Friday, February 17, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Ranchers try new avenue Ranchers in this arid, high-plains territory in northeast Wyoming welcome a little bit of extra water. But with limited rangeland and sensitive soils, a lot of extra water can be a detriment. When coal-bed methane producers arrived in the Spotted Horse Creek area, Bill and Marge West were excited at the prospect of having a few extra watering holes for livestock and possibly some water to irrigate their hay meadows. What they got was more than they could use -- a deluge of poor quality groundwater. "The vast majority of the water is flushed down draws and run down ephemeral drainages. It destroys the land," Marge West said. "We had 80 acres of prime hay meadow destroyed, and we lost 200 cottonwood trees." The Wests, and scores of other landowners in Wyoming, say state regulators have allowed the destruction to continue by playing a shell game among agencies regarding water quality and water quantity considerations in permitting discharges for the coal-bed methane industry. They have petitioned the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council to take up the issue and change state rules to force the industry to provide assurances that all the water it discharges is put to measurable beneficial use....
Feds, greens point fingers over beetles Seven years after unusually high winds toppled thousands of trees on 3,000 acres southwest of Glenwood Springs, the U.S. Forest Service is finally launching a timber salvage project. Unfortunately, officials said Thursday, it comes too late to prevent a spruce beetle epidemic that has the potential to alter the look of the White River National Forest from Sunlight Mountain Resort to McClure Pass and into the Aspen area. Large spruce trees on more than 100,000 acres 20 miles southwest of Glenwood could be doomed, according to forestry expert Jim Thinnes, a regional silviculturist at the Forest Service's Lakewood office. The Forest Service completed an environmental impact statement on the project, known as the Baylor Park Blowdown, and approved a timber salvage in August 2001. A coalition of environmental groups made an administrative appeal that October. That appeal was denied, so the coalition filed a lawsuit and acquired an injunction to stop logging after 200 or so acres were "treated." The Forest Service and environmental coalition reached an agreement in February 2003 that required the federal agency to undertake additional studies before resuming most logging projects. "The original treatments were proposed when the beetles were still contained to the blowdown trees," the Forest Service said in a news release. "The settlement was made after the beetles had moved out of the blowdown and were killing healthy spruce."....
Column: An End to Forest Service Abuse on Montana’s Kootenai National Forest? The 2.2 million acre Kootenai National Forest in the extreme northwestern corner of Montana is home to our state’s most biologically unique national forest, containing Montana’s only temperate rainforest ecosystem and providing critical habitat for grizzly bear, gray wolf, Canada lynx, woodland caribou, bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, inland redband trout and over 190 bird species. Unfortunately, crisscrossed by over 8,300 miles of logging roads and fragmented by over 750,000 acres that have been logged at one time or another, the Kootenai is also home to one of Montana’s most overexploited forest ecosystems. Hopefully the Forest Service’s pattern of abuse on the Kootenai National Forest is about to come to an end. Citing past and continuing failures to manage the Kootenai National Forest in accordance with the Kootenai’s own Forest Plan in regards to old-growth forests, old-growth dependent wildlife species, water quality, fish habitat and soil productivity, the Ecology Center has filed a comprehensive lawsuit against the Forest Service in U.S. District Court in Missoula....
The Masters of Black Mountain Bob Stone steps out of his half-ton Ford pickup, slides his hands in his pockets, and surveys the mud with apprehension. “They were here last night,” he says, looking for tracks. “Well, we’ll go out to the east and see.” Yesterday, when Stone had been here in the hilly backcountry roughly 20 miles northeast of San Luis Obispo, he’d seen them — eleven mares, two foals, and one stal-lion — the Black Mountain herd, the only wild mustangs remaining in coastal California. Now it looks like the horses have moved on, maybe to another pasture near here, but just as likely up into Black Mountain. During the drier months the herd can often be found at the only lake in this section of Los Padres National Forest. “In the summer they come in when the lake is smooth,” Stone says. “They all go out, clear up over their knees, and they drink and drink. They drink for like three or four minutes — real slow.” But now, during the winter, when the herd frequents the seasonal streams that run through the numerous canyons dropping away from Black Mountain, it’s harder for Stone to spot them. Stone has special permission to drive here in the foothills of Black Mountain. Only authorized vehicles are allowed; otherwise access is by foot....
Shrub that supports beetle at center of flap An elderberry shrub growing next to Olive Orchard Road will be moved to a new home in a matter of days. That act by a developer carving out a housing subdivision of 5-acre ranchettes may cause some human brows to furrow in consternation at the regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Sacramento. Or maybe not. The service cares about elderberry shrubs, because sometimes they provide a home for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, which is threatened with extinction. This particular shrub near Olive Orchard Road and others growing nearby don't have any beetles living in them, according to a biologist hired by developer Ryan Voorhees of Galt. Still, county officials three months ago ordered Voorhees to stop work on his housing project because road-grading equipment came within 25 feet of a shrub. Thursday, Voorhees appeared before the Calaveras County Planning Commission to ask for permission to transplant several shrubs out of the path of the work....
Lawsuit targets Ariz. dam Five environmental groups on Thursday accused the Interior Department of failing to protect native fish in the Grand Canyon and asked a federal court to order changes in how water flows into the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam. Their lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, stopped short of demanding that the government decommission the dam, a drastic solution some activists say is the only way to restore the river's ecosystem. Instead, the groups want the court to enforce an existing plan that calls for operating the dam in a way that will help the fish and other species downstream. The government has ignored that plan, the lawsuit alleges, and allowed some fish species to slide nearer to extinction. The suit could disrupt other attempts to control the river's flow from Glen Canyon Dam, most notably the ongoing drought talks among the seven states that draw water from the Colorado. That plan could clash with some of the measures prescribed to help the native fish, whose populations have declined in the 40 years since the dam was built....
Richard Pombo: Update the Species Act Efforts to update and modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are an emotional topic for many with opinions ranging from completely repealing the act to not changing a single word. Yet, it seems clear that sensible improvements are long overdue. Over more than three decades, nearly 1,300 species have been listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA, but only 10 of those have recovered sufficiently to be removed from the list. During that same period, some 35 species have been found to be extinct. This stunning record of failure can largely be traced to a simple fact. While our successful environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, have frequently been updated and strengthened by Congress over the last 30 years, the ESA has seen no modernization to take advantage of lessons learned. That is why my colleagues and I -- both Republicans and Democrats -- introduced and passed the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act (TESRA) in the U.S. House of Representatives last fall. TESRA makes four important changes in how we recover our most vulnerable species....
Glacier Melt Could Signal Faster Rise in Ocean Levels Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly Earth's oceans will rise over the next century, scientists said yesterday. The new data come from satellite imagery and give fresh urgency to worries about the role of human activity in global warming. The Greenland data are mirrored by findings from Bolivia to the Himalayas, scientists said, noting that rising sea levels threaten widespread flooding and severe storm damage in low-lying areas worldwide. The scientists said they do not yet understand the precise mechanism causing glaciers to flow and melt more rapidly, but they said the changes in Greenland were unambiguous -- and accelerating: In 1996, the amount of water produced by melting ice in Greenland was about 90 times the amount consumed by Los Angeles in a year. Last year, the melted ice amounted to 225 times the volume of water that city uses annually....
Lawsuit filed on genetically altered alfalfa
Environmental groups filed suit Thursday against the federal government, seeking to rescind approval of an alfalfa strain genetically designed to resist the herbicide Roundup. The suit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, has national implications, but is particularly relevant to Western and Midwestern states that dominate production of the nation's $7 billion annual alfalfa hay crop. Oregon ranks 11th among states in alfalfa hay production, with $231 million a year in sales from alfalfa planted on nearly a half-million acres. Nonprofit groups, including the Center for Food Safety and Sierra Club, are behind the lawsuit, but the lead named plaintiff is an Oregon farmer and alfalfa seed producer, Phillip Geertson of Adrian. Their suit contends that in deregulating Monsanto Co.'s new seed, which was planted in Oregon and elsewhere last fall, the U.S. Agriculture Department didn't adequately weigh threats to the environment....
FLE

Port of entry

How would you feel if, in the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. government had decided to contract out airport security to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the country where most of the operational planning and financing of the attacks occurred? My guess is you, like most Americans, would think it a lunatic idea, one that could clear the way for still more terror in this country. You probably would want to know who on earth approved such a plan — and be determined to prevent it from happening. Of course, no such thing occurred after September 11, 2001. In fact, the job of keeping our planes and the flying public secure was deemed to be so important that the government itself took it over from private contractors seen as insufficiently rigorous in executing that responsibility. Now, however, four-and-a-half years later, a secretive government committee has decided to turn over the management of six of the Nation's most important ports — in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore and New Orleans — to Dubai Ports World following the UAE company's purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which previously had the contract. Thanks to the secrecy with which CFIUS operates, it is not clear at this writing whether any such objection was heard with respect to the idea of contracting out management of six of our country's most important ports to a UAE company. There would certainly appear to be a number of grounds for rejecting this initiative, however: America's seaports have long been recognized by homeland security experts as among our most vulnerable targets. Huge quantities of cargo move through them every day, much of it of uncertain character and provenance, nearly all of it inadequately monitored. Matters can only be made worse by port managers who might conspire to bring in dangerous containers, or simply look the other way when they arrive. Entrusting information about key U.S. ports — including, presumably, government-approved plans for securing them, to say nothing of the responsibility for controlling physical access to these facilities, to a country known to have been penetrated by terrorists is not just irresponsible. It is recklessly so....

Expert Details Scope of Border Drug Flow

One of the leading experts on Mexico and Mexican border issues in the US says illegal drug shipments from Mexico into the US is now a $20 billion a year business for the Mexican economy, making it the country's third largest source of income, behind oil and money sent home by Mexican citizens living legally, and illegally, in the United States. Dr. John Mason Hart, a professor at the University of Houston and the author of several books on US Mexico relations, told a San Antonio business group that is a powerful incentive for the Mexican government not only not to stop illegal drug trafficking, but to actively support it by sponsoring military incursions into the US to support drug smuggling, something the Mexican government has repeatedly denied. "The Mexican economy would collapse if vigorous action were taken, or at least there would be a very serious crisis, if you would cut off one fourth of their foreign earnings," Hart told Downtown Rotary Club. Hart says to feed the habits of 17 million US drug users, the two rival drug export cartels now fighting for control of the lucrative smuggling route through Nuevo Laredo provide 90% of the marijuana smoked in the US, in addition to 90% of the between 180 and 320 metric tons of cocaine consumed in the US. About 53% of methamphetamine, a drug formerly referred to as 'hillbilly heroin' because it was made in bathtubs and basement buckets, now is imported into the US from Mexico, as is about 50% of the heroin used in the US, now comes from Mexico. He says $14 billion of the $20 billion in drugs imported from or through Mexico into the US comes through Nuevo Laredo, explaining the level of violence currently seen as the two rival cartels, the Gulf Cartel from Reynosa and the Sinaloa Cartel, also known as the "Federation," which Hart says now encompasses the notorious Arellano Felix organization, which introduced crack cocaine into the US in the eighties, struggle to control that community. Hart says the Zetas, former Mexican army special forces soldiers, act as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, and the MS-13, the infamous Salvadoran gang, provides muscle for the Sinaloans....

Rising tide of border crime and violence

First came an armed standoff between Texas lawmen and drug smugglers disguised as Mexican soldiers. Next, federal officials seized a stockpile of heavy-duty weaponry - assault rifles, hand grenades, and improvised explosive devices - along the Rio Grande. Then a Mexican police reporter was critically wounded after intruders fired more than 60 rounds into the newspaper's offices. These three incidents in as many weeks dramatize the rising violence along the US-Mexico border. Drug traffickers are becoming more brazen and expanding their operations to include smuggling people. Even as President Bush proposes to beef up border security, these attacks are renewing the debate over how best to keep criminals - perhaps even terrorists - from crossing into the United States. "As long as our law-enforcement resources at the border are primarily occupied with millions of laborers, it will be impossible to intercept the thousands of criminals who are also exploiting our borders," T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told a US House subcommittee last week. Part of the rise in violence stems from increased US law enforcement at the border, which is creating a more desperate drug smuggler, many experts say. But it also is rising because these drug smugglers are becoming heavily involved in the lucrative people-smuggling business and are using the same violent tactics to evade law enforcement, Mr. Bonner says. Some observers also worry that these criminal smugglers could team up with terrorists wanting to infiltrate the US....

Is A War Going On In Texas?

If you don't have access to Texas newspapers or the internet, you may not have heard the sensational news about the enormous cache of weapons just seized in Laredo, Texas. U.S. authorities grabbed two completed Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), materials for making 33 more, military-style grenades, 26 grenade triggers, large quantities of AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, 1,280 rounds of ammunition, silencers, machine gun assembly kits, 300 primers, bullet-proof vests, police scanners, sniper scopes, narcotics, and cash. That sounds like a war is going on in Texas! If bomb-making factories and firearms assembly plants are ordinary day-to-day business in the drug war along our southern border, the American people need to know more about it. The Val Verde County chief deputy warned that drug traffickers are helping terrorists with possible al Quaeda ties to cross the Texas-Mexico border into the United States. A government spokesman in Houston said "at this point there is no connection with anything in Iraq." We are not so easily reassured. We wonder what our government is doing to fulfill its duty to "protect each of them [the states] against invasion," as called for in the U.S. Constitution, Article IV. The Department of Homeland Security now admits that there have been 231 documented incursions by Mexican military or police, or drug or people smugglers dressed in military uniforms, during the last ten years, including 63 in Arizona, and several Border Patrol agents have been wounded in these encounters. This admission comes after years of pretending that such incursions were just "accidents."....

Alleged drug smuggler sues Border Patrol

The alleged drug smuggler who was shot in the buttocks by two Border Patrol agents last year is suing the Border Patrol for negligence, possibly undermining his credibility as a witness in the upcoming criminal trial of the agents. Osvaldo Aldrete Davila filed a claim with the agency - the first step in a lawsuit against the U.S. government - in March 2005, about a month after the shooting occurred. The claim says the agency was negligent in the shooting and asks for $5 million in damages. Aldrete's El Paso lawyer, Walter Boyaki, said the damage amount is arbitrary because he hasn't reviewed all the costs the shooting victim incurred, including thousands of dollars in medical bills from Beaumont Army Medical Center that were not paid by the U.S. government. Boyaki said he believed a jury would understand why Aldrete, a poor truck driver in Mexico, is suing and not hold it against him as a witness....

Judge will decide mentions of border cases in agents' trial

Lawyers in the case of two Border Patrol agents accused of illegally shooting a suspected drug smuggler and covering it up must ask a judge before they can mention other border incidents, including a recent armed standoff that gained international attention. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean have been charged in the shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, a Mexican national, during a scuffle last February in Fabens. Jury selection begins Friday. The trial, scheduled to start Tuesday, will come three weeks after U.S. authorities chased suspected drug smugglers to the border, where men carrying weapons and wearing Mexican military-style uniforms helped the suspected smugglers escape to Mexico. No shots were fired. Prosecutors last week asked federal Judge Kathleen Cardone to exclude mentions of the Jan. 23 confrontation and incidents of border violence. In a ruling this week, Cardone said lawyers would need to ask her before any such mentions could be made in open court. According to a federal indictment issued last year, after Ramos and Compean shot Aldrete, Compean "collected and disposed of spent casings," and neither man reported the shooting. Aldrete, who was shot in the buttocks, fled on foot back to Mexico after being wounded....

Suit blames border agents in immigrant drownings

It began as a routine nocturnal encounter between the U.S. Border Patrol and a group of Mexicans illegally crossing the Rio Grande. It ended with the deaths of three immigrants amid allegations of misconduct by the American agents. A federal wrongful death lawsuit filed last year accuses the agents of contributing to the drownings of the two women and teenager early Sept. 24, 2004, near Eagle Pass. "These agents threw rocks ... and used profanities in an effort to make them return to Mexico by swimming across the Rio Grande," reads the lawsuit, which claims the agents should have taken the group into custody. The lawsuit also accuses the five agents of ignoring the cries for help of the Mexicans who did not know how to swim. The lawsuit seeks $240 million and is set for trial next year here. In depositions taken last month, the agents denied forcing the group to swim back to Mexico or throwing rocks at them. They also said they heard no cries for help. And they said the six immigrants were given the choice of surrendering or returning to Mexico....

Border Patrol Agent Shoots Himself in Foot During Training

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent was taken to a hospital Wednesday after he accidentally shot himself in the foot, authorities said. The unidentified agent was listed in stable condition at a local hospital after he discharged his weapon at a facility near Brownsville's Gateway International Bridge. The bullet grazed his right foot and injured one of his toes. Rick Pauza, a spokesman for the agency, told The Brownsville Herald for its Thursday edition that the agent was "attempting to make his gun safe" when the mishap occurred. The accidental shooting happened after a training exercise, but Pauza did not say what type of training was being held.

'Able Danger' Identified 9/11 Hijacker 13 times

The top-secret, military intelligence unit known as "Able Danger" identified Mohammed Atta, the leader of the Sept. 11 hijackers, 13 times before the 2001 attacks, according to new information released Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees. Able Danger has been identified by Weldon and team member Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer as an elite group of approximately two dozen individuals tasked with identifying and targeting the links and relationships of al Qaeda worldwide. On June 27, 2005, Weldon said that Able Danger had offered in the year before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to share its intelligence with the FBI and to work with them to take down the New York City terrorist cell involving Mohammed Atta and two other 9/11 terrorists. Weldon said Clinton administration lawyers prevented the information from being shared with the FBI. According to Weldon, the lawyers told Able Danger members, " [Y]ou cannot pursue contact with the FBI against that cell. Mohamed Atta is in the U.S. on a green card and we are fearful of the fallout from the Waco incident," a reference to the FBI's raid on the David Koresh-led Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., in April 1993. Media reports indicated that lawyers for Able Danger were concerned that sharing data with domestic law enforcement was illegal. Weldon on Tuesday said that despite testimony indicating that Able Danger's data had been destroyed, he has discovered data still available. "And I am in contact with people who are still able to [do] data mining runs on pre-9/11 data," Weldon said. "In those data runs that are now being done today, in spite of what DOD (Department of Defense) said I have 13 hits on Mohammed Atta ..."....

9/11 probe yields rare clash on intelligence

The Pentagon's top intelligence official clashed repeatedly Wednesday with former operatives of the clandestine Able Danger program over how much the government knew about al-Qaida before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and whether ringleader Mohamed Atta had been identified long before the tragedy. In a rare public display of bitter disputes within the close-knit military intelligence community, three members of a computer data-mining initiative code-named Able Danger told Congress that the 9/11 attacks might have been prevented if law enforcement agencies had acted on the information about al-Qaida that they had unearthed. "It shocked us how entrenched of a presence al-Qaida had in the United States," former Army Maj. Erik Kleinsmith told two subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee. Comparing the 9/11 attack to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Kleinsmith said: "We were on the north coast of Hawaii, watching the (Japanese) fighters come in, and we were not able to do anything about it." J.D. Smith, a defense contractor who also worked on the Able Danger team, said he used Arab intermediaries in the Los Angeles area to buy a photograph of Atta. Smith said the photo was among about 40 photos of al-Qaida members on a large chart that he personally delivered to Pentagon officials in 2000....

Senate ends filibuster of Patriot Act

The Senate yesterday steamrolled opposition to the renewal of the USA Patriot Act, legislation originally passed in 2001 to combat terrorism. The 96-3 vote broke a filibuster of procedural floor action after last week's compromise that won over several key opponents of the bill. Voting to maintain the filibuster were Democratic Sens. Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent. Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, did not vote. "I will continue to oppose this flawed deal, insist that the Senate jump through every procedural hoop and demand the right to offer amendments to improve it," Mr. Feingold said. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist hailed the wide margin of victory and said the Senate will approve the measure March 1, nine days before the current law is now scheduled to expire. "Breaking the filibuster against the Patriot Act means that the critical law enforcement tools it provides won't lapse," Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said. "Our intelligence and law-enforcement officials should never again be left wondering whether the Congress will reauthorize the tools that protect our nation -- that is unacceptable." Last week, Republican Sens. John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, Larry E. Craig of Idaho, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, all dropped their opposition to the bill after modifications were made that they said appeased their concerns about protecting civil liberties....

U.S. Sen. Feingold: Statement on The Patriot Act Deal

While I greatly respect the Senators who negotiated this deal, I am gravely disappointed in the outcome. The White House would agree to only a few minor changes to the same Patriot Act conference report that could not get through the Senate back in December. These changes do not address the major problems with the Patriot Act that a bipartisan coalition has been trying to fix for the past several years. They are, quite frankly a fig leaf to allow those who were fighting hard to improve the Act to now step down, claim victory, and move on. What a hollow victory that would be, and what a complete reversal of the strong bipartisan consensus that we saw in this body just a couple months ago. What we are seeing is quite simply a capitulation to the intransigent and misleading rhetoric of a White House that sees any effort to protect civil liberties as a sign of weakness. Protecting American values is not weakness, Mr. President. Standing on principle is not weakness. And committing to fighting terrorism aggressively without compromising the rights and freedoms this country was founded upon – that’s not weakness either. We’ve come too far and fought too hard to agree to reauthorize the Patriot Act without fixing any of the major problems with the Act. A few insignificant, face-savings changes just don’t cut it. I cannot support this deal, and I strongly oppose proceeding to legislation that will implement it....

White House Agrees to Spy Law Change


Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts said he has worked out an agreement with the White House to change U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program and provide more information about it to Congress. "We are trying to get some movement, and we have a clear indication of that movement," Roberts, R-Kan., said. Without offering specifics, Roberts said the agreement with the White House provides "a fix" to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and offers more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The deal comes as the committee was set to have a meeting Thursday about whether to open an investigation into the hotly disputed program. Roberts indicated the deal may eliminate the need for such an inquiry. Democrats have been demanding an investigation but some Republicans don't want to tangle the panel in a testy election-year probe. "Whether or not an investigation is the right thing to do at this particular time, I am not sure," Roberts told reporters while heading into the meeting....

Senate Rejects Wiretapping Probe


The Bush administration helped derail a Senate bid to investigate a warrantless eavesdropping program yesterday after signaling it would reject Congress's request to have former attorney general John D. Ashcroft and other officials testify about the program's legality. The actions underscored a dramatic and possibly permanent drop in momentum for a congressional inquiry, which had seemed likely two months ago. Senate Democrats said the Republican-led Congress was abdicating its obligations to oversee a controversial program in which the National Security Agency has monitored perhaps thousands of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents and foreign parties without obtaining warrants from a secret court that handles such matters. "It is more than apparent to me that the White House has applied heavy pressure in recent days, in recent weeks, to prevent the committee from doing its job," Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the intelligence committee, said after the panel voted along party lines not to consider his motion for an investigation. Before yesterday's closed-door meeting of the intelligence panel began, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that the NSA program does not require "congressional authorization" but that the administration is "open to ideas regarding legislation." Committee sources said such comments -- characterized as meaningful by Republicans but empty by Democrats -- apparently persuaded GOP moderates to back away from earlier calls for a congressional investigation into the program....

U.S. must release domestic spying documents

A federal judge Thursday ordered the Justice Department to respond within 20 days to requests by a civil liberties group for documents about President Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program. The ruling was a victory for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which sued the department under the Freedom of Information Act in seeking the release of the documents. U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy ruled that the department must finish processing the group’s requests and produce or identify all records within 20 days. “Given the great public and media attention that the government’s warrantless surveillance program has garnered and the recent hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the public interest is particularly well served by the timely release of the requested documents,” he said. Kennedy also ordered the department to give the group a document index and declaration stating its justification for withholding any documents within 30 days. The Washington-based center sought the documents from four Justice Department offices, including the office of the attorney general, after the New York Times first reported the eavesdropping program’s existence Dec. 16....

325,000 Names on Terrorism List

The National Counterterrorism Center maintains a central repository of 325,000 names of international terrorism suspects or people who allegedly aid them, a number that has more than quadrupled since the fall of 2003, according to counterterrorism officials. The list kept by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) -- created in 2004 to be the primary U.S. terrorism intelligence agency -- contains a far greater number of international terrorism suspects and associated names in a single government database than has previously been disclosed. Because the same person may appear under different spellings or aliases, the true number of people is estimated to be more than 200,000, according to NCTC officials. U.S. citizens make up "only a very, very small fraction" of that number, said an administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of his agency's policies. "The vast majority are non-U.S. persons and do not live in the U.S.," he added. An NCTC official refused to say how many on the list -- put together from reports supplied by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency (NSA) and other agencies -- are U.S. citizens. The NSA is a key provider of information for the NCTC database, although officials refused to say how many names on the list are linked to the agency's controversial domestic eavesdropping effort. Under the program, the NSA has conducted wiretaps on an unknown number of U.S. citizens without warrants....

Wiretaps not issue in case, U.S. says


Prosecutors said they have no reason to believe that the government's eavesdropping program tainted the conviction of a Virginia man in an alleged plot to assassinate President Bush. Attorneys for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 24, of Falls Church, asked a federal judge last week to delay their client's sentencing hearing on Friday to allow an investigation of whether Abu Ali was a subject of the National Security Agency's post-Sept. 11 warrantless eavesdropping. Yesterday, prosecutors opposed any delay, saying Abu Ali's attorneys have no evidence to suggest their client was wronged. "The prosecution team in this case is unaware of any discoverable information that has not been disclosed to the defendant," prosecutor David Laufman wrote. "Nor is the prosecution team aware of any evidence admitted at trial that was illegally obtained or derived from evidence that was illegally obtained." Yesterday's filing is the first substantive response by prosecutors to accusations made in several cases by defendants who suspect their clients were subject to the surveillance program, secretly initiated shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Lawyers for Ali al-Timimi, a Northern Virginia Islamic scholar sentenced to life in prison for soliciting treason, and Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver sentenced to 20 years for admitting a conspiracy with al-Qaida that sought to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, also have asked for a review of their cases on suspicion that evidence was obtained illegally against them through the wiretap program....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Bull bison killed after mingling with cattle; two dozen cattle to be tested Cattle just north of Yellowstone National Park will be tested for the disease brucellosis after a bull bison was caught among them, the state veterinarian said Tuesday. Tom Linfield said about two dozen cattle that had been vaccinated against brucellosis will be given a blood test, likely this spring. Linfield declined to provide the owner’s name but said that bison have been out among livestock in the area several times already this winter after leaving the park. He said the rancher involved would not have to pay for the testing. Authorities killed the bull bison, which had also gotten in with horses and ‘‘took after’’ state and federal officials who’d tried to chase it, said Marc Bridges, executive director of the state Livestock Department. Blood was taken from the bison to test for brucellosis, Linfield said....
Bison slaughter sets record A record number of bison from Yellowstone National Park have been shipped to slaughter this winter after leaving the park boundaries, a park spokesman said Monday. Al Nash said 52 of the roughly 190 bison captured last week near Yellowstone's northern border were sent to slaughter Monday without first being tested for brucellosis, the disease at the heart of the state-federal management plan that allows for the hazing and capture of wandering bison. All 190 of the animals eventually will be sent to slaughter, Nash said. In just over a month, authorities have shipped 635 captured bison to slaughter, Nash said. That's the highest ever, eclipsing the harsh winter of 1996-97, he said. Though more bison were killed that winter, 1,084, most of those were shot and 512 were sent to slaughter houses, he said. The number of bison, coming into this winter, also was at its highest documented level, an estimated 4,900 animals....
U.S. Forest Service cuts jobs About 110 U.S. Forest Service jobs are leaving Montana, northern Idaho and North Dakota as part of a massive reorganization involving hundreds of positions within the agency, a spokesman said. The cuts are in human resource, budget and finance departments, spokesman Steve Kratville said. In northern Idaho, 16 positions in human resources will be eliminated in Orofino, where employees handled personnel duties for the Clearwater, Nez Perce and Panhandle national forests. "That is quite an impact to a small community," said Kratville. Another 15 Forest Service employees working on budget and finance at locations across northern Idaho will also be cut for a total of 31 jobs lost. Some of the jobs are being relocated to a centralized Forest Service center in Albuquerque, N.M.. Nationwide, the Forest Service has replaced about 1,500 budget and finance positions with 350 jobs at the New Mexico office, Cratville said....
Column: Why are feds pushing leases in Wyoming Range? That’s why a new report - “The Wyoming Range: Wyoming’s Hidden Gem” - published by The Wilderness Society makes so much headway in demonstrating how the maligning portrayal of mainstream environmentalists is off the mark. Creating an argument for protecting the Wyoming Range, the report features positive testimonials from snowmobilers, politically conservative former county commissioners, old guard outfitters, and guest ranchers. They all call into question efforts being advanced by the U.S. Forest Service to open up tens of thousands of acres – and possibly much more – to natural gas drilling akin to what is already occurring in the Jonah Natural Gas Field and soon to sweep across the Pinedale Anticline. Between them, the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline are home, at various seasons of the year, to 100,000 ungulates, earning it a justifiable comparison to the Serengeti, and yet the Bush administration, under the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, has also made Jonah the poster child of how NOT to sensitively blend full field energy development with wildlife....
BLM withdraws oil and gas leases in southern Utah The Bureau of Land Management state office announced Wednesday that it will at least temporarily withdraw more than two dozen oil and gas leases it was going to offer for sale next week, including parcels along the Green and San Rafael rivers and in the San Rafael Desert in southern Utah. BLM spokesman Don Banks said 30 parcels, encompassing 55,000 acres, were pulled from Tuesday's lease sale to give the agency additional time to analyze the suitability of the areas for energy exploration and development. But he cautioned that if the analysis supported such uses, the leases would be put back up for sale later this year, perhaps by summer. "We need to do more homework on this, frankly," Banks said. The BLM originally put forth 109 parcels on 172,000 acres in its Vernal, Richfield and Price offices for a February lease sale. Banks said about 80 percent of the parcels were protested. The sale now will offer 79 parcels on 117,000 acres following Wednesday's deferment....
‘Walk a Mile in My Boots' program bolstered with new partnerships Making it official with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, the Walk a Mile in My Boots work-exchange program is now expanding to include partnerships with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The award-winning program was originally launched by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in summer 2003 and for more than two years has provided government employees and cattle producers with on-the-ground work experiences in each other's respective professions. Any cattle producer, NACD member, FWS employee, or NRCS employee can apply for the exchange program. The average length of an actual exchange runs anywhere from 2-10 days....
Fish-seeking researcher looks for effects of coalbed methane in Montana, Wyoming “The Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana is currently undergoing one of the world's largest coalbed natural gas developments with about 12,000 wells in place in 2003, 14,200 in 2005 and up to 70,000 projected over the next 20 to 30 years,” Davis wrote in a project summary. “Because coalbed natural gas development involves production and disposal of large quantities of coalbed ground water that differs from surface waters, potential exists for substantial effects on aquatic ecosystems.” High concentrations of dissolved solids, including sodium and bicarbonate ions, are typically found in water associated with coalbed methane, Davis said. Little is known about their effect on fish in the Powder River Basin, however. She is taking four approaches to find out, Davis said. One compares fish in streams that have coalbed methane development and streams that do not. The second compares fish at various points in a stream. Some of the points are above and some are below the development. The third compares fish before and after development started. The fourth compares fish today with fish surveyed in the mid-1990s. Today's fish would have been exposed to coalbed methane development, and the earlier fish wouldn't have been....
Increase in motorboat permits struck down The U.S. Forest Service improperly tripled the number of day-use motorboat permits on three popular lake chains on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a federal appeals court concluded Wednesday. The three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the agency had acted arbitrarily in determining those permit quotas and must recalculate them. The decision affirms a lower court ruling two years ago that the agency was wrong to increase the number of annual day-use motor permits on the Moose, Farm and Saganaga lake chains from 2,376 to 6,892. The agency increased the number in 2002 to give local cabin owners and resorts better access. The agency has since dropped the number of permits to pre-2002 levels....
Off-road riders say they are being shut out When Russ Wolfe first began riding motorcycles around Missoula in the 1970s, the countryside seemed like a wide open place. He could tool his way up the Rattlesnake or Pattee Canyon or Blue Mountain without worry of seeing a closed sign on a trail - and usually without meeting another soul. Back then, there weren't nearly as many dog walkers, horse riders, hikers or people just wanting a quiet place using the trails around town. Those days are gone, and that's left motorcycle and all-terrain-vehicle riders like Wolfe wondering where to turn next. “We're just being pushed out of everywhere around Missoula,” Wolfe said. “Why should we have to go out of town to ride? I don't belong to no club, but I shouldn't have to. There just should be some places left open for me to ride.”....
Snowmobilers want to use road through wilderness A pro-snowmobiling group is trying to reopen an old mining road that bisects the center of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Area. The route, known as the Slough Creek Corridor, runs from the old mining town of Independence, about 45 miles south of Big Timber, to Cooke City, at the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. However, opening the route likely would require a successful lawsuit against the federal government, and previous such efforts have failed. Citizens for Balanced Use, a Bozeman-based group that formed to oppose motorized travel restrictions in the Gallatin National Forest, last week gave the Park County Commission a binder of documents asserting that the commission "has authority" over the road and should exert it. Two commissioners subsequently said that they weren't sure they had authority and weren't eager to engage in a legal fight with the federal government....
Access to Gold Camp trails still limited Access to popular hiking and biking trails on a section of Gold Camp Road will be restricted at least through the weekend while the U.S. Forest Service installs fencing to keep the curious away from a historic railroad tunnel that burned Monday. The 107-year-old Tunnel 3 in the foothills above the Broadmoor area was badly damaged by a fire that investigators believe was arson. Frank Landis of the Forest Service said Wednesday the fire in the 180-foot-long tunnel destroyed the 124 12-footby-12-foot timbers that shored up two-thirds of the tunnel. The other third of the tunnel is solid granite. Landis said an agency investigator has yet to enter the tunnel because the remnants of the beams still are smoldering and because of concern about the stability of the structure....
4,000 acres: Owners will still work the spreads Two Utah families have agreed to preserve for future generations more than 4,000 acres of their ranch property. The announcement came Wednesday from the Trust for Public Lands and Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, which will control the conservation easements. The donors are: The Elaine Adams family, which sold an easement to protect the 1,738-acre Co-Op Valley Ranch started by her family in 1869 in Iron County. The Adamses were paid $1.46 million from the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program. The Utah Quality Growth Commission's LeRay McAllister Critical Land Conservation Fund kicked in $400,000. The family also made an in-kind donation of $500,000 worth of property. * Brothers Ross, Todd and David Hinkins of Carbon County's Rainbow Glass Ranch sold a 2,280-acre easement. The commission paid $735,000 and made an in-kind donation of $267,000 worth of property. Under terms of the easements, the families will continue to own and manage the ranches - while the community is ensured that the property will remain forested and undeveloped....
Column: Forest restoration and the Yellowstone myth When a bipartisan group of nearly 100 congressmen proposed speeding up restoration of forests after catastrophic wildfire, the idea drew widespread support from those interested in giving future generations forests to enjoy. The proposal would do two important things: quicken the removal of dead trees that otherwise would provide fuel for future wildfires and accelerate the planting of new trees to restore forests that burned. Those supporting the proposal include Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth; Jim Brown, who served as the top forestry official to four Oregon governors; the Society of American Foresters; the National Association of State Foresters; and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. With 32 million acres of national forest burned between 2000 and 2004, the need for restoration is clear. However, what is happening - or not happening - in federal forests in California provides a glimpse of the challenge of forest restoration. There, the Forest Service has only replanted 3.8 percent of forests burned in 2001. Most of the remaining burned forest is converting to brush that will dominate the landscape for centuries. Unfortunately, excessive regulation, unnecessary appeals and lawsuits prevent the Forest Service from keeping burned forests from becoming brush fields....
In the Line of Wildfire: Could a western wildfire be the country's next Katrina? At the end of summer in southern Oregon's Cascade foothills, when trees and brush have turned tinder dry and thunderstorms regularly roll overhead, Millie Chatterton and her neighbors start thinking about the lightning strike that could touch off disaster. Chatterton can't forget the afternoon in 1987 when she walked out of a grocery store in her town, Cave Junction, and saw a "big atomic mushroom cloud" of smoke blossoming on the horizon. Later, she watched the lightning-caused wildfire "blowing up trees one after another" on federal property near her own five acres. That fire, which scorched 150,000 acres of land in Oregon and California, came within six miles of Chatterton's house. In 2002, the notorious Biscuit fire, also started by lightning, came even closer, roaring within a mile of her land as it torched 500,000 acres. After each close call, Chatterton -- who is retired and gets by on a set income -- looked for help to reduce the fire threat on her property. This meant thinning Douglas firs and black oaks, and getting rid of excess brush. The work is not easy, or inexpensive: the most recent bill was $3,000. Without grants from Oregon's Department of Forestry and a local nonprofit, Chatterton says she would not have been able to afford that. Most of her neighbors, all longtime residents, face similar financial burdens. In recent years, the federal government has set aside funding for community outreach and hazardous fuels reduction in fire-prone areas. But it may not be reaching the people it's intended to help. A new study by Eugene, Ore.-based Resource Innovations shows that low-income households and communities in wildland areas, typically at the highest risk for wildfire damage, are often overlooked when it comes to funding. Around the West, there is growing concern that poor, at-risk areas are slipping through the cracks....
Babbitt knocks governor's infrastructure measure Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt blasted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed infrastructure bond measure Wednesday, saying it would encourage sprawl. Instead of doling out billions of dollars for highway improvements with few strings attached, the state should tie funding to smart-growth land-use policies, Babbitt told more than 200 people at a Commonwealth Club of California gathering. Babbitt, who served as secretary of the interior under President Bill Clinton, is on a six-month tour promoting his new book, "Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America." In it, he says nationwide policies and incentives should be created to prompt states and local jurisdictions to plan up to 50 years into the future, ensuring that rivers, open spaces and agricultural lands will be protected....
State seeks change to federal grizzly rule Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Terry Cleveland wants the federal government to make it clear that the state would determine where grizzly bears would be allowed in much of Wyoming once they're removed from federal protection. Because of the potential for conflict with humans, the state has determined that grizzlies likely won't be allowed in the Wyoming and Salt River ranges in western Wyoming, nor in the southern Wind River Mountains. While parts of those areas may be "biologically suitable" for the bears, their presence there wouldn't be "socially acceptable," Game and Fish says. But in its draft delisting rule document, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes in five places that grizzlies will be allowed to expand into suitable habitat, which is defined as having three characteristics: being of adequate habitat quality and quantity to support grizzly bear reproduction and survival; contiguous with the areas where bears are found now; and having low mortality risk for bears as indicated through "reasonable and manageable" levels of grizzly bear/human conflicts....
Hotter issue in red states: global warming Global warming isn't just a "blue state" issue anymore. From the Rocky Mountain West to the Southeast, influential red-state voices are beginning to call for more concerted efforts at local, state, and federal levels to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. And they are prodding Washington to address the challenge of adapting to the effects of global warming, which many scientists say are at work. So far, movement in a handful of red states has been modest when weighed against actions in California or the Northeast. But if this momentum is sustained, it will be harder for congressional and presidential candidates of either party to campaign in these states without backing more aggressive action to reduce emissions than the Bush administration has to date, some political analysts say....
Raising cattle for more than a century The cattle pulled at 4 tons of hay from both sides of the harobed truck as it made its way around the loop of the Settelmeyer's pasture in Northern Minden. Arnold Settelmeyer brought his 6-year-old granddaughter Caitlyn along for the ride in the cab Friday morning as Caitlyn's father James Settelmeyer and ranch employee Lupe Cueva stood in the back and tossed out the bales. The brown, white and black Hereford and Angus cows turned their heads and eyed the small, blue short-bed truck following close behind, then returned to the business of consuming food. Since 1890, five generations of Settelmeyers have made their living ranching the land in Carson Valley. James said they now run about 500 "mother-head" of cattle on their more than 1,000 acres....

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Former Forest Service firefighter admits to starting fires A former U-S Forest Service firefighter has admitted to starting three wildfires that burned more than 800 acres in a national forest during the summer of 2004. Craig Underwood pleaded guilty yesterday to charges he set the three fires in Los Padres National Forest between July to September of that year. It cost an estimated two-point-five (m) million dollars to put the wildfires out. A special agent with the U-S Department of Agriculture says an image of a car with Underwood's license plate was captured by a surveillance camera near a location where the first fire started....
Oregon's Academic Food Fight It isn't often an academic dean gets up in public and apologizes for participating in an effort to suppress the work of a graduate student. But that's exactly what Oregon State University College of Forestry Dean Hal Salwasser recently did. "I profoundly regret the negative debate that recent events have generated," he wrote in a letter to the college. Salwasser went further and said he should have congratulated the graduate student, Daniel Donato, for having his research published in the journal Science. Donato and five Oregon State University and U.S. Forest Service scientists concluded that logging in the Biscuit Burn in southern Oregon damaged seedlings growing back on their own and littered the forest floor with tinder that could fuel future fires. The Donato study conflicts with an earlier study conducted by Oregon State academic heavyweights John Sessions and Mike Newton. They concluded that salvage logging and reforestation after the Biscuit Burn could regenerate the forest faster than natural methods....
Scottsdale college works to re-establish rare frogs The lowland leopard frog, named for the black spots on its back and side, is being rescued from drought and fire through conservation efforts at Scottsdale Community College. Working with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the college's Center for Native and Urban Wildlife has rescued more than 100 frogs, which are nearing placement on the endangered-species list. The frogs were taken from the Cave Creek Watt Preserve,which was scorched during the state's largest desert wildfire last year. "When you think of deserts, you don't think of frogs," said Roy Barnes, director of the center. "But they are part of the community." Created in 2000, the center has saved many species, including the desert pupfish and the Huachuca water umbel plant, both endangered....
Rare caribou rack stolen from Idaho cabin Rare trophy antlers from a mountain caribou shot by an Idaho hunter in 1892 have been stolen from a cabin north of Priest River. Vandals who accessed the cabin by snowmobile in December smashed the old head mount and packed off the antlers, which had been considered special enough to tour in the Idaho exhibit to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Selkirk Mountain's caribou are the nation's rarest mammal. The handful that still exist are protected by the Endangered Species Act. In the 1800s, however, they were fair game, although they were a virtually inaccessible trophy for anyone but the most determined hunters in this region....
Exclusive Interview: H. Dale Hall, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service F&S:Should hunters be expecting more or less access to public land? Hall: One of my concerns is the future of hunting and the ability to recruit young hunters. With the cost of leases going up, public lands become extremely important, and we need to do everything possible to open up all opportunities for hunting so that we can make sure that it’s not an elite sport 50 years from now. F&S: How high is the issue of exploding wolf populations on the USFWS' priority list? Hall: It’s very high on our list. We were extremely disappointed with the Oregon decision where we were moving to down-list and de-list certain populations of the gray wolf, and turn it over to the management of the state where it should be when populations are healthy. That court case stopped all of that, which means that we have to continue to work even harder with the states in the interim to reach a solution. Finding the proper balance between predator-prey relationships is really important. When you’ve had a species in the environment that for a long time didn’t have one of its predators, then we reintroduce that predator, there has to be a new equilibrium that is reached between predator and prey. If we can’t manage and control the predator populations, the prey populations are the first to suffer. So we’re very concerned about that, and we’re working in every way that we can with the states to get that under control....
Lawmakers grill Forest Service on helicopter use to manage wolves Forest Service Regional chief Jack Troyer pledged Monday to help Idaho wildlife officials trap wolves in wilderness areas this summer. But the state's Department of Fish and Game proposal to dart wolves from helicopters will have to go through environmental review first, Troyer told a joint meeting of the Senate and House resource committees. Fish and Game wants to place radio collars on the wolves so they can learn where wolves den and hang out when their pups are young, said Steve Huffaker, Fish and Game Director. Lawmakers expressed frustration that their support for helicopter use doesn't pull as much weight as about 100 public comments against the plan and the threat of three wolf advocacy groups to sue....
Wolf hunt sparks boycott An animal rights group is renewing its call for tourists to boycott Alaska after legal challenges failed to end a program aimed at killing hundreds of wolves this winter. The move comes after the Alaska Supreme Court on Friday denied a request by Friends of Animals to halt the program. The judges also refused to review the case. The court did not provide an explanation. "As far as a tourism boycott, which I had called off, it will be organized again," Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien, Conn.-based group, said Monday. Over the past two years, Friends of Animals helped stage hundreds of demonstrations called howl-ins in cities across the country to protest Alaska's predator-control program, intended to allow moose and caribou to increase in numbers. Some activists were dressed in wolf outfits at the gatherings, and some howled in imitation of wolves to protest the hunts....
Art project wields big brush of controversy The proposed draping of the Arkansas River by the artists known as Christo and Jeanne-Claude already has destroyed the harmony of two towns and probably will wreck the traffic flow on a major U.S. highway. But no animals likely will die in the experiment - certainly not any trout. Whether this "Over the River" project tentatively scheduled for 2009 will disrupt fishing - or whether such a bizarre undertaking actually can be considered art - is quite another matter. "People are in fear of a huge traffic jam," Greg Felt, a partner in the ArkAnglers fly shops, said of the mob of curiosity- seekers expected to clog U.S. 50 between Salida and CaƱon City. Anglers and other citizens who shudder at the disruption this spectacle might bring have flooded the local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office with a chorus of condemnation. Business people rubbing palms over the prospect of these tourist hordes are singing a different song....
Reward offered in sign thefts in Kane County More than 20 signs along a popular road on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument have been stolen and Kane County hopes a $1,000 reward will lead to the arrest and conviction of the thief or thieves. County Commission members did not stop there, but also authorized decals to be put on some road signs offering a $250 reward for information on the theft or vandalism of any county, state or federal road sign. The stolen signs on the unpaved Hole-in-the-Rock Road and some roads connected to it consisted of a post with a county road number pasted on it and a decal indicating the road was open to all-terrain vehicle travel. Commission chairman Mark Habbeshaw said monument manger David Hunsaker called him Jan. 24 to report the theft of the signs. One sign was found lying on the ground next to where it was removed and another had been bent over and buried with dirt. The reward offer comes at a time when the county is in negotiations with the U.S. Department of the Interior over control of the roads in the southern Utah county that consists of mostly public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, including the 1.9 million acre monument....
Court won't let Pilgrim family drive to its land A federal appeals court has once again rejected the Pilgrim family's right to drive a bulldozer to its land inside a national park without going through a lengthy permit process and environmental review. The McCarthy-area family -- whose patriarch, Robert Hale, adopted the name Pilgrim -- became a celebrated cause for some land-rights groups in 2003 after the National Park Service rejected the Hales' bid to use an old mining road to access private land inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Hale had aggravated park officials by driving a bulldozer over the old route to get building supplies after a cabin burned down in winter. Represented by the non-profit Pacific Legal Foundation, Hale had battled the Park Service over its permit requirements, but lost in the U.S. District Court and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In March, 2004, the 9th Circuit agreed to reconsider its initial terse dismissal. The administration of Gov. Frank Murkowski filed a brief on the Hales' side, while several environmental groups joined the Park Service. Two years later, after weighing full briefs and hearing oral arguments, a three-judge panel again rejected the lawsuit last week, reaching conclusions similar to those of District Judge Ralph Beistline in 2003....
Old roads, ruts relics of state's history GLO stands for General Land Office. Congress formed it in 1812. Its job was to oversee Congress' order that the new lands the United States acquired from France, Spain and other countries were explored, surveyed and settled. Carla Krause, the city's Special Services Administrator in the Public Works Department, explained to council members in January how GLO roads in Montana grew from that effort. Back in the 1800s, when Montana was in the public domain, the federal government set aside some geographical features for public rights of way. Some roads were put in, but they didn't always follow exactly the set-aside right of way. And not every right of way was traveled. The closest local government was in charge of taking care of the rights of way. The General Land Office merged with the U.S. Grazing Service in 1946 to form the Bureau of Land Management. But the GLO roads surveyed so long ago remain. Landowners may not even know they exist on their property....
Pipe water to the Platte? Coal-bed methane producers might create new options for managing millions of barrels of water pumped by gas wells if they collaborate on a project. That's the idea behind a proposal by Gov. Dave Freudenthal in his "State of the state" address Monday to construct a pipeline from northeast Wyoming to the North Platte River to discharge coal-bed methane water. Pending approval by the Legislature, the Wyoming Water Development Commission would conduct a $500,000 feasibility study to determine support and whether the logistics make sense. Jon Wade, deputy director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission, said pumping coal-bed methane water to the Platte would help Wyoming meet its water appropriation obligations on the river. However, some groups such as the Powder River Basin Resource Council say that piping the water to the Nebraska-bound Platte defeats the state's mission of keeping and making good use of its water resources....
State plans to fight underground fire burning since 1910 The state will take a stab this year at fighting an underground fire that has burned in South Canyon since 1910 and sparked the destructive 2002 Coal Seam blaze. That wildfire destroyed 29 homes in the Glenwood Springs area. The Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology plans to seek bids from contractors to try to seal off openings and cut off airflow to the underground coal seam where the fire is burning. The Coal Seam Fire started when the underground fire ignited vegetation on the surface. High winds quickly drove the wildfire east to the Glenwood Springs area. After that catastrophe, the state did exploratory drilling in the area of the underground fire to get a better understanding of where the fire is burning and where there are underground vents and cavities. Steve Renner, project manager for the Division of Minerals and Geology's inactive mines program, said the area has at least four collapsed mine openings in which air is still feeding the fire. The ground also has collapsed in a few other areas, providing additional sources of oxygen....
Editorial: The trees for the forest IN A NEAT BIT OF CIRCULAR reasoning, the Bush administration is proposing to sell parts of America's national forests in order to save them. The U.S. Forest Service's budget is too thin to manage its lands and maintain its programs, and the president's answer to the problem, rather than increasing the Forest Service's budget, is to cut it further and pay for programs with proceeds from the sale of forest land. It's not that Forest Service land is sacrosanct. Land holdings can lose their value to the public. Proposals last year to sell some Forest Service holdings, such as lots in the middle of industrial areas, were a reasonable way to get rid of liabilities and bring in money. But give the administration a tree and it will take a forest. The president's proposal would amount to the biggest sell-off ever of forest land — 300,000 acres — with California taking an especially big hit. If the sales were raising money to purchase other land more valuable to the nation's heritage, this move would be defensible, even sensible. But President Bush's budget plan is to use the proceeds to make its annual contribution to programs for rural schools and roads. Sales of land represent a one-time capital gain. Schools and roads — or other programs — will need funding year after year....
Idaho strives to restore dwindling elk herds The Clearwater River Basin was once considered elk-hunting heaven. Huge fires in 1910, 1919 and 1934 created vast open slopes where brush that elk favor flourished. Hunters had little trouble finding animals for much of the 1950s to 1980s. "It's safe to say I could see 100 head in 10 days of hunting," said Jim Metcalf of Kamiah, who has been hunting the Lolo Hunting Zone for 25 years. "And today I saw one cow and I hunted 20 days this year and that cow was really spooky." The habitat slowly changed. By the mid-20th century, the U.S. Forest Service aggressively fought and suppressed wildfires. The open country closed in over the decades, and the once-lush slopes became crowded with aged brush. Tall shrubs offered poor nutritional value for elk and the thick stands of trees helped predators like mountain lions and bears. The elk population began to slide....
Forest Service Cancels Logging Near Grand Canyon The federal government has canceled plans to set controlled fires and conduct forest thinning on more than 17,000 acres of old-growth timber near the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The U.S. Forest Service called off the project because so much time had elapsed since it was first proposed that new studies of the area's bird populations would be required, said Cathie Schmidlin, a spokeswoman for the Kaibab National Forest. The project drew criticism from environmentalists who sued in federal court to stop it, alleging the plan would not restore the health of the forest and that wildlife would not be protected. A federal judge ruled in the government's favor last year, but environmental groups filed an appeal....
Group Charges Wolf Creek Developer Also Colluded With County Letters between attorneys for the billionaire developer of the proposed Wolf Creek village and Mineral County officials who approved the project in the fall show the developers guided the approval process, project opponents charged yesterday. Colorado Wild acquired the documents after a Colorado Open Records Act request in September 2004. Key drafts of the letters, though, that the group claims clearly show the county and attorneys for B. J. “Red” McCombs working together had been withheld by the county from documents first turned over last year following the request. Also on Monday, state Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez, who has been a growing critic of the project and the role of the Forest Service in the development’s approval process, announced he will introduce a bill in the Colorado House that will call for a independent federal investigation into the lobbying by the developers. Larson also said he is seeking a separate state probe into Mineral County’s controversial approval of the project and subsequent withholding of the key documents on the approval....
Lawmakers Plan an Effort to Reverse Royalty Relief Democratic lawmakers and the White House both said on Tuesday that oil and gas companies should not receive lucrative incentives when energy prices are near record highs. The lawmakers and senior Bush administration officials were responding to a report in The New York Times on Tuesday that energy companies are expected to avoid $7 billion in royalty payments to the federal government over the next five years. The Interior Department forecasts that energy companies will produce about $65 billion worth of oil and gas in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico on which they will not pay any royalties to taxpayers. Administration officials say their hands are tied on the royalties by laws dating back to 1996 and then sweetened by the Clinton administration. Two Senate Democrats, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Maria Cantwell of Washington State, said that they were drafting legislation to change the government's rules....
Farm animal registration may become mandatory Freddie Dale, a fourth-generation cattle rancher near this northeast Texas town, insists he's as independent-minded as the next rancher. But he's about to let the government into his business. Mr. Dale plans to list his ranch, including land that's been in his wife's family for generations, as part of a voluntary statewide registration program for all locales with livestock – from cattle and emus to chickens. The program – which Texas animal health officials Thursday may make mandatory – is the first in a three-part animal identification system....

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Nevada Live Stock Association
9732 State Route 443, #350
Sparks, Nevada 89436
775.577.9120

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 14, 2006

NLSA Chairman Helen Chenoweth-Hage Questions Sheriff’s Authority to Deputize Federal Employees

(RENO, NV) The members of the Nevada Live Stock Association were surprised to learn recently that the Eureka County Sheriff was invited to Washington D.C. to a meeting with Interior Department officials to, in part, discuss the issue of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) law enforcement on lands in Nevada. According to news reports, an agreement was struck between the sheriff and BLM officials describing the fact that the sheriff would “deputize” the BLM employees, thus granting them law enforcement authority under his office. Our first surprise was that the Eureka County Sheriff was involved in this issue because, one of his strongest and most ardent campaign promises was that he was not going to allow federal law enforcement by the land management agencies to occur in his county.

Now, in response to the public outcry, the sheriff attempts to assure his voters that the BLM employees will only have law enforcement authority on “fee lands”. By that term, we surmise that he means the grazing allotments appurtenant to rancher’s base properties. However, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that these “fee lands” are lands to which the rancher has title proven by an exhaustive chain of title.

There are still some unanswered questions the sheriff, district attorney and BLM employees should answer.

1. By what authority does a county sheriff, who is a state official, grant law enforcement authority to a federal employee to carry out federal law enforcement on lands within the state of Nevada?

2. Is there a Nevada statute which morphs the county and state authority into federal authority?

3. If there is no Nevada statute governing this extension of the county sheriff’s authority, can the county sheriff then “deputize” BLM employees to enforce state law while they are dressed in federal uniforms and using federal vehicles with all the accouterments of a law enforcement vehicle?

4. While some federal employees may cite Article l, Section 8, Clause17 of the U.S. Constitution, it is well settled law that the land referred to in this section of the Constitution are federal enclaves. Any lands within the state of Nevada, which would carry this designation, must first be designated as a federal enclave by the Nevada State Legislature. This, quite simply, has not occurred on any land parcels in Eureka County, and rarely in the neighboring counties. Therefore, where is the federal authority for BLM to patrol the “fee lands” as agreed by you and the BLM?

5. When a county sheriff takes the oath of office, they swore to uphold the Constitution of the state of Nevada and all of its laws thereof. Can any individual, federal, state or county employee swear an oath to two separate and distinct governments at the same time?

6. How much money is the Eureka County Sheriff’s Department receiving from the federal government? How much are they receiving from Eureka County taxpayers? Who is the Sheriff really loyal too?

It is worthy to note that the U.S. Constitution authorizes federal law enforcement of only four types of laws: 1) the counterfeiting of coin, money or value enforcement power; 2) acts of Piracies and Felonies committed on the high seas; 3) offenses against the Law of Nations, and; 4) acts of treason involving areas of federal concern. It must be noted that the Bill of Rights and the Tenth Amendment specifically reserve to the states all powers not granted to the federal government. For example, under BLM regulations a citizen may be imprisoned for up to 11 months and 29 days and fined a fortune WITHOUT A JURY TRIAL! On the other hand, the Nevada Constitution guarantee’s you a jury trial, even for a $50 traffic ticket. The Sheriff cannot surrender a citizen’s rights under the Nevada Constitution by illegally surrendering his authority to the BLM and Forest Service’s rules and regulations.

Alexander Hamilton, the most determined nationalist of his time, explained that state governments, not the federal government, would have the power of law enforcement and that that power would play a major role in ensuring that the states were not overwhelmed by the federal government: “There is one transcendent advantage belonging to the province of the State governments, which alone suffices to place the matter in a clear and satisfactory light – I mean the ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice.”

Local law enforcement agencies spend local tax dollars and are directly accountable to local voters. In contrast, federal law enforcement employees spend from a vast pool of “other people’s money” and are subject, at most, to very indirect democratic control.

Recently, in U.S. v. Lopez, the Supreme Court reminded Congress that “states possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law.” Four short years later the U.S. Supreme Court repeated this opinion in Prinz v. U.S. The justices were clear in their findings: “there has never been a general grant of law enforcement authority to the federal agencies.”

One key reason for the growth of the false assertion of federal law enforcement in the federal land management agencies, which extend beyond our constitutional protections, has been the gullibility of the media and the public and the willingness of the federal agencies to assert powers they do not possess. This assertion has been addressed in Nevada State Law: NRS 200.200 which states that the impersonation of a law enforcement officer is a Class “D” felony.

I think it is time for the sheriff and the BLM to explain themselves further to a very concerned public and specifically answer the questions outlined above.


Respectfully,


Helen Chenoweth-Hage

Chairman

Contacts: Helen Chenoweth-Hage, 775.482.4187
Jackie Holmgren, 406.321.1215
Ramona Morrison, 775.424.0570



# # #
NEWS ROUNDUP


Ranchers vow fight over rural growth
Setting the stage for a major land-use battle, a coalition of environmentalists plans to begin collecting signatures today for a ballot measure to set strict new development rules for hillsides, ranches and large farms across Santa Clara County. The Sierra Club, Greenbelt Alliance, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society and other members of the coalition -- which already has $300,000 in the bank -- must collect 36,040 signatures from registered county voters to qualify for the November ballot, something they and their opponents expect will happen. The measure, which farmers and ranchers fear would drive down the value of their land, would affect nearly half of Santa Clara County's 839,000 acres. The complex proposal would essentially do two things. First, it would reduce the number of homes that could be built in unincorporated, rural areas along the east foothills of the Diablo Range from Milpitas to Gilroy, the Santa Cruz Mountains from Gilroy to Los Altos and east of Mount Hamilton. On lands zoned for ranching, for example, it would allow only one home per 160 acres, down from up to eight homes per 160 acres now. It also would set limits for new development in those areas: curbing the amount of square footage that could be built per parcel, reducing building on ridgelines and banning building unless adequate water is available. The measure would not affect land within city limits....
Predator Control Once Again Comes Within The Crosshairs Of Critics A few weeks ago, aerial marksmen working for the federed agency Wildlife Services climbed into a plane and cut a path across the Sonoran desert to kill coyotes in advance of the cattle calving season. It's a taxpayer-subsidized event that every spring is repeated across the West. It's been happening for decades. It's resulted in millions of dead coyotes over the years.It's been an annual short-term fix to cut livestock losses set against the backdrop of a long-term trend yielding more coyotes in America today than at any other time in recent history. Wildlife predators, like coyotes, wolves, bears, cougars, eagles etc., which by legal definition, belong to the public, kill livestock which belong to private operators. Depending upon your point of view, there are differing opinions about what should hold primacy, native wildlife or domestic livestock. It becomes more complicated when you consider that ranchers often own the vital winter range that big game species need in order to survive. he question of who should pay for predator eradication gets especially tricky when private operators are grazing their cattle and sheep on public land, such as on tracts administered by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management....
Environmental groups sue to stop elk slaughter Three environmental groups are suing the federal government to halt a controversial "test-and-slaughter" program aimed at brucellosis-exposed elk in Wyoming and force a hard look at the possibility of phasing out elk feedgrounds. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the Wyoming Outdoor Council filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, Wyo. Every winter, the state of Wyoming feeds 10,000 or more elk on hay lines scattered across 13 feedgrounds on U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management land. It has other feedgrounds on private land. A wide variety of scientists agree the practice fosters brucellosis by forcing the animals to gather much more closely than they would in the wild....
Timber cutting plan wins on a split decision A federal judge has issued a split decision over a challenge by a pair of environmental groups to the Ashley National Forest's land-use plan and a proposed timber sale. U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell upheld the contention of the Utah Environmental Congress and High Uintas Preservation Council that Ashley officials erred when they pared their list of "management indicator species" - used to help monitor overall forest health - from 12 species to two in their forest planning process. Campbell, however, upheld the proposed Trout Slope timber sale, ruling that the Forest Service's approval of the 2,000-acre project was "legally sufficient." Ashley National Forest officials Monday declined comment on the ruling. A call to the Utah Environmental Congress was not immediately returned....
Government Proposes Cuts to Counties with Public Lands Call him PILT-down man. Officials in southwest Colorado’s La Plata and San Juan counties are calling President Bush – or at least his proposed 2007 budget – worse things this week following the 16-percent reduction in PILT funds in the President’s budget submitted last week. Payments in Lieu of Taxes are federal funds distributed to compensate for property taxes in counties with large areas of public land. In southwest Colorado, these mean Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service lands, which comprise some 70 percent of land ownership in western and southern Colorado. In 2005, Colorado received $16.8 million from the program. Statewide, the cuts are estimated at $2 million....
Land Management Professionals Take the Fight for Native Ecosystems to the Nation's Capitol Representatives from some of America's most beautiful public and private lands will congregate in Washington, D.C., for National Invasive Weed Awareness Week (NIWAW7), which will be hosted by the Invasive Weed Awareness Coalition (IWAC), February 26-March 3, 2006. NIWAW attendees come from varying backgrounds, but share a common goal: to manage invasive weeds in the United States and protect our native ecosystems. Now in its seventh year, NIWAW focuses on sharing invasive weed information with government officials and collaborating with experts to address what has become a national and global environmental concern. Non-native plant infestations continue to spread across the United States and weed experts will continue to work through IWAC to educate others on the impacts of these plant invasions. During the week, NIWAW participants will help members of Congress and congressional staff to understand the economic and environmental threat of invasive and noxious weeds to our nation. Participants will showcase successful control strategies and tactics in an effort to expand opportunities for success in new locations that face similar challenges. In 2004, President Bush signed the Noxious Weed Control and Eradication Act, which authorized noxious weed control programs....
Wildcat drilling plan draws concern An independent oil and gas producer is proposing a small exploratory drilling project in the Big Piney Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, according to federal officials. Conservationists are objecting to the project and contend oil and gas development doesn't belong in the Wyoming Range. Officials with the Wilderness Society said the U.S. Forest Service should wait until a final forest plan revision is completed before issuing any permits to drill in the Bridger-Teton. District Ranger Greg Clark said in a "scoping" notice the Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Co. is proposed to drill three exploratory oil and gas wells on leases located about seven miles southeast of Bondurant....
Oil, gas plan fuels protests Environmental groups are challenging proposed oil and gas lease sales on more than 100,000 acres near the Green River and San Rafael River, on the San Rafael desert of southern Utah, and near Dinosaur National Monument in the state's northeast. The leases are among those the Bureau of Land Management conditionally expects to offer on Feb. 21. However, about a week prior to the sale, agency experts will winnow their prospective list and may delete some of the areas. Altogether, BLM is considering offering leases on 172,095 acres on 109 parcels statewide, with the majority in the areas covered by the agency's Vernal and Price field offices, in a regular quarterly lease offering. The oil and gas industry had requested leases on another 188,689 acres on 127 parcels, but the BLM is deferring leases on those areas. The deferred areas could be offered in future sales, said Adrienne Babbitt, spokeswoman for the BLM. Some might be withheld at this time because of considerations such as new land-use plans not yet completed, she said. But many of the parcels not taken out of the lease sale, at least for now, are questioned by the conservationists....
Bald eagle closer to leaving endangered species nest The American bald eagle, after battling back from the threat of extinction because of habitat loss and DDT, took another step Monday toward coming off the endangered species list. The Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service issued a draft of voluntary guidelines spelling out how landowners, land managers and others should protect the bird once it no longer is safeguarded by the 1973 law. It also proposed prohibitions on "disturbing" the bald eagle, which could include anything that would disrupt its breeding, feeding or sheltering or cause injury, death or nest abandonment. The Clinton administration proposed removing the bald eagle from the endangered species list in 1999. But the delisting has taken far longer than the typical year, partly because updated counts are required from each of the states, and some of those have their own rules that add to red tape. Officials said Monday's action could lead to the bald eagle coming off the endangered species list within the next year or so....
Early California: A killing field When explorers and pioneers visited California in the 1700s and early 1800s, they were astonished by the abundance of birds, elk, deer, marine mammals, and other wildlife they encountered. Since then, people assumed such faunal wealth represented California's natural condition – a product of Native Americans' living in harmony with the wildlife and the land and used it as the baseline for measuring modern environmental damage. That assumption now is collapsing because University of Utah archaeologist Jack M. Broughton spent seven years – from 1997 to 2004 – painstakingly picking through 5,736 bird bones found in an ancient Native American garbage dump on the shores of San Francisco Bay. He determined the species of every bone, or, when that wasn't possible, at least the family, and used the bones to reconstruct a portrait of human bird-hunting behavior spanning 1,900 years. Broughton concluded that California wasn't always a lush Eden before settlers arrived. Instead, from 2,600 to at least 700 years ago, native people hunted some species to local extinction, and wildlife returned to "fabulous abundances" only after European diseases decimated Indian populations starting in the 1500s. Broughton's study of bird bones, published in Ornithological Monographs, mirrors earlier research in which he found that fish such as sturgeon, mammals such as elk, and other wildlife also sustained significant population declines at the hands of ancient Indian hunters....
Number of tricolored blackbirds decreasing The population of tricolored blackbirds has been plummeting for decades but the federal government has failed to list them as endangered, a group claimed in a lawsuit filed Monday. The Center for Biological Diversity initially filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004, asking for the bird to be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The group claimed the agency's failure to act on their request for 16 months led to the federal lawsuit, which asks for emergency protection. It cited studies showing the tricolored blackbird population declined from the millions in the 1930s to about 162,000 in 2000. The population has continued to drop as birds deprived of their natural habitat by development and farming try to nest among crops, where their nests are plowed over during harvest....
Stream invaders may harm trout Every two months for the past six years, ecologist Dave Richards has scouted a 60-foot-long stretch of the Snake River near Twin Falls, Idaho. He collects cobbles from the river, carefully rinses them in a bucket of water, then counts what he's washed off the rocks: hordes of minuscule New Zealand mud snails. Richards estimates there are 100,000 to 500,000 New Zealand mud snails per square meter on the rocks along about 60 miles of the Snake. The snails graze on algae, and in such high densities, he says, that "they gobble up everything." That's a troubling image, because Richards' sampling area is the beachhead of a biological invasion - it's where New Zealand mud snails were first discovered in the United States, back in the mid-1980s. Since then, the invaders have spread to every Western state except New Mexico....
PFS gets desert N-dump license Private Fuel Storage received the first-ever license for commercial, off-site storage of nuclear waste from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday, but a series of obstacles remain before the proposed facility can open its gates in Utah. Specifically, the group of electric utilities seeking to store 44,000 tons of reactor fuel on the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation still has to find an acceptable way to deliver the waste to the site 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, and has to sell the storage space to enough reactor operators to make the economics add up. It also must prevail in a legal challenge filed by the state....
Hearing planned on OSU logging controversy U.S. Rep. Greg Walden announced Monday the details for a congressional field hearing later this month on managing forests damaged by catastrophic events, a hot topic since the release of a controversial Oregon State University study last month. The House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, which is chaired by the Oregon Republican, will review the findings of the OSU study Feb. 24 in Medford. The hearing begins at 1 p.m. in Medford City Hall. Walden, who has co-sponsored a bill to make salvage logging easier after large fires, said the meeting should allow the author of the study — and some of his critics — to weigh in. The three-year study by OSU graduate student Daniel Donato made headlines, and a federal agency suspended funding for study’s final year, further inflaming a debate over how to treat the millions of acres of national forest that burn each year....
Some Trans Texas Corridor details are being kept very quiet Among the Trans Texas Corridor's most fervent opponents are farmers and ranchers who are closely tied to family land. Many are like Susan Ridgeway Garry of Coupland, a small, rural community in the Austin area. "When you say the Trans Texas Corridor 'will be built on state land handed to investors,' you leave out an important step," she wrote. "It is not currently state land, it is Texas citizens' land, some of which has been in the same family for generations." The state intends to take at least 548,000 acres of land — most of it from private owners through eminent domain — in swaths as wide as three football fields laid end to end. On the 4,000 miles of new right of way, the plans call for four sets of vehicular lanes, two rail lanes, and easements, both above and underground, for utilities. The corridor will have no frontage roads, such as those along the interstate highway system that have fostered economic development in many communities. Instead, vehicular access to the tollways will be only from interstate, U.S. and some state highways that intersect it through expensive interchanges. Other intersecting roads — such as farm-to-market roads, county roads, local highways and two-lane state highways — will not provide access to the corridor....
The cost to condemn: going up? Condemnation actions for open space could become much more expensive in the near future, if a bill makes its way through the Colorado legislature. House Bill 1208 will increase the costs of condemnation by as little as 25 percent and as much as 100 percent by giving an extra lump of money to the landowner on top of the "fair market value." The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud, is concerned with the rights of those whose property is being condemned. "What we should be doing is asking ourselves what the owner has lost," he said. The bill would apply only to condemnation actions that begin after the bill goes into effect. It's not retroactive, and so would not affect Telluride's condemnation case. At least two other bills are also working their way through the Colorado State legislature that look to restrict condemnation or make it more difficult for municipalities....
Foe of Endangered Species Act on Defensive Over Abramoff Growing up on the family ranch here, Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy) says, he learned that "you have to work till you're done. There's nobody else to pick up the slack." It's a lesson he carried from the fields of the northern San Joaquin Valley to the committee rooms of Congress, where for more than a decade he has doggedly labored to undo one of America's signature environmental laws, the Endangered Species Act. After finally getting a bill through the House last fall that would eliminate habitat protections on more than 150 million acres, Pombo has never been closer to reaching his goal. But as the Senate prepares to take up his measure this year, Pombo finds himself on the defensive, with his ideology increasingly viewed as extreme and his connections to industry and to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff under scrutiny. A seven-term Republican and chairman of the influential House Resources Committee, Pombo is a tax-cutting, anti-abortion, anti-gun-control conservative. But it is the 33-year-old species law that has been his political obsession....
Still rustling up business Cattle rustlers aren’t hanged anymore, but stealing so much as a single calf qualifies as a felony, with a rustling conviction capable of putting someone in prison for up to 10 years and bringing a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Wyoming Livestock Board Law Enforcement Administrator Jim Siler said livestock theft is not just a thing of the past. With four livestock investigators, his agency “ran over 400 cases last year,” Siler said, the majority of which involved theft, as well as others associated with animal health and welfare. “The truth of the matter is there is a lot of theft that goes on,” Siler said. At the moment, investigators are checking into a case involving 15 head of cows that are missing east of Cheyenne. With cows going for $1,400 to $1,700 a head, the illegal sale of just 10 head of cows could bring $17,000. When just one or two head of livestock are reported missing, Siler said brand inspectors will assist ranchers in combing their grazing ranges for lost animals or look for carcasses. But as a general rule, when it’s five or more animals, “your suspicions grow that it is a theft,” Siler said. When a horse is reported missing, “It’s very rare it’s just lost. It’s usually stolen.”....
It's All Trew: Pampa man's diary tells story of 1936 A diary dated 1936, acquired at an estate sale, recorded the thoughts of William Floyd Jr. of Pampa during this difficult period of our Panhandle history. It is a day-to-day story about drought, hard financial times and family. Yes, this is a “true” story. Between hard work, long hours and little spending money, there are many “average everyday life” descriptions among the pages. On Jan. 30 the family listened to wrestling on the radio. I’ll bet there aren’t many radio wrestling announcers around anymore. On Feb. 4, “wife & self “ saw “The Farmer Takes A Wife” at the local Pampa theater. The temperature was four above zero. He also noted a payment made on their newly purchased Bible and cleaned his .22-caliber rifle. Next day, it warmed up to 32 degrees and they bought $4.37 worth of merchandise from the Fuller Brush man....