Saturday, June 05, 2004


Biodiversity Discovered

The "Biodiversity Crisis" has gained significant attention in recent years as the worlds' leading ecologists and environmentalists warn us that plant and animal species are going extinct in ever increasing numbers; this demise, commonly referred to as "The Sixth Extinction", being largely caused by human destruction of habitat and the consumption of natural resources. Acting on this impending doom, governments worldwide have been greatly stepping up wildlife protection and habitat conservation measures.The Biodiversity treaty signed by 153 nations in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, places species preservation at the forefront of the global environmental agenda, with staggering political, social and economic ramifications affecting virtually everyone.

Despite the emphasis placed on this dilemma, scientists concede that shockingly little is actually known about global biodiversity and extinction rates in the first place. Because of this, estimates are subject to wild speculations. Currently, these range anywhere from 10 million to upwards of 100 million species; based on these totals, ecologists have projected rates of 27,000 extinctions each year to as much as half of all living species to disappear in our lifetime!

For the first time, the total number of living species on earth, as well as actual extinction rates, have been calculated from reliable data. At most, there are 3.63 million species and the extinction rate is 3 to 5 species annually, vastly differing from the much higher estimates embraced by environmentalists and accepted by many policy makers.In light of the factual evidence presented herein, the entire issue of biological conservation needs to be reevaluated and various endangered species laws in both the United States and abroad reformed or abolished....

Thanks to eco-logic Powerhouse for the link to the Biodersity Discovered report.

Energy Insanity

It is absolutely amazing to see the political haranguing around America when it comes to the politics of oil and energy. In this election year, we hear of elaborate media conferences arranged by high-profile politicians who are complaining about increases in gas prices in an attempt to get political mileage with this issue. Like any consumer out there, I am annoyed with the steep price of gas at the pump (presently $2.35-$2.50 a gallon here in Southern California). The cost of gas is seriously squeezing most Americans financially.

The impact of this cost goes even farther. Some economists and politicians voice their concern for the U.S. trade imbalance (hovering around $44 billion in recent months). Yet, by far, the single most contributing factor to this trade imbalance of funds is the cost of imported oil. In the politics of oil and energy, this fact is never brought up -- and certainly not by media groups who would understand that this fact alone might make an even stronger case for domestic oil exploration....

Water World

The supply of fresh water is vital: as the world's population and economy expand, demand for water inevitably increases. The UN World Water Development Report "Water for People, Water for Life" should be, therefore, a timely and valuable document. Sadly though, it remains entrenched in the command-and-control paradigm, and so its policy recommendations will likely produce expensive failures, as have so many in the past. This is a pity, because there are several success stories from around the world where significant efficiency in water use has been gained at very low cost....

Atkins lawsuit pushed by meat hating animal rights radicals

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the organization promoting today's lawsuit against the estate of the late Dr. Robert Atkins, has an undeniable animal-rights motive for attacking a wildly popular diet plan that features meat and dairy foods. And PCRM has clear connections to an animal-rights terror group whose seven leaders were arrested yesterday by the FBI.

Today the Center for Consumer Freedom outlined the connections between PCRM and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a subset of the terrorist Animal Liberation Front. SHAC members have bombed cars and office buildings, threatened the lives of innocent Americans, and beaten at least one medical researcher while his family watched in horror....

Europe to Russia: Ratify Kyoto or Else

Facing mounting evidence that Russia is prepared to strike a final deathblow to the Kyoto Protocol, European Union (EU) officials have told Russia they might approve or deny the country's admission into the World Trade Organization based on its acceptance or rejection of the global warming treaty.

Entrance into the World Trade Organization (WTO) is expected to aid the Russian economy. Currently, with Russia outside the WTO, EU economic protectionism punishes Russia with severe tariffs and bans on a wide variety of Russian imports. Before 2003, for example, Russia exported at least 5 million tons of grain each year to Europe, but the EU has since shut the door on more than 90 percent of Russia's grain exports.

The WTO does not forbid the EU from taking such actions against nonmember nations. Russia's entrance into the WTO would protect it against such predatory economic practices....

EU Nations Fail to Comply with Kyoto

As the European Union (EU) uses World Trade Organization membership as a threat against Russia, evidence is mounting that the EU itself is failing to uphold its end of the Kyoto Protocol bargain.

One of President George W. Bush's chief objections to the protocol was that it was crafted in such a way as to make U.S. compliance more difficult and economically punitive than EU compliance. For example, the baseline year of 1990 was chosen to pre-date the transition of many European nations from coal to oil, natural gas, and nuclear power, for reasons unrelated to greenhouse gas emissions. The choice of 1990 also punished the U.S. for significantly greater economic and population growth, and therefore significantly more greenhouse gas emissions, than Europe managed during the 1990s.

Despite the crafting of a treaty highly favorable to EU nations, data from Germany, France, England, and many other European nations show the EU itself is not abiding by the treaty it is attempting to foist onto Russia.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a 30-nation economic partnership dominated by the EU, reported on April 5 that its member nations are failing to meet their Kyoto emissions targets....

Target of the week

Animal-rights activists went to the home of a Chiron employee one night last year to send a message. They pounded on her front door, rang her doorbell and shouted, "Open the door," followed by an epithet. Another night, they shouted through bullhorns and then bragged about it on the Internet. Someone also exploded two pipe bombs in her workplace.

Her crime? She was a paralegal for the Chiron Corp. in Emeryville, Calif., which engages in animal research to develop vaccines and other lifesaving products. It was her bad luck that Chiron had contracted with the animal-research firm Huntingdon Life Sciences -- and worse luck that animal-rights activists had formed a group committed to putting Huntingdon out of business, a group that was willing to intimidate any individual toward that end.

Last week, the feds indicted seven members of the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty -- including three Pinole, Calif., residents -- for stalking, harassing and intimidating employees at Huntingdon, Chiron and other concerns. The courts will decide if these individuals are guilty as charged. A SHAC spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle the charges are "completely unfounded" and then said this is "a classic First Amendment case."

Environmentalists want your property

Topping the list of laws that originally sounded good, but today destroy people's lives and livelihoods are those governing protection of endangered fish and other species. They are also the most vivid examples of what happens when you pour oil on a slippery slope. There is just no way to climb back up. Although many members of Congress recognize this, there's not one alive who knows how to negotiate the slope.

As new species are listed and habitat restrictions imposed, more citizens are damaged. Property owners lose rights to their land if an endangered woodpecker comes to visit, but the people who got the woodpecker listed lose nothing; in fact, they gain power, money, and prestige.

If you think an endangered "something" is waiting in the wings for your next development proposal, you're right. As of last December, 1,260 plants, bugs, birds, fish, and animals were on the federal threatened or endangered species list. More than 3,000 more are "candidates," in case some greedy human might consider turning over a shovel of sacred dirt....

Tall Tales In PETA's 'Dear Senator' Letter

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard stinging testimony that documented People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' increasingly confrontational tactics. The committee was also informed of PETA's ties to underground terrorist groups -- courtesy of a Center for Consumer Freedom letter read by Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT). As we predicted, PETA is justifiably concerned. PETA Vice President Lisa Lange recently submitted a reply to the Judiciary Committee in a vain attempt to defend the group's practices. Judging by her written statement, it looks like PETA's only defense is to distort the truth -- even if it means misleading the U.S. Congress....

Strange green John McCain

McCain is admittedly pinning his hopes on pressure that he expects will be generated by the publicity surrounding "The Day After Tomorrow," the just-released disaster movie based on a book by a Whitley Strieber, who has said he was warned of what is going to happen "by aliens." The movie posits a future in which hell freezes over as a direct result of our failure to do what the McCains of the world want.

Most of the commentary examines the "science" on which the movie is allegedly based as if its producers are in the documentary rather than disaster-flick business. Anyone who takes it seriously must still be wondering when the real Godzilla will surface to ravage our coastal cities, and when Fay Ray can come down from the ice-encrusted Empire State Building.

The scary question is: Why is a supposedly serious person like McCain relying on something as absurd as this movie to garner votes for his bill? One can understand Gore's fascination with such foolishness, but bringing up a bill in the hope that the hoopla surrounding a science-fiction disaster film will change the votes of men and women entrusted by voters to sit in the U.S. Senate has to mean he thinks his colleagues don't have the sense to come in out of the rain....

A Nice View for Boaters, but at What Cost?

Ban houses so boaters can have pristine views of the coast? Incredible as it sounds, the California Coastal Commission is actively implementing this policy in the name of protecting “scenic resources.”

Seems the commission got fired up about the idea after a boat owner complained about seeing homes along the coast on a recent voyage. So this month, the commission’s executive director, Peter Douglas, issued a memorandum expressing his determination to help the poor boaters by restricting any development that might break up offshore views of the coast....

PETA Denies 'Traumatizing' Kids

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals certainly has a strained relationship with the truth. Just days after unleashing a testimonial of tall tales on the U.S. Congress, PETA let loose with another doozie. In an attempt to reassure parents that their children are in good hands when PETA's predators are around, the group's new campaign coordinator Matt Rice recently told the Associated Press (presumably with a straight face): "We would never use shock tactics with children; it wouldn't be right." Rice may as well have added that the sky is purple and the earth is flat. As PETA's track record shows, the group reserves some of its most shocking tactics especially for children.

Here are just a few examples of PETA's attempts to shock kids into adopting its warped worldview....

Friday, June 04, 2004


Jarbidge dispute may go back to court Elko District Attorney Gary Woodbury warned Elko County commissioners Thursday that barring a political solution, the county may once again find itself in court over the status of South Canyon Road. Woodbury said that if congressional action is not forthcoming to resolve the controversy over the road once and for all, then it would be his recommendation that the settlement agreement be severed and just the road status be heard in court.... Forest Service Tracks Fire Violators Pilots wearing night-vision goggles are flying night patrols over two national forests in Arizona, looking for campers who ignore bans on campfires and cigarettes. The Forest Service announced the restrictions last week to help prevent wildfires as the summer heats up. Officials in Coconino and Prescott national forests arranged with the Arizona Department of Public Safety for state police to fly over forests and report the coordinates of suspected illegal fires. The two national forests, both north of Phoenix, total about 3 million acres combined. With the night-vision goggles, even lit cigarettes can be visible up to a mile away, said Dave Brookshire with the DPS air rescue unit based in Flagstaff.... Governor signs forest health bill that gives tax incentive Companies that locate in forest communities to help clear out small trees and underbrush will get a tax break under the terms of legislation signed into law Thursday by Gov. Janet Napolitano. The forest legislation allows a firms that hire at least 20 new people to get a state corporate or personal income tax credit that could be equal to up to one half of the salary paid to these workers. There also are exemptions from having to pay sales taxes for the purchase of certain equipment. Backers said the idea is to replace the state's now defunct logging industry with companies that process wood, helping to reduce the fuel that feeds fires.... Budget juggling targets menacing fire season Heeding warnings of a menacing fire season ahead, congressional budget writers Thursday added more than $200 million to the national fire budget that President Bush had requested, pulling funds from arts programs, land acquisition and energy research. A House subcommittee recommended $2.6 billion on forest fire prevention and suppression for the 2005 budget year. That includes an increase of $89 million for firefighting and $58 million for preventative fuels reduction efforts.... It was an eye-opening experience It was the summer no one in this Rocky Mountain town of 12,000 will ever forget. The summer of the Rainbows. Ask what it was like last year when the Family came to town, and folks seem to either snicker or sigh. Grocer Gary Nelson recalls when 40 Rainbows crowded into a public car wash, stripped off their clothes and took a much-needed shower. Then again, how could he forget? One Rainbow member supposedly went into Wal-Mart and gave his hair a quick scrubbing with a produce hose. When store officials discarded those fruits and vegetables, the Rainbows wanted to scoop them up and take them with them.... North state forests brace for Rainbow' gathering There are no leaders, no laws and anyone with a bellybutton is invited. One month from now, the "Rainbow Family" will flock 1960s-style to a national forest somewhere in Northern California for an annual gathering that could attract as many as 25,000 people. The loose-knit group of everyone from pierced teenage runaways to pleated Wall Street stockbrokers hasn't met in this state for 20 years.... Female firefighters claim sexual harassment Nine female firefighters, including one each from the San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests, have filed a complaint alleging a pattern of sexual harassment and discrimination within the U.S. Forest Service. The class-action complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture accuses Forest Service officials of harboring a culture of fear and sexism at forests across the state, specifically claiming that women firefighters have been unfairly passed over for promotions and treated in a derogatory manner. The USDA oversees the Forest Service.... Tiny crustacean delays new well A tiny aquatic crustacean will at best delay drilling of Socorro's new water well and could, under an unlikely worst-case scenario, force the city to relocate the well. The "Socorro Isopod," a 14-legged, shell-less invertebrate about three-eighths of an inch in length that resembles a "roly-poly" or pill bug, is an endangered species that exists naturally in only one place — Sedillo Springs on the western edge of Socorro. The thermal spring is more than a mile from the site of the city's planned new well, but it's close enough that the state Department of Game and Fish is concerned construction might damage the habitat or that pumping water from the new well might affect the water at Sedillo Springs that the isopod needs for survival.... Wildlife advocates win ruling on petitions Relief may be coming up the river soon for dozens of plants and animals foundering in legal limbo. A federal judge this week put an end to a 5-year-old policy that allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to delay decisions on flora and fauna proposed for endangered-species protection. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton on Wednesday ordered the agency to stop adhering to an internal policy in which certain outside petitions could be ignored. "For years, this has been a bureaucratic black hole," said Amy Atwood, an attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center, based in Eugene, Ore. The black hole was the "Petition Management Guidance Policy," begun during the Clinton years. Under the policy, the FWS did not have to consider petitions from outside groups if the petitions dealt with species that the agency already had deemed "candidate species.".... Effect of snakeheads on ecosystem remains a mystery Fisheries officials say it is too early to tell whether the rash of northern snakeheads caught recently in the Potomac River will upset the balance of the ecosystem. The sixth snakehead found in the area since April was caught Thursday in the Potomac River by Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists who were analyzing the Virginia side of the river near Fort Belvoir.... Lawsuit filed urging recovery of North Cascades grizzly bears Conservation groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday, urging the agency to implement a species recovery plan adopted years ago for grizzly bears in Washington's North Cascades. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks to force a start to the process of identifying recovery alternatives, which one day could include relocating bears from Canada, where grizzly populations are healthier, said Joe Scott, international conservation coordinator for the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance. The lawsuit also seeks to "uplist" the North Cascades grizzlies from threatened to endangered - a move that would signify the bears are in danger of becoming extinct.... Plants adapt to drought by becoming more water efficient, Nature study shows Plants in wet tropical forests adapt to changes in precipitation and become as efficient in their water use during droughts as plants in arid deserts, according to a study being published in the June 3 issue of Nature. While scientists have known for a long time that desert plants are efficient with water use, they were surprised to find that plants in grasslands and forest ecosystems demonstrate the same ability to acclimate.... Mountain Lion Caught After 6-Hour Standoff A mountain lion was safely caught and returned to the wild after holing up in a garage for nearly six hours Thursday. The animal was chased into the garage in Monterey County at around 2:30 p.m. and was caught in there until about 8:20 p.m. State Department of Fish and Game officials got to the scene, drilled two holes in the garage and waited for a clear shot before shooting the mountain lion with a tranquillizer dart. It took hours for the firefighters and police officers to lure the big cat into an open space. Finally, wildlife biologist Jeff Cann hit the mountain lion on its back with his second shot.... Panel urges rancher cooperation State and federal decision-makers in natural resources management Friday stressed the importance of open and ongoing communication with Wyoming ranchers and landowners, who in turn questioned the agencies' public comment procedures. The dialogue was part of a panel discussion about how to best manage natural resource issues when there are conflicting viewpoints and was organized by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, which is holding it's summer conference this week at the Parkway Plaza in Casper.... Gas drainage to private leases is costing government Drainage from federal coal-bed methane leases to private leases in Wyoming is costing the federal government and the state more than $3 million a month in lost revenues, Bureau of Land Management officials said today. "Last fall we'd already lost $56 million in royalties, and that continues on," BLM Buffalo field office Assistant Field Manager Richard Zander said during a panel discussion on regulatory concerns at the sixth annual Coal-bed Methane Fair in Gillette today.... County protests BLM police power Commissioner Joni Eastley brought an item to the board for review regarding Bureau of Land Management police power at Tuesday's meeting in Tonopah. Eastley asked the board to sign and submit a letter to the BLM in protest of a recent Federal Register notice proposing supplementary rules and giving power to the agency to enforce Nevada drug and alcohol laws on public lands. Sheriff Tony DeMeo said, in talking with other law enforcement officers in the state, that generally nobody had been alerted to the recent notice. He said under current law the BLM must offer a contract to local law enforcement officers if a problem arises on public lands.... $50 Billion Question: World, Where to Begin? What would you do with $50 billion? (Assuming that the goal was the benefit of humankind as opposed to owning a personal Lear jet or a tropical island.) To answer that question, Bjorn Lomborg, a statistician and environmental iconoclast, brought eight economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, to this harbor city last week to rank the world's 10 worst problems. Forget politics, they were told, just look at how to get the most bang for the buck. After studying all the contenders and running the numbers, the economic "dream team" decided that the best of the worst was controlling the spread of AIDS (worth $27 billion), followed by $12 billion for malnutrition and $13 billion to combat malaria. Spending money on other scourges, like global warming or government corruption, by contrast, would be a bad investment.... Editorial: Some friend Imperial County thought the big guy, the federal government, was on its side in a lawsuit brought by environmentalists who didn't think the county should have been allowed to have Mexicali-generated PM10, or small air particle, pollution taken into consideration on air-pollution attainment standards. Imperial County thought that its big guy friend would stay on its side throughout the battle. So much for friendship. That's when the federal government, led by Solicitor General Ted Olson, decided it would switch teams in the middle of the game. Olson, in an 11-page brief, lays out reasons the Supreme Court should not hear the case and thereby let the appeals court ruling stand. Using twisted logic that would be funny if it didn't have such serious implications for us here in the Valley, Olson states the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was wrong in stating there wasn't enough evidence to support the PM10 exceedances were caused by dust from Mexico, "further review is not warranted." Federal officials declined to comment beyond Olson's remarkably non-sensical stance.... Russia Seen Ratifying Kyoto in 2004-UNEP Head Russia is likely to ratify the Kyoto protocol this year, salvaging the stalled U.N. pact aimed at curbing global warming, the head of the U.N. Environment Program said on Friday. Kyoto's fate hinges on Russia after a U.S. pullout in 2001. President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) said last month that Moscow would move to ratify the 1997 deal after an agreement with the European Union (news - web sites) on entry to the World Trade Organization (news - web sites). Putin set no deadlines but UNEP head Klaus Toepfer told Reuters he expected Russia would ratify by the next meeting of Kyoto signatories, scheduled for December in Buenos Aires.... Senate agrees to pave over nuclear dump The Senate on Thursday agreed to ease cleanup requirements for tanks holding millions of gallons of highly radioactive waste from Cold War-era bomb making. The provision allows the Energy Department to reclassify radioactive sludge in 51 tanks at a South Carolina nuclear site so it can be left in place and covered by concrete, instead of being entombed in the Nevada desert. While the plan has been approved by South Carolina officials, it brought sharp criticism from officials in Washington and Idaho who feared the change would put intense pressure on them to agree to a similar cleanup plan at nuclear sites in their states.... Rancher charged with bringing cattle into U.S. A rancher accused of illegally bringing bulls into the United States after the mad cow ban was put in place pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday. Greg Kesler, 59, who keeps animals on both sides of the border, is charged in Montana with two counts of fraudulently importing live ruminants. The U.S. alleges that Kesler brought 24 animals into Montana from Canada last June, and six more in January. Thirty bulls were placed in quarantine in March because they didn't have import permits, the Montana Department of Agriculture says.... Sheriff, facing federal charges, resigns Glacier County Sheriff Gary Racine, who has been on administrative leave since his February arrest on federal fraud charges, has resigned, and court records indicate he and a deputy who was also charged with fraud intend to plead guilty. Racine and Deputy John Evans were charged with defrauding the Farm Service Agency's American Indian Livestock Feed Program of more than $30,000. The program provides financial assistance to ranchers on reservations who are affected by natural disasters that cut into their livestock feed. If they have to buy feed, they can submit claims through the tribe to be reimbursed for the purchases. A federal grand jury indictment accused Racine and Evans, both of whom have ranch operations on the reservation, of submitting fake receipts to the tribe for reimbursement.... Cattle producers scramble as testing deadline nears Dairy and breeder cattle producers are far behind schedule to meet an August deadline for testing hundreds of thousands animals in order to regain the coveted tuberculosis-free status for Texas herds. Texas is the nation's leading cattle-producing and exporting state, but the U.S. Agriculture Department stripped the TB-free status in 2002. If the USDA deadline of Aug. 31 isn't met or extended, other states might not allow Texas feeder cattle in....

There was a Hearing in Judge John Conway's courtroom today. Judge Conway made the following rulings:

1. Allowed Laney's attorney to recuse himself.
2. Approved Laney's request to represent himself pro se while he is searching for a new attorney.
3. Approved Laney's request to waive the jury trial.
4. Set the new trial date for August 10th.

Thursday, June 03, 2004


Western fire season tests politics, ecology As the US moves into what is likely to be another very difficult, drought-driven fire season across the West, the federal government is trying to find the best way to repair, protect, and eventually manage more sustainably those areas that have had massive burns. This week's proposal to address the aftermath of the Biscuit Fire is a prime example. It allows for the logging of thousands of charred trees, but it also includes expansion of a protected wilderness area. It's a Solomonic compromise: Neither environmentalists nor the timber industry is entirely happy with the decision. Officials know they have to tread carefully through both the politics and the ecology of fire restoration if they are to achieve their goal without getting tied up in the lawsuits and partisan sniping that have marked the timber wars of the past. Coincidentally, Greenpeace - the activist group better known for saving whales - set up its first "forest rescue station" nearby this week. With solar-powered satellite communications systems operating from portable dome tents, the group intends to publicize and possibly interfere with logging activities.... BLM Cow Catcher sale temporarily halted Just as timber was beginning to fall, a court-ordered preliminary injunction has halted logging in the 146-acre Cow Catcher sale, located in the Cow Creek drainage on Bureau of Land Management property. The decision follows a lawsuit filed by Stephanie Parent of Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center on behalf of three conservation groups, including Roseburg-based Umpqua Watersheds. The plaintiffs accuse the BLM of violating environmental rules. Conservationists disapprove of the sale, located southwest of Riddle, because six pairs of the threatened northern spotted owl forage there. Red tree voles, which serve as an important food source for the owls, are also found within the sale tract.... N.M. senators push for thinning plan New Mexico senators think it's fine that the U.S. Forest Service has a $66 million plan to make up for the loss of 33 air tankers from this summer's fight against wildfires, but they wish the agency would pay more attention to thinning the forests to prevent massive fires in the first place. Sen. Pete Domenici, an Albuquerque Republican, said that at $500 per acre the Forest Service could thin 132,000 acres of forest for the cost of the 139 airplanes and helicopters that will be thrown into fighting wildfires. And Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a Silver City Democrat, released a General Accounting Office report detailing how the Forest Service from 1999 to 2003 diverted $73.8 million from thinning projects and other activities in New Mexico and Arizona to pay for firefighting.... Secret maps list fire danger areas San Bernardino County fire chiefs have compiled confidential maps showing dozens of "special hazard areas" that could pose grave danger to firefighters sent in to battle the next large mountaintop blaze. Officials maintain that the areas are not to be interpreted as indefensible against wildfire and have not made the maps public for fear they could be used as a "roadmap for a potential arsonist.".... Elimination of the most Wasteful, Environmentally Harmful Highway Projects would save Billions, According to new Report As lawmakers begin final debate on the federal transportation bill, a new report released today calls for elimination of the nation’s most wasteful and environmentally harmful highway projects, many of which are key factors in bloating the current legislation. Road to Ruin: The 27 Most Wasteful Road Projects in America chronicles the nation’s most wasteful and environmentally harmful highway projects and ranks the ten worst. Eliminating the 27 projects would save federal taxpayers more than $24 billion.... WWF Helps Set Up Amazon Trust Fund; Goal Is Protection of Area Bigger Than U.S. Parks System Over Next 10 Years World Wildlife Fund announced the creation Thursday of a permanent, multi-million dollar endowment to fund conservation efforts in the Brazilian Amazon in partnership with the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility and the government of Brazil. In a ceremony at the presidential palace in Brasilia, WWF officials presented President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva with a check for $500,000 in seed money for the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) trust fund. The GEF contributed a matching $500,000 grant for the fund's initial capitalization.... Are Museums' Specimen Collections Going Extinct? Natural history collections are facing the same fate as the dodo, the passenger pigeon, and other extinct animals whose remains they preserve, according to scientists in the United States and Britain. The researchers say university and museum collections that catalog past and present life on Earth are at risk because the supply of scientists needed to manage them is drying up. They blame staff shortages on inadequate government funding and a lack of young scientists who want to work in museums.... Huge, Freed Pet Pythons Invade Florida Everglades In February, a group of tourists at the Pa-hay-okee Overlook in Florida's Everglades National Park stumbled upon a battle between an alligator and a python. The stunned onlookers watched as the snake wrapped itself around the alligator, only to see its opponent counter by rolling over and grabbing the snake in its mouth and swimming off with the snake in its jaw. It was not the first such battle. In January of last year, a horde of tourists watched another epic contest between an alligator and a python at the park's Anhinga Trail. After more than 24 hours in the jaws of the alligator, that snake broke free and moved off into the marsh. For now, the alligators in the Florida Everglades are holding their ground against the invading snakes. But the odds may be changing. The park is being overrun with Burmese pythons, one of the world's largest snakes. These pythons can grow to be more than 20 feet (6 meters) long in their natural habitat in Southeast Asia.... Column: Whatever Is Necessary The Yakama Indian Nation put the federal government on notice -- it has an obligation to clean up its mess. The confederation of tribes contends that the federal government has failed to protect the Columbia River from pollution emanating from the Hanford nuclear reservation -- the most contaminated nuclear site in the nation.... Snowmobile fate remains uncertain Expect a sense of deja vu in Yellowstone National Park this winter. Snowmobilers, nearby communities and the general public probably won't know the exact fate of snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks until days before the 2004-05 winter season begins, park officials said Wednesday. Between now and the start of winter, park planners will be working to come up with a temporary plan for winter in Yellowstone - including a decision about whether snowmobiles will be allowed - before embarking on yet another long-term study of the issue.... Ruling protects rare desert plant In a setback for off-roaders, federal wildlife officials on Thursday said a plant that led to closures of the desert's most popular dunes should remain protected under the nation's Endangered Species Act. "I'm extremely disappointed that the ruling went the way it did," said Grant George of Rancho Cucamonga, president of the American Sand Association, a 17,000-member group. In their petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the association and other off-roading groups sought to prove the Peirson's milk-vetch, a spindly member of the pea family that bears purple blossoms, was in fact flourishing at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, about 100 miles southeast of Palm Springs.... Editorial: The greater good Even if everyone accepted that public lands were to be managed for the public good, there would still be a lot of questions to answer. The United States includes a lot of public and many potential, sometimes conflicting, benefits. But before we can even attempt to think through the rival claims to public benefits -- primarily preservation, recreation and resource extraction -- the Bureau of Land Management must be given the clear mission, and sufficient means, to put the public interest first. Recent reporting by the Associated Press has shown that, at least when it comes to oil and gas leases on BLM land, private interests are coming out ahead.... Senate Backs Redefinition of Atom Waste The Senate voted Thursday to give the Energy Department the authority to reclassify nuclear waste so it could be left in aging tanks, some of them already leaking, rather than be pumped out for disposal elsewhere. The vote would reverse a decision last July by a federal district court judge in Idaho who had ruled, in a suit brought by environmentalists and backed by several states, that the high-level radioactive material must be buried deep beneath the ground.... Ailing Alaska Killer Whales to Get Protection U.S. officials said on Thursday they are granting special protection to a small group of Alaska killer whales that have dwindled in number since some members were seen swimming through oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. The AT-1 killer whales, which bear distinctive black and white markings, make special calls to each other and differ genetically from other whales, have been designated as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service said.... Editorial: Biscuit and honey In the federal government's final plan for salvage of the Biscuit fire, environmentalists see a full-scale assault on old-growth trees, pristine roadless areas and one of the West's most fragile ecosystems. Logging advocates see a timid plan that will waste tens of millions of board feet of salvageable wood and deny thousands of well-paying jobs to one of the poorest regions in Oregon. We see a flawed and politicized plan that overreaches into roadless areas, but one almost certain to be narrowed by court rulings, wood decay and other factors to provide only a modest level of salvage and more than adequate forest protections.... Levee break threatens water quality Officials hurried to safeguard drinking water for cities as far away as Los Angeles on Thursday after a break in an inland levee allowed saltwater from the San Francisco Bay to rush into a freshwater delta. It was unclear how much saltwater had passed through the breach, which grew to 300 feet by late afternoon, or how deep into the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta the saltwater had traveled, officials said.... Albuquerque gets closer to using San Juan/Chama water The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has given its approval to a water use plan that will ensure that the city of Albuquerque has a stable water supply well into this century. The Bureau gave its OK in an announcement late Wednesday to the city's plan to use its San Juan-Chama water for drinking purposes. The water will be taken out of the Rio Grande through a $250 million diversion and filtration plant project, which the city hopes to have in operation by 2006.... L.A. soon may atone to valley it left high and dry Looking out from the banks of the river that once ran through the rugged Owens Valley beside the Sierra Nevada, Mike Prather sees only stumps, weeds and dried mud. The water is long gone. It's been that way for nearly a century, ever since Los Angeles began quenching its insatiable thirst by buying nearly all the land and building what some folks in Big Pine bitterly call "the big straw," the 233-mile aqueduct that swiped the local water supply and gave the metropolis its life.... Breakthrough procedure draws human antibodies from cow blood Researchers at a Sioux Falls laboratory have developed a way to harvest disease-fighting human antibodies from a cow's blood. What was once a one in 1,000 chance of getting human antibodies from the blood of a cow now is nearly a 100% guarantee. Hematech's research has resulted in another accomplishment: its cloned cattle grazing on a secret tract in northwest Iowa can't contract mad cow disease.... Congressional Vote on Central America FTA ''Unlikely'' Before November Election A congressional vote on the recently signed US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is "unlikely" to take place before the November elections in the US, according to US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. At a recent press conference in Washington announcing the conclusion of a free-trade agreement between the US and Bahrain, Zoellick said that, given time constraints and opposition to the accord, the Bush Administration will probably wait until after the November elections to pursue a vote on the agreement between the US and the Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica....

Funding Transfers Cause Project Cancellations and Delays, Strained
Relationships, and Management Disruptions

The Forest Service and Interior transferred over $2.7 billion from other agency programs to help fund wildfire suppression over the last 5 years. On average, the Congress reimbursed agencies about 80 percent of the amounts transferred. Interior primarily used funds from its construction and land acquisition accounts. In recent years, the Forest Service used funds from many different programs; while before 2001, it transferred funds from a
single reforestation program/timber sale area restoration trust fund.

Transferring funds for wildfire suppression resulted in canceled and delayed projects, strained relationships with state and local agency partners, and difficulties in managing programs. These impacts affected numerous activities, including fuels reduction and land acquisition. Although transfers were intended to aid fire suppression, some projects that could improve agency capabilities to fight fires, such as purchasing additional equipment, were canceled or delayed. Further, agencies’ relationships with states, nonprofit groups, and communities were negatively impacted because agency officials could not fulfill commitments, such as awarding grants. Transfers also disrupted the agencies’ ability to manage programs, including annual and long-term budgeting and planning. Although the agencies took some steps to mitigate the impacts of transfers, the effects were widespread and will likely increase if transfers continue.

To better manage the wildfire suppression funding shortfall, the agencies should improve their methods for estimating suppression costs by factoring in recent changes in the costs and uncertainties of fighting wildfires. Also, the Congress could consider alternative funding approaches, such as establishing a governmentwide or agency-specific reserve account.

The above is from an executive summary which can be viewed here (pdf). To view the entire report, go here (pdf).

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Proposed wilderness expansion covers hard-fought ground The 64,000 acres of new wilderness that the U.S. Forest Service wants to create within the area burned by the massive 2002 Biscuit Fire covers ground that has been fought over for more than 20 years by environmentalists trying to put old growth forests off-limits to logging. Earth First! protesters laid down in front of bulldozers in 1983 to stop construction of the Bald Mountain Road through the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. Others climbed charred trees to stop salvage logging after the Silver Creek drainage burned in 1987. Environmentalists, however, are far from supportive of the Forest Service's current wilderness proposal, saying it amounts to a trade-off for support to log other parts of the Siskiyou National Forest that should also be protected.... Wilderness proposal comes as a surprise The federal government's call for 64,000 acres of new wilderness was viewed widely Tuesday as intriguing -- and a complete surprise. "There has been no contact either with my staff or myself regarding this. I've not seen maps nor descriptions," said Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, whose 4th Congressional District includes much of the Southern Oregon landscape scorched in the summer of 2002. The establishment of wilderness areas is not taken lightly.... Angry Cabin Owners To Meet With Forest Service The Peppin Fire destroyed their cabins, and they blame the Forest Service. The nation's largest wildfire so far this year burned 12 cabins and several outbuildings. Residents believe firefighters could have doused the flames when the blaze was only a few dozen acres.... Va. groups turn to Earth First! to combat timbering in Jefferson Anti-logging activists in southwest Virginia will work with environmental group Earth First! on ways to stop a timber sale in the Jefferson National Forest now that their legal and administrative attempts have been denied. The activists, who have been fighting the Bark Camp timber sale in Wise and Scott counties since 1997, this month will learn the finer points of tree climbing, blocking roads and surviving in the woods at a weeklong "action camp" organized by several environmental groups.... Forest Service: Some air tankers could be back in air this summer Some large air tankers that had been grounded over safety concerns could be back fighting fires this summer if their private operators can prove they are safe to fly, federal officials said Wednesday. The Forest Service grounded the 33-plane fleet last month because it had no way to tell if the aging planes were safe. But officials said Wednesday they have worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to develop guidelines to assess the planes' air worthiness. The private companies that operate the military surplus planes will be asked to supply detailed records showing each plane's flight history, maintenance and other information, said Mark Rey, the Agriculture undersecretary who oversees the Forest Service.... Jury returns split verdict in Nevada petroglyph theft case Two men accused of stealing ancient American Indian artwork from a national forest were convicted Wednesday of theft of government property. But in a split verdict, the U.S. District Court jury found the men not guilty of unlawful excavation of archaeological resources. The men's lawyers said they are optimistic the judge will throw out the convictions because the jury didn't follow the judge's instructions on interpreting the law.... Bill would make recreation fees permanent Whether the public should be charged fees to recreate on public lands has been a controversial subject since 1996 when Congress authorized a pilot project to do just that. Now Congress is considering a bill to make the program permanent and create an "America the Beautiful" pass required for entry to federal parks, forests and monuments. And opponents and proponents are weighing in.... Forest Service issues 175 citations for fire restriction violations Coconino spokeswoman Raquel Poturalski said that two-thirds of the 175 Forest Service citations issued this week were for violations of fire restrictions. She said the Arizona Department of Public Safety assisted by flying over forested areas with infrared cameras to help spot violators. The DPS officers radioed coordinates to the Forest Service when they spotted a fire.... Fire, drought dry up Cedar Creek falls The cool, deep, pool of water at the bottom of Cedar Creek Falls is gone. So is the sparkling 100-foot waterfall which dropped to the bottom of the canyon and fed the pool east of Ramona. Both fell victim to the huge Cedar fire, which blazed through central San Diego County last year and scorched the watershed on the lower slopes of the Cuyamaca Mountains. The barren terrain that was left in its wake eroded during the winter and filled the creek and pool with sediment, sand and debris.... Biologists alarmed at disease outbreak in Klamath River salmon The California Department of Fish and Game is worried that a parasite killing young salmon and steelhead migrating down the Klamath River to the ocean could kill hundreds of thousands in coming weeks as flows reduce. Young chinook, coho and steelhead infected with the parasite Ceratomyxa shasta began showing up in traps that sample the annual migration around May 1, said senior fisheries biologist Neil Manji of the department's Redding office. The parasite is found up and down the river, but the cause of the outbreak remains unknown.... Environmental Protection 'Embedded' into Everyday Life on US Military Bases In April, attorney generals from 39 states urged the U.S. Congress to reject a Pentagon proposal that would relax environmental laws on military bases. Since the passage of the Clean Air, Water and Endangered Species Acts in the early 1970s, the Pentagon has had to comply with strict environmental laws governing how it manages its military reservation land. There are more than 425 military installations in the United States, encompassing 12 million hectares of largely undeveloped land.... Timber industry faults report on endangered birds An iconic Northwest seabird’s protection under the federal Endangered Species Act remains in question, after probes by the timber industry into new reports that the bird soon could be extinct in Oregon and Washington. The Portland-based American Forest Resource Council says the findings issued last month by a panel of leading scientists on the marbled murrelet are tilted toward the bird. The forest council’s vice president, Chris West, said some of the scientists are known to advocate murrelet protection, and the new findings frequently cite their own studies.... Companies bid $53.9M for Alaska leases Five oil companies bid Wednesday for the right to develop 1.4 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in the largest onshore federal lease sale in state history. The high bids totaled $53.9 million and covered 123 individual tracts. The highest bid for a single tract was $13.74 million, made by Fortuna Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Calgary, Alberta-based Talisman Energy Inc. "The energy resources of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska are essential to meeting our nation's energy demands," said Henri Bisson, the Bureau of Land Management's Alaska director.... Las Vegas area land prices boom at BLM auction Prices boomed to nearly $280,000 an acre at a Bureau of Land Management auction Wednesday, with 2,532 acres of formerly federal land purchased by developers in fast-growing Clark County. The largest parcel - 1,940 acres in the Henderson hills that received no bids in November - sold for $557 million to the Focus Group, a southern Nevada developer that is earmarking it for a master-planned community.... Governor Murkowski Welcomes Federal Decision on Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Governor Frank Murkowski on Tuesday welcomed the Department of the Interior's recent decision not to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction in the Alaska Peninsula/ Aleutian Islands commercial salmon fisheries, known as the Area M June fishery. In a letter to Murkowski dated May 28, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced the decision and reiterated that "a high threshold for justification would have to be met before a decision to extend jurisdiction beyond Federal lands is made." Norton recognized that "such extraordinary decisions [preempt] a State's authority to regulate within its own jurisdiction." Norton indicated that she "will not risk damaging Federal/State relationships unless there is a clear demonstration that the State's action constitutes a substantial and impermissible interference with a federally protected right.".... Column: "The Day After Tomorrow" The $200-million Summer blockbuster features super-tornadoes smashing LA, hail stones the size of Toyotas falling in Tokyo, waves that wash an oil tanker up Fifth Avenue in New York, and a blizzard that turns Manhattan into Mt. Everest. It’s “Deep Impact” meets Willard Scott. It’s junk science meets disaster films. It’s Chicken Little with brain freeze. It’s – really, really dumb.... Ute tribal members suing agency over right-of-way dispute Three members of the Ute Indian Tribe, including a former Business Committee member, have filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs alleging the BIA has ruined their property by granting rights-of-way to two irrigation companies. In federal court documents, Richard Mountain, Stewart Pike and Floyd Wopsock maintain the BIA "systematically allowed non-Indian irrigation companies . . . to build facilities that trespass on trust lands, divert valuable irrigation water supplies off Indian lands and impair important fisheries expressly protected by Congress."....

On June 1st, the US Attorney filed a motion with the court seeking $229,667.34 in damages against Kit and Sherry Laney. The breakdown was as follows:

Impoundment and Sales Costs..........$408,014.42
Unathorized Grazing Fees...............23,448.10
Credits (livestock sale and..............(200,850.50)
deceased cattle).........................(994.68)
Net Damages as of 5/31/04............$229,667.34

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Input sought on forest wells Citizens for Better Payson Government (CBPG), a watchdog organization originally formed during Payson Mayor Ken Murphy's first days in office, is asking Payson residents to counter a campaign launched by residents of Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows urging the Forest Service to deny the proposal by the town of Payson to drill up to 15 exploratory wells and 13 secondary test wells to determine the presence or absence of a significant aquifer system beneath the Diamond Rim project area northeast of Payson and Star Valley. The proposal, which is currently under consideration following several modifications requested by the Forest Service, is based on the premise that the aquifer the town is interested in is deeper than and unrelated to the aquifer(s) that the wells in the areas opposing the project draw from.... Forest Service To Move 400 Jobs To Albuquerque The U.S. Forest Service plans to move 300 to 400 financial services workers to Albuquerque. New Mexico's largest city beat out 18 other communities for the Forest Service's consolidated financial services center. The center will provide budget and accounting services for the agency in one place and is expected to be operating in Albuquerque by fall.... Firefighting agencies contract for 100 new aircraft The heads of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service on Tuesday announced their agencies would acquire more than 100 additional aircraft to battle this summer's wildfires after ending contracts for 33 aging air tankers last month. Under attack from western congressmen for cutting the old planes, BLM Director Kathleen Clarke and Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said earlier in the day they couldn't justify using the old tankers because of safety risks.... Federal agencies defend decision to suspend air tankers The heads of the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service are defending their decision to suspend the use of air tankers to fight wildfires. BLM Director Kathleen Clarke and Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said they could not justify endangering the lives of air tanker crews when, for now, fires can be fought from the ground. The joint statement released Tuesday came in response to pledges some lawmakers made last month to get the 33-tanker fleet back in the air right away.... Split Biscuit Fire salvage plan gets mixed reviews The FEIS preferred alternative protects communities and habitats by building 300 miles of fuel management zones, reforesting 31,000 acres, restoring 700 acres of meadows, implementing 83,000 acres of prescribed burns, and completing 70 miles of road work including closure, decommissioning, and stabilization. The proposal calls for removing 370 million board feet of fire-killed wood, which is enough to build 24,000 homes. The proposal to remove fire-killed wood is restricted to 4% of the project area. Helicopters will be used to minimize impacts and reduce temporary road construction (5 miles). No permanent roads will be built. The preferred alternative also includes a research plan for a Landscape Management Experiment on Restoring Late-Successional Forest Habitat. The management experiment was developed to provide scientific information for producing late-successional forest habitat as part of restoration after a fire. This would be the largest replicated experiment in the Northwest at 36,000 acres and allows comparisons at the scale used in forest management. Little scientific information currently exists on this topic or at this scale.... Rancher embraces new role as an environmental steward Tim Koopman sees himself as the caretaker of 850 acres of oak-studded grassland in the hills between Pleasanton and Sunol. The property is home to California tiger salamanders, golden eagles and other protected species. But it's not a public park or wildlife preserve -- it's a cattle ranch that has been in the Koopman family since 1918. Much has changed since then, including the completion of Interstate 680 in 1967, which served as a catalyst for growth in the region. Today, Koopman's property is hemmed in not only by the freeway, but also by five-acre "ranchettes" and an 18-hole municipal golf course that the city of Pleasanton is building.... Experts remain puzzled over beak deformities in Alaska's birds Captured 15 months ago in South Anchorage, with a bill three times longer than normal, the adult male chickadee has become part of a scientific investigation into a mysterious epidemic of beak deformities that surfaced in the 1990s and continues. Through February, 1,211 individual chickadees and 195 birds of 27 other species have been found in Alaska with crossed, curled or malformed mandibles. The reports stretch from Bristol Bay to Fairbanks, from Juneau to the Matanuska and Susitna valleys. They include 42 northwestern crows in Southeast as well as 37 black-billed magpies, 28 Steller's jays, 21 downy woodpeckers, plus robins, ravens, nuthatches and others.... Learning to keep cool in a wildfire's flames Ed Pulaski pulled back the hammer on his six-gun and ordered his panicking fire crew into a mine tunnel. That bold maneuver saved 39 men from being consumed by the deadly wildfire known as the 1910 "Blowup" in northern Idaho and Montana. It also cemented Pulaski's name in the annals of wildland-firefighting lore. Instructors at the Utah Wildfire Academy don't pack sidearms. But they are steeped in the rugged tradition of wildland firefighting, which has been punctuated by deadly tragedies such as the 1990 blaze that claimed two volunteer firefighters in Heber Valley.... Court Rules EPA Snowmobile Regulations Insufficient A federal appeals court has ordered EPA to review and clarify regulations that would allow thousands of new snowmobiles to be sold with outdated, inadequate pollution controls, even after new EPA rules take full effect in 2012. “Over and over, EPA has argued that its 2002 emissions standards for snowmobiles are as protective as they can possibly be,” said Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew, who represented Bluewater Network and Environmental Defense. “The court has disagreed, and sent EPA back to the drawing board.”.... Developer Unearths Burial Ground and Stirs Up Anger Among Indians With the precision of a watchmaker, an archaeologist clasped a small paintbrush and gently swept the brown, sandy dirt off the spine of a Native American woman buried some 200 years ago. From the condition of the bones, the archaeologist, Penny Minturn, deduced that the woman was 30 to 40 years old when she died, had suffered from arthritis and had recently given birth, and that her diet had probably consisted of shellfish, native plants, nuts and berries. But many Native Americans are outraged that the bones of their ancestors are being dug up from the ancient burial ground, known to the Tongva tribe as Saa'angna and filled with the skeletal remains of people whose predecessors hunted and roamed across Southern California 7,000 years ago or more. Archaeologists here believe it is the largest excavation now going on in the country.... Where Butterflies Rest, Damage Runs Rampant The illegal loggers smeared mud on their faces to hide their identities. Then they smashed a camera they feared would expose their pillaging. The evidence, however, was everywhere. Two trucks rumbled down the mountain with illegally cut wood. The mud-smeared loggers had fresh blood under their fingernails from loading. In a federally protected forest that is a winter haven for the monarch butterfly, the landscape was as barren as the moon. This is Mexico's most famous national park, a 10,000-year-old evergreen forest set aside by presidential decree and supported by millions of dollars in international aid for colonies of orange and gold butterflies that migrate annually from the United States and Canada, in clouds that look like fire in the sky.... Eco Rules May Ease In Oil Pinch With pump prices soaring, the Bush administration is considering easing environmental regulations and the permit process for new and expanding refineries to lift gasoline production, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said. Evans told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that the Bush administration is prepared to "take all the steps we can" to increase supplies. Options under consideration, he said, include easing environmental requirements to use different gasoline blends for to reduce air pollution and easing the permit process for building new refineries or expanding old ones.... Conservative Opposition Leaves U.N. Accord in Dry Dock The Defense and State departments both want it. So do the oil and mining industries. Environmental groups are clamoring for it. Yet three months after the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea won the unanimous approval of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it is languishing in the Senate, with scant chance of ratification this year. The comprehensive accord, covering the use of the oceans for shipping, mining, fishing and naval operations, has become the victim of an all-out assault by conservative groups, such as Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, that oppose multinational agreements on principle. The treaty's chief Senate advocate, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), has warned the Bush administration that its failure to speed ratification tells the world that the United States rejects multilateralism even as it tries to rally support for Iraq's recovery and for the war against terrorism.... Colorado Springs' Cloud Seeding Future Up In The Air The future of could-seeding efforts by the city is uncertain after budget cuts and a season that saw fewer clouds than normal. Fewer clouds and less moisture translated to fewer opportunities to seed clouds this winter. Some experts agree that under ideal conditions, cloud seeding can increase precipitation by about 10 percent. But conditions last winter were less than ideal.... Rancher dies after bee attack, tractor fall Authorities believe bees attacked an area rancher, causing him to fall off a tractor and die over the weekend. Ranch owner Bruce Harrison, 54, was found lying on the ground next to the tractor. He had spoken on the telephone an hour before being found, Jeannie Gage, a spokeswoman for the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office, said Tuesday....
Southern Arizona family faces off with feds Part One

A scrappy little breeze careens through the Dos Cabezas Pioneer Cemetery, setting tufts of grass dancing among the cockeyed 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.

Still, these are merely temporal matters. Here on this peaceful hillside, the winds of change no longer afflict John and Delia Klump. They are tenacious, backcountry breezes, and that is all.

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.

Out in the hall, Wally's son, Levi, a compact and studious man, is worried.

"Obviously, prison has really taken a toll on Dad," he says. "He has really deteriorated."

A month earlier, Wally Klump was still full of spit and vinegar, still defying Roll's order to pull his 28 cows from the Simmons Peak Allotment, a U. S. Bureau of Land Management property near Willcox to which Klump holds no realistic claim. During his year in jail for contempt, Wally became a minor celebrity (and BLM public relations headache), garnering a story in The New York Times, a "Free Wally!" Web site and a grim following among angry ranchers dotting the West.

But the BLM stuck to its guns.

"For us, it's simply a matter of enforcing the rules," says Diane Drobka, spokeswoman for the agency's Safford office, which oversees several Klump grazing allotments. "Mr. Klump held his fate in his own hands the whole time."

Cardiac murmurs, however, can give a 71-year-old man far from his family a change of heart. One morning in early May, Wally awoke feeling odd. In federal court, he appears silent and gaunt. His attorney, Heather Williams, rises to explain that her client will finally comply, and remove his cattle from Simmons Peak.

But that's not the court's only gripe against Wally. Roll is also displeased with the defendant's repeated threats to plug any government official who attempted to move his cows. Fortunately, this matter also seems headed for resolution. Klump "submitted a letter last week renouncing his Second Amendment rights," says Williams, adding that Wally only mentioned his gun rights in Willcox newspaper ads "out of frustration at the situation he and his family are in. He doesn't plan to ever hurt anybody over a cow."

Williams pauses, glancing down at Wally.

"I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Klump, for speaking up against injustice," she says. "We may not always agree with him, but people like him are why our country exists."

Jennifer Guerin, chief assistant U.S. attorney, stands to say she won't object to Klump's release. But she notes that his pacifism is rather fresh, considering that he'd issued more dark warnings just days earlier to a reporter from The New York Times.

"This was a very explicit threat to us," Guerin says, and Roll agrees, calling Wally's "very intemperate statements" the "seminal feature of this case." Nonetheless, Roll will grant Klump his freedom, contingent on a status report in five weeks that confirms the Simmons Peak cattle have found other accommodations.

Wally Klump stands slowly, and handcuffs are slipped from his wrists. Later, Williams calls it "the best Mother's Day gift" she could receive. "Obviously," she says, "I don't think he should have been there in the first place."

And, in the end, it's hard to gauge what his sacrifice accomplished. After a year in the slammer, Wally Klump is now just an ailing old man, and one too long removed from the wily Dos Cabezas.

By and large, the Klumps never cared much for the federal government, or its habit of enforcing grazing laws on public lands. But the family didn't actively provoke the feds until the late 1980s, when brothers Wally and Wayne began sporadically locking access roads to public property.

Feuding heated up in the early 1990s, when Wally and the BLM tangled over a parcel called the Badger Den Allotment. Wally repeatedly ignored permit requirements, and finally the BLM ordered that he remove his cattle. He appealed all the way to the Ninth Circuit Court, losing every time. According to an agency report, "Mr. Klump's public lands grazing permit was cancelled by the BLM for one basic reason: his continuing failure to follow the terms and conditions of his grazing permit."

Again, the BLM "requested that Mr. Klump remove his trespassing livestock from public lands," according to the agency release. Again, Wally refused. When he then "claimed that he owned the public lands because he had worked on them," the BLM filed a Notice of Intent to Impound his cattle, and hauled them off for sale.

Meanwhile, Wayne had lost his grazing privileges on the Simmons Peak Allotment.

"I had a permit," he explains, "but my cattle kept losing their ear tags in the brush. Then the BLM went up there three times, kept on seeing cattle without tags, and yanked the permit through no fault of our own. This was at the same time they were claiming our water rights on the property."

Eventually, a judge in Tucson ordered Wayne to pull his cattle or face a $200-per-animal fine for each day they remained.

"This was the early 1990s," Wayne says, "and a cow was only worth $200. The whole thing was kind of nuts."

Adding fuel to the fire, the Klump brothers decided on another option: They'd move Wayne's cattle from Simmons Peak and replace them with Wally's small herd. As a result, Wally's cows were once again trespassing on federal land.

The two contentious allotments--Badger Den and Simmons Peak--total 52,957 acres. Of that acreage, only 2,110 is private land owned by the Klumps. To date, Wally Klump has never had legal grazing privileges on Simmons Peak.

Finally, the frustrated BLM filed a civil complaint against Wally over his Simmons Peak cattle, and on July 31, 2002, Judge John Roll ordered the herd removed. Wally refused, and by April 21, 2003, he was on his way to a prison in Florence.

And that's where he sat on principle, until he was released earlier this month after agreeing to have Wayne pull the cows from Simmons Peak.

Heading east from Tucson, the boulder-strewn Dragoon Mountains offer the first broad vistas of Klump country. It is a gnarled land, spare and lean, a place where city scents are soon replaced by the acrid smell of creosote, and pavement pierces the scruffy horizon with a shimmering rigor mortis.

Rolling down the long, hard hill into Willcox, the commerce of cattle is still visible--rail yards and stock trucks and feed stores.

Just a handful of miles from Willcox--a few weeks before Wally's liberation--Wayne Klump stands in the shadow of his parents' old house. His own home rises just a few yards away. A boxy two-story in faded yellow, it overlooks a broad, pleasant meadow accented by grassy knobs and a hulking piece of antique mining equipment. On the meadow's far side, a squat, frontier cabin peeks from a grove of trees.

Tall, wiry and cowboy-polite, with a wide smile and brushy mustache, Wayne Klump could have just ridden in from some old John Ford movie set. Still, the youngest son of John and Delia isn't entirely a man of the 19th century as some claim: At the moment, he's simultaneously tugging an ATV from his garage and pointing out his solar-power system on the roof.

Nor is he immune to checking his cell phone from time to time. But he does hanker for the days when the government left folks like him alone.

"When my dad came here, it was all public domain, open range," he says. "You ran your cattle anywhere you wanted to."

Setting one's personal boundaries was easier, too.

"My dad drew lines around the property," Wayne says, "and this guy from the Department of the Interior came out there. My dad showed him his water rights, and so the guy says, 'OK, we'll draw lines around it, and this land is your allotment.' And everything was fine."

Better than fine, actually: By the 1940s, John Klump had moved his family a few miles east of Willcox to tiny Bowie and began sinking every extra cent into buying more and more property.

Klump family fights federal removal of cattle Part Two

"My dad was a cowboy," Wayne says. "And he was a little cowboy, in the business sense. But he was a hard worker, putting in long days.

"We weren't rich by any means. But while a lot of people spent all their money on a nice house and a fancy car, we didn't. We lived really cheap, and saved our money to buy another piece of land."

He squints up at the sun, and points to his folks' onetime home, now vacant-eyed and crumbling in spots.

"That's the house I grew up in," he says. "It was kind of tough. For a long time, we had to carry in our water. We had an outhouse and no electricity. But we had plenty to eat, and we were loved."

Wayne fires up the ATV, and a few bumpy minutes later, he stops and stills the machine, just down the hill from a few contentious Simmons Peak cows. The black-faced cattle raise their heads nonchalantly, and go back to nibbling desert scrub. Wayne steps along the path, and points out a thick, black line running down the slope, from a natural spring into a tidy stock pond.

Among his greatest fears, he says, is that the feds will maneuver the family out of their long-held water rights around Simmons Peak. Without water, this land would be useless to a Klump.

But his feelings reach beyond the purely practical, to settle in the primal pastures of memory.

"Listen, when I was growing up, we'd come up here with my dad and work on the spring," he says quietly. "We took pride in building the fences and doing a good job. A lot of kids these days live in the cities. They don't have an opportunity to be outdoors and work like we did. And that's too bad."

To embittered ranchers, Wayne Hage is a revered hero capable of battling the feds to a draw. And he just may win his current fight in a Reno, Nev., courthouse. For Hage, a powerful cattleman married to a former congresswoman, the Reno showdown is only the latest skirmish in an ongoing war with the BLM and U.S. Forest Service over grazing, water and property rights.

Like the Klumps, Hage's fight was sparked in the '80s, when he was forced to reduce the number of his cattle grazing on Forest Service land. He fought back, and detailed his struggle in the 1989 tome of rebellion, Storm Over the Rangelands.

During the Reno trial, which started in early May, ranching families from South Dakota to New Mexico arrived to show support for Hage's basic philosophy: that many of them hold private property rights on federal land. Through grazing restrictions, he argues, the government deprives ranchers of income and owes them compensation.

"What we're talking about here," he told The Associated Press in Reno, "is how the government -- working with the environmentalists -- took the property from me. This ruling could have a dramatic impact on Western states' rights and the proper jurisdiction of federal lands in the West. It's the first time in nearly a century that someone has effectively challenged the government over who owns the range rights and water rights out here on these federal lands."

To be sure, Hage's position is the same old "takings" bluster regularly bandied about by property rights zealots--but with a twist: Hage holds that such grazing restrictions squelch the "preexisting rights" of Western ranchers to range land, rights that predate the establishment of forest preserves in the 19th century.

Not surprisingly, Wayne and Wally Klump are pretty fond of Hage and his ideas.

"He has a ranch in Nevada, and the Forest Service and BLM took his cows and sold them," Wayne says. "But he didn't go to federal district court--he went straight to federal claims court."

Wayne narrows his eyes.

"And here's the deal," he says. "Hage didn't argue with the feds about whether they had the right to come and take his cows. He says, 'You're the government; you're bigger than I am. You have the right to take them. But pay me for them.' "

That notion raises a grin.

"Heck, I might just go up there to Reno," Wayne says. "It's going to be a month-long trial, and it's going to determine how much the government owes him and what his rights are."

While he wishes the same principle could help himself and Wally, "The hell of it," he says, "is that we've already gone to court and lost."

But others say ranchers shouldn't pin much hope on Hage's crusade. Among them is Debra Donahue, a University of Wyoming law professor and author of The Western Range Revisited: Removing Livestock From Public Lands to Conserve Native Biodiversity. Published in 1999, her book raised such a ruckus that Wyoming's senate president threatened to gut the state law college in revenge.

But Donahue didn't blink. She says federal laws "are absolutely clear that a grazing permit confers no right, title or interest in public lands. And no one can acquire a right against the government by long-time use of government land unless the government so provides, as it did in some 'preemption' acts in favor of squatters in the 19th century."

Further, she doesn't believe there's much public support for the posturing of Wayne Hage and the Klumps.

"People like the Klumps will attract some sympathy," she says, "but only among those uninformed about the law and about the ecological impacts of grazing."

Some suggest that radical ranchers are simply grasping at straws.

"They're an anachronism," says Rod Mondt, a longtime Tucson environmental activist who's rubbed shoulders with the Klumps. "They're living in a world that doesn't exist anymore, and they're fearful of the world around them that's changing so fast. And in many cases, they don't have any other choices. They have everything sunk into their ranches. So that fear of change is magnified by (the fear) that they're losing control."

It's late March, a little more than a month before Wally will leave the pokey, and the jailhouse phone is quite scratchy. But even lousy connections can't diminish a defiant Klump.

To Wally, his cattle are four-legged symbols of freedom. And that's why he's locked up. "I thought this was probably the most important thing I would do in my life," he says.

His rationale for incarceration is simple: The government doesn't own Simmons Peak. For the old cowboy with little left to lose, everything's at stake. This prompts a bit of philosophizing.

"For example," he says, "we have a formula for water. But a thing as important as freedom, we don't have any formula for. The best that most people come up with for freedom is private property.

"When private property is owned only by the rich guy, though, that's no longer freedom for the people working for him--the working guy is a slave to the rich guy. What I come up with is this: Private property should be owned by the guy who does the work on it. That's my formula for liberty and freedom."

It's an interesting concept. But even more interesting to many folks who know the Klumps is just how far Wally will go to achieve it. This question helps explain why his cattle remained illegally on Simmons Peak for so long.

Recalls Jennifer Guerin, the U.S. attorney: "Once, his son told me, 'You know, we're not bad people.' And I said, 'OK, you say you're not bad, that you're not dangerous. But then you make these kind of threats to hurt people. How can you say that's not bad?' "

Guerin also discussed the threats with Wally. "And he told me, 'Oh no, don't get me wrong. We're not saying we're going to kill people. We're saying we're going to kill government employees.'

"They had made it very clear that if the BLM or the court interfered (with their cattle), that they would take action against it," she says. "So why should (federal agents) go out there armed, and risk their lives and the lives of the Klumps, to remove them? I mean, who wants a Ruby Ridge over cattle?"

At the same time, BLM spokeswoman Diane Drobka says the Klumps reinforce negative public attitudes about ranching, and make life harder for the "99.9 percent of ranchers who are complying with the rules. And I think a lot of ranchers are becoming concerned about that."

Her point is echoed by Doc Lane, director of natural resources for the Arizona Cattle Growers Association.

"It rubs off in a lot of different ways," especially in the court of public opinion, he says. "The public sees these lands as recreational. But for the ranchers, it's their livelihood, and that makes it very personal. We don't condone what they've done--it's hard to imagine someone getting so frustrated that they snap like that. Still, it's a tough deal."

Monday, May 31, 2004


Fire Damages Fire Research Center A fire caused about $1.5 million in damage to a building at the Fire Sciences Laboratory west of here, a rural fire department said. No one was injured. The metal building housed offices, a small maintenance shop and a laboratory. Investigators believe the fire started in the lab and have ruled the blaze accidental. The Fire Sciences Laboratory is an arm of the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station based in Colorado. The lab researches the behavior, chemistry and effects of wildfires.... Canada reviews Tre Arrow's refugee claim A Canadian immigration panel began hearings Monday to decide if one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives is a terrorist or not before allowing him to apply for refugee status in Canada. Tre Arrow is wanted for his alleged role in the 2001 firebombing of logging and cement trucks in Oregon. The FBI claims he is associated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), its number one domestic terrorist priority.... Ranchers face tough times during drought Six years of drought have forced the Bureau of Land Management to tell local ranchers they won't have as much forage for their cattle this summer on public lands in southwest Montana. Livestock producers south and west of Dillon are asked to cut back by as much as 40 percent and ranchers grazing cattle on the BLM east of Dillon are asked to cut back by up to 20 percent. ‘‘These are tough times for livestock operators,'' said Tim Bozorth, Dillon Field Manager. ‘‘At BLM we want to thank our local permittees for their cooperation and willingness to do what is right for rangeland health.''.... A no-holds-barred owl war The barred owl has what you might call a serious image problem. It is known in the Northwest as an invading bully that has tossed one heckuva monkey wrench into efforts to save the northern spotted owl. As loggers were shut out of most of the region's public forests to let the spotted owl be, the barred owl had a different idea. It moved in. Fearlessly. Decisively. And spotted owls fled. Barred owls loom about 20 percent larger than spotted owls. They don't much care that their smaller cousin is protected by the Endangered Species Act. And they don't take kindly to company.... Liability: The Silent Player In The Water-Bomber Debate The Forest Service cancelled air-tanker contracts in part because it was afraid of being sued if any of them crashed, according to a report in the Billings Gazette. In a remarkably candid interview (for a government official concerned about liability) Tony Kern, the Forest Service's assistant director of aviation management, said the safety of air crews and people on the ground was the first consideration but liability was also a concern. In late April, an NTSB report on two air-tanker crashes said many of the planes are potentially dangerous and, because they are "public use" aircraft, they are outside the FAA's certification jurisdiction while fighting fires. That put all the responsibility on the Forest Service and it responded May 10 by canceling contracts for 33 large tankers. Kern noted the decision was made a little easier by the unnamed mayor of an unnamed Rocky Mountain city who wrote a letter saying she expected the federal government to "guarantee" that the planes flying over her city "will not come apart over the heads of the public." Kern said her letter brought the issue home for the Forest Service. "This could end up with a plane landing on a school," Kern said. "You are talking about the potential for negligent homicide." Officials at Neptune Aviation, an air-tanker operator, told the Gazette they were shocked by Kern's admission of liability and said the comments could open up the Forest Service to lawsuits resulting from the 2002 crashes.... More species threatened by climate change The Bufo periglenes, the golden toad of Costa Rica, vanished from its habitat in 1987 in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica. It is the first animal species credited with being driven to extinction by climate change. Biologists do not expect it to be the last. Camille Parmesan, a professor of conservation biology at the University of Texas, called the golden toad "a very rare prized endangered species, which has always been very restricted, only ever known from Monteverde, and that's been linked with climate change." "One extinction of an entire species has been solidly linked to climate change," Parmesan told United Press International, "and lots and lots of population extinctions.".... Colorado conversion? A 47-year-old lawyer who grew up on a Colorado ranch, herding sheep, Raley is arguably the nation's most powerful water broker. He and his boss, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, have their fingers on a federal faucet that feed cities, farms, hydropower plants and rivers across the West. But Raley also harbors a little secret that might surprise some of his environmental foes, and alarm those on the other side. According to boatmen and associates I've interviewed, Raley has contracted river fever - a mildly euphoric, somewhat mystical devotion to the canyon that comes from spending several days in its belly. John Wesley Powell caught the fever when he explored the canyon in the 1800s. Raley is now severely infected, having run the river three years in a row.... Va. Sting Targets Trade in Bear Parts, Ginseng His wife had been stricken with breast and colon cancer, and in August 2002, Soo Kil Seo turned hopefully to the possibilities of Asian folk medicine. The 59-year-old Alexandria dry cleaner drove to a rural hunting store that had advertised bear for sale in Korean newspapers, paid $1,200 for two bear carcasses and removed the prized and supposedly curative gallbladders for his wife. The home-style prescription proved far more costly, though, than he had ever imagined. Seo and dozens of other Koreans from the Washington area have been charged with multiple felony counts for alleged violations of wildlife protection statutes, all swept up in a sting operation run from a sham hunting supply store in the Shenandoah Valley. Investigators say they were aiming to stem the illegal trade in wild ginseng and black bears.... Feds win most competed jobs; contractors troubled Federal workers won nearly 89 percent of 17,595 jobs subjected to contractor competitions last year, according to new data from the Office of Management and Budget. OMB predicts the result of those job contests, aimed at driving market-based competition into the government, should save taxpayers an estimated $1.1 billion over the next three to five years as employees reorganize into more efficient organizations and adopt new technology. Still, there is room for improvement in achieving better value when competing government jobs against the private sector, said the study, “Report on Competitive Sourcing Results,” posted on the OMB Web site May 25.... Editorial: National parks are hurting financially The Bush administration should be honest about our national parks' finances. Instead, officials who oversee the nation's 382 parks and historic sites want to paint a happy face on an increasingly serious problem. Actually, the U.S. Park Service's bosses might win public understanding if they were upfront about how grave the situation has become. For years, the parks have had a $1 billion maintenance backlog. Now, annual revenues may fall $600 million short of what's needed to provide basic services, says The National Parks and Conservation Association, an environmental group.... Editorial: Lands in Need of Care t was clear from the moment they took power that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were determined to greatly accelerate oil and gas drilling on the public lands of the West. Driven by a belief that energy independence could be achieved by aggressive exploitation of the public domain, the administration set its sights on doubling the number of wells on lands controlled by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and urged the environmental community not to block its efforts with frivolous lawsuits. The truth of the matter is that nobody, including conservationists, challenged the government's right or need to look for oil and gas, given the tight markets for both. All anyone asked for was a balanced approach that would broadly respect the requirements of nature and spare particularly fragile landscapes. To the dismay of some Western governors, fish and game commissioners, ranchers and hunters — many of them lifelong Republicans — the administration has not produced a balanced policy. Both Washington and the regional B.L.M offices have repeatedly made clear their belief that extraction of oil and gas trumps all other uses of the public lands. This being an election year, the administration is making noises about a more nuanced approach, and has begun to reach out to its critics among the ranchers and sportsmen. There are 90 different land use plans or leasing proposals on the table. Four are especially controversial. How they come out will tell much about whether the administration has had a genuine change of heart.... Riders, ranchers seek common ground The debate over the future of the Owyhee Mountains was barely on the Wells family's radar as they spent Sunday enjoying their main weekend pastime, riding motorcycles in Owyhee County. They and the few riders at the popular Hemingway Butte trailhead Sunday morning either supported an effort to protect wilderness, ranchers and motorized access called the Owyhee Initiative, or said they were unaware of it. Motorized users have a seat at the table of the Owyhee Initiative talks, organized by the Owyhee County commissioners to seek a resolution to federal land disputes in the 4.9 million-acre southwest corner of Idaho. Other participants include ranchers, environmental groups and outfitters.... Column: Get serious about energy Oil is the lifeblood of our industrial society. But it's been under attack since the early 1970s. Environmentalists told us we'd all choke from the exhaust fumes back then. Then they lied to us about the dangers of nuclear power and succeeded in shutting down plants and averting the construction of new ones. Then they lied about global warming. Then they lied about the ozone hole. Then they complained about oil drilling in Alaska. Then they complained about drilling for natural gas. Then they complained about oil drilling offshore. Then they complained about reliance on foreign oil and told us we must conserve.... Most Federal Oil, Gas Leases Unproductive Nearly three-fourths of the 40 million acres of public land currently leased for oil and gas development in the continental United States isn't producing any oil or gas, federal records show, even as the Bush administration pushes to open more environmentally sensitive public lands for oil and gas development. An Associated Press computer analysis of Bureau of Land Management records found that 80 percent of federal lands leased for oil and gas production in Wyoming are producing no oil or gas. Neither are 83 percent of the leased acres in Montana, 77 percent in Utah, 71 percent in Colorado, 36 percent in New Mexico and 99 percent in Nevada. How much exploration has occurred on the nearly 30 million acres of non-producing public land leases is difficult to say. BLM officials could provide no details on the number of exploratory wells drilled on those leases, despite repeated requests for that information over the past two months.... EPA weighs new fuel ratings The Environmental Protection Agency is weighing changes to the way it calculates fuel economy ratings posted on new cars and trucks to better reflect real-world driving conditions. The review, which comes as concerns rise over escalating oil prices, could result in lower posted fuel economy ratings and potentially impact sales of profitable but gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs.... Climate disaster 'upon us' Humans have done so much damage to the atmosphere that even if they stop burning all fossil fuels immediately, they risk leaving an impoverished Earth for their descendants, a giant of research in the field will say this week. James Lovelock, who detected the build-up of ozone-destroying CFCs and formulated the Gaia theory now widely adopted by environmentalists and biologists, will tell a conference in Devon: "We have not yet awakened to the seriousness of global warming." The Gaia hypothesis is that life itself regulates the chemistry of the atmosphere, the oceans and the bedrock for life's collective benefit. Any disturbance of the process could have dramatic consequences.... Column: Forget gasoline prices, Texans need to talk water But tell that to the Texans who jammed into a conference room there two weeks ago to listen to representatives of Boone Pickens' water company present their plans for shipping water to the Dallas-Fort Worth area from the Panhandle. Lawyers. Ranchers. Hydrologists. Planners. Environmentalists. They all came. And for a good reason. The marketing of water is central to the lives of North Texans and Panhandle residents.... Sentinel chickens on guard against West Nile virus They cluck, peck at the ground and lay eggs like other chickens. But three flocks of Klamath County fowl are actually undercover agents of public health. Every two weeks, a few drops of blood are drawn from each "sentinel chicken" and tested for three mosquito-borne viruses, including West Nile.... Americans put cash above environment More Americans prefer healthy wallets over protecting the environment, according to a poll by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. Of 1,000 persons polled, 54 percent said that protecting the environment is important, but it is more important to keep the economy growing. Broken down by groups, 52 percent of men and 55 percent of women agreed, as did 59 percent of senior citizens. Republicans topped the group with 67 percent, and Democrats split 48 percent to 45 percent who said protecting the environment should be a top priority, even if that means higher consumer prices. Those who identified themselves as environmentalists were almost evenly divided within the 3 percent margin of error, 43 percent choosing the economy to 46 percent preferring the environment.... Rancher's battle casts shadow over Scripps For five years, Charles Vavrus has watched his ranch near the end of Northlake Boulevard become overrun by exotic trees. The drainage ditches are so covered with brush, he claims they no longer work properly. And birds roost on about 27 miles of neglected fence. The ranch owner was ordered in 1999 to halt most of the agricultural operation on the 4,763-acre tract, after the city filed suit against him for chopping down trees. Just over a third of the ranch is slated to be part of The Scripps Research Institute's biotech village. Vavrus' five-year legal battle with the city has complicated the project, which will transform the ranchland into a village of homes and research-related businesses with a town center.... Ballot issues call for electing game managers Colorado's principal wildlife managers should be elected by voters, not appointed for political reasons, say the authors of two petitions filed with the state for inclusion on the November ballot. Voters, not legislators, also should have the last word on setting resident hunting and fishing license fees. Those are the hopes of a self-described "grassroots" group of sportsmen that believes state wildlife management has grown too much under the thumb of politics and profit.... Drought burns change into farm life A nearly decade-long drought is changing the way Frank Martin does business at Crooked Sky Farms. He still grows organic lettuce, beets, bok choi, cabbage and cauliflower on his 26-acre farm in Glendale, Ariz. But growing water-intensive crops like sweet corn is a thing of the past. The drought is forcing a transformation at many Western farms. Like Crooked Sky, they're shifting to different crops. They're also scaling back their acreage, implementing conservation measures and installing water-saving devices.... Mad Cow-Resistant Bovine Developed Japanese and U.S. scientists have genetically engineered a bovine embryo that is resistant to the deadly mad cow disease and they plan to breed several of the cows to use them to make medicines to treat human diseases, an official said Monday. The embryo was implanted in a cow and is expected be born early next year, said Kumi Nakano, spokeswoman for Kirin Brewery, which diversified recently into pharmaceuticals and jointly conducted the research with U.S.-based biotechnology company Hematech. The cows will not be bred to produce mad-cow-free meat. Instead, blood and milk extracted from them will be used in drugs to fight pneumonia, hepatitis C and rheumatic diseases such as arthritis, for the U.S. market by 2013, Nakano said.... Mexican cowboy tradition taking hold in North Texas The charros were in Wilmer on Sunday to ride horses and bulls, and twirl and toss the lasso. They were also there to preserve and perpetuate the cultural tradition of Mexican cowboys. "We don't want to lose our heritage, especially those of us who're second-generation," said Roberto Silva, the son of Mexican immigrants and secretary and treasurer of the Dallas Charro Association. "The sport is barely starting to grow in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Twelve years ago, we had five charro clubs. Now we have 14.".... The cowboy way Cowboy Roundup USA is a celebration of the area's ranching heritage and the people who made the cattle business what it is today. Keeping in line with its mission, Cowboy Roundup USA will begin recognizing the Rancher of the Year. The recipient will be honored during the Saturday performance of the Coors Ranch Rodeo at the Amarillo National Center, said Quien Stapleton, Cowboy Roundup USA president.... Final-run victory caps Windy Ryon Roping Teddy Johnson pulled off a come-from-behind victory over Rope Myers in the Steer Wrestling Challenge and Guy Allen won his fifth steer roping title as the 30th annual Windy Ryon Memorial Roping came to an exciting conclusion Sunday. Johnson, the reigning world champion, stole the crown when Myers, the 2001 world champion, couldn't hold on to his steer on the final run, taking a time of 30 seconds. Johnson dogged his final steer in 4.8 seconds to finish with 77.1 seconds on eight head to take the win. It was the first time he had led during the match.... It's All Trew: Horse manure stunk up Fort Sumner politics While visiting a museum in Fort Sumner, N.M., I saw a leather license plate with tooled numbers on its face. The curator related this story about the unique item. Back in the horse and buggy days of Fort Sumner, there were a lot of horses tied at the hitch rails on the main street, especially in front of the saloons. In summertime, the odor from droppings became overpowering and drew flies by the cloud. The city fathers forced the town buggy and delivery wagon owners to buy a parking permit using the leather license plate for identification. This income was used to hire a local man to take shovel and wheelbarrow and clean the streets once a day. This was the first city tax enforced....