Friday, October 28, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

CBM opinions vary at panel hearing A Montana legislative panel studying oil and gas issues heard mixed views Thursday from Wyoming and Montana residents on whether the state needs better laws to protect surface landowners facing mineral development. Some ranchers said their experience with developers has been good and that Montana doesn't need more regulations. Others said they've lost wells and worry about drained aquifers and long-term damage. Members of the Montana Environmental Quality Council subcommittee met at Sheridan College to hear about Wyoming's split-estate law, which went into effect in July, and to gather comments from the public. More than 50 people attended the session, which lasted all afternoon. The panel will tour coalbed methane sites in both states today. The subcommittee was formed by the passage of House Bill 790 in the 2005 Legislature and is charged with studying surface-use agreements for all mineral development as well as reclamation and bonding for coalbed methane operations. Study results and possible recommendations will be presented to the 2007 Legislature....
Montana panel hears about BLM-Wyoming feud Western states need to band together and oppose a federal move to disregard state laws protecting the rights of landowners affected by mineral development, an advocate for landowners in Wyoming said. Laurie Goodman of the Landowners Association of Wyoming told a Montana panel Thursday that the Bureau of Land Management was attempting to avoid applying a new Wyoming law to lands where it owns the mineral rights. The Wyoming law gives surface owners more bargaining power and rights when dealing with oil and gas producers seeking to extract the minerals owned by someone else under their land. When the land surface and minerals underneath are owned by two different parties, it is known as a split estate....
Departing Interior official says demand drives drilling As long as natural gas prices remain high, the push to drill in the Rocky Mountains will continue, said a former Montana lawyer who is stepping down today as a high-level Bush administration appointee in the Interior Department. Rebecca Watson, assistant secretary for land and minerals since January 2002, leaves her office to take a position with a Denver law firm. "This job is a very high-pressure, demanding job," Watson, a former Helena attorney, said Thursday. "It's time for me to let someone else bring their perspective." She said she and her husband are looking forward to returning to the West. Watson was put in the spotlight regularly while at the Interior Department, especially in connection with the Bush administration's drive to accelerate oil and gas development....
The Elk Problem Meanwhile, thousands of elk freely move around the Greater Yellowstone area, and some of them carry brucellosis, the same dreaded livestock disease that has caused decades of political gridlock over bison management. We have been brought to our knees trying to keep bison away from cattle in two relatively small areas on the boundary of Yellowstone Park. Imagine the controversy trying to keep elk away from cattle throughout the Greater Yellowstone area! So why isn’t everybody suffering from high blood pressure over our “little” elk problem? Why aren’t agencies worried about elk transferring brucellosis to cattle? Or Montana losing its coveted brucellosis-free status? Or what we’d have to do to fix the elk problem? To get these answers, I had a long chat with Keith Aune, chief of wildlife research for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Aune has studied the brucellosis situation for years and is now deeply immersed in the bison controversy....
Ski resort planner at odds with conservationists For now, the ski trails on the Maclay Ranch are just freshly turned bands of brown earth. But they are the beginnings of what Tom Maclay hopes will someday be a world-class resort rivaling Vail, Sun Valley or Lake Tahoe. In Maclay's vision for the mountains south of Missoula, skiing would extend beyond the 2,960-acre ranch where his great-grandfather settled in 1883. Maclay wants to put skiers on Lolo Peak in a national forest near the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and market an extraordinary vertical drop of 5,342 feet. Skiers - possibly as many as 7,500 a day - would descend north- facing slopes to the ranch and its alpine and Nordic skiing, 2,200 houses and condominiums, and a resort village. Golf, a hotel, conference and sports centers and access to excellent fly fishing are part of the four- season Bitterroot Resort plan....
Burton accepts temporary Interior post One of Wyoming's own has accepted a temporary appointment to a key energy post at the U.S. Department of Interior. Johnnie Burton will be acting assistant secretary of Interior for land and minerals management while the White House searches for a permanent replacement for Rebecca Watson, whose resignation is effective today. The appointment means Burton will serve double-duty, because she will maintain her current position as director of the Minerals Management Service....
NPS looks to add genetically pure trout to Yellowstone Park The National Park Service is proposing to poison all the fish in a high mountain lake and about 17 miles of connected streams in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park and replace them with genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout. Some of the fish to be poisoned in the Specimen Creek drainage are Yellowstone cutthroat. Others are hybrids or rainbow trout. Both westslope and Yellowstone cutthroat are dwindling native species in and around the park and environmental groups have pushed to have them listed under the Endangered Species Act. However, while the health of a fish population is important, its location is also important to fishery managers....
Delta smelt in deep decline, survey says New data indicate that a tiny fish used to gauge the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta may be on the brink of extinction, portending a grim future for the vast, brackish waterway contiguous to the San Francisco Bay. The delta smelt, an aquatic canary-in-the-coal-mine for the bay-delta system, may be suffering from multiple factors, including fresh water diversions, toxic chemicals and invasive species, scientists say. Early results from a California Fish and Game trawl survey show that the smelt -- listed as threatened under the U.S. and state endangered species acts -- is at its lowest level since the surveys began in 1967....
Pre-hearing set on rural Nevada water The state Division of Water Resources plans a Jan. 5 conference to work out details for a hearing that could decide the fate of a $2 billion plan to slake the Las Vegas Valley's growing thirst with groundwater from rural Nevada. "We're going to figure out our game plan - when are we going to hearing, who is going to participate," said Susan Joseph-Taylor, chief of the division's hearings section. At issue are 33 Las Vegas Valley Water District applications for groundwater rights in Lincoln and White Pine Counties. The applications were filed in 1989 and later transferred to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, of which the water district is a member. Water authority officials expect the applications to produce up to 180,000 acre-feet of water a year, a total they hope to expand through reuse or other means to about 300,000 acre-feet a year. That's enough water to supply almost 600,000 households....
Idaho Power aims to relicense dams after settlement talks fail Idaho Power Co. is asking federal regulators to resume a review of a new license for its Hells Canyon dam complex, after yearlong negotiations with state and federal agencies, Indian tribes and environmental groups failed to result in a settlement over issues including whether the company should erect fish ladders for migrating salmon. The three 50-year-old dams, located along a 25-mile stretch of the rugged Snake River canyon dividing Idaho from Oregon, are Idaho Power's largest, with a combined output of 1,167 megawatts, capable of lighting nearly 900,000 homes. The last license expired in July 2005, and a temporary license is now in place as the utility asks the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to operate them for another 30 years. In an Oct. 20 letter, Idaho Power told the commission its talks with more than a dozen government agencies, including the National Marine Fisheries Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, Idaho and Oregon state environmental quality offices, and the Nez Perce and Shoshone-Bannock tribes, had ended without a pact....
E.P.A. Backs Bush Plan to Cut Air Pollution by Power Plants After its apparent demise in Congress six months ago, the Bush administration's plan to reduce air pollution from power plants returned to life on Thursday as the Environmental Protection Agency said the plan would cost less than competing proposals. The assessment came after Stephen L. Johnson, the agency administrator, presented members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with a detailed comparison of the administration plan, known as Clear Skies, and several others. All of the bills that were analyzed by the E.P.A. staff are intended to curb emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury. Mr. Johnson concluded that any legislation was preferable to the current regulations, which apply only to the eastern half of the country and have come under a barrage of legal challenges. But in defending legislation as a preferred alternative to regulations because statute is less vulnerable to litigation, he argued only for the administration approach although he hinted that he would be open to compromise....
Louisiana horseman wins RTCA White Horse Award Louis Pomes, who lost 26 of his own horses in the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana then worked to rescue an estimated 100 other horses following the storm, received the Race Track Chaplaincy of America’s third White Horse Award at an awards luncheon on Thursday at Belmont Park. The award is annually presented to recognize a member of the horse industry for an act of bravery. Pomes, a rancher and government worker in rural St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans, lost mostly Paint horses, whom he had bred for years for ranch work and sold for showing. He helped rescue abandoned horses, many of whom had become dehydrated after drinking contaminated water....
Column: Windmill man preserves country icon Most folks call him the windmill man. For years he was a common sight around town, and along miles of country roads, in his rusty pickup with its bed piled high with pump jacks, wheels and windmill heads. That was before the county commissioner ran a stop sign and slammed a front-end loader into the driver’s side of his pickup while he was wheeling home from repairing a windmill. The old truck rolled, tools scattered and when the dust settled he pulled his crumpled 88-year-old body out of the mangled cab. A Mediflight ride and a battery of x-rays would later determine he had a slew of snapped ribs and a broken neck....

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

Gabriel says state will go ahead with prairie dog poisoning Despite court appeals over a U.S. Forest Service plan to manage prairie dogs, the state intends to move ahead with its own plan to poison the animals on private property, South Dakota Agriculture Secretary Larry Gabriel said. Six counties in South Dakota and Nebraska and several grazing groups are appealing a U.S. Forest Service proposal to manage prairie dogs. They claim the proposal would not kill enough prairie dogs on federal land. Another appeal filed by seven wildlife conservation group claims the Forest Service plan would kill too many prairie dogs and could threaten endangered black-footed ferrets in Conata Basin. Prairie dogs are a main food source for the ferrets....
Feds, state spar over elk refuge management The manager of the National Elk Refuge has invited members of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to tour the refuge to clear up what he sees as a misunderstanding about refuge operations. Refuge Manager Barry Reiswig has invited the commissioners to take a tour a get "the straight story" after participating in an Oct. 10 teleconference with them. In the teleconference, the commissioners expressed concern about a proposed management plan for elk on the refuge. The commissioners' comments came after John Emmerich of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Wildlife Division presented staff objections to what he described as a mortality trigger for the refuge's supplemental elk feeding program. The commission voted unanimously to send written comments to the refuge. The commission commented that, "Delaying feeding until elk mortality rates are detectable at the 5 percent level is highly questionable and unacceptable."....
Bill targets lands for mining sales Mining companies would be able to buy public lands without proving there's anything worth mining under a bill approved by the U.S. House Committee on Resources Wednesday. The vote was 24-16 in favor of passage, with U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., voting for the measure. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., also includes opening the northern coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy production, granting more control of off-shore energy production to coastal states including California and Florida, and massive leases for oil shale development in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. While the bill no longer includes language that would allow sale of national parks for mining -- as an earlier version had proposed -- conservationists decried the measure as "a gift to Western developers."....
Column: Lecture Highlights Divided Passions Flushed faces and white knuckles abound, it’s safe to say that the 60 or so attendees at last night’s Northern Rockies Nature Forum “Healthy Forests: An On the Ground Look” lecture care about Montana’s forests, logging, and the political processes synchronizing the two. Unsynchronized, however, and despite equally excited concern, was the four-person panel in the front of the room. Two environmentalists, one logger and one Forest Service employee talked apples and oranges to an audience with little patience for fruit salad. Maggie Pittman, Missoula district Ranger on the Lolo National Forest, spoke briefly of the differences between the Healthy Forest Initiative—federal guidelines, not policy, for administrative action to reduce catastrophic wildfires—and the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, which became law in 2003 to streamline lawsuits and environmental review in the name of forest restoration. Her tone and talk was general—generally optimistic and generally characteristic of an agency employee striving for bipartisanship. Jeff Juel, director of the Ecology Center—a local nonprofit seeking to safeguard Northern Rockies ecosystems—similarly played the generalist, albeit permeated with such liberal-ese statements as “we need to throw the bums out in power that make their wealth off of fossil fuel as fast as possible.”....
Freak out friends with the Pombo mask Just in time for tricks and treats, the Sierra Club gives you an idea for the scariest costume of all...the Pombo mask! What's so scary about Richard Pombo? Plenty. For starters, the California Congressman wants to rewrite the 30-year-old Endangered Species Act to eliminate critical habitat designations. He wants to end a 25 year-old moratorium on oil and gas drilling off our coasts, he's working hard to overturn a ban on ozone-destroying pesticides, and he recently proposed selling 15 national parks to generate revenue. No kidding. Grab some scissors and go to town with the Pombo Halloween Mask. Freak out friends by sending them the Pombo Mask....
Groups sue to block canned hunts of endangered antelope The Humane Society of the United States and other groups asked a federal judge here Wednesday to block a Bush administration rule permitting the so-called "canned" hunting of three antelope species that were listed last month as endangered. Canned hunting usually occurs in large fenced areas where the animals cannot escape, and the Humane Society estimates as many as 1,000 such locations are in the United States. The groups, in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, say it's illegal and unprecedented to allow the killing of endangered species, in this case three antelope varieties native to northern Africa....
Handling grizzlies: How much is enough? Grizzly bear researchers begin with a ripe deer or elk carcass, a lure that's hard for any bear to resist. Once the animal takes the bait, it's snared by a front paw or caught in a culvert trap, and then tranquilized. Sometimes it's shot with a tranquilizer dart from a tree stand. Once the bear is unconscious, researchers may slip an oxygen tube up its nose to help it breathe, and dab salve in its eyes to keep them moist. Then they take the bear's temperature, clamp a microchip on its ear, and fasten a radio collar around its neck. They clip a swatch of hair, and measure body weight, total length, paw dimensions and fat level. Sometimes they pull a tooth to determine the animal's age. Then they back off, while the bear wakes up, shakes off its hangover and ambles away. A typical capture and collaring takes less than an hour. But it's a difficult experience, and an increasing number of grizzlies have to endure it. Federal and state scientists have ramped up their efforts to monitor the animals, trying to determine whether the West's two biggest grizzly populations deserve continued protection under the Endangered Species Act....
Suit could follow any delisting of marbled murrelet Environmental groups have vowed to stop a plan by the Bush administration that would eliminate federal Endangered Species Act protections for a secretive seabird that nests in California redwoods. Environmentalists in San Francisco, Garberville, Portland and Tucson said Tuesday that they will sue if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delists the marbled murrelet, a rare dove-size bird living in forests and oceans along the Pacific Coast. Last week, the agency confirmed that by the end of the year, it will propose removing the threatened species status for the marbled murrelets living in California, Oregon and Washington....
White House in final push on ANWR The US administration has launched a final drive to win approval for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, hoping to end a decades-long debate that has pitted the benefits of increased domestic oil production against potential environmental damage to the pristine Arctic plains. In an interview with the Financial Times on Wednesday, Gale Norton, interior secretary, said drilling in ANWR would have a minimal environmental impact but would provide a huge boost to domestic oil supplies. "To hear some people discuss it, they make it sound like not there's really not very much there at all," she said. "In a very small area, we have the largest untapped oil resource in the country."....
Pig Eradication To Benefit Island Fox Santa Cruz Islands will be off-limits to the public after this week, to ensure that no visitors are harmed while the National Park Service exterminates roughly 2,500 unwanted swine from the land. NPS restrictions on the island will begin on Nov. 1 and will close off all areas of the island except Scorpion Valley and Prisoner’s Harbor, said Channel Islands National Park Superintendents Russell Galipeau. He said the pigs, which were first introduced to the island by farmers in the 1850s, have since damaged the island’s ecosystem and threatened its endangered fox population, making it necessary to exterminate the pigs. The island should reopen by March 2006, he said. Prohunt Inc. - a New Zealand-based professional hunting firm specializing in the removal of non-native island species - is managing the $5 million pig removal project....
New fees to pay for protected habitats Anyone whos developing property — builders or home owners — soon will be paying higher fees to acquire property for threatened or endangered species. City Council approved the fee increase last week as part of the San Joaquin County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Open Space Plan. The plan is an agreement between the county, the seven cities in the county and various agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the San Joaquin Council of Governments. In 2001, when the plan was originally adopted, the fee was set at $1,500 an acre for the development of natural habitats — those not being used for any purpose — and agricultural habitats, the two most common habitats developed in Lathrop. The current fee for agricultural and natural habitats is $1,819 per acre. As of Dec. 19, that will increase to $3,145 per acre....
Wild horses displaced by Idaho rangeland fire Wild horses won't return to the nearly 300 square miles burned by this summer's Clover Fire until the spring of 2006, a Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman said, and it will cost nearly $8 million to repair the scorched southern Idaho rangeland. About 350 wild horses were displaced by the July fire. Though the animals escaped the flames — which at one point ripped across the range at 500 acres an hour — they were in danger of starving because all but a few small islands of forage were burned, BLM spokeswoman Sky Buffat said Wednesday. BLM officials rounded up the animals, culling 87 from the herd for adoption and sending the rest to holding facilities in Utah. The older animals will remain in the facilities, Buffat said, while 100 of the wild horses will be returned to the rangeland next spring, once enough forage is restored to support them....
Editorial: EPA steps up to protect air quality Energy development is occurring at such a frenzied pace across the West that projects should be more carefully scrutinized than ever. The Bush administration often puts up roadblocks to such reviews, so it was encouraging to see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency insist that a big natural gas project in southwestern Wyoming must avoid polluting the air. The pristine skies above the Upper Green River Basin offer stunning vistas in the nearby Bridger, Fitzpatrick and Popo Agie Wilderness Areas. That rare purity is at risk. The basin already has about 3,000 natural gas wells, but the U.S. Bureau of Land Management may OK another 10,000. The EPA focused on the Jonah Field, where producers want to add 3,100 wells to the 170 now there and the 497 that have been approved. The expansion could dirty the air because of diesel engines that power drill rigs and other equipment....
Lack of funds hurting BLM best-lands effort The National Landscape Conservation System was established to protect and restore the very best of the nation's public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. But five years after its establishment by then-Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt, management of these premier lands — including the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah — suffers from inadequate funding and insufficient staff, according to a new study released Wednesday by the Wilderness Society and World Resources Institute. "Conversation is supposed to be the priority for these places, but despite the presence of talented and committed staff, the report is dominated nationally by grades of C and D," said the Wilderness Society's Wendy VanAsselt, one of the authors of the report....
Appeals court reverses Park snowmobile ruling A federal judge has reversed a lower court ruling in a case where an inholder in Glacier National Park wants to use his snowmobile to access a remote family cabin in the winter. John McFarland filed suit against the park in February 2000 claiming the park's policy of closing the Inside North Fork Road to snowmobiling violated his right to an easement to his property. McFarland was seeking a special use permit to access a family cabin located in Big Prairie about three miles up the North Fork via snowmobile. That permit was denied by the Park Service, which resulted in the suit. The case weaved its way through U.S. District Court in Missoula and in July, 2003, District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled that McFarland filed his suit beyond the 12-year statute of limitations and dismissed the suit. McFarland then appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed Molloy's ruling on Oct. 11....
Dam still injuring Grand Canyon Thirteen years of effort and millions of federal dollars have not been enough to stave off the deterioration of the Colorado River's ecosystem below Glen Canyon Dam, according to a new report released Wednesday. In the most extensive assessment of river conditions in the Grand Canyon since the creation of the Grand Canyon Protection Act in 1992, the U.S. Geological Survey study says endangered native fish species are still struggling, while sandbars and backwaters that serve as habitat for the fish as well as anchors for vegetation, havens for cultural resources and campsites for human visitors continue to decrease. The report, produced by the agency's Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, stopped short of calling federal attempts to restore the river and its shorelines a failure....
Senators unhappy with beef ban threaten trade war with Japan Farm-state senators frustrated with Japan over its ban on U.S. beef exports threatened a trade war Wednesday. Along with leveling a barrage of rhetoric, the senators introduced a bill that would impose tariffs on Japanese imports unless the Asian nation lifts its nearly two-year-old ban on U.S. beef by the end of the year. Japan had slapped the ban on after a mad cow scare in 2003. "I think we're being played for a bunch of suckers," said Sen. Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican. Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, chose the word "chumps." Most of the senators supporting the bill are committed to free trade and said they hoped that the threat of sanctions would give U.S. trade negotiators leverage to force the Japanese government's hand....
Lawmakers Postpone Meat Origin Labels Grocery shoppers will have to wait two more years for labels telling where their meat comes from, under a bill moving toward approval in Congress. Originally proposed for 2004, mandatory meat labeling is opposed by meatpackers and supermarkets who say it's a record-keeping nightmare. House-Senate negotiators agreed late Wednesday to postpone it until 2008. Western ranchers have been counting on the labels to help sell their beef. Labeling went into effect last April for fish and shellfish. The delay is part of a $100 billion spending bill for food and farm programs for the budget year that began Oct. 1. The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill, and a conference committee signed off Wednesday on a final version....

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Paragon Foundation Inc.
1200 N. White Sands Boulevard · Suite 110
Alamogordo, NM 88310
Office (505) 434-8998
Fax (505) 434-8992
Toll Free 877-847-3443

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 25, 2005

Bush Administration Forest Service Raids Ranch Confiscating 300 Cattle

Sheriff Denies Rancher Due Process of Law Protections


GREENLEE CO. AZ-Since Saturday, twenty armed Forest Service employees and rented cowboys including neighboring rancher, Daryl Bingham and sons, have been gathering 300 head of cattle, valued at approximately $250,000, in a para-military raid on the Dan Martinez Ranch in Greenlee County, Arizona.

Greenlee County Sheriff, Steven Tucker, refused to uphold the law by allowing the federal government to seize the cattle without the necessary court order, denying Mr. Martinez his Constitutional procedural due process of law protections.

On October 3, 2005, in an apparent direct violation of both state and federal laws, the State of Arizona Department of Agriculture entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Forest Service, which by edict removed the Constitutional obstacle requiring the Forest Service to first obtain a court order prior to the seizure of property, in this instance, cattle. The State previously required a court order to impound livestock and this about-face in policy came on direct orders from Governor Napolitano. In addition, contrary to the terms of the MOU, the Forest Service blocked Mr. Martinez from removing his cattle from the grazing allotments last week.

"The Forest Service, apparently disturbed that Mr. Martinez did not renew his voluntary grazing permit with the federal government, has been attempting for the last three years to run him out of business, even going so far as to trump up criminal charges for maintaining his road as an 1866 Mining Law right-of-way. Now, with the State's help, they may succeed in breaking him," commented G.B. Oliver, Executive Director, Paragon Foundation. "If the State isn't careful, some rancher may end up owning a court house before this is over," he added.

Martinez, a second generation owner of the 160-year old Martinez ranch, which includes the Hickey and Pleasant Valley grazing allotments, commented from his home in Santa Fe, NM, "I'm not in dispute with the Forest Service. I have always agreed to do anything they ask of me as long as they could show me where they had the authority and jurisdiction to manage my private property such as my vested water rights, forage, improvements and rights-of-ways on my grazing allotments. They have never come forth with any such evidence. As it was, I could not afford to run cattle under the punitive terms and conditions of their voluntary grazing permit program."

Under the MOU, which has no force of law, the Martinez cattle may now be seized as "stray" livestock. The branded cattle clearly do not fall within the lawful definition of "strays", meaning unbranded and unclaimed livestock.

Retired Congressman, Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-ID) and Chairman of the Nevada Livestock Association, which battled and stopped similar cattle seizures in Nevada, pointed out that, "The State of Arizona, under this MOU, is depriving Mr. Martinez of his Constitutionally guaranteed procedural due process of law protections. The State is allowing the federal government to drive away, sell and slaughter his cattle, depriving Mr. Martinez of his livelihood without ever having a day in court. The State is clearly exposing itself to liability for civil rights and Constitutional Fifth Amendment "takings" of property violations."

The grazing permit has become a contentious issue in the West where the Forest Service has often used the terms and conditions of the permit to harass, intimidate and bankrupt family ranchers. Traditionally, ranchers voluntarily signed grazing permits in order to participate in the cooperative range improvement fund, financed by their grazing fees. As the requirements of these permits become increasingly punitive and onerous, some ranchers have opted out of the range improvement fund.

"The land management agencies, fearful of a mass exodus from the grazing permit program, have turned to mafia-style fear and intimidation tactics to ensure ranchers renew their permits," commented Chenoweth-Hage. "Most ranchers don't want to risk loosing their livestock and livelihood at gun point. It's a very effective tool of intimidation. Three years ago I publicly issued a $1,000 challenge to anybody who could produce the law requiring ranchers to sign grazing permits. I still have my $1,000."

# # # # #

Contacts:

Dan Martinez, (505) 984-8386

G.B. Oliver, Executive Director, Paragon Foundation (505) 434-8998

Helen Chenoweth, Member of Congress (Ret.) (775) 482-4187

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NEWS ROUNDUP

Border rancher's state lease renewed despite protests Arizona State Land Department officials have renewed a grazing lease for a rancher who has become known for detaining illegal immigrants but warned that any violation would terminate it. The department acted despite requests from the Border Action Network and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund not to renew Roger Barnett's lease for 10 more years because of allegations that he's engaged in vigilante actions on land east of Douglas near the Mexican border. "Our staff and range manager went down and met with Mr. Barnett and his lawyer and advised that the commissioner is very concerned, and that if there was any violation of his lease that it would be terminated," Deputy Commissioner Richard Hubbard said....
Land trust helps forge deal to preserve organic farm For the past two decades, the Shoshone-area farm has been a living and working laboratory for farm managers Fred and Judy Brossy. Well-known nationwide among practitioners of low-impact, organic farming practices, the Brossys have made a living out of working the Barbara Farm in a sustainable manner. Earlier this month, the Brossy's sustainable efforts took a giant leap forward when they put pen to paper to finalize a deal long in the making to permanently preserve through a conservation easement the most productive and ecologically sensitive 396 acres of the Barbara Farm's roughly 1,800 total acres. The four-way deal—forged between the Brossys, Barbara Farm owner Ernest Bryant, the Hailey-based Wood River Land Trust and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service's Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program—was finalized several weeks ago....
Judge: 2003 Fire Retardant Use Broke Law The U.S. Forest Service violated federal environmental laws when it used a toxic fire retardant that killed thousands of fish in streams, a judge ruled. In a decision released Tuesday, District Judge Donald W. Molloy said the agency did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it skipped an open public process to examine the fire retardant's effects on the environment. Molloy also said the agency's actions appeared to be politically motivated, though he did not elaborate. Environmentalists and Democrats have complained the Bush administration goals of repealing environmental laws affect Forest Service decisions. The Forest Service had argued that the use of fire retardant was not a major federal action, but a series of smaller actions by fire commanders with no time to do a full environmental analysis....
GAO again rules in favor of reservation contract protester The Government Accounting Office for the second time has ruled in favor of Spherix Inc. of Beltsville, Md., in the vendor’s protest of the Agriculture Department’s award of its $97 million recreation information and reservation service contract to ReserveAmerica of Ballston Spa, N.Y. Agriculture’s Forest Service re-awarded the 10-year National Recreation Reservation System contract in June to ReserveAmerica, a subsidiary of Ticketmaster. GAO, in a decision last week, again found the Forest Service’s award of the recreation services contract to ReserveAmerica to be flawed. In December 2004, GAO sustained Spherix’s protest of the first award of the contract to ReserveAmerica. In its second protest to GAO, Spherix cited Agriculture’s failure to conduct adequate discussions, improper evaluations of its offers and failure to justify its choice of the substantially higher cost of ReserveAmerica's proposal, said Spherix spokeswoman Kathy Brailer....
Lawsuit could set precedent for mines A lawsuit challenging permits for the Kensington gold project north of Juneau could affect future mine development in Alaska and nationwide, parties on both sides of the litigation say. Depending on how a federal judge rules, the government's ability to authorize discharge of mine waste into lakes, streams, wetlands and other water bodies could be upheld or restricted. Several large mine prospects in Alaska, such as Pebble and Donlin Creek, could be affected, officials and lawyers for both sides agree. With so much riding on the outcome, the state attorney general's office this month sought court permission to join the case. Assistant attorney general Cam Leonard said in court papers that the lawsuit may set precedent and could cost the state millions of dollars in taxes and other revenue....
Rep. Pombo Seeks to Open National Parks to Mining Despite assurances that the House Resources Committee reconciliation package proposed by Chairman Richard Pombo (R-11-CA) would not make any national park lands available for sale, a new draft would do just that. Section 6204 (b) of the legislation now under consideration by the committee states, “notwithstanding any provision in law the Secretary of the Interior shall make mineral deposits and lands that contain them, including lands in which the valuable mineral deposit has been depleted, available for purchase to facilitate sustainable economic development.” By including this alarming provision in his new proposed reconciliation legislation, Chairman Pombo has shifted his focus from selling off 15 national park sites to offering the mining industry access to national parklands in approximately 12 states that have mineral deposits. The bill would also offer for sale several parcels of parkland in Washington, D.C....
BLM expects rise in drilling permit applications The Bureau of Land Management expects the number of applications for oil and gas drilling on federal land to jump 32 percent from 2004 to 2006, the agency's director said Tuesday. The agency expects to receive about 9,200 new applications in 2006, Director Kathleen Clarke said at a hearing before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. She said the agency estimates another 10,000 applications in 2007. To handle the increase, the agency is drawing staff from other agencies and putting them in seven offices in five states. As directed in an energy bill pilot program, BLM will provide work space for experts from the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to help process the permits. The BLM offices receiving additional workers are in Rawlins and Buffalo, Wyo.; Miles City, Mont.; Farmington and Carlsbad, N.M.; Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs, Colo.; and Vernal, Utah. These offices process 70 percent of all permit applications submitted to the BLM, the agency said....
Clashing wishes surface when talk is energy wells Land managers approved a record 7,018 oil and gas wells on Western federal lands last year, and when the Bush administration announced the figure Tuesday, Western Republican senators scolded them for not allowing more. The number of permitted wells for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was an 8.8 percent increase from the previous year, when 6,452 were approved in the West, and double the number approved in 2002. And the number of permits stayed well ahead of drilling by the oil and gas industry, which sank 4,682 wells. Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke said she expects demand to keep increasing because of high natural-gas prices. She predicted 9,200 requests for permits this year, which would be an increase of nearly one-third over last fiscal year....
BLM studies year-round drilling proposal The public has until Nov. 19 to comment on a proposal to allow year-round drilling for natural gas on the Pinedale Anticline. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management currently bars winter drilling in the area to avoid disturbing big game. But the agency is preparing a new environmental study of the effects of year-round drilling at the request of three energy companies: Anschutz Pinedale Corp., Shell Exploration & Production Co., and Ultra Resources. Matt Anderson, project manager for the BLM in Pinedale, said preparing the study on the effects of year-round drilling would probably take a year. If year-round drilling is authorized, Anderson said companies could consolidate drilling pads in a way that reduces habitat fragmentation and protects more land in winter ranges....
Amazon parrot serenades Pa. senators A yellow-naped Amazon parrot sang "How much is that doggie in the window?" and "Alouette" to surprised senators. The parrot, named Groucho, sat on a perch in a Senate visitors' balcony and sang in a warbling, croaking voice for several minutes after Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll formally recognized the bird from the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and an aviary staff member with it. Immediately afterward, Sen. Robert C. Jubelirer, the chamber's president pro tempore, was seen scolding Knoll on the Senate floor. Knoll's spokeswoman Johnna A. Pro said Knoll was simply recognizing the bird after Jubelirer approved the gesture. The parrot's visit to Harrisburg with aviary staff was intended to raise awareness for World Rainforest Week, and how destruction of the rainforest affects endangered species, according to a letter from Sen. Wayne Fontana to Knoll....
Habitat to protect endangered salamanders pegged at $336 million Setting aside habitat in Sonoma County for the endangered California tiger salamander would cost $336 million in lost development opportunities over the next 20 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday. The agency released the estimate as part of a draft economic analysis of a proposal to protect 74,000 acres on the Santa Rosa Plain as the stocky amphibian's "critical habitat" - a designation that would restrict development on the land. The study, conducted by a private consulting firm, found that setting aside the land would cost $210 million in mitigation costs and $114 million in delays in processing development proposals. But the analysis concluded the designation would have only a modest impact on the region's $28 billion in economic output....
Two plead not guilty to killing grizzly cub Two men accused of killing a grizzly bear cub near Island Park three years ago pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Tim L. Brown of Island Park and Brad Hoopes of St. Anthony are scheduled to stand trial on the misdemeanor charge in U.S. District Court in Pocatello on Dec. 5, said Jean McNeil, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office. In a separate case, Dan Walters, a bow hunter from Kentucky, has been ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution for killing the grizzly cub’s mother. Walters, who pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor in January, also had his hunting privileges revoked for two years. Grizzly bears are threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, making it illegal to kill the animals. Scott Bragonier, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Walters told investigators that he was hunting alone when he spotted the adult female grizzly and the yearling cub and mistook them for black bears. Walters shot the adult animal with his bow and arrow, and then tracked it until evening....
Texas game wardens’ authority spelled out With fall firearms white-tail deer season fast approaching, landowners may begin seeing unfamiliar faces in the area, among those will be the Texas game wardens. Texas game wardens work for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD throughout the year, but attempt to become more visible during major hunting seasons in order to curb violations in the state. TPWD employs more than 500 law enforcement specialists throughout the state. These figures carry a great deal of authority and responsibility. They enforce all areas of the TPWD code, regulations, Texas Penal Code and several specific regulations that relate to the environment. In 2004, Texas game wardens became federally commissioned. According to TPWD, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to provide training to TPWD game wardens about federal laws and their enforcement. Texas game wardens then had the authority to make arrests and seizures in federal wildlife violations. In return, TPWD offered training to federal agents and provided them with jurisdiction within the state of Texas....
Former federal employee sentenced on child porn charge A former U-S Fish and Wildlife Service employee has been sentenced to 21 months in prison on a federal charge of possessing child pornography. Federal prosecutors say 59-nine-year-old Gary Heet of Gulliver also has been sentenced to two years of supervised release and fined five-thousand dollars. Heet pleaded guilty to the charge in April and was sentenced Thursday in Marquette. Prosecutors say more than two-thousand explicit images were found on the hard drive of his work computer at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in the Upper Peninsula's Schoolcraft County....
Wild Birds Probed as Possible Agent of Flu to U.S. U.S. officials are considering new measures to monitor whether migratory birds arriving next spring will be the first to carry the avian influenza to the nation. The influenza working group of the U.S. Agriculture and Interior Departments has urged the expansion of bird testing beyond Alaska to other U.S. states and territories, said Christopher Brand, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, in a telephone interview Oct. 20. The recommendations weren't formally announced, Brand said. Brand, who is a member of the group, said it also called for studies of bird-disease outbreaks for signs of the virus, called H5N1, programs to sample ducks and geese caught by hunters for the virus, inspections of backyard ponds for pet ducks and testing of wetlands for signs of the virus in water....
White House accused of politicizing Park Service workforce The Bush administration is enforcing hiring practices on National Park Service bosses that one national environmental group is calling an "unprecedented political intrusion." Everybody applying for a top job in any park must show "ability to lead employees" in achieving President Bush's "Management Agenda," according to an Oct. 11 memo from NPS director Fran Mainella. The management agenda is a 65-page document that calls for increased faith-based incentives, more outsourcing of government work and other controversial steps. "We view it as politicizing the civil service," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. That's a misunderstanding, according to Al Nash, NPS spokesman in Washington, D.C....
Wind farm may yield windfall for Texans Paving the way for Texas to be home to the first wind farm along the U.S. coast, the state has leased an 11,000-acre swath of the Gulf of Mexico, seven miles off Galveston Island, for gigantic wind turbines that could eventually power 40,000 homes and generate millions of dollars for state schools. The lease, the first granted by any government agency in the nation for an offshore wind project, marks a new era of pollution-free energy production for the Gulf, which for decades has been the site of thousands of wells and platforms tapping the Earth's depths for air-polluting natural gas and oil. It also signals the migration of Texas' wind industry — which ranks second in the nation behind California in kilowatt hours produced by breezes and gusts — from the Panhandle and western parts of the state to the coast, where winds are more consistent during peak daylight hours and large population centers such as Houston aren't as far away....
Officials consider importing water to Reno-Sparks Aqua Trac is the latest water-importation project that could ease demand from the Truckee River and chill the feverish market for water rights. Proposed by Summit Engineering president Tom Gallagher, the $250 million project would involve exporting 100,000 acre-feet of water a year from the valleys east of Pyramid Lake, including the Winnemucca Lake Valley, Kumiva Valley and Granite Springs Valley. Gallagher said the water could be delivered to Fernley, Wadsworth, Sutcliffe and Nixon and on to Spanish Springs Valley north of Sparks. Permits are pending with the Nevada state engineer's office and a major environmental study would be required for the wells and the pipeline system on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. As the cost for water rights continue to climb in Northern Nevada, more developers are seeking other water-importation projects to provide water to areas that need it and to slow the spike in prices. A run-up in Truckee River water rights to $50,000 an acre-foot was set off in March when Washoe County auctioned 174 acre-feet of water in Lemmon Valley....
THE CALIFORNIA WATER WARS: WATER FLOWING TO FARMS, NOT FISH After 50 years of legal infighting, a victor has emerged in California's water wars -- agriculture. A decade after environmentalists prevailed in getting more fresh water down the north state's rivers and estuaries to improve fisheries and wildlife habitat, farmers are again triumphant. Central Valley irrigation districts are signing federal contracts that assure their farms ample water for the next 25 to 50 years. The Bush administration is driving the trend, reversing Clinton-era policies that eased agriculture's grip on the state's reservoirs and aqueducts....
Lightning eyed as cause of horses' deaths Lightning appears to be the cause in the deaths of 16 horses found in a pasture east of Colorado Springs over the weekend, El Paso County sheriff's investigators said Tuesday. Veterinarian John Heikkila "is fairly confident" the animals were killed by lightning, investigators said. The horses were found Saturday. Six other horses and a burro were found dead in a pasture in the same area on Oct. 11. The cause of death in that incident has not been determined....
A Horse for Rumsfeld, but, Whoa, There's a Snag Mongolia has 131 soldiers in Iraq, and on Saturday it received an official American statement of gratitude from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld came to Ulan Bator to deliver that message personally, and he was given a horse. In dazzling sunlight on the grounds of the Mongolian Defense Ministry, Mr. Rumsfeld took the reins of the calm gelding and said, "I am proud to be the owner of that proud animal." He immediately announced that he would name the horse Montana, because the dusty plains and mountains that ring the Mongolian capital reminded him of that Rocky Mountain state. The entire exchange recalled an ancient era of alliance and conquest, when a warrior's word was law and the long knives were carried in the open. The horse, a rich latte hue with a mane and tail the color of dark-roast coffee, was described by local officials as a traditional domesticated Mongolian breed. Mr. Rumsfeld owns a ranch in New Mexico, where the high plains and sharp peaks would offer pleasant life to an expatriate horse, even one descended from the sturdy steeds that carried Genghis Khan and his successors across the steppes and the Gobi Desert to conquer most of Asia in the 13th century.
But transport for Mr. Rumsfeld's gift posed a problem....
"It's Shippin' Time" It’s shippin’ time out west. There’s a fine poem by Bruce Kiskaddon called, “When They’ve Finished Shippin’ Cattle in the Fall.” It’s recited by lots of cowboy poets. It goes on about rounding up the cattle, herding them to the home ranch, memories of friends, cookie’s offerings, dances till dawn — a wonderful rhyming piece of nostalgia about how things used to be at shippin’ time. These days, shippin’ time is much the same but with variations. Drive past the stockyards and you’ll see huge semi trucks, the kind with the metal slatted sides, grouped like a bunch of grazing mammoths. In the yard pens, cattle mill around, bawling their confusion. Ranch trucks and trailers, loaded with calves and cull cows, pull up to chutes and funnel the critters into pens where they’ll be sorted and grouped and funneled back up another chute and into the waiting maw of one of the behemoth trucks. Or perhaps the rancher hauls a trailer load of his cattle to the auction yards in the city to be sold in one of the regular livestock auctions. Either way, selling the calves is the annual windup ritual in the beef-growing business; it’s the final step in a year of tending cattle; it’s when the check comes in and ranchers pay their bills at the feedstore, make machinery payments; pay up on leases of pastures....

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

No Longer Safe for Work: Blogs

Robert Mason (not his real name) would love to spend a few minutes during lunch catching up on blog posts from around the web, but his company doesn't allow it. The financial institution where Mason works as a vice president has security filters set up to block access to -- among other things -- any website that contains the phrase "blog" in the URL. What's more, says Mason, such practices are becoming prevalent in corporate America, particularly in financial services. Mason sits on a roundtable privacy group of 20 of the country's largest banks. "My best understanding is that my company's anti-blog stance is the industry norm," he says. Filtering out every blog isn't a completely feasible project (and, in fact, Mason says his company's filter doesn't catch everything), but the technology to censor the lion's share of blogs is fairly commonplace. From installing simple URL filters and content scanners to blacklisting ranges of IP addresses, myriad methods for shutting out blog content are available. If nothing else, the corporate firewall can simply add the word "blog" to the company's list of verboten phrases that trigger blocking, alongside "games," "warez" and "britney spears sex tape." Keith Crosley, director of corporate communications at censorware company Proofpoint, says there's no anti-blog conspiracy at work, but that some companies have higher security, privacy and regulatory needs that require greater diligence over what companies can and cannot do. In particular, companies worry that employees might leak sensitive material -- perhaps inadvertently -- while posting comments to blog message boards. In a survey of over 300 large businesses conducted in conjunction with Forrester, Proofpoint found 57.2 percent of respondents were concerned with employees exposing sensitive material in blogs. That's higher than the portion concerned with the risks of P2P networks....

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NEWS ROUNDUP

Green Acres America's billion acres of agricultural land are an often overlooked but immensely important piece of the country's conservation puzzle—a sort of middle ground between the larger (public lands) and the smaller (backyards). These croplands, pasturelands, and rangelands—what we call “working lands”—which make up nearly half of the country's landmass, are home to a high number of endangered species, including many birds. “In recent years there have been dramatic declines in many grassland species, even those we think of as common, such as bobolinks and both eastern and western meadowlarks,” says Tess Present, Audubon's acting director of science. “Good land-management practices on working lands are critical to restoring populations of these species. Many farmers and ranchers are already taking action to help them, but much more must be done. This is the great promise of the conservation programs offered through the farm bill and other private-land conservation initiatives.”....
Condit Dam removal could hurt fish downstream, state says Fish advocates see the plan to demolish Condit Dam on the White Salmon River as good news for salmon everywhere, but the state Ecology Department says the project could hurt fish downstream and might violate the federal Endangered Species Act. Demolition of the 125-foot-high hydroelectric dam, owned by Portland-based PacifiCorp, is proposed for October 2008. The project would open 33 miles of steelhead habitat and 14 miles of salmon habitat in the area of the river blocked by the dam since 1913. PacifiCorp proposes to tunnel and blast a 12- by 18-foot hole near the dam's base, drain Northwestern Lake and release more than 2 million yards of sediment that has built up behind the dam. The sediment plume could kill fish and other aquatic species below Condit Dam and displace fish in the Columbia River downstream to Bonneville Dam, according to Ecology's draft environmental-impact statement. Officials also fear the sediment could wipe out a population of endangered chum salmon for as long as four or five generations....
Corps plans spring rises for Missouri River to aid pallid sturgeon After a decade of squabbles in the courts and Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers agreed Monday to a spring-rise plan for the Missouri River to help restore the ailing pallid sturgeon. The corps' plan, staunchly opposed by Missouri farmers and barge operators, calls for releases of two pulses of water into the lower Missouri next year - one in March and another in May. But the corps said it won't release the water unless snow and rain this winter relieve drought in the basin. The hope is that recreating periods of high water similar to those that existed before the river was dammed and re-engineered will induce spawning by the sturgeon, which was placed on the government's endangered species list in 1990....
Poachers Looting National Parks of Treasures While the National Park Service does not keep comprehensive statistics on how much poaching occurs in its nearly 400 parks, its 2006 budget request reported that thefts have helped spur the decline of at least 29 wildlife species. "The poaching of wildlife from national parks has been steadily increasing each year for the past several years," the document said. Some of these resources are scarce to begin with, and the toll that poaching takes on the national parks is rising. "If there's something with a dollar amount attached to it in a park, somebody is trying to make a profit off it," said Dennis Barnett, law enforcement administrator for the Park Service....
Group criticizes park donation plan The National Park Service is considering a policy change that would allow top agency officials to solicit donations to parks from concessionaires and other permit holders. The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said the policy would inevitably lead to both perceived and actual conflicts of interests, since Park Service officials might end up soliciting contributions from the very people and businesses they regulate and issue permits to. "Removing the bright-line prohibitions and replacing them with slippery, 'don't get caught' kind of standards forces park managers to wade into ethical swamps with no flashlight," said PEER director Jeff Ruch. "It is inherently troublesome for any federal agency to seek funds from businesses seeking concessions from it."....
Column: Lost in the Woods AS Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues her talks in Ottawa today, she may find that the most acrimonious disagreement between Canada and the United States is not a question of hard power - issues like Afghanistan, Iraq and nuclear nonproliferation - but of softwood. A quarter-century-old dispute over Canadian lumber exports, which Washington claims are unfairly subsidized, has escalated to the point where it now threatens broader relations between the two countries. If it remains unresolved, the softwood war might also spill over into the December ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization, where Washington and Ottawa have long worked together to expand free trade. What kind of example does it set for the rest of the world if the United States and Canada - close neighbors, each other's largest trading partner and crucial allies - cannot resolve their own trade disputes? American and Canadian lawyers, lobbyists and negotiators have been fighting on and off over Canadian lumber exports to the United States since the 1980's....
Weyerhaeuser to Shut Two Mills in Wash. Calvin O'Brien followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather when he took a job at the sawmill here, earning wages few other jobs could provide in this blue-collar town. The tradition ended Friday when O'Brien, 28, learned that Weyerhaeuser Co. planned to close the mill by year's end. The news came hard in an area that has survived difficult years of decline in the timber industry. "We lived a good life," O'Brien said. "I was hoping to make a good life for my family, but there it is." Weyerhaeuser announced that it will close the 81-year-old sawmill and a 50-year-old pulp mill in neighboring Cosmopolis, eliminating 342 hourly and salaried positions. The company, based in Federal Way, Wash., cited high operating costs and aging machinery among other problems as reasons for the closings and said they were part of broader plans to fine-tune its operations....
Behind Gold's Glitter: Torn Lands and Pointed Questions The price of gold is higher than it has been in 17 years - pushing $500 an ounce. But much of the gold left to be mined is microscopic and is being wrung from the earth at enormous environmental cost, often in some of the poorest corners of the world. And unlike past gold manias, from the time of the pharoahs to the forty-niners, this one has little to do with girding empires, economies or currencies. It is almost all about the soaring demand for jewelry, which consumes 80 percent or more of the gold mined today. The extravagance of the moment is provoking a storm among environmental groups and communities near the mines, and forcing even some at Tiffany & Company and the world's largest mining companies to confront uncomfortable questions about the real costs of mining gold....
Real-estate values hit by well drilling When Becky Mangnall tried to sell her home in the heart of one of the Piceance Basin's most productive natural-gas fields two years ago, she discovered a problem. Despite her rural location and panoramic views of aspen-draped slopes, Mangnall was forced to drop her asking price by $100,000 to $400,000 because of an EnCana Corp. gas well on her property. Even then, banks wouldn't give the buyers a mortgage, she said, because of two tanks collecting the well's toxic petroleum condensates. "None of them wanted to lend because in the appraisal it mentioned the hazardous materials," she said. So Mangnall was forced to carry the mortgage herself....
Appeals court shelves shutdown of Interior computers An appellate court postponed a federal judge’s order Oct. 21 to disconnect all Interior Department information technology systems that access Indian trust fund data. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said he ordered the shutdown because the systems are vulnerable to hacker attacks. Interior officials then requested an administrative stay to temporarily suspend the shutdown, pending appeal. Lamberth originally granted American Indian plaintiffs a motion for a preliminary injunction to shut down any computers, networks, handheld computers and voice-over-IP equipment that access trust fund data. The injunction, which he issued Oct. 20, prohibits Interior employees, contractors, tribes and other third parties from using those systems....
Potty peeper escapes jail sentence in New Hampshire A Maine man arrested after he was found peering at a teenage girl at a rest-stop outhouse pleaded no contest to criminal trespass, and a judge urged him to seek help for whatever drove him to climb into the waste-filled toilet. Gary J. Moody was given a 30-day sentence that will be suspended if he maintains good behavior for two years. In exchange for his plea, disorderly conduct charges against Moody will be dropped, as well, if he stays out of trouble. Moody, 45, of Pittston, Maine, was arrested on June 26 after a 14-year-old girl reported hearing a noise and then seeing a face looking up at her from the pit toilet on U.S. Forest Service property in Albany....
Soaring prices of water rights push up development costs The escalating cost of water rights in the Truckee Meadows is not unlike a modern-day gold rush, creating instant fortunes for sellers and a buy-at-any price-frenzy among home builders. But the skyrocketing prices are being passed on to home buyers, raising the cost of every other type of development, including businesses, schools and churches. Water rights purchased by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority now average $24,000 an acre-foot, up from $4,000 a year ago. TMWA, the region's largest water purveyor, is routinely outbid by national home builders for water rights....
Pollution makes for more girls Toxic fumes favour the fairer sex, a group of researchers in Brazil has found. Jorge Hallak and his team at the University of Sao Paulo turned up the surprising result by studying babies born in their city. They divided the metropolis of 17 million people into areas of low, medium and high air pollution, using test results from air-quality monitoring stations. They then studied birth registries of children born from 2001 to 2003. The team found that 48.3% of babies were female in the least polluted areas, but 49.3% were female in the dirtiest parts of town. After measuring the ratio of boys to girls born in all the areas, they calculated that 1,180 more babies would have been boys in the polluted areas if they had the same sex ratios as the cleaner areas....
Old-fashioned grain trucks could be history Old-fashion grain trucks that are a fixture on Iowa's fall landscape could become an endangered species because of changing economics of crop production and tougher government regulations. The trucks are increasingly being replaced by semitrailers that hold more grain and can haul crops to more distance markets. "The majority of the grain that comes to us is in semis or in tractors with big wagons," said Jim Magnuson, general manager of Sully Cooperative Exchange in the central Iowa town of Sully. "We've got more and more semis in our area all the time," he said. Another factor is a new state law requiring annual inspections for the traditional farm trucks, which could render some of the old trucks unusable....
It's All Trew: Book about old-time expressions evokes story Some of you might not know that lines of flying geese are called "skeins." Those same geese walking on the ground are called "gaggles." This information comes from the book "The Cracker Barrel" by Eric Sloane a well-known author/expert on old-time expressions. This brings to mind an Old West classic story with this disclaimer. The following story might be more "Trew" than "true." An early settler couple raised two sons to maturity who along with their father worked as cowboys on neighboring ranches. The mother passed away, and sometime later the father married a nearby widow with six children. Along with his new family, the father acquired a large menagerie of poultry including a gaggle of geese. Geese were an important part of frontier life because their down and feathers provided feather mattresses and pillows for more comfortable sleeping....

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Monday, October 24, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

Salmon, ranchers win in deal Zigzagging between jagged Wallowa Mountain peaks, the Lostine River beckons salmon with some of the finest habitat in Oregon. But in dry summers, ranch irrigators reduce miles of the river to a trickle. Threatened chinook that fight 600 miles from the ocean past eight hydropower dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers run into an impassable barrier just before reaching their near-pristine spawning grounds. This year -- despite another withering drought -- salmon found the going easier. More than 100 ranchers who rely on the river found a way to keep water gushing over its boulder-strewn course through the hottest, driest days of August and September. The return of spring chinook, from a low of 13 fish in 1999, shot past 800 this year -- the second highest total since the Nez Perce Tribe began a restoration effort in the 1990s. An agreement brokered by the nonprofit Oregon Water Trust and supported by dollars from the federal Bonneville Power Administration offered simple terms: payment of as much as $180,000 for leaving a crucial volume of water in the river. It left irrigators to decide how best to ration water. A neutral party, the Oregon Water Resources Department, kept track of stream flow.....
Sage advice: Let grouse and cattle live together Sage grouse feed in a meadow at dawn, unperturbed as three young wranglers saddle their mounts nearby and head through the sagebrush for the high country of central Nevada, where cattle graze in the Desatoya Range. For some, the notion that cattle and a bird that just escaped listing under the Endangered Species Act can share the same Western landscape and thrive is a contradiction. At Smith Creek Ranch, manager Duane Coombs wants to prove otherwise - and, in so doing, protect a livelihood....
Arguments still rage over mountain lions in Kansas It's been 101 years since the last documented wild mountain lion in western Kansas was shot, but their presence within the state has been debated ever since. While state biologists say there's still no solid evidence, the odds are swinging heavily in the other direction. Colorado's long-sustained population is flourishing. Within the last few years Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma have had several confirmations of the big cats, some of which were within a few miles of the Kansas border. Most wildlife professionals say a wild mountain lion could be documented in Kansas any day....
Editorial: Forest Service Sulk THE FOREST Service's decision to suspend more than 1,500 permits for activities in national forests -- including weddings, mushroom-picking and hunting expeditions for the disabled -- should lead to more questions about the real motives of the agency that allegedly protects the nation's forests. The extraordinarily petty decision appears to have been an overly literal response to a judicial decision in the summer, which found that the Forest Service had illegally rewritten its rules and dispensed with required public consultations before harvesting timber in Sequoia National Forest. The judge ordered the Forest Service to return to previous rules, which required public consultation for major forest activities, such as commercial timber sales, oil drilling or mining. Instead of abiding by the law, the Forest Service, whose lawyers say they were interpreting a judge's broad and vague orders, decided to create chaos and put everything up for public consultation and a 30-day comment period. Proof that this was a political ploy -- deliberately designed to wreak havoc and feed the opposition to public consultation -- lies in the fact that a pro-development group announced it would like to see a "full public discussion" of the harvesting of the Capitol Christmas tree and initiated procedures that would delay the tree's arrival in Washington. On Capitol Hill there has also been talk of overruling the judge legislatively, possibly through an upcoming appropriations bill....
Column: Preventing the next firestorm The best way to prevent the next firestorm is to deal with the cause, and that is fuel. Ask yourself, why did bark beetles and wildfires destroy much of the San Bernardino National Forest? Why are we spending so much money for fuel breaks, defensible space around homes, and clearing evacuation routes? The answer is that there are too many, crowded trees and too much old brush, and most of it is on national forest land. Until the Forest Service restores the national forests in Southern California and the Sierra Nevada to a more natural healthy condition, future insect infestations and firestorms are inevitable. The Forest Service is limited in its ability to act soon. They say they are leaving all the beetle-killed trees in the "general forest" as wildlife habitat, even though a few trees per acre would be sufficient. These dead trees will pile up as they fall and make the fire hazard more severe – and will certainly not provide the habitat if they burn up. The Forest Service says it wants to do more, but the money is gone. Their budget of $30 million for next year's thinning projects on the San Bernardino National Forest has been cut to $5 million to help pay for hurricane relief on the Gulf Coast. There are only two options: let forests grow thicker and burn, or thin the forests. Thinning the forest could be done cheaply, quickly, and with a double environmental benefit by utilizing the thinned trees for wood products and biomass fuel. Half of the environmental gain would be a restored, healthy forest. The other would be for building and fuel so we use less fossil fuels....
Editorial: An abuse of power There are reasons why the federal government has the power to ignore local zoning laws, and none of them has anything to do with skiing. Yet federal primacy over local land-use laws isn't being used to locate an unpopular but necessary radar installation, missile site or extraterrestrial receiving center at the eastern entrance to Park City. No, the Air Force wants to turn 27 acres in spare federal land on State Route 248 into a vacation resort, complete with 150-room hotel. It would be owned and operated by a private developer but give preferential deals to military personnel. It's land in a corridor that Park City has been trying to keep open as an attractive entrance to a city that lives by its natural appeal. The city went so far as to pay $875,000 for the old Imperial Hotel on Main Street, hoping to lure the Air Force into trading for that property as a retreat. But the Pentagon passed....
Tree-killing beetle termed unstoppable Researchers and the Canadian government say there's no way to stop the spread of an Asian beetle that kills ash trees, valued for their shade, wildlife food and wood for baseball bats and furniture. The emerald ash borer was found just three years ago in the Detroit area, but researchers suspect it arrived as much as a decade ago. The U.S. and Canadian governments are sticking with a strategy of cutting down swaths of trees to keep it from spreading, but in the past year agreement has grown that the approach will at best slow the insect. "The eradication efforts may not be eradication efforts. They may be slowing the spread," said Jennifer Koch, a U.S. Forest Service research biologist in Delaware. Others said that opinion emerged at a research meeting last month in Pittsburgh, although some still disagree. "It looks pretty dismal for our native ashes," if nothing is done, said Vic Mastro, director of the U.S. Agriculture Department's laboratory in charge of detecting and controlling foreign pests. But Mastro still holds out hope the spread can be stopped....
Tracking environmental threats A Reno scientist is helping develop a plan for a nationwide system that could track the spread of diseases such as bird flu or prevent the spread of non-native weeds such as the tall whitetop that is damaging Nevada's waterways and agricultural lands. Michael Auerbach of the Desert Research Institute is one of a team of scientists across the country working to establish the National Ecological Observatory Network, NEON. When operating, possibly in five years, Auerbach said it would monitor plant and animal life, and the environment in the United States the same way the National Weather Service now tracks meteorological changes, alerting residents to the spread of infectious diseases and invasive species of plants such as cheatgrass from France or animals that include the snakehead fish from China....
Old-growth protection backed on eve of BLM deadline The U.S. Bureau of Land Management could meet its timber quota in Western Oregon without logging old-growth forests key to protecting threatened and endangered species, according to a study released Wednesday by three conservation groups. The study, led by the World Wildlife Fund in Ashland, is meant to provide evidence supporting a revision of the BLM’s management plan that would protect old-growth forests from Salem to Oregon. Corvallis-based Conservation Biology Institute and Portland-based Oregon Natural Resources Council helped conduct the study. "This report documents the importance of BLM lands to Oregon’s natural heritage and shows the BLM can meet its volumes without logging old-growth forests," said author Dominick DellaSala, a forest ecologist with the World Wildlife Fund....
Local BLM office to add 23 positions The Bureau of Land Management’s Carlsbad Field Office is looking for a few good people — about 23 of them to be exact, said Tony Herrell, field office manager. A $12.3-billion energy bill passed by Congress in July and signed by President Bush in August opened the door to hire more staff, he said. “When the Congress passed the new energy bill, they wanted to decrease our processing times for applications to drill for oil and gas and inspections of oil and gas wells,” he said. “The money has been made available to us to start hiring natural resource specialists, some clerical positions, legal instruments examiners, geologists and hydrologists.” Herrell said that the hiring process for petroleum engineer technicians (oil and gas inspectors) has already started....
Encana offers money up front In an effort it says shows its commitment to wildlife habitat work, EnCana Oil and Gas Inc. agreed to transfer $1.1 million to the state for off-site mitigation around the Jonah Field.
The money will be transferred to the state's new Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust Account Board, which will hold the funds. It has not been transferred yet, as the state needs to work out an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management, which will likely oversee and administer off-site mitigation work. Robin Smith, a consultant for EnCana, said the company elected to transfer the money before any decision has been made regarding well development on the Jonah Field "as a part of its show of commitment to fund up to $28 million for off-site mitigation and monitoring" in connection with the Jonah drilling project. But there is a catch....
Six years after deal with church, bison still waiting to roam lands For many, a $13 million land deal represented the best hope for creating a safe haven for bison that stray from Yellowstone National Park each winter. The hope was to provide a place where bison could roam without being hazed, captured or slaughtered out of fear they might infect cattle with a disease called brucellosis. It would be a place where bison and cattle wouldn't even come into contact. But six years after the government paid $13 million to a religious sect, the Church Universal and Triumphant, for land and easements north of the park, bison have yet to set hoof there. And they won't any time soon, federal and church officials say, unless someone is willing to pay the church to stop grazing cattle on its ranch -- a cost that could run several million dollars more. The Interior Department sought to buy the grazing rights in 1999, seeing them as crucial to ensuring bison would have room to roam outside the park. But that effort was ditched when the appraisal -- nearly $2.8 million, on top of the $13 million -- was much more than government officials were willing to pay....
16 horses are found dead near Calhan The discovery Saturday of 16 more dead horses in eastern El Paso County has left ranchers worried and investigators puzzled over who or what is killing the animals. In all, 22 horses and one burro have died under mysterious circumstances in the past two weeks in the same area. There is still no explanation for the deaths of the seven animals found Oct. 11. “I’ve never, never seen an animal die like that,” said William DeWitt, the lifelong rancher who owned the horses found Saturday. “It certainly wasn’t natural.” DeWitt was speaking of a horse that looked as though it died before it hit the ground. It was on its stomach, legs bent, and nose in the dirt. The head was upright. “At first, I thought he was still alive,” DeWitt said. El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Prehm said investigators found no signs of trauma and could not speculate what might have killed the horses, including some young ones....
Is this the end of horse slaughter? Not all horses spend their final days basking in the sun while strolling across lush green pastures. Each year thousands of horses in the United States are slaughtered and become food for people overseas or carnivores in zoos. Whether it's a practical, cruel or humane way to euthanize horses can be debated, but Congress is on the brink of killing horse slaughter in the United States. As early as next week, a committee of representatives and senators could agree on the agriculture appropriations bill, HR2744, which includes amendments that strip the United States Department of Agriculture of funding to inspect horse meat in the country's three horse slaughterhouses. The legislation is not an outright ban of horse slaughter, but slaughterhouses are concerned that it will lead to their demise. Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for two Texas companies that slaughter horses, Dallas Crown Inc., of Kaufman, and Beltex Corp., of Fort Worth, said if the amendments pass, horse slaughterhouses could be doomed....
On the Edge of Common Sense: It seems PETA makes the news again The animal rights group PETA has based its advertising on outrageous things. They attract the media attention posing as a news item, and thus spend very little on advertising. Past examples include comparing serial killer/cannibal Jeffery Dahmer to slaughtering pigs; equating butchering chickens to the Jewish holocaust, and parading nude at the zoo to protest zoos. Many of us have come to believe there is nothing too grotesque that PETA will do "to advance the cause." Thus when I read the headlines this summer proclaiming "PETA employees charged with animal cruelty," I assumed it was another ploy for attracting the gullible media....

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

This is a wee bit late. Between two interviews with Firebird Films on their documentary, the Paragon Foundation Seminar and the NIRA rodeo Friday and Saturday night, I'm behind on everything.

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE WESTERNER

Secret places

by Larry Gabriel

I suspect that nearly every farm or ranch has a secret place, where people go from time to time just for a little peace.

In a good secret place, no winds of adversity blow; no telephones ring; no clocks tick; no noise distracts; no people unexpectedly intrude.

It might be a particular spot in a hayloft, or under a bridge, or in a secluded bend of a river, or a small clearing in the trees, or a remote hilltop, but rural people know where they are.

Fishermen often have one secret spot. That is the place they go when fishing is an escape from the civilized world. They usually go alone. They won't tell you where it is.

Hunters have a similar thing. They will tell you stories from places where they sat for hours and watch as nature plays out a variety of dramas for them. It might be the place where the largest deer they have ever seen comes to visit. They just watch. They don't even think of lifting the gun. Sometimes it is not loaded anyway. They often don't admit that.

Their stories will contain a different reason why he "got away". They might tell you about the deer, but they won't tell you where he is, or how to get to that special place.

I know of spots on the creek totally surrounded by hills. The prairie winds never blow there, even when a winter blizzard is raging on the hills above. It is like walking into an invisible room.

It is a natural shelter and better than a barn. It requires no upkeep and no increased property taxes. Cows ready to drop a calf often go there.

It is a place of safety. It gives a feeling like sitting snugly in front of a wood burning stove or fireplace in our homes during a winter storm.

There are other such places for other times of the year. There are places deep in the woods where the heat of summer and the blast of a hot south wind never reach, and the earth feels cool and moist.

What rural folks do in such places is not much different than what some call a "wilderness experience" or "communing with nature".

Some people got the idea from John Muir (possibly America's most famous naturalist) that vast areas of true "wilderness" are needed for such experiences. That's not true.

John himself might have agreed that the primary point is to protect our secret places, not just a vast emptiness around them. Muir found hundreds of secret places and told the whole world about them.

Rural folks value special places just as much as the most ardent member of the Sierra Club. We just don't tell where they are. That's the difference. We can keep a secret.

Larry is the South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture.

The many promises of the land of maƱana

By Julie Carter

I truly love New Mexico and all its idiosyncrasies that make it unique.

There are things about New Mexico you can only learn with time spent here and then it becomes just simply how it is. Most of these “things” are completely accepted and no one questions them. Those that question them usually don’t stay long anyway.

I have a list that some unknown person authored about living in New Mexico. I thought it to be humorous, correct and worth sharing.


All festivals across the state are named after a fruit or vegetable.

Onced and twiced are words.

Coldbeer is one word.

“Jeet?” is an actual phrase meaning, “Did you eat?”

You find 100 degrees a “tad” warm.

You describe the first cool snap (below 70 degrees) as good chilly weather.

You can switch from “heat” to “A/C” in the same day.

The wind blows at 90 mph from Oct. 2 until June 25; then it stops totally until Oct. 2.

When a buzzard sits on the fence and stares at you, it is time to see a doctor.

You come to know which leaves make good toilet paper.

You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.

You carry jumper cables for your own car.

You think everyone from north of Farmington has an accent.

You measure distance with time not miles. “It’s about 45 minutes away.”

Sweetened ice tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it at age two.

You have only four spices in your kitchen: Salt, pepper, Catsup and Tabasco.

Sexy underwear is a tee shirt and boxer shorts.

All four seasons are: almost summer, summer, still summer and Christmas.

Fix-in-to is one word.

Green grass does burn.

Backwards and forwards means I know everything about you.

You work until you are done or it is too dark to see.

The sounds of coyotes howling at night only sound good for the first few weeks.

There is a valid reason why some people put razor wire around their house.

Nothing will kill a mesquite tree.

If it grows, it will stick you. If it crawls, it will bite you.

There are 5,000 types of snakes and 4,998 live in New Mexico.

There are 10,000 types of spiders and all 10,000 live in New Mexico plus a few undiscovered varieties.

The local paper covers national and international news on one page but requires six pages to cover Friday night high school football.

The first day of deer or elk season is a national holiday.


In l985 when I first moved from the Denver area to this land of enchantment, my initial impression of New Mexico was that the clock had been turned back at least two decades.

While the charm of that was certainly as promised, very enchanting, it could also be very frustrating. Gearing life down from a metropolitan fast paced do-it-now we want-it-yesterday world was not easy to do.

But New Mexico has a solution for that too. It is called “maƱana,”--a word that is more than just a word. It is an attitude that New Mexico wears like a badge of honor, a banner of royalty and a promise to all that arrive—don’t bother to get in a hurry because we don’t.

© Julie Carter 2005

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OPINION/COMMENTARY

Environmental Disinformation 101

By every conceivable measure, the environment is getting better, not worse, with time but most college professors are reluctant to acknowledge the improvement, particularly on their own campuses. “There is no evidence of global warming, no evidence of species extinction and we have more forests than in Columbus’ time,” says Alston Chase, the author of Playing God in Yellowstone. “These are all true statements that are taboo in academia.” Chase spoke at a conference here sponsored by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. A senior fellow with the Pope Center, Chase has researched the environmental movement—national and international—for at least two decades. The veteran author and educator has seen just about every trend in Academia over the past half-century but even he finds himself continually surprised by the manner in which traditional academic principles get turned on their head in today’s Ivory Tower. At an academic conference in Montana, where he resides, Chase discovered to his dismay that his colleagues did not view truth the way he did, namely as something objectively verifiable. Rather, they saw truth as something that could be used to achieve an end....

Wilma Is Not Global Warming

It’s shaping up as an “extreme” week for global warming junk science. On Monday, the media reported about a new global warming study with headlines like UPI’s “More Extreme Weather Predicted.” By Wednesday, Hurricane Wilma was labeled as the “strongest Atlantic hurricane ever reported,” which no doubt will fuel claims that global warming is causing more intense hurricanes. We can, however, weather such global warming alarmism with the pertinent facts. Monday’s news was generated by a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Purdue scientists who used a combination of mathematical models, historical weather data and local climate systems to supposedly predict that the interaction of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and local geographic features will increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as floods and heat waves. The first red flag, here, is the Purdue researchers’ reliance on a mathematical model of global climate — essentially the Purdue scientists’ crude guess as to how our exceedingly complex climate system works....

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