Friday, July 29, 2005

'Welcome Vindication' or 'Liberty Is Lost'?

Newspapers, talk radio shows, and weblogs that track legal rulings were abuzz after the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. New London, Connecticut. The day after the ruling, the New York Times defended the decision: "The Supreme Court's ruling yesterday that the economically troubled city of New London, Conn., can use its power of eminent domain to spur development was a welcome vindication of cities' ability to act in the public interest," the newspaper wrote. The Chicago Tribune took a decidedly different view. "The majority advised property owners to urge their state legislatures to set limits on the power to take private property. That's laughable advice. The Bill of Rights was crafted precisely to protect individuals from the power of the state. The court now advises individuals to go hat in hand to the state, to ask politely for protection from its considerable power." Critics of the ruling contend middle- and lower-income homeowners and small business owners will be especially at risk of having their property seized and bulldozed to make way for new real estate projects, even if the properties have been well-maintained and improved by their owners. In an amicus brief in the case, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and other groups wrote, "The history of eminent domain is rife with abuse specifically targeting minority neighborhoods. Indeed, the displacement of African-Americans and urban renewal projects were so intertwined that 'urban renewal' was often referred to as Negro removal.'"....

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Farmland battle shows eminent domain in practice

When Steve Gidaro gazes out across the sprawling Conaway Ranch, sandwiched between the Sacramento River and the city of Davis, he sees waterfowl to preserve and hunt, rich farmland producing rice, wheat and tomatoes, and huge, open tracts that hold value as habitat for the endangered Swainson's hawk and giant garter snake. Gidaro grew up in suburban Sacramento but began hunting at a young age and learned from his father a love for Northern California's wetlands. Although he is a local developer, he says he has no desire to build on the ranch he owns with several partners. "We can do wildlife-friendly farming and conservation and make money at the same time," Gidaro told me this week. But when the members of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors look at the same land, they see a threat. They worry that Gidaro or some future owner will fallow the land and sell its water rights, try to build thousands of homes or commit so much of the land to habitat preservation that commercial farming, a key part of the county's mostly rural economy, will no longer be viable. "It's our land," Supervisor Mike McGowan told me. It isn't, yet. But McGowan and the other members of the board's majority would like the land to be owned by the government. And since Gidaro and his partners aren't selling, the county has gone to court to seek a forced sale, through the power of eminent domain. Eminent domain has been in the news a lot lately. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision last month, ruled that government can force the owner of private property to sell and then transfer the land to another private owner for no greater reason than that the use the public agency has in mind might produce more tax revenue than is being paid by the people who own it now. A California state senator, meanwhile, has proposed a state constitutional amendment that would limit the use of eminent domain to cases where the public controls or uses the property it forces someone to sell. Neither the decision nor the proposed new law would come into play on Conaway Ranch, because here the government - Yolo County - intends to retain ownership of the land and manage it on behalf of the public. But the case still bears watching as a breathtaking example of the sweeping powers that eminent domain vests in the hands of a few people, in this case a four-person majority on the county's five-member governing board. Consider that the county is talking about buying, by force, a ranch that covers 17,000 acres, nearly three times the size of the nearby city of Davis, home to a campus of the University of California. The land is farmed by 20 different operations, comes with rights to 50,000 acre-feet of water and is dotted with working natural gas wells....

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

Feds target two Idaho wolves for death Federal wildlife agents plan to shoot two wolves in north-central Idaho in hopes of stopping a cattle-and-dog killing spree that has unnerved ranchers and hunters near Elk River and Dworshak since last winter. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized agents to kill two members of the so-called Chesimia wolf pack that are believed to have killed two cows this month. The predators, reintroduced to Idaho a decade ago, are also blamed for killing six dogs since the start of the year, including three bear hounds in early May in what federal officials believed was a case of the wolves protecting a litter of newborn pups....
Column: Woodpecker Smells Like a Rat In old-timey detective stories, the Bad Guy character would snarl “I smell a rat” when he sensed that something was not right. Maybe there was a hint of scam, or a trap being laid, or a double-cross afoot. Well, people are starting to “smell a rat” in the sudden appearance of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker in Arkansas. If this sounds familiar, it is. The same ploy has been used successfully over and over again by environmental organizations and government wildlife agencies that seek to close land to human use, and to transfer ownership title of the land and control of the land to the government. Remember the Spotted Owl fiasco in the Northwest....
Proposed wildlife refuge unpopular with curry county landowners The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to create a 5,900 acre refuge out of a collection of ranch and forest lands on the west side of Highway 101 near Langlois. If the plan goes forward, the agency would try to negotiate with landowners to buy conservation easements – agreements which would involve a promise not to develop the land. The area is a stop on the migratory route of the Aleutian cackling goose, a formerly endangered species. "Kind of looks like a land grab to me," said Mike Knapp, a rancher who owns just over 16 percent of the land being considered for the refuge. "I don't think the federal government needs any more control." "I am totally against it," said Gail Rathbun, who owns one and a half percent of the land. "I will not turn my place into a national refuge ... this land is my land."....
Grazing Rules Ride on Doctored Science When government scientists first reviewed a proposed overhaul of U.S. Bureau of Land Management grazing regulations, the resulting reports read as if they had been written by environmentalists. In separate internal reports written two years ago, scientists from the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warned that the BLM's new rules could or would damage wildlife, water supplies, streamside areas, vegetation and endangered species. The Wildlife Service's report also said that the rules would tend to give grazing a higher priority than other uses, remove the public from the decision-making process, and give away public rights on public land. Erick Campbell, one of about 15 BLM scientists who wrote the original report, says he had expected his work to be rewritten somewhat, but not in this wholesale manner. He quit his job in March after three decades with the agency because, he says, "The Bush administration is just rolling back any advances made in the last 30 years. We are going back to the 19th century." Bill Brookes, a hydrologist who also worked on the original report, resigned in January after 25 years with the BLM, in part out of frustration with the administration's handling of environmental issues....
Environmentalists sue to block grazing rules The lawsuit filed last week by Western Watersheds Project charges that the Bureau of Land Management has violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws by suppressing scientific information from its own staff, other government agencies and the general public. "The proposed changes to BLM's grazing rules are nothing less than a rollback to the rancher-controlled era of 50 years ago," said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. BLM attorneys still were reviewing the lawsuit and the agency had no comment yet, spokesman Barry Rose said from the BLM state office in Boise, Idaho....
Biologist recounts his close encounters with brown bears Looking back almost 50 years after his brown-bear roping escapades on Alaska's Kodiak Island, Will Troyer admits it was all a little crazy. "We were really lucky no one got hurt," he said. In Alaska during the 1950s, his lack of experience didn't matter. Troyer was one of only a handful of college-trained wildlife professionals in the state. When the previous refuge manager quit, he was summoned from a job watching a fish weir and offered the opportunity. He took it. And it didn't take long for the fun to start. "That winter at our annual United States Fish and Wildlife Service meeting in Juneau, I announced my intent to capture Kodiak bears," he writes in his newly released book, "Into Brown Bear Country." "The audience reacted with loud laughter." Troyer wasn't deterred....
Joggers may become endangered species at wildlife refuge The section of Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge that is off Monsen Road in Concord is for the birds, especially migrating ones. That's why the US Fish and Wildlife Service banned dogs there as of July 1 and is conducting a study through early December to help decide whether joggers and runners will be next. During the study period, jogging and running are permitted during some weeks and prohibited during others. The federal agency is also taking photos of everyone who enters the refuge near Monsen Road and will use the photos to determine what people do there. The photos are taken automatically as people pass. People accustomed to jogging down the quiet dirt paths with the sound of honking geese rather than honking horns as accompaniment say they hope the study won't result in their permanently losing access to a place that is a refuge for their souls as well as for the wildlife....
Sage grouse numbers on rise The Colorado population of Gunnison sage grouse has almost doubled in the past year, according to a study released Wednesday by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Gary Skiba, a biologist with the DOW, takes the population increase as a good sign. "We counted more birds, period," Skiba said. In the Gunnison Basin alone, the most populous of seven habitat areas, biologists estimated there are more than 4,000 of the birds, up from 2,320 in 2004. The Gunnison sage grouse is listed as a species of special concern in Colorado and therefore cannot be hunted. The bird is being considered for the threatened species list under the Endangered Species Act, according to the DOW....
Wild Species Threatened by Low-Yield Farming, Not Global Warming, Expert Says "Claims that global warming will destroy up to a million wildlife species -- as recently featured on ABC's Nightline -- are willfully misleading," warned Dennis Avery of Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues at the American Society of Animal Science's annual meeting on July 24. Worse, said Avery, TV networks and wildlife biologists ignore the real threat to the world's wildlife: a redoubling of human food demand over the next 50 years that could imperil vast tracts of wildlife habitat. Recognizing the food demand, however, would shift government research funds from climate models to politically incorrect agricultural research stations-our main hope to double crop and livestock yields. "Modern warming is overwhelmingly natural. Ice cores and cave stalagmites tell us the Earth has a moderate, natural 1500-year climate cycle driven by the sun. All our wildlife species have survived 600 of these cyclical warmings in the last million years," said Avery. "Trees and plants are often cold-limited, but rarely heat-limited. The very biologists who warned us in the journal Nature that a million species might be lost to warming have published their own studies showing that wild species are extending their ranges. Warming is making the forests more diverse, not less."....
BLM, Forest Service propose changes to clarify oil and gas order Private property owners whose subsurface minerals are owned by the Bureau of Land Management would be invited to inspect proposed sites of an oil or natural-gas well on their land, under proposed rules changes by the BLM and Forest Service. Such split-estate situations often lead to conflicts between property owners and energy developers. The change would call for those companies to take the initiative to reach a surface-use agreement, said BLM Colorado Chief of Fluid Minerals Duane Spencer. Failing that, the BLM would then invite the property owner to inspect a proposed well site and tell the BLM their concerns. The on-site inspection change is one of several proposed changes to Onshore Oil and Gas Order No. 1 that were announced Wednesday by the BLM and Forest Service....Go here for the BLM press release and here to see the Federal Register notice....
Kebler Pass area targeted for BLM auction Last year, the Bureau of Land Management withdrew a parcel of land near Paonia State Park and Kebler Pass from a federal oil and gas auction “because people spoke out loud and clear to protect this special place,” said Paonia environmental activist Rob Peters. “Now, in spite of overwhelming opposition from nearby residents and communities, the federal government is at it again and looking for another way to open these popular public lands to oil and gas drilling,” said Peters, executive director of the Western Slope Environmental Resource Council. To be auctioned Aug. 11, the parcel includes the junction of McClure Pass and Kebler Pass roads, the confluence of the North Fork of the Gunnison River and Anthracite Creek and land surrounding Crystal Meadows Ranch, a private resort. “People come here from all over the world, to see Western Colorado’s famous scenery, to cast a line into a quiet trout stream, or just to relax and enjoy the peacefulness of a beautiful mountain valley,” said Crystal Meadows Ranch owner Kay Tennison. “We all use energy, and we understand that this activity is appropriate for many of our public lands. But not everywhere and not here. Some places should not be leased for drilling.”....
Oil and gas companies question new fee Local oil and gas companies are questioning the need for a Bureau of Land Management proposal to charge $4,000 to process drilling permit applications. The agency wants to impose the fee to cover costs associated with processing mineral-related permit applications. "It's kind of a wonder to us why we would have to pay for a permit to drill when we already pay lease rentals and royalties from the wells to the BLM," Yates Petroleum consultant Gene George said. On a 10-year lease from the BLM, operators now pay an extra $1.50 rental fee per acre per year for the first five years, and $2 per acre per year during the last five years. The federal government also receives a 12.5 percent royalty on all oil and gas drilled on the leased land....
BLM to gather wild horses from blackened Idaho rangeland The Bureau of Land Management will use wranglers and a helicopter tomorrow morning to begin rounding up 350 wild horses in danger of starving after a wildfire blackened their range in southern Idaho. Since the Clover Fire was put out in mid-July, BLM workers have been working to repair a pipeline to provide water for the Saylor Creek Herd. The horses are feeding on a patchwork of unburned islands of grass in the 300-square-mile blackened area, but officials fear they won't survive....
Major Tahoe land acquisitions on new federal list A 770-acre site in the Lake Tahoe Basin, once a Nevada version of California's Bohemian Club for the rich and powerful, highlights a new list of property being recommended for public acquisition using money from public land sales in the Las Vegas area. The recommendation to pay at least $75 million for the Incline Lake property, a private Sierra retreat set up by Nevada power broker and developer Norman Biltz in the late 1930s, is among numerous proposals for spending $1.1 billion of the public land sale revenue. Norman Biltz Nash of Reno, Biltz' grandson and chairman of Incline Lake Corp. which has owned the 770-acre Tahoe site for more than 60 years, said current owners have mixed emotions about the proposed sale to the Forest Service, but added, "This could be the gemstone of the Tahoe program of conservation."....
Compromise keeps land sales money in Nevada Congressional negotiators have killed a proposal to funnel millions of dollars in profits from federal land sales in Clark County into the federal treasury, said an aide to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. The land sales that have netted the state more than $2 billion for parks and land protection went unchallenged in a final bill that sets spending and policy for the Interior Department in fiscal 2006, Reid spokeswoman Tessa Hafen told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a Wednesday report. The White House wanted to use about $700 million from the program to reduce the federal deficit, while House Appropriations Committee members considered using the money for other programs....
Short cash, water deal breaks down A lack of federal support has undone what was heralded earlier this year as a milestone agreement between the Klamath Tribes and irrigators above Upper Klamath Lake. The agreement that sought to resolve longstanding disputes over water rights hinged on millions of dollars in federal funding to buy out newer water rights and implement water restoration projects. But federal officials have shown no interest in allocating the funds, said former state Sen. Steve Harper, who helped broker the agreement. "We sure haven't seen action," Harper told the Herald and News earlier this week. Harper, who has been facilitating meetings between water stakeholders for a year, announced the agreement on Feb. 25 with Klamath Tribes Chairman Allen Foreman and Fort Klamath rancher Roger Nicholson....
Fart Science: Cows put in a bubble to measure emissions In a white, tent-like "bio-bubble" on a farm near Davis, eight pregnant Holsteins are eating, chewing and pooping - for science. "The ladies," as they're called by University of California researcher Frank Mitloehner, are doing their part to answer a question plaguing one of California's largest agricultural industries: How much gas does a cow emit? The findings will be used to write the state's first air quality regulations for dairies and could affect regulations nationwide. But before he explains how it works, Mitloehner wants one thing to be clear. "We're not talking about flatulence," he says. He emphasizes the point because his research has been dismissed as "fart science," a label he says doesn't do justice to the seriousness of his work....
68th Annual Freedom Rodeo amd Old Cowhand Reunion It's that time of year again, when the little town of Freedom swells to about twenty-five times its normal size, as "The Biggest Open Rodeo in the West" unfolds August 18-20. Built on long-standing tradition and plain, old volunteer spirit, the Freedom Rodeo and Old Cowhand Reunion continue to draw fans and contestants from throughout the country to this quaint little town nestled along the banks of the Cimarron River. The three-day event combines a unique blend of professional rodeo action with hometown color, style and genuine hospitality into a celebration that has been recognized as one of "Oklahoma's Outstanding Events of the Year."....
'Home on the Range' at Ogden Nature Center For a relaxing night of fun, there's no place like home -- on the range, that is. "Home on the Range," an annual outdoor event at the Ogden Nature Center, gets under way at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8. "It's a really relaxing summer evening with good food, good music and, of course, the wonderful poetry of Stan Tixier," said Mary McKinley, director of the center. "It really is just a lovely evening." Tixier, who retired from the U.S. Forest Service, donates his time each year to perform cowboy poetry at the event. McKinley says the Ogden Valley man has a loyal following. Coyote Moon, a local group, will add to the Western atmosphere with live music. The menu features Dutch Oven Smothered Beef, Sheepherder Cheese Potatoes, vegetables, rolls and apple crisp....
Rounding up the herd Pete Carmichael and his dog, Hooker, are used to chasing livestock through an obstacle course and ending up in the winner's circle of stock dog trials. However, it was Carmichael, of Timber Lake, S.D., and his dog Nap that took the cattle dog trials by storm Tuesday evening at the North Dakota State Fair Center as part of the North Dakota State Fair. Nap and Carmichael niftily herded a trio of cattle through chutes and gates, around barrels and into a pen in a time of 3:59, tallying 105 points in the process. Murray Ketteler, of Blunt, S.D., and his dog, Freckles, also scored 105 points but took nearly one minute longer to maneuver his cattle through the obstacle course. Carmichael and Buffy finished third with 103 points in 4:14; Roger Halvorson of Tioga was fourth with a score of 99 points in a time of 2:58. Carmichael put on a sheep exhibition before the cattle dog portion of the trials to demonstrate the training techniques for both the cattle dogs and the sheep dogs....

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

MAD COW DISEASE

Possible case of mad cow investigated The government is investigating another possible case of mad cow disease, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday. Testing indicated the presence of the disease in a cow that died on the farm where it lived, said John Clifford, the department's chief veterinarian. The department would not say where the farm was. The cow was at least 12 years old and died of complications during calving, Clifford said. In the latest case, the cow died on the farm where it lived, and a private veterinarian removed brain tissue for sampling, Clifford said. However, testing options are limited in this case. Because the farm was remote, the private veterinarian who removed a brain sample used a substance to preserve the tissue. That means that only one type of testing, immunohistochemistry, or IHC, can be done, the official said. The animal died in April, but the veterinarian forgot to send the sample to USDA until this month, Clifford said....
New BSE Case May Pressure Futures, Cash Cattle Prices The latest "non-definitive" test results for a case of domestic bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wednesday afternoon is expected to pressure futures and cash prices for the next few days while the market assesses consumer reaction to the news. U.S. consumers didn't react to the first two cases of BSE found in the U.S., and Richard Nelson, market analyst for Allendale Inc., in McHenry, Ill., doesn't think they would pay much attention to this case. They might, however, recoil if the U.S. ever has a case where the disease has spread to humans, he said. Cory Hall, president and market analyst at Broker Professionals in Des Moines, Iowa, said he expected the cattle markets to react more strongly to this test result than to the last one. In that case, the U.S. retested and found to be positive for BSE a cow that was tested originally in November and cleared of the disease....
South Dakota governor urged to block imports of Canadian cattle Republican Gov. Mike Rounds should follow the lead of his predecessor and close the state border to cattle from Canada, a potential political opponent said Wednesday. Ron Volesky of Huron, who plans to seek the 2006 Democratic nomination for governor, said the recent reopening of the United States border to Canadian cattle and beef products has put South Dakota's cattle herds at risk of infection from mad cow disease. In a letter to Rounds, Volesky noted that former Gov. Bill Janklow took the bold step of closing the South Dakota border to Canadian products in September 1998. Janklow orchestrated a three-week, inspection blockade of Canadian grain and livestock to protest trade practices that the four-term GOP governor said were unfair. He lifted the ban when U.S. and Canadian officials agreed to hold trade talks. Resumption of cattle imports from Canada calls for drastic action to protect South Dakota's cattle industry, Volesky told The Associated Press....

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NEWS ROUNDUP

Rancher loses cow dogs to lions A mountain lion killed one of the local rancher's valuable hound dogs a couple of weeks ago, the second one in six months. Norris said he was awakened about 12:30 in the morning of Wednesday, June 29, by one of his dogs barking under his bedroom window. He woke up another man who lives at the ranch, Billy Rucker, and the two of them went out to investigate. "Well, we got up and went out and the dog led us to where a lion had killed another dog in the yard. We were in our underwear and slippers, carrying flashlights, but figured we better track it before it could get too far. So we followed the trail where the lion was dragging the dog, up the canyon about a mile, back up toward the highway. "Then we saw it, about 40 feet away, where it had laid down. It wasn't going to give up that dog. It was hungry." Rucker shot the lion with a 30-30 rifle and they went back to the ranch house. The dog that was killed was one of Rucker's lion hounds and valued between $3,000 and $5,000. Norris, age 88, bought the old Joe Bassett Ranch near Highway 60 just east of Seven Mile Wash 35 years ago. Born in New Mexico, he was raised near Silver City, moving here when he bought the ranch....
Landowners looking to sell agriculture rights The waiting list of rural property owners who want to sell the right to farm the land is growing, say conservation officials who want to preserve areas of native grasslands. The so-called conservation easements are payments made to the landowners in exchange for a promise to keep the land in its natural state. There are several types and durations of the easements, which are attached to the deed of the property. Some farm groups are opposed to those agreements, especially those that are longer than 30 years. Perpetual easements are illegal in North Dakota, but they are allowed on land owned by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service....
4th waterway may get "wild-and-scenic" status A stream that thunders down Mount Adams, races under logjams and funnels through gullies into one of the Northwest's most popular stretches of white water could soon become Washington's fourth official "wild-and-scenic" section of river. The U.S. Senate yesterday passed a measure that would designate 20 miles of the upper White Salmon River and a tributary in south-central Washington as wild-and-scenic, a move that would permanently ban dams and activities that would spoil or alter the waterway. The bill, which passed the House last month, is headed for the president's signature. The White House has said President Bush doesn't object....
Column: Gallatin plan would close most trails to motorized users Citizens for Balanced Use supports multiple use for all forest users. This means ice climbers, backpackers, cattle grazers, hunters, bicyclists, fisherman, horsemen, dog sledders, loggers, rafters, summer motorized users, snowmobilers, skiers, wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and many other groups not mentioned. This means we are fighting for the public's right to enjoy and use public lands without discrimination of their favorite activity. We compared the number of multiple-use (open to motorized uses) trailheads currently in the Gallatin National Forest to the number in the preferred alternative in the draft forest travel plan, Alternative 7. Current vs. Alternative 7 in the Big Timber district is 25 percent vs. 6 percent; Gardiner, 26 percent vs. 5 percent; Livingston South, 19 percent vs. zero; Livingston North, 100 percent vs. 57 percent; Bozeman, 52 percent vs. 22 percent; and Hebgen, 80 percent vs. 30 percent. Totals throughout the Gallatin National Forest are 47 percent currently vs. 17 percent in the preferred alternative. Of the 122 trailheads, 57 are currently multiple use, but only 21 would be multiple use in Alternative 7 with many restricted closures on many trails up to eight months of the year....
Federal Report Shows Growth and Popularity of OHV Recreation A national trail-based recreation group says a new federal report on off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation in the United States shows popularity of motorized recreation among diverse ethnic communities. The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) says that the study published by the USDA Forest Service's Southern Research Station shows OHV use is widely recognized now as one of the fastest growing outdoor activities. The report was prepared for the Forest Service in relation to a National OHV policy initiative expected to be finalized in August 2005. The policy will direct forests to designate roads, trails and areas available for OHV use. The source of the data is the National Survey on Recreation and Environment (NSRE). The NSRE is a collaborative project between the Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Georgia and the University of Tennessee. The study showed the proportion of people age 16 and older who said they participated in OHV recreation increased from 16.8 percent in 1999-2000 to 23.8 percent in 2003-2004. It also shows that Hispanic participation grew at the fastest percentage rate, more than doubling between 1999 and 2004. The African-American participation growth rate also outpaced that of caucasions, growing 50 percent compared to 36 percent for caucasions....
Sides square off over proposed ski village Opponents of a proposed ski village near Wolf Creek Pass got their day in court Tuesday - or in this case, a makeshift hearing room set up in the mining museum and community center on the outskirts of this former silver boom town. The owners of Wolf Creek Ski Area and environmental groups sued Mineral County for approving the massive project, saying county commissioners should have denied it in part because developers lack year-round road access to what could become the largest resort village in the state. Also at issue is whether the public had adequate time to comment on the zoning plans put forward by Texas billionaire Billy Joe "Red" McCombs. Developers defended their plans, saying the county's approval was just the first of many needed for the village and that the public interest had been adequately protected....
Appeals court upholds Washington, Oregon dam spills A federal appeals court upheld a lower court order demanding that the government spill water through five Northwest hydroelectric dams to help young salmon migrating to the Pacific. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was forced to allow substantial flows to bypass energy generating turbines following a June 20 order by U.S. District Judge James Redden of Portland. Redden ruled that the salmon were imperiled when swimming through those dams' turbines as they headed to the sea hundreds of miles away. The Bush administration called the order an "untested experiment," and "micromanaging the Columbia river" while urging the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse Redden's order....
Hearst ranch appraisal is revealed to the public Despite opposition from environmentalists, the Hearst Corp. had enough legal lots, water and road access to build luxury homes across large sections of the scenic Hearst Ranch -- if it had tried. That's the conclusion of the massive, three-volume appraisal the Schwarzenegger administration used to determine what price taxpayers would pay to preserve the ranch under a $95 million deal completed in February. The administration withheld the appraisal from public view during negotiations. It was reviewed this month by Knight Ridder. Appraiser Walt Carney of San Jose was hired by the California Coastal Conservancy, a state agency that helped fund and negotiate the deal. His appraisal valued Hearst Ranch -- one of California's most spectacular trophy properties -- at $350 million. It then determined that the development rights the public acquired were worth $230 million....
Senate OKs land preserve For the second time in two years, the Senate has approved legislation reclassifying about 300,000 acres of federal lands along California's North Coast as wilderness. The legislation includes lands owned by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake Mendocino and Napa counties. Nearly identical legislation, sponsored by California Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, passed the Senate last year. But the House version, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, didn't get a hearing before the key House Resources Committee until earlier this month. It's still unclear whether the chairman of the House committee, Tracy Republican Rep. Richard Pombo, will do anything more with the bill than hold the hearing. The California measure was one of four wilderness bills approved unanimously by the Senate. The other three set aside new wilderness areas in Washington state, New Mexico and Puerto Rico....
Ojito wilderness bill passes Senate, heads for the House A proposal to designate some 11,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico's Sandoval County as wilderness passed the Senate on Tuesday. If approved this fall by the House and enacted, the Ojito Wilderness Act would designate the first wilderness area in New Mexico in more than 15 years. Such a distinction protects wild areas from commercial use while keeping them open to various forms of recreation. The area south of San Ysidro has vast cultural resources, ancient sites and impressive landforms scattered throughout. The Senate bill _ sponsored by New Mexico Sens. Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat, and Pete Domenici, a Republican _ is expected to be heard by the House this fall....
Split estates causing county headaches Split estates - where one entity owns the land and another, the mineral wealth beneath it - could cause splitting headaches at the county level, as commissioners work to balance private property and industry rights with public safety issues. That's a tall order when the federal government owns the mineral rights; in fact, when it comes to split estates, the power of county government is greatly limited and local commissioners want to test the waters before they tests those limits. "I do not think that battling the feds over pre-emptive rights is a wise course of action," Commissioner Allan Belt said. "I think it's been proven time and again that counties can assert some authority by working with the state and the feds."....
Editorial: Energy compromise a step backwards The energy bill that's emerging from a House-Senate conference committee won't wean America off imported oil and could greatly harm the environment. Efforts by the Senate to boost energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources have been stripped away, while a push to exempt oil companies from basic environmental protections looks likely to become law. Congressional negotiations produced a bill that stems from a regressive version that passed the House last spring, not the more progressive measure the Senate adopted early this summer. We hope the Senate will block the bill in its current form. For Colorado, the risk is that the energy measure would let oil companies run roughshod over our landscape, particularly by exempting oil companies from clean water laws and by pushing oil shale and tar sand development....
Negotiators Agree on Tax Breaks in Energy Bill House and Senate negotiators raced yesterday to complete work on $14.5 billion in tax breaks, the final element of a major energy bill Congress wants to send to President Bush this week. Negotiations took place behind closed doors, with lawmakers divvying up tax breaks to encourage domestic production of oil and natural gas, development of cleaner-burning sources of electricity, and conservation measures, among other things. Members of the conference committee agreed to the non-tax provisions of the bill late Monday night and early yesterday as leaders took pains to jettison provisions that might prompt a Senate filibuster similar to one that killed an energy bill two years ago....
Parents and farmers voice concern over shift in daylight-saving time Now, Congress is determined to add an extra month to daylight-saving time - three weeks in March, one in November. As word begins to spread, parents worry that kids will be standing at bus stops in the dark or yawning through first-period algebra. Airlines complain that it will play havoc with international connections and cost them millions. Farmers say they already get up at dawn, and this will just make their lives even more out of whack with city folks' and push prime time past bedtime. Everyone has an opinion, but the ones that count are those in Congress, which included an extra month of daylight-saving time to an energy bill approved by House and Senate negotiators early Tuesday. Backers say the extra hour of afternoon sunshine could save 100,000 barrels of oil a day....

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

Column: The Sagebrush Solution Dell LeFevre has been consorting with environmentalists, and he understands why this makes his neighbors nervous. It makes him nervous, too. He is not what you would call a tree-hugger. Mr. LeFevre, who is 65, has no affection for the hikers who want his cows out of the red-rock canyons and mesas in southern Utah, where his family has been ranching for five generations. He has considered environmentalism a dangerous religion since the day in 1991 when he and his father-in-law found two dozen cows shot to death, perhaps by someone determined to reclaim a scenic stretch of the Escalante River canyon. But he is not bitter when he talks about the deal he made with an environmentalist named Bill Hedden, the executive director of the Grand Canyon Trust. Mr. Hedden's group doesn't use lobbyists or lawsuits (or guns) to drive out ranchers. These environmentalists get land the old-fashioned way. They buy it. To reclaim the Escalante River canyon, Mr. Hedden bought the permits that entitle Mr. LeFevre's cows to graze on the federal land near the river. He figures it was a good deal for the environment because native shrubs and grasses are reappearing, now that cows aren't eating and trampling the vegetation. Mr. LeFevre likes the deal because it enabled him to buy grazing permits for higher ground that's easier for him and his cows to reach than the canyon. (He was once almost killed there when his horse fell). He's also relieved to be on land where hikers aren't pressuring the Bureau of Land Management to restrict grazing, as they did for the canyon....
SD congressional delegation urges Black Hills logging The South Dakota congressional delegation wants the U.S. Forest Service to cut down more trees in the Black Hills National Forest to reduce fire risks. The delegation, which met last week with Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth and Rocky Mountain Region Forester Rick Cables, also urged that commercial logging in the forest be increased to the allowable sale quantity of 83 million board feet. The annual figure for the forest in southwest South Dakota and northeast Wyoming was 118 million board feet before 1997. That year, it was reduced to 83 million. But this decade, the timber harvest has averaged between 60 million and 70 million board feet per year....
Forest Service to take bids for prime Superior Forest property Valuable pieces of real estate in Minnesota's north woods, owned and operated by the federal government for decades, are for sale and will be open for bids in coming weeks. The historic Isabella Ranger Station in Superior National Forest leads the list of huge, hand-hewn log homes built in the 1930s that will be up for sale. The old ranger station amid stately pines is one of several properties managed by the Superior forest, but are no longer needed by forest personnel. "We looked at what we really needed, what didn't make sense and what we could get rid of without affecting how we serve the public," said park supervisor Jim Sanders....
Chippewa, Chequamegon selling, too The Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota also plans to take part in the property sale program. Chippewa officials want to sell four properties, probably early in 2006, including the recently closed Cass Lake Ranger Station. Other sites that may be sold include a single-family home in Walker; a storage site and buildings near Walker and an acre of land on the north side of Minnesota Highway 371 in Walker that was cut off from the Walker Ranger Station when the road was realigned. The Chequamegon/Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin used the program last year to sell three single-family homes in Glidden and is planning to sell a home in Hayward and another in Florence, said Phil Barker, land program manager for the forest. The homes had been used to house Forest Service staff....
Tracking an elusive seabird Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet Maria Mudd Ruth Rodale Books, 304 pp., $23.95 How did a small, brown, web-footed bird, "a baked potato with a beak," come to command a $13-million recovery plan by the Fish and Wildlife Service — a plan that ignited a pitched battle in Humbolt County among conservationists, loggers, ornithologists, landowners and politicians? First recorded by Capt. James Cook in 1778 in Alaska's Prince William Sound, the feisty "fog lark" remained a mystery for 185 years until birders and scientists finally unraveled its secret life and nesting place. Maria Mudd Ruth's engaging, scientific detective story bristles with humor, curiosity, frustration and passion as the accidental naturalist tracks the history of this elusive seabird, which flew from obscurity to star on the endangered species list and, in the process, rescued thousands of acres of old-growth Pacific Coast forest from the logger's ax....
Pombo Proposal Wouldn't Gut the Endangered Species Act: It Could Give it Formidable New Teeth Critics of Rep. Richard Pombo's Endangered Species Act reform initiative --critics such as the Center for Biological Diversity -- are simply wrong when they claim it would gut the Endangered Species Act, says The National Center for Public Policy Research. "Richard Pombo's bill, if unchanged, could give the ESA alarming new powers," said David Ridenour, vice president of The National Center and a long-time activist on land issues. Pombo's proposal is called "The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005" and, until recently, was expected to sail quickly through the House Resources Committee. Rep. Pombo chairs the Committee. "Property rights advocates are voicing concern about a provision that would extend the ESA's reach into so-called 'invasive species' -- never before regulated under the law," said Ridenour. Under an Executive Order signed by President Clinton, invasive species are "any species, including seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem." "By this definition," says Ridenour, "almost any living thing could be considered an 'invasive species,' thereby giving federal bureaucrats broad new powers to regulate human activity -- where we live, what we plant in our yards, and where and how we vacation."....
Mormon handcart trek offers glimpse of pioneer struggles The wagon wheel ruts are still visible in places. Even after 150 years, they mark the toil and struggles of thousands of pioneers who settled the West. And while they are not near modern highways, these parallel grooves in the sand and clay are again attracting tens of thousands of pioneers from around the world who seek to relive the experiences of their ancestors. But in a twist of history, the new trekkers — mostly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — are making their own tracks and endangering parts of the original trail. Some areas of the trail started "looking more like a road than a historic trail," said Jack Kelly, manager of the Bureau of Land Management office in Lander. In a mutual desire to protect the trail, the BLM and the LDS church agreed to curtail the church-sponsored journeys — but not do away with them altogether....
Up a creek? Four-wheelers and dune buggies criss-cross on the bank of the Knik River, followed by plumes of silty dust. At a camp nestled in a tangle of trees, a young boy relinquishes to his sister his turn on the four-wheeler. A family decked out in life vests boards a Hovercraft while a Ford pulling a boat trailer backs up to unload a cabin cruiser. The Alaska Outdoor Access Alliance and many nonmembers who enjoy access to trail systems or waterways in the Knik River public-use area are sounding the alarm about recommendations to shut out motorized access there. In 2003, at least three federally funded studies of the Knik River drainage system concluded off-road vehicles were damaging the areas, according to Alliance President Todd Clark. Now, the federal Bureau of Land Management could revise its land-management plan for the popular site, he said....
Return to Burning Man: Few traces remain of 35,000 revelers Roger Farschon, ecologist with the U. S. Bureau of Land Management, looked at the clear plastic bag in his hand with a bit of debris inside, jiggled it around and said, "Looks pretty good." He was talking about the BLM's checkup on the site of the annual Burning Man Festival on the playa of the Black Rock Desert, a few miles from Gerlach. The controversial "alternative lifestyle" event drew 35,000 people to the sun-baked playa in September. That's quite a crowd for a site with no permanent facilities, no water, nothing but the towering Burning Man, ignited on the last day of the festival....
Provisions to Curb Oil Use Fall Out of Energy Bill Working furiously to try to strike a deal on broad energy legislation, Congressional negotiators on Monday killed two major provisions aimed at curbing consumption of traditional fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal. House members rejected an effort to incorporate a plan passed by the Senate to require utilities to use more renewable energy like wind and solar power to generate electricity. They also defeated a bid to direct the president to find ways to cut the nation's appetite for oil by one million barrels a day. Backers of the initiative to identify the oil savings said it was an alternative to the politically difficult approach of increasing automotive gas mileage standards and would demonstrate that Congress was serious about cutting the nation's dependence on oil imports....
U.S. turns to democracy to settle river war Tom Waters echoed the sentiments of farmers as negotiators from Missouri to Montana prepared to gather today for an experiment in resolving a matter overflowing with controversy - a spring rise on the lower Missouri River starting next year. "It's a scary deal," remarked Waters, a farmer from Orrick, Mo., who said he feared crop damage from high water. To others it's a hopeful deal, and at the very least, it's a new deal being offered by the Army Corps of Engineers as it seeks to balance divergent interests along a 2,340-mile waterway stretching from the Mississippi River to the Northern Plains. If it works, the experiment in conflict resolution could provide the blueprint for stemming environmental neglect along the Missouri - and perhaps for solving big river water wars elsewhere....
How to drive in slow moo-ving traffic The man thought Baker County cattle were pretty stupid. He offered as evidence his crumpled front bumper. He seemed incredulous that Baker County ranchers had not gotten around to teaching their cows about crossing the road. Shoot, most kindergartners have mastered that lesson. The man, a Californian according to his license plate, apparently expected Baker County cattle to be quite brainy, said Beth Phillips, a Keating rancher. "He said, ‘I thought your cows were trained not to cross the road.' "....
It's All Trew: Before duct tape, it was binder twine Most old-timers have forgotten a simple product used almost daily in the distant past. We called it binder twine as it was basically used in a McCormick-Deering broadcast binder to tie bundles of feed stalks together. It was cheap and durable, and served in many ways. There is no prettier sight in the fall than a field of shocked feed with its little tepees of feed bundles awaiting the long, hard winter ahead. Those little twines holding the bundles together made handling the stock feed a breeze with only a pitchfork in hand. The Deering-Appleby twine binder, introduced in 1879, sold like wildfire and worked like a charm. As demand for binder twine increased, Deering spent thousands of dollars experimenting with different fibers to provide strength and quality of product at the most economical price. The best twine product seemed to be a blend of sisal from Yucatan and manila from the Philippines....

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Monday, July 25, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

Editorial: Feds, Wyoming split over drilling rules The Bush administration's rush to develop oil and gas across the West gives short shrift to the environment and causes anguish among ranchers and farmers whose properties are being overrun by drill rigs. Rather than resolve legitimate complaints, federal officials are trying to sidestep reasonable efforts to restore some balance. Wyoming's legislature this year enacted modest protections for surface owners. The new law calls for landowners to be properly notified when their land is slated for oil or gas drilling and to be reasonably compensated for any loss of their land's value. Last week, Wyoming's oil and gas commission finalized rules to implement the law. Instead of supporting Wyoming's efforts, the feds took the side of the drillers....
Operators worry about split-estate burdens under new law These worries include the necessity of posting a bond to both the federal Bureau of Land Management and the state of Wyoming if the operator cannot reach a surface use agreement with the landowner. In split estate cases regarding federal minerals, operators unable to obtain a signed surface use agreement are already required to post a $1,000 bond per patent of land to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Under the new law, operators in this circumstance will also have to post a $2,000 bond per well site to the state of Wyoming. Operators are also worried about the difficulty of adhering to a deadline requirement stipulated within the law. The law regulates that operators must notify the landowner no later than 30 days and no earlier than 180 days before operations start on the land....
Column: Let science, not politics, help the wolf The Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program is at a critical crossroads. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to restrict further releases of wolves into the wild and plans to trap and shoot more of them. Conservationists have been criticized for only questioning management of the program and have been urged to emphasize the progress that has been made. Unlike its management for other endangered species, the Fish and Wildlife Service pledged to confine wolves to a politically, and not biologically, constricted recovery area. And unlike in the reintroduction of wolves to Idaho and Wyoming, ranchers in the Southwest are allowed to leave out dead cattle and horses that die of non-wolf causes with the knowledge that any wolf that begins killing livestock after scavenging on such carcasses will be removed. Given such constraints, the wolves themselves have proven resilient survivors....
Help! Beetles invading forests in the West The mountain views along Red Stone Road suggest early autumn, with splashes of red, orange and a rusty brown dotting the green hillsides above the homes and condominiums of this Colorado resort town. But this is July and those colors represent hundreds of pine trees that have been killed by beetles. The tree mortality rate around Vail is striking, but it's even worse in other parts of Colorado and around the West. It's a problem that has grown sharply over the past several years: According to Forest Service figures, the acres of forest killed by beetles in 12 Western states jumped from 1.4 million in 1997 to 8.6 million last year. Experts blame the infestations on a series of mild winters, hot summers and drought. These stands of dead trees - from the Apache National Forest in western Arizona to Washington's Olympic National Park and extending into Canada and Mexico - are also prime fuel for catastrophic wildfires....
Grizzly may lose protection The grizzly bear, considered by many as a totem of the American West, may soon lose protection under the Endangered Species Act. Positioned as the "summit" species in the North American food chain, grizzlies fear no other animal. For the past 30 years, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team has been trapping, radio-collaring and studying hundreds of the great bears throughout the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem as their number increased. Their work is evaluated by a committee made up of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana fish and game departments, and Montana State University. With more than 600 grizzlies now in the Yellowstone ecosystem, the committee believes it's time to declare the recovery a success and delist the great bear from Endangered Species protection....
Natural resources also campaign resources When the Bush administration proposed last year to overturn a ban on road construction and other development on 58.5 million acres of national forest, senior officials traveled to Boise for the announcement. Idaho was a logical setting for then-Agriculture secretary Ann Veneman to unveil a new direction in managing the nation's "roadless" forests. The plan, made final in May, gives governors a big say in determining how to use the federal land — whether to open parts for commercial use or keep areas natural. Idaho has 9.3 million acres of undeveloped national forest, second only to Alaska. Idaho also was the first state to challenge the ban on development in roadless forests, which was imposed in the waning days of the Clinton administration. Boise was pertinent for another reason. Idaho's governor, Republican Dirk Kempthorne, helped finance his re-election by receiving about $86,000 — about 8 cents of each dollar — from timber, mining and energy industries that could benefit from greater access to national forests in his state....
Battle over development at rustic ski area set for court hearing With a federal environmental review pending, a contentious proposal for a large resort at the base of one of Colorado's most rustic and remote ski areas faces the more immediate challenge of defending its building permits. Lawsuits by two environmental groups and the operators of the Wolf Creek ski area near South Fork in southwestern Colorado accuse Mineral County of being a rubber stamp for Texas billionaire developer Billy Joe "Red" McCombs. They claim the county violated state laws and its own rules by neither taking public comment nor giving public notice of meetings on the Village at Wolf Creek, which is proposed on nearly 300 acres of private land that's surrounded by national forest. Colorado Wild and the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council will make those arguments during a state district court hearing Tuesday in Creede, an historic mining town and seat of Mineral County. They and Davey Pitcher, president of Wolf Creek Ski Corp., believe the county commissioners caved in to McCombs when they agreed to the $1 billion project that includes 222,100 square feet of commercial space, hotels and homes for up to 10,500 people....
The Mountain vs. The Village Randall "Davey" Pitcher wears Birkenstock sandals. Bob Honts sports tall-Texan cowboy boots. Each regularly leaves footprints atop Wolf Creek Pass, the epicenter of a bitter fight over the proposed Village at Wolf Creek. Pitcher presides over the Wolf Creek Ski Area. Honts is CEO of an idea: the Village, a development under way on an island of private land within the Rio Grande National Forest. Their disagreements are an extension, sometimes philosophical, always economic, of the two powerhouses they represent: skiing patriarch Kingsbury Pitcher and Forbes 400 billionaire Billie Joe "Red" McCombs. And their efforts trigger reactions among activists and observers from Creede to Capitol Hill....
Forest Service to cut down trees that block view of Mt. Shasta U.S. forest officials have agreed to cut down a dozen or more pine trees at the foot of Mount Shasta to restore a historically wide-open meadow where American Indians gather to dance and pray. Coonrod Flat, about 12 miles southeast of the mountain's summit, has always been a gathering point for the ceremonies of the Winnemem band of Wintu Indians. Participants face east to observe the sun rising, then turn toward the mountain while performing cultural dances. An unobstructed line of sight is important because Shasta has special alignment with Coonrod Flat and other sacred sites. But lately encroaching pine trees have blocked the view of the 14-thousand-foot volcano in Shasta-Trinity National Forest....
Forest face-off Three years later, on a September day in 1998, the bearded redhead from Missouri lay curled up on the floor of a Humboldt County forest, rocking and sobbing. Next to him was 24-year-old David Nathan "Gypsy" Chain, his head cracked open from the blow of a tree felled by an enraged logger. Chain had inspired Wilson to disrupt old-growth logging on private land. It was Wilson's first act of civil disobedience. Now, Chain was dead. The legacy of that death, Wilson soon decided, was the weight the Lakota elder had warned of. He vowed to carry it with honor. From that day on, "Shunka" would be his forest name, joining the list of adopted monikers that give Humboldt's logging protesters a blend of anonymity and fairy tale whimsy. Shunka's long struggle to redress Chain's death would depend, more than anything, on a 700-year-old tree the protesters had named "Aradia."....
Column: ESA debate heats up The U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from forcing a citizen to "quarter" a soldier in time of peace. The Endangered Species Act, however, forces any citizen to "quarter" wolves, panthers, bears, or any of more than 1200 other species the government declares to be "endangered." The U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from "taking" private property for public use, without just compensation. The Endangered Species Act, however, takes away the use of private property from citizens, without paying any compensation at all. Clearly, the Endangered Species Act ignores the private property rights specifically protected by the U.S. Constitution. This contentious 1973 law is, once again, the subject of heated debate in Washington....
Irrigation district controls dam's fate The removal of Chiloquin dam might be blocked. Tearing out the 91-year-old concrete structure on the Sprague River near Chiloquin has passed through federal hurdles and has the support of legislators, environmental groups and the Klamath Tribes, but now this issue rests with the 86 landowners of the Modoc Point Irrigation District. The district owns the dam and holds its fate. "The board is seeking the membership's approval to go ahead," said Doug Tedrick, manager of the dam's fish passage project for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. "If the district doesn't want us to take it out, then we are not going to take it out."....
Endangered Species Act embroiled in court battles More than three decades after the Endangered Species Act gave the federal government tools and a mandate to protect animals, insects and plants threatened with extinction, the landmark law is facing the most intense efforts ever by White House officials, members of Congress, landowners and industry to limit its reach. More than any time in the law's 32-year history, the obligations it imposes on government — and, indirectly, on landowners — are being challenged in the courts, reworked in the agencies responsible for enforcing it and re-examined in Congress. In some cases, the challenges are broad and sweeping, as when the Bush administration, in a legal battle about the best way to protect endangered salmon, declared western dams to be as much a part of the landscape as the rivers they control. In others, the actions are deep in the realm of regulatory bureaucracy, as when a White House appointee at the Interior Department sought to influence scientific recommendations involving the sage grouse, a bird whose habitat includes areas of likely oil and gas deposits....
Endangered plants focus of new study In a review ranging from the Western lily to the Tennessee coneflower, the Center for Plant Conservation is about to embark on a major study of endangered plants to determine their potential for recovery in the United States. The St. Louis-based nonprofit organization, a network of more than 30 botanical institutions around the country, was founded in 1984 to prevent the extinction of native plants. Center officials said an analysis of this scale has never been performed before at a national level. The Center estimates that about 2,000 U.S. plant species, or about 10 percent of the nation's native flora, are at risk of extinction. The roughly $500,000 study will look at endangered or threatened plants and also those being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act....
Endangered Ferret Needs Its Prey, Furthering Ranchers' Woes Yet the ferret, an obscure member of the weasel family, is behind a longstanding battle between conservationists and ranchers over land use and government-sponsored poisoning and the familiar question of what comes first, working people or little animals. It is not that people who live here have any quarrel with black-footed ferrets. Few have even seen one. It is the animal that the ferrets eat that is the problem, its formal name - Cynomys ludovicianus - surfacing in a recent flurry of back-and-forth lawsuits and government reports: the cute and chubby and insatiable prairie dog. As the area has been struck by drought, prairie dogs have scampered over property lines and occupied neighboring ranches, devouring the vegetation on acres where cattle graze. Last fall, after a ban on killing prairie dogs was lifted, the federal Department of Agriculture poisoned 5,000 acres of the public lands in the Canata Basin. Ranchers applauded, saying prairie dogs threaten their livelihood. Conservationists, though, warned against further poisoning, saying it could mean another threat of extinction for the black-footed ferret....
Research shows grizzlies in backyards a lot more than previously thought Despite economic expansion in western Montana, grizzly bear populations are on the rise and grizzly behavior is becoming less of a mystery. Speaking at the Montanans for Multiple Use meeting last night, Chris Servheen, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Recovery Program Coordinator, presented newly collected data that showed where and when bears move around their habitat, something that was previously misunderstood. Servheen said USFWS has planted Global Positioning System collars on grizzlies in the Swan Valley and discovered that bears move near roadways and houses at night, a time they have learned is less dangerous. "It tells us what bears do in the dark," he said. "It opens the door to understanding animals." Knowing when and where bears move around allows wildlife managers to create strategies on how to deal with problem bears as well as the interaction between humans and grizzlies....
Environmental groups sue feds over grazing at Glen Canyon Two environmental groups are suing the Bureau of Land Management, the Park Service and Interior Secretary Gale Norton over grazing in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The lawsuit filed Friday has implications for ranching in northern Arizona and southern Utah, including for those who ranch in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Tucson's Center for Biological Diversity and another group that calls itself the Great Old Broads for Wilderness have charged the federal agencies with ignoring their own mission statement to protect natural resources in the parks and with recognizing in 1999 that the cattle were having a negative impact, but doing nothing about it. "The Park Service itself recognized that there was this ecological degradation and they wrote a plan (to mitigate it)," Center for Biological Diversity's Greta Anderson said. "...Now we just want them to follow
it."....
Focus Property Group-Led Consortium Closes on $510 Million Purchase of BLM Auction Parcel in Las Vegas Focus Property Group, along with a consortium of home building companies including KB Home, Kimball Hill Homes, Lennar/US Home, Meritage Homes, Pulte Homes, Ryland Homes, Toll Brothers Homes and Woodside Homes, completed the purchase of the 1,700 acres of land located in the northwest section of the City of Las Vegas for which it was the successful bidder at the Bureau of Land Management auction held last February. The consortium intends to construct a master planned community on the property. The consortium today placed $408 million into escrow for payment to the BLM, which, when added to the $102 million paid on the date of the auction, represents the total price of $510 million it bid for the BLM land. The group simultaneously closed $490 million in acquisition and development financing from a consortium of banks and institutional lenders led by Wachovia Bank and Wachovia Capital Markets, LLC. Located just north of Focus Property Group's 1,200 acre Providence master plan, this new community will be adjacent to the City's Northwest Town Center, north of the Las Vegas Beltway, on both sides of US 95. Focus estimates that builders will be ready to open their first model homes in the new community in late 2007....
Exploration for gold debated Conservation groups are joining historians and archeologists in expressing concern about gold exploration on South Pass. "The exploration in and of itself is ... though not welcome, probably not going to be devastating," said Barbara Dobos of the Alliance for Historic Wyoming. "But you don't explore without the intent to develop." Among the group's concerns are possible effects to sage grouse and historic trails. The trails have been called "areas of critical concern" by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Oregon, California, Pony Express and Mormon Pioneer trails converge in the area proposed for gold exploration....
Column: Huntsman is right to support counties in road dispute Huntsman's support of state and county ownership of these roads is nothing new. The dispute over title to these roads began in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the Utah wilderness debate became a heated national issue. Counties depend on these roads to support their economies and the public's recreation needs. Despite FLPMA's protection of valid existing RS 2477 roads, the BLM has acted as though it can simply ignore these rights. But the BLM is wrong. The BLM, National Park Service and wilderness activists took the issue to the federal courts after mechanical maintenance and improvements were made to the Burr Trail and 16 other roads in Kane, Garfield and San Juan counties. As many decisions were upheld in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, several key RS 2477 points were thought to have been settled, including that it is state law which determines what it takes to establish a right of way and, once established, the rights of way are limited so that the counties cannot take actions that adversely affect adjacent public lands in any significant way....
Shift on MTBE May Clear Way for Energy Bill Congressional negotiators said Sunday they had resolved a dispute over a controversial gasoline additive that had threatened passage of the first overhaul of national energy policy in more than a decade. They said they did not expect the energy bill to include any legal protection for the manufacturers of methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, which helps engines produce less smog but has been blamed for contaminating groundwater supplies across the country. The decision not to shield MTBE manufacturers from environmental lawsuits should clear the way for negotiators to complete work on a final bill, perhaps as early as today, and send it to the House and the Senate for approval by the end of the week....
Congress Approves Far-Reaching Changes in US Geothermal Laws The House-Senate Conference Committee meeting on national energy legislation today approved sweeping changes to the nation's geothermal energy laws. The provisions, titled the John Rishel Geothermal Steam Act Amendments, represent the first major overhaul of the Geothermal Steam Act since 1970. "The geothermal provisions adopted by the Conference Committee are a dramatic improvement in the law," noted Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association. "They will encourage the rapid expansion of geothermal energy use in the West." Pointing to some of the highlights, Gawell added, "This bill streamlines some of the most bureaucratic aspects of the law, provides clear direction for the agencies to make geothermal a priority, gives local governments more funding to mitigate impacts, and ensures that the federal agencies will have the resources needed to implement the new law and quickly work-off a 30 year backlog of unfinished studies and ignored lease applications."....
Animal Rights Extremists Still in Business After the horrific events of Sept. 11, some thought that ecoterrorism might fade away. After all, President Bush made it plain that the government would hunt down terrorists and bring them to justice. It didn’t seem like a good time to be vandalizing university labs and government buildings, trespassing on farms to release animals and setting fire to new housing construction. Animal rights and environmental extremists themselves anticipated a lull as they rethought their tactics, determined how the unconscionable act of Sept. 11 would change public opinion and waited to see if more legal pressure would be brought to bear on them. If anyone expected them to just crawl in a hole and hide, however, it hasn’t happened. Only a month after Sept. 11, the Environmental Liberation Front turned wild horses loose from a Bureau of Land Management facility in Susanville, Calif. They also torched barns, a building and vehicles. To Craig Rosebraugh, author of “Burning Rage of a Dying Planet,” the attack was a relief. It meant the war against mainstream America would continue....
Mormons, ACLU at odds over future of sacred site More accustomed to poolside parties and summer jobs at burger joints, the Colorado teens struggled as they pushed the heavy wooden handcarts across Wyoming's dusty prairie. Leaving the carts at the bottom of a hill, the group of 100 or so youngsters walked the final half-mile up a steep slope to Martin's Cove, where 56 Mormon pioneers are said to have died of exhaustion and hypothermia in 1856 while on their way to Salt Lake City. Amalie Brown, 16, had heard stories of this place over and over again in Mormon Sunday school and at church while growing up. But the moment was more powerful than even she had expected. The problem is that, as one of the most revered sites in the Mormon world, a place considered by church officials to be holy ground, Martin's Cove is on a patch of sagebrush and prairie grass administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management....
USDA challenges governor on state cattle inspections The U.S. Department of Agriculture is questioning the legality of an order by Gov. Brian Schweitzer that would result in a $3 to $5 fee on Canadian cattle crossing the border destined for Montana. Schweitzer said on Thursday that he would require additional checks by veterinarians now that cattle shipments from Canada have resumed, and he estimated the cost would be $3 to $5 a head. He cited lingering concerns about importing cattle from a country that has reported three cases of mad cow disease during the past two years. Terri Teuber, a spokeswoman for the USDA in Washington, said on Friday that agency attorneys had reviewed Schweitzer's order. "We don't believe the state has the authority to charge a fee due to the burden it would cause on foreign commerce," she said. "With that said, we've not yet seen any proposed regulations or guidelines they intend to follow to conduct the inspections." Schweitzer dismissed the legal concerns, saying, "We thank them for their advice, but meanwhile we will protect the interests of consumers and the cattle industry in Montana."....Look at the headlines, USDI challenges Wyo. law on split estates and USDA challenges Montana law on cattle inspections. Gee, I thought the Bush folks were believers in Federalism. Hardly....
Saddle up: Billings saddle maker cinches prestigious Academy of Western Artists award After 30 years of molding leather to rawhide trees, Chas Weldon figures he's only halfway through his saddle-making career. Still, the 500 buckaroo-style saddles the Billings native has crafted for horsemen and collectors were enough to win him the Academy of Western Artists' 2005 Will Rogers Cowboy Award for saddle making for a lifetime of achievement. The award was one of 38 handed out to Western performers and artisans, including three from this area, during a July 12 ceremony in a suburb of Dallas. After receiving honorable mentions for the past two years, the award wasn't a total surprise. But Weldon said what pleased him the most was that the winner is picked mostly by saddle makers who have won before....
Drivers to I-84 cows: moove Hundreds of cattle hit the road Friday morning as a local rancher moved them along Interstate 84 toward their summer grazing grounds in Croydon. Both the sheriff's office and the Utah Highway Patrol were notified of the herding in order to stave off any potential problems. Several vehicles from the sheriff's office followed the herd up the freeway from mile marker 103 in Morgan to mile marker 111 in Croydon. Weber County Dispatch Center received several calls Friday morning from motorists taking issue with the traffic backup. "You have people upset because they want to go 70 miles per hour and it slows to about 10," Frandsen said. However, the cow herding is legal because the rancher owned trail rights before the freeway was built, Peay said. The cattle will travel back down Interstate 84 this fall. The cattle herding occurs every year....
Under Bubba's red glare Geneva Houx grew a little nervous as she hit the high notes at Saturday's singing contest in downtown Portland. The judge, after all, was licking his lips. And swooshing his tail. It's not a typical performance, the 27-year-old Hillsboro gospel singer said, when you're trying to please a 3,000-pound Black Angus bull. But to win a spot singing the national anthem at this year's Washington County Fair & Rodeo, that's what you've got to do. Several hundred people gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Saturday afternoon to see Bubba, as well as a petite rodeo queen, judge the five hopefuls belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner." "We're looking to see some expression from Bubba," said Don Hillman, executive director of the Fair Complex. "Some kind of body movement, tail-twitching."....
On the Edge of Common Sense: Lite comes before enlightenment Dave is a local rancher in the mountain valleys of central California. May 5, he took three of his buddies into the high country to check the summer range. They four-wheeled up into the Alpine zone and finally reached the line camp at Dripping Spring. The snow-covered peaks were melting like ice cream. The spring was beautiful, the willows were budding. It was still coat cold. Dave checked the corrals, the little outhouse, the tool shed and the spring. To his curiosity, he noticed a black bandanna tied high in a birch tree that overhung the spring. He puzzled over its significance; a hiker's souvenir? A hunter's signal? A cowboy's joke? A talisman? A scarecrow to drive off beavers? He stood on his ATV and was able to reach the bandanna and managed to untie it from the limb. It seemed fresh and clean, no doubt, rain and sun had laundered it well. He put it around his neck. It made him feel dashing! Inside the cabin, the larder was checked. It was kept supplied with canned goods, matches, some firewood and blankets. Notes were made on what was needed. Dave found two cans of Miller Lite beer in the sink....

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE WESTERNER

Bein’ neighborly at the Mud Pump Bar

By Julie Carter

Some words are just fightin’ words and there is no way around it. This story is about one of those times.

Four west Texas cowpunchers had spent the week at the end of nowhere gathering and branding cattle. They were tired, cold and running on empty by the time they headed for home.

The eagle had flown that day and with a few spare coins in their pockets they were feeling a little flush. While not believing in government aid, they did believe in being neighborly. It’s the cowboy way.

Their justification was this. Colorado joined Texas making them neighbors. For a good while these four had been neighborly underwriting that pure Rocky Mountain spring water brewery. In fact, another wagon load had just been sent down the hill to Texas and these cowboys were feeling dutiful to their cause.

The first place they came to that looked like it would fit the bill and was in fact the only place between the prairie dog town fork of the Red River and home. It was called the Mud Pump Bar.

Not being totally unobservant, they had seen a little of the oil field activity in the area. Comment was limited to “those pump jacks make a good place for the cattle to shade up in the summer.”

That there might be “oilies” coming with this oil field activity had not yet crossed their consciousness.

The punchers parked their horse trailers out of the wind as best they could and proceeded into this fine establishment in an orderly fashion.

Now the Mud Pump Bar was a high class joint. Just last week they had changed out the sawdust on the floor and there were several new egg crates on the ceiling. There was a jukebox with country music, a waitress in a short skirt and so many beer company clocks you could tell time from Amarillo to Corpus Christi.

When their eyes adjusted to the low ambient light, the problem they didn’t know existed became quite visible. There was a long table in the middle of the room filled with oilies.

Being basically friendly and very thirsty, the foursome decided to ignore this breech of bar hospitality.

Sitting alone at the bar was one old man dressed in Wranglers, boots and a cowboy hat. He struck up a conversation by noting the four newcomers were also cowboys. “Hard life, ain’t it,” he said in more of statement than a question.

The cowboys were about to agree but before they could launch into a hard life story, one of the oiles jumped up to challenge them. This guy evidently for most the day been irrigating an already foolish mind with a sudsy beverage.

“Man you don’t know nuthin’ about hard work. You ought to try following us around one day.”

The table of oilies got quiet and for all appearances, to a man, they intended to back their mouthy buddy.

While seriously outnumbered, the punchers weren’t ready to have some oilie telling them about hard work. But they let it ride this time thinking the moment would pass.

Bent on self destruction the oilie made another run at the cowboys. “So where’d you boys park your little ponies?”

In Texas there are only men and horses. While a cowboy’s hide might shed insults to himself, nobody made fun of their horses.

After the sheriff left and the oilies had paid for the damages to the premises, the four cowboys went on about their business of helping out those Colorado folks.

It’s a dirty job but someone had to do it—they were just bein’ neighborly you know.

Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net.

© Julie Carter 2005

I don't know anything about cowboys and bars, but it does sound like it might be a fun time.

Received via email:

The Atheist and the Bear

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods.

What majestic trees!

What powerful rivers!

What beautiful animals!" he said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the
bushes behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 8 foot Alaskan grizzly
charge towards him.

He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder
and saw that the bear was closing in on him. He looked over his
shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. He tripped and fell on
the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw the bear right
on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his
right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out: "Oh my God!..."

Time stopped.

The bear froze.

The forest was silent.

As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky:
"You deny my existence for all of these years, teach others I don't
exist, and even credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me
to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?"

The atheist looked directly into the light, "It would be hypocritical
of me to suddenly ask You to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps
could you make the BEAR a Christian?"

"Very well," said the voice.

The light went out.

The sounds of the forest resumed.

And then the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together
and bowed his head and spoke:

"Lord, bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty
through Christ our Lord, Amen.

I welcome submissions for Saturday Night At The Westerner.

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OPINION/COMMENTARY

Exxon-Mobil Boycott: All Politics, No Science

The boycott of Exxon-Mobil by a coalition of environmental lobbying groups is part of a massive public relations campaign to effect change, but political not environmental change, according to NCPA Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett. "All groups and individuals are free to express their views in the marketplace, but consumers should also understand that this is a charade,” Dr. Burnett said. “Contrary to environmental lobbyists’ claims, there is still lively scientific debate concerning the extent to which human activities contribute to the earth’s current warming trend. Exxon recognizes that the question is still open, but these environmentalists want to shut-off public debate and muzzle any research that undermines their political goals." The coalition’s public relations campaign brands Exxon-Mobil as an outlaw corporation and asks consumers to boycott Exxon-Mobil products, even though the company has invested heavily in the recent past in renewable energy sources despite a lack of consumer demand and profitability. Specifically, the coalition objects to Exxon-Mobil’s support for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)....

First Step in Fuel Economy Reform Should Be Assessing CAFE’s Lethal Effect

The federal government is about to propose a major reform of its fuel economy standards. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, however, there should be no change in the program until the agency that runs it, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fully analyzes the program’s lethal effect on traffic safety. There is clear evidence that the program, known as CAFE (for corporate average fuel economy) has increased traffic deaths by restricting the production of larger, more crashworthy vehicles. A 2001 National Academy of Sciences’ report found that this downsizing had contributed to approximately 2,000 traffic deaths per year. In 1992, in a case brought by CEI and Consumer Alert, a federal appeals court found that NHTSA had illegally concealed this issue from public debate. “Given that CAFE has been in effect for over a quarter century, its cumulative impact may well make it the government’s single most deadly regulatory program,” said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. “Until NHTSA candidly assesses this impact, it has no business engaging in any type of CAFE reform.” In CEI’s view, the agency’s current approach to reform would vastly increase CAFE’s complexity, encouraging gaming between various vehicle categories. The real purposes of reform should be to reduce CAFE’s deadly effects, increase consumer choice and design flexibility, and minimize the risk of new technologies introduced under government pressure. But any reform is premature until the lethal impacts of the current program are fully assessed....

A Court Rules Prudently... for Now

In the latest setback for global warming activists, the federal Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled last Friday that the Clean Air Act does not require the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The Court did not decide whether the Clean Air Act (CAA) gives EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases (GHG), but merely that, in choosing not to regulate GHGs, EPA made a policy call that was within its legitimate legal discretion. The Court's ruling came in response to a petition from a dozen states' attorneys general, ten environmental groups, and three cities, who are attempting to mandate national GHG reductions through the courts. The goal is to effectively implement the Kyoto Protocol without the approval of Congress or the President. The ruling is good news for those who believe GHG regulations would harm Americans' prosperity, health, and freedom. However, because the Court's ruling was on such narrow grounds, the victory is cause for only a brief celebration. The Court did not address the fundamental issues of whether EPA has legal authority to regulate GHG emissions and whether the Petitioners have standing to file suit in the first place. Both questions are likely to return in some future case....

Energy-Bill Follies

With great fanfare, the Senate passed a $35 billion energy bill earlier this month that has been characterized as a somewhat wiser and greener bill than that passed by the House a few months ago. Although conservatives claim to find much therein to embrace, virtually every section of the bill represents a rejection of free markets and limited government. The most obnoxious aspect is the ten-year, $18.4 billion in tax breaks and incentives for various energy investments. While conservatives like to argue that if you subsidize something, you'll get more of it, that observation is generally used as an admonition against — not as a rationale for — government intervention. In this case, the Senate proposes to subsidize investments that have been unable to attract as much private capital as proponents would like. But what are the chances that 100 senators using other peoples' (taxpayers) money will make better investment decisions than investors using their own money? It's possible that some of the Senate's choices are sound, but in those cases, all that is accomplished is the unnecessary transfer of resources from taxpayers to investors. In short, the Senate isn't subsidizing energy as much as it's subsidizing dubious investments and/or particular investors. The bill also contains specific production and consumption orders. Ten percent of all electricity sold in 2020 must be produced from a list of approved renewable fuels; refineries must churn out 8 billion gallons of ethanol per year by 2012; and the president is called on to reduce oil consumption by one million barrels a day by 2015. Government mandates that "thou shall produce" or face prosecution seem to be more characteristic of Soviet five-year plans than of a free-market economy....

Will Schwarzenegger terminate California's prosperity?

Arnold, how could you? You were the GOP’s great gubernatorial hope. Sure, you had no political experience, were “squishy” on social issues, and had married into America’s foremost Democratic family. But you were going to terminate the state’s financial problems. How could you mandate a global warming program that will leave your people drowning in red ink long after you’ve said, “Hasta la vista, baby!” Bypassing the legislature, Schwarzenegger last month signed an executive order mandating drastic cuts in so-called greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. "The debate is over," Schwarzenegger wrote July 3 in a London newspaper. "We know the science.” But the Governator is thinking with his biceps, and clearly taking cues from his ├╝ber-environmentalist Cabinet Secretary Terry Tamminen who seems to be living the title of Schwarzenegger’s film, True Lies....

McCain – Wait, this Time It’s Domenici – Packs Climate Hearings with More of the Same Alarmism

Tomorrow’s scheduled Senate hearing on the science and economics of climate change misses an important opportunity to present a balanced, full view of the debate over its topic. Rather than invite experts with different perspectives to present their findings, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) has chosen to stack the panel with scientists from the alarmist side of the debate. “The choice of witnesses is eerily reminiscent of hearings held in the last Congress by Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ),” said Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Like Sen. McCain, Chairman Domenici appears to have made up his mind and only wants to hear from people who agree with him.” During debate on the energy bill in June, Chairman Domenici announced that he thought an energy rationing proposal by Sen. Jeff Bingaman represented “a middle-ground consensus” on climate policy and that he would help it gain Senate approval. Unfortunately, this hearing will not provide a critical examination of the real costs and benefits of the Bingaman proposal. A brief critical examination, titled “All Cost, No Benefit,” by CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis, Jr. can be found online....

Caught unawares and no bracelet to show for it

I hadn't realized how unaware I was until the woman seated next to me snapped a strip of leather around my wrist and whispered: "This is hottest thing in Hollywood right now." Looking down, I admired my new adornment. Embossed on the soft caramel leather band were the words "Stop Global Warming." Almost immediately, I was aware of wearing a bracelet. I was also aware of an unfamiliar warmth. Not the global sort, but that which radiates from one's Inner Virtue. I could feel other people in the restaurant looking at me and knew that they knew. As I walked down the street later, strangers glanced discreetly at my wrist, whispering and nodding. Their faces betrayed their thoughts: "There goeth forth a woman who opposes global warming," and all were glad. And soon the planet would cool, and the glaciers would freeze again, and Mother Earth would smile upon her diverse and virtuous children. But firsteth, excuse me while I burneth my bracelet....

PETA's Stealth War On Schools

In our report "Your Kids, PETA's Pawns," we detail how People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) indoctrinates children of all ages into the animal-rights movement, both here and abroad. And we've seen nothing to indicate that PETA intends to slow down its ideological assault on America's young people. PETA's "about us" web page now discloses that the group has "reached 235,000 teachers and 11,000,000 students" (eleven million!) with its propaganda materials, some of which don't even bear PETA's name. The Center for Consumer Freedom distributed copies of "Your Kids, PETA's Pawns" to enthusiastic teachers and school administrators at this year's National Education Association and National PTA conventions. PETA was also an exhibitor at the PTA event, distributing its "TeachKind" curriculum materials. But the PETA name and logo were nowhere to be seen. While the standard TeachKind brochure carries PETA's home address in Norfolk, VA, it includes no other acknowledgement that PETA's "total animal liberation" zealots are behind the program. In fact, of the hundreds of educators our representatives spoke with during the three day PTA conference in Columbus, Ohio, none were aware that TeachKind is a PETA program....

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