Saturday, November 25, 2006

LAURA, WOLVES & THE "REPORTER"

Dear Albuquerque Journal,

I don't know about you but I am getting pretty sick of Tania Soussan's sole source of information about Mexican wolf problems being the one and only Michael Robinson from the Center for Biological Diversity. If you look at her wolf stories from the past couple years you will see her major source is Mr. Robinson and he basically gives her one quote that she uses over and over. She will not call anyone actually dealing with problem wolves wreaking havoc on their lives.

Has she no one else to turn to for information, or is she just too excited about getting his message across to get the facts from anyone else?

Michael Robinson does not live with or deal with wolves, he studies philosophizes and apparently writes poorly reviewed books about them. Robinson had to be shown peer reviewed studies that prove livestock scavenging is unrelated to depredation tolls. Did it matter to him, not in the least, he has his agenda and he sticks to it like glue. The question is, why is the Albuquerque Journal tolerating Soussan's lazy and biased reporting?

Had Ms. Soussan bothered to call me or anyone else who actually deals with wolf issues, she might have learned something about the habituation to livestock and people that the FWS has perpetuated in this program through their recycled wolf release and minimum management of problem wolves policies. She might have learned there are 40 known wolves in NM alone and about the same in Arizona. There are another 13 sightings and close encounters from September on just in New Mexico that should have been investigated by the FWS but were not.

I could also have told her how two weeks ago, an 8 year old girl was nearly attacked by a Mexican wolf on her parents private property in front of their home, thankfully, one the family dogs stepped in and took the brunt of the attack and ended up at the Vet's office in Silver City, the 8 year old did what 8 year olds do, she ran for mom and dad, a real no-no according to the biologists.

I could have told her how just last month, a 14 year old boy was accosted and stalked by three Mexican wolves and thankfully he was smart enough to back up to a tree and was lucky enough to have been raised with knowledge on wildlife behavior. He got away, this time anyway, but it may not have been the case if he had been from downtown Albuquerque instead of Glenwood NM. This kid knew not to run or he might just die. This young man was commended by a wildlife behaviorist for saving his own life. This PHD says the wolves were prey testing; he should know that is a PHD in wildlife behavior. I could have directed Ms. Soussan to this source but as I said, she never bothered to call.

I could have told her how M-589 was not a scavenger, he was a wild born wolf with no collar caught off a calf kill last year. If it was not a wolf's instinct to kill livestock as well as game, why did this wild born wolf not make it, without reverting to livestock depredation? Partly because of all the exposure this animal had to the many re-released problem animals that were killing livestock. I could have told her how M-859's mate F-924 is also badly human habituated, having to be run off the front yard of a ranch home where there is a two year old child.

Ms. Soussan has rapidly become the laziest reporter in the entire state, she is so disinterested in gathering the facts that I literally cringe when I see her byline. Knowing what I do about her lack of research and inability to interview someone who does not share her opinions makes me automatically chalk everything she writes as grammatically correct BS. Good grammar and syntax do not make a good reporter. The ability and willingness to go beyond your own opinions for real and varied information on your subject make a real reporter. Can't the journal just put her in the opinion section where she belongs?

Sincerely

Laura Schneberger

Gila Livestock Growers Association
P.O. Box 111
Winston NM 87943

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Horse Owners Urged to Implement Best Management Practices to Prevent Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA)

News Release
Texas Animal Health Commission
Box l2966 * Austin, Texas 78711 * (800) 550-8242 * FAX (512) 719-0719
Bob Hillman, DVM * Executive Director
For info, contact Carla Everett, information officer, at 1-800-550-8242, ext. 710, or ceverett@tahc.state.tx.us

For immediate release---

Texas equine producers, veterinarians and livestock health officials have become increasingly concerned about Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA), which has been detected in New Mexico and Utah this year. A viral disease of horses, donkeys, and other equine animals, EVA causes mares to abort, can cause mild to severe respiratory disease in some horses and may also cause some stallions to become chronically infected and shed the virus in semen. While EVA has been encountered rarely and is not a reportable disease in Texas, regulations have been implemented in some states, including Kentucky, New York and Colorado.

While some infected equine exhibit no signs of disease, owners should be alert and notify their accredited private veterinary practitioner if horses or foals develop signs of EVA, including fever, depression, diarrhea, coughing or nasal discharge, or swelling of the legs, body or head. Laboratory testing is necessary to confirm a diagnosis, as other equine diseases can present similar clinical signs.

“EVA is not currently a reportable disease in Texas,” said Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas’ state veterinarian and head of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency. “However, we urge veterinarians and horse owners to report suspected and confirmed cases of EVA to the TAHC to ensure we have the most accurate picture of the disease in the state and can provide up-to-date information to veterinarians and equine owners.”

Horses can be infected by inhaling the equine arteritis virus, through natural service of a mare by a carrier stallion, artificial insemination of a mare with semen from a carrier stallion, or by being exposed to bedding or other objects contaminated with the virus. Stallions that shed the equine arteritis virus in their semen can infect unvaccinated mares, causing a respiratory disease and abortion. Acutely infected horses spread the infection to other horses via the respiratory route. A pregnant mare may also be infected through contact with acutely infected horses and may abort. Cleaning and disinfection of stalls, trailers and equipment can reduce the risk of EVA exposure.

“Know the EVA status of stallions, semen shipments and mares before they are introduced onto your farm. Consult your accredited private veterinary practitioner about vaccination protocols for brood mares, stallions and colt foals, and ensure that good biosecurity measures are followed,” said Dr. Hillman.

“If you are shipping breeding horses out of state, check to determine the entry requirements of the receiving state and allow time to comply with any testing, vaccination or isolation requirements. Many breeding farms have implemented ‘best management’ practices, testing and vaccination procedures to prevent the introduction or spread of EVA. Before delivering mares to farms for breeding, owners should contact the facility managers to determine what testing and vaccination procedures must be met.”

“Although only supportive treatment can be provided, most affected mares, geldings or sexually immature stallions will eliminate the virus and recover,” said Dr. Hillman. “Sexually mature stallions, however, can become carriers of the disease and shed the virus for long periods. Shedding stallions should be isolated and bred only to vaccinated mares.”

“It is very important to have breeding horses tested, and if appropriate, vaccinated prior to the breeding season. After vaccination, stallions and mares should be withheld from breeding for at least 28 or 21 days, respectively. Vaccinated horses also must be maintained away from pregnant mares for at least 28 days,” he said. “EVA vaccine may be acquired only by veterinarians, with prior TAHC approval.”

Additionally, mares vaccinated for the first time and bred to a carrier stallion should be isolated from other equine for 21 days after breeding. Owners of breeding horses considering vaccination should consult their veterinarians if the horse may also be shipped in interstate or international commerce. A specific pre-vaccination protocol to assure the horse was test-negative prior to vaccination may be required, because vaccinated horses will test positive for the disease.

“Several horse breeders and a number of equine veterinarians have contacted the TAHC about EVA and to urge Texas equine producers to take all necessary precautions to prevent establishing EVA in Texas horses,” said Dr. Hillman. “Equine producers and veterinarians believe this disease can be handled through judicious application of best management and biosecurity practices, coupled with appropriate use of testing and vaccination of breeding animals.”

“The current EVA situation will be reported to TAHC commissioners at their meeting Tuesday, Dec. 5, in Austin,” he said. “Development of EVA rules is not anticipated at this time. Horse breeders are urged to work with their veterinarians to institute best management and biosecurity practices immediately to protect their investment and the health of their animals. EVA can be prevented and controlled by sound management practices and selective use of the EVA vaccine.”

Links to additional information about EVA may be accessed at the TAHC’s web site at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us .


--30­
NEWS ROUNDUP

Feds order wolf removed from the wild The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to remove from the wild an endangered Mexican gray wolf that has killed livestock in southwestern New Mexico. The agency announced Tuesday that it has issued a permanent removal order for the male wolf _ identified as M859 _ because it has been involved in three confirmed livestock depredations since June. The order means that wildlife managers will try to either capture the animal or kill it. If the wolf is taken alive, it will be placed in captivity and will not be released into the wild. "While permanent removal orders may be perceived as a step back in reintroduction efforts, removing problem wolves is an integral part of wolf management and actually helps create an environment supporting future wolf releases," Benjamin Tuggle, director of the agency's southwestern region, said in a statement. Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians and The Rewilding Institute of Albuquerque recently appealed a decision by the Forest Service to allow continued grazing on two allotments in the Gila National Forest through a categorical exclusion, which reduces requirements for public involvement mandated under more formal environmental reviews. The Forest Service has since decided not to apply a categorical exclusion to the allotments, and the groups are hopeful the agency will consider environmental impacts before renewing grazing permits in the Gila....
U.S. fireman sentenced for setting forest blazes A former U.S. firefighter was ordered on Tuesday to undergo a mental evaluation and serve six months at a state corrections facility for setting three wildfires on public lands over the last three years. Levi Miller, 22, of Salmon, Idaho, could face up to 10 years in state prison depending on results of the psychological tests and his conduct at the corrections center, according to the sentence handed down by Judge James Herndon of Idaho's 7th Judicial District. "With the number of fires you're involved with, there might be some psychological reason you like doing that," Herndon told Miller during his sentencing. Miller, a firefighter for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, cried as he apologized to the court, noting he had caused pain to his family and fellow firefighters. Miller last month pleaded guilty to two counts of felony arson stemming from blazes he started in national forests in Idaho near the Montana border in 2003....
Federal government changing bison management The federal government is taking a new, holistic approach to bison management, one that treats animals at various national wildlife refuges and preserves more as a single unit than separate herds. The goal is to propagate more bison with a genetic makeup similar to their Great Plains ancestors, and to use the animals to help manage ecosystems. Next month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to move bison among wildlife refuges and preserves in North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Iowa. The effort is aimed at taking advantage of 38 bison at North Dakota’s Sullys Hill National Game Preserve that DNA testing at Texas A&M University has shown to be close to genetically pure — or free of cattle genes. Starting on Dec. 5, the entire Sullys Hill herd will be moved to the Fort Niobrara refuge in Nebraska, said Matt Kales, a regional Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Denver. Seven bison from the National Bison Range in northwestern Montana will be moved to Sullys Hill and 25 to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa, where some of the existing bison have cattle genes....
Wolf Creek growth plan delayed until May Texas billionaire Red McCombs' plan to build a vast village near Wolf Creek Ski Area will be held up until at least May under a deal reached this week among the parties sparring over the development. The agreement, filed in federal court Monday, extends by several months last week's temporary 10-day order preventing McCombs and his venture from starting road construction or applying for a key permit. "This agreement will essentially preserve the status quo at Wolf Creek until the court is able to hear our case," said Ryan Demmy Bidwell of Colorado Wild, a Durango-based environmental group. Colorado Wild and the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council sued the U.S. Forest Service over its approval of the project without a full environmental review. The project's developers have joined the case as defendants. In the deal reached this week, the Forest Service, developers and the environmentalists agreed the injunction barring any road work or permit applications should remain in place until May 1 or until the court rules on the merits of the pending lawsuit....
Nature programs' goal: No child left inside A back-to-nature movement to reconnect children with the outdoors is burgeoning nationwide. Programs, public and private, are starting or expanding as research shows kids suffer health problems, including obesity, from too much sedentary time indoors with TV and computers. "There's a lot of movement all over the country, and it's increasing," says Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, a 2005 book that has increased interest in the topic. He says studies show that enjoying nature reduces kids' loneliness, depression and attention problems. In January, the U.S. Forest Service is launching a pilot program, More Kids In the Woods, that will fund local efforts to get children outdoors. It is the service's first full-scale program targeting kids, says Jim Bedwell, national director of recreation and heritage resources. Time in the woods helps children develop bonds with nature and other people, says Gina McCartney, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. "We're trying to grow environmental stewards, not just healthy kids."....
Court rejects permit for helicopter skiing An Idaho judge ruled against a local helicopter skiing operation’s request for increased use in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area on Tuesday, saying the increased use would hurt the wilderness characteristics of the land. In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Idaho ordered that a 2005 U.S. Forest Service decision authorizing High Mountain Heli-Skiing increased use of the Snake River Range did not satisfy federal environmental laws and violated the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act. The 180,000-acre Palisades Wilderness Study Area is on the Wyoming side of the range that rises between Teton Pass and Palisades Reservoir. It is part of both the Bridger-Teton and the Caribou-Targhee national forests and the hills also are called the Palisades Range. High Mountain Heli-Skiing now has the option to enter negotiations with the plaintiffs in the case, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the Sierra Club and the Wyoming Wilderness Association. The groups sued challenging the Bridger-Teton’s decision to grant the increase to High Mountain Heli-Skiing....
Judge OKs Helicopter Skiing Permit in Cottonwood Canyons A Snowbird-based firm can continue to dispatch backcountry skiers into the Cottonwood canyons from its helicopters, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart rejected a challenge on Monday by environmental group Save Our Canyons over a five-year operating permit that was issued for Wasatch Powderbird Guides in 2004. The group does not see helicopter skiing as an acceptable use of Utah's canyons. Save Our Canyons argued the U.S. Forest Service acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner when it renewed the helicopter skiing permit, which the company has held for three decades. The group's lawsuit contended the federal agency did not take a hard look at data analyzing how many skiers and snowshoers use the canyons' backcountry areas. The group, dedicated to preserving the Wasatch Range, also claimed the Forest Service improperly considered the profitability of Wasatch Powderbird when the permit was up for review. But Stewart rejected the group's arguments, ruling the Forest Service complied with federal environmental laws....
Commissioners reject Measure 37 claim against Newberry Crater Deschutes County commissioners unanimously rejected a Measure 37 claim filed by a landowner who wants $203 million or the right to extract steam energy, expand a pumice mine and build a subdivision within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. But Dennis Luke, the commission chairman, said he wouldn't be surprised if the courts get the final say. “I'm sure this one doesn't end here,” Luke said after Monday's vote. “It probably moves on, and there'll be a lot of interest in this claim.” Measure 37 allows landowners to claim compensation - or a waiver of land-use rules - if land-use rules are changed while they own property. James Miller, 83, asked for a waiver of county land-use laws to mine pumice, develop a geothermal power plant and build more than 100 homes on property within the protected natural area....
2006 echoes 1986; will we see a Montana wilderness bill? In 2007, Conrad Burns will no longer represent Montana in the U.S. Senate, and the Democrats will control Congress for the first time since they lost their majorities in 1994. That suggests we could see passage of a Montana wilderness bill, with official wilderness designation for the 224,000-acre Great Burn area along the Montana-Idaho border. Why? Because that’s exactly what happened the last time the Democrats took control of the Senate. Just as in 2006, the 1986 mid-term elections took place during the second term of a Republican president. In 1986, the Democrats went from a 47-53 deficit to a 55-45 majority in the Senate, and padded their lead in the U.S. House to 258-177. In that session, then-Sen. John Melcher of Montana sponsored S.2751, the “Montana Natural Resources Protection and Utilization Act of 1988,” which the 100th Congress passed and sent to President Ronald Reagan for his signature. But Reagan never signed the bill. The Montana Wilderness Association website says Reagan pocket-vetoed the bill as an election favor to Conrad Burns. Burns had criticized the wilderness bill during his succesful campaign against Melcher, the two-term Democratic incumbent. Three Senate terms later, voters narrowly decided to replace Burns with organic farmer Jon Tester. Once again, the Democrats could choose to pass a Montana wilderness bill on their own if they so choose....
Prescribed burns cut wildfire risk Santa Fe National Forest crews Monday began prescribed burns in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed and other areas of the forest. The burns are scheduled to continue through Wednesday if the weather permits, according to the Forest Service. The burns are designed to lessen the risk of catastrophic wildfires near the source of Santa Fe's municipal water supplies and around El Porvenir campground, northwest of Las Vegas, N.M. Crews will stop burning Wednesday. "The burns are going well," said Dolores Maese, spokeswoman for the Santa Fe National Forest. About 75 acres were burned on the north side of the watershed Monday. About 12 acres of a planned 100 acres were burned around El Porvenir. The Forest Service has an air-quality permit from the state Environment Department to conduct the burn, Maese said. "If we go out of air-quality standards, they'll let us know we have to shut down early," she said. Fire crews also consider the moisture in trees and brush, weather forecasts, drought and wind before beginning a burn....
Parks delve in social sciences with plan for sweeping survey Yes, Picavet is biased. The National Park Service pays her salary. She presumably won't be called by the researchers now preparing the agency's new Comprehensive Survey of the American Public. But several thousand other Americans will be, as the National Park Service shows it's serious about the social sciences. By next spring, researchers will be telephoning randomly selected households. In the first national survey of its kind since 2000, the park service will be asking customers what they think. Park social science has grown, modestly, since a 1996 report called for a bigger federal investment. Congress, though, dismissed President Bush's request this year for an additional $250,000 to expand park visitor surveys. The park service operates its own social science shop now under the leadership of a Texas A&M University professor. Parks also attract scholars working on advanced degrees....
Colorado company bids $1M for drilling rights on Utah public land A Colorado-based land services consulting company successfully bid $1,000 an acre for drilling rights to 1,000 acres of public land in Utah offered on Tuesday by the Bureau of Land Management at its quarterly oil and gas lease sale. Lonetree Energy of Denver, however, placed the $1 million bid on behalf of one of its clients, said Austin Mater, Lonetree's owner. "At some point we'll end up assigning the lease to our client. At this time, they're not ready for their name to be known." Lonetree Energy Partners of Denver paid the highest amount per acre among all the 70 bidders at the auction, said Adrienne Babbitt, spokeswoman for the BLM's Utah State Office in Salt Lake City. The 1,000-acre parcel that Lonetree acquired is in Duchesne County, she added. In total, the BLM auctioned drilling rights to 215,000 acres of federal land for $15 million, with half the money going to Utah's state coffers. "There was a lot of interest in lands in the Vernal and Price areas," Babbitt said. Bids during the Tuesday auction ranged from $2 to $1,000 an acre. The average bid amount was $70, which represented a significant improvement from the $35 an acre the BLM's Utah office received in its prior lease auction, in mid-August. Babbitt said the 215,000 acres that were leased represented only a portion of the 334,000 acres that the BLM offered during the auction....
Wolves Part 2: Attacks on humans may not be so rare as claimed Environmentalists and animal lovers claim that wolves kill the old and infirm wildlife. They claim that they kill only what they need for survival. D. F. Oliveria, opinion writer-Spokene.net, states that in southwestern Idaho, wolf attacks have killed almost 40 University of Idaho sheep. Oddly, the predators have ignored the ewes and lambs to slaughter rams weighting 250 to 300 pounds ... and then leave the meat to rot. Studies on the research of Professor Warren Ballard in Alaska documented that wolves will kill about 30 moose per year (per wolf). If you calculate biomass it will probably take 60 or more elk to provide the same amount of biomass. It is also interesting to note that Ballard found no evidence of sickness or debility among any moose killed by wolves. So, given the research to date, if wolves are not aggressively controlled, and soon, devastation of Montana elk, deer, sheep, moose and goat populations is a reasonable projection. While these animals may not be wiped out to the last animal, uncontrolled wolves will certainly not leave enough for human hunters to be allowed to hunt. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is fully aware of numerous documented attacks on humans by wolves in North America, yet they refuse to write a rebuttal to fictitious statements that wolves are not attacking humans. Instead it is posted on their children's website that wolves don't attack humans! And the list goes on....
Prospero Ranch wins planners' OK Planning commissioners approved a 105-home housing tract that borders the city's Prime Desert Woodland preserve and is opposed by neighbors, who say it will destroy Joshua trees and other desert habitat that should be saved. In return for permission to build on the land, developer Fieldstone Lancaster must take a number of environmental measures. Those include buying 42 acres of desert habitat elsewhere to set aside as a preserve, delaying construction until any burrowing owls on the property have raised their young, and catching and relocating coast horned lizards and a snakelike reptile called the silvery legless lizard, as well as relocating or preserving elsewhere five specimens of a tiny plant called a sagebrush loeflingia. "We've been keeping that in mind as we've been designing the project," project manager Ben Hudson said of the tract's proximity to the city's 102-acre Prime Desert Woodland. "The environmental impact report was very clear there are no endangered species on the site, but there are some special-status species. What we will do is a series of preconstruction surveys before we actually begin construction."....
Renewable Energies, Conservation May Play Larger Roles in New Farm Bill Midwestern Democrats suddenly find themselves in key positions to shape the 2007 Farm Bill, they're clamoring for more incentives for farmers and ranchers to develop and produce agriculture-based fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Many scientists, who have become more vocal on the issue in recent months, have a more sobering message. Biofuels "will not solve any of our large-scale problems, but they will impact negatively on the environment," such as destroying or contaminating air, soil and water, said Tad Patzek, professor of geoengineering at the University of California, Berkeley. "Politicians are lying to the public, and the public is accepting the lies," he said. "In the meantime, we're not doing things that can matter." According to a University of Minnesota study released earlier this year, soybean-based biodiesel and corn-based ethanol harm the environment less than regular diesel and gasoline. In addition, the biofuels are worth more energy than is needed to create them. However, according to the study, "Neither biofuel can replace much petroleum without impacting food supplies."....
Snyder trial may be delayed The trial date for 35-year-old James Michael Snyder was left in limbo Monday following a continuance hearing in the case. Snyder, who is charged with an open count of murder and tampering with evidence for the Dec. 30, 2005 slaying of Grant County rancher John Timothy Edwards, was expected to go to trial on Jan. 22. But state District Judge Gary Jeffreys decided Monday to wait 30 days before ruling on the fate of Snyder's trial. Prosecuting Attorney George Zsoka, with the Sixth Judicial District Attorney's office, asked for a continuance in the case, citing a delay in the processing of DNA evidence by the state's crime lab. Zsoka said the evidence, a gun holster and cowboy hat, have not been processed to rule out three non-suspects. Five other pieces of evidence have been processed and were submitted to the state crime lab in late February. But the holster and hat were not submitted until June....
US Appeals Court Denies USDA Motion In Cattle-Import Case The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the U.S. Department of Agriculture's request to halt previously scheduled briefings and arguments in a suit brought by R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America over Canadian cattle imports, according to a copy of the court order. The court's denial was in response to an August filing by the USDA of a rarely used "Motion for Summary Affirmance," said Shae Dodson, communications coordinator for the cattlemen's group R-CALF USA. "The motion for summary affirmance of this appeal is denied because the arguments raised in response to the motion are sufficiently substantial to warrant further argument," the Ninth Circuit said in its denial. The court also said R-CALF USA's opening brief is due Dec. 11, and the USDA's answer is due Jan. 10. An optional reply brief from R-CALF USA is due within 14 days of the USDA's answering brief, the court said. USDA spokesman Jim Rogers said Tuesday the USDA would have its arguments ready for the court. R-CALF USA sued the USDA on Jan. 10, 2005, claiming the agency's Final Rule on "Minimal Risk Regions: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and the Importation of Commodities," which relaxed long-standing import restrictions for countries affected by BSE, was inadequate to protect the U.S. cattle industry from the introduction of BSE from Canada, Dodson said....
It’s The Pitts: A Christmas Story My nephew and I were in a store when he spied a fake Santa Claus who’d just finished his shift. It must have been a hard one because Santa was buying some booze. "What if a little kid who was still a believer saw that?" asked my disgusted nephew. "I don't know who made up all these Christmas traditions to begin with, like flying reindeer, socks over the mantle, mistletoe and Santa Claus. Bah humbug." I tried to explain some of these customs to my bitter nephew. "What you see today is the Hollywood version of the story, but there really was a Santa Claus. He was a crotchety old rancher whose real name was Klaus and he lived up near North Fork, Montana, a long time ago. Klaus had lived nearly all of his 70 years by himself. Never married, he was a miserable old loner, but once a year he did something quite out of character. Every year at Christmas he’d take a bag full of toys that he’d made himself down to the orphanage at Chinook where he’d been raised as a child. “On one particular blustery Christmas Eve he pulled on his stocking cap, longjohns and red and white jacket and stepped into his black, five buckle overshoes. Then he hitched up his two mules, Rudolph and Prancer, and threw the bag of hand carved toys in his wagon for the trip to town. “On his way to Chinook the weather turned bad. A blizzard was blowing in and it got so cold that the nose on Rudolph, the mule, turned red. Klaus knew he couldn't make it to town and he wasn't sure he could make it back home, so in the blinding snow he pulled down the next lane he came across. It was the road to the widow's place....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

PG&E to help do makeover of popular Sierra Nevada recreation area A million visitors a year who enjoy one of the Sierra Nevada’s most popular recreation areas will soon see improvements under an agreement between land use agencies and two power providers. Water levels will be left higher in streams, rivers and lakes in the Crystal Basin Recreation Area west of Lake Tahoe, aiding fishermen, boaters, whitewater rafters, fish and other wildlife. Campers and boaters will see better facilities in an area east of Sacramento that often is crowded to capacity on summer weekends. And hikers will have more trails to get away from the crowds. The improvements are part of a pact between the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., fishing and boating organizations, whitewater rafters, environmental groups and government agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and state and federal fish and wildlife departments. SMUD will make the improvements as a condition of being able to continue using the public land to generate hydroelectricity under a pending 50-year license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission....
Utah BLM puts up big oil, gas leases today The state's Bureau of Land Management office will hold its final oil and gas lease sale of the year today. And in keeping with the agency's 2006 trend, it will be big. Altogether, 336,000 acres on 256 parcels will be put up for auction to energy companies, encompassing virtually all areas of the state. But what will be missing in today's lease sale are any parcel offerings in what are classified as wilderness-quality lands. A decision last August by U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball slapped down the BLM's 2003 bid to sell leases in lands that had been identified as Wilderness Inventory Areas during the Clinton administration - ruling that the agency had ignored federal environmental laws and its own wilderness-related findings. Agency officials say they are steering clear of all WIAs in response. "None of the areas put on the list were part of the WIAs, and that is because of the Kimball decision," said BLM spokeswoman Adrienne Babbitt. "That's the direction we have from our solicitor at this time." Steve Bloch, an attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which filed the lawsuit that led to Kimball's decision, hailed the BLM's policy change. At the same time, he criticized the agency for continuing to offer parcels in what SUWA and other environmental groups deem to be sensitive areas....
Concerns raised by proposed energy corridor near Ore. monument Federal officials are seeking to calm worries that a 3,500-foot-wide "energy corridor" will be cut through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which was created six years ago to protect native species on its 53,000 acres. Mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, establishing energy corridors on federal land across the West is part of a national push by the federal government to meet growing demands for electricity, oil and gas. Pipelines and other means of energy transmission could be built in the corridors. An initial map drawn up for the U.S. Department of Energy showed such a corridor cutting through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which is located on the Bureau of Land Management's Medford District in the mountains immediately east of Ashland. That route was tentatively chosen because a power corridor already exists there, said John Styduhar, realty specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Oregon office. But Styduhar said the BLM is going to suggest two possible alternate routes — one to the east of the monument, and the other to the west....
Motion to evict family from BLM land is stayed Law enforcement officials may not be needed to remove a family and the mobile home they live in off federal land in Garfield County. Months after filing a request in U.S. District Court that law enforcement officials remove structures off the 2.5 acres of Bureau of Land Management land, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City on Thursday filed a motion to stay the order. The stay was prompted by news that a new owner has acquired the mobile home inadvertently placed on the property in 1976. “The new owner has expressed an interest in settling this matter amicably that would not require the execution of a writ of assistance,” reads the motion. The original owner of the property was ordered by Judge Ted Stewart to vacate the property in November 2000 after it was determined he was on federal land. When nothing happened, Stewart signed an order on Oct. 20 giving the U.S. Marshal's Office and BLM officials 90 days to remove the mobile home and its owner from the property....
Study: Drillers lagging in site work A study completed a year ago for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming found that most coalbed methane wells and related facilities were out of compliance with federal reclamation requirements. The report concludes, "There has been such a push to get applications for permit to drill approved, that compliance has been put low on the priority list." The report, titled "Surface Compliance of Coal Bed Natural Gas Development in North Central Wyoming," states the most common violation was the presence of excessive invasive weeds and lack of adequate reseeding. The report recommends harsher penalties for companies that fail to reclaim their drilling sites. It also says more monitoring and compliance work needs to be done. Of 628 facilities inspected, the report states 530 were out of compliance with federal reclamation laws. While most of the violations concerned reseeding and control of invasive weeds, other violations included trash and lack of erosion controls. Chris Hanson, field manager for the BLM office in Buffalo, said the report wasn't released last year because it was an internal document. The report was released at the request of the Powder River Resource Council, a landowner advocacy group. Hanson said he has used the report to press for more resources for the Buffalo field office. He said the office added two full-time inspectors last year and is adding three more positions. The report's conclusions are similar to the findings of a report issued last year by the Western Organization of Resource Councils and another report issued by the Government Accountability Office....
Death Valley Lawsuit, Off-road Vehicles Threaten Park The National Parks Conservation Association, Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups represented by Earthjustice filed papers yesterday in federal court in Washington, D.C., to intervene in a case that threatens to allow extreme off-road vehicle use in a rare, fragile desert stream in Surprise Canyon inside Death Valley National Park. Extreme off-road vehicle use would damage the canyon's unique character, including waterfalls, towering cottonwoods and lush willows that provide habitat for desert bighorn sheep, endangered birds, and rare species found nowhere else on earth except Surprise Canyon and nearby areas. In order to protect Surprise Canyon Creek and the habitat and wildlife that it supports, the conservation groups are intervening in a suit filed by off-road vehicle users last month to open Surprise Canyon to off-road vehicle use. The suit claims that the sheer canyon walls and the creek-bed are a "constructed highway" to which the off-roaders have a right-of-way under a repealed, Civil War era law known as R.S. 2477. Over the last 30 years, some Western states, counties and off-road vehicle groups have alleged that hiking trails, wash bottoms, streambeds, and little-used two-tracks meet the standard for a "constructed highway" under the law....
Highlands council wants to expand buffer zones All rivers, lakes and other waters in the Highlands should be protected by a football field-size buffer of open land on all sides, a majority of New Jersey Highlands Council members agreed Monday night. At its last meeting before releasing a draft master plan for the 800,000-acre region, the council took its first public votes on specific provisions of the plan, scheduled for unveiling on Nov. 30. The council considered a number of separate issues, including also how to value land when a property owner agrees to sell his development rights, how to prioritize lands for inclusion in the transfer of development rights program and whether and how to allow development on agricultural land. Water buffers, where development would not be allowed, have been one of the most contentious issues among members. Council staff had suggested a tiered system -- establishing 300-foot buffers around the most pristine rivers and streams in the most sensitive areas, 75-foot buffers around the least valuable streams and 150-foot buffers on those in the middle....
Groups sue to protect bird Two conservation groups are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for refusing to protect a bird called the mountain plover under the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in California by Jay Tuschton and Robin Cooley of the University of Denver Law Clinic, on behalf of the Laramie-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and Forest Guardians. The conservation groups charge that just when the mountain plover was finally on track for listing in 2003, the Fish and Wildlife Service reversed course within a matter of months and removed its proposed rule to list the species. In doing so, the agency cited a page-and-a-half study in Colorado that hadn’t been peer reviewed. Forest Guardians and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance charge that the federal government’s decision to deny protection to the plover is based on interference from political appointees of the Bush administration. Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicate Fish and Wildlife Service higher-ups rejected advice and biological data provided by their own career scientists that supported mountain plover listing, the groups say....
Whooping Cranes' Protection In Neb. May Face Challenge A central Nebraska natural resources district is contacting a Wyoming lawyer about getting whooping cranes off the endangered-species list. The Central Platte Natural Resources District board decided at its meeting this week to contact Karen Bud-Fallen, who specializes in endangered species and wildlife habitat issues. The board authorized director Carroll Sheldon and general manager Ron Bishop to talk to Bud-Fallen about prospects for removing whooping cranes from federal protections. Three bird species found on the central Platte River -- whooping cranes, least terns and piping plovers -- are protected with pallid sturgeon as threatened or endangered species. Accordingly, their habitat along the Platte has prompted the three-state Platte River Habitat Recovery Program, which aims to restore water flow to the river. Referring to Bud-Fallen, Bishop said "she got critical habitat for piping plovers killed for us." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had wanted to designate the Platte and parts of other Nebraska river basins as critical habitat for the plovers....
Two wolves killed following calf death Federal agents have killed two wolves in the Big Hole Valley following the recent death of a calf. The calf was killed Nov. 9. The wolves were killed Wednesday, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced Friday. "There is a lot of livestock production in the Big Hole Valley, and there have been conflicts in the past," said Carolyn Sime, FWP wolf program coordinator. Last winter, she said, the Battlefield Pack followed migrating big game out of the valley and she expects that to happen again this winter. Wolves are still classified as a federally protected endangered species, but Montana has management authority over wolves in most circumstances. FWP authorized Wildlife Services, a federal agency, to kill two wolves in the area as part of its "incremental approach" to dealing with wolf-livestock conflicts. There are about 250 wolves in Montana and approximately 750 more in Idaho and Wyoming....
Claim: Wolf fight could hurt elk hunting Elk hunting could suffer in northwest Wyoming if a dispute between the state and federal government over how to manage wolves becomes drawn out, the director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said. So far, wolves and elk have been coexisting in the Yellowstone region - for the benefit of both species, Game and Fish Director Terry Cleveland said Friday. But he said that could change without more ways to regulate wolf numbers. "Let there be no doubt: If we don't get wolves delisted, the elk hunting opportunity in this state is going to decline," Cleveland said. Wyoming is suing the federal government for rejecting a state plan for managing wolves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service won't remove endangered-species protections for wolves until it has approved plans submitted by Wyoming, Idaho and Montana for managing the species. The agency accepted Idaho's and Montana's plans. But it dislikes how Wyoming's plan would enable wolves to be shot on sight in most of the state....
Snowmobile Plan Proposed for Yellowstone The National Park Service wants to maintain snowmobile regulations allowing 720 snowmobiles per day to enter Yellowstone National Park. A draft statement issued Monday by the agency mirrors a temporary plan that has been in use for the past two winters. It would also allow 140 snowmobiles a day to enter Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway, which connects the two parks. The snowmobiles must use what the Park Service calls "best available technology" to reduce noise and pollution levels. The plan was issued to other government agencies. The public will be able to comment on a separate draft expected in March. Park officials stressed that the report is only a draft and that the plan is the agency's preferred alternative out of several proposals. A final plan is expected to be issued in time for the 2007-2008 winter season....
Man acquitted in park ranger's death to stay in custody A 37-year-old man who was acquitted by reason of insanity for the 1999 fatal shooting a federal park ranger on the Big Island was ordered this morning to be held in custody until he is no longer dangerous. Federal prosecutors said they hope Eugene Frederick Boyce III will be confined for the rest of the life. U. S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway ruled that Boyce must remain in custody. The federal Bureau of Prisons will now select which Mainland federal secured medical facility Boyce will be placed in until he can demonstrate that he is no longer a danger to others. Boyce was charged with first-degree murder in the death of U.S. Park Service ranger Steve Makuakane-Jarrell at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park in December 1999. Boyce was homeless at the time....
Will congressional Democrats pass climate-change legislation? Time is running out, and we need to move forward on this," Senator Barbara Boxer declared in a conference call to reporters last week, referring to global warming. The California Democrat will take over as chair of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee in January, and she has already vowed to make climate change a top priority, reversing a decade of inaction by congressional Republicans. (James Inhofe, the current chair, is famous mostly for calling global warming a "hoax" and blocking bipartisan efforts to limit carbon emissions in the United States.) With the United Nations set to release a new climate report this spring offering yet more evidence that the planet is heating up due to man-made greenhouse gases, and with Democrats in control of Congress, momentum is finally favoring those who want Americans to take climate change seriously. A shift would be long overdue: A recent study by Climate Action Network Europe found that, of the 56 top carbon dioxide-emitting countries in the world, the United States ranked fifty-third in steps to address global warming (only China, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia did worse). The White House will almost certainly oppose any climate-change legislation coming out of Congress over the next two years, and remains the single biggest obstacle on this front. But Democrats could still pass a bill and dare the president to veto it--or, perhaps, force Bush to compromise. That is, if they can get something passed. And that may depend largely on a powerful Michigan Democrat allied with the auto industry....
Green gridlock "You'd have to go back to the Enlightenment to see such a big change in worldviews." That's how Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook characterized the environmental shift coming to Congress after the Democrats' triumph over the GOP last week. But, hyperbole aside, what victories can environmentalists realistically expect on Capitol Hill over the next two years, considering that Congress is still narrowly divided and Dubya still wields a veto pen? Some key leadership shifts do point toward a dramatic about-face, none more so than Tuesday's announcement that California Democrat Barbara Boxer will replace Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "Nowhere is there a greater threat to future generations than the disastrous effects of global warming," Boxer said at a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting on Tuesday. "One of my top priorities will be to spotlight this issue ... with the goal of ultimately bringing legislation to the Senate floor." Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who will bump fellow New Mexican Pete Domenici, a Republican, from the helm of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is also expected to push for action on climate change, as well as on stronger auto fuel-economy standards, a requirement that a percentage of the nation's electricity come from renewable sources, a boost in R&D funding for renewable energy, and reductions in oil and gas subsidies. Earlier this week, Bingaman joined Boxer and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in sending a letter to the White House exhorting the president to "work with the new Congress to pass meaningful climate-change legislation in 2007." On the House side, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. -- who boasts a 92 percent lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters -- has made rolling back roughly $4 billion of oil and gas subsidies doled out in the 2005 energy bill a key goal for the first 100 hours of the new Congress, according to her deputy press secretary, Drew Hammill....
FEC fines Sierra Club A Federal Election Commission (FEC) settlement with the Sierra Club will likely put new limits on how explicit outside groups may be when trying to influence voters. The environmental group agreed to pay a $28,000 fine to settle charges that it had paid for a brochure that expressly advocated the election or defeat of candidates in the 2004 presidential and Senate races from its corporate treasury. Because the Sierra Club brochure was found to contain express advocacy, it was determined to be an independent expenditure. Campaign finance laws prohibit money from a corporate treasury to pay for independent expenditures. FEC Chairman Michael Toner described the settlement as “one of the most important express advocacy cases the commission has resolved in recent years.”....
Go to Code Green There is no doubt about it: White, powdery snow is the lifeblood of Colorado's $2 billion annual ski industry. Global climate change is raising some serious jitters for skiers and resort businesses alike. The reality of rising temperatures is that there will likely be less of it in future winters. As an industry, ski resorts have long been aware of the negative implications of climate change on their business. In recent months - partly as an effort to offset their contributions to global warming, and partly to ensure the longevity of their business - several Colorado ski areas have significantly upped their environmental action levels. While the resorts are far from being the state's biggest offender when it comes to the release of greenhouse gases, their pro-environmental policies are influential, said Stephen Saunders, president of the Louisville-based Rocky Mountain Climate Organization....
Study: Up To 100 Million US Acres Needed For Biofuel Crops As many as 100 million acres of cropland and pastures would have to be dedicated to cultivating biomass fuels such as switchgrass to support a national goal of 25% renewable energy use by 2025, a University of Tennessee study says. Moreover, new commercial technologies will be needed to turn switchgrass, wheat, rice and forest products into ethanol fuel, now principally made from corn, and their byproducts into feedstock for power generation. But the rewards could be great. The study projects $700 billion in new economic activity including: a $180 billion growth in net farm income over the next 20 years; creation of 5.1 million jobs to support renewable energy enterprises; and government savings of more than $15 billion in crop subsidies....
It's All Trew: Beasts of burden led the way The West would certainly not have progressed as swiftly as it did without the presence of burros and mules. Although the critters were cussed, abused, worshiped, befriended and made fun of, these sturdy, patient and hardy beasts of burden served their owners well. Whether pulling, hauling or being ridden, the job or journey at hand was made easier by these long-eared workers. Prospectors searching every nook and cranny of the vast western territories for treasure or minerals were aided by their trusty burros plodding alongside carrying food and tools. Mule trains or pack-strings could go where no wheeled wagon would venture, delivering supplies and equipment to remote mountain tops or the depths of the deepest canyon. Amazingly mules could survive and work under conditions where a horse was useless, and most mules were very intelligent. Among the legend and lore of these long-eared beasts are stories of just how intelligent and sensitive some animals could be. One story tells of during the California Gold Rush a young gold digger tired of the hard work and established the “Jackass Express.”....

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NEWS ROUNDUP

Column - The truth about sheep ranching In a recent guest commentary in The Denver Post, Rob Edward and Wendy Keefover-Ring wrote, "Wild carnivores and domestic dogs take a larger bite out of America's sheep inventory \[than wolves do\], partly due to the profoundly defenseless nature of sheep, and partly owing to lackadaisical husbandry practices including turning bands of unguarded sheep out on open range." Stating that sheep are killed because of lackadaisical husbandry practices, including turning bands of unguarded sheep out on the open range, is wrong. Western range producers guard their sheep 24 hours a day, using shepherds and guard dogs because sheep do not have any natural defenses. In 2003, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service peer-reviewed Wyoming's wolf management plan. Ten of 11 experts approved Wyoming's plan. The Fish and Wildlife Service later recanted its approval because of fear of potential lawsuits, not because of perceived inadequacies in the plan. Wolf advocates downplay the damages caused by wolves. They toss out statistics to bolster their viewpoint, but under scrutiny their defense crumbles. Government statistics should be published on a localized basis of wolves in proximity of livestock. Instead, depredation numbers are couched in total head of livestock statewide, which significantly reduces the depredation rate and grossly misrepresents the impacts of wolves. Another reason wolf depredation seems low is because the government has been somewhat proactive in removing depredating wolves. If wolves are killing livestock, then wolves may be lethally removed at some point. Without this management tool, depredation rates would escalate. It's ridiculous to compare the number of livestock killed by wolves to other losses. Ranchers diligently work to minimize losses due to predators, illness and weather. The government doesn't handcuff you and tell you that you can't vaccinate, feed, water or manage for your animals' well being. However, the wolf recovery program eliminates a rancher's ability to effectively protect his livestock against wolf attacks....
Plan to save rare falcons takes flight Squinting, the eyes strain to see past the mesquite and yucca to catch a glimpse of a small, striking falcon that has captured the attention of wildlife experts, environmentalists and a curious rancher. "One, two, three, four, five. There's five right here," an excited Tom Waddell says as he keeps one eye on the bumpy two-track road and the other on the northern aplomado falcons. Waddell, who runs the Armendaris Ranch for media mogul Ted Turner, marvels at the endangered birds as some of them dive down in pursuit of grasshoppers and other insects. "They're so beautiful," he says. That Waddell can hardly contain his excitement is no wonder: He's been waiting for them to take to southern New Mexico's skies for more than a decade. Eleven captive-bred falcons were released on the Armendaris in August as part of a plan by the nonprofit Peregrine Fund, Turner's Endangered Species Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore the birds to their historic range....
Fish conservationists happy with bill adoption A historic bill giving conservation fishing groups the right to lease private water rights from willing owners in order to save fish has been given the stamp of approval by a state legislative task force. On Thursday morning, the Water Issues Task Force agreed to adopt the bill with only one dissenting vote. The adoption means the bill is likely to be one of the first considered in the January legislative session, and is a boost which gives the bill a good chance of becoming law. Proposed by Trout Unlimited, the bill "allows people near headwaters of rivers to enter into a partnership with Trout Unlimited, or other fishing groups, to designate some of their water shares to be used to flow down the river to benefit fish," said Rep. Brad King, D-Price, a member of the task force. The bill is necessary because under current Utah law, any farmer or rancher who leaves water in a river, as opposed to taking it for irrigation, is considered to be wasting the water and their right to the water can be taken away, he said. The bill has "gained traction" with task force members in hearings since June because "the basic point is consistent with Utah values and when people understand it, they support it," he said. "It promotes the free market, limited government and private property rights and those are principles that resonate with Utah citizens."....
Fury on the range This is the gateway to San Benito County, where a dirty political battle is raging over the land and what becomes of it, the money and who makes it, the power and who wields it. The weapons are accusations of blackmail and bribery, adultery and revenge. Dogs have been poisoned, a marriage has broken, and, as a warning, a coyote eyeball was left on the hood of a car. The worst of it has played out in Hollister, the county seat, where the old-fashioned downtown seems as slow as the old clock atop the Masonic Temple in the center of town. But on these unassuming streets, gossip spreads fast when a man has lunch with a woman not his wife, political threats are overheard at the Cozy Cup Cafe, or a county supervisor walks into the newspaper office with a bulging paper sack. A secret society calling itself Los Valientes -- ``the brave ones'' -- has emerged at the vortex. Its members say they are fighting corruption, on the side of clean government and fair play. But they have gone after advocates of slow growth, and they won't reveal themselves. Their targets call them cowards. The district attorney with San Jose roots has been fighting a lonely battle against them, a battle some say has become misguided and personal, a battle that has nearly ruined him. And one of their targets, a former newspaper publisher once accused of taking a bribe, tried to regain her slow-growth voice by seeking a county supervisor's seat in this month's election....
Treading lightly new mantra of oil giant State regulators declared EnCana Oil an environmental hero a couple of months ago when they honored the energy giant for protecting sage grouse habitats and trying to limit its drilling impact on the Western Slope. It was quite a turnaround from two years ago when those same regulators welcomed EnCana to Colorado by handing out the biggest environmental fine ever for causing a gas leak from a faulty well and contaminating a creek used by residents. Calgary-based EnCana has emerged as the biggest player in the boom-time rush to reach the gas reserves lying below millions of acres in Colorado. EnCana, short for Energy Canada, is working hard to make sure its image of environmental concern is the one that rises to the top....
UW grad student insures tests do the job in CBM fields With black mud rising above the knees of her thing-high wading boots, Laurie Johnson said she felt like a seventh-grade science teacher as she checked on fish cages secured in dish strainers on Beaver Creek. But the instruments she pulled from a red gym bag to measure pH, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, electric conductivity and turbidity gave Johnson away for what she really was: a graduate student having fun doing serious research about coal-bed methane water. Johnson was in Campbell County last month conducting the second round of a study in which she is examining how in-stream toxicity tests compare to laboratory tests required by the Environmental Protection Agency, known as a Whole Effluent Toxicity test or "WET test." "I think a lot of the question regulators and industry want to know is do we have the right test for the right question," said Johnson, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming. With a Department of Energy grant and support from the university and local producers, Johnson hopes to determine whether EPA and state-required tests are accurately portraying what would happen in CBM water streams....
Idaho's elk ranchers fear bad publicity When 160 domestic elk busted loose from an eastern Idaho shooter-bull operation in August, Gov. Jim Risch issued a shoot-to-kill order on the animals. Now, the state's nearly 80 owners of domestic elk ranches fear negative publicity from that incident will cause the 2007 Idaho Legislature to put out a shoot-to-kill order on their livelihoods - by banning the industry on fear that future big-game breakouts will spread disease and genetic impurities to wild herds near Yellowstone National Park. Lawmakers who oppose such ranches are counting on momentum from the summer elk crisis to win support for plans to follow neighboring Montana and Wyoming in banning the operations. Elk farmers, meanwhile, say that would be an overreaction that would snuff out a growing industry that brings in $20 million a year to the state economy. ''We as an industry did nothing wrong,'' Cataldo elk rancher Gary Queen, who heads the Idaho Elk Breeders Association, told the Idaho Falls Post Register. ''In fact, we've gone the extra mile to make sure we've done everything right.''round Aug. 14, dozens of the antlered beasts stormed from Rex Rammell's fenced-in Chief Joseph hunting preserve near Ashton. In intervening months, game wardens and private hunters killed more than 30 of the animals on orders from Risch....
Hundreds of campsites may close Hundreds of campgrounds, picnic areas and other recreation facilities in national forests and grasslands could close under a sweeping U.S. Forest Service cost-cutting exercise. Every one of the roughly 15,000 campgrounds, trailheads with bathrooms and other developed recreation sites in the 193 million acres under the agency's authority is being evaluated. The value of each site is being weighed against the costs of maintaining it, federal officials say. Forest Service officials say they are being forced to juggle priorities as the system faces a $346 million backlog in maintenance, a growing tab for fire suppression - now 42 percent of expenditures - and an annual budget that was cut 2.5 percent to $4.9 billion for 2007. "We are looking at reality here," said Jim Bedwell, the Forest Service's national director of recreation and heritage resources. "We're trying to best focus our funds as well as look at other ways to operate." So far, about 10 percent of facilities in 44 national forests that have completed their studies are targeted for decommission or closure....
DA faces challenge in Calif. Prosecutors who charged a man with setting a wildfire that killed five firefighters say they have overwhelming evidence against him, despite the difficulty of proving arson cases. The lawyer for Raymond Lee Oyler, however, maintains his client has an "airtight alibi" for the night the blaze was set and says that prosecutors haven't made public any evidence directly linking him to the fire. Lawyers watching the case say it's unusual for the district attorney's office to be so adamant about its case this early in the prosecution, particularly in an arson investigation. Arsons are difficult to prove because evidence often burns and suspects can be miles away creating an alibi by the time anyone notices flames. On Oct. 26, the Esperanza fire killed five US Forest Service firefighters. It also destroyed dozens of homes in the region 90 miles east of Los Angeles. Oyler, 36, is charged with multiple counts of murder and arson and could receive the death penalty if convicted. He also is charged with starting 10 other fires in the area since June. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges....
Forest fires may cool, rather than warm, regional climate Climatologists have worried for years that forest fires would worsen global warming by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Now, there is an indication that the fires could have a regional cooling effect. Fires in northern forests do release greenhouse gases that contribute to climate warming. But they also cause changes in the forest canopy that result in more sunlight reflected back into space during spring and summer for many decades after the fire, said James T. Randerson, associate professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine. ‘‘This cooling effect cancels the impact of the greenhouse gases,’’ he said. ‘‘The net effect of fire is close to neutral when averaged globally, and in northern regions may lead to slightly colder temperatures,’’ said Randerson, lead author of a study appearing in Friday’s issue of the journal Science. Brian Stocks, an expert on fires and climate change who recently retired from Canada’s forest service, was cautious about the finding. ‘‘I wouldn’t want readers to get the impression that we don’t have to worry about this so much anymore, and I’m sure that was not their intention,’’ Stocks said....
Endangered frog gets a new jump-start in life The mountain yellow-legged frog, that marvelous invalid of amphibians, may have yet another chance to avoid extinction. Already imperiled by modernity, the sweet-voiced croaker was devastated by the 2003 forest fires that ravaged its native habitat in Southern California forestland. Then 11 were found near the City Creek area of the San Bernardino Mountains and brought to the San Diego Zoo for a captive-breeding experiment. Despite around-the-clock attention, they succumbed to a condition akin to tuberculosis. Amphibian-lovers were close to saying farewell to the yellow-legged frog, which once roamed Southern California. But in August, 82 tadpoles were spotted along a stream in the San Jacinto Mountains. The first thought of wildlife officials was to leave them alone. But officials with the U.S. Forest Service noted that the stream's water level was dropping, a death sentence for the tadpoles. "The very next day we had a multi-agency response team at the site," said Gar Abbas, aquatic ecosystems program manager with the Forest Service. The tadpoles were scooped up and rushed to the zoo's Conservation and Research for Endangered Species facility, scene of the earlier disappointment....
Deal on raising river's flow Outdoor lovers will begin to see major improvements along the American River's south fork in little more than a year under an agreement to modernize the Sacramento Municipal Utility District's vast hydroelectric system. The agreement will govern how SMUD operates its 11 dams and eight power plants in the Sierra Nevada for up to 50 years. If approved next year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the deal, reached Thursday, will provide more water for boaters, anglers and wildlife, and improve dozens of campgrounds, picnic areas and trails. The deal concludes five years of sometimes testy negotiations between SMUD and a coalition of 13 government agencies and nonprofits. It was announced just one day before a federal deadline that would have triggered a prolonged and uncertain regulatory process....
Raccoons invade California enclave One balmy summer night, Larna Hartnack awoke to the cries of her dog Charlie and, to her horror, found the Dalmatian in a battle for her life — pinned by a gang of raccoons that tore into her flesh and nearly gnawed off her tail. Charlie survived. But recurring raccoon attacks on dogs and other creatures have unnerved people along the Venice Canals, a funky, well-to-do beach neighborhood packed with ardent dog lovers, many of whom are now afraid to walk their pets at night or leave them alone in the back yard. Communities around the country are plagued by destructive or aggressive raccoons, and many of them routinely trap, remove and even kill the animals. But this being California, the city's animal-control agency is instead urging people to try to get along with the raccoons — a notion that strikes some as political correctness gone wild. "What we're trying to inculcate in the L.A. community is a reverence for life. If we have more reverence for life, it translates into all our programs — for women and infants, the elderly and everybody in our community," said Ed Boks, the head of Los Angeles Animal Services. "As we develop these programs that demonstrate our compassion for creatures completely at our mercy, it makes for a more compassionate society all the way around."....
Farmers hope for bill to give relief on compounds Anxious farmers have flung hopes on Congress to clarify an environmental law they fear has the potential to bankrupt them. Sen. Pete Domenici, R.-N.M., is sponsoring a bill that would prevent manure from being classified as hazardous waste and exempt dairies and other livestock operations from being sued under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund law. According to the New Mexico Environment Department, manure itself doesn’t pose much of a problem; it is the inorganic compounds it contains, such as nitrogen and phosphorous that can be harmful to human health upon ingestion. In 1980, Superfund was enacted as a way to clean up abandoned chemical dumps and allow injured parties to sue for damages, according to a University of Washington Superfund research program. The law was used to pay for the cleanup of a playa lake in Clovis used by BNSF Railway for dumping hazardous waste for decades. “The fear,” said Dairy Farmers of America spokesman Walter Bradley, “is that the farmer is going to be forced to comply with another set of regulations that was intended for manufacturers.”....
Food killing you, says US Catholic rancher The industrial model of food production is driving farmers from the land and producing food that "is killing you", a Kansas cattle rancher told a US Catholic rural life conference on sustainable agriculture last week. Describing Mike Callicrate as a "straight-talking plainsman with a blunt, hard message", Catholic Online quoted the rancher from north-west Kansas as saying that "Your food is killing you, and your food system is killing your community and nation". Mr Callicrate was speaking at a National Catholic Rural Life Conference annual meeting attended by farmers and ranchers, advocates, food industry professionals, and workers in Catholic social justice and rural life ministries. The theme of the event was sustainable food, business and agriculture. "Our food is killing us, literally," Mr Callicrate said in an interview after his address. "The industrial model of food production that has been forced upon us has given us food that is very unhealthy."....
NCHA event pumps more than $32 million into local economy Every year, the local economy receives a big infusion of cash when enthusiasts hit town for the National Cutting Horse Association Triple Crown events at Will Rogers Equestrian Center. The 2006 NCHA Futurity, with more than $4 million in prize money, opens its 21-day run on Nov. 26 with an all-time record of 1,725 entries. This year marks the event’s 45th anniversary. According to a survey conducted last year, visitors at the 2005 NCHA Futurity spent more than $32 million on lodging, meals, gasoline, farm and ranch equipment, gifts, clothing, jewelry and art. Cutting is big business for trainers and breeders and it’s a passion for amateur and non-professionals, who make up nearly 1,000 of the entries at this year’s show. In the past few years, the National Cutting Horse Association has grown to include more than 17,000 members, and many of them, like Elvis Cameron, an attorney from Anna, Ill., are recent converts who consider Fort Worth a mecca for the sport....
A four-legged shepherd A sharp whistle breaks the morning stillness and Dibs circles the open field from the left, gives a small group of sheep “the eye,” and they all move toward trainer Dee Woessner…another whistle and Dibs moves to the right, herding the sheep in another direction. “Lie down,” Ms. Woessner says quietly, and Dibs stops and lies down, never taking her eye off the sheep. The sheep stop, eye the border collie, and then go back to grazing. Dibs, a border collie, is descended from British droving breeds on the Scottish and English border and has been bred over the centuries for endurance, intense focus, and the instinct to herd. “It’s a hunting thing,” said Ms. Woessner. “Their instinct is to bring the sheep to you, and you’re supposed to capture them. Sheep are bred to stay together, and the dog will bring them toward you.” “You know, they’ll herd anything…chickens, pigs, cattle, children…you couldn’t farm in the big, open fields in Scotland without them.”....
On the Edge of Common Sense: I'm truly sorry for ___ (fill in the blank) Whereas the average cowboy is a person of good intentions, generous to a fault and kind to women, children and animals, and whereas said cowboy is often in the right place at the wrong time and driven by an over-developed sense of chivalry, bravado and/or tradition, and whereas you may frequently find said cowboy entangled at the center of many a controversial, embarrassing or blatantly stupid miscarriage of sanity; This form is offered as a document in which said cowboy acknowledges his participation in some grievous social, marital, work-related, animal inspired or tequila-afflicted misbehavior. (Offender please circle one or more of these excuses): 1. I FREELY ADMIT THAT I LOST CONTROL OF a) My mouth. b) My good dog. c) The balloons full of beer I was juggling. 2. I NOW REALIZE THAT....