Friday, December 31, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Editorial: Forests at risk While most everyone was scurrying around checking off the last items on their Christmas lists, the Bush administration announced new rules for managing the nation's 155 national forests and 20 grasslands that will ease restrictions on logging, drilling and road-building. The U.S. Forest Service's new regulations will chop years and millions of dollars off the formulation of the 15-year management plans mandated for each forest that now take up to seven years to complete. Local and regional foresters also will have greater authority to respond quickly to the constantly evolving threats of wildfires and invasive species. Regrettably, though, the broad reforms announced Dec. 22 also make it possible for forest planners to skirt the 1976 act because they no longer require environmental impact statements for revised or amended forest plans, but allow less-stringent environmental assessments and reviews, or, in some cases, none at all. They also relax wildlife protections in place since the Reagan administration and reduce public participation in planning decisions....
Bosworth sees some balance in new rules The U.S. Forest Service's new rules streamlining the national forest management process won't mean an open door for the timber industry to increase logging, assured Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, who is spending the holidays at his home in Missoula. "I don't think logging for logging's sake is what the public wants," Bosworth said in an interview Wednesday. "I don't think that's what we need on the national forests." The new forest rules, announced last week, will change aspects of the 1976 National Forest Management Act, which sets guidelines for managing 192 million acres of national forests and grasslands and protecting wildlife. The new rules will make forest planning more open, understandable and timely, according to Bosworth....
Local forest officials back Bush's new regulation Larry Timchak said he is confident a new federal regulation will make Ochoco National Forest more efficient and effective in its long-term planning. Still, Timchak and other Central Oregon forest officials are already raving about the new regulation, which they say represents a needed change to an outdated process. A new 158-page rule changes the way the country's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands draft individualized long-term plans known as "forest plans." "I think updating this (process) is timely," said Mike Johnson, a planner for Deschutes and Ochoco national forests. "This process was unchanged since 1982, and ... forest conditions and our understandings have changed drastically since then."....
Editorial: Slighting the Sierra Two recent moves by the Bush administration and the U.S. Forest Service may leave communities throughout the Sierra at too great a risk from fire. First, the administration altered a management plan for the Sierra's national forests to emphasize more thinning operations deep in the forest and fewer near communities, where the projects are more expensive for loggers. And now the Forest Service is proposing to shift some funds designated to protect those communities and spend them in other states. Maybe that's good politics. But it's bad fire management policy for Sierra communities. With an inadequate budget to start with, the U.S. Forest Service is proposing to shift 15 percent of its "hazardous fuel reduction funding" away from expensive areas to less expensive ones. This may sound like more bang for the buck. But isn't the intent of this program to make communities more secure and as opposed to cutting down the maximum number of trees?....
Tamarack scuttles plans for snowcat skiing on federal land Snowmobile groups have objected to a plan by a new Idaho ski resort to offer snowcat skiing on federal land next door. As a result, Tamarack Resort officials say they're withdrawing an application with the U-S Forest Service to allow the activity. The plan had called for snowcat skiing on twelve-thousand acres of federal land. About 20 percent of it would have been off limits to everyone else. That raised the hackles of snowmobilers....
Crash kills wildlife scientists Wildlife disease researchers across the country were reeling Thursday from the loss of two giants in their field. Edwin "Tom" Thorne, who led a desperate captive breeding program credited with saving the black-footed ferret from extinction, and his wife Elizabeth Williams, the world's foremost expert on chronic wasting disease (CWD), died Wednesday night in a traffic accident on a snowy northern Colorado highway....
Internet database focuses on endangered species The Sun Valley-based Center for Environmental Education is experiencing a growth spurt and is touting its on-line information database as one of the most comprehensive environmental education networks in the U.S. The group's newest site, called Endangered Species Early Warning, was posted here this month after a lengthy logistical delay. The site, first announced in June, features a thorough database of Endangered Species Act listed plants and animals as well as species of concern, like the greater sage grouse, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced would probably not be granted threatened or endangered status....
Butterfly stirs up controversy Don’t schedule that visit anytime soon to Cloudcroft’s butterfly festival. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced in the Federal Register its decision not to list the Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot butterfly as an endangered species, under the Endangered Species Act. When the listing possibility was announced in the Sept. 6, 2001, Federal Register, FWS Ecological Services Field Supervisor Joy Nicholopoulos suggested an endangered listing “may actually increase (tourist) visits” through “endangered species festivals.” The idea did not impress Mayor Dave Venable. “I assure you,” he said, “that there will be a festival all right, and I assure you that the butterfly will not survive.” By then the possibility of a listing was nearly three years old. On Jan. 28, 1999, the Tucson, Ariz.-based Southwest Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the FWS to “emergency list” the butterfly. While an emergency list protects for 240 days, the FWS found such a listing unjustified. However, in July 2001 the U.S. District Court of New Mexico ordered the service to start the consideration process....
BLM axes plan to move horses for gas drilling The federal Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn a plan that could have put a 120-head wild horse herd up for adoption to make room for natural-gas drilling, but horse advocates expect the agency to replace it with a new plan to remove the animals. About 880 gas wells are already operating near the 127,000-acre West Douglas herd area about 50 miles north of Grand Junction, and drilling is expected to move into the West Douglas range soon, said Bob Fowler of the BLM's Meeker office. Barb Flores of Greeley, chairwoman of the Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, said she expects the new proposal to lead to the removal of horses....
Peabody Energy Buys 324M Tons Of Sulfur Coal Reserves Peabody Energy submitted a winning bid of $299 million to gain the rights to 324 million tons of low sulfur coal reserves in the Powder River Basin. The company's winning bid of about 92 cents per mineable ton was made through its subsidiary BTU Western Resources Inc. during a sealed bid auction on Wednesday....
BLM targets staff thinning First the bad news: Nearly 60 positions are going to be cut on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Medford District. The good news? The plan is to make those staff reductions, required by budget constraints, through attrition over a five-year period. "We’re trying to plan so we can avoid layoffs," explained District Manager Tim Reuwsaat. "But we are planning for a reduced workforce." The 58 positions expected to be lost will be achieved through retirements, he said....
2004 Raised the 'Bar' for Animal Protection Victories in the Nation's Courts As 2004 comes to a close, animal advocates are celebrating a historic year for animals in the courts. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and The Fund for Animals, which plan to merge on January 1st and launch a new Animal Protection Litigation section, have just published an in-depth article about this year's numerous legal victories for animals, available on The HSUS's web site here. "As good as 2004 was for animals in the courts, 2005 promises to be even better," said Wayne Pacelle, president of The HSUS. "Our new Animal Protection Litigation section will boast seven full-time attorneys who will tackle new cases and seek justice for animals, will serve as a training ground for the next generation of animal lawyers and law students, and will lay the foundation for implementation of new strategies to help farm animals, wildlife, and companion animals in the courts."....
Australian wool faces boycott threat Since the early 1950s, historians have credited Australia, with its vast tracts of Outback grazing land and booming wool trade, with riding to economic prosperity "on the sheep's back." Now a debate between farmers and animal rights activists over how to treat the skin on a sheep's backside is threatening to undermine the country's $2.5 billion wool industry. Earlier this year, the U.S.-based animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched a campaign to pressure global retailers to boycott Australian wool over the use of a farming practice called mulesing. The procedure - named for the Australian rancher, J.H. Mules, who invented it - involves slicing flesh and wool away from the sheep's rump to prevent blowflies from laying their eggs in the warm, damp skin....
Tribe asks for extension in changing "squaw" place names For years, emissaries from the Confederated Tribe of Warm Springs have been lobbying state officials to make the word "squaw" illegal in official government names and places. But now, with the state deadline for completing the renaming process approaching, the tribes are asking the state Legislature to extend their Jan. 2 deadline, after difficulties agreeing on replacement names. The tribes originally asked for the ban on squaw names because many American Indians consider the "s-word" to be vulgar slang for an Indian woman....
Column: Best fish story of all bubbles to surface University of British Columbia, Vancouver scientists apparently with time on their hands have discovered that herring communicate using a noise they call Fast Repetitive Tick (FRT). Ben Wilson of UBC calls it a "high-pitched raspberry." Newspaper columnist Dave Barry called it breaking wind, but I won’t use that term. Get the picture? No leg or finger pulling here. Canadian scientists have actually learned Pacific herring communicate by expelling gas from the same anatomical location people—mostly male people -- expel gas. At first scientists thought the herring’s noise also came from the same place. However, bubbles broke the surface of the fish tank when the herring made it noise and the keen eyes of scientists discovered the anatomical emission point of those bubbles; thus was born the scientific terms "digestive system venting," "burst pulse sounds," and FRT (Fast Repetitive Tick.)....

Thursday, December 30, 2004

MAD COW DISEASE

U.S. Stands Firm on Canadian Beef Imports Expressing confidence in the safety of Canadian beef, the Bush administration said Thursday it would stand by its decision to renew Canadian beef imports beginning in March despite a possible new case of mad cow disease. The Agriculture Department said that even if the Canadian cow is confirmed positive for mad cow disease it believes public health measures in Canada and the United States will protect U.S. livestock and consumers. "Because of the mitigation measures that Canada has in place, we continue to believe the risk is minimal," said Ron DeHaven, administrator of the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. A day after the United States announced that with some restrictions it would reopen its borders to Canadian beef, the Canadian government on Thursday announced it may have another case of mad cow disease. It said preliminary screening of a "downer" cow -- one unable to walk -- showed multiple positive results for mad cow....
Possible Canada Mad Cow Case Fuels Industry Tension Canada may have found a new case of mad cow disease, officials said on Thursday, rekindling tensions in its hard-hit beef industry just one day after the United States announced plans to reopen the border to live Canadian cattle. A 10-year-old dairy cow from Alberta tested positive in two preliminary examinations, but the case -- which comes 20 months after Canada's first home-grown mad cow discovery -- has yet to be confirmed by a full-scale test, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said. The animal did not enter the human food or animal-feed supply, officials stressed. Definitive "gold standard" test results are expected in two to four days, Little said. The agency has started tracing the animal's offspring as a precaution, he said....
Officials confident suspect cow won't affect border opening ``We don't expect this to have an impact on our final rule,'' said Jim Rogers of the American Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The rule, released Wednesday only hours before the new suspected Canadian case was identified, will allow live cattle under 30 months old and meat from older cattle back into the U.S. after a 19-month ban stemming from the discovery of one Alberta cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Rogers said the rule, which would open the border on March 7, was written with the likelihood of further cases being discovered in mind. The preliminary results were passed along to American officials before they released their rule on the border reopening _ news greeted with joy and relief across a cattle industry that has lost about $5 billion since the border closed. Leahman said the farm where the purebred Holstein cow came has not been quarantined. The other cattle on the farm are beef breeds and are neither as old nor from the same background as the suspect animal. ``There are no equivalent animals of risk,'' Leahman said. The cow's pedigree will make tracing her past movements easier if it becomes necessary, said Leahman....
Statement By Dr. Ron DeHaven Administrator, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service "USDA is confident that the animal and public health measures that Canada has in place to prevent BSE, combined with existing U.S. domestic safeguards and additional safeguards announced yesterday provide the utmost protections to U.S. consumers and livestock. "Last night Canada announced the finding of a "suspect" animal, which is their term for inconclusive. If this animal proves to be positive, it would not alter the implementation of the U.S. rule announced yesterday that recognizes Canada as a Minimal-Risk Region. In the extensive risk analysis conducted as part of the rule making, we considered the possibility of additional cases of BSE in Canada. Because of the mitigation measures that Canada has in place, we continue to believe the risk is minimal. "When Canadian ruminants and ruminant products are presented for importation into the United States, they become subject to domestic safeguards as well. Beef imports that have already undergone Canadian inspection are also subject to re-inspection at ports of entry by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to ensure only eligible products are imported. "We are working closely with Canadian officials as they conduct their investigation into this situation."
AMI files suit challenging USDA Charging that continuing to enforce a ban on importing older cattle is “arbitrary and capricious,” the American Meat Institute (AMI) today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court saying there is no legal or scientific justification for continuing to ban Canadian cattle 30 months of age and older. The filing came a day after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted for display at the Federal Register a new rule affecting beef and cattle imports. The ban on Canadian cattle and beef dates back to May 2003, when Canada diagnosed a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an Alberta cow. In its pleadings, AMI said that USDA continues to ban the importation of Canadian cattle 30 months and older and that this is “scientifically insupportable and is therefore arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law, in violation of the Administration Procedure Act.” The Institute made clear that it is not challenging the rule announced yesterday, but is seeking an injunction against enforcement of the original May 2003 ban....

NEWS ROUNDUP

Ag undersecretary to review Sierra national forest decision Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey will review the U.S. Forest Service's management plan for 11.5 million acres of Sierra Nevada national forest, officials said Wednesday, as the debate continues over preventing catastrophic wildfires. The plan for 11 national forests is being challenged by both the logging industry and environmental groups, but Rey offered no indication of his concerns with the wide-ranging blueprint approved with minor revisions last month by Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. Rey could uphold Blackwell's decision, uphold it while offering guidance, or remand the decision for changes, said Dan Jiron, a national Forest Service spokesman who talked with Rey and was acting as his spokesman. Rey's decision was formally made Tuesday, giving him until Jan. 28 to make any changes....
U.S. to Defend Foresters Sued by Developer After weighing the issue for several weeks, the government has decided to provide lawyers for three Forest Service employees sued by a San Diego developer who accuses them of conspiring to block a proposed luxury condominium project on Big Bear Lake. The case has been closely watched by government employee organizations and environmental activists because the developer, Irving Okovita, sued the three under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Okovita alleges that the government workers used a local environmental group that opposes the project as a "racketeering enterprise" to block the development. The workers and their advocates accuse Okovita of using the racketeering law to retaliate against them after a judge temporarily blocked the project....
Environmental groups appeal heli-skiing decision Environmentalists are appealing plans to allow helicopters to continue ferrying skiers high into the mountains of Bridger-Teton National Forest. The plans should do more to protect crucial big-game habitat and wolverine denning habitat and should not allow a net gain of flights into a wilderness study area, the groups say. Although the groups say the plans should be re-evaluated, they do not say that helicopter skiing should be ended altogether. The plans call for boosting helicopter skiing to historic levels....
Trespassing cows: Lonely cowboy UN victim Like the rangy sheriff from High Noon, Luther Wallace "Wally" Klump was on his own with the odds stacked cornstalk high against him. Klump, sent to the slammer April 21, 2003 celebrated his 70th birthday there. There was no sweet chorus of Happy Birthday sung by his grandchildren but only the convicts, some of whom took refuge in the Good Book when Klump found himself in their midst. The injustice of it was never lost on the convicts who presented the cattle rancher with a birthday card declaring, the "BLM sucks!" BLM is the acronym for Klump’s nemesis, the Bureau of Land Management....
Outdoor Channel a hit with hunters, fishermen While the titans of the media industry gathered last year at their annual soiree in Sun Valley, Idaho, Perry Massie, founder of cable television's Outdoor Channel, was panning for gold in Nome, Alaska. Massie and his channel, which targets hunting and fishing enthusiasts, are an anomaly in the TV industry. Although the number of cable channels has exploded during the past decade, nearly all are owned by a handful of media giants. Of the more than 60 commercial cable networks that reach more than 20 million homes, his is the only one not owned by a big media company or a wealthy entrepreneur. The channel offers no-frills programming — Massie himself hosts shows — but as of 2003 its subscriber base had rocketed to 23 million from 10 million over two years....
Coal may fuel nation's energy debate Some of the debate focuses on coal, which supplies 52 percent of U.S. electricity and is the country's most plentiful fuel source. Coal-fired power plants are bitterly opposed by environmentalists who say they contribute to global warming. But utilities are proposing to build 100 additional plants in the next few years. A new report by the National Commission of Energy Policy spells out a vision for the nation's energy future in which coal would play a role for years to come. Written by 16 business people, union officials, conservationists and academics, the report is being noticed by congressional lawmakers and could become the template that Congress uses to write energy bills after January....
Ford can't escape the crosshairs of green groups General Motors Corp. sells as many big, heavy Hummers as it can, and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group is adding gas-hungry Hemi V-8 engines to an ever-increasing number of vehicles. Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Co.p. are adding bigger SUVs and pickup trucks with thirsty engines to their U.S. lineups. But it's Ford Motor Co., especially chief executive officer Bill Ford Jr., which remains singularly in the crosshairs of some environmental groups because of its lagging fuel economy....
Hank Williams fans to celebrate life of a legend Most look toward the future on New Year's Day. But on Saturday, hundreds of people will be in Montgomery, some who have traveled here from all over the world, to reflect on the Jan. 1, 1953, death of Hank Williams. Beginning tonight and continuing through the weekend, fans will use the anniversary of his death to celebrate the life of Williams, usually considered the greatest country musician of all time....
Cowboy recalls days of old When Charlie Henderson arrived in Payson in February 1948, he'd ride at least two hours on horseback from L.D. Anderson's ranch in Little Green Valley where he worked as a cowboy, to take his wife, Ruth, dancing at the Ox Bow Saloon. And he wasn't the only cattleman galloping miles through the Rim country to do the two-step. For Henderson, the old cowboy era is over. He misses the days when he went to town and every face was familiar. Henderson said he first came to Arizona in 1939 for the money. He started ranching in the early 1930s in Texas and New Mexico, but the Great Depression caused foreclosures and the money dried up. Seeking better wages, Henderson migrated West, and settled in Seligman, Ariz., where he herded 30,000 cattle and 1,200 horses. Henderson's way of life was chronicled in Mildred Walker Perner's book, "Life with Old-Time Cowboys." In the book, Henderson is pictured driving a wagon pulled by four Sorrell mules. On the journey, he was the cook at a time when cooks earned more than the cowboys, and nothing sent cowboys away faster than bad cooking....
First couple of rodeo to enter Hall of Fame Bud and Jimmie Munroe could be called the first couple of Texas rodeo. They first met as college competitors and later got married while on the pro rodeo tour. After competing for nearly two decades, they are still tirelessly working to improve the sport. For that accomplishment, the two residents of Valley Mills have been named as new members of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Jimmie's roots go back to the beginning. Her maternal grandfather, Colonel Zack Miller, was one of the three Miller brothers who founded the famous 101 Wild West Show, a forerunner of rodeo as we know it today.....

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Wolf predation on the rise The number of cattle and sheep killed by wolves in the West has more than doubled this year. "We did have a good jump" this year, said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies Representative for Defenders of Wildlife, the group that pays ranchers for confirmed or probable losses. The 2004 rate also is triple what was predicted ten years ago by the federal government. However, wolf numbers are also a lot higher than predicted when the big carnivores first were released in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995....
Sierra Club chapter targets Forest Service undersecretary The local Sierra Club chapter Tuesday gave its Dead Swan Award to Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, alleging his forest policies are responsible for floods that spread heavy metals across the Inland Northwest. As undersecretary for natural resources and environment, Rey oversees the U.S. Forest Service. For nearly two decades prior to his appointment, Rey was a lobbyist for the timber industry. Forest Service policies on timber cutting have caused floods that wash toxic mining wastes across the region, the Upper Columbia River Sierra Club chapter contends....
Local national forest management plan cost $7.5 million to complete The federal government spent about $7.5 million to update a management plan for the national forest that surrounds Aspen, Vail and Glenwood Springs, according to estimates by the U.S. Forest Service. The White River National Forest Plan took about seven years to complete and is just now coming to a close. Work on that updated plan, which determines how the forest will be managed for the next 15 years, began in summer 1997. Forest planners had to digest about 14,000 letters and e-mails from concerned citizens, companies and special interest groups. After the plan was released in June 2002, it faced appeals from every direction - from a coalition of environmental groups headed by the locally based Wilderness Workshop to a national lobbying organization for off-road vehicle riders....
Forest official target of probe San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Gene Zimmerman and two leading biologists are the subjects of an internal U.S. Forest Service misconduct probe, documents show. The investigation, authorized on Dec. 15, follows recent allegations by a developer that the three Forest Service employees misused their positions to block a condominium project in rustic Fawnskin, a community of 400 in the Big Bear area of the San Bernardino Mountains. It was unclear, however, whether the investigation was triggered by the federal racketeering lawsuit filed against them in November by attorneys for the development, or by some other complaint....
Endangered Ferrets Make Comeback in Ariz. Endangered black-footed ferrets are reproducing more and surviving longer in the wild in Arizona than they have since recovery efforts began nearly a decade ago, wildlife biologists say. Biologists found 28 ferrets in the last two years in Arizona that were born in the wild -- more than double the number found during any two-year period since a reintroduction program began in 1996. "The success in Arizona is great," said Mike Lockhart, a ferret recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "If it continues along the same path, it could quickly become a self-sustaining population." While the yellowish-brown, wiry animals appear to be doing well in Arizona, drought and the plague have devastated populations elsewhere in the West....
Media Linking Killer Tsunami to Global Warming With the world's attention focused on the earthquake/tsunami that has claimed tens of thousands of lives in at least ten countries that surround the Indian Ocean, media organizations like Reuters are pinning part of the blame for the catastrophe on "global warming." "A creeping rise in sea levels tied to global warming, pollution and damage to coral reefs may make coastlines even more vulnerable to disasters like tsunamis or storms in [the] future," wrote Alister Doyle, an environmental correspondent for Reuters, who attributed the opening paragraph of the story to "experts." However, Doyle's story did not contain any quotes directly mentioning the theory of global warming....
Tribes protest off-reservation oil leases Recent oil and gas lease sales in western North Dakota were financial record busters, but the Three Affiliated Tribes at New Town wants to prevent oil development from disturbing religious and cultural sites. The tribes are protesting four oil and gas lease sales on land outside the reservation in McKenzie and Billings counties, claiming aboriginal ties. The land is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and managed as the Little Missouri National Grasslands. The federal oil and gas acres underneath the surface are owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. This is the first time any Indian tribe has protested a lease sale in this BLM region....
Forecast for 2005: More fights over water on horizon When the California Legislature reconvened in the final month of 2004, a Kern County lawmaker promptly set the stage for one of California's biggest water dramas of the new year. Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, introduced legislation to block a U.S. court ruling that threatens San Joaquin Valley orange, peach and grape growers with the loss of millions of gallons of irrigation water. Instead of watering 15,000 farms that have depended on it since World War II, some of the water stored behind Friant Dam appears bound instead, by the judge's decision, to rewatering the San Joaquin River and restoring its salmon runs....
Survival by Hunting: Prehistoric Human Predators and Animal Prey George Frison is an original of American archaeology, a towering figure in the field of Plains prehistory. His fascinating and instructive new book, Survival by Hunting, is part personal memoir, part overview of Paleoindian adaptations, and part guide to the hunting of Pleistocene and Holocene mammals on the High Plains and in the Rocky Mountains. How did people who were armed only with weapons of stone, antler, ivory, wood and sinew successfully hunt such beasts as mammoths in the Clovis phase or bison in the subsequent Folsom and Plano periods? How did hardscrabble homesteaders hunt some of the same game, albeit with rifles, in the early 20th century? George Frison knows—and, as a grand culmination of his productive, multifaceted life and career, he tells us in this very personal, yet most didactic volume....
From confined ovals to open plains GOLD Lake did not like his new companions. In fact, he wanted no part of them as he headed rapidly to the most remote part of the corral. "He looked at the roping steers and took off," recalled Robert Gipp. "He was scared of the cows." Herding cattle on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Fort Yates, North Dakota, is not the expected retirement life for Thoroughbreds such as the now eight-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Meadowlake. The former $130,000 yearling purchased by John Oxley once had a more traditional lifestyle and corresponding promise for the future, particularly as his sale price was double the average of the 1998 Keeneland September yearling auction....
Idaho store frozen in time It is a remote store with a storied history. Like the makeshift urinals that graced the middle of the room. Or the ranch brands burned into the building. Or the signed dollar bills that dot the ceiling. Or the pickled eggs, oysters and potato salad. Welcome to the Bone Store, a 95-year-old fixture in this tiny eastern Idaho community 25 miles southeast of Idaho Falls....

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Pentagon Is Pressing to Bypass Environmental Laws for War Games and Arms Testing The Defense Department, which controls 28 million acres of land across the nation that it uses for combat exercises and weapons testing, has been moving on a variety of fronts to reduce requirements that it safeguard the environment on that land. In Congress, the Pentagon has won exemptions in the last two years from parts of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It has sought in recent years to exempt military activities, for three years, from compliance with parts of the Clean Air Act. Also, the Pentagon, which controls about 140 of the 1,240 toxic Superfund sites around the country, is seeking partial exemptions from two laws governing toxic waste. And two months ago, it drafted revisions to a 1996 directive built on a pledge "to display environmental security leadership within Department of Defense activities worldwide."....
Bush signs coin law to help bald eagles A law signed by President Bush creating a set of commemorative coins honoring the bald eagle could raise as much as ten (M) million dollars for recovery efforts benefiting the national symbol. Surcharges on coin sales will go to an endowment managed by the not-for-profit American Eagle Foundation based at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which will distribute the interest through grants to eagle preservation projects around the country....
Group values wolves over livestock Possibly one of the more infamous characters in Western ranching history sits across the way -- Jon Marvel. Marvel isn't the Jessie James bad boy-type infamous. No, instead he's more of the Henry David Thoreau with an attitude and a lawsuit-in-hand infamous. And, Marvel has proven himself to be a true enemy of many a livestock producer. Of ranchers, Marvel says, "Their day is over. Let's face it, it really is." Then, taken at first glance, Marvel's next statement seems curiously out of place. "I personally opposed the reintroduction of wolves in '95 and '96," he says. Why would an avid opponent of ranching appear to essentially side with the enemy when it comes to wolves? With Marvel, little is as simple as it seems....
Programs to compensate ranchers' losses get mixed reviews In fact, one of the things that has added to that level of acceptance -- livestock producers in particular -- is a compensation program provided by Defenders of Wildlife. Even before the first wolves were reintroduced, it became apparent that one of the major controversies of the species recovery would be livestock losses due to wolf predation. Defenders instituted a mechanism to ease that controversy and encourage a greater tolerance for wolves -- a reimbursement program for livestock producers. Today, the state of Idaho administers a complementary program to further promote acceptance. Defenders established its reimbursement program in 1987. The plan pays market value up for livestock killed by wolves. Livestock owners receive up to $2,000 for confirmed wolf kills and 50 percent of market value for probable kills. Since 1987, Defenders has paid almost $430,000 in compensation....
Editorial: Fifth Amendment restored Roger Marzulla, a former Reagan Justice Department official and a leader in the modern property rights movement, went to court, arguing farmers had a property right to that water. When promised deliveries were reduced due to "environmental protection" concerns, that amounted to a taking under the U.S. Constitution, he pointed out. U.S. Claims Court Judge John Paul Wiese agreed, awarding the plaintiffs $14 million plus attorneys fees and interest -- expected to add up to $26 million. Tuesday, over the protests of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Bush administration announced it has agreed to settle the suit, paying $16.7 million to central valley farmers and irrigation districts whose water deliveries were cut to protect the endangered fish. Although the settlement contains language stating that it establishes no legal precedent, Mr. Marzulla agrees the case "establishes the fundamental principal that the government is free to protect the fish -- it simply has to pay for the water it takes to do so." And that's exactly what has the green extremists' kitty-cats cowering under the bed, as they protest the prospect of actually having to set some priorities, paying back the real costs accrued by innocent third parties as these zealots literally move whole rivers in their doomed race to "save" every weed and bug on the planet....
Alaska oil spill damage now looks worse More than 600 oiled seabirds have been spotted near a broken ship off Alaska's Aleutian islands, and federal biologists now suspect hundreds or thousands more will be discovered in coming weeks. Meanwhile, water samples in bays surrounding the two sections of the broken cargo carrier the Selendang Ayu have shown enough oil contamination that Alaska state game agents yesterday shut down a commercial crab-fishing season that was to open in January and will close that area to commercial fishing for Pacific cod and rockfish....
Foresthill sled dog race canceled The 2005 Foresthill Sled Dog Classic - a fixture in the mountains above Foresthill for the last decade - has been canceled. the race, which organizers estimate attracted 3,000 spectators over two days of mushing last February, was to have been held Feb. 5 and 6. But Sharon Stahl, president of the Foresthill Sled Dog Classic Committee, said Monday that organizers couldn't work around tougher U.S. Forest Service regulations on the course....
Chambers Applies for Old Job as Park Police Chief The U.S. Park Police chief fired for discussing alleged funding and manpower deficiencies with the media has re-applied for her old job. A public employees' lobbying group that has supported Teresa Chamber's fight for her job in the past is now encouraging the National Park Service to re-hire the career law enforcement administrator. Chambers was first placed on leave and then terminated after she told the Washington Post that traffic accidents had increased on at least one federal highway patrolled by U.S. Park Police in the Washington metropolitan area since the number of officers assigned to patrol it was cut to half the recommended level....
Gas drilling set in S. Padre dunes With the winter sun gleaming on its full, tawny coat, a lone coyote pauses to watch human visitors as they examine a new gas well in a remote corner of Padre Island National Seashore. At the end of a caliche road more than a mile from the Gulf of Mexico, the well protrudes from the bulldozed earth in the middle of a 2-acre drilling pad. Sometime early next year, National Park Service rangers expect to be managing more than the coyote and the rich array of wildlife found on the nation's largest seaside park. They will also be closely overseeing the drilling of five more gas wells on the same pad a mile behind the dunes by BNP Petroleum Corp., a Corpus Christi firm....
Western states will tap out natural gas An environmental group says the government's own research shows that natural gas resources in several Western states would satisfy national demand for only a short time. The Environmental Working Group in Washington said it used data from the Bureau of Land Management, Energy Department and other sources to show that drilling for oil and gas in several areas of Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah and Montana would not lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil and gas....
Trappers deny shooting coyotes in urban area Federal trappers killing coyotes on University of Nevada, Reno property near the Hidden Valley subdivision say they use traps to catch the predators and sometime shoot them in the head to put them out of their misery. But photos of dead coyotes taken on the UNR Main Station Farm show animals with apparent gunshot wounds to their sides but no sign of having been trapped, such as injuries to their legs....
In a chokehold Southern California's environment is fast approaching the tipping point as an onslaught of foreign plants overwhelms efforts to protect the region's natural landscape. In Los Angeles County, authorities warn that nonnative plants, including pampas grass, arundo and yellow star thistle, have largely displaced many native species. More than 300 invaders have colonized the Santa Monica Mountains alone, says Christy Brigham, restoration ecologist for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area....
It's All Trew: Baling wire was the duct tape of its day Due credit is always given to the hunters, soldiers, scouts, marshals and Texas Rangers for the winning of the West. Very little credit is given to the one thing that held the West together. That historical icon is "baling wire." Baling wire to some men is what safety pins are to women. It is a quick, easy way to make emergency repairs. If the repair is completed in good fashion, the temporary fix often becomes permanent, thus providing many interesting improvisations and subjects for humorous stories. Like alcoholism, overuse of baling wire seems to be an inherited tendency. Some farms and ranches are literally held together by baling wire. Descendants usually just add more wire. Old cowboys called such places "a baling wire outfit" and the owner "Baling Wire Bill."....

Monday, December 27, 2004

NEWS ROUNDUP

Oil, gas bonds leave public with huge potential cleanup liability Bonds posted by companies with federal oil and gas leases cover only a small fraction of the projected costs of plugging wells and restoring land once the fuel is extracted, leaving taxpayers with the potential for huge cleanup bills, an Associated Press analysis of federal records shows. The Bureau of Land Management has collected just $132 million in bonds from oil and gas companies responsible for more than 100,000 wells on federal lands. The government estimates it costs between $2,500 and $75,000 to cap each well and restore the surface area. In the past five years, the BLM has spent $2.2 million to clean up 167 wells where operators defaulted on their bonds. At that average rate of $13,066 per well, the shortfall between the bonds and the actual cleanup costs could leave taxpayers with as much as a $1 billion potential liability if companies reneged on their cleanup responsibilities, the AP analysis found....
Is Hearst a model for future conservation? The Hearst deal illustrates conservation's shift away from government land purchases and toward easements negotiated by nonprofits -- a move that comes as public funds dwindle and as land faces intensified development pressure. According to a recent report by the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Land Trust Alliance, conservation easements have protected about 5 million acres in the country, more than triple the 1.4 million acres protected five years ago. "Easements are a growing trend, and The Nature Conservancy currently in California is doing more of them," said Steve Johnson, that organization's strategic initiatives director. "They'll become a major technique in the toolbox of land conservation." Easements -- favored in principle by the groups that most vocally opposed the Hearst deal -- are less expensive than outright purchases because the loss of development rights devalues the land. They're also cheaper in the long term because the public doesn't foot the maintenance bill and because the parcel continues to generate property-tax revenue for the state....
Editorial: Here come the barbarians into our national forests In earlier times, barbarians were known to rape, pillage and plunder a land. They took what was not theirs and then left the inhabitants to recover in the aftermath. A similar tragedy is brewing in publicly owned forests across the United States, including our own Bankhead National Forest. This time, however, the pillagers won't be riding stallions from distant lands. They'll be fellow Americans aboard bulldozers and logging trucks, courtesy of President Bush....
Editorial: More Risks for Forests THE BUSH administration's new rules on management of national forests are not a surprise. They generally track a set of draft regulations the Forest Service issued two years ago. They are, nonetheless, a disappointment. The furor over the draft had offered the administration a chance to ameliorate the grave problems with its proposal. Instead, just before Christmas, it has gone ahead with a rule that will weaken environmental protection of forests and their wildlife. The idea of streamlining the forest management planning process -- the purported goal of the regulation -- is reasonable. It takes up to seven years to produce the statutorily mandated 15-year management plans for the country's national forests -- an absurd period that guarantees that plans are out of date by the time they get finalized. But the administration's new rule does more than make the process more efficient. It also weakens the protections it should be ensuring....
Editorial: Forest Service rules needed some pruning The Forest Service issued long-awaited new rules Wednesday that will overhaul the way publicly owned forests are managed. What this means is that the nation's 155 national forests may finally get the responsible stewardship they deserve. The new rules are really part two of President Bush's plan to streamline the regulatory and legal mess that has long stymied thorough forest cleanup and fire prevention. New scientific discoveries, population growth across the West and two of the most devastating years of wildfire damage in the nation's recent history provided the White House a crystal clear case for overhauling our outdated forest-management policies. Wednesday's proposal to streamline the planning process required by the 1976 National Forest Management Act will free the Forest Service from wasteful and time-consuming paperwork and give it the latitude to more quickly respond to evolving forest conditions and scientific research....
Editorial: Forest Non-Planning In some areas of the West, decisions made in Washington about public lands grate on local officials. They grit their teeth at endless paperwork and bureaucratic delay. Why not trade a few environmental protections for easier commercial use of those lands? The White House has heard those complaints, echoed by the timber and mining industries, and come up with one whopping Christmas present. The price tag may include loss of endangered species and habitat, irreparable damage to wild land owned by all Americans and the silencing of public comments on logging and mining in remote areas, all in the name of "efficiency."....
Roadless Rule may be in peril Recent decisions to lease nearly 90,000 acres of the Uinta National Forest for oil and gas exploration could wind up on a collision course with the Roadless Rule - if the Bush Administration doesn't succeed in repealing it first. The Forest Service, in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management, sold about 70,000 acres in oil and gas leases during a September auction, and another 17,000 acres Dec. 10. But because a portion of those 10-year leases overlap roadless areas - land under federal regulation that bans development on designated national forest parcels - opposition has been significant. A consortium of environmental, sportsman and outdoor recreation groups - including the Wasatch Mountain Club, Black Diamond Equipment, the Wilderness Society, the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Trout Unlimited - have protested the sales. And at least one group suggests that legal challenges could be in the offing....
Senate, Enviros Blocking Nat'l. Security Fence Succumbing to pressure from the environmental lobby, the U.S. Senate is blocking legislation already passed by the House that would erect an impenetrable national security fence across the U.S.-Mexican border. First proposed by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., way back in 1996, the new border fence was supposed to be an improvement on a temporary structure that was already credited with substantial success. Succumbing to pressure from the environmental lobby, the U.S. Senate is blocking legislation already passed by the House that would erect an impenetrable national security fence across the U.S.-Mexican border. First proposed by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., way back in 1996, the new border fence was supposed to be an improvement on a temporary structure that was already credited with substantial success. Environmentalists are "digging in" over their concerns that the fence would be harmful to endangered species of plants and birds, and would disrupt Indian artifacts, such as seashell fragments....
Environmentalists oppose proposed changes to State Water Project Environmental groups are rallying against a proposed restructuring of State Water Project that would allow local water wholesalers to run part of the massive state aqueduct and reservoir system. The Environmental Water Caucus, a coalition of about 20 groups, opposes a recommendation in the California Performance Review that would also allow water contractors to buy and sell water and water rights. The recommendation is one of 1,200 in a proposed top-to-bottom overhaul of the California bureaucracy....
Conservation easements face legal questions A research group has concluded conservation easements that protect Wyoming's open spaces from development are legal. Some have said that such easements conflict with the state Constitution, but the Wyoming Open Spaces Initiative says otherwise. Wyoming's rule against perpetuity is complicated, and even experienced attorneys can struggle with the concept. The rule, which originates from old English common law, is designed to prevent a long period of uncertainty about who will have what rights in a property. In Wyoming, the rule is embodied both in statute and the constitution. Some say that conservation easements, which can tie up rural property forever, violate the state constitutional provision which says, "Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state, and shall not be allowed."....
California: Officials seek to control windmills If environmentalists and California state officials have their way, the towering windmills that dot the Altamont Pass will be replaced and moved to prevent the killing of thousands of birds annually, including species protected under federal and state laws. In an effort to curtail the carnage, they say the turbines -- which provide one-third of California's wind power -- should be newer, taller models and be concentrated on the leeward side of the hills. With 5,000 windmills in a 50-square-mile area, the Altamont Pass is the world's largest wind farm, producing enough electricity to power 200,000 households annually. But it is also the worst in the country for slaughtering birds....
Eagle feathers at center of battle Eagle feathers are the most powerful objects in American Indian ceremonies, and tribal members earn the right to handle them through their knowledge of their people's history and culture. Today, white Utahns who practice an American Indian religion want to be part of the generations-old customs and are challenging federal regulations that limit the right to possess feathers to American Indians who are members of federally recognized tribes. Their latest battle has stretched out for almost a decade and they face formidable opponents. Many tribal members, backed up by the federal government, say the use of feathers and other eagle parts should be reserved for American Indians as a way of preserving the culture. Even religious beliefs are insufficient to allow non-Indians this right, they say....
Appeals court rejects claim on Baca Ranch The Colorado Court of Appeals has rejected all claims by a part-owner of water rights beneath the Baca Ranch, part of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The decision issued Thursday upheld a state district court's ruling against American Water Development Inc., which tried to block sale of the water rights to The Nature Conservancy. The conservation group bought the 97,000-acre ranch in the San Luis Valley and plans to transfer it to the National Park Service. The ranch was the linchpin in upgrading the sand dunes in southern Colorado from a national monument to a national park....
Cattle call to women of ranching families Ms. Fawcett is typical of the modern ranch women who juggle cooking, calving, spraying, bookkeeping, fixing the fences, feeding the cows and keeping an eye on the hunters tromping around the pastures in search of deer. These are women who know how to cook a feral hog in a coal pit. They don't blink at having to palpate a cow – check for pregnancy by inserting their hands. They are not likely to scream when a rattlesnake slithers by their feet. It's all in a day's work to them. It's in their genes. generations of Fawcetts have ranched in Texas since 1853. As one of the few direct descendants in the family ranching today, Ms. Fawcett worries at 57 about what will become of her ranch near Sonora when she's not around....
System to track stolen horses It's about to get a lot harder to steal a horse in Texas. Starting in January, the Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association will launch a national Web-based theft-prevention service. The service will help ranchers and law enforcement officers track down stolen horses by recording vital information from horses, such as color, description, medical history and brand and will include a digital picture, said Todd McCartney, director of the program for the organization. For $30 per horse, information submitted by horse owners will be made available to law enforcement through the Internet. After two years, the annual rate drops to $10 per horse, McCartney said....
Final gavel sounds on Lubbock Horse Auction Some came to buy horses. Some stopped in to say good-bye. Others stopped in to view the last auction. Whatever the reason, hundreds of people attended the final production Tuesday evening at the Lubbock Horse Auction. The weekly horse auction that began more than 40 years ago had attracted ranchers, cowboys, peddlers and interested collectors from across Texas and New Mexico. Now, the final gavel has pounded on an era....
On The Edge Of Common Sense: Committee not always the best, easiest way The Little Red Hen brought the meeting to order. "Christmas is right around the corner." Ewe and Eye, the dumber and dumbest sheep twins, looked around the corner of the barn. LRH (Little Red Hen), ignored them. "First on the agenda is a tree. The steel post so graciously donated by Henri goat last year was certainly Frank Lloyd Wright-ish, but the cows have asked for something more traditional."....