Friday, May 12, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Enviro v. enviro Western Montanans are well accustomed to fiery clashes over all things environmental, and the frequent squaring off that typically leaves conservationists (“Obstructionists!”) in one corner and the timber industry (“Shortsighted pillagers!”) in another. What’s not so familiar, though, is aggressive public discord within one side or the other, like what’s currently being seen on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, where three prominent Montana conservation groups are under attack by kindred organizations. At issue is a proposal that representatives from Montana Wilderness Association (MWA), National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Montana Trout Unlimited (MTU) wrote jointly with five timber-reliant groups and herald as a “new era of cooperation,” and which others pan as a needless hand-off of roadless lands to industry interests. “Green Scammers: Behind closed doors, self-appointed interlopers sold out your Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest!” reads the sizable ad printed May 4 in the Missoula Independent and Helena’s Queen City News, paid for by Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Deerlodge Forest Defense Fund, Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan, Montana Ecosystems Defense Council and Native Ecosystems Council. The ads respond to an April 24 press conference at which the coalition of Sun Mountain Lumber, Roseburg Forest Products, Pyramid Mountain Lumber, RY Lumber and Smurfit-Stone Container—in concert with MWA, NWF and MTU—unveiled their “new vision” for the 3.3 million-acre Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest....
Access denied It's said that 14,000-foot mountains are Colorado's heritage. In the United States, 75 percent of the landscape that rises 10,000 feet above sea level is here. That includes 54 pinnacles above 14,000 feet. "We are the nation's high country," says T.J. Rapoport of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, a nonprofit coalition working for what can seem a contradicting mission: access to and protection of the mountains. Summiting, or "bagging," 14,000-foot peaks is like collecting baseball cards: Once you've attained one, you want to gain the whole set. And peakbagging has gone trendy. About half a million people climbed a 14,000-foot mountain in the Centennial State in 2005. During the summers, some hikers travel around the state, like Deadheads on Red Bull, stalking the highest summits. But this mob is overwhelming high-altitude environments, even as it clamors for steady access to them....
An Inferno Rages Over Federal Wildfire Policy The politics of academic research are said to be more vicious than normal citizen politics—and even citizen politics are bitter these days. The two recently intertwined against a backdrop of the nation’s policy on wildfire, and the result is a deeply tangled underbrush of confusion and self-interest that accentuates the continuing paralysis of the U.S. Forest Service. The fundamental issue is how to keep our western forests in decent condition. Federal lands produce very little timber these days (about six percent of the nation’s timber). With hardly anyone cutting down trees (and with buildup due to past fire suppression), saplings and underbrush are creating thickets of fuel that turn into tinderboxes. The result, nearly every summer, is fires racing over hundreds of thousands of acres. To stop future fires, the Bush Administration initiated the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, a law passed in 2003 that was supposed to reduce the buildup by short-circuiting the ability of environmentalists to litigate decisions to cut trees. It’s not clear that it really speeds much up (for reasons we don’t have room for here). But in addition, it doesn’t specifically address what happens after a fire. Now we move to the Biscuit fire in southwestern Oregon, where, in 2002, wildfire swept across 500,000 acres. Once the flames went out, the Forest Service got to work on a plan for post-fire restoration, including salvage logging. Although only about five percent of the burned area was initially scheduled for logging, the final plan ended up being the largest timber sale in the area in recent history. Opponents have resisted at every step, through the appeals process, court cases, protests, sit-ins, and road blocks....
Forest official criticizes fire-safety training bill A top U.S. Forest Service official on Wednesday attacked a bill that would require his agency to track money spent on safety training for federal and privately contracted firefighters. Forest Service Deputy Chief Joel Holtrop told a Senate subcommittee that the agency agrees with the intent of the Wildland Firefighter Safety Act, sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. The bill also would require privately contracted firefighters to receive the same training as federal firefighters. But Holtrop said the agency's bookkeeping makes it too difficult to determine how much it spends on safety training. Holtrop said the Forest Service already is responding to issues raised in the agency's own investigation of training for privately contracted firefighters. The Forest Service is using a new computer system to track numbers and types of firefighting accidents, which will allow the agency to look for accident trends, he said. The Forest Service investigation, released in March, found that nearly one-third of the contracted firefighters reviewed were improperly trained or had no training records. The study cited instances of faked certifications and whole firefighting crews of non-English speakers who couldn't understand their leaders' commands....
Spring rise starts at midnight tonight, Corps of Engineers says The long-disputed artificial spring rise on the Missouri River will begin at midnight tonight, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says. A corps spokesman said water conditions are right to begin releasing water from upstream reservoirs in South Dakota to encourage spawning by the pallid sturgeon, a fish on the endangered species list. After the pulse begins, the amount of water released will steadily increase to a two-day peak Sunday and Monday. Starting Tuesday, releases will be gradually reduced over a 10-day period until they return to the level needed for minimum navigation flows. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has filed suit in federal court to stop the spring rise from taking place, but the judge has not yet made a decision. Missouri officials fear the release of water could flood thousands of acres of Missouri farmland along the river. Corps officials dispute that, saying they carefully considered downstream water levels before approving the spring rise....
Complaints about alligators soar But in 1970, the federal government placed the alligator on the endangered species list and prosecuted some hunters. Alligator numbers surged, increasing so fast that many biologists questioned whether the alligator was ever really endangered. Today, an estimated 1 to 2 million of them inhabit Florida's rivers, lakes, swamps and canals. Alligator attacks, such as the one that killed a woman Wednesday in Sunrise, remain extremely rare. But the number of "nuisance" alligator complaints has soared, as more and more people crowd among the canals and swamps in which the reptiles live. The number of nuisance complaints rose to 18,072 in 2004 from 7,289 in 1984. Complaints considered legitimate go to trappers, who can kill the alligator. In 2004, trappers killed 7,352 alligators in response to nuisance complaints. While trappers used to act only in response to complaints, now they can trap alligators at any time in certain populated places. These include swimming areas and boat ramps. The state has more than 200 of these open-harvest areas, but clearly they're not foolproof....
Land auction enters ferret habitat The federal Bureau of Land Management auctioned more than 150,000 Colorado acres for oil and gas development Thursday - including prime habitat for the endangered black-footed ferret. In the $6.8 million lease sale, one of the largest ever in Colorado, oil and gas companies bid on about 155,000 of 192,000 acres offered. Protests have been filed by environmental and recreation groups on 86 percent of the offered parcels. BLM spokeswoman Theresa Sauer said the agency will review all of the protested leases before proceeding and refund lease payments on any protests that are upheld. The agency offered a majority of the land where it is trying to establish a colony of endangered black-footed ferrets....
Warm-water fishing stamp not raising expected money for hatchery A warm-water fishing stamp that lawmakers hoped would fund operations at the state's new fish hatchery at Fort Peck has raised less than half of the money needed. The $22.7 million Fort Peck Multi-Species Fish Hatchery that opened in January needs an estimated $500,000 to operate each year. However, the $5 warm-water stamp has raised only about $225,000, said Chris Hunter, head of fisheries for the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department. A regional advisory committee is recommending some changes to make up for the shortfall, including requiring everybody fishing east of the Continental Divide to buy the stamp, including those who fish on Canyon Ferry Reservoir near Helena. Currently, the stamp is only required to fish on certain lakes and streams....
Two Views of 'Endangered Species Day' By proclamation of the U.S. Senate, May 11 is the first-ever "Endangered Species Day." While some are celebrating America's "commitment to protecting and recovering endangered species," a conservative group calls this a perfect time to "end the perverse incentives that pit property owners against wildlife." The Endangered Species Coalition -- which describes itself as the guardian of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 -- says the goal of this day is simple: " to educate people about the importance of protecting our rare, threatened, and endangered animal and plant species." Wait a minute, says the National Center for Policy Analysis, which believes that "bureaucratic wrangling" prompted by the Endangered Species Act has endangered both animals and people. CPA Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett says private property owners should be provided with an incentive to "create, enhance and improve habitat for endangered species," since 75 percent of those endangered species depend either entirely or in part on private property owners for their habitat requirements. "The best solution is for property owners to be compensated when the government imposes restrictions to preserve species, just as they would if the land were taken for any other public purpose," Burnett said....
BLM, NPS discuss impact of promoting the Old Spanish Trail Will promoting the first overland trail to California from New Mexico and points east lead to damage to the fragile trail that runs near Barstow and through Ft. Irwin? Several speakers at a joint Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park Service (NPS) planning meeting in Barstow Tuesday night for the Old Spanish Trail said they feared that was the case. The meeting was one of over 20 to be held in communities on or near the trail. The trail was a pack horse and mule trail from Santa Fe, N.M., to the Los Angeles area. It was a trade route for traders of woolen goods from New Mexico and horse and mule traders from California and Arizona. The trail was the first western portion of what would become a coast-to-coast, east-to-west trail and helped open the West to European migration, beginning in the 1800s. The purpose of the meetings is to find out what the communities along the trail are interested in, how they see themselves in relation to the trail and the opportunities for the trail in the local communities....
Bats make some uneasy in wake of rabies case For some, bats remain mysterious creatures of the night, forever demonized in horror flicks. But in Houston and other cities, bats have become part of the urban landscape, an attraction even. "There are bats that live all over the Greater Houston area," said Diana Foss, an urban biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, who noted that 11 species live here. News of an Humble teen infected with rabies from a bat bite, however, has some residents worried about the winged mammals living among them and some biologists stressing safety precautions. Word of the rabies case made resident Janet Jenkins uneasy about the large colony roosting in the dark crevices under the Waugh Drive bridge near her home. She wondered Wednesday about the safety of those who run along the bayou or families who gather in a nearby park....
In Navajo country, a battle brews over proposed power plant But this is also the center of a brewing battle over what would be one of the biggest economic development projects in Indian Country _ a $2.5 billion coal-fired power plant that would serve major cities in the Southwest. Houston-based Sithe Global Power and tribal administrators want to build the plant near the tribe's Burnham Chapter. After years of work, a 50-year lease agreement that would enable the plant to be built on Navajo land is set to come before the tribal council for consideration. The Desert Rock Energy Project in northwestern New Mexico would produce 1,500 megawatts of electricity, enough to power up to 1.5 million homes. It's expected to provide more than 1,000 jobs during construction, and as many as 400 permanent jobs once it's operational, possibly by 2010....
Texas plans nation's largest offshore wind farm The nation's largest offshore wind farm will be built off the Padre Island seashore in South Texas, a critical migratory bird flyway, Texas land commissioner Jerry Patterson said Thursday. Patterson lauded what he said would be an 40,000-acre span of turbines about 400 feet tall able to generate energy to power 125,000 homes. Superior Renewable Energy Inc., based in Houston, would build the farm and pay the estimated $1 billion to $2 billion construction costs. But some environmentalists say the promise of clean energy may not be worth the deaths of countless birds of rare species that migrate through the area each year on their way to and from winter grounds in Mexico and Central America....
Virginia County Bucking Against Cowboy Church In a demand letter written to Bedford County officials, Liberty Counsel has warned the county to back off its citation against a “Cowboy Church.” The letter was written on behalf of Raymond Bell, the pastor of The Cowboy Church of Virginia. Mr. Garland Simmons owns and farms nearly all of his 900 acres in Bedford County. A few months ago, he agreed to open up his barn every Thursday night for worship services conducted by The Cowboy Church of Virginia. Having a church in a barn in the middle of a large field has become a big deal to Bedford County. Mr. Simmons received a Notice of Violation a few days ago, stating that the barn cannot be used for religious services and that his 900 acres of property aren’t zoned for religious meetings, therefore, he would not even be able to apply for a permit. Mr. Simmons has been given thirty days to appeal the decision. Liberty Counsel’s demand letter states that Bedford County is violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the First Amendment. The letter requests that Bedford County officials immediately rescind the Notice of Violation or face a possible federal lawsuit....
The President and the Cowboy Judging by the streaks of dust clinging to their riding clothes, their tired faces and their tangled hair, Seth Bullock could tell that the three horsemen had been on the trail for a long time. Bullock, a deputy U.S. Marshall and former Deadwood sheriff, had been riding the range on his Belle Fourche ranch looking for strays when he ran into the mounted trio. He struck up a polite conversation at first, but his instincts told him that something was wrong. Outnumbered three to one, Bullock knew there was little use in being overtly hostile. Instead, the cunning lawman resorted to subtle questioning, hoping to get a handle on the situation before he felt the need to put his hands on his pistols. After a few moments, it became clear that only one of the drifters was a troublemaker. Known as Crazy Steve, the offender was wanted in Dakota Territory as a horse thief, and the other two men had just recently captured him. One of Crazy Steve’s two captors was a 26-year-old rancher and deputy sheriff named Theodore Roosevelt. A Harvard-educated man who had already published a nationally-acclaimed history book and served in the New York State Assembly, Roosevelt had only recently moved to Dakota Territory before his 1884 encounter with Seth Bullock....
FLE

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY. The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews. "It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added. For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others. The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said....

Extent of Administration's Domestic Surveillance Decried in Both Parties

Fresh disclosures yesterday in USA Today about the scale of domestic surveillance -- the most extensive yet known involving ordinary citizens and residents -- touched off a bipartisan uproar against a politically weakened President Bush. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) vowed to haul telephone companies before his committee under oath to ferret out details the Bush administration refuses to supply, and more than 50 House Democrats signed a letter demanding a criminal investigation by a special counsel. Bush made an unscheduled appearance before White House reporters and sought to shape perceptions about the surveillance while declining to acknowledge that it is taking place. He said that "the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful," but specified no source of statutory or constitutional authority. He denied forcefully that his administration is "mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans," saying, "Our efforts are focused on links to al-Qaeda and their known affiliates." Neither Bush nor his subordinates denied any factual statement in the USA Today report, which said AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. have provided customer calling records to the NSA since shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Together those companies serve about 224 million conventional and cellular telephone customers -- about four-fifths of the wired market and more than half of the wireless market....

Poll: Most Americans Support NSA's Efforts

A majority of Americans initially support a controversial National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. The new survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it. A slightly larger majority--66 percent--said they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made, the poll found. Underlying those views is the belief that the need to investigate terrorism outweighs privacy concerns. According to the poll, 65 percent of those interviewed said it was more important to investigate potential terrorist threats "even if it intrudes on privacy." Three in 10--31 percent--said it was more important for the federal government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats. Half--51 percent--approved of the way President Bush was handling privacy matters....

Security issue kills domestic spying inquiry


The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter. The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers' role in the program. "We have been unable to make any meaningful progress in our investigation because OPR has been denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program," OPR counsel H. Marshall Jarrett wrote to Hinchey. Hinchey's office shared the letter with The Associated Press. Jarrett wrote that beginning in January, his office has made a series of requests for the necessary clearances. Those requests were denied Tuesday. "Without these clearances, we cannot investigate this matter and therefore have closed our investigation," wrote Jarrett. Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the terrorist surveillance program "has been subject to extensive oversight both in the executive branch and in Congress from the time of its inception." Roehrkasse noted the OPR's mission is not to investigate possible wrongdoing in other agencies, but to determine if Justice Department lawyers violated any ethical rules. He declined to comment when asked if the end of the inquiry meant the agency believed its lawyers had handled the wiretapping matter ethically....

Wider Use of DNA Lists Is Urged in Fighting Crime

A team of Harvard scientists is proposing that DNA databases contain enough information to identify many criminals whose DNA has not been catalogued through their kinship to people already listed. They say this could be done by a method developed to identify victims of the World Trade Center attacks and other disasters. The F.B.I.'s DNA database can now be searched only for exact matches to DNA found at crime scenes. But with slight modifications, it could be searched for close relatives of whoever left the DNA. "Genetic surveillance would thus shift from the individual to the family," the scientists, Frederick R. Bieber and David Lazer, say in an article in today's issue of Science. Kinship-based DNA searching is already used in Britain but has not become routine in the United States. Such searches might be valuable in generating leads, Dr. Bieber said, because 46 percent of prisoners said they had close relatives who either were or had been incarcerated, a Department of Justice survey found in 1996. Exact matches between crime scene and database DNA may be used as evidence of identity in court. Kinship searching is not intended to provide the same kind of proof but would be simply an investigative tool....

Pentagon Exploring Border Control Patrols

The Pentagon is looking at ways the military can help provide more security along the U.S. southern border, defense officials said Thursday, once again drawing the nation's armed forces into a politically sensitive domestic role. Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, asked officials this week to come up with options for the use of military resources and troops _ particularly the National Guard _ along the border with Mexico, according to defense officials familiar with the discussions. The officials, who requested anonymity because the matter has not been made public, said there are no details yet on a defense strategy. The request comes as some Southern lawmakers met this week with White House strategist Karl Rove for a discussion that included making greater use of National Guard troops to shore up border control. The Senate is poised to pass legislation this month that would call for additional border security, a new guest worker program and provisions opening the way to eventual citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Defense officials said they have been asked to map out what military resources could be made available if needed _ including options for using the National Guard under either state or federal control. The strategy would also explore the legal guidelines for use of the military on domestic soil, the officials said. On Capitol Hill on Thursday, the House voted 252-171 to allow Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to assign military personnel under certain circumstances to help the Homeland Security Department with border security. The House added the provision to a larger military measure....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Family's oat crop in jeopardy; ranch might be next Today would have been the day that Richard Becker turned on the two wells at his Weld County cattle ranch to irrigate the 13 acres of oats he just finished planting. Instead, the wells are shut down and the nearly $10,000 that Becker invested in seeds, fertilizer and labor may dry up in the time it will take him to find an alternate source of water. "I've lost my oats," Becker said, sitting at his kitchen table. He has no crop insurance, but he said the loss wouldn't have been covered anyway because this wasn't an act of nature. Becker, 48, a second-generation rancher who was born on this 640- acre spread about 45 miles north of Denver, is one of dozens of South Platte Valley farmers who are caught up in a dispute over strict new regulations aimed at ensuring the health of the river. His two wells are among more than 400 that State Engineer Hal Simpson ordered shut down until more is done to replenish the water in the South Platte. Saving the river may cost him the ranch, Becker said Tuesday....
Judge Sides With Landowners in Landmark Stream Access Case After nearly 20 years of controversy involving trespassing fisherman, protesting politicians, a newspaper publisher, two governors, a famous musician, governmental agencies, a couple of fourth-generation ranchers and an investment mogul, a judge has ruled that the Mitchell Slough in Montana's Bitterroot Valley is not a natural stream and therefore is not open to public access. The case has been closely watched across the West as a crucial test of the reach of Montana's stream access law, which is among the strongest in the country. The Montana statute, long a bete noire of property-rights advocates but resilient through numerous court challenges, provides that any river or stream in the state is open to public access up to the high-water mark. While landowners are not required to provide right of way across their property, fisherman, floaters and others can freely use the waterways as long as they stay within the banks. In the Mitchell Slough case, many emphatically believe the 12-mile waterway is a natural channel, manipulated for more than 150 years by irrigators and now owned by wealthy landowners - including rocker Huey Lewis and investment mogul Charles Schwab - who believe it's always been a private fishery. They and others believe it is simply a big ditch, used to convey water to farmland and carry run-off from those fields back to the river. This side maintains the slough has been private and public access was only granted with permission, though many trespassed. Wednesday's decision by District Judge Ted Mizner, which came after nine months of deliberation, supports the landowners' claim that the Mitchell is simply a ditch. Had it gone the other way, numerous waterways in the state which are, in effect, some combination of natural stream and man-made ditch and but have long been treated as private property, could have been subject to stream access requirements....
State: We'll form elk-damage plan State wildlife officials Tuesday pledged to form an action plan by July to reduce property and crop damage caused by elk descending into the east side of the Kittitas Valley from their higher-elevation habitat. State Department of Fish & Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings, talking to valley ranchers and farmers concerned about elk damage, said such a plan will require the commitment of the department and landowners. He said they must work to put detailed agreements in place that spell out actions each will take in a coordinated effort to push a “satellite” herd of elk off private lands. It is believed the problem herd of elk on the east side of the valley is an offshoot of the established Colockum herd....
Colo. Court to Decide on Lynx Protections A federal appeals court heard arguments Wednesday over whether a lynx that has federal protection in Colorado is still protected if it wanders across the state's southern border into New Mexico. Federal wildlife officials consider the lynx endangered in Colorado, where more than 200 of the elusive, long-haired cats have been reintroduced since 1999. Some have had kittens. Some have drifted into New Mexico, and environmental groups argue they should be protected there as well. The groups are asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to revive their lawsuit to force the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico to include the lynx in their management plans. Forest Service officials in New Mexico say lynx are not listed as threatened or endangered in New Mexico, so they don't have to be considered. A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit did not indicate when it might rule.
Nonprofit agency seeks A.V. land for preservation A 9-month-old nonprofit organization is working with local government officials to acquire undeveloped Antelope Valley desert for preservation. As more and more homes and businesses go up on what had been old farmland or untouched desert, Antelope Valley Conservancy leaders hope to use fees paid by developers and money from other sources to acquire land for preservation in its natural state. "Habitat preservation is the basis for species preservation. The Antelope Valley has a long history of preserving natural lands," said Wendy Reed, the conservancy's executive director. The conservancy fills the local need for an agency that can take care of land acquired through "mitigation" fees - $770 per acre in Lancaster, or more depending on the condition of the land - paid by developers for building on what had been wildlife habitat, officials said....
BLM auction chafes environmentalists The federal auction today of 192,334 acres of mineral-rich Colorado public land for oil and gas drilling is once again pitting environmental activists against the Bush administration as it pushes for more energy development in the Rocky Mountain region. Faced with skyrocketing energy prices and the call for more domestic production of oil and gas, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has stepped up the leasing of federal lands for drilling in past years. From fiscal years 2001 through 2005, the agency has leased more than 2 million acres of public land in Colorado, 13 percent more than the almost 1.8 million acres auctioned during the previous five years. "Our leasing is fairly well correlated with oil and gas prices," said Duane Spencer, BLM's branch chief of fluid minerals. "Given the price increases, we expect more nominations and more leasing in this fiscal year." The BLM says the Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act of 1987 requires it to offer public lands for lease every quarter. If an oil and gas company nominates a parcel of land for leasing, the agency is required to conduct a thorough review and environmental analysis before deciding on the merit of the proposed parcel....
Senate panel backs Kempthorne for Interior A Senate committee Wednesday sent Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's nomination as interior secretary to the full Senate, although procedural delays by lawmakers may stall his final confirmation to the Cabinet. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Kempthorne's nomination on a voice vote. No senator opposed Kempthorne, although Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., voted "present" to protest the Bush administration's refusal to share a portion of offshore oil and gas royalties with Gulf Coast states. The federal government does not share offshore energy royalties with states, but it does split royalties 50-50 with states for oil and gas development in the Rocky Mountain West. Landrieu's vote drew a rebuke from the committee's chairman, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who noted that Kempthorne is a former senator, widely supported by lawmakers from both parties. "I think your cause is not well-served by doing what you're doing today," Domenici said. "What you're doing essentially is saying no to the nominee. I wish you wouldn't be doing that to him." Landrieu replied that she was not voting no, and called Kempthorne an "outstanding" nominee. Landrieu and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have said they intend to place a hold on Kempthorne's nomination once it is reported out of the committee. Holds are a privilege any senator can invoke to block a measure from coming to a floor vote....
If confirmed, interior choice plans to overhaul species law Dirk Kempthorne is on his way to becoming secretary of the interior after Wednesday's Senate committee vote in his favor, and when he gets there he plans to start work on an overhaul of the Endangered Species Act. Kempthorne, Idaho's governor, tried to revamp the landmark environmental law 11 years ago when he was a senator. And in written responses to the senators weighing his nomination, he made the need for "improvements" in the law one of his clearest goals. That is likely to please developers who find the law's protection of species such as the Preble's meadow jumping mouse one of their biggest obstacles. But it alarms some environmentalists who see Kemp thorne's call for "streamlining" as code for gutting protections for plants and animals threatened with extinction. "If confirmed as secretary of the interior, I commit to working with the Senate and House to update and improve the Endangered Species Act," Kempthorne wrote to senators. "The sad truth is that the ESA too often leads to conflict when instead it should lead to cooperation, conservation and ultimately recovery of the species."....
Crowd gathers to watch wolf eat elk A wolf that killed a young elk near Stanley in central Idaho and settled down to try to eat its meal drew a crowd of human spectators - including a longtime wolf advocate and a longtime wolf foe. Jane Somerville of Stanley saw the chase and kill last Thursday by the Salmon River near the junction of Highways 75 and 21. "He pretty much went right for the neck and got it down on the ground," Somerville told the Idaho Mountain Express. "It was over very quickly." Alerted by cell phones, people began arriving along the river bank to watch the wolf eat the yearling elk. Among them was Lynn Stone, leader of the pro-wilderness Boulder-White Clouds Council and a wolf advocate. She said Ron Gillette, president of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, arrived after her, carrying a .22-caliber rifle. Stone said she took photographs of Gillette as he walked toward the wolf on three occasions during the day, carrying the rifle. The wolf ran off each time. The area is open grassland near the river but turns into forest on the sides of the valley....
Column: Big Mammals, Yes! Bugs and Things, No! She was “a strong advocate for the wise use and protection of our nation’s natural resources” said George Bush of Gale Norton the day after she resigned from her post as Secretary of the Interior. It was a statement written in code, aimed at those who understand that “Wise Use” means plundering public lands for maximum private profit. And it was a hidden homage to one man in particular: The progenitor of the “Wise Use” brand and tradition, author and marketing guru Ron Arnold. In his down-home, affable way, Arnold has, over 30 years of assiduous efforts, managed to seed the notion in the American mind that environmentalism has gone over the edge, that animal-rights activists take their cues from Satan worshippers and that saboteurs of sawmills and poorly sited housing developments pose a great threat to domestic security. With a hypographic zeal bordering on mania, he has struggled in books published by his own Merrill Press to link Al Gore to Ted Kaczynski, and Earth First! to the Manson family. He has dismissed “the pesticide bugaboo” raised by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the specter of “oil-soaked birds” from the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill as “alarmism.” He has strained to link the words “environmentalist” and “terrorist” for decades. That effort has recently paid off: In March, six members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty were convicted of “animal enterprise terrorism” for maintaining a Web site chronicling the actions of animal-rights activists; one month later, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a law classifying environmentally motivated vandalism as terrorism. Judging by these and other quiet victories, Arnold has been incalculably successful....
Bounty offered to catch prime salmon predator On his first cast of the season, Jim Walker pitched a lure resembling a baby salmon into the dark green waters of the Columbia River and — BAM! — hooked a 24-inch fish with a $4 bounty on its head. But alas, "we didn't hook another one all day," the 73-year-old retiree said. It may not always be easy, but fishermen who can fill their coolers can also fill their pockets — some getting nearly $40,000 — for helping to control the most voracious predator of baby salmon in the Columbia Basin, the northern pikeminnow. To help make up for the harm done to salmon by the government's hydroelectric dams in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, the Bonneville Power Administration is paying a bounty of $4 to $8 for each northern pikeminnow caught, as long as it is at least nine inches long. There are also more than 1,000 specially tagged bonus fish worth $500 each scattered through the 450 miles of the lower Columbia and Snake rivers to attract more fishermen and help biologists gauge the effect of the bounties....
EPA plan would ease mop-up of old mines The Bush administration Wednesday proposed new legislation to remove pollution liability for "good Samaritans" willing to clean up the nation's half- million abandoned hard-rock mines. Sponsored by two Republican legislators - Rep. John Duncan of Tennessee and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma - the Good Samaritan Clean Watershed Act is designed to clear the legal roadblocks for volunteers willing to restore watersheds tainted by acid mine drainage. There are an estimated 17,000 abandoned mines in Colorado, many of which have polluted nearby waterways. "Environmental responsibility is everyone's responsibility, and President Bush and EPA are equipping America's eager army of citizen conservationists with the essential tools," said Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen Johnson....
Coastal drilling bill advances A bid to open most of the longprotected U.S. coastline to drilling for natural gas cleared a key House committee Wednesday, prompting a bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers to vow to block it. The 37-25 vote in the House Appropriations Committee came amid concerns about rising gas prices and pressure to open areas that traditionally have been off-limits to energy exploration. Florida's congressional delegation remains largely united in efforts to block offshore drilling along the state's shoreline, and opponents warned the move Wednesday could bring rigs as close as three miles from the coast. And it represents a significant victory for the oil and gas industry and its sponsor, Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., who has sought to open the nation's coastal waters to energy development. Peterson suggested the vote was a ''seismic shift'' in the debate over energy production and the ''first step'' toward fixing the country's energy woes. Environmentalists opposed to drilling agreed with at least part of Peterson's assessment -- that the vote was important -- but called committee approval of offshore exploration ''the most serious threat'' in 22 years to efforts to block drilling. Previous attempts in the House to lift the congressional moratorium along the Outer Continental Shelf have failed....
Efforts to help ewes fail Officials with several public agencies were reminded of what they already knew Wednesday: Sheep are stubborn, hard-headed creatures. More than six men from fire, wildlife and law enforcement departments shot non-lethal ammo, explosives and water hoses Wednesday at a pair of sheep stranded with no water on a steep ledge off Highway 166 east of Santa Maria in an attempt to motivate the animals to move to safety. They let loose dogs, threw rocks, blared sirens and hollered to scare the animals into scaling a steep trail that leads off the precipice. The sheep were not impressed....
Equine Miscarriages Linked to Common Caterpillar In March one case of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome in Florida was confirmed by University of Florida researchers. Two others are strongly suspected. Now Texas' veterinarians and the state's equine industry are keeping a close eye on the problem. That's because MRLS, as it is commonly called, is believed to be caused when horses ingest the eastern tent caterpillar, a native Texas insect that is found throughout the eastern half of the state. All three Florida cases occurred this spring in Alachua County. Two involved septic foals, or foals with internal infections, which had to be euthanized. The third case was a late-term abortion. The diagnosis was confirmed by University of Florida pathologist Dr. John Roberts, who worked at the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center during an outbreak of MRLS in the Bluegrass State in 2001-2002. That outbreak had a negative economic impact of $336 to $500 million and caused the loss of 30 percent of Kentucky's estimated foal crop for 2002. "Because the caterpillars are prevalent in parts of Texas, it's a threat horse owners need to be aware of," said Bruce Webb, an entomologist with the University of Kentucky. Texas has an equine industry that includes more than 1 million horses and generates $11.1 billion annually....
USDA's Meat Inspection Act Turn 100 Years Old USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is celebrating 100 years of protecting the food supply under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. FSIS is the premier public health regulatory agency that ensures the safety and security of the U.S. meat, poultry, and egg products supply. When President Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation creating USDA in 1862, the department's primary focus was to stimulate food production by providing seed and agricultural information to farmers and help them receive a fair price for their crops. After the U.S. Civil War, westward expansion and development of refrigerated railroad cars spurred the growth of not only the livestock industry, but also meat packing and international trade. In response to the growing pressure from veterinarians, ranchers, and meat packers for a unified effort to eradicate livestock diseases in the United States, President Chester Arthur signed the Bureau of Animal Industry Act, which created USDA's Bureau of Animal Industry in 1884, effectively the true forerunner of FSIS....
Family honored for 130 years on farm On the outskirts of Dallas County, tucked safely aside from the loud semis on Interstate 45, is 130 years of family history spread across farmland dotted with native pecan trees. BuckBranch Farm is a place where five generations have shaped a legacy in agriculture. None has gotten rich through farming. BuckBranch is run out of a passion for the land and its heritage, not the income it produces. Linda Slagle, 58, owns and operates the 94-acre ranch and equestrian center in the blink-of-an-eye town of Wilmer, just 14 miles southeast of downtown Dallas. "If I never had to go out of that gate again, I would be the happiest woman in the world," she said. "But you just can't make your living in agriculture these days." So every Monday through Friday at 7:15 a.m., she does pass through the gate – to go to her job as an office manager for a Dallas electrical systems company. BuckBranch Farm was recently honored by the Texas Department of Agriculture's Family Land Heritage Program for maintaining property in continuous agricultural production within the same family for 100 years. In the program's 32-year history, only five other Dallas County farms or ranches have achieved the honor....
Las Damas gathers for 58th annual ride More than 130 women saddled up, mounted their horses, and took to the trail as Las Damas headed out on another fantastic five-day ride. For the 58th year, club members and guests gathered at the camp May 1 through 5, for fun, friends, food, and trail riding. United by a love of trail riding and bonds of friendship, Las Damas was formed 58 years ago by a group of local Wickenburg women. Over the years the Las Damas tradition has grown ever stronger and evolved to be one of Arizona's top riding groups. The L-Bell Ranch near Skull Valley hosted the five-day ride and is one of Las Damas' favorite places to ride.
Medora tuning up for cowboy gathering The 20th annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Medora Memorial Day weekend will feature Patty Clayton, the Western Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year, and Juni Fisher, the 2005 Academy of Western Artists’ Female Vocalist of the Year. The singers will headline sessions at 7:30 p.m. May 27 and May 28 at the Medora Community Center, which also will include performances by cowboy poet Bill Lowman, Sentinel Butte, and Jess Howard, of Marmarth. Besides music and poetry, the Community Center will be the scene for Western art, big hats and quilts. Artisans and craftsmen expected include Scott Nelson, of Solen, who will do pen and ink sketches, and Slim McNaught, New Underwood, S.D., with leatherwork items. The Big Hat Society will be on hand to encourage everyone to have a 10-gallon hat day....
Mosey up the mountain Sun Peaks Resort has found a way to keep grazing cattle off their property - while making some money at the same time. A local tour operator, along with Sun Peaks management, has organized a cattle drive to move the animals away from the resort's golf course and into proper grazing grounds. "Every year, we spend a lot time and effort chasing cows," said Rob MacLean, outside operations director at Sun Peaks. "They create quite a bit of damage on greens and fairways." He added the drive will give people who are not familiar with the rancher lifestyle the opportunity to live like a cowboy for a few days. MacLean says the inaugural event will be on a much smaller scale than the former Kamloops Cattle Drive. Ranchers in the area have the right to open their cattle gates and let the cows wander to the grazing grounds on their own. MacLean said with the cattle drive, the animals will get to the right places much quicker. For $500 each, 12 riders will have the opportunity to work with experienced cattle wranglers and help herd the cows up the mountain. Meals and lodging for three nights are included; horses will be supplied by Sun Peaks Trail Rides. The Sun Peaks cattle drive will herd the cows along the same route cowboys have been using for the last 60 years....

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

FLE

Officials disclaim Bulletin 'tipping' report

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is refuting a Daily Bulletin report that the U.S. Border Patrol provided information to the Mexican government about the whereabouts of civilian border watch groups. "Today's report by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, `U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols,' is inaccurate," read the statement issued Tuesday evening. "Border Patrol does not report activity by civilian, non-law enforcement groups to the government of Mexico." Kristi Clemens, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, would not elaborate on the agency's statement other than to say the U.S. gives information to Mexican officials under the rules of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, which provides foreign nationals being detained by a government the right to consular access. "This is the same agreement that protects United States citizens when they travel to foreign countries," according to the statement. An August 2005 document, "Third Report on the Activities of Vigilantes" -- posted on Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site -- suggests U.S. officials were giving out more details than required by the Vienna Convention. Part of that information was the location of U.S. citizens participating in volunteer border patrols. The Daily Bulletin reported on the contents of that document and two others on the Mexican Web site in a story published in Tuesday's editions. Mexican consulates also went beyond the boundaries of the Vienna Convention, asking U.S. Border Patrol officials to provide them with information on "vigilantes" operating along the U.S. border, according to the August 2005 document. Some of the information cited in the Mexican document originally was given only to U.S. Border Patrol and law enforcement officials, border watch organizers said. "Nobody but law enforcement and Border Patrol knew where we were at," said Andy Ramirez, chairman of the Chino-based nonprofit group Friends of the Border Patrol. "So how is our base address on a Mexican government document dated last August? Nobody, not even media, had this information." Ramirez said he revealed the location of his base camp only to local and federal officials. The Mexican document gives the exact location of his group's site, which was on private property near San Diego....

Read the disputed article: U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols

See the Mexican Government Web page: www.sre.gob.mx/eventos/minuteman/reporte3


Is the U.S. Giving Mexico Intelligence about Americans?

Apparently aware that this is a powder keg, DHS is scrambling to justify itself. Initially, a CPB spokesman confirmed the assertions of the Mexican government website. Now, however, a back-peddling DHS is labeling the Daily Bulletin story “inaccurate.” As Malkin reports today, DHS categorically asserts that the “Border Patrol does not report activity by civilian, non-law enforcement groups to the Government of Mexico.” Rather, “During a detention of a legal or illegal immigrant that produces an allegation of improper treatment, Border Patrol reports the allegation and allows the appropriate consulate to interview the individual in custody.” The DHS statement is noteworthy in two respects. First, while attempting to discredit the report about providing Mexico with intelligence, it does not clearly deny transmitting information about Minuteman patrols—something the CPB spokesman previously conceded quite matter-of-factly (saying, “It’s not a secret where the Minuteman volunteers are going to be”). DHS instead says it “reports the allegation” if “improper treatment” is alleged. But we are not told what DHS considers “improper treatment” (e.g., does it consider patrols by the Minutemen—whom the President has labeled as “vigilantes”—to be improper?). Nor are we told how comprehensively DHS “reports” the matter to Mexico (e.g., does it simply notify Mexico that an arrest has been made, or does it convey an expansive summary of the case?). Second, DHS seems to be saying that it was compelled to disclose whatever information it may have given to Mexico by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which President Nixon ratified in 1969. This latter claim bears scrutiny. The consular-notification convention, and in particular its Article 36, comes into play whenever an alien—legal or illegal—is arrested in the United States. It absolutely does not require U.S. authorities to provide any investigative information or other intelligence to foreign governments. Indeed, it does not necessarily require our government to give a foreign government any information whatsoever. On the contrary, it provides that when a foreign national is detained, he has a right to have his nation’s consulate in the United States informed of the fact of the arrest. If he does not want his nation so advised, the U.S. is under no obligation to provide notice....

Border Patrol Union Condemns US Giving Mexico Info on Minutemen

Superiors at the US Border Patrol are tipping off the Mexican government about the locations the Minuteman Project members on the border. And the Mexicans are diverting illegals away from those areas for crossing, according to CNN pundit Lou Dobbs. The Border Patrol Agents union Local 2544 responded to this story with a statement: "This Local has nothing to do with any management directives to report the location of the Minutemen volunteers to the Mexican government. "Our position on the Mexican government and their military is very clear. They are corrupt, they shoot at us, they smuggle drugs, they encourage illegal aliens to invade this country by the millions, they are not to be trusted, and they should have ZERO input into the internal policies of the United States of America. "We have received a lot of e-mail on this issue. Rank-and-file Border Patrol agents have been angry for years about the Mexican Consulate invading our work stations, demanding interviews with prisoners, and basically being given free reign to do whatever they want....

U.S. Government Endangers Law Abiding Citizens

In an unprecedented policy, the Bush Administration has acknowledged that it has been providing information about the location of Minutemen patrols to the Mexican government. In spite of widespread criticism of its failure to protect America's security by regaining control of the border, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has been devoting manpower to monitoring the activities of the Minutemen, even as record numbers of illegal aliens pour across our borders. The information being turned over by the Bush Administration to the Mexican government is meant to reassure them that the rights of illegal border crossers are being protected. Mexican authorities have been kept abreast of where the Minutemen are patrolling and when they have made apprehensions of illegal aliens. Both Presidents Bush and Fox have referred to the Minutemen as "vigilantes," despite the fact there has not been a single documented case of abuse in more than a year of civilian patrols. "This policy is a shocking and disgraceful display of pandering to the government of Mexico," reacted Dan Stein, president of FAIR. "Compounding this egregious behavior is the fact that the Department of Homeland Security is recklessly endangering the lives of law abiding citizens. Many of those running the border smuggling operations are violent criminals who would not hesitate to use deadly force against anyone who stands in their way."....

Borderline Tragedy

Today, Refuge Officer Drew Cyprian cruises towards that wasteland, his big Dodge passing through a forest of parked Border Patrol agents, and among a thick web of renegade trails and roads. Border Patrol agents themselves are suspected of adding to this web, or of at least making liberal use of it. That's not something you're going to hear from Cyprian, however. Preserves like Buenos Aires need the Border Patrol, he says. A graying soul patch beneath his lip, a stout rifle by his side, Cyprian likewise pulls long shifts policing this range. He's one of only four officers trying to protect a 118,000-acre refuge that has, in places, become a sacrifice zone of trash, illicit byways and abandoned vehicles shimmering beneath an indifferent sun. It's a hugely expensive problem: Despite the beefy Border Patrol presence, each year, Buenos Aires spends nearly one-third of its $1.5 million budget for law enforcement. Even carting off hundreds of vehicles, often jettisoned in remarkably godforsaken spots, can cost up to $300 a pop. "So, some of them just sit there," Cyprian tells me, "until we have the budget to have them towed." You might call Buenos Aires a tragic juncture of geography and politics. If the refuge didn't share nearly six miles of borderline with Mexico, it likely wouldn't host up to 3,000 illegal migrants and smugglers on any given night. Nor would it have 500 tons of trash yearly from that commerce, or an army of Border Patrol agents rumbling about in their trucks and ATVs....

Sheriff's posse targeting illegal immigrants set to launch

A 250-member Maricopa County sheriff's posse was set to fan out across desert areas and major roadways Wednesday, seeking illegal immigrants to arrest on felony charges under a state smuggling law. And those who aren't arrested will face deportation. Until now, apprehending illegal immigrants in Arizona has been the exclusive charge of federal agents with the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement. That was until August, when a state law went into effect making human and drug smuggling a felony in Arizona, the busiest illegal entry point along the U.S.-Mexico border. Smuggling already was a federal felony. The new distinction allowed local law enforcement agencies to arrest smugglers on state-level felony charges. But since March, deputies in Arizona's most populous county have been arresting illegal immigrants under the law. Under an opinion issued by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas in September, the smuggling law can apply to the smuggle immigrants themselves. Thomas argues that by paying a smuggler to enter the country through the Arizona desert, illegal immigrants are committing conspiracy to smuggle, punishable by up to 2 years in jail under the new law. Thomas's opinion also said that local law enforcement officers have the authority to ask presumed illegal immigrants about their immigration status. The law has yet to be tested in court, but Thomas said he intends to use his power as the county's chief prosecutor to charge any illegal immigrants arrested under the smuggling law. So far, only the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is arresting illegal immigrants under Thomas's interpretation....
FLE

U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols

Inland Valley Daily BulletinWhile Minuteman civilian patrols are keeping an eye out for illegal border crossers, the U.S. Border Patrol is keeping an eye out for Minutemen -- and telling the Mexican government where they are. According to three documents on the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site, the U.S. Border Patrol is to notify the Mexican government as to the location of Minutemen and other civilian border patrol groups when they participate in apprehending illegal immigrants -- and if and when violence is used against border crossers. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed the notification process, describing it as a standard procedure meant to reassure the Mexican government that migrants' rights are being observed. "It's not a secret where the Minuteman volunteers are going to be," Mario Martinez said Monday. "This ... simply makes two basic statements -- that we will not allow any lawlessness of any type, and that if an alien is encountered by a Minuteman or arrested by the Minuteman, then we will allow that government to interview the person." Minuteman members were not so sanguine about the arrangement, however, saying that reporting their location to Mexican officials nullifies their effectiveness along the border and could endanger their lives. "Now we know why it seemed like Mexican officials knew where we were all the time," said Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. "It's unbelievable that our own government agency is sending intelligence to another country. They are sending intelligence to a nation where corruption runs rampant, and that could be getting into the hands of criminal cartels. "They just basically endangered the lives of American people."....

Mandate for ID Meets Resistance From States

Reacting to the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress passed the Real ID law last year, intending to make it tougher for terrorists to obtain driver's licenses and for people without proper identification to board planes or enter federal buildings. But with the deadline for setting up the law two years away, states are frustrated. They say the law — which requires states to use sources like birth certificates and national immigration databases to verify that people applying for or renewing driver's licenses are American citizens or legal residents — will be too expensive and difficult to put in place by the May 2008 deadline. Another issue is the privacy impact of the requirement that states share, through databases, the personal information needed for a driver's license. Concerns are so great that last week, the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators issued a report saying that the states have not been given the time or money to comply with the law and that they need at least another eight years. Two states have considered resolutions calling for the law to be repealed, the New York City Council passed a resolution opposing it and New Hampshire is considering opting out entirely. "It's absolutely absurd," said Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, chairman of the National Governors Association, which takes a stand on issues only when it has a broad consensus. "The time frame is unrealistic; the lack of funding is inexcusable." Another concern, Mr. Huckabee, a Republican, said, is "whether this is a role that you really want to turn over to an entry-level, front-line, desk person at the D.M.V." "If we're at a point that we need a national ID card, then let's do that," Mr. Huckabee said. "But let's not act like we're addressing this at a federal level and then blame the states if they mess it up. There's not a governor in America that wants that responsibility."....

Judges Challenge Internet Wiretap Rules

A U.S. appeals panel sharply challenged the Bush administration Friday over new rules making it easier for police and the FBI to wiretap Internet phone calls. A judge said the government's courtroom arguments were "gobbledygook." The skepticism expressed so openly toward the administration's case encouraged civil liberties and education groups that argued that the U.S. is improperly applying telephone-era rules to a new generation of Internet services. "Your argument makes no sense," U.S. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards told the lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission, Jacob Lewis. "When you go back to the office, have a big chuckle. I'm not missing this. This is ridiculous. Counsel!" At another point in the hearing, Edwards told the FCC's lawyer that his arguments were "gobbledygook" and "nonsense." In the current case, Edwards appeared especially skeptical over the FCC's decision to require that providers of Internet phone service and broadband services must ensure their equipment can accommodate police wiretaps under the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, known as CALEA. The new rules go into effect in May 2007. The 1994 law was originally aimed at ensuring court-ordered wiretaps could be placed on wireless phones. The Justice Department, which has lobbied aggressively on the subject, warned in court papers that failure to expand the wiretap requirements to the fast-growing Internet phone industry "could effectively provide a surveillance safe haven for criminals and terrorists who make use of new communications services." Critics said the new FCC rules are too broad and inconsistent with the intent of Congress when it passed the 1994 surveillance law, which excluded categories of companies described as information services....

Ex-NSA Chief Assails Bush Taps

Former National Security Agency director Bobby Ray Inman lashed out at the Bush administration Monday night over its continued use of warrantless domestic wiretaps, making him one of the highest-ranking former intelligence officials to criticize the program in public, analysts say. "This activity is not authorized," Inman said, as part of a panel discussion on eavesdropping that was sponsored by The New York Public Library. The Bush administration "need(s) to get away from the idea that they can continue doing it." Since the NSA eavesdropping program was unveiled in December, Inman -- like other senior members of the intelligence community -- has been measured in the public statements he's made about the agency he headed under President Jimmy Carter. He maintained that his former colleagues "only act in accordance with law." When asked whether the president had the legal authority to order the surveillance, Inman replied in December, "Someone else would have to give you the good answer." But sitting in a brightly lit basement auditorium at the library next to James Risen, the New York Times reporter who broke the surveillance story, Inman's tone changed. He called on the president to "walk into the modern world" and change the law governing the wiretaps -- or abandon the program altogether. "The program has drawn a lot of criticism, but thus far former military and intelligence officials have not spoken up. To have Adm. Inman -- the former head of the NSA -- (come) forward with this critique is significant," said Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Chatter: Dispatches From the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, who sat on the panel with Inman and Risen. "Because of the secrecy surrounding this type of activity, much of the criticism has come from outsiders who don't have a firm grasp of the mechanics and the utility of electronic intelligence. Inman knows whereof he speaks."....

Feds' Watch List Eats Its Own

What do you say about an airline screening system that tends to mistake government employees and U.S. servicemen for foreign terrorists? Newly released government documents show that even having a high-level security clearance won't keep you off the Transportation Security Administration's Kafkaesque terrorist watch list, where you'll suffer missed flights and bureaucratic nightmares. According to logs from the TSA's call center from late 2004 -- which black out the names of individuals to protect their privacy -- the watch list has snagged: -A State Department diplomat who protested that "I fly 100,00 miles a year and am tired of getting hassled at Dulles airport -- and airports worldwide -- because my name apparently closely resembles that of a terrorist suspect." -A person with an Energy Department security clearance. -An 82-year-old veteran who says he's never even had a traffic ticket. -A technical director at a science and technology company who has been working with the Pentagon on chemical and biological weapons defense. -A U.S. Navy officer who has been enlisted since 1984. -A high-ranking government employee with a better-than-top-secret clearance who is also a U.S. Army Reserve major. -A federal employee traveling on government business who says the watch list matching "has resulted in ridiculous delays at the airports, despite my travel order, federal ID and even my federal passport." -A high-level civil servant at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. -An active-duty Army officer who had served four combat tours (including one in Afghanistan) and who holds a top-secret clearance....

Presidential Plans Found In Trash

How much do you think Osama bin Laden would pay to know exactly when and where the President was traveling, and who was with him? Turns out, he wouldn't have had to pay a dime. All he had to do was go through the trash early Tuesday morning. It appears to be a White House staff schedule for the President's trip to Florida Tuesday. And a sanitation worker was alarmed to find in the trash long hours before Mr. Bush left for his trip. It's the kind of thing you would expect would be shredded or burned, not thrown in the garbage. Randy Hopkins could not believe what he was seeing. There on the floor next to a big trash truck was a thick sheaf of papers with nearly every detail of the President's voyage. “I saw locations and names and places where the President was going to be. I knew it was important. And it shouldn't have been in a trash hole like this,” he said. Hopkins works in sanitation. He's an ex-con, and he's worried about fallout from talking to us, so he's asked us not to say exactly where he's employed. But he also felt it was his civic duty to tell somebody about what he'd found....
NEWS ROUNDUP

Mushroom Cloud Blast in Nevada Delayed A non-nuclear explosion expected to generate a mushroom cloud over the Nevada desert will be postponed at least three weeks, while a federal court reviews plans for the blast, test officials said Tuesday. "The planned Divine Strake experiment will not be conducted earlier than June 23," said Cheri Abdelnour, spokeswoman for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va. The blast was originally scheduled for June 2. Darwin Morgan, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration in North Las Vegas, confirmed the date change but declined further comment. In documents filed Monday with U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, federal Justice Department lawyers sought to push back from May 23 until early June a hearing on a lawsuit filed by the Winnemucca Indian Colony and several Nevada and Utah "downwinders" to block the blast. The judge did not issue an immediate ruling. The blast, some 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is expected to generate a 10,000-foot mushroom cloud and a shock wave that officials say will probably be felt in Indian Springs, about 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The federal Defense Threat Reduction Agency claims the explosion will help design a weapon to penetrate hardened and deeply buried targets. Critics have called it a surrogate for a low-yield nuclear "bunker-buster" bomb....
Farmers sweating over lack of water The state ordered more than 400 powerful irrigation wells shut down this week to protect the South Platte River, triggering a crisis for about 200 farms from Brighton to Fort Morgan. "It's the toughest decision I've ever had to make," said State Engineer Hal Simpson, Colorado's top water regulator. Farmers who've already planted this year say they stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of Simpson's ruling. The decree may mean bankruptcy for some. But others, such as La Salle potato grower Harry Strohauer, are gearing up for battle. "I'm going to fight like crazy," Strohauer said. Strohauer is losing the use of 14 wells that normally irrigate 1,100 acres of potatoes and onions. He's invested $700,000 in seed and fertilizer so far this spring. "To get hit with this ruling after we've all planted is ludicrous," Strohauer said....
Loggers hit the slopes of Steamboat Chain saws roar, loggers call to one another, and a tree trunk snaps. A lodgepole pine topples into the snow, its branches cracking as it falls through the mountain air. After sawing off its limbs, loggers use cables to attach the trunk to a skidder and haul the tree off the mountain. This scene has become a familiar one lately - an estimated 1,500 pine trees will be removed from the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area before mid-June as part of a collaborative effort between Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and the U.S. Forest Service to combat a bark beetle infestation that began nine years ago. The infestation is ravaging much of western Colorado and the western United States. "It's something that has to be dealt with," David Crisler, slope maintenance technician for Ski Corp., said as he drove a Snowcat up Vagabond ski trail towards a cutting site last week. "Will people notice a difference? Yes, probably. But if we didn't do anything, it would be much worse. Beetles would devastate the entire area."....
Bill Would Ban Property Condemnation At Army Site A bill introduced by Sen. Wayne Allard would prevent federal officials from condemning private property to quadruple the size of a 240,000-acre Army training site near La Junta in southeastern Colorado town. The Colorado Republican's bill introduced Monday would require the Army to assess the economic and environmental impacts of the expansion and pay fair market value for any land it acquires. "Increasing the size of the training site is going to go forward only if landowners in the area are willing to sell to the Army at fair market prices," Allard said in a statement. "This bill gets that message across loud and clear." The federal government condemned some land in the 1980s to create the training site on the Purgatoire River, which has some nearby residents and ranchers worried....
Forest firefighters group rejects recovery legislation A group representing wildland firefighters Tuesday called on Congress to defeat a bill aimed at speeding up logging dead timber and planting new trees after storms and wildfires. The bipartisan bill demands that areas hit by disasters greater than 1,000 acres be restored quickly, before the commercial value of fire-killed timber diminishes, and insects and rot set in. But Oregon-based Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology said the bill could increase fire risks and undermine efforts to reduce hazardous fire conditions near communities. "Post-fire logging and planting does not 'recover' a burned forest, but rather, sets it up for future high-severity burning," said Timothy Ingalsbee, the group's executive director and a former firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. Young, densely stocked timber plantations are prone to sudden "blowups" of extreme fire, and can start crown fires in nearby old-growth stands, said Ingalsbee, whose group includes about 80 professional firefighters from Alaska to Virginia....
Wildlife Advocates Oppose Kempthorne for Interior Secretary More than 100 conservation organizations from across the U.S. registered their opposition today to Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s nomination for Interior Secretary. In a letter to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the groups cited Kempthorne’s poor record on endangered species and wildlife conservation as a U.S. senator and governor of Idaho. As a U.S. senator, Gov. Kempthorne voted to eliminate the federal Endangered Species Act listing budget and federal funding for recovery of the endangered wolf. He repeatedly voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration and to sell off federal public lands, including lands managed by the Department of Interior. As governor of Idaho, Kempthorne opposed the protection and recovery of endangered species in his state. He used his Governor’s Office of Species Conservation to override the management decisions of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and to undermine and indefinitely stall endangered species conservation efforts....
Column: The endangered landowner Unfortunately, George W. Bush has proved no particular friend of private property rights. The ray of hope promised by former secretary of the interior Gail Norton has given way to a dark cloud of doubt brought about by the nomination of Dirk Kempthorne. One would think that a Republican governor of Idaho would sympathize with the effort to tame the most abusive aspects of the ESA. However, while he was Idaho's senator, Kempthorne was an unblushing champion of endangered species. There is little indication that he has lessened his enthusiasm for an ESA with expanded powers, one that is broadened in scope. The only bright spot in this rather dismal picture is the increasing momentum behind the campaign calling for a repeal of the ESA. Voters are fed up to the teeth with fabrications. In 2001, families in Klamath Falls, Ore., lost their farming operations because it was falsely reported that two fish needed the water more than did the irrigators. Who can forget that the Northwest timber industry was destroyed because radical environmentalists falsely claimed that spotted owls live only in old-growth forests? The record of the ESA is one of sensationalist alarms, false reporting, and data error. Despite all this and the record of almost utter failure in achieving their stated purpose, the greens are fighting hard to keep their sacred law in place because it allows them to control millions of acres of private land without paying for that right....
Casino plan withdrawn in water-district settlement The Soboba Band of Luise├▒o Indians is abandoning plans to build a casino near Diamond Valley Lake. The decision came as the tribe resolves a dispute with local water agencies that has dragged on for more than 70 years. As part of the proposed settlement, the tribe will not move its gambling operations from its reservation to a 128-acre, highly-visible site near Diamond Valley Lake, tribal chairman Robert Salgado said in an interview Tuesday. The settlement involves the tribe and Metropolitan Water District, the Eastern Municipal Water District and the Lake Hemet Municipal Water District. As part of the settlement, the tribe will receive millions of dollars for economic development and be assured billions of gallons of water that could help revitalize and expand the tribe's agricultural and commercial endeavors, Salgado said. Surrounding communities in the San Jacinto Valley will benefit from assured water supplies as well as money and land to recharge the local aquifer and protect endangered species habitat, he said. The settlement still has to be approved by a federal and a state court....
Untrained migrants fight fires As bright orange embers lofted through the forest, exploding into columns of smoke and flame, Mike Sulffridge and his crew of firefighters began to scramble. Their lives were in danger. But the reaction of six Latino firefighters working near them could not have been more different. Despite the advancing flames, despite a volley of warning shouts, they did nothing. "They did not understand English," said Sulffridge, who was hired to battle the wildfire in the Fishlake National Forest in Utah in 2000. "They did not understand what the fire was doing." Ultimately, the men were rescued. But the fire took a toll. One man was burned badly across his face. "In another few seconds, those guys would have been burned up," Sulffridge said. "They would have died." Firefighting has always been dangerous. But today, with the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies hiring more private contractors to do the work, a different kind of firefighter is in harm's way: migrant workers who have minimal experience and training, speak little or no English and often are in the country illegally....
12 Species of Flies Get Federal Protection Twelve species of rare flies known for their elaborate courtship displays and found only in the Hawaiian Islands are now protected under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the protected status for the highly valued picture-wing flies Tuesday. The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity sued the service in March 2005, accusing it of violating the Endangered Species Act. The center said the agency did not move ahead fast enough on listing the flies as endangered after a 2001 proposal for the flies' protected status was made. Picture-wing flies are about two to three times the size of common house flies and are considered harmless to humans. Other species of picture-wing flies are found outside Hawaii. Last summer, a district court judge ordered the federal government to begin protecting the species by April 2006 and their habitats by the following year....
100 Success Stories for Endangered Species Day 2006 The U.S. Senate declared May 11, 2006 Endangered Species Day to “encourage the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.” To help celebrate and educate, the Center for Biological Diversity has created a website (www.esasuccess.org) detailing the conservation efforts that caused the populations of 100 endangered species in every U.S. state and territory to soar. “From key deer and green sea turtles in Florida, to grizzly bears and wolves in Montana, sea otters and blue butterflies in California, and short-nose sturgeon and roseate terns in New York, the Endangered Species Act has not only saved hundreds of species from extinction,” said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity, “but also put them on the road to recovery. The Endangered Species Act is one of America’s most successful conservation laws.” The web site features a map that allows viewers to quickly see a picture, population trend graph and short description of each species in their region. Detailed species accounts are also available for those wanting more information....
Vulnerable endangered species or environmental sleight-of-hand? The tiny white flowers are blooming again in the field behind the plastic surgeon's office on Highway 116, and Sebastopol is trying to figure out what it all means. It could mean a death knell for a controversial $70 million housing development. Or it could mean that a very nice, gray-haired retired grammar school principal and his pals are pulling a fast one. The white flowers are Sebastopol meadowfoams, or Limnanthes vinculans, a name that is a lot larger than the quarter-inch-wide blossom that could pass for a garden-variety garden weed if botanists had not declared it to be endangered. Last year, the retired school principal, Bob Evans, was walking his dog, Sophie, through the field when he spotted the flower poking through the tall grass. The field on the south end of town happens to be the proposed site of the 125-unit Laguna Vista housing development, and Evans happens to be a leader of the local opposition to the project....
Spotlight on species Get out your day planner. Endangered Species Day is joining the ranks of official and not-so-official celebrations that pack the American calendar. It's the creation of David Robinson, a trade magazine editor and veteran conservationist from La Mesa. Robinson spurred the U.S. Senate, the official arbiter of nationally themed days, to designate May 11 as the occasion to spotlight species facing extinction. “My hope is that people will look at it as something fresh,” said Robinson, who spent about 18 months persuading the Senate to take action. Robinson, 57, has kicked around the idea of an Endangered Species Day for years, but it wasn't until late 2004 that he contacted the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to see what could be done. Environmentalists are billing Endangered Species Day as the first national celebration of America's commitment to protecting plants and animals facing extinction. But some business leaders view it as a political stunt designed to slow momentum toward a major overhaul of the Endangered Species Act, the nation's cornerstone law for species protection. “It's a preservationist tactic,” said Paul Tryon, chief executive of the Building Industry Association of San Diego. “It's just one more tool to influence debate.”....
Park tweaks rules after Delicate Arch climb Rock climber and "slackliner" Dean Potter may have had his moment high atop famed Delicate Arch. But the National Park Service says no one better do it again. Officials at Arches National Park on Tuesday issued a statement reinforcing the park's long-standing rock-climbing ban on all named arches after Potter announced that he had successfully "free climbed" the nearly 50-foot-high southeast Utah icon using no protective equipment. Arches acting Chief Ranger Karen McKinlay-Jones believes Potter's actions on Sunday violated the intent of park regulations but said the park's solicitor advised that Potter cannot be prosecuted because the regulation "was not worded well." "It was always our intent that all named arches . . . are closed to climbing," McKinlay-Jones said. "That was clearly understood by the climbing community in Moab as well as by climbers who come here from other places." The park's newly worded climbing ban, which went into effect Tuesday, leaves no room for doubt....
Editorial - Elevated ego: Climber who scaled Delicate Arch deserves stiff penalty Dean Potter and a few irresponsible all-terrain vehicle riders have two traits in common: They are stubbornly determined to go where no humans have gone before, and they believe that rules meant to protect the landscape don't apply to them. Potter is the professional climber who scaled Utah's most prominent icon, Delicate Arch, Sunday, despite Arches National Park rules against climbing all its named arches. Making the ascent had become an obsession, he said. We see it more as an ego trip and a chance to advance his climbing career. That Patagonia, whose outdoor gear Potter promotes, had plans to use the climb in its advertising seems the most probable motive for the stunt. Potter obviously did not consider the potential harm he could cause by disregarding park regulations. Or he simply put his own personal gratification - or was it a need for attention? - ahead of any concern for the unique rock formation he claims was "vibrating with energy" as he stood on its top. If the huge old arch could vibrate, indignation or outrage would be a more likely cause....My hat's off to Potter, for his physical feat, and for finding a little sliver of freedom, sticking it to the Feds and getting away with it. Hard to do now a days. And speaking of ego's, his appears to be miniscule compared to the know-it-all editorial writers at the Salt Lake Tribune.
Kangaroos may come to Black Hills Tourists soon may have something new to see in the northern Black Hills National Forest. Lawrence County zoning officials have recommended approval of a special permit for a kangaroo ranch in Boulder Canyon. Kevin and Roxy Bell plan to have a walkthrough area for kangaroo viewing and a gift shop in an old building that once housed the U.S. Forest Service. There seems to be a lot of interest, Kevin Bell said. "What we are trying to do is get something organized so we can set up and have it from Memorial Day to Labor Day." The Lawrence County Commission is set to take final action on the permit for the "Roo Ranch" at its meeting May 23.
Lime kilns' comeback The lime kilns that helped wipe out portions of the saguaro forest a century ago are now considered archaeological treasures of the park created to preserve the saguaros. A crew of preservationists from the National Park Service's Tumac├ícori National Historical Park is working to stabilize six of the crumbling kilns — four in Saguaro National Park's Rincon Mountain District and two in its Tucson Mountain District. In their heyday, from the 1880s to 1920, the beehive-shaped kilns burned for days at a time to turn limestone blasted from nearby cliffs into lime for the mortar and plaster that helped build Tucson. It took up to four days and 15 cords of wood to turn the calcium carbonate rock into quicklime, according to park documents relating a 1969 conversation with one of the kiln workers, the late Frank Escalante. Palo verde was the preferred fuel, but mesquite was also used. The areas around the kilns were denuded for miles....
Editorial: Mad cow testing dispute featuressome crazy bureaucratic logic A ranching and meat-processing company in Kansas wants to test all its cattle for mad cow disease at its own expense. The Bush administration won't let the firm do it. Oh, but that's not all. If the company tries to buy the $20 testing kits, the feds will treat such a transaction as an illegal purchase of a controlled substance. We wish we were making this up, but we're not. Talk about mad cow, this is crazy people. It's also an intrusive government abusing an old law. In 1913, when cholera was decimating hog herds, scam artists were selling fake serums to farmers. Congress responded with the Viruses, Serums, Toxins, Anti-Toxins and Analogous Products Act. It gave the federal government authority to regulate diagnostic testing devices for farm animals. The Bush administration rediscovered this law when the Kansas company, Creekstone Farms, announced plans to test its entire herd for mad cow disease. The company was willing to go far and beyond the government's test regimen to reassure its customers in places such as Japan. Private companies make these test kits and there is nothing dangerous about them. Still, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says ranchers such as Creekstone Farms can't buy them....
Putting up a fight The entertainment industry for which he works is illegal under Texas law, but who is going to worry about cockfights when a drug war is raging on the other side of the river, people are snatched off the streets for ransom and illegal aliens trudge through the chaparral in droves? Pamela Anderson, the TV star and celebrity activist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is not expected to grace this rough-and-tumble corner of the world with her presence any time soon, so Mauro Morales has carved up a little market niche on the margins of the law and is determined to keep it. He is in the business of raising gamecocks and sees nothing wrong with it. "Well, it's not really me. My son is in charge of that," he explains with a coy smile. "But everybody does it here -- the lawyers, the police. I think even the judge is in on this, too, but I'm not quite sure." Under pressure from animal rights groups, cockfighting is banned everywhere in the United States except Louisiana and New Mexico. But go to any part of the heavily Hispanic border region and you will see that cultural traditions going back centuries just don't die by government edict....
The Day Two Great Horses Foreshadowed the Civil War Now for a real horse race. More than 50 years before the first Kentucky Derby, and more than a century before Seabiscuit and War Admiral dueled at Pimlico, the eyes of the nation turned to a race between the two best horses in the land. On May 27, 1823, Eclipse, the undefeated pride of the North, faced a rising star from the South, Sir Henry. It was North versus South, a preview of increasingly bitter sectional rivalry and, ultimately, the Civil War. On race day 60,000 spectators, a third of them having made the long journey from the South, packed the grounds and the stands of the Union Course. The stock exchange closed. Congress shut down. Andrew Jackson took time off from his presidential campaign to attend a race that was more than a race. At the time, horses raced in heats, with the first to win two heats declared the winner. The distances were inconceivable by modern standards. Eclipse and Sir Henry would race four miles, rest for a half-hour and go right back to the racing oval for a second race, and then a third if necessary. It was. Eclipse and Sir Henry put on dazzling displays of courage and endurance, each besting the other by the narrowest of margins in the first two heats....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

GAO

Correspondence

Wildland Fire Management: Update on Federal Agency Efforts to Develop a Cohesive Strategy to Address Wildland Fire Threats. GAO-06-671R, May 1.

http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-671R
‘Boutique' is for clothing — not for gasoline

Drivers of a certain age will recall when there were only two types of gasoline: regular and high-test. Today, government mandates across the USA have spawned more than a dozen categories of special gasolines, known as “boutique” fuels. Each comes in multiple octane grades and varies slightly with the seasons of the year. These requirements strain the nation's overstretched refineries, contribute to high gasoline prices and cause inefficient distribution. Each day, for example, millions of gallons flow through pipeline past Atlanta on the way from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast. Little of this fuel can be used in Atlanta, however, because it's a conventional formulation, and the city requires a special kind of gas to meet its air pollution needs. Fuel produced in some East Coast refineries, meanwhile, travels out of the region because it's made for the needs of other communities. These individualized fuels are not wholly without merit. Places such as Southern California, for instance, have intense smog problems that require ultraclean gasoline. But what started as a sound idea has spun out of control as states have rushed forward to adopt their own fuel requirements. There are 15 or 16 categories of boutique fuel, depending on how they are counted. Gasoline is becoming like coffee at Starbucks — unnecessarily complex and pricey. The state and local fuel mandates are being driven as much by politics and budgetary concerns as by air pollution. They have helped to raise the price of gas by at least several cents a gallon while not always having a positive air quality benefit. In some cases, these requirements are seen as an alternative to comprehensive pollution control efforts. Ohio, for instance, is considering a mandate for a special kind of gasoline to make up for its decision to eliminate statewide tailpipe emissions testing. In other states, these mandates are simply an excuse to reward key constituencies. The ethanol lobby, which had been content with federal requirements in the 1990 Clean Air Act, has been busy pushing states to adopt their own mandates. Montana, Hawaii, Minnesota and Colorado have done so already, and several others are considering such action. Of these, Hawaii has to be the oddest. It is hoping to develop a sugar-based ethanol industry. But for now, nearly 10% of its fuel will be shipped in by train and boat from ethanol plants in the Midwest....