Saturday, December 06, 2003


Between attending the New Mexico Cattle Growers' convention and watching round 2 of the NFR. I won't be posting again until Sunday night.


The proposed grazing rule of the Bureau of Land Management, to be published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2003, would revise existing Federal grazing regulations in the following ways under three categories of action.

Improving Working Relationships with Grazing Permittees and Lessees

In this category, the proposed rule would:

--ensure that BLM managers consider and document the social, cultural, and economic consequences of decisions affecting grazing, consistent with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969.

--allow the BLM and a grazing permittee to share title of certain permanent range improvements -- such as a fence, well, or pipeline -- if they are constructed under what is known as a Cooperative Range Improvement Agreement (as was allowed prior to 1995).

--phase in grazing decreases (and increases) of more than 10 percent over a five-year period whenever possible, consistent with existing law and in full recognition of the BLM's authority to respond as necessary to drought, fire, and other resource conditions.

--expand the definition of "grazing preference" to include an amount of forage on public lands attached to a rancher's private "base" property, which can be land or water. This expanded definition, similar to one that existed from 1978 to 1995, when the "Rangeland Reform" rules took effect, makes clear that grazing preference has a quantitative meaning (forage amounts, measured in Animal Unit Months) as well as a qualitative one (precedence of position in the "line" for grazing privileges).

Assessing and Protecting Rangelands

In this category, the proposed rule would:

--require assessments and monitoring of resource conditions to support BLM evaluations of whether an allotment is meeting rangeland health standards. Currently, these evaluations may be supported by documented observational assessments rather than by the more in-depth information collection procedures used in monitoring.

--extend to 24 months, from the current 12 months, the BLM"s self-imposed deadline for initiating an appropriate course of action to make remedial changes in grazing practices that significantly contribute to an allotment's failure to meet rangeland health standards.

--remove the current three-consecutive-year limit on temporary non-use of a grazing permit by allowing livestock operators to apply for non-use for up to one year at a time, whether for conservation or business purposes.

Addressing Legal Issues and Enhancing Administrative Efficiency

Under this category, the proposed rule would:

--eliminate, in compliance with Federal court rulings, existing regulatory provisions that allow the BLM to issue long-term "conservation use" permits.

--make clear how the BLM will authorize grazing if a Bureau decision affecting a grazing permit is "stayed" (postponed) pending administrative appeal.

--clarify that if a livestock operator is convicted of violating a Federal, state, or other law, and if the violation occurs while he is engaged in grazing-related activities, the BLM may take action against his grazing permit or lease only if the violation occurred on the BLM-managed allotment where the operator is authorized to graze.

--improve efficiency in the BLM's management of public lands grazing by reducing the occasions in which the Bureau is mandated to involve the interested public. Under this provision, the BLM could involve the public in such matters as day-to-day grazing administration, but would no longer be required to do so. The BLM would continue to involve the public in all major Bureau decisions, such as grazing allotment plans and land-use plans.

--provide flexibility to the Federal government in decisions relating to livestock water rights by removing the current requirement that the BLM seek sole ownership of these rights where allowed by state law.

--clarify that a biological assessment of the BLM, prepared in compliance with the Endangered Species Act, is not a decision of the Bureau and therefore is not subject to protests and appeals.

--and increase certain service fees to reflect more accurately the cost of grazing administration. (The fees apply to the BLM's issuance of livestock crossing permits, transfer of grazing preferences, and cancellation or replacement of grazing bills.)

The proposed rule would make no changes in rangeland health standards and guidelines that were developed by the BLM's Resource Advisory Councils under the "Rangeland Reform '94" rules that took effect in August 1995. The proposal would not establish forage reserves known as "Reserve Common Allotments," a concept that the BLM had been considering earlier this year, nor would the proposed rule allow grazing operators to temporarily lock gates on public lands (for such purposes as protecting livestock or private property), another idea that had been under the BLM's consideration.

In addition, the proposed rule would not affect the existing Resource Advisory Council system, in which the BLM receives advice and recommendations from 24 citizen-based Resource Advisory Councils across the West. Also, the proposal would make no changes in the way the Federal grazing fee is calculated, a formula established by Congress in 1978 that continues under a 1986 Presidential Executive Order.

Those interested in submitting comments about the proposed rule will have more than 60 days to do so; the deadline will be the same as that of the related Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which the BLM will publish later this month. Those submitting comments may do so by regular mail, personal or messenger delivery, or by electronic mail. For regular mail, the address is: Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Office, 7450 Boston Boulevard, Springfield, Virginia 22153, Attention: RIN 1004-AD42. For personal or messenger delivery, comments should go to the Bureau of Land Management, 1620 L Street, N.W., Suite 401, Washington, D.C. 20036. For electronic mail, the direct Internet response address is: or Alternatively, comments may be e-mailed to

-- BLM --

Friday, December 05, 2003


Ranching officials see promise in proposed grazing rules Montana cattle industry officials see promise in the proposed new federal rules for livestock grazing on public lands, saying they should help both ranchers and the range. But others, including a former federal land manager and some environmentalists, say the Bush administration seems to be playing to livestock interests in the West. They fear the proposed changes could actually set back earlier conservation efforts and have negative long-term effects. "It's not a good thing," said Mike Penfold, a former state director for the Bureau of Land Management in Montana. "They're trying to move grazing regulations back to the good ol' days."...Bush Administration Proposes Weakening Grazing Rules...Interior's Norton is scheduled to unveil new grazing policies...

Government proposes new livestock grazing rules

The Bush administration, departing from Clinton-era restrictions on managing rangeland, is proposing new rules aimed at helping livestock owners whose cattle range on public lands.

The new rules would give the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management two years, instead of one, to make grazing decisions needed to maintain healthy ranges, according to agency documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

"This proposal recognizes that ranching is crucial not only to the economies of Western rural communities, but also to the history, social fabric and cultural identity of these communities," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in a prepared statement.

Norton plans to announce the proposal in a speech today to a convention of livestock owners in Albuquerque, N.M. She describes the proposal as an attempt to improve grazing management and help continue public lands ranching in the rural West.

"This proposed rule will help public lands ranchers stay on the land," Norton said in remarks prepared for her speech to the convention. "It will do that by creating a regulatory framework that lets ranchers succeed based on sound business judgment and sustainable ranching practices."

But the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said Thursday that it expects the proposal to mark a return to practices that have allowed decades of overgrazing and other unsustainable grazing practices. The group said "the clear and short deadline of one year for action is the first step to halt grazing damage."

The new rules also would require more studies and monitoring any time the Bureau of Land Management evaluates whether health standards for rangeland are being met and reward livestock owners by letting them split ownership with the BLM for permanent improvements such as fences, wells and pipelines.

Other changes include:

---Removal of the current limit of three consecutive years under which livestock operators can retain grazing permits but not make use of them. Operators would be allowed to apply for nonuse for up to one year at a time, for conservation or business purposes.

---Elimination of long-term conservation-use grazing permits that department officials say were invalidated by a federal appeals court.

---Clarify how the Bureau of Land Management authorizes grazing when a permit is postponed because of an administrative appeal.

The proposal is to be published in the Federal Register on Dec. 8, and the BLM also plans to release a draft study of the proposal's environmental impact later this month. The public is being given at least 60 days to comment on both.

National wildfire group sets example for Healthy Forests law Participants in a public-private program that fights fire with fire said Thursday that their approach is setting an example for what can be accomplished under the new Healthy Forests Restoration Act. The Fire Learning Network on Friday concludes a four-day workshop focusing on how to prevent or limit destructive wildfires by using prescribed burns and other methods. Many environmentalists fear the Healthy Forests law will give loggers free rein in the nation's timberlands, but the network's experience shows there's another way, said Jeff Hardesty, director of The Nature Conservancy's Global Fire Initiative...Conference: Dry forests will burn and it will be a disaster A University of Washington forester, discussing the importance of fire resilient forests, described one certainty in today's Pacific Northwest forests: "If no action is taken in dry forests, they will certainly burn and it will be a disaster." Dr. Jim Agee, UW professor of forest ecology, made his observation during a conference in Portland on "Risk Assessment for Decision-Making Related to Uncharacteristic Wildfire."...Trails plan riles many Stanislaus National Forest officials today released a plan to manage 8,700 acres of Arnold area land crisscrossed with off-highway-vehicle trails that neighbors and OHV users have feuded over for a decade. The plan both reduces the miles of trail that bikers and four-wheelers can ride and leaves a half-mile buffer between homes and OHV paths...Administration axes an environment safeguard, Rule changed to expedite forest thinning Under the Endangered Species Act, the Forest Service and other federal agencies are required to seek confirmation from the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service before taking any action that may adversely affect any endangered plant or animal. The new policy, which does not require congressional approval, authorizes biologists for the Forest Service or other land management agency to make the call that no endangered species would be adversely affected, exempting them from consulting with the agencies whose main mandate is protecting rare plants and animals. The Bush administration stressed that the policy will not reduce the level of protection for rare animals and plants...U.S. ranger's home vandalized, Damage inflicted days after tree-sitters are sent to jail Days after two environmentalists were sent to jail for a treetop protest earlier this year, a Klamath National Forest ranger was the victim of "malicious" vandalism, officials said Wednesday. Salmon River District Ranger Chance Gowan discovered his home had been spray-painted with graffiti, and that someone had entered his garage, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department said. Klamath forest spokesman Brian Harris said no connection had been officially drawn between the vandalism and the logging protesters. But the graffiti seemed to be "a protest to forest management issues," he said. "It (the vandalism) certainly targeted an individual that's been involved in all those timber sales," Harris said...Appeals court rejects Lolo logging plan A plan to log areas burned in the Lolo National Forest during the 2000 fire season has been rejected by an appeals court. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Forest Service did not take "the necessary hard look" at the effects of logging on unroaded areas. The decision reverses a lower court ruling by U.S. District Judge Don Molloy of Missoula upholding much of the Forest Service's logging plan. The court, in a decision released Thursday by the Forest Service, said logging in an unroaded area is an "irreversible and irretrievable" action that could damage the environment. The court said the Forest Service's study of the logging project's potential impact was superficial...Animal welfare groups seek federal protection for Alaska sea otters Two Bay Area animal welfare groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday to force the federal government to place an Alaska sea otter population on the endangered species list. "I want the federal government to begin protecting the sea otters from extinction," said Brent Plater, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland, Calif. "We are asking the government not to stand idly by and let this species go extinct." The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by the center and the San Francisco-based Turtle Island Restoration Network against Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Assistant Secretary Craig Manson and the Fish and Wildlife Service...Column: Balance on the Rio Grande When two federal courts applied the Endangered Species Act to prevent the extinction of the Rio Grande silvery minnow, they sought to implement this legislated balance. But when New Mexico Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, together with Representatives Heather Wilson and Steven Pearce, attached a rider to the Energy and Water funding bill last month, they exempted Albuquerque from the balance equation. They tipped the balance in favor of some river users at the expense of others...Judge says aerial photos of Streisand's mansion not invasion of privacy Not even Hollywood royalty is above the First Amendment. Rejecting a $10 million lawsuit that Barbra Streisand had filed against Silicon Valley millionaire and environmentalist Ken Adelman, a judge ruled Wednesday that Adelman did not violate the diva's privacy when he photographed her Malibu oceanfront mansion as part of a project to post more than 12,700 aerial photos of the California coastline on his Web site...Parks mull amount of ranching in future Proposals in the Concepts Newsletter 2003 unveiled this week vary greatly. At one extreme, Concept 3 would like to get rid of at least some of the ranches now leased to families who -- back in the 1960s -- were forced to sell their land to the National Seashore. These ranchers and their children have been allowed to lease their family lands back from the park, but ranchers who in the 1960s did not own the lands they ranched were refused lease-backs and had to leave. "Beef and dairy ranching would continue," says Concept 3, "until original permittees discontinue ranching activities." Doesn't this amount to over time phasing out ranching on Point Reyes? "It would not be phased out," Dell'Osso replied. "It would be reduced."...BLM restricts access to reports U.S. Bureau of Land Management files documenting inspections, violations and enforcement on public lands in Wyoming will no longer be readily available to the public, BLM officials said Wednesday. A policy statement issued two weeks ago to field offices throughout the state forbids employees to release any inspection records for oil and gas operations on federal lands and minerals without a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Some documents are entirely off limits to the public for an undefined length of time, according to the e-mail statement from state inspection and enforcement program head John Shufflebarger...Editorial: Public planning in private hands If blindly hiring mining advocates to write a management blueprint for Steens Mountain is the Bush administration's model for shifting public planning to private consultants, then Americans should have none of it. As The Oregonian's Michael Milstein reported Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management hired a consulting firm led by two Western mining advocates to draw up management options for the Southeast Oregon landmark. The BLM apparently knew nothing of the firm's deep connections to the mining industry until Milstein recently brought them to its attention... Lieberman asks Interior to release surveys of disputed Utah roads Presidential aspirant and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman asked Interior Secretary Gale Norton to release information her department has gathered regarding road claims across federal lands in Utah. Utah has submitted a series of claims to Utah roads and expects to make more under an agreement between Norton and former Gov. Mike Leavitt that establishes a criteria and process for the federal government to cede control of the roads to the state. A 1993 Interior Department report to Congress identified 5,000 potential ownership claims under a Civil War-era mining law known as R.S. 2477...Five appeal East Fork grazing decision Coming in at the final hour, five appeals to the East Fork allotment grazing decision arrived at the Sawtooth National Forest last Monday. Two appellants ask for no grazing whatsoever, while three others are asking for more alternatives and a stay for the next grazing season. This fall, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) issued a decision that effectively cut current grazing numbers in half for at least five years and permanently closed thousands of acres to grazing. Three of the appellants are current permittees on the East Fork allotments and are asking, among other things, for a stay of the decision to cut back grazing numbers and close acreage to cattle. The Boulder White Clouds Council (BWCC) and Western Watersheds Project (WWP) filed an appeal together asserting that the "no grazing" Alternative 3 is the logical choice to meet the needs of the resource on all the allotments...

Thursday, December 04, 2003


Ethics group files lawsuit over Forest Service outsourcing Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday, challenging a decision to hand over analysis of public comment on major agency decisions to private contractors. "We think the public deserves to have its comments read by the government, not by the private sector," said Andy Stahl, FSEEE's executive director. "Government employees are regulated by strict conflict of interest and ethics rules that do not apply to private contractors." Filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, the lawsuit claims the Forest Service violated a newly enacted federal law by "outsourcing" its content analysis teams in Missoula and Salt Lake City...Bitterroot Valley group sues over 2000 backburn Bitterroot Valley residents who banded together after their homes and properties were destroyed by fire on Aug. 6, 2000, have sued the federal government, claiming negligence when fire crews set a backburn in an effort to slow other wildfires. The suit, filed before U.S. District Judge Don Molloy in Missoula, alleges the government violated its own firefighting rules when intentionally setting a fire on the Trinity Ranch near the mouth of Spade Creek on Aug. 6....Catron officials proposing a Healthy Livestock and Rangeland Committee The committee would advise commissioners "on strategies, methods and opportunities for improving range and livestock stewardship practices and programs," according to the proposed ordinance. The group would work "in cooperation, consultation and coordination with the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, New Mexico State Land (Office) and other agencies involved in range and livestock (issues)," the document states...Why some gun owners are unhappy with Bush Mr. Rosenbruch, a burly lifelong Republican and acquaintance of former President George H.W. Bush, also carried personal displeasure over the natural- resource agenda of Mr. Bush's son. In particular, Rosenbruch and a groundswell of other gun owners from the lower 48 are challenging the Bush administration's plan to undo protection of Alaska's Tongass and Chugach national forests by opening both to increased logging and road construction. For the current president, who relied upon unwavering support from the so-called "hook and bullet" crowd to win in 2000, the kind of public criticism now being voiced by political conservatives like Rosenbruch represents a potential problem in 2004, observers say...White House expects bill to stall Biscuit salvage challenges One important provision of the bill to be signed today by the president directs judges to weigh the future environmental consequences and risk of fire if nothing is done against the short-term environmental impacts of logging projects, said Mark Rey, the undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture who oversees the U.S. Forest Service. "If the Biscuit recovery is challenged, I would hope the courts look at what Congress has told them," Rey said...Supporters urge logging in fire area Hundreds of thousands of dead trees left standing in the aftermath of the 2002 Biscuit Fire mean just one thing in strapped Douglas County: jobs. And county commissioners, business leaders and mill workers turned out Tuesday to press Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey to proceed with what may be the biggest logging project ever proposed in the Northwest... Forest Service says decision won't change much A U.S. Forest Service litigation expert said that a recent federal judge's ruling regarding ranching permits will barely affect the agency. Jackson said the USFS has already consulted with the Fish and Wildlife Service on almost all of the 33 permits except for about three or four of them. The USFS has thousands of allotments that require consultation for grazing permits, he said. The Forest Service is trying to consult for all of its allotments right now, not just the allotments listed in the lawsuit. "We'll file a supplemental brief probably after Thanks-giving to show the valid consultations for the allotments," Jackson said. "The judge had initially dismissed that count of the lawsuit. So when the judge turned around and ruled on it, it's just a matter of showing the court what we've done."...Scientist sees legal holes in Wyoming wolf plan Contradictions between state law and Wyoming's plan to manage gray wolves must be cleared up before lifting federal protection for wolves, according to a leading wolf expert. David Mech, U.S. Interior Department senior research scientist, is one of 12 experts who were asked to review the Wyoming, Idaho and Montana wolf management plans to determine whether the states would ensure survival of the species once federal protections were lifted. They found that the three plans would meet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recovery goal of 30 breeding packs of wolves equitably distributed across the three states. But Mech's approval of Wyoming's plan hinges on whether it is backed up by state law. Critics of Wyoming's plan contend the law and plan don't match...Column: It's Not Over 'Til the Fat Lady Sings - Climate talks are on the rocks, but not dead yet Milan is famous for opera and fashion, so perhaps it's appropriate that the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol conference, being held in the Italian city this week and next, has so far been characterized by high drama and public spectacle. Some 180 negotiators from around the world have been treated to rumors of deliberate sabotage and shady backroom deals, derisive public statements about the treaty from leading U.S officials, and bogus news reports that Russia had dealt a fatal blow to the beleaguered pact (one such report was summarized in yesterday's Daily Grist before the error was exposed) -- all this in just the first two days of the two-week conference...Bush Administration "Sabotaging Endangered Species Act," Group Charges; New Report Analyzes White House Court Strategies The Bush administration is engaged in a systematic attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA), engaging in a pattern of illegal acts, rigged science and flagrant disregard of court orders to undermine the law, a new report today by Defenders of Wildlife charges. Sabotaging the Endangered Species Act is the third in a series of reports from Defenders' Judicial Accountability Project, and includes analysis of more than 120 ESA cases in which administration officials influenced legal strategy and outcome of the case...Click here(pdf) to view the entire report...Congressman wants more Nevada land sale money for education Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., wants to give a bigger cut of proceeds from federal land auctions in southern Nevada to education _ reducing the amount available for acquiring and improving environmentally sensitive areas. Gibbons said his planned amendment to the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which he hopes to introduce early next year, would help Nevada's fast-growing public schools without requiring a tax increase, while leaving plenty of funding for environmental purposes...Economists challenge Bush Western land policies A group of economists, including two Nobel Laureates, Wednesday asked the Bush Administration and 11 Western state governors to rethink policies they say threaten the West's environment and hurt the region's economic prosperity. "Despite your commitments ... many state and federal actions are causing additional environmental degradation, increasing the risks of future degradation, or slowing efforts to reverse past degradation," the economists said in an open letter sent Wednesday to the administration and governors...Steens plan drafted by mining leaders The U.S. Bureau of Land Management hired Enviroscientists Inc. of Reno, Nev., for $670,000 in October 2001 to draw up management options for Steens. Enviroscientists President Richard DeLong, manager of the Steens project, is treasurer of the California Mining Association, according to a report in today's Oregonian. The report went on to say that DeLong spoke to a mining conference in May about strategies to "minimize the effects" of activist groups intent on halting mines...Energy bill is omnicide, slow death for Indian people American Indian stewards of the earth - Northern Cheyenne, Western Shoshone, Navajo, Zuni, Yankton Sioux and Gwich'in - gathered to oppose the U.S. Energy bill 2003, in a press conference adjacent to the National Congress of American Indians' 60th Annual Convention. Norman Patrick Brown, Navajo, said "the uranium monster must be prevented from coming through the door." Navajos have suffered from 65 years of Cold War uranium mining, with a trail of cancer and death. Cora Phillips, Navajo, said the energy bill is omnicide - the ultimate taking of life. It is the slow death of Navajo from uranium poisoning, damaging their life support system and their gene pool. It damages human cells and unborn children. The energy bill, Section 631, authorizes up to $30 million in grants to uranium mining companies for demonstration projects using the in situ leach mining method, which would contaminate the groundwater, she said...Dry area boiling on water deal A fight is brewing in drought-stricken West Texas over a Midland-based company's proposal to pump billions of gallons of water from aquifers stretching under four counties. The group of oilmen intent on building their business into the region's main water supplier has raised the ire of an unlikely coalition of West Texas ranchers, environmentalists and officials. Critics believe the plan to lease 355,000 acres of public land for the lucrative water rights will further dry up an already parched region...Cattlemen take on conservation groups Land trusts, including The Nature Conservancy, are taking agricultural land out of production across America, C.J. Hadley, publisher of Range magazine, told members of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association here Wednesday. "They're overpaid, overeducated and they think they know what's good for you and your family," Hadley told the SDCA members at the Ram-kota Hotel for their annual convention...U.S. Cattlemen Seek Repeal Of Some Canada Trade Barriers The Canadian government has begun a review of current restrictions on U.S. feeder cattle imported into Canadian feedlots after meetings last week in Ottawa with officials from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "For decades, non-scientific trade restrictions have created barriers in the selling of U.S. feeder cattle, breeding stock, and semen and embryos to Canada," said Chandler Keys, NCBA vice president of government affairs. "Continued testing requirements by Canada for anaplasmosis and bluetongue on our imported cattle should not be tolerated."...Cowboy golf: It's just like regular golf, except it's played in a cow pasture Cowboy golf is a phenomenon of the West, and is as irreverent and yet as practical as true westerners can be. There are well known paintings of cowboys attempting to hit golf balls in typical western settings, ranch horses patiently waiting nearby. A herd of crazed longhorns stampeding down the canyon; a raccoon washing a golf ball in a stream while a cowboy looks for it; a cowboy attempting to drive his ball from an outcropping on a canyon wall while hitched to the horn of his saddle to keep from falling into the canyon below. Glenwood's third annual Cowboy Golf fund-raiser didn't involve horses, but it did take place in a cow pasture. Organizer Darrel Allred of Glenwood insists that the course compares favorably to other "real" golf courses he's golfed in the past...

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Russia Signals Support for Global Warming Treaty

The Russian government declared Wednesday that it is "moving toward ratification" of the Kyoto treaty on global warming despite opposition by a top aide to President Vladimir Putin, offering environmentalists renewed hope of enacting the landmark pact.

The government's declaration signaled that Russia has not ruled out the international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is still staking out bargaining positions before deciding whether to join the accord. It contradicted Putin's chief economics adviser, Andrei Illarionov, who predicted Tuesday that Russia would not ratify it...

President Bush Signs Healthy Forest Restoration Act into Law

Remarks by the President at Signing of H.R. 1904, the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C.

10:40 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Thanks for finally inviting me to the Department of Agriculture, it's an honor to be here. (Laughter and applause.) I'm really glad to be here as our government takes a major step forward in protecting America's forests. (Applause.)

Almost 750 million acres of forest stand, tall and beautiful across the 50 states. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our forests. That's a solemn responsibility. And the legislation I sign today carries forward this ethic of stewardship. With the Healthy Forest Restoration Act we will help to prevent catastrophic wildfires, we'll help save lives and property, and we'll help protect our forests from sudden and needless destruction.

I appreciate so very such Secretaries Veneman and Norton for working hard on this issue. These two members of my Cabinet are doing a great job, and I'm proud that they're in my Cabinet. (Applause.) I want to thank Mark Rey. I also want to thank Dale Bosworth, who is the Chief of the Forest Service. (Applause.) From the Interior Department, I want to thank Rebecca Watson and Lynn Scarlett, for their hard work and their good work for these important issues. (Applause.) I want to thank the officials and employees of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior for doing a great job on behalf of the American citizens. Thank you for your dedication and your work on behalf of all of us.

I appreciate the Hot Shot team members from the great state of California. These are the folks in the yellow shirts. I spent some time with the hot shot members as a -- this summer in California, last summer in Arizona, time in Oregon, Washington state. These are brave, brave citizens. These are fantastic citizens in the country. (Applause.) We're proud to be standing with them up here.

I appreciate the members of Congress who have joined us, strong members who brought some common sense to what had been an acrimonious debate, who listened to the people -- (applause) -- members who listen to the people, who know what they're talking about, and came up with a good piece of legislation, starting with Senator Thad Cochran, who's the Chairman of the Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Thad has done a fabulous job of getting this bill out of the United States Senate, along with Max Baucus and Mike Crapo -- Baucus being of -- from Montana and Crapo being from Idaho. Great members of the Senate, and thank you all for coming. I appreciate your coming. (Applause.) We have two other members of the Senate with us here. From the West, Kyl and Smith -- Gordon Smith from Oregon. I appreciate you two coming.

From the House, on stage are three members: the Chairman of the Committee of Agriculture, Bob Goodlatte, from the great state of Virginia; Scott McInness, who is the sponsor of the Healthy Forest bill -- (applause) -- McInness is having a family reunion in Washington. (Laughter.) Richard Pombo is the Chairman of the Committee on Resources. We've got Greg Walden and Sherry Boehlert. We've got -- we've got the finest fighter pilot in Navy history with us, Duke Cunningham. We've got Renzi from Arizona. Thank you all for coming, fine members, appreciate you getting this bill out. (Applause.)

I want to thank all the state and local officials who have come here. You understand the importance of getting a good piece of legislation out of the Congress. See, you live right there where the fires occur, and I want to thank you for your help, thank you for helping bring some common sense to Washington, D.C. I appreciate the representatives of the conservation groups who have worked in a constructive way to help change the attitude inside the halls of the United States Congress so we can work together to get some good legislation out to protect our forests. I want to thank the business groups who are here, who spent time making sure this legislation makes sense.

I understand Chuck Leavell is here, of the Rolling Stones. I appreciate Chuck being here. He's the keyboard player. And he also has -- they tell me he's a tree raiser, a tree farmer, whatever you call them. (Laughter.) Glad you're here. Thanks for coming, Chuck. I appreciate you being here. (Applause.)

For decades, government policies have allowed large amounts of underbrush and small trees to collect at the base of our forests. The motivations of this approach were good. But our failure to maintain the forests has had dangerous consequences and devastating consequences. The uncontrolled growth, left by years of neglect, chokes off nutrients from trees and provides a breeding ground for insects and disease.

As we have seen this year and in other years, such policy creates the conditions for devastating wildfires. Today, about 190 million acres of forest and woodlands around the country are vulnerable to destruction. Overgrown brush and trees can serve as kindling, turning small fires into large, raging blazes that burn with such intensity that the trees literally explode.

I saw that firsthand when we were flying over Oregon, magnificent trees just exploding as we choppered by. The resulting devastation damages the habitats of endangered species, causes flooding and soil erosion, harms air quality, oftentimes ruins water supplies. These catastrophic fires destroy homes and businesses; they put lives at risk, especially the lives of the brave men and women who are on the front line of fighting these fires.

In two years' time, fires throughout the country have burned nearly 11 million acres. We've seen the cost that wildfires bring, in the loss of 28 firefighters this year alone. In the fires that burned across Southern California this fall, 22 civilians also lost their lives, as whole neighborhoods vanished into flames. And we ask for God's blessings on the family members who grieve the loss and on the friends who mourn for their comrades.

We're seeing the tragic consequences brought by years of unwise forest policy. We face a major national challenge, and we're acting together to solve the challenge. The Healthy Forest Initiative I announced last year marked a clear and decisive change in direction. Instead of enduring season after season of devastating fires, my administration acted to remove the causes of severe wildfires. We worked within our existing legal authority to thin out and remove forest undergrowth before disaster struck. We emphasized thinning projects in critical areas. And since the beginning of 2002, we've restored almost 5 million acres of overgrown forest and rangeland.

And that's pretty good progress. But it's not enough progress. And so, thanks to the United States Congress, thanks to their action, and thanks for passing the Healthy Forest Restoration Act -- we now can expand the work to a greater scale that the dangers of wildfires demand. In other words, we were confined. The Congress acted in a bipartisan spirit in order to enable this administration to work harder to do what we can do to prevent wildfires from taking place.

The bill expedites the environmental review process so we can move forward more quickly on projects that restore forests to good health. We don't want our intentions bogged down by regulations. We want to get moving. When we see a problem, this government needs to be able to move. Congress wisely enabled a review process to go forward, but also wisely recognizes sometimes review process bogs us down and things just don't get done.

The new law directs courts to consider the long-term risks that could result if thinning projects are delayed. And that's an important reform, and I want to thank you all for that. It places reasonable time limits on litigation after the public has had an opportunity to comment and a decision has been made. You see, no longer will essential forest health projects be delayed by lawsuits that drag on year after year after year.

This Act of Congress sets the right priorities for the management of our nation's forests, focusing on woodlands that are closest to communities and on places where the risk to wildlife and the environment is the greatest. It enforces high standards of stewardship so that we can ensure that we're returning our forests to more natural conditions and maintaining a full range of forest types. It enables collaboration between community groups and private stewardship organizations and all levels of government before projects are chosen. This law will not prevent every fire, but it is an important step forward, a vital step to make sure we do our duty to protect our nation's forests.

The principles behind the Healthy Forest Initiative were not invented in the White House, and truthfully, not invented in the Congress. They are founded on the experience of scientists, forestry experts, and, as importantly, the firefighters who know what they're talking about. (Applause.) Chief Tom O'Keefe, of the California Department of Forestry, is among those who have seen the consequences of misguided forest policy. He put it this way: "A lot of people have been well-intentioned. They saved trees, but they lost the forest." We want to save the forests. (Applause.)

This bill was passed because members of Congress looked at sound science, did the best they could to get all the politics out of the way for good legislation. Members from both parties came together, people from different regions of the country. A broad range of people who care about our forests were listened to, whether they be conservationists, or resource managers, people from the South, people from the West, people from New York. You see, we all share duties of stewardship. And today we shared in an important accomplishment.

For the good of our forests, and for the good of our people, I'm honored to sign this important piece of legislation. I'm honored to be here to sign the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003. (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.) (Applause.)

END 10:55 A.M. EST

The high cost of busybodies

A reader wrote recently about his father, who has been a farmer, but is now ready to retire. His father figured on selling his land to get some money for his golden retirement years. But he found that he cannot get anywhere near the land's market value because busybodies have passed laws that destroy most of that value by restricting the sale of farmland.

The rationale for such laws is "preserving farmland." Think about it. Two of our biggest problems today are obesity and agricultural surpluses. The last thing we need to do is keep farmland from being sold to those who want to use it to build housing, businesses or other things.

Even if we accept, for the sake of argument, the notion that farmland needs to be preserved in order to serve some great national interest, the Constitution of the United States says that private property cannot be taken by the government without just compensation.

When the government destroys half the value of someone's property, that is the same thing economically as taking half of that property. But, because the farmer is left owning all his land, judges have let politicians get away with essentially confiscating much of its value without having to pay any compensation.

People who lead crusades to preserve farmland usually know little about farming and less about economics. Yet they think that they have a right to prevent other people from making mutually agreeable transactions, when that goes against the fetishes of third parties.

Busybodies may flatter themselves that they are wiser or nobler than others -- which is perhaps the biggest benefit from being a busybody -- but the Constitution of the United States says that all citizens are entitled to the equal protection of the laws.

In other words, people who want to wring their hands about farmlands or wetlands, or about some obscure toad or snake, have no more rights than people who don't care two cents about such things. It is hard for those who have presumptions of being the morally anointed to accept that, but that is what the Constitution says.

Unfortunately, too many judges are ready to fudge or fake what the Constitution says because they too share the vision of the anointed. So they downgrade property rights and let third parties impose their pet notions on others, using the power of government to violate the rights of those who do not agree with them.

What makes a lot of the talk about "preserving" or "saving" farmland or other things as phony as a three-dollar bill is that the real agenda is often very different -- namely, keeping out people who do not have the income or the inclination to share the lifestyle of the anointed.

The real reason for preventing farmland from being sold to those who might build housing on it is that the people who live in that housing might not be as upscale as those already living nearby. Developers -- heaven forbid -- might build apartments or townhouses in a community where people live in single-family homes.

In other words, developers might build some of that "affordable housing" that some people talk so much about and do so much to prevent.

The rationale for laws forbidding farmers from selling their land to whoever wants to buy it is that existing residents have a right to "preserve the character" of "our community." But these lofty words are lying words.

Only sloppy thinking allows sloppy words to pass muster. There is no such thing as "our community." Nobody owns the whole community. Each individual owns his or her own property -- and other individuals have the same right to own or sell their own property.

If the busybodies want to put their money where their mouth is, they can buy up the farmland themselves and then they can legitimately prevent anybody from building anything on it. But verbal sleight-of-hand is no justification for denying others the same rights that they claim for themselves.

If there were some way to add up all the costs imposed by busybodies -- on everyone from farmers to people wanting organ transplants -- it would probably be greater than the national debt.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


A powerful new weapon in fight against wildfires Only hours after the devastating Cedar wildfire erupted in San Diego County, Philip Riggan boarded a specially equipped twin-engine airplane and headed toward the inferno. Some 17,000 feet above the flames, the plane sailed over thick plumes of smoke as Riggan sat behind a flat-screen computer monitor observing infrared images of the white-hot flames racing out of control and threatening people and their homes. Using a revolutionary thermal infrared camera, Riggan provided firefighters with a detailed map showing the wide swath of destruction cut by the wildfire...Reservation deal protested About 50 people opposed to creation of a reservation for the Klamath Tribes protested Monday outside a closed-door meeting where the topic was being discussed. The meeting, coordinated by the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, was another in a series of private meetings between representatives of the tribes and various other interests, including irrigators. It was held at the Klamath Falls Shilo Inn. Many of the protesters said they wanted to be represented in the discussions that could lead to a new reservation made up of lands now owned by the U.S. Forest Service...Deeper Shade of Green for Washington Forests? The Department of Natural Resources, which manages nearly 5 million acres of state-owned lands that are collectively worth more than $7 billion, is considering certifying 1.4 million acres of forests in Western Washington as 'green.' If the agency decides to manage the lands under the designation of a green forest certification scheme, it could be a big boost to the Pacific Northwest's burgeoning green building market, which has grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years. And it would give Washington the distinction of being the only state in the nation that has certified its state trust lands...Twain's frog found in county he made famous A threatened species of frog thought to have inspired Mark Twain's tale of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" has been rediscovered in the county, 34 years after the frogs last were seen in the area. The children of a cattle rancher found the California red-legged frogs while playing around watering holes on their property in the western portion of the county, wildlife officials said Tuesday. They asked that the location not be disclosed as researchers work to protect the frogs and their habitat...Conservation Groups Demand EPA Stop Using Illegal Insider Chemical Group to Forge Policy Conservation and pesticide watchdog groups sent a letter demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency stop giving illegal special access to a group of chemical corporations. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and other sources reveal that the corporate insider group has met regularly with EPA officials in secret and has urged EPA to weaken regulations that protect endangered species from pesticides. The chemical companies are pushing EPA to weaken pesticide safeguards by cutting expert biologists in the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries out of consultations determining the effects of pesticides on wildlife. At the companies' urging, EPA has started a rulemaking to reserve authority over such evaluations to itself...Miners gather as gold prices surge, regulations stabilize It's a good time to be a miner. Gold prices on Tuesday were the highest they've been in nearly eight years, silver and other precious metals were selling well above prices needed to keep mines open and the regulatory climate is mild. "There's a lot of excitement in the mining industry, fueled by the higher price of gold," Laura Skaer, executive director of the Northwest Mining Association, said as the industry group convened its 109th annual convention...World's Religions Increasingly Vocal on Environmental Issues Saving souls, getting to heaven, preparing for life in the next world. That's what a good number of religious traditions are all about - but in recent years, the world's religions are getting increasingly involved in efforts to help save the planet Earth as well. "We are now at a point in human history where all living things and all life processes are at risk, due to the extinction spasm we are causing by destruction of the environment," said Mary Evelyn Tucker, a professor of religion at Bucknell University. "And religious leaders are beginning to discuss, debate, and respond publicly to critical and arresting questions about the shutting down of life systems around the world."...Border Fence Plan Riles Environmentalists Environmentalists in California are trying to block a federal plan to build a new security fence to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into the United States from Mexico. The 14-mile fence would accompany an existing 40-mile fence that has been credited with causing a massive drop in illegal border crossings since its construction in 1993. Supporters of the fence say that the increasing number of terrorists who are at large means the United States must be even more vigilant at its borders...The dog-kicking donkey of steeley hollow Friendly feuds aside, Hammons really did buy the donkey for his dog-kicking abilities. "Raising calves, sometimes you lose them because of coyotes and wandering dogs," said Hammons. "I understand it's a normal behavior for donkeys to protect livestock from dogs and coyotes." Hammons said people have told him they've actually seen the donkey proving himself as a dog-kicker of great ability. "It's also noticeable that there are fewer dogs in the field now," said Hammons. Baxter is about five years old, and until Hammons bought him earlier this year, he'd spent most of his life in a pen, being used as the moving target for calf-roping training...Couple recalls lost era, Ranchers find culture dying out In the kitchen, Leanora Avila, 88, places wood into a black cast-iron stove with a tea kettle on top. Her husband, who celebrated his 98th birthday Sunday, gazes out of a window overlooking the ranch where he was born. He remembers leaving to marry and raise a family -- and the joy of coming back. "When I look back, there are a lot of good memories here," he says. "There were cattle, sheep. We had a good life." Looking through the window, he sees the small house where he was born and the original wood barn where he used to keep horses, but now stores firewood and his old Chevrolet pickup truck. The Avilas, married 68 years, are among the last of the ranchers in an area that used to be mostly ranches...
Russia Rules Out Accepting Kyoto Protocol

Russia won't ratify the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gas emissions because it will hurt the country's economy, a top Kremlin official said Tuesday. It appeared to be a mortal blow to the accord aimed at halting global warming.

The United States rejected the accord for the same reason. Without Russia, the protocol cannot come into effect even if approved by every other nation.

The pollution cuts required by the treaty would slow the economic growth that President Vladimir Putin has made a major priority, said top adviser Andrei Illarionov.

"In its current form, the Kyoto Protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia," Illarionov told reporters in the Kremlin on the sidelines of Putin's meeting with European business leaders. "Of course, in its current form this protocol can't be ratified."

Earlier this fall, Putin cast deep doubts on Moscow's willingness to ratify the protocol, but he had not ruled it out entirely.

A Russian Economics Ministry spokesman, Konstantin Bogdanov, told Dow Jones News Wires on Tuesday he was unaware of any change in Russia's official position, which has been that it is still considering the protocol.

However, Illarionov said it would be unfair for Russia to curb emissions and stymie its own growth while the United States and other nations, which account for the bulk of global emissions, refuse to join the pact.

Putin laid out Russia's objections in what Illarionov called a "very energetic" discussion with the European industrial leaders.

The Kyoto Protocol, signed by many of the world's nations at a conference in Japan in 1997, sets targets for countries to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which are seen as a key factor behind global warming.

To take effect, the pact requires ratification by a minimum of 55 countries, which must include the industrialized nations that accounted for at least 55 percent of that group's carbon dioxide emissions in 1990.

So far, industrialized nations that have signed on account for 44.2 percent of the 1990 emissions. Russia accounts for 17.4 percent, so its ratification would push the group over the top.

Attention focused on Russia after the Bush administration announced it would not ratify what it called a flawed pact that would unfairly harm the U.S. economy. The United States is responsible for one-fourth of the world's man-made carbon dioxide emissions, and its March 2001 decision angered environmentalists.

Russian officials initially suggested Russia would ratify it, but remarks by Putin and Illarionov at a climate-change conference in Moscow two months ago indicated the opposite.

Putin has called for the doubling of Russia's gross domestic product by 2010 - a goal officials fear might conflict with the Kyoto Protocol, which would require the Kremlin to overhaul Russian industries to cut emissions.

Russia's emissions have fallen by 32 percent since 1990 amid the post-Soviet industrial meltdown, but they have slowly started to rise with the economic revival of the past five years.

Putin puzzled his audience at the Moscow conference this fall by remarking that Russians "could spend less on warm coats" if the country warmed up by a few degrees, while Illarionov questioned the pact's feasibility and scientific foundation.

At a climate change conference that began Monday in Milan, Italy, the news from Russia left participants pondering strategies in the absence of a global treaty.

Steven Guilbeault of Greenpeace said Illarionov's remarks appeared to be "a political comment" ahead of Sunday's elections for the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.

Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, an advocacy group based in Washington, also mentioned the elections and pointed out that Illarionov has been one of Russia's strongest critics of the protocol.

Clapp speculated that Moscow might be jockeying for more favorable terms when rules are worked out for a mechanism under which countries that are under emissions target levels can sell credits to nations that still need to reduce.

Putin and other officials often make fiery comments meant largely to show Russians that the Kremlin is standing firm against foreign pressure, but the Kyoto Protocol is not seen as a key issue for Russian voters.

The European Union, which has led the fight to save the pact after Washington pulled out, said in a progress report it was getting further from meeting its own targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions under the pact.

The European Environment Agency said its latest figures were "much more pessimistic" than last year's mainly because Germany drastically scaled back its forecast for reductions.

"At the moment things are moving away from Kyoto rather than toward it," said spokesman Tony Carritt.

Monday, December 01, 2003


Editorial: Burning issue All the great fire had to do was jump U.S. 60 at Cottonwood Ridge, and the path of utter destruction was clear. But it did not jump U.S. 60. Frightening plumes of flame towering 200 feet or more dropped meekly to two feet or less at Cottonwood Ridge. Throughout the third night of the conflagration, the mighty Rodeo-Chediski charged up Cottonwood Ridge at least three times from three angles. And each time it died in the ankle-deep grasses surrounding those few acres of mechanically thinned trees. The White Mountain Apaches who years earlier had thinned the trees, including numerous large-diameter trees, of Cottonwood Ridge can be fairly credited with helping save the Mogollon Rim. Unencumbered by the threat of lawsuits or a time-consuming appeals process, the Apaches took the initiative to thin parts of their forests. Theirs is the legacy of what Bush's Healthy Forest legislation would provide to national forests: Where the Apache forests were treated and thinned, they survived; where they were not, they were consumed...Column: Forests for the People, Not Politicians The multi-billion dollar clean-up from the California fires of 2003 will take years. Thousands of people must rebuild their homes and businesses. Yet while houses can be replaced, lives and cherished mementos cannot. These unfortunate Californians have become the latest victims of absentee owners: in this case, Washington-based politicians and forestry agencies. Their loss can either be a senseless tragedy, or the catalyst for reform. But for real reform to take place, centralized forest land control and the misuse of forests for political purposes must be rejected absolutely. While the fires are unusual (partly from the effects of bark beetle infestation), they had been predicted by analysts for years who warned of the dangers of recent fads in forestry management, or rather lack of management, on public lands. Had more underbrush been thinned over the years, and selective timbering been more common, the fires would not have been so severe and probably could have been prevented. Nor would over 6 million acres have burned in western states in 2002 -- an area larger than New Jersey. Advocates of more active management of federal forests (including the thinning of forests) are justified in saying, "We told you so."...Reorganization of the Forest Service is reportedly taking its toll on workers A budget-cutting effort to streamline organization on the Umpqua National Forest has eliminated 26 jobs, most in the four ranger districts in Tiller, Glide, Cottage Grove and Toketee. Twenty-one people have been reassigned within the Umpqua National Forest, and five have been registered with a national list that is considered first when filling any nationwide Forest Service vacancy. The changes affect much more than how projects are handled, workers say. It affects their lives and the communities historically connected to the ranger districts. For employees who have watched and helped their forests grow and change, the move can be emotionally devastating...Foreign invaders winning in county Siskiyou County is under attack from foreigners and the damage they are doing is costing millions each year. The foreigners that Klamath National Forest Service botanist Marla Knight talks about are "noxious weeds," a growing problem in the entire nation including Siskiyou County. Speaking at the Shasta Valley Rotary on Monday, Knight defines noxious weeds as non-native plants that spread aggressively as they displace native plants. She showed pictures of several areas in the county and region where noxious weeds have formed a "monoculture," completely displacing native plants...Grant PUD files federal papers to re-license dams The two dams -- Priest Rapids and Wanapum -- span the river just upstream of the Hanford Reach, which provides spawning habitat for 80 percent of the Columbia's fall chinook. "This is the most stable stock of fish in the Columbia Basin and is the backbone of the tribal fishery," said Charles Hudson, a spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. "In Indian country, we believe in protecting the Hanford Reach at all costs." The tribes and environmentalists have yet to decide how far to go in challenging the license renewal for the dams, but both say they will be closely involved in the proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission...Deluges Would Threaten Reservoir Racing to protect a reservoir that is a key link in Southern California's water supply, federal helicopter teams are dropping straw by the ton on slopes severely burned in October's catastrophic wildfires around Silverwood Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains. Officials want to stabilize the slopes before heavy winter rains, which could trigger large-scale erosion of ash, silt and potentially toxic compounds into the lake. The reservoir provides drinking water for 12 million people, said Matt Mathes, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service in California. "There are going to be a lot of mudslides, and a lot of sediment is going to wind up in the reservoir if we're not careful."...Analysis: Endangered Species Act turns 30 As with so many things, however, that support depends on which side of the economic uncertainty one stands. In this month's journal Conservation Biology, a study out of the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources found landowners in the Rocky Mountains who were asked to preserve their land to protect a small rodent, the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, were about as likely to dig up the mouse's habitat to avoid regulation as they were to preserve it. On the other hand, a majority of landowners -- 56 percent -- would not even allow a biological survey of their property to gather data that could lead to the mouse's protection. Small wonder. ESA regulations to protect species can be so stringent they effectively drive federal policy on public lands. The protections also can be extended to private lands and as a result "many landowners appeared to defend themselves against having their land-management options restricted by refusing to allow for surveys for the Preble's," the Michigan study said...ESA 30th Anniversary; Defenders of Wildlife Report: Bush Administration Judicial Abuses Undermine Endangered Species Act Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen will release a new report in early December which chronicles the Bush administration's efforts to subvert the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through the judicial system, including the flagrant disobeying of court orders, the use of specious legal and scientific arguments, and systematic defiance of the Act's requirements. Schlickeisen will release the report at a Press Club speech highlighting the 30th anniversary of the ESA on Dec. 3, at 10 a.m. in the Lisagor Room of the Press Club. In addition to the report, Schlickeisen will provide an overview of the ESA's history, current status, and future challenges to the Act as background for reporters covering the Act's anniversary later in December...Editorial: For the birds The potential answer: Kill the eagles, who are apparently more "threatened" by federal bureaucrats and do-gooders than anybody else. Of course, foxes aren't "endangered"; they are abundant throughout the United States. But by creating hundreds of "subspecies" of plentiful animals -- and identifying each "habitat" as unique -- environmentalists and others have succeeded in expanding he Endangered Species Act well beyond its intended scope. And now, some "threatened" eagles must pay. Oh well, to make an omelet ...Elk Refuge vaccination plan continues apace Wyoming Game and Fish officials are preparing to vaccinate elk on the National Elk Refuge again this year, despite continued cries of critics who say the plan is ineffective. Dean Clause of the agency's Pinedale office said the plan is to vaccinate more animals against brucellosis this winter. Brucellosis can cause cow elk to abort. Ranchers fear the disease could spread to domestic livestock...Park Police Duties Exceed Staffing: Anti-Terror Demands Have Led Chief to Curtail Patrols Away From Mall The U.S. Park Police department has been forced to divert patrol officers to stand guard around major monuments, causing Chief Teresa C. Chambers to express worry about declining safety in parks and on parkways. In the long run, Chambers said, her 620-member department needs a major expansion, perhaps to about 1,400 officers. Congressional leaders, however, have urged the Park Police force to refocus on the Mall, cutting back on such activities as drug investigations and traffic enforcement that take them away from National Park Service lands. The Park Police department, an arm of the Park Service, claims to be the oldest uniformed federal police agency, tracing its roots to a group of watchmen hired in 1791 to guard public buildings and lands in the capital. The force includes about 400 officers in the Washington area, with the rest split between parks in New York and San Francisco...Man charged in park poaching A Montana man accused of killing an antelope inside the park faces federal charges, including poaching and resisting arrest. The Park Service said park rangers who responded found Johnson attempting to leave in his sport utility vehicle. Rangers said a short standoff ensued after Johnson refused to get on the ground and told the rangers to shoot him...Justice Department informed of Utah land swap issue The Justice Department has been notified of potential criminal wrongdoing in a land swap in Utah's picturesque San Rafael Swell that was aborted when whistleblowers said it would have been a $100 million taxpayer rip-off. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel cited "evidence of criminal violations" as a grounds for not releasing a report prepared in response to allegations raised by Bureau of Land Management appraiser Kent Wilkinson. The special counsel's office had earlier determined that Wilkinson's claims had merit, and directed the Interior Department to investigate the matter and report on changes it would make. By law, that report is made available to the whistleblowers for review unless potential criminal matters are uncovered...Crystalline stars found in N.M. cave Four cavers have found a river of white calcite and walls covered in clear crystalline stars while exploring a cave in south-central New Mexico. About 10,000 feet of the calcite river have been mapped but cavers have not reached the formation's end. One of the four, retired U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist John McLean, said the calcite formation, nicknamed the Snowy River Formation, can reveal the cave's history and how water travels through the ground in the area...Committee to look at uses for Nevada wilderness areas A legislative study committee will meet Dec. 18 in Winnemucca to begin developing recommendations on what Congress should do with Nevada's 20-year-old Wilderness Study Areas. More than 20 years ago, Congress set aside more than 5 million acres of Nevada for study as potential wilderness. Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, said that while 2 million acres have been set aside as wilderness, the various groups interested in the land have been unable to reach consensus on what to do with the remaining 3.8 million acres...Wild horses removed from southwest Wyoming More than 1,300 wild horses were rounded up from six management areas in southwest Wyoming this fall, the Bureau of Land Management said Monday. The roundups, conducted Oct. 6 to Nov. 18, were part of the agency's continuing effort to cut Wyoming's wild horse population in half in order to fulfill an agreement with the state....Lassen County concerned over potential water export For the last 10 years or more there has been activity on and off to try and export ground water from around the Honey Lake Valley to Nevada. Just two weeks ago, a public meeting was held in Susanville during which a representative of the Bureau of Land Management from Carson City introduced two independent water companies who are developing plans to construct and operate water supply and transmission projects to meet the current and future needs of the Stead and Lemmon Valley areas to the north of Reno...Pending LDS deal criticized Legislation allowing the LDS Church to lease Martin's Cove in Wyoming is expected to be signed by President Bush after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. While the deal is being welcomed as an end to controversy by the church and the Wyoming congressional delegation, opponents say turning a national historic site over to a religious group creates a dangerous precedent. Passed by both houses of Congress on Nov. 18 with little fanfare and buried inside the $27 billion energy and water spending bill, the lease deal brings to a close a concerted five-year effort by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to obtain control over the site. Mormons venerate Martin's Cove as sacred ground because of its connection to an 1856 handcart caravan of European converts to the faith who died in an October blizzard on the Wyoming plains while trudging toward Zion...Noxious weed tamarisk spreading fast Far more serious than pesky patches of dandelions in suburban yards, the wildlife-threatening tamarisk weed is gradually spreading through Colorado and the West. It has been found advancing into Grand County, within 15 miles of the Summit County line. The fast-growing noxious weed is infesting rivers and other riparian areas, strangling native habitats several years after the first seeds hit...Editorial: Congress improves wildfire prevention Generations of well-intentioned but misguided government officials turned many of America's forests and wildlands into tinderboxes. What humans have done to threaten these forests, we must now strive to undo. Legislation recently passed by Congress is a big first step. Over time, it should make federal lands safer from devastating fires -- if Congress and communities follow through on their commitments. The Healthy Forests Restoration Act, the first significant federal forest-management legislation in decades, is remarkable in two ways. For the nation, it demonstrates that bipartisan solutions can be accomplished in Congress. For the West, it puts much greater resources into responsible forest thinning and fire prevention...Mining claim could end up costing up to $600 million A second-generation miner has filed what may be the largest mining compensation claim in U.S. history. Walter Freeman wants up to $600 million from the federal Treasury after he was denied permission to dig in part of the Siskiyou National Forest. Freeman, 58, wants to mine for nickel ore and build a smelter on public land where his parents staked mining claims as early as 1940...A nose for knapweed The trick -- and it's an important one -- is finding the plant in new locations before it becomes well-established. And in tackling that task Hal Steiner and his dog Nightmare are serious as a bad dream. Steiner is training the 18-month-old dog to find knapweed as part of a Montana State University research project. He's training the dog to dig when it finds knapweed, not because anybody needs the dog to destroy the plant but because researchers envision a GPS unit strapped to the dog. The digging will keep the dog in one place long enough for the GPS, which will record locations every three seconds, to beep several signals to a computer and help map weed locations...Wolf plans get experts' approval: Reviews favorable but not ringing endorsements Plans written by Montana, Wyoming and Idaho appear to be adequate blueprints for sustaining wolf populations if federal protections are lifted, according to 11 wolf experts who reviewed the plans. But the statements released Monday weren't exactly a ringing endorsement of all three proposals. There continue to be some key concerns, including a reliance on federal funding to carry out the plans, the classification of some wolves in Wyoming as predators and a lack of detail in Idaho's proposal. The review of the state plans is an important step toward removing wolves from the endangered species list, which all three states have been pushing for...Hearing nears exhumation intervenors in Billy the Kid case Silver City is a town proud of its colorful history, and Billy the Kid is part of it, she said. Tippett represents Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan, Capitan Mayor Steve Sederwall and De Baca County Sheriff Gary Graves, who want proof that Sheriff Pat Garrett killed William Bonney, also called the Kid, on July 14, 1881, in Fort Sumner. A hearing is set Dec. 8 in Silver City, where Catherine Antrim, the Kid's mother, is buried. The hearing will consider whether Silver City Mayor Steve Fortenberry has legal standing to interfere with Antrim's exhumation. It also will consider a petition to intervene from Bill Robins, a state-appointed lawyer for the Kid himself. Robins wants a posthumous pardon for Billy the Kid...Nature's images are soul feast After a lifetime spent on the Great Plains, I am still amazed at the power Mother Nature can produce. From gentle rain to roaring thunderstorms, from dusty whirlwinds to tornadoes, and from drought to floods, Mother Nature can do it all. Also in her bag of many tricks, and my favorite trick of all, is her ability to produce the miracle of a mirage...

Sage Grouse & The Hunting and Fishing Survey

“Geez Beers, I saw more sharptails and sage grouse than I ever have or probably ever will in the rest of my life.” So said a friend who had just returned from an annual lengthy trip to Canada and Montana to hunt ducks, geese, pheasants, sharptails, and sage grouse. He has been hunting the prairies for fifty years and, like me, he is an educated and experienced wildlife biologist. I am hopeful that I might be invited to a dinner featuring some of those grouse this fall or winter. The sharptails he served last fall were about as good as it gets.

After I hung up I thought about Endangered Species scams and the National Hunting and Fishing Survey scam. I have received several requests in the past year to comment on the US Fish & Wildlife Service push to list the sage grouse as Threatened or Endangered. The FWS and their environmental and animal rights sleep partners have been touting doomsday for sage grouse for the last 3 or 4 years. Low populations of sage grouse (like warm summers are to global warming) were the trigger for the usual suspects to murmur the usual nonsense to forward their hidden agenda. The tune went something like this, “sage grouse are approaching extinction because of overgrazing and roads and human activities.” “Sage grouse are true native indicator species that tell us about an environment in need of preservation.” “Sage grouse will need enormous acreages to be set aside and only through the Endangered Species Act can we do that.” I could go on but you get the picture. Suffice to say that even under “pristine” or “native” or “Pre-Columbian conditions sage grouse populations and distribution went up and down and some years Blackfeet and Sioux got belly aches from eating so many one year and other years never even tasted them. Today however such natural changes are legal reasons for Federal seizure of state jurisdiction over these birds and justification for Federal bureaucrats to close public lands, buy more private land, stop public uses like camping, hiking, hunting, grazing, ranching, dog hunting, and probably a whole list of things that you and I can’t even imagine today...

Animal Use Rights

Picture a 2x4 drawn from right to left across a sheet of paper. On the right end you have the animal rescuers and the “barbless-hook, put-and-take fly fisherman” and the old man with a caged bird. On the left you have the dogfighters, bullfighters, trappers, and the game fowl breeders. Going from left to right we have an assortment ranging from bear and cougar hunters to circuses and rodeos to farmers and ranchers to dog breeders, dog owners, meat eaters and fish owners with aquariums.

Picture a large “pac-man” (remember them?) below the line. It is made up of many small words. On close examination we see words like Humane Society of the US, PETA, Greenpeace, SHAC, ELF, ALF, Wilderness Society, NRDC, Animal Protection Institute, Doris Day Animal Rescue League, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and many other names purposely obscured to conceal their identity. Like a colony of termites, each name sends tiny pac-men to gnaw at the board where the individual objects of their sect or cult are found. SHAC gnaws at the medical experimenters; PETA gnaws at the hunters, meat eaters and fishermen; the Wilderness Society gnaws at the hunters, rural residents, and public land users, the National Wildlife Federation gnaws at the farmers and ranchers, ELF & ALF try to burn the board. Slowly and steadily the pac-man approaches the left side of the board and begins devouring what is left of the board...

Another Environmentalist Bromide

Environmentalism has never been more predictable than it is today. Left-leaning activists and environmental journalists reflexively turn every green issue into a formulaic "Bush administration rollback" story, often with little regard for the facts and history of the issue. So it is with the much-criticized administration attempt to obtain exemptions for farmers who wish to use the chemical methyl bromide beyond its 2005 phaseout deadline. In truth, these exemptions will help prevent significant hardship for thousand of farmers and their customers, and will do so without any discernable threat to the environment.

Along with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs, the once-widely used class of refrigerants and solvents) and other chemicals believed to contribute to depletion of the earth's ozone layer, production of the crop fumigant methyl bromide has been restricted. Under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a multilateral treaty designed to reduce and eventually eliminate ozone-depleting compounds, methyl bromide production was to be gradually phased down in the developed world, culminating in a ban by 2005. Developing nations were given an additional ten years, until 2015...

The Price Is Right

Convincing people to conserve water can be a challenge for government planners. The Department of Energy's mandate for water-efficient low-flow toilets has not proven very popular with users, who obstinately insist on flushing multiple times -- defeating the planners' purpose. (Users' discontent hasn't deterred regulators though. Look next for new "low-flow" washing machines -- which DOE has ensured will be all that's available starting in 2007.) Furthermore, local admonitions to forgo watering lawns during summer months often go unheeded.

EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, Tracy Mehan, has a new approach. He has called for "full cost and conservation pricing to achieve water conservation." There's an idea. Let people pay the cost of the water they use and maybe the interaction of supply and demand will solve the scarcity problem...

Tunnels of Love

STANFORD CAMPUS BIOLOGISTS and students have teamed up in a daring new rescue effort--to save the tiger salamanders. Natives of the Stanford area, the salamanders migrate yearly to nearby Lake Lagunita to breed. The migration route takes them across the busy streets of Junipero Serra Boulevard and Campus Drive East. Some of the salamanders become road kill, which greatly concerns biologists, since California tiger salamanders are nearly an endangered population.

Their solution? Salamander tunnels! Construction crews are currently working to install three metal tunnels under the road so salamanders can move on to breed in peace and safety. One tunnel was installed in 2001 as a test for effectiveness. The Stanford community got the idea from the Germans, who have built tunnels for badgers, and the British, who did the same for toads. In fact, the new tunnels have come specially ordered from England. Other scientists in California have installed salamander tunnels as well.

Alas, the tunnel idea is not foolproof. After all, how do you convince a salamander to use an out-of-the-way tunnel when it is more convenient to cross the road?...

The Gospel According to PETA

It is bear hunting season now, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is upset:

For years, black bears have been safe in New Jersey, but now the New Jersey Fish and Game Council has announced its intentions to reinstate a black bear hunting season this year. While campaigning for governor, James McGreevey pledged to oppose any attempts to allow bear hunting in New Jersey. (From the PETA website "Action Alerts.")

Well, PETA should be leaping for joy that the release of Disney's latest film Brother Bear, coincides with bear-hunting season. I can't think of a better apologetic for the animal rights movement than this film, a full-length animated cartoon that tells kids that killing bears is mean...

Sunday, November 30, 2003


Glacier burst floods creek High in the Wind River Mountain Range, just north of Wyoming's highest peak, is a natural trench that runs like a hallway straight through a glacier to where a lake used to be. On Sept. 6, Mother Nature uncorked the lake, releasing 600 million gallons of water through the trough, surging down into Dinwoody Creek...Officials Welcome 'Healthy Forest' Act But David Caine of the Arrowhead Communities Fire Safe Council said lawsuits by environmental extremists have hamstrung the Forest Service in a misguided attempt to protect federal lands from all logging -- even selective thinning -- and human encroachment. "The Healthy Forest Act will relax some environmental code sections that were more of an obstacle than a benefit" to the forests, Caine said. "They were encumbered with environmental reporting and surveys ... in a prolonged process that actually obstructed forest management." Caine said prudent forest management is especially critical in an "intermixed" environment, where wildlands coexist intimately with human dwellings...Environmentalists doubt safety of fire retardant As fires raged in the West this fall, air tanker pilots flew low above rugged terrain and treetops spraying red mists of chemicals to slow the advancing flames. Some are concerned those millions of gallons of chemical fire retardant that helped firefighters protect lives and property could in the long run harm the environment or firefighters' health. A group of former U.S. Forest Service workers and environmentalists has filed a complaint saying the government has never done extensive reviews to determine if the fertilizer-based fire retardants pose risks to wildlife or humans. Until the environmental impact studies are done, they want the court to limit use of the chemicals...Editorial: Saving a mountain treasure Southwest Colorado and northwest New Mexico have been punctured by more than 20,000 oil and gas wells, including some that bore into coal seams to extract methane. Another 12,000 wells are planned in the area south of Durango and near Aztec and Farmington, N.M. Few national forests and other federal land in the San Juan Basin haven't yet sprouted drill rigs, roads and pipelines. One of the few remaining undisturbed spots is the HD Mountains area, a patch of rugged canyons and steep hills covered by old-growth forests. The ecosystem, with its endangered species habitat and 300-year-old trees, should stay off-limits to new roads and unnatural surface disturbance. Happily, a compromise is possible that would protect the heart of the natural area while still letting oil and gas companies extract most of the energy resources...Fire industry worth billions of dollars At least 125 for-profit companies, mostly in the Western United States, earn all or part of their income providing fire engines or crews to the federal government, according to Debbie Miley, executive director of the National Wildlife Suppression Association, a trade association for private firefighters. Fire engines and hand crews are only part of the business. Modern firefighting requires caterers and bulldozer drivers, portable toilet and shower providers, bus drivers and mechanics and electricians. It employs meteorologists, biologists, fire-behavior specialists, public affairs officers, accountants, supply officers, medics, administrators of all stripes and a whole bunch of pilots and air crews...Rancher finds plan to protect mouse gives him some security When Livermore rancher Al Johnson learned biologists had trapped a federally protected species of mouse near a stream that cut through his 2,000-acre ranch, he couldn't help a feeling of dread. Even though the Preble's meadow jumping mouse had not been found on his property, the mice had been trapped on both sides of his ranch. So federal biologists declared his three streams mouse habitat and told him that he would have to tailor his ranching operation to minimize damage to the little critter's habitat...At 30, Endangered Species Act still breeds controversy But as the Endangered Species Act marks its 30th anniversary in December, the country's most powerful environmental law finds itself under attack from all sides. Politicians say the law has been hijacked by environmentalists and turned into an anti-growth tool. Conservation groups accuse the Bush administration of trying to ignore the law. Meanwhile, officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service struggle with programs that are hundreds of millions of dollars in the red. The agency routinely fails to make timely decisions, and nearly every decision it does make generates a lawsuit. As a result, court orders dictate many of the agency's actions...Organ Pipe barrier expected to keep drugs, entrants out A new $17 million vehicle barrier at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument promises to help keep out loads of illegal drugs and immigrants along one of the U.S. border's most popular smuggling routes. The barrier, old railroad rails buried five feet deep and welded into a ribbon of steel, will do nothing to stop foot traffic and is designed only to deter cars and trucks and the damage they do when they tear across protected plants and carve rutted paths in fragile desert soil. But agencies that manage border lands are eager to get similar barriers for their own property, in part because the fences they have now are no more than a hodgepodge of broken barbed wire, power poles and abandoned cars shoved into the gaps. The new barriers are popular for another reason, too: Agencies fear the new Organ Pipe fence will actually work, pushing smugglers' vehicles onto their lands...Sides agree energy bill will return Faced with steadfast opposition, Senate leaders had no choice last month but to turn out the lights on a sweeping energy policy, including provisions aimed at expanding energy production in the Rocky Mountain West. But both sides recognized that blockage in the Senate was a time out rather than a decisive victory...Long-lasting health effects of wildfires unknown As wildfires raged out of control throughout Southern California at the end of October, most residents heeded the medical advice of doctors and stayed indoors. They avoided physical activity and ran their air conditioners rather than open windows. But what happens now that the smoke has cleared and county health officials issue periodic warnings of hazardous air when the wind blows and ash once again briefly fills the sky?...Pacific Northwest salmon farms breed concerns Not only Norway is swarming with escaped Atlantic salmon. They are also swimming free in Oregon's back yard. Many of the same risks -- disease and threat to native stocks -- follow them. And U.S. and Canadian government agencies, caught flatfooted by the salmon farming boom, have acted slowly...Utah Joins States Supporting Looser EPA Clean-Air Rules Utah will join eight other states that approve the federal Environmental Protection Agency's decision to loosen the Clean Air Act's regulations to allow older power plants, refineries, and factories to modernize without having to install expensive pollution controls. The Utah Attorney General's office this week intervened in the lawsuit, making Utah among nine states coming to the defense of the EPA's relaxed air-quality regulations...Column: Turning Northeast Wyoming Upside Down in the Hunt for Coal-Bed Methane In the Powder River Basin, it's hard to miss the fresh dirt roads that crawl along the draws and up over the saddles in the hills. But those roads are a sign that the surface no longer means much in this part of Wyoming. What the eye can't see is that the real owners of the land own what lies beneath. Those who own the surface are just squatters. The Powder River Basin is the most active region of coal-bed methane drilling in the nation, a place where in the next few years more than 50,000 wells will have been drilled to obtain, at most, a year's supply of natural gas. There has always been plenty to divide one neighbor from another in the area. But the coal-bed methane push, which began, innocuously enough, with a tax credit in the late 1980's, has caused a bitterness that may never be repaired...Fight on to Save Plains Water Source An estimated 5 billion gallons is pumped from the Ogallala aquifer annually with the majority of it going to irrigate farm fields in South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming. Farmers tap into the Ogallala to help them grow corn, cotton, wheat, soybeans and other crops, which become food products or fatten livestock. Estimates of the aquifer's long-term sustainability vary according to geography, with some areas of the underground water supply still showing another 250 years of capacity or more. But many areas spread through the different states have far less time - maybe 60 more years of capacity, some experts say...Anger at disruption to live sheep export Activists allegedly broke into a feedlot, slipping what is believed to be shredded ham into the food and water of sheep in a bid to stop the animals being exported to the middle east. The 70,000 sheep, destined for Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, will remain at Portland until tests are completed. Member for Wannon, David Hawker, said the action was "nothing short of economic terrorism"...Bison market on rise A four-year slump blamed on oversupply of bison and lack of demand is ending, with prices spiking at the same time beef cattle are selling at record high prices, officials say. Reduced herds and campaigns to build a consumer base for bison meat are bringing the higher prices, according to the National Bison Association...U.S.-EU trade woes test relations The American-European trade and investment relationship is the largest in the world, with about $1 billion in transactions a day. The bulk of trans-Atlantic commerce goes smoothly, but divergent rules and regulations on corporate takeovers, chemicals, agriculture and food labeling are threatening to stifle some trade...Ranchers keep afloat by pitching high-priced deer hunts on Web But perhaps even more unusual was the way the hunt was marketed: on the Internet. Increasingly, the traditional deer hunt -- which last year accounted for almost $1 billion in retail sales in Texas -- is going 21st-century high tech, with ranchers who eschew the word "kill" for "harvest," using computers to market and sell hunting rights on their land. Months before last year's high-stakes hunt, Vela photographed available bucks on the ranch, posting a photo gallery of them on the Internet -- a practice that allows him to book dozens of hunts...Vanishing life Babe Hogan fires up the tractor, a relic dating back to 1941 but still raring to go. Cattle grazing deep in the valley rush -- as fast as hefty pregnant heifers can -- toward the cantankerous purr of the engine. The cattle rancher chugs out to pasture towing barrels full of corn and oat pellet cake. Hogan drives in a slow, wide circle; the herd falls behind. The smell of wet hay from the night's rainfall and the rising mist of a cool January morning re-create a timeless moment in a southeastern field in Boulder County...Cowboy Soul I learned long ago that being a real cowboy is not a matter of wearing a silver belt buckle and a big hat. It isn't even bullriding, rodeos, or having cattle or horses. Nor does being a cowboy have to do with whether or not you were born in Texas, Colorado or Montana. Some of the greatest cowboys who ever lived have come from places like Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, New York, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. Some have even come from as far away as Ireland, Scotland, England and France. Many were metis, half-breed French-Cree-Canadians living on the Red River of the North. The Red River of cowboy song fame is in fact the Red River between Minnesota and Canada, and not the one that runs in Texas. Cowboys also roamed the mountains and meadows of Alberta...