Saturday, January 24, 2004


Forest restoration debated at conference County and federal officials joined forces Thursday to discuss how they will combat what one scientist called a "perfect storm" of climactic conditions creating massive die-backs in some Western forests. "I don't know what to do about this," Bill Romme, a professor of fire ecology at Colorado State University, told the approximately 100 people who attended Thursday's conference. "I'm still reeling from the magnitude of the mortality we're seeing." Romme and a group of 12 other forest health experts recently co-authored a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Gale Norton that outlines the extent of woodland die-back. "The combined effects of prolonged, severe drought and outbreaks of tree-killing insects have resulted in tens of millions of dead pinyon, ponderosa pine, and other species of trees over thousands of square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah," states the letter, which focuses primarily on pinyon pine....Environmental group wary of restoration A program promoting collaboration between federal public-lands agencies and local governments claims it will expedite watershed and forest restoration, but an environmental group fears it will promote extraction industries and weaken federal oversight on local forests. During its first public conference in Montrose, the County Partnership Restoration program received praise from the timber industry, local politicians and federal officials, while members of the Western Colorado Congress expressed concern. “It’s not a collaboration when a select group puts it together,” said Western Colorado Congress member Andrea Robinsong, adding her organization was not allowed to participate in the partnership’s creation....'Forests with a Future' plan leaves environmentalists livid Three years after the death knell sounded for much of the timber industry in California, the top federal forester in the state revived Sierra Nevada logging Thursday when he announced an initiative to attack a growing wildfire threat with chainsaws. The new strategy effectively replaces a sweeping forest management plan, approved in the last days of the Clinton administration, that was designed to restore ecosystems and protect forest communities from fires. "We're returning to the bad old days of cutting in the Sierra Nevada," said Barbara Boyle of the Sierra Club. "'Forests with a Future' means more logging and more destruction of habitat."....Forest Service officials say forest-thinning will help reduce fire risk Despite concerns of environmentalists, area Forest Service officials said Thursday a new nationwide forest-thinning program announced Thursday will help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires from west of Carson City to Truckee. Major fires have occurred along the east front of the Carson Range from Douglas County to the Truckee River Canyon, said Gary Schiff, chief of the Carson Ranger District. “You go up the front and you just see wide swaths of the forest just slicked off the mountains,” Schiff said. “We need to protect those remaining swaths and keep them on the hill.” Environmentalists insist the plan would double the amount of logging allowed in the Sierra and that many of largest trees should be protected from removal....Officials confirm human caused Paradise fire Fire investigators confirmed Friday that a human started the Paradise fire, either through an act of arson or by accident, and said that several suspects have been interviewed. "It was a human cause," said Capt. Gary Eidsmoe, a fire investigator with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire, which started Oct. 26, killed two people, burned 221 homes and blackened 56,700 across Valley Center and nearby American Indian reservations. As part of the investigation, which is a joint effort between CDF and the U.S. Forest Service, several suspects believed to have started the blaze or to have knowledge of those responsible for starting it, have been interviewed, Eidsmoe said....Forest Service won’t head off fire area floods Floods, debris flows and a potentially large landslide are expected to follow the path laid down by wildfires that torched thousands of acres northeast of Lincoln last summer. But given the remoteness and size of the 37,000-acre Snow/Talon fire, chances are that little will be done to try to stop the natural events that follow significant wildfires. “We went through a cost/benefit analysis, which showed us that nothing we try to do would be very helpful and it was very cost prohibitive in terms of the benefits that would be gained,” said Bo Stuart, a hydrologist with the Helena National Forest. “It’s such a large area that burned, that we’re talking millions and millions of dollars that could be spent up there." ....Administration relaxes forest survey rules The Bush administration has begun the final stages of a plan to relax environmental rules requiring detailed surveys of forest life before logging of federal lands in the Pacific Northwest. The plan, prompted by a timber industry lawsuit, follows through on proposals announced since 2002 and is intended to boost logging on 24 million acres of public land in Washington, Oregon and northern California. Under a rule published Friday, federal forest managers no longer will have to survey for nearly 300 sensitive plant and animal species before logging on land designated for timber harvest by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management under the Northwest Forest Plan....Platte report wins praise A draft environmental impact statement on the Platte River, released Friday by the U.S. Department of Interior, is being hailed by wildlife organizations as a major milestone in protecting threatened or endangered species along the Platte River between Lexington and Grand Island. "The report gives us a road map of the things we need to do to protect this valuable resource for the future," said Duane Hovorka, executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation. The Interior Department's draft report analyzes the impact of options for protecting threatened and endangered wildlife and habitat along the Central Platte River in Nebraska....Sage grouse population dwindling Once plentiful in the West, the greater sage grouse is dying out, and Moffat County is one of its last strongholds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering adding the bird to its endangered species list, but the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Moffat County officials hope the federal agency doesn't go to such extremes, because of the potential impact on landowners. There are about 8,000 sage grouse in the county, according to an estimate by Tomy Apa, a sage grouse research biologist with the state wildlife division in Grand Junction. He calls that a "fair number of birds." But in other parts of the state, sage grouse populations have dwindled or disappeared entirely. In response, environmental groups have filed petitions with the Fish and Wildlife Service to have the sage grouse listed as an endangered species....Column: To Cougars, We're Just Food A 100-pound mountain lion can kill an 800-pound elk. Keep that in mind the next time you go hiking in cougar territory. If you are alone and unarmed, and one of these powerful predators attacks you -- intent on killing and eating you, rather than merely trying to drive you away from its offspring or a previous kill -- the contest likely will be as lopsided as if you had waded into traffic to wrestle a pickup truck. Worse, actually, because the odds are that you will never even know until the cougar bites into the back of your neck. Whether such prowess leaves you horrified or reverent depends on your attitudes regarding the role of wildlife and nature in a human-dominated world....Smithsonian chief gets probation over illegal feathers Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small, the first non-academic to head the institution in its 158-year history, pleaded guilty Friday to charges stemming from his illegal possession of a rare South American tribal art collection that contained the feathers of endangered species of birds. He was sentenced to two years' probation and 100 hours of community service for the federal misdemeanor. U.S. Judge Terrence Boyle of the Eastern District of North Carolina also required Small to write a letter of apology to appear in National Geographic magazine and several major newspapers. Boyle rejected prosecution demands that Small post a letter of apology on the Smithsonian Web site, make speeches on the need to conserve wildlife or involve the Smithsonian in the case.... Conservation groups contend Snake River dams can go It would cost between $44 million and $420 million to increase railroad capacity to carry crops now moved by barges if four dams on the Snake River are breached to help endangered salmon, according to a new study by conservation groups. But dam proponents said the study is flawed and intended primarily to increase support for removing the dams, an issue so hot that President Bush has vowed repeatedly to protect the dams. The study was commissioned by American Rivers, Idaho Rivers United and the National Wildlife Federation, which contend the dams are a major barrier to the recovery of salmon runs, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. "An updated rail system would offer farmers an affordable and effective way to ship grain to market, protect existing businesses in southeastern Washington, and improve the prospects for attracting new business," said Rob Masonis, regional director for American Rivers....Poll backs grizzly recovery A majority of residents who live east of Highway 9 in Whatcom and Skagit counties support efforts to increase the grizzly bear populations in the North Cascades, according to a telephone survey sponsored by the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project. Fifty-two percent of 508 residents in the region said they were highly supportive of increasing grizzly bear populations and 24 percent expressed moderate support. And 33 percent of residents said they would be even more supportive if additional grizzlies were moved into the North Cascades from other areas, according to the survey results. Those results were a surprise, especially since efforts at reintroduction of other species in Western states have met tremendous resistance from nearby residents, said Jim Davis, co-director of the project....River residents: 'No low flow' Sonoma County Water Agency officials made their case at a Guerneville workshop Thursday for dramatically reducing summertime flows on the Russian River to protect three species of imperiled fish. But an overflow crowd of skeptics underscored the huge challenge facing the agency as it tries to convince west county residents of the need to transform a river that is the backbone of their economy into a narrow stream during the peak tourist season. More than 500 people packed the Veterans Memorial Building, or stood outside in the cold parking lot to listen to the three-hour presentation broadcast on speakers. Critics of the plan waved bright yellow "No Low Flow" placards....Habitat designation proposed Federal officials proposed Thursday to protect 14,424 acres of land in Santa Barbara County that harbors the California tiger salamander. The designation of critical habitat, a term included in the Endangered Species Act, identifies areas essential for the protection of a species. "The Service is proposing critical habitat only for those lands essential to the species' conservation, based on the best scientific information currently available," said Diane Noda, field supervisor for the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office. Most of the proposed land is privately owned, but Santa Barbara County and the Laguna County Sanitation District own small amounts of affected land, the federal agency said. Northern Santa Barbara County officials have protested previous protection measures for the critter and were upset at the critical-habitat proposal....Utilities say lowering Missouri River flows will cost customers A report commissioned by Nebraska's two largest utilities warns that a plan to reduce Missouri River flows this summer could be costly for consumers. Lowering the flows is a move supported by environmental groups for management of the Missouri River system. However, Omaha Public Power District and Nebraska Public Power District officials claim those reduced flows could cause power blackouts and significant rate increases for customers. Both utilities have power plants along the river, making use of flows to help generate power. The utilities said Tuesday that if they have to buy power to make up for reduced generation of electricity on the river it will cost them "tens of millions of dollars."....Five more plead guilty for protected bird violations The owners of four businesses and a ranch have pleaded guilty to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for possessing parts of birds protected by the federal law. The pleas stemmed from a guilty plea entered by Mickey Gordon Wolf, 26, of Sheridan, for a felony count of violating the act. Wolf was recently sentenced to 15 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $1,450 in restitution and fines for killing about 50 protected birds including bald and golden eagles, hawks, owls and flickers. Wolf used feathers and talons from some of the birds to make American Indian crafts which he sold to area businesses, according to Roy Brown, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Lander....Pack of 7 wolves slain after killing cows A federal wildlife official has shot and killed a pack of seven wolves responsible for killing cattle in southwestern Montana. Graeme McDougal of the U.S. Wildlife Services first spotted the pack just east of Polaris on Jan. 15 from the air. The wolves were believed responsible for killing cattle in the Big Hole Valley in December, but McDougal didn't have a chance to shoot. This week, while searching for coyotes in the same area from a helicopter, McDougal spotted a dead calf and a rancher nearby waving at them. After landing and talking to the rancher, McDougal was able to shoot one wolf on Tuesday. Later, Fish and Wildlife Service officials approved killing the rest of the pack. On Thursday, McDougal spotted the remaining six wolves east of Polaris in the Grasshopper Valley and shot all of them....U.S. moves to end feud with family The National Park Service has carved out middle ground in the feud with a 17-member family that used a bulldozer to reopen an old road leading to their property inside Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The Park Service favors granting the Pilgrim family a special-use permit to drive the bulldozer along the old mining road, but only in winter and only when the ground is snow-covered, to reduce damage to America's largest national park. The proposal sounds good, said family patriarch Papa Pilgrim, whose legal name is Robert Hale. He said Friday it would allow them to bring in supplies, including food that is in short supply. To get more food, the family is making almost daily trips on three snowmobiles to McCarthy, the nearest town, 14 miles away....Wyoming judge rails at counterpart in Yellowstone case A federal district judge from Wyoming railed at a counterpart in the nation's capital Friday for seizing jurisdiction in a dispute over whether snowmobiles should be banned from Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. ''I don't see any reason why a judge 2,000 miles from here ought to be deciding things that affect the people of Wyoming,'' U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer said of a ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, D.C....Dairy manager fights for water Ed Goedhart, manager of the Ponderosa Dairy in Amargosa Valley, said he has the sense the dairy is being picked on by the National Park Service. Every time the dairy in Amargosa Valley files an application with the State engineer's office over water, the parks service objects. Goedhart persuaded Nye County Commissioners Tuesday to pass a resolution urging the Nevada Division of Water Resources to move quickly to dismiss frivolous protests. Language in the resolution states the failure of the division to dismiss the protests would jeopardize Nevada's doctrine of sovereignty over waters of the state by allowing federal protests to subjugate and limit Nevada's authority based upon hypothetical "what if" scenarios.... Colorado River rats in a rift over who has the right to run the Grand Canyon These are contentious days at the Grand Canyon, filled with bickering over who has the right to raft the Colorado River as it snakes through one of the country's natural treasures. The National Park Service stirred up a major flap last month by freezing the wait list for private rafters on the Colorado, coveted by river rats for its churning rapids. The list is already so long that reservations are backed up as much as 20 years. Adding to the battle is the debate over a new park-service proposal due out in the coming months detailing how the Grand Canyon should be used....Sebelius says state should look at taking over ownership of Tallgrass Preserve The state of Kansas would like to take over ownership of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve from a national trust, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said. If the state eventually receives the deed to the property in the Flint Hills, it would improve public access to the area, which is the largest stand of tallgrass prairie in the world. The tallgrass preserve, north of Strong City, was established in 1996. It includes 32 acres owned by the National Park Service and more than 10,800 acres owned by the National Park Trust, a nonprofit group that purchases lands to preserve them from development....Shoshone tribes seeks to expand Ely reservation The Shoshone tribe is seeking to expand its Ely reservation by nearly 22,000 acres for traditional and commercial purposes. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will hold the first of many public hearings on the proposal Monday. “This is in the very beginning stages,” said Jeff Weeks, assistant manager for non-renewable resources in the BLM Ely field office....As tribal bison herd gets larger, food supply dwindles On this day, the sightseers' plane was a minor disturbance for the Crow bison that roam 22,000 acres on the reservation. The rest of the winter hasn't been so easy for them - or for the people trying to manage them. Recent drought and a growing herd have pinched the food supply and sent hundreds of buffalo spilling off the reservation onto private and public land in Wyoming. With ranchers and government officials worried about bison feeding on cattle grazing allotments, Crow Agency crews this fall and winter have been busy trying to push the bison back onto the reservation and keep them there. Because of the steep terrain and deep snow, much of the work has been done in helicopters and aboard snowmobiles, trucks and ATVs. "It's been pretty hectic," said Leroy Stewart, director of the buffalo program at Crow Agency....Column: Lost land The history of struggle between Indians and non-Indians over the ownership and use of land began with the landing of the Mayflower. Today, the issues surrounding the ownership and management of land within reservation boundaries have become so complex as to defy generalizations. However, many of the tribal histories and reservations of the Inter-Mountain West and Great Plains have much in common. The treaties between tribal nations and the United States government were generally agreed to between 1850 and 1875, and they contained many of the same terms, conditions and language. Some form of the phrase, "as long as the grass grows and the waters flow" can be found in most of the documents. Also referenced in many of these treaties was a guarantee that the land within the reserved area would be for the exclusive use and occupation of Indian people. Despite its clarity, this particular treaty term has been the most consistently violated provision of all the treaty agreements.... Area gas producers feel left out by Norton Interior Secretary Gale Norton disappointed local natural gas producers by excluding the Rocky Mountains from a slew of incentives to encourage drilling and improve supply. The new incentives announced in Washington D.C., apply only to the hard-to-reach areas of the Gulf of Mexico and offer royalty waivers to producers drilling wells deep under the shallow waters off Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. The $30 billion energy bill, which stalled in the Senate last year and is likely to be revived this session, contains similar incentives for gas producers in other areas including Alaska. The incentives announced Friday apply to already leased properties in the Gulf of Mexico where the DOI has the authority to offer incentives without congressional approval....Editorial: Top-down authority The proud American tradition of states' rights was dealt a blow on Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that -- when it comes to enforcing federal environmental laws -- Washington bureaucrats could overrule local policy-makers any time they feel like it. A 5-4 majority sided with the Environmental Protection Agency, which overruled a plan by environmental officials in Alaska, who had approved a particular type of technology to clean up pollution at the Red Dog Mine, which extracts lead and zinc and is a major employer in an isolated region of that frontier state. The federal Clean Air Act is supposed to give local authorities the leeway to let industries use the "best available control technology" to minimize pollution from a commercial activity ... particularly when the facilities and pollution are confined within the borders of a single state. In common sense terms, local regulators can work with company managers to decide what cleanup methods will accomplish environmental goals at the lowest possible cost....State to move forward with Pecos River water-rights purchase The state plans to go forward with its plan to buy water rights along the Pecos River despite a lingering lawsuit. Interstate Stream Commission engineer Estevan Lopez told lawmakers Thursday that the state may spend $1.5 million to lease water from the water rights owners. Those lease payments would be applied to the eventual purchase of the water rights. The state hopes to buy 18,000 acres of land and associated water rights on the Pecos so it can meet water deliver obligations to Texas....Ranchers fear CBM water Despite reassuring statements from developers, Montana rancher Clint McRae said he doesn't believe coalbed methane development is good for the state's water resources or his family's ranch. For five generations, the McRae family has ranched along the Tongue River in southeastern Montana in the heart of coalbed methane country. During the conclusion of a coalbed methane conference in Billings Friday, McRae said his family's ranch has 16 shallow springs plus a river and a creek. Those water sources could be hurt by the often high-sodium water that is discharged from coalbed methane wells, he said. He's also worried that the grass could be hurt by the volume of water being pumped to the surface. Wyoming could drill as many as 51,000 wells, and Montana may drill 20,000 wells. Quoting from the environmental impact statement, he said "full aquifer recovery will not happen within the lifetimes of any of the state's residents."....Wyoming will appeal brucellosis-free revocation Wyoming will ask the federal government to reconsider revoking Wyoming's brucellosis-free status, pointing to the link between the latest six cattle to test positive for the disease and a herd that tested positive last month. The six cattle that tested positive at a feedlot in Worland in north-central Wyoming originally came from the same herd about 200 miles away where 31 head tested positive last month. Under federal regulations, however, they are considered separate herds, and the federal rules call for confirmation of the disease in more than one herd for revocation of a state's brucellosis-free status....Champ steer brings $91,000 Zane Drager figures Friday night's winning bid of $91,000 for Big Dog, the National Western Stock Show's champion steer, will pay for college - and then some. "I'm at Clovis (N.M.) Community College now, and the sale price would take me through there about 20 times," said Drager, who plans to move to a four-year school. "It's indescribable how good it feels." "This is a thrill. We didn't know we were going to buy a steer tonight," said high bidder Mark Stern, general manager for Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House....On The Edge Of Common Sense: Moderation in eating: Wow! What a concept Like most livestock producers, when I see that a major magazine is doing a feature story on food or diets, I brace myself. Anyone old enough to remember the anti-red-meat '80s is still gun shy. But things have changed. The public's perception that red meat is bad for you has been ameliorated in large part by two factors: the continuing steadfast research and promotion funded by the Beef Check Off, and the more recent acceptance of the Atkins all-meat, all-fat diet....

Friday, January 23, 2004


Citing Fire Risk, U.S. to Expand California Logging U.S. forestry officials announced on Thursday that they would significantly expand the amount of logging allowed in California's Sierra Nevada mountains in what they described as an effort to curb wildfires. Environmental groups and a California state official attacked the plan as showing disregard for the environment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service said it would permit logging of 700,000 acres over the next 20 years. "I personally witnessed the human suffering and catastrophic damage caused by those fires," Forest Service Regional Forester Jack Blackwell said. "I am personally convinced that future droughts in the Sierra Nevada, coupled with periods of wind and high temperatures, could lead to the same devastation there," he said in a statement. "It is my professional responsibility to take decisive action."....Forest Service Recreation Plan For Grand Mesa Challenged Three environmental groups have appealed a U.S. Forest Service plan that would open 30 miles of roadless areas on Grand Mesa to motorized recreation. The Colorado Mountain Club, The Wilderness Society and Wildlands CPR filed the appeal Tuesday, saying wildlife habitat would be harmed by opening the routes....Two charged with trespassing on controversial fire Two men who face a March 23rd federal trial on trespassing charges accuse the Forest Service of retaliating for trying to show the agency's questionable logging practices near Bonners Ferry. Environmental activist Rein Atteman with The Lands Council and Washington State University engineering professor Charles Pezeshki have pleaded innocent to misdemeanor trespassing. They say the 36-hundred-acre fire along Myrtle Creek was especially destructive because the forest was littered with slash from a recent logging operation. The two say the Forest Service is retaliating against them....Of ’bilers and bears An odd thing happened in 2002: Environmentalists and snowmobile enthusiasts agreed on boundaries within the vast Flathead National Forest. Their plan placed especially sensitive wildlands off-limits to snowmobiles, but let the machines roar unimpeded through the popular playgrounds. The Forest Service accepted the agreement in principle, and the remarkable consensus was widely hailed as a model for settling future disputes in the cultural wars over how to best use our pristine public lands. But did anyone really expect the peace to last? Now, only months later, environmentalists are screaming over an issue they neglected to settle with snowmobilers when the two camps were still talking—when should the snowmobile season end each year?....Uneasy truce rules on Wolf Creek Pass Two winters after Wolf Creek Pass snow-sport enthusiasts sat down to resolve differences over use of the 10,850-foot-high playground, observers say tensions are easing. But they don't agree on a long-term solution to differences that pit skiers, snowshoers and snowboarders against snowmobilers. A task force formed under the auspices of the U.S. Forest Service to resolve conflicts has come up with a reasonable solution for the time being, said skier Emily Deitz, a member of the group....Finding ways to use wood debris Long-term forest health in Colorado and other fire-prone Western states depends on entrepreneurs who create uses for the wood debris, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said Wednesday. "We have to find ways of using the biomass from forest thinning," said Norton at the Bioenergy and Wood Products Conference in Denver. About 190 million acres of fire-prone Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management property need to be thinned. Each acre yields about 80 tons of dead wood, dried branches and other waste known as biomass. Thinning costs about $800 to $1,000 an acre. About $760 million is authorized for the Healthy Forests program this year, but markets for biomass will make the thinning projects self-sustaining....Judge restricts use of pesticides on West Coast A federal judge on Thursday restricted the use of 38 pesticides near salmon streams in Washington, Oregon and California, a ruling environmentalists hailed as an important step toward the recovery of salmon and steelhead in the West. Expanding upon two previous rulings, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour barred the use of the pesticides -- ranging from agricultural sprays to some household weed-killers -- within 20 yards of the waters until the Environmental Protection Agency determines whether they are likely to harm protected fish. He also banned aerial spraying of the pesticides, except for public health reasons such as controlling mosquitoes, within 100 yards....CropLife America/RISE Statement on U.S. District Court Order in Endangered Species Act Case "Today, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington state ordered unnecessary buffer zones up to 300 feet for certain pesticide applications close to waterways along with a redundant consumer education program for pesticides already approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "The court's final order is devastating to agriculture and pest control in the Pacific Northwest. These severe restrictions on agriculture, small- business and consumer use of pest control products hurt farmers, foresters, homeowners and retailers in Washington, Oregon and Northern California. "While plaintiffs in the case will claim victory, it is important that consumers know the lawsuit, which resulted in the final order, deals with an administrative process for reviewing registrations for pesticides, not their safety. "The pesticides now subject to buffers are tools family and commercial farm owners use to control diseases, weeds and insects that destroy crops, reducing both quality and yield. Further, products for use by pest control operators and homeowners to enhance and protect property and public health will carry redundant warnings about non-existent "threats" to salmon. These pesticides have all undergone rigorous scientific scrutiny and have been approved by the EPA. This scientific testing process ensures that humans, fish and wildlife alike are safe and protected. "The court has ruled -- salmon first, not people."....Wild cow clone on display at San Diego Zoo The world's first surviving clone of an endangered animal went on display Thursday at the San Diego Zoo, after being moved there from the San Diego Wild Animal Park earlier in the day. The animal, Jahava, is an 8-month-old banteng created from the DNA of a male banteng that died at the zoo in 1980. Members of the bovine family and related to domesticated cows, banteng are wild, curved-horned cattle found in Southeast Asia's bamboo forests. The clone, which was born to a domestic cow at an Iowa genetics farm last April, was hand-raised at the Wild Animal Park from age 1 month until the calf's transfer to the zoo. The animal had never been exhibited to the public while at the park....Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurie David Open NRDC Environmental Action Center Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio will join producer and environmentalist Laurie David to dedicate NRDC's (the Natural Resources Defense Council) new David Family Environmental Action Center and Leonardo DiCaprio e-Activism Zone. The dedication will take place Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 10:00 am. Mr. DiCaprio and Ms. David are both members of NRDC's Board of Trustees. The Action Center and e-Activism Zone are on the ground floor of NRDC's new Southern California office, which the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) this week awarded a "Platinum" rating, recognizing the highest possible achievement in sustainable design. The environmental advocacy group's building is now the "greenest" in the country.... Songbirds hold up Newport Road extension A pair of songbirds listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are holding up an almost $20 million project realigning Newport Road with Domenigoni Parkway. Construction was scheduled to start next month until two California gnatcatchers were found when Riverside County officials surveyed the 7.5-mile project area in September, said project manager Cindy Wachi. The start of construction will be delayed beyond February and will remain on hold until after the county can meet with officials from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wachi said. She said the meeting should take place soon, but no date has been set yet....Number of hunters down, but more rich people bag animals Fifty years ago, it was likely to be a member of a rural family looking for inexpensive food for winter in the nearby woods. Today, the fastest growing population of new hunters is city dwellers earning $100,000 or more who purchase expensive guns and top-line equipment for a three- or five-day excursion into the wilds - Americans somewhat like President Bush who spent his Christmas vacation bagging quail with his father, or Vice President Richard Cheney who recently went duck hunting with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. "For whatever reason, aristocrats tend to hunt. It's been that way through history, and America has developed an aristocratic class," said Norm Phelps, program director of the Fund for Animals, an anti-hunting organization in Silver Spring, Md. The most recent statistics on hunting compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that hunting is on a steady decline in the United States. Both the number of hunters and the number of animals killed are down sharply from post-World War II levels....Fund for Animals Hunts Down Top 10 States that Show Most Rapid Decline in Sport Hunting The Fund for Animals today released a list of ten states that have experienced the largest decline in the number of hunters over a decade. Data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies show that the decline of hunting is continuing nationwide, falling from 14 million hunters age 16 or older in 1991, to 13 million in 2001. Topping the list with the largest drop in hunters from 1991 to 2001 is Rhode Island, with fewer than half as many people still killing wildlife for sport. "It is very encouraging to see that states in various geographic regions are all becoming safer for wildlife," said Heidi Prescott, national director of The Fund for Animals. "More and more people all over the country realize that you don't have to kill animals to enjoy nature. If you want to shoot animals in the wild, pick up a camera instead of a gun or bow."....Introduction effort kills five rare pronghorns Wildlife experts have captured two female endangered Sonoran pronghorns from Mexico for a captive breeding project, but five other animals caught in the effort died, officials said Wednesday. A team of biologists and veterinarians working on a joint project of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Department of Game and Fish caught the animals Friday and Saturday. The capture, with the cooperation of Mexican authorities, took place the Altar Desert of Sonora, Mexico, about 30 miles east of Puerto Penasco. That area has the only known viable Sonoran pronghorn population -- more than 300 animals, said Jim deVos, Arizona Game and fish research chief. The first five animals, two males and three females, were netted from the air, sedated, crated and brought to a base camp for monitoring, then flown as a group to a square-mile fenced enclosure in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge near Ajo. But one pronghorn died of a medical problem, and the other four deaths were attributed to hyperthermia, or overheating, caused by the stress of capture....So, will they be charged for violating the ESA? Don't hold your breath....Retired National Park Service Leaders Denied White House Visit, Urge President to "Halt" Anti-Conservation Moves at Interior The White House has declined to meet with representatives of 183 concerned National Park Service (NPS) retirees who today sent President George Bush a letter expressing grave concerns that "actions are being taken in the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service that are short-changing, ignoring or violating the long-standing legislation and policies comprising the mission of the National Park Service." In particular, the retirees highlighted recent troubling developments at Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Parks as examples of the Department of the Interior abandoning its core mission of conservation. The letter signers are members of the Coalition of Concerned National Park Services Retirees. The signers of the letter represent over 6000 years of NPS experience and include one former director, two former deputy directors, eight former regional directors and 62 former park superintendents. The NPS retirees writing to President Bush served under both Republican and Democratic administrations....Alaskan tracts opened to drilling Interior Secretary Gale Norton signed off on a plan Thursday for opening most of an 8.8 million-acre swath of Alaska's North Slope to oil and gas development. Some of the drilling could occur in areas important for migratory birds, whales and wildlife. The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management will use the plan to manage a northwest portion of the government's 23.5 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Geologists believe the reserve may contain 6 billion to 13 billion barrels of oil. It is located just west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where President Bush wants to open a 1.5 million-acre coastal plain to drilling as one of his top energy priorities. The Senate, in debating a massive energy bill, has rejected drilling there....Along Public Trail, a Church Recounts Its History Tens of thousands of people come here each year to a granite-walled nook in the hills just off the old pioneer trail to hear the tale of the lost Martin Handcart Company of 1856 and how a party of poor Mormon converts faced down death in a howling blizzard. The place, called Martin's Cove — an uninhabited hollow of sand and sage surrounded by sheer cliffs that block the wind — sits on federal land 50 miles southwest of Casper, part of the vast Western domain of the Bureau of Land Management. But the story is not told by bureau employees. Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dispatched on six-month assignments and brimming with faith, are the trail and museum guides. Now that unusual relationship — a publicly owned historic site interpreted by a private and very interested party — has been locked into law. A brief provision tucked into an energy appropriations bill signed by President Bush in December authorizes a 25-year lease agreement between the church and the government, with all but automatic renewals after that....New Political Voice for Wildlife & Wild Places: Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund Today, wildlife proponents announced the launch of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, a new, independent organization designed to give conservation voters an added voice in the upcoming legislative and political battles in 2004. The new organization will lobby for pro-conservation policies, and educate citizens about the conservation records of the president and Congress. The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund website - - went live today. "The current policies of the White House and Congress represent the single greatest threat to meaningful conservation of wildlife and wild lands in the United States," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. "Oil and gas, mining, timber and other industries have exerted tremendous influence over the President's policies. The result has been the dismantling of many of our country's most important conservation laws, including those that protect our wildlife and habitat. The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund was created to stop this madness, fight for sane conservation legislation, and to educate citizens about the need for responsible stewardship of our wildlife and natural resources." Schlickeisen said the new and independent 501(c)4 organization will complement the activities of other environmental lobbying groups that have traditionally focused on the public health implications of environmental policies, not on conservation or wildlife issues....New Study Details The Double Lives Of Suburban Pumas Twelve days after a puma killed one person and hurt another in Southern California, researchers at the University of California, Davis, today released the most intensive scientific assessment to date of the complex relationships between pumas and people on the expanding urban fringe. The report details the lives of 20 pumas straddling two worlds -- one a popular state park rich with natural prey but shared with a half-million hikers, bikers, campers and horse riders, and the other woodsy communities where cats, dogs, chickens, pigs, goats and alpacas are easy pickings but eating one can get a puma killed. From those details, the researchers make recommendations to help pumas and humans co-exist -- recommendations that should be useful as dangerous encounters increase throughout the American West....Environmentalists sue EPA over clean water permits for oil platforms off Calif. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the federal government has failed to update clean water permits for nearly two dozen oil drilling platforms off the California coast. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court here, alleges that the EPA hasn't issued new water permits for 22 oil platforms off Southern and Central California. It seeks to require that the agency issue updated permits under the Clean Water Act....New Report Finds Genetically Modified Insects May Offer Public Health And Agricultural Benefits, But Clear Regulatory Oversight Is Lacking Researchers are using biotechnology to develop genetically modified (GM) insects for a wide variety of purposes, including fighting insect-borne diseases like malaria and controlling destructive insect agricultural pests, but the federal government lacks a clear regulatory framework for reviewing environmental safety and other issues associated with GM insects, according to Bugs in the System? Issues in the Science and Regulation of Genetically Modified Insects, a new report released today by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. The report provides an overview of current research efforts to apply genetic engineering technology to insects, and looks at the benefits, risks and scientific uncertainties associated with transgenic insects....Column: The Once-Green GOP "The environment is probably the single issue on which Republicans in general--and President Bush in particular--are most vulnerable." So asserted Frank Luntz, a leading Republican pollster, last year in a confidential memo that surfaced in the New York Times. One wonders whether White House political guru Karl Rove agrees with Luntz's assessment, given the Bush Administration's relentless assault on clear skies and healthy forests on behalf of its corporate backers. But as former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's recent truth-telling reminds us, there are also honorable Republicans out there who are appalled by the arrogant, dishonest extremism of the Bush crowd, which they see as a betrayal of real conservatism. On the environment, it's worth remembering that it was Republicans who led the federal government into the modern environmental era, when Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, signed into law the Clean Air and Clean Water acts (and much other fundamental legislation) and generally launched the nation on a course of environmental protection that, despite recent backsliding, remains the envy of much of the world. Now, this oft-forgotten history has been described by a former Republican insider, Russell Train, in a book that offers implicit lessons to anyone hoping to exploit Bush's vulnerabilities on the environment in 2004. Ignore the book's bland title--Politics, Pollution, and Pandas--and focus on the pedigree of the author....USDA Unveils New Biotech Crop Regulatory Proposals USDA today announced its intention to update and strengthen its biotechnology regulations for the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) evaluating its biotechnology regulations and several possible regulation changes, including the development of a multi-tiered, risk-based permitting system to replace the current permit/notification system, along with enhancements to the deregulation process to provide flexibility for long term monitoring. Any proposed changes to the regulations will be science and risk-based. USDA officials said they hoped to have a draft EIS prepared and published yet this calendar year, with regulations coming potentially in 2005....Idaho irrigators gird for battle Five months ago, the Coalition for Idaho Water had 15 members. Today it has 45. Why the rapid growth? A lawsuit filed by environmental groups in August and the specter of what happened in the Klamath Basin three years ago have been big motivating factors. Thirty new members have joined the coalition since environmental groups served notice last summer that they intended to sue the federal government over the operation of 10 dams on the Upper Snake River system....Brucellosis found in more Wyoming cattle A second herd of cattle has tested positive for brucellosis in Wyoming, which means that the state will lose its brucellosis-free status, state officials announced Thursday morning. The development is a blow to Wyoming's cattle industry, which will face new restrictions on exporting cattle, including a requirement that cows must be tested for the disease before they're shipped to other states. Jim Logan, the Wyoming state veterinarian, said tests showed six cattle at a feedlot in Worland had brucellosis. Although the cattle came from a herd in Sublette County where dozens of cows tested positive for the disease late last year, the Worland herd is now considered separate....Test suggests other animals in Valley area may also have rabies Test results from a rabid bobcat suggest that other animals in the northeastern portion of the metropolitan region may also be infected with rabies. Tests on the animal's remains show it suffered from a type of rabies called the gray fox variant, said Elisabeth Lawaczeck, state public health veterinarian. The bobcat was shot Jan. 5 at a ranch near Cave Creek after it attacked a dog and displayed no fear of humans. The animal's remains were sent to a lab for testing and those results were released Wednesday....Court boots suit inspired by cattle scam A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service in a cattle-ranching scam that cost investors in 41 states more than $100 million. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled in favor of the IRS in a lawsuit filed by dozens of victims of the so-called "phantom cattle" scam by former Oregon rancher Walter J. Hoyt III, nicknamed the "Paper Cowboy" for herds of cattle that existed only on paper. Between 1971 and 1996, Hoyt organized partnerships that were partly designed to offer investors a tax deduction in addition to any profits on livestock sales. But the partnerships eventually became what some investigators called the biggest agricultural scam in U.S. history. The investors sued the IRS after the agency disallowed tax deductions based on the phony livestock operation and ordered payment of penalties and interest. Some investors claimed bankruptcy and other financial hardships as a result. The investors blamed the IRS for failing to stop the Hoyt operation despite continuous audits of Hoyt for 24 years....Deer case could have major impact If the long-held legal doctrine that wildlife is a public resource owned by everyone and no one comes undone, bet on the undoing involving Texas and its white-tailed deer. A major step in that direction will come early next week from a federal court in San Antonio. A federal judge there has said he will rule on a suit seeking to designate wild white-tailed deer as private property and will overturn the state's authority to make management decisions concerning those deer. Texas has been heading this direction with its white-tailed deer for some time....Stroke took a lot from cowboy; now he's got it all back Stran Smith was speaking casually, ankle-deep in a conversation about horses, when he was suddenly and literally struck dumb. Words and ideas percolated in his head, but he couldn't pour them out. He couldn't talk. Or at least nothing anybody would recognize as talk issued from his mouth. Here he was at age 32, in the midst of an outstanding season, a star in the rodeo world, one of the best tie-down ropers around, strong as a bull and then just as suddenly, inarticulate. Unable to make himself understood, Smith found paper and pen and hurriedly used them to convey an alarming message: "I can't talk." Smith later would make what amounts to a shocking admission for a rodeo cowboy: He was scared back on April 26, when he had that stroke and lost his speech – because he didn't know what else he might lose....

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Country-of-origin labels can wait, Congress says Two years after enacting a meat labeling law, Congress has decided a requirement to put country-of-origin labels on beef can wait until fall 2006, despite arguments the labels would reassure American consumers during a time of mad cow disease. The U.S. meat industry and food retailers lobbied to postpone the labeling law, which they say is too costly and would be a record-keeping headache. Consumer and farm groups generally support the labels as a way to distinguish U.S. products on the grocery shelf. The U.S. Senate approved the delay as part of a $375 billion government spending bill on Thursday, which now goes to President Bush for his signature....Ranchers have beef with bill Angry ranchers called on Congress to immediately require country-of-origin labeling for beef, not two years from now as laid out in a spending bill passed today. They contend immediate labeling will boost consumer confidence in an industry shaken by fears over mad cow disease and will help identify infected animals in the future. "We've got to differentiate our product as a marketing issue and for health issues," said Rick Fox, a Hermosa, S.D., rancher who is in Denver for the annual convention of the R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America....Mad cow concern has grocery chains rethinking privacy During the recent mad-cow beef recall, one supermarket chain used its preferred customer discount cards to identify and warn shoppers who had bought the suspect meat. In fact, many supermarket chains could do the same thing — but they don't, largely for fear of being accused of violating customers' privacy. "One of our primary objectives is to protect our customers' privacy, so we don't want to jeopardize that," Albertsons spokeswoman Karianne Cole in Boise, Idaho. Still, she said, the mad-cow recall will probably prompt the chain to take another look at the idea....Center for Global Food Issues Launches Mad Cow Web Site The Center for Global Food Issues (CGFI) today announced the launch of a "Mad Cow Facts" Web site, Recent research reveals that facts and credible information about Mad Cow Disease, also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), are not always easy to find online. Scores of organic food companies, advocacy organizations, and special interest groups are attempting to manipulate Internet search engines and news portals with misleading Web sites, press releases, sponsored links and banner advertising. "We want consumers to have the facts, not the fears that many special interest groups and those in the organic and natural products industry are advancing," said Alex Avery, Director of Research at CGFI. "Since the discovery of one case of mad cow in Washington State we've seen dozens of press releases, new Web sites and a wide range of online advertising tactics seeking to exploit public and media perceptions of this issue."....CDC investigating CJD cluster in N.J. Federal health officials are investigating a cluster of cases of a rare brain disorder in the southern area of New Jersey, UPI has learned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday requested more information about cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease that have been tied to the southern area of the state by a private citizen. Janet Skarbek, of Cinnamonson, N.J., has identified 10 potential cases of the disease over the last four years. She thinks some of the cases could be due to the consumption of meat infected with mad cow disease, which can cause variant CJD in humans. Public health officials have not linked any of the cases to tainted meat and say they all appear to consist mainly of a spontaneous form of the disease called sporadic CJD....Column: Crying Wolf Over Mad Cow Disease Organic and natural foods marketers reached a new low after the detection of BSE in a single cow imported into the United States. In the immediate wake of the discovery, scores of organic food companies, advocacy organizations, and trade groups attempted to exploit the heightened fears of American consumers by falsely promoting their higher-priced products as being safer and healthier. Ronnie Cummins, head of the Organic Consumers Association actually admitted that he is hoping for a "crisis of confidence" in the U.S. food supply so that consumers will turn to higher priced organic fare. He and his friends certainly did their part to foment such a crisis. In the few days right after the USDA announced its discovery, nearly 50 press releases were issued attempting to influence media coverage. Groups such as PETA, the Chef's Collaborative and the OCA were quoted repeatedly in the news media. But this being a food safety issue, I'd suggest listening to actual food safety experts rather than the president of the company selling Gardenburgers, who also joined the chorus of opportunists....Japan Restaurants Push to Resume U.S. Beef Imports When U.S. health and agricultural officials try to push Tokyo this week to resume buying American beef, they are likely to face tough resistance from the Japanese government. But they will also find vocal support from Japan's $117 billion restaurant industry. The import freeze is hurting Japanese restaurants, many of which rely on U.S. beef because it can cost about half the price of Japanese beef. Now supplies in the restaurants' freezers are dwindling. The shortage was exacerbated this week, when the Japanese government ordered wholesalers to refrain from selling certain types of U.S. beef imported before the import ban. The order includes T-bone steaks, which are cut from near the vertebrae, as well as other beef cuts using the bones or brains of the animal. Brain and spinal tissue from an infected cow is thought to contain the highest risk of passing on the disease. In an unusual move for Japan -- where public support is traditionally scant for U.S. demands to open its markets -- Japanese restaurant chains are now proclaiming that U.S. beef is safe, and are demanding that the Japanese government allow imports. Last week, the Japan Food Service Association, a trade group, sent a letter via the U.S. embassy to President Bush, asking him to quickly propose new measures that are persuasive enough to sway the Japanese government....Not a 'real uphill battle' to get U.S. cattle ban lifted, Cdn ambassador says Despite opposition by some U.S. beef producers to resuming the live cattle trade, Canada isn't "fighting a real uphill battle" to get the current ban dropped, says Ottawa's top diplomat here. In a briefing Thursday, Ambassador Michael Kergin also said details on two other key cross-border issues, respect for Canada's passport and bidding on big Iraqi reconstruction contracts, have been settled. The first meeting between Prime Minister Paul Martin and President George W. Bush earlier this month in Monterrey, Mexico, pushed all three matters ahead, said Kergin. While there are "certain interests that want to keep the price of cattle high," especially in an election year, U.S. officials understand that the ban can only hurt them with American trading partners, said Kergin. "The Asians know that this market's integrated. As long as we have divisions among ourselves, that could slow or delay (resumption of their trade with the U.S.)" However, the live cattle ban won't be dropped until the U.S. concludes its investigation and it could take some time to track all the 80 other animals from the same Alberta herd to test them for mad cow. "We (now) have a much better tracking system," said Kergin, who criticized efforts by some lobbyists and congressmen to slap "exclusionary" made-in-the-U.S. labels on beef. "It is discriminatory, especially in cases of livestock," he said....U.S. delegation in Japan says 100% testing won't prevent mad cow disease Testing every American head of cattle for mad cow disease - as suggested by Japan - would not significantly improve the safety of the beef supply, the head of a U.S. delegation visiting Tokyo for talks with Japanese officials said Thursday. J. B. Penn, U.S. undersecretary for farm and agricultural services, said blanket testing as advocated by Tokyo would needlessly divert resources away from other more effective measures to check the spread of the bovine illness....Japanese demand Aussie beef Demand for Australian beef is skyrocketing in Japan because of the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States. Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) said prices for Australian two varieties of beef had climbed 48 per cent and 50 per cent since Japan banned American beef at the end of last month. Japan is now sourcing most of its beef from Australia, which before the American ban was its second most important market, and New Zealand. The MLA said prices for Australian beef had now climbed to their highest level since 1991.... Idaho Cow Has Connection to Mad Cow Herd A herd mate to the Holstein that contracted mad cow disease in Washington has been traced to a dairy farm in Burley. The southern Idaho cow does not 'have' mad cow disease. But while tracing the 'cattle of interest' connected to the Washington herd, the Department of Agriculture found a herd mate in southern Idaho. Studies show dairy products do not contain or transmit Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis, also known as mad cow disease. So the USDA says Idaho's dairy products are safe....

Energy Conservation Zealots 1, Consumers 0

On Jan. 13, a federal appeals court overturned a Bush administration rule that would increase energy efficiency standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps by 20 percent. The court ordered that the Bush rule be replaced by a proposal from the Clinton administration that would require a 30 percent increase in energy efficiency. Environmentalists and energy conservation obsessives declared it "a big victory for consumers." They also declared that up is down, black is white, night is day, and that pigs really do fly.

Well, actually they didn't. But they might as well have.

You don't have to be some whiz-bang economist or regulatory specialist to laugh-off the claim that consumers "won" when the court decided as it did. All you need is a moment of reflection. Energy efficiency standards, after all, remove products from the marketplace that are deemed "energy inefficient." Accordingly, supporters of the decision are literally arguing that it's "a big victory for consumers" when the federal government prevents consumers from buying products they might otherwise wish to buy -- and indeed have bought -- for their entire lives. Only in Washington can denying consumers choices in the marketplace be deemed "pro-consumer."....

The Environmental Working Group: Peddlers of Fear

What is the EWG? In reporting the salmon study, the New York Times described the group as “a non-profit environmental research and advocacy organization financed by private donations.” For Reuters, EWG was a “a nonprofit organization that investigates environmental issues.” The Wall Street Journal described the group as a “nonprofit research organization,” and the Washington Post merely stated that EWG was “an advocacy organization.” Such modest descriptions of the organization do a great disservice both to the reading public and to Environmental Working Group.

Shortly after EWG’s salmon study was released, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) contacted the National Cancer Institute and posed a simple but highly relevant question: “Do you know of any evidence that human exposure to trace elements of PCBs in fish contributes to the toll of human cancer?” the group asked. According to ACSH’s president, Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, writing in the August 15, 2003 issue of the Washington Times, the National Cancer Institute’s answer was a resounding “no.” Dr. Whelan went on to point out that conspicuously absent from EWG’s Web site is any reference to scientific credentials or any other information about those who undertook the salmon study.

“This omission,” she pointed out, “is consistent with the fact that the EWG president once conceded to the Weekly Standard that the Environmental Working Group does not have a single doctor or scientist on staff.”....

Eco-imperialism: Green Power; Black Death

At recent events in Washington and New York a broad charge of eco-imperialism has been laid at the feet of the environmental movement. Government officials, aid agency bureaucrats, as well as sandal-wearing greens, are blamed for mass disease and death in the poorest countries of the world because they export their most vile regulatory policies. So far, the green movement has largely ignored the criticism, but it is slowly having to respond, since "eco-imperialism" is becoming a more widely heard, if not yet fully appreciated, term.

The most obvious example of eco-imperialism has been the push to restrict the use of the insecticide, DDT, for controlling mosquito-borne diseases. Concerns about damage to egg shells of birds of prey (probably caused by massive agricultural DDT use), have pushed the greens to demand DDT restrictions, which have cost tens of millions of lives over the past few decades. But in addition to this pinnacle of eco-imperialism, other examples have emerged. At the George C. Marshall Institute event in Washington DC last month, Indian economist, Prasanna Srinivasan discussed the pesticide Paraquat. He documented how the greens have tried to ban its use and unfortunately, they have succeeded in several places.

According to Greenpeace co-founder, Patrick Moore, "The environmental movement has lost its objectivity, morality and humanity." Speaking at an event this week in New York City, organized by the Congress on Racial Equality, Dr. Moore, concluded that: "The pain and suffering it inflicts on families in developing countries can no longer be tolerated."....

To: Friends of Frank Robbins and Interested Parties

From: Karen Budd Falen

Date: January 21, 2004

Re: We WON; The Court rules there is no qualified immunity for the BLM employees - Robbins v. Wilkie et al., 98-CV-201B (Order Denying Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, Federal District Court of Wyoming, January 20, 2004).

FRANK ROBBINS WILL GET HIS TRIAL BY JURY!! On January 20, 2004, Wyoming Federal District Judge, Clarence Brimmer ruled that the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") employees individually sued by Frank Robbins for violating his constitutional rights, unlawful retaliation, and attempted extortion by the wrongful use of fear or under color of official right were not protected by the qualified immunity of their BLM employment and that the BLM employees would have to stand trial, by jury. Robbins’ suit named several current and past BLM employees under the Racketeering, Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") and "Bivens." According to Robbins, the named employees used the power of their federal employment to attempt to acquire an easement across Robbins’ private property. Because he refused their demand, the employees set out to destroy him to accomplish their goals.

The last major hurtle for Frank Robbins before getting before a jury was the BLM employees’ motion for summary judgment, based upon qualified immunity. The Defendants claimed that because they acted while they were employed by the BLM, they were protected from individual liability. However, the Court agreed with Frank Robbins and rejected that blanket immunity argument. According to the Court, "qualified immunity protects federal officials from individual liability unless the officials violated a clearly established constitutional or statutory right of which a reasonable person would have known." Although the Court noted that Mr. Robbins had a "heavy burden" in proving his claims, the Court agreed that Mr. Robbins presented factual evidence that reasonable BLM employees would have known that they were violating Mr. Robbins’ rights with their actions. The Court cited to the 248 exhibits attached to Mr. Robbins brief and stated that "Plaintiff [Mr. Robbins] provides a significant amount of evidence which would lead a jury to conclude that Defendants did intend and agreed to extort and punish Plaintiff." In its footnote, the Court went on that "Plaintiff has submitted evidence of Defendants’ alleged motive and intent, threats, lies, trespass, disparate treatment and harassment in the form of various depositions, including a deposition of a former BLM employee Ed Parodi, various letters, criminal trial transcripts and trespass notices." Although each BLM employee affirmatively denied that he or she "‘did not conspire or agree with anyone at any time for any purpose with regards to Plaintiff, particularly to commit any alleged predicate acts of extortion or retaliation,’" the Court "will not solely rely upon the statements of the individual employees. This case will go to a jury.

Should you have any questions, please contact me. Feel free to distribute this information widely. We will publish the trial date when it is assigned. This is a GREAT victory!

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


BLM begins monitoring water quality The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is taking steps to measure the quality of water in Nevada's springs and seeps, leaving some users questioning under what authority these steps are being taken and for what purpose. BLM Nevada State Office Hydrologist Bill Brooks said everyone has a shared responsibility to ensure the quality of water under the federal Clean Water Act. He said to a certain degree there is an absence of guidance, and the BLM is working toward developing a "criteria to protect the streams they're responsible for." However, Brooks came under fire from the ranchers who are members of the board. They asked where BLM's authority came from to conduct the tests that are normally left to state offices, and why the agency is testing water that doesn't flow anywhere....Smith wants 'sound science' used in Species Act On the opening day of the second session of the 108th Congress, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., introduced the Sound Science for Endangered Species Planning Act (S. 2009) which would require greater weight be given to field-tested and scientifically reviewed data when making decisions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Specifically, S. 2009 includes provisions that would: --Require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce to give greater weight to scientific or commercial data that is empirical or has been field-tested or peer-reviewed when making decisions under the ESA --Establish a mandatory independent scientific review requirement for all ESA listing and delisting proposals as well as biological opinions to ensure the use of sound science and provide a mechanism for resolving disputes during the rulemaking process --Require the Secretary of the Interior to solicit and obtain data from stakeholders to assist in developing recovery plans, including recovery goals --Require the Secretary to solicit recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences in order to maintain a list of qualified reviewers.....To view the bill, click here and type in S.2009.... Reservation foes mobilize More than 100 people turned out Tuesday night for a meeting staged by a group opposed to re-establishment of a reservation for the Klamath Tribes. Leaders of the Basin Alliance to Save the Winema and Fremont Forests called attention to reservation negotiations between the Tribes and the federal government, and closed-door meetings among stakeholders in the ongoing Klamath water and land issue....Terrorist enviros expand scope of violence From a $50 million arson at a San Diego condominium to four chickens liberated from a California egg farm, radical environmental groups had a busy year - but with a difference. While the Pacific Northwest was their focus for years, they now seem to have virtually abandoned the region, spreading their violent political action through the rest of the country, according to a list of actions released Wednesday by the groups. The FBI considers the two largest groups, the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front, to be terrorist organizations. "All I can tell you is that they are moving out around the country," said Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman in Washington, D.C. In an e-mail sent to news media, the radical groups listed actions from Maine to California and from Louisiana to Alaska.....The Feathers That Caused a Flap The federal investigation into the tribal art collection of Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small started with a telephone call in November 2000 to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service saying that published pictures of the artifacts showed feathers from endangered species. More than three years later, the investigation has led to a misdemeanor charge against Small. He is expected to plead guilty tomorrow.... Government wraps up key study on Platte River management A long-awaited government blueprint on how Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming can preserve Platte River habitat for the whooping crane and three other species will be released at the end of the week, officials said Wednesday. The draft environmental impact statement will contain four suggestions on how to manage the Platte River basin, said Lynn Holt, spokeswoman for the government's Platte River EIS Office. A preferred option will not be identified in Friday's report. The report could play a key role in the often-contentious battle over managing the river. The Platte is formed in Nebraska by the North Platte, which originates in Wyoming, and the South Platte, which forms in Colorado....USFWS opts not to put rare desert flower on endangered list Governor Dirk Kempthorne is praising the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision not to place a rare flower found in the Owyhee Desert on the endangered species list. The agency declined to list slickspot peppergrass. Kempthorne calls the ruling a testament to cooperation and state leadership on endangered species issues. Environmental groups had filed suit to list the flower, saying it's threatened by road construction, off-road vehicle use and non-native weeds....Gray wolf found poisoned to death A gray wolf found dead near Clayton in central Idaho was killed by a poison known as Compound Ten-80. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents said the carcass of a wolf with a radio collar was found six miles northwest of Clayton in May. Tests have turned up the presence of Compound Ten-80 on the wolf. The agents said the chemical, which is used to kill coyotes, is toxic to wild animals, family pets and humans. Its misuse is illegal....Norton calls for tripling gas permits in Wyoming Interior Secretary Gale Norton said Wednesday that her agency wants to triple the number of drilling permits approved in Wyoming's natural gas fields to help meet the nation's growing need for energy. Wyoming, Colorado and other Rocky Mountain states make up one of the country's two major, accessible gas reserves, Norton said in an interview with The Associated Press following an energy conference. "Natural gas is a major energy need for the country. The demand for natural gas is expected to far outstrip the production," Norton said. Norton said her agency's goal is to increase to 3,000 from about 1,000 the number of permits approved annually on Bureau of Land Management land in Wyoming's Powder River Basin....Wally Klump stands on principle, sits in prison Today marks nine months to the day that Luther Wallace "Wally" Klump of Bowie accepted incarceration for contempt of court. "Wally is standing on principle," said his brother Wayne Klump. "It's a property rights issue." He marked his 70th birthday in August in the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence. Klump refused to move 25 head of cattle from the Bureau of Land Management's Simmon's Peak allotment in the Dos Cabezas Mountains. "If he moves the cows, we lose water rights," said Wayne. "The land allotment is one-third private. I own 20 certificated water rights, and they're vested. The BLM wants to claim the water rights on the land. If Wally moves the cows, we lose the water rights."....DeMeo opens BLM talks William Woody, Bureau of Land Management law enforcement chief in Washington D.C., is willing to come to Nye County to discuss issues with local ranchers and other public land users, Sheriff Tony DeMeo said last month. DeMeo traveled to Washington Nov. 19-21 as a representative of Nevada on behalf of the Western Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, to meet with Woody over proposed changes in BLM policy....Invasive Plants: Silent Invaders That Must be Stopped The following statement is being issued by Jim Hughes, Deputy Director for Programs and Policy, Bureau of Land Management: Invasive plants know no boundaries. They spread to all lands and water, regardless of ownership. They reproduce and grow so rapidly they overwhelm and displace existing native plants by reducing available light, water, nutrients and space. The tamarisk tree, also known as saltcedar, for example, can send its extensive root system down 100 feet and soak up 200 gallons of water in one day. Saltcedar in the southwest sap 2.5 million acre-feet of water annually, only slightly less than the amount of Colorado River water used by the entire state of Arizona in a year. The Bureau of Land Management hopes to treat a half-million acres of public land a year for the next 10 to 15 years in an attempt to head off this silent invasion....Lawsuit challenges marsh management Conservation groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming the Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge has increased logging, hay mowing and cattle grazing without consulting the public or showing how the activities benefit wildlife. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court here, asks a judge to halt most logging, hay mowing and cattle grazing on the refuge until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the impacts on the environment, in a process open to the public....Supreme Court rules EPA can overrule state in clean air case The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the federal Environmental Protection Agency can override state officials and order some antipollution measures that may be more costly. The 5-4 decision, a victory for environmentalists, found the EPA did not go too far when it overruled a decision by Alaska regulators, who wanted to let the operators of a zinc and lead mine use cheaper antipollution technology for power generation. Ginsburg's usual allies on the court's ideological left joined her in the ruling: Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, and Stephen Breyer. The crucial fifth vote came from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who usually votes with the court conservatives in states' rights cases. The four dissenters argued that the decision undercuts states' power to control their environmental policies....Wetlands get new spy cam Like a circling hawk spotting field mice, Charles Costello sits at his computer gazing at aerial photos of Massachusetts countryside, swooping in electronically on the bad guys who rip up this state's delicate wetlands. This is no video game. Certainly not to Mr. Costello, a soft-spoken bureaucrat with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), who hunts environmental scofflaws from a tiny Boston office cluttered with blowups of aerial photographs and technical manuals. Using photo-analysis software of the sort used by the Defense Department to spot enemy tanks, he scans his computer screen for telltale red dots. The first state in the nation to use such technology for wetlands enforcement, Massachusetts is blazing a trail that other states - and even national environmental groups - are likely to follow. The system is relatively affordable and far more comprehensive than relying on tips phoned in by citizens. And in the case of Massachusetts, despite deep cuts in the state budget, the new "smoking gun" photographic evidence is allowing it to flex its enforcement muscle - and bring cash into state coffers at the same time....What's the beef? In the beginning, there was Dolly. Since then, one by one, beef and dairy cattle, pigs, and goats have joined the Scottish sheep in a 21st century ark of cloned farm animals. But while cloned animals have become common in the lab, they have yet to make it to the dinner table. That could change if the Food and Drug Administration overturns a ban on the consumption of cloned livestock. In a few years, their meat or milk could become a regular staple on America's menu. The results could be significant: higher-quality meat and dairy products, foods engineered to be more nutritious, and possibly lower grocery prices, thanks to the arrival of more productive animals. The infant farm cloning industry is chomping at the bit to commercialize its research....Column: How is life on the "buffalo commons"? Not everyone likes the idea of agricultural development. Some actively work against it. Some even think they can turn Western South Dakota back into a giant buffalo pasture. A lot of us tended to laugh it off back in 1987, when a couple named Frank and Deborah, from Rutgers University, claimed the best use for our part of the country was to give it back to the buffalo and let them roam from Mexico to Canada again. Not everyone was laughing. Some appear dedicated to making it a reality. The "Society for Ecological Restoration International" is one. The "Honor the Earth" foundation is another. "The Great Plains Restoration Council" is another, and California television employee, turned buffalo rancher, Sam Hurst and his "Wild Idea Buffalo Company" is another....Grandest Lady of the Rodeo Her name is Nubbin, a word country folks use to describe a small ear of corn. She has read every book Zane Grey has written, sings Gene Autry songs, has built a western museum with a stage for karaoke on her land in West, Texas, re-decorates her home with the change of seasons, and can mend a fence or shoot the head off a rattlesnake as well as any top hand. This western lady may be small in stature, but for half a century at the Stock Show, she has made a grand entrance....Swapping spurs for skis Put a bunch of cowboys on skis, point them down a mountain and a few hats are bound to get knocked off along the way. Sixty-five rodeo competitors sped down the Headwall run in a stampede of skis and snow in the 30th Annual Bud Light Cowboy Downhill at Steamboat on Tuesday. For cowboys more used to roping and riding, skiing can present a challenge....

USDA Says Mad Cow Probe Should End in Weeks The investigation into the first U.S. case of mad cow disease expanded into Oregon on Wednesday, and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said all of the infected animal's herd mates should be located within weeks, not months. "I would say it would be a matter of weeks, not a matter of months" before all herd mates are found, Veneman said. "We're working to get this done as soon as possible." Veneman also said restoring U.S. beef exports was a "top priority" for the Bush administration. USDA officials have also been talking with Mexico, the second-largest buyer of U.S. beef. "We're hopeful that once they finish the review of their investigation," Veneman said, "that they will act to also open up the Mexican market." Veneman also told lawmakers that the USDA was talking with Canada about stricter livestock feed regulations on both sides of the border. "The FDA is considering further actions with regard to additional regulatory actions on our animal feed, but I can't at this time tell you what or when they're going to announce," she said. During more than two hours of testimony, Veneman also said the USDA was considering a mandatory national livestock identification program, rather than a voluntary one, which would help track cattle infected with ailments like mad cow disease....Knee jerk BSE response now haunts U.S.: Veneman Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman says the United States has seen the light when it comes to basing international beef trade decisions on science, not on false perceptions about mad cow disease. A lot has changed since the Americans closed their border to Canadian beef products in May after a lone Alberta animal tested positive for mad cow, she told a congressional agriculture committee Wednesday. "We reacted exactly the way other countries are now treating the U.S.," Veneman said. Since confronting their own case in December, U.S. officials are leading the charge to standardize the way countries are treated in such situations by the rest of the world, she said....US 'downer' ban hurts cattle producers -lawmakers The U.S. ban on using sick and injured cattle as human food will put a financial strain on cattle producers, farm-state lawmakers said Wednesday. Some of the lawmakers said the government should pay producers for getting their "downer" cattle tested for mad cow disease. Without an incentive, farmers, ranchers and feedlot operators might kill downer cattle rather than haul them to a rendering plant or some other site for testing, they said. During a House Agriculture Committee hearing, members praised Veneman for protecting consumer confidence in U.S. beef safety but some questioned if it was fair to ban otherwise healthy animals with a broken leg....Click here to read the complete testimony of Secretary Veneman....Japan orders wholesalers not to sell U.S. beef products The Japanese government is ordering meat wholesalers to halt the sale of any American beef products considered at risk of carrying mad cow disease. That could mean more hardship for specialty meat packers in Nebraska, like the Fremont Beef Company, which sells specialty meats like beef tongue, liver and other "secondary" meats to Japanese markets. The order affects more than 860 tons of steaks, soup stocks and other products made of bone parts and calf brains that were imported during most of 2003. The ministry also ordered supermarkets and restaurants not to sell American beef products containing cow backbones. Officials say cow backbones and their extracts could contain proteins that are linked to the brain-wasting illness....State restricts Oregon dairy in mad cow probe The state of Oregon has placed a "hold order" on a dairy near Boardman to help facilitate the U.S. Department of Agriculture's multistate investigation into mad cow disease. The order restricts the movement of animals on or off the dairy. USDA is tracing all animals potentially associated with a Canadian herd of cattle that contained a cow that tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Mabton, Wash. USDA said an animal at the Boardman dairy is part of a group of 17 heifers originally dispersed from the Canadian source herd in August 2001....Poland is first to lift US beef ban due to mad cow Poland reopened its borders to American beef products, becoming the first country to lift its ban since the U.S. mad cow case was discovered last month in a Washington state dairy cow, the U.S. Agriculture Department said Wednesday. Poland Saturday began allowing U.S. beef imports under certain guidelines, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said....U.S. expects beef nations to adopt its mad cow rules The Agriculture Department expects beef-exporting nations such Brazil and Argentina to adopt mad cow safeguards that match new U.S. rules, such as banning sick and injured cattle from use as human food, if they want to sell beef to U.S. buyers. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which oversees meat safety, sent letters to 10 exporting nations earlier this month, saying exports would be blocked if nations did not comply with the new rules. The letter was made public on Wednesday. The letter was sent to agriculture ministry officials in Australia, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, New Zealand and Uruguay....At auction, cattle sales still brisk W.F. Baker leans against a railing inside Port City Stockyards as a crossbreed steer calf is led into the ring. He listens intently to what sounds like gibberish coming from the auctioneer's mouth and is relieved when the brisk bidding ends. "Ninety-three. That's a good price for that animal," says Mr. Baker, as the unruly calf is prodded out of the ring. (That's 93 cents a pound.) But while prices for fed cattle - those about to be slaughtered - are still lower than normal, feeder cattle - those who need several months to mature - are bringing in roughly the same amount they were prior to the mad-cow discovery. "Buyers are betting that fed cattle will be profitable in the future," says Stephen Hammack, a beef cattle specialist at Texas A&M University's research and extension center in Stephenville. "And that's significant. It shows that consumer confidence has not been greatly affected by this."....Cattlemen confer with Kulongoski Oregon's cattlemen corralled Gov. Ted Kulongoski for an hour Tuesday, urging him to support their industry at home and abroad. No one uttered the words "mad cow." But much of the conversation between the governor and nine representatives of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association circled around repercussions from the discovery of the disease last month in a Washington dairy cow....

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Meetings scheduled about Forest Service's plan for roads leading into Hayman fire areas Four-wheel-drive enthusiasts want to dissuade the Forest Service from closing about 52 miles of Pike National Forest roads that were affected by the 2002 Hayman fire. The Forest Service identified about 129 miles of roads in the Pike National Forest that were damaged from the fire or erosion. The plan advocates fixing about half of the roads and permanently closing the other half. No funding source has yet been identified that would pay for fixing the roads, according to Forest Service officials....Report on fire deaths shows shift in attitude: Forest bosses, not firefighters, get the blame U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Jack Troyer looked into the eyes of the parents of two dead firefighters Jan. 6 and placed the blame for the deaths on managers of his agency. “They told us the boys did nothing wrong,” said Jodi Heath, mother of 22-year-old Shane Heath. A report released two weeks ago said Forest Service managers on the fire, in the ranger district office in North Fork and in the supervisor´s office in Salmon all carry responsibility for the deaths of Heath, of Melba and Jeff Allen, 24, of Salmon....A plan for roadless lands: Group wants 37% in Utah forests protected as wilds Proponents of wilderness in Utah's redrock desert country have been seeking 9.1 million acres, and now proponents of wilderness in Utah's high country are adding another 3.3 million acres to the total. Utah Environmental Congress, a grass-roots environmental group, is to unveil today an ambitious and comprehensive initiative to protect 37 percent of "roadless" or undeveloped areas in national forest lands in Utah as wilderness. The initiative marks one of the most significant land-preservation undertakings in the country, said UEC executive director Denise Boggs....U.S. Charges Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small, the secretary of the Smithsonian and an avid collector of Brazilian tribal art, is expected to plead guilty later this week to a misdemeanor violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The charge was filed Jan. 5 in Raleigh, N.C., after Small's art collection was found to contain feathers from several protected species, including the jabiru, roseate spoonbill and crested caracara....Column: Wyoming wolf plan on right track Well, I support Wyoming on this one. Wyoming’s plan is pragmatic. It accepts the presence of wolves in national parks and in wilderness areas, taking steps to keep wolves where they belong while, most importantly, keeping wolves from spreading to areas they don’t belong. That last provision, of course, has environmentalist knickers in a knot. When the government downlisted gray wolves from endangered to threatened last spring, Greens howled because, as Defenders of Wildlife put it in a press release announcing their October lawsuit against the downlisting, the “rule would sharply limit wolf recovery in the West to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and preclude wolf recovery in northern California, Oregon, Washington, northern Colorado, Utah, and the Northeastern United States.” In other words, Defenders and Co. want wolves to spread everywhere across the entire West, colonizing every spot they can possibly survive....Management costs rise with wolf numbers Management costs rose from $37,171 in 2002 to $506,000 last year, Game and Fish directors said in an annual report. Some of the increase was credited to development of a wolf management plan, should the predators be removed from federal protection. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently deemed the plan is not adequate to ensure viability of wolf populations after removal from the Endangered Species List and the agency has asked the department to make changes. The state Game and Fish Department estimated it would cost about $395,000 per year for the state to take over management. Officials estimated 295 wolves, including 22 breeding pairs in the Greater Yellowstone Area. Of those, 240 wolves and 17 breeding pairs are in Wyoming. The report estimated 747 wolves roamed the Northern Rockies in 2003, including 46 breeding pairs, compared to 663 wolves and 43 breeding pairs in 2002....Groups sue Fish and Wildlife Service over lack of protections for cutthroat trout A coalition of conservation groups filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tuesday, accusing the agency of illegally refusing to extend federal protections to the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, alleges the agency refused to list the Yellowstone cutthroat as either endangered or threatened, despite what the conservation groups characterized as "ample scientific data" that the species needs protection. "The Fish and Wildlife Service's finding utterly failed to consider the magnitude of threat facing the Yellowstone cutthroat trout," Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a written statement Tuesday. The center is one of four organizations suing the Fish and Wildlife Service....Column: Permission to Pollute, Sir? The US Military wants to be excused from duty. That is, it's duty to obey the environmental laws of the United States of America. Last year the Defense Department won exemptions from three major environmental laws -- the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty. Now, the military wants to ignore the Clean Air Act and toxic waste laws. To its credit, Congress has already refused to allow these additional exemptions, but the Defense Department is preparing to join the battle once more, according to a report in the LA Times....Column: The powerful push to protect animals Recently a cougar (mountain lion) in Orange County, CA killed one bicyclist and would have killed the second one if her companions had not come to her rescue. Estimates are between 4,000 and 6,000 adult lions roaming California. State law prohibits hunting or killing them. Could this be one way to keep us from camping, horseback riding or walking in parks? Rural cleansing is made much easier if people are intimidated and fearful of living in areas with large predatory animals running loose which are protected. Prior to 1986 there were very few reports of cougar attacks. There has been an average of one attack on a hiker, jogger, or camper a year since that, some fatal....Frog Discovery May Jump-Start Shift in Attitude The discovery of three threatened California red-legged frogs in a rancher's stock pond in western Calaveras County in the fall has triggered a new effort to convince the state's ranchers that the amphibians are important to their long-term economic survival. When the rancher's children stumbled upon the frogs — a male and two females — while playing around a water hole in October, the family's decision to report the find to the Murphys-based Jumping Frog Research Institute was of historic importance. According to Robert Stack, who founded the institute in 1996, it was the first documented sighting of red-legged frogs in Calaveras County in almost 35 years. The frog, the largest native amphibian west of the Rocky Mountains, was once common throughout California, Baja California and other parts of Mexico.... Chambers refused gag deal The National Park Service offered not to press charges against U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers in exchange for a gag order, Chief Chambers' attorney confirmed yesterday. The offer was made Dec. 12, six days before the Park Service announced it wanted to fire Chief Chambers. It was first reported on the Web site of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a group that supports her....Californian buys ranch horses for record bids A $90,000 chunk of California cash and two top-of-the-line working ranch horses have swapped hands, notching two new Fort Worth Stock Show auction records. Craig Casner, a custom builder of luxury homes and a horse sportsman/rancher in California, is making a shopping-spree habit of this, now having outbid Texans and other auction competitors for two years to buy the two horses judged best performers in the Invitational Ranch Horse Show. Casner, after two heated auction rounds before an audience of more than 2,000 Sunday in the Will Rogers Coliseum, set new highs of $46,000 and $44,000, respectively, for the 2004 Ranch Horse Champion and Reserve Champion....