Saturday, February 21, 2004


Glass Houses and Thrown Stones

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. In this case, it is the political hatchet that the Sierra Club is trying to throw at Associate Supreme Court Justice Scalia, announcing last week that it was considering formally asking the Justice to recuse himself from the pending Cheney energy task force case, claiming that his personal relationship with Vice President Cheney will unfairly influence his decision in the pending case. (Recall that Justice Scalia accompanied Vice President Cheney on a recent duck-hunting trip to Louisiana.)

In the meantime, the Sierra Club is reportedly under attack from within by three candidates for its governing board who are accusing the organization and some of its top officials of unfairly trying to influence the club’s upcoming election. The three candidates claim individuals who were nominated by board members are being unfairly favored over those who gathered signatures to qualify for the ballot....

Invoking a Real Precautionary Principle

We live in a world increasingly dominated by an article of faith that human beings have undue, even nefarious, influence over the dynamic systems of the Earth like climate. Climate science, however, is finally catching up with climate theology and asking some questions that might upset the faithful.

Increasing numbers of scientists, politicians, and journalists have become aware of the huge impact that natural climate drivers, like the amount of solar energy reaching the earth, have on our global climate over time. Moreover, we now understand that the numerical computer models used by many academics too often replicate the biases of their programmers. Current climate models that assume greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, drive climate change, fail to reproduce observed climate change over even geologically short time spans....

California's Fruits and Nuts Oppose Agriculture

In a state known for dumb, gratuitous referendum issues, Measure H takes the cake. It would ban the cultivation of any plant genetically improved using the most precise and predictable techniques, regardless of their risk.

To begin with, Measure H's definition of DNA is bizarre and scientifically incorrect. Measure H is also logically inconsistent, in that its restrictions are inversely related to risk. It permits the use of microorganisms and plants that are crafted with less precise, less predictable techniques, but bans those made with highly precise and predictable ones. It turns science-based regulation on its head.

Significant advances in the fight against cancer, diabetes, AIDS, Parkinson's, and numerous other diseases have relied on biotechnology. If future research were to lead to development of a product that provides significant relief, or even a life-saving cure, Measure H would prohibit its use in Mendocino County. That alone is reason enough to defeat this poorly-worded and confusing measure....

Nature in the Suburbs

A decade ago, who would have thought that New Jersey would host a black bear hunt--the first in 33 years? Or that Virginia, whose population of bald eagles was once down to 32 breeding pairs, would have 329 known active bald eagle nests? Who would have expected Metropolitan Home magazine to be advising its readers about ornamental grasses to keep away white-tailed deer, now found in the millions around the country?

Such incidents illustrate a transformed America. This nation, often condemned for being crowded, paved over, and studded with nature-strangling shopping malls, is proving to be a haven for wild animals.

It is difficult to ignore this upsurge of wildlife, because stories about bears raiding trashcans and mountain lions sighted in subdivisions frequently turn up in the press or on television. Featured in these stories are animals as large as moose, as well as once-threatened birds such as eagles and falcons and smaller animals like wolverines and coyotes....

PETA Running From The Truth

The truth can hurt. Sometimes, it is so embarrassingly hideous that its enemies are moved to vigilante censorship and vandalism. Anything to shield the public from the awful truth. And so it is with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Center for Consumer Freedom's advertisements, appearing this month on the Washington Metrorail system. Activists who aren't fans of our message have been taking matters -- and the ads themselves -- into their own hands.

Our ad highlights PETA's appalling stance on medical research using lab animals, clearly articulated by PETA president Ingrid Newkirk herself: "Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we'd be against it." PETA even discourages the public from supporting the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the Alzheimer's Association, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (Race for the Cure), the Shriner's Hospitals for Crippled Children, and many, many more....

Sleeping with the Enemy

The late and legendary community activist must have been giddy in his grave the other day, when the world's largest lending institution, Citigroup, announced a broad reaching agreement with its arch nemesis, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), to apply a "comprehensive environmental policy" in all of its operations.

The policy, which sets standards related to endangered ecosystems, illegal logging, ecologically sustainable development and climate change, was framed in an atmosphere of civility, constructiveness, and cooperation -- and, not coincidentally, after the bank had endured four punishing years of, among other niceties:....

Let Them Eat Precaution

On cue, at last fall's World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, self anointed "Green" activists showed up to protest the use of gene modification (G.M.) technology in agriculture. A bevy of teenagers outfitted as monarch butterflies flitted through what resembled a Halloween riot. Dotted amongst the chanting demonstrators was an assortment of human side dishes including walking "killer" tomatoes, a man dressed as a cluster of drippy purple grapes, and a woman in a strawberry costume topped with a fish head peddling T-shirts that warned of the weird and horrid mutants that will be created if "Corporate America" and the "multinationals" get their way.

But of most immediate importance, it is spreading the Green Revolution to the poorest corners of the globe. G.M. technology has led to the development of soybeans, wheat, and cotton that generate natural insecticides, making them more drought resistant, reducing the need for costly and environmentally harmful chemicals, and increasing yields. Researchers are perfecting ways to increase the vitamin content of staples like rice and bananas, which could dramatically cut malnutrition and lengthen life spans. Yet, for all its vast demonstrated value, this still-nascent technology, which promises further breakthroughs in fields such as plant-based pharmaceuticals, remains drastically underused, mired in controversy....

And finally, two from Robert Binidotto over at

Greens sue feds to protect habitat for insects

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has become the most potent legal weapon for environmentalists seeking de facto nationalization of private property. The assumption underlying the ESA is that every species of every life form has intrinsic or inherent value in itself, and therefore must be sustained and protected--whatever the cost to human beings (who are apparently the only life forms not protected under the law). By their specious premise of species protection--and by arbitrarily adding an ever-growing number of "sub-species" to the ESA's purvue (often defined on the basis of their geography, rather than their biology)--the 'viros have been able to discover "endangered" or "threatened" beasts, birds, bugs, trees, plants, and fungi on virtually every piece of real estate in the United States. And under the ESA, all such land can then become subject to draconian development and use restrictions--in effect, annihilating private property rights....

Man's clearest threat to birds: windows

Daniel Klem, Jr., is outraged about Man's "senseless slaughter of wildlife." But what bothers him most is not our cell phone towers, oil spills, power lines, Atkins diets, or pesticides. The Muhlenberg College ornithologist is mainly incensed that humans--exhibiting their typically callous insensitivity toward Mother Nature--have arrogantly covered the walls of their homes, offices, and other structures with a hazard deadly to birds: windows.

"Glass is ubiquitous and it's indiscriminate, killing the fit and the unfit," rages Klem. He claims that collisions with glass kill up to 1 billion birds a year in the United States alone. "Buildings that we have created to be aesthetically pleasing are slaughtering birds." Indeed! How dare we enter mere human aesthetic pleasure into such a moral calculus?....

Friday, February 20, 2004


Ranchers will pay more to graze herds on federal land Ranchers across the West will see an increase in the monthly fee they pay to graze their herds on federal land, the Bush administration said Friday. Beginning March 1, the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service will raise their monthly rate from $1.35 to $1.43 per month. The monthly fee covers grazing of a horse, a cow and calf, or five sheep or goats. The change, based on a formula established by Congress in 1978, will affect 18,000 BLM grazing permits and leases and 8,000 Forest Service permits....Lawsuit filed over Rock Creek logging Insisting they fear logging more than forest fires, two environmental groups filed suit Friday to stop the Lolo National Forest from thinning 1,100 acres in the Rock Creek drainage. Filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, the lawsuit dings the Forest Service for allegedly failing to analyze the wilderness characteristics of all unroaded areas marked for thinning. In addition, the complaint claims the project would harm Rock Creek's resident bull trout by increasing sediment in the stream, which would then harm the drainage's tourist-dependent economy.... Forest Service not dropping old growth timber sales Environmentalists have suffered another setback in a campaign to block logging in patches of old growth forests designated for timber harvest under the Northwest Forest Plan. After volunteers found evidence of more red tree voles than the U.S. Forest Service had discovered on a group of timber sales on the Mount Hood and Willamette national forests, a federal judge ruled the environmental analyses were inadequate, holding up logging. But the Forest Service this week came out with amendments to their environmental analyses addressing the shortcomings mentioned by the judge, including gathering more public input.... New twist emerges in firefighter's arson case On the morning that Grant was to be sentenced on eight counts of arson in U.S. District Court, federal public defender John Rhodes instead asked that his client be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. The reason: Rhodes believes Grant pleaded guilty to a nonexistent crime, because the fires he ignited were not on federal land.... EPA says Biscuit salvage plan will harm water quality and salmon U.S. Forest Service salvage logging plans for the 2002 Biscuit fire promise to cause long-term damage to key salmon streams already suffering from poor water quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says. EPA urged the Siskiyou National Forest to limit salvage logging to areas designated for timber harvest under the Northwest Forest Plan, known as matrix lands, and drop plans to log extensively in key salmon watersheds and undeveloped forest known as inventoried roadless areas.... Panel endorses check on federal acquisition of state land A bill that would require legislative approval before land owned by state government could be transferred to the federal government was approved unanimously Friday by the Senate State Affairs Committee. Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, said the measure is needed to ensure that the federal government doesn't increase its already substantial holdings in South Dakota.... WWF Calls on U.S. Retailers to Demand Paper Giant APP Stop Unsustainable Logging World Wildlife Fund today called on U.S. retail customers of Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the world's largest paper companies, to demand that the company stop unsustainable logging operations. APP and its affiliates in Indonesia are clearcutting one of the world's most biodiverse and threatened forests, WWF said.... SAVING SPECIES ON FRINGE: Plan offsets East County growth Protecting more than two dozen species of endangered animals and plants in Contra Costa County from the bulldozer will cost $300 million, according to a draft plan released for review. The land would become a permanent home for rare species such as the San Joaquin kit fox, Alameda whipsnake, California red-legged frog and western burrowing owl.... Wyoming lawmakers reject compromise plan on wolves Wyoming moved a step closer to a lawsuit with the federal government Friday after the state House gave initial approval to holding firm to a state wolf-management plan that was rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. House Bill 111, which was given initial approval on a voice vote with no opposing arguments, was reluctantly offered by the top wolf expert in the chamber. Rep. Mike Baker, R-Thermopolis, who had crafted a second compromise measure in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit, resigned himself to the fact that House leadership won’t bring up his alternative for debate, and that litigation is all but inevitable.... Brimmer denies greens’ request New snowmobile rules in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks likely will remain in effect for the rest of the season, following an order Thursday from a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer denied a request by conservation groups to halt the implementation of temporary rules governing the number and type of snowmobile trips allowed into the parks. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition and other groups had sought a freeze on the new regulations while they appeal an earlier ruling by Brimmer that ordered the Park Service to adopt the rules.... USFWS ISSUES GRIZZLY BEAR BIOP FOR IDAHO, MONTANA A long-awaited biological opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives the green light to Forest Service plans for managing roads in the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk grizzly bear recovery areas. The biological opinion, which was signed earlier this week, says road management strategies for the Kootenai, Idaho Panhandle and Lolo national forests "are not likely to jeopardize" the remnant bear populations in the two recovery areas....Desert tortoise says spring has sprung Easterners may have Punxsutawney Phil, French Creek Freddy and Buckeye Chuck, but when it comes to predicting the arrival of spring in the West, Mojave Max is the reptile to watch. The decades-old desert tortoise, who makes his home at a southern Nevada conservation area, poked his scaly nose out of his den at 11:14 a.m. Thursday — less than four months after he burrowed down for the winter on Oct. 28.... Poll: Wyo favors landowner protections Eighty-six percent of Wyoming voters would favor a new law to ensure landowners are consulted and fairly compensated when drilling projects impact their land, according to a polling firm. And 85 percent prefer that the pace of mineral development be managed so communities don't go through boom-and-bust cycles. The findings are based on 700 completed interviews with a random sample of Wyoming voters, according to Decision Research, a national polling firm....Dispute flares over tainted land settlement The dispute involves settlement of a long-running lawsuit known as Sumner Peck v. Bureau of Reclamation. The Westlands farmers who rallied together in 1986 under the Sumner Peck name contend the government's failure to provide irrigation drainage led to the poisoning of about 34,000 selenium-laden acres. The December 2002 settlement involved the federal government agreeing to pay $107 million and the Westlands district agreeing to pay $32 million in order to retire the land from farming. Fearing the Westlands land-retirement payments might starve some of their own favorite water projects, the California lawmakers insist the federal government's share be paid out of a Justice Department account, rather than the Bureau of Reclamation's budget. It's not simply an accounting debate.... Aurora close to water deal Aurora officials hope to complete a deal by next month that would allow them to replenish the city's depleted reservoir system with water leased from Arkansas River Valley farmers. If completed, the deal for up to 12,600 acre feet of water would cost the city $5.5 million and would be the largest temporary water supply agreement ever reached in Colorado.... Riders, ropers learn skills of the range at N.M. ranch All get a friendly welcome at Linette and Bobbie Gordon's 8,300-acre spread in the boot-heel of New Mexico, a few miles south of the speck of town called Animas. Their ranch isn't fancy and doesn't try to be. Their ranch, in addition to being an innovative cow-calf operation, is the destination of two longtime cowboys who offer classes for ranch hands wanting to hone skills, riders trying to improve their technique, ropers aiming to loop the loop better, and people who want to learn to be a cowboy.... California Ranchers Start Nation's First Mobile Livestock Slaughter Facility A group of Central Coast ranchers will start operating the state's first mobile livestock processing unit. Literally a slaughtering facility on wheels, the unit will help ranchers in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties take advantage of the rapidly emerging markets for organic and grass-fed beef, said George Work, who operates a ranch northeast of San Miguel.... The Cowboy that will never give up If a movie could be made of John Sharp's life, it would have to be a Western. Bigger than life. Full of adventure. And there would have to be plenty of horses. He's as much a part of the High Desert Landscape as the mountains, rivers, and other wide open spaces....

Conservation Groups Challenge Bush Administration Old Growth Timber Sale Overlooking Grand Canyon National Park Two conservation groups today challenged a risky Bush administration proposal to log old growth forest less than three miles from the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The groups contend that the Forest Service's proposed East Rim timber sale in remote areas of Kaibab National Forest would harm rare wildlife, create an increased risk of fire, and illegally log within designated old-growth forests as well as the Grand Canyon Game Preserve, a protected area set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for the benefit of wildlife. The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Sierra Club in the District of Arizona's Phoenix courthouse.... Capps Leads Protest Against Drilling Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), who wrote the Los Padres National Forest Conservation Act, spoke at a press conference downtown on how oil drilling would be detrimental to the economy, environment and quality of life in the Central Coast region of California. If passed by Congress, the Conservation Act would permanently prohibit all forms of exploration and drilling for oil or gas within the boundaries of the forest. Capps and Rep. Sam Farr (D-Salinas) introduced the bill on Feb. 11.... Turkeys reclaim what fire gobbled The hills scorched by the Hayman Fire are now alive with the sound of turkeys. Officials of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Pike-San Isabel National Forest and volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation released 22 hens, three big toms and three younger males west of Colorado Springs near Divide on the southern edge of the 138,000-acre burn area. Larger mammals have returned to the area, but not the turkeys.... $6,000 In Rewards Offered For Black Bear Killer Rewards totaling up to $6,000 are being offered for information leading to an arrest in the poaching of a black bear near this town in Florida's Panhandle, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Thursday. An anonymous donor is offering $5,000 and the commission's Wildlife Alert program will pay up to $1,000, agency officials said in a news release.... Wake Up Weyerhaeuser. Protect Forests Now This morning environmental activists braved dizzying heights in downtown Seattle to unfurl a 2,400 square foot banner reading "Wake Up Weyerhaeuser: Protect Forests Now." The non-violent direct action marks the launch of an international Consumer Democracy Campaign to transform the barbaric environmental practices of Washington-based logging giant Weyerhaeuser (NYSE: WY), the number one destroyer of old-growth forests in North America. The campaign follows Rainforest Action Network's recent victory with Boise Cascade Corporation (NYSE: BCC) that resulted in the company's withdrawal from old-growth forests in the United States and adoption of a plan to exit endangered forests worldwide. Forest Action Network is the Canadian coalition partner, and in Alberta, the campaign is supported by the Sierra Club of Canada's Bighorn Country Campaign.... Opponents, backers of Prop. A almost even in fund raising There is big money on both sides of the issue, which county voters will decide in the March 2 primary election. If it passes, the measure will in essence draw an urban growth boundary line around area cities and towns, making 700,000 acres ---- one-third of San Diego County's unincorporated area ---- off-limits to suburban-style housing. Supporters say the measure will preserve the backcountry and provide for orderly, compact urban development in cities and towns, while opponents say it would further constrain the local housing supply, pushing yet more families into neighboring counties and worsening area freeways.... Another group threatens snowmobiling lawsuit Yet another lawsuit over snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park could be standing in the wings, ready to enter the stage. This one, if it succeeds, could eliminate snowcoach travel as well, according to Bluewater Network, a San Francisco-based environmental group. It also could affect dozens of national parks around the country.... Greens Urge Defeat of the 2004 Revised Energy Bill "We strongly urge the Senate to defeat the 2004 Revised Energy Bill," said Jake Schneider, treasurer of the Green Party of the UnitedStates. "This bill is only slightly less damaging to the environment than last year's version, and does nothing for energy conservation." The bill, announced by Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM),chair of the Senate Energy Committee, reportedly would eliminate the $3 billion Energy Savings Performance Contracts program, which would conserve energy by retrofitting federal government buildings with energy efficient equipment.... Yellowstone bison shipped to slaughter Ten bison captured outside Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday were shipped to slaughter Wednesday, the first large shipment of bison to slaughter this year. Eight others, including year-old calves whose mothers were among those sent to slaughter, were tested and released, according to Dan Brister of the Buffalo Field Campaign.... Complaints prompt talk of ban on rifle hunting Rifle hunting could be prohibited in all or part of Minnehaha County under a request being studied by the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Officials say resident safety complaints are rising along with rural development, to about 50 complaints last year. The GF&P will consider restricting some areas to shotguns and muzzleloaders, which have a shorter shooting range than rifles. "With Sioux Falls expanding into the county, people are concerned with the safety issue. Their kids are out in the yards," said Kristoff DeKramer of Game, Fish and Parks.... A 'hostile' takeover bid at the Sierra Club The Sierra Club - America's premier environmental group, with 750,000 members and considerable political clout - is the target of an unfriendly takeover attempt. A combination of animal-rights and anti-immigrant activists is aiming to take control of the organization - and change its philosophy and direction - by getting their slate of candidates elected to the group's board of directors. They already control several seats, and more are up for grabs. The dispute gets to two core questions among environmental activists.... Hop farmer reaches settlement with EPA A former Grandview hop farmer has reached a $3.5 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over cleanup of an herbicide from his property. Dan Alexander, owner of Yakima Chief Ranches, agreed to reimburse the federal agency $3.05 million for the cost of soil cleanup at the farm. He also will pay $500,000 for cleanup of 1,600 tons of contaminated soil left on the 4-acre site.... Agencies cooperating on water-related matters Under a settlement agreement signed Wednesday, growers in the west San Joaquin Valley no longer will try to acquire water rights in the San Joaquin River. In the eastern Valley, the Friant Water Association will ask its 22 member irrigation districts to rescind resolutions restricting water transfers or other cooperation with the Westlands Water District. The two agencies, once bitter enemies, announced they would cooperate on a variety of water-related matters.... Tax program boosts Colorado conservation But the Browns are big winners in a Colorado program that allows land-rich, cash-poor ranchers like them to sell the tax credits they get for granting conservation easements. Virginia and South Carolina are the only other states with similar programs. Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina and California have tax credit programs for conservation easements but lack the provision allowing those credits to be sold. The California program has been suspended for the past two years because of budget woes.... Drop in estrogen drug sales puts horses in trouble Animal rights groups warn that tens of thousands of horses are doomed to become what's for dinner in Europe and Asia, because women are using fewer estrogen-replacement drugs made from the urine of pregnant mares. Groups such as Fearing's have organized "rescue" or "adoption" programs for mares and their foals that they contend would be otherwise trucked to Canadian and U.S. slaughter plants. And they're using the issue to further their campaign against slaughtering horses for human consumption.... NCBA, R-CALF explore issues Two cattlemen groups will lock horns a week from now on a variety of issues. Local agricultural journalist Shae Dodson has been chosen to serve as moderator in La Junta at a forum between the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and R-CALF USA (Ranchers'-Cattlemen's Active Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America). One of the nation's oldest cattlemen's organizations, the Bent-Prowers Cattle and Horse Grower's Association, will host the three-hour meeting between Terry Stokes, CEO of NCBA, and Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA.... The real cowboys of N.D. Clara Bell Rose rolled her own cigarettes, smoked constantly, wore men's clothing, carried a six-shooter on her hip and developed noticeable facial hair that earned her the nickname "Mustache Maude." She married, divorced and ranched here, and became a well-known midwife, once claiming to have smacked half the bottoms in the area. She also was believed to be the only woman in the country convicted of cattle rustling.... Coon hunting The old man was a well digger by trade, one of the last of a dying breed who could locate groundwater by "divining" with a forked stick. His greatest talent -- and his truest love -- became evident, however, on frost, moonlit nights. That's when he would turn his Black-and-Tan hounds loose in one of the creek bottoms where raccoons were plentiful when I was youngster. When I first met Mr. Cable, it was through my father who had done some business with him. To an adolescent boy, he seemed as old as Methuselah -- wrinkled as a piece of yesterday's bacon and lean as a willow switch. Any thought that he might be a bit frail for coon hunting was erased, though, within thirty minutes after we hit the woods the first time my dad and I joined him on a night hunt....

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Grazing permit debate finds its way to Greenlee

The fight between ranchers and the U.S. Forest Service regarding the validity of grazing permits on private property is making its way to Greenlee County as the agency struggles to enforce the debate's precedent-setting decision.

Wray Schildknecht is the legal researcher for New Mexico ranchers Kit and Sherry Laney. He said in an e-mail that Greenlee County rancher Dan Martinez will follow in the footsteps of the Laneys as he contests U.S. Forest Service grazing permits on his ranches. The Laneys are involved in the case between the Diamond Bar Cattle Company and the Forest Service.

"Dan filed a Constructive Notice to the Forest Service, giving them notice that he owned the vested fee interest and that it is private property under the jurisdiction of the State of Arizona, not the federal government," Schildknecht said. Although it could not be verified by press time, Schildknecht also said, "This notice will be served on Frank Hayes, Clifton District Ranger, by the Sheriff's Department Tuesday morning (Feb. 17)."

Dan Martinez owns the Martinez and Hickey ranches, which are located northeast of Clifton. Schildknecht said Martinez' parents recently sold the ranches to their son after filing "a Declaration of Ownership of a vested private fee interest for raising cattle on lands held by the U.S. Government within the boundaries of the Martinez ranch."

Martinez' claim of ownership of the fee coincides with the enforcement of the Laney case. Kit and Sherry Laney are ranchers in Catron County, N.M., and recently lost the ability to graze on their private property.

Gila National Forest Public Affairs Officer Andrea Martinez said on Feb. 11 that access to the area encompassing the Laney's ranch was closed at 8 a.m. She also said the removal of the Laneys' cattle will begin in mid-February.

On Feb. 13, the U.S. Forest Service rescinded the area closure and announced the delay of the cattle removal.

"We had hoped to meet our tentative mid-February date, but as it stands, we will not be able to. We do not have a contractor to conduct the livestock removal at this time and are in the process of advertising for bids," District Ranger Annette Chavez said in the release. The release also indicated that "the contracting process may take a few to several weeks."

Rancher and member of the New Mexico Cattle Grower's Association Laura Schneberger told the Courier in early February that the original contractor who was going to remove the cattle had backed out. She said he could not find anyone to help him with the removal, which is necessary when moving hundreds of cattle.

"I think he also backed out because he realized this was a touchy situation in this community, not just a feral cattle issue," Schneberger said.

Catron County Sheriff John Snyder felt obligated by the New Mexico Constitution to stop the order, according to a letter he faxed to Forest Service officials.

The fax was posted on the Feb. 7 issue of and voiced Snyder's concerns with allowing federal officials to remove cattle from the property. In the fax, Snyder cites several New Mexico laws that he was concerned could create a conflict of interest.

"These cattle cannot be shipped and sold without being in direct violation of the New Mexico statute," Snyder said in the fax. "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."

Andrea Martinez told the Courier last Wednesday that the agency met with Snyder to resolve potential problems regarding the enforcement of the precedent-setting decision. She also said any potential enforcement issues have been resolved with Snyder's department.

"The Catron County Sheriff indicated there would be no interference," Martinez said. "That was very good to hear."

Snyder was not available for comment and did not return a call made by the Courier by press time.

Martinez also said the Laneys are not a threat, and they intend to comply with the removal. She did this to address any rumors indicating otherwise.

A recent misquote from the Silver City Daily Press indicated problems between the Forest Service and Snyder, which Martinez denied.

Rumors have abounded since Snyder voiced his concerns with allowing federal officials to enforce the court's decision.

Schneberger said the Forest Service is faced with another problem because it does not hold a necessary New Mexico Livestock Board certificate "allowing them to manipulate the cattle."

She said, "Apparently, until we started insisting they uphold state law, they were just not going to."

The enforcement of the ruling is also being closely watched by conservation groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity.

Michael Robinson is a representative of the organization and supports the removal of the cattle for numerous reasons.

In July, the Courier reported that Robinson supports the removal of the cattle because he thinks the animals have a negative impact on the Blue Range Mexican Gray Wolf Reintroduction Project.

"Now, their unauthorized livestock are again destroying precious streams and their vegetation and wildlife owned by all Americans -- hundreds of square miles of some of the most beautiful and wild country in the lower 48 states," he said in a Feb. 13 e-mail to the Courier. "This latest bout of trespass has been going on for almost a year, and it's time for the court orders to be followed, for the cows to go and for the Laneys to pay off their newly acquired $64,000 fine."

While conservationists and ranchers hold extremely different opinions about the decisions of the federal court, it is evident that both will be taking note of the situation.

The Courier previously reported in early January that a Dec. 23 press release from the Center for Biological Diversity announced that the Diamond Bar and Laney cattle companies will have to remove hundreds of cattle from two former national forest grazing allotments within 30 days of the Dec. 22 injunction or face severe federal penalties.

The Diamond Bar allotment occupies 146,470 acres and the Laney allotment occupies 27,926 acres. Both allotments are located in Catron County, N.M.

This precedent-setting decision sides with the U.S. Forest Service's opinion that grazing rights must be obtained by applying for a permit with the Forest Service. The Laneys tried to claim that by owning the private property rights, they did not need a permit to graze cattle on the land.

The decision by the judge means the argument used by the Laneys was ineffective and that ranchers who are grazing without a permit will not be able to successfully use it to their defense in the future.

Look to the Courier for more on these events as they evolve.

To contact John Kamin, call 428-2560 (ext. 240) or e-mail him at

Nature group marks 30 years In its earliest days, the Oregon Natural Resources Council was a local environmental group based in a Eugene bungalow trying to protect the most beautiful parts of Oregon’s national forests from logging through wilderness legislation. Then it switched gears, becoming a major player in the Northwest timber wars by moving into federal courtrooms to stop logging on ecological grounds, arguing old-growth forests were critical habitat for threatened species like the northern spotted owl and salmon. ONRC this month is celebrating 30 years of saving wild places from chain saws, dams and geothermal plants, proudly pointing to landscapes around Oregon and the nation that would not be the same without its lobbying, legislation and litigation.... Park Service wilderness in disarray Rather than transfer, Walters retired in early January. Soon after, he sent a five-page letter to Park Service Director Mainella, in which he wrote that: "(1) the agency has failed to properly identify and protect its wilderness resources, (2) senior level managers continue to demonstrate either a lack of concern and/or an open hostility to the Service’s wilderness responsibilities, and (3) park managers continuously attempt to ignore or circumvent the instructions of the Wilderness Act and NPS wilderness policies in carrying out their other duties.".... Wandering bison captured for testing In the first action of its kind this winter, 18 bison were captured outside Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday and were being tested for brucellosis. Those that have signs of the disease will be sent to slaughter and the rest will be marked and set free, according to Karen Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Livestock.... Column: A West that works Ranchers, struggling to stay in business, are on the verge of becoming an anachronism in America; the conservation movement, struggling with its vision, has fallen into a rut; the federal management agencies, struggling with their courage, have appeared to lost their heart; and everyone else, struggling with political and social gridlock now endemic to the West, appears to be pretty much exasperated.... Endangered Wolves Make a Comeback The North American gray wolf, wiped out at Yellowstone National Park in the 1930s, is thriving once again after being reintroduced less than a decade ago. Now the government is moving to end federal protection for the wolf under the Endangered Species Act. Only 38 species have been taken off the endangered species list since 1967. More than 1,200 species are still considered to be in peril. The wolf population in Yellowstone has grown more than five-fold -- to nearly 170 -- since their reintroduction in 1995. The recovery has been extraordinary, due in large part to the national park where its natural habitat has been protected, Arnold reports.... Global Environmental Conference Under Way In Malaysia Environment ministers from about 70 countries are meeting in Malaysia to discuss how to protect endangered species and boost ways for poorer nations to profit from the development of their natural resources. The officials, gathered in Kuala Lumpur, are also using the United Nations-backed conference to find ways to slow down the world's current extinction rate of more than 60,000 species a year.... Editorial: The Eagles Return We hesitate to disagree with so learned a Founding Father as Benjamin Franklin, but we see our national symbol differently. Franklin complained in 1784 that the bald eagle was "a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly." The more enduring opinion belongs to the Second Continental Congress, which in 1782 had named the bald eagle as our national symbol. It is therefore gratifying to see the bald eagle staging a phenomenal comeback after being listed 26 years ago as endangered in 43 states and threatened in five states, including Washington. Now, more than 6,500 nesting pairs of bald eagles have been counted in the contiguous 48 states, up from 417 in 1963.... Lawsuit to test habitat rules Santa Rosa and 40 other public agencies, development and nonprofit groups in Sonoma and San Barbara counties are expected to file a lawsuit today challenging federal endangered species protection for the California tiger salamander. City Attorney Brien Farrell said the case is to be filed in federal court by Steve Quarles, chairman of the natural resources and environmental group of the Washington, D.C., law firm Crowell & Moring.... Park County poised to take over on wolf situation Park County Commissioners would give themselves the authority to kill wolves if the federal government doesn't hurry up and remove its protections, under a resolution the commission is now considering. "Should wolf delisting be delayed the Park County Commissioners reserve their right to protect our county and citizens by ordering lethal wolf control," the resolution says. The document was written by the Park County Stockgrowers, according to commissioner Jim Durgan. He said he supports it.... Environmentalists sue to prevent desert Hyundai track Environmental groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday, objecting to permits it issued allowing Hyundai Motor Co. and California City to build an automotive test track in the Southern California desert. The Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife said the track would destroy or degrade nearly 4,500 acres of desert wildlands that are home to threatened species including the Mojave ground squirrel and desert tortoise.... Livestock predation, wildlife issues drive worries Six county commissioners from two states agreed Tuesday that counties in the West should consider suing the federal government about wolves. "If the state's not going to sue, maybe it's time for us to," Park County Commission Chairman Tim Morrison said during a Tuesday work session in the courthouse.... Agency refuses to ban snowmobiles The National Park Service won't stop grooming roads in the winter or try to prohibit snowmobiles throughout the park system, federal officials said Wednesday. Craig Manson, the Interior Department's assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, said a request by environmental groups to ban snowmobiles from all national parks has been denied. Limiting the number of snowmobiles in national parks and relying on cleaner and quieter machines will help mitigate any harmful effects of the machines, Manson said, so an across-the-board ban is not needed.... Norton explains positions on issues The Powder River Basin will be an important source of natural gas in coming years but development shouldn't overrun local landowners, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton said Wednesday. "We've taken a strict line that the energy producer needs to work with the surface landowner. We want the companies and the ranchers to be talking and planning for each individual ranch," Norton said. "If they don't have that dialogue and reach that agreement, then we will force the company to post a bond.".... Special Counsel to Investigate Chief Chambers' Case Embattled Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers received some news Wednesday about her fight to keep her job. WTOP has learned that her complaint against her boss is going to be investigated. A letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to Chambers' attorney states that "reasonable grounds exist" for a full investigation into her proposed removal.... Battling smugglers saps park rangers Violence in the Huachuca Mountains has National Park Service rangers here spending more time chasing drug smugglers and illegal immigrants and less time with taxpaying park visitors, the rangers say. And it's dangerous work. The threat of smugglers willing to resort to violence to escape run-ins with law enforcement is becoming all too familiar.... Editorial: Endless litigation blocks snowmobile policy Yellowstone Park's winter season has deteriorated into management by litigation. On Dec. 16, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington, D.C., ruled that: "NPS is bound by a conservation mandate and that mandate trumps all other considerations." Regrettably, the Bush administration's snowmobile rules and Sullivan's ruling reinstating a 2001 snowmobile phase-out came on the eve of the park's winter season, so vacation and business plans were thrown suddenly into chaos. On Feb. 10, U.S. District Judge Clarence Bremmer of Cheyenne, Wyo., ruled that: "Public interest is served by protecting the business owners and concessionaires ..." Bremmer ordered the Park Service to revert to the unregulated snowmobile situation that predates the 2001 final rules for phasing out snowmobiles. Back to square one.... Former Chairs of Council On Environmental Quality Join in Sonnenschein Supreme Court Brief Opposing Government's Position On NEPA The law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP Tuesday filed an Amicus Brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, No. 03-101, the first case involving the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that the Court has taken since the 1980s. In a unique aspect to the filing, every surviving Chair of the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) extending back to the Nixon Administration and every surviving former General Counsel joined in the brief. The case before the high court deals with the failure of the Bureau of Land Management to prepare analyses under NEPA of the environmental impacts of increasing numbers of off-road vehicles on Bureau lands currently under consideration for permanent wilderness status. The Government contends no further environmental analysis is currently required.... U.S. energy, mine royalties to states jump 46 pct Federal royalties from oil, natural gas, coal and mineral production shared with the states increased by 46 percent last year, thanks in part to higher energy prices, the government said Wednesday. Close to $1.1 billion in royalty fees was distributed to 36 states last year, up from $753 million during the prior year, said the Interior Department, which collects the fees.... Saving Black Mountain: Whose land is it anyway? It's a battle being fought around the Valley as the traditional eco-alliance among conservationists, hikers and other outdoors enthusiasts starts to fray. Conservationists are advocating more extreme measures for protecting open space, including setting aside public land simply for the sake of setting it aside. Recreationists, on the other hand, argue that the new definition of preservation flies in the face of the Interior Department's Recreation and Public Purposes Act, which guarantees public access to public lands.... More lawsuits expected after Tyson verdict A $1.28 billion jury verdict against Tyson Foods Inc. over cattle price fixing could give ranchers momentum as they pursue similar litigation against Excel Corp., a unit of Minnetonka-based Cargill Inc., and Swift & Co. Legal experts said the verdict also could lead to a flood of lawsuits against large meatpackers. "This is an attractive case to bring against the other companies," said Tim Greaney, a law professor at St. Louis University and a former Justice Department official who specialized in anti-trust issues.... Panel says USDA not forthright on sick cow After a monthlong investigation, the Republican and Democratic leaders of a congressional committee Tuesday accused the U.S. Department of Agriculture of misleading the public about a central fact in the nation's first known case of mad cow disease. Since federal officials announced in December that an animal had tested positive for mad cow disease, they have consistently said the animal was a "downer," an ailing animal that could not walk. The USDA national surveillance system for mad cow disease is based primarily on sampling brain tissue of downer cows. But an inquiry by the House Committee on Government Reform reported Tuesday that three eyewitnesses to the slaughter of the sick animal in Washington state have testified that it was not a "downer" and did not appear to be sick at all....

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


Conservationists Challenge Administration's Leasing Decision in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska In an effort to restore a balance between development and wildlife protection in Alaska's western arctic, conservation groups announced today a lawsuit challenging a plan to open up the entire northwest portion of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (the Reserve) to oil and gas leasing. The groups challenge the January 22, 2004, decision to open 100 percent of the 8.8-million-acre northwest portion of the Reserve fails to permanently protect any of the region's most important wildlife habitat or hunting and fishing grounds.... Dam removal effort aims at helping steelhead In a project almost unprecedented in California's 150-year history of using dams to make an arid state habitable, scientists, environmental groups and water officials are trying to determine whether they can tear down the fishes' main obstacle. For the past 83 years, the 107-foot-tall San Clemente Dam has blocked steelhead from returning smoothly to the upper Carmel River. The challenge: how to help the fish they are seeking to rescue from the Endangered Species List, without accidentally killing them in the process. Built in 1921, San Clemente Dam is a graceful curve of smooth concrete. Once it stored drinking water for thousands of people around Monterey.... New data shows population increase for threatened shorebird California's efforts to rescue the western snowy plover are starting to pay off as new data showed population increases for the threatened shorebird, state officials said Tuesday. The number of snowy plovers that hatched and survived in state parks along the California coast rose significantly during the latest nesting season, according to the state Department of Parks and Recreation. New reports show that 548 nests were found in state parks in 2003 -- a 24 percent increase over 2002 -- and that 322 of those nests successfully hatched at least one egg, a 52 percent increase over the previous year. The number of chicks hatched more than doubled to 967 chicks over the previous year.... One Fish, Two Fish Jerry Big Eagle drugs fish. Tens of thousands of fish, every day. The tiny, stunned salmon slide through the hands of his crews as, with a snip and a jab, workers clip off a back fin and thrust a metal wire not much wider than a hair into each snout. It takes just seconds. Then each fish is dropped into a watery chute, checked magnetically to ensure it's tagged, and swept back into hatchery ponds to sleep it off. Big Eagle is a fish tagger - probably California's premier fish tagger - and one of only a handful of private contractors in the West who make a living inserting distinctive, lifelong codes into living fish.... Lodge owner welcomes battle with National Park Service Lodge owner Doug Frederick wants the National Park Service to make an example out of him. He's refusing to pay a $500 fine for failing to have a permit to place wooden pallets on muddy sections of a trail inside the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park because he says the agency invited his help and then betrayed him. "I was working with the Park Service. Basically, they set me up," Frederick said. "Somebody has to expose the Park Service. These people are clear out of control.".... Judge Scolds Park Service Over Snowmobiles A federal judge threatened Tuesday to hold National Park Service officials in contempt for violating his orders and deciding last week to allow more snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he found it "mystifying" that the Park Service last Wednesday decided to allow 780 snowmobiles in Yellowstone when he ordered them last year to allow no more than 493 of them this winter. "It's just a nonchalant attitude of the government to a federal judge's order," the judge said, setting a hearing for March 9 on a possible contempt finding. The Park Service increased the number of snowmobiles allowed in Yellowstone after another federal judge, Clarence Brimmer in Wyoming, last Tuesday ordered officials to quit implementing a Clinton administration plan that bans individual snowmobiles entirely beginning next winter.... EPA scientist queried over biowarfare warning An Environmental Protection Agency scientist has been questioned by the FBI about an anonymous letter accusing a colleague of plotting biowarfare in the days before the 2001 anthrax attacks. Agents from the FBI's anthrax task force, according to a document obtained by The Washington Times, sought information on the anonymous letter, which warned that Ayaad Assaad, an Egyptian native who works as a toxicologist at the EPA, was an anti-American "religious fanatic" with the means to unleash a bioweapons attack.... Agency to recommend minimum flows to aid fish More than a century after the state began doling out water rights to people, the state Department of Ecology now intends to recommend a minimum flow of water for fish, too. The agency expects to adopt minimum flows by 2005 for Salmon Creek and the Washougal River in Clark County. The Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board received $200,000 in state funding in December 2001 to compile the best scientific information available, and then recommend minimum flows to sustain imperiled salmon and steelhead.... House approves limit on water well useThe House has approved a measure that would allow the state engineer to limit water use from domestic wells in areas facing water problems. But the House diluted the proposed powers for the state engineer. When the bill passed the Senate earlier this month, it would have allowed the engineer to deny new wells in a critical management area. However, the House eliminated the power to deny a well permit and instead the state engineer could limit a well to one-half acre foot per year for a household.... House approves proposal for state water reserve The House has approved legislation that would establish a state strategic river reserve. The proposal calls for leasing or buying water rights to deal with New Mexico’s pressing water problems. It would earmark three percent of the state’s yearly severance tax bond financing for the water reserve during the next 20 years to provide money for the acquisition of water rights.... Bill restricting access to private property debated A bill pitting landowners against game wardens was considered Tuesday by the state Senate Agriculture Committee, but a vote was delayed until Thursday. HB1258 would require that game wardens get permission from landowners before going onto private property unless wardens have good reasons to believe people are violating hunting or fishing laws, have reports of violations, must kill crippled animals, or are responding to emergencies. Supporters of the bill said it is unfair to hunters to assume they are guilty until they can prove they are licensed. Game wardens should not be allowed to come onto private property to check for licenses unless they have reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, HB1258 supporters said.... Editorial: A vote for open space As Utahns watch population growth gobble up farms and foothills, some people are searching for ways to preserve open space. The Nature Conservancy has a suggestion that Utah voters should consider. It proposes that the state issue $150 million in revenue bonds to purchase land to preserve rivers, lakes, watershed, open space, wildlife habitat, parks and recreational trails for future generations. The bond would be paid for by an increase of .05 percentage points in the state sales tax (five cents on each $100) for a maximum of 10 years.... Logging laws struck down In a ruling that could open up hundreds of properties to logging in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a state appellate court in San Jose has sided with logging interests in striking down Santa Cruz County laws aimed at limiting where trees can be harvested. The decision, released Tuesday by the three-judge panel of the 6th District Court of Appeal, sent shock waves through environmental groups concerned that farmers, ranchers and other landowners with forested properties would rush to chop down timber on their mountain properties.... Beef Battle A beef battle is brewing at the State Capitol in Pierre and it may become the first true controversy in Governor Mike Rounds' administration. The Governor fired four members of the tate board in charge of tracking cattle Monday night. The move comes after a report by the attorney general's office accused inspectors of violating the state's inspection rules. For more than 60 years, the South Dakota State Brand Board has had a contract with the State Stockgrowers Association. The board voted to end that contract last Thursday, and now the governor has fired four of the board's five members. On Tuesday, hundreds of producers filled the Capitol Rotunda to tell the governor they think the inspection program was fine before and they think he's made a big mistake.... Cattle Farmers Awarded $1.28 Billion in Beef Suit A federal jury in Alabama awarded $1.28 billion to cattle farmers yesterday, deciding that a beef-processing giant used its dominance of the $70 billion beef industry to manipulate prices for cattle on the open market. Tyson Foods Inc. said it intends to appeal the verdict in the case filed against IBP Inc., which Tyson now owns. Another piece of the case -- involving a possible injunction against certain cattle-buying practices -- has yet to be decided by the judge involved. But the jury's decision could be a first step toward reversing the kind of power big businesses have gained as consolidation has swept through the cattle and beef industries over the past two decades.... Idaho farmers want legal foreign labor, less red tape If Idaho farmers want to follow the law and hire legal immigrant workers, they need time, patience and luck. They must apply for the foreign workers no later than 45 days before the workers will be needed, which is sometimes tricky to gauge. They must advertise across the country, offering the jobs to U.S. workers first. They must plow through hundreds of pages of rules and work with the departments of Labor, Homeland Security and State.... Saddle broncs are his business Dan Mortensen of Billings, Mont., has a business and economics degree from Montana State University. One day, he might get to use it for its intended purpose. Right now, Mortensen is best in the business of riding saddle bronc horses, which is very good for his economic situation....

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

New mad cow strain found

A new form of mad cow disease has been found in Italy, according to a study released yesterday, and scientists believe that it may be the cause of some cases of human brain-wasting disease.

While the strain has been found in only two Italian cows, both apparently healthy, scientists in Europe and the United States said the discovery should provide new impetus for the Department of Agriculture to adopt the more sensitive rapid tests used in Europe because it may not show up in those used here.

Reports of unusual types of mad cow disease have also been reported recently in France and Japan. Scientists say the new forms suggest that many cases of "sporadic" human disease -- by far the most common kind, responsible for about 300 deaths a year in the United States -- are not spontaneous at all, but come from eating animals.

The brain-destroying diseases involve prions -- misfolded proteins that are believed somehow to induce other proteins to fold incorrectly, leaving patches of useless debris and holes.

The study, by a team from universities in Turin, Verona, Brescia and Milan, was edited by Dr. Stanley Prusiner, who won a 1997 Nobel Prize for his prion work. Results of the recent study appear this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences....

Monday, February 16, 2004


Forest Service teaches kids winter ecology The afternoon on snowshoes at the base of Big Mountain Resort was part of an outdoor classroom, where students from around the Flathead Valley learn winter ecology. The program is a cooperative put on by Big Mountain, the Montana Wilderness Association and the U.S. Forest Service. Started seven years ago on the Tally Lake Ranger District by Becky Smith-Powell, the winter ecology programs serve hundreds of grade-school students each winter.... Miner hopes foam will quell neighbors’ worries Congdon sought the assistance of Dr. Chapman Young, a mining engineer based in Steamboat Springs. Young, an inventor and designer with degrees from Cornell and Stanford, recently developed a foam drilling machine which he is currently testing in Congdon’s mine. The machine injects a highly viscous foam into a rock bed with enough pressure to fracture the rock. It is virtually silent and, unlike blasting, is completely nontoxic. It is also potentially cheaper and more efficient than blasting.... Environmentalists sue over habitat for insect A slender insect with oversize metallic-green bug eyes has put Michigan at the center of a conflict over how best to protect endangered species. A coalition of environmental groups recently sued the federal government to establish protected habitat zones for the Hine's emerald dragonfly - which only lives in four states, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.... Who will pay to save an endangered spider? State and Williamson County officials are at odds over who should pay to protect an endangered spider whose habitat will be destroyed by a new road. Engineers have long known that Texas 45 will be built over caverns that are home to the federally protected Bone Cave harvestman. The blind spider is less than an eighth of an inch long and lives in the karst, or subterranean limestone formations. In July, workers discovered two more caverns beneath the path of the planned highway.... Column: Endangered Species Act endangers rights of landowners The act, enacted three decades ago, gained wide political support from people thinking about "charismatic mega-fauna" - eagles, elephants and the like. Yet the bulk of the 14 million or so species in existence are creatures, notably insects, which most people would squash if discovered in their homes. Moreover, after 30 years, the Endangered Species Act can point to few successes: Just 10 of nearly 1,300 "endangered" and "threatened" species have recovered, and usually due to measures unrelated to the act. More have been delisted because they became extinct....Compromise wolf-management bill moves ahead Wyoming would maintain fewer breeding pairs of wolves than what the federal government wanted but would drop its shoot-on-sight provision under a measure recommended by a House committee Monday. House Bill 155 represents a compromise agreement between lawmakers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a state plan that would allow for removal of federal protection of the rapidly expanding species. The service last month rejected the plan approved by Legislature in 2003. The House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee voted 6-3 to allow the House to fully debate the measure.... Original pack's last wolf killed Less than two weeks after her more famous sister died in Yellowstone National Park, the last surviving wolf from the 1995-96 reintroduction was killed Thursday in northwest Wyoming. Limping and riddled with mange, wolf No. 41 was shot by government agents after she had repeatedly killed young cattle in Sunlight Basin, north of Cody. "After that last (calf was killed) we decided, you know, that's it," Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator said Monday. The death of No. 41, which came from a storied family of wolves, closes the first installment of perhaps the federal government's most closely watched wildlife reintroduction program.... Government considering purchase of hotel-casino near Hoover Dam The federal government wants to buy and close a hotel-casino near Hoover Dam with money earmarked for the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands, and the owners say they might be willing to sell. The Hacienda hotel-casino on U.S. 93 is one of 33 parcels listed by the federal Bureau of Land Management for a fifth round of land purchases under the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1998. The Hacienda is on 37 acres within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area managed by the Park Service. Holland said the federal government has wanted for many years to buy the site.... Rights to remains hinge on 'Kennewick Man' "Kennewick Man" -- who perished on the banks of the Columbia River about 9,000 years ago -- probably never passed through what is now Utah. But his presence here has never been stronger as archaeologists, museum curators and American Indian officials mull a new federal court ruling that says the ancient man's skeleton, discovered by teenagers in 1996, belongs to scientists, not Indians. On Feb. 4, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Indian tribes do not have a right to Kennewick Man's remains because there is no evidence connecting him to any existing tribe.... Bighorn sheep tag auctioned for $46,000 A special Idaho bighorn sheep tag brought 46-thousand dollars at an auction to help Idaho Fish and Game with bighorn research and management. Ken Trudell of Green Bay, Wisconsin, made the winning bid at the annual convention of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep. Now he can hunt in any open sheep hunt this fall -- except for Unit Eleven in Hells Canyon.... Bald Eagles Waiting to Be Taken Off List So many bald eagles swoop down from the treetops to pluck their breakfast from the Skagit River, you wouldn't think they were a threatened species. Technically, they aren't. But because they're found in every one of the lower 48 states, it's taking the federal government longer than expected to get them reclassified -- an initiative the Clinton administration pitched 4 1/2 years ago. Drafting a post-recovery plan for such a huge range requires updated counts in each state and directives that factor in eagle-protection rules certain states already have in place -- rendering a one-size-fits-all transition impossible.... Court Sets Precedent Requiring DOI To Compensate For ESA Taking Unlike land and other types of property, water is traditionally owned by the state, not individuals. Water rights entitle the holder to use the water, but do not grant ownership. Moreover, water rights are highly regulated, with the state usually placing restrictions on water usage. In California, water must be used for "beneficial" purposes and users must avoid wasting water. "The decision has the perverse effect of elevating private water rights, which have traditionally been subject to strong public controls, above any other type of property right known to the law," said John Echeverria, director of the Environmental Law and Policy Institute at the Georgetown University Law Center. In past cases, judges have usually determined that withholding all water equates to "taking" a property, entitling the water right holder to compensation under the Fifth Amendment. In this case, Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District, et al. v. Interior Department, the farmers got roughly 80 percent to 90 percent of their water allocation. But Judge John Wiese concluded the farmers had an absolute right to the full amount of water laid out in their contract and any amount withheld required compensation.... APHIS thwarts one-herd gambit Wyoming lost its last legal bid to retain its brucellosis free status Monday, as federal animal health officials ruled the two infected herds of cattle in the state cannot be counted as one. Gov. Dave Freudenthal thought such a legal gambit may work, because the second infected herd, found in Worland, originated from the first infected herd on a ranch near Boulder in Sublette County. But federal rules do not allow for that exception and count them as distinct herds.... NYT Editorial: A Cattle Showdown in Alabama Sometime next week, the jury will reach a verdict in the historic case of Pickett v. Tyson/IBP, marking a temporary end to eight years of legal wrangling between the plaintiffs — some 30,000 cattle producers — and the giant meatpacker IBP, which is now owned by Tyson Foods. The heart of the case is an enormous shift in the world of livestock over the past quarter-century. Cattle were once sold mainly at cash auctions to bidders who included buyers from different packing plants. But there are virtually no independent packers left. Four companies — the three largest are named in this suit — now control 82 percent of the slaughter market, up from 36 percent in 1980. The equilibrium between producers and buyers, reflected in a cash auction, has been replaced by buyers' dominance, a pattern that has prevailed in most sectors of the farm economy.... Fort Worth company finds a niche for embroidered boots California marketing executive Vickie Callahan was looking for a new kind of promotional product for a client, a corporate sponsor of the Sundance Film Festival, when an e-mailed advertisement for Just Right Boots came across her computer screen. Within weeks, five pairs of cowboy boots embroidered with her client's logo were shipped to Utah, where they were given as awards at the festival. The client was beer company Labatt USA, whose brands include Stella Artois and Rolling Rock -- and the boots were a hit.... It's All Trew: Necessity mother of school transport's invention One detail, recalled by Johnson, involved the canvas overhead. If it was raining, you could touch the canvas with your finger and that spot would start leaking through. By the time the bus route had been traversed, ornery little boys had the canvas leaking on everyone aboard. As I envision the old conveyance traveling along dirt roads, stopping as students clambered over the rear end gate, starting when someone yelled "go" or stopping when they yelled "whoa," I can just imagine today's OSHA, the lawyers and the courts screaming to high heaven about the dangers involved. How in the world did we ever survive such terrible ordeals?....

Not much news tonight. But with endangered flies and blind spiders, the government buying casinos and a new strain of mad cow disease, who needs more news....

Sunday, February 15, 2004


Juneau Wolf May Be Losing Fear of Humans A wolf that began enchanting Mendenhall Lake visitors last June now is drawing too much attention, according to U.S. Forest Service officials. Cold spurts earlier this year froze Mendenhall Lake, formed below the Mendenhall Glacier, one of Juneau's biggest tourist attractions. The ice allowed many residents to get a close look at the wolf. Recently, the wolf has been approaching dogs and following humans.... U.S. Lands Are Fossil Hunting Grounds Private citizens homesteaded the best land long ago. Then the federal government closed off the most beautiful land and made it into parks and preserves, under the National Park Service and the Forest Service. The rest -- much of it windblown badlands, parched desert or other remote corners of nowhere -- went to the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management. But while BLM's public land may have started out as leftovers that no one else wanted, it has turned out to be prime territory for paleontology -- fossil hunting and the unearthing of dinosaurs and other ancient creatures. "These are barren, eroded areas, with very little soil, so the surface geology is exposed," Mike O'Neill said. "And since it doesn't rain much, the bones don't decompose. They're encased in the rock.".... Tree-thinning budget battle under way President Bush proposes spending $760 million on tree thinning nationwide in the federal budget that takes effect Oct. 1, a substantial increase over the current year. And the debate over how much to spend for thinning already has begun. Some critics say the president's proposal isn't enough. The administration took money from one pocket and put it into another without adding much, according to Sen. Tim Johnson, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.... Group marks 30 years of saving trees In its earliest days, the Oregon Natural Resources Council was a local environmental group based in a Eugene bungalow, trying to protect the most beautiful parts of Oregon's national forests from logging through wilderness legislation. Then it switched gears, becoming a key player in the Northwest timber wars. The group moved into federal courtrooms to stop logging on ecological grounds, arguing that old-growth forests were critical habitat for threatened species such as the northern spotted owl and salmon.... Governor's office behind flip-flop on risky logging road Alaska environmental regulators lifted their staunch opposition to a proposed logging road in Southeast -- one that could contaminate public drinking water -- after the governor's office encouraged officials to rethink their position. The timber-access road would cut across two public drinking water sources near Saltery Cove, on the east side of Prince of Wales Island, near Ketchikan. The Forest Service proposed the road as part of a federal timber sale, called Cholmondeley. About 10 million board feet of spruce, hemlock and cedar would be cut from the Saltery Cove watershed within the Tongass National Forest.... Feds attempt to pull rare trout from brink The U.S. Forest Service is backing a plan designed to ensure the survival of one of the world's rarest trout species. Robert Vaught, supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, has released an environmental analysis of the plan to restore the Paiute cutthroat trout to its native habitat in the Sierra Nevada near Markleeville.... Column: More Tongass fairy tales The Seattle Times and the Anchorage Daily News cite an Alaska Department of Labor report claiming market conditions shut down Alaska's pulp mills. That's a fairy tale. What shut them down is explained in a U.S. Court of Claims record: Alaska Pulp Company v. United States, No. 95-153C. Recognizing a dozen years ago that the northwest timber economy was changing, pulp mill owners sought to move to new products. Sitka's Alaska Pulp Company asked the Clinton Administration to modify its 50-year timber contract so that it could switch to medium-density fiberboard. The Clinton response was to cancel APC's contract. APC sued and the court has ruled twice for the mill owners. It appears that after 11 years, U.S. taxpayers are going to cough up $200 million to pay for the Clinton Administration's mismanagement.... Native American advocates oppose snowmaking plan at Snowbowl Some Native American advocates are calling on U.S. Forest Service officials to reverse their support for snowmaking plans at the Arizona Snowbowl. "We as indigenous people will not tolerate further desecration of our sacred peaks," said Havasupai Tribe Cultural Director Rowland Manakaja during a news conference Friday in the Flagstaff City Council chambers.... Wilderness group lists top 10 endangered California wildlands A plan to triple logging in 11.5 million acres of Sierra Nevada national forests has landed the area atop an environmental group's new list of the 10 most threatened wild places in California. As it has each of the three years it has produced the list, the California Wilderness Coalition accused the Bush administration of targeting the state's natural resources, a charge denied by a U.S. Forest Service official.... Park Service working with Babbitt Ranches to expand Wupatki monument And the little publicized expansion potential remains on the table for Babbitt Ranches, which currently owns the land the National Park Service covets for the ancient Indian cultural site. Babbitt Ranches President Bill Cordasco said that the Park Service and the Flagstaff-based ranching company are having ongoing conversations about how to make the land exchange happen. The Park Service has identified 2,500 acres of the ranch land -- in what's known as the COBar Ranch -- that it initially would like to bring into the monument's boundaries. The monument currently boasts 42,000 acres.... Column: Radical change on the range At a recent get-together of 435 members of the Quivira Coalition in Albuquerque, I visited the future of the grasslands. In a dark bar, I even met the rancher's worst nightmare: a Buddhist vegetarian. Of course, ranchers love to cuss ignorant environmentalists who don't know anything about cows. And environmentalists love to curse stupid ranchers whose cows leave manure in the creek. For 20 years, I've been both a rancher and an environmentalist, and sometimes I've been embarrassed by my company.... Wolf accord is close Rep. Mike Baker, the Thermopolis farmer and committee chairman who had crafted much of the state's wolf-management plan in last year's session, asked Williams to repeat the federal government's latest offer to make certain there was no misunderstanding. A compromise was forged: Wyoming's plan would no longer allow wolves to be shot on sight in areas away from Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and adjacent wilderness areas - the chief sticking point. Regulated hunting would have to be in force statewide (except in the parks, where the wolves will remain protected). The federal government would back away from its stance that 15 wolf packs be maintained in the state, that 10 breeding pairs would be sufficient. Williams also said the state could make its own determination of the definition of a pack.... Hunters push forward with rights amendment Long one of the most powerful voting blocks in the state, hunters in Pennsylvania are moving forward with a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee the "right of the people to hunt and fish." Hunters say the amendment, which is similar to laws and constitutional amendments enacted in 11 other states in recent years, would protect their sport from what they say are attacks by animal-rights advocates and other groups that advocate hunting restrictions.... Cows, Critters Make Good Company 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.... Official: Bill may hinder GF&P The law-enforcement coordinator for the state Game, Fish & Parks Department said Sunday that a bill approved last week by the South Dakota House has the potential to wreck his agency's ability to enforce wildlife laws on private land. But supporters argue that it simply gives landowners the property rights they deserve.... Column: When animals stalk humans, hunters should shoot back He might have a point. Wildlife officials estimate that today there are 4,000 to 6,000 cougars in California, a tenfold increase since hunting them in that state was stopped in the early 1970s. Not only are lion sightings up dramatically, but lion attacks on livestock, pets and humans have risen sharply. An average of one human has been attacked per year since 1990; three have died. Might an open season on mountain lions help prevent such awful encounters? A key reason for reintroducing regulated hunting is that it would reinstill in predators a fear of humans. That's a fear they clearly have lost if they've gotten to the point of seeing people as prey, or at least as non-competitors in the food chain. California mountain lions — also called cougars, pumas and panthers — have been off-limits to hunters since 1971, when a plunging cat population led then-governor Ronald Reagan to sign a moratorium. In 1990, after a lengthy media campaign pitting animal-rights activists against hunter-conservationists, California voters passed Proposition 117, the California Wildlife Protection Act, which permanently banned lion hunting.... State's grizzly decline coincides with Gold Rush THE GRIZZLY BEAR had lived in California for a million years, then in a matter of some 60 years it was gone, says Susan Snyder in her book "Bear in Mind: The California Grizzly." Snyder has put together a mind-boggling collection of grizzly bear stories and colorful illustrations using the resources of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, where she is the head of Access Services. The book traces the grizzly from its first encounter with humans to its last moments in California.... Lions on the rise in Flathead Valley area Populations of mountain lions and wolves are growing rapidly again in the Flathead Valley, and problems with people are sure to follow, two wildlife officials say. "We haven't had any serious incidents yet," said John Fraley, "but we've had some phone calls." Hunters bagged record numbers in the past season, indicating big populations of deer and elk, the main food supply for the predators. That means the well-fed predators probably produced lots of little predators, who now are looking for food.... FWP explores issues around bison hunt Montanans will get a chance to speak out on issues revolving around what is expected to be a controversial bison hunting season on animals that migrate out of Yellowstone National Park. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking feedback on what it calls "all bison-related hunting issues" as it formulates a plan for a season that might be ready to go next fall or winter. Such a hunt was authorized by the 2003 Legislature in passing SB395. FWP, in a press release announcing the comment period, states, "The intent of the law authorizing the hunt is to allow Montana hunters to harvest wild, free-roaming bison under fair chase conditions and to reduce damage to private property by altering bison behavior and distribution.".... Experts say feral hogs pose mounting threat Feral hogs — those once domesticated creatures that have returned to the wild — are an ever-increasing nuisance to county residents who find their property destroyed, trash cans ravished and lawns irreparably mauled. A hassle for homeowners, feral hogs can be devastating to small farmers and ranchers; the omnivorous creatures eat almost anything and can destroy crops and livestock, preferring kid goats and lambs.... A Cause That's Catching On With an election looming, Bush is looking to shore up support and doubtless views the nation's 40 million hunters and anglers as a crowd worth courting. Range believes his two-year-old organization for the first time brings a unified, nonpartisan voice on environmental matters to the table. He has wooed prime movers in the outdoors world to sign on as TRCP partners with considerable success. Member organizations now represent some 51/2 million outdoorsmen and women and TRCP directors include former Secretary of State James Baker; Tom Bedell, CEO of Prime Fishing, the nation's biggest tackle manufacturer; Charles Gauvin, head of Trout Unlimited; Dean Kessel, general manager of ESPN Outdoors and Rollin Sparrowe, head of the Wildlife Management Institute. Start-up funds came from the deep pockets of the Pew Charitable Trust and Ted Turner Foundations.... Editorial: Grazing plan is unbalanced A decade ago, ranchers and environmentalists forged an important compromise to restore the ecological health of federal lands while still allowing livestock to graze on government property. Now, a new Bush administration initiative could upset the delicate political and environmental balance struck by that compromise.... Guinn asks Congress for funding to round up wild horses in Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn is pressing Congress for funding to thin wild horse herds in Nevada, saying their large numbers endanger the state's wildlife and ranching. The Republican governor made the request in a letter sent Friday to Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Charles Taylor, chairmen of the Interior appropriations subcommittees in their respective houses. In November, Guinn asked the Bureau of Land Management to remove 6,000 wild horses from Nevada ranges by July. Nevada is home to more than 18,000 wild horses and burros.... House members urge Interior to defer oil lease plan Opposition to the Bush administration's plan to offer new oil and gas leases on Utah's wild lands got a congressional boost this week. On Friday, 104 members of the House sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton urging her to defer oil and gas leasing in areas proposed for wilderness. The BLM's Utah office plans Wednesday to auction off 81,000 acres of public lands in Utah for oil and gas leasing. About 6 percent of those lands are former "wilderness inventory areas" that the agency identified for possible wilderness protection during the Clinton administration.... Makers of two SUVs to go green Can the SUV, the bane of environmental advocates, be reinvented as a green machine? This year, Ford and Toyota plan to sell the first two hybrid sport utility vehicles. With carlike mileage expected, the advent of the hybrid SUV may change the uniformly visceral antipathy to sport utility vehicles among the eco-set, even if automakers are unlikely to sell enough to significantly reduce fuel consumption or pollution any time soon.... Editorial: A water trust for streams and farms A better, user-friendly approach, using the same tools is through the Washington Water Trust, a nonprofit modeled after an Oregon program. Using money from the Bonneville Power Administration, Ecology and private sources, the trust pays people for the use of their water, and puts it into a state water trust program, run by Ecology. Farmers may have water rights they are not using for a set period of time, or excess water from a change of use or irrigation efficiencies. The trust works quietly and confidentially, but the process eventually involves Ecology, the holder of all water for Washington citizens. After initial anxiety, there is confidence the water rights will be safe.... Water now on list of items you can purchase online A new Internet-based service aims to streamline the growing trend of Western water marketing by hosting a forum for people who need water and those who have a surplus. A water marketing trade publication sponsors the Web-based service, which already includes one ad from the Southern California desert offering enough water to satiate nearly 20,000 households.... Tribe issues water warning Tribal water rights in North Kitsap could trump all residential water rights in the region, leaving some areas without a future supply of water, a Suquamish tribal official has warned. Art Schick, water resources planner for the Suquamish Tribe, issued a blunt warning last week to the Kitsap County commissioners about the tribe's powerful role in deciding who gets water. "The tribe does not have an immediate plan to sue anybody or shut off anybody's water," Schick told The Sun, "but we can see this train wreck coming, and we'd like to avoid it.".... Senator Wayne Allard: Watered-down water rights? The greatest environmentalist ever to live in the White House, President Theodore Roosevelt, in May of 1908 gathered representatives from all the states for an ambitious, first-of-its-kind conference "to consider the question of the conservation and use of the great fundamental sources of wealth of this Nation." Roosevelt understood that state and local governments play an essential role in protecting the environment. Appropriately, he reached out to recruit participation of the states in order to determine the progressive future of America's environmental policies. Almost a century later, there is a case - heard recently by the U.S. Supreme Court - that will decide whether the role of government that Roosevelt envisioned for the nation will stand. At issue in South Florida Water Management District v. The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians is the very existence of the current water management system used at state and local levels across the country. The sanctity of state and local control over water-use determinations is at stake.... PETA Has Beef With Town of Slaughterville Residents of this central Oklahoma community have a beef over an animal rights group's attempt to raise awareness of animal abuse. Slaughterville administrator Marsha Blair received a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, urging the town to change its name from Slaughterville to Veggieville....