Saturday, March 27, 2004

Have you got a match?

The following dialogue is something to think about when you visit the Black Hills or any of our national forests.

Lawyer: You are the Chief of the Forest Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture. Is that correct?
Chief: That is correct.
Lawyer: As Chief, is it your duty to protect and preserve the forests?
Chief: That is one of my duties, yes.
Lawyer: Is it also your duty to manage the forests in such a manner that they will produce an infinite and continuous supply of timber by harvesting the trees on a sustained yield basis?
Chief: I don’t know if I would phrase it exactly like that, but we are mandated to manage on a sustained yield basis, which in theory could, I suppose, continue indefinitely.
Lawyer: Tell me Chief, how much timber grows on the national forests each year.
Chief: It varies from time to time but I think the last I knew we are growing about twenty billion board feet a year.
(At this point the lawyer opened a box of wooden matches and counted out twenty of them and placed them in the Chief’s hands.)
Lawyer: Out of that twenty billion, how much is lost each year due to natural processes like storms, hail, mud slides and the like?
Chief: I think it is a little over one billion but less than two billion.
Lawyer: OK. Let’s remove two of those. (He took two matches from the Chief’s pile.) Now, how many are removed by commercial timber harvest?
Chief: It used to be four or five, but now it’s only about two. (The lawyer removed two more matches.)
Lawyer: OK, Chief. Other than fire, is there anything else that removes significant amounts of this timber each year?
Chief: Not really. I would guess that maybe another billion is removed from various causes. (The lawyer removed one more match.)
Lawyer: Alright. Chief, tell me how many matches are in your hand.
Chief: Fifteen.
Lawyer: And how many years has the service been managing the forest in this way?
Chief: At least twenty. (The lawyer added another three hundred matches to the pile in the Chief’s hands.)
Lawyer: What do you plan to do with those matches Chief?
Chief: Nothing. I’m just waiting for your little demonstration to end.
Lawyer: Well don’t worry because it is about to end. (The lawyer strode toward the witness while pulling a single wooden strike anywhere match from his coat pocket and expertly held it up and struck it with his thumbnail like only an old farmer or rancher can do.)
Tell me Chief, do you believe in lightning?

This of course is not a true story, at least not yet.

And in defense of the Forest Service, their ability to properly manage the forest has been hamstrung by lawsuits filed by fringe environmental groups who believe the forest should not be managed by man.

Whatever the reason, the result could be catastrophic.

Larry Gabriel, Secretary
South Dakota Deptartment of Agriculture
More on Sherry Laney's Horses

They, USFS and the contract cowboys, stole Sherry's horses off the deeded land yesterday while Sherry was in Las Cruces Visiting Kit.

Sherry is devastated, she raised nearly every single one.
Their Sister in Law, Debbie took pictures of the gate thrown down.

I was with Sherry last night at a dinner in TorC she was doing OK and planning on hauling a bunch or horses to her mothers next week. We specifically talked about her having a hard time feeding all of them on the private land, and how she was going to farm some of them out to relatives since they cant keep them in the house traps because it is too hard to haul hay into Black Canyon. She was planning on spending some time at her mothers and regrouping and figuring out what to do next.

The horses were on deeded land and (the USFS is telling people they have known the horses were on federal land for a while. ) This is a blatant fabrication. Apparently they have been waiting for Sherry to leave and for a weekend when no one could call and complain about the theft.

Laura Schneberger

Sherry Laney's horses

Dear Friends,

I just received a rather distressed call from Sherry's mom. The contractor hired by the USFS to gather cattle on the Diamond Bar is continously leaving all gates open which connect from deeded to public lands.

In the process 14 of Sherry's saddle horses have been "gathered" and are now held by the USFS. Some are colts which Sherry recently castrated, they are still swollen, and had been kept on deeded land by her house so she could easily feed them.

Sherry Laney was told by the USFS that she could have her horses back for $650 a head.

Please pass this information on to anyone on your mailing list.

Thank you. Monika Helbling at


The Associated Press State & Local Wire

March 27, 2004, Saturday, BC cycle

3:18 PM Eastern Time

Roundup nets more cattle, horses; petition circulates


A group of contract cowboys continued searching the mountain sides and deep canyons Saturday for livestock at the center of a battle over grazing on an allotment in the Gila National Forest.

Forest spokeswoman Andrea Martinez said 354 cattle belonging to Kit Laney and his ex-wife and ranching partner Sherry Farr have been rounded up, and more than 250 of those have been shipped to an auction barn.

A group of horses were the latest of Laney and Farr's animals to be impounded this week.

"The horses were on national forest land," Martinez said. "From the very beginning, we knew there were the 14 horses and the livestock on forest land."

Forest officials said the impoundment is about 90 percent complete and they expect the cowboys in another week or two to round up the remaining animals, some of which are roaming the outer reaches of the Diamond Bar allotment.

Farr and Laney don't hold grazing permits for the allotment, about 85 percent of which is within designated wilderness. They own private land within the allotment and contend they have grazing rights based on historical use of the land.

Courts have ruled against them numerous times. The most recent ruling came in December, when a federal judge ordered the cattle to be removed.

Laney, arrested this month after an altercation with federal officers, remains jailed without bond. He's accused of charging his horse at Forest Service officers and trying to tear down a corral holding some of his cattle.

A group of residents in Sierra County is circulating a petition refuting the judge's decision to hold Laney without bail.

"We the citizens do not feel threatened in any way, shape or form and do thereby testify to the good character of Kit Laney," the petition reads.

Friday, March 26, 2004


Firefighters Battle Calif. Ski Area Fire Firefighters made steady progress Friday against a blaze that got out of control after it was ignited to destroy dry brush and dead trees. The 350-acre fire, about two miles south of the resort city of Big Bear Lake, was 65 percent contained and had stopped moving Friday, authorities said. Full containment was expected Saturday. About 1,500 skiers were ordered to leave Bear Mountain and adjacent Snow Summit but no homes were evacuated and no one was injured, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Carol Beckley said. A hut used by the resort's ski patrol was destroyed.... Angry residents want answers from Forest Service An angry crowd of about 150 residents confronted Forest Service officials Thursday, March 25, after a prescribed burn jumped its perimeter lines and burned straight up the mountain toward Bear Mountain Resort. The communities of Sugarloaf and Moonridge were put on alert to be prepared to evacuate, just in case. The town hall meeting at the Convention Center put the Forest Service on the hot seat, as emotions reached close to the boiling point. With the Old Fire just six months from memory, the recollection of evacuation and the threat of wildfire was still very fresh for those in the room facing down fire officials, asking what happened....Group says Forest Service PR campaign was second proposed A watchdog group says U.S. Forest Service officials who approved a $90,000 public relations blitz backing plans to triple logging in 11 Sierra Nevada national forests proposed an even bigger PR campaign five years ago. The officials who approved the Sierra Nevada campaign proposed a $600,000 PR effort in 1999 seeking to persuade reporters covering the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City to do positive stories about the role national forests play in providing recreation and protecting the environment.... Wyden floats idea of nearly doubling wilderness Protected wilderness on Mount Hood could nearly double in size if a proposal by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden gains traction in the nation's Capitol. The Oregon Democrat said Thursday that he's prepared to introduce legislation designating an additional 160,000 acres of congressionally protected wilderness within the Mount Hood National Forest and Columbia River Gorge. Wyden also wants to bring four stretches of rivers, totaling 36.9 miles, into the national Wild and Scenic River System.... Scuffle mars mountain lion news briefing Arizona Game & Fish Department officials booted an opponent of the Sabino Canyon mountain lion hunt out the door and threatened to arrest him after a news briefing yesterday afternoon. Daniel Patterson, an ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, spoke out after a statement that Gerry Perry, Game & Fish regional supervisor, made about who would pay for housing the lions at a Scottsdale center.... Bald eagles nesting in Chicago for first time in a century Bird experts say a pair of bald eagles are nesting in Chicago for the first time in more than a century. State officials and birders are trying to keep the eagles' location a secret. They don't want curious onlookers to scare the birds from their nest. U-S Fish and Wildlife Service officials say they are nesting somewhere next to the Little Calumet River. The waterway marks part of Chicago's southern border.... Column: End costly spills and pay anglers not to catch salmon A ll this talk about reducing or eliminating summer spills at Columbia River dams to rescue, at most, an estimated $77 million in lost hydroelectric power sales misses the point. Never mind how many salmon would die as a result of eliminating or reducing summer spills. We ought to be talking instead about strategies to save as many salmon as we can the old-fashioned way: by reducing the harvesting of returning adult salmon. Allowing regulated killing seasons on an endangered species has always struck me as the ultimate form of stupidity in the great Northwest debate about saving our salmon. Think about it: The Bonneville Power Administration has spent more than $6 billion on fish recovery in the past 25 years to protect and preserve salmon. Yet society thinks nothing about allowing the citizenry to kill them off, good years and bad.... Editorial: Putting people last Carpetbagging "environmental" groups have convinced U.S. District Judge David Hagen to delay a scheduled auction of some 6,300 acres of federally controlled land in Lincoln County near Mesquite, so that greens and bureaucrats can spend years traipsing through the desert, counting tortoises. On Monday, Judge Hagen ruled that before the Bureau of Land Management can dispose of the land, as authorized by the federal Lincoln County Land Act of 2000, the agency must complete an environmental impact statement. As a result of this decision, the BLM has canceled the auction, which had been slated for August. Mind you, the good folks in Lincoln County (pop. 4,000) would like nothing better than to conduct the auction, sell the property, and put it on the local tax rolls. Roughly 98 percent of the land in the county is in government hands, and with so little property in private hands to generate revenues, times are so tough there the taxpayers had to lay off the county manager.... Florida panthers in Arkansas? A federal study has ranked two national forests in Arkansas as the most promising sites for returning the Florida panther to parts of its former range, but any proposal to do that would face intense opposition from farmers and other state residents. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commissioned the study as part of its efforts to save the panther, now confined to a shrinking habitat southwest of Lake Okeechobee.... Snail plan calls for preserving streams One of the recommendations to protect the Newcomb's snail is to preserve minimum flows in Kaua'i streams where the threatened animals live, according to a draft recovery plan released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A series of problems threatens the tiny freshwater snail, including predation by frogs, toads, fish and carnivorous snails. But diversion of water from streams, causing diminished flows in areas where the snail lives, could wipe out entire populations, the plan said.... Panther family being taught to avoid humans Wildlife officials are using dogs and slingshots to teach a family of Florida panthers not to get too comfortable around humans. The three cats have been spotted several times around homes in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Southwest Florida since last fall. While it's not unheard of to encounter the endangered panthers in the region, these animals seem to have lost their fear of humans.... Park Service Removes Yellow Ribbons To Welcome Troops Yellow ribbons tied around utility poles to welcome soldiers home from Iraq were removed by the National Park Service (search), which says they are a political statement. About a dozen ribbons were posted along a park service-owned street that runs through the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site (search), where his presidential library, birthplace and gravesite are all located. A resident who was involved in placing about 40 ribbons around town Tuesday said she cannot understand the objection. "We wanted to let the troops know that we are welcoming them home," Sandy West said. "I was very disappointed in a government organization that wouldn't even support the kids.".... BLM, producers dispute undrilled gas The Wyoming Bureau of Land Management is feuding with coalbed methane gas producers over federal parcels in the Powder River Basin that may have marginal volumes of gas. Producers blame the BLM for limiting the amount of federal minerals it allowed to be drilled during the three years it took to complete an Environmental Impact Statement to extend the coalbed methane play in the area. They say the slow permitting pace created a situation where pockets of federal gas were drained by neighboring state and private wells over a number of years.... BLM chief pleased with federal permitting Stepping back from remarks she made in October about "problematic" personnel at field offices in Wyoming, Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke said she is pleased with the oil and gas permitting work being done in Wyoming.... Supreme Court Eyes Land Management Case A wilderness area that has been proposed for government protection stands next to a state-run ATV park where people go joy-riding across the red sand on knobby tires, much to the chagrin of environmentalists. Environmentalists say the proposed protected area -- with its dunes and ancient stands of ponderosa pines -- is in danger from ATV damage while the federal government ponders the future of the land. They want it safeguarded now, not months from now when a final decision is made. The dispute has given rise to a U.S. Supreme Court case that will be heard on Monday. At issue is whether citizen groups can sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to force it to more aggressively safeguard public land awaiting a decision on protected status. The case could have sweeping implications for the management of federal land across the West.... Column: High-gas-price blues? Blame the greens As gasoline prices continue to climb, finger pointing is becoming a national pastime. Led by Sen. Ted Kennedy, of all people, Senate Democrats say they are "outraged that the administration is not doing everything in its power to alleviate the strain on drivers, consumers and businesses." This same Ted Kennedy, and Tom Daschle, have led Senate Democrats to block the administration's energy bill. They have done everything in their power to increase the strain on drivers, consumers and businesses by blocking every attempt to increase domestic oil production. Americans have every right to be angry, as they watch the rising price of gasoline take a bigger bite out of their paychecks. But their anger should be directed toward the real cause of the unnecessary price increases: irresponsible reverence for the environment. Anger should be focused on the League of Conservation Voters and the senator they have endorsed for president. Anger should be focused on the Sierra club, the National Wildlife Federation, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife and the horde of environmental organizations that go ballistic whenever anyone proposes to drill a new oil well or build a new refinery.... How much is left? Millions of barrels of oil have been discovered on Alaska’s North Slope, but how much more could there be, yet undiscovered? The U.S. Geological Survey has assessed undiscovered oil and gas resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern side of the North Slope and in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on the western side, and is now looking at what it calls the “middle ground.” The middle ground of the North Slope, says Ken Bird of the USGS, is the area between ANWR and NPR-A, north of the Brooks Range and south of the three-mile offshore limit of state land.... Book accuses Justice Dept. of nuclear plant coverup Secret midnight burning of radioactive waste. An FBI spy flight with infrared cameras. An employee who contends she was contaminated by fellow workers for reporting safety violations. It sounds like something out of a paperback thriller. But the allegations are contained in a new book that says the Justice Department covered up environmental misconduct at the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver more than a decade ago. Federal and state health officials say they are looking into the claims raised by the book, "The Ambushed Grand Jury: How the Justice Department Covered Up Government Nuclear Crimes and How We Caught Them Red Handed." The book was written by Wes McKinley, the foreman of a grand jury that investigated activity at Rocky Flats, and attorney Caron Balkany. They said the book is worth the risk of jail for violating grand jury secrecy rules. "I am doing my patriotic duty," McKinley said. "These people are criminals.".... Judge rejects argument against fish poisoning A federal judge has rejected an effort to halt the poisoning of fish in Cherry Creek so that the stream may be replanted with westslope cutthroat trout. "Everything that reasonably could have been done to fully satisfy all requirements of the law has been met," U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon ruled Wednesday, in upholding the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks project. Bill Fairhurst of Three Forks had sued the agency to halt the project, maintaining that using antimycin to kill Yellowstone cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout constitutes water pollution and violates the federal Clean Water Act.... Hoover Dam considering banning vehicles once bridge is done Hoover Dam might be closed to all motor vehicles once a bypass bridge over the Colorado River is completed in 2007, a dam administrator said. Bob Walsh, spokesman for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, said security and maintenance concerns were behind a proposal to ban passenger cars from using the winding two-lane highway across Hoover Dam after the alternate route opens.... Water deal becomes law in Snake River Canyon signing Water users from above and below the Snake River Canyon rim joined Gov. Dirk Kempthorne Friday at the signing of legislation that will keep water flowing for another year north of the river. The ceremony was a show of unity among the state and water users in resolve and cooperation to protect the vitality of the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer. It supplies groundwater on the plateau and spring water at the river's edge, sustaining the region's economy and the Snake River.... History Channel to explore technology of the Old West Consider the bandanna. A simple square of cloth filling so many needs for a cowboy on the trail. He could use it to wipe his brow. Or fashion it into a sling for a broken arm. It could be waved in the air as a signal. He could pull it over his nose to keep the dust out. And if a morally unencumbered cowboy came to realize that being a drover was never going to make him rich, he could pull it up over his face and rob a bank. This is an entry level example from the History Channel's newest series, "Wild West Tech," debuting Tuesday at 8 p.m. The series opener, "Cowboy Tech," looks at the gear used by the cowboy from the end of the Civil War to the turn of the century.... Pistol packin' mamas R.L."Larry" Wilson knows this about women: they aren't afraid to pull the trigger. The San Francisco author and firearms expert is out with what he says is the first book to tell the whole truth about females' natural, historical, existentially joyful affinity for firearms. In "Silk and Steel: Women at Arms, " Wilson has collected thousands of bits of documentary evidence from his 35 years in the field to prove that women and weapons have been inseparable since the invention of gunpowder....

Cattle removed; rancher remains jailed

Four U.S. Forest Service trucks with a law enforcement escort hauled more than 200 head of cattle off a grazing allotment in the Gila National Forest Wednesday night. The cattle belong to Catron County rancher Kit Laney, who remains in the Doña Ana County Detention Center.
Laney, 43, has been in the detention center since his arrest March 14 for interfering with Forest Service personnel and hired hands executing a court order to remove his cattle. Charged with five counts of assaulting a federal officer and other charges, he has twice been denied release by a federal magistrate who said she feared he would return to his ranch and interfere again.
Federal Magistrate Karen B. Molzen has denied Laney’s release until the cattle are removed. Laney’s federal public defender Jane Greek is appealing Molzen’s ruling.
The grazing allotment for Laney’s Diamond Bar ranch is on federal property.
Laura Schneberger, president of the livestock board in Catron County, said the Forest Service began removing cattle from the impound area Wednesday.
“It was just about dark when the trucks pulled out,” Schneberger said. “I got calls as they went through Winston and Cuchillo.”
“No one in New Mexico will buy those cattle,” she said. “Ranchers here believe the cattle are stolen. They (Forest Service) will probably have to go into Texas to sell the cattle.”
Schneberger and others have videotaped the cattle and indicated some of the cattle are not in good shape.
“One more reason Forest Service wants to sell these cattle out of state is they don’t want anyone to see the cattle unloaded,” Schneberger said. “There will probably be a number of dead animals by the time they get to their destination.”
Andrea Martinez, media liaison with the Forest Service confirmed 251 head of cattle left the holding area, but declined to say where the cattle will be sold.
“We had some livestock auction barns lined up to handle the sale,” Martinez said, “but many of the auction barns are run by ranchers and they all know each other. For that reason we don’t to disclose where the sale will be held.”
Martinez said there have been seven notices posted on the gate of Laney’s Diamond Bar Ranch explaining how the cattle can be reclaimed. She said if the Laneys pay the costs of roundup and prove ownership of the herd, they can have the cattle.
“The other stipulations are they may not place any livestock in the Apache National Forest or the Gila National Forest,” Martinez said.
Martinez estimates there are about 65 head of cattle remaining and thinks it may be two weeks before the Forest Service completes the removal process.
All of Laney’s cattle have been seen by veterinarians and are being well cared for with a mix of hay and alfalfa and plenty of water, Martinez said.

T.S. Hopkins can be reached at

Officials say Laney can still redeem cattle

There is still time for ranchers Kit Laney and Sherry Farr to redeem cattle impounded from the Diamond Bar allotment, but reclaiming their livestock will have a hefty price tag.
According to a federal court ruling, Laney and Farr, as owners of the Diamond Bar Cattle Co., must reimburse the U.S. Forest Service for all costs associated with gathering, impounding and transporting cattle from the 146,000-acre allotment.
What those costs might be - which are to include labor, fuel and transportation, feed for livestock, meals for wranglers and Forest Service personnel, and other miscellaneous costs - remains speculative.
On March 11, three days after the roundup began, Laney received notice from Annette Chavez, Wilderness District ranger, that the costs associated with gathering and impounding 80 head of cattle totaled $40,950.
"If you intend to redeem your livestock at this point, you must provide a cashier's check or U.S. Postal money order payable to the United States Forest Service in the amount listed above," Chavez wrote.
Two weeks later, as of Thursday midday, 320 of an estimated 400 to 450 head of cattle had been gathered, according to a Forest Service spokeswoman.
The recent cost, on average, of one cow at livestock auctions is about $650. If 400 cattle are sold, they would bring about $260,000.
Toby Laney, Kit Laney's nephew, said his uncle asked the Forest Service how much it would cost to redeem the cattle.
"Kit and Sherry's attorney advised them to say they wanted to redeem the cattle to see where this goes," Toby Laney said. "We knew it was probably going to be an absurd amount of money, and probably wasn't going to be financially feasible, but the principle of the law says we have to have the opportunity.
"(The Forest Service) just put (the cattle) on a truck and shipped them to we don't know where."
A Forest Service spokeswoman said this morning that tallies of costs are updated weekly, and available to Laney and Farr upon request.
"We are not aware of any recent request from Kit and Sherry for redemption costs. We will continue to be responsive to them through the Wilderness District ranger's office for any request regarding those costs," she said.
When asked what the costs are to date, Gila National Forest officials referred the matter to a Forest Service attorney, who was unavailable for comment.
Laney remains jailed in Las Cruces after a federal judge this week denied for the second time the rancher's request to post bond. He was arrested March 14 after allegedly charging on horseback at Forest Service officials who were impounding his cattle.
The fourth-generation rancher has been charged with two counts of obstruction of justice, five counts of assaulting and interfering with federal officers and employees, and one count of interfering with a court order.
In denying bail for the 43-year-old rancher, U.S. Magistrate Karen Molzen said she was concerned he would return to the Diamond Bar allotment and try to disrupt the court-ordered roundup.
Farr and Laney do not hold permits to graze livestock on the allotment, about 85 percent of which is within designated wilderness. They do own private land within the allotment, and have contended in lawsuits that they have grazing rights based on historical use of the land.
Courts have ruled against them numerous times since the mid-1990s.
A U.S. District Court judge had ordered the cattle to be removed from the Diamond Bar allotment because Laney and Farr did not have a grazing permit. Laney was later found in contempt of court.
Forest Service officials have stated it is their intent to impound the cattle until they can be sold at auction.
The agency is now advertising its intent to sell 251 of Laney and Farr's cattle.
Laney has five days from Tuesday's posting of a legal notice in the Daily Press to redeem the cattle.
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."
Truckloads of Laney cattle have been shipped from Beaverhead, presumably to livestock auction barns.
The Forest Service has declined to disclose the destination of the cattle.
Marcia Andre, Gila National Forest supervisor, said that Kit Laney was notified of the pending shipment in accordance with the law.
"The clock is still ticking. (Kit Laney) can still redeem the cattle prior to any sale, and he has been notified how to do that," Andre said.

Lion seen just after pause in hunt Minutes after state game officials halted the hunt for mountain lions Thursday morning, a woman reported seeing a lion crossing Sabino Canyon Road. "The lion was moving from Sabino Canyon and going west into the residential area," said Tom Whetten, education and information program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, adding that officials verified the report by finding lion tracks.... Forest fire erupts in ski areas near Big Bear A forest fire Thursday threatened a ski resort in the San Bernardino Mountains – a range scarred by devastating wildfires last fall. A blaze intentionally set by the U.S. Forest Service to destroy dry brush and dead trees got out of control and roared through 200 acres. The fire was 20 percent contained by Thursday evening, said Linda Davis of the San Bernardino County Fire Department. There were no injuries. A hut used by the Bear Mountain resort's ski patrol was destroyed.... Buffalo Kill To Control Disease Questioned For most Americans, buffaloes are icons of an era when much of America was wild and unspoiled. But to state and federal park officials around Yellowstone National Park, the bison also represent the threat of brucellosis, a disease that causes both buffaloes and cattle to spontaneously abort their young. In an effort to protect susceptible cows on ranches bordering the park, park rangers have been shooting a growing number of the buffaloes that each winter wander out of the park in search of food. So far this year, National Park Service and Montana Department of Livestock employees have shot 278 of the roughly 4,200 wild buffaloes that roam the park's confines. The program -- a boon to neighboring cattle owners and a bane to environmentalists -- has been in place for nearly a decade. But as the number of dead bison mount, criticism of the practice has grown.... Bush administration criticizes Tiffanys over opposition to mine in Cabinet Mountains Mark Rey, an undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, said the letter signed by Tiffany's chief executive was filled with errors, though he declined to say what they were. "I'm guessing this ad in The Washington Post cost upwards of $50,000," said Rey, director of the administration's forest policy, in a telephone interview. "For $49,999.63 less, they could have sent us this letter and given their customers a discount on their products." Mining interests also criticized Tiffany, suggesting the company was responding to threats of boycotts of its jewelry from environmentalists opposed to the mine.... Forest Service turns down employee outsourcing appeal The Forest Service late Wednesday ruled against California mechanics appealing an agency decision to outsource fleet maintenance work. In the ruling, Forest Service officials said the mechanics should not have waited so long to challenge the accuracy of a statement describing work at stake in a competition for 60 full-time maintenance jobs.... Editorial: More logging at a snail's pace I t never made much sense for the U.S. Forest Service to spend tens of millions of dollars every year crawling around old-growth forests counting slugs and snails and searching for mushrooms and moss. The Northwest won't miss the "survey and manage" rule abandoned by the Bush administration in a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the timber industry. The rule was a shrewd poison pill inserted into the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994 that crippled the plan's promise of a small but stable level of logging on public forests. Survey and manage was a full-employment act for several thousand Forest Service contract workers, and a herd of environmental lawyers who repeatedly and successfully used the rule to block old-growth timber sales. In some years, federal agencies spent more than $100 million surveying more than 400 organisms thought to live only in Northwest old-growth forests.... Reviews mixed on smaller scale grizzly plan Critics of a plan to relocate grizzly bears in British Columbia are praising a new proposal to relocate the animals farther north, reducing the chances the bears will roam to Washington state. Environmentalists criticized the new proposal as hurting recovery chances for grizzly bears in the state. The British Columbia government may capture bears this fall from Wells Gray Provincial Park and hold them for a year before releasing them in fall 2005 in the Canadian portion of the North Cascades, said Matt Austin, large carnivore specialist for the British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. He said the bears may be released north of Highway 3, the main highway running across the southern part of the province. The highway is considered a possible barrier to grizzly migration.... BLM director: Avoid sage grouse listing Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke stopped in Casper on Thursday during a tour of several Western states to garner support for efforts to prevent listing the greater sage grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing a petition to list the greater sage grouse, and the agency is expected to make a decision early next week about whether or not the petition is warranted.... Wyo to appeal wolf FOIA denial Wyoming plans to appeal a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refusing the release of some documents considered in the federal agency's rejection of the state's proposed wolf management plan. Wyoming requested the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The state is preparing to sue the federal agency over the rejection. "What we wanted to know was -- from both the regional and national offices -- give us the comments, the research and documents generated in denying Wyoming's wolf plan," Mike O'Donnell, chief deputy attorney general, said Thursday.... Scientists criticize government over salmon rules Scientists appointed by the government to review salmon-recovery efforts are lashing out at federal court rulings that require both wild and hatchery-raised fish to be counted when determining whether a species is threatened. In an editorial being published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, the six scientists also criticized the National Marine Fisheries Service, saying the agency must do more to protect wild salmon.... Gold miners work to salvage salmon spawning area Gold miners were enlisted in an apparently successful effort to salvage a rare stretch of chum salmon spawning grounds along the Columbia River, officials say. Sand as deep as 18 inches covered about 20 percent of the spawning area at Woods Landing, between Vancouver and Portland, Ore. At the request of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, volunteer miners used lawn mower-sized dredges mounted on pontoons to suck up much of the sediment and pipe it out to the main channel of the river over the weekend of March 13-14.... 300 jam Denver meeting on wolves About 300 people crammed into a meeting room at a Denver hotel Thursday night, most eager to share their views on wolves and Colorado. The state Division of Wildlife held the meeting to encourage and collect nominations for a "working group" that will draft a wolf-management plan to be submitted to the division's director.... Park Service pledges cuts in travel costs Reacting to stern criticism in Congress, the National Park Service sought to dispel notions Thursday that its spending priorities were out of line and that it had muzzled employees who might want to speak out. "Who's minding the store here? Are you all sort of oblivious to what's going on?" Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., demanded of Park Service Director Fran Mainella. Mainella said she would immediately halt any more spending for foreign travel and cut 10 percent from domestic travel spending. She acknowledged that million-dollar projects were getting under way without her consent and said any costing more than $1 million would require approval from her or Interior Secretary Gale Norton.... Column: Yellowstone becomes prize in legal tug of war Compared to the flood of visitors that washes over Yellowstone National Park during the summer, the number of people making their way during winter into that fabled realm of geysers, hot springs, bison, elk, and wolves is but a trickle. Visitation between December and March is seldom more than 1,000 people a day, whereas in June, July, and August — when most of the park's 3 million annual visitors arrive — a crowd that size may be found at eruption time on the boardwalk around Old Faithful. Yet that relatively tiny number of winter visitors is at the heart of a very large legal, political, and philosophical dispute, one that in the past few weeks has taken a dizzying number of twists. The conflict is emblematic of an old paradox built into the national park system and reflects a deep and irreconcilable division in the way Americans perceive their native landscape.... Supreme Court considers right to sue government over land managementThe state all-terrain vehicle park is bordered on three sides by the wilderness study area, and conservationists say the Bureau of Land Management isn't doing enough to protect the fragile dunes and their ancient stands of ponderosa pine. The nation's highest court hears arguments Monday on whether citizen groups can sue the BLM to force it to better protect public lands awaiting a decision on wilderness designation. The clash of competing interests is most pronounced here, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City, where the border defining Coral Pink's most delicate dunes from ATV traffic is little more than an imaginary line in the sand.... Wandering bighorns may be destroyed Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials have decided that up to seven bighorn sheep that wandered away from their new home in the Greenhorn Mountains last year may have to be destroyed. That decision has created controversy.... Interior official admits Animas-La Plata errors The Animas-La Plata Project saw a dramatic increase in costs because the Bureau of Reclamation completely failed to do its job, an Interior official told a congressional subcommittee Wed-nesday. Bennett W. Raley, assistant Interior secretary for Water and Science, told the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development that the long-in-the-works water project skyrocketed in costs last year because the bureau failed to take several factors into account.... House votes water rights fee repeal Colorado lawmakers are fast-tracking a bill not only to repeal the controversial water rights administration fee that the Legislature enacted last year but to refund the estimated $467,000 in fees that have been collected so far. House Bill 1402, which Joint Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Brad Young, R-Lamar, introduced a week ago, was the only bill the House considered during a brief floor session Wednesday, and it unanimously passed the House today.... California Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Require Testing All Cattle for Mad Cow California would become the only state in the nation that tests every head of cattle for mad cow disease under a bill offered Thursday by a pair of Democratic state senators. State Sen. Michael Machado, D-Linden, said Californians could have a certified-safe beef supply for just pennies a pound extra under a bill he has co-authored with Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Diego....

Thursday, March 25, 2004



Kit was hoping to get out of jail yesterday and placed into the custody of Bob Jones but was instead slapped with an eight-count federal grand jury indictment accusing him of assaulting five federal agents and other charges. In the official reports the alleged counts of shoving two officers have now been changed to hitting three officers with his fists. He has also been accused of running one man down with his horse and kicking another officer and slapping another in the face with his reins.

The charges are extremely hard to believe knowing Kit and have heard his story but especially since they keep escalating with each passing day. The Justice Department attorney tried to include some unfounded allegations of harassment against USFS family members for good measure in convincing the judge to keep him locked up but thankfully, the judge didn't fall for that one since there is no evidence they occurred and it was not possible that Kit was involved from his cell. Talk about slimy, and they call it the Justice Department.

Last but not least was the fact that the attorney for the JD wanted Kit left in jail pending the last of the cattle being gathered, knowing full well that they were going to ship them last night. The Judge allowed Kit to be held until next week's appeal, yet the cattle were shipped last night. This just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. Of course the most ridiculous part is that Kit is facing about 50 years jail time for these alleged assaults and he has never been in a fight in his life that anyone knows of. Now the USFS are going around to the people who refused the contracts to gather the cattle and asking them to sign affidavits that say Kit threatened them. We know these allegations are false and they are being proven to be false yet the USFS is determined to make a case.

They will keep him in jail as long as humanly possible to make sure no one tries to buck their system again the JD attorney who kept the Canadian fellow in jail in Roswell for 2 years until a judge finally dropped all charges. This is his specialty.

Kit's appeal for release will be next week. He isn't being allowed to have his mail but I tried to write to him anyway. If anyone else wants to try, let me know I'll send the address.

Laura Schneberger

Rancher indicted for assault

A jailed Catron County rancher, in court Wednesday seeking release, was instead slapped with an eight-count federal grand jury indictment accusing him of assaulting five federal agents and other charges.
Kit Laney, 43, has been in the Doña Ana County Detention Center since March 14 following his arrest by U.S. Forest Service officers for assault and interference with law enforcement officers.
Laney was arrested, according to federal officers, after he charged them with his horse, then dismounted and tried to tear down fencing encircling his cattle. The officers and hired help were ordered to round up roughly 400 head of Laney’s cattle that were on his allotment in defiance of a court order.
If convicted on the eight charges, Laney could face a maximum of 51 years in prison and fines of more than $2.7 million.
He was in federal court in Las Cruces on Wednesday on a motion to reconsider his confinement. His attorney, federal public defender Jane Greek, had suggested Laney be released to a third party.
“Mr. Robert Jones (of Otero County) has been approved as a person who would be responsible for Mr. Laney,” Greek argued before U.S. Magistrate Karen B. Molzen. Such an arrangement would have required use of electronic monitoring.
“What we have here is essentially a man who tried to let cows out of a pen,” Greek told Molzen. “These are not the allegations of the century.
“The court said its concern was Mr. Laney returning to his ranch and interfering with Forest Service personnel. Staying with Mr. Jones on their ranch on Otero Mesa will solve the concern,” Greek said.
Federal prosecutor Gregg Wormuth argued there was nothing to indicate Laney would not return to his ranch and interfere again.
“This is a tense situation, a powder keg,” Wormuth said. “If Mr. Laney heads back to his ranch it will be trouble, and the court cannot close its eyes to that.”
Wormuth also said there had been threats to the family of Forest Service personnel, adding that the threats were under investigation and hinting they may have been made by friends of Laney.
Molzen ordered Laney to remain in jail, saying she feared he would return to his property.
“Mr. Jones is a fine man,” Molzen said in her ruling. But “I have lost faith in electronic monitoring. Until the roundup is over, Mr. Laney, I feel I cannot release you. I’m doing this to protect the community.”
Greek said she will appeal the ruling to U.S. District Court and hopes for a hearing Monday or Tuesday when U.S. District Judge John Conway of Albuquerque is in Las Cruces.
After the hearing, Jones said the decision was “insulting to the entire ranching community.”
Laney’s ex-wife, Sherry, said she was disappointed with the judge’s decision.
“I’m wondering if this is the United States,” Laney said of her ex-husband’s continued incarceration. “I thought a person was presumed innocent before a trial.”
When Laney made his first appearance in court last week, there were two charges against him: assault and interference with officers. The details of the allegations were read to the court by Charles Roe, the Forest Service case agent, who was not present when the alleged assault occurred.
In reading the description of what occurred, Roe referred to only three officers. In the latest charges, five officers claim to have been assaulted by Laney.
Greek refused comment on the indictment.

T.S. Hopkins can be reached at

Federal charges against Kit Laney:
Counts 1 and 2: Obstructed proper administration of law
Count 3: Assaulted Officer Dewayne Ross — hit with fists
Count 4: Assaulted Officer Michael Reamer — hit with fists
Count 5: Assaulted Officer Christopher Boehm — hit by horse
Count 6: Assaulted Officer Robin Thies — kicked
Count 7: Assaulted Officer Isaiah Baker — hit with reins
Count 8: Interference with officer — attempt to tear down pen

Laneys waiting on courts

Despite the fact that her husband remains in jail and after years of judicial setbacks, rancher Sherry Laney said this week she is still relying on the courts — at least for now.
The Laneys’ 400 head of cattle are being rounded up in an impoundment procedure by the U.S. Forest Service on the couple’s allotment near the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area in Catron County.
Laney said the stress of their ranching situation after losing a 1997 court case eventually led her and husband Kit to divorce. The couple has since reconciled and were living and working together on the Diamond Bar Ranch until Kit was arrested by U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers after an alleged scuffle on March 14. He remains in jail in Las Cruces after a hearing Wednesday in U.S. Magistrate Court.
The impoundment and an area closure of the 143,000 acres began earlier this month after a federal district court ruling in December found the couple in contempt of court for continuing to allow their cattle to graze on federal lands, in contravention of earlier court orders. The Laneys contend they have a fee permit interest which predates the Forest Service and which deeds them grazing and water rights.
“Shocked and outraged at the injustice of it,” is how Sherry Laney described her family’s experience and the seizure of their cattle by the Forest Service.
A brand inspector was on site Tuesday afternoon to determine if the cattle being kept at the Forest Service’s Beaverhead Station are indeed the Laney’s; but the agency should not be expecting a bill of sale from the couple any time soon.
“They have no claim to ownership of these cows,” Laney said. “And if they can sell them, the money off the cows will be mailed to the U.S. Forest Service in Silver City. But there’s a lien on the cows with a lending institution in Idaho.”
Laney complained that the Forest Service is acting illegally and has treated her and her family badly over recent weeks.
“They’ve closed down the road here, it’s like martial law,” she said. “They have 10 to 16 law enforcement officers on the road. They have harassed us ... have said we can’t set foot off our deeded land and they have chased Kit’s brother and nephew who were on horses while they were in a vehicle yelling at them with a bullhorn.
“We’ve been lied to continuously,” she continued. “Mainly by Steve Libby and Annette Chavez. Steve Libby said he would call us and he has not.”
Libby, the senior Forest Service range officer overseeing the impoundment procedures, reacted Tuesday to the charges by Sherry Laney.
“Obviously this is very stressful for everyone,” Libby said. “I know there’s a lot of anger and concern and distrust. Throughout this whole, awful ordeal we have attempted to be nothing but professional and considerate of the Laneys and their family.”
Laney claimed the Forest Service posted notification of the impoundment on their ranch gate rather than by telephone as promised.
“I didn’t call her,” Libby acknowledged. “Instead we notified her five days in advance of when we would begin the impoundment. We did that by certified letter.
“Additionally, with each batch of animals that we have taken into our control or gathered, we provided Kit and Sherry with specifics about these animals in a manner that was mutually agreed upon by them and Forest Service personnel,” he added. “And we’ve kept them current with the number of animals that we have in our control as we gather them.”
Libby also explained or refuted Laney’s other charges against the Forest Service.
“We did close the road,” he said. “We did close the area, but we’ve already explained this was necessary to provide for an efficient operation and public safety. We expect to have the road closure lifted by the end of this month, that’s our objective.
“I have to disagree that we have harassed the Laneys,” Libby continued. “We’ve tried to show them every consideration including in how we communicate with them. And they have the right to ingress and egress to their private property. To my knowledge, they were never promised more general access to the allotment.”
Libby also acknowledged there was an incident between Forest Service officials and Kit Laney’s brother and nephew, but said the matter was not one of harassment.
“There was an incident where law enforcement officers attempted to stop Kit’s brother,” Libby said. “And they just wanted to know who he was and what his business was. He refused to stop and subsequently a supervisory law enforcement officer went to the Laney residence to explain the circumstances surrounding that incident and to request future cooperation.”
Libby said the incident occurred on Forest Service property. The Gila National Forest normally has only three agents to monitor the 3.3 million-acre wilderness, but nearly a dozen more have been brought in from other forests on a rotating basis to deal with the impoundment and area closure.

Thomas J. Baird can be reached at

Judge Keeps Rancher in Jail

LAS CRUCES— Rancher Kit Laney remained behind bars Wednesday after a federal judge refused a second request to release him pending a trial on charges that he assaulted Forest Service officers.
Federal Magistrate Judge Karen Molzen said she remained concerned that Laney would return to his Diamond Bar grazing allotment in the Gila National Forest and try to disrupt a court-ordered roundup of his cattle.
The original two charges against the southwestern New Mexico cattleman multiplied when a grand jury on Tuesday handed down an eight-count indictment, including two counts of obstruction of justice, five counts of assaulting and interfering with federal officers and employees and one count of interfering with a court order.
The charges stem largely from a March 14 incident in the Gila, when Laney is suspected of charging his horse at Forest Service law enforcement officers and pushing several as he tried to tear down a corral holding his impounded cattle.
A U.S. District Court judge last year ordered the cattle rounded up from the Diamond Bar allotment where Laney grazed them without a permit and later found him in contempt of court.
Molzen refused at Laney's initial March 16 detention hearing to release him on bond. Molzen said she considered him a potential danger to Forest Service officers during the controversial cattle roundup, expected to last several more weeks.
On Wednesday, assistant federal public defender Jane Greek asked Molzen to consider releasing Laney to a third-party. She recommended Otero County rancher Bob Jones, a former president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association and a former member of the state Game Commission.
Jones said his remote ranch on Otero Mesa in southeastern New Mexico is more than a six-hour drive east of the Diamond Bar.
Molzen, citing Laney's earlier statements that he would not interfere with the roundup, said she was not confident that the rancher would stay away from the Diamond Bar allotment and the roundup.
"I may be mistaken. Nobody said judges are perfect," Molzen said to the rancher, his ankles shackled and his wrists handcuffed to a chain around his waist. "But I'm doing this to protect the community and to protect you."
Greek, who said the charges against Laney did not constitute "the allegation of the century," said she would appeal Molzen's decision. The magistrate said she would try to schedule another hearing before a federal judge as early as next week.
Sherry Farr, Laney's ranching partner and ex-wife, said she suspected that the judge's tough stance was based on the fact that Laney was found in contempt of an earlier federal court order not to graze cattle on the Diamond Bar allotment.
Still, Farr said she was "shocked"' by the judge's ruling.
"Is this America where you are innocent until proven guilty? It sure doesn't seem like it," Farr said.
Referring to the March 14 altercation, Farr said: "One unarmed man against four law enforcement officers armed to the teeth and he's a danger to them?"
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Wormuth argued strenuously against Laney's release, saying that Jones, who is also president of a private property rights group called the Paragon Foundation, was not "impartial enough" to be a custodian of the rancher.
Wormuth also said Laney did not appear to respect the court's authority to remove cattle from the Diamond Bar because Laney continues to talk about fighting the case.
One of the new obstruction charges against the rancher stems from his March 12 filing of a criminal complaint in Magistrate Court against the Forest Service contractor rounding up Laney's cattle.
"They are still fighting this case, which is over by all legal means," Wormuth said, "and I don't think they've come to grips with that."
The Forest Service on Tuesday publicly advertised its intent to sell 251 of Laney's cattle.

Editorial: Grazing Hot Air Is Renewable Resource

If cattle could graze on hyperbole, Catron County would be an economic miracle. The hot air is generated by radicals at either end of the issue of public lands use.
Speaking from the right, the Catron County Commission on Monday declared that environmentalists are "slowly destroying our public lands."
The blast was prompted by the latest chapter in the sad saga of Kit Laney. He and his now ex-wife Sherry Farr started a cattle operation in the Gila National Forest with the expectation they could run enough cattle to make it pay.
Ledger-sheet health and rangeland health, however, don't necessarily coincide. In the interests of the latter, the Forest Service reduced by almost 75 percent the number of cattle Laney could run, putting the Diamond-Bar Ranch, as the County Commission put it, at the point of financial ruin.
The commission blames environmentalists. "For the past 20 years, the U.S. Forest Service has been held hostage by extreme environmental groups, ... whereas ranchers are the actual stewards of the land and have been for generations." Local ranchers' herds have been reduced by 25,000 head in the last decade, the commission asserted.
That's about as skewed as the old environmentalist battle cry "cattle-free by ¹93." According to Forest Service officials, herds clear across the Gila have been cut from 25,737 to 17,135 -- a reduction of 8,602 in 10 years.
Many ranchers are the best stewards they know how to be of the rangelands that sustain their families. But public land is the business of the public. Public land managers have to listen to a public that includes environmentalists and make decisions in the interest of the land's long-term health. That doesn't make them hostages.
Tighter regulation was part of the ranching business that wasn't factored into Laney's plans. But when, instead of cutting his losses, he asserted a right to run cattle on public lands without a permit, without regulation, he moved outside the realm of bad business judgment to futile political statement.
That -- not environmentalists -- is why the feds rounded up his cows.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Mine Project Is No Jewel for Tiffany & Co. When Tiffany & Co. takes out a newspaper advertisement, the famous jewelry store is usually spotlighting one of its upscale sparklers -- some really fine diamond drop earrings for $200,000, say. But Tiffany took the Bush administration and the mining industry by surprise yesterday with its advocacy ad in The Washington Post. Michael J. Kowalski, chairman of the board and chief executive of Tiffany & Co., took out the ad to publish an open letter to U.S. Forest Service chief Dale Bosworth, criticizing the planned Rock Creek copper and silver mining project in Montana as unsafe for the environment and wildlife. The Revett Silver Co. would tunnel under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in Kootenai National Forest. The Forest Service has "approved the Rock Creek project in concept despite vehement opposition by a coalition of local, regional and national conservation groups, along with local business representatives, public officials and ordinary citizens. The opponents fears are justified," Kowalski wrote in the ad. " . . . Other disputes of this nature . . . are too often settled in favor of developers because statutes and department regulations tilt that way." He called for an revision of the 1872 General Mining Act....NOTE: The ALRA put out an email alert on this topic today, but as of this evening it hasn't been posted to their website.... Forests OK road plans for grizzly habitat area Supervisors on the Kootenai, Idaho Panhandle and Lolo national forests have signed off on forest plan amendments to guide motorized access in the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk grizzly bear recovery areas. The changes are expected to provide greater flexibility for providing roadless habitat and managing roads in defined "bear management units." But environmental groups have been deeply critical of that flexibility and are likely to sue the forests.... Trespassers caught during lion hunt Authorities didn't bag any mountain lions in Sabino Canyon Wednesday, but they did nab two trespassers who they said were trying to dismantle lion traps. State and federal law enforcement officials said they apprehended two of three trespassers that they spotted on a ridgetop early Wednesday afternoon, about a mile up the canyon from the canyon visitors center. Authorities used binoculars to spot the trespassers, then went on foot with a helicopter pilot acting as a guide to find them.... DNR removes wolf from list of threatened animals The gray wolf, once hunted until it became but a rumor in Wisconsin's forests, was removed Wednesday from the state's list of threatened animals by the Natural Resources Board. The number of wolves in Wisconsin has climbed steadily under a recovery program overseen by the agency. The wolf did much of the work on its own after it was placed on both the state and federal endangered species lists. Animals, nearly wiped out by trapping and poisoning in the 1950s, started moving again into the state's protected wild lands, mostly from Minnesota. Recent population counts show their numbers at about 335.... Feds take another look at Preble's meadow jumping mouse The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reassess whether the Preble's meadow jumping mouse should continue to receive federal protection, officials announced Wednesday. The mouse, found mostly along waterways and only in Colorado and Wyoming, was listed as threatened in 1998. Designation of critical habitat for the rodent has delayed construction of government buildings and housing projects, and restricted typical farm-and-ranch operations such as haying and weed control. The state of Wyoming filed a 110-page petition in December after scientists at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science determined that the jumping mouse is genetically indistinguishable from a common type of mouse found extensively in the western United States.... Fish go 'ping' in the deep Wildlife biologists on land do it. Now marine biologist Charles Greene is spearheading a plan to help marine scientists do it too. Dr. Greene and more than a dozen colleagues from across the United States are laying the groundwork for a multimillion-dollar observatory here to track whales, dolphins, tuna, marlin, sea turtles, and a vast menagerie of other open-ocean creatures as they ply the waters off the big island of Hawaii. The observatory would turn up to 500 cubic kilometers (119 cubic miles) of ocean into the world's largest aquarium and give scientists their most comprehensive peek yet into marine life.... Rounds plans to sue Corps over new Missouri River plan Gov. Mike Rounds wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do more than just promise to try to manage the Missouri River so that fish spawning in the river's reservoirs is protected during April and May each year. Rounds said Tuesday that the State of South Dakota will ask a federal judge to order the Corps to set specific targets and outline detailed steps regarding the reservoirs' fisheries in its new Missouri River master manual and annual operating plan.... Desert expansion for Army OK'd The Army can expand its tank-training center in the San Bernardino County desert if it sets aside land and installs other protective measures for the threatened desert tortoise and an endangered plant, federal wildlife officials said Wednesday. The long-awaited decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the latest in the 19 years of politically charged debate between the military and environmentalists over what became known as "tanks vs. tortoises." Because the tortoise and the Lane Mountain milk-vetch are listed on the federal endangered species list, the Army needed a ruling by the wildlife agency stating its expansion would not "jeopardize" the existence of the two species or "adversely modify" their habitat.... Editorial: Why promote U.S. parks only to cut key services? Last month, the federal government launched a campaign to woo visitors from home and abroad to the USA's 387 national parks. Officials saw the park promotion as a way to spark tourism, which has dropped by more than 13 million visits since 2001. Yet that same month, a National Park Service (NPS) official ordered parks in 12 Northeastern states to come up with service cuts to stay within a tight budget. While belt tightening is to be expected in an era of skyrocketing federal deficits, the suggestions could threaten some parks' most popular lures. Among the proposals: cutting lifeguards, eliminating guided ranger tours and closing on Sundays, a prime day for visitors.... Column: Parks are in good shape Each year, national parks welcome some 270 million visitors. They give the parks high marks — an approval rating of 96%. With strong funding and management support, the Bush administration is helping our parks maintain this outstanding record. Despite claims in a recent critical report by the National Parks Conservation Association, funding for our parks is at an all-time high. Since 1980, parks have benefited from a 121% increase in operations funding — not a reduction, as the report claims.... Column: Cost-cutting and spin at national parks Depending on whom you believe, the nation's parks are either victims of "willful neglect" on the part of the Bush administration, or National Park Service managers are squandering the generous funding bequeathed to the agency by Congress on unauthorized building projects and needless trips abroad. Whatever the case, internal agency e-mails suggest that budget shortfalls may lead to visitors’ being greeted by uncut grass, shuttered visitor centers and canceled guided ranger tours when they arrive at their favorite park this year, assuming that the place is open at all.... Groups That Exposed NPS Cover-Up of Park Cuts Say Bush Team "Dropped The Ball" on Nearly $100 Million, Possibly More in Park Funds The Bush Administration's Department of the Interior is demonstrating "deliberate disregard" in its management of the national parks by failing in recent years to seek at least $87.5 million and as much as $170 million from Congress to offset costs to the National Park Service (NPS) for natural disasters, mandated employee pay increases and homeland security burdens, according to the two groups - the nonpartisan Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees and the nonprofit Campaign to Protect America's Lands (CPAL) - that made public on March 17, 2004, internal NPS memos urging park superintendents to make major park cuts and then to mislead the public and the news media about the cutbacks.... BLM pulls plug on selling acreage for oil, gas leases The Bureau of Land Management has suspended a controversial decision to auction off more than 45,000 acres of public land for oil and gas leases near Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah after environmental groups filed protests. A total of 55 leaseable parcels near the monument, which straddles the northwest corner of Colorado and the northeast tip of Utah, are on hold until BLM officials decide whether the protests are legitimate, said Dwayne Spencer, chief fluid mineral officer of the Colorado BLM. The BLM should issue its decision within a couple months, Spencer said.... Poison gas kills five bison in Yellowstone Five bison have died after being exposed to poison gas in a geyser basin in Yellowstone National Park. The dead animals were discovered March 10 in the Norris Geyser Basin. They probably had been dead about a week, the National Park Service announced Tuesday. The bison probably succumbed to a combination of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide emitted by nearby thermal features.... No Happy Trail in Desert Tale A range war has broken out between environmentalists and off-road motorcyclists over an illegal 3-mile dirt trail that cuts through prehistoric burial grounds and runs past a cave believed to have been used by Native Americans. The motorcyclists say they are finding booby-traps on the foot-wide trail — piano wire stretched taut a few inches above the ground, roofing nails, and pipes camouflaged with brush — designed to topple motorcyclists who regard the Cottonwood Springs area of Juniper Flats as a scenic riding route. Environmentalists, led by members of a local residents group, Friends of Juniper Flats, have denied any responsibility for the alleged acts of sabotage. But they, and some former federal land managers, say motorcyclists have cut property fences, "burning trails" on private property, and trashed what they consider the culturally rich site designated as an "area of critical environmental concern" by the federal Bureau of Land Management.... Court allows Interior computers to go online; Trust account information at heart of recent trouble A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has issued a stay temporarily rescinding a court order that had resulted in the shutdown this week of hundreds of Department of Interior computers in Billings. Dan DuBray, spokesman for the department, said he is not sure when thousands of computers nationwide will be up and running again. Some have been shut down for more than a week, but the stay was issued late Wednesday.... Wyoming witness cut off at hearing Marjorie West's voice cracked as she described the damage that coalbed methane producers caused on her ranch on Spotted Horse Creek in the Powder River Basin, but her emotion did not change the minds of lawmakers at a Senate committee hearing Wednesday. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., stopped her testimony as she was describing how the iron-rich water from a well that a coalbed methane producer drilled for her family gave them diarrhea and turned their clothes orange. West, unlike the other people called before the committee, is not an old hand at testifying before congressional panels and Inhofe was in no mood to indulge her.... Bush, Kerry, and green differences As George Bush and John Kerry circle each other warily in the early days of the presidential campaign, focusing mainly on war and economic recovery, there's another issue that could make the key difference in a close race. It's the environment. There are dramatic differences in tone and approach between the presumptive candidates here. As a result, the issue is more politically significant than it has been since former Interior Secretary James Watt's pyrotechnic presence early in the Reagan administration 20 years ago.... Indian groups speak out against Bush appeals court nominee Leading American Indian groups Wednesday strongly protested President Bush's nomination of William G. Myers III to the federal appeals court, contending the former Interior Department lawyer has shown disrespect for Indian lands and rights.... Baucus lacks key support on ban Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe won't support Max Baucus' effort to prohibit drilling in the Rocky Mountain Front. Inhofe, who is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Baucus frequently work together, but they do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to the Rocky Mountain Front. On Wednesday, Inhofe held a hearing to examine the environmental impact of natural gas production. Although development of the Rocky Mountain Front did not come up, Inhofe and his aides were clear about where he stands on the issue.... Demos work toward success in West Some prominent former Democratic elected officials in the Rocky Mountain states and Alaska announced plans Wednesday to form a new group aimed at putting the region back in the Democratic column after several decades of Republican rule. Former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., is one of 13 founding committee members of Democrats for the West, a group seeking to restore Democrats to power in the eight Rocky Mountain States and Alaska. The group, created with the support of state Democratic parties in the region, aims to unite Democrats across state lines, enhance state party efforts and share ideas and resources.... Animas-La Plata dam threatened A key senator threatened to cut funding for the Animas-La Plata dam in mid-construction if the federal agency building it can't contain costs. "I want to complete this project in a reasonable manner," Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said Wednesday. "But a reasonable manner doesn't mean these cost overruns - or else we'll stop this project in the middle." Domenici has been one of the biggest backers of the ALP dam, which would tap the free-flowing Animas River near Durango. But he says his patience has been tested by a 50 percent surge in costs reported last summer.... Guess who's coming to protest? A decade ago, Karl Rappold, whose family was ranching in Montana before it was a state, would sooner spit than call himself an environmentalist. Today he's still not about to join any greenie groups - but with gas drilling threatening to foul the crystalline waters that gush from the Rockies onto his spread, he is arm-in-arm with a coalition of ranchers and environmental groups that aim to stop the drilling. Whether he likes it or not, Mr. Rappold is part of the new face of the American environmental movement - millions of Americans who may not call themselves environmentalists or belong to big-name green groups, but who might just sport a "What Would Jesus Drive?" bumper sticker or battle a local toxic-waste dump. For example, the number of environmental organizations with more than $1 million in annual income fell by nearly half - from 280 to 151 - during the period from 1995 to 2003, the IRS says. Meanwhile, 4,247 smaller environmental groups (up to $1 million in income) were created - a 51 percent increase. "What we've seen is the growth in the environmental movement shifting away from large-scale national groups," says Robert Brulle, a Drexel University sociologist who tracks environmental groups through IRS data.... Wool contract raises ruckus A contract calling for berets made of 100 percent Australian wool for Iraqi security forces is unfair to American wool producers, Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said in a March 19 letter to President Bush. "The contract's parameters have put American producers at a distinct disadvantage by specifying that the berets be made of 100 percent Australian wool. Such preferential treatment is not only unfair but is a serious concern that deserves immediate attention," Daschle wrote.... Speller says he's pushing U.S. for wide open trade on cattle Agriculture Minister Bob Speller says his U.S. counterpart assured him Wednesday that a decision on resuming the live cattle trade will be based on science, not politics. But it's still unclear how long a decision will take. A public comment period on dropping the U.S. ban is due to end April 7 and American officials will have to review what they've received. "All indications are, in fact, that they should be able to reopen that border" when the review is finished, said Speller....

I've just received a report that all the cattle, except three head, are gone. The remaining three head apparently are not Laney cattle. Four trucks were seen passing through Cuchillo, NM at about 8:30 this evening. My sources do not know where the cattle were shipped. There are still more cattle to be gathered....I don't have a count on how many are left.

Rancher Accused Of Assault Denied Bond

A judge has again denied bond for a southern New Mexico rancher accused of assaulting federal officers who were helping to remove his cattle from public lands.

Kit Laney, 43, was arrested March 14 and charged with assault on a peace officer, obstruction of a court order and intimidation.

He was accused of trying to trample federal officers with his horse and trying to release some of his livestock.

Public defender Jane Greek for Laney had asked U.S. Magistrate Karen Molzen to release Laney to the custody of an Otero County man under the conditions that Laney wear an electronic monitor.

Federal prosecutors asked that bail be denied at least until all of the cattle are rounded up.

Last Tuesday, a judge denied bond for the rancher.

Greek says she will appeal the judge's decision to deny bail.

Catron commissioners jump into Laney dispute

Dana L. Bowley El Defensor Chieftain Editor

The Catron County Commission has weighed in on the Diamond Bar Ranch case on the side of owners Kit and Sherry Laney, charging that environmental groups are controlling the U.S. Forest Service and "slowly destroying our public lands."

In related developments: Clint Wellborn, District Attorney for the 7th Judicial District, has complained that to gain public support the Forest Service "intentionally misrepresented" a letter he sent to Catron County Sheriff Cliff Snyder about an aspect of the case; and Sherry Laney has asked the couple's supporters to "keep their protests and attitudes peaceful."

The Laneys and the Forest Service are involved in a decade-old dispute over grazing on the 146,000-acre Diamond Bar in the Gila and Aldo Leopold wilderness areas of southern Catron County. The Laneys claim ownership of the land and water rights based on claims of title dating to the late 1880s, before the Forest Service existed. The Forest Service claims the land and water rights belong to the government, and the Laneys need a permit to graze their cattle on the allotment — permits the Forest Service has denied them since 1996. Several court rulings have backed the Forest Service, but the Laneys have refused to remove their cattle from the land.

Two weeks ago, working under court order, the Forest Service started moving personnel onto the land to begin rounding up and confiscating the cattle. The Laneys had vowed not to interfere with the roundup or the Forest Service actions, instead continuing to press their claims in court. But on March 14, Kit Laney was arrested by Forest Service law enforcement officers after he allegedly charged them on horseback, hitting at least one worker and causing damage to the temporary holding pen.

Laney said he was responding to reports the cattle were being mistreated and wanted to check on their condition. He denied assaulting anyone. As of Monday, Laney remained in jail in Las Cruces, facing several charges.

The round up is expected to be completed this week.

The Catron commission's position was outlined in a press release issued Monday and authorized by all three commissioners. It is the first time commissioners have taken a public stance on the case.

In the release, the commission charged that the Forest Service had reneged on promises and written agreements with the Laneys, who, it said, had invested their life savings, inheritance and lives on a ranch that was largely dependent on the Forest Service grazing permit.

The release said the Forest Service reneged because of pressure from environmental groups.

The release quotes District 1 Commissioner Rufus Choate as saying, "For the past 20 years, the U.S. Forest Service has been held hostage by extreme environmental groups in the name of protection of the environment, whereas ranchers are the actual stewards of the land and have been for generations. These groups who claim to be champions of the environment are slowly destroying our public lands."

The release said more than 200,000 acres in the county have been destroyed by catastrophic wildfires, those with temperatures of 2,000 degrees and above, because environmental groups' lawsuits have prevent forest restoration projects.

It also claims that in the past 10 years, county ranchers have lost grazing rights for more than 25,000 head of cattle, costing the county more than $1 million a year in revenues.

"Environmentalists are trying to make our public lands one use only — their use," Commission Chairman Ed Wehrheim is quoted as saying. "The Catron County Commission feels that the Laneys and other Catron County ranchers are victims of this power struggle between environmental groups and the American public that has the right to use these lands.

"We are the true environmentalist's here," Wehrheim said. "We are here to protect the environment now and for generations to come."

The release said Catron County intends to take every legal means possible to defend multiple use of public land.

Meanwhile, in a strongly worded four-page letter to Forest Service Supervisor Marcia Andre in Silver City, Wellborn said he is "frustrated" that the Forest Service continues to portray the Feb. 5 letter he wrote to Snyder as "an opinion of the District Attorney."

Snyder had asked Wellborn, whose district includes Catron County, questions about the confiscation of the cattle and responsibility for enforcing state Livestock Board regulations regarding the inspection of cattle and brands before the cattle could be moved out of the county.

In his response, Wellborn told Snyder that the gathering of the cattle appeared to be being conducted pursuant to a valid federal court order. He also said the Attorney General's Office told him the Livestock Board was working with the Forest Service to assure compliance with the state cattle-inspection laws.

In that letter, Wellborn also cautioned Snyder against interfering with the execution of the court order because it could expose him to possible arrest by federal marshals.

In his letter to the Forest Service, dated March 11, Wellborn complained that the agency, without his permission or knowledge, was characterizing the Snyder letter as a formal opinion supporting the legality of the court order and Forest Service action, and had even posted it on the Forest Service Web site. He said the way the agency has portrayed the "opinion," it has implied he has reviewed the matter and consulted with the Forest Service.

Among his complaints to the agency, Wellborn said opinions by district attorneys do not carry any authority, such as one by an attorney general might, and that in any case he was not offering an opinion on the merits or legality of the case against the Laneys, only that the court order appeared to have been lawfully issued. Further, he said, the purpose of the letter to Snyder was to address the question of inspection of livestock, and was not intended as an opinion on any legal issues related to the case.

The Forest Service's use of the letter to Snyder, Wellborn wrote, was done "without my knowledge or consent. It is my belief that the Forest Service has intentionally misrepresented the nature and purpose of my letter in an effort to gain public support and justify their actions."

Wellborn went on to say that while he still would not comment on the merits of the case, "Since the Forest Service is interested in my official 'opinion,' I felt it necessary to clarify my position." He then proceeds to offer his opinions on the issues related to the inspection and transportation of the Laney cattle. Among them:

-- The Forest Service must obey New Mexico law regarding seizure, inspection and transportation of the cattle. That law includes inspection of brands before livestock is transported out of the county to protect owners from having the wrong animals taken.

-- That the Livestock Board is not required to assist in carrying out the court order or to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Forest Service.

-- That the Livestock Board has improperly entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Forest Service by allowing the executive director to enter into the agreement without a vote of the full board taken in open meeting after taking public comment.

-- That the Livestock Board should be "very cautious about putting brand inspectors in a position where they have to rely on the credibility of the United States Forest Service. From my perspective, the Forest Service has very little credibility after the events that led me to write this letter."

Wellborn concludes that this letter should not be used "as authority or precedence regarding anything involved in this situation."

In another development, Sherry Laney has urged the couple's supporters to use only legal, peaceful means to protest the Forest Service action.

In a press release issued Saturday, while her husband sat in a Las Cruces jail, Sherry Laney said Forest Service personnel are claiming harassment by Laney supporters, including threats and efforts at intimidation.

"Neither Kit nor I will ever condone any threats or intimidating tactics made in our name," she said, suggesting those engaging in such activities might be opponents posing as supporters and trying to cause problems for the Laneys.

"People who believe in us, and believe in Kit, will keep their protests and attitudes peaceful," she said. "Anyone who refuses to do so is not acting in our behalf."

In the release, she defends her husband and says anyone who knows him knows he is not capable of the actions the Forest Service claims.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


Group has issue with road-closure neglect The Targhee National Forest has been accused of failing to enforce road closures to preserve grizzly bear habitat in eastern Idaho under the Endangered Species Act. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition put the U.S. Forest Service on notice this week that it will go to court if changes are not made in the bear management units near Island Park, Henrys Lake and the west slope of the Teton Range. The Forest Service rejected the charge. Targhee National Forest managers said 380 miles of roads in the area have been effectively closed with earthen berms and gates and grass and shrubs are growing on closed-off trails.... Bush admin. eases logging restrictions The Bush administration on Tuesday eased restrictions on logging old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, completing a rules change that will allow forest managers to begin logging without first looking for rare plants and animals. Instead, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management will rely on information provided by Washington, Oregon and California to decide whether to allow logging, controlled forest fires, and trail- or campground-building, agency spokesman Rex Holloway said. The change was prompted by a timber industry lawsuit and is intended to increase logging on 24 million acres of public land.... Decision upheld on dams in Emigrant After three months of consideration, Regional Forester Jack Blackwell released his decision yesterday: Keep 11 rock-and-mortar check dams in the Emigrant Wilderness and allow seven to erode. The verdict upholds Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn's identical decision, made in December.... Three forests join in plan to attack non-native weeds A draft plan to attack noxious weeds before they take over parts of northern Arizona’s national forests envisions treating weeds on 119,000 acres annually for as long as a decade. Forest officials estimate that non-native weeds have spread from fewer than 5,000 acres on the three forests in 1985 to more than 187,000 acres today, pushing out native plants as they multiply.... Cougar capture attempts expected to start today Arizona Game & Fish Department officials plan to begin laying cable snares and using tracking dogs in Sabino Canyon today in hopes of capturing mountain lions that may pose a threat to humans. Details had yet to be finalized for hiring a helicopter to lift the big cats out of the popular recreation area northeast of Tucson, potentially delaying the hunt in more remote areas, Game & Fish regional director Gerry Perry said during a news conference yesterday afternoon.... Governor holds up airlifting of lions Gov. Janet Napolitano delayed the airlift of Sabino Canyon mountain lions for at least a day when she refused Monday to allow state game officials to use a National Guard helicopter to take the lions, once captured, from the canyon to a rehabilitation center.... Wolves raise pack of concerns Outfitter Ray Heid knows the snowy mountains around his ranch may soon be home to wolves moving south from Wyoming. In this tiny town north of Steamboat Springs, these mountains are also where he makes his living, taking families on summer horseback trips through the sun- dappled aspen and guiding hunters into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness each fall. So, like many Western Slope residents, Heid is uneasy that old foes are once more close at hand and that state officials are only now asking for advice on how to manage them.... Colorado Takes On The Wolf Debate Wolves would likely consider Rocky Mountain National Park a little bit of heaven, though not for the quite the same reason tourists do. The elk population in the park and the entire Estes Valley has exploded. Imagine Rocky Mountain National Park without its trademark aspen trees. Imagine aspen forests turned into tree-less meadows. That is what the constantly foraging elk are doing to the park. The park is considering a variety of methods to reduce the elk population -- including the reintroduction of wolves. The state of Colorado is about to start holding public meetings as it tries to draft a statewide management plan for wolves.... Column: Listen to the birds Today, birds are warning us once again, only on a much larger scale. A recent report from the conservation group Birdlife International has found that one in eight of the world's bird species is facing extinction and one-third are at risk. It's the first time that one paper has brought together status reports of bird populations worldwide for a true global analysis. The findings are pretty grim. More than 1,200 bird species face extinction, with some 200 on the critical list.... River plan violates Endangered Species Act, Interior claims The new plan for operating the Missouri River does not comply with the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Department of the Interior said in a letter released Tuesday. The letter is significant because an Interior Department agency -- the Fish and Wildlife Service -- must sign off on river operations. The Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to put the new plan in place. In finalizing its new Missouri River guidebook, the corps said Friday it won't create a more seasonal ebb and flow to sustain fish and birds, as the wildlife service previously ordered.... Political Shades of Green Clash The bitter wrangle over immigration now threatening to topple the leadership of the Sierra Club has exposed a rift in the nation's environmental movement itself and placed prominent conservationists, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a founder of Earth Day, in opposing camps. At the dawn of the modern environmental movement four decades ago, conservationists widely embraced the goal of global population control. They still do. But as they confront the prospect of a 50% increase in the U.S. population by mid-century — mostly composed of immigrants and their children — they are bitterly divided over whether to call for immigration restrictions.... Agencies Sign Agreements to Continue Species Protection The departments of Agriculture, Interior and Commerce announced they have signed agreements to implement new regulations announced in December that will expedite fuels reduction and other forest health projects while ensuring the protection of threatened and endangered species. Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies are required to consult with either Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Commerce's NOAA Fisheries whenever they authorize, fund or carry out an action that may adversely affect a listed species or its designated habitat. The new regulations will improve the process by allowing trained biologists within these federal agencies to make the initial determination of whether there is likely to be an adverse effect.... Scientists testing national park snow for pollution Like little kids saving for summer, scientists are packing blocks of snow from national parks throughout the West into freezers to test it for pollution. The National Park Service began the study two years ago and is scheduled to conclude it in 2007. The goal is determining whether airborne pollutants have fouled national treasures that many people believe are unspoiled. "It's really sort of a mystery we're trying to solve," said Dixon Landers, the lead scientist in a multidisciplinary research team working on the Western Airborne Contaminants Assessment Project.... Appeals filed over Phoenix Mine Great Basin Mine Watch and Western Shoshone Defense Project are appealing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's approval of Newmont Mining Corp.'s Phoenix gold and copper mining project. The two environmental organizations are asking BLM's state director, Bob Abbey, to put the Battle Mountain project on hold and to review the agency's decision approving Phoenix.... Feinstein Opposes Nominee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a pivotal member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, disclosed Tuesday that she would vote against President Bush's choice of William G. Myers III for a seat on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — a move likely to trigger a filibuster of the nomination. Howard Gantman, an aide to Feinstein, said the senator reached her decision after thoroughly reviewing Myers' record as a lawyer representing mining and cattle interests. Environmental organizations have led opposition to Myers, saying his record includes numerous attacks on federal environmental laws.... Editorial: No Pal of the Environment In nominating William G. Myers III for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, President Bush is seeking to elevate a lawyer who has worked vigorously for private firms in opposing environmental protection. That alone should give pause. But there's more. Federal judges should have all the facts before passing judgment. During two years as the chief lawyer in Bush's Interior Department, Myers prodded two congressmen to draft a special-interest bill that would have given away to a private firm federal land near Sacramento worth hundreds of millions of dollars. This was at a time when Myers' job was to safeguard federal resources for the public. Instead, guided by knee-jerk property-rights views, he eagerly championed the company's claim that it owned the eight acres. The deal collapsed only when Interior agents in the Folsom office produced readily available documents conclusively proving that the government owned the land, embarrassing the department into pulling its support for the company's legislation.... State Sponsored Cattle Rustling: BLM Targets Two More NV Counties Several ranchers have been notified that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and/or the National Park Service (NPS) may again try to impound cattle from Nevada ranges. The cattle are running at large upon historic open range ranches of Nevada or lands claimed by the Western Shoshone Indians under the Ruby Valley Treaty. Earlier this month the BLM was on the radio and in the regional press announcing their intentions. Impoundment Notices have also been posted in local newspapers and post offices....High court ruling in Everglades case pleases both sides Water managers eventually might have to get costly federal permits for their pumps that pollute the Everglades -- but not just yet, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. In an 8-1 decision that left both sides claiming victory, the justices said a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale acted too hastily when he ordered the South Florida Water Management District to seek permits for pumps in western Broward County. But the Supreme Court also rejected one of the district's prime legal arguments -- that its pumps cannot be blamed for moving water that's already polluted. That caused environmentalists and the Miccosukee Indian tribe to predict they'll win when the case returns to a South Florida courtroom for further argument.... Grass roots force hearing on U.N. treaty The highly controversial United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty, which was on a fast track toward ratification by the U.S. Senate, has been temporarily checked though not derailed. In response to a groundswell of well-informed opposition both on Capitol Hill and from the grass roots, a hearing on the LOST (Treaty Doc. 103-39) is scheduled for today before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Chairman Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who heads the 19-member committee, says there's an obligation to ensure the treaty "does not adversely affect the sovereignty of the United States," and advises taking time to "slow down and take a critical evaluation of this Convention that deals with the Outer Continental Shelf, which is in the jurisdiction of this Committee.".... Lake Hattie at low levels Water levels at Lake Hattie, a popular recreation reservoir, have fallen 31 feet in the past five years. The lake was 74 feet deep in 1999, but by last October, it was 43 feet, according to state measurements. "It's sad," said Mike Hickerson, who owns a small home near the lake. "This is a natural beauty that we are just letting go to a pond. It's like a mud puddle." Officials say drought is to blame and that Lake Hattie's low priority water rights make it difficult to allocate more water from the Laramie River.... Battle Grows over Naming Places of Origin for What Americans Eat Country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, sounds simple enough: Tell consumers where the food comes from and then let them choose. People consistently say they'd be willing to pay more for a U.S. product. Trouble is, nobody's sure how much more. And with millions -- possibly billions -- of dollars in added labeling, record-keeping and processing costs, some sectors in the nation's sprawling food industry don't want to take the chance. "It could well prove to be a very expensive gamble," said Matt Brockman, executive vice president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, which supports a voluntary labeling program.... Cloud-seeding permit approved: License for weather-modification program to expire in 2008 When the storm clouds gather, Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District will be seeding them. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation approved a permit granting the water district authority to continue its weather-modification program for the next four years. The permit will expire March 13, 2008.... Judge sides with Tyson Foods to reject $1.28 billion award Tyson Foods, the world's largest meat processor, persuaded a federal judge to deny $1.28 billion in damages a jury awarded to more than 35,000 cattle ranchers after finding they were victims of price manipulation. U.S. District Judge Lyle Strom, who presided at last month's trial in Montgomery, Ala., yesterday rejected the jurors' award, saying the amount was "overstated" because it reflected potential damages for all ranchers who sold cattle between 1994 and 2002, not just ranchers in the suit.... Squirrel shooters spurn Humane Society protest More than a hundred farmers, ranchers, hunters and shooting enthusiasts turned out last weekend for the 13th annual Surprise Valley Squirrel Roundup, despite a protest from the Humane Society chapter in Redding. A letter from the Humane Society said the event that centers on shooting of ground squirrels in fields and pastures is not only distasteful, but may violate California law....