Friday, May 21, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Jumbo Boeing 747 Reworked to Fight Fires The first jumbo jet converted for use as a tanker in fighting forest fires could be ready for service by July, an aviation company said. The Boeing 747 could carry 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, 10 times as much as a conventional propeller tanker, Evergreen International Aviation said Thursday. The jet was converted over the past year and has made about 50 test flights in Arizona, the McMinnville, Ore.-based company said. The jet still needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.... Roadless rule still alive after court allows appeal to progress In July 2003, U.S. District Judge Clarence A. Brimmer in Cheyenne struck down the rule, saying it illegally created wilderness areas and violated other federal laws. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, interpreted Brimmer's decision as a permanent injunction, while environmentalists argue it is temporary since the case is being appealed. Eight conservation groups took the matter to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the federal government chose not to appeal. The state of Wyoming, which brought the original suit, argued that the environmentalists cannot appeal the decision because they were not original parties in the litigation. In a two-paragraph order issued May 11 in Denver by deputy clerk Kathleen T. Clifford, the 10th Circuit Court deferred any decision on the groups' legal standing, instead allowing a yet-to-be-assigned three-judge panel settle the matter.... Senate puts nail in fee demo coffin Through unanimous consent on the Senate floor, a bill was passed that would reauthorize the National Recreation Fee Demonstration Program for the National Park Service but allow it to expire on Dec. 31, 2005, for the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. The House is considering a bill that is the polar opposite of what the Senate passed. The House bill, which hasn't yet been voted on, would grant permanent authorization for the fee demo program for all agencies.... Court Hears Arguments in Mo. River Case Critics and backers of a policy keeping the Missouri River at consistent depths, rather than allowing a spring high and a summer low, made their cases to a federal judge Friday. Shippers and southern river states argue that maintaining consistent depths on the river is vital to barge traffic. Environmentalists, tourism backers and northern states say the ebb and flow of the river is necessary to protect endangered species and encourage outdoor activities.... Grouse habitat holding back gas production Sage grouse habitat is hampering natural gas production in Bowman County and could threaten its future, an industry official says. The federal Bureau of Land Management is restricting companies from drilling within two miles of grouse leks between mid-April and mid-June, said Lynn Helms, director of the state Industrial Commission's oil and gas division. A lek is an area where male grouse dance to attract mates. The BLM is proposing to expand the restriction to three miles, between April 1 and June 30, Helms said.... Northern Nevada left off proposed land-purchase list For the first time, northern Nevada has been left off a proposed list to buy environmentally sensitive lands with money from large sales of public lands in southern Nevada. In the upcoming fifth round of public sales, all four parcels that would be bought with the proceeds are located in Clark County. And most of the money for land acquisitions would be used to buy a casino — another first.... Putin promises to 'speed up' Kyoto ratification President Vladimir Putin saved the Kyoto climate change pact from extinction yesterday and stunned environmentalists by saying Russia would ratify it. His announcement will allow the United Nations treaty to become legally binding and leaves America looking isolated on the world stage as an environmental sinner. Ending months of speculation, Mr Putin said Moscow would lend the pact its support despite advice from his own chief economic adviser to give it a wide berth. The breakthrough came at an EU-Russia summit in Moscow during which Mr Putin won Brussels' endorsement for his country to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Mr Putin said this had paved the way for his country to return the favour and ratify Kyoto.... Montana asks Wyoming to release water The state of Montana is calling on Wyoming to shut off junior water rights in the Tongue, Powder and Little Powder rivers to provide much-needed drought relief to more senior water rights holders in Montana, who officials say have priority. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation hopes it can reach an amicable settlement with Wyoming, but is prepared to take action to protect water rights under a 1950 compact the two states signed.... Game farm issue argued in court The owners of a game farm shut down by a voter-approved initiative say the closure amounted to an unlawful "taking" of their property, and they want the state to pay for it. But an attorney for the state argued Thursday that Kim and Cindy Kafka still own the property and that economic losses the couple suffered when their operation was shut down do not constitute a taking of property. The Kafkas sued the state in 2002, arguing that Initiative 143, which voters approved two years earlier, was unconstitutional and destroyed their business. The initiative banned any future game ranches in Montana, prohibited current game ranchers from transferring their licenses and banned fee hunting of elk or other game....

Thursday, May 20, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Crossing the Red Line Two of the books under review, Bush Versus the Environment and Strategic Ignorance, include climate and energy policy as one example of many in a catalog of administration environmental follies. But it must be said that criticizing Bush's policies on the environment is depressingly easy to do. For more than three years now, day after day and week after week, a small circle of political appointees at the EPA, the Forest Service, the Interior Department, and the Department of Agriculture have proceeded methodically to wreck the system of environmental oversight that dates back to the Nixon administration. Apart from their silence on global warming, they have overturned rule after regulation, largely ceased enforcement actions concerning pollution of the atmosphere and water, and reined in inspectors. Their work is not inspired by a grand ideological vision—it's not like Bush's foreign policy, say, with its idea of America dominating the world. Instead it's institutionalized corruption: a steady payback to the logging, mining, corporate farming, fossil fuel, and other industries that contributed heavily to put Bush in power.... Walden reports progress in air-tanker discussion Talks between the Federal Aviation Administration), the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service aimed at designing a system to certify the airworthiness of fire tankers are progressing well, according to U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. The agencies met Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.... U.S. Touts Forestry Law Success in Court Since December, when President Bush signed a new forestry law, the government has won 17 straight court cases favoring timber cutting over challenges by environmentalists. Bush pushed for the law that sponsors named the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, saying it would reduce wildfires in national forests by thinning trees while also limiting appeals and environmental reviews of proposed timber sales. Environmentalists say the new law has undercut important protection for old-growth trees and remote, roadless areas.... Helicopter logging is gentler Although logging by helicopter makes up only 10 percent of the logging done on the Crescent Ranger District, the maneuverable aircraft are an essential tool when it comes to cutting down and removing trees with less of an impact, said Neil Bosworth, natural resources team leader for the ranger district. In order to log on Odell Butte, the logging company that bought the timber sale from the Forest Service had to use helicopters for portions because in parts the land had more than a 30 percent grade. According to Forest Service regulations, skids and tractors may be used for logging land that has less than a 30 percent grade.... U.S. Says Sierra Logging Promotion Legal A controversial ad campaign that promotes the Forest Service's plan to triple logging in Sierra Nevada forests does not violate federal law, the Agriculture Department has ruled. Citing the opinion of the department's general counsel, Inspector General Phyllis K. Fong declined a request by two Democratic congressmen to investigate the $90,000 contract given a San Francisco public relations firm.... Logs create new salmon hideaway Juvenile salmon trying to grow up in a side channel of the Sultan River now have a place to hide until they get big enough to swim to sea. And to tiny salmon, the place is huge. A helicopter was used Wednesday to drop more than 60 logs and stumps into Winter's Creek just west of town. By crisscrossing the logs over the slow-moving stream, wildlife officials created a place for tiny salmon to avoid predators, including blue herons and cutthroat trout.... State to join feds in managing wolves to speed delisting Montana's wildlife agency is preparing to join the federal government in management of federally protected wolves, the ultimate aim being to speed delisting of the animals. "We're going to take it slow, but with the federal funds recently made available we can expand the state's role while we continue to work toward the rapid federal delisting of the gray wolf in our region," said Jeff Hagener, director of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.... Feds offer looted artifact deal Federal prosecutors in the Four Corners states began a 90-day amnesty Thursday for people with illegally obtained ancient Indian artifacts, such as pots or stone tools. Looters or buyers of artifacts can return them by August 18, "no questions asked," said U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico. Federal prosecutors in Arizona, Colorado and Utah also are taking part in the amnesty.... Environmental Center criticizes BLM Otero Mesa plan The Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces says the US Bureau of Land Management is not following federal requirements in its plan for drilling on Otero Mesa. That’s despite amending the plan and opening a public comment period. The environmental center calls a provision to restore desert grasslands on the mesa untested. It says the plan has undergone no independent public or scientific scrutiny, contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act.... Column: Obesity a Thin Excuse for Supersizing Federal Land Grabs But give credit to the champions of big-government: They will never miss an opportunity to grab a larger piece of America for control by government. Taking advantage of studies showing 20 percent of Americans are "obese" (typically defined as a rather modest 20 percent above a ridiculously slender "ideal" body weight), the federal land-grabbers twisted the findings to suit their own ends and swung into action. Old CARA activists have re-created it, virtually word for word, and now call it the Get Outdoors (GO) Act. Unbelievable, isn't it? But it's true. "Obesity is a public health crisis of the first order, and the Get Outdoors Act is a sensible way to help mitigate that public health crisis," said Congressman George Miller (D-California), House co-sponsor of the bill.... Rural road war heats up again The d├ętente in the war with the federal government over road rights of way on public lands in Utah is over. Last week, the Utah Attorney General's Office "augmented" the state's earlier threat to sue the U.S. Department of Interior over thousands of contested routes across federal public lands, most of them in southern Utah. It was unclear Wednesday whether the apparent renewed threat to sue had the blessing of Utah Gov. Olene Walker, who has stated recently that her office was pursuing a non-litigation strategy for resolving the road disputes. At the heart of the issue is the ongoing debate over how much land in Utah qualifies for federally protected wilderness, which by definition must be free of roads.... Enviros sue over methane projects Four environmental groups sued U.S. Department of Interior officials Thursday, claiming they failed to reduce air pollution expected from coalbed methane development in Montana and Wyoming. They said the pollution will harm public health and cause haze in national parks and wilderness areas. The suit says the government must limit air pollution from an estimated 100,000 oil and gas wells and 23,000 miles of new roads authorized for 33 million acres in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming.... NYT Editorial: A Rare Consensus on Clean Air After more than three years of steady criticism for its regressive policies on air pollution, the Bush administration is enjoying well-deserved praise for a new regulatory initiative that will greatly reduce harmful emissions from diesel-powered construction equipment and other off-road machinery. The rule will apply to engines in more than six million pieces of equipment, everything from bulldozers to tractors and airport baggage trucks. Off-road diesel engines account for a quarter of the smog-producing pollutants and more than half of the soot from mobile sources. They are believed to be responsible for 12,000 premature deaths annually as well as hundreds of thousands of respiratory illnesses. The rule is the most important clean air initiative to originate in and be brought to fruition by the Bush administration.... Senate Bill Aims to Upgrade Miss., Ill. Rivers Senate lawmakers introduced legislation on Thursday that would spend nearly $4 billion to add seven new locks and make environmental improvements to the Mississippi and Illinois river system. Several farm groups contend that without better locks and dams on the rivers it will be difficult to compete with other countries in export markets, but environmentalists and independent reviewers have argued that future traffic projections for the river were exaggerated. The bipartisan legislation, which mirrored a proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said modernizing the lock-and-dam system on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers is necessary to handle a projected increase in freight shipments.... Sierra Club Asks Court to Disallow Judge The Sierra Club asked a federal appeals court to overturn President Bush's appointment of its newest member, saying the pick was illegally made during a congressional recess. Environmentalists object to former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor because they fear his "extremist view of the Constitution" could erode federal environmental laws, Sierra Club attorney Pat Gallagher said.... Column: Democrats Hinder U.S. Pursuit of Economic and Energy Security The Alaskan North Slope, located in the frigid regions above the Arctic Circle on the shores of the Beaufort Sea, represents one of America's most prolific oil and gas provinces and is among the most promising areas for prospective new discoveries. Major finds on the North Slope, including the Lisburne, Endicott, Milne Point and Kuparuk oil fields, as well as the Super Giant Prudhoe Bay oil field, have accounted for as much as 25 percent of domestic production. But today North Slope production is in decline, having reached its peak of just over 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 1988.... Vesicular Stomatitis Confirmed in West Texas; First Case Since 1998 The country's first case of vesicular stomatitis (VS) since 1998 was confirmed Wednesday, May 19, on a premise with nine horses and eight head of cattle near Balmorhea, in Reeves County in west Texas. VS is a viral disease that occurs sporadically in the United States, usually in the Southwest. The disease can affect horses, cattle, and pigs, and occasionally, sheep, goats and deer, causing blisters to form in the animal's mouth, on teats, or along the hooves, resulting in excessive salivation, lameness, or oozing sores. The clinical signs of VS can cause concern because they mimic those of a highly contagious foreign animal infection--foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)--which has been eradicated in this country since 1929.... USDA Admits Problems with Canada Beef Imports Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Thursday scolded the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its performance in protecting consumers against mad cow disease after the agency admitted it allowed Canadian beef imports that went beyond previously announced restrictions. Following a briefing by USDA officials on Capitol Hill, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said the USDA admitted "mistakes were made" and products were allowed entry that were not on public lists. Charles Stenholm, the Democratic leader on the farm panel, said USDA's performance marked "a breakdown in the process."....
DIAMOND BAR CATTLE COMPANY

Court Allows Laney to Attend Benefit Concert

ORDER ALLOWING TRAVEL

This matter having come before the Court Upon Defendant's Motion to Allow Travel, and the Court having been advised in the premises, finds the Motion to be well taken.

It is therefore ordered that defendant Kit Laney be allowed to travel to TorC, New Mexico on May 22 through May 23, 2004 for the purposes of attending a benefit in his honor and to meet with his attorneys. Mr. Laney shall be accompanied by Bob Jones, his third-party custodian. All other pre-trial conditions of release shall remain the same.

/s/
The Honorable John Conway
United States District Court Judge
Klump Country Blues

A scrappy little breeze careens through the Dos Cabezas Pioneer Cemetery, setting tufts of grass dancing among the cock-eyed grave stones. Amid this rambunctious parley of wind, spirit and bone, John and Delia Klump share eternal views east to the Dos Cabezas Mountains and south to the sunburned flats of Sulphur Springs Valley.

Strong, lanky and tough, John Sherman Klump arrived in these hills before statehood, before the Endangered Species Act, before such things as tree-huggers, trail joggers and grazing fees. It was rough-and-tumble country back then; lovely country, a land where hard-working folks could live simple and free.

Klump spent his early manhood riding the range, raising kids and dispensing meager family funds in Willcox saloons. When his first wife hit the road, he cleaned up his act, got hitched to pretty Delia and settled into respectable child-rearing. Before many years had passed, his prodigious progeny would total six boys and a girl. In turn, these youngsters would grow into pillars of ranching power, their combined holdings nearing 300,000 acres of range land stretched across southeastern Arizona and New Mexico.

In recent years, some Klumps would also make a name for themselves as rural rebels, spending much of their time fighting for a cause that city folks--and some of their own colleagues--find awfully far-fetched.

Up the road in downtown Tucson, one of those six sons, Luther Wallace "Wally" Klump, sits upright as Federal District Judge John Roll strides into the courtroom one day earlier this month. Even after a year in prison, Wally is a deeply etched, rustic figure. He's here because, in the end, he was forced to bend....

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Forest board member criticized for Daschle ad A member of the Black Hills Forest Advisory Board was criticized Wednesday for appearing in a political advertisement, then he was elected chairman of the group. Deadwood campground owner Tom Blair appears in a television ad for Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. Blair praises Daschle for his work on forest issues, and a caption in the ad identifies Blair as a member of the advisory board.... Wilderness areas remain in grassland plan The new management plan for the national grasslands in this region, affirmed by a top U.S. Department of Agriculture official, recommends two new wilderness areas in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in southwest South Dakota. Recommended are a 23,890-acre wilderness area at Indian Creek northwest of Sheep Mountain Table and a 14,820-acre wilderness area in the Red Shirt area. Congressional action is required to create wilderness areas. Sens. Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., have not taken positions on the proposals.... Tribal cultural experts travel to the Badger-Two Medicine area "We want to tell the public about the sacredness of the area and the whole Badger-Two Medicine because of the treaty rights," said Keith Tatsey of the Blackfeet Extension Office. "The main thing is the developers are not taking us into consideration yet, but they will have to." Tatsey reported Monday that he would be taking a group into the 150,000-acre area bordering the western edge of the Blackfeet Reservation. Long under fire for potential development for oil and gas, the U.S. Forest Service issued a moratorium on exploration and development when former Forest Supervisor Gloria Flora established the new policy in 1997. But the war in Iraq and an aggressive national energy policy have put the entire Rocky Mountain Front in Montana in developers' sites, making previously protected places potentially open to industrial development.... Long-awaited job competition appeals rights measure introduced Bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday would expand federal employees' opportunities for challenging agency decisions to outsource work, and would open the door for union involvement in job competition appeals. The bill would amend the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act to grant "agency tender officials," the formal representatives of in-house teams, and other officials elected to represent team members, legal standing to protest job competition decisions at the General Accounting Office after losing agency-level appeals. Drafted by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and co-sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., it would apply to challenges of contests started after Jan. 1, 2004.... Cubin wants money for firefighter pilot insurance Wyoming lawmaker Barbara Cubin is keeping an eye out for possible legislative maneuvering related to the grounding of 33 tanker planes used to fight wildfires. The Republican congresswoman said she plans to try to attach a proposal she has been pushing to provide federal death and disability benefits for aerial firefighters. Because the aerial firefighters work for companies that contract with the federal government they are not eligible for the death and disability benefits that other firefighters receive.... Lion killed in Sabino Canyon is 2nd by Game officials A mountain lion shot over the weekend is the second lion shot by Arizona Game and Fish since April, when the cats were reported stalking humans in Sabino Canyon. Trackers hired by the agency shot and killed a lion stalking a mountain biker in the Sonoita area in mid-April, Arizona Game and Fish spokesman Tom Whetten told the Arizona Daily Star.... Will growth take the wild out of wilderness? Rangers who patrol wilderness lands for the U.S. Forest Service learned yesterday they will face an increasingly tough task of protecting those special places as the population soars and demands on public lands skyrocket. Forest Service researcher Ken Cordell told an audience of about 40 rangers in Aspen that the country's population is expected to double in the next century, and a significant amount of that growth will occur in rural areas close to wilderness. "We need to think of the implications of this population growth," he told the rangers, who came from throughout the West for the Wilderness Ranger Academy, a special event hosted by the Aspen Ranger District.... Why do we love wilderness? A national survey shows people don't give a hoot if wilderness areas give an economic boost to tourist towns like Aspen. They like wilderness lands for what they do for nature. A recent survey showed the two highest-valued aspects of wilderness are protection of air quality and water quality, according to Ken Cordell, a U.S. Forest Service researcher from Athens, Ga. Providing wildlife habitat and providing protection for endangered species ranked as the third and fourth highest-valued characteristics of wilderness.... Editorial: Airborne firefighting In Southern California, wildfires have returned with fury unabated from last fall. Across the West, drought and a hot spring have reduced water supplies, leading fire officials to say that the current blazes have the potential to be as terrible as the 2000 and 2002 seasons'. Many hands and much luck will be required to avoid catastrophic losses. Many aircraft also will be needed, and policy-makers should investigate the airplanes now idling at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Ariz. Davis-Monthan is the home base of the 355th Wing of the 12th Air Force, but it also serves as a major storage area for excess and decommissioned aircraft. More than 5,000 aircraft now sit there, including many air tankers that might be refitted to drop fire retardant.... Forest Service calls snowmobile regulations a success Separation of snowmobiles from quieter forms of winter recreation in a popular Sierra meadow appears to be working well three years after the regulations were put in place, U.S. Forest Service officials said. But the woman who led efforts to ban snowmobiles from most of the Tahoe Meadows insists the government is failing to address continued trespass of the machines into wilderness areas.... Editorial: Saving Montana's Rocky Mountain Front - again Responsible natural resource development works in many places around Montana. Responsible mining and drilling will be a part of Montana's future. But there are some places that development simply isn't responsible. One of those rare, special places is the Rocky Mountain Front - 100 miles of breathtaking landscape where mountains collide with plains south of Glacier National Park. The Front has been described as an American Serengeti. Here all of the wildlife Lewis and Clark observed on their trek of 1805-1806 still flourish, except for buffalo. It's one of the few places anywhere where grizzlies inhabit mountains and plains. Defenders of the Front have waged repeated battles over the years to conserve this beautiful public land. But each victory for local conservationists gives way to new development plans. The latest push comes from a small Canadian firm that proposes drilling three exploratory gas wells.... Environmentalists sue over Medicine Lake geothermal plans Environmental groups have sued the federal government over geothermal projects it has approved in the remote Medicine Lake Highlands region considered sacred by Indian tribes. The suit, filed Tuesday and announced Wednesday, challenges approval of the first two geothermal power plants proposed by Calpine Corp. Both would be built within the Medicine Lake caldera, the remnant of an ancient volcano 30 miles east of Mt. Shasta and 10 miles south of the Lava Beds National Monument in northeastern California.... Crews use electricity to stun, remove non-native fish from Yampa Pfeifer and his crew of five Fish and Wildlife employees have been trolling the Yampa River for the past week on boats equipped with 30 horsepower engines on the back and anodes on the front. The anodes --metal spheres hung from rods extended about 12 feet in front of the boat -- emit a positive charge of about 4 amps that temporarily stun fish, said Mark Fuller, a fisheries biologist. That morning, they pulled 42 pike from the river in about an hour and 15 minutes. Pfeifer called it an average morning. The week before, they pulled 102 pike from the same area. The stretch of the Yampa the crew trolled was upstream from critical habitat for the humpback chub, pikeminnow, and razorback sucker -- all endangered species.... Federal whistleblower quits, alleges politicization of science A federal biologist who said his team's advice was illegally ignored prior to a massive 2002 Klamath River fish kill has resigned, accusing the government of politicizing scientific decision-making and misleading the public. Michael Kelly had sought federal whistleblower protection after he complained the Bush administration violated the Endangered Species Act by pressuring for altered scientific findings by the review team he led for the National Marine Fisheries Service, now NOAA Fisheries. "My efforts were ultimately unproductive," Kelly laments in his resignation letter, released Wednesday through Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which represented Kelly in the whistleblower case first reported by The Associated Press.... Massive bear study ready to start An unprecedented grizzly bear population study covering 8 million acres of the northern Rockies is set to begin June 15, and other research has revealed some surprising findings about grizzly behavior in the Swan Valley. Those topics headlined a Wednesday meeting of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Subcommittee in Kalispell. U.S. Geological Survey scientist Kate Kendall outlined a complicated logistical picture that has taken shape for the upcoming DNA-based population study. Roughly 170 people will be involved with collecting bear hair samples from more than 8 million acres considered occupied by grizzlies. The area stretches from the Blackfoot River basin to the northern border of Glacier National Park and from the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front to some areas west of U.S. 93.... Groups seek grizzly trophy hunting ban Conservation groups want the U.S. government to ban American hunters from bringing grizzly bears killed in British Columbia back across the border as trophies. The groups contend the hunts, which are legal in British Columbia, threaten the long-term survival of the bears on both sides of the border. Since American hunters make up about 80 percent of the foreigners who visit Canada each year to hunt grizzlies, the groups hope such a ban could dramatically cut the number of bears killed. Some bear experts question the groups' contention that the hunts are a major threat, and Canadian hunting guides say they would oppose such a ban because of the potential loss of business.... Preble's Mouse Exceptions Permanent A special rule that allows for the threatened Preble's jumping mouse to be killed or trapped was made permanent Wednesday in a decision hailed by some as a victory for Front Range farmers and ranchers. Under the rule, the mouse, found only in Colorado and Wyoming, can be killed, wounded or trapped as part of rodent control, agricultural operations or other specific activities. The rule was set to expire on Saturday, regional Fish and Wildlife director Ralph Morgenweck said.... Greenpeace acquitted in U.S. ship-boarding case A U.S. judge on Wednesday acquitted environmental protection group Greenpeace on charges it conspired to break the law by sending activists aboard a freighter carrying illegally felled mahogany. The politically charged case dusted off a law not used since 1890 to bring the first criminal prosecution by U.S. authorities of an advocacy group for civil disobedience. U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan granted a Greenpeace motion to dismiss the charges after the prosecution rested its case on the third day of trial, a Greenpeace lawyer said. The judge ruled federal prosecutors had failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.... Darwinian shift: survival of the smallest It's a rule every weekend angler knows: Throw back the small fish. It helps the population survive long term. Right? Wrong. Mounting evidence suggests that by harvesting only the biggest fish - or biggest mammals, for that matter - mankind is unwittingly forcing many species to evolve rapidly. This process, called "contemporary evolution," isn't taking place over centuries. It's on a fast track that can happen within a few decades. At a minimum, these changes can reduce a species' economic value. At worst, they can help drive it to extinction. And while that may not be news to biologists, it's throwing a Darwinian challenge to those who manage wildlife, preserve habitats, deal with endangered species, and control invasive species.... Panhandle hunter says he shot threatened bear in self defense A deer hunter charged with shooting and killing a black bear, a threatened species, says he acted in self-defense. William Kevin Holland, 42, of Pensacola, said Tuesday that he shot the bear on Feb. 13 after it stood on its hind legs 50 to 70 feet away and then dropped down on all fours and came toward him. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrested him Friday.... Column: Federal Agency Using Local Fire Code to Attempt Land Grab The responsibility of local fire districts around the nation are abruptly changing from fire protection to facilitating access to private properties by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), under the auspices of fire protection. USFWS's agenda is to look for and map endangered species and wildlife habitats. This is happening through the establishment of Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP), which are severely restricting or eliminating private property rights around the nation. Local adoption of an international fire code, called the Urban Wildand Intermix Code (UWIC), is the first step toward creating a local HCP. Following is an open letter sent to all fire districts and district boards in Santa Cruz County, California.... Prairie butterflies Dana Ross had suspicions about the hilltop meadow near Corvallis. The grassy area seemed to be a suitable home for a rarely seen prairie butterfly, but only a hike to the top would confirm it. The Corvallis resident quickly hiked to the hilltop, where he found an estimated 500 of the imperiled butterflies flitting through the meadow. Ross's discovery last month in Benton County's Beazell Memorial Forest is only the second population of Taylor's checkerspot known to exist in Oregon after its rapid decline during the past century.... Park County considers lone course in wolf lawsuit Instead of joining a coalition, Park County Commissioners are leaning toward filing as a lone intervener in the lawsuit filed by the State of Wyoming against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To best support the state's "dual status" wolf management plan, the county should do it alone instead of with the Wolf Challenge Initiative, County Attorney Bryan Skoric told commissioners Wednesday. The commissioners had considered three options, two of which involved various levels of jumping on board with the Wolf Challenge Initiative (WCI), a coalition of governments and special interest groups unified in their support of the state-proposed "dual status" plan to remove the wolves from Endangered and Species Act protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the plan in January and approved single-status (trophy game) plans in Montana and Idaho. Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank filed suit April 22, saying the state has a right also to consider the wolf a "predator" that can be shot on sight due to the animals negative effect on Wyoming residents.... BLM apologizes for missing mark over range deal The Bureau of Land Management apologized Wednesday for spending seven years studying a possible gun range site, only to abruptly drop the plan saying it didn't conform with BLM policy. The decision was better late than never, said the agency's new Redding-area director, Steve Anderson.... W. Utah wilds area gets a green light After changes to pacify earlier widespread opposition, the House Resources Committee endorsed Wednesday a Utah wilderness bill — but one where creating new wilderness takes a back seat to far bigger goals. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is pushing the bill mostly to block a proposed nuclear waste repository on the Goshute Reservation in Skull Valley, an action he says in turn would help protect Hill Air Force Base in upcoming base closure fights. Wilderness that the bill would create would block a railroad needed for the waste repository sought by the Goshutes. "It would make it impossible to have the repository there," Bishop said. He said that, in turn, would help to protect the vast Utah Test and Training Range operated by Hill.... Questar faces Wyoming drill delay over sage grouse Federal clearance for Questar Corp. (nyse: STR - news - people) to drill a natural gas test well near Pinedale, Wyoming has been delayed about a month because of concerns over a chicken-like bird called the sage grouse, Chief Executive Officer Keith Rattie said on Wednesday. Rattie said the Bureau of Land Management halted the test drill because waste from the sage grouse was found in the area, which may mean it breeds there. About 80 percent of Wyoming is considered greater sage grouse habitat.... Tribes propose casino to end Colorado land claim Two Oklahoma tribes stand to make more than $1 billion over a decade from a Colorado casino proposed to resolve the tribes' land claims, the project developer said Tuesday. Financial projections also show the state of Colorado collecting $1 billion over the same period, said Steve Hillard, chief executive officer for the developer, Council Tree Communications of Longmont, Colo. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes last month filed a federal land claim to 27 million acres in Colorado, where the tribes lived until their forced removal to Oklahoma in the 1860s. Hillard said the tribes would drop that claim if allowed to build the casino.... Summer Escapist Movie Offers No Escape from Politics When a Hollywood disaster movie opens on Memorial Day weekend, there may be some drama outside the movie theater as well as inside: Liberal and conservative groups are both recruiting volunteers to hand out flyers explaining the "facts" on global warming. "The Day After Tomorrow" is a climate disaster movie about the apocalyptic effects of global warming. It is, by all accounts, more fiction than fact -- but even so, liberal activists at MoveOn.org believe "everyone will be talking about it -- and asking 'Could it really happen?'" MoveOn.org says the movie premiere offers "an unprecedented opportunity to talk to millions of Americans about the real dangers of global warming and expose President Bush's foot-dragging on the issue.".... Congressmen present plan to resolve irrigation dispute Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg are looking to settle a dispute that has held up the transfer of irrigation projects on the Lower Yellowstone River for nearly six years. The Republican lawmakers outlined a deal during hearings Tuesday and Wednesday. The main impediment to the transfer from the federal government to local irrigation districts has been a disagreement over whether the projects can continue to be powered using virtually free federal electricity once they are operated by the local irrigation districts. Burns and Rehberg are proposing a gradual phase in of costs for the power, and the Bureau of Reclamation and power companies are looking over the plan.... White House backs aqueduct sign-over The Bush administration Wednesday endorsed a bill to sign over the title of two federal aqueducts to local Utah water users, saying it would make it easier to finance improvements to better protect the water and to prevent drownings. However, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John Keys, a Utahn, said many minor changes are still needed in the bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah. But he told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday that if those "technical corrections can be addressed, I believe the department could support passage of this legislation." The bill would transfer title of the 42-mile long Salt Lake Aqueduct (from Deer Creek Reservoir to Salt Lake County), the 22-mile Provo Reservoir Canal (also known as the Murdock Canal) and a 4-acre maintenance shop site to the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy.... Drought's consequences may be catastrophic Montana's sixth straight year of drought shows no signs of breaking this summer and could sound the death knell for family farmers and Main Street businesses alike, a new state report shows. The Governor's Drought Advisory Committee released its report on the 2004 growing season Thursday and concluded the odds for continued drought across much of the state is very high and the potential for the enduring drought to damage the 2004 crop is likewise high.... U.S. quietly OKs imports of banned Canada beef The Agriculture Department allowed American meatpackers to resume imports of ground and other processed beef from Canada last September, just weeks after it publicly reaffirmed its ban on importing those products because mad cow disease had been found in Canadian cattle. In the next six months, a total of 33 million pounds of Canadian processed beef flowed to American consumers under a series of undisclosed permits the USDA issued to the meatpackers, permits that remained in effect until a federal judge intervened in April....

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Some Air Tankers Could Be Back In Service This Summer As many as eight of 33 large air tankers grounded last week could be restored to service and used to fight forest fires this summer, Western lawmakers said Tuesday after meeting with Federal Aviation Administration officials. Les Dorr, a spokesman for the FAA, said the agency has agreed to work with the U.S. Forest Service and private contractors to develop maintenance and inspection programs and a system for certifying the tankers as safe to fly. Western lawmakers and governors, however, mounted a campaign to get at least some of the grounded tankers back into operation, saying their ability to drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire-retardant slurry is needed this wildfire season.... Land closures..keep writing to keep riding The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) urges motorcyclists to contact their lawmakers to support a measure to crack down on individuals who knowingly damage public land, which cleared the U.S. House Resources Committee on May 5. The measure, H.R. 3247, the Trail Responsibility and Accountability for the Improvement of Lands (TRAIL) Act, was reported out to the full House for further consideration.... 'Stalking' mountain lion slain The two Tucson men were on a Saturday mountain bike ride when a lion followed them down the trail, drew within 15 feet of them, and departed only after the bicyclists threw rocks at it, according to Arizona Game and Fish officials. The two men were unhurt. During their investigation, Koenig and Officer Aaron Hartzell saw a lion 30 feet away from them that appeared to be stalking the two officers. Koenig shot and killed the female cougar with a shotgun. Koenig said Monday that the lion didn't exhibit normal behavior when encountering humans and was killed to defuse a "dangerous situation.".... Tree-killing beetles more deadly than wildfires The tiny architects of the Western forests are coming back. In coming weeks, an army of tree-killing beetles will begin emerging, looking to satisfy their appetites by boring into lodgepole, Douglas fir, whitebark pine, Engelmann spruce and other trees in the Rocky Mountains. Their defenses weakened by drought, thousands upon thousands of trees won't have the strength to battle the bugs and will eventually die. By the time they're through, the beetles will have a larger impact on Western forests than wildfire, said Diana Six, an associate professor of forest entomology and pathology at the University of Montana.... Environmental group files suit to protect Gila chub from extinction An environmental group filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for not listing the Gila chub as an endangered species. The Fish & Wildlife Service proposed listing the fish Aug. 9, 2002. Under the Endangered Species Act, the agency has one year to issue a final rule after proposing to list a species. The Center for Biological Diversity also filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the agency for not listing the roundtail and headwater chub as endangered.... U.S. District Court Keeps No-Spray Pesticide Buffers in Place to Protect Salmon The Seattle District Court has denied a motion to suspend its January 2004 injunction prohibiting the spraying of certain pesticides near salmon streams. The pesticide industry group CropLife and grower groups had requested a stay that would remove safeguards for salmon while they appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Coughenour issued a strongly worded opinion today denying the industry request for a stay and underlining the need for the injunction’s protections for threatened and endangered salmon.... Greenpeace Conspired to Illegally Board Ship-Gov't Greenpeace conspired to break the law when it sent activists aboard a freighter carrying illegally felled mahogany, prosecutors said on Tuesday, as they dusted off a law not used since 1890 to bring the first U.S. criminal prosecution of an advocacy group. Kicking off the politically charged case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Watts-FitzGerald told a Miami court Greenpeace recruited "climbers" for the seaborne 2002 protest and footed the bill -- all indications, he said, the organization and not individual members was in "command and control.".... Wildcat clones give scientists hope of saving species The successful cloning of endangered female African wildcats, which will eventually mate with cloned males, has scientists at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans feeling hopeful that imperiled species can be rescued. The female wildcat clones, named Caty and Madge, were born a month ago at the center. The males, Miles and Otis, were born in November 2003, following work by the center and Louisiana State University that led to the world's first cloned wild carnivore, Ditteaux, an African wildcat born Aug. 6, 2003. Miles and Otis are clones of Jazz, an African wildcat born in November 1999 with the distinction of being the first successful case of an animal born after an interspecies frozen-thawed embryo transfer using a domestic female cat as the mother surrogate. The other cloned wildcats also have domestic cat surrogate mothers.... Wildlife Biologists Say Enviro Petition on Sage Grouse Is "Fundamentally Flawed" Recently released analyses by two renowned wildlife biologists shows that a petition by environmental groups to list the Greater Sage Grouse as an endangered species is "not accurate and is fundamentally flawed in numerous key areas." "A careful review of this Petition leads to one simple conclusion: This Petition is not accurate and is fundamentally flawed in numerous key areas." The analyses examined the listing petition submitted last December by the American Lands Alliance and 18 other environmental groups. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted on the petition earlier this month in deciding to conduct a formal review of the status of the sage grouse.... Odd-duck work stoppage Last month, a biologist walking through the weeds around Colma Creek flood canal in South San Francisco noticed three egg-laden bird nests hidden in the grass. As a result of this find, and thanks to an 86-year-old law, work ground to a halt on an $11 million effort to widen and clear the overgrown flood canal. It took the help of a U.S. senator for the county to acquire the necessary permits to move the birds -- a close call that caused a tremor of concern among officials driven by a need to prevent future flooding in the area.... EPA offers revised plan to carefully remove dam The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday released a revised plan to remove Milltown Dam that will send little, if any, contaminated mine tailings down the Clark Fork River. The new plan would divert the Clark Fork River during the work, eliminating all sediment releases from the most contaminated portion of the Milltown Reservoir. Work would begin in 2005, with Milltown Dam removed in early 2006 and all construction completed within four years, less than half the time originally anticipated.... BLM regional office moving to Havasu A major reorganization is in the works for the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona, including a new district headquarters in Lake Havasu City. A proposal subject to approval by federal officials in Washington, D.C. would divide the state into two or three BLM districts. A new "Arizona River District," including the Lake Havasu City, Kingman and Yuma field offices would be formed, said Diane Williams, a BLM spokeswoman.... Selling Surplus Property Will Help the State’s Bottom Line Of the 99.8 million acres that make up the state of California, how much do you think is owned by the government? One-quarter? One-third? Half? Too low. The answer is 52 percent. Yes, 52 percent, or roughly 52 million acres of the state, is owned by government agencies. And that figure might be a little low, since it accounts for just the federal and state governments. Local governments also own real estate throughout California.... Native grasses being used to control range fires few area farmers are growing some unusual crops as public land managers struggle to keep range fires under control. It is one of several native plants that farmer John Skinner grows. The high demand for the native seeds makes them much more profitable than more traditional crops.... New dam among ideas for future water needs Add another option to the study of ways to increase Washington County's long-term water supplies: a replacement dam downstream from the existing dam at Hagg Lake south of Forest Grove. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has asked that the so-called Stimson Dam be evaluated along with three other options as a group of local governments studies future water sources, says Tom VanderPlaat of Clean Water Services.... County seeks study on grazing benefits Park County needs to evaluate how a trend toward cutting grazing allotments on federal land is taking a toll the local economy, commissioners said Tuesday. And time is of the essence. Commissioners announced their intent to include a grazing-based economic impact study into the county's land-use plan, a document due in December. The idea sprouted from a similar study of Fremont County done by the University of Wyoming Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics. UW officials presented their findings Tuesday, saying that the current federal trends point to a situation with a "greater negative impact than most people realize.".... Wild bison reintroduced to Sask. prairie History was made on a piece of rolling prairie Monday when half a dozen horseback riders herded 50 bison from a sprawling holding paddock out onto the land they once roamed by the millions. It's the first time since they were hunted to the brink of extinction 150 years ago that they have set a free foot on the grasslands they once virtually covered. The shaggy beasts who strolled through the paddock gate were trucked in from Elk Island National Park in Alberta to the Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area south of Swift Current, Sask., last winter.... Suspected rustlers nabbed in Nevada cattle thefts Local law enforcement in Churchill County teamed up with state agents in Nevada and Arizona to break up a rustling ring suspected of stealing more than two dozen cattle from Nevada worth $14,000. “It was the biggest one since I’ve been here,” Nevada State Brand Inspector James Connelley said. The Nevada Agriculture Department investigated the case after a brand inspector in Arizona, Raymond Christensen, read the Nevada division’s bulletin about cattle missing from the Fallon area and then spotted brand-overs on cattle in Arizona.... USDA: Cattle brains may be turned into biofuels Cattle brains and other remains that may carry the deadly mad cow disease would be turned into biofuels under a plan announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cattle brains, skull, eyes, spinal column, small intestine and other parts suspected of harboring mad cow disease were banned from human consumption in December as a safety precaution, shortly after the discovery of the first case of mad cow disease in the United States.... Court considers cattle restitution Monday's arguments are the latest chapter in a saga that began in April 2001, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to issue reports on the prices of boxed beef. But due to initial software problems, for several days the USDA reported incorrect prices lower than the actual prices for choice and select fed cattle. In July 2002, Herman Schumacher of Herreid Livestock Market and two other men filed a federal suit against the nation's four largest meatpackers. The suit alleges that Excel Corp., ConAgra Beef Co., Farmland National Beef Packing Co. and Tyson Foods realized something was amiss with USDA's report, but nonetheless took advantage of the incorrect data by paying producers lower prices. In legal terms, the suit charges the meatpackers with "unjust enrichment," in violation of the federal Packers and Stockyards Act. History mystery: Are bones Mill Valley pioneer's Mysterious coffins found under the oldest house in Mill Valley are leading to speculation that one of the skeletons, in a wool suit with silk lining, might be the long-lost remains of John Thomas Reed, the founder of the town. The ghoulish find has residents of this leafy Marin County suburb scratching their heads while forensic experts attempt to determine the identity of the well-dressed corpse and two other similarly buried bodies and the reason they were under the house.... Wyoming author set to release next 'Joe Pickett' book Game warden Joe Pickett's next case will involve cattle and wildlife mutilations reminiscent of cases that baffled investigators in Wyoming 30 years ago. Pickett, the fictitious character created by Cheyenne mystery writer C.J. Box, will return in a fourth novel, "Trophy Hunt," which will be released next month. A subplot involves coalbed methane development. In the book, Pickett thinks the mutilations are being done by someone "practicing" to become a serial killer, since many repeat murderers often hone their macabre skills on animals....

Monday, May 17, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Think ahead, fire experts tell West On the Rim of the World Highway that corkscrews into the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, logging trucks haul away thinned timber. Volunteers stand atop fire-lookout towers. Local "Fire Safe" councils teach residents how to protect their homes and plan evacuations. But it may not be enough to avert disaster. Government and private efforts to protect western forests are dwarfed by a problem decades in the making and worsened by long drought. And many people in the line of fire — from Colorado to California — aren't taking steps to protect themselves.... Owner Says California Air Tankers Safe A California company that supplied more than a third of the heavy firefighting air tankers grounded by the government said Monday it is unfairly being lumped in with a Wyoming firm responsible for most of the catastrophic accidents. "We have been unjustifiably put in the same category as the company that is responsible for five of the six structural accidents that have occurred in the last 30 years," said Terry Unsworth, president and chief executive of Aero Union Corp. of Chico.... House approves transfer of Bend Pine Nursery The House on Monday approved a bill to sell 170 acres in the Deschutes National Forest to the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District for $3.5 million. The measure also would transfer 15 acres of the former Bend Pine Nursery to the Bend-La Pine School District. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., the bill's sponsor, said it would save local taxpayers $2.3 million from the initial price of $5.8 million sought by the U.S. Forest Service.... Federal official affirms grasslands management plan A deputy agriculture undersecretary has upheld a new management plan for the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. David Tenny, the Agriculture Department's deputy undersecretary for natural resources and environment, affirmed the February decision of U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth to reject appeals of the plan. Any future challenges now must be made through the court system. Sierra Club spokesman Wayde Schafer said the environmental group did not get everything it wanted, but "on balance, we're pleased the plan will be moving forward.".... Column: CARA (Get Out Act) Will Kill Rural America The new CARA bill, called the Get Out (GO) Act (HR 4100), is virtually identical to the old CARA bill. As we calculate it, $3.1 billion per year will come automatically for 18 years, mostly to buy land. The total amount will be $56 billion. All of this is off budget and not subject to appropriations. How can the authors of HR 4100 give this CARA twin a higher priority than the military, education, or healthcare? Outrageous! The Get Out (GO) of Rural America Act will destroy more private property than any legislation in history. No landowner or inholder will be safe anywhere near a National Park, National Forest, Wildlife Refuge, National Trail, National Seashore, National Recreation Area, National Scenic Area, Bureau of Land Management Area, Corps of Engineer area, and other federally managed lands.... Flag may be comin' down the mountain It survived the winter winds at nearly 13,000 feet in remarkable condition, but a prominent American flag left as a memorial at the top of a mountain here isn't expected to last through the summer. Officials at the U.S. Forest Service, who have allowed the 9/11 memorial flag to fly on Peak 1 in the wake of the burning of its predecessor last summer, now are trying to come up with a plan to remove Old Glory without inciting a public backlash.... Legal Accord To Speed Endangered Species Act Listing For 73 Of The World's Rarest Bird Species A federal judge today approved a legal settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The settlement, which was approved by Judge Rosemary Collyer, forces the FWS to act on Endangered Species Act listing petitions for 73 of the world's rarest bird species. The agreement comes in response to a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Washington D.C. in December of 2003 by the Tucson, Arizona based Center for Biological Diversity. The suit asserted that the FWS violated the law by failing to take action on petitions submitted in 1980 and 1991 to list the imperiled bird species under the Endangered Species Act. The settlement calls for the FWS to publish in the Federal Register by the end of May 2004, a plan for processing the petitions and bringing the agency into compliance with the Endangered Species Act.... Federal Court Keeps Protections in Place For Wild Steelhead A U.S. District Court judge rejected an attempt by Central Valley irrigators to strip protected status from wild Central Valley steelhead trout. While deferring to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) on-going review of the fish’s status, the Court ruled that wild steelhead will remain federally protected during the time it takes to complete that process. The Court found that “[t]he scientific evidence … indicates that the fish faces serious and irreparable harm if removed from the list and that, given its numbers, its listing is likely to be preserved after the review and update.”.... Feds postpone salamander protections over science debate Pombo, R-Tracy, has been a critic of the poor science he says drives many endangered species decisions, an aspect he said will be key to his attempts to amend the law. In the most recent instance, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service missed a Saturday deadline to decide whether to list the salamander's Central California population as threatened. The salamander's Sonoma and Santa Barbara populations already are protected, but Central Valley developers and agriculture interests have protested that a listing would harm their property rights. Pombo asked Craig Manson, Interior's assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, to delay a decision while it reviews the scientific evidence. The wildlife service on Friday asked a federal judge for a six-month delay.... Frogs and Fish: Not the Best of Friends The worldwide decline in frogs and other amphibians has been well documented, though the reasons for it are less clear. Scientists have suggested many possible factors, including climate change, disease and increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation and pesticides. But for some species, a major reason could simply be that they are being eaten — by predators introduced into their habitat. A researcher at the University of California at Berkeley has shown this to be the case for a frog in the Sierra Nevadas. The researcher, Dr. Vance T. Vredenburg of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the university, demonstrated that rainbow and brook trout, introduced over the last century for sport fishing, are largely responsible for the decline of the mountain yellow-legged frog. He reported the finding in the current issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.... Roundup ends llamas' wild, woolly liberty Hikers and horseback riders on the Uncompahgre Plateau no longer will be startled by angry llamas. A herd of 15 abandoned llamas that had been living in the backcountry southwest of Delta for about a year and scaring humans with some aggressive behavior was rounded up Monday by a crew from the Bureau of Land Management. "It was a pretty novel thing," said BLM spokesman Steve Hall, who noted he hasn't heard of any other llama roundups on public lands in the U.S.... Wild horse advocates plan demonstration Wild horse advocates opposed to increased roundups on Nevada range lands plan to demonstrate outside a U.S. Bureau of Land Management hearing next month. Bonnie Matton, president of the Wild Horse Preservation League, said her group believes discussion on rangeland management should include limits on cattle — not just horse removals.... Supporters, opponents attend Front meeting A proposal by a Canadian company to drill three natural gas wells on the Rocky Mountain Front attracted both the ire and support of more than 200 people Monday night in Helena. The hearing, arranged by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its Environmental Impact Study, was the fourth in a series of five such meetings set up across the state. The buzz Monday night surrounded Startech Energy's proposal to sink three test wells in a wildlife management area along the Rocky Mountain Front northwest of Choteau.... Baucus proposes trade, sale of Front drilling leases Montana Sen. Max Baucus on Monday called on the Bureau of Land Management to consider a plan to permit lease holders in the Blackleaf Canyon of the Rocky Mountain Front to trade or sell their mineral leases. If the BLM evaluates the plan, it would be placed on the table as one of the possible alternatives to gas and oil exploration in that region of the Front. Supporters of the proposal say it would permanently solve the disagreement over drilling in the area.... BLM sells Timbered Rock salvage timber Two salvage timber sales on land burned in the Timbered Rock fire were sold this week. The Smoked Gobbler sale, which includes 6.8 million board feet of timber, sold Monday for the appraised price of $302,000 to Timber Products Co. The Glendale-based Swanson Group was the high bidder for the Flaming Rock sale containing 10.2 million board feet of timber. It sold Monday for the appraised price of $964,000.... Rancher accused of diverting cattle A 57-year-old Nebraska rancher contested Thursday in Circuit Court charges of diverting livestock from a veterinary clinic in Glenrock and sending them to Jackson instead. Rudy Stanko of Gordon, Neb., who grazes cattle in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, said the court did not have jurisdiction to try the charges. He also said he was thrown in jail and fined unfairly for allegedly diverting 76 heifers, some of which allegedly were found in Jackson on June 7, 2003, at the Roger Seherr–Thoss Property on South Park Loop Road. Stanko has a long and checkered history in the ranching business. In 1984, he was convicted for selling tainted meat to a school lunch program. More recently, he told Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials that grizzly bears had killed 198 of his cattle in the Gros Ventre Range. Game and Fish biologists only could confirm that three of Stanko’s animals were killed by grizzlies.... County fights wolf case change Although Wesley Livingston was not wearing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife uniform at the time he was accused of trespassing and littering wolves on a Meeteetse ranch, the Cody resident will make his case in front of the U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. A removal order was signed May 10, calling for "no further action" by the Fifth Judicial District Park County Circuit Court. The paperwork arrived just after Livingston's May 11 arraignment in the Park County courtroom. Michael Jimenez, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist named as a defendant to the same charges, had his case moved to federal court earlier on May 4. Both cases evoke the privilege for federal workers to bring their state charges to a federal forum once certain criteria are met.... Column: For these ranchers, the land is life It started when the Spanish crossed this land in the 1500s. It is as much about culture and a way of life as it is about commerce, perhaps more so. It is the oldest business in the state. You cannot understand what ranching represents to northern New Mexico unless you spend time with the people whose ancestors span several generations and countries; or walk on the bountiful mesas, meadows and hillsides that crop the tierra from the Valles Caldera to the Chama Valley; or are stroked by pine campfire smoke searching for the skin beneath your duster or quilt wrap as a meteor smiles on its way past Redondo Peak.... Bill Splits Controversial Ninth Circuit into Three Smaller Courts "The Ninth Circuit Judgeship and Reorganization Act of 2004," or H.R. 4247 in the House and S. 2278 in the Senate, would create a new Ninth, Twelfth and Thirteenth Circuit Court of Appeals to minimize the size of the former Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, currently the largest in the United States. The new Ninth Circuit would include California, Guam, Hawaii, and the Northern Marianas Islands and will be located in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. The Twelfth Circuit would be comprised of Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana and reside in Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona. Finally, the Thirteenth Circuit would adjudicate cases from Alaska, Oregon, and Washington with a central location in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.... Left to howl at the void An empty chair threw its shadow across the meadow: a tall-backed, scuffed, swivel writing chair, looming in its emptiness. The writing chair was one that Edward Abbey used. And when you know that, you can understand how long and how broad the shadow was. Only rarely, once every few generations or so, a figure rises to stand above others as inspirational guardian of America's defining heritage — its raw, open outdoors. This month, 15 years after his death, friends and family gathered here in the hills south of Moab to celebrate the literature, the life, the ideals, the cockeyed spirit, the certain despair, the boundless joy and the soaring landscapes of just such a rascal, old "Cactus Ed" himself.... Russia holds veto on Kyoto treaty As the world waits, Russians are battling over how Moscow should use its power to make or break the Kyoto Protocol, the international pact to head off global warming. President Vladimir Putin has been dithering for the past year over whether to ratify the agreement, and thus put Russia in league with more ecology-minded states like Canada and the European Union, or to line up with the more growth-focused nations like the US and Australia that are boycotting it.... Phoenix joins dispute over Verde water The city has joined Salt River Project in asking a Maricopa County judge to stop Verde Valley landowners from taking water the utility says does not belong to them. Attorneys for Phoenix filed court documents supporting SRP's claims that owners of five parcels of land are diverting water from the Verde River that should flow downstream for use in Phoenix. The city and SRP are asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Eddward Ballinger to hear the claims immediately. The Verde claims are a part of a 30-year-old case in which the court is attempting to sort out water rights on the Gila River system. The Verde flows into the Gila, which empties into the Colorado River.... Bringing in the buckaroos If lifestyle has a value, Jane Frost is a rich woman. Her Quay County cattle ranch is in an area called the Caprock, where the sweeping Estacado plain meets an escarpment, dropping into a rugged canyon. There her ranch sits, surrounded by mountains, grass, flowers, turkey and deer. Frost and her husband, Bob, are the real thing, real cowboys. They spend days tending cattle and nights grilling thick steaks near an outdoor fire pit. They ride. They rope. They listen to country music.... On the trail of Billy the Kid It's the morning of April 30, Day 3 on the Trail of Billy's Last Ride, a tough trail ride that chases the ghost of Billy the Kid. The ride follows, as closely as possible, the route taken by the Kid after he broke out of the jail in Lincoln on April 28, 1881, and rode to meet his fate at Fort Sumner. This is the first year the ride was open to the public. The trail, starting in steep, rugged Ellis Canyon just outside Lincoln, takes riders through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Mountain West, but the ride is more than a horseback sight-seeing tour. Developed to promote tourism, it takes riders into New Mexico's gunsmoke-clouded past and the mythic Old West that lives in the American imagination.... Ranching customs shape family's life His parents are busy pulling tack off a large pair of draft horses following the morning's feeding chore. Outside, the sun is just starting to peek through a heavy cover of clouds. The ground sparkles from an early morning dusting of spring snow. One of the family's border collies makes the mistake of wandering too close to Troy. With a quick twirl of his lariat, he ropes the dog. Almost as quickly, the collie lies down, the rope around its midriff. It's been through this exercise before. "You really shouldn't be roping the dogs," says Troy's mother, Mykal. "Nice loop though." It's All Trew: Readers 'come to terms' with the past Did you ever work until "dark-thirty" and nearly miss "supper?" I wore my "penny loafers" and dried dishes with a "cup towel." We ate "light bread" and when chicken was served we fought to "pull the pulley bone." If you didn't practice your "figures" in school you missed the "whole kit and caboodle." If you smoke "ready-mades" you got in "monstratious" trouble and had more problems than "Carter had little liver pills." The "scuttlebutt" has it that you committed a "combomeration" when you wrote "Kilroy was here" on the blackboard at school.... Rodeo Cowgirls Jan Youren was 11 years old when she competed in one of Idaho’s first rodeos for women in 1954. She won $54 for 24 seconds of work. At 60, Youren continues to ride bareback on bucking horses, and she often takes her rodeo-loving family along, competing against her daughter and granddaughters at events around the West as her husband watches. Youren’s granddaughter, Tavia Stevenson, 19, first competed in rodeo when she was 3 years old, and by 15 she was riding bulls, often riding against the boys in junior rodeos. The popularity of women’s rodeo doesn’t rival that of other professional women’s sports such as golf or soccer, but it continues to attract a rare breed of cowgirls bent on continuing a tradition that dates back more than a century.... Bucking Horse Sale keeps loyal fans coming back The Miles City Bucking Horse Sale has been called the "Cowboy Mardi Gras" and it's surely the biggest party this town throws each year. The event, staged this weekend for the 54th year, is part rodeo, part reunion and all tradition. For three evenings cowboys ride saddle broncs, bareback and bulls and after each ride the animal is auctioned off. Each day begins with festivities in town including a parade Saturday. And every night the bucking horse sale is prelude to a sidewalk-to-sidewalk party that stretches for blocks downtown....

Sunday, May 16, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Rock of ages Forest Service archaeologist James D. Keyser clambers up a basalt cliff to a ledge rubbed smooth over thousands of years by the backsides of visitors to this Columbia Gorge perch. "We affectionately call this butt polish," he says. Imagine no dams, no freeway traffic, no fences, no railroad tracks. Imagine the roar of the free-flowing Columbia River, loud as a freight train as it races through a narrow gorge. Imagine a young Indian sitting on this ledge through seven sunrises and seven sunsets, singing and chanting and running up and down the cliff, waiting for a vision of the spirits that will guide his life. The images painted and carved into the rocks surrounding this ledge, and the stories told by descendants of the first people of the Columbia basin, help Keyser imagine these things:.... also see Rock images finally see light of day and Gorge's 'Mona Lisa' has dark history.... Value nearly equal in proposed federal land swap The value of land proposed to be swapped between Pittsburg and Midway Coal Co. and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is nearly equal, according to appraisals released by federal officials. The proposal involves exchange of 5,900 acres of P&M property in Sheridan, Carbon and Lincoln counties for 2,000 acres of BLM-owned land near the Montana border in Sheridan County containing 84.2 million tons of mineable coal. The coal company's lands, valued at $5.444 million, include the JO Ranch in Carbon County, several tracts in and adjacent to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and the Welch Ranch in Sheridan County.... Lawmakers fear drop in firefighter hirings The federal government may hire about 30 percent fewer firefighters for this year's Western wildfire season than it did last year, according to lawmakers. An internal memo for House Appropriations Committee members warned that "absent action, this will result in failed firefighting efforts, with potential for significant loss of lives and property." Last year, the Forest Service hired 10,500 temporary firefighters, but funding shortfalls mean the agency might hire only 7,554 this year, according to the subcommittee.... Column: OHVs raise ire of outdoorsmen This anecdote highlights a problem that grows more severe with each passing year. Of all the gripes from concerned outdoorsmen, one theme stands out - off-highway vehicles, or, if you prefer, all-terrain vehicles. Outdoor enthusiasts - and this runs the gamut of anglers, campers and animal watchers - hold no middle ground when it comes to OHVs. They either love them or hate them, mostly the latter. Few nonowners have anything good to say.... Fire and other dangers threaten city water supply, report finds Forest fires, noxious weeds and pollution from development threaten the Sourdough Creek watershed, which is Bozeman's primary source of water, a recently released report concluded. The Bozeman Watershed Council released its assessment of the drainage in April after spending two years and more than $60,000 on the project. The report examines the area's ecology and water resources, and threats to both. A catastrophic fire would denude the watershed of vegetation, leaving its slopes exposed to rain and floods, he said. Run-off would choke the creek and could overwhelm the ability of the city's water treatment plant to clean the water.... Critical Habitat Reform Act Pits Greens Against Business More than three decades after the passage of the Endangered Species Act, some congressmen are calling for its reform, saying the "critical habitat" designation for these protected species is too broad and unclear. Critical habitats are homes to endangered species and designated as essential to their survival. They are not allowed to be developed and owners of critical habitats are limited in what they can do with their property. With strong support from the Bush administration, the House Resources Committee is now considering the Critical Habitat Reform Act of 2003, which would allow the Interior Department more discretion in designating critical habitats for endangered species. The bill, which has broad Republican support, would allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to take into account the economic impact on a community before it makes a designation.... Wildlife group will no longer compensate sheep losses in Absaroka The owners of the last domestic sheep allotment in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness no longer will be compensated when grizzly bears kill their animals. The decision was announced in a letter from Defenders of Wildlife, the environmental group that pays ranchers when grizzlies or wolves kill their stock. "It's a slap in the face," said Elaine Allestad, who with her husband, Lawrence, owns the allotment. "They're putting on pressure to make us just give up" grazing in the wilderness.... Bush official: Bald eagle will be off threatened list this year The American bald eagle -- the national symbol whose decline helped spur the Endangered Species Act and a ban on the pesticide DDT -- will be off the threatened species list this year, a top Bush administration official promised Saturday. Craig Manson, the administration's point man on the Endangered Species Act, agreed with a leading environmental group which said it's time to concentrate recovery efforts on other, more needy species.... Threatened species of bird puts California city's fireworks show on endangered list The Western snowy plover's status as an endangered species is threatening to make this bucolic beach-front city's annual Fourth of July celebration extinct. The California Coastal Commission has notified city officials they must obtain a special state permit before they can hold their annual holiday fireworks show this year. They gave the reason as the potential danger the birds face from fireworks being launched from a barge in the bay.... Ranchers and officials feud over water rights The matriarch of the Hammond Ranch, nestled in the Blitzen Valley about 60 miles south of Burns in eastern Oregon, said she doesn't like the neighbor she has: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A towering woman with short, white hair, diamond rings on her fingers and a no-nonsense look, Hammond said the fights with the refuge began in the mid-1970s when the agency made drastic changes to its livestock grazing program. Confrontations between the Hammonds and the refuge landed Hammond's husband, Dwight, in federal prison for several days in 1994 for interfering with federal contractors.... Nez Perce water use at heart of agreement The Nez Perce Tribe, state and federal agencies have agreed to augment Snake River flows to aid endangered salmon, improve fish habitat in the Salmon and Clearwater rivers, and officially recognize some of the tribe's claims to water in the Snake River Basin. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and Nez Perce Tribe Chairman Anthony Johnson announced Saturday that a proposed settlement had been reached in one of the largest water rights cases in the West. Kempthorne said the agreement preserved existing state and private water rights while it established a framework for water use and timber management compliance under the federal Endangered Species Act.... Deal developed over a decade of talks Many different interests had to come a long way to reach the deal announced on Saturday. For the people who negotiated the deal, it was like a marathon. "I don't know how many times we've reached agreement on one day and they fell apart the next," said Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, a farmer and member of the powerful Committee of Nine, which represents canal companies and irrigation districts in the Upper Snake River Valley and the Twin Falls area. "Yet we always returned to the table." The talks began informally in 1993 when the tribe filed its claim to all of the flows of the Snake River. But the idea that some kind of talks could address most of the salmon issues in Idaho grew out of the unsuccessful "Salmon Summit'' in the early 1990s.... Livestock losses leave ranchers worn down by wolves The magpies tipped him off. Robert Weber saw them out his kitchen window, hopping in inch-deep snow in the pasture where his sheep were supposed to be. Out of the house to investigate in the early morning light, Weber saw what had drawn the black-and-white scavengers to his Paradise Valley ranch. The birds were picking away at his dead sheep. "I counted eight dead sheep and a couple more torn up pretty bad," Weber said, recalling the morning last December. "I could see wolf tracks all over, about five inches long. That's one hell of a track." The sheep that survived were huddled together and terrified - some are still stricken with fear today, Weber said. The wolves returned the next night to his brother's place next door, scattering 17 dead sheep over a half-mile, according to Weber.... Controversial flat-tailed horned lizard protection plan updated The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with several other state and federal agencies, has updated plans to protect the habitat of the flat-tailed horned lizard, a lightning rod for controversy in public lands debates. The original agreement between several federal departments, branches of the military and California and Arizona state agencies was signed in 1997 and identified five management areas to conserve habitat for the lizard that comprise about 35 percent of the species' remaining habitat in the U.S.... Tribe's whalers await chance to hunt again Inside the school wood shop here, just past a knot of student canoes crafted from cedar, the skeleton of a goliath spreads across a concrete floor, offering testament to this tribe's past and raising questions about its future. With the calloused hand of an aging fisherman, Wayne Johnson feels the jagged edges of a hole in a massive skull where a bullet once blasted through bone -- the shot that took life from a young gray whale and, as some here say, simultaneously breathed it back into an ancient tribe of people. "It was just so amazing, that day," recalls Johnson, 51, then captain of the Makah whaling crew that successfully landed the tribe's first whale in more than seven decades.... Truckee's flow may be improved for boaters, fish As Reno’s downtown white-water park splashed into being with its official weekend opening, efforts are mounting to ensure the entire river flows freely for boaters and fish alike. About 30 different dams and diversion structures — many a century old — stand along the Truckee River as it winds 116 miles from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. Many of these aging structures block passage by the river’s fish, including Nevada’s state fish, the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout. Some also pose churning hazards for rafters and kayakers.... Lawsuit in deaths of aliens lingers A lawsuit many called frivolous because it sought more than $41 million from the U.S. government for the relatives of 11 Mexican nationals who died trying to cross illegally into the United States has proven to have more staying power than predicted. A federal court in Tucson has given the relatives another two months to prove accusations that their family members died in the treacherous southern Arizona desert in May 2001 because the Interior Department failed to approve the installation of water stations "in the exact area" of the desert where the Mexicans were found dead.... Frogs' friend could face federal rap: Refuge ex-chief ran afoul of U.S. species law The deposed manager of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge said he may face federal felony charges because he tried to save endangered frogs after their tank threatened to go dry in the drought. Wayne Shifflett, removed from his post of 19 years in January, also said Sue Chilton, a neighboring rancher and chairwoman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, repeatedly blocked his and others' attempts to help Chiricahua leopard frogs.... Discovery of endangered fish stalls river work As crews worked on refurbishing a portion of the San Lorenzo River levee this week, they got a big, or maybe little, surprise — a creature known as the tidewater goby. Officials believe this may be the first-ever sighting of the endangered fish in the San Lorenzo. The discovery is a biological gem but a construction obstacle. Crews have had to stop work while the contractor and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how to proceed.... Bison, bears and asphalt: Yellowstone takes another step in long-range road repair program About 3 million people roll into Yellowstone National Park every year, driving, stopping and gawking along 300-plus miles of roads. The wear and tear of car, truck and RV traffic comes with a price, usually in the form of potholes, cracks and other luggage-rattling bumps and bruises. This summer, park officials will continue a long-range program to rebuild the park's roads. The work - and consequent delays for drivers - will be limited this year to the park's eastern half.... NYT Editorial: Rescuing the National Parks t is mainly the views that lure nine million visitors a year to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The problem is that on some days no one can see anything. Over the last few decades, average visibility in summer months has shrunk from 77 miles to 15, and it is not at all unusual for visitors who climb to Look Rock, high on the park's northern edge, to find themselves cocooned in a uniform, whitish haze. This haze is not to be confused with the blue mists that arise after rainstorms and give the Smokies their name. It is man-made, consisting mostly of sulfates produced by coal-fired power plants upwind of the park. One administration after another has failed to deal adequately with this problem despite Congress's express mandate more than 25 years ago to do so. Great Smoky is not alone among the nation's national parks in its failure to meet expectations. Hardly any of the Park Service's 387 parks, historic sites and monuments are trouble-free. Joshua Tree National Park, in California, is threatened by residential development; Padre Island National Seashore and Big Thicket National Preserve, both in Texas, by oil and gas drilling. Roads and buildings in Glacier National Park are in appalling shape; Yosemite is choked with traffic. Biscayne National Park is vexed by overfishing and pollution. The backlog of deferred maintenance has budged little from the $5 billion deficit President Bush inherited; the operating budget is about two-thirds of what the parks need just to maintain the status quo.... Fire season early, possibly ‘active’ Mother Nature’s roller coaster of weather has created a potential tinderbox for western Colorado. Back-to-back record dry months and record wet months have paved the way for an early fire season with a plethora of fine fuels, without moistening large fuels enough to make them less fire-prone. Across the Southwest, the drought is persisting, and national officials are expecting this fire season to be active, and early. “Our fire season is about four to eight weeks ahead of schedule,” said Jim Dollerschell, a Bureau of Land Management rangeland management specialist.... Grizzlies test food-storage products Sam, an Alaskan grizzly, twitches his nose as he picks up the scent of mackerel juice and peanut butter lathered on a 95-gallon metal trash can. "It's an enjoyment for him to break things open," says Randy Gravatt, a naturalist at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, during a product testing session last month. "He's been called Houdini more than once." At 920 pounds, Sam will decide whether this trash can, an invention of Colorado prison inmates, is worthy of a coveted "bear-resistant" label from the Living with Wildlife Foundation.... Coal is back, cleaning up its act With the price of oil and natural gas climbing ever higher, the alternative fuel grabbing the most attention and the bulk of federal research dollars is the same one that's been the backbone of U.S. electricity needs for a century -- coal. After a decades-long slump, coal is once again a top priority among energy producers who see it as an answer to the nation's long-term needs -- this despite its nasty reputation as a major contributor to pollutants from sulfur to mercury to nitrogen oxide.... Scientists: Warnings on Grand Canyon ignored It's hard to get the sense anything is wrong in the Grand Canyon while floating through it. On a recent spring morning, the Colorado River was cool and calm. Trout leapt, splashing back into the river with a thick plop. Stands of salt cedar lined the banks, offering shade from desert heat. But all is not well in this crown jewel of America's national park system. The salt cedar and trout are invaders, part of a wave of alien fish and plants that have moved in. Native species are disappearing, beaches are washing away, and once-buried Indian archeological sites are eroding into the river.... Colorado gas wells rely on true grit Everyone knows Colorado imports cars and computers and bananas. But one precious import may come as a surprise: sand. Colorado is full of sand, but it's useless for luring natural gas out of the earth through an increasingly important drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracing (pronounced "fracking"). Colorado produces 900 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year, worth nearly $5 billion. "The vast majority of that would be left in the ground if one could not hydraulically fracture these wells," said J. Greg Schnacke, executive vice president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association. But the sand itself is becoming scarce, putting pressure on already-rising natural-gas prices.... Editorial: Putting 'trust' in trust reforms Yes, it's possible. The proposal for state trust land reform, put together by a broad coalition of groups, can make everyone in Arizona a winner. It would send more money flowing into classrooms. It would protect stunning scenery, rich wildlife habitat and irreplaceable archaeological sites. It would help communities shape development in ways they want. It would encourage responsible ranchers. It would streamline the process for builders and developers to lease and buy trust land. The Legislature is still wrestling with the state budget, but lawmakers shouldn't let that be the last piece of business this year.... Klamath Indians sue utility An Indian tribe in Oregon has filed a lawsuit seeking $1 billion from PacifiCorp, seeking a billion dollars for loss of salmon in the Klamath River. The Portland Oregonian reports that the Klamath Tribes filed documents in U.S. District court claiming that a hydroelectric project operated by the utility and its five dams keep salmon from migrating upstream to spawn. In their complaint, the Klamath cite treaty rights and traditional dependence on fishing for salmon in the river's upper basin.... Bogged down with wetland issues: Bitterroot ranch family copes with bureaucracy in pursuit of water conservation When Jay Meyer started removing some old cottonwood trees on his farm last winter, he thought he was doing the right thing. Some of the trees were going to be in the way of a new pivot sprinkler irrigation system for which his ranch had recently been approved through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program. But because the trees were on wetlands, he was in violation of the Clean Water Act. On May 5, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service came to the Meyer ranch to assess the violations.... Pickens group, CRMWA talk water contract T. Boone Pickens and Canadian River Municipal Water Authority members are talking water. There's no water flowing, no agreement yet, but during a meeting Friday at Pickens' ranch in Roberts County, CRMWA Manager Kent Satterwhite made a formal proposal to buy all the water that Pickens' Mesa Water Inc. owns or controls. Other Mesa officials and Anita Burgess, Lubbock city attorney, attended the meeting, some via conference call....