Friday, June 02, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

The bureau of "nature conservancy" One of TNC's most recent actions as a bureau has been the signing of an agreement with the Southwestern Region of the USDA Forest Service by their Arizona and New Mexico Chapters. TNC will also be working with the Bureau of Land Management. It is reported that TNC was hired through a "no bid" contract to do GIS mapping. The question was raised as to why the Forest Service and BLM did not contact the United States Geological Survey to do this work, but no one has given an answer. TNC will compile a vegetation database for Region 3 National Forests. Opponents to TNC doing this work say this agreement will: "... determine the desired future conditions, develop its own new standards for data interpretation, interpret old and new data by these new self-created standards, establish hypotheses, and evaluate them under the adaptive management and monitoring system." This will mean that TNC intends to make up their own rules as they go along, and they will be training Forest Service employees. Opponents are speaking out loud and clear that they believe: "... the next 20 or more years of Forest policy will be founded on the work of an immensely wealthy private corporation (the world's largest private landowner) with its own selfish agendas, minimal, if any, financial transparency, a checkered reputation, and minimal, if any, public accountability." Legislators tried to get the contract pulled by the appropriations committee, but couldn't get the job done. There are concerns that access to this information could be readily available, and could be used against farmers and ranchers....
Treasury Nominee Is Ideologically, Ethically Challenged The Senate should reject President Bush’s nomination of Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson for Treasury secretary. Under Paulson’s leadership, Goldman Sachs participated in ethically, and perhaps legally, questionable business practices. Paulson also supports the economy-killing Kyoto Protocol and has demonstrated little respect for private property rights. On the ethical front, Paulson has refused to answer questions about his apparent use of Goldman Sachs’ corporate assets to advance his personal interests. In 2002, Paulson used at least $35 million of shareholder money to help environmental groups stop a “sustainable forestry” project in Tierra del Fuego, Chile. Environmental groups had delayed the project for years—to the point where financial stress on the project developer became acute and forced the sale of the land. Goldman swept in and bought the land, promptly turning it over to Paulson’s environmental allies. The environmental groups involved in the transaction included The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the actual recipient of the land donation from Goldman Sachs. At the time of the transaction, Paulson was a member of the board of directors of TNC—after the transaction he was elevated to chairman. Paulson’s son is now listed on tax returns as a “trustee” of WCS’....
Bush's pick to head Treasury Department is conservationist as well as financier Much vaunted as chair of the investment firm Goldman Sachs since 1999, Paulson is less known for his role at The Nature Conservancy, the world's largest conservation organization. He joined the group's board of directors in 2001 and now serves as board chair. TNC President and CEO Steve McCormick hails Paulson as "a voice for environmental issues at the highest levels of business and government. His mark on the conservancy is indelible. He has helped us think big -- very big -- about our conservation ambitions." He's put this view into action at Goldman Sachs. In 2004, under Paulson's watch, Goldman donated 680,000 acres of wilderness in southern Chile to the Wildlife Conservation Society, to the consternation of a few shareholders. Paulson also worked with environmental groups including the World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop a comprehensive environmental policy framework [PDF] for Goldman Sachs, unveiled last November. "It's certainly one of the most far-reaching that has been developed among leading companies," said WRI Senior Associate Jon Sohn. He said the policy statement broke ground by essentially calling for mandatory government limits on greenhouse-gas emissions and by saying the company would encourage its clients to adhere to high environmental standards. Paulson also gives big to green causes. He and his wife Wendy, a former TNC board member who leads bird walks in New York City's Central Park, this spring donated $100 million of their Goldman stock to an environmentally focused family foundation. In the 2002 and 2004 election cycles, they donated $608,000 to the League of Conservation Voters, which works to elect candidates with strong environmental records, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Paulson's remaining net worth is estimated at more than $700 million, and according to The New York Times, he's privately expressed plans to give that wealth away. Though reportedly a Republican -- he raised at least $100,000 for Bush's 2004 reelection campaign -- Paulson is at odds with many in the GOP over climate change. He sees it as a serious problem that can't be adequately addressed with voluntary measures, and he's committed Goldman Sachs to making a 7 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from its offices by 2012....
Bush's Treasury nominee brings new views on environment to U.S.administration Henry Paulson probably will find the tightrope he will walk as President George W. Bush's Treasury secretary will span a wider gulf than the one between his current twin jobs as chairman of Goldman Sachs and The Nature Conservancy. Both Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street powerhouse, and the world's richest environmental group consider global warming a dire threat that requires government-mandated reductions in carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse. Bush does not. Steve McCormick, president of The Nature Conservancy, said Paulson will not shy from sharing his views on global warming in Bush's Cabinet. "He is unhesitant in expressing his opinion when he thinks it's the right thing to do,'' McCormick said. ''I'm sure that if there's an opportunity for Hank to provide his point of view on this issue, he will take advantage of it.'' Environmentalists normally critical of Bush believe they may have an advocate with access to the president's ear. ''It isn't every day that the Sierra Club finds itself welcoming a nomination to George W. Bush's Cabinet while ultraconservatives decry the move,'' said Carl Pope, the Sierra Club's executive director....
Army Builders Accept Blame Over Flooding In a sweeping new study of the causes of the disaster in New Orleans last year, the Army Corps of Engineers concludes that the levees it built in the city were an incomplete patchwork of protection, containing flaws in design and construction and not built to handle a storm anywhere near the strength of Hurricane Katrina. "The hurricane protection system in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana was a system in name only," said the draft of the nine-volume report, released yesterday in New Orleans. Several outside engineering panels that have been critical of the corps have come to similar conclusions, and have found a more extensive chain of flaws in the design, construction and maintenance of the 350-mile levee system. But the 6,113-page report is remarkable for being a product of the corps' own official investigation, which brought together 150 experts from government, academia and business to study what went wrong and how to build better systems for the future. The region's network of levees, floodwalls, pumps and gates lacked any built-in resilience that would have allowed the system to remain standing and provide protection even if water flowed over the tops of levees and floodwalls, the report's investigators found. Flaws in the levee design that allowed breaches in the city's drainage canals were not foreseen, and those floodwalls failed even though the storm waters did not rise above the level that the walls were designed to hold....
Column: Investigation into Wolf Creek project warranted I fully support Sen. Ken Salazar and Congressman John Salazar in their call for an investigation into whether insider politics unduly influenced the recent U.S. Forest Service approval of the controversial proposed Village at Wolf Creek in Mineral County. As a result of the serious allegations that political influence may have been "improperly or illegally exerted" in the approval process, I concur with Ken Salazar that further action on the application should be suspended until the internal investigation has been completed. Just in the past few days, Sen. Salazar's concerns have gained traction with the announcement by the inspector general of the federal agency overseeing the approvals that she was evaluating the allegations. No one is pre-judging the outcome; it simply seems prudent to investigate the facts that first came to light when a former high-ranking Forest Service employee, Ed Ryberg, alleged that political influence may have tainted the process and may have improperly benefited the project's owners, which include Texas developer "Red" McCombs....
A fine-feathered fest In 1824, when Jim Bridger made his way down the Bear River to the mouth of the Great Salt Lake in a buffalo-hide canoe, he reported that he had seen "millions of ducks and geese." When John C. Fremont visited the Bear River delta in 1843, he, too, was awestruck by the numbers of birds he found. "The waterfowl made this morning a noise like thunder," he wrote in his report. "The whole morass was animated with multitudes of waterfowl." In 1849, Capt. Howard Stansbury also commented upon the "the immense flocks of wild geese and ducks" and added that "I had seen large flocks of these birds before, in various parts of our country, and especially upon the Potomac, but never did I behold anything like the immense numbers here congregated together. Thousands of acres, as far as the eye could reach, seemed literally covered with them, presenting a scene of busy, animated cheerfulness, in most graceful contrast with the dreary, silent solitude by which we were immediately surrounded." But as settlers began moving into the area, they began diverting water from the Bear River for use in settlements upstream. By the turn of the 20th century the marshy lands of the river's delta had begun to dry up, and the flocks of birds began to diminish. Some visionary local citizens were not alone in worrying about this trend. Concern about lost habitat and endangered species was also reaching the highest levels of government. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt, afraid that a national fad for feathers in hats would wipe out native birds such as the great egret, set aside Florida's 3-acre Pelican Island as a protected place where birds could live undisturbed by humans. The National Wildlife Refuge System was born, and quickly added to with the establishment of other refuges. Meanwhile, back on the Bear River, outbreaks of avian botulism were decimating already reduced populations of waterfowl, and the public outcry for action was growing....
Judge weighs hold on delisting of owl A federal judge is considering a request from environmentalists to put a hold on removing the endangered pygmy owl from the endangered species list. The bird's Sonoran Desert habitat is in imminent danger from several developments, attorney Michael Senatore said Thursday, citing a declaration outlining a half-dozen projects totaling at least 1,200 homes on 4,300 acres. The projects had been undergoing federal environmental reviews until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in mid-April to take the bird off the endangered list. Then the reviews were terminated, leaving the developers free to build once they get federal and local building permits. The Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity used these same projects in mid-May in an unsuccessful effort to get a brief, temporary restraining order halting the delisting that would have lasted a few weeks. On Thursday, however, the groups were seeking a longer-term injunction blocking the delisting until a federal judge can make a final ruling on the entire case — which could take six months. .S. District Judge Susan Bolton took the case under advisement after attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department and home-builder groups took turns finding fault with the environmentalists' arguments. They said these and other threats alleged by environmentalists were speculative and that the vast majority of pygmy-owl habitat is already protected because it lies in national monuments, national wildlife refuges or Indian reservations — not private land....
Editorial: Government isn’t nature’s best friend Endangered species watchers wanting a glimpse of the wily and rare Devil’s Hole pupfish can now find a few of them in an unlikely place — the Shark Reef aquarium at The Mandalay Bay Casino on the Las Vegas strip. The diminutive pupfish probably can’t hold a candle to the strip’s other attractions; the lions at the MGM Grand, the pirate ship at Treasure Island or the dancing fountains at Bellagio. But that’s not the reason for the change of habitat. Two male and two female pupfish, which normally inhabit a pool in remote Death Valley, have been moved to the casino as an insurance policy against their possible disappearance in the wild. Five fingerling pupfish also have been moved to an aquarium in Arizona with the hope of preserving the species. That leaves only 37 adult pupfish living in Death Valley. Isn’t it a little risky putting pupfish in Shark Reef? Not much more risky than entrusting them to the care of bumbling federal wildlife bureaucrats, who pushed the species closer to the brink in 2004 when improperly stored fish traps, being used by researchers to count the pupfish, were washed into Devil’s Hole by a flash flood. A third of the pupfish died in the traps. No mention of the debacle was made in news accounts of the pupfish’s relocation we read last week. But now you know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say....
Aquifer level not only gauge for water limits Even though recent rains have raised the Edwards Aquifer level in a key San Antonio index well, watering restrictions still hang over the city's head. The index well level is just one of three key measurements that can trigger drought restrictions. Aquifer managers also look at how much water is flowing from the aquifer into San Marcos and Comal Springs, where an endangered species of fish lives. And despite the recent rains, one of those yardsticks, the average daily water flow into the San Marcos Springs, is not doing so well. Wednesday, the average daily flows at San Marcos fell to 108 cubic feet per second. The rules of the Edwards Aquifer Authority, which regulates pumping from the huge natural underground reservoir, call for water use cutbacks to begin when the running five-day average flow at San Marcos falls below 110 cfs. The five-day average through Wednesday was 111 cfs, putting it very close to triggering the restrictions....
11-foot crocodile captured in Miami-Dade Veteran trapper Todd Hardwick said it was the biggest crocodile he had seen in urban Miami-Dade County in his 20-year crocodile-catching career. The 11-foot crocodile was captured Wednesday night in a south Miami-Dade neighborhood. Hardwick, of Pesky Critters, a wildlife nuisance control company, roped the 360-pound creature along a canal bank in Cutler Bay and wildlife officials relocated it Thursday. Alligator attacks have gotten all the attention lately, but now crocodiles might be rearing their heads, he said. Hardwick first heard about the crocodile on Mother's Day, when he was called to an alligator sighting in a canal in a residential neighborhood. When Hardwick saw it was a crocodile, he reported it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. On Wednesday night, Hardwick got an emergency call from wildlife authorities that the crocodile was in someone's backyard. Hardwick said he approached the crocodile with a rope, expecting it to leap back in the canal. "He stood his ground, opened his mouth, stared at me and gave me a hiss and a growl," he said....
Christo river art faces delay Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s dream of draping the Arkansas River with seven miles of fabric is so problematic that federal officials already know they probably won’t give the artists the quick go-ahead they seek. The Bureau of Land Management — the first in a series of agencies that must approve the contentious “Over the River” — has warned the artists their proposal is in trouble. “We were telling them it wasn’t looking good,” said BLM planning and environmental coordinator Pete Zwaneveld. “We know we have problems with the bighorn sheep, bald eagles, with congestion on the highway.” The husband-and-wife team has asked to halt the environmental assessment now under way and instead pursue approval through a more rigorous, complicated review known as an environmental impact statement that could delay the project for at least a year — longer if there are appeals. “Christo and Jeanne-Claude are very patient people,” said Jonita Davenport, project director for “Over the River.”....
Shale oil — now? A company says it can produce oil from shale mined from Utah within two or three years, at a cost of about $40 per barrel, and that notion has leaders in Washington, D.C., interested in ways to make it happen. "It is potentially part of our future, and it could be a big part," Domenici said. "Enterprise, initiative and innovation are going to drive the investment of money into shale oil, and it's going to produce crude oil." Romit Bhattacharya, chief executive officer of Oil Tech, gave Domenici an education in shale processing at a remote site that the company currently uses for research. "There's too many people who say it can't be done. It will be done," Bhattacharya told Domenici. The company owns land leases for mineral rights on more than 38,000 acres throughout the Green River Formation in Utah. The small research site has already produced oil that can be sold to a refinery. That site could be modified to produce 1,000 barrels a day. Each additional processing site could be built in six to eight months. Bhattacharya told Domenici that how much shale Oil Tech processes depends on access to available resources. The processing involves heating the shale to extract the oil. It's estimated that Utah has more oil in shale deposits than there is oil in Saudi Arabia, according to John Baardson, chief executive officer of Oil Tech partner BAARD Energy....
New fire forecast expects busy season for Western ranges Wildfire potential is rising on the rangelands across the West due to an unusually thick blanket of grasses that are drying out quickly, according to a new forecast issued by federal land managers Thursday. "Anything in the rangelands, we are looking at above-normal fire danger because of all that fine fuel," said Tom Wordell, head of the Predictive Services Unit at the National Interagency Fire Center here. "The long-lead forecasts show the entire West to be warmer than normal with portions drier than normal in June and July, so if that pans out, we could get accelerated snowmelt and rapid drying in the mountains as well." The national wildland fire outlook calls for normal fire danger across much of the West. in early June, but the potential will increase to above normal later in the month if temperatures climb as forecasters anticipate. In low-elevation areas of the Southwest, normally bare ranges are flush with grasses due to a wet winter and carry-over vegetation from last year's similarly high precipitation....
Editorial: No need to loosen salvage logging rules Salvage logging has this image problem _ it sounds like roadside litter pickup, and that works to the great benefit of timber companies and their pals in Congress. As long as they keep people thinking salvage amounts to cleaning up a few trashed trees after a forest fire, they can keep rewriting federal law to the loggers' liking. The reality is that salvage timber now accounts for more than one-third of the wood coming out of our national forests. So it is a valuable commodity to timber companies. But it's also a critical contributor to forest regrowth after fires, as well as floods and windstorms. Arguably, industrial-scale logging on these damaged landscapes should be governed more carefully, not less, than harvests in healthy forests. But a bill that cleared the U.S. House this month moves in the other direction. It provides a fast-track alternative to normal environmental reviews, requiring forest managers to research their logging options within 30 days after a fire (or other damaging event), and prepare a plan within 90. The public can comment on the planning during that same 90 days _ before any plan is available for review _ and can't appeal the result except in federal court, where judges, too, are directed to expedite review. This so-called Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act has nothing to do with research, recovery or emergency response, but with increasing salvage-timber production _ by some 40 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office....
How Delicate Was Dean? What did Dean Potter do on Delicate Arch, and how did he do it? Those questions have percolated in the climbing world since May 7, when Potter—a 34-year-old professional climber who splits his time between Moab, Utah, and Yosemite National Park—scampered to the top of Delicate Arch, a fragile landmark in southern Utah's Arches National Park. Potter's climb touched off a storm that has led to condemnation from close friends and mentors, virulent criticism from many climbers, and strict new climbing regulations in the park itself. What has remained a mystery, though, is exactly how Potter conducted the climb, and whether it was quite as delicate as many believe. As Outside has learned, it wasn't, and there's even a chance Potter did permanent damage to Delicate Arch's famously soft sandstone....
EPA Won't Regulate Water Transfers The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will not regulate transfers of water from one place to another _ no matter how polluted the water is at the start. The EPA proposal would let water transfer authorities, corporate farmers and other businesses skip having to obtain a Clean Water Act permit in certain cases. The exemption would apply to water, even if it contains pollution, that is moved in tunnels, channels or natural streams and isn't put to industrial, municipal or commercial uses. A permit would still be required if the process of the water transfer itself might introduce pollutants. The idea is to allow "needed flexibility to protect water quality, prevent costly litigation and promote the public good," said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water....
Editorial: Heads in the sand - and proud of it At a press conference Wednesday at the state Capitol, the group Environmental Action marked Dependence Day, "the day when the United States effectively runs out of domestic oil and must rely completely on foreign imports for the remainder of the year." The idea is that the United States produces 41 percent of its oil, enough to supply Americans for only five months a year. We import the rest. Our economic vitality could indeed be held hostage by unfriendly or unstable foreign suppliers of this crucial energy source. But there is good news. Untapped, domestic offshore reserves of crude oil and natural gas could help fuel the nation for decades. There may be enough new natural gas offshore to satisfy demand (at today's level) for 18 years. Unfortunately, Environmental Action wants no new fossil fuels. Instead, the group demands higher fuel-economy standards, more alternative energy and, of course, expanded mass transit. In this view, oil and coal are bad. So is natural gas, which until recently environmentalists lauded because it burns cleanly. And nuclear power. These folks seem to have problems with any energy source that sustains contemporary civilization....
If only McCain and Kennedy lived on ranches in southern Arizona I know how to kill the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill and the illusions that inspire it. We need every citizen to spend a day at John and Pat King's Anvil Ranch in southern Arizona. The experience would create an overnight revolution in America's view of this domestic crisis. The Kings live every day with barking dogs, vandalism, guns at their bedside, trash on their land, and most tragically, human remains. The bodies of seven illegals were found on the 50,000-acre Anvil last year. “Can you imagine dying of heat prostration out there?” says Pat King, a 62-year-old former nurse. “It has got to be the most awful thing. I wish the two countries would get together and stop this. In this whole 50-mile area, there is no law. It's a frontier.” I visited the Anvil a week ago Sunday. The night before, the Minutemen had wrapped up a month-long watch at the ranch, and the nationwide demonstrations to demand rights for illegal immigrants would begin the next morning. I've visited many Arizona ranches, and it always surprises me how quickly I can travel from Tucson to a combat zone. It takes 50 minutes to reach Anvil's headquarters in heavily-crossed Altar Valley, located to the southwest of the city. Even with that proximity, most people in Tucson—to say nothing of Maine or Washington, D.C.—live in blissful ignorance of the worsening situation here. When Pat discusses the problem with friends, they say, “Don't you think you're exaggerating?” No one would ask that if they saw the 40 bicycles stacked against one of the Anvil's out-buildings. They're the favored means of transportation for drug smugglers, who pack their cargo onto saddlebags and pedal across our border, then abandon the bikes. As for vandalism, Pat describes what they experience today as “wanton,”—water troughs filled with garbage, pipes cut, valves hammered to pieces. She jokes that they're thinking of putting a tetherball by the troughs to occupy the illegals so they aren't so destructive. “You have to understand, we're under siege here,” she says. “Every day my son and husband check water and fences and redo the damage they've done. Not to get on with our work, but to undo the damage. Every. Day.” Micaela McGibbon, Pat's daughter, took me on a ranch tour, and in one mile we crossed 30 smuggling trails. In a wash, we inspected sophisticated brush huts in which illegals rest during trips north. But this nightmare comes right to the Kings' doorstep. Imagine living under permanent stakeout. The Kings do. They removed mesquite trees from around their house because illegals would hide underneath them and wait for the house to empty. For nine years, the family has been unable to leave home unless someone stays to guard against burglars. They celebrate Christmas in shifts. On Christmas Eve, Pat's son and daughter-in-law go to Tucson to visit family, and when they return John and Pat go on Christmas morning....
Deep roots: The power of the farm lobby If anyone has an insider's view of the cozy and enduring alliances that maintain America's generous farm subsidy program, it's Larry Combest. He spent 18 years representing west Texas cotton country in Congress, fighting for subsidies on Capitol Hill while reaping political benefits back home. He chaired the House Agriculture Committee the last time Congress rewrote the farm bill, legislation that provided farmers a windfall of federal largess. Now, after leaving Congress, he's on the farm lobby's payroll with the job of persuading his former colleagues to keep the good times rolling. Combest's success in protecting subsidies means consumers pay twice, once at the grocery store and again on their tax bills. Regular as the harvest for 73 years, the renewal of farm subsidies is being challenged by a coalition that includes the Bush administration, environmentalists and fiscal conservatives. Congress is expected to rewrite the farm bill next year. But Combest is hardly trembling. The "real environment," personified by Combest, is a self-perpetuating cycle of money, votes and political power that has made agriculture one of Washington's most entrenched special interests, even as the number of farmers has dwindled to about 1 percent of the population....
Plowed by bad harvest This year's poor wheat harvest will likely thresh local economies that usually profit from custom combine crews passing through and from farmers' trade, merchants and agricultural experts said. Businesses ranging from campgrounds to cafes are feeling the hurt from a puny harvest that ended almost before it began. Ag experts have forecast wheat production for Texas at 35.1 million bushels - down 63 percent compared to last year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. "Drought has devastated the wheat crop," Bob Garino, NASS acting Texas director, stated in a media release. "Acres harvested for grain are at the lowest level since 1925, and grain production hasn't been this low since 1971." The forecast for Oklahoma is 68.2 million bushels - a 47 percent decrease from last year, according to the NASS. In North Texas and southern Oklahoma, elevators are logging a harvest that's 4 percent to 10 percent of last year's, according to previous Times Record News reports. Locally, the yield has dropped from 30 bushels per acre or so of past years to a measly 15 bushels or less. Farmers aim to produce 40 bushels an acre....
Kaycee cancels Sheepherders Rodeo The annual Kaycee Sheepherders Rodeo has been cancelled, officials say. “It was a hard vote -- probably one of the hardest things we've ever done,” Joni Harlan, a member of the Sheepherders Rodeo committee, said of the decision to end the 19-year-old event. “It was like being at one of our best friends' funerals. ... But the writing was on the wall.” The Sheepherders Rodeo celebrated the work of the sheep industry and included a dog trial for working sheepdogs. It featured such events as men's and women's sheep-hooking and children's sheep-riding, and there was a street dance in town during the evenings. The committee cited hot July weather, declines in crowds and trouble staying profitable as the major reasons for the rodeo's demise. Not to mention the work involved by the dozen or so organizers who endured days of sometimes blazing temperatures to produce the rodeo, according to local rancher Betty Furnival, who helped found the event with her husband, Bob. “When we first started, we had the crowds. We were feeding 500 to 600 people at those free barbecues,” she said. “But really, 100-degree weather, people just won't sit in it -- it's just too hot. You look up in the stands and you might have 100 people or less -- it just got discouraging.” Furnival said the event organizers had considered changing the dates, or even having it in the evenings. In the end, they decided there was no way to keep the rodeo going....
For equine entertainment, Mr. Ed has nothing on cloned-mule races Move over Butch Cassidy — Winnemucca, Nev., soon will have a new most exciting moment. Cloned mule racing. That's right, the tiny Nevada town, in which Cassidy may or may not have held up a bank in 1900, will host the first-ever professional event to include cloned animals. Idaho Gem and Idaho Star were cloned at the University of Idaho — take that Boise State — and trained in different environments. They will race against natural mules Saturday in separate heats. And, in case you're thinking road trip, there will be a final and a consolation final Sunday. "We know there's going to be a huge turnout to see how they compete," said Don Jacklin, an innovator in the cloning project and president of the American Mule Racing Association. It will be a weekend of firsts, Jacklin said. • It will be the first time that a clone has been in a professional competitive event. • It will be the first time clones have competed against non-clones. • And, if Idaho Gem and Idaho Star qualify for the same race Sunday, it will be the first time two clones have competed against each other....

Thursday, June 01, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Coalition urges BLM to revise regulations In the face of mounting natural gas drilling in the West, a coalition of ranchers, farmers and conservationists Wednesday petitioned the Bureau of Land Management to revise its regulations to lessen the impacts to landowners. The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned the BLM to change its regulations to improve reclamation standards, increase financial assurance bonds, and provide oversight of oil and gas development. Currently, the BLM requires a $10,000 bond for individual oil and gas wells, a blanket statewide bond of $25,000 and a $150,000 nationwide bond. The two organizations contend those bond amounts are not sufficient to cover reclamation of well pads, pipelines and roads and associated installations. "Current regulations do not ensure that oil and gas operators pay the full costs of minimizing environmental damage, or remediating the land, during and following development," said David Newman, NRDC attorney. "This leaves local landowners, itself to bear the costs, rather than the developers responsible for such impacts. This is both irresponsible and unfair." For the "hundreds of thousands of (new) wells" projected to be drilled in the future, "the cost of reclamation will be astronomical and likely beyond the means of the federal government," said Bob Elderkin, spokesman for Western Colorado Congress. Specifically, the petition calls for the BLM to require Geographic Area Development Plans for all oil and gas activity with site-specific reclamation plans and full-cost estimates of reclamation. The new regulations would also specify performance standards for reclamation. In addition, bond amounts would increase to $20,000 for individual wells with an option for a site-specific reclamation bond in lieu of the bond. The new regulations would also improve inspection, monitoring, and enforcement....
Tests won't hurt Utah, Army says After five years of deliberation, the Army has decided that continuing chemical and biological defense tests at Dugway Proving Ground will not hurt the Utah environment. The Army gave public notice Wednesday that it has adopted a "programmatic environmental impact statement" that it began in 2001 to look at cumulative effects of such testing at numerous sites nationally, including Dugway. It finds no dire impacts. The Army said in a record of decision that environmental impacts of continued biological and chemical defense testing at Dugway and other sites nationally "will be negligible to minor and mitigable." In reaction, Erickson said sarcastically, "Gee, they've never had problems at Dugway before, so why should they in the future?" Several problems have occurred there, ranging from a 1969 nerve gas accident that killed 6,000 sheep in nearby Skull Valley (which some ranchers say also led to health problems for their families) to disclosures that the base secretly aimed some biological arms at human volunteers to test effects....
Column: Gale Norton in Slacks - Dirk's Dirty Money After serving for five years as Interior Secretary in the Bush Cabinet, Gale Norton, protégé of James Watt, quietly stepped down from her post overseeing the ruination of the American West. Norton's sudden exit was almost certainly hastened by the widening fallout from the corruption probes into Jack Abramoff and his retinue of clients and the politicians and bureaucrats he held on retainer. Abramoff, it will be recalled, performed some of his most extravagant shakedowns of clients, many of them destitute Indian tribes, seeking indulgences from the Interior Department. To replace Norton, Bush called upon his old pal Dirk Kempthorne, the Idaho governor and former US Senator, who once cherished notions, fantastical though they may have been, of the occupying the White House. In picking Kempthorne, Bush has once again demonstrated that mindless consistency which will be one of his hallmarks as president. Far from moving to clean up an office sullied by corruption and inside-dealing, Bush tapped a man, who has over the course of his 20 years in politics, taken more money from timber, big ag, mining and oil companies than any governor in the history of American politics. Unlike many other western conservatives, Kempthorne doesn't hit up the religious right for money. He goes to straight to the corporations who want something done in Boise: JR Simplot, the potato king; Boise-Cascade, the timber giant; mining companies, such as ASARCO, Hecla, and FMC Gold; and the power companies. And Kempthorne gives them what they want. Kempthorne is Jack Abramoff without the middleman, decision-maker and lobbyist rolled into one....
The Interior Department's 'Relief Pitcher' Even in a big bureaucracy, some things can happen fast. On his first day on the job this week as secretary of the interior, Dirk Kempthorne found out he is already a defendant in thousands of lawsuits, give or take a few. Interior's deputy solicitor, David L. Bernhardt, tried to break the news gently, noting that Kempthorne's name was simply replacing that of his predecessor, Gale A. Norton. And in some cases he's not formally named, or the Justice Department is taking the lead. "Don't take it personally," Bernhardt said. Resolving the long list of lawsuits -- including one accusing the government of cheating American Indians out of as much as $137.2 billion over the past 118 years -- is one of many tasks the former Idaho governor and senator faces as the nation's 49th interior secretary. With 30 months before the administration ends, he must confront everything from a huge maintenance backlog at the national parks to a contentious debate over how to best protect endangered species. "I'm coming in in the seventh inning. I'm the relief pitcher," Kempthorne, 54, said in an interview in the midst of his first official day, which began at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, when he left his apartment for a Fox News interview, and ended at 9 p.m., after he polished off Costco sandwiches his staff had brought in and did some paperwork. "I'm going to come in there, and I want to make sure it's a winning series."...
Editorial: Changing nation's fire plane plan This year's battles against the biggest wildfires will be waged a little differently. The federal government is contracting nationally for large air tankers and, after a safety review, is allowing fewer of these aging former military aircraft to fight fires. Is this summer's fleet of firefighting air tankers up to the task? The fleet of 16 aircraft expected to be available this year is half the size it was in 2004 and former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall told the Associated Press that the federal government still hasn't addressed serious safety concerns that grounded the aircraft two years ago. The duty to safeguard firefighters while protecting life and property on the ground demands that the federal government require high standards for safety and performance in these aircraft. Tragic loss of firefighters' lives in air tanker crashes prompted the NTSB to take a closer look at safety. Safety concerns have been recognized in these aircraft that were first in military use 50 years ago. However, there hasn't been progress in getting new aircraft into the nation's air tanker service. As a result, there are no new planes and fewer old P-3 and P-2V air tankers available for firefighting nationwide. What this means for Montana is that no large air tankers will be based in the state....
Governor asks feds to protect 1.6 million acres Gov. Bill Richardson is asking the federal government to protect all 1.6 million acres of roadless national forest in New Mexico -- and to throw in 100,000 acres of the Valle Vidal as well. Adding the Valle Vidal to the protected acreage would create "another stumbling block" to proposed drilling on the renowned elk and trout habitat, he said. New Mexico becomes the fourth state -- and the first Western state -- to petition the Bush administration for roadless-area protection under a new rule established last year. "I call on other Western states to follow New Mexico's lead," Richardson said Wednesday at a news conference at the Randall Davey Audubon Center, at the edge of the Santa Fe National Forest. The petition was applauded by hunters, anglers and conservation groups including The Wilderness Society, which said Richardson was trying "to make the best of a bad federal policy."....
Radical turn to terror Reared in Westchester's culture of plenty, Lauren Weiner shunned the perks of wealth for the life of a left-wing radical - calling herself "Fireflie" and hitchhiking and train-hopping around the country in search of a "beautiful romantic culture." Her journey into one of radical culture's darkest corners led her to plead guilty to charges of conspiring to blow up federal government buildings in California in an eco-terror plot. In detailed writings posted on the Internet, Weiner, 20, stated she's "anti-society" and spent her time rubbing elbows with fellow "radicals, runners and romantics," and clashing with police at anti-corporate protests. That journey led her to join a plan formulated by a hardened environmental extremist, Eric Taylor McDavid, 28, to turn the anarchic protests more violent, California prosecutors said. McDavid, Weiner, and a third radical, Zachary Jenson, 20, planned to meet in California after Christmas to bomb a U.S. Forest Service genetics lab, a fish hatchery, the Nimbus Dam and other sites near Sacramento, according to testimony from a confidential federal informant and wire-tapped conversations from a house the three rented. The tipster said they were going to act in the name of the Earth Liberation Front, a shadowy group of left-wing extremists wanted by the FBI for setting fires to developments and causing damage to millions of dollars worth of property. The informant told authorities that the three said that human casualties in the bombings "would be acceptable," according to a criminal complaint....
Appeals filed over access to Village at Wolf Creek Two foes in a dispute over the proposed Village at Wolf Creek resort are appealing a U.S. Forest Service decision on access to the site. Two environmental groups and a citizens organization on Tuesday filed an appeal of an April 3 decision by Peter Clark, Rio Grande National Forest supervisor, approving two access roads to the site across Forest Service land. Colorado Wild, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council and San Juan Citizens Alliance allege that the Forest Service made major errors in its analysis of the project and failed to live up to its responsibilities to the public. “The Forest Service continues to ignore major problems raised by the public as well as other state and federal agencies,” said Ryan Demmy Bidwell, Colorado Wild executive director. Bob Honts, who is developing the village along with Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs, said the appeal came as no surprise and that the developers filed an appeal of their own Friday maintaining that Clark’s requirement for a second access road could risk the feasibility of the project....
California Company Develops New Way To Fight Fires They are a common sight if you are flying to Europe or some other long-distance destination. But what if you took a 747 airliner and converted it into an aerial firefighting machine? One company did just that. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, it is a plane, but if the designers have their way it will be the world’s first air super tanker. The idea is the brainchild of Evergreen International, a company well versed in producing firefighting aircraft. The passenger seats were replaced with a number of interconnected tanks. The super tanker is capable of carrying more than 20,000 pounds of water or retardant, but it is designed not to drop it all at once. The makers do not want Noah’s Ark coming out from the belly of the beast. So the liquid inside is pressurized to come out like rain. “That is the whole idea behind it, to make it rain,” said Evergreen Vice President Sam White. Retardant is also released in the same manner, in very large amounts. The company claims it can release seven times the amount that current air tankers can drop....
Gov. Agencies Contending with Carp Government agencies are trying to fix what they call an "ecological disaster" in Utah Lake, but they have a huge job ahead of them. They have to contend with an estimated 100 million carp! A small fleet of fishing boats is trolling the waters of Utah Lake with a net 400 feet long. They're commanded by commercial fisherman Bill Loy. His family has been pulling carp out of the lake for generations. Bill Loy, Commercial Fisherman: "I mean, this is nothing but a big carp pond basically." The lake has about 7.5 million big ones, 100 million if you count the little ones. Fish experts hope to make a dent in the population. Reed Harris, June Sucker Recovery Program: "It's going to be a tough job, but we can do it." The goal is to restore a natural ecosystem, in particular, a native endangered species called the June Sucker. The federal government threw nature out of balance in the first place. In the 1800's carp were planted all across America as a food source....
River Revival Most people probably don't think about lush, green ecosystems dependent upon flowing water when conjuring images of the Sonoran Desert. Yet in the early 1900s, many regional rivers--now mostly quiet and desiccated, such as the Santa Cruz--always had flowing water, supporting dense forests of willow, cottonwood and mesquite. However, decades of floodplain development, the introduction of invasive species and, in particular, groundwater pumping powered by gasoline turbines destroyed these habitats. "That has not only sparked endangered-species issues and made Tucson an uglier place. It also struck at the heart of the agriculturally based river community that we had here with the Tohono O'odham Nation," said Julia Fonseca, environmental planning manager for the Pima County Flood Control District. "At San Xavier, there was a community of people who lived there and farmed for thousands of years. When they couldn't divert the Santa Cruz River anymore, they lost their way of life." Pima County's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is the blueprint for preserving what's left of riparian areas and reconstructing some of what has been lost. The plan uses a variety of measures, including government acquisition of sensitive lands and the introduction of effluent (treated sewage) to riverbeds in order to recharge aquifers....
Companies eye elk habitat Federal regulators are considering stipulations to protect crucial winter range and calving areas for a rare high plains elk herd in preparation for impending industrial coal-bed methane development. Initial development plans for the 100,000-acre Fortification Creek area located 25 miles northwest of Gillette call for 158 wells to tap the prolific Big George coal seam. "There will be more development in there," said Paul Beels, project manager for the Bureau of Land Management's Buffalo Field Office. In recognition of the area's special resource values, the coal-bed methane companies have offered to coordinate their plans and consolidate roads, pipelines and power lines into corridors, according to the BLM. Fortification Creek has several special resource values, according to the BLM, including the isolated elk herd and its habitat, high visual quality, steep slopes with erosive soils, and cultural, historic and paleontological features....
Senators kick off tours of oil shale sites Two senators praised the promise of oil shale on Wednesday as Shell Exploration & Production Co. led a federal delegation on a tour of experimental works meant to bake oil from the ground. Shell is providing the reality check that will determine if any oil company can profitably extract shale oil from layers of hard rock, said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "They are not here to throw their money away," Domenici said at a test site 60 miles from Meeker, the nearest town, in the middle of desolate Rio Blanco County. Shell is poised to snap up leases on federal lands in western Colorado rich in kerogen, a fossilized material in rock that yields oil when heated. Shell has been working in Meeker for 10 years, and has invested tens of millions of dollars, trying to perfect a method of baking shale oil from the ground using heating rods drilled into layers of rock -- an alternative to mining. Shell is still four years from proving the technology or deciding whether to build a commercial-scale operation, said Terry O'Connor, a company vice president for external and regulatory affairs....
Park nitrogen levels twice 'critical load' Nitrogen compounds from cars, farms and power plants along the Front Range are saturating the soil, plants and water of Rocky Mountain National Park at levels at least twice the "critical load" the ecosystem can tolerate, according to documents made public Wednesday. So potentially damaging is the nitrogen overload on Colorado's signature national park that its superintendent, for the first time, has proposed emission limits on the chemical - a limit that could require dramatic changes for regional agriculture and industry. In a letter to state health officials, Rocky Mountain National Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker called for a new standard that would slash allowable nitrogen deposition rates in half, or even more, to halt the acidification of streams, lakes and plant life in the park. Baker called on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, to work with the National Park Service to confront the problem and reduce the impacts on the park. The proposed limit on nitrogen - 1.5 kilograms per hectare (100 acres)per year - is half, or less, of current fallout levels, which range from 3 to 4 kilograms per hectare. The limit would establish the nation's first critical load of a pollutant to protect a national park environment. A similar approach has been used to protect parks in Canada and in Europe. While Baker said the limit wouldn't represent a "regulatory standard" enforceable by the National Park Service, regulators say it is a goal that would carry weight in developing plans to reduce pollution. It also would give environmentalists a figure to build political and, possibly, legal arguments around....
Park Service Rejects Redskins Owner's Bid To Fix Retaining Wall The National Park Service, which according to a federal investigation improperly helped Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder cut down more than 130 trees behind his Potomac estate, has denied his request to rebuild a crumbling retaining wall on his property. Like the cleared trees, the wall is within a federally protected scenic easement, which buffers the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park and does not allow any structures to be built or rebuilt within 200 feet of the canal. Because the wall is within the easement, it may not be repaired, Park Superintendent Kevin D. Brandt wrote in denying Snyder's request last week. In an earlier letter to Brandt, an attorney for Snyder said the wall needs to be repaired immediately. "Further collapse of the wall and the slope above it threatens damage to the reforested area below the wall in the easement area and to the Canal itself, as well as to the foundation of the Snyders' home," David P. Donovan wrote....
Parks get new rules about donations Yosemite benefits from private contributions more than almost any other park. Most dramatically, with big contributions from the likes of Chevron, the Yosemite Fund raised more than $11 million for restoration of the park's Lower Yosemite Falls area. One of the few organizations of its kind larger than the Yosemite Fund is the San Francisco-based Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, which has contributed more than $80 million since 1981. The much more modest Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Foundation has contributed about $500,000 to the two parks in the past two decades. Depending on how contributions are counted, between $75 million and $100 million in private funds and donations annually supplement the National Park Service's budget. Following intense scrutiny by Yosemite aficionados and members of the public, the Bush administration earlier this month issued new rules governing this private fundraising. Cue the nightmare visions of tacky ads dotting park landscapes and Ronald MacDonald embracing the Statue of Liberty. But after fielding some 1,000 public comments over the past year, park service officials retained most of the conservative rules protecting parks from overt commercial exploitation....
Governor Murkowski Defends National Park Inholders Right to Access Under ANILCA Provisions Governor Frank H. Murkowski on Tuesday submitted comments to the National Park Service, defending the rights of park inholders to access their properties across park lands as guaranteed by section 1110(b) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980. Murkowski has a long history of fighting for inholder rights, both as governor and during his 22 years in the U.S. Senate. The Park Service is currently in the process of adopting a "User's Guide to Accessing Inholdings in a National Park Service Area in Alaska." The governor's 5-page letter to Marcia Blaszak, Alaska Regional Director of the National Park Service, covers numerous issues of concern to Alaskans who own parcels of land and/or homes within the boundaries of NPS-managed parks, preserves and other conservation system units. Murkowski asserted to Blaszak that the present draft, although improved over the first, "falls short of appropriately recognizing the inholder access guarantee provided in section 1110(b) of ANILCA. In addition, the process to define and document the access appears to lack sufficient long-term stability to assure individual landowners and other valid occupants they indeed have the access promised to them by ANILCA."....
Arctic "Noah's Ark" Vault to Protect World's Seeds A frozen "Noah's Ark" to safeguard the world's crop seeds from cataclysms will be built on a remote Arctic island off Norway, the Norwegian government said on Tuesday. Construction of the Global Seed Vault, in a mountainside on the island of Svalbard 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole, would start in June with completion due in September 2007. "Norway will by this contribute to the global system for ensuring the diversity of food plants. A Noah's Ark on Svalbard if you will," Norwegian Agriculture and Food Minister Terje Riis-Johansen said in a statement. The doomsday vault would be built near Longyaerbyen, Svalbard's main village, with space for three million seed varieties. It would store seeds including rice, wheat, and barley as well as fruits and vegetables. It would be a remote Arctic back-up for scores of other seed banks around the world, which may be more vulnerable to risks ranging from nuclear war to mundane power failures....
Producer group questions Canadian cattle imports in light of OIE changes The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) last week voted unanimously to revise the three definitions of risk categories for countries affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Those categories are negligible, controlled, and undetermined. Before the definition change, a country with a case of BSE had to wait seven years from the date of the last discovery of the disease to be eligible for the "negligible risk" classification given to countries with the least amount of risk. Now, the date of birth of the diseased animal, rather than the date of discovery, is the determining factor. Countries with adequate testing programs with no cases in cattle born in the past 11 years are eligible for negligible risk status, provided there is no evidence the disease has been recycling in the feed supplies in those countries. With the old guidelines in place, the U.S. would have had to wait until 2013 to be classified as negligible risk, following the March 2006 discovery of a BSE-infected cow in Alabama. But since that cow was born an estimated 10 years prior to the discovery of the disease, that waiting period is cut significantly."Scientists have determined that BSE is caused by feeding contaminated animal-based feed to cattle, and that cattle are most likely to become infected with BSE during the first year of their lives, so using the infected animal's birth date as a reference point allows countries to determine how recently contaminated feed may have been circulating within their feed system," Bill Bullard, CEO of Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), in a statement. "OIE's decision also allows countries to determine how effective their feed bans have been in arresting the spread of BSE within their borders."....
No go on the buffalo: Deadwood decides against Main Street bison run There won't be any buffalo running down Deadwood's Main Street any time soon - at least that's what the Deadwood City Commission decided on Monday evening. Around 40 people showed up for the hearing Monday, when city commissioners allowed the public to voice their opinions on the buffalo run proposed for July of 2007. Commissioners listened to strong sentiments from both camps dividing the issue, before they voted 4-1 to deny the application. "In my heart I felt I couldn't put the people of Deadwood at risk," Mayor Francis Toscana told the Pioneer after the hearing. The views expressed during the hearing covered the whole spectrum of considerations. There were volunteers from Twin City Animal Center in Lead who were concerned about the welfare of the buffalo; business owners who welcomed the increased publicity and visitors; buffalo ranchers who wanted to preserve the integrity of the bison industry; citizens who saw a need for more tourism revenue; and others who worried about public safety, liability and negative publicity...
Ranch Rodeo returns to fairgrounds this weekend It's rodeo time. The Coors Ranch Rodeo, now in its 19th year, will take place this weekend at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. The rodeo, slated from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Amarillo National Center, will include riders from 14 ranches in Texas and neighboring states. "The rodeo is just good, clean fun for the whole family," said Michelle Reed, Coors Cowboy Club communications director. Individuals who attend the rodeo can expect to see a variety of events, Reed said. Both nights, ranchers will participate in wild bronc riding, cattle doctoring, cattle sorting, cattle branding, a cow milking competition and other stock events. Rodeo awards will be presented at noon Sunday. Awards will be presented to the ranch with the highest score from both nights. An award is also given the All-Around Cowboy....

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Ethics Group Criticizes Henry Paulson Nomination for Treasury; Cites Nature Conservancy Conflict of Interest and Fannie Mae Fraud Peter Flaherty, resident of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), criticized the expected nomination today of Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson as Treasury Secretary. NLPC was the sponsor of a shareholder proposal at the Goldman Sachs annual meeting on March 31. The proposal, which generated significant media attention, asked for a report on Paulson's apparent conflict of interest in chairing both Goldman and the Nature Conservancy. In November 2005, Goldman Sachs adopted an "Environmental Policy" that closely parallels the Nature Conservancy agenda on key issues like global warming. Moreover, Paulson's son Merritt is a trustee of a Nature Conservancy-related group that was the recipient of a Goldman Sachs donation in the form of a tract of land totaling 680,000 acres in Chile. In his remarks at the annual meeting, Flaherty also noted that the Nature Conservancy has been mired in scandal in recent years, as detailed in a Washington Post series and in Senate hearings. The group sold ecologically sensitive land at a discount to its own trustees on which they built multi-million-dollar vacation homes, and structured land donations so wealthy donors could improperly receive tax breaks. Goldman's defense, delivered at the meeting by John H. Bryan, chairman of the Goldman Governance Committee, was essentially that the Goldman board reviewed the environmental policy and the Chilean land deal and approved them. Bryan specifically denied that the Nature Conservancy was involved at all in the land deal. According to the Nature Conservancy tax return, however, it was paid a consulting fee of $144,000 by Goldman for assistance on the land deal. In an April 4 opinion article in the Wall Street Journal titled "Green-Nosing," business writer Judith Dobrzynski wrote, "It's ludicrous to suggest that Goldman's board acted alone, as if directors didn't know of Mr. Paulson's involvement with the conservancy or his advocacy of environmental causes." Flaherty said, "There remain unanswered questions about Paulson's personal and business ethics. At Goldman Sachs, Paulson promoted his own personal interests at the expense of shareholders. As Treasury Secretary, will he promote the public interest, or his own?"....
Paulson Wrong Choice for Secretary The White House made an unfortunate mistake in nominating Henry M. Paulson, Jr. to be the next Secretary of the Treasury, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The Goldman Sachs chairman's other role as chairman of the board of the Nature Conservancy, which is under investigation for financial misdealings that benefited some of its officers and donors, should automatically disqualify him for the top Treasury job. “No conservative administration should consider appointing anyone who works for the Nature Conservancy to any position and certainly not to one carrying the high responsibilities of Treasury Secretary. The financial scandals at the Nature Conservancy uncovered by the Washington Post are only the tip of the iceberg. The Nature Conservancy has served as the agent for turning millions of acres of productive private land into federally-owned land and has made huge profits doing so,” said CEI’s Director of Energy & Global Warming Myron Ebell. “The question that needs to be asked is, what will Mr. Paulson be able to do as Treasury Secretary to benefit the Nature Conservancy and its big corporate partners?” “The Nature Conservancy is one of the most feared environmental groups throughout rural America,” said R. J. Smith, CEI Adjunct Scholar. “While promoting itself as a ‘private’ conservation group, small landowners, family farmers, ranchers and tree farmers know it as a strong-arm real estate agent for the federal government. It acquires land at fire-sale prices from landowners bankrupted by environmental regulations, then turns around and sells most of it to the federal government at inflated prices. The last thing America needs is more range and forest land for the federal government to mismanage and burn down.”....
Treasury Nominee Is a Major GOP Donor In nominating Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson to be the next Secretary of the Treasury, President Bush tapped a major Republican donor who has been more generous to the party than outgoing secretary John Snow. While Paulson has a long record of giving to Republicans, his wife and his employees at Goldman Sachs favor Democrats, according to research by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The Center found that Paulson and his wife, Wendy, have contributed more than $426,000 since 1989 to federal candidates, party committees and political action committees controlled by members of Congress. Most of the money—$370,000—has gone to Republicans, almost all of it from the Treasury nominee himself. His wife has given three-quarters of her share to Democrats. Wendy Paulson has given $6,000 to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaigns and $5,000 to her political action committee, HILLPAC. Together, the Paulsons have given $10,000 to the Democratic Party of Idaho. For her $5,000 gift to the state party, Wendy Paulson listed her occupation as “conservationist.” She has served on the board of the Nature Conservancy, and her husband has most recently served as board chairman. In addition to the couple's contributions to candidates and parties, Wendy Paulson has been a major contributor to the League of Conservation Voters' 527 fund, which campaigned for Democrat John Kerry and against George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. She has given at least $401,000 to the League's political activities since 2000....
Some on right wary of nominee's green links Although Henry Paulson's nomination to be Treasury secretary is expected to sail through Congress, conservative groups that defend individual liberties expressed adamant opposition to it yesterday because of the Goldman Sachs chairman's ties to the Nature Conservancy. Mr. Paulson is chairman of the environmental group, which purchases huge tracts of land to set them aside and prevent them from being developed. Property rights advocates charge that the group preys upon financially feeble rural landowners, family farmers, ranchers and tree farmers, purchasing their property at bargain prices and then selling it at a profit to the federal government. Myron Ebell, analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, said Mr. Paulson has the potential to wreak far more havoc in economic policy than his predecessor, Paul O'Neill, who was fired in 2002 for questioning President Bush's tax-cut plans. He said Mr. Paulson could become an outspoken advocate for curbs on global warming and other environmental causes within the administration....
Wyoming Game & Fish Commissioner: Elk at refuge starving A member of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission charged that elk were intentionally starved to death over the winter at the National Elk Refuge, an accusation the refuge manager labeled "ridiculous." Clark Allan, of Jackson, outlined his complaint in a 12-page letter dated May 5 to the regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency that oversees the refuge outside Jackson. "To put the mismanagement on the refuge into perspective, I can easily tell you that if a local rancher sustained the losses the Refuge has sustained and brought this herd into spring in similar body condition, he would almost certainly be prosecuted for cruelty to animals," Allan wrote. Allan said he was complaining as an individual commission member that calves were starved to death to "further a political agenda" over the management of elk herds in Wyoming. "Department biologists who are charged with management of elk in the State of Wyoming indicate that the loss of elk calves from the 2005/2006 winter will have a severe impact on elk numbers in the Jackson Hole elk herd for several years to come," Allan wrote. "Furthermore, it will result in significant loss of hunting opportunity for Wyoming sportsmen, ... compounded by the fact that the Jackson Hole elk herd is expected to sustain an extreme number of large predators."....
Piñon neighbors unsettled by Army's plan to expand In a federally protected grassland, paleontologist Bruce Schumacher worries about the future of a hillside where he is unearthing bones of the largest dinosaur species that ever lived. To the west, 83-year-old rancher Edith Hall wonders if Army tank tracks will run across the Santa Fe Trail wagon ruts behind her barn. Two hours south, down a dirt road to an isolated town, parents in Trinchera fear the end of their 55- student school. They all occupy what Fort Carson calls a "potential area of interest" for expanded military maneuvers - more than 1 million acres in parts of three counties. They don't know when, if or where the Army will extend its reach across a dry land, where cattle graze amid canyons speckled with ancient pictographs and dinosaur bones....
Endangered Species Act is becoming major issue After several fairly easy attempts to clinch the incumbency, Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, is facing perhaps his most challenging quest to hang onto his congressional seat. Pombo, the chairman of the House Resources Committee, has found himself on the receiving end of attacks and allegations from numerous groups — namely environmental — that question his integrity and ties to special interests and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. "The primary has been more high-profile than it has in the past," Pombo said. "I'm a committee chairman. I'm a big target." The biggest curve ball, however, was when former Congressman Paul "Pete" McCloskey Jr. moved from Yolo County to the 11th Congressional District with the sole purpose of defeating Pombo, who is seeking an eighth term. One of McCloskey's main reasons for campaigning to return to Congress is Pombo's attempt to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, which McCloskey co-authored. "To me, the Endangered Species Act is a valuable thing," McCloskey said. "To him, it's a bar to development." Pombo argues that the rewrite is necessary and includes requirements to recover species....
Back to the Biscuit Chip Dennerlein acknowledges that administrative appeals and lawsuits haven't stopped U.S. Forest Service plans to salvage fire-killed timber in the 2002 Biscuit fire's inventoried roadless area. But the director of the Siskiyou Regional Education Project isn't giving up. "If information, truth and knowledge count for anything, if modern forestry conservation and biology count for anything, the Forest Service will not sell this sale," he said while visiting the upper portion of Unit 3 in the Mike's Gulch sale on Tuesday. Mike's Gulch, the first roadless area sale expected to be offered, will be put up for auction in mid-June. In addition to the Mike's Gulch sale, the agency also plans to offer the larger Blackberry sale in early August. Both are in the Illinois Valley Ranger District west of Kerby. Although Forest Service officials could not be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon, an evaluation of the Biscuit fire timber salvage project released last month by the agency has concluded that no significant new information has surfaced in studies criticizing the salvage effort. The evaluation was in response to an environmental group's lawsuit to stop the salvage logging....
West's new tune: Hands off our lands For years, selling off some of the U.S. government's vast land holdings has been a goal of many Western conservatives. But now it's become the third rail of the region's politics: touch it and you'll get burned. Consider the reaction to the Bush administration's proposal this year to sell off hundreds of thousands of acres of national forests and other public lands: Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., declared the plan "dead on arrival." It was quickly rejected by the public and disowned by Republicans in Congress. Now, the selloff proposal - while it remains alive - has been pushed into the shadows. Even President Bush's new interior secretary has spoken out against a key aspect of the plan. "Among congressional Republicans, there's a recognition that this can't be done. But the administration seems stuck with its proposal," said Daniel Kemmis, senior fellow at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana. Other recent selloff plans have met similar opposition. A Nevada congressman's proposal to sell public land to mining companies was shelved under pressure from hunters and Western county commissioners....
Woman pleads guilty in ecoterror case One of three people accused of plotting to blow up a U.S. Forest Service genetics lab and other targets pleaded guilty to conspiracy, federal prosecutors said Tuesday. Lauren Weiner, 20, of Pound Ridge, N.Y., agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of her plea bargain. That includes testifying against Eric McDavid, 28, of Foresthill, Calif., and Zachary Jenson, 20, of Monroe, Wash. They remain in the Sacramento County Jail and could face five to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of conspiring to use fire or explosives to damage property. The three were arrested Jan. 13 as they allegedly bought bomb-making materials at a Kmart in Auburn, east of Sacramento. Three days before their arrests, the three are alleged to have scouted the Nimbus Dam and nearby fish hatchery on the American River near Sacramento, and the Forest Service's Institute of Forest Genetics near Placerville, in the foothills east of Sacramento. The three planned to act in the name of Earth Liberation Front, an underground group of environmental activists, investigators said....
Are supertanker wildfire bombers worth extra cost? Federal fire managers say new supertanker jets being developed by private companies will dramatically increase the amount of fire retardant dropped on wildfires and will work in concert with ground crews and other tanker aircraft. Now, they are trying to decide if the extra airpower is worth the higher cost. ''You can spend millions of dollars putting out a single stump,'' U.S. Forest Service aviation specialist Scott Fisher, chairman of the Interagency Airtanker Board, said Tuesday while watching a modified Boeing 747-200 passenger jet drop 20,500 gallons of water on an empty field during a demonstration flight. Oregon-based Evergreen International Aviation is trying to persuade federal land managers to add the 747 to the fleet of 16 smaller fixed-wing air tankers used on wildfires around the country each year. Another company, Oklahoma-based Omni Air International, has proposed using a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 it has modified to carry up to 12,000 gallons of water, about half the payload of the 747. Conventional air tankers can only deliver up to 3,000 gallons of water, foam, gel or other retardant on a fire before returning to a base for reloading....
Beavers keeping Forest Service busy Sometimes the best course of action is simply to say "dam it," U.S. Forest Service officials in Aspen concluded this spring. Short stretches of two popular hiking trails in the Aspen area are flooded because of nearby beaver dams. The Weller Lake trail is flooded about 30 yards from its trailhead off Highway 82 east of Aspen. The Capitol Creek trail is flooded about seven-tenths of a mile from its trailhead. In bygone eras the Forest Service would destroy the dams and possibly even shoot the beavers to deal with the problems, according to Martha Moran, a recreation manager for the Aspen-Sopris District. Now the agency is letting nature take its course while seeking alternatives for safe access. Beavers have dammed Capitol Creek for years but the effects on the trail are getting progressively worse, Moran said. At least 100 yards of the trail are now in wetlands. Hikers and equestrians are forced to stay on the swampy, muddy main route or create braided trails to avoid the slop. "People are getting mud up to their knees," Moran said....
Al Gore the Environmental Titan? Al Gore has returned to the political spotlight in exalted fashion, propping himself up for a potential presidential bid in 2008. Front and center in Gore’s new rhetorical entourage is the state of nature, and in particular, global warming. And while Gore may be delivering an important message about the fate of our fragile ecosystems, one must be weary of the messenger’s past. For Gore’s own environmental record leaves much to be desired. Al Gore’s reputation as the Democratic standard bearer of environmentalism dates back to the early 1990’s when his book Earth in Balance outlined the perilous threats to the natural world. Gore also showboated his green credentials at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which garnered the newly minted Senator great respect among Beltway greens who praised him for his willingness to take sides on controversial issues. While serving as vice president under Bill Clinton, Gore was put in charge of the administration’s environmental portfolio, but had little to show for it. Other than his alleged environmental convictions, Gore was politically timid when push came to shove in Washington. During Clinton’s campaign for president in 1992 Gore promised a group of supporters that Clinton’s EPA would never approve a hazardous waste incinerator located near an elementary school in Liverpool, Ohio, which was operated by WTI. Only three months into Clinton’s tenure the EPA issued an operating permit for the toxic burner. Gore raised no qualms. Not surprisingly, most of the money behind WTI came from the bulging pockets of Jackson Stephens, who just happened to be one of the Clinton/Gore’s top campaign contributors....
For ranger station site, let bidding bout begin From the mid-1930s until five years ago, the U.S. Forest Service's Willamette National Forest had its Blue River Ranger District headquarters just outside the town of Blue River, 40 miles east of Eugene-Springfield up Highway 126. The complex, ultimately including an office building, five houses, a warehouse and a fueling station, has sat vacant since 2001, when the Blue River and McKenzie ranger stations consolidated. Now, the Forest Service plans to sell the whole 3.5-acre property, located at 51668 Blue River Drive, via an auction that will begin Monday. The facility will be open for inspection by prospective bidders on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The bidding will start at $200,000. Those wishing to take part in the auction must submit an initial auction bid and a refundable deposit of $50,000 - payable by cashier's or certified check, bank or postal money order or credit card - to the Forest Service. Selling surplus government property by auction isn't a new idea - the Forest Service currently has a half-dozen properties up for sale around the Pacific Northwest - but reliance on the Internet to accept and track the bids is a sign of the high-tech times....
FAA takes the wind out of wind farms The federal government has stopped work on more than a dozen wind farms planned across the Midwest, saying research is needed on whether the giant turbines could interfere with military radar. But backers of wind power say the action has little to do with national security. The real issue, they say, is a group of wealthy vacationers who think a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts would spoil the view at their summer homes. Opponents of the Cape Wind project include several influential members of Congress. Critics say their latest attempt to thwart the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms hundreds of miles away in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Federal officials declined to reveal how many stop-work orders have been sent out. But developers said that at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest have been shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration since the start of the year. "This is a big, ugly political maneuver by a handful of people who are undermining America's energy security," said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a non-profit group that promotes renewable power. Vickerman and others said that despite the government's recent concern about proposed wind projects, it is allowing dozens of current wind farms to continue to operate within sight of radar systems....
Ala. man warned against capturing gator Authorities have told a Montgomery County, Ala., man he must call in help to remove an 8-foot alligator that's taken up residence in his farm pond. Ben Simpson said he didn't think much about the gator's arrival three years ago until he heard reports about the reptiles killing three women in Florida. "We've never had a problem, but after what's happened in Florida, it makes me nervous," Simpson told the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. "We have grandchildren going down to the pond all the time," he said. However, officials have told Simpson he cannot personally remove the 8-foot gator, which would violate the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Instead, he must contact the county's conservation officer to hire a licensed trapper, who is allowed to kill an alligator and sell its meat and the skin....
Florida's gator count estimated at 1 million To the unaided eye, the swampy wilderness seems to sleep at night. Only eerie murmurs, grunts and an occasional splash break the darkened silence. But light it up and the illusion fades. Alligators are everywhere, their red bulbous eyes glowing on the water's black surface. White birds flutter through the haze of a powerful spotlight. Turtles rest on logs in the sawgrass. Snakes slither through weeds. Even with rampant development and loss of wetlands, officials estimate there are more than one million alligators in Florida - a miraculous comeback for a species that was approaching extinction 40 years ago. State officials and environmentalists attribute the population growth to strict federal regulations on sales of alligator products like skin and meat and a strong conservation effort....
BLM: King coal will keep growing There's a black-ringed supernova in northeast Wyoming, and federal regulators expect it to expand significantly over the next 14 years. Based on the decades-long trend of escalating demand for Powder River Basin coal and current market indicators, production could increase 50 percent to 591 million tons annually by 2020, according to the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management. That increase would nearly triple the amount of surface disturbance and require a major expansion of railroad service to the region. Mike Karbs of the BLM Casper Field Office said the projections are part a formal "review" of production scenarios, which becomes a tool for the BLM and other agencies in land use planning....
Proceed with caution, officials urge on oil shale development Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt is pleased U.S. senators are headed to the Western Slope to learn more about oil shale this week, but she wants to make sure they understand the grand promises and broken dreams that accompanied the last effort to extract oil from shale rock. In a letter sent by Houpt and 12 other elected officials in western Colorado, government leaders urged the senators at Thursday’s Energy Committee field hearing in Grand Junction to slow down. The letter, which will be submitted to the committee, lauds the Bureau of Land Management’s oil shale research and development demonstration program as an important “first step” toward determining the potential for developing oil shale commercially. The BLM’s research and development program would issue small 160-acre leases to companies wishing to test oil shale technologies. The agency is expected to issue those leases to several companies some time this summer, and only after the pilot projects are proven would commercial-scale leases be made available. But under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, expedited commercial leasing is required on public lands at the conclusion of an environmental study, due to be complete by Feb. 8, 2007, according to BLM officials’ reading of the act. Lynn Rust, deputy state director for energy, land and minerals at the BLM’s state office in Denver, said Congress called for the commercial program so the secretary of the Interior Department may offer oil shale leases by 2008. “Our letter simply asks the committee to wait for the results of the pilot programs before we start commercially leasing public lands,” said Grand Junction City Councilwoman Teresa Coons, who signed the letter. “We’re not saying we don’t want to do oil shale. We’re just saying we should proceed with caution, take a step back and work in a logical sequence.”....
Agencies scrutinize arsenic from mines The federal government is stepping up efforts to investigate and control arsenic contamination from mines near the northwest corner of San Bernardino County. Officials are worried that arsenic-laden dust kicked up by wind and by off-road vehicles is a health hazard to residents and recreationists. One federal agency is considering keeping the public out of contaminated areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review test results from recent soil samples to determine arsenic exposure among people living or playing in the area, said Libby Vianu, a regional representative of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the CDC. The samples were collected around the mining community of Red Mountain. The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees public land around Red Mountain and nearby communities, has secured $500,000 in emergency funding to begin controlling the contamination. Vianu and BLM officials will host a community meeting tonight in Johannesburg to discuss the arsenic and how to deal with it. Arsenic, which can occur naturally in rock, or be a byproduct of ore processing, can be deadly in high enough concentrations. The toxic element has been found in soil and mine-waste piles around the Kelly silver mine just outside of Red Mountain and the Yellow Aster gold mine in nearby Randsburg....
Controlling Missouri River at issue since the 1800s The massive old steamboat is on stilts now, standing sentry over the river it helped reshape. The Capt. Meriwether Lewis, which workers used to straighten and dredge the Missouri River between St. Joseph, Mo., and Sioux City, Iowa, now sits about 100 feet from the water. On a recent May morning, Harold Davis, president of the Brownville group that cares for the steamboat-turned-museum, points toward a giant steel apparatus at the front of the boat. "It worked like a vacuum," Davis said. "They could cut a channel 20 feet deep with this, if they needed to." The Meriwether Lewis and three others like it shaved about 240 miles off the roughly 2,600-mile river, the nation's longest, and left a straighter, deeper waterway that is easier to navigate. However, unintended consequences of the straightening plus construction of large dams in Montana, the Dakotas and Nebraska affect not only the river but the lives of those around it. At the center is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which straightened the river and now seeks to ease resulting conflicts. The mix includes often contradictory demands for ecological restoration, wildlife protection, flood control, water conservation and hydropower supply....
Who Should Decide Land Use? U.S. Government Already Does "Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America," by Bruce Babbitt. Island Press, $25.95. "Wildfire and Americans: How to Save Lives, Property and Your Tax Dollars," by Roger G. Kennedy. Hill and Wang, $26. It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that the federal government has no business in land use regulation, that decisions about what should be built and where must be made at the local level, where people understand their landscapes and have a strong vested interest in doing the right thing. This view has lots of political support. Initiatives as diverse as reshaping the federal flood insurance program and enhancing the Endangered Species Act have foundered amid accusations that they would produce, in effect, unacceptable federal control over local land use decisions. This view is wrong, at least according to Bruce Babbitt and Roger G. Kennedy. In new books, they say the federal government has long played a powerful role in local land use decisions. But its influence has been disguised — as tax deductions for mortgages, as highway programs or as logging concessions. Both senior officials in the Clinton administration, Mr. Babbitt, former interior secretary, and Mr. Kennedy, who headed the National Park Service, cite different examples and offer different suggestions. Their underlying message, however, is the same....
Species on endangered list challenged Ever since a 3-inch fish protected by the Endangered Species Act stopped construction of a dam in Tennessee in 1978, the law has been known as one of the toughest environmental laws on the books. Environmental groups have used it to halt development in pristine lands across the nation. Today, the law designed to protect animals such as the manatee from extinction also has become a legal tool of property-rights groups and developers. In a counterpunch to environmentalists who have filed lawsuits aimed at protecting hundreds of plant and animal species by listing them as endangered or threatened, property-rights groups such as the Pacific Legal Foundation are filing lawsuits to have animals and plants removed from the list so that development can proceed. Meanwhile, industry groups have filed dozens of legal challenges aimed at allowing development on lands set aside by the U.S. government to help protect endangered species. "The conventional wisdom is that environmental groups exclusively used this provision in court, but today, the industry lawsuits challenging critical habitat designations far outnumber environmental challenges," says Pat Parenteau, a law professor at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. In a study he published last August on active litigation involving the Endangered Species Act, Parenteau counted 45 lawsuits filed by industry groups and five filed by environmental groups. At the forefront of the movement is the National Association of Home Builders, which recently prevailed in a legal battle over Arizona land that had been designated as a habitat for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. Two environmental groups have sued to restore the designation, and a court hearing on the issue is scheduled for Friday....
Population is bald, but not thinning With spikes in his boots and a rope looped around a tree trunk, Gary Meinke edged his way straight up a 60-foot cottonwood. His target at the crown above: baby bald eagles. Nearly extinguished by pesticides that thinned their eggshells, bald eagles have made a comeback across the United States. In the 1980s, the popular nest at Barr Lake State Park was the only one in the eastern half of Colorado. There are now at least 60 nesting pairs in Colorado, and many more winter in refuges near prairie dog colonies. Still, the symbol of America remains a bird protected by the Endangered Species Act. At nesting sites like Barr Lake, dedicated volunteers still risk their necks each spring by pulling newborn eagles from treetop nests so their legs can be banded with state and federal tags....
Report: Yellowstone air shows some degradation There’s good news and bad news about air quality trends in national parks, but the news is mostly bad when it comes to Yellowstone National Park. Of six air quality categories studied from 1995 to 2004, Yellowstone has four categories with statistically significant declining air quality trends -- the worst trend line in the nation. The nation’s first national park improved significantly in one category -- visibility on clear days. The areas in significant decline include pollutants such as ozone, as well as acid-creating sulfate, nitrate and ammonium ions in precipitation. “Yellowstone is the economic engine for this region,” said Tim Stevens, a Gardiner, Mont.-based representative of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Unless we can reverse these trends, we risk killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.” Wenzler and other conservationists believe the situation will get worse. The federal Department of Energy reported last month that 129 coal-fired power plants are in some stage of development in Western states. “I’m afraid that the national parks in the West are going to get hit with a tidal wave of new energy development,” he said. A December 2005 analysis for the Western Governors' Association predicts that volatile organic compounds discharged from oil and gas activity will double by 2018 and that oxides of nitrogen will rise by some 30 percent....
Organic farms see growth on more demand Earthbound Farm's fields of organic baby spinach and romaine lettuce are a living symbol of the organic food movement's explosive growth in recent years. What started two decades ago as a three-acre roadside farm in this valley 90 miles south of San Francisco has grown into the country's largest grower of organic produce, with more than 100 types of fruits and vegetables on 28,000 acres in the U.S. and abroad. Earthbound's extraordinary growth is only the most visible example of how organic farming is changing. Small family farms created as an alternative to conventional agriculture are increasingly giving way to large-scale operations that harvest thousands of acres and market their produce nationwide. And with Wal-Mart, Safeway, Albertson's and other big supermarket chains expanding their organic offerings, the transformation may only be in its early stages. Organic food only makes up 2.5 percent of U.S. food sales, but it's the fastest growing segment of the market. Sales reached nearly $14 billion last year, up from $6 billion five years earlier, according to the Organic Trade Association in Greenfield, Mass....
Argentina's Beef Industry Relieved To Be Exporting Again Argentina will begin exporting beef again Tuesday and the beef industry, which had seen profits plummet amid a 10-week-old ban on beef exports, is relieved about it. After suffering repeated setbacks this year, cattle ranchers and beef exporters were granted a reprieve late Friday when the government announced it would partially lift the ban. "The new policy is positive," said Javier Ordoqui, president of Carbap, the country's biggest cattle ranchers organization. "This alleviates the situation for ranchers, who were in a very bad way because of the huge decline in prices we've seen since the ban was announced. The ban really harmed ranchers." Argentine President Nestor Kirchner banned beef exports in March to prevent soaring domestic and foreign demand from pushing local prices beyond the purchasing power of average Argentines. The strategy worked, at least partially. Livestock prices declined by up to 30%, although retail prices declined by much smaller amounts on supermarket shelves. The ban was the most severe in a string of policies aimed at reducing beef prices. Among other things the government has raised taxes, changed production and sales rules, and pushed the industry into signing price control accords. Kirchner also insulted ranchers, branding them "greedy profiteers" who supported the country's military dictatorship in the 1970s. Last week ranchers began to react en masse, with thousands organizing protests in the country's interior. As the anger mounted, ranchers began to talk of carrying out a nationwide strike in which they would stop selling beef. But Friday's announcement has alleviated much of the tension and reduced the likelihood of a strike. "I don't think there will be a strike," said Ordoqui, whose organization represents the owners of more than half of Argentina's estimated 55 million head of cattle....
On the Edge of Common Sense: U.S. is a beacon for the world's mistreated With your permission I would like to indulge in a little naked patriotism. The United States of America, during my lifetime, has become a nation like none other on earth. Not because it is the most powerful nation on earth, but because we, more times than I can count, have taken the side of the oppressed with no intention to conquer, rule or pillage. In the act of offering our assistance, we have sacrificed blood, money and lives. We have beat ourselves up. We have questioned our motives. Our leaders have engaged in heated debate about the hows and whys, but we continue to be the single brightest light for the world's mistreated. We will take on the schoolyard bully. In spite of all our mistakes, missteps, misjudgments and misgivings, the world today would be a completely different place if our country; conservative; liberal; black; white; rich; poor; north; south; Manhattan, N.Y.; or Manhattan, Kan.; Americans all, had turned our back on the injustices and inhumanities that relentlessly stalk the globe. Supporting the troops and their families on the front lines in the war on terror is not a partisan action. It is an act of pride, compassion, love, concern, anguish and hope. They carry our colors into harm's way, and have since 1776....