Friday, July 06, 2007


Proof on Ice: Southern Greenland Was Once Green; Earth Warmer In 1981 researchers removed a long tube of ice from the center of a glacier in southern Greenland at a site known as Dye 3. More than a mile (two kilometers) long, the deep end of the core sample had been crushed by the pressure of the ice above it and sullied by contact with rock and soil. By destroying the pattern of annual layers, this contamination seemingly made it impossible to assess the region's ancient climate. But DNA extracted from the previously ignored dirty bottom has revealed that Greenland was not only green, it boasted boreal forests like those found in Canada and Scandinavia today. Biologist Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen and an international team of colleagues discovered DNA from alder, spruce, pine and yew trees at the glacier's base as well as insects ranging from butterflies to spiders. This is the "first evidence for a forested southern Greenland," Willerslev says. And based on the tree species found, Greenland must have been warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) in summer and never colder than one degree F (–17 degrees C) in winter, much warmer than present conditions....
Feds shoot female Mexican gray wolf for killing cattle The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday shot a female Mexican wolf in Catron County, N.M. less than a week after cattle killings that subjected the wolf to a three strikes rule. The program to reintroduce endangered Mexican gray wolves into the Southwest in an area straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border requires the permanent removal of any wolf linked to three livestock killings a year - either by trapping and keeping it in captivity or by shooting it. The wolf, designated AF924 for alpha female 924, had killed two head of livestock before being relocated to Catron County on April 25. The day after her release, county officials demanded she be removed before she killed another cow. Fish and Wildlife said at the time it had no reason to remove her under the program's three-strikes rule. The agency issued a lethal order for the wolf Tuesday night after the weekend killings of a cow and calf. Catron County Manager Bill Aymar said Thursday he's not a fan of the wolf program - "I couldn't be with seeing all that happens down here" - but it was a shame Fish and Wildlife killed the wolf. "If they had actually acted upon our first request and removed that wolf, that wolf might still be alive," he said....
Black-footed ferrets return to Wind Cave park Wind Cave National Park officials are celebrating the release this week of seven endangered black-footed ferrets into the 28,000-acre federal preserve. "It's been thirty years since the last sighting of a black-footed ferret in Wind Cave National Park," acting park superintendent Rick Mossman said in a prepared statement. "We hope this is the start of a self-sustaining population that will restore a missing link to our mixed-grass ecosystem." But ranchers who live near Wind Cave fear that the return of the ferrets could bring a tangle of federal restrictions if the ferrets migrate to adjoining private land. Leonard Wood, who ranches west of the park, said Thursday that he was surprised to learn that ferrets had already been released in Wind Cave. "We thought we had them shut down on that until they did some more work on their impact study," Wood said. "But I guess they're going to do what they're going to do." Like other ranchers, Wood worries that black-footed ferrets will leave park land and end up on private ranches or even subdivisions nearby, bringing with them headaches for private-property owners....
After Lobbying, Wetlands Rules Are Narrowed After a concerted lobbying effort by property developers, mine owners and farm groups, the Bush administration scaled back proposed guidelines for enforcing a key Supreme Court ruling governing protected wetlands and streams. The administration last fall prepared broad new rules for interpreting the decision, handed down by a divided Supreme Court in June 2006, that could have brought thousands of small streams and wetlands under the protection of the Clean Water Act of 1972. The draft guidelines, for example, would allow the government to protect marsh lands and temporary ponds that form during heavy rains if they could potentially affect water quality in a nearby navigable waterway. But just before the new guidelines were to be issued last September, they were pulled back in the face of objections from lobbyists and lawyers for groups concerned that the rules could lead to federal protection of isolated and insignificant swamps, potholes and ditches. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, charged with enforcing the Clean Water Act, finally issued new guidelines last month, which environmental and recreational groups said were much more narrowly drawn. These groups argue that the final guidelines will leave thousands of sensitive wetlands and streams unprotected....
Gas Drillers need permit for water In a ruling with potentially statewide impacts, a 6th Judicial District water judge ruled Monday that coal-bed methane gas producers are no better than other water users: They need a water-well permit the same as farmers and ranchers. The ruling Monday by Judge Gregory Lyman upheld the allegations of Jim and Terry Fitzgerald of La Plata County and Bill and Beth Vance of Archluleta County. If the ruling is upheld, it would affect coal-bed methane drillers statewide, the plaintiffs' attorney, Sarah A. Klahn, said. "The state engineer is responsible for wells statewide, not just in the San Juan Basin," Klahn said. The Fitzgeralds, who raise cattle and tomatoes, and the Vances, who raise hay, sued the State Engineer's Office in 2005. They alleged that the chemical-laced water that is injected under pressure to separate gas from a coal formation and then is extracted along with subterranean water depletes the supply of irrigation water and could result in dry wells or contaminated ground water. In response, the state engineer said the agency has no jurisdiction in the matter, alleging that water extracted from the ground to free methane gas from a coal seam is "produced" water and is not governed by the Division of Water Resources....
National forests short staffed for fires Weeks into a wildfire season that has already burned parts of Catalina Island, Los Angeles and Lake Tahoe, swaths of California's flammable national forests are some days protected by nothing more than luck. On any given day, about 40 of 271 U.S. Forest Service engines remain in firehouses rather than on patrol, idled by a shortage of supervisors. Meanwhile, the combined effects of sustained drought, last winter's freeze and a searing heat wave has dramatically raised fire danger levels this season. An exodus of highly trained mid- and upper-level firefighters from the career ranks of the federal agency is at least partly to blame for the fact that 13 percent of the service's 3,600 full-time positions in California are vacant. Nationally, fire planners from all five federal agencies that handle firefighting are dealing with the departure of a generation of top managers hired during a firefighting expansion in the late 1970s. That has left behind too few career firefighters qualified to run engines, oversee forests or command large fire operations....
No permit for us: Peace group sues Forest Service A longtime member of the Rainbow Family has sued the U.S. Forest Service, saying the counterculture group shouldn't have to obtain a permit for its annual gatherings. The U.S. District Court lawsuit filed by Tony Nenninger, 49, a third-year law student at the University of Missouri at Columbia, challenges a Forest Service requirement that a group of 75 or more that gathers on Forest Service land must obtain a special-use permit. The Rainbow Family is holding its annual peace gathering in the Ozark National Forest in Newton County this year. Officials expect up to 10,000 people to attend the event. The Rainbow Family has long refused to sign the permits, saying they are not an organized group, the lawsuit said. Nenninger is ''a practitioner of a sincerely held religious belief that autonomous intuition of what good samaritan deeds do enhances miraculous karmic archangel protection for practitioners of peaceful voluntary cooperation within this life, and for perpetual evolution of religious freedom from institutional and governmental control beyond our individual lifetimes,'' the lawsuit said....
Wide four-wheelers pose problem A new type of four-wheeled vehicle, known as an off-highway or utility vehicle, is showing up on Montana's national forests, but the Forest Service says it's illegal on national forest trails. The machine looks like a golf cart with a pickup bed and carries two or more passengers who sit side by side, instead of front and back. That tends to make the vehicles wider than 50 inches, which is what the Forest Service objects to. "If they're wider than 50 inches and designed with side-by-side seating, then they're not legal on trails in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest," said Bruce Ramsey, supervisor of the 3.3 million-acre national forest....
Officials want data on pollution threat A project to divert Rio Grande surface water for use in the Santa Fe area is designed to handle possible contaminants that drain into the river from Los Alamos National Laboratory, planners said Thursday. But the city-county project’s manager said the lab should still be responsible for keeping nuclear pollution out of the river. Elected officials overseeing the major water-supply expansion project on Thursday called for a detailed report on the issue. The Buckman Direct Diversion will include a river structure and a treatment plant. The goal is to exploit water rights acquired through a federal project that imports flows from the Colorado River basin into the Rio Grande....
Bike Access to Continental Divide Trail Threatened The 3,100-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) runs the spine of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico, and is predominately open to bikes in non-Wilderness areas. However, bike access to the country's longest shared-use trail is now in jeopardy. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) reports that the Forest Service just released a draft rule that would encourage land managers to kick bikes off existing routes, and not include bicycling on future segments. The Forest Service suggests prohibiting mountain biking where our use is currently allowed on the CDNST. The proposed policy also singles out bicycling as an undesirable use that should be subject to additional scrutiny and restrictions. These include a burden of proof that bicycling "would not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the CDNST," which the Forest Service deems to be hiking and horse travel. IMBA believes that the Forest Service directive should not discriminate against bicycling on the CDNST. This is our chance to ask the Forest Service to include bicycling as a central focus and purpose for the trail....
So, how dirty is the Snake River? An ambitious round of water sampling this summer in the Snake River Basin will help lay the groundwork for a comprehensive watershed plan. One key goal is treating polluted drainage from the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine, near Peru Creek, where toxic zinc, cadmium and other dissolved metals are leaching into the water. Combined with pollution from other sources and naturally occurring minerals in the drainage, concentrations of metals in the Snake are so high that fish can’t survive. The sampling this summer includes EPA tests, as well as more work by state health and water quality officials, while the U.S. Forest Service will take a close look at the status of aquatic insects, the macro invertebrates that form the base of the food chain. Among the agencies doing tests is the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which has been sampling the Snake and its tributaries for three years as part of a larger assessment of the environmental effects of historical mining in Central Colorado....
Colo.: Don't drill in basin State officials want to keep oil and gas development out of the uninhabited 77,000-acre Vermillion Basin near Dinosaur National Monument. In a letter sent this week to the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Department of Natural Resources Director Harris Sherman asks that oil and gas leases not be granted there over the 20-year life of the federal agency's management plan. Sherman's request is part of the state's response to the BLM's revision of the management plan for the Little Snake area that covers much of the northwest corner of Colorado, from the monument to Steamboat Springs. The Vermillion Basin contains about 2 percent of the area's "high potential" oil and gas reserves, according to Sherman's letter sent Monday....
For map junkies — BLM GeoCommunicator Ever wondered where active gas and oil leases are located in your area, or where wind energy could be developed? The Bureau of Land Management has a nifty interactive map viewer, the GeoCommunicator, that shows information on land use and minerals leasing: Some of the authorizations that are available include oil and gas leases/agreements/densities, lease sale parcels, oil shale leases, coal authorizations, geothermal, wind energy, and solar energy. A new Land Status Map Viewer has also been added, which provides land and mineral ownership and use information. This viewer contains information such as U.S. Forest Service boundaries and regulated uses, Federal land title, subsurface mineral estate for Wyoming and New Mexico, and surface management Agency boundaries....
Methane development has big impact on grouse The impact of coal-bed methane development on sage grouse populations in the Powder River Basin is dramatic, according to a recently released study, connoting a gloomy future for the bird if the status quo is maintained. A peer-reviewed study by University of Montana professor Dr. David Naugle and other researchers says that only 38 percent of sage grouse leks, or breeding sites, remained active after coal-bed methane development moved into an area, compared to 84 percent in undeveloped areas. And any leks that do survive within developed areas have 46 percent fewer breeding males than those outside coal-bed methane development. The status quo, as it is practiced in the basin, is 80- to 160-acre spacing for wells. The study says that density is three to six times greater than the level the birds can tolerate. Leks typically remain active when well spacing is greater than 500 acres. The study also noted that seasonal restrictions that ended in the middle of last month, prohibiting surface disturbing activities within two miles of leks and breeding grounds, do not address habitat loss....
Editorial - Examine Cheney's role The House Natural Resources Committee should thoroughly investigate Vice President Dick Cheney's role in the 2002 die-off of more than 75,000 salmon in the Klamath Basin. And it should do so with the same pit-bull tenacity that Cheney has demonstrated time and again in undercutting environmental regulations to further his political and ideological agenda. The committee announced this week that it will conduct hearings on Cheney's involvement in Klamath River water management decisions that many believe led to the massive fish kill four years ago. Three dozen House Democrats from Oregon and California, including Congressman Peter DeFazio, requested the hearings after The Washington Post reported details of Cheney's extensive intervention. In a four-part series, the Post reported that Cheney personally contacted Sue Ellen Wooldridge - the 19th ranking official in the Interior Department and then Secretary Gale Norton's top adviser on the Klamath - about his concerns over the Bureau of Land Management's decision to cut irrigation deliveries to farmers. The BLM cut the water flow to farmers to enforce a finding by federal biologists that the diversions posed an unacceptable risk to endangered salmon and suckerfish....
BLM releases EIS on fuels reduction on western public lands As part of ongoing efforts to combat the spread of invasive and noxious weeds and reduce fire-prone fuels on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management today released its Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) comprehensively analyzing the environmental effects of various methods for treating and managing vegetation. The Final PEIS is available for public review and comment through July 30. The PEIS presents detailed, national-level analysis of the risks of herbicide use to humans and sensitive species, as well as to other resources and activities. A programmatic environmental report (PER) evaluates additional treatment methods to reduce the risk of wildland fire by reducing highly flammable vegetation such as pinyon, juniper, and dead or downed woody materials. The two reports will guide field-level planning and projects using mechanical, manual and biological techniques to meet fuel-reduction goals under the National Fire Plan. Both documents are national in scope and contain supporting analysis and data....
Archaeologists follow trail to 1806 Lewis-Clark camp Archaeologists have uncovered a Nez Perce Indian village believed to be the site where three members of the Lewis and Clark expedition spent time on an ill-fated fishing trip. Historians have speculated for years about the route that Sgt. John Ordway and Pvts. Robert Frazer and Peter Weise took when they were sent to fetch salmon for the expedition in the spring of 1806. The rest of the expedition was camped along the Clearwater River waiting for mountain snows to melt when the three men descended into the lower Salmon River gorge and Hells Canyon. Based on Ordway's journal, historians have suspected the men left Long Camp near Kamiah and climbed a steep ridge to the Camas Prairie before reaching the Nez Perce village on the Salmon River. The men arrived ahead of the spring salmon run, so they headed for another site on the Snake River, guided by Chief Twisted Hair. The men stayed there a few days, trading for salmon at the new site before making the three-day journey back to the main camp....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Counting Our Blessings On Liberty Day

By Nathan A. Barton (TM and © 2007)

July 02, 2007

Traditionally, the 4th of July is celebrated as “Independence Day” because the Declaration of Independence was formally dated that day. However, as historians, especially libertarian historians, are wont to point out, the 2nd of July, 1776, was the day that the Continental Congress actually voted to declare independence, and the last of the signers did not get to append their signatures to the formal copy until some months later. Many people celebrate the 2nd, then, with actual firing of salutes and other weapons, rather than with the traditional fireworks of two days later. I chose to call the 2nd of July, then, “Liberty Day.”

We approach the beginning of Anno Libertatus 232; the 231st anniversary of that first Liberty Day, Tuesday, 2 July 1776 Anno Domini. The day when a handful of men, supported by perhaps a third of the people who lived along a narrow edge of a vast continent, chose to defy the world’s most powerful monarch, parliament, and empire. It is therefore seemly to count the blessings of liberty which we, as physical and spiritual heirs of those people, enjoy more than two centuries later.

There are many problems that we face, 232 years later, and many liberties we no longer enjoy, at least not to the degree that our philosophical forefathers did. But we, in this great union, both in law and in fact, have an overall level of freedom, both individual and corporate, higher than that of the inhabitants of every other nation on this poor, benighted planet. Not every one of us share every one of those liberties, and that is bad and wrong. But overall, we are better off than even the wealthiest of foreign denizens (why else would the rich flock here so much); better off even than the tyrannical rulers of those other lands. It is far too easy, in the turmoil of daily life, and as we fight battles on a hundred fronts in a thousand counties and ten thousand towns, to forget that plain fact. Abused and warped and corrupted as our nation, our society, and those evil things we call governments have become, we are still better off.

Here are a few of the blessings to count, this Liberty Day:

Freedom to defend ourselves and others
Freedom to speak AND freedom to listen
Freedom to be silent AND freedom to ignore what others say
Freedom from hunger
Freedom from fear
Freedom to work and even, to earn a living for ourselves and our families
Freedom to travel, by many means, and in relative comfort and with relatively few limits and restrictions
Freedom to NOT travel: to stay in one place and not be uprooted by the whim of some bureaucrat or cop
Freedom to participate and not to participate
Freedom to worship AND freedom to not worship
Freedom to resist – more than just violence
Freedom to give AND freedom to receive
Freedom to quit and to change

I don’t list these in any real order, and I limit myself to thirteen (A Baker’s Dozen ™) for symbolism: it was thirteen states that joined together that long-ago Tuesday. These are not freedoms given or even protected by government: some come from our society, some come from our economy, some come from our historical and cultural and religious background, and I think a lot of them we have because we did NOT have so much government in the past as we do today.

Yes, again, I recognized that many of these freedoms are under attack – there are are many citizens and residents of these fifty states that do NOT enjoy one or more of these freedoms, that many of these freedoms are limited today as compared to 10, 25, 50, or 231 years ago (although some have expanded, in fact if not in law). I know that much of this freedom is wasted, abused, corrupted by people who seemingly are willing to “lick the chains” on them. But...

It’s a big word, “but.” But we still HAVE these freedoms, to a degree overall that NO other land on earth with a civilization beyond hunter-gatherer and “stick-in-the-ground” farmer has ever, EVER had. Sadly, I admit. In part, because it means the ideal of the Founders of a “city on a hill” has not truly succeeded. BUT! But utopia is NOT an option. With all our troubles, all our loss, all our serious problems, I will have more individual freedom (not just political freedom) here in the Four Corners or the Black Hills than in any other land on earth.

Our challenge, after we remember and count our blessings, this new 232nd year of Liberty, this 2007th year of (some of) Our Lord, is clear. Despite the setbacks, and despite the lack of perfection (or anything close), we need to enjoy, to use, to preserve, to restore, AND to extend human freedom. We need to “proclaim liberty” to all the land and its inhabitants, to set free the oppressed, cheer up the fainting, kick-start the lagging, encourage the weary, and work to WIN liberty, human liberty.

Happy Liberty Day.

Independence Forever: Why America Celebrates the Fourth of July

by Matthew Spalding, Ph.D.

The Fourth of July is a great opportunity to renew our dedication to the principles of liberty and equality enshrined in what Thomas Jefferson called "the declaratory charter of our rights."

As a practical matter, the Declaration of Independence publicly announced to the world the unanimous decision of the American colonies to declare themselves free and independent states, absolved from any allegiance to Great Britain. But its greater meaning—then as well as now—is as a statement of the conditions of legitimate political authority and the proper ends of government, and its proclamation of a new ground of political rule in the sovereignty of the people. "If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence," wrote the great historian Samuel Eliot Morrison, "it would have been worthwhile."

Although Congress had appointed a distinguished committee—including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston—the Declaration of Independence is chiefly the work of Thomas Jefferson. By his own account, Jefferson was neither aiming at originality nor taking from any particular writings but was expressing the "harmonizing sentiments of the day," as expressed in conversation, letters, essays, or "the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc." Jefferson intended the Declaration to be "an expression of the American mind," and wrote so as to "place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent."

The structure of the Declaration of Independence is that of a common law legal document. The ringing phrases of the document's famous second paragraph are a powerful synthesis of American constitutional and republican government theories. All men have a right to liberty only in so far as they are by nature equal, which is to say none are naturally superior, and deserve to rule, or inferior, and deserve to be ruled. Because men are endowed with these rights, the rights are unalienable, which means that they cannot be given up or taken away. And because individuals equally possess these rights, governments derive their just powers from the consent of those governed. The purpose of government is to secure these fundamental rights and, although prudence tells us that governments should not be changed for trivial reasons, the people retain the right to alter or abolish government when it becomes destructive of these ends.

The remainder of the document is a bill of indictment accusing King George III of some 30 offenses, some constitutional, some legal, and some matters of policy. The combined charges against the king were intended to demonstrate a history of repeated injuries, all having the object of establishing "an absolute tyranny" over America. Although the colonists were "disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable," the time had come to end the relationship: "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government."

One charge that Jefferson had included, but Congress removed, was that the king had "waged cruel war against human nature" by introducing slavery and allowing the slave trade into the American colonies. A few delegates were unwilling to acknowledge that slavery violated the "most sacred rights of life and liberty," and the passage was dropped for the sake of unanimity. Thus was foreshadowed the central debate of the American Civil War, which Abraham Lincoln saw as a test to determine whether a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" could long endure.

The Declaration of Independence and the liberties recognized in it are grounded in a higher law to which all human laws are answerable. This higher law can be understood to derive from reason—the truths of the Declaration are held to be "self-evident"—but also revelation. There are four references to God in the document: to "the laws of nature and nature's God"; to all men being "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights"; to "the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions"; and to "the protection of Divine Providence." The first term suggests a deity that is knowable by human reason, but the others—God as creator, as judge, and as providence—are more biblical, and add a theological context to the document. "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God?" Jefferson asked in his Notes on the State of Virginia.

The true significance of the Declaration lies in its trans-historical meaning. Its appeal was not to any conventional law or political contract but to the equal rights possessed by all men and "the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and nature's God" entitled them. What is revolutionary about the Declaration of Independence is not that a particular group of Americans declared their independence under particular circumstances but that they did so by appealing to—and promising to base their particular government on—a universal standard of justice. It is in this sense that Abraham Lincoln praised "the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times."

The ringing phrases of the Declaration of Independence speak to all those who strive for liberty and seek to vindicate the principles of self-government. But it was an aged John Adams who, when he was asked to prepare a statement on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, delivered two words that still convey our great hope every Fourth of July: "Independence Forever."

Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., is Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation.


I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph.

John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

There! His Majesty can now read my name without glasses. And he can double the reward on my head!

John Hancock (attributed), upon signing the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

Benjamin Franklin (attributed), at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

The flames kindled on the 4th of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, September 12, 1821

With respect to our rights, and the acts of the British government contravening those rights, there was but one opinion on this side of the water. All American whigs thought alike on these subjects. When forced, therefore, to resort to arms for redress, an appeal to the tribunal of the world was deemed proper for our justification. This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c.

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Henry Lee, May 8, 1825

Independence Forever.

John Adams, toast for the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826

I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation's destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" July 5, 1852

The assertion that "all men are created equal" was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be, thank God, it is now proving itself, a stumbling block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and they meant when such should re-appear in this fair land and commence their vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack.

Abraham Lincoln, speech on the Dred Scott Decision, June 26, 1857

We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.

Abraham Lincoln, speech at Chicago, Illinois, July 10, 1858

We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

Calvin Coolidge, speech on the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 5, 1926

Today, 186 years later, that Declaration whose yellowing parchment and fading, almost illegible lines I saw in the past week in the National Archives in Washington is still a revolutionary document. To read it today is to hear a trumpet call. For that Declaration unleashed not merely a revolution against the British, but a revolution in human affairs. . . . The theory of independence is as old as man himself, and it was not invented in this hall. But it was in this hall that the theory became a practice; that the word went out to all, in Thomas Jefferson's phrase, that "the God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time." And today this Nation—conceived in revolution, nurtured in liberty, maturing in independence—has no intention of abdicating its leadership in that worldwide movement for independence to any nation or society committed to systematic human oppression.

John F. Kennedy, address at Independence Hall, July 4, 1962

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. . . . I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

Martin Luther King, "I Have A Dream," August 28, 1963

Our Declaration of Independence has been copied by emerging nations around the globe, its themes adopted in places many of us have never heard of. Here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights. We the people declared that government is created by the people for their own convenience. Government has no power except those voluntarily granted it by the people. There have been revolutions before and since ours, revolutions that simply exchanged one set of rulers for another. Ours was a philosophical revolution that changed the very concept of government.

Ronald Reagan, address at Yorktown, October 19, 1981

"...we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

(Each year information about those who signed the Declaration of Independence is circulated, not all of which is accurate. The following note is based on research in several established sources, which are noted below.)

Fifty-six individuals from each of the original 13 colonies participated in the Second Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. Pennsylvania sent nine delegates to the congress, followed by Virginia with seven and Massachusetts and New Jersey with five. Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and South Carolina each sent four delegates. Delaware, Georgia, New Hampshire, and North Carolina each sent three. Rhode Island, the smallest colony, sent only two delegates to Philadelphia.

Eight of the signers were immigrants, two were brothers, two were cousins, and one was an orphan. The average age of a signer was 45. The oldest delegate was Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, who was 70 when he signed the Declaration. The youngest was Thomas Lynch, Jr., of South Carolina, who was 27.

Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Forty-two signers had served in their colonial legislatures. Twenty-two were lawyers—although William Hooper of North Carolina was "disbarred" when he spoke out against the Crown—and nine were judges. Stephen Hopkins had been Governor of Rhode Island.

Although two others had been clergy previously, John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend—he wore his pontificals to the sessions. Almost all were Protestant Christians; Charles Carroll of Maryland was the only Roman Catholic signer.

Seven of the signers were educated at Harvard, four each at Yale and William & Mary, and three at Princeton. John Witherspoon was the president of Princeton and George Wythe was a professor at William & Mary, where his students included the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.

Seventeen of the signers served in the military during the American Revolution. Thomas Nelson was a colonel in the Second Virginia Regiment and then commanded Virginia military forces at the Battle of Yorktown. William Whipple served with the New Hampshire militia and was one of the commanding officers in the decisive Saratoga campaign. Oliver Wolcott led the Connecticut regiments sent for the defense of New York and commanded a brigade of militia that took part in the defeat of General Burgoyne. Caesar Rodney was a Major General in the Delaware militia and John Hancock was the same in the Massachusetts militia.

Five of the signers were captured by the British during the war. Captains Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton (South Carolina) were all captured at the Battle of Charleston in 1780; Colonel George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Richard Stockton of New Jersey never recovered from his incarceration at the hands of British Loyalists and died in 1781.

Colonel Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote John Adams that he was "hunted like a fox by the enemy—compelled to remove my family five times in a few months, and at last fixed them in a little log house on the banks of the Susquehanna . . . and they were soon obliged to move again on account of the incursions of the Indians." Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war. The son of John Witherspoon, a major in the New Jersey Brigade, was killed at the Battle of Germantown.

Eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed. Francis Lewis's New York home was destroyed and his wife was taken prisoner. John Hart's farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Thomas Nelson (both of Virginia) lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort, but were never repaid.

Fifteen of the signers participated in their states' constitutional conventions, and six—Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Benjamin Franklin, George Clymer, James Wilson, and George Reed—signed the United States Constitution. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts attended the federal convention and, though he later supported the document, refused to sign the Constitution.

After the Revolution, 13 of the signers went on to become governors, and 18 served in their state legislatures. Sixteen became state and federal judges. Seven became members of the United States House of Representatives, and six became United States Senators. James Wilson and Samuel Chase became Justices of the United States Supreme Court.

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Elbridge Gerry each became Vice President, and John Adams and Thomas Jefferson became President. The sons of signers John Adams and Benjamin Harrison also became Presidents.

Five signers played major roles in the establishment of colleges and universities: Benjamin Franklin and the University of Pennsylvania; Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia; Benjamin Rush and Dickinson College; Lewis Morris and New York University; and George Walton and the University of Georgia.
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Charles Carroll were the longest surviving signers. Adams and Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Charles Carroll of Maryland was the last signer to die—in 1832 at the age of 95.

Sources: Robert Lincoln, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, with Biographical Notices of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (Brattleboro Typographical Co
insert italic tagsmpany, 1839); John and Katherine Bakeless, Signers of the Declaration (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989).

This essay was published June 28, 2007. Originally published as Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1451 on June 19, 2001.

'Wonderfully Spared'

July 3, 2007

'You and I have been wonderfully spared," Thomas Jefferson wrote John Adams in 1812. "Of the signers of the Declaration of Independence I see now living not more than half a dozen on your side of the Potomak, and, on this side, myself alone." Jefferson and Adams were not merely signers of the Declaration. Both sat on the committee that drafted the document, and Jefferson wrote it. And while they later became bitter political opponents, they reconciled in their last years.

Adams, the Yankee lawyer, revolutionary, Founding Father and ex-president, was 77 in 1812; Jefferson, the Southern aristocrat, revolutionary, Founder and ex-president, was 69. Both were mentally acute but frail. Jefferson spent three to four hours a day on horseback and could scarcely walk, Adams walked three to four miles a day and could scarcely ride.

They would never see each other again. But from a modest farm in Quincy, Mass., and a plantation in Virginia they corresponded and reminisced about the days when they were "fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-government."

It's easy now, in a nation awash with complaints about what our Founders did not do, what imperfect humans they seem to 21st century eyes, to overlook how startlingly bold their views and actions were in their own day and are, in fact, even today. Who else in 1776 declared, let alone thought it a self-evident truth, that all men were created equal, entitled to inalienable rights, or to any rights at all? How few declare these views today or, glibly declaring them, really intend to treat their countrymen or others as equal, entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Certainly not America's 20th century enemies, the Nazis and communists; certainly not today's Islamic radicals, who consider infidels unworthy to live and the faithful bound by an ancient and brutal code of law. We are fortunate that the Founders of our nation were enlightened, generous, jealous of their rights and those of their countrymen, and prepared to risk everything to create a free republic.

Breaking with Britain was a risky and distressing venture; could the American colonies go it alone and survive in a world of great European powers? If not, what better empire than the British? It took a year of fighting before the Continental Congress and the states were prepared to declare independence. "We might have been a free and a great people together," Jefferson sighed.

But if we were angry at British treatment, we were also lucky that Britain was our mother country. The British taught us respect for the rights of individuals, for limited government, for the rule of law and how such values could be realized. "An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to argue another Englishman into slavery," Edmund Burke insisted, pleading our cause before Parliament in March, 1775.

Scores of distinguished British officers refused commissions to fight against us. Some, who were willing, were reluctant to press their advantage over our literally rag-tag army. The British parliament wrangled day after day over the fitful progress of the war. And when it was over and, thanks to French assistance, we had won, Britain was careful in negotiating the peace treaty for fear we would fall under the influence and control of the French or the Spanish. We would fight against Britain again, but over the centuries the common heritage that connects our two peoples has brought us together as close allies.

We were lucky in our generals. Unlike the commanders of nearly all revolutionary armies before and since, George Washington resisted the temptation to seize power. After England's civil war between King Charles I and parliament, Oliver Cromwell, Parliament's leading general, evicted what remained of parliament and made himself "Lord Protector." The great expectations of the French Revolution ended when Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup against the republican government and later crowned himself emperor.

Not only do victorious generals have a nasty habit of taking over, but once an army becomes entangled in politics it is extraordinarily difficult to remove it from public affairs. Numerous modern countries have tried to control their armies and failed.

Washington prevented a coup by his officers; and when the war was over, he bid a moving farewell to his men and staff before appearing before Congress to resign his commission: "Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of Action . . . and take my leave of all the employments of public life." Then he hurried off to spend Christmas with Martha and their family. Although it sounds sentimental, trite even, it happened that way.

In their correspondence, Adams wrote Jefferson that the future would "depend on the Union" and asked how that Union was to be preserved. "The Union is still to me an Object of as much Anxiety as ever Independence was," he confided.

He was right to worry. The union has always been difficult, from the first fears that the 13 separate states would behave as competing countries or bickering groups, through a brutal and painful civil war whose wounds have yet to entirely heal, to a vast, modern land whose residents, taking for granted the blessings bestowed upon them, are deeply divided and quick to vilify each other.

More tragically, some seem to enjoy vilifying America, everything it has been and stands for, seeking and finding fatal shortcomings. Adams and Jefferson were not blind to those shortcomings. "We think ourselves possessed or at least we boast that we are so of Liberty of conscience on all subjects and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment, in all cases and yet," Adams admitted, "how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact." Recent moments of real unity after 9/11, when members of Congress stood together on the steps of the Capitol and sang "God Bless America," have been fleeting.

In 1825 Jefferson wrote to congratulate Adams on the election of his son John Quincy to the presidency -- an election so close it was decided in the House of Representatives. "So deeply are the principles of order, and of obedience to law impressed on the minds of our citizens generally that I am persuaded there will be as immediate an acquiescence in the will of the majority," Jefferson assured him, "as if Mr. Adams had been the choice of every man." He closed: "Nights of rest to you and days of tranquility are the wishes I tender you with my affect[iona]te respects."

On July 4 the following year, as the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, its two frail signers died within hours of each other. Their cause, "struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-government," continues in the nation they launched, still fraught with aspirations and anxieties, flaws and divisions but, one hopes, with the ability to reconcile as they did, to work together for the joint venture.

Ms. Malcolm teaches legal history at George Mason University School of Law and is the author of several books, including "Stepchild of the Revolution: A Slave Child in Revolutionary America," forthcoming from Yale University Press.

And finally, a personal favorite is Red Skelton's story and rendition of The Pledge of Allegiance. Skelton was a radio and movie star/comedian and you can here his live presentation here.
For Immediate Release: July 3, 2007

Contact: Laura Schneberger, P.O. Box 111, Winston NM 87943 505-772-5753

Habituated Wolf Packs Causing Multiple Problems in the Gila Region

The Diamond Family Who own and Operate the Beaverhead Lodge ranch in Eastern Catron and Western Sierra counties have been unhappy hosts to the Aspen Pack AF667, M863 and F1046; for the past three months. The first cow kill documented on the ranch by the Aspen pack occurred on June 6 2007.

Wednesday June 27, Crystal Diamond discovered a freshly dead yearling near Indian Cienega Tank just off the paved highway to Beaverhead New Mexico. The yearling was confirmed as a wolf kill and the strike will likely be placed on AM 863 who was observed eating the yearling. The next day Bud Womak, who has been working for the Diamond Family Ranch as a wolf watcher for the summer, discovered another dead yearling in the same area but closer to the highway. This yearling steer was also confirmed as a wolf kill. Womack was also able to watch AF 667 and her daughter F1046 chasing yearlings in the same area before he intervened and stopped them.

The ranchers do not yet know whether all or one wolf will have these confirmed livestock kills issued as a strike towards removal. Fish and Wildlife Service have told area ranchers that New Mexico Game and Fish officials will make that determination. Ranchers in the area are growing more frustrated over the way the wolf management agencies issue strikes towards removal. The policy, SOP 13 was written in 2005, it specifically states that if a wolf or several wolves are known or likely to have killed livestock, those wolves will receive a strike towards removal. Due to increased livestock predation by re-released problem wolf packs like Aspen and Durango, agency personnel appear to have stretched the policy boundaries by issuing livestock kills with multiple bite sizes on them, to only one wolf in the pack.

Ranchers believe this is an attempt to arbitrarily leave problem wolves on the ground much longer than policy dictates and has resulted in more than three strikes per pack. Coupled with the fact that for each wolf kill found there are at least 7 more that have been killed the increased predation is taking a toll on area ranchers.

The 1998 Final Rule specifically states livestock killing wolves will be removed this is not happening due to new policies that the agency's have put in place apparently in an effort to overrule the Final Rule. This year a new Rule is being authored that will supposedly address so many of the inadequacies in the 1998 Final Rule but ranchers are skeptical of the motives of the agencies who are authoring the draft their input into the draft rule will occur on the same level as the general publics even though they are on the ground dealing with wolves.

The Durango Pack (AF924, AM973) re-released in April 2007 have also killed cattle since they traveled out of the Wilderness soon after the late April release. Because of the enormous area on the ranch that the wolves are hunting, cattle are often found too late to necropsy. Decomposition and branding season taking it's toll on the ranch cowboys, have allowed a short term free ride for the wolves. Last Friday that changed with the discovery of a freshly killed cow and calf pair. The cattle were found Friday and confirmed as wolf kills. Because of their location and bite widths, the kill is suspected to be a Durango pack kill. If New Mexico Department of Game and Fish representatives agree, both animals should incur a strike towards removal from the program. This kill is the female’s third strike. Two other cow kills were committed prior to the April re-release, one in August 2006 and one in November 2006 in the same area. Her third strike should lead to permanent removal from the program immediately according to policy and the program's final rule but area ranchers say the wolf remains at large even four days after the third strike no decision has been made.

Ranchers are waiting to see if NMDG&F will ignore the evidence and pin the kill only on the male to in an effort to avoid removing a livestock habituated female as occurred in the Aspen pack kill June 6.

For the past two months, Durango have also localized at a ranch house a minimum of every other night, keeping the family alert and awake, waiting for daylight. Debbie Miller, who lives and works on the Adobe ranch, says that before her removal last December the female was a frequent visitor to her home. Debbie feels that she is ten times worse now that she has a mate and has come to the house so often that it is becoming a regular event to wait for the wolves to show up and stalk the cattle horses and dogs on the deeded land.

According to Ginger Whetten, whose husband Gene manages the Adobe ranch, the agency's management priorities are the whole problem.

"They were politely asked, time and time again, to remove these problem wolves from the Miller's house. They were also asked politely, not to allow the Aspen pack to den on Jack Diamond's land. They just don't do anything! If they have to kill more wolves it is their own fault because no matter what we do, they won't work with us."

Unsubstantiated opinions on the reintroduction and ranching float around the media as well.

“This portion of the Gila National Forest is perennially overgrazed, leading to conditions that make it hard to keep cattle alive,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in a press release issued July 2.

“The wolves pay the price.”

"Ginger Whetten responds, “The latest kills happened on the BLM part of the ranch not the national forest. We have been reading in the papers that the reason the wolves are here is because we are overgrazing and there are dead cattle everywhere. Whoever is saying that doesn't know what they are talking about and I can't believe the papers will publish that kind of information. It just is not true. Our Forest Service and BLM files and national environmental policy act analysis show this ranch to be in overall excellent shape and the forage on it is also in excellent condition. The only dead livestock we have are due to having wolves that kill cattle."

Also causing trouble are last years Aspen pups near the Link, private property in northeast Grant County. Mary Miller who lives at the link is documenting elk calf kills at a phenomenal rate.

"On one day, within 200 yards of each other, we found four elk babies killed the night before by just two of the Aspen pack, a male and one female from last years pups. They just killed the calves but didn't eat any part of them," says Mary.

On January 9 2007 Mary's 9 year old daughter Stacy lost her gentle horse Six to the Aspen pack, the previous November, Stacy who was 8 at the time witnessed an Aspen pack wolf attack and nearly kill one of the family's dogs in her front yard. Her parents believe the dog may have been defending Stacy from a stalking wolf.

Last week the Interior Department budget including yet more funding for the Mexican wolf program was approved and the program will continue unhampered and with very little oversight. This despite a Herculean effort to pass an amendment put forth by NM Congressman Stevan Pearce, the amendment would have revoked funding for the mismanaged program.

A spokesman for Congressman Pearce's office states, "As you know, we will continue fighting to protect the people of New Mexico and holding the Fish and Wildlife Service accountable for the management of this program. If there is any hope out of this vote, the Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Committee stated that there were problems with this program, although he opposed the amendment."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Anguished tales of property taken by state
Years ago, Carla Ruff stored her grandmother's jewelry and a file of personal documents in a safe-deposit box at her bank in San Francisco's Noe Valley, thinking they would always be there when she wanted them. Not so. Without giving her notice or acting on evidence that she'd forgotten about her cache, the bank's staff, under the auspice of the state, determined the contents of her box to be unclaimed property. In July 1997, bank records show, the pearl necklace and diamond-encrusted pin, real estate and insurance documents as well as her birth certificate were all removed. The paperwork was shredded and thrown away. Her jewelry was auctioned off on eBay -- for a fraction of its $80,000 value. Ruff said she didn't know what had happened until January 2006, when an illness in the family sent her to the Bank of America branch looking for the deed to her house. Weeks later, the bank manager told Ruff that her property had been seized by the state under a law that requires the government to take control of lost or abandoned assets. The 58-year-old publishing consultant is one of a growing number of people who believe that the state of California and its agents have been too aggressive in the past decade in seeking out private property -- from bank and brokerage accounts to safe-deposit boxes and payouts from insurance policies -- that is thought to be lost or unclaimed. The law requires that banks and other financial institutions notify the state controller's office if property has been left unattended for more than three years. The law also requires the state to take the asset into trust to be held until the rightful owners claim it. But most of the time, no one claims the property, and when the assets have been converted to cash the state gets the benefit from the unclaimed property to pay for services such as health care and highway repairs....
California's air chief quits, citing meddling by governor's team The executive director of the California Air Resources Board resigned Monday, saying the governor's office had made it impossible for her to do her job by interfering with the implementation of the state's landmark global warming law. "I think they're trying to control it, and they don't have a very cogent vision for what's needed," said Catherine Witherspoon, who has managed the agency since 2003. Witherspoon's resignation comes days after the board's chairman, Robert Sawyer, a retired University of California, Berkeley engineering professor, was ousted by the governor. Witherspoon said she felt some of the governor's top aides were trying to keep information from him so he would not endorse more far-reaching action to put the global warming law into effect. The law, AB32, is the nation's first cap on greenhouse gas emissions and calls for a 25 percent reduction by 2020. The picture Witherspoon painted of a governor who was being misled and micromanaged by a staff that was trying to weaken the global warming law out of fear that it would harm businesses is at odds with the governor's carefully tended public image as an environmental champion. Echoing a complaint that both Democratic legislative leaders have made, Witherspoon said top Schwarzenegger aides were single-mindedly focused on using market-based mechanisms to implement the so-called Global Warming Solutions Act, even though other methods, particularly regulation, are needed to meet the law's tough standards....
Yellowstone National Park re-creates '30s photos Leonard M. Moe spent a good chunk of his summers in the 1930s lugging heavy camera equipment to some of the highest points in Yellowstone National Park and snapping sweeping panoramic photographs. The forestry student's 360-degree photos, posted in fire towers throughout the park, were part of an ambitious attempt to give a bird's-eye view of Yellowstone and other fire-prone areas of the West. This year, a small crew is returning to those same spots in Yellowstone, lugging the same kind of rare, antique camera and trying to capture the same photos. The images will offer a comparative look at the Yellowstone landscape and how it's been changed over the past 72 years by fires, tree-killing bark beetles, climate change and other factors....
State senator calls for Tahoe fire commission In the wake of the destructive Angora fire, which burned over 3,100 acres in the Lake Tahoe Basin and destroyed or severely damaged over 250 homes, California state Sen. Dave Cox, who represents the Truckee area, has called for the creation of a bistate blue-ribbon commission to study forest health in the basin. “We all recently toured this disaster area and saw first-hand the devastation this fire had on the community and this unique national treasure, Cox said in a letter sent to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons. “It is the public’s frustration with the lack of appropriate fuels management that has most demanding significant changes to how we manage these lands,” Cox said. “It is my contention that this proposed Blue Ribbon Commission explore in more detail how to better manage the public forests in this highly populated and highly regulated region that encompasses two different states.” Cox said a blue-ribbon commission should look for ways to reduce regulatory burdens characteristic of fire prevention in the Lake Tahoe Basin. “There is a very strong feeling among residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin, that over the years, all levels of government have failed to properly manage the forest lands and reduce the threats of catastrophic wildfires,” Cox wrote the governors. “Many feel that the requirements and regulations that have been put in place by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the U.S. Forest Service have made the process of creating defensible space both cumbersome and costly.”....
Organism ID'd That May Be Killing Sheep An organism that may have played a part in killing thousands of bighorn sheep in the West over the last five decades and in thwarting repopulation efforts has been isolated in a lab and found in struggling bighorn herds in the wild, biologists say. Research done at Washington State University on tissue taken from dying lambs captured in Hells Canyon -- a chasm that borders Idaho, Oregon and Washington -- isolated a type of bacteria called mycoplasma ovipneumoniae. Biologists say that could be the initial organism that attacks the sheep and works by inhibiting the ability of hairlike structures in airways to eliminate bacteria that lead to deadly pneumonia. Biologists have known that pneumonia often proves fatal to the wild sheep, but have been stumped for years as why so many bighorns are susceptible....
Off-road vehicles rev up controversy in public lands Off-road vehicles now pose the single biggest threat to America's public lands and represent a fast-growing law enforcement problem. That's the verdict of a new coalition of former public land managers and rangers, which has formed to bring attention to the problem. Understaffing, weak penalties, and lack of enforcement of trail restrictions, among other problems, have led to environmental degradation and an increasingly chaotic environment at many popular federal recreation areas that are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of off-road-vehicles (ORVs), the coalition says. "These things are just crawling all over the place, unregulated, damaging the environment and wreaking havoc - there's no teeth in any law enforcement," says Jim Baca, a member of the Rangers for Responsible Recreation coalition and a former director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Clinton Administration. "Congress needs to look at this and make sure public land agencies are doing their job." BLM officials acknowledge the rising numbers of ORVs, but insist the problem is under control....
Bush Flips Off Spotted Owls How important are owls in the scheme of things? How important are forests? What do most Americans know about forests? The answer to the last question is that most Americans think that the majority of forests are managed by the Forest Service or the Park Service. Most Americans also think that those forests are protected from logging. Both answers are wrong. About 60 percent of the nation's forests are privately owned, and only a small percentage of forests on public land are protected from logging. In the Pacific Northwest, only about 15 percent of the original, native old-growth forest remains. Many people remember the battles over the last of big trees that took place in the 1980s and 90s, and assume that the treehuggers won and the old-growth forests are protected. They would be wrong about that too. In 1993, a few months after Bill Clinton took office, he initiated the Northwest Forest Plan. That plan settled a lawsuit over the northern spotted owl by setting aside habitat for the owl. But it did not protect all of the remaining old-growth trees and it did not protect anything permanently....
Restoring The Prairie In 1840, a young traveler named Eliza Steele ventured into Illinois and was dazzled by the tallgrass prairie near the city of Joliet. “A world of grass and flowers stretched around me,” she exulted, “rising and falling in gentle undulations, as if an enchanter had struck the ocean swell, and it was at rest forever.” Since then, farming and development have nearly obliterated this unique ecosystem. Yet in one of the most compelling environmental success stories of the past 30 years, the Midwest has experienced a prairie renaissance—the widespread restoration of prairies and related ecosystems, such as oak savannas, to ecological health. Molly Murray, outreach manager for the University of Wisconsin at Madison Arboretum, said these restoration efforts “have provided huge benefits for science. When we restore an ecosystem, we learn about it. We have learned about the role of fire in maintaining ecological health.” The roots of prairie restoration were planted right there at the university, when Aldo Leopold was appointed the first chair of game management in 1933. Leopold traveled throughout the state and observed firsthand the extensive soil erosion in Wisconsin. At the University of Wisconsin, he met a group of ecologists who planted prairie flora such as bluestem grasses, coneflowers and pasqueflowers on 70 acres of land that became known as the Curtis Prairie. A later site planted in the 1940s and 1950s was the 50-acre Greene Prairie, named after prairie expert Henry Greene. The group also conducted experiments with controlled fires, which restored nutrients to the soil, helped control weeds and stimulated the germination of grasses and forbs (flowering plants with non-woody stems). But the prairie restoration movement failed to catch on....
Judge dismisses counties' lawsuit
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit over land use in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, ruling Kane and Garfield counties can neither can claim ownership of roads that crisscross the monument's 1.8 million acres nor expect the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to do so for them. That's because the BLM doesn't have the power to make binding decisions on road ownership, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins ruled Friday. Further, the counties haven't yet proved ownership under required "quiet title" action, the judge said, rendering their lawsuit premature. The lawsuit filed last year affects the monument President Clinton created in 1996 under the federal Antiquities Act. It also has implications for the ongoing battle over mechanized access to wilderness-potential areas in Utah that has pitted environmental organizations seeking to conserve roadless areas against local officials who fear wilderness designation will harm their economies. The counties "tried to overturn all the protections limiting . . . off-highway vehicle travel [in the monument] based on unsupported allegations without proof there were a bunch of highways out there, somewhere," Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski said Monday. "The judge said they have to prove each and every road."....
Senator blocks BLM nominee over drilling Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., says he will block the confirmation of President Bush's nominee to head the Bureau of Land Management until the administration gives Colorado more time to review a plan that allows gas drilling on the Roan Plateau. "They will not get a BLM director until we come to some resolution on this issue," a frustrated Salazar told reporters in a conference call Thursday. "I will not allow the Western Slope to become a sacrificial zone for the rest of the nation." Bush last month nominated James Caswell, a veteran public land official from Idaho, to head the Interior Department agency, which manages one-eighth of the land in the nation. Caswell's nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, and it can be held up by one senator with objections. Salazar's move is the latest attempt by Colorado Democrats to hinder a plan approved earlier this month that authorized up to 1,570 new natural gas wells on the Roan. The western Colorado landmark is rich in gas and oil shale reserves and beloved for its pockets of pristine backcountry and abundant wildlife....
State may slow Delta pumps again The state's top endangered species regulator suggested Monday that it might be necessary once again to slow down the Delta pumps that deliver drinking and irrigation water to much of California in order to protect an imperiled fish. Department of Fish and Game Director Ryan Broddrick told reporters outside a congressional oversight hearing on the Delta that the water supply crisis might not be over this year, because a surprising number of fish continue to be killed at the pumps. "Is this time to ramp back down?" he asked, adding that he and other officials will discuss that issue today. Rep. George Miller said during the hearing that the ongoing Delta crisis -- in which fish populations are crashing and water supplies have been rendered less reliable -- suggests it might be time to shift water away from low-value crops. "Perhaps it is time to consider that not all water is equal in California," said Miller, D-Martinez. "There is water that is used in large quantities that brings relative little economic return to the state." Water could be shifted away from cotton and alfalfa farms in the San Joaquin Valley, for example, by changing subsidy policies or if the government decides not to renew contracts from the federally owned Central Valley Project....
Feds look at possible brucellosis buffer zone around park Creating a brucellosis buffer zone around Yellowstone National Park is a feasible idea, a federal disease control official said Monday, but making it happen won't be easy. Theresa Howes, spokeswoman for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said she and the federal agency's top veterinarian, Tom Clifford, met in June with Gov. Brian Schweitzer to discuss the possibility. "We were encouraged, all of us, by the thought that that could be a way for Montana to go," Howes said. Schweitzer has for more than two years pushed the idea of a buffer or "hot zone" in the southern reaches of Park, Gallatin and Madison counties. All cattle entering or leaving the zone would be tested for brucellosis, a disease found in May in a Bridger herd, the first Montana outbreak since 1985. The herd had links to a Paradise Valley herd, which has since tested disease free. Schweitzer said last week the disease appears to have been transmitted from elk. He also said it is likely that more cases will be found, sooner or later....
Livestock head: Elk may be brucellosis culprit The director of the state Livestock Department says preliminary findings are pointing to elk as the possible source of a brucellosis outbreak at a Bridger ranch this spring. Christian Mackay told the Environmental Quality Council today the possibility isn't definitive and quote "may never be definitive." A spokesman for the U-S Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service wouldn't confirm the possibility. Larry Cooper says the agency is still investigating. Brucellosis causes pregnant cows to abort their calves. It was detected at a Bridger ranch in May, and although subsequent testing has turned up negative the state could lose its brucellosis-free status if another case turns up in the next two years....
Earliest-known Evidence of Peanut, Cotton and Squash Farming Found Anthropologists working on the slopes of the Andes in northern Peru have discovered the earliest-known evidence of peanut, cotton and squash farming dating back 5,000 to 9,000 years. Their findings provide long-sought-after evidence that some of the early development of agriculture in the New World took place at farming settlements in the Andes. The discovery was published in the June 29 issue of Science. The research team made their discovery in the Ñanchoc Valley, which is approximately 500 meters above sea level on the lower western slopes of the Andes in northern Peru. “We believe the development of agriculture by the Ñanchoc people served as a catalyst for cultural and social changes that eventually led to intensified agriculture, institutionalized political power and new towns in the Andean highlands and along the coast 4,000 to 5,500 years ago,” Tom D. Dillehay, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University and lead author on the publication, said. “Our new findings indicate that agriculture played a broader role in these sweeping developments than was previously understood.”....
It's All Trew: Finding ways to keep warm creative process for settlers There are hundreds of recorded accounts telling how early settlers gathered buffalo and cow chips from the treeless prairie to burn to campfires, fireplaces and stoves. Artist have depicted mothers and children pushing wheelbarrows and dragging wash tubs to haul the hot-burning fuel to their prairie homesteads. Almost no accounts exist telling of how settlers also burned "hay cats" for fuel. A hay cat is a small bundle of rough grass about two inches in diameter, as long as the grass is cut, held together by wrapping grass stems around the bundle and tying. The accounts I have found seem to be more by Scandinavian families than by other nationalities. Though any stove or fireplace could be fueled by hay cats, the "earth or sod" stove used the fuel best. The earth stove was merely a mud-block, squarish oven built in the center of a soddy or dugout, with a door in one end and a flue or chimney in the other end. Once the walls, floor and top of the crude furnace became warm, the structure around remained warm enough for survival. When the firewood and cow chips played out, the settlers cut wagon loads of the coarse grass growing around or in playa lakes. When night came, the entire family including small children, sat around tying hay cats and storing them nearby in the home. The size of the hay cats varied as smaller hands made smaller hay cats....

The Cato Institute has a new website titled Downsizing The U.S. Department of Agriculture. Lots of interesting info there about the dept. and it's programs.

Monday, July 02, 2007

9th US Circuit Court stops Mission Brush logging project

A logging project in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest has been stopped by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling handed down today stops the Forest Service from logging nearly 4,000 acres of land in northern Idaho. The Forest Service had hoped to log the land to bring the dense, Douglas fir-packed forest closer to its historical composition. Officials said thinning the forest would reduce fire danger and lower the risk of insect infestation. But the environmental groups The Lands Council and the Wild West Institute sued, saying the plan would harm the ecosystem. The circuit court sided with the environmentalists.

A District Court had denied the Lands Council motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the logging project and had ruled the Lands Council was unlikely to prevail on it's claims. The 9th Circuit reversed and remanded. Go here to read the opinion.

Shipping lane shift to save rare whales The busy shipping lanes in and out of Boston Harbor will be narrowed and shifted northward Sunday in a bid to lower the risk of rare right whales being killed by ships. It's the first time in U.S. history shipping lanes have been changed to protect wildlife. The change raises concerns about vessel safety because the two lanes — one for incoming traffic, one for outgoing traffic — are each being narrowed by a half mile to 1.5 miles in width, reducing maneuvering room for ships. The shift, about five years in the making, also adds nearly four nautical miles and 10 to 22 minutes to each one-way trip. Lost minutes can be important because Boston harbor is too shallow for ships to move in and out when the tide is low, said Richard Meyer, executive director of the Boston Shipping Association, which represents shipping companies and port employers. That could force shippers leave the harbor prematurely or keep them from entering. Ship strikes and marine gear entanglements are the top human causes of right whale deaths....
Did Dick Cheney kill 70,000 salmon? Committee to probe A Congressional committee is preparing to investigate Vice President Dick Cheney's role in water-management decisions that killed more than 70,000 salmon in Oregon. Three dozen West Coast Democrats requested the Resources Committee investigation after the Washington Post reported of Cheney's involvement in managing flows from the Klamath River in 2002. The Post reported that Cheney personally contacted the Interior Department official in charge of the program to push for more irrigation water be delivered from the river to drought-striken farmers and ranchers. Environmentalists and officials in California and Washington blame the federal policy, which critics say violated the Endangered Species Act, was responsible for the deaths of 70,000 salmon, whose corpses lined the banks of the river. The Post said the plan was enacted "because of Cheney's intervention." Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W. Va., told the Associated Press that the committee is investigating the Bush administration's "penchant to favor politics over science in implementation of the Endangered Species Act."....
Saving Earth From the Ground Up You may have heard of the nematode, that microscopic gelatinous worm in your garden soil, but did you know that four out of every five living creatures on Earth is a nematode? The whole bloody planet is crawling. A gram of soil might also contain 5,000 species of bacteria and untold fungi in a secret universe separated only by the soles of our shoes and our sad ignorance of our global home. These and other marvelous revelations come from the celebrated Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, who was in town this week as lawmakers, government officials and scientists took a little time away from pressing matters of state to consider . . . the plight and the future of bugs. Laughable? No, don't dis bugs -- your very life depends on them, it turns out. Wilson, winner of two Pulitzers for his books on invertebrate life, lectured to more than 200 like-minded bug lovers as part of National Pollinator Week events and celebrations. At 78, he remains a lithe figure, crowned with a mop of steel-gray hair and disco-age translucent brown glasses, as if hewn from amber but missing the frozen prehistoric mosquito. At Wednesday's talk at the Kaiser Family Foundation, Wilson was focused on putting self-absorbed Homo sapiens in some ecological context. If humans were to disappear -- he doesn't advocate this, for the record -- the effects on the insect world would be minimal....
Ranchers scoff at Armys claim of willing sellers It's easy to see why Gary Hill loves his ranch. From the shady courtyard of his small home, the rancher can see his horses lazily grazing on a hillside, the grass surprisingly lush for a late week in June. It's quiet and peaceful, except for the sounds of friends talking and complimenting his wife, Kathy, on the lunch they are enjoying under the shade trees. It didn't look like a war-planning session, but it was. Because if you drive a few hundred yards east and top the rise, you can see the white water tower of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site several miles away on U.S. 350 - a constant reminder that the Army is also a neighbor and now it wants Hill's 16,000-acre Hidden Valley Ranch and then some. Holding up a map of the Army's planned 414,000-acre expansion, Hill recounted how he and his wife have worked to pay for their ranch and how his great-grandfather came to the grasslands in 1883. He points out how the Army took the family land when it first created the 238,000-acre Pinon Canyon training site in the late 1970s, forcing his brother, Bobbie, off his 7,000-acre spread. Now Hill, along with his brother and about 60 other ranchers in the region, are back in the Army's sights, trying to keep their land in the face of the Pentagon's insistence that it needs a much bigger area for training the growing number of soldiers at Fort Carson. "Now I'm going to bust up," Hill said, his voice choking as his eyes welled up. He paused to regain his composure. He was the fifth or sixth grown man to break down in tears on this particular day as they talked about what is at stake for their families in the battle over Pinon Canyon....
Land Conservationists Take on the National Guard There are few better vantage points than Hawk Watch to see both sides of the debate between the Pennsylvania National Guard and local conservationists. Hawk Watch, a 30-yard-wide clearing named for its grand view of soaring raptors, is on the ridge of Second Mountain, about 12 miles northeast of Harrisburg and part of the Appalachian range. “This is Stony Creek Valley,” said Larry Herr, pointing north to 44,000 acres of state-protected wilderness that is home to a nearly unaltered green carpet of hemlock, maple and oak trees going down the hillside to the valley 1,000 feet below. Then, walking to the other side of Hawk Watch and looking south onto a 17,000-acre base operated by the Pennsylvania National Guard, Mr. Herr said with contempt: “And this is the Gap. Notice the difference.” Amid large swaths of a similar tree canopy are pockets where the valley and hillside have been carved up for guard training areas, the trees removed and roads, buildings and ranges put in their place. “That’s why we don’t want them over here,” said Mr. Herr, 67, a hunter who is part of the Stony Creek Valley Coalition fighting the guard’s request to use about 900 acres as a buffer for a new target range for Abrams M-1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. “We don’t trust them.”....
Solution mining for uranium: benign or dangerous? Two environmental groups are trying to stop uranium exploration in Fall River County, but by the time they get a court hearing - late July at the earliest - most of the exploration holes will already have been drilled. That won't stop their opposition. "We'll keep on educating the public and getting ready for the next go-round," Charmaine White Face of Defenders of the Black Hills said. Some ranchers in Fall River County also are skeptical of uranium mining. "They could screw up something that's not fixable," says Wayne Childers, who ranches in the heart of uranium country. Uranium mining's next "go round" will be a mining permit for Powertech Uranium Corp., a Canadian company that hopes to extract 7.6 million pounds of uranium from an area north of Edgemont. Powertech will have to get approval from the state of South Dakota, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Childers isn't reassured. "Where was the state the last time?" he asks. "I don't trust them." Old test holes from the 1950s still pose hazards near Childers' ranch, and an open-pit uranium mine, long abandoned by its owners, still scars the nearby hogback ridge on the east side of Bennett Canyon....
Law to grant landowner access during fires A committee of representatives from agriculture, emergency management, natural resources agencies and other groups has begun work on a new law that could give rural landowners access to their property during wildfires. The new law was inspired by last year's Columbia Complex Fire near Dayton. Some landowners complained authorities were too restrictive in allowing access to their land to protect their homes, crops and livestock. Republican Sen. Mark Schoesler, a Ritzville rancher, introduced Senate Bill 5315 hoping to ensure access for owners of farm and forest land who own equipment, such as tractors, that can be used to fight fires. "When a wildfire takes over they actually have the equipment and know the terrain," Schoesler said, noting early action can prevent small fires from becoming big fires. "We'll never have enough firefighting equipment on the scene early on." "We don't want this happening again in any county," he said. "We had farmers and ranchers who could have done a great job in containing that fire."....
Serengeti of Montana? Ambitious reserve takes shape south of Malta A sweeping plan to protect the last vestiges of unbroken mixed-grass prairie is taking shape acre-by-acre in northeastern Montana. The American Prairie Reserve is being assembled from ranch land, but genetically pure buffalo are grazing the landscape rather than cattle. The effort is raising eyebrows in the ranching community of rural Phillips County. But it’s no flight of fancy. To finance the project, millions of dollars have been raised with the help of “prairie safaris” on the reserve, in which potential donors from across the globe visit what’s known in Montana as The Big Open. The approach already has helped secure 60,000 acres, but that’s just a drop in the bucket. The goal of the not-for-profit American Prairie Foundation, the architect for the reserve, is to create the largest public-private prairie reserve in the United States....
LIONS AND COUGARS AND BEARS -- OH MY! The Oregon legislature is revisiting the controversial issue of wildlife management. HB 2971 authorizes the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to appoint volunteer agents to hunt cougars and bears with dogs to implement the Oregon Cougar and Bear Management plans. The debate surrounding passage of this bill echoes the heated controversy that heralded the passage by voters of Measure 18 in 1994 and again in 1996. Measure 18 prohibited the use of bait and dogs in hunting cougars and bears except in cases where the wild animal had caused damage to property such as livestock, posed a danger to public safety, or was considered a nuisance. Current law allows restricted trophy hunting of cougars without hounds. Proponents of the bill say that the new legislation clarifies the criteria by which the ODFW can manage cougar and bear populations. But Bates concedes that emotions run high on both sides of the issue. Governor Ted Kulongoski's spokesman Jake Weigler said the Governor believes the bill will help ODFW manage cougars and he doesn't think it repeals the spirit or basis for Measure 18....
Hunting and fishing on decline, says Census Bureau survey Americans are hunting and fishing significantly less than they were a decade ago, according to a recent study by the U.S. Census Bureau. Preliminary data released June 19 from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which was conducted for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, reported a 15 percent decline in hunting and fishing over the last 10 years. “I don’t predict doom and gloom for hunting and fishing,” survey manager Sylvia Cabrera said from Washington, D.C., during a phone interview on Friday. “There’s still a lot of healthy interest in them and there’s still a lot of money being spent on them.” Cabrera, who said the survey is an important tool for various conservation organizations as they seek both grant money and new legislation, cited droughts, hurricanes, pollution, gas prices, the war in Iraq and urbanization as possible contributors to the recent trend....
Criticism of salvage logging grows After a large fire, land managers face controversial choices: let the forest regenerate on its own or harvest scorched trees and replant. The practice of salvage logging and replanting removes deadwood that might fuel the next fire. But new research shows salvage logging is not an automatic choice. As firefighters stamp out the dwindling Angora fire near South Lake Tahoe, experts say it's too soon to determine long-term management strategies for the region. But the fire has brought home to area forest groups the difficulty in selecting the right post-fire strategy for a forest. Large-scale salvage logging after Angora is unlikely due to environmental protections and the small logging industry presence in the Lake Tahoe basin, according to regional planning officials. Nonetheless, trees that pose a risk to people and property on public lands burned in the Angora blaze will be removed. Foresters also are encouraging private landowners in Tahoe to remove fire-killed timber. "If you don't remove the dead material now, and you get a new flush of vegetation, the new vegetation plus the dead trees is just another prescription for disaster," said Tim Feller, Tahoe district manager for Sierra Pacific Industries, a Redding-based wood products company. Sierra Pacific owns no private land in the Lake Tahoe basin. But the common salvage logging remedy is under new scrutiny....
Dead zone at fire's origin The Angora fire's point of origin, the exact spot where it first started, is a devastated moonscape filled with charred stumps and thick gray ash. Amid a cluster of boulders, below a snow-dotted ridgeline, someone lit an illegal campfire, investigators believe. The flames were fanned by swirling winds and fueled by bone-dry vegetation. They roared through the forest and destroyed 254 homes near South Lake Tahoe. The location of that disastrous campfire is a short walk from Seneca Pond, which today stands as an oasis of green amid the devastation. Before the fire, it was a favorite spot for residents of the devastated neighborhood to walk their dogs and take bike rides with their children. The Angora fire swept through 3,100 acres with approximately 2,000 people evacuated and an estimated final cost of $13.5 million, according to the U.S. Forest Service. As of Sunday, the fire was 85 percent under control, with crews using infrared technology to locate hot spots and mopping up 400 feet in from the fire line. Many firefighters had been demobilized, but about 698 personnel remained in the region. The Forest Service expects the fire to be contained by Tuesday....
30,500 acres burned As an estimated 400 firefighters continued to battle a raging wildfire outside of the small community of White Rocks that killed at least three people, both state and federal investigators continued their probe Sunday into what sparked the inferno. The Neola North Fire had burned 30,500 acres as of noon Sunday. That number is expected to grow after fire officials receive additional information scheduled to be released today. Only 5 percent of the fire was contained as of late Sunday afternoon, but Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Commander Kim Martin said "excellent progress" was made on the fire's south and east flanks Sunday. Eight helicopters, four heavy air tankers and two single-engine air tankers were used Sunday to fight the blaze, which by Sunday afternoon was stretching into the Ashley National Forest, sending up clouds of black smoke as it burned fir trees and other beetle-infested dead timber. About 100 members of the Utah National Guard were called up late Sunday by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to provide support to law enforcement at selected road-closure checkpoints and campground evacuation sites in threatened areas....
Mobile court set up for cases related to Rainbow Family gathering The U.S. Forest Service has set up a mobile magistrate court in the Ozark Mountains to deal with the mounting number of violations issued to members of the Rainbow Family, who are holding their annual peace gathering in Newton County. The Forest Service set up a remote court in Deer, where U.S. Magistrate Judge James Marschewski has presided over a number of cases. The majority of the cases are for traffic and vehicle violations and drug- and alcohol-related offenses, officials said. On Friday, six trials were held, with four resulting in guilty verdicts. The gathering, with roots in the hippie era, draws thousands from around the country to a national forest site each year to pray for peace and celebrate love. The gathering is expected to peak around July 4, when about 7,000 people are expected to camp out in the Ozark National Forest....
Congress aims at unwanted roads Congress is considering a $65 million program to decommission roads the U.S. Forest Service doesn't want or didn't authorize. The agency currently faces a $10 billion backlog of road maintenance needs and has struggled for years to find the money to keep up its 400,000 miles of road that crisscross national forests. The "Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Initiative" being considered by the House of Representatives would set aside funds for road decommissioning, road and trail repair and maintenance and the removal of fish barriers. The program is part of a bill that funds the Interior Department and Forest Service. It successfully passed the House Appropriations Committee last month. The Senate version of the bill includes language addressing the decommission issue. "This is the first time Congress would set aside money specifically for decommissioning roads," said Bob Ekey, regional director of The Wilderness Society. "It's a very important issue for the Northern Rockies. The Forest Service doesn't have the funding to keep up with road maintenance. A lot of these roads just continue to bleed sediment into streams."....
Dispute Over Eminent Domain Sign Headed To Court The city says it's simply too big, but supporters say a sign in St. Louis is protected by free speech. Now, the issue may be settled in court. The Land Clearance For Redevelopment Authority in St. Louis also known as the LCRA ruled a mural critical of eminent domain on South 13th Street violates a city ordinance. But, the owners say they have no plans to remove the artwork. Jim Roos says two weeks after a mural reading "End Eminent Domain Abuse" was painted on the side of a building in March, a building inspector told him he needed a permit. The giant mural is visible from Interstate 44. Roos' organization believes eminent domain, the state's ability to seize private property for public use, needs to be abolished. "We have supporters of MEDAC who say they will support our legal costs to defend the sign," said Roos. The Missouri Eminent Domain Abuse Coalition or MEDAC may need that cash. Tuesday afternoon, the LCRA ruled the organization's giant mural does not comply with a city ordinance because of its size and location in a residential neighborhood. MEDAC argues the sign is an expression of free speech. "The sign dissents and opposes city action which includes their eminent domain practice," said MEDAC's attorney John Randall. "It's an intent to communicate that viewpoint. Political speech is the purest form of speech under the constitution," Randall said....
Sort-of pensions for pack animals
U.S. Forest Service pack animals that have outlived their usefulness in the backcountry are finding the good life in the pastures and back 40s of some north-central Montana ranches and hobby farms. Horses and mules that once hauled supplies and tools and rangers for the Rocky Mountain Ranger District of the Lewis and Clark National Forest now help kids learn to ride or simply hang out as pets after decades of Forest Service work. In May, three horses and eight mules were adopted out after years. It wasn't always happy trails for such critters. When a packhorse or mule was no longer worth keeping, a long-faced Forest Service worker would trailer the stock to the nearest sale barn. It was a sad trip for both packer and pack animal that often ended at the cannery....
Rancher's estate case heading for jury soon After four years of legal wrangling and three months of trial, complete with painful exposure of family conflict and perhaps even more painful enumeration of estate planning documents, the struggle over B.K. Johnson's fortune is coming to a head. Testimony wrapped up Thursday, and both sides Monday will make their final arguments to the jury, which will then have a list of instructions and questions to answer that the lawyers hammered out late into Friday evening in Bexar County Probate Court 1. It won't be simple — almost nothing has been in this struggle between the descendants of King Ranch founders and the Scottish businesswoman Johnson married late in life. It has been a trial of high-powered and highly paid lawyers making vociferous objections and showy interrogations. They've hauled in thousands of documents and entered hundreds into evidence. But the central issue will be this: Did Johnson know what he was doing when he left his progeny out of his will, or was he too damaged by a lifetime of alcohol abuse to resist the alleged undue influence of his wife and advisers? Johnson, known simply as B, was a larger-than-life Texan, a hard-drinking multimillionaire with a big-hearted reputation who met Laura McAllister in 1994, days after the funeral of his second wife, and married her in 1996....
Tradition keeps cowboys at home on the range The scent of bacon streams from an old cast-iron skillet atop a bed of coals. "Biscuits are coming up,” says the chuck wagon cook to a group of sleepy cowboys and cowgirls ready to gather about 50 head of cattle. Somewhere, over a sand hill in this vast western Oklahoma landscape, the cattle communicate in low snorts and grunts as the sun peaks over the sage brush horizon. While many cowboys gather cattle with four-wheelers, running them through a chute and branding with an electric branding iron, out here horses are still the preferred method of gathering and working cattle for several reasons, Knowles cattle rancher Eric Bond said. Cattle here, in the rough and sandy terrain of western Oklahoma, are, many times, gathered in the very pastures in which they have been born. According to many ranchers in this community, this may be the "old way” of doing things, but it is still preferable to newer techniques. "It is just a more quiet and calm way to bring in cattle,” quarter horse trainer Rodney Barby said. "Also, in this area, the terrain keeps some vehicles from getting to the cattle.”....
Two tomes showcase vitality of U.S. ranches The American rancher is alive and well, as even the briefest journey through Oklahoma, Texas or New Mexico will confirm. And though staggering technological advances have significantly improved his lot -- his derriýre now knows the cushioned comfort of leather king-cab seats as well as the more storied cradle of a worn saddle on a quarter horse -- backbreaking labor, ornery cattle, skittish mounts and unpredictable weather remain constants of the trade. Two wonderful new books, one a journal and the other an outsize coffee-table book with gorgeous color photographs, effectively demonstrate just how much this is so. "Riding for the Brand: 150 Years of Cowden Ranching" (Oklahoma, $29.95) by Michael Pettit and "6666: Portrait of a Texas Ranch" (Texas Tech, $45) by Wyman Meinzer and Henry Chappell each nicely paint the modern cowman's life. Pettit, an author and poet who lives in Santa Fe, is a descendent of one of the most prominent ranching families of New Mexico and west Texas, the Cowdens. In "Riding for the Brand," he shares his personal experiences working the family ranch over the years and delves into the origins and growth of the outfit. In "6666: Portrait of a Texas Ranch," Wyman Meinzer and Henry Chappell provide a less personal but visually stunning tour of a Lone Star outfit that dates back to 1870. Meinzer, official photographer of the State of Texas, and Chappell, a novelist and outdoorsman, present all aspects of ranch life at the Four Sixes, from clearing juniper with bulldozers to gathering around sizzling steaks beneath a canvas tent, in breathtaking pictures and clear-as-branch-water prose....
Local rancher lassoes a new opportunity He and partner Dugan Kelly, a professional team roper and fellow Cal Poly student, have started a new organization that Nicholson hopes will give him the money he needs to stay in the ranching business — the Professional Team Ropers Association. Team ropers, often part of rodeos, have never had their own organization to help promote their sport in the way that the Professional Bull Riders Association helped rodeo bull riders. “The Professional Bull Riders Association, started about 15 years ago, just sold to a group of investors,” Nicholson said. “I’m hoping to grow the Team Ropers Association to a national level and do the same thing.” Right now, the expenses involved in competitive roping exceed the prize money, Nicholson said. The partners plan on creating events that assemble the biggest team roping names together, offer big prize money to the contenders, and generate income for themselves through ticket sales. The Professional Team Ropers’ first event will be Aug. 24 at the Paso Robles Event Center. They’ve gathered the best 30 teams in the world for the competition and have garnered enough paying sponsors, from Wrangler Jeans to the Madonna Inn, to award $50,000 in cash prizes for the champion ropers....
Ride for the brand ranch rodeo Ranch rodeo events are meant to emulate or parody real jobs on the ranch. Here are the six events at the Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo, and where they come from. Bronc riding: The most familiar event to non-cowboys, it features a cowboy trying to “ride as ride can” for eight seconds on the back of a bucking horse. In ranch rodeo, cowboys must use a regular working saddle instead of a specialized saddle, and anything goes as far as riding style. Cowboys regularly break young or wild horses on the ranch, and turn them into working partners. Double mugging: A herd of numbered yearlings is held behind a line. A team of three cowboys on horseback is given a number as they approach the herd. They must cut out that animal, drive it across the start line without allowing more than one other animal to cross, and rope it. Then the muggers wrestle the animal to the ground so the third cowboy can tie a rope around its legs. Cowboys are often mobile veterinarians. If one animal has pink eye, for instance, they will separate it, rope it, tie its legs, and administer drugs. Wild-cow milking: A team of four cowboys chases down a wild cow, get her to play nice while they milk her into a longneck bottle, then sprint to the judge. On the ranch, cowboys sometimes must milk wild cows to get colostrum to orphaned calves, or calves whose mothers aren’t lactating. Trailer loading....
Of spurs and scripture Spurs jangled occasionally in this mountain hamlet’s community chapel June 17 as a breeze ruffled bare heads and a horse whinnied in the yard. Christians from near and far came for Buckboard Sunday, an annual event of the Esterbrook Community Church. Laramie Peak stood majestically framed in the small chapel’s picture window. Pastor Harvey Seidel preached to a congregation resting comfortably on pads on hand-hewn log pews. “The old-fashioned way of doing things may be out of date, but the old-fashioned way works,” Seidel said. Buckboard Sunday is definitely old-fashioned. People are encouraged to wear period clothing from the early 1900s and travel down the dirt lane by foot or in a horse-drawn carriage. They bring food to share in a pot-luck lunch. Kids jump around in gunny-sack races and neighbors share friendly words. Community church pastor Kirby Kudlak and the congregation don’t need to advertise Buckboard Sunday much, save for a few posters around town and an announcement in the local newspaper. Word of mouth travels fast in the West, and first-timers quickly become annual attendees, he said. It isn’t fancy. It isn’t staged. It’s simply a scenic Sunday service praising the natural world and the people who make their homes n or their livings n on the land....
Baxter Black: Buy property now, go green later Never was my observation "It's easy to be green when it's not personal" more obvious than today. As population increases and suburbanization encroaches on previously rural countryside, each new settler or squatter must face their own deleterious impact on the environment. Most people do not have the luxury or the desire to buy 90 acres, build a house in the corner, and leave the rest as a prairie dog town. It's easier to buy or build a house on a lot in a development that has already been clear cut and zoned residential. Kiss the prairie dog, coyote, spotted owl, minnow, wetland, and farmer or rancher habitat goodbye. Out of sight, out of mind. When the developer and city council rezoned and annexed the development, they based their decision on what was personal to them: money and tax receipts. For the new homeowner, any "guilt or concern" they might have had over their personal impact is simply out of sight, out of mind. Yet, it is often these same "Now that I've got mine, I draw the line" newcomers that support the stringent, sometimes justified but often frivolous restrictive edicts on others' private property....