCC's actions thus far on the topic. "The FCC is currently and has been for years in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act under its current system of authorizing, licensing, approving, and registering communication towers," the group jointly said...USDA in court over biopharmaceuticals crop testing Environmental groups in the US have this week filed a law suit against the Department of Agriculture in relation to what they claim is an over abundance of unregulated biopharmaceutical crop testing in Hawaii and throughout the country. The coalition of five campaign groups have asked a court in Honolulu to ensure the USDA develop an Environmental Impact Statement on the crop testing, to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service, as required under the Endangered Species Act and to consider the impacts of biopharm crops on public health and the environment...Tallgrass prairie conservation effort gets cash infusion The Nature Conservancy is applauding the passage of a law that will protect some of Minnesota and Iowa's last remaining tallgrass prairie. The US Fish and Wildlife Service received nearly half a million dollars in Land and Water Conservation Act funds to acquire lands for its Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, which extends from northern Iowa through west central Minnesota. The bill, which was signed into law on November 10, contains $470,000 earmarked for conservation easements. Through easement and fee title acquisitions from willing sellers, the refuge will permanently protect approximately 25% of some of the best remaining remnant prairie habitats in the two states...Wind power generates ire Companies that operate more than 1,400 wind turbines in the Altamont Pass had their permits renewed Thursday, but an environmental group upset about bird deaths immediately vowed to appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also weighed in with a letter arguing that the environmental impacts of bird deaths have not been addressed adequately...Land owner wins dispute with Southern Utes A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a Durango landowner in an 8-year-old dispute with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe over valuable gravel on the landowner's property. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a federal judge Wednesday, saying Lulu Mae Hess and her family own the gravel on 440 acres on the Florida Mesa. "The general rule is that gravel is not treated as a mineral within a general mineral reservation when gravel underlies a majority of the surface of the property," Appellate Judge Mary Briscoe wrote in her opinion. She was joined by judges Stephen Anderson and Deanell Tacha. "The record demonstrates that the government knew of the presence of the gravel on the Hess family property, but assigned no value to it," the ruling said. "We find no support for the district court's finding that in 1948 the United States intended to reserve rights to the gravel because it was considered to be a commercially valuable mineral at that time."...House, Senate OK Broad Energy Bill Draft Congressional Republicans on Friday finished a draft of a broad energy bill that would double Americans' use of ethanol, improve reliability of the nation's power lines and aim billions of dollars in tax breaks to energy industries...Costs are rising for water project that will help Utes The Animas-La Plata project to bring water to parts of New Mexico and Colorado could cost even more than the Bureau of Reclamation's recently boosted estimate of $500 million, the San Juan Water Commission's director says. Randy Kirkpatrick could not say how much the price might rise, only that it appears it will cost more than the latest estimate. Kirkpatrick said he believes the cost will go up more based upon information from a consulting firm the commission hired to do an independent review of the bureau's cost estimate. He said a report would detail the consultant's cost evaluation, along with explanations of the how the bureau arrived at its figures. He also said he believes the bureau's report will not address a major concern: How will the new costs be allocated?...Voluntary emission reductions increased 10% in 2002, EPA reports Voluntary emission reduction programs resulted in the reduction of 43 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2002, 10 percent more than in 2001, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's annual report released Nov. 13. The reductions are equivalent to eliminating emissions from 28 million cars, the report states...Click here to view the annual report...Environmental Group Sues Over Atrazine Rule An environmental group has accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the White House of cutting back-room deals with the pesticide industry to avoid stiffer restrictions on atrazine. The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, charging that the EPA and the White House's Council on Environmental Quality and Office of Management and Budget failed to turn over records about frequent private meetings between the agencies and the pesticide industry. The group charged that industry lobbyists had undue influence over the EPA's recent safety assessment of the herbicide...Frogs, fish and pharmaceuticals a troubling brew A number of aquatic and amphibian species are being exposed to small amounts of everything from Prozac to perfume to birth control pills that make their way into U.S. rivers and streams. And scientists now have evidence that this "cocktail" of pharmaceuticals, in high enough quantities, can lead to problems that may be serious enough to prevent wildlife from reproducing. It's not yet clear how the buildup over time could affect the species...Dammed if they do: State pulling out all the stops to limit water-park rights Although the Colorado Supreme Court decided earlier this year to recognize recreational instream water rights like those claimed for Vail's whitewater park, the battle is far from over. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has initiated a rule-making procedure to administer those rights, and by some accounts is trying to make it as difficult as possible for towns or other entities to claim them. At issue is how much water towns like Breckenridge, Vail and Steamboat can claim for whitewater kayak parks...Widow who missed tax bill gets farm back An 89-year-old woman who lost her home because of $572 in unpaid taxes will get it back from the man who bought the million-dollar property in a government auction for $15,000. Helene Shue, who has lived on her 41-acre farm near Hershey, Pa., for five decades, had paid her taxes in full every year - including this one - but was short in her 2001 payment, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reported...Canada's mad cow costs industry C$3.3 bln-study Canada's beef industry has lost an estimated C$3.3 billion ($2.5 billion) since it detected its first and only case of mad cow disease six months ago, according to a new study obtained by Reuters on Friday. The impact "represents the greatest threat and shock the Canadian agricultural industry has ever experienced," said the report, written by Serecon Management Consultants Inc. of Edmonton for an industry coalition...Book Review: The Dog Fence Here he has written a graphic and compelling account of one of the world's most bizarre yet least-known structures, the dingo fence that meanders 5400 kilometres from the storm-lashed cliffs of the Great Australian Bight through South Australia and NSW and ends in the bleak scrub country of Queensland's Bunya Mountains. It is one of Australia's three great fences, the other two being the rabbit-proof fences in Western Australia and Queensland. The idea of the dog fence is as simple as it is ingenious: to divide the continent between cattle country on one side and sheep country on the other, the latter for its very survival requiring protection from the predations of the dingo. The fence is constantly patrolled and maintained, the main dangers to its integrity coming not from the dingo but from feral pigs and kangaroos which can punch holes in the fence through which the wild dogs can enter...Baxter Black: It was a bad day for a good rancher I had to call. I'd recently hauled in an orphan heifer to the sale. She weighed 355 and brought 99.50 a pound. I had to brag. "Have you sold any calves yet?" I asked after I'd rubbed it in a little. "Yeah," Y.A. said, "800 head of steers weighin' 630. They only brought a dollar five." I run a sort of small, hands-off low management operation. His is a high tech, intense, large family ranch. We probably net about the same, but it's like comparing the county fair pony ride to the All American Futurity. Chastened once again, I changed the subject...The Western Music Association takes all comers to its yodeling competition, bringing an infusion of youth to an old art form Age doesn't count in the world of competitive yodeling. The Western Music Association welcomed all comers to its yodeling contest Friday at the Hyatt Regency Wichita -- part of the four-day festival that wraps up Sunday -- and the contenders came from across the country and ranged in age from 8 to 71. What they all had in common was a talent and love for the trickiest kind of vocalizing in the cowboy repertoire...Four inducted into Cowgirl Hall of Fame A sculptor, a horse breeder, a trick rider/barrel racer and an all-around cowgirl were inducted Friday into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. More than 800 people attended the ceremony in the Round Up Inn at the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall. The newest inductees include: Glenna Goodacre, a sculptor who lives in Lubbock; Ann Seacrest Hanson of Montana, an all-around cowgirl and one of the rare female rodeo pickup riders; the late Velda Tindall Smith, trick rider and founder of the Texas Barrel Racing Association; and Arabian breeder Sheila Varian of California...As mother, lawyer, barrel racer, Allen's life turns on a dime daily Allen is a legend in rodeo, and only partly because of her 2000 barrel racing world championship and winning the average at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in 2001 (the fastest total time for 10 runs). Most of her legend comes from her ability to juggle being a mother of two, her partnership in a law firm all while still competing in enough rodeos to qualify for the NFR by finishing in the top 15 in prize money...

Interior Official: Species Protection Act 'Broken'

A senior official of the U.S. Interior Department, in a wide-ranging critique of the Endangered Species Act, said Thursday that the needs of an expanding population, agriculture interests and burgeoning development in the West should be given equal consideration with endangered plants and animals.

Attending an endangered species conference in Santa Barbara, Assistant Secretary of Interior Craig Manson criticized the critical-habitat provision of the law, which limits development in areas favored by threatened species, saying such designations aren't necessary for the perpetuation of many plants and animals.

Manson oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act.

In an interview before his speech here, Manson said the 30-year-old environmental law is "broken" and should no longer be used to give endangered plants and animals priority over human needs.

"The problem is the act was not written with a great deal of flexibility," he said, adding that the interests of developers and private property owners in some cases should prevail over endangered species.

"There are so many things we did not anticipate 30 years ago. It was almost written in a public policy vacuum, without any consideration of the potential impacts of the act on larger and different issues. We didn't anticipate the potential conflicts. We have to recognize that, A, we can't protect everything, and, B, we have to carefully examine whether we should try to protect everything, and at what cost?"

But former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who also was a speaker Thursday, was sharply critical of the Bush administration's stewardship of endangered and threatened species.

"There is nothing wrong with the Endangered Species Act. It works," said Babbitt, who served during the Clinton administration. "The problem is this administration is not enforcing it and it doesn't want it to work. They want it to fail."

Babbitt said the act can be highly flexible, citing a compromise involving the San Francisco Bay delta. There, state and federal officials came up with a plan for diverting water to San Joaquin Valley farmers and Southern California city dwellers that left enough to sustain native fish in the delta. Babbitt said the agreement is a model of how the act can foster positive change.

But Babbitt agreed with Manson on critical habitat, saying the statute could be struck down today with "no real-world consequences," noting that habitat provisions lie elsewhere in the act.

The Bush administration has placed fewer plants and animals on the endangered species list than any other in the act's 30-year history. Bush has listed 20 species since taking office. President Clinton listed 211 during his first three years in office.

Conservationists note that none of the listings made during Bush's tenure were done voluntarily by the Fish and Wildlife Service. All came as a result of lawsuits or petitions from private groups.

This week, the Senate passed a bill that would exempt military bases from some sections of the act, including the critical-habitat provision. Manson said he supports the bill.

Manson, a former California Superior Court judge, served six years as general counsel for the California Department of Fish and Game.

In a recent interview with The Times, Manson questioned the wisdom of extreme efforts to stave off extinction of all species. "If we decide we are going to spend $100 million to save a species we've imperiled, why are we doing that? Are we doing that because it serves human interests to do that? Are we doing that for the exercise of saving something that nature can't take care of … regardless of our efforts? If we are saying that the loss of species in and of itself is inherently bad — I don't think we know enough about how the world works to say that."

The act's purpose, he said, "is not to create a perpetual hospice for threatened or endanged species. It's our responsibility to get them to the point of recovery."

Conservation groups are highly critical of Manson's stance toward critical habitat, citing the Fish and Wildlife Service's own statistics that show endangered species with critical habitat designation are twice as likely to be improving as species without.

"The reason groups like mine pursue protection with critical habitat is that the science is absolutely clear that species with critical habitat are doing better," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Thursday, November 13, 2003


Tribes, public meet again For the second time in three days, the Klamath Tribes met with the public about the possibility of re-establishing a reservation, except this time they heard questions and concerns from some of the Tribes' members. The Tribes have been talking with the federal government about getting 690,000 acres of national forest land in exchange for improved management. The crux of the deal is the Tribes' forest management plan, which tribal officials have called the "gold standard" of management plans. It is being completed by forestry experts from the University of Washington and Oregon State University. The plan, which had been expected to be released about Nov. 15, is now set for release Dec. 1, Foreman announced...Editorial: Lands Worth Leaving Alone Last April, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Gov. Michael Leavitt of Utah struck a deal that removed federal protection from about 2.6 million acres of land in Utah that her predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, had designated as potential wilderness. The consequences of that deal are now becoming clear. The Bureau of Land Management, part of Interior, recently announced plans to sell oil and gas leases on 16,000 acres in and near Desolation Canyon, a fragile landscape that would almost certainly have remained off limits under the Babbitt policy. Environmental groups have filed protests aimed not only at protecting Desolation Canyon but also at sending a larger message: that the fate of these and other lands of national significance should ultimately be decided by Congress, not the oil and gas industry...Mining proposed at Sierra Madre historic site The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comment on a proposal to explore for minerals at the historic Lost Cabin Mine in the Medicine Bow National Forest. The mine, more than 100 years old, is in a historic copper and silver mining area of the Sierra Madre Mountains. It also sits in a roadless area, meaning development is prohibited, though the roadless rule was thrown out by a federal judge in Cheyenne. That ruling is now being challenged...Judge hears arguments on logging injunction After hearing arguments on what the U.S. Forest Service must do to allow harvests to resume on six old growth timber sales in Oregon, a federal judge said Wednesday he will issue a permanent injunction next week banning logging on them in the meantime...Forest ATV plan gets opposition Environmentalists are challenging a plan to open as much as 215 miles of Mark Twain National Forest trails to off-road vehicles, saying the effort meant to study the effects of the machines is illogical and illegal. Calling for little public input and no formal environmental analysis, the proposal comes almost a decade after the U.S. Forest Service yielded to public opposition in dropping a plan to expand ATV trails in the forest, which covers 1.5-million-acres in 29 Missouri counties. The latest plan, developed in conjunction with trail rider groups, would authorize off-road vehicles in three areas on existing roads and trails, many of them created by illegal use. After three years, the Forest Service would decide whether to keep the trails open...Bush adminstration argues against appeal of roadless decision Environmental groups should not be allowed to challenge a Wyoming federal judge's decision to strike down a ban on road-building in remote areas of national forests, Justice Department lawyers contended in court papers filed this week. The Justice Department defended the roadless rule in federal court in Wyoming but did not appeal U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer's decision to strike it down in July. The environmental groups had intervened in the case and did appeal. They are asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the rule, which blocked road construction in 58.5 million forest acres nationwide as a way to stop logging and other commercial activity...Freaky Fridays with the Bush administration On Friday, Oct. 10, the Bush administration made it easier for mining companies to dump tailings on federal land. The timing of the announcement fit what environmental groups call the "Friday Follies." "It's a very effective strategy, a very cynical strategy," says Rob Perks of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C. "It's sneaky." When the Bush administration does something that's bad for the environment, it's often rolled out on a Friday, Perks says. That makes it difficult for news organizations to cover, because reporters and editors are already busy doing work for weekend publication or broadcast. And there is less chance for follow-up coverage, because newsroom staffing is at its thinnest on Saturdays and Sundays...Judge throws out suit blocking Lolo logging A judge has thrown out an environmental group's lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service's plans to log 4,600 acres in the Lolo National Forest. But that doesn't mean the project can go forward. A different decision by the same U.S. District Court judge, Don Molloy, prevents all work in burned areas of the Lolo forest. It is being appealed...'Outbreak of trees' targeted in Vail Valley The U.S. Forest Service has devised a plan to address what some agency planners call a "critical outbreak of trees in the Vail Valley," aiming to restore vigor and diversity to an overgrown forest that is being eaten alive by pine beetles. "Part of the intent is to get those stands in a condition where they're not so susceptible to the beetles," said Cal Wettstein, the agency's Minturn-based district ranger...The Klamath Whistleblower A scientist with the fisheries service, the man who was the "technical lead" for those biological opinions that had so rankled the reclamation bureau, was seeking protection under the federal whistleblower act, a law that shields federal employees who come forward with evidence of misconduct by their superiors. The whistleblower's name was Mike Kelly, and he was alleging that his own agency, despite being charged with protecting endangered species, had endorsed a plan that provided insufficient protection to the Klamath River's beleaguered coho population. So superheated was the Klamath controversy at that point that the news broke like a tidal wave. Kelly was besieged with interview requests from the likes of the Los Angeles Times and The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. He turned them all down. He hadn't come forward to bask in the limelight. He'd come forward, ultimately, to get the fish more water...GOP lawmakers on environment tear: Republicans say they want balance, Democrats see rollbacks Republican lawmakers are mounting their strongest bid since regaining control of the Senate in January to overturn or postpone an array of environmental provisions. With Congress trying to wrap up major energy and spending bills, GOP leaders are pressing to postpone implementation of tough smog rules for communities, ease restrictions on some energy exploration and exempt deep-water naval activities from the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Republicans say their efforts would strike a balance between environmental concerns and the need to protect industry from excessive restrictions that discourage investment and kill jobs...Ranch becomes haven for sage grouse The sprawling Ochs Ranch is haven to an at-risk population of Gunnison Sage grouse under a 2,757-acre conservation easement inked Wednesday. The $9.5 million agreement protects habitat while allowing local ranchers to work the land. "This has really become a model in many respects, because this is an area where we're talking about preservation of critical habitat and important open space in one of the prettiest parts of Colorado and the preservation of the agricultural economy that's so important to make it all work," said Greg Walcher, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources...Future of species protection gets scrutiny, Some say it's time to change 30-year-old law Each time Dick Jordan switches on a light or washes a load of clothes, his life is touched by the costs of the Endangered Species Act. It might be just pennies a day, but the price of saving endangered salmon and Snake River snails is reflected in the Timberline High School teacher's electric bill. Increased costs for growing Idaho's famous potatoes and raising beef are two other impacts of the landmark environmental law passed 30 years ago. Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and some of Idaho's leading experts on the law say the nation needs new tools to protect biological diversity. They are meeting with scientists this week in Santa Barbara, Calif., to map out a future for the most powerful environmental law ever written...Peregrine falcon makes courthouse its home Nature has taken flight at the El Paso County Courthouse. For the past eight winters, a window ledge on the 12th floor of the courthouse has served as one falcon's dining room and a public window to the wild. What El Pasoans are seeing out that courthouse window is becoming an increasingly common urban sight as peregrine falcons -- on the comeback from near extinction -- take up residence on big-city skyscrapers around the country, said Jeff Smith, interim executive director of HawkWatch International in Salt Lake City. Peregrines are known to be living in the New York's tall buildings and in the downtowns of Toronto, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Seattle and other major cities across North America...Yellowstone reports wolf sightings every day for almost three years For 1,000 days in a row, somebody in Yellowstone National Park has spotted a wolf. That's a total of 130,000 people reporting wolf sightings, the National Park Service announced this week. The 1,000-day mark, totaling almost three years, was reached Nov. 5. The Park Service called it "an extraordinary benchmark...Park Workers 'Openly' Opposing Bush Policies For the first few months of the Bush administration, if career employees at the agencies charged with protecting the environment disagreed with the new president's agenda, they expressed their concerns primarily among themselves - or sometimes, demanding anonymity, to reporters. Then several left their government jobs and started openly criticizing the administration, calling it hostile to wilderness, wildlife and clean air. Others stayed - but tried to sabotage, or at least expose, administration initiatives by leaking documents to the media. On Thursday, disagreements between the administration's environmental officials and some of their employees took a turn toward the bizarre...Poll: Some despair among parks' employees Politics is trumping science in America's national parks and the Bush administration is doing a poor job of upholding the mission of the parks, according to a majority of veteran Park Service career workers who participated in a recent poll. For those who responded - representing a little less than 10 percent of the agency's full-time work force - the results released Thursday indicate low morale, unease about the Bush administration's environmental policies, worry about the fate of the parks and an increasing difficulty in protecting the parks' natural resources...Clean-Air Rules for Parks The Environmental Protection Agency must propose a clean-air rule for national parks and wildernesses by Sept. 30 as part of a settlement announced on Thursday by the agency and environmental groups. The rule, to go into effect in September 2005, would address nitrogen oxide levels at parks like Acadia, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountain and Shenandoah. The accord was reached in a suit by Earthjustice, formerly the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, and Environmental Defense. Before the pact is made final, it has to pass a public-comment period and court approval. The National Park Service says that smog damages vegetation and water in parks, and that air pollution cuts visibility to about half the natural level in Western parks and one-fifth in many Eastern ones. Plug Pulled on Dam Eighty-five years ago, the National Park Service dammed the Merced River with timbers, boulders and debris for a hydroelectric project that brought hot water and lights at the touch of a switch.
When the hydroelectric project was finished, 35,000 annual visitors were coming to Yosemite National Park, and such modern comforts outweighed consequences to nature. On Wednesday, the roles reversed. Heavy equipment began pounding the small hydro dam to pieces. The only dam between the Sierra crest and foothills on the Merced should be gone by December, officials said...Program conserves thousands of acres A private foundation has spent the past five years rivaling the federal government in the business of conserving California's landscape. Capping an ambitious program begun in March 1998, the Los Altos-based David and Lucile Packard Foundation announced Wednesday that it had protected 342,355 acres statewide...AG Salazar presents alternate water plan Attorney General Ken Salazar, a top opponent to Gov. Bill Owens' $2 billion bonding plan for new water projects that voters overwhelmingly defeated Nov. 4, came out Thursday with his own plan to end the state's water wars. Fingering the rapidly-growing Arapahoe and Douglas counties as the cause of fights between the Eastern and Western Slope for the last 15 to 20 years, Salazar announced his backing of a study looking into bringing new water from the Western Slope, running it through Denver Water's system of pipes and reservoirs and sending it to the southern suburbs...Nevada again denies water rights for federal nuclear dump Nevada is again denying water rights to Yucca Mountain, the site the federal government plans for a national nuclear waste dump. "The building of a nuclear waste repository is not a beneficial use," state Engineer Hugh Ricci said Thursday of his decision to deny permanent groundwater rights to the Energy Department. Ricci's ruling, dated Nov. 7, has no immediate effect because a court order currently allows enough water for maintenance and scientific activities at the site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas...Schwarzenegger pick for state EPA bashes Bush Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's choice to head the state's environmental protection agency criticized the Bush administration Thursday for failing to reduce greenhouse gases or prevent forest fires. Terry Tamminen, executive director of Environment Now in Santa Monica, said a federal decision earlier this year "undermines our ability to control greenhouse gases."...Japan to ban cattle backbone use in food products Japan has decided to ban the use of cattle backbone in food products and the sale of beef with backbone from countries that have reported cases of mad cow disease, a Health Ministry official said on Friday. The decision by a ministry panel will mostly apply to domestic products as Japan has already suspended beef imports from countries that have reported cases of the disease formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The ban will probably be put in place around February after preparatory steps are completed, the official said...Retiree's farm is a tribute to the blades that watered the West Otto Mann never intended to transform part of his farmland into a museum of America's pioneer ingenuity. But the 81-year-old retiree is not one to sit around. As a result, his farm on a road east of Pearsall is the reason many motorists brake on their ride through the quiet South Texas countryside. The whirling of dozens of restored American-style windmills is hard to pass up...NAFTA fight over BSE rejected Canada's cattle industry saw compelling grounds for a challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement against the closure of the United States border to Canadian beef and cattle this year. But the reasons for not pursuing that challenge were even more compelling, said Betty Green, president of the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association. An industry sentiment was that a NAFTA challenge could easily tie the issue up before a trade tribunal for three to four years, Green said. It was possible that during that period of legal wrangling, the U.S. border would have stayed closed to Canadian beef and cattle imports, she said...NCBA Declines R-CALF Meeting The National Cattlemen's Beef Association late Wednesday told R-CALF USA that it would decline an invitation to participate in a cattle industry summit meeting on mandatory country of origin labeling. R-CALF has scheduled the meeting for Tuesday in Denver and says it will go ahead with the meeting, without NCBA. NCBA, the nation's largest organization of cattle producers, opposes mandatory country of origin labeling. R-CALF, a competing group, supports it. The House version of the FY04 Agriculture Appropriations bill contains a provision to stop implementation of the labeling program for one year. On the other hand, the Senate voted 58 to 36 last week to instruct its conferees not to accept the House provision...As Beef Demand Soars, A Plug for Vegan Products An activist animal "rights" group says vegan food has gone mainstream, and to thank the companies that helped make it happen, the group is handing out what it calls "Proggy Awards" - "proggy" being a shortened form of the word "progress." "Enjoying traditional American favorites no longer has to cost an animal an arm-or a wing-and a leg," said Joe Haptas, a campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals...Sheep fight shears loser of $222,000 in legal fees It was inevitable that someone would be shorn when the Shenandoah Sheep War, fought for seven years in high pastures and district and appellate courts, climaxed this month in a judge's award of attorney's fees and costs. Ed and Adalouise Dunne filed a lawsuit to rid their upscale rural subdivision of sheep but lost the case. They have been ordered by a judge to pay the legal fees of the flock-owning neighbors they sued, Paul and Terrianne Warner. The bill comes to almost $222,000. "Mr. Dunne fleeced himself," said attorney Thomas Dugan, who represented the Warners...

This a great article, with many links, by Robert Bidinotto. Check out his website here or his blog here.

The environmentalists' war on our national security

Our military men and women are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, and defending our interests in other trouble spots around the world. But while politicians of both parties posture about "supporting our troops" and guaranteeing them the best in training and assistance, they've also released a torrent of environmental laws that greens now direct toward eroding our soldiers' safety and preparedness. Rather than focus on training, our military personnel must now worry about complying with the endless requirements of statutes such as the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, and many others.

As a result, in Arizona the Air Force must move or cancel its practice bombing runs if antelope are spotted within 5 kilometers of a target area. In Idaho, low-level combat flying missions are prohibited because the noise might disrupt the mating of elk. Navy ships assigned to support bombers flying over Afghanistan were forced to cancel a missile-firing exercise off the California coast, for concern about nearby seals...

You will also be well served by reading Bidinotto's Earth to California: thank environmentalism for your wildfires.

This is a wonderful picture/essay by Brad Ullrich. Brad is the land use editor for

Trails Really in My Backyard

Recent events in the U.S. Senate by obstructionist Senators, including one of my own, Senator Bingaman, can easily bring the catastrophe that is facing southern California to the rest of the western United States. Under enormous pressure from the public the Senators yesterday finally agreed to an amendment to the president's Healthy Forests Legislation, designating 50% of the tree cutting is to be in urban interface areas, but it is probably too little too late. Decades of mismanagement have made the western United States into a giant tinderbox, proven by the current situation in California and recent events in Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Oregon.

Senators such as Bingaman of New Mexico, Boxer of California and quite a few others, mainly on the Democrat side of the aisle, are serving to perpetuate public lands mismanagement that started several decades ago, but really gained momentum under the Clinton/Gore administration, an administration that was firmly in the pocket of the radical environmental groups. These Senators, and quite a few Representatives, are, in my opinion, also "owned" by the same environmental lobby. And I say owned for a very specific reason, legislators that act in the manner that they do would have to be acting under the direction of that extreme lobby. And if they are not acting under their direction they are so afraid of the extreme environmentalists that they may as well be acting under their direction...

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


Note: is going offline for maintenance at midnight mst, so the news section will not be as complete as usual.

Crusade set to save Valley Big Bear Valley is embarking on an all-out crusade, with Michael Perry leading the charge. The crusade-to save Big Bear Valley. In the wake of the Old Fire that was stopped just short of reaching Big Bear, Perry is leading the fight to protect the Valley through healthy management of the surrounding forest. His plan is called HUFI, Healthy Urban Forest Initiative. Perry, who is city manager for Big Bear Lake, presented the plan to the City Council at its Nov. 10 meeting. He did so before a packed house at the Performing Arts Center and three network news crews...Environmentalists fear military exemptions just the beginning A defense bill that would let the U.S. military bypass key environmental laws to conduct training is a dangerous assault on endangered species and mammals, environmentalists said Wednesday. The Senate approved the measure Wednesday, and it now goes to President Bush for his signature. ''Essentially, what this law will do is put the military above the laws - two of the most important laws to protect our wildlife,'' said Susan Holmes, senior legislative representative for the environmental group Earthjustice...Norton, Mexico's Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Extend Wildfire Protection Agreement for Additional Ten Years Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton and her recently appointed Mexican counterpart, Alberto Cardenas-Jimenez, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), today signed an agreement to extend cooperation on wildfire protection for the next ten years. This agreement has enabled fire fighters and their equipment to cross the border and help fight wildfires that threaten both countries. "The recent experience in Southern California reinforces the need to work together to manage fires," said Norton. This agreement first established in 1999, was renewed during the U.S.-Mexico Bi-national Commission (BNC) meeting hosted by the U.S. Department of State. The agreement continues the designation of a zone of mutual assistance of up to 10 miles on each side of the border, and authorizes cooperation on other fire management activities outside the zone. "I am pleased this signing will result in further exchanges of resources and continued training," said Cardenas, "as well as the protection and preservation of species in critical habitats along the border."...Shovel shuffle: Elko County to reconsider moving Jarbidge plaque The Shovel Brigade's commemorative plaque may not be coming off the wall of the Elko County courthouse afterall. The Elko County Commission has set Dec. 17 to reconsider its vote to take down the symbolic plaque and photos of the South Canyon Road near Jarbidge. On a 3-2 vote last week, the commissioners decided to move the plaque and photos to the Jarbidge Community Center. But a group of local residents, including Assemblyman John Carpenter, persuaded the panel to reconsider the vote given its significance in an ongoing dispute with the Forest Service over jurisdiction of the road and protection of threatened bull trout... Environmental Impact Statement frustrating The delay of the final Safford Environmental Impact Statement has frustrated and delayed many people's efforts to expedite a proposed copper mining operation 8 miles north of Safford, including Congressional representative Rick Renzi, who is ready to lobby the Secretary of Interior...No snowmobile speed limit at Dutchman Deschutes National Forest officials will not impose a speed limit on snowmobilers at the Dutchman Flat Sno-Park, despite having decided internally that the area warrants speed restrictions. Marv Lang, recreation specialist for the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, told a group of trail users Tuesday night that the agency lacks enough law enforcement officers to enforce a limit. The district has only two law enforcement officers (LEOs), who are the equivalent of agency police. They carry guns and have the authority to enforce rules and regulations...New group works to protect migration corridor A recently formed coalition of concerned parties is working on a protection plan for a key wildlife migration corridor in western Wyoming. Officials involved in the effort said the coalition -- which includes government agencies, state lawmakers, agricultural producers, conservationists, and oil and gas industry interests -- has been working for over a month to draft a protection plan for the historic Trapper's Point area west of Pinedale...Column: Fires point to need to pass forests bill The California wildfires make an airtight case for President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative -- and Congress should waste no time in passing it. The Forest Service, handcuffed by restrictive rules and frivolous lawsuits, has been unable to manage forests effectively to prevent catastrophic fires. The service dedicates an alarming 40 percent of its resources to the managing process, paperwork and responding to litigation. Many Forest Service thinning and fuel-reduction initiatives require at least five alternative analyses, creating bottlenecks that can stall critical actions by two years or more. The service's efforts are further hampered by an endless stream of appeals from environmental zealots. In California alone, such appeals slowed 66 percent of all forest fuels- reduction efforts in the past two years, according to the watchdog General Accounting Office...Balancing Biodiversity Michael Robinson, the founder of Sinapu and member of The Center for Biological Diversity visited campus Nov. 4 to help what he called “the most imperiled mammal in North America.” Robinson founded Sinapu while studying at CU in 1991. Sinapu, named for the Ute word for “wolf,” is an organization dedicated to protecting the healthy existence of carnivores throughout the Rocky Mountains...Column: They Blinded Me with Pseudo Science In the final days of October, Craig Manson, assistant Interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, dealt a "Godfather"-style blow to a team of government biologists that was about to release a final report with flow recommendations for the Missouri River -- a blow that could have a sizable ripple effect on the river itself. The report was to have argued for the need to better mimic the natural flow of the Missouri (releasing more water from hydroelectric dams in the spring and less in the summer) to prevent extinction of the river's endangered sturgeon, tern, and plover populations, and to reduce the risk of future flooding...Made for each other? When the US Air Force tested its largest conventional weapon, a 21,000-pound behemoth dubbed the "Mother of All Bombs," at Eglin Air Force Base in March, the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker had a ringside seat. The University of Arizona ecologist touts Eglin as a model for saving the planet's endangered species using a new-old approach he calls "reconciliation ecology." It is, he says, the science of planning or reengineering human habitats to accommodate man and nature simultaneously...Lawsuit Challenges Open-Air Testing of Genetically Engineered 'Biopharm' Crops Attorneys with Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety filed suit in federal district court in Honolulu today asking the court to order the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assess the environmental and public health risks of, and better regulate, the open-air testing of biopharmaceutical test crops in Hawaii and throughout the United States. The attorneys represent a coalition that includes Friends of the Earth, KAHEA, Pesticide Action Network North America, and Center for Food Safety...Column: Alliance for environmental disaster For folks who think that groups like the Sierra Club have too much influence over environmental policy, liberal environmentalists run the EPA, most environmental regulations are cumbersome and outdated, environmental terrorists are running amok, "environmental racism" is related more to "political correctness" than political reality, and that President George W. Bush is getting a bad rap on his environmental record, a new organization has emerged to set the record straight. Partnership for the West, which grew out of a late-September summit in Denver attended by several elected officials, a number of corporate representatives, and members of many long-standing anti-environmental organizations including the American Land Rights Association, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, and the Mountain States Legal Foundation (from which Gale Norton hails), was formally unveiled on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in late October...Yellowstone's New Electronic Field Trip is an Out-Of-This-World Adventure Yellowstone National Park announces the premier of Zooming in on Hayden Valley, airing November 12, 2003, on the Windows into Wonderland electronic field trip web site Redesigned by Earthtalk Studios in Bozeman, Montana, the site has a fresh, inviting format. School groups will find the electronic field trip user-friendly and filled with scripted dialogue, animations, and streaming video and audio content. Educators are encouraged to register online at the web site and preview the electronic field trip before its official premier...New Book Canvases the State Showcasing Voluntary Grower Efforts to Protect Wildlife What would make a winegrape grower set aside prime vineyard land to attract wood ducks or create space for endangered species? California Vineyards and Wildlife Habitat, a book released today by the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), offers insight to the extraordinary measures growers throughout the state are voluntarily taking to protect wildlife habitats and enhance vineyard environments. From Mendocino to San Diego County, the 96-page, full-color book takes the reader through every major California winegrape growing region chronicling the personalities and practices behind one of agriculture's greatest environmental success stories. Through extensive interviews with vineyard owners, growers and the conservationists they partner with, primary author and photographer Steve Adler details the broad spectrum of conservation methods employed by California's winegrape growers... Endangered plant halts golf course project An endangered species known as Swamp Pink has forced developers of a proposed age-restricted neighborhood in Gloucester County to eliminate a nine-hole golf course slated for the site. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Swamp Pink is a flowering plant that is listed as threatened in the region...Lynnwood argues woodpeckers A proposed subdivision in northeast Lynnwood is ruffling the feathers of some nearby residents who say the presence of pileated woodpeckers and wetlands should stop homes from being built there. The landowner, the proposed subdivision developer and a group of neighbors pleaded their cases during a roughly three-hour hearing before the Lynnwood City Council on Monday night, but the council made no final decision...Lake Tapps can handle salmon, water draw People who want to save Lake Tapps, and those who want to draw drinking water from it, have received an unexpected word of encouragement from federal fish scientists. But for supporters of a power plant on the lake, the news continues to be bad. The agency charged with protecting threatened salmon in the White River said in a recent report that water in the river seems sufficient to preserve the fish, maintain the lake and supply drinking water to 300,000 people in East King County...Norton Finalizes Real Estate Appraisal Reform Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton today announced that real estate appraisal functions previously performed by various agencies within the Department of the Interior have been consolidated in a new departmental office. The Office of Appraisal Services, housed within the department's National Business Center, will administer the various appraisal services required by Interior's programs. Brian Holly, Chief Appraiser for the U.S. Department of Justice, has agreed to serve as Acting Chief Appraiser for the department and head the office. "The creation of the Office of Appraisal Services enhances our ability to provide unbiased appraisals consistent with the public interest," Norton said. "This new organization has been carefully structured to ensure appraiser independence, make certain that appraisals meet recognized professional standards, and advance conservation goals."...Column: Let the Buffalo Roam, Is it time to consider reverse homesteading? My first instinct is that "he who lives by the subsidy should die by its withdrawal." Cut the subsidies and let farmers either learn to succeed at farming without them or go into some other line of work. But given the number of U.S. senators from the Plains states, that is a political nonstarter. So how about some "reverse homesteading"? Instead of encouraging people to settle and work the land, pay them to leave it voluntarily. This could work in a variety of ways. The feds could outright buy the farms and put them back into the public domain. Even given the significant management problems that the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management have, this option would nevertheless spare taxpayers from the fate of endless subsidy payments, while giving erstwhile farmers a nest egg to start their new lives...U.S. to review Mexicali power plants, lines In response to a San Diego federal court ruling, the U.S. Department of Energy will do a full review of the environmental impact of two Mexicali power plants and the power lines that carry electricity from Mexico to California. U.S. Judge Irma E. Gonzalez ruled in May that the United States illegally granted presidential permits for the power lines, which are owned by Sempra Energy and InterGen. She said the Bush administration's abbreviated environmental assessment of the project didn't adequately evaluate the consequences of the companies' power plants in Mexico...New BLM oil, gas leases challenged Outdoor educators and retailers have joined environmentalists in formally challenging the Bureau of Land Management's plans to sell oil and gas leases on Utah lands that until recently were regarded by the agency as having wilderness characteristics. A coalition of environmental groups on Monday filed a protest against the BLM for 21 parcels of land included in its quarterly oil and gas lease sale, scheduled for Nov. 24. They were joined by the Lander, Wyo.-based National Outdoor Leadership School. Their protest follows a similar one lodged Friday by the Outdoor Industry Association, based in Boulder, Colo. The environmental groups -- along with Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., sponsor of a 9.1 million-acre Utah wilderness bill -- are angry that the oil and gas sales include parcels within "wilderness inventory areas" that the BLM under the Clinton administration thought could be worthy of eventual wilderness protection...Cattlemen pleased with changes to grassland conservation program The agricultural appropriations bill, overwhelmingly passed last Thursday by the Senate, contains changes to the Grassland Reserve Program, which the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) says were necessary. "In particular, the Senate passed language to make clear that private organizations may own the title interest in a program easement if the organization is otherwise qualified under the law," according to Jeff Eisenberg, executive director of the Public Lands Council (PLC), and the NCBA director of federal lands...Four more Polaris models meet Yellowstone snowmobile requirements Snowmobiles that the National Park Service earlier said would require special equipment to meet noise standards do not need the equipment after all, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis said Wednesday. New tests the Park Service said it encouraged manufacturer Polaris Industries Inc. to conduct show that when operated at higher elevations like Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, the four models are considerably quieter than when operated at lower elevations...Island Bison Ship Out for Plains More than 100 of Catalina Island's legendary bison departed the island forever Tuesday, herded into trucks, ferried across the sea on an industrial barge, and then sent on a journey that will take them to the northern Plains where their ancestors once grazed. The transfer of one-third of the renowned Catalina bison herd is a rare joint effort of animal welfare advocates and conservationists, two groups that long have sparred over how to reduce the numbers of nonnative animals roaming an island whose managers have a mission of conserving wildlife...Acequia association: Plan doesn't protect acequias The New Mexico Acequia Association says the first draft of the state’s water plan fails to protect acequias. The group plans to warn legislators that the draft plan unveiled last month threatens acequias through its emphasis on developing water markets for the trade in water rights. Association members participated in public meetings where state officials gathered public comment on issues to include in the state water plan. But association members say the draft fails to reflect their concerns...Brazil has beef with U.S. With 3,500 workers slaughtering and processing an at-capacity 1,100 cows a day, you might think the owners of the Bertin Ltda. plant would have all the work they could handle. Instead, the company would like to expand -- but it is cramped by import restrictions that keep raw Brazilian beef out of U.S. grocery stores and restaurants. "We are exporting our beef to all other major markets in the world," said Bertin sales manager Dominic MacDermot. "Why is it that we are being penalized by the Americans?" ...An old way of life grows fainter: Local rancher G. B. Oliver Jr. dies The crest has passed, and the waning ripples from the original wave of Otero County pioneers are smoothing into faint reflections of an earlier time. Local rancher and lifelong county resident G.B. Oliver Jr., 77, passed away at the home of his son in La Luz Canyon Monday. He died suddenly after working some fence line...

Tuesday, November 11, 2003


Tribes field raft of questions Officials from the Klamath Tribes tried Monday night to answer questions about returning national forest land to the tribes for a reservation. "We are up here to try to make a deal and sell this to you," tribal Vice Chairman Joe Hobbs said at a meeting of about 125 people at the Beatty Community Center. But many who live near or within the 690,000 acres in question left the meeting saying their concerns weren't addressed. While the U.S. Forest Service has managed the land to produce trees, the Tribes want to manage the land to the benefit of all of its resources, Hobbs said. Chairman Allen Foreman said the Tribes will soon produce its forest management plan. He said it will outline what the Tribes want to do with the forests and how they will do it. He said the Tribes would be subject to legislative regulations in following their plan and use taxpayer money to fund many of the projects...Forest policy is a plan without funding Last July, a U.S. Forest Service policy went into effect that will allow certain types of projects to proceed without the usual environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Catron County woodcutters have not yet benefited to any degree from this policy, although it could be an answer to concerns about continued damage to National Forests from bark beetles and drought and the wildfires that will threaten the county next spring and summer. Many Catron County woodcutters as well as the County Commission have been looking to land stewardship contracts as a way to expedite dealing with the current deteriorated forest health conditions in the county. Stewardship combines traditional lumbering with forest health objectives, such as thinning of dense tree stands, removal of brush and slash (debris left after logging), even planting, watershed and road work. However, the process of selecting stewardship acreage and then the administering of the contracts is not simple...Ranchers try more natural approach: Sheep business sets environmental goals Not many ranchers assemble teams of scientists to help them develop environmentally friendly grazing plans. But a Blaine County sheep operation has done just that, as part of its effort to combine the all-natural meat business with a dedication to wildlife and range conservation. The company is trying to find a niche between grazing as usual and the more extreme solution advocated by the Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project -- eliminating public-lands grazing entirely. "We would share with Western Watersheds the desire to see healthy ecosystems and abundant wildlife," Stevens said. "But we differ in our strategies to achieve that goal. We are developing a business that actually supports our work. The ongoing challenge is, how do you sustain the stewardship efforts over the long term?"...Experts say California wildfires could worsen with global warming Drought- and beetle-ravaged trees in this mountain community stick up like matchsticks in the San Bernardino National Forest, bypassed by the fires still smoldering, but left like kindling for the next big blaze. Welcome to the future. Warmer, windier weather and longer, drier summers would mean higher firefighting costs and greater loss of lives and property, according to researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Forest Service...Northwest Forest Pass system could be set for overhaul Almost 400 recreation sites in Oregon and Washington will no longer require visitors to purchase a Northwest Forest Pass, under a new proposal made by the U.S. Forest Service. The downsizing is one of the most significant revisions in the 6-year-old recreation fee program, and comes as Congress is considering legislation to make the pay-to-park program permanent...Bark beetles surviving colder air in N.M. Bark beetles, which have been killing drought-weakened trees in northern New Mexico, are still showing up in traps despite cooler weather. Hundreds of the insects were found in traps around Santa Fe last week - two weeks after the first freeze of the year, said Fabian Chavez, a Santa Fe pest management specialist. Officials estimate 96 percent of the pinons around Los Alamos are already are dead...Regrowth won't be long in coming The vast stretches of burned mountains may look barren and devoid of life, but regrowth -- new shoots and seedlings -- won't be long in coming. The challenge to recovery, ecologists say, is encouraging native plant regeneration while preventing non-native, or exotic, species from taking over. That could drastically alter not only the mountains' plant composition, but also the variety of insect and animal life that depends on it...State to pay developer $7 million to repurchase Eagle Valley land The state will pay a developer $7 million to repurchase two sections of Eagle Valley land and then swap it with the U.S. Forest Service, ending plans to build homes there, officials said. The decision was made recently by the state Board of Land Commissioners and concludes a years-long battle between the state and developer Robert Brotman, who bought the land in 1994 with plans to subdivide 35-acre trophy homesites...Idaho woman positions self as Stewart's rural successor Rural living is a little different on Mary Jane Butters' farm. Hens lay eggs. Workers fill bags of dried soup. Editors prepare the next edition of her magazine. Television producers call. Butters presides over the bustle, positioning herself to become the new Martha Stewart while the original maven of gracious living prepares for a January trial. Clarkson Potter, a Random House branch that also publishes Stewart's books, will pay Butters $1.3 million for two books that highlight the rural skills and do-it-yourself philosophy she has developed on her organic farm...Holistic Management: Answers To Western Dilemmas Prominent environmentalists seek the end of the ranching lifestyle in the American West, viewing it as inherently destructive to natural ecosystems. Proponents of a new management model claim on the contrary that grazing animals are essential to the health of Western landscapes. The problem is not livestock, says Allan Savory, developer of the Holistic Management TM model. Savory claims overrest is at least as big a problem for Western rangeland as overgrazing. Timing and herd density are more important than stocking rates, which can often be increased to the benefit of the land...Editorial: The Uses of Science FOR AN EXAMPLE of the problems caused by the politicization of science, look no further than the Missouri River, where a legal battle has been raging for years. On one side stands the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as a clutch of Missouri politicians who want to keep water levels in the river high so that it remains navigable. On the other side stands a clutch of environmentalists, a few South Dakota politicians who want to protect their recreational fishing industry and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose scientists have until now agreed that the Corps should allow the river to flow more naturally -- high in the spring and low in the summer -- so that birds and fish living on the river, among them several endangered species, can live and breed normally. Last summer, the decade-long standoff seemed to have been decided in the favor of birds, fish and fishermen, when a judge ruled that the Corps should lower the level of the river in summer to protect sandbars, where birds build their nests...S.D. senators seek probe of river decision Democratic lawmakers from three upper Missouri River states are calling for an investigation into the Bush administration's decision to replace a team of scientists in charge of evaluating Missouri River management...Experts meet in Montreal, Canada, on UN biodiversity convention More than 500 representatives of governments and civil society started a one-week conference in Montreal, Canada, today to devise ways to measure progress on implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted at the 1992 United Nations summit on the environment. The ninth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-9) will continue its work assessing the status of biological diversity; reviewing measures taken to meet CBD provisions and answering technical questions from the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP). The previous eight SBSTTA meetings sent 78 recommendations to COP...Special class on desert scheduled It's never too soon for children to learn how to protect and care for the environment. And the folks at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area just outside Las Vegas are doing their part in the education of school children to that end, primarily students in the Clark County School District. Students learn about the tortois's life cycle, dress up as tortoises, and discover the differences among the tortoise's various environments and how the reptile has adopted to those differences. So far, volunteers have reached more than 3,000 students with the environmental conservation lesson since the beginning of the school year. But the project doesn't stop with the desert tortoise. There are also lessons on how students may help protect, respect and enjoy the desert and other public lands. The goals of the project are to increase awareness of the desert's various threatened species, and stimulate student involvement in the continued protection of those species and their habitats through the use of the scientific method and the application of new technology...New study shows national parks fuel economies A new study of the country's national parks concludes that they aren't just rich in natural beauty, they're also an economic boon. The National Parks Conservation Association, which released the study, said it shows that visitors to the nation's national parks spent $10.6 billion a year, directly supporting 212,000 jobs. Visitors to California parks spent $1.1 billion, the most of any state, said Daniel J. Stynes, the Michigan State economics professor who conducted the research...National Park Service to Revamp Lincoln Memorial Video The National Park Service reportedly plans to unveil a "more balanced" version of a video that's been shown since 1995 as part of an exhibit at the Lincoln Memorial. The video features portions of President Abraham Lincoln's speeches played over a video montage showing protests in favor of abortion rights, homosexual rights, gun control, and against the Vietnam War. As reported, the video appeared to imply that Lincoln would have supported these causes...Farm Bureau opposes APHIS emergency cost-share plan According to Craig Head, Nebraska Farm Bureau environmental specialist, APHIS is proposing that the federal share of covered emergency costs would be 50 percent, unless negotiated higher, with the rest to be funded from other sources. He said both the federal Plant Protection Act and the Animal Health Protection Act assign the federal government responsibility to prevent the introduction, spread and establishment of plant pests, noxious weeds and pests, and livestock diseases. Head said as drafted, this rule represents a fundamental shift in federal government priority by moving away from a focus on animal and plant emergency management to managing government financial liability in the event of an animal or plant health emergency...Former U. S. Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage to Speak at Property Rights Seminar The Paragon Foundation, Inc. is sponsoring a two-day, interactive, educational seminar on "Securing Your Property" The seminar will begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday, November 21, 2003 at the Holiday Inn located at 600 E. Broadway in Farmington, New Mexico. "Securing Your Property" will be presented by author and property rights expert, Wayne Hage, his wife and retired Congresswoman, Helen Chenoweth-Hage. Also appearing on the panel to add their legal perspective, are nationally recognized experts in property rights and Fifth Amendment takings cases, attorneys Ladd Bedford, and Mike Van Zandt. Dr. Angus McIntosh, New Mexico State University, is also slated to appear...Feeding, grazing GM corn doesn't affect livestock performance Feeding or grazing genetically modified Bt and Roundup Ready corn has no effect on livestock performance, according to new research from University of Nebraska. Three years of feeding trials for beef, dairy and swine were conducted at NU's Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead. The bottom line for livestock producers is they can expect the same livestock performance whether they feed currently available genetically modified corn or conventional corn, says animal scientist Galen Erickson...Farms give ground to rows of houses Scott Frank remembers less crowded Loveland days, the kind that lemonade commercials invoke to sell the lost ideal of country living. Days in the field, throwing wayward sugar beets onto the truck. Days he and his brothers would hear the noon whistle at the sugar beet factory and run to eat lunch with the Mexican family that helped with the harvest every year. Days he jumped into the swimming hole to cool off. Days when his family's farm wasn't slated for a high-end subdivision...Girl Scouts' beaver trapping causing Alaska controversy Let other Girl Scouts make bird feeders out of Clorox bottles and glue together little birch-bark canoes -- Troop 34 in Alaska is learning to trap and skin beavers. In a practice that has angered animal rights activists, the girls are killing the beavers as part of a state flood-management program. "We think it sends a very, very bad message that when animals cause a problem you kill them,'' said Stephanie Boyles of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She said the Girl Scouts should want girls to become "stewards of wildlife, not abusers.''...

A Bill To Help The Little Guy Becomes A Bonanza For The Big Boys

...Large land trusts and their influential allies in Washington's political establishment have pushed for the inclusion of a significant tax break in their favor when privately owned land is being sold. The House version — H.R. 7 — the Charitable Giving Act — does not include the special break, but the Senate version — S. 476 — the CARE Act of 2003 — does.

If the Senate version is included in the bill that will be sent to President Bush's desk, a capital gains tax reduction of 25% will be provided to sellers of land or water rights only if they sell to large land trusts or government agencies.

Therefore, without this tax break, the seller of a parcel of land valued at $500,000 would put his land on the market and receive offers for land at that price. If this provision takes effect, the average buyer would end up paying $500,000 and the property owner selling the land would have to pay taxes on the transaction. With the provision, however, he receives a 25% capital gains tax reduction on the $500,000 transaction provided that he sells to a land trust or government agency even though they do not perform charitable acts.

Even if he wants to sell to the local church or just to a friend, if the Land Trust Tax Favoritism proposal is passed, the deck will be stacked in favor of selling to the Big Land Trust or the agencies of the Federal government.

When the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation examined the impact of the land trust provision in its May 12th analysis of the CARE bill, its analysis determined that the provision would reduce revenue for the federal government by hundreds of millions of dollars over a ten year period.

This provision draws opposition from Members of Congress in Western states given that the Federal government already owns 36% of the land and this can only lead to taking more land off the property tax rolls. The result of this provision, should it be enacted, is likely to lead to further hikes in property taxes to compensate for the resulting attrition of taxable land or reductions in public services. As the letter signed by the Members of Congress makes clear the impact of this provision may very well be felt throughout our agricultural sector: "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."

But the opponents of the Senate provision also find fault with it for cutting the deck in favor of a large land trust like the Nature Conservancy with its $3.2 billion in assets and an annual budget of $740 million. Dealt out of the deal are the very faith-based institutions that are supposed to be helped by the faith-based initiative — churches, orphanages, and religious schools...

Parsing the Propaganda of the Junk Scientists

Every 10 years, "scientist" Paul Ehrlich writes a book predicting that in the next 10 years there will not be enough food to feed a burgeoning population. Mass starvation will follow and the world will revert to savagery. Every 10 years, his prior doomsaying is forgotten and the media and its pundits give his latest prediction space and serious consideration.

This is junk science at its most ridiculous and on a par with fright-wig stories about this food or that product. Take the campaign against DDT, which led Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency to ban a great scientific advance. DDT had about eliminated one of the great scourges of nature: malaria and the anopheles mosquito, carrier of the disease. Whole regions of the world had been the victims of malaria. In India, for example, one of its most-fertile regions produced nothing because its people were struck down year after year by the dread disease...

Monday, November 10, 2003


FBI probing accusations filed against BLM ranger A 19-year-old Encinitas man remains in a wheelchair with limited mobility after suffering spinal cord injuries here Nov. 2 allegedly caused by a Bureau of Land Management ranger against whom allegations of abuse of power and use of excessive force have been raised. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's office in El Centro is investigating the incident that a third-party witness described as being "pretty tragic" and "a shame." Brian Boyd suffered bruising to the spinal cord in the neck area as well as having vertebrae in his neck and lower back wrenched out of place, said Tom Boyd, the alleged victim's father. "There seems to be a bunch of cowboys out there abusing people. ... They thought he was a punk kid they could harass. ... We truly believe that an independent investigation is needed to let people know of the abuse," said Tom Boyd...Environmentalists claim trees unnecessarily cut by firefighters Environmentalists claim the Forest Service unnecessarily cut old-growth timber to fight the Slims fire in north-central Idaho this summer. And one federal official concedes the assigned crew may have been overzealous. Nez Perce National Forest Fire Management Officer Ken Castro says resource specialists are looking at the area along Meadow Creek to determine if a full-scale investigation should be launched...Forest Service upholds climbing ban at Tahoe's Cave Rock Rock climbers will be banned from a world-class volcanic formation near Lake Tahoe because the site is held sacred by members of the Washoe Tribe. The U.S. Forest Service has rejected two appeals of a ban on rock climbing at Cave Rock, determining that it is a ''noncompatible'' use with a cultural resource that is worthy of protection. The agency ordered the removal of all bolts, anchors and platforms installed in the rock that draws climbers from around the world to Tahoe's east shore...Wyoming glacier melts and unleashes mountain flood A 30-acre mountain lake contained by a glacier broke through and flooded a remote mountain canyon in September, changing the face of at least eight miles of three mountain drainages. The unusual geological event occurred in the Wind River Range in western Wyoming. Only a few witnessed the resulting flood, and nobody was harmed. The unnamed lake was located 12,000 feet above sea level, just east of the Continental Divide and about 2.5 miles north of Gannett Peak, Wyoming's highest mountain at 13,804 feet...Critics Fear Energy Plan Will Tame a Wild Land Yet, for all her talents, Flora may be on the brink of losing her battle to save a region that, as much as any, resembles the West that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark saw when they came through here 200 years ago. At least three companies holding leases that predate Flora's decision are preparing to drill for natural gas deep inside the protected area, encouraged by rising gas prices, increasing demand and pending energy legislation that would give oil and gas companies tax breaks and other incentives that take some of the financial risk out of exploring. With the Bush administration making a determined push to open wild lands to energy exploration, dormant leases on 400,000 acres of the front could spring to life. Petroleum engineers acknowledge that the extent of recoverable gas along the front is not known...Workshop will take activism to new heights -- the treetops To the list of things you didn't learn in school, add this: Tree-Sitting 101. It's a class to prepare for the real-life tactic in which someone climbs a tree that's about to be cut down, hauls up a platform, and sits until the people with chainsaws go away. This sort of thing has been used by forest activists in the West and now could be coming to Kentucky...Burns' rider approved by Bush The rider allows the Flathead National Forest to use a "collaborative community process" to develop a single, preferred alternative for post-fire timber management in areas burned by the Robert and Wedge Canyon fires in the Flathead's North Fork valley over the summer. A "single-action" alternative is a considerable departure from a National Environmental Policy Act requirement that agencies develop a range of different approaches to forest management projects. The rider contains language that requires groups or individuals to provide substantive, written comments during the public comment period before they can file an administrative appeal objecting to the project. Appeals are typically required as precursors to lawsuits. The rider also directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expedite its process for determining whether the projects would adversely effect endangered or threatened species. And it allows the Flathead Forest to proceed with the projects, even if water quality protection plans, based on so-called "Total Maximum Daily Loads," are not in place for the North Fork Valley...Bridge demolition stymied by endangered snail A tiny endangered snail is the reason a closed bridge across the Snake River has not been completely demolished. Idaho Transportation Department officials told Bingham County leaders they must suspend demolition until a scientific study ensures the Utah Valvata snails will not be in harm's way. County officials are frustrated by the delay and hope the half-demolished bridge can be dismantled soon. Steel and concrete supports still jut out of the water...Equestrians fear loss of pathways across public, private land No man is an island, but some neighborhoods in Lake Havasu City may someday be. The town is ringed by state and federal land, and that worries Mary Van Rooy, the founder of the Lake Havasu Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of America. She wants to be sure that residents who love to ride horses will never be cut off from access to desert trails...More sage grouse test positive for West Nile Twenty-two sage grouse have tested positive for West Nile virus in Wyoming and Montana this year. Nineteen cases originated in Wyoming and three in Montana, according to Todd Cornish, a veterinary pathologist at the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory...Pilot program reduces equine pregnancies Wild horses in western Colorado are entering the second year of a fertility program designed to decrease birth rates among the herds so less animals will have to be removed for adoption. The program works by darting wild mares with a vaccine that prevents them for becoming pregnant. Available vaccines can prevent a mare from becoming pregnant for one or two years. Researchers currently are working on a 3-year vaccine as well, Coates-Markle said...Senate Panel Intensifies Its Conservancy Probe A six-month inquiry into the Arlington-based Nature Conservancy by the Senate Finance Committee has raised "new questions in a wide range of areas," leading investigators to intensify their pursuit of internal audits and property records they have been seeking since last summer, according to committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). Committee investigators, who have been looking into the charity's management and real estate sales, are now particularly interested in the "valuation of land donations and the conservation-buyer program," Grassley said. The charity uses that program to sell property to private individuals, including Conservancy members...Is missing uranium in the water? It was a secret at the time, a plan to turn toxic waste into riches. As demand grew and prices soared for the raw material of nuclear reactor fuel, the Anaconda Copper Co. and Wyoming Mineral Corp. entered an agreement in March 1976 to produce yellowcake uranium from waste piles at a huge open-pit copper mine in northern Nevada. The decision to launch the Yerington Uranium Project was based on samples taken from evaporation ponds that showed high levels of radiation, suggesting commercial quantities of uranium had been concentrated along with copper leached from the ore... Unhappy ranchers blame BLM Worried about the future of ranching in the West, more than 100 people rallied outside the Bureau of Land Management office here Monday. The purpose was to draw attention not only to frustrations with the Worland BLM office but also to voice larger concerns that the federal government's actions threaten a way of life, according to many who attended. "There's no question we are in a war and if we don't stand up and be counted, we're going to lose that war," said Karen Budd-Falen, a Cheyenne-based attorney who often represents ranchers and farmers in disputes with the government. Before the rally, about 50 ranchers on horseback and two wagons rode quietly through downtown in a slow procession that ended in a blocked-off street next to the Worland BLM office...Public lands make West fertile ground for wind power To date, about 500 of the nation's 4,700 megawatts of wind power capacity come from projects sited on public lands administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. In recent months, though, the BLM has received 75 additional applications by wind developers, said Lee Otteni, a BLM project manager. To help address the growing demand for wind energy, the BLM is preparing a "programmatic environmental impact statement." The agency is holding meetings this month in five cities around the West to gather input on the issues surrounding wind development on the BLM's 262 million acres...There's room for wildlife, livestock Ranching used to be about cattle. In recent years, ranchers like John O'Keeffe have learned that working cattle is just part of the job. A third-generation rancher, the 45-year-old O'Keeffe has lived and worked on the family ranch near Adel his entire life. He credits his father, Henry, who died in 2001, with shaping his beliefs and character. His mother, Theresa, still lives at the ranch...Growing Our Own From the White House on down to county commissioner, too many of our elected officials are paying more attention to their developer and industry friends and not enough to protecting the environment. The Sierra Club is always pressuring politicians to do the right thing, but all too often these attempts fall on deaf ears. So what do we do? Throw the bums out and get someone better, right? Right, except sometimes a good man or woman is hard to find. That's where "growing our own" makes sense. Sometimes the best-qualified candidate for the city council might be sitting in our midst, chairing our clean air or sprawl committee...Deadline for historic ranch area plans sent to President Bush Legislation awaiting President Bush's signature sets a Jan. 1 deadline for federal agencies to submit their plan for land in the area where Theodore Roosevelt hunted and ranched in the 1880s. The legislation, in the form of an amendment to an appropriations bill, requires the federal Interior Department and the National Park Service to tell Congress how much land they want to acquire around the historic Elkhorn Ranch unit, said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. Park officials have been studying property owned by the families of Ken and Norma Eberts, Dennis and Jeanette Eberts, and Allan and Jennifer Eberts, who have indicated they want to retire from ranching...Experts Seek Trail to Mark Ice Age Floods The National Park Service has proposed a marked trail to commemorate Ice Age floods through four Western states that left canyons, valleys, lakes and ridges that still dominate the terrain today - some so dramatic they can be seen from outer space. Picture an ice dam 30 miles wide, forming a lake 2,000 feet deep and 200 miles long, stretching from the Idaho panhandle into western Montana, containing more water than Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined. Now picture that dam giving way, the water thundering out in 48 hours, through four states, across Washington and into the Pacific...Republicans reject faith-based bill with tax break Nearly 30 House Republicans are threatening to vote against legislation that represents the remaining pieces of President Bush's faith-based initiative if it contains a tax break favoring environmental groups. The Senate-passed version of the legislation -- which consists mostly of tax incentives designed to spur charitable giving -- contains a provision that would grant a tax break to those who sell land or water specifically for conservation purposes. The House passed its version of the bill without such a provision, and the two bills are waiting to be reconciled in conference...Cascade family sues state over game farm initiative Cascade ranchers Ken and Becky Mesaros have become the seventh Montana game-farming family to sue the state for damages because of Initiative 143, the voter-passed measure that placed restrictions on game ranches. The Mesaroses' lawsuit, filed recently in state District Court at Great Falls, says I-143 amounts to an unconstitutional "taking" of property by the state, and that the Mesaroses should be Compensated...HomeownersClaim Cattle Dirt Making Them Sick Weld County commissioners are looking at taking legal action against the ConAgra Cattle Feeding Co.'s Gilcrest feedlot. The legal action stems from dust coming from the plant where thousands of cattle are kept. Many homeowners in the area claim that the dust is making them and their animals ill. Plant managers met with county representatives last week and commissioners will decide Monday if the plan of action discussed at that meeting will be enough...Stories can teach lessons as well as entertain Seems the parents, two brothers who married two sisters, brought the two little boy cousins into the world about the same time, raising them to the age of 6 years. These neighboring families gathered each Sunday at alternating homes to visit, eat and play 42. The house involved had a four-plate wood stove sitting in the middle of the living room with a stove pipe running across the ceiling to a chimney in the corner. The dining table where they played 42 sat to one side near the kitchen. On a particular visit, one boy had acquired a loaded 12-gauge shotgun shell somewhere. No one remembers where the shell came from. While the grown-ups shuffled dominoes, one cousin raised a lid on the stove and the other dropped the live shell into the fire. Then the boys moved to one side to see what would happen...U.S. Cavalry history kept alive by unique collector America has a rich history filled with military battles both in foreign lands and, tragically, on our own soil. Today, the military has a stockade of arsenal of the highest technology at their fingertips. But imagine a time when the best weapon you had was your rifle or sword and, instead of riding into battle on a steel machine, you charged into skirmishes on a horse that you trusted with your life. This is definitely a different image than the tanks and aircraft that we see today, but it is the genre of military that helped form our country as we know it. It is the image of the United States Cavalry which helped create the history of America, especially the West, on a horse and a prayer...