Friday, October 26, 2007

Howling for wolves in Albuquerque

During “Wolf Awareness Week” you could ride a bicycle through a gigantic balloon of a red and white wolf. If you entered at the back, you emerged through the beast’s fangs, just like the UNM football team taking the field. Earnest students distributed flyers outside the UNM Student Union Building. Organizers promised to exhibit a live wolf—safely restrained, of course. You could catch film and lecture presentations on the “spirit” of the wolf. You could practice howling any time the spirit moved you. One reason for the festivities, organizers explained, was to confront the caricature of wolves in modern society. But “Wolf Awareness Week” itself came close to caricature, a burlesque of ineffectual environmental activism. It was easy money for enviros. They were guaranteed receptive audiences in the liberal heart of the Albuquerque metropolis. It was a happy frolic for anyone who likes the idea of wolves running around Southwestern New Mexico but doesn’t actually live where the wild things are. Real wolf awareness means facing the fact that reintroduction is not working. After 10 years and 15 million federal dollars—and no telling how many dollars spent by environmental groups—only about 50 wolves roam the Gila National Forest and Arizona borderlands. Wolf hatred has deepened. Steve Pearce, the area’s congressman and perhaps our next U.S. senator, has committed himself to driving wolves out of his district. By now we’ve learned support for wolves increases the farther away you get from them. Opposition builds as you approach ground zero. The wolf whoop-dee-doo took place far from the fires of the controversy. Like the nearest free-roaming wild wolf, the nearest den of wolf haters is 220 miles away in Reserve, the Catron County seat. None of the groups pamphleting the UNM campus distributed literature on the streets of that angry village during Wolf Awareness Week. They didn’t need to. The residents of Catron County are well aware of wolves. They’re walking around scared half the time. A 14-year-old boy reported being backed against a tree by a pack of wolves. Horses and dogs have been killed in front yards. Graphic, although unsubstantiated, accounts of how wolves recently hunted and ate a Canadian man have made their way to local caf├ęs and kitchen tables....
House Votes to Create Six New 'Heritage' Areas The House on Wednesday passed the Celebrating America's Heritage Act (H.R. 1483), which would create new National Heritage Areas, but some critics say the bill "tramples" on personal liberties and property rights. The bill would establish six national heritage areas (NHAs), which are non-federal lands and communities managed privately in conjunction with the National Park Service. It would also provide funding for nine existing NHAs. The six new projects include the Journey Through Hallowed Ground NHA in Maryland and Virginia; Niagara Falls NHA in New York; Muscle Shoals NHA in Alabama; Freedom's Way NHA in Massachusetts and New Hampshire; Abraham Lincoln NHA in Illinois; and Santa Cruz Valley NHA in Arizona. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), lead sponsor of the Santa Cruz Valley NHA, said that NHA designation provides federal recognition and financial support. Through annual congressional appropriations administered by local National Park unit partners, up to $10 million in 50-percent match funding is available to each National Heritage Area over a period of 15 years. But Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), who opposes the bill and in particular the Journey Through Hallowed Ground NHA that runs through his district, said, "All of our nation's founders knew of the intimate connection between personal liberty, taxpayers' interests and property rights. H.R. 1483 tramples over rather than honors these hallowed principles."....
Coast Guard Plans to Set Up Arctic Base A Coast Guard reconnaissance team is heading to the far north this week to scope out a final frontier that is opening up to ship traffic in a warming Arctic climate. The Coast Guard plans to set up an operations base in Barrow as early as next spring to monitor waters now free of ice for longer periods. Weather permitting, a scouting crew on Thursday will fly the 1,183-mile trek from the northernmost U.S. town to the North Pole. "This is a new area for us to do surveillance," said Rear Adm. Arthur E. Brooks, commander of the Coast Guard's Alaska district. "We're going primarily to see what's there, what ships, if any, are up there." Thinning ice has made travel along the northern coast increasingly attractive, said Brooks, who plans to accompany the crew in the C-130 flight. Tankers and even cruise ships are beginning to venture into the domain once traveled only by indigenous hunters and research vessels such as the Coast Guard ice-cutter Healy....
Man told to pay $15K for eagles' deaths The unintentional killing of three eagles will cost a Terry rancher $15,000. U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby on Thursday sentenced Ronald Eugene Tibbetts, 61, to six months of unsupervised probation and ordered him to pay $15,000 restitution. There was no fine. "I made a mistake," Tibbetts told the judge. "I never really thought the whole picture through." Tibbetts asked the judge to consider a smaller restitution amount based on Montana law. "I feel $15,000 is fairly high. I realize this is a federal court issue, but we are in Montana," he said. Tibbetts pleaded guilty in July to one misdemeanor count of illegally killing a migratory bird. Tibbetts admitted that he went after skunks and raccoons with meatballs laced with Furidan, a poison, in 2004 and 2005. The animals ate the meatballs and died. The coyotes ate their carcasses and died. And one mature bald eagle and two immature golden eagles that fed on the coyotes also died. Ostby followed sentencing recommendations in a plea agreement and heard testimony about the value of eagles from Doug Goessman, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Goessman said the agency uses restitution amounts based on information from private organizations on what it costs to rehabilitate sick or injured raptors. An organization the agency has used for years places the value of one immature bald or golden eagle at $5,000; a mature eagle is valued at $10,000 because it is able to reproduce....
Barrasso brings bill to protect Wyoming Range Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., on Thursday introduced long-anticipated legislation that would put 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range off limits to any new energy development and allow existing leases there to be retired. "Today is Wyoming's day, literally," he said in a speech on the Senate floor. "It's a long-awaited day. A day that is special, a day that is as special as the mountain range that this day centers on." The late Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., had planned to introduce similar legislation the week that he died. Under the Wyoming Range Legacy Act of 2007, no additional mining patents or geothermal or mineral leasing, including oil and gas, would be allowed in the 100-mile-long area of the range in western Wyoming....
Grizzlies die at unusually high rates Grizzly bears in the region in and around Yellowstone National Park have suffered unusually high mortality rates so far this year, likely because of a dearth of natural food sources, a researcher said. Chuck Schwartz, leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, said officials tallied 25 known and probable grizzly mortalities. Twenty-two of those mortalities were human-caused, two of the deaths resulted from natural causes, and the cause of one death was undetermined. For every bear that was reported dead, two more deaths likely went unreported, Schwartz said. "This is not a good year for bears, as far as mortality is concerned," Schwartz told a group of wildlife managers and conservationists at the annual meeting of the Yellowstone Grizzly Coordinating Committee on Wednesday. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team is a group of researchers who have monitored grizzlies in Yellowstone since the bears were put on the endangered-species list. It is funded by the U.S. Geological Survey....
The Western Inferno The 2007 forest fire season is ending with a costly bang in Southern California, and it is another record breaker. This year much of the American West was under smoky skies for most of the summer. Even before the California catastrophe, as of October 1st approximately 65,000 fires had burned 8.2 million acres nationwide, destroying 409 homes burned. Seven firefighters lost their lives, to make a total of 113 for the last five years. The United States Forest Service (USFS) has spent roughly $1 billion to fight these fires. Large blazes burned in the South this year, especially in Florida and Georgia, but the majority of these scorched acres were on the Western public lands. The continuing lethal combinations of drought, bark beetle infestations, and heavy fuel loads due to decades of zealous fire suppression and less logging -along with a brutally hot summer-have produced a fire season not unlike the extreme examples seen periodically since the late 1990s, with burned-acreage totals routinely running five to ten million per summer. Six out of the last eight summers are among the ten worst fire seasons recorded since 1960. Forest health also means logging, at least the thinning of crowded tracts that have too many trees per acre. In the last two decades attempts to log national forest lands has brought on much bad behavior from the Green Left and their -- surprise! -- attorneys. Thousands of harassing lawsuits filed over timber sales have produced in the USFS a self described "analysis paralysis", as environmentalists using litigation clog up an already slow bureaucratic process....
The Basics of Wildland Firefighting Using chainsaws, shovels, and Pulaskis, firefighters generally work shifts of 12 to a maximum of 16 hours constructing breaks in the fire's fuel, or "fireline". A fireline is cleared of vegetation down to the mineral soil. Pulaskis were developed by a Forest Service Ranger Ed Pulaski that saved 30 men at the risk of his personal safety in the fires of 1910. The tool named for Ranger Pulaski is an ax on one side and digging hoe on the other. In some suitable areas, bulldozers are used to build fireline with the same purpose of eliminating burnable fuels from the path of the fire. All fireline must be rehabilitated to allow for future vegetation growth. Firefighters also slow the spread of fires using portable pumps leading from water bodies such as streams and lakes to wet down fuels, helicopters to pinpoint drop water on hot spots, airtankers to lay down a line of retardant that slows the fire allowing firefighters to proceed more effectively. Watertenders are tanker trucks that transport water to various parts of the fire. They will water down dusty roads to improve travel safety, refill engines, and add water to portable holding bags called 'pumpkins' because of their orange color that serve as dipping facilities for helicopters. Engines are small trucks equipped with water, pumps, water hose and tools to respond to and support ongoing fire suppression activities....
Study: National forests generally meet sustainable standards A new study says national forests generally meet "green certification" standards for sustainable management to ensure they remain healthy but balancing the demands for logging, recreation and conservation remain a challenge. The 2-year study was conducted to help the U.S. Forest Service decide whether to join private timber companies seeking independent certification of sustainable management practices to boost forest product sales to gren-minded consumers. The Washington, D.C.-based Pinchot Institute for Conservation studied five national forests, including the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon. Overall, the forests rated well for planning, community involvement and for identifying threatened or endangered species. But the study indicated improvement was needed in various areas, including old growth timber management and a backlog of road maintenance.
Federal Government Killing Record Number of Carnivores The federal government is killing record numbers of warm-blooded animals, particularly carnivores, according to agency statistics compiled by Sinapu and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition, the number of federally protected wolves killed has been steadily rising - up six-fold over the past decade - with nearly 300 wolves dispatched last year alone. Wildlife Services, a euphemistically named arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spent $108 million in 2006 to kill more than 1.6 million animals deemed a "nuisance" to ranchers, farmers, and others. That total includes a record number of mammals (207,341) up more than 21% over the previous year, including a record number of animals protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. "We have one arm of the federal government trying to protect wildlife while a different arm is doing its best to eradicate the same animals - how much sense does that make?" asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Our federal government does not have a coherent let alone coordinated wildlife policy." The 2006 Wildlife Service kill totals for mammals were up sharply from previous years:...
Provision in farm bill would shorten time meatpackers own cows The farm bill approved Thursday by the Senate Agriculture Committee would ban meatpackers from owning cattle more than two weeks before slaughter, legislation advocated by Montana and Wyoming lawmakers. The legislation is a priority for High Plains ranchers who own smaller operations and are hoping to stem competition from larger companies. Supporters of the ban have long pushed for the law to prevent large meatpacking companies from having control over cattle for a long period of time. That way, the companies would be forced to pay current market prices for meat. Advocates say meatpackers can manipulate the prices they pay for cattle with “captive supplies,” or stock they own or control through contracts and marketing agreements. They argue that such control lets meatpackers time their purchases, allowing them to save money but also depress prices. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., may offer an additional amendment on the Senate floor that would require packers to have a fixed base price in their contracts and to put contracts up for bid in the open market. Enzi maintains this would prevent the large meatpacking companies from manipulating the base price after the point of sale....
Authorities concerned about mutilation of bulls in E. Idaho
Authorities in eastern Idaho are investigating the deaths of two bulls they say apparently died after first being tranquilized and then having their sexual organs removed. "We come across stuff like this every now and then," said Clark County Sheriff Craig King. "But when they're this close together, it's a concern." Monteview rancher Kyle Stoddard reported the first bull, valued at $2,000, killed on Oct. 16. "I don't know what's going on in the world," Stoddard told the Post Register. "It's really sick that someone would do this." On Sunday, a second sexually mutilated bull was reported at a ranch in Dubois owned by Jim Thomas. King said it appeared both animals were tranquilized first and afterward died of shock, though neither animal was examined by a veterinarian. He said he did not know the reason behind the mutilations, but suspected some type of ritual. Area ranchers are being informed of the incidents....
Mad cattlemen seek compensation for BSE A University of Calgary professor is fighting on behalf of a group of Canadian cattlemen who were adversely affected by the closure of the American border to Canadian beef following a case of BSE on an Alberta ranch May 2003. U of C faculty of law professor Todd Grierson-Weiler, is a leading expert on the North American Free Trade Agreement and international arbitration, is among a team of lawyers who are attempting to use the NAFTA as a mechanism to compensate a group of 120 cattlemen to the tune of no less than $300 million. Within hours of the official announcement that the Alberta cow had tested positive for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow disease, the American border was sealed to all Canadian beef exports. While studies--including a Harvard University BSE Risk Assessment--suggested that the risk to humans was minimal and recommended that the border be reopened, it would be two years before live cattle started moving south again. The provincial government estimated that BSE had cost the cattle industry $7 billion. The CCFT originally formed from a group of Alberta feedlot owners but has grown into a Canada-wide organization. According to their website, the CCFT's two goals are to ensure that the Canada/United States border remains open and to obtain compensation for its members as a result of the arbitrary nature of the border closure....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Extinctions Linked to Hotter Temperatures Whenever the world's tropical seas warm several degrees, Earth has experienced mass extinctions over millions of years, according to a first-of-its-kind statistical study of fossil records. And scientists fear it may be about to happen again — but in a matter of several decades, not tens of millions of years. Four of the five major extinctions over 520 million years of Earth history have been linked to warmer tropical seas, something that indicates a warmer world overall, according to the new study published Wednesday. "We found that over the fossil record as a whole, the higher the temperatures have been, the higher the extinctions have been," said University of York ecologist Peter Mayhew, the co-author of the peer-reviewed research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British journal. Earth is on track to hit that same level of extinction-connected warming in about 100 years, unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed, according to top scientists. A second study, to be presented at a scientific convention Sunday, links high carbon dioxide levels, the chief man-made gas responsible for global warming, to past extinctions....
Global warming to blame for fires, says Harry Reid Is there a political angle to the wildfires raging through Southern California? You betcha – at least according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said global warming is at least partly responsible for the blazes. "One reason why we have the fires in California is global warming," the Nevada Democrat told reporters, emphasizing the need to pass the Democrats' comprehensive energy package. Pressed by astonished reporters on whether he really believed global warming caused the fires, he appeared to back away from his comments, saying there are many factors that contributed to the disaster....
Rush Limbaugh: 'Bring the firefighters home' Using irreverent humor to blast the politicizing of California's wildfires, radio giant Rush Limbaugh today adopted some anti-war logic to call for the firefighters to be brought home. "I think it's time to bring the firefighters home. I think it's time to bring the firefighters out of there – it's just too dangerous," Limbaugh said on his top-rated program, noting the front-line responders were in grave danger. "They're in there on a false premise anyway, that they can put out the fire. We can't win against the fire, folks, just like we can't win in Iraq. So if the liberals want to politicize this, then I ask them to be consistent and admit defeat to the fire, admit we can't beat the fire and get these brave firefighters out of there ... ." Limbaugh's comments come a day after Senate Majority Leader said global warming is at least partly responsible for the blazes....
Officials: Arson Behind Santiago Fire CBS News has learned a task force of agencies, including the FBI, ATF, the Orange County Fire Authority and the California Department of Forestry will announce shortly that the massive Santiago Canyon Fire -- which has caused an estimated $10 million in damage -- is being officially declared an arson, and a $70,000 reward is being offered to find the arsonist. Investigators have identified two separate "points of origin" where they believe the fire was set, CBS News has learned. FBI agents secured the scene to "maintain its integrity." The Santiago Fire has burned about 19,200 acres east of Irvine, officials said, and it is around 30 percent contained. Six homes and eight outbuildings have been destroyed, with another eight homes and 12 outbuildings damaged. Four firefighters have been injured fighting the blaze and about 3,000 people evacuated....
San Bernardino authorities arrest biker for alleged arson A motorcyclist who allegedly set a small fire in a rural foothill area of the San Bernardino Mountains has been booked for investigation of arson. Forty-eight-year-old John Alfred Rund of Hesperia was arrested late Tuesday after authorities followed him to an address on State Route 173. San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Beavers says it's not known if Rund is connected to any of the wildfires that have ravaged Southern California since Sunday. Witnesses allegedly spotted Rund start a fire in brush on State Route 173 south of Arrowhead Lake Road, then leave on a Honda motorcycle. A California Highway Patrol helicopter followed the motorcycle and Rund was arrested.
Arson suspect killed, another arrested Amid worries of new blazes adding to the firestorm already afflicting the region, a man in Hesperia has been arrested on suspicion of arson, and police reported shooting and killing another arson suspect after chasing him out of scrub behind Cal State San Bernardino. Law enforcement officials said today that they didn't know whether either of the men had started any of the more than a dozen large fires that have devastated Southern California in recent days, including the nearby Lake Arrowhead blaze. The brush fire in Hesperia was quickly extinguished by residents. Investigators have said that at least two of the huge wildfires, one in Orange County and the other in Temecula, were the work of arsonists. The confrontation that ended in the shooting death started about 6 p.m. Tuesday when San Bernardino university police spotted a man in a rural area of flood channels and scrub near the campus. University police tried to detain the man, but he got into his car and fled, authorities said. When he began to ram officers' vehicle, they shot him....
Smarter ways to handle fire When the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first approached the coast of Southern California one fine but breezy October day in 1542, he noted plumes of dense smoke rising from the hills and concluded -- correctly as it turned out -- that the land was inhabited. California's Native Americans regularly set fire to the hills above what is now Los Angeles to renew the fresh vegetation they depended on, to clear the land for better hunting and to reduce the chances of being ambushed by enemies in chaparral-cloaked canyons. Once the fires were started, they sat back and watched them burn toward the sea. If Cabrillo had approached the Southern California coast this week, he would have seen the same kinds of plumes of smoke, but he would have found that the current inhabitants have a very different attitude toward fire. When the Spanish took California from its native inhabitants, they at first tried to end the practice of setting land-clearing fires. But eventually they, as well as the Mexican and American ranchers who succeeded them, found that fire filled a useful and in fact necessary role in the oak savannas and on the brushy hillsides....
NASA's Unmanned Aircraft To Aid Firefighting Efforts In Southern California In a bid to help fire fighters battling blaze across Southern California, NASA is flying an unmanned aircraft Wednesday that will provide images of fires from Lake Arrrowhead to as far south as San Diego County near the Mexican border. Equipped with sophisticated infrared imaging equipment, the Ikhana aircraft, a Predator B modified for civil science and research missions, took off from Edwards Air Force Base north of Los Angeles Wednesday morning on a 10-hour mission. Pilots at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center will remotely control the aircraft, which carries a thermal-infrared imaging system capable of seeing through thick smoke to locate fire locations. Incident commanders on the ground can view satellite-transmitted images on real time and allocate firefighting resources accordingly, according to a NASA press release....
BLM halts horse roundups; gov slams funding shift Federal spending restrictions and poor range conditions in Nevada have halted wild horse roundups in Wyoming, drawing the ire of Gov. Dave Freudenthal. The governor sent a letter to BLM officials this week blasting the decision to shift funding for wild horse roundups from Wyoming to Nevada. The BLM notified Freudenthal's office last week it needed to redirect funding from Wyoming to Nevada, as horses there were in danger because of drought and wildfires. "... (W)hile the situation in Nevada may warrant additional resource allocations for horse gathers there, I am hard pressed to see how Wyoming's funding for horse gathers must be sacrificed to address conditions in Nevada," Freudenthal wrote in his letter to Wyoming BLM Director Bob Bennett. "Clearly the 'emergency situation' in Nevada, when read together with the difficult range conditions in Wyoming, lends itself to new dollars being added to the budget instead of shuffling dollars to Nevada, which will, in turn, exacerbate problems in Wyoming."....
Utility agrees to pay rent on riverbeds A Spokane-based utility has agreed to pay Montana $4 million a year in rent to use the state-owned riverbed to generate electricity at its northwest Montana dam and reservoir — a move that narrowly avoided a trial over the matter. Avista Corp., which owns the Noxon Rapids Dam on the Clark Fork River and the Cabinet Gorge Dam just across the border in Idaho, agreed to the settlement Friday, the last business day before a trial began here Monday over the dispute. The agreement means just one company— PPL Montana, the state’s largest private owner of hydroelectric dams — remains a defendant in the ongoing trial. Another dam-owner, PacifiCorp, of Portland, Ore., earlier agreed to pay the state $50,000 in rent for its Bigfork Dam on the Swan River. At issue is whether private owners of dams should pay rent for the state-owned land underneath their hydroelectric dams and the rivers that generate electricity. Attorney General Mike McGrath has argued that utilities are no different from ranchers who use state-owned land to graze cattle. Ranchers pay the state rent for the land and so should the utilities, he has said....
Fugitive Tre Arrow loses bid for review of Canadian extradition order A Canadian appeals court has decided to return Tre Arrow, 1 of the FBI's most-wanted fugitives, to Oregon to face charges related to the firebombing of logging and cement trucks in 2001. The Canadian court determined that evidence against Arrow would convict him in Canada. However, Arrow could appeal and the date of his return is not determined. Arrow, born Michael Scarpitti, contended that guilty pleas by his accused coconspirators came through plea agreements and are unreliable. Arrow was arrested in Canada in 2004 on charges of shoplifting, assault and obstructing a police officer....
Forest Service chief: More blazes like California's on the way U.S. Forest Service chief Gail Kimbell says the nation can expect more wildfires like the ones raging through Southern California as global climate change heats up the world's forests. “Fires are burning hotter and bigger, becoming more damaging and dangerous to people and to property,” Kimbell said Wednesday. “Each year the fire season comes earlier and lasts longer.” Kimbell also warned in a speech to the Society of American Foresters of other effects of global warming on the forests. The meeting drew about 2,000 of the nation's leading natural resource managers and scientists to talk about issues such as ways to balance logging, recreation and conservation. Drier, hotter forests are more vulnerable to invasive species, such as plants like knapweed and kudzu and insects like the mountain pine beetle, Kimbell said....
Feds to hire contractor and new experts to fine-tune owl recovery The Bush administration's plan for saving the northern spotted owl from extinction, which flunked a review by independent scientists, will be turned over to an independent contractor and independent experts for fine-tuning. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will hire an independent contractor to handle the large volume of public comments about the draft plan, and convene three groups of experts to amend it. The team that drew up the plan has been disbanded. The Society for Conservation Biology and the American Ornithologists' Union found that the government did not consider all the best available science, a requirement of the Endangered Species Act, before making room for more logging in old-growth forests. The recovery plan is a lynchpin of plans by the U.S. Bureau of Land management to greatly increase logging in Western Oregon.
Dry days ahead, NMSU study says Researchers at New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico released a new study finding climate change will result in decreased water availability in New Mexico's Rio Grande Basin, cutting the state's water supply and hurting its economy and agriculture. The two researchers, NMSU Agricultural Economics Professor Brian Hurd and UNM Civil Engineering Professor Julie Coonrod, note a wide range of climate models predict warmer weather and a change in precipitation patterns in New Mexico, changes the new study finds will lead to a decrease in water supply ranging from a few percent to one-third in the Rio Grande Basin. Such water supply reductions will have a significant impact on New Mexico's economy. The study used a middle scenario of greenhouse gas emissions growth over the 21st century and examined a wide range of potential changes in temperature and precipitation. "Direct and indirect economic losses are projected to range from $13 million to $115 million by 2030 in the state of New Mexico, and from $21 million to over $300 million by 2080," said Hurd, who has studied climate change and its economic effects for more than a decade. "Traditional agricultural systems and rural communities are most at risk, and may need transitional assistance."....
Senate Asked To Place Moratorium On Further Premise Registration Efforts, Defund NAIS In a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee, R-CALF USA has requested a moratorium on any further premise registration efforts, and also has requested that the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), or any other similar systems under any other name, be defunded at once. “There are just so many questions and issues that must be addressed before reasonable consideration could be given as to whether funding of NAIS should continue at all,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group’s animal health committee. “Does USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) truly have the authority to mandate NAIS under the Animal Health Protection Act,” Thornsberry asked. “We want a thorough study on the legitimate authority and legal ramifications of the program, as well as a complete financial audit of NAIS thus far.” R-CALF USA believes that USDA has used improper and questionable tactics to garner NAIS premise registration numbers....
Schizophrenic U.S. Farm Policy With the 2007 farm bill temporarily stalled in the Senate, this is a good time to reconsider America’s schizophrenic agriculture programs and how they often work at cross-purposes. Consider government subsidies. Under the current farm bill, enacted in 2002, government payments to farmers averaged about $17.5 billion annually from 2003 to 2006. The House-passed 2007 farm bill would cost an additional $286 billion over five years, including both direct payments and other provisions. Politicians claim to be friends of the small “family farmer” but most government payments go to large farms. Half of all U.S. farms receive nothing at all because they don’t grow corn, wheat, cotton and other major crops that qualify for commodity payments. Because most payments are based on a farm’s past production history, they likely have little effect on current commodity prices. But they do cause land prices to be bid up, meaning those who own the most land receive the most benefits. Escalating land prices, in turn, raise the cost of entry into farming, hurting the little guy again. The government responds by offering subsidized farm credit, which provides $3 billion annually in ownership and operating loans to farmers and ranchers who don’t qualify for private loans. These subsidies increase the profitability of farming. This, in turn, encourages more production and results in lower crop and livestock prices....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Go here to see a video of Chairman Rahall responding to an amendment proposed by Representative Pearce during consideration of the mining reform legislation. The Chairman states, “I see no reason – no reason whatsoever – why good public land law should be linked to Gross National Product.” Pearce resonded, " “Frankly, I find that position highly irresponsible. Of course, public policy has an affect on the economy. Hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of investment could be lost to countries like China and India.”

Hope no one out there needs a job.


Making Gold Miners Pay For 135 years, the mines have taken wealth out of the public domain under the protection of the General Mining Law — a let-'er-rip relic of the wild frontier past that allows mines to stake claims on almost any federal land. Since the law's enactment in 1872, the U.S. government has given away more than $245 billion in mineral reserves through patenting or royalty-free mining, says Rep. Nick Rahall, the West Virginia Democrat who is behind the new bill. Compare that, he says, to the $35 billion the Treasury has reaped from coal, oil and gas produced on federal lands between 1994 and 2001 alone. "So with that scenario," says Rahall, "we are indeed Uncle Sucker." Rahall's bill would require companies to make royalty payments on "net-smelter" profits from ore mined off federal claims. Two-thirds of those collections would go toward remediation of the $32 billion in environmental mining damage already incurred in the U.S., and one-third to help local communities adversely affected by mining operations. Though his original bill called for an 8% royalty (in contrast, companies that lease federal lands to produce crude oil, natural gas and surface-mined coal pay the government a royalty of 12.5% of the current market value of the commodity), in a recent amendment, Rahall suggested restricting the fee to new mines, and exempting existing mining operations — a move that frustrated environmental groups. After a committee vote taken last Thursday, the bill would instead oblige existing mines to pay lower royalties of 4%; new mines, 8%....
Key House Committee Passes Mining Law Rewrite A key House committee has passed legislation rewriting the antiquated General Mining Law of 1872 to impose the first federal royalties on hard-rock mining. The bill passed the House Natural Resources Committee on a vote of 23-15 and now goes to the full House. It would impose royalties of 4 percent of gross revenue on existing hard-rock mining operations, and royalties of 8 percent of gross revenue on new mining operations. The mining industry says the royalties are too high, but the committee rejected an amendment by Congressman Dean Heller of Nevada -- the nation's biggest gold-mining state -- to impose a lower amount. The legislation is opposed by the Bush administration. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada opposes royalties for existing mining operations and says he's working on his own bill.
Company hoping to mine uranium A Casper firm seeking to mine uranium deposits in Campbell County expects to file state and federal permits by the end of the year and perhaps begin production by 2011. "We're hoping to get a permit to construct and operate an in situ recovery uranium permit," Glenn Catchpole, president and CEO of Uranerz Energy Corp., said. "We'd employ between 60 and 70 people." Uranerz is one of two companies expected to file permits with the state Department of Environmental Quality in the coming weeks for operations in Campbell County. Energy Metals, a subsidiary of Uranium One, has already filed a permit with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build an in situ recovery facility in Campbell County. "In situ" means that the ore would be processed on the site. Both projects would inject water and chemicals into rock formations to extract uranium from what are known by geologists as "roll fronts" of uranium. Roll fronts are essentially small deposits of uranium left behind by underground streams over millions of years, said Paul Michalak, a project manager for uranium recovery licensing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The in situ process brings the uranium out of ore deposits in concentrated forms that can be sold to power producers....
Wilderness vs. energy: battle brews over pipeline A proposal to build a pipeline through 8.3 miles of inventoried roadless areas is spawning a battle that cuts to the heart of the conflict between wilderness campaigns and America’s energy industry. Environmental and hunting groups have teamed up to oppose a proposed pipeline that would cut a permanent 50-foot swath through three roadless areas, Clear Creek, Bald Mountain and East Willow, all southwest of Carbondale in the White River National Forest and Grand Mesa, Uncompaghre and Gunnison National Forests. Roadless areas are the necessary precursor to wilderness designation by Congress, a goal of some of the environmental groups that argue that building a new pipeline would be illegal under what is known as the Clinton rule, a law against building new roads in inventoried roadless areas. “The Clinton roadless rule prohibits the construction of roads even if they are temporary,” said Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop. “Not only is it illegal, it’s bad landscape ecology planning. You don’t bifurcate large wildlife corridors with disturbances like this.” The joint proposal for the 25.5 mile pipeline comes from a Dallas company, SG Interests and Gunnison Energy, a subsidiary of the Oxbow Corporation. “The pipeline right-of-way is not a road, it is considered a right-of-way,” said Brad Robinson, president of Gunnison Energy....
Canary in the coal industry The stunning rejection last week of a proposed coal-fired power plant by Kansas regulators was a watershed moment. And it's not just because it's the first time a plant was nixed solely because of the greenhouse gases it was projected to emit. The rejection crystallizes the very difficult choices that will have to be made as the world attempts to wean itself of cheap coal-fired electricity and get a handle on carbon dioxide emissions. In Colorado, we'll have a front-row seat to the drama. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, based in Westminster, is a partner in the $3.6 billion Kansas project that was denied. The electrical cooperative was counting on power from the project in Holcomb, Kan., to play a big role during the next two decades in providing power for its members, which include 19 systems in Colorado. The electricity generated by the coal-fired plants would have provided energy for rural Colorado, where a large portion of users are industrial or agricultural. That's important because while residential users tend to push up use at key times, like late afternoon, commercial customers have a more steady demand....
Panel Urges Global Shift on Sources of Energy Energy experts convened by the world’s scientific academies yesterday urged nations to shift swiftly away from coal and other fuels that are the main source of climate-warming greenhouse gases and to provide new energy options for the two billion people who still mostly cook in the dark on wood or dung fires. In a report commissioned by the governments of China and Brazil, the 15 experts called for, at a minimum, a doubling of both public and private energy research budgets and a firm — and rising — price on emissions of greenhouse gases to encourage a shift in investments toward cleaner or more efficient technologies. The report, “Lighting the Way — Toward a Sustainable Energy Future,” was posted online at www.interacademycouncil.net by the InterAcademy Council, a group representing the world’s 150 scientific and engineering academies. Bruce M. Alberts, a former president of the United States National Academy of Sciences and a co-chairman of the InterAcademy Council, said the independent academies would now press the case for their proposals with their respective governments....
American hunter is a vanishing breed States that rely on tens of millions of dollars in hunting license fees annually to pay for environmental conservation are trying to boost a population they had never thought of protecting: the endangered American hunter. The number of hunters has slid from a peak of 19.1 million in 1975 to 12.5 million last year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With that drop has come worries that states won't be able to pay for the rising costs of conservation efforts and acquisition of open space. States generated $724 million last year through hunting licenses and fees for wildlife management and conservation; taxes on guns and ammunition added another $267 million, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Sportsmen pay the bills, especially east of the Mississippi," says Rob Sexton, vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, a hunters advocacy group in Columbus, Ohio. "A vast majority of the public land where people go for walks, wildlife viewing or mountain biking, the vast majority is bought by sportsmen." To stem the loss, states have been altering hunting laws to get people into the woods. Since 2004, 18 states have changed their laws to loosen restrictions on when children can hunt with parents, and to allow novice adult hunters to try hunting without a license, Sexton says. The effort has shown signs of working, Sexton says: The states have seen an additional 35,000 people apply for hunting licenses since 2004....
GAO

Measuring Our Nation's Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability: Highlights of a Forum Jointly Convened by the Comptroller General of the United States and the National Academy of Science. GAO-08-127SP, October 24.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-127SP

Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08127sphigh.pdf
PRESS RELEASE 10/23/2007

Progressive plan for preserving and enhancing 302,000 acres of federal land in Dona Ana County released by citizen's group.

An alternative plan to preserve and protect federal lands in Dona Ana County and around Las Cruces, New Mexico has been released by People For Preserving Our Western Heritage. The draft legislation will be submitted to Senators Pete Domenici, Jeff Bingaman and Congressman Steve Pearce following its review by local governmental entities, interested groups and individuals.

The core of the draft legislation establishes unique protected areas that, "maintain and preserve open spaces" and also accommodate established uses such as ranching, recreation and hunting. The categories being proposed include Special Preservation Areas (SPA's) and Rangeland Preservation Areas (RPA's).

According to PPWH co-chairman, Tom Cooper, the plan carefully addresses all the concerns that have been raised without creating federally-controlled wilderness areas. "We know a federal wilderness designation is an oppressive land management mandate that locks up the land forever without consideration for any long-term evolvement," Cooper said. "This new plan provides protection for vast amounts of open space while factoring in the current land use realities and it doesn't put families out of business."

Under the proposed legislation the following federal lands totaling 302,000 acres are protected:

1. The Dona Ana Mountains Special Preservation Area.

2. Picacho Peak Special Preservation Area.

3. The Organ Mountains Rangeland Preservation Area.

4. The Las Uvas Mountains Watershed and Rangeland Preservation Area.

5. The Robledo Mountains Watershed and Rangeland Preservation Area.

6. The Potrillo National Security and Rangeland Preservation Area.

Cooper says these new areas would be provided the preservation effect of federal "wilderness" but without the oppressive rules and regulations that have become a major drawback to such proposals. The plan proposed by PPWH also calls for the "full protection" of the Dona Ana Mountains and Picacho Peak, "from development by withdrawal from all forms of entry, appropriation or disposal under the public land, mining and geothermal leasing laws."

The Preservation Areas were established to protect lands while encompassing "the spirit and stewardship of local control" and providing for "abundant, permanent open space."

Tom Mobley, PPWH co-chairman, said the proposed legislation addresses the fact that most areas proposed for wilderness designation in Dona Ana County do not remotely fit the stringent criteria for such designations as set forth in the Wilderness Act of 1964. "It is our intent to preserve these lands in question while also taking into account the historical significance of the healthy soil and plant community, wildlife, livestock and the social fabric of this county," Mobley said.

He pointed out that the federal lands in the plan will never be sold or exchanged for development. In addition, Mobley said that with few exceptions, "motorized vehicles will be confined to roads designated under the management plan of the area." Another tenet of the proposal addresses concerns about expanded flood control, off channel storage and future water supplies which would not be allowed under a federal wilderness designation.

The Potrillo National Security and Rangeland Preservation Area focuses on the expert opinions of law enforcement officials regarding border security. The concern is that a wilderness designation along the U.S./Mexico border would, "constitute an amplified national security threat."

"We have made a serious effort to include the concerns of all the stakeholders with this proposed legislation. It is aimed at retention of open space, flood control, border security, continued public access, protection of historic ranching operations, wildlife and rangeland health all wrapped up in a package that is true to the fidelity of historic wilderness concepts," Cooper said.

To review and comment on the complete legislative plan, executive summary and associated map, log on to the website: www.peopleforwesternheritage.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wolf meetings planned The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency that oversees all endangered species issues, including the controversial Mexican gray wolf reintroduction in the Gila National Forest, will host a series of 12 public scoping meetings beginning next month that may very well determine the overall direction of the wolf reintroduction. Those meetings will be held in numerous places, including Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Cruces, Grants, Alamogordo and Albuquerque, that are hundreds of miles away from the closest free-roaming wolf. And they will be held in hamlets, such as Glenwood, and Alpine and Hon-Dah, Ariz., that, while close to the wolf-recovery area, are very small and remote. But the only large town that can legitimately be described as part of the wolf recovery area Silver City which has neighborhoods with more people than Alpine and Glenwood combined and which has beaucoup residents who pass wolf signs every time they go for a backcountry hike will not host one of the public-scoping meetings. Ironically, Ty Bays, a long time local rancher who serves as the Southwest Regional vice-president for the New Mexico Cattlegrowers' Association, feels that Silver City may have been left off the public-scoping meeting itinerary because of its anti-wolf perception among USFWS personnel. "I think they left Silver City off because the Grant County Commissioners sent a resolution to Fish and Wildlife saying that the federal government needs to pay ranchers for livestock losses due to wolves," Bays said. "I think the decision is political, but it doesn't really matter. We'll make the drive to Glenwood for the meeting there." A spokesperson for USFWS said accusations that Silver City was left off the public-scoping itinerary had nothing to do with the town's perceived liberal, pro-wolf-recovery bias....
1873: Farmer from Illinois invents barbed wire There is an old adage that says, “Change begins at the ballot box,” which could not be further from the truth. Change begins with human ingenuity, which affects how we live our lives, which — at some future point — affects how we vote. A perfect example is the invention that Joseph Glidden, an Illinois farmer, patented this week (Oct. 27) in 1873. He called it barbed wire because, unlike the single-strand fencing wire then in existence, Glidden used two strands of wire twisted together, which resulted in what Glidden called “barbed” wire spurs. Not only was barbed wire stronger, but also Glidden’s design proved to be conducive to mass production, meaning barbed wire became plentiful and inexpensive. Which changed the American landscape forever. Suddenly farmers and ranchers had an affordable way to fence their property, and by 1880 Glidden’s Barb Fence Co. — which he had formed in 1875 — had sold more than 80 million pounds of barbed wire. As one rancher wrote of Glidden’s invention, “It takes no room, exhausts no soil, shades no vegetation, is proof against high winds, makes no snowdrifts and is both durable and cheap.”....
Remembering the cowboys There’s no doubt that Anita Witt, 68, has an affinity for the cowboy culture. In her youth, Witt trained horses and performed as a trick rider on the rodeo circuit. Although she’s no longer a trick rider, she has taught her horses, Whiskey and Jose Cuervo; and her cow-dog, Spanky, to do some entertaining tricks. They go on the road for special shows at children’s hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and private parties. Raised on the music of Hank Williams and Ernest Tubbs, she also sings old-time western songs, including some cowboy yodeling. Witt also a historian, with a fascination for this country’s cowboy past. A part-time resident of the Roaring Fork Valley, Witt recognized a need to document the history of the local ranching community. She spent six years interviewing real-life cowboys from the Roaring Fork Valley and northern Eagle County, including the late Burns ranchers Orris and Joe Albertson. In 2002, she authored the book “I Remember One Horse ... Last of the Cowboys in the Roaring Fork Valley and Beyond.” Local ranchers were generous in sharing their history; and often those stories focused on a favorite horse or dog....
Is nuclear power's comeback for real? We all know that $30-a-barrel oil isn't coming back, just as we know that simply turning off a few lights won't halt global warming. Yet the search for a low-emission, nonfossil-fuel source of energy has been a bit like American Idol: One after another, fresh-faced alternative-energy-rock-star wannabes are eliminated. Wind and solar are nice and clean—but the sun doesn't work 24/7, and the wind is fickle. Ethanol offers politicians the irresistible combination of grow-your-own energy independence and the potential to make Iowa primary voters rich. But because it's corrosive and soluble in water, it's hard to transport ethanol over long distances through pipelines. And to raise a crop sufficient to meet our gasoline thirst, we'd have to plant the entire continental United States with maize, leaving only a small corner of Delaware for bedrooms and a den. As contestants are eliminated, it's worth looking at the geezer in the bunch: nuclear power. Last month, nearly 50 years after the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania became the first commercial power plant to go online, the New Jersey-based utility NRG filed papers seeking permission to build a nuclear power plant in Texas. This represents the first such new application since 1979....
The Future Is Drying Up Scientists sometimes refer to the effect a hotter world will have on this country’s fresh water as the other water problem, because global warming more commonly evokes the specter of rising oceans submerging our great coastal cities. By comparison, the steady decrease in mountain snowpack — the loss of the deep accumulation of high-altitude winter snow that melts each spring to provide the American West with most of its water — seems to be a more modest worry. But not all researchers agree with this ranking of dangers. Last May, for instance, Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the United States government’s pre-eminent research facilities, remarked that diminished supplies of fresh water might prove a far more serious problem than slowly rising seas. A report by the National Academies on the Colorado River basin had recently concluded that the combination of limited Colorado River water supplies, increasing demands, warmer temperatures and the prospect of recurrent droughts “point to a future in which the potential for conflict” among those who use the river will be ever-present....
Mining claims near wilderness areas in state seen as threat More than 21,300 mining claims have been staked within 10 miles of California's national parks and monuments and federal wilderness and roadless areas, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Land Management records released Monday. The claims, which have risen by more than one-third in the last four years, include more than 2,170 staked outside Death Valley National Park, 525 near Joshua Tree National Park and 285 outside Yosemite National Park. There are also 41 near the Giant Sequoia National Monument. "If just a handful of these thousands of claims already staked turn into major mines, it could have devastating impacts on California's national treasures," said Dusty Horwitt, public lands analyst at the Environmental Working Group, the Washington-based nonprofit that issued the report. In California and across the West, mining claims have skyrocketed in the last five years, driven by a boom in the global price of gold, copper, uranium and other metals. The rising demand, particularly from China and other developing nations, has spurred interest in reopening abandoned mining sites....
Rep. Simpson Seeks Special Grazing For Fire-Riddled Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, is the leader of a bi-partisan group of 40 House members seeking extra wildfire and drought disaster help from the House Appropriations Committee. But Simpson has also made some dramatic suggestions about grazing policies for public lands that run counter to modern grazing and wildfire science. He’s joined in a straightforward disaster assistance effort by 39 congressmen and women from neighboring states, such as Barbara Cubin, R-Wyoming, Dennis Rehberg, R-Montana, Stephanie Sandlin, D-South Dakota and John Salazar, D-Colorado. The coalition asked for extensions on livestock and crop disaster aid programs, to accommodate growers who’ve been hammered by this summer’s drought and wildfires. Yet Simpson has gone much further, asking the Committee in a September letter to consider provisions that would allow ranchers to better utilize grazing lands unaffected by fires and a provision that would ensure cattle were allowed back on some fire-impacted lands as early as next year, rather than giving the range a two-year rest. In addition, Simpson alerted the Committee to his desire to explore the possibility of promoting a pilot program on some fire-impacted Idaho lands that would permit the use of grazing as a fuels reduction management tool in the rehabilitation toolbox. Simpson also recommended the use of non-native grass species on wildfire rehab projects, to aid livestock grazers....Go here(pdf)to read the letter.
Ranchers helping protect Montana from wildfires It's that time of the year again when ranchers are busy rounding up cattle and a special partnership between federal land managers and ranchers is helping ease the risk of fire while boosting the economy in Montana. Cattle are scattered over thousands of miles of U.S. National Forest lands and rounding them up is far from easy with the terrain being so rough that the job can only be done on horseback. Allowing cattle to graze in national forests and grasslands creates good income for ranchers and provides tax benefits to the local county and state governments and Jim Wickel a Regional Rangeland Program Manager says it also promotes the concept of open space. While some environmental groups are critical of grazing on federal timber lands U.S. Forest Service managers say cattle grazing helps because cows eat up fire fuels and thin the forest which reduces the risk of wildfires....
240 grizzlies estimated to be in Glacier park area A study of grizzly bears in and around Glacier National Park estimates 240 of the bears live in a 2 million acre area. "It's the first really rigorous population estimate for that area," said Kate Kendall, a West Glacier-based research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, who led the study. The Greater Glacier area includes the 1.1 million-acre national park plus 900,000 acres of surrounding grizzly habitat, including the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and lands west of Glacier to U.S. Highway 93. Researchers estimated the population by collecting bear hairs in 1998 and 2000 and analyzing the DNA in each strand. The estimate is important because grizzly recovery efforts can't be measured without reliable population figures, Kendall said. "This is the first baseline information we have to monitor future trends," Kendall said....
Chertoff Waives Environmental Laws for Border Fence Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Monday invoked his power to bypass certain laws to restart construction of a fence on the Arizona-Mexico border. Chertoff's action allows construction to go forward on about seven miles of fence in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area near Naco, Ariz. Work on nearly two miles of the fence had been suspended since Oct. 10, when a federal district judge ordered a delay on its construction. She ruled the federal government did not fully study the environmental impact of the fence. Congress gave Chertoff the power to waive environmental and other laws to build border barriers when it passed the REAL ID Act in 2005. This is the third time Chertoff has used the waiver power. He also used it Sept. 22, 2005 to finish building 14 miles of fence in San Diego, and on Jan. 19 for fencing in the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range in Arizona. A few of the environmental laws waived are the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act. Chertoff also waived conservation laws, such as the National Historic Preservation Act and the Antiquities Act....
Much BLM timberland tied up in lawsuits The Rogue River-Siskyou National Forest sold and awarded some 50.4 million board feet of timber in the 2007 federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. None of the timber, which fell just short of the forest's targeted annual 54 million board foot sales quantity under the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, were litigated or appealed, officials reported. In comparison, it's a different story with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District, which was aiming at selling some 57 million board feet, but offered and sold 15.18 million board feet in that period. However, it also offered and sold another 8.67 million that were "reoffer" sales held over from previous years. But only 5.3 million board feet of the BLM district's timber sold in the 2007 fiscal year is available for harvest, said district spokesman Jim Whittington. "The reason is that the rest is tied up because of lawsuits," he said, noting that includes lawsuits against the BLM or other regulatory agency with a connection to that particular sale. The difference between the two agencies is that the forest staff now focuses on selling small-diameter trees while the BLM district continues to push old-growth timber, said George Sexton, conservation director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland....
Feds weigh drinking water vs. mussels In what might be hopeful words for a drought-parched metro Atlanta, a regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said there is "much flexibility" to provide drinking water for people and still comply with the Endangered Species Act. But Alabama's governor on Monday asked President Bush not to take emergency drought actions requested by Georgia, saying they would be "to the detriment of people who live and work downstream in Alabama." Also Monday, federal biologists waded in Florida's Apalachicola River, assessing what it would take to keep endangered and threatened mussels alive if less water is released upstream at Lake Lanier. Georgia has demanded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers keep more water in Lanier to meet the needs of metro Atlanta during the deepening drought. Already, the corps says, the Fish and Wildlife Service has authorized the corps to allow some of the rainwater feeding Lanier to stay there, a key step toward helping the depleted lake recover. The Fish and Wildlife Service is prepared to work "quickly" on reviewing how much water the mussels can live with, Hamilton wrote....The ESA has "flexibility"? The USFWS will move "quickly"? Are the ranchers and others in the recovery area of the Mexican Wolf aware of this? Nope. The Gov't is going all out to make sure the general public in high population areas don't feel the full brunt of the act. That's a lot of votes, and the ESA itself might become endangered.
Animal law is key to water fight A famous Georgia lawyer learned the hard way how implacable the 1973 Endangered Species Act can be. At the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978, U.S. Attorney General Griffin B. Bell held up a vial holding a snail darter and argued that the tiny fish should not stop the completion of the Tellico Dam in Tennessee. A couple of months later, Chief Justice Warren Burger acknowledged for a 6-3 majority that it seemed “curious … that the survival of a relatively small number of three-inch fish among all the countless millions of species extant would require the permanent halting of a virtually completed dam for which Congress has expended more than $100 million.” But, he added, “the explicit provisions of the Endangered Species Act require precisely that result.” That case, TVA v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, and subsequent decisions are what allow federal officials to release water from drought-depleted Lake Lanier, even though the state says it has just three months left of storage to quench the thirst of millions of Georgians. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, sends the water downstream to protect the habitat of four endangered species—fat threeridge, purple bankclimber and chipola slabshell mussels and Gulf sturgeon—living in the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay of Florida....
Earth to PETA At lunchtime in late September, on a relatively untraveled stretch of sidewalk outside the U.S. State Department, demonstrators from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals attempted to catch the attention of, well, anyone. Inside the building, Condoleezza Rice was trying to convince world leaders that the U.S. was serious about global warming; outside, two PETA members handed out fliers featuring a photo of Paul McCartney. "Think you can be a meat-eating environmentalist?" it read. "Think again!" Two other protesters, dressed in chicken suits, displayed a green and chartreuse banner: "CliMEAT Change," it read. "Meat: #1 cause of global warming." Undaunted, PETA protesters, in October, drove a truck-mounted billboard around venues in Austin, Texas, and Denver, where Al Gore lectured about climate change. It featured a caricature of the Nobel laureate, potbellied and brandishing a partially eaten poultry drumstick. "Too Chicken to Become Vegetarian?" the billboard taunted Gore, and concluded, again: "Meat Is the #1 Cause of Global Warming." The Humane Society of the United States, good cop to PETA's bad, has mounted its own effort to link livestock to global warming. Along with PETA, it advocates eliminating animal products from our diets, implying that all of these products -- meat, dairy and eggs -- are equally destructive. But that's just not the case. "If you want to look at this globally," says Steinfeld, "beef is absolutely the worst."....
Rural vets are a dying breed So when Farr and other older rural veterinarians hear about today's aspirants carrying $100,000 in student loans and refusing to come out to the country because the work's too hard or complain the pay is not what they'd make at a fancy urban animal ER, they get a little testy. Their ire centers on their alma mater, Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. They say the school needs to take a more active role in its admissions process, looking beyond grade point averages and do what it can to attract more rural students who would more likely return to small towns but may not have the grades of their suburban counterparts. "There's tremendous hostility among the old guys (against A&M)," Farr said. In the past five years, a hot topic among veterinarians has been the apparent unwillingness of the new breed to treat large animals, i.e. livestock. It's forced rural vets to compete furiously for the few graduates willing to take on the 24-7 life of a large- or mixed-animal practice in a small town, a job that pays far less than a small-animal practice in a city....

Monday, October 22, 2007

State to sue feds over emission law California plans to sue the Bush administration next week to demand action on the state's request to restrict greenhouse emissions from cars and trucks. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office says the state has waited too long for a decision from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. California wants to start implementing a 2002 state law that limits auto emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming. But it needs EPA's approval because the statute is stricter than federal clean-air standards. California requested federal permission to enforce the state law in December 2005. California's auto emissions law is a model for similar statutes passed in 11 other states.
City pushes national park status When out-of-towners visit Brian LoPinto, the Empire State Building isn't the first place he takes them. Instead, his sightseeing excursions begin in his hometown, at the 77-foot waterfalls that pound into the Passaic River and once brought this faded industrial hub power and glory. "I take them off Route 19 … and then all of a sudden you bear to the right, go into the parking lot and there's this beautiful piece of nature that God created," says LoPinto, 29, who grew up a few blocks from the towering falls. "It's majestic. That's the one place I go to whenever I want to gather my thoughts." Overshadowed only by Niagara, the Great Falls are the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River based on width and volume, an unexpected pocket of natural splendor in the heart of a city better known in recent years for poverty and crime than pastoral respites. Now twin efforts are underway to create a state and national park around the falls that officials say would provide badly needed open space for residents, become a magnet for development and burnish the frayed image of New Jersey's third most populous city. The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote late today on legislation to create a national park around the falls. A similar bill is currently before a Senate committee. In addition, the state has set aside $10 million for the first phase of turning it into a state park....
At the Poles, Melting Occurring at Alarming Rate For scientists, global warming is a disaster movie, its opening scenes set at the poles of Earth. The epic already has started. And it's not fiction. The scenes are playing, at the start, in slow motion: The relentless grip of the Arctic Ocean that defied man for centuries is melting away. The sea ice reaches only half as far as it did 50 years ago. In the summer of 2006, it shrank to a record low; this summer the ice pulled back even more, by an area nearly the size of Alaska. Where explorer Robert Peary just 102 years ago saw "a great white disk stretching away apparently infinitely" from Ellesmere Island, there is often nothing now but open water. Glaciers race into the sea from the island of Greenland, beginning an inevitable rise in the oceans. Animals are on the move. Polar bears, kings of the Arctic, now search for ice on which to hunt and bear young. Seals, walrus and fish adapted to the cold are retreating north. New species -- salmon, crabs, even crows -- are coming from the south....
U.S. warms to the Earth's 'untapped potential' The federal government has been sending teams to the geysers and lava fields of Iceland in recent weeks to search for ways to reduce U.S. dependence on coal and oil. Their answer might lie deep under Iceland's black rocks, where hot water percolates from the heat of the earth's internal movements — and provides 72 percent of the island nation's energy. Members of Congress and officials from the Energy Department have been taking tours of the Hitaveita Sudurnesja geothermal plant outside the capital, Reykjavik. "The workers here, they're always learning bit by piece," said plant manager Thordur Andresson as he talked about the growth of Iceland's geothermal energy industry. "We can do it everywhere with our knowledge." Mr. Andresson swung his right arm upward to describe steam rising from holes drilled into caves to power the turbines for his electricity-generating plant, which droned away behind him....
Wood in short supply for music instruments Behind a violin's soaring notes or a guitar's chime are fine woods vibrating along with plucked or bowed strings. Orchestras, bands and parlor pickers for two centuries have enjoyed affordable instruments made from the finest tone woods cut from old-growth forests. The best tone woods are becoming unavailable or prohibitively expensive as the world's forests succumb to overharvesting, illegal logging and pollution. "Most people don't realize the situation with wood," said Anton Krutz, a violinmaker in Merriam, Kan. "We give tours of our shop, and I find even advanced players are not cognizant of this." The instrument business will adapt with other woods or synthetics and survive, experts said. But as fine woods for clarinets, guitars and violin bows dwindle, price increases could make fine instruments unaffordable for many musicians....
Wis. city bans archery in Archery Park The city's Archery Park may need a name change. How about No-Archery Park? Tom Draper was surprised recently when he found a sign that cited a city ordinance prohibiting bows and arrows. "Several archers that I've talked to are kind of in disbelief," Draper said, who along with his bowhunting friends have practiced archery at the park for more than 20 years. The park is next to the Eau Claire River, and the city had developed earthen berms and even an archery tower for deer hunters to practice shooting from a platform. Wooded hillsides helped provide barriers to arrows flying out of the park, but it wasn't enough, Parks Superintendent Phil Johnson said. The park was closed to archery in September after a neighbor complained of finding an arrow in his yard, Johnson said. It was the latest of several similar complaints from neighbors over 15 years or more, he said....
FLE

Dragonfly or Insect Spy? Scientists at Work on Robobugs Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month. "I heard someone say, 'Oh my god, look at those,' " the college senior from New York recalled. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects." Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too. "I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' " That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security. No agency admits to having deployed insect-size spy drones. But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying. Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely....
Sheriff's border unit makes presence felt "We're the new kids on the block," said Sgt. James Murphy, who heads the six-deputy unit, formerly known as Safe Streets. In four months, deputies have become accustomed to the hair-raising dashes through the desert - in one recent nine-hour shift, there were two - and they can even steer with their knees while listening to the dispatcher and checking for updates on their laptops. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he created the Border Crime Unit in response to a series of high-profile rip-offs in which bandits stalked and attacked smugglers for their loads of people or drugs. "We had five homicides in a few months. When it started happening near Green Valley - near a retirement community - it was clear we had to do something," Murphy said. Drug loads are often worth more than $500,000, and smugglers usually are paid about $2,000 per load, Murphy said. That ups the ante on what people are willing to do to get away. Dupnik said each year the county spends about 10 percent of its budget, or $11 million, dealing with border-related crime, which the county defines as any crime involving illegal immigrants....
Drug smugglers using official Texas vehicles Since 2005, federal and state law enforcement officials have known drug smugglers were using fake Texas Department of Transportation vehicles to haul their cargo all over the Lone Star State. But, more than two years later, and despite a major prosecution of the 11 people involved in the scam by Johnny Sutton of the U.S. attorney's office – the official known for handing two Border Patrol agents jail sentences of more than 10 years apiece – the fraudulent trucks are still being found carrying their illicit loads. In August, Texas state troopers found one of the fake trucks in East Texas carrying 1,000 pounds of marijuana. The truck had a TxDOT logo on the door, but reflective stripes on the side of the vehicle were slightly different from official trucks....
Las Vegas becoming a security lab This city, famous for being America's playground, has also become its security lab. Like nowhere else in the United States, Las Vegas has embraced the twin trends of data mining and high-tech surveillance, with arguably more cameras per square foot than any airport or sports arena in the country. Even the city's cabs and monorail have cameras. As the U.S. government ramps up its efforts to forestall terrorist attacks, some privacy advocates view the city as a harbinger of things to come. In secret rooms in casinos across Las Vegas, surveillance specialists are busy analyzing information about players and employees. Relying on thousands of cameras in nearly every cranny of the casino, they evaluate suspicious behavior. They ping names against databases that share information with other casinos, sometimes using facial-recognition software to validate a match. What happens in Vegas does indeed stay in Vegas -- for a lot longer than most patrons realize....
Tomato Juice Spill Causes Long Lines At LaGuardia Tempers grew short at LaGuardia Airport Saturday. The American Airlines terminal was brought to a near-standstill because of an equipment malfunction, but it was the reason for the malfunction that really had people fuming. People were welcomed to Terminal D of LaGuardia Airport with a line so long, it was difficult to tell where it began, or where it ended - all because someone spilled tomato juice on an x-ray machine. When CBS 2 HD told one woman the reason for the delays, she asked if we were "kidding," but it was no joke. The Transportation Safety Administration confirmed the spill knocked out one of the five units that screen thousands of passengers here each day. "That's insane," said Dallas bound passenger Pat Jones. "That shouldn't be our problem, should it?" But it was. Few could believe that a major airline terminal could be thrown into chaos by such a simple problem. "It makes one very sad and very worried," said Bonnie Schmitta. The line to screen passengers stretched down the length of several city blocks, yet a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Administration shrugged off the incident, saying: "That's the risk you take when you deal with technology."....Aren't you glad we made all these folks Federal employees?
Maize Mini-chromosomes Can Add Stacks of Functional Genes to Plants A new method of constructing artificial plant chromosomes from small rings of naturally occurring plant DNA can be used to transport multiple genes at once into embryonic plants where they are expressed, duplicated as plant cells divide, and passed on to the next generation -- a long-term goal for those interested in improving agricultural productivity. In the October 19, 2007, issue of PLoS-Genetics, a team of academic and commercial researchers show that their "maize mini-chromosomes" (MMC) can introduce an entire "cassette" of novel genes into a plant in a way that is structurally stable and functional. Early results, the study authors say, "suggest that the MMC could be maintained indefinitely." "This appears be the tool that agricultural scientists, and farmers, have long dreamed of," said Daphne Preuss, PhD, professor of molecular genetics and cell biology at the University of Chicago and chief scientific officer and president of Chromatin, Inc., the makers of the MMCs. "This technology could be used to increase the hardiness, yield and nutritional content of crops," she said. "It could improve the production of ethanol or other biofuels. It could enable plants to make complex biochemicals, such as medicines, at very little expense." It could also "cut one to two years out of any new transgenic project," said Preuss, who is taking a leave of absence from the University to bring this technology into the marketplace. "You get a better product faster, which saves time, reduces costs, and frees up resources."....
NEWS ROUNDUP

Perdue declares state of emergency due to drought Gov. Sonny Perdue declared a state of emergency in most of Georgia on Saturday, and called on President Bush to recognize that the historic drought had created a disaster for 85 counties. In a defiant plea Saturday at Lake Lanier, Perdue asked Bush to issue a federal disaster designation that would: • Empower the president to order less water released from Lake Lanier. • Make federal funds available to state and local governments. • Offer low-interest loans to Georgia businesses hurt by the drought. "We will continue to conserve," the governor said, "but we have to have help." Perdue's actions came as the federal government continue d to release water from Lake Lanier to protect endangered mussels in Florida at the expense of water-starved North Georgia. The governor, lieutenant governor, two congressmen and several legislators and state officials gathered at the top of a trio of now-landlocked boat ramps at Lake Lanier to deride the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife for "putting mussels in front of people."....
Power Plant Rejected Over Carbon Dioxide For First Time The Kansas Department of Health and Environment yesterday became the first government agency in the United States to cite carbon dioxide emissions as the reason for rejecting an air permit for a proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant, saying that the greenhouse gas threatens public health and the environment. The decision marks a victory for environmental groups that are fighting proposals for new coal-fired plants around the country. It may be the first of a series of similar state actions inspired by a Supreme Court decision in April that asserted that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide should be considered pollutants under the Clean Air Act. In the past, air permits, which are required before construction of combustion facilities, have been denied over emissions such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. But Roderick L. Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said yesterday that "it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing."....
Bush Aide Rejects Climate Goal The president's top science adviser said yesterday there is no solid scientific evidence that the widely cited goal of limiting future global temperature rises to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is necessary to avert dangerous climate change, an assertion that runs counter to that of many scientists as well as the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. John H. Marburger III, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said at a news conference that the target of preventing Earth from warming more than two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, "is going to be a very difficult one to achieve and is not actually linked to regional events that affect people's lives." A wide number of scientists, as well as European leaders and many U.S. lawmakers, have endorsed the goal of limiting global temperature rise to that level. That roughly translates to holding the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide or equivalents, compared with the current level of roughly 385 parts per million. The atmosphere has already warmed by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit compared with pre-industrial levels....
U.S. Senators Propose Compulsory Greenhouse Gas Cuts A bipartisan bill introduced today in the U.S. Senate proposes mandatory, not voluntary, limits on greenhouse gases with the goal of reducing the nation's emissions more than 60 percent by mid-century. The bill's authors say the plan is a serious and viable effort to tackle global warming and key Democrats aim to get the legislation out of committee and before the full Senate by early next year. The proposal, introduced by Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman and Virginia Republican John Warner, would impose greenhouse gas limits on about 75 percent of the U.S. economy, creating caps on emissions from the electric power, transportation and manufacturing industries. These sectors would be required to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with the eventual goal of reducing emissions about 62 percent from 2005 levels by 2050. Lieberman said he intends to hold a subcommittee vote on the bill - called America's Climate Security Act - in the next few weeks, with the intention of passing it through the full committee before the end of the year....
Cape Cod panel denies permit for wind farm A proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm that has garnered international attention went before its toughest arbiter yesterday - the locals - and lost, as a commission charged with protecting Cape Cod's natural resources denied the project a permit. The Cape Cod Commission's decision, which Cape Wind Associates vowed to challenge, poses another obstacle to the long-delayed project and deepened the divide between passionate advocates on both sides of the issue. Although the wind farm would be located in federal waters - outside the reach of most state and local agencies - the project's transmission lines and other supporting networks pass through land where state and local governments have jurisdiction, leading to a series of other environmental reviews. The Cape Cod Commission has a role to play because the Legislature has given it power over any local development large enough to require a state environmental permit....
Acid Oceans Increasing Rapidly We've known for a while that ocean acidification is a bad bad thing. Now new research into corals using boron isotopes indicates the world-ocean has become about one third of a pH unit more acid over the past fifty years, reports the Australian Research Council. The acidity is caused by a CO2 buildup in the atmosphere, which then dissolves into the oceans—a development likely to be lethal for animals with chalky skeletons, who just happen to comprise more than a third of the planet’s marine life. Apparently this acidification is now taking place over decades, rather than centuries, as originally predicted, and is happening even faster in the cooler waters of the Southern Ocean than in the tropics. Corals and plankton with chalky skeletons rely on sea water saturated with calcium carbonate to form their skeletons. As acidity intensifies, it becomes harder to form their skeletons. According to Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland: "Analysis of coral cores shows a steady drop in calcification over the last 20 years. . . When CO2 levels in the atmosphere reach about 500 parts per million, you put calcification out of business in the oceans." Atmospheric CO2 is presently 385 ppm, up from 305 in 1960....
The Bottled Water Backlash Americans drank some 37 billion bottles of water in 2005, despite the inconvenient truth that in most parts of the country, tap water is not only perfectly safe, but also more tightly regulated that its bottled counterpart. At the same time, manufacturing plastic bottles for bottled water creates an astounding amount of pollution -- an annual equivalent of 1.5 billion barrels of oil, according to Food & Water Watch. Add to that the carbon emissions from transporting water from as far away as Norway (Voss), Italy (San Pellegrino), or Fiji (Fiji), and the billions of plastic bottles that end up in the waste stream, and drinking bottled water does start to seem a little bit of madness. Yet even at supposedly environmentally conscious stores like Whole Foods Market, bottled water is the No. 1 selling item. Over the past decade, sales have continued to grow 10 percent a year, a rate that would make most companies blush....
A Turning Point in the Global Warming Debate? August 2007 may go down in the history of science as the month when scientific research made a decisive turn away from dubious warnings of climate catastrophes and toward a much different thesis, that the modern warming is moderate and not man-made. First, NASA acknowledged it had accidentally inflated its official record of surface temperatures in the U.S. beginning with the year 2000. The revised data show 1998 falling to second place behind 1934 as the warmest year, followed by 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, and 1953. Four of the top 10 years on record are now from the 1930s, before human emissions could have been responsible, while only three of the top 10 (1998, 2006, 1999) are from the past 10 years. New data are also emerging that the temperature record should be adjusted even further downward. Meteorologist Anthony Watts has launched an effort to photograph the 1,221 "most reliable" surface temperature stations in the U.S. to see if land use changes over the years may be contaminating their records. Images of the stations he's photographed so far (available at www.surfacestations.org) show many cases where the stations seem to be reporting warming caused by nearby buildings, parking lots, or heat-generating activities....
Pesticide spurs free speech flap If the state and federal governments get their way, night-flying planes will soon resume dousing the Monterey Peninsula with a moth-targeting pesticide, before they move on to other areas of Northern California. State regulators insist the chemical compound is safe. But they also insist they can't disclose much of what's in it. "Trade secrets," said Steve Lyle, spokesman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture. The mystery has opened a free-speech front in California's latest battle over potential health risks associated with aerial assaults on crop-threatening insects, in this case the light brown apple moth. Experts say the Monterey dustup pits the public's right to know against the needs of pesticide manufacturers to shield the ingredients of their products from competitors. Similar clashes between the 1st Amendment and trade secrets erupted over unauthorized leaks about an Apple Computer product and Internet postings of DVD decryption codes. Another skirmish came after a former employee tried to write about Oprah Winfrey, in defiance of a confidentiality agreement. The Monterey fight centers on whether the government, at the behest of a corporation, should refuse to identify the chemicals that it sprays over homes, businesses and schools, as well as orchards and vegetable fields....
Bush Visits Refuge to Tout Plan to Save Birds, Fish President George W. Bush visited a Maryland wildlife refuge and went fishing in the Chesapeake Bay to highlight his concept of ``cooperative conservation'' to protect fish and migratory birds. Bush, a frequent target of criticism by environmentalists on such issues as global warming, made his trip a day after unveiling several proposals for wildlife preservation. He also devoted his weekly radio address today to the subject. ``My administration is committed to protecting the environment that our sportsmen depend on,'' Bush said in his radio speech today. ``To meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century, we must bring together conservationists, fishermen, sportsmen, local leaders, and federal, state and tribal officials in a spirit of cooperation.'' Bush today signed an executive order prohibiting the commercial sale of striped bass and red drum caught in federal waters. While Congress in 1990 barred commercial bass fishing in federal waters, Bush's order protects the species if the ban is lifted and extends it to red drum. Bush also urged Congress to create tax incentives for conservation easements donated by property owners in order to help protect the areas where birds stop during their annual migrations. He also asked Congress to dedicate $50 billion over five years in farm legislation to continue the Conservation Reserve Program that encourages farmers and ranchers to set aside land for wildlife....
Judge upholds Montana's coal-bed methane water standards A judge has upheld the state's water-quality standards aimed at protecting rivers in the Powder River Basin from pollution due to coal-bed methane development. Some oil and gas companies sued the state, saying the standards adopted in 2003 and 2006 were too restrictive. They alleged the standards were not based on science, and were in some cases more stringent than naturally found in the environment. District Judge Blair Jones of Columbus ruled the state Board of Environmental Review and the Department of Environmental Quality followed the law in creating the standards. "When water quality is at stake, the BER and DEQ are mandated to afford protection," Jones wrote in the Wednesday ruling. Mark Fix, a Tongue River rancher and chairman of the Northern Plains Resource Council, which intervened in the suit on behalf of the state, was pleased with the decision....
Cows or Condos? Neither! There are three things wrong with the underlying assumptions behind the “cows are better than condos” idea. First, livestock proponents vastly underestimate the ecological costs of livestock production (or logging/farming). Growing cows in the West involves more than the mere cropping of grass. Livestock production impacts include dewatering of rivers for irrigation, replacement of native plant communities with irrigated hay fields, and killing of native predators, pollution of water, transmission of disease to native wildlife, consumption of forage that would otherwise support native herbivores, trampling and compaction of soils, pollution of water sources, truncation of nutrient flows and so on. (I could list a similar litany of ecological problems associated with logging). Such a full accounting of livestock production costs greatly increases the negative impacts of livestock production on western landscapes and wildlife. Just as a full accounting of sprawl’s impact should take in more than the physical footprint of the house site, and must include the added traffic on roads, the fossil fuel energy used for commuting, pollution of ground water from septic systems, loss of wildlife habitat, and so on, a similar full accounting of livestock production must include more than grazing effects. Second, livestock proponents ignore the vast differences in the physical, geographical footprint between development and livestock production. Livestock production affects nearly all of the non-forested landscape in the West in one fashion or another, whereas sprawl and its impacts remain relatively concentrated....
Fight Against Coal Plants Draws Diverse Partners Richard D. Liebert turned his back against a hard wind the other day, adjusted his black cap and gazed across golden fields of hay. Explaining why he is against construction of a big coal-burning power plant east of town, Mr. Liebert sounded like one more voice from the green movement. “The more I learn about global warming and watch the drought affect ranchers and farmers, I see that it’s wind energy, not coal plants, that can help with rural economic development. Besides, do we want to roll the dice with the one planet we’ve got?” But Mr. Liebert, despite his sentiments, fits nobody’s stereotype of an environmentalist. He is a Republican, a cattle rancher and a retired Army lieutenant colonel who travels to South Korea to train soldiers to fight in Iraq. He is also an example of a rising phenomenon in the West. An increasingly vocal, potent and widespread anti-coal movement is developing here. Environmental groups that have long opposed new power plants are being joined by ranchers, farmers, retired homeowners, ski resort operators and even religious groups....
Hard-core off-roader stymied in court A hard-line advocate for untrammeled motorized back-country adventure said Friday he would no longer fight efforts to turn federal land into wilderness, saying "stupid environmental pretexts" would always win the day in court. Rainer Huck, former director of Utah Shared Access Alliance, said a federal ruling handed down Thursday that upheld motorized travel restrictions in the San Rafael Swell signaled the end of his efforts to thwart conservationists. t's like battling the Borg: Resistance is futile," Huck said during a phone call from Blue Notch, a desert region near Lake Powell's Hite Marina where he was dirt-biking with his family. "We might as well just designate all of Utah wilderness now and get it over with." U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball's ruling Thursday actually said nothing about wilderness, but it did demolish every argument Huck, the Southeastern Utah OHV Club and seven individuals Huck described as "friends of the San Rafael" used to appeal the federal Interior Department's support for a Bureau of Land Management travel plan. The BLM's Price district was the first in Utah to finish such a plan after the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance successfully sued them to satisfy an executive order President Nixon issued decades ago. After a long environmental review process that included on-the-ground surveys of all of the trails and roads in the Price district, the field office decided to close 468 miles of trail to motorized access but keep open 677 miles of disputed area that, added to existing highways and roads, left 1,977 miles open to OHVs and motorcycles....
Filmmaker captures struggle for ranchers, wolves to co-exist If there's anybody around who doesn't understand why wolves give ranchers so much heartburn, there's a new movie they should see. "Wolves in Paradise," by Livingston filmmaker Bill Campbell, is a beautifully produced documentary that illustrates the burdens wolves create, both for traditional ranchers who rely on pounds of beef to pay the bills and for new ranchers spending time and money trying to find ways to live with the big predators. The hour-long film, which premiered Thursday night at the Northern Rockies Bioneers Conference at the Emerson Cultural Center, focuses on two very different ranch operations. One is the Davis family ranch in Paradise Valley south of Livingston, where three generations are holding on to their land amid the surrounding eruptions of trophy homes and rural subdivisions. Martin Davis has lost animals to wolves, he's seen his calves lose weight because of the stress they've caused, and he's spent countless extra hours protecting his herd....
Proposed rules wage new battle for energy industry Sweeping — and expensive — proposed changes in how companies drill for natural gas and oil come under discussion in Santa Fe this week. "Pit Rules" are the topic as the state's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and industry representatives make their opening statements Monday. After the statements are taken, the hearing will be recessed to Nov. 5, when evidence shoring up each side's arguments will be presented. The oil and natural gas industry estimates it will cost at least $100,000 per site to adapt from the open pit system now used for drilling cuttings and other waste to the "closed-loop" system mandated by the proposed Rule 50. Sitting across the table from producers and business reps is the state's Oil Conservation Division (OCD), which wants the changes "in order to protect fresh water, public health and the environment." It is joined by New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air & Water, Earthworks and other environmental groups, including ranchers....
Well Users Review Ruling On South Platte Basin Owners of wells along the South Platte River are sorting out whether a new court ruling will allow them to start using their wells again. Last week's ruling by a Greeley water court might allow about half of the 440 wells shut down last year to resume pumping water -- but only if tough new requirements to replenish river water are met. The wells in northeastern Colorado were ordered shut down when holders of senior water rights successfully argued that the wells were illegally drawing down the river. The decision issued Friday by Judge Roger Klein addresses a plan to replace water tapped by the wells. The Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, which represents the well users, is still reviewing the ruling to figure out how much additional water the well owners will need. District spokesman Greg Hertzke said the district is encouraged by the decree....
Easterners, Westerners argue over wilderness bill Eastern and Western members of the U.S. House clashed sharply Thursday over legislation that would designate almost 20 million acres of Western land as wilderness. Western members angrily criticized the bill, which is sponsored by two members from the East Coast -- Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. It would give a new level of protection to lands and rivers in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Western Republicans on the committee challenged Maloney and Shays, saying they shouldn't be interfering with land so far away from their own districts. Some Westerners are supporters, including Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., the subcommittee chairman, and Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she is also backing the bill, saying its consideration is long overdue. The bill has 115 co-sponsors....
Bitterroot group calls for giving wildfires less fuel Tom and Charlotte Robak have always considered themselves environmentalists. It was their love of everything wild that brought them to Montana in the first place a decade ago. Along the West Fork of the Bitterroot, the couple found a stunning landscape complete with clean water, fresh air and abundant wildlife. The long warm days of summer seemed almost perfect. That all changed in 2000 - the year that hundreds of thousands of acres of forest lands went up in smoke in the Bitterroot. Along with hundreds of others, the Robaks were evacuated from their home. When they prepared to move downstream that same summer, they found a firefighter camp set up on their front pasture. Since then, the Robaks - along with everyone else in western Montana - have lived with wildfire smoke for weeks on end through the summer months. Now they want their summers back. The couple believes that Montana's “silent majority” wants that, too. On Sunday, Nov. 4, the Robaks are hoping people will turn out by the hundreds at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds' First Interstate Building in Hamilton to take part in a 4 p.m. rally being hosted by the new Big Sky Coalition: Environmentalists with Common Sense. Their intent is to create a groundswell of common folk interested in pushing for changes in the way national forest lands are managed. “I believe we're at a tipping point right now,” Tom Robak said. “People want something different. They want some management for our forests.”....
Gov: Cancel Wyo Range leases Gov. Dave Freudenthal is leaning on federal cabinet officials to cancel suspended energy leases issued in the Wyoming Range and offer a refund to companies. Freudenthal wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, saying the area is important to Wyoming and should be protected. He repeatedly referenced pending legislation from U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., that will likely seek to prevent further leasing in the area. The governor asked the two directors -- Kempthorne oversees Bureau of Land Management lands and Johanns U.S. Forest Service lands -- to cancel current leases in a 44,600-acre area and reimburse energy companies for the money they spent buying the leases. "To do otherwise would seem to controvert the clear intent of the proposed legislation and will of the people of the state of Wyoming," Freudenthal said in his Sept. 20 letter....
Feds round up wild horses in East Valley A half-dozen wild horses were rounded up in the East Valley, near Fish Springs, on Wednesday after the Bureau of Land Management received several complaints. Wednesday, Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist John Axtell loaded six horses comprised of three mares and three yearlings, into a trailer at the end of Horsebush Court for transport to another location. The catch-pen, still baited with feed, proved to be no temptation for a seventh mare. "These horses will either be adopted out, as is the case of the young ones, or they will go to a horse sanctuary," Axtell said. "I want to assure everyone that they are not going to be slaughtered or harmed in any way." No sooner had Axtell left the area to transport the captured horses to a new location, the vagrant mare was joined by eight more horses including the stallion....
BLM rejects conservation groups' protest of gas drilling The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has rejected a protest by conservation groups that claimed the agency failed to consider the full impacts on wildlife of a 139-gas well development near here. The Colorado Mule Deer Association, Colorado Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation said the BLM failed to require a plan detailing the full extent of natural gas development and to accurately disclose the extent of effects on mule deer winter range. The groups said the BLM didn't consider new information about the effects of energy development on mule deer in Wyoming. Last week, the BLM rejected the groups' call to reconsider and withdraw the plan for the 4,280-acre area. Lynn Rust, deputy director of the Colorado BLM office, wrote in a letter to the groups that the agency "adequately analyzed, disclosed and mitigated the impacts of the proposed action and is thereby upheld." Some of the state's largest elk and deer herds are in western Colorado. Concerns about the impacts of energy development on wildlife have grown as the area has seen record rates of gas drilling....
Barrier along NM ranch still under debate An offending stretch of vehicle barrier mistakenly built by the U.S. a few feet into Mexico has been removed. But now a humble cattle fence may be threatening binational relations. Columbus farmer James Johnson, vice president of Carzalia Valley Produce, was told that his fence, which runs along the border, might also be in Mexico. "We did our own survey and our fence was in Mexico as well." The Johnson fence, which in some areas is the only physical boundary between the two countries, was built following 1930s markers, as were the vehicle barriers, which are meant to stop vehicles smuggling drugs and migrants. Manuel Rubio, realty officer for the IBWC, said 1,900 feet of the Johnson fence was also trespassing into Mexico. Johnson said he'd prefer to go by historically agreed-upon markers rather than GPS, but he knows he may have to move his fence. Right now, "we've taken the attitude that it's not hurting anybody," he said. "If the Mexicans demand that we take it out, it will be as much a burden for Mexican ranchers....
Animal ID program loses steam Days after the United States recorded its first case of mad cow disease, then-Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman promised to speed development of a system for tracking the nation's livestock. The idea was to enable investigators to trace the whereabouts and history of any animal within 48 hours of a disease outbreak. Nearly four years later, that system is still on paper. And what's on paper, at least in terms of a revised plan that the Bush administration is due to release soon, seems to bear less and less resemblance to the system Veneman was talking about. Could animal identification be headed the way of Social Security reform? The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says he has given up on the program until there is a new administration. Peterson once introduced legislation to make animal ID mandatory. "We have our head in the sand if we think we can get by without having one," he said. For evidence of the congressional frustration or lack of interest, look no further than the USDA budget for 2008 as passed by the House. There isn't a dime for the department's work on the ID program....
Three honored as 2007 Foy Proctor Memorial Cowman's Award of Honor recipients "I think it's a great honor. Foy Proctor was a great cattleman and I have a few friends who've won this award. ... It makes me very proud to be among them," said rancher Gretchen Sammis, one of this year's recipients. This is the eighth year that the Haley Library has presented the award, director Pat McDaniel said. "It goes hand in hand with the library's mission, which is dedicated to the preservation of the range cattle industry of the Southwest," Haley Library Chairman of the Board of Trustees Brian McLaughlin said. Sammis has been a rancher for 82 years, all of her life, she said. Her ranch has been in her family since 1867 and it was her great-grandfather, Manley Chase, who began it, she added. Frank Beaver of Snyder and Edward "Smokey" Nunn Jr. of Deming, N.M., are this year's other recipients. With the addition of the three, the award has been given to 40 honorees, according to records....
Powell documentary filmmaker set for new Wyo. project A Wyoming filmmaker is setting out to do a documentary about the life of Tim McCoy, a star of Hollywood westerns in the 1920s and 1930s. Filmmaker Mary Ellen Lee says the life story of McCoy is rich in the history of the American West. In addition to his silver-screen career, McCoy was a Wyoming cowboy and rancher. He was a friend to American Indians and the adjutant general of the state of Wyoming. In the 1932 film, "Two-Fisted Law," McCoy had the starring role, while John Wayne was a supporting actor. Lee says she hopes her documentary on McCoy will depict the legacy of massive Wyoming ranches. She says she wants to show the cowboys and American Indians who became Hollywood legends, as well as the lives of cowboys on the range....
Boomtown San Angelo Where San Angelo is concerned, the 1940s were considered a boom time, and that heyday had a lot to do with wool. Because wool was a necessary war effort commodity, ranchers and shearers were excluded from the draft. And because this area was among the nation’s largest wool and mohair producers, life was pretty good here even while the nation as a whole was enduring sacrifices to support the war effort. The Texas state government estimated that there were 11-million sheep in Texas in 1943, most of them were concentrated in the Concho Valley counties, with Tom Green leading the pack. The Santa Fe Railroad was generating over $1 million in revenues per month hauling wool out of San Angelo by 1943. At the time, San Angelo was considered the inland wool capital of the nation. And with increasing imports from other wool producing countries, the United States Congress passed the Wool Act in 1956, which placed a tariff on those imports, protecting local producers for years to come....
Rancher’s girls just as good as any boy He was a good Dakota rancher with the stubborn Norwegian determination that allowed him to break even in the unforgiving country north of Mobridge. He raised four children on the ranch. They were his cowboys, farm hands, truck drivers, fence builders and horse breakers. They also learned to cook, sew, can fruit, butcher and do laundry. They were all girls. I, Baxter Black, have known many farm and ranch families who have had only daughters or the girls were better help than the sons. Most dads handle it well and soon realize a girl can run a hay baler, a squeeze chute or spirited horse as well as a boy. But it’s a different relationship. There’s always his nervous worry that maybe she won’t be able to do it, that his expectations are too high. In the daughter’s case, she actually tries harder, and usually becomes better to prove herself qualified in his eyes. Anyway, the daughters of our good Dakota rancher grew up and all married men with no cow knowledge or cowboy skills. They’d have even made poor chore boys....