Monday, May 17, 2004


Think ahead, fire experts tell West On the Rim of the World Highway that corkscrews into the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, logging trucks haul away thinned timber. Volunteers stand atop fire-lookout towers. Local "Fire Safe" councils teach residents how to protect their homes and plan evacuations. But it may not be enough to avert disaster. Government and private efforts to protect western forests are dwarfed by a problem decades in the making and worsened by long drought. And many people in the line of fire — from Colorado to California — aren't taking steps to protect themselves.... Owner Says California Air Tankers Safe A California company that supplied more than a third of the heavy firefighting air tankers grounded by the government said Monday it is unfairly being lumped in with a Wyoming firm responsible for most of the catastrophic accidents. "We have been unjustifiably put in the same category as the company that is responsible for five of the six structural accidents that have occurred in the last 30 years," said Terry Unsworth, president and chief executive of Aero Union Corp. of Chico.... House approves transfer of Bend Pine Nursery The House on Monday approved a bill to sell 170 acres in the Deschutes National Forest to the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District for $3.5 million. The measure also would transfer 15 acres of the former Bend Pine Nursery to the Bend-La Pine School District. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., the bill's sponsor, said it would save local taxpayers $2.3 million from the initial price of $5.8 million sought by the U.S. Forest Service.... Federal official affirms grasslands management plan A deputy agriculture undersecretary has upheld a new management plan for the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. David Tenny, the Agriculture Department's deputy undersecretary for natural resources and environment, affirmed the February decision of U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth to reject appeals of the plan. Any future challenges now must be made through the court system. Sierra Club spokesman Wayde Schafer said the environmental group did not get everything it wanted, but "on balance, we're pleased the plan will be moving forward.".... Column: CARA (Get Out Act) Will Kill Rural America The new CARA bill, called the Get Out (GO) Act (HR 4100), is virtually identical to the old CARA bill. As we calculate it, $3.1 billion per year will come automatically for 18 years, mostly to buy land. The total amount will be $56 billion. All of this is off budget and not subject to appropriations. How can the authors of HR 4100 give this CARA twin a higher priority than the military, education, or healthcare? Outrageous! The Get Out (GO) of Rural America Act will destroy more private property than any legislation in history. No landowner or inholder will be safe anywhere near a National Park, National Forest, Wildlife Refuge, National Trail, National Seashore, National Recreation Area, National Scenic Area, Bureau of Land Management Area, Corps of Engineer area, and other federally managed lands.... Flag may be comin' down the mountain It survived the winter winds at nearly 13,000 feet in remarkable condition, but a prominent American flag left as a memorial at the top of a mountain here isn't expected to last through the summer. Officials at the U.S. Forest Service, who have allowed the 9/11 memorial flag to fly on Peak 1 in the wake of the burning of its predecessor last summer, now are trying to come up with a plan to remove Old Glory without inciting a public backlash.... Legal Accord To Speed Endangered Species Act Listing For 73 Of The World's Rarest Bird Species A federal judge today approved a legal settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The settlement, which was approved by Judge Rosemary Collyer, forces the FWS to act on Endangered Species Act listing petitions for 73 of the world's rarest bird species. The agreement comes in response to a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Washington D.C. in December of 2003 by the Tucson, Arizona based Center for Biological Diversity. The suit asserted that the FWS violated the law by failing to take action on petitions submitted in 1980 and 1991 to list the imperiled bird species under the Endangered Species Act. The settlement calls for the FWS to publish in the Federal Register by the end of May 2004, a plan for processing the petitions and bringing the agency into compliance with the Endangered Species Act.... Federal Court Keeps Protections in Place For Wild Steelhead A U.S. District Court judge rejected an attempt by Central Valley irrigators to strip protected status from wild Central Valley steelhead trout. While deferring to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) on-going review of the fish’s status, the Court ruled that wild steelhead will remain federally protected during the time it takes to complete that process. The Court found that “[t]he scientific evidence … indicates that the fish faces serious and irreparable harm if removed from the list and that, given its numbers, its listing is likely to be preserved after the review and update.”.... Feds postpone salamander protections over science debate Pombo, R-Tracy, has been a critic of the poor science he says drives many endangered species decisions, an aspect he said will be key to his attempts to amend the law. In the most recent instance, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service missed a Saturday deadline to decide whether to list the salamander's Central California population as threatened. The salamander's Sonoma and Santa Barbara populations already are protected, but Central Valley developers and agriculture interests have protested that a listing would harm their property rights. Pombo asked Craig Manson, Interior's assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, to delay a decision while it reviews the scientific evidence. The wildlife service on Friday asked a federal judge for a six-month delay.... Frogs and Fish: Not the Best of Friends The worldwide decline in frogs and other amphibians has been well documented, though the reasons for it are less clear. Scientists have suggested many possible factors, including climate change, disease and increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation and pesticides. But for some species, a major reason could simply be that they are being eaten — by predators introduced into their habitat. A researcher at the University of California at Berkeley has shown this to be the case for a frog in the Sierra Nevadas. The researcher, Dr. Vance T. Vredenburg of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the university, demonstrated that rainbow and brook trout, introduced over the last century for sport fishing, are largely responsible for the decline of the mountain yellow-legged frog. He reported the finding in the current issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.... Roundup ends llamas' wild, woolly liberty Hikers and horseback riders on the Uncompahgre Plateau no longer will be startled by angry llamas. A herd of 15 abandoned llamas that had been living in the backcountry southwest of Delta for about a year and scaring humans with some aggressive behavior was rounded up Monday by a crew from the Bureau of Land Management. "It was a pretty novel thing," said BLM spokesman Steve Hall, who noted he hasn't heard of any other llama roundups on public lands in the U.S.... Wild horse advocates plan demonstration Wild horse advocates opposed to increased roundups on Nevada range lands plan to demonstrate outside a U.S. Bureau of Land Management hearing next month. Bonnie Matton, president of the Wild Horse Preservation League, said her group believes discussion on rangeland management should include limits on cattle — not just horse removals.... Supporters, opponents attend Front meeting A proposal by a Canadian company to drill three natural gas wells on the Rocky Mountain Front attracted both the ire and support of more than 200 people Monday night in Helena. The hearing, arranged by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its Environmental Impact Study, was the fourth in a series of five such meetings set up across the state. The buzz Monday night surrounded Startech Energy's proposal to sink three test wells in a wildlife management area along the Rocky Mountain Front northwest of Choteau.... Baucus proposes trade, sale of Front drilling leases Montana Sen. Max Baucus on Monday called on the Bureau of Land Management to consider a plan to permit lease holders in the Blackleaf Canyon of the Rocky Mountain Front to trade or sell their mineral leases. If the BLM evaluates the plan, it would be placed on the table as one of the possible alternatives to gas and oil exploration in that region of the Front. Supporters of the proposal say it would permanently solve the disagreement over drilling in the area.... BLM sells Timbered Rock salvage timber Two salvage timber sales on land burned in the Timbered Rock fire were sold this week. The Smoked Gobbler sale, which includes 6.8 million board feet of timber, sold Monday for the appraised price of $302,000 to Timber Products Co. The Glendale-based Swanson Group was the high bidder for the Flaming Rock sale containing 10.2 million board feet of timber. It sold Monday for the appraised price of $964,000.... Rancher accused of diverting cattle A 57-year-old Nebraska rancher contested Thursday in Circuit Court charges of diverting livestock from a veterinary clinic in Glenrock and sending them to Jackson instead. Rudy Stanko of Gordon, Neb., who grazes cattle in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, said the court did not have jurisdiction to try the charges. He also said he was thrown in jail and fined unfairly for allegedly diverting 76 heifers, some of which allegedly were found in Jackson on June 7, 2003, at the Roger Seherr–Thoss Property on South Park Loop Road. Stanko has a long and checkered history in the ranching business. In 1984, he was convicted for selling tainted meat to a school lunch program. More recently, he told Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials that grizzly bears had killed 198 of his cattle in the Gros Ventre Range. Game and Fish biologists only could confirm that three of Stanko’s animals were killed by grizzlies.... County fights wolf case change Although Wesley Livingston was not wearing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife uniform at the time he was accused of trespassing and littering wolves on a Meeteetse ranch, the Cody resident will make his case in front of the U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. A removal order was signed May 10, calling for "no further action" by the Fifth Judicial District Park County Circuit Court. The paperwork arrived just after Livingston's May 11 arraignment in the Park County courtroom. Michael Jimenez, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist named as a defendant to the same charges, had his case moved to federal court earlier on May 4. Both cases evoke the privilege for federal workers to bring their state charges to a federal forum once certain criteria are met.... Column: For these ranchers, the land is life It started when the Spanish crossed this land in the 1500s. It is as much about culture and a way of life as it is about commerce, perhaps more so. It is the oldest business in the state. You cannot understand what ranching represents to northern New Mexico unless you spend time with the people whose ancestors span several generations and countries; or walk on the bountiful mesas, meadows and hillsides that crop the tierra from the Valles Caldera to the Chama Valley; or are stroked by pine campfire smoke searching for the skin beneath your duster or quilt wrap as a meteor smiles on its way past Redondo Peak.... Bill Splits Controversial Ninth Circuit into Three Smaller Courts "The Ninth Circuit Judgeship and Reorganization Act of 2004," or H.R. 4247 in the House and S. 2278 in the Senate, would create a new Ninth, Twelfth and Thirteenth Circuit Court of Appeals to minimize the size of the former Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, currently the largest in the United States. The new Ninth Circuit would include California, Guam, Hawaii, and the Northern Marianas Islands and will be located in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. The Twelfth Circuit would be comprised of Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana and reside in Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona. Finally, the Thirteenth Circuit would adjudicate cases from Alaska, Oregon, and Washington with a central location in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.... Left to howl at the void An empty chair threw its shadow across the meadow: a tall-backed, scuffed, swivel writing chair, looming in its emptiness. The writing chair was one that Edward Abbey used. And when you know that, you can understand how long and how broad the shadow was. Only rarely, once every few generations or so, a figure rises to stand above others as inspirational guardian of America's defining heritage — its raw, open outdoors. This month, 15 years after his death, friends and family gathered here in the hills south of Moab to celebrate the literature, the life, the ideals, the cockeyed spirit, the certain despair, the boundless joy and the soaring landscapes of just such a rascal, old "Cactus Ed" himself.... Russia holds veto on Kyoto treaty As the world waits, Russians are battling over how Moscow should use its power to make or break the Kyoto Protocol, the international pact to head off global warming. President Vladimir Putin has been dithering for the past year over whether to ratify the agreement, and thus put Russia in league with more ecology-minded states like Canada and the European Union, or to line up with the more growth-focused nations like the US and Australia that are boycotting it.... Phoenix joins dispute over Verde water The city has joined Salt River Project in asking a Maricopa County judge to stop Verde Valley landowners from taking water the utility says does not belong to them. Attorneys for Phoenix filed court documents supporting SRP's claims that owners of five parcels of land are diverting water from the Verde River that should flow downstream for use in Phoenix. The city and SRP are asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Eddward Ballinger to hear the claims immediately. The Verde claims are a part of a 30-year-old case in which the court is attempting to sort out water rights on the Gila River system. The Verde flows into the Gila, which empties into the Colorado River.... Bringing in the buckaroos If lifestyle has a value, Jane Frost is a rich woman. Her Quay County cattle ranch is in an area called the Caprock, where the sweeping Estacado plain meets an escarpment, dropping into a rugged canyon. There her ranch sits, surrounded by mountains, grass, flowers, turkey and deer. Frost and her husband, Bob, are the real thing, real cowboys. They spend days tending cattle and nights grilling thick steaks near an outdoor fire pit. They ride. They rope. They listen to country music.... On the trail of Billy the Kid It's the morning of April 30, Day 3 on the Trail of Billy's Last Ride, a tough trail ride that chases the ghost of Billy the Kid. The ride follows, as closely as possible, the route taken by the Kid after he broke out of the jail in Lincoln on April 28, 1881, and rode to meet his fate at Fort Sumner. This is the first year the ride was open to the public. The trail, starting in steep, rugged Ellis Canyon just outside Lincoln, takes riders through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Mountain West, but the ride is more than a horseback sight-seeing tour. Developed to promote tourism, it takes riders into New Mexico's gunsmoke-clouded past and the mythic Old West that lives in the American imagination.... Ranching customs shape family's life His parents are busy pulling tack off a large pair of draft horses following the morning's feeding chore. Outside, the sun is just starting to peek through a heavy cover of clouds. The ground sparkles from an early morning dusting of spring snow. One of the family's border collies makes the mistake of wandering too close to Troy. With a quick twirl of his lariat, he ropes the dog. Almost as quickly, the collie lies down, the rope around its midriff. It's been through this exercise before. "You really shouldn't be roping the dogs," says Troy's mother, Mykal. "Nice loop though." It's All Trew: Readers 'come to terms' with the past Did you ever work until "dark-thirty" and nearly miss "supper?" I wore my "penny loafers" and dried dishes with a "cup towel." We ate "light bread" and when chicken was served we fought to "pull the pulley bone." If you didn't practice your "figures" in school you missed the "whole kit and caboodle." If you smoke "ready-mades" you got in "monstratious" trouble and had more problems than "Carter had little liver pills." The "scuttlebutt" has it that you committed a "combomeration" when you wrote "Kilroy was here" on the blackboard at school.... Rodeo Cowgirls Jan Youren was 11 years old when she competed in one of Idaho’s first rodeos for women in 1954. She won $54 for 24 seconds of work. At 60, Youren continues to ride bareback on bucking horses, and she often takes her rodeo-loving family along, competing against her daughter and granddaughters at events around the West as her husband watches. Youren’s granddaughter, Tavia Stevenson, 19, first competed in rodeo when she was 3 years old, and by 15 she was riding bulls, often riding against the boys in junior rodeos. The popularity of women’s rodeo doesn’t rival that of other professional women’s sports such as golf or soccer, but it continues to attract a rare breed of cowgirls bent on continuing a tradition that dates back more than a century.... Bucking Horse Sale keeps loyal fans coming back The Miles City Bucking Horse Sale has been called the "Cowboy Mardi Gras" and it's surely the biggest party this town throws each year. The event, staged this weekend for the 54th year, is part rodeo, part reunion and all tradition. For three evenings cowboys ride saddle broncs, bareback and bulls and after each ride the animal is auctioned off. Each day begins with festivities in town including a parade Saturday. And every night the bucking horse sale is prelude to a sidewalk-to-sidewalk party that stretches for blocks downtown....

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