Saturday, March 20, 2004


Press Release


349 words

Sherry Farr – Laney


It has come to my attention that various USFS personnel are making claims of harassment against people who may be supporting us in our battle with the USFS over the legality of the impoundment of our cattle.

Neither Kit nor I will ever condone any threats or intimidating tactics made in our name. Anyone who is capable of committing such atrocities is likely only trying to make us look bad and make an already bad situation much worse. These people should see the inside of a courtroom.

People who believe in us, and believe in Kit, will keep their protests and attitudes peaceful. Anyone who refuses to do so is not acting in our behalf and is not concerned with our well being. We believe anyone committing crimes in this manner would have done so regardless of our situation and should be punished accordingly.

Kit remains in jail on allegations that he committed a serious crime, a crime that our legitimate supporters and friends do not believe he is capable of committing. Kit told me his story and there is no reason for me to believe the allegations made against him. To behave as Kit is said to have done would have required almost superhuman strength. In my mind, the story the USFS witnesses are telling is simply not humanly possible.

We are not in any way condoning the USFS actions as they continue to gather and inflict damage to our cattle. Nor do we appreciate the agency’s false portrayal of Kit as having the potential to be violent. This continual defamation of Kit’s character, even after the claims were proven false was used to inflame the Law Enforcement officers involved in the impoundment and directly contributed to Kit’s violent arrest and the charges against him. We feel confident that Kit will be exonerated of these charges. We feel confident that he will be freed from jail as soon as he finally receives a full arraignment hearing. He is doing well and in as high spirits as can be expected.

GOP leaders want rule changed, more thinning Oregon Republican Party leaders in two dozen counties on Friday called for the head of the Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest to change an 11-year-old logging rule that they claim has had untold negative ecological and economic impacts on rural communities. A resolution approved by the Republican delegates from every corner of Oregon demands that Regional Forester Linda Goodman, “simultaneously amend the national Forest plans to remove the 21-inch DBH rule for each national Forest on the east side of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington.”.... Airlift of mountain lions draws skeptics The plan by Arizona Game & Fish to airlift unwanted mountain lions out of Sabino Canyon rather than kill them hasn't gotten the agency out of hot water with the Governor's Office or conservationists. After learning of the new plan from a news release, Gov. Janet Napolitano fired off a letter to Game & Fish Commission chairman Susan Chilton, saying she is still upset with the way the situation is being handled.... Wolves on the horizon While they are deeply appreciated by environmentalists, tourists and others, wolves are despised by some ranchers, hunters and other rural residents. As the wolf populations have expanded in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana since their Yellowstone reintroduction in 1995 and 1996, the debate has remained sharply polarized. And while those three states have struggled to come up with acceptable plans to take over wolf management from the federal government - Wyoming hasn't yet succeeded - experts have two words of advice for states such as Colorado that are adjacent to the wolf's present range: Get ready.... Wolves knock on state's door Wyoming's failure to offer an acceptable wolf-management plan greatly increases the chances Colorado will be dealing with wolves sooner rather than later. Without a buffer between the wolf packs of northwestern Wyoming and the Colorado border, wildlife managers in both states agree migrations of lone, or even pairs, of wolves is a certainty.... Legal concerns led to plan's rejection U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials rejected Wyoming's wolf-management plan because they didn't think it would be defensible in a lawsuit brought under the Endangered Species Act, Wyoming officials say. "They said if they were sued" because wolves had been delisted under the act, "they didn't think they could defend the plan in front of an Eastern judge," said Ryan Lance, Endangered Species Act policy coordinator for Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal. "They cited a legal-risk analysis for rejecting our plan....Coast is not clear, say environmentalists "Disappointed but not surprised" was the general sentiment voiced by the several speakers in a press conference last Friday at Haskell’s beach. The speakers had gathered to express their dissatisfaction with the Department of the Interior’s decision not to grant the Gaviota Coast federal protection.... Coastal residents pack plover hearings Hundreds of people packing coastal meetings this week told state parks officials to keep their hands off public beaches and condemned a proposal to restrict recreation on behalf of the western snowy plover, a tiny shorebird numbering about 100 on the Oregon coast. "Let's not close off our local areas for a bird that I do not believe I've ever even seen," said Chuck Ellerbroek of Tillamook, who hunts and fishes on a nearby point that would be set aside for the protected bird. "Where will we go for recreation after our beaches are closed?".... NOAA FISHERIES SEEKS MORE TIME IN SALMONID ESA LISTING REVIEW NOAA Fisheries last week asked a Spokane, Wash., federal court to push back by 90 days the deadline for completion of eight salmon and steelhead Endangered Species Act listing proposals, citing the "unexpected complexity" of the biology and policy related to the task.... The ESA Choice: Flies or our Families? There have been numerous examples of how the ESA has had adverse impacts throughout the country. From Oklahoma where a thirteen mile highway project was delayed for four years because American burying beetles were found along two proposed routes, to Kentucky where loggers lost their jobs when the Forest Service shut down logging in the Daniel Boone National Forest for eight months in order to protect the red-cockaded woodpecker; people all over the country have felt the sting of the ESA's rigid enforcement.... Government seeks eagle killer Someone is poisoning bald eagles, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants your help to get it stopped. Chris Brong, an agent with the department's Wilsonville office, said Thursday that two bald eagles had been found dead last month, both about four miles northwest of Harrisburg. The birds were found Feb. 2 and Feb. 11. The deaths raised to 17 the number of bald eagles to die of poisoning in the mid-valley in 13 years. All died of Fenthion poisoning, Brong said. Fenthion is a registered pesticide approved for use in just two counties, both of them in Florida. In Oregon, he said, there is "no legal use for it, period.".... Critics Decry Interior Internet Shutdown The court-ordered shutdown of many of the Interior Department's Internet connections is depriving American Indian children of educational opportunities and preventing public input on land management decisions, a leading senator and environmentalists say.... State wildlife officials considering relocating some grizzlies State and federal wildlife authorities are considering a plan to transplant grizzly bears from the western border of Glacier National Park to the Cabinet Mountain Range, where the population is not as strong. If the plan is approved, the transplants could begin as early as next summer, said Wayne Kasworm, a wildlife biologist working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.... Drilling council called off The much-touted proposal to create a Rocky Mountain Energy Council based in Denver to boost oil and gas drilling in the Rockies has been shelved. The council's demise was heralded by both industry and environmental groups, but for different reasons.... Column: Energy Bill Still Misses Point It would be nice if we could simply order up a round of applause for the Senate for drafting a new energy bill that trimmed $17 billion out of the $31.1 billion legislation the two houses of Congress agreed to last year. But one look at the new bill makes it clear: The Senate will have to wait for its standing ovation. The new bill may cost a lot less, but it still includes a subsidy for ethanol, almost all of which will go to huge agribusinesses. A $2 billion subsidy for the coal industry remains. And the bill still includes an array of studies, programs and grants that could and should be jettisoned, such as $6.2 million to study ways to convert auto trips to bike trips and $50 million for a five-year transit bus demonstration program....United States wants international ruling kept secret The United States is attempting to keep secret an international ruling that affects American Indians and property rights. The ruling, in the case of the Western Shoshone, calls for a review of all U.S. law and policy regarding indigenous peoples and in particular the right to property. On Indigenous Peoples Day, Western Shoshone Carrie Dann said, "The U.S. was found to be in violation of international law - found to be violating our rights to property, to due process and to equality under the law.... Governor vetos wildlife bill Gov. Dave Freudenthal on Friday vetoed a bill that would have authorized a series of pilot projects to explore ways to bolster compensation for landowners for grass damage caused by big game animals. The governor said House Bill 18 could cost the state a significant amount of money and marks a departure from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's existing payment program for 'extraordinary damage' to grass by big game animals and big game birds.... Column: Save snowmobiling from 'planet savers' Beware of those who would save us from ourselves, in the name of "saving the planet." Ask the good people of West Yellowstone - until recently, a bustling, smiling little western community. Their environmental saviors have just taken away their jobs, their businesses, their culture and their lives. Like classic dictators, they are blinded by the piety of their "high ideals" and driven by a spirit of self-righteousness that knows no bounds. It began with a lawsuit and a shocking display of executive power when federal bureaucrats decreed, in the final hours of the Clinton administration, that all snowmobiling in the national parks would end in three years. The election of George W. Bush brought a partial reprieve in the form of a regulated use plan, limiting the number of snowmobiles per day, requiring more guided trips and banning two-stroke machines. Local businesses invested millions in the new four-stroke technology, only to have a distant federal judge declare it all for naught.... Water prices could rise as contract renewals loom A half-century ago, the federal government moved mountains and harnessed rivers to convert California's Central Valley into some of the nation's most productive farmland, fed by subsidized water at rock-bottom rates. Now, many of those cheap-water contracts are up for renewal, rousing critics who argue that the government should increase its rates, both to generate more revenue and encourage farmers to conserve.... Panel votes to end fee on water Faced with a revolt from water providers, lawmakers on Friday admitted they made a mistake and voted to repeal a water administration fee approved last year to help the state out of its budget crisis. The House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved a plan to refund about $467,000 paid by 23 percent of the owners who received bills. It was sent to the House Appropriations Committee. Lawmakers said they expect quick passage to halt further collection of the fees.... House, Senate approve water deal pieces A legislative package heading off the shutdown of more than 1,300 wells in south-central Idaho won overwhelming initial legislative backing Friday as the House and Senate worked toward adjournment this weekend. The House unanimously approved the multimillion-dollar budget for the deal, while creation of a special commission to promote the aquaculture industry drew no opposition in the Senate.... Editorial: Oil And Trouble A new report on oil development in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was met with the usual howls. But that doesn't change the fact that there are no good reasons not to open oil fields in that region. Last week, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration issued a study that said oil pumped from ANWR could cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil by nearly 900,000 barrels a day by 2025 — about two-thirds of what we import from Saudi Arabia each day.... U.N. urges Russia to save climate plan The United Nations renewed calls on Friday for Russia to salvage a landmark plan to curb global warming, 10 years after governments agreed to fight a rise in temperatures threatening life on the planet. Kyoto will collapse without Russian backing because it must be ratified by countries accounting for 55 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by industrialised countries.... Consistency takes Childress roper to Houston finals Almost a year ago, it appeared that former National Finals Rodeo calf roping qualifier Stran Smith was all but finished. Last April, Smith suffered a stroke as the result of having a hole in his heart. Doctors advised the Childress cowboy to find another career. But Smith underwent a successful experimental surgery at a Boston hospital and was competing again in July. This season, Smith has fully regained his composure and has finished in the money at eight out of 10 rodeos. He has advanced to today's final round of RodeoHouston after turning in a time of 9.4 seconds Friday night at Reliant Stadium.... On The Edge Of Common Sense: Vermonter still remembers Clyde's '58 mishap It is easy to think of farming as an outdoor sport: blue skies, green pastures, grazing cattle, range chickens and galloping your horse across the plain. But there are parts of the world where the weather forces ingenious farmers to rethink their modus operandi (Latin for: method of losing money). The result is a vast array of ventilated turkey barns, air-conditioned milking parlors, covered roping arenas, slatted floors, misted stalls and non-smoking areas in the farrowing house....

Friday, March 19, 2004

Healthy Forests Act unlikely to get full U.S. funding

The Interior Department will not support a Senate budget plan to fully fund the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, a law passed last year to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires, a spokesman said Thursday.

The House Budget Committee this week passed a resolution authorizing $2.4 trillion in federal spending next year. But the measure did not contain a similar forestry provision, likely setting up a showdown in conference with the Senate.

The Senate plan, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would carve out an additional $343 million to pay for hazardous-fuel reduction and other projects authorized by the forests law, which passed late last year.

President Bush's proposed budget for 2005 meets the $760 million spending level set by the law, but draws all except $80 million of that amount from existing programs administered by the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department.

John Wright, a spokesman for the department, said the administration would not support Wyden's plan because it could not find enough qualified contractors to justify more spending.

Mark Rey, agriculture undersecretary, did not take a position on the Senate plan, but he agreed that the Forest Service could not ramp up its fuels-reduction work in time to use the additional money.

"I don't believe we could spend that much money in one fiscal year," Rey said....


Dear editor,

Shame on you, Marcia Andre and the other officers of the U.S. Forest Service, for your handling of the Kit Laney incident.

You and every officer should be hiding your faces in shame, plus be turning in your badges and guns.

The U.S. Forest Service and their god syndrome has won, but the people, who you should be working for, have lost in a big way. The U.S. Forest Service at its inception protected ranchers, like Kit Laney's grazing rights, but now look at what you do.

Shame on you.

It is no different on what is being done with your "controlled burns," where you destroy thousands of acres of forest each year. I can remember when the U.S. Forest Service put out fires and did not start them.

Your lumbering policy allows millions of board feet of lumber to go unharvested and rot away. Just think what lumbering could do to help our economy, plus the number of jobs it would create. We did at one time have the U.S. Forest Service supervise this industry before we became victims of all the "tree huggers" who infiltrated your ranks.

It is a shame what the U.S. Forest Service has become, because it did, at one time, service the people and was one of the few public agencies that paid its own way.

Now look at the way you do business.

Shame on you!
(s)Bill Stephens
Silver City

Thursday, March 18, 2004


FOREST SERVICE DROPPING ENDANGERED SPECIES, RIPARIAN & ARCHAEOLOGICAL REVIEWS The U.S. Forest Service is moving to eliminate any reviews of its actions by outside agencies for compliance with endangered species, clean water, and historical preservation laws, according to a planning memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Citing what Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth has identified as "the Four Threats" (fire risk, invasive species, un-managed recreation and loss of open space), the agency plans to jettison any consultation or other "process" it deems unrelated to "the Four Threats.".... BLM's Internet blackout sidelines public River rats are having a tough time reserving a spot on the San Juan and White rivers. In Price, federal land managers cannot let the public peruse a decision on a controversial seismic exploration project. And in Moab, hikers, off-highway-vehicle riders and mountain bikers cannot access information on camping for the popular spring break season that starts this weekend. All across Utah's public lands, business is anything but usual as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the state's largest landlord, deals with a court-ordered shutdown of its Internet server.... Managing the Missouri River remains controversial After 14 years of struggles, the Army Corps of Engineers was scheduled today to adopt a disputed new Missouri River management plan that shifts water upstream in severe drought and delays environmentally friendly flow changes. Army officials planned a ceremony in Omaha, Neb., with cake and refreshments for the signing of documents formally adopting the new Missouri River Master Water Control Manual, a guidebook that will govern the operation of dams and water allocation along the 2,341-mile river.... Sierra club sponsors anti-drilling campout For years now, the club has been fighting to stop natural gas drilling on the national seashore, a 68-mile finger of sand that is part of the longest natural barrier island in the world.While drilling on the island dates back to the 1950s, the seashore had in recent decades been free of rigs. A 2002 request for drilling permits by BNP Petroleum Corp. threatened to change that. The Sierra Club quickly filed a lawsuit to stop the drilling, alleging the federal government was violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing operations that could send trucks rolling over the nests of endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles. BNP fought back, saying it had a right to drill and noting that its own personnel saved one of the first turtle nests of the 2003 season. The lawsuit failed, as did its appeal. The Sierra Club now hopes it can rally the public for a federal buyout of the mineral rights below the island, much like the 2002 buyout that prevented drilling at the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.... Interior official: Land appraisals improved after Nevada cases The federal Interior Department has reorganized land appraisals to speed land swaps and sales while curbing abuses that shortchanged taxpayers by billions of dollars, a top agency official told Congress. The appraisal system has been "fundamentally overhauled," Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett told the House National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands subcommittee meeting Wednesday in Washington, D.C.... Critters may slow W. Richland school The discovery of ground squirrels living at the site for a new West Richland middle school could delay construction -- if they turn out to be a rare species. Bureau of Land Management officials found what appears to be a population of Washington ground squirrels living on a 5-acre natural area northwest of the proposed school site. A pair of burrowing owls also lives there. Washington ground squirrels are candidates to be included on the federal and state protected species lists, said Joyce Whitney, a wildlife biologist with the BLM district office in Spokane.... New lion plan will tranquilize, airlift animals The public won, but the mountain lions may ultimately lose. Public outrage forced the Arizona Game and Fish Department on Thursday to retreat from a decision to hunt and kill lions in Sabino Canyon. But a new plan, to capture and airlift the big cats out of the popular recreation area, could end up being just as deadly as shooting them, wildlife experts said.... A six-gun saga in 4-letter words "Deadwood," HBO's newest dramatic series, premiering Sunday night at 10, takes place in the mid-1870s when the South Dakota city was a raw mining camp so thick with thieves, cutthroats, swindlers, gamblers, whores and temporarily insane fortune seekers that it was quite likely, block for muddy block, the most dangerous place on Earth. Deadwood is where James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok was assassinated, shot from behind as he played a friendly game of poker. But his murder was unusual only insofar as we remember it.... Home on the range: Sammy Baugh hits 90 Before the filming of "Lonesome Dove," Robert Duvall visited Sam Baugh on the rancher's West Texas spread. The actor listened to his rusty drawl. He observed the old man's gestures as he spun stories, the way his hands swooped and darted, the way he pointed a long finger as if toward some distant landmark along life's trail only his keen blue eyes could see. "In two hours, Sammy Baugh gave me the finishing touches for Augustus McCrae," Duvall said of his TV miniseries character, "and he didn't even know it."....

Judge's Bond Denial Protects Feds, Cowboys

U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Molzen's decision to deny bond for embattled rancher Kit Laney, though sure to be unpopular with ranchers sympathetic to his cause, was a necessary decision.

A federal judge ordered Laney to remove his cattle from wilderness lands in the Gila National Forest for which he no longer holds grazing permits. Laney had returned his herd to the Diamond Bar grazing allotment last spring in violation of a 1997 court order.

U.S. Forest Service personnel overseeing the removal of his cattle claim he charged at them with his horse and tried to open a corral holding some of his impounded livestock Sunday night.

Laney, facing charges of assault on a peace officer, obstruction of a court order and intimidation, is being held in the Doña Ana County Detention Center.

Noting that Laney has ignored court orders in the past -- and that he isn't likely to abide by any now -- Molzen ordered that he be held without bond. Because confrontations like Sunday's can easily escalate, Molzen's ruling makes sense while the removal is under way.

Laney has already outlined what he views as his options: "We can fight, or we walk off with nothing," he told Journal reporter Rene Romo.

Forest Service personnel and the cowboys contracted to get Laney's cattle off public lands deserve protection while carrying out court orders. And Laney appears to need protection from himself.

Because Laney seems intent on harassing them, Molzen chose the best option available.

Cattle Were Rounded Up After Due Process

By Marcia Andre
Forest Supervisor, Gila National Forest

Much has been said and written lately about a livestock trespass on the Gila National Forest in Southwestern New Mexico. Some have suggested that the Forest Service has overstepped its authority and has been heavy handed in its treatment of the owners of the livestock. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Kit and Sherry Laney knowingly put livestock onto the Gila National Forest without a grazing permit in the spring of 2003. They did this despite a court order issued in 1997 that clearly said they could not do so. That order was appealed by the Laneys to the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the order.
After discovering the Laney's livestock on Forest Service lands last spring, the Forest Service requested that the Laneys remove their livestock. They refused to do so. This pattern of request and refusal was repeated for approximately eight months.
In December 2003, a federal judge ruled that the Laneys were in contempt of the 1997 judgment and once again ordered removal of their livestock within 30 days— a grace period for the Laneys which the court stated was not required by law but which was granted at the request of the United States.
Again the Laneys did not take any action to comply with that order. The Forest Service and federal courts have given the Laneys ample opportunities to remove their livestock from the National Forest.
Since the court order, the Forest Service has been methodically preparing to remove the livestock from National Forest System lands. We have made sure that we are in compliance with every applicable law, and have taken all reasonable precautions to ensure a safe, efficient impoundment, in compliance with the court order. The impounding of the livestock has begun and will take several weeks.
It is the opinion of the Laneys that they have a right to graze livestock on a portion of the Gila National Forest without a permit. But the Laneys' opinion has been rejected by the courts. The Laneys and their supporters have made claims that the Laneys have not "had their day in court." To the contrary, the Laneys repeatedly presented and lost their contentions in court.
The federal courts have been abundantly clear; grazing on land owned by the citizens of the United States is a privilege not a right requiring an authorization. Grazing livestock on the National Forest without authorization is like harvesting timber, building roads, or establishing other uses without an authorization.
Our law-abiding society cannot allow individuals to carve out pieces of public land for their exclusive use based solely upon their stated opinions.
Grazing has been and will continue to be a valid use of the citizens' National Forest System lands. However, it must be conducted in a manner consistent with the law, regulations and local land management plans. Grazing needs to be done in a manner that is in the best interest of the land and the people over the long-term.
The Laneys' claims and actions are unique and unfortunate and are not typical of the many conscientious ranchers who have grazing permits on our national forests in New Mexico.
We take no pleasure in impounding the Laneys' livestock. Unfortunately the Laneys have forced us to take this action. As land managers we are obligated to enforce the law, adhere to court orders and to protect the interests of the citizens of the United States.
'Wetland' just a leaking pipe

TO students of Taipei's Kungkuan Elementary School, a "wetland" on their campus had been their pride and joy for almost three decades.

However, the supposed urban rarity was recently found to be nothing more than the result of a leaking water pipe.

The discovery comes after the school received eight million Taiwan dollars ($300,000) from education authorities to turn the "wetland" into an "ecology park" or a habitat to house butterflies and insects, the evening China Times Express reported Thursday.

The embarrassment surfaced after water authorities, acting on a report by a nearby resident, checked the school's water pipes and found the leak last month, the paper said. Since then, the "wetland fountain" has stopped gushing....

Thanks to Robert Bidinotto over at for this story.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Purchase of CUT land never meant to solve bison/cattle issue The number of bison killed by Yellowstone National Park officials this winter is more than double the number of cattle living within 10 miles of the park. A total of 216 bison have been killed this winter, with 42 more going to slaughter in a day or two. Most of the the cattle living just north of the park belong to the Church Universal and Triumphant, which in 1998 was given $13 million for land and conservation easements intended to provide wildlife habitat.... Column: Who Owns the Sierra Club? The deliberate rigging of the 2004 Sierra Club Board of Directors elections--to keep reformers off the Board--smacks of a desperation so deep, that it begs the question--what does the old guard have to hide? Internal Revenue Service forms show $47,898,118.40 in anonymous donations were given to the Sierra Club Foundation in the year 2000, and $53,593,640.00 in 2001. The LA Times reports, "Each of these donations was more than double the amount of all funds raised in each of the previous four years." When angry, reform-oriented, incumbent members of the Sierra Club Board of Directors asked executive director Carl Pope, who gave the money -- he wouldn't say. When it was suggested that law required him to share the information with his Board -- he couldn't remember. So they asked again -- and he wasn't telling.... Regional director apologizes to Larsen A Meeteetse rancher has received a written apology from the regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an incident involving alleged trespassing. "I apologize to you if our wolf monitoring team inadvertently used your land to place radio collars on four wolves we had tranquilized," director Ralph Morganweck wrote to Ralph Larsen of the Larsen Land Co. on March 11. A copy of the letter was sent to Sen. Mike Enzi, who has asked for an investigation by the departments of Interior and Justice, as requested by the Park County commissioners.... Suit seeks to save Gunnison sage grouse The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should grant emergency protection for the Gunnison sage grouse, an imperiled species unique to southern Colorado, according to a group of conservation organizations. The conservationists have requested that a federal judge order protection for the grouse, which they say has suffered from habitat destruction, grazing, drought, motorized recreation and poor land-use planning. The species now also faces a new and potentially deadly threat: the arrival of West Nile virus. Last year, the disease killed off a significant number of greater sage grouse in Wyoming, leading biologists to fear for the Gunnison species' future.... Park Service orders managers not to discuss cuts in service National park superintendents are being told to cut back on services -- possibly even closing smaller, historic sites a couple days a week or shuttering visitor centers on federal holidays -- without letting on that they are making cuts. Former employees of the National Park Service, critical of how cuts are being handled, yesterday released a memo e-mailed last month to park superintendents in the Northeast from the Park Service's Boston office. Among the memo's suggestions for responding to tight budgets this year are shuttering visitor centers on federal holidays or during winter months, closing parks Sundays and Mondays, and eliminating all guided ranger tours and lifeguards at some beaches.... G&F explains its decision to go after mountain lions State game officials moved slowly and studied several alternatives before deciding to kill Sabino Canyon mountain lions to protect people, a top Game and Fish official wrote the governor this week. "Mountain lions along the northern edge of Tucson have been a growing concern for months," said the letter, the Game and Fish Department's first detailed explanation of its decision to hunt and kill lions in the canyon. "The department had reports from the public of dogs being killed in their yards, as well as numerous calls of lions exhibiting aberrant behavior in close proximity to humans," said the letter, sent by Sue Chilton, chairwoman of the State Game and Fish Commission.... Diversity Survey Causes Broadside Norris McDonald, head of the African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA), fired a broadside at 21 environmental groups for not filling out a survey he was conducting on diversity in hiring, collaborating and other activities in the environmental community. Such groups as the Conservation Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Wilderness Society did not complete the survey. Four did: Environmental Defense, the Environmental Law Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute. "The refusal of the groups to complete the survey conveys the appearance that there are discriminatory practices being shielded from public view," AAEA said in a statement.... Editorial: Still fighting for the Dunes The old saw about not counting chickens before they hatch fits the efforts to elevate the Great Sand Dunes to national park status. Far from giving Coloradans an excuse to relax, recent news underscores how important it is to finish the job of preserving the dunes' unique ecosystems. For five years, residents of the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado have worked with Colorado's congressional delegation to expand the existing national monument into a full-fledged national park. Unlike the small monument, which includes only the dunes themselves, the larger park would preserve and protect the entire complex ecosystem around the dunes, covering hundreds of square miles and harboring an array of rare plants and wildlife.... Cubin worried about appraisal office Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., and government oversight groups are concerned about a new office to overhaul a land appraisal process that led the Interior department to exchange federal properties for less valuable private lands. Cubin said the 4-month-old Appraisal Office does not require department appraisers to consider the "public interest value" of lands. The department was created in the wake of a Bureau of Land Management plan to basically hand over $117 million worth of mineral rights to the state of Utah. Interior Department Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett told Cubin that everything the department did is in the public interest, but the new office is not required to consider the "public interest value" unless instructed to do so by Congress.... Editorial: Interior's weak ethics A report on alleged ethical lapses at the U.S. Department of the Interior is an egregious example of buck-passing. Far from resolving controversies concerning Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, the report questions the department's overall commitment to ethical conduct and fairness. Interior Secretary Gale Norton says the inspector general's report clears Griles. Not quite. In reality, the 146-page document shows Griles may have overstepped proper behavior on two specific matters: a dinner his former business partner hosted for top Interior employees, and coal-bed methane drilling in the Wyoming's Powder River Basin.... Energy vs. Environment: Official calls for balanced strategies America will not sacrifice its fish and wildlife "in a singly focused effort" to satisfy a voracious energy appetite, Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson said Wednesday. But public lands provide Americans with 30 percent to 35 percent of the energy they use each day, Watson said in a telephone interview from Spokane, where she addressed the 69th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. "So you cannot put all public land off limits to oil and gas development," she said. "That would cause huge, fundamental problems in our economy." "There has to be a balance," said Watson, whose duties include oversight of the Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation.... Off-road explosion hot topic Off-road vehicle use has become the most politically volatile land-use issue in the country, reports the New York Times. A new front in this "war" is conflicts among off-roaders themselves. The Times traces the dispute to the end of World War II, when jeeps and dirt bikes first became available to general consumers. But it wasn't until 1972 - when President Nixon signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to regulate the activity on federal lands - that the government took an active role in managing its impact. Meanwhile, the popularity of off-roading has exploded. The number of off-highway motorcycles increased 146 percent from 1998 to 2002, while Americans purchased almost double the number of ATVs in the same time frame.... Tree-cutters tiptoe to take care with owls An owl survey is temporarily keeping tree-cutters from felling dead and dying trees that are endangering electrical lines on federal land in the fire-prone San Bernardino National Forest, officials said Wednesday. Edison is moving crews into the Forest Falls area, between Big Bear and Yucaipa, to work on the private lands within the forest, he said. A biologist, working for the company, is using pink flagging tape to mark areas that need further study to comply with long-standing federal rules designed to protect sensitive species, Barreira said.... SUV arson grand jury indicts Caltech student A graduate student with alleged connections to a radical environmentalist group was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of firebombing and vandalizing dozens of sport utility vehicles, authorities said Wednesday. Billy Cottrell, 23, a physics student at California Institute of Technology, was indicted in connection with vandalism that damaged or destroyed about 125 vehicles at car dealerships and homes in the San Gabriel Valley last August. The indictment was returned Tuesday and announced Wednesday.... Column: The unbearable lightness of Kerry’s allegations Last year, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — who at the time was watching his presidential hopes disappear in the face of the Howard Dean juggernaut — sided with environmentalists who were accusing the Bush administration of using political muscle to influence a key environmental decision in the Pacific Northwest. The decision involved a long-standing dispute between farmers and environmentalists in Oregon’s Klamath River Basin. The farmers wanted water to be diverted from the river to help save crops from drought, while the environmentalists opposed the diversion because it would kill thousands of salmon.... Coalition tries to block court order on pesticides A coalition of pesticide makers and farm groups in Oregon, Washington and California yesterday sought to block implementation of a federal court order banning the use of some pesticides along salmon streams pending an appeal. The coalition filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Seattle to block a recent court order banning the use of cholorothalonil and dozens of other toxic pesticides along thousands of miles of salmon-bearing waterways, said Heather Hansen of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests.... Governor attends first brucellosis task force meeting The time is right and the money is available to fund long-term solutions to Wyoming's brucellosis problems, if they can be found, Gov. Dave Freudenthal says. The governor wants his newly-formed brucellosis task force to develop the best practices and measures the state might take to eradicate the disease from both wildlife and domestic cattle in the state.... That’s windy! Well, gentle readers, March did come in like a lion — a roarin’ lion. It’s been purty much windy all month. A couple of days ago our little ole burg of Wellington has gusts of 92 mph. I ain’t makin’ that up. THAT’S WINDY! Now, I live out about 10 miles north of town and I’m not sure exactly how high our winds were here at the O-NO Ranch, but I will tell ya that it blew all the hair off my two ole tom cats. I ain’t makin’ this up! Why, they looked like a couple of Tyson fryers with four legs and a long tail....
New Mexico rancher arrested

By John Kamin, assistant editor

Rancher Kit Laney was arrested on Sunday evening in the heat of the Diamond Bar Grazing Allotment cattle removal.

Gila National Forest Public Information Officer Jim Payne confirmed reports that Diamond Bar Cattle Company owner Kit Laney was arrested at 7:30 p.m. and transferred to Las Cruces, N.M. He said that Kit will be arraigned in front of the U.S. Magistrate in Las Cruces on Monday afternoon.

Kit and Sherry Laney (both co-owners of the cattle company) lost the ability to graze on the allotment after a federal judge denied their appeal in late December. The removal of their cattle from the allotment was scheduled to occur in mid-February, but the Forest Service was delayed in finding a contractor who would take the job.

A complaint filed by Forest Service law enforcement officer Christopher L. Boehm alleges that Mr. Laney greeted three law enforcement officers on Sunday evening with a slough of profanities, while spurring his horse to a fast gallop.

The officers were watching guard over cattle that were being moved from an enclosure into a work center. Boehm said in the complaint that Kit succeeded in knocking him into a cattle guard.

"Laney then directed his horse back towards Officer Reamer at a gallop. Whenever the officers approached Laney, he guided his horse in their direction, threatening to ram or trample them."

Boehm then alleges that Kit then tried to remove the enclosure fencing and struck contractor Isaiah Baker with his leather reins. At this point, "Officer Reamer continued to advise Laney to stop or he would be arrested."

It was about this point when Kit dismounted, according to the complaint. Boehm alleges that Laney tried to climb into the enclosure, only to be told that he was under arrest. When he pulled his arm away, officers sprayed Kit with pepper spray and attempted to handcuff him, Boehm wrote. While doing so, Mr. Laney "continued to resist as the four officers attempted to get physical control and handcuff" him.

The Courier could not confirm whether any charges will be filed against Laney by press time. New Mexico State Associate Professor Angus MacIntosh said he heard Mr. Laney will be charged with two counts of interference with a federal officer.

Rancher Laura Schneberger was the first to tell the Courier that Kit Laney was arrested on Sunday evening.

"Kit was arrested last night after going to check on some cattle in the pens," she said on Monday morning e-mail, before the complaint was released. "Last week the Forest Service informed the neighbors that they would allow Kit to look at the cattle... They think he was trying to let the cattle go and he resisted when they grabbed him, but he didn't strike anyone. It is likely that he was only trying to look at the cattle."

Schneberger is good friends with the Laneys and said she learned this information from Sherry Laney. She said the Forest Service is conducting the removal without the presence of professional livestock operators.

The removal

"The contractors were fully operational today," Martinez said during a Friday afternoon phone interview with the Courier. "They have about 100 livestock gathered. The livestock are corralled on the national forest."

Payne later indicated that 125 cattle were corralled on Sunday, bringing up the total to 240.

Martinez addressed concerns that the Forest Service is spending lavishly on the removal while knowing that ranchers Kit and Sherry Laney must pay for the cost of the removal.

She said 27 employees are on-site, including law enforcement, Forest Service officials, cowboys and staff to help run the removal headquarters.

"We also have the individuals that are helping the cowboys to be comfortable with the terrain," Martinez said. "The individuals who are here are helping to expedite the removal process. We are paying very close attention to the cost."

The site being used is known to area residents as MeOwn.

Martinez also explained the use of a helicopter for the removal.

"The helicopter is an aerial recon to help us facilitate the removal process and to help us identify where the livestock is," she said. "We're paying a lot of attention to cost containment and expenses."

Harassment questions

Schneberger was infuriated by the removal before the arrest of Kit Laney. She said her husband, Matt Schneberger, and her son have been harassed by Forest Service officials while trying to drive horses on private property.

Schneberger sent e-mails to several people on Saturday that mentions the alleged harassment.

An excerpt from her e-mail says, "After chasing my husband and my 13-year-old son (who were on horseback and driving three other horses from one private property to another private property) with lights flashing, sirens blaring and repeated efforts to try to get them off their horses, one regular law enforcement vehicle and one K-9 unit came to the house (on private property that's posted with 'no trespassing' signs) and confronted Kit (Laney)."

Later in the e-mail, she says, "The day after this happened, they stopped my husband, son and Kit on the main road and tried to give them all tickets for trespassing on the forest. As they have no authority over civilians (without an OK from the Sheriff), my husband drove away from them."

Schneberger's e-mail mentions other encounters with law enforcement officers armed with machine guns. Martinez said law enforcement officers are necessary because "it is so controversial we have to put a lot of emphasis on safety." She also told the Courier, "It is normal operations to have law enforcement protect the property and (Forest Service) employees."

Her e-mail also mentions that Catron County Sheriff John Snyder served a constructive notice to the removal contractor. The purpose of the notice is to "inform him that he could and would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if any Diamond Bar Cattle were removed from the ranch."

Martinez said the identity of the contractor has and will be kept secret because it is a condition of his contract with the Forest Service. The New Mexico Cattle Grower's Association filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents relating to the removal, she said.

Kit and Sherry Laney warned that they will sue anyone participating in the removal in mid-February.

A contentious memorandum

The New Mexico State Livestock Board has a duty to ensure that all sales of livestock are approved by its owners, according to its mission statement. This presented a conflict between the board and the Forest Service.

So when the board's executive director, Daniel Manzanares, signed a Memorandum of Understanding stating that the board would not interfere with the removal, ranchers challenged the MOU.

Schneberger said the signing of the document was never approved by the board as an official agenda item. According to all parties, the document is signed by Manzanares and Regional Forester Harv Forsgren.

Martinez said the Forest Service has been working with the board very closely to reduce any conflict between the two groups.

"We have been working very closely with them to make sure we would be in compliance with New Mexico statutes and regulations pertaining to the livestock transfer and sale," she said.

More than 30 ranching groups signed onto a lawsuit against the board to challenge the memorandum, Schneberger said. This includes the Paragon Foundation and the Gila Livestock Grower's Association. Part of the lawsuit includes an injunction that was filed to stop the memorandum, she said.

A March 6 Associated Press article used quotes from Manzanares indicating that the board had no control over the issue because it involves federal land and a decision from a federal court, therefore the entire case is under federal jurisdiction.

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

Western Watersheds Project Joins With the Oregon Natural Desert Association In A New Lawsuit In Oregon Over the Louse Canyon General Management Area

On Monday March 8, 2004 Western Watersheds Project joined with our sister organization, the Oregon Natural Desert Association (, to bring a lawsuit in federal District Court in Portland, Oregon against the Bureau of Land Management.

The law suit alleges the BLM illegally withheld action to change management in the Louse Canyon Management Area of southeast Oregon. The BLM's own regulations, the Fundamentals of Rangeland Health (43 C.F.R. 4180), require livestock management changes before the next grazing season when livestock are determined to be the cause of failure.

The Louse Canyon Area is located adjacent to Idaho and Nevada in the southeast corner of Oregon in a landscape dominated by the elaborate rhyolite canyons of the Owyhee River watershed. The BLM's recent assessment of the area which encompasses over 500,000 acres is quite lengthy (several hundred pages) and quite revealing. The BLM determined that standards were not being met, and livestock were the cause of the failure, on 6 of 21 pastures in the LCGMA. These 6 pastures account for approximately 220,155 acres of public lands, which is about 42% of the 523,000 acres of land the LCGMA encompasses. The PFC results are equally shocking: Close to 50% of the streams in the LCGMA are not meeting Standard 2 (Watershed Function-riparian/wetland), with 43% Functioning at Risk, Trend Not Apparent, 5 reaches Functioning at Risk, Downward Trend, and 3 reaches Not Functioning. In addition, 75% of the meadow/wetland complexes in the LCGMA are not functioning due to livestock grazing.

WWP and ONDA are confident that Judge Garr King of Oregon's federal District Court will find in our favor, and that the BLM will be obliged to change management in significant ways as a consequence....

Jail, No Bail, for Rancher

A federal magistrate judge ordered rancher Kit Laney held without bond after his detention hearing Tuesday on a charge of assaulting Forest Service officers.
The hearing, drawing about 40 Laney supporters from Otero and Catron counties, stemmed from an incident Sunday evening in the Gila National Forest where Laney is accused of riding his horse at three Forest Service officers involved in removing his cattle from the forest. He also is accused of shoving two officers with his hands and attempting to open the corral where his impounded cattle were being kept.
The officers were providing security at a temporary corral on the southeast side of the forest, where 250 of Laney's estimated 400 cattle have been impounded since last Thursday because of a federal court order.
Magistrate Judge Karen Molzen acknowledged it was unusual to deny bail for a defendant with no criminal record. She also said she didn't consider the rancher a flight risk.
But she said the federal roundup of Laney's cattle in the Gila resulted from his "disregard for a prior court order."
In December, another federal judge found Laney in contempt of court for violating a 1997 order requiring him to remove his cattle from the 146,000-acre Diamond Bar grazing allotment on the Gila, where the rancher had grazed cattle without a permit.
Molzen said Laney's alleged interference with the current roundup contradicted his intention, published in a newspaper report, not to physically obstruct the Forest Service action.

In court

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crews questioned whether Laney truly respected the authority of the federal court and government in the case.
Crews said Laney, at his first appearance in federal court Monday on the assault charge, described himself as a "citizen of the sovereign state of New Mexico" when asked his citizenship.
Longtime friend Al Schneberger, former executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, testified Tuesday on Laney's behalf. "I don't know a better cowman or a harder worker or a better man," Schneberger said.
Calling Laney "very patriotic," Schneberger said, "Kit believes in the law, and he believes in justice, and he believes in truth, and he believes the law will be on his side if he ever gets a hearing."
Noting the dozens of Laney supporters attending the hearing, Molzen said the controversial roundup in the Gila represented a "real explosive situation," and she was wary of releasing him back "to his own back yard," where wranglers continue gathering the livestock.
"I'm not trying to punish Mr. Laney. I just don't have confidence he will abide by my order," Molzen said as Laney, his wrists and ankles shackled, sat without his customary hat in a drab green jump pullover and pants issued by the Doña Ana County Detention Center.

Supporters speak out

Sherry Farr, Laney's ranching partner and ex-wife, said the no-bond order was too harsh.
"You could murder someone and get off easier than this," Farr said.
Laney, subdued Sunday after Forest Service officers sprayed pepper spray into his face, had a pocket knife in his possession when he was arrested but did not use it against the officers.
Farr said, "How is an unarmed man a threat to all the law enforcement officers running around?"
Before the Forest Service began the roundup last week, it closed off the Diamond Bar allotment— which straddles the Gila and Aldo Leopold national wilderness areas— to everyone except a few area residents and required them to obtain permits to enter the area. The Forest Service brought in more than a dozen law enforcement officers to provide security for the operation carried out by an unidentified contractor.
"It's like martial law in there," said Laura Schneberger, owner of the Rafter Spear Ranch and a longtime Laney friend.

Different stories

Prosecution witness Douglas Charles Roe, a Forest Service special agent, testified Tuesday that Laney charged his horse at three federal officers in the dark Sunday night yelling, "You sons of bitches, you're stealing my cattle."
According to the officers' accounts, Roe said, Laney's horse struck the left arm of one retreating officer and pushed the officer into a cattle guard, where the officer struck his leg.
"He (Laney) started yelling, 'Shoot me. Just shoot me. That's what you want to do anyway,' '' Roe said.
After striking one federal wrangler in the face with his leather reins, Roe said, Laney dismounted and climbed the corral fence, trying to pull it down.
In an interview outside the courtroom, Laney's brother, 52-year-old Luna resident Russell Laney, disputed the Forest Service version of the incident.
When Kit Laney approached the Forest Service officers Sunday evening about 7 p.m., he asked them if they had "taken possession of the cattle," said Russell Laney. He said he had spoken with his brother by phone after the arrest.
"They told him, no, he would be in possession until such time as they were sold," Russell Laney said. "And he said, 'If I'm in possession of the cattle, then I'm going to open up this corral.' ''
The question of who owns the cattle is a key point that Forest Service critics have homed in on in their effort to derail the impoundment before Laney's cattle are sent to auction.
Critics argue the state Livestock Board should not sanction the Forest Service's sale of the cattle because they still belong to Laney.

Catron County rancher stays in jail

The Catron County rancher who was arrested by officers of the U.S. Forest Service on Sunday will remain in the Doña Ana County Detention Center until at least Monday.
Kit Laney, 43, was arrested on his Diamond Bar ranch allotment in the Gila National Forest after allegedly interfering with officers removing his cattle under a federal court order. Laney faces one felony count of assault and a misdemeanor charge of interfering with law enforcement.
“I don’t think Mr. Laney is a flight risk,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen B. Molzen said in a detention hearing Tuesday, “but I am concerned about Mr. Laney being a danger to law enforcement.”
Molzen said she was not trying to punish Laney, rather to ensure officers’ safety.
During the hearing, Forest Service agent Douglas C. Rowe gave details of Sunday events that led to Laney’s arrest, though he was not present at the time. Rowe was testifying based on the information he received from the officers who arrested Laney.
Rowe said Laney, on horseback, approached Forest Service officers Christopher Boehm and DeWayne Ross at a gallop. Ross was “nearly trampled,” court documents state.
Boehm said Laney’s horse struck him in the left shoulder and backed him into a cattle guard, “striking his leg and shin.”
Laney then allegedly got off his horse and climbed on the fence of a pen set up to hold the cattle, trying to tear it down.
When officers pulled Laney off the fence he was told he was under arrest. However, it took four officers and a shot of pepper spray to Laney’s face to subdue him enough to be placed in handcuffs.
In deciding to leave Laney in jail over the weekend, Molzen said she was troubled by his previous contempt of court citations. Laney had also earlier said he would not interfere with the court-ordered roundup.
“There is a lot to admire about Mr. Laney. He’s living the life Toby Keith sings about,” federal prosecutor John Crews told the judge. “But the system works because court orders are obeyed. There are no conditions that can be set to reasonably assume the officers will be safe. Mr. Laney won’t accept the court’s order, he still doesn’t get it.”
Crews wanted Laney held in jail until the cattle are all rounded up. Some ranchers in court estimated it could take six weeks or more before all Laney’s cattle have been corralled.
Laney’s court-appointed attorney Jane Greek had argued for the least restrictive way to protect Forest Service officers and allow Laney to continue his ranching operation.
“He can go home to his Black Canyon headquarters and his other operation,” Greek said. “He would only be permitted to use the road (Forest Road 150) between the two properties.”
Molzen will be out of town until Monday. Another detention hearing has been scheduled when she returns.
Laney’s former wife, Sherry, was in court for the proceedings. She visited Laney in jail and said his spirits are fine.
“He said he is getting along well with the other prisoners,” Laney said. “He wants to get out, of course. He also said he has learned a lot about drugs there.”
Laney supporter Bobby Jones, who drove over from Otero Mesa to watch the proceedings, shook his head when he heard the judge say Laney will stay in jail.
“He’s lived his whole life outside,” Jones said. “I don’t know how he’s gonna handle this.”

T.S. Hopkins can be reached at

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Off-road vehicles face new restrictions New statewide restrictions will soon ban off-highway vehicles (OHVs) from leaving established roads and trails, according to Payson Ranger District officials. "We're pretty close right now to a forest amendment that will restrict OHVs from going off road," Payson Ranger District official Walt Thole said. "We might actually have a signed decision this month to implement no cross country travel on the six national forests in Arizona.".... All-Terrain Vehicle Riders Rally in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for Road Access On Saturday, about 130 ATV riders rallied in Coeur d'Alene for greater trail and road access. "Don't lock us out" and "Forests belong to everyone," read the signs in a motor-parade that began at the forest headquarters on Kathleen Avenue, and continued to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's regional office. The Backcountry ATV Association organized the peaceful demonstration.... Grazing in Southwest Devastates Streams, Species Habitat Representing a coalition of environmental, hunting, and wildlife protection groups, Earthjustice sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service today for illegally approving a grazing plan harmful to the threatened Mexican spotted owl. The suit challenges livestock grazing on national forests in New Mexico and Arizona. The suit, filed in federal court in Tucson, is the second lawsuit that seeks region-wide enforcement of grazing standards requiring the agency to protect sensitive wildlife, including the Mexican spotted owl. The standards, put into effect in 1996, require Fish and Wildlife to monitor and protect desert, forest, grassland, and streamside ecosystems from damage due to livestock grazing. The standards called for monitoring and limiting the amount of grass cows eat and restoring damaged streams. According to information obtained from the Forest Service, up to 80 percent of grazing allotments in the region violated one or more of these standards between 2000 and 2002.... Panel says lion hunt will resume after 5-day suspension Mountain lion hunting in Sabino Canyon will resume at week's end, after honoring a five-day moratorium, members of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission decided Tuesday. In a unanimous vote, the five commissioners decided that reports of mountain-lion sightings and stalkings in the canyon on the northeast end of Tucson mean that humans are at risk.... Mended plots of prairie help to revive butterfly For much of the last century, Fender's blue butterfly was thought to have vanished, just like most of the Willamette Valley grasslands where it had long fluttered amid purple lupines. But the inch-wide butterfly was rediscovered in 1989 and scattered remnants of its population declared an endangered species in 2000. Now, the brilliant Oregon native appears to be on its way back, with new surveys in a few sites showing its numbers at some of their highest levels yet.... Suit Challenges Military Training Site A preservation group has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Army's decision to allow the Marines to conduct live-fire training in a valley many Native Hawaiians consider sacred. The Waianae Coast group, Malama Makua, said the use of mortars and shoulder-launched rockets pose serious risk of starting fires in Makua Valley on the island of Oahu. The lawsuit filed Monday night seeks to stop all training activities with the potential to start fires that could threaten cultural sites and endangered species.... Plan adopted to protect rare wildflower habitat in central Wyoming A rare wildflower found only in central Wyoming is getting additional protection from the federal government, although some argue the new rules will have little effect. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday approved a plan designating 360 acres of public land in Fremont County as critical habitat for the desert yellowhead, a rare member of the sunflower family. Two years ago, the government listed the flower as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. While that listing protected the plant itself, critical habitat designation requires federal agencies to safeguard its habitat as well.... Groups seek to protect rare flower on plateau A request to list a rare wildflower found only on the Roan Plateau under the Endangered Species Act was filed Monday by a group of botanists and conservation groups. The Colorado Native Plant Society, Center for Native Ecosystems and botanists Steve O’Kane and Janey Hines Broderick filed the request with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Parachute penstemon. They cited a dramatic increase in natural-gas drilling in western Colorado and the Bush administration’s push for drilling on the plateau, west of Rifle, as reasons to file the request. A Colorado Oil and Gas Association official called the move a “relatively common tactic” by environmentalists to try to find any way to halt drilling.... FWS again accused of trespassing A second trespassing complaint has been filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an incident that occurred on Feb. 15 at the Flying River Ranch west of Meeteetse. According to Flying River owners Dan Ochsner and Sue Barrett, the trespassing occurred the day after and next door to Larsen Ranch, the site of another highly publicized trespassing claim involving four tranquilized wolves, an FWS agent and his assistant. Though they did not see any wolves, Ochsner and Barrett said they spotted two FWS agents on their property who hadn't asked if they could be there.... Community fears big cats Two months after reports of Florida panthers frequenting the Pinecrest community near Loop Road in the Big Cypress Preserve, several wildlife agencies admit the animals may pose a safety concern to residents. "There are no known cases of panthers attacking humans in Florida," says Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officer Henry Cabbage, "However, the presence of panthers that seem to have grown accustomed to being around humans is unusual enough to deserve attention." State and federal conservation officials met with Pinecrest area residents and other concerned individuals, Mar. 6, to discuss the presence of panthers around residences and a conservation education center. Jan Michael Jacobson, of the Everglades Institute, says the problem is more than a just concern. He says he fears for his life and the lives of nearby residents.... Bison capture facility filling up Yellowstone National Park's bison pens are likely to reach capacity this week, which means trapped animals will be shipped to slaughter whether they have brucellosis or not. "Once the holding capacity has been reached at that facility, all remaining bison will be shipped to slaughter without testing," park spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews said Tuesday. Bison continue to move toward the park's northern boundary, she added.... Bears begin to emerge from dens Bears are awakening from their long winter's sleep. That means they're hungry and people need to be careful when working or recreating in bear country. Both grizzly and black bears are emerging from their dens in Yellowstone National Park, park officials announced recently. Those bruins typically look for the carcasses of winter-killed animals like deer and elk, an important food source at a critical time of year.... National Park Rangers 'Endangered' The nonpartisan park watchdog, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today issued a groundbreaking report on the critical shortage of staff in America's national parks, a shortage that directly affects the experiences of millions of visitors this summer and cripples the ability of the National Park Service to protect the nation's heritage. "America's national park rangers have become an endangered species," said NPCA President Thomas Kiernan. "President Bush--and some of his predecessors--made strong commitments to the American people about protecting our national parks. But when push comes to shove, the parks are under funded year after year by Washington."....go here(pdf) for the NPCA report.... NPS Retirees to Expose Plans to Cut Services at National Parks This Summer The nonpartisan Coalition of Concerned National Park Service (NPS) Retirees will hold a March 17, 2004, news conference to reveal previously undisclosed Bush Administration plans for cuts that will have to be made this summer in weekend and holiday services at U.S. national parks. The behind-closed-doors planning for NPS cuts in services to the public took place even as the Interior Department unveiled a late February 2004 partnership with a national travel agents group to INCREASE the number of visitors to national parks.... NATIONAL PARKS AIR POLLUTION PROTECTIONS SHREDDED In a series of recent actions, political appointees of the Bush Administration have undermined the law that protects air quality in the nation's parks, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the special safeguards for visibility and breathability of the air in our National Parks have been quietly gutted without public involvement or Congressional approval.... Ethics office says U.S. Interior official didn't act improperly The Office of Government Ethics said the Interior Department's No. 2 official, Steven Griles, did not appear to violate ethics rules by arranging meetings between Interior officials and his former lobbying clients and partners. The office, after reviewing an 18-month investigation by the Interior Department's inspector general, said it found no ethics violations by Griles in the department's awarding of more than $1.6 million in contracts in 2001 and 2002 to Advanced Power Technologies Inc., a former client.... Pact would give Indians more control of remains Tribes would have more say in the management of American Indian remains and cultural sites along the Missouri River under an agreement in the final stages of review. Known as the Programmatic Agreement, the document would replace an older one that gave little voice to the people, according to James Picotte, historic preservation officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.... Column: The States Step Up While the Bushies sit on their hands and Congress moves at a snail's pace (although news this week that Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman are scheming to force a vote on their global warming amendment to the national energy bill is certainly promising), the states are stepping up to the climate change challenge, with a bipartisan group of Northeastern governors planning to announce a historic agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. And in the Pacific Northwest, Washington is poised to issue its own similar proposal.... Column: Do you know anyone who is “just a farmer”? An older gentleman was at a social affair. People were introducing themselves to each other. This man said, “I’m just a dirt farmer.” That troubles me. Don’t get me wrong. Humility is wonderful thing. What bothers me is that some of our farmers have a poor public image and act as if there is something demeaning about the profession. They should be proud of what they do and who they are. I can’t think of a profession that deserves more honor than this handful of people who feed half the civilized world....On The Edge Of Common Sense: Farmer had a system for playing the lottery Margaret and Mel have farmed for years out on the plains. They regularly spend a few dollars a week on the lotto. Like many folks, they had a system to pick their lucky numbers, theirs included the kids' birthdays and their own. Some might harbor the impression that farmers are too tight-fisted with a dollar to gamble. Actually, it's just the opposite. Granted, they are stingy about painting the house, buying new tires, trading cattle, or selling cowdog pups, but gambling? They do it everyday!....

Sources report Kit Laney will remain in Federal custody, pending a further hearing. Will post additional details as more information is obtained.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Grazing Plan Spurs Lawsuit

By Tania Soussan
Journal Staff Writer

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a Forest Service livestock grazing plan that harms threatened Mexican spotted owls in New Mexico and Arizona, environmental and hunting groups alleged in a lawsuit Monday.
The suit, filed in federal court in Tucson by a coalition of 12 groups, is one of the largest ever against public lands grazing in the West.
Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Vicki Fox said she hadn't seen the suit and could not comment.
Forest Guardians and the other groups want the court to order the Fish and Wildlife Service to do a new consultation on owl protection with the Forest Service.
The case still is about more than the spotted owl, said John Horning, director of Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians.
"It's about the Forest Service's failure on a regional level to comply with standards that ought to ensure protection of sensitive fish and wildlife habitat and clean water," he said. "It's really about sound grazing management."
Mexican spotted owl habitat includes about 13 million acres of national forest land in the Southwest. Most of the important habitat in New Mexico is in the Lincoln and Gila national forests.
This is the second time environmental groups have sued to enforce 1996 Forest Service standards that require the agency to protect sensitive wildlife by monitoring and preventing damage from livestock grazing.
A federal judge in late 2002 ordered the Forest Service to halt grazing on hundreds of thousands of acres where owls hunt and nest until it completed a new consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agencies completed the consultation— a process required by the Endangered Species Act— before the judge's order went into effect.
The groups filing the suit include the Wildlife Federation, Gila Watch, Carson Forest Watch, Animal Protection of New Mexico and the Southwest Environmental Center.

Rancher arrested, cattle impounded

Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A southern New Mexico rancher whose cattle are being seized in a grazing rights dispute was charged with assault after he tried to trample a federal officer while on horseback, officials said Monday.

According to a federal criminal complaint, Kit Laney, 43, yelled profanities Sunday evening while galloping his horse toward three U.S. Forest Service officers who were guarding an enclosure that held some of his recently impounded cattle.

The complaint said one of the officers injured his knee and shin when he was knocked into a cattle guard.

As the confrontation in the rugged Gila National Forest unfolded, Laney continued to taunt the officers from atop his horse and tried to remove fencing the government is using to temporarily hold his cattle, the complaint said.

"Whenever the officers approached Laney, he guided his horse in their direction, threatening to ram or trample them," according to the complaint. Laney was also accused of hitting a contract worker with his reins.

After Laney dismounted, one of the officers used pepper spray on him but he continued to resist, kicking with his spurred boots, the complaint said. The altercation eventually ended with four officers taking Laney to the ground.

Laney remained in custody Monday on charges including assault on a peace officer, obstruction of a court order and intimidation. He appeared briefly in court Monday, and was scheduled for a detention hearing today.

Laney and his wife, Sherry, have been involved in a lengthy legal battle with the U.S. Forest Service over grazing rights on the 146,000-acre Diamond Bar allotment in southwestern New Mexico....

Federal court denies road into Absarokas A landowner with property deep inside the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area doesn't have the right to build nine miles of road to his land, a federal appeals court has ruled. The court found that the trust has a right to adequate access to the property. But it found that the hiking, horse and helicopter access Sievers already has is sufficient. Justices cited federal law stating that adequate access is reasonable access that allows for the private land's enjoyment "and that minimizes damage or disturbance to National Forest System lands and resources." Environmentalists, who joined the case on the Forest Service's behalf, hailed the appeals court's decision as a major victory for wilderness protection.... Alleged eco-saboteur arrested A fugitive radical environmentalist wanted in Oregon for setting fire to logging and cement trucks in 2001 was captured in Canada while shoplifting, the FBI said Monday. Michael Scarpitti — also known as Tre Arrow — was arrested by police in Victoria, British Columbia on Saturday, said Robert Jordan, the FBI's special agent in charge in Portland.... Settlement will prevent planned killing of pumas Mountain lions in the Four Peaks Wilderness Area northeast of the Valley will not be shot for a biological project as a result of a lawsuit settlement. That project proposed shooting the lions to study what effect their diminished numbers would have on the bighorn sheep population in the Four Peaks area. But eight animal-protection groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year to stop the project, claiming the work violated environmental and wilderness laws.... BLM Director: Nevada building case against sage grouse listing State protection plans like one being developed in Nevada are helping build a case against listing the sage grouse as an endangered species, a top U.S. land manager said Monday. But Kathleen Clarke, director of the Bureau of Land Management, also said several Western states are lagging behind and running out of time to help persuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep the bird off the list of federally protected species at the end of this year.... Coalition runs ads pushing for prairie dog protection A Santa Fe-based environmental group that’s pressing for federal protection for prairie dogs has taken out full-page newspaper ads in three states. Forest Guardians placed the ads today in The Santa Fe New Mexican, The Durango Herald in Colorado and the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff. The ads ask readers to urge their elected officials to help save the animals. Forest Guardians contends the demise of prairie dogs over the years has harmed other plants and animals that rely on them to provide a critical habitat.... Fish-killing ban sparks cultural war A sudden move by state regulators to ban killing wild steelhead in the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula has touched off a culture war. Many locals are seething. The mayor is threatening to sue. Area merchants wonder whether fishermen will stay away if they can't take home a trophy. Indian tribes worry the ban will worsen resentment of their tribal fishing rights.... Column: What kind of management for mountain lions? There is no question why on Jan. 8 the same mountain lion killed and ate 35-year-old Mark Reynolds, and then attacked and mauled 30-year-old Anne Hjelle: It was hungry. But the main reason is that the lion had no fear of humans: We are just another food source. Both bicyclists were on a trail a few hundred yards from homes. Last Tuesday, authorities killed two lions near residential areas, one in Mammoth Lakes and another in Morgan Hill, where three lions had entered a backyard. That's why I believe the lion sighting and potential threat in Folsom should be taken seriously by outdoor enthusiasts throughout California - lions are a threat everywhere in the state now. It has been 30 years since mountain lions were hunted, so they have no fear of us. To them, we're the next meal if they can't find a deer, dog or a cat to eat. Even worse, since passage of Proposition 117 in 1990, which affords lions the same protections given threatened or endangered species, the DFG can't thin the population.... Thomas tries to end 'venue shopping' U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., told a Casper audience Monday about his plan to prevent groups from "venue shopping" when they file public lands lawsuits in U.S. District Court. Groups venue shop when they file lawsuits in jurisdictions they think will be more favorable to their interests. Thomas' bill would require lawsuits on agency action by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service be heard by the district court "where the affected land is located.".... Internet Cutoff Ordered at Interior A federal judge in Washington yesterday ordered the Interior Department to shut down most of its employees' Internet access and some of its public Web sites after concluding that the agency has failed to fix computer security problems that threaten millions of dollars owed to Native Americans. The most recent decision covers computer connections and Web sites in the Inspector General's Office, the Minerals Management Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Office of the Special Trustee, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Office of Surface Mining, and the National Business Center.... 150 more bison captured in Yellowstone More than 150 bison were captured in Yellowstone National Park on Sunday and Monday as part of an ongoing effort to keep the animals from leaving the park. Park officials said some of the bison would be tested for brucellosis, a contagious disease that state and federal officials are worried might be transmitted to nearby cattle. So far this year, about 450 bison have been captured on the north end of Yellowstone. Of those, 154 have tested negative for the disease - including 79 young bison that have received a vaccine - and will be held at the Stephens Creek pen until release this spring. Also this year, 145 have tested positive for exposure to brucellosis and have been sent to slaughter. Another seven were sent to slaughter without being tested and one bull bison was shot and killed.... Drilling projects test commitment to new methods Two Colorado energy projects are providing a litmus test for the Bush administration's commitment to drilling the West's vast energy fields without scarring the landscape for future generations. At issue is whether directional drilling - which creates multiple oil and gas wells from a single drilling location - should be required by federal agencies. The government is expected to decide this year how best to develop federally owned energy deposits beneath the Roan Plateau near Rifle and the HD Mountains near Durango.... Otero Mesa becomes battleground for development policies When George Yates and Walter Whitford gaze out over the high-desert southern New Mexico grassland known as Otero Mesa, their visions of its future couldn't be more different. Yates is an oil and gas producer who envisions a pipeline connecting wellheads that will produce clean-burning natural gas and help keep fuel prices down. Whitford, an ecologist, fears such development will forever change the grassland -- which is owned by the Bureau of Land Management and is the largest U.S. remnant of an ecosystem that provides a home for hundreds of species of plants and animals.... Nevada gold mine plan raises prospect of polluting in perpetuity 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.... Mercury Emissions Rule Geared to Benefit Industry, Staffers Say Political appointees in the Environmental Protection Agency bypassed agency professional staff and a federal advisory panel last year to craft a rule on mercury emissions preferred by the industry and the White House, several longtime EPA officials say. The EPA staffers say they were told not to undertake the normal scientific and economic studies called for under a standing executive order. At the same time, the proposal to regulate mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants was written using key language provided by utility lobbyists.... Battle of Battle Creek: Which way to save salmon? Five years ago, a consensus was reached to resuscitate the salmon runs: remove five of the eight small PG&E hydropower dams on Battle Creek and outfit the remaining three with fish ladders. It was a revolutionary concept in the 150-year history of water development in California; it would mark the first time that dams would come down rather than go up. But today the projected price tag for a Battle Creek restoration has skyrocketed, from $26 million to about $75 million, and not a single dam has been removed.... State leaders keep water flowing Farmers, dairymen, trout producers and state leaders reached a tentative deal Monday that keeps well water flowing to farms across more than a million acres of Idaho for at least another year. The deal gives spring water users, who have long been shorted water for which they are legally entitled, money, water and a new business development effort by the state.... Proposal for water is rejected A plan by a private company to gain title to about 94 billion gallons of "wasted" water in the Jordan River/Utah Lake watershed has struck an iceberg. On Monday, the state engineer rejected three water-rights applications filed several years ago by Western Water LLC. Jerry Olds, who heads the Utah Division of Water Rights, ruled that Western Water failed on all five legal tests required by state law, including the one that says no water rights shall be granted for financial speculation or monopoly.... Stubborn drought stressing plants, humans in the West Less obvious, but more profound, are other impacts. Los Angeles' reservoirs are dwindling, the water table beneath Las Vegas is disappearing, and millions of trees in Arizona and New Mexico are dying off. A continuing drought could wipe out farmers and ranchers throughout the West, from pinto bean growers in New Mexico to cantaloupe farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley. And it could stifle the sprawling growth of the West's swimming-pool-dotted suburbs. Scientists say this present crisis may reflect the true character of the West - an arid land that Americans have not inhabited long enough to fully understand....U.S. "tick rider" agents guard against Mexican cows Federal agent Ken De Yonge rides the north bank of the Rio Grande River on horseback, hunting down illegal border crossers with a sharp eye, a sturdy rope, and a magnifying glass. De Yonge is not looking for illegal immigrants who swim the river dividing Mexico and the United States in search of jobs, or drug couriers who ferry marijuana across on rafts. Instead, this modern cowboy scans the open range for Mexican livestock who are smuggled or who stray into Texas carrying ticks infected with a deadly bovine disease. From the mouth of the Rio Grande to the border town of Del Rio, Texas, some 65 of these special border agents, called "tick riders," are the U.S. cattle industry's first line of defense against bovine piroplasmosis, also known as cattle fever, or Texas fever.... It's All Trew: If you could get the signal, radio was great fun The new movie theater was showing a silent movie about the Four 6 Ranch with a live piano player furnishing music and an old cowboy on stage narrating the film. Out in the lobby, a second technological miracle had been installed. While waiting for the movie to start, patrons took turns listening through a headphone to the Grand Old Opry fading in and out on the airwaves....
Bitter Division for Sierra Club on Immigration

The leadership of the Sierra Club, the landmark environmental organization, is enmeshed in a bitter struggle over whether to advocate tough immigration restrictions as a way to control environmental damage that has been associated with rapid population growth.

The debate is unusual in its intensity, even for an organization whose fractious disputes are legendary. It focuses on efforts by several outsiders and grass-roots members of the club to win seats on the board of directors. The dissident group is led by Richard D. Lamm, the former Democratic governor of Colorado, who has argued for 20 years that national policies leave the country open to unsustainable immigration.

At stake is the leadership of an organization of 750,000 members that has a 112-year history of pushing conservation and pollution issues into the national consciousness and federal law.

For weeks, both camps have issued charges and countercharges and the dissidents have filed two lawsuits, neither of which is active....