Friday, September 29, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Grizzlies reported near Independence Pass Two hunters say they spotted a female grizzly bear and two cubs near Independence Pass last week. If the sighting is confirmed, it would be the species’ first known appearance in Colorado in 27 years. Taking the report seriously, Division of Wildlife officials used a helicopter with videographers and photographers on board Thursday to search the area but found no evidence to substantiate the report. The hunters told wildlife officials they watched the bear and her cubs the morning of Sept. 20 from about 80 yards for about a minute through binoculars and a spotting scope. The bears were in a clearing near Independence Pass. The hunters didn’t find tracks or scat after the bears moved on. An initial search on foot by wildlife officials Saturday also was unsuccessful....
FWP issues bison licenses to 124 hunters; another 16 go to tribes
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks granted bison hunting licenses to 119 Montanans and five nonresidents in a drawing this week. More than 7,000 had applied. The licenses allow hunting of bison that wander out of Yellowstone National Park, the second year of a hunt that was resurrected after 15 years. Last fall and winter, the state issued 50 permits, and hunters shot 40 animals that had left Yellowstone in the areas of West Yellowstone and Gardiner. This year, an additional 16 licenses went to Montana's American Indian tribes, in accordance with state law. The other 124 licenses were chosen from 6,871 Montanans and 254 nonresidents who applied. Licenses cost $75 for residents and $750 for nonresidents. The first bison hunt starts Nov. 15, and the last of four allowed time periods for hunting ends Feb. 15. Roughly 460,000 acres, or about 720 square miles, have been opened for the bison hunts. The bison population in the Yellowstone area numbers about 3,900 animals. The bison management plan lists 3,000 as the target population size. Like last year, bison hunters will have to attend a special class....
Judge OKs chopper logging in bear habitat A federal judge says timber salvage projects on the Flathead National Forest can continue in “core” grizzly bear habitat, but the value of trees that burned three years ago has diminished substantially. In a ruling issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula dissolved a restraining order that prevented helicopter logging on 1,026 acres in the West Side Reservoir and Robert-Wedge project areas that wildfires burned in 2003. The acres in question fell within grizzly bear “core” habitat — lands on which all motorized access should be prohibited, claimed the Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan in a lawsuit against the Flathead National Forest. Molloy initially sided with those claims in a temporary restraining order issued in June 2005, later amending it to allow helicopter logging to continue last winter, when grizzly bears were denned. This week’s ruling focused on a single legal issue — whether the Forest Service had considered adequately the “cumulative impacts” of salvage logging, snowmobiling and other motorized access in and around the project areas. The judge found that the Forest Service did “take a hard look at cumulative impacts” in the environmental impact statements that were developed for the projects. The temporary restraining order was dissolved and a preliminary injunction was denied. But Molloy has yet to rule on other merits of the case....
Getting to root of woes A plan to clear-cut hundreds of acres of dying aspen around Mancos is not a response to the die-off of the tree across the West, but it could yield important clues for puzzled scientists, San Juan National Forest officials said. Foresters will find out in the next couple of years whether their effort gets to the roots of the aspen's problems. "We think the clear-cut of these reduced stands will give us a better chance of saving them," said Dolores public lands manager Steven Beverlin. It sounds counterintuitive, but aspen thrive after severe disturbances, such as forest fires, landslides and logging. This is because they reproduce asexually from their giant shared roots, which send out shoots called suckers. Clear-cutting encourages suckering because aspen leaves produce a chemical inhibitor that keeps sprouts in check. "The aspen is masochistic," said Forest Service ecologist Wayne Shepperd, with the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins. After fire or clear-cutting, experts variously estimate the potential number of aspen suckers at anywhere between 15,000 to 60,000 per acre....
Bumps abound in roadless rule Last week’s federal court ruling reinstating a rule protecting more than 58 million acres of roadless land nationwide will for the time being prevent oil and gas development in roadless areas. And now that the 2001 Clinton administration Roadless Rule is in effect, the Forest Service still doesn’t know how plans for other projects in roadless areas will proceed. “Our general thinking at this point, and this could change, (is) if a decision has been made and (projects are) currently in operation, they are proceeding for now,” while other proposed projects for which decisions have not been made are on hold, Forest Service national press officer Dan Jiron said Thursday. As to whether development projects within roadless areas will proceed if the 2001 Roadless Rule remains in place, Jiron said, “We’re evaluating that now.” The Forest Service will comply with the 2001 Roadless Rule regardless of its implications, Jiron said, but the agency still is trying to grasp the meaning of last week’s ruling. Forest Service officials will have a better idea about the fate of projects planned for roadless areas “in the next couple weeks,” he said....
Developer states case to build eco-resort in Sedona Who says tree-huggers and five stars don't mix? ILX Resorts Inc., a Phoenix-based developer and operator of upscale vacation properties, wants to build a luxury eco-resort on former U.S. Forest Service land adjacent to its Los Abrigados Resort & Spa in Sedona. Villages at Legacy Park, located in what locals call "the heart of Sedona," would include what you'd expect from a top-notch resort: hotel, time-shares, scenery. The time-shares would be constructed according to green-building standards. The hotel's earth-sheltered cottages would be topped with native-plant gardens. The development also would include an environmental-sustainability think tank. And, Sedona residents would have public access to Oak Creek. Not everyone, however, is sold on the idea. The project, which still must be approved by the Sedona City Council, faced community opposition at a recent city meeting....
Keystone expansion gets final OK The U.S. Forest Service this week gave final approval for expanded snowcat and hike-to skiing on 278 acres of mostly above treeline terrain in the upper reaches of Jones Gulch. The new area, tabbed Independence Bowl by the resort, will offer some steeper, north-facing terrain for Keystone's popular cat-skiing operation. The new bowl is in an area that was allocated to ski area use under the 2002 White River National Forest plan. "There's a demand for in-bounds 'backcountry-light' skiing and riding, which is why we've been considering the expansion of hike-to and snowcat skiing and riding to the chutes and steeper pitches of Independence Bowl for the past few years," said Chuck Tolton, Keystone's director of mountain operations. Keystone started offering snowcat tours in the 2003-2004 season to introduce advanced skiers and riders to the untracked terrain of Bergman and Erickson bowls, guided by ski patrollers who offer an introductory talk on avalanche awareness....
'Matthew's world is not the real world' Matthew's world is not the real world, a Montana timber industry representative told the Chronicle Monday. Matthew Koehler, who spoke at length last week about his group's vision of a "truly sustainable economy," said the WildWest Institute seeks to replace Montana's existing timber industry with smaller mom-and-pop mills. Matthew, the group's executive director, said small businesses would spring up throughout the state to service fuel reduction projects around communities. If his group continues delaying and shutting down timber sales, yes, they will succeed in destroying Montana's existing timber industry, said Julia Altemus, a resource specialist with the Montana Logging Association. "But what they want to recreate in our place won't work. They want to recreate it in their own image, and it isn't going to happen. They can't do this work for minimum wage. They can't recreate the insurance, the worker's compensation. They can't do it. Ask the Southwest," she said. New Mexico and most of the Southwest has lost its mill infrastructure, in part because of reduced supply from public lands due to lawsuits filed by the WildWest Institute and other groups. "If you look at the Southwest, the environmentalists did drive out the infrastructure. They're gone. And when those mills closed, nothing sprang up to replace them. You don't have sustainability." All you have is increased fire danger to communities, because there is no infrastructure to reduce the cost of fuels reduction projects....
Udall bill targets protecting Front Range backdrop The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, designed to study ways to protect the scenic Front Range mountain backdrop west of the Denver metro area. The Northern Front Range Mountain Backdrop Protection Study Act requires the U.S. Forest Service to study ownership patterns of the land on the backdrop along the Front Range and west of Rocky Flats in particular. These are areas that are open and may risk being developed, and the Forest Service will recommend to Congress how these lands might be protected. "The open-space character of the mountain backdrop is an important esthetic and economic asset for adjoining communities, making them attractive locations for homes and businesses," Udall said. "We need to work to maintain the mountain backdrop as a cultural and natural heritage for ourselves and generations to come."....
Column - Beyond the Roadless Rule As I said two weeks ago, you gotta feel for Forest Service employees. In addition to the frustration of being pawns in the political chess game played out in the Beltway, they must feel like tennis balls at Wimbledon. For decades, they worked hard to build 32,000 miles of roads and took more than half of our 155 national forests off any inventory of roadless land. Then, at the end of the Clinton Era, they were handed the Roadless Rule and started working on ways to protect the remaining roadless lands. Then, at the beginning of the Bush Era, they were told to ignore the Roadless Rule and flash back to road-building business as usual. Now, the courts have reinstated the Clinton Way. Must be a lot of cases of whiplash in the ranks of the Forest Service. And we're a long way from checkmate. The FS will likely appeal the California U.S. District Court decision and at least one timber company has already filed a notice of appeal, so we could return to the Bush Way in the near future. I say, let's get out of the courthouse and beyond the Roadless Rule. We have work to do! Here are a few thoughts on what needs to be done....
Deer kill in Sabino means lion might be back The U.S. Forest Service is warning Sabino Canyon visitors to be extra cautious after a mountain lion was spotted eating a freshly killed deer near the road up the canyon. "It's typical mountain lion behavior," said Tom Whetten, a spokesman for the Arizona Game & Fish Department. Game & Fish agents were called in after the lion was spotted by a hiker. Whetten said the hiker went to the Forest Service office in the canyon and reported what he had seen between 9 and 10 a.m. The Forest Service worker, Josh Taiz, went to the kill site and moved the deer carcass 50 to 60 yards from the road, Whetten said. The road is closed due to recent floods but the canyon itself is open. In a statement issued Wednesday, Santa Catalina District Ranger Larry Raley said, "This is normal, healthy mountain lion behavior, but the close proximity of the kill to the road where people walk is reason for visitors to be especially vigilant."....
U.S. House Approves Utah Land Swap Deal A 40,000 acre land swap approved by the U.S. House would allow Utah to develop valuable mineral land that supporters say will generate more money for its schools. The House approved the Utah Recreational Land Exchange Act of 2006, which swaps 45,000 acres of land managed by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration near the Colorado River for 40,000 acres of federal land that has more economic potential for the trust. ``Congress established Utah's school trust lands upon statehood for the specific purpose of generating income for Utah's school system,'' said Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, on the House floor Wednesday. ``Therefore, in exchange for these beautiful areas, Utah's schoolchildren will receive mineral development lands in eastern Utah to provide a much-needed revenue stream for the Utah school system.'' The land the state would trade with the federal government includes the Colorado River corridor, Nine Mile Canyon and the Dinosaur National Monument area. In exchange, the state would receive Bureau of Land Management lands in the Uintah Basin and the Moab and Green River areas. The proposal now goes to the Senate for approval.
$13.8 million is bid for NPR-A leases Four companies submitted $13.8 million in bids for rights to develop oil and lease tracts in part of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, federal officials said Wednesday. The bids would allow the companies to develop 81 tracts on about 940,000 acres in the reserve. Submitting the bids were Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Conoco Phillips Alaska Inc., FEX LP and Petro-Canada (Alaska) Inc. The Bureau of Land Management has 90 days to evaluate the bids before officially awarding them. A judge on Monday halted part of the federal lease sale on Alaska's North Slope, but federal officials decided Tuesday to sell sections outside an area environmentalists want to preserve for migratory birds and calving caribou....
Feds extend mining ban on Idaho's Salmon River gorge The US Department of Interior has extended a ban on mining in Idaho's lower Salmon River for 20 years. The Bureau of Land Management oversees the federal land in the popular recreation area, which has been off limits to miners since the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act passed in 1968. Under that act, the lower Salmon was listed as a study river without being designated a wild and scenic river. Congress hasn't changed that listing since. Twenty years ago, the Interior Department extended the "temporary segregation" rules that protect 112 miles of the river as a study river. The department's decision Wednesday extends the protection another 20 years, the maximum allowed.
Wildlife Waste Is Major Water Polluter, Studies Say Does a bear leave its waste in the woods? Of course. So do geese, deer, muskrats, raccoons and other wild animals. And now, such states as Virginia and Maryland have determined that this plays a significant role in water pollution. Scientists have run high-tech tests on harmful bacteria in local rivers and streams and found that many of the germs -- and in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, a majority of them-- come from wildlife dung. The strange proposition that nature is apparently polluting itself has created a serious conundrum for government officials charged with cleaning up the rivers. Part of the problem lies with the unnaturally high populations of deer, geese and raccoons living in modern suburbs and depositing their waste there. But officials say it would be nearly impossible, and wildly unpopular, to kill or relocate enough animals to make a dent in even that segment of the pollution. That leaves scientists and environmentalists struggling with a more fundamental question: How clean should we expect nature to be? In certain cases, they say, the water standards themselves might be flawed, if they appear to forbid something as natural as wild animals leaving their dung in the woods....
Squirrels Go On Attack At South Bay Park An aggressive squirrel pounced on a 4-year-old boy in an attack last week in Cuesta Park in Mountain View, Calif. The attack happened as the boy's mother unwrapped a muffin during a picnic. The boy had to get rabies shot after the attack. He is still getting the shots. The attack is not the first one reported at the park. Mountain View Community Services Director David Muela said that as many as six people have been bitten or scratched by squirrels since May, and that the attacks have become more ferocious in the last month. In response to attacks, the city of Mountain View has announced it plans to start trapping and killing the aggressive tree squirrels....
Homegrown talent Decades ago, eggs and milk came from the dairy farmer next door, our meat was raised by the rancher down the road and everything from peaches and potatoes were grown in the a garden out the back door. "Local" food was the only thing to eat. Today, with grapefruits from Texas, bananas from El Salvador and salsa from New York City, filling our plates with homegrown food is a struggle. But two Utah chefs are up for the challenge. On Oct. 3, John Hardesty and Efrain Mejia, are among 400 chefs across the country who will take part in the "Eat Local Challenge." The chefs will serve a lunch made entirely of ingredients produced within a 150-mile radius of their kitchen. The national challenge is sponsored by Bon Appetit Management Co., which operates restaurants and cafes on university campuses and specialty venues. Better flavor is one of the main reasons that "eat local" have become culinary buzzwords among American chefs and gourmands. Food that has traveled in the back of a truck for several days or has been stored in a warehouse for months loses flavor and nutritional value. In the United States, however, most food travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to table, according to the Worldwatch Institute, an international think tank for environmental and social trends. Those miles are up as much as 25 percent from 20 years ago....
Texas Places VS Restrictions on Horses Moving from Wyoming Texas hunters or ranchers hauling horses or other livestock from Wyoming this fall should be aware of regulations affecting the animals' entry or re-entry into Texas, says Bob Hillman, DVM, head of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state's livestock and poultry health regulatory agency. Vesicular stomatitis (VS), a viral disease that can affect horses, cattle, swine, deer, sheep or goats, has been confirmed in 12 horses and 10 cattle on a total of nine premises in Natrona and Converse counties in southeast Wyoming. As of late September, these are the only cases confirmed in the U.S. in 2006. To help prevent the spread of VS, Texas livestock health regulations prohibit the entry of horses, cattle, swine, (live) deer, sheep or goats from VS-quarantined premises or areas. Animals may enter Texas from non-quarantined areas of an affected state, provided an accredited veterinarian in that state examines the animals and determines that they are not exhibiting evidence of vesicular stomatitis and writes the following statement on a current or new certificate of veterinary inspection: the animals represented on this health certificate have not originated from a premise or area under quarantine for vesicular stomatitis."....
Where the Moon Stood Still, and the Ancients Watched THE great Chaco civilization, trading partner of the Maya, established a far-reaching sphere of influence in the North American desert a millennium ago. Among the most remote and mysterious of their outposts was Chimney Rock, in what is now the very southwest corner of Colorado, 90 miles from Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, the center of the culture. Why did the Chaco people — the Anasazi, or “ancestral Puebloans,” as their descendants prefer — build an enormous ceremonial Great House at Chimney Rock, so far from home, 1,000 feet above the nearest water supply and at the base of immense sandstone spires? It was not until two decades ago that archaeologists arrived at an explanation that most now accept: the Chaco people built the Great House as a lunar observatory precisely aligned to a celestial event that occurs just once in a generation. That rare event, a “major lunar standstill,” is happening now, and continues through 2007....
Ranchers hated prairie dogs and mesquites In 1852 it was estimated that 50 million prairie dogs covered a million acres of the Texas Panhandle. In 1900 a prairie dog town extended 250 miles north from San Angelo to Clarendon that was 100 miles wide and had approximately 400 million prairie dogs. A 1905 estimate for all of Texas was 800 million. The Swensons endeavored to get rid of the prairie dogs, so they arranged for two complete outfits of wagons and men to cover certain areas with poison grain and carbon bisulphide, spending thousands of dollars. Obviously, they had to keep the cattle off the part of the land being poisoned. Other ranchers began doing the same thing, and some of their methods were strychnine or cyanide with syrup on a corn or wheat base. Finally, some of the counties began offering bounties for prairie dog scalps, or hides. Some ranchers earned enough money to pay their taxes with the bounties they got as they turned the scalps into their local county officials. Finally the number of prairie dog towns declined dramatically. They had been reduced to one-tenth of their original number by the 1920s, and by the 1970s they were estimated to total only about 2.2 million. One thing the ranchers learned when they began to rid themselves of prairie dogs was the increase in mesquite trees, taking up the grazing land. In the early days there were very few mesquites. Prairie dogs ate the small roots of the mesquite trees as they first developed and kept their growth down....
Get along, little dogies Wayne Moran admits he is more at home on his 36-foot sailboat than in a saddle riding the Kansas Plains. "I'm apprehensive. I've never done this before," said the corporate attorney from Rhode Island as his wife, DeEtta, helped him zip on a pair of chaps Thursday before the Great American Cattle Drive. "He's going from captain to cowboy," said DeEtta, a native of nearby Kanopolis. Wayne Moran, 62, is among 20 tourists who paid $1,000 each to help drive 64 head of longhorn cattle 26 miles in three days, to end Saturday with the final push up Douglas Street, the main drag in Ellsworth. The people and the cause lured him halfway across the country to climb on a horse for the first time in eight years....
The 125th Anniversary of the Gunfight at the OK Corral The Gunfight at the OK Corral occurred a little after 2:30 p.m. on a very windy, chilly Wednesday afternoon on October 26, 1881, one hundred and twenty-five years ago. It snowed later that evening, leaving a dusting of about two inches. When Tombstone is windy and chilly, it is cold. That afternoon, the dust was blowing. Snow flurries were in the air, as well as occasional pellets of sleet. There are a growing number of researchers who now believe, as do I, the roots of the Cochise County Cowboy War can be found in the infamous Lincoln County Cattle War (The whole Billy the Kid thing). One of the greatest misconceptions of the Lincoln County Cattle War is Billy the Kid. BTK was not the most wanted outlaw in the New Mexico Territory at that time. The man who was driving Governor Lew Wallace crazy, and interrupting his penning of Ben Hur was legendary Cochise County Sheriff John Horton Slaughter. (See, there is a Tombstone connection, after all.) Long story short, Slaughter had a very bad habit of hanging out with ranchers and cowboys who weren’t above rounding up unbranded calves (even if their mommy had a brand) and putting the Slaughter brand on them. Well, one day, outside of Roswell, New Mexico (yep, the UFO capital of the world) Slaughter made the mistake of branding some of John Chisum’s prize calves. (Now you know why I mentioned the John Wayne movie). Chisum being Chisum, the local cattle baron reported Slaughter’s activities to the authorities. John Chisum had this little quirk of not paying his bills on time. He had the audacity to demand Slaughter either return the calves or pay him. Slaughter wasn’t the wealthiest man about town at that time, so he challenged Chisum to a game of poker. And so, in this legendary poker game that never made its way onto the silver screen, John Slaughter fleeced John Chisum out of the calves. Chisum was furious. If Chisum was furious, then Lew Wallace was going to be furious. Slaughter was arrested and given the ultimatum “Get the heck out of New Mexico or go directly to jail.” Slaughter chose the former. And so, John Horton Slaughter took with him a number of riders called “The Boys,” many of them associates of Billy the Kid. He and The Boys drove his herd up what is now Highway 70 from Roswell through the Hondo Valley....

Thursday, September 28, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP


L.A. Told to Restore Owens River
A state Court of Appeal panel late Wednesday gave Los Angeles a strong push to move ahead on restoring a 62-mile stretch of the Lower Owens River by upholding a court order that would ban the city from using a key aqueduct if it continues delaying the project. The ruling in the years-long legal dispute was hailed as a victory for Owens Valley residents, environmental groups and state officials fed up with the city Department of Water and Power's failure to comply with a legal agreement to restore the once-vibrant Inyo County river. The restoration effort would be one of the largest ever attempted in the country. "This may be the final salvo in the longest-running fight over an environmental impact report in California history," said Gordon Burns, deputy solicitor general for Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer. "Now, everybody is holding tight and hoping the city will do what it is supposed to do." Laurens H. Silver, a lawyer for the Sierra Club, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the Lower Owens River Project "should have been implemented four or five years ago, and is mitigation for the long-term damage that the city has done by way of its ground water pumping" from the Owens Valley. The ruling has implications for the river as well as Owens Lake, which "was almost totally dewatered by the city's exports" of water from the area, he said....
Allard urges interior secretary to help with Black Canyon Case Sen. Wayne Allard sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne Tuesday, urging him to help resolve the Black Canyon water rights case. Two weeks ago, U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Brimmer voided a settlement agreement in the case between the state of Colorado and the federal government. The judge remanded the case back to the U.S. Park Service, which is a division of the Interior Department. Allard sought the secretary’s help to start negotiations for a settlement. “While a legislative solution may be warranted at some point, I still believe an out-of-court agreement negotiated between the experts at the Department of the Interior and the state of Colorado is the proper solution,” Allard wrote in the letter. “An outright rejection of the agreement, or court quantification of federal water rights, could lead to the largest water grab in my state’s — and possibly the nation’s — history.” The case began in 2001 when the Park Service filed for a federal reserve water right in the Black Canyon. Water users in the Uncompahgre and Gunnison river basins became concerned about a large federal water right in the Black Canyon. Over 200 parties joined the case, which became the largest in the history of Colorado. Former Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and the Colorado Water Conservation Board reached a settlement to the case in 2003. Environmental groups objected to the deal and sued in federal court....
Park County plans to join lawsuit for wolf delisting Though possibly closer than ever to an agreement about wolves, the Wyoming Attorney General and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are still likely to again end up in court. If another lawsuit is filed in federal court, Park County will back it, county commissioner Marie Fontaine said. Attorney General Pat Crank says his office recently sent a 60-day letter to USFWS, stating Wyoming will again file suit about the federal agency's refusal to accept the state's plans to remove wolves from the Endangered Species list. The 60 days runs out the first week of October, Crank added. “We have a severe overpopulation of wolves and grizzly bears, and they're having a dramatic impact on our wildlife herds,” Crank said. “Our county attorney has been given the green light to join the state if that lawsuit moves forward,” Fontaine said. “There have been cattle killed in Park County, and the wolves have become bold enough to come down next to homes and kill pets in some cases,” she added....
Column - Oregon Should Welcome Wolves and All the Ecological and Economic Benefits They Bring Wolves provide tremendous ecological benefits. They are the top predator in most environments in which they live and the trickle down effect of their presence is astounding. In Yellowstone, prior to the wolves' reintroduction in 1995, elk basically roamed wherever they chose and tended to spend most of their time in the river valleys. This excessive streamside grazing prevented willow and cottonwood tree growth along the river banks. But when the wolf returned, the elk quickly learned they couldn't set up permanent housekeeping in the valleys and they moved on to make a living in other areas. This, in turn, allowed young trees to grow along the riverbeds. The new trees shaded the river water, creating improved habitat for trout, which thrive in cooler, darker waters. The new willows and cottonwoods attract additional migratory birds and provided new food sources and building materials for beavers. The beavers then built dams which created new marshes and wetlands that in turn attracted otters, ducks and other species. Wolf kills also provided an abundant and reliable source of food for scavengers. And to be sure, wolf predations on old and sick elk have had a positive effect on the viability of the elk population itself....
Word choice by FS gets negative
Few words carry more baggage than "wilderness" in the controversy over Montana's roadless federal lands, so the U.S. Forest Service decided to lighten the linguistic load in the draft update of a forest management plan. The agency reduced use of "wilderness" by substituting the less sensitive "wildland" in some parts of the draft, a blueprint for managing the Kootenai National Forest of northwestern Montana for 15 years. The substitution involved references to lands that ultimately may be up for wilderness designations to preserve them, partly through restrictions on commercial use and motorized recreation. The word swap did not affect the moniker for the forest's Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, designated years ago under the federal Wilderness Act. Kootenai forest planner Kirsten Kaiser said wildland is "a different name for recommended wilderness." The forest's former supervisor, Bob Castaneda, made the change because he believed use of wilderness "sometimes causes people to quit communicating," Kaiser said. "He found the wildland term would be a better term to use to get people to talk about recommended wilderness." People who want more Montana land to be declared wilderness criticized the suggestion that wildland and wilderness are interchangeable terms....I'm trying to be nice and watch my language....but what a bunch of BS. If they manage the "wildlands" to protect it's wilderness characteristics, then it is an administratively declared wilderness, just waiting for the right time to get a legislative designation. Say in about two and a half years. Who do they think they are fooling?
Wilderness bills for Idaho, Oregon and New Mexico face hurdle Proposals to protect public lands in three Western states ran into trouble Wednesday as a Senate panel considered a series of separate bills. Votes on the bills — which would protect land in Oregon, Idaho and New Mexico — are unlikely before Election Day, and may not occur at all this year, said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Craig chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources public lands subcommittee, which heard testimony on bills to create two large wilderness areas in Idaho, expand the Mount Hood wilderness area in Oregon and create a national monument in New Mexico. Craig said after the hearing that obstacles to all the bills remain. "There's no question" that formal votes on the bills will be delayed until after the Nov. 7 election, Craig said, but added, "There may be a path forward" before Congress adjourns at the end of the year. Craig has not taken a position on the wilderness bills, which have split the conservation community for the myriad of potential trade-offs they include, from privatizing public lands and allowing motorized vehicle access to banning mountain biking and undercutting wild and scenic rivers protection....
Administration at odds with Oregon lawmakers over Mt. Hood proposals The Bush administration said Wednesday it opposes bills to expand the Mount Hood wilderness area, even as Oregon lawmakers launched a bipartisan blitz to approve a compromise measure before the end of the year. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs U.S. forest policy, said the administration opposes both a House and Senate version of a Mount Hood wilderness bill, as each is currently drafted. The Senate bill, co-sponsored by Oregon Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden, would expand the Mount Hood wilderness area by more than 128,000 acres, while a House plan pushed by Reps. Greg Walden and Earl Blumenauer would expand wilderness protection by about 77,000 acres. But Rey said both bills were unacceptable. He said the administration would prefer a plan that creates 55,000 acres in new wilderness, with thousands more acres protected under a less restrictive classification such as a national recreation area. "We're about halfway there," Rey said, in assessing chances for a compromise acceptable to all sides. Oregon lawmakers disagreed, saying they were days away from an agreement....
Greens to appeal decision on Southern Oregon ski area expansion Environmentalists say they will appeal a judge’s decision to allow expansion of the Mount Ashland ski area in Southern Oregon. “It’s just a question of when and how,” said Rogue Group Sierra Club Chairman Tom Dimitre. Once the group gets a copy of the decision from U.S. District Judge Owen Panner, it can begin shaping the appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he said. Panner’s ruling Sept. 20 gives the ski area the go-ahead to build 16 new ski trails, two chairlifts and 200 new parking spaces. The U.S. Forest Service said it was preparing contracts to sell timber to be cut for the expansion work, but the ski area’s board of directors said it would wait 30 days to give opponents time to make the appeal....
Nine Federal Agencies Collaborate to Fight America’s Wildfires 2006 has been the worst year on record for wildfires in America. The problem has been especially severe in mountainous, heavily-forested Western states such as Montana, where an estimated 400,000 hectares have burned so far this fire season. Fire knows no political or bureaucratic boundaries, and the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, is at the core of the federal effort to coordinate the logistics and manage the resources necessary to fight these fires. The walls are covered with regional maps and up-to-the-minute technical charts in the room where representatives of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and seven other federal agencies gather every morning around a long conference table to plan the day’s work. Among the experts present are National Guard personnel, meteorologists and wildfire analysts, who look at weather patterns and ground data for 13 geographic regions, and try to predict fire behavior. This cooperative, inter-agency approach to fighting wildfires is relatively new. Fifty years ago, each federal agency had its own firefighting program, and effective communication among agencies was rare. That’s no longer true....
Judge rules for BLM in Otero Mesa drilling case In a defeat for environmentalists, a federal judge ruled Wednesday in favor of a Bureau of Land Management plan for opening parts of southeastern New Mexico's Otero Mesa to oil and gas drilling. Critics of the BLM plan, including a coalition of environmental groups and New Mexico state leaders, had claimed the agency failed to properly evaluate whether building roads, pipelines, well pads and other structures would damage the area's ecosystem, which includes North America's largest remaining pieces of Chihuahuan desert grassland. But in his 43-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Bruce D. Black said the BLM adhered to federal statutes and administrative practices in crafting its plan. BLM's state director, Linda Rundell, said she was ŒŒgratified and encouraged'' by the ruling. ŒŒThe judge clearly agreed with the analysis that was done and the process that we used,'' Rundell said. During months of legal wrangling, BLM officials argued that the agency went to great lengths to ensure protecting the ecosystem while serving the needs of land-use parties. Out of the 2 million acres, a total of 1,589 acres would be disturbed by drilling practices such as additional roads, well pads and pipelines, the agency said. In addition, no more than 5 percent can be disturbed on the grasslands at any specific time....
Senator seeks to speed nuclear waste shipments to Yucca Mountain A Senate committee chairman said Wednesday that he wants to start shipping nuclear waste to Nevada's Yucca Mountain in 2010, seven years ahead of the Bush administration's schedule. A bill by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., would mandate construction of a surface storage facility at the Yucca Mountain site that could hold nuclear waste until the long-delayed underground dump is ready - not until 2017, at earliest, according to the current schedule. The delays are costing the public because the Energy Department was obligated to start accepting waste from nuclear utilities beginning in 1998. More than 50,000 tons of the material is waiting at commercial reactors around the nation. Domenici's bill would seek to reduce that multibillion dollar liability by creating an aboveground facility that could receive high-level waste from the Defense Department starting in 2010 and spent fuel from civilian reactors the next year. The aboveground facility would be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission separately from the underground dump, which also still needs a license....
Stockgrowers confused by changes in Water Protection Act The government is once again keeping ranchers on their toes and leaving them with a head full of questions about whether they are breaking the law or not. A new version of the Water Protection Act came out last year, and it has a lot of stockgrowers scratching their heads. The new changes in regulations are designed to cut down on nutrients from animal waste ending up in streams. This law goes further in protecting water for recreational use such as swimming, boating and fishing than the previous 1972 version. The revised Water Protection Act imposes new regulations on ranchers, especially those with confined feed operations, such as feed lots. On Friday, the North Central Stockgrowers Association and the Hill County Conservation District, assisted by the Hill County Extension Office and the staff at the Montana State University Agricultural Department hosted a four-hour seminar at the MSU Agricultural Experiment Station at Fort Assinniboine south of Havre on dealing with the new regulations. First and foremost, ranchers must determine the nature of their operation. Is it an “animal feeding operation” or a “confined animal feeding operation?” The definition of confined animal feeding operation can be more than a little confusing but it requires a discharge permit from the Environmental Protection Agency....
Fire ant-attacking fly spreading rapidly in Texas Parasitic flies introduced to control red imported fire ants have spread over four million acres in central and southeast Texas since the flies' introduction in 1999, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered using new flytraps they developed. Researchers at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory (BFL) have released multiple species of the parasitic flies, originally from Brazil and Argentina, to control invasive fire ants without pesticides. The fly larvae develop inside the ants and kill their host. Dr. Ed LeBrun, a researcher at BFL, developed the new flytraps that allowed him to map the spread of the first species of phorid fly successfully introduced. The fly, Pseudacteon tricuspis, was introduced to several locations in Texas beginning in 1999 with BFL in central Austin....
Feral pigs invade Carpinteria For the first time in recent history, feral pigs have invaded Carpinteria, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. Chris Long, a Fish and Game patrol lieutenant, said that he has issued a special deprivation hunting permit to a Carpinteria avocado ranch owner because feral pigs have raided his land and caused damage to his crops. “Pigs cause tremendous damage to soil and roots. They tear up around four to eight inches underground. It looks like a tractor’s gone through it,” said Long. According to Long, the ranch owner has already killed approximately 24 feral pigs on his property, which is located between Casitas Lake and Carpinteria. The number of pigs that can be killed under a deprivation permit, he noted, is dictated on a case-by-case basis. Long said that it is unclear where the pigs came from; they could be either part of a larger population of wild pigs or released domestic pigs. Despite the recent hunting, the pig population in Carpinteria will continue to grow and roam, according to Long....
Japan imports of U.S. beef slump after ban lifted Japanese imports of U.S. beef totaled only 105 tonnes in August, the first full month of shipments since Tokyo reopened the market to meat from the United States, government data showed on Thursday. That figure marks a plunge from the 22,000-25,000 tonnes of U.S. beef that industry officials say Japan was importing each month in 2003 before it imposed a ban following the discovery of a case of mad-cow disease in the United States. Tokyo briefly lifted the ban at the end of last year, but closed its borders again about a month later in January when inspectors found forbidden meat parts in a U.S. shipment. Japan imported about 41 tonnes of U.S. beef in December and 623 tonnes in January before the ban was reimposed. Industry officials have said that U.S. beef will only make a gradual return to the Japanese market partly due to the lack of sufficient volumes of meat that meets Tokyo's requirements. Philip Seng, president of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, said on September 20 that Japan's purchase of U.S. beef will likely be a modest 15,000 tonnes this year. Japan was once the top importer of U.S. beef, buying 240,000 tonnes valued at $1.4 billion in 2003. That accounted for nearly 30 percent of total beef supplies in Japan....
Mandatory Price Reporting Concerns Remain R-CALF USA was pleased with the progress to keep cattle producers competitive and ensure transparency in the marketplace as the U.S. Senate passed a Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting bill that is identical to the one approved last year by the U.S. House of Representatives, which extends mandatory price reporting to 2010. In December 2005, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a 52-page report that identified key areas in need of improvement in the existing law to make livestock markets both more transparent and accurate so that independent cattle producers would be able to compete with meat packers on a level playing field. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, commissioned the GAO study, and both said they would continue to push for additional improvements in the next Congress. The Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act (MPR) requires packers, processors, and importers to provide critical price, contracting, supply and demand information to USDA, which uses the information to create price reports for livestock producers. Since the legislation authorizing the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting program expired last September, the program has been operating on a voluntary basis. "R-CALF is appreciative of the Iowa congressional delegation's efforts in this matter," said R-CALF USA Region II Director Randy Stevenson, who also chairs R-CALF USA's Marketing Committee. "Getting the mandatory price reporting law back on the books is a better scenario than relying on packers to voluntarily furnish this essential information. Our eventual goal is to get complete and transparent reporting that's equivalent to what is required on Wall Street....
NASDA To Lobby Congress To Mark Imported Cattle's Origin The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has voted to work legislatively to remove cattle from the so-called J-list, a list of commodities exempt from bearing a permanent mark of country of origin. NASDA holds that such a permanent mark would make it easier to isolate and treat animals if a dangerous animal disease, such as foot and mouth or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, were to be discovered in the originating country's herd. The resolution says in part that cattle should be so identified to "allow animal health authorities to identify imported cattle, which is critical due to the potential importation of animals previously and unknowingly exposed to potential new and emerging diseases, or diseases with long incubation periods, such as BSE and tuberculosis, where the need to locate these animals may not be realized until many years after importation." Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, which has fought the importation of cattle from countries with histories of animal diseases, saluted the move and urged its members to assist in lobbying Congress to write and pass such a bill....
'Mobile Matanza' may help N.M. ranches The Taos County Economic Development Corporation hopes the introduction of New Mexico's first Mobile Livestock Slaughtering Unit will give northern New Mexico ranchers a boost. The large truck - nicknamed Mobile Matanza after the traditional gathering in which an animal is butchered - will travel to area ranches and farms to slaughter livestock and prepare the meat for sale. In addition to helping livestock owners, officials hope the program will create jobs and enable healthy food to stay within the area. "It's a whole program having to do with community food, food security and upping the economic benefit to people in our area," said Pati Martinson, co-founder and co-director of the Economic Development Corporation. Martinson said Mobile Matanza, which will be operating by the spring, is modeled after a program in Washington state. That program started in 2001, and officials there say it has increased income for ranchers, retained at least one cut-and-pack operation and created six jobs. In New Mexico, Lee Knox will serve as the truck's butcher and driver. An inspector with the New Mexico Livestock Board will also be involved....
Chow adds tang to Rehab's round-up Authentic culinary delights from Archie Jobe's chuckwagon, reminiscent of cattle round-ups in the American West of old, will welcome patrons to the West Texas Rehab sale at Producers Livestock Auction today. Since 1866, when rancher Charles Goodnight introduced the first chuckwagon to the cattle trail drives, a diet of red beans and cornbread have been the cowboy's staple. The mesquite smoke slowly fading into the sky from Producers parking lot at 1311 N. Bell St. this morning will signal the aroma of Jobe's sizzling cast-iron ''chow,'' including Dutch-oven peach cobbler dessert. The dinner bell will ring about noon, and at 1 p.m., when folks reach their fill and cast-iron skillets are empty, the first cattle donated to the 47th annual Rehab Round-Up will enter the sale ring. Christoval rancher Bob Helmers, who serves as Round-up co-chairman for the Concho Valley, said Wednesday he had ''cut out'' a prized cow and loaded her in the trailer bound for Producers. Jody Frey, the Producers Livestock's cattle coordinator, is also serving as co-chairman of Concho Valley Rehab Round-Up efforts. He said some ranchers have already contributed to this year's event by donating sheep and goats at Tuesday's sale totaling $3,700. In 1960, the late Conda Wylie, Coke County rancher and owner of the Fort Chadbourne ranch, separated a few head of beef from his herd, sold them and donated the money to the rehabilitation center. That was the beginning of Cattlemen's Round-Up for Crippled Children....
Book explores the long-lasting relationship of man and his pony Horses are like fire. Humans have harnessed both to ensure their own survival. Both are beautiful - and sometimes deadly. Both are forces of nature. J. Edward Chamberlin describes in his new book, Horse: How The Horse Has Shaped Civilizations, the relationship between humans and horses throughout history. As the grandson of a horse rancher and breeder, the subject is near to his heart. He weaves a tapestry of assorted horse-related facts, stories and culture, strung together with one recurring, predominant theme: The horse is both an earthly beast and something akin to a mythic spirit. Through the practical advantages of being large, swift and strong, horses are like extensions of human mobility. It's as if nature engineered them specifically to elevate us to that place Chamberlin describes as being suspended for a moment between the sky above and the ground below. They have played so many roles in human history that they are not merely animals - they are symbols, permanently etched into the collective human psyche representing beauty, grace and the freedom of nature. From inspiring countless artists to providing humans with an invaluable source of meat and milk and hide, to replacing oxen on farms and revolutionizing both war and transportation, it's difficult to imagine human civilization without the influence of horses. Chamberlin includes all these details and more, deceptively nestled within a small 271-page tome....

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

GAO

Agriculture Conservation: USDA Should Improve Its Process for Allocating Funds to States for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. GAO-06-969, September 22.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-969

Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d06969high.pdf


Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Oversight of Nuclear Power Plant Safety Has Improved, but Refinements Are Needed. GAO-06-1029, September 27.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-1029

Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d061029high.pdf


Climate Change: Federal Agencies Should Do More to Make Funding Reports Clearer and Encourage Progress on Two Voluntary Programs, by John B. Stephenson, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Resources, House Committee on Government Reform. GAO-06-1126T, September 27.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-1126T

Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d061126thigh.pdf
NEWS ROUNDUP

‘Moyers on America: Is God Green?’ "God created this world. He commissioned us to take care of it, and that's that," declares the Rev. Tri Robinson, a rancher and pastor of the evangelical Vineyard Boise Church in Boise, Idaho. Rev. Robinson, a strict creationist and a strong supporter of President George W. Bush, is not exactly your typical tree-hugger, but like many in a growing movement in the conservative Christian community, he views a responsibility to protect the environment as a biblically mandated obligation for believers. Both the movement and its wider political ramifications are examined by veteran newsman Bill Moyers in "Is God Green?" the thought-provoking second installment of the three-part "Moyers on America" series airing Wednesday, Oct. 11, 9-10 p.m. EDT on PBS (check local listings). Though the program points out a history of hostility between evangelicals and environmentalists, Rev. Robinson represents a viewpoint that sees a profound connection between God and his creation; by respecting the latter we reverence the former. To do otherwise, according to Allen Johnson, who founded Christians for the Mountains, an advocacy group in West Virginia, is a sin and breaks the covenant God made with mankind in Genesis entrusting us with the stewardship of his handiwork. This is bigger than just a few church groups recycling trash and planting trees. A burgeoning environmental awareness has converts among the highest levels of the evangelical camp, including the Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the powerful National Association of Evangelicals in Washington....
Crowd proof that water is serious issue More then 90 people showed up Tuesday in Watford City to make sure the State Water Commission understands that out west, where there isn't much, water is king. The commission took comments on a plan by Zenergy Inc. to drill a fresh water well for every oil well west of Alexander - potentially up to 140 of each. The water coming up with oil in that area is salt saturated, saltier than water coming up with most oil wells in the state. The hearing was for 21 permanent fresh water well permits, of which 10 are already drilled and operating under temporary permits. The commission said it does a better job of keeping track of underground water than any state in the union. If local ranch water starts getting depleted, pumping would be curtailed, the commission said. The commission also promised it would recognize that the local ranch zone of water - about 150 feet deep - is interrelated to the deeper zone where Zenergy would be required to go for water. Peter Skedsvold, a local Alexander rancher, asked the commission to deny the requests....
Judge bans snowmobiles to protect caribou in northern Idaho A judge has declared nearly 470 square miles of national forest land in northern Idaho off-limits to snowmobiles in an effort to save the last mountain caribou herd in the contiguous 48 states. In a 31-page ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert H. Whaley banned snowmobiles throughout a caribou recovery zone in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests until the U.S. Forest Service develops a winter recreation strategy taking into account the impact of the loud, exhaust-spewing devices on the herd. Estimates of the herd in the Selkirk Mountains, which extend into southeast British Columbia from around Priest Lake, Idaho, northeast of Spokane, run to about three dozen animals, a "precarious finger-hold" on survival, Whaley wrote. Citing aerial photographs that show snowmobile tracks crisscrossing caribou routes to vital feeding areas, the judge added, "The court chooses to be overprotective rather than under-protective." The ban does not apply to hundreds of miles of state-owned land east of Priest Lake and offers a slim chance that limited snowmobiling might still be allowed in part of the recovery zone. Whaley gave environmental groups and the forest service a week to develop a proposal for a more trail-specific approach....
Land swap for Mt. Hood fails U.S. test Federal government investigators challenge as inadequate land appraisals that justify the trade of public and private property in a pending Mount Hood wilderness bill, saying taxpayers could not be sure they were getting a fair deal. In a letter released Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, investigators said the two appraisals did not meet industry standards for private or government appraisals. Significantly, the appraisals may have underestimated the value of publicly owned land at Government Camp, the GAO said. At issue is an exchange between a reluctant U.S. Forest Service, which owns 120 acres at Government Camp, and Mt. Hood Meadows, which owns 769 acres near the Cooper Spur ski area on the mountain's northeast slopes. The GAO's revelations pose serious problems for Oregon's congressional delegation. Oregon's representatives are trying to reconcile two conflicting versions of a Mount Hood wilderness bill this year, both of which include the proposed land swap. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., a key sponsor of the House bill, has said the exchange is pivotal to the wilderness legislation....Go here to read the GAO letter.
Roadless areas' economic benefits cited The assumption that natural areas are valuable only when used for logging, grazing, drilling or other development leads to biased decisions that favor development over preservation, says the author of a report on New Mexico's roadless areas. The state's 1.6 million acres of roadless national forests and more than 100,000 acres in Valle Vidal in northern New Mexico generate tens of millions of dollars a year in the economic benefits of clean water, outdoor recreation and forests that absorb carbon dioxide, according to the study commissioned by a Santa Fe-based environmental group, Forest Guardians. Environmentalists contend the study released Monday supports their argument for permanent protection for roadless areas in national forests. The state has petitioned the Bush administration to protect all of New Mexico's roadless national forest areas and the Valle Vidal. In New Mexico, the Forest Guardian's report concluded that economic benefits from roadless areas include $42 million annually in water quality benefits from 530,000 acre-feet of clean water flowing from road less land. The study said the economy reaps $22 million to $24 million associated with absorption of carbon dioxide that otherwise would remain in the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming. It also said recreational use that doesn't depend on motorized vehicles generates $27 million....Go here(pdf) to read the report.
Statements from indicted fire manager allowed at trial A federal judge says a former U-S Forest Service fire commander's confession that he started two fires can be used against him at his trial. The attorney for Van Bateman wanted the statements thrown out, saying they were coerced. But District Judge Paul Rosenblatt found last week that there was no coercion and that investigators gave him a chance to leave, take breaks and to be silent. The 56-year-old now faces a November trial on two counts of setting timber fires and two counts of arson on public lands. He could get 50 years in prison if convicted of all the crimes. Bateman was a well-known fire manager in the Coconino National Forest....
Government goes with partial Alaska sale A judge has halted part of a federal lease sale of oil-rich land on Alaska's North Slope, but the government on Tuesday said it can still sell sections outside an area environmentalists want to preserve for migratory birds and calving caribou. The ruling expressly forbade the government from selling leases to tracts in the northeast section of the reserve, but left room for sales in the northwest section, according to Danielle Allen, a spokeswoman for the bureau in Alaska. After consulting attorneys on Tuesday, the bureau decided it did not have to close the 5.5 million acres in the northwestern area it had offered for lease. "We believe the northwest tracts are on very sound legal footing," Dougan said. The bureau will announce the high bidders for the northwest tracts on Wednesday, as planned, Dougan said. The bureau had received bids for 940,000 acres as of last week's deadline, she said....
BLM Gathers Over 500 Wild Horses From Fire-Ravaged Nevada The Bureau of Land Management has rounded up more than 500 wild horses from northeastern Nevada rangeland devastated by wildfires, the agency said Tuesday. Nearly 1 million acres mainly in Elko County burned this year from a series of fires that began in June and continued for three months. Biologists have said the fires destroyed critical habitat for wildlife and livestock and could take decades to restore. The BLM removed the wild horses from the Little Humboldt and Rock Creek Herd Management areas. Officials said some of the horses will be kept in a contracted facility in Fallon and released back on the range at a later date, and some mares were moved to adjacent pastures....
Biologists euthanize an endangered sheep Biologists on Tuesday euthanized a Peninsular bighorn sheep released into the San Jacinto Mountains above Palm Springs after realizing the animal was seriously injured by coyotes. The sheep had been released there recently to help a herd of the endangered species. Jane Hendron, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said her agency and the state's wildlife agency authorized biologists with the Bighorn Institute near Palm Desert to carry out the euthanization. Jim DeForge, the institute's executive director, said he and some biologists carried antibiotics into the mountains hoping to treat the captive-born sheep that was released into the wild last Thursday and was seen limping Sunday. DeForge said an examination revealed the animal was badly wounded and had to be euthanized....
Oregon regulators vote to remove Chiloquin Dam Officials have decided to remove the Chiloquin dam, which blocks the passage of endangered Lost River and short-nosed suckers to spawning areas up the Sprague River. The Modoc Point Irrigation District voted to remove the structure last week and met Monday to ratify the vote. Removing the dam was identified as a key project for helping endangered suckers after the Endangered Species Act forced irrigation water to be shut off to most of the 1,000 farms on the Klamath Reclamation Project during a 2001 drought. The move was intended to maintain water levels in Upper Klamath Lake — the project's main reservoir and the primary habitat of the suckers. The U.S. Department of the Interior will pay for removal of the 92-year-old dam. The agency also will pay to install a new pumping station, and will give the district a $2.4-million to create a fund to pay for operation and maintenance of the pump station. "We're excited," said Irrigation district board member Pete Bourdet. "This is what we've worked for. I personally have spent the last two years working on this."....
Mexican Garter Snake Denied Protection under Endangered Species Act Responding to a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced today that the Mexican Garter Snake does not warrant protection as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In its determination, FWS recognized that the garter snake is extirpated from 85-90 percent of its range in the U.S., declining, and severely threatened by multiple factors in both the U.S. and Mexico. However, the agency still concluded that the species should not be protected. Dependent on the dwindling rivers and streams of the southwest U.S. and northern Mexico, the Mexican Garter Snake has been extirpated from most of its U.S. range, including the Colorado, Gila, and much of the Santa Cruz and San Pedro Rivers. The decline of the Mexican Garter Snake is closely linked to the deteriorating quality of streamside habitats, the disappearance of native frogs and native fishes and the rampant introduction and spread of non-native species, such as bullfrogs, sunfish and bass. “The decline of the Mexican garter snake is symptomatic of an extremely widespread decline in the aquatic fauna of the Southwest,” stated Dr. Phil Rosen, herpetologist with the University of Arizona....
“Hot & Cold Media Spin: A Challenge To Journalists Who Cover Global Warming” I am going to speak today about the most media-hyped environmental issue of all time, global warming. I have spoken more about global warming than any other politician in Washington today. My speech will be a bit different from the previous seven floor speeches, as I focus not only on the science, but on the media’s coverage of climate change. Global Warming -- just that term evokes many members in this chamber, the media, Hollywood elites and our pop culture to nod their heads and fret about an impending climate disaster. As the senator who has spent more time speaking about the facts regarding global warming, I want to address some of the recent media coverage of global warming and Hollywood’s involvement in the issue. And of course I will also discuss former Vice President Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” Since 1895, the media has alternated between global cooling and warming scares during four separate and sometimes overlapping time periods. From 1895 until the 1930’s the media peddled a coming ice age. From the late 1920’s until the 1960’s they warned of global warming. From the 1950’s until the 1970’s they warned us again of a coming ice age. This makes modern global warming the fourth estate’s fourth attempt to promote opposing climate change fears during the last 100 years. Recently, advocates of alarmism have grown increasingly desperate to try to convince the public that global warming is the greatest moral issue of our generation. Just last week, the vice president of London’s Royal Society sent a chilling letter to the media encouraging them to stifle the voices of scientists skeptical of climate alarmism....
Old-fashioned land scams go high-tech An elderly woman from the East Coast roams the Arizona desert in search of her land. She's looking for a tidy lot in a subdivision and instead finds an arid wasteland in the middle of nowhere. She gets lost, runs out of gas and water and has to be rescued by a rancher. She had bought the land on the Internet, sight unseen, according to Mary Utley, spokeswoman with the Arizona Department of Real Estate. The Internet is reviving a grand old American tradition: land scams. Thousands of lots in phantom subdivisions that were sold decades ago to people who hoped to build retirement homes in warm states are reappearing on online sites such as the Internet giant eBay. The new wave of land scams has the potential to snooker millions more around the world because of the Internet's broad and instantaneous reach....
Study Finds Thousands Receive Farm Disaster Aid At Least Every Other Year for Over Two Decades Pressure is building in Congress for pre-election enactment of a $6.55 billion farm disaster aid bill, by far the most expensive such measure in history. Proponents of the bill describe the crop and livestock impacts of recent dry weather in the Great Plains as unusually severe, likening it to the conditions during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. But there is nothing unusual about this year's clamor for emergency agricultural disaster aid, millions of dollars of which will go to the very same farmers and ranchers who have collected it every other year, or more frequently, for decades. Over the past 21 years, taxpayers have provided $26 billion in emergency agricultural disaster aid to more than two million farm and ranch operations, a new Environmental Working Group (EWG) farm-by-farm data investigation of US Department of Agriculture (USDA) records has found. The Agriculture Department sent out disaster aid checks every year for the past two decades, with payouts exceeding one billion dollars in 11 of the 21 years studied. The EWG analysis found that the vast majority of the 2 million farmers and ranchers who have received disaster aid over the past 21 years have received it infrequently, with 75 percent collecting payments three years or less out of 21. However, a minority of the recipients are chronic beneficiaries of disaster funds, with some 21,000 of them (about one percent) collecting disaster aid more than 11 years out of 21, amounting to $2.8 billion, or more than 10 percent of the total payments. These chronic beneficiaries received an average of $118,000 in disaster aid over the period, and collected aid checks on average for 12 of the 21 years....
Triplet calves born in Idaho, defying 1-in-105,000 odds Odds-defying triplet calves, a heifer and two bulls, that were born on a northcentral Idaho ranch are healthy and growing, said the rancher and Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine employee who found them in his pasture. Experts at the school in neighboring eastern Washington say the odds of triplets born to beef cattle are about 1 in 105,000. "I couldn't believe it," said Mike Carpenter, who with his wife, Gayle, raises registered Simmental beef cattle about four miles south of this Latah County town near the north slopes of Moscow Mountain. Carpenter is also a herds manager at the vet school at Washington State. "I don't want too many of these," he said, after finding the calves last week. "Once is enough." Neighbors are visiting with cameras. Professors at the vet school say they've only seen triplets in dairy cows. But that's not the most amazing thing about last week's phenomenon, says Ahmad Tibary, a professor of large animal breeding and obstetrics at WSU. "The most exceptional thing about these triplets is that all are doing well," Tibary said. Keeping the newborn animals alive wasn't easy, Carpenter said. When the Carpenters found them, two of the triplets had apparently already nursed on their mother, but the third was lying down and needed help....
A peek at Aztec life A young husband on his deathbed dictates a list of valuables he wants to go to his wife. It turns out the goods he wants his wife to have actually belong to his mother, a widow who inherited the possessions from her own family. The man dies, and a bitter lawsuit between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law lands in court. The mother-in-law eventually wins, retaining possession of nine parcels of land, two houses, a number of blankets, a corn granary, a metal hoe blade, a horse, seven cacao bean crushers and ceremonial cups for drinking chocolate. t was not an important case in the annals of jurisprudence, but it is an unusual one, the arguments being clearly laid out on hand-rendered court documents in pictographic style. The disputants were Aztec women arguing in front of a Spanish judge in 1576, 55 years after Spain conquered what is now Mexico City. The court documents have been in Chicago for more than 100 years, part of one of the world's most important collections of colonial Mexican historical records....
On the Road to a Hanging Mike Kearby’s new book provides a rare glimpse into the experiences of a black cowboy in the American West. The Road to a Hanging deals with the experiences of Free Anderson, an ex-slave and Union Civil War Army Sergeant. Set in 1868, Anderson is framed by outlaw Sheriff Jubal Thompson. Awaiting hanging in “The Flats,” known as the toughest town in Texas, Anderson finds help from ex-slave Clara Mason and Civil War friend Parks Scott. Parks rescues Anderson from the hangman’s noose and the two men urgently ride to the far reaches of West Texas to find proof on Anderson’s innocence. Kearby said Anderson is probably the first black hero in a fiction book in the last 15 years. “It’s kind of [Free’s] trials and tribulation during reconstruction,” explained Kearby. “You can relate it to Parker County because Bose Ikard and Charles Goodnight are mentioned. In fact, [Free] is part of one of their trail drives early on.” Charles Goodnight, made famous by Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Lonesome Dove, was a cattle rancher in West Texas. He and Bose Ikard, a real ex-slave and top hand, teamed up with Oliver Loving to drive cattle north from Texas along what would become known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail....

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Voters get a say on land rights Eleven states are giving voters their first chance this fall to override last year's Supreme Court ruling that allows local governments seeking more tax revenue to seize private property and give it to developers. Thirty state legislatures have passed laws or constitutional amendments since June 2005 to negate or limit the ruling's effect in their states. Voting 5-4, the high court said the Constitution permits state and local governments to condemn a home through eminent domain powers so developers can build hotels, offices or retail centers on the site. The decision, Kelo v. New London, Conn., raised a public outcry, led by libertarians and conservatives who advocate limited government power. The spate of ballot proposals is being bankrolled largely by libertarian organizations controlled by New York City real estate investor Howie Rich. The groups, Americans for Limited Government and the Fund for Democracy, have donated $4 million to ballot drives in eight states. "It's about one of the core freedoms that our country was built on," Rich says. "People work very hard to own a small business, a home or property. The government is there to protect the right to that property, not to take it away." Cities, some environmental groups and property developers oppose the ballot measures. Using eminent domain for commercial projects is proper "as a last resort," says Paul Farmer, executive director of the American Planning Association, a group for urban planners based in Washington. "Working these things out in the legislatures is preferable to the sledgehammer approach of these measures." Larry Morandi of the National Conference of State Legislatures says momentum is building on these issues and most of the ballot measures could pass. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says, "I'm not sure even Roe v. Wade (which legalized abortion nationwide) got so much of the country saying 'no' the way Kelo did."....
Wilderness bill comes with price Congress is on the verge of approving half a dozen bills that would protect as much as 1 million acres of wilderness areas across the West, but the move has infuriated environmentalists who charge that lawmakers are giving away too much pristine public land to real estate developers and local communities in the process. If lawmakers finish work on the legislation before adjourning -- several bills have passed the House already, and a Senate hearing is scheduled for tomorrow -- it would amount to the largest designation of new wilderness areas in a decade. But advocates and critics are in a bitter fight over the trade-offs, with opponents saying the public is paying too high a price. One pending bill would protect a 273,000-acre stretch of California's northern coast to preserve steelhead and salmon habitat -- but it would also guarantee that off-road vehicles could use an area nearby. Another measure would create a 300,000-acre wilderness area in Idaho while handing over 4,000 acres to state and local authorities to develop or manage on their own. "For a public-interest movement to succeed, it has to be supported by the public, and it has to move [forward]," said Idaho Conservation League Executive Director Rick Johnson, who teamed up with Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, to craft the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act. "This is not the time to let the perfect be the enemy of the good." But several environmental activists, including singer-songwriter and Idaho resident Carole King and Janine Blaeloch, director of the Seattle-based Western Lands Project, said the bills would set a dangerous precedent....
Fish and Game to kill more Idaho wolves blamed for livestock deaths Three Idaho wolves have been killed by federal hunters in recent weeks and state officials have authorized the destruction of 10 more, due to recent attacks on livestock that left some 63 sheep dead and five injured. While disease and non-predator-related causes result in more than two-thirds livestock deaths in Idaho, state Department of Fish and Game officials say these wolf control actions are needed to curb future attacks. At least 43 sheep were killed since August by wolves of the Lick Creek pack, which roam western Idaho near the Snake River. Elsewhere in the state, other wolves killed 20 more sheep in the last week. So far this year, federal and state agents have killed 26 wolves in Idaho, and another nine have been legally killed by ranchers whose livestock were threatened or attacked.
In tug-of-war for space, prairie dogs losing fight It's been a bad few weeks for prairie dogs and their human champions. The Colorado Wildlife Commission declined to give the black-tailed prairie dog year-round protection from being shot, instead giving them safe harbor on public lands only between March 1 and June 14. At the same meeting, the commission approved use of a device known as the "Rodenator," which injects oxygen and propane into prairie dog holes, detonates the mixture and kills the animals within a minute. Those decisions came on the heels of the Boulder City Council approving a plan that OKs the killing of some prairie dogs and doesn't allot much money for prairie dog barriers that would keep the animals away from the humans annoyed by them. Depending on the point of view, prairie dogs are either cute, resourceful creatures that give shelter to burrowing owls and fine meals to coyotes, hawks and other prairie predators, or they're disease-ridden varmints that destroy grasslands and lawns and burrow holes that are the perfect size for spraining ankles....
Interior official urges cooperation on land restoration Nature doesn't recognize the difference between public and private ground. It doesn't see the lines on the map where one state starts and another ends. And it certainly doesn't know the difference between Forest Service green and Bureau of Land Management yellow. So when the talk turns to restoration of natural ecosystems, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Interior Lynn Scarlett said its time to search out the partnerships that will allow for those efforts to occur across the landscape. On Monday, Scarlett shared that vision as the keynote speaker of the 30th annual Public Land Law Conference at the University of Montana in a talk entitled “From Resource Damages to Restoration: An Evolution Toward Partnerships.” On Monday night, Scarlett was espousing the virtues of the Bush program. Cooperative Conservation works to bring citizens, communities and companies together to work on protecting and restoring the environment where they all live, work and play. It is incentive based, depends on collaboration and cooperation, has an experiential component and is entrepreneurial, Scarlett said....
Business Influence Over Environmental Policy and Regulation Is Targeted, Says Author of New Book Business influence over environmental policy and regulation in the United States is strategic and focused, says the author of the new book "Corporate America and Environmental Policy: How Often Does Business Get Its Way?" Business interests are more selective about exerting their influence than is commonly believed, and when they do get involved it's on issues that have high stakes for them and for the public, said author Sheldon Kamieniecki, a professor of politics and dean of the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "We've underestimated the strict approach business has taken to environmental politics," said Kamieniecki. "It isn't fair to say they've been involved in everything and are single-handedly responsible for our lack of progress. They have limited resources and choose their fights accordingly." The book is the first major investigation of business influence over environmental policy in all three branches of government. Through quantitative analysis, as well as six in-depth case studies of such hot-button topics as the management of old-growth forests, toxic dumping in the Hudson River, and the environmental impacts of coal mining, Kamieniecki examined the influence of business since 1970 on Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, and the federal court of appeals....
Editorial - Interior on the hot seat The U.S. Interior Department has much to worry about, and perhaps much to answer for, on key questions about how it's doing its job. Two weeks ago, Interior's Inspector General, Earl Devaney, told a congressional committee, "Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior." Devaney was particularly concerned about handling of oil and gas leasing, going back to the Clinton administration in the 1990s, and by the activities of former deputy secretary J. Steven Griles, who was suspected of favoring former lobbying clients. Flawed Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases signed during the late 1990s may have lost the government more than $1 billion in royalties. And lawsuits pending in Oklahoma City claim the department's Minerals Management Service has failed to collect full payment of other royalties. In Wyoming, both outside critics and internal memos say the department's Bureau of Land Management is failing to enforce environmental standards on energy development around Pinedale. Such problems will require a strong response from new Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, a former Idaho governor, if the department is to repair its credibility and properly fulfill its mission of both conservation and recovering appropriate value from development....
Judge Halts Petroleum Reserve Lease Sale A federal judge has halted the sale of federal oil leases on a portion of Alaska's North Slope that environmentalists have pinpointed as a haven for migratory birds and calving caribou. The decision Monday blocks the sale of about 1.7 million acres that the Bureau of Land Management had planned for Wednesday. The sale would have included the Teshekpuk Lake area, which sits above 2 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Environmental groups have argued that a 600,000-acre section of the reserve at Teshekpuk Lake contains some of the most important wetlands in the Arctic. The decision by Judge James K. Singleton echoed a decision he had issued on Sept. 7 that temporarily halted the sale. Government environmental studies, Singleton wrote, were too narrow in scope because they did not consider how leasing in the northeastern part of the reserve would affect land and wildlife in the northwestern section of the 23-million acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The government is fighting hard put at least a portion of the lease up for bid. The Interior Department had offered last week to temporarily abandon the sale of oil leases near the lake, asking the court to allow the leases outside the Teshekpuk region to proceed....
Chevron again eyes Colo. shale Thirty years after quitting one of the nation's most promising yet costly energy resources, Chevron Corp. wants to take another crack at unlocking shale oil from western Colorado's Piceance Basin. Chevron announced its return - which will come with help from scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico - on Monday at a petroleum engineers conference in San Antonio. Oil companies have struggled for decades to unlock the solid organic kerogen from sediment layers ranging from surface outcrops to deep underground. Now, with rising oil prices and instability with overseas supplies making such endeavors more attractive, Chevron is turning to chemists at Los Alamos to determine how this fuel can be liberated at the molecular level. Chevron chief technology officer Don Paul said the venture with Los Alamos could enable the company to tap some of the estimated 1 trillion barrels of oil locked in the shale, four times the holdings of Saudi Arabia....
Evangelical Christians Called to Tackle Global Warming The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice-president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), is pushing to persuade evangelical Christians to care about global warming. But while most U.S. evangelical Christians tend to vote Republican, the environmental cause is more associated with the Democratic Party, Cizik said in a Reuters interview. Cizik notes that since the 60 million or so American evangelicals tend to be more concerned with such social issues as abortion and the war in Iraq, getting them into tackling global climate change or other environmental problems is not an easy task. "There are people who disagree with what I'm doing ... within the evangelical community of America," he said. "Simply for standing up and saying, 'Climate change is real, the science is solid, we have to care about this issue because of the impact on the poor' -why would that be controversial? Well, I'm sorry to say, it is controversial and there are people who want to take my head off." Cizik is part of an overall ecological push by evangelical Christians known as "creation care," the notion that the environment is a divine creation and must be protected by humans....
Global Temperature Highest in Millennia The planet's temperature has climbed to levels not seen in thousands of years, warming that has begun to affect plants and animals, researchers report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Earth has been warming at a rate of 0.36 degree Fahrenheit per decade for the last 30 years, according to the research team led by James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. That brings the overall temperature to the warmest in the current interglacial period, which began about 12,000 years ago. The researchers noted that a report in the journal Nature found that 1,700 plant, animal and insect species moved poleward at an average rate of about 4 miles per decade in the last half of the 20th century. The warming has been stronger in the far north, where melting ice and snow expose darker land and rocks beneath allowing more warmth from the sun to be absorbed, and more over land than water. Water changes temperature more slowly than land because of its great capacity to hold heat, but the researchers noted that the warming has been marked in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. Those oceans have a major effect on climate and warming that could lead to more El Nino episodes affecting the weather....
Demands for Fish Ladders Ignored In a tentative ruling Monday that was criticized by environmentalists and Indian tribes, a federal commission that regulates hydropower brushed aside U.S. wild-life agency demands for fish ladders to help dwindling Klamath River salmon runs cross dams that block upriver spawning grounds. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a draft environmental review of the four dams, which are operated by PacifiCorp of Portland, Ore., as part of a license renewal process that is slated to be concluded early next year. Environmentalists, tribes and commercial fishermen have long battled for removal of the dams, which they believe have played a critical role in the decline of chinook, the highly prized king salmon of the marketplace, while putting the disappearing coho salmon on the endangered species list. Steve Rothert of the environmental group American Rivers said the commission "overstepped its regulatory powers" in bypassing federal wildlife agency recommendations for fish ladders. Instead, the regulators in principal agreed with a plan by PacifiCorp to transport salmon around the dams to get them to upper parts of the river that have been blocked for more than half a century....
A Editorial - Blind Forest Road Policy ROAD-BUILDING IN NATIONAL forests is a double whammy for taxpayers. Not only do they have to pay the cost of the actual roads, which are used mostly by the timber and mining industries, but taxpayers must also bear the less quantifiable cost of the environmental damage to the forests they own. That's why decisions to build new roads in pristine forests should be made only after careful study and deliberation. That was the policy adopted in the Clinton administration, which, after three years of study and public input, in 2001 banned road-building in 58 million acres of forest. But the Bush administration, in a decision marked by neither study nor deliberation, suspended the so-called roadless rule later that year. The mad dash to open the forests to more roads — and, oddly, to give states more control over national forests — was what undid the Bush administration's plans. A federal judge ruled last week that the administration had failed to do the environmental studies required under the Endangered Species and National Environmental Policy acts before disregarding the roadless rule in the Lower 48 states....
Kempthorne, Gov. Bush, environmentalists leaders meet
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Gov. Jeb Bush promoted cooperation between government and the private sector on environmental conservation Monday during a tour designed to gather input from citizens on federal environmental programs. Kempthorne, Bush and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said the 24-city tour designed to forge new partnerships between groups - business, government and environmental activists - that haven't always agreed during environmental debates. The concept of cooperative conservation was President Bush's idea to move "away from the old environmental debate that pits one group against another," Kempthorne told a crowd of over 100 people. But environmental activists, who said previous tour stops have featured "hand-picked opponents" of protection laws, dominated Monday's hearing with pleas that President Bush's administration fully fund and enforce existing laws such as the Endangered Species Act....
The environmental load of 300 million: How heavy? A flotilla of 100 fishing boats, rafts, and kayaks crossed the Willamette River to a downtown park in Portland, Ore., the other evening to rally for the Pacific Northwest's reigning icon: wild salmon, now plummeting toward extinction due to development across much of the Columbia River basin. It was a typical event for a "green" city that has one of the best records in the United States for recycling, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, using alternative energy, and providing public transportation and bike paths. But Portland's amenities - its natural setting along the Willamette River and its youthful techie vibe - are drawing a surge of new people, threatening to erode the very qualities that drew people here in the first place. As the US approaches 300 million people, that's the story of the nation as well. In many ways, Americans have mitigated the impact of their increasing presence on the land. Since reaching the 200 million mark back in 1967, they have cut emissions of major air pollutants, banned certain harmful pesticides, and overseen the rebound of several endangered species. Despite using more resources and creating more waste, they've become more energy efficient. The danger, experts say, is that the US may simply have postponed the day of reckoning....
Landowners fight lynx habitat designation About one-third of the state could soon be classified as critical habitat for endangered Canada lynx. But the companies that own most of northern Maine and use the forests for logging and for development have asked to have their land exempted from the habitat area. No one is certain how the designation would affect future land uses in what is the richest lynx habitat in the United States, but the Maine landowners, along with wildlife conservation groups that support the habitat designation, are making their final appeals to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Nov. 1 decision approaches. "We have concerns about lynx (in Maine), and here they are, trying to get exempted," said Jen Burns, attorney for Maine Audubon. The group is filing arguments opposing the landowners' exemption requests. The proposal to designate 10,633 square miles in Maine shouldn't be reduced simply because the owners want to be left out, she said....
20% drop in campers at parks over decade National parks are seeing 20 percent fewer campers than 10 years ago, and officials say causes may include a slumping economy, higher gas prices, more competition for people's time and changing demographics. "The long weekend is replacing the two-week time off," said Jim Gramann, a professor at Texas A&M University and a visiting social scientist for the National Park Service. "That means fewer overnight stays in the national parks." Gramann said population changes may also have an impact because of the growth among some groups that are not traditional park-goers, such as minorities. Census projections show that by 2050, ethnic minority groups will compose more than 47 percent of the U.S. population. The Park Service reported that overnight stays in national park fell by 13.8 million, or 20 percent, between 1995 and 2005 and have fallen an additional 4.3 percent in the first eight months of this year. The Park Service said tent camping dropped 23 percent, backcountry camping 24 percent and RV camping 31 percent in the 10-year period.
Sheep Burned in Yolo County Fire Receiving Care The sight of hundreds of sheep burned in last Friday's fire near Zamora is hard to see, even for those used to dealing with injured animals. Yet there are signs of encouragement with each passing day. The fast-moving blaze scorched approximately 10,000 acres, destroyed three homes, several outbuildings and downed power lines. A large flock of sheep didn't escape the flames either. Sheep rancher Bill Slaven said there was little he could do when the fire ripped through his ranch. "It was worse than I thought. I thought there'd be some place where they could maybe get out a little area or something, but there wasn't any place for them." Slaven, whose family has owned the land for about 100 years, said he expects he'll lose as many as 600 sheep, a painful blow that will also be hard financially. "Just have to kind of go through the year and see if we make it through," he said....
It's All Trew: Artist draws on past in a jab at LBJ In 1963, after JFK’s untimely death put LBJ into the presidency, Peter Hurd, the famous New Mexico artist, was chosen to paint the official White House likeness of LBJ. Like the bust sittings, Johnson did not cooperate. After all, he was a busy man. Hurd was allowed only one sitting, during which Johnson fell asleep, then woke up and abruptly left the room, not to return. The artist had to complete the portrait from photographs. Most thought the finished work was excellent and even flattering to the president. When LBJ viewed the portrait he declared it, “the ugliest thing I ever saw.” Hurd was not your average man. He descended from a famous military family, attended West Point and served as a Life Magazine war correspondent during World War II, all the while becoming a world-class artist of great distinction. LBJ’s denouncement of his portrait barely ruffled Hurd’s feathers. He joined in the puns and jokes, making the rounds because he knew in spite of what Johnson said, the work was good and would hang in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Hurd eventually became the best-known artist in the southwest with work hanging only in famous museums and galleries. Recently, While Ruth and I visited an antique store in Farwell, we saw a small pen and ink illustration signed by Hurd. We know the work was a copy and don’t know if the signature on the original drawing was authentic. The subject was a well-drawn donkey running toward the back of the illustration. In clear view, the rear of the donkey was drawn in a way LBJ’s face could be instantly recognized, and I must say the resemblance was remarkable. Perhaps if the signature is authentic, Hurd took his revenge after all....