Friday, March 12, 2004


Lion trackers receive death threat An anonymous caller to the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Tucson office left a message stating he would shoot anyone tracking the mountain lions in Sabino Canyon, a department official said this morning. "It was a guy screaming and ranting and raving," Perry said. "He said, 'I'm going to get up on the ridges above Sabino Canyon with a high-powered rifle. If I see anybody following lions, I'm going to shoot them dead.'" Perry said Forest Service officials called him Thursday to report that they'd received a similar phone call.... Senate moves to fully fund Healthy Forests Act It increases the budget authority for hazardous fuels projects and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act by $343 million to reach the $760 million authorization of Title I in the law; currently, the Bush Administration budget slashes funds from other vital Forest Service programs and moves those dollar amounts into HFRA without providing real new funds for the law..... Column: The Bush administration packs the courts with anti-environmental judges A glance at federal court records suggests that the administration has already begun using the courts to weaken environmental protections. Department of Justice attorneys have consistently failed to defend legal challenges to strong environmental policies, such as the Clinton administration's Roadless Rule, which would protect more than 58 million acres of road-free national forest lands throughout the country. Add a well-placed smattering of anti-environment judges to the federal courts, and far greater damage could be done, Sugameli warned. According to the Senate Judiciary Committee, after almost three years of nominating and confirming, about 52 vacancies remain, or about 6 percent of the 877-member federal judiciary. About 50 nominations are waiting to be taken up by either the committee or the full Senate, which must give confirmation. Twenty-seven vacancies have been open for so long that they are considered judicial emergencies.... Grizzly populations spread south If the rate of grizzly bear population growth continues as it has for the past 20 years, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem could be at "full occupancy" within 25 years, biologists announced this week. The grizzly bear population is expanding fast south of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks into southern Wyoming, Joel Berger, a senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, wrote in the latest edition of Animal Conservation journal.... Probe: Aide didn't influence Klamath policy The Interior Department's inspector general has found no basis for a claim by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry that White House political advisers interfered in developing water policy in the Northwest. Specifically, the inspector general said President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not involved in a 2002 decision to divert water from the Klamath River in Oregon to irrigate farms. While Rove mentioned the Klamath in passing during a briefing with senior Interior officials, "we found nothing to tie Karl Rove's comments ... to the Klamath decision-making process," Inspector General Earl Devaney said in a March 1 letter to Kerry.... Officials exterminate Madsion Valley wolf pack The second wolf pack that has been attacking cattle in the Madison Valley was wiped out Friday morning. Federal trappers flying in a helicopter east of Ennis Lake early Friday morning spotted five wolves out on a sagebrush plain and swooped in to shoot all of them, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "There are basically not any wolves left in the Madison Range," Bangs said late Friday afternoon.... Enzi requests wolf inquiries Two federal agencies have been asked to look into the effect of wolf management on landowners and local communities. The request to the Interior and Justice departments came Monday from Sen. Mike Enzi, who was responding to a request from the Park County commissioners based on a Feb. 14 incident on a Meeteetse ranch with a federal wolf official. Enzi is asking the departments to apply a "strict liability standard." Dubbed a "no excuse standard," it means "regardless of the reasons for the action, those taking the action are responsible for what happens," Enzi spokesman Coy Knobel said.... Park Service grants Pilgrims' road permit The National Park Service will allow a temporary access permit for a backwoods family's request to haul supplies on an old mining road to their remote cabin in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. However, the announcement comes too late to help the Pilgrim family this winter, a spokesman said. The route is impassible. "The biggest problem, we have six and a half feet of snow," Joseph Pilgrim, the family's oldest son, said Thursday. The Park Service said it will let the Pilgrim family use a bulldozer on the road when ground is frozen, covered by snow and resistant to damage. The road leads 14 miles to McCarthy. Joseph Pilgrim said he had not seen a proposed Park Service permit. The agency has invited the family to meet with park officials next week.... Digging Up Conflict On a high-desert mountain where prospectors first struck it rich in the 1860s, the world's largest gold mining company plans a major expansion that critics say could pollute the environment for tens of thousands of years. Newmont Mining Corp.'s proposed $200 million Phoenix project would cover nearly 10 square miles of northern Nevada, reclaiming parts of an existing 3,000-acre contaminated site and spreading gold mining operations over an additional 4,300 acres beginning in 2006. The Bureau of Land Management backs the project, but the Environmental Protection Agency agrees with a watchdog group's claims that the Denver-based company is dramatically underestimating the potential costs of environmental risks.... Humans, pipelines stall animal migration U.S. animal migration in places like the Yellowstone National Park are being cut off by encroaching human habitation and energy plants and pipelines. As a result of the migration problem, the Wildlife Conservation Society has issued a report calling for the establishment of "national migration corridors" to protect the routes these animals have used for the last 5,800 years, the New Scientist reported Friday. Virtually every large, migrating North American animal outside of Alaska lives in Yellowstone ecosystem, but many of their migration routes are being truncated because of human habitation and energy facilities, a report said.... Senate passes Hagel animal ID program A budget resolution for fiscal year 2005, passed late Thursday by the U.S. Senate, included a national animal identification program sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb, and Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Under Hagel's amendment passed by the Senate, it would give the secretary of agriculture authority to implement a national animal identification program similar to the one developed by the National Identification Task Force, which was created by the livestock industry with the USDA to develop the U.S. Animal Identification Program in 2002.... Elmer Kelton, journalist and author of western novels Elmer Kelton is the author of more than 40 novels, including his latest, "Texas Vendetta," now on bookstore shelves. He is the winner of seven Spur awards from the Western Writers of America and has had three of his novels appear in Reader's Digest Condensed Books. Four have won Western Heritage Awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and one, "The Time It Never Rained," was made into a movie by Turner Network Television....
Cattle roundup begins on Diamond Bar

Gathering, removal and impoundment of cattle from the Diamond Bar allotment on the Gila National Forest is under way, according to a notice from the Forest Supervisor's Office.

Forest Service spokeswoman Andrea Martinez said this morning about 90 cattle have been gathered.

"There are five cowboys, with two more expected today, when the process is expected to be fully operational," Martinez said, adding that air reconnaissance has been used to locate livestock on the 146,000-acre allotment.

Forest Service officials said Thursday that most of the cattle on the federal allotment belong to ranchers Kit and Sherry Laney. Officials plan to impound the cattle until they can be sold at auction, according to The Associated Press.

The Laneys contend they are entitled to surface rights on the Diamond Bar, claiming historical use of the allotment predates the authority of the Forest Service. They have argued they own a "vested fee interest" in areas the federal government claims to control, and that such an interest is similar to owning mineral rights or another easement on the land. In their case, the ownership is tied to both water rights and the land that is incidental to the water rights for grazing.

The ranchers have alleged that the roundup is illegal and that the impoundment is potentially a criminal offense, resulting in "an unconstitutional jurisdiction over us and our life, liberty and property."

The Laneys have said they will not interfere with the roundup, but would monitor the event with video recordings, and expect to prosecute those responsible for the roundup, according to an Associated Press wire story.

Martinez said the cattle are being gathered by cowboys, and will remain in corrals on forest land adjacent to the MeOwn Firebase until they are sold at auction. The Laneys can reclaim the cattle before any sale, but must show proof of ownership and pay the Gila for the costs of impoundment, she said.

Courts have ruled against the Laneys, ordering the removal of their cattle, but have done so without acknowledging the fee interest claim. A fee interest is inheritable, taxable property, the Laneys say.

On Dec. 22, 2003, U.S. District Judge William Johnson in federal district court in Albuquerque cited the Laneys for unauthorized grazing and called for the removal of all livestock from the allotment.

The ruling marks the second time the ranchers have been called on to remove all livestock from the Diamond Bar.

In March 1996, U.S. District Judge Howard C. Bratton called for the removal of "unauthorized livestock" from the Diamond Bar and assessed the Laneys fees for grazing without a permit and unspecified damages "flowing from unauthorized use."

A federal judge in December awarded the U.S. Forest Service grazing fees and damages after finding the couple in contempt of court for grazing cattle on allotments in violation of earlier court orders.

The judge ruled they were bound by 1996 and 1997 orders and never had "a vested property right.'' The court ruled earlier the allotments were national forest and that the cattle company did not have a legal right to possess or use that land.

The Laneys argued the government could not stop the grazing because they had private property rights based on historical use predating the forest's creation. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver dismissed the same argument in 1999.

"I don't disagree that the Forest Service has administrative authority over the Gila River Forest Reserve, as it was reserved under presidential proclamation in 1899," Laney recently told the Daily Press.

"I challenge everybody to read (the U.S. Supreme Court decision) United States versus New Mexico to determine what it was that was reserved. It was not aesthetics, wildlife preservation or stock watering. It was reserved for a sustained yield of timber and a sustained flow of water.

"The grazing permit says you're using property belonging to the U.S. government. The catch is in ranchers' own ignorance for signing the permit.

"The federal district court has ordered that our cattle must be removed from national forest system lands. However, the court did not dispute the fact that we have a privately-owned deeded fee interest in the lands within the boundaries of our ranches that is not part of the national forest system lands," the Laneys have stated.

The Forest Service is withholding the name of the contractor conducting the roundup at the contractor's request, Martinez said. A Freedom of Information Act request must be filed to get the name, she said.

The roundup is expected to take several weeks. Meanwhile, a temporary area closure for the Diamond Bar remains in effect under Forest Service guidelines.

According to a news release from the agency, the closure is being implemented to allow the contractor to gather, impound and remove unauthorized livestock.

Annette Chavez, Wilderness District ranger on the forest, has stated the closure is necessary for public safety, and protection of property, and is designed to minimize public activities that may hinder the gathering and removal of livestock so that the effort may proceed "in a safe and efficient manner for everyone involved."

The area closure will be reviewed periodically to determine its usefulness, she said.

The closure prohibits entry along Forest Road 150 on forest land south of Wall Lake, then south to the south rim of Rocky Canyon, as well as the 147,000-acre Diamond Bar Allotment.

Private property owners will be allowed to travel to and from their properties. In addition, federal, state or local law enforcement officers, or members of any organized rescue or firefighting unit in the performance of official duties are permitted access. Other exceptions include people with a specific permit authorized by the Gila National Forest Supervisor's Office.

The following hiking trails are closed:

Trail No. 40 to Diamond Creek and Middle Diamond Creek from the junction of Forest Road 150 to the junction of Continental Divide Trail No. 74;

Continental Divide Trail No. 74 from the junction of Trail No. 40 south to the junction of Trail No. 74;

Trail No. 74 to the junction of Forest Road 150, encompassing trails 75, 76, 75A, 72, 481, 73, 707, 68, 69, 67 and 308; and

Trail Nos. 803, 700, 95, 94, 716, 708 and 713.

Complete maps of closed areas are available at district ranger offices.


Laney Saga Tainting Responsible Ranchers

Kit Laney bet the ranch on a flimsy legal claim to grazing rights -- without the benefit of a grazing permit. Now, as Forest Service officials prepare to round up his herd, Laney is trying to spook other ranchers.
"If they can take mine, they can sure as hell ... take what everyone else has." Laney told the New Mexico Livestock Board last week.
Laney isn't "everyone." In a business that has an inescapable element of public relations -- public-lands ranching -- Laney has been a PR disaster.
After the number of cattle on the mostly wilderness-area allotment in the Gila National Forest was effectively slashed, Laney let his permit lapse.
But he continued to graze the cattle under an obscure property-right theory that was rejected in U.S. District Court and by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The herd was removed from the allotment in 1997, but Laney brought the cattle back about a year ago, asserting a similarly obscure right.
One rancher at the meeting said the Forest Service "is our worst enemy." That's true -- if a rancher's allotment is not being properly managed, efforts to improve the publicly owned range are resisted and the rancher defies established procedures, like grazing permits.
Laney's attempts to paint himself as the first of many victims of the Forest Service tars the vast majority of ranchers who responsibly graze cattle on public lands.


Dear Editor,

The Albuquerque Journbal editorial, Laney Saga Tainting Responsible Ranchers; about Kit Laney's attitude being the problem in his dealings with the USFS is so far off the mark it isn't even funny.

Kit Laney isn't trying to scare other ranchers he was simply the first in this region to have to deal with the tyrannical and often vindictive behavior of certain employees of the USFS.

When a government agency can violate it's own word and it's own contracts time after time and get away with it, at an individuals expense, someone needs to stand up to them and say no more. In 1995 the USFS saw to it that the Laney's wouldn't have a home by taking away the livelihood attached to that home. While they were working on Kit and Sherry, Region 3 of the USFS went after the entire Tonto Basin in Arizona. Not a cowman remains in historic ranchland but their are a lot of empty homes. Then it was the Apache Sitgreeves. The Gila forest, in which the Laney's ranch, was subject to several dozen entire and partial allotment use removals, let's not forget the Goss's on the Sacramento or the Hispanic ranchers in the northern part of the state. In other words Kit hasn't scared anyone, they are already scared by what the Region 3 USFS is being allowed to systematically and arbitrarily do to them.

The only thing Kit did wrong in his original court cases, was employ an attorney that didn't specialize in the argument and how best to present it. Legally the argument was inadequate. Fundamentally, the Laney's are standing on terra firma, or should I say fee interest. They are correct about their of ownership property rights on federally administered land. Simplified example: If you own a car and park it in a federally owned parking lot, and the feds write a regulation allowing them to close the lot and take away access to your car, do you not have a right to challenge that regulation if, as in this case, congressional statute backs you up? I believe you have every right and shouldn't have to suffer the wrath of the agency simply because you are willing to fight for your rights. Where would this nation be if people failed to fight for their rights?

Over 100 years of congressional statute back the Laney's up over the fee interest land argument and so do a half a dozen state supreme court cases, not to mention US Vs. New Mexico 1978. The fundamental argument has already been won several times.

The author of the column states Kit lost in both the 1996 and 1997 cases, losing such a case is pretty easy to do when you are dealing with a new and untried situation and don't have the means to hire adequate representation. However, it isn't that simple. Take the time to read the actual rulings, they spell out the fact that the various judges thought the Laney's argument had many errors and they lost based on those errors. The Judges also state that under state law, they did own the water, but the courts were at a loss as to how the water tied to the grazing rights or fee interest. The Laney' were unable to connect the dots and the USFS made the argument that it was through the permitting system. At the time the Laney's attorneys were unable to answer the questions relating to that part of the argument. The Hage ruling, 6 years later, clarified the clear intent of congress in 100 years of statute. The USFS lands are subject to valid existing and vested rights. There are right of ways throughout the forest lands that the inholders have a vested right to use, not just for travel but also for agricultural and stockraising purposes. The Laney's needed to educate the Judges on those statutes and rulings. Federal courts do not have to answer questions that aren't asked, they do not have to look after the rights of the individuals in their courtrooms.
The Laney's lost both rulings by default. Mistakes are often made in this type of situation. That doesn't mean the people involved are criminals or even deserving of the treatment they receive.

Since that happened, the argument they should have used has been through the US Court of Claims and at least one federal district court and won hands down.
They have paved the way for the correct argument to go before the courts and when it does, ranchers in the southwest will finally have some stability. The USFS habit of stealing the private property rights of ranchers and other inholders on these lands to satisfy the big green money machine, will have to be broken.

The Laney's may or may not win this one but someone has to throw themselves on the grenade. That is how ranchers across the west see Kit and Sherry. They are helping to pave the way for every other rancher in the west to make the correct argument and they had backbone enough to do what it takes to call an enormous amount of attention to the injustices done to the people on these lands so that it may never happen again.
I am not tainted by being their neighbor and a rancher I am a better and a smarter person for having seen them through this mess. I feel as if God has placed me here during this crisis for a purpose beyond what I ever expected out of my life.
Anyone in this business that thinks otherwise has a lot to learn about the big picture and what is actually going on out on these lands and why ranchers all over the west are rising up and defending the Laney's.


Laura Schneberger

Thursday, March 11, 2004


Protestors want Sabino Canyon cougars to survive Halt the hunt. That’s what protestors yelled out Wednesday in an effort to stop the killing of mountain lions in Sabino Canyon. A decision that protestors, even Arizona's governor, say was made too quickly with no public input. Signs, banners and voices covered the sidewalk in front of Tucson's federal building downtown. Demonstrators say they’re outraged that the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department are moving ahead with their plan to kill the mountain lions in Sabino Canyon.... Napolitano displeased decision to kill cougars made without her, public input Gov. Janet Napolitano is upset the decision to shoot Sabino Canyon's mountain lions was made without input from the public or her office. "While I agree that public safety is paramount, I'm disturbed by the decision - by the U.S. Forest Service and Arizona Game & Fish - to kill cougars in Sabino Canyon," Napolitano said in a prepared statement Thursday. "For several months, my office has been aware of the sightings and some heightened concern about mountain lions, yet the decision to shoot was apparently made abruptly within the last few days with little public input or exploration of other options.".... Forest service backs off snowmobile bridge After settling a lawsuit with a local environmental group, Flathead National Forest has backed off on plans to allow a snowmobiling bridge in the Lost Johnny Basin west of Hungry Horse Reservoir. The Swan View Coalition sued the Forest Service in January, contending the Hungry Horse Ranger District wrongfully approved a special use permit for a portable bridge that allowed snowmobilers to conveniently reach the upper Lost Johnny Basin in the spring. A settlement approved by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy on Tuesday requires the bridge to be blocked or removed by March 15. Keith Hammer, chairman of the coalition, contended that Amendment 19 to the Flathead Forest Plan bans snowmobiling in the basin after March 15 to provide habitat security for grizzly bears emerging from their dens.... Grizzly bears flourishing in Yellowstone The grizzly bear, on the edge of extinction in the lower 48 states just 25 years ago, is recolonizing its habitat south of Yellowstone National Park for the first time in a hundred years, a study has found. The study, by Denver Zoo biologist Sanjay Byare and several other bear biologists, concluded southern expansion from Yellowstone by grizzlies now is doubling every 20 years. In the early 1980s, a study of the grizzly population in the greater Yellowstone area found fewer than 200 bears, and projected that the bear could be extinct by the 2000. Instead, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team estimated there now are a minimum of 500 bears in the ecosystem -- probably more -- and the population is healthy and expanding at the rate of about 4 percent per year. "It is a tremendous success story," Steve Thomas, the Sierra Club's regional director of the Northern Plains region, told United Press International. Thomas added, however, the area designated as the "core habitat" for the bear should be increased before wildlife officials consider removing the animal from the Endangered Species List. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to propose removing the bear from the list by the end of this year.... Forest Service hired PR firm to promote increased logging The U.S. Forest Service paid a San Francisco public relations firm $90,000 to develop a campaign to generate public support for its plan to triple logging in the 11 national forests of the Sierra Nevada, according to documents released yesterday. The plan for the PR campaign included a confidentiality clause, suggesting that revealing its existence could be misinterpreted by the public. The Forest Service signed a contract with the firm in December. It told the Associated Press in January there was no cost breakdown for a promotional effort. The Forest Service also did not disclose the contract in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by an environmental group.... Groups Move to Block Regulations That Cut Wildlife Experts out of the Loop When Assessing Impact of Forest Fire Plans New regulations issued by the Bush Administration seriously and unnecessarily undermine a cornerstone provision of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to a coalition of conservation organizations that today announced their intention to have the rules overturned in court. The ESA requires that every federal agency consult with federal wildlife agencies, including the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), to ensure that they avoid any action which is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species. Under the Administration's new regulations, the Forest Service and other federal agencies would no longer be required to consult with the FWS on thousands of logging, road building and other activities the Administration labels as fire prevention. Groups expressed concern that the forest fire rules allow the Forest Service to designate virtually any project as a fire prevention activity, opening the door to hundreds, perhaps thousands of projects harmful to endangered wildlife, in particular the lynx, which makes it home in the Rockies.... Editorial: Measure progress in acres, not dollars It is more than a little ironic, of course, to hear environmentalists who fought hard to block passage of the Healthy Forests legislation now complain that the administration isn't going all-out to accomplish the work they opposed. Our inclination, however, is to focus more on results than on the dollar figures. Montanans should be as concerned as anyone over the ability of the U.S. Forest Service to fulfill the goals set forth in the Healthy Forests law. While we maintain that proponents of the measure overstated the government's ability to dramatically reduce wildfire dangers, there's no question that many of our forests are overgrown and will benefit from some enlightened logging and thinning.... Groups set ESA deadline Federal officials will have until October to respond to a petition seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the white-tailed prairie dog under an agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservationists. A coalition of conservation groups reached a settlement with the Service this week that will give the agency until Oct. 31 to make a preliminary finding on the group's petition. The coalition in 2002 petitioned the Service to list the white-tailed prairie dog as threatened or endangered in accordance with ESA requirements. When issued in October, the preliminary 90-day finding will be more than two years late.... Some Pacific Swordfish Fishing Banned The federal government banned commercial fishing for swordfish in a large swath of the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, in a move to protect endangered sea turtles that were being killed or injured by the hooks. The new rules, released by the National Marine Fisheries Service, prohibit longline fishing for swordfish in the Pacific between the West Coast and Hawaii. The ban, scheduled to take effect April 12, will affect about two dozen fishing boats based in California, Oregon and Washington. Recreational fishing is not affected.... Conservationists, ranchers disagree over grazing in the West Conservationists and ranchers are butting heads over a Bush administration plan to ease regulations that dictate how, when and where livestock can graze on public lands in the West. Sportsmen, environmentalists and retired Bureau of Land Management employees say the proposed changes would make it harder for the federal government to protect drought-stricken public lands in the West from overgrazing. But ranchers and the Bush administration say changes are needed to improve the way the grazing program is managed and to help ranchers stay in business.... Montana attorney general seeks high court ruling on Missouri River feud Attorney General Mike McGrath wants the U.S. Supreme Court to help settle the ongoing dispute over managing the Missouri River. McGrath filed a "friend of the court" brief Wednesday, asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a lawsuit brought by North Dakota and South Dakota. The lawsuit contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' management of the river illegally favors downstream states. By giving higher priority to barge traffic on stretches of the river in such states as Nebraska and Missouri, the corps is releasing too much water from upstream reservoirs in Montana and the Dakotas and harming fish, wildlife and recreation, McGrath said.... In Alaska, Rancher Is Offered Park Access As long as there's snow on the ground and ice in the creek, the Alaskan who calls himself Papa Pilgrim can drive a bulldozer nine times in the next 13 months across the largest national park in the United States, according to the National Park Service. By granting a temporary access permit to Pilgrim, whose real name is Robert Allan Hale, the Park Service moved on Thursday to resolve a dispute that has become a cause célèbre among land-rights activists. The government's offer, however, will be rejected, according to Pilgrim's lawyer, Russell C. Brooks of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which champions land rights. "This is what the park has tried to offer all along, and it is not adequate," Brooks said. By coincidence, just as the Park Service was offering a permit to the Pilgrims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit announced on Thursday that it will hear Pilgrim's appeal on a lawsuit demanding greater park access.... BLM moves to strengthen agencies' roles Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke said the agency is moving to strengthen the role of local, state and tribal agencies in developing land use plans for the public lands under the BLM's jurisdiction. Clarke said the agency is proposing to modify its regulations to formally recognize and define the standing local, state, tribal and federal entities of government may be granted as "Cooperating Agencies" in the planning process.... Enviros sue BLM over rangeland health rules The Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and Western Watersheds Project have sued the Bureau of Land Management, alleging that the agency has failed to comply with rangeland health regulations in the Louse Canyon Geographic Management Area in southeast Oregon. The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges that the BLM illegally withheld action to change management in the Louse Canyon Area. The BLM's own regulations, the Fundamentals of Rangeland Health (FRH), require livestock management changes before the next grazing season when livestock are determined to be the cause of failure.... Four-wheelers tread legal ground on trails Attorneys for off-road-vehicle groups asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to allow them to sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to open a proposed wilderness area in southern New Mexico to their machines. The Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association and the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club are asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court's dismissal of their 2000 lawsuit challenging the closure of most of the trails in the Robledo Mountains....

Feds confiscate rancher's cattle

By Henry Lamb
© 2004

Picture this opening scene in a modern Western tragedy: Panning slowly across the southwestern New Mexico landscape, snow-capped mountains on the horizon, the Gila National Forest sprawling in the foreground, the camera begins to zoom in slowly on the ribbon of road that slices through the 147,000-acre Diamond Bar Ranch. A small cluster of horses comes into view. Two cowboys are leading-herding a few horses from one work center on the ranch to another, some 15 miles away.

The sounds of hooves and the forest, along with an occasional word between Dale Laney and his 14-year old son, Albert, are interrupted when a Forest Service law-enforcement vehicle bursts into the scene – blue lights flashing. Thus begins a modern drama that is being written daily by real-life characters fighting a range war that will either rein in federal power, or unleash that power to put an end to ranching in the West.

Forest Service law-enforcement officers demanded that the Laneys get off their horses and display a permit.

"A permit for what?" Dale asked.

Dale was told the road and the entire Diamond Bar Ranch had been closed by a Feb. 29 order from the Forest Service, and that he needed a permit to be on it.

Dale didn't have a permit. He had never needed a permit to move stock on a public road through his family's ranch. He told Albert to keep moving the horses.

Another Forest Service law-enforcement vehicle appeared, and then another, blue lights flashing, sirens wailing, bull-horns blasting, horses running in different directions – until the Laneys rounded them up and led them through a canyon to their destination.

According to Patrol Capt. Mike Reamer, 14 law-enforcement officers have been deployed to the Diamond Bar Ranch, armed with semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and sidearms.

Why did these officers feel the need to chase two cowboys on horseback with three law-enforcement vehicles?

Reamer said the officers were new to the area and didn't recognize the Laneys.

Why is the road closed in the first place?

Catron County Sheriff Cliff Snyder asked Forest Service official Steve Libby this question. He was told that the Forest Service was "concerned that outside people would come into the area and cause problems."

In a March 4 letter to District Ranger Annette Chavez, Snyder demanded written evidence of "any possible threats, hostile or adverse action of any kind to the Laneys, the Forest Service or any other citizen of Catron County."

The sheriff also said that he and the public at large are "beginning to believe that the law-enforcement officers' only reason for being in the area is for the purpose of harassing the Laneys."

The patrol captain told WorldNetDaily on Monday that there had been no evidence of outside agitators, nor any sign of interference from the Laneys, nor from any other local people.

There are about 400 head of cattle on the Diamond Bar Ranch and several horses used to tend the cattle. Kit Laney, owner of record, owns outright only 100 acres of the 147,000-acre ranch where the cattle graze. After the ranch was closed, Kit asked for a permit to go tend the livestock. The permit was denied. He is confined to the 100 acres he owns.

Four days after the closure, Kit attended a meeting of the New Mexico Livestock Board, which was discussing a Memorandum of Understanding between the Forest Service and the Livestock Board regarding the confiscation and sale of the Laneys' cattle. On the way home, he was followed by law-enforcement officers, and once home, he was issued a citation for traveling on federal land without a permit.

According to Kit, a law-enforcement officer approached young Albert Laney, a passenger in Kit's vehicle, pointed his finger at Albert and said, "I'm a law-enforcement officer, and we're going to get you, too."

The patrol captain denied that this event occurred. "It was not in the report," he said.

As of Tuesday, the area was still closed, and Forest Service contractors had confiscated 12 head of cattle and moved them to a holding corral at another location in Catron County.

Before the cattle can be sold, the New Mexico Livestock Board will have to certify that the cattle are, in fact, the property of the seller and are being sold with the approval of the owner. This is the function of the Livestock Board, also known as the "Brand Board."

Kit Laney is the owner of the cattle, and he certainly has not given anyone permission to confiscate and sell his cattle. The MOU with the Forest Service is supposed to relieve the Livestock Board from its legal responsibility and hold the Forest Service harmless for what Kit believes to be cattle rustling by the contractor, at the behest of the Forest Service.

The legality of the MOU is being challenged by a broad coalition of individuals and organizations, led by Paragon Foundation of Alamogordo, N.M., on the grounds that it was executed by the executive director of the Livestock Board without authorization by the board, that the action was taken in violation of the "open meetings" law, and on a variety of other thorny legal issues.

Michael White, president of New Mexico's 17,000-member Farm Bureau has urged the Livestock Board to adhere to state law and not bow to political pressure or to federal agencies.

"The New Mexico Livestock Board is facing monumental decisions in this case, and our statewide organization will be watching very carefully (for) any possible precedent-setting actions of this panel as these cattle are gathered by a private contractor hired by the Forest Service," White said.

Kit's attorney has prepared a "Constructive Notice" for the contractor, which spells out precisely the action the contractor and the Forest Service can expect the Laneys to take. Kit contends the MOU between the Livestock Board and the Forest Service is illegal, that removal of his cattle is an act of theft under state law, and that the contractor will be held personally liable for his actions, including damages for any losses caused by the confiscations.

Since some cattle have already been confiscated, Kit expects to file formal charges in the state judicial system as quickly as the paper work can be prepared.

In the movies, range wars are fought when the big guys want to overrun the little guys. In this modern-day range war, the only difference is that the big guys are not big ranchers, but big government, big environmental organizations and big politicians who are convinced that the cowboy era should be relegated to history books.

The Laneys, on the other hand, are the little guys, who want nothing more than to continue living where their ancestors settled in 1883, doing what their ancestors have done for more than a century. They have invested their life building their ranch to pass on to their children. The tragedy is that if the big guys succeed in taking the property and life work of several generations of Laneys, they can also take the property and life work of every other Western rancher whose livestock graze on so-called public land. If the Laneys can halt this confiscation and taking of private property, or force the government to pay for what they are taking, then, perhaps, the big guys will have to rethink whether they can afford the cost.

Forest Service begins impounding cattle on Diamond Bar allotment

Last Update: 03/11/2004 6:26:21 PM
By: Associated Press

(Silver City-AP) -- The Gila National Forest has begun impounding cattle from a ranch that predates national forests.

The Forest Service announced Thursday that a roundup is underway to remove unauthorized livestock on the Diamond Bar allotment, which remains closed.

Forest service officials say most of the cattle belong to ranchers Kit and Sherry Laney, who have 85 percent of their range on federal land.

Federal courts have ordered the Laneys to reduce grazing and cut herds despite their contention they hold property and water rights.

The Laneys contend the roundup is illegal.

Forest Service officials say about 50 head of cattle have been rounded up so far.

The roundup should take several weeks.

The Forest Service is withholding the name of the roundup contractor at his request.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Endangered Species Act (ESA)/Alsea Valley v. Daley

On February 24, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal from a 2001 decision by District Judge Michael Hogan’s finding that the listing of Oregon coastal coho salmon was arbitrary and capricious. In September 2001, in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans, Judge Hogan ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) cannot list wild-bred coho salmon under the ESA, while excluding hatchery-bred fish, since the two are part of the same distinct population segment (DPS) of salmon species (WSW #1426). Therefore, hatchery-bred fish can not be excluded in determining the endangered status of the coho. Judge Hogan remanded the listing rule to NMFS for reconsideration.

Three months later the Ninth Circuit stayed all enforcement of the district court’s decision, pending consideration of the appeal (WSW #1440). The Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court held that until NMFS comes out with a final listing rule, the court’s remand is not “final,” and therefore not appealable. With the appeal dismissed, the stay is lifted and wild coho salmon effectively lose ESA protections.

“The immediate effect is Oregon coast coho will not be protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Bob Lohn, NMFS Northwest Regional Director. “As a practical matter, I expect the fish to continue to receive good protection from the state of Oregon.” (Oregonian, Feb. 25, 2004)

“We are elated with this decision,” said attorney Russell Brooks of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented the Alsea Valley Alliance, industry and business groups, in the original case. “With the Ninth Circuit’s dismissal of this appeal, the ‘sky is falling’ rhetoric of hardcore environmental activists has been debunked and their true agenda exposed. This attempt to control private land use in the name of species protection has been successfully shut down,” Brooks added. (Greenwire, February 25, 2004)

Pursuant to Judge Hogan’s remand in 2001, NMFS has been reviewing its listing policy for 25 of 26 listed stocks of West Coast salmon and steelhead. “The process that we embarked on in October 2001 following Hogan’s ruling is continuing. This Ninth Circuit ruling has not changed that one scintilla,” according to Brian Gorman, a NMFS spokesman. Still, for the present, NMFS cannot enforce ESA provisions related to the coho. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Feb. 25)

While dismissing the appeal, the Ninth Circuit noted there remains an implausible, but possible means of listing only wild-bred coho. “[I]f one Service rule includes hatchery Oregon coastal salmon in the same DPS as the wild variety, a second cannot exclude hatchery fish from the wild salmon’s ‘threatened’ listing. Permutations favorable to the [Appellants] remain. In theory, for example, [NMFS] could define hatchery coho as a separate DPS from naturally spawned coho under the Service’s current ESA standards (although the district court legitimately doubts this is possible), and a listing that includes only naturally spawned coho would no longer offend the district court’s holding. A more plausible route to the same natural only listing would be to have [NMFS] reformulate its criteria for determining which groups of salmon constitute DPSs. In addition, nothing prevents the Service from forging an entirely new set of rules from scratch.”

From the newsletter of the Western States Water Council, issue 155.

Court Victory Upholding the Rights of Private Timberland Owners!

Big Creek v. County of Santa Cruz. PLF won a big victory for private property rights in the Sixth District Court of Appeal on February 17. Santa Cruz County had passed an ordinance regulating timber operations virtually out of existence in the county. PLF filed briefs in the trial court and the Court of Appeal arguing that the county did not have the legal authority to regulate either where or how timber harvesting activities may take place because such regulation is preempted by the state’s Forest Practice Act....

Bogus Endangered Species Act Protections for “Wild” Coho Salmon Must Go

Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans. On February 24, PLF’s Northwest Center won a key victory in its ongoing assault on the federal bureaucracy’s reliance on “junk science” to promote political agendas through the Endangered Species Act.

Recall that in September 2001, PLF successfully challenged the listing of the Oregon Coast coho salmon as a threatened species under the ESA. U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service acted illegally in protecting fish spawning in the wild, but not hatchery fish, which are genetically identical. Judge Hogan ruled NMFS could not pick and choose among fish swimming side-by-side in a stream which it would protect and which it would ignore....

Grants Handled Or Mishandled At The EPA?

Should liberal and environmental advocacy organizations be receiving "no strings attached" federal grants? Remember, this is Washington, so the common sense answer need not apply - not even when the federal deficit is skyrocketing.

The EPA's Office of Inspector General, in a March 1, 2004 report, identified a federal grant that had been received by the Consumer Federation of America (Foundation) to work on projects under the Clean Air Act....

Environmental Groups Use Violent Tactics to Advance Their Agenda

Most Americans understand that they live in a free republic that provides democratic means to achieve political ends. They agree with the radio talk show host who tells his listeners, “If you want a revolution, go to the ballot box.” However, important fringe elements in the environmental and animals rights movements disagree. They scoff at rational discussion and democratic procedures because they have neither patience nor respect for the opinions of others—character traits necessary to inform, lobby, and build successful political coalitions. Instead, they prefer—indeed, relish—opportunities for “direct action.” Direct action is the name activists give to carefully arranged high-profile confrontations. The activists have two goals in mind: to get publicity for their cause, and to intimidate their enemies....

Pesticides and the West Nile Virus: An Examination of Environmentalist Claims

Ever since the mosquito-transmitted West Nile Virus appeared in New York City during 1999, environmental activists have been fighting efforts to keep the disease under control. Not only have they battled against any spraying for adult mosquitoes, they have also fought methods to manage mosquito larvae. These groups maintain that the control methods are more dangerous than the diseases they seek to control. In the case of spraying, activists say that the chemicals imperil public health and can kill or harm wildlife. These groups claim further that other methods, such as the use of biological agents to kill mosquito larvae, disrupt the balance of nature and thereby threaten non-target species. Finally, while maintaining that spraying can devastate non-target organisms such as butterflies and aquatic life, many groups claim that mosquito control efforts have little or no impact on mosquito populations....

Ninth Circuit Torches Sensible Fire Prevention

Two years ago, the devastating Star Fire swept through the El Dorado and Tahoe National Forests in Northern California. Over a harrowing 23 days, flames consumed 17,000 acres of habitat for the California spotted owl. Now some federal judges have stepped forward—to finish off what the fire didn’t destroy.

In December, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a forest recovery plan designed to head off the next out-of-control blaze by clearing trees that were scorched in the last one....

Our Science Can Beat Up Your Science: Playing Politics with Data

A new front in the war over "sound science" opened on February 29, with the publication of a Washington Post op-ed by former American Prospect Online editor Chris Mooney, "Beware 'Sound Science.' It's Doublespeak for Trouble." In this article, Mooney argues that the Bush administration has twisted the idea of "sound science" so that "instead of allowing facts to inform policies, preexisting political commitments have twisted facts and tainted information." He warns that, as a result, "The once-cooperative relationship between politicians and scientists in this country seems to be in serious jeopardy." Yet a close look at the facts reveals that Mooney's argument is as much doublespeak as anything he criticizes the administration for....

The Wrong Way To Prosecute “Eco-Terrorists”

Environmental activists come in all temperaments, but the ones who carry their philosophy to an extreme have earned a pithy nickname at the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America headquarters in Washington, D.C.: “eco-terrorists.” Experts there are well acquainted with them. Indeed, they say they can plot the routes these activists will take after they leave various “green” conclaves.

The first attack, which will take place within 200 miles of the meeting, will feature vandalism on SUVs parked at an auto dealership. Then, about a day’s drive away, another attack will occur in which nasty messages, such as “Fat, Lazy American,” are spray-painted on SUVs. Then, perhaps they’ll dip south and set a home on fire, as they did in San Diego and Indiana last year, or vandalize a store, set off homemade bombs or commit some other crime....

Enviros Commence Election-Year Attack

Environmentalists have commenced their election-year attack on President Bush.

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently issued a widely covered report condemning the Bush administration for allegedly politicizing science on a number of controversial issues, ranging from global warming to HIV/AIDS to Iraq's nuclear weapons efforts.

It was quite an ironic charge coming from a self-described activist group whose left-wing, eco-extremist, anti-biotechnology, anti-chemical, anti-nuclear, anti-defense and anti-business screeds embody the very antithesis of the scientific ideal of objectivity....

The latest news from the Diamond Bar impoundment.

Kit and Sherry have both had run ins with USFS LEO's. Kit had met the contractors in passing on the road the past couple days and had no other contact with them as he has stated he would not interfere with them. However, the USFS set up another blockade in the middle of the enclosure on the road, to force him to stop so that they could issue him a ticket for trespassing onto the allotment. Kit says that he is traveling on the easement that he should be allowed under federal statute, the exact argument that the courts will not hear. He feels he is not in trespass in any way shape or form, nor will he interfere in the impoundment proceedings.

Sherry and Dale, Kit's brother came upon 4 contractors yesterday, they were accompanied by one USFS personnel member from grant county and 2 USFS LEO's who were heavily armed. The LEO's informed Sherry they were interfering with the impoundment by taking pictures and speaking to them. One was carrying what appeared to be a machine gun. Sherry got his badge number and name. Don't ask me to release it.

The contractors do not appear to be cow men however there are several of them and may be able to gather a few cows here and there at this time there are about 20 of the gentler cows in the pens at Meown. No one has any idea what they plan on doing to load or haul them. The Laney's usually drove them 20 miles to the neighbor at Beaverhead but that will not be possible for the impoundment and there is no way to get a semi truck into Meown. This will be an extremely long drawn out expensive process.

The USFS is now trying to market the cattle into Texas. Word has it that the sale ring they now want to use also refuses to accept them.

Laura Schneberger

I will be travelling from this afternoon till Monday evening. I will be attending the Timed Event Championships in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Keep tuning in, as I will try to post while on the road. This will depend, of course, on the internet connections at the hotels. If they are too slow, there will be limited posting. I spend 5 to 6 hours each evening putting this together, and it just takes too long if I don't have a good connection.

Let's hope for talented cowboys, great horses and a fast connection.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Environmentalists request goshawk protection The petition filed Tuesday includes all national forests in Idaho, Montana and western Wyoming and asks for the protection of all existing old-growth forests and all roadless areas of more than 1,000 acres. The notice came under the federal Administrative Procedures Act, which gives citizens the right to petition government agencies to issue a rule or regulation.... Florida Wilderness Fire Threatens Homes A fire that started as a prescribed burn but leapt out of control had swept through about 30,000 acres by late Tuesday and forced the evacuation of about 35 homes in north Florida, officials said Tuesday. The blaze was damaging valuable timber in national and state forests, officials said.... Bitterroot forest employees among group that sent explicit e-mails Eight Bitterroot National Forest employees had disciplinary actions taken against them in past two weeks for forwarding or sending inappropriate e-mails, said David Bull, forest supervisor. "It's pretty clear in memos to all employees that what certain employees were doing in forwarding this stuff on is not permitted by our rules," said Bull. Due to privacy laws, the names of the employees disciplined will not be released.... Public lands endorsed by state Supreme Court A decision Monday by the Colorado Supreme Court could result in preservation of thousands of acres of open space around Aspen and guarantee that the Mount Sopris Tree Farm in El Jebel remains in public hands. The Supreme Court ruled Pitkin County's process of acquiring a mining claim on the back of Aspen Mountain through a tax sale nearly a century ago was legitimate. The plaintiff had claimed the sale was flawed and, therefore, the land was in private rather than public hands. The case, which cannot be appealed any higher, could set a precedent for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of such tax sales made during Aspen's quiet years - when the town was withering after the collapse of silver prices.... Tucson's Sabino Canyon closed for mountain lions The popular Sabino Canyon Recreation Area was scheduled to close Wednesday while animal trackers search for mountain lions. Closure of the area, where some 1.5 million people hike or take tram rides in the canyon annually, could last up to two weeks, Coronado National Forest officials said.... Forest Service's 'Healthy Forests' Budget Shortchanges Crucial Programs; Fails to Adequately Protect Communities As the House of Representatives Committee on Resources prepares to convene Wednesday, March 10, all eyes are on questionable figures in the US Forest Service budget that reveal a plan that may leave several programs dangerously underfunded. In a forthcoming report, The Wilderness Society reveals an illogical system of borrowing and reallocation of funds that will fail to meet the long-term goals of effective wildland fire management and long-term conservation needs. The money to pay for fire suppression is raided from critical forest fuels reduction projects, and other programs, which Congress has failed to fully repay....Go here(pdf) for an executive summary of the report.... Hayman Fire restitution sought Government attorneys argued today the former Forest Service employee who set the largest wildfire in Colorado history should be forced to pay $14.7 million in restitution. U.S. Attorney John Suthers, arguing his case in person, told a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Terry Lynn Barton should be ordered to pay the amount agreed to by prosecutors and defense attorneys.... Column: Let's bring back public hearings Public hearings, and your right to tell the government what you think, are becoming things of the past in Juneau. So is your right to hear what other citizens think. The U.S. Forest Service held an "open house" supposedly to inform the community about the proposed Kensington mine and allow the public to express their thoughts about the project's draft supplemental environmental impact statement. While attending, many people were stunned to learn that nothing they said at the open house would be recorded or officially acknowledged in any way. The acting regional director of the Forest Service told a group of us that the only way to get our thoughts into the official record is to put them in writing. This new policy and the "open house" format that a growing number of government agencies are using to replace public hearings, seriously damage the public's ability to influence decisions.... Turtle Advocate Fights Key West Dredging A sea turtle advocate said Tuesday that the Navy's plan to dredge Key West Harbor violates the Endangered Species Act, and he has notified the government of his intent to sue. Ritchie Moretti said dredging equipment that sucks up sand and silt is a "turtle killer" and the Navy and Army Corps of Engineers need to catch any of the protected animals in the path of the machine and move them out of danger. Moretti, who founded the only state-certified veterinary hospital for sea turtles, filed notice Monday of an intent to sue with the Army, Navy, Corps of Engineers, Commerce Department and National Marine Fisheries Service.... Some encouraging signs in swift fox program Half the swift foxes reintroduced in central South Dakota have died, but that's an expected mortality rate in the wild, a biologist said. Sixty swift foxes were released on Ted Turner's Bad River Ranches in 2002 and 2003. Thirty foxes are known to be dead, 21 are known to be alive and nine are missing, according to Kevin Honness, a project biologist with the Turner Endangered Species Fund.... Unchecked Development Wiping Out Front Range Wildlife; Conservation Groups Act to Stop Wildlife Decline A coalition of conservation groups moved to intervene in a lawsuit by an anti- environmental law firm aiming to eliminate protection for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse and its Front Range streamside habitat. The Preble's meadow jumping mouse was protected in 1998 under the Endangered Species Act because unmanaged sprawl had devastated riparian ecosystems in Colorado from Colorado Springs to Ft. Collins and northward into southern Wyoming.... Midwest farmers find common ground with Western loggers It might seem odd to have a Montana logger standing at the podium and talking to a group of Quincy area farmers and agribusinessmen. But Bruce Vincent says the two groups, the area farm community and the timber industry half a nation away, share some traits and face many of the same challenges. Vincent hails from the small logging community of Libby in the extreme northwest part of Montana, where environmental concerns closed off access to much of the public land, shut down sawmills and cost jobs in the name of protecting the forest. He says that is a microcosm of what's happening across rural America.... Federal officials to eradicate two Madison Valley wolf packs The discovery Tuesday of two more cattle attacked by wolves in the Madison Valley has prompted federal officials to begin efforts to eradicate two wolf packs that are preying on livestock. The carcass of a 1-year-old steer was found in a coulee on a ranch east of Ennis Lake, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It had been killed by wolves. On the same ranch, a 1-year-old heifer had been so badly injured by wolves Tuesday morning that the rancher had to euthanize it.... Ranch destined to be sanctuary A Central Texas ranch that includes several of the towering sandstone-capped mesas known as the Yegua Knobs will be managed by a land trust after a national conservation group bought the tract with proceeds from an air pollution settlement. The 302-acre ranch about 18 miles northeast of Bastrop includes habitat of the endangered Houston toad and will be used for scientific research, with a management plan to eventually include limited recreation. Trust for Public Land recently used $574,000 from the settlement with Alcoa Inc. to buy the tract from Roy Knippa of New Braunfels, then transfer it to the Bastrop-based Pines and Prairies Land Trust.... White House not backing bill to repair ailing missions The Bush administration will not support legislation funding repairs to San Gabriel Arcangel and California's 20 other crumbling historic missions, a Department of Interior official said Tuesday. The bill authorizing $10 million in federal matching funds to repair missions from San Diego to Sonoma also faced opposition at a Senate hearing from a church-state separation watchdog who said taxpayers should not fund church repairs.... Judge delays contempt ruling Legal jockeying that could determine if or how many snowmobiles are permitted in the park next year began in a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected a request by Bush administration and snowmobile industry lawyers to transfer a case on snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park to a federal court in Wyoming. At the hearing, Sullivan also delayed a decision on a request by environmental groups that the Interior Department be held in contempt of court for rejecting his ruling on use of snowmobiles in the parks.... Suspect in booby trap case to quit post A 54-year-old management consultant accused of setting booby traps along a public trail near Placitas will step down from the board of directors of an Albuquerque research center, an official there confirmed. Michael Delongchamp of Placitas will relinquish his position with the Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest, business manager Dan Calabrese said Monday.... Western drought expected to ease The drought that has gripped the West for the last several years is expected to ease some in the coming year, although Bush administration officials warned Tuesday that water wars will continue. Much of New Mexico and parts of Montana and Idaho are forecast to continue suffering from a severe drought, according to projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But the long-term drought has left reservoirs in Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Oregon with less than half of their normal reserve, and it could take as many as 20 years worth of normal precipitation to replenish the supply.... BOR agency plans to present beetle proposal The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is proposing to make a field release of leaf-eating beetles as an alternative to chemical control of salt cedar. The bio-control beetle, which originates from Greece, would be released on BOR salt cedar lands in the Carlsbad area. Federal government researchers hope the beetle will help control the spread of the salt cedar, which can use up to 200 gallons of water per day per tree. That would allow more water to stay in the river, which could help local farmers irrigate their crops, officials said.... Editorial: Water deal blazes new path The innovative water-leasing deal between Arkansas Valley farmers and the city of Aurora brings a welcome new tool to the state's water management - an issue that has more often been addressed with bombast and invective than reasonable compromise in Colorado. The $5.5 million deal will boost Aurora's water supply by almost 25 percent this year. In turn, the farmers will idle 8,550 acres of land that would otherwise have been irrigated to grow such crops as hay or corn. The payment to the farmers works out to $643 per acre - more than double the likely cash value of the crops that could have been grown with the water.... Editorial: Wheeling the water The federal government is evaluating a controversial plan that would allow Southern Nevada to dump water it already owns into tributaries of the Colorado River far upstream -- and then reclaim its own water as it flows past the Las Vegas water intakes, downstream in Lake Mead. The Southern Nevada Water Authority owns 128,000 acre-feet of surface water rights on the Muddy and Virgin rivers -- the former flowing past the village of Moapa 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas, the latter stretching an additional hundred miles, across a corner of the Arizona strip and into Utah, as far as Zion National Park. "Wheeling" this water through the Colorado would not only be vastly less expensive than building a pipeline to haul the same water overland to Las Vegas, it would make better environmental sense, as well.... Mexico's Ban on U.S. Beef Imports Raises Inflation Mexican inflation accelerated in February as a temporary ban on U.S. beef pushed up the price of items such as the tacos served at street carts in Mexico City. Meat prices in Mexico have risen from 15 to 40 percent since Mexico banned imports of U.S. beef in December after the discovery of a cow infected in Washington state with mad cow disease, said Jesus Ancheta, commercial director at the Sinaloa Cattle Union. Mexico eased the import restrictions last week.... How do you like your iguana? On a blustery afternoon, a delivery truck creeps through a cluster of ethnic food warehouses in northeast Washington and parks by the section of dock belonging to Distribuidora Cuscatlan, an importer of foods from El Salvador. Frank Rodriguez, Cuscatlan's manager, walks past crates of rice before stepping into a gargantuan stainless-steel freezer. He opens a box that contains what many consider a culinary delicacy - iguana. For centuries, iguana has been consumed throughout Central America; now it's showing up on a small but growing number of North American dinner tables.... Mesa couple gather 'round chuck wagon After the Civil War, cowboys - and they were boys, 14, 15, 16 years old - began rounding up the cattle that had roamed wild in the West during the war and drove those herds to feed beef-hungry Easterners. With nothing like a refrigerated cooler or a Coleman stove, cowboy food amounted to beans, rice and dried salt pork cooked in an iron pot over an open fire. Dessert was as fancy as bread drizzled with molasses. In his native Texas, the sport has grown from half a dozen cooks restoring and cooking from chuck wagons 30 years ago to hundreds of competitors today who travel a circuit around the country matching wits and barbecue pits with other contestants, Perini says. More than two dozen are expected to compete at the Festival of the West, March 18-21 at WestWorld in Scottsdale.... President Bush Meets Privately With ProRodeo's 2003 World Champs During his visit to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, President George W. Bush met privately with the 2003 ProRodeo world champions and Steven J. Hatchell, commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), at Reliant Stadium. Bush was presented with a Number One back number from the 2003 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) bearing his name; a black leather bomber jacket; and a black cowboy hat....

Catron County
Reserve, New Mexico 87830

Annette Chavez, District Ranger
Mimbres Ranger District
Gila National Forest
Mimbres, New Mexico

Dear Ms Chavez:

I have some very real concerns over the closure of Forest Road 150.

The public at large, the Laney's and now myself are beginning to believe the FS Law Enforcement Officers' only reason to be in the area is for the purpose of harassing the Laney's.

I was told by Steve Libby the Forest Service was concerned outside people would come into the area and cause problems. I can see where that would be a genuine public safety concern.

As the Sheriff of the county, I am requesting in writing any documentation insinuating any possible threats, hostile or adverse actions of any kind toward the Laney's, the Forest Service or any other citizen of Catron County. As the Sheriff, I have the right to know if anyone in my county is in danger.

I have people calling me and making references to Ruby Ridge and Waco. The reputation of the Forest Service in this area is at an all time low. You are doing nothing to make the people's opinion of your agency any better.

I believe you are trampling all over the rights of the people in this county to travel freely.

I would also like the name of the person in charge of the law enforcement in this matter. Unless that is also a secret!



John Cliff Snyder, Sheriff

Note: I have typed this from a copy of the original....Frank

Update by Laura Schneberger

Al Schneberger and a friend just flew over the Diamond Bar to check on the situation over there and they said there was a small army out at Meown. We already know there are 16 LEO's on the job. They graded the snow off the road from Beaverhead to Meown last weekend and they have hired a helicopter to help out. All to gather 400 cows that two people can handle themselves at little cost. They seem to be sparing no expence in dealing with this little problem. Of course the money will come from the Laney's and is being fronted by the American Taxpayer so why should they be budget concious. If the Laney's cattle wont cover the costs they probably feel they can just impound their deeded land.

The contractor seems to be there but no one has any idea who he is. Al says there doesn't seem to be enough horses to do any kind of job but he said it looked like there were a couple head of cattle in the pens.

The USFS are stonewalling the Freedom Of Information Act requests that are being mailed in, hand delivered to the Supervisor's Office in Silver City and even one taken to Washington and delivered. They claim they can wait 20 days to answer them if they want to.

Al videoed the ranch on the flight and we may be able to get some pictures taken from the plane by tomorrow if they can get it from the video camera and put it to into digital form by then.

Action 7 news says they will have a report today or tonight. Probably just letting us know they gathered 2 cows. Whoopie.
If the injunction against the MOU between the livestock Board and the USFS goes through and the MOU is declared invalid, everyone will have to pick up and go home.

There is also a rumor that they are trying to get some auctions in west Texas to handle the cattle since NM isn't interested.

Laura Schneberger

Monday, March 08, 2004


Ex-forester Powell takes lesser post in Arizona Removed from the Forest Service's top regional post because he accessed pornography from his government-issued computers, former Northern Region forester Brad Powell is voluntarily leaving the Senior Executive Service, the agency's chief said Monday. Rather than join Chief Dale Bosworth's Washington, D.C., staff as an associate deputy chief, Powell will move to Arizona and coordinate the national Wildland Fire Leadership Council. That job is not a Senior Executive Service position, so is a step down. "But this is all voluntary," Bosworth emphasized. The chief would not comment on whether the Forest Service has taken further disciplinary action against Powell.... Forest Service workers face discipline for e-mail Thirty employees of the U.S. Forest Service in Montana are in trouble for sharing sexually explicit stories, jokes, cartoons and photographs via their government-issued computers and e-mail addresses, agency officials confirmed Monday. The pornographic e-mails also involved 35 employees in six other regions of the Forest Service and the agency's Washington headquarters, said Ed Nesselroad, the Northern Region's director of public and governmental affairs.... Man accused of ecoterrorism along trail A 54-year-old management consultant is accused of setting booby traps along a public trail near Placitas in an apparent attempt to deter bikers and hikers from traveling the route. Michael Delongchamp of Placitas was arrested and released Friday on a federal charge of using hazardous or injurious devices on federal land, according to a U.S. District Court criminal complaint. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Albuquerque. Delongchamp is accused of stringing five metal cables, about -inch in diameter, across a trail frequented by bike riders, hikers and equestrians west of Placitas, according to the complaint.... Ex-firefighter to be sentenced for setting White Mtn. wildfire A firefighter who admitted igniting half of what would become the biggest wildfire in Arizona history was scheduled to be sentenced Monday. Leonard Gregg pleaded guilty Oct. 20 in federal court to two counts of intentionally setting a fire. Gregg made no plea agreement to reduce the possible charges or sentence before pleading. He could face up to 10 years in prison.... Ranger Station Furniture Purchases Questioned In Probe Furniture purchases exceeding $47,000 for the Darrington Ranger Station were improperly charged to government credit, a U.S. Forest Service internal investigation has found. The Herald of Everett reported Monday that the findings were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request to the forest service's regional office in Portland, Ore., but the names of the employee or employees involved were blacked out. Nor would agency representatives explain how the violations occurred, according to the newspaper.... EROS helps tell story of land-use changes The EROS Data Center is busy recording the way the nation's landscape has changed the past 30 years. The Land Cover Trends project goal is to create an illustrated atlas, said Tom Loveland, an EROS research geographer. The Earth Resources Observation Systems center, part of the U.S. Geological Survey, receives, processes and stores images taken by satellites 440 miles above Earth. The Geological Survey is teaming up with the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA on the project. The project is to be done within two years and will include infrared images taken in 1971-72, 1980-81, 1985-86, 1991-92, 1999-2000 and 2004.... GOP not making the grade, greens say In the national picture, Democrats also fared better in the American Wilderness Coalition’s grading system. In the Senate, 37 Republicans were given failing grades while only two Democrats received an “F”. On the other hand, 33 Democrats from the Senate scored an “A-” or better while only two Republicans received top marks. In the House, 203 Republicans got an “F” while 10 Democrats failed. Another 164 Democrats received an “A-” or better while only 11 Republicans did.... Escaped Binder wolf found dead The two-month search for an escaped Mexican gray wolf ended Monday when the animal was found dead in Vicksburg. Apache, the 19-month-old wolf, apparently was hit by a train in the town, about 20 miles southwest of the zoo. Greg Geise, Binder Park Zoo's president and chief executive officer, said the wolf probably died about three days ago. The wolves, which are an endangered species, are part of a captive breeding program to re-establish the breed.... Showdown in the desert sandbox Under pressure over endangered species, federal officials have been steadily cutting back the motorized vehicle territory here. The last big closing, a temporary measure blocking access to about 49,000 acres, came in late 2000 and left the duners with about 85,000 acres, their boundaries monitored by small plane. That's roughly half the space they had 20 years ago. Meanwhile, in October, the understaffed Bureau of Land Management tripled its fee here, so regulars pay $90 per vehicle per winter. People like me, dropping by for a week or less, pay a hefty $25. Duners founded the American Sand Assn. three years ago, hoping to fend off closures and link arms with older pro-access groups. They've got 18,000 members now. With big decisions due in coming months, they say they're spending more than $14,000 a month on attorneys and biologists.... Study highlights global threats to bird populations A new report by BirdLife International says more than 1,000 of the world's birds face extinction and that agricultural expansion in Africa and unsustainable forestry in the tropics pose grave threats. The report, "State of the World's Birds 2004," brings together for the first time in one document the existing research about the status and distribution of the world's birds.... Scientists Call On Bush Administration To Reverse Policy Expanding Imports Of Endangered Species Hundreds of scientists from around the world today called on the Bush administration to reverse a proposal to expand the importation of endangered animals and their body parts. After two decades of bipartisan support for strict limits on global commerce in endangered species, the White House is proposing to allow the importation of endangered animals and body parts based on highly dubious claims of the conservation benefits stemming from increased trade. Renowned scientist Jane Goodall and esteemed conservationists Dr. Edward O. Wilson and George Schaller, were among the 358 signers of today's letter, which questions both the structure and science behind the President's policy.... Berry, berry best Just when "elderberry" was in danger of becoming a dirty word in Porterville, it's now the latest feel-good, city-pride buzzword. Porterville has done some of the nation's hardest work in perpetuating crucial habitat, composed of blue elderberry trees, for the threatened elderberry longhorn beetle. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, Porterville learned it must create a preserve, in which it will plant 58 elderberry seedlings, to compensate for cutting down five mature elderberry trees in a project for a new community center. It will have ongoing expenses on the preserve numbering many thousands of dollars.... Enzi asks for inquiry into alleged trespassing Sen. Mike Enzi on Monday asked the federal government to investigate allegations that one of its wolf biologists trespassed and planted four wolves on private land near Meeteetse. Enzi sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton asking for an inquiry by the Interior and Justice departments, citing the "liability and threat posed to local communities from actions taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.".... County seeks congressional inquiry A formal congressional investigation is being sought into the incident of four wolves processed on a Meeteetse ranch last month. The Park County commissioners last week wrote to Sen. Mike Enzi to request the inquiry into the Feb. 14 incident on the Larsen Ranch. Two men, Mike Jimenez, based in Lander with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and his assistant, Wes Livingston of Cody, "were allegedly attempting to plant wolves on the ranch without the landowner's knowledge or approval," the commissioners wrote to Enzi.... Crowd protests wolf policy A Hot Springs County rancher believes four gray wolves released near Meeteetse on Feb. 14 may have been illegally captured on his land. The rancher, Frank Robbins, was among more than 40 people attending a March 2 Hot Springs County Commission meeting to lodge objections to the way federal agencies have managed wolves in the area. The group extracted a promise from the commissioners to write to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state and federal legislators and the governor "to tell the feds that monitoring wolves on private property would be considered trespass," Robbins said Friday..... Session ends with no plan for wolves; Wyoming closer to lawsuit against federal government The Wyoming Legislature completed its 2004 session without approving any wolf-management plan that would satisfy the federal government, effectively ending for now efforts to remove the predator from the endangered species list. But while some lawmakers expressed regret over the failure to act, others were unapologetic, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not dealt squarely with Wyoming. "They've been deceitful, in my opinion, through the whole thing," said Sen. Delaine Roberts, R-Etna. "They never came forward until the 11th hour to tell us what they wanted.".... For Wildlife, Migration Is Endangered Too In September, when the snow starts to bury Grand Teton National Park, pronghorn antelope follow an ancient exit strategy. They descend from the mountains and travel more than 300 miles south to a broad treeless mesa where life is made easier by winds that scour snow off the grasses. The graceful white-rumped antelope have used that route for at least 7,000 years, archaeological records show. It is an arduous journey. If they leave too late, they can become trapped in deep snow and starve to death. But it is the only way they can find food. In April, they make the trip in reverse..... Judge lauds Western-style justice In dismissing a ban on snowmobiles in national parks earlier this month, Judge Clarence Brimmer says he was trying to "protect our Western people." The 81-year-old federal judge is a Wyoming native who has spent his entire career in the Cowboy State. Brimmer practiced law in Rawlins before being appointed Wyoming attorney general in 1971 and ascending to his current post as U.S. judge for the District of Wyoming in 1975.... State seeks Otero Mesa protection New Mexico’s alternative to a federal proposal for guiding oil and gas development on Otero Mesa would make 310,500 acres of desert grassland off limits to drilling. Gov. Bill Richardson, who opposes drilling on the southern New Mexico mesa, on Monday described the area as “sacred grasslands.” At a news conference, Richardson compared Otero Mesa to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, which has been the subject of debate in Congress over whether to allow oil development there.... BLM considering keeping captured wild horses closer to home The federal Bureau of Land Management is considering paying ranchers in Nevada and other Western states to care for wild horses removed from federal rangeland, instead of shipping them to sanctuaries in the Midwest. The proposal is still in preliminary stages, but BLM officials said it could save money and allow for more roundups in Nevada, where more than half the nation's 38,000 wild horses roam.... Giant Verde land swap advances A key parcel in a controversial proposed land trade involving development in the water-scarce Verde Valley has been dropped, two members of Arizona's congressional delegation said Monday. It's part of the Northern Arizona National Forest Land Exchange, which has been the largest proposed federal land exchange in state history. It passed the House last year; the Senate is awaiting introduction of a bill and a probable hearing this month before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.... Colorado Faces New Divide: Deiced Roads vs. Ecosystems Interstate 70 in the Rockies can be at its busiest in winter, when hordes of skiers from around the world join the daily tide of commuters and long-haul truckers climbing the Continental Divide. All of them expect the road to be free of ice. And that is creating an environmental problem that lasts far beyond winter. The problem lies in the tons of sand, salt and liquid chemicals that highway workers use each winter. In particular, sand laced with chemicals and salt has accumulated on roadsides for decades, taking a growing toll on the rivers and vegetation in this fragile environment. The Colorado Department of Transportation estimates that $35 million will be needed to clean up the sand and install a proper drainage system.... Lack of refineries contributes to soaring gas prices Drivers should brace themselves for the kind of price swings at the pump that Californians are seeing, experts say, in large part because there are fewer U.S. refineries trying to keep up with increasing demand for gasoline. Energy companies have closed more than half of their U.S. refineries since 1981. Oil companies say they closed unprofitable refineries and environmental regulations have made it difficult to build new ones.... City to invest in water El Paso could have enough water to sustain the city for a century with the acquisition of about 25,000 acres in Dell Valley that the city is negotiating to buy. Officials said the acquisition is part of a long-term water importation plan that could cost half a billion dollars. The El Paso Water Utilities' Public Service Board approved a letter of intent Monday to enter negotiations with three major landowners and others they represent for the option to buy about 40 percent of the farm land around Dell City in neighboring Hudspeth County..... Madison County proposing new policy warning newcomers of rural life Madison County commissioners are proposing a "right to farm and ranch" policy that would warn newcomers to rural life they shouldn't expect their farming and ranching neighbors to change their ways. The policy, slated for discussion later this month, would be made into a pamphlet that would be distributed through real estate agents and county offices. The proposed policy includes a list of agricultural practices that neighboring homeowners might find unpleasant or offensive, and warns them that complaining about it probably is not going to change the situation.... Water case in Florida may ripple into Colo. In the midst of the West’s lingering drought, a Supreme Court case involving water pumps in the Everglades could put another squeeze on water supplies. It’s not the most exciting case the court has agreed to review, but it could be one of the most far-reaching for water users in recent history. The effects could be especially drastic in the West, where water is scarcer and elaborate delivery systems could be impacted. At least four Supreme Court justices thought there might be reason to overturn a lower court’s decision in the South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians and agreed to hear the case. Nearly 50 entities have filed briefs supporting the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case, including Western states such as Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Nevada and New Mexico.... Summer water may be short The mountains in the Upper Klamath Basin are piled high with snow, but streamflows will likely fall below average as the spring and summer progress, hydrologists say. If streamflow forecasts prove accurate, the water supplies could falter just at the time when they're needed most by endangered fish and farmers. Federal and state officials are especially concerned about how much water to expect to flow into Upper Klamath Lake this summer.... President's visit thrills Rodeo visitors Everyone from the littlest of cowboys to veteran cowgirls got the thrill of a lifetime when President Bush stopped by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Monday afternoon. The president was in town for a fund-raising dinner, but decided to swing by the cattle exhibit while lobbying for some votes.... Reliable Tracking of Cattle Could Be Years Away Soon after the discovery of a mad cow late last year in central Washington state, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced meat supply reforms that included a cattle identification system capable of tracking a sick cow and its herd mates nationwide within hours. But the USDA now says it could be several years before a tracking system is in place and operational, despite pressure to act quickly from members of Congress, U.S. trading partners and even the chief executive of McDonald's. Political and logistical hurdles stand in the way:.... Dead Cattle Herd Investigated On Western Slope A Delta County rancher fears the mysterious and sudden death of his cattle last month was an intentional poisoning tied to coalbed methane drilling. Thirty cows and one yearling bull were found dead or dying the morning of Feb. 28 when Vern Hillis went to do his morning feeding on the 1,400-acre ranch. "This was a premeditated deal," said Hillis, who has raised cattle on a Cedaredge-area ranch since he was 14. "They were poisoned." Hillis said that someone could have targeted his herd because he sold a right of way on the ranch to Gunnison Energy Corp. for a natural gas pipeline.... It's All Trew: Lightning tales depend on how close it strikes Of all the weapons in Mother Nature's arsenal, lightning has to rate high on the list of most dangerous. Whether a lightning bolt is described as beautiful or horrible, depends on how close it strikes to the observer....