Saturday, February 07, 2004


Catron County Sheriff's Department
PO Box 467
Reserve, New Mexico
Pho: 505-533-6222
Fax: 505-533-6722

DATE: February 4, 2004

TO: Federal Employees, Federal Contracted Employees, State Officials and
County Officials

FROM: John Cliff Snyder

SUBJECT: Diamond Bar Cattle Company vs. U.S.
Federal Case # 96 437 WJ/LFS

As the elected Sheriff of Catron County, I am sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States and Laws of the State of New Mexico.

As all are aware, the US Forest Service is set to begin gathering cattle from the Diamond Bar on February 7, 2004. I am not disputing the fact that the Forest Service has a valid court order to remove the cattle from Forest Service lands. I do not have the power vested in me to determine, if indeed, they are Forest Service lands. I believe that is left to the courts.

I believe, where the problem lies is the shipping of cattle after they are gathered. Under NM Statute 77-9-1 through 77-9-63, the laws governing the possession, hauling and selling of livestock are spelled out.

The laws of most interest to me are: 77-9-19-23; 77-9-45-48 and 77-0-31.

These cattle cannot be shipped and sold without being in direct violation of NM Statute.

As I see this situation, the Federal Government is asking me to ignore my duty under state law. I believe this puts me, my department and the County in a position to be liable under State law. The Federal Government will walk away when they are finished, leaving me to face the liability alone.

I cannot, in good conscience, ignore my oath of office or the liability to my county. I intend to enforce the State Livestock laws in my county. I will not allow anyone, in violation of State Law, to ship Diamond Bar Cattle out of my county.

I have reproduced the above from a fax I received upon returning from Santa Fe. The emphasis on the last sentence is from the original. The Sheriff's memo was copied to various Federal, State and County officials. I have been told the Forest Service has told several officials the memo from the Sheriff has put further actions on hold. It has also been talked around that the NM Livestock Board has requested an official opinion from Patsy Madrid, the NM Attorney General. If that is the case, we will all await her legal opinion.

We should all thank Sheriff Snyder for his correct and courageous action. Too many times the Feds either hornswoggle or bully locally elected officials. Apparently that doesn't work with Sheriff Snyder.

Friday, February 06, 2004


Fee demo headed for showdown The Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, or “fee demo,” has raised a ruckus in the West since its 1996 debut, when the public started “paying to play” on federal lands. Recreation fees - charged for access to hiking trails, visitor centers and other spots - have been authorized for 400 sites managed by the Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service.... Local ranchers air concerns to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Arizona ranchers expressed frustrations about ever-increasing Forest Service grazing regulations during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman last week. The ranchers repeatedly expressed concerns about grazing regulations that continue to multiply, related Cottonwood rancher Andy Groseta. “The ranching community needs more flexibility regarding grazing decisions on their forest allotments,” Groseta said this week. He chairs the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association federal lands commit-tee. “We’d like to see ranchers manage their own ranches, instead of having the bureaucrats do it,” agreed Rink Goswick, whose family has ranched in this area for generations. “They say there’s cooperation, but they tell you what to do.” The Forest Service needs to work on major grazing reforms such as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is doing, Groseta said. Endangered species issues have forced his cattle and others off riparian areas such as the Verde River, Groseta said. “We’re gradually being regulated out of business,” Groseta said. “It gets to the point where it’s not economically feasible” to ranch anymore.... Bison capture facility goes up near Yellowstone Montana officials on Wednesday began raising a temporary holding facility for bison on a peninsula that juts into Hebgen Lake just west of Yellowstone National Park. The Horse Butte buffalo trap, located on the Gallatin National Forest, is part of Montana's efforts to prevent brucellosis from spreading from wild bison from the park to livestock on nearby private lands. It is used to hold bison that stray outside of the park boundaries.... Policy change would let ski areas keep water rights U.S. Forest Service officials say they are close to resolving a long- standing dispute over water rights that has implications for several of Colorado's major ski resorts. Under the proposed change, the agency would eliminate a requirement that ski resorts transfer their water rights to the federal government. That requirement is one of the key issues in a still- pending appeal of the revised White River National Forest plan filed by several ski resorts. The ski industry has raised the issue of unlawful takings, said Ken Karkula, Washington, D.C.- based winter-sports program manager for the Forest Service.... USFS bookkeeping woes not new While the Forest Service's recent accounting problems may have grabbed Montana's attention, difficulties with balancing their checkbook is nothing new for the federal agency. In fact, other than in the past two years, the Forest Service hasn't had a clean audit in the past decade. A report released last year by the General Accounting Office notes that historically, the Forest Service hasn't been able to provide Congress or the public "with a clear understanding of what the Forest Service's 30,000 employees accomplish with the approximately $5 billion the agency receives every year." And although the federal agency says it is taking significant steps toward resolving accountability problems, the GAO's office said the Forest Service has made "little real progress" and remains years away from implementing a credible accounting system.... What the GAO audits say While the U.S. Forest Service has made "significant progress" toward actually being able to say where it spends $5 billion each year, three reports issued by the federal General Accounting Office in 2003 strongly scold the Forest Service for shoddy bookkeeping. Audits from 1991 through 2001 included major inaccuracies, and the bookkeeping was so poor that in 1996, the Forest Service didn't even put together an audit "due to the severity of the accounting and reporting deficiencies," according to the GAO. It's only been in the past two years, after what one official termed a "Herculean effort," that the agency had two clean financial audits, and the GAO notes that even those had some significant issues.... High Climbing Protester Surrenders After Chain Saw Appears Police and fire units were called to the State Capitol grounds Thursday afternoon after a protester climbed a tree to call attention to a proposed bill that would ban cutting of old-growth forests. The activist, who calls himself "Bear," climbed 150 feet into the tree to support Senate Bill 754. Dubbed the Heritage Tree Act, the proposed legislation would ban cutting of California's remaining old-growth forests. News10's Jennifer Smith talked with Bear by cell phone this afternoon as he was perched high in the tree. "These are endangered species, they provide our food and water, we can't afford to lose any more," he said. "Oh no, they're starting a chainsaw. Please do not cut any branches, hey don't cut any branches!".... State OKs coho plan The listing of the coho salmon as a California Endangered Species became law on Wednesday to the disappointment of Siskiyou County's grassroots Save Our Shasta and Scott Valley communities (SOSS) organization that has worked for years to prevent it from happening. In a press release issued by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the California Fish and Game Commission approved the Department of Fish and Game's Coho Salmon Recovery Strategy at a special session in Sacramento on Wednesday and then proceeded with the process for listing coho salmon as an endangered species in California. Don Howell of Fort Jones, who served both on the SOSS and local recovery strategy group, said those who have worked long and hard to prevent this listing are very disappointed.... Senate Stands Up for Alaska's Land Rights Four pieces of legislation were introduced in the Senate today to further the assertion of ownership and management of the state's navigable waters and public access rights. The navigable waters issue dates back to statehood, when Alaska received title to all submerged lands under navigable water and marine waters out to three miles, with the exception of land withdrawn at statehood. The federal government, however, has been slow to concede any navigability determinations and less than 20 rivers have been determined navigable by the federal courts. Approximately 60 million acres of submerged lands are at stake. The lack of federal cooperation has resulted in thousands of acres of clouded private land titles, which is particularly critical as Congress considers a deadline for completing the land selection and conveyance processes.... BLM ranger dies after fall near Yuma A Bureau of Land Management ranger died after falling in a rugged part of the Little Picacho Wilderness Area about 20 miles north of Yuma. The employee, 52-year-old John Maynard, had only worked for BLM since September. He was a temporary park ranger who was patrolling the wilderness when he fell.... Utah seed company owner, son indicted A Utah seed company owner and his son are named in a 39-count criminal indictment charging them with selling $2 million worth of bad seed to the federal government. Boyd and Jeffrey Goble are accused of falsifying the origins of about 77 tons of seed that the Gunnison-based Goble Seed Co. sold to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Nevada between 1999 and 2001. Reached at his home in Gunnison, Boyd Goble said he and his son are innocent of any wrongdoing. The prosecution is the first of its kind involving the native seed industry, which is growing steadily as state and federal land and wildlife agencies become more active in restoring damaged ecosystems. The BLM annually spends about $20 million on seed.... Myers draws heavy fire at hearing Presidential candidate and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry on Thursday called on President Bush to withdraw William Myers' nomination to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kerry's request upped the ante on what had been a controversial, but parochial battle over the nomination of the former cattle industry lawyer and aide to retired Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson. The interjection of presidential politics coincided with a Thursday congressional hearing where Myers faced a barrage of questions from Kerry's fellow Democratic senators about his positions on environmental policy.... 9th Circuit Court nominee draws fire for his green record Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee lit into President Bush´s latest nominee for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, accusing him of being a radical anti-environmentalist. William G. Myers III acknowledged that some of the legal writings and statements he made while he was a lawyer in private practice and for the National Cattlemen´s Beef Association were bombastic. Myers served as the Interior Department´s top lawyer from July 2001 until October 2003, when he returned to the Holland & Hart law firm in Boise. In those writings, Myers compared the federal government´s public lands policies to King George III´s tyrannical reign over the 13 colonies. He called the rule that protects wetlands used by migratory birds an “unwarranted and despotic intrusion by the federal government over every brook, creek, cattle tank … or damp spot in every landowner´s backyard.”.... Column: Pact by ranchers, conservationists a good deal A long-standing conflict between Arizona ranchers and conservationists is nearing a resolution, but the final step - gaining congressional approval - will be a formidable one. More than 180 Arizona ranchers, headed by the John Whitney family of Sunflower, and 10 conservation, hunting and other interest groups, headed by the Center for Biological Diversity, have negotiated an innovative plan. The plan would permanently retire some federal land from grazing and return it to recreational and natural uses. In exchange, the plan would compensate participating ranchers for the retirement of their livestock permits at an above fair market value rate.... Compensation project reports grizzly bears widening range Defenders of Wildlife paid ranchers $17,219 during 2003 for livestock killed by grizzly bears in the northern Rocky Mountains. Over the years, the conservation group also has paid more than $130,046 for cost-share projects intended to reduce conflicts between humans and grizzlies. "The good news is that grizzly bears are expanding their ranges and numbers outside of protected areas like national parks and national forests," said Minette Johnson, northern Rockies field representative for Defenders.... Daschle wants beef out of AU trade US Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle urged President George W Bush today to exclude beef from a free trade agreement with Australia in a move that could complicate last-minute negotiations. The South Dakota Democrat told Bush in a letter that the proposed trade pact would expose US beef and cattle ranchers to increased import competition without providing new opportunities for US beef exports. "We respectfully request that you work to exclude beef and cattle from any further negotiations of the Australia FTA," Daschle said in a letter that came as the two allies were trying to reach a deal by this weekend.... Elk near infected ranch test positive for brucellosis Four elk tested positive for brucellosis at the Muddy Creek elk feedground near Boulder in western Wyoming, State Veterinarian Jim Logan announced Wednesday. Conservationists are pointing to the test as an indication that the state's system of elk feedgrounds needs to be dismantled. The testing was done at Logan's request to see if brucellosis found in two cattle herds in the state could be linked to infected elk.... Bill would restrict limits on land uses After fervent arguments from farmers and ranchers on both sides of the issue, the House Agriculture Committee voted 9-4 Thursday for a bill that would slap a limit on future conservation easements. Conservation easements place certain restrictions on the use of land, typically to preserve it as open space and preclude business and residential development. Landowners who agree to easements, which are offered by the state and federal governments as well as conservation groups, may either sell or donate some rights to use the land.... Inspiring through words Students do it, teachers do it, even a school district superintendent does it, but, the cowboys did it first. Did what? Write poetry, of course. Cowboy poetry. This art form is a direct descendent of the rhyming writings of cowboys more than a century ago. Then, cowboys on cattle drives often entertained themselves by telling stories and writing poems about the trials and triumphs of the trail. Today, young buckaroos learn about writing styles and Southern Arizona's cultural history as they pen their own cowboy poems in school.... Rodeos now riding high Last year's event at the newly minted SBC Center drew 278,000 fans for 20 rodeo performances, part of a record attendance of more than 23 million for the roughly 700 PRCA-sanctioned competitions in the United States and Canada. According to Sports Business Daily, that placed rodeo seventh in overall crowd numbers — ahead of golf and tennis and just behind hockey and horse racing. And moving up quickly. Industry analysis shows only NASCAR is growing at a faster pace than pro rodeo, with women representing almost half the sport's fan base.... Wild West Tech A Belen historian will soon be helping History Channel viewers understand the technological accomplishments of the Wild West. Don Chavez has dedicated a great deal of time to researching the early origins of the cowboy way of life, starting with the Spanish vaqueros. Chavez said most people don't think of the lasso or the saddle as a technological triumph.... On The Edge Of Common Sense: 'Mad cow' spinoffs might benefit clever cowmen With our new awareness of "mad cow" disease and the procedures installed to prevent its spread, I expect things to get back to normal eventually. But the changes have left us with some new opportunities. The biggest of which is that we will now have an abundance of cow brains and spinal cords. Corn growers had this same dilemma when Delsey concocted toilet paper, Abacus when calculators were invented, and lobbyists when they outlawed bribery. But in true entrepreneurial spirit, I expect we will see some clever cowman, in his constant quest to diversify, come up with alternative uses for this valuable byproduct....

Bush funding for firefighting still falls short Still, there is a gap between what is budgeted and what has been spent in recent years. At $908 million, the total tapped for wildfire fighting falls short of the $1.4 billion that was spent to fight wildfires in 2002 and is slightly less than the $1 billion that was needed to fight them in 2003. Environmentalists say the $475 million for hazardous-fuels reduction is far short of the $760 million that was promised in legislation overhauling forest policy that President Bush signed into law last year. "It is an increase, and for that, you can say, ‘thank you,' but it is nowhere near what is needed," Mike Francis of the Wilderness Society said. In addition to noting the apparent shortfall in hazardous-fuel reduction money, Francis also noted that the administration's proposed budget would cut state, local and volunteer assistance by 42 percent from $132 million in fiscal year 2004 to $77 million in fiscal year 2005.... Wildfire recovery: Groups challenge results on 2-year settlement anniversary, Forest Service says much work on track Two years after a court settlement cleared the way for logging and restoration in the burned Bitterroot National Forest, environmentalists say the Forest Service and the Bush administration aren't holding up their end of the bargain. They said Thursday the Bitterroot is out of compliance with a "biological opinion" issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before the burned-area work started following the 2000 fire season, and they accused forest officials of "gross negligence.".... Winter too mild to kill beetles Piñon-munching ips beetles are unlikely to be fazed by the snow and cold weather seen so far this winter around the Four Corners. "Most beetles have their own antifreeze, so it takes prolonged and severe cold to kill them off," Phil Kemp, a Forest Service forester in Dolores, said Tuesday. Kemp, speaking of experience with the mountain pine beetle in Montana and Idaho, said nothing less than a couple of weeks of subzero temperature would finish off the ips.... Massive machines thin areas of Pike forest Called Hydro-Ax, the mighty tractors reach up to 15 feet and lop the tops off trees up to 12 inches in diameter. A roughly 3-inch-thick steel blade housed in a 9,000-pound head and spinning at 1,000 revolutions per minute is lowered onto the 15-foot-high "stem." There is a screeching, deafening roar, and in about a second, the remaining 15 feet of ponderosa pine or Douglas fir is reduced to 6-inch pieces of mulch and scattered up to 300 feet throughout the forest. The Hydro-Ax then reverses over the previously lopped top of the tree, mulching it as well.... Feds sued over OK for drilling "The BLM is approving massive new development, yet they are clearly not able to handle the soil, range, water, air and wildlife impacts that are overwhelming communities throughout the basin from existing development alone," said Treciafaye "Tweeti" Blancett, one of two ranchers who are plaintiffs in the suit. BLM officials have said they cannot comment on pending litigation. But they defended approval of the plan last year by saying that development of the energy resource will occur incrementally over 20 years, and that the BLM will not allow full development if impacts violate federal standards. Blancett and another New Mexico rancher, Don Schreiber, allege that the BLM's lax permitting practices and failure to enforce its own rules have imposed an extreme hardship on their operations, from the uncontrolled spread of noxious weeds to ruined roads and unfenced hazards.... Wolf complaint sent to Norton Bush proposes 14 percent cut for endangered species The Bush administration proposed cutting $9.8 million from endangered species recovery efforts Monday, a 14 percent reduction that would leave the wildlife preservation fund at the lowest level since the president took office. Interior Secretary Gale Norton said the proposed cuts are offset by major increases in grant programs meant to encourage private property owners and state and local governments to preserve land in the name of species protection. "The most effective conservation projects are the ones that are conceived and carried out at the local level, by the people who live and work on the land," Norton said.... ALASKAN SEA OTTER PROPOSED FOR LISTING UNDER ESA The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today announced a proposed rule to list the Southwest Alaska/Aleutian Islands population of northern sea otter as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The decision comes as a relief to the Center for Biological Diversity who filed a formal petition to protect the population under the ESA in October of 2000. After several years of delay tactics by the Bush Administration, the Center sued the USFWS in December 2003 for failing to take any action to protect the endangered sea otter population.... Republicans begin effort to rewrite species act House Republicans began laying groundwork Wednesday for a rewrite of the Endangered Species Act, questioning whether the work of federal scientists should face more outside scrutiny before it results in costly regulations. Citing the experience of Klamath Basin farmers two years ago, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said "unsubstantiated science" led to a $200 million economic catastrophe when federal agencies suspended irrigation flows to protect imperiled fish. "I challenge anyone to find a group that has been more negatively affected by the inadequacy of the science used in making decisions under the Endangered Species Act," he told members of a House Resources subcommittee, referring to Klamath farmers.... Storm brewing over use of San Luis Valley water Pressure over water use in the drought-plagued San Luis Valley is building and could erupt in the kind of legal battles seen along the South Platte River. Several years of drought have dropped water levels underneath the south-central Colorado valley and worsened tension between farmers and ranchers with senior water rights and those with newer claims....

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Science and Public Policy

Since this hearing is devoted to trying to assess the impacts of scientific information on public policy, I think that looking back at the forecasts of what the state of the planet was predicted to be at the end of the last millennium would be a good place to start. Here I will be looking chiefly at past predictions dealing with three topics: depletion of nonrenewable resources, global population growth and famine, and projected rates of species extinction....

Let me close with a brief tour of past predictions about species extinctions. Again the predictions by concerned scientists were way off the mark. In 1970, Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, predicted that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct. That is 75 and 80 percent of all species of living animals would be extinct by 1995. In 1975, Paul Ehrlich and his biologist wife, Anne Ehrlich, predicted that "since more than nine-tenths of the original tropical rainforests will be removed in most areas within the next 30 years or so, it is expected that half of the organisms in these areas will vanish with it." It's now 29 years later and nowhere near 90 percent of the rainforests have been cut.

In 1979, Oxford University biologist Norman Myers suggested in his book The Sinking Ark that 40,000 species per year were going extinct and that 1 million species would be gone by the year 2000. Myers suggested that the world could "lose one-quarter of all species by the year 2000." At a 1979 symposium at Brigham Young University, Thomas Lovejoy, who is now the president of The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment announced that he had made "an estimate of extinctions that will take place between now and the end of the century. Attempting to be conservative wherever possible, I still came up with a reduction of global diversity between one-seventh and one-fifth." Lovejoy drew up the first projections of global extinction rates for the Global 2000 Report to the President in 1980. If Lovejoy had been right, between 15 and 20 percent of all species alive in 1980 would be extinct right now. No one believes that extinctions of this magnitude have occurred over the last three decades.

What did happen? Most species that were alive in 1970 are still around today. "Documented animal extinctions peaked in the 1930s, and the number of extinctions has been declining since then," according to Stephen Edwards, an ecologist with the World Conservation Union, a leading international conservation organization whose members are non-governmental organizations, international agencies, and national conservation agencies. Edwards notes that a 1994 World Conservation Union report found known extinctions since 1600 encompassed 258 animal species, 368 insect species, and 384 vascular plants. Most of these species were "island endemics" like the Dodo. They are particularly vulnerable to habitat disruption, hunting, and competition from invading species. Since the establishment of an endangered species list only seven species have been declared extinct in the United States. Four are freshwater fish: the Tecopa pupfish (1982), the Amistad gambusia (1987), the Cisco longjaw (1983), the blue pike (1983); a freshwater clam, the Sampson's pearlymussel (1984), and two small birds, the dusky seaside sparrow (1990) and the Santa Barbara song sparrow (1983)....

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


Study Predicts Massive Mudslides In Burned Areas Heavy rains in areas burned by the Cedar and Paradise fires could trigger massive mudslides over the coming years, according to a federal study. The study of more than 400 basins burned by the fires found that storms could set off flows and peak discharges of up to 6,000 cubic feet of mud and debris per second. "If it's raining, leave," Susan Cannon, lead author of the study and a mudslide expert, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "To think that you've built a sandbag wall that's going to protect the house ... is naive.".... Judge awards injured snowmobiler $11 million Montana federal judge has ordered the U.S. Forest Service and a snowmobiler to pay more than $10.7 million to a Michigan man who suffered severe brain injuries when he was struck in the head by a snowmobile in 1996. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, Mont., ruled that the Forest Service must pay 40 percent of the award for the February 1996 crash near West Yellowstone, Mont., that left Brian Musselman of Hope, Mich., with permanent disabilities. Molloy ruled in late January that the agency failed to fix dangerous conditions along the groomed trail or warn snowmobilers of the dangers that existed.... Judge blocks salvage logging plan in Missionary Ridge burn area A federal judge blocked a logging project on land burned by the devastating Missionary Ridge wildfire after a conservation group said the Forest Service failed to do a wildlife count as required by law. A timber industry official said the decision effectively kills the plan because the fire-killed aspen, spruce, fir and ponderosa pine would be valueless by the time the objections are resolved. Colorado Wild, a nonprofit conservation group in Durango, filed a lawsuit in December saying the Forest Service had not properly accounted for population trends in key wildlife species, including the Abert's squirrel, the American marten and four types of birds.... Walden urges Endangered Species Act reforms Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., offered testimony Wednesday in support of legislation he has introduced in Congress to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Walden's legislation, the Sound Science for Endangered Species Act Planning Act of 2003 (HR 1662), would require that greater weight be given to field-tested and scientifically peer-reviewed data under the ESA. Walden's testimony was delivered today before the Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, which held a hearing today entitled, "Issues Affecting Jobs in the Forest Industry.".... State Parks denies mountain lion breeding program exists State Parks officials have declared false the allegations made by local residents in a Jan. 15 article in The Malibu Times that the Malibu Creek State Park Preliminary General Plan involves a provision to breed mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains. "We have no plan whatsoever to breed mountain lions. To think otherwise is false," said Hayden Sohm, Malibu Sector Superintendent of State Parks. The fears expressed by residents came after attacks in Orange County by a cougar that left one cyclist dead and another with severe injuries, and the killing of goats in Malibu by another cougar.... PLF sues to remove plover from endangered list The Pacific Legal Foundation, a property-rights legal firm that represented Coos County in its effort to overturn critical habitat designations for the threatened Western snowy plover in 2003, has asked a federal court to remove the shorebird from the endangered species list. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Surf Ocean Beach Commission and the city of Morro Bay, Calif., was entered in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on Tuesday. In an announcement, PLF attorney Greg Broderick said the listing is based on "junk science" and is hurting West Coast economies. "The government is kicking people off of beaches from California to Washington, while refusing to look at hundreds of pages of scientific data showing that the plover is not threatened," said PLF attorney Greg Broderick in an announcement of the lawsuit. "If the government is going to keep people off the beach and cripple the coastal economy, they should at least look at the science.".... Wild salmon see glimmer of hope Since the dramatic turnaround in ocean conditions, the risk of extinction for many wild salmon stocks in the Pacific has diminished, according to the latest status reports from the federal government. Of the dozen Columbia Basin salmon stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act, all except Snake River sockeye are "clearly in less jeopardy of extinction" than they were three years ago, according to the October reports from the National Marine Fisheries Service.... Timeline Documents Three Years of Consistent Failure and Neglect On the heels of the Bush administration's budget announcements, today the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition (SOS), a nationwide coalition of more than 50 businesses, conservation organizations, commercial and sportfishing associations, river groups and taxpayer advocates, released a chronological report of the Bush administration's record on recovery of imperiled Pacific wild salmon and steelhead. The report summarizes 35 separate Administration actions in the last three years, which together document a consistent pattern of failure to restore salmon, comply with laws and treaties, or build the Northwest's salmon economies.... Appeals court says scientists can study Kennewick Man Scientists can study the 9,300-year-old remains of the Kennewick Man, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a decision last August by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Jelderks in Portland that the remains, which Northwest Indian tribes consider sacred, can be studied. The tribes wanted the bones, found on the north bank of the Columbia River in 1996 by teenagers going to a boat race, to be turned over to them for burial. The three-judge panel found that the remains do not fall under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and can be studied under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.... Kempthorne, lawmakers at odds over wolf pact The first deep rift this year between the Legislature and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne tore open over wolves and Native Americans on Tuesday, and a House committee meeting ended in an argument between Republicans. Legislators have been steaming over the “memorandum of understanding” since a draft of the agreement was handed out to key leaders a few days ago. Republican leaders angrily left a meeting with Kempthorne last week, and some key lobby groups, including the Idaho Farm Bureau, have been bashing the agreement in their updates to members. The agreement basically hashes out the role of Idaho Fish and Game, the state Office of Endangered Species and the Nez Perce Tribe in wolf management once the wolves are taken off the Endangered Species List..... Groups give views on new grazing rules Ranchers and environmentalists lined up Tuesday night to speak their minds on the Interior Department’s new plan for managing livestock grazing on 160 million acres of public lands. The department’s Bureau of Land Management released a draft environmental impact statement Jan. 2 that conceded “some short-term adverse effects” from the new rules but promised long-term improvements in rangeland and BLM management. In the last of four Western meetings, representatives serving both livestock groups and conservationists raised several questions and concerns on the new rules, which go into effect in December.... Sierra Club Criticizes New Grazing Regulations for Public Lands The Sierra Club is criticizing the Bush Administration’s new rules regarding livestock grazing on public lands, as citizens across the West speak out about the proposed changes. Late last year the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released proposed changes to grazing regulations which will ultimately hurt the long-term sustainability of America’s western landscapes. “The Bush administration’s changes will put us back decades in the effort to improve the health of our public lands,” said Sierra Club President Larry Fahn. “The West’s landscapes have been overgrazed for decades. Over the years the BLM has made some progress, but these recent moves threaten that progress.”....Coalition Sues to Limit Drilling for Oil and Gas in New Mexico A group of Navajo officials, cattle ranchers and environmentalists sued the Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday over federal efforts to increase natural gas exploration in northwestern New Mexico, an area rich in mineral resources. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, also names the Department of the Interior as a defendant. It seeks to limit the drilling of oil and natural gas wells in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico. Federal officials recently said that they would permit nearly 10,000 new wells in the basin over the next two decades. Over the last year, Navajo officials and environmental groups have tried to roll back plans by the bureau to permit energy companies to explore for natural gas on religious sites and in areas they consider environmentally fragile. Despite Navajo protests, however, the bureau has approved the drilling plans and the construction of 1,000 miles of roads to give drillers access to the area.... Brothel move could start again next week The move of buildings from the Mustang Ranch, Northern Nevada’s most famous brothel, to a controversial new bordello nearby may resume next week. Storey County commissioners agreed Tuesday to allow transport of the Mustang’s buildings to the Wild Horse Canyon Ranch & Spa, a brothel that opened in 2002 along Interstate 80 about 20 miles east of Reno. “We are hopeful we can start moving on the buildings next week,” said Lance Gilman, who operates Wild Horse Canyon and owns the Mustang buildings.....

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Report Released on Effects of 2003 Wildfires on Endangered Species The Center for Biological Diversity ("Center") released a report Tuesday analyzing the potential regional effects of the October 2003 southern California wildfires on four species listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The coastal California gnatcatcher, least Bell's vireo, Quino checkerspot butterfly, and southern California mountain yellow-legged frog have U. S. ranges restricted to southwestern California, and their habitats were all impacted by the recent fires. The report also calls for federal, state, and local agencies to conduct supplemental environmental review of projects that may impact these species because baseline conditions have changed as a result of the fires....Go here (pdf)to view the report..... Column: Shouldwe take chances with fire? Hundreds of thousands of acres of timber have been destroyed by terrible, destructive fires over the past few years. These fires destroyed homes, animals and everything in the inferno’s path, leaving fear in the hearts of those who live anywhere near a burn area. There are reports these high temperature fires leave the soil sterile. When an area is logged, new trees can be planted, but following these fires nothing will grow for years on sterile soil. For years the forests have been neglected, so any fire that starts will be a hot one because of the buildup. For years the environmentalists have prevented thinning and multiuse of the land areas. They have closed roads so once a fire starts, fire equipment cannot get to the fire to keep it under control.... Forest Service approves Keystone addition The U.S. Forest Service has OK'd the addition of 577 acres to the Keystone Resort in Summit County, paving the way for snowcat tours. The approval puts the ski areas known as Erickson Bowl and Little Bowl inside the resort's boundaries, allowing them to be destinations for the new tours. The tours will be run by Keystone Adventure tours and begin in the next few weeks.... DeFazio: Forest law spending is 'funny money' Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said the administration's claim to spend $760 million to fully fund the so-called healthy forests law was misleading. "It's funny money. They are not delivering on their promise here," DeFazio said. He and other critics accused the administration of combining several unrelated Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management accounts to come up with the $760 million figure. "They are adding things up that are already underfunded until they get to the number 760 and say, 'We told you,' " DeFazio said. But Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., called the proposal a good start.... House panel to study study timber job losses Timber sales on federal lands declined dramatically in the last decade. During the 1960's, 70's and 80's Forest Service timber sales were roughly 11 billion board feet (BBF) a year. Today, the number has dropped to approximately 2 BBF a year, an 82 percent reduction in timber harvests. During the 1980's, 22,000 good timber jobs in the Pacific Northwest vanished because of sensational campaigns led by environmentalists to malign the industry as the killer of spotted owls. However, scientists now confirm that the plight of the owl is due to a more persistent foe - natural selection - and the barred owl. Nonetheless, foresters have seen a healthy, sustainable industry all but disappear. The forest industry has been criticized unjustly by radical environmentalists, who aided the large scale export of jobs overseas where lumber is cheap and, ironically, environmental standards are few. As a result, over 900 mills, pulp and paper plants, and other forest products plants have closed since 1990 and at least 130,000 jobs have been lost since mid-1990.... Risk doesn't deter growth in fire-prone areas Population in the eight Rocky Mountain states — Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona — jumped 42% since 1990, the Census Bureau says. Market researcher Claritas Inc. estimates the region will grow 10% more by 2008. Those numbers don't tell the whole story. In some states, almost everybody lives on land with fire potential. While only 2% of New Mexico's land lies in such areas, 80% of the houses do, according to Forest Service data. Wyoming has the same pattern. In other Western states, including California, Washington and Oregon, 40% to 55% of houses are in such areas. Aggravating the threat: a century of government policy bent on fighting almost every Western fire, leaving wildlands overgrown and ripe for catastrophic burns.... Administration budget makes unexpected change for BPA President Bush's budget on Monday proposed new restrictions on the Bonneville Power Administration's ability to use long-term, private-sector loans to build transmission lines and finance other major projects. The proposal ran into immediate objections. Opponents said the proposal could jeopardize the agency's plans to guard against blackouts by upgrading the Northwest power grid and seemed to contradict past administration guidance that the BPA turn to private loans rather than the U.S. Treasury.... State may sue feds over wolves State attorneys are preparing to go to court to appeal the U.S. Department of Interior's recent rejection of Wyoming's wolf management plan, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Tuesday. At the same time, state officials have filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request for all U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documents related to several aspects of gray wolf reintroduction and management. Freudenthal also plans to write Interior Secretary Gale Norton an outline of the past year's events in which, Freudenthal claims, the federal government changed its initial position supporting the state's wolf management law. Plus, he said, the Interior Department's scientific review of the state's wolf management plan passed muster with 10 of the 11 federally appointed biologists who studied it, yet the agency still decided to reject the state plan.... California groups sue to strip coastal bird of protected status The city of Morro Bay and a Santa Barbara County citizens group filed suit Tuesday to remove the western snowy plover from the federal list of threatened species, arguing that the decision to protect the coastal bird is based on "junk science." The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, seeks to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to petitions to strip the snowy plover of its protected status and end restrictions on beaches where it breeds. The plaintiffs say the federal protections are keeping people off Central California beaches and hurting coastal communities that rely on business from beach-going tourists.... Column: Putting common sense in the Endangered Species Act Since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, most Americans have come to identify themselves as environmentalists. Unfortunately, over the years a small faction of the movement has drifted further and further away from the original goals of environmentalism. These pseudo-environmentalists now pursue an agenda that has less to do with conserving resources, reducing pollution and protecting wildlife than with attacking business and opposing certain products and technologies. Ironically, their efforts are often inimical to the protection of the environment — and to common sense, as well.... Sierra Club Opposes William Myers's Nominiation to the Ninth Circuit The Sierra Club joined with a broad coalition including the National Congress of American Indians, the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and other environmental groups to support a fair and balanced court system that will protect the rights and safety of all Americans. Expressing concern about his anti-environmental record, the Sierra Club has announced its opposition to William Myers, President Bush's latest nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. "The Bush administration is pushing lifetime appointments for judges who are out of step with most Americans, threatening to unravel environmental protections. William Myers is the most extreme example," said David Bookbinder, Sierra Club's Washington Legal Director. "Myers's anti-environmental views and avowed hostility to environmental protections make him unfit to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a court that handles an exceptionally large number of environmental cases.".... Biologists find cows make good company with some rare critters Fairy shrimp, the rare tiger salamander, the solitary bee - rare critters that live in seasonal rainwater pools in California's grasslands - may actually benefit from having large, heavy-footed cattle grazing around their habitat. Several biologists looking closely at what happens in these vernal pools say the diversity of the ephemeral fauna and flora in the water increases when cows keep weedy non-native grasses under control.... Column: Woodland worry In normal years, wheeling flocks of powder-blue piñon jays harvest tons of high-fat, high-protein piñon nuts and then plant them an inch deep, root-end down, into a mulched litter of dead needles and twigs in widely dispersed areas. Those not dug up for winter sustenance germinate with the next summer's rains to become future piñon woodlands. Tree feeds bird, and bird plants tree, in a remarkable but little-known dance of mutualism, in which each partner's evolutionary footfall is matched in kind. In the process, the "bird-pine" woodlands of the Southwest are created and maintained - a 75,000-square-mile ecosystem that provides habitat and favorable micro-climates for hundreds of other species.... 'Animal Law' Comes Into Its Own Ten years ago, one would have been hard pressed to find even a reference to "animal law." These days, animal law has become a viable legal specialty, with an increasing number of attorneys forming entire practices dedicated to animal issues. Animal lawyers don't just handle legal challenges for endangered species or prosecute severe abuse cases. In response to a growing interest in protecting all animals, animal practices now represent many kinds of issues, including animal cruelty, companion animal custody during divorces, legal provisions for animals in case of the guardian's death, hunting limits, lab testing of animals, wildlife conservation regulations, even definitions of terms such as "pain" as they relate to animals, and much more.... Group says two Wyo ranges among worst Two huge grazing allotments in central and southwestern Wyoming have been identified by a coalition of conservationists as among the "top ten" most overgrazed public lands in the West. RangeNet, a special project of the Western Watersheds Project, released the "American West's Most Overgrazed Public Lands 2003" list this week. The list aims to draw attention to overgrazed areas of the west, said RangeBiome's Larry Walker who oversaw the poll. Walker is former range conservationist with the Bureau of Land Management who retired in 1997 after 31 years of service with the agency. Other overgrazed allotments ranked in the poll include: The Diamond Bar Allotment in New Mexico's Gila National Forest, first place; the Rock Creek/Mudholes Allotment in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, second; the Montana Allotment in Arizona's Coronado National Forest Nogales Ranger District, fourth; the Pleasantview Allotment in near Pocatello, Id. and the Sycamore Valley Allotment in California's East Bay Regional Park District, tied for fifth; Kens Lake/Behind the Rocks State Trust Lands in Utah, seventh; the Antelope Basin Allotment near Madison, Mont., ninth; and California's Ord Mountain Allotment, tenth. The list can be viewed at RangeNet's Web site ( Judge hears CBM water dispute Federal land managers and the coalbed methane gas industry like to say that the burgeoning development in the Powder River Basin is proceeding responsibly. If anything, there is too much environmental analysis and too many regulatory hurdles. But U.S. Federal Judge William Downes said Tuesday he resents that notion. After hearing testimony from two ranchers and viewing an aerial photograph of damages allegedly caused by coalbed methane water discharges, Downes said it's obvious there are some problems. "That doesn't look like it's just swell to me," Downes said, referring to Plaintiff's exhibit No. 33, a photograph of Edward Swartz's ranch in northern Campbell County.... Bush budget soaks S.F. for Hetch Hetchy President Bush's new budget contains an unwelcome bombshell for San Francisco, a proposal to raise the rent the city pays for its Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park from $30,000 a year to a whopping $8 million. The city's representatives in Congress pledged Tuesday to fight the proposed increase in the rent, which hasn't gone up in more than 70 years....


I will be travelling to Albuquerque and Santa Fe starting tomorrow, and will return Friday afternoon. I'll be taking my laptop and will try to keep the blog updated....but hope you will understand if events overtake me.


BLM Proposes $1.7 Billion for FY 2005 Budget To Enhance Multiple-Use Management through Conservation Partnerships

To promote conservation partnerships that enhance its multiple-use management of the public lands, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today proposed a Fiscal Year 2005 budget of $1.7 billion. The BLM’s FY 2005 budget proposal, which is a $53 million programmatic increase over the FY 2004 enacted level of funding, would provide increases of $4.8 million for the agency’s resource-restoration Challenge Cost Share program and $3.2 million for its sage-grouse conservation and restoration efforts. The budget request also includes increases of $5.6 million for land acquisition and $4 million for monitoring the implementation of new land-use plans. The Bureau’s 2005 budget proposal redirects $10.5 million for management of the more than 39,000 wild horses and burros that roam the public lands. Through a combination of new funds and redirected funds, the budget proposes an increase of $12 million to improve the health of forest lands in western Oregon.

Clarke noted that the Challenge Cost Share program has produced many partnership success stories, including a multi-year project with the City of Eugene, Oregon, that restored wetland habitat. Under the cost share program, which strives for a one-to-one dollar match or better, the city matched the BLM’s $150,000 contribution with $525,000 to remove fill from 8.9 acres of historic prairie wetlands....


President George W. Bush is requesting more than $1.3 billion -- $22.6 million more than last year for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2005 budget. The request represents the administrations continuing commitment to protect Americas natural resources and support conservation partnerships in communities across the country.

Among the key features of this budget package are an increase for partnership and cost-share grant programs under the Presidents Cooperative Conservation Initiative and $2 million for a new Science Excellence Initiative. Budget increases for hatcheries and migratory bird programs help to round out a package that will allow the Service to conserve, with its partners, the nature of America....

President’s FY 2005 Budget Request Strengthens Commitment to Preserving and Protecting America’s Parks and Special Places

The Bush Administration’s FY 2005 proposed budget for the National Park Service is $2.4 billion. This budget proposal, which is a net increase of over $100 million above FY 2004, demonstrates a strong commitment to sustaining the National Park System with emphasis on reducing the maintenance backlog, strengthening law enforcement and improving visitor safety programs, enhancing resource management, and expanding partnership and volunteer opportunities.

Presented with a significant park maintenance backlog at the beginning of his Administration, President Bush promised to address the backlog problem and to reverse the trend. The President committed to spend $4.9 billion over 5 years to address known problems while NPS conducted inventory and condition assessments to determine the magnitude of deferred maintenance of NPS assets and the preventive requirements to protect the investments being made. Between FY 2002 and FY 2004, a total of $2.8 billion has been appropriated to specifically address the deferred maintenance issue. The FY 2005 budget proposes $1.1 billion, including $310 million as part of the President’s Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century reauthorization proposal. This request reflects an increase of $77 million over the FY 2004 level for reducing the maintenance backlog....

FY 2005 Budget Empowers Agency to Accelerate Environmental Protection

President Bush's 2005 budget provides $7.76 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, a $133 million increase over the 2004 budget request. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt, joined by key Agency officials, announcing the budget at a Washington, D.C. news briefing today, expressed pleasure with the resources being provided to the Agency.

"With the President's budget, we can increase the velocity of environmental protection -- protecting our land, cleaning our air and cleansing our water -- efficiently, effectively and without impairing the economy," Leavitt said. "We are adopting better ways -- facilitating collaboration, harnessing technology, creating market incentives -- and we are committed to measuring progress, not process."

To build on the progress in protecting children's health and the successful national partnership to reduce emissions from school buses, the President's budget provides an increase in funding, from $5 million to $65 million, for the Clean School Bus USA program.

To ensure cleaner, safer water, the President's budget provides:....

President's Agriculture Budget Proposes Increased Funding to Protect the Nation's Food Supply and Conserve Natural Resources

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today released details of President Bush’s FY 2005 budget for U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and services, which includes increased funding to help ensure a safe and wholesome food supply, safeguard America’s homeland and conserve natural resources.

Veneman said the budget is consistent with the Administration’s policy book, “Food and Agricultural Policy for the 21st Century.” The FY 2005 budget calls for $82 billion in spending, an increase of $4 billion, or about 5 percent, above levels for FY 2004, and represents growth of 19 percent since the Bush Administration took office. Discretionary outlays are estimated at $20.8 billion, a 3 percent change, or $720 million below the 2004 level....

Our good friends at the Forest Service have no press release on their website on the President's budget. Even the USDA press release posted above, only refers to the Jan. 28 release of the Healthy Forests budget. According to this Fox News analysis, the Forest Service's budget is cut by 7.6 percent to $4.2 billion.

For a joint release from EPA, USDI, USDA and the White House which covers all environmental programs, go here.

Click here for AP's summary of the Interior budget.

For a Reuter's story on EPA's 7 percent budget cut, go here.

For three different stories on the Park Service budget, go here, here and here.

Click here for the Defenders of Wildlife take on the budget.

For the Wilderness Society's comments on the budget go here. This release contains the following interesting tidbit: The budget also proposes new authority allowing the Bureau of Land Management to significantly expand its authority to sell off public lands under its jurisdiction -- and to use the funds for infrastructure maintenance.


Don Amador is fighting for your right to ride So many of us go out and ride in legal offroad motorcycle areas, but don't give a second thought to how we got the right to be there. Often there has been a battle fought, and large amounts of money spent, just for your freedom to enjoy the outdoors on your motorcycle. We can thank Don Amador for getting involved in those battles and fighting on behalf of all of us that enjoy offroad motorcycling to keep areas open and safe.... John's Peak - Off Highway Fun Close to Medford The John's Peak area has 600 miles of trails, some very well maintained, winding through 14,000 acres. The area is so large that caution must be used not to get lost. A member of our party was gone a couple of hours trying to find his way back to our launching point. Problems for the directionally challenged are minimized because many of the trails and roads eventually form a loop. If you're reasonably competent at navigating in the woods, there is always a trail or road to lead you back to where you started.... Editorial: Tongass giveway EACH YEAR, taxpayers generously subsidize the work the US Forest Service does for timber companies in Alaska's Tongass National Forest. All of the surveying, road building, and administrative work exceeds revenues paid to the government by the companies by $30 million to $35 million a year. That's $170,000 for each timber job each year. Now the Bush administration has opened up even more of the 16.8 million-acre national forest to this form of corporate welfare. The Clinton administration had included 9 million acres of the Tongass among the 58.5 million acres of national forest lands set aside as "roadless." Late in December the Bush administration ended that protection for the 9 million Tongass acres and made 300,000 acres available for clear-cut timber sales. Congress should make the Clinton roadless rule a law to stop this circumvention.... Burrowing owl report suppressed by fish and game comes to light, "Owlgate" incident suggests decision not to protect the species was improper Documents obtained by environmental groups through a California Public Records Act request reveal that the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) suppressed an agency report recommending that the western burrowing owl be considered for endangered or threatened status under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The improperly withheld report evaluated a formal petition to list the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) submitted by conservation organizations in April of 2003. The California Fish and Game Commission voted 4-0 in December 2003 to reject the burrowing owl petition, based in part on a second contradictory DFG report blatantly biased against listing and widely criticized by conservationists and owl experts as fraught with inaccuracies and inconsistencies. In contrast, the report DFG refused to release to the Commission and the public recommended that the owl be immediately protected as a "Candidate" species while a year-long status review was conducted by DFG.... Salmon study reinforces need to restore habitat A sizeable number of the young chinook salmon cruising the shallow waters near South Sound shorelines were born in other places, according to recent field research by the Nisqually and Squaxin Island tribes. Fish from the Green, White and Puyallup rivers and their tributaries in King and Pierce counties are using the South Sound near-shore habitat to feed and rest when they leave the freshwater and migrate to saltwater. Recent studies identifying young salmon caught in nets cast from beaches found that 20 percent to 25 percent of the fish were from rivers and streams outside South Sound, tribal officials said.... Disputed grazing may save wildlife refuge Sometime this month cattle will start grazing some of the most sensitive wildlife habitat in the Bay Area -- 160 acres of vernal pools near Fremont in the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A decade's worth of encroachment by non-native grass has the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluding the only antidote is bit of bovine trampling and munching. Anti-grazing activists are, surprisingly, somewhat OK with that.... Bair Ranch under easement contract The Bair brothers, owners of the Bair Ranch straddling Eagle and Garfield counties, have made a deal with conservationists to protect their land in the scenic Glenwood Canyon from further development. The drive to preserve the 4,300 acres as mostly historic ranchland stalled last year when brothers Craig and Legrande Bair could not agree on whether to put their property under contract for a $5 million conservation easement. Contract negotiations were completed last week, said Tom Macy of The Conservation Fund, the Boulder-based nonprofit organization in charge of negotiating the easement. The $5 million would also purchase outright more than 500 acres of the ranch along the Eagle River. The 4,300 acres that would be put under the easement would be protected from future development but stay under Craig Bair's ownership. The riverside 500 acres would be owned by the public, Macy said.... House passes memorial to take inventory on land-grant lands The House voted 47-9 Monday to pass a joint memorial to take an inventory of state-owned lands that were once land grants from the governments of Spain and Mexico to families prior to New Mexico becoming a U.S. territory and later a state. Memorial 15 directs the Office of State Records and Archives to determine the extent to which state-owned lands previously were common lands of Spanish and Mexican land grants. The study would look at state land only and not privately owned land or federal land. The inventory will allow the Legislature to make determinations about appropriate legislative action to possibly return state-owned land to appropriate land-grant communities. Those land grants, dating back to 1692, were put aside when New Mexico became a state in 1912.... Mountain States Legal Foundation - a win for the ranchers It must have been an open and shut case. Oral arguments occurred on December 10, 2003, in Montana federal district court; two days later, the court ruled for Stephen and Jean Roth of Darby, Montana. The court held that the Roths own an easement in the Bitterroot National Forest, created in 1897, and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area, created in 1964, for Tamarack Lake dam and reservoir and four ditches that deliver water to the Roths' ranch. The Roths victory was welcome news to landowners across the west who are fighting with the U.S. Forest Service and other federal land agencies over whether they have the right to access their property....

Sunday, February 01, 2004


A Growing Friendship: Environmentalism and OHV Driving Off-highway driving and environmentalism don't always seem like the best of friends. In fact, the New York Times recently called the sport one of the most politically volatile land-use issues in the country. But the nonprofit organization Tread Lightly!® has developed a new training program called Tread Trainer™ that hopes to help maintain a vital friendship between environmental ethics and outdoor play. Initiated in March of 2003, Tread Trainer is a national, volunteer-based program that seeks to train people all over the country to become "Master Tread Trainers," or official representatives of Tread Lightly! Master Tread Trainers are trained in the principles of minimizing environmental impact and presentation skills. They then teach others to become "Tread Trainers"- thereby creating a growing network of volunteers prepared to reach millions of recreationists within a few years.... Forest Service, rancher reach agreement U.S. Forest Service has agreed on electric fencing to isolate a new trail created from the old Harrison Pass Road as part of a cooperative agreement that may be blazing a new trail of its own. "It's definitely a good deal," rancher Fred Zaga of Jiggs said Friday. Without the agreement that calls for fencing off the reclaimed old roadway, trail and Toyn Creek in the Ruby Mountains, Zaga said he wouldn't have been able to graze cattle in the area for two years. The agreement also calls for the Forest Service to provide watering troughs and Zaga to install them, as well as for permanent fencing on a small portion of rancher Tony Zunino's grazing allotment, according to Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko.... Black Hills trees dying from combination of factors Several thousand acres of trees in a portion of the Black Hills National Forest are dying from what experts suspect is a combination of hail damage, fungus and drought. Forest Service spokesman Frank Carroll of Custer said the die-off also is another sign of an unhealthy forest. "When hail damages trees, it allows fungus to invade," Carroll said. "If the trees are nice and healthy with lots of water and so forth, they're effective in fighting it off. If they're too dry, they're not.".... Tonto fees make unhappy campers Since 1997, the federal government has tried to supplement public-lands budgets by collecting fees at various sites, such as the Tonto National Forest, which is accessed through the Peralta Trailhead, east of Apache Junction. But the Tonto Forest is the only public-lands agency in the nation to hand off enforcement to a private company. And that has changed the dynamics of what happens when people either forget or, like Merlino, refuse to pay the fee.... Platte River plans could hurt Wyoming A plan to expand storage capacity of Pathfinder Reservoir to benefit threatened species in Nebraska could cost upstream irrigators in southern Wyoming, a state legislator and water rights expert said.... Feds' plan champions South Platte New dams and most other development would be permanently banned along a spectacular stretch of the South Platte River and its North Fork under a management plan released late last month by the U.S. Forest Service. The agency simultaneously announced it would abandon for now the idea of protecting the canyon-cutting river under a Wild and Scenic designation, but would work within existing forest regulations to preserve the river's character.... Protecting springs at root of furor over landing No one disputes the importance of Wood's Landing to the last vestige of Columbia River chum salmon. The spring-fed shoreline east of the Interstate 205 Bridge is one of only three major spawning sites that remain for the threatened fish, and it is by far the largest spawning ground between Beacon Rock and the Grays River across from Astoria, Ore. -- a distance of 120 river miles. A major reason for this, fishery biologists say, is the springs. Bill Maitland paid $1 million three years ago for a 4 1/2-acre piece of property near the springs, with the understanding that the site was zoned for residential development on 10,000-square-foot lots.... BLM, Public Lands Council Sign Agreement to Promote Cooperative Monitoring of Rangeland Conditions The Bureau of Land Management and Public Lands Council today signed an agreement that will promote cooperative monitoring of public rangeland conditions. The purpose of the agreement is to help stabilize grazing on BLM-managed lands and help achieve desired conditions on public rangelands in the years to come.... Retirees in the Rockies Worry on Drilling The plan has run into unusually broad opposition in western Colorado, from relatively new arrivals like the Andersons to veteran landowners who remember when the region's oil shale industry went bust in 1982. Even commissioners in revenue-starved rural counties say energy companies are running roughshod over local rights. Many here support multiple-use for the West's sprawling public lands, including responsible energy development. But they worry that this new boom threatens not only the environment but the outdoors-based economy that has replaced the oil-and-gas backbone of the 1970s and '80s.... Biologist chronicles history of waterfowl hunting Harold Duebbert does not stop at loving history. He lives it. He still hunts ducks out of a boat he made 40 years ago. He shoots a 1912 L.C. Smith Model 12 shotgun. The decoys over which he shoots ducks were carved by his own hands. He prefers old-style tan waterfowl hunting jackets and caps to the modern computer-generated camouflage prints. The bookshelves in Duebbert's home are lined with vintage volumes that date back a century or more. That zeal was the engine behind Duebbert's most recent acknowledgment to the way things used to be, a book titled "Wildfowling in Dakota: 1873-1903.".... Suspended Park Police Chief Continues Her Fight In the latest missive to cross her “Honest Chief” Web site, suspended U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers notes the rallying to her cause of a new group of attorneys from the Government Accountability Project (GAP), who have filed a brief with officials. “It provides startling information about a Federal law which prohibits paying a salary to any Federal employee who attempts to inhibit another employee's communication with Congress or attempts to discipline an employee for having done so,” points out Chambers, who remains in an administrative limbo following her controversial suspension two months ago.... Canyon visitation rebounds After three years in a slump, visitation to Grand Canyon National Park is on the rebound. Figures for 2003 released by the National Park Service show a jump of nearly 3 percent to 4.46 million visitors, the first yearly rise since 1999.... Column: Debate revs up snowmobilers Snowmobiles in West Yellowstone belly up to storefronts like cowboys' mounts at the hitching posts of old, giving this community of 1,100 on the border of Yellowstone National Park an aura like no other. The self-proclaimed "snowmobile capital of the world" for decades has been a place where winter vacationers come to rent motorized sleds for forays into the surrounding national forests and the treasured park, whose west gate sits at the edge of town. Now politics is putting the brakes on.... Carrying on Pony Express tradition As president of the National Pony Express Association’s Nevada Division, McPherson has become a leader in the drive to create more exposure for the brief but legendary mail service and to help ensure the historic trail is preserved.... Editorial: Divide and conquer Most Utahns would be forgiven if they did not know there was such a thing as a state Constitutional Defense Council. Fewer will see any reason to change the way it operates. The council is a conclave of the governor, attorney general, Senate president and minority leader, House speaker and minority leader, two citizens appointed by the governor and four representatives of county governments selected by the Utah Association of Counties. Its job is to evaluate federal laws and regulations that might place an undue burden on the state, its localities or its people and recommend whether and where to challenge them.... Ranchers eat up range monitoring talk “We’re not talking about the Columbus Theory here,” he said with a grin, regarding cattle grazing. “You know, turn ’em out in the spring, and re-discover them in the fall.” Canterbury doesn’t fit the stereotype of an environmentalist monitoring rangeland flora. But he couldn’t be more passionate about Land EKG, a Bozeman, Mont.-based land and habitat management company. Record-keeping can be as basic as a pencil and notebook or cutting-edge techno. Canterbury showed the audience a long rod marked off at two-inch increments he uses to measure plant height when on horseback. He also passed out forms he uses to graph such indicators as how quickly vegetation grows, and how far plants are spaced apart. On the other end, he teaches ranchers to use Palm Pilots to record their findings in the field.... Push to create wilderness areas stirs debate Environmental groups are pushing Congress to designate nearly 11 million acres of Oregon land as wilderness, off limits to roads, development, recreation and logging. In a state that already has 2.27 million acres of designated wilderness, that would be about a six-fold increase.... Army lax on site cleanup The Army, tired of such horror stories of discovering unexploded or forgotten ordnance nationwide, in 1999 issued directives designed to force current and former ranges to better track their cleanup efforts, better record ordnance use, improve security, reduce environmental damage and improve sustainability of ranges. But inspectors now say those directives were never implemented, according to documents obtained by the Deseret Morning News through a Freedom of Information Act request.... Bush's budget reduces spending on environment, boosts military President Bush will send Congress a $2.39 trillion budget today that cuts environment, agriculture, and energy programs while giving large increases for military and homeland security spending, administration and congressional officials said. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department will be squeezed as Bush reduces his request for spending on the environment and natural resources from $32.2 billion last year to $30.3 billion this year. But a senior administration official said no cuts would be made in the EPA's enforcement budget.... Bush Moves to Defuse Environmental Criticism The Bush administration is moving to defuse some of the severest criticisms of its environmental policies, just as several Democratic presidential candidates are taking aim at its record. Polls reflect public unease with President Bush's handling of the environment, and some Democrats see an opening in this year's congressional and presidential elections -- even if history shows that the subject rarely ranks among voters' top concerns.... Western primary eyed for '08 After declaring the New Mexico caucus "a huge success" in highlighting the West, Gov. Bill Richardson said Sunday that he plans to push for a Western regional primary in four years to increase the political clout of the Rocky Mountains states.... Two cities may douse new fireplaces To some, the smell of real wood crackling in a traditional toasty warm hearth is one of those things that make a house a home. To others, including Hayward and San Leandro city officials, that fireplace or wood-burning stove is also a source of pollutants harmful to human health. Both the Hayward and San Leandro city councils could give up the former to deal with the latter through ordinances they're considering this week that would prohibit the installation of wood-burning fireplaces and stoves in new homes, and replacement in existing homes.... State wants plan to reduce ozone Weld County oil and gas producers may soon wind up pumping tens of millions of dollars into pollution-control equipment to reduce ozone. That's because state health officials think the county's 12,000 wells are burping out tons of ozone that drifts south and pushes Denver-area counties past federal air-quality standards. So state health officials want Weld oil and gas producers to come up with a way to reduce ozone emissions by 40 percent to 60 percent.... NCBA favors voluntary meat-labeling program For Jim McAdams of Adkins, Texas, the two-year delay in implementing country-of-origin labeling (COOL) couldn't have come at a better time. "We are grateful for the delay because what we are going to try to do in that time frame is to develop and implement a volunteer country-of-origin labeling program," McAdams said. McAdams was one of 5,000 cattle producers and industry officials attending the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) annual convention and trade show last week in Phoenix.... The big sale: Payoff at cattle auction spurs ranch life The drive down from Susanville is long — nearly 400 miles. But brothers Randy and Matt Harkness of the 7-H Ranch were drawn to the 101 Livestock Market by the promise of a good price for their 209 head of cattle, even though beef prices had fallen drastically less than a month earlier after a bovine infected with mad cow disease was discovered in the nation’s food supply. The Harknesses had hoped for $1 a pound and needed at least 85 cents to break-even. They ended up getting an average of $1.03 per pound....
Water Battle Pitting Farmers Against Feds Heads to U.S. Supreme Court

Pacific Legal Foundation today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case that could dramatically alter water rights throughout the West. The closely watched case pits farmers in Washington’s Methow Valley against federal agencies charged with unlawfully redirecting water to benefit fish. PLF, representing farmers and Okanogan County, argues that a recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision gives the federal government sweeping new authority to regulate state water that crosses federal land. The decision could have unprecedented, far-reaching effects because the federal government’s land-holdings, particularly in the West, are massive.

“Settled water rights throughout the West are in jeopardy. If the Ninth Circuit decision survives, it will disrupt almost 200 years of Western water law,” said PLF Northwest Center Managing Attorney Russ Brooks.

“With a single decision the Ninth Circuit has transferred to the federal government control of more than 60% of the average annual water yield in 11 Western states,” added Brooks.

The case centers around the century-old water rights of dozens of Methow River Basin farmers. For the past three growing seasons, Methow Valley irrigators have been deprived of water due to a controversial decision by the Forest Service to micromanage stream flows to achieve what the government determines to be “optimal” in-stream habitat conditions for fish listed under the Endangered Species Act. As reported by The Associated Press, the government takes the position that “farmers cannot irrigate from the Methow River if water flows drop below what they were 100 years ago, when people first started drawing water from the river.” When “target flows” are not achieved, federal agencies cut off water to farmers.

“The Ninth Circuit has essentially ruled that the ‘optimal’ conditions for fish are more important than the rights of people to access the water they need to survive,” said Brooks.

PLF is urging the Supreme Court to take the case, arguing that the Ninth Circuit decision will have a devastating impact far beyond the Methow Valley. The Ninth Circuit’s opinion, PLF says, conflicts with more than a century of federal law holding that the power to manage water resources is reserved exclusively to the states—deference that is evident in no less than 37 federal statutes. Moreover, the decision clashes with nearly 200 years of water law in the West.

“The farmers have a right to their water based on long-standing federal and state law,” said Brooks. “To hold otherwise means that the free-spirited people of the West have just come under the absolute command and control of the federal government.”

Agents allege timber theft cover-up Near the end of the Northwest's logging boom, current and past federal officers say, timber companies stole thousands of public trees possibly worth millions of dollars -- with the help of the U.S. Forest Service. Those are the claims that unfolded this week in a cavernous but nearly empty Portland courtroom. If true, and the Forest Service insists they are not, they would outline some of the most sensational forest crimes no one has ever been prosecuted for. A hearing now winding down centers instead on five current and former Forest Service enforcement officers who say their own agency undercut their work to bring the nation's biggest timber thieves to justice....Court ruling leaves 6 million salmon fry in limbo Six million salmon fry swim now in a kind of limbo at the Trail Lakes Hatchery in Moose Pass since the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals banned their release into Tustumena Lake. The fry represent a potential return of 100,000 salmon, averaging four pounds apiece, if eventually released to grow in the wild. The ruling last month, in a lawsuit filed in 1998 by The Wilderness Society and the Alaska Center for the Environment, overturned lower court decisions that had upheld the program run by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, which has stocked the lake with juvenile salmon since 1997. The plaintiffs had argued that the stocking program, started in 1993 by the aquaculture organization under a contract with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, violated provisions of the 1964 Wilderness Act.... Wild horse advocates protest BLM's latest roundup in Nevada A small group of wild horse advocates protested the Bureau of Land Management's latest roundup of the animals in Nevada. Advocates held placards Friday in Silver Springs to protest the agency's plans to reduce a 261-horse herd south of Lahontan Reservoir to no more than 15 animals. The helicopter-guided roundup that began Thursday was expected to last five to seven days. About 150 horses had been captured by Friday night in the desert 45 miles east of Carson City.... Battle plan readied for Mormon crickets Armed with a substantial budget this time around, Nevada agriculture officials are preparing a battle plan against hordes of Mormon crickets expected to march across much of Northern Nevada this summer. On Tuesday, a string of public hearings begins to brief citizens on plans to poison the insects that covered some 6 million acres of Nevada last year — possibly the biggest such bug invasion since World War II.... Scruples never bothered a railroad baron wannabe By the time Ben Holladay, pockets bulging with fresh cash, blew into Portland, he'd already fashioned himself as one of the West's most freewheeling tycoons. His goal was to further boost his fortunes in railroading. In the process he carefully made enemies of Portland's business barons, prostituted the state's politicians, offered a comprehensive course in how not to run a railroad and in general conducted himself like the ruthless manipulator he was. Born in 1819 in Kentucky, where his father guided wagon trains through the Cumberland Gap, Holladay started in the freight business in Weston, Mo., sold supplies to the Army during the 1846-48 Mexican war and rapidly broadened his horizons.... Sierra Club under siege? Yes But recent events now threaten to divert the Sierra Club from its mission. In early January, 13 past presidents of the club wrote to its current board of directors to express "extreme concern for the continuing viability of the club." They warned of an "organized effort" to take over the board of the Sierra Club in order to move personal agendas "and to use the funds and other resources of the club to those ends." Those agendas are narrow, focusing on animal rights and anti-immigration policies. In a speech to the 2003 Animal Rights Conference in Los Angeles, newly elected Sierra Club board member Paul Watson boasted: "We're only three directors away from controlling that board. We control one-third of it right now. And once we get three more directors elected ... we can use the resources of the $95 million-a-year budget to address some of these issues. ... So, you know, a few hundred or a few thousand people from the animal- rights movement joining the Sierra Club - and making it a point to vote - will change the entire agenda of that organization.".... Column, GOP: Defend the land Over the holidays, the Bush administration issued a guideline reintroducing commercial logging into roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Like many Republicans, I read this news with resignation. While not exactly the coming of the apocalypse, it does appear to be yet another disappointing example of the GOP coming out on the wrong side of an important and mainstream environmental issue. Having worked on the front lines of Colorado's environmental politics as head of Great Outdoors Colorado, I have been surprised at how far the party has shifted from its conservation and environmental roots. At what point did support for clean water, abundant open spaces and wildlife habitat and sensible land-use planning become a threat to the GOP's defining political philosophy?.... Drought gives rise to livestock diseases Discovering a field of dead cattle is an agriculturist’s worst nightmare. Cattle are an agriculturist’s life, their heritage, and the way they support themselves and their family. Though losing cattle is something ranchers must deal with each year, recently the loss in cattle to disease has been overwhelming. However, the diseases contracted by the cattle are not carried by insects. They’re carried by rangeland vegetation that cattle are being forced to eat because there was not a sufficient amount of “normal” vegetation on grazing pastures for cattle to eat.... Richardson Orders Protection of Otero Mesa Gov. Bill Richardson signed an executive order Saturday throwing the weight of state government against a federal oil and gas drilling plan for environmentally sensitive Otero Mesa. "Today I am taking significant action to protect Otero Mesa in language that the Department of the Interior and the Bush administration cannot confuse or misunderstand," Richardson said at an Otero Mesa Forum in a downtown theater. Joanna Prukop, head of the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, said her agency, the Environment Department and the Game and Fish Department plan to file a formal protest by Feb. 9 against BLM plans to open some 100,000 acres to oil and gas development.... Water Fight Brewing in Southern Colorado Pressure over water use in the drought-plagued San Luis Valley is building and could erupt in the kind of legal battles seen along the South Platte River. Several years of drought have dropped water levels underneath the south-central Colorado valley and worsened tension between farmers and ranchers with senior water rights and those with newer claims.... Nation's cattle herd liquidation longest on record With lingering drought shriveling pastures throughout much of the western United States, the nation's cattlemen last year liquidated more of their cattle herds and sheep flocks. Figures released Friday by the National Agricultural Statistics Service show the longest cattle cycle liquidation in history, said Duane Hund, a farm analyst with Kansas State University....The race to trace food disease The Department of Agriculture is accelerating a program that will allow investigators to trace a cow back to its birthplace within 48 hours, part of its response to the discovery of a Holstein infected with mad cow disease. But the private sector and many foreign governments already are far ahead of those efforts. Spurred by fears of food-borne illnesses and demands from customers to know what is in their food, more companies are developing sophisticated and speedy trace-back systems for everything from hamburgers to pickles. Europe and Japan have passed trace-back laws that require tracking systems for meat and other types of food....